Actions

Work Header

Where the Sky Meets the Sea

Chapter Text

The monotonous rattle of the wheels on the rails has been trying to lull Jeongguk to sleep ever since the train left the station. With four hours already behind him, the two hours he has left on the train seem durable, but his head feels as if it's filled with cotton and he's bored. God. He’s so bored. Unintentionally listening in on the other passenger’s conversations got boring three stops into the journey, but now his headphones, which he tried using to block out the dull exchange of words around him, feel too much, too big. The music is too loud to his ears even on the lowest volume. With a heavy sigh, he puts them back into his backpack.  

 

It was a good idea to get away over winter break, but he really wishes he could have skipped the travel.

 

Without his headphones, he can hear the troubled breathing from the elderly man ten seats away, the crying child in the carriage next to them, the hushed conversation between two women who are about his age - one of them already facing an ugly divorce. To top it all, there’s a horrid stench coming from the toilet in the hallway that overpowers every other scent in a way that makes Jeongguk feel like he’s being blinded.

 

No one knows how sensitive he is to external stimuli, no one knows how hard it is to block out everything that tantalizes his senses 24/7, and sometimes makes it seem as if the whole world has turned against him.

 

No one knows he’s an omega.

 

Even his best friend doesn’t know, he just thinks that Jeongguk is very fond of cuddles, touch-starved, and maybe a little lonely. Sometimes Taehyung persuades his boyfriend, Yoongi, to join them during their cuddle - slash - movie marathons.

 

Jeongguk loves those quiet hours way too much. Loves it way too much when Taehyung and Yoongi’s entire focus is on him. He thrives under their attention, thrives with how their scents always seem just that little bit stronger than those of your standard human, clinging to his skin for hours after they leave. It gives Jeongguk an inkling of what it could be like if there were someone constant in his life.

 

He has never met an alpha.

 

Never met another omega either.

 

So yes, maybe he’s just that. Lonely.

 

It’s loneliness paired with guilt when he jerks off to the thought of Taehyung and Yoongi doing more than just cuddle him into the soft padding of his couch. So much guilt when he presses his nose into the pillow where Taehyung's head had been resting just minutes ago, rutting into his own hand, chasing what he can’t have.

 

Jeongguk hates the mindset that he is stuck in for the next few minutes while the wheels continue to bump over the tracks, and the frosted trees fly by him. The world seems to be made of greys, blacks, and whites, as if winter had sucked all color out of it. There’s no snow to be seen just yet, but he knows that once he leaves the lowlands and drives through the tunnel that is leading up into the mountains, he’s going to enter a winter wonderland.

 

His very own winter wonderland once he reaches the cabin behind the mountain pass, 1700 meters above sea level. The loneliness up there is a loneliness he likes, one he can live with.

 

When he checks the time on his phone again he still has an hour and a half left on the train, and it will take him roughly another hour to reach his cabin once he picks up the rental car. The battery icon on his phone shows forty-nine percent, enough to last him until he can plug his phone into the USB slot of the car. Enough to read a story or two.

 

Jeongguk makes sure that the person in the window seat beside him can’t look on his phone when he opens his favorite site. A&O. It’s as simple as it can get. Stories that are written about alpha and omega relationships, stories about a life Jeongguk can only dream of.

 

Some of those stories are bland, filled with cliches. Wrong. The only characterization they know is a submissive, weak omega that is in an abusive relationship with an oppressive, alpha-dom. Those aren’t the stories Jeongguk is looking for. It’s more than obvious that the authors aren’t alphas or omegas themselves, more than obvious that they are intrigued by the idea, but go with what they’ve heard, what they are making up in their mind. Some come close, but there are only a few that come close enough.

 

Jeongguk goes into his bookmarks and opens the page of an author he has read every single story by, Junemoon. They always write from the perspective of an alpha, their character development and storytelling are on point, and there’s something about the way they write about sex that leaves Jeongguk breathless, whining for more more more on his bed, his favorite dildo pushed in to the hilt. He can’t go there right now, but it doesn't mean that he can’t indulge a little in re-reading one of his favorites.

 

The story begins slowly, friends to lovers, slow burn, but still rated explicit. Just how Jeongguk loves it. He catches himself sighing under his breath a few times, lets the feelings get to him as he welcomes the tight feeling around his heart. Careful love turns into careful first lovemaking turns into the first heat of the omega, and the alpha helping him through it, his mind completely set on putting the omega first, see to his needs before he sees to his own. And Jeongguk— Jeongguk can feel slight dampness at the back of his boxer-briefs. He’s always been one to slick up easily, never needs additional lube when he’s playing with his toys. His plug is hidden in a velvet pouch with the other toys he’s bringing to the cabin, stored away in his backpack on the luggage rack above him.

 

He can smell himself. Always a little too sweet with a hint of freshly baked pastries, always something he’s trying to cover up with scents that are more to his liking, stronger. Usually, it works for him, but with his slick slowly soaking through his underwear, the sweetness is all he can smell. He’s pressing his legs together to tease his half-hard cock between his thighs, knowing that he’ll have to stop reading, or else he’ll walk off the train with a hard-on hidden under his coat.

 

Reluctantly, he closes the browser, opening a match-three game to forget about the gentle alpha, forget about how he fucks the thighs of the oversensitive omega to get himself off without hurting his mate. Jeongguk would love getting his thighs fucked. Would love to tease the alpha’s cock as it peaks out between his legs, would love to get cum all over his thighs.

 

He should have put the plug in before he left. He really should have. The fabric of his denim jeans is heavy. Jeongguk hopes it’s heavy enough to keep his slick from soaking the seat. He only has about ten minutes left. He needs to focus on the colorful blocks of the game. Needs to—

 

“Excuse me.”

 

Jeongguk’s head whips around. And oh.

 

Oh.

 

He’s hit with a scent that overwhelms him, a scent he wants to drown in. It’s a scent as smooth and refined as the voice of the speaker who is standing so close next to him. It tells of a rough sea and starlit nights. Jeongguk doesn’t need to guess as his heart rate picks up, tumbles. He just knows. His senses are in overdrive as he tries to sort his mind. What are the chances that he would meet an alpha, the first alpha he has ever crossed paths with, on this particular train?

 

“Y-yeah. Yes?” Hesitantly, Jeongguk looks up, following the long, denim-clad legs up to where the blue thermal turtleneck clings to the gentle swell of pectoral muscles, and then meets the eyes of— the alpha. The goddamn gorgeous, living, breathing alpha. Who can probably smell him, smell his arousal— smell his slick. Shame sweeps over his already heated cheeks with a forceful burn. Jeongguk can feel it creeping up from his neck. He wants to hide, wants to run, but the alpha is still standing there looking distressed. His dark eyes, hidden behind black-rimmed glasses, widen when they meet Jeongguk’s, changing from what appears to be mild annoyance to something Jeongguk can’t quite place.

 

“Nevermind, I just realized we can’t talk about it here,” the alpha's voice is barely audible, Jeongguk is sure that not even the guy next to him can discern the words. “Let me change compartments, it’s easier that way.”

 

“You have been here the whole time?” Jeongguk tries to keep his voice down to match the volume, not sure if he succeeded as he had never tried to talk so quietly before. It’s hard with his body instinctively responding to the scent, with his heart about to jump out of his chest.

 

“Yes, a few rows down the aisle. Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I’m going to go ahead and find a new seat.”

 

Jeongguk feels a deep disappointment settle in his stomach. He can’t go, can’t leave. Can’t. But here he is, unable to move while the alpha goes back to his seat to get a suitcase and a winter coat from the luggage rack. Before Jeongguk can do as much as blink, the automatic door has already hissed closed behind the alpha.

 

Shellshocked, Jeongguk sits in his seat for a few seconds before he grabs his jacket and his backpack and scrambles after him. He rushes through the doors between the compartments, relief spreading through him when he sees the murky blue of the thermal, the short dirty blond hair peeking out from under a dark grey beanie. The alpha is already reaching to open the inner compartment door.

 

“Wait!” Jeongguk shouts. Too loud. Why is he so loud? “Don’t leave,” quieter. More composed. Jeongguk breathes in, breathes out to calm his heavy heartbeat, but he’s inhaling stars and the sea again, and his heart remains the epitome of not calm.

 

The alpha turns around, meets Jeongguk’s gaze again. His eyes are unreadable.

 

When the alpha had been standing above him in the carriage he had seemed so tall, but now that Jeongguk is standing in front of him he realizes the alpha is only a few centimeters taller than he is.

 

“You can’t just—”

 

“What?”Jeongguk cuts him off. “Run after you? Oh yes, I can. You’re the first alpha I’ve ever—”

 

“Shhhh,” the alpha hisses as he presses an index finger against Jeongguk’s lips before he quickly lets go as if he had been burned. “You can’t just talk about it. People could hear you. You know how they are when they find out about us.”

 

“Sorry, but actually, I don’t know. Um. I never met one of you. Us. It’s a little too much, I’m just so—”

 

“Excited?” The alpha chuckles, “Yes, I was able to smell that.”

 

The small comment is enough to remind Jeongguk that he’s practically dripping with slick. “I’m not, it wasn’t— because of you .”

 

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply anything.”

 

Jeongguk watches as the alpha brings the finger that touched Jeongguk's lips up to his nose to inhale, watches as he closes his eyes for a second too long, his expression almost blissful when he opens them again.

 

“Okay, you know what, forget what I said before. It was interesting to smell how it built up, and I’d love to know what got you this—  let's call it excited for now. I’d really like to find out how you went through - what, twenty years of your life without meeting anyone who is like you. But how about you tell me your name first.”

 

It’s a lot. A lot to tell a stranger his name, but then again he has already smelled Jeongguk’s most intimate scent, can still smell it. He can probably hear Jeongguk’s heartbeat, can feel the heat that is emanating from his cheeks.

 

“I’m Jeongguk. And it’s been twenty-two years.”

 

“Namjoon, hi.” He gives a small wave that seems out of place in the current situation, tinkling his fingers. Magically, it makes Jeongguk laugh and his heart feel considerably lighter, a little calmer.

 

“Nice to meet you,” Jeongguk tries, still embarrassed about his scent, about the slick, about everything. “I’m sorry, I’m not used to people being able to smell my scent. Let alone an alpha to scent me.” He’s trying to keep his voice down again.

 

“I didn’t. Scent you, that is. It’s not how we use that word. I’d love to actually scent you though. Let you see how we scent each other properly.”

 

Jeongguk’s heart stops before it returns to the previous speed. Hell, he has read enough about it to imagine what Namjoon is talking about, but he still doesn’t know how much of what he read is fiction. He wants to learn everything, wants to be taught.

 

“I’d—” he starts, only to get interrupted by the announcement that his station is next. “This is me,” he says, trying to sound as if he’s not affected, as if he wasn’t about to say that he’d love that too. That he wants more of the stars, wants to drown in the sea.

 

“Okay then,” Namjoon says as the train pulls into the station, “Okay then. Bye Jeongguk.”

 

“Bye Namjoon.”

 

The cold hits him full force when he gets off the train. His body is too warm - with embarrassment, the lingering arousal, and the shame that he didn’t have the guts to ask Namjoon for his number while he still had the chance. The train starts rolling out of the station, taking the alpha with it, and leaves Jeongguk with his slick cooling uncomfortably between his cheeks. He needs to go to the bathroom and clean himself before he picks up his rental car. Every step reminds him of the encounter, it’s as if the alpha’s scent clings to him, as if it wants to make sure that he would never forget about the missed opportunity.

 

Briefly, he wonders if every alpha smells as good to him as Namjoon had, if every alpha scent would make his heart race like this. If—

 

It doesn’t matter anymore. He’ll probably never find out.

 

The drizzle feels like ice on his cheeks as he hurries to the bathroom. Inside he cringes at the lack of hygiene. The stench of urine is too much, it almost makes him gag. There’s a reason he tries to avoid places like this where his hypersensitive senses are jumping into overdrive, but it’s his own fault that he has to suffer through this situation now. He tries to breathe shallow breaths through his mouth while he’s pulling some of the rough paper hand towels from the dispenser and wets them under the icy tap water, already shuddering at the mere thought of them chafing against one of his most sensitive spots.

 

He locks himself into one of the stalls, pulling down his jeans and underwear to clean what he can of the mess in his boxer-briefs with some dry towels first. His dick is flaccid again, but has left some already dried streaks of precum on the fabric. Jeongguk wishes he had something to change into, but as he has everything he needs for the next two weeks at the cabin, he only brought electronics, necessities, and some fresh food for the first few days to improve the canned stuff he has stored up there.

 

Jeongguk uses the wet towels next, and even with how careful he is, they are still chafing. He grits his teeth at the uncomfortable feeling against his rim and his balls, and tries to hurry. Knowing that, like this, he can’t clean himself as thoroughly as he wants to, but he can’t find it in him to care much about it as he pulls up his boxer briefs and jeans and then hurries out of the stall to wash his hands. Not particularly fond of touching the door, he takes a fresh paper towel and uses it to touch the handle, holding the door open with his foot so he can ball up the paper and throw it into the bin from where he’s standing.

 

He tries to remind himself how happy he was at the prospect of spending two weeks alone, without loud sounds, without smells he doesn’t like, without responsibilities he has to take care of, but his mood has dampened. All he can see is what he could have had, all the missed opportunities that have been carried away with the train. He could have been able to text with Namjoon for one. Ask him all the questions that have been on Jeongguk’s mind for a long, long time. He can’t have any of it now.

 

“Jeongguk! Hey!”

 

What—

 

“Namjoon?!” Jeongguk blinks once, twice, but Namjoon is still standing against the railing that separates the platform from the rest of the station.

 

“Shit, you’re creeped out, of course you are,” Namjoon mumbles, his cheeks red from the cold.

 

“Maybe a little,” Jeongguk says, while his mind is screaming, He’s here. He didn’t leave. But Namjoon doesn’t need to know about that. He doesn’t need to know about the weight that is lifted from Jeongguk’s heart either, about the pure, raw relief that rushes through him.

 

“I just,” Namjoon breaks away from the railing, pushing himself off and towards Jeongguk while his suitcase is still standing there, “I couldn’t leave you like this. I have a feeling that you have a lot to learn about our community, a lot to—  I’d like to tell you, show you. If you want, that is. I have mentored before, I like to teach.”

 

“Community,” Jeongguk whispers, his thoughts racing, tumbling. “I had no idea.”

 

“You’re not the only one,” Namjoon says, his hand coming up to touch Jeongguk’s shoulder for a fleeting second. Comforting. Soothing. But then it’s gone again. “There’s a lot more of us, still.”

 

“My parents, the doctors, they—” Jeongguk shudders, but he isn’t sure if it’s because of the cold or because he’s been lied to his whole life. It’s too much. A storm of thoughts is rushing through his mind, leaving havoc behind.

 

“Is there a place where we could talk about this more privately? If that’s okay?” Namjoon smiles almost shyly at Jeongguk, but that smile only adds to the storm in Jeongguk’s mind. Dimples. Goddamn dimples in the perfect, clear skin.

 

“I rented a car, but I guess you have places to be?” Jeongguk is sure he’s dreaming as he points to a vague point in front of them, the situation too surreal, too different from what he’s used to. He starts walking in the direction of the car park as if he’s on autopilot, relieved when he hears the wheels of Namjoon’s suitcase following him.

 

“I don’t,” Namjoon says, “I have a house at the lake an hour from here, came back for winter break, so no. No places to be. No one waiting for me either.”

 

“Subtle,” Jeongguk breathes, but of course Namjoon hears him anyway. He needs to get used to this, needs to get used to being with someone as perceptive as himself. But all Namjoon does is grin at him, and there’s that expression in his eyes again. The imperceptible one from before. Namjoon’s scent is spiking in accordance with it, but all Jeongguk can smell is comfort and care.

 

“Honesty is key, Jeongguk,” he chuckles.

 

“Okay, so. Before I invite you into my car,” Jeongguk starts when they reach the car park and he unlocks the car that has been assigned to him with the app on his phone, “I won’t ask you about the ax murderer thing, because I hope my senses are not betraying me, but it’s just— why? Why do you want to do this? How old are you? What’s your job?”

 

“One, why,” Namjoon holds up his index finger to count, “I think you are lost, and I’d love to help you out of that maze of not knowing. Also, your scent is nice.”

 

Jeongguk worries his lower lip at that, unable to look at Namjoon. “Yours is nice, too,” he breathes. Maybe this is just something you tell each other, maybe this is normal in the - community.

 

“Thank you,” Namjoon smiles, “Two, how old am I,” his middle finger joins the index finger, “I’m twenty-eight. And three, what is my job,” lastly, Namjoon holds up his ring finger while he keeps his little finger down with his thumb, “I’m a university professor for music engineering and composition.”

 

“Wow, a professor, okay.” Jeongguk isn’t sure what else to say, “I’m still a student.”

 

“I suspected as much when you told me how old you were. What is your major?”

 

“Art,” he answers as he opens the passenger door for Namjoon, and walks to the back of the car.

 

“An artist, hmm?” Namjoon says but doesn’t climb into the car yet. “So I’m officially invited in?”

 

Jeongguk nods and opens the trunk of the Ford EcoSport to load in Namjoon’s suitcase and his own backpack. He walks back to the front, opening his own door, surprised to see Namjoon still waiting to get in until Jeongguk has taken his seat, although the drizzle has turned into a relentless rain by now. He seems mindful and considering, watching Jeongguk’s reaction to everything and reacting accordingly. It pulls on heartstrings Jeongguk wasn’t even aware he possessed.

 

“You were saying your parents and the doctors—,” Namjoon prompts, once Jeongguk has cranked up the heating.

 

Jeongguk is amazed that Namjoon remembers what he had said before he suggested a more private place. Jeongguk breathes in, breathes out, listens to the rain thrumming on the roof for a few seconds, collecting his thoughts.

 

“They told me I would be fine. Told me I wouldn’t be much different from everyone else. And they weren’t wrong. I mean, I—” Jeongguk’s eyes fly up to  Namjoon’s for a second, not sure if that’s what Namjoon wants to hear, but he nods encouragingly. “I’m not that different, aside from my senses being heightened, and I’m— I need cuddles a lot, and—”

 

Jeongguk bites his tongue. Why it is so easy for him to confess this little detail about himself to Namjoon - who he barely knows while it had taken years to tell his best friend? He has to admit that it would be nice to be cuddled by Namjoon. Bask in his scent. Forget the world for a few minutes. Jeongguk doesn’t know what it is that makes Namjoon’s scent so enticing to him, what it is that makes him feel so warm, so different. “Anyway, they told me I wouldn’t need suppressants, since there weren’t many alphas around anymore, so—”

 

“Fuck,” Namjoon hisses under his breath. “Fuck, Jeongguk you are not on suppressants?”

 

Jeongguk shakes his head no, getting worried when he sees how Namjoon balls his hands so tightly that makes his knuckles go white.

 

“Is that— bad?”

 

“It’s not good. No. It’s fucking dangerous. Not all alphas are like me, Jeongguk. There are some you don’t want to meet in the dark. Some who feel entitled by their rank. Some who— take omegas for granted, think they are just here to—” He stops talking, looks out of the window past Jeongguk, the muscle of his jaw pulsing as he shakes his head in disgust.

 

“Don’t hide anything. You said honesty was key, so please.”

 

“They see omegas as fucktoys. If they saw you on the street, they would follow you because of your unadulterated scent. They love to act in groups. It’s— It’s really fucking dangerous.”

 

“I didn’t know.” Jeongguk feels sick to his stomach. He’s strong. He lifts weights and runs and takes care of his body. But he also knows that he wouldn’t stand a chance against a group of three or four alphas. The word Namjoon used makes bile rise up his throat. He’s not that. He’s nothing like that.

 

“I don’t want to put this on your parents, but your doctors? They should have known better. They made you prey. I can’t believe you came off unscathed for twenty-two years.”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t know what to say, so listening to the rain seems like a great alternative. And breathing, breathing sounds good too.

 

“Hey,” the softest touch on his wrist, “Jeongguk, are you okay?”

 

He’s not sure if he’s okay. Not sure if he ever will feel safe again with the information he’s just learned.

 

“Would you come with me?” He blurts out.

 

“Where?”

 

“I own a cabin, up on the pass.”

 

“And you’re offering this to me after everything I’ve just told you?” Namjoon’s eyes are wide behind his glasses, disbelieving.

 

“I don’t want to be alone right now, so please?”

 

Namjoon keeps his fingers on Jeongguk’s wrist while he considers it.

 

“Namjoon,” Jeongguk asks quietly, “Namjoon, do you think my scent is nice just because it’s not— suppressed?”

 

“No. No, I don’t think so. I noticed that something was different about it, a little wilder maybe, but no, I don’t think that’s the case.”

 

“Okay.” The relief is not enough to fight the unease, the sudden insecurity that closes in around Jeongguk’s heart, but it calms him down in a way that is sufficient for now.

 

“Do you really want me to come with you?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk affirms. “Please,” he adds as an afterthought.

 

“Okay, then I’ll go with you. I just hope that you aren’t the ax murderer.”

 

Jeongguk has to grin at that, but then he quietly says, “Thank you,” aware of how stupid this is, aware how dangerous it could be. But he wants to keep believing in the good in people, wants to keep believing that Namjoon is as genuine and kind-hearted as he comes across at first glance.

 

After another few seconds of doubting his own instinct, Jeongguk starts the car and leaves the car park and some of the unease behind. He has a hard time comprehending why Namjoon would go out of his way like this for a stranger. For him. Jeongguk can’t stop looking at him from the corner of his eyes, making sure time and time again that the encounter has not been a figment of his mind. Namjoon stays quiet as Jeongguk weaves his way through the stop-and-go traffic of the inner town, but Jeongguk’s mind is loud enough to compensate the silence.

 

He could still be wronged, he could still be lied to. Jeongguk doesn’t know if one can influence one’s scent to radiate a false feeling of honesty and safety; if it’s possible, then this is a trap he’s walking straight into. Usually, he’s good with reading situations, people, noticing the small signs. Namjoon has been nothing but honest and open from the beginning. Maybe even a little flirty when they had been standing between the carriages while they were on the train. But not once has Jeongguk felt uncomfortable in his presence.

 

He’s pondering why Namjoon had been distressed at first, but he already has an inkling. He imagines what it would be like for him if he smelled the scent of an unknown aroused alpha three seats down the aisle, how uncomfortable it would make him. It had looked like Namjoon wanted him to ask to leave at first, and Jeongguk doesn’t know what changed his mind to an extent that he’s now in his car going up to the cabin with him.

 

The sound of the rain vanishes as if it has been switched off when Jeongguk drives into the tunnel. The visibility is much better now, turned from murky twilight into the crisp glow of the orange safety lights. The tunnel is only about a kilometer long, but it’s long enough to lead below the first mountain ridge after the lowlands.

 

When they emerge from the tunnel Namjoon gasps quietly beside him. Jeongguk smiles to himself. He has seen this so often already, but it never fails to amaze him. The mountain ridge functions as a weather divide on most days, and he already suspected the wonders that lie before them now that they have left the rain and the fog on the other side. The sun must have set only minutes ago. The sky is cloudless, glowing golden, with the edges already turning into the dark blue of night.

 

The golden glow bewitches everything. The snowy flanks of the mountains further away, the frosty trees, the moist road that is leading them further up to the small villages with their wooden houses. Jeongguk can’t help but look at Namjoon again, taken aback when he meets Namjoon’s gaze. It holds the same golden light as everything around them, his clear complexion glowing almost otherworldly. Beautiful. He’s too beautiful.

 

“Eyes on the road,” Namjoon chuckles, and peripherally Jeongguk can see how Namjoon’s eyes linger on him after he refocuses on the road.

 

It’s unfair. He’s always been one to pout quickly, and so he juts out his lower lip before he can stop himself.

 

“Cute,” Namjoon mutters, his scent spiking with that odd feeling of comfort and care again. Jeongguk would complain about being called cute, but he’s too distracted by Namjoon’s scent that seems to be everywhere in the car, evenly spread by the heating. It’s as if he’s bathing in a sea of stars.

 

“Would you mind if I put on some music?” Namjoon asks after a few minutes of comfortable silence. Outside, the golden glow of the sky has gradually transformed into a deep blue canvas on which the first stars are appearing, blinking into life one by one.

 

“Of course it’s okay,” he says, watching as Namjoon connects his phone to the Bluetooth system of the car.

 

“It’s a habit of mine.” Namjoon keeps scrolling through his phone. “I have playlists for basically everything. Train travels, showers, cooking, commuting, blue hour.”

 

Soft piano music starts filling the car. It’s a wholesome sound that tingles over Jeongguk’s skin, then settles in his bones.

 

“I like to connect memories with music, it’s a good feeling when you listen to the same music again and remember what you did the last time you listened to it. It’s as if my phone has become a jukebox for memories.”

 

“So you—,” Jeongguk clears his throat to get rid of the emotion in his voice, “So you want to make this a memory for your jukebox.”

 

“Just did. Mountains, snow, the most beautiful blue I’ve ever seen, and freshly baked pastries.”

 

His scent. Jeongguk’s scent. Namjoon wants to remember it.

 

It’s a strange feeling of pride that surges through him, makes his scent spike. Jeongguk knows he’s nibbling on his lip again, trying to compensate, to keep calm. But he fails terribly.

 

“Cinnamon buns.”

 

“What?” Jeongguk asks, caught unaware.

 

“Your scent. It reminds me of cinnamon buns. It’s sweet, but there’s something spicy underlying as well.”

 

Jeongguk takes the next banked turn with stoic calm. At least he tries, while his cheeks are starting to burn again, and the car cabin starts to smell even more of his scent. He wishes it would stop betraying him, but he has never learned how to reign in those impulsive reactions. Spicy. Namjoon seems to smell something spicy when all Jeongguk has ever noticed about his own scent is sweetness.

 

It’s been less than two hours. But Namjoon already seems to know him better than Jeongguk knows himself.

 

When they reach the pass, Jeongguk lets out a noticeable breath of relief. With Namjoon involuntarily distracting him, the narrow road with its multiple turns, viaducts, and small bridges had demanded a lot more attention than usual. His shoulders and jaw are stiff to the point that they are hurting when he tries stretching them. Jeongguk stops at the inn at the end of the main road to check the timetable for the bus going back to the valley. He takes a minute to stretch out his tense muscles before evaluating the time they have left.

 

Sweet relief gathers in Jeongguk’s belly when he realizes that the last bus leaves shortly after nine o’clock. He had offered to drive Namjoon back to the train station once they were done talking, but Namjoon had vehemently declined, as he didn’t want Jeongguk to take the same demanding road three times in one day just for his sake. He’s smiling when he gets back to the car, and Namjoon is smiling too when he hears the news. Nine o’clock. He doesn’t have to say goodbye just yet.

 

Despite the fact that the color of the sky has morphed into a nearly black shade, Namjoon’s blue hour playlist is still coming from the surprisingly good sound system. Jeongguk takes the winter hiking path that leads by the cabin. It hasn’t been cleared from the snow, but at least one of the snow groomers paved the ground enough to be safe without snow chains on the wheels.

 

“I hope you don’t mind the question, but how can a student like you afford a cabin up here?” Namjoon asks, his eyes still wide with wonder at the masses of snow in front of them.

 

“It was my grandmother’s. I used to spend every summer, and most of winter break up here when I was still a kid. My parents wanted to sell it when she passed away three years ago, but there were too many memories I didn’t want to lose, and— she loved it here, it was her gem, the one thing she loved to take care of after my grandfather died. So I promised to pay the utilities and take care of it. Take care of her keepsake.” He’s working two jobs besides university to be able to afford it all, but the thought of losing the cabin is what keeps him going.

 

“You must have loved her a lot.”

 

Love doesn’t even come close. Jeongguk misses her so much his heart still throbs with the pain from losing her whenever he thinks about his grandmother. But at least he was able to keep what was most important to her.

 

“I did. She took care of me, practically raised me when my parents started to turn their backs on me.”

 

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Namjoon says quietly, his hand reaching out to make contact with Jeongguk’s knee in one of those gentle touches that are over in the blink of an eye. Jeongguk wants them to linger for once.

 

“Thank you.” Maybe Jeongguk should add something along the lines of ‘it was a long time ago,’ tell him that it’s fine by now, but sometimes it still feels like yesterday, especially when he’s coming back here.

 

The cabin and the small barn where the firewood is kept dry come into view when Jeongguk steers the car slowly around the last turn. The scenery seems enchanted with the snow sparkling in the beam of the headlights. For a second his mind plays out scenarios he doesn’t want to think of. For a second he scolds himself for his own credulity. Namjoon is a stranger. He is an alpha. And Jeongguk led him up here, into his safe haven.

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“If you have second thoughts about this, you can drive me to the bus stop back at the inn, and I’ll take the next bus back to town.”

 

His scent must have betrayed him again.

 

“I don’t want to sound patronizing,” Namjoon continues, “but when I smell fear, it pulls on my wrong instincts. I want to protect, need to protect, so. The last thing I want is you to be scared of me, scared of this - admittedly - bizarre situation.”

 

“So you don’t usually flirt with omegas during train rides and—” Jeongguk realizes his joke is falling flat, so he stops himself before even more stupid words get the chance to tumble out of his mouth. “Sorry, I was just trying to be funny.”

 

“No, I’ve never done something like this before,” Namjoon says with a chuckle lacing his words. “Never felt like doing something like this before I met you.”

 

He’s flirting again. Jeongguk still doesn’t know how to handle Namjoon even without it, so he tries to hum non-committally, but of course it comes out as this weird sound, something between a whine and an actual hum. He’s overcome by the urge to hide his face in his hands, but he needs to keep the steering wheel steady while he parks the car in the deeper snow in front of the cabin.

 

Namjoon pats his knee again. “Just tell me if I’m too much. I keep forgetting you never met an alpha before. We— I’m usually very open about everything.”

 

“It’s fine, I’m fine. I—,” Honesty is key. “I like it.”

 

An almost proud sound comes from somewhere deep in Namjoon’s throat, but Jeongguk has no chance to dwell on it, or on the feeling the sound evokes in him. He kills the engine.

 

They’ve arrived.

 

 

 

There are considerable amounts of snow piled up on the steps leading to the door, he’ll need to clear it first thing in the morning. Namjoon gets out first, yelping when he sinks almost a foot deep into the powdery snow, and Jeongguk can’t help but laugh at his reaction.

 

“Do you want to leave your suitcase in the car? Or do you need anything from it?” Jeongguk asks when he climbs out of the car himself and tries to walk back to the trunk without getting too much snow into his shoes.

 

“We can leave it,” Namjoon agrees, so Jeongguk only gets his backpack, fiddling for the keys in the side pocket of his jacket.

 

When he steps inside, his first thought is how cold it is inside the cabin. There’s almost no difference to the temperature outside, but the electricity is working; the ceiling lamps are illuminating the interior with its comfortable, warm light. It is mostly made of dark varnished wood with off-white fabrics and decor to brighten the general color of the space. Namjoon follows after him, copying Jeongguk’s action of carefully knocking off the snow from his shoes before he places them on the small shoe rack. Three pairs of skis are leaned against the wall, all of them well cared for.

 

The cabin is an open-plan living area, there’s a four-poster queen size bed in the far right corner of the room, two settees and a coffee table are placed around a TV opposite from it. There’s a kitchenette on the left side, adjacent to the built-in bathroom. It’s enough, it has always been enough. But now that Jeongguk has brought someone here who isn’t family, he’s painfully aware of the scratch on the wood of the coffee table, the well worn carpets on the wooden floor that needed to be waxed for a decade, maybe two, the stainless steel parts of the kitchenette that have seen better days.

 

But the room smells like cedar, smells like home.

 

“I wouldn’t have been able to sell this either,” Namjoon says, looking here and there, as he tries to take it all in while he takes of his beanie, revealing more of his stroked back hair that is dyed a soft blond. The validation instantly lifts something heavy from Jeongguk’s chest, and he realizes that he wanted Namjoon to like it, that he would have hated it if Namjoon said something derogatory about the place he loves so much.

 

Surprisingly, the hands of the clock above the fireplace only read shortly after six p.m. It feels much later with the long journey, and the excitement of meeting Namjoon added together, but it also means that they’ll get about three hours before Jeongguk will have to drive Namjoon to the bus stop so he can catch the last bus down to the valley.

 

Jeongguk is tired, and the bed looks too inviting with all the soft pillows and blankets he had brought up here when he’d had a weekend off in October. Placing his backpack on it instead of lying down pulls a small sigh from him. The pillows are still arranged in the exact same way in which he left them, and just looking at it makes a heavy feeling of comfort settle in his bones.

 

“A nice nest you’ve got here,” Namjoon comes to stand next to Jeongguk but doesn’t approach the bed any further. “Do you want to rest before we talk?”

 

“I don’t— this isn’t—,” Jeongguk sputters, “It’s not a nest .”

 

Namjoon smiles at him softly, “My bet is that everything you’ve heard about nesting is wrong. Come on, let’s sit down over here and talk, okay?” He points at one of the couches, and Jeongguk can only nod.

 

They don’t get to the talking right away. After Jeongguk has finally washed up with a soft, warm washcloth, and changed his soiled underwear and denim jeans that were still reeking of his slick, he busies himself with getting the heating running, and an additional fire started. There is something about the heat coming from a real fire that adds to the comfort of a room. Jeongguk has always preferred it to the artificial heat coming from the water run radiators which aren’t the most powerful anyway.

 

It’s almost seven when he finally sits down on the couch next to Namjoon, placing two cups of tea and a plate with cookies on the table in front of them. Jeongguk doubts he can eat, but it feels good to warm his hands on the warm stoneware of the cup. It feels rough against his skin, earthy, anchoring. He catches Namjoon watching him over the rim of his own cup, his eyes warm and patient as if Jeongguk hasn’t just wasted almost an hour of their time.

 

“Before we talk about the more important stuff,” Namjoon starts, “Nesting.”

 

Jeongguk sighs. Embarrassing pictures are forming inside his mind of omegas in heat.

 

“The need to nest is only displaying the need for comfort,” Namjoon says softly, “There is nothing weird about it, nothing at all. Where do you feel the most comfortable here?”

 

“The bed,” Jeongguk admits.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I made it this way. I added all those pillows and blankets to make it more comf—” he stops, realizing what Namjoon is doing. When he looks at him again, there’s a satisfied smile playing around the edges of Namjoon’s mouth.

 

“It’s your nest. It’s your place of comfort and safety. Yours only. Your sanctuary.”

 

Jeongguk pictures his bed at his apartment back in the city. It’s the same. Blankets draped carefully around the edges of the mattress, pillows to hug, to lie against. Everything held in the same earthy, warm colors. His nest. It’s such a tiny detail in his life, but Namjoon made sense of it for him without making him feel stupid. Jeongguk already feels like two hours are not going to be enough.

 

“Although it is true that it’s also the place where omegas feel most comfortable during heats - or pregnancy when it comes to female omegas, but this is only to be expected, isn’t it?”

 

Jeongguk hums in agreement while he feels his cheeks warm up at the mention of heats. He hasn’t had one yet, only knows about it from the stories he’s read.

 

Namjoon turns his cup around in his hands. “I know this might be a sensitive topic to touch— again. I wouldn’t have said anything earlier if you hadn’t mentioned it. Suppressants. You need to go to the hospital as soon as you’re back and get a prescription. I already told you why it’s dangerous, but it’s also to keep you safe and healthy in a more personal aspect.” He focuses on his cup again, takes a long, thoughtful sip. “You don’t need to answer this, and I doubt that you have, but have you had your first heat yet?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk whispers, “No I haven’t. Is this— is it bad? Is it— am I too late?”

 

“What? No!” Namjoon almost chokes on his tea. “No! It’s perfectly fine. You usually won’t go into heat until you find someone whose scent is attracting you, someone you can picture to live with for— for a longer time.”

 

Someone who could potentially be your mate. At least that is Jeongguk’s best guess.

 

“It doesn’t happen arbitrarily at all when you're on suppressants?” Jeongguk asks.

 

“No, it doesn’t. You can reduce the intake for a while once you’ve found someone you trust enough to spend your heat with.”

 

Jeongguk is sure his blush is visible, even in the dim light. “Have you— God, I shouldn’t ask you about this, should I?”

 

“Have I spent heats with an omega?”

 

Jeongguk nods timidly, the burn in his cheeks is intensifying. He’s sure Namjoon is going to scold him for asking such a question. What he doesn’t expect, is the soft chuckle.

 

“Yes, once. To— help a friend out. It wasn’t— I wasn’t in a relationship with them, I wasn’t the one who induced the heat. It’s a long story. Too long for tonight.” Namjoon takes a cookie and then holds the plate out to Jeongguk, who somehow without noticing has tucked himself into the corner of the sofa, his legs hugged to his chest.

 

His stomach is cramping at the thought of eating something, but he takes a chocolate chip cookie anyway. He should eat. Maybe something more sustaining than the brick of processed sugar and fats. He had a sandwich on the train, relatively close to the start of the journey, and his stomach rumbles audibly when the first bite of the cookie reaches it.

 

“Hungry?” Namjoon asks, and Jeongguk admits it with a sigh. “I am too.”

 

“I can whip something up real quick?” he suggests, getting out of his corner, but Namjoon holds him back with a soft touch around his wrist.

 

“You don’t need to cook for me.”

 

“I’m hungry too, remember?” Jeongguk sasses back, almost giggles when Namjoon rolls his eyes at him. “Nothing big. Pasta and tomato sauce with cut hot dogs?”

 

“Sounds perfect.”

 

“That’s about as far as my cooking abilities go, so don’t expect it to taste too good,” Jeongguk admits as he walks over to the kitchenette, his heart thumping when he notices Namjoon following him.

 

“How can I help?”

 

“You can cut the hot dogs if you want? You don’t need to help me though.”

 

Namjoon does help. He cuts the hot dogs into pieces that end up all in different sizes and offers to stir the sauce when he’s done with his first task, surprisingly clumsy once they start cooking. Jeongguk’s chest feels tight with how good they work together. It reminds him of those stories with the slice of life/domestic tags that always leaves him longing. Those stories where the characters would end up sweetly kissing each other, admitting their love between the most mundane tasks.

 

He’s in a love-hate relationship with those stories. He loves reading them, loves how they warm his heart. But once he’s done with reading, cold reality settles in so fast that it catches him unaware every single time. At least he has an inkling of it now, why he curls up in his bed after, hugging his pillows so tightly to his chest it almost hurts.

 

“Hey.” One of those soft touches again, this time on his cheek. “Where have you gone?”

 

“Nowhere,” Jeongguk lies, “Just tired.”

 

Namjoon hums, taking over the task of pouring the pasta into the sieve he retrieved from the cupboard while Jeongguk feels robbed of his ability to move ever since Namjoon had touched him again.

 

“Sit down, I’ll do the rest.” A gentle but insistent hand leads him back to the couch, makes him sit down.

 

He watches as Namjoon walks back to the kitchen, watches him filling both of their plates with pasta, sauce, imperfect hot dogs, and parmesan cheese he didn’t even know he had. He wants it to last. Wants Namjoon to stay. His mind is screaming at him with fear that in less than an hour he’ll lose this, whatever this is. He’s sure his scent is spiking again with the worried look that clouds Namjoon’s eyes when he comes back to the couch, the plates in his hands.

 

“Here you go.”

 

Namjoon placed an obviously larger amount of hot-dogs on Jeongguk’s plate, more than he added on his own. Jeongguk reaches out to switch their plates, but Namjoon shakes his head.

 

“Eat.”

 

“Thanks,” his throat is too tight, but he breathes, takes a bite and tries to swallow the upcoming fear down with it. From the corner of his eyes he sees that Namjoon is watching him, only starts eating himself after he has made sure Jeongguk is provided for.

 

He loves this feeling. This seemingly unlimited care Namjoon has in himself. Jeongguk loves being cared for, as hard as it is to admit.

 

Namjoon doesn’t try to initiate another conversation while they are eating, and Jeongguk can’t help but think that it’s a waste of time. The hands of the clock keep ticking the time away, and Jeongguk feels like he’s running after them, running after the time that somewhere between the vanishing minutes has become too precious to be wasted.

 

“Jeongguk, slow down.”

 

Jeongguk looks up from his plate, his mouth full of pasta, his lips probably stained with tomato sauce. He must look foolish, trying to gulp down the food in the smallest fraction of time while Namjoon takes his time, his plate still well-filled. The gasp for breath comes involuntarily, and of course he ends up choking on the residue of food in his mouth.

 

Namjoon is with him in seconds, his hand patting him on the back. Gently, but still with enough strength to help him get the food out of his windpipe. Tears are gushing into Jeongguk’s eyes from the force with which he has to cough, but also from embarrassment. He seems unable to function like a reasonable person since he met Namjoon.

 

Slowly, the urge to hack his lung out subsides. Slowly, he realizes that the pats on his back have shifted to calming circles, gentle rubs of Namjoon’s warm palm of his hand.

 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk whispers while his head comes to lie on Namjoon’s shoulder, his lungs still heaving for breath.

 

“Come on, eat. Slowly. Or do you want me to feed you?”

 

Jeongguk almost chokes again, but he manages to shake his head nonchalantly and takes up his plate while he tries to avoid looking at the clock.

 

For the first time since he started wolfing down his food, he’s aware of what he’s eating. The sour sweetness of the sauce, the juicy pieces of the hot-dogs, the spiciness of the herbs on his tongue. It’s good. He counts to thirty at each bite before he swallows and takes the next one. Of course he still finishes his plate way before Namjoon does after jumping the gun as much as he did at the beginning of the meal, but Namjoon doesn’t reprimand him for it again.

 

“What you said about your parents earlier,” Namjoon says when they have cleaned away their plates and are back on the couch, “They turned their backs on you? Why? Because you’re an omega? Are neither of them—  ah, no. They wouldn’t be, right? Because if either of them was an omega or alpha, they would have been smart enough to put you on suppressants right from the start.”

 

“It wasn’t because of that, not primarily.” Jeongguk takes one of the throw pillows and hugs it to his chest. “It’s the same old story of kids that decide to pursue arts instead of something useful.” He can’t help but spit out the last word. “I’m good at what I do. I’m still at uni, but I get booked for exhibitions all the time. But it doesn’t matter, it has never mattered to them.”

 

“What exactly do you do?” Namjoon asks with genuine interest in his voice.

 

“Painting mostly, but I have taken a liking to photography over the last few years.”

 

“Can I see some of your work?”

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk agrees, pulling his phone from his back pocket.

 

He’s always been confident about his art, the one thing he could always return to, the one thing that was always there, never left. Quickly, he goes into one of his art albums, knowing that on the top of the general camera roll he has still saved screenshots from his favorite fics. Parts of sex scenes that will always get him off. He wouldn’t be able to live through the embarrassment if Namjoon saw one of those.

 

Namjoon scoots closer to him, his chin so close to Jeongguk’s shoulder that he could easily lay it against it, but Namjoon keeps his distance while Jeongguk swipes through photographs of the paintings he took at an exhibition two weeks ago. It’s his Blues series, and strangely enough, there is one painting that is bringing Namjoon’s scent to life.

 

“Woah,” Namjoon breathes when Jeongguk stops for a startled second at the realization that this is exactly how he would paint Namjoon’s scent.

 

It’s almost as if he’s seeing his own painting for the first time.

 

He had started with painting a night sky. Not black. Never black. But there’s the darkest dark blue he was able to mix at the bottom of the canvas, gradually morphing to lighter shades towards the top. Constellations are scattered over the canvas. Not accurate. Just stars. But the galaxy he painted doesn’t expand into everlastingness. There are waves at the top end, a rough sea. And— suddenly the night sky changes, becomes the depth of an ocean, the stars nothing more than plankton shimmering in the incidence of light that one could have mistaken as an aurora borealis before the vision twisted.

 

He will always connect the painting to Namjoon’s scent from now on. It is as if he had known.

 

“Jeongguk, this is magic.” Namjoon takes the phone from Jeongguk’s hands, zooming in to look at the details.

 

“Thank you,” he answers softly, tugging at the earring of his right ear, “What did you see first? The ocean or the night sky?”

 

“The night sky, but now all I can see is the ocean. I— I can’t find words for this. You are really talented.” Almost hesitantly, Namjoon gives him back his phone. “Did you know that omegas almost always have an elaborate artistic sense?”

 

“I didn’t know,” Jeongguk denies, ”But then again what do I know? It feels like we only have scratched the surface of what there is to know.”

 

“You’ll get there.”

 

Jeongguk can’t see it because of the position in which they are sitting next to each other, but he can hear the smile in Namjoon’s voice when he finally rests his chin on Jeongguk’s shoulder while Jeongguk keeps scrolling through the pictures.

 

“Now that you know that you’re not as alone as you thought you were, it will be easier for you to find others like us.”

 

Maybe it’s enough that I found you, or you found me, Jeongguk wants to say, but he only hums noncommittally.

 

“You said that there was a community of sorts.”

 

“Hmm, we are usually all pretty close-knit, especially in the cities. I know I’m repeating myself, but I really don’t get how you have never been approached. Especially with that scent.”

 

“It’s that nice, huh?” Jeongguk chuckles, but freezes when Namjoon nuzzles his nose against his neck. Close to his scent gland. So. So. Close. But before he can react, tilt his head to make it easier for Namjoon to reach, Namjoon brings at least an arm’s lengths distance between them again. Jeongguk’s heart sinks. What did he do wrong? What—?

 

“Sorry, I got carried away. I shouldn’t have,” Namjoon voice is rough, his scent surrounding Jeongguk, engulfing him.

 

“It’s okay. I would’ve told you if it was too much.” It wasn’t. His hands are getting sweaty with the sudden acceleration of his heartbeat. Hopefully, his scent doesn’t betray him again.

 

“Oh,” Namjoon says suddenly, more an exhale than an actual word, looking off to the side.

 

Jeongguk follows his gaze, and oh.

 

Somewhere between talking about his parents and showing Namjoon the paintings on his phone, the time has flown by, unnoticed by them both. Ten minutes ago the last bus down to the valley left.

 

“I’ll drive you home,” Jeongguk offers, although he doesn’t want to. It would be so much easier if Namjoon stayed the night.

 

“You’d be on the street for hours. It’s another hour from the town, in the opposite direction.”

The silence stretches around the only solution. The solution that Jeongguk hopes both of them want, but somehow he has a feeling that Namjoon is too much of a gentleman to ask for it.

 

“Um, why don’t you stay—  here. Overnight. And take the bus in the morning?” A stumbled mess.

 

“I don’t want to impose. I’ve already overstayed my welcome.”

 

“In case you haven’t noticed by my stupid cinnamon roll scent—  I like having you here.”

 

Namjoon exhales audibly, then laughs softly, “Your stupid cinnamon roll scent, hmm?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk pouts.

 

Namjoon lifts his glasses so he can rub his eyes with the balls of his hands. “Fine, I’ll stay.”

 

Jeongguk tries to reign in the euphoria that is released into his system. “Great, I’ll get your suitcase.” He practically runs out of the cabin, almost forgets to put his shoes on in his hurry.

 

“Do you need help?”

 

“Nope, no weak damsel in distress omega here,” he calls back. It has become colder during the hours they spent inside, the stars and nearby mountains are concealed by heavy clouds. So much to the perfect skiing weather he had hoped for.

 

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon groans. “That’s not what I was getting at.”

 

But Jeongguk is already back at the house, heaving the suitcase up the stairs. “I know. I just—”

 

“Whoever thinks that omegas are weak, is a shithead,” Namjoon states.

 

“But,” Jeongguk thinks out loud, “You alphas still like to take care of them— us? Right? Because omegas need protection, because they can’t fend for themselves?”

 

“Taking care of someone doesn’t mean that the person you are looking after is weak or needs aid. It’s something I find joy in, something that is woven into our instinct. Alphas who are misusing their status by degrading omegas are denying their instincts. They are scum,” Namjoon growls by the end of his sentence, but then his voice softens again. “It’s also woven into your instinct to search for comfort, but it never means that you are weak.”

 

“Good,” Jeongguk huffs as he lets himself fall back onto the couch, rubbing his fingers to get rid of the coldness that has managed to cling to his fingers in the short amount of time he was outside. He’s ashamed of himself. He had been sure that he was an exception. Maybe he was a little shithead himself. Belittling his own kind.

 

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Namjoon asks. He was about to get up from the couch, but he’s sitting back down when he notices that Jeongguk’s face has fallen.

 

“I’ve been so stupid,” he bites out.

 

“It’s fine, Jeongguk.”

 

“I thought I was special because I’m not weak. You know, all the bullshit I had to listen to my entire life? All this shit about omegas being the end of the food chain, the weaklings, the cocksluts.” Namjoon draws in air between his teeth in something close to a hiss, but he doesn’t interrupt Jeongguk. “I did everything not to be this stereotype I’ve believed in, too. It must have internalized, to a point where— I’m so sorry. I guess I’m a shithead myself.”

 

“Do you hate what you are?”

 

“No. Maybe. There have been times when I kept telling myself that I’m not as weak as all the other omegas, not knowing that they weren’t. I just assumed. I—”

 

“It’s okay. You couldn’t have known. And what you just said? Sounds like you’re already having an epiphany. You’re already realizing that you’ve been wrong. Learning and understanding happen in curves, Jeongguk. You’re on the way up.”

 

He doesn’t deserve this. Doesn’t deserve the patience Namjoon is granting him. Yes, he couldn’t have known. But—

 

“Hey, don’t beat yourself up, hmm?” Namjoon’s arm finds a way around Jeongguk’s shoulder, his scent washes over him, calming, cleansing, and Jeongguk finds that all he needs to do right now is breathe. Nothing is expected of him, not here. Not now. He’s learning.

 

“I’m so glad you’re staying,” Jeongguk whispers. “I’m so sorry.”

 

It had taken a long time for him to accept that he needs cuddles, skin contact, warmth. It had taken him forever to ask his friends if they were fine with him smothering them with platonic cuddles. Slowly, he realizes what a huge step it had been for him. Admitting that he needed something he deemed weak because he had learned it that way.

 

“Don’t say it to me,” Namjoon says softly, “Say it to yourself.”

 

I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. I’m

 

“Once is enough,” Namjoon stops Jeongguk’s inner monologue, gently squeezing his shoulder. “You are allowed to forgive yourself, you know.”

 

“Out of my head,” Jeongguk tries to joke, but his voice breaks towards the end. It’s then that Namjoon draws him into a real hug, lets him cry against his shoulder.

 

“Don’t hold back.”

 

It’s not how Jeongguk has imagined this night would develop. Him leaving snot and tears on Namjoon’s shirt, his stomach cramping with how forceful the sobs break out of him. Calming words are whispered into his ear. Telling him he’s okay. Telling him he’s not alone anymore. Telling him that he’s strong, the strongest person Namjoon knows. He shakes his head in denial, whimpers that he isn’t, but Namjoon keeps holding him.

 

It takes a while for the tears to subside, but eventually he can breathe again without choking on a scattered sob, eventually, he realizes that he needed this. Today, on this surreal day where everything came crashing down at him all at once.

 

“I’m sorry,” he croaks as he tries to wipe Namjoon’s thermal shirt clean with his hands, grimacing when he ends up with his own snot on his fingers.

 

“If I hear you apologizing one more time today you’ll have to sleep in the car,” Namjoon tells him. “I have enough clothes with me to last me for a week of you crying on my shoulder, not that I’m encouraging that.”

 

Jeongguk has to laugh through the residue of his tears, about to apologize again, but he stops himself. “Can I say thank you at least?”

 

“For?”

 

“Letting me cry on your shoulder.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Namjoon smiles while he reaches out to wipe some of the wetness from Jeongguk’s cheeks with his thumb. “You needed this, hmm? Are you feeling better?”

 

Jeongguk nods. He feels empty. But in a good way. Like his mind has made space for new, better things. It’s what he tells Namjoon.

 

“I’m proud of you.”

 

It nearly makes his tears spill over again, but when Namjoon boops his nose the weight that has threatened to crush his chest lifts. He finally succeeds in making himself get up from the couch to get some tissues and two bottles of water from the pantry.

 

When he turns back around to get back to the living space, Namjoon is standing with his back to him, his thermal turtleneck spread over the radiator under the window. He’s rummaging through his suitcase, his bare back a flawless display of lean muscle and soft skin. Jeongguk stops in his tracks. He shouldn’t take advantage of Namjoon not knowing that he’s watching him, but when he clears his throat to announce that he’s back, Namjoon only turns around to smile at him. How can Jeongguk not let his gaze wander over those perfect pecs, the lean torso, the suggested V of his hip bones when it’s offered to him like this?

 

Jeongguk knows he’s blushing, knows that his scent is spiking, but if Namjoon is noticing, he doesn’t react to it. Almost nonchalantly, Namjoon throws on an old band shirt that looks soft from how often it’s been washed. Jeongguk winces when he realizes he’s still standing on the same spot and hands Namjoon a water bottle before he wills his tired legs to go to the wardrobe to get something suitable to wear for the night. He opts for one of his softest jumpers - somehow he always needs long-sleeved tops to feel comfortable during the night - and fleece shorts. He needs something that will feel good on his skin tonight. Something soothing.

 

Trying to lead his thoughts away from clinging to the idea of falling asleep cuddled into Namjoon’s arms, he grabs everything he needs for his evening skincare routine and hurries to the inbuilt bathroom on the other side of the cabin.

 

Namjoon is still sorting through his suitcase when Jeongguk comes back and attempts to get himself comfortable on the couch.

 

“What do you think you’re doing?”

 

Jeongguk stops in his tracks, “Sleeping on the couch?”

 

“No, you won't.”

 

“You're my guest, there's no way I'm going to let you sleep on the couch.”

 

“And there's no way I'm kicking you out of your nest, Jeongguk.”

 

“Nest Schmest,” Jeongguk mumbles under his breath.

 

“Nest Schmest,” Namjoon echoes, “God, Jeongguk.” He doesn’t seem able to control the laugh that bursts out of him, a hearty ha ha ha that can’t seem to find an end. It’s innocent in a way Jeongguk can’t explain, endearing. All he can do is watch, one of the blankets from the couch clasped between his fingers.

 

He’s falling.

 

He can’t.

 

He can’t fall for Namjoon. Not yet. Not as easily as this. Not when the rational part of his mind keeps telling Jeongguk that he knows barely anything about him. Not with the thought on the edge of his mind that it will all end in the morning.

 

“Hey, seriously though,” Namjoon says, taking the blanket from Jeongguk’s hands, and Jeongguk asks himself when exactly Namjoon had stopped laughing and came over to him. “Go to bed.” It’s not an order, there’s only that soft tone in Namjoon’s voice that twists something deep inside Jeongguk, makes him feel cared for. Warm.

 

“If you’re sure?” The bed seems a lot more appealing than the couch, but Jeongguk still feels guilty. Namjoon is so tall. Jeongguk isn’t even sure if Namjoon will fit without having his feet hang over the armrest. His poor back.

 

“I’m sure. Come on, you must be tired. I know the train ride tired me out with all the scents and the noise.”

 

“Okay,” Jeongguk says, his voice small.

 

Namjoon nods at him with a smile on his lips, “I’m going to wash up. Good night. Thank you for letting me stay.”

 

“Night.” He watches Namjoon’s back as he walks to the bathroom. Maybe this is when his dream ends, and he’ll wake up in the morning to an empty cabin.

 

 

 

Jeongguk makes sure to switch off all lights except the bedside lamp, and the reading lamp next to the couch. Makes sure that the fire can burn out safely overnight before he finally slips under the covers. There is a strange feeling of relief rolling through him at the thought that he is alone while he settles in. It’s paired with realization at how much of him getting comfortable in his bed is a set ritual. He pulls and pushes the pillows and blankets around until he is one-hundred percent satisfied with the way they are surrounding him.

 

He feels safe. Calm. Somewhere underlying all that he’s still shaken from the epiphany he had before.

 

I’m proud of you.

 

He doesn’t remember the last time someone told him that.

 

He hears Namjoon humming along to the quiet music he is playing on his phone as he gets ready for bed, the running water of the sink, the rhythmic scratching of Namjoon brushing his teeth, while Jeongguk’s mind is slipping away, numbing his thoughts. He wills himself to stay awake, but still feigns to be asleep when Namjoon comes back into the room. His return brings a fresh wave of his scent with him, it elicits a pull somewhere in Jeongguk’s chest, a longing. It’s a familiar feeling.

 

It’s been a while since he last had the chance to cuddle with Taehyung. He wants Namjoon to hold him so bad.

 

Jeongguk hears him coming closer to his bed, lingering for a few seconds before the bedside lamp gets switched off. The softest sigh, the most delicate touch on Jeongguk’s fringe before Namjoon’s steps return to the couch in the middle of the room.

 

He leaves Jeongguk restless. All he can smell is stars and the sea. He wonders if alphas get the urge to be close to someone or if it’s a just an omega thing. He wonders if it hurts them almost physically too - the longing.

 

Trying not to make too much noise he curls in on himself as much as he can, hugs his arms to his chest to ease the pain, already aware of the fact that it won’t help. All he can hope for is to fall asleep quickly, but he lies wide awake, staring at the flickering shadows on the wall, painted there by the fire. It’s the only light source now that Namjoon has switched the reading lamp off as well.

 

Jeongguk tries everything. Everything he can think of to coax himself to sleep. He’s exhausted, he’s hurting. Hurting so much by now, that the pressure on his chest almost makes him cry. The light of the fire is slowly fading.

 

It’s one. It’s half-past two. It’s—

 

“Namjoon?”

 

Jeongguk winces at the sound of his own voice. What did he do, what did—

 

“Hmm?” Namjoon couldn’t have been asleep with how present he sounds, with how quickly he answered.

 

“I’m, I—”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Jeongguk hears the sound of a blanket getting thrown back, of feet hitting the wooden floor.

 

He doesn’t know if he’s okay.

 

The light of the fire is nothing more but a red gleam, still enough to make out that Namjoon is coming closer, but he’s nothing more than a silhouette in the darkness. He comes to stand in front of the bed, tentativeness coming off his scent.

 

“Namjoon.” He sounds strangled. “Please hold me.”

 

“Are you sure you want me to come in?”

 

“Yes.” Jeongguk scoots over, makes space so Namjoon can fit in the gap between his body and the blankets that mark the edges of the bed. “I just need those stupid cuddles, so please. Come in.”

 

Namjoon is careful not to knock the blankets off the bed as he gets in, careful not to disarrange the distribution of the pillows as he lies down next to Jeongguk.

 

“Those cuddles aren’t stupid, get that out of your head, hmm?” He offers Jeongguk his arm, “Now c’mere so we can both get some sleep.”

 

He understands, Namjoon understands. There’s nothing Jeongguk needs to explain, no excuses for his behavior he needs to think of, no apologies he needs to utter out. It’s how it’s supposed to be. Easy. So easy when he lays his head down on Namjoon’s shoulder, easy when he wraps his arm around Namjoon’s waist, easy when Namjoon closes both of his arms around Jeongguk. Keeping him safe. Keeping him sane.

 

They share a sigh. A sigh that speaks of lost hours.

 

“No one ever talks about it,” Namjoon’s soft voice parts the darkness, “But alphas need this too. Cuddles, skin contact. It calms us to see omegas comfortable and relaxed. Without it, our mind would be high-strung all the time. Always wanting to protect, always on edge. I need this too.”

 

It’s a personal confession. One that confirms Jeongguk’s previous assumption.

 

“You’ve been awake the whole time?”

 

“I’m awake during a lot of nights,” Namjoon admits, while one of his hands combs through the messed up hair at Jeongguk’s back of the head. It’s an innocent touch, but it’s coming from Namjoon’s hand, warm and gentle. Jeongguk has a hard time to keep his breathing steady.

 

“Me too,” Jeongguk whispers.

 

It’s quite a mystery for Jeongguk why Namjoon isn’t mated yet. He’s kind, he’s gentle, he’s also absurdly handsome. Frankly, he’s everything an omega could ever wish for. Yet, he’s here with Jeongguk. Jeongguk who he’s only known for a few hours. Yet— it feels as if they’ve known each other for a long time.

 

“Do you think you can sleep like this?” Namjoon asks, his hand still caressing Jeongguk’s hair while he pulls the duvet over both of them. “Is this okay?”

 

Jeongguk nods against Namjoon’s firm chest. It’s more than okay. It’s everything. He doesn’t remember a time when he has felt calmer, safer. The feeling transfers into his dream, settles in his bones while he’s drifting off into a sea of stars, held by Namjoon’s strong arms.

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk wakes up to the wind howling around the cabin. It’s nothing he hasn’t heard before, but the sound is eerie in the semi-darkness. Namjoon seems to be fast asleep next to him, one of his hands a dead weight on Jeongguk’s waist, but not uncomfortably so. Jeongguk wriggles a little closer again, pressing his - for some reason - cold nose against the warmth of Namjoon’s chest, breathes in his scent to anchor himself to reality.

 

He met an alpha, brought him home, learned more about himself in a few hours than he has during his whole life, and fell asleep in his arms.

 

The light in the cabin has changed. The red glow from the fireplace is gone, replaced by a cold twilight that is coming in through the windows. Jeongguk knows this kind of light, knows what it means.

 

Snow.

 

The window panes are covered with it to the extent that the daylight can only bleed in sporadically. Jeongguk reaches for his phone on the nightstand, careful not to wake Namjoon from his slumber. It’s half-past eight, and he has five missed calls and thirteen messages from Taehyung.

 

Shit. He was supposed to give him a heads up when he arrived.

Tae

Guk. I’m serious. I’m going to call the police if you don’t answer me during the next hour.

Taehyung sent it fifteen minutes ago.

 

Jeongguk quickly texts him back, assures him that he’s alive and breathing. He can’t tell him about Namjoon just yet. Not when Taehyung already seems so worried about him. For now, he wants to enjoy the moment a little longer, wants to make the most of it, charge his batteries with the warmth and comfort Namjoon is radiating. It will end soon enough, he might as well take what is given to him.

 

He watches the steady up and down of Namjoon’s chest, watches how his soft lips part every time he exhales, and maybe he thinks about how it would feel if Namjoon kissed him with those lips.

 

It’s then Namjoon stirs next to him, his stomach muscles flexing under Jeongguk’s hand as he stretches. Jeongguk should probably find something else to stare at, but he’s mesmerized by the change that happens in Namjoon’s face, how his features are losing the softness of sleep, as he blinks into the semi-darkness of the room.

 

“Good morning, ‘lil stalker,” Namjoon rasps, his voice heavy with sleep, when he catches Jeongguk staring at him. “Did you sleep well?”

 

“Never better.” It’s not a lie. Nevertheless, he feels like he needs to get up now, stop staring, start functioning again, let go.

 

“No. Stay,” Namjoon mumbles as Jeongguk tries to get up. He’s snatching him around the waist, pulling him closer, so Jeongguk comes to lie down again with Namjoon’s chest pressed against his back, Namjoon’s hand steady around his waist. He nuzzles his cheek against Jeongguk’s crown. “You smell even better in the morning.”

 

Jeongguk’s mind and breathing come to a stuttering halt. “Namjoon,” he half complains, half whines.

 

“Sorry, I’m overly affectionate when I’ve just woken up. Ignore me. Bear with me.”

 

“I don’t mind,” Jeongguk whispers. “I really don’t mind.”

 

His heart is racing, his mind stumbling over possible scenarios again, and in every single one of them Namjoon stays. He also knows that they can’t keep lying in bed forever, and Namjoon’s stomach agrees with Jeongguk, rumbling lowly, just when Namjoon has put his hand on Jeongguk’s. As much as he wants to ignore the needs of his body, Jeongguk has to relieve himself, and he’s quite hungry as well.

 

“Okay, up,” Namjoon groans.

 

Jeongguk utters out a disagreeing sound. It makes Namjoon laugh, ruffling his already messy hair.

 

“I know. I don’t want to get up either. But it’s cold in here, and I’m sure you’re hungry too.”

 

“Hrrmm.”

 

Namjoon laughs some more. “Can I lure you out of here with coffee?”

 

“I don’t like coffee,” Jeongguk grumbles.

 

Namjoon stares at him as if Jeongguk had told him the earth was flat.

 

“Blasmephy!” Namjoon exclaims.

 

“I like sweet stuff, okay?” Another admission. At university, he always pretends to be a coffee addict like everyone else. No one knows that his closed paper cup contains hot chocolate or sweet tea most of the time.

 

“Stop with the cuteness, cinnamon bun.” Namjoon pulls Jeongguk closer one last time before he swings his legs over the edge of the bed.

 

“Cinnamon bun,” Jeongguk echoes, a blush spreading over his face as he keeps lying on his back, staring at the canopy above him. He already misses the warmth of Namjoon against him, and now that he’s gone Jeongguk realizes how cold it really is in the cabin. Reluctantly, he gets up, fixing the pillows and blankets so that he won’t need to worry about the arrangement tonight, and can just slip between the covers.

 

Namjoon is rummaging around in the kitchen, so Jeongguk heads to the bathroom first to relieve himself and quickly wash his face, he can take a long shower and shave later, for now, he wants to keep the small hint of Namjoon’s scent on him. First of all, he needs to check the snow situation and light a fire. There are no windows where the kitchenette is, and Namjoon isn’t wearing his glasses yet. Jeongguk isn’t sure he has realized that it has been snowing for most of the night, and what it could mean at this altitude.

 

Putting on one of his many hoodies, he walks to the door, opening it cautiously. Just as he suspected there’s at least half a meter of snow piled up in front of the door, and it’s still snowing. The car is nothing but a small hill covered entirely by snow.

 

“What the fuck!?” Namjoon calls out, making Jeongguk jolt as he hadn’t heard him coming closer with the cacophony of the howling wind. He comes to stand next to him, wearing his glasses now, and peeks out of the door, shuddering at a gust of wind that sneaks through the open door, bringing snow and coldness with it. Jeongguk hurries to close it again before the wind can carry more snow inside.

 

“Welcome to the mountains, I guess,” Jeongguk laughs. Namjoon’s mouth is still agape, and Jeongguk brings his index finger up to Namjoon’s chin to close it again.

 

A hissing noise comes from the kitchen before either of them can say anything.

 

“Shit, the milk!” Namjoon curses, running off again.

 

It turns out that Namjoon has taken Jeongguk’s earlier remark into account. He tried making him hot chocolate with the ingredients he found in the pantry. It tastes interesting, like Namjoon has put some chocolate chip cookies into the milk, but it doesn’t taste bad, and definitely a lot better than coffee. It warms him up too, chases the coldness that has taken over the cabin overnight away until the warmth of the newly lit fire starts filling the room.

 

Of course Jeongguk could’ve told him where he had put the instant powder, or that he would have been totally fine with sweet tea, but the attempt to figure something out on his own to surprise him, makes it a hundred times better.

 

Jeongguk realizes at this moment that Namjoon is really that sweet. He’s that good of a person.

 

“Namjoon,” Jeongguk says hesitantly as he turns the warm cup in his hands, “You, um, you know what it means, right? This amount of snow? I checked the weather report, and it’s— It won’t stop for a while. The road that leads here is not a priority road.”

 

Namjoon stops chewing on the bread he toasted for both of them. His eyes are growing wide as he’s processing what Jeongguk has just told him.

 

“We are snowed in.” It’s a statement, not a question.

 

“I’m so sorry, I should’ve never asked you to come with me up here. You don’t even know me, and you came anyway, and now you’re snowed in with me and have to stay against your will, and I’m sure you have things to take care of and people waiting for you, and now you can’t enjoy the few days off because of me, it—”

 

Namjoon does the thing with his hand again where he places his fingers lightly around Jeongguk’s wrist, not applying any pressure, not moving, just— He’s just touching him to let him know he’s here.

 

“Jeongguk. Stop. It’s okay.”

 

“But—”

 

“I’ve already told you that I don’t have any plans. I wanted to go to my house, write some songs, take long walks. Those are things I can do up here as well. I should be the one who’s sorry. You came here for the peace and quiet, and here I am, canceling all your plans, torpedoing you with my scent. I know how important it is for omegas to take some time off everything. I’m overstaying my welcome, and I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s not like that. You’re not. Overstaying your welcome, I mean. I invited you here. I needed someone with me after finding out that I’m not as alone as I’d thought I was.”

 

“I know,” Namjoon smiles at him, the skin around his eyes crinkling along the edges, “Maybe we can settle on the fact that the snow should be sorry.”

 

“I guess that’ll work,” he agrees, and only then Namjoon removes his fingers from his wrist, and returns to eating his bread.

 

Jeongguk feels the loss immediately.

 

He’s getting too attached, too fast. It feels too good, sitting here, having breakfast together, knowing that they’ll be stuck here for a while. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours since they first met on the train. It should feel wrong, it should worry him, should set his instincts on edge. But all Jeongguk feels is safety and comfort. And hope.

 

That little glint of hope.

 

 

Jeongguk heads to the bathroom first. And even though he cleaned himself thoroughly the night before, it still feels amazing to finally rinse the long journey off his skin. A blush he didn’t ask for blooms on his cheeks. It’s quite a miracle how Namjoon had endured their time in the car together, while patches of Jeongguk’s clothes were still reeking from his slick. Nevertheless, Namjoon didn’t ask him about how he had managed to get himself in this situation, although he had been curious while they had still been on the train.

 

It was interesting to smell how it built up, and I’d love to know what got you this—  let's call it excited for now.

 

Jeongguk considers smashing his head against the tiles of the shower as another rush of embarrassment overwhelms him. At least, he won’t make the same mistake again, although he can’t deny that it had felt good, exhilarating to get himself aroused, the soft squeeze of his thighs around his half-hard cock while no one had noticed what he was up to until Namjoon approached him.

 

He should be thankful that it was Namjoon and not another alpha, someone who could have reacted differently, followed him off the train for an entirely other reason. It’s a scenario Jeongguk doesn’t want to play out in his head.

 

The cold air outside of the shower is prickling on his moist skin when he finally finds it in him to step out and face reality. He massages dollops of unscented lotion into his skin before he shaves the shadow of overnight stubble away and tends to his face with tonic and moisturizer while he checks himself out in the mirror. He smooths down his light brown hair, thinking that he looks okay. Still tired. But okay.

 

Automatically, his hand reaches for the small bottle of fragrance he uses to stifle his own scent with every day because there is nothing sweet about it. It’s all made up from earthy scents. Strong, manly scents.

 

He always thought he needed those to be worth something.

 

Cinnamon bun.

 

With a reluctance that startles himself, Jeongguk lets go of the bottle again. He’s still strong without masking his true scent.

 

He breathes in, breathes out. He’s strong.

 

The bottle goes into the bottommost drawer.

 

 

The rest of the morning flies by with chores and getting the fire started again. At one point they settle on one of the settees in comfortable silence. Namjoon with his laptop, and Jeongguk sorting through the art supplies he has stored up here while he keeps stealing glances at Namjoon. Contrary to the day before he’s wearing his hair down, a fluffy fringe that barely reaches his eyebrows. It’s different. The proportions of his face seem softer, more approachable in a way Jeongguk can’t quite put his finger on.  

 

Jeongguk’s heart does this weird wrenching thing whenever he thinks about the night, and how Namjoon held him. He wills the clock to go faster, but everything seems to have slowed down along with the time. They are sitting an arm’s length away from each other, close enough so Jeongguk is subjected to Namjoon’s scent, too far away to still the yearning of being touched, that has started again. Slowly at first, but perpetually morphing into the familiar, unignorable pain around Jeongguk’s heart.

 

“I need to clear a pathway to the barn,” Jeongguk says, followed directly by a yawn that makes his jaw crack. He stretches the tiring stiffness out of his limbs, that makes him want to stay where he is, and ignore the dwindling pile of firewood next to the fireplace. He needs to busy himself.

 

“How can I help?” Namjoon’s gaze flickers between Jeongguk’s face and somewhere around the general region of his— torso? His scent is spiking, all roaring sea, and Jeongguk needs a few seconds to realize, that he’s still stretching, his arms over his head, and. Oh. He quickly takes them down and pulls down the sweater that has ridden up while he stretched.

 

“Sorry,” Namjoon mumbles. “You keep surprising me. I have a thing for tiny waists. And you should. Ignore me.” He clears his throat. “ Or hit me over the head with a snow shovel. Might be the better solution.”

 

“No one’s getting hit here,” Jeongguk grins. He tries not to be ashamed of his own scent spiking, tries to think of something other than Namjoon’s big hands around his waist, holding him down while he fucks up into him— Maybe he should hit himself with that shovel.

 

Namjoon chuckles behind him when Jeongguk jumps up to leave the couch, heading for the closet to put some waterproof clothes over the comfy ones he’s wearing. He always hated the loud rustling of the stiff fabric, but it’s something he needs to put up with if he doesn’t want to get wet in a matter of seconds.

 

“You really want to go out there?” Namjoon asks, his eyes doubtful when yet another gust of wind howls around the cabin.

 

“I don’t want to,” Jeongguk says, handing Namjoon an old ski jacket and pants which once belonged to his dad, “I have to. I don’t trust the heating system, so I’d rather have enough wood inside the cabin, preferably before it starts getting dark. Sorry, the scent isn’t the nicest.”

 

“It’s fine, as long as it’ll keep me warm.” Namjoon sniffs at the collar of the jacket before he steps into the pants. “Did you know that oftentimes the personality is mirrored in scents too?”

 

“I guessed as much,” Jeongguk says, “Never met someone who was an asshole and smelled like a field of flowers. There’s always lying something underneath that betrays it. Something bitter, almost rotten in some.”

 

“It’s one of the reasons why people fear us, why we’ve been on the verge of extinction for centuries.” Namjoon’s voice sounds resigned, defeated in a sense. “We see too much, sense too much. Too much of what they would prefer to stay in the unknown.”

 

Jeongguk hums, he doesn’t know a lot about all of this, but he wants to learn. “But they only seem to fear alphas, don’t they? I have never heard someone use ‘alpha’ as invective. Omegas are just scum to them.”

 

“Little do they know,” Namjoon laughs, but it’s fading when he notices that Jeongguk is puzzled about his statement.

 

“Omegas see reason when alphas don’t,” he explains, “They stay calm, they are the ones with the clear mind, while alphas make mistakes because they are impulsive. They don’t think things through, they just act. Usually, it ends up in violence. It’s what they are afraid of while they should be afraid of the strategic minds that are acting beyond all that.”

 

It’s a whole new perspective. A lot to think about. Jeongguk notices that he’s halfway stuck in zipping up his jacket. There are so many questions piling up in his head. He already knew that Namjoon was part of the community, but the community seems to be so much more than—

 

“Ah— That sounded like we’re some rebel organization,” Namjoon rubs the back of his neck, “When all we want is to educate, so we can be part of the world again without being looked down upon, without being the ones that have to be afraid to get hurt or killed because the law conveniently is a legal grey area when it comes to us. But let’s fight the snow for now. I’ll tell you more later, okay?”

 

The only thought on Jeongguk’s mind, while they are finally stepping out of the door to face the storm, is that he’ll never be alone again.

 

The snow puts up quite a fight. With cheeks burning from the wind that makes the snowflakes that are blown against them seem like tiny needles, they clear a way through the snow. Ten meters in, Jeongguk’s arm and back muscles are burning, and they are not even halfway at the barn.

 

“Let’s switch!” Namjoon calls against the wind. Snowflakes have accumulated on his glasses, and he quickly wipes them away with the sleeve of the jacket.

 

Jeongguk steps to the side so Namjoon can take his place. It’s better behind Namjoon’s broad back where he only needs to even out the path. The repetitive work leaves his thoughts to wander, makes him think about what Namjoon had said before they came out here. What Jeongguk had done the day before doesn’t seem strategic on the first glance, but then again had been overwhelmed by the whole situation. Jeongguk wonders if it was impulse or instinct in Namjoon’s case that made him follow Jeongguk out of the train.

 

Recalling the moment when he saw Namjoon waiting for him makes his chest clench. The relief. That sweet, palpable relief when he realized that it wasn’t over. He wasn’t alone again. He isn’t alone.

 

They carry five armfuls of firewood each back to the cabin. It’s calming to see it pile up again, promising warmth and comfort.

 

“What are you doing?” Jeongguk laughs when Namjoon heads outside again after their last haul. He adds the last logs he was still holding to the stack and follows Namjoon back into the cold.

 

Maybe, Jeongguk should tell him that this won’t work as Namjoon seems to imagine it when he lets himself fall backwards into the snow, but he finds himself smirking as he watches Namjoon fall.

 

Of course, the snow swallows him completely. One second, Namjoon is there, the next he’s gone. Jeongguk is laughing so hard his stomach hurts while he’s trying to help a spluttering Namjoon out of the hole his body has left in the snow.

 

“Don’t tell me you actually believed that would work,” Jeongguk wheezes, “A snow angel. Of all things.”

 

Namjoon shrugs his shoulders, “You could’ve warned me, cinnamon bun.”

 

Jeongguk squeals as Namjoon pulls him down into the snow with him, gasping for air when he gets a handful of the soft powder snow thrown into his face.

 

Cinnamon bun, he thinks, as he wipes the snow from his face, he called me cinnamon bun again. It should be weird. It should be embarrassing. But happiness is all Jeongguk feels at the term of endearment.

 

Somehow, he ends up under Namjoon, ends up being so close to him he can feel Namjoon’s warm breath on his frozen cheeks.

 

For a moment, the world stops. For a moment, everything seems possible.

 

Namjoon seems just as startled as he is, his pupils blown, his lips slightly agape, but then he snaps out of it, slowly sitting up again.

 

“You seem cold, let’s go back inside.”

 

Jeongguk is anything but.