Actions

Work Header

Sea Salt Remedy

Work Text:

The summer Jeongguk turns 15, he allows his tears to drip into the ocean, lost within its foamy waves.

They crash against his thin ankles, dotting the fabric of his rolled-up jeans with an array of dark patches.

His mother will surely yell at him later for tracking the sea into the kitchen, but he doesn’t consider the consequences, not now when it feels as though he’s dying over and over again, curled within the pulsating cavity of his chest.

So, this is heartache.

He hates it already, the new feeling positively disgusting as it swirls like miasma throughout his body, but this is just the beginning. He doesn’t know it yet, but Jeongguk will come to host this parasitic emotion for years and years to come.

There is no controlling the anger that causes his skin to tremble and the way his lungs seem permanently compressed. He wishes he could step away from everything and sleep because he’s tired, much too tired to wipe away the wet paths running down the slopes of his face to trickle off his chin. His nose, he can’t breathe through the mucus and one would think that after crying his eyes out all day, that there wouldn’t be any more sadness to bleed from his veins.

Jeongguk bawls.

The problem is that he is too young, he is always too young, and not only does he have to watch another member of his closest friend group leave for the university in the city, he’s simultaneously lost his first love.

Min Yoongi is leaving for college and taking along with him another heart, one that Jeongguk has long sought after.

Sometimes, it really sucks trying to love Park Jimin because the boy is a notorious flirt with eyes that leave the younger mesmerized.

Jimin is kind, gracious, hardworking, and an ever-present soft shoulder to rely on. Jeongguk has spent many a night wondering what it would be like to breathe in the scent of the older boy’s shampoo whilst an arm is curled around Jimin’s waist, tugging him closer until they’re a single form beneath the covers.

Falling for Jimin isn’t hard, unconsciously he had begun seeking Jimin’s warmth by his side, and to know that Jimin doesn’t feel the same way, to understand that Jimin only has eyes for Yoongi, Jeongguk doesn’t know what to do.

He loves, he loves, he loves Jimin so much but there’s no way he can tell his hyung that.

Especially now that he realizes Jimin’s affection was never his to begin with.

Jeongguk isn’t a fan of trying to revive dead dreams.

Fists clenched so tight that he can no longer feel his own fingers, white and bloodless, Jeongguk wheezes, a stuttering breath leaving his throat as he tries to calm himself down before the hiccups set in. He doesn’t want to have a breakdown in public, even if this part of the beach is rarely explored by the people of his town.

He has an image to maintain: stoic, shy, but polite; a young man unfazed by anything.

"Stop," he blubbers to himself, a weak command to halt his cries. It doesn't work.

Jeongguk exudes a maturity infrequent amongst teenagers despite his thin build but his hyungs know otherwise, that he cries like a baby much too easily and that he’s particularly sensitive despite his outward nonchalance.

He wants to lose all of that, leave his fears behind and become someone accountable who won’t give in to waterworks just because others are jeering at him to do so. Confidence is a difficult gem to polish but Jeongguk desperately wants to get there.

Not just to impress Jimin.

But mostly to impress Jimin.

Though, it’s not much of a motivation anymore.

The sun is beginning to set in the sky, slipping into a marmalade gradient that paints the waters below with a touch of warmth. When the blue expanse above his head begins to change its wardrobe, it’s always the cue for Jeongguk to return home, the good student that he is.

There’s school early tomorrow after all.

It’s terribly painful to recognize that the world goes on, even if his heart is in literal fragments all over the warm fine sands at his feet.

Ignoring the soreness of his eyes, he still raises both hands to swipe desperately against his face, hoping to erase the evidence of his despair and to calm his overactive tear ducts. He’s a swollen pink mess and every part of him hurts.

Fuck love, fuck everything.

Jeongguk can’t believe the level of pathetic he is right now.

Releasing a shaky frustrated huff, he blinks furiously trying to clear his vision, tears sticking to his lashes. These are the same lashes all the girls in the neighbourhood huff over because “why does a boy have such long eyelashes?” Beats Jeongguk because he could really do without them at the present; the droplets that cling to them never fail to block his vision.

The first blink, there’s a dot in his periphery. Probably just an after image, one of those annoying light dots and he blinks hard again to rid of it. Strangely, it doesn’t disappear and there are still tears all over his lashes.

By the fifth blink, when it stays frozen in his vision, his mind finally catches up and Jeongguk starts because that’s not a dot and he’s not alone.

The entire moment is magical.

Jeongguk halts in his actions, hands coming to a still and dares not to breathe.

Metres away from him to the right, a tiny brown-hued round object is poking out from beneath the surface of the sea. It remains stationary despite the lull of the waves and even without squinting his eyes, Jeongguk is very sure that it’s a seal.

A real live seal extremely close to his current position, he can scarcely believe it.

For the first time that day, ever since Jimin had told him that he and Yoongi were now together and ready to try a long-distance relationship, Jeongguk’s pupils dilate with a spark of interest and his heartbeat picks up in excitement.

Animals don’t often come out to this part of the bay. Their town may be by the waters but the most Jeongguk has seen in his lifetime are fish, seagulls, and the annoying jellyfish.

Never a seal.

The distance and the angle make it hard to scrutinize it properly, but it looks just as adorable as it does on the web.

He takes care not to move an inch, inhaling carefully, and attempting to subtly position his body towards his visitor yet the animal is much smarter than the teenager realizes it is. Instincts honed to perfection, the seal is immediately able to pinpoint the reasoning behind Jeongguk’s strange behaviour and it dips back into the sea with a splash.

The last thing Jeongguk is able to catch is its tail, powerful as it gleams in the rays of the setting sun.

The water where the seal had dived ripples, distorting the homogenous pattern of the lapping ocean and Jeongguk watches as it slowly returns to its previous state.

He stands there for a while longer, in the shallows, gazing at the spot where the seal had disappeared. Somehow, the events of today hurt just a smidgen less, soothed by the healing mystic that only an animal can bestow upon the human heart. Maybe he should sleep with his dog, Gureum, in his bed tonight.

Fingers weakly tracing the outline of his phone in his pocket, he decides he’ll log online for the first time since 9AM this morning in order to alert his hyungs to the seal he spotted just now. It’ll seem normal after he’s spent the whole day ignoring Jimin and Yoongi’s texts. He’ll be able to be genuinely happy while sharing the news, dispelling the worries of his friend group and keep up a guise.

No one has to know about his feelings, and if he tries hard enough, he’ll get over Jimin.

Maybe.

He wades out of the water and walks home.

The seal sighting is the beginning of a love story Jeongguk never signed up for, and he doesn’t realize this until he turns twenty-four because that’s when he discovers for the very first time that he’s probably lost the most important person in his life.



.
.
.



The strangest thing about the whole scenario is that a week after Min Yoongi withdraws from their local college to attend university in the city two hours away by car, a transfer student joins Jeongguk’s high school claiming to be Yoongi’s cousin.

It’s bizarre because Yoongi has never mentioned that he has a cousin named Kim Taehyung and Jeongguk has known Yoongi since he himself was born.

That makes an enormous statement.

Upon confrontation after classes and a flurry of texts to an annoyed Yoongi, it’s Auntie Min who fills in all the plot holes: Taehyung had been sick ever since he was young, and his parents recently moved overseas. The now healthy boy had suddenly come to live with his relatives as their family had felt that the large move abroad had the potential to upset Taehyung’s recovery.

“Please take care of our Tae,” Auntie Min had pleaded with the same eyes that can be found on Yoongi’s face. It’s always unsettling because Yoongi never quite begs, and Jimin alongside Jeongguk had done nothing but vehemently nod their heads.

Yoongi must have forgotten to speak of Taehyung because they were never particularly close. It makes a lot sense, Jimin’s new boyfriend isn’t one to overshare.

Jeongguk hates that title, “Jimin’s new boyfriend”. Though he denies it, wants to forget about it, the wound is still fresh and he wishes that namesake was his to own.

Taehyung is a welcome distraction from Jeongguk’s inner turmoil. The boy is the same age as Jimin and sports an overtly cheerful countenance. His smile is one that Jeongguk has trouble with erasing from behind his eyelids and upon their initial meeting, when Taehyung plops right by Jeongguk’s desk on his first day, ashy grey hair bouncing as he hit the seat, Jeongguk had gotten caught staring.

Kim Taehyung is bizarre, the kind of weird that has Jeongguk worried about him within spending a solid two hours in his presence. This is after Taehyung almost falls out the window on the second story building while trying to open it.

The older boy’s speech is frequently jumbled, he seems to have problems with directions, and he doesn’t even know what a mechanical pencil is.

Actually, it’s not just the mechanical pencil, Taehyung is fascinated by every little thing.

“It’s like you’re an alien or something,” Jimin had chuckled two days ago, attempting to show Taehyung how a vending machine works. The other boy had merely glowed.

“Thank you, Jimin. What is an alien?”

Despite how socially defunct Taehyung is, he’s smart and fast at picking up the slack in almost every course except for English and Humanities. It blows Jeongguk and Jimin out of the water when they uncover that Taehyung is a math whizz and the transfer student had just shrugged, “it’s fun, you can do so many things with numbers. It’s like seeing the same friend over and over again except they’re wearing different outfits.”

Not how Jeongguk would describe his eternal academic enemy but Taehyung is an enigma.

Due to the Taehyung’s abysmal attempts at anything involving literature and history, even though he’s older than Jeongguk by two years, the transfer student is assigned to Jeongguk’s grade level in order to make up for the gap in knowledge. Jimin is slightly disappointed but eventually placated by the fact that Taehyung at least takes upper level math and physics, sharing a class or two with the other 1995 children.

"I think I'm going to get into the college of my choice after all," Jeongguk knows the reason before Jimin even finishes gushing why. "Taehyung is frickin' carrying me in Math class. I got tutored by him and my test mark went up by two whole grades. Lord sent me a saviour. Bless him and his little nose mole."

Jeongguk finds himself spending most of his waking hours with Taehyung, snickering at Taehyung’s clumsy attempts to answer a teacher’s cold call, sharing his seafood jajangmyeon with a salivating Taehyung, or helping his new friend through his English assignment problems. Jimin joins them after his kendo practices and the three of them laugh and shove each other on the walk home.

They talk about the most mundane things and educate Taehyung along the way, Taehyung’s deep giggles infectious and warmly welcomed, filling in the holes left by four other people who used to live in the very same town.

Life feels almost normal and unchanged in these moments if he artfully pours correction fluid all over his spoiled love prospect. Jeongguk can’t stand the way Jimin spends eighty-percent of their hangouts together talking about Yoongi’s inability to actively text his lover back.

In a way, he understands. Love is consuming, it’s excruciating, and it occupies your mind whether you like it or not. It’s only natural that Jimin behaves this way, especially because this is his very first relationship.

Why it’s so irritating is because love works the exact same way for Jeongguk and it turns out to be impossible to get over Jimin.

He thought he’d be able to do it in weeks but he’s loyal to a fault and can’t help but be attracted to Jimin’s masculine yet quiet ferocity, his smiling crescent eyes, and his silent resolve to excel in everything that he’s involved in. Even though he managed to mask his initial behaviour and avoid suspicion, it was awkward for a while between the two of them as Jeongguk had no idea what to say or how to act, and Jimin hadn’t had the slightest clue as to what went wrong.

“Is something up Jeonggukkie? You’ve been acting kind of distant since last morning…” Jimin had tried to coax words from him the day after the “incident” but a week later, he gave up, unable to extract a single letter from Jeongguk’s tightly sewn lips.

“Nothing hyung,” was the same answer no matter who came to him.

Jeongguk will probably take this secret with him to the grave.

After a long period of mutual pining, Jimin had gathered up his courage to piece himself and Yoongi together. Often times, if you fight for love, you may earn that love. Jeongguk never fought because he was a coward, meaning he never deserved it, and fate clearly hadn’t meant for Jeongguk and Jimin to become romantically entwined.

There are only consequences for their friendship or the creation of strain in their social circle if Jeongguk shares his honest thoughts.

Who would construct a situation in which no one wins?

Staying silent is but a small sacrifice for keeping peace.

It was Taehyung’s unexpected arrival that had been the blessed cure to Jimin and Jeongguk’s friendship drought, smoothing over the rough edges by forcing them to work together, and in no time, the problems were buried to be unearthed in the far future.

Taehyung had fit in seamlessly, like he was always meant to be there and without realizing it, Jeongguk had allowed Taehyung past his security jammed walls in mere days which bled into weeks and eventually months.

It’s on a lazy day in Spring when Jeongguk has a lightbulb moment and acknowledges that Taehyung had unintentionally become the answer to all of Jeongguk’s problems.

“I’m glad you’re not leaving,” he says out of the blue, glancing over at Taehyung who has his hand stuck in a chip bag, eyes large like saucers, appearing as though he got caught red-handed for doing something inappropriate.

“Mmf?” The older boy tries to answer him with full cheeks, crumbs falling from his lips, and Jeongguk laughs, tilting his head to the side and allowing the console controller to slip from his hands. They were playing on the PS2, exploring another one of Jeongguk’s new shooting games that Taehyung had become infatuated with.

Now that Jimin is close to graduating, he has much less time to spend with his junior friends.

That’s the reality of things and had always been a problem.

“I’m finally not too young and I won’t be all alone,” Jeongguk answers, eyes trained on Taehyung who hurriedly chews, cheeks strangely flushed. “You already know but I grew up with five people older than me who are like family. We’ve spoken a lot about them. Each one always wanted to study in the city, live elsewhere in this world, outside this boring town with no opportunities. Yoongi-hyung was the only one who stayed for a year or two at the local college until he got fed up and left too. I feel the exact same way about moving but, because of my age, I can’t join them fast enough.”

He hums, “I was afraid, you know? I think it was my biggest fear that when Jimin-hyung left, I’d be all by myself, in solitude for the first time ever. The others would be together and having fun whereas there would be me, stuck here for another eternity. By the time I’m actually in college, the oldest members would have left for the working world and could be in a completely different place. I’m always behind in a powerless sort of way. But with you, I’m not anymore. We move at the same pace, and I get to walk the graduation stage with you.”

Jeongguk bites at his lip, suddenly shy and ducking his head. “Kinda glad you got pulled down by two years, even though it sucks for you.”

There’s the crinkling of a plastic bag and Jeongguk narrowly dodges a pillow aimed for his head, Taehyung’s chuckles filling the small bedroom regardless of the fact that he missed his target.

“Yeah it does suck for me, you insensitive prick.” Taehyung’s gotten so much more colorful with his language, it’s both a gift and a curse. “You’re such a sap,” the older boy seems embarrassed, “don’t you have Yugyeom?”

He’s right, Jeongguk does have Yugyeom. He also has Jaehyun, but they’re not family. It’s not the same connection he has with the other six people in his life and when he tells Taehyung that, Taehyung goes silent at the other end of the bed. His eyes are suddenly serious as they stare at Jeongguk and Jeongguk feels his breath catch in his throat.

Taehyung is pretty.

He’s always been handsome though Jeongguk doesn’t acknowledge it often, perhaps even better looking than Jimin (Jeongguk is heavily biased). He looks especially good in this moment with the skylight in Jeongguk’s bedroom pouring warm sunlight into Taehyung’s soft locks, accentuating the lines of his eyes, the prominence of his nose bridge, and the intensity of his gaze.

Taehyung has a hidden beauty that he hasn’t yet grown into, is what Jeongguk’s mother always says. She’s a nosy little woman with hands of steel, especially when Jeongguk is getting his ear yanked. She loves Taehyung, absolutely adores him, which is most likely the reason why Taehyung has dinner at their house five days a week.

Taehyung’s still too young, she says, and he’ll become more and more handsome the older he gets. Jeongguk doesn’t know why he keeps remembering those specific lines but currently, he thinks he can kind of see it. There’s baby fat in Taehyung’s cheeks, his limbs too gangly, and his frame is awkward with the touch of teenage angst.

Taehyung is indeed an unfinished product with the potential to wreak havoc on the hearts of men and women across the world.

“You’re such a silly human,” Taehyung murmurs into the tiny space and it breaks the spell, Jeongguk’s eyebrows automatically furrowing in amused exasperation.

“You’re also human, you dumb nut. I have feelings, be honored I’m sharing them with you.” He sniffs, he himself an emo teenager with bangs slanting down his face and a nose too big for his face. “Okay, enough of this. Come on, stop eating and pick up the controller, time to woop your ass.”

"Don't count your chickens before they hatch."

Taehyung ends up steamrolling his ass instead.

When his friend finally leaves for the evening with containers of leftovers tucked into a bag courtesy of Mrs. Jeon, he pauses in the doorway and looks at Jeongguk with so much warmth that the younger feels his tips of his ears involuntarily rush with blood.

“Hey Gukkie, I’m glad you told me about how you feel, and I’m glad I’m not alone too because you’re here.”

Jeongguk bids him goodnight and thinks about Taehyung’s words until the clock hits twelve, falling asleep thankful, content, and satisfied knowing that Taehyung is going to be waiting for him when he wakes in the morning.



.
.
.



College is both what Jeongguk expects and doesn’t anticipate.

It’s too hyped up for the most part, and it takes time for Jeongguk to learn that making friends is actually more about luck than about skill. While there are a billion friendly people out on campus and another trillion orientation events, in the masses of chipper strangers, it’s very difficult to meet those he truly clicks with.

For the first few months, he feels like an imposter in his own skin trying to fit in with a bunch of other college kids he had met right off the bat. Everything is vaguely forced and lukewarm until he can’t take it anymore, officially ditching them to spend most of his time with Taehyung.

“You’re kind of like a barnacle,” Taehyung comments drily upon finding Jeongguk waiting outside his classes for the third straight week.

"Good luck trying to remove me," Jeongguk retorts. Nonetheless, his best friend seems happy to see Jeongguk being more of himself and he volunteers to join a bunch of clubs with the downtrodden boy.

They end up signing up for the dance team together and Jeongguk starts to visit Taehyung’s swim practices. His schedule rapidly becomes infested with Taehyung at all hours of the day instead of solely during the evenings in their shared dorm.

Speaking of the dorm, it’s loud and Jeongguk has trouble sleeping through the racket. This is what happens when you live on the same floor as twenty other boys and most of the are party-goers.

Jeongguk classifies himself as more of an introvert and after his first college party, he decides he can live without it for the rest of his life. The smell of vomit, the stench of alcohol, legions of people drinking themselves into a stupor and sticky ping pong ball games.

Yeah, it’s a hard pass.

Sleep, however, is something that he can’t function without which is why he eventually moves out of campus to a location nearby, Taehyung trailing after him because, “You muscle bunny, how dare you leave me?!”

Jeongguk is overjoyed by Taehyung’s willingness to still room together and the two of them make the new space home sweet home. The dark circles beneath Jeongguk’s eyes eventually heal and their new apartment is not only cleaner, more aesthetic, but thankfully quiet.

One would think that by sticking to Taehyung’s side that Jeongguk would be closing himself off but strangely enough, this is how he meets a bunch of new people who fulfill his friendship standards.

Taehyung is a people magnet; friendly, outgoing, personable, and talented. Most college kids come to know of Taehyung due to his sheer popularity and by association, Jeongguk.

Something that also spins out of this situation is a predicament: others always seem to think they’re dating and when Jeongguk denies it, no one takes him seriously.

“We’re not dating,” he tries to tell his new peers Mingyu and Bogum, one the same year level as him and the other his senior within his photography major, but the two of them just smile in a mocking sort of way.

“Right,” Mingyu teases while Bogum breaks out into a hearty laugh. They’re having lunch at the café near the library and several heads turn at the sound. “Whatever you say, Jeon. If that’s really the case, then it’s kind of sad how the entire student body already knows that you’re in love with him before you’ve realized it yourself.”

Huh?

“I’m telling you, this is a misunderst-,”

“I know you’re handsome but Taehyung is also quite a looker so don’t think he’s going to stay around forever just because you’re cute,” Minggyu cuts him off, waggling his eyebrows and Jeongguk sighs.

How many times will he have to repeat himself before someone finally listens?

Taehyung had indeed grown into his features like Jeongguk’s mother predicted he would and likewise, the final tail of puberty had hit Jeongguk like a heavy punch to the gut.

The summer before he became a high school senior, he shot up inches at a time. It took a while to get used to how he came to tower over his parents and no longer had to look up at Taehyung while talking.

Video games took the backseat as Jeongguk discovered dance and working out, his new investments gradually giving way to a toned physique and subsequently, a dramatic confidence boost. That coupled with a haircut and a wardrobe clean-out courtesy of Taehyung’s impeccable fashion sense, Jeongguk became a local stud.

To others, the two attractive males are a match made in heaven but to Jeongguk, they are strictly platonic soulmates.

It’s because rejection is a chronic pain.

Jeongguk is still in love with Jimin.

One would think that three years is enough time to forget someone but unfortunately for Jeongguk, his feelings are rebirthed the moment he enters the city. All his hyungs are here, the ones he had missed with everything that he is, and even if he wanted to shake them off, it proves impossible.

The good times are back, with Taehyung blending into the group like creamer to his morning coffee. The seven young men are inseparable and Jeongguk’s exposure to Jimin only grows.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the whole crew gathers at Seokjin’s place to engage in quality bonding and make a ruckus over board games. Other days of the week, Jimin, Taehyung, Jeongguk, Yoongi, and Hoseok hangout at dance practice together. If not dance practice, they all cheer Taehyung on during his late-night practice swims.

The boy takes to water like a fish. He’s on a scholarship and the star swimmer of the university team. Taehyung moves like he was born to be in the pool, in the ocean, and it’s strange because in the moments that Taehyung glides beneath the surface, Jeongguk almost swears he looks like a seal.

“He’s killing it! GO TAE TAE! FUCK YEAH!” Jimin screams during the final swim meet near the end of Jeongguk’s freshman year. They’re sitting in the chattering stands, chants engulfing them as the crowd goes wild, the medley race taking place below in the wide pool. Taehyung is performing the dolphin kick, his movements elegant but powerful and Jimin’s voice drips with pride as he watches Taehyung tear through the water.

“THAT’S OUR BOY, KIM TAEHYUNG, KIM TAEHYUNG!” No one can overpower Jimin, Jin, and Hoseok’s screeching harmony of chaos. It’s without question that Taehyung has got this leg of the race in the bag but while their eyes are fastened on Taehyung’s form, Jeongguk’s attention has diverted.

He’s too busy thinking that he could instead watch Jimin forever. The older boy had his hair freshly dyed orange. It wouldn’t look good on anyone else, Jeongguk decides, but somehow Jimin pulls it off effortlessly. It’s a good compliment to his healthy dewy skin and with eyes filled with bright excitement, exuding positive energy for his friends, Jeongguk loves Jimin that much more.

He doesn’t register when the horn blares, signaling a win for the home team, and he continues to sit on his ass, eyes locked on Jimin as the rest of his friends holler, bouncing up and down in excitement, the university’s joy shaking the entire building.

It’s only when Yoongi’s arm comes to loop around Jimin’s shoulders that Jeongguk finally wakes, rising abruptly to his feet. Panicking and feeling lost, he desperately searches for Taehyung in the mess and when he does find the older boy, Taehyung is already staring up at him, standing away from his celebrating teammates, unreadable expression on his face.

He doesn’t look happy.

Jeongguk doesn’t know why.

Several tense seconds later, Taehyung breaks eye contact and Jeongguk watches as he turns towards his coach, allowing himself to be pulled into a tight group hug. He’s ripped way from Jeongguk’s searching gaze and the younger boy slips from the bleachers to find his best friend.

Later on, Taehyung brushes away Jeongguk’s attempt at confrontation outside the locker room. He acts perfectly normal, as if that miniscule moment had never happened.

“Oh, I was tired, don’t worry about it.” Taehyung babbles, hands waving around. “Sorry for causing any confusion. Thanks for worrying about me, Gukkie.”

Maybe Taehyung truly was exhausted enough after the race to blank out even though he’s never done that before.

Jeongguk thinks too much sometimes.

They celebrate that night with dinner and drinks. A small market of soju bottles later, Seokjin is reciting horrible puns while Namjoon, their in-house philosopher waxes Socrates on the kitchen floor. Jimin and Yoongi have started becoming extremely touchy and with Hoseok sobbing into a carton of fried chicken about his lost Balenciagas, Jeongguk decides that he’s seen enough and heads out towards the balcony.

"Just getting some air," he shouts out. No one seems to hear him.

A lot has happened in the year but as he slides open the heavy French door, the cool wind brushing against his burning cheeks, entering his airways to clear the haze of alcoholic euphoria, Jeongguk realizes that he hasn’t moved an inch from where he first began.

He’s still pining over the impossible and hasn’t made a serious effort to change at all.

Jeongguk, if he can admit it, has actually even become scared of the idea of moving on, scared of losing the Jimin he has always known, not that he’ll treat Jeongguk differently but Jimin’s meaning to him would fundamentally alter.

The agony of unrequited love, he wants to run but at the same time, he loves to stay.

There’s a quote that goes: those who have grown physically, mentally, or spiritually know that comfort isn’t found in change.

He doesn’t even know where to start letting go and the worst thing is, he could be caught in the near future, caught staring, caught with love scrawled all over his face.

What will he say then?

He’s finally with his hyungs again, his family, he doesn’t want to ruin a single molecule of their dynamic.

The moon above has obscured the stars with its bright light and Jeongguk spends endless beats of silence just staring up at the sky, mind in the heavens until he’s brought back down to earth by a low timbre encasing his deepest fears.

“You’re still in love with Jimin.”

Yes he is, and he whips around to see Taehyung’s solemn face.

So someone did figure it out after all. Jeongguk can’t keep the panic from distorting his features.

Taehyung’s hair is a little wild, tousled by their earlier roughhousing and lighter nowadays because of all the chlorine.

Yet, his eyes are still the same.

Pretty, soul searching, and lined with the finest lashes.

He’s currently peeling Jeongguk’s skin away with that laser-sharp gaze, and Jeongguk allows him to do so without a murmur of protest. They stand across from each other, bathed in the moonlight and wait for the right moment.

When Jeongguk finally leashes his racing heart, he invites Taehyung onto the balcony.

The French door shuts with a soft click.

It’s just the two of them and Jeongguk’s no-longer-secret.

“How did you know?” The younger boy whispers, suddenly naked and vulnerable.

He rests his elbows on the cool metal of the railing and sighs, long and drawn out. Defeated is his body as the breath leaves his lungs, his frame slumping into the bars that line the balcony, digging into his hipbones.

There’s shuffling to his right and a glance to his side reveals that Taehyung has assumed the same position, looking up at the dark sky.

The planes of his face are washed in silver and he has never looked so ethereal.

“Because I care about you Jeonggukie,” Taehyung replies with ease and Jeongguk blinks back tears.

Yeah, even in this friend group, Taehyung is indisputably his partner in crime. He’s the one who always knows when something is off, someone who is constantly present, and someone who would be the first to take a bullet for Jeongguk.

“I know,” he ends up croaking back.

Taehyung is truly his best friend.

“I see the way you look at him. It’s kind of obvious if you observe closely enough but I think as of now, I’m the only one who knows.” The older male’s voice is soft and soothing, coating Jeongguk’s eardrums in a blanket of comfort.

His pulse slows.

“It’s okay my little human, you can tell hyung anything. I wouldn’t break those two up, I know you wouldn’t want that either, but if you ever need help getting over him, I’m here for you.” Taehyung loves to call him that, his little human like he’s not one himself but it’s endearing in a Taehyung sort of way and Jeongguk has long stopped finding it weird.

“Getting over him?” He chuckles sadly, slowly spinning around and allowing his neck to fall backwards until he’s looking at the shrouded heavens as well. “I’ve tried that already, any new ideas? Spending less time with him isn’t a a route I can take and falling in love with someone else is harder than it looks. Where in the world do I even begin finding another person to love like this?”

“Maybe you’re looking much farther than you need to.” Taehyung’s eyes find the moon and Jeongguk lets his comment sink into the marrow of his bones.

“Farther than I need to?” He thinks of his 1997 friends and grimaces. His classmates, definitely a no go. His dance club members … maybe.

What about Taehyung?

The idea is almost ludicrous but in his mind’s eye, he could see it potentially working. Taehyung would be so easy to love, they already get along much too well, and Taehyung is easy on the eyes. Yet, you can’t just decide you want to love someone else and transfer your feelings with a snap of the fingers.

He’s never seen Taehyung that way.

He thinks it would take a lot for that to change.

The two of them don’t say anything else until they head back inside, enjoying each other’s company. Taehyung ends up pulling him into a warm and all-encompassing hug that tells him it’s alright and that he’s not alone anymore.

And just like all those years before, Jeongguk hopes that Taehyung can be the answer to all his problems.



.
.
.



Spring bleeds into summer.

Jimin stays in the city for an internship but Yoongi drives back to town with Jeongguk and Taehyung in tow.

Jeongguk had missed his family and when Jeongguk’s parents pull him into a warm embrace, it really hits him how much he’s been yearning for the smell of his mother’s cooking and the off-key whistling of his father preparing coffee in the early mornings.

He and Taehyung walk everywhere.

They retrace their steps at the old high school, the diner they used to study at, and the bakery that sells the best chocolate donuts.

Jeongguk takes comfort in the timeless beauty of this town that he had never fully appreciated before. It’s funny how you only start to value certain things after you hold them at a distance.

Lost in his thoughts on a sleepy Sunday evening, days before he is to return back to the city, Jeongguk spots Yoongi in the distance as he walks barefoot down the beach.

The older boy is looking out into the ocean, the only other person in the vicinity aside from Jeongguk, and he seems as if his mind is millions of miles away.

When Jeongguk had ventured out alone to grab a breath of fresh air, the last person he would have expected to run into here was Yoongi

The older boy fervently avoids the sea.

No one knows why. He’s never explained.

The sun left the skies of their country mere minutes ago to gallop across the globe and in its place, the stars strain to shine their brightest, inklings of them barely visible against the indigo backdrop.

Yoongi has always been abnormally pale and soaked up in this lonely and melancholy atmosphere, he’s almost eerie.

Inky black hair blown into a gentle disarray by the passing wind, form swallowed by an equally dark hoodie, Yoongi doesn’t look like he belongs by the water.

Rather, he looks like he should be submerged within its murky depths.

It startles him when Yoongi turns his head to lock their eyes together, having known all along that the younger male was present. He breaks out into a small smile at Jeongguk’s enlarged eyes and beckons him with a lazy flick of the wrist.

Jeongguk jogs forward until they’re standing side by side in the fading light and the silence speaks for the both of them as their gazes sweep along the horizon where the water meets the sky.

It’s peaceful, it’s perfect, and no words are needed.

“Do you believe in mermaids?” Is what Yoongi eventually asks him when waters begin to turn black, the last of the light dispersing from the area as the night settles in.

The sound of the ocean is terrifying in its might, wind chilling despite the company of summer, and Jeongguk shivers before he shakes his head.

The question is terribly random, he’s mildly confused. “No, not really. I don’t believe in that stuff, hyung,” Jeongguk replies and Yoongi nods in understanding.

“Interesting,” he murmurs, voice soft and deep. “Then what about selkies, have you heard the legend before?”

The older generation of their town love to gather and speak of unfounded folklore. Jeongguk has never been interested in myths, in what cannot be scientifically proven, and he had assumed the same of his hyung.

It’s beyond surprising to know that cool headed, logical Yoongi pays attention to these tall tales.

On most days, Jeongguk would laugh and stop the conversation, but he hesitates because this is Yoongi who clearly wants Jeongguk to know something. There are few things in this world that could rival his respect for Yoongi. That’s partly why he gave up Jimin without a fight, and that’s also why he had thought Yoongi hung the moon back in elementary school.

Out of all his older friends, Yoongi is the one who speaks the least often. It doesn’t mean, however, that he cares the least and his actions time and time again, have carried more gunfire than most words.

Yet when he does talk, it is always with purpose.

Yoongi would never deliberately entertain him without reason.

The younger boy shifts his weight and takes the leap.

“No, I haven’t. Tell me?”

Without ever meeting his gaze and facing the open ocean, Yoongi recounts the tale of the selkie with his pallid skin seemingly glowing beneath the twinkling sky.

The wind picks up, the sound a lonely whistle.

“There’s a tale as old as time about a mythological creature which dwells beneath the waves. They take the shape of a seal but are capable of becoming human on land. Legend goes that they’re incredibly beautiful, cunning, and excellent partners in marriage but their first love will always be the sea.”

It’s Yoongi’s tone, the sombreness of his facial expression, and their darkening surroundings which mix to strike a chord of fear in Jeongguk’s body. Instinctively, he feels that Yoongi is telling this story from experience, but that can’t possibly be right.

“Attracted to those discontented with their lives, it is said that if a female selkie comes to land, you must steal her fur coat so that she may not return to sea. That way you may take her as your wife and she is trapped with you. There is but a catch. If she ever finds her pelt, she must return to her original home, no matter the strength of the links she now has to the dry earth and no matter her love for you. As for males,” Yoongi’s sharp stare finally captures Jeongguk’s own.

They glint with a quiet resolve Jeongguk can barely understand, “there isn’t a lot known about male selkies and what their restrictions are. However, if recounts prove correct, one can summon a male selkie by crying seven tear drops into the ocean.”

In a flood, Jeongguk remembers the summer he turned 15, sobbing by the ocean, and the seal sighting.

His heartbeat brusquely jumps and his stomach turns itself inside-out.

Did he in fact see… a selkie that day? He hadn’t known that crying into the ocean would result in a summoning. If so, is that same selkie present in his current life?

What does he do to send it back home?

He actually jumps a mile in the air when Yoongi dissolves into amused chortles. The sound shatters the tense silence and his hyung casually runs a hand through his hair, gummy smile on full display as he wheezes.

Jeongguk gapes at him, spooked.

“Jeongguk, you should see the look on your face. These are just legends, you don’t think they’re true do you?” Yoongi lolls his head back, still laughing and Jeongguk feels his face flush red with embarrassment.

“I just felt like it was the perfect time to terrorize you. You’ve been getting too bratty recently. Come on, let’s go home, you big scaredy-cat.

“Hyung!” Jeongguk whines, absolutely miffed, “You tricked me! That’s low!”

They head back towards the town.

Yoongi half hopes that Jeongguk doesn’t forget the tale.

Jeongguk forgets anyway.



.
.
.



Taehyung does turn out to be the answer to all of Jeongguk’s problems when he decides that Jeongguk needs to meet more people. They’re finishing up their second year and when Taehyung makes new singer friends through a music composition class he takes for fun, Jeongguk ends up meeting Jieun and is instantly starstruck.

Jieun is the most amazing songstress and Jeongguk actually starts to forget Jimin when his blood pressure rockets through the roof if Jieun appears anywhere near him.

Taehyung is the first person he tells and his friend broods.

"She's just so beautiful, it actually physically hurts me. How can someone so good at something still be humble like her?" Jeongguk slumps at the dining table, head between his arms as he indulges Taehyung with another vomit fest of Jieun-is-the-best. Taehyung continues to shove lucky charms down his throat, refusing to meet Jeongguk's gaze.

"She really is great. Must be a fairy," Taehyung eventually mumbles. He doesn't sound like he means it.

Later on, Jeongguk realizes that he must have read things wrong because Taehyung was obviously brainstorming.

He doesn’t understand why he thought otherwise.

Jieun approaches him in February, asking if he indeed volunteered himself to be in a duet with her for a local charity talent show.

He pretty much pisses his pants because he did no such thing and can only think of one person who would have thrown him under the bus like that.

The hyungs are ecstatic, egging him on and even spying on them during rehearsals. Taehyung is actually his biggest supporter, helping him pick out items from his closet, making sure he knows what to say to impress her, and assumes the position of his emotional crutch.

"What are you going to do, show up on all your dates wearing a white t-shirt? She's going to think you only have one piece of clothing," Taehyung is relentless but Jeongguk takes his savagery in stride. Taehyung only wants the best for him.

Jieun is not only beautiful and kind, she’s a woman with ambition and tireless determination. It doesn’t take long for Jeongguk to gather up the courage to ask her out (Taehyung threatens to blackmail him if he keeps waiting for senpai to notice him), and Jieun says yes.

For almost two years, he lives in a dream.

He’s free from the shackles Jimin had spun around his emotions and speeding away from them the more time he spends with his new girlfriend. He might not love Jieun when he begins to date her, but he quickly comes to love her dearly.

She helps him learn that Jimin was a mere infatuation and a projection of Jeongguk’s ideals.

That phase no longer equates to his new definition of love at the age of 21.

Perhaps a real relationship is still choosing the same person despite the fact that they’re not all that you’re searching for.

No one is as perfect as they seem and opting to accept all of a partner’s bad points alongside praising their good sides, no matter what circumstances befall the two of you, that’s what he now lives by.

Jieun is the person he can laugh with into the middle of the night. She’s tiny and fits right in his arms.

His grades improve around her when she locks him down with her during exam season, she’s an amazing cook and he begins to eat better and healthier. She allows him to realize how much he loves singing and because of her, he opens his own Youtube channel to cover songs, amassing hundreds and thousands of followers.

There are only twenty-four hours in a day and none of those hours are enough time to spend without Jieun, especially during their honeymoon phase. His other friendships take a hit, his hyungs understanding, but what is injuring is the fact that he’s never quite able to pick up the same momentum again with Taehyung.

Too many times did he blow his best friend off, too many times he wasn’t there when Taehyung needed him the most. At first Taehyung had tried his best to fix his own timetable to accommodate Jeongguk until he realized how much of a lost cause it was.

("Hey, I'm sorry hyung. Jieun just really needs me right now. She's going through some family troubles. Maybe we can have dinner another time?"

"...it's fine. I understand." The voice that filters in through his cellphone is kind but stilted. Taehyung never follows-up with him about dinner.)

Don’t get him wrong, Taehyung is still his best friend and they continue to live together but their friendship has considerably lost a touch of what made it feel like home for Jeongguk.

And Jeongguk might have sustained living that way, been happy in his relationship for the rest of his life, gotten married and had three kids if not for the night he decides to go to their dance club icebreaker in his senior year.

That fatal evening, he learns that he’s missing a chemistry with her that he never even knew he wanted.

It starts out normally.

Now that Jieun is out of school and working, Jeongguk joins her for dinner after his classes, drops her off at home with a sweet kiss, and heads back to campus for the event.

By the time he lets himself into the large dance studio, it’s already rowdy and the party is going at full blast.

Music pulses steadily, food and drinks flow, and Jeongguk waves when he spots Jimin and Hoseok amidst the throng of participants. The two, despite having graduated, still volunteer to teach classes here but Jin, Yoongi and Namjoon who are also present with them are purely alumni back at it again for free food and drinks.

“Do you even go here?” He cajoles as they tackle him with greetings, mussing up his hair, feeling up his arms and gasping theatrically. The noise attracts attention and immediately notifies Taehyung of his entrance.

Out of his periphery, Jeongguk spies the older boy tilting his head their way and then he’s joining the entourage with a blinding boxy grin, leaving a group of gushing freshmen behind to complete their mini circle.

“You made it,” his best friend quirks a brow at him and Jeongguk bypasses a hello to reach over and fix Taehyung’s shirt, buttoning it up properly near the top as to not expose his chest.

He doesn’t like how Taehyung is always so careless.

There are wolves at this party.

He ignores the series of “awe” noises his hyungs release.

They’re so embarrassing.

When he’s satisfied that the collar is high enough, despite Taehyung’s huffs of displeasure, he pulls the older boy in for a hug. Taehyung emits a tiny yelp as he meets Jeongguk’s sturdy chest and the younger boy chuckles.

“Missed you too,” his lips brush against Taehyung’s ear, a gesture that explains exactly why people still mistake them for a couple.

Taehyung elbows him in the stomach.

“I saw your bunny face this morning with toothpaste all over your chin. Try again.”

Jeongguk can’t find it in him to snark back, instead just smiling stupidly at Taehyung. It invites Taehyung’s facial expression to soften and he taps the tip of Jeongguk’s nose with a gentle finger.

The event goes as every other event on campus runs: alcohol is introduced and because they’re a crew of young adults with too much libido, Jeongguk finds himself sitting in one of two large circles for a game of spin the bottle.

The classic one-way ticket to get yourself wrecked.

By this time, it’s reaching midnight and the room has become so stuffy the door is left open.

“I’m too old for this,” he complains as Jimin takes his hand and excitedly pulls him down to sit while Jin screams at him for being insensitive.

The skin-on-skin contact with Jimin doesn’t ramp up his heartbeat like it used to and Jeongguk is thankful for his growth. He’s been able to become much closer his hyung in the last while, more so than ever before, and can now truly see that Yoongi was always the best match for his first love.

Taehyung is seated a few spots away, to the left of Namjoon, and Jeongguk tries to ignore a spark of discontentment at being so far from him.

It only grows when the game takes a raunchy turn and suddenly no one is shy anymore, wooping and hollering when the bottle declares that Taehyung has to share a kiss with Jang Moonbok, aka, the guy who’s been after Taehyung’s ass since day one and naturally Jeongguk’s arch nemesis.

Moonbok used to sport long tresses but has since then cut them off. He’s blushing furiously as he stumbles to where Taehyung is located, the noise increasing exponentially. Everyone loves a good show.

Jeongguk still doesn’t like the way Moonbok looks, the way he acts, or the way he talks. That flustered act he’s putting up is far from charming and Jeongguk waits for Taehyung to refuse and take a shot of rum instead.

Except Taehyung doesn’t.

Jeongguk feels himself twitch with disbelief when his best friend giggles, he fucking giggles, and with all the grace of a renowned seductress, Taehyung hooks a finger under Moonbok’s chin to slot their lips together in a less than innocent kiss.

Jeongguk’s world turns upside-down.

What Jeongguk doesn’t understand is why Taehyung has to suck on Moonbok’s lower lip and press himself close, fingers curling around back of Moonbok’s neck to deepen the kiss. From his spot, he can hear the tiny sounds Taehyung is making and he’s losing his goddamned mind.

This could have been a simple peck but what Taehyung gives the crowd is just short of a make-out session and Jeongguk actually feels all the blood rushing to his head.

There’s an ugly emotion birthing in his chest, bubbling angrily and spitting fire. His vision turns red.

“That’s enough! Next!” Flies out of Jeongguk’s mouth before he has the time to rein his feelings in, effectively destroying the intimate moment, and the two abruptly break apart. Moonbok looks like he’s ascended to another plane.

Taehyung blinks at Jeongguk in shock.

His lips are plump and glistening and Jeongguk barely resists the urge to stomp on over and take Taehyung back to their shared apartment for a quiet movie night instead.

Away from these people. The farther the better.

Around him, the event-goers clap hysterically, eyes bright and wild. The tension in the room heightened to a new level with the steamy kiss and Lisa, the current dance team co-caption, is much too excited to see subsequent interactions happen.

She scoots forward to take the lead, grabbing at the bottle and thrusting it in a random freshman’s face. “Holy shit, that was hot! You, spin! NEXT, next, next!”

The bottle ends up landing on people Jeongguk couldn’t care less about for the next few turns which give Jimin and Jin enough of a time pocket to round on Jeongguk. Sandwiched between them, Jeongguk can’t possibly escape.

“What was that outburst, are you crazy?” Jimin hisses, jabbing at Jeongguk’s side with his small but powerful hands. His knee-jerk reaction is to avoid it by veering towards Jin but his eldest hyung also has a jab waiting for him at that end.

It spears just below his ribcage and Jeongguk erupts into a groan, doubling over.

His senses are overloaded as Jin angrily whispers right into the shell of his ear, words fired at incredible speeds.

“Do you like Taehyung or something? What was that? He’s a grown ass man who can definitely kiss another dude and here you are acting like a protective boyfriend about to cut a bitch. Mind you, you already have a girlfriend.”

“I wasn’t -,” Jeongguk starts but they don’t give him the room to breathe, straight up ignoring him and making their own deductions. He’s present but they’re acting like he’s invisible.

Jeongguk isn’t not even surprised anymore that he’s being treated this way. This happens much too often, and he’s been trained to be apathetic.

“Park Jimin,” Jin declares solemnly as the crowd goes wild in the background. Another victim is giving someone a lap dance, “me thinks that Jeongguk is about to have an awakening.”

“Kim Seokjin,” Jimin answers him in the same manner, they’re both dolts, “me thinks the same. Me also thinks that this could end terribly.”

Jeongguk doesn’t get to ask why.

Everyone begins to shout his name all at once, snapping him out of his mission to scorch Jin with a venomous stare alone, and when he looks over, Jeongguk finds that the mouth of the treacherous soda bottle is pointed at him.

He blanks out.

“Who?” Jeongguk mouths, utterly dumbstruck, and when it’s Taehyung who shakily raises his hand, the younger male’s stomach drops to his feet with a squelch.

Just his luck.

He still hasn’t fully grasped why he acted out just a while ago and already, he has to deal with Taehyung again.

This is a Taehyung he doesn’t quite know, one he’s only seen from far across the dancefloor, and one who suddenly looks gravely dangerous when coupled with the word “grind.”

Did Jeongguk hear that correctly? They’re supposed to what?

“I dare Taehyung to grind on Jeon Jeongguk for a full five minutes,” crows Lisa, hands up in the air. The girl is too buzzed for her own good and the room explodes with excitement. Everyone is eager to see the famously rumoured couple-not-couple on campus finally resolve their sexual tension but Jeongguk is already in a relationship and this isn’t appropriate.

He pales.

Jieun would be so disappointed in him, but he nevertheless can’t bring himself to say a word, his mouth dry, body a gargoyle as Taehyung shifts and stands, striding over to him gracefully in just two steps.

He’s a believer that nothing happens without good reason. Thus, one could say that there are never coincidences, there’s only fate.

Jeongguk has learned to roll with the punches and to take everything in stride. “Trust the process” is his mantra during arduous times but he’s not entirely sure if the current situation is the result of fate.

Rather, it seems to be an orchestration by someone who badly wants to see him crash and burn through rigging the game.

There’s no way this could have happened naturally.

“Whoa, whoa, hold up guys, he has a girlfriend,” Jimin is the one who automatically speaks up, righteously trying to halt the flow of the evening. His exclamation is enough to shake Jeongguk from his trance and the younger boy quickly rips his eyes away from Taehyung, shoulders visibly relaxing as he gives several firm nods.

Right, he can’t get carried away. Jeongguk is just feeling extra confused today. He should have gotten more sleep.

This isn’t like him.

The spectators attempt to reason that there isn’t a problem as Taehyung is the one doing the grinding, not Jeongguk, but Jimin doesn’t budge.

“That’s still not okay, he’s committed. Get your head out of your ass, Lisa. Why don’t we spin the bottle again, Taehyung can grind on someone else,” Jimin suggests as a compromise, “you’re okay with that right, Tae?”

Jeongguk doesn’t hear Taehyung’s response.

All he knows is that jealousy engulfs his whole form in seconds, and operating on pure instinct, he’s reaching up to roughly tug Taehyung into his lap with a growl, palms fused against his best friend’s hips.

The entire time Jeongguk has been friends with Taehyung, the older boy never dated.

Jeongguk has always had the privilege of never having to fight for Taehyung’s attention and it’s only now that he realizes how spoiled he’s been.

They share a dorm together, yet Taehyung doesn’t bring people over. Furthermore, his best friend has never given Jeongguk a chance to suspect that Taehyung has been sexually involved with anyone.

The thought that Taehyung could be rolling his hips into someone else’s, imagining Taehyung kissing a mouth other than his own, the ugly feelings of heartbreak and rage flare so potent that Jeongguk can taste the bitter grains in his mouth.

He can’t control these revolting urges, he doesn’t know how to deal with them, because this is the first time he’s been this way.

Not with Jieun, not with Jimin.

It all comes alive with Taehyung.

“Hey, wait a minute, Jeongguk?” Taehyung stammers, eyes wide as he panics in Jeongguk’s hold. His squirming creates a friction that has both parties shuddering. It’s to the whole room’s surprise when his inquiry is swiftly silenced by Jeongguk who gives him a gruff and unyielding command.

“Move.”

Perched in Jeongguk’s hold, Taehyung looks as if he’s had all the air punched from his lungs.

The chattering ceases, everyone is a piece of art frozen in time until finally, Taehyung moves.

He brings his hips down in a powerful grind and jumpstarts the scene into utter pandemonium.

Delicious sparks radiate where Taehyung undulates in Jungkook’s lap. The younger man revels in the warm weight present in his arms, eyes rolling into the back of his head as he bites back a groan, his dick beginning to awaken in his jeans.

It’s hot, hot, hot and he’s frenzied with need.

It raises goosebumps all over his skin and he shudders with each rock of Taehyung’s hips.

How is Taehyung so fucking good at moving his ass like that, pressing into Jeongguk’s cock with every slide and smirking prettily like he’s not affected at all?

His nails dig unashamedly into Jeongguk’s shoulders, undeterred by the fabric of the younger man’s t-shirt. It’s painful but it feels so good, red marks blossoming beneath his ministrations, and Jeongguk just wants more, more, and more.

His hands need to be everywhere at once, squeezing Taehyung’s sides, venturing beneath his button-up to meet blazing skin, before sliding down to cup Taehyung’s ass.

It’s round, firm, and thick in his palms, the stuff of Jeongguk’s sultriest fantasies.

Jeongguk’s cock hardens fully when a rough squeeze of Taehyung’s butt cheeks results in Taehyung stuttering forward, back arching, as he releases a loud moan into Jeongguk’s hair.

Five minutes is much too long, Jeongguk doesn’t think he can last like this, struggling to breathe and desperately attempting to keep his dick in check.

It doesn’t help that Taehyung is positioned sturdily in his lap, panting into his hair as he meaningfully rocks his hips side to side, up and down.

Taehyung is hard and big.

Jeongguk whines.

“Feeling good, Gukkie?” Is Taehyung’s breathy response and that, without reason, irks Jeongguk to no end.

He’ll show Taehyung what truly feels good. Jeongguk also knows how to drive someone up the wall and he proves it to Taehyung by flipping their positions with a single dominant move, Taehyung’s back hitting the wooden floors with a thud and a muted gasp.

The older man has barely blinked twice before Jeongguk is back between his legs, hands spreading Taehyung’s thighs apart, and grinding down with new feverish purpose.

The change in angle makes it much easier for their bulges to meet, sparks giving way to billowing flames as gravity catalyzes the intensity of their frottage.

It’s obscene, it’s sex with clothes on, but the crowd is too gobsmacked and scandalized to properly stop them in time as Jeongguk’s hips chase release against Taehyung’s crotch.

Each thrust is a quick jackhammer, their boxers slippery with precum, and below him,Taehyung’s eyes turn glassy.

He’s so fucking pretty, and all he seems to be able to do is chant Jeongguk’s name.

“J-Jeongguk, shit, Jeonggukkie!” Taehyung sobs and this, this is what Jeongguk has wanted all along, he grasps.

He wants Taehyung all the time, Taehyung feels incredible.

Jeongguk is seconds away from cumming in his pants when it all stops.

He’s physically torn off Taehyung by Namjoon and Hoseok who restrain him when he attempts to break away with a snarl.

“Get a hold of yourself,” his hyungs are screaming at him but all he wants is Taehyung. He lunges forward but is wrenched back again by Hoseok.

The auburn-haired male isn’t smiling, a rare sight. His thin lips are etched in a frown, disapproval zapping from his eyes.

The sight aids in sobering up Jeongguk but it’s not actually enough until Namjoon reaches over to slap him across the face.

It’s the sting which snaps his head to the side that ultimately brings light to his thought process.

It successfully halts his need to reach sexual ecstasy and pours ice cold water over his nervous system with a sickening slosh.

He can’t come to terms with what he just did. Jeongguk’s hands tremble as he brings them up to his face.

He humped Taehyung ardently in public, taking things much farther than anyone had ever anticipated or intended.

He did that with his best friend.

How does Taehyung feel about things, how is he going to save his face, and what about Jieun?

Poor Jieun.

Why had he done that?

It’s all too much, the biggest fuck-up of his entire lifetime and Jeongguk does the only thing he can think of doing: he runs.

He scrambles to his feet, a stream of apologies overflowing from between his lips and then he’s sprinting out the door of the studio to his car because that’s the only way he can protect himself in the moment.

Jeongguk’s absence, selfishness, and irresponsibility hurts Taehyung so much that his best friend doesn’t come home for two weeks.

They’ve never before spent longer than a day away from one another because of a dispute, and the knowledge stabs Jeongguk right in the heart.

The older male crashes on Jimin’s couch and reportedly cries himself to sleep each night. While most of the hyungs come to rap on Jeongguk’s door, demanding answers, offering to walk him through his thoughts, Jeongguk stays cooped up in his room by himself.

He’s terrified but he’s also not a teenager anymore. He knows he has to face the music.

Always having been more mature than the majority of his age group, Jeongguk decides that he needs to time alone to come to terms with what transpired. After that, he needs to make a cut, no matter how painful.

Once one has seen the truth, it’s very difficult to hide from it.

Jieun taught him some of this but Taehyung has completely solidified the entire fact.

The feelings that had roused from slumber because of Taehyung, Jeongguk is terrified because they’ve already changed the way he defines love to a drastic degree.

He wishes he never went to the icebreaker, he wishes he had possessed the courage to turn away, and he desperately wishes he could go back to seeing Taehyung in a platonic light.

Wishes however forevermore remain wishes, and the only direction to solider on in is forward.

Jeongguk spends the two weeks without Taehyung, mulling over the game of spin-the-bottle: the chemistry, his yearnings, and the attraction.

He’s never felt anything to that degree before.

He spends time thinking about himself as a person, what he values in a partner, and whether or not he’s with someone he can truly happily grow old with.

Jeongguk breaks up with Jieun.



.
.
.



The way Jeongguk and Taehyung make up is anti-climactic.

Jeongguk shows up at Jimin’s door, Jimin delivering a punch to his eye which later develops into a massive shiner, and Taehyung rushes in, tears springing to his eyes at the sight of Jeongguk grimacing on the floor.

Taehyung has always been incredibly malleable when it comes to Jeongguk and he snivels sullenly the whole time, fretting over Jeongguk’s swollen face as Jeongguk sits across from him on the saggy couch.

Eyes running over Taehyung’s visage, Jeongguk mopes as he notes the dryness of his best friend’s skin and the weight he’s lost during their period spent apart. He’s developed a deep red pimple on his cheek, one he most likely calls his new friend, and Jeongguk hates himself for destroying Taehyung’s health.

For Taehyung, it surely had been just a dare, but Jeongguk had put their friendship on the line by getting too cozy. Then, before they could talk, he had fled, leaving Taehyung to the sharks in that studio.

Betrayal.

The older boy deserves nothing but love and respect. He’s too good for Jeongguk who was selfish.

Taking Taehyung’s hand in his own and rejoicing in the fact that his platonic soulmate doesn’t violently shake him off, Jeongguk pours his soul into each sentence, telling Taehyung how achingly sorry he is for being a cowardly and an easily overwhelmed fool.

He’s apologetic beyond words for getting irrationally jealous and he confesses that he’s scared that he’s ruined their friendship, promising he would do anything to maintain it.

Heart in his throat, he watches as Taehyung’s entire expression perks up.

His insides throb with hope.

“Really? You still want to be friends?” His best friend hoarsely whispers, still painfully beautiful, regardless of the snot dripping out of his nose. Diamond tears, Jeongguk muses as he reaches over to swipe his thumbs over Taehyung’s soft cheeks.

“Really,” he affirms tenderly, “I wouldn’t lie to you. You’re the most important person in this world to me, Tae.”

Jeongguk doesn’t mention his budding feelings because he has no idea if they’re just phantoms for the time being and Taehyung doesn’t bring up the subject of love either.

“Yes, you fucker, of course we’re still friends.” Taehyung punches his arm. It doesn’t make a dent but Jeongguk pretends to collapse.

They agree to forget about the grinding episode and move on.

This is the result of Jeongguk trying to tackle the subject but instead getting so flustered he’s unable to properly voice his opinions. After the third attempt, Taehyung bops his nose with a slim finger and tells him maybe it’s better if they both agreed to never speak of it again.

Lost for words and dejected, Jeongguk nods along even though it feels wrong to just leave the subject in the dark. He decides to let it go under the pretense that their friendship has just been placed into a fresh cast.

Dissecting doesn’t heal broken bones, whereas time, space, and understanding do.

“I’m so glad, I thought I had lost you,” his Taehyung tells him later on in the evening when they’re snuggled up in Jeongguk’s bed after having talked all night.

Jeongguk closes his eyes as Taehyung’s fingers lazily comb through his head, scratching soothingly at his scalp.

Taehyung smells like cotton and vanilla.

He sighs in contentment.

“You could never lose me hyung. Never.”

Taehyung doesn’t answer and Jeongguk loses himself to sleep before he can ascertain why.



.
.
.



Taehyung and Jeongguk’s relationship returns to normal.

It only takes hours for them to re-adapt, that’s how strongly their wavelengths synchronize and if anything, they’re happier together after the fight as compared to the previous chapters of their lives.

Years pass in a flurry. They graduate, they find full-time employment, and they remain two peas in a pod.

Jeongguk cannot thank the Lord enough for allowing Taehyung to take him back on his grovelling ass.

He appreciates being able to come home to Taehyung reading in their kitchen, it soothes his nerves to slip back into their previous routines, and both perpetually single, they’re glued at the hip but neither complains.

With Taehyung, it just feels right.

Not only are they there for one another on an emotional level, they’re also physically in-tune. If there’s one thing that has significantly shifted in their dynamic since university, it’s the way they now touch one another.

Whereas in the past, hugs were where things halted, since their dance studio episode, Taehyung and Jeongguk have become so physically comfortable around one another that sleeping in each other’s beds, waltzing into each other’s arms, and taking long soothing baths with their limbs entangled have transformed into the norm.

Domestic is what Jin calls it.

Jeongguk calls it bad for his sanity.

Using a horrible analogy, Taehyung is like instant ramen, so good but oh so bad for his heart.

What had started out as sexual curiosity, has grown into a gigantic monster.

The more time Jeongguk takes to carefully analyze their interactions and what Taehyung means to him, the more he realizes he wants to date his best friend.

He wants to kiss the older boy slow and steady, shower him with gallons of praise, and make love to him until Taehyung succumbs to tears.

Turns out Mingyu was correct during their freshman year; Jeongguk really did love Taehyung even way back when.

He can’t believe it took so long for him to see it.

Nothing has made more sense than Taehyung’s place in his universe.

But they aren’t an established couple.

Jeongguk has waited a quarter of a decade to make a move and is more than ready to jump into the role of being Taehyung’s boyfriend but he can’t seem to shake his fears. This causes for his hyungs to habitually and collectively berate their youngest for being incredibly stupid.

“Look at how whipped he is for you, ask him out already!”

“Do you think anyone else would wake up at the ass crack of dawn to make you your favourite omelette while running a fever?”

“You’d have to be blind not to see it. He snuggles with you in his boxers.”

Jeongguk’s hesitations don’t exactly go unfounded.

The clues that he surmises Taehyung must be dropping could easily be biased distortions behind his infatuation-fogged glasses and there are easily no lines to read between. If Jeongguk had to pinpoint his passivity, the largest logical factor behind his reasoning would be Taehyung’s silence.

In accordance with the older male’s personality, if he viewed Jeongguk as anything other than a friend, Taehyung would have already approached Jeongguk and asked him out himself.

Taehyung is the type of guy who knows what he wants and gets what he wants, not always instantly but he can wait for eons until the moment is ripe. Friends, grades, jobs, etc., his best friend leaves no rock unturned if he desires it powerfully enough.

To Jeongguk, the time has never not been right which can only mean that Taehyung doesn’t like him back.

Jeongguk is terrified of losing the status quo if he decides to confess by throwing all his inhibitions to the wind.

If his feelings devastate things between the two of them, would he have to say goodbye to their living arrangements? Would Taehyung be comfortable with telling Jeongguk all his secrets after that? Would he feel the need to date discretely later on in order to spare Jeongguk’s feelings?

Jeongguk would regret it to the end of his last days if speaking up means shattering his current life with Taehyung.

The problem is that comfort enables one to take things for granted. It nurses cowardice and when the bubble of peace is popped, the damage is often fatal.

This is what comes to happen when Jeongguk and Taehyung sign a new housing contract and begin packing for the move.

The two of them have accumulated enough of their savings to finally buy a place to call their own. It’s closer to the heart of downtown, much more spacious, and conveniently near Jimin and Yoongi’s humble abode.

Taehyung is a delighted bundle of nerves as he phones up all the hyungs, asking for their help with packing, and Jeongguk watches him with a fond smile, thinking the event is a beautiful new start to another segment of his life.

That day, Jin is busy babysitting Namjoon in the living room to make sure he doesn’t break a thing while Jimin wraps their cutlery up in newspaper. Yoongi and Hoseok have gone out to find more cardboard boxes and masking tape, leaving Jeongguk and Taehyung to organize the clothing in the older boy’s bedroom.

It’s a bit of a gong-show.

“This is all Gucci, how did we ever muster up the money to move?” Jeongguk grumbles, rummaging around in the cramped closet. A shimmery silver button-down falls over his head as he digs and he splutters, reeling backwards to fall on his ass.

For a solid half hour, he’s been searching for the matching fuzzy slipper to the one in his hand.

This is why Jeongguk never explores Taehyung’s room because the place is a fashion dump and he’s afraid if he’s too careless, he’ll leave a mark on some piece of fabric that Taehyung is going to rip him to shreds over.

Turning around from where he’d been emptying the drawers, the older male sniffs as he eyes Jeongguk with a hint of irritation, “that’s because I have taste, and please be careful. Damage my babies and I damage you.”

Neglecting his prospects of becoming the next Einstein, Taehyung had actually abandoned his mathematics major to pursue a career in the fashion industry where he currently works as a stylist and editor.

He’s made magnificent headway into his profession via hard work and Jeongguk is so proud, having sacrificed himself on countless occasions to model for Taehyung’s newest arrangements.

Emitting a heavy sigh, Jeongguk reaches up to gingerly untangle himself from the offending article and neatly folds it before placing it in a cardboard box. He does it under Taehyung’s watchful eyes and when the older is satisfied with his performance, Taehyung returns to his own task, muttering under his breath as he works.

Several dives through the heap later, Jeongguk takes his chances and leaves the closet to explore beneath the bed instead. A handful of boxes lie under the wooden framework and they house Taehyung’s special shoe collection, each reportedly the only pair of their kind in this world.

Taehyung permits no one to touch them but given that his best friend is busy and the fact that Jeongguk will only take a peek, Jeongguk bypasses alerting Taehyung and hurriedly sifts through the stash.

He uncovers the prettiest rainbow mesh sneakers and the most dysfunctional pair of boots before he lifts the next lid to uncover a silky fur pelt.

Definitely not the slipper.

Jeongguk instantly freezes, forgetting how to breath.

Taehyung is just a hair’s breadth away from being a marching animal rights activist. His best friend is violently against poaching innocent animals for clothing and accessories, becoming so emotional whenever he sees people parading the streets in their fur articles that Jeongguk always has to cuddle him close afterwards.

It’s very difficult for Jeongguk to comprehend why Taehyung would own it.

Unless the pelt is faux fur.

Jeongguk relaxes, lowering the lid in his hands to the floor and chuckles silently at himself. He shakes his head, shiny brown locks brushing against his forehead.

Of course it would be fake. How could he think otherwise?

He reaches forward to stroke the coat, intrigued. It feels a little rougher than it looks and the hairs are short but still silkier than any human wig.

Jeongguk finds himself entranced.

Against his better judgement, deft and nimble fingers lift the spotted pelt from its box. It’s a gigantic thing, Jeongguk has to spread his arms wide to pull it taunt, and the young man gapes in wonder.

The pelt is so beautiful and honestly looks real.

Every spot is artfully placed.

He’s just about to ask Taehyung where he got this from when he’s interrupted by voices and then a clatter.

Jeongguk jolts, spinning his head to see Jimin at the door. Behind the dancer stands Yoongi with the widest eyes, and Hoseok carrying a stack of flattened cardboard boxes so high his face is completely blocked.

“Hey, they just got back. You need any more boxes in here? By the way,” Jimin waves Taehyung’s missing Gucci slipper in his hand, “I found this in one of the cupboards. What the fuck do you guys even do in this apartment? Do you need it by any chance?”

Oh my god.

“The fucking shoe,” Jeongguk groans, absolutely elated and then he’s standing up and shoving the pelt into Taehyung’s hands before striding over to finally hold the goddamn thing.

“I’ve been searching all over for this, I seriously thought I was going to die, thank you.” Jimin pats his back with a grin, amused by Jeongguk’s dramatics, but when he hears Yoongi emit a choked gurgle, he cranes his neck around to gaze worriedly at his boyfriend.

“Yoongi? Are you alright?” The pale musician certainly doesn’t look like he’s fine and Jeongguk follows the older man’s shell-shocked gaze to discover Taehyung kneeled on the floor with his bottom lip trembling.

He appears overwhelmed.

The pelt is draped over his arms.

“Why is everything acting so weird?” Hoseok’s muffled voice inquires from behind the cardboard but Jeongguk doesn’t answer, stomach somersaulting as he rushes over to apologize.

He knew he shouldn’t have gone through Taehyung’s prized collection without consent, and the older boy is visibly distraught as a result of his thoughtless actions.

Jeongguk hits the ground on his knees and grabs Taehyung’s shoulders, leaning down, trying to catch Taehyung’s eyes obscured by his ashy gray bangs.

“Fuck, I’m so sorry, Tae. Tae?” He squeezes lightly, feeling Taehyung’s tremors. Taehyung’s behaving strangely; this isn’t like him. “I’m sorry. I promise I won’t do it again. Don’t be upset, I’ll make it up to you. Hey, you can have my next few months’ paychecks, how about that? I’ll give you my whole year’s worth of salary if it’s enough to cover the cost of a new pelt.”

Taehyung doesn’t reply.

Instead, he weeps and Jeongguk is appalled when he catches sight of glistening teardrops plopping onto the pelt, retaining their shape and rolling off the hairs onto the wooden planks below. He’s about to lurch into another round of apologies, feeling completely terrible and out of control when Taehyung releases a guttural sob and flings himself into Jeongguk’s arms.

“Yes!” Taehyung cries, arms locking around Jeongguk’s neck, utterly distraught. “Of course, I’ve been waiting for years, ever since that summer by the beach when you called out to me. I thought I’d wait forever! You douche canoe, teasing me throughout university, making me jealous to the point where I’d just cry in my room alone every night. I love you so much, you have no idea.

Warm wet spots appear on Jeongguk’s white t-shirt as Taehyung wails and the younger man is thrown into a vat of jubilation and confusion so large that he doesn’t even know where to begin replying.

He’s trying to grasp onto the fact that Taehyung just said that he loved Jeongguk while also trying to make sense of the other sentences. However, Taehyung allows him no room to interject, babbling hysterically, grip tighter by the second.

“I’ll marry you, I’ll marry you! Oh my god, Jeon Jeongguk!”

The world flips over and Jeongguk’s heart rate accelerates viciously at those words.

Marriage?!

What?!

With more force than he intends to exert, operating on auto-pilot, he rips himself away to meet Taehyung’s blotchy and tear-stained face as the older man keens.

“Marriage?” He stutters over the noise, he vaguely registers Yoongi yelling something in the background, “What’s going on? I didn’t say anything about marriage.”

Taehyung is goes still. He’s a statue, a stunning one that Jeongguk could spend eras trying to sculpt to perfection.

It’s so silent, one could hear a pin drop.

The scene comes back to life when tears once more pool in Taehyung’s eyes, sparkling gems, but this time, something feels different.

“I forgot,” his best friend croaks, sad laughter filtering into the tense room, “I told you when you had no idea. Oh my god, I broke the rules,” Taehyung begins to shudder, curling in on himself and crumpling before Jeongguk’s eyes, “I have to go home.”

Jeongguk doesn’t understand. Is he not Taehyung’s home?

Taehyung releases a heart wrenching cry just as Jeongguk tugs the other man into his arms.

He desperately tries to placate the older boy through his mounting bewilderment, but Taehyung struggles, scratching and kicking before he breaks free from Jeongguk’s hold.

The older boy scrambles to his feet and backs up towards the door all the while crying. Jimin and Hoseok stand guard, worried and scared while Yoongi forcefully pushes them to the side, attempting to make room for Taehyung’s escape.

Why is Yoongi doing that?!

“Shit, Tae, sorry, I don’t know what is going on but don’t cry. Please? Tell me what’s wrong? Fuck, you’re scaring me!” Jeongguk is terrified, more fearful than he’s ever been in his life. Taehyung is acting as if he’s been possessed.

Jeongguk doesn’t comprehend a single thing but his intuition is telling him that if he lets Taehyung run off alone now, he might never see him again.

“Taehyung,” he tries, his own tears starting to prick his eyes, slowly standing to his feet and cautiously inching towards his best friend. “Tae, talk to me. Please, you’re alright. You’re safe here with me.”

To his dismay, he doesn’t get there in time.

Taehyung looks at him, tears coating his skin as he whispers, “I’m sorry, goodbye my little human,” and then he’s racing out the gap in the door with the pelt in his fists. Yoongi screams at everyone not to chase him, it’s utter chaos, a haze of colours, and when Jeongguk tries to follow, Yoongi unexpectedly body slams him to the floor.

Jeongguk’s head knocks harshly against the ground.

He sees stars.

By the time he gathers his wits and shoves Yoongi aside, tears blurring his vision as he stumbles out the entrance, Taehyung is long gone.

His hyungs drift behind him but he tells them to fuck off. They’re hovering too much, they’re preventing him from leaving.

He needs to get to Taehyung. Why can’t they see that they’re slowing him down?

Jeongguk resolves that after he brings Taehyung back, they can have a nice talk, eat ice cream together, and cuddle.

It’s all probably a misunderstanding.

But when he makes it to the parkade, Taehyung isn’t there.

He spots Jimin, crouched in the empty parking spot with a bleeding knee. The other boy is downtrodden as he recounts how he had valiantly chased after Taehyung and amidst their scuffle while trying to open the door to the driver’s seat, Taehyung had punched him in the stomach and thrown him to the ground.

Jeongguk gives a short laugh of incredulity upon realizing that things won’t be as simple as he had imagined. His own car is currently doing maintenance. None of the hyungs drove today. He has no way to give chase.

He’s powerless.

Worry, sadness, and anxiety pulse so violently in his chest that his heart must be physically tearing apart.

He had never before seen Taehyung behave that way. His best friend had looked frightfully miserable and hurt, curling in on himself like a puppet with broken strings. The things he had uttered carried a tone of finality that Jeongguk keeps fixating on.

Jeongguk tries to tell himself that he’s overreacting, that things will work out, but he’s simultaneously bombarded with senseless levels of concern.

When will Taehyung be back?

How does Jeongguk find him?

He can’t lose Taehyung, Jeongguk needs Taehyung, he needs him so badly.

Time is an unfamiliar creature. Jimin comes over to envelop him in a hug and Jeongguk doesn’t know how long he stays there standing until the rest of his hyungs catch up to him. They worry alongside him, shaken to the core and desperate to rescue their youngest from hysteria.

Jeongguk allows a few teardrops to dribble down his face, taking off the edge, and his hyungs eventually haul him back upstairs.

They take him back to Yoongi who is perched on the couch, waiting with a sombre expression, appearing as grief-stricken as one who had just witnessed a death.

The same Yoongi who let Taehyung run off without a hitch.

To Jeongguk, that is betrayal.

“Why did you stop me?” He spits hatefully when it’s just the two of them, the other boys filed away into the kitchen to give the pair space. The tension is palpable and Jeongguk actually uses every ounce of his self-control to not throw a punch.

“Because caging him in would have killed him.” Yoongi replies and Jeongguk is for the second time that day, confused beyond words.

Killed Taehyung? His puzzlement must show because the older male instantaneously sighs.

The clock strikes eight in the background.

“Do you remember the legend of the selkie?” Yoongi asks him, tired and resigned.

Jeongguk breathes.

In, out, in, and out.

It doesn’t work, he starts to tremble.

Everything returns again: sadness, anxiety, but this time around, dread, astonishment, and mania are thrown into the mix at dangerous volumes.

The cosmos is so cruel.

“No,” Jeongguk claws at his face, “it can’t be. Don’t fucking joke with me, I can’t deal with that shit right now!!!

“Jeongguk, I’m not lying.”

Yoongi’s eyes are wet.

His metal-as-fuck hyung is crying.

None of this is real.

Jeongguk realizes then that Yoongi truly never says anything without purpose. That night on the beach, it had been a hint, a warning, and Jeongguk had dismissed it without a second thought.

Taehyung is a selkie.



.
.
.



The fall Jeongguk turns 27, he discards his Timberlands on the wispy sands behind him, and wades into the freezing waters.

He cries into the ocean, seven droplets lost in shallows, but Taehyung doesn’t show up to greet him.

Jeongguk has been doing this for two straight years, every night by the waters in the city, and when the weekends permit it, at the beach near his hometown after hours of frantic driving.

He’s heartbroken, more so every day, but there is no end to his waiting.

The young man had been so stupid, completely blind to the his chance at happiness all along. Instead, he had been busy putting labels on everything, resting in his spinelessness and traversing in his ignorance. Looking back now, the hyungs were right. Taehyung’s feelings had indeed been obvious and even if Taehyung hadn’t felt the same way, there was no way he could have ever abandoned Jeongguk.

Reaching into the pocket of his bomber jacket, Jeongguk extracts a tiny glass bottle. It’s a modern little thing with a screw cap instead of a cork. Jeongguk owns next to thousands of these containers.

They do the job well, keeping the slips of paper tucked within the vessel dry and safe.

This is his monthly sacrifice to the sea, letters from his heart. They’ve continuously been addressed to Taehyung and have transformed from pages of apologies to commonplace stories detailing Jeongguk’s life.

He takes an hour or so each day to pen down what he thinks he would tell Taehyung over breakfast.

It brings him solace.

He doesn’t know if Taehyung reads these stunted essays but as he steps back, winds up his arm, and flings the bottle in a graceful arch over the break in the waves, he prays that fate will usher the hymn of his hopes towards his dearest.

“He couldn’t say anything, Jeongguk. Taehyung fell in love with you, yes, but there are rules to abide by. If a male selkie approaches a human to solve issues of the heart and subsequently develops feelings, in order to stay, the human must admit to love first. Everything just played out badly. For male selkies, when they are handed back their pelt, it’s a marriage proposal.” Yoongi had spilled the truth soon after Taehyung’s disappearance.

It had been too late but there was no other way in which Jeongguk would have known sooner.

“I guess Taehyung was overwhelmed in the moment, he forgot that you didn’t know anything about selkies or proposals. He told you he loved you and broke his contract with the sea. If he hadn’t returned immediately, he probably would have perished.” They found Taehyung’s car the next day, empty by the shore.

The Pikachu bobble head sitting on his dashboard had still been moving.

“Why do I know all of this?” That day, Yoongi had wrung his hands out after receiving Jeongguk’s whispered question. “My dad … he was a selkie. He never came home after my mom had a terrible fight with him once and angrily told him she didn’t love him anymore. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors in town. About how he left her for another younger and more successful woman? That’s not true. He left her for the sea. That’s why Taehyung had a place to stay and a way to integrate into society. Mom is basically a reception centre for selkies who come to land. It’s her way of repenting and hoping for dad’s return.”

Repenting and wishing for a selkie’s reappearance, that is precisely why Jeongguk has never failed to send a bottle out to sea and to weep exactly seven tears into the ocean every 24 hours.

According to Yoongi, once a selkie’s agreement on land is broken, the call of the ocean is unstoppable. When the mythical creatures return to the waters, the sea acts as a brainwashing mechanism that blocks out all requests weaker than the ocean’s song. To the selkies, no entity becomes more important than the world underwater.

To coax Taehyung back into his arms, Jeongguk has to establish a pull potent enough to pierce through the sea’s veil. His desperation, yearning, and unhappiness must accumulate to unprecedented levels.

It could take ages, perhaps even Jeongguk’s whole lifetime to awaken Taehyung. Having already failed to complete Jeongguk’s wish once, Taehyung would be naturally more immune to Jeongguk’s summonings.

Jeongguk now understands why Taehyung had been the perfect answer to the majority of his most private problems. Nothing was a coincidence after all, that’s why twelve years ago Taehyung had appeared when he did.

Bottle a day, Jeongguk ponders as he exhales, looking out into the familiar horizon. The sun is still high in the sky, though it no longer carries with it the same warmth of summer.

The waves of the sea crash against his toned calves to soak his rolled-up jeans and he sighs. Some things never change. His mother will have his head in a while.

He will be eating dinner at his parent’s place and his mom is still not a fan of Jeongguk tracking salt water into the house.

She proves him right later on by scolding him right in the foyer and it’s almost midnight by the time Jeongguk commences his drive back to the city. His father had insisted that he stay the night but Jeongguk has work early tomorrow morning and he’d rather not use a sick day.

It’s just him, alone in his car with the radio on, and both hands atop the steering wheel. Street lights flash by as orange beams that pass through his windows, and Chet Baker is crooning a sad love song when Jeongguk is slammed with an inexplicable urge to take the exit to the right.

That route loops back out to the far edges of the beach and there’s really no reason for Jeongguk to visit the water’s edge for a second time.

Yet, he follows the urge, not hurried to return to his empty apartment.

It’s the same one he had wanted to move into with Taehyung. Jeongguk had decorated the place by himself, set up Taehyung’s room in solitude, and still keeps an extra toothbrush in the master bedroom.

The residence is terribly lonely, and when it gets especially bad, Jeongguk sleeps at Namjoon’s instead.

Leaving his vehicle behind, lazily parked, Jeongguk walks for a few miles, whistling and ambling along the sandy terrain of the beach with only the moon for his companion. Tonight, the moon’s radiance covers up all the stars in the sky, lighting a path for him to travel lined by black waters.

The ocean is wilder during the night, and Jeongguk feels like he’s taking a trip down memory lane. He breathes in the salt tinged air and permits for nostalgia to swell between his ribs.

He’s lived this scene already, felt the same sensations hundreds of times before and Jeongguk jokes inside his head that just in a few hundred metres, he’ll spot Yoongi staring up into the heavens. It’ll be like that night all over again.

Except it’s not Yoongi.

To Jeongguk’s utter wonder, indeed as he covers the distance, a shape appears in his periphery.

He squints but the image doesn’t focus. He’s too far and Jeongguk debates turning back. The entire situation screams dangerous; no one would hear him if he screamed this late at night and this far out from the town, but his curiosity is a living organism, thrashing about and unable to be contained.

Throwing all caution off the metaphorical cliff, he stalks forward warily until he’s close enough to see more clearly. That’s when his breath catches in his throat.

There’s a person sitting in the black shallows of the ocean and illuminated by the moon. It’s a male judging by the broadness of his back, and he’s nude, skin glimmering with sea salt.

A tsunami of hope destroys every single one of Jeongguk’s self-preservation alarms as he tries to adjust his current position. The stranger is angled away so that Jeongguk can hardly see a sliver of his profile and Jeongguk just needs to know.

To his horror, he loses his balance for a split second in his movements and barely saves himself from crashing down. When his hands mill about, trying to restore equilibrium, the material of his bomber jacket rustles loudly and at the noise, the stranger on the beach whips his head around.

Turns out, the person isn’t a serial killer like Jeongguk had so feared.

He’s someone Jeongguk has only seen in his dreams if he’s lucky enough.

It’s Taehyung and he’s holding a recognisable glass bottle in his hand.

Time stops and starts again in seconds.

Nothing else matters anymore as Jeongguk runs forward and tackles Taehyung into the sea. They’re both inhaling sea water, hacking, and he’s grabbing Taehyung to press him close enough for the two of them to blend.

Jeongguk is a rainstorm of salt water from the eyes, he is love pouring from a heart too full, and he is the desert after a century-long drought.

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” he prattles, lips on Taehyung’s cheeks, forehead, lips. Each touch is searing and means forever, “Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung.

It really is his best friend, those pretty eyes lined with soft lashes that Jeongguk could never forget. They’re filled with tears so beautiful Jeongguk could drink up every drop and his hands, cold and wet, clutch at Jeongguk’s quaking forearms.

“I’m home,” Taehyung says, low, cracked and tremoring voice a charm that sings awake Jeongguk from his slumber within a coffin for those who have lost their reason for living.

Jeongguk laughs as he hears those words, the sound dreadfully warbled but happy. In a flash, he’s risen onto his feet with a hand under Taehyung’s knees, lifting the older man up into his arms. Water streams from their forms to meet the foamy surface of the ocean.

He’s soaked to the core, blissfully unbothered by the additional moisture Taehyung adds to his neck as Jeongguk’s lover sobs against his collarbones.

Taehyung’s pelt lays crumpled between them.

“Welcome home, Tae.”

And Taehyung stays.



.
.
.



“You’re insatiable and this is s-so wrong,” Taehyung moans, voice deep against Jeongguk’s shoulder as the younger pistons into his hole, each thrust measured and deep. He quivers.

The slide is aided by copious amounts of lube and precum but still the older man seems unused to Jeongguk’s generous length.

“It’s so hot inside, oh fuck!” The selkie twists his head against the soft pillows, lips falling open when Jeongguk delivers a particularly harsh lunge. His legs violently twitch and rise to criss-cross above his lover’s lower back.

It’s 2PM on a Saturday and their plans of going to the beach are shot.

As soon as Jeongguk had seen Taehyung pull out his seal pelt, he had gotten ideas which quickly took to life.

“You love it,” Jeongguk pants into the crook of Taehyung’s neck, breath hot and mouth automatically attaching to his lover’s marred neckline to suck another vicious bruise onto sun-kissed skin.

He had spent the last half hour fingering Taehyung open, knuckle deep in his selkie’s pulsating canal whilst sucking Taehyung’s leaking cock into his mouth. Always careful to not hurt the older man, Jeongguk knows Taehyung is only feeding his ego with his habit of liking to babble during sex.

He’s definitely prepped enough to take a battering from Jeongguk’s hips and the younger man speeds up with a determined grunt.

The bed violently rocks in time with Jeongguk’s newly set pace, the sound of wet slapping noises obscenely filling the chamber of their master bedroom. Taehyung’s moans escalate in volume and become shadowed with the hint of a scream as he drools, eyes rolling into the back of his head, lost in the sensations.

Beneath the couple, shifting with their every sweat-slicked movement is Taehyung’s spotted pelt, soiled by their dripping fluids. The sight of Taehyung being pounded into the mattress atop his other skin is driving Jeongguk wild.

“Always wanted to fuck you like this, stuff you full of my cock on top of your biggest secret,” Taehyung keens at the vulgar language, nails digging angry crescents into Jeongguk’s skin.

His own dick is trapped between their bodies and receiving delicious friction with every slip against Jeongguk’s defined abdominal muscles, the head repeatedly squished until it pushes the selkie to tears.

“But J-Jeongguk, it’ll get dirty,” Jeongguk’s hips stutter when he feels Taehyung’s anal sphincter flutter against his member. Aroused by the reaction, he pauses for only a split second before he begins to accelerate the rhythm, jaw tightening in concentration. The force of his thrusts cause his balls to slap repeatedly against Taehyung’s ass and the older man dissolves into choked whimpers, neck bared as he comes abruptly, devoid of warning, between their bodies in white hot spurts.

Taehyung spasms with the aftershocks, his walls clamping down on Jeongguk’s cock as his entire form shudders.

This feeling always drives Jeongguk absolutely crazy and he moans to show his appreciation.

Thighs straining and aching, Jeongguk adjusts his position and commences chasing release with reckless abandon.

Taehyung loves the oversensitivity – he gets off to it – and with Taehyung whispering praises right into the younger man’s ear (“you fuck me stupid, Jeonggukkie”) Jeongguk discharges a long and drawn-out whine against Taehyung’s forehead as he reaches euphoria, dick jetting semen deep inside Taehyung’s sensitive hole.

Black spots dot his vision as his hips run on auto-pilot, grinding, plunging and giving harsh little involuntary thrusts before he eventually comes back down to earth.

Jeongguk blinks and then breaks out into a smile so wide that his crow’s feet begin to show.

He noses along Taehyung’s face and kisses every inch of that gorgeous view.

Taehyung delights him with a laugh, the sound light and airy as his hands come up to tenderly cradle Jeongguk’s cheeks.

The metal of his wedding band presses against Jeongguk’s blazing skin.

“Marry me?” Jeongguk murmurs, entranced and punch-drunk on happiness. Taehyung post-coital bliss is a sight to behold.

“We’re already married, doofus.” The older man flicks his forehead lightly, lips pulled into his own smile, “both the selkie way and the human way. You put a ring on me the moment we got back to the city. Though, I may divorce you for getting cum all over my seal pelt.” A kiss lands on each of Jeongguk’s eyelids despite Taehyung’s admonishment and Jeongguk grins at his husband.

He presses a kiss to Taehyung’s palm.

These hands are the ones which had pulled him from a lonely abyss fifteen years ago, when he was but a frail and insecure teenager.

Since then, being left behind in a tiny town is no longer his largest concern and heartache has all but cleared from his system.

They disappeared because Taehyung had floated into Jeongguk’s orbit, leaving the sea of stars to make his home in the centre of Jeongguk’s universe.

“My little selkie.” His whisper causes Taehyung’s eyes to twinkle.

His little selkie indeed.