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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be the subject of unending scrutiny from his father, and unwanted attention from a slew of thirsty bitches who are only after his money. At least, if that single man is Jeon Jeongguk.

Jeongguk needs a fucking vacation. Or, since that seems unlikely to happen anytime in the next, say, 30 years, he needs a very stiff drink. Like, forego the mixer, and the ice - straight alcohol should do the trick.

“Coming right up,” Seokjin says, popping up from his seat to walk over to the minibar in Jeongguk’s office, and only then does Jeongguk realize he had said that last part out loud.

God, it’s been a fucking day. Month. Past 5 years.

As the co-heir apparent (along with Seokjin) to Bangtan Media, the most formidable media company in the industry, Jeongguk has been getting groomed virtually since birth to play a vital role in the company started by his father and Seokjin’s father. But it’s only been in the last half-decade, ever since his older brother walked out of the company and thus, out of the family, that his entire life has been dedicated to this job, ripping away any chance he had at enjoying his early 20s.

“If we didn’t have this presentation at the fucking ass crack of dawn tomorrow, I would get so fucked up tonight,” he complains, accepting his whiskey neat from Seokjin, who plops back down in the seat across from him to nurse his own drink.

They’re working late, as usual, this time putting the finishing touches on a deck for tomorrow morning’s company board meeting. Any hope of getting a good night’s sleep had gone out the window when Jeongguk’s dear father had looked over the deck, told him it was garbage, and demanded that he redo the entire thing. Seokjin, like the good friend he is (the only friend Jeongguk has, really), had stayed behind to help out.

“We can get fucked up at that Emerging Talent thing tomorrow night,” Seokjin says appeasingly. “Or after it, at least.”

“Fuck, that’s tomorrow?” Jeongguk asks, dropping his forehead onto his desk with a groan. They have these Emerging Talent events a few times a year, with the intention of scouting and networking with promising new artists. As the young faces of the company, Jeongguk and Seokjin are always obligated to go and schmooze, which is basically Jeongguk’s least favorite activity ever. “I hate those things.”

“They’re not so bad,” Seokjin says diplomatically, swirling his drink.

“You actually like talking to strangers.”

Seokjin shrugs. “Some of them are pretty cool.”

“They’re all just looking to get a foot in the door and make connections,” Jeongguk says dismissively. A few years in this business and a lifetime as the son of a media mogul have made him a little jaded in this arena.

Seokjin, on the other hand, has somehow managed to remain a giant softie. Probably because his father isn’t a vicious tyrant. “It’s their dream,” he says with a shrug. “Can you blame them for doing anything they can to achieve it?”

“God, you are such a bleeding heart,” Jeongguk scoffs. He’d had to give up on his own dream a long time ago - he doesn’t have much patience for other people’s.

“And you’re a miserable cynic,” Seokjin fires back, but his voice is fond. “I know you don’t like strangers, but you do like booze, so let’s get through this so that we can actually have a good time tomorrow night.”

“Cheers,” Jeongguk replies, lifting his glass and clinking it with Seokjin’s.

That, at least, is something he can drink to.

***

“Is it 5 o’clock yet?” Taehyung whines, as if he ever actually leaves work at 5pm. He drops heavily into one of the chairs in the cramped office kitchenette, looking around despairingly. Everything is so white in here, it creeps him out.

“We’ve literally been here for 5 minutes,” Jimin points out, his back to Taehyung as he waits for the coffee machine to spew out his daily dose of shitty office coffee.

“It’s actually been 8 and a half minutes Jimin, pay attention,” Taehyung says, gazing gloomily down at his own steaming coffee. It’s in a mug that says “good vibes only,” which Jimin had gotten him for his birthday last year. His vibes don’t feel very good right now, but he likes the mug. “Aren’t you supposed to be good with numbers, or something?”

Jimin looks over his shoulder to roll his eyes at him, stirring cream and sugar into his coffee. New morning, same routine - Taehyung is annoying, Jimin is sassy, they snark at each other while drinking their shitty coffee. This is round 2 playing out in the office kitchen, since they also happen to live together, in a sixth floor walk up about 20 blocks downtown. Round 1 usually consists of them stumbling around their tiny kitchen, grunting and bumping into each other while they fumble with their own coffee maker. This morning had been particular rough, since they’d both been in the office late the night before working on getting a few things out the door.

“At least that stupid brochure went out last night,” Jimin says, wincing as he takes a sip of his coffee.

“Amen,” Taehyung replies. “I never want to see that thing again, god.”

They work for an advertising agency, Jimin as an account manager and Taehyung as the art director on his account. It can be stressful, especially with all the tight deadlines and demanding clients, but it’s a fun environment, and it at least allows Taehyung to be creative (when he’s not butchering his designs to satisfy the whims of the clients, that is). There’s also the added bonus that he gets to work with his best friend.

“We can celebrate at that Emerging Talent thing tonight,” Jimin says as they walk slowly back to their desks. Taehyung drags his feet, dreading the moment when he has to check his emails.

“Oh yeah, that’s gonna be bougie as hell,” Taehyung nods excitedly. “There’s got to be an open bar, right?”

“There better be,” Jimin replies. “Otherwise I’m making Yoongi buy all my drinks.”

Taehyung raises an eyebrow at this but doesn’t say anything. Yoongi and Namjoon had been older members of their college fraternity who he and Jimin had become even closer with when they all ended up in the same city after school. They also both happened to be alarmingly talented, and were working hard at getting a music career off the ground. They’d recently received an invitation to one of the Emerging Talent events hosted by Bangtan Media, which was a Big Fucking Deal since Bangtan was one of the biggest media companies in the country. Get picked up by them and you had a real shot at making it.

“I can’t believe they actually invited us as their plus ones,” Taehyung says. They’ve reached his desk and he really, super duper doesn’t want to sit down.

“They work too much to have any other friends,” Jimin laughs, and he’s not wrong, although Taehyung suspects it might also have something to do with the crush Yoongi insists he doesn’t have on Jimin.

“Taehyung!” Another voice calls, and both of them perk up as Taehyung’s obscenely attractive boss, Park Hyungsik, strides over to them. “Morning, Jimin,” he nods, flashing a smile that makes Jimin go faintly pink. Taehyung knows the feeling, seeing as he’s been thirsty for Hyungsik’s dick pretty much since the day he first set foot in the office.

“Morning, Hyungsik,” Taehyung and Jimin chorus fondly.

“Tae, those sketches you did for BT21 are killer,” Hyungsik says. “The directors loved them.”

“Seriously?” Taehyung asks, gaping at him. They’re pitching to a new client in a few weeks, a company that owns a line of stuffed animals that they’re looking to rebrand for a new generation of kids. Taehyung and his copy partner, Tina, had come up with the idea of animating the stuffed animals, giving them personalities and having them interact with each other.

Hyungsik nods, beaming. “Yeah, they think it’s genius. Can you start storyboarding them out? They want something fully executed for the pitch.”

“Holy shit, yes,” Taehyung says, practically vibrating with excitement. This is the stuff that makes him actually like his job. “Thank you, wow.”

“We all know how good you are at what you do,” Hyungsik says, eyeing him appreciatively. Taehyung flushes under the attention. “Put some time on my calendar next week, just the two of us. We can... go through things.”

Taehyung nods, swallowing, and Hyungsik winks at him before continuing in the direction of his office.

“Oh my god,” Jimin hisses once Hyungsik is out of ear shot. “Tae, that’s amazing! Congratulations!”

“I can’t believe it,” Taehyung says, still shell-shocked as he drops into his desk chair.

“I can,” Jimin says proudly, ruffling his hair. “Your stuff is so good.” He leans in, dropping his voice even further. “Also, he was totally flirting with you, like damn.”

“God, he’s so hot,” Taehyung says dreamily. “Too bad he’s my boss.”

Jimin shrugs. “Just don’t tell Hobi hyung,” he says, winking.

Hoseok is the agency’s human resources coordinator, and has become a good friend of theirs outside of work as well. He teaches dance classes on the side, at a studio not far from Taehyung and Jimin’s apartment, of which Jimin is a regular student and Taehyung an occasional one.

Taehyung nods, staring blankly at his computer screen, his stomach bubbling with elation. He really can’t believe his designs were selected to move forward for the BT21 pitch - that could be a huge deal, if they win the business. He doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but still, it’s really exciting.

“Alright, time to do some actual work,” Jimin says begrudgingly, patting Taehyung on the shoulder. “The countdown to 5pm begins.”

***

One hour into the Emerging Talent event, Jeongguk has reached his personal quota for schmoozing for the night. He truly doesn’t think he can pretend to care about one more person’s demo or mixtape, one more hand shoved in his face after a person’s eyes land on the name tag on his chest. He’s about thirty seconds away from ripping the damn thing off, just so that people will leave him alone. This is way more Seokjin’s area of expertise, anyway.

The event is being hosted at a swanky penthouse bar in midtown that offers amazing views of the city. It’s beautiful, but Jeongguk has been in a million of these places before, and they all feel the same to him by now. Waiters circulating with trays of hors d’oeuvres, people trying to balance their drinks, food, and bags since there’s never any actual tables to put things down. The whole room is bathed in reddish purple light that gives him a headache.

At least there’s an open bar.

And that’s where Jeongguk is right now, fighting his way to the front of the mob of people trying to get the bartender’s attention. He’s only had one drink so far, which had certainly not been sufficient for all of the small talk he’d just endured.

He’s nearly made it to the bar when someone collides with him. There’s a splash, followed by a gasp, and Jeongguk knows without even looking that a drink had just been spilled on his shoes. He wrinkles his nose in distaste - they were expensive.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” someone says, and Jeongguk finds himself face to face with an extremely attractive and apologetic looking young man, holding what is now a half full glass of something green.

Jeongguk blinks at him, at a loss for words. Usually, he would spit out something snarky and dismissive, but usually he’s not speaking to someone who possesses the most gorgeous set of eyes he’s ever seen.

“Did it get on you?” the man asks anxiously. His lips are very nice, too, Jeongguk notices, and his voice, smooth like honey.

“My shoes,” Jeongguk says dumbly, grabbing a napkin from the bar and bending down to wipe them off. The damage isn’t that bad, really.

“Shit, I’m so sorry, that’s totally my bad.” He’s frowning now, biting one of the previously mentioned very nice lips. “My friends always say I need to pay closer attention to where I’m going -”

“What is that?” Jeongguk cuts him off, nodding at the drink in his hand. Absurdly, there’s a small pink umbrella sticking out of it.

“Oh!” The guy says, surprised. “It’s an appletini, have you ever had one? They’re delicious.” He flashes a bright smile at Jeongguk.

“No,” Jeongguk says bluntly.

“Want to try mine?” He asks. Jeongguk doesn’t think he’s ever met anyone this outright friendly, not even Seokjin. It’s a little unsettling.

“Umm, no,” Jeongguk says, and he must make a face because the man’s cheerful expression wavers a little bit.

“Oh, okay. Can I get you something else to drink? I kind of owe you,” he says, wincing and gesturing at Jeongguk’s shoes.

“It’s an open bar,” Jeongguk points out. An open bar that his company is paying for, but he leaves that part out.

The guy looks sheepish. “Oh, right, sorry. Well then, I really have nothing to offer you but my most sincere apologies. I’m Taehyung, by the way.”

“Jeongguk. Jeon Jeongguk.”

If his name registers with Taehyung at all, he doesn’t show it, just smiling at Jeongguk and nodding. After a night of people tripping over themselves to get his attention, it’s kind of refreshing.

“Alright, well, I’m gonna go find my friends and try not to crash into anyone else,” Taehyung says, backing away. “Sorry again, Jeon Jeongguk.”

For the first time that night, Jeongguk isn’t ecstatic that a conversation is ending. He shrugs off the feeling and turns to the bartender to finally order that second drink.

***

“Holy fuck, I just spilled my drink on Jeon Jeongguk’s shoes,” Taehyung groans, grabbing Jimin’s arm when he returns from the bar.

“You did what?” Jimin yelps, eyes widening.

Taehyung nods despairingly. “I accidentally crashed into him at the bar, ugh, fuck.”

“You would,” Jimin sighs, rolling his eyes. “Way to make a strong first impression.”

“Not helping,” Taehyung says, glaring at him. “He’s so fucking hot, too, kill me.”

“Did you talk to him at all?”

“Only a little,” Taehyung shrugs. “He seems like kind of a dick, actually.”

“I guess you kind of have to be if you’re that rich and successful at such a young age,” Jimin muses. “Speaking of, look at Namjoon.”

Taehyung follows Jimin’s gaze and sees Namjoon standing a little ways away, seemingly deep in conversation with a tall, very handsome man dressed in a suit.

“Damn, who’s that?” Taehyung asks.

“Kim Seokjin,” Jimin says. “According to Yoongi.”

Taehyung’s jaw drops. As with Jeongguk, he doesn’t know Seokjin by sight, but he knows the name. From what he’s heard, both of them are big shots at Bangtan, since the company is run by their fathers.

“Damn, way to get in there, Namjoon.”

“Shit, who’s that?” Jimin says, as none other than Jeon Jeongguk approaches Namjoon and Seokjin.

“That’s Jeongguk,” Taehyung hisses.

“Wow, you weren’t kidding, he is gorgeous,” Jimin says. “Rich and sexy, that feels unfair.”

“And a jerk,” Taehyung adds petulantly.

“Yeah, whatever.”

They see Namjoon shake hands with Jeongguk, who still looks grumpy and seems to be physically incapable of smiling. Then Namjoon’s gaze settles on Taehyung and Jimin, and Taehyung watches in horror as he lifts an arm and waves them over.

“Oh no,” Taehyung breathes, stomach dropping when Jeongguk also looks over in his direction, his frown deepening when he recognizes Taehyung.

Great, really great. Just peachy. Everything is fine.

“Can we pretend we didn’t see?” Taehyung nods, staring down at his drink. “Please?”

“Absolutely not,” Jimin says out of the corner of his mouth, gripping Taehyung’s forearm tightly and dragging him over to Namjoon and the others. “Hi!” he says brightly when they get there, letting go of Taehyung.

“Seokjin and Jeongguk, this is Jimin and Taehyung,” Namjoon introduces them. “They’re here with me, we’re old friends.”

“Nice to meet you!” Jimin says, sticking out his hand. Seokjin shakes it eagerly, Jeongguk less so.

Taehyung shakes Seokjin’s hand as well, then nods awkwardly at Jeongguk. When the rest of them stare at him in confusion, he says: “We, um, already met.”

“He spilled his drink on my shoes,” Jeongguk says bluntly.

“I said I was sorry!” Taehyung retorts, because really, can this guy let it go?

“He has plenty more shoes,” Seokjin cuts in smoothly. He gestures at Taehyung’s drink. “Is that an appletini?”

Taehyung smiles at him gratefully. “Yes!”

“They’re my favorite,” Seokjin says.

“Me too,” Taehyung says excitedly. “I tried to get your friend here to try, but he wouldn’t.”

Seokjin raises his eyebrows, glancing over at Jeongguk and laughing. “Yeah, that’s a losing battle, I’m afraid.”

Taehyung looks at the drink Jeongguk is now holding, what appears to be a whiskey neat. “Are you one of those smug assholes who only drinks whiskey?” he asks brazenly, because why not? If Jeongguk’s going to be a dick to him, he can dish it right back.

Namjoon’s eyes widen, and Jimin stomps hard on his foot, but Seokjin bursts out laughing. Jeongguk, meanwhile, is glaring at Taehyung with a look that he clearly wishes could shoot actual daggers. Taehyung stares back at him defiantly, one eyebrow quirked.

“He totally is,” Seokjin says, wiping tears from his eyes.

“Sorry that I have actual taste,” Jeongguk grumbles, looking decidedly not amused.

Whatever, Taehyung thinks.

“I actually like whiskey too,” Namjoon offers, and the tension eases as the conversation meanders off in another direction. He and Seokjin seem to have really hit it off, and Taehyung doesn’t miss the way Seokjin’s hand occasionally lingers on Namjoon’s arm. Perhaps most tellingly, they barely discuss music at all, even when Yoongi joins them and is introduced as Namjoon’s collaborator.

When the new Chainsmokers song comes on, Taehyung is amused to see Seokjin squeal with the delight, clapping his hands together.

“I love this song!” he cries happily, turning to Namjoon. “Want to dance?”

Namjoon blanches. “I’m a terrible dancer,” he says hesitantly. Taehyung, Jimin, and Yoongi nod in confirmation - they won’t soon forget the last time Namjoon danced, which had ended in a broken lamp and at least one sprained ankle.

“It’s okay, me too,” Seokjin laughs, grabbing Namjoon’s hand and pulling him towards the dance floor. “Come on.”

So they go, and they look utterly ridiculous, but it’s cute. Jimin drags a flustered looking Yoongi out on to the floor not long after, leaving Taehyung alone with Jeongguk. Apparently the universe just hates him today.

“Do you dance, Jeon Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks. It’s a long shot, but it seems like a preferable alternative to standing here in a tense, hostile silence.

“Not if I can help it,” Jeongguk says coolly, staring at his drink, and well, Taehyung really shouldn’t have expected anything else.

Taehyung nods sharply and walks away from him without saying goodbye. He needs another drink, and maybe this time he’ll pour it on Jeon Jeongguk’s pretentious, fancy shoes on purpose.

***

“Wanna go out after this?” Jeongguk asks.

He’s finally managed to pry Seokjin away from Namjoon for one fucking second, and they’re in the venue’s bathroom, washing their hands. The walls are a deep red, and Jeongguk’s face is lit by faux candle wall fixtures as he examines his reflection in the mirror. It’s been a long night, and he’s ready to get the hell out of here.

“Sure,” Seokjin says easily. “I can call around, get us a table somewhere.”

Jeongguk nods in approval, drying off his hands.

“I want to say goodbye to Namjoon and his friends first, though,” Seokjin says. “I’m gonna ask for his number, I think.”

Jeongguk grunts in acknowledgment, not entirely sure how he feels about that plan. He’s rarely seen Seokjin take this much of an interest in someone so quickly, but it worries him that Namjoon is a musician looking to really get his start. He had seemed genuinely interested in Seokjin, but that could all just be a front.

“Just be careful, okay?” Jeongguk cautions. “You’re too nice, I don’t want anyone taking advantage of you.”

Seokjin waves him off, eyeing his reflection as he adjusts his suit. “I can take care of myself, Guk, relax. Not everyone is a manipulative asshole, you know.” He catches Jeongguk’s eye in the mirror. “What about that Taehyung guy? He gave you a run for your money.”

Jeongguk scowls, folding his arms over his chest. He does not appreciate people fucking with him, even if those people happen to be really cute and have soft looking hair. “Whatever,” he says maturely.

Seokjin arches an unimpressed eyebrow at him. “He’s literally exactly your type.”

“My type is leggy blonde models, Jin, haven’t you heard?” he says flatly.

Seokjin snorts. “I’m just saying, he’s super cute and he seems like he can keep up with you. You don’t find that every day.”

“Will you let it go?” Jeongguk snaps. “He’s fine, whatever. Nothing special.” This is a bold-faced lie, but he just wants Seokjin off his back. It’s not like anything would ever happen with him and Taehyung anyway.

Seokjin raises his hands in defeat. “Fine, fine. Whatever you say.”

They leave the bathroom in silence, making their way back over to where they had left Namjoon. The open bar had closed at 11, and the venue is starting to thin out as people continue on to whatever the rest of the night has in store for them. A few stop and shake Jeongguk’s and Seokjin’s hands on their way out, but luckily no one tries too hard to engage in an actual conversation.

Much to Jeongguk’s chagrin, by the time they spot Namjoon, he is once again surrounded by his friends - the tiny cute one (Jimin?), the equally tiny, grumpy looking one (that’s Yoongi, Namjoon’s producer partner, he remembers), and then of course, Taehyung, who is speaking to them animatedly, his hands flying around. Jeongguk sighs. He can’t believe he’s spent the better part of his night hanging out with the guy who had spilled a fucking appletini on his shoes.

“We’re going to head out,” Seokjin announces when he and Jeongguk rejoin their circle. “What are you guys up to for the rest of the night?”

“I think just heading home,” Namjoon says, suppressing a yawn, and Yoongi nods.

“Jiminie and I are going out dancing,” Taehyung pipes up, swaying his hips a little. Jeongguk looks away, because Taehyung dancing is really not a visual he needs in his life right now.

“Oh yeah?” Seokjin says. “I didn’t see you on the dance floor at all tonight, I thought maybe you didn’t dance.”

“Oh no, I love to dance!” Taehyung chirps brightly. His gaze flicks over to Jeongguk. “Even if my partner is nothing special.”

Jeongguk chokes, and he sends a panicked look to Seokjin, whose eyes have gone wide. Taehyung smirks at him, then turns back to Seokjin. “It was really nice meeting you. Have a good night.”

And then he hooks his arm with Jimin’s and walks off, leaving Jeongguk gaping and mortified in his wake.

Well, fuck.

***

“Oh my god, that was savage,” Jimin giggles into Taehyung’s ear, hanging off of him in the glitzy mirrored elevator.

Taehyung preens. He honestly hadn’t expected the opportunity to call Jeongguk out after he’d overhead him and Seokjin talking in the bathroom, but this had been too good to pass up.

“Did you see the look on his face?” Taehyung says smugly. “I bet no one’s ever spoken to him like that in his life.”

He feels great, vindicated, even if his ego had been a little hurt by Jeongguk’s comment. It’s not like he cares all that much, seeing as Jeongguk seems like a giant prick, but still - Taehyung has eyes, he can see how absurdly hot Jeongguk is, and it would have been validating to have someone like that find him attractive in return.

“I can’t believe he said that about you,” Jimin says, shaking his head as they exit the elevator in the building’s lobby. “So rude. And like, come on, we all know you’re fine as hell.”

“Aw, thanks Jiminie,” Taehyung croons, planting a wet kiss on his cheek. “It’s whatever, he’s obviously a miserable human being, but I got my revenge and now I never have to see him again, so no harm, no foul.”

“That’s very mature of you, Taehyung,” Jimin says solemnly, patting him on the head. “Now let’s go get wasted and dance.”

They do just that, and Taehyung wakes up the next morning to a pounding headache and a very large, blotchy hickey on his neck.

“Jesus, did you hook up with a vampire last night?” Jimin asks groggily when he sees it. His hair is sticking straight up, and he’s clutching on to a water bottle like it’s a lifeline.

Taehyung prods at the mark tentatively, wincing. He remembers making out with someone at the club, but not much else. “It’s possible,” he shrugs, faceplanting on to the couch. “Although I like to think that a vampire’s technique would be a bit more refined.”

Jimin snorts. “You’re gonna have to buy out an entire Sephora to cover that thing up for work.”

Taehyung groans, pulling a pillow over his head and hoping it will maybe suffocate him. Looks like he’s going to be getting creative with scarves this week at work.

The rest of Saturday passes in a mostly hungover fog, which Taehyung and Jimin only break out of when they go over to Namjoon and Yoongi’s apartment for dinner.

“Wild night, huh Tae?” Namjoon says when Taehyung takes off his jacket and scarf. He hadn’t even bothered to try covering up the hickey - his friends have a sort of sixth sense for these things anyway.

“Apparently,” Taehyung sighs, and they all snicker. “Wish I could remember more of it.”

“Did you guys have fun at the Emerging Talent thing?” Namjoon asks as he and Taehyung set the table for dinner. He’s been expressly exiled from the kitchen by Yoongi, who is currently bickering with Jimin about how much soy sauce to add to a recipe.

“Taehyung-ah made a new best friend,” Jimin teases, slapping Yoongi’s hand when he tries to sneak some more soy sauce into the pot.

“Jeongguk?” Namjoon asks. “Yeah, sorry, he was kind of unfriendly.”

“Arrogant dickhead was more the term I was thinking, but yeah,” Taehyung says. “Seokjin seemed nice though,” he adds, flashing Namjoon a knowing smile.

“He and Namjoon exchanged numbers!” Yoongi announces, re-dicing a pile of onions that Jimin had diced just a moment ago.
Namjoon looks down at the table, smiling bashfully.

“That’s amazing, hyung!” Jimin exclaims, hip checking Yoongi away from the onions.

“For business or pleasure?” Taehyung asks cheekily.

Namjoon shrugs, shaking his head. “Maybe both? I don’t know, I really liked him so I don’t want to take advantage.”

“Aww,” Jimin swoons.

“Right, yes, very noble Namjoon, but remember he is also literally our shot at oh, I don’t know, achieving everything we’ve ever dreamed of,” Yoongi chimes in. “Just a little thing to keep in mind.”

Jimin smacks his arm, but Yoongi looks unapologetic. It’s a little harsh, but Taehyung can’t totally blame him - he’s witnessed firsthand how hard Namjoon and Yoongi have worked at building a career and getting their music out there. Even when they were still in college, he has memories of them playing gigs and helping to produce demos for other students. They’ve been waiting a long time for their big break, and he can’t even imagine how it must feel to suddenly have it almost within reach.

“Well, if Namjoon gets in his pants, you guys should be all set,” Taehyung says with a wink.

“You better be good in bed,” Yoongi grumbles, and Namjoon just shakes his head, laughing.

By Monday morning, Taehyung’s hickey has regrettably not disappeared. If anything, it actually looks worse now, having faded from purple to a grayish yellow monstrosity on his neck. Makeup isn’t particularly helpful, even after Jimin helps him with it, so he ends up wrapping a red scarf around his neck and hoping the temperature in the office isn’t too hot today. Luckily, in an advertising agency, a red scarf barely even registers as an unusual outfit choice, especially on the creative team. Half his coworkers have visible tattoos.

He makes it through the day without incident, until he makes the mistake of checking on the mark when he goes to use the bathroom at the end of the day. It’s nearly 7pm, and the office has quieted down considerably, so he thinks he’s safe, but sadly - he is not.

The door to the bathroom bangs open, and Taehyung jumps about three feet in the air when sees none other than Park Hyungsik stroll in, looking devastatingly handsome as ever. His eyes find Taehyung’s in the mirror, then drop to his neck, at which point they widen considerably.

Taehyung wants to sink into the floor and die. Of all the times, and all the people, it of course had to be the very sexy man who also happens to be his boss that walked in on him examining the giant hickey on his neck.

“Fun weekend?” Hyungsik asks, a grin spreading across his face as he saunters over to Taehyung.

Taehyung flushes. “I... fell.”

“That’s a shame,” Hyungsik says, raising an eyebrow. His gaze is still hovering on Taehyung’s neck, and Taehyung swallows. “We should fall together some time.”

“Umm,” Taehyung stammers. God, he is really failing at life right now. “Yeah.”

Hyungsik flashes him an easy smile and steps over to one of the urinals, and Taehyung bolts before he can make any more of a fool of himself. Jimin is going to have a field day when he hears this.

***

“He must think I’m such a jackass,” Jeongguk groans, staring pitifully at Seokjin over a stack of spreadsheets.

“You are kind of a jackass,” Seokjin supplies helpfully. “To strangers, at least.”

Jeongguk glowers at him. “Thanks for that.”

Jeongguk knows he’s not the warmest, fuzziest person in the world - he cultivates that image, in fact - but in general he does try to avoid actively hurting people’s feelings, even if he dislikes them. He hadn’t meant for Taehyung to hear what he said about him in the bathroom, and he feels really guilty about it. The most ridiculous part is his words hadn’t even been true - Seokjin had been right, Taehyung is exactly his type (his real type, anyway) and Jeongguk hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him all weekend.

“Relax, it sucks, but it’s not like he was crying in the bathroom about it,” Seokjin says appeasingly. “Clearly he had no qualms about calling you out.”

Jeongguk sighs, grinding the eraser of a pencil against his forehead. He’s not about to admit this to Seokjin, but he wishes he hadn’t been quite so turned on by Taehyung giving him shit. No one ever talks to him like that - he’s used to people either kissing his ass or cowering in fear.

“Have you talked to Namjoon at all?” Jeongguk asks, eager to steer the conversation away from his various failings as a human.

Seokjin perks up immediately, smiling. “Yeah, we texted this weekend. He invited me to a party at his and Yoongi’s place this Saturday, if you want to come.”

Jeongguk stares at him blankly - he’s not really used to socializing with people other than Seokjin. “Umm.”

“Taehyung will probably be there, maybe you can redeem yourself,” Seokjin says.

The prospect of seeing Taehyung again makes Jeongguk’s stomach squirm uncomfortably. He doesn’t really want to face him after what had happened, but the idea of never seeing him again is equally unpleasant.

“Redeem yourself? What have you done now?” Jeongguk’s father says, striding into his office. Jeongguk winces, and Seokjin shoots him an apologetic look.

“Nothing related to work,” Jeongguk mutters, shaking his head. He really doesn’t need this from his dad right now, especially on a Monday.

“We were actually just debriefing on the Emerging Talent event, sir,” Seokjin cuts in.

“Oh?” He settles himself into one of the chairs on the other side of Jeongguk’s desk, and Jeongguk groans internally. “How’d it go? Did you actually speak to anyone, Jeongguk, or did you just brood in the corner all night?”

This has long been a sore point for them - the social aspect of the job has never come easily to Jeongguk, not the way it had for his older brother, Junghyun, or for Seokjin for that matter. He’s far better at the business elements, the math, the analysis - what goes on behind the scenes. Still, he resents the implication that he can’t turn it on when he needs to - he’s faked his way through enough galas and board meetings to know how to play charming and engaged. Where and when he chooses to actually employ those skills is a different story.

“He did a great job, sir,” Seokjin lies, smiling. “We met a couple of people that we’ll be following up with.”

Jeongguk’s father raises his eyebrows like he seriously doubts this, but he doesn’t comment. “Good, well, I look forward to hearing about what you find. We could use some fresh talent.”

“We’ll get back to you,” Jeongguk says.

His father nods. “Other than that, you remember we have lunch with the chairman of the board on Thursday? We’ll need the quarterly earnings report prepped ahead of time, I want to see that no later than tomorrow.”

“I’ll have it ready,” Jeongguk says, rubbing his eyes. It’s going to be another late night tonight.

“And don’t forget, the Fund for the Arts Gala is at the end of the month,” his father adds, standing up and smoothing out the front of his pants. “You’ll need a date.” His mouth twists like he’s just eaten something sour. “A female date, Jeongguk. Not one of the twinks you insist on running around with.”

Jeongguk forces himself to keep his expression neutral, even as his blood boils and he can sense Seokjin tensing in his peripheral vision. He and his father have a tacit agreement when it comes to this - Jeongguk can do whatever he wants privately, as long as he’s discreet about it and keeps up public appearances as a straight man. He’s never slipped up, rarely sleeps with people anyway, but still his dad makes no secret of his disgust, insists on taking a dig at Jeongguk’s sexual preferences any chance he gets. He should be used to it by now, but it still stings every time.

“That won’t be a problem,” Jeongguk says in a clipped tone, staring at him defiantly.

His father considers him, probably trying to decide whether he wants to make another cruel remark or just let it lie. “Good,” he says finally.

Once he leaves the room, Jeongguk gets up and shuts the door behind him, willing himself not to slam it. Nothing like a good dressing down from your own father to start the week off right. When he turns back to his desk, Seokjin is watching him with something like pity on his face, and it makes Jeongguk cringe.

“Don’t,” he says, shaking his head. “Just... let’s focus on the earnings report, yeah?”

Seokjin sighs but nods. “Sure,” he says gently. “Think about coming to that party this weekend though, okay? It could be fun.”

Jeongguk’s mind slips back to Taehyung, his bright smile and husky voice, and his stomach lurches.

“I’ll think about it.”

***

“So, umm, Tae,” Namjoon says cautiously. He’s crouched in front of the refrigerator, loading it up with the beers that Taehyung is passing him. “I think your buddy Jeongguk might be coming tonight.”

Taehyung nearly drops the beer he’s holding, and Jimin snickers from somewhere behind him. “God, why,” he groans.

“I told Seokjin he could bring whoever,” Namjoon says apologetically. “And he invited Jeongguk.”

“Gross,” Taehyung says, wrinkling his nose. “Seokjin seems so nice, I don’t understand why he’s friends with dickface.”

Namjoon shrugs. “I think they’ve known each other forever. Maybe he’s not as bad as we think.”

Taehyung scoffs at this. “Sure, and maybe the sky is actually purple.”

Namjoon chuckles, shaking his head. “Just play nice, okay? I don’t want Seokjin to feel uncomfortable.”

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, raising a hand to his chest in mock offense. “I’m always nice.”

And Taehyung does consider himself to be a really nice person - he’s friendly and outgoing to pretty much everyone he meets. Just not to douchey jerks who say rude shit about him and are obsessed with their stupid shoes.

“Taehyungie is always nice,” Jimin agrees, coming over and hugging Taehyung from behind. “Jeongguk had it coming.”

“Thank you, Jimin,” Taehyung says, patting Jimin’s hand as he glares at Namjoon.

“At least your outfit tonight is fire,” Jimin adds. “Nothing special, my ass.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Taehyung swears he sees Yoongi look down at his own ensemble and frown. These two, honestly.

“My ass is pretty fucking special,” Taehyung says thoughtfully, and they all laugh.

Really, though, he’s glad that he decided to wear his black leather pants tonight, along with a white v neck that emphasizes his collarbones and a hint of black eyeliner. He looks like a goddamn snack, if he’s honest, and it’s a look that’s gotten him laid more than once in the past. Jeon Jeongguk can eat his dumb jerk heart out, even if he is into leggy models, or whatever he’d said.

The party is in full swing by the time Seokjin and Jeongguk arrive, which means Taehyung is tipsy and therefore less prepared for how devastatingly gorgeous Jeongguk looks. He remembers thinking Jeongguk was hot the first time they met, but really, this is just absurd, not to mention unfair. He’s dressed in all black, his hair artfully tousled, and his black jeans cling to his thighs in a way that truly can only be described as obscene.

Taehyung wants to ride him.

Except, right, he hates Jeongguk, so never mind. Why does the universe insist on torturing him like this?

Seokjin greets them all like old friends, especially Namjoon, who he positively beams at. Meanwhile, Jeongguk hovers awkwardly at his shoulder, avoiding everyone’s gaze and looking generally put-out. Taehyung wonders if he even wanted to come, or if Seokjin had forced him.

“Hi, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says loudly, because he’s really fucking nice, okay, and also he might as well have a little fun.

Jeongguk’s gaze snaps up to him, eyes wide. “Hello,” he says stiffly.

Taehyung can feel everyone else watching them tensely, but he pastes a smile on his face and soldiers on.

“How have you been?”

“Well,” Jeongguk replies, looking uncomfortable. He probably thinks Taehyung is going to harass him about the whole “nothing special” thing, but that is so last week and Taehyung is totally over it, obviously.

“I’ve been well too, thanks for asking,” he says cheerily, and he thinks he hears Jimin attempt to disguise a snort as a cough.

“Okay! Who wants a drink!” Namjoon cries, clapping his hands together as Jeongguk gapes at Taehyung.

“Us, definitely us,” Seokjin says, grabbing Jeongguk’s wrist and tugging him into the kitchen after Namjoon. Jeongguk glances back over his shoulder at Taehyung, and Taehyung just smiles brightly back at him.

Jimin dissolves into a fit of giggles, clinging on to Yoongi for support. “Watching you two interact is my new favorite spectator sport,” he laughs, wiping tears from his eyes.

“I’m glad my suffering entertains you,” Taehyung says dryly.

“Come on,” Yoongi cuts in, sneakily wrapping his arm around Jimin’s waist. Jimin leans into him easily. “I think we all need another drink.”

The next hour passes without major incident. Seokjin and Namjoon are ridiculously adorable, talking with their heads close together and laughing often, while Jimin somehow ends up in Yoongi’s lap, because of course. Taehyung bounces between them and the other party guests, mostly college friends, being the friendly, bubbly, extremely nice and special person that he is and definitely not paying attention to Jeongguk, who predictably is brooding in the corner.

Everything is going great until Taehyung stumbles into the kitchen in pursuit of another drink and ends up nearly crashing into none other than Jeon Jeongguk. The universe really must be fucking with him at this point.

“Whoa, sorry,” Taehyung yelps, ducking out of the way just in time. At least he isn’t holding a drink this time.

Jeongguk steps back, eyeing him warily.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” Taehyung says flatly, rummaging around in the freezer for more ice.

“Just watch where you’re going,” Jeongguk grumbles.

Taehyung whirls around to face him. “You could also just say ‘don’t worry about it,’ like a normal person,” he snaps. He refills his drink with a little more force than is strictly necessary, the liquid sloshing precariously.

They glare at each other, and it looks like Jeongguk is about to retort when Jimin and Seokjin swoop in, closely followed by Namjoon and Yoongi.

“Our friend Hobi is a dancer!” Jimin is saying, his elbow linked with Seokjin’s as if they’ve known each other for years. “I take classes with him sometimes, you should come!”

“I am a truly terrible dancer,” Seokjin replies sadly, patting Jimin’s hand. “Jeongguk though, he -”

“Seokjin,” Jeongguk says sharply. His features have hardened, and he suddenly looks kind of terrifying. Seokjin’s mouth snaps shut, and the others look back and forth between them curiously.

Taehyung thinks back to the first time they had met, and one of the (numerous) tense exchanges he had had with Jeongguk.

Do you dance, Jeon Jeongguk?

Not if I can help it.

Does he really just hate dancing that much? Is he such a miserable, taciturn person that he refuses to engage in any activities that involve joy or fun?

Jeongguk shifts uncomfortably under the attention. “I’m going to head out,” he says abruptly, putting his drink down. “Seokjin? Are you coming?”

Seokjin flushes a little, and he glances over at Namjoon, who smiles encouragingly. “I... think I’m going to hang out for a little, if that’s cool.”

“Okay.” He turns to Namjoon and Yoongi, nodding stiffly. “Thank you for having me.”

“No problem, man,” Yoongi says.

He has to squeeze past Taehyung to leave the kitchen, and their hands brush as he does. Their eyes meet for a split second, and Taehyung has to suppress a gasp, because, well - Jeongguk may be a jerk, but he’s really fucking hot up close, not to mention kind of intimidating. He smells good, too, and if Taehyung wasn’t so proud and stubborn he would probably be trying to get in Jeongguk’s ridiculously tight pants right about now.

And then he’s gone, and Taehyung has to scramble to collect himself.

“Jeez, does he like, really hate dancing or something?” Jimin asks, perplexed.

“It’s a long story,” Seokjin sighs. “I’m sorry about him, he’s really not as bad as he seems. His bark is a lot worse than his bite.”

Taehyung finds this hard to believe, but he likes Seokjin so he keeps his mouth shut.

“Don’t worry about it,” Namjoon says, placing a hand on Seokjin’s shoulder. “We all have our off days.”

It seems like Jeongguk is having an off year, or life, but Taehyung keeps that thought to himself as well.

“He just doesn’t trust new people very easily,” Seokjin explains. “Part of growing up how we did, I guess.”

“You don’t seem to have a problem,” Jimin blurts out.

Seokjin shrugs. “It’s not really my place to get into it, but Jeongguk has had a lot more shit thrown at him than I have. He’s actually a pretty good guy, once you get past all the upfront bullshit.”

This piques Taehyung’s interest, although he still doesn’t really feel like it’s an excuse for Jeongguk being an asshole. Plenty of people have hard lives and still manage to be nice and friendly.

“We don’t have to talk about it anymore,” Namjoon says, and Seokjin flashes him a grateful smile. “Who’s up for another drink?”

Everybody cheers.

***

Sunday mornings are one of the rare times during the week that Jeongguk allows himself to relax a little bit. He has a routine - he’ll hit the gym for an hour or so, then, if the weather is nice, take the long way home, wandering through the streets and just soaking everything in. He likes the city on weekend mornings - it’s quieter than usual, almost peaceful. There’s an odd hush that falls over the streets, and the people who are actually out all seem to reach a tacit acknowledgment to respect that.

On this particular Sunday, he spends more time at the gym than usual, working through his frustrations about work, his dad, the night before - his life in general, basically. Ever since he stopped dancing, working out is pretty much the only productive way he can find to deal with stress.

And Jeongguk has a lot of stress. Work and his dad are old news by now - he hasn’t gotten any better at dealing with them, but he’s at least he’s gotten used to it. What he’s not used to, however, is Kim Taehyung and his fucking leather pants, the image of which has been burned on Jeongguk’s retinas for all of eternity. He had looked positively edible - eyes rimmed with dark liner, lips full and pink from whatever dumb fruity cocktail he was drinking - and Jeongguk had just wanted to fucking ruin him. Good thing, then, that he seems completely set on hating Jeongguk with a fiery, burning passion, and that Jeongguk is apparently incapable of articulating a single sentence that will sway him otherwise.

It doesn’t help that Jeongguk hasn’t had sex in months, that he barely has sex anymore at all now that he’s one of the semi public faces of Bangtan Media. Anything he does with someone he’s actually attracted to has to be extremely discreet, and he’s found it increasingly difficult to meet people that he trusts enough to bother taking the risk. Kim Taehyung makes him forget about the risk all together.

So this is why, by the time Jeongguk leaves the gym, he’s dripping with sweat and so exhausted he can hardly get his legs to move. Seokjin lives closer to the gym than he does, so he wanders that way instead, winding up at his door without really thinking about it. He’s done this enough times by now that Seokjin doesn’t even look surprised to see him when he answers the door, still dressed in a robe and slippers.

“Hey,” he yawns, stepping back from the door to let Jeongguk in. “Coming from the gym?”

Jeongguk nods, walking inside and slumping into one of the chairs surrounding Seokjin’s kitchen table. “Went a little too hard,” he groans, massaging his thighs.

Seokjin hums sympathetically. “Want a smoothie?” he asks, padding over to the counter. “I just made a batch.”

“Sure,” Jeongguk says, accepting a glass gratefully. It’s a bluish purple color, presumably from the open containers of blueberries and blackberries sitting on the counter.

“How was the rest of last night?” he asks when Seokjin is seated at the table with him, holding his own smoothie. “I’m kind of surprised Namjoon isn’t here.”

“Oh, stop,” Seokjin says, waving him off even as he blushes furiously. “Nothing even happened.”

“Nothing?” Jeongguk echoes skeptically.

“Well.” A smile creeps across Seokjin’s face. “We’re getting dinner this week.”

“Ah,” Jeongguk says. A part of him is still really wary of this whole thing with Namjoon, especially considering his and Yoongi’s career aspirations, but he can’t bring himself to question that when Seokjin seems so happy. He hopes it will just end up blowing over on its own. “So not quite nothing, then.”

“I suppose,” Seokjin concedes. “I wish you would have stayed longer.”

“Sorry,” Jeongguk says, looking down at his smoothie. “I just... felt weird.”

Seokjin sighs. “They’re all pretty cool, you know. Including Taehyung. You should give him a chance.”

“He’s the one that hates me,” Jeongguk says defiantly. “What am I supposed to do about that?”

“You could try just being nice to him,” Seokjin suggests innocently, and Jeongguk huffs, rolling his eyes.

“It’s not that simple,” he complains, knowing how childish he sounds even as he says it. “Everything he does is with the express intention of aggravating me.”

“And yet, you still want to bone his brains out,” Seokjin says, throwing a pointed look at Jeongguk over the rim of his glass.

“What!” Jeongguk yelps, choking on a bit of smoothie. “I - that’s not -”

Seokjin continues to stare at him, lips pursed skeptically. “Oh, please. You wouldn’t be so worked up about it otherwise.”

Jeongguk gapes at him, but can’t think of anything sufficient to say in response. Instead, he takes an angry sip of his smoothie while Seokjin continues to smirk at him.

“Knew it,” he says smugly.

“Shut up,” Jeongguk retorts. “It doesn’t matter, anyway.”

“It could,” Seokjin says quietly. “If you wanted it to.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jeongguk asks, even though he thinks he knows. Seokjin is always worrying about him, trying to get him to loosen up a little. There’s a lot that he’s had to turn away from in the past five years, and he knows he’s not the same person he used to be.

Seokjin sighs, shaking his head. “Forget it. Just - try being nice the next time you see him, how about that?”

Jeongguk glowers at him, then sighs himself. “Fine.”

***

Taehyung has a working theory that Tuesday is actually a worse day of the week than Monday. He hasn’t been able to prove it scientifically yet, but if the way he feels right now, staring numbly at his computer as he makes the seventeenth round of spacing changes to a set of logo options, is any indication, his theory is right on the money. The colors on the screen are starting to blur together, and he thinks he’s in danger of face planting onto his keyboard any minute now.

At 2:03pm, he accepts his fate and decides it’s time for a caffeine run - the real shit, not the trash they have in the office kitchen. Jimin is in a meeting, so he grabs his jacket and heads out on his own, inhaling deeply when he steps out into the crisp winter air. He already feels better just from being outside and away from his desk.

There’s a great coffee shop around the corner from his office that he and Jimin like to visit in situations like these, when they’re so desperate to wake up that they don’t mind splurging a little for some decent coffee. The intoxicating smell of coffee beans hits him as soon as he walks inside, and he wills himself to get a contact high while he waits on line, humming to himself.

He’s next in line when he hears a familiar voice say his name, but it’s not until he actually turns around that he registers why he recognizes it.

It’s Jeon Jeongguk, looking very dashing and important in a dark suit, his hands tucked into his pockets. Taehyung is honestly surprised that they’re having this run in now, and not when he’s hurrying out of the coffee shop holding a full and spill-prone cup of coffee. Maybe the universe is easing up on him a little.

“Oh,” he says in surprise. Jeongguk is the last person he expected to see in the middle of the day at his favorite coffee shop. “Uh, hey.”

“Hi,” Jeongguk says. His expression is strained, and he looks a little awkward, shifting back and forth on his feet. “Umm. Do you work around here?”

Taehyung blinks at him, taken aback by this normal and even vaguely polite attempt at conversation. “I do!” he nods, collecting himself and hooking his thumb over his shoulder. “Just around the corner, actually. You?”

“My office is a few blocks away,” Jeongguk says. “But I come here sometimes if I need a break.”

“I know that feeling,” Taehyung says over his shoulder, stepping up to the counter to order his drink. He reaches into his back pocket for his wallet, but, with a sinking sensation, finds it empty. In his catatonic daze back at the office, he must have completely forgotten to grab it.

So much for the universe easing up on him.

“Shit,” he mutters, and the girl behind the counter raises her eyebrows. “Sorry, I just - I forgot my wallet.”

“I’ll get it,” Jeongguk says, stepping up beside him with his own wallet in hand. It looks thick and expensive, and for the first time it occurs to Taehyung to wonder how much money Jeongguk actually makes.

“Oh, no, don’t worry about it,” he protests, mortified. The last thing he needs is another thing for Jeon Jeongguk to hold over his head.

“It’s fine,” Jeongguk says, waving him off as he orders his own coffee.

The barista looks back and forth between them, confused.

“Really, I can’t accept that -“

“I got it,” Jeongguk says with a tone of finality, handing his card to the girl, who looks too intimidated by him to object.

“Thanks,” Taehyung says weakly, taking his cup. “That really wasn’t necessary.”

“It’s no big deal.”

As they’re turning away from the counter, Taehyung hears his name called for the second time in the past ten minutes. This time, it’s Hyungsik, sweeping into the coffee shop with a patterned scarf looped jauntily around his neck.

“Taehyung! Hey!”

As Taehyung stutters out a hello, two things happen almost spontaneously. He physically feels Jeongguk stiffen beside him, and at the same time, he watches Hyungsik’s gaze slide to Jeongguk and then twist into something unpleasant.

“Jeon,” Hyungsik says haughtily, puffing out his chest.

“Hello, Hyungsik,” Jeongguk replies in a tone dripping with disdain.

Taehyung whips his head back and forth between them, wondering what the hell happened here. “You two know each other?” he asks dumbly.

“We go way back,” Hyungsik smirks, and Jeongguk nods jerkily. If looks could kill, Taehyung thinks the one he’s leveling at Hyungsik right now would probably do the trick.

“Hyungsik is my boss,” Taehyung offers, even though no one had asked.

Jeongguk nods again, flinching visibly when Hyungsik smiles and throws an arm around Taehyung’s shoulders. “He’s a superstar designer. But I’m sure you already knew that, Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk’s gaze shifts to Taehyung, and he shakes his head slightly. He looks so tense that Taehyung is almost concerned for him, but mostly he just wants to know what the beef is between these two.

“I’ll see you around, Taehyung,” he says stiffly, then just barely inclines his head in Hyungsik’s direction. “Hyungsik.”

“Thanks for the coffee,” Taehyung calls after him, and Jeongguk throws a last glance at him over his shoulder before disappearing out the door.

“Umm,” Taehyung says, turning to face Hyungsik. His features, usually carefully arranged into a casual smile, have soured in distaste. “Sorry if it’s not my place to ask, but what was that about?”

Hyungsik snaps back to his usual self, pulling the smile back into place, although this time it looks a little disingenuous. “It’s a sad story, really,” he says.

Taehyung raises his eyebrows, following Hyungsik back to the counter as he orders his drink.

“We’re old friends,” Hyungsik continues. “We both interned at his father’s company during college, and I was all set to work there after we graduated. Then Jeongguk got unexpectedly promoted when his brother bailed, and I basically got left in the dust. No job, not even a reference or recommendation.”

“No way,” Taehyung gapes at him. He obviously has always thought Jeongguk was a dick, but he wouldn’t have expected such a cold hearted betrayal of someone he considered a friend. It doesn’t add up with what Seokjin had said about him, either. “That’s terrible.”

Hyungsik shrugs, nodding sadly. “It was rough, I had to totally start over. It led me to this, of course, but it’s hard not to think of how different my life would be if I’d gotten that job.”

“Yeah, wow,” Taehyung says, stunned. “I’m so sorry to hear that. For what it’s worth, he seems like an ass.”

Hyungsik chuckles, clapping him on the shoulder. “Thanks, Tae.” His hand lingers for a second or two longer than is strictly professional, and Taehyung wills himself not to blush.

“Should we get back to the office, then?” Taehyung asks, his voice pitched a little higher than usual.

Hyungsik grins at him, giving his shoulder a final squeeze. “Sure.”

***

“I ran into Taehyung,” Jeongguk says miserably, dropping into one of the chairs in Seokjin’s office and pinching the bridge of his nose. He’s still shaking from his encounter with Hyungsik.

“That bad?” Seokjin asks, eyebrows raised in concern. “I know he’s not your biggest fan, but really -”

“I also ran into Hyungsik.”

Seokjin stops mid-sentence, mouth tugging down into a frown. “Oh.”

“He’s Taehyung’s boss,” Jeongguk groans.

“Oh, god,” Seokjin says, horrified.

“Does God hate me, Seokjin?” Jeongguk asks, staring up at the ceiling. “Is this some sort of cosmic punishment?”

“How is that idiot someone’s boss?” Seokjin wonders, ignoring him.

Jeongguk shrugs, picking moodily at a hangnail. “He was always a smooth talker.”

“Yeah, of all bullshit,” Seokjin says, making a face. “So you saw them together?”

“I ran into Taehyung first,” Jeongguk says. For once, he had actually been having a civil conversation with Taehyung, and even had the chance to extend an olive branch by paying for his drink. It’s just his luck that Hyungsik of all people would show up and ruin it. “He forgot his wallet so I bought him his coffee.”

“That was nice of you,” Seokjin says, surprised. “Oh my god, were you actually following my advice?” He places a hand over his heart, beaming at Jeongguk.

Jeongguk crosses his arms over his chest, avoiding Seokjin’s gaze. “Maybe.”

“Jeongguk, I am honored,” Seokjin says solemnly. Jeongguk rolls his eyes, and Seokjin snorts. “Seriously though, I’m proud of you.”

“Yeah, well, Hyungsik kind of killed the moment,” Jeongguk grumbles.

Seokjin’s expression shifts back to one of concern. “How was seeing him?”

Jeongguk winces. It’s been years since he’s seen or heard from Park Hyungsik, but all that time had done nothing to dull his hatred. If anything, it’s worse now, the initial pain replaced by anger and disgust. And the audacity he’d had - the smug smile and the way he’d put his arm around Taehyung, like he knew that Jeongguk wanted him and was throwing it back in his face. He wonders if there’s something going on between them, even though Hyungsik is Taehyung’s boss. The thought makes him nauseous.

“Not great,” Jeongguk says, his knuckles white on the arm rests of the chair. He’s going to be on edge for the rest of the day because of this, and it pisses him off.

Before they can discuss it any further, Jeongguk’s father blows into the room, looking irritated.

“There you are,” he says sharply, addressing Jeongguk. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere, are you prepared for the call with the talent team?”

Jeongguk glances down at his watch - the call is in five minutes. In his distress over seeing Hyungsik and Taehyung, he’d completely lost track of time.

“I’m always prepared,” he replies, tone equally sharp. He’s in no mood for this right now.

“Fine. I want to make it quick, they’re a bunch of idiots.” Jeongguk kind of has to agree with him on this point, actually. “And what about the gala? Have you found a date yet?”

“Sarah’s talking to a few publicists,” Jeongguk says dully. Sarah is his and Seokjin’s assistant, and she’s been kind enough to take on the responsibility of finding women who want to be Jeon Jeongguk’s date to swanky industry events.

“You know, Jeongguk, most men your age would be thrilled to have a gorgeous woman on their arm.”

“I am thrilled, can’t you tell?” Jeongguk says, deadpan. He stands up, brushing by his dad. “We’re going to be late for the call.”

***

On Friday, they all gather at Namjoon and Yoongi’s apartment to eat pizza, play video games, and most importantly, bombard Namjoon with questions about his date with Seokjin.

“Did he pay?”

“Did you kiss?”

“Don’t be a prude, did you get the D?”

They all turn to stare at Jimin, Namjoon clapping Yoongi on the back since he had choked on his beer at Jimin’s question.

“What?” Jimin says. “Come on, Seokjin is a babe.”

Namjoon rolls his eyes, laughing. “We just kissed.”

Taehyung and Jimin both yelp, clapping their hands together excitedly.

“Oh my god, how was it,” Jimin asks, resting his chin on his fist and watching Namjoon with the air of a small child.

“It was good,” Namjoon says, waving him off. “Now leave me alone, that’s all I’m saying about it.”

“No fun,” Jimin pouts.

“So the date itself was good?” Taehyung asks.

“Yeah,” Namjoon nods, smiling shyly. “I like him a lot, he’s really easy to talk to.”

“This is so adorable,” Jimin squeals happily. “Namjoon’s gonna marry the future CEO of Bangtan Media, holy shit.”

“Alright, relax,” Namjoon says. “It was one date.”

“You’re in loooove,” Jimin sings, flopping backwards on the couch so that his head rests on Yoongi’s thigh. Taehyung watches Yoongi’s eyes widen momentarily and sighs to himself.

“He did ask me to be his plus one to the Charity for the Arts Gala next week,” Namjoon adds thoughtfully, chewing on the crust of his pizza.

“Wait, we’re going to that!” Taehyung says. “We did some pro bono work for them this year, so the agency got a few tickets.”

“They chose you two to represent the agency?” Yoongi says disbelievingly, and Jimin smacks him.

Taehyung kind of thinks he has a point, to be honest, but nothing will stand between him and an open bar. Except -

“Wait, does that mean Jeon Jeongguk is going to be there too?”

“Probably,” Namjoon shrugs.

Taehyung groans, face planting into his knees. “Man, I can’t get rid of that guy.”

“What, have you seen him since our party?”

“He bought Taehyung coffee!” Jimin pipes up, like the traitor he is.

“What?!” Namjoon cries, shocked. “When?”

“Earlier this week,” Taehyung sighs, glowering at Jimin. “I ran into him in a coffee shop by our office, and I'd forgotten my wallet. Obviously, since I only see him when I’m making a fool of myself somehow.”

“That’s kind of... nice,” Yoongi says, puzzled. “That he paid for you.”

“I guess,” Taehyung huffs reluctantly. “But he also apparently used to be friends with my hot boss, until he got promoted at Bangtan and screwed him out of a job.”

Namjoon’s eyebrows shoot up. “Seriously? Seokjin swears he’s not a bad guy.”

“I don’t know why Hyungsik would lie,” Taehyung shrugs.

“He does have a flair for the dramatic,” Jimin points out. His expression turns dreamy. “So pretty, though.”

Yoongi takes a particularly aggressive swig of his beer.

“Whatever,” Taehyung says. “I still don’t like Jeongguk.”

“Maybe you guys just need to have really hot hate sex to work out your issues,” Jimin suggests.

“Absolutely not,” Taehyung says, a little too quickly. The idea of Jeongguk fucking him into a wall has been on his mind more often than he would care to admit.

“You totally would,” Jimin snorts, smirking.

Taehyung just glares at him and stuffs an extra large bite of pizza into his mouth.

***

The Charity for the Arts Gala (sponsored largely by Bangtan Media, as Taehyung learns when he looks at the program) is far and away the fanciest event Taehyung has ever attended in his life. The moment he walks in, in a tux he had to borrow from Hoseok, he feels completely out of place, surrounded by people who probably actually own the fancy attire they’re wearing.

“This is someone’s house?!” Jimin says incredulously, head tilted upwards as he spins around, taking everything in. “Like, someone actually lives here.”

“Apparently,” Namjoon says, straightening his tie. He looks very dapper in his tux, and Taehyung feels a rush of fondness for him - he really hopes this whole thing with Seokjin and their music works out. “Seokjin said it’s like a really rich board member’s house, or something. I hear there’s a pool somewhere.”

“Shit,” Taehyung marvels, although he can’t say he’s really surprised, given how massive this place is. The ceilings are high, adding to the sense of grandeur, and every decoration and piece of furniture is tastefully exquisite. Some of the paintings on the walls probably cost more than his and Jimin’s entire apartment. “I feel poor.”

“Let’s pretend we’re rich for the night,” Jimin says, grabbing his hand. “Open bar?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

“I’m going to find Seokjin,” Namjoon announces, looking a little nervous. “Try not to get into too much trouble.”

“Only if you promise to get into all kinds of trouble with Seokjin,” Jimin says cheekily. For added effect, Taehyung wiggles his eyebrows and nudges Namjoon in the side.

Namjoon blinks at them, unamused. “I don’t know why I hang out with you two.”

“Because you would be a boring old person without us!” Jimin calls after his retreating back.

Once Namjoon disappears into the elegantly dressed crowd, Taehyung and Jimin weave their way over to the bar, trying to act like they actually belong here. Then, with mojitos in hand (the bartender had given them a funny look, but he can take his judgment elsewhere, thank you very much), they post up in a corner and people watch.

“They’re honestly really cute,” Taehyung admits when they spot Namjoon and Seokjin. Seokjin has his hand on Namjoon’s arm, and they’re both laughing, looking utterly delighted by each other.

“I know, it’s gross,” Jimin says fondly. “Oh look, there’s Broody.”

Taehyung snaps to attention embarrassingly quickly, following Jimin’s gaze to where Jeongguk is standing a few feet away from Seokjin, his arm around the waist of a stunning blonde woman. He’s wearing the same hard, impassive look Taehyung has grown accustomed to seeing.

“He really is damn fine, are you sure you don’t want to try to hit that?” Jimin muses, playing with the straw of his drink.

“It looks like he’s here with a date,” Taehyung replies, a little bitterly. “Besides, I’m nothing special, remember?”

“Fuck that,” Jimin says dismissively. “He doesn’t look particularly happy to be here with her, anyway.”

“He never looks happy to be anywhere,” Taehyung points out, draining his drink.

At that moment, Jeongguk’s gaze, which had previously been drifting around the room, lands on Taehyung. His eyes widen slightly.

“Fuck, he saw us staring,” Taehyung swears, immediately looking down. “Come on, I need another drink.”

Two drinks later, Jimin wanders off in search of a bathroom, and Taehyung decides to do some exploring of his own. He ventures further and further into the house, up a flight of stairs, then another, till the crowd thins completely and it’s just him, wandering down a hallway that he’s almost certainly not supposed to be in. At the end of the corridor, he sees a door slightly ajar, rippling blue light streaming through it, and he realizes that he may have just found the pool.

Glancing around to make sure the coast is clear, he hurries down the hallway, pushing through the door to find what is, in fact, an obscenely large indoor pool. It’s impeccably still, lit from within by a series of white lights, and as if that weren’t enough, one whole wall is made up entirely of floor to ceiling windows. What takes Taehyung’s breath away the most, though, is that there’s already someone else in here.

Jeon Jeongguk sits at the pool’s edge, dress pants rolled up, feet dangling in the water. His shoes and socks, along with a half drunk glass of what Taehyung assumes is scotch, sit neatly beside him. He startles when he sees Taehyung, fleeting panic passing over his features before they settle back into their usual indifference.

“Oh, umm,” Taehyung stutters, taking a step back. He has the odd feeling that he’s intruding on something, even though Jeongguk doesn’t seem to be doing anything in particular. He looks sad, mostly. “Sorry, I - got lost?”

Jeongguk raises his eyebrows, and if Taehyung’s not mistaken, he looks faintly amused. “You’re pretty damn lost to have ended up up here.”

Taehyung shrugs, guilty. “I may have been... exploring a little,” he admits. “Namjoon hyung said there was a pool.”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk nods, looking at the water. “It’s nice up here.”

Maybe it’s the fact that he’s had three mojitos, or maybe it’s just that Jeongguk looks so dejected and lonely sitting by himself, but somehow Taehyung finds himself walking over to him, sitting down on the cement a few feet away. Jeongguk looks somewhat taken aback by this development, but he doesn’t move or comment, which is honestly better than Taehyung had expected.

“Hiding?” he asks, feeling bold.

Jeongguk stares at him, expression unreadable, and for a few seconds Taehyung thinks maybe he’s pushed too far. But then:

“You could say that,” he sighs. He lifts his drink and takes a long sip.

“From who?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Everyone.”

Taehyung snorts, and Jeongguk’s eyebrows shoot up again. “Sorry to crash your party.”

“It’s fine.” He takes another pull from his drink, and for a while the only noise is the faint hum of the pool cleaner. “These kinds of events just aren’t really my thing.”

“Why do you come, then?” Taehyung asks, his curiosity getting the better of him. He’s not even entirely sure why he’s engaging with Jeongguk to begin with, considering their track record and what he’d learned from Hyungsik, but something about him piques Taehyung’s interest. He blames the mojitos.

Jeongguk blinks at him, seemingly perplexed by the question. “I have to,” he says, as if it’s obvious. “For work.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says softly. He dips his fingers into the pool, finds the water pleasantly mild. “I don’t get to do stuff like this much, so it’s kind of cool, to me.”

“How come you’re here?” Jeongguk asks.

Taehyung’s not sure whether he should be offended by that question, but he answers anyway. “My agency did a pro bono campaign for the Charity for the Arts, so they threw a few tickets our way.”

“You worked on the campaign?”

Taehyung nods. “I’m a graphic designer.”

“That’s really cool,” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung can’t believe that he sounds genuinely interested. “You like your work?”

“I always wanted to be an artist, so this fits the bill pretty nicely, at least for now,” Taehyung replies. When Jeongguk nods thoughtfully but doesn’t say anything in response, he adds: “I guess you grew up wanting to join the family business?”

Jeongguk lets out a bitter laugh, shaking his head. “No.” He looks over at Taehyung, then back down at his drink. Taehyung wonders how many of those he’s had, to be talking this openly to him of all people. “I wanted to be a dancer.”

The words are so quiet that Taehyung barely catches them, but when they finally register, he’s completely floored. “I thought you didn’t dance?”

Jeongguk continues to stare resolutely down at his drink. His profile is illuminated by watery blue light from the pool, making him look almost ethereal. Taehyung really wishes he wasn’t so absurdly attractive. “I gave it up,” he says hollowly.

“Why?” Taehyung breathes out. The pain in Jeongguk’s voice is evident, and against all odds, Taehyung finds himself completely transfixed by him.

“When I started at Bangtan,” Jeongguk explains. “It was bad enough for my dad that I’m gay, he couldn’t stomach the dancing too.”

Taehyung gapes at him, his heart clenching. He can’t help but think that any minute now Jeongguk is going to come out of whatever weird trance he’s in and threaten to beat Taehyung’s ass if he ever breathes a word of this to anyone.

“Aren’t you here with a woman?” he asks cautiously.

Jeongguk waves a hand dismissively. “It’s just for appearances, to keep my dad off my back,” he says. “It’s not like I have anyone else to bring, anyway.”

For all that Taehyung doesn’t like about Jeongguk, he still feels sorry for him - he would never wish on anyone to have to hide who they are.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says softly, and Jeongguk looks up at him, surprised. “That really sucks.”

Jeongguk just shrugs and takes the final sip of his drink. “I guess I should get back,” he sighs, examining his empty glass. “Before they send out a search party.”

“I’ll come too,” Taehyung says, standing up with him. “Hopefully Jimin hasn’t drowned in one of the toilets, or anything.”

It’s supposed to be a joke (obviously), but Jeongguk seems bemused.

“I let him go look for the bathroom by himself,” Taehyung explains, trailing Jeongguk into the dark hallway. “He’s had several mojitos.”

“Ah.” Jeongguk still doesn’t seem to follow the humor, but at least he’s not openly scowling. “Are you two, like -” He gestures vaguely, looking embarrassed.

“Together?” Taehyung finishes for him, surprised. Jeongguk is the last person he’d expect to care about his dating life. “No, just roommates, and best friends. Besties with testes, you know.”

Jeongguk raises his eyebrows, incredulous. “What.”

“Besties with - you know what, never mind,” Taehyung says. They’ve reached the bottom of the staircase on the main floor, and he can hear the party in full swing just around the corner.

“I’ll, umm, see you around,” Jeongguk says, his face already rearranging itself into something more professional than Taehyung had seen just a few minutes ago.

“Yeah,” Taehyung nods. “See you.”

Jeongguk inclines his head slightly and then disappears around the corner, back straight, leaving Taehyung to try to figure out what the hell just happened.

***

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Jeongguk groans, starfished facedown on Seokjin’s carpet. “I told him so much stuff.”

“Jeongguk, it’s fine,” Seokjin says consolingly, patting his back. “You told him about yourself, that’s usually what people do when they have conversations.”

“Yeah, but I don’t do that,” Jeongguk huffs. “I don’t talk to people I barely know about dancing, or my dating life. What the fuck.”

“Relax,” Seokjin soothes. “Taehyung is a friend of Namjoon’s, he’s a good guy. He’s not gonna go blow up your spot in the press.”

“You don’t know that,” Jeongguk grumbles.

“I feel pretty confident. Not everyone is out to get us.”

Jeongguk stays silent, his face buried in Seokjin’s scratchy gray carpet. Clearly, he had lost his goddamn mind last night - he hasn’t spoken to anyone other than Seokjin about that stuff in years. He doesn’t know what it is about Taehyung, why he can’t seem to control his behavior around him, although he suspects it has something to do with his eyes, so warm and expressive, and how disarmingly candid he seems to be. But regardless of that, Jeongguk needs to reel it the fuck in.

“On the bright side, at least you and Taehyung had an interaction that wasn’t totally hostile,” Seokjin points out.

“Hmph,” Jeongguk responds. “You’re just cheery this morning because you made out with Namjoon.”

“That is true,” Seokjin says dreamily, and Jeongguk lifts his head off the carpet just so he can roll his eyes at him. “But you’re just grumpy because you didn’t make out with Taehyung.”

“That is not why,” Jeongguk retorts, indignant.

“Sure, sure, whatever you say,” Seokjin says with an irritatingly knowing grin. “I invited them all to my party next weekend, so you’ll have another shot then.”

Jeongguk groans and flops back down on the carpet, pointedly ignoring the way his stomach squirms at the idea of making out with Taehyung.

***

“I still can’t believe he thought we were dating,” Jimin giggles, lying with his legs draped over the back of their couch. “I think he likes you.”

“I doubt that,” Taehyung says dismissively, even though his stomach clenches a little at the suggestion. His mind is still reeling from the version of Jeongguk he’d met last night - an actual human being underneath that icy outward demeanor. He has no idea what to make of it, especially since he’s supposed to hate Jeongguk.

“Why else would he ask about that?” Jimin asks.

“I dunno,” Taehyung shrugs, shoveling a handful of potato chips into his mouth. Breakfast of (hungover) champions. “Curiosity? Nosiness?”

“He likes you,” Jimin says decisively. “He wants to get in your pants and quite frankly I think you should let him.”

“Okay, hypothetically speaking, if you’re right, which I don’t think you are, given the infamous ‘nothing special’ incident - what about what he did to Hyungsik?”

“You don’t have to marry the guy,” Jimin shrugs. “Although you should probably consider it given how rich he is.” Taehyung throws a chip at him. “But if it’s just a hookup, who cares?”

This is fairly sound logic, Taehyung has to admit.

“I suppose,” he says begrudgingly.

“This is so unfair, now you and Namjoon both have sexy, rich guys trying to bang you,” Jimin pouts. “Where does that leave me?”

“With Yoongi hyung,” Taehyung responds around another mouthful of chips.

Jimin sits up so fast he almost slams his head on the coffee table. “What?”

Taehyung shrugs. He doesn’t want to call Yoongi out, but he feels like it’s about time someone gives these two a nudge in the right direction. “Why not? You had a huge crush on him in college.”

Jimin splutters, turning red, and Taehyung just watches him expectantly. “That was forever ago, not to mention it was completely unreciprocated.”

They had been sophomores when Yoongi was a senior, and while he had treated them well, at the time he hadn’t paid much notice to 19 year-old Jimin’s starry eyed affection for him.

“So? Things are different now.”

“Yeah, but now we’re friends,” Jimin says hesitantly. “It would be weird.”

Taehyung just shrugs again and does his best to look indifferent - he doesn’t want to push too hard and make things weird between them. “Just something to think about.”

“I suppose,” Jimin says, echoing Taehyung’s earlier response about Jeongguk.

He grabs the bag of chips from Taehyung, and they continue crunching in silence.

***

Originally, Jeongguk tells himself he’s not going to drink much at Seokjin’s party, lest he decide to drunkenly spill his soul to Kim Taehyung again. Then his week happens, including several late nights, a few hellacious conference calls, and a dressing down from his father for going MIA during the Charity for the Arts Gala, and that all goes to shit.

By the time Taehyung arrives at the party, in all his eyeliner-ed, black skinny jean-wearing glory, Jeongguk has a solid buzz going and is well on his way to being good and drunk. Taehyung, of course, looks like a fucking GQ model, dressed in a white T-shirt and a gray bomber jacket, brown hair falling over his eyes. His pants hug his body in all the right places, and Jeongguk is pretty sure he was sent to this earth with the express purpose of ruining his life.

It seems Jeongguk is well and truly fucked.

“Earth to Jeongguk,” Seokjin says, snapping his fingers in Jeongguk’s face.

Jeongguk startles back to attention, dragging his gaze away from Taehyung. “Sorry, what?”

Seokjin rolls his eyes. “I know Taehyung is pretty to look at, but can you help me refill the ice bucket?”

“Sorry,” Jeongguk mumbles, not even bothering to come up with a retort. “Shit.”

“We’ll go say hi to them in a minute,” Seokjin says, but they’re beaten to it when Namjoon slides up next to Seokjin, his friends in tow.

“Seokjin hyung, your apartment is amazing,” Jimin says, looking around with wide eyes. He’s got one arm slung around Taehyung’s shoulders, which makes Jeongguk far more jealous than is at all rational. His gaze travels from that up to Taehyung’s face, and his stomach lurches when he finds Taehyung looking back at him. He offers a shy smile, which Jeongguk briefly returns before looking away.

“Thanks,” Seokjin says warmly. He looks flushed, happy, and Jeongguk notices his hand is now resting on Namjoon’s lower back. “Can I get you guys something to drink?”

“How about a shot?” Namjoon asks, setting a bottle of tequila down on the counter.

Jeongguk groans internally - he makes bad decisions when he drinks tequila. But the others are all nodding in agreement, clapping Namjoon on the back as he twists open the bottle, and Seokjin is already pulling out six shot glasses.

“Thought you only drank whiskey,” Taehyung says slyly, raising a challenging eyebrow.

“Guess I’m full of surprises,” Jeongguk retorts, and shit, is he actually flirting with Taehyung right now?

Taehyung lifts his shot glass, the hint of a smile tugging at his lips. “Cheers to that.”

They clink glasses and take the shot with the others, the liquor burning down the back of Jeongguk’s throat. Unfortunately for him, Taehyung looks even prettier on the other side of a tequila shot.

Before he has too much time to dwell on that, Seokjin is leading Taehyung and the rest on a tour of his apartment, and Jeongguk gets pulled into a conversation with a few of Seokjin’s old college friends, who he’s known forever. The party ebbs and flows from there - more shots are poured, and a series of drinking games unfold in the living room. Jeongguk spies Seokjin and Namjoon wedged together on the couch, Namjoon listening intently as Seokjin shows him the photograph-heavy cookbook he keeps on his coffee table. A little ways away, Jimin is hanging off of Yoongi, body folded practically in half, and for a second Jeongguk thinks something is wrong until he realizes Jimin is laughing hysterically. Meanwhile, Taehyung is nowhere to be seen, not that Jeongguk is looking.

He retreats back into the slightly quieter kitchen, which has emptied out now that everyone is playing drinking games, and examines Seokjin’s whiskey collection, debating what to drink next.

“Hey,” comes a slightly husky voice from behind him, and he turns around just in time to watch none other than Kim Taehyung trip forward over the throw rug between the counter and the refrigerator.

For someone so gorgeous, he sure is clumsy.

Without even thinking about it, Jeongguk’s hands fly out, catching Taehyung’s hips and steadying him. Their eyes lock, and for a split second Jeongguk actually forgets to breathe. He registers Taehyung’s hands on his upper arms, the look of surprise in his eyes, the feeling of his slim waist fit neatly in Jeongguk’s grip. He’s closer than he’s ever been, close enough to kiss, even.

And then he’s stepping back, smiling and shaking his head. “Sorry, I’m such a klutz,” he says ruefully. He’s discarded his bomber jacket somewhere over the course of the night, and his T-shirt shows off the tan skin of his arms. “Thanks for saving me from certain death.”

Jeongguk clears his throat, struggling to compose himself. “No problem.”

“Wanna do a shot?” Taehyung asks, examining the tequila, which is still half full.

And Jeongguk knows he really shouldn’t, but Taehyung is right there, looking hopeful and bright and like everything Jeongguk has ever wanted in his life, and there’s not a chance Jeongguk is going to be able to say no to him.

“Make a fist,” Taehyung instructs him, grabbing his wrist, and Jeongguk has to physically restrain his jaw from dropping when Taehyung licks his own fist, then Jeongguk’s, before sprinkling them with salt. He looks up at him with mischievous eyes, the hint of a challenge there, and Jeongguk can’t help himself - he leans in and kisses Taehyung, right on his lovely pink lips.

For a moment, Taehyung stills against him, and Jeongguk panics, about to pull away. But then he hears the salt shaker thud down on the counter top, and Taehyung’s arms are snaking up around his neck, his lips parting against Jeongguk’s.

Fuck.

He tastes sweet, like whatever ridiculous, fruity mixed drink he’d probably been sipping on earlier, and he kisses confidently, almost coyly, his tongue slipping into Jeongguk’s mouth. Heart racing, Jeongguk drops one hand to the counter, crowding Taehyung back against it while the other comes to rest on his lower back. His body is so lithe, Jeongguk thinks, and the heat of his skin seeps through the thin fabric of his T-shirt.

It’s been so long since he’s wanted someone like this, since he’s let himself have this, and suddenly all Jeongguk can think about is what it would be like to have Taehyung under him, to get him naked and feel his bare skin. It scares him, how badly he wants that - it’s a part of his life he’s largely turned away from in the past few years.

“Shit,” Taehyung says, when they finally break apart. He sounds a little breathless, which is so fucking sexy, and his mouth looks even pinker than it had before. Jeongguk just stares at him, finding it suddenly impossible to speak. “We didn’t do our shot.”

“Oh,” Jeongguk responds dumbly, still reeling. They’re not quite touching anymore, but he’s still got Taehyung half trapped between his body and the counter, and he can’t bring himself to move. “Yeah.”

“We may need more salt,” Taehyung observes, examining his hand. He flashes Jeongguk a rectangular smile. “Fist?”

Jeongguk extends his arm, wondering if Taehyung can feel the way his pulse jumps when his fingers close around Jeongguk’s wrist.

“Try not to kiss me this time,” Taehyung says cheekily.

“Try not to lick my hand,” Jeongguk shoots back, flushing, but Taehyung just shrugs, smile widening.

“Can’t make any promises.”

Before Jeongguk can think of a response to that, Jimin appears, tugging Yoongi along behind him, Seokjin and Namjoon right on their heels. Taehyung immediately drops his wrist, and Jeongguk steps back quickly, putting a respectable distance between them. It’s not quite fast enough, though - Seokjin catches his eye and raises his eyebrows, a shit-eating grin on his face.

Jimin, meanwhile, seems drunk and therefore oblivious to what he’d just interrupted. “Oooh, are you guys doing shots?” he squeals, clapping his hands together. “Let’s all do one!”

So they do, all crowding around the kitchen counter while Taehyung pours out another round. He doesn’t offer to lick anyone else’s fist, Jeongguk notes, before immediately judging himself for being pathetic enough to find satisfaction in that. Right before they take the shot, Taehyung catches his eye, the ghost of grin tugging at his lips, and Jeongguk wishes more than anything that they were still alone right now.

As it happens, he isn’t able to get Taehyung alone for the rest of the night, which is maybe a good thing since he clearly can’t trust himself around him. They do hang out some more though, as part of the larger group, and Jeongguk finds himself completely captivated by him, his deep voice and radiant smile and the way he somehow manages to snap from cute to sexy and back again in a matter of seconds. The bold quirkiness that Jeongguk had initially found off putting now seems intriguing, almost endearing - Jeongguk has never met someone quite like him.

Jeongguk is screwed.

Taehyung and his friends head out around 2am, shouting goodbyes and thanking Seokjin for having them over. Jimin is yawning into Yoongi’s shoulder, arms looped around his neck, and for one moment Jeongguk finds himself face to face with Taehyung while Seokjin and Namjoon say goodnight (both of them grinning like idiots).

“See you around, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, wrapping a bright red scarf around his neck. His expression is a little sly, and Jeongguk wonders if he’s also remembering their brief makeout session.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathes, waging an internal battle with himself over whether he should ask Taehyung out. On the bright side, he doesn’t seem to completely detest Jeongguk anymore, but that doesn’t mean he likes him either. “Yeah, I’ll see you.”

And then they’re out the door, and Seokjin is rounding on him, his eyes alight with curiosity. “What the hell was going on in that kitchen?!” he exclaims, dragging Jeongguk over to the couch and dropping down next to him. “Tell me everything.”

Jeongguk briefly considers lying, but he knows Seokjin will end up wheedling it out of him anyway, either through sheer persistence or bribery via baked goods. “Uh.” He clears his throat. “We made out, a little.”

“OH MY GOD,” Seokjin screeches, hands flapping excitedly. “My little Jeonggukie, getting some action!”

“Shut up, hyung,” Jeongguk grumbles, shoving his shoulder. “I get action.”

Seokjin blinks at him, unimpressed. “You used to get action. Now you’re practically a monk.”

This is true - back in college, and even when he first moved to the city, he had been a master of flirting and hookups. It had been a game to him then, easy and exciting, before the pressure and expectations surrounding his job had made everything more complicated. It stopped being fun, so he stopped doing it. But making out with Taehyung had been really fun, and sexy, and fuck, Jeongguk can’t stop thinking about it.

“Whatever, though, that’s not the point,” Seokjin continues, watching him eagerly. “How was it?”

“Good,” Jeongguk admits. He’s never really been one for spilling details about this sort of thing, much to Seokjin’s chagrin. “Very.”

“Oh my gooood,” Seokjin squeals, bouncing up and down excitedly on the couch. “Are you gonna do it again?”

Jeongguk’s stomach clenches. He wants to, so badly. “I shouldn’t.”

Seokjin frowns at him. “Why? Because of work?”

Jeongguk shrugs, determinedly avoiding Seokjin’s gaze. He doesn’t see a scenario in which this works out for him, so he may as well cut his losses now.

“Jeongguk,” Seokjin says intently, leaning in and touching his hand. He’s adopted his gentle, serious voice, the one he uses when he really wants Jeongguk to listen to him. “If you like him, you should go for it.”

“Maybe,” Jeongguk says, shifting uncomfortably. Sometimes, he really wishes his life was different, that he was different. “I’m tired, hyung - do you mind if I crash on your couch?”

“‘Course not,” he says, patting Jeongguk’s cheek. “As long as you help me clean up in the morning.”

Jeongguk groans but agrees, tugging a blanket over his body and settling down on the couch. Visions of Taehyung spill across his mind the second he closes his eyes, vivid and bright, and he falls asleep trying to forget the way Taehyung’s lips had felt against his.

***

Taehyung is stressed. Work has been absolutely insane this week - there’s a big push to get a few things out the door sooner than expected, and it has them all running wild, scrambling to incorporate last minute changes. The BT21 pitch is also fast approaching, which has Taehyung staying late and stealing any spare moment to work on his designs. He’s really pleased with how they’re coming along, but that doesn’t change the fact that he hasn’t eaten lunch in a week.

“You guys look like hell,” Hoseok says cheerfully, walking into a conference room where Taehyung and Jimin have been hiding. Taehyung would be offended, but he hasn’t showered in two days and he’s pretty sure Jimin has completely forgone his regular skin care routine this week, which is virtually unheard of.

“Tell HR we’re being overworked,” he grumbles, and Hoseok laughs.

“Sorry, is there anything I can do to help?” he says, sounding genuinely apologetic. “I could make you tea.”

“I think my heart might explode if I consume anymore caffeine,” Jimin sighs. His fingers are flying over his keyboard so quickly Taehyung can barely see them. “Wanna bring us food?”

“Oh,” Taehyung almost moans, his stomach rumbling. “Food would be so nice.”

Hoseok glances at his watch, concerned. “It’s 3pm, have you guys not eaten lunch?”

“Or breakfast,” Jimin says.

“We overslept,” Taehyung explains. They had been in the office until nearly midnight last night.

Hoseok looks horrified. “Okay, stay here, I’m bringing you all the food. Any requests?”

“Carbohydrates,” Jimin says decisively, and Taehyung moans again.

“Hey to you too, Taehyung,” comes a voice from the doorway, and Taehyung whips his head up, mortified, to find Hyungsik grinning lazily at him. “Having a good afternoon?”

“I,” Taehyung stammers, face heating up. “Yes. Just peachy.”

“Sounds like it.” He smirks, and Taehyung flushes deeper. Hyungsik has been extra flirty this week, completely effusive about his BT21 designs, and Taehyung isn’t sure how to feel about it. It’s flattering, and not entirely unwelcome, but Hyungsik is still his boss, and even Taehyung knows that hooking up with him would be a catastrophically bad idea. There’s also the complicating factor that Taehyung had accidentally made out with Hyungsik’s former best friend and current sworn enemy over the weekend, and it had been fucking hot. Oops.

“Am I seeing more BT21 designs from you today?” he asks.

“Yeah, I have a few more frames to show you,” Taehyung nods. “It just may be a little while.”

“Swing by my office whenever you’re ready,” Hyungsik says. “Even if it’s late.” He flashes a grin and ducks back out into the hallway.

When Taehyung turns back to Jimin and Hoseok, Jimin is still typing frantically, but Hoseok is watching him with a slightly furrowed brow.

“How do you like working for Hyungsik?” he asks.

Taehyung shrugs. “He’s nice. Attentive, supportive.”

Hoseok nods, thoughtful. “He doesn’t ever make you feel uncomfortable?”

“No,” Taehyung replies automatically, then pauses. He knows some of Hyungsik’s behavior towards him is unprofessional, maybe even borderline inappropriate. Maybe he’s been more forgiving of it than he should be because he finds him so attractive. “I mean, he can be... flirty. But I haven’t felt uncomfortable, really.”

“Okay,” Hoseok says slowly. “Well, obviously let me know if that changes. I’m gonna go get you two some serious Chinese takeout.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Taehyung says gratefully, mouth literally watering.

“You’re a god,” Jimin chimes in.

The next day, when Taehyung feels like his head might literally explode if he gets one more email, he escapes for a few minutes to make a coffee run at the place around the corner. He swings by Jimin’s desk on his way out to see if he wants anything, and Jimin just grunts in response, which Taehyung takes as a big yes.

Once he has retrieved the treasured caffeine, he pauses in front of the shop to snap a picture and send it to Jimin with the caption:

2 coffees with 2 extra shots of espresso coming right up!! lol rip us bye

When he looks up from his phone, he finds himself face to face with Jeon Jeongguk.

Jeongguk is standing, seemingly rooted to the sidewalk, observing Taehyung with wide eyes. He looks as unfairly sexy as ever, once again dressed in a suit, and Taehyung is forcefully reminded of Saturday night, and how it had felt when Jeongguk pinned him against the counter and kissed him. There’s no denying that Taehyung had found him attractive before that, but even he had been surprised by how strong his reaction was, and from nothing more than a makeout. Now, his body is positively itching to touch Jeongguk again.

Which makes the timing of this little run-in less than ideal, since Taehyung currently looks like he crawled out of the nearest dumpster. There are dark circles under his eyes, his hair closely resembles a rat’s nest, and he’s 95% certain his shirt is on backwards, inside out, or both.

Cool. Exactly how he wants to look when he bumps into the guy he’s supposed to hate but also low key (high key) wants to bang.

“Hey,” Jeongguk says. His gaze drops to the two coffees Taehyung is holding. “Rough day?”

“Rough week,” Taehyung replies. He really hopes there isn’t highlighter on his face. “What about y-”

“Will you have dinner with me?” Jeongguk blurts out.

What.

“Okay,” Taehyung replies.

Wait, what?!

Jeongguk looks just as surprised by his response as Taehyung had been by the question, and honestly Taehyung can’t blame him - he’s surprised too.

“Oh,” he says. “Okay, great. Umm - I’ll text you?”

“Cool,” Taehyung nods.

They exchange numbers and an awkward goodbye, and then Taehyung is tripping back to the office, mind racing. Had he just agreed to go on a date with Jeon Jeongguk? He’s so exhausted from this week that he honestly can’t even be sure it wasn’t all a dream.

“I think Jeon Jeongguk just asked me out,” he gasps, depositing Jimin’s coffee on his desk and collapsing in the empty chair next to him.

It takes a second to sink in, but then Jimin whips around so quickly Taehyung is afraid he’s hurt his neck. “Wait, what?! How? When?”

“I ran into him coming out of the coffee shop,” Taehyung explains.

“What did he say?!”

“He asked me to have dinner with him,” Taehyung says.

Jimin gapes at him, work completely forgotten. “And what did you say?!”

“I think I said yes,” Taehyung groans, sinking lower into the chair. “I don’t know, it’s all a blur.”

“You literally go outside for 10 minutes and a media mogul asks you to go to dinner,” Jimin says, shaking his head in disbelief. “Jesus Christ.”

“I’m so confused,” Taehyung breathes, staring blankly at his coffee cup. He’s certainly attracted to Jeongguk, but he hadn’t even expected to hook up with him again, let alone go on a freaking date.

“Why? He obviously likes you, I told you so.”

“I don’t even know if I like him, though,” Taehyung muses. His opinion of Jeongguk has improved a lot since they first met - he finds him intriguing, even kind of fun to talk to, once his guard is down - but he still has reservations from their first few encounters, not to mention what Hyungsik had told him.

“So?” Jimin shrugs. “You’ll find out, that’s what dates are for.”

“Maybe he’s just trying to get in my pants.”

“So then you get some fine rich boy dick,” Jimin responds, returning his attention to his email inbox, which has already started overflowing in the few minutes they’ve been talking. “It’s a win-win situation, really.”

Taehyung stays slumped in the chair, mulling over the situation in his mind. He’s not sure he would have said yes if he hadn’t been so caught off guard, but then again, Jeongguk is really fucking hot, and Taehyung’s interest had been piqued the past few times they’d seen each other. It had even been kind of fun to flirt with him at Seokjin’s party, and that kiss, shit. One date (or fuck) can’t hurt, he reasons.

“Don’t you have some stuffed animals to draw, or something?” Jimin snaps at him eventually. “Go away, you’re thinking too loudly.”

Taehyung is sure to cuff Jimin in the back of the head when he gets up to go back to his own desk.

***

It’s Thursday when Jeongguk accidentally on purpose runs into Taehyung in front of the coffee shop (he may have been stopping in there all week, hoping to catch a glimpse) and accidentally on purpose asks him on a date. By Sunday, he’s spent 3 days agonizing about it and decides that he can’t reasonably put off texting him any longer.

He goes to the gym in the morning to calm himself down, then spends nearly 20 minutes in the shower trying to figure out what to say in his text. By the time he emerges, his skin is bright red, but he still hasn’t made much progress. After much pacing and an embarrassingly frantic phone call to Seokjin, he settles on:

>hey, it’s jeongguk. are you free next saturday?<

Then he throws his phone to the other side of the couch as if he’s been burned and jogs several laps around his apartment to release some of his nervous energy. Fourteen minutes and ten laps later, he’s seriously considering pouring himself a glass of scotch when his phone buzzes with a response. It’s a lucky thing for Jeongguk that he lives alone, and therefore no one is around to witness him flinging himself across the coffee table to grab his phone.

>sure<

The text says, and Jeongguk breathes a very deep sigh of relief.

>what time and where?<

He’s given this question a lot of thought, since he can’t exactly be seen gallivanting around the city on a date with a guy.

>8pm? would you want to come to mine?<

>are you booty calling me a week in advance?<

Comes the response a little while later, and Jeongguk nearly drops his phone in his rush to respond. He hadn’t even really thought of how Taehyung might perceive his invitation, and now he’s mortified.

>no! sorry, i just can’t really date publicly?<
>sorry<
>i can cook<

He winces, firing off the texts as quickly as possible. This is a disaster already, he should have known better.

But then Taehyung responds with:

>can you cook?<

Jeongguk considers this. He rarely cooks for himself, but Seokjin had offered to teach him a few tricks. Inviting Taehyung over had been Seokjin’s idea to begin with, and he had admit it seemed like the best solution to his quandary of not being able to go out with a guy in public, even if it’s a little romantic for Jeongguk’s personal taste.

>...i can read a recipe<

>good enough for me<

And Jeongguk can’t help it, he does a little happy dance right there on his couch.

The week passes in a mix of excitement, nerves, and crippling self-doubt. Every time his phone vibrates, he’s convinced it’s Taehyung, texting him to cancel or to tell Jeongguk to fuck off. When it transpires that the message is actually from Seokjin or someone else, he’s at first relieved, then newly terrified when he remembers that he has a fucking date with a guy he actually likes on Saturday.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Why did he think this was a good idea? It’s Seokjin’s fault, really, for putting the thought in his head in the first place. He hadn’t even really made up his mind about it when he ran into Taehyung, but the words had just come spewing out, entirely of their own volition. Taehyung is too fucking attractive (although it looked like he hadn’t slept in a week when Jeongguk saw him), and clearly it’s making Jeongguk lose his mind.

He doesn’t even know why Taehyung had said yes, since other than their recent kiss and that conversation by the pool, Taehyung has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t like Jeongguk very much. Maybe he’s just trying to get laid, or maybe Namjoon had put him up to it because of Seokjin. Or maybe - maybe it’s that he knows Jeongguk is rich, and is trying to see what he can get out of him. He doesn’t think Taehyung is like that, but he’s been down this road before, and the very thought makes him nauseous.

This, he reminds himself, is why he doesn’t date.

It’s this line of thinking that leads him to very nearly cancel on Wednesday, until Seokjin physically wrestles the phone from his hand and refuses to give it back for several hours. On Friday, instead of going out, Seokjin forces him into a floral apron and then gives him a crash course in cooking, which encouragingly isn’t quite as disastrous as Jeongguk had expected. By the time he falls into bed that night, a little buzzed from a few post-dinner drinks with Seokjin, he’s starting to think that maybe, possibly, he can pull this off.

***

“What the fuck am I supposed to wear?” Taehyung wails, staring at the contents of his closet dejectedly. Jimin is lying on his bed, alternately talking Taehyung off the ledge and trying to help him decide what to wear tonight. “Fuck, do I need to wear a suit?”

“Just wear what you would on any other date,” Jimin says for the seventeenth time. “It’s just dinner at his apartment, not some bougie restaurant.”

“Yeah, but what if he has, like, butlers?” Taehyung asks wildly.

Jimin raises his eyebrows. “He’s rich, not royalty, you idiot. We saw Seokjin’s apartment, remember? It’s probably like that.”

Seokjin’s apartment had been about seven times the size of theirs and considerably nicer, but otherwise pretty normal. No butlers or diamond chandeliers in sight, although there was a doorman in his building.

He ultimately settles on an oversized red sweater and black jeans, which Jimin approves because the wide neckline is “kinda sexy but in a subtle way, you know? Plus red makes people think of sex.” Taehyung isn’t sure if this a good thing or not, but he can’t bring himself to start over with looking for another shirt.

Jimin also supervises the styling of his hair, during which time Taehyung has his fourth meltdown of the day and once again weighs the pros and cons of cancelling at the last minute. He’s nervous about seeing Jeongguk, nervous they won’t have anything to talk about, nervous of what will happen when they’re alone together again.

“Shut up, you’re going,” Jimin says exasperatedly, literally pushing him out the door. “And remember to pick up a bottle of wine on your way.”

So that’s how Taehyung finds himself standing at Jeon Jeongguk’s door at 8:06pm, moderately priced bottle of red wine in hand, stomach twisting itself in knots. He’d had to give himself a pep talk before walking into the building, pacing back and forth on the sidewalk outside, and the doorman had given him a funny look when he finally worked up the courage to come in.

The door opens and Jeongguk appears, dressed in all black once again, sleeves rolled up to expose a very nice set of forearms. Predictably, he looks just as handsome as Taehyung remembers, if a little flustered.

“Hey,” he says, looking almost surprised to see Taehyung. “Come in.”

“Hi,” Taehyung replies, stepping inside. He holds up the bottle in his hand. “I, uh, brought wine.”

“Oh, thanks,” Jeongguk says. He seems distracted, and Taehyung wonders if he’s already regretting this date. “I’ll go grab some glasses from the kitchen.”

“I can help,” Taehyung offers, starting to follow him.

“No!” Jeongguk nearly yelps, then immediately looks embarrassed. “I mean, no, it’s fine, just sit down and I’ll be right back.”

Perplexed, Taehyung takes a seat on a large couch in what he assumes is the living room (an actual, distinct living room, unlike the amorphous common area that houses TV, couch and kitchen in his and Jimin’s apartment) and looks around. The apartment is tasteful and spacious, with big windows and a lot of neutral colored furniture. It’s clearly light years nicer than anywhere Taehyung will live in the next 30 years (or possibly ever), but Jimin had been right - it’s not oppressively opulent like the house where the Gala had been hosted.

When Jeongguk doesn’t reappear within a few minutes, Taehyung starts to get concerned, wondering if he’d snuck out through a back entrance or something like that. He gets up and wanders down the hallway (a hallway! In an apartment!) where he’d seen Jeongguk walk until he hears noise coming from a doorway to his left. There’s a clang, followed by Jeongguk swearing, and then Taehyung steps through the door to find him hunched over the stove.

“Is everything okay?” he asks, and Jeongguk jumps about a foot in the air, whirling around.

“Shit, you scared me,” he says. His usually stoic composure has slipped slightly, and suddenly he looks so young, his face open and vulnerable. Taehyung had been stunned when he first learned Jeongguk was younger than him, but now, for the first time, he can see it.

“How’s the recipe-reading going?” Taehyung inquires, surveying the kitchen. It looks a little bit like a bomb had gone off in here, dirty dishes and stray ingredients strewn everywhere. In the pan on the stove behind Jeongguk, Taehyung sees what appears to be several burnt pieces of chicken.

“Umm.” Jeongguk clears his throat, expression strained. “It’s taking, just, a little longer than anticipated, sorry-”

“You know,” Taehyung interrupts, grabbing a corkscrew off the counter and starting to open the wine. “I really like takeout too.”

Relief floods Jeongguk’s face, and Taehyung can’t help but smile in return.

“Are you sure?” Jeongguk asks nervously. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have said I could cook.” He assesses the damage surrounding him. “Clearly.”

Taehyung waves him off, pouring them each a generous glass of wine. “My idea of cooking is microwaving instant ramen, so really, don’t worry about it.” He extends one of the glasses to Jeongguk, who accepts. “You get an A for effort.”

Jeongguk flashes him a rueful grin, and Taehyung thinks this might be the first time he’s seen him really, truly smile. It changes his whole face.

“Alright, well, any takeout requests? My treat, obviously.”

Taehyung shrugs. “I’ll eat literally anything.”

“Korean BBQ?”

“A man after my own heart,” Taehyung says, and the tips of Jeongguk’s ears go pink.

They order a somewhat obscene amount of food, and then Jeongguk leads him back out into the living room, where they settle on to the couch with their wine.

“So, in addition to tequila, you also drink wine,” Taehyung observes. “And here I was thinking you only drank scotch.”

“Only when I’m feeling like a smug asshole,” Jeongguk quips, and Taehyung’s mouth falls open. He hadn’t expected bantering with Jeongguk to be this easy.

“Was that a joke, Jeon Jeongguk?” Taehyung mock gasps. “I didn’t know you had it in you.”

Jeongguk laughs, his nose scrunching up in a way that’s disarmingly endearing, and shakes his head. “It’s been known to happen occasionally.”

When their food arrives, they spread it out on Jeongguk’s fancy glass coffee table, an impressive assortment of meats and side dishes.

“We may have slightly over ordered,” Jeongguk remarks as they load up their plates.

Taehyung scoffs in response. “No such thing when it comes to Korean BBQ.”

“Sorry, I know this isn’t much compared to a dinner at a nice restaurant, or something,” Jeongguk says. When Taehyung glances over, he finds Jeongguk poking broodily at his food.

“I’m not really one for fancy restaurants anyway,” Taehyung assures him, nudging his foot.

This seems to appease Jeongguk, and he glances up at Taehyung with a grateful smile. It’s so interesting to see this side of him - shy, fumbling, worried about what Taehyung thinks. He’s not entirely sure how they got here, but he finds himself enjoying Jeongguk’s company more and more as he gets to know him better.

The conversation flows easily as they work their way through the rest of the bottle of wine and, impressively, the majority of the food they’d ordered. They talk about work, hobbies, music, friends - as it turns out, they actually have more in common than Taehyung had expected. Jeongguk is still a little guarded, not exactly forthcoming with the details of his life, but he seems genuinely interested in everything Taehyung has to say, which is more than can be said for most of the guys Taehyung goes out with.

“Are you close with your family?” Jeongguk asks, draining the last burgundy drop of wine from his glass. They've arranged themselves opposite each other on the couch, calves brushing slightly, but nothing more than that. It’s kind of nice, although a part of Taehyung is itching to get his hands on Jeongguk.

“Very,” Taehyung says, smiling fondly. “I don’t see them as much as I’d like to, but we talk a lot. They’re like, my rock.”

“That’s nice.”

Taehyung nods. “What about you?” he asks, then immediately regrets it when Jeongguk’s expression hardens.

“Not with my parents, even though obviously I work with my father,” he says grimly. “We don’t see eye to eye on much, as you probably gathered. I used to be close with my brother, but it’s harder now, since he walked away from the business.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says softly. He wants to reach out for Jeongguk, but he’s not sure his touch would be welcomed. “That must be tough for you.”

For someone so outwardly privileged, Taehyung continues to be surprised by how much pain Jeongguk carries with him. Apparently money really can’t solve all your problems.

“It’s not great,” Jeongguk admits. “I always wanted a family like yours, really close knit. But that was never going to happen with my dad, and the company.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung all but whispers.

Jeongguk shrugs. “It is what it is. I’m used to it by now.”

For the first time that night, silence settles around them, and Taehyung scrambles for some way to lighten the mood.

“Wanna dance?” he asks suddenly. There’s music playing quietly in the background, even though he hadn’t really noticed it until just now.

Jeongguk looks at him in surprise. “Umm.”

“Sorry, I know you gave it up,” Taehyung says quickly, wondering if this had been another wrong thing to say. “I just thought -”

“Okay,” Jeongguk cuts him off.

“Yeah?”

“Sure.” He presses a few buttons on a remote, and the music becomes louder, something slow and a little sultry.

They stand up, and Taehyung lets out a tiny gasp when Jeongguk pulls him close, his hand fitting around Taehyung’s waist. It’s just a slow dance, nothing more than swaying, really, but Taehyung can feel the ease with which Jeongguk’s body moves, and it makes him shiver. He wonders what Jeongguk had been like as a dancer, how talented he was. It must have been a pretty big part of his life if giving it up had been so difficult for him.

“Do you miss it?” Taehyung asks, because he’s never had much of a brain to mouth filter.

Still, he’s almost surprised when Jeongguk responds honestly rather than closing off or pushing him away. “Yes,” he says quietly.

And Taehyung decides he doesn’t need to push it any farther than that right now.

He loops his arms loosely around Jeongguk’s neck, edging closer until he can feel Jeongguk’s breath against his lips. The scent of his cologne and the heat of his body seeps into Taehyung’s senses, makes him heady with desire. He’s never really been one for rational decision making, preferring to just follow whatever feels right, but the intensity of this feeling is overwhelming even to him. They’re not even really doing anything yet, just moving in time to the music, and it already feels like there’s electricity sparking between their bodies.

Jeongguk’s mouth drops to his neck, pressing a line of kisses down to his collarbone. Taehyung inhales sharply, head tipping sideways to grant him better access, and vaguely he can imagine Jimin’s smug grin when Taehyung tells him about this. He doesn’t care, honestly, will gladly take the teasing “told you so” in exchange for the feeling of Jeongguk’s tongue tracing along his clavicle.

When it gets to be almost too much, Taehyung tugs lightly at Jeongguk’s hair, tilting his face back up so that he can kiss him properly. It’s just as hot as it had been the first time, Jeongguk’s lips firm and insistent as he kisses Taehyung senseless. His hand feels so big splayed across Taehyung’s back, and the other comes up grip his jaw, holding Taehyung in place as Jeongguk licks into his mouth. His body seems to thrum with barely contained energy, and Taehyung wonders what it would feel like to have that unleashed on him, what he can do to make that happen.

“Do you have a bed?” he breathes, too turned on to care whether that sounded sexy or stupid. Jeongguk seems to think the former, grip tightening on Taehyung’s waist as he exhales a “yes” and nods fervently.

“Take me there,” Taehyung says decisively, and Jeongguk groans, taking his hand and leading him down the hallway in the opposite direction of the kitchen.

They get sidetracked when Taehyung decides he needs to feel Jeongguk’s lips on his again, tugging at his hand until he spins around and presses Taehyung up against the nearest wall. Taehyung slips his hands up under Jeongguk’s shirt, skimming appreciatively over his toned torso (god, he can’t wait to have his mouth all over that), and Jeongguk responds by wedging his thigh between Taehyung’s legs.

“Fuck,” Taehyung gasps, head falling back against the wall as he resists the urge to blatantly rut down against Jeongguk’s leg. He’s well on his way to being fully hard, and he’s sure Jeongguk can tell, but that doesn’t mean he needs to toss all of his dignity out the door just yet.

“Jesus, you’re perfect,” Jeongguk breathes, and Taehyung doesn’t even realize his eyes had fallen shut until they snap back open to find Jeongguk gazing at him intently, almost reverently.

“Thought I was nothing special,” Taehyung says, and it’s supposed to be a jab but it comes out sounding more like a whimper, because the way Jeongguk is looking at him makes his legs turn to jelly.

“I lied,” Jeongguk says roughly, tugging impatiently at Taehyung’s shirt until he gets the message and lifts his arms up, allowing Jeongguk to pull it off. Jeongguk catches his wrists before he can drop them, pinning them over his head and diving back in to graze his teeth along Taehyung’s neck. “I’ve wanted to fuck you since the moment I saw you.”

Taehyung whines in earnest this time, arching into Jeongguk’s touch, his words making Taehyung’s head spin. “Take me to your fucking bedroom,” he demands, voice raw, and Jeongguk shudders, biting down at the juncture between Taehyung’s throat and shoulder.

Instead of backing away like Taehyung had expected, Jeongguk lifts him up right there, hands gripping the backs of Taehyung’s thighs. Taehyung lets out a rather undignified squeal, legs clenching around Jeongguk’s waist, but he gets over it quickly enough when Jeongguk starts kissing him again. Even though they’re practically the same height, Jeongguk carries him like he weighs nothing, and fuck if that isn’t sexy as hell.

Taehyung’s first glimpse of Jeongguk’s bedroom is a blur, more neutral colors swimming by in his peripheral vision before he’s deposited on a navy blue comforter. The bed is surprisingly comfortable - for some reason he had imagined Jeongguk sleeping on some sort of military style cot. The rest of the room is spacious but otherwise sparsely decorated, and to the right there’s a set of glass doors that he’s guessing open out on to some sort of balcony. That’s the last thing he registers before Jeongguk is discarding his own shirt and crawling over him, mouthing hotly over his chest and rib cage.

Something about the way Jeongguk touches him makes Taehyung feel worshipped, and it’s ridiculous because they don’t even know each other that well, and Jeongguk is probably just really good in bed. Taehyung knows all of this, but he lets himself get lost in it anyway, basks in the way Jeongguk’s fingers burn across his skin, how he can’t seem to pull his eyes or hands away, even for a moment. It makes him feel sexy, wanted, and who knew Jeon Jeongguk would be the one to bring this out in him?

You’re perfect.

He grabs Jeongguk’s waist, pulling him down until their groins rub together, and Taehyung gasps when he finds Jeongguk just as hard as he is. Jeongguk hisses in response, rocking his hips down hard against Taehyung’s, and if they’re not careful Taehyung might end up coming just from this. He’d told himself he wasn’t going to sleep with Jeongguk tonight, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

“Can I fuck you?” Jeongguk breathes, as if reading Taehyung’s mind. He’s holding himself up over Taehyung, biceps on glorious display, eyes dark and searching under his fringe. To be honest, Taehyung is kind of surprised that he’s asking at all, is used to guys just flipping him over or something equally blunt. It’s nice, though, kind of sweet, and the slightly apprehensive look on Jeongguk’s face is more endearing than Taehyung would care to admit.

“Yes,” Taehyung practically whispers, and Jeongguk’s eyes flutter shut for just a second before he’s reaching for the button of Taehyung’s jeans. They fumble through removing their pants, laughing a little at the awkward logistics, and Jeongguk briefly palms him through his underwear, making Taehyung’s heels slip over the comforter as he bucks up into his hand.

Then they’re completely naked, and Taehyung’s cheeks burn a little because Jeongguk is just sitting there staring at him hungrily while he warms up the lube in his hand. It’s always a little weird the first time with someone new, especially being fingered by someone new, and quite frankly Taehyung is usually drunker than this and falling into some stranger’s bed. He’s not used to dinner and conversation before, to someone taking their time and warming up the lube and looking at him like he’s something special.

“Ready?” Jeongguk asks hoarsely, sliding a pillow under Taehyung’s hips and pushing his legs apart.

Taehyung nods, biting his lip until Jeongguk leans down and kisses him, one finger circling Taehyung’s hole. He jolts at the sensation, hands sinking into Jeongguk’s hair as he eases his finger inside. It burns a little, like it always does at first, but Jeongguk is patient and gentle and good at this and soon Taehyung is squirming around two fingers, breathing raggedly into Jeongguk’s mouth.

“Can you take a third?” Jeongguk asks, breathless, making Taehyung whimper when he scissors his fingers experimentally.

“I’m about to take your cock, so I should hope so,” Taehyung gasps out, laughing a little when Jeongguk chokes at his answer.

“Jesus Christ,” he groans, working a third finger in. “Fuck, you’re so tight.”

Taehyung whines, writhing a little, and Jeongguk just kisses him through it, lips along his jawline, until Taehyung is rasping out: “Okay, now.”

Jeongguk scrambles into position, rolling on the condom and slicking up his cock while Taehyung watches dazedly. His chest is flushed, a little damp, and if Taehyung ever gets to do this again he’d like to dedicate a full hour of his time to licking every inch of Jeongguk’s perfect abdomen. He hitches Taehyung’s legs up around his hips and slides in slowly, watching Taehyung’s face closely even as his own breathing stutters.

“Yeah, move,” Taehyung urges him, pressing his heels lightly into Jeongguk’s ass (it’s a really nice ass, Taehyung notes).

Jeongguk grunts, arms coming down on either side of Taehyung’s head as his hips snap forward. They both cry out, and then they’re fucking in earnest, every press of Jeongguk’s cock against his prostate making Taehyung delirious. He claws at Jeongguk’s back, fingers digging in as Jeongguk hooks one of his legs higher, shifting the angle slightly.

Each drag sends a shock of pleasure through Taehyung’s body, and he reaches for his cock, lying neglected and aching against his stomach. When Jeongguk notices, he pushes Taehyung’s hand away gently, pulling them into a seated position.

“Let me,” he murmurs, wrapping his fist around Taehyung’s cock while Taehyung starts to ride him. With his arms looped around Jeongguk’s neck and his head resting on Jeongguk’s shoulder, Taehyung fucks back on to his cock and forward into his fist until he comes, spilling across Jeongguk’s hand and stomach.

“Oh, fuck,” he gasps, clinging to Jeongguk as he rides out the aftershocks, until Jeongguk groans and his hips stutter to a halt, still inside Taehyung.

“Jesus Christ,” Jeongguk says as they flop backwards onto his bed.

Taehyung has to agree with that sentiment - it’s been a while since he’s had sex this good.

“Yeah,” he breathes, wincing a little as Jeongguk pulls out of him. He rolls off of the bed to toss the condom, then vanishes into what Taehyung assumes is a bathroom and reappears with a damp washcloth.

“Thanks,” Taehyung murmurs as he wipes them both down. It feels oddly tender, especially when Jeongguk sets the washcloth aside and kisses him softly.

“You can stay, if you want,” he says when Taehyung tries and fails to stifle a yawn.

“Oh,” Taehyung says, surprised. He glances over at the clock on Jeongguk’s bedside table - it’s nearly midnight. The prospect of making the trek home right now is extremely unappealing, especially now that he’s all loose-limbed and sleepy post-sex. It feels like crossing a line to stay over in someone’s bed the same night as your first date, but then again maybe Taehyung had barreled right past that line when he slept with Jeongguk in the first place. All of these decisions sound like things for tomorrow Taehyung to deal with, which is why he says: “Okay.”

Jeongguk’s mouth curves into a small smile, like he hadn’t been expecting Taehyung to say yes (which is fair, considering Taehyung also hadn’t expected himself to say yes). They slip back into their underwear and curl up under the comforter, facing each other but not quite touching.

“Your bed is extremely soft,” Taehyung informs him with a yawn. “And very large.”

“Thanks,” Jeongguk chuckles. He looks soft and cute like this, one cheek pressed into a big, fluffy pillow. “It’s a king.”

(Of course it is. Meanwhile, Taehyung’s measly double barely fits in his bedroom.)

“Lots of room for activities,” Taehyung says, wiggling his eyebrows in a way that, in retrospect, is probably not very sexy.

But Jeongguk laughs anyway, kicking Taehyung lightly under the covers. It’s almost like he’s a different person entirely from Taehyung’s first impression of him - gentle, considerate, funny. Taehyung is glad he agreed to come on this date.

The conversation meanders on for a little while longer, slowing until they’re not doing much more than humming in the other’s general direction. Taehyung is vaguely aware of Jeongguk leaning over him to turn a light off, and then the room is dark as he drifts off to sleep.

***

When Jeongguk wakes up on Sunday morning to find another person in his bed, he nearly has a heart attack. When he realizes said person is Kim Taehyung, looking positively angelic with his bare chest glowing practically golden in the morning sunlight, he nearly has a heart attack for an entirely different set of reasons.

It’s been years since Jeongguk has had someone spend the night in his bed. Even in his early days at Bangtan, when he was still sneakily sleeping around, he rarely invited his hookups back to his apartment, and if he did they always left after the sex. Seokjin stays over sometimes after particularly rowdy nights out, but that doesn’t really count, and he usually passes out on the couch (or the floor) anyway.

The most unsettling part of all of this is Taehyung hadn’t even asked to stay - it had been Jeongguk who extended the invitation, too happy and fucked out to really consider the implications of what he was saying. He doesn’t regret it, necessarily, especially not when Taehyung looks so stunning, but it does make his stomach twist uncomfortably. What are they going to talk about when Taehyung wakes up? Should Jeongguk make breakfast, or is that too couple-y? And most importantly, where the hell do they go from here? Jeongguk wants to see him again, can’t imagine not seeing him again after last night, but he’s not exactly in a position to seriously date someone right now.

Not wanting to disturb Taehyung, who still seems to be sleeping peacefully, Jeongguk rolls out of bed, slips on a pair of sweats, and pads into the kitchen. He’s itching to get to the gym, maybe sweat out some of his confusion, but he’s not about to leave Taehyung alone, so he settles for cleaning up the mess he’d left behind in his attempt to cook the night before. Fifteen minutes later, he’s elbow deep in a sudsy pile of dishes when Taehyung’s voice once again takes him by surprise.

“Morning,” he says sleepily, and Jeongguk’s stomach does a backflip when he looks up and finds Taehyung standing in the doorway to the kitchen, dressed only in his boxers and that oversized red sweater. It’s slipping off his shoulder right now, exposing a bruise on his collarbone that Jeongguk realizes with a jolt he must have left last night. He looks like the sexiest fucking thing Jeongguk has ever seen, and Jeongguk just wants to stretch him out on the kitchen table and do fucking everything to him.

Fuck, this is so bad.

“Hey,” he replies, extracting his soapy hands from the sink in much the same way he should be extracting his mind from the gutter. “How’d you sleep?”

“Really well,” Taehyung says with a smile. “That bed is magical.”

Jeongguk resists the urge to suggest they get back into said bed like, immediately.

“Attempting more recipe reading in here?” Taehyung asks, eyeing the towering pile of dishes.

“Just cleaning up the damage from last night,” Jeongguk says ruefully. After such a rocky start, it kind of amazes him how easy it is to talk to Taehyung. “Do you, umm - want breakfast, or anything?”

Taehyung pauses, biting his lip. “I should probably head out. Thanks, though.”

Jeongguk’s stomach drops a little at this response, but he forces a smile on to his face. “Oh, yeah. No problem.”

Jeongguk lingers awkwardly while Taehyung collects his stuff, reemerging from Jeongguk’s room fully dressed (regrettably). They walk together to the front door, and there’s a moment of uncomfortable silence where they both seem to puzzle over the appropriate etiquette for saying goodbye after a first-date-turned-sex-sleepover.

“Thanks again,” Taehyung ultimately says. “Last night was... fun.” He bites back a smile, and god, he’s so fucking cute.

“Can we do this again?” Jeongguk blurts out, face heating up. He doesn’t even know what “this” is, exactly, or what he’s asking for, but he knows he needs to see Taehyung again.

“If the sex is going to be like that, I think we probably should,” Taehyung replies, grin widening when Jeongguk splutters in response. He leans in, pressing his mouth to Jeongguk’s briefly, teeth catching on Jeongguk’s lower lip. Jeongguk makes a rather embarrassing noise in response, but Taehyung is twisting away before he can do anything else (like, say, carry him back to the bedroom and fuck that smug grin right off his face).

“See you soon, Jeon Jeongguk,” Taehyung says with a wink, and then he’s out the door.

***

“KIM TAEHYUNG,” Jimin thunders as soon as Taehyung walks in the door. His wrath is somewhat undermined by the fact that he’s wearing a pink apron and wielding a spatula. “I HAVE BEEN WORRIED SICK.”

Taehyung winces, dropping onto one of the kitchen stools. On his way home from Jeongguk’s, he’d discovered a series of increasingly irate texts from Jimin asking for confirmation that he was in fact alive.

“Sorry, Jiminie,” Taehyung says apologetically. “I was at Jeongguk’s, you knew that.”

“Yes, but I didn’t know you were spending the night!” Jimin huffs, stirring his pancake mix with a little more force than is probably necessary. “A heads up text would have been nice, I thought you had been ABDUCTED on your way home!”

“Sorry,” Taehyung says again. “I was a little too distracted to text.”

“Or you could have been run over by a - wait.” Jimin whirls around, advancing on Taehyung with the spatula. “You guys totally boned, didn’t you.”

Taehyung flashes him a shit-eating grin. “Maybe.”

“Weren’t you not going to sleep with him?” Jimin asks, quirking an eyebrow. “Didn’t you tell me to shut up when I told you the color red makes people think of sex?”

“Like, yes, but he’s so fucking hot,” Taehyuhg groans. “And we were actually having fun and then we started hooking up and... yeah.” He trails off, toes curling as he remembers.

Jimin glares at him. “So to be clear, while I was home worrying about your safety, you were off banging a sexy millionaire.”

Taehyung considers. “Yep, that sounds about right.”

“I hate you,” Jimin grumbles, pouring some of the pancake batter into a frying pan. “You don’t get any pancakes.”

Taehyung pouts. “I said I was sorry! I’ll text next time, promise.”

“Is there gonna be a next time?” Jimin asks, looking over his shoulder in surprise.

“I dunno,” Taehyung shrugs, backtracking. He definitely wants to hook up with Jeongguk again, but he’d also kind of enjoyed hanging out with him last night. “But the sex was insane, so I hope so.”

“That good?”

“That good,” Taehyung confirms. “And his bed is basically the size of our entire apartment.”

“Damn,” Jimin says, impressed. “I need a millionaire.”

At that moment, their buzzer sounds, loud and obnoxious, and they both jump. Two years of living in this apartment, and they still haven’t gotten used to it.

“Who’s that?” Taehyung asks, sneaking a pancake when Jimin bustles over to the door to buzz whoever it is in.

“Yoongi hyung,” Jimin replies, and Taehyung fights to keep his expression neutral. “He was complaining about Namjoon going to brunch with Seokjin, so I invited him over for breakfast.”

“That’s cute,” Taehyung says innocently, stuffing a bite into his mouth. “Want me to go hide in my bedroom, give you two some alone time?”

“Shut up,” Jimin snaps, but Taehyung swears his cheeks go a little pink. “And stop eating that, I told you you don’t get any.”

Taehyung ignores him, taking another bite. Yoongi arrives at their door a few minutes later, completely out of breath from climbing their stairs.

“I fucking hate those stairs,” he says by way of greeting, flinging himself down on their couch. “I don’t know how you guys do that every day.”

“That’s why Jimin has such a cute butt,” Taehyung comments, enjoying the flustered blush that rises on Yoongi’s cheeks.

“Taehyung here just got back from a slumber party at Jeongguk’s,” Jimin announces, scowling at Taehyung and snatching his plate away before he can take another pancake.

“As in Jeon Jeongguk?” Yoongi asks, sitting up. “Jesus, first Namjoon, now you. I better get a record deal out of this.”

“To clarify, Jeongguk and I had sex one time,” Taehyung says. “Namjoon and Seokjin are like, in love and stuff.”

“I thought you didn’t even like Jeongguk,” Yoongi says, frowning. “Isn’t he kind of an asshole?”

Taehyung shrugs, reaching for another pancake and wincing when Jimin smacks his hand away. “He’s alright. Kind of broody and mysterious, but not as bad as I thought.”

“Well, congrats on the sex, then,” Yoongi says, shifting over on the couch to make room for Jimin, who’s arrived with a stack of pancakes and a bottle of maple syrup. “Thanks, Jiminie, this looks great.”

Jimin beams at him, and Taehyung has to admit the two of them make a very cute, very tiny pair folded up on the couch together.

“Aren’t you guys just the picture of domesticity,” Taehyung comments, smile widening when Jimin glares at him. “I’m gonna go shower, since Jimin refuses to feed me. Enjoy.”

***

As far as days go, Wednesday is a pretty shitty one. Jeongguk’s day is packed with meetings, and he feels like he doesn’t have a second to breathe, let alone get any of his actual work done. His dad is in an especially nasty mood, barking out orders and insults in a rapid fire fashion, and on top of all that there’s the fact that he and Taehyung haven’t spoken since Taehyung left his apartment on Sunday morning.

“Just text him,” Seokjin says for the third time. “He spent the night in your apartment, he must have at least some interest.”

The problem is, Jeongguk doesn’t even know what he would say in a text. It’s not like he can take Taehyung out on an actual date, and even if he could, he’s not sure that’s what this is. He supposes he could just invite Taehyung over again, but that feels sort of like a booty call, and he’s not sure that’s what this is either.

“And say what?” Jeongguk asks. “I like you and I can’t stop thinking about fucking you but I can’t date you but let’s hang out anyway?”

“Nice and direct, I like it,” Seokjin says.

Jeongguk groans in frustration.

“Seriously, do it,” Seokjin urges, standing up. “Sorry to leave you in such a fragile state, but I have to go sit in on a meeting about Namjoon and Yoongi’s demo.”

“You’re actually sponsoring that?” Jeongguk asks, surprised.

Seokjin’s brow furrows in confusion. “Yeah, of course. It’s really good.”

Jeongguk frowns. “Does Namjoon know?”

“Yes...” Seokjin says slowly. “Why?”

“I just, do you think that’s a good idea?” Jeongguk says cautiously. “I know you like him, but what if he’s... taking advantage?”

Seokjin’s face falls. “You really think he’s just using me to get his music noticed?”

Jeongguk thinks back to the interactions he’s witnessed between Seokjin and Namjoon - it’s obvious that Seokjin is smitten, but Namjoon is harder to read.

“I didn’t say that,” he hedges, hating how upset Seokjin looks. “I just don’t want you to get hurt, or manipulated.”

“I trust him,” Seokjin says quietly.

Jeongguk raises his hands in surrender. “Okay. Sorry.”

Seokjin leaves for his meeting, still looking unsettled, and Jeongguk is left feeling even shittier than he had before. He hides his phone under a stack of papers and decides to bury himself in work for the next few hours.

When he finally resurfaces and checks the time, it’s 10pm, the sky faded to black outside his office window. More notably, there’s a text from Taehyung on his phone, sent approximately 15 minutes earlier.

>whatcha doin<

Jeongguk blinks down at his phone, stunned, and hurries to type a response.

>still at the office, shitty day<

Taehyung’s answer comes while he’s still staring down at his phone, mind racing.

>wanna come take it out on me?<

Jeongguk chokes on his own spit, nearly dropping his phone. Was that a sext? It feels kind of like a sext.

He surveys the papers stacked around him and the long list of unread emails in his inbox, sighing. He should really stay and get some more work done, but he’s pretty sure Kim Taehyung just propositioned him and there’s not a chance in hell he’s going to turn that down.

>be there soon<

Taehyung lives on the top floor of a six floor walk up (who knew those even existed?), and even with how regularly he works out, Jeongguk is still out of breath by the time he gets to Taehyung’s door. He takes a moment to collect himself and catch his breath, stomach twisting nervously.

Taehyung answers the door looking like something out of one of Jeongguk’s wet dreams, dressed in a loose fitting white T-shirt and a pair of slim legged sweatpants. It really shouldn’t be this sexy - he’s essentially in pajamas, for God’s sake - but he looks so soft and pliant and fuckable that Jeongguk is really not thinking straight.

“Hey,” Taehyung says, raking his eyes over Jeongguk’s body and biting his lip. Jeongguk feels like he’s on fire.

“Hi,” Jeongguk replies, stepping inside. It’s a small apartment, but clean and cozy, one wall made up entirely of exposed brick. There’s a wide, low couch not far from the front door, and Jeongguk wonders if it would be inappropriate to just toss Taehyung on it and have his way with him right there.

“Bad day?” Taehyung asks, walking backwards into the apartment. Jeongguk follows him like a lost puppy.

“The fucking worst,” Jeongguk says, unable to keep the frustration out of his voice.

Taehyung’s back hits a closed door, and he pauses there, watching Jeongguk through hooded eyes.

“Maybe I can help,” he murmurs, and Jeongguk crowds right up into his space, sliding an arm around his waist and kissing him hard. Taehyung whimpers against his mouth, threading his hands into Jeongguk’s hair and tugging lightly.

They kiss just like this for a while, heated and desperate, Jeongguk’s hand slipping up under Taehyung’s shirt and skimming over the smooth skin of his torso. He can’t get over how responsive Taehyung is, shivering under Jeongguk’s touch and curving forward so that their bodies are pressed flush together. Kissing alone has never felt so electric before, always a means to an end, but with Taehyung he feels like he could do it for hours.

When Jeongguk’s hands slide down to his ass, Taehyung fumbles behind him for the door knob, twisting it until they’re both stumbling backwards into what he assumes is Taehyung’s bedroom. It’s tiny, barely fitting a bed, bedside table, and dresser, but Jeongguk likes it - there are photographs and drawings all over the walls, a variety of odd knickknacks covering every available surface. It feels homey, lived in.

Taehyung kicks the door shut behind them and pushes Jeongguk down on to his bed, dropping to his knees between his legs. His hands grip Jeongguk’s knees, sliding up his thighs slowly while he shoots Jeongguk a coy look. Jeongguk stares back at him intently, heart pounding, cock twitching at being in such close proximity to Taehyung. He’s completely entranced, desperate to see what Taehyung will do next.

“Gonna suck you off,” Taehyung murmurs, reaching for Jeongguk’s belt and letting his wrist brush against Jeongguk’s erection in a way that has to be deliberate. “Heard blow jobs are good for stress relief.”

Jeongguk lets out a sort of strangled moan, lifting his hips up so that Taehyung can tug down his pants and boxers. Something about this happening while he’s still dressed in his work clothes has him really riled up - Taehyung pulling at the expensive material of his pants, impatiently pushing his dress shirt out of the way. He wraps a fist around Jeongguk’s cock, stroking him a few times before tonguing at the head.

“Jesus, fuck,” Jeongguk groans when Taehyung’s mouth sinks down over his length, meeting where his fist is still circling the base. His mouth is so hot, perfect lips stretching around Jeongguk’s cock, and he glances up occasionally like he knows exactly what he’s doing to Jeongguk right now. Taehyung knows how to suck a fucking dick, that’s for sure, and Jeongguk is hit by an entirely irrational wave of jealousy when he thinks about him doing this with anyone else.

After waging a brief, ultimately losing battle with himself, Jeongguk surrenders to the urge to sink his hands into Taehyung’s hair. It just looks so soft, and it feels so soft, and on top of all of that Taehyung fucking hums when he does it, taking Jeongguk’s cock deeper. He likes it, Jeongguk realizes with a shock of arousal, tightening his grip and groaning when Taehyung’s eyes flutter shut.

“Fuck, Taehyung,” he rasps out. He could easily come down Taehyung’s throat right now, but there’s so much more he wants to do tonight. “Get up here before I come.”

Taehyung pulls off with a rather obscene noise, wiping his mouth deliberately and looking up at Jeongguk. He’s such a fucking tease, and Jeongguk recognizes that he is probably doomed as he grabs Taehyung by the upper arms and coaxes him into his lap. He lifts Taehyung’s shirt over his head, then skims a hand up the side of his throat and angles him down for a kiss.

“I wasn’t kidding before,” Taehyung breathes, circling his hips down and smirking when Jeongguk hisses at the friction against his cock. He’s working at the buttons of Jeongguk’s dress shirt, pausing occasionally to suck marks into his chest. “About your shitty day. You can take it out on me.”

And that sounds like a goddamn invitation if Jeongguk’s ever heard one.

The sound he makes can probably best be described as a growl, tossing Taehyung sideways on to the bed and watching his knees splay apart easily. Jeongguk sits back on his heels and strips off Taehyung’s sweats and boxers, until he’s stretched out naked on the bed, gorgeous and waiting. There’s a slight glint in his eye, half challenging and half curious, like he can tell what Jeongguk wants and is daring him to actually do it.

He reaches out and jerks Taehyung’s cock slowly, enjoying the way his face twists with pleasure. There’s already pre-come beading at the tip, and it’s like he was designed specifically to make Jeongguk lose his mind - the perfect mix of feisty and pliant, a bit of a tease but also willing, maybe even eager, to let Jeongguk take the lead.

“Get on your hands and knees for me?” Jeongguk says, and it’s meant to sound assertive but it comes out more like a question.

The side of Taehyung’s mouth quirks up, and he nods, reaching into the drawer of his bedside table and extracting a condom and a bottle of lube, both of which he tosses onto the bed in front of Jeongguk. Then he rolls over languidly, arching up onto all fours, and Jeongguk is on him in an instant, pressing kisses along his spine as he stretches him. Taehyung is just as responsive as the first time, letting out breathy little moans and rolling his hips back against Jeongguk’s fingers, trying to fuck himself open.

“C’mon,” he urges when Jeongguk is three fingers deep. He’s watching Jeongguk over his shoulder, pupils blown wide, hair falling in his face. It occurs to Jeongguk that he would probably give Taehyung anything he asked for in this moment. “C’mon, fuck me.”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathes, rolling the condom on and steadying his hands on Taehyung’s hips as he slides inside. Vaguely, he registers that he’s still half dressed, dress shirt hanging off his shoulders, pants halfway down his thighs. But he can’t really be fucked to care, not when he’s got Taehyung dizzyingly tight around him, dropping down to his elbows and imploring Jeongguk to fucking move.

So Jeongguk does, finding an angle that makes Taehyung fist his hands in the bedsheets and driving into him until they’re both breathless. He fucks him until the stress of his day seeps out of his body, until the only thing he can think about is how fucking perfect Taehyung feels and looks and sounds.

He falls forward, chest curving around Taehyung’s back, so that he can hear almost directly in his ear the sound Taehyung makes when Jeongguk gets a hand around his cock.

“Shit, Jeongguk,” he gasps, voice raw, and Jeongguk’s name sounds so good on his tongue.

“You gonna come?” Jeongguk manages to grit out, jerking Taehyung as evenly as possible.

Taehyung shudders, nodding, and Jeongguk thinks his eyes might actually cross when he feels Taehyung clench around him, spilling across his stomach and the sheets beneath them. He thrusts a few more times, spurred on by the trail of whimpers falling from Taehyung’s lips, and then he’s coming too, for the second time in one week. It’s only now, having found whatever this is with Taehyung, that he realizes just how much he fucking missed sex.

Jeongguk fights the urge to simply collapse on top of Taehyung in a post-coital daze, instead easing out of him carefully and throwing the condom into the bin next to his dresser. Taehyung rolls over on to his back, cleaning up his stomach with a few tissues as he levels a cheeky grin at Jeongguk.

“Didn’t even bother to get all the way undressed,” he observes, watching Jeongguk refasten his pants.

“I’m efficient,” Jeongguk shoots back, willing his cheeks not to heat up.

“Or I just really get you going,” Taehyung tosses back, quirking an eyebrow as he slips back into his sweats. He doesn’t bother with his shirt, leaving Jeongguk with a glorious view of his chest, still flushed from their recent... activities.

Jeongguk rolls his eyes in response, as though this isn’t completely true and he hasn’t been this desperate to get his hands on someone since he was a horny college freshman.

“You gonna head out?” Taehyung asks, probably because Jeongguk is once again fully dressed, sitting on the side of his bed.

“I probably should,” Jeongguk says, surprised at his own reluctance. It had been really nice having Taehyung spend the night on Saturday, and a part of him wishes they could just curl up side by side again. He doesn’t want Taehyung to think this is just a booty call to him, although considering the text Taehyung had sent him earlier, maybe that’s all it is to him.

“Is it because my bed isn’t king sized?” Taehyung teases, wrapping his arms around his knees.

Jeongguk chuckles, shaking his head. “Work tomorrow. I can’t exactly show up dressed in the same outfit as today, my dad would have a field day.”

Taehyung nods, frowning. “Fair enough. I’ll walk you out.”

They get up, Taehyung pulling on his giant T-shirt as he trails Jeongguk out into the living room and to the front door. Jeongguk spies two other doors leading off from the central common area, presumably to the bathroom and Jimin’s bedroom. He hopes Jimin owns a good pair of headphones, because he and Taehyung hadn’t exactly been quiet.

At the door, Jeongguk turns to face Taehyung, unsure of what to say. He looks sleepy and fucked out, and really Jeongguk just wants to grab him and kiss that perfect mouth of his, maybe go one more round.

“See you soon?” Taehyung says.

“I want to, yeah,” Jeongguk nods, fidgeting a little. “I just... I can’t really date anyone seriously, you know?” The words are true - he could never do it, not with the expectations surrounding his job - but they feel false on his tongue anyway.

Taehyung cocks his head to the side, examining Jeongguk thoughtfully. Jeongguk wonders if this is it, if Taehyung is going to tell him to fuck off, that he doesn’t want to waste his time. It would be a fair response - if given the choice, Jeongguk wouldn’t want to get involved with himself either. Too complicated, too much pressure, too many restrictions.

Instead, Taehyung just shrugs, flashing him a sly smile. “Who says I want to date you anyway?” he challenges, and this is exactly why Jeongguk likes him so much and does - would - want to date him if things were different. Something about him is just so... refreshing.

“Fair enough,” Jeongguk says, ignoring the way his stomach drops a little at Taehyung’s casual dismissal. “Goodnight.”

Later that night, as he’s getting ready to go to sleep, Jeongguk finds that for the first time in a while, his own apartment and bed feel almost uncomfortably big when he’s the only one there.

***

Over the next few weeks, Taehyung has a lot of sex and does a lot of drawing. With the BT21 pitch fast approaching, he’s churning out designs as quickly as he can, staying late more than once and flushing under Hyungsik’s effusive, increasingly flirtatious praise. He’s so passionate about the work and the characters that he doesn’t even mind the late nights, but the attention from Hyungsik makes him more and more uncomfortable, especially considering he’s been sleeping with Jeongguk.

Taehyung doesn't know what he and Jeongguk are doing, if he’s honest, and he has a feeling that will probably catch up to him eventually. But for now, the sex is incredible and the company isn’t half bad either, not that he would ever admit that to any of his friends or, god forbid, Jeongguk himself. He’s still not quite sure what to make of Jeongguk as a person, especially considering the conflicting accounts he’s heard about him, but he will reluctantly admit that he’s fun to hang out with, not to mention surprisingly good at keeping up with Taehyung’s idiosyncrasies. In short, not at all what he would have expected from a man who he’d initially thought was physically incapable of smiling.

They see each other on Sunday, when Jeongguk invites him over to have a drink and watch basketball (they end up fucking on his couch during halftime), and then the following Friday, when they go out drinking with Jimin, Namjoon, Yoongi, and Seokjin. Jeongguk and Seokjin get them into the swanky VIP section of some bar, and all it takes is Seokjin throwing down his card (over numerous protests from Namjoon and the others) for everyone to get inappropriately drunk on some of the most expensive liquor Taehyung has ever tasted. The night plays out from there - Yoongi corners Seokjin on one of the couches and berates him about the progress of their demo, until Taehyung takes pity on him and sends over a distraction in the form of a drunk Jimin. Much like sober Jimin, who is extremely affectionate and cuddly, drunk Jimin is all of these things but without the insecurities that usually plague him, which is probably why he plops down directly in Yoongi’s lap and immediately erupts in a fit of giggles. Yoongi is sufficiently distracted, and Taehyung notes that they don’t shift from this position for the rest of the night.

Given that they’re in public, Taehyung has to keep his hands to himself around Jeongguk, which becomes increasingly difficult the drunker he gets. It’s not fair that Jeongguk looks fine as hell in a black jacket, pale blue button down, and black pants, having come straight from work, and all he can think about is how he wishes Jeongguk would take him to his office and fuck him over his desk. When he drunkenly vocalizes this thought, his lips pressed a little too close to Jeongguk’s ear, Jeongguk swallows visibly, a muscle in his jaw jumping.

“We’re leaving,” he says hoarsely, slamming his drink down on the table with such force that Namjoon and Seokjin look up from where they’re laughing over something on Seokjin’s phone. “We’re leaving right now.”

Heat coils in Taehyung’s stomach as he follows Jeongguk out to the car (because he literally has a fucking driver to pick him up after nights out, Taehyung needs this lifestyle), but Jeongguk keeps his distance until they’re in the backseat, privacy partition rolled up. Tentatively, Taehyung scoots closer, reaching out to put a hand on Jeongguk’s thigh, but he lets out a noise of surprise when Jeongguk’s hand closes around his wrist, yanking Taehyung into his lap. It’s a miracle they don’t have sex right there in the backseat, what with the way everything feels like it’s on fire, too close and not close enough all at once. They don’t even make it one full step when they get back to Jeongguk’s apartment, and that’s how Taehyung finds himself lifted up against Jeongguk’s front door, Jeongguk somehow managing to hold him up while he fucks them both over the edge.

(He spends the night at Jeongguk’s again, and this time he stays for bagels the next morning. He tells himself it’s just because he’s hungover and desperately needs the carbohydrates.)

The pitch is the following Tuesday, and from what Taehyung hears, it goes really well, though they won’t know whether they’ve won for at least another week. Still, he feels like he’s floating when he leaves the office that day, early enough that it’s not even completely dark out yet. He and Jimin are going for a celebratory drink, and then he’s seriously considering buying some champagne and inviting Jeongguk over for a little late night fun.

His bubble of happiness bursts in the form of a frown on Jimin’s face, when he pulls out his phone about a block away from the office and finds a somewhat frantic text from Yoongi.

“What’s wrong?” Taehyung asks worriedly, trying to decipher Jimin’s concerned expression.

“It’s Yoongi hyung,” he says, chewing on his lip. “He wants us to come over. Something happened with Namjoon and Seokjin.”

Taehyung’s stomach drops immediately. Namjoon was generally pretty stoic about his feelings, but Taehyung could tell how much he liked Seokjin. “As in, they ended things?”

“I don’t know,” Jimin says, shaking his head. “But he says to bring alcohol.”

“Ugh, fuck.”

They stop by a liquor store and hop on the subway, getting to Yoongi and Namjoon’s apartment less than half an hour later. Yoongi answers the door with a furrowed brow, stepping back and ushering them inside. Namjoon is sitting on their couch, elbows propped on his knees, chin resting on one fist. He nods in their direction when they walk in, offering a small smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

“What happened?” Jimin asks immediately, shoving the alcohol into Yoongi’s arms and hurrying to cuddle up next to Namjoon on the couch. Taehyung follows suit, settling down on the floor in front of Namjoon and wrapping a protective hand around his ankle.

“Seokjin broke things off with me,” Namjoon says quietly, accepting one of the beers they’d brought from Yoongi. He’s composed as always, but having known him for so long, it’s not hard to tell that he’s upset.

“Why?” Taehyung asks, totally baffled. “Did he say why?”

Namjoon shrugs, taking a sip of his beer. “Not really. Just that he didn’t think it was going to work.”

“I don’t get it,” Jimin says, shaking his head. “He obviously liked you so much.”

Namjoon winces a little at this, and Jimin pets his hair soothingly while Yoongi tracks the movement with his eyes. “Guess not enough,” he says sadly, shrugging again. “I’ll be fine. It was too good to be true anyway.”

“This is bullshit,” Yoongi interjects angrily. “He totally led you on. I don’t understand what changed so suddenly.”

“Maybe it has something to do with his job?” Taehyung suggests, resting his cheek against Namjoon’s thigh. They all turn to look at him. “Jeongguk isn’t allowed to date a guy publicly because it’s bad for PR, or some homophobic bullshit like that.”

“Maybe,” Namjoon says miserably.

“Assholes,” Jimin mutters.

“What does this mean for the demo?” Taehyung asks, glancing back and forth between Namjoon and Yoongi.

Namjoon pinches the bridge of his nose between his fingers. “He said he would still sponsor it.”

“But we’re pulling it,” Yoongi says firmly, squeezing Namjoon’s knee. “We don’t need his help.”

Namjoon glances up at him gratefully, and Taehyung thinks he might me see the ghost of a tear in his eyes. All at once, he’s reminded of how much Yoongi and Namjoon have been through together, how hard they’ve worked, and his heart aches for both of them. “I’m really sorry, hyung,” Namjoon says.

Yoongi shakes his head, waving off his apology. “We’ll do it without them. I don’t want my music associated with a bunch of stuffy old homophobes anyway.”

Jimin shoots him a look of such fondness that it actually startles Taehyung, but of course Yoongi is too preoccupied with Namjoon to notice. If they weren’t currently in the middle of dealing with Namjoon’s breakup, Taehyung would seriously consider locking them in a room together and not letting them out until they admitted their feelings to each other.

“It sounds like we should get drunk,” Jimin says sagely.

“Here, here,” Taehyung agrees, lifting his beer, and they all clink their bottles together.

“You guys are the best,” Namjoon says, smiling a little.

They order takeout and end up drinking way too much for a Tuesday, but Taehyung thinks the fact that they have Namjoon laughing again by the end of the night is worth the hangover he rolls into work with the next day.

The rest of the week passes quietly enough, with Yoongi sending periodic updates on how Namjoon is doing - well, apparently, all things considered, if a little down. They’ve thrown themselves back into their music with renewed fervor and are trying to keep an optimistic attitude. The situation totally blows, but Taehyung thinks that if anyone can bounce back from this, it’s Namjoon and Yoongi.

Friday afternoon finds Taehyung, Jimin, and Hoseok holed up in a conference room together, hoping to hide there until they can actually leave for the day.

“How’s teaching going, hyung?” Jimin asks Hoseok. “I haven’t been in forever, work has been so nuts.”

“You should come this weekend, I’m introducing some new stuff!” Hoseok says enthusiastically, lighting up in the way he always does when he talks about dancing. Vaguely, Taehyung wonders if that’s how Jeongguk used to feel, and how difficult it would be to lose that. “It’s been great, I actually had a guy I used to dance with show up the other day, hadn’t seen him in years.”

“Oh yeah?” Taehyung says, aimlessly sketching Tata, his favorite of the BT21 characters, into the corner of his notebook. “That’s awesome, how was it?”

“A little awkward at first, but it ended up being really nice to catch up. He was so good, but he quit kind of abruptly a few years ago.”

“Why’d he quit?” Jimin asks curiously.

Hoseok shrugs. “Work, I think? His dad is a big time media mogul and he got pulled in to a pretty intense position at the company. No room for anything else, I guess.”

The pieces slot into place, and Taehyung’s head snaps up. “What’s his name?”

Hoseok blinks at him, startled. “Jeon Jeongguk? Why, do you know him?”

Jimin snorts, and Hoseok’s head whips back and forth between them, confused.

“Yeah, I do,” Taehyung says, shooting Jimin a glare.

“No way!” Hoseok exclaims. “Wow, small world. He’s a good dude.”

“You think so?” Taehyung asks. His own opinion of Jeongguk has been improving slowly but steadily, but an endorsement from Hoseok, king of all things joyful and kind, is a big deal.

“Yeah, for sure,” Hoseok nods. “He was actually telling me about how he just helped get his friend out of a kind of shitty relationship.”

Jimin’s eyes go wide, and Taehyung feels icy dread creep through his veins.

“What happened?” Jimin asks, his voice pitched a little higher than usual.

“The guy was taking advantage of his friend, I think,” Hoseok explains. “Using him for his music connections, that kind of thing. His friend’s dad is a big deal at the company too.”

Jimin has gone very pale, and Taehyung must not look much better, what with how Hoseok is now frowning at them both in concern.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. “Are you guys okay?”

“Do you know his friend’s name?” Taehyung says, barely above a whisper. He already knows the answer, but he doesn’t want to believe it.

“Seokjin, I think?” Hoseok replies, and Taehyung feels his dread crystallize into grim reality. “Seriously, guys what’s wrong?”

“It was our friend,” Jimin explains quietly, probably sensing that Taehyung is too distraught to answer. “Seokjin was dating our friend.”

“Oh, shit,” Hoseok says, aghast. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize.”

Jimin shakes his head, offering him a small smile. “Not your fault. I’m glad you told us, honestly.”

Taehyung nods numbly, appalled to find himself fighting back tears. He was really starting to like Jeongguk, even trust him, and this news comes like a punch in the stomach. It’s horrifying to think that his gut instinct had been right all along, that he’d allowed himself to be manipulated into thinking Jeongguk was actually a decent guy, that he’d slept with someone who would do something like this. He feels like he’s going to be sick.

“You okay, Taehyungie?” Jimin asks softly.

“Yeah,” Taehyung lies. “Just disgusted.”

The rest of the afternoon passes in a blur, mostly consumed by Taehyung and Jimin debating whether or not to share this news with Namjoon. It’s a miserable decision to be faced with, but at least it somewhat keeps Taehyung’s mind of Jeongguk.

“Do you think he would want to know?” Jimin worries for the hundredth time, tugging on his lower lip as they board the subway. Their plan to hide all afternoon had worked, and they’d both managed to sneak out of the office at a reasonable hour.

“I think it’ll make things worse. It may have been Jeongguk’s idea, but Seokjin still made the decision,” Taehyung says, Jeongguk’s name like poison on his tongue. “I don’t want to make it any harder for Namjoon to move on.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Jimin nods, sighing. “Damn, this sucks.”

It gets even suckier when they emerge from the subway station and Taehyung finds he has a text from Jeongguk.

>managed to get out of work early, wanna come over?<

“Fuck,” he swears, grip tightening around his phone. Jeongguk is the last person he wants to see right now, but he also wants to give him a piece of his mind, and not just over text.

“Ignore it?” Jimin suggests.

Taehyung shakes his head, a plan forming in his mind. “No, fuck this. I’m going over there and asking him who the fuck he thinks he is.”

Jimin raises his eyebrows. “Are you sure that’s a good -”

“Probably not,” Taehyung cuts him off. “But I don’t care. Namjoon deserves better than this.”

Jimin nods, extending his fist for Taehyung to bump. “Well, good luck. Tell him fuck you, from Jimin. And text me when you’re done so that we can go get drunk.”

“Roger that,” Taehyung says, and turns right back around into the subway station.

Jeongguk’s doorman recognizes him now, which kind of makes Taehyung want to die, but on the bright side he’s able to get up to his apartment without issue, and without Jeongguk knowing in advance. He pounds on the door, and Jeongguk opens it a few moments later, looking surprised but pleased to see him. Taehyung wants to punch him in his stupid mouth.

“Taehyung, hey,” he greets, stepping back so that Taehyung can come inside. “Did you text me back? I didn’t see -”

“I didn’t come here to hang out,” Taehyung snaps, and Jeongguk’s eyebrows shoot up, taken aback.

“Okay...” he says slowly, frowning. “What’s up, is something wrong?”

“I don’t know, Jeongguk, you tell me.” Taehyung’s hands are trembling at his sides, and he can’t seem to get them to stop. He’s generally a very non-confrontational person, but it’s been a long time since he’s been this pissed off.

Jeongguk is watching him with rising alarm, and he looks genuinely confused, which makes Taehyung even angrier. “Taehyung, what - I don’t -”

“Did you convince Seokjin to break up with Namjoon?” Taehyung hisses, and Jeongguk’s eyes go wide.

“What? How -”

“Did you?!” Taehyung nearly shouts.

Jeongguk sighs, running a hand through his hair. Taehyung really wishes he wasn’t so fucking attractive.

“Yes.”

Somehow, hearing him admit it makes Taehyung feel even worse, like a pit is widening in his stomach. Tears sting at his eyes again, but he forces them back. He refuses to cry in front of Jeongguk, not after this.

“Why the fuck would you do that?” Taehyung says angrily. “They were so happy!”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “I could tell Seokjin was more into it than Namjoon. I didn’t want him to get hurt.”

“So you hurt Namjoon instead?” Taehyung cries. “You had no right to do that. You have no idea how Namjoon feels.”

“It was pretty clear that he and Yoongi were more interested in getting their demo picked up than in Seokjin himself,” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung’s jaw drops, hands curling into fists at his sides.

“Who the fuck do you think you are, Jeongguk?” Taehyung snarls, and he gets a kind of smug satisfaction when Jeongguk winces. “Their music is everything to them, and they still pulled the demo over this because that’s the kind of people they are.”

“Look, Taehyung, I was trying to protect my friend -”

“Oh, really?” Taehyung interrupts. “The same way you protected Hyungsik?”

The change in Jeongguk’s demeanor is so instantaneous and dramatic that Taehyung almost feels like he’s looking at an entirely different person - the person he first perceived Jeongguk to be. He regards Taehyung icily, his body rigid.

“Hyungsik?” He repeats, and how he manages to fit so much disgust into one word, Taehyung will never know. “What the fuck does that have to do with anything?”

“He told me what you did,” Taehyung says spitefully. “How you guys were friends until you went to work for your dad and blocked him from getting a job too.”

Jeongguk gapes at him, his gaze so cold that Taehyung has to fight not to shrink under it. Everything about this feels surreal, like the past month and everything he thought he had learned about Jeongguk had just been a twisted dream.

“So this is what you think of me,” Jeongguk says, his voice nothing more than a cold whisper. “If that’s how you feel, why did you even bother sleeping with me?”

Taehyung shrugs, mouth twisting in disdain as he glances around Jeongguk’s apartment. His next words are aimed to hurt. “I honestly have no idea. Guess I was just blinded by your big fancy apartment and hot shot job, but now I see that’s all you have to offer.”

The expression of Jeongguk’s face is so tormented that Taehyung almost feels guilty for saying that last part, but he’s far too furious to take it back.

“Get the fuck out,” Jeongguk hisses, opening the door.

“Gladly,” Taehyung hurls back, storming out into the hallway. “Don’t come near me or my friends ever again. Oh, and Jimin says fuck you.”

The only response he gets is the sound of Jeongguk’s door slamming, so hard that the air vibrates around him.

***

The air in Jeongguk’s apartment feels oppressive, almost suffocating when Taehyung leaves, polluted by the malice in his words. Jeongguk himself is shaking, seething with a rage that distracts him from the crushing sadness creeping into the most tender parts of himself. He understands why Taehyung is angry with him, but he hadn’t expected the accusation about Hyungsik, or the way he’d reduced their relationship to nothing more than what Jeongguk has always sought to avoid - just another person after his money, not his heart. He’d really thought Taehyung was different, and that makes it all so much worse. He should know by now - he doesn’t get to have that. Ever.

Without really thinking about it, he finds himself in his kitchen, glass of scotch in hand, pulling up Seokjin’s number on his contact list. He hates that scotch makes him think of Taehyung now, of how he’d teased Jeongguk about it when they first met and, more recently, with a hint of fondness in his voice. He takes a long sip and prays for it to just make him forget.

“Do you want to get fucked up?” he says as soon as Seokjin answers the phone. His voice echoes hollowly in his own ears. “I need to get fucked up.”

“You know,” Seokjin answers, and his voice is tinged with a sadness that wracks Jeongguk with guilt, because despite his best intentions, he’s the one that put it there. “I would really love to get fucked up.”

They go to one of their regular haunts, a speakeasy type bar where they know the staff and get led back to a discreet VIP section immediately. Neither of them is in good shape, but now’s not the time to talk about it - they both just want to drink and forget about their misery for a little while. Through the haze of alcohol, Jeongguk wonders how they got here - how that one fateful night at the Emerging Talent party had spawned all of this. He should have known his gut instinct about those kinds of events was right.

At some point in the night, after more shots than Jeongguk can count, there’s a guy who’s clearly interested in him - he’s cute, and if he’s in the VIP section, Jeongguk figures it’s probably safe to take him home (not that his judgment is particularly good right now). The guy is all over him, making it so easy, and Jeongguk knows all he has to do is say the word and he’d have this guy in his bed in less than half an hour. But something stops him, and that something is Taehyung, the memory of what it had been like to touch him, how it had opened Jeongguk up to a feeling he hadn’t allowed himself to experience in years.

The thought alone makes him nauseous, and soon he’s pushing the guy away, calling a car and stumbling out of the bar, body throbbing with so much feeling he thinks he might explode. He’s furious with Taehyung for being so wrong about him, for coming at him with unfair accusations and tapping so carelessly into Jeongguk’s deepest insecurities. Really, though, he’s furious with himself, for letting Taehyung in far enough that his absence leaves such a gaping hole, and for still wanting him, in spite of everything.

Seokjin follows him out to the car, and they both end up passing out on Jeongguk’s couches, waking up the next morning to absolutely lethal hangovers. They spend most of the morning vomiting (it’s a good thing Jeongguk has two bathrooms), until they eventually crawl into the kitchen and stare at each other across the black marble counter, nursing glasses of water.

“I’m sorry about Namjoon,” Jeongguk says, his voice wrecked from puking. He feels disgusting. “I know you really liked him.”

Seokjin shrugs, blinking at him forlornly. “I just wish it wasn’t so hard, you know? Finding people we can actually trust.”

Jeongguk nods, Taehyung’s words from the night before nagging at his conscience. He had been surprised to hear that Namjoon and Yoongi had already pulled their demo, and he wonders if Seokjin even knows, whether Jeongguk should tell him. He doesn’t want to make things harder, but now the guilt is writhing in his stomach - what if he had been wrong about Namjoon, had put Seokjin through this for nothing? Then again, after their fight last night, Jeongguk doesn’t know what to believe about Taehyung and his friends anymore.

“I know. Me too.”

“What went down with Taehyung?” Seokjin asks cautiously. They hadn’t really talked about it last night, beyond Jeongguk telling him they’d had a fight. The number of shots he’d done at the bar probably kind of spoke for itself, though.

“I don’t even know,” Jeongguk says. “He showed up here and was pissed about what happened with you and Namjoon, but then he went off about how I fucked over Hyungsik and blocked him from getting a job at Bangtan.”

What?!” Seokjin cries, then winces at the noise.

Jeongguk nods, the rage starting to simmer in his blood again. The fact that his history with Hyungsik is being thrown in his face in the midst of all this is almost unbearable.

“Hyungsik must have fed him some bullshit,” Seokjin muses, shaking his head in disbelief and wincing again.

“Yeah.” He feels completely defeated. “And to cap it all off, he told me he doesn’t know why he slept with me in the first place because my money is all I have to offer.”

“Jesus,” Seokjin breathes, his eyebrows shooting up. “You know that’s not true, Jeongguk-ah.”

Jeongguk shrugs, staring down into his water glass and wishing it was bigger so that he could drown himself in it.

“It’s not,” Seokjin says firmly. “And I don’t think Taehyung believes that either.”

When Jeongguk doesn’t respond, Seokjin reaches across the counter, covering Jeongguk’s hand with his own and giving a light squeeze.

“It’s gonna be okay,” he says quietly. “We’re gonna be okay.”

Jeongguk really wishes he believed him.

***

The agency wins the BT21 pitch. It’s a bright spot in what has otherwise been a pretty bleak week for Taehyung, and for possibly the first time in his career, he feels truly proud of something he’s accomplished. This could mean big things for him, he knows - it’s a huge account and they’ll almost certainly want him on the team, considering most of the designs are his. Jimin is even convinced there’s a promotion of the horizon as well.

Hyungsik calls him into his office at the end of the day, and Jimin gives him an encouraging nudge and a thumbs up, mouthing “promotion” as he walks away. Taehyung laughs and shakes his head, but he can’t shake the feeling of excitement bubbling in his stomach.

“So! Big day today,” Hyungsik says genially, closing his office door and pulling a chair around to sit opposite Taehyung. He’s so close that their knees are practically touching, and Taehyung has to resist the urge to shift away. “Exciting stuff, this is a huge win for us.”

Taehyung nods eagerly. “I know, it’s amazing.”

“The department heads are looking to start building out a team right away,” he says confidentially, and Taehyung’s stomach fills with butterflies. “I can put in a good word for you, if you want it.”

“Yeah, I mean yes, of course,” Taehyung says. “I would love that.”

“Good, good,” Hyungsik nods, patting Taehyung’s knee. When the motion stops and he doesn’t pull his hand away, Taehyung becomes very aware of the fact that the door is shut. “I could even recommend you for a promotion, you know.”

Taehyung swallows, fighting to keep his expression neutral even as his mind races. It’s pretty obvious now that Hyungsik is coming on to him, and he has no idea how to handle this situation.

“Umm,” he says dumbly, looking down at the hand on his knee and then up at Hyungsik, who’s regarding him with a slightly smug expression on his face. It gives Taehyung chills, and not in a good way. “I - I mean, that would be great.”

“I’m sure we can work something out,” Hyungsik murmurs, leaning closer as his hand slides further up Taehyung’s leg.

“I,” Taehyung stammers, and the lazy way Hyungsik is smiling at him makes him think he might be enjoying Taehyung’s discomfort. “I’m sorry, I’m not interested - in, umm.” He clears his throat. “That.”

A sour expression twists across Hyungsik’s face, but it smoothes over almost instantly. He sits back slightly, folding his arms over his chest.

“You’re not interested in a promotion?” he asks, smirk back in place.

“What?” Taehyung says blankly. “No, I am, I just - ”

“Then come on, Tae,” Hyungsik coos, leaning forward again. The nickname makes Taehyung flinch - only the people he’s closest to call him that. “Don’t you see? They’re one and the same.”

Something shifts in Taehyung, his initial fear and shock giving way to anger and disgust. He pushes his chair back harshly, out of Hyungsik’s reach.

“Are you saying I need to sleep with you to get promoted?” he splutters, incredulous.

Hyungsik blinks at him, unfazed. “I never said that.”

“I won’t,” Taehyung says, shaking his head and rising to his feet.

“Fine,” Hyungsik replies, his tone clipped. He waves a hand dismissively. “The BT21 team doesn’t really need you, to be honest.”

Taehyung gapes at him, fisting his hands to stop them from trembling. “Those are my designs, Hyungsik. I deserve a place on that team.”

“I’m the one who presented them to the creative leads,” Hyungsik reminds him. “I pitched them to the clients. You’re not that invaluable, Taehyung.”

Taehyung stares at him, speechless. He’d known Hyungsik was a flirt, maybe a little sleazy even, but he never expected him to be this cruel. Is everyone in his life just going to completely fuck him over this week?

“You can’t do that,” he says, hating the way his voice shakes around the words.

Hyungsik shrugs, unmoved. “It’s your choice, Taehyung.”

Head spinning, Taehyung wrenches the office door open and stumbles out into the main seating area. Without really thinking about it, he walks to Jimin’s desk, trying to compose himself on the way. He feels cheap, disgusting, completely invalidated - had Hyungsik only supported his designs because he was trying to get in his pants?

“What’s wrong?” Jimin asks in alarm the second his eyes land on Taehyung’s face. “Shit, Tae, what happened?”

“Can we go home?” Taehyung says quietly, and Jimin nods immediately, probably assuming that it’s a simple as Taehyung not getting the promotion.

They collect their stuff, and Jimin lets him stew in silence until they’re back in their apartment and Taehyung has taken a shower and changed into more comfortable clothes. When he emerges from his bedroom, Jimin guides him gently over to the couch and plops down across from him, face filled with concern.

“Wanna tell me what happened?”

Taehyung picks at a loose thread on the hem of his sweatpants, avoiding Jimin’s worried gaze. “He came on to me.”

“WHAT?!” Jimin cries, so loudly that Taehyung looks up in alarm.

Taehyung nods miserably. “He basically offered me a promotion in exchange for sex.”

“Holy fuck,” Jimin breathes, eyes round. “What did you say?”

“I said no.” He swallows, willing himself not to cry. “And then he said they didn’t need me on the BT21 team anyway, since he pretty much took the credit for my designs.”

“Oh, hell no,” Jimin snarls. It’s weird seeing him this angry, since he’s usually so tiny and cute. “I will fuck him up.”

“He’s bigger than you - “

“I work out!” Jimin cries indignantly, and Taehyung is seized by the overwhelming urge to hug him. “That smug bastard. I’m so sorry, Tae.”

“I just feel so stupid,” Taehyung says, looking down at his lap again. “Like, is this my fault, for flirting with him sometimes?”

No,” Jimin says forcefully, scooting closer so that their knees are bumping and nudging Taehyung’s chin up. “Absolutely not, don’t you dare think that ever again. He’s a sleazy, steaming pile of shit.”

“What am I supposed to do, though?” Taehyung asks desperately. “He’s right, he’s the one who presented all of my designs for the pitch.”

“So?” Jimin says. “Can he reproduce them on his own? You have all the original sketches. I’ll vouch for you.”

“I guess...” Taehyung says hesitantly.

“Plus, do I need to remind you that our HR manager is one of your best friends?” Jimin barrels on. He’s fired up, already coming up with a plan where Taehyung had felt helpless, and Taehyung is eternally grateful. “We’re going to Hobi hyung tomorrow and filing a sexual harassment complaint. His slimy ass is getting fired.”

“What if they don’t believe me?”

“Then I’ll resign in protest and put their shit on blast on social media,” Jimin responds immediately. When Taehyung raises his eyebrows, he adds: “I’m not fucking kidding.”

“I know you’re not,” Taehyung says, and this time he does hug Jimin, lunging into his arms and squeezing him tightly. “What would I do without you?”

“Die, probably,” Jimin teases, and Taehyung laughs into his shoulder. “Or start talking to the coffee machine.”

“Okay, on the really early mornings it talks back,” Taehyung contests, and Jimin just laughs, ruffling his hair fondly.

If the spectacular shittiness of the past week has taught Taehyung anything, it’s that he has really amazing friends.

On Jimin’s encouragement, he goes to see Hoseok first thing the following morning, gritting his teeth as he recounts the story of what had happened with Hyungsik for a second time. Hoseok listens with a grim expression on his face, waiting patiently even when Taehyung falters or fumbles with his words. When he finishes, Hoseok stands up, walking around his desk until he’s directly in front of Taehyung.

“Can I be unprofessional for just a second?” he asks.

“Huh? Sure - ” Taehyung starts to say, confused until Hoseok flings himself forward, crushing Taehyung in a very tight, very enthusiastic hug. Taehyung brings up his own arms to hug him back, stomach flooding with warmth.

“Alright, now that that’s done,” he says, straightening up and smiling fondly at Taehyung. “Let’s get this prick fired.” There’s a pause, and he frowns. “Shit, sorry - that was probably unprofessional too. Anyway!”

Taehyung learns that he’s not the first person to raise a red flag about Hyungsik, that Hoseok has been building a file on him for a while but has been having trouble getting the agency to take action because no one is willing to file a formal complaint.

“Would you be willing to do it?” he asks, his tone very serious. “I know it seems scary.”

And it does, especially when Taehyung thinks about the way Hyungsik had belittled his role in the BT21 pitch and the fact that the department heads probably have no idea who he is. Who’s going to believe that the concept came from him when his popular, smooth-talking supervisor is the one that sold them all on the idea? But then he remembers how fiercely Jimin had defended him, and how seriously Hoseok is taking his story. If they’re behind him, he can do this. He’s not going to sit back and let his designs taken away, at least not without a fight. The BT21 characters would expect more from him, anyway.

So he squares his shoulders, looks Hoseok dead in the eye, and says: “Yes. I’ll do it.”

***

Things go back to normal, kind of, except that Jeongguk can’t stop thinking about Taehyung and can’t shake the feeling that he’d been wrong about Namjoon and Yoongi. Whenever he’s not buried in work or distracting himself at the gym, Taehyung’s words echo in his ears, and between that and the way Seokjin is still moping around, the guilt is eating away at him. After two weeks, he can’t take it anymore, and one morning he drags Seokjin into his office and locks the door.

“Hyung,” he says, folding his hands in front of him and meeting Seokjin’s confused gaze. “I have to talk to you about something.”

Seokjin’s forehead creases, and he settles back further into Jeongguk’s leather armchair. “...okay?”

“I think I might have been wrong,” he says. “About Namjoon.”

There’s a pause during which Seokjin seems to consider this and Jeongguk sits in silence, trying not to fidget.

“Why do you say that?” he says eventually.

“Did you know they pulled the demo?” Jeongguk asks. “Namjoon and Yoongi?”

Seokjin’s eyebrows shoot up, his eyes widening. “No, I didn’t.”

Jeongguk nods, flattening his palms on the desk. “Taehyung told me. When we fought.”

Saying Taehyung’s name still feels like shit, he discovers. Jeongguk wishes he didn’t miss him so fucking much.

“I wasn’t sure whether to tell you, but.” He sighs. “Taehyung seemed to think I was totally wrong about him.”

“And you believe him?” Seokjin asks, skeptical. “After what he said to you?”

Jeongguk shrugs helplessly. “He wasn’t wrong about me, really.” Seokjin opens his mouth in protest, but Jeongguk holds up his hand. “I mean, he was about Hyungsik, but what reason have I given him not to believe that about me? I was awful to him when we first met, I haven’t been particularly nice to his friends, and even when we made some progress I still treated him like a secret booty call.” Jeongguk exhales heavily, running a hand through his hair. “What person would want to put up with that?”

Seokjin studies him carefully, leaning forward when Jeongguk finishes his rant. “Listen, Jeongguk,” he says seriously. “You’re my best friend, my brother even. I know there is so much good in you, so much more than what you let most people see.” Jeongguk flushes, looking down at his hands. “But I’ve also seen this job - and your dad, frankly - suck the life out of you, and I’ve watched you slowly shut down and let it happen.”

Jeongguk lets out a shaky sigh, his whole body shuddering. His first instinct is to respond with a snarky retort, but he knows his friend is right. It feels fitting that they’re having this conversation in his office, this place where he’s allowed himself to be stripped down to the shell of a human he is now. Cold, emotionless, as if that will hide how weak he actually is, how he’s let this company dictate how he lives his life. The door’s always been there, but Jeongguk had willingly locked himself inside.

Seokjin reaches across the desk, hand coming to rest, warm and reassuring, on Jeongguk’s forearm. “What Taehyung said wasn’t fair, but if you aren’t happy with the person you are anymore, then do something about it. Fight for who you want to be.”

A stray tear makes its way down Jeongguk’s cheek, and he wipes at it hurriedly, mortified. He can’t bring himself to meet Seokjin’s eyes just yet, but he nods to acknowledge that he’s heard him, that he’s taking the words to heart. It’s time for a change, time for him to do better.

“Thanks, hyung,” he says eventually, clearing his throat. When he finally looks up, Seokjin is still sitting there patiently, watching him with warm eyes. If someone like Seokjin can see the good in him, Jeongguk figures he still has a shot.

“I’m always here for you, kid,” Seokjin says. “But I want your life to be fuller than just me.”

“I want that for you, too,” Jeongguk replies earnestly. “Which is why I think you should try to work things out with Namjoon. You seem pretty miserable without him, honestly.”

“So do you,” Seokjin points out, and Jeongguk winces.

“Taehyung made his feelings for me pretty clear,” he says hollowly. “But maybe there’s still a chance for you and Namjoon.”

Seokjin frowns at him, looking doubtful.

“If the roles were reversed, you’d tell me to go for it,” Jeongguk nudges.

“Okay,” Seokjin relents, nodding. “I’ll talk to him.”

Jeongguk feels a weight lift off his shoulders, and he sighs in relief. Vaguely, he wonders if this will make Taehyung happy, if his hatred for Jeongguk would soften at all if Seokjin and Namjoon work things out. He promptly squashes that thought as pathetic and refocuses on Seokjin.

“I’m really sorry, hyung,” he says. “For making this mess. I was really just trying to look out for y - “

“I know,” Seokjin interrupts him. “I know. It’s okay.”

Jeongguk nods, taking a deep breath. If he can’t make himself happy, seeing Seokjin happy again will at least be a good consolation prize.

“Alright, so. Should we practice what you’re gonna say to him?”

***

The process takes a few weeks, during which time Taehyung keeps his head down and avoids Hyungsik at all costs, but it’s all worth it for the day Hoseok calls him into his office and tells him that Hyungsik has officially been let go. Fortunately, the agency had taken Taehyung’s case seriously from the start, but the deciding factor had been another employee with a similar experience, who agreed to make a statement once he learned that Taehyung already had.

“Hyungsik is being escorted out of the building as we speak,” Hoseok informs him, trying to suppress a smile and failing spectacularly.

(“Damn, I wish I had known,” Jimin says when Taehyung reports back with this information later. “I would have made popcorn.”)

Taehyung lets out a sigh of relief that he feels like he’s been holding for weeks. The waiting had been agonizing, and he kept expecting something to go wrong, or for Hyungsik to accost him in the bathroom. But now he’s gone for good, and there are already meetings on the calendar for Taehyung to get introduced to the BT21 team. Finally, it feels like he can move on with his career and with his life.

Except for the minor detail that ever since the incident with Hyungsik, he can’t stop wondering whether the story Hyungsik had told him about Jeongguk is even true. Now that he knows the type of person Hyungsik is, what he’s willing to do to get what he wants, it seems less plausible, and Taehyung has the terrible feeling that he may have accused Jeongguk of something that wasn’t true. It still doesn’t change what he’d done to Namjoon, though.

About a month has passed since he last saw Jeongguk, since they flung hateful words at each other in the entrance of his enormous apartment. Taehyung hasn’t heard from him at all, and now that Namjoon and Seokjin aren’t together anymore, every channel that connected him to Jeongguk has effectively been severed. The one good thing about the whole debacle with Hyungsik is that it’s kept him thoroughly distracted over the past few weeks, so that he hasn’t had much time to stew in his anger or, in his weaker moments, think about how he maybe, sort of, kind of misses Jeongguk.

On the Friday after Hyungsik gets fired, Taehyung and Jimin go over to Namjoon and Yoongi’s apartment for pizza and beer, the possibility of a night out lingering on the horizon, depending on how they’re feeling later. Namjoon is in a much better place than he had been a month ago, almost back to his usual self, although Taehyung suspects he still misses Seokjin. Jimin and Yoongi, on the other hand, have made no such progress, still bickering like an old married couple and refusing to acknowledge that they have feelings for each other.

The current topic of discussion is a sweater Yoongi’s mother had sent him for his birthday, a gray and pink argyle cardigan that he stares at in abject horror.

“I like it,” Jimin insists, fingering the material of one of the sleeves. “It’s soft.”

Yoongi scoffs, shaking his head. “I will literally never wear this.”

“It’s not up and coming producer chic, Jimin, come on,” Taehyung teases, and Jimin giggles while Yoongi rolls his eyes.

“Well, fine, if you won’t wear it then I will,” Jimin sniffs, tugging the sweater out of Yoongi’s grasp and slipping it over his shoulders. “I’m cold anyway.”

Yoongi blinks at him, visibly overwhelmed by the sight of Jimin wearing his sweater (even if it is an argyle cardigan).

“It looks nice on you,” he says eventually, clearing his throat.

Taehyung glances over at Namjoon and finds him with slightly raised eyebrows, a small grin tugging at his lips. He catches Taehyung’s eye and winks.

“Of course it does,” Jimin replies haughtily, but his cheeks are dusted a delicate pink when he grabs Yoongi’s beer and takes a sip from it.

Before this warped mating dance can unfold any further, a knock at the door startles them all to attention. They look between each other, confused, until Yoongi drags himself up from the couch and answers it. From his position on the couch, Taehyung watches the door swing open to reveal Kim Seokjin’s tall frame standing in the hallway. He looks nauseous.

“What do you want?” Yoongi snaps, ferocious even though Seokjin is both taller and broader than him.

Seokjin has the decency to look ashamed, cowering under Yoongi’s glare. Out of the corner of his eye, Taehyung sees Jimin place a steadying hand on Namjoon’s back. Namjoon is still seated, eyes wide, watching Seokjin over Yoongi’s shoulder like he’s seen a ghost.

“I know I have no right to just show up like this,” Seokjin says, and he sounds terrified. “But I was hoping, umm, to speak with Namjoon? Alone?”

All eyes turn to Namjoon, who looks like he might pass out.

“Personally, I think I should just slam this door in your face,” Yoongi snarls. Taehyung makes a mental note to never piss him off. “But I’ll let Namjoon make that decision.”

Seokjin’s gaze refocuses on Namjoon, his eyes pleading. Taehyung almost (almost) feels bad for the guy.

“Okay,” Namjoon says hoarsely, after what feels like an eternity. He stands up, motioning Seokjin into the living room. “Come on.”

Yoongi steps back begrudgingly to let him in, and Seokjin follows Namjoon to his bedroom, nodding meekly at Taehyung and Jimin as he goes. Vaguely, Taehyung wonders what Seokjin thinks of him right now, in light of what went down between him and Jeongguk.

“We’ll be right out here if you need us, Namjoon!” Yoongi calls out as the door to Namjoon’s bedroom closes.

“Shit,” Taehyung says quietly as Yoongi drops back down on to the couch with them, still frowning.

“I hope Namjoon hyung is okay,” Jimin says worriedly.

“I hope he tells him to fuck off,” Yoongi replies.

Jimin cocks his head to the side. “You’re really not a fan, huh?”

“He broke my best friend’s heart,” Yoongi grumbles, folding his arms across his chest. “And now he has the audacity to show up here - ”

“I know,” Jimin says soothingly, putting an arm around his shoulders. Yoongi’s demeanor softens slightly. “It’ll be okay. Hopefully they can work it out.”

“I think Seokjin knows he made a mistake,” Taehyung comments thoughtfully, but Yoongi looks unmoved.

“Come on, let’s put on an episode of Friends or something,” Jimin suggests. “Otherwise I’m gonna be too tempted to eavesdrop.”

They make it through two episodes of Friends, 80% of which Jimin predictably spends sprawling into either Taehyung or Yoongi’s lap, limbs flailing as he laughs hysterically. At one point, he nearly falls off the couch, but Yoongi catches him just in time, reeling him back to safety. Jimin’s laughter is always contagious, what with the way it makes his whole body shake and his eyes disappear into little crescents, and it seems to cheer Yoongi up more than the show itself. He keeps looking down at Jimin and biting his bottom lip, trying to suppress a smile.

They’re just starting a third episode (the one with all the football, a true classic), when the door to Namjoon’s room opens and he and Seokjin emerge, both grinning goofily. Seokjin’s entire demeanor has changed from when he first arrived at their door, relief rolling off of him in waves, although he tenses slightly when he sees Yoongi eyeing him skeptically.

“So, umm,” Namjoon says shyly, looking at Seokjin and then at his three friends, watching with bated breath from the couch. He’s practically radiating happiness. “Seokjin is gonna hang out for a while.”

(“He somehow got it into his head that I wasn’t interested,” Namjoon will tell them later that weekend, when they’re squeezed into a booth at their favorite diner, sucking down milkshakes. “Or that I only cared about the music hook up.”

“Weird,” Taehyung says, shaking his head and catching Jimin’s eye. They’d never told Namjoon or Yoongi what they learned from Hoseok, or that Taehyung had confronted Jeongguk about it after.

Taehyung can’t help but wonder what changed Seokjin’s mind.)

“Cool,” Taehyung says evenly, smiling as Jimin claps his hands together. Meanwhile, Yoongi is still glaring at Seokjin. “We were actually just leaving.”

“That’s right, we were!” Jimin agrees, catching Taehyung’s hint and leaping up from the couch. “Yoongi too, come on, hyung.”

“What?” Yoongi says, confused. “No, we weren’t, we just started an episo - ”

Jimin stomps hard on his foot, smiling brightly as Yoongi exclaims in pain and yanking him up to his feet.

“You guys don’t have to do that,” Namjoon says hurriedly.

“No, we do,” Taehyung counters, winking at Namjoon and slipping on his jacket.

“Seokjin hyung, it’s good to have you back,” Jimin says sweetly, winding a scarf around Yoongi’s neck as he continues to pout. “But pull a stunt like that again and we’ll be forced to murder you.”

Seokjin’s eyes widen, and he laughs nervously. “I won’t, I promise.” He shoots a sideways glance at Namjoon. “I plan on sticking around, if he’ll have me.”

Namjoon beams at him.

“I’ll be watching you,” Yoongi huffs, shooting a last glare over his shoulder as Jimin tugs him out the door.

“See you, hyung,” Taehyung says with a wave. “Have a good night.”

They end up not going out that night, squeezing three across on Taehyung and Jimin’s too-small couch and settling in for a lazy night of video games and more Friends. Around midnight, Taehyung looks to his left and finds Jimin and Yoongi asleep next to him, Yoongi’s cheek resting on Jimin’s head, which is pressed to his shoulder. It’s disgustingly adorable and Taehyung is tempted to take a picture and send it to them both, just so they can see what seems so obvious to everyone around them. Instead, he leaves them sleeping peacefully, tossing a blanket over their small frames before trudging off to his own bed.

Taehyung has always been someone who delights in the happiness of his friends, their smiles bringing him joy even when he is lacking in his own. He wishes for things to work out this time for Namjoon and Seokjin, and for Jimin and Yoongi to pull their heads out of their asses and just be together already. But he can’t help the something selfish that tugs at his heart when he thinks about all of them coupling up without him, or the fact that he wishes things had gone differently between him and Jeongguk. For one second, he thought he’d seen the glimmer of something more there, but it must have just been a trick of the light.

***

Two weeks after Namjoon and Seokjin get back together, Jimin’s phone rings just as he and Taehyung are walking into their apartment.

“It’s Yoongi,” Jimin says curiously, putting his bag down and answering the call. “Hi, hyung.”

Taehyung hears an explosion of noise on the other end of the line, and Jimin abruptly pulls the phone away from his ear, wincing.

“Wait, what?!” he exclaims, holding the phone at a safe distance. “Hang on, Tae is here, I’m putting you on speaker.”

“BANGTAN PICKED UP OUR DEMO!!!” Yoongi shouts, and they hear Namjoon whoop in the background.

“What?!” Taehyung cries, squishing himself up next to Jimin get closer to the phone. “How?!”

“I’m not sure, Seokjin just told us,” Yoongi shouts excitedly. He sounds completely beside himself, and Taehyung’s heart soars for them. “We’re going to the bar to celebrate, your asses better be there. I’ll text you the address.”

The call ends, and Jimin turns to look at Taehyung with wide eyes. “Holy shit,” he says. “Our friends are gonna be famous.”

They quickly change out of their work clothes and head to the bar Yoongi had texted them about, a casual pub a few blocks away from his and Namjoon’s apartment. The two of them and Seokjin are already seated in a booth when Taehyung and Jimin get there, but that doesn’t stop Jimin from quite literally throwing himself into Yoongi’s arms as soon as they see them. Taehyung hugs Namjoon, and eventually Yoongi too, and they settle in to be regaled with the story of what had happened.

“I wish I could take credit, but it was actually Jeongguk who made it happen,” Seokjin says, and Taehyung freezes as all eyes at the table briefly flicker to him. “He found another sponsor, so there wouldn’t be a conflict of interest, and convinced them to push it through. Of course, none of this would have happened if they hadn’t loved the demo to begin with.”

The conversation continues to swirl around him, and Taehyung hears the words but doesn’t really register them. His mind is racing, trying to wrap itself around the fact that Jeongguk, of all people, had been the one to make this happen for his friends - to literally make their dreams come true, or at least give them a shot at it. It’s so... kind.

“Next round is on me,” Taehyung says when they finish their first pitcher of beer, mostly because he needs a chance to stand up and clear his head.

“I’ll come with you,” Seokjin says quickly, standing too.

“Oh, thanks,” Taehyung replies, trying to hide his surprise. He and Seokjin haven’t spoken much since he got back together with Namjoon, and to be honest Taehyung is a little nervous about it. He doesn’t know what Seokjin had heard from Jeongguk about what happened between them, but he can’t imagine it was very favorable.

Seokjin follows him to the bar in silence, and Taehyung half hopes the bustle of the pub around them will be enough to save them from the awkwardness of this moment. No such luck, because as soon as Taehyung puts their order in, Seokjin turns to him and says:

“I actually have been wanting to talk to you, Taehyung.”

Taehyung’s stomach sinks, and he takes to nervously drumming his fingers on the bar top. “Yeah?”

Seokjin nods. “I wanted you to know, Jeongguk is the one who convinced me to make up with Namjoon.”

Taehyung stares at him, dumbfounded. “I - ”

“I mean, I wanted to anyway, obviously, I didn’t want to end it to begin with, but - ” he pauses, smiling ruefully. “I just, I know you guys fought about it, and I understand why, but. I thought you should know, because he felt really bad about what happened.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says quietly. He doesn’t know how else to respond. His chest feels uncomfortably tight all of a sudden, swollen with emotion.

“Also, about Hyungsik,” Seokjin says, and Taehyung visibly flinches.

“I know he’s a piece of garbage,” Taehyung responds when Seokjin’s eyebrows lift in alarm. “Or, I mean. I’ve since learned.”

“Yeah,” Seokjin nods fervently. “I know he probably fed you some bullshit story, but he’s the one who screwed Jeongguk over, not the other way around. They were best friends, you know? He was always kind of riding Jeongguk’s coattails, but they were tight. Jeongguk got him an internship at Bangtan and everything, but he totally blew it, acted like he owned the place and didn’t do any actual work.”

Taehyung nods numbly, not particularly surprised but feeling nauseous all the same. The bartender sets down a pitcher and a stack of plastic cups in front of them, but he makes no move to grab it.

“Obviously, when it came time to see who would get picked for an actual job, he didn’t get it,” Seokjin continues. “And he totally lost it on Jeongguk, tried to pressure him into calling in a favor with his dad, as if that would have worked. When Jeongguk wouldn’t do it, he got really nasty, and they stopped being friends.”

“Jesus,” Taehyung murmurs, dragging a finger through the condensation clinging to the side of the pitcher. A sort of creeping guilt is spreading slowly through his body as he thinks back on the things he’d said to Jeongguk, how wrong he’d been about him.

“Yeah,” Seokjin nods. “It fucking sucked, and Guk still struggles with it, honestly.”

Taehyung sucks in a deep breath of air, exhaling slowly. “I shouldn’t have said what I said to him,” he says quietly.

“You didn’t know,” Seokjin shrugs. “It’s not your fault. You’re not the first person to fall under Hyungsik’s spell.”

“He came on to me at work,” Taehyung blurts out suddenly, fingernails curling into his palm. “He threatened to block me from a promotion because I wouldn’t sleep with him.”

Seokjin’s jaw drops. “God, I fucking hate that guy,” he says, shaking his head. He places a big, warm hand on Taehyung’s shoulder. “I’m really sorry that happened to you.”

“Thanks,” Taehyung says. “He got fired, so.”

“Good.” Seokjin smiles grimly. “I’m really, honestly, so glad to hear that.”

Taehyung glances over at the booth where his friends are sitting, finds them still happily engrossed in conversation. Turning back to Seokjin, he decides to ask what’s been nagging at him for the entirety of this exchange.

“Why are you telling me all of this?”

“Jeongguk has done a lot to help me fix the mess I made,” he says, picking up the pitcher of beer and handing the stack of cups to Taehyung. “I guess I just want to return the favor.”

Taehyung can’t help but think he’s the one who’s made a mess, but he keeps that thought to himself as he and Seokjin slide back into the booth and are swept up in a merry discussion about Namjoon and Yoongi’s future music careers.

***

Jeongguk is fine. Really.

(Or he’s trying to be, at least.)

On the whole, things are better than they had been a few weeks prior. For starters, Seokjin is blissfully happy, waltzing around like he lives on a fucking cloud, and even Jeongguk’s cold, bitter heart is warmed by the sight of his best friend falling in love. The demo is also doing well, already garnering attention in all the right places, and it gives him satisfaction to know that at least in that corner of his life, he’d been able to right his wrongs.

He’s also been doing his best to follow Seokjin’s advice in other areas of life - trying to give people the benefit of the doubt more often, or to engage when someone is friendly to him. After showing up at one of Hoseok’s dance classes on a whim (a whim inspired by Taehyung, which is the part he prefers to leave out) a few months ago, he’s started attending them once a week, slowly trying to integrate it back into his life. It’s still difficult for him, having loved it so deeply once upon a time, but he’s coming to realize that in many cases, something is better than nothing at all.

Now, if only he could stop thinking about Taehyung.

Seokjin has invited him to come out with him and Namjoon’s friends more than once, insisting that it’ll be fine if Taehyung is there, that enough time has passed since their fight. Even if this is true, which Jeongguk doubts - Seokjin hadn’t seen the way Taehyung looked at him, the disgust in his voice - the real reason he keeps saying no is that Jeongguk’s not sure he would survive seeing Taehyung again.

But really, he’s fine.

This is what he tells himself as he strolls down a street a few blocks from his office, the latest way he’s been trying to Live his Best Life - leaving the office for at least 15 minutes every day to clear his head and get some fresh air. He still feels kind of foolish doing it, like some kind of inane lifestyle blogger, but he can’t deny that it’s been helping.

Without really thinking about it, his feet lead him to his favorite coffee shop, the one where he’d run into Taehyung a few times. That feels like a lifetime ago now, which is why for a second he thinks he’s actually dreaming when he goes to pull open the door and comes face to face with none other than Taehyung himself.

It’s been nearly two months since they’ve seen each other, and Taehyung is even more gorgeous than Jeongguk remembers, if that’s possible - all lithe, ethereal beauty, with his soft hair and his full lips and a set of eyes that express so much. He looks a little disorganized, as usual, with a colored pencil tucked behind his ear (Jeongguk is willing to bet he doesn’t even remember it’s there) and a pair of glasses perched on the back of his head. He’s juggling three coffees, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that he doesn’t immediately drop them when he sees Jeongguk.

“Shit,” he says by way of greeting, his eyes going wide.

Jeongguk wishes his heart weren’t pounding quite so loudly in his chest.

“Nice to see you, too.”

Taehyung flushes. “Sorry, I mean, sorry - I forgot this was your spot too, I didn’t, umm.” He cuts himself off, looking flustered.

“How are you?” Jeongguk asks, wondering if his voice sounds as desperate to Taehyung as it does in his own ears. Really, he’s surprised that his brain was able to produce words at all in this situation.

“I’m good,” Taehyung nods. He looks intensely uncomfortable, and Jeongguk’s heart fractures a little deeper. “Good, yeah. You?”

“Oh, umm.” Jeongguk clears his throat. “Yeah, I’m good.”

Is he, though?

“Good!” Taehyung says enthusiastically. “Good, I’m glad.”

Jeongguk wonders how many times they’ve said “good” in the past five minutes.

“Do you need help with those?” he offers, eyeing the drinks held precariously in Taehyung’s hands.

Taehyung looks down at them, visibly surprised. “Oh! No, thanks, that’s okay. I got it.”

Jeongguk’s heart sinks, his wild moment of hope dashed, and he casts around for something else to say.

“I should get going,” Taehyung says before he can think of anything, and for some reason his expression looks pained. Jeongguk wonders if his own presence is really still that unpleasant for him. “Jimin and Hoseok are waiting on their coffee.”

“Oh, right,” Jeongguk replies awkwardly.

Taehyung smiles, backing away, and Jeongguk is about to give up and get on line when he says:

“It was good to see you, Jeongguk.”

“You too,” Jeongguk says, stunned. For a moment, he thinks Taehyung is going to say something else, but then he turns and walks away, his thin frame getting swept up in the crowd of people on the sidewalk.

It takes until he gets back to the office for Jeongguk’s heart rate to fully return to normal, and even then he goes straight to Seokjin’s office, closing the door and collapsing into one of the chairs.

“You okay?” Seokjin asks, looking up from the stack of papers he’s sorting through. Afternoon sunlight streams through the large window behind him, a view of the city most people would kill for. Jeongguk has been trying to appreciate it more often.

“I just saw Taehyung.”

“Oh, shit,” Seokjin says, completely stopping what’s doing and focusing his full attention on Jeongguk. “How was that? Did you talk to him?”

“A little,” Jeongguk nods. “Fuck.”

“Well, that’s better than nothing, right?” Seokjin says encouragingly.

“Yeah.” Jeongguk rubs a frustrated hand over his face. “Yeah, I just.”

He just wants him so badly, is the thing.

“Maybe you should try reaching out,” Seokjin suggests, his tone cautious.

Jeongguk scoffs, shaking his head. “I doubt he wants to hear from me.”

“He might feel differently now,” Seokjin says. “I’m back with Namjoon, the demo is doing well - he knows that was because of you.”

When Jeongguk doesn’t respond with anything more than a half-hearted shrug, Seokjin continues.

“I also told him what really happened with Hyungsik.”

This gets Jeongguk’s attention. “Did he believe you?”

“Hyungsik was just fired from their agency for sexual harassment,” Seokjin says, and Jeongguk thinks his eyebrows probably shoot all the way up to his hairline. “For trying to get Taehyung to sleep with him in exchange for a promotion. And then threatening to essentially steal his designs when he said no.”

What?” Jeongguk practically roars. He leaps to his feet, then sits back down when he realizes there’s not really any action he can take at this moment. “I’m going to kill that motherfucker.”

“I know,” Seokjin says sympathetically. “Taehyung got him fired though, so there’s that at least.”

“He deserves worse,” Jeongguk grumbles, still fuming. It makes him sick to think of Taehyung - beautiful, talented Taehyung - being put in a position like that, especially at the hands of fucking Hyungsik. He wishes there was something more he could do about it, like beating Hyungsik’s ass, for starters.

“I agree,” Seokjin nods. “But my point is, now Taehyung knows the truth about that. Maybe it’s worth another shot, at least at being friends?”

“I dunno,” Jeongguk says dubiously, his heart clenching. He’s not sure he could ever just be friends with Taehyung, although the idea of having him back in his life is painfully tempting.

“I know your fight was really bad,” Seokjin acknowledges. “But I also thought he brought out a lot of good in you.”

Even though he doesn’t admit it out loud, Jeongguk knows Seokjin is right about that - he’d felt freer with Taehyung than he had in years. But doubt still gnaws at him anyway, especially when he remembers the end of their fight, Taehyung shouting that he didn’t know why he’d slept with Jeongguk in the first place. It seems impossible to come back from that, even if Taehyung doesn’t think he’s a completely terrible person anymore. Setting everything else aside, he still has no reason to believe that Taehyung could actually like him, or want to be with him.

It’s probably better to just keep his distance.

***

“Fuck me, I was so awkward,” Taehyung whines, lying on his back with his head hanging off the edge of Jimin’s bed. Jimin is bustling around him folding his laundry, which he’d finally done after running out of underwear earlier this week. “I could barely even speak.”

“To be fair, the last time you saw him you basically told him to fuck himself,” Jimin says, draping a pair of jeans over Taehyung’s torso. They’re still pleasantly warm from the dryer. “I think a little awkwardness is to be expected.”

“Thank you for that helpful reminder, Jimin,” Taehyung snaps. “God, I was awful to him.”

“You were pissed, and justifiably so,” Jimin says consolingly. “People say shitty things when they’re pissed.”

“I guess,” Taehyung sighs. Ever since his conversation with Seokjin, guilt about his fight with Jeongguk has been lingering at the back of his mind. “I just wish I hadn’t acted like such a moron today. It would have been nice to talk to him.”

“Never thought I’d hear you say that,” Jimin says.

“Me neither,” Taehyung groans. So much of what he thought he knew about Jeongguk has been challenged in the past few weeks, and he feels all mixed up and turned around about it. Seeing him today had just made things a million times more confusing, and he hasn’t been able to stop replaying the incident in his head since. “He looked so fucking good too, god.”

“So why don’t you text him?” Jimin suggests.

“I can’t,” Taehyung says, covering his face with one of Jimin’s newly clean sweatshirts. “It’s too - it wouldn’t be, I just. I can’t.”

“So you’re scared, is what you’re saying.”

Taehyung doesn’t even bother arguing. “I’m fucking terrified.”

That weekend, the four of them go out to a bar with Seokjin, and Taehyung’s stomach definitely doesn’t drop with disappointment when Seokjin shows up alone once again, no Jeongguk in tow. With the faint flicker of hope he’d had for the night effectively put out, Taehyung settles for getting drunk instead. Several drinks later, he’s fighting a losing battle with jealousy as he watches Namjoon put a casual hand on the small of Seokjin’s back, and sees Yoongi’s smile widen as Jimin giggle-whispers something into his ear. He knows he’s being stupid - Jimin and Yoongi aren’t even together, for God’s sake - so he decides to take a breather and wanders off in search of the bathroom.

It’s a big bar, complete with a lounge area and a pulsing dance floor, and the door to the bathroom is tucked into a back hallway hidden behind a curtain. Taehyung slips through it and is just reaching for the knob on the door when it swings open and someone stumbles out. When he realizes who it is, his blood runs cold.

Hyungsik is drunk, that much is evident to Taehyung right away. His eyes keep sliding in and out of focus, and he seems to be having trouble walking straight. But the second his gaze settles on Taehyung, he snaps to attention, a nasty sneer curling across his face.

“You,” he slurs, taking a lurching step forward. Taehyung tries to back away, but the hallway is narrow and his back hits the wall behind him almost immediately. “You little fucking shit.”

Suddenly, Hyungsik is so close that Taehyung can feel his breath against his face, smell the alcohol on it.

“Get the fuck away from me,” he breathes, fighting to keep his voice calm. Hyungsik is bigger than him, and he doesn’t like the look in his eyes one bit.

“Or what?” Hyungsik sneers. “Gonna get me fired?”

“That was your own fucking fault,” Taehyung snaps, but his whole body is trembling - Hyungsik has one arm on either side of him now, caging him in, and Taehyung doesn’t think he’s strong enough to push him away.

“As if you didn’t want it,” Hyungsik taunts, grabbing Taehyung’s hip so hard it hurts. “As if you weren’t fucking thirsty for it from the second you walked into that office - ”

“Don’t fucking touch me,” Taehyung hisses, struggling in vain to squirm out of his grasp. His heart is pounding so hard he feels like his chest might explode, fear starting to take over his senses.

“You ruined my fucking life, you stupid bitch,” Hyungsik says, his voice dripping pure venom. Taehyung feels like he might cry. “This is the least you can do in ret - ”

Out of the corner of Taehyung’s eye, he sees a flicker of movement, and then Hyungsik is being ripped off of him with such force that his body hits the opposite wall with a sickening thud. Taehyung is so stunned that it takes him a moment to register what’s happening, but then he recognizes the profile of the man currently pinning Hyungsik to the wall with his forearm, the dark hair and broad shoulders.

It’s Jeongguk.

“He told you not to touch him,” Jeongguk breathes, voice low and deadly. His face is centimeters from Hyungsik’s, and he looks so threatening that even Taehyung is a little scared of him. “I think that’s a pretty clear request, don’t you?”

“Back the fuck off, Jeon,” Hyungsik spits, trying to free himself, but it’s clear Jeongguk is stronger. “This has nothing to do with you.”

“Wanna bet?” Jeongguk growls, shifting his arm so that his elbow digs into Hyungsik’s rib cage. Hyungsik gasps in pain. “Come near him again and I’ll show you what it actually looks like when someone ruins your life. That’s a fucking promise.”

Hyungsik scowls at him but doesn’t say anything. Vaguely, Taehyung is aware of himself sliding down to the floor, his knees shaking uncontrollably.

“Get the fuck out of here before I call security,” Jeongguk says, shoving Hyungsik towards the curtain. “They like me here, so I wouldn’t push it if I were you.”

Hyungsik throws them both a last look of pure hatred before turning and disappearing through the curtain, his gait still a little unsteady.

The second he’s gone, Jeongguk whirls around, dropping to his knees in front of Taehyung. His eyes are frantic, hands coming up to grip Taehyung’s shoulders gently.

“Fuck, Taehyung, are you okay?” he asks worriedly, looking him up and down. “Did he hurt you?”

Taehyung shakes his head, blinking back tears. His whole body is shaking violently, but the warm weight of Jeongguk’s hands on his shoulders is comforting. “I’m okay,” he murmurs, wishing he could just burrow into Jeongguk’s chest. “Just a little rattled.”

Relief sweeps across Jeongguk’s features, his face so close that Taehyung could reach out and touch if he wanted to (he wants to). “I’m really sorry, Taehyung,” he says. “I should have warned you about him.”

Taehyung shakes his head, bringing a hand up to close around Jeongguk’s forearm. “Don’t be silly. I’m pretty sure he was gonna be a jackass no matter what.” He gives Jeongguk a weak smile, feels himself melt a little at the concern in his eyes. There’s so much that he wants to say to Jeongguk, all of a sudden - wants to thank him, to tell him he’s sorry, to ask if they can just sit down and talk, or something. Start over, maybe, with all their cards on the table.

Before he can say any of this, though, the curtain blocking the hallway is pulled aside again, this time revealing Jimin and Yoongi.

“Holy shit, Tae, what happened?” Jimin asks, surveying the scene before him in alarm and racing to Taehyung’s side. “We realized you’d been gone for a while and got worried.”

The next hour passes in a blur. Namjoon and Seokjin arrive on the scene, and Taehyung recounts what had happened shakily, eliciting the expected reactions - outrage, indignation, concern. Then it’s a whirl of doting hands and comforting words as they shepherd him into a cab and bring him home, Jimin insisting on curling up in bed with him. Through it all, Taehyung keeps searching for Jeongguk, but he slips away discretely as they’re leaving the bar. When he looks back on it later, a few things stand out:

Jeongguk’s hand in his, warm and steady as he helped Taehyung back to his feet. His solid, reassuring presence, standing silently at Taehyung’s shoulder as he’d told his friends what happened. Most of all, the look on his face, the way his gaze had never left Taehyung, even in the chaos that had ensued when the others arrived.

Taehyung hadn’t even gotten a chance to thank him.

***

“Got a lot on your mind?”

It’s Hoseok, sipping on a water bottle and watching Jeongguk curiously as he practices a flip turn for probably the 90th time that morning. This kind of thing came so naturally to him when he was younger, his body knowing what to do before the thought even crossed his mind. Of course, that was also back when he used to practice for at least an hour a day, sneaking into the studio even on days when they didn’t have rehearsals.

Class had ended almost five minutes ago, and most of the students have already filtered out, with a few stragglers still packing up their bags or chatting amongst themselves. Jeongguk hadn’t even stopped moving when Hoseok told them they were done for the day, just kept practicing the move over and over - it’s the kind of single-minded drive that had made him so good in college, and that’s carried over into his career as well. He’s never been particularly interested at being second-best at anything.

“You could say that,” Jeongguk pants, pausing to take a long swig of Gatorade. He’s dripping sweat, hair clinging to his forehead, but his body is singing, exhausted in the best kind of way. He can’t even begin to describe how much he’d missed this.

“Well, you did great today,” Hoseok says, clapping him on the shoulder. “Seriously, if you’re ever interested in competing, let me know. It’s nothing too major, but being on stage, you know? It’s hard to beat.”

“I remember,” Jeongguk nods. “I’ll really think about it, thanks hyung.”

Hoseok smiles, lifting his water bottle towards Jeongguk before wandering off to talk to a student with a question about the upcoming class schedule. In the mirror, Jeongguk is surprised to see Jimin approaching, dressed in an oversized tank top with his gym bag slung over his shoulder. Jeongguk had noticed him in class earlier, and had been impressed by his talent, how gracefully he moved.

“Hey, Jeongguk,” he says tentatively, offering a small smile, which Jeongguk returns. “Good practice just now.”

It’s Sunday morning, less than 48 hours after the incident in the bar with Taehyung and Hyungsik, and the memory of that night seems to hover in the air between them. Jeongguk certainly hasn’t been able to stop thinking about it all weekend.

“Thanks, yeah, you too,” Jeongguk responds, running a towel across his forehead. “You’re really good.”

“Oh, thanks,” Jimin says, flushing happily. “You too, I mean, you’re incredible.”

Jeongguk resists the urge to say something self-deprecating and instead decides to take the compliment. “Thank you.”

Jimin’s expression gets more serious, and he hitches his bag higher on his shoulder. “I also just wanted to say, umm. Thanks again, for what you did on Friday.” He bites his lip, frowning. “I know Taehyung is really grateful.”

Jeongguk’s stomach lurches at the sound of Taehyung’s name, mind spiraling back to the way Taehyung had looked at him as he knelt before him on the ground, his eyes softer than Jeongguk had ever seen them.

“Oh, I mean, of course,” Jeongguk says, clearing his throat awkwardly. If he thinks too much about what had happened, he starts feeling like he’s going to either break something or cry, possibly both. “I just am glad I was there.”

“Me too.”

“Is he okay?” Jeongguk asks, so quietly that for a moment he wonders if Jimin even heard him.

But Jimin seems to know anyway, even if he can’t hear the exact words. He smiles gently, nodding. “Yeah, he’s fine. A little shaken, obviously, but Tae is tough. Don’t worry.”

Jeongguk nods a little jerkily, relieved. “Good. That’s good.”

“I hope we see you around, Jeongguk,” Jimin says, taking a step back. Something warm settles in Jeongguk’s stomach, something that feels like forgiveness. “Really.”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk agrees, thinking of soulful eyes and a soft hand in his. If Jimin is suggesting they all hang out, that must mean Taehyung doesn’t hate him anymore, right? “Me too.”

The tiny flame of hope in Jeongguk’s chest strengthens just a fraction.

***

In the days following the run-in with Hyungsik, Taehyung spends more time agonizing over Jeongguk than he does about the incident itself. On top of everything else he already feels guilty about, he can now add the fact that he hadn’t even gotten to thank Jeongguk for coming to his rescue. Sending a text feels woefully insufficient, but he also doesn’t know if or when he’ll see Jeongguk again. There’s also the minor detail that, somewhere along the way, Taehyung seems to have developed real feelings for Jeongguk, strengthened all the more now that he’s seen Jeongguk for who he truly is, the things he’s done for Taehyung and his friends.

He whines about this at great length, especially to Jimin, who snaps in the middle of dinner (read: microwaved ramen) on Thursday and threatens to personally call Jeongguk if Taehyung doesn’t get his shit together immediately. This is how Taehyung finds himself at Jeongguk’s door on Saturday afternoon, having once again shown up without any advance warning (although under much different circumstances this time). Before he can chicken out, he wipes sweaty palms on his pants and knocks firmly on the door, feeling a little bit like he might vomit at any moment.

When the door opens, he does a double take - the man behind it looks very much like Jeongguk, if he had aged thirty years overnight. His features are harder, his eyes crueler, but the resemblance is unmistakable, and that’s when Taehyung realizes - this must be Jeongguk’s father.

Well, shit.

“Umm, hi,” Taehyung says meekly. Not a super strong start, but Jeongguk’s dad is pretty intimidating, plus he’s heard the stories from Jeongguk himself. “Is Jeongguk here?”

The man looks Taehyung up and down, looking distinctly unimpressed and generally irritated by his presence.

“No,” he says without elaborating further. “Who are you?”

“Oh, sorry, I’m Taehyung,” Taehyung responds, forcing a bright smile on to his face. “I’m... a friend of Jeongguk’s.”

Mr. Jeon blinks at him, something like disgust flaring across his face. “You’re one of the twinks he likes to fuck, aren’t you? You’re exactly his type.”

The comment is so obscenely rude that Taehyung isn’t even offended - he’s heard it all before, and fuck if he cares what Jeongguk’s douchebag father thinks of him. He’s been through way too much shit in the past two months to back down now.

“That’s me,” he says cheerily, internally steeling himself. “And you must be his megalomaniac, homophobe father.”

To his credit, Jeongguk’s father barely flinches at the insult, just smirks at Taehyung with barely disguised distaste.

“Ah, yes, poor little Jeongguk, who lives a life of exceptional privilege and is grateful for none of it,” Mr. Jeon scoffs. “Your audacity is charming, but he has everything he could possibly want because of me.”

“Except the freedom to do what he actually wants,” Taehyung retorts, wondering what mistakes he’s made in his life that have led to him standing in his ex’s doorway, going head to head with the CEO of the biggest media conglomerate in the country.

Mr. Jeon snorts, shaking his head in disbelief. It’s bizarre how he can look so much like Jeongguk in some ways but be so repulsive to Taehyung in others.

“Are you dating my son?” he asks, sounding offended that he even needs to pose the question.

Taehyung’s heart clamors against his rib cage, and in that moment he realizes how badly he wants the answer to be yes.

“I’m not,” he says quietly, refusing to drop the older man’s gaze.

“Good.” There’s the barest trace of relief in his voice, and Taehyung thinks perhaps Jeongguk has more power over his father than he realizes. “Then I strongly suggest you stay away from him. There’s no place for that in his life.”

Taehyung is starting to think it makes a lot of sense why Jeongguk is the way he is.

“I can’t do that, sir,” Taehyung says, adding the “sir” more out of spite than anything else. It’s not generally like him to be this combative, especially to someone much older and more accomplished than him, but on some level he feels like he owes it to Jeongguk, after everything. “If Jeongguk wants me in his life, I’m going to be there.”

“I’d advise you to think very carefully about that,” Mr. Jeon says icily, his patience clearly wearing thin. “I can make your life very difficult.”

“I look forward to it,” Taehyung replies, far more boldly than he actually feels as he starts walking backwards down the hallway. “See you around, Mr. Jeon.”

He hears the door slam as he steps on to the elevator, and the irony of the juxtaposition with the last time he was here doesn’t escape him. First throwing Jeongguk out of his life, now fighting for him to stay a part of it. It’s starting to feel more and more like the odds are stacked against them, and Taehyung can’t help but wonder if he should just throw in the towel and let it be. But who is he kidding - he’s never been one to back down from a challenge.

***

Too restless to go home after leaving Jeongguk’s apartment, Taehyung tucks his hands into his jacket pockets and sets off walking, until the light on the buildings he passes fades from gold to the pale blues of dusk. He wanders through the streets in one of the city’s quieter neighborhoods, gazing into shop windows and stopping only once, to get a hot chocolate for the road. The sound of his own feet on the sidewalk settles his nerves, the crisp air clearing his head. Walking has always calmed him down - giving his body something to do somehow makes it easier to sort through the tangled mess in his mind.

He finally winds up back at his building a few hours later, body pleasantly worn out from being on his feet for so long. The sun has nearly set, and he fumbles with his keys in the weak light cast by the outdoor lamp hanging above the door. He’s going to change into his comfiest sweats, make himself a drink, and curl up on the couch for a movie night with himself -

“Taehyung.”

He startles, nearly dropping his keys as he whips around to find Jeongguk standing on the sidewalk in front of his building, slightly shorter than him without the elevation of the front step where Taehyung is situated. He’s dressed in jeans and a black sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, bangs peaking out and falling over his eyes. Taehyung’s not sure he’s ever seen him so casual, but he has to admit it suits him.

“Hi,” Taehyung breathes, his voice a strangled mess. He suddenly has the sensation that something is lodged in his throat - maybe his heart.

“I tried calling you,” Jeongguk says, a little desperately. His hands are stuffed into the front pocket of his sweatshirt, nose pink from the cold, and he looks vulnerable in a way that makes Taehyung feel warm all over.

“Shit, sorry.” He pulls his phone out of his pocket, wincing apologetically when he sees two missed calls from Jeongguk, plus a bunch of texts from Jimin and his other friends. Oops. “I’ve just been walking around the city, wasn’t paying attention to my phone.”

“That’s okay,” Jeongguk says, shifting his weight back and forth between his feet. “Umm. I came because - I heard you met my dad?”

“I did,” Taehyung nods, and Jeongguk wrinkles his nose, watching him in tense anticipation. “I think he likes me.”

Jeongguk barks out a laugh, his posture loosening momentarily, but then he’s frowning again. “I’m so sorry,” he says, his expression pained. “The stuff he said to you -”

“He told you?” Taehyung asks.

“I have a security camera outside my door.”

Of course he does.

“Oh.” So that means - “You heard what I said too, then.”

Jeongguk bites his lip, nodding. “You really held your own with him, I was impressed.”

Taehyung gives a small shrug, looking down at his feet. “I didn’t like how he was talking about you,” he murmurs.

Jeongguk looks like he doesn’t quite know what to make of that, his eyes round, soft. He looks at Taehyung like he’s worth a million dollars, and maybe, to Jeongguk, he is. Maybe the boy who has everything just wants somebody to want him back.

“Not too long ago, you might have agreed with him,” Jeongguk says quietly, and he doesn’t sound angry, just sad. Taehyung’s heart fractures down the middle.

“I was wrong,” he insists, shaking his head. “Jeongguk, I was so wrong, and I just - I’m so sorry, okay? After everything you’ve done for my friends, and for me - I’m the one who should be apologizing, and thanking you. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”

“I don’t want to be repaid,” Jeongguk says, his voice hoarse. “All I want is to be someone you can see the good in.”

Taehyung stares at him, speechless. When he doesn’t respond, Jeongguk steps up on to the stoop with him, his eyes pleading. Like this, they’re essentially the same height, but something about Jeongguk always makes Taehyung feel small, delicate.

“Taehyung.” Jeongguk’s voice cracks, and he pauses, clearing his throat. It could be the cold night air, but Taehyung thinks he might be shaking. “I know what you said when we ended things, and if that’s still how you feel, I promise to leave you alone, I swear it.”

Taehyung wants to clap a hand over his mouth, wants to scream at him to take the words back, to never leave his side again, preferably.

Jeongguk swallows, taking a deep breath. “But, after what you said to my dad - you said you couldn’t stay away from me.” He trails off, looking at Taehyung helplessly. “There’s always going to be a place in my life for you, if you want it.”

Taehyung takes a step forward, watches Jeongguk watch him with something like wonder on his face. When they’re just a breath apart, he slips his hands into the pocket of Jeongguk’s sweatshirt, tangles their fingers together. He hears Jeongguk’s breathing stutter, and his heart surges.

Finally.

“Your hands are cold,” Taehyung murmurs, tipping his forehead so that it rests against Jeongguk’s. Glancing up through his eyelashes, he sees Jeongguk’s eyes flutter closed, feels him nod.

“Yours are colder,” he points out, brushing his thumb over the back of Taehyung’s palm.

Taehyung hums in acknowledgement, leans in for a kiss that’s meant to be sweet but lingers until they’re both breathless. Rediscovering the shape of Jeongguk’s mouth has him giddy, grinning like an idiot when they break apart.

“Come on,” Taehyung says, extracting his hands from Jeongguk’s so that he can cup his face instead. “Let’s go inside.”

***

Jeongguk thinks it’s a testament to both of them that they don’t rip each other’s clothes off the second they get into Taehyung’s apartment, especially considering Jimin is gone for the night at some family event and they have the whole place to themselves. Instead, they curl up side by side on Taehyung’s couch, Taehyung’s socked toes tucked under Jeongguk’s thigh, and talk for hours. They talk about seemingly everything, from the BT21 work to Namjoon and Seokjin to dance to Jeongguk’s dad, everything that’s been said and unsaid and misunderstood between them, until there’s nothing but clear air left. It’s exhausting, emotional, completely outside of Jeongguk’s comfort zone, but with every word he becomes more certain that this thing between them is worth it.

Around 10pm, Taehyung’s stomach rumbles loudly in the middle of Jeongguk telling him about his college dance career, and after a fit of giggles they realize neither of them has eaten dinner. It’s too late to order takeout from most decent restaurants, so they raid Taehyung’s kitchen, settling on Eggo waffles and a half eaten container of strawberry ice cream (Taehyung’s all time favorite flavor, Jeongguk discovers) that Taehyung extracts from the depths of his freezer.

“The key is to put the ice cream on top of the waffle,” Taehyung explains, popping two Eggos into the toaster. “It gets a little melty and the waffle soaks it up...” He pauses to inhale deeply, expression blissful. “Perfection.”

Jeongguk doesn’t have the heart to tell him that he’s not so sure about that combination, content to just listen to Taehyung speak, exist in his presence. After so much tension and doubt and negativity, it feels like floating to just have fun together, talk about something as mundane as taste in late night snacks. In the end, his skepticism is proven wrong anyway, because it turns out Eggo waffles with strawberry ice cream on top are fucking delicious (although Jeongguk’s judgment might be slightly skewed by the cute boy sharing his plate, their knees knocking together under the counter).

“I’d really like to see you dance some time,” Taehyung says, popping a dollop of ice cream into his mouth. “If that’s okay.”

“Sure,” Jeongguk nods, butterflies exploding in his stomach. “I’m really not that good anymore, though.”

“I doubt that,” Taehyung snorts. “Based on how Hobi hyung talks about you.”

Jeongguk feels the tips of his ears go pink and thinks back to Hoseok’s offer to compete with him sometimes. He’s going to do it, he decides. “Hoseok is everyone’s most enthusiastic supporter, you know that.”

Taehyung nods. “God knows I wouldn’t have made it through the Hyungsik debacle without him.”

Jeongguk’s entire body language must shift, because Taehyung immediately snaps his mouth shut, looking guilty.

“Sorry to bring that up,” he frowns. “We haven’t really talked about it, though.”

“It’s okay,” Jeongguk says, letting a bite of ice cream dissolve cool and sweet on his tongue. “It just is kind of a sore spot for me.”

“Me too,” Taehyung says quietly. “That night at the bar - I think he would have hurt me if you hadn’t shown up.”

“Don’t say that,” Jeongguk whispers, feeling like his throat’s closing up. He thinks about that night a lot, how fragile Taehyung had looked pinned up against the wall. His expression was fierce, defiant, but Jeongguk had been so, so scared.

“Hey, it all turned out alright, yeah?” Taehyung says soothingly, nudging the underside of Jeongguk’s chin. “Look at me, I’m just fine.”

Jeongguk nods, forcing down the lump in his throat and offering a small smile. He’ll fucking kill Hyungsik if he ever so much as looks at Taehyung again.

“Honestly though, trauma aside, it was kind of hot watching you kick his ass like that,” Taehyung admits slyly, nudging his foot against Jeongguk’s. “I know violence isn’t the answer, and all that, but shit.”

Jeongguk looks up from where he’d been watching their tangled feet, eyebrows raised in surprise. Something hot stirs in his stomach, the same feeling he’s been grappling with since he first laid eyes on Taehyung - a sort of reckless desire that scares him even now. He wants Taehyung so badly he aches with it.

“Yeah?” he breathes. His hands itch to touch, and it almost knocks the wind out of him when he realizes maybe he can now, if he wants.

“Yeah,” Taehyung confirms, scooting closer on his stool until their legs are slotted together, his palms landing on Jeongguk’s thighs. Always a little more forward than Jeongguk when it comes to this sort of thing, quicker to act on what he wants. Jeongguk loves it.

For the second time that night, Taehyung leans in, their lips meeting as he winds his fingers into the hair at the base of Jeongguk’s neck. He tastes like strawberry ice cream, his mouth opening easily for Jeongguk’s tongue to sneak past. Everything about him makes Jeongguk want more, and he reaches for Taehyung’s waist, tugging him closer.

“Mmf, I’m gonna fall,” Taehyung giggles against his mouth, clinging to Jeongguk as he teeters precariously on the edge of his stool.

“Couch?” Jeongguk suggests, holding him steady.

“Mm,” Taehyung hums, leaping off his stool and taking Jeongguk’s hand.

Jeongguk falls backwards into the cushions and Taehyung settles across his lap, biting his lip shyly. He wants to tell Taehyung he’s perfect, but he settles for brushing his thumb over his lip instead, cradling his jaw and sitting forward to kiss him. There’s so much intent behind it, but the kiss is relaxed, like they have all the time in the world - which, Jeongguk supposes, maybe they do.

“Missed doing this,” Taehyung murmurs, sighing contentedly as Jeongguk’s lips rove over his jaw. “Missed you.”

Jeongguk’s grip tightens on his hips, and he knows Taehyung can feel it from the small whimper that slips from his throat. “You have no idea,” he says hoarsely, grabbing Taehyung’s face and kissing him hard.

Taehyung shivers, his whole body arching towards Jeongguk. “Show me,” he breathes, and Jeongguk groans, hands sliding down Taehyung’s neck, over his back, to hover just above his ass.

It’s a good thing Taehyung likes him back, because Jeongguk is completely fucking gone for him.

“Can I take you to bed?” Jeongguk asks against his lips, fingers dipping just beneath the hem of Taehyung’s sweater, grazing over a hint of warm, soft skin. For some reason, he’s suddenly nervous, even though it’s not like this is their first time doing this. His body is just so full of feeling that he feels like he might burst.

“Nah,” Taehyung says, and for one second Jeongguk panics, afraid he’s overstepped. He starts to pull his hands away, but Taehyung catches them, slides them firmly up under his sweater. “Want you right here.”

“Fuck,” Jeongguk nearly chokes, hurrying to push Taehyung’s sweater up and over his head. He dips his head to mouth along the exquisite line of his collarbone, listens to Taehyung hum with pleasure. “Yeah, fuck.”

In the end, he lays Taehyung out on the couch and strips him naked, spends what feels like hours worshipping every inch of his body, like he’s wanted to pretty much from the moment he first saw him. He lets his mouth and hands roam until he’s got Taehyung loose-limbed and quivering beneath him, arching into his every touch, murmuring encouragements against his temple. Until they’re both achingly hard and Taehyung is pleading with him to get the lube and a condom.

It’s that intense, slow burn kind of sex, the self-restraint worth it just to make it all last a little longer. Taehyung clings to him like his life depends on it, legs hooked high on Jeongguk’s hips, hair a messy swoop across his forehead where he’s flung his head back against the couch cushions. Their eyes keep meeting, and every time Taehyung is watching him with pupils blown wide, gaze hooded and hazy with pleasure.

When Taehyung comes, it’s with Jeongguk’s hand wrapped around his cock and Jeongguk’s name on his lips. “Keep going,” he mumbles, even as he flings an arm across his eyes and whimpers at the overstimulation. So Jeongguk does, picking up the pace and fucking his way to an orgasm that makes him groan long and low against Taehyung’s neck.

“God,” Taehyung pants, half laughing. His fingers rest loosely on the back of Jeongguk’s neck, fingering the fine strands of hair there. “Fuck, I’m so glad we made up.”

Jeongguk pushes up on to this elbows so that he can look down at him, finds him smiling radiantly, cheeks still flushed. “Me too,” he murmurs, still half in disbelief.

“You’re staying, right?” Taehyung asks, fighting back a yawn.

Jeongguk nods, dropping a kiss to the skin just below his eye. “Absolutely.”

***

The next morning feels a little bit like a dream. Taehyung wakes up to sunlight streaming through his shitty blinds and for one, horrible second is certain he made the whole thing up. The relief that washes over him when he looks to his right and finds Jeongguk sleeping peacefully beside him, one leg kicked out from underneath the tangled sheets, is one of the best feelings he’s had in a while.

He shimmies up next to Jeongguk and starts pressing kisses to his neck, content to watch him sleep a little longer but even more interested in watching him wake up. He starts stirring not long after, squirming adorably (ticklish, Taehyung concludes) until Taehyung gives in and pulls away.

“Hey,” he says when his eyes finally flutter open, voice rough with sleep. One arm comes up and drops heavy over Taehyung’s waist, pulling him closer.

“Hi.”

“Could get used to waking up like this,” he murmurs, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“I think that can be arranged,” Taehyung says, smiling so hard he thinks his face might break in half.

The morning passes comfortably, quietly - they make coffee, pour bowls of cereal for breakfast, and then tumble back into bed for round 2, this time with Taehyung’s legs thrown over Jeongguk’s shoulders. It’s after this, and a shower, that Taehyung brings up something that’s been nagging at him for weeks now, and especially since last night.

“Jeongguk,” he says, toweling off his hair while Jeongguk flops backwards on to his bed. He’s dressed in only his boxers, and the diagonal lines of muscle that disappear past the waistband are exceptionally distracting.

“Mm,” he hums in response, propping himself up on his elbows.

“Umm.” Taehyung fiddles with the towel, searching for the right words. His hesitation makes Jeongguk’s brow furrow in concern, and he immediately feels guilty. “I just wanted to say - when we fought. I said some stuff that I really didn’t mean, about why I slept with you?”

He falls silent, ashamed, and he can tell from the look on Jeongguk’s face that he remembers exactly what Taehyung is talking about. The guilt gnaws at his stomach like a sickness.

“I want you to know that’s not true,” Taehyung says, his voice barely above a whisper, forcing himself to meet Jeongguk’s eyes. “Certainly not now, but not then either.”

“Not even at the beginning?” Jeongguk asks quietly, looking doubtful.

Taehyung shakes his head forcefully, damp hair flicking back and forth. “I swear.” In spite of himself, his mouth quirks up slightly. “You were way too much of an asshole for that to have been worth it, anyway.”

Jeongguk makes a noise of indignation, but Taehyung quiets it by walking over to him, occupying the space between his legs and placing a gentle hand on his cheek.

“I mean it, though,” he says more seriously. “It wasn’t about that, and it will never be about that for me.” His thumb brushes over Jeongguk’s cheekbone. “I just want you, plain and simple.”

“Thank you,” Jeongguk says earnestly, catching Taehyung’s wrist and turning it to the side to kiss his palm.

“Well,” Taehyung backtracks, mock contemplative. “Just you and your bed.”

Jeongguk snorts, grabbing him around the waist so that he topples on to the bed with a squeal. “You’re allowed in my bed any time you want,” he purrs, hand running up Taehyung’s thigh. “All the time, preferably.”

It’s a little ridiculous, seeing as they just showered, but round 3 is pretty damn good as well.

***

On Monday morning, Jeongguk walks into his father’s office with a set of conditions and an ultimatum. Either he gets to be out (and date Taehyung publicly, if and when Taehyung is ready for that), or he walks away, just like Junghyun had. The prospect terrifies him, because when all the bullshit is set aside, he really does like his job, but enough is enough.

After (very reluctantly) leaving Taehyung on Sunday afternoon, he’d gone straight to Seokjin’s, and the two of them had stayed up until midnight planning out what he was going to say to his dad, what his arguments would be. Jeongguk credits Taehyung with making him feel like he has something worth fighting for again, but Seokjin had been by his side from the beginning, had been the one to remind him there was fight left in him at all. It feels fitting that they should prepare for this final battle together - Jeongguk sure as hell couldn’t have done it without him. When his sleep-deprived brain struggles to voice this sentiment to Seokjin somewhere around 11:55pm, Seokjin just pulls him in for a hug, claps him on the back, and says:

“Go get ‘em, tiger.”

Jeongguk’s father isn’t pleased, that much is obvious, but he also doesn’t seem overwhelmingly surprised. After all that preparation, his responses are clipped, cold. He doesn’t hide his distaste, but in the end, Jeongguk realizes, he holds the trump card: he’s too much of an asset to the company, and his father doesn’t want to lose him. That, and two sons abandoning the family business is even worse PR than a son who’s gay.

“Is it because of that boy?” His father asks as Jeongguk gets up to leave. He doesn’t have to ask which boy his father is referring to, his own heart skipping a beat when he thinks of Taehyung, of how happy he’ll be when Jeongguk tells him about this.

“No, Dad,” Jeongguk says, hand on the door knob. “It’s because of me.”

Seokjin whoops in delight when Jeongguk tells him the news, sweeping Jeongguk up in a hug and bouncing them both around the room. They make such a racket that their assistant pokes her head into Seokjin’s office in concern.

“Sorry, Sarah,” he says, waving her off apologetically. “Too much coffee.” When she leaves, still looking at them strangely, Seokjin turns back to Jeongguk with a huge grin on his face. “Shit, thank god. I don’t know what I would do around here without you.”

“Probably get a lot more work done,” Jeongguk points out, only half joking.

Seokjin wrinkles his nose. “Sounds terrible.”

Telling Taehyung is even more fun than telling Seokjin, mostly because he’s so completely caught off guard.

“Wait,” he says slowly, perched on Jeongguk’s kitchen counter with his legs swinging out in front of him. “So like, you’re out now? Totally, 100% out?”

Jeongguk shrugs, pouring them each a glass of scotch (Taehyung had begrudgingly agreed to at least try it). “I guess so?”

“Jeongguk, that’s amazing,” he says in disbelief, accepting a glass and sniffing it suspiciously. “I’m so happy for you.”

“Thanks,” Jeongguk nods. He’s still in shock himself. “I kind of can’t believe it.”

Taehyung hooks his foot around Jeongguk’s waist, tugging so that he comes to stand between his legs. His arms settle around Jeongguk’s neck, and Jeongguk’s circle his waist, fingers interlocking loosely at the small of his back. This is another thing Jeongguk is still in shock about - being able to touch Taehyung like this, so casually and comfortably. He’s not sure he’ll ever get used to the knowledge that Taehyung is his now, kind of hopes he doesn’t.

“I’m really proud of you,” Taehyung murmurs, kissing him. Jeongguk lets his eyes fall shut and basks in the glow of his affection, feels warm from the inside. “How about a toast?”

Jeongguk pulls back, lifting his glass to hover in the air with Taehyung’s.

“To new beginnings,” Taehyung says. Their glasses clink, amber liquid swirling slightly, and then Taehyung adopts an expression of grim determination and takes a sip. The face of surprised distaste he makes - lips pursed, nose wrinkled, eyes wide - is so hilarious and endearing that Jeongguk can’t help but laugh.

“Oh, fuck, this is disgusting,” Taehyung coughs, putting his glass down. “You really drink this voluntarily?”

“Says the man who thinks drinks are best served with forty grams of sugar,” Jeongguk deadpans, patting him on the back.

“Yes, because sugar actually tastes good,” Taehyung retorts.

“You have the palate of a ten year old,” Jeongguk teases, pinching his side.

Taehyung squirms, grabbing his wrists. “Whatever, then yours is a 65 year-old man.”

“Guess we complement each other, then,” Jeongguk says, not even caring how cheesy it sounds.

Taehyung smiles. “I like that.” He lets go of Jeongguk’s wrists, instead interlacing their fingers on top of his thighs. “So does this mean we get to like... go on a real date? In public?”

“Do you want to?” Jeongguk asks. Like it or not, he’s still getting used to the idea of Taehyung actually wanting to hang out with him.

Taehyung nods shyly. “If you do.”

“Yeah, of course,” Jeongguk says eagerly. “I would love that. I just, umm. Have never really been on a date before?”

Taehyung blinks at him. “You’re joking.”

Jeongguk shakes his head, embarrassed. “I mean, no one dated in college, and then after... yeah.” He shrugs helplessly. “Sorry, I know that’s weird.”

“Shut up, I’m honored,” Taehyung says, squeezing his hands. That same warm feeling curls happily in Jeongguk’s stomach. “Friday?”

“Friday,” Jeongguk confirms.

Taehyung beams at him, leaning in for a kiss that tastes faintly of scotch. “It’s a date.”

***

Jeongguk spends the better part of the next two days angsting about where to take Taehyung on their date, until Taehyung quite literally tells him to chill the fuck out and suggests, of all things, they go bowling.

“Daily reminder that I like you for your personality, not your ability to drop a grand on a single dinner,” Taehyung says over the phone. He’s walking back to his apartment from the subway, and Jeongguk can hear traffic in the background. “Also, your smoking hot body.”

Jeongguk blushes even though he’s sitting alone in his office. “I just - some people expect - ”

“Not me,” Taehyung cuts him off firmly. “I do, however, expect for us to do something fun and for you to bone me real good after.”

Jeongguk chokes on the water he had been sipping, and he can practically hear Taehyung smirking over the phone. “Jesus Christ Taehyung, aren’t you in public?”

“Yeah, so?”

Jeongguk sighs.

“Do we have a deal?” Taehyung presses, and Jeongguk thinks he’s having way too much fun with this.

Yes,” he hisses, shifting uncomfortably in his desk chair. This is really not the time or place for him to be thinking about sex. “Obviously, fuck.”

“Cool, so, how about bowling?”

“Bowling.”

“I know it sounds dorky, but it’s actually really fun,” Taehyung assures him. “I go with the hyungs sometimes.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever bowled before,” Jeongguk says.

“I’ll teach you!” Taehyung offers. “We can do that thing in the movies where I stand really close behind you with my hands on your hips to show you the correct form and it’s really heated and intimate.”

“Well, I’m sold,” Jeongguk laughs.

Taehyung cheers.

As it turns out, bowling is actually really fun, and Jeongguk is better at it than he had expected.

“How are you so good at this?” Taehyung asks incredulously, pouting when Jeongguk bowls his second strike of the night. “I call bullshit.”

Jeongguk shrugs, smirking at him. “Want me to help you with your form?” he teases, sidling up behind Taehyung and grabbing his waist.

“Mm, yes please,” Taehyung hums, leaning back against him. “Wanna show me how to hold the balls, too?”

Jeongguk snorts, releasing Taehyung before he pops an inconvenient boner in the middle of a bowling alley. “I’d say you’ve got a pretty solid grasp on that already, actually. Excellent ball handling skills.”

Taehyung winks at him cheekily, making a show of bending over and stretching as he lines up for his next shot. “Glad you think so.”

They go for dinner at a pizzeria down the street after, sharing a pie and a bottle of wine and talking until the place closes for the night. It’s close enough to Jeongguk’s apartment for them to walk home, and they do so hand in hand, tipsy and giggling about the awkwardness of bowling shoes.

“It’s a good thing you already wanted to sleep with me, because those things are like the antithesis of sexy,” Taehyung laughs, his face lit up by the pale glow of a street lamp. It’s late enough that the city has quieted down, at least in Jeongguk’s neighborhood, and the sidewalk is empty save for them and an older man walking his dog.

“You looked cute,” Jeongguk assures him, looping an arm around Taehyung’s waist and tugging him close. “I totally would have wanted to bang you, even if it was our first time meeting.”

“Wow, so romantic,” Taehyung mock swoons. “This from the guy who said I was nothing special the first time we actually met.”

“Shut up, you know how bad I feel about that,” Jeongguk groans, coming to a halt on the sidewalk. “And that it was a total fucking lie.”

“Relax, babe, I know,” Taehyung soothes, kissing him. “Just messing with you.”

Jeongguk grumbles against his mouth, but it’s hard to stay grumpy when Taehyung’s lips are on his under a star-filled sky.

When Jeongguk wakes up the next morning, his bed is empty, but the rumpled sheets and lingering scent of Taehyung in the air reassure him it hadn’t all been a dream. He finds Taehyung in the kitchen, wearing only a pair of soft gray briefs and one of Jeongguk’s white buttondowns, too big and only half buttoned so that it slips off his shoulder. Bathed in the morning sunlight, hair messy from sleep, he looks like a goddamn angel, and it takes Jeongguk’s breath away. He really, really can’t believe this is his life now.

“Hey,” he greets hoarsely, coming up behind Taehyung where he’s fiddling with the coffee machine and kissing his shoulder.

“Hi,” Taehyung sighs, hand snaking up to cup the back of Jeongguk’s neck.

“You’re wearing my shirt,” Jeongguk observes, lips brushing the spot behind Taehyung’s ear and eliciting a shiver in response.

“I am,” Taehyung confirms. “Hope that’s okay.”

“Let me see you,” Jeongguk says, spinning him around so that they’re face-to-face. His hand ghosts along the opening in the material, fingers skimming reverently over Taehyung’s chest and collarbone. He can’t stop staring, transfixed by the visual of Taehyung in his shirt, slim and delicate and a little too small for the white fabric.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung whines softly, flushing pink under the attention.

“Sorry,” Jeongguk says, hands slipping under the shirt and coming to rest on the place where Taehyung’s hips meet his thighs. “You just look - Jesus Christ, Tae.”

Taehyung reaches for him, fingers tracing over his bare abdomen. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, fuck.” He feels dizzy with how badly he wants right now. “I want - God, I just want to do everything to you.”

Taehyung whimpers, gripping the back of his head and pulling him in for a kiss, hot and desperate. “Do it,” he breathes, voice stuttering. “Anything.”

His words hit Jeongguk like a punch in the stomach, knocking the air out of him. A groan, low and guttural, is wrenched from his stomach, and with shaking hands he pulls at the buttons of Taehyung’s shirt - his shirt, fuck - until the two halves of material fall apart, hanging open over his chest. Jeongguk drops to his knees, trailing his lips over Taehyung’s soft stomach, teeth scraping at his hipbone. Drifting lower still, he presses his face into the front of Taehyung’s briefs, mouthing at his erection until Taehyung’s fingers curl white around the edge of the countertop.

“Jeongguk,” he pleads, squirming when Jeongguk’s hands slide up the backs of his slender thighs, dipping under the hem of his briefs to cup his ass. Jeongguk fucking loves this, loves the scent of him, the tenderness of his skin, how sensitive he is. Taehyung’s body is an instrument he wants to spend the rest of his life playing.

“Mm,” Jeongguk hums in response, rolling down Taehyung’s briefs and nosing at his inner thighs. He hasn’t gotten on his knees for many guys, especially not since college, but with Taehyung he likes it, a little high on the feeling of looking up and finding Taehyung watching him with wide eyes and pink, parted lips.

“Oh, god,” Taehyung breathes out when Jeongguk sucks the tip of his cock into his mouth. Keeping their gazes locked, he flattens his forearm across Taehyung’s stomach, heat surging in his belly when he realizes being pinned down seems to rile Taehyung up further.

Spurred on by the feeling of Taehyung’s hips straining against his arm, Jeongguk takes him down further, relaxing his throat as best he can. Taehyung gasps, a low, breathy thing, his fingers sliding gently into Jeongguk’s hair, brushing it back from his forehead.

“Wanted to see you,” he murmurs, inhaling sharply when Jeongguk glances up at him and deliberately hollows out his cheeks, tonguing at the slit of his cock. Jeongguk himself feels electrified by this admission, his own erection straining against his sweatpants. He redoubles his efforts until Taehyung’s thighs start trembling around him, his cock heavy on Jeongguk’s tongue.

“Babe,” Taehyung protests, grip tightening in Jeongguk’s hair. “Jeongguk, wait - ”

Jeongguk quirks a questioning eyebrow up at him, his mouth still wrapped around Taehyung’s cock.

A flush creeps from Taehyung’s cheeks all the way down to his chest. “I wanna come with you inside of me,” he whispers, eyes imploring.

Jeongguk is on his feet in an instant, practically growling as he slips his arms around Taehyung’s waist and pulls him in for a kiss that’s sloppy in its urgency. Arousal courses white hot through his body, and he presses his cock hard against Taehyung’s thigh, groaning when Taehyung sucks his tongue into his mouth.

“Fuck, come on,” he pants out, hoisting Taehyung up and carrying him out into the hallway, an echo of the first time they ever did this. To his credit, Taehyung barely flinches, just wraps his legs tight around Jeongguk’s waist and keeps kissing him.

Somehow, they make it to the bedroom, collapsing on to the bed with Jeongguk hovering over Taehyung. Jeongguk maps a wet path down his body, tonguing over his nipples, the bumps of his rib cage, the dip of his belly button. When he reaches Taehyung’s hips, he tugs off his briefs, pressing his legs up and apart. He’s so exposed like this, and without really thinking about it, Jeongguk dives in, hooks his palms around Taehyung’s upper thighs and flattens his tongue over his hole.

“Oh, FUCK,” Taehyung yelps, back curving up and off the mattress so violently that Jeongguk pulls back in alarm.

“Sorry, was that ok-“

Yes, oh my god, do that again,” Taehyung begs, squirming when Jeongguk circles a finger around his hole.

Jeongguk obliges willingly, stretching him with a finger while he teases around the rim with his tongue. The added stimulation has Taehyung worked up like Jeongguk’s never seen him, writhing with every lick and lap, staccato moans rising from his throat. One day, Jeongguk thinks, he’s going to lay Taehyung out and do this for hours, make him come from his tongue alone.

Once Taehyung is fully stretched, Jeongguk retracts his fingers and pulls away, reaching for a condom. Taehyung whines sharply at the loss, and Jeongguk steadies him with a hand on his stomach, using the other to roll the condom on.

“Easy babe, I got you,” he soothes, hitching Taehyung’s legs up around his waist. Pleasure spikes through him as he eases inside, and Taehyung reaches for him, hand gliding up the back of his neck.

It’s difficult to focus on anything other than the dizzying tightness of Taehyung’s body, but Jeongguk does his best to register as much as he can - the mingled noise of their ragged breathing, the light on Taehyung’s face, the drop of sweat trickling down the side of his face. The feeling in his chest that tells him this might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to him, and that he should hold on to it for as long as he can.

Taehyung is already so sensitive that he comes quickly, raking blunt fingernails down Jeongguk’s back and urging Jeongguk to follow him, which he does not long after. They splay out on the bed next to each other, worn out and breathing heavily, content with nothing to do and nowhere to be. Taehyung tosses his calf over Jeongguk’s, and Jeongguk doesn’t even bother trying to suppress his smile, just lies there and basks in the moment.

“Tae,” he says eventually, breaking the comfortable silence. Taehyung turns to face him, his expression soft. “Are we - ” Jeongguk pauses, feeling like an idiot, but he needs to get this out. “I mean - are you my boyfriend? Will you be my boyfriend?”

A smile creeps across Taehyung’s face, and he bites down on his lower lip, looking up at the ceiling before turning back to Jeongguk. He starts nodding and doesn’t stop, attaching himself to Jeongguk’s side and kissing all over his face until they’re both breathless from laughing.

“Should I take that as a yes?” Jeongguk asks when Taehyung rests his chin on his chest, threading their fingers together.

“Yes please,” Taehyung agrees, beaming at him.

They don’t leave the bed for a long time after that.

***

A few weeks pass and life is mostly the same, just a little bit brighter now that Jeongguk is a regular part of it. Between that and being fully immersed in the BT21 team at work (with a new boss who isn’t a complete creep), Taehyung is happier than he’s been in a while, which is saying something because he’s a pretty happy guy in general.

Now that they’ve all figured their shit out, Jeongguk and Seokjin have folded seamlessly into their group of friends, with Hoseok coming around more often as well now that Jeongguk is dancing again. The only people who haven’t sorted their shit, as it turns out, are Jimin and Yoongi, who continue to resolutely refuse to acknowledge their feelings for each other while simultaneously making them obvious in every possible way. All of this comes to a head one Saturday evening when all of them, minus Hoseok, are crowded around Taehyung and Jimin’s living room getting ready to go out for the night.

There are takeout containers and half drunk beers littering the coffee table and counter, and it’s at this point that Jimin casually slips in that he actually has a date tonight, and probably won’t be able to meet them out until later. Yoongi splutters so hard he chokes on his beer, and Taehyung, from his position wedged half on the couch, half on Jeongguk’s lap, whips his head around to gape at Jimin accusatorially.

“Park Jimin,” he gasps, pressing a hand to his heart while Namjoon thumps Yoongi on the back. “I am offended, why didn’t you tell me?”

Jimin shrugs, looking down at his lap shyly. “I only agreed to go earlier today. I didn’t want to make it a big deal.”

Taehyung would hazard a guess that this has something to do with Yoongi (who now looks like someone just took a hammer to his piano), but he keeps that thought to himself.

“I feel like I’ve been denied a very important roommate bonding experience,” Taehyung pouts. “I’m supposed to give you a pep talk and help you pick out what to wear!”

“That’s just what we did before your first date with Jeongguk,” Jimin says, gaze darting over to Yoongi before settling back on Taehyung. “I had to give you a pep talk, you were a nervous wreck.”

“Aw, babe,” Jeongguk coos, squeezing his side while Taehyung flushes and glares at Jimin.

“You also forced me to wear red because it ‘makes people think of sex’,” Taehyung reminds him. “And now you’re denying me that pr-“

“Wait, what?!” Jeongguk interrupts.

“It worked, didn’t it?” Jimin says smugly, while Taehyung pats Jeongguk’s knee. “Also, collarbones. Every time.”

“I feel used,” Jeongguk huffs. Taehyung smacks a kiss on his cheek and returns his attention to Jimin.

“So, are you going to wear red, Jiminie?” he teases.

Jimin blushes, shaking his head. “Nah, not tonight.” He gestures at what he’s currently wearing, the cardigan that he had adopted from Yoongi. “I was just gonna wear this.”

“No fucking way,” Yoongi bursts out, slamming his beer down on the table. They all turn to look at him, surprised.

Jimin raises his eyebrows. “Excuse me?”

“You’re not wearing my sweater on a date with some - some random guy,” Yoongi growls, his face red.

“Why the hell not?” Jimin snaps, temper obviously rising.

“Because - ” Yoongi stammers. “Why are you even going on a date anyway, we were all supposed to hang out tonight!”

“Because in case you haven’t noticed, half the people in this friend group are now dating each other,” Jimin says heatedly. Taehyung tightens his hand on Jeongguk’s thigh, gazing back and forth between his friends with wide eyes. “Sue me for wanting to find someone for myself.”

I’m not dating anyone,” Yoongi huffs.

“Yeah, well unless you plan on making a move on me some time in the next century, that doesn’t do me much good!” Jimin yells, chest heaving.

Namjoon’s eyes go wide, and beside him, Seokjin’s jaw literally drops. Taehyung is gripping Jeongguk’s leg so tightly that Jeongguk tugs on his wrist gently, wincing in pain.

“I - ” Yoongi starts, redder even than the time they’d gone to the beach and he hadn’t put enough sunscreen on. Namjoon reaches out and claps him on the back, giving his shoulder a supportive squeeze. “I didn’t - I would take you on a date,” he finishes quietly.

There’s a beat of silence, everyone too afraid to make a move that might shatter the moment.

“What?” Jimin says, his voice pitched higher than usual.

“I’ll take you on a date,” Yoongi replies, looking mortified. Taehyung cheers internally.

“Like, now?”

“If you blow off whatever loser you were gonna go out with, yeah.”

Jimin blinks at him, face flushed. “Okay.” He looks around at the rest of them as if coming out of a trance. “Umm, let me just - Tae?”

Taehyung nods, and Jimin grabs him by the wrist, dragging him into his bedroom and closing the door.

“Okay, now I need a pep talk,” Jimin says slightly hysterically, whirling to face Taehyung.

Like the amazing best friend he is, Taehyung passes up this prime opportunity to mock him and instead settles his hands on Jimin’s shoulders, looking him dead in the eye.

“Park Jimin,” he says seriously. “I have watched you and Yoongi hyung dance around each other for the past four years. Now’s the time. Go and get yours.”

“But what if - ” Jimin pauses, running a hand through his hair. “What if he changes his mind, or it goes badly - ”

Taehyung shakes his head, cutting him off. “I’ve seen the way he is around you. He’s not going to change his mind.” When Jimin still looks skeptical, Taehyung continues. “Jiminie, you like him, yeah?”

Jimin puffs out his cheeks, nodding as he exhales slowly.

“So if nothing else, do it for 18 year-old you. But really, do it for present you. You deserve to be happy, boo.”

“Okay,” Jimin says quietly. “Thanks, Tae.”

“‘Course,” Taehyung nods, patting his cheek. “Now, what do you have that’s red?”

Jimin flushes deeply, looking horrified. “Oh my god, stop, that’s way too obvious.”

Taehyung frowns, looking him up and down. “Nah, you’re right, he’ll probably be more into you wearing his sweater anyway. Jeongguk goes wild for th - ”

“Please stop,” Jimin groans, clapping his hands over his ears.

Taehyung flashes him a shit-eating grin. “Alright, then - you ready, tiger?” Jimin straightens up, looking resolved, and nods. “Go get him.”

They emerge from Jimin’s room and find the others sitting in silence, save for Yoongi, who is pacing frantically. He stops when they walk out, eyes locking anxiously on Jimin. He looks like he’s about to throw up.

“Jimin - ” he begins, but Jimin walks right up to him, grabs his face, and plants one on him.

Taehyung has never been prouder of his best friend in his entire life.

Namjoon whoops, Seokjin flaps his hands excitedly, looking like he might cry, and Jeongguk watches the whole thing with his mouth hanging open, turning to glance at Taehyung with a stunned expression on his face. Taehyung flashes him a thumbs up before returning his attention to Yoongi, who is once again the color of a tomato.

“Umm,” he mumbles, doing that thing where he tries and fails to bite down a smile. “Right, so, okay.”

“We gonna go?” Jimin prompts, putting on an impressive show of sounding confident.

Yoongi clears his throat, nodding vehemently. “Yeah, yes. Let’s go.” He extends his hand, and Jimin accepts it, his eyes practically disappearing from grinning so wide. Yoongi turns to the rest of them. “Uh - we’ll catch you guys later.”

“Have fun!” Taehyung calls as the others lift a hand in goodbye. “Don’t forget to use a condom!”

The last thing Taehyung sees before the front door shuts behind them is Jimin flipping him the bird over his shoulder, and it feels like everything is right in the world.

After all the excitement, the remaining four of them have a fun but mostly uneventful night out, hitting up a few bars before calling it a night around 1am. As they’re getting ready to leave, Taehyung shoots a quick check-in text to Jimin.

>all good? heading back to jeongguk’s unless you need some more pep<

Jimin’s response comes a few minutes later.

>very good and sufficiently pepped, thanks :)<

>yay!!! will be expecting a full breakdown of all the dirty details tomorrow nighty night <3<

Jimin sends him a thumbs up and a kissy face emoji in response, which Taehyung takes as a sign that he is both having a great night and probably somewhat drunk.

“So, moving forward, if you wear red should I take that as a sign that you’re trying to seduce me?” Jeongguk teases as they walk into his apartment. His arms are wrapped around Taehyung from behind, chin propped on his shoulder.

Taehyung groans but plays along. “Babe, I’m trying to seduce you no matter what color I’m wearing,” he says, turning in Jeongguk’s arms to kiss him.

“Mm, that works for me,” Jeongguk hums in approval, walking them down the hallway in the direction of his bedroom.

“My actual pro tip for Jimin, though,” Taehyung says, lips skimming along Jeongguk’s throat. “Is to wear your boyfriend’s clothes if you’re trying to seduce him.”

Jeongguk groans, hiking up Taehyung’s shirt and tossing it aside. “You just look so fucking good in them.”

They separate briefly, Jeongguk detouring to the bathroom to pee while Taehyung kicks off his pants and roots around in his dresser. By the time Jeongguk re-emerges, Taehyung is dressed only in one of his long sleeve black shirts, so oversized that it hangs to his mid thigh.

“Why did y- oh, fuck,” Jeongguk says, taking in the sight of Taehyung wearing his shirt. He drops down on the foot of his bed, arms extended. “Come here.”

“Works every time,” Taehyung laughs, straddling his lap and shivering when Jeongguk’s hands immediately slide to his ass.

“Not fair,” Jeongguk grumbles, but he kisses him senseless all the same.

***

“Tae,” Jeongguk says one Sunday morning, his voice still rough from sleep. They’re lying in bed, sprawled across his enormous blue comforter drinking coffee and eating waffles (Eggos, obviously) for breakfast. There’s a rectangle of sun on the floor from the balcony doors, Jeongguk’s hair is a fluffy mess, and Taehyung is still pleasantly sleepy, that weekend morning privilege of slowly easing into the day. It all feels very domestic, and secretly Taehyung kind of loves it.

“Yeah,” Taehyung responds around a syrupy bite of waffle, tongue darting out to catch a stray, sticky drop. He glances over at Jeongguk and finds him looking uncomfortable, which is usually a sign he’s about to do something that makes him feel vulnerable but Taehyung will think is sweet.

“There’s an event with the Bangtan board next week - a party, kind of, to schmooze them and give an update on what the company is doing,” he explains, looking down at where his hands are folded over his stomach.

Taehyung swallows his bite of waffle and says: “Cool.”

“I’m supposed to bring a date,” Jeongguk adds, gaze flicking over to him.

Setting his plate aside, Taehyung tries to gauge the situation, what Jeongguk is really getting at it. He’s being awkward, avoiding the point, and with a pang of jealousy Taehyung wonders if he’s been bullied into attending the event with some up and coming model. He wouldn’t be mad about that, really, but it’s still not particularly nice to think about.

“Okay...” he prompts, fighting to keep his expression neutral.

Jeongguk clears his throat, rubbing his jaw. “Would you want to come with me?”

The words come out in a blurted rush, and Taehyung’s eyebrows shoot up, something warm blooming in his chest. Jeongguk is watching him anxiously, as if he thinks Taehyung might actually say no.

“Really?” he asks.

“Only if you want to,” Jeongguk says hurriedly, looking panicked. “I totally understand if you don’t, or if you don’t feel comf- ”

“I would love to,” Taehyung interrupts.

Jeongguk’s mouth clamps shut, his entire face lighting up, and really, Taehyung is falling so hard for him.

“Yeah?” he asks with a shy grin, bangs hanging loose over his eyes.

“Hell yeah,” Taehyung confirms with a nod. “No way am I sharing you with some leggy blonde chick.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I’ve had enough leggy blonde chicks to last me a lifetime.”

“Well that’s reassuring, because I am neither blonde nor leggy,” Taehyung points out.

“You’ve got some nice legs though,” Jeongguk murmurs, fitting a predatory hand around Taehyung’s far thigh and pulling him into his lap. “Especially when they’re spread for me.”

“Dirty,” Taehyung chides, even as he feels his face heat up traitorously. Jeongguk’s mouth has gotten progressively filthier over the time they’ve known each other, and it’s making Taehyung slowly lose his mind.

Jeongguk flashes him a smug grin. “You fucking love it.”

“Can’t deny that,” Taehyung admits, pressing his thumb into the center of Jeongguk’s lower lip. Jeongguk bites at it playfully before growing more serious.

“Seriously though, this event isn’t going to be fun,” he warns, hands settling on Taehyung’s waist. “Especially with my dad.”

“Ah, yes, I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see me,” Taehyung says cheekily.

“Are you sure you’re ready for that?” Jeongguk asks, frowning in concern.

“If you have to deal with it, I’m going to deal with it too,” Taehyung says firmly, looping his arms around Jeongguk’s neck. “We’re in this together, pal.”

Jeongguk regards him with grateful eyes, the look he gets sometimes when Taehyung does something nice for him and he seems to not quite believe it’s real. It makes Taehyung want to give him everything in the world. “Thank you,” he murmurs, hugging Taehyung close and pressing a kiss to his shoulder.

Taehyung just tightens his arms and holds him.

***

The evening of the board event, Jeongguk is a complete wreck. He can’t stop pacing, and he’s questioning every decision he’s ever made in his life, from why he thought it would be a good idea to subject Taehyung to this to why he picked this color scheme for his living room. As much as he hates to admit it, he’s terrified - not so much of what people will think, because fuck that, but of how they (especially his father) will treat Taehyung. A part of him just wants to lock Taehyung away in his bedroom, keep him safe there where nothing can touch or hurt him.

“It’s okay to be nervous,” Taehyung reassures him after he does his fifteenth lap around the living room. He’d stepped into Jeongguk’s path and placed gentle hands on his shoulders, steadying him. “Just remember I’m gonna be right there with you the whole time.”

Of course, that’s exactly what Jeongguk is afraid of, but he doesn’t tell Taehyung that.

The event is being hosted at a venue on the top floor of the Bangtan office building, a more intimate space that they often use for smaller gatherings like this. Big windows, chic furniture, all very modern and posh, with the added splash factor of being a penthouse. The program for the evening is fairly informal, a few remarks from Jeongguk and Seokjin’s fathers, but the real work is done in the face time with the board members.

They meet up with Seokjin and Namjoon on the sidewalk outside the building, the two of them looking dapper in their suits and considerably more relaxed than Jeongguk, although that’s not really a surprise. Seokjin has always been better at this sort of thing anyway, affable and far less cynical.

“It’s gonna be fine,” he murmurs in Jeongguk’s ear as they step into the elevator, giving the back of his neck a squeeze. Not that Jeongguk had even said anything to express his nerves, but Seokjin has always been able to read him like an open book. On his other side, Taehyung slips his hand into Jeongguk’s, not letting go until the elevator doors slide open at the penthouse level. If he’s nervous at all, he doesn’t show it.

They’re among the first to arrive, which gives them just enough time to make a beeline for the bar and arm themselves with drinks before the heavy schmoozing begins. Attendees slowly file in, mostly board members and other higher-ups from the company, well-dressed wives and girlfriends on their arms, glittering with expensive jewelry. Jeongguk knows them all by now, has memorized their kids’ names and where they own vacation homes. For as much as he hates this sort of thing, he’s learned how to be shrewd about it.

On the other side of the room, Jeongguk sees his father putting on the full show, firm handshakes and jovial laughs in all the right places. Their paths haven’t crossed yet tonight, but Jeongguk hadn’t missed the grimace that passed across his face when he’d walked in with Taehyung.

When the four of them can no longer reasonably justify talking to just each other, they clink their glasses together and split off in pairs to go into battle. Jeongguk keeps a protective hand on Taehyung’s lower back, but it soon becomes clear he doesn’t need it - he chats animatedly with everyone, charming even the most taciturn board members with his warmth and genuine interest in what people have to say. He has one couple with young children completely wrapped around his finger as he discusses the BT21 characters; another woman, blonde hair piled high on her head, talks to him for a full 15 minutes about where to find the best farmers’ market strawberries. Privately, Jeongguk supposes it doesn’t hurt that Taehyung is the most beautiful person in the room by far, but it’s more than that too, some intangible quality that makes it impossible to look away from him.

“You’re so good at this,” Jeongguk remarks admiringly when they duck away to get another drink.

Taehyung shrugs modestly, waving him off. “I just like meeting new people.”

“Yeah, well, I think you’ve won over the entire board.”

“Oh, stop,” Taehyung says, shaking his head shyly, but the smile he hides in his drink is radiant.

The rest of the evening passes similarly, Jeongguk watching with mingled pride and awe as Taehyung flits effortlessly from conversation to conversation. He thinks he spies one or two raised eyebrows when people realize they’re together, but there’s none of the outright hostility he had feared originally. If anything, he feels more at ease than ever before, emboldened and loose with Taehyung’s rich laughter in his ear.

Of course, all of this is before his father gets involved.

On the bright side, they make it through most of the night without incident, and Jeongguk is alone when his father corners him, Taehyung having stepped out to use the bathroom. He’s still basking in the glow of Taehyung’s company and two drinks, and he tries to hold on to that feeling even as he braces himself for the onslaught.

“I see you actually spoke to people tonight,” his father says in lieu of an actual greeting, sauntering up to Jeongguk with a smug expression on his face.

Jeongguk shrugs at the backhanded compliment, a favored tactic. “It was all Taehyung, really.”

“So what, now you need your fuck toy to help you make conversation?”

And just like that, the glow is gone and rage is twisting in Jeongguk’s stomach. It’s exactly the reaction his father wants, and he knows it, but he can’t help himself.

“He’s my boyfriend,” Jeongguk hisses, keeping is voice low. His fingers clench around the glass in his hand. “You don’t fucking talk about him like that, not around me.”

His father scoffs, rolling his eyes. “Honestly, Jeongguk, if you think he’s not just using you - ”

An arm slides firmly around Jeongguk’s waist, and Taehyung’s familiar voice appears in his ear. “Mr. Jeon!” he greets brightly, even though Jeongguk is 90% certain he’d overheard what his father had just been saying. “So good to see you again, sir.”

Jeongguk’s father frowns at him, barely inclining his head. “We were just talking about how you spared Jeongguk from actually having to speak to anyone tonight. No wonder he’s so blindly infatuated with you.”

Jeongguk tenses, but Taehyung slips a calming hand under the hem of his jacket, squeezing his waist. “Well, the feeling is mutual, and my eyes are wide open,” he says, smiling fondly at Jeongguk, the faintest trace of defiance in his tone. Even in the midst of all of this, Jeongguk’s heart gives a thump of jubilation.

Taehyung plows on, casually ignoring the skepticism on Jeongguk’s father’s face. “But really, Jeonggukie was great, got the chairman and his wife totally sold on trying Korean BBQ, which they never have, can you believe that?” He shakes his head, aghast.
“And actually, that reminds me - babe, they want to have dinner with us so we can take them to that place you were talking about.” He beams over at Jeongguk’s father, leaning in confidentially. “It’s the restaurant we ordered from on our first date.”

Both Jeongguk and his father blink at Taehyung, speechless, albeit for very different reasons. Taehyung knows exactly what he’s doing, that much is clear, but Jeongguk is still completely blown away.

“I told them I had to check with you about your schedule first,” Taehyung continues, unfazed. “Wanna come chat with them quickly?”

“I - yeah,” Jeongguk nods, still stunned, allowing Taehyung to take his hand and pull him in the direction of the chairman and his wife.

“Mr. Jeon, always a pleasure sir,” Taehyung chirps as they walk away, and Jeongguk has to stifle his laugh with a fist.

They set a date for dinner and proceed to make the obligatory round of goodbyes, but as soon as the important attendees are gone, Jeongguk is dragging Taehyung out into the hallway by the wrist, around the corner and away from prying eyes. The moment they’re alone, he has Taehyung flat against the wall, pressing their mouths together urgently.

“Is it weird that it turned me on to watch you fuck with my dad?” he breathes, forcing his hands to wrap around Taehyung’s back rather than undo his dress pants. It’s darker out here, lit only by a series of weak overhead lights, but they can still hear the faint sounds of last goodbyes drifting down the hall.

“No,” Taehyung whimpers, kissing him back, hot and breathy. “Fuck, no, I’m glad.”

Jeongguk can’t help himself, pins one of Taehyung’s arms over his head and uses his other hand to tug him in by the waist. There’s so much fabric everywhere, suits and ties and buttondowns, and he just wants it all gone, now.

“I was so proud to call you mine tonight,” he says, feeding the words into Taehyung’s mouth. His lips are needy, eager, bright pink from all the attention - Jeongguk knows from experience, now. “You’re so - everyone fucking loved you, and you’re mine.”

“Yes,” Taehyung gasps. “Yes, fuck, I am.” He knots the fingers of his free hand in Jeongguk’s hair, keeping him close, teeth catching on his lower lip. Vaguely, Jeongguk is aware that they should really stop before they get completely carried away, but he’s never been great at thinking clearly when he has Taehyung’s body burning under his palms. Call it a character flaw.

“Fuck, Tae, wait,” he grits out, catching Taehyung’s wrist when he reaches for Jeongguk’s belt. He shuts his eyes, forces himself to take a breath.

Taehyung pouts, all dark eyes and full lips. How is it that he always manages to look so debauched so quickly? “You started it.”

“I know, I just - ”

Taehyung cuts him off with his mouth, combing through the hair at the back of Jeongguk’s neck. “You were so brave tonight,” he murmurs, tender. “Couldn’t take my eyes off you, all sexy in your suit.”

Jeongguk hums in interest, leaning into his touch. It’s still a mystery how Taehyung is able to make him feel so soft and yet so turned on, all at the same time.

“All I could think about is you bending me over your dad’s desk,” he breathes, words hot against Jeongguk’s ear, making his toes curl. He wraps a hand around Jeongguk’s tie and gives a light tug. “Smiling right in his face and in my head you’re fucking me till I can’t see straight - ”

“Jesus Christ, Taehyung,” Jeongguk growls, beside himself. Everything suddenly feels too warm, the collar of his shirt chafing against his neck, the press of Taehyung’s body setting him on fire. He sucks in a shaky breath, thumb pressing into Taehyung’s pulse, jumping in his wrist. “You’re going to fucking kill me.”

In retrospect, how they make it downstairs and into his father’s luxe office is all a blur - Jeongguk remembers the way his body burned on the elevator ride down, Taehyung’s fingers tucked into his waistband while on the other side, Jeongguk’s shoulder brushed with one of the board members. He remembers them stumbling down the dark, silent hallway, the thud of his back against the heavy office door and the way Taehyung clawed at his tie as they pushed inside.

Then they’re there, and he’s doing exactly what Taehyung had said, bending him over the elegant desk and shoving his dress pants and briefs down to his mid-thigh, the metal of his belt buckle clinking against the wood. He’s perfect, fucking flawless, ass up for Jeongguk and begging for it. On some level, Jeongguk recognizes that Taehyung probably knows just how badly he needs this, a symbolic fuck you to all the bullshit he’s been through since he started this job. It feels exhilarating, filthy, glorious - it feels like freedom.

Taehyung’s got lube and a condom tucked into his jacket pocket (“just in case,” as if he hadn’t had this exact scenario in mind when he put them there), and he takes Jeongguk’s fingers like a goddamn champ, cheek pressed against the smooth wood of the desk, profanities tumbling from his lips. The room is dark, but Jeongguk can see his features illuminated in the moonlight spilling through the massive bay window, watch the exquisite twist of his face every time Jeongguk brushes over his prostate. It feels like something out of a fever dream, to be here in his father’s office, rock hard in his dress pants and three slick fingers deep in his boyfriend’s ass, giddy and horny and maybe teetering on the brink of a whole lot more than that.

“Fuck,” Taehyung grunts when Jeongguk fucks into him, working himself up on to his elbows and pushing back against Jeongguk’s cock. “You fill me up so good, babe.”

Jeongguk groans, dipping down to mouth along Taehyung’s spine, fingers digging hard into his hips. He remembers the first time he’d gotten carried away like this, how he’d loosened his grip in alarm only to have Taehyung pull his hands back seconds later, murmuring “I like the marks” in his ear - how Jeongguk had come almost immediately after.

Now, Taehyung drops his forehead against his interlaced hands, fills the room with his blissed out moans - a sound caught between laughing and crying, all because it feels too good. Jeongguk feels his control ebb and then fully slip away, lets the reckless desperation drag him under. He hadn’t even bothered undressing, pants caught somewhere around his knees, and he might be mortified if he weren’t so goddamn turned on. It feels so dirty, like he’s living out some role play fantasy, except for the part where he thinks he might be in love. Dirty romantic.

He drives into Taehyung until the coiling tension becomes too much, until something snaps and his orgasm crashes over him, his body bending forward. Taehyung stills patiently while he rides it out, back rising and falling with stuttering breaths, hair painted pale in the moonlight. Pressing an apologetic kiss to his shoulder blade, Jeongguk pulls out, flipping Taehyung around to face him and dropping down on still shaky knees. Before he can protest, Jeongguk is swallowing his cock, sliding three fingers back into his ass to make up for it.

“Jeongguk,” he gasps out, caught off guard. His voice is so low like this, delicious and thick with arousal, Jeongguk’s name on his tongue like prayer. Jeongguk gives his ass a squeeze and he jolts, sagging back against the desk as he comes down Jeongguk’s throat.

Taehyung slides down to the floor, coming to a rest at Jeongguk’s level, their knees slotting together. They fall into each other, kissing sloppy and lazy and half naked on the floor of Jeongguk’s father’s office. It’s almost romantic, in spite of everything, with the view of the city through the bay window and the way their hearts are thudding in tandem. Dirty romantic.

“Jesus, I am never gonna be able to focus on anything in this office ever again,” Jeongguk says eventually, forehead drooping to Taehyung’s shoulder. The fabric of his shirt is faintly damp from sweat.

Taehyung snickers, pleased with himself. His hand creeps up to play with Jeongguk’s hair, a habit he’s indulging more and more lately. “Good,” he decides. “You can think about me instead.”

As if Jeongguk doesn’t think about him enough to begin with.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, and Jeongguk nods in acknowledgement, his mouth brushing over Taehyung’s shoulder. “Thanks for picking me. I mean, like - I know tonight wasn’t easy for you.”

Jeongguk pulls back to look him in the eye, finds the slight crease in his brow that means he’s being sincere. In the shadowy stillness, Jeongguk takes his hand, pressing a kiss to his knuckles. “Worth it,” he replies, and watches Taehyung pull his bottom lip into his teeth and smile.

***

Honestly, Taehyung doesn’t know how Hoseok puts up with them. The lone single member in a friend group otherwise full of three honeymoon-phase couples, only someone with his perpetual positivity could tolerate it, and with a smile, no less.

The seven of them have set up camp in the park near Jeongguk’s apartment, gathered to soak up the first truly warm day of spring. Yoongi had brought his speakers, blasting the latest recording from him and Namjoon, and Hoseok is freestyling to the beat, trying to teach some basic moves to Seokjin. Jimin, lying on his stomach with his chin propped on Yoongi’s thigh, keeps giggling and kicking his feet into the picnic blanket as he watches Seokjin flail wildly; meanwhile, Namjoon observes the chaos with his trademark serene fondness.

Jeongguk and Taehyung are sprawled across a blanket of their own, a ratty blue one that Taehyung had miraculously produced from underneath his bed earlier today.

(“Jesus,” Jeongguk had said, wrinkling his nose and eyeing the decaying blanket skeptically. “That thing looks like you used to masturbate on it when you were 17.”

Taehyung had snorted, whacking him in the face with it. “How’d you know?”)

Taehyung is lying with his head on Jeongguk’s stomach, laughing at Jimin laughing at Seokjin and pretending he doesn’t notice that Jeongguk has stopped taking pictures of the rest of them on his phone and is now just taking pictures of Taehyung. Not that he particularly minds; he could lie here forever with the sun on his face and the feeling of Jeongguk’s breath rising and falling beneath him.

“See something you like?” he asks, squinting up at Jeongguk, the sunlight bright and blinding.

Jeongguk lowers his phone, a little shy. He’s lying with one arm folded behind his head, elbow poking out of the distressed denim jacket Taehyung had convinced him to buy the other week. It’s a good look on him.

“Maybe,” he teases.

“Rude,” Taehyung gripes, poking his side. “But it’s okay, I know you love me.”

Jeongguk stills beneath him, and Taehyung panics, realizing what he’s said. Somewhere in the background, Jimin is now literally pointing and laughing at Seokjin, but it all fades to white noise around them.

“Shit, sorry,” he hurries to say, glancing up at Jeongguk apologetically. “I didn’t mean - ”

“It’s okay,” Jeongguk interrupts him, a strange look on his face. He’s up on his elbows now, a few inches higher than Taehyung. “I - I mean. I do.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen, soaking in the meaning behind his words. “Me too,” he breathes out, feeling like they’re the only two people in the world.

Jeongguk’s anxious expression gives way to a smile, and Taehyung can’t believe how far they’ve come, from glaring at each other across a crowded bar to grinning goofily through the giddy, awkward fumbling of a young relationship. Sun in their eyes, laughter all around them, and love in their hearts.

They only get a minute or so to indulge in their private little bubble of happiness before Hoseok is pulling Jeongguk up by the armpits, dragging him over to have a dance battle with him and Jimin. Seokjin collapses onto the blanket beside Namjoon, and Taehyung rolls over on his stomach to watch, enjoying the way Jeongguk’s eyes keep flicking to him even as he dances.

“What’s got you smiling so hard?” Namjoon asks, observing Taehyung with a smile of his own. Classic Namjoon, always keeping an eye on all of them.

Taehyung shrugs, looking from the grassy, sunlit park to his gleeful friends to Jeongguk, winking at him as he does some sort of exaggerated body roll. His heart feels so full in this moment. “Just happy, I guess,” he answers, returning Jeongguk’s wink.

Just in love.

***

>coffee run, wanna meet me?”<

Jeongguk sends the text early one Wednesday afternoon, standing up at his desk to shake out his legs. He’s been staring at his computer for way too long, numbers starting to blur together, which is always a sign it’s time for a break.

Taehyung’s response comes quickly, as it usually does.

>now?<

>yeah<

>can’t babe sorry, work is cray<

Jeongguk frowns but pockets his phone and sets out anyway, thinking maybe he’ll pick up something for Taehyung and pop by his office to surprise him. They keep texting as he walks to the coffee shop and stands in line, Taehyung updating him on the latest agency shenanigans and asking about his day. This is why he’s not paying attention when he pushes out of the coffee shop door, typing a message back with one hand and juggling two coffee cups in the other.

He walks straight into someone trying to enter the shop, drinks sloshing precariously even as he manages to keep his grip on them. “Shit, sorry,” he mumbles, looking up apologetically and straight into a very familiar set of eyes.

“Jeez, watch where you’re going,” Taehyung says cheekily, taking a step back. “These are really expensive shoes.”

They both look down at his shoes, a shitty pair of converse that he’s had for at least five years, and Jeongguk snorts.

“If you’d let me, I’d buy you new ones,” he says, and Taehyung rolls his eyes. He’s got overalls and a backwards baseball cap on today, one of the perks of working at a creative agency. “What are you doing here?”

“Wanted to surprise you,” he replies, leaning back against the glass window of the coffee shop. “Why do you have two drinks? That tired?”

“I was gonna surprise you,” Jeongguk replies, handing over one of the plastic cups (iced caramel latte, extra whip).

Taehyung accepts it, pleasantly surprised. “You’re really fuckin’ cute, you know that?”

Jeongguk shrugs, preening a little. He’s really starting to get the hang of this whole boyfriend thing. “I try.”

“So I guess the tables have officially turned,” Taehyung remarks, taking a sip of his drink and letting out a satisfied “ah.” “You’re the one crashing into me now.”

“Alright, this was literally the first time,” Jeongguk says defensively. “You did it so many times at the beginning.”

“Yeah, and you were a dick about it every time,” Taehyung teases, but there’s no malice behind it.

Jeongguk sulks. “I caught you, once.”

“You did,” Taehyung admits, adjusting his hat. “That was hot.”

“That kiss was hot,” Jeongguk adds, remembering that night, how it had felt like his whole body was waking up.

“Mm,” Taehyung agrees, smirking. “See, it’s a good thing I kept crashing into you.”

“It’s the best thing,” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung smiles at him fondly, leaning forward to plant a chaste kiss on his lips.

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but sometimes, fate does you a solid and gives you someone who’s willing to take a second look. Someone who won’t get out of your way, who blocks your path until you realize you’re not supposed to go around them - you’re supposed to take them with you.