“Hi,” Taehyung said, rocking uncertainly away from the open door, behind which a boy with shiny black eyes stared suspiciously at him. “I’m Taehyung. Chanyeol gave me your address and said I could come here to…find you.”
This sexy kid with thick, black hair and angular collarbones sucked in a breath, eyes flickering to the main house across the dead lawn. Yellow leaves fluttered and flashed in the late-afternoon sun as they drifted down into a crunchy blanket across the dirt driveway. The grey, junk-filled side-yard filled slowly with gold. “Find me for what?” the kid in the doorway asked, posture big and menacing in a way that sent a little shiver down Taehyung’s back that didn’t come from the crisp breeze. He stood a little back in shade, but Taehyung could still see the dirt on his shirt, the holes in his jeans.
The kid sighed, looking back into the garage behind him and then towards the house again. He flicked his hair down across his forehead. “Fine. Come in. But you’re paying fifteen a gram for it.”
“I usually pay twenty,” Taehyung muttered. The kid raised one sharp eyebrow at him over his shoulder.
“Chanyeol’s up-selling you hard, man.”
“I know,” Taehyung said. “I don’t know anyone else who sells though.”
“I supply at least five dealers on campus and I know there are more,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Jungkook,” he said. The garage had been messily converted into a big studio apartment, threadbare couches on the concrete floor. Photo frames with art hung on power-tool pegs, looking like they were three dollars at a yard sale, an expansive kitchen at the back with metal shelving filled to the brim with jars. Taehyung stalled at the foot of the cracking stairs. “Just come up,” Jungkook said. He had small lips, curvy and bottom heavy like a pout, out of place on that strong jaw. The step creaked loudly as he climbed up and Taehyung followed with a wince.
“Fifteen a gram, huh? Can I just buy from you from now on?”
“I don’t sell out of my house,” Jungkook said, voice soft but cold, making Taehyung feel small, and Taehyung was already making a plan of attack, how to win this guy over. Jungkook nodded out the grime-streaked window. “My parents live right there.”
“Fuck. Do you live here all winter?”
He shrugged. “I’m pretty good with cold. If I keep the heat on, it all drifts up here anyway. I just can’t use my living room.”
“Or the kitchen. Where’s your bathroom?”
Jungkook scowled, picking through a plastic bag and throwing nugs on a small scale. “How many grams?”
“Hey, if it’s fifteen, let’s do two. Do you just not have a bathroom?”
“Outhouse,” Jungkook grumbled. “It’s out there.”
“Yeah? You shower out there too?”
“This is gonna cost you thirty a gram here in a minute.”
Taehyung decided to keep his mouth shut. The stains on Jungkook’s dirty white shirt were even more apparent in the half-light. Framed against all the gold and orange out the window, he looked a little like an art piece, dirt brushed carefully down his jaw. Maybe he’d been working in the garden Taehyung had passed on the way in, a leafy plot of wide, green leaves half buried in curled-up brown ones and strangled with dead vines. Jungkook would probably look right at home there, on his knees in the dirt. He looked like a little piece of the town, worn down and hard-eyed, but beautiful in a small way, delicacy in the details, an attractiveness that grew the longer he looked at it. “You adopted?” Taehyung asked.
Jungkook sighed heavily. “Yeah. You?”
Taehyung shook his head. “Nah, but my mom was. Are there a lot of Asians in this town?”
Jungkook snorted. “There’s the family that owns the Chinese restaurant and then there’s me.”
“You know them?”
Jungkook jaw twitched. His thin cheeks bulged adorably at the corners of his mouth, front teeth showing under his lip. Taehyung got the odd urge to feel the insides of his cheeks and see if they matched. Maybe it was baby fat. Maybe it was muscle. What would give a guy muscle like that in his cheeks? “They’re like…forty. Their kids aren’t even ten yet. No, I don’t know them at all.”
Taehyung shuffled awkwardly. “Right,” he said. “There aren’t many Asians at the school either. I’m just interested.”
Jungkook kept measuring nugs and not looking at him. “They give me free food every time I go in there,” he muttered.
“Me too,” Taehyung said, smiling.
Jungkook’s black hoody hung off one shoulder and bunched up at his wrists, way too big for him. Holes strung along the threadbare hem of his t-shirt. Mud streaked the knees of his jeans. No way he wasn’t a gardener. No one just accidentally got their clothes that dirty after age thirteen, and though the big eyes and small mouth made this kid look young, he was clearly well past that point. “You in high school?”
“Graduated two years ago.”
“Where do you work now?”
Jungkook lost the voice that sounded like he had razors in his teeth. The quick consonants in his throat, the vowels of anger all softened down to a sweet, musical tone, unsure and quiet. He huffed a slow breath out and his breath fogged a little in front of him, smoke with no fire. He sealed the plastic bag but didn’t hand it to Taehyung, instead grabbing a big, glass bowl off the desk and pinching some green out of a grinder to pack it.
“You wanna?” he asked.
Taehyung blinked. He’d expected to get kicked out the minute the transaction ended. “Yeah.”
Jungkook handed it to him and flopped down on the bed, spreading out to fill it like a giant. “Sorry there’s no seating in here,” he said.
Taehyung sat carefully on the mattress. A spring poked his butt. The weed hit beautifully, slithering into his head immediately and stinking up the air. “God this stuff is good,” Taehyung said, raising it for a second hit. “Where do you get it?”
“I grow it,” Jungkook murmured. “There’s…pass it here before it goes out.” His cold hand brushed hard along Taehyung’s rough skin, scratching, uncomfortably intimate for a new acquaintance, but it came with the territory. Jungkook let out the softest relieved moan on the exhale and Taehyung found himself looking away. “There’s an old, rusty car I found that makes a good greenhouse. Still has all the windows and all that. It’s a bitch to heat in the winter, but I can make it work for at least a month on either side of the growing season.”
Maybe that explained the dirt on his jeans. “Cool. You should be a botanist.”
“That’d be fun,” he said. “I’ve got a farm plot in the fields my family owns. It’s pretty small but it’s fun.” He sat back on his elbow and passed the piece.
Taehyung stared distractedly down at the blunted arrowhead tip, the shiny, glass pipe, the heart-shaped bowl. He’d seen so many others almost exactly like this, but not as plain, just pink-orange glass with a few bubbles. “This bowl,” he said, raising it slowly to his mouth. “Looks like a dick.”
Jungkook broke into soft snickers on the mattress beside him.
“I mean, more than most.”
“Multi-purpose,” Jungkook said. “It’s called upcycling.”
The dildo got another couple inches towards Taehyung’s face before his brain caught up to him. He yanked it away from his mouth and Jungkook snickered again, a breathy, throaty little sound.
“I’m kidding,” he said.
“Fuck. I’ve only had two hits,” Taehyung muttered, making absolutely sure what he held was a bowl with weed in it and not a phallus, and then took a hit as quickly as possible without choking to death.
They smoked through the rest of the bowl in the silent blue-gray haze. Away from the soft rustling of dying leaves, the air was too still. “Hey Jungkook.”
“Yeah,” Jungkook said, high voice a little rough, and Taehyung imagined that voice trailing rough like his hands up the back of his spine, over his neck, and against his ears. His eyes shut to savor it. He pitched his own voice a little low, soft and smooth so Jungkook could get no wrong ideas about why he was asking, that Jungkook was the kind of man he’d want to get to know in certain ways.
“Have you ever used an actual dildo before?”
Jungkook took a deep breath and then stopped breathing, sound conspicuously gone, which was to be expected. If Taehyung was any soberer, he would never have asked some random farm boy something so potentially risky. They lay there for a moment suspended in tension. “I mean, no,” Jungkook said slowly. He didn’t seem offended though, which was hopeful.
“Mm,” Taehyung responded, biting back a grin. “It’s fun.” Sometimes boldness paid off. He stared at the ashy bowl in his hand, smoking thinly. “Would you?”
“I mean,” Jungkook said, and then paused. The embers died in the bowl and the stream of smoke cut out suddenly. “Maybe. You know. Have you?”
“Uh huh. Can I get your number?”
“Huh?” Jungkook said, startled and almost threatening, and Taehyung lost his nerve.
“So I can buy from you again.”
That sounded like disappointment. Taehyung finally turned and saw him sprawled out on his back, thin shirt clinging to some very defined pecs and sharp little points where his nipples had hardened in the cool air. He looked like the best thing in the world to touch, the best thing in the world to smother under.
“Yeah. Give me your phone,” he said.
Taehyung lay next to him as he typed his number in, using the excuse of a good high to wrap his palm around Jungkook’s arm and squeeze a little. Thick, solid, and warm. He pressed his forehead to his shoulder, his own over-long hair scratching between his forehead and the fabric.
“Hey. What…You okay?”
“Warm,” Taehyung murmured, and took his phone back. “Sorry. I get clingy.”
“Don’t forget your green,” Jungkook said.
Taehyung slid it off the desk and into his pocket, then climbed awkwardly out of bed and drifted down the stairs. “See ya!” he called back up the stairs as he left. He heard a distant grunt. Clean, autumn air rinsed his lungs, and he began the dreamy walk down the train tracks back towards campus, Jungkook’s cold, breathy voice and clingy shirt plastered like decoupage to his mind’s eye.
“Tae, there’s someone at the door.”
Taehyung glanced up from his paper and down the apartment staircase. He tugged anxiously at the headband that was keeping his hair out of his eyes. “It’s my dealer. Let him in.”
“It’s not Chanyeol. I’ve never seen him before. Do you think he smelled my stuff?”
Taehyung giggled. “I know it’s not Chanyeol, you paranoid fuck. It’s Jungkook. Let him in before he leaves.”
The door creaked open. There was a beat of silence and then Jungkook’s smooth voice. “Uh.”
Taehyung came to the top of the stairs. Down on the landing, Jungkook stood with his hood up and his hands in his pockets, gazing slack-jawed at Jimin, shirtless and red-eyed in the doorway.
Jimin looked up, grinning lasciviously, and led Jungkook up the stairs. “Chanyeol’s cuter,” Jimin growled lowly, not nearly quiet enough not to be heard.
“Tch. You’d think so.”
Jimin crowded past Taehyung. Jungkook trailed up slower, eyes cautiously searching the common space on the first floor.
“I wanna play,” Jimin said, flopping onto Taehyung’s futon and grabbing a PS4 controller.
“I brought the…um…” Jungkook’s eyes flickered around the room, from the 32-inch screen to the gaming rig in the corner. His mouth dropped open like Dorothy in Oz. He looked a little like a mean rabbit. Taehyung felt a laid bare. He’d worked hard for something slightly more upscale than most dorms, but it felt glamorously bougie compared to Jungkook’s little shack at the edge of town. “What do you play on that?” Jungkook asked, nodding at his computer.
“These days I use it to write essays,” Taehyung sighed. He pulled a couple crumpled twenties out of his wallet and let Jungkook snatch them away. Up close, he smelled a little stale, hoody reeking of weed and sweat, his shirt crinkled unevenly. Purple bags lingered under his eyes and grime streaked his rough hands as he picked anxiously at his knuckles, eyes wide and a little unsure.
“Got work today?” Taehyung asked, turning to the grinder with the four grams.
“Not till this evening. I’ve been building a shed all morning.”
Damn. Got those muscles for a reason. “Yeah? For yourself?”
“No way. I’m getting paid,” Jungkook said. “Just came from Chanyeol’s. He’s pretty bummed about losing you as a customer. Told him not to rip people off so bad.”
“You’re so prickly,” Taehyung giggled.
Jungkook scowled and scuffed his foot over a dead leaf on the floor. “Sorry.”
“It’s all good,” Taehyung said. “Wanna smoke? I owe you one.”
Jungkook frowned and stared down the stairs. Jimin grinned and grabbed his ankle. He sighed. “Yeah okay.”
Jimin abstained, having already smoked a bowl on his own. Taehyung loaded up the bong, his favorite, made from an old Kraken bottle, and settled back into the couch. He breathed deeply, wanting the scent of the pumpkin air freshener that he’d installed on the first cool day. The room smelled like burning dank already, a little like Jungkook’s heavy scent, sweat-tainted and earthy, his presence making Taehyung’s heart beat faster. He sat there on the couch with such an easy combination of classic masculinity and a softness that made Taehyung’s mouth water. “Open the window,” Taehyung said.
“There’s fucking curtains in the way,” Jimin said. He clambered onto the floor to get right in front of the TV. “And I can’t right now. I’m hunting a tiger. Don’t get so high that you can’t finish your painting.” Mini gunshots sounded soothingly over the semi-decent speakers.
“Whoa,” Jungkook murmured, voice cottony through a mouthful of smoke. “You’re an art major?” He coughed it out. Taehyung looked up to see him gazing at the watercolor on the workbench jammed in the corner.
“Studio art and art history with an anthro minor. Wanna be a museum curator. Hey, can you do any tricks?”
Jungkook shrugged and blew out a flawless stream of smoke rings.
Taehyung tilted his head back against the couch cushions again and watched. Jimin once told him he looked good like that, long hair falling across his forehead, eyes half-lidded and neck bared, inviting. Jungkook pulled the bong away from his face and blinked quickly at the room again, eyes trailing over Taehyung’s face and body. Or maybe not. “Did you just…cover the room in tapestries?”
“Didn’t want any of the shitty white walls showing. Opium den is more my style.”
Jimin squeaked, swore, and button-mashed.
The heady, male scent was beginning to go to Taehyung’s head. “Seriously, can someone open the windows?”
“Do it yourself.”
“Where are the windows?” Jungkook muttered, staring around at the curtains.
“You work out?”
“What?” Jungkook said, looking a bit blearier than before. “Not really. I get enough heavy lifting on my farm. Christ that bong is something else. I’m…shit.”
“I feel…” Taehyung closed his eyes. The smoke and scent felt sickeningly heavy. Pumpkin scent. Rotting pumpkin scent. Zombie pumpkin scent. Halloween town.
“Dude,” Jimin said. “Do you want to use our shower?”
“Okay, even I know that was fucking rude,” Taehyung said without opening his eyes. He forgot how to move his arms for a moment. “Christ, I’m way too high. Jeez.”
“That’s okay. I know I stink. Can I?” Jungkook said.
“Sure,” Taehyung said, sitting up suddenly. “You can…oh shit.” Carpet. Soft. Oh god, so soft. Like soft, soft seaweed waving in the ocean. Someone lifted him under the arms. Toy in a claw machine.
“Stop whimpering,” Jungkook grunted right in his ear. “You fuckin lightweight.”
Warm. Smells…This person. Squishy Jungkook made of clay. He jammed himself as close to the warmth as possible and rested his head on the clay-man’s shoulder, and sweet, dark, human smell filled his nostrils, almost cloying.
“Sorry. He’s clingy as fuck. I’m opening the window,” Jimin said. Movement jostled him, grass in an ocean current. Crisp breeze chilled the room but did nothing to dilute the smell. He snuggled closer. He hoped he wasn’t imagining the way Jungkook softened under him, bracketing him in with his arms and letting him settle.
“Tae, get off him. Seriously.”
“Don’t whine. Jeez.”
“Open your fucking eyes you piece of shit.”
Taehyung burst into helpless giggles and scrabbled at Jungkook’s chest. “Oh shit. Damn. I wanna…”
Jungkook yelped and jolted.
“Don’t take his clothes off!”
A half hour later, Taehyung opened his eyes and saw Jungkook standing uncomfortably in the middle of the room with a towel around his waist as Jimin shook Taehyung’s shoulder. “Is this shirt okay?”
“wuh-huh?” Without all the baggy clothes, Jungkook looked almost shrunken. Lean, bold muscle clung sculpturally to his narrow shoulders and tiny waist, and his wet hair stuck up at odd ends like a kid’s. And those long, long legs. Even with all that height, he seemed even smaller than Jimin. Taehyung blinked rapidly. How’d he fool himself into thinking Jungkook was built like a horse?
“I’m letting him borrow your clothes. How did you manage to get this high off one pack?”
“Can he borrow it?”
“It’s…” Something with a crappy comic book joke panel. “Sure. Will it fit him? He’s kinda, like...”
“Actually, you’re pretty much exactly the same size.” Jimin threw the shirt at Jungkook. “I was going to give him your Gucci jeans but—”
“—he really isn’t your pants size, so he’s getting my normal ones. I’m kidding,” he said, brushing Taehyung’s long bangs out of his eyes. “I’m not gonna hand out your babies to anyone. Deep breaths.”
Jungkook poked at the rescued keyboard in front of the gaming rig. “Shit, Jungkook, I’m sorry I got this high.”
“It’s cute,” Jungkook said softly. Taehyung blinked blankly at Jungkook, who huffed softly and pulled the new shirt on. Jimin smirked.
“I’m gonna walk him out and then head to Chanyeol’s,” Jimin said. “Think you’ll be okay on your own?”
“Mhm. I’m just gonna sleep. Jungkook, thanks for coming over. ‘s good shit.” He caught the hem of Jungkook’s shirt and tugged affectionately. Jungkook’s warm, clean hand brushed his hair, running a strand between his fingers and tugging on it.
“You don’t need to finish that painting by tonight, do you?” Jimin said.
“Not an assignment. Just wanted to paint with fall colors,” Taehyung mumbled. The fingers left his hair. He opened his eyes and saw Jungkook leaning over the painting again. “Don’t use them often enough. Jungkook, you should paint with fall colors.”
“Oh, I don’t—”
“Sorry, I should paint you in fall colors,” Taehyung said, rolling over. The ceiling glowed a little yellow from the sunlight reflecting off fallen leaves outside. Or maybe it was more of a purple. That wasn’t right. Were his eyes closed again? “Like…paint leaves but it’s you. You’d look good. That’d…like…fit somehow. Maybe with…acorns. Yeah.”
“He’s not going to make any sense for another couple hours. Just let him sleep.”
“See you later,” Jungkook said softly.
“See ya.” The door shut. Silence sounded like a rushing wind. “Seriously. Fall colors would suit you. You’re like…fall themed. Pumpkin spiced boy. Got some bite.” The room was empty. “Oh,” Taehyung muttered, then climbed under the covers and fell asleep.
“Uh. Hi,” Jungkook said, smiling uncomfortably. “I’m, um, your server, Justin—Jungkook. Sorry. I’ll be…oh fuck it. What can I get you?”
“Does your nametag say Justin?”
“They wanted me to use a name that customers could pronounce,” Jungkook muttered. “What do you want?”
“Can you take me pumpkin shopping this weekend?” Taehyung asked, leaning forward on the booth table. “You’re the local. You know the best places, right?”
“I guess I could,” Jungkook said. He looked wrong in a plain black polo, Denny’s logo across the breast. He was wearing Jimin’s jeans. “I don’t know about people who sell them but I’ve got some.”
“Two pancakes,” Hoseok said. “Lots of syrup. Like…a bunch.”
“Syrup’s on the table,” Jungkook muttered as he wrote that down. “Two pancakes. That it?”
“I want the Grand Slamwich please,” Taehyung said.
“Just water,” Jimin mumbled against the linoleum table. “Too late for food.”
“The fuck does that mean? Bro, I have the munchies so bad,” Hoseok said.
“Two sides of hash browns,” Taehyung decided. “And get Jimin some toast.”
They’d ended up at Denny’s at three in the morning half on accident, stumbling along the highway back to school way too late and freezing cold. In the full moon, Jimin started talking about werewolves, and Hoseok, head whipping repeatedly over his shoulder and shaking like a leaf, had shoved them through the front door.
“Tae, you want my jacket?” Jimin said. Taehyung nodded. Jimin threw it over his shoulders.
Across the store, Jungkook entered their orders into a computer with his bony fingers. “His ass looks great in your jeans.”
“Fuck, I know,” Jimin groaned. “His thighs look fucking delicious. I’d let him keep those but I feel inadequate.”
The chill lingered on Jimin’s coat. Taehyung’s feet felt like solid rocks. The curse of autumn, how it had been too hot for a sweater that afternoon, but as soon as the sun set, the thermostat dipped to Hades.
“I brought tea.”
Taehyung opened his eyes as Jungkook set it down. “I won’t charge it. It’s just teabags. You all look cold.”
Taehyung grabbed Jungkook and tugged him right up against the edge of the booth to nuzzle against his hard, flat tummy. Talk about warm. And shit, the way his cold palms and fingers sat in the curves of Jungkook’s waist. No way anything in Denny’s was anywhere near as delicious as the meat beneath this shirt. Fuck. They should just advertise this and be the best fucking restaurant on the entire goddamn strip.
“You’re super high, aren’t you?” Jungkook grumbled, but his fingers threaded into Taehyung’s hair again. So much for seducing this man with tact and tease.
Jungkook scratched the back of Taehyung’s head, and god, he could have purred. Jimin’s giggles pulled Taehyung’s eyes open. Hoseok hid his bright smile behind his hand. Jungkook pulled away just a little and Taehyung let him go, shame-faced.
“Don’t worry about it,” Hobi reassured Jungkook in his low, raspy, baby-talking voice. “He’s a puppy.”
Jungkook grunted and sidled away.
“You guys are terrible,” Taehyung said, watching Jungkook disappear into the kitchen. “Don’t make me look like a kid. That’s a turn off. He’s not gonna want to fuck me if you treat me like a kid.”
“I don’t think he cares,” Hoseok muttered. He leaned close over the table with his eyes alight. “He looks real hungry when he looks at you.”
Jimin slurped loudly beside him and Taehyung flushed.
The food came. Jungkook kept trailing back by their table as they ate and bickered, sometimes lingering at the edge of Hoseok’s seat. A light flickered in the corner of the restaurant. Jungkook’s sole coworker swept the floor. Taehyung finished his greasy food in record time and put his head down on the table where he could listen to the woosh of the heater, the quiet tapping of Jungkook’s phone against the table. Jimin leaned on Taehyung’s back and Hoseok chatted with Jungkook about…dance? Something about bears dancing in moonlight, the deep night and quietness of a cabin in the woods. Somewhere soft and warm, lonely and human in an inhuman wilderness.
“Taehyung, wake up.”
Denny’s again. Plastic and cheap carpeting. The impression of a warm fireplace and cozy couch with pine trees just out the window flickered at the edge of his mind. Maybe he’d been a big dog in a past life, curled up on the rug of a warm house on the edge of the woods.
“It’s been an hour. Jungkook said he’ll get off his shift early and come with us.”
“I didn’t,” Jungkook said. “You asked for me.” Taehyung tried to open his ears wider even though he knew that wasn’t how it worked, trying to drink in the sound of Jungkook’s soft voice like dry leaves brushing together.
“Same thing,” Hoseok said airily. “Jungkook, you might have to carry him or he’ll never get moving.”
“Are you serious?”
“Don’t wanna leave,” Taehyung said, lips and cheek smashed up against the table. “’S cold out there.” He felt a warm arm slide over his back, and then someone picked up his arm and looped it over their neck. “Jimin!”
“Not Jimin,” Jungkook said softly, close to his ear. He yanked Taehyung out of the booth and stood, lifting his dead weight up almost to standing. Cute. Taehyung stayed limp in the solid strength of Jungkook’s arms, letting him hold him up like a fainted damsel. Jungkook clutched him more strongly in the crook of his arm and swept his legs off the floor.
“He’s fucking grinning,” Jimin said, lightly flicking Taehyung’s forehead. “Little shit.”
“You’re too tall for this,” Jungkook grunted. “I’m just gonna…” He dropped Taehyung’s feet to the floor, ducked under him before he could fall, and stood with him on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.
“Ow! Kook!” Taehyung snapped his eyes open. Denny’s carpeting and the long, strong lines of Jungkook’s body looked oddly shortened from six feet in the air. He squeaked and clutched tighter, giggling frantically.
“Don’t knee me in the face,” Jungkook said, steering gently around a row of booths.
“It hurts! Put me down! I’ll walk. Please put me down.”
Jimin and Hoseok followed, snickering. Taehyung whined, gut hooked on Jungkook’s shoulder and head pounding. Jungkook put him down, and cold air sliced into the open coat, flapping off Taehyung’s shoulders. Jungkook’s eyes drifted down the loose collar, hands lingering bracingly against Taehyung’s sides and Taehyung didn’t mind the chill.
“Zip him up,” Jimin said, hurrying between them and quickly bundling Taehyung tightly in his coat. “He doesn’t retain body heat, like at all.”
“I d-don’t mind b-being cold-d-d th-though,” Taehyung said. Jimin pulled his own hat off his head and tugged it down over Taehyung’s ears, shoving all his hair into his face.
“Can we go?” Hobi said. “I’m fucking freezing.”
“It’s not even that cold out,” Jungkook said.
“Taehyung’s from Florida,” Jimin said, “he can’t handle shit but for some reason he’s obsessed with cold weather.”
They headed for town along the empty highway, neon signs still glowing sickly on every chain business in America scattered across the dirty, bare lots. Every few minutes, a car streaked past in a flash of white and red light and a gleam of dim moonlight across their metal bodies. They passed under the bridge onto the highway and left the neon strip behind them, wandering into the neighborhoods and the few local businesses of their small college town.
At night, the fiery leaves turned gray and blue, shadows painting everything into a nearly invisible maze in the dark. Streetlamps illuminated small pieces of the tiny town, the glass storefronts on closed businesses and dirty, decrepit houses.
“This is better,” Taehyung sighed, breaking the long silence. “Feels like people could live here. The strip kills my soul.”
“This town kills my soul more,” Jungkook mumbled.
“Yeah, but it’s, like…human. It feels old and worn in.”
“Feels like witches and vampires could live here,” Jimin chirped.
“Fuck, don’t say that,” Hoseok said, glancing up at the full moon.
“Nothing soulful and supernatural back on the strip,” Taehyung said. “It’d be pretty hard to find a feasible haunted house back there. Everything’s plastic. Ugly and disposable, but if we abandoned it tomorrow it’d be there for a hundred years still ugly and dirty and taking up space.”
"What makes this collection of crack houses any better?" Jungkook said, nodding down the dark street.
Taehyung shrugged. "It's like...prettier, I guess. Feels more personal and comfortable."
Jungkook gave a tiny snort.
Taehyung's shoulders hunched in, frowning. "There's romance here. It's got magic to it. Like, I can easily imagine running into an actual ghost or a witch or something. Small towns are a little scary in a weird way. All we have in Florida is trailer parks and strip malls. Halloween feels so cheap and stupid. I can’t tell you how much better this is. It feels people could live here their whole lives. Where I come from, everyone leaves."
"Yeah," Jimin said, lurching forward, "like what if every member of this town is in a weird cult, or someone was murdered in a barn outside of town a hundred years ago, and now there's a school right over it and kids disappear sometimes."
"Please shut up," Hoseok groaned. "Dear God, I do not want to be hearing this."
"Are there ghosts in this town?" Jimin said.
Jungkook's lips quirked. "So many."
Jimin squealed and jostled Hoseok, who stared down at the pavement with his lips sucked between his teeth.
“Yeah, see?” Taehyung said. “That’s cool. People like being a little scared. Why do you think people are so interested in serial killers? They’re like modern vampires and werewolves and shit. Supernatural monsters that could be lurking for you anywhere. Serial killers are like the werewolves of strip malls.”
“The last thing I want to hear about right now is serial killers,” Hoseok grumbled.
Jungkook kicked idly at a chunk of broken asphalt on the ground and sighed. The narrow street rustled with dry leaves and a chill wind. “I should turn here and go home,” Jungkook said under the noise of Jimin teasing and Hoseok protesting. He reached out and tugged Taehyung’s hat lower over his ears and Taehyung felt his heart respond in a leap.
“Come home with us,” Taehyung said, staring up under his eyelashes in a way he hoped Jungkook new was an invitation. He leaned close, just to be sure. This act usually worked on the strong, quiet type. “I know it’s, like, nearly 4 a.m., but we can…smoke whatever we have left. We’ll probably be awake until dawn anyway.”
Jungkook’s eyes lingered on the low zip of Taehyung’s jacket. Taehyung wondered if he’d been thinking about it, the moment on Jungkook’s bed the first afternoon, if he wished Taehyung had been brave enough to go for what he wanted.
The converted-apartment dorm for three, jarringly clean and warm, sat almost shamefully welcoming as Jungkook stood there in his ugly uniform and dirty boots, staring around at the cheap decorations and dirty dishes. Jimin and Hoseok drifted up the stairs towards their room, Hoseok already yawning and pulling his sweater off over his head. “No smoke?” Jimin whined.
“They don’t want us to smoke with them,” Hoseok said.
Hoseok slid behind the wall with a cartoonish wink and wiggling eyebrows, pointing between Taehyung and Jungkook. Jungkook’s mouth clicked quietly and he took a deep, slow breath.
“No beating around the bush then, I guess,” Taehyung said softly. Jungkook stared at his floor. “You wanna smoke?” Taehyung said. “No obligations, of course, but you did walk all the way here.”
“No thank you,” Jungkook said. But turned and clunked up the stairs with a flash of pink in his cheeks. Taehyung followed with a grin.
Jungkook got out of the shower just as dark blue started tinging the edges of the treetops. It had been a while since Taehyung had seen a sunrise sober. Jungkook, still wrapped unselfconsciously in a towel, climbed up next to him on the bed. Taehyung drank it in eagerly. “Why’s the window open? You’re shivering.”
“I really don’t mind being cold. I like the way the air smells this time of year. It’s like the way you want apple cider to taste. Kinda want you to taste like apple cider too.”
“I won’t though.” Jungkook looked him up and down, curled up on top of his blankets and his arms latched around himself, and shut the window. The little muscles across his ribs stretched and strained under his skin, so silky on Taehyung’s fingers, and Jungkook lay down shivering. “Your hands are freez—uh…” he stiffened. Taehyung raised his eyebrows and kept flicking steadily at Jungkook’s little brown nipple with his cold fingers. Jungkook’s shuddered comically hard.
“You like this?”
Jungkook eyes closed. His chest filled out, lower lip full and trembling with his gasp. Taehyung paused, unsure of the strong reaction. It was one thing for a guy to be confident and careless with his body, but responses this strong would mean something else. “Have you ever fucked a guy before?”
Jungkook finally looked back up, wet hair hanging in his face and looking a little like a deer in the headlights, and shook his head. “In this town? I’ve never fucked anyone before. Knew I was gay since high school and my parents are, like, kinda liberal so there was only a little bit of tension at home over it, but at school? No way. I didn’t want to get fucking killed.”
It occurred to Taehyung that sex with Jungkook might not be as stunningly overwhelming as he wanted. But rough and unpolished was more what he wanted out of this strong farm boy anyway. Taehyung climbed onto his lap and settled in, not his usual go-to, but Jungkook seemed to need a little guidance. His hands ran smoothly up Taehyung’s thighs, confidence and poise flickering out of his wide eyes. His shower-warm skin nearly burned against Taehyung’s freezing fingers, hair damp and brushed up and off his forehead into an unruly mess.
“You should eat more,” Taehyung said, brushing his thumbs against the hollows of Jungkook’s cheeks.
“I know,” he murmured. “I grow a lot of my own food, so I take what I can get.”
“Mm.” Taehyung dropped a kiss on Jungkook’s full bottom lip. “No wonder you’re so dirty.”
Jungkook’s sharp eyebrows twitched. “You’re real rude. You know that? Like, all the time.”
Rude didn’t stop Jungkook from lying back on the pillows and letting Taehyung mouth along every ridge of his body. He groaned endearingly, clenching, lip bitten between his teeth to muffle his moans, but it just made his gasps louder. Strong thighs squeezed Taehyung’s sides as he outlined Jungkook’s abs with his lips.
“Finding out some new things about yourself there?” Taehyung giggled as Jungkook yanked at his hair.
“Shut up,” Jungkook grunted, tugging harshly. The burn laced across Taehyung’s scalp, and he shuddered and melted, letting Jungkook hold his head up by the hair.
“Oh shit,” Jungkook said, and let go.
“Do it again.”
“Agai—ah!” Hands so strong. Jungkook manhandled him up with ease, held him against his chest and kissed him, and excitement burned over Taehyung’s tingling scalp. Jungkook’s lips were so rough against him, inexperienced but curious and learning quickly. For a virgin, he wasn’t shy about taking what he wanted.
The light of dawn just brushed over a sculpted body so beautiful that Taehyung felt short of breath. The perfect abs, the little rippling of muscle over his ribs, the strength of his chest and shoulders and the slenderness of his waist stood out sharply against Taehyung’s black sheets. He seemed perfectly happy to lay stretched out with Taehyung on top of him, one moment clutching the sheet shyly over his bare hips, the next gripping Taehyung’s wrist when he tried to move away, leaving the impression of rising bruises with the force of his grip.
“You want me to ride you?”
Jungkook nodded quickly, still not looking down at Taehyung. “Fuck. Yeah, please.”
Five minutes later, Taehyung sank his ass back on Jungkook’s dick, the excited thrill of having Jungkook’s wide thighs at his back and his sculptural chest under his hands shivering through him with every brush of his fingers. He could have wagged his tail. Fuck, he just wanted Jungkook’s hands bruising his hips, his ass aching with use.
Jungkook panted, hands clenching tightly around Taehyung’s waist. He was flushed red, eyes clenched shut.
“Dude, are you gonna like…help out?”
“I f-fucking told you,” Jungkook said, breathy, high, and soft, “n-never done this. Wait a fucking second or I’ll…”
“Oh yeah,” Taehyung mumbled.
Even with his chest heaving and jaw hanging open, Jungkook looked sharply up at him. “What do you—? Fuck…Just…” He struggled, still panting. Taehyung shifted just a little and Jungkook let out a long, frustrated moan. “Do you—like—ugh, oh my god,” Jungkook squeaked. “Sit still. You wanted this so work with me here.” He arched, so pretty in the gray light of morning. His hands clenched and unclenched against Taehyung’s hips with a fascinating hint of pain, face screwed up like he was angry, and Taehyung’s heart fluttered a little in his chest. “Okay, go for it,” Jungkook said.
Taehyung sat back, rocking thoughtfully on the dick in his ass just to watch Jungkook squirm. He gritted his teeth like he could cum right then and there. “You finish too fast and I’m gonna make you go again,” he said.
“Fuck off,” Jungkook whined.
Someone pounded on the wall of their room and Jungkook jumped like a startled deer. “You two quiet down!”
Taehyung giggled and lowered himself down to take Jungkook’s head between his arms and kiss him. Jungkook responded electrically, gripping his sides and pressing back.
That was different, different than what Taehyung was used to from the men he took to bed, the big, too-cool, proudly experienced guys he picked up for a few weeks every once and a while. When they kissed him, if they kissed him, they kissed like they thought nothing about it and made Taehyung desperate to deserve it. Jungkook hauled him down against his front and filled Taehyung with a startled warmth that felt nothing like the quick fuck this was and more like a First Time with capital letters. Taehyung suddenly didn’t know where to put his hands.
Jungkook may not have been as big as Taehyung thought he was, but he was certainly more than strong enough. “Easy, baby. Can you get your feet down and thrust please?” Jungkook scowled for a moment and worked up an awkward, slow thrust. “Good. Go harder.” Jungkook’s eyebrows screwed up again with frustration, teeth clenched. Fuck. Such a strong kid. So unexpectedly virginal. And here he was, Satan amongst the leaves, picking everything up like he was born for it. The raw, unconcerned need with which he began pounding into Taehyung made him shiver. That felt better.
Within minutes, he had Taehyung jerking frantically at his own dick, drooling on Jungkook’s shoulder and watching his smooth skin get rosy in the dim morning as that thick cock pounded so fucking steadily inside him with the most beautiful rolling thrusts. Jungkook came first, and quickly, but it was supposed to be something quick anyway. Taehyung jerked off on Jungkook’s stomach, promising himself that he’d get Jungkook’s little lips around him another day.
Afterwards, they wasted a lot of a blunt by just letting it sit as they passed smoke back and forth between their lips, Jungkook limp on the bed, Taehyung slung across his chest with a lighter in one hand. “Don’t tell anyone in town,” Jungkook said softly.
“I won’t,” Taehyung said, feeling like the fox that got in the henhouse.
Jungkook tipped his head towards Taehyung in a tiny, unconscious plea. Taehyung put his lips to Jungkook’s and breathed smoke so easily between his cherry lips, lingering wetly until he let it go, the gentle, tantalizing brushes that shot-gunning always gave. He and Jimin used to do this freshman year just to shock people. ‘Saving money,’ they’d always said while practically sitting in each other’s laps with their lips not quite touching expect little accidental presses. Jimin had caught so many dates with that. Taehyung only went for guys he really wanted but never kept them very long. He rarely shot-gunned with any of them.
“Didn’t think you’d be a virgin,” Taehyung said.
“I don’t have a ton of options,” Jungkook grumbled, reddening again. He grabbed the blunt and took another long hit, eyes shut on the breath out.
“Would you ever bottom?”
Jungkook scowled even harder.
“Yeah. Look, can we not, like, make this a big deal?” He wanted to sound annoyed, but the little shake and stutter made Taehyung’s heart soften.
“That was the plan.” Taehyung pet his chest gently, watched him twitch into it, felt the little jerks of his muscles and halting breath at just a soft touch. “Maybe we’ll just have to do it again and see if you like it.”
Jungkook’s fingers trailed distractedly all the way up Taehyung’s spine and Taehyung shivered like a leaf in the wind. Jungkook didn’t seem to notice, too busy thinking hard, silent and lost in thought. Taehyung wiggled against his him, trying to get back some of his attention.
“You should probably sleep here,” Taehyung said.
For such an expressive face, Jungkook could be terribly unreadable, but his chest was so warm and the hand on Taehyung’s back didn’t stop moving. “I’ve got to go do a harvest in the garden today.”
“I have pumpkins.”
Taehyung hesitated, tracing the line of Jungkook’s pecs with a thumb now. That sounded an awful lot like a date, which was something Taehyung was entirely unfamiliar with and unprepared for. “Are they the best pumpkins in town?”
Jungkook squeezed his shoulders, squishing Taehyung tighter against his thick chest. Taehyung’s body felt heavy against Jungkook’s warmth. “They’re not, but I’ll give one to you cheap.”
“Let’s do it,” Taehyung said. Sleep sat just at the edge of his head, blocking out his uncertainty. “Gimme your pumpkins, baby.”
“So, this is your secret garden,” Taehyung said. Jungkook had about an acre of dirt in the corner of a field that his parents owned, a rotting railroad tie fence that had to be at least fifty years old sitting ramshackle in the high grass around it. Rows and rows of dead vines and withered leaves sat high on their dirt mounds, rustling against each other softly. Outside the fence, a dead cornfield rolled into the distance. Jungkook led him down one of the rows with a big basket in one hand, fraying at the handle and molding along one corner.
“You ever grow a garden before?” Jungkook asked.
“Ha, no. I didn’t know potatoes grew in the ground until last year.”
That got Jungkook to turn, standing like a scarecrow with his eyebrows screwed in with disapproval.
“I grew up in a freakin city in Florida.”
“Potatoes are literally roots. What, did you think they grew on trees?”
Taehyung shrugged. “Roots grow out of tree branches in Florida.”
Jungkook gave a little head shake and let them past some wildly overgrown cabbage things that reminded Taehyung of Little Shop of Horrors. “Renegade Beans,” Jungkook said, coming to a stop at a bush and beginning to snap big, perfect green beans off. He got sexier by the second, so young but so self-sufficient, so at home in a field of rustling vines. “Should be coming to the end of their season. You okay?”
A particularly chilly breeze had Taehyung tipping into Jungkook’s shoulder. A few orange leaves floated off the tree at the corner of the plot and fluttered down into the cleared-out beds. “Colder than I expected today. Should have worn a jacket.”
Jungkook glanced at his oversize long-sleeved shirt and pinched it, feeling how thin the fabric was. His eyebrows pinched with concern. “Sucks,” he said shortly, and led Taehyung further into the yard. He knelt by another bed and tugged a cluster of leaves. A carrot materialized out of the dirt as if by magic. He put it in the basket and pulled out another one, long, orange, and gnarled like a twisted limb. It didn’t look very appetizing covered in clinging dirt.
“Two carrots?” Jungkook mused. “Or three?”
“That’s two carrots.”
“Oh, shut up,” Jungkook laughed. “I’m wondering how many I should pull up. Carrots keep in the ground over winter so I just pull them up as I want to eat them. I don’t know how many I need this week.”
“Cool shit,” Taehyung said. “Sexy.” Jungkook scoffed, but his lips pulled up a little at the corners, maybe a bit proud of himself. Taehyung shrugged and sniffed one of the carrots in the basket. “Wow. That smells a lot better than the ones in the store.”
“That’s an heirloom,” Jungkook said. “Less chemicals. Spends a lot less time in storage. Hasn’t been bred out of its flavor and keeps most of its sugars and nutrients. Vegetables taste so much better outside of grocery stores.”
“You should make me something,” Taehyung said.
Another odd look, like he didn’t know why Taehyung would be interested, and Taehyung realized that sounded more friendly than flirty. Jungkook jerked his head towards the end of the row and led Taehyung forward before he could fix it. “Pumpkins,” he said, pointing to an enormous mess of green leaves and little curly vines. Mid-sized orange masses covered in green and yellow warts sat in the dirt under the leaves, some oblong and dented, some sitting up, perfectly round but small. They’d all been cut from the dying vines already, stems mostly brown and hardened. They hardly looked like pumpkins you bought at a patch to carve, but Taehyung liked their look.
“Wow,” Taehyung said sitting in the dirt and patting one with fingers so chilled they were nearly numb. “I think I understand the design of Cinderella’s carriage better now. The little curly bits on the vines are super weird. I love it.”
He felt Jungkook kneel behind him and turned just in time to see Jungkook drop his vegetables and wrap his arms around Taehyung’s waist. Wet lips touched his neck. Warmth leeched through Taehyung’s clothes. “Fuck, you’re so cold,” Jungkook said. Taehyung tipped his head back against Jungkook’s shoulder, this boy he barely knew who wanted him. Hot hands ran under his shirt and up his shuddering sides, mouth on his shoulder now, thighs wiggling closer around him. “You can have one of ‘em.”
“Any of them?” Taehyung asked. He had his eye on the squat one sitting upright in the dirt with prominent sections, one with slightly smoother sides.
“Not the biggest one.”
“Which one’s the biggest—oh.”
One hand wrapped casually in Taehyung’s long hair and pulled his head way back. Jungkook had no finesse, no care, no idea what he was doing, obviously taking what he thought he wanted without thinking too hard about it and Taehyung would melt if he wasn’t so cold. He didn’t answer Taehyung’s question. “This okay?” he asked suddenly and Taehyung realized he’d let out a breathless whine.
“Do you get cursed if you fuck in a pumpkin patch?”
“Wanna find out?”
Taehyung found himself on his back under the half-shriveled pumpkin leaves with his butt still out on the path through the rows. He arched uncomfortably away from the cold ground. Something poked hard right next to his spine, but Jungkook lay against his side already, a column of warmth from his shoulder to his legs. Jungkook had his tongue in Taehyung’s mouth. Jungkook had a forearm pressed tight to Taehyung’s opposite side, body blanketing his.
“Fuck, you’re so pretty,” Jungkook whispered against his lips, and breathed a puff of wonderful hot air over Taehyung’s face, which immediately chilled in the air.
Taehyung felt a thick thigh jam between his legs and squeezed his legs around it, hauled Jungkook’s body even further over his own. The leaves rustled and swayed around them.
“We’ll crush your plants,” Taehyung said.
“They’re done for the year anyway.”
“What do you expect us to do in the dirt?” Taehyung giggled.
Jungkook looked up with almost a pout, round eyes wide. “Huh?”
“I don’t have lube. Do you?”
Jungkook’s hips fidgeted against Taehyung’s side and something hot and hard branded Taehyung’s bare skin there. “Um. No.”
“Baby,” Taehyung murmured and dragged Jungkook back in by the collar.
It wasn’t till Jungkook pulled Taehyung’s cock out of his pants that the contrast between heavy heat and gentle chill really got Taehyung’s body shaking, half from pleasure and half from the prickling of heatless sunbeams and a wind that went right through Taehyung’s thin shirt. It couldn’t have been that cold out, but the air stripped Tae’s warmth right from his chest. All his focus went to the burning ache of Jungkook’s mouth gulping him curiously down, testing cautiously.
“N-never s-sucked d-dick bef-fore?”
Jungkook hummed and Taehyung breath rattled into his lungs in a harsh gasp. “You’re so fuckin’ hard, Tae.”
A smooth, hot tongue slithered its way from the base of Taehyung’s cock to the tip, pressing hard and leaving a cold, cold trail behind. He shuddered and pushed his hands into Jungkook’s warm hair. One of Jungkook’s arms shoved under Taehyung’s lower back. The rich smell of gardening dirt and dead leaves saturated the air and kept their location constantly present, a field of thin autumn sunlight and tilled earth.
He came much quicker than expected, sensitivity dialed up unusually high with the chill of the air and the vision of Jungkook’s wide eyes fluttering as he worked. Jungkook swallowed with what looked like a lot of difficulty, hand slapped over his mouth. He grimaced and shuddered.
“You ok-kay?” Taehyung giggled.
“Mm,” Jungkook grumbled, squinting at him. “Sorry, but that’s nasty.”
“Slimy, yeah. Takes some getting used to.”
Jungkook tilted his head to the side and studied Taehyung, eyebrows furrowed in concentration again like he was trying to figure him out.
“No way. You’ll bite my dick off with your teeth rattling like that.”
“Don-n’t m-mind being c-cold.”
Jungkook tucked Taehyung back into his delightfully warm pants and tugged Taehyung out of the pumpkin patch to land in his arms. For a moment, Taehyung squirmed to get closer to Jungkook’s hot chest, icy hands pressed between their bodies, forehead and nose jammed against his neck, and then Jungkook was hoisting him up. “Get your pumpkin so we can get back inside.”
“I d-don’t want-t to go in-nside.”
“Why not? You’re freezing.”
“It’s n-nice out,” Taehyung said. “It’s a perf-fect fall day. Let me d-do some push-ups and I’ll b-be fine. It’s already getting better. I want that one.”
Jungkook shuffled around in the pumpkin patch as Taehyung attempted some push-ups. When Jungkook came over to plop the pumpkin in Taehyung’s arms, he stood up and started doing squats with it instead, which only reminded him how sweaty and sensitive he still was inside his jeans. Jungkook snickered at his grimace.
“Warmer now,” Taehyung said. “It’s kind of a long walk to campus though.”
Jungkook shoved his hands in his pockets and started leading Taehyung back to the road. “What do you like so much about fall? I hate it. Means winters coming.”
“I’ve lived my whole life in Florida,” Taehyung said, “where fall means it drops below eighty sometimes and then a few plants turn kind of brown. When I moved up here for school all I heard from people was how much I’m going to hate winter, but I don’t mind winter, and there are two perfect seasons on either side that I never get down south. And I get to go home in December and January and enjoy a short summer then anyway.”
Jungkook heaved a quiet, tired sigh, looking a little wistful.
“I’ve never had fall before, and it’s incredible. I’m going to miss the hell out of it when I move back home, so I’ve got to enjoy it as much as I can right now. And if you think I’m a bit nuts over the weather now, just wait till spring rolls around.”
Jungkook nodded. “I understand spring. Spring’s nice. Just really busy.”
“You should come by my dorm more often. Like, whenever you want, really.”
Jungkook’s round eyes were so wide, so surprisingly soft. “I don’t want to impose.”
Taehyung had meant to invite him over for as much marathon sex as he wanted, but it looked like Jungkook was taking it in a friendlier sense. “I owe you, right?” Taehyung said. “Are you still hard?” Jungkook made a little groan of shame, face flushing quickly and pouting hard. “Don’t think too much about it. I want you to fuck me again. Like, a lot.”
“Yeah definitely,” Jungkook said, nodding hard and giving Taehyung a small once over. They walked slowly along, Jungkook with his lips pursed as if he was thinking hard about something. “Sure. Yeah. Sounds good,” Jungkook said. Taehyung grinned.
“What are you going to do with it?” Jungkook asked, mid evening on Tuesday, hovering awkwardly in the middle of Taehyung’s room and pointing at the pumpkin that sat in Taehyung’s window. A short paper sat half-finished on Taehyung’s screen.
“The pumpkin? I’m gonna make a Jack-o-lantern.”
“That’s such a waste. Make a pie. Well, not with that breed, actually. Make a fucking soup. Make, I don’t know, a ton of pumpkin bread. You’re supposed to eat those.”
The weed Taehyung had bought from Jungkook on Sunday was calling to him from inside his upcycled tea canister. They’d smoked half of it after Taehyung picked out his pumpkin while Taehyung gave Jungkook a lazy hand job, but the other half was sitting right there and he couldn’t smoke any of it till he finished his assignment.
“I do not know how to cook, and I’ve never used our oven. Can you get over here so I can touch your butt again?”
“I grow those plants for food, Tae.”
“I gave you cash, didn’t I? It’s mine now.” Taehyung turned slowly around in his crappy desk chair and leaned on the back. Jungkook’s cheeks had become rosy in the warm house after being out in the autumn wind, which made the pout on his chapped lips twice as cute. “Did you come over here just to lecture me on wasting food?”
Jungkook shrugged, gaze falling to the floor. “You told me to come by. Had to give Chanyeol some stuff. Thought I’d stop and say hi. You’re busy. I’ll go.”
“Kook, no,” Taehyung sighed and took off his glasses. “I’ll be done with this in an hour and then we can have some fun.”
“I have work tonight,” Jungkook grumbled, already headed for the stairs.
Taehyung tugged at his own hair distractedly, glancing at his essay, and then stood up and hurried after him. “Jungkook, if you cared so much about the damn pumpkin why did you sell it to me?”
Those strong shoulders hunched defensively. “It’s fine. Do whatever. It doesn’t matter.” The door shut. Taehyung stood there and stared anxiously at until he knew it was too late to chase after, then went upstairs and yanked open his tea tin.
“Haven’t seen you in a bit,” Chanyeol said, looping an arm around Taehyung’s shoulder as they walked back to his place from the dining hall. “Thought you were buying from Kook now.”
“He was mad at me last night so I’m gonna leave it for a bit.”
“Jungkook got mad at you? Fuck.” His cheerful face got unusually solemn. “Sorry about that. I know he gets scary.”
Taehyung chuckled, remembering those red cheeks. He’s been annoyingly pouty and a bit passive aggressive right in the middle of panic homework time, but not scary. Taehyung still didn’t know what to make of it, if he’d upset Jungkook somehow. “He’s adorable. What are you talking about?”
Chanyeol gave him a surprised look with his remarkably expressive face, wide eyes alarmed under his thick eyebrows. “Oh, okay. Well, I hope you didn’t mind but I invited him other this afternoon. What was he mad at you about?”
“I have no idea.”
“You two, uh, doin’ the do?”
Taehyung laughed. “Yeah, he’s fucking hot.”
“Had no idea he was gay or I would have made a move, like, last year,” Chanyeol said. “Is he any good?”
“He’s…yeah. He’s good. He’s a good fuck. I’m just not sure where he stands on the whole friends with benefits thing. I’m not really the emotionally invested type, but he seems like he’s expecting some romance, which I haven’t ever been any good at.”
“You might give it a try,” Chanyeol said. “You know, if you’re going to be using him for sex.”
“I’m not—at least—that’s not what I’m doing. I think I’ve been pretty obvious about this just being a sex thing.”
“You just said he’s expecting romance.”
“You’re hoping I fuck this up so I start buying from you again.”
Chanyeol burst out laughing. “I’m gonna sabotage you so I get your cash back. Right.” He whacked Taehyung on the back good naturedly and sent all the air rushing out of his lungs so he had no air to respond when Chanyeol said, “Just make sure you’re not using him, okay?”
Chanyeol’s little dorm apartment look exactly like Taehyung’s, only a little bigger with slightly older furniture and the staircase on the opposite side. Jimin walked out of the kitchen wearing only a giant t-shirt. “Hey, Tae.”
“So this is where you were last night! You little shit! I had to write that paper on my own!”
“I finished that thing days ago,” Jimin said. He hip-checked Chanyeol on the way past and headed upstairs with his polka-dot briefs poking out from below his shorts. Taehyung heard a small, sharp intake of breath from Chanyeol and watched his jaw drop just a little.
“Hit that yet?”
“All night, dude,” Chanyeol said with hushed reverence.
The dorm slowly filled, friends and clients coming without knocking as if they all lived there. Taehyung paid his twenty and took a seat next to the grav bong, a big bucket of water with a cut-off top of one of those upside-down water coolers in it. Weed sat in an old tuba mouthpiece in the opening. One hit got him high enough that he didn’t notice when Jungkook came in.
Jungkook hadn’t greeted him. He was over by the other wall, fiddling with his cracked phone and smoking a blunt. The party crowd filtered around them, Jimin now in jeans and hanging off of Chanyeol’s back, Hoseok sitting against the wall with a textbook open on his lap, Namjoon trying to read a thick novel and talk to Jihyo at the same time.
The weed made moving feel the way moving feels in dreams.
For some reason he’d thought Jungkook was taller than him.
Which made Taehyung feel fucking huge when he stumbled into Jungkook’s chest and almost banged their foreheads together. “Whoa, Tae,” Jungkook said. The phone disappeared. Jungkook pressed him back a foot.
“I don’t know why you’re mad at me.”
“I’m not mad—I’m sorry.”
Those lips got closer and closer.
A hand on his chest. He couldn’t move forward. Why wasn’t Jungkook helping him? They couldn’t be together. Such a beautiful face. So beautiful. Eyes even wider than Chanyeol’s. He wanted to kiss them.
“Stop whining. Not here, okay?” He glanced around, shy.
The air felt hazy and heavy, too dark, too loud. Taehyung ended up back in his seat with no Jungkook in sight. Jihyo nearly sat on him as he waited on the couch, apologized, then actually sat down on his lap as if he’d only needed a warning. “Sorry,” she said again.
“You’re good. Ran out of seats?”
“Need to reach the grav.”
Her bony butt pressed into his bony legs but he couldn’t think of any reason to ask her to get off. Butts in his lap were never a bad thing. She didn’t give any indication of minding his hands on her waist. This would probably have caused him some problems if he were straight. Jihyo turned to look back at him, probably saw how red and blurry his eyes were, and leaned back against his chest.
Jungkook was just through the doorway of the kitchen, looking uncomfortable as Jimin tried to strike up a conversation. It wasn’t like a house party at night where everything was dark and you had a drink in your hand to worry about. Jimin leaned against the counter to stay standing and Jungkook tugged at the edge of his beanie and skated his eyes across the next room. He carried himself so differently than everyone else there, posture strong, motions reserved, expression close to scowling.
Taehyung wrapped his arms around Jihyo. So warm. So squishy. “You make a good blanket,” he murmured into her shoulder.
“You’re gay, right?” she said, checking. “I heard Jimin say that.”
“Uh huh. You’re pretty though.”
She laughed. “You too.”
“Mm.” He squeezed.
He opened his eyes and saw Jungkook talking to Chanyeol. He looked tiny next to Chanyeol. He headed for the door.
Taehyung nearly tripped over the grav bong. He looked behind himself to check and saw a very disgruntled Jihyo picking herself off the floor. “Sorry!” he called. She gave him a friendly wave.
He did not expect the brightness outside. Weed parties usually meant nighttime, so when midday sun hit his eyes, he yelled and threw his hands over his face like a vampire in an old movie.
Jungkook stood slightly off the sidewalk, waiting stoically like a video game NPC, but little yellow leaves from the trees fell around him like a romantic cut scene. The ground moved like an airport moving sidewalk and he stumbled into Jungkook’s side. “We gotta...gotta get under cover.”
“Christ, Tae. The fuck?”
“Everyone knows. They can see our eyes. They know.”
He kept pulling. Taehyung’s body felt so tense, lungs not quite full enough, not quite sure where he was. “Dude, where’s my dorm?”
“That grav bong is something else.”
“Don’t throw me in a ditch.”
He ran into Jungkook’s shoulder as he stopped. Two firm hands grabbed his shoulders, the earthy scent of Jungkook’s musty clothes washed over him and he leaned in, trying to smell. “I’m not—I wouldn’t do that, Tae,” he whined. “We’re going back to your place. How did you get this fucking high?”
He got them to the door of Taehyung’s place anyway, pulled the keys out of Taehyung’s back pocket with what felt like a little bit of a squeeze, and helped him crawl up the stairs.
“Open the window,” Taehyung said.
“You’ll be cold.”
“Then put me under the blankets and open the window.”
The apple cider air came rolling in. Taehyung felt weights leave his feet and heard shoes clunk onto the floor. His jeans slid down his legs next, prickling in the cold air. “Dirty,” he whispered.
“Shut up,” Jungkook said. “It’s just so you’re comfortable.” The heavy, wonderful blankets settled over his body and Taehyung took a deep shuddering breath. Cold air, warm blankets, that leafy breeze rushing over him like he was at the bottom of a leaf river. He’d never move back to Florida. He could never give this up again.
“I’m sorry to ask this again, but can I use your shower?”
“I like you stinky.”
A long silence. Taehyung forgot what Jungkook had asked. He heard a small laugh. “I’d still like to use your shower. I’ll resupply your soap next time you run out or something.”
Taehyung cracked his eyes open and saw his beautiful, dark young man with his small, smiling lips and big nose, that little freckle under his lip, cheeks maybe a little pink, dirty brown jacket that may have once been camo and now just looked discolored. “Don’t worry about the soap. You can use my shower anytime. Wash your ass real good for me.”
Jungkook laughed out loud and left with a shake of his head. He really wasn’t mad.
The brain fuzz had fizzled down a bit into a dizzy haze by the time Jungkook came out and found Taehyung watching Pop Team Epic with slack-jawed horror. “You okay?”
Jungkook wore jeans and one of Taehyung’s t-shirts.
“You put your clothes back on already? Take those off.”
“It’s too cold in here.”
Taehyung closed the window and held his arms out. His beautiful boy climbed up and knocked him over, arms tight around him as they lay on their sides, more familiar than most fuck-buddies that Taehyung got, but Jungkook didn’t know the rules. Taehyung found he liked that more than he thought he would. “Aren’t you pretty,” Taehyung cooed. Jungkook’s face was smashed into Taehyung’s chest, just the right distance for Taehyung to play with his hair and rub his back. “Pretty boy.”
“Stop it with the pretty stuff,” Jungkook said, muffled by the shirt.
Taehyung giggled. “Would you rather I call you handsome?” A noncommittal grunt from Jungkook. “I’m prettier than you anyway.”
Taehyung tried to haul Jungkook further up the bed and couldn’t budge him an inch. Jungkook let him struggle for a minute before crawling up himself and laying down on his stomach on the mattress beside him where Taehyung could use his arm as a pillow. He threw up leg over Jungkook’s thighs and enjoyed the solid heat of him.
“Why were you mad at me?” Taehyung said.
“Don’t worry about it.”
Jungkook opened his big Bambi eyes and peered over his own shoulder at Taehyung for a minute. “Don’t know. Just…” He put his face back in the pillow and shrugged. “Don’t know if I was mad. Had a bad day and wasn’t feeling like we were on the same page. That’s all.”
“I’ll make food out of that pumpkin, but you have to teach me how.”
“Keep it in a window for a couple weeks so the sun can harden it a bit.”
Taehyung found the back of Jungkook’s jeans and started tugging insistently.
“Then store it on a rack where it’s cold and it’ll last months.”
“Can’t do that in a dorm.”
“You’ll have to use it pretty fast then.” He cocked his hips up and reached down to unfasten the jeans so Taehyung could slide them off. “Thought we were gonna sleep.”
“It’s like three in the afternoon.”
“Ever heard of a nap?”
“I want to play with your butt. Let me play with your butt.”
Jungkook sighed and kicked his jeans off, long, thick legs appearing next to Taehyung’s slimmer ones. And a beautiful, strong butt.
“Where’d your underwear go?”
Jungkook’s face was already half buried in the pillow, eyes closed. “’s dirty. Didn’t want to put ‘em back on.” Taehyung gave the butt an experimental slap and watched it give the slightest jiggle. Jungkook’s eye slid open to give him a withering glare.
“Not as nice as Jimin’s.”
Jungkook clearly didn’t understand the appeal of butts, or appreciate how blessed he was to have such a nice one, small but round and skin beautifully soft. Taehyung squeezed a bit and felt the firm squish of muscle.
“Anyone ever touch your butt before, Kook?”
“Not outside the locker room in high school,” he grumbled. “You’re the first person who’s ever wanted to do shit with me, so…”
“And you’re curious?”
Taehyung bit down a smirk and started slow, gentle stroking, sometimes letting his nails scratch gently across the skin, sometimes leaving only his fingertips to tease across both cheeks. For a couple minutes, Jungkook looked absolutely unaffected, yet completely comfortable being so exposed. Then Taehyung ran a rough finger along the crease of his thigh and down in between his legs. Jungkook sucked in a breath through his nose.
“You like this?”
“Did you actually clean your ass up for me when you were in the shower?”
Those cheeks were definitely turning red. “Like, a little.”
Jungkook gave no resistance when Taehyung knocked his knees further apart to kneel in between his legs. He readjusted, flexible hips still flat on the bed, shirt riding up his tiny waist. Taehyung kneaded gently, more of a massage than anything else. His thumbs dug low into the muscle. “This ass is exceptional, baby.”
“Good to know,” Jungkook grunted softly.
“You ever done butt stuff?”
“On myself? Haven’t—ah.”
Taehyung watched red lines raise behind his nails and soothed his palms over them. “You ever thought about it?”
Taehyung spread his cheeks and ran a thumb over his hole, clean and dark. Jungkook tensed hard, hips rising off the bed and into Taehyung’s hands, trusting and open. Taehyung heart pounded faster. “How up for me eating your ass right now would you be?”
A deep breath and then a second of hesitation where Taehyung brushed circles around his hole. “Fuckin…do it.”
So Taehyung knelt down, spread Jungkook’s thighs wide enough to prop his ass up off the bed, and lapped across Jungkook’s hole.
Jungkook let out the highest, sweetest noise Taehyung had ever heard out of anyone, just a soft, short whine as his body tensed. Taehyung had to drop and rut his own dick against the bed as a shiver ran down his spine. Jungkook’s thighs seemed huge down here, scent strong even past the smell of body wash. It wasn’t a fantastic smell, just plain and human but so distinctly Jungkook that it felt a little heady.
He gave hard little kitten licks to Jungkook’s tense entrance and ran a hand under his hips to circle his fingers around Jungkook’s cock. The hips rolled away from Taehyung’s mouth with a jerk, thrusting against his fingers. “Stay still, baby,” he purred.
Jungkook grunted indignantly, but carefully returned his hips to position.
Eating ass for its own sake would never be Taehyung’s cup of tea, especially someone like Jungkook who didn’t really know how to prepare. Taehyung shoved what he was doing to the back of his mind and focused on listening to Jungkook try to muffle his moans into the pillow. As he began to point his tongue and force it in, Jungkook’s moans turned into squeaks, thighs trembling on either side of Taehyung’s head, a beautiful contrast between the masculine strength of him and how soft and giving he got. “Feeling good?” Taehyung murmured, lips against his reddened skin.
“The first time someone did this to me,” Taehyung said, and paused to swirl his tongue across his taught hole, “I nearly passed out.”
“Ohmygod,” Jungkook keened, coming up for air.
The shaking thighs and moaning really added something to the scent of pumpkin candles around the room. His tough townie boy all spread open and whining for him, so open to any form pleasure and attention came in. Taehyung grabbed a handful and squeeze-tested, barely able to make a dent.
Jungkook was trying not to thrust into his fingers, hips tentatively shaking into his fist with little needy whines. “You wanna cum, baby?”
“Don’t what?” Taehyung murmured, head foggy as he gave Jungkook’s hot cock long, firm strokes and licked steadily at his hole.
“Don’t fucking tease.”
“That’s not up to you.”
Taehyung slid his own finger into his mouth, which still tasted a little ashy. He sucked on it thoughtfully. That was an interesting contrast, skin and green, the residual musky taste of clean ass.
He gave Jungkook just a second of warning, tapping the tip of his finger against his hole, and then pushed inside.
The ass jerked away as Jungkook yelped, taking Taehyung’s finger with it, body squishing up with a high-pitched whine. Pre-cum dripped into Taehyung’s fingertips. “Like that?”
Taehyung took that as a yes and kept petting, Jungkook’s harsh pants keeping time to the finger thrusting in and out. Taehyung kept the hand on his dick still on the bed, using it to keep himself up, but Jungkook’s hips rocked, the head of his cock dragging sticky with precum, catching on the tight circle of his fingers.
“That fast? Like it that much?”
“Ugh. Shut up.”
“Do it, baby. All over my sheets.”
Jungkook groaned, shivered, and froze. A splash of heat hit Taehyung’s palm and he could help moaning against Jungkook’s ass cheek. “There you go. Now stay still. I was kidding about this getting on my sheets.”
“Sorry,” Jungkook whined, thighs shaking piteously. Taehyung carefully pulled his cupped palm out from between Jungkook’s legs and carried to little white puddle to his tissue box so he could scrape everything off into the trash can and make good use of his hand sanitizer.
“I’m kind of sticky now.”
Jungkook, still pants-less, pinned him down the minute he got back on the bed and yanked his boxers off. “Haven’t stopped thinking about your ass.”
“Not for days, huh?”
“Where’d you put the lube?”
Jungkook blinked owlishly at him and sat up a little, thick eyebrows screwed together. His shirt hung way loose down his front, giving Taehyung a view like Jungkook wasn’t wearing any clothes at all. “The lube you used to…you didn’t use lube? Dude that was my first time!”
“Wasn’t planning on doing much. Didn’t really need it for one finger. Maybe if you’d held out a little longer we would have needed it, but…” he shrugged. “There’s lube in my dresser.”
Jungkook glanced across the room, pouting hard. He shifted uncertainly. When Taehyung pulled him closer to a kiss, he didn’t cooperate immediately, letting Taehyung kiss across his jaw without leaning close enough to offer his lips.
“I’m sorry,” Taehyung said. “Did it hurt?”
“Like, not really,” he muttered and pulled his face out of Taehyung’s reach. “A little bit. Dude, I’m new at all of this. I don’t know…”
Taehyung flopped back onto the pillow. His dick pressed ridiculously to the inside of Jungkook’s thigh, who sat back like he didn’t feel it there, staring off into Taehyung’s bedroom. His jaw clenched.
“I’m sorry,” Taehyung said. “I didn’t know that would bother you.”
After a slow, cold moment, Jungkook looked back down at him uncertainty all over his face. “It’s okay.” He grabbed his discarded pants off the end of the bed and got off Taehyung, looking like he might want to put them on. He’d tugged the sheets demurely around his waist.
The mental fuzz was still softening Taehyung’s reactions, making him strangely floaty. He sat up against the wall, pulling his legs in to hide a little. “Are you leaving?” he asked, voice cracking embarrassingly.
Jungkook’s eyes shot up and met his suddenly. Taehyung jumped a little. “No,” Jungkook said with a sharp sigh. He got up and stomped over to the dresser. “Top drawer?”
“Second drawer,” Taehyung said.
Jungkook came back over with the lube in hand and shoved him back into his cushions. “You have a body pillow?”
“I like to hug things when I sleep,” Taehyung said, legs spreading cautiously for Jungkook’s hand.
“Fuck you’re cute,” Jungkook whined. The lube clicked sharply open.
Within a minute, Taehyung had his legs slung over Jungkook’s thighs, two fingers up his ass, and a wet, slippery hand pulling up and down his hardening cock, overwhelming sensation filling him up. Jungkook was far from gentle, fingers jabbing in roughly and thrusting hard. The little pit of sensation from his prostate had begun to grow with the constant passes of his fingers, but Taehyung couldn’t get enough breath in to even praise him. He gripped the pillows and panted.
“Too much?” Jungkook growled, hand pulling quick and sure. Taehyung squirmed up the bed, already overwhelmed. “No, don’t hide your face.”
Taehyung dropped his arm back over his chest, sure he was pulling the stupidest faces he could possibly make. His vision blurred and crossed, toes curling and shaking against Jungkook’s back.
Jungkook thumbed right under the head the same moment he slid his fingers directly over Taehyung sweet spot, pressing hard. Every muscle from Taehyung’s tailbone to his neck pulled tight all at once, a gasp raking into his throat. A thick forearm pressed him back down. “Take it,” Jungkook hissed, and Taehyung felt dizzy.
He came too fast, but that was what Jungkook had wanted with the fury he’d been pounding Taehyung with. “For a minute there I thought you might actually be a bottom,” Taehyung said, “but fuck.” Off in the room, Jungkook made an indignant little noise. “We could totally try more though, just in case,” Taehyung said. By the time Taehyung had circulated enough oxygen to force himself to sit up, Jungkook was pulling his jeans onto his legs. “You’re leaving now?”
Jungkook huffed. “Maybe. Just wanted my pants back on.”
Taehyung, sticky with lube, tried to tuck into himself to hide without touching his sheets too much.
One dark eye flashed over Jungkook’s shoulder, thin cheeks collecting shadows with his frown. “Why are you mad?” Taehyung asked.
“I’m not mad.”
“Fuck off. You’re mad.”
“What do you want from me?” Jungkook said, turning uncertainly to face him, arms crossed over his chest like he wanted to protect himself. “Just sex?”
Taehyung sat up slowly. All they did together was get high and fuck and Taehyung had been okay with that. He could imagine, with this being Jungkook’s first fling, that he might have been looking for a little more. Jungkook was so beautiful, so new, so interesting.
He only felt a little niggling doubt when he said “I’ll take you out for coffee on Friday.”
Jungkook’s eyes widened. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“Come here,” Taehyung sighed.
Jungkook shuffled over, moving awkwardly with his oversensitive cock trapped in his jeans. “Borrow some of my underwear for this,” Taehyung said, tapping Jungkook’s cock through the denim and watching him flinch. “In a minute.” He wrapped his long, bare legs around Jungkook’s thighs and pressed his face to his chest.
Jungkook tugged his head carelessly back by the hair and kissed his lips. “Okay.”
“Warning you now though,” Taehyung said, “I’m really bad at dating people seriously, so cut me some slack, okay?”
“I said you don’t have to.”
“I want to.”
Jungkook’s hands tightened on his shoulders, even as he looked away with another blush filling out his cheeks. He nodded. “Nice. Um. Can I borrow some boxers now?”
Taehyung put him in his one pair of Calvin Kleins just for fun, and spent a long half hour kneading slowly at Jungkook’s ass through the soft fabric and watching him try to hide the concentrated bliss on his face.
“Pumpkin latte please?”
“So basic,” Jungkook muttered under his breath.
“I will not let stereotypes keep me from a good time,” Taehyung said. “And a pumpkin cookie for mister grumpy over here.”
“Oh nice. Thanks.”
“If that’s for Jungkook, he can have it on the house,” the enormous man behind the counter said with a smile, “in thanks for fixing that shed.”
Jungkook accepted it with the soft, little smile that bunched his cheeks up and made his presence unusually warm. Taehyung felt like he should slide a hand into his back pocket and lean close. But that seemed entirely too forward for a first date. They’d fucked multiple times now, but Taehyung couldn’t feel right about leaning forward in public and being snuggly.
They sat in the back of the small café, all-natural wood surfaces everywhere and tin hoods on the lightbulbs like they were inside a stable. Jungkook powered through his sandwich and chips like a starving man, but took his time on the cookie.
“How’s your plain black coffee?” Taehyung asked when Jungkook stopped looking so rabid and had begun picking through his chip bag at a more sedate pace.
“Wanna try my pumpkin latte?”
“Sure.” He reached carelessly across the table and grabbed it, taking a long sip. “Oh, that’s not bad,” he said, sounding defeated. He took another sip.
“Better than your coffee?”
He nodded. “Maybe I’ll go get one. How much did it cost?”
Jungkook pursed his lips. “Can I just share yours?”
“Because it’s three forty-nine? That’s fucking cheap compared to Starbucks.” He waited as Jungkook shrugged and took another sip of Taehyung’s. “I’ll get you one. Dates on me, right?”
Jimin and Chanyeol were up front ordering, not a surprising when they were standing in the only viable date spot in the entire town. Jimin rattled off their order while Chanyeol stood behind him on his phone, occasionally cautiously pushing the screen in front of Jimin to show him a meme on Reddit.
“That’s hilarious. Send that to me.”
Chanyeol grinned and bounced a little.
“Two pumpkin lattes please,” Jimin said, turning his blank face back to the register.
“Make it three!” Taehyung called.
“I am not paying for yours, you little shit.”
“Wait, are you actually making me get a pumpkin latte?” Chanyeol whined.
“Nothing but fall themed drinks for the entire month,” Jimin said. “It’s a house rule.”
Jimin handed over his card and leaned back, expecting Chanyeol to be there to catch him. Chanyeol had not been in Jimin’s crosshairs long enough to know to step in and move his arms out of the way so Jimin had somewhere to lean, so Jimin stumbled backwards into Chanyeol’s chest, who nearly lost balance. They righted themselves, both a little disgruntled. Taehyung snickered. The man behind the counter did a little double take and a small head shake.
This was Jungkook’s community, Jungkook who was constantly leery of being seen with Taehyung, and here they were out on the town together, completely out of their usual habits. They probably should have talked about personal limits in public. Chanyeol and Jimin certainly didn’t have any, but they didn’t have to deal with the community. Taehyung quietly ordered his second pumpkin latte.
“Your latte, sir,” Taehyung said, putting it down on the table from Jungkook.
That warm little smile crossed Jungkook’s face again. “You might as well drink it. I finished yours.”
They sat across the table from each other, sharing the latte and chatting. Jungkook had been drying out onions. Taehyung had turned in an art project. Silent breaks in the conversation usually signaled a failed date for Taehyung, but Jungkook filled the space with a sweet calm, sipping the latte and looking completely relaxed. Taehyung couldn’t quite let go of his own awkward tension, but it felt out of place and silly with Jungkook looking so peaceful.
“Want to go for a walk?” Jungkook finally asked when the empty latte cup and lunch had been thrown away.
Sounded miserable. “Sure.”
They followed the railroad through a neighborhood of charming but run-down houses slowly moving out of town. Taehyung nodded at a dirty pink one with lacy white trip around the porch. “When do you think these were built?”
Jungkook shrugged. “Had to be a long time ago. I don’t think there’s been a single new building in town since I was born at least, and it all looked old then.”
“It’s like discount Victorian,” Taehyung said, and snorted at his own phrasing. “Kind of cottagey. And the window fixings all look ready to fall off.” He pointed at a ramshackle but stately blue house with high peaked rooves and a circular tower clinging to one corner. The front window was shattered. “Wonder how that happened.”
“The man that lives there used to beat his wife and the kids fucking sucked. She ran away two years ago and took them with her and he hasn’t bothered to fix it.”
“He’s an alcoholic. Used to work in the gun shop on main street before it got closed down.”
Taehyung couldn’t find the house half as charming anymore. He sighed. “Yikes.”
“I tried delivering pizza for Domino's for two months during high school and this isn’t the worst neighborhood in town, but it’s bad.” He glanced down at Taehyung looking almost nervous, and saw something on Taehyung’s face that made him duck his head. “You’re right though. It’s pretty. People usually take shit care of the houses, but their gardens are really nice.”
He looked totally impassive about the asshole living in that house who beat his family and couldn’t pull his life together, eyes running over it like that was old gossip that maintained only a shadow of its original interest. “Come down here a lot?” Taehyung asked.
Jungkook shook his head. “Don’t usually have time to, but work on the farm is dropping off with the season. I should be picking up more hours at work, but…” he shrugged. “I probably won’t starve. I can always beg my parents for food if I get really desperate. There’s a bridge up here.”
Outside of the neighborhood and through a couple hundred yards of woods, the tracks spanned a river. Giant stone columns rose out of the quick, shallow water to hold the track straight. Jungkook stepped up on the metal tracks and walked out towards the center. “Isn’t that dangerous?” Taehyung called after him.
“Trains only pass through here at night,” Jungkook said. “Comes through the center of town from 10:13 to 10:15.” Tae began cautiously picking his way across the boards after him. Jungkook got off the tracks at the first massive column and hopped down about five feet to a little concrete platform at the top where it stuck out from the side of the bridge. The water tumbled by fifteen feet below.
“Good place to read a book,” Jungkook said as Taehyung hopped down. He nearly snagged his scarf on a rivet.
Trees that were orange a week ago were mostly bare now, but hundreds of other trees had turned from green to an explosion of bright color. Leaves drifted by on the water, dipping and bobbing in the current over the rocks. Jungkook lay back on the warm concrete like a cat in a sunny patch. “Used to come here during high school,” he said.
Taehyung got the feeling he was passing into a capsule of Jungkook’s private life that he didn’t show many people. Were they close enough? He felt like he’d been let into a diary.
Nevertheless, the bridge felt like a spot from Taehyung’s dreams, an aesthetic shot in a teen movie, the sensitive, reclusive hot guy included in his dull color scheme and shaggy hair. Taehyung lay down next to Jungkook and leeched the warmth from the concrete through his jacket, breathed in the fresh, crisp air. He wiggled his cold fingers down Jungkook’s warm palm and through the gaps of his fingers. Jungkook squeezed and gave the sky a soft smile.
“It’s magic out here,” Taehyung said, and it sounded too loud.
“Mm,” Jungkook said, voice blending with the breeze through the dying leaves. “How’s this for your fall aesthetic?”
Jungkook didn’t respond except for the quietest grunt, a little dismissive.
“We don’t have big shallow rivers like this in Florida,” Taehyung said. “Or a lot of train tracks. Or trees like this.”
“Or cold like this.”
“Not so bad right here,” Taehyung said, scooting closer to Jungkook’s side. “This place looks like a painting. I wanna paint it.”
Jungkook squeezed his hand again and they lay in silence in the sun. From Taehyung’s angle, he could have been anyone, an imagined celebrity, a faceless figure in a drawing, Chanyeol. A wind brushed through the trees. The river gurgled below. Jungkook’s quiet presence had Taehyung sinking into a peaceful sleepiness, so different than the energy Jimin and Hoseok carried around. He should get all of them to interact more and see what happened. They referred to him as ‘farmer boy’ or ‘Tae’s big man.’ He doubted they’d mesh well. “I do seriously want to paint you,” Taehyung said. “Remember when I said that?”
“In fall colors. I remember.”
“You’d look good in warm tones. With some ghosty light blue for highlights.”
Jungkook snorted. “Ghosty? Am I a ghost now?”
“You could be,” Taehyung said. “It would explain why you’re never cold and why you live in an abandoned garage. I’ve never seen your parents around that house, you know. What if you all died fifty years ago? Woooo.”
“We fought a lot when I was in high school and now we don’t talk much.”
Taehyung shifted his fingers awkwardly in Jungkook’s grip. “oh.”
“Over me being gay and not having the best grades like they did in school, even though we’re not blood related and I definitely didn’t inherit their smarts.”
“And I do get cold.”
“Just step on my jokes then.”
Jungkook shuffled over onto his side to face Taehyung with his pretty hair falling messily to the side, those thick eyebrows arching up from his nose, look a little withering. Taehyung’s breath got caught in his throat at the softness of those lips next to the shadowed jaw, the deep, dark eyes.
“You’re gonna joke about how shitty my house is?”
If he hadn’t still been gently stroking Taehyung’s hand with his thumb, Taehyung might have thrown himself into the river right there.
Jungkook huffed through his nose and shook his head. “It’s fine. You’re right.”
Something told Taehyung that Jungkook probably shouldn’t be letting that slide so easily. He lay there on the cement, wondering how many other times he’d stepped on Jungkook’s toes without realizing it. Hadn’t he made a fuss about Jungkook’s outhouse just a few days ago? Didn’t he just get on Jungkook for being cheap about a three-dollar coffee? He felt himself flush and picked anxiously at the buttons on his jacket.
“You’re getting cold again.”
“What? No, I’m not.”
“Tae, your fingers have been getting colder and colder as I’ve been holding them and it’s a little alarming.”
Taehyung gave up and rolled onto Jungkook’s side. He shoved a cold hand into Jungkook’s coat along his side and hummed happily as they warmed as fast as if he was gripping a warm mug of coffee.
“Maybe we should go back to my place,” Jungkook said.
And skip out on cuddling his autumn boy in an autumn breeze over an autumn river with the autumn forest rustling all around them? He threw a leg over Jungkook’s hips and held on.
“Okay,” Jungkook chuckled, and kissed the top of his head.
Taehyung felt his whole body flush and his heart beat strangely, like he wanted to get excited about how sweet that was but didn’t feel right about it. They lay in Jungkook’s special place, cuddled up like they were sweet on each other when Taehyung felt like the best thing they could be doing was fucking lethargically with a bowl between them, no hand-holding, no talking about their family problems.
“You’re right,” he said. “We should go inside.”
Jungkook gave him one last squeeze before rolling away and standing, and Taehyung felt relieved even through the sudden loneliness.
“I think farmer boy jacked it in the shower this morning,” Jimin said from where he was curled up on the floor. A textbook and an avalanche of notes lay in front of him, a half-smoked bowl sitting off to the side.
“Makes sense. I teased him way too long and then had to run to class.”
Jimin snorted and flopped gracefully onto his side. “Well don’t do that. He’s gets so noisy and I have to listen to it. It comes right through the walls, you know.”
“Oh shit,” Taehyung laughed.
“I’m not complaining necessarily,” Jimin said. “I’ve got no room to talk, first off. I’ve been keeping Chanyeol’s whole house up.” He rolled quickly back over to look Taehyung in the eyes. “And he sounds so pretty when you tease him. Fuck. But it’s hard not to, like, react to it and then I feel like a creep.” He paused and grinned as Taehyung snickered. “I thought you bottomed, by the way.” He said.
“I do, most of the time. We found out he likes butt stuff though, so I’ve been giving him orientation. Haven’t actually fucked him yet. And he sounds that nice when he’s topping, believe it or not.”
“That boy is something else,” Jimin said, on his back and staring up at the ceiling now. “He’s such a townie, you know? Like, you can really tell he’s not a college student.”
“Why? Cause of the ripped-up clothes and the shaggy haircut?”
“Well he does look like one of the guys from the maintenance crew, but no, that’s not what I meant.” Jimin hand wormed across the floor over his head in search of the bowl. “He comes across as really challenging and like…distant, you know? Like he’s not sure he should be here. I never see him getting along with anyone but you.”
The weird date kept coming back to Taehyung’s mind, how they were fine in bed with a few hits between them but as soon as they got out into the real world he couldn’t keep his foot out of his mouth and didn’t know how to act. “Huh. Yeah.”
“You gonna keep him?”
Taehyung pondered the word, ‘keep,’ often used in terms of ability. Can you keep him. He could. Had he planned on it? No. Jimin knew he didn’t tend to ‘keep’ men. They’d gone on a date. That sent some new signals. He really was more captivating than the guys Taehyung used to pick up. “I’m not sure how well we get along, him and me, him and all of my friends.”
“Have him over more. Let’s see.”
“I have him over a lot. We just fuck, sleep, and bicker and I like that.”
“Be prepared for me to bust in on you next time.”
Taehyung stared out the open window. He heard the snap and spark of a lighter behind him, a few seconds of silence, and then Jimin breathing out slowly from deep in his throat like he liked to. If Taehyung turned around, he’d see thick, opaque smoke drifting out of Jimin’s mouth and flowing over his face, slowly blowing away in the slight draft coming in from outside. Beautiful. Not quite as captivating as when Jungkook did it though, with his strong jaw and those eyebrows pinched just right to turn his face from cute to a little heart-stopping.
He took out his phone and asked Jungkook if he could come over when he finished work.
“Mm,” Jungkook said, making a grabby hand towards the bowl. Taehyung blew a thick, sluggish puff of smoke over the open front of Jungkook’s jeans and over the growing bulge in his boxers. He watched Jungkook’s eyes go a little wide. His Denny’s uniform looked ridiculous in a bed, like a bad commercial: hot young actor, pristine uniform, dirty bedsheets and a boy in barely any clothes.
“That’s like the cleanest weed, um…flavor I’ve ever tasted.”
“Weed flavor,” Jungkook said, breath a little short with the vision that was Taehyung with only Jungkook’s plaid over-shirt falling of his shoulders, the most threadbare and grimy piece of clothing Taehyung had ever worn. He brought the collar to his nose and sniffed.
“What are you doing? I haven’t washed that thing in weeks.”
“This is going to sound fucking stupid, but you smell like a man.”
Jungkook snorted and scowled, but his hips wiggled, dick print bulging hard towards Taehyung’s face.
“You want something?” Taehyung asked.
“Why do you tease so much?”
Taehyung yanked at the hem of Jungkook’s pants until he pushed up a bit and gave them room to slide down, revealing old, torn-up boxer briefs that were the furthest thing from cute, though Taehyung had a great view of balls through a hole in the seam. “Hard yet?”
“You know I’m hard, Tae.”
“Gonna sit on it.”
“How do you make sexy stuff sound so not sexy?”
The branch of a leafless tree kept tapping against the window and Taehyung wondered how he slept on nights as windy as it was that afternoon. The heater hadn’t done much to dent the chill of the house. Taehyung rode Jungkook with both of them still wearing most of their clothes, the blankets loose around Taehyung’s shoulders.
When he got tired, Jungkook lay him on his chest on the lumpy mattress. He experimentally worked up a pace that was a little rougher than Taehyung would have asked for, unpracticed and unfocussed. Being used had always made Taehyung feel a little desperate, a little fuzzy, a little like he needed this one person there to fuck him like this for the rest of his life.
Afterwards, Jungkook wrapped around his back, the only remaining warmth in the terribly chilly garage, both of them shivering a little.
“Need to get more blankets,” Jungkook said. “Don’t have the money yet. I’m sorry.”
“Want to sleep at my place?” Taehyung asked without thinking.
Jungkook hummed uncertainly for a minute. “Yeah,” he said, “if you want me there.” He turned and flopped down on Taehyung’s side, struggling to push his arm into his inside-out jacket sweater sleeve. “Thank you.”
Back in Taehyung’s dorm, they slept without fucking, both of them in the same bed because it would be strange at this point to make Jungkook sleep on the couch, Jungkook so warm and strong against his back. He could imagine how people got used to this. Jungkook’s breath puffed against his hair. His arm sat warm and heavy over his side. He’d slept like this with flings before, both of them sprawled as long as possible on their own side of the twin bed. It felt bigger when they folded together like this.
Jungkook had opened the window before they slept, and the smell of leaves and chill lulled him to sleep alongside the almost imperceptible rumbles of Jungkook’s chest.
Midafternoon on Wednesday, someone slammed into Taehyung’s door from the outside and Taehyung jumped hard enough to shove his dick an inch deeper into Jungkook’s ass.
“Aw, fuck, he locked it,” Jimin said from the other side.
Jungkook made a distressed, pained whimper, hands gripping Taehyung’s shoulders and face screwed up furiously.
“Sorry, sorry,” Taehyung murmured. “You okay?” Jungkook shook his head, thighs shaking, breathing heavily. “I’m trying to go slow.”
“I know, I know. Keep…slower.”
Taehyung pressed in just a little further and watched Jungkook slap a hand over his mouth to hide his grimace.
“Do you want to turn over? Do you want to stop?”
A bit of hesitation. A shake of his head. Taehyung rubbed his hands up and down Jungkook’s very shapely, solid sides, thumbs trailing over the muscles on his stomach until he shivered and kicked. “Sorry,” Taehyung said again.
Jungkook seemed somehow even more naked than usual under Taehyung with his legs pressed back and his dick lying untouched and mostly soft on his stomach. He squirmed and gasped and tugged on Taehyung’s arm a little, signaling that he could try a little further.
“Sorry about Jimin,” Taehyung murmured.
“It’s f-nnmm.” He hissed. He tossed his head back, neck corded with muscle and gleaming with perspiration.
“You’ve got to relax. Try harder to relax. Deep breaths. You can’t just stretch an ass open like a vagina. It has to be voluntary.”
Jungkook’s nose wrinkled. “Trying,” he gritted. “Wanna…do this. Can you do that with vaginas?”
“Fuck if I know. Never touched one. You know, it’s okay if you don’t want to bottom. I’m fine with that. We can wait a little longer.”
“We’re already halfway there.”
“My dick ain’t nearly halfway in yet.”
“Is it his first time?” Jimin yelled from out in the hallway.
“Fuck off!” Taehyung shrieked to a peal of giggles retreating from the door.
Jungkook groaned and slammed his fist against the bed, panting again. Taehyung tentatively attempted to push in a little further like Jimin hadn’t just interrupted everything and Jungkook growled. He froze. “Relaxing,” Jungkook gasped, glancing at the door again. “Trying. Jimin, what the fuck?”
“Take your time, baby. This is for you.”
Jungkook huffed a laugh and it came back in with a bit of a sob. “Fuck. Hurts.” His eyes looked strangely wet. He blinked and threw an arm over his face with a little grunt of disgust, jaw locked tight.
“I did this too,” Taehyung said softly. “Got drunk and got a guy top me after a party. Cried the whole time and didn’t have sex again for half a year. Do your best to relax, but it’s fine if it hurts. I’ll be careful.”
Jungkook took a few deep, steadying breaths, chest swelling and compressing, muscles coming into sharper relief in the light. His little brown nipples pebbled with cold. Taehyung reached up and flicked his thumb over one to make Jungkook’s pec tense. As Taehyung kept flicking over it, sometimes pinching lightly and rolling it between his fingers, sometimes just running his thumb back and for over it, Jungkook let out a little sigh. His arms flopped loosely back onto the covers. Taehyung pressed further in and Jungkook immediately tensed again.
“Jungkook,” he sighed.
“Doing really good. Think about how it feels when I’m fucking you on my fingers and it’s not too much.” He circled his hand around Jungkook’s limp cock and felt it heat and swell just a little. “Just want to make you feel good. We’ll get there.”
“Do you fuck a lot of guys?” Jungkook asked suddenly through his trembling gasps.
“Not really, no.”
“Really? You seem kinda…like you do.”
“Total guy count isn’t high,” Taehyung said. “I don’t do one-offs.” Jungkook nodded a little, and might have relaxed a bit more. “I find boyfriends or, um, fuckbuddies, and have a lot of sex with those.”
“Which am I?”
Taehyung felt a twinge of discomfort rattle up his spine. “Huh? Um. Hadn’t…honestly didn’t think we’d hit boyfriends yet. Like…that requires an actual conversation. I don’t…get boyfriends very often and they’re closer to fuckbuddies anyway. Just something that…hasn’t worked out yet.” He was rambling. “Maybe a few more dates. We can, um, talk more once I’m out of your ass.”
Jungkook swallowed, head turned towards the window. “Don’t worry about it. We don’t have to.”
Taehyung slid in a little further, nearly all the way in now, and Jungkook really was doing his best to stay open, breathing deeply. His cock hardened till Taehyung could properly distract him, and then he slid all the way into Jungkook’s very tight, very hot ass.
It took a while before he could properly thrust, just short, slow pushes as Jungkook held very, very still and tried to stay quiet. His dignity didn’t hold long, letting go of the beautiful noises Taehyung was getting comfortably used to. His legs still shook and tensed. He got fussy when Taehyung tried longer strokes, one hand jerking his own cock like he wanted to distract himself. After only a few minutes of Taehyung trying to work up to something more satisfying, Jungkook came abruptly over his hand with a little “oh!” of surprise.
“Maybe shouldn’t…work my dick so much next time,” he said as Taehyung pulled out and carefully stripped off the condom.
“God, I can’t feel anything through that thing.”
“You’re not fucking me without one.”
“No, no. Of course not.”
Jungkook wiped himself off with a wad of Taehyung’s tissues, hand down between his legs and shuddering with overstimulation. “I did okay?” He asked.
“Really good for your first time,” Taehyung said.
“Think I prefer topping.”
Taehyung shrugged. “You might be a sub top, you know, which I haven’t run into before, but I like that.” Jungkook nodded slowly, jaw clenching and unclenching with the awkwardness that only came after bad sex. “I’m up for it if you ever want to try again though.” Bad sex was never something Taehyung had put up with for anyone, but here he was, ready to do it again. “Do you think you could take care of me now?” He pointed to his own cock, sticky with precum and standing red against his hip.
Jungkook nodded and shuffled onto his knees so he could push Taehyung back on the bed. With the first touch of lips to his cock, Taehyung let go of a heavy sigh. Jungkook laughed a little. Ever shameless, Taehyung just let his voice go, let his hands scratch through Jungkook’s hair and his legs shift restlessly when something felt too good to stand. Jungkook was getting better, paying more attention to Taehyung’s reactions than he used to.
Jungkook pulled off suddenly. “About the boyfriend thing,” he said, quiet and breathy in the still room. He looked a little closed-off somehow, expression coldly neutral, even with his lips slick and red and his eyes still swollen. “Just forget about it. It’s fine.”
Taehyung’s chest felt a little tight, a little anxious, but he nodded. It took forever to cum.
“So when are you two going to tie the knot?” Jimin asked an hour later as he passed the pipe over to where Taehyung lay with his legs across Jungkook’s lap on the couch. “Make it official? Change your Facebook profiles?” Taehyung wanted to kick him. Just an hour after his most awkward interaction with Jungkook yet. Chanyeol looked over his shoulder from where he was sitting on the floor, leaning against the couch in front of Taehyung. Jimin lay over his lap. From the bed, Hoseok perked up. Seokjin’s eyes stayed glued to the TV screen where Chanyeol was playing Far Cry 4 again.
“God, no,” Jungkook said. “There are guys here from my high school who might actually come after me with pitch forks if I came out.”
That made Seokjin turn. Seokjin was a new acquisition to the group, the school’s resident overachiever. It was a bit of an honor to have him with them. Hoseok had met him some sort of campus activity and they’d been inseparable ever since. Namjoon and Jihyo didn’t even look up, Jihyo perched on Namjoon’s lap in Taehyung’s desk chair, both of them talking quietly. Jihyo’s friend Jeongyeon never looked up from the screen, red eyes blinking sleepily. Yoongi sat on the end of the bed, getting over the awkwardness of being too close to Hoseok and Seokjin by gluing himself to a game on his phone.
“Well don’t do it on Facebook then,” Jimin said. “But like, is it going to happen?” Jungkook got a little shifty-eyed, making this about the most awkward Taehyung could have imagined Jungkook hanging out with the usual smoking crew to go.
“If it happens, it happens,” Taehyung said. He flicked the lighter and put the pipe to his mouth, the weird, curvy one that Namjoon brought over and claimed it was a re-creation of some character’s pipe from Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t particularly functional. He could feel Jungkook’s eyes watching him over the pipe as he lit up and inhaled, sucking it all down deep into his chest.
He sat up, beckoning Jungkook closer with a finger. Jungkook only hesitated a moment before he leaned down with one hand spread wide over Taehyung’s waist and let Taehyung tip his jaw where he wanted it. Taehyung opened his lips, barely brushing Jungkook’s skin, his thumb on the dip of his throat next to his Adam’s apple. Jungkook breathed in, giving everyone else a view of the smoke wisping between them.
They got relatively little reaction. Jeongyeon and Chanyeol stared at the screen. Seokjin and Hoseok didn’t seem to care. Namjoon and Jihyo never stopped talking. Yoongi didn’t pick his eyes up from his phone. Jimin, however, looked very satisfied.
This was supposed to be a private afternoon. It was Jimin that invited the whole party in as soon as Taehyung emerged from the room for a glass of water. Taehyung didn’t mind. He’d been meaning to see how Jungkook fit in, but Jungkook looked as wide-eyed as he had the first couple times he’d been over, stiff and silent except when he had the pipe in his hand.
“Don’t you have a farm?” Jimin asked him.
“How’s harvest going?”
“It’s October, so there’s not much left to do,” he said. “I’ve got to fix up the soil for the next growing season but that’s about it.
“I really want to grow my own food,” Seokjin said suddenly. “I’ve been trying to get the campus garden to open up plots for students, but they say we’re here for all the wrong seasons. They’re probably right. I’ll just have to wait another twenty years till I have my own house.”
“Twenty?” Jimin asked.
“Well yeah, in this economy, twenty is optimistic.”
Agreeable grumbling from around the room. A sigh from Jungkook.
Chanyeol shot some NPC’s on screen and watched them drop like marionettes. An elephant in front of him charged. “Oh shit!” he yelled. Every person in the room jumped.
“Yeol,” Jimin whined. “They do that if you shoot at them.”
“Well I’m dead now.”
“Hey, Jungkook, ever shot a gun?” Hoseok blearily asked.
“Yeah, of course. Loads of times,” Jungkook said.
“Why do you ask?” Taehyung asked before anyone could voice their opinions because he already saw Yoongi gearing up for a rant on gun control that he figured Jungkook probably wasn’t used to hearing.
“Seokjin and I were talking earlier today about how there are probably way more guns sitting around in this town than we want to think about. Thought you’d know more about it.”
“Tons of people around here hunt,” Jungkook said. “It’s good food and it’s healthy for the local deer populations since we’ve taken away all the local predators. So yeah, I’d say most people have guns.”
“Yeah, but how many assault rifles, and do people keep those things within reach around the house?” Hoseok said, sounding a little scornful.
Jungkook shifted uncomfortably. “I’m sure some people do. I don’t like it either.”
“The murder rate around here is weirdly high,” Yoongi said.
Everyone nodded. Jungkook squeezed Taehyung’s leg.
“That might be the drug problem,” Jungkook grumbled softly, passing on the pipe.
“Do you have any guns?” Chanyeol asked. Jungkook stiffened quickly. “Cause I sure do,” Chanyeol said, and flexed. “Ow, Jimin, why?”
Jimin stopped pinching him. “Gonna go out tonight and get shwasty,” he muttered.
“Nice and American,” Yoongi muttered. “Hunting deer, doing meth, and beating your kids. Thank god I’m getting out of here this year.” He must have seen the downward tilt of Jungkook’s eyebrows. “No offense, Jungkook. I heard you hated it here.”
Jungkook glanced at Taehyung with an uncomfortable expression. “Can everyone stop bullying my boy?” Taehyung said.
“But do you have guns though?” Jeongyeon asked, smoke drifting out of her mouth as she talked.
His hands tensed on Taehyung’s legs. “Yeah, a couple. They’re useful on a farm.”
“Cool,” she murmured.
“Your boy?” Jimin said from the floor, “is that what he is?”
Taehyung realized he felt uneasy. Maybe a little embarrassed. He hadn’t really imagined integrating Jungkook into the friend group to be this awkward, and Jungkook certainly wasn’t helping. He tapped distractedly at Taehyung’s knee and scowled. But he’d been in a weird mood since they fucked. Maybe since the boyfriend question. “Who’s got the bowl?” Taehyung asked.
“It’ll come back around,” Namjoon said, holding the bowl as Jihyo helped him light it. He’d been scared to do it himself since an incident sophomore year. Taehyung tipped his head against the arm of the couch and blinked at the tie-dyed tapestry overhead. He’d never found it ugly before, but fuck that thing was gaudy and ridiculous. It had been way too expensive. What did Jungkook think of it?
“You’re his something,” Jimin said, bumping Jungkook’s leg. “I hear you two in here all the time.”
“Oh my god you two are shameless,” Hoseok said from his bed. Taehyung chuckled, but Jungkook kept scowling and tapping at Taehyung’s knee.
“I think it’s mostly Taehyung,” Jimin said from the floor, and Taehyung noticed his eyes flickering worriedly to Jungkook’s expression. “He’s always like this with guys.”
“I’ve got a pretty voice and I want people to hear it,” Taehyung said. Jimin cackled and smacked his arm. “You’re louder than I am,” Taehyung continued. “Thank god you’re always over at Chanyeol’s these days. Yeol, how are your roommates handling it?”
“It’s not the first time I’ve had a loud booty call and it won’t be the last,” Chanyeol said, not taking his eyes off the screen.
They’d been down this road before, various iterations of a similar conversation hedging on sexual preferences and teasing each other for what they could hear. There was always something new to add, Jimin calling some guy daddy though he claimed that was the other guy’s kink and not his, or Hoseok’s collection of sex toys being accidentally unearthed in the middle of a study smoke. That time when Taehyung dated some frat guy that always fucked him so hard he cried loud enough for people to hear through the floor. Jungkook was new at this. He kept his mouth shut and flushed unhappily as Hoseok mindlessly quoted an exchange he’d heard from their room the other day.
“’Jungkook, faster. Don’t pussy out, come on.’ And then a few minutes later, I just heard, ‘what, already?’”
Everyone snickered. Jungkook seemed to pull further into himself. By that point, most of the group was far too high to be thinking clearly about it.
“Taehyung’s used to a little more experience,” Jimin giggled. “Jungkook makes up for it in cuteness.”
“He’s got to be hella cute to make up for the kind of shit I usually hear coming out of this bedroom,” Hoseok said.
Jungkook scooted Taehyung’s legs off his lap, got up, and left the room. The group watched him leave with wide eyes. Chanyeol’s avatar died and the quiet loading screen left a cold static in the room.
“Thanks, guys,” Taehyung snapped, struggling to pull himself onto his feet.
“What’d we do?” Hoseok whined. Taehyung slammed the door behind him.
It wasn’t until he got out to the freezing concrete that he noticed he hadn’t put on an appropriate jacket or shoes. His thin ankle socks kept out none of the cold. Jungkook was walking away down the sidewalk with his hands in his jacket pockets. “Jungkook! Hold on!”
His feet dragged to a stop and he turned halfway around, staring off over the campus with his jaw set. “So your friends think I’m some cute idiot from town who probably owns guns.”
Taehyung came to a stop a few feet away. “We don’t really talk about it. Is it that much of a problem? They’re high little shits, and I’m sorry about all that, but a storm out? Really?”
Jungkook’s shoulders hunched defensively, little lips pursed in an unintentional pout, the same one that always got Taehyung to melt when it wasn’t because of him. “You’re used to better, huh?”
“You’re just not like the guys I tend to go for. That’s all. I wouldn’t call it ‘better.’”
“I mean, I’ve known that,” Jungkook said, glare harsh, head high, and Taehyung could begin to see why Chanyeol thought Jungkook could be scary. “Since the first time we fucked and you looked kind of surprised and confused the whole time. It’s whatever. I figured you weren’t planning on doing this for long but I would’ve fucking liked to hear it from you instead of getting dragged along for weeks.” His eyebrows pulled in like he was angry but his lips pursed tight like he was trying not to cry, dressed in warn-out browns and blending with the dying trees and orange leaves scattered across the path.
Taehyung wished he didn’t have that floaty weed feeling in his skull, not quite high yet but cloudy and distracted, not thinking clearly. “What did I need to say?” He said. “We fucked because we wanted to. We went on a date because we wanted to.”
“You don’t like doing that, Taehyung. I can tell. I don’t want you to force yourself. I said so.” His heavy boots clunked on the sidewalk. A couple girls walked around them in the grass, glancing between them and Taehyung stepped closer to try to get Jungkook to lower his voice, to get out of the way. “You might be the only person I’ve ever had anything like this with, but I’m not gonna let you yank me around till you drop me for good. You don’t care how I feel and your friends don’t take me seriously. I can take a fucking hint.”
Taehyung stood there shivering, staring at this Jungkook that Taehyung had never seen before. Jungkook’s expression had turned sullen, his scowl prominent. “You’re gonna leave?” Taehyung croaked. “Is this because I said we weren’t boyfriends?”
At that, Jungkook’s expression crumpled, suddenly the vulnerable kid that came out when Taehyung straddled him and pulled his hair. Jungkook backed up, hands running over his head, frustrated. “I don’t want to be your freaking pumpkin spiced latte.” He tried to put heat into his soft voice. It came out almost whiny. “You don’t want me, Tae. I wanted you to want me, but if you don’t, this is just going to fucking hurt and I can’t do that.”
Taehyung couldn’t find an argument, chest strangely hollow as his brain caught up with what the logical end to this conversation was. “Then break up with me,” he said. “I don’t care.”
For a long moment, Jungkook stared at the ground, eyebrows pulling in, looking unusually lost. He heaved a deep, quiet sigh with a little shake to it. Taehyung almost reached out, almost cupped his cheek in his hand, almost tried to find something that would fix this thing they didn’t have. His beautiful Jungkook, looking so lonely and cold on the sidewalk, too much distance between them.
“Buy your weed from Chanyeol,” Jungkook muttered finally, and trudged off, the first bare winter trees framing him as he hunched against the cold. Out of a depth of affection Taehyung didn’t know he had came a sudden sob, and then defeat.
In the middle of a lonely, empty afternoon, Taehyung sat in front of his window with a canvas. The room felt unusually open and empty with the tapestry torn off the ceiling, letting in more light for painting. With short strokes of orange and red, he made sharp cheekbones, brown in the hair, ghosty blue highlighting a strong nose and cheekbones. He’d been right. Jungkook looked perfect in fall colors.
He’d been trying not to think all day, the onset of shame prickling in his head. He hadn’t understood Jungkook’s anger at first, but little phrases kept filtering back. “…the first person who’s ever wanted to do shit with me.” How Jungkook had allowed Taehyung’s insults about his house. How he’d tried to stop the boyfriend angle as soon as Taehyung showed disinterest. Jungkook had been so alone and Taehyung took advantage.
Out the open window, leaves skittered across the sidewalks and over the dying grass. He leaned his head out into the sun and let shivers tear through him. He shoved the painting behind his desk without finishing it.
Jimin had his glasses on, a novel for class open in one hand, and the other resting on Taehyung’s chest. Taehyung’s long legs were beginning to go numb from being thrown over the end of the couch.
“Please can we watch a movie?” Taehyung whined. They hadn’t even smoked. Chanyeol hadn’t gotten in touch with Jungkook since he walked out a few days before and they’d all run out.
“I’ve gotta finish this.”
“Can we get drunk?”
Jimin pushed his glasses further up his nose, perfectly academic. He hadn’t done his hair after his shower and it lay like a pile of hay over his scalp, over-dyed and as tired as Taehyung felt. “This book has to be finished by class tomorrow. I haven’t read any of it.”
Taehyung pressed his face into Jimin’s hip with a weird knot in his throat. Jimin’s flannel shirt wrapped around his fingers so nicely. He tugged on it.
“Tae, baby. Taeby. We can watch when I finish this. Don’t you have a project to work on?”
He did. It wasn’t due for a couple days yet. The professor was endlessly soft on him an he’d get an extension no problem. “Don’t you love me?”
Chanyeol kept glancing over from Taehyung’s bed where he had a textbook and a pad of composition paper strewn out over the blankets. He always managed to have perfect hair, even on the laziest afternoon. It looked good with his jealous puppy pout.
“Tae, I love you, but I have a full-time commitment to my GPA and you’re just a mistress. Please understand.”
“What am I then?” Chanyeol muttered.
“The side chick,” Taehyung said. “Jimin, I wanna get crunk.”
“You’re just making up words now.” Jimin took of his glasses and used them as a bookmark in his novel so he could devote both hands to petting his best friend. “Taeby, I have not seen you this torn up about a man ever. Like, never. I thought that guy on the basketball team freshman year would do you in, but that was just theatrics, wasn’t it?”
Taehyung scowled. “That guy hurt my feelings. And I’m not torn up over a guy.”
“I’m really sorry we scared Jungkook off.”
Taehyung shrugged and grabbed Jimin’s placating hands, holding them still. “You don’t have to be sorry about Jungkook. I wasn’t, like, attached. You guys just made him bring up the real problems he had with me. He was getting clingy. Not your fault.”
“He had problems with you? No. That asshole.”
“They were legitimate. What movie do you want to watch?”
“Don’t do that. Look at me.” Jimin’s blurry face hovered above him. He tried to give him his best tired glare. Jimin’s thumb pressed lightly under his eye as if searching for tears. “What were his problems?”
Taehyung could feel his lower lip sticking out without his control. “He said I was treating him like a pumpkin spice latte and that I’d ditch him as soon as he’s out of season.”
“Fuck, that’s dramatic. Holy shit.”
Chanyeol chuckled across the room.
“I think he was right,” Taehyung said, too tired to keep up the cute act anymore. He ran a hand through his own hair and scowled. “I feel like an obnoxious, privileged asshole. He’s poor and miserable and I literally romanticized that. I took advantage of it. He got attached and I’m a shithead.”
Jimin looked like he was walking on eggshells, just the edge of a cringe on his lips, words spoken crisply and quietly. “Then go apologize and get him back.”
“I don’t want him back.”
“You’ve eaten cereal for dinner three nights in a row—”
“What does that have to—”
“Because you didn’t want to put in the effort of getting out of your pajamas to look presentable enough for the freaking dining hall—”
“I do that whenever art projects are coming up—”
“Which means you didn’t go to class on Friday. Your shower this morning was two hours long and you sang Adele the whole time. I watched you chuck a plaid shirt at the trash can yesterday. You ate spaghettios with extra sauce while wearing your guccis. You’ve redecorated your room. You slept in my freakin bed last night.”
“Yeah, fine. I’m upset.”
Jimin heaved a deep sigh and ran both his hands heavily through Taehyung’s knotted hair, pulling remorselessly. Taehyung let his face scrunch up and his eyes water. The pull wasn’t so bad, felt a little good and a little relieving. Above him, Jimin seemed to be trying to figure out what to say to get Taehyung to talk about it. His glasses had slid further down his nose, making him look a bit like a fussy librarian. A fussy, worried librarian.
“Do you think I…” Taehyung paused, letting it circulate, the regret he hadn’t been letting himself feel. “Did I misjudge all of this? I wasn’t treating him poorly. All we did was fuck. I could tell he might want something more, and I tried to give it to him, but I just didn’t realize…”
“You fucked. You also lay in bed together and smoked and stared deeply into each other’s eyes for hours at a time.”
Taehyung ran his hands over his face.
“It’s possible,” Jimin said slowly, “that you have such steady expectations for how this kind of thing goes that you didn’t notice that this different for you.”
Taehyung threw an arm over his eyes, thought of hooking up with that senior freshman year, Junmyeon, how he didn’t even care when Junmyeon suddenly got a girlfriend and never said a word to him again. He couldn’t remember a single conversation they’d ever had. That fling he had with Yoongi before they were really friends, how he didn’t even know Yoongi’s last name till Namjoon introduced him as a weed buddy months later. The man on the basketball team, tall and strong. They’d never met outside of Taehyung’s room. The past summer it had been a guy he knew in high school, and he’d been so uninterested in getting to know him that he could have been a republican and Taehyung would have been none the wiser.
He hadn’t bounced constantly back and forth between the rooms of any of them. Hadn’t found him at work and invited himself into the homes, hadn’t fucked any in a pumpkin patch, hadn’t helped any of them through sexual experimentation, hadn’t lain across their chests without a pipe and felt perfectly at home. Jungkook was his pumpkin latte, his fall boy, his farmer, all these possessive little names and lovely things. He’d never assigned an aesthetic, a beauty, or an affection to any man before. There was so much under that, the gentle glances, the uncertainty, Jungkook’s eagerness to please, the way he looked so defeated but kept working harder than Taehyung could ever imagine working. He felt abruptly that he hadn’t deserved even a fling with Jungkook, much less to be asked in that breathy voice if they were boyfriends.
“Want me to get you some apple cider or something?” Jimin asked.
“No,” Taehyung groaned. “I’m want Halloween to be over so we can start moving on to winter.”
“Hot chocolate then.”
They watched Road to El Dorado leaning against each other on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, and neither managed to laugh much.
“Will you be okay?” Jimin asked when Miguel and Tulio resolved their disagreement over being gods and Taehyung felt more listless than he had before they started watching. Jimin’s warm weight settled on Taehyung’s chest, body fit between his legs. His sharp chin dug into Taehyung’s sternum. He didn’t look down. Chanyeol made a disgruntled noise.
“I’ll get over it. Just gotta find rebound, right?”
“Or get him back.”
“Or be more aware of other options next time I find an awesome fuckbuddy and not be an ass about dates.”
“I told you,” Chanyeol muttered, and Taehyung remembered that he had at one point suggested that Taehyung give the dating thing a try. He’d allowed a date. Maybe two dates counting the pumpkin patch. But he hadn’t honestly given it a fair chance.
“Okay,” Jimin murmured, and hugged Taehyung’s chest. “Chanyeol, stop moping. I’m coming over there next.”
Taehyung hadn’t considered the boyfriend option in a very long time, but as Jimin crawled into Chanyeol’s arms and snuggled up, he figured it actually looked pretty nice.
When Taehyung and Jimin came downstairs in full makeup to show Chanyeol their costumes, Jungkook stood there in the open door with a giant plastic bag of weed in his hand. “Close that,” Chanyeol said. “Public safety is on high alert this weekend.”
“Yeah, for Halloween,” said Jungkook’s sweet voice. “You guys always go crazy.” He glanced up and saw Jimin and Taehyung coming down. His eyes flicked away sullenly. “D.Va and Widowmaker?” he said, with only a bit of a catch on his voice as his eyes slid over Taehyung’s shoulder, not really making eye contact. Jimin and Taehyung had both dyed their hair dark. Taehyung had pink stripes on his face. Jimin was painted completely purple and wearing a backless, frontless purple bodysuit. Jungkook nodded approvingly without really looking at them. “Overwatch,” he said weakly. “Nice.”
“I was considering painting my costume on,” Jimin said. Jungkook nodded but didn’t say anything. Taehyung turned awkwardly for the kitchen. The pumpkin still sat untouched by the back door, a big, neon orange statement that Jungkook and Taehyung had left things unfinished.
“We’re going down to the bars tonight,” he heard Chanyeol say. “Maybe be assholes and go trick or treating. You know.”
“Oh god, don’t, the locals will hate you,” Jungkook breathed.
“Well, yeah. Don’t they already?”
Taehyung didn’t see Jungkook’s response, but Jimin and Chanyeol chuckled ruefully. Taehyung stood in the kitchen with absolutely nothing to do. He opened the fridge with a jerk and grabbed the first bottle he could reach.
“Twenty grams,” Jungkook muttered. “Measured this morning. Might be the last big batch for a while. Things are slowing down and I’m going to have to bring the plants inside.”
“Thanks, dude. That’s two-hundred dollars?”
“Yeah, thanks. Don’t upsell too hard. Have fun, guys.” The door shut.
Jimin arrived in the kitchen to find Taehyung shotgunning an angry orchard. “If you dump that on your face and ruin your makeup I’m not helping you put it back on.”
Taehyung lowered the bottle and fought the urge to spew it back out all over the kitchen for a few seconds. “I’m great at swallowing,” he finally gritted out, throat aching, before ripping apart the kitchen air with the loudest burp he’d ever made.
“Time for—Christ, Tae. Wow. Ten out of ten and I don’t rate that high very often. Time for my makeup. Jimin, where’d you put my fake beard?”
As they got Chanyeol into McCree gear, Genji and Hanzo showed, Hoseok and Yoongi. Seokjin had gone for Mercy, of course. So far everyone playing a female character had gone the easy route of making the character masculine so they didn’t have to deal with wigs and extensive contouring, let alone the outfits. They were revealing enough as it was. To throw things off, Jihyo had arrived hiding her curves under a cardboard Bastion costume that Taehyung could imagine being hell at the bar.
Namjoon came in a gorilla suit with a lab coat. “So you’re that guy from the x-men,” Seokjin said.
“Winston! I’m Winston!”
“I know. Chill. If anyone was going to dip out on the theme it was going to be Yoongi.”
Yoongi looked up from fighting the cheap wig off his face. “And miss carrying a bow around all night? No way.”
“I still think we should have been the fellowship from Lord of the Rings,” Namjoon grumbled. “I didn’t want to wear the monkey suit.”
By the time they’d walked a hundred yards down the street, Taehyung’s balls had gotten lodged uncomfortably far back in his no-show compression shorts that were actually just spanx. “These clothes were not meant for men,” he grumbled to Jimin, who laughed and hip-checked him.
At first, they did Halloween the way they usually did Halloween, jumping from house to house, from friends of friends to that party in the frat house that Seokjin could get them in to. But this was the first year they’d ever all been of age at the same time. Chanyeol led the group as they joined the trickle of costumed students hooting and hollering down the street from the campus to Market Street where the only two worthwhile bars in the entire town resided.
It had never smelled more like fall outside. Taehyung lagged behind with Namjoon and Jihyo, walking slowly and sniffing the air. The moon was waxing towards full and covered only occasionally by little wisps of cloud. Taehyung took a deep breath of the leafy scent and felt it wash through him with a wave of melancholy, the residual discomfort of running into Jungkook intensifying.
“Beautiful night,” Namjoon said.
“Can’t wait till these fucks are drunk and I can scare the shit out of them,” said Jihyo. “Joon, you look terrifying with the mask on.”
“Can’t scare him though,” Namjoon sighed, calling on Taehyung’s reputation as the least jumpy person in the extended friend group and shaking his head. “Not even when he’s high. It’s unnatural.”
“Bet you could get Hoseok and Seokjin right now.”
It took only Namjoon taking a quick detour into the bushes and jumping out around the next street sign to have both Hoseok and Seokjin on the ground. A mother with two children dressed like superheroes hurriedly crossed the street to get away from them.
This left Taehyung alone at the back of the pack like a leaf drifting on a cold river, fighting to get rid of the urge to turn and walk straight to Jungkook’s garage to see it in this weather. It’d be perfect. He bet it’d be perfect at the end of November too when everything was brown and dead and the house looked like it fit into the landscape. And how would it look in winter, covered in snow? Would it be charming in spring as it warmed up and Jungkook threw open the windows to let in the fresh air? Just because Jungkook was his perfect autumn boy didn’t mean he wouldn’t fit other seasons.
Two drinks down at the bar, and the melancholy had begun to float out of his head. Jimin couldn’t stop his infectious giggling and Taehyung found himself grinning ear to ear, wondering how he looked with the furious blush he’d acquired from the stares of the other patrons. Less than half the bar was college students in costume, and it wasn’t particularly crowded.
“What do you say we go on a walk after this?” Yoongi said, returning to the table with a tray of shots.
“No. Nope,” Hoseok said. “This town is freaky as fuck and I’m not going anywhere except home after this. It is Halloween, and I am scared.”
“No one’s going to jump us,” Seokjin laughed, but he shifted anxiously and glanced out the window. “You know, a couple nights ago I had a dream that I was down here after dark in one of the shops and someone kept trying to break through a shop window to get at me.”
“Has anyone gone in the corn maze up the road?” Namjoon said. “Jihyo and I went in the other day. Even in the middle of the daytime, it was freaky. This town is surrounded on all sides by corn fields.”
“There’s a river to one side, but yeah, damn, I wanna go in a corn maze,” Taehyung said.
“Right,” Yoongi said, and downed his shot. Everyone else reached for their own. “So we’re going on a walk after this. Who’s getting the next round?”
“I’ll get this one,” Jimin said, and skipped off.
Two rounds later, every last member of the group ranged somewhere between the rambling, ditzy stage of drunk to the walking into walls stage. Taehyung hovered somewhere in the middle between Hoseok and Jihyo almost needing to be carried, to Chanyeol and Namjoon, neither of whom would stop talking about nothing to anyone who would listen. They all stumbled along. It was too late for trick or treaters now, the streets open to all college monsters in costume or not, yelling and pacing between parties.
“Remember when we had that talk about serial killers?” Jimin was giggling to Hoseok with two arms around his middle to keep him walking in a straight line, “and how this town is probably full of them?”
The first night Taehyung had brought Jungkook home with him.
“Fuck off,” Hoseok said. “Don’t you dare. I don’t want to hear about ghosts or vampires or nothing else tonight.”
“The ghosts of the serial killers’ victims,” Jimin said. “Let’s go find one.”
“NO!” Howled Seokjin.
“But for real though,” Yoongi said, “this town gets so freaky. I hate walking around at night.”
“And you’re not even a woman,” Jihyo grumbled. “Imagine how it is for us.”
“Every single house in this town would be labelled the haunted house in my own neighborhood,” Jimin said. “I love it. I like imagining that there’s a coven of witches in that big house beside the alumni office.”
“Or that vampires live in the brown Victorian off of main street,” Namjoon said excitedly. “Like in ‘What We Do in the Shadows.’ Except here and not in New Zealand.”
Taehyung would have happily agreed with all of that a month ago. The town felt a little more uncomfortably grounded now, less like a passing movie set. The Halloween decorations looked shabby and half-assed, not aesthetic and appropriate.
“I just want to get home,” Hoseok said. “There’s a whole bowl of candy on the living room table and I need it. Just let me go home. Jimin, let me go, I’ll run there.”
“Safety in numbers,” Jimin said cheerfully.
At that moment, as if they’d stepped into a fabricated little patch of the universe where ridiculous shit could happen, the lumbering, baggy figure of a scarecrow stumbled out onto the sidewalk in front of them. Hay trailed from its raggedy sleeves and cloth sack feet. For a moment, it faced away, straw hat threatening to fall off, arms flopping aimlessly as if waving in the breeze and they stood in a frozen, slow-motion patch of surprise. Then its head jerked suddenly to the side and it’s shadowy, faded, stitched face locked onto them. It charged.
Hoseok probably woke the whole neighborhood with his scream. He, Seokjin, and Jimin latched onto each other and scrambled away, screeching. They hurtled into the street and kept going. Namjoon and Jihyo yelled and started sprinting back into town. Yoongi charged straight into a bush off the path and fell on his face, before army crawling across the grass with his wig dragging from his collar. Chanyeol slammed straight into a car and set off the car alarm before making it around the back end and shooting off sideways into the quiet neighborhood.
Taehyung, breathless with delight, walked right up to the scarecrow, whose shoulders and thighs he would know anywhere, and peeled the mask and hat off to reveal Jungkook’s surprised face. “You didn’t even jump,” he said.
“You little devil,” Taehyung murmured, feeling very much drunk, and pulled Jungkook forward by the cheeks to kiss him right across the mouth.
For a wonderful second, Jungkook hands gripped Taehyung’s sides, lips stuck to his mouth, a soft, high moan in his throat. “Don’t. Not…in public,” he said, pulling back. He looked a little sucker-punched with his eyes bugging and his mouth hanging open, staring at Taehyung at open shock till he came back to himself and looked around for his escaped prey.
No one had come to check on the car alarm yet. No one had stuck their heads out of their windows. Jimin, Hoseok, and Seokjin could barely be seen in the distance as they sprinted under a street light. Yoongi was still lying in the yard, panting with his prop bow clutched over his chest and staring reproachfully at them. Namjoon, Jihyo, and Chanyeol had all disappeared. “Not in public? Can we do it in private then?”
“No,” Jungkook grumbled and put his straw hat back on. “We’re not doing that. Do you…should I walk you home?”
“That’d be nice since you scared off my friends.”
“So I get to walk home alone?” Yoongi said and Jungkook jumped a little, looking back and forth between them.
“Go find Chanyeol. You’ll be fine.”
“Fuck. Chanyeol has my weed,” Yoongi said, and waddled off into the side street without a second prompting as Jungkook stared after him, becoming increasingly stiff as he realized he’d put himself in a situation alone with Taehyung.
They went slowly and carefully through the neighborhood, a couple feet apart and awkwardly silent. Taehyung fought against the alcohol telling him to lace his fingers through Jungkook’s hand and put his head on his shoulder. Jungkook was so familiar, so sound and sure, smelling so deeply and roughly of himself that Taehyung wanted to bury his nose in the scratchy burlap of Jungkook’s scarecrow costume and breath in. “That was hilarious,” he said finally when he couldn’t stand Jungkook’s stoic, jumpy silence.
“I’ve been getting that costume ready all night,” he said with a sudden grin. “Ever since I heard you all were going to the bar. Wasn’t sure it would work that well.”
“Have you been stalking us through the town?”
“Yeah. I scared, like, five children.”
Taehyung chuckled and clutched tighter, barely able to hold in both his happy giggles at having Jungkook back beside him, and his anxious whining, the bitching and moaning threatening to spill out. “Revenge for everyone being a shit to you last week?” he asked.
“Yeah. It was supposed to get you too though,” he said. “I’ll have to figure something else out.” Which was the most good-natured threat Taehyung had ever heard. Somehow, a little of the awkwardness dissolved.
“I’m sorry,” Taehyung said eventually.
“For what?” he said flatly.
Taehyung frowned up at him. “For being a selfish asshole and not giving what you wanted an honest chance.”
Jungkook snorted. “What did you think I wanted?”
“You got that wrong.”
“Aww,” Taehyung said. “That sucks, because I kind of wanted to give that a try.”
Jungkook snorted. “You did. You got really awkward.”
“No, I didn’t really open myself up to getting to know you. That’s not okay. That’s…it’s shitty. And like, I took advantage. I got caught up in some stupid, romantic ideal and kept up what we had because I was having fun without, like, actually thinking about how it might hurt you.”
“Do you always ramble when you’re drunk?”
Taehyung stopped them in the middle of the sidewalk. “Just ignore my apology then. Fuck you, you precious fucking…dumb butt.” Jungkook gazed down his nose from under his costume straw hat. “Look, take it now, pumpkin boy, because I probably won’t be this friendly until you get me drunk again.”
“I don’t know what you want, Tae.”
Taehyung leaned forward again and kissed him hard on the mouth, gripping the ratty, oversize overalls. “I want you. I want to have not fucked this up.”
“Tae. In public.”
“It’s fucking dark right here,” Taehyung said, but backed off. “I miss you, okay? Not just how hot you are or because you remind me of fall. I miss how cute you get. I miss snuggling. I miss figuring you out.”
Jungkook tugged his straw hat lower with a frustrated noise and looked up and down the sidewalk. “I’m sorr—” Taehyung started, before Jungkook cut him off with warm lips on his mouth. He backed off, jaw set, dark eyes glittering with distant, tiny spots of light like stars.
“I’ve gotta go change out of all this fucking hay,” he murmured.
Jungkook’s garage looked perfect in the night, brightening moonlight washing over the dead garden and now leafless trees, the crunch of gravel and leaves under their shoes on the uneven truck ruts leading up to the unused garage door. Jungkook quickly unlocked the side entrance that Taehyung had first met him in, and started stripping out of his scarecrow suit before Taehyung had even closed the door, the plain white t-shirt appearing.
“Let’s cuddle,” Taehyung said. “No fucking, just snuggles.”
“Yeah?” Jungkook said, laughing. “Man, you’re drunk.”
“M’not that drunk, I just wanna snuggle. Can I wear your clothes? I’m so sick of this suit.”
Jungkook put him in a pair of soft sweatpants and a really faded t-shirt that stretched across his wide shoulders. “You’re not that much bigger than me,” Jungkook grumbled, poking at the poor fit stretching under his armpits. “I’ll get you a bigger shirt.” Afterwards, they sat next to the space heater downstairs, Jungkook with a dishrag dunked in freezing cold water, scraping paint off Taehyung’s cheeks.
“What about cuddling?”
“Eh. In a bit.”
“You don’t want to cuddle? You love cuddling.”
“Look, you drunk fuck,” Jungkook said, tossing his dish rag onto the table. Taehyung jumped and Jungkook hesitated, working something over in his head. “You’re drunk. We should do this tomorrow.”
“I’m not that drunk.”
“I don’t trust this yet,” Jungkook said. “You used me, Taehyung. You’ve said that. Like, not badly. Not intentionally. You weren’t, like, mean.” He rubbed his hands over his face, scratched his hands through his oily hair. Taehyung wondered if he got hot water out here, and how long it had been since he braved a shower in this chilly weather. He’d been carrying himself for the past hour like how he’d carried himself when they first met, aggressively masculine. Hands in his pockets, legs open, slouching in, head down. He’d been hurt. He’d been scared.
“I really think…” Taehyung started cautiously, “you’re incredible. And I haven’t done anything serious before. Like with relationships. Ever. So I don’t know what I’m doing and I fucked up. But I’d like to do something with you. Do you…like, it seems you want something with me. Am I wrong?”
Jungkook swallowed hard and stared off into the corner of the room. For a long, long moment, the only noise was the buzz of the overhead light and the steady drip of the faucet into the sink. “I think so,” he finally murmured. “But I might just be desperate. I might just need anything I can get and I’m trying to figure out the difference between what’s actually good for me and what just feels good in the moment. It feels good when you want me. But if it’s not me you want…” he hugged himself tighter. “If it’s just some quick thing I can give you. Then that’s…” His face screwed up. He sighed in frustration and put his head in his hands, sitting perfectly still and taking deep slow breathes.
It took Taehyung longer than it should have to realize that he was crying. Taehyung’s heart turned to lead in an instant, a crushing weight in the middle of his chest.
“I feel so shitty,” Jungkook sobbed. “You made me feel…and then you let me go.”
Taehyung’s knees hit the floor. He shuffled forward, wrapping his arms around Jungkook’s waist. His head felt completely, desperately blank as the room spun and he realized how badly he was capable of hurting this person. Jungkook leaned forward. For a moment, Taehyung saw his beautiful face streaked with tears and the heart-stopping grimace on his cheeks before Jungkook wrapped himself around Taehyung’s shoulders and buried his face in Taehyung’s hair.
They stayed there, so warm and quiet, until Jungkook stopped shaking and Taehyung had begun to feel the cold creep into his bones. “It’s you I want,” he finally said, and felt Jungkook’s lips press against his hair. “It’s definitely you.”
“Okay,” Jungkook whispered, and melted further into Taehyung’s arms like it was all he could stand to hear and all his fragile heart could believe. What exhilarating terror to be trusted.
“I know you don’t want to see my friends, but this house is cold. Do you want to stay at my place tonight?”
Jungkook let out another poorly concealed choke of a sob and nodded.
“Let it out,” Taehyung said. “It’s not healthy to hold it in.”
Jungkook snorted and shook his head.
“If you don’t cry, I’ll cry for you.”
At that, Jungkook finally let out a quick, audible burst of heartfelt sobbing that filled the room for a painful minute before quickly, tiredly subsiding.
Taehyung finally got off the floor and kissed his jaw. “Come home with me, baby.”
It wasn’t till he sobered up later that night with a newly showered Jungkook silent and clingy in his bed that he allowed himself a moment of terror over what he’d committed himself too. It passed with the sweet sound of Jungkook’s breathing against his back and the dim ring of Jimin and Chanyeol talking softly and laughing together two rooms away.
“I quit my job at Denny’s,” Jungkook said as they stood in line for Starbucks in the campus center. He had his hat shoved in his pocket and his hair wild, glancing around like he felt he shouldn’t be there amongst the busy students.
“Got a job on the maintenance team here,” he said. “Pays a little better and has better hours and more reasonable clothes.”
“Oh shit, that’s awesome.”
Jungkook chuckled suddenly and pointed through the crowd at Seokjin trying to whack Hoseok with his scarf while the crowd of tired students around them ducked and shuffled out of the way. “I’ll be around campus a lot more. Keep an eye out for me.”
“Around campus more? Is that possible?” In exchange for regular home-cooked meals, Jungkook practically lived in Taehyung’s apartment. With Thanksgiving coming up, most of their friends had elected to stay on campus and take part in the upcoming cooking event with Jungkook at the head.
“Gingerbread latte, please,” Taehyung said to the barista.
“Christmas cookie latte,” Jungkook said.
Taehyung turned and gave him a very, very pleased look. “Ditching the black coffee, eh?”
Jungkook shrugged, ears beginning to turn red.
“Will you be my Christmas boy?” Taehyung said, bumping his shoulder and lowering his voice so the people around wouldn’t hear. “My pine needles and eggnog boy?”
“Shut up,” Jungkook said, the red spreading to his cheeks. Taehyung paid and they moved down the line to wait.
“My warm armchair by the fireplace boy? My candlelight and presents under the tree boy?”
Jungkook smiled into his collar. “You little shit.”
Back in the apartment, Taehyung sat on Jungkook’s cock with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and his hair fuzzy with static. Jungkook squirmed under him, t-shirt pushed halfway to his armpits, the covers still halfway up his legs. “Warm yet, pumpkin?”
“Oh, fuck you,” Jungkook gasped. Taehyung latched onto his throat, sucking hard to the sound of Jungkook’s surprised squeal. “Are you a vampire? What are you—oh, nng…”
Taehyung flicked a finger over Jungkook’s nipple and sat up, working for the angle that his body loved. He took Jungkook’s wrists with him, pulling Jungkook’s callused hands up his own thighs to grip his hips. He felt it when Jungkook’s feet planted, when his arms tensed and he took all control for himself.
Outside, all the leaves had fallen from the trees, leaving the campus bleak and grey under cold winds and overcast skies, a land waiting impatiently for snow. But Jungkook still smelled like the warmth of bright colors and the crunch of fall leaves. He pulled Taehyung down and hung on like he was something precious. It felt wonderful, the resistance in Taehyung’s head slipping away immediately in the face of the familiarity of Jungkook’s arms.
Two weeks of cooking together and talking about their days in, Taehyung had forgotten that commitment was alien. Sometimes in the disorientation of waking in the middle of the night, he sat up, looked at the man in bed with him, and wondered how the hell he’d gotten himself into this situation, but the feelings faded quickly now.
“What am I going to do when you’re gone over the break,” Jungkook murmured against Taehyung’s ear when they’d finished and lay satisfyingly sticky on the sheets, passing a water bottle and a bowl back and forth, shuffling the lighter between them through the sheets. Jungkook ran his fingers through Taehyung’s hair over and over like he couldn’t get enough of it, and Taehyung pet so slowly along Jungkook’s sides and stomach for the same reason.
“Stay warm for me,” Taehyung answered. He smushed his face into the warm curves of Jungkook’s shoulder. “Text me a bunch. Don’t forget to eat.”
“I’m a lot better at taking care of myself than you are, you know.”
“Then you tell me those things. I don’t know.”
Jungkook kissed his forehead and then giggled when he wiped the cold spot away with an expression of distaste. “Don’t forget you’re monogamous when you go home,” Jungkook said.
“Baby, even if I did forget, which is ridiculous, I’d be so disappointed with anyone else that I’d just ditch them and come tell you about how much they sucked.”
Jungkook snickered. “My summer boy.”
“What? I’m your what?”
“You need a season too,” Jungkook said, and kissed him again, on the nose this time. “Take me to Florida at some point. I’ve never been.”
“Hell yes,” Taehyung breathed. One of those unusual, but increasingly wonderful moments passed over him, where his future felt like it might include a second person.
As for graduation in six months, Taehyung had already started constructing his arguments. It probably wouldn’t take much, after all, to convince Jungkook to leave this town behind and try for something new, maybe a little two-person apartment far enough south for mild winters and far enough north for a colorful fall. They’d have to live through all the seasons to know for sure if this was right.
Pumpkin spice all year round. Taehyung liked the idea more and more.