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Jeongguk is very much aware that he looks, without a doubt, like a manual bad boy. The bold, big tattoos that cover one of his arms have gotten him dirty and scared looks more often than not, as well as his heavily pierced ears. That, added to his almost exclusively black wardrobe and his black ink hair, really created an image for Jeongguk that he didn’t quite dislike. Don’t get him wrong, it couldn’t be further from reality—Jeongguk would never hurt a fly. But hey, sometimes it amused him the way in which middle aged men and old ladies scoffed as they walked past him whenever he wore a sleeveless t-shirt.

Looking like he does, many people can guess that he’s a tattoo artist before he even has to tell them. But the surprise comes whenever they ask him to show them something he’s done. The works that Jeongguk inks have little to do with the tattoos that he likes to see on his own body. They aren’t big, they don’t have thick lines, they aren’t all black ink, and they most definitely aren’t bold.

Daintiness and delicacy are Jeongguk’s sources of inspiration when it comes to the tattoos he inks. He’s specialized in softer, smaller tattoos—thin lines, often pastel colors instead of black, lots of detail. He’s drawn more flowers than he can remember, but that’s exactly what he likes. Jeongguk loves pretty, just not on his skin. And so, he’s ready to dedicate a lifetime to inking prettiness onto other people’s skin.

The one responsible for most of his tattoos, except for on a few rare exceptions, is his partner Hoseok. They both work together at a tattoo parlor in Seoul, and their styles are so radically different that between the two of them they can really do almost anything. Hoseok’s specialty is realist tattoos, and Jeongguk has proof of that inked on his body.

Seokjin is their receptionist. No matter how many times both Jeongguk and Hoseok have offered to ink him for free, Seokjin has always refused.

“If you think I’m going to trust you to permanently draw on my body you’re crazy,” he says every time. “The difference between me and the customers is that I know you, so no, thanks.”

Hoseok chases Seokjin around with a tattoo gun in his hand, cackling as the two run around the now closed store. Jeongguk, who is silently watching as he drinks the beers that Seokjin brought once they closed, wonders how he ended up working with the pair. But deep down, he knows he wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

Tattoos are not only Jeongguk’s profession, but also his passion. For that very same reason, his Instagram feed is always flooded with tattoos, tattoos, and more tattoos—be it from the people he follows or the posts Instagram suggest to him based on his likes and followings, it’s ninety percent tattoos. And some slime and soap-cutting videos, but he’s really not going to explain that.

The Explore feed on Instagram is useful for him to find new artists he likes. As an artist, he thinks that he’s in constant growth. There is always room for improvement and for learning new things, so he tries to follow as many artists as he can.  That’s why he’s always on the hunt for new artists, because he knows that he will always learn a thing or two along the way. After all, tattooing is like any other form of art—every single tattoo artist has a different style, with their particularities and their identifying traits.

He’s lying on his bed, closer to sleep than to the lucidity of being awake, when Instagram suggests him a page he had never heard of before. The biography states the artist is based in Seoul, but Jeongguk wasn’t familiar with the name. It’s quite a new page—around twenty posts, as opposed to the hundreds and hundreds accumulated on Jeongguk’s own profile. v.inks, they’re called.

The first thing that Jeongguk notices is the boldness of it. It’s all blackwork tattoos—black ink and thick lines. All of the posts are in black and white, making the tattoos stand out even more. As soon as Jeongguk clicks on the first post, he immediately falls in love.

It’s placed on someone’s arm, on the outside of it. Jeongguk can see a mouth sticking its tongue out, and around it, a pair of open scissors, as if to cut the tongue off. Jeongguk can’t help but admire it.

It’s not just because of the scene that it represents, even if Jeongguk likes it, morbidly. Not even about the potential metaphor about it. The tattooist in him focuses on the technical details—the way in which the artist has left untattooed skin to represent the glisten of the scissor and the gloss lipstick, as well as the teeth and the tongue. It’s hard to make tattoos that bold without making them look sloppy, but it has been carefully drawn and outlined. The shadowing on the scissors is just straight up a masterpiece.

Post after post, Jeongguk keeps being amazed by all the tattoos. There are roses, there are more mouths, there are daggers, spiders, snakes. By the time Jeongguk reaches the end of the feed, he feels like he still hasn’t seen enough. This is a new favorite of his, he decides. And it’s exactly the style that he likes. He doesn’t ponder too much about it, and taps on the follow button. And maybe, if he sees something he especially likes, he might pay them a visit at some point.

 

 

Jeongguk is in the middle of brushing his teeth in the morning when he checks his notifications, something he’s been postponing ever since he woke up. He’s absentmindedly scrolling through them until he finds one that catches his attention: v.inks started following you.

Jeongguk can’t help but smile, some toothpaste falling from his mouth and into the sink. Ew. He taps over the notification and opens the app, which takes him to the notifications page. And then, almost hidden between many names and many likes, Jeongguk finds them.

It’s three likes and a comment on some of Jeongguk’s most recent posts. The earliest one is one week all, so whoever V might be scrolled a little down his account. The comment is on one of Jeongguk’s favorite tattoos he’s ever done, a wave tattooed with blue and white ink. The detail of the foam made him feel proud of himself at that moment, and it’s one of his most liked posts.

It’s just a heart. A single, red heart, but that it’s enough to make Jeongguk feel prideful. It’s always nice to be acknowledged by other artists, especially if it’s someone whose work you admire. And Jeongguk has a feeling that he will end up looking up to V a lot.

 

 

Yoongi comes by the parlor that very same afternoon, unannounced. No one knew he was coming, which automatically means he did not have an appointment. Hoseok is busy with another customer, someone who is getting a big tiger tattooed on their back, and Jeongguk can hear Seokjin and Yoongi bicker at the reception.

“I’m telling you, just because you’re friend with us doesn’t mean you can drop by whenever you want,” Seokjin scolds him. “You are not above the law or the store’s guidelines, Mr. Min.”

“Piss off, you’re just trying to get on my nerves at this point,” Yoongi insists. Jeongguk can almost picture the smug smile on Seokjin’s face. “Don’t be a pain in my ass and let me talk to Jeongguk?”

“We have an appointments only policy.”

“Seokjin!”

It’s then that Jeongguk decides to intervene, after having heard the pair argue back and forth for a little. They’re both just as stubborn as the other, so Jeongguk knows they could spend hours going at it. He opens the glass door that connects the studio with the reception, both Yoongi and Seokjin turning to look at him.

“You should have booked an appointment,” is what he says as soon as he opens the door.

Seokjin’s expression turns triumphant just as Yoongi’s turns baffled. It’s not the first time Yoongi does this, and by this point, Jeongguk has more than accepted that he’s never going to learn. Still, he will remind him to book an appointment every single time. Like Seokjin said, if he drops by unannounced, odds are that both of them will be busy, and therefore won’t be able to tattoo him.

“I just got the idea this morning while I was at work,” Yoongi starts to explain. “It’s small—just, like a small flower on my hand. Namjoon likes it.”

“Namjoon is too kind to say anything bad,” Seokjin replies, flicking a pen between his fingers. Yoongi ignores him, very purposefully.

“Do you have a picture?” Jeongguk asks.

“Right here on my phone,” Yoongi replies, taking his phone out of the pocket of his jeans. Jeongguk takes a step closer, watching as Yoongi opens his camera roll and hoping that he doesn’t accidentally see Yoongi’s or Namjoon’s nudes.

What Yoongi shows him is a drawing from Pinterest, he assumes. It’s beautiful—the flower in the drawing hasn’t bloomed yet, petals still closed. From its stem grow three small leaves, two to the left and one to the right. Apart from that, plenty of thorns can be seen coming out from it.

Jeongguk likes it. It’s exactly his style. It requires a lot of precision and attention to detail. The petals, the leaves, the thorns—all of them have details that contribute to give it presence, fine lines that make the difference between line art and realist art.

“Where do you want it?” Jeongguk asks, looking at Yoongi again.

“On the back of my hand, right here,” he says, pointing at the spot. It’s right under the spot where his index joins his thumb, on his left hand.

“That’s small, then,” Jeongguk mumbles, mostly to himself. Then, he asks Seokjin, “I don’t have any more appointments for the rest of the day, right?”

“Nope,” Seokjin replies, taking one quick look to a paper he keeps to his left. “I still can’t believe you’re letting him go in after I told him no. I am being deauthorized.”

“Jeonggukie is a good person,” Yoongi replies. Now it’s his time to be smug as he walks into the studio room followed by Yoongi. “I’m gonna sit down while you get the stencil, yeah?”

And so, Jeongguk gets to work. He quickly sketches the flower, and then cleans and shaves the skin of Yoongi’s hand, getting him ready for the tattoo. Yoongi animatedly chats with both him and Hoseok, and it’s not long before Hoseok is done with his client and the three of them are left alone in the studio. Seokjin comes inside then.

It is while the four of them are chatting that Jeongguk remembers the profile he found the previous night on Instagram. He was meant to ask Hoseok and Seokjin if they knew who the person who ran it was, as like him, both of them are interested in this, too. But with work and the busy day they’ve had, he forgot up until now.

“I found someone on Instagram last night, a tattoo artist,” he starts telling, feeling three pairs of eyes on him as he keeps working on Yoongi’s hand. “They’re from Seoul but I don’t think I’ve never heard of them. Maybe you know who they are?”

“What’s the username?” Seokjin asks, phone already in his hands.

Jeongguk tells them, and the room goes silent for a few moments after that. From the corner of his eye, Jeongguk can see Hoseok and Seokjin both looking at the screen of Seokjin’s phone, scrolling down the account like Jeongguk himself did the previous night. He doesn’t allow himself to focus too much on it, though—he needs to pay attention to what he’s doing.

“I don’t know who the person is,” Hoseok says after a couple of minutes. “But I definitely have seen those tattoos before. Do you want me to ask around?”

“No, it’s fine—I can honestly just send them a message on Instagram,” Jeongguk replies. “But some of their stuff is fucking amazing. I don’t discard getting inked by them in the future, if I’m honest. Maybe something on my chest? I’m still thinking.”

“About time,” Hoseok says, then. “I thought you were going to get your other sleeve done.”

“I think I like how I look with one done and the other arm free,” Jeongguk says. “More than two complete sleeves.”

“Just say you don’t want your mother to have a stroke,” Yoongi chimes in.

Jeongguk laughs. “I mean, that would be nice, yes,” he replies. “But she wouldn’t mind. She doesn’t anymore.”

It’s not too long until the tattoo is ready. Yoongi looks at it with a smile, and Jeongguk asks to take a picture of it with his phone so he can post it on Instagram. He likes to keep his followers updated and to share his art.

The four of them close the store and leave then, stopping by to drink some soju near the Han river before it’s time for them to go home. Jeongguk doesn’t check his phone until he gets to his apartment, but when he does, he’s welcomed by a notification that he’s glad to see, on the picture of Yoongi’s new tattoo.

v.inks liked your photo.

 

 

The next few weeks are full of Jeongguk and V, whoever they might be, liking each other’s posts but never properly engaging with each other. Jeongguk looks forward to every time the mysterious artist posts new content.

As opposed to many other tattooists Jeongguk follows and knows, himself included, V sticks strictly to tattoos. Jeongguk sometimes posts stories of himself and his friends, especially if Hoseok and Seokjin do something hilarious at work. Which is more often than not, if he’s being completely honest. But with V, there is none of that. There is not a single trace of their personal life on their profile. Jeongguk figures that if that’s what they like, then that’s both completely understandable and respectable. It’s kind of cool to see someone who resists the social media madness, to be fair. But at the same time, all the mystery and enigma about V just makes it easier for Jeongguk to wonder.

Something else that catches his attention is the fact that there’s not an address, not a contact telephone number - nothing. The usual is for people to use Instagram as a way to boost their business, especially amongst people with the same profession as them. It just adds to Jeongguk’s curiosity.

It takes him a couple of weeks of watching V’s posts on his feed daily to make up his mind. He wants a tattoo made and inked by them. V’s recurrent themes are blades, roses, and feminine looking mouths and eyebrows. But Jeongguk is set on what he wants—a rose.

Maybe it’s odd for him to want such a tattoo. Flowers are what he works with the most, even if his style and V’s couldn’t be any more different. Whereas Jeongguk is all about details and intricacy, V’s flowers are more often than not silhouettes, and very rarely is there any more detail to them than just their outline, completely filled with black ink.

He is open to suggestions once he properly meets up with V, in case they accept his proposition to give him a tattoo. But before that happens, he must message them. Which is not the easiest step of the process, since Jeongguk doesn’t work too well with talking to strangers.

After lots of overthinking and with his lower lip worried between his teeth, Jeongguk finally musters up the courage to send a direct message to V. Who even knows if they will open it, much less reply to it? They have quite a large following despite the fact that their account is new. They probably get flooded with messages, so Jeongguk gets himself ready to be ignored.

He tries his best to cut his babbling and rambling down to a minimum in the message. He’s straight up about the reason why he’s contacting them, or well… He tries to be.

Hello!! My name is Jeongguk and I’ve been a fan of your work since I discovered your page. There are no contact details on your profile, so I was wondering if I could get inked by you, by any chance? I hope to hear from you soon, have a good day!!

And after that, he promptly closes Instagram and busies himself with one of the many games he has on his phone. Part of him regrets doing this on a Sunday, since a free day means there’s more time for him to obsess about whether V have replied to him or not. At the same time, it’s also beneficial—had he done it on a working day, maybe he would have been distracted. Jeongguk has a spotless reputation as a tattooist, so he doesn’t need unsatisfied clients just because he’s upset about someone not replying to his messages.

And thank God he decided to do this during the weekend, really. One hour goes by with no reply, and Jeongguk tries to tell himself that some people just aren’t on social media as much as he is. It’s no biggie. Then two, and three, and by the time dinner time comes he’s sulking at his phone while he chews on his food, sitting on his old and ratty couch. The last straw comes when he’s already in bed, ready for sleep, as he has work tomorrow.

V posted something, around thirty minutes ago. Jeongguk immediately checks the chat in case he missed a notification, but there is nothing. Nada. V didn’t open the chat, which leaves a sour taste in Jeongguk’s mouth that he’s having trouble to make sense of.

Whatever, he tells himself. He already got himself ready for this outcome, didn’t he? It’s not that big of a deal. There are other tattoo artists he can go with for a blackwork tattoo, if he finds himself wanting it later on. It doesn’t matter. It’s not that big of a deal.

 

 

V’s reply to his messages comes three days later, in the middle of Jeongguk’s lunch break. His phone pings with the notification while he chews on his food, and as soon as he takes in who the message is from, he promptly chokes on said food.

“You okay?” Hoseok distractedly asks, typing away on his own phone as he eats his baguette.

“Yes, yes,” Jeongguk replies, cheeks getting hotter. Be it because of the reply, or because of the fact that he couldn’t breathe for an agonizing fraction of a second. “Don’t worry.”

He hasn’t mentioned V again amongst his friends, nor his interest in getting another tattoo. The reason why is that he didn’t want them to know that he had been promptly ignored—there is something humiliating about it, and he didn’t want any of them to tease them. He already had enough dealing with the voice inside his head telling him that he’s a fool.

The whole message doesn’t show on his notification bar, so he quickly taps on it and waits for it to open. Then, he starts reading.

hello jeongguk!! i’m v. i would love to tattoo you anytime, i have been a big fan of you ever since we followed each other! you can tell me your ideas here if you want, or we can meet up whenever both of us are free, it’s your call~

Jeongguk reads over it thrice, heart swelling up in pride that someone he looks up to is a fan of his work. He can’t help but feel a little giddy as his fingers hover over the keyboard, typing a fast reply. He doesn’t even think of waiting for days before getting back to V like they did—he is not one to hold grudges or be petty.

Thank you so much, that’s very flattering! I’d rather meet up and talk things through in person if that’s good with you. When are you free?

Much to his surprise, this time around V doesn’t take days to reply to him. A new message comes around a minute later, and by the time Jeongguk’s lunch break is over, they have already scheduled a meeting. V has sent him an address, one linked to a tattoo parlor that Jeongguk hadn’t heard of before, Bloom Studio.

Jeongguk saves the address on his Maps app and double checks again that he doesn’t have any appointments for tomorrow at 5 PM. Finally, he will be able to meet the mysterious V.

 

 

Jeongguk wasn’t quite sure about what to expect during his meeting with V. He didn’t know their gender, he didn’t know their age, he didn’t know anything at all about them. For all he knew, he could go into the store to find someone his age, or a badass old lady covered in tattoos.

He makes his way to the parlor and makes it there at five o’clock in the dot. There it is, Bloom Studio. The place is modernly decorated from what Jeongguk can see from the outside. When he looks through the tall glass window he sees no one, so he decides it’s time to go in. Swallowing down, he musters up some courage and pushes the door open.

“Hello?” he asks, looking around himself. “V?”

As soon as the door opens, there is a waiting area, with a big, black couch to his left. Ahead of himself he can see a counter with a register machine, some papers scattered over it. When he approaches, to the right and separated from the sofa with a wall, Jeongguk sees V’s working area, with one black studio chair, a stool, and all of the tattooing equipment.

It smells good, Jeongguk notices once he’s inside. He’s always had a sensitive sense of smell, so strong air fresheners often bother him instead of pleasing him. But in the parlor there seems to be a faint and sugary scent, one that immensely satisfies Jeongguk and his nose. It takes Jeongguk back to summer, to the sweetness of rich, ripe black cherries. The delicacy and sweetness of it makes sense once he sees the source—scented candles.

To Jeongguk, it’s somehow hilarious that V’s parlor looks so different from his tattoos. He knows that an artist’s style doesn’t have to necessarily say anything about the way they look, or the way their parlor does, but he can’t help but appreciate the irony in the clear differences. No darkness, or tacky boldness. Jeongguk’s curiosity about V can’t grow more at this point.

“I’m coming!” a voice calls, coming from a door placed in the corner of the room.

The voice is deep, Jeongguk observes. It doesn’t sound much like the old granny covered in tattoos that he was hoping to see, so much to his displeasure, he lets go of that idea. After hearing him, Jeongguk can discard a lot of the ideas of V that he had in his mind, but nothing could have gotten him ready for the sight that waited for him once the door was opened and he was face to face with V.

Against all the odds, Jeongguk is faced with someone his age. The guy who stands under the doorframe can’t be much older than him. His hair is long, falling over his forehead and covering his eyes with its longest strands, but what catches Jeongguk’s attention about it is its silver color and the purple tips. From his ears hang long, dangly earrings, shining under the lights of the studio.

He’s beautiful. Jeongguk notices he’s insanely beautiful the moment he appears through the door, unable to keep his eyes from wandering down his long legs, wrapped in black, faded skinnies that make his thighs look delicious. Jeongguk tears his eyes away from his legs, from his big hands, from the way his jeans hug his hips, and forces himself to look at V’s face.

God, someone could have told him that this guy would be exactly his type.

“Hi! Jeongguk, right?” V asks him, smiling widely as he approaches him.

“Yes, that’d be me,” Jeongguk replies, impressing himself with his ability to not stutter. “It’s good to meet you, V. You have yourself a nice studio.”

“Thank you! I’ve been redecorating it, it looked like a cave before,” V replies, waving away with his hand. He winks and adds, “And please, call me Taehyung. V is just for the worldwide web.”

Jeongguk feels his cheeks blush, but ignores it and repeats, “Taehyung. Okay, that’s less… impersonal.”

“Far less,” Taehyung replies, nodding. He gestures towards the counter, telling Jeongguk, “So, should we get the business meeting started, then?”

“Absolutely, yes,” Jeongguk replies. “Should I…?”

“Let me get you a stool,” Taehyung quickly says, moving before Jeongguk has the chance to tell him it won’t be necessary, that he’s alright.

And so, they find themselves sitting at each side of the counter, talking.

“Do you have anything in mind as of now?” Taehyung asks him.

“Honestly, when I have another artist ink me, I am always open to leaving the creative process fully in their hands,” Jeongguk replies, sincere. “I’ve just really liked your style and I’ve found myself literally obsessing over your roses. That’s my one requirement—your roses. The rest is all on you.”

“Now that’s my kind of fun,” Taehyung says, a mischievous smile appearing on his face as he grabs a pastel blue sticky note and scribbles something on it. When he takes his hand back, Jeongguk can see his name written on the top and underlined, and under it, the word rose. “I can make a few sketches and show you them the next time we meet. Have you thought about placement, though?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, nodding. “My ribs. I have no tattoos there, so go as crazy as you want with the size.”

“Ribs, got it,” Taehyung replies, writing that down as well. “Anything else I should know?”

“I just like very bold tattoos. I like blackwork tattoos a lot, but I hadn’t found someone whose style I really liked here in Seoul up until now, so that’s why I don’t have any yet,” Jeongguk explains.

Taehyung nods, replying, “I can see you do.” When he says that, he nods at Jeongguk’s sleeve of tattoos, peeking from under his t-shirt. Jeongguk gives him a crooked, unapologetic smile. “Judging by the kind of tattoos you do, I never would have sworn you’d look like that. Is that bad of me to say?”

“Maybe,” Jeongguk replies, “but I honestly agree. Mostly because, based on the way you ink, I would’ve never guessed you’d look like this.”

Taehyung giggles at that, resting his cheek on his palm as he looks at Jeongguk. “Really? Why not?”

“I really imagined someone covered in tattoos from head to toe,” Jeongguk explains. He decides to leave out the part where he imagined Taehyung has a woman past her sixties, just in case. “But as of now, I can only see one.”

This time it’s Jeongguk’s turn to not look towards Taehyung’s hand, where the only tattoo that Jeongguk can see seems to be. It’s a V, inked on the knuckle of his middle finger. It looks especially good because of the silvery rings adorning his long, slender fingers.

“Just this one?” asks Taehyung, stretching his arm so he can look at his own hand. “I have one behind my ear, and some others under my clothes.”

“Really?” Jeongguk asks. He doesn’t know how he missed that—maybe he was too busy staring at Taehyung’s face to notice. “Can I see?”

“Of course,” Taehyung replies, moving his head and pulling his hair back for Jeongguk to get a proper look. He also holds his ear back. “Can you see?”

To be fair, the tattoo is hidden right before the shell of Taehyung’s ear, only visible if he pulls his ear back like now. Jeongguk can distinguish letters, and as soon as he properly reads it he feels himself furiously blush. Around Taehyung’s ear and following the shape of it, the words baby boy are written.

“Oh, that’s—oh,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung laughs again, letting go of his hair and ear and sitting facing Jeongguk again. “It’s cute.”

“Cute is one word for it,” Taehyung says, seemingly amused. “But you’re right—the tattoos I want look nothing like the tattoos I do. I like daintiness which, funnily enough, is exactly what you do.”

It’s in a sudden burst of confidence that Jeongguk didn’t know he was capable of having that causes him to say, “Then maybe we could get to an agreement and ink each other regularly. Since you like what I do, and I like what you do.”

“An agreement?” Taehyung asks, raising one eyebrow at Jeongguk as he smiles. “That sounds good to me. Let’s see how this first one goes first, though, yeah?”

Jeongguk is about to agree with Taehyung when suddenly the door to the parlor opens behind them, both of them looking in its direction. Obviously, it’s not someone Jeongguk recognizes.

“Taehyung?” he asks. “I didn’t know you were busy.”

The guy looks… sort of out of place. He’s taller, probably taller than both of them or even Namjoon. He’s wearing a suit, and a watch that looks more expensive than one month’s worth of rent for Jeongguk’s apartment.

“Oh, Hyungsik—I didn’t know you were coming by,” Taehyung mutters, looking at him. He worries his bottom lip between his teeth, something that makes Jeongguk think that maybe Taehyung doesn’t like to keep this Hyungsik guy waiting. Maybe it’s a regular client that pays well? “Give us a few minutes.”

“No need to,” Jeongguk replies, starting to stand up. After all, they’ve already discussed everything they needed to talk about. “I’ll get going now. Do you need me to give you a phone number?”

“Yes, please,” Taehyung says, holding his pen again and getting the pastel blue sticky note ready. After Jeongguk is done reciting his cell number, Taehyung adds, “Thank you so much, Jeongguk. I’ll contact you when I have a few sketches ready for you.”

“I’ll be waiting, then,” Jeongguk replies, flashing him a smile. “I’ll see you then, yeah?”

He says his goodbyes to Taehyung, and nods awkwardly in Hyungsik’s direction, who gives the greeting back. Once he’s outside, he allows himself to look over his shoulder one last time, just to see Hyungsik walking towards the counter as he takes the jacket of his suit off, Taehyung smiling widely at him as he gets closer, too.

Jeongguk doesn’t look afterwards. He has no right to wonder about who Hyungsik is to Taehyung, a guy he’s properly met just today, so he keeps walking and keeps those thoughts away. They’re not for him to have.

 

 

Jeongguk tells his friend about his meeting with Taehyung one night where all of them are reunited at Seokjin’s place. Namjoon and Yoongi are squeezed together on a loveseat, with Yoongi’s legs thrown over Namjoon’s lap, while Hoseok, Seokjin and Jeongguk share the three-seat couch across from them. They’ve had more bottles of soju than they probably should have, and at this point Jeongguk is quite sure that they will probably end up staying over, mostly because they’re bound to fall asleep. His eyes are already starting to shut, at least.

The loud conversation they were having a couple of hours ago, when they first got here, has now turned into hushed voices and quiet laughter, as the hours start to get closer to the morning than to the evening.

It’s then, in a burst of honesty, that he says, “I ended up talking to that one tattoo artist.”

“What tattoo artist?” Namjoon asks, since he wasn’t in the parlor when they had that one conversation.

“It’s a tattoo artist that I found on Instagram,” Jeongguk starts explaining. “I sent him a message the other day and then we met up and talked a little.”

“And what are you getting?” Yoongi asks.

“I’ll let him pick the design for me,” he replies. “Unless it’s something really meaningful, I usually like giving freedom to the artist. He said he’s going to draw a few sketches and let me pick which one I want, if any.”

“I don’t think I could ever do that,” Namjoon replies, in a mumble.

Jeongguk just smiles, but he doesn’t comment on it. It’s not a popular mindset amongst the general public, but that way of thinking is far more common with other artists.

“Where?” Hoseok questions him. “Still keeping that virgin arm?”

“So far, yes,” Jeongguk replies, with a smile. “I’ll get it on my ribs.”

Hoseok nods then, but whatever he was going to say dies in his throat as Seokjin loudly snores, from where he’s squeezed on the right corner of the couch. The four of them look at each other in silence for a moment before looking at him. Jeongguk had noticed Seokjin had been quiet for the last while, so of course he had to be asleep.

“You should draw a dick on his face,” Yoongi comments.

Jeongguk giggles. “Even if he has invited us here out of the kindness of his heart?” he asks.

“Absolutely yes,” Hoseok replies. “Give me a marker. I’m about to make him my canvas.”

And just like that, they spend the next fifty minutes drawing and writing the most questionable things on Seokjin’s face. It might be childish, considering they are all past their twenties, but nights like this make Jeongguk realize how much he loves his friends.

 

 

Jeongguk is in the middle of working out—or, well, trying to—in the middle of his living room when he gets a phone call from an unknown number. He wipes the sweat off his forehead as he looks at the digits, trying to identifying it, but it’s not a number he recognizes.

“Yes?” he asks as he picks up, bringing the phone to his ear.

“Jeongguk? It’s me, Taehyung,” a deep voice calls from the other day. “The tattoo artist.”

“Oh—hi, Taehyung. I didn’t think I’d hear from you so soon,” Jeongguk replies. After all, Taehyung did say he’d draw a few different sketches for Jeongguk to choose from.

“I work fast when I want to,” Taehyung replies, sounding cheeky. “I think I have some good designs to show you. We could go through them, and if you don’t fully like any of them, at least you can give me a little guidance and tell me which ones you like most?”

Taehyung’s voice tilts up at the end of the sentence, so instead of a suggestion it sounds more like a question.

“Of course! I’d love to,” Jeongguk rushes to reply. “It’s a little late now—maybe I can drop by the studio tomorrow? I don’t think I can be there before nine, though.”

“That’s fine with me,” comes Taehyung’s reply. “That’s my closing time, so we won’t have any unexpected visits this time around.”

Jeongguk knows that Taehyung is referring to Hyungsik dropping by the other day, but he decides to not comment on it. Hyungsik doesn’t look like the person that Jeongguk wants to mess with, really. Perhaps Taehyung is comfortable with it because they know each other, but the most rational part of Jeongguk tells him that he’s much better off keeping his mouth shut.

“Then we can see each other tomorrow,” Jeongguk replies. Then, just because he’s feeling oddly conversational, he adds, “I’m excited to see what you’ve got ready?”

“Oh, are you ready?” Taehyung asks, teasing.

“Absolutely,” Jeongguk replies. “I trust your judgement. If it’s half as good as everything I’ve seen you post on your page, I will be honored to have you ink it on my skin.”

“My God, you’re such a flatterer,” Taehyung replies, between laughter. “Hopefully it will be better. I like to think that I constantly improve.”

“I’m sure it will,” Jeongguk tells him. “But I mean it. I really am in love with the work of yours that I’ve seen.”

“Again: flatterer,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk wets his lips—he usually isn’t like this, but he can’t stop the compliments and praise from coming when it’s Taehyung. He’s just… well, like he’s said, he’s head over heels for his style. “I need to hang up, but we’ll see each other tomorrow, then?”

“Definitely.”

“Cute,” Taehyung comments. Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Have a nice evening!”

“Bye! Have a good one,” Jeongguk forces himself to say.

Jeongguk barely has the time to say his farewell before Taehyung hangs up, leaving a very much dumbfounded Jeongguk standing shirtless in his living room, phone still against his ear. He knows that what he should be focusing on is the fact that he’ll be going to see the designs Taehyung has ready for him, but he can’t help but focus on a different part of the conversation.

Cute. Taehyung said cute.

 

 

Jeongguk tries hard to avoid the fact that he’s feeling somewhat nervous by the time he reaches Bloom Studio the following day. He’s not as naïve as he seems, he can recognize the feeling in his stomach as he opens the door and sees Taehyung behind the counter, but he decides to promptly ignore it. He’s not ready to face this yet.

Taehyung looks beautiful today, again, but Jeongguk was already expecting that. When he stands up, Jeongguk gets to see his body and clothes. Today, he’s wearing ripped boyfriend jeans, exposing tanned, golden skin that Jeongguk decides to avoid staring at. On top of it, a grey, oversized t-shirt that he’s tied around his middle, kind of turning it into an improvised crop top. But the cherry on top, if you ask Jeongguk, is the pen that he’s tucked behind his ear, the one where Jeongguk now knows is the baby boy tattoo. Absolutely the cutest.

And, of course, Taehyung is smiling just as widely as he was during their previous meeting. Wide, big and sincere, which is not something Jeongguk thinks he sees enough.

“Jeongguk! You’re here early,” Taehyung says when he greets him, resting his hip against the counter as Jeongguk approaches.

“Oh, shit—I didn’t realize,” Jeongguk replies, now noticing that he’s there seven minutes earlier. He just can’t help it. He promises he left the parlor with the intention of getting there at nine o’clock, but he must have been walking faster than usual tonight. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to inconvenience.”

“Inconvenience me? Please, if anything I’m glad you got here early,” Taehyung tells him. “As you can see, I am not a very popular guy tonight.”

Taehyung gestures around himself when he says that, as if to point out how the parlor is empty. Jeongguk is not shocked—it’s the exact same at theirs at this hour, once they’re done with the appointments they have for the day. But even if no one is there, they need to stay open until it’s their scheduled time to close, just in case someone decides to drop by.

“Well, thank God I’m here to keep you company, then,” he replies, in a confidence boost that he’s not quite sure he knows where it’s coming from.

“Exactly,” Taehyung tells him. “Come over here, then.”

They find themselves just like last time, sitting on the counter. But this time around, before sitting down, Taehyung picks up a black folder from the shelves under the counter, the pastel blue sticky note from the other day stuck on top of it.

“I have six different options,” Taehyung starts explaining, now sitting on his stool as he opens the folder. “I really hope you like them, or at least, one of them.”

“I’m sure I will love them,” Jeongguk replies, feeling somehow thrilled. “I expect you to explain to me the meaning behind each one of them. Well, if there is any.”

“There is always one meaning or one reason, even if that meaning is purely aesthetic,” Taehyung tells him with a wink. God, every time he does that Jeongguk swears something inside of him jumps. “I’ll leave the best—or, well, what I think is best—for last, just for the thrill of it.”

One after the other, all the designs that Taehyung shows him are stunning. If they look like this on paper, Jeongguk can’t even begin to imagine how they’d look on somebody’s skin—God, no matter which one he chooses, he hopes Taehyung gets to ink the rest on someone else. Those designs deserve it.

However, and despite how much he likes it, Taehyung’s confession that he’d leave his favorite for the last place distracts Jeongguk from fully appreciating the designs Taehyung shows him first. He has said this before, but he trusts Taehyung’s judgement, and he’s already sure that he will agree with him and love this one the most.

“I’m going to show you my baby now,” Taehyung says after the fifth. Then, hitting the surface of the counter with the palms of his hands repeatedly, he says, “Please, drums. We need to build anticipation up.”

Jeongguk laughs, but imitates Taehyung’s gesture and takes over as the other opens the folder and gets the drawing out.

“Before showing it to you, let me point out that I’ve done this with the premise that a rose cuts deeper than a blade,” Taehyung says, looking at him. Jeongguk nods, and only then does Taehyung show it to him.

In the drawing, there’s both a dagger and a rose. Jeongguk is confused about what the a rose cuts deeper than a blade thing has to do with it when he realizes—the rose, placed at the front, is intact. And behind it, the handle of the dagger is split in two parts, exactly where the stem of the rose is.

A rose cuts deeper than a blade.

“That’s… that’s beautiful, Taehyung,” Jeongguk tells him, unable to hold back and reaching forward to touch the paper. “I like it. I actually really like it.”

He takes in the drawing and the details. There’s no intricate shadowing on the blade, but Jeongguk thinks he likes the simplicity of it. As obsessed with precision as he is, he can’t help but appreciate the care Taehyung has put into the rose—the stem, the leaves, the thorns, the details on the petals… Taehyung said he’d design something customized especially for him, and he’s nailed it.

And the meaning behind it just makes it even better. Jeongguk doesn’t know if it’s something that the people who will see his tattoo will easily get, but he stopped caring about that long ago—God, he has too many tattoos to care about that. What matters to him is that Taehyung has designed this for him, especially, and Jeongguk loves it. He loves it so much.

“So I take it you like it?” Taehyung asks, and when Jeongguk looks at him, he can see a boxy grin painted on his face. “Do you want me to try with a few more designs, or are we doing this one for sure?”

“This one. I love it so much, Taehyung,” he says. “God—you’re a genius.”

Taehyung buries his face between his palms when he hears the compliment coming from Jeongguk, hiding his face. He’s wearing different rings from last time today, but there it is—the V tattoo.

“I’m really not, but thank you,” he says once he’s quickly composed himself, the hint of some blush left on his skin. Jeongguk smiles. “So! Then I’ll get the stencil ready. But you need to tell me the size first. And don’t tell me to go as crazy as I want! I need some guidance.”

“Okay, okay,” Jeongguk says, unable to contain a smile. “Should I take my shirt off, or…?”

“Sure, why not,” Taehyung tells him, standing up from the stool again and walking around the counter and to Jeongguk. “Show me the goods.”

“Oh, please!”

And that is how Jeongguk finds himself standing shirtless in Taehyung’s parlor, with the other pressing his palm against the bare skin of his ribcage and using his hand as a measuring tool. While Taehyung takes the measurements necessary and writes them down on his pastel blue sticky note, Jeongguk can’t help but wonder if Taehyung finds him hot.

Not that it matters.

“So, I think we’re settled, then,” Taehyung tells him, once Jeongguk’s t-shirt is back on his body. “Should we book you an appointment?”

“Yes,” Jeongguk replies. “But you also need to tell me how much I owe you. And I’d need to make a deposit, and—”

“I’m not going to charge you.”

“Wait—what?” Jeongguk asks.

He’s about to go on a tangent about how he won’t allow that, that this is Taehyung’s work and he feels like he should pay for it. But Taehyung beats him to it, and says, “You said you wanted us to have an agreement. To ink each other. Isn’t getting a tattoo from you enough payment?”

“But your tattoos are bigger than mine,” Jeongguk points out.

“I’m not bothered,” Taehyung says. “I mean it, Jeongguk—I’ll be okay. I’m doing it for the art, you know? And for friendship.”

For friendship. To know that Taehyung is potentially thinking of him as a friend is what really gets to him.

“I see, then,” Jeongguk says, still sounding not too convinced.

“So, we have a deal?” Taehyung asks, stretching his arm towards Jeongguk.

Jeongguk looks at Taehyung’s palm, bigger than his, and thinks about it for a moment. This gives room for the two of them to see each other again, doesn’t it? And, after all, he was the one who suggested the agreement. They are a perfect match in terms of style so Jeongguk sees no reason to not accept.

He takes Taehyung’s hand in his and gives it a firm shake. Taehyung smiles at him, smug.

“Deal.”  

 

 

The day for Jeongguk to get his tattoo finally arrives, the more than well-known pre-tattoo thrill making the tips of his fingers tingle. He has made sure Seokjin booked no appointments for him tonight, and by the time it’s time he has to leave their parlor and go to Taehyung’s, he’s almost thriving with excitement.

“Stop by here if it’s not too late when you’re done,” Hoseok tells him as he’s getting ready to leave.

“Right! We want to see it,” Seokjin chimes in then.

“I’m sure I’ll have time before it’s closing,” Jeongguk replies, stealing a quick glance at the hour on the screen of his phone. “If not, I’ll just text you a picture.”

“As if you’re capable of texting,” Seokjin tells him. Jeongguk rolls his eyes, fondly.

“I’m leaving now,” he announces. “I’ll see you guys later, yeah?”

A choir of see you later is the last thing Jeongguk hears before he opens the door and leaves the store. It’s hard to keep the happy bounce from his steps but he forces himself to. The last thing he needs is for everyone in the street to think he’s a weirdo. He arrives a little early today, too, and debates whether he should go in or not. Taehyung is talking to someone, but it doesn’t seem as if he’s busy. Instead of a client, by the way they act around each other, Jeongguk assumes it’s a friend.

In the end, he decides to go in. If Taehyung is indeed busy, Jeongguk can just sit on the couch by the entry and wait. The moment he opens the door and goes in, both Taehyung and who Jeongguk assumes is his friend turn to look at him. The other guy is a little shorter than Taehyung and has blonde hair. His plump lips turn into a gentle smile as soon as Jeongguk’s come in, almost as if he already knew who he was.

“Hi,” is what Jeongguk says once he’s inside. It’s not his most eloquent greeting, nor the longest one he’s ever managed, but it’s a greeting nevertheless. It will have to suffice.

“Hey there!” Taehyung greets him. “It’s good to see you. I have everything ready. Are you excited?”

“I always get excited before a tattoo, no matter how many I have,” Jeongguk confesses.

Taehyung laughs. “That’s good, that’s the best,” he says. Then he adds, “We’ll be ready to start in a minute, then. My friend is leaving just now. Well, excuse my manners—Jeongguk this is Jimin. Jimin, the artist I told you about.”

Jimin smiles at him warmly as they politely exchange slight bows. Jeongguk, a little in disbelief, asks, “Have you talked about me?”

“So, so much,” Jimin interjects this time around, a devious smile painted on his lips. “You don’t even know.”

“But Jimin is keeping his mouth shut and leaving just now, am I right?” says Taehyung, pushing Jimin towards the door with a hand around his shoulders.

The pointed look that Taehyung gives Jimin then makes Jeongguk smile for some reason. Cute.

“I am, I am. I’ll call you later, yeah?” Jimin asks him, turning around to look at Taehyung once he’s by the door.

“Yes, yes,” Taehyung replies. “Love you.”

“Love you,” Jimin repeats. “Enjoy your time with the impossibly talented and cute tattoo artists that followed you on Insta.”

Jimin disappears through the door right then, softly closing it behind himself, and Taehyung’s face turns impossible red. Jeongguk looks at him with a smile, feeling a warm sensation in his stomach. By context, the tone Jimin used and Taehyung’s reaction, Jeongguk assumes that Jimin was just quoting Taehyung’s words about him.

So, impossibly talented and cute, huh?

Jeongguk decides to cut Taehyung some slack and not comment on it. He also decides not to tell Taehyung how adorable he looks with his cheeks bright red.

“Let’s get to it,” Taehyung comments as he walks past him, still a little embarrassed.

After Jeongguk signs the necessary documents, they move to the proper studio part of the parlor, Jeongguk taking his shirt off and sitting on the black chair there. Before anything else, Taehyung gives him the stencil to inspect, telling him to look at it closely in case something is wrong. This is the definite one, after all. Jeongguk inspects it, not letting himself be distracted by the feeling of Taehyung’s gloved hands cleaning the area that he will get the tattoo on.

“Lay on your side and lift your arm over your head,” Taehyung replies, getting the stencil and preparing himself to put it against Jeongguk’s skin. Then, with a wicked smile, Taehyung adds, “I assume you know all the rules about not having consumed alcohol, or blood-thinning painkillers and drugs.”

“Please, I’m as professional as one can get,” Jeongguk replies, getting into position as he smiles at Taehyung. He knows this posture is bound to get uncomfortable after a little, but he needs to stretch the skin well in order for Taehyung to be able to work properly.

“That’s good,” Taehyung says. He reaches for a bandana hanging from the wall and places it on his forehead, pushing his hair back, allowing him to properly see what he’s doing. “I hope you’re not too much a crybaby. Ribs tattoos are bitches.”

“I know,” Jeongguk says, who has tattooed plenty of ribs himself, despite his being spotless. Then, he realizes Taehyung might be talking out of experience, so he asks, “Do you have one?”

“No, but I want one,” he replies, giving Jeongguk a smile as he gets the tattoo gun ready. “They’re cute, aren’t they?”

“Very cute,” Jeongguk replies. He bites his tongue in order to not blurt out just like you.

It’s a big tattoo so the process of inking takes long. Luckily, Taehyung is talkative and bubbly, and doesn’t run out of things to talk about. Jeongguk also feels oddly comfortable in Taehyung’s presence, despite the fact that they haven’t known each other for a very long time. Usually, it takes Jeongguk a while to warm up to people. It’s good to see that Taehyung and he click well together, both as artists and as people. Jeongguk wonders why he feels so relieved by that fact.

Taehyung was right when he said that ribcage tattoos are a bitch, but despite how painful it is, Jeongguk doesn’t allow himself to complain. If at some point he feels like it’s too much or he gets dizzy, he knows that the right thing is to tell Taehyung. But he also knows that getting whiny can be distracting for Taehyung, and could just make the process longer than it has to be. Besides, he doesn’t want Taehyung to think he’s a whiny baby who can’t take the pain of a tattoo.

“You’re doing well?” Taehyung asks him, after telling him about his trip to Jeju last summer. Jeongguk nods. “Tell me if you need anything. We have, like, half of it to go?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Jeongguk replies. “Maybe—could I have some water?”

“Absolutely,” Taehyung replies, lifting the gun from Jeongguk’s skin. “Let me go to the back so I can get you a bottle, yeah?”

And just like that, the minutes go by. By the time Taehyung is almost done, Jeongguk would say he’s almost desensitized to the pain. He takes his time to observe Taehyung while he works, unable to stop himself. God, he just hopes Taehyung isn’t creeped out if he catches him but he can’t help himself. Taehyung’s eyes widen when he’s focusing, and the tip of his tongue peaks out from between his lips. He looks deep in concentration, as he finishes filling Jeongguk’s tattoo in.

It’s already evening when Taehyung finishes. He looks at his work with a proud smile before he tells Jeongguk that it’s done, and that he can stand up already and take a look at the tattoo in the body mirror by the chair.

When Jeongguk does so, he falls in love with Taehyung’s style all over again. Seeing his work through Instagram posts is different from seeing it on his skin, and seeing the design on paper is also very different from seeing it on his own body. Jeongguk looks at the tattoo dumbfounded, holding back the urge to touch the tattoo with his fingers.

“Do you like it?” Taehyung asks, starting to take his gloves off. Jeongguk looks at him through the reflection of the mirror and sees how he casually leans back against the sink. He seems relaxed, almost as if he already knew Jeongguk loves it.

“It’s amazing,” Jeongguk replies, his eyes going back to the tattoo. He really can’t bring himself to look away from it for long, taking in all the details of it. “God. Thank you so much, Taehyung. I love it. It’s… it’s incredible.”

“You’re gonna make me blush if you keep all the compliments coming,” Taehyung says then, cheeky. Jeongguk knows that he doesn’t mean it, though. “Let me get on with the aftercare, then.”

Jeongguk sits still as Taehyung properly cleans and heals his tattoo, finishing by covering it so his clothes don’t bother him too much. Jeongguk knows that it will be a pain in the ass to take care of it for a little while but he’ll live.

“I’m sure I don’t have to give you the crap about how to take care of it or a list of products to use,” Taehyung tells him as he starts to clean up.

“It won’t be necessary, no,” Jeongguk replies, smiling at him. “Do you need some help cleaning this up?”

“What—? Oh, no, please, you don’t have to!” Taehyung rushes to reply to him. “Leave whenever you want to. I’m just going to stay here for a moment to clean up and then leave.”

“I’ll wait, it’s no problem. I have nowhere to be now,” Jeongguk tells him. He sees Taehyung start to give in. “Let me help you out?”

Taehyung looks at him for a moment, hand on his hip. “Okay,” he ends up saying. “It won’t take long either way.”

They chat away as they clean. Jeongguk asks whether he works alone or not, as he has only seen him in the parlor, and Taehyung tells him how he can handle himself well on his own. From what Jeongguk can see on Instagram, Taehyung seems to be quite popular. He posts several works daily, and like Taehyung told him before, not everyone agrees to have their tattoo posted online.

“What about you?” Taehyung asks him then. “Do you work alone or do you have a partner?”

“I have two partners—one of them is another tattooist and the other one is our receptionist,” Jeongguk explains. “Well. He is the receptionist, but he does much more. He takes care of the stock and makes numbers for the most part. He takes charge of the more businessy part of it all.”

“So you just do the tattoos, then?” Taehyung asks, amused. “I take care of that, too. Sometimes I get a little help but mostly me.”

“From Jimin?” Jeongguk asks. When Taehyung takes a step back from the sink, Jeongguk approaches it and washes his own hands.

“No, from Hyungsik.” It takes Jeongguk a second to remember who Taehyung was talking about. So that’s who the guy was? The person who does Taehyung’s numbers. “The guy who came over the first time you were here. Remember him?”

“How could I not,” Jeongguk replies, involuntarily wincing a little. He really didn’t mean to, but as soon as he remembers the suit and the watch… Jeongguk doesn’t think he likes him very much.

Taehyung, who catches Jeongguk’s expression, gives him an amused smile. They’re done tidying up now, so they turn the lights off and walk outside the parlor. Jeongguk is a little sad that the evening is coming to an end and they will have to go separate ways, inexplicably so.

“So… I should probably get going, then,” Jeongguk says, once Taehyung is done closing the store.

“I’m gonna get home now, too. I feel like I urgently need a cool shower and some quality time in bed, to be honest,” Taehyung says, stretching his neck around. Jeongguk smiles. There’s a beat of silence, but before it can get remotely awkward, Taehyung adds, “So… About my tattoo. The one you owe me, I mean.”

Jeongguk definitely didn’t see this coming. He knew that Taehyung had in the end agreed to that one tattoo arrangement that he had suggested, but the truth is that he didn’t see Taehyung asking for it so soon. Maybe he stands a little straighter after Taehyung says that, as if the gesture would somehow make him hear him better.

“What about it?” Jeongguk asks, tilting his head to the right.

“I think I already know what I would like,” Taehyung says, the hint of a grin appearing on his lips. Jeongguk nods inquiringly, inviting Taehyung to keep going. “Something starry.”

“You want stars?” Jeongguk asks. Taehyung nods. “Where?”

“Here,” Taehyung replies, lifting his arm and showing him the outside of his forearm. “It’s a good place for a starry tattoo, don’t you think?”

Taehyung’s smile is contagious, so Jeongguk can’t help but smile back at him, as widely as his mouth allows.

“It’s a good place, yes,” Jeongguk tells him. “It’s cute.”

“That’s what I thought, too!” Taehyung tells him. Then, going back to the conversation, he adds, “So, maybe we can do the same we did this time around? You can call me when you have some designs ready and I can check them out. Does that sound good with you?”

“Sounds perfect,” Jeongguk replies, unable to contain a smile. “I’ll get to work. Hopefully I’ll be able to design something you like.”

“I know you will,” Taehyung tells him. “I’m going to get going now, then. See you soon?”

“Definitely,” Jeongguk replies.

 

 

Jeongguk pours his heart and soul into every single one of his tattoos, and in every single design he does. He thinks that one of the keys to good artwork is passion, and that without it, art would be bland and void of a true meaning. That’s why behind every tattoo he’s ever done, every piece of his ink on someone, there is an unmeasurable amount of love and dedication.

Yet still, in the piece he designs for Taehyung he pours a little more.

He started working on it the very same evening that Taehyung tattooed him. It wasn’t too late yet, and he didn’t mind spending his free time drawing—after all, this is what he likes doing the most. Ever since, he’s drawn… dozens and dozens of sketches. There are a lot of them scattered over his kitchen table, over the coffee table in his living room that he mostly uses to rest his feet, and over his working room back at the parlor. Hoseok, who knows who the starry tattoo is for, watches Jeongguk with a funny smile, but doesn’t comment on it.

But he does ask questions, though. Jeongguk is sitting at his table at work when Hoseok comes up behind him, peeking at the paper sheets before him.

“How many designs do you have ready now?” Hoseok asks him. Jeongguk shrugs.

“I don’t know,” he replies. Hoseok looks at him skeptically. “I mean it. I haven’t counted them. There are too many.”

“And are you going to show him all of them?” Hoseok asks, sounding incredulous.

“Of course not!” Jeongguk rushes to say. “I have some to discard, and I also have a system. I have around five different styles, so I’ll make a selection of maybe five, ten drawings per style. First I’ll let him pick a style, and then one design specifically.”

Hoseok nods, after having listened to him. “That sounds like an awful load of work,” he tells him.

“It’s less than it looks like,” Jeongguk tells him. “They’re tiny designs, you know? It’s just pretty when it’s all together, but… yeah.”

“Hey, don’t underestimate himself,” Hoseok tells him, his hand giving Jeongguk’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Those look really amazing, Jeongguk. I like that one, over there.”

Jeongguk follows the direction of Hoseok’s finger, eyes falling on the sketch he was referring to. It’s one of Jeongguk’s favorites, too—it’s a few smaller stars surrounding a bigger one, its size being created by some shadowing that Jeongguk has been working on recently. His intention is for the shadow to replicate the way the brightness of the star would look in the night sky.

“I like that one a lot, too,” Jeongguk tells him. “I should probably sort through everything I have tonight and call him tomorrow. You know how I get when I overthink things too much.”

“Exactly my point,” Hoseok tells him, giving him a gentle smile. “They’re stunning, and you know I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. He’s going to love them.”

“I hope so,” Jeongguk replies.

After a few pats on the back, Hoseok leaves and goes back to his own table. Jeongguk runs a hand through his hair, looking at all the designs placed before him. God, he really hopes Taehyung likes them.

 

 

Jeongguk is not a big fan of phone calls, but he doesn’t remember being as nervous about making one as he is right now. His phone hovers over Taehyung’s name in his contact list for what feels like ages before he finally forces himself to tap over it and take his phone to his ear.

It’s time to be a brave boy, Jeongguk, he tells himself.

The beeping of the phone while waiting for the person on the other end is, Jeongguk has decided, the most anxiety inducing moment ever. If he was nervous just by looking at the contact in his list, then the brief waiting here just makes it worse. Jeongguk knows he’s being dramatic, and knows that there is a reason behind his nervousness about phoning Taehyung, but he’s not going to think about that yet. He doesn’t want to.

At last, and after some long seconds that feel like ages to Jeongguk, Taehyung picks up.

“Jeongguk, hi!” he greets as soon as he answers the phone. “I’ve been waiting for you to call.”

“Oh—really?” Jeongguk asks. “I hope I didn’t take too long.”

“You took just fine,” Taehyung replies, laughing a little. “I understand, though. These things take time, I wouldn’t have wanted you to call me before you felt ready to, and before you liked what you have to show me.”

“I’m glad you’re being understanding that way,” Jeongguk replies. He smiles a little at Taehyung’s thoughtfulness. “So… I was thinking we could meet up soon so I can show you what I have so far.”

“That sounds perfect,” Taehyung tells him. “Oh, wait—it’s Friday today. You don’t happen to be open on Saturdays or Sundays, do you?”

Jeongguk’s lips part in surprise. Shit, he hadn’t thought about that.

“Oh—no, we don’t,” he replies. He knows what Taehyung is going to say, that he can drop by on Monday, but Jeongguk beats him to it. “But, since the only thing we’re going to do tomorrow is go over the designs and hopefully pick a definite one, maybe we could meet up somewhere else. Only if you want to, of course.”

Jeongguk’s cheeks start burning in embarrassment as soon as he realizes what he’s done—he has just asked Taehyung out, kind of. God, now is when Taehyung is going to tell him to slow down.

“That sounds great.” Jeongguk really can’t believe what he’s hearing right now. “I’m free only during the evening, though. Does that sound good with you?”

“I’m free, yeah,” Jeongguk replies. On Saturday evenings he usually hangs out with the guys, but they haven’t made plans yet, so technically he’s free. It’s not like the world will end if he joins later, just for one day. “We can meet in the evening.”

“Anywhere in mind?” Taehyung asks.

Jeongguk was about to reply that he didn’t particularly mind, letting Taehyung pick the place, but then he decides to have initiative. He’s already asked Taehyung to meet outside of their parlors and outside of working hours, right? Might as well go all the way there.

“I know a bar if that sort of environment is good with you,” he says. “There’s a good ambience and we’ll be able to look at the pictures well. I can text you the address if that’s fine with you.”

“It’s great with me,” Taehyung replies, quickly. “Tomorrow at, let’s say, eight in the evening? Is that convenient for you?”

“Tomorrow at eight in the evening, yes,” Jeongguk replies. “I’ll text you the address, then. See you tomorrow?”

He hates the way that his voice tilts up at the end, sounding doubtful. He silently scolds himself for it—it’s not a question. It’s an affirmation. They are meeting up tomorrow.

“See you tomorrow, Jeongguk,” Taehyung tells him. “I’m looking forward to it!”

And with that, Taehyung hangs up. Jeongguk can’t believe he just did that, call Taehyung and ask him to meet up like this. But well, Taehyung was the one who implied they could be friends, after all. He is just… going with the flow.

Still, Jeongguk wonders if Taehyung is aware of how shaky his legs feel after talking to him.

 

 

When the time to meet Taehyung at the bar comes, Jeongguk makes sure to look especially good. He’s not very big on fashion or anything so he decides to call Yoongi and ask for advice. It’s not like Yoongi is a fashionista either but in Jeongguk’s humble opinion, he knows how to make himself look good. Hopefully, he can make Jeongguk look good as well.

He starts a FaceTime call with him, standing in his room half naked and freshly showered while looking at his wardrobe. When Yoongi picks up, he has a big spoon in his mouth.

“Hey,” Yoongi greats, taking the spoon out of his mouth. Jeongguk can then see that the corners of his mouth are stained with chocolate, and so he guesses Yoongi is eating ice-cream. “How come you’re calling?”

“I need your help,” Jeongguk says. Yoongi just watches in silence as he takes another spoonful of ice-cream, and Jeongguk decides to keep talking. “What should I wear to look good?”

Yoongi looks at him for a second before he asks, “Well, that depends how good we’re talking. Casual good, sporty good, date good…?”

Jeongguk stirs at the mention of the word date. It’s a word that he’s been skirting around and tried to avoid thinking about since yesterday, if he’s quite honest with himself. He knows Taehyung and himself are not going on a date.

“Probably date is the closest,” Jeongguk mumbles, so fast that his words are all slurred together and unintelligible. “Just—to go to a bar.”

“Oh, my God,” Yoongi says. Then he looks to his side, his nose disappearing off cam for a second while he yells, “Namjoon, Jeongguk is going out on a date with someone!”

To be fair, Jeongguk should have seen this coming. It’s his own fault.

“I am not going on a date!” Jeongguk hisses, but by the time he’s done it’s far too late—now, alongside with the right half of Yoongi’s face, he can see the left half of Namjoon’s. Both looking at him with smiles that seem evil to Jeongguk. “I’m just going to show Taehyung the designs I have for his tattoo. But we’re going to meet at a bar, so I don’t want to look out of place.”

“Ah, Taehyung,” Namjoon says, wiggling his eyebrows. Well—wiggling the one eyebrow Jeongguk can see. “How come you’re meeting up at a bar and not at work, like the previous times?”

“Because I called him yesterday and neither of us wanted to wait until Monday. Besides, we have the same closing hours and he can’t just come over to our parlor all the time since he works alone and he’d have to close,” Jeongguk tells them. Then, in a lower voice, he adds, “And… we’re friends. Or at least, we’re on the way to becoming friends.”

Both of them coo then for reasons that Jeongguk ignores. He doesn’t ask about it because he doesn’t want to know.

“That’s sweet, Jeonggukie,” Yoongi tells him. “I’d say, kind of polished but so it doesn’t look like you’ve tried super hard. How about some black jeans and a black t-shirt tucked in? With that belt with the cool buckle and a leather jacket. You can never go wrong with black.”

Namjoon, whose wardrobe is a retro explosion of color, rolls his eyes at the statement, but doesn’t say anything. He knows who he is dealing with—Yoongi and Jeongguk’s wardrobes are approximately ninety percent black, so he knows he’d be getting nowhere with arguing.

“That sounds good, yeah,” Jeongguk says, rubbing the back of his head with his hand. “I’ll talk to you once I’m done. You’re going out with Hoseok and Seokjin tonight, right?”

“That’s correct, yeah,” Yoongi replies, eating more ice-cream.

“Then I’ll probably join at some point when I’m free later in the evening,” Jeongguk replies. Yoongi and Namjoon nod. “Thanks for the help, hyung.”

“Anytime!”

And with that, the call ends. Jeongguk then approaches his wardrobe and gets everything Yoongi suggested, slipping into it and looking at himself in the mirror. He looks good, or at least he thinks he does. He’s careful not to tuck his shirt in too tight, in order to not create friction between the fabric and the skin of his ribs, and gives himself an approving look. He looks good.

All there is left to do is style his hair and get his specs, putting them on before he’s ready to leave his apartment. If he leaves now he will get there a little early, which honestly, is what he’d rather. And so, Jeongguk grabs his folder with the designs, puts his shoes on, and starts walking.

The bar is not too far away from where Jeongguk lives, so he gets there around ten minutes before the time they agreed. They agreed to meet inside so Jeongguk just takes a quiet table in a corner for himself and orders a beer. And then, he waits.

Taehyung gets there shortly after, around a minute or two before the time that they had initially agreed. Jeongguk sees him when he raises his eyes from his phone, and he’s about to stand up to welcome him when Taehyung stretches an arm, signaling for him to stop.

“No, no, please don’t stand up,” Taehyung tells him. “It’s fine. Did I make you wait for long?”

“No, not at all,” Jeongguk replies. “You’re on time. I just have the ugly habit of getting early to places and then making everyone else feel like they’re late.”

Taehyung laughs then, taking off his bright red leather jacket to hang it on the back of his chair, and it’s only now that Jeongguk takes into his appearance. He has always thought Taehyung looked amazing when he saw him at work, but for most of the time, it was casual and comfortable wear—loose t-shirts, jeans, trainers… Right now, Taehyung looks very different from that. He’s wearing some shiny, black latex pants that hug his legs perfectly, paired with a black and white striped shirt tucked at the waistband. He’s wearing what looks like thousands of earrings, far more than last time Jeongguk saw him, and his fingers are decorated with rings as always. Well, now Jeongguk is glad that he called Yoongi instead of settling for dressing down.

Taehyung sits down across of him and smiles, and Jeongguk knows he’s a goner.

Perhaps he could try to be smooth now, comment on how beautiful Taehyung looks and slip in a compliment or two, then. But he’s feeling a little overwhelmed by how hot Taehyung looks, and especially overwhelmed by the latex. And so, instead of a compliment or anything remotely flirty, he asks, “Did you get more piercings?”

Taehyung is confused for a moment before he touches his ear with his hand, feeling the earrings under the pads of his fingers. The ear with the tattoo, Jeongguk vividly remembers.

“Oh, no, no,” Taehyung replies to him. Then, with a smile, he adds, “It’s just a clip-on. I could never get this many. Cartilage piercings scare me.”

Jeongguk can’t help but look at him funnily, narrowing his eyes as he frowns a little. “Not what I was expecting from someone who fills up skin wounds with ink.”

“Hey, be nice!” Taehyung tells him, reaching over the table so he can lightly slap Jeongguk’s arm. Jeongguk laughs. “You’re such a menace, dear God.”

A waiter comes then to take Taehyung’s order, a bottle of peach soju, and after that they get to talking a little bit.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t meet up with you any sooner,” Taehyung tells him. “I’ve been running around the whole day. I’ve been a solicited guy tonight.”

“I’m sure you always are,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung looks at him with a smile, looking like he’s about to coo, and so Jeongguk clears his throat and says, “So, about the tattoo—should we get to it?”

“Yes!” Taehyung replies, sitting up straight. “Show me now. I’m excited to see what you’ve got.”

“Hopefully something you’ll like.”

“I know I’ll love it, please,” Taehyung says, waving it off. “How are we going about this, then?”

“Okay, so, since it’s a small tattoo I have a lot of designs. I’ve split them into five blocks, so how about you pick your favorite block first and then I show you what I’ve got for it? If none convince you, then we can go to your second favorite block and try until we find something.”

“That sounds good with me,” Taehyung asks. Then, conversational, he adds, “You seem like an organized guy.”

“I’m an organization freak,” Jeongguk begins to explain, taking the designs he has to convey what each block looks like out of his folder and placing them before Taehyung. “Must be the Virgo in me.”

“You’re a Virgo? That’s cute,” Taehyung replies, smiling.

Jeongguk smiles back at him, feeling his cheeks heat up, but he ignores it and focuses on the papers on the table.

“Okay, so,” Jeongguk starts, looking at the first one. “This one over here is the most different one. It’s mostly sketchy stars, the kind you can draw without lifting your pen from the pencil, you know?”

“I know,” Taehyung replies, with a nod. “Next one?”

“Next one is just single stars, with a lot of detail. They’re mostly very elongated, to cover the area.” Taehyung looks at the design, taking it in, and Jeongguk carries on. “Third one is constellations. As you can see, it’s smaller looking stars connected one way or another, usually with fine lines like here. I used discontinued lines in some, too.”

“That’s good,” Taehyung replies. “And the last two?”

“Fourth is groups of stars, too, but not constellations. These ones aren’t connected. They are also very rich in detail, and they are all in black and white,” Jeongguk tells him. And then, moving to the last one, he says, “And these are more minimalistic details. They are mostly line art. There are both groups and single stars.”

“God, it’s so cute how you’ve organized all of this,” replies Taehyung, giving him one smile before he focuses on the designs away. “I think that my favorite group is four—groups of stars but without connection between them.”

“That is perfect then,” Jeongguk says, picking up the discarded drawings and putting them in the folder before taking the rest of designs he has for the group out. “I was lowkey hoping you’d get that one, too. My favorite one is in this group, you know?”

Really?” Taehyung asks, his face lighting up. “Which one is it?”

“I don’t want my opinion to condition you so I won’t tell you,” Jeongguk tells him.

Taehyung frowns, his lip pouting out. “But I told you which one of my designs for your tattoo was my favorite,”

“And I loved it, especially because we agreed on the fact that it was the best,” Jeongguk tells him. “I just want you to pick your favorite, not mine.”

“Fair enough,” Taehyung replies. “Bring it on, then.”

Jeongguk places all of the designs in front of Taehyung, who quickly starts scanning through all of them. There is Jeongguk’s favorite, the one that Hoseok talked to him about—a big, detailed star surrounded by daintier ones. This is the one that he likes to imagine the most on Taehyung’s skin.

Which is why his mouth breaks into a big, wide smile he doesn’t even try to control when Taehyung points at it, saying, “This one. No doubt, this one.”

“Really?” Jeongguk asks, feeling inexplicably happy. “That’s my favorite, too.”

“Wait, for real?” Taehyung asks. When Jeongguk nods, Taehyung smiles widely at him, too. “Wow. We really are the same soul in two different bodies.”

Jeongguk is, for some reason, terribly flustered when Taehyung says that. He picks up all of the drawings and places them in the folder, leaving the chosen one at the front for better access.

“I’ll call you on Monday to tell you when you can come by, then,” he tells Taehyung. “I just don’t have the schedule with me now.”

“Sure, it’s no problem with me. I’m sure we can find a free slot for both of us,” Taehyung tells him, with a smile. “That was faster than I expected.”

“Generally, that’s a good sign,” Jeongguk tells him.

“It is! I’m very happy with the design,” Taehyung replies, honest. “I really love it, Jeongguk. Your attention to details never ceases to amaze me, for real.”

Jeongguk gets a little flustered at the comment, smiling shyly while he takes a sip of his beer. Jeongguk doesn’t really know what to do right now, in the sense that he doesn’t know whether Taehyung wants to hang out for a little longer or not. As of now, they both still have some of their drinks left, which acts as a safety net for Jeongguk—while he has beer left, he has an excuse to not make a decision whether he wants to leave or not.

The truth is that Jeongguk and Taehyung don’t deeply know each other, despite the crazy way in which Jeongguk’s heart acts when they are close and that he actively ignores. All he knew about Taehyung is that he was a tattoo artist, and that he always seemed able to light up every room he was in just with the brightness of his smile and the light that he radiates as a person. But tonight—tonight they talk. They properly talk. Conversation flows easily between them as he learns more and more about the guy who is becoming his obsession.

Taehyung’s favorite flower is an orchid, and he loves the summer because it reminds him of working with his grandparents at their strawberry farm when he didn’t have school to worry about. Of course, and for that very same reason, strawberries are his favorite food, and he even dyed his hair red because it reminded him of them. He is passionate about art, especially impressionism and more specifically Van Gogh. He likes dogs, he wants to adopt a pomeranian and a poodle, and he needs prescription glasses that he never uses because he, in his own words, wants to look badass.

And Jeongguk just listens, and makes little mental notes related to what Taehyung tells him. For example, when Taehyung mentions his love for jazz and the fact that he played saxophone when he was younger, Jeongguk decides that the next time they meet outside their parlors he should take Taehyung to a jazz bar. Just like with his art, when it comes to people, Jeongguk likes to pay attention to the details.

In the end, they order another drink. Jeongguk is glad when Taehyung suggests it because he wasn’t feeling ready to leave yet. He has been keeping the last sip of the beer at the bottom of the glass just to have a reason to stay, and when he finishes it as Taehyung stands up to ask for another one, he winces as it’s already warm and gross.

Needless to say, by the time their second round is gone and they decide to leave, there is a bittersweet taste in Jeongguk’s mouth. On one hand, he’s happy for plenty of reasons: Taehyung liked the tattoo that he designed especially for him, he got to spend quality time with him, he got to know actual things about him as a person, and now he feels like they’re several steps closer to being friends than at the start of the evening. But on the other hand, he also feels a little sad because their time together for the evening has come to an end. There’s always the consolation that many more nights like this one wait for them, and that they will definitely see each other again.

“I’m paying,” Taehyung says with a mischievous smile, and before Jeongguk can stop him, he’s moving towards the register. Jeongguk narrows his eyes at him, but at least it gives him an excuse to invite Taehyung out again, some time soon.

While Taehyung is standing by the bar, paying for their drinks, Jeongguk can’t help but let his gaze travel down his body and take in the perky, gentle curve of his ass. Jeongguk would be lying if he said it doesn’t look great in jeans and casual clothing, but with the latex… There are no words. No words.

They eventually leave, and once they’re outside, Taehyung pulls him into a hug that is as unexpected as it is welcome. Jeongguk hugs him back, letting his arms curl around Taehyung’s middle.

“Thank you so, so much for tonight, Jeongguk. I had a great night,” Taehyung tells him while he hugs him. “I’ll be waiting for you to call me about that appointment.”

“I’ll call as soon as I know something,” Jeongguk replies. Then, because he’s feeling brave, he adds, “And… If you ever want to hang out like this again, let me know. I had fun with you, too.”

Taehyung grins widely, in a way that almost makes Jeongguk’s heart explode.

“I would love to, Jeongguk,” he replies, starting to walk backward. “I’ll see you soon, yeah?”

“See you soon,” Jeongguk replies, waving as Taehyung turns around.

Jeongguk’s cheeks feel inexplicably hot as he texts his friends, letting them know that he won’t be joining them tonight as Taehyung and he finished later than he was expecting. They call him a killjoy, but Jeongguk doesn’t particularly mind, and walks straight home. A lot has happened in the last couple of hours, and he’s feeling mentally drained and exhausted. The thought of a bed and some rest seems like a blessing right now, and he’s not going to let his friends coerce him into anything different. He needs this.

Once he’s home, Jeongguk is so tired that he falls asleep as soon as his head touches the pillow. That night, he dreams of boxy grins and starry night skies.

 

 

It’s around a week later than Taehyung and Jeongguk are both free, and Taehyung can stop by Jeongguk’s store to get his tattoo done. Jeongguk is a little nervous before Taehyung arrives, but he refuses to externalize it, since Hoseok and Seokjin would without a doubt tease him relentlessly about it. He doesn’t even know what the cause of his nervousness is—maybe he just wants Taehyung to think that the parlor is nice, or maybe he just wants it to go as well and smoothly as possible. He also wants his friends and Taehyung to like each other, but he knows that that is pretty much a given. Knowing the three of them… It’s bound to happen.

Taehyung gets there at twelve on the dot, the hour that their appointment is for. Jeongguk hears him greet Seokjin at the reception.

“Hi, I’m here because I have an appointment with Jeongguk,” Taehyung says. “My name is Taehyung.”

“Ah, Taehyung! We’ve heard a lot about you.” Jeongguk can’t help but blush at the comment. The ruffle of papers, and then Seokjin adds, “I just need you to sign here, and then you can come in.”

While Taehyung signs, Jeongguk comes to the door and opens it, ready to greet Taehyung. As soon as he’s finished, Taehyung leaves the pen aside and looks at Jeongguk, smiley.

“Hey there, you,” Taehyung tells him, smiling. “You better have everything ready.”

“Of course I do,” Jeongguk tells him, feigning offence. “Come in?”

Taehyung walks into the studio with curious eyes, looking around himself. He greets Hoseok, who is sitting by his table, and introduces himself with a smile. Just like Jeongguk predicted, Hoseok and Taehyung get along very well. While Jeongguk puts on his gloves and everything necessary to shave and disinfect the tattoo area, Taehyung and Hoseok chat away. Hoseok isn’t busy at the moment, so that just gives them room to talk without worries.

Jeongguk has already started inking Taehyung when Taehyung casually asks, “So, what is that stuff that Jeongguk apparently says about me?”

Jeongguk sees his life flash before his eyes. He remembers Jimin telling him without any pudor what Taehyung had been saying about him, that one time they ran into each other at Taehyung’s parlor. Taehyung knows that his own friends are the same, if not worse. Seokjin probably has transcriptions of all their conversations about Taehyung so he can give them to him, as one of his favorite hobbies is embarrassing Jeongguk.

Hoseok is not much better. Jeongguk lifts up his eyes from Taehyung’s tattoo briefly, just to look at Hoseok. And what he sees, scares him—there’s a mischievous smile on his face, almost as if he were planning to make Jeongguk run into the bathroom and lock himself in there out of embarrassment.

“It’s not that much as Seokjin made it sound like,” Jeongguk says, trying to stand up for himself. If he doesn’t, no one will. “He was just exaggerating.”

“Seokjin exaggerating, I can believe, but it’s still a fair amount,” Hoseok tells him. Oh, God. Jeongguk isn’t ready for this. “We’ve heard about a bazillion times about how talented you are—which, I can agree with. We’ve seen the tattoo you did for Jeongguk, and it’s pure gold.”

“Well, thank you very much,” Taehyung tells him, and even if he’s not looking, Jeongguk can hear the smile in his voice.

“And then he met you and also started rambling about you being nice, and about feeling comfortable talking to you,” Hoseok adds. At this point, Jeongguk’s cheeks are just furiously blushing as he keeps working on the tattoo, with Taehyung cooing as background music. But the worst is yet to come, as Hoseok then adds, “Oh! He has also said you’re hot.”

If Jeongguk’s face was already flushed, now he feels it get twice as hot. He still doesn’t look up from Taehyung’s forearm, but can’t keep working on the tattoo as Taehyung is now shaking as he laughs. Damn Hoseok, and the stupid, satisfied grin that is probably on his face right now.

“Tae, don’t move,” is what Jeongguk says, totally ignoring what Hoseok has said. He’s not even going to acknowledge it, he’s decided.

“Sorry, sorry,” Taehyung replies, the laughter dying down. “Your ears are red.”

His stupid ears and their stupid tendency to blush, Jeongguk thinks.

“It’s hot,” Jeongguk mumbles, lying.

“You know,” Taehyung starts, then. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, or at least I don’t see it that way. I think you’re hot, too.”

Hoseok lets out a cackle then, and this time around Jeongguk has to put the tattoo gun down and bury his head between his palms, as he’s dying out of embarrassment. It’s then that Jeongguk suddenly remembers something that happened the time he met Jimin—more so, when he remembers Taehyung’s reaction to what Jimin said. Two can play this game, he has decided.

“Well, that’s not what it looked like when your friend Jimin said you thought I was cute,” Jeongguk tells him, looking up so he can see Taehyung’s reaction when he says that.

“Oh, God,” Taehyung says. A light blush comes to his face when he says that, at the same time a small and embarrassed smile comes to his lips. To say Jeongguk’s heart does a pirouette then… “That’s only because I was caught off guard that one time. It surprised me.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes playfully, getting the tattoo gun again. “If you say so,” he says. “Give me your hand.”

“I do say so!” Taehyung replies to him, stretching his arm again so Jeongguk can keep going. “He just said it out of the blue. But you should have seen it coming, since I directly asked.”

“Again—if that’s what you think.”

“Be nice!”

Hoseok laughs at the exchange, and it’s then that the door connecting the studio area with the reception opens, Seokjin appearing behind it.

“What’s so funny?” Seokjin asks then, a hand on his hip. “I’ve been hearing Hoseok cackling non-stop for a solid five minutes.”

Hoseok starts telling Seokjin, who joins into the coos and the laughter. Jeongguk doesn’t listen to them, but instead looks up at Taehyung. He was trying to steal a glance, but sees that mission fail as Taehyung was already looking at him, a shy smile on his lips. Jeongguk grins back at him, trying to ignore the fact that his heart skips a beat.

 

 

Yoongi hijacks Jeongguk into the apartment he shares with Namjoon one Sunday evening, with the threat that he won’t let him go until he’s told him everything about his date with Taehyung.

“For starters, it wasn’t even a date,” is what Jeongguk replies. “And how come you’re asking now? That was ages ago.”

“I forgot,” Yoongi replies, honest as always. “But this morning Namjoon asked how it went so here we are. You know you’re not going anywhere until you give me every single detail, and then I’ll tell you if I like him for you or not.”

“It wasn’t a date!” Jeongguk repeats, oddly flustered. “We just met up to talk about the design of his tattoo. Easy as that.”

“But you like him,” Yoongi says.

“I don’t like him,” Jeongguk replies.

“You so do like him.”

“Yoongi, I said I don’t!”

“I’m your best friend, you can’t lie to me,” Yoongi tells him. Jeongguk looks at him, baffled. “Just admit you have a crush on him. And then rate him out of ten on the cutie scale.”

Jeongguk takes a deep breath, under Yoongi’s scrutinizing eyes. “Like, an eleven.”

“See? Oh my God, you want to hold his hand and eat his ass,” Yoongi says. Jeongguk chokes on air. “I need to tell Namjoon.”

“You don’t need to tell anyone!” Jeongguk replies, trying to take Yoongi’s phone away from his hands. Yoongi kicks him away, pressing his foot against Jeongguk’s chest and stretching his arm so Jeongguk can’t reach his phone. “And who said I want to eat his ass?”

“I just have a hunch,” Yoongi tells him. Jeongguk looks at him skeptical. “Also, Hoseok might have mentioned he has a cute ass.”

“Wait, Hoseok said that?” Jeongguk asks.

Yoongi nods, saying, “Yeah, I asked him about Taehyung, since you wouldn’t tell.”

Jeongguk is suddenly feeling irrationally annoyed after hearing Yoongi’s words. Crossing his arms over his chest, he looks away and says, “Well, I am the one who got to see him wearing latex pants, so Hoseok doesn’t even know.”

Yoongi bursts into laughter, then. Jeongguk looks at him puzzled.

“You’re so fucking jealous,” Yoongi accuses, then. “Just admit you have a crush.”

Jealous? Jeongguk hadn’t… considered that. He’s not a jealous person, or at least he’s never thought of himself like that. Although it’s true that the thought of Hoseok checking Taehyung out doesn’t sit well with him.

Which is confusing. Because, in order for Jeongguk to admit his jealousy, he needs a reason to be jealous. And with a reason, he needs a link to Taehyung to feel jealous about the fact that Hoseok has looked at him. Jeongguk bites down on his bottom lip.

All the signs are there, he guesses. He’s been purposefully ignoring all of them, because that was far easier than coming to terms with it. But it’s impossible to deny the way his heart goes crazy whenever Taehyung is around, or how any of his smiles can brighten Jeongguk’s day instantly. He is constantly thinking about him when they’re not together, and after getting to know him a little more the other day, Jeongguk is already looking forward to another meeting with him. One that he was meaning to plan somewhere that Taehyung would love, based on their talk the other day.

So really, all the signs are there, and he’s just been avoiding them because he thought he could run away from his feelings and get away with it. But there is truth in Yoongi’s words from earlier. The thought of holding Taehyung’s hand, of taking his big palm and intertwining his fingers with Taehyung’s longer ones… Well, it’s appealing. About the eating his ass part, that’s a completely different story for a completely different time.

He looks at Yoongi, whose eyes are already on him, expectant. And then, Jeongguk finally admits it.

“I think I have a crush on Taehyung.”

 

 

 

The second time Taehyung and Jeongguk meet outside their jobs it’s, again, a Saturday evening.

It was Taehyung, much to both Jeongguk’s surprise and joy, who messaged him asking to meet up that evening if he was free. Jeongguk had accepted without any delay, even before Taehyung told him where he wanted to go.

“We can go to a bar I know,” Taehyung tells him through the phone. “I could text you the address, or we can meet somewhere else and then walk there together. What would you rather?”

“Going there together sounds good,” Jeongguk replies, eager to spend some more time with Taehyung. Now that he has already accepted he has a big crush, he can have all of these thoughts without having to shrug them off almost immediately.

“Then we can meet at my studio and go from there,” Taehyung suggests.

“Perfect,” Jeongguk replies, with a nod that Taehyung obviously can’t see. “Any outfit suggestions for me?”

Taehyung giggles at that, then. “Personally, I was gonna dress quite casual today,” Taehyung tells him. “It’s not the nicest of places. Maybe we can change if you want?”

“I’m not picky about that,” Jeongguk replies. “I’ll see you at your studio at… eight?”

“Eight is good,” Taehyung replies. “See you then, Gukkie!”

By the time the evening comes, to say Jeongguk is excited would be an understatement. He gets ready while singing in front of the mirror and goes out with a happy bounce to his step.

This time around, when he gets there, Taehyung is already waiting for him. Taehyung is waiting, leaning against the wall of his studio. He’s wearing black, ripped skinny jeans and combat boots, but what really catches Jeongguk’s attention is his top. He’s wearing a black shirt with the words no apologies accepted printed in white on the front, cut at waist length to make an impromptu crop top. Layered under it, covering his arms and his belly, is a mesh top. It’s the second time they’ve met outside of work, and by now Jeongguk is sure that all of Taehyung’s evening fits are probably bad for his health. There is a one hundred percent rate, as of now.

“Looks like I’m not the first to arrive today,” Jeongguk says once he gets there, lifting his eyes from the phone.

“Hey there, you,” Taehyung greets him with a smile. “I got here early on purpose. You’re always the one waiting, so I decided to get here first for once in my life.”

Jeongguk can’t help but smile at Taehyung, then. “Generous much,” he tells him.

“I get told often,” Taehyung replies, coy. “Let’s get going, then.”

Just like Taehyung told him, the bar is not too far away from the studio. They get there after just a few minutes, and take a seat at a table. The bar is very different from the place they met up at last night—it’s darker, there is some alternative music playing in the background, but the most prominent noise is the people chattering away. Jeongguk also sees a few pool tables, a group of boys their age playing at one of them.

Jeongguk guesses that Taehyung must come often, or at least often enough to be on good terms with the bartender, as they chat for a short while when Taehyung goes to get them drinks. She has long, dark hair, all the way down to her waist, and is wearing a black top and black jeans. Most of the people here are wearing black, much to Jeongguk’s amusement.

“So, a beer for you,” says Taehyung, placing the beer bottle right in front of Jeongguk. Then he sits down and adds, “And peach soju for me. Cheers?”

“Cheers to what?” Jeongguk asks, raising an eyebrow.

Taehyung just laughs. “I don’t know. To us? We deserve cheers, don’t you think?”

“Only if you make a toast,” Jeongguk replies to him.

Taehyung looks speechless for a moment, as he says, “Wait—a toast? Are you serious?”

“Very serious,” Jeongguk replies.

With a mischievous smile, Taehyung asks, “Are you sure?”

It’s not hard to tell that Taehyung is planning something, something that he clearly isn’t planning on telling Jeongguk. He has two options—to say he’s not sure and play it sure, or to indulge Taehyung and let him do whatever he has in mind. Jeongguk doesn’t like to play it safe.

“I am very sure,” Jeongguk replies, with a nod. “Why?”

What Taehyung does next is enough of an answer for him. Before saying anything, he stands up, turning around on his feet so he can climb to the top of the chair with a long stride. Jeongguk watches dumbfounded, just like the rest of the bar, as Taehyung bends down, picks up his soju and raises his arms.

“To us—Jeongguk and me,” he starts, looking first at Jeongguk and then at the rest of the people present. His voice is loud enough for it to be heard everywhere over the music, now that the chattering has died down since everyone is watching him. “To beautiful and unexpected friendships that manage to put a smile on one’s face.”

Jeongguk feels some eyes on him as the scene unfolds. Taehyung looks down at him with a smile as a choir of to friendship, to you and cheers echo around the bar. That causes a big, triumphant smile to go to Taehyung’s face, who takes a long sip of his soju before leaving the bottle on the table again, jumping to the floor and sitting back on the chair, looking at Jeongguk as if nothing had happened.

And nothing had, really. Jeongguk’s cheeks feel red and now all those strangers know his name, but they probably won’t remember it by the end of the night. Even if some indiscreet eyes still linger on them, mostly everyone is back to their own business now.

“So,” Taehyung starts, with that smile of his plastered on his lips. “Did you like my toast?”

Jeongguk doesn’t really know how to reply to that question.

“You see, I’m a little conflicted here,” he starts, voicing his own thoughts without filters. “I liked what you said, but I am also very embarrassed at the moment. I’m a shy guy, you know?”

Taehyung laughs then, and Jeongguk can’t help but think he’s pretty. “Oh, trust me, I do know that, and I like it,” Taehyung says. This really isn’t good for Jeongguk’s heart. “Tell me more about the part where you liked it, though. I like that one better.”

Jeongguk snickers at that, laughing a little. “You’re literally the worst,” he tells Taehyung, who is smiling at him teasingly from the other side of the table.

“But you love it,” Taehyung replies, sure of himself.

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, playfully. What he doesn’t tell Taehyung, is that he’s right—he’s starting to love it.

 

 

Jeongguk is, to put it in a way that sounds less embarrassing than it actually is, prone to panicking. Social situations aren’t his forte, so it’s usual for him to find himself freaking out over stuff that to others doesn’t seem so big.

He doesn’t know how small this is, but the truth is that he can’t bring himself to look away from the screen of his phone, just like he can’t bring himself to type a reply to the message that he’s opened, the cause of the freak out.

we need to meet up because i want an ass tattoo!!

Taehyung sent it to him while Jeongguk was lying on his couch, eating some pizza. But now, both the movie playing on his laptop and the fantastic pizza to his left are forgotten.

Taehyung wants an ass tattoo. An. Ass. Tattoo. And judging by his message, it looks like he wants Jeongguk to give it to him.

See, Jeongguk has lived through his fair share of surreal experiences in his life, but this is one of the worst ones. He feels like he’s in a romcom. The guy who he is hopelessly crushing on wants him to give him an ass tattoo. And in all honesty, Jeongguk doesn’t know how to handle himself right now.

Was that a typo

He knows it’s not the most eloquent of responses, but by now he’s quite sure that Taehyung doesn’t expect him to be eloquent through text. Which reminds him—he’s glad Taehyung decided to tell him like this, texting him. Because if he had called… Well, Jeongguk doesn’t even want to think about it.

no!!! i want an ass tattoo

a peach

like pastel colored

and cute

pretty please?

Jeongguk reads once, twice and up to three times the five messages that Taehyung sent him, taking a deep breath. Taehyung wants him to tattoo a peach on his ass, and Jeongguk feels like he’s going to cry, as dramatic as that sounds.

He knows that, as an artist, he has the possibility to refuse to do certain tattoos. It’s not like he has a problem with the area—he’s seen asses before at the parlor, amongst other intimate places. But it’s Taehyung.

And he also knows that Taehyung wouldn’t take it the wrong way if Jeongguk said no to that tattoo, no matter the excuse that he decided to give him. Taehyung isn’t like that. So really, Jeongguk has the chance to say no and save himself from it.

But Jeongguk also sucks at self-preservation.

I’ll get some sketches ready

I’ll call you when they’re done

 

 

 

After lots of trying to prepare himself for what is about to happen, the day that Jeongguk has his appointment to ink Taehyung’s ass comes, and Jeongguk is just as ready as he was in the beginning. Which is not ready at all.

Taehyung arrives at the store wearing tight, skinny jeans that not only make his ass look good, but also seem to be mocking Jeongguk. How many times has he wished he could see past Taehyung’s clothes, and now that he will effectively do so, it feels like a curse, sort of.

Again, it’s not like Jeongguk is going to act like a pre-teen and pop a boner upon seeing some naked skin. He’s past that phase of his life, and he’s already seen and tatted lots and lots of asses. But, even if his flustering won’t get to extremes such as an unwanted boner, it does feel like something bigger, since it’s Taehyung. Jeongguk is scared of how his crush might develop after this, because there is a big possibility of it turning into something more. And that something more would, of course, also be a lot more lustful than Jeongguk’s current desire to hold Taehyung’s hand and maybe kiss him.

He’s deep in his thoughts, setting everything ready, as Taehyung chats lively with Hoseok and the girl whose leg he’s inking, giving her a big, realist tattoo of a scorpion. He only snaps out of his daze when he sees Taehyung, whose shoes are already off, start to take off his jeans.

“You can lay down on the chair when you’re ready,” Jeongguk replies, trying not to look. “I don’t think you need to take your underwear off for where you want it.”

“I don’t, I can just pull it back a little,” Taehyung tells him. Then, with a wink and a teasing tone, Taehyung adds, “Hurry up or I’ll get cold.”

Jeongguk blushes furiously at the statement, at the same time Hoseok gives him a knowing smile. He didn’t need to tell him anything about his crush—Yoongi did it for him without a doubt. Jeongguk takes the stencil in his hands and shows it to Taehyung, who approves of it.

“Let’s get started, then,” Jeongguk mutters, sitting down on his stool.

It would be a lie if Jeongguk said he’s never thought before about touching Taehyung’s ass. From under his clothes it looked perky and extremely squishable, and that belief is now reinforced that he has, quite literally, Taehyung’s almost bare ass in his face. But no matter how much he’s thought about touching, never once did he imagine the first time he would—well, if he ever got to—would be because of a tattoo.

It’s sort of disappointing that he can’t properly feel the soft-looking skin in his hands, but the gloves don’t stop his heart from speeding up as soon as Jeongguk gets a hold of Taehyung’s ass to clean the area and get it ready for a tattoo. Taehyung’s ass feels soft and tender under his hands, not at all toned, and Jeongguk swears he could die right here. He has an urge to just squeeze it that he holds back in favor of professionalism.

It doesn’t get any better, but it doesn’t get any worse either. Jeongguk ends up winning his battle against his hormones and focuses on the tattoo, the delicate shapes of it and the coloring. No matter how much he likes Taehyung, he’s good at what he does. He is professional. He wouldn’t let anything personal get in the way of his work as a tattooist, much less a crush. Taehyung has decided to place his trust in him for this, so Jeongguk wants to rise to the challenge.

 The tattoo is placed on the side of one of Taehyung’s ass cheeks, near to the junction of his thigh and ass, so it’s not an extremely painful area. Taehyung didn’t bat an eyelash when Jeongguk started with the outline, neither did he when it was time to turn to the filling in of the tattoo. He falls into easy conversation with the other people in the room with ease, laughing as quietly as he can in order to stay still. Hoseok’s client eventually leaves and it’s just the three of them left, but that doesn’t deter them from keeping on chatting.

“You know, I wasn’t going to wear briefs this morning at first, but I reconsidered,” Taehyung blurts out of the blue then. Jeongguk, obviously, can’t see his face, but he can guess the small smile on his lips just from his tone alone.

“So were you gonna come commando?” Hoseok inquires, raising an eyebrow at him.

“No! No, I’d wear underwear,” Taehyung replies. “I mean, usually I am more into lace and that sort of stuff, but I figured I might accidentally flash my balls, so I thought it’d be better to keep to traditional underwear for today.”

Jeongguk almost has an aneurysm right then. He lifts the gun from Taehyung’s body and gives himself a moment to archive that piece of information in his mind. It doesn’t help. With the vision he has in front of him right now, it’s extremely easy to imagine Taehyung in a similar situation, except there are black, lace panties on him instead of wrinkled boxer briefs. Maybe even red, if he gets extra indulgent.

God, this really can’t be happening.

Luckily for him, Hoseok doesn’t bat an eyelash. He keeps talking to Taehyung normally, which is what Jeongguk should do instead of acting like a teenager who’s never even been close to sex, and makes sure Taehyung doesn’t notice that, well… that Jeongguk is having a bit of a moment.

“And isn’t that uncomfortable?” Hoseok asks, genuinely curious. “Because, you know… Your balls, and stuff…”

Taehyung laughs at that, at the same time Jeongguk feels himself ready for tattooing again. “At first, yes. But you just get used to it. Besides, I like constriction, and I feel like I look sexy in them, so…”

“I’m sure you do,” grumbles Jeongguk then, unable to keep his mouth shut.

Taehyung looks at him over his shoulder, then. There is a small and teasing grin dancing on his lips as he says, “Maybe I should show you sometime, then.”

Needless to say, Jeongguk gets red all the way to his ears. Never has he found himself attracted to someone in the same way he’s attracted to Taehyung. It’s stronger than it’s ever been, and Jeongguk swears that there is some sexual tension building up between the two of them, and that it’s not completely one-sided. This is flirting, right? Taehyung hasn’t been strictly friendly all of the time, and this is just proof of that.

Or maybe Jeongguk is just trying to convince himself of what he wants to be real. That’s a very valid option, too.

“Sure thing,” Jeongguk replies. He silently congratulates himself for not stuttering.

Taehyung looks at him for a second too long before looking ahead of himself. During those few seconds, there is a smile on his face different from all the other smiles he’s shown Jeongguk. It’s cryptic, and looking at it, Jeongguk feels as if Taehyung knew something that Jeongguk himself didn’t. He bites down on his bottom lip, intrigued.

Taehyung is going to be the death of him.

 

 

Inking each other becomes a tradition of Jeongguk and Taehyung’s over time. They meet up at least once a week to discuss tattoos they want to give each other, sometimes even more. On Saturdays, they also meet up just to hang out, before Jeongguk leaves to see the rest of his friends.

It’s something odd to think about, if you ask Jeongguk. By this point, he thought he had a very closed-off circle of friends and that there wouldn’t be more additions, at least not additions that were independent to the small group of friends he has. When Yoongi and Namjoon started dating, Jeongguk had no problem welcoming Namjoon into the group, but what he didn’t see himself doing was making new friends on his own. Yet, with Taehyung things seems to flow so easy and naturally that he just couldn’t resist.

It’s late on a Tuesday evening and they’re both hanging by Taehyung’s parlor, after Taehyung showed him some designs for a new tattoo he wants. Jeongguk must admit he didn’t keep his promise of leaving one of his arms completely untattooed, and now wants Taehyung to give him a new tattoo there. What can he say? He never thought he’d find someone whose style would fit so well, either.

As usual, Jeongguk is in love with what Taehyung shows him. The strict process of selecting a design doesn’t take long, no. But the reason why the two of them spend close to an hour and a half together after closing is that they seem to crave each other’s company, despite the amount of time they spend together on the regular.

And, well, as for Jeongguk’s crush… See, Jeongguk makes some distinctions when it comes to the degree of interest he has in someone. Right now, what he feels for Taehyung is more than a crush, at least in his books. The more time they spend together and the more layers of him he gets to unpeel, the deeper he falls. Crush doesn’t cover it, right now. Jeongguk is now positive he likes Taehyung, and he knows that it’s not going to go away anytime soon.

Every moment counts, as cheesy as that might sound. Like right now—Jeongguk never thought that Tuesdays after work could be somehow exciting, but there he is. Laughing with Taehyung, who is somehow spinning his world around. Jeongguk can’t make sense of it all, but he’s letting himself enjoy it and go with the flow.

“You’re terrible, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung tells him between laughter, as Jeongguk tells him about the one time he argued with an airport security guard because he stopped him unfairly for his appearance. Jeongguk is not a very confrontational person, but injustice always gets to him. “Someday someone is gonna call me and tell me they’ve thrown your ass in jail.”

“So you think someone would call you, then?” Jeongguk inquires.

“I mean, I hope so,” Taehyung replies, with a smile. “If not you, at least make sure someone tells me my most favorite tattoo artist in the whole wide world got arrested.”

“And now you’re being the terrible one with all the compliments,” Jeongguk grumbles, looking away. Whenever he’s with Taehyung, butterflies in his stomach and burning cheeks and ears seem to be a constant.

“I’m just an honest man,” Taehyung tells him, winking at him. See? The butterflies, the warmth. It’s almost like Taehyung wants him to melt into a puddle on the floor.  “Come on, let’s go. Will you help me close today?”´

That’s another aspect of their relationship that has changed. Whereas Taehyung always politely declined his help when they first met, now he is not shy to not only accept it but also ask for it. Jeongguk, who loves being useful, always accepts. It’s generally small things, so it’s not like he’s being taken advantage of. Plus, he loves helping, especially if the person he’s helping is Taehyung.

“Sure thing.”

The two of them together get everything ready for closing, before finally turning the lights off and locking the door. Taehyung pulls down the security grill, and with that they’re done.

“Thank you so much, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung tells him, smiling at him. “That was way faster than I’m used to.”

“You know I don’t mind helping,” he tells Taehyung, sincere. Then, in a teasing way, he adds, “You know, someday you’re going to have to repay me for all these favors.”

“Oh, is that so?” Taehyung asks, crossing his arms over his chest at the time he raises an eyebrow. He’s joking back, Jeongguk knows by the tone he’s using. “And here I was thinking you were doing it out of the kindness of your heart.”

“Fifty percent out of kindness, fifty percent out of my own benefit,” Jeongguk replies.

Taehyung laughs loudly at that, throwing his head back as he cackles. After that, he looks at Jeongguk with one cryptic smile and narrowing his eyes. Again, it doesn’t take much for Jeongguk to know that Taehyung is planning something. What he can’t figure out is what exactly Taehyung is planning.

And before he has any time to do something, Taehyung is already moving. First is a step closer, invading what Jeongguk considers his personal bubble that very few—Taehyung included—are allowed to step into. At first, Jeongguk thinks that he’s going to get a hug. But then he watches dumbfounded, almost in slow motion, how Taehyung reaches up, placing his big, big palms on his cheeks and bringing Jeongguk closer. His stomach gives a twist.

Jeongguk’s eyes are already closed the moment Taehyung’s lips brush against his. It isn’t by any means slow—Taehyung moved so quickly that Jeongguk didn’t have any time to figure out what was happening until Taehyung was already kissing him. It’s short, just a brush of lips. Taehyung is already pulling back after that, and to Jeongguk it feels so insufficient that he wraps his arm around Taehyung’s waist out of reflect, pulling him against his body again.

“No,” he says to a surprised-looking Taehyung. “More.”

And the smile that appears on Taehyung’s lips is more than enough to let Jeongguk know that he’s not the only one dying for another kiss, for a longer and better one. This time they both dive in at the same time, with their mouths finding each other halfway.

Jeongguk has thought about this… a thousand times. He’s thought about slow and sweet kisses with Taehyung, about harsh and heated kisses, too. He’s wondered what his lips would feel against his a million times, but the actual thing really surpasses anything that Jeongguk could have imagined.

They take their sweet time to kiss. It’s chaste and unhurried, almost lazy with the way their mouths slowly work with each other. Taehyung’s hands fall from his cheeks to his neck, at the same time Jeongguk’s finally settle on Taehyung’s hips. Jeongguk faintly wonders what they look like, probably like lovers kissing under a streetlight. Lovers.

Jeongguk’s favorite part of kissing Taehyung isn’t his minty breath, the softness of his lips or the way he somehow tastes sweet. No, not at all. Jeongguk’s absolute favorite part of kissing Taehyung is the way in which Taehyung smiles between kisses, even if that means sometimes Jeongguk ends up kissing his teeth. The happiness of it makes Jeongguk dizzy.

They finally pull back when they are both satisfied with the kiss. Jeongguk can’t help but smile shyly once they’re facing each other, a gesture that Taehyung mimics as well. He really can’t believe he did that, pulling Taehyung in for another kiss. It’s not often that he gets brave like that, but the moments he does, it pays off. The way in which his heart is beating like crazy after kissing Taehyung is proof enough of that.

“So…” Taehyung starts, always finding it easier than Jeongguk to find the words, or more so, the courage to utter them. “Is that payment enough?”

“For now, yes,” Jeongguk says, watching Taehyung’s smile widen. “But you’ll probably have to kiss me again soon, though.”

“Just for payment,” Taehyung says.

“Just for payment,” he repeats.

Taehyung laughs, his chuckles like bells in Jeongguk’s ears. “Guess I’ll have to, then,” he takes another step forward, pressing a surprise kiss to Jeongguk’s cheek before he starts walking away, saying. “I’ll see you soon, Gukkie!”

“Bye!” Jeongguk manages to say. He can’t help but stare at Taehyung leave, his long legs, clad in some faded ripped jeans, take him away and away until he disappears behind a corner.

Jeongguk’s lips and cheek tingle, the ghost of Taehyung’s kisses still tickling him, somehow. God, he can’t believe all of this just happened.

He’s heading head over heels, and he doesn’t think anything can stop it now.

 

 

The following morning, Jeongguk is the first one to get to the parlor. It doesn’t take too long until Seokjin arrives, with three paper coffee cups in his hand. He gives one to Jeongguk, who thanks him with a smile, and leaves the other one on Hoseok’s table.

And around ten minutes later, when Hoseok arrives, is when chaos starts.

Hoseok is usually a very unhurried person, the kind that doesn’t stress but doesn’t slack off either. Hoseok’s work ethic is, to Jeongguk, the best kind. So when Hoseok straight up rushes into the parlor, something he’s never done before, Jeongguk knows that something is off.

“Jeongguk,” he calls even before he gets into the proper studio place, not bothering to greet Seokjin. “I’ve been trying to talk to you since yesterday night. What the fuck do you have your phone for?”

“Fuck,” Jeongguk says. Truth is he hasn’t been on his phone at all, he went to bed as soon as he got home last night. Upon unlocking it and checking his notifications, he finds around a million texts and calls from Hoseok. “I’m sorry, I… clearly haven’t been on my phone. What was so urgent?”

“It’s about Taehyung.”

That makes Jeongguk’s alarms go off. “What about Taehyung?” he asks, sounding a little defensive.

“Do you remember I told you I had seen his style of tattoos here in Seoul but couldn’t pinpoint where?” Hoseok asks.

“Yeah, I do remember,” Jeongguk replies.

“Well, I’ve done some digging,” Hoseok tells him. “It’s gang members, Jeongguk. From the underground dancing crew. There was another group and they all had Taehyung’s tattoos, and they’re part of a gang. A big one here.”

Jeongguk’s mouth parts, and for a moment he’s left speechless. “What—what exactly are you trying to imply?”

“I don’t know, Jeongguk,” Hoseok says, looking at him in distress. “But by the looks of it, you’re fooling around with a member of one of Seoul’s biggest gangs.”

 

 

Jeongguk never thought it’d be possible for there to be a universe where he willingly ignored Taehyung, so when that happens in his, he can’t quite believe he’s doing it.

But Jeongguk, even if he’s not the best at self-preservation, still has some sense of it left. So upon discovering Taehyung is part of a gang, he does what everyone in their right mind would do.

He would like to say it got easier with time, but the truth is that it didn’t. Texts and texts pile unread on his phone, from Taehyung’s hiiiiiii when he, completely unaware, texted him that morning, to his last i hope i didn’t do anything wrong… ;-;

It breaks his heart to ignore Taehyung, but he knows it’s the right thing. Despite the fact that many would argue it because of the way he looks, the truth is that Jeongguk has always been a good guy, and has always stayed on the good side of the law. He’s never seen himself implicated in any problems with the police, and has obviously never been involved in criminal activity or been at risk because of it. It came as a shock to him that Taehyung was, but his own research just confirmed to him what Hoseok had told him. And so, Jeongguk forced himself to stay away from it.

Still, it can’t be denied that it hurts. He can’t even bring himself to delete the notifications, not from the texts or the calls. After a couple of days Taehyung gave up with both, probably assuming Jeongguk wouldn’t talk to him. Still, Jeongguk had more than enough time to block him, while Taehyung still texted him. He didn’t, either.

 

hiiiiiii

looks like someone has a busy morning today huh

gukkie!! i have a new idea for a tattoo, can we talk later?

i can see you’ve been online so i guess you’re indeed busy text me soon pls~

gukkie?? it’s been one day…

i am a little worried about you now :( pls be okay

cheering on you from here!!! mwahh~

just let me know if you’re alright :( it’s been days guk!!

i’m starting to feel like you’re ignoring me…

jeongguk?

can we talk about what happened? because I have no clue of what it is

hello…

was it the kiss?

i hope i didn’t do anything wrong… ;-;

 

Looking at them alone makes Jeongguk feel oddly guilty, even if he knows that he’s doing what is best for him. It’s just the fact that at first Taehyung thought that he wasn’t okay, and seemed worried about him. And now, now he thinks he’s done something wrong. He thought the kiss was wrong.

Jeongguk didn’t really think about how the timing could have made it seem that way. It was just another factor that made it harder and harder for Jeongguk to get away—after getting a taste of Taehyung’s lips, all he wanted was more.

The amount of times he thinks about typing a reply back, about asking Taehyung for explanations… But he never does. And tonight won’t be any different.

He takes one last look at the notifications of Taehyung’s texts before locking his phone, leaving it on his bedside table and turning around to sleep. He’ll get over it, eventually. He’ll get over Taehyung.

 

 

Rain is pouring down the day Taehyung and Jeongguk see each other again.

It’s been a couple of weeks ever since they last saw each other, ever since Taehyung kissed him and Jeongguk pulled him in for even more kisses. It’s been a few days less than that since Taehyung stopped trying to contact him, probably feeling defeated by Jeongguk’s apparent indifference. Jeongguk would like to say that he hasn’t been thinking about Taehyung ever since, but that would be a lie.

Around ten minutes before closing, someone comes in. Jeongguk can hear the squelch of wet soles on the tiles of the reception as the person comes in, even before any voices speak up. From the delay on Seokjin’s greeting, Jeongguk should have known that it wasn’t just any client.

“Is Jeongguk still here?”

No matter how long might have passed, there is no way that Jeongguk doesn’t recognize that voice. The deepness of it, the richness of its tone. It’s almost funny how just a few words spoken by him can make butterflies fly around in Jeongguk’s stomach.

“Um—yes. He’s still inside,” Seokjin replies.

It’s not usual for Seokjin to just signal for people to come in to the studio area. More often than not, Hoseok and Jeongguk go to the door to invite in whoever it is. The squelching on the tiles resumes then, and Jeongguk can’t help but send a panicked look in Hoseok’s direction. Be careful, Hoseok tells him with just a gaze. Jeongguk nods.

The glass door opens then, revealing Taehyung behind it. The moment Jeongguk’s eyes lay on him, he can’t help but soften a little bit. Not only because it’s him, and that’s enough to tumble down all of Jeongguk’s defenses, but also because of the state he’s in. Taehyung is wet from head to toe, clothes and hair dripping and making a puddle around himself. His grey, light sweater, one that Jeongguk is familiar with and knows is soft, looks darker than it should be now, just like his jeans. And on his feet, his combat boots. Jeongguk hopes that he at least has warm feet. They both stare at each other for one second, one second that feels endless, before Taehyung speaks.

“Hey,” Taehyung greets him then, voice a croak. He seems like he’s about to keep walking then, but hesitance shows on his face as he asks, “Can I—can I come in?”

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah. Yeah, come in, Taehyung,” he says calmly.

Taehyung swallows down thickly, nodding before he finally steps inside of the room. This is a side of Taehyung that Jeongguk didn’t know before—unsure of what to do, defeated, looking like he’s so… terribly lost. One of the reasons why Jeongguk has always felt so comfortable around Taehyung is how he never, ever seemed lost. The time he’s spent with Taehyung has shown him that Taehyung is incredibly smart, and an ace when it comes to reading social situations. For that reason, he’s always been there to guide Jeongguk through them, to walk him along smoothly and to make something that Jeongguk generally dreads easy.

But right now, Taehyung looks like the exact opposite. He walks inside the studio with uncertainty floating around him, as if he didn’t know what to expect from Jeongguk and their conversation. And Jeongguk, well… It might not be the best to admit it so openly, but Jeongguk doesn’t know what to expect, either. To see what the sudden interruption of their friendship has done to Taehyung is now making him reconsider whether it was a smart decision, or a terribly wrong action caused by a mixture of fear, insecurity and some selfishness.

“I came here to talk,” Taehyung tells him, voice quiet. “If you want.”

“I do want to,” Jeongguk tells him. Then, he looks at Hoseok and says, “You and Seokjin can leave now. Just pull the grill door down so no one else comes in—I’ll take care of the rest.”

That’s what he says, but what he means is that he would like some time alone with Taehyung. Some privacy to… well, hear Taehyung out and ask him about the gang ordeal. Taehyung probably has no idea that Jeongguk has found out, so he’ll have to start from there.

“Okay, that’s good,” Hoseok says, starting to move, grabbing his jacket. Before disappearing through the door he adds, “Text me when you’re home, yeah?”

Hoseok thinks that Taehyung is dangerous. Jeongguk should think that as well, knowing what he does about Taehyung and his apparent relation with a gang. But he just… Knowing Taehyung like he does, he can’t bring himself to think of him as someone he should fear. Just like he can’t think of Taehyung as a stranger, even if the gang life is a new facet of himself he didn’t know. Rather than thinking about it as something determinant of who Taehyung is, Jeongguk is just… trying to think of it as just another important fact that he had yet to discover. Even if he knows that’s probably not the best option out there.

“I will, hyung,” Jeongguk tells him. “Get some rest, yeah? You too, Seokjin-hyung,” he adds, raising his voice a little so Seokjin can hear him clearly from the reception.

And just like that, they’re left alone. Awkward silence reigns between them as Seokjin and Hoseok make their way out of the studio, only the sound of the grill being pulled down filling the room. Jeongguk knows they need to get to the proper discussion at some point, but he doesn’t feel ready yet.

For that reason, he blurts out, “Do you want a change of clothes? You’re dripping.”

Taehyung looks at him for a moment, shocked. His lips are parted open and his eyes a little wide, as if this is the last thing he expected to hear from Jeongguk. It probably was, after Jeongguk ignored him for weeks. But Jeongguk is kind, despite everything—or, at least, he thinks he is. And again, despite everything, he cares deeply about Taehyung.

“It won’t be necessary,” Taehyung tells him.

“Please,” Jeongguk insists. “I don’t want you to get sick. I have a change of clothes in the back in case I ever get stained.”

Taehyung looks at him for a moment, looking puzzled. Then, he nods. Jeongguk starts moving and walks to the back where he has some clean clothes. Just some black sweatpants and a big, oversized sweatshirt. It’s not much, but it’s better than wet clothes. And it will also help him warm up again.

Jeongguk turns around as Taehyung changes into his clothes. Once Taehyung tells him that he’s ready and Jeongguk faces him again, the vision makes something hurt in Jeongguk’s chest. He’s thought about Taehyung wearing his clothes, but he didn’t think it’d be in such context. The sweatshirt is big, always leaving a lot of free room whenever Jeongguk wears it, but he thinks he likes it better like this, the way in which it swallows Taehyung’s slim frame.

“So…” Jeongguk starts once Taehyung is back, looking at him tentatively.

Taehyung isn’t tentative. He asks, “Why did you do it, Jeongguk? Why did you suddenly disappear? Was it because of the kiss? Because I thought—I assumed you wanted it, too.”

Taehyung blurts all of that out in one go, not taking a breath in between. When he’s done, a hint of regret flashes across his face, as if he wished he had kept some things to himself, or at least worded them differently. The way in which Taehyung looks down to the floor then, almost in shame, breaks Jeongguk’s heart.

“No. No, no, no, it’s not about the kiss. I wanted the kiss, Taehyung,” he reassures him. Taehyung meets his eyes again. He repeats, “I wanted it.”

“Then, why?” Taehyung asks, sounding hurt. “I texted and called for days. I just want to know where I went wrong, what I did that made you want to cut me off without giving me one explanation. Because I’ve been obsessing over it, and if it’s not that you don’t want to be more than friends…”

“It’s not something you did,” Jeongguk replies. God, he doesn’t know how to word this. “It’s just…”

“Just what?”

“Taehyung, when were you going to tell me that you’re part of a gang?” is what he finally says.

Taehyung goes white when he hears those words come out of Jeongguk’s mouth. Color drains from his face, at the same time his eyes widen dramatically and he presses his lips into a thin line. For a moment, he doesn’t say anything, just staring at Jeongguk in silence.

“I-it’s not like that. I’m not part of a gang,” Taehyung tells him. “I’m not a gang member. I’m just—I’m not part of it.”

“Then why do all members of one of Seoul’s biggest gangs have your tattoos somewhere on their bodies?”

“I just work as a tattooist for them, but I’m not part of them,” Taehyung tells him. “Just… I do them that favor, and they helped me get started with the parlor. But it’s the only thing I do, Jeongguk. Please, please—I just tattoo them. I’m not a member.”

“It’s still a gang, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung bites down on his lower lip. “I just… Those people… They’re dangerous, Taehyung. They’re involved in bad things.”

“But I’m not,” Taehyung insists. “I’m the most harmless person ever, Jeongguk. And I’m… I’m not a bad person. I don’t care what they’re involved in, it’s none of my business. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Jeongguk can’t help but believe Taehyung. He knows him enough to know that he’s telling the truth—or, well, at least he thinks he does. But there is something else bothering me.

“Were you ever going to tell me?” Jeongguk asks him, then. “Because I know you say that you’re harmless, and I believe you, but having involvement with those people, Taehyung… It’s dangerous, even if it’s just a professional partnership. So, tell me—if things between us evolved and we ever turned into something else, would you still hide it from me?”

“I wanted to tell you,” Taehyung tells him, looking down to his feet. “I kept delaying it because I didn’t know how you’d react, and I didn’t want to scare you away. Pretty much, I wanted to avoid exactly what’s going on.” Taehyung says, laughing bitterly. “But I wanted to tell you, Jeongguk. Because I want you to learn everything about me and I want to learn everything about you. That’s why it broke my heart when you just… disappeared.”

“I guess—I guess I should have asked you about it instead if vanishing,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung doesn’t reply. “But it’s a gang, Tae…”

The nickname slips involuntarily, but Jeongguk doesn’t miss the way in which Taehyung’s face seems to light up a little upon hearing it.

“I know. And I’m sorry—I should have been honest ever since we started getting closer, and turned into friends instead of acquaintances,” Taehyung tells him. “I know that there is some danger attached to being around me because of that partnership, even if I take no part in the gang’s business, but…”

“But…?” Jeongguk interrogates when Taehyung trails off.

“But, if you’re okay with it, I guess we could… pick up where we left off,” Taehyung says. There’s a pause then before he shakes his head, saying, “Just—ignore me. There’s a reason why you stopped talking to me when you found out. I’m just being selfish.”

“No, wait, Tae,” Jeongguk calls then. Taehyung, who was starting to turn around, stays still as Jeongguk takes a step closer. “So… You say that you have absolutely no involvement in the gang’s activities, right?”

“None at all,” Taehyung rushes to reply, a hint of hope in his voice. “I just give them tattoos. They used to give me some money monthly for it before, but not anymore. I just charge them like any other client.”

Jeongguk nods. He wordlessly reaches forward with his hand and brushes one of his fingers against the side of Taehyung’s palm, calling his attention. They share a meaningful look for a moment, before Taehyung gently laces their fingers together.

This makes a difference for Jeongguk. Even if it’s not the best people that Taehyung is involved with, Jeongguk thinks that tattooing them is different from being an active part of the gang, which is what he initially thought, and what he rejected. Finding out that Taehyung isn’t involved in anything illegal or morally wrong changes Jeongguk’s perspective, and makes him regret making a decision before hearing Taehyung out. Even if Taehyung has a partnership with questionable people, he himself hasn’t done anything wrong, right? It might be naïve of him to not mind, but the truth is… he doesn’t. At least, not enough to lose Taehyung.

“Jeongguk…”

 “I believe you, Tae,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung squeezes their hands together almost imperceptibly, but it doesn’t go unnoticed by Jeongguk, whose heart skips a beat. “Is it crazy of me to say that I don’t care about that danger if I get to be with you?”

Taehyung’s mouth breaks into a big, wide smile then. One that Jeongguk missed very, very much.

“Maybe,” Taehyung tells him, his thumb and index nervously playing with the knuckle of one of Jeongguk’s fingers. “But… I was hoping for that answer. Not expecting it, but hoping for it.”

Jeongguk bites down on his lower lip. “I have an umbrella,” he blurts out, suddenly changing the topic. “I can walk you home. Since… well, I assume you don’t have anything to cover yourself with, because of how you got here.”

“Would you really?” Taehyung asks him.

“Yes, really,” Jeongguk replies. “Will you let me?”

“Absolutely, yes,” says Taehyung then, with another smile. “Should we get going?”

It’s so rainy as the city of Seoul watches them walk to Taehyung’s place, wrapped in warm clothes. Their hands are still firmly clasped around each other as they squeeze under the umbrella. It’s a big one, but even so they walk as close to the other as they can without it getting uncomfortable. They’ve missed each other.

By the time they get there, Jeongguk feels like they’ve only been walking for around a minute, even if he knows Taehyung lives considerably far away from his studio. They enter Taehyung’s building to be safe and away from the rain, Jeongguk closing the umbrella and leaving it by his side in order to not wet his clothes.

Taehyung looks at him, the way he looks in dimmed lights from the hallway making Jeongguk’s heart jump in his chest. It’s the silver hair falling over his eyes, the purple tips, the glisten in his eyes. It’s the way in which Jeongguk craves to get closer—and God, get closer he does. Their bodies still attract each other like magnets, and so Jeongguk’s arms instinctively wrap around Taehyung’s waist as Taehyung reaches for his neck, giving each other a tight embrace.

“Thank you so much, Gukkie,” Taehyung tells him. That just makes Jeongguk hug him closer. “I missed you. God, I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too,” Jeongguk replies. “I—can I kiss you? I want to kiss you.”

Jeongguk’s cheeks feel warm as he pops the question, and he thinks he can see the hint of a blush on Taehyung’s face as well as he nods. He licks his lips nervously as he surges forward. It’s so different from the last time when Taehyung suddenly kissed him. Jeongguk takes his sweet time to savor the moment—to watch the shadow of Taehyung’s eyelashes on his cheek, to take Taehyung’s smell in, to let himself reminisce about how his lips felt on his. And after all that, he does indeed kiss Taehyung.

How can it feel so familiar when they’ve only kissed once? There is something about Taehyung’s kiss that makes Jeongguk feel like they were born to be like this all along, to have their mouths move against each other in perfect harmony. Taehyung’s lips taste like rain and the sweet hint of a beginning today, and Jeongguk can only kiss, kiss, kiss for more.

Taehyung’s nails lightly scrape the skin of his neck, making the hair on the back of Jeongguk’s neck stand. Taehyung’s mouth is warm and heavy against Jeongguk’s as they share kiss after kiss, especially when he parts his lips timidly and grants Jeongguk an access he didn’t even ask for.

Still, and despite the tongue, it’s chaste. It feels a lot like a re-encounter and an accepted apology, and Jeongguk can’t help but feel like this is everything he’s been wanting for weeks now. Taehyung in his arms, their lips together. And the rest of the world can get screwed.

They pull back, eventually, and Taehyung looks at him with bright eyes. Almost expectant. It’s then that Jeongguk realizes that, even if he has vaguely hinted his answer to Taehyung’s question from before, he hasn’t properly replied.

And so, he says, “I don’t care about the dangers.” Taehyung smiles a little, and that’s how Jeongguk knows that Taehyung is aware of what he’s referring to. Then, just because it makes him happy to be able to say it, he adds, “I want to give us a chance. I want us to be something, Tae.”

Taehyung surges forward and pulls Jeongguk into another long kiss. The first of many to come, Jeongguk hopes. Because now, with everything out in the open, they’ve both made a decision—they want to be together.

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk has never considered himself to be a cheesy or corny person, but he guesses that Taehyung’s appearance in his life has made room for a lot of changes—changes that even he didn’t think were possible. Just like that, Jeongguk always thought of dates as something that only existed in movies and on T.V. shows. He, despite having had some partners in the past, had never asked anyone out on a date, nor was he ever asked out on one. Just like that, none of his friends ever used the word date to describe meeting up with the person they were into. For Jeongguk, the concept of dates was almost foreign.

So then, why is he now dying to ask Taehyung out on one?

It makes no sense, and Jeongguk is aware of that. Maybe Taehyung’s presence in his life has turned him into a hopeless romantic, or maybe he has always been one, deep down. But right now, he’s been pacing around his living room with his phone in his hand for a good fifteen minutes, trying to muster up the courage to phone Taehyung and ask him out on a date. And it’s not working very well.

There’s that panicky, tight feeling inside of him, even if he’s well aware that Taehyung will accept his proposition. After their talk the other day, it’s more than obvious that both of them are on the same page about their relationship. Still, that doesn’t seem to be enough to soothe Jeongguk’s nerves. This scene reminds him too much of the first time he had to phone Taehyung, and the truth is that he was expecting some sort of progress since then.

At least another five minutes go before he finally decides to stop fooling around and call Taehyung once and for all. He waits patiently for Taehyung to reply, one ring after the other, and when he finally picks up, Jeongguk releases a breath that he didn’t know he was holding in.

“Gukkie!” Taehyung says, voice cheerful as Jeongguk likes it most. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Jeongguk bites down on his bottom lip, telling himself to be brave. He has nothing to lose, right? And a lot to win.

“Taehyung, hi,” Jeongguk starts. God, he’s already being so awkward. “How have you been?”

“You mean how have I been today, while we texted all day?” Taehyung asks, followed by a giggle. Jeongguk feels the urge to facepalm—of course his lame attempt at small talk would go terribly wrong. “I’ve been peachy. You?”

“Peachy, too,” Jeongguk replies, feeling his cheeks go bright red. For the first time he finds himself being glad that a conversation is happening through phone instead of face to face, so Taehyung doesn’t have to see the blush on his cheeks. “We’re still up for tomorrow, right?”

It’s Friday, meaning that tomorrow is Saturday, their meeting day. They haven’t spoken yet about whether they want to retake their weekly meetings outside of work after clearing things up, though. Jeongguk just assumed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Well, of course,” Taehyung replies to him then, a hint of teasing in his voice. “Why? Were you planning to bail on me?”

“No!” Jeongguk rushes to add. It’s now or never, he tells himself. “It’s just… I was wondering if instead of just hanging out you’d like to, I don’t know—go out with me. On a date. A proper date, I mean.”

There’s a short beat of silence then. Taehyung is probably taking in what Jeongguk has just said and processing it, but for the seconds it last Jeongguk’s panicked brains makes up a million bad scenarios where he is promptly rejected.

“A date?” Taehyung repeats then. He doesn’t sound… disgusted, so at least there’s that. “You’re asking me out on a date, Jeon Jeongguk?”

“I’m trying, at least,” Jeongguk admits, scratching the back of his head with his hand. “But I would say that I’m failing.”

“I think you’re doing quite well,” Taehyung says then, making Jeongguk smile rather lamely. “So, have you planned anything?”

“Not yet, so I’m going to pretend that the plan was to surprise you all along,” Jeongguk replies, sincere.

“Well, I appreciate the honesty,” Taehyung tells him then with a chuckle. “So… We’ll see each other tomorrow? Same time as always?”

“I’ll pick you up at eight,” Jeongguk tells him then, taking advantage of the fact that he now knows Taehyung’s address.

“Oh, so you’re going full date mode, picking me up and such,” Taehyung tells him, teasing. “That’s good, then. I promise I’ll be punctual and won’t make you wait. It’s our first date, after all.”

Hearing Taehyung say the words it’s our first date makes Jeongguk sort of giddy. One thing is the tacit agreement that was implied in Taehyung’s responses through the conversation, and something else is Taehyung straight up saying they are going on a date. Even if they’ve gone out on what could be categorized into dates before, Jeongguk knows that at the moment they weren’t more than mere friendly outings. That’s why he wants to make some sort of difference between them, but he doesn’t have a clue of how he’ll do that yet. He has less than a day to figure it out, so he better hang up and get thinking.

“Cute,” Jeongguk replies, unable to contain a smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“For sure,” Taehyung replies. “See you tomorrow, Gukkie!”

 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t want to fall into the typical, cliché things to do for a first date with Taehyung. As ideal as grabbing dinner at a restaurant, going out for drinks or watching a movie seem, those ideas seem almost boring, and not something that he’d like to do with Taehyung for their first ever date. He wants it to be special, for there to be something about it that separates the date from generic first dates that they see all the time on television.

Saturday morning arrives and Jeongguk still doesn’t have a clue of what to do. He’s hopeless at this time, considering googling fancy restaurants in Seoul that he can afford with his budget. It’s not Jeongguk’s crowd at all, but as soon as he wears long sleeves he’s sure he can get through the night without any dirty looks being sent his way.

Because of it being Saturday and the hour, there aren’t a whole lot of things to do, either. God, he didn’t think it through at all.

At the same time, he’s hesitant to take Taehyung out on a first date that is so… not him. He’s just running out of time at this point, and all because he couldn’t wait to ask Taehyung out. The normal, logical order would be think of a date first and then ask Taehyung out on it. Jeongguk is thirty more minutes of despair away from phoning Yoongi and asking him what his and Namjoon’s first date was for inspiration, or if things really go wrong, just to steal it.

“Come on,” he tells himself, drumming his fingers over the table as he tries his best to push his brain extra hard. “Come on, come on. It can’t be that hard.”

It’s then that he decides to grab a sheet of paper and write down some essentials that he thinks their date should have. It might be easier to figure out what to do if there are some elements that he wants to be met. His list ends up getting longer than he anticipated.

Romantic

Unique

Like… customized. No one that isn’t us can do it?

More than just eating

Somewhere we can be us (probably private?)

Something that he likes a lot

But also my personal touch

Please just make him smile

Jeongguk looks at his list and little by little starts connecting the dots. And then, an idea crosses his mind. Probably not the most original and something that he knows people do for dates, but that is inherently personal and customized because of what it is. He starts adding up to it, one bullet point after another, and in the end realizes that he’s checked off all the requirements—except, well, the one about making Taehyung smile. That one… that one is one that he hopes he can manage to achieve, but won’t know for sure until tonight comes and the date happens.

And so, Jeongguk gets himself ready to go out and buy everything he needs for today. He has renewed vigor now, and he’s going to make sure this is the best first date in the history of first dates.

 

 

Once the stress of preparations and deciding what to wear is over, Jeongguk barely has any time to actually get himself ready. He showers and uses the nicest cologne he owns, making sure his hair is carefully styled and that he looks, well… appealing. Attractive.

He’s trying to impress Taehyung. He knows that after having already kissed he should feel a little more reassured in Taehyung’s interest in him, but he can’t help but feel nervous. His feelings for Taehyung, the ones that he tried so hard to make disappear during that period of silence between the two of them, are now stronger than ever. After their reencounter Jeongguk feels even more over heels, and he wants Taehyung to feel the same way. So, even if he knows that Taehyung does have an interest in him, what Jeongguk wants is to bring it up a notch. He wants Taehyung to see him and be as out of breath as he is every time he sees Taehyung.

Which is why he spends a considerable amount of time in front of the mirror trying his best to look date-ready. Jeongguk is not one to put a lot of effort into his appearance on the daily, lucky enough to look presentable with minimum efforts. Dolling up like this is foreign for him, but by the time he’s ready to leave he thinks it’s worth it—he’s wearing all black, unsurprisingly enough, but today he’s replaced his usual jeans with some slacks that he bought in an effort to have more smart-looking clothes. They go well with the button down that he’s wearing on top, as well as his blazer. At least, that’s what he thinks.

One last nervous look in the mirror before he leaves, and then he’s gone to pick Taehyung up. The walk there seems especially long now, and Jeongguk even wonders if he should have taken a taxi today. But then that’d mean waiting there, which would make him even more restless. If he’s walking, at least he’s doing something—even if that something is just moving, really.

Several minutes later find him next to Taehyung’s building, waiting for him to come down. He doesn’t know which one his apartment is, so he can’t buzz to let him know he’s waiting, but he wouldn’t do it anyway. Plus, and unsurprisingly enough, he’s arrived early. It’s three minutes to eight, which gives Taehyung a three minutes margin to come down and still be on time. After all, he said he’d try to be punctual today. Jeongguk is not going to phone him to ask him to come down.

And it’s with one minute left for eight that Taehyung does come out of his building. A wide, big grin appears on his face, one that doesn’t quite match the words that come out of his mouth.

“God—you’re already here?” he asks, walking closer and pulling Jeongguk in for a hug. Jeongguk can feel Taehyung’s throat vibrate as he laughs before adding, “Not even when we’re meant to meet up right before my building am I the first to arrive. I’m giving up.”

Jeongguk chuckles back. “In all honesty, it’s my fault for arriving early as a habit,” Jeongguk tells him. “People like me who always get to places before the agreed time are just as annoying as people who get there late.”

Taehyung pulls back, batting his eyelashes at Jeongguk twice as he smiles, and only then does Jeongguk have the time to properly look at him. Taehyung is wearing fitted trousers that stick to his body almost like skinny jeans would. They’re grey and have a tartan print, something that Jeongguk didn’t think could work on trousers. On top of it he’s wearing a flowy white shirt, with big sleeves that look as pretty as they do impractical. But the part of the look that makes Jeongguk unable to contain a smile is the black beret perched on top of Taehyung’s head, as well as the silvery bangs that cover his forehead.

How can he just get more beautiful every day, fuck?

Jeongguk swallows down, feeling like his mouth is suddenly full of sand. It’s the Taehyung effect, isn’t it? Every time they meet up Taehyung always leaves him a little speechless with the way he looks.

“You—you look beautiful tonight,” he manages to get out. He looks at Taehyung again, biting down on his lower lip before he adds, “Very. You look very beautiful.”

“Really? I didn’t know if this was quite my style, since I’ve been dressing more on the edgy end of fashion lately,” Taehyung tells him, the corner of his mouth lifting up in half a smile. He then spins around once, the fabric of his shirt flowing around him lightly. “What do you think? It’s a yes?”

“Definitely a yes,” Jeongguk tells him, rejoicing in the sound of Taehyung’s laughter.

“I just wanted to look a little more elegant, in case we went somewhere that required so,” Taehyung tells him, wiggling his eyebrows at him. “You’ve been so mysterious about this whole thing, so I wanted to be prepared. And judging by the way you’re dressed as well, I think I was right to?”

His voice tilts up at the end, almost as if he were asking a question instead of stating a fact.

“Oh my God, I feel like this date is going to be incredibly underwhelming for you,” Jeongguk replies. He can’t help but have doubts now. Maybe Taehyung would have rather a more traditional plan for the evening? He should have gone for the fancy restaurant—who doesn’t love incredibly overrated and overpriced food to post on Instagram?

“It couldn’t be underwhelming if it’s with you, silly,” Taehyung tells him. And, okay, yes—that makes something stir in Jeongguk’s insides. “I’ll love anything you’ve prepared because I know that you did it for me. That’s what’s important, right? It’s less about the what and more about the who, and I know that any kind of date with you wouldn’t be anything less than perfect.”

“Oh, my God,” Jeongguk grumbles, looking away from Taehyung. Taehyung laughs. “If you keep that up you’re going to make me blush four minutes into our date.”

“Keep up what, my honesty?” Taehyung replies. This time Jeongguk does blush, which in exchange just makes Taehyung giggle again. “So… where are you taking me, then?”

“I booked us a taxi,” Jeongguk replies, checking his watch. “It should be here any second now.”

The taxi arrives less than a minute after, and the two of them slip into the backseat. Jeongguk gives the driver the address, and luckily the man busies himself driving instead of trying to make conversation. That gives room for them to make some conversation—they talk about work, about projects they are excited about, Taehyung asks about Seokjin and Hoseok and Jeongguk asks about Jimin, who he hasn’t seen in a while. The difference between making small talk with literally everyone else—excluding his close friends—and making small talk with Taehyung is that Jeongguk is genuinely interested in what Taehyung has to say. God, he’d listen to him talk about his day for hours, and he’d absolutely love every word of it.

Once they get there, Jeongguk is quick to make sure he pays the taxi driver even before Taehyung can open his wallet, already in his hand. Taehyung gives him a baffled look, and Jeongguk winks at him as both of them leave the taxi.

When they’re on the sidewalk, Taehyung looks around himself with curious eyes, trying to pinpoint where exactly they’re going. As he seems to be able to spot nowhere in the street they could go to, he asks, “So, where are you taking me?”

“Over here,” Jeongguk says as he starts walking towards one of the buildings. Taehyung follows him, narrowing his eyes at him when Jeongguk opens the door. “It’s my building.”

“So you’re taking me home on the first date?” Taehyung asks, sounding just as excited as he sounds teasing.

“Kind of, except not really?” Jeongguk replies, holding the door open for Taehyung.

“God, you’re so ridiculous. Chivalry isn’t dead, huh?” he asks, stepping inside and looking over his shoulder just to see Jeongguk stick his tongue out at him. “What do you mean kind of, but not really?”

“I mean it’s my building, but not my home,” Jeongguk asks, pressing the button to the elevator. It was already there so they both step inside. “Unless you wanted to, of course.”

Jeongguk wasn’t planning on going to the inside of the apartment, but he still tidied and made sure it looked nice. Who knows? Maybe they’d end up going there, so he wants Taehyung to get a good impression of him and his place. It’s not like he’s a really messy person, either way—more often than not, what he considers messy is more than decent for his friends. Seokjin tells him he’s such a fucking Virgo, whatever that means.

“Now I’m curious,” Taehyung says, watching as Jeongguk presses the button to the highest floor. “Do I get a hint?”

“Do you want one?” Jeongguk asks, looking at him. Having reached this point, he doesn’t need to give away a hint. He’s sure this is quite predictable already, so…

Taehyung narrows his eyes at him, almost as if he were thinking hard about the answer. In the end he says, “I think I want the full surprise. Let’s go?”

The elevator door is now open before them, and so Jeongguk nods and gets out, followed by Taehyung. Taehyung looks around himself lost for a moment, so Jeongguk holds his hand and starts guiding him towards the last set of stairs in the building, the one that leads to the rooftop.

It’s a warm and calm night in Seoul, without any wind or difficulties given from the weather to enjoy a nice evening outside. And so, when they get to the rooftop, everything is just like Jeongguk left it—the picnic blanket with red and white squares, the cushions on top of it, the picnic basket, the bottle of red wine and the glasses. Around it, lit up candles that are supposed to be scented, even if Jeongguk doesn’t know how well that will work since they’re outside. Upon seeing the scene before both of them, Jeongguk looks at Taehyung nervous.

Maybe it’s not the most original idea ever, nor the most romantic, but Jeongguk thinks that a nighttime picnic could be enjoyable. It’s his own cooking, so in its own way it’s unique, just for the two of them and has a piece of Jeongguk on it. In regards to the rest of requirements, well… He hopes it is romantic—from what he’s heard, people tend to think that their date cooking for them is. He would have liked to be able to watch the stars with Taehyung, something he knows Taehyung loves, but Seoul and its bright lights wouldn’t allow them to. Still, the light of the skyline from the rooftop is very pretty. Jeongguk still hopes it will make Taehyung smile, even if there’s no stars.

Taehyung’s hands go to his face, covering his mouth as he lets out a gasp. He stares at the picnic blanket for a moment before he turns to face Jeongguk, looking at him with bright, happy eyes.

“You made us a picnic?” Taehyung asks once he drops his hands from his face. Now, Jeongguk can see the bright smile on his face as well as listening to his incredulous tone. “You… You really made us a picnic on your rooftop.”

“I’m hoping that was a good thing for me to make,” Jeongguk points out with a smile, even if Taehyung’s body language is enough of an answer.

“Oh my God, yes!” Taehyung tells him, his grin widening. “Oh, I—I can go, right.”

Jeongguk makes a dramatic flourish with his arms, gesturing towards the picnic blanket. “Please, do so,” Jeongguk tells him. “I’m feeling kind of hungry now.”

Taehyung walks towards the picnic blanket, picking one of the cushions and sitting on it. The walls at the edge of the rooftop are low enough for them to be terribly unsafe, but the silver lining of it is that they can sit on the blanket and look at the city, even if they are at a safe distance from the border. Taehyung claps his hands in excitement as Jeongguk follows him and sits down on the other cushion, taking the bottle of wine in his hand.

“I hope you like red wine or I’m gonna need to go back to mine to get you another drink,” Jeongguk jokes, reaching for the opener.

“I love wine,” Taehyung tells him, a dreamy expression on his face. Jeongguk almost wants to blush. “Everything about this is pretty much ideal, you know?”

Jeongguk laughs, swiftly working the opener on the bottle as he holds it with one hand. “I hope so. I want our first date to be pretty much ideal. And, well—the rest too, you know.”

“As I’ve said before, if they’re with you I’m sure they will be. God, you are ideal,” Taehyung tells him. He’s looking at his hands with curious eyes, Jeongguk notices, so it doesn’t come as a big surprise when he adds, “Where did you learn to open wine bottles that well? I refuse to believe you’re just naturally that good, you know.”

“What if I was?” Jeongguk asks, finally taking the cork out. Taehyung gives him a skeptic look. “Truth is, my parents own a restaurant back in Busan. I used to work there during summers when I was a teenager. And when things were a little hectic, but that wasn’t really official, so you’re gonna have to keep that secret for me.”

“My lips are sealed,” Taehyung tells him, dragging his index and thumb over his mouth as to mimic closing a zipper.  As Jeongguk starts serving Taehyung’s glass, he asks, “So you worked as a waiter there, yeah?”

“Exactly,” Jeongguk tells him, moving to his own glass once he’s done. “You’d be impressed by the amount of dishes I can carry at once. It’s a good number.”

“At this point you could just bend down to pick a pencil from the floor and I’d be impressed,” Taehyung tells him, making Jeongguk laugh. Once Jeongguk is done serving them and leaves the bottle aside, Taehyung picks up his glass and asks, “Cheers?”

“Cheers,” Jeongguk replies, reaching for his glass again. “We don’t have an audience this time but to us and first dates. And… hopefully many more to come.”

Taehyung smiles at him with complicity, and they keep talking quietly while they enjoy the first glass of wine they have that evening. Once they’ve downed it they start to eat, Jeongguk opening the picnic basket and pulling out the food he’s made for them. Be it out of honesty or him wanting to please Jeongguk, Taehyung makes a pleasured noise that sounds close to a moan as he tries it, closing his eyes.

“Oh my God, and you can cook, too,” Taehyung tells him, holding his chopsticks in his hand. “See how you’re ideal? You’re never getting rid of me, I swear. We’ll go on dates all the time.”

Something about it makes Jeongguk almost shiver. The perspective of never getting rid of Taehyung is… well, more than appealing to him. He’d like to always go on dates with him, like Taehyung said. His words leave a good taste in Jeongguk’s mouth, who is already looking forward to new occasions of preparing special dates like this for Taehyung. And they are still in the middle of the first one.

They talk, and talk, and talk. Taehyung asks more about Jeongguk’s parents and their restaurant, and in exchange Jeongguk asks about Taehyung’s family as well. He learns that Taehyung’s mother is a high school teacher, whereas his dad works in a factory. Taehyung also has two younger siblings, and brother and a sister, that love him and miss him very much, just like how Taehyung loves and misses them.

“How long has it been since you last went to Daegu then?” Jeongguk asks as they both eat.

“Months. A lot of them, actually,” Taehyung says, narrowing his eyes as if he were thinking hard. “I think the last time I went to Daegu was for my birthday, in December. And it’s summer now.”

“Do you wish you could go home more often?” Jeongguk asks him, curious.

“I do, yeah,” Taehyung replies with a sigh. “But with the parlor and all, it’s hard for me to just close for a few days and go home. And then during weekends I just like to stay here and hang out with friends and people that I can’t see during the week because I’m busy. I could go more often, since it’s not a crazy long ride but… I guess I’m not the best son ever.”

“That’s not true at all,” Jeongguk rushes to tell him. “You have a life of your own here. Drifting away from more immediate family is unavoidable when you move out, especially if you move to another city. But you clearly love them all very much and care for them, so you’re in no way the worst son ever.”

“And you’re too kind for your own good,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk winks at him. “How about you? When is the last time you got to see your parents?”

“I took a week off for Christmas and went home then,” Jeongguk tells them. “It’s easier since it’s three of us working at the parlor, so we can work our way around it and not close for one week straight.”

“See? At times like that I wish I could work with someone,” Taehyung tells him with a sigh. “But I also like things done my way and like to work a particular way. I know I would very likely have disagreements with my business partner, especially since I’ve been working alone for a long time now.”

“How did you get the idea of opening your own studio?” Jeongguk asks him then. He does so out of curiosity, simply because he’s not used to seeing people work completely alone like Taehyung does, without even one receptionist or other artist.

Taehyung sighs. “Well, it’s a sort of long story. When I first started working, I did so in a parlor owned by someone else. Not a friend or anything—I just submitted a portfolio and a curriculum and she liked me, so I started working for her there,” Taehyung starts telling him. “It was… it wasn’t a nice studio like yours or mine. Kind of sketchy and not the cleanest, but I was getting paid so I didn’t care at the time.”

“We all start in less than nice places,” Jeongguk tells him, encouraging him to continue with a smile.

“Precisely,” Taehyung says. “I worked there for a couple of years. And… then I met Hyungsik.”

The mention of the man catches Jeongguk off guard, who wasn’t at all expecting to have Taehyung mention his name. Or at least, not so early. What he thought Hyungsik did in Taehyung’s life was help him with his finances for the parlor.

“Hyungsik?” Jeongguk repeats. Then, even if he is more than aware of who he is, he asks, “The guy with the suit and the watch?”

“Yes, him,” Taehyung says, nodding. He looks down for a moment, wetting his lips before he carries on. “God, I can’t believe I’m gonna talk about this on our first date—either way, Hyungsik and I had a… a thing. He is a member of the gang, you know? The one that I tattoo for. We met when I was working at the parlor and we started going out and stuff. And then… well, then he asked me for an agreement to work as the gang’s tattoo artist of sorts.”

Up until then, Jeongguk was following along with the story well. But with this last intervention, Jeongguk feels completely lost. Hyungsik and Taehyung having a thing, Hyungsik being a member of the gang… Jeongguk is having trouble to process all of it.

“Wait, what?” he asks. Not his most eloquent, but… “Hyungsik and you…?”

“Not anymore,” Taehyung tells him. “Listen, I… I don’t want to lie to you and tell you it ended ages ago, because that’s not true. When he interrupted us at the parlor he came to pick me up because we still had a thing going. But as soon as I started to get to know you and started to like you I broke things off. I promise.”

“I believe you, I believe you,” Jeongguk rushes to tell him. He’s having some mixed feelings—on one hand he’s satisfied that Taehyung broke things off with Hyungsik for him, but on the other he’s kind of bitter that they were ever a thing. “I would have never been able to tell he’s a gang member, though.”

“He’s a high ranking member,” Taehyung tells him. “I don’t know much about what he does or where he gets all his money from, and I guess I’m guilty of my deliberate ignorance. I know he’s not… a good guy. I didn’t know at first, but after he told me I just decided to ignore it. I didn’t know what he did, and as long as I kept things like that, I could ignore that the guy I was with was doing some fucked up shit. As you probably can tell already, morals aren’t my priority.”

Jeongguk ignores that last statement of Taehyung’s and asks, “So, was it him who helped you open the business?”

“It was after I had had a disagreement with my old boss,” Taehyung says. “At that point I already knew about the gang. I was going on and on about how I couldn’t stand working there anymore. And then, he made a proposal.”

“What sort of proposal?” Jeongguk asked.

“He offered me an insane amount of money on the spot if I agreed to give all the members of the gang a signature tattoo. It was a lot of tattoos, yes, but the amount of money he offered… it exceeded what I could have charged by miles,” Taehyung says. “I told him that I couldn’t do it at my workplace, so that’s when he said that the second part of his offer was opening a parlor for me. I wouldn’t have to put in one single dime of my own, and he’d let me pick anything. I just had to tattoo his guys back then, and also ink the new members that they would gain in the future. He said that he’d make sure to bring more clientele apart from the members of the gang, too.”

“And I assume he stuck to his promise,” Jeongguk replies.

“He did, yeah,” Taehyung says. “They used to give me a monthly amount until a few months ago, shortly before we met. I was… I didn’t want to depend so much on them. I told him I would charge the members for the tattoos as I would any other customer, and that I didn’t want a strict partnership anymore. I would keep my mouth shut about who they were and never tell the cops shit about them, as long as they didn’t throw me under the bus if shit ever went wrong with me. I realized that a proper partnership with a gang would just get me into trouble, and I had a stable job that I didn’t want to lose.”

“Is that when you created your Instagram account?” Jeongguk asks, starting to connect the dots in his mind. If Taehyung lost the monthly payment the gang gave him, it was only normal of him to seek out more clients online. It also explained why he didn’t add any address, contact or personal details that could link him or his business to his artwork. Better to be safe than sorry.

“Exactly,” Taehyung tells him, nodding. “Hyungsik didn’t take the news of me breaking up with him well, so now he doesn’t even offer to help me with numbers like he did. Which is good—now I am free of him and gang related deals both personal and professional. Exactly what I wanted.”

“And do you trust them to… not have some sort of revenge on you for that?” Jeongguk asks, then.

“I made them promise that I could just… pull back from the close partnership we had at any moment. I made them have a contract that I read thoroughly,” Taehyung tells him. “I know that the existence of it doesn’t mean they’ll respect it. But for as long as I’ve known them, they’ve always kept their word and showed loyalty.”

“I’m… I’m really glad you’re free from that burden, then,” Jeongguk tells him. “Fuck, that—when I asked about how you opened your own parlor I didn’t think the conversation would take such a turn.”

“I’m very glad you asked, actually,” Taehyung tells him. “This… This topic is one that I want to talk to you about, but I’m scared of bringing up myself. I’m happy that’s out of the way and that I can be honest with you, Jeongguk. And… also very positively surprised by your reaction.”

Jeongguk shrugs his shoulders. “I know you’re not a bad guy, Tae. I know you enough to know that,” he says. “You’ve… well, you’ve associated with people who aren’t good, but you’ve never done any of that. I believe you when you tell me you haven’t, not only because I trust you but also because from what I know and see of you, you’d never do those things. I was a little taken aback at first, yeah, but after you explained things to me I understood that you’re not part of it.”

Taehyung, who has already finished his food, surges forward then and gives Jeongguk a big, tight hug. Jeongguk also leaves his dish to the side, returning the embrace and holding Taehyung just as tightly.

“You really are the best,” Taehyung tells him, voice muffled. “Thank you so much, Gukkie. Thank you for trusting me and believing me, even if I’m sure it’s hard with all of this going on around me.”

“God, Taehyung—it’s so easy,” Jeongguk tells him, unable to contain himself. “And that’s exactly what’s scary. I feel so dragged towards you. Staying away from you was so fucking hard.”

“Listen, Jeongguk, I—” Taehyung starts, pulling back a little so he can look at Jeongguk in the eye. “I like you. I like you so, so fucking much. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way for anyone before, and while like you said some of it is unknown and scary, a part of me just wants more and more. I want to get to know more of you, I want us… Well, I don’t know. I want us and what we have to keep evolving. Does that make sense? God, it probably doesn’t.”

“It does,” Jeongguk rushes to reply. “It does make sense. And I feel the exact same way about you, Taehyung.”

Taehyung smiles at him then, warm and bright. It’s Jeongguk who leans forward first, getting one sweet kiss from Taehyung’s lips. They smile at each other then before pulling back, so they can finish eating and pick everything up.

They don’t want to leave the rooftop once they’re done eating, not yet. Jeongguk is the one who suggests lying back on the blanket with their heads on the cushions, looking up at the starless sky above them, a suggestion that Taehyung seems to deeply approve of. That is how Jeongguk finds himself lying on his back, his arm curled around Taehyung’s shoulders as he rests his head on his chest. Every few minutes, Taehyung looks at him from the corner of his eye, a gesture Jeongguk doesn’t miss.

“Come here, my star boy,” Jeongguk calls him.

A teasing smile appears on Taehyung’s face. “Star boy?” he asks. He still moves, though, his face millimeters away from Jeongguk’s.

“It’s a cute name, don’t you think?” Jeongguk asks. With his free hand, he reaches to the spot where he gave Taehyung that first tattoo he inked on him. “It reminds me of this. You remind me of stars.”

Taehyung presses a short, chaste kiss to Jeongguk’s lips before replying. “I like it,” he tells him. Another pause, in which Taehyung presses his mouth against Jeongguk’s again, this time a little more insistently. “I like it so, so much.”

And they kiss, kiss and kiss. They kiss until Jeongguk feels drunk just on the flavor of the red wine remaining on Taehyung’s lips. They kiss until their mouths feel numb and their lips are red. They kiss until the city grows quieter and quieter below them, even if it never goes still. And then, when Jeongguk is sure that their hearts share the same beat, and only then, does he pull away.

 

 

It was late when Taehyung and Jeongguk decided to move from their impromptu cuddling session on the picnic blanket, closer to dawn than it was to dusk. Jeongguk had offered Taehyung to stay at his then, not too hopeful of him accepting his offer and staying. Imagine his surprise when he accepted.

Jeongguk remembers shyly getting in bed with Taehyung after they both had changed into comfortable clothes—read: big white t-shirts—and calling it a night with his arm wrapped around Taehyung’s middle and his nose buried on his hair. At that point, Jeongguk really thought that this entire situation could hardly turn better.

And then, he wakes up the next morning.

It takes him a couple of moments to register that the weight he feels on the left side of his body is none other than Taehyung—a sleeping Taehyung. Jeongguk lazily blinks his eyes open, the light that filters through the curtains making it hard for him to keep them open.

But once he does, he can’t force himself to regret it. Taehyung is sleeping all over him, with his legs tangled around Jeongguk’s and his arm slung over Jeongguk’s body. His cheek is pressed over his chest as he breathes deeply, exhaling softly through his mouth. Jeongguk is sure that he can see a small stain of saliva on his shirt, but oddly enough he’s not at all disgusted. He finds it cute, even.

He can’t be sure of how long he spends watching Taehyung sleep, but what he is sure of is that it is embarrassingly long. Taehyung mumbles stuff when he’s asleep, something that Jeongguk didn’t realize through the night, since he’s a deep sleeper. He also scrunches his nose a lot and, just like Jeongguk guessed, drools on his shirt.

A long while goes by before Taehyung wakes up on his own, squeezing his eyes tightly before they flutter open eventually. He looks a little lost at first, staring at Jeongguk sleepily for a few seconds before a lazy grin appears on his mouth.

“Good morning,” chirps Jeongguk, happy that Taehyung is finally awake, and therefore, with him.

“Morning, boo,” Taehyung tells him in reply, his voice rougher than Jeongguk has ever heard it. Somehow, that alone is enough to make Jeongguk smile.

“You sound terrible sleepy,” Jeongguk tells him, making Taehyung hide his face in his chest out of what appears to be shyness.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting for me to wake up for very long,” Taehyung tells him, stealing a glance at Jeongguk. “Oh my God, you’ve been meaning to move, haven’t you? And I’ve been all over you like a nuisance.”

Taehyung starts to move then, but Jeongguk keeps him still by wrapping an arm around Taehyung’s waist tightly. “No, no, I don’t want you to move,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung looks at him with a small grin dancing on his lips. “Can I… I know we’ve just woken up, but can I get a kiss?”

Tilting his head to get a better angle, Taehyung looks at Jeongguk with curious eyes. It feels surreal for Jeongguk to be here, lying in his bed with Taehyung on top of him after a date that could only be described as perfect. Not to add that they’re only wearing some of Jeongguk’s old t-shirts and their sweatpants. And just when Jeongguk thought that it could hardly get better, Taehyung ducks down and kisses him again.

Taehyung’s lips are as enthusiastic as always against his, despite the fact that he’s only been awake for a couple of minutes. Taehyung’s hands lazily crawl up his neck, until they tangle in his hair, the pads of his fingers tickling his scalp.

They only stop when Jeongguk’s stomach starts grumbling, Taehyung pulling down to laugh a little.

“Hungry much, babe?” Taehyung asks him, lips brushing against Jeongguk’s as he teases him.

“Oh, God—yes, I am,” Jeongguk admits. “This is so embarrassing.”

“Do you want us to make something for breakfast, then?” Taehyung asks. “Although I am not the best at cooking.”

“We could do that,” Jeongguk says, nodding. “Or we could go out and grab something for breakfast. There’s a café down the street. How about we go there?”

“You either don’t trust my cooking skills at all or are so lazy this morning,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk laughs cheerily.

“Maybe it’s a little bit of both,” Jeongguk admits.

Luckily, Taehyung doesn’t take it to heart. “I’ll be paying then. And don’t argue with me.”

They get dressed, then. Taehyung was about to slip on the same clothes he was wearing last night, but Jeongguk convinces him to take some of his sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I’m making a collection, Taehyung jokes around, in reference to the change of clothes that Jeongguk gave him when he went by the parlor, and that Taehyung has failed to return to him.

When they get there each one of them orders a croissant, Jeongguk’s filled with chocolate and Taehyung’s filled with cream. To go with it, they both order between giggles the sugariest drinks with the most ridiculous names they can find, and that much to Jeongguk’s surprise, are delicious.

“I can’t believe I’ve been making fun of these drinks for my whole adult life when they are everything I could ever want to drink,” Jeongguk says, taking a second sip his latte,

“They’re my guilty pleasure,” Taehyung says, licking away the foam that is left over his top lip. “I make Jimin bring me one of these every time he comes by the parlor.”

“We should really go on a coffee date at some point,” Jeongguk says then, not particularly caring if he sounds too clingy, given that their first date was just yesterday. “Try all the sugary, delicious drinks that the world has in store for us.”

“And probably go into a sugar comma and get one million cavities,” Taehyung replies, making Jeongguk laugh.

“That sounds like a good plan if you ask me,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung raises a skeptic eyebrow. “So… we’ll have more dates then, yeah?”

“I thought that much was obvious after the amazing, life-changing date we had last night, babe,” Taehyung replies to him. Jeongguk blushes a little.

“I’m glad you want to go out with me again,” he tells him, honest. “I was afraid you’d think I’m… I don’t know. Boring? You’re used to a lot more fun than I am.”

Taehyung’s gaze softens then, as he looks at him. He reaches for Jeongguk’s hand, intertwining their fingers and giving his hand a squeeze.

“I’d love to go out with you again,” Taehyung tells him, looking straight into his eyes. “And you’re not at all boring. Do you mean that because of all the…? You know.”

All the gang stuff. Jeongguk knows.

“Maybe,” he admits, a little embarrassed. He looks away. “I’m… I guess when you’re used to that, a guy like me seems awfully banal.”

“When you’re used to that, a guy like you seems wonderfully normal,” Taehyung replies to him. “You’re all I want and all I need, Jeonggukie. Nothing less and nothing more.”

Jeongguk looks at him, happy from the validation he’s gotten from Taehyung. His heart beats rapidly in his chest from all the kind, loving words, but there’s something that especially resonates inside his mind during the rest of the day.

You’re all I want. Nothing less and nothing more.

 

 

The first time Jeongguk ever steps foot into Taehyung’s apartment is on a Wednesday evening, after both of them had met up to discuss the design of the newest tattoo that Jeongguk would be giving Taehyung—a feather design around his ankle. They have the habit of meeting at Taehyung’s parlor unless Jeongguk will be tattooing him because his studio offers some intimacy and privacy that Jeongguk’s lacks. Hoseok and Seokjin are nosy, and the further Taehyung and Jeongguk’s relationship progresses, the nosier they become.

Time flies when they’re together, as cliché as that sounds. Jeongguk got there early, and before he even realizes, the clock has hit ten and they’re both still at the parlor, having not had dinner but having chatted about everything and nothing at the same time. Their hands find each other over the counter and Taehyung mindlessly plays with Jeongguk’s fingers when his phone lights up with a notification by his side, letting him see the clock.

“Shit,” Taehyung mutters then, interrupting himself mid-sentence. Jeongguk looks at him alarmed for a second, in case the text he got was something… bad. “It’s already ten? When did it get so late?”

“Already?” Jeongguk asks. He’s just as surprised as Taehyung, as he really wasn’t aware that they had been there talking for a good two hours. “God, I really am keeping you here.”

“Hey! That’s not true,” Taehyung tells him, fingers tightening around Jeongguk’s wrist playfully. “If anything, I’m the one who is keeping you here. It’s my studio, after all.”

“Well, then maybe you should keep me captive more often,” Jeongguk tells him, raising an eyebrow at him. “I think I kinda like it.”

“That’s Stockholm Syndrome, and I don’t fuck with it,” Taehyung tells him, laughing. Jeongguk pouts at him. “But… I’m gonna head home now since I’m starving and all that, but you can come with me if you want. Does ordering pizza sound good with you? Plus, it’s about time you see my place, don’t you think?”

Jeongguk looks at him with parted lips for a second. The truth is, he feels himself getting a lot more clingy to Taehyung as things between them progress. He’s never considered himself a dependent person and he still doesn’t, but the truth is that he likes to milk his moments with Taehyung for all they’re worth. And if he can find a way to make the time they spend together a little longer, then he goes for it without hesitation. Which is why he says yes, without even thinking twice about it.

“I think it is, yeah,” Jeongguk replies. Taehyung smiles then, happy and wide. “Let’s go, then.”

They close together and then make their way towards Taehyung’s apartment, their hands intertwined and swinging between them as they walk. During the walk there, Taehyung tells Jeongguk about his absolute favorite pizza place and what his usual order is, chatting away happily.

“Is there something spicy?” Jeongguk asks, curious and wanting to daydream about food, too.

“Yeah! There are some spicy options, but I personally have never tried them,” Taehyung replies, gesturing a lot. “I’m not good with spicy if I’m totally honest with you.”

“Wait, really?” Jeongguk asks, amused. “That’s cute.”

“It’s far from cute,” Taehyung replies, giving Jeongguk a pointed look. “But if you like spicy then you can become my spice dumpster. Eat all the spicy food that would probably make me wince if I tried to put it in my mouth?”

“Your spice dumpster? That’s very flattering,” Jeongguk replies. He shouldn’t really feel so proud of being called anyone’s dumpster, but somehow he is. “It will truly be my honor, babe.”

Taehyung laughs, giving a squeeze to Jeongguk’s hand. “You’re so terrible.”

They get to Taehyung’s place, eventually. Jeongguk didn’t quite know what to expect. Neither he nor Taehyung live in especially bad areas, or especially good.  Jeongguk’s apartment is relatively nice, even if his furniture is probably just as old as he is. He’s wondered before what Taehyung’s looks like, but he doesn’t have a preconceived idea of it. If it looks similar to his studio, then Jeongguk knows he’s going to feel a little embarrassed about the state of his own home in comparison.

Those are the thoughts that fill his mind as they step into the elevator. Luckily, Taehyung manages to distract him from them.

“I’m going to take a picture of us,” he says, getting his phone in his hand. “This is an occasion to remember, after all.”

Jeongguk laughs, then. He hides his body behind Taehyung’s and hooks his chin over the other’s shoulder, looking at the screen of the phone and grinning as Taehyung snaps a few pictures. He’s startled when Taehyung moves and turns to him, causing him to lift his head from his shoulder. Taehyung takes that as his chance to lean forward a little and steal a kiss from Jeongguk, who can hear the shutter of the phone as they kiss. He can’t help but smile into it, as the shutter snaps one last time and takes a final picture.

“Cute,” Taehyung says, pecking Jeongguk one last time before he looks at his phone and quickly scrolls through the pics he has just taken. As the elevator stops and they get out, Taehyung comments, “I like the last one the most.”

“Really?” Jeongguk asks. He actually agrees with Taehyung, but wanting to hear his reasons he asks, “How come?”

“Well, because of you,” Taehyung replies, sending Jeongguk a quick look over his shoulder as he unlocks the door to his apartment. He sounds as if he was stating the most obvious thing ever. “Because I like to see you smile. Genuinely smile—in the first ones you’re smiling, too, but I like it better when it comes naturally. That’s when you look your best.”

Jeongguk’s cheeks go bright pink, then. The truth is, he liked that one better because he thinks they look the happiest in that one. Taehyung kissing him with a hint of mischief in his face, and the way Jeongguk is happily accepting the affection from him. Looking at the picture alone makes Jeongguk’s insides warm.

“That’s a good reason,” he replies. Taehyung looks at him, endeared, and so Jeongguk clears his throat and tries to divert the attention from him and his blushing face. “Come on, now. Show me where you live.”

“Okay, okay,” Taehyung tells him. “But don’t judge me. This is… my cave.”

Jeongguk feels stupidly excited by the time Taehyung pushes the door open, turning the light of the hall on. He looks with curious eyes at the room before him, that doesn’t look all too different from his. Taehyung gives him a mini tour, taking him around the house. It’s a normal rental, Jeongguk realizes. It wasn’t decorated by Taehyung himself but by the owner, and Jeongguk’s place doesn’t have much to be envious of. The place where Jeongguk sees more of Taehyung is in the bedroom—all of the walls are covered. Some of them with drawings that Jeongguk recognizes as Taehyung’s, so similar to his tattoo designs. There are also movie posters from films that are older than them, some that Jeongguk recognizes and some he’s never heard of before. Watercolors that Jeongguk could never tell Taehyung did if not for his signature on the corner, SNSD posters right next to a poster announcing a jazz concert there in Seoul… It’s a mixture of the many things that make Taehyung who he is, all plastered on his walls. Jeongguk can’t help but feel stupidly happy upon seeing all of it.

“It’s a little bit of a mess, but I wasn’t expecting any company,” Taehyung tells him as they make their way to the living room. “I should have probably made sure to tidy before inviting you here the first time, but candid is better, isn’t it? If you like me, you need to like my mess.”

“I like you and your mess,” Jeongguk tells him, sitting down on the couch. Taehyung smiles as he sits down next to him. “It just blows me away that we’re so different, though. I tidied everything up before our date, even if I didn’t know for sure whether you’d end up coming into the apartment or not.”

“I think that’s what makes our relationship special,” Taehyung says, moving to sit sideways so he can throw his legs over Jeongguk’s lap, crossing his ankles on top. “We’re very different but we’re also very alike. Which I know doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I think it comes more down to the fact that despite how different our personalities are they click well together, and we have a lot of common interests. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as comfortable around anyone as I feel with you, except for Jimin.”

“Really?” Jeongguk asks, unable to contain a smile. He totally agrees with what Taehyung has just said, but the fact that he’s special to Taehyung in that way… well, it makes him happy.

“Really, really,” Taehyung tells him. His expression softens before he adds, “I’m so glad you found me on Instagram, Jeongguk. You’re important to me, you know?”

To say that Jeongguk’s heart goes crazy after that would be an understatement. He smiles at Taehyung then, but is left speechless. Not that it matters. They’re slowly building the type of complicity where words aren’t always necessary, and this is one of those moments. Jeongguk squeezes Taehyung’s ankle lightly and brushes it with the pad of his finger, and Taehyung gets it. They smile at each other, and at that moment Jeongguk knows for sure—there is something growing between them, that’s undeniable. A feeling developing in each of their hearts that gets stronger with every look, every touch, every kiss. Jeongguk wonders if he’s finally falling in love.

“So…” Taehyung starts then, breaking the silence. “Should we order those pizzas?”

Jeongguk smiles at him. “Yeah, let’s.”

 

 

Weeks go by, and with them, things keep progressing between Jeongguk and Taehyung. They’re at that stage of it where despite not being boyfriends yet, both of them are very much on the same page. Groups of friends are starting to come together, and Jeongguk can’t say that it doesn’t make him extremely happy to see how easily Taehyung and Jimin seem to fit in with the rest of their friends. Almost as if they were destined to all come together eventually.

It’s a Saturday night and the seven of them have reunited at Taehyung’s place, just to hang out. It’s around the third time that all of them meet up together, and Jeongguk honestly can only see benefits to it. On one side, the group dynamic is one that Jeongguk feels comfortable in. And on the other side, he gets to spend time with his friends and Taehyung. There’s only benefits to it, honestly.

Staying over at each other’s place becomes more and more frequent for Taehyung and Jeongguk as their non-official relationship progresses more and more. After everyone leaves well after midnight, Taehyung and Jeongguk are left alone to their own devices. The first thing they do is not very exciting—just cleaning up, taking empty beer and soju bottles to the kitchen, along with the takeout boxes that they didn’t bother to pick up after dinner.

But then… well, then Jeongguk has other plans.

Taehyung collapses on the couch next to him. They both fall into easy silence for a moment—their friends are noisy even if it’s late, so being able to be together in the quiet after an evening like this is very much appreciated. Taehyung turns around then, moving to the side so he can get into his favorite position: legs resting on top of Jeongguk’s and chin resting on his shoulder, with one of his arms thrown over Jeongguk’s middle, caging him in. Jeongguk likes it a lot, too.

Jeongguk turns his head around to look at Taehyung, too. Their eyes meet for a moment, and if not for the fact that his arms are trapped under Taehyung’s, Jeongguk would reach up and stroke Taehyung’s cheek lightly. Jeongguk has the theory that the more into the early hours in the morning they venture, the most beautiful Taehyung looks. He’s doe-eyed and gorgeous, looking at Taehyung with a hint of tiredness that has yet to turn into sleepiness.

“Hey there, gorgeous,” Jeongguk tells him. He’s finding himself to be a lot less bashful when it comes to giving compliments these days. More so, the roles have sort of reversed—it’s Jeongguk who is able to spill the corniest, most mellow things with a straight face and make Taehyung blush.

Flirting made Jeongguk flustered, but affection is what gets Taehyung really shy. Jeongguk thinks he likes the contrast.

Taehyung’s mouth breaks into that little grin he does whenever Jeongguk tells him how beautiful he is, at the same time he lets out a huff. He sounds like he doesn’t believe him, which is hard for Jeongguk to understand. The fact that Taehyung could look in the mirror and not see the most beautiful being ever doesn’t add up to Jeongguk.

“Shut it,” Taehyung tells him. There it is, the shyness that comes whenever Jeongguk lets his tackiest self appear. This is what fuels him, honestly.

“Nah,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung fakes a frown. “You look beautiful tonight.”

“I could be wearing a plastic bag and you’d still say that,” Taehyung tells him. Worst part is… he’s not entirely wrong.

“A plastic bag wouldn’t take away from the fact that you’re beautiful. Besides, I’m sure you could make one seem like haute couture,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung just bursts into laughter when he hears that. “But I mean it. You look especially stunning tonight. You look more beautiful every day than you were the day before.”

“Shut. Up,” Taehyung says then, sounding flustered. He moves his arm and frees Jeongguk’s, but just to move his palm to cup Jeongguk’s cheek. Before Jeongguk can even make sense of what’s going on he sees Taehyung move forward, until their noses are bumping and he can’t look at him properly anymore without his eyesight unfocusing. “You’re such a liar.”

“I am nothing but an honest man,” Jeongguk replies. Taehyung narrows his eyes. “So, are you gonna kiss me, or what?”

“I should not kiss you,” Taehyung says then. “Just because you’re being a little shit.”

Taehyung starts to pull back then, getting back to his original position, but Jeongguk is having none of it. He reaches forward for Taehyung’s hips and holds them, dragging him closer again. Taehyung giggles, not presenting much resistance and even raising them so Jeongguk finds it easier to pull Taehyung onto his lap. They look at each other while Taehyung properly settles himself there, straddling Jeongguk’s legs as he sits on top of his thighs. And once he’s there, he looks at Jeongguk with the most faux-innocent eyes that Jeongguk has ever seen.

“Kiss me,” Jeongguk says.

“Nuh-uh,” Taehyung replies, shaking his head. The pure reflection of mischief appears on his face.

Jeongguk pouts. “Please,” he asks. Taehyung keeps smirking teasingly at him. He just wants a kiss and has no shame, so he implores, “Kiss me. Just one kiss.”

“Oh, he’s begging,” Taehyung giggles, getting closer. Their noses brush against each other and Jeongguk’s eyes close on instinct, rejoicing in the feeling of proximity between them, the way Taehyung’s breath hits his mouth when he speaks. “Just one, then.”

“One,” Jeongguk lies. He knows that if Taehyung gives him one he’s going to want a lot more, but hopefully he’ll be able to steal some more. “Pretty please?”

Taehyung doesn’t reply after that. Instead, he closes the short distance that there was left between their lips and gives Jeongguk the kiss he’s been asking for. Jeongguk’s awaiting mouth welcomes Taehyung’s with eagerness, almost like a man who hasn’t eaten in days. They kiss with Taehyung’s palms pressed warm against Jeongguk’s neck, with Jeongguk’s fingers playing with Taehyung’s belt loops.

And because Jeongguk knows himself, he wants more once Taehyung starts to pull away. Jeongguk doesn’t give up, and leans forward chasing Taehyung’s lips. The motion makes Taehyung smile as Jeongguk kisses him again, almost as if he knew this would happen—he probably did. He takes advantage of the fact that Jeongguk’s back isn’t pressed against the sofa anymore and wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders, hands hanging down his back.

They’ve been here before. Taehyung’s mouth starts to get more playful against his, almost as if he wanted to test where Jeongguk is willing to go. He pries Jeongguk’s lips open, licks inside his mouth, feels the edge of Jeongguk’s teeth with his tongue and just straight up takes his time exploring Jeongguk’s mouth. That makes the kisses deepen, with them involuntarily holding on tighter to each other, as if that could somehow bring them much closer. Jeongguk just takes, takes and takes, letting himself get lost in Taehyung’s soft kisses and pretty taste.

And just like that, things grow more and more heated. Jeongguk is not aware of how much needier their kisses are getting until he lets out a moan in Taehyung’s mouth, his cheeks turning bright red as soon as he realizes.

Taehyung pulls away for a moment, saying, “Cute,” before he’s back to devouring Jeongguk’s mouth.

They’ve had their fair share of kisses by now, if Jeongguk is completely honest. Some more chaste and some with a little more intent before them, but it’s the first time they’ve ever let go like this. Taehyung’s mouth is wet and insistent against his, tongues curling together and lips sliding against each other with ease. Jeongguk feels something inside of him being awakened now—something that translates into his fingers tightening around Taehyung’s hips while they kiss.

“Tae—” he tries to speak, but Taehyung interrupts him with a kiss. God, the last thing that Jeongguk wants to do right now is talk, but he needs to ask this in case he’s building himself up for something that might not happen. He pulls back a little—which makes Taehyung pout—and asks, “Tae, how far do you want things to go?”

Taehyung looks at him with curious eyes for a fraction of a second, as if he were processing the question. Now that Jeongguk can look at him, he can appreciate the physical signs of that neediness that he is feeling inside. The glassy and lustful eyes, the cherry bitten lips, the messy hair and the uneven breathing. God, they want each other so much that it’s making Jeongguk feel like he’s burning.

It’s involuntary, the way in which Jeongguk reaches up for Taehyung’s ear. As he brushes his hair with his fingers, tucking it behind his ear, Jeongguk can’t help but be reminded of the tattoo that Taehyung hides there. Jeongguk tentatively touches it with the pad of his finger. Baby boy.

“I’m not one for making plans in advance,” Taehyung tells him. He comes forward then, his back arching a little, and at this point Jeongguk can’t help but let both of his hands cup his ass. “Anything, everything—all the way, Jeongguk. I want you.”

Taehyung’s words unchain something inside of Jeongguk that he didn’t know he had within him. They’re what he was waiting for, confirmation that they’re both on the same page. Confirmation that he doesn’t have to hold back anymore, because both of them are craving the same thing.

Jeongguk pulls Taehyung down for a kiss that is heated and wet from the start. Taehyung makes a surprised noise at the back of his throat when Jeongguk initiates it, one that turns into something pleased as he takes into the fervor that Jeongguk is kissing him with. Taehyung lets Jeongguk lick into his mouth as his hands tangle in his hair, nails running gently against his scalp and making Jeongguk want to purr.

It doesn’t take too long until Taehyung pulls back, biting down on his lower lip before asking, “Bedroom?”

Jeongguk is dumbfounded for a moment. Of course, he’s been to Taehyung’s bedroom before. He’s slept on Taehyung’s bed with him before. But he knows the implications before Taehyung’s question. And even if the perspective of it sort of makes him nervous, he wants it. God, he wants it so badly.

“Bedroom,” Jeongguk repeats. Taehyung smiles and starts to get off his lap, but Jeongguk has other plans. He grabs Taehyung’s thighs and says, “Hold on tight around me.”

Taehyung looks at him confused, and lets out a yelp as Jeongguk starts to stand up. The shock is enough for him to tighten the hold of his arms around Jeongguk’s neck, as well as his legs around Jeongguk’s hips.

“You need to give me a heads up!” Taehyung exclaims, followed by a giggle. While Jeongguk starts making his way towards the bedroom, Taehyung adds, “This is nice, but next time you need to carry me there bridal style.”

“So there will be a next time for sure, then?” Jeongguk asks, raising an eyebrow. He’s also assuming there will be one, of course—still, his comment brings a little blush to Taehyung’s face, an unexpected yet welcome reaction.

“I mean—I hope so,” Taehyung tells him. “Unless you’re shit with your dick. Then I don’t know.”

“Oh, so you want my dick then,” Jeongguk tells him, changing the topic. Taehyung blushes a little brighter.

“God, shut up,” he grumbles. Jeongguk laughs cheerfully as he pushes the door to the bedroom open, slipping inside. “Just fuck me already.”

“You’re skipping all foreplay, babe,” Jeongguk tells him. He carefully leaves Taehyung on the bed, who slips back a little before cupping Jeongguk’s cheeks and bringing him in for a kiss. Jeongguk kisses him back, leaning forward and over Taehyung’s body as he balances the weight of his body with a palm pressed on the mattress. “Eager much?”

“You don’t even know,” Taehyung mutters against his lips. He doesn’t kiss his mouth, though—instead, he starts pressing desperate and wet kisses against his chin.

“So show me then, baby boy,” Jeongguk tells him.

The pet name slips past his lips before he has the time to register what he’s saying. He has called Taehyung baby, babe or other variations before, but never… never this. Even if he has thought about it a lot, because of Taehyung’s tattoo. Somehow, this feels far different from any other pet name, almost like a step further. Like something that was forbidden. But not anymore.

Taehyung’s reaction to it just makes Jeongguk so fucking glad that his brain to mouth filter seemed to not be working. Taehyung fucking moans against his lips, melting a little under Jeongguk’s body, and Jeongguk fucking lives for it. He tangles a hand in Taehyung’s hair and brings their mouths together for a kiss, this one rougher than the others. Again, Taehyung moans into it as his big hands feel up Jeongguk’s abdomen through his shirt.

They kiss and kiss, until Jeongguk feels like he can’t breathe anymore. Taehyung’s playful hands have now slipped under his shirt, feeling the skin of Jeongguk’s lower abdomen. Something inside of Jeongguk melts when he feels Taehyung touch around his navel and faint happy trail, wishing he would go lower.

“I’m gonna take this off,” Taehyung says then, words muffled against Jeongguk’s lips. At the same time he says that he holds the hem of Jeongguk’s t-shirt, starting to lift it up.

Jeongguk lifts his arms over his head so Taehyung can completely get rid of the piece of clothing, throwing it to the floor once it’s off. His eyes shamelessly scan Jeongguk’s torso up and down, letting out an appreciative sound as he does so.

“Like what you see?” Jeongguk says, feeling smug. That’s probably one of the tackiest, cringiest lines he’s ever used, but he can’t bring himself to regret it.

“Very much so,” replies Taehyung, who is reaching forward. He hooks his fingers into the belt loops of Jeongguk’s jeans and brings him closer to him until they’re chest to chest. “You’re hot, you know.”

“You make me hot,” Jeongguk tells him. He reaches forward, but instead of kissing Taehyung’s mouth he goes for the ear, the one with the tattoo. He bites the lobe lightly before taking his sweet time kissing a spot right behind it that makes Taehyung whine loudly. “But I think I would like to see you with less on, too.”

“Undress me,” Taehyung tells him. There’s something about the lowness of his voice that makes the command sound especially sultry, Jeongguk obeying instantly.

He undoes with slow hands the buttons of Taehyung’s shirt, kissing the exposed skin that each one of them reveals. When he’s done, Taehyung is a moaning mess on the bed with a couple of marks forming on his breastbone, shirt hanging open to each side of his body. Jeongguk rejoices in the way that Taehyung reacts to his touch, the way that the muscles on his tummy contract as he brushes his fingers over it. He nibbles a little on Taehyung’s navel, looking up at him and watching him throw his head back as his eyes flutter closed.

“Pretty,” Jeongguk tells him, popping open the button of Taehyung’s jeans. There’s a prominent bulge in the front of them, but Jeongguk purposefully ignores it as he pulls the zipper of them down. Taehyung moans. “And so needy.”

The moment that Jeongguk looks down, he remembers that conversation that Taehyung had with him when it was time for him to get the ass tattoo. About how he usually wears lace underwear, but that one time he had decided to stick with briefs to avoid flashing anyone.

See, even if they’ve slept in the same bed before, and to do that, they’ve gotten changed in other clothes. But Jeongguk, ever so respectful, always looked away or left the room to leave Taehyung with some privacy. Even after their thing started. He never got the chance to see Taehyung in his underwear again after the tattoo incident. That is, until today.

And now… well, Taehyung was being honest when he said he usually prefers lace stuff, or at least, that’s what Jeongguk assumes. From Taehyung’s open button and zipper Jeongguk can see a triangle of black lace peek through. The sight alone is enough to make Jeongguk’s cheeks heat up.

“Like what you see?” Taehyung asks this time around, tone almost mocking. Jeongguk blushes harder.

But he is going to compose himself, or at least, he’s going to try to. “I do,” he says. Just some lace panties aren’t going to be enough to leave him speechless, as sexy as they look on Taehyung. And so, he resumes his task of getting Taehyung naked.

“I’m gonna need you to touch me really soon, you know,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk smiles as he starts tugging at the jeans. “You’re being evil, you know.”

“I fail to see how,” Jeongguk replies, freeing Taehyung’s ankles from the jeans. Once he’s done, they join the rest of their clothes on the carpet.

“Come up here,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk obliges, going in for a kiss. Taehyung kisses him back, sucking on his tongue and making Jeongguk’s cock twitch from where it’s still trapped in his jeans and underwear.

This time around, Jeongguk is the one who yelps as Taehyung flips them around without a warning, placing himself on top of Jeongguk. Taehyung looks down at him with a smug smile, tracing his finger down Jeongguk’s chest playfully. Jeongguk, well… all he can do is stare up at Taehyung and try not to drool too much.

He really is everything Jeongguk could ever dream of, really. He’s all golden skin and lean limbs, the sexiest body that Jeongguk has ever seen in his entire life. Jeongguk feels the urge to kiss all of him, putting special emphasis on the tattoos that he can see, splattered over Taehyung’s body—the wave on his hip, the stars on his forearm, or the rainbow colored raindrops that Jeongguk inked on his wrist a couple of weeks ago. The lace panties just add up to it, something about them driving Jeongguk crazy. Maybe it’s the contrast they make against Taehyung’s skin, or maybe it’s the way in which Taehyung’s dick tents against them. Either way, they’re fucking hot.

Taehyung slowly makes his way down to the waistband of Jeongguk’s jeans, mimicking his actions from before as he slowly opens the button and pulls the zipper down. He tugs at them and tears them away from his thighs, but it’s then, once the piece of clothing is off and forgotten about on the floor, that Taehyung leans forward.

Jeongguk wasn’t ready for the feeling of Taehyung mouthing at his cock through his jeans, tongue wet as he drags against it despite the fabric separating them. He licks at the stain of pre-come that has appeared on the front of Jeongguk’s underwear, making him leak even more.

Taehyung’s palms are pressed flat against the inside of his thighs as he spreads them apart, settling himself in the middle of them. The touch of Taehyung’s soft hands, added to his mouth working on the front of his briefs, makes Jeongguk even more turned on than he thought was possible. He bites down on his bottom lip to hold back a moan that threatens to spill when Taehyung’s lips close around the head of his cock.

“You’re—ngh,” he starts, interrupting himself with a pleasured moan. “You’re a fucking tease.”

“Am I?” Taehyung asks, momentarily lifting his mouth from Jeongguk’s crotch so he can look at him in the eye. He doesn’t leave him completely unstimulated, though, but presses one of his palms against Jeongguk’s hard-rock erection. Jeongguk swallows down.

“Baby boy,” he tries. He’s going to need Taehyung to stop teasing him now, and this is the only thing he can think of. He’s already seen how seemingly weak Taehyung is for the pet name, so he tries his luck. “Be good.”

Taehyung looks at him. His lips part and he looks at Jeongguk before closing them, as if he’s unsure of what to do or say. Jeongguk feels a knot of what feels a lot like excitement appear in his belly when Taehyung kneels up on the mattress, looking at him.

“I want you to fuck me,” Taehyung says. There’s something about the suddenness and the bluntness of the confession that makes the pads of Jeongguk’s fingers tingle with electricity. “Can I ride you?”

Jeongguk lets out a low sound at the question. “Oh, God—yes,” he manages to get out. Taehyung smiles at the same time Jeongguk asks him, “Where’s the lube?”

“Let me get it,” Taehyung tells him, starting to crawl towards one of the bedside tables. He’s half on top of Jeongguk now, legs to each side of one of Jeongguk’s thighs, and Jeongguk can’t hold himself from giving Taehyung’s ass a light yet noisy slap. Taehyung looks at him and laughs at the same time he closes the drawer he was digging around in, a condom wrapper and a tube of lube in his hand. “You’re the one who needs to be good, I think.”

“I’m being good,” Jeongguk says. He lies back, resting his hand on his forearm as he watches Taehyung fiddle with the tube of lube. With his free hand he reaches towards Taehyung’s body and hooks one of his fingers in the waistband of Taehyung’s panties. “So, when are you going to take those off?”

“I thought you liked them,” Taehyung replies, giving him a playful look.

Jeongguk shows him half a smile. “And I do,” he replies. “But I am sure I would like what’s hiding underneath even more.”

Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, looking at Jeongguk intensely. He doesn’t need words, just a nod. Just a nod and Jeongguk knows that what Taehyung is telling him is to take them off, to leave him completely undressed and at his mercy. Jeongguk doesn’t break eye contact as he reaches for Taehyung’s hip with his other hand, just to then start to pull the panties down, slowly.

He watches in fascination how the hair on Taehyung’s thighs stands up high as he brushes his fingers and the fabric down Taehyung’s legs. The goosebumps somehow make it look even sexier, something that Jeongguk didn’t really think would be possible.

Jeongguk doesn’t allow himself to look at Taehyung’s crotch yet. There’s something about the buildup that makes everything more thrilling, so instead he entertains himself watching the lace slide down Taehyung’s sun-kissed legs. Taehyung sits down on his ass to allow Jeongguk to take the panties off completely, and Jeongguk finishes getting the piece of undergarment off. Taehyung dramatically lifts his leg up when it’s hanging off one of his ankles, causing it to go flying across the room as they both giggle.

“Well, that’s sexy,” Jeongguk tells him. His tone seems joking, but the worst part is that he does actually find it incredibly sexy. It could also be because he’s smitten, but…

“I’m sexy,” Taehyung tells him, resting his weight on both his arms as he presses his hands against the mattress. Taehyung looks at him with dark eyes as he tells him, “Look at me, Jeongguk. Look at me properly.”

Jeongguk swallows down thickly, but he obeys. Not only because Taehyung asked, but also because he’s dying to. His eyes slide down Taehyung’s torso almost lazily, taking in every inch of his soft and delicious skin, covered by a faint layer of sweat. He’s almost shy by the time he gets to the end of Taehyung’s abdomen and to his crotch, watching the way Taehyung’s cock stands tall and hard against his navel. He’s longer than Jeongguk himself is, albeit not as thick, and the vision of it is enough to make Jeongguk’s mouth water. He’s hard and flushed, all for Jeongguk, and Jeongguk swears he’s going to take care of him.

He looks back at Taehyung, who has a stupidly smug smile plastered on his face, almost as if he knew that the vision of himself naked would be enough to leave Jeongguk speechless and dumbfounded. Jeongguk can’t bring himself to be mad or annoyed at it, and just reaches for the tube of lube that Taehyung left on the mattress when he sat down.

“Can I finger you?” he asks as he takes it in his hand. Taehyung looks at him curious. “Please.”

“Yes,” Taehyung tells him, not a hint or trace of hesitation in his voice. “Yes, I want you to touch me. Finger me, please.”

Jeongguk’s mouth goes dry, but he starts moving then. Taehyung wordlessly places himself on his back and opens his legs up, parting them for Jeongguk to place himself in the middle. Jeongguk’s cheeks get hotter then, be it because of being flustered or because of the wave of want that washes over him as he squirts the lube on his palm.

He fingers Taehyung thoroughly. First with one digit, sliding inside easy and carefully—tentatively, almost. Taehyung takes his fingers one by one, and eventually Jeongguk gives him three fingers while jerking him off, making Taehyung writhe on the bed as he grits out words of pleasure.

“Now, Jeongguk,” Taehyung ends up telling him, one of his legs hooked over Jeongguk’s shoulders as he sucks a mark on the other one. Jeongguk looks up at him inquiringly, but his teeth and tongue are still working on Taehyung’s thigh. “Now, come on—I want you inside of me now.” Before Jeongguk can make any smartass remarks about how he technically is inside of him already, Taehyung adds, “I want your cock in me, fuck.”

Every time Taehyung says that or something along those lines, Jeongguk’s heart jumps inside his chest. He wants nothing more than to be inside of Taehyung now and give it to him, and so, he starts to pull back and retreats his fingers from him. Taehyung sighs at the emptiness, and Jeongguk tries not to stare too much at the way in which Taehyung clenches around air. The more entertained he gets, the longer it will take him to finally get himself ready to slide inside of Taehyung and finally get what both of them want.

“Okay, yes, yes,” he says as he wipes his fingers clean on his leg, but it seems as if he’s telling it to himself rather than to Taehyung. Finally, he can get rid of his underwear, that now has a large stain of pre-come on the front. He grabs the condom and tears the wrapper open under Taehyung’s attentive gaze, despite how slippery his fingers are still. He then pinches the tip of it and finally slides it onto his dick, groaning at the feeling.

“Hurry,” Taehyung tells him while he slicks himself up with more lube. When he’s done, Taehyung presses a hand against his shoulder and tells him, “Come on, come on. Against the headboard.”

“Against the headboard,” Jeongguk tells him, getting into position. Taehyung gives him a playful grin, moving to straddle him. He holds back a gasp as Taehyung’s slender fingers wrap around Jeongguk’s cock, placing the head of his cock against Taehyung’s hole. “Come on, sink down onto my dick.”

He’s both feeling and sounding impatient by now but he can’t help it. It feels like Taehyung and he have been kissing and touching for ages, and like he’s been riled up for too long. The feeling of Taehyung’s entrance against the head of his cock is what is making Jeongguk feel like he’s running out of patience at last—he’s been needing this for long, and so he needs it now. The way in which his dick throbs is just proof of that.

Taehyung stares straight into his eyes as he starts to lower himself on Jeongguk’s dick. There is something about the blissful expression on his face, lips red and parted and eyes squeezed close, that makes Jeongguk’s stomach contort pleasurably. The feeling of Taehyung finally sinking down onto him and taking him in inch by inch is what makes Jeongguk let out a loud moan, overwhelmed by the heat and the tightness.

“Fuck,” Taehyung mutters, almost on an exhalation. He lets go of the base of Jeongguk’s dick and instead moves both of his hands to Jeongguk’s shoulders. Jeongguk can feel him clench tentatively around himself, his walls engulfing him completely. “You’re—oh, shit—you’re bigger than I was expecting.”

“Is that good or b-bad,” Jeongguk asks, letting his hands go over to Taehyung’s hips to hold them lightly. He stutters as Taehyung moves his hips a little, sending a jolt of pleasure down Jeongguk’s spine.

“Good,” Taehyung replies, lifting himself up so almost all of Jeongguk’s cock is now out of him. Jeongguk sucks in a breath, anticipating. Before letting himself fall on him again, Taehyung adds, “Of course it’s good.”

Jeongguk’s reply dies in his throat as Taehyung lowers himself, feeling that delicious heat around him once again. It almost feels as if he can feel him go down inch by inch, taking him all the way in. This time around, though, Taehyung doesn’t make a pause when Jeongguk is all the way inside of him. He lifts himself up again, building a rhythm that despite being slow blows Jeongguk away.

Taehyung’s nails dig into Jeongguk’s shoulders as he bounces on his cock, going all the way down before he lifts himself up again. Jeongguk looks up at Taehyung, taking in his parted lips and the low sounds that come out of his lips with each movement of his.

“You’re so tight,” Jeongguk tells him, Taehyung opening his eyes to look at him as well. There is something about the lust and pure, unadulterated desire in them that makes Jeongguk suck in a breath. “Fuck, Tae.”

He’s unable to keep his hands still or away from Taehyung. He starts touching his hips, but eventually moves his palms down his thighs, to his ass—everywhere. He’s trying to trace all of Taehyung’s skin with his hands, engrave it in his memory so he remembers every curve and void even with his eyes closed.

“So fucking hot,” Taehyung says, voice breathy as he keeps riding Jeongguk’s cock. “I want you so bad. Please—more, more, more.”

At some point, Jeongguk grips Taehyung's hips so hard that he feels like he's going to leave the imprints of his fingers behind, plastered in pretty violets. Maybe it's Jeongguk's imagination, but he swears he can feel Taehyung shake a little under his touch. What is impossible for Jeongguk to miss is the moan that escapes Taehyung's lips then, his hips faltering in their rhythm.

“God, kiss me,” Jeongguk tells him. They chase each other’s lips like lovers who haven't seen each other in forever, with the same neediness and eagerness.

It’s hard for Jeongguk to make sense of how desperately he wants Taehyung, considering they’ve been seeing each other nearly every day for the last few weeks. Maybe it’s caused by the fact that it’s their first time ever, but Jeongguk doesn’t think that’s the reason. A part of him is sure that the attraction that reigns between him and Taehyung is something completely new for him, something he’s never felt for someone else. Something new.

It’s impossible for Jeongguk to miss the moment when the head of his cock grazes against Taehyung’s prostate. Taehyung throws his head back, lips taking the shape of an O as he lets out a low oh. His fingers tighten around Jeongguk’s shoulders as his hips falter, thighs shaking a little.

“Right there,” Taehyung says. He keeps bouncing, following that exact same angle and letting out the most delicious noises. “Oh, fuck, Jeongguk—right there, yes.”

Taehyung says something else, but he interrupts himself with a loud, broken moan. Jeongguk can’t help but hold on to Taehyung’s hips and watch him adoringly as he keeps fucking himself on Jeongguk’s cock. He seems to be in such a deep state of ecstasy as he speeds up, making something stir inside of Jeongguk as well and bringing him closer to climax.

“I’ve—oh, fuck,” Jeongguk starts, but a low groan interrupts his words. “I’ve got you. God, Taehyung.”

He moves his hips as much as he can from his position, trying to help build up more pleasure. It’s not much, but judging by the way Taehyung clenches around him as he lets out a loud moan, it’s more than enough.

“I’m going to come,” Taehyung tells him. His voice sounds rough and broken, strained. He does sound close, and Jeongguk loves it. If someone told him when he first met Taehyung that he’d get the chance to hear his deliciously deep, rich voice when he was close to orgasm, he would have died on the spot. The sound alone is one of the sexiest things that Jeongguk has had the chance to hear, so sultry and straight up fucking hot.

Not to mention the way he looks. He really is a vision, one that Jeongguk is sure will haunt him during the lonely nights where his only company is his right hand.  Jeongguk can’t help himself, so he reaches forward and attaches his mouth to Taehyung’s neck. He can taste the saltiness of his sweat, but he doesn’t care as he keeps pressing wet kisses against the skin.

“Come for me,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung, now unable to lift himself up on his thighs anymore, has resorted to moving his hips in circular motions. Jeongguk places his hands on them, helping Taehyung move.

“Yes,” Taehyung replies, at the same time he nods frantically. Jeongguk reaches with his right hand and wraps his fingers around Taehyung’s cock, starting to stroke him at a fast pace. Taehyung lets out a long-drawn moan, saying, “Yes, Jeongguk, yes. Make me come all over your dick, fuck.”

It doesn’t take long for Taehyung to come after that. He spills all over Jeongguk’s hand, covering his palm and knuckles in white. As he does so, he lets out a whine, one that Jeongguk thinks sounds oddly enough similar to his name. Jeongguk follows him soon after, bucking up his thrusts inside of Taehyung until he comes inside the condom.

They’re left in silence for a few moments, with Taehyung resting his forehead in the crook of Jeongguk’s neck as Jeongguk loops his arms around Taehyung’s waist lightly. They’re both sweaty and panting, Taehyung’s harsh exhalations tickling Jeongguk’s neck.

Jeongguk doesn’t know what to say—in fact, he doesn’t think saying anything is necessary at all. So he just moves his head a little and presses a sweet kiss against Taehyung’s ear, making Taehyung giggle against his neck.

“You good?” Jeongguk asks him, kissing him yet again.

Taehyung lets out a content noise, nuzzling Jeongguk’s neck before raising his gaze to look at him. “I’m perfect,” Taehyung replies, leaning in for a peck. Jeongguk tries to deepen the kiss to no avail, and he whines in protest when Taehyung pulls back. “Let me get off your dick before you go all soft on me.”

“Wow,” Jeongguk says, laughing a little. Taehyung gives him a funny look at the same time he reaches down and holds Jeongguk’s cock from the base, keeping the condom in place as he starts moving. “We should probably clean up.”

“Hold on,” Taehyung says. At the same time he leaves the condom aside, he reaches down and grabs his shirt from the floor. “Use this. It was going straight to the laundry basket, anyway.”

“You’re so gross,” replies Jeongguk. Taehyung sticks his tongue out at him after cleaning the lube from his inner thigh, throwing the shirt right at Taehyung’s head. “Thank you, babe.”

“I got you,” Taehyung tells him, watching Jeongguk clean the come from his fingers, as well as the remains of lube from the condom that are left on his dick. “I want to cuddle naked.”

Jeongguk smiles at him, one of the corners of his mouth lifting up in half a smile. “Thank God I’m a cuddler, then,” Jeongguk says. “Come here. I’m gonna cuddle you to death.”

“Is that a threat, Jeon Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks him, raising an eyebrow as he starts to get under the covers.

Jeongguk just laughs cheerfully, mimicking Taehyung. As soon as he’s lying there, Taehyung makes sure to curl around him, hooking one of his legs around Jeongguk’s body and hugging his middle.

After that, Jeongguk just turns the light off and they fall into comfortable silence. Taehyung draws shapes on his chest with his finger, helping lull Jeongguk to sleep. His thoughts are just a string of sleepy, disjointed ramblings, really. But among all that nonsense there is something else, something important. Maybe it’s because of his tiredness that he, for the first time, doesn’t shy away from a thought that has been rounding his mind for weeks. One that is a little scary, but equally exciting and thrilling.

He knows that his feelings for Taehyung are past just liking him at this point, a verb that now sounds superfluous and even childish if Jeongguk thinks of it in relation to what exists between them now. No, Jeongguk knows that there is something else going on. Something strong and unknown, bigger than anything he has felt before. Jeongguk thinks he’s falling in love with Taehyung.

 

 

The morning of the next Saturday finds Jeongguk going with Yoongi so he can buy a new bed for his dog, his old puppy dog now barely fitting anymore. The two of them visit what Yoongi says is the best pet shop in the entire capital, and walk down aisles and aisles full of pet care products before finding the bed.

Of course, Yoongi, as the most dedicated dog owner that Jeongguk has ever had the chance to meet, is indecisive. Had it been Jeongguk, he probably would have grabbed the first bed he saw—not out of disinterest, but just convenience. Yoongi carefully examines the bed—this one is too small, this one isn’t pillowy enough, this one is too high. Jeongguk brings his palm to his face as Yoongi starts feeling them one by one, trying to find the most comfortable one for his dog.

“I really don’t know you,” Jeongguk says, looking to the sides to make sure no one will see them like this.

Yoongi moves to the next bed. “When you become a dog dad you will understand,” he tells him.

“I don’t think so,” Jeongguk mutters. As much as he loves dogs, he has trouble imagining himself putting as much care and detail into picking a bed. Does that make him a bad dog dad? God, he hopes not. “You’re just an overprotective dog dad.”

“I’m a perfect dog dad,” Yoongi tells him. Jeongguk rolls his eyes, even if Yoongi can’t see him, as he’s turned with his back to him. “Speaking of—how are things with Taehyung?”

Jeongguk stares at Yoongi’s nape for a moment, confused about the turn the conversation took. “What does that have to do with being a dog dad?” he asks, once Yoongi turns around to look at him with inquiring eyes.

“I don’t know. He will be the other dog dad to your dogs, won’t he?” Yoongi starts. Jeongguk doesn’t reply, his mind going to that question now, too. He knows for a fact that Taehyung loves dogs and pets overall, so it’s likely that they will at some point adopt a dog together. He makes a mental note to remember to ask Taehyung what his favorite breeds are. “You still haven’t replied, though. How are things?”

Yoongi’s insistence is what makes Jeongguk snap out of his daze. “They’re perfect,” Jeongguk tells him. Then, remembering about the other night at Taehyung’s, he says, “We had sex the other day.”

“You what?” Yoongi asks, turning around to give Jeongguk a pointed look. Jeongguk bites down on his lip. “First of all, it took you longer than I bet. And second of all—when?”

“You bet on it?” Jeongguk asks. Yoongi waves with his hand, as to dismiss it. Jeongguk makes another mental note, this time around to remember to ask Seokjin or Hoseok about the bet. He doesn’t even need to wonder who else might be involved in such a thing. “Last Saturday, after you all left.”

“I can’t believe you two had the energy to have sex at that hour,” Yoongi comments. Jeongguk makes a hum in agreement—he can’t believe it, either. “And how was it? Did it live up to the expectations?”

“It blew away all of the expectations, to be honest,” Jeongguk admits. He feels his cheeks go a little red at the admission, memories of the night rushing to his mind. Yoongi smiles endeared. “I… I really like him, Yoongi. I’m falling in love with him.”

It’s the first time he has voiced it out loud or told anyone else about it. The dog bed aisle of a pet shop might not be the ideal scenario for it, but Jeongguk has always liked spontaneity, and this is as candid as it gets. Yoongi’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise and his lips part, and for a moment he looks at Jeongguk with that surprised expression of his where his mouth just hangs open in an almost lazy way.

“In love?” Yoongi repeats, almost tentatively. He sounds like he’s checking whether he heard right or not.

“In love,” Jeongguk confirms, nodding. He’s not afraid to accept his feelings for Taehyung. “I just… He’s important to me, Yoongi. I don’t know how he’s managed to get so deep under my skin, but he makes me happy, and I know that I want to be with him for a very long time.”

“That’s very sweet,” Yoongi tells him, a wide and gummy smile appearing on his face. “So… are you thinking of taking things a step further, maybe? Making the relationship official.”

“I—I have, yeah,” Jeongguk admits, with a sigh. “I just… I don’t know how to. I’ve never been in that situation before. Am I supposed to make it special? Shouldn’t there be a story for him and me to tell friends and family when they ask how we started dating?”

“Well, of course it has to be special,” Yoongi says. “But obviously, that depends on what you understand to be special. You don’t need a super prepared, planned scheme to ask him out. As long as it’s an intimate moment between the two of you and you feel the connection, then that’s special. There’s not a better and more exciting story to try to put into words than the thrilling feeling of being in loved and loving someone. Just make sure he feels that—everything else is secondary.”

“The thrilling feeling of being loved and loving someone,” Jeongguk repeats, under his breath. Yoongi nods. “Is that what you felt when Namjoon asked you out?”

“Absolutely,” Yoongi replies. “And you know the story. Nothing too crazy, or nothing that you’d see in a romcom. But when you know, you know. And trust me—when you feel it, you’ll know.”

Jeongguk does indeed know the story. It was one of the first times that Namjoon had stayed over at Yoongi’s place, the morning after. Namjoon was serving them both a cup of coffee when he accidentally dropped Yoongi’s glass coffee machine, causing a mess of glass and coffee on the floor. In Yoongi’s words, Namjoon had gone pale as a paper sheet and started apologizing—about the coffee machine, about the fact that there was glass on the floor and Yoongi had a dog… Yoongi had just burst into laughter then, under Namjoon’s dumbfounded gaze.

Just help me clean that up and stop apologizing, come on, Yoongi had told him.

Much to Yoongi’s surprise, what Namjoon said in response then had little to do with the coffee machine, the glass, or anything like that. Namjoon had blurted out be my boyfriend. Yoongi said that he legit asked Namjoon a wait, what? and so Namjoon had to ask him again. And the rest, well… the rest is history. A long time has gone by then, and they’re still together and happier than ever.

Jeongguk nods at Yoongi. He does trust him and his advice, especially on a matter like this. He just needs to find a moment like that, a moment where he feels the connection.

He’ll know, Yoongi assured him. Jeongguk will be looking out for that moment.

 

 

Jeongguk sees Taehyung that very same evening, when Taehyung drops by with a big container of chocolate ice-cream and a bright, wide smile.

As much as they like to hang out with their friends, sometimes they need days like these—just for the two of them. They settle on Jeongguk’s couch with Jeongguk leaning against it on his back, Taehyung sitting in the middle of his parted legs. He rests his back against Jeongguk’s chest, with Jeongguk hooking his head over his shoulder to look at his laptop. On the screen, some trashy show whose existence they’ve discovered just ten minutes ago is playing as they start eating their ice-cream.

It’s ideal, really. He’s a homebody, so this is his perfect Saturday evening.

One of Jeongguk’s biggest pet peeves has always been people who talk during movies or while watching anything at all, but oddly enough he doesn’t feel that annoyance when it comes to Taehyung. It’s because of how fucking smitten for the other man he is, he’s more than aware of that.

And so, he listens closely when Taehyung suddenly says, “I want you to give me another tattoo.”

“Another tattoo?” Jeongguk repeats. Taehyung, whose lips are wrapped around the spoon, nods. “What kind of tattoo?”

“See, I don’t have anything in mind,” Taehyung replies, looking over his shoulder so he can take a brief look at Jeongguk. “I keep thinking about what you said when we first met, about how you like to give the artist as much freedom as possible. I want… I want for you to have total freedom. Pick the place, pick the tattoo, pick the meaning behind it. I want you to design a tattoo for me, totally from scratch.”

“That’s… that’s a challenge, but it’s a very interesting one that I’m up to,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung smirks. Of course he knew Jeongguk would agree. “Any limitations? Like, any areas or themes that I should avoid?”

“You know how I am, no tattoos in super visible areas. I like to keep those neat,” Taehyung tells him, playful. Jeongguk smiles. “As for themes for the design, I don’t think there’s anything that I don’t want. Of course, I want it to be something in your style. Something that makes you think of me, you know? And hopefully, something that will make me think of you.”

“Got it,” Jeongguk says, nodding. “This will take time, though. I want it to be perfect. Perfect for you, and perfect overall.”

Taehyung smiles at that, big and genuine. “Of course,” he tells Jeongguk, leaning forward so he can press a pecking kiss against Jeongguk’s lips. It’s sticky and cold because of the ice-cream, but Jeongguk adores it. “I’m already excited to see what you have in store for me.”

“You’ll have to wait and see,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung narrows his eyes at him before he looks back at the screen of Jeongguk’s laptop.

Maybe it’s because this is what Jeongguk dedicates himself to professionally, but to him, this is important. He knows that each one of Taehyung’s tattoos holds significance to him, even if there is not a deep, profound or personal meaning behind them. The fact that Taehyung wants to have his designs on his skin is more than flattering to Jeongguk. But now that he’s explicitly said he wants a tattoo that will make him think of Jeongguk… that’s big, and that’s serious. It sounds like commitment—a commitment that Jeongguk wants to have with Taehyung.

All in all, Jeongguk feels like this is important. Taehyung wants to get inked on his body a piece of not just his art, but also a piece of him. A piece of Jeongguk. And to Jeongguk, that feels like a milestone.

 

 

Jeongguk has always dreaded grocery shopping. He’s the kind to delay it as much as possible, only making trips to the supermarket when it’s strictly necessary, meaning his fridge and kitchen cabinets are straight up empty. But that was before he ever went on his first grocery shopping trip with Taehyung.

Shopping with Taehyung is, oddly enough, fun. He’s aware that this is again a product resulting from him being terribly smitten, but buying groceries really is so much better with Taehyung’s presence. Instead of pushing the cart along aisles and aisles and grabbing the same things he always does, Taehyung and him chat away looking at the list that both of them had made beforehand.

“I can’t believe you’re wasting away your cooking talent by making ramen every single day,” Taehyung tells him, upon discovering that Jeongguk’s dinner most days consists of precooked food.

“I only cook when I have a good reason to. Otherwise, I can’t be bothered,” Jeongguk replies.

“Then I guess I’m gonna have to have dinner with you a lot more often. Just so you eat healthier,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk doesn’t even need to look at him to know that there is a smile on his face.

“As if you’re one to talk,” Jeongguk tells him, teasing. Taehyung narrows his eyes at him as he looks at Jeongguk over his shoulder. “You always eat noodles precooked food.”

“I do cook sometimes, thank you very much. But when I don’t, that’s because I don’t know how to make proper food,” Taehyung tells him. “Which, speaking of—you’re gonna need to teach me. It’s definitely more motivation than following online recipes.”

“We can make dinner together tonight, then,” Jeongguk tells him. “Does that sound good? What do you want?”

“I want eat good tonight,” Taehyung says, staying still as he touches his chin. Jeongguk stops pushing the cart, looking at Taehyung. It definitely is a funny scene, Taehyung staying still seemingly in deep thought in the middle of an aisle. “Maybe beef? I could definitely eat some bulgogi.”

“Bulgogi it is, then,” Jeongguk says with a nod, starting to walk again. Taehyung follows him. “We still need to get ketchup and frozen chips, though.”

“Fitness life,” Taehyung mutters under his breath. Jeongguk, who is walking now by his side, lets go of he cart to give Taehyung’s ass a light slap. “Hey!”

“Hey, what?” Jeongguk asks feeling Taehyung’s eyes boring holes on his face. He doesn’t look his way, though.

“Hey, be good,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk can’t hold back a smile. “Slapping my ass like that, in public. You have no shame, Mr. Jeon.”

Jeongguk’s grin widens. And then, just because he’s as much of a little shit as Taehyung is and he loves teasing the elder, Jeongguk adds, “Would you rather I slapped it in private, baby boy?”

This time around, Jeongguk does look at Taehyung. His cheeks and the tips of his ears have turned a bright red, be it out of being flustered or embarrassed. He looks down to the tiles floor at the same time he whisper-yells, “Jeongguk!”

Jeongguk just bursts into giggles, not bothering to reply. As he laughs, Taehyung pushes him on the shoulder, making him stumble over his feet and almost knock over a big tower of tomato sauce. That’s exactly what Jeongguk meant—despite the fact that people are looking at them as they walk down the aisle, despite the fact that he almost caused a disaster with some glass tomato sauce jars, Taehyung’s presence makes the act of shopping infinitely better.

It’s then that Jeongguk has the sudden realization that this isn’t just about shopping trips. It’s also about Saturday evenings, about having something to look forward to after work and having someone that he wants to actually make an effort for—be it cooking, dressing up, planning dates… Taehyung doesn’t just make grocery shopping better. Taehyung makes Jeongguk’s life better, just with his presence, his light and his affection.

And for that exact reason, Jeongguk knows that he can’t let him go.

 

 

On the next Wednesday, Jeongguk leaves the parlor as soon as he’s done with work so he can pick Taehyung up at the studio and they can go together to Taehyung’s, as Wednesday means movie night.

“The Taehyung effect is all over you,” says Seokjin once Jeongguk steps out of the studio area and into the reception. Jeongguk frowns.

“The Taehyung effect?” Jeongguk repeats, voice tilting up into a question. He asks further, saying “And what exactly is that supposed to mean?”

“It means you have that smile on your face and a happy bounce to your steps. It’s adorable, really,” Seokjin says, resting his elbows on the counter and giving Jeongguk a knowing, devious smile. “We should be thankful to Taehyung for finally managing to make you cute.”

“Fuck off,” Jeongguk tells him, even if he doesn’t mean it. “I am cute. It’s not my fault that you’ve always had shit taste.”

“Sure thing,” Seokjin singsongs as Jeongguk starts to walk to the door. Jeongguk just flips him off before leaving, hearing Seokjin cackling on the background even after he’s closed the door behind himself.

Even if what he replies to is the last part of Seokjin’s statement, it’s the first part what stays on his mind. He has already come to terms with the ways in which Taehyung has changed him and his life, but he never thought that they could be seen like that from an outsider’s perspective. So easily.

The thought puts a smile on his face, at the same time it makes him wonder whether there is some sort of Jeongguk effect in Taehyung’s life as well. He likes to think that he also makes Taehyung a little happier, that he makes his like a little better. And so, without stopping his walk, he texts Jimin.

Has Taehyung changed since he met me

Like Seokjin said that he can see on me the Taehyung effect

Is there a Jeongguk effect or… nah

After that he locks his phone and puts it on the pocket of his jacket, telling himself he’ll check it out later. He doesn’t get a text back during the walk to Taehyung’s studio, but he’s not too bothered by it. He knows that Jimin is probably still at work still, so he’ll talk to him later.

It doesn’t take too long for him to get to the studio, or perhaps he’s so excited about seeing Taehyung that it goes by faster for him. He opens the door when he gets there, being welcome by the familiar sound of a tattoo gun.

Jeongguk decides to wait in the couch area instead of bothering Taehyung, but then he hears his deep voice asking, “Hello?”

“Hey,” Jeongguk replies, seeing Taehyung’s head peak from the studio area. A smile appears on his face as soon as he sees Jeongguk there. “Am I here early?”

“I just had a surprise visit,” Taehyung explains to him, shaking his head. “Come over here?”

“Coming,” Jeongguk says, reciprocating the smile.

He walks towards the studio area, not sure of what to expect. He doesn’t really think of anything, really. He doesn’t know Taehyung’s clients, so his brain doesn’t bother… well, doesn’t bother theorizing about who it could be that was behind the wall. Little did he know that he’d fine one of the few clients of Taehyung that he’s met before.

It’s not a face that Jeongguk has been able to forget. There, laying on his belly and resting his body up on his elbows so he can look exactly in Jeongguk’s direction, is Hyungsik. It’s only the second time they’ve met, the first time since he knows about the affair that used to exist between Taehyung and him. That’s the reason why he feels the ugly feeling of jealousy in his chest, stingy. It feels like a poisonous dart being sent straight to his heart—in the beginning is just a jab, but Jeongguk can feel it spread inside of him by the second.

“Hey there,” Hyungsik greets him, raising an eyebrow. Jeongguk clenches his jaw at the same time that he swallows down, thickly. Something about Hyungsik’s greeting doesn’t exactly sound like he’s being polite, or nice. Jeongguk ignores it.

Hyungsik looks at him almost with disdain. His eyes scan Jeongguk from head to toe, from the messiness of his dark hair to his worn-out black Pumas that he refuses to replace. Jeongguk has never cared much about fashion or his clothes, but in this exact moment he feels almost embarrassed.

“Good evening,” he says, eyes drifting away from his face and to his back. “What are you doing, Tae?”

Needless to say, this is also the first time that Jeongguk sees Hyungsik without a shirt. Never in a million years would have Jeongguk guesses that under the fancy clothes, the suits and the perfectly ironed shirts there was a body as inked as this one. His back and shoulders are all covered in tattoos, tattoos that Jeongguk can see disappear under his waistband and towards the front of his body. Jeongguk tries to ignore the pang of jealousy upon recognizing so much of Taehyung’s style inked in this man’s body.

“Barbed wire,” Taehyung tells him, again focusing on his task. This is not the first time that Jeongguk sees Taehyung working, but he always finds himself amazed by the focused expression on Taehyung’s face every time he’s inking someone. He finds the frown between his eyebrows equally hot and adorable at the same time. “I’ll be done quick, though. It’s just some small details.”

Jeongguk hums, nodding. That’s good news, really. Not that they’re in a big rush, since their parlors don’t open super early in the morning and they have all night to themselves. But there’s something about Hyungsik’s presence that makes Jeongguk extremely uneasy—be it that he is Taehyung’s past lover, or that he is a dangerous man deeply involved with a gang. He just doesn’t like him.

“I won’t keep him with me for much longer,” Hyungsik tells him, looking at Jeongguk briefly. He then shifts his eyes towards Taehyung. “Anyway, as I was telling you before we were interrupted—we have a few new kids, teenagers. You think you can get them inked for us?”

Jeongguk is surprised that Hyungsik mentions this so freely with him there, to say the least. He wonders if Taehyung has told him about him, although he doubts it. Why would he talk to his ex about the guy he’s seeing now? He’s not going to ask Taehyung, either way. That’d just be… awkward.

Maybe the reason why he did was to check for Jeongguk’s reaction. Hyungsik didn’t directly mention a gang in his statement, after all. By mentioning it in front of Jeongguk and studying his reaction, Hyungsik could easily determine what Jeongguk knows. That’s why Jeongguk tries to keep his best poker face.

“I’ve told you I’m not going to work with underaged people anymore,” Taehyung tells him, sounding mildly irritated. Almost as if this wasn’t his first time telling this to Hyungsik. “I’m trying to stay clean now, Hyungsik. No illegal business.”

Jeongguk doesn’t feel fully comfortable with all of this happening before him. He knows what Taehyung did in the past, knows that he still inks the guys from the gang, even if know he treats them just like he would with any other client. But that doesn’t change the fact that he feels terribly out of place right now. This is not his world—it’s not something that he knows, something that he is comfortable with. Hyungsik is fully aware of that, and that is most likely why he is doing this.

Hyungsik clicks his tongue. “We can’t keep doing things like this, Taehyung. When you agreed to work for us, you knew that we had underaged members. It was never a problem for you before,” he accuses. He doesn’t sound too happy now, either, but he’s not being hostile.

“Hyungsik, I’m not going to repeat myself,” Taehyung says, firm. His voice sounds calm, but also incredibly cold. Jeongguk has never had Taehyung use that tone with him, and he hopes he never has the displeasure to. “I worked with you, not for you. And that’s over now. These are my rules, you take them or you leave them. You can find yourself a new artist if you want to, but I don’t need to get myself involved in that kind of shit anymore.”

Hyungsik exhales sharply, then. Jeongguk’s gaze flickers between the two of them, feeling how tense the air in the room is. He doesn’t say anything, though—it’s not his problem to resolve, nor his discussion to have. He watches in silence how Taehyung finishes the details of Hyungsik’s tattoo, both of them just as quiet as Jeongguk himself is.

Loyal to his word, Taehyung is done soon. He leaves the tattoo gun aside and starts with the cleaning and healing of the tattoo, carefully despite the clear irritation on his voice.

“You’re done,” Taehyung tells him once he’s secured the plastic film against it, taking his latex gloves off loudly. “Come on, let’s go. I’ve had a long day and I want to get home already.”

“Of course,” Hyungsik tells him, standing up from the studio chair. He walks towards the hanger on the wall, where his baby blue button-down shirt is. “Are you two on a rush, then? Going somewhere”

“That’s none of your business, Hyungsik,” Taehyung tells him, giving the man a pointed look. Almost like a warning, Jeongguk thinks.

“Oh, but it is,” Hyungsik says. Taehyung clenches his jaw and looks at him, hands on his hips. “Isn’t this the guy that you left me for? I think it is my fucking business, Taehyung.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Taehyung mutters under his breath, looking away for a moment before his eyes land on Hyungsik again. He doesn’t look irritated anymore, but straight up pissed off. “We’re not doing this, Hyungsik. Just get out of here before I kick you out.”

“I want an explanation,” Hyungsik demands then, not moving. “I deserve one, Taehyung.”

He looks calm, far too calm. It’s the calculating sort of calm that Jeongguk has seen on villains in movies through all of his life. It makes him uneasy. Jeongguk doesn’t like to be around Hyungsik, as he suspects that the man is capable of horrible things. He especially doesn’t like to be around him when the conversation is turning as tense as this one. Taehyung doesn’t seem to be afraid of standing up to him, though.

“The explanation is that I didn’t want to be with you anymore, and that’s it,” Taehyung says. “I don’t need to tell you anything that goes on in my life, Hyungsik. Stop being so fucking entitled.”

Hyungsik doesn’t reply right away, still buttoning up his shirt without much of a hurry. He gives Taehyung a look that looks completely cryptic to Jeongguk. Taehyung just looks at him with eyes devoid of emotion.

“I see you still like to ink the men that you lay with,” Hyungsik comments, his eyes briefly passing over Jeongguk’s arm. His skin prickles.

Taehyung cackles at that, bitterly. “Are you really going to go down that path now? Who I sleep with is not something that you have the right to talk to, Hyungsik. Shut the fuck up and leave already.”

If Jeongguk was already feeling uncomfortable, this is just making it worse. He catches his bottom lip between his teeth, his anxiety increasing by the minute. Being here, witnessing this exchange, is making a tight and overwhelming sensation appear on his chest.

“You know I would never question your taste, as I’ve always thought you’re more in the refined side,” Hyungsik tells him, looking at Jeongguk again. There it is—the disdain. Jeongguk can’t help but feel small. “But this really was a downgrade, don’t you think? I thought you liked sophistication.”

Jeongguk doesn’t see Taehyung move, really. Hyungsik and him were in opposite corners of the parlor one minute, the studio chair placed between them. But next thing he knows, Taehyung is right in front of the man, less than one step away, raising his arm.

There’s nothing that Jeongguk can do to stop Taehyung from hitting Hyungsik square in the face with his closed fist, but even if he could, he doesn’t think he would have made an effort to stop him. The punch is painful even to Jeongguk’s ear, who thinks he can hear the cracking of bone, or cartilage, or whatever the fuck it is. Jeongguk knows better than anyone that despite not having bulging muscles, Taehyung is strong. The punch, as well as the scream that Hyungsik lets out after it, are just proof of that.

Hyungsik throws his head back with a loud cry, his hands cupping his face on the front. He looks at Taehyung with shocked eyes and an alarmed expression, just as surprised as Jeongguk himself feels. He doesn’t find himself capable of moving, choosing instead to observe and not interfere. It’s not like Taehyung needs him to, anyway—Taehyung’s got this. He’s way more ready and capable of dealing with a situation like this than Jeongguk, that’s for sure.

“Leave. Now,” Taehyung orders. Another abrupt movement and he’s getting Hyungsik’s jacket from the hanger, throwing it to him. Hyungsik catches it with a bloodied hand. “And keep my name and Jeongguk’s out of your mouth. What I do is not for you to question, Hyungsik. Remember that.”

“This is not going to be the end of this,” Hyungsik tells him, voice coming out weird and muffled. Something about it gives Jeongguk chills. “You’re going to regret doing that, Taehyung.”

“Your threats don’t scare me,” Taehyung tells him, unafraid as ever. “Out. Now.”

Hyungsik does say something else, gritted between his teeth, but it’s so low that Jeongguk doesn’t quiet catch it. After that, he spits some blood on the floor, right before Taehyung’s feet, right before turning around and storming out of the parlor.

Jeongguk looks at Taehyung, not knowing well what to say. Taehyung, on his side, exclaims, “What a fucking asshole.”

The bluntness and sincerity in Taehyung’s tone makes Jeongguk smile a little. It’s crazy how the tension completely vanishes from the environment once that the door closes and Hyungsik is out and away, unable to let the negativity that he brings with him reign in the room.

“Is your hand okay?” Jeongguk asks, worried. What he was concerned about the moment he heard the punch was Taehyung’s hand, not Hyungsik’s nose. “That was quite the blow.”

“It hurts like a motherfucker,” Taehyung says then, shaking it with a grimace. “Don’t let me punch anyone ever again, Jesus.”

Jeongguk laughs at that, cheerfully. “I won’t, babe,” he tells Taehyung. Taehyung smiles at him. “Do you have an icepack here?”

“I think so?” Taehyung says, voice tilting up, unsure. “Let me go look.”

“I got this,” Jeongguk tells him, gesturing at him not to move. “The fridge, right? I’ll be right back.”

Jeongguk is back with the icepack less than a minute after, tending it to Taehyung, who presses it against his knuckles. Taehyung thanks him, giving him a grateful smile. Even if Taehyung insists for him not to do it, Jeongguk starts to clean up and tidy things while Taehyung ices his hand, not wanting him to get a swollen fist. He also makes sure to clean Hyungsik’s blood from the floor. He’s an efficient cleaner, so it’s not long before he’s done and they can leave the parlor hand in hand.

“My hero,” Taehyung tells him as they walk home, Jeongguk holding Taehyung’s good hand on his. “What would I do without you?”

“You’d do just fine. You’re the one who is punching people in the face, aren’t you?” Jeongguk asks. Taehyung laughs at his comment. “Aren’t… aren’t you scared of him.”

“Of Hyungsik?” Taehyung asks, sounding even a little surprised at Jeongguk’s question. Jeongguk hums affirmatively. “No way. He won’t hurt him, I know that.”

Jeongguk doesn’t question why Taehyung is so sure that he has immunity against Hyungsik—he thinks he knows the answer, and it’s not one that he is keen on. He’d very much rather forget that anything ever happened between the two of them, really. Hyungsik seems like a really toxic person, from Taehyung’s—biased—point of view. He doesn’t know what he was like when Taehyung and him were together, but he’s glad that Taehyung is away from him now. And, of course, he is glad that Taehyung is with him now.

“I see,” Jeongguk says then, nodding a little. He bites down on his bottom lip, some of Hyungsik’s words coming back to his mind. He can’t lie and say he’s not a little nervous when he asks, “You don’t… you don’t agree with him, right?”

“Agree with him on what exactly, babe?” Taehyung asks, giving him a confused look.

“On what he said about sophistication, and stuff,” Jeongguk says, not daring meet Taehyung’s eyes. Class… well, he knows that’s not his forte. The answer to this question is probably going to be one that he is not ready for, but he needed to ask. “I’m not really your type, right?”

“Oh, baby,” Taehyung replies, squeezing Jeongguk’s hand on his own tightly. “He just thinks he has class because he has a ton of money, but the truth is that he is still a piece of shit, no matter how loaded he is. You’ve seen him today, haven’t you?”

Jeongguk nods. “I have, yeah,” he replies.

“I don’t give a shit about sophistication, class, money, or anything like that,” Taehyung keeps going, then. “That’s not what is important in a person. Want to know what my type is, Gukkie?”

“Tell me,” Jeongguk says. He’s a little nervous about what the answer might be, but not scared. He has enough trust in his relationship with Taehyung to not feel that way, even if can’t help but feel a little insecure about whether he is or not what Taehyung is looking for in a partner.

“Well, I want someone that I can fully be myself with. Someone who understands me and listens to me, that can make him laugh and that will laugh with me,” Taehyung tells him, swinging their hands between their bodies as they walk. “Someone who shows interest in the things that I like and that will be willing to listen to my rambles about everything and nothing. Someone that will want to ramble to me about the things that make them passionate, too.”

Jeongguk’s heart speeds up at that. He knew this, of course—he knew that Taehyung wouldn’t be cruel to refer to someone that wasn’t him. Still, Jeongguk can’t help but feel oddly thrilled when he recognizes so much of himself in Jeongguk’s words about his ideal type.

“Someone like who?” he asks, tempting his luck.

Taehyung indulges him. “Someone like you,” Taehyung says. It’s safe to say that Jeongguk’s heart legit jumps in his chest. “Hyungsik and I might have been together, but not like you and I are, Gukkie. We… we had sex, for the most part. And even when we talked and were together, it was always about the gang, or always about him. It wasn’t a relationship.”

The implications that what exists between the two of them is a real relationship are heavy in there, and they make Jeongguk feel butterflies in his stomach. He doesn’t comment on it, though.

“Is it bad if I say that I’m glad that you and I are more than you two ever were?” Jeongguk asks, then.

Taehyung laughs, seemingly humored. “It’s not bad,” he replies. He then confesses, “I am glad, too. Hyungsik and I weren’t meant to be together. But you and I—you’re for me, Jeongguk. I have no doubts about that, not in the slightest.”

As it happens often, Taehyung’s words make Jeongguk’s cheeks burn bright and hot. He doesn’t comment on it, and the short remaining bit that is left of the walk to Taehyung’s place is spent in silence. Jeongguk likes silences with Taehyung and the way that complicity between them seems to flow best in moments like this, when they are both quiet and their actions have the chance to speak louder than words ever could.

It’s incredibly easy to fall in love with Taehyung, Jeongguk realizes. That night, Taehyung holds him close and showers him in kisses—one for each hurtful word that Hyungsik has said, words that implanted doubts in Jeongguk’s mind that Taehyung was quick to extinguish. And Jeongguk… Jeongguk lets himself be loved. He welcomes every touch, every kiss, every hug. He takes everything that Taehyung gives him, and also gives Taehyung the most important and valuable thing he has.

That night, Jeongguk feels like he’s giving Taehyung his heart, tending it to him with shaking hands. And when he looks at Taehyung one last time before sleep, he knows that he has nothing to worry about. Taehyung will take good care of it.

 

 

Jeongguk wakes up the next morning to the sound of the shower running from Taehyung’s bathroom, as well as Taehyung humming a song that Jeongguk doesn’t reply. Jeongguk spreads out in the bed like a starfish, taking advantage of the fact that he’s alone to stretch his limbs out as much as he possibly can. God, stretching oneself out first thing in the morning is almost as good as sex, he tells himself.

He gives himself a couple more moments like this, rubbing his eyes sleepily and trying to keep them open, even if the room is way too bright. Once he manages to do so he looks at the walls around him, observing one of Taehyung’s drawings that he has hung up on his room. He has a watercolor painting of a fox that Jeongguk especially likes, both for the gorgeous colors and for Taehyung’s impeccable technique.

Not a long time gives before he reaches out for his phone, that is resting on top of the bedside table. When he unlocks it and sees a few text notifications from Jimin he’s surprised at first, before remembering that he had been the one to text Jimin first last evening. Asking about the Jeongguk effect, yes. Now that he thinks back on it, the fact that he asked that is a little embarrassing. Still, Jeongguk will let himself decide whether he regrets it or not once he opens the text messages.

He unlocks his phone and taps over the notification, feeling anxious when it loads. When it finally does and Jeongguk sees the size of the message, he feels a little intimidated. And then, he starts reading.

oh my god, yes!! he hasn’t changed personality wise ofc but there is a lot about him that is different and don’t worry it’s all for the better. he seems a lot happier?? tae has been going through some rough things this year but after meeting you he was back to being really out there and doing things for himself and being unapologetic about it. i think you’ve made him feel very happy both in the professional and in the personal. he obviously gets insecure as an artist sometimes so for someone to show as much admiration and respect as you do towards him is very important, and i know you have a lot to do with the fact that he is growing more and more confident in his art now. as for the personal… i have said this already but he is much happier. and also of course he is clearly whipped and in love. he is giggly all the time and whenever i ask about you and how things are i swear he could spend //hours// going on about how perfect you are. i have never seen him as smitten over anyone before as well as i’ve never seen him so happy and excited about a relationship TT-TT i have already asked to be the best man at the wedding so you’re gonna have to tell yoongi to suck it up

(i might reconsider if he gets me a date with hoseok so tell him that :P)

also i am super sorry if that didn’t make a lot of sense but i just got home from work and my bed is waiting for me. goodnight~

Jeongguk’s cheeks are bright red by the time he’s done reading it. He reads over it once, twice and up to thrice, despite the fact that it’s a monster text, and every single time he feels incredibly giddy with every single sentence. One thing is to guess the impact that he’s had on Taehyung’s life from what he can see of Taehyung around him. But a different one is to see Taehyung’s best friend of years, the person who has known him best for so long, tell him all of this. It makes something stir inside of Jeongguk, who can’t help but feel incredibly happy that Taehyung and him have found each other.

He quickly texts Jimin back, thanking him for his answer despite the fact that it was past midnight by the time he got back to him. It’s once he’s pressed send that Taehyung comes back into the room, at perfect timing.

He has a dark blue towel wrapped around his hips, water drops falling from his damp hair and down his chest and back. It’s just another proof of how radically different Taehyung and him are—while Taehyung doesn’t mind walking out of the bathroom like this, Jeongguk can’t bring himself to do so until he is… sufficiently dry. That meaning his skin isn’t wet anymore, and his hair doesn’t drop water despite still being a little damp.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Taehyung singsongs as he steps into the room, walking towards is underwear drawer and pulling out the first thing that he lands his hands on. “Did you sleep well?”

“I always sleep well when I’m with you,” Jeongguk tells him. Tacky, but truthful. At least he makes Taehyung laugh. “You seem to be in a good mood this morning.”

“I am,” Taehyung replies, turning to look at him once he’s put his underwear on. “I was thinking, we can go out and eat breakfast outside. I suddenly have a huge craving for orange juice, and I don’t have any in my fridge.”

“Breakfast out, it is,” Jeongguk tells, lifting himself up on his elbows so he can properly talk to Taehyung. “I’m going to go shower, then.”

At this point, Jeongguk has a decent amount of his clothes in Taehyung’s apartment. He does have a change of clothing, without the need to wear yesterday’s clothes and rub on Hoseok’s and Seokjin’s faces that he spent the night out. Not like they didn’t already know.

“Okay, babe,” Taehyung tells hi, opening his closer and looking for clothes. “I’m going to Google places and find us the absolute best breakfast in Seoul, then. Go shower, hurry.”

Taehyung claps for emphasis, and Jeongguk at last manages to bring himself out of Taehyung’s warm, comfy bed. While he showers, there is just one thought rounding his mind. He wishes all of his mornings could always be like this, for the rest of his life.

 

 

Jeongguk still is debating over what kind of tattoo he’d like to give Taehyung a few days later, in the morning. His cheek is resting on his palm as he looks down at his coffee, moving the spoon inside the mug almost as if he were in trance. Luckily for him, Taehyung is pretty much a white canvas. Despite having quite some tattoos, probably more in number than the average person would get, there’s plenty of space for Jeongguk to pick from.

Taehyung has given him close to no guidelines, and while that is good to let his creativity completely flow with this one tattoo, it also can make things turn for the worse. He has no clue or where to go, or what to do. And this time around, he doesn’t think that showing up with a different million designs is the right move. He wants to put all of his care and all of his heart in one design, especially made for Taehyung. And he wants Taehyung to fall in love with it the moment he sees it. That’s the hard part.

Realistically, he knows that Taehyung would like anything that Jeongguk showed him. With his, he doesn’t mean that Taehyung isn’t selective, or that he is easy to please. What Taehyung is, is head over heels for Jeongguk’s style. And, well, hopefully for him as well. Which is exactly why Jeongguk thinks that no matter what he shows Taehyung, he will without a doubt love it. But it’s just not like Jeongguk to do that, especially when it comes to someone he cares about, like Taehyung. He was the tattoo to be stunning, to enter Jeongguk’s favorites straight away. And hey, if he’s lucky and works hard enough, hopefully to become the one that Taehyung likes the most out of all the designs he has inked. Jeongguk is up for the challenge.

Jeongguk scratches his head and sighs. He doesn’t know where to go with this. He will probably do some brainstorming later on the parlor, if he gets a free while. After all, there is a lot he feels for Taehyung, so much that he doesn’t even know how to put it down into words.

Maybe that’s where he’s going wrong, Jeongguk tells himself. He stops moving the spoon around and instead looks at the coffee, swirling around in the mug. He’s not good with words, he knows that and so does Taehyung. But Taehyung isn’t asking him to word anything.

Jeongguk is good at what he does—at art. At tattoos with incredibly intricate detail, details that will go unnoticed to anyone that doesn’t pay especially close attention. Thinking isn’t going to take him anywhere, he realizes. What he needs to do is sit with a paper sheet in front of him and a pencil on his hand, and let everything flow after. His creativity, but also the love that he’s feeling for Taehyung. And only if he does that, he’ll be able to create something that hopefully both of them can be happy with.

 

 

After that one night at Taehyung’s parlor the other day, Jeongguk didn’t think he’d have the displeasure to see Hyungsik again. Taehyung seemed so certain in his belief that there wouldn’t be any retaliation from his actions—read: from his punch—that Jeongguk ended up believing that, as well.

That turns out to be true, as Taehyung and Jeongguk find out the Friday of the week following Jeongguk’s second meeting with Hyungsik. The security grill has been pulled down already, and Taehyung and Jeongguk finish cleaning up and get ready for closing. It doesn’t go unnoticed to Jeongguk that he’s been closing up with Taehyung more than with Hoseok and Seokjin these days. Luckily for him, far from being iffy about it, his friends and business partners wholeheartedly support Jeongguk’s clinginess to Taehyung.

The security grill has been pulled down already. Jimin has free Friday evenings at work, so Jeongguk found them already in the parlor when he arrived. After the customer that Taehyung was busy with left, the three of them had a beer and chatted for a little until Jimin ended up leaving, giving Taehyung a tight hug.

“And you better work on what we’ve been talking about,” Jimin says, giving Jeongguk a pointed look. Jeongguk doesn’t even need to ask to know that Jimin is referring to Hoseok.

“I’m on it,” Jeongguk lies. He’s just very forgetful, but he promises he will text Hoseok about it soon. In the end, Jimin’s text to him felt like a huge favor to Jeongguk, so he feels like he owes him this.

“Good,” Jimin says, with a pleased smile. “I’ll see you soon, guys!”

Jimin opens the door and bends down to walk under the security grill, that they closed halfway, and leaves Taehyung and Jeongguk alone. They start tidying up then, not rushing too much and talking to each other while they do so.

 Last thing that any of them was expecting was to suddenly hear the security grill being roughly lifted. Taehyung and Jeongguk look at each other with alarmed expressions, walking out of the studio area so they can see who has just opened the door.

Jeongguk’s jaw literally drops when he sees Hyungsik standing right before the door. His nose is bruised, but it looks much better than Jeongguk thought it’d look one week after the incident. He, again, looks calculatingly calm. As soon as he sees him, Jeongguk feels the same uneasiness he felt the other day take over him.

“What are you doing here?” Taehyung asks him. Jeongguk looks at him, just to see Jeongguk clenching his fists by his side.

“Hello, Taehyung. It’s good to see you too,” Hyungsik replies. Jeongguk doesn’t like the way that Taehyung’s name sounds in Hyungsik mouth. His lips curl around the syllables in a way that makes him almost sick. “I see your boy is here with you.”

“What do you want, Hyungsik?” Taehyung asks, stepping completely outside of the studio area so he can stand in front of Hyungsik.

“You really thought there wouldn’t be any consequences to what you did the other day?” Hyungsik tells him. “You don’t get away with punching me, Taehyung. You don’t wanna fuck with me like that.”

“And I’ve told you I’m not scared of your threats,” Taehyung tells him, as stubborn as he is unafraid. “What are you gonna do? Kill me?”

Jeongguk, who hasn’t said anything since Jeongguk entered the parlor, can’t keep quiet with what happens next. “What the fuck,” he hears himself say, voice embarrassingly high. But he can’t bring himself to be embarrassed. Not when Hyungsik has a gun on his hand, pointing straight at Taehyung’s forehead.

Hyungsik’s arm is fully stretched, and he doesn’t seem too fazed by the fact that anyone could walk past the store and see them right now. He probably has people to cover his tracks, maybe the gang even has alliance within the Seoul Metropolitan Police. That’s the only explanation that Jeongguk can find for such careless, reckless behavior.

“Maybe I’ll do, yes,” Hyungsik says. He looks far from smug or pleased with himself. Something in Jeongguk tells him what Hyungsik’s intention is to manage to break Taehyung’s life—to get him to take back his words, to apologize. But knowing Taehyung… Jeongguk doesn’t really see that happening, which is scary, considering Hyungsik is pointing at Taehyung’s forehead with a gun. “That’s what you deserve. You’re not much more than a traitor, there’s no reason for me to keep you alive any longer.”

He wishes he could intervene or do something, but he’s frozen in his spot. Besides, moving could possibly put Taehyung in even more danger, so he stays very still and watches.

“Then do it,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk’s eyes widen, his mouth going dry. He knows that Taehyung thinks Hyungsik wouldn’t hurt him, but Jeongguk isn’t that sure about that anymore. His surprise only grows when Taehyung reaches for the gun, holding the canon as he takes one step closer. Needless to say, his anxiety spikes as he sees Taehyung press the gun to his chest. “What are you waiting for? Isn’t it what you’re here for?” There’s a pause. Hyungsik clenches his jaw, eyes not leaving Jeongguk’s for one single second. “You wouldn’t dare, Hyungsik. You don’t have what it takes to kill me, or to send anyone to do so. And we both know that.”

Jeongguk doesn’t like that Taehyung tempts his luck so much. He feels Hyungsik’s anger grow by the second, which makes the possibility of him doing something irrational increase. Jeongguk doesn’t think he’s been this scared in his entire life.

“You’re right. You’re right, I could never,” Hyungsik admits. Jeongguk is relieved for a moment, but that changes when he sees Hyungsik take another step back, pointing the canon at him. His heart stops beating for a moment when he sees himself being pointed out with a gun. “But him? I don’t think I’d have much problem shooting him, Taehyung.”

Jeongguk feels terrified. He’s never been in a situation like this, and he didn’t think he’d be. Jeongguk has never been one to get in trouble, so this isn’t an scenario that he could have pictured himself in before. A million thoughts rush to his mind in that moment—Hoseok telling him about how dangerous things could get and him dismissing it, primarily. If he hadn’t gotten himself involved with Taehyung, or if he had let go of him when Hoseok advised him to…

The scariest part of all of it is that, at this moment, Jeongguk knows without a doubt that he wouldn’t do anything differently. If he had the chance to go back in time, he would do everything all over again. He would fall in love with him, even if the outcome of it is him being pointed at with a gun. Even if the story might end for him tonight.

“No,” Taehyung says. For the first time since Hyungsik came in, he sounds panicked. It’s slight—his voice doesn’t break, he doesn’t scream, he doesn’t move. But Jeongguk can detect a certain urgency in Taehyung’s tone, especially as he adds, “You won’t do that, Hyungsik. You know I know things.”

Jeongguk doesn’t miss the way that Hyungsik’s expression shifts, then. A frown appears on his face, almost as if he were… worried.

“Are you threatening me, Taehyung?” Hyungsik asks him, slowly. Despite his yes being trailed on Taehyung, his hand still points in Jeongguk’s direction.

“You’re threatening my boyfriend,” Taehyung replies, rushed. “I know about the money laundering, and I know you’re not being precisely loyal to the gang, either. If you do anything to Jeongguk, I won’t hesitate to let them know about the money you’re keeping for yourself.”

Jeongguk knows that there are priorities one should have when having a gun pointing straight to their face, primarily, physical integrity. Still, his brain can’t help but dwell on the word boyfriend as his heart skips a beat.

“Taehyung, you said you wouldn’t say any of that to anyone. Ever,” Hyungsik says. That’s the moment that Jeongguk sees Hyungsik’s cold character start to fall apart.

“And you said that I could get away from everything related to the gang whenever I wanted, and that includes you,” Taehyung spits out. “How much have you been keeping for yourself? Thirty percent of it? Thirty-five? I know your bosses wouldn’t be pleased to find out about it, Hyungsik. And they’re much more cold-blooded than you are. They won’t hesitate to kill a traitor that has been stealing from them.”

Hyungsik and Taehyung look at each other for a few seconds that feel endless to Jeongguk. There is so much tension while it lasts, Jeongguk feeling it even on his own body. In the end, Hyungsik lovers the gun and Jeongguk lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

He’s safe.

“Fine,” Hyungsik says, putting the gun away and starting to walk back. “Keep quiet, Taehyung.”

“Don’t come back, then,” Taehyung tells him. “I don’t want to hear from you ever again. Are we clear?”

Hyungsik nods. Neither Taehyung nor Jeongguk move as they watch him walk back to the door, disappearing just as quickly as he arrived. One he’s gone, after they’ve watched him disappear through the glass, Jeongguk realizes that his legs are shaking.

“Oh, my fucking God,” he says, turning around. He’s trembling so harshly he feels like he’s going to fall, so he reaches for the counter to balance himself. “Fuck.”

“Gukkie, baby,” Taehyung says, then. He’s quick to get a stool for Jeongguk to sit on. Once that’s done, Taehyung gets closer to him and pulls him into a hug, resting Jeongguk’s head against his chest. “Are you okay? God, I’m so sorry that happened. I just—I’m so sorry, baby.”

“I’m fine, just—shocked,” Jeongguk replies. He holds on tight to Taehyung. “I really thought he was gonna…”

“No, no, Gukkie,” Taehyung tells him, tangling his hand on Jeongguk’s hair and massaging his scalp. “I am not going to say he’s a saint because that’s far from the truth, but Hyungsik is not such a bad guy as he makes himself to be. He wouldn’t, he didn’t and he won’t. He’s not going to come back.”

“Are you sure?” Jeongguk asks, doubtful.

“I’m sure,” Taehyung reassures him. “I might not be too scary to him, but his bosses are. I wouldn’t ever let him hurt you, Jeongguk. I promised you that none of this would happen and that wasn’t entirely true, but I swear that I won’t let him hurt you. I care far too much about you.”

Jeongguk nods, and they fall into comfortable silence after that. Jeongguk stops shaking soon after, and one he’s calmed down, Taehyung calls a taxi and they both finally leave to the apartment. Jeongguk is still—obviously—very upset and shaken up about what has just happened, but the truth is that he gets lots of kisses and cuddles out of it when they’re home. They directly get in bed and Taehyung clings to him more than ever, keeping him close.

Something is still rounding Jeongguk’s mind, and no matter how hard he tries to push the thought to the back of it, he can’t seem to shake it away. And so, Jeongguk asks, “Tae?”

“Yeah?” Taehyung asks, his body vibrating against Jeongguk’s when he speaks.

Jeongguk takes a deep breath. “Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah, of course,” Taehyung tells him. “What is it?”

“It’s about something you said earlier,” Jeongguk carries on. “When you were talking to Hyungsik, you called me your boyfriend.”

Taehyung goes quiet for a moment, almost as if he had just realized his word usage. “I didn’t… I didn’t notice,” he replies, confirming Jeongguk’s suspicions. “I guess it’s because we have been acting like boyfriends. It’s… it’s not bad, is it?”

Yoongi told him that he would know when it came, and Jeongguk is sure that this is it. The connection. He’s been feeling it since they were both in the parlor, in the moment he realized that he was so deep in love with Taehyung that he wouldn’t change a thing. At this point, his feelings are way too strong for him to keep holding them back. When you know, you know.

“It’s not bad,” Jeongguk replies. “I was… I was just thinking, that maybe it should be true, then.”

Another beat of silence, but this time Taehyung holds himself up on his elbow so he can take a proper look at Jeongguk’s face. His eyes are narrowed and he’s grinning, probably knowing.

“Are you asking me what I think you’re asking me?” Taehyung says then.

Jeongguk swallows down. He’s nervous, but he keeps in mind what Yoongi told him the other day. He’s sure of this—he’s sure of what he feels for Taehyung, and he’s sure that it’s not one-sided. That’s all he needs to know.

“I want us to be boyfriends,” Jeongguk tells him. It’s not the most romantic scenario, but he still feels something ignite inside of him. “I want you to be my boyfriend, Taehyung.”

“Oh my God, you’re so cute,” Taehyung replies, lying down and hiding his face in the crook of Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk, whose cheeks feel incredibly hot, can’t help but grin a little. “Yes, yes, yes. I want to be your boyfriend. You be my boyfriend, Jeon Jeongguk.”

“I’m your boyfriend,” Jeongguk says. He sounds sort of in disbelief, so he repeats himself, this time more confidently. “I’m your boyfriend. Your motherfucking boyfriend.”

Taehyung cackles on Jeongguk’s ear, loud and unsexy. Just like Jeongguk likes him most.

“Quit sounding so shocked. We’ve been playing boyfriends for a while now,” Taehyung tells him, looking at him again with an eyebrow raised.

“Still feels kind of surreal,” he replies. And it really does. Looking at Taehyung, at his beautiful face and wide grin, Taehyung finds it impossibly hard to believe that Taehyung is finally, officially his. It makes him want to scream in joy. He can’t hold himself back when he says, “God, I love you so much.”

Jeongguk wasn’t planning that, really. It’s something that deep down he’s known for a while, but never knew how to say out loud. I wasn’t a matter of not finding the right moment, because every second spent with Taehyung is good to tell him how he feels about him, but Jeongguk never was brave enough to voice it. Perhaps it’s the euphoria of finally being able to call Taehyung his boyfriend what has made him confess.

It’s not awkward. Taehyung’s smile grows impossible wide on his face before he’s surging forward, pressing a gigantic and loud kiss against Jeongguk’s mouth. “I love you,” he says, starting to pepper kisses all over Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk laughs, at the time Taehyung adds, “So. Much. God, you make me so happy, Jeongguk.”

“That’s all I want, doll,” he says, turning around on his side and letting Taehyung hook his leg over his hips. He’s now more than used to Taehyung’s koala tendencies, and he loves them as much as he loves the rest of him.

Taehyung kisses him again, loud and wet. For the rest of the night, Jeongguk cuddles closer to Taehyung, curling his arm around his waist. Nothing can go wrong if he’s with him, his boyfriend.

 

 

It takes him a little longer than his designs usually do, but Jeongguk eventually comes up with a sketch that he’s happy to show Taehyung for his next tattoo. This time around they don’t need to meet up at each other’s parlors or at a bar—rather than that, Jeongguk just stands up from where he’s sitting on the kitchen and goes look for Taehyung, who is watching TV lying on Jeongguk’s couch.

“I got it,” Jeongguk tells him, a proud smile on his face. Taehyung frowns at him, a little confused, so Jeongguk adds, “The tattoo you asked for. I got it.”

“Oh!” Taehyung replies then, face lighting up as he sits on the couch. He slides to the left, patting the free space left to his side. “Come here. Show me, show me. I’m excited about this one.”

“I hope it’s good enough,” Jeongguk tells him as he sits down next to him. “I tried to make something special, but I’m not sure if it’s the kind of thing that you’d like.”

“Stop being humble and show me,” Taehyung urges, impatient. “I’ve been waiting for this for ages.”

Jeongguk nervously licks his lips at the same time he shows Taehyung the sketch, studying his reaction. To say he’s nervous would be an understatement.

The sketch is, without a doubt, one of the Jeongguk’s favorites out of all the ones he has done, which happen to be a lot. It’s a flower, a violet. He does a lot of flowers, but never violets. People never really think of them, always going for daisies or roses. The sketch is designed for the flower to be placed on Taehyung’s abdomen, right over his belly button with the stem of the flower gently curling around it. But one of Jeongguk’s favorite aspects are the petals and their color—he has done a gradient with them, almost having them turn translucent at points.

“It’s an idea I got the day… the day that Hyungsik came to your studio,” Jeongguk starts to explain. “He had the gun pointed at me and I got thinking how if I hadn’t met you or if I had stayed away from you when I discovered about the gang I wouldn’t be in such trouble, but then I also realized that if I had the chance I wouldn’t do anything differently. I would have repeated every choice and relived every moment to be with you, because I’m terribly in love with you.” Jeongguk looks down, to his fidgeting hands. “And… I interpret that as loyalty. Maybe you’re thinking about how that can be conveyed with a flower, but I’ve done research—it’s a violet. It represents loyalty and faithfulness, as well as true love. I think it fits the theme pretty well.”

“Jeongguk—”

“I’m sorry if you didn’t want a flower. I know I’m always doing flower, but it’s what I like the most,” Jeongguk starts rambling. “And I’m also sorry it’s not purely a tattoo about how I see you, but more so, how I feel for you. But it’s what I felt. What I feel.”

“Hey, hey, Jeongguk,” Taehyung takes him, taking Jeongguk’s face on his palm and making him look at him. “I love it, Jeongguk. I love it. I love the sketch, I love the meaning behind it, and I love you. It’s perfect.”

Jeongguk looks at him dumbfounded, for a moment. Taehyung is always so reassuring in a way that never makes him feel silly for being anxious, and that is something that Jeongguk deeply values. “You like it?” he asks, even if he knows Taehyung has just told him so.

“It’s gorgeous,” Taehyung replies. “And I could never get tired of your flowers. They’re almost as pretty as you, you know.”

Jeongguk can’t help but smile at the comment, right before Taehyung gives him a sweet peck and then pulls him in a hug. Jeongguk’s hands on Taehyung’s hips, Taehyung’s arms around Jeongguk’s neck.

“I’m happy you like it,” Jeongguk tells him, as honest as he can be. “It means a lot to me.”

“You mean a lot to me,” Taehyung tells him. Jeongguk blushes.

Taehyung asks him about placement then, and when Jeongguk tells him, Taehyung excitedly claps his hands at the perspective of having a bigger tattoo, at last. They even agree on going by the parlor later today, even if it’s Jeongguk’s free day, just because neither of them can’t wait to get it.

Jeongguk feels drunk on happiness, and the best part of it, is that it doesn’t seem at all fleeting. They are crazy in love, and Jeongguk thinks that the craziness will last for a long time—maybe forever, he lets the most optimistic part of him think. As of now, he won’t let himself worry about the future. He’ll just keep giving Taehyung little pieces of him, taking the love that Taehyung gives him in return.