The air outside is much too freezing to be running. Jeongguk’s lungs feel like they’re bleeding with every deep breath he inhales, even through the scarf wrapped around his neck and face. There are clouds blanketing the sky, making the day seem darker than it is. The forecast called for rain, but Jeongguk really hopes it stays cool enough for snow. He’s nearly eaten shit on the icy sidewalk at least four times, but he can’t bring himself to slow down. Not when he’s finally fucking finished with finals. Not when Taehyung, and all his friends for that matter, finished their finals two days ago and have since gone out at least three times because they just fucking can , with no obligations to study or write essays or cry over a textbook…
Taehyung’s cafe comes into view, the red and white striped awning lined with pine boughs and twinkling fairy lights, glowing softly in the twilight dimness. The window is lined with more boughs and tinsel and some festive baubles in an attempt to be Christmassy without explicitly saying Merry Christmas. Jeongguk knows what’s in there waiting for him and he pushes the last twenty yards or so even though his breath is coming out in huffs and his eyes and nose are streaming from the cold.
The bell over the door jingles as he pushes through harshly, running up to the counter with no regard for social etiquette, yelling out I’m done! deliriously and demanding Taehyung make him some peppermint hot chocolate. His best friend smiles, completely amused, from behind the counter and pours some milk to steam.
“How do you think you did?” Taehyung asks over the unnecessarily loud screech of the steamer.
“Pretty good, I know I missed like five points for sure,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung grimaces sympathetically. “But I also know I got some bonus points, so it’s okay. I’m hoping for, like, a ninety percent or higher.”
“Aish, of course you are, golden boy,” Taehyung teases him with no real bite. “The rest of us plebs are hoping for Cs.”
“Hyung,” Jeongguk whines, cut short by the mug of cocoa being shoved in between his freezing fingers. “Cs get degrees.”
“That’s all I want,” Taehyung agrees. He wipes down the counter from splashed milk. The cafe itself is pretty much dead, only a couple tucked away in the corner talking quietly. Jeongguk can see Seokjin’s head bobbing up and down to the music through the window that leads to the back room. He sits down at the counter so he can keep chatting with Taehyung even though he knows Taehyung’s gotten told off by Seokjin for talking too much with Jeongguk while on shift. They just can’t kick Jeongguk out because he always buys hot chocolate.
This time though, Taehyung comes out from behind the counter to sit next to Jeongguk. Maybe it’s because it’s dead in the cafe, or the older is feeling slightly cheeky and running on post-finals endorphins. Either way, the simple action makes Jeongguk feel just a little bit warm and fuzzy on the inside. But that might just be the hot chocolate. They take turns spinning each other around on the stools, giggling much too childishly for the twenty-somethings they are.
Jeongguk eventually begs Taehyung to stop spinning him, the cocoa in his stomach sloshing around too violently for comfort. The giggles slide into silence, the only sounds being the lyric-less piano christmas music playing over the speakers and the hushed tones of the couple in the corner. Outside, darkness has shrouded the city, street lamps blinking on to shed light for people hurrying past. Jeongguk sees a speck fall (he smacks Taehyung when the older laughs at his wondrous gasp), then another, and another until the snow is falling is soft flurries.
He leaps up from his stool and rushes outside, arms thrown wide and spinning around. His head is thrown back, tongue hanging out trying to catch the flakes on his tongue because he hasn’t gotten to do this since he was a child, and he’s riding the high on finishing his exams and the thought of winter break and Christmas around the corner and he gets to hang out with Taehyung and he’s so happy right now in this moment.
Jeongguk hears the bell ring again and tips his head further back. Taehyung, upside down, is walking towards him, shaking his head gently with a smile on his lips. He turns around and brings his head back up.
“You’ll catch a cold,” Taehyung’s voice is soft. He reaches around Jeongguk and wraps his forgotten scarf around the younger’s neck, holding him close. “Don’t want you to get sick right as you experience freedom, right?”
“Thanks, hyung,” Jeongguk says. Neither make a move to separate, enjoying the heat of their own little bubble. He watches as Taehyung’s eyes look down, then back up into his, eyelashes fluttering.
“Can I give you your Christmas present now?” Taehyung asks abruptly, bottom lip caught between his teeth nervously.
“Two weeks early?”
“It just seems like a good time,” Taehyung offers and he takes a small step away from Jeongguk, although his hands are still holding onto the ends of the scarf. Jeongguk steps forward, closing the distance, because it’s cozy being this close to Taehyung. The same kind of feeling as drinking hot cocoa or seeing Taehyung smile.
“Sure, you can give it to me now,” Jeongguk whispers. A snowflake lands on Taehyung’s cheek and he brushes it away before it can melt into a drop of water, lets his hand stay there on Taehyung’s cheek. There are more flakes in the older’s hair, which had recently been dyed a soft silvery color. He looks like an ice price, snow falling around him and nestling in his mussed hair. But Jeongguk knows Taehyung’s too warm to ever be an ice prince.
“I wasn’t really sure what to get you,” Taehyung explains nervously. “I just wanted to give you something that somehow would match the way I feel about you, you know? Nothing I found really seemed to be able to convey that.”
“So what’d you get me?” Jeongguk’s throat feels tight, kind of like it feels when he cries, but he doesn’t feel like crying right now. Maybe the hot chocolate triggered his acid reflux?
“This,” Taehyung whispers, leaning in towards Jeongguk, who can’t bring himself to move. Taehyung’s lips are plush, as soft as he ever imagined, against his. Warmth, warmth like Taehyung’s smiles and the way his eyes twinkle when he laughs, engulfs Jeongguk and he feels himself smiling into the kiss. He brings his other hand up to frame Taehyung’s face, pulling the other closer. He’s never really known if angels are real, but right now Jeongguk imagines the whole heavenly host shining down on them. Kissing Taehyung feels so right, something he knew he wanted from the moment he saw Taehyung. But something he never knew was possible.
Taehyung pulls away, hands still pressed against Jeongguk’s chest. They’re both breathing hard, noses brushing. Jeongguk leans in for one more quick kiss, pressed softly to the corner of Taehyung’s mouth, only to repeat the gentle action again and again and again all over the older’s face, relishing the quiet giggles that fall from Taehyung’s mouth. He finally pulls Taehyung in for one more long, searing kiss before taking a step back as if to put a physical barrier between the two of them so he’ll stop kissing him.
Taehyung’s elated laughter pierces the snowy air around them.
“That was the best possible outcome,” he says, face stretched in a smile that threatens to split him in half.
“And that was the best possible gift you could’ve given me,” Jeongguk tells him earnestly, reaching down to grab Taehyung’s hands. “Didn’t know kissing you was even an option. Definitely would’ve done it a long time ago if I knew.”
“I didn’t know it was an option either,” Taehyung tugs him back towards the shop, back towards the warmth and hot cocoa and the quiet music and the couple in the corner. Jeongguk stops, leans his head back one more time to catch one last snowflake on his tongue, before allowing himself to be led back inside.
“Geez, now my present for you is gonna be lame no matter what I get you,” Jeongguk bemoans, suddenly thinking of all the shopping he hasn’t done yet.
“You don’t have to get me anything,” Taehyung says, eyes locked on Jeongguk’s and a small smile curving his lips. “You’re all I want.”