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absolutely smitten (and i'll never let you go)

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“Taehyung-ah,” Jin’s voice is merry and complements the spring morning sun. “Don’t forget, we have that batch of almonds coming in later around three.”

Taehyung nods, the reminder blooming in his mind. It’s Thursday, so there should be lesser traffic in the bakery today. Seokjin goes to the back to make a fresh batch of chocolate ganache, and there are still about fifty minutes till opening hours, so Taehyung rests his weight on the counter and daydreams about hazy road trips back to Daegu.

“Taehyung-ah!” Seokjin’s voice echoes within the empty cafe, and Taehyung is pulled out of his momentary trance. “I forgot to get lavender for the lavender cookies!”

Taehyung rolls his eyes and enters the back kitchen where Seokjin seems extremely flustered; over the mess of chocolate ganache that has ensued or the lack of lavender in the cafe, Taehyung isn’t sure.

“What day is it today?” Seokjin asks. “It’s Thursday, isn’t it? Don’t we have special lavender cookies on Thursdays?”

“I’ll go pick it up,” Taehyung sighs dramatically. He’s used to Seokjin’s forgetful tendencies, and this isn’t the first time he forgets to pick up ingredients from places other than the friendly delivery man. “Usual two bouquets, right?”

Seokjin nods and paints a grateful smile upon his lips before averting his attention back to the bowl of melted chocolate. Taehyung slips out of the kitchen and pulls his apron over his head. When he steps over the threshold the spring sun is warm against his back and his long shadow is cast against the gravel in shades of grey. The florist isn’t that far away, and it takes him five minutes to reach the shop. He’s well-acquainted with Hoseok, part-time florist, the full-time boyfriend of Seokjin, with artificially-dyed red hair and a smile bright enough to put the sun to shame. So it comes to him as a surprise when he’s met with a shorter, paler man with blonde hair, adorned in a cream woolen sweater and a black apron. A greeting falls short on Taehyung’s lips as the florist looks up at him with patient eyes.

“Hello, welcome to Ineffable Petal. How may I help you?” The man says and Taehyung short-circuits for a while because his voice has the familiar Daegu dialect to it and it reminds Taehyung of home.

“Hoseok hyung?” Taehyung asks because he’s a human being who is incapable of interacting with anyone who is cute. Taehyung registers the confused look on the man’s face and abruptly clears his throat to prevent further embarrassment. “Sorry, I- may I know where Hoseok hyung is?”

“Oh, he caught a cold. I’m covering for him today. ‘M Yoongi,” the florist says. Jesus, even his name is cute.

“Ah, I’m here to collect two bouquets of lavender. For Kim Seokjin? The Milan Blue cafe?” Taehyung’s not sure why everything sounds like a question but he’s gay panicking because holy shit, this Yoongi guy is cute as heck and Taehyung feels like a horrible friend for saying this but bless Hoseok for falling sick. Bless his little ill heart to the moon and back. “Jin hyung was supposed to pick it up this morning, but he forgot because he’s Jin.”

The florist chuckles and it sounds like wind chimes on a windy day.

“I know him. Hoseok's boyfriend, right?” Yoongi says and sends him a smile that makes Taehyung weak in the knees. “A little irresponsible of him, don't you think? Give me a second.”

He goes into the backroom and Taehyung stands and waits awkwardly. He tries to gather his thoughts - Yoongi is really cute and Taehyung is really lonely and Taehyung tries not to get carried away with his thoughts and think about holding Yoongi’s hands and making him grapefruit juice and madeleines on sleepy Sunday mornings. There’s footsteps against the floor and Yoongi emerges with two bouquets of lavender wrapped with brown paper and white string. There's a little card clipped onto the string and when Yoongi passes it over to Taehyung, their fingers brush for a moment. Taehyung is very, very flustered.

He clears his throat.

“How much is it?” Taehyung knows the price - he's too familiar with the number imprinted against the smooth receipt from how many times he's had to pick up flowers in Jin's place. But he asks anyway. Any excuse to hear Yoongi's voice.

“It's on the house,” Yoongi says. There's a glint in his eyes that Taehyung can't quite comprehend. “Hoseok said today was special. It's lavender season. Been getting lots of deliveries of lavender these days.”

“That's nice,” Taehyung says. He desperately wants to keep talking to Yoongi because he's so mystified by the florist, but the words are falling short in his mouth and he doesn't know how to continue the conversation. “So I'll get going now.”

“Of course, you have to get back to baking and all,” Yoongi says and smiles politely. “Tell Jin hyung I said hi.”

“Will do,” Taehyung hums. “See you soon, Yoongi.”

He waves and Yoongi waves back and on the walk back to the bakery Taehyung feels lighter. At the bakery, Jin teases him about how glowy he looks and Taehyung almost pushes his bowl of freshly-made chocolate ganache off the counter out of spite.

*

“Here, try this,” Taehyung hears Jin's voice and he barely manages to turn his head fully before a spoon is shoved into his mouth. The sticky substance coats his mouth and Taehyung struggles to feel his tongue against the back of his teeth.

“‘s sticky. What's that?” Taehyung mumbles through the wad of something in his mouth.

"Toffee nut caramel. Is it good?”

“No,” Taehyung says after a moment of violently tapping his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Less corn syrup, hyung.”

Seokjin's face falls for a moment before it is replaced with a look of determination. He goes back into the kitchen and Taehyung hums and rests his chin in the palm of his hands. It’s 6:43pm and there are seventeen minutes left till the cafe closes. It gets quiet around this time, drained adults rushing home to dirty laundry and giddy pets and exhausted college students residing in greasy pizza parlours and fast food restaurants.

So it surprises him when the bell above the door chimes, signaling the arrival of a new customer. See, he never really expects anyone, doesn't really await anybody's presence, but he definitely had not been expecting Yoongi tonight. Yoongi, who ditches the florist apron and walks in while on his phone, so he almost trips on a chair leg. Yoongi, who makes a breath get caught in Taehyung's throat, causing him to cough heavily, make a 180-degree turn and walk straight into the kitchen.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says. Seokjin looks up and there’s cocoa powder dusted on his lips. “Can you take the counter for a while?”

Seokjin peeks over Taehyung’s shoulder and looks past the glass door. He sees Yoongi and looks at Taehyung with a knowing shit-eating grin. While maintaining eye contact, he deliberately tilts the bowl of toffee nut caramel and flips it over. The sticky substance takes a while to move down the side of the bowl, but soon enough there’s the sound of a call bell being pressed and a few splatters of caramel on the tabletop.

“Sorry, gotta clean this up,” Seokjin smiles casually and goes to the basin to retrieve a washcloth. Taehyung internally curses Seokjin for being so inexplicably chaotic and walks back out to the counter.

“Hello, welcome to Milan Blue. How may I help you?” Taehyung says. There’s a falter in Yoongi’s smile and Taehyung wonders if he had expected a friendlier greeting. There’s a tug in his ribs and Taehyung wants to try again. “I’m playing. Hi, Yoongi.. hyung? Yoongi hyung. Hello.”

“Hi. I actually came to visit Seokjin because he promised to treat me to dinner tonight but it's not so bad seeing you again.” Yoongi says. Taehyung internally screeches at the last part of the sentence, barely registering everything else he had said. “Is he in the back?”

“Yeah, he’s-” Taehyung turns and sees Seokjin bent over trying to wipe the caramel stain off. “..being an asshole.”

Yoongi laughs and it reminds him of the sweet matcha lattes Seokjin makes for him on weekends. He’s sweet. Yoongi is sweet and has a smile that resembles treacly matcha syrup and Taehyung feels himself getting so whipped.

“Okay, while I wait, can I get some grapefruit juice?" Yoongi asks. When he passes him his card to pay, their fingers brush slightly and Taehyung almost mutters a swear under his breath. Yoongi is so cute.

He makes Yoongi’s drink while the latter occupies a corner seat. He’s still wearing the cream woollen sweater and Taehyung tries not to get distracted by how endearing he looks, swallowed up in the sweater that’s likely to be a size too big for him. Taehyung may have added a little more sugar syrup than usual, but his heart is doing clumsy somersaults and it shows in his fingertips. When Taehyung sets the plastic cup down onto the table, Yoongi says thank you and Taehyung hesitates if he should grow a pair and sit with him. Whatever Seokjin put in his vanilla latte that morning seemed to course through his veins as adrenaline and Taehyung finds his body sliding into the seat opposite Yoongi.

“I hope you don’t mind me sitting here,” Taehyung says and tries not to come across as annoying. “Nobody usually comes in anymore at this hour, and it's boring not having anything else to do.”

“It's okay, I don't mind," Yoongi smiles. Taehyung is nervous.

“Hope ‘m not being annoying. Jin hyung is busy and you’re really the only company I have currently.”

“I'm glad to be of your interest, then,” Yoongi says and grins cheekily and oh my god is he flirting with Taehyung. Taehyung tries to laugh to fit in with the casual vibe but his chuckle comes out forced and an aggressive puff of air tickles his windpipe, causing him to cough. In the midst of his coughing fit, he reaches over to reach for a napkin because he doesn't wanna be gross and spread his germs, but he's clumsy and he's gay panicking, so he ends up accidentally knocking over Yoongi's plastic cup and screaming. The plastic cup makes a pathetic sound as it falls to the floor, clinking against the tile but what makes Taehyung's heart drop is the drip of too-sweet grapefruit juice spilling over the edges of the table and of course, amidst the fabric of Yoongi's sweater.

And, oh, if things couldn't get any worse, Taehyung's shirt is soaked.

“Oh, my God, I am so sorry,” Taehyung cries, reaching over for more napkins to try and clean up the mess he made. “I'm a horrible person, I ruined your sweater and it's probably really nice and soft and fluffy and you're probably really cold from the juice. I feel awful. I am so, so so so sorry.” Yoongi just sits there and lets Taehyung dab at his shirt with pink napkins and it is at that very moment, with Taehyung halfway across the table, head angled to wipe at Yoongi's shirt, that Seokjin decides to announce his humble presence. Except, he's Seokjin, so of course he's horribly chaotic and bursts out laughing at the sight in front of him.

“Taehyung! What are you doing?” He manages to gasp out in between pants. “Oh my God, this is hilarious. I can't believe you did that.”

Taehyung retracts a little to look up at Yoongi and they make eye contact and Taehyung feels his heart going badumbadumbadum and Seokjin is still laughing and Yoongi has an unreadable expression on his face that Taehyung supposes mimics confusion but the smile that ghosts on his lips is soft and Taehyung wants to scream.

“Jesus fuck, Taehyung, I leave you for a minute and you're out here trying to get Yoongi to strip,” Seokjin tuts, retrieving a washcloth from the counter and approaching the grapefruit-scented pair. Taehyung feels his face heat up and gives Seokjin the middle finger, not even caring that he's older.

“It's okay, Taehyung,” Yoongi mumbles and this is the first time he's saying his name and Taehyung wonders how much longer it's going to take before he genuinely combusts into flames right there and then. “Go clean yourself up, you're wetter than I am.”

Taehyung looks down on his chest and is reminded of the dark spot that adorns his chest. Holy fuck. Seokjin sighs but has a patient smile on his face and he gestures to the back room, where he claims there are spare shirts. As Taehyung stands, Seokjin whispers into his ear and it's subtle and barely-there but Taehyung is grateful and rushes to the back to change. When he emerges, he has to do a double-take because Yoongi is now in a black shirt, with the sleeves long enough to barely brush past his elbows and he looks so good and Taehyung hadn't been sure earlier if Yoongi could look even better than he already did, but the answer is yes, because Yoongi looks ethereal, black fabric contrasting starkly his pale skin and bleached blonde hair and holy fuck mother of god jesus take the fucking wheel, Taehyung has to choke back a cough as he steps over the counter threshold.

“Uh- I'm sorry about your sweater. And your drink. And for being an awfully clumsy person,” Taehyung says to Yoongi. “Let me make it up to you. I feel horrible.”

“It's-” Yoongi clears his throat. “It's really okay. Seriously. You don't have to.”

“No, please, let me. If you don't, I'm going to feel guilty and terrible for the rest of my life,” Taehyung says.

Seokjin clears his throat.

“If the two of you are done flirting, I'm gonna need to ask both of you to get out of the store. Homeboy's gotta lock up.”

While Seokjin is locking the front door, Taehyung and Yoongi stand outside awkwardly. He's holding his sticky sweater in a paper bag and Taehyung feels guilt gnawing at his ribs every time he looks at it.

“Hey. Let me buy you a coffee or something, seriously. I feel miserable,” Taehyung whines.

"Hey, it's fine," Yoongi says. "Really. Don't worry about it."

"No," Taehyung moans. "Let me buy you dinner tomorrow or something. Please?"

"Your treat?"

Taehyung nods.

"Okay," Yoongi smiles after a while.

“Okay,” Taehyung says, blinking. He didn't expect it to work so easily. He tries to inject confidence into his bloodstream as he passes his phone to Yoongi. “Give me your number? I’ll text you the details and stuff.”

Taehyung vaguely notices the bitten edges of his nails as they're tapping away at the phone screen. He drops his eyes and notices Seokjin walking over.

“Uh, here. You-” Yoongi coughs. “Text me tonight. Or something. Whenever you want to. No pressure.”

“Yeah, I will, I’ll-” Taehyung is cut off by Seokjin.

“Hello, my favourite people in the entire world. Taehyung, if you’re done flirting with my tiny little kitten Yoongi-” Yoongi punches his shoulder. “I’d like to go have dinner with him now.”

“Of course,” Taehyung mumbles, taking a step back from the two. He takes two more steps backward and mentally congratulates himself for not tripping over his own feet. “I’ll get going now. See you tomorrow, Seokjin hyung. Oh, and- you too, Yoongi hyung.”

There’s a ribbon of shyness dripping in his last words and Seokjin scoffs dramatically over how gay that was and Yoongi punches him in the shoulder again. Taehyung laughs and waves and walks to the bus stop. When he looks over his shoulder, there’s a tall shadow playfully pushing a shorter figure and he smiles. Later, on the bus ride home, he thinks of Yoongi in the flower shop and looks up lavender seasons on Naver. The webpage shows mid-June and early-August and Taehyung smiles. It’s March.

*

Taehyung is running late.

He's running late and he's gay and he's nervous. Jimin had lazily told him to wear something casual, but Namjoon had lightly flicked his wrist and suggested that Taehyung dress up a little. To both responses, Taehyung had groaned because it didn't help his dilemma. But he got dressed, nonetheless, which is an achievement commendable enough, considering how nervous he felt about going for dinner with Yoongi.

It's a date. A dinner date, the irritating voice in the back of his head screeches. Yeah, thanks. As if Taehyung didn't have enough to worry about. Last night, Taehyung opened Kakaotalk and saw that Yoongi had saved his own contact name as ‘yoongo’ and Taehyung spent the next forty-eight minutes exhaling heavily and debating if he should impale himself with a spaghetti spoon over how endearing and adorable that typo was, intentional or not. But his roommates, Jimin and Namjoon, had grumbled at him to shut up so Taehyung did that. After giving them the middle finger, of course.

It's present time and the bus he was supposed to catch just left so things are not going as planned, but Taehyung tells himself not to worry, because then he'll start sweating and getting red in the face and he doesn't want to look all gross, especially after Jimin had patiently spent quite some time dabbing foundation and powder over his skin to make him look a little more decent. He had tried not to give it much thought, but he couldn't stop thinking of Yoongi and his soft eyes and his stupid face, all milky dips and shiny cheekbones. During work he kept thinking about Yoongi and his ridiculously large and unproportionate hands, causing him to almost mess up a customer's order if it wasn't for Seokjin, who had kicked the back of his knee. Bless him.

So, okay, he's eighteen minutes late, but Yoongi had texted him to take your time :P and Taehyung almost flings himself over the yellow edge drawn on the pavement of the bus stop at the emoticon. Yoongi is endearing. He's endearing and he's soft and pretty and gentle and he's all Taehyung has been thinking about the entire day.

He arrives at the restaurant - they settled on Taehyung's favourite pizza parlour, because Yoongi mentioned he didn't like stuffed-crust pizza, to which Taehyung sent a flurry of shocked-face emojis, and he's determined to change his mind - and finds Yoongi sat in a booth, fiddling with the zippers on his leather jacket, and - holy fucking SHIT he's wearing a leather jacket good god for the sake of all that is good and holy on god's green earth, and, okay, Taehyung is slightly breathless from how swiftly he had tried to walk from the bus stop to the restaurant, but he's also blaming it on Yoongi in that leather jacket.

Holy shit. Yoongi wants him dead.

“Hi,” Taehyung breathes. He prays that he isn't all sweaty and gross and red-faced. “Sorry, I'm late. The bus- well. That's no excuse, but. ‘M sorry.”

“It's okay,” Yoongi smiles a little and hands Taehyung the menu. “So what do you think I should have? Since, you know, you're so hell-bent on me liking stuffed-crust pizza.”

Everything feels natural and easy after that. They order pizza with golden cheesy crust and their waitress tells them funny puns when she serves their drinks and Taehyung makes Yoongi laugh and feels his heart go ablaze when he sees his gummy smile and hears his treacly laughter. He feels himself falling. Simply, and without thought.

After dinner, Yoongi asks if he wants to get ice-cream at the convenience store and who is Taehyung to say no? Their fingers hover over the Melona bars and Yoongi fishes out the mango-flavoured one while Taehyung settles for the strawberry-flavoured one. They eat their ice-cream at the bus stop and watch the stars wave at them from the sky. Time feels like a thick sheet of gelatine and Taehyung feels warm, like summertime naps and honey tea. He's smitten - that's what it is. Absolutely smitten. Dived in head first without a second thought. He tries to focus on lapping up the remains of his ice-cream instead of thinking about holding Yoongi's hand.

“Thank you for today. And for dinner,” Yoongi starts to say and Taehyung feels like kissing him. “Stuffed-crust pizza isn't so bad. Spending time with you isn't bad too.”

Taehyung grins, and it's boxy and cheesy. Yoongi is cheesy. He takes a step forward and Taehyung barely registers a flash of blonde hair brushing against his chin before he feels sticky lips pressing a kiss to his left cheek. Oh. Yoongi steps back and looks at him carefully, a mellow smile dancing on his lips and Taehyung feels his insides erupt in crimson lava and a supernova of glimmering stars and-

"Can I?" Taehyung whispers, and there's a breath of heat against Yoongi's skin.

Yoongi's head dips slightly, and Taehyung ducks his head.

He steps forward, slots his fingers behind Yoongi's ears and very gingerly lifts his chin up. And he kisses Yoongi. A press so gentle and soft that it's barely-there, so subtle that when Taehyung pulls back to gauge Yoongi's reaction, his breath is light and vulnerable against his lips.

He wants to try again. And there's a renewed fervor in Yoongi's eyes, so Taehyung tilts his chin downwards.

He kisses Yoongi again, with more pressure this time. Their lips are sticky against each other's, traces of artificial strawberry and mango flavouring and remnants of apple cider from dinner intertwining the touch. And Taehyung pushes, gentle but coaxing, waning and waxing and he hears the rumble of Yoongi's bus approach them, but neither of them are pulling away. The bus pulls away from the curb, and when Taehyung opens his eyes, he sees the soft flutter in Yoongi's eyelashes and they take a step back from each other. Their gazes hold for a moment, and it feels like time stops for just the two of them. Everything is silent and the night air smells like rosewater and grass.

A breath falls from Yoongi's lips, and then another, and then chuckles start dripping past his teeth, igniting a series of giggles from Taehyung too. They remain like that, a pair of silhouettes laughing beneath the shelter of a bus stop over a shared kiss. The moon looks down on them with a knowing gaze and Taehyung plants another kiss on Yoongi's cheek.

Later, Taehyung returns to his apartment feeling light-headed and giddy. Namjoon teases him about his date and Taehyung feels his limbs go mushy as if his bones have been replaced with molasses. Jimin knocks on his door after his shower and asks how it went, and stops himself mid-question when he sees Taehyung grinning at his phone. He sighs wistfully and shuts the door behind him and Taehyung feels like brown sugar syrup. He sends Yoongi a goodnight text, and Yoongi sends him a selfie with his hand poised in mid-air, imitating a wave. That night, he dreams of lavender cookies and treacly grapefruit syrup. Taehyung is beyond infatuated and lets himself fall for a certain boy with hickory eyes and a dulcet voice.