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Cleaning out lockers is especially difficult when you happen to be a hoarder. They could probably dedicate a TLC episode to Taehyung at this point.

He has every note he’s ever passed to Jeongguk from every single class crammed into the right furthermost corner of his locker, second floor. First floor, right furthermost corner houses all his interim progress reports he never brought home to show his parents.

The back sections are not as important: miscellaneous papers, generally drawings/doodles, or tests teachers handed back folded (meaning he probably didn’t do too well on them). He has a few empty (mostly) soda cans, several discarded gym-shorts, and volleyball tanks crammed back there too.

The lower bottom floor is where things get really gnarly. Sandwiches (still wrapped in tin foil), unopened juice boxes from the beginning of the year, a bag with what probably began as a fruit but now resembles some sort of alien life-form. Library books he took out in January and have been overdue for five months.

He has an entire garbage bag full of shit and he’s only cleaned out half of his locker.

He grabs a chunk of notes and doodles and sits down on the floor, cross legged, blowing a chunk of hair from his face.

The first scrap on the top is already making him laugh:

i think jimin farted

He turns it over and there’s a crude sketch of Jimin with what looks like a gust of wind blowing out of his butt.

“What’re you laughing at,” Jeongguk’s making his way over holding a soccer ball under his arm and an Algebra textbook in his hand.

Taehyung holds up the note and Jeongguk takes it, scanning it and then laughing. “This is so old! This is, like, from the beginning of the year. Why do you still have it?”

Taehyung stretches out his legs. “I keep everything.”

Jeongguk’s eyes make their way from the garbage bag to Taehyung’s locker. “Jesus Christ, are you kidding me? That’s what the inside of your locker looks like?”

“There have only been urban legends up until this point,” Taehyung says solemnly. “But you have finally seen.”

“I’d like to unsee, please,” Jeongguk extends his foot to push at a bag of matter on the bottom floor of Taehyung’s locker.

“Aren’t you gonna clean out your locker?” Taehyung asks, getting up from the floor.

“I did,” Jeongguk spins the soccer-ball on his fingers and Taehyung is pretty sure there’s some sort of psychological tool at play because every time Jeongguk does that, Taehyung has to take the ball and try doing it himself though he’s never succeeded, try as he might.

The ball wobbles on Taehyung’s fingers before falling off into his other palm. “Where’s your stuff?”

“You’re holding part of it. And this textbook. Can you believe we spent $150 on this? Mine is still in the plastic wrap. I mean I failed Algebra, but, still,” Jeongguk says as Taehyung gawks at him.

“That’s all you had in your locker?!”

Jeongguk reaches out to take the ball back. “Not all of us have second apartments here at school.”

Jeongguk helps Taehyung clean out the rest of his locker and it takes them almost an entire hour, even though they’ve joined forces. Taehyung is pretty sure it took them longer simply because now Jeongguk has to read through every single note and laugh about it too instead of Taehyung doing it on his own.

Taehyung begs Jeongguk not to open the suspicious tin-foil bundle but he cracks the side of the bag open anyway to take whiff and immediately gags, leaning back and throwing it into the garbage-can.

When they finally finish Jeongguk yawns. “I’m gonna run this book back to the library. They’re buying back books for like a tenth of the price.”

“’kay.”

 “Wait up, I’ll drive us home.”

Taehyung’s heart sinks a little. I’ll drive us home.

He wonders how he’s ever going to get used to not hearing that anymore.

When Taehyung gets home, his mother asks for his final progress report. He puts it on the table, smiling sweetly before running upstairs.

He didn’t do too horribly, but definitely not as well as he could have. He knows his mother will be disappointed. Then again she was disappointed in him the second he told her he was planning on going to art school and that his aspiration in life was to be an artist, not a neuroscientist. For someone like Taehyung, who comes from a small country-town, his parents have a lot riding on him.

It might have been less of a blow if Taehyung actually had a good portfolio going, but he doesn’t. He just has a hopeful idea and nothing to show for it. He knows he’s talented, he has faith in his own abilities, but faith is hard to keep when his parents keep bludgeoning it over the head with their version of ‘reality’.

He’s looking to get everything sorted out in the summer and apply for the January intake of one of the best art schools in their province.

This wouldn’t be such a terrible route if his friend wasn’t planning on abandoning him in September.

Jeongguk, similarly, isn’t very good at academics. That being said, he’s fantastic at pretty much every extra-curricular activity he’s taken part in. It’s almost annoying because sometimes they’re things Taehyung has signed up for and has to practically beg Jeongguk to take part in as well. And then he does. And then he’s absolutely great at all of them.

Taehyung isn’t jealous, he just wishes he could be good at things easily too. Then maybe he’d have a two sports scholarship offers to universities far, far away from the province they’re in. Then maybe they could actually be in the same vicinity.

He’s a little hurt too. Taehyung wouldn’t even apply to other universities because he can’t fathom being away from his family and friends, especially Jeongguk. But apparently Jeongguk has an easier time making life-ruining decisions.

Or maybe they’re only life-ruining for Taehyung.

Either way, he doesn’t communicate how sad and hurt he is with Jeongguk for even applying to universities far away, let alone considering accepting their offers.

Jimin tells Taehyung he’s being ridiculous, and that he should be happy for his friend and sure, it makes Taehyung sound like the asshole when he frames it like that. Jimin reminds Taehyung that he’s leaving to his own respective province in a week to start med school and that Taehyung doesn’t seem nearly as depressed as he is that Jeongguk’s leaving.

He’s mostly kidding, since Jimin and Taehyung drifted apart towards the end of high school anyway. Taehyung is pretty sure Jimin has sort of resented him ever since he started dated Min Yoongi, because Jimin had apparently previously vaguely hinted at having a crush on him.

The point is, he is happy for Jeongguk, he’s just sad for himself – those two can exist alongside each other, can’t they?

When Taehyung got drunk at Jeongguk’s 18th it was the closest he’s ever gotten to letting Jeongguk know how upset he really was, and even then he framed it like a joke, sitting on a lawn chair, grabbing Jeongguk’s sleeve and pulling him close, saying: “You’re not gonna find another Taehyung, Guk.”

Jeongguk laughed and reached out to fuck up Taehyung’s hair. “I believe it.”

On the day of his own 18th birthday party, Taehyung broke up with Yoongi. It was surprisingly anticlimactic, and he hadn’t actually planned to do it on his birthday.

Taehyung, although intensely emotional, was sure it was the logical thing to do, and Yoongi nodded through Taehyung’s little speech, agreeing with him. They just really didn’t seem like they had feelings for each other anymore.

So that’s how Taehyung remembers their entrance into adult-hood. That and realizing he was madly in love with his own best friend. And maybe, just maybe coming to terms with the fact that he started dating Yoongi in the first place to try and forget how upset he was about Jeongguk.

He read in history class (one of the only things he remembers) that a historical figure (he doesn’t remember who) said that if people tell you something enough times, eventually you start to believe it. Taehyung got comments all throughout high school about the nature of his relationship with Jeongguk.

Best friends are close, but how close is too close? How close do you have to get to call it something other than a friendship? They’ve never kissed, if that’s what they all meant. They barely even held hands.

He remembers the one time they really held hands, not to pull the other along, but really held hands: Jeongguk had to go to the Emergency Room after he drank way too much at a party and Taehyung was one-hundred-percent sure he was about to lose his best friend.

When the chaos had passed, he sat next to Jeongguk, watching him lie there on the hospital bed, pale and afraid of what his parents were going to say when they got there. Taehyung reached out and grabbed his hand. Jeongguk glanced at him and squeezed Taehyung’s fingers hard, so hard it almost hurt.

That’s when Taehyung realized if he ever lost Jeongguk his life would be fucking over.

Soon after, Taehyung went through a mini sexual rampage. It was post-I’m-probably-in-love-with-my-best-friend realization, post-Yoongi, post-braces. It was his time to shine, and he bulldozed through almost all the attractive boys in their grade now that they couldn’t call him metal-mouth anymore. He was considered one of the cutest boys in their grade, and it was a badge he wore with honour. He was also sort of considered a slut. But he didn’t care, it was mostly light-hearted anyway.

When you’re not good at schoolwork, you might as well have something to proud of, right?

He made a lot of friends and attended a lot of parties, especially leading up to their last month. He was even asked to be valedictorian, but he turned it down. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he knew he had to stare into his mother’s face during the speech all the while knowing he was failing to live up to practically every standard.

Jeongguk on the other hand, was more lowkey than Taehyung. He seemed to only be interested in soccer, football, taekwondo, and, weirdly, anime club. Taehyung – looking to actually do something with his best friend during school hours - joined him for a few club meetings then decided while he loves anime, this isn’t really his scene. Jeongguk told him the only reason he went was to trade issues he had with ones he didn’t have.

Thankfully Jeongguk was never interested in dating and turned down all of Jimin’s offers to hook him up with attractive people, even though he himself was considered one of the best looking guys in their senior grade. Why wouldn’t he be? Jeongguk’s good at everything, remember?

Still, Jeongguk would hook-up at parties now and then, but refuse to tell Taehyung any of the details after. It drove Taehyung insane. Taehyung was friends with everyone, though, so it was easy enough to sniff out what actually happened and then imagine at night what it might have felt like.

They didn’t hang out much at school, interestingly, because of the difference in where their energy was focused. Taehyung, more outwardly with people and events, Jeongguk more inward, through sports, personal accomplishments and betterment.

Outside of school, Jeongguk and Taehyung were practically attached at the hip. They were next-door neighbors, so they attended each others’ family events since they were 10 years old, when Taehyung moved into the city.

It was hard to get used to the change, and Jeongguk was quiet but friendly. When he found out Taehyung was a more excitable version of himself, it was obvious he didn’t really want to hang out with anyone else.

Throughout high school they’d get home and immediately sign into their respective accounts (TaeTae01 and SniperJeons) and play online games until 3am. The next morning, Jeongguk would yell at Taehyung to hurry from under his window when he took forever to get ready for school. When Jeongguk got his driver’s licence, this yelling graduated to little honks and angry engine revs.

On weekends, they had sleep overs almost every Saturday. It was starting to get a little embarrassing at 18 when they’re basically adults, pretty much keeping toothbrushes at each others’ houses for sleepovers. They’d watch movies, play video games, smoke weed, and finally try and go to bed when they heard bird chirping outside.

They both didn’t have the heart to make the other sleep on the ground – that and they were ironically too old to give a shit about how awkward sharing a bed might be. Taehyung had a queen bed, but Jeongguk only had a twin, so Taehyung looked forward to sleeping over at Jeongguk’s house, so he could smell his scent mixed with tooth-paste next to him. Taehyung would hesitantly squirm closer to Jeongguk’s back, pressing his forehead against it. Some other times, he was sure Jeongguk maybe woke up and noticed but didn’t shift away.

I’ll drive us home.

Taehyung took it for granted all these years.

Their entire experience finally culminates in this moment. Everything has finally connected them to the point of time they’re at right now, July 3rd. School’s out, future’s in, and Taehyung is depressed.

 


 

Jeongguk and Taehyung are driving to Jimin’s to help him load up the last of his things in his dad’s car and to say good bye. Taehyung’s usually talkative, but he’s been in a funk since their last week of school. Jeongguk has obviously noticed, but he doesn’t usually like confronting an upset Taehyung – he generally lets it run its course.

Jeongguk’s humming some tune and Taehyung loves when he does that so he doesn’t say what he wants to say (“So when are you going to pack all your things?”).

Jeongguk interrupts his own humming, though. Clearing his throat. “Hey, I was thinking. What are you doing next week?”

“Nothing. Why?” Taehyung asks, picking at some loose plastic on Jeongguk’s dusty dashboard.

Jeongguk glances over at him and he looks kind of nervous, which makes Taehyung kind of nervous too. “I just thought, you know. You’ve always wanted to do a road trip. Jimin’s flying there, to his dad’s, with all his shit for school. We can drive there and meet him. He can drive back with us.”

Taehyung feels the ventricles of his heart squeeze and his eyes almost well up. “Yeah. Yeah, I’d love to. Wow, that’s…who are you, what have you done with my friend?”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I knew you’d be like that. I suggest fun things all the time! You’re the one who turns them down.”

“I only turn down the dumb suggestions, like flyboarding.”

Jeongguk doesn’t respond but he’s smiling and he looks really pleased with himself. Taehyung thinks how lucky he is to have Jeongguk to himself, to be the only one Jeongguk really ever wants to do stuff with.

“We can talk about it with Jimin,” Jeongguk says, tapping at the steering wheel with his fingers, rolling his shoulders.

“Oh my God, this is going to be amazing. We can go motel-hopping,” Taehyung says, feeling the sad thoughts from earlier this month being wrung out of his brain. He suddenly comes to a realization, though. “But, I don’t have my license…”

“That’s okay,” Jeongguk concludes decidedly, like he was waiting for Taehyung to say that. “I don’t mind driving us. I mean, if we split gas, since…you know, my summer job and all.”

Jeongguk has been working some shifts at the rec-center as a life-guard and they’ve recently been phasing him out ever since he fell asleep on shift. He doesn’t seem to mind since he feels no attachment to the job, but it’s obvious he’s sad about the amount of money he’s been losing out on.

“Yeah, of course. No problem. I have a lot of money saved, I got us covered,” Taehyung says, already taking the helm of this trip. “This is going to be so awesome for you. You know, before you leave.”

Taehyung has a habit of turning situations into ‘all about you’ events for the person he’s with and Jeongguk has told him before that he doesn’t like it. He said it made it seem like Taehyung only did things because Jeongguk wanted to do them, and Taehyung had to reassure him that it was just a harmless personality flaw.

“You too, though, right? You want to go too?” Jeongguk stresses, glancing to the side at him.

“So badly.”

Jeongguk turns his attention back to the road with a smile on his face again.

 


 

They finally load up the last of the boxes in Jimin’s car.

Jimin is going off about how amazing the campus is and how both Jeongguk and Taehyung are going to want to attend school there. The school Jimin got accepted to is known for it’s prestigious medical program, so there’s no real chance either Taehyung or Jeongguk could attend even if they wanted to. Jimin had a 92% average in his top four senior science and math courses.

Still, it’s cute that Jimin thinks so highly of them.

“Did you accept your school’s offer?” he asks, staring at Jeongguk with eyes full of interest.

Jeongguk shrugs, and while he got offered thousands of dollars of money to attend a great school, he looks a little burned out. “I have until next week.”

“You’re obviously gonna do it, right?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, smiling.

Taehyung doesn’t want to have to think about this now, but he smiles too, hoping it doesn’t look too inauthentic and betray how much of a shitty friend he actually is.

“Tae, I gotta give you those manga you lent me,” Jimin says, pulling at his sleeve as Jeongguk leans down to shuffle through some of Jimin’s old shit he’s planning on throwing away.

Taehyung follows him into the house and towards Jimin’s bedroom, and half-way through their walk Jimin turns around and puts his hands on Taehyung’s shoulders.

“I gotta tell you something,” he says, and his voice is steady but his face looks entirely too hesitant for Taehyung to not feel a sense of worry.

“O-kay?” Taehyung stammers, looking around him in the tiny hallway.

“I’m, uh. I’m kind of…seeing Yoongi,” he says slowly.

“Oh,” is Taehyung supposed to be upset about this? The protocol is that this is generally something that might piss a lot of people off, but in the most honest sense of it all, Taehyung doesn’t feel anything.

In fact, he’s sort happy it ended up this way, considering his relationship with Yoongi was more of a high school fling and less of a real, romantic union. Jimin on the other hand, has clearly been infatuated for a while, even if he was subtle about it at first.

“I’m sorry. I. It just happened, we were hanging out with friends, and then, I just blurted it out. I told him I liked him,” Jimin is staring at Taehyung’s face, waiting for him to speak. “Are you mad at me?”

“Nah,” Taehyung says, smiling. “That’s awesome. I’m really happy for you.”

He’s happy that Jimin has the spine to tell his friend he has a crush on them.

They talk for a few minutes and Jimin is hugging Taehyung by the end, and they’re both wondering out loud why they even drifted apart in the first place. They’re almost in tears when Jeongguk raps awkwardly on the open front door.

“Uh, is everything okay? Are you guys making out or something?”

Taehyung breaks the hug, wiping his nose. “He psychologically kissed me.”

“Emotional making out,” Jimin adds as they walk back out of the house. “I’m so excited to see you guys there. Epic threesome roadtrip.”

Taehyung tells Jeongguk what happened with Jimin at his house on the ride back and he smiles. “That’s awesome. So you don’t care at all that he’s dating your ex? I feel like I’d care.”

“Yeah, but then you’ve also never dated anyone but yourself,” Taehyung says, yawning. It’s only 9pm but he’s already feeling pooped from the emotional ride this day has been. “Would you care if you broke up with yourself and then someone else started dating the You that you broke up with?”

“Hey, dating yourself is awesome,” Jeongguk says turning to look at him when they get to a red light. “And no, that’d never happen because I would never break my heart.”

“What a beautiful fucking love story,” Taehyung laughs.

Taehyung gets out of the car and pokes his head in the window. “Thanks. I mean, for the idea. The road trip.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Yeah. Yeah, of course. I said I wanted us to do something. Like, just the two of us. We can talk about it tomorrow or something.”

Taehyung waves at him. “Drive safe!”

It’s an inside joke, to act like Jeongguk is about to make a long journey back home when he’s just going to pull into his drive-way next door.

It’s just another one of those things that is funny now but is probably going to sting a whole lot in a few months when Taehyung remembers it.

 


 

Instead of gaming that night, Taehyung decides to show Jeongguk eight different routes they could take to get to Jimin’s.

Jeongguk is eating cereal as Taehyung rolls a joint and works through potential itineraries for all eight different routes.

“So which one do you think works.”

He hears Jeongguk chewing pensively on the other end of the line. “I mean, they all sound great.”

“Guk, I just went through eight intricate possibilities and you’re really gonna go with ‘they all sound great’?”

“They do!”

Taehyung breathes loudly into the mouthpiece the way he knows Jeongguk hates.

“The last one was the best. The coastal route. Fucking stop breathing like that,” Jeongguk’s peeved voice comes.

“That was my favourite too,” Taehyung says, feeling his heart inflate as he clicks the 8th tab open in his browser, looking at photos of the route. It winds through forests, but mostly edges out along the coast, providing some of the most beautiful views possible. It’s the longest route by 2 hours, and 5 hours longer than the shortest choice, but the camping locations are much more accessible.

Jeongguk also managed to convince his father to lend him the SUV, and they’ve slept in there before (albeit slightly uncomfortably) so worst-case scenarios don’t even seem that bad.

Speaking of worst-case scenarios, Jeongguk still hasn’t spoken to Taehyung about the fact that he’s meant to accept or decline the university’s offer on the exact day they’re going on their trip.

Taehyung doesn’t understand why he has to be the one that constantly brings up what Jeongguk’s planning on doing. They’re best friends, shouldn’t Jeongguk be telling him this stuff as soon as he finds out?

Jeongguk’s leaving Taehyung behind and it’s like he doesn’t even know it yet.

 


 

 

Taehyung’s bags take up almost twice as much room as Jeongguk’s.

“Is that just for clothes?” Jeongguk points at one very large suitcase being wheeled carefully to the car.

“Yup.”

“Are you fucking serious?”

“Unlike you,” Taehyung says, “my wardrobe consists of more than inside-clothes.”

“We’re going to be in a car for hours at a time, we probably won’t even see that many people. Who are you trying to impress?” Jeongguk continues, with no understanding of absolutely anything as per usual.

“I dress for myself, thank you, and I already find myself very impressive,” Taehyung says, leaning against his luggage.

Jeongguk snorts. “And apparently I’m the one who’s dating myself.”

“I was going to take your advice, to be honest. And marry myself or whatever, but there’s so much to do in this world,” Taehyung says, trying to lift the luggage up into the back of the car and failing.

Jeongguk shifts into Taehyung’s way and grabs the sides of the suitcase, deftly tossing it up and into the back of the car. Taehyung hates the weird biological pangs of attraction he feels at the display, like he’s some animal from a biology textbook. “Get in.”

Taehyung crawls into the front seat. He’s wearing a car-friendly outfit, a green t-shirt and a pair of black loose shorts that go down to his knees, complete with hideous flip-flops.

Jeongguk looks like he always does, with the added bonus of having actually had a good night’s rest, so there’s colour in his face and lips. Jeongguk’s hair has grown out considerably, Taehyung notices for the first time right now when Jeongguk reaches up to push back his bangs and start the ignition.

“Well,” Jeongguk says, looking over at him. “Did you forget anything? Now’s your chance.”

Taehyung gazes out the window at their houses, and there’s that impending feeling of doom again. He looks back at Jeongguk. “No. Drive, drive, go, let’s get the fuck out of this place.”

 


 

The first hour of their ride passes as Taehyung would expect. They talk about some of their favourite streamers and Taehyung tries to show Jeongguk a video on his phone as he drives - (he sternly reminds him he can’t watch it right at this very moment).

Taehyung eventually hooks up his phone using the auxiliary and they laugh through an audio recording of their school’s performance of Grease. Jeongguk is laughing so hard at Taehyung’s impression of Yoongi singing that at one point he has to pull over by the side of the road and just cackle with his head pressed back against his chair.

They drive for another hour and Taehyung falls asleep. When he wakes up, his jacket is strewn on top of him, meaning Jeongguk probably put it there. He feels a lump in his throat and opens his eyes to look over at Jeongguk who drives quietly, having turned the volume of the music down.

Taehyung rubs his eyes, sitting up straighter. Jeongguk glances at him and smiles. “Morning sunshine.”

Taehyung looks at the time and it’s almost 1pm, meaning Jeongguk has been driving for 5 hours. “Hi,” he croaks and peels the jacket back. “Thanks.”

Jeongguk smirks. “You were talking in your sleep again.”

Taehyung is horrified. “Really?! What did I say?” he asks, even though he isn’t sure he wants to know.

“You were like ‘Yeah, the one on the left, thank you’. I have no idea what that means. I tried to talk to you but you were out cold,” Jeongguk snorts. “What were you dreaming about?”

“Nothing, honestly. Maybe choosing from a line up of food.”

“Or attractive men,” Jeongguk corrects and there’s something judgmental about the tone of his voice.

“I wish,” Taehyung yawns and Jeongguk yawns too. It’s probably psychological, but Taehyung feels bad anyway because he’s clearly tired. “Hey, let’s stop somewhere so you can get some sleep. I’m hungry too.”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “I’m not tired. But we can stop to eat,” he says turning down a dirt road. “Anywhere cheap nearby?”

Taehyung finds twelve restaurants in their vicinity. “Of those twelve restaurants, six have two-dollar-signs and three have one-dollar-sign.”

“Pick one of the one-dollar-signs.”

“Denny’s it is.”

Jeongguk gets out of the car and does a series of stretches as Taehyung checks his bank account to start budgeting for the trip. He decides he wants to pay for all of Jeongguk’s meals. He also decides not to tell him until after they eat.

Jeongguk is shoveling his pancakes into his mouth at a speed that Taehyung fears might lead to asphyxiation. 

Taehyung is halfway through his breakfast when Jeongguk finishes and washes everything down with a glass of orange juice.

“God, that was good.”

“You okay? You looked like you went into a trance while you were eating,” Taehyung asks, holding a fork-full of scrambled eggs up to his own mouth.

“Sorry, I was starving,” Jeongguk says, leaning back and patting at his stomach.

“You’re always starving,” Taehyung says chewing on a yellow blob that doesn’t actually look or taste much like eggs. “And then you eats buckets of food. Then you go ahead and do your active shit and end up looking like that.”

“Why do you sound mad?” Jeongguk laughs.

Taehyung smiles. “I’m not mad, I’m jealous. There’s a difference.”

Jeongguk’s phone flashes and he picks it up, staring at his screen. His mood seems to a dampen a little and he puts his phone back down on the table, letting out a little burp.

“Everything okay?” Taehyung asks picking up a strip of bacon with his fingers.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says unconvincingly. “We’re gonna be driving by one of the nicest areas soon. We could make sleep there, in the car.”

Taehyung perks up in his seat, chewing on his bacon vigorously.

When they get their bill, Taehyung grabs it before Jeongguk can even register it’s on the table.

Jeongguk reaches down and pulls out his wallet. “How much?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Jeongguk pauses, holding his wallet. “What? No.”

“I said don’t worry about it!” Taehyung says, holding his card out for the waitress.

“Tae,” Jeongguk says. “We agreed we’d split everything. Also, I ate way more than you.”

Taehyung punches in his pin and hands the Moneris back to the waitress. “I already decided I’m gonna do this okay? You’re driving the entire way.”

They thank the waitress and she walks away. Jeongguk leans in. “I told you I was okay with that. I like driving.”

“You’re the one who needs to save money,” Taehyung stresses, trying a different approach.

“What do you mean?”

“You know. Since you’re leaving,” Taehyung says. He probably could have worded that differently. Since you’re going to be moving away for school. Since you’ll have lots of living expenses at your dorm.

But leaving is leaving, and Taehyung obviously can’t think about it any other way.

Jeongguk’s mouth flattens out a little and he looks down at the plate. “Well. If you insist.”

“I insist.”

They drive to the next gas station and Jeongguk fills the tank. This time he doesn’t let Taehyung pay for more than half.

 


 

The sun starts to set and Taehyung tries again to convince Jeongguk to pull over.

“Your eyes are like, fucking red,” Taehyung says, leaning in close to stare. “Stop the car. Let me give you a nice massage, cook you some food.”

“You can’t cook edible food in a fully equipped kitchen, Tae,” Jeongguk laughs. “How are you gonna do it in the wilderness.”

“Okay, first of all, I was being fucking nice,” Taehyung snaps. “Second of all, that’s mean. I made you food for your eighteenth. The potluck, remember my stew? Was it that bad?”

Jeongguk exaggeratedly clears his throat and Taehyung swats him over and over with the rolled up map until he laughs and apologizes.

“It was cute,” Jeongguk says, wincing.

“Cute? How can a stew be cute?”

“I don’t know! It was just. You put a lot of effort into it so it was cute,” Jeongguk shrugs, licking his lips.

“I’m glad the effort I put into my shitty stew was cute,” Taehyung says glumly, leaning back into the seat.

Jeongguk rolls in along the side of a particularly large expanse of land, over looking a large, dark looking lake.

“How’s this place? We can eat out here and then sleep in the car,” Jeongguk suggests and Taehyung hops back up in his seat.

Taehyung lays out blankets on the ground and Jeongguk brings out some bread and tuna from the car, along with some chips and two bananas. “We have this stuff. I mean, unless you want to try and scavenge for some food for me?”

“I’m gonna drown you in that lake,” Taehyung reaches up to yank the chips out of Jeongguk’s hand.

Jeongguk sits down and stretches out, lying down on his back. “Wow. The stars are already out.”

“Wait, really?” Taehyung lies down too, chewing. “Holy shit, you’re right.”

“What are you doing?” Jeongguk asks, looking over at him.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re lying down. Are you forgetting my massage?”

“Wow. After all your disrespect.”

“I mean I just drove us for like hours and hours,” Jeongguk sighs, rolling over onto his stomach before Taehyung can respond.

Still, Jeongguk really has been driving all this way even if he’s joking, and if Taehyung’s being honest he enjoys giving Jeongguk massages more than Jeongguk enjoys receiving them.

Jeongguk is resting with his arms up and folded under his chin, his tshirt rolled up a little above his pants, exposing the top of his underwear and his lower back.

Taehyung swings his leg over Jeongguk’s butt, so he’s straddling his back. “I’m gonna make this hurt, I hope you know that.”

Jeongguk just mutters in acceptance as Taehyung starts to knead into the meat of his shoulders. He loves how Jeongguk’s muscles feel under his fingers when they’re all bunched up like this, when his arms are up.

He presses his thumbs into the sides of Jeongguk’s traps and rubs circles into the flesh there. Jeongguk moans. “Yeah. That’s good.”

Why does he need to vocalise like that?

Taehyung decides to switch it up and digs the ends of his palms into Jeongguk’s back and presses down, shifting down so he’s straddling his ass now. He keeps pressing his palms into Jeongguk’s back and he makes little sounds with every press.

“God. Ho-..shit I didn’t really how nice this would be, especially out si- out side like this,” Jeongguk struggles as Taehyung digs in harder, enjoying everything about this.

Their massages started after Taehyung decided to join track-and-field since Jeongguk told him he’d probably be good at long-jump. He wasn’t very good. Still, he joined because Jeongguk suggested it and he wanted to be around him.

A twisted ankle and a considerable amount of tears later, Jeongguk apologized like it was his fault Taehyung was bad at athletic activities. He drove Taehyung back home and helped him up his stairs, flopping him down on the bed.

Taehyung wasn’t the least bit upset with Jeongguk, in fact he was immensely enjoying the fact that Jeongguk was being affectionate and doting on him. So he wibbled on the bed, acting like he was in far more pain than he actually was.

He lay on his stomach as Jeongguk chatted about the rounds he didn’t come in first like they were all failures, and as he was talking he put his hand on Taehyung’s back, rubbing circles into his thin pajama shirt. When he saw Taehyung was enjoying it he swung his leg over Taehyung’s back and gave him a massage that was probably more painful than twisting his ankle. Taehyung had tears in his eyes by the end of it, but he didn’t care, it was worth it.

“Time for some karate chops,” Taehyung says chopping down into Jeongguk’s back and when he laughs it sounds hilarious, like he’s a lamb.

He starts massaging normally again.

“F-fuck.”

Okay, that’s quite enough of that. He grabs Jeongguk’s sides, knowing how ticklish he is there.

Jeongguk yelps and squirms. “Stop!”

Taehyung doesn’t stop, in fact he presses down even harder and Jeongguk is practically thrashing under him.

“Tell me you loved my stew, asshole!”

Jeongguk is still convulsing with unsolicited peels of laughter, but he manages to reach back and grab one of Taehyung’s wrists – it’s game over at that point. He turns him over and pins Taehyung down against the blanket, hard.

“You little fucker,” he’s practically straddling Taehyung’s crotch now, holding his wrists up against the sides of his head.

Taehyung stares up at him, enjoying this even more than the massage. But he’s also still annoyed about the stew thing.

“You started it,” Taehyung says, and it comes out sassier than he had planned because Jeongguk lets go of his wrists and immediately grabs at his sides in the most painful tickle Taehyung has ever received.

He shrieks and kicks his legs, trying hard to pull Jeongguk away but only manages to tug lamely at the front of his shirt as Jeongguk swats his assaulting hands away each time he tries like it’s a Taekwondo match.

“Ow my dick, you’re sitting on my dick! My bladder! I’m gonna fucking pee!”

Jeongguk’s laughing so hard, he looks like he’s having a harder time than Taehyung. “Stop!”

“Did you just tell me to stop?! You’re the one who’s tickling me you maniac, stop what?!”

“Stop talking!”

Eventually Jeongguk gets tired and pins Taehyung’s wrists again, trying to get his laughter to subside into heavy breaths as Taehyung moans and whines weakly under him.

“You broke my ribs.” He really wishes he had the energy to pin him.

Jeongguk lets go and presses his hands against Taehyung’s ribs. “Sorry,” he says, and now he’s just straddling Taehyung with his hands on his body in a non-invasive way; Taehyung hates how intimate this is. He doesn’t want to experience this and then think about it later when he’s remembering how sad his life is.

Jeongguk stares down at Taehyung’s face then reaches up and actually pushes the hair out of Taehyung’s eyes, his fingers brushing against the side of his face. It’s such a tender move that Taehyung is sure it has got to be a joke.

“You okay?” Jeongguk asks him, because apparently Taehyung’s immense emotions are showing through his face again, unwarranted.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he smiles and Jeongguk grins down at him before shifting back off, sitting on the blanket, running a hand through his hair.

“Your stew was good.”

Fuck the stew, Jeongguk, you just touched my face like we’ve been married for a decade.

“Thanks, I spent hours and hours perfecting it,” Taehyung sits up, grabbing his pipe and a baggy of weed from his bag.

They share long hits through the pipe and lie on their backs, immobile.

It enters Taehyung’s mind again that Jeongguk still hasn’t brought up whether or not he’s accepted the offer to the university.

It’s pretty ridiculous at this point, that he’s avoiding the subject like Taehyung will somehow forget about it if they leave it alone for days on end. He knows Jeongguk has said multiple times he’ll accept it, but he wants to hear him say it, like it’ll actually be final when the words leave his mouth.

Jeongguk yawns, lying back down on his back. “We should sleep, huh?”

They pick up all their shit and trudge back to the car. Jeongguk is clearly exhausted, and Taehyung is tired too but it’s more of a psychological bearing than a physical one.

The inside of the car is cold and uncomfortable, especially with the cleared out back seats.

Taehyung curls into himself, and the second Jeongguk gets under his blanket Taehyung rolls forward against him, feeling his body heat emanate.

 


 

Taehyung barely sleeps, so when Jeongguk yawns awake he immediately sits up.

“Finally,” Taehyung says. “I was starting to think you’d never wake up.”

Jeongguk squints at his phone through his sleepy haze. “It’s 5am, Tae.”

They drive for hours and neither of them are entirely talkative. Jeongguk looks a little pale, like they went to bed and woke up on a strange planet. They’re both really hungry, but they’re driving through an area along the road that doesn’t seem to imply the existence of human life, let alone a restaurant.

The car starts to sputter a little. “The fuck was that?” Jeongguk shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

“What?”

“That sound,” Jeongguk says, looking concerned, and Taehyung really doesn’t know enough about cars to make any intelligent guesses. “Shit, we gotta stop. Where’s the closest gas station?”

Taehyung stares down at his phone. “Uh, thirty minutes it says.”

“What about an auto shop?”

Taehyung clicks down into his phone, feeling his own concern rising as a result of Jeongguk’s panicked voice.

“I don’t see any nearby on maps,” Taehyung looks up at Jeongguk who smacks at the driving wheel before squinting. “What does that sign say?”

Taehyung looks at the sign. “Bed and breakfast, 5 miles. You think we’ll make it?”

“I mean, I hope so. I don’t actually know what’s wrong with this thing.”

They do make it and the thankfully the car doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, the closer they get to their destination the less the car sputters until it eventually stops making the noise entirely.

“Maybe there was just something wrong with the pressure?” Jeongguk speaks mostly to himself. “I hope it figured itself out…”

“Oh my God, this place is so fucking cute,” Taehyung says, sticking his head out the window as they pull in. “It’s a tiny farm!”

Any sort of farm reminds Taehyung of his childhood, before he moved to the city and met Jeongguk. Simpler times.

They step out and Taehyung immediately runs to the pen along the side of the house with several chickens in it. He crouches, poking his fingers through the fence, smiling. “So many chickens. Hello, hi,” he wiggles his index and most the chickens disperse except a few curious ones.

Jeongguk makes his way over. “Seeing all these chickens just makes me even more hungry.”

Taehyung looks up at him. “You can’t say that stuff around them, you’ll stress them out.”

Jeongguk smiles, folding his lips together. “My bad.”

“Hi there,” a voice calls from the porch of the light blue house. It’s a large, three story farmhouse with a beautiful front lawn and a path leading down to a tiny parking lot with two cars in it, including Jeongguk’s. There’s a small barn in the close distance, to the far left of the home.

Taehyung stands up and sees a tall man in glasses making his way towards them. He’s dressed very casually, but it’s obvious he’s handsome, even from this distance.

“Hi,” Taehyung says standing up to greet him.

When he gets close he holds out his hand and Taehyung reaches out to shake it. The man has a small face and unassuming features, but the sides of cheeks have sharp dimples when he smiles. He looks like the kind of person Taehyung envisions himself married to in ten years.

“I’m Namjoon, nice to meet you guys,” he reaches to shake Jeongguk’s hand next. “Are you two looking for a place to stay?”

“I’m Jeongguk. This is Taehyung. Yeah, just for a night, our car was having some problems and I want to let it, I don’t know…rest,” Jeongguk says awkwardly, gesturing towards his SUV.

“This is a really nice property,” Taehyung says, unable to shake off the immense joy he’s feeling by simply being in this atmosphere. First the beautiful home, the chickens, and now the attractive farm-dad.

“You’re welcome to stay a night,” Namjoon says to Jeongguk then looks over at Taehyung, scrunching his nose in a shy smile. “Thank you, I appreciate that.”

Namjoon leads them into the home and Taehyung has literally forgotten all about their supplies in the car and anything else, so when Jeongguk joins them a few minutes later, huffing and puffing from carrying two heavy bags (Taehyung’s) and one backpack (his own), he gives Taehyung a dirty look.

“This is like my dream,” Taehyung says, following Namjoon through the halls as he takes them on a tour. He almost trips on his heels a few times and slows down to stop from embarrassing himself. “Everything about this place is so perfect.”

Namjoon smiles as he wards off two friendly Australian cattle dogs that Jeongguk immediately sits down on the kitchen floor to play with.

“I gotta say, you’re the most excited guest I’ve had,” Namjoon says.

Jeongguk snorts with laughter from the ground and stares up at them. He looks so sweet like this on the ground with his arms around two dogs, Taehyung wishes he had his camera on hand.

“I just really like farms. I grew up on one,” Taehyung follows Namjoon to the kitchen and sits down when Namjoon pulls out chairs for them both.

“Oh yeah? It’s a great place to live. Really fulfilling,” Namjoon says putting a carton of orange juice on the table then rolls up his sleeves to pull close a loaf of banana bread from the counter.

“How long have you lived here?” Jeongguk asks, finally standing up from the floor to take a seat in the chair, his hands still extended out to the dogs.

“Hmm, a good eight years I’d say,” Namjoon sits down with them, pushing forward a plate of sliced banana bread. “Help yourselves. What are you guys doing away from the city?”

“We’re on a road trip,” Taehyung chews on a slice. “After our graduation we decided to do one last joint adventure before we separate and never see each other again.”

He sees Jeongguk’s head to turn him from his peripherals but pretends he didn’t.

“Ahh,” Namjoon leans back in his chair, taking off his glasses to wipe them with his shirt. “I remember my university graduation, when I finally had to start thinking about my life. That was almost ten years ago.”

“High school,” Jeongguk corrects and Namjoon gawks at them.

“How old are you two?”

“Eighteen,” Taehyung says feeling slightly annoyed, like Namjoon might somehow take them less seriously now.

Namjoon puts his glasses back on, running a hand through his hair. “Jesus. After a while, all the ages start blurring together.”

“Wait, you graduated from university ten years ago?” Taehyung asks, in shock, trying to count in his head how old that would make Namjoon. His hurried calculations lead to 30 years old at least.

“Yeah,” Namjoon laughs, embarrassed. “I don’t like thinking about how old I am.”

“You totally don’t look a day over 20,” Taehyung continues between chews.

Namjoon rolls his eyes, smiling. “Right. Right. I’ll show you guys your rooms.”

“We can share a room,” Jeongguk says. “We’re trying to save as much money as possible on this trip,” he adds, sounding embarrassed.

“Don’t worry about that, I’ll charge you for only one room. I understand what it’s like,” Namjoon says, standing up. “I’ll run up and make sure everything looks good.”

When they hear him stepping up the stairs, Taehyung jumps up and runs to the mirror in the hallway, checking his reflection and fixing his hair.

“Are you. Are you hitting on him?” Jeongguk asks after watching him for a minute.

Taehyung turns around and shrugs. “He just gave us two rooms for the price of one.”

“Because he felt sorry for us, Tae. Not because you told you him he looks 20 through a mouthful of food.”

“Look, he’s a hot older farm-dude. You know me, you know this is what I’m into,” Taehyung stresses, sitting back down in the chair. “I wonder if he’s single.”

“He’s not going to sleep with an 18 year old guest,” Jeongguk continues, pointedly, reaching out for another piece of bread.

“Is that a challenge?”

Jeongguk just shakes his head, scrolling through his phone.

“Room’s ready,” Namjoon’s voice comes as he walks down the stairs, holding a small bag in his hand. “Here’s a bag with some shampoo and other stuff in it.”

Namjoon logs in their IDs and books them for one room even though they’re staying in two, just like he promised. He watches Jeongguk and Taehyung stuff their mouths with sandwiches and lemonade with an amused expression on his face.

After eating, Jeongguk and Taehyung spend several hours exploring the farm. They feed different sorts of animals and Jeongguk eventually goes for a run around the massive horse enclosure while Taehyung feeds the chickens. Namjoon joins them for a bit in the beginning but then leaves to go inside and make some calls about guests arriving tomorrow.

Taehyung feels like he could stay here forever.

Namjoon leaves around 9pm to buy some groceries from town and Jeongguk sits with Taehyung in the living room, both in their pajamas, flipping through home magazines.

“Honestly, I can see myself living here,” Taehyung says, stroking a page with a sangria recipe on it.

“I can’t,” Jeongguk responds so fast it hurts Taehyung, so he doesn’t say anything else for a few minutes.

Eventually Jeongguk yawns, flopping his head back on the couch. “I’m gonna go to bed. Did your master seduction plan fail?”

Taehyung closes the magazine. “Night’s still young, Guk.”

Jeongguk laughs. “Right. Okay, well I’ll wake you up at 7am. We should try to find a gas station first thing tomorrow.”

Taehyung sits alone in the living-room, imagining how nice it would be to stay somewhere like this. To wake every morning and spend a lazy hour with his lover. To have pancakes then go out to feed the animals, ride horses. His mind always places Jeongguk in the lover position before he becomes embarrassed with himself. Jeongguk seemed pretty clear he wouldn’t want to stay here, but Taehyung doesn’t understand why – he knows Jeongguk enjoys being out and away from the city even more than Taehyung. Why would the idea of this sort of idyllic life be so much of a turn off to him? He can’t come up with a good reason, so he just falls asleep on the couch, slumped over into a pillow.

He wakes up when he feels a warm hand on his shoulder and opens his bleary eyes to see Namjoon hunched over him, his face apologetic and sweet.

“Hey. You fell asleep,” Namjoon says, his voice low. “It gets really cold in the living room night in the middle of the night, so you should probably go upstairs.”

Taehyung reaches up to rub his eyes. “I really love this place, Namjoon.”

Namjoon chuckles and sits down on the couch next to Taehyung’s slumped body, picking up the magazine from the floor, where it evidently fell when Taehyung dozed off. “I can tell.”

Taehyung sits up, fixing the front of his satin pajama top – he’s annoyed at the fact that it has little blue clouds all over it, feeling like he looks especially dumb. “Do you live here alone?”

Namjoon shakes his head. “I run the business with my ex-husband, Seokjin. He’s visiting family this month.”

“Oh?” Taehyung asks, curious about the semantics of the relationship. “He’s your ex but he lives here with you?”

Namjoon smiles. “Yeah. We married young, divorced 5 years later, but we’re still best friends. We just realized we were both after different things, romantically.”

Best friends. Taehyung has come to start hating that word because its lost a lot of meaning in the last few months.

“Jeongguk’s my best friend,” Taehyung says, suddenly, even though Namjoon doesn’t care.

“And you’re moving away from him?” Namjoon asks and Taehyung looks up, shocked.

“He’s the one moving away. How’d you know?”

“You mentioned separating and never seeing each other again,” Namjoon reminds, raising an eyebrow. “Earlier.”

“Oh,” Taehyung forgets some of the petty things he says when he’s upset. “Yeah he’s moving away for university. He doesn’t seem to care as much as I do, though. So.”

It somehow feels nicer talking to a stranger about this than someone familiar.

“I’m sure he cares,” Namjoon says, wincing, clearly not wanting to feed Taehyung ideas when he’s not certain of the whole situation.

“Do you not love your ex-husband anymore?” Taehyung asks, feeling the idyllic fantasy image of this place slowly crumbling.

Namjoon sighs, thinking. He rubs absently at his knees. “Not the way I did when I married him. I think I love him differently than I thought I did.”

“I wanna see him, do you have a picture?” Taehyung asks, getting up on his knees.

Namjoon smiles, reaching into his pocket for his phone. “Yeah, sure. This is him,” he says turning the phone over to Taehyung when he pulls up a photo.

“Woah, he’s super attractive,” Taehyung says, close to Namjoon’s cheek now, peering down.

“Yeah, he’s a great looking guy.”

“So are you, though,” Taehyung says, and when Namjoon scoffs and makes eye contact with him he smiles and raises a shoulder. “You are!”

“Thanks,” Namjoon says, clicking his phone screen off. “You’re starting to say crazy things, you’re sleep deprived. Go to bed.”

Namjoon leads him upstairs, taking off his glasses and placing them on the bedside table. “I wish I got back earlier, I didn’t get a chance to bring in a bigger comforter for your friend’s room,” he says, fixing the sides of the sheets and switching blankets with one from the closet.

Taehyung feels especially lonely right now, knowing Jeongguk is in the room next door, sleeping soundly, with nothing on his mind. Probably dreaming about scholarships. He thinks momentarily about how love can fall apart too, even for people who seem like they have their shit together like Namjoon.

“Alright, if you need anything let me know,” Namjoon says standing straight and walking over, the floor cold under his feet.

“Um,” Taehyung says, inching forward and Namjoon looks very confused for a moment before he sort of clues in and his hands jolt a little, like he’s about to react adversely. Taehyung stands on his tip toes and places a hand on Namjoon’s chest, leaning up to place a soft kiss on his lips.

Namjoon’s lips don’t react, in fact he’s still standing there like a statue, his mouth slightly parted. He looks like a man at war himself. Taehyung tries again, pressing harder this time, and Namjoon’s mouth moves a little, his large hand reaches up to touch Taehyung’s cheek.

It only lasts about two seconds, though - he lowers his hands and squeezes Taehyung’s hips, pulling his face away slowly. “No. Let’s. Let’s not do that.”

Taehyung looks up at him. “Why?”

“You’re gorgeous. And young. Very, very young. Too young. You’re confused. And clearly sad. I can’t,” Namjoon says taking a step back. “You should sleep, okay?”

Taehyung feels vaguely horrified and embarrassed at the same time. Really, what was he planning on doing? Sleeping with this nice man for what reason? To prove a point to his best friend?

Look what I did, Jeongguk. Aren’t you jealous? He feels sick.

He can’t help it but he starts crying, sitting on the side of the bed with his face in his hands. “I’m sorry.”

“Oh no, oh,” Namjoon says sitting down next to him and placing a hand on his back, rubbing softly. “Hey…hey. Please don’t cry.”

“I’m not crying ‘cuz...it’s not because you turned me down. I’m just. You’re right,” Taehyung says, wiping his eyes. “I’m just sad and confused. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Namjoon nods. “It’s okay. I understand.”

“You’re way, way too old for me anyway.”

“Nice. Thank you.”

Taehyung hiccoughs through a laugh.

“You should talk to your friend,” Namjoon says after a moment of sitting on his bed in silence. “If you’re sad, you should tell him. You can’t just wait for him to tell you.”

Taehyung shrugs. He’s probably right. Then again Taehyung is incredibly stubborn and that stubbornness is exacerbated when he’s sad.

 


 

Jeongguk wakes him up at 6am sharp as he promised by throwing himself on Taehyung’s sleeping body, grabbing a pillow and pressing it down on his head.

“Rise and shine,” he says when Taehyung sputters awake.

“Oh my fucking God I thought you were a killer.”

“I could be if you don’t get up and get ready in the next five minutes,” Jeongguk says rolling over onto his back next to him.

Taehyung yawns loudly and grabs his blankets, rolling around on the bed. When he looks up, Jeongguk is staring at his bedside table.

Namjoon’s glasses are still there from the night before.

Jeongguk turns his head to look at him. “Did. Did you?”

Taehyung considers if a lie would be better than the truth at this moment.

He decides to just shrug.

Jeongguk blinks then looks back at the glasses. “He’s over 30, Tae. You’re 18. I can’t believe he’d actually…”

Taehyung rolls off the side of the bed and yawns again. “Let’s go find that gas station.”

Jeongguk seems to snap out of his trance and gets up from the bed, his playful demeanor considerably diminished. Jeongguk has never cared about or judged Taehyung for his sexual choices before, but he supposes their relationship is souring anyway, so why not start now.

Maybe if Jeongguk hates him before he leaves it’ll be less difficult for Taehyung.

 


 

Namjoon charges them even less than he had implied he would, and he won’t take no for an answer. Jeongguk seems a little skeeved out by Namjoon now and Taehyung feels terrible, but he’s not being obvious about it so Taehyung doesn’t say anything. After a delicious scrambled egg breakfast, Namjoon leads them out to their car.

Jeongguk talks to him a little about horse-riding and Taehyung opens the trunk to get his camera out of his bag. He walks over and snaps a few photos of them speaking.

When Namjoon bids them goodbye, he shakes both their hands, lingering a little on Taehyung to tell him in his ear to stay positive. He slips his bed and breakfast card in through the passenger window when they get inside and that’s it, they’re driving off, Namjoon’s form becoming a little dot in the rear-view mirror.

Taehyung feels sad, like he wants to stay there and work with Namjoon and Seokjin. He wouldn’t even want to take money from them, he’d just live there and do work and roast in the sun. The thought is so pleasant and so different from what Taehyung knows is waiting for him back home in his cold little bedroom that he has to tear his mind away from it.

The car doesn’t make much noise and Jeongguk is telling Taehyung about horse-riding. Taehyung loves horses, and he knows everything Jeongguk is telling him but he seems so enthusiastic as he’s discussing the topic that Taehyung can’t help pretend it’s all new and exciting information.

The gas station is only a ten minute ride from Namjoon’s. Jeongguk fills the tank, and when he comes back from paying the attendant he’s holding a little bag and two slurpees.

“Raspberry,” Jeongguk says, handing Taehyung his.

Taehyung already knows Jeongguk has blueberry.

Jeongguk used to like raspberry too, but one day in grade 9 Taehyung dared him to chug an entire extra-large raspberry slurpee and he ended up vomiting outside the school and had a stomach ache for hours. Since then, he hates anything raspberry and has switched over to blueberry.

They drive for a few hours and Taehyung almost dozes off but Jeongguk makes an excited sound when they pull up to another large expanse of land, like the one they stayed in their car at last time. This one has a lot of trees off to the side though, and no lake.

“Wanna camp here tonight? Like, with our tent?” Jeongguk asks, looking over with bright eyes. His mouth is sort of blue from the slurpee.

When they get out of the car Taehyung looks up and gasps loudly.

“The stars are out again. They’re way brighter this time,” he says, staring up at the pinkish blue sky, at the lights poking through the scarce clouds.

Taehyung immediately starts taking photos of anything that poses the slightest amount of interest to him. It’s starting to get slightly cold out in the open air like this.

Jeongguk is setting up the tent, grumbling to himself when one of the poles collapses or snaps.

Taehyung is crouching over a particularly beautiful piles of sticks when Jeongguk calls out from behind him.

“Tae, help me with this shit, you lazy ass.”

“Wait, wait, it’s magic hour,” Taehyung replies, taking two more shots then getting up and making his way over to Jeongguk. He takes a quick photo of his angry expression because he looks adorable like his, with his hair messed up, holding a tent rod in each hand, his nostrils flared.

They eventually set the thing up and Jeongguk goes to find some wood for a fire.

Taehyung is laying out blankets and pillows in the tent when Jeongguk comes back, holding a large bundle of sticks.

“Hang on, I’m gonna grab something,” Taehyung says, crawling back into the tent after poking his head out.

“Alright,” Jeongguk responds, putting his materials on the ground and looking around. “I need a straight stick. Hopefully I can use these shavings as tinder, otherwise- what’s that?” Jeongguk asks when Taehyung walks out of the tenting holding what he was looking for.

“A lighter.”

Jeongguk looks absolutely offended. “No way. We’re making a fire.”

“But I have a lighter,” Taehyung frowns. “And I’m cold.”

Jeongguk sighs. “Can we at least try to make a fire first then use your lighter if we can’t figure it out?”

He looks so cute and excited like that, holding the sticks in his hand - Taehyung can’t disagree. “Alright, Man versus Wild, let’s do it,” he sits cross legged on the dirt in front of Jeongguk.

“So I think we can use this piece as the base. And this stick is the straightest I can get it with a sharp rock, so it’ll have to do,” Jeongguk says, crouching over and playing the pointed straight stick on the horizontal smooth slab of wood.

Taehyung has no idea what the fuck he’s talking about so he nods. “Should I blow on it?”

“Not yet, when I get a flame going you can.”

Taehyung learns in thirty minutes that ‘when’ was used very loosely in this situation, because there’s probably no way Jeongguk can get this fire going. It’s pretty dark now too, and Taehyung is sure sunset is minutes away.

“God damnit,” Jeongguk says when straight stick finally breaks. He sits back down on his ass and looks at Taehyung. “Sorry.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “What no, that was really cool. Especially the part when some smoke kinda started to rise for a second.”

Jeongguk laughs. “Gimme your lighter.”

He crams the tinder under the little wooden tipi he constructed and reaches under it with the lighter. It immediately lights ablaze.

“Wow, it’s amazing what we take for granted,” Taehyung says, rubbing up and down his bare arms.

Jeongguk pokes at the sticks and glances up at him. “You should put on a sweater or something.”

Taehyung feels warmed up just from the suggestion alone. “So should you, that’s one of your most raggedy t-shirts.”

When Taehyung crawls back out of the tent in a hoodie, wielding his pipe, Jeongguk is holding an open bag of marshmallows, chewing on one. “I hope you know scary stories because I don’t.”

Taehyung sidles up to the fire, reaching out for a marshmallow, tossing a sweater to Jeongguk. “I swear to God Jeongguk if you mention anything scary I’m gonna stab you with one of your sharp sticks.”

Jeongguk grins, and it looks a little menacing under the light of the fire like this.

“So there was this guy named Taehyung-“

“Stop,” Taehyung takes a hit from the pipe.

“And one day he went camping with his amazing best friend.”

“Right,” he exhales slowly, feeling light-headed almost immediately.

“And in the middle of the night, a bear came into their tent and ate him.”

“The fuck, Jeongguk! That’s actually scary, that could happen! Why would you even joke,” Taehyung picks up a stick and walks over to him.

Jeongguk laughs and holds out his hands. “That won’t happen. But okay fine, it eats both of us.”

“It eats you, and then it befriends me, and we ride off into the forest, the bear and I,” Taehyung says, tapping the stick against Jeongguk’s shoulder before turning to go sit back down.

“Is this Disney?”

They eat a few more marshmallows and Jeongguk takes several tokes from the pipe, Taehyung is feeling a lot right now - for Jeongguk. He’s especially emotional. So he tries.

“So, it’s been days. Did you accept the offer?”

Jeongguk’s stares down at the end of his stick, engulfed in flames. “Yeah.”

Taehyung knew this was coming, but it doesn’t stop it from being incredibly painful either way. Why wouldn’t you just fucking tell me when it happened?

“That’s awesome,” he says and he regrets even asking because the lump in his throat has grown considerably. “When?”

“At the diner. I’m excited,” Jeongguk says, shifting and pulling the stick from the fire. “Did you decide what you wanna do?”

At the diner? When they were eating and talking about trivial shit?

“I didn’t have any decisions to make,” Taehyung says back a little faster than he would have liked.

“I mean, art schools,” Jeongguk continues, pulling the blackened skin off the top of the marshmallow. “Are you going to try for the one inland?”

“I don’t know, doesn’t really matter,” Taehyung says, completely over this discussion already even though he began it.

Jeongguk stares at him, holding the stick out in the air but not making any attempt to bite into the marshmallow. “Are you okay?”

“I’m tired I guess. And super high,” Taehyung lies, stretching. “Wanna go sleep?”

Jeongguk studies him for a moment and then moves the stick to his mouth and bites off the marshmallow. “Okay.”

Taehyung is cold, and he Jeongguk feels warm under the blankets so he moves close to him, pressing up against his back, careful to avoid pressing his crotch into Jeongguk’s ass.

Jeongguk, as usual, doesn’t make an effort to move away from Taehyung when he pushes up against him. It’s a little ironic, considering Taehyung’s current dilemma.

He’s glad Jeongguk is facing away from him and that it’s very, very dark, so he can’t see him crying.

 


 

Taehyung is in a foul mood he next morning. He barely slept the night before, and when he did, he had horrible nightmares of being eaten alive by bears.

He’s sitting on one of their folding chairs, brushing his teeth when Jeongguk crawls out of the tent looking absolutely refreshed.

“Woah,” Jeongguk says when he seems him. “You’re awake.”

Taehyung spits a glob of toothpaste onto the ground and attempts a smile. “Morning.”

They quickly pack up their things, and Jeongguk is the one who attempts conversations by bringing up random questions and observations. It’s obvious he’s struggling. It’s not that Jeongguk’s awkward with Taehyung, it’s just Taehyung usually asks the questions and Jeongguk picks up the thought Taehyung left off – it’s how they function as a team.

It’s hard when the roles are switched, especially since Taehyung can’t muster more than simple answers.

“And you can look up some more one-dollar-sign restaurants we can have breakfast at,” Jeongguk says, loading up their last bag. “I think we’re close to the next little township.”

They crawl back into their seats and Taehyung yawns, pressing the side of his head against the window. “I need a shower.”

“We can find a motel,” Jeongguk says as he starts to drive. “We can start the motel hop you wanted to do.”

Taehyung grunts and closes his eyes.

Jeongguk’s phone starts to ring and Taehyung glances down at the screen: it’s Jimin.

Jeongguk puts him on speaker and they chat about where they are and how long it’ll be until they get there.

“Where’s Taehyung? He sleeping?”

“Nah, he’s here. Just a grouchy,” Jeongguk says indignantly.

Taehyung looks at Jeongguk, frowning. “I’m not grouchy, I’m here!”

“Hey Tae! Make sure Jeongguk doesn’t speed.”

He makes small talk and tells them about how he’s settling in already. He sounds very happy. When Jeongguk hangs up, Taehyung sits up straight.

“Why’d you tell him I’m grouchy?” He asks, in the perfect mood for an argument over something stupid.

“Because you are,” Jeongguk says, his eyes not leaving the road.

“I’m not. I told you I’m just tired,” Taehyung says through a pout. “Sorry that you have to do the talking for like once.”

Jeongguk looks at him and his eyes look angry, but he turns back to the road. “Okay.”

They drive the rest of the way to the diner without saying a word. It’s forty-five minutes of nothingness.

When they pull up, they’re at a country-style motel, complete with a bar and strip club down the dirt road.

Jeongguk gets out and starts dragging out their bags and Taehyung slips out of his seat to help, feeling some guilt for being such a fucker this morning.

“It’s okay, I’ll take that,” Taehyung says, pulling his large bag from Jeongguk’s grip and smiling when Jeongguk makes eye-contact.

Jeongguk smiles back and he really is so simple, so weirdly innocent in his feelings just there on his sleeve. Everything’s there except the fact that he’s leaving – which means he obviously doesn’t care or find it important enough to discuss. It was just too painful for Taehyung to keep the conversation going last night. He thinks about what Namjoon said and it falls a little flat. If Jeongguk isn’t sad about it, maybe Taehyung shouldn’t push it.

The smell of cigarettes is almost overwhelming when they step inside the motel. It’s grimy and probably has bed-bugs and Taehyung is super into it. He feels like he’s on the set of a movie and immediately tells Jeongguk this after they check in, as they’re climbing up the outside stairs to their room.

Jeongguk laughs. “Right? I feel like we’re about to make a drug deal.”

As they make their way across the terrace to their room a man is standing outside his suite, smoking a cigarette, sifting through a wad of cash. He looks up, the smoke dangling from his bottom lip. His mouth cracks into a massive, bright smile. “You guys looking for drugs?”

Jeongguk just stares at him, not having expected any of this.

“How much?” Taehyung asks, taking a step forward. The man is dressed like he’s much older than he actually looks. He’s wearing a colourful button-up tucked into slacks with an expensive looking belt. His shoes look more expensive than Taehyung’s house. He seems incredibly friendly – like he’s probably really good at this.

Jeongguk grabs Taehyung’s wrist and yanks him back protectively. Taehyung is annoyed at how much of a square Jeongguk is.

The man gives them an up-down and pulls the cigarette from his lips, the big smile increasing in watts. “You’re both cute, so the first bump’s free,” he reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a little vial.

Taehyung reaches out and Jeongguk yanks him back again. “No thanks.”

The man’s still smiling, but he cocks an eye-brow and looks at Taehyung. “Tell your boyfriend to lighten up.”

Taehyung wants to yell that Jeongguk isn’t his boyfriend, he wants to scream it into the man’s face for some reason.

Instead, Taehyung tugs his wrist out of Jeongguk’s grip and reaches out to take the vial. “Thank you,” he says and the man salutes as they walk towards their room.

“Are you fucking serious? You’re not actually going to take that stuff are you? We have weed,” Jeongguk hisses at Taehyung.

“Hey, lighten up,” Taehyung says as they make their way inside the musty little room. “I’m not. But why the hell would I turn down free drugs? Also he seemed really nice.”

“Of course he seemed really nice, that’s his job. What is with you and older men,” Jeongguk says but then immediately seems like he’s over the encounter and more fascinated with the fact that this place has a shower.

“He barely looks older than us. Hey,” Taehyung says reaching out and grabbing Jeongguk’s shirt, tugging him forward into a hug. “Sorry I was so annoying in the car. I was super tired.”

Jeongguk seems to freeze for a moment before relaxing into the hug, pressing his palms against Taehyung’s back and holding him close. Taehyung presses his nose against Jeongguk’s shoulder and inhales his scent. He’s been wearing that dumb little white shirt for a whole day and the effect is titillating; he pretty much shivers in Jeongguk’s arms then pulls away and hopes Jeongguk didn’t notice.

He’s smiling. “It’s okay. I understand.”

I don’t care if you understand. Are you as sad as I am?

Jeongguk takes a shower and Taehyung lies with his back on the bed, hoping it doesn’t have bugs.

He closes his eyes and imagines how much easier life might be if Jeongguk wasn’t going to move away and leave him alone in that dumb town with people he doesn’t care about. He doesn’t even have to love him back, they don’t need to move into a farm house together, Taehyung could live with that. His stupid presence is enough.

Jeongguk gets out of the shower and moans, rubbing at the back of his neck with a towel, he’s only wearing a pair of flimsy boxers and Taehyung tries not to stare, keeping his eyes focused on Jeongguk’s face. “God, that was amazing. You gotta try that. Surprisingly hot water.”

Taehyung sits up. “They have a bar right? Let’s get snacks after.”

Jeongguk wasn’t lying about the shower and Taehyung let’s the scalding water rush down his chest. He lathers his hair with shampoo and considers if he should jerk off. He doesn’t, because it feels weird thinking Jeongguk is right outside the door getting dressed and coming up with thing to do while Taehyung sadly tugs at his dick.

Jeongguk seems especially excited about the bar as they make their way down the stairs, mentioning that they have chili fries. Taehyung is mostly upset they can’t drink legally.

They see the drug-dealer at the counter downstairs, though, ordering himself a drink, and Jeongguk’s energy shifts slightly.

Taehyung grabs his waist from behind and pushes him forward. “Relax, Guk,” he mumbles.

The dealer turns around and sees them, holding a glass of whisky. “Oh, it’s my favourite couple! Let me buy you guys a round.”

“We’re 18,” Jeongguk says, loudly, and Taehyung wants to turn around and punch him in the nose.

“Well, if you didn’t announce that, it wouldn’t have a been a problem,” Hope laughs. “But that’s exciting information. I’m 20.”

“See! I told you he was young,” Taehyung says to Jeongguk who appears less and less interested in ordering chili fries.

The rules appear to be very loose in this area of the countryside, because he’s certain he sees a few people in the bar holding alcoholic drinks and they seem even younger than Taehyung.

Taehyung scoots onto a stool anyway and pulls Jeongguk down next to him.

The man seems vaguely dangerous while maintaining the vibe of being young and attractive. Taehyung has a fascination for people like him thanks to all the mafia movies he’s watched growing up. He wants to ask him how he managed to get into this sort of lifestyle so young, but he thinks that might be inappropriate.

“You guys looks very wet and refreshed,” the man says, staring only at Taehyung while he speaks.

Taehyung sips at his glass of water. “What’s your name? I’m Tae and this is Guk.”

“My name’s Hope.”

“Is that your real name?”

The man laughs. “Yes.”

Taehyung furrows his eyebrows. “I don’t believe that.”

“He gave us drugs like an hour ago, Tae. I don’t think he’d tell you his real name.”

Hope finally drags his eyes away from Taehyung to glance at Jeongguk. “Your boyfriend’s right.”

“Not my boyfriend,” Taehyung says decidedly. He doesn’t look back to see if Jeongguk reacted to that.

“Oh?” Hope looks at Jeongguk and points at Taehyung. “You hang around with something this cute all day and you don’t fuck him?”

Taehyung giggles like the man just made the most preposterous claim ever and finally glances over at Jeongguk who looks vaguely annoyed but mostly relaxed. He doesn’t respond.

“I like your clothes,” Taehyung says, taking another large sip, pointing at Hope’s shirt.

“I like yours,” he opens his mouth to put in the end of another cigarette and holds out the pack for them. Taehyung shakes his head but Jeongguk leans over to take one. It’s surprising but Jeongguk has been making some interestingly wild choices at the last few parties they attended before graduation. It’s part of the reason why Taehyung is slightly confused as to why he seemed so worried about the cocaine. The man’s phone vibrates and he looks down at it

“I gotta go. You guys should come down later. They play live music. It’s my last night here, I’d rather hang out with attractive guys than what I usually see,” he says, getting up, and tossing a bill on the table, clearly more than what their drinks came out to. He winks at Taehyung before he leaves.

“Tae,” Jeongguk says pulling the lit cigarette out of his moth, watching the expression on his face. “That look freaks me out. Don’t fucking tell me you’re interested in this guy too.”

Taehyung looks at him. “Relax. I’m not. I just want to have some fun. We’ve had a lowkey few days, why not spice things up a bit?”

Jeongguk does not look on-board with spicing things up with Hope.

After eating the chili fries they decide to go upstairs and take a nap, Taehyung pressed into Jeongguk’s back as usual, breathing in the soft scent of soap and cigarettes.

He dreams that he’s a strange, discarded, scarecrow-like object, and that his stomach is gashed open. There’s hay pouring out of the wound. His friends are standing around him and they’re trying to help him cram the hay back into the opening in Taehyung’s stomach but he just shakes his head and tells them there’s no use.

He wakes up with a start and Jeongguk isn’t in the room. He reaches for his phone and a text from Jeongguk reads that he’s downstairs.

He looks outside the window and it’s dark, meaning he’s probably slept for several hours. He yawns and makes his way downstairs, rubbing at his eyes, feeling like he’s still in a dream state.

The strange consistency of his reality intensifies when he sees Jeongguk sitting at the bar with Hope and a new man he doesn’t recognize.

Taehyung timidly makes his way over and when Hope sees him, his expression changes to interest.  Taehyung gives him one of his cutest smiles.

He puts his hands on Jeongguk’s shoulders. “You’re having fun without me?”

Jeongguk turns around and hands him a glass with what appears to be alcohol in it. Taehyung wants to ask but decides not to. “You were out cold and I lay there for like an hour until I decided to come down.”

Taehyung takes the drink and sits down. “Hi,” he says, extending his hand to the other man.

“This is Yugy,” Hope says, gesturing to the man. He’s also attractive, also young.

“Oh, you like anime too?” Taehyung asks and Yugy stares at him, confused.

“What?”

He hears Jeongguk snorting next to him.

They start drinking and the bar fills up with guests. There are all sorts of people and Taehyung has a hard time hearing what anyone is saying after a certain point.

Yugy seems more interested in Jeongguk than Taehyung and they seem to hit it off, chatting about sports and how to start fires.

Hope goes to the toilet several times during the night, often followed by people. Taehyung knows exactly what’s happening in there because after each trip he fiddles with the wad of cash in his pocket. Taehyung wonders how much money this guy makes a day selling drugs.

He sips the last of his whiskey and looks at Jeongguk who still seems deep in conversation with Yugy about something they didn’t include him in. He supposes this is better than Jeongguk judging him earlier.

“Hey,” Hope suddenly says in Taehyung’s ear when he comes back. “Come here, I wanna show you something.”

Taehyung takes his hand and follows him to the corner of the bar. “Jukebox. What do you want?”

“I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston,” Taehyung answers immediately and Hope starts to laugh loudly.

“You serious?”

“Yeah.”

When the music starts the energy in the pub seems to be a mixture of confusion, annoyance, and happiness (from a small fraction of the people).

“You’re a cutie,” Hope says as Taehyung starts to groove to the beat.

“Thank you,” Taehyung smiles.

Hope’s fun-loving expression loses its platonic vibe very quickly, and he steps towards Taehyung, snaking a hand behind his neck, bringing their mouths together.

Hope is a surprisingly assertive kisser, his hand coming down hard on Taehyung’s waist and pulling him close. Taehyung was not planning on doing anything intimate with Hope, but the idea that someone like him is interested in Taehyung fires him up considerably. Especially after the sad, stupid attempt with a nice guy like Namjoon. And he got judged for it anyway.

This guy seems like he couldn’t care less about Taehyung’s feelings, he’s also in an acceptable age range, even if he is a drug-dealer; right?

When they pull away Hope is staring at Taehyung’s mouth. “Wanna come upstairs?”

“Sure,” Taehyung says.

Hope appears to hesitate, his eyes looking over to where Jeongguk is sitting. “Wanna bring your friend?”

“No,” Taehyung says, fast.

“Good, you’re the one I wanted anyway,” Hope says, leading him to the bathroom.

Taehyung does a bump and rubs at his nose, sneezing. Hope laughs and leans in to kiss him again.

They go up to Hope’s room and Taehyung doesn’t even look downstairs to see if Jeongguk is aware of where he is. He seemed deep in conversation anyway, so chances of him giving a fuck are low.

Taehyung blows Hope then clumsily rolls a condom on his dick and rides him aggressively for thirty minutes straight as he comes down from the high.

When they’re done, Taehyung rolls off and flops down next to Hope on the bed. “Thank you. That was yummy.” He doesn’t know why he goes with that word, but it’s what he’s feeling like. It’s probably the drugs.

“Yummy,” Hope laughs, reaching over to take a cigarette out of the pack on his table. For a drug dealer’s room, there surprisingly aren’t any drugs around. In fact, Taehyung is pretty sure Hope is mostly sober. “I agree, you are very, very yummy,” he leans in to kiss Taehyung’s neck as he lies there staring at the ceiling.

“What about you?” Taehyung asks, like this is just an extension of his conversation with Namjoon the day before. “Have you ever been in love?” he looks over at Hope.

“Uh oh. You’re not about to tell me you love me, are you?” Hope asks, pressing a finger against Taehyung’s chest and rubbing circles into it. It’s very therapeutic and calms his racing heartbeat.

“No. I’m just curious,” Taehyung says.

“Yeah, I have been in love.”

“Did the person love you back?”

“Yup.”

“Must’ve been nice.”

Hope stares at him. “It’s your friend isn’t it. The one downstairs? I knew there was something.”

“There’s nothing,” Taehyung says, sitting up. “Let’s have sex again.”

 


 

When Taehyung walks back in to their suite Jeongguk is lying on the bed on his phone. He looks up at Taehyung then back down at his phone.

“I fucked the drug dealer.”

“I know. I heard you.”

Taehyung nods, hoping Jeongguk is exaggerating and that he wasn’t being as loud as he thought he was at the time. “So what happened to you and Yugi-boy? That guy were talking to.”

“Nothing. I don’t fuck weird guys I don’t know,” Jeongguk says, his eyes still fixed on his phone.

“Why are you being so grouchy?” Taehyung asks and feels a sick happiness at the look on Jeongguk’s face when he glances up.

“You could have at least told me where you were,” Jeongguk says, lamely.

Taehyung peels off his shirt and walks into the washroom, staring at him from the door. “You clearly knew where I was.”

“Yeah. Anyway, I’m glad you got it out of your system.”

“It?”

“You wanted to fuck a bunch of guys, so congratulations on your two day streak.”

“You’re a dick. I didn’t do anything to you and you’re being a dick,” Taehyung says, his eyes stinging as he shuts the door. He doesn’t even want to tell him that nothing happened with Namjoon at this point. It doesn’t matter.

Taehyung takes another shower and festers, annoyed that he was feeling so much better when they got here and that his mood took another turn. He’s down from the high and he feels angry and annoyed and even more depressed than earlier.

When they crawl into bed, Taehyung turns the other way from Jeongguk, not bothering to get close to him, not bothering to touch his back.

Tears well in his eyes and he just lets them fall soundlessly on the pillow, feeling the after-effects of the hollow fuck he just had. His head hurts, his heart hurts, his asshole hurts. Everything hurts.

Suddenly he hears a shift behind him, and at first he thinks maybe the drugs are still in his system when he feels the heat of Jeongguk’s chest press against his back. He’s warm and firm and his hand rests softly on Taehyung’s waist.

“Sorry,” he hears him whisper in his ear. “I overreacted.”

Taehyung doesn’t respond; no sound is capable of leaving his mouth.

Jeongguk has never hugged him like this before. Especially not in bed.

“Please don’t be mad at me. You can’t be mad at me, you’re my best friend. What am I gonna do for the rest of the trip?” Jeongguk continues to whisper playfully in Taehyung’s ear, and it’s soft and wet and every syllable sends quakes down his sides.

“I’m,” Taehyung croaks. “I’m not mad.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk says pressing his head back down on the pillow behind Taehyung, his hand squeezing his waist. He can feel his breaths.

Then, after a moment of stillness, Taehyung feels a pair of warm lips at the back of his neck, just above the back of his drooping tshirt. Jeongguk presses what unmistakably feels like a soft, wet, open-mouthed kiss at the base of Taehyung’s neck.

Then there’s nothing.

His hands are still on Taehyung’s waist but he doesn’t make any other movements. Taehyung can hear Jeongguk’s breathing, though and it’s much quicker than it was earlier, almost panicked.

Suddenly the hands are gone, the presence is gone, and he’s turned back to his side of the bed. The wet patch on Taehyungs neck feels cold in the air.

What the fuck was that? Why the fuck would he do that?

Taehyung barely sleeps for the entire night.

  


 

 

The next morning they sleep in until 10am and when they check out and step outside they notice it’s starting to rain a little. It’s obvious both their foul moods have reached a similar level.

“We’re kinda close to Jimin’s,” Jeongguk says, staring at his phone. “We can drive for like 5 hours, chill at our last motel, then drive the rest tomorrow. God, the signal here is really shitty.”

Taehyung checks his own phone. “Yeah mine only has one bar.”

“It should be okay, though. It’s just open road for a long time,” Jeongguk says as they load up into the car.

Taehyung draws dicks all over the window through the condensation.

He feels the doom spreading as he realizes there’s not much time left before they get to their destination, and when they do get back Jeongguk will be too busy getting packed and meeting with friends and family to even have time for Taehyung anymore.

They drive for about an hour until Jeongguk leans forward to turn the music’s volume down. “You hear that?”

The sputtering is back and this time it’s loud.

“Yeah,” Taehyung says fearfully. “We should stop.”

“Fuck. Fuck I knew we should have tried to find an auto shop,” Jeongguk says, pushing down the gas a little and going even faster. “God, I’m an idiot.”

“What’re you doing? We gotta stop,” Taehyung says, staring out the window.

“I’m scared if I stop it won’t start again,” Jeongguk says, slowing down slightly only to then speed up again.

“Why do you keep doing that?”

“To check!” Jeongguk snaps. “I’m checking if it’s just an air circulation thing.”

“Just pull over, Guk,” Taehyung says looking out the window again. “I smell something weird. Something’s burning.”

“If I stop and this car doesn’t start again, we are fucked,” Jeongguk says staring in the rear-view window and there’s nothing behind them but empty road.

“And if you keep driving we’re going to fucking blow up!”

“We’re not going to blow up, Taehyung, that’s not how cars work. It usually helps to know how to fucking drive before you-“ the car makes a considerably loud sputter and Jeongguk finally hits the brakes, swerving off the road to the side and screeching to a stop.

They sit in their seats breathing.

“Okay,” Taehyung says. “Okay let’s just. Let’s sit for a while. That was scary.”

Jeongguk leans his head back against the seat as the dust cloud around them settles. Jeongguk’s breathing eventually settles down, and he slips the key back into the ignition and the car engine hisses loudly.

It doesn’t turn on.

Jeongguk closes his eyes and tries again and it only hisses.

“I knew it,” Jeongguk says, nodding. “I fucking knew it.”

“Just sit here for a bit and calm down,” Taehyung says, starting to feel annoyed at how overly dramatic Jeongguk is being about all this when he’s usually quiet and calm even in the face of danger.

“That’s enough helpful suggestions from you, Taehyung. Thanks,” Jeongguk says and opens the car door, stepping outside.

Is he being fucking serious right now?

Taehyung feels his blood start to boil and he steps out too. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean? You think this is my fault? For suggesting you stop?”

“I’m saying that’s enough suggestions. I’m saying you should stay in the car while I figure this out,” Jeongguk stresses, staring at the car with his hands on his hips.

“I’m not some fucking idiot, Jeongguk. What’s gotten into you?”

“What’s gotten into me?” Jeongguk asks, looking up, his eyes on fire. This can not be happening right now. There’s no way Jeongguk is doing this right now.

“Yeah, what’s gotten into you? Who even are you?” Taehyung stumbles over his words. “You didn’t even want to do this road trip in the first place, just admit it. You only suggested this trip so you could get me off your back.”

Oh no. It’s happening, Taehyung can’t take it back.

“What?” Jeongguk asks stepping towards him.

“You’re fucking leaving, Jeongguk, and I had to drag out the smallest fucking sentence about it from you. You don’t even give a shit!” Taehyung is yelling now and it’s too late to stop, the floodgates are open and he’s saying things he was never planning on saying out loud. Fuck the car, that issue is over.

“I don’t give a shit?” Jeongguk asks, getting even closer. He’s generally soft spoken, it always scares Taehyung to see him like this. “You think I suggested this to get you off my – Taehyung, you’re insane. You’ve actually gone insane. Is it the car fumes?”

“No. I’ve just realized I care too much and you care too little. Basically our entire friendship,” Taehyung hisses and Jeongguk is very close now, only about a foot and half away.

It’s not raining anymore, but the air around them smells like gas and dirt. There’s nothing for miles. They could scream at the top of their lungs and no one would hear them.

“Is that what this is all about? You just came to that stupid, self-obsessed conclusion before we left but then decided to come along anyway and fuck a few guys to, what, feel alive again? Please help me understand, I’m really fucking lost here, Taehyung.”

“I didn’t fuck Namjoon, okay? He turned me down, I was too embarrassed to tell you - so that was fun. And yeah, I fucked Hope because I’m depressed and my life sucks and my best friend doesn’t give a shit about me. I did cocaine too, in case you want to make me feel like shit about that too considering you clearly love bringing it up.” Don’t cry, Taehyung. Don’t fucking cry.

“You’re a fucking jerk,” Jeongguk says and he looks much more hurt than he does angry now. “Fuck you for thinking I don’t give a shit about moving away. Fuck you, especially, for thinking you’re the only person in this world that has ever felt emotions.”

Taehyung steps in, and tears are falling but he’s not sobbing, his voice is surprisingly steady and loud. “If you fucking felt sad, you would have told me you accepted the offer before I had to ask. I gave you plenty of opportunities, Jeongguk. And you never said anything.”

“Stop telling me how I’m supposed to act when I’m sad. You’re always fucking wrong,” Jeongguk shouts poking a finger into Taehyung’s chest, hard. “I’m sad, okay? I’m so fucking sad! And I’m just as capable of being sad as you are, Taehyung. You need to stop fucking pretending I’m some kind of robot because I don’t express myself the same twisted way you do. You’re the one who doesn’t care, you’re the asshole.”

Taehyung reaches out to shove Jeongguk hard and his back hits the car. He’s never done something like this before.

Jeongguk seems stunned for moment but then he steps forward, predatory. His eyes are blazing. “You really want to fight me, Taehyung?”

“Fuck you.”

“Would that make you feel better? Okay, go for it. Shove me again, watch what happens.”

“Fuck you.”

“Go ahead, Taehyung,” their noses are basically touching at this point, like it’s a fight on a soccer-pitch, “I’d love nothing more than for you to give me a reason to punch you right now.”

Taehyung takes a step back and stares at Jeongguk, at his red nose, at the tears welling up in his black eyes, clearly upset and offended that Taehyung would shove him like that. At how he’s completely right about everything he’s said.

“I’m not just. I’m not just sad about that,” Taehyung sobs. He probably looks fucking ugly right now, going into full crying mode in front of Jeongguk like this after shoving him.

Jeongguk just stares at him, waiting, his small mouth flattened into a thin line.

“I like you,” Taehyung mumbles because they’re going to die here anyway. His nose is running. “I mean. I love…”

Jeongguk closes his eyes. “Don’t.”

“I do. A whole fucking lot,” Taehyung continues anyway, because he might as well just air it all out now and then they never have to speak to each other again and he can move on. “And I thought. I thought I was really obvious about it for the last year.”

“Taehyung, don’t do this right now,” Jeongguk says, and he doesn’t look angry but he does look scared, his eyes wide. It would hurt more if Taehyung weren’t numb, but he is, so he doesn’t care. He keeps going.

“And usually I just tell people, you know? It’s not hard for me - but I couldn’t even imagine telling you and then hearing that you don’t like me back. But I think I’m okay now. During this trip, I starting caring less. But then you. You did that thing in the hotel, you kissed my back like that? You just. Why did you do that?” Taehyung is talking so loudly he’s hoarse and he has to push harder to get each word out, making him more and more tired. He also feels sick. He’s yelled himself sick.

“Why would…” Jeongguk starts again, and he looks like he’s in agony. “Why now?”

“Because it’ll be easier when you leave if you hate me, I guess,” Taehyung sobs. “Like those stupid movies where the guy yells ‘Go on! Git!’ at his dog and the dog goes away.”

“This is stupid, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head slightly. His voice is soft now. “I like you too.”

Taehyung never considered this potential outcome. In all his horrible nightmare outcomes, this was never an option. He just stares at Jeongguk, dumbfounded, waiting for a punchline but it never comes.

“No you don’t,” is all Taehyung can muster, eventually.

“Yeah I do. Probably for longer than you liked me. I kissed your back because I wanted to, because you smelled good, because you felt good. I actually considered…telling you that night. But I thought about how you kept trying to get with those other guys, and I just. You’ve never. You’ve never seemed interested in me as more than a friend, Tae. Are you just saying this stuff to me so it hurts more? Because it does.”

Taehyung stares at him and he wants to scream. He wants to throw his fists at him. “Why did you apply to that stupid school then?! Are you fucking crazy?”

Jeongguk looks at him like it’s simplest equation ever constructed and that Taehyung doesn’t know shit. “Because you have all your friends and exes and boyfriends here, and you can easily make more, but what the fuck do I have?”

“What?” Taehyung asks, his eyes burry. The clouds filling up the sky make it seem like it’s much later than it probably is. “You’re good at everything. You’re amazing at everything.”

“That’s not what I asked, I said what do I have?”

Taehyung stares at him.

Jeongguk continues, wiping at his eyes. “You’re. You were dating Yoongi, and you were going to go to art school – that’s what you told me. And you’d make more friends, you said it yourself. It’s not hard for you,” Jeongguk stammers. “And you’d inevitably find another boyfriend, because that’s what you do.”

Taehyung should feel happy about this but it’s terrible. He just found out the person he’s been in love with for years loves him too.

And that Taehyung really is obsessed with himself, and that he’s a fucking jerk, and-

“I thought if I move away and focus on what I’m good at,” Jeongguk starts but he can’t finish because now he’s crying too and Taehyung made this happen. They’re both crying into the middle of nowhere and it’s embarrassing.

“Guk,” Taehyung reaches out, touching Jeongguk’s hair, pushing his bangs aside like how Jeongguk did to him on the ground in front of the lake.

Jeongguk lets him, snivelling, staring at the dirt. “I fucked this all up didn’t I. Should I… I can cancel my acceptance. I can-“

“No,” Taehyung says firmly. “You did the right thing. You’re not going to cancel the offer. You’re going to go and you’re going to be amazing.”

“But then,” Jeongguk looks back up with panicked eyes. “But I want to do…this. Me and you? I want to do that.”

Taehyung smiles for the first time since he woke up this morning and he can almost hear the sides of his cheeks squeak. “We can, that’s okay. There are lots of people who do long-distance, okay?”

Taehyung is good at acting like he has his shit together when his friends are falling apart in front of him. He feels like he has to, for their sake.

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah. I s’pose,” he looks up at Taehyung, dabbing at the corner of his eye.

“I mean, chances are we’re just gonna die out here anyway so we cried that hard for nothing,” Taehyung jokes but then he’s also horrified at the possibility that he could be right.

Jeongguk laughs anyway. “Yeah.”

“Can I…kiss you?” Taehyung asks, stepping close hesitantly. Never in a million years did he think he’d be asking Jeongguk from next door this question.

“Yeah.”

He leans in to kiss him on the lips and Jeongguk doesn’t hesitate to grab him and pull him into his chest so hard that Taehyung gets the air knocked out of him.

He’s kissing Taehyung fiercely, his hands finally letting go of Taehyung’ back, traveling to his hair then down again, holding his face in place as he kisses him hard and deep. He was not expecting Jeongguk to have this much fire after snotting and crying for over ten minutes with him. Taehyung is so emotionally exhausted and tired, he can barely return the energy. He just wants to sink onto the ground and just hold him until they both die of exposure out here in the middle of nowhere.

Jeongguk tugs him into the back of the car and they continue to kiss, down on the uncomfortable floor of the vehicle. They lose track of time, and when they finally pull away both their lips are bruised and too sore to kiss again. Jeongguk’s hands run up and down Taehyung’s entire body as they kiss, and it’s not even sexual, he’s almost frisking him, it’s like he just wants to make sure he’s there.  It’s like he’s discovering Taehyung for the first time yet he knows exactly what to expect because he’s known him for so long.

“I almost hated you,” Jeongguk says, staring into his eyes. “When I thought you slept with Namjoon. And then I hated you even more when you slept with Hope. At least I thought I did. But now that I think about it, I was just hurt. I couldn’t believe you’d do that. I felt like you were, I don’t know…trying to insult me. Is that stupid?”

“No. It’s not stupid. I think I was,” Taehyung says kissing Jeongguk again, and his mouth hurts but he doesn’t care. “You sounded so against the idea of the farm, it felt like you were rejecting me.”

“I was just bitter you showed interest in something I wasn’t included in,” Jeongguk admits, pressing his index finger against Taehyung’s lips, stroking the expanse of his bottom lip, from one side to the other.

“I’m selfish. I’m self-obsessed. I guess this is what happens when two people are constantly waiting for each other.”

Taehyung genuinely does not care if they just stay here and die in each others’ arms like some sort of stupid tragicomedy.

Two best friends yell at each other, admit they love each other, kiss, and then die in the back of a car.

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says. “For not telling you how I feel. For university. For a lot.”

“I’m sorry for being a self-obsessed lunatic,” Taehyung cuddles in close to his chest. “I can’t believe this is real. I feel like this is a dream.”

They lie like that for a good thirty minutes until Jeongguk rubs Taehyung’s shoulder. “I’m going to go try the engine.”

“I’ll come with you,” Taehyung says against his chest, not wanting to move in case this really is some sort of elaborate dream and everything will disappear if he shifts in the slightest.

They eventually crawl to the front seats, both still moving slow like they’re drunk.

Jeongguk slips the key in the ignition and rotates it, his eyes closed. It sputters and he stops, breathing out slowly.

He grips the key again and twists, this time harder, holding it in place. The car sputters but the sound of the engine becomes louder until it roars and the car stays on.

Taehyung shrieks so loudly he’s surprised all the windows in the car don’t simultaneously shatter.

Jeongguk shouts and removes his hands from the wheel, as though his touch could somehow turn the car back off – he looks over at Taehyung, grinning.

Is it okay to do this now? Can Taehyung just kiss him when he wants to now?

He leans in and kisses Jeongguk, half on his lips half on his teeth. Jeongguk’s expression slowly relaxes, like he’s also contemplating how that was a thing that just happened. He smiles.

 


 

They ride the rest of the way, nervously, with Taehyung holding Jeongguk’s right hand in his lap, the left one on the wheel.

Jeongguk’s palms are slightly sweaty and his skin is soft and Taehyung didn’t realize how poetic it would be just holding his hand like this, how it would mean so much to him. Every now and then Jeongguk will use his thumb to stroke the top of Taehyung’s hand and he feels his throat constrict.

Taehyung tries to replay all the events of this trip in his head, to make a list of all the times where he felt like he wanted to die and then contrast them with this moment right now here in Jeongguk’s car.

Through his reminiscing, Taehyung heart starts beating faster in his chest. So what does this mean?

Regardless of what Taehyung said about long-distance to Jeongguk, he’s terrified deep down. If Jeongguk was leaving partly to forget his feelings for Taehyung, wouldn’t this be a terrible mark on their relationship now that he actually is leaving? Will he forget his feelings anyway?

Wait, are they even officially together? What are they now?

“You’re squeezing my hand really tight,” Jeongguk says, looking over apologetically.

“Oh, shit. Sorry. I was just thinking.”

“Probably thinking about some crazy shit, huh?” Jeongguk says, and his tone is light-hearted but Taehyung knows he’s worried too.

“I’m wondering how smoking a bowl in my bed with you would be now. Would it be any different?” Taehyung asks, extending his arm out the window as Jeongguk drives.

Jeongguk’s eyes are on the road but his mind is elsewhere. “A little. I’d kiss you.”

“Would you?” Taehyung asks, glancing over at him suspiciously.

“Yeah.”

“I’d kiss you too,” Taehyung says. “I just want to lie in bed with you and get high and kiss you.”

Jeongguk smiles. “Stop.”

“Why?”

“I’m impatient,” Jeongguk licks his lips. “We’re almost at the motel. I’d love to do all three of those things with you, if you’re down.

“That’s been my fantasy for a year, so.”

There’s an autoshop just across the road from the motel, and they leave the car there. They quote a price of $200 dollars and Jeongguk looks so incredibly heartbroken when Taehyung pulls out his wallet. When the man turns around to put the money in the register Taehyung kisses Jeongguk’s ear and squeezes his hand, reminding him he decided he wants to do this.

This motel looks considerably cleaner than the last one (it has a 2.6/5 in reviews), and it’s almost twice as expensive a night. They key into their room and it’s very small – the queen bed almost takes up the entire room. The bathroom looks newly renovated though, and it has a tub. Taehyung is thinking about nothing else but lying in that tub with Jeongguk.

“Hey,” Taehyung calls from the bathroom, peeling his shirt off. “Fuck the bed, come here.”

They strip down to their underwear, fill the bathtub with hot water, and Jeongguk gets in. Taehyung crawls in after him, holding his pipe and lighter awkwardly above the water as he tries to sidle his ass between Jeongguk’s legs. He leans back against Jeongguk’s bare chest, lifting the pipe to his mouth.

He feels Jeongguk’s chest vibrate behind his back as he takes a long hit. He exhales the smoke slowly. “Are you laughing?”

“You’re so cute. So determined.”

Taehyung takes another hit and then leans his head back against Jeongguk’s shoulder, holding the pipe and lighter out behind him for Jeongguk to take.

They do this back and forth a bit before Jeongguk puts their paraphernalia on the bathroom floor and Taehyung turns over in the water so he’s facing him, Jeongguk sitting back against the tub, Taehyung sprawled between his legs, face to face. He lazily kisses him and Jeongguk opens his mouth for more tongue, wrapping his arms around Taehyung’s wet back to press him close.

This is probably the most perfect moment in Taehyung’s life. This replaces any other moment in time that has made him feel happy. He’s light-headed, but he’s not sure what percentage of the feeling is owed to the weed.

They get out and help dry each other off, changing into their pajamas. Taehyung still avoids staring at Jeongguk’s dick because he doesn’t want to be greedy, he doesn’t want or need everything to happen at once, he wants to savour it all. Just knowing Jeongguk loves him back makes all the sexual fantasies pale in comparison.

They crawl into bed and Jeongguk presses up behind Taehyung, so close, closer than Taehyung ever dared do to Jeongguk. He presses a wet kiss on the back of his neck again and Taehyung shivers all over – de ja vu. Except this time, it’s not accompanied with a sense of betrayal.

He kisses him like this for a while before slipping his hand into Taehyung’s waistband and tugging it down slightly just to knead at his bare hip, like he’s been waiting forever to feel he skin there. Jeongguk props himself on his free arm and Taehyung bends his neck back as Jeongguk leans down to kiss him on the lips, mouths open, tongues rolling slow and hot together.

Time is moving slowly, nothing feels rushed, Taehyung crystallizes this moment in his mind.

 


 

They share long comfortable silences in the car on their way to Jimin’s. They’re both caught up in thinking about what might change in the nature of their relationship when Jeongguk really does leave. This time, Taehyung isn’t thinking about it with the huge dread of earlier – he thinks whatever the situation, he’ll make it work no matter what. He trusts himself. He’s got to, after all of that chaos earlier.

They stop at a drive-through for burgers and sodas and Taehyung teases Jeongguk about how he’ll probably have to eat super healthy because of his scholarship.

Jeongguk’s mood plummets every time Taehyung brings up anything that has to do with the fact that he’s leaving. He’s also clearly exhausted from driving but he won’t stop, no matter how many times Taehyung tells him to. So Taehyung just crawls into the back seat and massages his tense shoulders as he drives.

When they finally pull up to Jimin’s dad’s house, Jeongguk is exhausted. They blaze through hellos and Jeongguk lifelessly crawls up the stairs to pass out in the guest bedroom. There’s not much that Taehyung remembers from those first few hours at Jimin’s, because all he wants is to crawl into the bed with Jeongguk and press against him again.

Jimin is excited about school and he asks Taehyung what happened on their trip, so Taehyung tries his best to explain everything as neutrally as he can. This proves to be quite difficult when Jimin is grabbing Taehyung’s knees at every potentially tense part of the story.

When Taehyung crawls into bed with Jeongguk that night he stirs awake, turning over to face him, pressing a sleepy kiss against his mouth.

“What time is it?” he murmurs, his eyes still closed.

“2am, go back to sleep,” Taehyung whispers, tracing his finger down the slope of Jeongguk’s nose, staring at his eyelashes.

“No,” Jeongguk says reaching out to put his hands on Taehyung’s waist, pulling him close. “I wanna kiss.”

They make out and Taehyung pulls the plug after 30 minutes because he knows they’ll just end up staying up the whole night if Jeongguk gets fired up. He breaks the kiss and shoves Jeongguk over onto his other side even though he makes a sound of disapproval.

“I’m the big spoon now, fucker,” Taehyung says, hugging him from behind.

“Maybe you can come stay with me sometimes,” Jeongguk says and Taehyung presses his forehead against Jeongguk’s back. “At my dorm. Like, if you don’t have plans at any point.”

He sounds so uncertain that it breaks Taehyung’s heart.

“I’ll try to pencil you in between the long stretches of crying in my bed alone.”

“Tae,” Jeongguk moans, turning his face to the side.

“Shh, take your shirt off.”

Jeongguk reaches down to grab the bottom of his shirt, pulling it up and squirming out of it while still trying to maintain his position. Taehyung hugs him again, pressing his cheek against his bare back, pressing his palms against Jeongguk’s chest, trailing them down to his stomach.

“You have to text me every five minutes okay?” Taehyung asks with his lips pressed against Jeongguk’s back.

“What if I’m in class?” Jeongguk shivers under his touch.

“Especially when you’re in class, dummy.”

Taehyung sucks little bruises all over Jeongguk’s back, and just by his movements and breathing Taehyung is willing to bet that he’s hard. He considers how his plan to let Jeongguk sleep backfired on himself through entirely his own fault. He doesn’t want to touch him like that now, not here in Jimin’s dad’s house, it just doesn’t seem right. Not in the moral sense, but this isn’t how Taehyung pictured their first time.

And he’s imagined it multiple times: there are several fantasies depending on his moods.

Jeongguk seems to think otherwise though because he’s pushing back into Taehyung, his hand reaching back to touch his hip again and Taehyung thinks he’s already found out which body parts Jeongguk has fixations for and they haven’t even gone on a date.

Taehyung freezes. They haven’t even gone on a date.

Jeongguk turns around in the bed, clumsily pulling Taehyung in for a deep kiss, his hands moving to the waist-band of Taehyung’s pants.

“Wait,” Taehyung says, putting his hand on Jeongguk’s bicep. This is his second fuck-up. He would be so much easier to turn down if he wasn’t shirtless. “Let’s not do this here.”

Jeongguk presses his forehead against Taehyung’s. “Why?”

Because I’m a fucking loser and I want our first time to be special.

“Just. Not here, Jimin’s dad is like sleeping in the room right next to us.”

If that doesn’t kill the mood, he doesn’t know what will.

“Right,” Jeongguk breathes, his shoulders relaxing. “You’re right.”

“Sorry I got you all hot and bothered, I can’t help it, it’s who I am,” Taehyung mumbles apologetically and Jeongguk snorts.

They eventually fall asleep facing each other, forehead to forehead.

 


 

Taehyung thinks even in his unconscious state his body seeks to be as close to Jeongguk as possible because when he wakes up in the morning he’s practically curled into a ball, folded in Jeongguk’s armpit, his face pressed flat against his upper right ribs. There’s a trail of drool down Jeongguk’s skin and Taehyung starts to sleepily wipe it off before Jeongguk wakes up but evidently it’s too late.

“Thank god you’re up, I think my entire arm is asleep,” Jeongguk says when Taehyung leans away and lets him finally lower his arm.

“You sound annoyed now,” Taehyung croaks, grabbing a pillow against his chest, “but you’re gonna want a jar of my drool with you when you leave.”

“Gross.”

Jimin helps them pack everything in the car and Taehyung is incredibly thankful he also has his driving licence; he knows Jeongguk would never admit to it but he would probably lose his mind if he had to drive all that way again.

They decide to stay at different places, mostly because Taehyung can’t muster up the gall to see Namjoon again. This time around, it’s the three of them in one room, and they take turns with the bed and the floor.

They only end up getting drunk once at a bar a mile away from one of the hotels, and Jimin facetimes Yoongi the entire time.

Being back in their dumb little town feels strange, and if he’s being honest with himself, Taehyung did miss elements of it. It looks exactly the same, so nothing’s changed aesthetically – except this time when he steps out of the car in front of Jeongguk’s house his best friend takes his hand and pulls him forward into a kiss.

So, there’s that little difference. That’s all it takes for all the normalcy to suddenly fade into Taehyung’s own personal fantasy Netflix original series.

Jeongguk’s still clutching Taehyung after the kiss. “Sleepover?”

Taehyung presses his face into Jeongguk’s shoulder and thinks about how that word - along with so many others – have changed their meanings completely.

 


 

The rest of the summer passes without much excitement. Taehyung and Jeongguk both think it’s best not to rush their relationship in the physical sense – it might be too painful if they have sex and it’s inevitably mind-blowing, then they immediately separate for months.

That being said, it’s hard. Both literally and figuratively: they’re both very hard, always.

It’s slightly worrying for the first little while, when Taehyung thinks about when they’ll actually have sex. When will he see Jeongguk next, anyway? How will they both deal with the pent up sexual desire? Does he just hump his pillow in the mean time and pretend it’s Jeongguk? Taehyung considers he has a lot of Jeongguk’s t-shirts at his house and that he could very well carry through with the project. He won’t tell Jeongguk about it because that’s creepy and weird.

Jeongguk is very stressed out during this whole transition from normal small-town life into preparing for his big university entrance. He’s constantly worried about how he has to take 6 classes and how he’s not good at academics and Taehyung tries to soothe him through the psychological panic but he’s also dealing with his own pain.

Jeongguk knows this and tells Taehyung he doesn’t have to rush his schooling, that he’ll support any decision he makes and just overall is a sweet boyfriend. Taehyung doesn’t want to be left behind while everyone else gets ‘ahead’ with their futures but his psyche is considerably less clouded knowing that he has Jeongguk in his life now, as a partner. And not just in the friendship sense, it feels good knowing that they don’t have to hide anything from each other anymore, and that nothing is secret, no feelings are still bottled up.

Taehyung regrets the stupid decisions he made during their road-trip – the embarrassment with Namjoon, the absolute absurdity (and danger) of Hope. It’s sad to remember that he resorted to that kind of behaviour because he was hurt. It’s sad that he was just waiting for Jeongguk when he could have taken initiative himself.

Jeongguk feels regret over his own mindset too, and he tells Taehyung this multiple times when Taehyung tries to air out his summer resentment at himself. It makes it a little easier for Taehyung not to take all the blame even though his mind keeps telling him too.

They test out long-distance during the summer by trying to spend 5 days only texting and calling, with no physical contact. They cave after 12 hours.

And as they around roll in Jeongguk’s bed kissing, Taehyung tells himself over and over that they’re in love now and people in love try to keep things together, even when they’re far apart.

 


 

It’s December.

Looking back, three months seems like a long time to be away from someone you’re obsessed with. But it’s much easier when you’re both constantly texting and calling each other.

The power of technology allows the process to be way less painful than Taehyung imagined. That and Gukjeon, his hump-pillow. He really went through with it. He even bought a bottle of Jeongguk’s cologne to spray on it.

It’s not entirely accurate to call Gukjeon a hump pillow, because he’s so much more than that. Taehyung also cries against him, hugs him during the night, and even talks to him. As Taehyung assumed, it’s fucking weird. He told Jimin over the phone and at first he couldn’t stop laughing but then he became serious and asked Taehyung if he told Jeongguk about it – as though ‘it’ is murder and not a fucking pillow.

It wouldn’t matter at the end of the day. Because Jeongguk finds out when they’re Skyping after his first exam.

“I’m so proud of you,” Taehyung says as he’s changing shirts, propping his laptop on the end of his bed.

“Yeah I’m super happy,” he hears Jeongguk say then. “Tae, what’s that?”

Taehyung gets his shirt over his head and looks down at the screen. “What’s what?”

Jeongguk points, squinting. “Is that. A pillow? With my shirt on it?”

Taehyung’s heart sinks. “No,” he says leaping onto the bed and hurling Gukjeon across his room. He can’t believe it but he actually feels bad about doing that. It’s an inanimate fucking object, Taehyung.

“Taehyung, no,” Jeongguk stands up from his desk, grabbing the sides of his laptop. “No, you have to fucking show me that. Show it to me.”

“No!” Taehyung yells scrambling back to the laptop. “It’s just a pillow.”

“Why’d you throw it if it’s just a pillow.”

“Stop it!”

“Tae,” Jeongguk says softly, clearly trying very hard not to laugh. “I love you. You’re so sweet and amazing and I’d never judge you for the weird shit you do-“

“Stop trying to be cute, I’m not showing you,” Taehyung says, crossing his hands across his chest. “And I was going to jerk myself off for you but I’m not going to anymore.”

“What did I do?! That’s just cruel.”

“You’re clearly laughing at me.”

“I love you.”

“Whatever.”

“Please show me the pillow. If it’s actually what I think it is, it’s really cute. And not weird, sorry. I didn’t mean to use the word ‘weird’. I just meant it’s weird thinking someone would want to be around me so much- like, to that extent,” Jeongguk says and he has his hair pushed back and he looks so tired from studying that Taehyung wishes he could crawl through the screen and kiss him.

Taehyung walks over to Gukjeon and picks him up, sitting back down on his bed, cross legged. He hugs him against his chest.

“That’s really fucking cute, Tae.”

“Don’t make fun of me. I’m super emotional right now.”

“I’m serious, that’s…do you hug it?”

Oh, sweetheart.

“Him. And yeah. I mean. Hugging is one thing I do with him.”

Jeongguk completely misses the naughty implication because smiling so widely and innocently at the screen that it looks like his face is on the verge of shattering. “Tae, I can’t wait until you hug me and kiss me the way you do with him.”

That sounds weird out loud but then also kind of sexy.

There’s also the topic of Jeongguk making another comment about how he misses Taehyung.

He’s been studying so hard and his funds have reached a zero point, so coming back to visit for the winter break has not been an option for him. His parents simply can’t afford sending their son another $1,000 for a ticket home for 5 days and Jeongguk doesn’t want them to feel obligated so he doesn’t ask. He also told Taehyung that while he’s very sad he can’t see Taehyung, he feels guilty that he doesn’t want to have to see his parents and tell them about the classes he’s not doing too hot in (:“I wish I could just, like, teleport you here”).

Which brings Taehyung to his master plan.

He has been working at an art gallery for the past 3 months and he has saved more than enough for a ticket. In fact, he was initially planning on just wiring Jeongguk the money but then he decided it would be much more fun if he just surprised him there.

It’s just hard to deal with keeping a secret since Taehyung isn’t good at that, and every time Jeongguk makes a comment about how much he misses Taehyung he wants to just scream into the mic that he’ll be there in a week.

But he can’t, so he just says: “I can’t wait either, Guk,” and puckers his lips, leaning in close to the camera. These webcam kisses always make Jeongguk laugh and he takes screenshots of the angle. He once sent Taehyung a collage of all the webcam kisses he’s sent, and yes, the angles are always funny and they don’t exactly look appealing. It’s rude, but Taehyung will let him have this one joy in his life.

 


 

The hardest part of Taehyung’s plan is not texting Jeongguk for the 4 hours he’s on a flight and going through customs. He paints it as Taehyung’s own decision to let him study in peace for his final exam (even though Taehyung would never suggest such an absurd idea), and Jeongguk reluctantly agrees.

Taehyung considers how much colder the north is than he initially thought. He’s wearing a massive down jacket on top of a wool sweater, but he’s still freezing as he steps through the snow to the residence.

The cab drive took much, much longer than he anticipated (the taxi driver refused to drive him for anything less than $100) due to the icy streets, and they almost skid several times. When he finally gets to the residence, he has a hard time stomping through the snow. He slips and falls once and a few students come to his rescue but he waves them off, laughing awkwardly because he’s too embarrassed to accept their help.

He falls partly because of his suitcase, and yes, Jeongguk may have been right about how he packs a little too heavy for such short stays.

He has sent Jeongguk a few packages, so he knows what dorm he’s in, and he also knows exactly what time Jeongguk’s last exam ends. He plans to sit in the library and pass time until he’s almost certain Jeongguk is back (they’ll be texting).

[8:12pm] tae

 

[8:12pm] my looovvvveeee how was it????????

 

[8:13pm] ☹ not good….

[8:13pm] fucking

[8:13pm] so stupid..questions about stuff we didnt even study

 

[8:13pm] my love!!!!!!! :( im sure it wasn’t that bad

 

[8:14pm] it was.

[8:14pm] I’ll be back in a bit can we pls skype I just really need to see u

 

Taehyung smiles down at the screen, tearing up, thinking about how much better this surprise is going to be now that Jeongguk is super needy. Wait, no. That’s not the best way to think of this situation. Still, Taehyung is glad to be here when Jeongguk really need him.

 

[8:14pm] I just want to watch you jerk yourself off

 

Well, that took a turn.

 

[8:15pm] I literally need it more than anything

[8:15pm] in fact just tell me what you’re wearing right now I want to get in the mood

[8:15pm] lie if it isn’t sexy

 

[8:16pm] jesus christ guk.

 

[8:16pm] r u back yet???

 

Taehyung grabs his bags. It’s getting really hot in his layers of down and wool, and he can’t even maneuver himself properly through the hallways with all that excess weight.

 

[8:17pm] yeah just got home

 

Taehyung finally gets to Jeongguk’s dorm and breathes heavily for like a minute outside the door, thinking about how out of shape he is. He can feel Jeongguk texting him in his pocket. He’s so close to him, he can’t believe he’s this close – he’s almost scared to knock on the door. But he does.

The door opens and a red faced Jeongguk stands (holding a roll of toilet paper) in a white tshirt and black sweatpants. His mouth drops open and he stares silently for a good 5 seconds as Taehyung just smiles sweetly at him, chin tucked into his chest.

Jeongguk makes a noise – maybe a shout, maybe some sort of incomprehensible word – throws the roll of toilet paper onto the floor, and immediately pulls Taehyung into the most painful hug he has ever experienced.

“Surprise,” Taehyung giggles as Jeongguk continues to say unintelligible things all the while staggering backwards while clutching Taehyung tight against his chest.

And now he’s crying. His face is pressed into Taehyung’s shoulder and he’s basically sobbing. Jesus, school really takes a toll on people.

“Aw, no, Guk, don’t cry,” Taehyung murmurs, and he wants to pet Jeongguk’s hair but he’s unrelenting with this hug and Taehyung feels like he’s on the verge of blacking out. “Babe, I can’t breathe.”

Jeongguk finally lets go of Taehyung’s lifeless body and shuts his door in the face of a concerned floormate. He turns to Taehyung. “When did? How did?”

Taehyung just wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s neck and presses their lips together. Jeongguk’s hands grab Taehyung’s waist and he barely feels it under his jacket. They finally pull away and Jeongguk yanks him down to sit on his little sad bed.

“Taehyung, when. When did you get here?” Jeongguk asks, his eyes still wet.

“About two hours ago. Why were you holding a roll of toilet paper, hmm?” Taehyung asks, smiling suggestively and prodding Jeongguk’s chest with his finger.

“I was gonna. I thought you were.”

“You’re adorable,” Taehyung says kissing him again. “God, I missed you. Help me take this shit off.”

Jeongguk obliges immediately, sniffling as he helps take off Taehyung’s jacket. They immediately lie down together on the bed, facing each other.

Taehyung’s still incredibly overheated in the sweater, but he doesn’t care, he just wants to look at Jeongguk. He presses his hand against his face.

“I missed you so much,” Jeongguk says. “Seriously, I can’t believe you did this.”

“It was so fucking hard to keep the secret.”

“Did you pay for the ticket yourself?” Jeongguk asks, grabbing the side of Taehyung’s sweater.

“Who cares, I’m here,” Taehyung smiles. “Kiss me again.”

Jeongguk kisses him immediately, and they continue to kiss as Jeongguk helps him take off his sweater. Now Taehyung is slightly cold when the humid air of the dorm hits his bare, sweaty back.

Jeongguk pulls him close, clutching him as hard as he did in the back of the car, back when they thought they were going to die together in the desert.

 


 

Taehyung doesn’t remember when they both fell asleep but it must have been before 12am because he wakes up naturally at about 5am.

They’re both shirtless, Taehyung is still in his jeans, Jeongguk is in his sweatpants. He sits up slowly, reaching out and softly ruffling the top of Jeongguk’s hair. He stirs and Taehyung retracts his hand because he really doesn’t want to wake him, but it’s too late. His sleepy brown eyes blink up at him and for a moment he doesn’t have any expression on his face but he slowly comes to the realization that yes Taehyung is in fact in his room and he smiles.

Taehyung thinks of how many times Jeongguk gave him this smile when they were just friends, and how much it meant each time.

They have shitty breakfast together in the dorm cafeteria and they surprisingly don’t have anything new to say that hasn’t already been blurted out during a Skype session or through texts. Still, the idea that all the things they already know are being spoken to the other while maintaining real, human, eye-contact is thrilling.

Jeongguk introduces Taehyung to his friends when they come back from practice, and they’re all very sweet (and smelly). One of them mentions taking his girlfriend to some sort of winter light display close to their dorm tonight and Taehyung is immediately certain he wants to go too.

They talk about what their plans are for the rest of the break, but Jeongguk seems sort of uncomfortable when they talk about coming back to school. Taehyung feels terrible that Jeongguk has to go through all the chaos one more time.

“So, are you going to take me to the romantic winter wonderland?” Taehyung asks as they walk back to their dorm.

Jeongguk looks at him. “Really? That place is like full of annoying tourists.”

“Hey, I’m an annoying tourist, Jeongguk. I deserve to be with my brethren.”

Jeongguk smiles and kisses Taehyung as they walk. He has been super affectionate with Taehyung since he knows he has another timer on their love-fest. They only have three more days before Taehyung has to fly back on the 23rd. He hates that he’ll be away from Jeongguk again, especially during peak lovey-dovey season.

When they get back to the dorm, they change into warm clothing and make their way through the dangerous, snow-covered parking lots to the bus stop.

“Isn’t this a school? Shouldn’t they get rid of this shit?” Taehyung says as he slips on a large patch of ice. Jeongguk grips under his elbow and slips himself. They look like two massive bundles of unsteady fabric.

“They don’t care about us. We’re just cash cows,” Jeongguk mumbles and while Taehyung knows he’s joking he can sense something truly upset under the guise.

The light displays are some of the most beautiful things Taehyung has ever seen, especially with Jeongguk fooling around in their midst, grabbing a light on a string and pulling it towards his wide open mouth.

“Guk-o-lantern,” Taehyung laughs.

There are couples everywhere, and he knows this isn’t necessarily Jeongguk’s favourite kind of place to be but Taehyung absolutely lives for this stupid shit. He wraps his mitten’d hands around Jeongguk’s waist and presses his freezing nose into his shoulder.

Jeongguk says something from above his head but Taehyung’s ear-muffs are especially noise-cancelling so he lifts one side. “What?”

“I love you,” Jeongguk says, like he’s embarrassed to repeat it.

Taehyung stands straight and kisses him on the lips.

“I have to tell you something,” Jeongguk adds after they separate.

Taehyung yanks his earmuffs down.

Jeongguk licks his lips. “I want to come back home after this semester. I want to drop out.”

Taehyung doesn’t know exactly how to process what that all means, so he just stares, his lips slightly parted.

“I mean,” Jeongguk continues, “I’m not cut out for this school shit, I never was. I’ve been thinking a lot.”

“But, your scholarship,” is all Taehyung can muster.

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah I looked into that. I just have to give back the portion I haven’t used. I mean, it sucks, but then it could…I don’t know. Go to someone who might use it? Tae, I just can’t take it here. Being away from you is hard enough but it’s not just that. I can’t do it anymore.”

Taehyung presses his mitten against the side of Jeongguk’s face. “I’ll support any decision you make, okay?”

Jeongguk isn’t done, though. “And I really don’t want to say that I came here just because I thought I had to get away from you, but I think that was definitely a large part of it. Now that we’re, you know, together…I’m just realizing I hate everything about this shit.”

“What will you tell your parents?” Taehyung breathes, the air clouding in front of his face.

“There’s this chiropractic school. Actually, it’s more of a workshop. It’s all hands-on, which I like,” Jeongguk says, straightening his back, because he has clearly researched this. “And I already have credits I can transfer for like the two math classes I needed.”

Taehyung smiles. “You’ve planned this out. I trust you. If you have a plan, I trust it.”

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah. I was nervous telling you for some reason. I didn’t want you to think I’m like…a failure.”

“That’s the last fucking thing I’d ever think about you,” Taehyung says. “Remember that time in Physics when we both failed the class?”

“Because they caught us cheating on the final test, yeah,” Jeongguk laughs. “Thanks to you.”

“Hey, don’t blame this all on me.”

“You handed in your fucking cheat paper, Taehyung.”

“Okay but now we’re dating and you can’t blame things on me anymore,” Taehyung tells him and Jeongguk makes an incredulous face.

“That literally makes no sense.”

Taehyung hugs him again and he’s suddenly filled with an immense feeling of longing. He thinks maybe the idea that Jeongguk has just told him he’s planning on coming back is part of it, but whatever causes it, it’s completely overwhelming.

“Hey,” Taehyung looks into his eyes. “Can we go back?”

“What?” Jeongguk asks, looking around. “Didn’t you want to come here? What’s wrong?”

“I like it. I just,” Taehyung lets his hands skim down Jeongguk’s arms and take his fingers in their mitten’d grasp. “I want to go back.”

“Did I upset you?” Jeongguk asks beginning to look nervous, and Taehyung doesn’t want to have to straight up tell his oblivious boyfriend that he’s practically vibrating with lust in a family winter wonderland but it might have to be done at this rate

“No. I want…I want us to. You know,” Taehyung says, rubbing his nose against Jeongguk’s.

“Oh.”

He looks almost scared, like he forgot this was a thing that was meant to eventually happen. Like they hadn’t already talked about how they’d finally do it when they knew they were emotionally stable, when they knew they could handle distance. Now that the distance is closing, there’s no excuse anymore.

“Okay,” Jeongguk says, finally, his small lips forming a smile.

When they get back, they’re immediately pulling at each others’ jackets, mouths colliding.

Taehyung didn’t realize that something like sex would become so sacred for him, especially after all his stupid decisions. But he supposes maybe this is a part of growing up, and that Jeongguk is so much more than a stupid lay meant to boost his self-esteem.

He’s not going to try and forget any of this, he wants to remember every second of it, every finger-print against his waist, every breath.

He practically writhing on the tiny dorm bed as Jeongguk traverses his entire body with his fingers, like each digit is a little explorer. He attempts to do the same even though his energy is quickly depleting – he’s just so consumed with every moment of the experience that it’s emotionally and physically taxing in a way a 30 mile marathon wouldn’t be.

Taehyung considers, as they’re wrapped together, sticky and wet from sex in a tiny little dorm room, that there really couldn’t be a more romantic setting.

“You know, I feel like Gukjeon might be missing out,” Jeongguk says to ruin the whole moment.

Taehyung thinks fondly of his pillow back home. “Gukjeon is for my humping pleasure only, not yours.” It feels extremely hot in Jeongguk’s room.

“Wow, I never thought I’d be jealous of a pillow.” Jeongguk kisses his damp forehead. “Your cheeks are so red.”

“I think I’m gonna pass out,” Taehyung mumbles and Jeongguk panics, squirming over to the table and grabbing his green Gatorade water-bottle.

“Here, sit up,” Jeongguk says, trying to prop Taehyung’s sweaty, lifeless body up against him on the bed. “Drink this.”

“God, you would have one of these dumb bottles,” Taehyung croaks as he chugs it all down.

“You okay?”

“Mhm,” Taehyung says, letting the empty bottle fall against the bed and turning to lie against Jeongguk, pressing him back down against the bed.

They’re both overheated, but he doesn’t care, he can’t unattach.

“I feel like these next three months are going to be the longest,” Taehyung whispers and Jeongguk kisses his eyebrow.

“I know. But it’ll be worth it.”

“I was such a brat on our road-trip,” Taehyung suddenly says and he can’t see Jeongguk’s face while he’s pressed into him like this, but he can hear him groan.

“Tae, I told you to stop bringing that stuff up.”

“I’m not sad about it. If the trip didn’t happen, I don’t think we’d…you know. Tell each other,” Taehyung continues.

“Really? I think we still would.”

“But it wouldn’t be the same. This is the only way this moment could have happened. Any other scenario would have led to a different moment. And I like this moment,” Taehyung murmurs.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, his fingers pressing little patterns into Taehyung’s shoulder. “We picked the best route.”