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is it cool that i said all that?

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Jungkook hates Fridays, which is something of an anomaly for sure, but instead of going pre-drinking for club night or whatever it was that other students did on a Friday night, Jungkook’s at lacrosse practice. Which isn’t a problem in an of itself—Jungkook fucking loves lacrosse, and besides he has practice three times a week and he doesn’t hate Mondays and Wednesdays with the same antsy passion as he hates Fridays. The problem really is that on Fridays, he’s on clean-up duty, and his partner for the whole entire year just happens to be none other than Kim Taehyung, also known as the objective hottest guy on the whole lacrosse team, and the unfortunate object of Jungkook’s stupid hormonal lust.

Unfortunate because Taehyung’s actually really nice, and Jungkook hasn’t quite figured out how to hide his whole ‘I-really-want-to-shove-you-against-a-wall-and-kiss-you-until-we-both-pass-out’ reaction yet, so mostly he spends a lot of time fake tackling Taehyung and/or challenging him to stupid competitions to avoid talking.

Like now, the two of them recuperating after the last drills of the day, Taehyung sitting on the grass in front of the goal and chugging back a whole bottle of water. Jungkook stares at the bob of his throat, sweat slicking his golden tanned skin and trickling down into the V of his shirt, and when Taehyung finishes off the bottle and makes a loud satisfied sigh, Jungkook flushes and has to avert his eyes.

He eyes the long row of cones they have to pick up that stretch up and down the field.

“Hey hyung!” he shouts.

Taehyung looks up, and part of his hair escapes the headband tied around it, the damp strands curling down into his eyes. He huffs and slicks it back, which really only exposes the full force of his dark, intense gaze, eyebrows slanted down and fierce. “What’s up?” he calls back, leaning his head up against the goalpost.

Jungkook wants to—throw something. He settles for jumping off the grass, shouts, “Bet I can pick mine up faster than you!” and runs off before Taehyung does something else stare-worthy.

He hears a low grunt, and then some cursing before Taehyung’s footsteps start to pick up behind him.

The knowledge that Taehyung’s playing the stupid game makes Jungkook want to run faster. He scoops up the cones as he goes, shoving them into his arms as he sprints, breathes past the burning in his legs and chest. He only trips twice, skidding along the grass, but the second time he nearly sends his entire armful of cones scattering so Taehyung’s laughter follows him the rest of the way. As the end of the line of cones approaches, so does Taehyung, and Jungkook can hear the steady sound of Taehyung’s heaving breathing now, and it really only makes him want to die even more.

So he packs up the rest of the cones, panics, and shouts, “First one back to the goal wins!”

“Yahh, Kookie,” Taehyung complains, but Jungkook doesn’t give him another glance back, only starts sprinting back down the field as fast as he can, his chest heaving with the effort of it now.

Still, it’s nice to let loose and run, run, wild as he wants to be, nothing to worry about except for the wind blowing through his shirt and the sticky fresh grass sticking to his legs. Jungkook tosses his head back and laughs, pure delight, and, okay, this is the actual reason why he fucking loves lacrosse, loves the feeling of having put effort into something, worked himself to his limits and then some.

The goalpost is in sight now, and Jungkook is going to win, which also means that the both of them will be too out of breath to say anything to each other, and then Jungkook can slink away off the field and count it as another small victory in the war of never embarrassing himself in front of Taehyung.

A flash of orange whips by, and Jungkook turns, thinking, what the fuck?

Taehyung, arms flung out from throwing all his cones but one straight ahead and into the goal, then proceeds to throw himself forward and full-body skids across the field the rest of the way. The movement definitely hikes up the edge of Taehyung’s shirt, uncovering a slice of toned stomach as he goes. It’s like everything is going in slow motion as Jungkook watches Taehyung narrowly avoid crashing into the goalpost as he rushes towards it, stretching out a hand to grab onto it, then swing all the way around to pull himself to a halt. He tosses the last cone directly into the net. Dead centre goal.

Jungkook’s jaw drops. He tries to stop, trips over his own feet instead, so ends up in a heap a few feet away from the goal himself, his cones lying around him in a sad little scatter.

Taehyung pumps a fist and crows. “Ha!” he cries as he flops backwards into the grass. “Take that you cheater! I won!”

Jungkook doesn’t know how to form words. Taehyung’s shirt is still half up, rucked up nearly all the way to his chest, and Jungkook can see the edge of his ribs as he breathes, the skin at his stomach glistening with sweat and so fucking tantalizing Jungkook feels his throat going dry in real time. As he watches helplessly, Taehyung starts to laugh, dropping his arm back across his forehead, hair splayed out in a mess behind his head. He rolls a little bit, and it really shouldn’t be as terrifyingly hot as it is, but little pieces of grass fall over him, catch in the crook of his elbow, tickle at the hollow of his throat, and Jungkook just wants to—pick them all out. Or something.

Eventually, Taehyung sobers. He lets out another satisfied sigh, then drops both his arms down to stare up at the brilliant blue sky. “I think we both know what this means,” he says, sombre.

Jungkook bites back a desperate whine. “What?”

Taehyung turns his head, aiming all of his serious glare—eyes wide and brows touching together—towards Jungkook, who withers a little bit on the inside. He squares his jaw and says, “Obviously, I am now the supreme jock.”

Whatever the look on Jungkook’s face is, clearly Taehyung thinks it’s fucking hilarious. He breaks the glare, dissolving back into a fit of giggles.

Jungkook sees fucking red.

“You can’t be the supreme jock!” he says hotly, sitting up.

“I won!”

“You—that doesn’t make you the supreme jock! I’m the supreme jock!”

“Not anymore, Jungkookie! I beat you!” Taehyung manages through his laughter, and Jungkook is so mesmerized he can’t look away but looking at Taehyung’s glee only makes him angrier because he had to go and lose at his own game because of his stupid gay feelings and also it really wasn’t fair that Taehyung could go and do things like flash his entire stomach just to distract Jungkook from winning the goddamn race and even more unfair that Taehyung had no idea what he was doing, so now Taehyung thought he was faster and that made him the supreme jock (whatever the fuck that meant) even though Jungkook was the one who consistently scored the most points and currently held the team record for best time to finish footwork drills.

Taehyung’s still laughing.

Jungkook scowls and lobs a cone straight at his head.

 

*

 

See the worst part of it was that Taehyung is a nice person, genuinely. The kind of nice person never takes all of Jungkook’s little outbursts to heart, the kind of nice person who only laughs harder and starts to help pick up all the scattered cones around even though Jungkook beaned him pretty hard with that last one.

The kind of nice person who walks with Jungkook all the way back to the lockers, chattering idly about movies he wants to see, pointing out the geese chasing some poor freshman across campus, saying genuine things about how nice it was outside, how blue the sky was, how he hoped Jungkook had a nice weekend when they part.

Jungkook leaves feeling miserable and like he lost more than just that stupid race, watching Taehyung disappear off to wherever he goes when he’s not at practice.

The feeling lingers with him throughout the weekend, when he tries to stare at the homework lying open on his desk to no real avail. It’s stupid, really, but the thought of seeing Taehyung again the next Monday has his stomach in knots. Now that the adrenaline from practice and also all the running had well and truly worn off, all he’s left with is a vague sense of guilt, like he probably shouldn’t have been so petty and annoying, and maybe Taehyung was only nice to him out of obligation.

Maybe Taehyung had noticed all the weirdness around him, and the whole supreme jock thing was his attempt to tell Jungkook to back off or something.

Either way, Jungkook tells himself he should probably apologize to Taehyung on Monday, at the very least for throwing a cone at him, but even thinking about it makes him want to run far away and start a new life in a jungle somewhere.

Come Monday, he’s walking around to his classes in a daze, not really paying attention, which he’ll kick himself for later, he’s sure.

But it’s hard to focus, and soon the morning’s gone, passed too quick.

And to make an already bad day even worse, in his haste to get out his last class until the afternoon, Jungkook’s managed to stumble onto a part of campus he’s never seen before. Ever. Jungkook pulls his backpack closer to himself and tugs the brim of his bucket hat down, trying to avoid gazes from strangers as he darts from one tall, ostentatious building to the next, baffled as to where in the world he is.

All around, students dressed in various splashes of blocky colour mill around. The ones that aren’t wearing something outlandishly rainbow-inspired all have bits and pieces of vibrancy in their hair, instead. Music blasts from one side of the courtyard, something that sounds like a European language Jungkook doesn’t recognize, the beats electronic and buzzing. Jungkook looks down at himself, matching grey sweats and all, and feels supremely out of place.

No one’s really looking at him, but he still feels looked at. It’s not really a logical thing. More like feeling the energy of the place single him out, stupid dumb jock boy lost amidst a sea of erudite hipsters and cerebral artists. Or something like that.

He catches sight of a sign at the bottom of one of the buildings, reads, Faculty of Visual Arts, and that seals the deal.

Jungkook has officially managed to walk through the forbidden Humanities Portal, far far away from his usual hangout of either the soccer field or the physics building.

But then, just when he’s about to run into the nearest building and pull up a map on his phone so he can leave before they figure out he’s not One Of Them, someone calls his name.

“Jungkookie?” The voice is familiar, but Jungkook can’t quite place it. Besides, who in the world would know him this side of campus?

He turns, ready with a stammered explanation that he’s very lost and would very much like to leave, when he’s faced with the most beautiful boy he’s ever laid his own two eyes on.

Jungkook feels his eyes physically widen.

The boy’s hair is artfully tousled, a light shade of brown that could be natural, could be dyed. It falls in waves over his forehead, long enough for a few fallen strands to frame the sharp cut of his cheekbones, and it looks soft like velvet to the touch. Jungkook’s fingers twitch. The boy’s eyes are fox-like, keen, bright and framed by full lashes, lined with something that smudges blue.

“Do...do I know you?” Jungkook stutters.

When the boy tilts his head, confused, Jungkook sees the gleam of silver on one side, a long dangling string of metal that hooks from his ear and curves against his jaw. Jungkook’s gaze follows it all the way down to the boy’s neck, then his eyes keep sliding down, sweeping along delicate clavicles that disappear into a wide collared shirt, dark against his honey skin.

He’s wearing a choker, Jungkook notices. Just a little strip of black, flush against the hollow of his throat, but it makes Jungkook feel a little insane, and he has to tear his gaze away and focus on the tips of the boy’s shiny black shoes. Jesus. It’s like he turned into some sort of creepy leering old man. Jungkook makes a face at his own brain, tries to stop himself from wondering what the boy’s shirt feels like, if his skin is as soft as it looks.

“I think you must have the wrong person,” Jungkook mutters, shame flushing his face an ugly blotchy red.

“I... guess, maybe,” the boy says, sounding a bit bewildered himself. “Jeon Jungkook? Captain of the lacrosse team?”

Jungkook starts, head snapping back up so fast he doesn’t have the time to look anywhere else, locking right back onto the boy’s midnight gaze. “Yeah?” he says. “That’s me?”

The boy still looks confused. His brows touch together under his fringe, darker than the rest of his hair and sharper, and a flicker of recognition comes to light in Jungkook’s head.

“It’s me,” the boy says, slowly, as if testing waters. “Uh, Taehyung?”

Jungkook didn’t know it was possible for his eyes to go wider. “No it’s not,” he blurts.

Finally, the boy—Taehyung? smiles. He shakes the confusion away, which only tosses his perfect hair back some more, makes the glittering eye makeup stand out, and rolls his eyes. “I almost didn’t recognize you,” he says, casually, as if Jungkook is the unrecognizable one in this situation. “What’re you doing this side of campus? I thought you were a physics major?”

“I—I got lost.”

Taehyung’s smile widens. “You’re so cute,” he murmurs. “Do you want me to show you around?”

Jungkook feels like he’s dreaming. “You’re… you know the way around?”

“When you’re an art history major, you end up learning the way around real quick,” Taehyung says drily.

“You’re a what ?”

At that, Taehyung laughs. “You’ve known me for so long and you didn’t know what I studied? Are we even friends?” He reaches out to hit Jungkook on the shoulder, who flinches back despite himself. The teasing look slowly drips off Taehyung’s face. “Is there something wrong?”

Jungkook skitters back again when Taehyung keeps trying to reach out. “No, no, no,” he says, “I’m fine.”

“Are you sick or something?”

Jungkook searches desperately for something to say, scouring his brain for anything other than the current high pitched screeching that’s suddenly taken up all of the real estate there. Ends up with blurting, “How are you supposed to be the supreme jock?” and regrets it literally the second it leaves his mouth, but it’s out in the open, now, so Jungkook guesses he has to live with it.

Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “Are you still sore about that?”

Jungkook pouts. “I just mean, how are you supposed to declare yourself the supreme jock, when you look....,” he trails off, thinking. The right words would be something like: beautiful, gorgeous, so hot I literally didn’t recognize you, ethereal. But Jungkook isn’t embarrassing enough for even a whisper of those words to make it up to his lips, so he just shrugs deeper into his sweatshirt, gestures vaguely, finishes off with, “like that?”

Taehyung’s eyes flash. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know,” Jungkook says.

“I don’t know, actually,” Taehyung says, and he sounds… a little mad? Jungkook shrinks away, wondering if it’d been too obvious that he was blatantly checking Taehyung out after all, if everything he’d tried to do during practice wasn’t enough, and it only took an accidental encounter with a Kim Taehyung dressed like an arthouse god to undo all of Jungkook’s careful hiding all along.

“Do you have a problem with the way I dress?” Taehyung asks, and there’s definitely a bite to his tone, now.

I have so many problems, Jungkook thinks, then winces. “No, I just…” Shit. He tightens his grip on the strap of his backpack, twitchy energy racing up and down his fingers in little arcs. “I gotta go, sorry, I have to get somewhere I just remembered, sorry.” He rushes past Taehyung and makes a beeline for the closest street, not caring if he ends up in the equally as dreaded business sector so long as it meant it got him and his embarrassing feelings as far away from Taehyung as possible.

Halfway gone, he realizes he shouldn’t be completely rude, and turns. “See you at practice!” he calls out, and gives Taehyung a little wave.

Taehyung doesn’t answer.

Jungkook swallows tightly, turns back, and books it out of there.

 

*

 

That night at practice, things are unexpectedly tense. Jungkook walks onto the field and holds a hand out for his and Taehyung’s customary ten-step handshake, but Taehyung barely even looks at him before walking past, the tip of his bandanna brushing past Jungkook’s temple as he goes, he’s that close. Jungkook can feel the tension radiating off him in waves, and decides it’s probably best he doesn’t ask.

Now that Jungkook’s seen Taehyung’s day get-up, despite that fact that he’s stepped out onto the field looking exactly the same as he always does—sweats, T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, topped off with his usual vibrant bandanna—there’s something about the knowledge Jungkook now holds in his brain that makes Taehyung seem hotter, somehow. Like a sheen, draped over his person. Like glitter, caught on the edges of his eyelashes, impossible to remove once spilled.

But Taehyung still doesn’t spare him any more glances than need be, and Jungkook tries not to think about how badly he’s fucked everything up, and gives Taehyung the space. Leaves the bench when Taehyung comes in for water, makes sure to dodge out of the way when Taehyung walks his way.

So they play, and Taehyung curses a bit more than usual, and Jungkook maybe fumbles the ball more than he ever has, and they end practice exactly as awkward as they’d started it.

 

*

 

Wednesday, the same.

 

*

 

By the time Friday rolls around, Jungkook is a fucking mess, and he genuinely develops a head cold when he wakes up bright and early for morning class, all sniffles and sneezing at random and a killer headache that won’t go away even though he goes home at noon and spends the rest of the day resting under the blankets. So he calls up the coach, tells him that he won’t be around for practice, and spends the rest of the evening huddle up watching Ghibli movies and feeling a secret relief that he won’t have to deal with the awkwardness of cleaning up with Taehyung. Then immediately feels guilty for having had the thought and falls asleep that way, face pressed up to his laptop computer, Castle In The Sky still playing by the time he passes out.

 

*

 

jk: hyuuuuuuuung
jk: ;;;-;;;
jin-hyung: what’s up my largest smol son
jk: i need. some advice?
jin-hyung: aight shoot
jk: its like……….a little hard to explain
jin-hyung: you can’t see me rn but i’m making a skeptical face at u
jk: idk what i did
jk: idk how to fix it either ;;;;
jin-hyung: tell me where you stashed the body and ill take care of it
jin-hyung: ive watched a lot of hannibal
jk: wtf hyung
jin-hyung: see now you can tell me anything
jin-hyung: ive just demonstrated that i am 100% supportive
jin-hyung: so cmon shoot im a busy man
jin-hyung: i mean also i can come over?
jk: im sick :c
jin-hyung: say no more, ice-cream-hyung is on his way

 

//

 

Taehyung slams into Jimin’s door with a loud groan immediately after practice. He steps past the coat that’s fallen off the coat rack, dodges the shoes piled up at the entrance way, and makes a beeline directly for Jimin’s bedroom door, which he promptly flings open.

Jimin barely looks up from his laptop, only shuffles a little bit aside on the bed so Taehyung can flop face down on it beside him. Doesn’t ask what’s wrong, either, only lets Taehyung roll around a little bit and groan into the pillows. After a few moments, Taehyung feels gentle fingers lace into his hair, which does helps enough to make him sit up and prop himself on the bed beside Jimin.

“You good?” Jimin asks.

Taehyung nestles his chin against Jimin’s shoulder. “Jiminie I’m sad,” he sighs.

Jimin looks down, and Taehyung must look a lot more pathetic than he’d thought, because he instantly snaps the laptop shut and pushes it a little bit down the bed, then wraps an arm around Taehyung’s shoulder. “Is it a ‘talk to your best friend about it’ kind of sad or a ‘let’s go murder someone’ kind of sad?”

Taehyung laughs. “Talk now, maybe murder later.”

Jimin hums. “‘Kay sounds good. I’m listening.”

At that, Taehyung has to pause. “You remember Jungkook?”

“That guy who does lacrosse with you?” Jimin smiles, coy. “The one with the fantastic ass?”

“Ugh,” says Taehyung.

The smile drops off Jimin’s face. “What did he do to you, Taehyungie?” he asks, already sounding a bit murderous.

Admittedly, it’s a bit hard to explain. Taehyung pouts some more, starts to relay the story of running into Jungkook on campus, trying not to make it sound like he massively overreacted. It wasn’t like Jungkook had even insulted him, or said anything outright mean. It was just the… skittishness. The obvious discomfort. The surprise. The way he couldn’t even man up to what he was saying and ran away. How his eyes had lingered, scouring, intense, making Taehyung feel strangely laid open.

“He was just… really weird about it,” Taehyung says, frustration bleeding into his voice. “Like he couldn’t even believe it was me if I wasn’t like sweaty and gross like a normal dude or something, you know? Ugh, am I overreacting?”

Jimin’s face is stony. He purses his lips, squishes his cheek up against Taehyung’s and whispers fiercely, “You are absolutely not and I’m gonna murder that straight boy’s ass if he’s ever unlucky enough to get in range of me I promise.”

“But that’s the problem,” Taehyung practically wails, “I didn’t think he was straight. ”  

“Wait, really?” Jimin pauses. “Taehyung, he plays lacrosse.”

“But I play lacrosse!”

“Yeah but you have a collection of headbands to match your outfit when you play.”

Taehyung makes a face. “Now you’re just stereotyping.”

Jimin flops back dramatically. “Tae hyung, if he freaked out just because you like to accessorize he’s probably straight! Not because he’s a sports boy or jacked or whatever, but ‘cause that’s pretty fucking heteronormative.” He softens, leaning up against Taehyung’s shoulder again and pressing them close. “I’m sorry though. It sounds like you guys were close.”

Taehyung makes a dumb muffled whining sound he can’t quite hold back. “I really liked him, Jiminie,” he says. Then, he sniffs, admittedly somewhat pathetically. “I’m mad that I still think he’s cute,” he mutters, thinking about the way Jungkook’s eyes had darted around the campus, the way he’d hunched up, so strangely timid. “I didn’t know he could be cute .”

Jimin laughs. “Oh my god Tae, how cute could he have been?”

“He had sweater paws, Jimin. He’s so big, but he had sweater paws.

Jimin’s eyes dance. “Okay, that sounds pretty adorable,” he concedes. “But I think the asshole override applies here?”

Taehyung picks at the corner of the sheets, the sudden wave of affection for a rabbit-y Jungkook well and truly making itself known by the spreading warm feelings in his chest. “He just doesn’t seem like that kind of person,” he says. “Like, I was so sure he was flirting with me. We even had a whole handshake and everything.”

Jimin snorts. “Really not helping the straight boy theory here.”

“Ugh,” Taehyung says. “Fuck, you’re right.”

“Hey, look, maybe it’s all just a misunderstanding,” Jimin offers up, but he doesn’t look convinced. “Have you talked to him since?”

“No, he… he wasn’t at practice on Friday.”

The smile on Jimin’s face falters, just a bit, but enough for Taehyung to see the crack and know that Jimin probably feels sorry for him. He’s not mad about it, doesn’t mind being pitied, really. Knows that Jimin is just sad for him, and that, finally sparks the anger that had been simmering since Jungkook had so thoroughly rejected him.

“I can’t believe I was dumb enough to fall for a straight boy,” Taehyung says, then sits up straighter in the bed. “Hey do you wanna go out tonight?”

Jimin bolts upright next to him and pumps a fist. “I thought you would never ask,” he says. “Yoongi-hyung blew me off again today and I need to cheer myself up.”

“You mean regain your gay confidence by making everyone within a thirty foot radius wish you were chasing them?” Taehyung asks drily.

Jimin gives him a solemn nod. “Precisely.”

“You really should just ask him out,” Taehyung says. He hops off the bed and goes over to where he keeps an emergency stash of clothes in Jimin’s closet, tucked in the back, and starts sorting through. “He’s probably dying to get in your pants like all the rest of them.”

“No!” Jimin shouts. “I told you, my gaydar is highly suspicious of him so I can’t just ask him out. What if he turns out to be straight?”

Taehyung pauses, tilts his head. “We’re both a little helpless, aren’t we?”

Jimin starfishes out on the space Taehyung vacated. “Hey Siri?” he asks to the ceiling. “Why are straight boys?”

On his desk, his phone buzzes to life. “Here’s what I found on the web for ‘why are straight boys’,” Siri dutily intones, and they exchange one incredulous glance before they both dissolve into laughter: Jimin’s full-bodied and gleeful, Taehyung’s edged with a groan as he whips the tie he’s holding in Jimin’s general direction.

 

*

 

They go out to get shitfaced, because that’s the sort of mood Jimin is in, and that’s the sort of mood Taehyung is willing to be in if it means 1) helping his best friend and 2) getting the fuck over this ridiculous crush.

Still, sufficiently drunk, he keeps seeing big eyes in the shadows, blinking out at him, and it really should be creepy, but all it does is make Taehyung sad, and then make him sadder because this really is the opposite of getting the fuck over things.

He fumbles his phone out, half slumped over at the bar.

Jimin’s already gone somewhere, dancing, probably, and normally Taehyung would join him, but he’s feeling too morose for the dance floor tonight. So he slumps, sneaks some glances out of the corner of his eye to make sure no one’s getting close enough to do much more than touch and grind. But Jimin can take care of himself. Taehyung is the messy one tonight.

Bad idea!! his brain is shouting at him, but he’s already thumbing into his last message with Jungkook, thinks, screw it, and types out most of the stuff weighing down on his mind.

 

*

 

tae: miss u
jk: ????
tae: miss when u were nice
jk: i. oh. sorry, tae.
jk: are you okay?
tae: no jus
tae: y u gotta be like that
tae: we were gonna be the bestest friends
tae: now i cant :’c
jk: ……..oh.
tae: but i wanna be ur friend ur so cute i wanna squish you
tae: but jiminie would kill me
tae: or hed kill u
tae: probably you
tae: anyways bye i think im gonna throw up
jk: okay. sorry again. stay safe, tae.

 

*

 

When he wakes up the next day, Taehyung stares down at his phone and wonders if he can flush it down the toilet. That wouldn’t really undo any of the texts, but at least he wouldn’t have to look at them anymore. The worst part was that Jungkook had been nice. Plus, he sounded disappointed, like he really did want to be friends, which made sense. He probably didn’t even know he’d done anything wrong, which abruptly makes Taehyung feel guilty for blowing him off.

He keeps that to himself, knowing that Jimin would only suggest increasingly violent things to do to make him feel better, but Taehyung doesn’t really want anything bad to happen to Jungkook. Mostly he wishes none of this would’ve happened in the first place and they can go back to being friends.

Come Monday, he gets to practice late, so Jungkook is already on the field, running through drills with the rest of the team.

Taehyung hesitates, then marches up next to him. “Hey,” he says.

Jungkook starts. He raises a hand, like he always does for their usual handshake, then bites his lip and lowers it. Taehyung tries not to take that too personally. “You weren’t at practice on Friday,” he says, carefully, trying to gauge Jungkook’s reaction.

“Ah,” Jungkook says, his voice scratchy. “I was sick.”

“Oh.”

Jungkook dips his head in a jolt of a nod.

It’s unbearably awkward, nothing like their usual easy dynamic, but Taehyung has no idea what he wants to say.

Finally, Jungkook clears his throat and hefts his lacrosse stick up higher on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he says, and it’s blunt, like he also doesn’t know what else to say. Taehyung waits for him to clarify what he’s sorry for, but he doesn’t, only stands and fidgets, his fingers ripping little fibres out from the grip on his lacrosse stick.

“It’s fine,” Taehyung says, and maybe it’s a little curt.

Jungkook blinks. Another nod, jerky. They stare at each other, and something inside Taehyung crumbles at the naked, earnest look on Jungkook’s face, the way he nibbles at his lip. He looks like he had on campus that day. Lost. Uncertain in a way that Taehyung has never really seen him before, and it makes all his insides feel like mush, makes him want to squeeze Jungkook in a hug so tight so he’ll unfurl and go back to being his usual petty, competitive self.

“Really,” Taehyung says, leaning in to give him a bump on the shoulder. “We’re good.”

A stupidly wide smiles breaks out on Jungkook’s face. “Thanks,” he mumbles. “I’m just—I’m really glad we can still be friends.”

The tiniest spark of irritation buries itself in Taehyung’s gut at that. There’s no good way to read that. But he doesn’t need to be getting mad again, doesn’t need to wreck the tentative peace sort of hanging limply here, so he takes in a deep breath and holds out a hand, almost like going in for a shake.

Jungkook instantly brightens, does the same, and they slide back into the ups and downs of the Handshake easy enough. In rhythm with each other, like always.

When Jungkook’s hands curl up against his, calloused and warm, Taehyung can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking. They link fingers, overlapping, and Jungkook’s grip is as tight as ever. Taehyung finds himself smiling, loosening as they hop like idiots, the energy shaking out of his tight muscles.

Jungkook laughs, tossing his head back, and Taehyung offers him a smile when they break apart. And things are normal. Things are fine.

Still, during practice, Taehyung feels the graze of eyes against his skin, like a lilting breeze, following him, curling up at the back of his neck. Every time he turns to catch the gaze, he finds Jungkook looking down, eyes averted.

 

//

 

Even though ostensibly they’re back to normal, Jungkook doesn’t really feel it. Taehyung smiles now when he would’ve laughed, before. He doesn’t hang back as much after practice either, doesn’t ask if Jungkook wants to grab food together, only disappears off the field (presumably off to his art campus and art friends ).

But Jungkook’s already apologized, so it wasn’t like there was anything he could do about it.

Other than think things over anxiously, beat himself up for being so goddamn obvious, carry the nervous energy with him everywhere he goes.

He’s at Yoongi-hyung’s office hours one day, midway through trying to solve a particularly tricky vectors equation, when all of it kind of explodes out of him.

All Yoongi is doing was walking him through the word problem, really. “So imagine you’re standing here, point A,” he says, jabbing his pen straight into the paper, “and you’re, I dunno, running around during a game or something, and your friend is here.” He makes another dot.

Jungkook nods, imagining the scenario, right on the grassy field.

“Right, so your friend is running away from you at this angle—” Yoongi scribbles something down on the paper, and Jungkook frowns, the scene in his head transforming from just standing around playing lacrosse back to familiar Fridays, him and Taehyung racing, hanging around because they were bored, because they weren’t tired yet, because they wanted to have fun. The way the wind had lifted up Taehyung’s hair, teased it into a mess barely held together by the bandanna. The exhilaration, the sound of being chased by Taehyung’s laughter. How it’d been so easy to exist in that space, carefree. How much Taehyung ran away from him these days, the view of his back, retreating. How fucking much he missed it.

“Uhm,” Yoongi cuts in. “You okay?”

Jungkook jerks his head up, blinking rapidly. Everything feels a little faint, light, and he’s being—absolutely ridiculous. Just so obscenely stupid, nearly crying over this whole thing. “I’m fine,” he mumbles. “Yeah, definitely fine.”

Yoongi stares at him for a little bit, doesn’t continue whatever his explanation had been. Jungkook fidgets, whispering desperately there was something other than flat confusion written on Yoongi’s face.

After a while, Yoongi licks his lips and sets the pen back down on the page. “What’s up with you?” he asks, probably going for a lighthearted tone, but the scrap of his voice is just a bit too harsh, too concerned.

If it were anyone else, Jungkook would’ve stuttered out a barely intelligible excuse and flee, but Yoongi’s more than just his TA for Physics 102; Yoongi’s his friend, and also Jungkook knows that despite his sometimes prickly exterior, Yoongi understands, more than most people tried to.

So he draws his hands into his lap, fixes his gaze on the half drawn out diagram. “I think I messed up,” he says. “And now my friend might hate me.”

A gentle snort. “I’m sure whatever it is, it can’t be that bad.”

“But he keeps avoiding me. And he’s too nice to tell me to fuck off for real, but also I can kind of feel he doesn’t want to hang out around me anymore?”

Yoongi makes a tsking sound between his teeth. “Yahh, Jungkookie, if this person is going to act like this around you then maybe you’re better off not being friends.”

“But hyung,” Jungkook says, and he can hear his own voice go all thin and reedy and helpless, which is embarrassing, but also he can’t bring himself to say it louder. “I really like him.”

More quiet. Jungkook thinks for a second, deliriously, that he’s somehow fucked this up, too, and Yoongi is going to abandon him right here because he was being pathetic or something, nevermind that this was his office. Maybe this is his life now. Friendless and alone.

And then there’s the sound of a chair scraping back roughly, and Jungkook looks up just in time to see Yoongi’s grimacing face as he drops a hand flat on Jungkook’s head.

“Uh,” Jungkook manages.

Yoongi’s mouth flattens into a line. He pats, a little reluctantly, and the combination of him being another person, closeby, and the awkward jerky movement makes Jungkook giggle, just a little. “What are you trying to do, hyung?” he asks, unable to help the smile that slips out even though he’s still feeling like a watery mess.

“Comforting you,” Yoongi says, with a tone of voice that has adds an obviously to the end of his words. “Is it working?”

“You’re supposed to say something,” Jungkook says. “Not just stand there.”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow and deliberately raises his hand, then drops it back down in another deadpan pat.

Jungkook can’t help that more giggles burst out of his mouth, and Yoongi cracks a smile, too at that, easy and sweet.

“There,” he says, satisfied. He leans back against his desk and props his feet up on the edge of the chair. “Feels a bit better, yeah?”

Jungkook sticks his tongue out. “A bit,” he admits.

“I’m sure whatever you didn’t isn’t that bad,” Yoongi continues. “Things’ll smooth over eventually. I know you think he’s mad at you, but can you ask him to like… I dunno, clarify things a bit?”

Jungkook worries at his lip. “I’m just afraid he’s being weird because he’s figured out that I have a stupid crush on him.”

When he looks up, there’s this— look on Yoongi’s face. Crestfallen, he might say. It’s only there for a split second, his face a little fractured, the usual edges of him a little more frayed and raw. But then it’s gone, and Yoongi’s mouth is back in his typical slight frown. He kicks his battered sneakers up a bit, rolls his shoulders tight. “Yeah,” he finally says, “guess that’s fair. That sucks, Kook-ah. Wish I had something better to say for you.”

A careful silence settles over them here. And for some reason, it’s this that makes Jungkook feel a little bit better. The knowing, that there were no easy answers. That it does suck, and also that it’s not his fault for liking Taehyung in the first place. That that was never really the problem.

He leans forward and pokes Yoongi hard in the knee.

Yoongi looks up, eyebrows scrunched together in a stupid incredulous expression.

“Thanks, Yoongi-hyung,” Jungkook says, beams.

Yoongi rolls his eyes, but he dips his head in a nod. “Any time, kid.”

The physics problem lies on Yoongi’s desk, unfinished. Jungkook opens his mouth, about to ask to go back because he has a midterm this Friday, and he really does need to know at least how to start solving it, but they’re interrupted when the door to Yoongi’s office slams open.

Jungkook looks up, and feels a little bit punched in the face.

“Yoongi-hyung!” the gorgeous boy standing in the doorway says, his smile reaching all the way up to his sparkly, eyeshadow coloured eyes. “I was nearby grabbing some coffee so I brought some over for you.”

And—honestly, Jungkook thinks there should be a quota on how many times in his life he should have to be subjected to being blindsided by boys so beautiful they were a little bit unreal. And— and this was Yoongi-hyung’s friend, so he shouldn’t be weird about it, but he still can’t help shooting a quick glance down the lithe line of the boy’s body. He’s wearing some sort of stage costume, now that Jungkook looks closer, his shirt stitched with little sequins, dazzling even in the dim lighting of Yoongi’s office. Plus those pants. Jungkook gulps, a little flushed in the face, trying not to stare right at the taut lines of the boy’s pants, straining around his thighs, so tight they look vacuumed on.

Beside him, Yoongi abruptly jumps off the desk, straightening. “Ah,” he says, rubbing his neck and looking anywhere but at the boy, “You didn’t have to do that.”

The boy pouts his very full, very glossy lips, then steps into the room. “Just take the coffee, Yoongi-hyung,” he says with a quick roll of his eyes. He shoves the cup directly in Yoongi’s face, and now that he was standing closer, Jungkook can smell a sweet fragrance, like he’s a fucking fairy or something.

Almost reluctantly, Yoongi takes the proffered cup. “Thanks,” he mutters, then sets it back down on his desk instead of drinking.

The boy dances a little bit closer, hovering around Yoongi like he’s used to touching, but keeping caution. Yoongi looks like he’s trying very hard not to breathe. He crosses his arms, suddenly looking guarded. “What’s with the get-up?” he asks, and as soon as Jungkook hears the dry half-cough of his voice, he knows, and suddenly everything makes sense.

“Dress rehearsals,” the boy says, fluffing his golden hair, practically preening. “You like?”

Yoongi very clearly does not look him in the eye. “Yeah,” he says. “You look great. You—you always look great, Jiminie.”

It’s a pathetic compliment, really, but the boy—Jiminie?—still smiles so wide it makes his eyes nearly disappear, exposing the little crooked overlap of his front teeth, and Jungkook sees why Yoongi is apparently head over heels for this boy.

They’re having a whole moment.

Jungkook leans back in his chair and clears his throat. Loudly.

Two heads whip around. For a split second, the boy looks annoyed, but then his face smooths out again, neutral and beautiful, a slight smile gracing his lips.

Yoongi mostly looks relieved. He makes a little gesture towards Jungkook and says, “Sorry. This is Jimin. He’s…”

“I do archery with Yoongi-hyung!” Jimin chirps brightly, and then suddenly he’s all up in Jungkook’s space. This up close, Jungkook can’t quite help but watch him, mesmerized, and Jimin has to know or something because he perches up on the armrest of Jungkook’s chair, runs a hand all the way through his hair, exposing the long line of his throat, and asks, “Who are you?”

“Yahh, so rude Jiminie,” Yoongi says. “That’s Jungkook. He’s one of my students.”

Instantly, Jimin is upright again. “ Jeon Jungkook?” he asks hotly.

Jungkook blanches. “Uh,” he says, not sure what to do with the full force of Jimin’s devastating gaze focused in on him. “That’s me?”

Jimin’s eyes narrow. “You play lacrosse,” he says flatly, and Jungkook’s stomach sinks like a goddamn stone.

“Yeah,” he says, worrying at him lip.

In two steps, Jimin has his finger pointed inches away from Jungkook’s face, who is trying very hard not to fall out of his chair with how far back he’s leaning. “You’re the asshole who was mean to Tae!” Jimin practically shouts, and there’s something particularly terrifying about the lilting edge still in his voice, like it might’ve been sweet if he weren’t glaring at Jungkook with murderous intent.

Jungkook cringes. “Uhm,” he says again.

Jimin opens his mouth, but then he yelps as Yoongi hauls him back by the collar of his shirt. “Hey,” he whines, no trace of malice left in him as he turns back to Yoongi with a little pout.

Yoongi drops his shirt like it’s on fire as soon as Jimin is far away enough, scowls. “What the hell?” he asks. “Don’t go around harassing my students.”

“You should be on my side here! He was mean to Taehyung,” Jimin snips back. “Sorry if I was trying to defend my best friend.” He shoots another narrow-eyed glare at Jungkook.

Yoongi glances between the two of them, and Jungkook knows he has to have put two and two together by now, knows that Taehyung was the one who Jungkook has the unfortunate crush on. And if Yoongi knows Jimin, he would probably also know Jimin’s best friend, which means that Yoongi might know pretty much everything now. Jungkook wants the chair to become sentient right in this moment, maybe eat him up, but at the very least cause some havoc so he can quietly slip away and pretend none of this had ever happened.

But Yoongi sighs heavily and tilts his head towards Jimin. “I should reiterate,” he says. “Don’t go around harassing my friends. Whatever it is, Taehyung can work it out himself.”

Oh, thinks Jungkook.

At that, Jimin instantly wilts. “Oh,” he says, his voice echoing Jungkook’s thoughts, and Jungkook feels a little guilty for how chastised he looks. He bites down on his lip, his fringe falling in front of his eyes, and it’s only now that Jungkook realizes he’s a little bit shorter than Yoongi, even, standing there in the middle of the room. “Okay,” he says, flatter. “I’ll just… let you guys get back to your work, then.”

He swivels, and Yoongi sucks in a sharp breath. “Hey,” he says.

At the door, Jimin half turns. “Yeah?”

“Thanks for the coffee,” Yoongi says, finally managing to look up and meet Jimin’s eyes properly.

With a little huff of a laugh, Jimin shakes his head. “No problem,” he says, and gives a jaunty little wave. “See you around, Yoongi-hyung.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says. “Bye.”

When the door shuts, Jungkook nearly collapses in on himself with a groan. Yoongi does basically the same thing, just against his desk, and knocks into the abandoned cup of coffee over all of their collective notes. “Shit, fuck,” he says, and half body checks the falling cup, then manages to grab it before it topples over on the ground. Only a bit of it sloshes over the top.

Yoongi looks up, eyes wide. A couple drops of coffee hit the ground.

Jungkook looks at how he’s still kind of sprawled out over top of the desk, papers scattered everywhere underneath, and has to giggle, just a little.

“Yeah, yeah,” Yoongi mutters, scowling, and all the tension leaks out of the room. He sets the coffee back upright, shimmies off the desk, and straightens his shirt. “Hilarious.”

Jungkook giggles harder, and then, because he can’t manage to keep his mouth shut, he blurts out, “Was that your boyfriend, hyung?”

Instantly, Yoongi’s face turns pinker than Jungkook thought his skin could even go. “No,” he says, but it’s too defensive. “No, what the fuck, why would you think that?”

Jungkook shrugs. “He seemed pretty mad that you were defending me.”

“Yeah, well. Jimin can be a bit...much. He’s a nice guy, promise.”

Jungkook smiles wide. “Don’t worry, hyung. I approve of your crush.”

Yoongi drops his forehead in his hands, and he doesn't even deny it. “Whatever,” he mutters. Then, “Sounds like you should go talk to your friend, then. Clear it all up, whatever it is.”

A short little breath lodges in Jungkook’s throat. “Yeah,” he admits, looking down at his hands, curled in his lap, still. “Guess so. Think I should confess?”

“Well,” Yoongi says, his gaze fixated on the cup of coffee, still steaming. “I think. You should be honest with yourself, Jungkookie. Don’t let your fear about somebody else’s thoughts stop you from doing what you want to do.”

The space between them suddenly feels a little smaller, a little warmer. Yoongi doesn’t fidget, doesn’t seem like he’s waiting for an answer. Just leans up against his desk and takes a little sip of his coffee, his face melting into—something fond, mouth softening.

“Okay,” Jungkook says. “I think I know what to do.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Yoongi snorts. “Okay, great. Now c’mon, I know for a fact that when it comes to this physics problem you don’t know what to do. Let’s get back to it.”

 

//

 

Taehyung is busy scrawling half-hearted designs at his desk, everything falling flat and drab and uninteresting, when Jimin barges in through the door. He glances up, then mentally shifts back his schedule by an hour or so, because Jimin’s still in his stage clothes and makeup but his hair is a mess and his eyes look a bit red, like he’s been crying, or at the very least close to it.

Jimin’s a crier, so it could be nothing more than seeing a stray cat so cute on his way home that he got emotional about it, but, still, something in Taehyung’s gut tells him he needs to be pulling some best friend weight here.

“Hey,” he says, “you okay?”

Jimin immediately flops onto him, clinging like a koala bear. “Yoongi-hyung hates me,” he declares, then bursts into tears.

Taehyung maneuvers them over to the bed, hefts Jimin up a bit, then drops them both down. “He doesn’t hate you,” he says, even if mostly at this point Jimin isn’t listening. Jimin sniffs and buries his face into Taehyung’s neck, shaking his head. “He doesn’t,” Taehyung says, running a hand over Jimin’s hair. “Promise.”

They stay like that for a while, and Taehyung lets Jimin let all the tension out—honestly, it was high time for a Yoongi-related breakdown from him at this point, and Taehyung has all the reassuring words well practiced, maybe he’s just dense, maybe he hasn’t noticed all your flirting, he doesn’t hate you, Jiminie, who in the world could hate you?

Eventually Jimin shifts, pulls himself out of Taehyung’s arms. “Thanks, Tae,” he says, voice a little bit raspy. “Needed that.”

“‘Course.”

Jimin shuffles, dragging the covers over both of them, and, okay. It’s been a long day. Taehyung can stand to do a little napping.

“Actually,” Jimin says, “I have something to tell you, too.”

“What?”

“Ran into your Jungkook,” Jimin says, a new tightness in his voice.

“Ugh,” Taehyung says. “Why would you call him that?”

“Because you have the stupidest crush on him?”

“Ugh.”

Jimin shrugs. “Yeah, well, maybe I should say Yoongi’s Jungkook with how close they looked.”

Taehyung pulls back a bit so he can look straight at Jimin’s face. “Is that what brought this on?”

Jimin nibbles at his lip, lashes grazing his cheeks as he looks down. “Well…”

“Why didn’t you lead with that!” Taehyung bursts out, slapping Jimin on the shoulder.

“Because your stupid straight boy was monopolizing Yoongi’s attention!” Jimin makes a face, the tip of his tongue poking out like he’s trying to remember something. “Although I’m definitely on the fence about him being straight, now.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen. “What the fuck? Why?”

“Dude was totally tripping my gaydar.”

Taehyung pulls down a pillow from the head of the bed and throws it in Jimin’s face. “For the last time, you don’t have gaydar, you just have Fuck-Jimin-dar. Oh my god. Does Jungkook want to fuck you?”

Spluttering, Jimin pulls the pillow off his face. “Excuse me,” he says primly, “but even if your jock boy wanted to fuck me he wouldn’t get anywhere near.”

Taehyung pouts. “It’s the principle of the thing.”

“Well, he did give me the Gay Sweep, so.”

Taehyung groans. “That doesn’t help! What kind of queer makes a big enough deal out of some makeup and accessorizing to avoid his friends over?”

Suddenly Jimin shoots up in bed, mouth agape. “A closeted queer,” he gasps, slapping his hands to his cheeks. “Taehyungie you can’t date him now. That’s like a bomb waiting to explode.”

All the pieces start to slot together. The way he was so sure Jungkook had been checking him out every single practice. The way Jungkook wouldn’t meet his eyes, sometimes, but also keep making excuses to tackle him, like he just wanted to be close. The way Jungkook was totally going to win that day racing with the cones, but also Taehyung had caught him staring, and then suddenly he wasn’t running anymore. The freak out. The skittishness. All of it.

He bolts up. “Fuck.”

Jimin wraps an arm over his shoulders, then yanks him back. They both fall back down on the bed. Taehyung stares up at the ceiling, his whole lacrosse life flashing before his eyes.

“Fuck,” he says again.

“Amen,” Jimin concludes.

 

//

 

A week later and Jungkook is standing awkward in the corner of a near stranger’s house, bass pounding in his ears, and surrounded mostly by drunken assholes making a mess of the place. He hunches his shoulders, curses Seokjin for the hundredth time for dragging him here and then immediately abandoning him, and tries to blend in with the wallpaper.

It’s almost worse that he can see Seokjin definitely flirting with the host from here, which, Jungkook wonders what kind of questionable taste Jin must have in people if they’re the type to throw bangers like this. The guy—Hoseok? Seokjin had tossed the name at him about half a dozen times in convincing him to come with, but Jungkook hadn’t exactly been paying that much attention—seems to be into it, though, leaning up and into Seokjin’s personal space, hands slung casually in his pockets when they’re not out and gesturing. He even laughs at all the dumb jokes, loud enough Jungkook can hear it from his little corner. Seokjin looks gleeful enough that Jungkook can’t even muster up the appropriate anger, so all he’s left with is a vague sense of disappointment plus a queasy stomach as he takes tiny little sips out of his stupid drink.

But then, the host who may or may not be named Hoseok disappears off to somewhere, and Jungkook is wondering if it’s worth it to ambush Jin and demand to be taken home, but Hoseok returns before he can even push himself off the wall.

And following him is Jungkook’s personal nightmare.

Kim Taehyung steps into the party and it’s like the dance floor literally parts for him. Or, not—maybe Jungkook is hallucinating a little. He doesn’t look like he’s at a rager. He doesn’t look like he’s surrounded by drunken college boys and alcohol; he looks like he’s drifting gracefully down some runway, spotlights planted directly on him.

Jungkook suddenly finds it hard to swallow the next sip of his drink.

Taehyung is wearing a semi-see-through robe in black, the thing gauze of it dripping from his shoulders, cinched lightly at the waist. Underneath is all black, too, but his shirt is laced through with little sparkly bits, like dots against an endless sky. His hair is pinned back a bit, just on one side, a silvery clip buried in the swell of his waves. His eyes look darker, glittering under the shitty house lights, inked just enough to draw the gleam out of his pupils like a deep tide, hooking straight into Jungkook’s gut, pulling him like a helpless boat caught in a seastorm.

They’re talking, Taehyung and most likely Hoseok. But eventually, Taehyung breaks away, and then those eyes are sliding through the room, slowly, slowly, and Jungkook panics, looks for an exit, but inevitably, they land right on him.

Taehyung’s face doesn’t change, but Jungkook feels like a bucket of ice water’s just been dumped over his head.

He gulps.

Just as easy, Taehyung’s gaze slides away, but Jungkook’s caught now, and he can’t help but follow him around the room helplessly, clutching tighter and tighter on the plastic of his cup.

Taehyung’s talking to someone else that Jungkook recognize, and he laughs, cheeks turning up in a lovely smile. Jungkook is unbearably jealous of whoever this stranger is, and then he’s even more jealous of the girl who pushes her way through and brushes up against Taehyung’s arm, and then he wants to put his fist through the wall because another head pops up and he recognizes it as Jimin, the angry best friend, who immediately throws his arm around Taehyung’s shoulders like he’s trying to flaunt it.

So what if you’re Taehyung’s best friend, Jungkook thinks hotly. I’ve known Yoongi-hyung for longer, so take that.

Some part of him realizes he’s arguing in his head with some person he barely knows and also that Jimin is probably a great person for how willing to go to bat for his friend he was, but tonight isn’t for rationality.

Especially when Jimin drags Taehyung into the middle of the room—what serves as enough of a dance floor—and pulls into some sort of dance as the music starts to blast louder.

Someone hollers. Jungkook whips around to see that it’s Seokjin, of fucking course.

But he can’t look away for long. Taehyung isn’t really dancing so much as swaying to the music and letting Jimin dance around him, but he’s goddamn magnetic either way. Jungkook watches as he leans his head back, the elegant column of his throat exposed as he moves. At one point, he sweeps his hair back with a hand, and the glimpse of his eyes behind the cage of his long, slender fingers makes Jungkook want to throw his cup at something, drink and all.

Taehyung dances; Jungkook’s feet start to carry him forward.

By the time the song ends, he’s at the very edge of the people circling the floor.

Taehyung stops, and then, like he knows, his eyes snap down and their gazes crash into each other so abruptly Jungkook’s head spins.

He opens his mouth, wondering how much is written on his face, if he can explain it all away, when Taehyung suddenly looks furious.

He kind of looks like he does on the field. He kind of looks like he’s glaring down an opponent, lacrosse stick raised, barreling down the field towards the goal. Relentless. Terrifying.

Jungkook kind of wants to die with that glare levelled at him, so when Taehyung steps off the floor and right up in Jungkook’s face, he can’t quite bring himself to move, only stands frozen there in the middle of all these people.

“What’s your deal?” Taehyung asks, anger dragging his voice all the way down into a growl, and Jungkook wants to die a little bit more at how fucking sonorous it is, and this close, too, like he can feel it register as a rumble under his feet.

“I...what?” he mumbles.

“At the very least,” Taehyung snaps, “you could stop staring at me all the damn time.”

Jungkook wants to shrink. He hunches his shoulders. “Sorry,” he says, “I just… I don’t mean to. You’re just…”

“I’m just what? ” Taehyung practically snarls.

Again, words come to his head, but Jungkook’s tongue feels thick and he can’t possibly say any of them. “You’re just like that,” is all he can manage, again, gesturing a little helplessly.

Taehyung looks like he’s about to murder him just with his words, if only he can find the right ones to spit at Jungkook first, but after a while he deflates. His mouth dragging down into a hard line. “I honestly didn’t think you of all people would be this way,” he finally says, defeat obvious in his tone.

And then it’s like all of Jungkook’s insides freeze. “What?” he asks faintly.

Taehyung only looks sad. “I guess I’m just disappointed,” he says.

Feeling comes rushing back, but Jungkook feels no less overwhelmed, and it’s less about how beautiful Taehyung is—which, he still is, but all Jungkook can think of is that Taehyung figured out about his crush and is disappointed about it. That he didn’t think Jungkook would be ‘this way,’ whatever the fuck that meant, and he feels blindsided by the sudden meanness of it all, a wave of unfairness washing over him, like, just because Taehyung was uncomfortable with being liked didn’t mean he had to be this awful about it.

“Do you have a problem with me being gay?” he finally whispers, hating how small his voice gets, how uncertain he sounds, hates that he feels a little bit like throwing up. “That’s kind of fucked up, Tae.”

“No, I just have a problem with how you’re treating me like—” Taehyung stops halfway through his sentence, blinks. “You’re what.”

And—there’s the anger, hot and fresh and welling up, burning like the smoke from one of Yoongi’s occasional cigarettes in his lungs. “Look I’m sorry things got weird because you figured out about my stupid crush on you,” Jungkook says, taking a step forward, “but that doesn’t mean you have to be gross about it? I’m really fucking gay, okay? If you have a problem with that, just say so instead of avoiding me.”

Taehyung’s mouth is still hanging open. He doesn’t look angry anymore, or disappointed. Just...kind of flatly shocked. When a few long moments go by without any response from Jungkook’s impassioned tirade, some of the heat trickles out of his chest, and he retreats a little bit, sheepishly slinking out of Taehyung’s personal space.

Finally, Taehyung clears his throat. “There has been a huge misunderstanding,” he mumbles, then squints. “You’re gay?”

Jungkook throws up his hand. “ Yes, obviously.”

Taehyung squints harder. “ I’m gay.”

And, well, it’s Jungkook’s turn to be shell-shocked.

He stands, blinking. “You’re what?”

Somewhere, he thinks he hears someone laughing.

“Wait, so, why did you have such a problem when you found out I like to dress like this?”

Jungkook wants to reach out and shake Taehyung by the shoulders. “Because you look like a god walking amongst mortals,” he says, uncaring about embarrassing himself now that they’re, frankly, long beyond that. “I didn’t even recognize you when I saw you for the first time that’s how fucking hot you are, how was I supposed to just deal with that ?”

Taehyung barks out a faint laugh. “Oh,” he says.

“Yeah, oh. ” Then, everything catches up. “Wait, were you mad because you thought I was… like… being weird because I had a problem with boys wearing makeup?”

It’s Taehyung’s turn to give him an incredulous look. “What else was I supposed to think?”

“But,” Jungkook says. “But I’ve been trying to flirt with you all semester.”

“Oh my god,” Taehyung says. “I fucking knew it.”

“We’re so stupid,” Jungkook says incredulously.

Taehyung gives him a solemn nod. “We are. Do you know how long I have spent angsting because I thought one of my best friends was so incredibly straight he got freaked out by a little bit of makeup?”

Jungkook can’t help but laugh, too. “Wait, wait, so,” he also can’t help but say, “are you still mad at me?”

“Are you still mad at me ?”

“No,” Jungkook practically breathes.

“Then no. Obviously. I kind of like you a lot, you know?”

A slow smile is spreading across Taehyung’s mouth, now, beatific and glorious for how suddenly hardwon it feels. Jungkook feels dazed. He feels like everything he’s been worrying about for the past few weeks have just disappeared, turned to dust, fallen apart like the stupid worries they had always been. And now, all that’s left behind is a dizzying possibility, the way Taehyung is staring at him like they’re having the same thought: all wonder, no more doubt.

“You’re gorgeous, you know,” Jungkook blurts, and for once his mouth says probably the exact right thing, because it’s like Tae’s face crumbles a little bit, and suddenly he has an armful of Kim Taehyung, warm and sparkling and beautiful, right there.

Taehyung puts his hands on Jungkook’s shoulders. “Why couldn’t you have led with that?” he asks.

“You were too hot,” Jungkook says, his arms settles somewhere around Taehyung and he feels a little bit like he’s about to explode, right here and now. “I couldn’t find anything to say without embarrassing myself.”

“Well,” Taehyung says, and his tongue flickers out to lick his lips, quick and pink and it’s like every nerve in Jungkook’s body is suddenly on edge. “What about now?”

Instead of words, Jungkook leans forward and kisses him.

Taehyung’s mouth parts under his like something sweet, fresh and lovely. There’s no hesitance, no space between the two of them, now, only Taehyung’s hands splayed out over the nape of his neck, pushing him closer, only Taehyung’s lips curling up into a smile before he deepens the kiss, no words, only the gentle insistence of being wanted. Jungkook closes his eyes, tilts his face, tries to tell Taehyung everything he couldn’t say, now.

They’re still in the midst of probably a lot of people, and Jungkook feels arms brush up against his back, hears some muttering, but he can’t bring himself to care.

“I’ve never been so glad to have been wrong,” Taehyung says when he pulls back a little. He looks less untouchable, now, a little ruffled. Jungkook wants to run his hand through his hair, then thinks, alright, and does it, carefully avoiding the silver of Taehyung’s hair clip, tangling his fingers in the waves that are definitely as soft as they looked.

“I was right though,” Jungkook murmurs softly. “You were definitely mad at me.”

“Mm,” Taehyung says, and tips his head back a bit.

“Does this mean I win?” Jungkook whispers. He leans in, buries his nose in Taehyung’s neck, feels for the steady thrum of Taehyung’s pulse point and presses a kiss to it, trying to give all the gentleness back to him, trying to tell him: it’s okay, I didn’t mean to hurt you, I want you like you are.

Taehyung laughs breathlessly. His fingers twist into the collar of Jungkook’s shirt. He brings his mouth up close to Jungkook’s ear, whispers, “That depends on what we’re playing.”

Jungkook can’t wipe the smile off his face. He straightens, stares at Taehyung full on, can’t believe how fucking gorgeous he is, the happiness making him brighter than ever before. Can’t believe how easy this feels. For so long, Taehyung had been beautiful, but distant, a bright star Jungkook could only orbit, never getting closer for fear of being burned. But now that he’s here, it’s not scary. All he feels is warmth.

He squeezes Taehyung in a hug, tight, tighter, wanting to hold him forever now that he knows he can.

“Ouch,” Taehyung whispers.

Instantly, Jungkook lets go. “Shit, sorry,” he says, looking around in panic. “I didn’t hurt you did I?”

Taehyung laughs. “I was joking, you big baby. I’m not that fragile.”

“Yeah, well. I’m very strong.”

Taehyung snorts. “Sure.”

“Hey,” Jungkook says, grinning, “I am the supreme jock, you know.”

Taehyung’s smile turns fond, wide, still, but sweet. “Hmm, debatable,” he says, “you’re just my jock,” he says, then before Jungkook can groan at him about the cheesiness of it, pulls Jungkook in for another kiss, quick and light, easy because they get to do this, now.

 

*

 

The field is wet with frosty dew and the air is starting to turn cold. Jungkook’s breathing comes fast and sharp in his lungs as he runs with the ball, dodging tackles and sprinting towards the end of the field. Somewhere, a clock ticks down, and they’re still tied at 10—the game could go either way.

He skids hard, nearly dropping the ball out as he turns sharply to avoid the crashing elbows of the other player. Jungkook curses under his breath and scans the field.

There—far end, Taehyung is open, jogging alongside the pack easily, his eyes darting around the group.

Jungkook grins, picks up the pace, then makes one final break of it, sprinting with a burst of energy ahead of everyone tailing him.

“Tae!” he shouts, and flings the ball sideways.

Instantly, Tae is moving, scooping it up and running. Jungkook whoops and runs alongside, and the other team is trying to catch up but Jungkook squares his shoulders and block, fending them off as Taehyung sprints further and further ahead.

He has his back to the goal when he hears a swish, and then—a dull thud. Cheers explode. The buzzer blares, calling time. Jungkook turns around to see the goalie sitting on the ground, stick abandoned beside him, Taehyung already fistpumping and hollering.

“Jungkookie!” Tae screams when they catch each other's’ eyes. “We did it! We won!”

Despite his screaming muscles, Jungkook takes off at a sprint again. Taehyung meets him halfway, slinging arms around Jungkook’s middle and crashing their lips into a kiss. The rest of their team groans and the stands explode into more cheers and whistling, but Jungkook pays them no mind, only tosses his stick aside to tangle his hands into the messy strands of Taehyung’s hair, kisses his boyfriend in the wake of their final season victory.

Taehyung laughs into his mouth, and then when they break apart, holds a hand out for The Handshake, which they perform with more of a flair than usual, tossing up victory signs at the end towards their friends in the stands.

“Jungkookie!”

Jungkook looks up to see Yoongi, beaming, actually on his feet on the stands. He’s waving and jumping up and down in a decidedly non-Min Yoongi way, and Jungkook laughs half in startled surprise and half in embarrassment. Beside him, Jimin is waving just as enthusiastically, like the two of them are trying to outcompete each other or something. Taehyung points and cackles, half leaning on Jungkook in his mirth.

Jin’s there, too, blowing kisses and mouthing something that looks like “That’s my son!” down onto the field. Hoseok—Jungkook’s figured out that it’s definitely Hoseok—sits beside him, waving a sign with Jungkook’s and Taehyung’s names scrawled across in bold, and then on Hoseok’s other side is Namjoon, who looks rather out of his element, and whose presence at the game was apparently due to Hoseok’s invitation, which Seokjin considered a grave betrayal. (There’s clearly some drama there, but Jungkook isn’t really sure on the details.)

“Our friends are so embarrassing,” he whispers into Tae’s ear.

“Yeah, but Namjoon agrees that I should be the supreme jock so we need to keep him around.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Namjoon doesn’t like what he’s talking about. He’s not even sports adjacent. Besides, Jin doesn’t like him.”

Taehyung shifts, tugging Jungkook closer by his hips. “Your college dad is just working through some sexual tension issues, I’m sure. Anyways, that’s the entire point, the supreme jock should be able to reach across the boundaries, be an ambassador for all of us. Ergo, I’m much more suited.”

“I think you’re the one who’s full of shit,” Jungkook says drily.

“You’re just jealous,” Taehyung says. “On account of me being the supreme jock and all.”

Even though he knows by now that Taehyung doesn’t mean it, he still feels a familiar flare of irritation surge up in him. But instead of challenging him to a race or pulling him into a headlock, now, Jungkook just grabs the front of Taehyung’s uniform and kisses him. “Shut up,” he whispers between kisses, “I’ll fucking prove that I’m the best jock.”

Taehyung smirks under Jungkook’s mouth. He crashes their foreheads together, aiming his familiar intense stare right into Jungkook’s eyes. This close, it’s scalding. “Oh yeah? How’re you gonna do that?”

In response, Jungkook only kisses him harder, nips lightly at Taehyung’s lips. Taehyung responds in kind, one hand moving to cup the back of Jungkook’s head, pulling him in closer. “I love it when you get competitive,” he says when they break apart.

Jungkook scowls. “Just you wait.”

Taehyung winks, then stretches and leans his elbow up on Jungkook’s shoulder. “Looking forward to it, babe.”

Jungkook grins, tosses out an arm to pull Taehyung into a headlock for real. When Taehyung squawks and tries to get away, he ruffles a hand in Taehyung’s hair, loosening the headband. Taehyung’s fingers find his abdomen and start to tickle, and then Jungkook’s losing his balance, and they’re both collapsing into each other on the field, laughing.

“Hey,” Taehyung says, staring up into the darkening sky.

“Yeah?”

“You’re fucking adorable.”

Jungkook blushes, even now. “Stop.”

“You are, though.”

“Yeah, well, you’re gorgeous.”

“Aww,” Taehyung coos.

And the fire is still there, but it burns between the two of them, now, and Jungkook feels like he could run on it forever, spurring him on, even if right now he just wants to lie here and bask in their win. But when he does get up, he won’t be alone. He can run towards Taehyung, with Taehyung, the two of them crashing together like always, but none of it hurts. Finally, they’re on the same track.