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New Year’s Eve

It’s three to midnight and Jeongguk is pretty sure he had sight of Namjoon going into the kitchen with Seokjin not ten minutes ago. Now he’s nowhere to be found.

“Hyung,” he says to Seokjin. “Have you seen Namjoon?”

Seokjin doesn’t seem to register his question. He hands him a glass of champagne. Jeongguk grips the stem tightly in fingers he realizes are trembling. “Sorry, what, Jeongguk-ah?”

“Namjoon?” Jeongguk repeats, struggling to be heard over the music.

Seokjin bites his lip. His eyebrows draw together like he is beginning to understand something. “I don’t know,” he says. His voice is oddly soft.

Panic rises in Jeongguk’s throat. He tries to calm himself down. This is not that big of a deal, he tells himself. In the grand scheme of things, this is just one day where he might or might not kiss a boy he likes.

It still feels like a big deal.

“I’m going to look for him,” Jeongguk mumbles. He makes his way out of the kitchen.

In the living room, Taehyung is sitting in an oversized armchair, looking pleased with himself; Jimin is perched on the arm of the chair, looking at Taehyung and away in intervals, shaking his leg all jittery.

When Taehyung and Jeongguk arrived, Taehyung announced loudly that he would be kissing the person nearest to him at midnight. Jimin’s eyes bugged out. Jeongguk wondered what he was going to do, but it looks like Jimin has made his choice.

Taehyung catches Jeongguk’s eye. He frowns and mouths ‘Namjoon?’

Jeongguk shrugs. He looks around pointedly. Taehyung shrugs back. Jeongguk darts his eyes at Jimin and gives Taehyung a thumbs up. Taehyung winks.

Jimin catches sight of their exchange and frowns at Jeongguk questioningly. Jeongguk just grins.

Taehyung leans up to say something to Jimin. Jeongguk turns away and goes to walk into the next room.

Namjoon isn’t there, either. Jeongguk starts to feel a little frantic. His phone vibrates.

Taehyung
Jimin hasn’t seen him either
I hope you find him

Me
Still looking. Looks like you’re getting kissed tonight

Taehyung
I KNOW
I thought I was going to have to do the kissing but he almost threw himself on me when I sat here
Ok stop texting me go find your man

Me
Hope you chewed gum!

Taehyung
Who do you think I am??

The time hits 11:59 and Jeongguk moves back the way he came with purpose.

Seokjin is in the living room now, passing out the last few glasses of champagne. Jimin and Taehyung accept theirs, but they look at each other for a moment and then simultaneously set the glasses down on the end table. Jimin gets a determined look on his face and slides down into Taehyung’s chair, onto Taehyung’s lap. Suddenly it seems very intimate.

Jeongguk looks away. Namjoon couldn’t have gotten far. Surely he’s about to come back into the living room. Seokjin will hand him a glass of champagne. Then Jeongguk will just have to slide between them before Seokjin decides it’s a good idea to plant one on Namjoon.

Ten, nine, eight,”

Namjoon doesn’t come into the living room.

“seven, six, five, four,”

 

 

 

 

 

The Pact originated sometime in October.

But before that was a normal Sunday afternoon. It was raining--not heavily, but steadily, and it had been all day.

Jeongguk was sitting at Yoongi’s kitchen table drinking coffee with him while they watched Hoseok and Jimin attempt to bake. “Taehyung is really brave,” he said. It was almost offhand. He was just thinking about how Taehyung never hid his feelings for Jimin and wishing he could be that brave, too.

But Jimin looked up and gave him a funny look. “Is he?”

“He’s scared of a lot of things,” Hoseok said, turning around and catching Jeongguk’s eye. “Spiders, snakes. Birds.”

“Heights,” Jimin added. “Bees.”

It struck Jeongguk then. His mouth hung open. Jimin was not paying attention, but Yoongi reached over from beside him and gently closed his mouth. He caught Jeongguk’s eye meaningfully, and it struck him.

Jimin unequivocally Did Not Know.

 

After that, Jeongguk noticed it all the time. That same afternoon, Taehyung came into the apartment with Seokjin and Namjoon, loaded with groceries and all damp from the rain, and he immediately looked at Jimin. He smiled this sweet, lovely smile that hid nothing.

“Helloooo!” Jimin greeted all three of them.

Jeongguk was floored.

And the thing is, that was just how Taehyung looked at Jimin. It wasn’t just that afternoon and it wasn’t just because Jeongguk had been thinking about it.

Taehyung, Jeongguk knew, had loved Jimin a long time. As long as Jeongguk had loved Namjoon, if not longer. But Taehyung, unlike Jeongguk, seemed unafraid of his feelings.

If Jimin asked anyone-- anyone-- he could easily obtain a list of instances with dated citations that prove Taehyung is in love with him.

The problem, Jeongguk has to conclude, is that Jimin has never asked. In fact, he can’t have ever so much as said a casual “hey, do you think Taehyung likes me?” without having an incredulous look thrown his way.

For a couple weeks, Jeongguk felt crazy. There was no way Jimin didn’t know, right? He was just pretending for Jeongguk’s benefit?

But he wasn’t. Jimin had no idea.

Jeongguk watched anytime he was with them, especially when one of them arrived somewhere. A lot of the time Taehyung was excited, with his wide harmonica smile and loose limbs everywhere, but when he got calmed down he always had these sweet, soft, ardent little smiles to send Jimin’s way. His eyes sparkled when he looked at him. He’d take Jimin’s hand in his sometimes, and smooth over his palm with his fingers, and grin at Jimin’s tiny little fingers next to his (sometimes catch Jeongguk’s eye with his tongue caught between his teeth).

They hung out alone all the time. How could Jimin not notice when it was the only thing to see?

It was cold and mid-October when he asked Taehyung about it.

They were huddled up in coats and scarves in the coffee shop Hoseok worked at. Jeongguk pressed his hands to the mug Hoseok made his latte in and Taehyung held his hot chocolate to his cheek.

“Hey,” Jeongguk said.

“Hmm.”

“Jimin doesn’t know you’re in love with him?” He didn’t mean for it to come out like a question, because by then he was certain, but it did.

Taehyung frowned and set his mug down. “No?”

Jeongguk knew what conversation he was trying to have, but he couldn’t quite figure out how to make it happen. “How?” he settled on.

Taehyung tilted his head like he was trying to understand. “What do you mean?”

“I mean--” Jeongguk tried to process through his thoughts really quickly. “I mean, it’s like you tell him. It’s like you’re telling him every day. Every time you look at him. You’re… you’re doing that on purpose, right?” Suddenly he felt uncertain, like a weird trauma has almost been left behind from almost talking about Taehyung’s Big Feelings with Jimin present.

Taehyung huffed a laugh. “Yeah.”

Jeongguk let out a breath of relief. “Yeah. So how does he not know?”

Taehyung shrugged. “I don’t have an answer for that. Maybe he’s not ready to know.”

“How can you be okay with that?” Jeongguk marveled. “Just… letting your feelings out into the world like that? Knowing he could pick up on them one day and everything could be different?”

The look on Taehyung’s face turned to confusion. “What? I want him to realize how I feel about him. What are you talking about?”

Just the idea of wanting someone to know he likes them made Jeongguk’s heart thump uncomfortably in his chest. “You’re not scared? I thought--I think you’re really brave. I’ve thought that for a long time. Before I realized Jimin doesn’t know.”

Taehyung licked his lips and leaned forward on the table, like he was in thought. “I’m not scared,” he said finally. “But I don’t think I’m brave, either. He’s…” His chest rose and fell deeply, measured. “I don’t have anything to be scared of. Jimin is safe. He is,” he tapped his chest, right over his heart, “safe.”

Oh, fuck. Jeongguk leaned forward and knocked his head onto the table.

“Hey,” Taehyung said in alarm. “What’s the matter with you?” He tangled his fingers in Jeongguk’s hair and scratched his scalp playfully. “Where is this coming from?” he asked, more seriously.

“Hhhh,” Jeongguk breathed out harshly.

“Jeongguk-ah,” Taehyung said, still running his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair. “I think… your feelings are--would be safe, too.”

“You don’t know about that,” Jeongguk said, his tone as accusatory as he can manage. No one was supposed to know about that.

“Sorry,” Taehyung said. Jeongguk could hear the hint of a smile in his voice. “As someone who puts a lot of feelings out there, it’s not hard for me to know them when I see them. It’s not as nuanced as you think, Jeonggukie.”

“Does everyone know?” Jeongguk asked in alarm. He lifted his head up.

Taehyung rolled his eyes. “No, our friends are mostly dumb, Jeongguk. You’d have to be me for everyone to know that you’re in love with--”

Jeongguk lunged across the table and covers his mouth, miraculously somehow not spilling either of their drinks.

“Hey, what is going on over here?” Hoseok asked. He approached the table with a plate of two cookies.

“Nothing,” Jeongguk said quickly. “Everything is fine.”

“Hmm,” said Hoseok. He set the cookies down and backed away slowly.

“Thank you,” Taehyung called after him.

 

Jeongguk couldn’t stop thinking about it. He lay in bed and almost cried at the force of the feeling in his chest and thought yeah, he's safe. He's safe.

Namjoon is safe.

If Taehyung could live like he lives knowing that Jimin would watch out for his heart, then Jeongguk could do the same. If Taehyung could let Jimin see that tender part of him unguarded and not be afraid, then Jeongguk could do the same. Namjoon is so gentle and understanding all the time. He would never push Jeongguk away because of his feelings. He’s safe.

 

“I’m gonna do it,” he said.

Yoongi blinked up at him from across the table where he was staring into his americano. “Do what?”

Jeongguk looked at Taehyung. “I’m gonna do you, but with Namjoon.”

“What?” Yoongi said in alarm. “If you’re Taehyung in this scenario, is Namjoon Jimin?”

“Uh,” Jeongguk said.

“It’s not going to work if you can’t talk about it,” said Taehyung.

Jeongguk took a deep breath, looked at Yoongi, and said, “Yes, I am in love with Namjoon.”

Yoongi looked straight ahead. “Huh.”

“It’ll work, right?” Jeongguk said to Taehyung. “Namjoon can’t be more oblivious than Jimin.”

Yoongi sputtered.

 

(A couple weeks later--

“Hey, Jeongguk-ah!” Namjoon called. Jeongguk was on his way out of his last class before the weekend.

“Hey, hyung,” Jeongguk smiled. “What’s up?”

“I was just thinking of what to do for dinner. Do you want to go somewhere?”

“Yeah, I’d love to,” Jeongguk said immediately.

“Cool. I’ll text the others?”

“Wait.” Jeongguk touched his arm before he could take his phone out. “I’d rather just you and me today, if that’s okay.”

Namjoon froze just for a beat. “Okay,” he said. Jeongguk wasn’t sure if the color in his cheeks was because of him or the chill in the air.

Jeongguk was proud of himself. A little anxious, but proud.)

 

(“Hi, hyung,” Jeongguk greeted with a huge grin. He could feel the corners of his eyes crinkling.

“Hi! You looked so good out there,” Namjoon said. He handed Jeongguk a huge sprig of baby’s breath. “This made me think of you.”

Jeongguk blushed. “Thank you.” And he hugged Namjoon tight, tighter and longer than usual. Namjoon hugged him back and smiled.)

 

(“How was your holiday?” Namjoon asked.

“Eh.” Jeongguk shrugged. “You know.”

Namjoon pressed his lips together. “Yeah. I know. You okay?”

He shrugged again. Then he turned his body on the couch and leaned into Namjoon’s side. Namjoon put an arm around him and let him, let him snuggle into his side and throw an arm over his stomach.

“You’re good, you know,” Namjoon said. He petted his hand over the back of Jeongguk’s head, just a quick touch. “I know it’s just me saying this. But you’ve grown so much and you’re such a good person. I hate that your family overlooks all of that and just sees your sexuality. I’m sorry.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk said. “It’s never just you. There’s no ‘just’ about you. It means a lot.”

Namjoon didn’t quite seem to know how to respond. “Okay. Well, I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you.” Jeongguk tipped his head onto Namjoon’s shoulder and stayed there.)

 

The Pact happened because it wasn’t working.

Jeongguk should have realized he was crazy to think Namjoon couldn’t be more oblivious than Jimin. Namjoon is worlds more oblivious than Jimin. Or at least, that’s what it felt like.

“It’s not working,” he groaned. “He has no idea.”

“Welcome to the club,” Taehyung said. He was a little moody that night. He was holding a glass of beer to his chest and looking like a dork. “Listen, Jeongguk-ah.” He leaned forward and set his glass on the table. “I think we need to do something drastic.”

“Hm,” said Jeongguk. “No.” Drastic wasn’t really his style.

“Come on,” Taehyung groaned. “Neither of them will pick up any hints. I say we put them on a timeline.”

“What do you mean by ‘timeline’?” Jeongguk asked. He felt like he might possibly live to regret asking this.

“This year,” Taehyung said. “If they don’t catch on by the end of this year we do something.” He was tipsy and his eyes were twinkling worryingly.

“We do what?”

“New Year’s,” Taehyung said. “We kiss them at midnight.”

 

(“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Yoongi said. He seemed a little confused about why they were talking to him about the Pact.

“You don’t think we might. Like. Ruin our relationships with them?”

Yoongi stared. “With… Jimin and Namjoon? Are you serious?”

“How does it make a difference?” Taehyung said. “You’re already being all mushy with Namjoon, right? What difference does it make if you kiss him?”

“Then… he will know.” Jeongguk knew he sounded silly. He felt silly saying it. “Like, right now I still have plausible deniability.”

“That completely defeats the point.”

Jeongguk deflated. “Yeah, I know.”

“And if he’s going to find out, you might as well get a kiss out of it, right?”

That sounded like a possibly very painful scenario. Jeongguk wasn’t sure how he felt.

“You’re not going to mess anything up, Jeongguk-ah,” Yoongi said. And, well. If Jeongguk trusted anything, he trusted that.

“So. Go for it?”

Yoongi pressed his lips together in a way that made them push out. “You like him a lot?”

“So much.”

“Then yeah. Go for it.”)

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Day

“three, two, one, HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

He sees Jimin and Taehyung move in at the same time. Neither of them hesitate. They take each other’s faces in their hands and you can see the tension breaking. They open their mouths as soon as they start kissing and Jeongguk hears himself say, “Yikes,” without meaning to.

“Hmph,” comes from beside him. It’s Yoongi. He holds out his glass of champagne. “Happy New Year. Here’s to whatever the fuck that is.”

“Happy New Year,” Jeongguk says. They cheers.

“Happy New Year, baby!” Hoseok slings his arms around both Yoongi and Jeongguk. Jeongguk’s champagne splashes onto Yoongi. Hoseok kisses Jeongguk’s cheek.

Yoongi pats Jeongguk’s back gently with traceable sympathy. Jeongguk hates it. "Happy New Year," he murmurs back to Hoseok. "Have you seen Namjoon?"

"I think he went outside," Hoseok says.

Jeongguk excuses himself to pull his coat on, then considers and goes to the kitchen and gets two mugs of hot chocolate. He thinks about bringing champagne, but he decides Namjoon will appreciate hot chocolate more.

He finds Namjoon on the back deck, in his coat and boots, wrapped up in a blanket.

"Hey," Jeongguk says.

Namjoon turns around to look at him. "Hey, Jeongguk-ah,” he says with a smile.

"Happy New Year."

"Oh." A pause. "Happy New Year. What time is it?"

"Ah, 12:04." Jeongguk comes closer and sits. "Am I bothering you?"

Namjoon looks at him for a second, then looks away. "You? Never."

Jeongguk hands him one of the mugs. "Hot chocolate," he says.

Namjoon takes it. "Thank you."

A moment passes in silence, and Jeongguk thinks with something weighing on his shoulders that this is it. "Are you okay?" he asks. "You missed the countdown."

"I'm okay," Namjoon says. "Just wanted to think."

"You missed your midnight kiss," Jeongguk says. It comes out surprisingly steady.

Namjoon huffs a laugh through his nose. "And who was gonna kiss me?"

Jeongguk’s heart tries to claw its way out of his chest and he lets too long a moment pass before he says, "I had hoped to."

Namjoon turns to look at him. "Had you," he says, less of a question than a disbelief.

"Yeah," Jeongguk says. He rubs his hands over the thighs of his pants anxiously. "Um. you are... Namjoon-hyung, you are one of the greatest people I've ever known in my life.”

Namjoon opens his mouth like he wants to say something.

“No, let me talk, please,” Jeongguk says. Namjoon nods, and Jeongguk takes a deep breath. “You are so good. You're kind and you love people so well. You always let people know you're there for them, and you're so unselfish." He takes in a breath that's much shakier than he anticipated. Namjoon makes a soft sound in his throat. "You do your best at everything even when no one is watching. You’re so unbelievably intentional. You treat time like it's as valuable as money, I think, and I'm... so lucky to be one of the people you choose to spend it on." His eyes are wet and stinging. He blinks rapidly.

"Jeongguk-ah," Namjoon says softly. He knows what Jeongguk is going to say. There’s no going back now.

"I like you so much," Jeongguk whispers. "No--I, I love you, probably. Yeah. I was hoping to kiss you at midnight, but I would also kiss you anytime." His heart is beating so fast he's almost sure it's just going to stop. His hands are shaking, shaking and getting numb from the cold, wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate that isn't hot anymore.

Namjoon is looking at him but he can't get himself to look back.

"I just thought I would tell you," Jeongguk says after he's been quiet too long. He gathers himself enough to look at Namjoon. "Are you crying?" he asks in alarm when he sees the tears running down his cheeks.

"No," Namjoon says with false bravado. "It’s not like a movie scene is happening to me right now or something." He leans in closer and lays his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder. Jeongguk isn’t sure if this is a good sign after a confession, but he’ll take it. "Were you really going to kiss me?" he asks.

"It was the plan," Jeongguk says. "I have no way of knowing if I would've gone through with it or not. Yoongi told us we wouldn't ruin anything with a kiss."

"Us?"

"Oh, me and Taehyung," he says. "We had, um, a pact." Now that he's telling Namjoon this, it feels a little embarrassing.

"What kind of pact?" Namjoon asks, lifting his head up to smile at Jeongguk.

Jeongguk huffs a laugh. "Well. To kiss you and Jimin?"

"Oh my god," Namjoon says, pressing a hand over his mouth.

"I mean, not both of you," Jeongguk says quickly, even though he's fairly certain Namjoon understood what he meant. He’s rambling. "Like, he would kiss Jimin and I would kiss you."

Namjoon laughs. “Incredible.”

“Incredible? I didn’t even follow through. Tae did, though. He and Jimin were all over each other before I came out here.”

“They’ve been gone for each other forever.”

“Yeah, well,” Jeongguk says, and lets it hang in the air, the I’ve been gone for you forever.

Namjoon is quiet. “A few weeks ago,” he begins finally, “or, probably a month by now, I was with Yoongi. And I said, ‘I would date Jeongguk.’”

Jeongguk jerks his head to look at him better. “What?”

Namjoon continues. “And he looked at me like I’d grown two heads. He was like, ‘Namjoon-ah, you could take Jeongguk out tomorrow if you wanted.’ And, I don’t know, it… it made me feel bad.”

“Hyung, why?” Jeongguk says softly, holding onto Namjoon’s arm.

“I had been, uh, thinking that for a while.” Namjoon sounds awkward. “One day I was like, Jeongguk is grown up and handsome and smart and good, and I would date him.” He takes in a breath. “I, uh. I kind of knew you liked me, but not in a way it was real to me. So when I thought that, I guess it made me feel bad for not taking you seriously before?”

“Did you not take me seriously?” Jeongguk frowns.

It seems like Namjoon is thinking about that. “I did,” he says finally. “I think I did. I think I always have. I felt like I was being flaky, like it wasn’t okay for me to go from being someone you look up to to being someone who likes you.”

“So,” Jeongguk says, trying to gather his thoughts. “Do you. I mean, would you…?” he looks down at his lap, embarrassed. He feels hot everywhere except his the tips of his nose and fingertips, which are numb. “Sorry. I’m still young. And immature. I need to understand what you’re saying.”

Namjoon takes Jeongguk’s face gently in his hands and turns it so he can look at him. “Yes,” he says. He kisses Jeongguk’s forehead. “You’re not too young.” He kisses the tip of Jeongguk’s nose, cold lips on cold skin. “You’re not immature.” He kisses Jeongguk’s chin, and says again, “Yes.” He kisses Jeongguk’s mouth.

Jeongguk yelps.

“Yes, I like you,” Namjoon says. “Can we try that where you don’t yell?”

“I guess we can give it a shot?” Jeongguk sputters. He touches his mouth without realizing it. Namjoon’s mouth touched this mouth. It was so soft. Oh, god.

“Can you move your hand?”

Jeongguk jerks his hand away from his mouth. He can feel how wide his eyes are but can’t seem to do anything about it.

“You look terrified,” Namjoon laughs. “Do you want to wait on the kissing?”

“Absolutely not,” Jeongguk says firmly.

“Okay.” Namjoon leans in again and kisses him softly. It’s not a very long kiss. Jeongguk doesn’t yell this time, but he does make a strange high sound in his throat.

Namjoon huffs a laugh. “You’re so cute. Let’s go out, huh?”

“Yes, please,” Jeongguk says fervently. “Yes.” He goes in for another kiss. He’s a little too enthusiastic, so it’s a little too rough and he feels their teeth clack together. “Sorry,” he breathes.

“You’re okay.” Namjoon says. He kisses the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth. “I can’t believe you don’t know how much I love and admire you. Everyone knows. I’m so proud to know you.”

“Please stop,” says Jeongguk. His face is heating in embarrassment.

“Absolutely not.” Namjoon pecks his mouth. “You made me cry. This is the least I can do.”

Jeongguk makes an annoyed sound and pulls at the collar of his coat. He kisses him and this time it’s right. There’s no teeth clacking and no yelling, just the press and then slide of their lips.

Then there’s Yoongi, yanking open the porch door and yelling, “IT’S FUCKING FREEZING OUT THERE, QUIT KISSING AND GET YOUR ASSES INSIDE BEFORE YOU FREEZE.”

Namjoon puffs. His cheeks and nose are an angry pink Jeongguk can see even in the low light.

“He’s right,” Jeongguk says. “Let’s go.”

“Okay.” Namjoon smiles at him as he stands.

Inside, Jimin and Taehyung are in the exact same chair, tangled together and trading kisses and giggles while Seokjin watches in disgust.

“Hm,” Namjoon says. “I guess this is the year. Finally. God. You know Jimin thought there was something going on between you and Tae.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jeongguk says absently. “We had a marriage pact, but that was a contingency.”

"A contingency?"

“A contingency. If things didn’t work out with you and Jimin.”

“Then you were going to get married. Straight to marriage?”

Jeongguk blinks at him. “Yes?”

Namjoon presses his lips together. “Well, I can’t argue with that.”

Jeongguk holds back his smile. “You can if you want.”

Namjoon wrinkles his nose and grabs Jeongguk’s hand. Jeongguk loves it. He grins, leans up, and kisses Namjoon.

There’s yelling, and this time it’s not Jeongguk; it’s Hoseok, then Seokjin, then after a moment Taehyung too.

Jeongguk doesn’t mind.