School Announcement: Is the school sweetheart officially off the market? Sources say Kim Taehyung, quarterback of the football team, was seen canoodling beneath the bleachers before this Friday’s game. Who is this mystery hottie?
Before the last bell of the day, Jeongguk is already gone from class. He’s learned from his first year at school that the best way to avoid being late to the newsroom is to leave his last class early. And now, a month into his third year of high school, he’s struck a deal with his final teacher of the day that he can leave halfway through class if he comes early the next day for what he’s missed. It’s a good deal, he thinks, even if his friends think he’s crazy.
“Who willingly comes to school early?” Jimin complains, like clockwork, everyday as he walks into the room and sees Jeongguk’s gotten there first. It’s an English classroom, and the first thing that needs to be done each day is the desks rearranged and the computers turned on. Jimin hasn’t had to help setup since Jeongguk officially joined the club. “Honestly. Don’t you have anything better to do? Like sleeping?”
“Not all of us are dead inside, hyung.”
“You will be,” Jimin mutters, handing Jeongguk the extra coffee he’s holding. “Just wait ‘till I’m gone and all of the deadlines fall onto you. You’ll miss sleeping most of all.”
Jeongguk frowns, but is pleased to find that Jimin remembered to get him a hot chocolate. “Don’t talk like that.”
“About being tired?”
“About you graduating.”
Jimin laughs tiredly, and settles in his chair. As editor, he gets the spinny chair that has all its wheels. More students begin to trickle in as the minutes pass, heading to their respective stations with little more than glances or nods in Jeongguk or Jimin’s directions. Sports. Theater. Movies. Politics. One by one they log onto their computers and bring up their pieces due by the end of tomorrow.
“It’s coming some day, Jeongguk.” Jimin nudges Jeongguk’s hip, a silent request to get back to his station, but Jeongguk’s so bored with the advice column. He’d joined the school paper to write important stories, to uncover scandals and make the school a better place, not to offer shitty advice to people who write in about their distaste for the lunch menu. “Some day soon.”
“Don’t worry about this now,” Jimin says. “The game starts in a few hours and your piece needs to be done before then.”
When Jeongguk had first started high school, he’d gone through the motions with very little conscious thought. It was bad enough that he was starting at a new school, but during the summer his father had been transferred to an entirely different state, and Jeongguk had moved from Florida to New York and was forced to start school without knowing a single person. His brother, the person Jeongguk confided in the most, had just gone back to Korea to begin his enlistment soon after they moved.
Jeongguk thinks he began to understand the true meaning of loneliness during his first year of school, but Jimin likes to say he was just being overly dramatic. He’d been quiet, only speaking when a teacher called on him and eating his lunch at the end of an empty table, watching from the outside in as friends cheered and laughed loudly together. Jeongguk hadn’t done sports since he quit taekwondo as a young teenager, but staring at the close-knit cliques in matching varsity jackets, he’d believed that window had closed for him.
Stumbling into the newspaper club had been an accident. A happy one, but still an accident. Jeongguk had been meeting with one of his teachers, still a little uncertain with his new school and the twists and turns of the holidays. As he left, Jeongguk had gotten turned around and walked into the first classroom with an open door, taking a deep breath to swallow his pride and ask for directions out of the damn school.
Instead, Jeongguk had walked into dozens of students bustling around and desperate to meet their deadlines. No one had noticed him at first; nudging him out of the way as they’d passed and he tried to work up the nerve to ask for help. So he’d moved further and further into the room, until he’d run smack into the middle of the then editor in training, and Jimin had handed him a stack of papers to be photocopied, not realizing in the slightest that Jeongguk wasn’t supposed to be there.
So Jeongguk made the copies. He knew where the student office was and the photocopier was easy enough to understand, making loud noises as the machine spit out hundreds of copies of the same stories.
When he brought the papers back and dumped them onto Jimin’s desk, his little nameplate glistening in the poor public school lighting, Jimin had leafed through them and said, “They could be worse.”
And Jeongguk was sold.
He came back the next day, and the next, until his presence became known enough that Bogum, the current editor, had stopped in front of the desk Jeongguk had taken residence at and asked,
“Who the hell are you?”
“Oh, uhm, I-” Jeongguk had looked up, tongue caught behind his teeth. He’d been running errands for Jimin all week and hadn’t had the courage to ask to fully join the club. “I- uh, I’m no one?”
“I don’t allow nobodies in my newsroom.”
“Relax, Bogum.” Jimin claps Jeongguk on the shoulder, startling him. “He’s a new recruit, I brought him in this week.”
“I’ll have him shadow theater to start.”
Bogum doesn’t look pleased, frowning pointedly at Jeongguk, who shrinks in his seat. “Fine, if he sucks it’s your head, Jimin.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Jeongguk says hurriedly, as Bogum’s walking away to check on the big sport’s editorial. Jimin turns on his heel, beginning his rounds of checking on each of the writers and Jeongguk follows, feeling more out of place than he has all week. “I never officially joined- I’ll just leave until next year-”
“What’s your name?”
“Uhm- Jeongguk. Jeon Jeongguk.”
“Well, Uhm Jeon Jeongguk.” Jimin stops and holds up a piece of paper- one of the club registration papers- and grins at the way Jeongguk balks, his mouth snapping shut. “Just fill in your info and you’re fine. Unlike Bogum, I don’t mind people joining the club late in the year.”
“I- Thank you.” Jeongguk takes the paper, and remembers he left all of his pens at his desk.
“Just tell me you can write, please.”
“I’ve never tried,” Jeongguk admits.
Jimin freezes where he’s leaning over a girl’s shoulder, reading over the passage she’d drawn his attention to. When he stands and stares at Jeongguk he realizes that Jimin’s a little shorter than him, but that doesn’t make him any less terrifying. “Well then, it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me, huh?
“You don’t have to do that-”
“Hush. I’ve seen you around, you’re new right?” Jeongguk nods. “It doesn’t look like you’ve got much else going on for you, might as well put your energy into learning how to write news articles. Make your resume look extra pretty.”
“Hey-” Jeongguk makes to argue, but he’s got nothing against Jimin’s smirk and the back of his head as he turns around again for the second half of his rounds. “I’ve- I’ve got things going on.” Like playing his PS4 until he passes out every evening and calling his brother back in Korea whenever he’s allowed, maybe running through the park if he’s feeling particularly adventurous. “I’ve got things.”
“Things like learning how to format.” Jimin says, whirling quickly and pushing Jeongguk into the chair next to his desk with a hand on his shoulder, so fast that Jeongguk gets breathless. “I wasn’t lying to Bogum, by the way. Our theater department is outstandingly boring, but it’ll be a good way for you to learn the ropes.” He points to the form in Jeongguk’s hands, “Fill that out, and we’ll get started, okay?”
“That’s hyung to you, newbie.”
“Hyung. Thank you!”
It was a tedious start, Jeongguk’s history of dozing through his English classes coming back to bite him in the ass. Jimin keeps close watch over him for the next few weeks, as he follows a girl named Eliza through the theater department and watches the way she conducts interviews, taking notes of how she takes notes and the kinds of questions she asks to get the most information she can. Jimin helps him with his grammar mistakes, with his run-on sentences and his clunky vocabulary in the mock articles he has Jeongguk write. He doesn’t have the honor of getting his name on anything published, at least not for the first year, but Jeongguk finds that he doesn’t mind.
He likes the long nights, staying in the newsroom with Jimin long after everyone else has left, going over the pieces he’s written and Jimin giving him advice for what to do next. Jeongguk hadn’t expected it, he really hadn’t, but that newsroom awakens something in Jeongguk’s chest that he hadn’t known was lying dormant. He’s smiling more, his mom tells him, tweaking his nose one evening when he gets home. Something grows warm in Jeongguk’s chest each night Jimin sends him home with a stack of old papers to pour over, to find the good pieces and the bad ones and begin to decide what his style of writing is going to be.
Jeongguk loves it, the grueling interviews for heavy topics and the lighthearted ones filled with laughter and pictures of pets. He loves the ink staining his fingers, the strain on his eyes as he’s reading over his piece for the twelfth time that evening. Even Bogum gives him a nod at Jeongguk’s contribution to one of Eliza’s pieces, a week after school resumes from holiday break. He still doesn’t get to write officially, but Jimin’s been discussing in the weekly meetings bringing in an advice column, glancing in Jeongguk’s direction every time he brings up the topic. He loves it all, the athletes and artists and singers and dancers who come prancing through the classroom door, some to offer their point of view on things that happened around the school and some to be fully interviewed. Once, an unhappy interviewee punches a boy, and even that brings a smile to Jeongguk’s face. (He’s sent to collect the ice from the athletic trainer as punishment, Jimin telling him through a grin that is not sly in the slightest to, “Wipe that damn smirk off your face, newbie.”)
On the evenings when Jeongguk and Jimin stay particularly late, there’s almost always a boy who comes barreling into the room to drag Jimin away. Jeongguk doesn’t catch his name- Kim Taehyung- for months, but he’s always laughing, his smile huge and genuine and his out of this world personality knocking Jeongguk off-kilter, so much so that he’s almost entirely positive that he blacked out when Taehyung asked his name.
“Who is that?” Jeongguk whispered one night, after Jimin had shooed the boy away with a promise that no, he had not forgotten about their proposed ramen adventure that evening. “He’s always hanging around here. Does he write for one of the columns?”
“Tae? God no. He’s got a shit ton of talents but writing for papers is not one of them.” Jimin pushes the desks back to their proper positions as Jeongguk turns off all of the computers. He leads Jeongguk from the room with a yawn, asking, “You really don’t know? Damn, that’s Kim Taehyung, star football player and all that jazz.”
“You’ve been here, what, six months? Have you paid any attention at all?”
“I’m a little preoccupied with my head up the theater director’s ass.”
“Better get cozy then, newbie.” Jimin throws his arm over Jeongguk’s shoulders, leading him to the subway entrance opposite the line he takes to get home. “Come get dinner with us, my treat.”
Jeongguk decided that he liked Kim Taehyung a lot that night. He’s loud, almost obnoxiously so, but his laughter and smile are so infectious that even their waitress is laughing along. Taehyung plays with his hair and complains about his off-season workouts, about how his arms feel like noodles and his legs are ready to fall off- the grind never stops for the quarterback, apparently. Jeongguk finds himself smiling more in that evening than he remembers consciously doing in the recent future, hiding his laugh behind his palm and nearly snorting noodles from his nose, and he finds himself accepting Taehyung and Jimin’s offer to see a movie that weekend when they split ways later than night. And when Taehyung slips Jeongguk’s phone out of his pocket to add his contact, Jeongguk can’t find it in himself to do much more than blush and look away quickly.
Now, Jeongguk has barely graduated from writing about the theater productions to the advice column, a new addition to the paper as of this year. He doesn’t particularly love it, but it gets his name in the paper even as his eyes sting while he weeds through the mocking submissions, the questions and jokes and the students saying “yo I didn’t do a research project, what’s the best lie to tell my teacher?”
Jeongguk already has three decent submissions but he needs one more to round out his section. He stops scrolling suddenly, when he spots a question posted from V, a familiar name.
Dear Golden Boy, it says, there’s this boy I really, really like, he’s the cutest boy in the entire school. We have a date this Saturday and I don’t know how to dress, should I wear red- his favorite color, or black- something that I look sexy as hell in? Or something easy access? ;)
Jeongguk’s blush is furious and embarrassing as he answers that V should wear whatever he feels most comfortable in, and formats the text into his layout. He prints it off and heaves a sigh as he stands up, not looking forward to Jimin reading everything over for approval. Jimin gives him more than enough shit, and V’s submissions certainly do not help Jeongguk’s case- especially since he’s almost entirely certain that V already gave himself up to Jimin long ago.
“It’s good,” Jimin says, and hands the paper to the newest newbie to be copied for this week’s paper. He’s grinning, and Jeongguk’s sure it has nothing to do with the girl asking for advice on how to get come stains out of her hair before her parents get home. “Kudos on meeting your deadline.”
“I always do, hyung.”
“Don’t get cocky, newbie.”
Jeongguk rolls his eyes, albeit fondly, as Jimin checks the time. It’s not particularly late, but the room is half empty from students leaving for the night with the completion of their stories or to find their subjects for interviews. But there’s a home football game tonight, which means at least five articles dedicated to the game come Monday.
“How are my favorite journalists,” a new voice comes from the doorway, Taehyung leaning against the doorframe. He’s in his uniform, save for the huge chest padding that he has to wear. His right hand is taped and his hair is pushed out of his eyes with a ratty old bandana, his t-shirt loose. “Ruin any lives with a top secret scoop?”
“Just because Eunha caught you jerking it in the locker room doesn’t mean everyone’s out to get you, Tae,” Jimin says, shutting down his own computer for the night.
“What was she doing in the men’s locker room, that is the real question.”
“Her boyfriend’s on the soccer team.”
“Tae.” Jimin flicks Taehyung’s forehead as he approaches. “Don’t you have a game to prepare for?”
“I just had to make sure you were coming, Jiminie. I don’t trust any of your other writers.”
Jimin scoffs, shoving past and into the hallway. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, man.”
Taehyung doesn’t follow like Jeongguk expects, instead he laughs quietly with a shake of his head and faces Jeongguk again, a soft smile on his lips. “Excited for your first sports piece, editor?”
He’s not the editor, not even close, but Taehyung knows it’s become his dream for his last year of high school. Jeongguk dodges the nickname as he hooks his backpack over his shoulders, letting Taehyung draw him close with an arm around his waist and a soft kiss to his temple.
“It’s not my piece, hyung,” he replies, as Taehyung ducks to press kisses to Jeongguk’s neck, in his favorite spots to leave hickeys. “It’s Jimin’s, he’s just letting me follow to make the jump between something like advice to sports easier if I end up doing that.”
“Hm.” Taehyung pulls back, locking his hands at the small of Jeongguk’s back to keep him close. “You still haven’t told me what section you want to do.”
“Comics,” Jeongguk says dryly.
“Hyung?” Jeongguk turns off the lights, wriggling out of Taehyung’s hold so he can lock up the classroom. Taehyung hums behind him, sticking his hand in the back pocket of Jeongguk’s jeans as they leave, the roar of students and athletes getting louder as they near the exit. “Will you ever tell Jimin I was in the locker room with you that day-?”
“No,” Taehyung laughs, brushing Jeongguk’s bangs away from his eyes with his finger. “There are some things a best friend doesn’t need to know.”
“Come over after the game? We can order pizza.”
“If you win there will be an after-party at Hoseok hyung’s place.”
Taehyung rolls his eyes dramatically. “If. Still don’t believe in me, I see.”
“That’s not what I meant-”
“I know.” Taehyung steps in front of him just outside of the entrance to the locker room. From this angle they’re hidden enough from the spectators and players already warming up on the field, but Jeongguk still wrings his hands between their bodies. “Relax, Jeonggukie. Come over tonight. if you’re too baked for pizza we can eat the skittles you left in my room. Sound good?”
“Yeah. Yeah, hyung.”
“Good. I’ll see you after.”
Taehyung kisses him, soft and fleeting, before turning around and sprinting into the locker room, leaving Jeongguk dazed against the wall. His phone buzzes, Jimin asking where the hell he left to, he can’t save Jeongguk’s seat in the bleachers forever. He’ll tell Jimin eventually, just not right now.
He finds Jimin seated in the middle of the bleachers, his notebook opened already before Jeongguk sits at his side. Jimin looks like he’s about to ask where Jeongguk had wandered off to, but an announcement over the loudspeaker system to bring attention to the start of the game ends Jimin’s intent. Instead, Jeongguk tugs out his own notebook and tries not to be too obvious about staring at Taehyung, leading the first huddle of the game, as he writes about the most important parts he sees.
School Announcement: Someone left their coat, keys, and left shoe at Jung Hoseok’s. If you’re wondering how you got him this weekend, please call the following number.
Jeongguk gets to the after-party late, mostly because Jimin is almost always his ride to these kinds of things, and Jimin always insists on writing up a first draft of his articles as soon as he’s got his information. It’s annoying as hell, but Jeongguk has to admire the tenacity. Even if it almost always gets him to the school parties too late.
Tonight, everyone’s riding the high of a victory. The house is packed full, kids knocking back shots and playing beer pong outside to take advantage of the last few warm nights of the season. Jeongguk stays close behind Jimin, following him deeper into the house and grabbing a couple of hard ciders as they dip into the kitchen, and then further inside to find their friends. Hoseok’s parties are always insanely crowded, the guy somehow managing to make friends with anyone who crosses his path.
They find the others sitting in the main living room, taking over the couch as Taehyung tries to wrestle a half-empty bottle of vodka from Hoseok’s grasp. Until Taehyung spots Jimin, and jumps up to eagerly to press the wettest kiss Jeongguk has ever had the displeasure of seeing to Jimin’s cheek.
“You’re here!” Taehyung shouts partly to be heard over the music and partly because, well, he’s drunk. His cheeks are flushed, hair sweaty, and he’s changed out of his uniform into well-worn jeans and one of Jeongguk’s old hoodies. Jeongguk wonders if he chose beer or the vodka Hoseok’s cradling as his poison tonight. “Jesus, took you assholes long enough. I took your victory shots, so don’t even bother.”
“I’m not doing shots tonight,” Jimin says, tugging Jeongguk to sit between him and Hoseok. “I’d like to get home in one piece, thanks.”
“You say that now.”
The music is loud and the drinks are pretty good, people laughing and shouting and coming over to the couch to talk to Taehyung. Taehyung nearly trips over himself each time he stands up to talk to another student, but he manages to answer their questions about the game, thank them for their compliments, even throw up peace signs for selfies, without making his inebriation debilitatingly obvious. Jeongguk grins over the neck of his bottle, knows there’ll be no sign of this suave athlete when Taehyung’s whining about a headache in the morning.
Jeongguk’s mildly surprised the entire school didn’t come out tonight. There’s not much that goes on outside of high school sports, and in the last few years their football team has garnered so much support and respect it’s nearly impossible to get a seat to a game.
“Is that all you’re having?” Hoseok asks, having come back from the kitchen after fixing himself a drink that was a little less straight vodka and a little more chase.
“Yeah.” Jeongguk raises his bottle. He’d been planning on smoking tonight, but Jimin’s starting to pound back Jell-O shots and Taehyung’s trying to start dancing competitions, so that’s a bust. “I’m still seventeen, anyway.”
“That’s never stopped you before.”
He nods towards Taehyung. “If one of us is going down for underage drinking, it’ll be him.”
Conversation dissolves into questions about Hoseok’s classes, how long he’s home for, whether he’s chosen a major yet, if he likes his roommates. Probably a bit more drunk than Jeongguk had realized, Hoseok goes onto a tirade about his roommates: two music producers who never see the light of day and an aspiring nutritionist who just adopted two sugar gliders.
“Sugar gliders?” Jeongguk asks for clarification, carefully taking Hoseok’s drink when it looks like he’s about to drop it.
“Yeah!” Hoseok finishes off Jeongguk’s cider, his liquor sitting in a high flush on his cheeks. “Like, whom the fuck gets sugar gliders? I’m afraid I’m going to step on one and then he’ll kill me. And trust me, the little roommate looks like he knows the best place to hide a dead body.”
Jeongguk grins. Across the room, Taehyung is forcing Jimin into a very sloppy dance with unsteady hands on his shoulders. “Sounds like fun, hyung.”
“Until you wake up for a midterm at eight in the goddam morning with the worst hangover of your life.”
Jeongguk pats Hoseok’s knee out of sympathy. He’s far too sober to properly enjoy this party, but it’s Taehyung’s night to celebrate. And if the body shot he’s currently doing off of Jimin on the counter is any indication- Taehyung is celebrating plenty. So Jeongguk sips very slowly on Hoseok’s forgotten drink, listening as Hoseok’s words trip over each other and he interrupts himself with giggles until Taehyung is stumbling over to them, taking one look at the empty space on the couch before climbing into Jeongguk’s lap.
“Hyung.” Jeongguk links his arms around Taehyung’s back, letting him get comfortable with his face pressed into Jeongguk’s neck. “Hi.”
“Hi, Gukie.” He kisses lightly at Jeongguk’s collarbones, keeping in mind how many people stand around them. Their friends might be sufficiently drunk, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the school is. “You’re so pretty.”
“And you’re drunk.”
“You’re still pretty when I’m not drunk.”
Hoseok nudges Taehyung with his knee, laughing again. “Guess he chose you as his body pillow tonight, Jeongguk.”
“I don’t mind,” Jeongguk says. But Taehyung’s dangerously close to falling asleep in his lap and despite his recent hours in the gym, Jeongguk’s not strong enough to carry him deadweight out of here. “I should probably get him home, though.”
“You’re leaving already?” Hoseok complains, as Jeongguk very gently tips Taehyung onto his side on the couch to shrug on his jacket. Taehyung’s varsity jacket has found a home on Jimin’s shoulders. Jeongguk grimaces. They’ll have to get that back on Monday. “I never see you anymore.”
“Your fault for graduating, hyung.”
Jeongguk gets Taehyung’s arm over his shoulders and they walk slowly to the door, Taehyung saying goodbye to any and everybody that crosses his path. He starts whining about needing to say goodbye to Jimin, but Jimin’s made himself pretty comfortable on Hoseok’s lap and Jeongguk has a curfew. Taehyung bumps his head on the door to his truck, demanding five kisses before he’ll hand the keys over to Jeongguk.
It takes too much effort to get Taehyung into the passenger seat; especially with the way Taehyung keeps unbuckling his seatbelt each time Jeongguk gets it fastened.
“If we crash you’re going through the windshield.”
Taehyung snickers. “Don’t crash, then.”
Jeongguk has to focus to get the car onto the street, Taehyung having parked way too close to three other cars. At the stop sign at the end of the street, Jeongguk leans over the console to brush the sweaty hair away from Taehyung’s cheek. He catches Jeongguk’s hand, presses a sloppy kiss to his thumb.
“Your place or mine?” Jeongguk asks, sending his parents a quick text to let them know he’d be cutting curfew pretty close.
“Yours, please. My parents will kill me.”
As Jeongguk leans back in his seat, Taehyung leans up hurriedly to kiss him soundly on his lips, giggling at a joke he hasn’t let Jeongguk in on when he pulls away. He’s not slurring as badly anymore, and Jeongguk takes that as a good sign. “Thank you for this, I love you.”
“You don’t have to say it every weekend, Tae.”
“Say it back, dick muncher.”
Jeongguk very gently pushes Taehyung back into his seat, but curls their hands together with a small smile. “Love you, too. Always.”
“Let’s go, your bed is calling my name.”
Jeongguk pulls onto the quiet streets, silence broken only by Taehyung singing along quietly to the music on the radio.
School Announcement: Kim Taehyung led his team to victory this weekend. With this win, the football team has secured their seventh straight playoff appearance. Will he be able to lead the team to their third consecutive State Championship title?
“I’m never going to get editor.”
Jeongguk rips up what must be his twelfth story of the day, tossing the paper into the trash on the opposite side of Taehyung’s desk. His neck is sore, back aching from leaning over his pieces for the entire afternoon. Jimin was letting him write this week’s current events section after Mina had come down with a nasty cold, and here Jeongguk was, fucking it all up.
“Relax, Jeongguk.” Taehyung’s lying backwards on his bed with his stats book open on his face. He must be on the verge of falling asleep, voice slow, from his double practice that morning. No rest for defending champions. “Current events are stupid anyway.”
“Current evens may be the only thing standing between me and Jimin’s position next year.”
Jeongguk starts writing again, dividing his attention between his pad of paper and his laptop with several tabs open with the previous week’s news. He must be on a dozen different news sites, trying to pick out the five best and most important stories of the last week to put into the piece. He has to choose between celebrities and politics, the weather if it’s been particularly interesting, or school events if there’s something going on. But it’s been a slow news week and the only celebrity stories he can see are men denying charges and he doesn’t know what to do.
“Fucking shit on the biggest stick,” Jeongguk mutters, scratching out three lines he’d just written. Clearly, the news hated him.
“Jimin’s going to kick me out of the club.” Another sentence, another page ripped out of his notebook. “I never should have joined in the first place.”
“Guk.” His chair is spun away from his desk, Taehyung dragging him away from his laptop and his failing article. Jeongguk voices his complaint, but Taehyung doesn’t listen, dropping his hands from the arm rests to grip Jeongguk’s thighs. “Jeongguk. Would you quit psyching yourself out?”
“I’m just.” Jeongguk picks at a frayed thread in his hoodie and tries his best to avoid Taehyung’s gaze. He has enough to worry about, and adding Jeongguk’s own concerns on top won’t help at all. “Hyung, I need to finish my piece.”
“You need a break, is what you need.” Taehyung’s kneeling in front of him and rubbing what Jeongguk things is supposed to be soothing circles on his thigh with his thumb. “You can’t write well when you’re exhausted. I know you’re not sleeping, you send me Snapchats at inhuman hours of the night. You have the weekend. Take a nap with me.”
“I can’t! Do you think editors and journalists for The Times or The Post take naps?”
Taehyung frowns. “I don’t think they work themselves sick, baby.”
“I’ll sleep when I’m done with this. Deal?”
“No deal.” Taehyung grabs his hands, shaking a little where Jeongguk holds them on the arm rests. Coffee makes him jittery and nauseous, and Taehyung knows this. “Jeongguk. What’s wrong?”
He tries to turn the chair away, but Taehyung keeps him in place with firm squeezes to his hands. “Nothing, Tae.”
“This isn’t nothing-”
“What if I’m no good?” Jeongguk whispers, his head hanging. It’s not the outburst his demeanor was gearing towards, the argument fizzling before it really had a chance to begin.
Judging by Taehyung’s uncharacteristic silence, he was expecting Jeongguk to put up more of a fight, to insist nothing was wrong until ultimately breaking down. Jeongguk hated to cry on a bad day, but he hated crying in front of Taehyung even more, even though most of the times he exploded after bottling something up, which resulted in a few tears more often than not hidden in the front of Taehyung’s shirt.
“What are you talking about?” At Jeongguk’s lack of a reply, Taehyung cups his palm against Jeongguk’s cheek, rubbing the weary skin and silently urging Jeongguk to look up. “Is this about the current events piece? I know I’m shit, but I can help if you want.”
“No, Tae, it’s not.” Jeongguk sighs, heavily through his nose. “It’s everything. I’m barely writing anything of substance, there’s a good chance I won’t make editor next year. No school’s going to want a subpar journalist in training. And it’s not like I can switch this late, to a sport or something. I don’t know why I’m even trying.”
“Hey, that’s not true.”
“Easy for you to say, hyung, you’ve already committed to Ohio State!”
“Jeongguk.” Taehyung grips his elbow tightly, all but dragging him from the chair to forcibly sit him on the bed. He doesn’t let Jeongguk get right back up, sitting cross-legged before him and pulling Jeongguk’s hands into his lap. “You’re being ridiculous. You’re a great writer, who cares if you’re not writing the biggest pieces? Our school isn’t that interesting anyway. When you contribute to other articles, they’re the best stories in that entire stupid paper.”
“You’re my boyfriend,” Jeongguk mutters, staring at their joined hands. “You have to say that.”
For a long moment, Taehyung doesn’t say anything. He plays with Jeongguk’s fingers and strokes up Jeongguk’s wrist, letting him sit and stew in his own uselessness for a while longer. Then, he brings Jeongguk’s hand to his lips and presses a soft kiss to each of Jeongguk’s fingers. “Jimin never shuts up about you.”
“Since you first walked into the club, Jeonggukie. He talked about you so much, I thought his mind had finally snapped and he made you up.” Taehyung laughs quietly, lacing his fingers with Jeongguk’s. Jeongguk can’t find anything to say, gaze rising to meet Taehyung’s for the first time in a while. “He saw so much potential in you, and you know Jimin. He’s burned through clubs like sorority girls burn through fuck buddies. He wasn’t planning on sticking with the journalism club until you showed up and gave him a reason to. You want to know why he doesn’t give you big pieces? It’s because he doesn’t want you to get cocky. You’re good, Jeonggukie, but he wants you confident. Not cocky and complacent.”
Jeongguk snorts, his voice a little wobbly. “This sounds an awful lot like the end of an early 2000s movie- are you trying to get me to date Jimin?”
“I mean. I’m always down for a threesome.”
He wrinkles his nose, laughing again when Taehyung leans forward to kiss it quickly. “Gross.”
“Don’t insult Park Jimin’s ass, he has a sixth sense about this kinda thing.”
“Hyung.” Jeongguk laughs, shifting so he can fit his back against Taehyung’s chest, drawing his arms around his body. “Shut up, he does not.”
“Once he heard me talking shit across a football field. Nearly gave me a concussion throwing a football at my face, I shit you not.”
“Why were you talking shit in the first place?”
“His angry face is funny.”
Jeongguk can’t relate. He’s seen Jimin get pissed at people missing their deadlines or slacking on their quality, and anytime it happens he’s always ready to leave the room in fear.
“Hm?” Taehyung hooks his chin on Jeongguk’s shoulders, squeezing his hip fondly. He leans back onto his pile of pillows, letting Jeongguk make himself comfortable against his chest. “You really think I can make it?”
“Of course you can. Achieving a dream is only as difficult as you want it to be. If you put in the hard work, you’ll be editor of whichever newspaper you want. In the entire world.” Taehyung kisses the nape of his neck, and Jeongguk sighs, feeling a weight he’d collapsed under who knows how long ago lifting ever so slightly. “And if that doesn’t work out, you can always be my sugar baby when I’m making millions in the NFL.”
Jeongguk slaps weakly at Taehyung’s arm, but they’re both laughing in the fading afternoon light. He’s got a few days to finish his piece. “Thank you, Tae.”
Taehyung presses another kiss to the back of his neck. “Of course.”
“… I think I’m ready for that nap now.”
“Oh thank God, my plushies need cuddling.”
School Announcement: This Saturday’s championship was one for the books! Record attendance, a huge score, and one town’s dreams coming true. Read all about the game, including interviews with the MVP and winning players, on page 6.
It’s absolutely freezing on the night Jeongguk writes his first solo sports piece. This is the second year he’s found himself at the state football championships. Last year, he was here solely to support Taehyung and because Jimin had dragged him along. This year, Jeongguk is in charge of covering the entire game. He’s not doing the interviews, Jimin and a few other senior writers are, but this is more than Jeongguk could have hoped for.
He’s bundled in too many layers to count but his fingers still shake where he’s got them poised over his notebook, though if he were asked, Jeongguk wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s because of the cold or the nerves. The teams warm up, Taehyung practicing his passes before the head coach jogs over to talk to him.
Jimin’s sitting beside him, but Jeongguk had been very clear in asking Jimin not to offer any advice, at least not until he was submitting his first draft. He wants to do this on his own. He wants to prove to himself that he can do this.
“Jesus, if I didn’t love Taehyung so much I’d be at that Smashburger nearby getting wasted.”
“Smashburger doesn’t serve alcohol,” Jeongguk murmurs.
“That’s what flasks are for, asshole.”
“Shh, hyung, the game is starting.”
A buzzer goes off, the announcer saying something about the coin toss and the commencement of the game. Taehyung never calls the coin toss; instead he meets with the coach for any last minute pointers. Even from the bleachers, Jeongguk can tell that Taehyung’s shoulders are tense, but it’s no surprise. He’s been worried about this game since the team qualified for the playoffs. There’s a lot riding on this game: a third championship- Taehyung’s second as quarterback, his reputation, the town’s pride, all of which Taehyung has worn a hole into Jeongguk’s floor from pacing with worry.
They win the coin toss. Taehyung puts in his mouth guard and tugs on his helmet, and Jeongguk watches as he harnesses that tension into something powerful.
The game starts, and their team scores an easy touchdown, Taehyung’s connection with the freshman running back startling the other team’s defense. But then the other team, the Knights, score on six drives during their possession. Taehyung keeps his throws safe to start, throwing passes he knows his teammates can catch and gain yards on. Jeongguk takes notes on everything, from posture to water breaks to time-outs, the noise of the crowd deafening in their ears.
At halftime, the scores are still tied, 31-31. Jeongguk watches the way Taehyung jogs to the locker rooms and knows that he’s incredibly frustrated. The teams are pretty evenly matched, but Taehyung’s playing it too safe.
Jimin is a giant string of nerves at Jeongguk’s side, looking about ready to kick someone in the back of their head. “He’s going to be so pissed if they lose. He’s staked so much on tonight. He’s already committed, too, but I heard there are NFL scouts here tonight.”
“Shit, really?” Jeongguk asks, flipping the page in his notebook. He’s fucking freezing and the blanket he and Jimin are sharing between them stopped helping an hour ago. “I hope he doesn’t know that.”
“Even if he doesn’t, he’s definitely close to working himself up in that locker room.”
Jeongguk frowns. He touches his pocket, where his phone sits, and contemplates texting Taehyung something cheerful, but he knows Taehyung won’t even consider checking his notifications until the game is over. “He’s so good, though. And his team is good. We can’t give up hope.”
“Of course not.” Jimin pauses. “Hold my hand.”
The teams flood the field again and Jimin grasps tightly to Jeongguk’s left hand. Taehyung, in the midst of throwing a football back and forth between himself and his coach, takes a quick moment to scan the crowd. Jeongguk doesn’t know if he can spot Jimin’s obnoxiously large foam finger from where he stands, not with the size of this arena, but Jeongguk hopes that he can. Taehyung is one of the best football players to grace this town in years, and if Jeongguk and Jimin can offer any extra support from the crowd, then Jeongguk will take it.
Their team doesn’t have the ball for the first possession, Taehyung sitting on the bench with his towel over his head, watching the Knights and making notes for what to do next. He gets extra quiet when he focuses on the game, his mind working too fast for anyone to keep up with. The Knights score in eight possessions and make the field goal.
Taehyung gets sacked on their next possession, on third down with eight yards to go. Jeongguk can almost hear his curse from where he sits in the stands, but he gets right back up, and fakes on his next pass to get the next first down. They don’t score, though; the wide receiver gets tackled just a few yards shy of the end zone on their fourth down. It’s the first time the scores haven’t been tied since the beginning of the first quarter, and Taehyung kicks the bench as he jogs off the field.
Jeongguk forces himself to keep writing, to focus on the entire game and not solely on what Taehyung is doing. His writing is still lacking something, and he’s determined to find that something tonight.
End of the third, the Knights are up 49-38 and Jeongguk is starting to feel that worry clawing up his throat. Taehyung has lost games before, and he always bounces back by the end of the weekend, but that doesn’t mean Jeongguk likes to see his disappointed face.
Taehyung runs in his own touchdown. The defense stops the Knights from a two-point conversion, and by the five-minute mark the Knights are only up by six points.
He gets sacked again, but it’s a cheap shot and Jeongguk makes sure to take note of it. The defender breaks too early, is a little too rough in the way he swings Taehyung around before throwing him to the ground. The boy, number seventeen, gets ejected from the game to a loud cacophony of boos from the other side of the arena. When Taehyung gets up, his gaze is scortching and his throws are sharp with brutal precision.
But they fall short.
They don’t score on that possession, and the Knights don’t score on the next. There’s two minutes in the game, and Taehyung just needs one good pass. Jeongguk knows, and he writes it, that kind of anticipation that brings an arena to life, that demands attention and unsteady shouting until things play out.
They’re ten yards away, second down and goal. Taehyung could run, or he could pass, or he could have someone else run in. Try for a field goal and hope there’s enough time for another to force overtime. Taehyung throws, a gain of six yards. He throws again, a loss of two.
“He’s running the clock,” Jimin murmurs. His grip on Jeongguk’s hand is tight enough to disrupt his circulation, but Jeongguk doesn’t blame him. He hasn’t written anything in the last four minutes. He’ll have to rely on his memories. Jimin says that’s a shitty habit to get into, but he thinks Jimin will let it slide just this once.
“I know.” Jeongguk says back, his leg bouncing. He blames it on the cold.
Jimin whispers quietly to himself, and Jeongguk catches bits and pieces, saying, “Come on Tae, come on. You can do this in your sleep.”
Seconds left and Taehyung breaks the huddle. He shouts something, teammates getting into position. He gets the ball, mimes a throw and fakes to the right before handing off to Yugyeom. A block. A pretty spin. A tackle. And Yugyeom falls into the end zone.
The arena erupts again into cheers as the score evens out, 63-63. Even if Mingyu misses the kick they’ll go into overtime. But Mingyu doesn’t miss, and Jeongguk grins as he writes that down.
The Knights try for a long pass in the last twelve seconds of the game but the runner is easily tackled, still yards from the end zone. And just like that, Taehyung is a champion again.
Jeongguk’s on his feet instantly, cheering so loudly his voice breaks. Jimin’s no better at his side, clapping frantically and jumping where they stand, screaming, “That’s my best friend! That’s my man! My soulmate!”
The team rushes the field and someone pours the entire cooler of Gatorade down the coach’s back. Between the flailing of the spectators and the mob of the team, Jeongguk loses sight of Taehyung for a moment, but when he resurfaces again he’s grinning widely, head thrown back with the force of his screams. Jeongguk watches, clapping and laughing, and knows that if he can do only one thing, he’ll use his words to bring this kind of happiness to his life forever.
(Later, when the arena has cleared out enough that Jeongguk can sneak into the locker room, he finds Taehyung as the last one in there. There’s a huge after party somewhere back in town, Jimin was already on his way there to set up a very intricate welcome for Taehyung with Hoseok. But Taehyung was here, sitting on the bench and changed into worn jeans and a hoodie. The second he spots Jeongguk he’s on his feet, kissing Jeongguk hard against the lockers.
“Congratulations, hyung.” Jeongguk says, as Taehyung pulls back enough to let Jeongguk breathe, hands gentle on Taehyung’s cheeks. “Third championship title, how does it feel?”
Taehyung grins, reaching back to grab his varsity jacket, where a third patch will join the other two on his left sleeve. He hooks the jacket over Jeongguk’s shoulders, and kisses him again, smiling so widely their lips don’t fit against each other.
“Feels even better with you here.” Taehyung says, and they’re a little late to the after party but neither of them minds Jimin’s scolding.)
School Announcement: Today we say goodbye to the best class of seniors this school has seen in years. With three football titles, a cheerleading championship, and a gymnast heading to the next Olympics it will be hard without them. Best of luck in college, and welcome class of 2015!
Graduation is uncomfortably hot and a little sad, sitting between parents clapping enthusiastically for their kids as Jeongguk watches his friends walk across the stage. It was pouring outside, so the ceremony had to be held inside the gymnasium. Jeongguk swore he could smell the woman three rows in front of him, fanning herself with the program.
Taehyung had broken the rules to sit with Jimin further back in the lines of students. They’d gotten ready together too, sitting cramped in Jimin’s tiny bedroom as they picked their lightest button downs to wear under their black gowns. Jeongguk had been there, dozing on the bed and trying to ignore the ache he felt deep in his chest. He knew it was only a year until he’d see Jimin and Taehyung again at university, but a year has never felt longer. His phone, filled with the selfies Taehyung had dragged him into, weighs heavily in his pocket as more and more students are called up.
“Jeongguk?” A woman taps his shoulder, and Jeongguk recognizes the boy at her side as someone Jimin had helped tutor earlier in the year. “Tell Jimin congratulations, and give him this card for us, will you?”
Jimin whispers something in Taehyung’s ear and he giggles, turning in his seat to spot Jeongguk in the bleachers. He waves, and Jeongguk feels a little lighter.
But his leg won’t stop shaking. He must have drunk too much coffee that morning or something, because even holding his leg down wasn’t doing anything. A few kids send him nasty glares. Jeongguk makes an ugly face back at them before Taehyung’s row is being called and he has to sprint from the back to get into position.
There’s a distinct roar from the football team once Taehyung’s name is called, underclassmen cheerleaders leading a small routine for him as he crosses the stage, diploma in hand and dopey smile on his lips. He catches sight of Jeongguk, trying his best to whistle loudly with his fingers, and laughs vibrantly enough to light up the entire gym. He goes right back to his incorrect seat next to Jimin, both hugging tightly.
The rest of the ceremony passes quickly, Jeongguk cheering just as loudly when Jimin’s name is called and then sitting with trembling legs through the rest of the class. The three roses he holds, their stems are nearly bare of leaves from Jeongguk’s picking at them, fidgety and too hot beneath his collar.
“Jeonggukie!” Taehyung and Jimin find him outside the front door, standing in a small patch of shade. Taehyung gets to him first, gathering him into a tight hug.
“Congratulations, hyungs,” Jeongguk says, feeling shy and a little foolish as he hands Taehyung two roses and Jimin one.
“Wow.” Jimin says, dragging Jeongguk into an affectionate headlock. “Two for the brainless jock, and only one for the guy who built you into the decent reporter you are today? I see how it is.”
“Who are you calling brainless, you goddam shorty-”
Jeongguk remembers the envelop in his pocket. “Here, Jimin.”
Jimin frowns, reading the card before slamming it shut with red cheeks.
Snickering, Taehyung reaches for the card but Jimin is faster, ripping it in two and shoving both pieces into his pocket. Taehyung grins sleazily. “The fuck did it say, Jimin?”
“Absolutely nothing that a mother should be saying to a high school student.”
Taehyung and Jimin’s parents find them then, and drag everyone into pictures. Jeongguk’s shirt is sticky with sweat, his hair hanging into his eyes under the cap Taehyung put on his head, and he’s holding onto the back of Taehyung’s graduation gown too tightly, but he still smiles for the pictures. He smiles even as he stands off to the side, watching Taehyung and Jimin hug friends for the last time, promising to keep in touch, until Taehyung’s parents say they have to finish setting some things up for the party, and Jimin’s parents head out with them.
“Oh,” Jimin says, as the sky slowly begins to darken again. It had been a nice reprieve from the rain. “We should head back, too. You coming, Tae?”
“I’ll go with Jeongguk. Meet you there?”
“Sure. I think Jieun’s going to be there.”
“Have fun with your dick down her throat.” Jimin winks over his shoulder, pushing through the throng of students and toward the parking lot. Taehyung tugs Jeongguk closer with fingers curled in his pockets, and drops a soft kiss between his eyebrows. Jeongguk closes that distance, kissing Taehyung quickly and resting their foreheads together. “We should go too, Guk.”
“Just one more minute.”
Taehyung strokes down Jeongguk’s sweaty back. “You okay?”
He sighs. He’d been hoping to, well, to never have this conversation, but the tightening in his chest was proving to be distracting. “I’m going to miss you here.”
“I know.” One finger curled under Jeongguk’s chin, Taehyung lifts his head until they’re looking at each other. “It’s just one year. One year, and then you’ll use up all of your overnights in my dorm. I’m coming back to visit every break. We’ll be fine.”
“I know,” Jeongguk whispers. And he does. But Taehyung and Jimin were leaving, and they were leaving him behind. “I don’t know how to write stories without Jimin there.”
“Yes, you do. He’s trained you well, young Padawan.”
“Your nerd.” Taehyung kisses his eyelids softly, then down to his nose, before pressing a faint kiss to the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth. “Let’s go.”
Taehyung leads him to the parking lot with their arms linked, admiring his diploma as they go. The school was starting to clear out, kids meeting up with each other to head to graduation parties or finding their parents to leave for dinner. Jeongguk squeezes Taehyung’s arm, and turns his head for a quick kiss.
“Sorry about that,” Jeongguk says, starting the engine.
Taehyung wrestles out of his graduation gown in the passenger seat, balling it up on the floor despite his mother’s earlier graphic threats if he were to wrinkle it. “Sorry? The fuck are you sorry for?”
“Ruining the mood.”
Taehyung snorts. “Your family is out of town for the whole weekend and there’s an ice cream cake with my name literally written on it back home. We have all summer, Guk. You haven’t ruined anything.”
There’s too many cars parked in Taehyung’s driveway when they get there, forcing Jeongguk to park halfway down the block where he finds room. He recognizes Jimin’s car and Hoseok’s, music blaring loudly from the back of the house already. There’s a banner hanging over the front door, Congratulations Tae! written in fancy script with balloons tacked to all four corners. The Kims really were going all out for their oldest kid.
“Did they invite the entire town?” Jeongguk mutters.
“Hm?” Taehyung looks up. “Oh, probably. You’ll meet my grandparents. They’re cool. Grandpa always gives me a dollar and tells me not to spend it all in one place.”
“Funny.” Taehyung doesn’t get out of the car like Jeongguk expects, instead he all but launches himself into the backseat and tugs insistently at Jeongguk’s sleeve. Jeongguk follows him, Taehyung’s hands on his hips guiding him to sit on his lap. “What are you doing, Tae? We have all night.”
“Mhm, but I’ve been hard for ten minutes.” Taehyung unbuttons the top few buttons of Jeongguk’s shirt, latching his teeth onto Jeongguk’s collarbone and sucking harshly.
Jeongguk gasps, clutching at Taehyung’s shoulders. Taehyung grips his ass and he nearly goes boneless, thighs spreading further to sit more comfortably on Taehyung’s lap. “W-Why?”
“I was thinking about how clean your desk is now.”
“What the fuck?” Jeongguk laughs, leaning back to tug Taehyung’s shirt away from his neck with shaking fingers. “Why?”
“You know how much I love fucking you over that thing.”
“You-” Taehyung palms at the front of Jeongguk’s slacks, already beginning to tent, and Jeongguk chokes off with a strangled groan. “Hurry up, fuck. These are my only good dress pants.”
“So take them off.”
It takes a little maneuvering but after a few moments of struggling Jeongguk manages to shuck off his pants and boxers. He kneels between Taehyung’s legs, smoothing his palms up Taehyung’s thighs to unbutton his slacks and tug his hard cock free, precum welling at the tip.
“You’re hot as fuck, how is that my problem?”
Jeongguk licks to the tip of Taehyung’s cock, enjoying the strangled moan he earns in return. Taehyung liked to take his time, to lay Jeongguk out and tease until he was shaking, whimpering and begging to get off, but they couldn’t manage anything like that in the back of Jeongguk’s truck with an entire party waiting for them. But this- wrapping his lips around Taehyung’s cock to swallow him down- this, Jeongguk can do.
He gets a little lost in it, in the heavy weight on his tongue, the taste at the back of his throat as Jeongguk goes down further. Taehyung curls his fingers into Jeongguk’s hair, trying to push him down even more. Jeongguk tries to relax his throat, tears collecting at the corner of his eyes, Taehyung’s moans and soft groans like music to his ears.
“Guk,” Taehyung whispers, scrabbling at his shoulders and pulling Jeongguk off of his cock with a soft pop. “Holy shit-wait.” He digs around in his pocket; slacks bunched around one ankle, and gets his phone, Jeongguk smiling softly as Taehyung takes a few pictures of his ruined face. “Fuck, get up here.”
“Do you have lube?” Jeongguk says against Taehyung’s lips, kissing him furiously.
“Shit- do you still have any in here?”
Jeongguk pulls back, frowning. “I never keep any in here.”
“I do.” Taehyung reaches around him to the center console, digging around at an awkward angle that gives Jeongguk perfect access to mark up his neck, to tug lightly on the piercings in his ears. “Gotcha! Sit up on your knees, doll.”
Jeongguk does, shivering at the first press of Taehyung’s slick fingers at his hole. Taehyung, knowing they’re on a time crunch, doesn’t waste anytime before finding Jeongguk’s prostate and pressing hard, making Jeongguk arch in his lap. “Fuck-”
“Did you prep yourself?”
“What the fuck- no. I’m not a slut.”
“Debatable. I’m giving you two.”
His thighs shake at two fingers and by three, Jeongguk’s grinding down against Taehyung’s fingers, hands grasping his sweaty neck like a lifeline. Taehyung grins evilly against Jeongguk’s cheek, scissoring his fingers wide and pushing them against Jeongguk’s prostate cruelly.
“I’m ready, fuck- Tae, I’m ready.” Jeongguk whines, high in his throat, as Taehyung crooks his fingers before pulling them out.
“Grab the condom out of my pocket- no, don’t whine at me. Unless you want to hang with my parents with come dripping out your ass.”
Jeongguk’s hands shake as he finds the condom, rolling it quickly down Taehyung’s length. He lines himself up as Taehyung wipes the extra- last of the- lube on his dick before gripping tight to Jeongguk’s waist, holding him steady as he sinks slowly onto Taehyung’s dick. The stretch doesn’t burn, but Jeongguk still moans loudly, head thrown back, as he’s filled. Taehyung’s hands are big and strong on his waist, bunching his shirt just out of the way of Jeongguk’s cock, hard and leaking against his belly.
“Get to riding, doll.”
“You-” Jeongguk tries to hide his panting with kisses against Taehyung’s mouth, but it doesn’t really work. “Are so lucky you’re hot.”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
Jeongguk’s head slams against the ceiling of the truck when he tries to pull off entirely, so he resigns himself to a fast grind on Taehyung’s cock, lifting off just enough to slam back down. Taehyung’s hands move to Jeongguk’s ass, spreading his cheeks to fuck deeper into Jeongguk’s ass.
His shirt has fallen askew enough to give Taehyung enough access to mark up his collarbone and lower neck, taking care to only leave bruises where he knows they’ll be hidden by Jeongguk’s shirt. Jeongguk’s thighs strain with the effort of holding himself up and grinding down on Taehyung, but the one time they tried to do this horizontally in the truck, Taehyung kicked out one of Jeongguk’s windows with his foot. His stupid long boyfriend and his stupid long legs.
“Fuck-” Jeongguk whimpers, his pace faltering as Taehyung nips at a sensitive spot behind his ear.
“Close?” Taehyung groans into Jeongguk’s ear and he whines, sagging in Taehyung’s hold. Taehyung just grips his ass tighter, thrusting up into Jeongguk’s wet hole.
Jeongguk’s toes curl, mouth missing Taehyung’s each time he goes for a kiss. Taehyung’s cock drags against his prostate with each thrust and Jeongguk’s body tenses, his orgasm so close that he nearly chokes on it. But he doesn’t reach it, Taehyung’s fingers tight around the base of Jeongguk’s cock to keep him from coming. “No- hyung, what? Let me come!”
“Isn’t this your only clean shirt?” Taehyung licks from Jeongguk’s collarbone to his ear, whispering, “Unless you want to be covered in come for the party.”
Jeongguk shakes, his knee slipping on the upholstery. “N-No.”
“Your body tells me otherwise.”
Taehyung only laughs, thrusting harshly a few more times before he’s coming hard in the condom, buried deep in Jeongguk’s ass. Jeongguk sobs, frustrated, as Taehyung pulls out and messily moves Jeongguk so he’s laying on his back, ass feeling empty. “I know, I know,” Taehyung shushes him with kisses, with strokes of his fingers against Jeongguk’s thick thighs. “But I didn’t bring a plug. Let me make you feel good.”
With that, Taehyung swallows down Jeongguk’s hard cock, Jeongguk’s back bowing from the sudden onslaught of pleasure. He cries out, hands tangled in Taehyung’s hair.
“Don’t stop- Taehyung- fuck, don’t stop!”
Jeongguk babbles, strung out and on edge, his legs itching to wrap around Taehyung’s shoulders, hold him close and never let him go. Fuck being on a field, Taehyung’s place in this world was right here, between Jeongguk’s legs and making him sob with pleasure.
It doesn’t take long, Taehyung swallows around him and reaches down to play with Jeongguk’s balls and then he’s coming, mouth slack on a silent moan. Taehyung swallows neatly, breathing uneasily as he pulls away. Jeongguk swipes his finger across Taehyung’s lips, his expression utterly blissed out, and he laughs, elated and a little too warm.
“As much as I love your afterglow, Jeonggukie, we need to get inside before my mom kills me.”
Getting dressed is a feat in and of itself, Jeongguk struggling to tug his slacks on as Taehyung ties off the condom, grinning sheepishly at the glare Jeongguk sends his way when he drops it under the seat. Taehyung attempts to smooth down his hair and Jeongguk helps by kissing the back of his neck until Taehyung swats him away, both of them buttoning their shirts quickly.
“Come stains?” Taehyung asks, looking over his face in the rearview mirror.
Jeongguk smacks his ass just for the hell of it. “None I can see.”
“Nice, let’s rock this joint-”
“Hey, dickholes.” The door slams open, Jimin frowning at them. “Tae, your mom says if you’re not inside in twenty seconds-” His mouth snaps shut, eyebrows furrowed at the way Taehyung and Jeongguk scrambled away from each other, the very obvious smell of sex and sweat in the small backseat of the truck. “Explain. Now.”
“Uh.” Taehyung glances between them, and shrugs. He grins. “I’ve been boning your prodigy.”
Jeongguk winces. “Dating,” he clarifies, voice cracking as Jimin fixes his stony expression on Jeongguk instead. “He means dating.”
“Which includes boning.”
Jimin grabs at Taehyung’s collar, dragging him out of the car. “How long?”
“Like, two years? Almost? Maybe?” Taehyung looks desperately at Jeongguk for help, but Jeongguk only smiles, hiding it behind his hand as he sits on the edge of the seat to watch Jimin try to fight someone so much taller than him. “I don’t know. I sucked his dick before asking him out.”
“My Jeongguk, my baby brother-”
“Jimin, you already have a brother-”
“You’ve polluted him!”
“He sucked me off first!”
“I’m right here,” Jeongguk reminds them, hopping out of the car and locking it behind him. “Jimin, please don’t kill him.”
“No promises.” But Jimin lets go of Taehyung’s collar and pushes him in the direction of the front door. “Go greet your grandmother, she keeps pinching my cheeks and asking when we’re going to get married.”
“Did you tell her it’s whenever you accept my ring?”
“By the way, Jeongguk bottoms.”
“Okay that,” Jimin grimaces. “I did not need to know.” Taehyung cackles, ducking around Jimin to kiss Jeongguk quickly before he turns on his heel and sprints to the front door, laughing wildly. Jimin sighs, walking slowly with Jeongguk at his side.
When the silence becomes unbearable, Jeongguk mutters. “I mean, we switch. Sometimes-”
“Really, really do not need to know.”
Jimin sighs, jerking his chin in the direction from which they can hear Taehyung screaming in delight, presumably at one of his baby cousins. “Good luck with… that.”
“He’s your best friend, hyung.”
“He’s a menace.”
Jeongguk dips his chin, smiling fondly. “Yeah, he is.”
“You’re in for a wild ride, newbie.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.”
Jimin breaks a smile and throws his arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders. “Want to go smash some cake in his face?”
“Holy shit- yes.”
School Announcement: Welcome back students! Club sign ups begin on the first day and last for two weeks, and anyone who hasn’t submitted their physical must do so before being cleared for sports. The library has extended their tutoring hours for the week for those who need a little extra help getting back into routine.
To absolutely no one’s surprise- at least according to Taehyung- Jeongguk makes editor for his senior year of school. As a kind of tradition, the name of the next editor is written on a card and folded into an envelope to be opened on the first day. Jeongguk thinks it’s overdramatic, but he’d seen how ecstatic Jimin was when the card showed his name and, honestly, Jeongguk is just as excited when it’s his own name. Yeri set up balloons with a few other girls, and Mingyu slaps Jeongguk very lightly with a palm full of shaving cream, laughing as he says, “your man crush Monday paid me fifteen dollars to do it!”
The first paper of the year is always easy, a Welcome Back to School! template that essentially filled itself. And with the extra weeks leading up to the start of school, everyone delivers their pieces on time and Jeongguk gets dragged out to dinner by Mingyu and a few other of his friends, Hoseok making a very loud entrance with a few sneaky drinks.
“I know Jimin was sometimes lenient with deadlines,” Jeongguk says at the beginning of the third week. By now, anyone who was looking to join a club had already done so. “I understand illnesses or family emergencies, but you should make your deadlines. People get fired from the Post or Times for being late submitting a story. I can’t fire you, but I want this paper to run smoothly. Work with me, and things will go well.”
“No rest for the wicked, huh?” Mingyu asks, kicking at Jeongguk’s chair as he sits. Jeongguk had just finished delegating the sections for this year, and Mingyu was on their movie review portion.
“Thought this was supposed to be a fun club is all, dude.”
Jeongguk looks up from the theater piece he’s reviewing for the next edition, and glances around the room. There’s music playing softly from Mark’s computer, Yura sending him dirty looks from where she’s watching videos on her own computer. Two girls he hasn’t learned the names of are laughing on their way out of the room to interview someone.
“Is this not fun?” Jeongguk says quietly to himself.
Mingyu reaches over, their desks close enough that he can reach, and smacks Jeongguk on the back of his head. “Relax. It’s a fun club, and as long as you pretend to be surprised at the ice cream party Jimin hyung is throwing you next week, it’s only going to get more fun.”
Jeongguk spends as much time as he can with each of the students in the club, helping with all of their individual levels. Like Jimin had done for him, Jeongguk assigns students to shadow those with more experience and brings some people along with him. When he’s sitting in the stands of a soccer or volleyball game he’s got someone next to him, asking questions and trying to mimic the way he writes. That doesn’t stop Jeongguk from calling Jimin every other night for advice and maybe to panic a little.
His papers are good. The school principle complements him if they happen to pass each other. The stories he writes do well, and the stories he helps new kids write turn out almost as nice. But that doesn’t stop him from staying late, long after the sun has set, reading over submissions and re-writing his own pieces with only the company of his own neck pain. When his leg shakes and his vision blurs, Jeongguk blames it on the half-empty cup of coffee on his desk.
In the weeks leading up to winter break, Jeongguk makes plans to release three papers. He wants to do one in regular format, one covering global holiday traditions, and another to highlight all of the upcoming events of the last half of the year. It’s ambitious, to say the least, and despite everyone’s assurances that they’ll help until the very end, even Mingyu packed up to leave hours ago.
Rubbing at his eyes, Jeongguk groans at the crick in his own neck. Winter break started at the end of the school day, but Jeongguk has to submit these before midnight. He stares at the words, jumbled and blurred together, and mutters to himself, “What the fuck was I thinking.”
“I’ve been asking myself that for years.”
Taehyung stands in the doorway, bundled in only a university hoodie and sweats, his hair damp and lips spread to a wide smile.
“Hyung!” Jeongguk stumbles, tripping over his feet and slamming his knee on the corner of a desk when he hurries out of his chair- the good spinny one, editor perks- and all but tackles Taehyung into a fierce hug, nearly knocking both of them off of their feet. Taehyung reciprocates just as hard, nosing at the skin of Jeongguk’s neck with his cold nose. “Holy shit, how are you here? You’re supposed to be home on Saturday!”
Taehyung laughs, pressing gentle kiss after kiss to the places he can reach of Jeongguk’s neck. “Moved around a couple of finals. I wanted to surprise you.”
“Mhm.” Jeongguk still doesn’t let go of Taehyung, shoving his face as far as he can in Taehyung’s neck. “And how’d your professors let that slide?”
“Told them my dog died.”
“Sh, kiss me. Full bromo.”
Instead, Jeongguk smacks the back of his head and then kisses his temple in apology. “Can’t be distracted, my deadline is in-” He checks his watch and nearly groans. “Two hours. Wait, how’d you fucking get in here? The school closed four hours ago.”
“I fucked up the gym side door years ago. Came in handy when I didn’t want to run in class anymore.”
“You delinquent.” Jeongguk links their hands and tugs Taehyung into the room, smiling sheepishly. He pulls over the second best spinny chair to let Taehyung sit, and taps his keyboard to wake his computer up with a whirring sigh. Jeongguk can relate. He’d rather be sleeping now, too. Or, he eyes Taehyung shaking out his wet hair obnoxiously, something else.
“This is the big project Jimin told me about?”
Jeongguk frowns, correcting some grammar issues from Yeri’s fine arts piece. “Jimin hyung told you about it?”
“You call him more than you call me.”
When he looks over, Taehyung’s pouting comically, hands shoved between his thighs to keep them warm. Jeongguk gently tugs on his bottom lip, until Taehyung’s pout dissolves into another smile. “I don’t sext him, though.”
Taehyung falls into silence then, letting Jeongguk concentrate on his work. The weekly paper and the anticipatory one were as good as they were going to get, and now Jeongguk just had to finish his one about traditions. He’d left this one for last, knowing it was going to be the hardest and require the most research. Initially, Jeongguk had planned to do it all on his own, but when he’d realized the scale of what he’d imagined he called a club meeting and suggested everyone cover a culture and submit it to him to format. They’d been more than happy to help, and now all Jeongguk had to do was make sure the format looked good, double check any facts that seemed off to him, and find some good pictures of each culture.
At some point, Taehyung scoots his chair closer and rests his chin on Jeongguk’s shoulder, the weight solid and grounding. Jeongguk doesn’t have any caffeine left, but he knows at this point it wouldn’t do much to help. He’s tired and overworked, and Taehyung’s thumbs tracing idle pattern on his hips aren’t helping much. He gets the format to something that doesn’t hurt his eyes, checks the last fact he was unsure about, and pinches the bridge of his nose between two fingers.
Taehyung hums, pressing a gentle kiss to Jeongguk’s ear. “Done?”
“Not quite. I need pictures.” He’s got forty-five minutes to his submission deadline. “Dammit.”
“Let me help.” Taehyung rolls away to the nearest computer, and Jeongguk whines at the loss of his body heat. “Oh hush, you. The sooner we finish this, the sooner you can cuddle me to death. What am I looking for?”
“You saw the countries and cultures in the paper, right?” Taehyung nods. “Something good to encapsulate that culture. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just something to fill space and help draw the reader’s attention.”
They work in relative silence; with Taehyung air dropping him photos every few minutes when he finds them. Piece by piece the paper comes together, pictures tying together the last parts that Jeongguk had been worried about. Weeks of planning and scrapping storyboards are finalized, and when he places the last photo, Jeongguk can’t help but let out a disbelieving laugh. Taehyung messes with his hair as he submits everything, knowing that nothing will actually be printed until classes resume in the New Year, but it’s fine. He’s done, and now he gets a break for a little over a week.
“We can go now?” Taehyung asks, as Jeongguk’s shutting off the computers they’d used. When Jeongguk nods, Taehyung grabs him by the waist to kiss him square on the lips. “Been wanting to do that for a month.”
“Loser.” He collects his things, his neck cracking as he stretches. School had dismissed early today, and Jeongguk had spent hours huddled over the computer. “Hey, why was your hair all wet earlier?”
Taehyung raises an eyebrow at him, arm thrown over Jeongguk’s shoulders. “Because it’s been snowing all day?”
Jeongguk groans. He’d ben staring at a computer all day he’d forgotten to look out a window. “Bart is terrible in the snow.”
“Maybe it’s because your truck resents being called Bart.”
“It’s short for-”
“For Bartholomew, I know. Which isn’t much better, Guk.” Taehyung tugs his hood up as they approach the door, the rest of the school dark and cold after everyone had left. Jeongguk’s about to ask where the hell his winter coat is, but Taehyung keeps talking before he gets the chance. “It’s fine, I drove here. We can get your car in the morning, after I suck your dick three times.”
“It’s been a month, Jeongguk.”
There are already a few inches of snow on the ground as they trek across the parking lot, and it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. Jeongguk sits on his hands to try to warm them, and says, “Hit the heat?”
“Oh my God.”
Taehyung snickers, turns out of the parking lot in the opposite direction of his house. “Do you want ice cream?”
He makes a noise of disbelief, breath almost tangible before his eyes. “It’s like, ten degrees.”
“It’s never the wrong time for ice cream.”
Taehyung’s team missed the playoffs for the national title that year. He hadn’t called when they lost that last game, too pissed at his coach for not thinking to sub Taehyung in for the senior quarterback- Jimin had been the one to tell Jeongguk, and he’d called Taehyung on FaceTime to try to cheer him up.
Their breaks from school are spent together, alternating between Jeongguk and Taehyung’s beds and sometimes Jimin’s room, when he shows up unannounced to drag them out to eat or over to watch movies. Taehyung rolls his entire weight on top of Jeongguk on the mornings he tries to be productive, and though Jeongguk could easily just shove him off the bed, he entertains Taehyung and stays in bed late, warm beneath Taehyung.
“Hey,” Taehyung says one afternoon, a few days before they’ll have to part again. Taehyung has to go back early for training and weightlifting, and high school cruelly starts the day after the New Year. Jeongguk’s sitting on his waist, sheets shoved to the bottom of the bed as they kiss, Jeongguk dragging his lips to Taehyung’s neck while he speaks. “Hey- quit biting me, I need to- fuck- ask you something.”
“Fine.” Jeongguk sits back, Taehyung’s hands gripping his thighs. “What?”
Taehyung laughs, petting the soft skin below Jeongguk’s t-shirt. “You sound real snippy for a guy about to get fucked.”
At that, Jeongguk flushes something fierce and mumbles, “I missed you, okay?”
“Cute.” Taehyung folds his arm behind his head, hair still a mess from their earlier round. “I’m proud of you.”
Jeongguk tries to scoff, ducking his head in hopes of hiding the smile that tugs at his lips. “This couldn’t wait until after I sucked you off?”
“I’m not talking about your oral skills,” Taehyung laughs again. “Although I do appreciate those. I’m talking about you, in general. Jimin told me you were so painfully shy before starting to write, and now everything that you write and submit is absolutely beautiful, Jeongguk.”
Jeongguk looks up, startled. “Hyung-”
“I’m serious! You know how people pax all woetic about how their field or court is where they belong, or how their life fell into place the first time they picked up an instrument? I think meeting Jimin was the best thing to happen to you, not only because it led me to you. Had you ever thought of writing professionally before?”
“It’s ‘wax poetic,’” Jeongguk says.
“Only to people who care. You’ve got six months to graduation, know what you want to do yet?”
With a huff, Jeongguk settles all of his weight on Taehyung’s lap, making him groan. “I’m fucking hard and you want to talk about this now? Tae-”
Taehyung cups the heat between Jeongguk’s legs, snickering as his hips kick forward. “Tell me, or I’ll leave you hanging and order pizza.”
“This is extortion.”
“That’s life, babe.”
Jeongguk sighs heavily through his nose. He stares at Taehyung’s collarbone instead of his face when he says, “I don’t want to write a novel or some shit, but I’d like to work for a paper. A good one, not one of those shitty papers relying on yellow journalism to sell copies. Preferably in a busy city now can you please suck my dick.”
Taehyung laughs, loud and uninhibited, and isn’t gentle at all as he surges upright and knocks Jeongguk back. Removing Jeongguk’s boxers, Taehyung picks up right where they left off.
School Announcement: Goodbye seniors! It never gets easier to say goodbye to the students who make our school so wonderful. Not only are we losing amazing athletes, but moving performers and writers who bring our school to life. Good luck at college, and don’t forget to visit!
Jeongguk’s graduation is blisteringly hot, not a cloud in sight as the graduating class sits sweating and waiting for their diplomas. He swears the principle has twice as much to say as he usually does, and he uses his program to wipe the sweat that drips from his temples. To his left, he sees Yugyeom slipping someone a tiny flask, and he briefly wishes he’d asked his older brother to let him take those shots while he was getting ready earlier.
“It’s so hard to say goodbye,” the principal is saying, the same tired speech he gives every year. “This class is full of special people, and I’ll miss each and every one of you.”
The valedictorian speaks for a few minutes, and then the vice principal is at the podium to announce the graduate’s names. There is no uproar when Jeongguk gets his diploma, even though the newspaper club does cheer loudly. From the stands, Jeongguk can see Jimin and Taehyung standing next to Jeongguk’s family, screaming so loudly that Jeongguk can hear them from halfway across the football field. Jeongguk grins, holds up his diploma, and points at Taehyung.
Afterwards, Jeongguk waits at the base of the bleachers for his family to find him. Taehyung gets to him first, launching himself onto Jeongguk’s back to hug him tightly. He kisses Jeongguk’s sweaty neck and says, “I’m so proud of you, Guk.”
Jeongguk will forever blame the flush coloring his cheeks on the heat. “Thank you.”
“There’s my baby brother!” Jeongguk’s brother is the next to get to them, having used almost all of his days of leave to make it, yanking Jeongguk into a headlock and rubbing his knuckles against his head.
“Hyung! Quit it!”
Jimin gives him roses and a sly wink, still a bit bitter that he was the last to know about Jeongguk and Taehyung. “Congrats, newbie.”
His mom hugs him for an extra long time and keeps an arm around as much of Jeongguk’s shoulders that she can manage. “Jimin, Taehyung, will you join us for dinner?”
“We’re always down for food,” Jimin confirms.
“Hey,” Taehyung whispers, tugging on Jeongguk’s elbow to get him to hang back. Once Jeongguk’s family is sufficiently out of earshot, Taehyung threads his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair and tugs. “You still owe me.”
Jeongguk hisses at the sting on the nape of his neck. “The fuck are you talking about?”
“Remember when I got detention blowing you behind the gym? When we got caught?” Taehyung’s eyes shine with mischief, almost enough to have Jeongguk forgetting their surroundings. Someone had heard them; having snuck out during lunch period, and Jeongguk had accidentally shoved Taehyung into the teacher’s sight and stayed hidden. “You promised you’d make it up to me.”
“I’m not-” Taehyung pulls on his hair again and Jeongguk quickly slaps his hand away before he can slip up and moan in front of all these families. “Blowing you with my family waiting in the car.”
“Not even if I promise to-”
“Hyung, shut up-”
“Fuck your face until you cry?”
Jeongguk stalks away from him, face burning bright red even as Taehyung cackles behind him, catching up easily. Jeongguk doesn’t let him hold his hand, shoving them far in his pockets and making Taehyung hold his diploma so he can keep his hands hidden.
As they approach Jeongguk’s family, Taehyung’s stopped laughing and instead is leaning as much of his weight on Jeongguk as possible without stumbling. He’s still chuckling, but at least now he’s kissing at Jeongguk’s cheek and neck and whining for forgiveness. Jeongguk pushes his face away, but relents and holds Taehyung’s hand. “You’re the worst.”
“But you love me anyway.”
Jeongguk sighs. “Yeah, I do.”
(He lets Jimin sit between them in the backseat, and spends the entire drive to the restaurant laughing at Taehyung’s betrayed expression.)
(In the haze of summer, it’s easy to forget about things like the pressing weight of college and preparing for the future. It’s easy to forget about everything that isn’t sharing a bed with a lover, eating ice cream for two meals a day, or driving to McDonald’s at 3.M. because Taehyung couldn’t sleep and he missed Jeongguk’s company.
Jeongguk’s brother goes back to Korea a week after graduation, and Jeongguk spends almost every night of the glorious three months in Taehyung’s bed. His parents get on his case, urge him to try to find a part-time job before he’s set to leave for university in the fall, or to do something with his time other than hitting the gym, sleeping buried under Taehyung’s blanket and fans, or taking several bags of fast food and a blanket to the park across town for an impromptu picnic.
But the curve of Taehyung’s waist is too intoxicating, the glow of his skin when he blinks awake in the morning and his cheeks are flushed, the bed far too warm for how close they cuddle together. Jeongguk’s never been an early riser, but he tries harder during these few months, drunk on the image of the sunrise painting the delicate lines of Taehyung’s face.
“Morning, gorgeous,” Taehyung says every morning, rolling over to stretch.
It makes Jeongguk grin, giddy, and try to hide his face in Taehyung’s shoulder until he complains of the unbearable heat. The shower is still cold every morning when Jeongguk joins him, Taehyung startling every time Jeongguk wraps him in his arms.
“We should road trip to New York City,” Taehyung says one afternoon.
Jeongguk, who’d been dozing against Taehyung’s stomach while Taehyung reads over plays sent to him by his coach, hums lightly. “Why?”
“Because it’s close, we’re young and stupid, and why the fuck not?”
“I see.” Jeongguk snuggles closer, whining softly until Taehyung strokes his fingers through his hair. “We should invite Jimin.”
“We leave in two days.”
Jeongguk knows he doesn’t have to say goodbye at the end of this summer, knows that soon enough they’ll be packing a few cars full of boxes to move to the university for a new semester, but he’s still determined to make this the best summer they’ve ever had. There are no papers, no deadlines, and Taehyung has no practice except for his daily workouts at the gym. They can do any and everything, and for now, all Jeongguk wants is Taehyung’s hand in his hair, his fingers gentle on Jeongguk’s jaw.)
OSU Announcement: To the girl who left her bra and right shoe at the Lambda party last night, please call campus lost and found. And to the students who kicked ass at the football game Friday night, let’s make this a wicked year.
The first college party Jeongguk attends comes on the day of the university’s first home football game. There’s a homecoming dance somewhere across campus, but according to Taehyung, no one goes to that. Jeongguk had frowned, saying the school paper was expected to cover it despite low attendance, but then Taehyung had shoved his hand in the front of Jeongguk’s jeans and he’d forgotten to argue.
Jeongguk, with his press pass and too many notebooks, sits in the press box squished between three burly men writing about the opposing team. “Do you mind if I watch?” Jeongguk had asked the man who looked least intimidating. “I’m technically here on assignment for a class, it’ll help if I watch what you do.”
“Knock yourself out, kid.”
Taehyung’s the starting quarterback now. After the disaster where they’d lost a game that should have been easy last year, Taehyung had inserted himself into the starting offensive lineup, and they hadn’t lost a single preseason game.
Now, Jeongguk sits in the cold press box and focuses on the game. He’s slowly learning to distance himself from the players, focusing on the numbers and the plays instead of the people behind the jerseys. It makes it easier when he has to write about a certain player’s failures, or when he has to insult one of Taehyung’s friend’s defenses. Luckily, he’s not the only one sent out to cover the football games, so his partner is often able to provide the impartiality that Jeongguk sometimes forgets.
Their team wins easily, and Jeongguk knows the buzz is going to be good. Ohio State hasn’t won a national championship recently, but with Taehyung at the helm with three state championships under his belt, they had a great chance.
Jeongguk waits by the locker room once the game ends, his notes hidden in his backpack. Not that Taehyung will try to read any of them before the paper goes out (if he even reads the papers about him, anyway) but it’s a habit Jeongguk’s not willing to break. Students and athletes file past him, laughing and shoving each other, everyone still riding the high of the win. Jeongguk pays them no mind and scrolls through his phone, but when Jimin comes out of the locker room carrying several clipboards, Jeongguk does a double take.
“What the fuck?”
“Jeongguk!” Jimin looks up, startled. “I thought we were meeting at the party.”
“I wanted to wait for Tae.”
“Gross.” Jimin collects his clipboards into something a little more organized, and Jeongguk spots a headset on top. “He should only be a few more minutes.”
Jeongguk tips his chin at the pile of things Jimin’s carrying. “Is this why you haven’t been to the newspaper meetings?”
“Ah.” Jimin looks away, sheepish. “I was in the photography club for a while, then the environmental club, even joined the damn acapella group on campus. Tae dragged me into this shit and I have to admit that I like it.”
“What are you doing?”
“Learning how to manage football teams, apparently.”
“And doing a shitty job of it if my salary is anything to go by.” Taehyung, hair wet and cheeks flushed from a rushed shower, nudges Jimin as he approaches them. He’d changed into jeans and one of Jeongguk’s hoodies that he’d though he lost years ago. “Even made me pay for dinner last week.”
“College athletes don’t get paid, asshole. And you’re on scholarship!”
“Buy me dinner, Jimin!”
Jeongguk tugs Taehyung’s arm around his waist, and frowns. “What am I supposed to do without you?”
“Oh, newbie.” Jimin pinches his cheek, and Jeongguk doesn’t even slap him away. “You’ve always been a better writer than me, you’re going to be fine.”
“Will you still proofread my pieces?”
Jimin steps back, appraising Jeongguk where he attempts to hide beneath Taehyung’s arm for a long minute. “Only for this semester.”
Taehyung swings his gym bag at Jimin’s hip, and Jeongguk notices that the area has cleared out entirely. Everyone’s either at the after party across campus or at the homecoming dance in the dusty auditorium. “Can we go now? I have celebratory shots to take.”
The party is already in full swing by the time they get there, having stopped by Jimin and Taehyung’s dorm to drop their things off. Someone pours out shots for the three of them once they walk through the front door, players and cheerleaders cheering for the guy who’d led the team to victory. Taehyung eats it up, his grin wide and expression forlorn when he turns down a cheerleader’s offer of body shots.
“You should have done it,” Jeongguk snickers, sitting between Jimin and Taehyung on a couch that smells overwhelmingly of weed. “Would have been hot.”
Taehyung doesn’t look up from where he’s pouring half of his drink into Jeongguk’s. “The only body I’m licking tonight is yours.”
“Gross!” Jimin complains, as Jeongguk tries to shrink back and hide. “Someone hand me the entire Grey Goose bottle, I need to forget that ever happened.” But a few minutes later Jimin forgets about them in the form of an intimidatingly tall guy and the offer of beer pong.
“Wait until you meet the guys I’ve met here, Jeongguk.” Taehyung leans back on the couch, and Jeongguk rests his head on Taehyung’s arm. His drink is stronger than he remembers it being, and he thinks it has something to do with the solo cup in Taehyung’s hand that he hasn’t touched. “They’re crazy, even Hoseok hyung said so. They’re cool, though. Yoongi’s gunning to write movie scores and I would have lost my athletic scholarship if not for Namjoon and Seokjin last year.”
“Are they hotter than me?” Jeongguk asks, his words already beginning to trip over each other. Shit, maybe those four shots in the entryway weren’t the best decision. It’s not even that late, yet Jeongguk finds himself tipping his weight onto Taehyung, giggling softly into his neck.
“No one’s hotter than you, doll.”
“You made me drunk.”
Taehyung laughs quietly, carding his fingers gently through Jeongguk’s hair. “You always let me drink back home, I’m only returning the favor.”
Someone walks by carrying a bunch of Jell-O shots and Jeongguk snatches a couple, knocking them back with a wince. He’s pleasantly drunk by now, warmth sitting in his belly and he stumbles a little as he stands, tugging on Taehyung’s arm to get him to follow. Taehyung keeps him close with a hand on his elbow as Jeongguk first searches the kitchen for something a little softer to drink and then outside where a small bonfire is set up in the backyard.
Jeongguk gets a little too close to the fire and a little too close to Taehyung. He doesn’t try to join in on the games being played around the yard, mostly because as the hours drag on it gets a little harder for him to stand, unused to being so sufficiently drunk.
“Hyung, m’gonna jump the fire.”
“Cool, I’ll sign your casts.”
But Jeongguk doesn’t even come close, slipping on someone’s discarded shirt before he gets the chance to jump. He falls, laughing into the grass and spills the last of his drink on his own shirt.
“Cute,” Taehyung says, holding his phone over Jeongguk’s face. If Jeongguk’s eyes were open he’d see Taehyung texting Jimin. “Come on, let’s get you back before you actually die in a fire.”
“But the moon,” Jeongguk complains, as Taehyung staggers a little under his weight.
“What about it?”
“Not as pretty as you.”
“Think you missed a punch line in there somewhere, Guk.”
The walk back to Taehyung’s dorm has never felt further away than when Jeongguk can’t walk on his own. He keeps trying to veer off, but Taehyung has a strong hand on his waist, even if he does lose Jeongguk for a brief second as he’s unlocking his door.
“Fuck.” Taehyung’s bed is blessedly soft beneath him, his head spinning something fierce.
Jeongguk dozes, at least he thinks he does, but he feels Taehyung tugging off his Timbs and jeans to get him comfortable for sleep. His stomach is rolling, the shitty lights too bright, and Jeongguk finds himself hoping that he’ll fall asleep before he can get sick. Taehyung disappears from his line of sight to grab a couple water bottles, and rests Jeongguk’s head on his lap as he joins him on the bed.
“Get used to this, Jeongguk. We’ll be dragging each other home from after parties all over the country soon enough.”
“You can do all the drinking.”
Taehyung strokes his hair very lightly, as if he’s on the edge of breaking. “Sorry, I should have asked if you wanted to drink tonight.”
“No,” Jeongguk moans. “It’s okay, I still love you.”
“Thanks,” Taehyung snorts.
“I’ll only drink at the after parties Chris Pratt is at.”
“Wow. You’d leave me for him?”
“I’d leave you for any of the Chris’s.”
“Unbelievable.” There’s a soft press of lips at Jeongguk’s temple. “You should sleep.”
He should, except, “I think I’m gonna be-”
Jeongguk retches, nearly falling off the bed as Taehyung scrambles to his feet for the nearest wastebasket, pushing Jeongguk to the bathroom. He sits with legs spread around the bowl of the toilet, Taehyung behind him with a hand rubbing soothing circles on his back.
“Welcome to college, Jeonggukie.”
OSU Announcement: Are the Buckeyes in trouble? After missing the playoffs last year and barely making it this year, there’s speculation as to whether the football team is in danger. Is there a new roster in the near future?
“Did you watch the draft last night?”
Taehyung raises a brow, throwing the football back to Jeongguk. “And what?”
The ball falls perfectly in Jeongguk’s arms. “What did you think of the recruits?”
“Oh. They’re tall? I guess?”
Jeongguk laughs. He throws the ball in a near perfect spiral. Taehyung throws it back flawlessly. “They’re tall, hyung? Really?”
“I don’t pay attention to the recruits,” Taehyung says truthfully. “Unless I’d be playing against them at the start of the professional season, what’s the point in knowing them?”
Jeongguk’s throw is a little lopsided, and Taehyung has to dart to his left to catch it. The courtyard is lively this afternoon, students taking advantage of the warming weather to do assignments on the grass, jog the manicured paths, or laze around in the sun. Jeongguk had found Taehyung here after waking up alone in his dorm. He’d fallen asleep in Jimin’s bed last night staying up to an ungodly hour finishing an assignment for his journalism class.
“Jeongguk, I’m not standing five meters to the left.”
“Sorry.” Jeongguk focuses again, Taehyung laughing as he adjusts his grip on the football. “Hey, hyung?”
“Why haven’t you gone for the draft yet? You said you’ve been approached with offers.”
Taehyung sighs, throws the football again. “My mom, mostly. She said I couldn’t be drafted until I’ve graduated so I have something to fall back on, just in case. No one and done for me.”
“Yeah.” Taehyung lets Jeongguk’s shitty throw bounce before fetching the ball. “I’m just tired of waiting. I want to play while I still have years left, I want to travel and beat my idols at their own game or tell Tom Brady to eat it when I beat him. I’m sick of taking stupid classes when I could be in the gym, or planning plays with my coach, meeting with managers and teams.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Do you?” Taehyung frowns at him, and Jeongguk knows he doesn’t mean it, but the slant of his eyebrows almost makes him look angry.
“I-yeah. I think so. I’m getting kinda tired of covering the same sports, the same few stories that happen at a college. I’d much rather be covering the news that actually affects people, write stories and features that could change someone’s life. I feel… useless writing like this.”
“You’re not useless.”
“And you’re not running out of time.”
Taehyung lets out a frustrated breath. Jeongguk keeps fucking up his throws, but Taehyung keeps tossing it back. He figures it’s more out of muscle memory at this point, a way for Taehyung to keep his hands busy, than anything else. “Why’d you never do sports?”
“What?” Jeongguk doesn’t catch the throw that time, and the conversation is set on pause as he chases it down, nearly colliding with a girl going too fast on her bike.
“You’ve got the body for it, Jeongguk. You’d make a killer basketball player, or a baseball player. But you write. Why?”
“I never liked team sports,” Jeongguk says. “I didn’t like that my success relied on the effort of so many other people. I was kicked off my fifth grade basketball team for throwing a ball at a teammate after they lost the game, and from there I picked up taekwondo. I couldn’t find a dojo I liked when we moved to Albany, and figured I’d just get through the rest of high school with occasional trips to the gym, but then I found the newspaper club. In there, it’s my writing that determines my worth. I don’t have to bank on anyone else for my pieces. I- sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” Taehyung says hurriedly. “You know I want to know everything about you that I can. You can talk about anything with me, really.”
“I know, just. Sorry.”
The way the ball smacks Jeongguk in the chest feels a lot like a fond eye roll. “But as editor, didn’t you have to rely on your writers to make a good paper?”
Jeongguk scowls, remembering the long nights he spent re-writing pieces until he felt they were adequate. “Yeah. Luckily I had good writers. I don’t have to worry about that here, though. I won’t be editor.”
“What the fuck?”
“What makes you think you won’t be editor?”
“There’s too much competition for it.” Jeongguk doesn’t throw the football back; a little worried Taehyung might crush it. “It’s fine though, I can learn a lot just by watching how others do it.”
“But you’re the best writer on that paper!”
“You’re biased, hyung.”
“I’ll send Jimin over to kick all of their asses.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “Please don’t. I only have one ally in there as is.”
“Fine. But don’t count yourself out just yet.”
“Sure thing.” Jeongguk trips over his backpack as he catches the next throw, stumbling onto his back, and sighs very heavily at the way Taehyung falls over himself laughing. “Can we get food? I’m starving.”
“I’ve got something right here you can eat.”
Taehyung offers a hand to help him up, kissing Jeongguk’s nose with a wet smack. He doesn’t let Jeongguk duck away in embarrassment, cupping Jeongguk’s cheeks with his hands and rubbing the skin below his eye with his thumb. Jeongguk relents, and lets Taehyung hold him gently before the wind picks up more, and they seek the warm shelter of a nearby pizza place.
OSU Announcement: Finals season is upon us, students! For those who are extra stressed, or miss your puppies at home, the health and science department will have puppies from the local shelter at the student center to help relieve stress. Everyone is welcome to play with some little dogs!
Jeongguk wakes up warm and suffocating. The warmth he can explain, since the air conditioning is shit in Taehyung’s dorm, but the suffocation takes another moment. He’s got a pillow over his head, Taehyung resting all of his weight on Jeongguk’s chest. Jeongguk’s going to die. He’s going to die and Taehyung’s going to make sure that his tombstone reads here lies Jeon Jeongguk, died of suffocation and not the kinky kind.
All he gets is a groan in reply and what Jeongguk hopes is Taehyung’s foot and not another mouse adjusting itself against Jeongguk’s calf. Jeongguk locates the arm that isn’t pinned below Taehyung’s body and knocks the pillow away so he can breathe easier. The room is well lit, but without his phone Jeongguk can’t tell if it’s noon or three in the afternoon.
Taehyung’s got his head directly on Jeongguk’s clavicle, and Jeongguk wonders how much hair he ate during the night. Jeongguk tries to push Taehyung off but he just grips on tighter, and Jeongguk groans.
“I can’t feel my arm.”
“I’m gonna die.”
Taehyung sighs deeply, snuggling impossibly closer to Jeongguk. “I’ve already got your eulogy written.”
“Just let me take a shower, I feel gross- wait.” Jeongguk taps his fingers along the base of Taehyung’s spine. “That better be a joke.”
“As far as you know.”
Jeongguk groans again, uncomfortably aware of the stale sweat on his back and the sheets beneath his body. “You’re the worst.”
“Mhm.” He’s silent again, and Jeongguk thinks he’s lost this battle. Now, he’s always game for spending an entire day napping in bed, ignoring the assignments and term papers that are demanding his attention and only leaving the room if he loses rock paper scissors and has to pick up the food, but even Jeongguk has his limits. And those limits include his psych final bright and early tomorrow morning. “Do you have a final today?”
Taehyung moves before Jeongguk can even register the loss of body weight, kicking off the restricting blanket that had tangled with their legs. He’s got his hands spreading Jeongguk’s legs in the next breath, pressing a warm, wet kiss to the inside of Jeongguk’s thigh.
“What are you doing?” Jeongguk breathes, even though he knows that the answer is obvious.
With a grin, Taehyung slings one of Jeongguk’s legs over his shoulder and kisses his way up. He bends Jeongguk a little too far, making him wince slightly as Taehyung bites at a spot on Jeongguk’s inner thigh. He latches on, biting and licking the spot as Jeongguk shivers beneath him despite the heat.
Taehyung gently lets Jeongguk’s leg down and continues his plight along Jeongguk’s body, pressing harsh kisses to his hipbones and the skin near his slowly hardening cock and then softer ones up Jeongguk’s stomach and collarbones, until he’s close enough to kiss across Jeongguk’s jaw. He presses one, two, three soft nips to Jeongguk’s neck, to the corner of his mouth and then his nose, a grin on his lips as he gives Jeongguk enough room to take a shaky breath. “Hi.”
“What are you doing,” Jeongguk grits out. Taehyung’s stroking his fingers over the sensitive skin on the inside of Jeongguk’s elbow, his hard cock digging into Jeongguk’s hip, and he’s lost all of his resolve but Taehyung doesn’t need to know that.
“Not even a good morning?”
“Good morning. What are you doing?”
Taehyung grins, wicked with intent. “What do you want me to do?”
“I-” Jeongguk falters, hands falling to Taehyung’s hips instinctively. “I don’t know. Anything. Something. Fuck, I’m so hard.”
“Already?” Taehyung teases, like he can’t feel Jeongguk’s cock through his boxers. It’s been too hot lately to sleep in anything more than loose clothing, and the silk of Taehyung’s stupidly expensive pajama pants feel nice against Jeongguk’s heated skin. “So easy, Jeongguk-ah, my sensitive baby.”
“Fuck off.” Jeongguk groans, bucking his hips in search of any relief but Taehyung lifts his weight and leaves Jeongguk desperate. “Just touch me!”
Taehyung noses at his jaw, slips a thigh between Jeongguk’s and applies only enough pressure to make Jeongguk’s head spin. “I am touching you.” He moves one of his hands from where they’re caging in Jeongguk’s head to drag his palm along the curves of Jeongguk’s waist, thumbing lightly over a nipple to make Jeongguk shudder.
“You know what I mean!”
“Fuck.” Jeongguk tries to glare, tries to get his point across as Taehyung presses his thigh down harder, as Taehyung kisses his nose. “Please. Please do something, holy shit I’m going to die.”
“Fun way to go.”
“I’m not dying with my dick out.”
“Oh?” Taehyung’s hand falls to cup Jeongguk’s cock, hard and straining against his boxers. He squeezes, and Jeongguk’s voice catches on a moan. “Noted.”
Taehyung slips his hand into Jeongguk’s boxers, pinning his hips down with one hand when he jerks into the touch. He’s relentless, pumping Jeongguk’s cock quickly and swiping a finger over the tip. Jeongguk’s head falls back, moaning loudly with each twist of Taehyung’s wrist. Most of the time, Taehyung could spend hours working Jeongguk up, jerking him off slow and steady until he’s all but sobbing to come. When they’re on a time constraint, things move a little faster, but rarely is Taehyung worked up enough to get Jeongguk this close to coming so soon.
Shuddering and sighing, Jeongguk threads his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, pulling him close enough to press sloppy kisses to the corner of Taehyung’s mouth. “Close,” he whispers, thighs shaking where they lay.
Taehyung tugs his hand away.
“Relax.” Taehyung kisses him properly, cheeky grin as Jeongguk whines again. “Take your boxers off, come on.”
Taehyung shucks off his pants, and brings Jeongguk’s legs over his shoulders as soon as they’re both naked. “Hyung?” Jeongguk’s shirt falls down his chest, stomach taut and hair sweaty. His cock is hard and leaking, red, and he’s so desperate to be touched and to come he feels dizzy. Taehyung spreads his cheeks, big hands gripping his ass, and he licks over Jeongguk’s hole. “Fuck!”
Taehyung licks wetly over Jeongguk’s hole, spitting obscenely until Jeongguk knows that he’s got Jeongguk dripping. He fucks his tongue into Jeongguk, grip bruising as he holds Jeongguk still. And Jeongguk- Jeongguk’s an absolute mess, hands gripping the sheets beside him as he cries out, sobbing with each thrust of Taehyung’s tongue. He’s absolutely wicked with it, knows exactly how to eat Jeongguk out until he’s a crying mess in more ways than one, until he’s come once and Taehyung’s still not done with him. His tongue prods at Jeongguk’s rim, pushes in until he’s loosened the muscle enough to pugh one long finger in beside his tongue.
“Oh, shit-” Jeongguk’s back arches, groans of Taehyung’s name falling from his lips as a prayer as his body shakes.
Taehyung doesn’t let up even as he wriggles in a second finger, the slight sting diminishing as Taehyung presses relentlessly against Jeongguk’s prostate. He whines, high in the back of his throat, as Taehyung makes those annoying slurping sounds that Jeongguk tries to hate, his orgasm so close he can practically taste it.
When Taehyung pulls away this time, he closes his fingers around the base of Jeongguk’s cock, leaving him so far on edge that his entire body quivers, and it takes him more than a few minutes to calm back down.
“Sh,” Taehyung whispers, pets soothingly at Jeongguk’s hip. He kisses there, and then the tight skin of Jeongguk’s stomach as he comes down. “You’re okay, doing so good for me, Gukie.”
“I hate you,” Jeongguk groans. Taehyung still has a hand on Jeongguk’s dick; he’s not letting Jeongguk come at all. His sweat cools slightly, the sheets damp beneath his body. “You’re the worst, I want to break up.”
“Oh, hush. Just a little longer, can’t you do that?”
“No. I hate edging.” His voice is lifting to a whine again, so desperate by now he’s sure Taehyung could ask him to dress up as a princess and he’d do it if it came with the promise of getting off.
“Aw, but you look so hot like this.” Taehyung leans away and Jeongguk makes a noise of worry. He looks back at Jeongguk, eyebrow raised, and holds up the lube he’d grabbed out of his side table. Jeongguk flushes, even more so when Taehyung presses a soft kiss to his temple and says, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here, want to prep yourself for me?”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “No, you’re being mean.”
“If I’m so mean, maybe I just won’t fuck you.”
“I’m sure Jimin hyung would be willing.”
Taehyung pinches his thigh. “That’s not funny.”
“Neither are you.”
“Jesus.” Taehyung pours a generous amount of lube on his fingers. Jeongguk whimpers, he’s so wet already, but the sight has more precum drooling from the tip of his cock. “It’s like you don’t want to be fucked.”
Draping his arms above his head, Jeongguk sighs as Taehyung presses two fingers into him, scissoring and easily finding his prostate. “Hn, you wouldn’t leave this.”
“What’s got you so sure?”
“You’re whipped for this ass.”
“Don’t make me fist you.” But Taehyung’s grinning, pulling Jeongguk’s hips farther onto his lap as he presses in a third finger to join the others. Jeongguk shivers at the notion, head falling back with a moan as Taehyung ruthlessly nudges his prostate. “Oh? I’ll keep that in mind.”
Taehyung falls silent then, pulling his fingers out to pour more lube into Jeongguk’s sopping hole before shoving his fingers back in with a lewd squelch. Jeongguk’s cheeks flush, hips working back on Taehyung’s fingers and moaning loudly. When he deems Jeongguk ready enough, he wipes his fingers on Jeongguk’s thigh, and Jeongguk catches his wrist when he leans back over.
“Elaborate?” Taehyung asks, laughing quietly.
“Don’t use one.”
“Shit.” Taehyung’s hips kick, and for a split second Jeongguk feels bad that Taehyung hasn’t been touched yet, his cock leaking precum against his lower belly. “Shit, you’re sure?”
“Unless you’ve been fucking someone else.”
“Damn, you caught me.” Taehyung kisses his hipbone. “Nah, yours is the only ass for me.”
“Then I don’t want one.”
Taehyung pushes Jeongguk’s thighs wide, letting him curl them around Taehyung’s waist. “Gonna be the death of me, baby.”
Jeongguk grins, holding his breath as Taehyun pushes into his hole slowly. “All I’ve ever wanted.”
Gripping Jeongguk’s hips tight enough to bruise, Taehyung bottoms out with a desperate little groan. Jeongguk shudders, nails biting into Taehyung’s biceps where he holds on. Taehyung waits, kissing Jeongguk lightly, the stretch of bending Jeongguk’s legs making him cry out into Taehyung’s mouth. When he pulls away, he pulls almost entirely out of Jeongguk before thrusting back in harshly; jostling Jeongguk’s body each time he pushes back in.
Jeongguk screws his eyes shut, moaning wantonly as Taehyung hits his prostate with every deliberate thrust. To kiss him, Taehyung rests his weight on Jeongguk’s spread thighs, letting his cock sink deeper every time.
And Jeongguk can’t keep quiet, crying out each time Taehyung grinds harshly into him. Jeongguk locks his legs around Taehyung’s waist, tries to pull him closer and closer, cock trapped between their bellies. He’s already so close, Taehyung lacing their fingers together with one hand, curling the other over Jeongguk’s shoulder as leverage to pull Jeongguk’s body down, to match each of his thrusts. Taehyung latches onto a spot on Jeongguk’s collarbone, nipping and toying with the skin.
“Fuck,” Jeongguk whimpers. “Fuck, Tae, I’m- shit- I’m so close-”
“Yeah?” Taehyung nips at his ear, and Jeongguk sobs. “Gonna come for me, Guk? Come just from my dick in your tight ass?”
“Feel so good, Jeongguk.” Taehyung snaps his hips faster, reaching deeper, and Jeongguk’s going to die, so overwhelmed with pleasure that he can barely breathe. “So tight and wet, ass made to take my cock.”
“Hyung, let me come,” Jeongguk begs. Taehyung presses a hand to Jeongguk’s navel, applies enough pressure that Jeongguk keens. “Please!”
Taehyung grunts. “Go on then, come for me. Come.”
Jeongguk wails, body tensing and back arching as he finally comes, spilling between their bellies and staining his t-shirt. His body shakes, orgasm hitting so hard that his cries fall silent, legs locked tightly around Taehyung’s waist. Taehyung moves to hold Jeongguk’s hips, thrusts erratic and sloppy as he chases his own high.
“You, too, hyung. Wanna see you come.” Jeongguk slurs, body jostling as he watches through hazy vision as Taehyung stills, coming deep in Jeongguk’s ass.
Taehyung kisses him, mouths at the corner of Jeongguk’s lips to let him catch his breath. Jeongguk’s still shaking beneath him, chest heaving even as Taehyung slowly pulls out of him and reaches off the bed for the first shirt he can find, cleaning the come that streaks across Jeongguk’s chest. Then he dips his head, kissing along the ridges of Jeongguk’s abs and up his body to steal his breath again.
“Good?” Taehyung asks, pushing the sweaty hair from Jeongguk’s eyes.
Jeongguk throws his arms around Taehyung’s shoulders to keep him close. “You broke me, I’ll never leave this bed.”
“Good for easy access.”
“Oh my God, shut up.”
Taehyung snickers, kissing Jeongguk slow and deep. There’s come cooling on his thighs, his body sticky and sore where he lies. Their only option is a shower, and not a bath that Jeongguk can fall asleep in, but he’ll take what he can get. Especially if Jeongguk can pout his way into getting Taehyung to wash his hair. (He always can.)
Before Jeongguk is anywhere near done with kisses Taehyung suddenly sits up, a brief moment of panic showing on his features. He hurriedly checks his phone, and curses, “Fuck.”
He’s up, scrambling for presentable jeans and a clean shirt on his disaster of a floor. Jeongguk props his weight on his elbows, watching Taehyung slam his knee on his desk as he grabs an old (hopefully clean) pair of boxers off his lampshade. “Forgot I promised coach I’d help with some tryouts today. We’ve got some kids coming that he’s been scouting for months.”
Jeongguk’s mouth falls into a pout, and he drops back on the bed. “Do you have to go now?”
“I’m late, Guk. Sorry.” There’s more banging around in the room, and Taehyung curses. “Come stains?”
Jeongguk doesn’t even look. “None that I can see.”
“Oh, baby.” Jeongguk hates the smile he can hear in Taehyung’s voice. He kneels at the side of the bed, running his fingers gently through Jeongguk’s hair. “Don’t give me that look. I’ll be back soon. We can go for dinner tonight, go to the fancy ramen place on campus.”
“Duh.” Taehyung kisses him again, quickly. “Did you want a plug?”
“Nah, I’m gonna shower and take a nap.”
“Now that’s a damn good ego boost.”
“Shut up,” Jeongguk grins. “Go find your football stars.”
Taehyung pulls on one of his team hoodies despite the heat, and a beanie Jeongguk had gotten him years ago. “Love you, always.”
“Dude, what crawled up your ass?” A familiar voice says at the door. Jeongguk hurriedly pulls the nearest blanket over his body, trying to make it look like he’s still asleep. “I haven’t seen you up this early in a week.”
“It’s one in the afternoon, Jimin.”
“Emergency rebuildung tryouts,” Taehyung says, and Jeongguk can hear him slamming the door behind him.
Jimin sits on his bed, kicks his shoes off and lets them land wherever. “The shower’s open, Jeongguk.”
Jeongguk yanks the blanket over his head, cheeks burning.
OSU Announcement: Hope everyone is gearing up for a great summer! Remember, if you tend to stay on campus during the break you need to have your forms filled before finals.
In Taehyung’s junior year, they lose the championship again. Taehyung admits, while drunk out of his mind that night to forget the taste of defeat, that he’d been anticipating it. They finished third in the country, which is incredible on its own, but with Taehyung’s high school legacy and the scholarship he’d been granted, even Jeongguk knew that the school had expected a few more trophies.
They’re rebuilding, Taehyung says, struggling to walk by himself. He’d insisted on staying out later than usual, on making good on his recent birthday and becoming able to drink without smuggling the liquor. The only light outside comes from the streetlamps, most of the noise from Taehyung cracking up every time he trips, leaning his weight against Jeongguk.
When the spring semester comes, Taehyung throws himself into building the best damn team that he possibly can. It’s his last chance to win before he tries to go for the draft, and Jeongguk knows that he’ll be damned if he doesn’t have one championship under his belt. It’s freezing and dark every morning that Taehyung drags himself out of bed to go for a run, barely returning to his dorm to shower before he’s meeting with his coach and using his days off from school to go on scouting trips. His walls are covered in profiles of promising players, stats highlighted and attributes starred, and some have dates and times at which Taehyung and his coach will meet with them. He stays up late into the night watching the recruitment tapes that students send in, making notes and plugging in his headphones when he notices that Jeongguk’s conked out. Jeongguk tries to keep up, but Taehyung’s on a damn mission, up earlier and asleep later than Jeongguk can manage with his own schedule.
Most mornings, the best Jeongguk can do is catch Taehyung’s wrist when he’s playing fondly with Jeongguk’s ear before he leaves. Jeongguk is absolutely terrible at waking up, but he cracks an eye to see his boyfriend and accept the sleepy kiss that Taehyung presses to the corner of his mouth. Sometimes they meet for lunch if Taehyung’s schedule is free, but most of the time Jeongguk sits in the bleachers when he can to watch Taehyung run practice or speak quietly with his coach about the prospects.
Jimin complains that it’s like he’s sharing a dorm with a ghost with how often that Taehyung is gone. Jeongguk’s own roommate doesn’t notice that he’s been spending every other night in Taehyung’s room, waiting up as late as he can, but Taehyung gets back later and later each night, slipping into bed behind Jeongguk and leaving before he fully wakes.
“He better be eating well,” Jeongguk grouses one morning. Jimin had dragged his ass out of bed with the rise of the sun and made him walk across campus for breakfast. “I’ll kick him if he’s not.”
“He is.” Jimin says, yawning behind his hand. He spears a sausage link and washes it down with pulpy orange juice. “His coach and I make sure of it. Dude’s so focused on the team he doesn’t even see me shoving energy bars in his mouth.”
“I’m proud of him, but fuck he’s never been this busy before.” Jeongguk won’t complain, though. He doesn’t want to distract Taehyung from his mission. He can handle a few weeks of seeing Taehyung less than usual if it means Taehyung’s happiness and a championship trophy in the trophy case.
Jimin frowns and looks up. Jeongguk’s barely poked at his pancakes. “You’re busy, too, aren’t you? Summer break starts tomorrow, it’ll be your junior year in the fall; you should be swamped with stories. Hell, you shouldn’t even have time to meet with me!” Jeongguk ducks his head with a shrug, stabbing at his eggs with more force than necessary. His leg shakes. He drinks half of Jimin’s cup of coffee. Jimin gasps dramatically. “Jeon Jeongguk. What did you do?”
“I quit?” Jeongguk shrugs again, doesn’t look up.
“What the fuck do you mean, you quit?”
Jeongguk sighs, twirls his fork between his fingers. He still can’t look up at Jimin, and pictures that disappointed expression that likely sits on his face. “Exactly what it sounds like, hyung. I could get by in high school, but-”
“But nothing. I didn’t raise a quitter.”
Jeongguk glares at him, unamused. “You didn’t raise me.”
To his surprise, there’s no trace of anger on Jimin’s face. Instead, he looks confused, a little sad, but none of the fury that Jeongguk had expected upon hearing that his prodigy had quit the one thing that gave him solace for nearly six years.
“Jeongguk. What happened?”
“Nothing,” Jeongguk says truthfully. “It’s just. I don’t know.”
“Hey.” Jimin reaches over, covers the hand that Jeongguk’s using to play with the fork. “I know I’ve been distracted with the football team, but I’m still your hyung. Talk to me.”
“There were just a lot of people who could do my job better than me, so I took a couple steps back and the next thing I knew, I stopped accepting story assignments,” Jeongguk says in a rush. “The club administrator said early last year that I needed a lot of practice with how to structure my stories, which is why I spent so many hours with my journalism professor last semester, but I stopped wanting to keep up. For every story I wrote, someone else had a better take more deserving of being published.” He shrugs, shaking off Jimin’s hand to push his food around. He hadn’t had an appetite before, and now all he wants is to curl back up in bed and forget this conversation ever happened. “You remember Jisoo, right? My partner to cover the scandal breaking in the NCAA about the Rutgers coach? She didn’t like any of my prose, kept pushing me aside to rewrite things. She’s wonderfully sweet, but I removed my name from that piece before sending it to our editor. I don’t know who I was kidding with this, I’ll change my major when the new semester starts.”
Jimin stays silent through Jeongguk’s entire spiel, watching his face carefully even after Jeongguk has to break eye contact. Neither of them is entertaining the joke of eating anymore, and the silence stretches so long that even their waitress frowns when she comes to refill Jimin’s coffee. She doesn’t ask if they want anything else.
“Sorry,” Jeongguk blurts, stomach contracting painfully under the weight of the quiet. “Sorry, it’s stupid. I shouldn’t be burdening you with this when you’ve got the team to worry about. It’s fine. It’s fine, forget I said anything, sorry-”
“Jeongguk,” Jimin whispers. “Don’t.”
Jimin digs through his wallet for enough cash, and grabs Jeongguk’s arm to lead him out of the small diner. His vision blurs with the onslaught of warm air, and Jeongguk’s horrified to find his eyes wet when he touches his fingers to his cheek. Jimin leads him to the bike path on campus, the one that links the most of the buildings and dorms, and they walk slowly. Jimin pulls one of Jeongguk’s hands into his hoodie pocket.
“Sorry,” Jeongguk says again. “This is fucking stupid, I’m sorry.”
“Would you quit apologizing?” Jimin nudges him with his shoulder. “Relax, I know where we’re going.”
Jeongguk lets him lead, recognizes the path they’re taking almost immediately. It’s the baseball diamond, but Jimin doesn’t approach the bleachers near the friendly game in progress, instead he leads Jeongguk to the cluster of rocks on the other side of the field by an auxiliary building. They sit atop the biggest, the screams of baseball player’s echoes in the early summer heat, and Jimin tips his head to the sun.
“Hyung,” Jeongguk murmurs, after a long silence passes between them. The game gets a few new players, enough to divide into proper teams. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Have you talked to Taehyung about this?”
Jeongguk presses his palms to his eyes, rests his face in his hands, and sighs very heavily. “A couple times, back in high school.”
“And did you tell him you quit?”
“I was going to, but he’s been so busy building his roster.”
“Three months ago.”
“So around the time Tae developed his tunnel vision.” Jimin whistles. “He’ll want to know about this.”
Jeongguk rests his elbows on his knees, watches a girl with a swinging ponytail strike out with his chin on his hands. “I go home for break tomorrow, and he’s staying the summer. I don’t think it’ll be a good idea to break his focus.”
“But Jeongguk, if he knew how upset you were-”
“I’m not upset.”
Jimin fixes him with a pointed glare. “This is what you’ve been interested in for years, the career path you want to follow, and you dropped it. You were crying in IHOP.”
“I wasn’t crying!”
He sighs, the tail end dipping into a groan. “Was I interested in it, or was it all I had?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Jimin lets him stew in silence for a few minutes, and it’s one of the things that Jeongguk has always cherished about their friendship. When Jeongguk doesn’t want to talk, they don’t talk. Unless it’s something life threatening, Jimin doesn’t force him into speaking. But he’ll push Jeongguk when he needs it; urge him into spilling his secrets over ice cream and strategically placed shots. “You love journalism.”
“I thought I did, but it was just the first club that I found. You were so eager for me to try writing that I kept coming back. Now I just feel, like.” Jeongguk shrugs and runs his hands through his hair to pull it away from his face. “Burnt out? If I can’t write some shitty college piece by now, how can I do it for a living? I’ll figure out something else to do, I’ll pick this summer before I have to declare a new major.”
“You know what?” Jimin says, dragging the words. “Come on, I shouldn’t have brought you here first.”
“Nothing I say now is going to change your mind. Follow me.”
Jimin won’t answer his questions to where they’re going but Jeongguk follows anyway. With Taehyung at the gym or the football field house for who knows how long, and with no club activities or classes until the start of the fall semester, he has fuck-all to do before he leaves tomorrow. So Jeongguk follows, weaves his way through students taking advantage of the last days on campus, until they’re leaving campus and crossing a few streets.
He doesn’t recognize this area, but Jeongguk doesn’t come this way very often. Taehyung and Jimin have plans to rent an apartment for their last year, which Jeongguk imagines would be somewhere around here, but usually whenever he comes out here he’s already half drunk from pregaming and being led to the bars on the other side of town. Jimin takes him to the campus apartments, to the lobby of one building, and quickly texts someone. Hoseok shows up at the door a few minutes later to let them into the building.
“You brought me to see Hoseok hyung? Seriously?” Jeongguk whispers, as they’re walking to what he presumes to be Hoseok’s apartment.
“What?” Jimin looks up from his phone, blinking. “Oh, no. Hoseok’s just the middle man.”
“You’re both assholes,” Hoseok laughs, ushering them inside. It’s a typical place, two rooms and a decent living room. The kitchen is surprisingly clean for some grad students living on shitty wages. “He’s in his room.”
“Thanks, hyung.” Jimin curls a hand around Jeongguk’s arm. “Come on, newbie.” He doesn’t bother knocking on the bedroom door they approach, just barges in on a man sitting slouched at his desk, earphones on as he stares at a program spread along two separate computer screens. Jimin tugs his earphones off and says around the sudden onslaught of curses, “I texted you like an hour ago.”
“This is the kid?” The man asks, not looking up. “I’m not a therapist.”
Jimin has to lean over the side of the chair to get this guy’s attention. “I won’t let you eat my ass anymore.”
“Don’t you dare.”
“Uh, Jimin?” Jeongguk hovers by the door, wonders if Jimin’s been joining Taehyung enough in the gym that Jeongguk wouldn’t be able to outrun him. “I should… head back. There’s still some stuff I have to pack up-”
“Nope.” There’s an empty chair at another desk across the room, this one neater and far less cluttered, just like the second bed. Jimin drags it to the guy’s side, and points. “Sit. I’ll be back in two hours. Yoongi hyung, try not to kill him.”
Jeongguk looks at Yoongi with wide eyes. “You’re the roommate who looks like he knows where to hide bodies?”
Yoongi laughs, and there’s an immediate softening to his features that wasn’t there when Jeongguk first walked in that has Jeongguk relaxing almost instantaneously. He adjusts his headphones around his neck, and rolls his chair more to the side so Jeongguk’s chair can fit more comfortably. “Did Hoseok tell you that? Swear, the first body I need to hide I’m bringing him along just to scare him.”
He can’t help but smile at that, sitting with his hands between his legs. Yoongi’s computer screen has some kind of editing software up, and Jeongguk recognizes the film in one of the boxes as a still from one of the Indiana Jones movies.
“What are you working on?” Jeongguk asks.
“It’s for one of my summer classes,” Yoongi says. “I have to write an original score for a famous movie.”
“Yeah. I’ve already been up for two days straight already, trying not to hear the real music in my head. The music that made Harry Potter iconic. Or that shitty Celine Dion song from Titanic, that’s all I can hear when I try to create my own score.” Yoongi pauses, and the soft flow of music that Jeongguk hadn’t registered from the headphones comes to a sudden stop. “Okay, what’s up? Jimin doesn’t threaten to take his ass away for just anyone. You’re Jeonggukie, right?”
Jeongguk shrugs, leans back enough to kick his feet onto Yoongi’s desk. “I’m shit at my dream career.”
He blinks, sure that he’d either heard Yoongi incorrectly or that more was sure to follow. When nothing comes, Yoongi staring at Jeongguk blankly, he splutters and tries to formulate that into something usable.
“So, my first two years of college are useless! I don’t know what else I’d want to do, but I feel if I follow this path I’ll have no passion left by the time college finishes. I’m useless and bad at journalism.” Jeongguk doesn’t know what possesses him to admit so openly to this stranger what it is that’s been bothering him for weeks, but he thinks it has something to do with Jimin. If Jimin, a friend Jeongguk has gone to for advice for years trusted Yoongi, then there was nothing to say that Jeongguk couldn’t as well. “I have nothing.”
“You and every other college student,” Yoongi says, leaning back in his chair.
Jeongguk frowns. “You’re not making me feel better.”
“I charge for that, and last I heard your ass is taken.” Jeongguk laughs, bewildered, and Yoongi looks pleased at the disappearance of Jeongguk’s frown. “Jeongguk. If everyone were good at their job, everyone would suck. The disparity in skill in say, composing, is what separates an Oscar winning film score and the score of a shitty Netflix movie. At this point in my life, I would make a terrible composer in Hollywood, but in thirty years I might be taking home some awards.”
“I don’t see your point,” Jeongguk admits. He suddenly sits very small sitting next to Yoongi, who knows exactly where he’s going to go whenever he’s done with university. “Once you establish yourself in Hollywood, you’re set. Anyone with a laptop and a decent talent at writing can do what I do.”
Yoongi messes with his keyboard for a minute, presses the spacebar to listen, and then deletes what he was working on. “So beat the bastards at their own game. Someone writes well? You write better. Wrote a few shitty pieces? Write perfect ones next time. Talent is a fucking myth, kid.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean there’s no inner power that some people are born with and others aren’t. Good dancers don’t come out of the womb in tap shoes, good composers listen to millions of songs before taking a chance to make their own, and good journalists write shitty papers before getting good.”
Jeongguk thinks about it for a long minute. “So all those reporters who talk to Tae about his talent…?”
“I’m sure their intentions are good,” Yoongi says. “But no one wants to hear about the hard work an athlete goes through. No one care about the hours logged in the gym or the nights you stay up crying at tightness in your muscles. They want to believe the athletic power comes from something that makes athletes special or different. Not from something so easy that anyone could do it if they put in the effort. It helps them feel better about being lazy shit heads.”
Yoongi looks at him through faded brown bangs that are getting a little long. He sees the bags beneath Yoongi’s eyes, the fatigue on his face, and he sees now that in ten, twenty, fifty years when Yoongi’s being interviewed for a well-known movie soundtrack, they’ll never ask about days like this. And if Jeongguk pursues journalism, no one will care about the day he nearly cried to a new hyung because he wasn’t sure it was what he wanted.
“If you put in the hard work for something you love, you will be rewarded.”
“What if I’m not sure if I love it?” Jeongguk asks very quietly.
“Then, kid.” Yoongi smiles gently. “You find something else. Life is too short to stick to something you hate.”
“But I don’t hate it.”
Yoongi nods, and goes back to clicking at his computer. He tugs one headphone back onto his ear, but Jeongguk doesn’t get the impression that he’s taking the conversation any less seriously. “So you’re not sure if you love it, but you definitely don’t hate it.”
“Then take a break. Are you going home for summer?”
“So don’t touch a notebook or a story file the entire time you’re home. If you go to an event, don’t bring your pen and don’t think of it as a headline. At the end of the summer, make a decision as to whether or not you’ll continue to pursue it.”
Jeongguk hums, leaning his head back. “Have you ever had to do that?”
“When I was six and my mom put me in a ballet class. Thought it over for a whole five minutes before quitting.”
Jeongguk nearly falls off his chair from the force of his resulting laughter, kicking his feet down and curling into himself. He doesn’t feel the kind of relief that comes with a revelation, nor does he know what he’s going to do about his current career crisis, but he’s starting to realize that it’s okay. Taehyung might’ve known that he was going to play professional football from childhood, but Jimin went through two-dozen clubs before settling into an accidental role as a sports manager. Yoongi was sure of what he wanted, but he had quite an uphill battle to achieve it. And Jeongguk, well, his friends liked to say he was good at everything. He could find something to make himself happy.
“Don’t tell Tae, but I think you’re my favorite hyung.”
Yoongi grins. “Do you want pizza? There’s a decent delivery place nearby.”
“I’d like that.”
“While you’re here, though, you gotta make yourself useful,” Yoongi says, as he brings up a number on his phone. “How good are you at being brutally honest?”
Jeongguk blinks confusedly. “Decent, why?”
“I need critique on this score, and all Seokjin hyung ever offers is that I should sample from the Mario Brothers.”
Jimin comes back some hours later to Jeongguk and Yoongi laughing in front of the computer screens as Yoongi layers the Rick and Morty theme music over a pivotal scene in the movie, two empty pizza boxes piled on Yoongi’s bed. He doesn’t say anything, only leaves with a smile and lets Jeongguk stay. And Jeongguk takes advantage of that, looping Yoongi’s headphones over his own ears to listen, critiquing where he feels necessary and feeling something warm in his chest every time Yoongi likes one of his observations.
They spend the afternoon and evening like that, ordering more food from another place closeby. Jeongguk offers to pay that time, but Yoongi just waves it away. When he comes back from collecting it, Jeongguk’s put a Barbie theme song over an emotional moment in Indiana Jones, and Yoongi has to sit on the floor for a whole minute while Jeongguk snorts violently.
Jeongguk stretches his neck at some point, aching from leaning over the desk all day, and catches sight of the dark outside the window. He checks the time, and it’s almost curfew for the university. “Holy shit.”
“What?” Yoongi looks to where he’s pointing. “Oh. Hope you didn’t have anywhere to be.”
“Nah, I’m all packed to leave tomorrow.” Jeongguk checks his phone, nothing but a few texts from Jimin and a meme from Taehyung. “Does this make it three days awake, hyung?”
Yoongi groans, saving all of his work and reaching for his laptop instead. “Yes. Jimin’s been texting for three hours asking if I want to fuck the stress out. Even said I could bring Hoseok.”
Jeongguk’s head whips up comically fast. He’d known Jimin found someone to fool around with recently, but he had no idea of this. He starts to get up, suddenly feeling out of place in light of everything, of stealing all of Yoongi’s time all day. “If you need to go-”
“Sit.” Yoongi laughs a little, tossing his phone onto the bed. “You’re much better company when I’m sleep deprived. If I try to fuck anyone tonight I’ll probably just fall asleep on them.”
“Do you need a ride back to campus?”
“It’s not that far, I can walk.”
Yoongi hums, and Jeongguk stretches his arms over his head. He’s sleepy, if he’s being truthful, and doesn’t want to make the trek back to campus, but his bed and his early start to beat the traffic back to New York are calling him. “You could stay, if you want.”
“Seokjin hyung and Namjoon are in Florida for the week.” Yoongi nods at the neatly made bed opposite his own. “Seokjin probably wouldn’t mind; he’s been dying to meet you, anyhow. I made that walk to campus for years and it feels a lot further in the dark. Shower’s down the hall if you want it.”
Jeongguk doesn’t head to the shower but he does take their empty take out boxes to the pile of similar cartons next to the trashcan. Jimin’s asleep on the couch, Hoseok dozing in front of the movie they must have put on earlier. Back in Yoongi’s room, he’s propping his laptop awkwardly on the desk for an angel where both beds can see it. He looks like he’s awake out of sheer spite at this point.
“Hey, hyung?” Jeongguk says, after changing into some of Seokjin’s sweats. (“You’re both built like monsters, his will fit you,” Yoongi had said.) Yoongi hums, his head poking out of his covers. “Is it okay, like. During the semester, sometimes, if I maybe. Come over? If, y’know, Hoseok hyung and the others are here, too. Not just you. If you don’t want. I don’t want to bother you-”
“I graduate this summer, kid.”
“Oh.” Jeongguk deflates, tugging Seokjin’s blankets over his head. “Right, sorry.”
Yoongi’s laughing as he speaks, and it’s terribly out of place among the intense gunfire from the movie. “I’m sticking around for grad school. And we’ve already signed the lease for two more years. You’re welcome here whenever you want, Jeongguk.”
Jeongguk grins into the pillow. “Thanks, hyung.”
When morning comes, Jimin helps Jeongguk lug his shit from his sixth floor dorm room to the parking lot. He’s taking Taehyung’s car, since the two of them had driven up together at the start of this semester. It doesn’t pack as well as his truck, but it does get better gas mileage, and Jeongguk’s ass is already aching from the day of driving he has ahead of him. Around them, students wait for their families surrounded by belongings, or curse at their boxes that refuse to fit in the car.
“Taehyung fell asleep in the bathroom last night,” Jimin says, after they’ve finally gotten Jeongguk’s car packed. “I kicked him awake, so he should be here soon.”
As if on cue, Taehyung comes sprinting through the parking lot dressed in half of his practice gear. He breezes past Jimin, pressing Jeongguk against the side of the car and kissing him breathless. Taehyung’s hands fall to Jeongguk’s cheeks, mouth working seamlessly against Jeongguk’s.
“Where’d you get off to last night?” Taehyung asks, nosing lightly at Jeongguk’s neck.
“Hanging out with Yoongi hyung.”
“Really?” Taehyung leans back, and Jeongguk grips his waist that much tighter. “What did you guys do?”
Jimin gives Jeongguk a very pointed look. He flips Jimin off behind Taehyung’s back. “Layer shitty TV show music over iconic movies.”
“Nice.” Taehyung kisses him again, and pulls back with a sigh. “Call me when you’re home?”
Taehyung hangs over Jimin’s shoulders. “See you in the fall, babe. Love you, always.”
Jeongguk ducks his head. “You, too.”
The last view he has is of Jimin trying to wrestle Taehyung into a headlock, still making gagging expressions as Jeongguk drives off campus.
Breaking News: Ohio State snatches their first national championship title in six years! Led by a record 70yard catch and a last-second score, Kim Taehyung has solidified himself as a high quality quarterback. Are the rumors of his upcoming draft appearance true, or is this the last time we’ll see him on the field?
The celebration when the football team wins the national championship is, to say the least, absolutely insane. It’s held in Indiana, but thousands of Ohio State students carpool and fly out, parents flying in to support their kids on the team. The stadium is packed full, and the country is watching. Headlines have been talking about this game for weeks, asking whether Taehyung’s hard work rebuilding his team will have any payoff. It’s his last chance at a college title, and both local and national news outlets are feeding on that drama.
Without a press pass, Jeongguk has to awkwardly ask Jimin for a ticket. They sell out almost immediately, and Jimin makes Jeongguk swear he’ll tell Taehyung about what conspired at the end of last semester. He won’t, but Jimin doesn’t need to know that.
Jeongguk had taken Yoongi’s advice and backed off from everything journalism for the summer, and when he got back to school he packed his schedule with electives and non-core requirements to avoid taking any journalism classes. He’s still not sure whether he’ll give it up for good- he didn’t join the club again, but his fingers were itching to write, especially with his boyfriend leading his senior team to a title- but he does have a little more time.
But for now, Jeongguk sits somewhere behind the team and lets himself get lost in the play. Taehyung had left for Indiana a week ago, but Jeongguk only found time to arrive this morning. So Jeongguk watches. He watches Jimin relay preliminary plan ideas to Taehyung, watches Taehyung discuss them with the team, and then watches the game begin.
In the end, Ohio State beats Penn State by one field goal in the final ten seconds.
There’s pandemonium on the field, Ohio State students swarming the field and tackling Taehyung, who’s already been tackled by his teammates, tackling Jimin, screaming and jumping. Jeongguk’s a little lost in the crowd, sitting surrounded by screaming fans and parents as he tries to keep sight of Taehyung or Jimin. His leg shakes, overwhelmed by the chaos, and he quickly leaves the bleachers before the rush of people eager to leave can hit.
He can’t get into the locker room without a press pass and neither Jimin or Taehyung are answering their phone, so he stands by one of the concession stands. People covered in face paint and wearing body suits stream past, heading to after parties or back home to send angry tweets if they’d been there for Penn State.
“Jeongguk!” Jimin’s standing outside the locker room door, and waving to be seen across the throng of fans.
The locker room is somehow crazier, someone spilling champagne over the athletes and coaches grinning through preliminary interviews. Jeongguk tries to stick to the wall, to watch from the outskirts, but Taehyung catches sight of him and kisses him against the wall, soaking him with champagne doused clothes.
“We’ve rented out a bar nearby,” Taehyung says, whispering the words against Jeongguk’s lips. “See you in the interview room?”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk lies, hands shaking on Taehyung’s hips. “I’ll try to sit up front.”
The night is a whirlwind; Jeongguk waits outside by Jimin’s car until the celebration has died down enough for people to start heading toward bars and parties. Taehyung comes stumbling out, riding high on the energy of the game and the shots he swears he didn’t take in the locker room. They don’t leave the bar until sunrise, Jeongguk had offered to be designated driver, and Taehyung spends the entire drive home staring at the trophy the team had elected he keep first.
From there, things happen too quickly for Jeongguk to keep up. The new semester begins, and Taehyung declares for the draft as soon as he’s gotten confirmation that he’ll be graduating in the spring. Jeongguk eases back into journalism classes and tries to ignore the looks Jimin gives him. When Taehyung’s working on his senior seminar projects, Jeongguk spends most of his free time at Yoongi’s apartment. He meets Seokjin and Namjoon, who offers him the same tutoring offer they’d given Taehyung in his first semester of college, and makes a sort of second home in Yoongi’s room. Taehyung gets swept into more interviews than Jeongguk can keep track of, from school reporters to beat writers to national coverage asking for his testimony from the championship and his plans for the future. He’s asked almost constantly if he thinks he’ll be an early round pick, and Taehyung will laugh and say something about how he just wants to be picked.
(Jeongguk knows, though, that it’s his dream to be picked within the first 10 rounds. He worries about it sometimes, when they’re lying awake late into the night. Taehyung will curl into his body, ask if Jeongguk will still love him even if his career ends without being picked, and Jeongguk will fondly call him a dummy and kiss his concerns away.)
Taehyung brings his mom with him to the draft that spring, and Jeongguk watches on cable surrounded by their friends with Jimin holding his hand tightly enough to hurt.
“Think he’ll make it?” Yoongi asks, letting Jeongguk lean against his knees.
“Yeah,” Jimin whispers. “He has to.”
Jeongguk cries when Taehyung is picked seventh round for the New York Jets. He had no team he wanted more than others, but he wanted to play somewhere with snow. Jeongguk cries and no one teases him for it because there’s not one dry eye in that apartment that night, and even less so when Taehyung gets back late and joins them.
Taehyung wears his jersey to graduation, stands up when the Dean of the school announces his achievements. He points at Jeongguk, sitting high on the bleachers squished between all of their friends, before Jimin tugs him back into his seat. Jeongguk has no idea how the two of them swung so many extra tickets, but he’s glad for it. There was no way he’d miss the chance to film Taehyung walking to get his diploma, the shiny Kim 7 on the back of his jersey glinting in the sun.
“So what’s the verdict, kid?” Yoongi asks, after Jimin’s collected his own diploma.
Jeongguk manages a small smile. “I’m sticking with journalism.”
“I don’t want to miss out on telling this story.”
(“What should I get Jeongguk for his birthday?”
Jimin frowns, looking up from the Taylor Swift display case. She’s taken over Target and it’s giving him a headache. “His birthday isn’t for three months.”
“I know, but we haven’t done gifts lately and I want to make sure this is perfect.”
“Why haven’t you been doing gifts?”
“I’ve been eating his ass instead.”
Jimin sends an apologetic smile to the elderly couple standing in shocked stillness from Taehyung’s words. “You’re gross.”
Taehyung grins, grabbing another CD to survey. “Just because I can’t give you handjobs anymore doesn’t mean you can kink shame me.”
“Oh my God, that was one time!”
“Anyway.” They leave the music section, and Jimin grabs some pillows and throws them in the cart. Neither of them realized how much shit they needed to furnish an apartment until they’d made the move to New York City. “I don’t know what to get him. We’ve been together for more than six years now, I feel like I’ve covered all the gift necessities. I want it to be special, he starts his senior year this semester.”
“Speaking of your gross lovebird, is he coming over this summer? He said he wanted to see our place.”
“If he finishes his summer work early, he said it’s hard with the camera his brother is letting him borrow.”
“Junghyun is home?”
“Visiting.” Taehyung holds up two different lamps. “How many lamps do we need?”
Jimin grabs a coffee maker. “None? All of our rooms have overhead lights.”
“But lamps are easier on Jeongguk’s eyes.”
Gagging, Jimin picks up a box of comedic water glasses. One is shaped suspiciously like a dildo and he decides that can be Taehyung’s. Between the two of them, they’ve got two full carts and another two getting full. “So grab one for your room, or something. Pretty sure you two won’t need the lights on for half the shit you do when he’s over, anyway.”
Taehyung shoots him a pointed glare. “Who’s gross, now?”
They split up to grab things on opposite sides of the store, meeting back by the electronics when they’re done. It’s going to be a mess of a bill, and Jimin’s incredibly grateful that Taehyung’s started getting a paycheck with the start of preseason and that Jimin’s gotten his own job assisting the assistant manager.
“I’m starving,” Jimin says, as they go over their haul one last time.
“We can hit up a Jersey Mikes when we’re done.”
“Kay.” Jimin pauses, slapping Taehyung’s chest when he gets an idea. “Camera.”
Taehyung furrows his brow. “Yes, dude, they sell cameras here.”
“No, Tae, you should get Jeongguk a camera for his birthday.”
“Oh.” Taehyung lets Jimin lead him to the selection of cameras, ranging from cheap camcorders to expensive, professional photography cameras. “Why?”
Jimin starts fucking around with one, taking a close-up picture of Taehyung’s nose. “You said he’s having issues with his brother’s old camera, and he still has a couple photography classes left of his requirements. And it’ll help with his newspaper pieces if he can take his own photos.”
“Shit.” Taehyung looks exponentially more on board with the idea now, moving from the cheaper selections to the high-grade professional cameras. “Shit, you’re right. First I’ll blow his mind and then I’ll blow his dick, it’s perfect!”
Jimin feels physically wounded. “Dude.”
“Shut up, you’ve got both Yoongi and Hoseok hyung wrapped around your finger.” Taehyung flags down an employee. “Excuse me, which is your best camera? I’ve got a boy to keep happy.”
Jimin steps back, watching Taehyung go over the ins and outs of the top five cameras they have. He knows Jeongguk hasn’t told Taehyung how he’s still a little on the fence about journalism, (he swears up and down that he’s not, he’d been drunk off his ass when Jimin asked last time) but Jimin also knows that he’s started playing around with photography. Taehyung settles on one with a price tag that makes Jimin want to weep, and they head to check out with Taehyung excitedly checking his schedule to find the perfect day to visit his boy.)
Breaking News: After a bout of unfortunate illness, the Jets have replaced their assistant manager with an intern. Could this be the key that sets the Jets on a path to greatness?
Busy with practices and constantly deterred by Jeongguk’s senior portfolios and projects, Taehyung doesn’t get a chance to visit until the spring of 2019. He plans terribly, driving to campus only to get a call from Jeongguk, back in Albany, asking where the hell he was.
“It’s your spring break?” Taehyung had asked, standing outside the apartment Jeongguk rented with a few other guys.
“Yes, you loser. Can you get here tonight?”
“I’m on my way.”
“Holy shit, Tae.” Jeongguk says now, sitting cross-legged on his bed. Taehyung’s curved around his body, trailing his fingers down the pebbles of Jeongguk’s spine. He’d finally given Jeongguk his birthday present after getting distracted with wandering hands and desperate kisses and now he’s staring at it in wonder, hands shaking a little. He seems uncertain, or nervous, to open the box. “This is too much. This is way too much.”
“Would you hush?” Taehyung asks, fondly. He props his weight on an elbow, kissing lightly at Jeongguk’s shoulder, down to the bruises dotting his hips. “There’s no such thing as something being too much for you.”
“But we don’t do gifts anymore.”
“I missed your birthday and Christmas.”
“You were busy-”
“Hey.” Taehyung sits up, lets his legs fall open around Jeongguk’s body and holds him close with arms around his waist. “I love you, Jeongguk. I’m making good money with the team and you haven’t let me give you a gift for three years. Can’t I spoil you?”
Jeongguk sighs. “Tae-”
“Jimin told me. He gave me the idea for the camera, anyway.”
Jeongguk stiffens, glancing at Taehyung over his shoulder. “What do you mean, Jimin told you?”
“That your brother’s camera was making your work more difficult?” Taehyung rests his chin on his shoulder, appraising Jeongguk’s profile as he goes back to reading over the camera’s attributes and relaxes only a little against Taehyung. “If you don’t like it I’ll get you something else-”
“No,” Jeongguk says. He turns, pressing the softest kiss to Taehyung’s cheek. “I love it, I really do. I just don’t know how to thank you.”
“You can do that thing I like that you never do.”
Jeongguk flushes, a furious pink painting his cheeks. He tries to shove Taehyung away, but Taehyung laughs loudly and holds on tight, nuzzling his neck as Jeongguk finally unboxes the camera. “Wow,” he whispers, awestruck, as he slowly pieces things together. It’s an impressive camera, and Taehyung can’t help the burst of pride sitting snugly in his chest at the way Jeongguk’s face lights up, how he insists on reading the entire users manual right then and there, and how he plays with all of the parts. The amazing photo quality and zoom seem to be his initial favorite parts.
“Hyung, lie back.” Jeongguk says sometime later, as Taehyung was starting to doze off. His bed back in New York was nice, but nothing beat Jeongguk’s. Jeongguk stands, holding the camera to his eye and pointing it at Taehyung, fiddling with the lens. “Put your arm above your head, and hold the sheet with the other.”
“I don’t recall agreeing to be your muse.”
“It comes with the camera.”
Jeongguk grins behind the camera, snapping a few pictures. And Taehyung lets him direct the way he lies, the placement of the sheet getting more and more provocative as time goes on, and Taehyung draws the line at a full on nude. He’ll send that shit on Snapchat but an actual, physical photo saved on a professional camera is something he’ll have to work up to.
“Babe,” Taehyung complains, as Jeongguk tries to work him into another pose. “It’s late, put that thing down and come sit on my face.”
Jeongguk gets one last picture, blushing again, before Taehyung manages to wrestle the camera away, gentle in his actions when he places it on the desk. He hooks an arm around Jeongguk’s waist, dragging him back into bed and grinning salaciously as he tugs the sheets over his head, directing all of his attention to the heat between Jeongguk’s thighs.
(Whenever Jeongguk gives Taehyung control of what they watch on TV, without fail, Taehyung puts on an old football game. Jeongguk gets bored almost immediately, often scrolling through his phone or napping against Taehyung’s side. He uses it for reference, paying attention to old moves he might be able to incorporate later on.
Some games have more background information than others. Some show warmups and timeouts, interviews with the players in the locker rooms. And in one game, that they watch in the week Taehyung manages to get away from the team, there’s a proposal.
A linebacker, well known within the league, surprises his longtime girlfriend by calling her down from the stands. He was in the middle of an interview when the reporter mentioned his relationship.
“Your girlfriend, she’s here now isn’t she? She flew in from a shoot in Brazil.”
“She did! Actually, there’s something I wanted to tell her. Babe, please come down here?”
She cries when he proposes, their kiss long and sweet while the rest of the team cheers them on. Taehyung sighs at his side, resting his head on the top of Jeongguk’s.
“Don’t you just love proposals?”
“I guess? I don’t know how I feel about public ones, though.”
“Oh.” Taehyung stiffens slightly, fast-forwarding to the actual game. “Do you hate them?”
“I just think they’re kinda awkward, like. What if she had said no?” Jeongguk holds up his phone, already set with Taehyung’s favorite Snapchat filter for a selfie. “He’d have to go on and play and every person in that arena and those who watched on TV will all know he just got rejected. And what if he lost and she said no? Quantum smashed to the next dimension.”
“Well I think it’s cute.” Taehyung pinches his cheek. “I’ll make sure there’s thirty elephants and fireworks when I propose to you.”
Jeongguk grimaces. “Please don’t.”
He remembers a paper he has due the morning he gets back to school, so he drags his laptop over to work on it, Taehyung propping his feet on Jeongguk’s back. The grind waits for no man.)
Breaking News: Is star quarterback Kim Taehyung dating sports photographer Jeon Jeongguk? The two, who share a mutual high school and college past, were seen looking extra close at yesterday’s game.
“Have you seen my loafers?”
“The good ones or the Gucci ones?”
Taehyung makes an affronted noise, poking his head up from where he’d been searching under their bed. “The Gucci ones are the good ones!”
“Sure,” Jeongguk snorts. “Did you check the closet?”
“Found them!” Taehyung says, a few minutes later. He tosses them into his duffel bag along with spare clothes, his uniform, and toiletries. “I’m not cleaning the closet.”
“Good thing I have my own.”
Jeongguk turns his attention back to the piece he’s writing, trying to tune out the sound of Taehyung hurriedly packing, running through a packing list in his head because he always refuses to write anything down, (“It’s the same thing every time, Guk, muscle memory.”) He’s been hired by a small newspaper to cover a story breaking at NYU, and though the promised pay wasn’t much, it would provide enough to get the coat he’d been eyeing for Taehyung’s upcoming birthday.
Taehyung trips on his way out of the bedroom and settles for kicking the offending pair of jeans out of his way instead of picking them up. He’s wearing his extra comfy clothes for the plane ride, and Jeongguk wonders how the hell he still fits into one of Jeongguk’s high school hoodies with all his time at the gym.
“Where are you off to again?” Jeongguk asks, stretching his arms above his head. The view from Taehyung’s Manhattan apartment was breathtaking, but it never stopped the cricks in Jeongguk’s neck.
“Gonna leave me for one of those cheerleaders?”
“You fucking know it.”
Jeongguk laughs, pushing his glasses onto his head to rub at his eyes. “I’d leave me for a cheerleader, too.”
Grinning, Taehyung rounds the table to throw his arms around Jeongguk’s neck from behind. “If you want me to buy you a cheerleading outfit so badly, all you have to do is ask.”
“I’ll pass,” Jeongguk says dryly, pushing Taehyung’s face away. But he doesn’t object when Taehyung comes right back to kiss his cheek with a loud smack.
“Car’s outside.” Taehyung says, dropping his forehead on Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Sure you can’t come with?”
“Sorry, hyung, I’m being sent to D.C. in the morning.”
Taehyung frowns. “You still haven’t heard back from anyone yet, have you? This freelancing shit is really taking a toll on you.”
“It’s better than being homeless.”
“I’d never let you be homeless.”
“Go, Tae. Your car is waiting.”
For a moment, Taehyung doesn’t move, observing Jeongguk’s profile as he goes back to editing his piece. He’ll submit it tonight, and when dawn comes he’ll be on a flight to Virginia. Then, Taehyung sighs and tilts Jeongguk’s chin with the touch of a knuckle, kissing him soft and deep.
“Snapchat me weird slow-mos?” Taehyung asks, as he’s pulling away. “We’ll talk about this when we’re back.”
“Of course. And there’s nothing left to talk about!”
“Be back in a week. Love you, always.”
In his fourth year with the Jets, Taehyung had finally earned his starting position. It came with the retirement of the previous quarterback and Taehyung had big shoes to fill, but so far they were 3-1 on the season, and he was determined to fight for a chance at the Superbowl in the New Year.
He thinks that Taehyung looks happiest when he’s playing his game. Taehyung will laugh when Jeongguk mentions this, say something about how he’s happiest surrounded by those he loves, but Jeongguks sees the way his demeanor changes the second he steps on the field. He glows brighter, features sharper and far more deadly as he focuses on the game with lethal precision. Whenever his team wins, his smile could rival the New York night skyline. Even when they lose, Taehyung spends more hours than the rest of his staff reviewing the footage, trying to find where he can improve to play better for his team, how to do everything he can to feel the rush of a win again.
For the games Jeongguk can’t get to, he makes sure to watch however he can. Sometimes, it’s buying a subscription to an online platform just to watch one game, but most of the time he watches from the apartment. He makes good on his promise to pause at intervals to Snapchat the funny faces Taehyung makes or to text Jimin, still uncertain in his role as assistant manager, words of encouragement.
Freelancing gives Jeongguk more free time than he’d enjoyed during college, but it also means taking the kinds of stories and working for the kinds of newspapers that weren’t exactly up to his standards. He’d interned for Billboard during his last year of college, but found their journalistic integrity to be lacking, so he’d turned down the job offer they’d given when he graduated. Since then, he’s applied to every major newspaper and even the minor ones that were far less known, but aside from a few offered internships he hadn’t heard anything back.
“Why don’t you just accept an internship?” Taehyung had asked, after Jeongguk had tried to hide in bed for an entire afternoon.
“I don’t want to be a twenty-five year old graduate with only an internship. I can barely help on the rent as is.” Jeongguk admitted, quietly.
“I’m not asking you to help out on rent.”
“I live here, too.”
Taehyung rolled over to cover Jeongguk’s body with his own weight, secure and safe. “Do you think I’m much better? Almost twenty-six and I set a pot of spaghetti on fire last week.”
Jeongguk snorted. “You’re living your dream, Tae. I want to feel that, too.”
“And you will. There’s no easy road to happiness. If you think another internship is the way to achieve that, then I’ll tag along everyday in a snuggie to distract from you.”
Jeongguk hadn’t accepted another internship, but he had made a habit to accept (almost) every offer of writing a piece that came his way. He’s been sent all over the country, mostly for small additional pieces to cover bigger stories, but he looks at it all as experience. When (if) he ever gets a full-time spot on a paper, he’ll have enough experience that he hopefully won’t be lacking in any way.
So he goes to Virginia, he gets his questions in whenever he gets the chance and ignores the subtle racist undertones from certain politicians. If only he were better known, with more followers on his Twitter, he’s sure the Internet would love to make memes out of half the shit interviewees say to him. He writes stories while on trains and planes, sleeping in turnstiles while waiting for his next flight. It’s exhausting, and he often passes out on the couch as soon as he gets home, waking up to a soft blanket and a kiss from Taehyung if the other isn’t away for a game. When he can get to Taehyung’s games, he’s given special access to provide pictures for ESPN’s websites and a few subsequent papers, standing on the sidelines and trying to take equal numbers of pictures of the team. It earns him the incorrect title of a photographer, but Jeongguk doesn’t mind much when it gets him a paycheck.
Jeongguk gets home late one weekend from a rushed trip to Pennsylvania for Buzzfeed (he was getting desperate, okay?) and falls asleep at the island in the kitchen before the microwave finishes with his leftovers.
He wakes to a soft beeping noise and the softer press of fingers in his hair, gently stroking the strands away from his face, pillowed on his arms. He whines at the disturbance, trying to fall back asleep, but Taehyung’s laughing quietly in his ear and the microwave won’t shut up.
“Come on, sleepy head. You’ll hurt your neck if you stay here.”
“Hn, carry me.”
“Too tired.” Taehyung puts the leftovers back in the fridge and returns to Jeongguk’s side, hooking an arm over his shoulders and helping Jeongguk stumble to his weary feet. “When did you get in?”
Jeongguk breathes deep against Taehyung’s collarbone. He’d been gone for two weeks this time, the team having stayed out West for two nearby games. “Midnight? Time’s it?”
Taehyung wrestles Jeongguk’s coat, slacks, and shoes off before retreating back through the apartment to hit the lights. Tension drains from his body as he falls next to Jeongguk, sighing deeply as if this were the first hint of a rest that he’s gotten in months.
“Plans tomorrow?” Taehyung asks, rolling over to throw an arm around Jeongguk’s waist. He makes a happy noise, and snuggles in closer.
“Sleeping all day.”
“Sounds damn good to me.”
Jeongguk forces his tired eyes open, staring at Taehyung’s soft face in the moonlight. There are bags under his eyes, bruises and scrapes on his cheeks from particularly nasty plays, and he just looks so tired. Jeongguk knows there’s nothing else that Taehyung would rather do, but he sometimes wishes the sport weren’t so taxing. Not a game or practice goes by where Jeongguk doesn’t worry that it’ll finally be the day he gets a call saying Taehyung’s been hurt, that something was strained or broken or he’d been concussed, his dream and his health compromised all for a few years of trivial fame-
“I can hear you thinking from over here,” Taehyung murmurs, breath fanning across Jeongguk’s nose. “Spill.”
He cups Taehyung’s cheek with his palm, gently stroking the pad of his thumb along the scrape touching Taehyung’s nose. “You’re being careful right?”
“You know I always am.”
“I know, it’s just.” Jeongguk sighs, and Taehyung squeezes his hip. “I just worry about you. Jesus.”
“No jokes at three am.”
Taehyung leans closer, kissing Jeongguk slowly. He kisses for a long few minutes, until their mutual exhaustion becomes too much for more than the softest press of lips. He rests his forehead against Jeongguk’s, rubbing his thumb at the exposed skin of Jeongguk’s hip.
“I’ll always come back to you, Jeon Jeongguk.” Taehyung whispers, a promise breathed in the dead of night. “I’m always careful.”
“I know,” Jeongguk says, gathering Taehyung impossibly closer. “I know. I love you, always.”
Jeongguk holds on just a little too tight that night.
Breaking News: Gentleman on the streets and… cheater in the sheets? Kim Taehyung was seen getting close to model Miranda Kerr after a win against the Steelers. See the exclusive feature on page 8.
Startling, Jeongguk looks up at the slam of the front door as Taehyung comes barreling into the apartment. He’s holding a paper, seething as he kicks off his shoes and doesn’t bother to lay them flat. Jeongguk tries to think through his actions for the day and can’t come up with anything to warrant this kind of fury.
“Don’t you ‘babe’ me!”
Jeongguk holds his hands away from his keyboard. “What did I do?”
“Look at this!”
Taehyung flings the paper onto the table, slamming his palms onto the surface as Jeongguk reads the headline. He breathes a sigh of relief, flipping through to find the blurry pictures of Taehyung and the model he’d never bothered to remember the name of, sitting together courtside of a basketball game. Taehyung had hit that game the day after winning against the Steelers; the following pictures were terrible quality of their backs as they left the venue.
“Is this it?’ Jeongguk asks, closing the paper. “You had me worried.”
“’It’? Jeongguk, they’re calling me a cheater!”
“And they’re calling Miranda a cougar!”
“How could you let them publish this?” Taehyung stares at the picture accompanying the headline, the very fuzzy picture of Taehyung’s hand on her shoulder as they cross the street while Miranda looks at her phone instead of the road. “Fuck, my PR team is going to kill me. I have to play in Philly in two weeks!”
Jeongguk pulls up a new tab on his computer and searches the website for the paper. It’s small, riddled with typos and misleading headlines, and his suspicions are confirmed. “Taehyung. I didn’t let anyone publish anything. I’ve never worked for this paper before.”
“You-” Taehyung blinks, all of the fight seeming to leave him at once. He sits heavily in the chair opposite Jeongguk’s. “But-”
“Look at their site.” Jeongguk turns his laptop around, letting Taehyung take a long look. “When I first started working in New York, people warned me about this paper. It’s more like a poorly circulate magazine at this point. They rely heavily on yellow journalism, spreading blatant lies and misinformation. Dude, they would have taken separate pictures of the two of you and either edited you together or speculated if you so much as looked in her direction.”
“Don’t worry, Tae. Even if anyone read this, they wouldn’t believe it. Twitter’s in love with the two of us.”
Taehyung sighs, and rips the paper in half with slow precision. “Nothing happened.”
“She recognized me while we were watching the game, said she was a fan and asked if I wanted to get something to eat. My team had left the day before and you know how much I hate eating alone-”
“Tae,” Jeongguk laughs, pushing his chair away from the table and crossing to slip onto Taehyung’s lap. “I’m not worried at all. I trust you, and they’ve said worse shit about me.”
“What?” Taehyung’s head snaps up, brows furrowed in irritation. “What the fuck could they say about you?”
Jeongguk pushes his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, trying to soothe the downturn of his lips and forehead with strategic kisses. “Oh, just the usual. Mostly they just call me a gold digger.”
“Usually because you make so much more than me and I live with you. They like to ignore the fact that we’ve been together since our broke college years when coming up with names to call me.”
Taehyung exhales heavily through his nose, big hands holding tight onto Jeongguk’s hips. The chair makes it difficult to sit comfortably on Taehyung’s lap, but he makes do to continue pressing soft kisses at the corner of Taehyung’s mouth, fingers curled in the front of Taehyung’s shirt.
“I wish I could go off on them,” Taehyung mutters. Jeongguk doesn’t pull back from the mark he’s sucking on Taehyung’s neck, making a noise of confusion. “On Twitter, or some shit. I wish I could tell them to leave my man alone.”
“Might lose your blue check.”
“And you know how much I cherish that thing.”
Jeongguk kisses the mole on Taehyung’s nose. “I mean you could. Your three million followers would love it, but your PR team would probably hate you.”
“I’ll just post our nudes.”
“Please don’t.” Jeongguk kisses him properly, then, and feels the stress melt out of Taehyung’s shoulders as he licks the seam of Taehyung’s lips. He trails his lips across Taehyung’s cheek, to his ear, whispering, “Let me help you feel better?”
“Can we get dinner after?” Taehyung asks, as Jeongguk’s leading him through the apartment with fingers locked around his wrist. “Your ass isn’t that fulfilling.”
Snorting, Jeongguk guides Taehyung to lie back on the bed, tugging off his shirt. “And they say romance is dead.”
“I would be honored to die by your ass.”
“Is that a promise?”
“You fucking know it.”
Breaking News: The New England Patriots have done it again! Is there any team in the NFL with enough power to stop them?
When Taehyung wins the games that Jeongguk manages to get to, he says in every post-game interview that he dedicates the win to Jeongguk. He gets asked after every loss, why he doesn’t dedicate the plays he does well to Jeongguk, too, and says, “He brings out the best in me. I only want to give the best to him in return.”
So when the Jets defeat the Giants to move on to the quarterfinals before the Superbowl, Taehyung is extra fervent in his dedication. It’s the furthest the Jets have gone in the pool since Taehyung took over as quarterback six seasons ago, and the anticipation is palpable.
“Fuck, I’m so nervous.” Taehyung says, as they get dinner after the game. Jimin and Hoseok, who’d flown out of California to finally see Taehyung play in person, sit on the opposite side of the booth. They were calling it a late birthday dinner for Taehyung- his twenty-ninth, to which Taehyung had vehemently opposed any candles to solidify the number. “I don’t want to fuck this up.”
“You wont,” Hoseok says around a mouthful of cheese fries. “Have you seen the way you play? You’re lethal, dude.”
“Oh, shit that reminds me. I gotta watch the tapes-”
“Eat first.” Jeongguk shoves a mouthful of chicken in Taehyung’s face, staring pointedly until Tahyung accepts it. “You can watch later. Did you get the footage of the Eagles?”
“Yeah. Gonna spend the whole week looking over it.”
Jimin snorts. “Rest in peace to Jeongguk’s dick, I guess.”
“Fuck off.” Jeongguk throws a fry into Jimin’s shirt. Retaliation.
“Speaking of dicks,” Hoseok interrupts the little food fight before it can escalate further. “Got any job offerings, Jeongguk-ah?”
Jeongguk shrinks back, suddenly feeling like a very terrified deer in the headlights. “Oh, um. Yeah, actually. I got something with the New York Post. An interview.”
Throwing his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders, Taehyung pulls him into a tight hug as Jimin and Hoseok whoop happily. “Babe! That’s great, when were you going to tell me?”
“If something had come from it,” Jeongguk says honestly. “I didn’t want you to get your hopes up.”
At that, Taehyung pulls back and Jeongguk recognizes a flash of disenchantment, of what he really hopes isn’t realization. “How many interviews have you not told me about?”
Jimin and Hoseok fall uncomfortably silent, turning their attention to each other’s food in an effort to give them as much privacy as possible in such a small booth. Jeongguk drops his gaze, squeezing Taehyung’s knee a little desperately. “Five.”
“They’re morons for not accepting you,” Taehyung says, his voice too loud in his effort of feigned nonchalance. He smiles widely, and Jeongguk is hopelessly confused and nervous as he looks back up. “You’ll get this one for sure. Obama retweeted a gif of me; I’ll call him in if you don’t get this job. Hey, hyung, are the others flying in for the game?”
“Um,” Hoseok looks to Jimin for help, who only shrugs. “Yeah, they should be here on Friday. It’s still cool if we all crash at your place, right?”
“Yep. I’ll be at practice or reviewing the tapes most of the time, anyway.”
Jeongguk pushes his dinner away as the conversation continues naturally from there, Jimin drawing out his charts over dessert to show Taehyung his play-by-play stats as Hoseok scrolls aimlessly through his phone. If Taehyung can feel Jeongguk’s leg shaking from where their thighs are pressed together, he doesn’t comment on it. Their waitress re-fill’s Jimin’s coffee, Hoseok orders a shot of something strong. Jeongguk shoves his hands between his thighs to keep from grabbing onto Taehyung. Taehyung frowns over his stats and orders a piece of cake.
Hoseok sneaks a bite of the chocolate, accidentally smearing some onto the sheets Jimin’s going over. “Don’t you have a strict diet to follow?”
“I only follow that when my coach is around,” Taehyung says without looking up. “Jimin, we need to develop new long-range plays in practice tomorrow.”
“We need something to surprise the Eagles with next week. If the Patriots win against the Panthers we’re going to need a miracle.”
“Taehyung.” Hoseok says, grabbing Taehyung’s hands into his own. “You’re going to do wonderfully. Brady won’t know what hit him.”
And Taehyung does play startling well, but it’s just not enough. After the euphoric thrill of beating the Eagles, of the buzz and coverage that came with facing the Patriots in the 59th Superbowl, the Jets lose 42-17. Taehyung’s stats are incredible, record throws leading to record catches, but the interception in the last twenty seconds of the game solidifies the loss. Confetti rains down on the field, where Taehyung stands with his helmet in hand, watching the swarm of Patriots players as they cheer and scream, as they accept their hats and t-shirts, pouring Gatorade on each other. There are tears, mostly from the player’s girlfriends and families, and maybe a few from Jeongguk, but those won’t be caught on camera. Not in the way Taehyung’s despondent disappointment will.
From where he sits behind the bench and surrounded by their friends, Jeongguk lowers his camera. He has good shots of the game, of Taehyung cheering with every point they score. But not this. This isn’t a moment for the scrapbook.
“Taehyung, this was your first Superbowl appearance. How are you feeling?”
“Ah, the adrenaline hasn’t really worn off yet.” Taehyung laughs, sitting in front of his locker in the locker room. Reporters swarmed the second they got the green light, and Jeongguk watches from the sideline as Taehyung accepts each interview. Jeongguk can read the exhaustion and desolation in Taehyung’s shoulders from across the room, but not once does Taehyung turn a reporter down. Since he finished his shower and changed, he’s been answering questions. “It’s been an incredible ride, and I’m so immensely proud of my teammates. It just wasn’t our year.”
“You threw three interceptions, three more than you’ve thrown all year. Can you explain that?”
“The Patriots have a kick-ass defense. They were everywhere we never wanted them to be. I should have done better adjusting my throws and my plays but I was lacking.”
“How do you plan to prepare for the next season?”
“We’ll re-evaluate our offense. We’re good, but we need to be better. I need to be better. I don’t want to disappoint my players like that again.”
“Are you saying you’re disappointed in your team-?”
“Okay, that’s enough.” Jimin intercedes, then, stepping between Taehyung and the reporter, shooing her away even as she glares at him. Some other teammates look up from their own reporters. “That’s all the interviews Kim Taehyung will be giving today. Thank you everyone, the locker room will stay open for another half hour.”
Taehyung finishes packing up his things, and Jeongguk takes that opportunity to slip out of the room and head for the player entrance. By this point, Jimin has given up on convincing Jeongguk to take jobs covering Taehyung’s games (he could never be impartial while interviewing Taehyung) and has just given Jeongguk an ID badge, and he uses that now to wait by the VIP entrance. Taehyung leaves the locker room a few minutes later, scarf wrapped high around his neck and Jimin talking quietly at his side. His gym bag hangs heavily from one shoulder, hands in his pockets.
“Jeongguk?” Taehyung tilts his head, as if he’d forgotten Jeongguk was around. “Have you been waiting long?”
“Did you see the locker room?”
Jeongguk hesitates, hands itching to draw Taehyung against his body. “Yeah.”
“Did you see the first guy ask if my sexuality had anything to do with the loss?”
“What the fuck?” Jeongguk hisses. “Where is he? I’ll kick his ass, babe, I swear I will-”
Jimin shakes his head. “He was immediately kicked out. Called his paper, too. It’ll be a damn scandal if he’s still writing in the morning.”
Taehyung lets his bag fall and steps forward and into Jeongguk’s embrace. He drops his forehead on Jeongguk’s shoulder, arms winding around Jeongguk’s waist as he lets out a shaky, unsteady breath. Cupping a hand at the back of Taehyung’s head, Jeongguk holds him close, lets Taehyung have this moment of weakness away from the cameras and the reporters, before he’ll have to go outside and fight his way through them again. Jimin lays a steady hand between Taehyung’s shoulders.
“You okay?” Jeongguk whispers, turning his head to kiss Taehyung’s temple. Taehyung shakes his head. “Want me to kick Brady’s ass?”
“No,” Taehyung laughs weakly. “The league is addicted to his dick, anyway. I just have to up my game. Kick his ass on the field next season.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’ll be okay,” Taehyung says, squeezing Jeongguk’s waist. “Just. Very disappointed in myself. Can we just go home? I want to drink that wine your parents sent us. Jimin, want to come?”
“Sure. Our flight’s in an hour, anyway, so we should get to the airport.”
Taehyung sleeps the duration of the flight, head against Jeongguk’s shoulder. Some fans had asked for selfies on their way to the airport and Taehyung posed for all of them, smiling in every picture he took even as Jimin kept the paparazzi and reporters at bay. They’re going to get home late, but Taehyung has a bit of a break before he needs to begin preparing for the upcoming season, but instead of getting pleasantly drunk in their living room that night like Jeongguk expects, Taehyung leaves his glass untouched and instead pulls up the footage his coach sent him.
It’s eerily reminiscent of Taehyung’s last year of college some eight years ago, Taehyung throwing himself into his work and developing tunnel vision to anything else. If he’s not at practice, he’s at the gym, and if he’s at home he’s going over stats and straining his eyes scouting what the other teams are doing.
Jeongguk accepts a short-term gig taking pictures for the Yankees. At first, he denies the offer to travel with them, but soon rescinds his decision when he gets the offered pay and realizes he’d see about as much of Taehyung whether he was home or away. So he travels and takes pictures, and sends pictures of cute dogs each morning to Taehyung.
“Where are you now?” Taehyung asks one evening, as he’s taking an ice bath.
Jeongguk’s perched on the balcony of his hotel, watching the sunset with a heavy heart and chills in his leg. He holds his phone up, noticing the bruises and scrapes on Taehyung’s cheeks that look worse with FaceTime’s quality.“Minnesota. Can you still pick me up from the airport on Saturday?”
“Fuck.” Taehyung thunks his head on the edge of the tub. “I’m in a meeting about potential trades all day Saturday.”
“It’s fine, I’ll Uber.”
“It’s okay, hyung. When are you back home?”
“When I’m done here.”
Jeongguk fiddles with the bottle of wine sitting on the patio table. He’s tempted, but his distaste for alcohol hasn’t changed much in the last few years. “Want to call? It’s been a while since we-”
“Not tonight, Guk. I’m exhausted.”
“Oh.” Jeongguk tries to mask his disappointment, even though Taehyung isn’t even looking at him. “Right. Sorry.”
Someone shouts from behind Taehyung, getting his attention. “Sorry, that’s Jimin. I have to go.”
“I’ll call you when I’m home?”
“Love you, always.”
Taehyung drops his phone softly onto the bathmat, just out of the way for when he steps out of the ice-cold water, and Jeongguk wonders if he even notices when he hangs up without an answer.
Breaking News: Trouble in paradise? Days after Jet’s quarterback Kim Taehyung arrived for training camp in Houston, Jeon Jeongguk was seen at a small gas station in Albany. Witnesses say he looked visibly distressed and exhausted. Turn to page 42 for a timeline of their relationship- and where things might have gone wrong.
The lights of the TV are harsh on Jeongguk’s eyes, forced open after a particularly loud noise disrupts his unsteady sleep. He’d fallen asleep sitting in the kitchen, and a quick check on his phone says it’s almost sunrise. There’s a blanket draped over his lap, the curtains on the door leading to the terrace drawn.
He stands with a groan to find the noise and head to bed, and discovers Taehyung sitting in front of the TV, watching his Superbowl game again for what must be the tenth time at this point, taking notes on everything. Again. Jeongguk pulls the blanket tight around his shoulders
“Tae.” Jeongguk’s voice cracks with disuse. “You said we’d go to bed at two.”
“I told you to sleep, Jeongguk. I’ll be in soon.”
Jeongguk frowns. “Just come to bed, hyung. You need to rest.”
“Ten minutes left in the game. I’ll be in after.”
“Okay,” Jeongguk sighs. His head is starting to pound, exhaustion sitting heavy in his bones and he needs to sleep after the triple overtime game he covered the night before. He kneels behind Taehyung, kissing the top of his head and not earning any response. “Hurry. Goodnight.”
But Jeongguk wakes up a few hours later to a cold bed and a note on the fridge from Taehyung. He’d left early to hit the gym, and would be training their new players for the rest of the day. There’s no food in the fridge- neither of them had much time for grocery shopping the last couple weeks- so Jeongguk orders a pizza and curls back up in bed.
He spends the day finishing a long piece he’d been working on for Rutgers men’s basketball, eating greasy food with the news on in the background. When he falls asleep later that night, he wakes to Taehyung shutting off the TV and sitting on the edge of the bed with a groan. Jeongguk doesn’t say anything, just shuffles over to sleepily throw his arm over Taehyung’s waist, who jumps slightly with a start. But he gets up to shower, and though Jeongguk falls back asleep, he’s aware enough to tell that Taehyung’s sleeping on the other side of the bed.
“I think Taehyung’s mad at me,” Jeongguk says one afternoon. Hoseok was back in town, trying to recruit students for his dance studio, and they’d gone for lunch every day for a week.
“What makes you say that?” Hoseok asks, ordering his ice cream. He gets four different flavors and gummy bears. Jeongguk’s stomach hurts just looking at it.
“He’s been distant lately. Not really talking to me. He’s always out of the apartment and when he is home, he’s reviewing tapes or sleeping in a room I’m not in.” Jeongguk chooses chocolate and realizes too late that he’d ordered Taehyung’s favorite instead of his own, too used to buying two when they’d come here together. He doesn’t have the heart to ask the worker to make a new one.
“I think he’s just stressed about the team,” Hoseok says.
He slips his card to the cashier before Jeongguk can object, and they leave the shoppe in search of somewhere to sit. Summer is on the horizon, the air just on the edge of muggy and uncomfortable, which means the start of preseason is just around the corner and Jeongguk will see even less of Taehyung than as of late.
“I don’t know, hyung.” Hoseok leads them to Central Park, to one of the empty benches along a bike path. “I’ve seen him stressed about three different teams and this feels different.”
Jeongguk pokes at his ice cream. “You know how he’s always been like… like a human emoji? He’s always been exciteable and pulling me out of my shell but lately he’s been colder. Not coming to bed, not calling me, or something. He always wants to know about the pieces I’m writing but he hasn’t asked for an update in three weeks. A few days ago he forgot about our dinner reservations and left me there alone for two hours.”
“Huh.” Hoseok bites the head off a gummy bear. “Have you talked to him?”
“I don’t want to distract him. I was going to mention dinner but when I got home he’d fallen asleep in the bathroom and he just looked so tired. I want to help him, but I don’t know what to do.”
When Hoseok finishes his cup, Jeongguk passes his over without a word. “You should talk to him. It won’t do either of you any good to let these uncertainties go unchecked. I call Jimin every night, and try to visit every game that comes out West. You and Taehyung have been hashtag relationship goals for a decade, you’ve always gone strong.”
“Yeah.” Jeongguk sinks back against the bench, watching a dog run circles around its owner.
“Maybe he’s just matured.”
“Promise me you’ll talk to him?”
He doesn’t get a chance that night because Jeongguk goes home to an empty apartment. He’s confused, and a little worried, since Taehyung hadn’t mentioned anything about going out of town. Practice for the upcoming season had been in full swing, and Jeongguk can’t imagine Taehyung leaving that for anything. He pulls out his phone, and texts Jimin.
Jeon Jeongguk [11:09pm]
are you with tae?
Park ChimChim [11:21pm]
didn’t he tell you???
we’re in atlantic city for the weekend !!
Jeon Jeongguk [11:23pm}
oh right guess I forgot haha
Park ChimChim [11:30pm}
I’ll have him facetime you ??
Jeon Jeongguk [11:46pm]
have fun u 2
Jeongguk can’t sleep that night. The bed feels too empty without Taehyung’s presence in the apartment, and he gives up on resting when the sun begins to rise beyond the horizon. He gets some breakfast at the café on the corner, scrolling through his Twitter feed for updates on the Jets practices and on the rest of the league.
He’d brought his camera, and without a current job Jeongguk spends his day sitting in the park taking pictures of any scenery that catches his eye. He enlists Hoseok to bring him food some hours later, as he’s taking very important pictures of a family of ducks playing in a pond. Then he turns to the pigeons, stealing fries and annoying couples on their walks. Maybe he should take a trip up to Maine, or something. See if he can get some good nature pictures for a Natural Geopgraphic sometime soon.
There’s no one home when he gets back, even though Jimin had sent him a picture of Taehyung driving them back from New Jersey that afternoon. So Jeongguk orders in again, breaks out a bottle of scotch even though he doesn’t want to drink it. The ice in his first glass melts and Jeongguk pours it out. Does the same with the second glass and by the time he’s pouring a third, there’s the sound of keys in the lock. He jerks up, the clock above the stove reading 1:03am; he hadn’t realized it got so late.
“Jeongguk?” Taehyung sounds dead-tired, surprise in his voice when he sees Jeongguk’s still awake. “I thought I said not to wait up for me.”
“Uh.” Jeongguk sits up straight in his chair, the Thai food he’d ordered earlier looked completely unappealing at this point. “No? I don’t have any messages from you.”
“You, uh- you didn’t tell me you’d be in Atlantic City, either.”
“Must have slipped my mind, sorry.” Taehyung carefully undoes the laces to his favorite pair of shoes, stretching with a groan as he drops his overnight bag in the entranceway.
“I was worried, hyung. You’ve never kept things from me before.”
“That’s funny, coming from you.” Taehyung ruffles his hair as he passes, making his way into the kitchen, but the action feels hollow. “Why are you drinking? You hate the stuff.”
“I- you always drink it. I wanted to know if it’s good.”
“Most expensive scotch in the world, it better be good. Is there still leftover pizza?”
“What are you talking about?”
Taehyung sticks his head out of the fridge. “The pizza you got last week?”
“That went bad. Hyung, you’re not telling me something.”
Sighing, Taehyung shuts the fridge and makes his way back to the table Jeongguk’s been at for hours. “Can we do this in the morning?”
“Do what?” Jeongguk’s heart beats painfully hard in his chest and he tries to think through everything, tries to understand what was going on. “You- you haven’t been talking to me. If I don’t come down to the stadium I don’t get to see you. You leave for a weekend without telling me-”
“Just like how you don’t tell me anything?”
Jeongguk frowns, sliding the glass of melting scotch between his hands. “I don’t know what you’re-”
“Oh, don’t give me that shit, Jeongguk. You constantly keep your job hunt from me, or don’t tell me which papers you’re freelancing from. I have to wrestle updates out of you.”
“I just don’t have much to say,” Jeongguk admits. “The job hunt isn’t doing well. My increasingly fewer rent payments show that.”
Taehyung crosses his arms, breathing deep from his nose. “I’ve told you before, Jeongguk. I don’t care about the rent. I care about you, and about your success, and I can’t help you if you don’t tell me anything-”
“But I don’t want you to help with this,” Jeongguk says. He gives up on the drink, standing up now so he doesn’t feel so small under Taehyung’s gaze. “I have to get a job on my own, hyung, I can’t keep letting you down.”
“You think you’ve let me down?” Taehyung clarifies, disbelieving. His entire body is closed off to Jeongguk, arms crossed and eyes dark.
“You’ve been doing what you love since you were a child,” Jeongguk whispers, losing all of the fight he’d felt just moments before. “Maybe I followed the wrong career? I want to be successful like you, hyung. I want to be happy and be deserving of standing by your side or being mentioned in articles singing your praises. I’m sorry, I should have told you these kinds of things earlier, I don’t know. I’m just tired, I think.”
“Jeongguk, you think I can’t see how worried you’ve been?” Jeongguk makes a noise of confusion, and he wants to fall into Taehyung’s arms, wants that security he knows a good hug from Taehyung can bring, but he doesn’t think that would be appropriate right now. “I see your worry, I see how much you stress and how hard you’ve been working in the industry. I know you almost quit back in college-”
“You what?” Jeongguk’s head snaps up, eyes stinging. “How-?”
“Jimin told me. He was drunk at a Christmas party a few years ago so please don’t be mad at him, but.” Taehyung’s shoulders sag, dark bags under his eyes. “Were you ever going to tell me?”
“No.” Jeongguk says, truthfully. “It would have just added unnecessary stress to you-”
“Stop treating yourself like a burden!” Taehyung whips his hand out, as if he’d meant to throw something across the room. “You’re not a burden! When you love someone, Jeongguk, you sign on for everything. For the good and the bad, for the long haul and the long nights. I’m not here to be a pretty face, Jeongguk; I’m here for you. I would have done anything to help you then, fuck, I’ll do anything to help you now, but I can’t help you if you don’t tell me anything.”
“I don’t want help,” Jeongguk repeats, but his voice wavers and there’s a blur to his vision that wasn’t there before.
“You act like- like I’ll leave you if you don’t get a hugely successful editor job at a paper in New York City before you turn thirty.” Taehyung laughs humorlessly, running his hands through his messy matted hair. “You act like I’m some goddam legacy you need to live up to. It was never like this before. What the fuck changed?”
“I never felt this pressure, before.” Jeongguk can’t look up. He hates looking weak and he especially hates looking weak in front of someone he loves. If he can help it, Taehyung won’t catch a glimpse of how he’s feeling now. “Everyone knew you were good at football from the start, and you continuously shatter expectations. Rebuilding an NFL team and going to the Superbowl after only a few seasons? There aren’t many people who could do that, hyung. I used to quit anything I didn’t immediately succeed at, so when Jimin told me I had a lot of potential in journalism, I let myself be blinded. I didn’t even bother looking at anything else because I thought I could do it.”
“You can do it, Jeongguk.”
Jeongguk shakes his head, taking a step back even though the table was already dividing them. “Maybe I can, but I don’t want you to continuously watch me fail. You deserve better than that, better than me-”
“Don’t you dare say that.”
“You know what? I can’t do this right now. I’ve told you for years how much you mean to me, how I don’t deserve you, but you just won’t see it.” Taehyung clears the scotch and Jeongguk’s abandoned dinner from the table, passing Jeongguk into the kitchen, and though Taehyung’s remained so much more composed during the exchange, Jeongguk can hear the warble in his voice. He stands over the sink, back hunched. “I think. I think we need some time apart, Guk.”
Jeongguk stares at his back, and Taehyung has never seemed more out of reach. “Are you… are you breaking up with me?”
“No.” Taehyung says firmly, turning back around. “No. I love you to the end of this Earth and back, Jeongguk, but ten years is a long time with the same person. I just think some space will be good for us. Unless… you want to break up?”
“Okay.” Taehyung smiles. It’s small and it’s weary, but Jeongguk could recognize it anywhere. “I’m leaving for Houston for training camp tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll crash at Jimin’s place tonight.”
“How long are you gone?”
A month. Jeongguk’s heart cracks a little bit more at that. “Okay.”
He stays seated at the kitchen island while Taehyung finishes packing, grabbing loose clothes and his practice gear, shoes, and everything else he’ll need for a month. He’d already started packing a few days ago; Jeongguk just hadn’t noticed the empty suitcase on his side of the bed. He picks at an apple, tired as hell, but Taehyung’s in their bedroom and he doesn’t want to sleep there alone, anyway. He hopes Taehyung doesn't notice his pillow on the couch.
“Alright,” Taehyung steps out of the room an hour or so later, dragging a suitcase with his backpack over his shoulders. “I’m taking the subway to Jimin’s so the car is here if you need it.”
“Okay.” Jeongguk walks him to the door. “Call me when you land? So- so I know you get there okay?”
“Of course. Don’t hesitate to call if you need anything.”
Taehyung trails soft fingers along Jeongguk’s hairline, touching his jaw gently. “I’ll see you in a month.”
The kiss is gentle, shaky, Taehyung letting out a quiet gasp when Jeongguk leans in. He doesn’t pull away, lets Jeongguk take and take until he’s forced to pull back to breathe, their foreheads against each other. He lets go of the front of Taehyung’s shirt, unaware he’d even grabbed it.
Taehyung gives him a little wave as he leaves, walking the hallway to the elevator as Jeongguk waits until he’s out of sight to shut the door. He locks it, and leans heavily against the door until he’s too much to support, sliding to the floor and curling into himself. No one hears him when the tears finally fall.
(“Jeongguk! What a pleasant surprise, you didn’t say you were coming to visit.” His mom ages timelessly, elegantly beautiful and endlessly kind. She’s startled when she opens the front door, but ushers Jeongguk inside without delay. “Did you drive here in one day?”
“Oh, Jeongguk-ah, you know I don’t like when you do that!” She takes his duffel bag, glancing outside before shutting the door. “Is Taehyung with you?”
“No.” Jeongguk’s throat feels tight, and the tears he’d been keeping at bay for the entire drive are choking him now.
His mom recognizes the signs, pulling him into a warm hug, and though it’s a little awkward now that he’s so much taller than she is, Jeongguk still melts into the embrace. His dog comes running around the corner, and from further in the house Jeongguk can hear his brother’s young daughter shrieking happily. It hurts him more. Taehyung loves that little girl.
“Jeongguk-ah, what’s the matter?”
“I messed up, mom. I messed up real bad.”
“Come inside, sweetie. You’ll feel better after some lunch and cuddling with your niece.
It only works a little bit.)
Breaking News: Renowned composer Min Yoongi will be featured in October’s edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. After being snubbed at this year’s Oscars, this could be what Mr. Min needs to finally catch The Academy’s eye?
Jeongguk wakes up to thirty missed texts and ten voicemails, rolling over in the dead of night. For a split second, Jeongguk thinks it’s from Taehyung and that Taehyung’s spamming him like he used to when they first exchanged numbers. But it’s not Taehyung, and the contact name is enough to have Jeongguk’s eyes widening in surprise.
He dials the number back, sticking his head under his pillow so as not to wake any of his family. “Yoongi hyung?”
“Finally. I was beginning to think you changed your number.”
“I was sleeping.”
“Who the fuck sleeps at eleven at ni- oh, it’s three over there, isn’t it?”
Jeongguk yawns loudly. “Did you call just to give me a lesson in timezones?”
“No, you ass.” Yoongi says something to whoever he’s with, doing a poor job of covering the speaker while he’s at it, and Jeongguk nearly falls back asleep waiting for more. “I have good news.”
“You finally found someone to deal with your personality?”
“Ha ha. Only if you’re back on the market.”
Jeongguk tries to laugh along, but it hits too close to home. Taehyung hadn’t messaged him since confirming that he’d arrived safely in Houston and Jeongguk’s been staying with his parents for almost two weeks now. He’d gradually told them the whole story, and their advice had been similar to Hoseok’s, (and Jimin’s, when Jeongguk caved and called him for updates) and that was to talk. They both led such different, time-consuming lives, which left little room for communication when they could so easily ignore each other.
“Why are you calling me at ass o’clock?” Jeongguk asks instead.
“You know my last movie score- that film that won at the Oscars?”
Jeongguk hums. “And you were robbed for best composer, Tae hyung and I watched the show. He almost called The Academy after you lost.”
“Jesus, tell him to deal with his own shit first.” Yoongi shouts a reply- a coffee order- to the person in the room with him. He must be planning on pulling another all-nighter. “Anyway. Rolling Stone contacted me, they want to do a story on me for their October edition.”
“Hyung, that’s amazing!”
“It is, and I want you to be the one to write it.”
At that, Jeongguk sits up. He pulls the phone away from his ear to make sure he hadn’t just been hearing things. “Me?”
“Yes, you. There’s no other snake reporter I want digging into my life.”
“I’ll take that as a complement,” Jeongguk says dryly. “Are you sure?”
Yoongi laughs. “Yes, I’m sure. My schedule is only relatively free next week, though. Can you make it out here?”
“Are you paying for my flight?”
“And for your meals.”
“Fuck, I’m sold.” Jeongguk finds himself genuinely grinning for the first time in weeks, growing wider at the excited cheer Yoongi lets out. “I’m at my parent’s in Albany, so I’ll just fly out of here.”
Yoongi pauses, and for a long moment Jeongguk thinks he’s talking to someone on his end again but then he says, “Why’re you in Albany?”
“Long story,” he groans. “I’ll tell you in L.A.”
So Jeongguk spends a week and a half in Los Angeles, tagging along as Yoongi goes about a typical day and whining enough that Yoongi takes him to DisneyLand. They spend most of their time in Yoongi’s studio, a room in a huge corporate building filled with enough music equipment to make Jeongguk’s head spin. He asks questions about Yoongi’s inspiration, about any hardships he faced while pursuing his interest, and whether he thinks he’s got any Oscar winning film scores up his sleve.
And in turn, Yoongi makes Jeongguk talk about what happened with Taehyung. He knows he was being pretty stupid- all of their issues came from not talking about their feelings- but it feels good to talk to Yoongi. Cooped up in a tiny studio littered with too many coffee cups, it almost feels like college again. Jeongguk slips into Yoongi’s bed on the first night, and since then he hasn’t even bothered with the guest room. Yoongi gives him the same advice he’s heard from everyone else, and this time Jeongguk is the one who pays for the pizza.
“I forgot to ask when this is due,” Jeongguk says on his last day in California.
They’re at Yoongi’s favorite ramen place, and Jeongguk managed to convince him to take a walk on the boardwalk when they’re done here. The air will do his crabby ass good, Jeongguk had said. Yoongi sneaks a bite from Jeongguk’s bowl. “August 8th. You’ve got some time, but they have to format and shit.”
“Right, this is your job.”
“It’s your job, Jeongguk,” Yoongi says gently. “Even if you’re not employed by one single company, this is what you do. What you love.”
“Yeah.” Jeongguk pokes at his ramen. His appetite’s been all over the place lately, but at least he’s not shaking. “Hyung?”
“Do you… do you think I’ve fucked things up with Tae? For good?”
Yoongi snorts, splashing broth over the tablecloth as he flicks his chopsticks. Jeongguk glares at him. “God, no. That moron’s been head over heels for you for so long.”
“Did he tell you about how before you and I met, he used to lay in my bed without permission and detail his date ideas to me? Used to tell me all about your ass and your smile. I had such high expectations when we met.”
“Did I live up to them?”
Jeongguk gives up on eating, reaching for a roll on the edge of the table to pick at instead. “He seemed really upset, though. When we fought.”
“My guess is he was more upset at the idea of losing you.”
He looks up at that, at the serious glint to Yoongi’s eyes. “You really think that?”
“That boy is hopelessly in love with you, Jeongguk. He wouldn’t let something so insignificant as this tear you two apart.”
They walk around for the rest of the night, sharing deep-fried Oreos and Yoongi complaining every time Jeongguk makes him stop for pictures of the moon or ocean, but he still lets Jeongguk pull him in for selfies. He tries to look unamused in all of them, but Jeongguk knows better at this point. His flight is early, so they stay out all night, and Jeongguk thinks it’s the perfect distraction he needed, running onto the beach in the moonlight with his shoes in hand, letting Yoongi keep his camera out of the sand.
(His memory card is full when he checks on the flight home, a new addition of dozens of pictures of Jeongguk running around a dark beach or trying to win at the games on the boardwalk. Jeongguk sends a text to Yoongi with nothing but a lot of exclamation points and hearts, and Yoongi replies with nothing but a winking face.)
Jeongguk draws up his profile piece as soon as he gets home, just jet-lagged enough to not be able to sleep. The first thing he does is empty out the fridge, full of spoiled food Jeongguk hadn’t thought to get rid of before leaving for his parent’s place, and he curls up on the corner of the bed, where his bedding had been bunched and starts to write up his story on Yoongi. He orders food when he gets hungry enough, showers that night and changes into sweats. This is the only official piece he has at the moment and though he hadn’t met any of the editors of Rolling Stone while on the West Coast, Jeongguk still wanted to do this piece perfectly.
He knows how big of an opportunity this is, knows that Yoongi probably chanced a lot to get Jeongguk on this piece, and he doesn’t want to let anybody down. He’d texted Taehyung and Jimin about it but hadn’t gotten a reponse. He hadn’t expected one, though; since they were so busy pulling double or even triple practices everyday in preparation. Taehyung wasn’t due back for a few more days, and Jeongguk hoped to have this almost finished by then, so he wouldn’t have any distractions when they finally get a chance to talk.
Pouring himself into his work and shutting off his phone, Jeongguk stays seated on the bed as he writes. The profile is already shaping up to be far longer than he’d anticipated, as he writes a lot about who Yoongi was in college, how he’s been inspiring people long before he got his hands on big Hollywood movies. He pushes aside the hollow ache he feels in his chest when he stretches and catches sight of Taehyung’s empty side of the bed, hand shaking when he reaches for his water bottle and leg doing the same that Jeongguk can’t balance his laptop on his knees. He wants this piece to be perfect, he wants good things to come from this, wants to make everyone who knows about him and his job issues proud, he wants to do this well.
But the sentences won’t form the way he wants them. He can’t draw out Yoongi’s unique and wonderful personality with the proper words, can’t evoke the feeling that he wants more than anything. The sun is setting, Jeongguk’s bones are stiff and weary, and he can’t fucking do this.
He can’t do this. He can’t write this piece and he can’t make Yoongi proud. Journalism was never for him; he should have quit while he was ahead and found something else to do, instead. Something else. He should have done something else. Taehyung could be proud of him if he wasn’t so useless, if he could be successful instead, then Taehyung wouldn’t be so disappointed. His entire body is shaking, imagining that things could have been so much better if Jeongguk had just quit, if he didn’t need to rely on Taehyung for everything, then maybe the words on his laptop wouldn’t be blurring, maybe he wouldn’t make so many typos, maybe, maybe, maybe-
He sobs, curling over his laptop. He can’t do this, he can’t, and he doesn’t know why he ever thought that he could-
Something moves the laptop, and then Jeongguk’s being pulled into a strong embrace, crying loudly into a warm shoulder. Someone’s trying to talk to him, murmuring quietly into his ear but Jeongguk can’t discern any words, holding himself together with arms around his stomach even as the arms around his back hold him tighter.
“It’s okay, you’re okay. Breathe, Jeongguk-ah, you’re okay.”
That’s Taehyung. He can recognize the voice. His sobs are quieter now, hiccups that result in another outburst as his body shakes as if cold. Taehyung only holds him tighter, rubbing soothing circles across his back.
“That’s it, Jeongguk, you’re okay. Match my breathing, okay?” Taehyung carefully takes Jeongguk’s face between his hands, gently urging him up. His cheeks are soaked, breathing unsteady and gasping, and Taehyung’s expression is twisted in such extreme worry, his own eyes damp and the front of his shirt stained with tears. He takes a deep breath and holds it, Jeongguk trying to match it. “There you go, Jeongguk. Can you tell me what happened?”
He shakes his head.
“That’s okay. Come here.”
Taehyung pulls him in again, letting Jeongguk slowly catch his breath and settle his crying. He keeps a heavy hand on the back of Jeongguk’s head, holding him close as Jeongguk slowly gains enough security to hug Taehyung back. He loses track of how long they stay like that, rocking back and forth slowly, as Jeongguk calms down.
“Y-You’re home.” Jeongguk whispers, his voice shot to shit. He adjusts his head, laying his cheek against Taehyung’s steady heartbeat instead of shoving his face in his shoulder. “It’s not… it’s not Saturday. Yet. You’re home.”
“I missed you too much,” Taehyung says, pressing a gentle kiss to Jeongguk’s hair. “I left early.”
“Won’t you- won’t you get in trouble?”
“Jimin’s got my back, but don’t worry about that, baby.” Taehyung tucks him closer, resting his chin on the top of Jeongguk’s head. “Are you okay? What happened?”
“I’ll be okay. I’m sorry-”
“Don’t apologize,” Taehyung says, firmly. “I should have been here for you, and I wasn’t. I’m sorry.”
Jeongguk shakes his head, curls a hand in the front of Taehyung’s shirt to hold on tight. “You had to go. We weren’t seeing each other that often, anyway, it’s not your fault.”
“Does this have something to do with when your leg would shake?”
Chuckling weakly, Jeongguk nods. “I shouldn’t be surprised you noticed that, huh?”
“Ten years with you, Jeongguk. There’s not much either of us can hide from each other anymore.”
“I think I just got overwhelmed. With everything. Worried about this piece and about whether I’d made the right career choice.”
Taehyung nods, and he’s always been so understanding of Jeongguk, he doesn’t know how he could ever let this slip away, even for a month. “Makes sense. When you’ve worried as long as you have, but you’re doing fine, Jeongguk. You are.”
Jeongguk knows this. He does. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”
“I’m sorry I started ignoring you.” Taehyung leans over to grab Jeongguk’s water bottle, letting Jeongguk sit up to finish it off. He shivers with the lack of adrenaline, body tired and weak and he smiles gratefully as Taehyung tugs one of the blankets from the bed over Jeongguk. He pulls Jeongguk into his lap properly, holding him close. “I should have just talked to you, about what was frustrating me. I’m so sorry if I worried you, Jeongguk-ah.”
“I’m just glad you’re home, hyung.”
Taehyung taps a key on Jeongguk’s laptop, moving back to lean against the headboard so Jeongguk can lie against his body more comfortably. “Is this the story on Yoongi hyung? Can I read it?”
Taehyung plays lightly with his hair as he reads, and Jeongguk relaxes more than he can remember in the near past. “Jeongguk.” He hums. “Do you… should we… Is there someone I should call? About this?”
“I don’t think so, Tae.”
“This is the first time it’s happened this badly,” Jeongguk insists. “I’ll be okay. If it happens again, we can look into calling someone. How’s that?”
“Okay, I’ll hold you to that. Are you hungry?”
“I don’t think I can eat,” Jeongguk admits.
“I’ll order something, and you can pick at it if you want.”
Jeongguk whines in protest when the doorbell rings, but Taehyung is quick as he grabs it, pressing lots of kisses to Jeongguk’s cheeks and nose as he rejoins him in bed. He tries to eat a little, but mostly he sits between Taehyung’s legs as they watch some shitty movie on TV, staying up too late because Jeongguk can’t sleep.
“Tae?” Taehyung is starting to doze, head dipping against Jeongguk’s shoulder. He’s exhausted, on the edge of sleep, now that the attack has worked its way fully through his system.
“I love you a lot, and I’m sorry we fought.”
“I love you a lot, too. We’ll talk about it more when it’s not four am.” Jeongguk laughs quietly, snuggling up against Taehyung’s chest. “Hey. When this season is over, let’s go on a vacation. Anywhere in the world you want, baby. A month or two. Or three.”
“That sounds good to me, hyung.”
They fall asleep with the blankets pulled high over their heads even as the sun begins to rise through the window.
Breaking News: Is Park Jimin planning a move to California? The assistant manager to the Jets was seen at LAX early this morning, meeting with a well-known dance instructor. Is he saying goodbye to the East Coast?
Jeongguk sits perched on a large rock to watch the early morning scenery unfold through the lens of his camera. There’s a couple doing more giggling than jogging, a little girl dragging her father around to chase some pigeons, an old woman feeding some birds crumbs of bread.
He takes pictures of the flowers, of the shadows cast by the rising sun, of the birds as they’re swarming a larger chunk of bread. When he can’t sleep in the early morning, the never-ending days of the city become his favorite muse. Most notably, he’ll spend his time in Central Park. There’s always so much life in the city, and the holidays bring more and more of it. The tree will be lit in the upcoming weekend, and Jeongguk has plans to be there to take pictures of the process.
He adjusts his focus on some shoes left by a bench, and as he zooms back out there’s a face right in front of his lens.
Taehyung laughs, the pretty sound echoing in the park. “Hey, babe.”
He scowls, jumping down from the rock to push at Taehyung’s shoulder. “Not funny, you ass.” But Jeongguk still lifts his camera as Taehyung’s laughing, capturing his profile with the rise of the sun, cheeks flushed from the cold.
“How’s the scrapbook coming?” Taehyung links their arms and walks him deeper into the park, taking care to stay off the bike path. “Getting some good pictures for your mom?”
“Yeah! Look at this flower.”
“Oh, nice,” Taehyung scrolls through the pictures Jeongguk took that morning, stopping at one of a butterfly on a discarded stick. “I want to frame this one. Hang it next to Yoongi’s profile.”
“Ah, hyung, it’s not that good.”
“It’s amazing. Want to grab breakfast?”
Taehyung tugs him to the nearest park exit and toward a subway entrance. “Should we call Jimin?”
“Kinda hoping you’ll suck my dick afterwards and he might not want to see that.”
“Ambitious, aren’t we?” Taehyung winks, throwing an arm over Jeongguk’s shoulder as they wait for the train. He’s still looking through Jeongguk’s camera, strap looped over his neck.
“When do you leave for Minnesota?”
Jeongguk quickly checks through their calendar. “I can make that one.”
“Great! Have you looked into new cameras?”
“No?” Jeongguk frowns. “Why would I want a new one?”
“This one is almost a decade old, Jeongguk-ah. They make better cameras now.”
Jeongguk carefully unloops the camera from Taehyung’s neck, cradling it between his hands. He’s on his sixth memory card, almost full again. “This is my favorite camera, you gave it to me.”
“You don’t have to get rid of it,” Taehyung points out, laughing. “All I’m saying is that it’s almost Christmas.”
“Oh, come on, our booth is free!”
Breaking News: With an injury to one of the best quarterbacks in the league, is this the end of the Jet’s chances to reach the Super Bowl? Playoffs begin next week, let’s see if they can adjust their roster or if Kim Taehyung will lose out on another title.
“Jeongguk, do you guys have any beer?”
“No, beer is gross.”
“Wow.” Jimin steps away from the fridge with leftovers piled high in his arms. “Didn’t bother buying drinks for your guests?”
“You’re not a guest.”
“This is no way to talk to the man who raised you.”
“Oh, leave the kid alone,” Hoseok laughs, helping Jimin divvy up the leftovers to start making a late dinner. Jeongguk had offered to order something, but all of his friends decided they’d rather make something easy. Namjoon and Yoongi are discussing something on the couch, Seokjin going over a nutrition outline at the kitchen island, and Jimin’s trying to get Hoseok’s hand out of his pocket to get back to cooking. “He’s just pouty that Taehyung’s so busy.”
Jeongguk finally looks up from his camera at that, glaring at Hoseok. “I’m not pouty.”
“You are, and it’s adorable.”
“When are all of you leaving again?”
Namjoon snorts, and teases good-naturedly, “We’re not leaving until Taehyung brings home a Championship ring.”
“Speaking of Taehyung,” Yoongi says, tugging the earbud from his ear. “Where is he? If you’re here, Jimin, then he shouldn’t still be at the stadium.”
Jimin frowns. “We left at the same time, but he said there was something he needed to do before he could come back.”
Jeongguk shrugs, dropping his attention back to his camera and to the plethora of pictures on his laptop. He finally believes he has the perfect pictures for his mom’s scrapbook, and the next step is to pick the proper ones and format them into the book he’d bought some months ago. There’s a few selfies in the camera roll that Taehyung had taken, and he contemplates putting some of those in the gift. His mom loves Taehyung, his whole family does, and they often complain that Jeongguk doesn’t send enough pictures of the two of them.
When the door slams open, everyone startles. Jimin drops his serving spoon in the middle of plating, and Yoongi curses as he loses the rhythm of the beat he’d been working on. Jeongguk accidentally gives Taehyung demon eyes in the picture he was in the middle of editing.
“Taehyung?” Jeongguk calls, as Taehyung comes stumbling further into the apartment. His hair is a mess beneath his hoodie, windswept and wet from the rain. But he’s grinning, holding a bundle of something wrapped in his raincoat. “Where were you?”
“Don’t get mad.”
“Why would I get mad?” Jeongguk stands from the barstool he’d been sitting on, confusion making him feel more worried than he needs to be. “What did you do?”
“I adopted a dog.”
Hoseok legitimately squeals, running around the island as Taehyung pulls a tiny Pomeranian dog out from beneath his raincoat. He’s got the fiercest eyebrows, fur wet and matted, and Taehyung looks so incredibly fond of the tiny furball.
“Oh my fuck,” Hoseok coos, petting the puppy behind his ears. It even gets Namjoon and Seokjin’s attention, everyone crowding the dog.
Jeongguk groans quietly, wrapping his arms around Taehyung’s waist and resting his chin on his shoulder. “Tae.”
“I know, Jeongguk, but I passed this little guy in the animal shelter everyday for two months. I couldn’t just leave him there.” The dog- puppy?- squirms in Taehyung’s arms, only settling when Taehyung pulls him closer to his chest and away from the overwhelming attention of their friends. He’s so tiny compared to Taehyung, almost fitting comfortably in Taehyung’s palm. “He can keep you company when I have to leave for games.”
“And! It’ll be good experience for when we raise our kids.”
“Our kids? Hyung, we’re not married.”
“We’re a little married,” Taehyung says, leaning his head against Jeongguk’s.
“Married and gross,” Yoongi mutters.
“Aw, Yoongi gave us his blessing!”
Jeongguk sighs, but the puppy is staring up at him with the softest eyes settled beneath the angriest fucking eyebrows. And Jeongguk had thought Taehyung’s exposed eyebrows were deadly, now he’s got two fiends staring at him with puppy dog eyes as Taehyung turns around in Jeongguk’s arms. “I don’t know, Taehyung.”
“How can you say no to this face?”
Jeongguk honestly doesn’t know if Taehyung’s referring to the dog or to himself, not with the way he holds the dog up, sticking out his bottom lip in the most debilitating pout that Jeongguk’s ever seen. God, his heart is so weak. He’s just one man.
“Who will walk it when we’re gone?”
“Him, Jeongguk-ah, don’t be rude. His name is Yeontan. We’ll higher a dog walker! Plus-” Taehyung leans closer, and Jeongguk’s heart melts again at the way Yeontan nudges his wet little nose against Jeongguk’s palm. “Dogs- well, pets in general- are really good to help with anxiety. Can we keep him? Please, baby?”
Jeongguk sighs, but he can’t help but smile. “Do you promise to stop trying to get out of physical therapy?”
(Jeongguk was late. He was late to Taehyung’s game even though he’d promised to be there on time. He knew it wouldn't matter in the long run, the game hadn’t even reached halftime yet, but Jeongguk’s been struggling to get to games this season since the piece on Yoongi had run, and suddenly his number of offers for independent pieces was through the roof.
Luckily, he encountered no issues getting through security. They were playing Dallas this afternoon, and the guards knew Jeongguk well-enough after years of entering through the player’s entrance. Jeongguk had tried to keep up with the score online while on the train, but he’d given up when he saw the Jets were losing with five left in the quarter. He flashes his ID badge, goes through quick security, and walks toward the locker rooms.
He doesn’t see Taehyung inside the home locker room. Jeongguk hangs back, thinking he might be in the bathroom or meeting with the coach and manager. But Jimin’s leading a huddle within the room, and Taehyung should be there.
“These are the first plays we’ll run in the third,” Jimin is saying, gesturing to his whiteboard. “Remember to drink a lot of water.”
“Hyung?” Jeongguk tugs on his sleeve as he passes, and notices for the first time Jeongguk notices the redness to his eyes. “Where’s Tae?”
“You didn’t hear?”
Jeongguk frowns. The locker room is much less lively than usual, especially since they’d managed to tie the game before halftime. “Hear what? Is he with the trainer-?”
“Taehyung’s at the hospital.”
“What?” Jeongguk’s blood runs cold, and he slumps against the nearest locker. “What happened? Which hospital? Fuck, I need to call a cab-”
“Left shoulder,” Jimin says. “I can’t leave the game, call me with updates or I’ll kick your ass, newbie, I swear.”
Jeongguk catches the first cab to the hospital Jimin says the ambulance took Taehyung to. During the drive, he pulls up every article he can find on the injury, skimming them, and after a moment of debate, he watches the video. It had been during an offensive play, one of the defenders breaking too early and slamming hard into Taehyung’s left side. Taehyung fell badly, his arm twisted unnaturally, and the video ends with teammates and medics swarming him. The opposing player was immediately ejected from the game, the articles say.
Jeongguk slams his hip on the front desk of the hospital. “I need to see Taehyung. Taehyung Kim. He was brought here for his shoulder earlier-”
The third nurse he approaches types something up. “Yes. He just came out of surgery.”
“I need to see him.”
“Are you family?”
“I’m his boyfriend.”
“I’m sorry, sir-”
“Don’t pull that shit,” Jeongguk snaps. He apologizes immediately. There are tears stinging his eyes and he looks an absolute mess, having run inside from how far the cab parked, but no one will give him any concrete information on Taehyung and he’ll be damned if he’s not allowed to see him. “I’m sorry. Please. Our families don’t live nearby and the rest of our friends will be a lot more foreceful than me. Please let me see him.”
She frowns tiredly. “Room 201.”
Unsurprisingly, Taehyung is arguing with the nurse as soon as Jeongguk arrives. He’s trying to tug out his IV and get out of the bed, his clothes folded in a bag on a chair by the door. “I’m fine,” Taehyung is insisting, as the nurse tries to push him back into bed. “I need to go. My team needs me. Has anyone called Jeongguk-?”
“Jeongguk.” Taehyung slumps into the bed, giving up on his fight as the nurse fusses over his IV and checking the bandages. His left arm is bandaged, held close to his chest in a sling. “I’m glad you’re here, but I wish it was different circumstances.”
Jeongguk waits until the nurse finishes. “How is he?”
“We have him on some pretty heavy medication for the pain,” the nurse says, looking over Taehyung’s chart. “We want to keep him overnight for monitoring but he’ll be fine to go tomorrow. He’ll need physical therapy, but if all goes to plan he should be playing again before the play-offs, as per his request.”
“I should be playing now.”
“Tae, please try to relax,” Jeongguk says once the nurse finally leaves. He has to call Jimin, but right now sitting at Taehyung’s side and holding his hand in both of Jeongguk’s takes precedent. He wipes at the tears that spill, but they’re of relief. “I know you’re pissed, but you gotta listen to your doctor.”
“I don’t need physical therapy. Sex with you is physical enough.”
Jeongguk laughs, a choked sound. Taehyung looks so tired, lying heavily on the bed and his eyes drooping slightly. He seems determined, though, squeezing Jeongguk’s hand tightly. “The others will be here soon.”
“Don’t leave me.”
“I won’t.” Jeongguk promises, leaning up to kiss Taehyung’s temple and smooth the sweaty hair from his forehead. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”)
Taehyung groans as if Jeongguk had just delivered bad news. “Ugh. Yes. I’ll stop trying to skip stupid physical therapy.”
“Then we can keep him.”
“Yes! He gives really good kisses, too!” Taehyung holds Yeontan in front of Jeongguk’s face, letting the tiny dog lick all over Jeongguk’s nose and cheek before leaning in to kiss Jeongguk himself, too excited and still shivering from the rain for any finesse. “Okay, Tan-ah, we don’t have a bed yet, so you get to sleep with your daddies.”
“I’m going to regret this,” Jeongguk mumbles, as Taehyung and Hoseok set off to give the dog a tour.
“Nah,” Jimin says, putting Jeongguk’s camera back down. God, he’s going to have a hundred sappy pictures on there now thanks to Jimin. “You’ll just have to learn how to wake up with dog ass in your face. And also fight for Taehyung’s affection. The usual.”
“I will make you stay in a hotel, hyung.”
Jimin gasps dramatically. “Taehyung will divorce you, then.”
“We’re not married!”
Namjoon smirks. “Now you don’t have to feel bad about calling Tae ‘daddy’.”
Jeongguk splutters, cheeks flaming. “I never-!”
“Here, Guk-ah.” Taehyung returns to place the dog in Jeongguk’s arms, tugging on his raincoat again. “Hobi hyung and I are going to the mart on the corner for food and toys for Yeontan. We’ll be back soon, text me if Jimin burns dinner so I know to pick something up!”
Jeongguk holds the dog at arms length, grimacing at the wet fur beneath his fingers. “What the fuck do I do with a dog?”
“Doesn’t your brother have another baby?” Yoongi asks, petting the back of Yeontan’s ear.
“I can’t just hand Yeontan off to my brother as soon as he makes a noise.”
“True.” Yoongi comes to his rescue, scooping Yeontan into his arms. “You’re so fucking whipped, kid.”
Jeongguk smiles and holds his finger out for the puppy to sniff at. “Yeah. Hey- do you smell something burning?”
Jimin shrieks. “Shit!”
“I’ll call Taehyung,” Jeongguk sighs.
Breaking News: Three words, sports fans: sweet, sweet redemption.
Jeongguk is woken up too early to a loud alarm, sore and exhausted and cursing the entire existence of the sun. The hotel bed is soft, but he feels a little suffocated beneath the weight of Taehyung’s body on top of his.
“Wake up, hyung,” Jeongguk says, voice heavy with sleep. The alarm goes off again, and Jeongguk groans, punching lightly at Taehyung’s back. “Tae.”
“Ugh, can’t you reach it?”
“I’m not the one who’s late to the stadium.”
Taehyung snuggles closer. “It’s too early for you to be this cranky.”
“I’m not cranky.”
Taehyung finally rolls himself out of bed, taking a quick shower while Jeongguk scrolls through his Twitter feed to wake himself up fully. He’s sitting up by the time Taehyung is done, coming back in only a towel. He kisses the top of Jeongguk’s head, then his nose, and then the corner of his mouth. “Morning, doll.”
“My ass hurts, jerk.” Taehyung snorts, digging into his suitcase to find some clothes. They’re not officially late yet, but they are cutting it close since Jeongguk still needs to shower. “How am I supposed to sit through a whole game when I can’t feel my leg?”
“That’s your own damn fault, whining so loud for a third round last night. Housekeeping is going to hate us.”
Jeongguk flushes, hiding beneath the covers as Taehyung finishes getting dressed. “Shut up.”
“Aw, is my baby getting shy? You weren’t even this shy last night riding your own fingers, crying for my co-”
“Enough!” Jeongguk scrambles out of bed, hurrying into the shower with Taehyung cackling behind him.
He showers and dresses quickly, Taehyung draping himself over Jeongguk’s shoulders as they brush their teeth. One of their phones is buzzing in the other room, probably Jimin asking if they want to get breakfast before they have to hit the stadium.
“You know.” Taehyung grins through a mouthful of toothpaste. “We probably have time for a quickie if you’re still so desperate for me-”
“I’m breaking up with you.”
“Aw.” Taehyung pouts, kissing at Jeongguk’s neck after rinsing. “We had such a good run.”
“You’re so weird, hyung. We should go before Jimin kicks our asses.”
After a quick breakfast at a small diner in Miami, they head to the stadium. Jeongguk heads out to the field, taking pictures of the crowd as everyone arrives and the few players that leave the locker rooms to begin warming up. Taehyung goes to get changed, Jimin following after to go over their ideal plays for the game.
The anticipation and excitement are palpable, people filling the stands quickly. There’s a pretty even division of Jets and Patriots jerseys, and Jeongguk may spend a little extra time taking pictures of the people wearing Taehyung’s number. It’s the 61st Super Bowl, a grudge rematch between Brady and Taehyung, and people couldn’t wait.
The New York Times had officially hired Jeongguk last night, offering the job with a phone call late after dinner with Taehyung, with an enthusiastic acceptance from Jeongguk. It was for a full-time position as a sports columnist, not exactly what Jeongguk had wanted, but it was a damn good start. He could work his way up through this position, and one day soon he could be on his way to editor. Taehyung had been ecstatic, kissing him silly on the streets outside the hotel and even harder when they got to their room. He hadn’t even had a chance to tell the rest of their friends- now sitting in the VIP booth thanks to Taehyung- since Taehyung had kept him pretty distracted last night.
Soon enough, the Patriots retreat to allow the Jets to warm up, and Jeongguk gets back to taking pictures. With accepting the job, he’d immediately signed on to cover this game. He can hear the announcers speculating as to whether Taehyung can win this game after barely being cleared to play again from his shoulder injury.
“Hey.” Taehyung comes jogging off the field a few minutes before the start of the televised coverage of the game. He kisses Jeongguk by the bench, giving up on pretenses. “Be sure to get good meme pics, the Times will love that.”
“Ha ha. Nervous?”
“Nah.” They both know he is, but he’s been doing this so long he knows how to harness that nervous adrenaline into something lethal. “Gotta talk to Jimin before the National Anthem.”
After the anthem, the reporters begin the pre-game talk. There are still a few minutes until the coin toss, players gathering around their coaches for last minute pep talks. Jeongguk takes a few pictures of the score board, the teams and time outs lit up but nothing for the score yet. But as he’s adjusting the contrast for another picture, the lights start to flicker, going off for a second before flashing back on.
“Jimin! I think something’s wrong with the score board.”
“Hm?” Jimin turns around, taking Jeongguk’s camera to check through the pictures. He tugs his headphones down, blocking out whoever’s bitching in his ear. “This is national, we can’t have an issue this close to kick-off.”
The scoreboard flickers again, and then it lights up with the words turn around.
Jeongguk frowns, looking to the crowd, but they look just as confused. “Jimin, what’s-?”
Jimin laughs, knocking their hips together. “Just turn around, newbie.”
Jeongguk turns around and his heart straight up stops.
Taehyung’s taken a knee behind him, helmet discarded so he can hold open a small velvet box, a gorgeous ring sitting pretty on the satin. He’s smiling hesitantly, letting out a laugh as Jeongguk curses and Jimin moves back to take incriminating photos, like there aren’t a dozen cameras focusing on them right now.
“Tae,” Jeongguk chokes out, blinking back the wetness in his eyes. “What are you doing?”
“Jeongguk-ah, I know you hate public proposals, but I’m pretty confident about this one,” Taehyung begins. He can tell Taehyung’s embarrassed as hell, blushing bright red, but he pushes on. “I have loved you since high school, since we first came together and made something beautiful. You’ve stuck by my side through thick and thin, and you just make me so happy. Jeongguk, you bring out the best in me, and you make me want to be the best man I can be to make you just as happy. I will love you for as long as you want me.” Jeongguk might choke on a sob, covering his mouth with both his hands, and Taehyung continues. “Jeon Jeongguk. Here’s tomorrow’s headline for you: will you marry me?”
Jeongguk opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He swallows more tears, and manages, “You’re so fucking cheesy, Tae.”
“Cheesy enough for you to say yes?”
“Yes,” Jeongguk whispers, voice breaking pathetically. God, he’ll never maintain his image after this. “Yes, Taehyung, of course I’ll marry you.”
Taehyung gets to his feet, slipping the ring onto Jeongguk’s finger before pulling him in tight and kissing him hard. The arena erupts into cheers, but Jeongguk tunes them out, focuses solely on the touch of Taehyung’s fingers on his jaw, wiping the tears aways from his cheeks.
“How long?” Jeongguk asks, touching his forehead to Taehyung’s cheek.
“Had it planned sice your first year of university.”
“Oh my God.”
Laughing loudly, Taehyung presses warm kisses to Jeongguk’s temple, squeezing his arms tightly. “You’re stuck with me now, babe.”
Jeongguk kisses him again, and then grabs his helmet and helps him put it on. “Wouldn’t want it any other way. I love you, always.”
“I love you, too.”
“Now go win yourself a championship.”
He jogs off with a little salute, and Jimin hands back his camera. Jeongguk will cry again if he tries to look through those pictures now, and he sees Yoongi and the others sending thumbs ups from the VIP box. Jimin grins, pulling his headset back on with a wink as the Jets win the toin coss and the players prepare to start the game, Taehyung pointing at him one more time.
“You’re an asshole, hyung!”
There’ve been ups and downs, and there will certainly be plenty more, but watching Taehyung gear up to try to lead his team to an NFL title and knowing Jeongguk will go home to the job he’s been gunning for for years, to the home he’s built with the love of his life, there isn’t a single thing Jeongguk would change. He's off to Washington in the morning and Taehyung will be swept into dozens of interviews, but they'll make it work. They always have.
No, Jeongguk thinks, looking down at the ring sparkling on his finger. He wouldn’t change a thing.
(“Kim Taehyung, you just won the Super Bowl! What are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to kiss my fiancé at Disney World.”)