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The Wild Adventures of Pinkish Tough Bunny Cooky and Super Curious Tata

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So to get one thing straight, everything is definitely, undoubtedly, 100-percent-no-arguments-whatsoever Hoseok’s fault.

 

“Seriously, you guys, I mean,” Hoseok is rambling, “He’s just—he’s the fucking cutest, and his daemon was this adorable little puppy wearing a yellow hoodie that was so soft looking, and Mang was—and Chimmy was like—just oh my god, Yoongi-hyung—oh, you’re not listening—Jeongguk! You can’t even believe—

 

“I believe you,” Jeongguk sighs, leaning back against the couch. It’s been a long fucking day—Jeongguk had had to get up for his stupid required-for-graduation 8:30 a.m. writing class, and then he’d immediately had his three-hour biology lab (which he’s only taking for the science gen ed he hasn’t filled yet), and then he’d had just enough time to sprint over to the college café only to find the line way too long for him to get coffee before rushing back across campus for his history class. That professor had assigned a new essay, and then Jeongguk had gone to his Japanese class only to realize he’d forgotten to turn in a writing assignment for that professor and would have to submit it late via email; his professor had been understanding, but not understanding enough not to knock off a letter grade on principle. Jeongguk had left that class, frustrated with himself and ready to fucking get back to his room, only then it was raining, and he hadn’t had his umbrella, and by the time he’d gotten home, he’d been literally fucking soaked.

 

So. Yeah. Overall, a shitty day, the effects of which Jeongguk is still kind of feeling at 9:30 p.m. Cooky isn’t exactly happy either.

 

The saving grace had come in the form of a text from Hoseok, which, you know, is why everything is definitely, undoubtedly, 100-percent-no-arguments-whatsoever Hoseok’s fault.

 

Well, like, not the shitty day stuff. Probably. Unless Hoseok has taken up voodoo or witchcraft or whatever else might have given him that much arbitrary control over the mundanities of Jeongguk’s life.

 

Unlikely.

 

So anyways. Hoseok’s fault. The day wasn’t Hoseok’s fault, but the evening currently is, and all because Jeongguk is the apparently easily swayed maknae of his friend group who can’t escape getting roped into helping when one of his hyungs (Hoseok) meets a cute boy in the hall of the dance building and wants Jeongguk to help win the kid over.

 

The texts had gone something like this:

 

 

 

hope hyung [6:47 p.m.]

jeongguk

 

hope hyung [6:47 p.m.]

jeonggukie u around 2nite?

 

hope hyung [6:47 p.m.]

it’s super important, babe

 

hope hyung [6:47 p.m.]

my babe, my bestie

 

hope hyung [6:47 p.m.]

I’m ur actual bestie not yoons or joonie or jinnie hyung

 

hope hyung [6:48 p.m.]

ur gon b so happy when you hear what I’m about to tell u

 

hope hyung [6:48 p.m.]

jeonggukkieeeeee r u there

 

hope hyung [6:48 p.m.]

jeonggukkieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

hope hyung [6:49 p.m.]

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

hope hyung [6:52 p.m.]

ee

 

 

 

Me [6:59 p.m.]

uh hi yes what

 

Me [6:59 p.m.]

why does this seem like you’re making a non-urgent thing really urgent

 

 

 

hope hyung [6:59 p.m.]

GUKKIE THAT IS THE PERFECT WAY TO DESCRIBE THIS

 

hope hyung [6:59 p.m.]

URGENT

 

hope hyung [6:59 p.m.]

U R G E N T

 

hope hyung [7:00 p.m.]

BASICALLY

 

hope hyung [7:00 p.m.]

SOS ACTUALLY OH MY GODP

 

hope hyung [7:00 p.m.]

FOD

 

hope hyung [7:00 p.m.]

GOD OMG SRRY

 

hope hyung [7:01 p.m.]

obvi am 2 excite cannot type

 

hope hyung [7:01 p.m.]

so excite idk what 2 dooooo

 

 

 

Me [7:09 p.m.]

you could start by sending like. 1 text message. instead of 500.

 

 

 

hope hyung [7:09 p.m.]

ok ok srs srs

 

hope hyung [7:09 p.m.]

kinda not srs tho tbh

 

hope hyung [7:09 p.m.]

basically

 

hope hyung [7:09 p.m.]

BADICSLLY

 

hope hyung [7:10 p.m.]

BASICALLY

 

hope hyung [7:10 p.m.]

I met this guy

 

hope hyung [7:10 p.m.]

n he’s rlly rlly cute

 

hope hyung [7:10 p.m.]

n his daemon is the actual fuckng cutest I can t eveno mg

 

hope hyung [7:10 p.m.]

okay sry

 

hope hyung [7:11 p.m.]

but badically come 2 mine n joon’s 2night bc party bc drinking bc CUTE

 

 

 

Me [7:16 p.m.]

again with the 500 messages -_-

 

Me [7:17 p.m.]

wait so the cute guy is for me or for you?

 

 

 

hope hyung [7:17 p.m.]

ME OMGOSH I JUST

 

hope hyung [7:17 p.m.]

sry this was unclear

 

hope hyung [7:17 p.m.]

don’t @ me like this

 

hope hyung [7:17 p.m.]

ur supposed to be my friend

 

 

 

Me [7:31 p.m.]

okay if im piecing this together right

 

Me [7:31 p.m.]

you want me to come over to your and joon hyung’s apartment

 

Me [7:32 p.m.]

to drink with some guy you think is cute

 

Me [7:32 p.m.]

and like wingman you

 

 

 

hope hyung [7:32 p.m.]

CORRECT

 

hope hyung [7:32 p.m.]

C O R R E C T

 

hope hyung [7:32 p.m.]

THANK YOU

 

hope hyung [7:33 p.m.]

took the words rtie outta my mouth

 

hope hyung [7:33 p.m.]

or like fingers?

 

hope hyung [7:33 p.m.]

bc typing?

 

 

 

Me [7:38 p.m.]

tbh im kind of not feeling it hyung

 

Me[7:40 p.m.]

super rough day, not like bad-bad but bad

 

Me [7:40 p.m.]

everything is annoying and everything hurts

 

 

 

hope hyung [7:40 p.m.]

okay well there will be beer

 

hope hyung [7:40 p.m.]

and soju

 

hope hyung [7:40 p.m.]

and cutie w cutie daemon is bringing a friend so like

 

hope hyung [7:41 p.m.]

maybe u could hook up w him?

 

hope hyung [7:41 p.m.]

I hear his daemon is like

 

hope hyung [7:41 p.m.]

really fucking cool

 

hope hyung [7:41 p.m.]

that’s wut jiminie said anyways

 

 

 

Me [7:50 p.m.]

jiminie?

 

 

 

hope hyung [7:51 p.m.]

yeah that’s his name isn’t it the actual fucking cutest isn’t he the CUTEST?? ^.^

 

 

 

Me [7:54 p.m.]

I mean I don’t know him

 

Me [7:54 p.m.]

but sure

 

 

 

hope hyung [7:54 p.m.]

sure meaning you’ll come?

 

 

 

Me [7:57 p.m.]

I meant sure like sure he’s the cutest

 

 

 

hope hyung [8:00 p.m.]

gukkieeeeeeeeeeee

 

 

 

 

Me [8:06 p.m.]

I mean. yeah whatever okay

 

Me [8:06 p.m.]

guess its Friday so I can wait and do my essay bullshit tomorrow

 

 

 

hope hyung [8:06 p.m.]

YEEEEAAAAHHHHHH UR SO GREAT UR SO FAB ILY

 

 

 

Me [8:10 p.m.]

want me to bring anything

 

 

 

hope hyung [8:11 p.m.]

no I mean

 

hope hyung [8:11 p.m.]

well actually

 

hope hyung [8:11 p.m.]

can u bring beer and soju and like a snack or something?

 

 

 

Me [8:19 p.m.]

…hyung isn’t this your party? are you literally asking me to furnish YOUR party with drinks and food

 

 

 

hope hyung [8:19 p.m.]

can u bring a card table and some pingpong balls 2

 

hope hyung [8:19 p.m.]

for beer pong

 

 

 

Me [8:22 p.m.]

I will bring some beers. that’s the extent of my generosity.

 

Me [8:24 p.m.]

I can’t believe you’re hosting a party and then asking me to like bring the actual supplies to have a party when it’s clearly YOUR PARTY

 

 

 

hope hyung [8:24 p.m.]

:(

 

hope hyung [8:25 p.m.]

yoongi hyung and jinnie hyung didn’t give me thsi much shit about this :(

 

 

 

Me [8:31 p.m.]

I guarantee you that yoongi hyung did and you just didn’t hear about it because seokjin hyung confiscated his phone and deleted the abusive messages before yoongi hyung could send them

 

Me [8:31 p.m.]

but whatever

 

Me [8:32 p.m.]

get your own goddamn party supplies, oh my god

 

 

 

hope hyung [8:32 p.m.]

ok just bring the beer that’s fine

 

hope hyung [8:32 p.m.]

THANK U!!!!!!!@@!!! ur so great n ily

 

 

 

Me [8:40 p.m.]

yeah yeah. see you tonight. in like an hour?

 

 

 

hope hyung [8:41 p.m.]

YES ONE (1) HOUR OK LOVE YOU THE MOSTEST

 

hope hyung [8:41 p.m.]

except jimin n chimmy

 

hope hyung [8:41 p.m.]

c u 2nite

 

 

 

 

So that’s how Jeongguk ends up in Namjoon and Hoseok’s living room holding a plastic cup of somaek mixed with way too much beer and not enough soju, slumped in the couch cushions and too lazy to add more soju to the cup to make the drink taste the way it should. Which would almost definitely still rank as, like, a two on a scale from Fireball to A Drink Which Tastes Good, but which would definitely be Not As Shitty as it tastes right now.

 

Whatever. Everything is Hoseok’s fault. Definitely, undoubtedly, 100-percent-no-arguments-whatsoever.

 

“—and so then Mang started, like, nuzzling Chimmy’s hoodie and Chimmy giggled and I heard it and his voice is all high and cute and Mang was like stumbling from how smitten he was and—”

 

“We get it, hyung, Chimmy is a perfect match for your weirdo masked horse daemon,” Jeongguk says, buzzed enough from the too-weak somaek that he doesn’t think anything of throwing an insult at Mang even though that’s, like, really not something you’re supposed to do. Commenting on someone else’s daemon is, like, the most major bad form.

 

Whatever. Shitty day, Hoseok’s fault, all the things. Don’t at me like this, Jeongguk tells his own brain.

 

Hoseok sighs, smitten and sappy and probably too tipsy to really care about Jeongguk’s comment. “I can’t wait for him to get here. I can’t wait and Mang can’t wait for Chimmy and it’s just—ah,” Hoseok says, sighing again, all long and languid as he swoons back into the couch. “Isn’t it great, Yoongi-hyung?” Hoseok asks, nudging Yoongi with his socked foot.

 

Yoongi grunts and taps away at his phone, and Hoseok doesn’t try to engage him again. Yoongi is apparently not expected to participate in this conversation the way Jeongguk is, which, you know, is because Yoongi is smart and makes sure everyone knows right off the bat how intolerant of bullshit he is. Shooky too, except at least Shooky is a cute little critter whom everyone likes even if he is kind of unusual for a daemon. Most people have animals; Yoongi has a soft, squishy cinnamon cookie sort of entity, like, literally actually.

 

(In Shooky’s defense, he always smells really, really good.)

 

“Ugh, I need more alcohol,” Seokjin moans as he emerges from the kitchen. His miniature and very fluffy alpaca, RJ, is following him, and the daemon is hand in hand with Namjoon’s adorably sleepy koala, Koya. The daemons make a beeline for Shooky and force him into a snuggle on the beanbag in the corner, cooing over each other and humming as they whisper too soft for Jeongguk or Cooky to hear. Those three are the fucking cutest—the daemons and their humans—and Jeongguk sighs and tips his head back against the couch, trying to ignore their stupid adorable faces.

 

Cooky gives him a sweet little nudge from his spot near Jeongguk’s shoulder, some sort of solidarity against the aggressive cuteness of their friends, and Jeongguk smiles. Cooky’s pinkish fur is soft against his hand when he reaches up to stroke the bunny’s ears.

 

“Jeongguk-ah, you need a refill?” Namjoon asks as he comes in carrying three more bottles of chamisul.

 

“Just pour some more of the soju in my cup—yeah, that’s enough,” Jeongguk says, sitting up to take a sip now that the beer-soju ratio should be better. Cooky hops onto Jeongguk’s shoulder from the back of the couch and clings, dragging Jeongguk’s balance off center and—oh, okay, yeah, Jeongguk is a little more than just tipsy now. Great. He swallows more from his cup and tastes pure soju floating above the beer.

 

Cooky keens as Jeongguk lists from side to side as he sets his cup on the coffee table, and Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Cooky, how many times have I told you that you’re way too big to jump on my shoulder like that?”

 

“A lot,” Cooky whispers in Jeongguk’s ear. Jeongguk tilts his head to bump Cooky’s side, and Cooky hops down into his lap to curl up in a fluffy pink ball.

 

There’s a squeak from the corner as Shooky jumps onto Koya’s head and starts biting the koala’s ear. “Eep!” Koya yells, “Joonie!”

 

Shook, you asshole, cut it out,” Yoongi drawls, still looking at his phone as Namjoon settles onto the couch next to him and drags Yoongi’s head over for a forehead kiss which goes unacknowledged beyond the light blush of pink spreading across Yoongi’s cheeks.

 

“Yoongi-yah, Shooky is a manifestation of you,” Seokjin says. “Your soul apparently wants to terrorize Namjoon’s and I have to say, I really don’t blame him after the disaster that was this afternoon.”

 

Namjoon and Koya groan in unison.

 

“What happened this afternoon?” Jeongguk asks, leaning forward to take another drink. God damn, Namjoon topped him off with a fuckton of soju.

 

“Don’t tell,” Namjoon says.

 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Well, now I’m really interested. What happened this afternoon?”

 

“Don’t tell, don’t tell,” Koya chants, her lilting voice a little bit disorienting in Jeongguk’s head. Daemons mostly only talk to each other and to their own humans, and rarely to a whole room. That only happens when everyone around is extremely comfortable together, and even still, hearing the voice of a daemon that isn’t your own is always weirdly taxing, like looking at those blue Christmas lights that are just a shade too far out of the spectrum humans can see for your brain to grasp the color right.

 

“I’m gonna tell, Koko-babe,” Seokjin teases. Koya whines and snuggles deeper into RJ, and Jeongguk wonders what it would be like to address another person’s daemon like that—Seokjin and Namjoon (and Yoongi, too) have been together long enough that it’s not unreasonable for one of them to speak directly to each other’s daemons, but Jeongguk has never reached that point with anyone.

 

“It was all Joonie-yah’s fault,” Yoongi grumbles.

 

“It was a little,” Seokjin chirps, drinking more soju. “Namjoon nearly set the kitchen on fire while we were trying to bake cookies. Shooky was personally offended by this.”

 

“It wasn’t like I did it on purpose as an attack on cookies or something,” Namjoon protests, looking at Yoongi with wide, pleading eyes. Yoongi keeps tapping his phone, paying no attention to Namjoon.

 

“You also picked Shooky up and tried to eat him, Kim Namjoon,” Yoongi snaps. Still looking at his phone.

 

In the corner, RJ is cuddling a trembling Koya while Shooky pouts, sullen, a few inches away.

 

“That was also not on purpose, and I apologized!” Namjoon says. “And I apologized to you. But I’ll say it again, because I really mean it. Yoongi-hyung, I’m sorry I touched your daemon without permission.”

 

Yoongi hums like he’s not convinced, and Jeongguk shivers as he imagines someone grabbing Cooky. Even in long-standing and comfortable relationships like the Namjoon-Seokjin-Yoongi Polyamorous Boyfriendship Est. 2k16, you don’t just grab someone else’s daemon. Contact like that is intimate as fuck.

 

“Yoongi-hyung,” Namjoon says again, softer, a murmur in Yoongi’s ear. Yoongi finally drags his gaze away from his phone to make eye contact with Namjoon, and they have a silent conversation for a second before Yoongi sighs and tilts to lean against Namjoon on the couch, suddenly relaxed. Namjoon kisses Yoongi’s forehead again. In the corner, Shooky snuggles into Koya and Koya coos at RJ. Mang dances over to lie down with them, and a comfortable silence settles over the room.

 

“So, Hobi, what time are they coming?” Seokjin finally asks, getting up from the couch to open a bag of chips and eat them on the floor at Yoongi’s feet.

 

Hoseok smiles. “Jimin said he and his friend would be here around 10:30. But he’s usually early, so he could get here at any minute!”

 

Jeongguk looks at the clock and strokes his fingers through Cooky’s fur. It’s 10:00 p.m. on the dot. “Hyung, seriously, a half hour is pretty fucking early for some millennial hipster ballerina boy to show up to a—”

 

There’s a knock on the door, and Hoseok turns to Jeongguk, smiling triumphantly. “Told you,” Hoseok says.

 

Jeongguk flips him off. “It’s weird to be early, hyung. You’re ten minutes late everywhere you go because you think it’s trendy to seem like you’re too busy for everyone.”

 

Hoseok doesn’t respond. He’s too busy answering the door.

 

“Hey!” A high-pitched voice chirps. “Glad we found the right place!”

 

“Jimin! Jimin’s friend! Come in!” Hoseok basically yells.

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes and drinks more, and Cooky hums drunkenly in his lap. Jeongguk can feel it now, the intoxication catching up to his head, and he’s glad for it. Adding two new people and their daemons to the group dynamic seems like a fucking pain in the ass, especially after listening to Hoseok wax poetic about one of them all goddamn evening.

 

Also, Jeongguk totally forgot to submit the essay he had already forgotten about, which means he’ll have to do it tomorrow, which probably means losing another letter grade. Fuck. Can he submit the essay now, while he’s moderately drunk? Or is that just asking for trouble?

 

“Hyungie!” The same high-pitched voice chirps. There’s a wild giggle. “Sorry, we kinda pregamed. So we’re already drunk.”

 

Hoseok giggles back. High-Pitched Voice Guy must be Jimin, then, and Jeongguk’s suspicions are confirmed when a yellow blur darts across the room to join the pile of daemons cuddling in the corner, a puppy wearing a hoodie with a wagging tail and floppy ears sticking out of holes cut in its hood, and—okay, yeah, that’s pretty cute, Jeongguk will admit.

 

“You’re drunk, Jiminie. I’m only tipsy,” a new voice says, low and raspy and—fuck, who the fuck is that?

 

“Sorry,” Jimin’s higher voice says, “This is Taehyung. He’s my roommate.”

 

“And also best friend,” Taehyung says, his tone kind of smug. His voice is pretty, Jeongguk thinks, but it’s grating on Jeongguk’s nerves, the way this kid is trying to, like, establish dominance over Hoseok or whatever by reminding him of Taehyung and Jimin’s apparently-Best-Friends-status relationship.

 

“Come in,” Hoseok chirps, unbothered as ever. “Do introductions to the group!”

 

Jimin steps around the couch and waves awkwardly to everyone—or, well, it would be awkward if the kid weren’t so goddamn instantly endearing. Like, seriously, Jeongguk is shocked that this guy even exists, what with his adorable mochi cheeks and his ashy windswept hair and his crescent moon eyes and his silver earrings and his smoky eye makeup.

 

“Hi,” Jimin says, “I’m Jimin. My daemon is Chimmy, and he’s a puppy, and he’s really playful but he’s friendly. I promise he won’t hurt your guys’ daemons.”

 

Jeongguk glances over at the daemon party in the corner. Chimmy and Mang are hugging and whispering and jumping in excitement while Koya and RJ and Shooky doze in a heap, their earlier animosity entirely forgotten.

 

“He’s really cute,” Seokjin says, watching Chimmy and Mang. “Oh, sorry—what gender does Chimmy prefer?”

 

Jimin smiles. “Boy is fine! For me, too.”

 

“Cool,” Namjoon says. “Kim Namjoon, fourth year like Hoseok. The koala girl is mine. Her name is Koya.”

 

Jimin nods.

 

“I’m Seokjin. Graduated already, but I’m dating these two, so I’m stuck here,” Seokjin sighs, gesturing dramatically at Yoongi and Namjoon as he leans back into the couch as if he’s actually the slightest bit disappointed about any of that. “The alpaca is mine. RJ. Doesn’t really subscribe to a gender, but he’s told me that if he had to pick, he’d pick boy.”

 

“That’s cool,” Jimin says, nodding.

 

“I’m Yoongi,” Yoongi says. “The cookie is mine. Shooky, and don’t fuckin’ try to eat him like fucking Kim Namjoon over here—”

 

Hey,” Namjoon yelps.

 

Yoongi smirks. “I’m gonna make you cry in bed tonight—”

 

“All right,” Seokjin gripes. “Stop, oh my god.”

 

Hoseok comes up behind Jimin. “You already know Mang,” he says. “And that’s Jeongguk, and his daemon, Cooky.”

 

Jeongguk nods. “Sorry, Cooky doesn’t handle his—my?—alcohol well,” Jeongguk says. “He’s a bunny. As you can tell.”

 

“Yeah, mine’s the only weird one,” Yoongi says. “Shooky is a cookie, but he’s also like—sort of an animal?”

 

Jimin shakes his head. “You don’t have to explain! It’s okay, Yoongi-ssi. I would never question the form of another person’s daemon.”

 

Yoongi throws a peace sign, takes a drink of his somaek, and goes back to his phone.

 

“Hey, sorry,” the low voice calls from near the door, “Sorry this is taking so long, it’s just my Docs take forever to untie and like—okay, got it.” A couple seconds later, a kid sidles up next to Jimin, puts his elbow on Jimin’s shoulder with an affectionate grin, and—

 

Fuck. The kid is gorgeous, like—like seriously fucking beautiful, and he’s tall and pink-haired and wearing lilac and his cream-colored trousers are cropped halfway up his calves and he has a fucking leather collar on and it’s the same color as the pants and he’s wearing gray-blue colored contacts and—

 

The somaek picks this exact moment to settle in, and Jeongguk suddenly feels a bit too drunk to handle the fucking beautiful human standing in front of him.

 

“I’m Kim Taehyung,” the kid says. “Nice to meet you.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” everyone choruses. Everyone except Jeongguk.

 

Because Jeongguk is staring at Taehyung’s Hello Kitty–stockinged feet where the guy’s daemon stands, a little thing that barely reaches Taehyung’s knees. It’s wearing a blue pajama onesie with yellow polka dots. Its head is a heart with a yellow mouth in the shape of an oval, complete with black eyes and straight black cartoonish eyebrows.

 

Jeongguk has nothing but the alcohol to blame when he says, “What the fuck is that?”

 

Taehyung’s eyes startle over to Jeongguk, wide and shocked. “What—what’s what?”

 

“That,” Jeongguk says, nodding drunkenly at the heart-headed creature clinging to Taehyung’s leg.

 

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon warns, but Jeongguk stands up and shakes his head. The room spins.

 

Taehyung glares at him. “Are you talking about Tata?”

 

Tata?” Jeongguk splutters, laughing as Cooky buries his face in Jeongguk’s calf.

 

Taehyung’s daemon—Tata, apparently—blinks up at Jeongguk and tilts its head, bumping Taehyung’s leg as its eyebrows tilt in distress. It leaps (shockingly high) to land in Taehyung’s arms and then hides its face in his sweater, and Taehyung holds it close, protective. Then—and possibly weirdest of all, actually—Tata emits this humming, hiccupping sorrow sound, all beep-brump-beedoooop-dut-deewwp, vibrating and pitchy, like a theremin.

 

Taehyung stares at the trembling creature in his arms and then looks back at Jeongguk, eyes flashing with anger and hurt. “How dare you?”

 

“Oh my god, Guk, you can’t just ask people what their daemon is,” Seokjin scolds.

 

“You hurt his feelings,” Taehyung says, looking really fucking sad. Tata beeps a couple more times, and Taehyung nods and leans down to whisper something. Tata vibrates back, and Taehyung looks up.

 

Jeongguk blinks. “What—is he talking? Like, the beeping—you understand that?”

 

“Fuck you; I didn’t come in here and demand to know why your bunny daemon is pink,” Taehyung spits.

 

Jeongguk feels the hurt punch quick and sharp through his chest, just as any jab about one’s daemon always does. “Cooky is pink because he’s fucking pink, all right?” Jeongguk scowls.

 

Taehyung squeezes his arms around Tata, who makes more beeping-vibrating-humming-autotune sounds. “Yeah, and Tata is Tata. You’re making him sad.”

 

Some part of Jeongguk’s head registers the fact that Taehyung must be sad too, if Taehyung’s little heart-headed soul creature is sad. Hell, the thing is still synthesizing its distress to the room, all beeps and glissandos and low-pitched buzzer sounds. A spike of guilt stabs through Jeongguk’s heart, but he shakes his head and pushes the feeling away, irritated and drunk and too proud to give in.

 

“Whatever,” Jeongguk says. “He could be saying that the sky is purple and that mumble rap is actually good music with that Daft Punk album of a voice box he’s got. Not like we would ever know.”

 

Taehyung opens his mouth to retort, but Jimin puts a hand on Taehyung’s arm, careful not to bump Tata. “Leave it,” Jimin says, although he’s glaring at Jeongguk, too.

 

“Sorry,” Hoseok cuts in, “Jeongguk is just drunk and having a shitty day, right?” His tone brooks no room for argument.

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Yeah,” he says. Who gives a fuck about Taehyung or his daemon, really?

 

“You could apologize,” Jimin says helpfully, and he’s so adorable that it doesn’t even sound condescending. Just gentle and calm.

 

Jeongguk’s blood boils anyway. Cooky is hopping agitated circles around Jeongguk’s feet, and Jeongguk slams back the rest of his somaek and heads to the kitchen for more beer.

 

“Just ignore him,” Hoseok says as Jeongguk leaves the room. “He had a bad day, seriously. He’s in a Mood.”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t hear Taehyung’s response, but he does hear a soft, beeping coo as Tata says something, and Jeongguk ignores the pang of guilt in his chest when he realizes that even if he can’t understand the thing, he can at least recognize techno-toned disappointment when he hears it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night progresses like this:

 

  • Namjoon and Yoongi and Seokjin end up in a huddle on the couch, getting progressively drunker and letting all three of their daemons touch all three of them, which is a startlingly intimate thing to have going on in the middle of the living room with other people there.
  • Hoseok and Jimin flirt shamelessly, looking all sweet and sunshiny on the floor by the TV, sipping their drinks and laughing as their daemons tumble around in the middle of the room, dancing and giggling in high-pitched excitement.
  • Taehyung drinks soju straight and taps angrily at his phone, ignoring everyone including Tata, because Tata has disappeared somewhere “to explore”, as Taehyung had explained earlier, even though no one was really listening except Jeongguk, and Jeongguk isn’t acknowledging Taehyung’s existence, so really Jeongguk also wasn’t listening.
  • Jeongguk downs way more somaek and spends his time trying not to look at Taehyung, because as much as Jeongguk currently hates Taehyung, the kid is also fucking gorgeous and perfect to look at, and this is A Problem.

 

“We should play Rage Cage,” Hoseok says, kind of out of nowhere.

 

“No,” Yoongi says.

 

“Please?” Namjoon and Seokjin intone.

 

Yoongi blinks. “Fine,” he says, caving—really easily, actually, for him.

 

“Yes!” Namjoon and Seokjin chirp, because Yoongi doesn’t agree to fucking anything.

 

“Tae, you wanna play?” Jimin asks, and Jeongguk sees the smile Jimin gives him, so sweet no one could possibly resist it, not even a stewing twentysomething who might be a little bit drunk.

 

Taehyung looks up at Jimin and then stares blankly around the room. “Fine,” he says, put-out and drunk and guarded.

 

Jimin flashes That Smile at Jeongguk. “You?”

 

“Fine,” Jeongguk says, really really not intending to mimic Taehyung at all. Taehyung frowns at him anyway like the imitation is a personal affront.

 

“I’ll set up!” Hoseok says. “The card table is in the back closet.”

 

“So you really didn’t need me to bring a card table,” Jeongguk grumbles.

 

Hoseok just laughs.

 

“Want help carrying it, hyung?” Jimin asks, standing to follow Hoseok down the hall.

 

“JK, Taehyung-ah, will you guys go get the rest of the beer from the fridge?” Seokjin asks, pulling himself to his feet and giggling as he sways. Yoongi puts a hand on his hip to steady him.

 

Jeongguk shoots a look at Taehyung, but Taehyung is scooping a recently reappeared Tata into his arms and making a cute face at the daemon—not that Taehyung can possibly make an uncute face, because Jeongguk has been observing him all night and not one of Taehyung’s expressions has been less than fucking beautiful, dammit. Jeongguk hates him.

 

“Guk,” Yoongi snaps.

 

Jeongguk snaps his gaze away from Taehyung and Tata. “Fine. Cooky, where are you?”

 

Cooky comes running out from behind the couch and flicks his ears at Jeongguk as he gives this wide, dizzy-drunk stumble. Jeongguk kneels down to catch him, and he can feel the way Cooky is radiating a sort of shaky, restless energy that sets Jeongguk’s teeth on edge.

 

“What’s wrong?” Jeongguk asks, just a whisper in Cooky’s ear.

 

Cooky shakes his head. “Nothing. It’s fine.”

 

Jeongguk furrows his brow. “Cooky? What the hell, you never hide shit from me.”

 

Cooky shakes his head. “Don’t worry, Gukkie. Not hiding stuff.”

 

Jeongguk bites his lip and strokes in between Cooky’s ears. “You sure? You’re really okay?”

 

Cooky nods and refuses to say anything else.

 

“Come on,” Taehyung says, Tata clinging to his head as he perches on Taehyung’s shoulder and emits random beeps.

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, following Taehyung into the kitchen. Cooky hops along behind him.

 

“Is the beer in the fridge?” Taehyung asks once they’re alone.

 

“Where else would it be?” Jeongguk snaps, and honestly he’s not even sure why he’s being so rude anymore, just that Cooky is acting weird and Jeongguk is pretty sure it’s somehow Taehyung or Tata’s fault. Both, because technically Taehyung and Tata are the same thing.

 

“How many should we bring?” Taehyung asks as he opens the fridge and peers inside.

 

“Haven’t you ever played Rage Cage before?” Jeongguk asks.

 

Taehyung shakes his head. “No. I don’t usually play drinking games. I don’t even know what Rage Cage is.”

 

“Like beer pong but no teams and faster,” Jeongguk says.

 

“I hate beer pong. I only play drinking games that make people reveal personal secrets,” Taehyung says, and it seems like the kind of thing that could be flirty if he didn’t just sound tired and drunk and resigned.

 

Jeongguk snorts. “Well, you’re not gonna get me to play any of those.”

 

Taehyung nods like he’d expected this response. Tata beeps and makes these little trance-techno-y vibrations, and Taehyung giggles at his daemon, a boxy grin stretching his mouth with obvious joy. Jeongguk watches and feels his neck go hot at the sound of Taehyung’s obvious delight.

 

“Grab like five,” Jeongguk instructs, turning away from Taehyung to search out more cups. “If there’s a six-pack in there, just grab that and we’ll just all be fucking trashed. I’ve got the cups.”

 

Jeongguk catches Taehyung’s frown from the corner of his eye as he rifles through the cupboard.

 

“How drunk is this game going to get me?” Taehyung asks.

 

Jeongguk grabs the cups and turns to look at Taehyung and Tata. “I don’t know,” he says, “Depends on how bad you are at bouncing a ball into a cup.”

 

Taehyung winces. “Probably pretty bad. Now stop being civil to me; I’m angry at you and Tata is still sad.”

 

Tata lets out an animated series of clicks and melodic tones that sounds pretty happy and unruffled to Jeongguk, but whatever. Obviously Taehyung is the only one who can understand his weird heart-headed daemon.

 

When Jeongguk and Taehyung get back to the living room, the table is set up and Hoseok and Jimin are bouncing ping pong balls between them, laughing and striking flirty poses and being super fucking annoying and super fucking cute.

 

“Cups?” Yoongi says. Jeongguk tosses them over and Shooky appears out of nowhere to snatch them up before Yoongi can. Yoongi scoffs and shoves at Shooky, and Shooky cackles and starts setting up the cups.

 

“Hey, look! Mang is teaching Chimmy a new choreography!” Hoseok shouts, and Jimin darts around the table to watch, leaning up against Hoseok as he does it. Hoseok puts an arm around Jimin’s waist to steady him, and Jimin giggles and gets closer.

 

“Pour the beer into the cups,” Jeongguk says to Taehyung, just to give both of them something to do that’s not watching Hoseok and Jimin being all obnoxious like this.

 

“Well since you said please,” Taehyung says. “Oh, wait.”

 

Jeongguk holds eye contact. “Please,” he grits out, practically a growl.

 

Taehyung rolls his eyes and starts to pour.

 

“You’re spilling,” Jeongguk says.

 

“It’s a drinking game and we’re already drunk,” Taehyung bites back, teeth clenched around the syllables. “We’re gonna spill everywhere anyways.”

 

“Lightweight,” Jeongguk scoffs.

 

“Fratty muscle bro,” Taehyung mutters. “Just because some of us aren’t out partying every weekend and making poor, unsafe decisions we won’t even remember the next day—”

 

“You don’t even know me—”

 

“I took one look at you and knew you were gonna be an asshole—”

 

Fuck you,” Jeongguk says, blood flaring hot as he points a finger in the air, jabs it at Taehyung. He probably looks ridiculous, but he’s drunk and mad, so he doesn’t care, and Taehyung is also drunk and mad, so he doesn’t either.

 

“Oh, sorry,” Taehyung hisses, “I don’t go for the bulky, meathead types.”

 

Aaaand I think that’s enough,” Seokjin says, stepping in with Koya in his arms and RJ clinging to his feet. “Be civil or I’m kicking you out.”

 

“I’d be civil if he weren’t such a dick,” Taehyung mutters.

 

Jeongguk crosses his arms. “You started it.”

 

“I did not—

 

“Can we play?” Yoongi roars. Shooky is standing on his shoulder looking pretty threatening for a sentient cinnamon cookie.

 

“Yeah, fine. I’m not standing by him though,” Jeongguk mutters, taking a spot across the table from Taehyung and glaring hard.

 

Taehyung rolls his eyes and stands between Jimin and Seokjin, and Hoseok comes up by Jimin (obviously). Namjoon and Yoongi go to the other side.

 

“Jeongguk, start,” Yoongi says. “You too, Taehyung. Since you’re across from each other.”

 

“I don’t know how to play,” Taehyung spits.

 

Hoseok explains. “Drink, bounce the ball in the cup, pass. If the other ball overtakes you, you have to stack the cups and drink a new cup and then keep playing. Got it?”

 

“Got it,” Taehyung says.

 

Fuck, just start,” Yoongi gripes.

 

“Fine,” Jeongguk says.

 

“Fine,” Taehyung echoes.

 

“On your marks, get set, go!” Seokjin chants.

 

Jeongguk smirks, chugs the beer in his cup, and bounces the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rage Cage turns out to be a terrible idea for everyone except Jeongguk (because he has a lot of practice and is fiercely competitive) and Taehyung (who is obviously experiencing some kind of crazy beginner’s luck). They only make it through two rounds before Hoseok is on the floor, Jimin crouched next to him cooing drunkenly in his ear, while Yoongi and Namjoon and Seokjin attempt to start an orgy on the couch.

 

“Come on, Hoseokie-hyung,” Jimin slurs, “C’mon, come—bed.”

 

“Too drunk, babe,” Hoseok slurs back, “Too—too gonna—need to be sober. ‘Fore I take you to bed. ‘Fore you let me—lemme take you to my bed but I want to, ugh. Sober though.”

 

Jimin and Hoseok stand up. Jimin is trashed, and he falls over, and Hoseok falls too. Mang and Chimmy stumble around by Jimin’s head, and then they just flop over onto the floor by the armchair and pass the fuck out.

 

“You’re the best, Hoseokie-hyung,” Jimin chants, “You’re the best, you’re the sweetest.

 

“Sleep in my bed,” Hoseok says. “I’ll—couch, I’ll sleep here, you can—take my room, you’ll sleep better.”

 

“Yeah, ‘kay Seokseok-hyung. Hoseokie. Seok-hyung, hyung, see you—” Jimin hiccups, “—see you soon. Come in as soon as you’re sober and okay.”

 

They stand up and Hoseok shows Jimin to his room, and then Hoseok comes back and falls onto one of the couches. On the other, Yoongi and Seokjin and Namjoon have stopped making out in favor of moaning about how drunk and sick they feel.

 

“Fuck, I give up, I hate everything and I hope you barf with me, Namjoon,” Yoongi says, and he stumbles off towards Namjoon’s master bedroom. Seokjin and Namjoon are hot on his heels, and their daemons follow in this adorable little parade of hand-holding, and then Namjoon’s door slams and Jeongguk can faintly hear the sound of retching. He winces in sympathy.

 

“I’m leaving,” Taehyung announces.

 

Jeongguk blinks. He’s not that drunk anymore, really; it’s been about a half hour since he last had a drink, and they had been snacking on weird Japanese candies during the game of Rage Cage, so there’s at least something in his stomach. Jeongguk looks at his watch. “It’s 11:30,” he says, staring at Taehyung. “You’ll miss the last train even if you leave right now.” He says it harshly, like it’s not the sort of concern-blanketed advice it most definitely is.

 

Taehyung shrugs, turning to look for Tata. “I’ll walk. It’s not that far.”

 

“Where do you live?”

 

“SNU. In the dorms.”

 

“That’s where I live. It’s far,” Jeongguk says.

 

Taehyung shrugs. “It’s fine. I’m leaving. Where is Tata?”

 

Jeongguk glances around the room. No sign of a red heart-shaped head, no sign of blue and yellow pajamas.

 

Also, no sign of Cooky.

 

“Yeah, wait,” Jeongguk says, “Where’s my daemon? Cooky? You around?” No answer. It’s kind of distressing, all of a sudden, even if Namjoon and Hoseok’s apartment isn’t unsafe for daemons or anything. It’s weird that Cooky is off and alone, and that Jeongguk is alone, too.

 

Taehyung darts around the room, checking behind the couches and under the table in obvious drunk distress. “Tata?” He calls, quietly, like he’s trying not to wake Hoseok on the couch.

 

“Cooky, where are you?” Jeongguk calls into the kitchen. He goes in to check around the corner of the fridge, in a couple of cabinets (although Cooky isn’t the type to go hide himself away in a dark corner, unlike some daemons Jeongguk knows (Shooky)). Taehyung appears over his shoulder, and Jeongguk starts at the sudden intrusion. “Fuck, back up a step,” he snaps, meaner than he really intends to be.

 

Taehyung moves back and shivers, but not like he’s physically cold. Just like he’s worried, and uncomfortable, and maybe just a little bit Not Okay. “Did you find them?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk says, “Why would they even be together? Tata is probably in the bathroom mixing shampoo and body wash to see if it makes better bubbles than either liquid on its own, and Cooky is probably asleep under Hoseok’s bed or something. Relax. It’s not like they can get out or anything.”

 

Taehyung wraps his arms around himself like he’s about to melt into the floor and has to hold himself into the correct shape if he wants to stay a person. “Tata could,” he whispers, biting his lip and looking at the floor. “Tata has arms. He’s super curious. He—he could. Like, open a window and try to jump.”

 

Something about the way Taehyung says it makes Jeongguk wonder if that’s happened before.

 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Don’t worry. Tata doesn’t have thumbs.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes flick up to Jeongguk’s and they’re wide, upset, bright blue in the kitchen light. “Not usually,” he says. “He doesn’t usually have thumbs. But he can.”

 

What the fuck? Jeongguk thinks.

 

“What the fuck?” Jeongguk says.

 

Taehyung’s expression flashes to resigned hurt, like he had expected the verbal slap and still hadn’t been quite prepared to receive it. “Come on,” he says, “Let’s just check the bathroom.”

 

Tata and Cooky are not in the bathroom. Tata and Cooky are not in the laundry room, or under the kitchen table, or in any of the cubbies in the shoe rack.

 

“Fuck, where the—okay, they’ve gotta be in either Namjoon or Hoseok’s room,” Jeongguk says, annoyed because he really doesn’t want to go disturbing the people in either room.

 

Taehyung shakes his head, his pink hair shifting silky and shiny around his ears. “Wait. We didn’t check the back closet where they kept the card table. It probably has a bunch of blankets or towels, yeah?”

 

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah, but why does that matter?”

 

“Tata likes soft things,” Taehyung murmurs, voice so low and sad it makes Jeongguk’s chest ache.

 

On second thought, that’s probably just because of Cooky’s extended absence.

 

“They can’t get into the closet,” Jeongguk says even as he follows Taehyung down the hall towards the door. “The door is closed. Even if Tata can have thumbs, he’s not tall enough to open it, and neither is Cooky.”

 

Taehyung’s arms are still wrapped around his sides, his palms and long fingers pressed around his waist, flat and golden and maybe trembling, or maybe not. “Tata can be tall enough,” he says.

 

What the fuck? Jeongguk thinks.

 

What the fuck? Jeongguk mouths at the back of Taehyung’s head. He doesn’t say it out loud because they’re too close to Namjoon’s room now, and he doesn’t want to disturb Namjoon and Seokjin and Yoongi.

 

Not because he doesn’t want to upset Taehyung more. Jeongguk does not care about Taehyung’s upsetness level.

 

Taehyung steps to the side to give Jeongguk room to stand with him in front of the closet door. It’s dark in the hallway with only the light over their heads to give them any illumination, and Taehyung reaches out with a tentative hand to twist the handle, pulling the closet door out towards them in a slow motion like he’s afraid the door will creak.

 

A strip of light from the hall falls onto the floor of the closet, and Jeongguk’s breath leaves him all in a rush as he sees it:

 

Tata and Cooky are burrowed in a nest of blankets, nuzzling close and protective and soft. Cooky is holding Tata against him, and Tata is sort of electrically purring, and together they look like the most adorable bundle of contentment and peace that Jeongguk has ever seen, maybe.

 

So. Yeah. All night while Taehyung and Jeongguk have been at each other’s throats and despising each other, their daemons have apparently been in a closet blanket nest snuggling together while they sleep.

 

Fuck.

 

Fuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An interlude on daemons:

 

When children are born, their daemons are amorphous little blobs of light that can talk and float around and don’t look like much of anything. When a child turns five, the child is allowed to give the daemon a name. This is why most daemons end up with names like Snowflake, or Princess Aurora, or Captain T. Rex, or you know. Cooky. Or Tata.

 

Sometime between the ages of 13 and 18, daemons choose shapes and sometimes genders.

 

(Sometimes. Sometimes they don’t like gender.)

 

(But they always choose shapes. And always by the time you turn 18.)

 

When a daemon chooses its shape, it settles into something familiar, real, something the child likes but something that reflects the child, too. This is why most daemons are animals, and why some end up like Shooky: almost cartoonish, not quite an animal but still identifiable, because people’s souls are made up of things they know. Things they are. Seokjin is a fluffy alpaca sweetheart. Yoongi is mysterious and mischievous and a total fucking softy on the inside, like a cinnamon cookie. Hoseok is wild and fast and concerned enough with impression management to pull a mask on over the beautiful face he has, which he thinks might look sort of like a horse’s face. Namjoon is contemplative, sleepy, koala-sappy and nurturing. Jimin is hard-working and determined and kind and loyal like a dog. Jeongguk himself is a scared, sprinting bunny, fluffy pink but also muscular and lean and loping.

 

Taehyung is—

 

Tata is—

 

(??)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as Taehyung realizes what’s going on in the closet, he lets out a strangled cry and falls to his knees in front of the blanket bundle, reaching out to rip Tata from Cooky’s hold, clearly horrified. But—

 

“Tata!” Taehyung barks, “Get away from him!”

 

—Taehyung can’t touch Tata without his hands hitting Cooky. Which. Fuck no, Jeongguk prays, and apparently Taehyung is at least sane enough not to commit that sort of violation, to touch Cooky without permission. Taehyung’s hands hover above the tangle of limbs in the nest, unable to do anything to help the situation, and Jeongguk’s heart is pounding in his throat but the relief of Taehyung not touching Cooky is sweet, sticky syrup in his veins.

 

Jeongguk joins Taehyung on his knees and stares at the daemons, equally unable to reach into the nest and get their daemons apart.

 

“Wake up,” Taehyung moans, swaying kind of tipsy and upset as he pokes one finger at an exposed bit of Tata’s head, somewhere that doesn’t risk Taehyung’s skin hitting Cooky. Tata coos sleepy little beeps and boops and vvzzz-s and vuwaaaa-s, and finally he sits up enough that Taehyung can snatch him away from a yawning Cooky. He does it fast and then cuddles Tata to his chest, petting him over like he’s brushing the remnants of Cooky’s touch off of Tata’s body. Like Cooky’s touch might have burned the little creature.

 

Jeongguk reaches into the blankets and scoops up Cooky, who blinks and looks very confused and somewhat ashamed.

 

Taehyung and Jeongguk stand up. Taehyung holds Tata and Jeongguk holds Cooky and they glare at each other, arms shielding their daemons.

 

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung snaps, angry and terrified, “Please inform your daemon that if he comes within ten feet of my Tata again, I will grab him by the neck and throw him, social protocol be damned.”

 

Jeongguk balks. “What—what the fuck, Taehyung, that’s fucking rude, and it wasn’t Cooky’s fault. Tata is the crazy one, all super curious like you said. Probably wanted to go explore the closet and ended up tricking Cooky into cuddling because Cooky just happens to love blanket nests,” Jeongguk shouts, aware that—yeah, okay, shouting vitriol about his pink bunny daemon loving blanket nests isn’t all that threatening, or that effective.

 

Taehyung scowls. “Fuck you; it wasn’t Tata’s fault. Tata was probably just exploring and got tired and went to sleep in the blankets because he does that. It was your bunny who was holding Tata all close; let’s not pretend otherwise—Cooky probably came in and joined Tata’s nest without getting consent—

 

What the fuck, do you actually think Cooky—or I, for that matter—would ever just forcibly touch someone without permission when—”

 

“I think it’s just very suspicious that Tata was being held—”

 

“I’m not a goddamn—I’m absolutely not someone who would ever assume consent or push myself on someone and Cooky would never—

 

“How am I supposed to know that when—”

 

A cough from behind Namjoon’s door. Taehyung and Jeongguk freeze, and then they resume the fight in whispers:

 

Fuck you and your stupid heart-head demon—

 

I should fucking pick YOU up and throw YOU—

 

—and it’s not, hey, hold on, you could NOT, you’re a goddamn fucking TWIG—

 

—and if your soul weren’t so obviously—no I could totally throw you—

 

—twiggy low-voiced—

 

“TATA!” Taehyung shouts, alarmed.

 

Jeongguk halts.

 

Tata has squirmed out of Taehyung’s arms and is on the floor with Cooky, beeping-booping-vvzzzing-nuwaaaaing all sweet and flirtatious (?????) and thrilled.

 

Cooky is rolling his eyes and humming all cute and smiling (well, as much as a bunny can smile) and nuzzling his nose at Tata’s shoulder.

 

Tata hugs Cooky, and Cooky whispers something at the side of Tata’s neck, too soft even for Jeongguk to hear.

 

“What the fuck,” Taehyung says.

 

Jeongguk is floored. “Yeah. I don’t. What the fuck.”

 

“They’re like—”

 

“Yeah.”

 

A lingering silence.

 

Taehyung inhales. “Wanna get super trashed with me right immediately now as soon as we can?”

 

Jeongguk nods, already heading to the kitchen for shot glasses. “I know where Hobi-hyung keeps the hard stuff.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s 2:00 a.m. and Jeongguk is fucking smashed. Like, Falling Down Slurring Speech Giggling Helpless Actually Drunk, like beyond Falling Down Slurring Speech Giggling Helpless Actually Drunk but not to the point of feeling sick, not yet. No, Jeongguk is just really really fucking trashed, and Taehyung is next to him on the floor leaning up against the couch, equally drunk and laughing hysterically at nothing, the living room deserted after Hoseok had woken up at 12:15 because Jeongguk and Taehyung were shouting the words to—

 

“Is that ‘Call Me Maybe’? It’s literally 1:00 a.m. and you guys hate each other, what the hell even—is that my vodka? You know what, whatever, I’m going to sleep in the bathtub. Mang, where—yeah, come on, bathtub. Carry this blanket for me, Mang-ie. Thanks.”

 

—So now it’s 2:00 a.m. and Jeongguk is drunk and leaning up against Taehyung, both of them giggling and touchy the way alcohol gets Jeongguk every time, all sleepy presses of hands on legs, hands on hips, hands on hands. Sleepy and giggly and touchy and needy and clingy.

 

Taehyung is apparently all these things when he’s drunk, too.

 

“Holy shit,” Jeongguk slurs after the giggling just gets confusing, because—actually why, why the fuck were they giggling? “Holy shit, Tae, I’m so so drunk.”

 

Taehyung giggles and his eyelashes flutter and he looks prettier somehow than he has all night. “Same, saaaame. Where’s…where’s Tata?” He slurs, hiccupping at the end.

 

Jeongguk snickers. “Where’s Cooky?” He enunciates, looking around and oh, his head spins.

 

“Tata,” Taehyung calls, leaning to the side until he falls to the floor, legs still stretched out next to Jeongguk’s but his head and shoulders all tumbled out across the carpet. “Tata! C’mere! Wanna—wanna go to the convenience store.”

 

“Oh, fuck yeah,” Jeongguk breathes, tipping over to rest his head on Taehyung’s hip. “Wanna get fried chicken. Wanna get more soju. You have the best ideas, Tae,” he says, letting one hand trace the exposed skin where Taehyung’s shirt has pulled itself out of where it had been tucked into his waistband.

 

“Want those—those, those, those hangover drinks,” Taehyung says. “Gonna be—we’re gonna be fucked. We’re already so fucked.”

 

Jeongguk hiccups and the motion jolts his head into Taehyung’s stomach sort of. “So, so fucked, Taetae. Tata. Tae-ta. Tatatatata why’d you name your daemon your actual name?”

 

“’s not my name, name’s not Tata, it’s Tae. Kim Taehyung, I’m Taehyung, Tae. Why’s yours Cooky?”

 

“I was five,” Jeongguk says. “I picked Cooky.”

 

“Come on, convenience store,” Taehyung groans back in the same petulant tone.

 

“’Kay,” Jeongguk mumbles. “’Kay, Tae, c’mon, let’s go. Gotta—stand up.”

 

They do, somehow. Tata and Cooky come out from behind the couch with a drunken beeping and a sleepy grumble respectively, and all four of them parade out the door, down the hall, into the elevator, out of the building. The night air is cool enough to nip some clarity into Jeongguk’s head, just a little, just enough so he doesn’t feel disoriented-bordering-sick as they make the walk to 7-Eleven. Tata is rambunctious the whole way, darting up into raised flowerbeds and chirping computer noises into the night. Cooky clutches Jeongguk’s leg and lets himself be dragged along, pliant and silent and clearly tired. It’s been a long day.

 

7-Eleven is deserted when they push their way inside, and Taehyung darts straight for the hangover cure section while Tata just—disappears. Jeongguk is getting used to that, slowly, the fact that yes, Tata is, in fact, Super Curious, and yes, Tata will, in fact, disappear at any given opportunity.

 

“Which one?” Jeongguk asks as he approaches Taehyung at the hangover cure shelf. “Too late for the turmeric. You have to take those before you drink.”

 

Taehyung nods. “Vitamin C boost then. The lemon ones that taste really good, in the green glass bottle with the yellow top.”

 

They scan the mini cooling-shelf for the right one, and both of them see it at the same time, two rows of green glass bottles with yellow tops.

 

“This one looks normal,” Jeongguk says, reading the labels on the bottles. “Why does this other one say ‘Moisture’ and just…that’s it. It’s the exact same but the bottom of the label here says ‘Moisture’.”

 

Taehyung stares at the bottles. “What the FUCK is the difference,” he yells, kind of loud for a deserted convenience store.

 

“Wow,” Jeongguk says, blinking at Taehyung with wide, impressed eyes.

 

Taehyung blinks back. “That was aggressive,” he says, like he’s not talking about his own outburst.

 

“Yes, it was,” Jeongguk agrees.

 

Taehyung keeps staring into Jeongguk’s eyes, drunk and serious. “But actually though. What—does it mean it’s more hydrating? In which case, why even make the original then? Why not only make the superiorly hydrating one?”

 

“Maybe Moisture is just, like, wetter in your mouth.”

 

Taehyung splutters, dramatic and distressed. “They’re both liquids! There is no such thing as one liquid being wetter in your mouth than another!”

 

“I mean, like, it fights cottonmouth.”

 

“It’s not a product for smoking weed—”

 

“Look, you get regular and I’ll get Moisture and we’ll taste them and see,” Jeongguk offers.

 

Taehyung looks skeptical. “What if Moisture tastes bad. What if it really is wetter in your mouth and it tastes bad?”

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I’ll drink the Moisture. You just buy regular and if you like Moisture better, I’ll swap you.”

 

Taehyung blinks, over-serious and wild. “Okay,” he nods, “That’s very generous and-or considerate of you. Two things. Two like two and then parenthesis and the numeral version of two and then a closing parenthesis. Does anyone know why they do that ever? Like I can’t read the word version of ‘two’ but I apparently can read all the other words around it and also I can read the numeral version? Why do they do that? Two, two-in-parenthesis. Generous and-or considerate.”

 

Jeongguk is just sober enough to realize Taehyung is gone. He can’t help the grin that tugs up the edges of his lips, unbidden. Taehyung sways, looking at Jeongguk Very Serious, and Jeongguk lifts his hands to rest on Taehyung’s shoulders and steer him around to the back of the store. “Come on,” Jeongguk says, “Let’s get some water too.

 

In the end, the Moisture hangover drink turns out to taste the same as the original but more fake-sugar-y and kind of blech (Taehyung’s description, followed by Tata’s affirmative beep even though Tata hadn’t even tasted it). They stand in front of the 7-Eleven and Jeongguk drinks the Moisture while Taehyung chugs the regular, rambling off the whole time about some article he recently read about why some people just don’t really like music and how absolutely tragic and sad that is, that some people hear sounds and don’t, like, want to cry with how beautiful they are sometimes, right Gukkie? That’s really really sad, like sadder than people who genetically don’t like cilantro because they have the gene that makes it taste like soap, like that’s sad but not liking music is so much worse, don’t you think, Gukkie? Don’t you think?

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says back, running a hand through Taehyung’s bangs to calm his distress. “Yeah, but it’s okay, I’m not one of those people.”

 

“I’m not either,” Taehyung breathes, closing his eyes and relaxing into Jeongguk’s touch.

 

Some rowdy guys come up and stand too close, laughing and shoving each other and smoking.

 

Taehyung goes almost immediately green. “Ugh, I hate smoking,” Taehyung mumbles, chugging the water. Too much, probably, but Jeongguk is busy swallowing Moisture to chide him.

 

“You’re standing closer to them,” Jeongguk says. “I’ll switch you sides.”

 

Taehyung shakes his head. “That’s just literally not how air works. Ugh, I hate—it gives me a headache, makes me—fuck—”

 

Taehyung’s eyes go wide and he stumbles around the side of the building to puke. Jeongguk and Cooky and Tata follow, and Jeongguk rubs Taehyung’s back because he’s not a total dickhead and Taehyung is gorgeous and also, completely against his own will, Jeongguk has kind of maybe a little bit started to like him.

 

Shut up.

 

“Fuck,” Taehyung gasps when he’s done throwing up soju and beer and vodka and water and hangover drink and whatever he’d been snacking on throughout the night. He wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and clutches his head, and Jeongguk helps tilt him upright, lets Taehyung curl into his chest and rest for a minute, just breathing. Taehyung’s forehead is all sweaty from the puking, and he’s shaking a little, and Jeongguk strokes the back of his neck in the best gesture of comfort he can offer when he himself is also really fucking drunk.

 

“Fuck, it was the water,” Taehyung mumbles. “It’s always the water. Makes you too full. I shoulda—shouldn’t’ve dranked it so fast. Drunk. Dranken. Drinked.”

 

Jeongguk giggles even though he’s a little green himself after watching Taehyung throw up. “Feel better now? Want me to go get you something greasy to soak up the rest of the alcohol? Might help.”

 

Taehyung looks up at Jeongguk with wide, watery eyes. “Would you?” At their feet, Tata makes pleading eyes up at Jeongguk and does a synth-y glissando-y sound like he’s begging for something.

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk says, heart rising like a balloon into his throat. “Yeah, what do you want?”

 

“Fried chicken,” Taehyung requests, slumping against the wall. “Not the spicy kind. Just, like, the regular. And another hangover drink. Not Moisture. I puked the other one up,” he adds needlessly.

 

Jeongguk bites back a smile. “I’ll get more water, too,” he promises, heading back into the store. It’s only as he leaves with all the requested items plus a couple plain rice kimbap that he realizes Cooky isn’t with him. When he comes back around the corner to Taehyung and Tata, Cooky is with them, curled at Tata’s feet, careful not to touch Taehyung.

 

Jeongguk is unbothered. Kind of glad Cooky stayed to keep an eye on Tata and Taehyung, honestly. So. That’s something.

 

Taehyung accepts Jeongguk’s offerings with a thank you that consists of ducking forward and bumping his forehead into Jeongguk’s shoulder, smiling as he whispers, “Thanks.”

 

Jeongguk’s stomach flips over in a good way, not a too-drunk way.

 

Taehyung eats the chicken, offering pieces to Jeongguk in between every one of his own careful bites, and Jeongguk gladly accepts a few and then lets Taehyung have the rest once it’s clear Taehyung is enjoying it a lot more than Jeongguk’s acid stomach is. They split the water and Taehyung sips the hangover drink slowly this time, and by the end of all that, Taehyung looks better. Better even than Jeongguk feels, honestly.

 

“Come on,” Taehyung says when they’ve thrown all their trash away in the receptacle inside the store. “Let’s go back to Namjoon’s.” Taehyung offers his arm when Jeongguk sways, everything spinning. “Come on, you’re okay. Should’ve puked like me.”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk pants, “Shoulda.”

 

They make it back to Namjoon’s and Taehyung fishes the keys out of Jeongguk’s pocket, opens the door. He slips out of his Doc Martens while Jeongguk fights his way out of the tangled laces that restrict his Nikes, and then Taehyung pulls out the folding mattress from the couch and leads Jeongguk over to get under the blankets.

 

“Here,” Taehyung says, “Go to sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning. Maybe the late afternoon.”

 

“Maybe not until tomorrow evening,” Jeongguk groans. Not like it will be the first time he’s been that hungover. He can deal. “Where’re you gonna sleep?”

 

Taehyung runs a hand through Jeongguk’s hair, perching on the edge of the foldout mattress. “I’ll find somewhere,” he murmurs, glancing over at the other, smaller couch.

 

“No,” Jeongguk protests, curling around his churning stomach. Somewhere at his feet, Cooky whimpers. “Stay here. Gonna—feel sick. Gonna puke.”

 

“I’ll get a trash can,” Taehyung says, disappearing to the kitchen for a minute before he returns with a glass of water and a bottle of painkillers, and also the promised trash can.

 

“Stay here,” Jeongguk mumbles again, gratified when Taehyung lies down next to him.

 

The last thing Jeongguk remembers is a strange, cool touch across the back of his neck, a comforting electrical hum in his ear, and Taehyung’s gasp all breathy and shocked as he says, “Tata, what—”

 

Jeongguk falls asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jeongguk wakes up, he makes a beeline for the sink because it’s closer than the toilet, and then he pukes. A lot.

 

“I had a trash can for you,” Taehyung says from behind him, but he rubs Jeongguk’s back all the same. There’s a comforting weight at Jeongguk’s right foot, the ever-present Cooky—well, ever-present except last night during the closet incident, traitor, although he seems less of a traitor now because Taehyung is rubbing Jeongguk’s back like a very kind, very gorgeous new friend (and possible boyfriend, Jeongguk’s actually-a-traitor heart is whispering).

 

Jeongguk finishes puking and wipes his mouth. There’s some weird weight on his leg, and he looks down, and—holy shit, Tata is clinging to Jeongguk’s left thigh. Like, his arms and legs are wrapped around Jeongguk’s leg right above his knee, and Tata’s limbs have somehow formed into continuous bands like rings, which is—just, like, not physically possible and definitely a trick.

 

“Sorry,” Taehyung says, as he follows Jeongguk’s gaze to his own soul manifested as a heart-headed, R2D2-voiced little creature. “He kinda got like that last night and now he won’t let go. I could probably—could maybe get him off if I really yanked at him and yelled, but I didn’t wanna wake you up.”

 

Jeongguk blinks. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

 

Jeongguk throws up again. Taehyung rubs his back, and Tata hums around his leg. After that, Jeongguk chugs water and collapses back to sleep on the couch with Cooky at his feet. Taehyung and Tata curl around him all sweet and soft and cool, and Jeongguk revels in the feel of them against his hangover-fevered skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometime around 9:30 in the morning, Jeongguk wakes up again feeling marginally less bad.

 

“Fuck,” he groans, rolling over to find Taehyung in a little ball beside him, wide awake. Tata is squished in between them, and he vibrates and then brrrr-ups his way to consciousness against Jeongguk’s chest. Still, even once Tata is fully awake and blinking super curious eyes up at Jeongguk, the daemon doesn’t try to pull away from Jeongguk’s skin. There’s this whisper-silk, cool feeling tremble-fluttering over Jeongguk’s heart, the touch of another hitting directly against his soul, and Jeongguk looks down and realizes that Taehyung’s bare calf is pressed up against Cooky.

 

Taehyung follows Jeongguk’s eyes and yanks his leg away, blushing. “Oh. Sorry.”

 

The fluttery silk feeling snaps away instantaneously, and Jeongguk feels weirdly abandoned. “It’s okay,” he says, too hungover to really think about any of it. “You look exhausted. Did you sleep?”

 

Taehyung yawns. His eyelids are red and swollen, and there are lilac circles to match his sweater spreading on the skin beneath his lower lash line. “Can never sleep when I’m drunk,” Taehyung says. “It was—even though I puked and ate the chicken, I just—I got a couple hours, maybe. Took a shower.”

 

Jeongguk wrinkles his nose. “Did you just put the same clothes back on?”

 

Taehyung chuckles, just once, and it looks like even that takes way too much effort. “Yeah. Had to.”

 

Jeongguk pushes himself up and it’s not great, but it’s bearable. “Hey, Tae, you wanna get some breakfast with me? There’s a place pretty close that has good egg sandwiches.”

 

Taehyung blinks, all slow and molasses-heavy. “Okay,” he says, pushing himself up to sit next to Jeongguk. He opens his arms and Tata climbs into the embrace, burying his head in Taehyung’s sweater, humming a noise that sounds sort of like a computer shutting down. “He’s really sleepy,” Taehyung murmurs.

 

Jeongguk nods, heart thumping at the sight of Taehyung snuggling his daemon. “Come on,” Jeongguk says. “I’ll grab Namjoon’s keys.”

 

They walk down to the coffee shop, and Jeongguk orders two bacon sandwiches with eggs and cheese and two iced coffees, one with cream per Taehyung’s request. Taehyung curls into one of the squishy couches at the edge of the room looking worn out and pretty, and Jeongguk’s heart aches for how little he looks, how deflated Tata seems as he curls into Cooky’s side, because, oh, of course, Cooky is sitting on the couch with them. Not with Jeongguk, because why would Jeongguk’s actual own soul be with him when it could be with Tae and Tata.

 

Why indeed, Jeongguk thinks, because honestly, he would rather be with Tae and Tata too.

 

“Here,” Jeongguk says as he approaches the couch, handing Taehyung his coffee and one of the plates with a steaming fresh sandwich.

 

Taehyung practically devours the thing with his eyes. “Fuck, thank you,” he says, diving in to take a bite of the sandwich. He chews and makes a face and breathes “hot hot hot” and chews more, smiling.

 

“Burn your tongue?” Jeongguk asks, smirking through his hungover fog.

 

Taehyung swallows. “Don’t even care,” he says, like it’s a reference to something. If it is, Jeongguk doesn’t know what, but he doesn’t mind not knowing. Taehyung looks pretty goddamn beautiful bare of last night’s makeup, hair still barely wet, devouring a bacon sandwich in a cozy café on a Saturday morning, hungover and happy. Jeongguk’s heart flutters like the silk-satin of earlier, when Cooky had touched Taehyung.

 

When Taehyung had touched Cooky; it wasn’t Cooky who did that, Jeongguk reminds himself. Tells himself.

 

(Kind of wonders, actually.)

 

Taehyung is blinking slow and drinking Jeongguk’s coffee (“Why’s it so bitter—oops, sorry, that was yours, ha ha, I’m so tired” plus the cutest frowny face) and devouring his sandwich, and Jeongguk’s anger from the previous night is gone like it never existed at all. Instead, his heart is pounding on affection, and Taehyung’s whole being is like this glorious fountain of light in front of him, and Jeongguk bites into his sandwich and wonders how he’d ever thought he could hate Taehyung or the super curious creature twisting his limbs around in time with the music playing quiet from the speakers in the ceiling, dancing all adorably as Cooky watches and taps his foot against Tata’s side.

 

“Fuck, I have ‘ZUTTER’ so stuck in my head right now,” Taehyung gripes as they’re finishing off the last bites of their meals. He halfheartedly raps the first bits of the hook, gets a little louder when G-Dragon’s part starts, laughs, makes blown-out-cheek fish faces at Tata. Jeongguk is more than smitten, more than a little bit crushing, kind of just—

 

Instantly in love.

 

“Hey, can I have the rest of your ketchup?” Taehyung asks. He still has a bite of his sandwich. Jeongguk’s is gone.

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk says, offering the plate.

 

Taehyung dips his last bite in the ketchup and shoves it in his mouth, laughing as he somehow gets ketchup splattered on the tabletop. “Wow, spill all over the table, great job, Tae. Spill all over the table, spill all over the table, yeah” he sing-raps in what is very, very tenuously the rhythm of “ZUTTER”. Then he giggles, waggles his eyebrows at Jeongguk. “Eh, do you wanna?

 

“Oh my god,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head even as he laughs, migrainey from the hangover but kind of way too smitten to tamp it down. “Oh my god, no, I don’t wanna. You are actually the most extra human being I have ever encountered, and I’m best friends with Jung Hoseok.”

 

Taehyung smiles. “I’m so tired,” he says, like this explains it. He leans over into Jeongguk’s side, snuggles them up against the corner of the couch as Tata and Cooky climb into their laps, completely regardless of whose daemon belongs to whom. As soon as Cooky presses his head to Taehyung’s hand, nudging him to ask for pets, Jeongguk gets that fluttery-satiny sensation from earlier, the shock of it heightening to gingersnap-spice as Taehyung acquiesces to Cooky’s request and scratches lightly between the rabbit’s ears.

 

“Fuck,” Jeongguk moans, hangover clearing a little—like, not really going away, but the ear scratches feel nice and they’re not even happening to Jeongguk’s actual body. He can feel the affection and devotion in them anyway, can feel Taehyung’s selfless desire to comfort Jeongguk and Jeongguk’s aching soul.

 

Taehyung notices the relief he’s causing. His eyes widen and he pauses in his motions, but Jeongguk whines and shakes his head and buries his face into Taehyung’s shoulder in clear entreaty for more, and Taehyung scratches more confidently at Cooky’s fur. It’s nice. Everything is nice, and Jeongguk relaxes into Taehyung’s side and lets himself comforted. “Fuck,” Jeongguk says. “Fuck, fuck.”

 

“Oh,” Taehyung says, lifting his hand away and eliciting a whine from Jeongguk. When Taehyung doesn’t immediately resume the scratching, Jeongguk lifts his head, and there’s an old lady smiling at them.

 

“You kids are wonderful,” she says, nodding at their unusual and obvious disregard for personal daemon space. “You must love each other very much to touch each other’s daemons like that. It’s a nice reminder of love, to see it like that.”

 

The lady’s own daemon, a pine marten, curls around her ankles, looking playful and intelligent.

 

“Your daemon is very pretty, ma’am,” Taehyung says in lieu of answering to the comment she’d made.

 

“He is indeed,” the woman says, a glint in her eyes as she smiles. “Come along,” she says to her daemon, and together they head out of the café.

 

“Sorry if that was weird,” Taehyung says once the lady is gone.

 

Jeongguk shakes his head, forcing himself to sit up finally. He’s all cloudy again now that Taehyung isn’t touching Cooky so intentionally. “It’s okay,” Jeongguk manages to say, “I don’t mind. Wasn’t weird.”

 

Taehyung nods. “God, I’m so sleepy.” He yawns. “Shoulda—shoulda had more ketchup. Wow, I just said ‘ketchup’ and I meant ‘coffee’. I’m a disaster.”

 

Jeongguk blinks. “Oh god, you did. You just said ‘ketchup’.”

 

“And I meant ‘coffee’,” Taehyung sighs. “Shoulda had more ket—coffee. Coffee. Yeah, obviously I really, really need more coffee.”

 

“I’ll get you a refill if you want.”

 

Taehyung chews his lip and doesn’t look at Jeongguk. “Nah. It’ll—I’ll get a stomachache if I drink more. Sadly.”

 

Taehyung gets shy then, and Tata gets weirdly robotic (well, more weirdly robotic than usual) and marches off under the couch, beeping and booping and vrooming the whole way. Taehyung sighs. “Hey, um. I um. I wanted to apologize. For being, like, aggressively rude to you last night.”

 

Cooky hops off Jeongguk’s lap to crawl under the couch with Tata, and Jeongguk furrows his brow. “What? No, Taehyung—Taehyung-ssi—it was my fault. I was the one who was rude first, and it was just because I was drunk and wasn’t thinking and was having a bad day but all of that is not an excuse. It was rude of me to say anything about Tata.”

 

Taehyung smiles, soft and sweet.

 

“Also,” Jeongguk continues, hoping the next part won’t be taken badly, like Jeongguk is patronizing when he really doesn’t mean to. “Tata is honestly really awesome.”

 

Taehyung’s smile goes wild and breathtaking then.

 

(Oh, Jeongguk thinks, honestly kind of dizzy. Oh, that’s what that looks like. Oh. Oh.)

 

“Really?” Taehyung asks, eager and bright. “You think so? I mean, I know so, he’s my daemon and whatever but—Tata’s amazing and I just—no one ever thinks—you think he’s awesome? Really?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, “I mean, I still don’t totally get how you understand what he’s saying or how he does the ring thing with, like, combining his arms and legs into continuous loops like that, but—that’s why he’s awesome. I’ve never seen a daemon like him.”

 

“I know,” Taehyung breathes, leaning forward like he’s confessing some terribly wonderful secret. “I know, he’s just—unlike anything. I felt so lucky when I finally got him, when he finally stopped being a blob and settled in with his heart-shaped head and his cute yellow mouth and his eyebrows, oh my god, I love his eyebrows. And I love how he talks, like—I don’t know how I understand it either, but I just do, and it’s amazing.”

 

Jeongguk’s grin is the most genuine it’s ever been during a hangover of this magnitude (which, to be fair, is kind of receding now that there’s food in his stomach). Taehyung’s enthusiasm is infectious, and Jeongguk basks in it like Taehyung is the sun. “Yeah,” Jeongguk says. “Tata is—wait, ‘finally’? How old were you when Tata settled?”

 

Taehyung bites his lip and looks down, hunching his shoulders. “Nearly 20,” he whispers, knees pressed together, ankles apart. He looks so small, so scared.

 

Jeongguk has never heard of anyone’s daemon settling past the age of 18. Has heard stories—rumors, really, which probably aren’t true but maybe, maybe—of daemons that never settle, of people going crazy because their daemons won’t stop being glowy blobs. “Oh,” Jeongguk says, reaching out a hand to rest against Taehyung’s bare wrist. It feels kind of like a dulled version of when Taehyung touches Cooky.

 

Taehyung swallows. “My parents took me to the doctor a bunch of times. To figure out what was wrong, why Tata wouldn’t—be something. Because he wouldn’t.”

 

Jeongguk can’t imagine the pain of that. Cooky had formed when Jeongguk was 15. Perfectly normal. “I’m sorry.”

 

Taehyung nods. “Yeah. It’s—I guess it’s not impossible for people’s daemons to wait until after they’re 18 to settle, but—18 is generally regarded as the upper limit for a reason,” Taehyung says. “Everyone is settled by then, but I just…wasn’t. It was—I’ve always loved him, even when he was a shimmery light blob, but it was—hard. For a couple years, there, when everyone—my family and parents and stuff—they were waiting and Tata was just…not settled. And then he did settle and he’s this.

 

Taehyung says it and it’s so harsh, an imitation of hurt-disgust-disappointment that undoubtedly came from people who were supposed to love Taehyung and Tata, people in Taehyung and Tata’s family.

 

“Oh, Taehyung,” Jeongguk breathes, “Oh, fucking—fuck, I’m a douchebag. I’m a huge fucking douchebag and I’m sorry and I didn’t mean to—oh my god, you should hate me. I wouldn’t ever want to make you feel bad about Tata, no, Tata is great.”

 

Tata’s long arms (too long, seriously, okay can he just make his arms literally any size he wants regardless of how conservation of mass works?) snake out from under the table and poke Jeongguk’s kneecaps twice, and then the arms slither back from whence they’d come. Cooky hops out from under the couch to blink up at Jeongguk, and then he hops back under to join his new best friend.

 

“It’s okay,” Taehyung says when the spectacle of Tata and Cooky is over, “You didn’t know.”

 

“Do people—are they—weird about him a lot?” Jeongguk asks.

 

Taehyung shrugs. “My parents still are a little. I mean, they’ve gotten used to him, but they still totally avoid talking about him or to him even though they’re not like that with my siblings’ daemons. My siblings and I were close when we were young, but their daemons settled early and they’re normal, it was—it was just mine. That’s part of why I moved away from Daegu for college, because it sucked to be around and have my daemon treated like a pesky fly that no one could get rid of. Plus, Tata is super curious, like I said. He was always getting into stuff, and that annoys people. Honestly, Jimin is the first person who’s been really nice and kind to Tata. Always feeds Tata brown sugar and apple slices, because those are Tata’s favorite.”

 

Jeongguk frowns. “Wait, Tata can eat? Cooky can’t eat. I’ve never met a daemon that could eat. That’s fucking awesome.”

 

Taehyung smiles. “Yep. Tata eats. Who the hell even knows what he does with the food once it’s inside of him though, honestly. I certainly don’t.”

 

“Maybe it’s how the extendable arms magic happens,” Jeongguk says.

 

Taehyung nods. “Maybe.” His grin is boxy and magical and stunning, and Jeongguk’s breath is gone.

 

“Hey, wanna go back to Namjoon’s and see if anyone is up?” Jeongguk asks then. “We could bring them sandwiches. I’m sure everyone needs it.”

 

Taehyung nods. “Sure. Let me get it though; you got mine earlier.”

 

Jeongguk scoffs as he stands. “Don’t be silly, Tae. I bought one sandwich and one coffee for you. You’ll have to buy five of each to get enough for them, which is way more expensive. We can split it.”

 

Taehyung purses his lips, indecisive. “Well, okay,” he says. “But let me buy three and you buy two, and then we’ll be even.”

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Yeah, all right, fine.” He holds out a hand and pulls Taehyung to his feet, gets a steadying hand on Taehyung’s hip when it looks like Taehyung’s going to drop back to the couch in exhaustion. “Hey,” Jeongguk says then, standing closer to Taehyung than is publicly appropriate and gripping tight at Taehyung’s skin. “Hey, is this—is this okay?” He asks, flexing his fingers around the crest of Taehyung’s hipbone.

 

Taehyung nods. “Yes,” he says.

 

“Okay,” Jeongguk nods. “Then I wanted to just say, um—I’m really, really sorry. Like, really-really.”

 

Taehyung blushes. “It’s okay. You’re forgiven. Really-really forgiven.”

 

They stare at each other for a minute, both blushing now, and then Jeongguk clears his throat. “Come on. Let’s go.”

 

They get the sandwiches and coffees, drag Tata and Cooky out from under the couch.

 

“Oh my god, would you guys let go of each other?” Taehyung gripes as Jeongguk attempts to extricate Cooky from the actual literal tangled rope-mess of Tata’s clingy extendable limbs.

 

Tata beeps and beeps and vibrates like crazy.

 

“Cooky,” Jeongguk says, exasperated. “Can’t you at least let go so we can get back to Joon-hyung’s?”

 

“Don’t wanna,” Cooky mumbles in his velvet-soft little voice.

 

Taehyung melts into Jeongguk’s side. “Fuck. That was the cutest thing,” he says, staring at Cooky. Tata hums, clearly agreeing with his human.

 

Jeongguk kisses Taehyung’s forehead then, not really thinking about it. Tata shudders hard and clings to Cooky harder, and Cooky whimpers, sweet and happy.

 

“Come on,” Jeongguk says, “I’ll carry the food and coffee. You carry those two.”

 

Taehyung scoops both daemons into his arms, and as soon as he’s touching Cooky, Jeongguk’s velvet-satin-fluttery-spiced-chai feeling comes back, so new and yet so immediately familiar, like having someone else touch Jeongguk’s daemon is something that he’s been living without forever and yet knows as intimately as he knows his daemon itself, and that’s—

 

Well. Whatever.

 

What matters is that Jeongguk is kind of reveling in the touch of Taehyung’s hands on his bunny-manifested soul, and now that Jeongguk knows the feeling, he wonders how he’ll ever live without it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Well, that was a lot,” Taehyung says as he and Jeongguk get ready to go back to campus together, heading for their separate dorms, obviously. Obviously. Jimin is staying with Hoseok because they’re, like, already kind of official and also now they’re sober which means they can share the bed. Yoongi and Namjoon and Seokjin had disappeared directly back to Namjoon’s room after accepting the offered coffee and egg sandwiches.

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head as Tata jump-ropes his own arms and Cooky laughs at him. Jeongguk grins. “I haven’t been that drunk in ages.”

 

Taehyung smiles and laces up his boots. They really do take kind of forever to deal with, but they look good, so Jeongguk understands Taehyung’s dedication. “Me neither,” Taehyung says. “You need to stop anywhere before we go? You wanna take the train, or split a cab?”

 

Jeongguk shrugs. “Either is fine. If you don’t wanna…if you wanna go home, like, separately, that’s okay too.”

 

Taehyung bites his lip. “Um, actually, it’s…I mean, it’s fine. Whatever you wanna do.”

 

Jeongguk groans. “No, Tae, don’t do that. Then we’ll never decide.”

 

“Fine,” Taehyung says, decisive. “Let’s just take the train. It’s not that far, really.”

 

It’s not. They take the train together in not-quite-awkward silence; the subway isn’t busy on a late Saturday morning, and everyone on the train is quiet, so Taehyung and Jeongguk stay quiet too. They get off at their stop and walk a ways together, exchanging idle comments about the weather and arguing a bit over Taehyung’s (beginner’s luck) skill at Rage Cage, and then they reach a fork in the path through campus and Taehyung stops.

 

“Um. We’re going this way,” Taehyung says, holding a squirming Tata and looking over his shoulder towards the dorm building directly across the quad from Jeongguk’s.

 

Jeongguk blinks. He doesn’t want Taehyung to go. “Oh. Yeah. Okay,” he says, instead of saying that. I don’t want you to go. I don’t want Tata to go. Cooky doesn’t either.

 

Taehyung nods. “So. Anyways. It was nice to meet you, Jeongguk-ssi.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Taehyung-hyungnim.”

 

Taehyung snorts. “You don’t have to call me that.”

 

Jeongguk smiles. “You don’t have to call me ‘ssi’.” At his feet, Cooky hops around and then darts to Taehyung and gives his legs a hug, and Taehyung smiles.

 

“Hey,” Jeongguk says in a burst of courage, “You want my number? So we can, like, get them together for a playdate?”

 

Taehyung giggles. “Yeah. They obviously like each other.”

 

Jeongguk nods. “God knows why. Cooky is way not as cool as Tata. Cooky, did you hear that? You’re lucky Tata is giving some silly fluffy bunny like you the time of day, you get that?”

 

Taehyung blinks at Jeongguk, eyes wide and knowing. “Jeongguk-ah,” he says, taking a step closer, careful not to jostle the still-clinging Cooky. “Jeongguk-ah, Cooky’s not lucky to have Tata hanging out with him. Tata is lucky to have someone like Cooky to, um. To like him.”

 

“Like him,” Jeongguk says, whispering now that they’re standing so close. There’s no one around; it’s not like campus is exactly bustling at 11:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. “Yeah,” Jeongguk agrees, blinking into Taehyung’s contact-gray eyes. “Cooky likes Tata very much. Like. Really likes him.”

 

“Really-really,” Taehyung agrees, leaning so close their foreheads are almost touching. It’s early autumn, and the leaves are yellow-red-orange against the bright blue sky, and the sunlight is falling through the air like gold dust swirling heaven around them, and the breeze is just light enough to tease Taehyung’s grapefruit hair into his eyes. Jeongguk is breathless.

 

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk whispers.

 

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung murmurs back, eyes dropping to Jeongguk’s lips for just a tiny split second, just long enough to give away what he wants. “Jeongguk.”

 

“Yes,” Jeongguk breathes, because they’re both thinking it, but there’s still something so hopelessly romantic about really saying it. About exhaling consent that’s enthusiastic and happy, enthralling in its plainness. How anyone could think real consent isn’t sexy and necessary and the most beautiful thing you can offer another person is beyond Jeongguk.

 

Yes,” breathes Taehyung, like he gets it too, the shattering vulnerability of that syllable. Its weighty clarity hangs like a glistening spider web between their lips in the cool, sunny fall morning, perfect and lovely and the most freely offered surrender.

 

Jeongguk takes the last step forward and connects their lips, the question asked and answered, silken ginger-spice pulsing over them as Jeongguk slips his tongue into Taehyung’s mouth. Taehyung lets Tata slip to the ground, and he clutches Jeongguk’s shoulders and kisses back, hard. Jeongguk’s arms snake around Taehyung’s waist, and he presses their bodies flush together, and then he lifts Taehyung up and spins him around, and the motion isn’t doing anything for his hungover head, but it’s doing something great for Jeongguk’s fluttering, shuddering heart.

 

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung gasps as they break apart, still hanging onto Jeongguk’s shoulders like he’ll fall if he lets go, and—oh, whoops, Jeongguk is leaning him back like some Disney princess or something, so actually, yeah, Taehyung will in fact fall if Jeongguk drops him.

 

“Sorry,” Jeongguk responds, straightening up so Taehyung can stand up on his own, except apparently he kind of can’t, because Taehyung’s knees are weak and he falls into Jeongguk’s frame with his head buried in Jeongguk’s throat, trembling and breathless.

 

“It’s—fine,” Taehyung gasps. “Sorry, I can’t—fuck, I must be super hungover or something.”

 

Jeongguk snorts. “Yeah, that’s gotta be it. Super hungover. Can’t even stand up.”

 

“Can’t, that’s true,” Taehyung says. “You’ll have to carry me back to my room, I’m too hungover.” He says the last word so sarcastically, so facetiously, that Jeongguk’s cheeks heat up a little.

 

“Fuck, you’re really fucking cute, Tae,” Jeongguk spills, burying his burning cheeks in Taehyung’s shoulder. Taehyung giggles and ducks himself further into Jeongguk’s embrace, and Jeongguk can feel the heat of Taehyung’s own cheeks against his collarbone, so at least they’re in the same boat.

 

“Wanna come back to my room and watch movies until Jiminie gets back?” Taehyung whispers, smiley and clutching Jeongguk.

 

Jeongguk bites his lip. “I have a single, if you’d rather go there.”

 

Taehyung stills.

 

“We don’t have to,” Jeongguk says, ready to offer an easy out. “We don’t have to—”

 

“Ugh, Jeongguk, no,” Taehyung teases, pulling away to meet Jeongguk’s eyes. “No, come on, let’s go to your room.”

 

“For movies,” Jeongguk whispers, blinking wide eyes at Taehyung.

 

“For movies,” Taehyung echoes, except his expression is just the slightest bit teasing and his eyes glint with mischief.

 

“Movies,” is apparently the only thing Jeongguk can say.

 

Tata springs (surprisingly high) to land on Jeongguk’s shoulder, wrapping his arms around Jeongguk’s head, and Cooky clutches at Taehyung’s calf just the way he normally clings to Jeongguk’s. Jeongguk’s heart trips over the fluttery silk of Cooky touching Taehyung, and he sort of wonders how Yoongi and Namjoon and Seokjin have never mentioned anything about that.

 

“Well?” Taehyung says after a few seconds of Jeongguk’s indecision. “Lead the way, Mr. What-the-fuck-is-that-why-does-it-talk-like-that-oh-wait-your-daemon-is-awesome.”

 

Jeongguk tips his head back and groans. “Ugh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I was drunk and angry, I was—fuck! I still need to send in that essay!”

 

Taehyung giggles and leaps forward, tugging at Jeongguk’s hand as they finally start towards Jeongguk’s dorm. “Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when we get there.”

 

“And then movies.”

 

“And then movies,” Taehyung affirms.

 

They go back to Jeongguk’s room and he submits the essay, and then Taehyung asks for more comfortable clothes to wear during the movie, and then they put on Netflix, and they don’t really pay any attention to the movie at all.

 

Because they’re talking.

 

Talking.

 

(And also sometimes maybe sort of kissing, but if that happens, no one can prove it. The only witnesses would be Tata and Cooky, but those two are exploring under the bed like usual anyways, so they wouldn’t even know either.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the story ends:

 

“Cooky, where are you—fuck, I hate living in the dorms,” Jeongguk mutters, cursing as he trips over a pile of laundry that he’d been meaning to get to yesterday and hadn’t because of homework.

 

(Okay, it was because he was at Taehyung’s, but that’s not really—whatever. Shut up.)

 

After another few seconds of struggle, Jeongguk gets the door open. Tata immediately zips through the door with a beep and a buzzy noise, and Taehyung blushes faintly, still kind of embarrassed about how Super Curious Tata is even after a month of Jeongguk knowing this.

 

“Hey,” Jeongguk says, opening the door wider and gesturing Taehyung in.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung says. “I brought fried chicken,” he says, holding up the box. Jeongguk takes it from him and sets it on his desk.

 

“I have soju if you want some,” Jeongguk says as Taehyung slips out of his Pumas.

 

Taehyung shakes his head, groaning. “Jiminie and I got kind of wine-drunk last night and I only just got over it. That’s why I was so bad at responding today. Was trying to sleep it off before I came over.”

 

Jeongguk smiles. “You’re cute when you’re hungover. It’s okay.”

 

Taehyung settles himself on the bed, finally looking comfortable in the room when Jeongguk joins him and threads their fingers together. Jeongguk raises Taehyung’s hand to his lips and presses a kiss there, all gentle and sweet. “Hey,” Jeongguk says.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung returns, smiling.

 

“You wanna eat the chicken first? Your stomach okay?” Jeongguk asks, pressing a hand to Taehyung’s forehead. Taehyung’s hair is brown now, and it sits dark and pretty against Jeongguk’s skin.

 

“I’m fine,” Taehyung says, looking up at the ceiling. “But actually—um, maybe we could wait on the chicken?”

 

“Why?” Jeongguk asks, “What did you want to do instead?”

 

Taehyung bites his lip, shifting against the mattress and finally lying down on his back, spread out beneath Jeongguk. “I don’t know,” he says, looking at Jeongguk’s lips. “We could just—hang out.”

 

“Hang out,” Jeongguk murmurs, leaning closer and biting his lip, hoping they’re all rosy and red for Taehyung’s appreciation.

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung says, and then he threads his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair and pulls Jeongguk closer, and Jeongguk shifts just a little. Taehyung closes his eyes. “Yes.”

 

“Yes,” Jeongguk echoes, just like every time they’ve done this thus far, and Taehyung is smiling as Jeongguk fits their lips together, careful and sweet and kind of painfully vanilla, because that’s what they like—making out like teenagers who don’t really know what to do with themselves, pausing to check in every step of the way, running hands along skin and occasionally discarding shirts, never pushing beyond that.

 

Tonight—

 

Tonight feels different.

 

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk breathes as he ghosts breath over Taehyung’s bobbing throat, as his hands run up Taehyung’s sides, press in at his ribs. “Taehyung, can I touch you?”

 

“Yes,” Taehyung says, “Please. Please, you can—can touch me.”

 

“Okay,” Jeongguk answers, tugging Taehyung out of his shirt, leaning down to run his mouth along Taehyung’s collarbone.

 

“Oh,” Taehyung gasps, “Can I touch you?”

 

Yes,” Jeongguk breathes, letting Taehyung pull his shirt over his head.

 

They stare at each other, breathing in tandem and smiling, eyes holding each other’s gaze for a few seconds before one of them drops their eyes to the other’s lips like they just can’t help it, and Jeongguk is powerless, and yeah—he’s really can’t. Help it, that is. Can’t help it, acting like this when he’s staring at a breathless Taehyung.

 

“Come on,” Taehyung says, eyes going a little desperate as Jeongguk blinks down at him. “Come on, touch me, Jeongguk. Wanna—wanna feel you.”

 

“How?” Jeongguk asks, pressing his hips down, cataloguing the way Taehyung’s hips jump up to meet them, head thrown back against Jeongguk’s pillows, breathing ragged and torn.

 

“This,” Taehyung says, coming back to himself enough to lace his fingers with Jeongguk’s. “However you want, just—wanna feel good.”

 

“Wanna make you feel good, Tae,” Jeongguk says, committing himself to this intention as he presses Taehyung to the sheets.

 

“Sure?” Taehyung asks, breathless.

 

“Yes,” Jeongguk breathes, sucking a hickey into Taehyung’s neck. “Yes, yes, yes.”

 

“Yes,” Taehyung says, “Me too. Yes.”

 

“Okay,” Jeongguk promises. “Just enjoy it. Don’t worry about anything, don’t worry about—maybe this is weird, but don’t worry about if you come. Just—there’s no pressure for anything. Just let me make you feel good, yeah?”

 

“Huh?” Taehyung gasps, already grinding into Jeongguk’s thigh. “No one’s ever—that’s, that’s really nice, Guk-ah—ah, ah.

 

“Well, it’s only fun if everyone is enjoying it,” Jeongguk says, “But you don’t have to come to be enjoying it. So just tell me if I can do something better, and I’ll check in, and whenever you want to stop, we stop. Even if you don’t come. Even if I don’t come. Just—it’s about being comfortable, and feeling good, and I want you to—to just feel good, hyung, fuck.

 

Taehyung clutches Jeongguk closer, smiling all rectangular into their kiss. “Fuck,” Taehyung says as they pull apart. “Fuck, you’re amazing. You’re amazing, no wonder Tata fucking loves you. And Cooky.”

 

Jeongguk smiles as he gets his mouth on Taehyung’s earlobe, as he swirls his tongue and elicits a stuttering moan. Jeongguk grabs Taehyung’s hips and guides their rhythm, and Taehyung whimpers under him and fists one hand in the sheets, gasping.

 

Someone under the bed, Tata starts to vibrate, and Cooky mewls very small.

 

Jeongguk smiles into Taehyung’s mouth and pulls him close and makes him feel so good. Really, really good.

 

Really-really.