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Where the Sky Meets the Sea

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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 allal 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.

 

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 a 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.

Chapter Text

The evening is a repetition of the last, only with fewer tears and more fun. They cook together, clean up together, Namjoon places the best pieces of meat on Jeongguk’s plate again. This time around, Jeongguk is able to appreciate the meal from the first bite without the tick-tock of the clock reminding him that their time would run out soon.

 

A domestic sort of haze settles over them, a familiarity that is almost scaring Jeongguk. What if he’s seeing everything through rose-colored glasses? What if those first twenty-four hours have been nothing but a figment of his mind? But every time he closes his eyes and counts to ten he opens them to find Namjoon is still there. Cleaning the sink in the kitchen, sitting next to him on the couch, poking his slender fingers in Jeongguk’s side once they decided to play some tabletop games to pass the slow hours after dinner.

 

Namjoon puts on a playlist with upbeat songs, some of them Jeongguk knows and sings along to. Every time he does so, Namjoon stills and watches him. But for most of the time, they are passionately trying to beat each other in the games they are playing.

 

“I can’t wait for you to meet Jimin,” Namjoon groans after he has lost the third game of Uno and the second game of Phase 10. Jeongguk is still jumping around the room in celebratory joy. “He’s just as competitive as you.”

 

“Who’s Jimin?” Jeongguk asks, coming back to the table.

 

“An omega in my pack.”

 

“Your pack,” Jeongguk whispers, “You want me to meet your pack?”

 

What Jeongguk knows about packs is, that they are a kind of chosen family. People you feel the closest to, people you love. Namjoon wants him to meet them. Namjoon wants him to meet the people - the alphas and omegas - he loves.

 

Soft fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist. Enough to tell him that he spaced out again.

 

“Yes, I want you to meet them.” There’s nothing but sincerity in Namjoon’s voice. It makes something settle inside Jeongguk, makes the kindling of hope flicker just that little bit brighter. “It’s not a big pack in numbers, and only one of three in our city, but we are really close.”

 

Jeongguk’s jaw drops. “Three packs in one city?”

 

“I told you it’s a miracle that you’ve been secluded for such a long time.”

 

“But I’m not going to be alone any longer, right?” Jeongguk turns his hand around in Namjoon’s gentle grasp so he can hold onto something. “Right?”

 

“Not if you don’t want to be. If you don’t want to face loneliness again.” Namjoon smiles at him while interlacing their fingers.

 

Something locks into place.

 

“I don’t want to feel lonely again.”

 

“Good. Then you won’t.”

 

It’s a promise. A promise that goes beyond the time they are going to spend here. That is if Namjoon won’t grow tired of him during the next few days, Jeongguk supposes. For now, he wants to believe in it. For now, all he wants is having his hand held by Namjoon, chasing this feeling of safety. As he leans his head against Namjoon’s shoulder, a sigh is escaping his lips. Wishful, delusional Jeongguk.

 

“I can’t believe I’m here either,” Namjoon says softly, “I can’t believe I met you.”

 

“Get out of my head.” Jeongguk nudges him with his elbow, almost whines when Namjoon lets go of his hand.

 

“Your scent is so responsive to everything, I can read you like an open book.” Namjoon settles back, his right arm propped up on the backrest of the couch. “Come here, cinnamon bun,” he chuckles, “Maybe I’ll let you hold my hand again.”

 

Jeongguk almost scrambles into Namjoon’s offered arm. He shouldn’t act like this, he should play hard to get, shouldn’t let Namjoon see all his weaknesses, he— stops himself before the poisonous thoughts can get a hold of him again. For twenty-two years he has fought that part of himself. It’s enough. He’s not weak. He’s not.

 

Sweet relief runs through Jeongguk’s tired muscles when Namjoon reclaims his hand once he’s settled with his head against Namjoon’s broad chest, letting Namjoon’s calming scent wash over him.

 

“It’s much better like this.” The words are warm tangles in Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Your scent.” A soft inhale. “I was able to tell the artificial scents apart from your natural one, but it’s nicer like this when I don’t have to search for it under all those scents that aren’t yours.”

 

Jeongguk is about to say that he’s sorry, but he swallows the words down. “The fact that you like it makes it easier for me to accept it and live with it. Everything you told me yesterday helped so much.”

 

“I’m just trying to be some kind of antidote for the poison that has been planted in your mind by society.” Warm fingers are caressing Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“You’re the best antidote.”

 

“I’m glad.”

 

From where he’s sitting Jeongguk can’t see it, but he can feel how Namjoon presses his lips to the crown of his head. It makes a warm shiver tingle down Jeongguk’s spine. Comfort settles heavily in his bones, weighs him down, makes him feel like he’s floating.

 

“Tell me more about your pack.”


 

There’s a lot to tell. Namjoon digs out anecdote after anecdote, and when Jeongguk’s eyes flutter closed to the soothing sound of Namjoon’s voice, he feels like he knows every member of the pack already.

 

“Let’s get you into bed,” Namjoon whispers.

 

Strong arms are lifting Jeongguk up.

 

“I can walk by myself,” he tries to protest, but Namjoon just hums and keeps carrying him towards the bed.

 

It’s a nice feeling - being carried like this. Jeongguk feels light and warm, his arms securely wrapped around Namjoon’s neck, his face buried in the crook of it. Close enough that he can hear Namjoon’s heartbeat pulsing through the vein that leads along his neck, so close Namjoon’s scent makes him a little lightheaded and it only adds to the feeling that has already taken hold of him.

 

Somehow, he wishes the bed was further away. He wants to stay in Namjoon’s arms, wants to keep drowning in his scent, wants to— He whines when Namjoon bends down to place him on his bed, in his nest.

 

“Stay,” he breathes, might suffocate if Namjoon doesn’t. Or at least this is what is sleep-drunken mind tells him, “Please stay.”

 

“Let me add some logs to the fire, I’ll be right with you again, bun. Don’t want you to freeze, hmm?”

 

Namjoon is right, the radiators don’t work that well, he should have looked them over before the winter. It still feels like something is ripped from his chest when Namjoon turns his back to him to prepare the cabin for the night.

 

What is wrong with me, he thinks, Why am I like this?

 

Slowly, he succeeds in shaking the almost paralyzing bond of sleep off, his eyes refocusing. Kneeling in front of the fireplace, Namjoon hisses when some stray sparks are touching his skin as he throws the logs in.

 

“Are you okay?” Jeongguk calls out, but Namjoon has already turned around to face him with a smile.

 

“I’m fine. It just startled me.” He’s standing up, wiping his hands off on his pants. “I’ll be in the bathroom.”

 

Now that Jeongguk’s brain isn’t fogged with sleep any longer, he’s fine with Namjoon leaving the room. The strange feeling from before still echoes through his bones, but it’s fine. It’s okay. Namjoon will only be gone for a few minutes. Jeongguk gets his phone from the pouch of his hoodie to busy himself until Namjoon comes back. Taehyung has left some messages, worried about Jeongguk’s long absences.

 

Thought you’d be on your phone 24/7 with nothing else to do. I hope you’re only offline because you had a strike of inspiration or something.

 

Other than sorting through his art supplies earlier today, Jeongguk hasn’t even thought about painting. He can’t quite tell Taehyung that, who is probably his biggest supporter, but he really wants to tell him about Namjoon.

 

Let’s talk tomorrow, okay? he answers, I miss you.

 

Taehyung’s response is immediate.

 

Okay. Miss you too. Good night, Guk.

 

He checks if he’s missed on social media - which he isn’t, and none of the stories he has subscribed to have been updated either. Unwanted, a small thought sneaks through his mind, tries to tell him that he’s living his own story now. He’s the omega he always wanted so badly to be. One that is being treated like one of Moonjune’s omegas. Respect, care, those itty bits of flirting.

 

He rolls onto his stomach, scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, leaving some hearts on Taehyung’s and Yoongi’s latest pictures. They seemed to have taken a long walk in the park with Holly and Yeontan, their dogs. There’s no snow in the city, no rain either, a perfect day, while it feels up here like Namjoon and Jeongguk are the last people on an ice planet.

 

 

The door of the bathroom opens then closes again. Soft footsteps are announcing Namjoon’s return.

 

“You’re back,” Namjoon chuckles as he comes to stand beside the bed, waiting, “I can’t deny that it was adorable though.”

 

“I was sleeping,” Jeongguk tries to excuse himself.

 

“Mh-hmm, sleeping and very affectionate, seems like something we have in common.”

 

“It’s not my fault that you’re so warm, and that you’ve got this goddamn gorgeous scent.” He buries his face in his hands, not sure if he has it in him to meet Namjoon’s eyes after his mouth has betrayed him.

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Mind if I join you again?”

 

“No.”

 

The bed dips, then Namjoon crawls over him to fit in the space between Jeongguk and the wall.

 

“Are you ever going to look at me again?”

 

“No?”

 

Namjoon laughs as he pats Jeongguk’s hand, his fingers lingering, caressing through his locks again.

 

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, bun. It’s good to know that you like my scent.”

 

“Like you didn’t know that before,” Jeongguk mumbles into the pillow, half acting, half actually embarrassed to hell and back.

 

“Remember what I told you on the train. About scenting?”

 

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.

 

“That I was using the word wrong?” It’s getting hard to breathe with his face pressed into the pillow “I think I get it now? It’s not smelling each other’s scent, right? More like— leaving your own scent on another person?”

 

Oh, he’d love to have Namjoon’s scent on him. But. Namjoon wouldn’t, he can’t. Jeongguk would not survive. He has to lift his face up from the pillow to gasp for air

 

“Caught your interest?”

 

He buries his head in the pillow again, his hands clinging to the fabric.

 

“Cat got your tongue, bun?”

 

“You want to kill me, don’t you?”

 

Namjoon laughs his hearty laugh again. “I thought we were past the are you an ax murderer stage?”

 

Jeongguk only shakes his head.

 

“Hey listen. Scenting or scent marking isn’t inherently something sexual, you know? You do it with friends too, to make sure they are alright, to show them how much you care for them, to share your scent with each other to let the world know you’re a pack. There are other ways too, other ways that go beyond the one I want to show you right now.”

 

Jeongguk’s stomach swoops. It’s not like he can’t imagine.

 

“But,” Namjoon’s grin is evident in his voice, “I guess even talking about it would be too much for now. So— Why don’t you turn around, so I can show you the regular way, the way friends scent each other?”

 

Jeongguk realizes he’s been acting like a coward during the last few minutes. He’s acting in a way he has always condemned. Too coy, too weak, too—

 

“Hey, I’m not sure if I know what you’re thinking— But it’s okay. You’re okay. Being adorable and soft doesn’t mean you’re not you anymore. It doesn’t make you less.”

 

Less masculine, less strong, less less less.

 

Jeongguk breathes in, breathes out, shifts to lie on his back, facing Namjoon, whose gaze is lingering on him, worried.

 

“Please scent me.” Somehow, he manages to make his voice sound stronger, keep the tremble out of those three words that have settled in his bones ever since Namjoon had mentioned scenting him.

 

“Jeongguk.”

 

“I’ll get better at accepting it. I’ll do better.” He wants to, he needs to. It feels good to give in to all those feelings he has restricted himself to feel all his life. The soft buzz, the weight on his chest, the relief that Namjoon seems to understand. Everything.

 

“I want you to know one thing, bun. Never think that you have to act in a certain way just to please me. Okay?”

 

“Okay.” Jeongguk hisses at the pain he feels in his bottom lip, realizing that he has worried his teeth over it again. “You know. After all this time, I’m not even sure what it entails to be me. How to be the version of me that is the true Jeongguk. Without the artificial scent, without the what do I care attitude. Suddenly, I feel like I don’t know myself at all. And then you come along and seem to know me by just looking at me, by interpreting my scent. And I’m confused. I’m so confused . And lost.” The canopy feels like the safest place to look at. With his heart thundering in his chest he feels paralyzed, but not in a good way.

 

“You’re not supposed to find yourself. You’re not lost. You’re on your way to return to your true self. I’m here. I’ll help you.”

 

Jeongguk believes him. Believes Namjoon with this heartbreaking sincerity in his voice.

 

 

For a moment neither of them says anything. Jeongguk’s breathing is going fast after he has ranted his heart out, his throat raw with unshed tears. Tears he wants so desperately to hold back.

 

A careful touch on his arm. Jeongguk nods. Grants Namjoon permission to come closer.

 

“It’s better if we both sit,” Namjoon says softly as he shifts to sit in the middle of the bed. “Better access,” he adds as an afterthought, and then, “It will help to calm you down.”

 

Jeongguk lets Namjoon help him up into an upright position, so they come to sit next to each other. His heart is still behaving like a foreign object inside his body. Tripping and stumbling. So much for calming him down. But he wants this - Namjoon’s scent on his skin for some hours.

 

Jeongguk’s hand is trembling when he touches the back of his neck where his scent gland is hidden under the hairline as if he wanted to check that it is still there. His fingers come back smelling like pastries. Cinnamon.

 

Namjoon takes Jeongguk’s hand and nuzzles against Jeongguk’s fingers with his cheek, then his neck, Namjoon’s skin so warm against him, so so warm.

 

“This is one way to do it.” Namjoon’s voice couldn’t sound gentler as he lets go of Jeongguk’s hand and touches his own neck. A fresh wave of stars and the sea rolls over Jeongguk before Namjoon even touches him. “Usually it’s done at the same time while hugging to say hi. It’s efficient and quick.”

 

He brings his hand to the side of Jeongguk’s neck, gently caressing with his fingers over Jeongguk’s skin. The feeling is indescribable. Intimate although it is supposed to be an innocent exchange of scents between friends. Jeongguk leans into the touch when Namjoon cups his cheek, nuzzles against it to get as much of starlit nights and sea spray on him as he can.

 

“But you know that every cell of your skin holds your scent. That said, it’s a very intimate gesture if you touch someone’s scent gland or let someone touch yours. That’s why we usually stay on the side of the neck when we do it like this—”

 

There’s not much of a warning before Namjoon leans in and nuzzles his cheek against Jeongguk’s crook of the neck. His skin is so soft, he must have shaved again before he came back to bed. Playfully, he bumps his nose against Jeongguk’s pulse point, it makes Jeongguk loosen up a little as he recognizes how tense his whole body is. His hands find their way into the fabric on the back of Namjoon’s soft, dark green sweater.

 

Unwantedly, his breath hitches as Namjoon’s lips meet his skin, smoother than anything Jeongguk has ever felt.

 

“Is this okay?” Namjoon’s voice is rough, blowing hot puffs of air against Jeongguk’s skin.

 

It suffices to tell Jeongguk that this is more. More than Namjoon would do with someone who is just a friend. He can’t think straight, not with how Namjoon makes contact with his skin again, mouths up to his jaw, his hands holding onto Jeongguk’s biceps like he needs this to steady him, to anchor him. Jeongguk’s stomach is in turmoil, his breath goes so shallow it’s a miracle he hasn’t fainted yet.

 

He tilts his head back when Namjoon moves forward, towards his clavicle, his lips mapping every inch of thin skin stretched over the wispy bone. Damned be the small whimper that leaves his mouth, damned be Namjoon’s responsive groan. Jeongguk’s eyes fly open when he realizes he’s slicking up. He can’t do anything to prevent it. Damned be his sensitive body. Namjoon’s going to smell it. He’s most definitely going to smell it. But Jeongguk doesn’t want to put an end to this just yet, not when he didn’t get the chance to explore Namjoon’s skin in return.

 

“Let me.” A broken whisper.

 

Reluctantly, Namjoon straightens himself again. His breath is going as fast as Jeongguk’s. Their eyes meet for the fracture of a second before Namjoon tilts his head to make space for Jeongguk to explore, nuzzle, touch.

 

Trust.

 

Namjoon trusts him so much he’s willing to expose his neck. Jeongguk might not know a lot, but he understands the sheer amount of trust Namjoon is granting him. Before he leans forward, he searches for Namjoon’s hand, entwines the fingers of his right with Namjoon’s left. Thank you , he wants to say with his touch, and with the way Namjoon gently squeezes his hand, Jeongguk knows he understands.

 

At first, Jeongguk doesn’t know how to begin. The need to touch Namjoon is almost palpable, yet he feels frozen to his spot while Namjoon’s neck is still exposed, ready for Jeongguk to leave his scent on.

 

“Just hug me, and go from there, hmm?” Namjoon suggests.

 

“Just,” Jeongguk breathes, “ Just he says.” But then he leans forward, closes the distance between them that seemed uncrossable for a moment. He slings his arms around Namjoon’s torso, pulls himself closer to Namjoon’s body as he snuggles his face into the warmth of his neck. One of Namjoon’s hands tangles into the hair on the back of Jeongguk’s neck, only a few centimeters short of his scent gland, the other curls around Jeongguk’s waist, his thumb caressing over Jeongguk’s tense abdominal muscles.

 

“Relax.”

 

Jeongguk manages a small chuckle, feels how Namjoon swallows heavily when Jeongguk’s warm and wet breath hits his neck. He’s sensitive there. Vulnerable. Jeongguk cannot refrain from asking himself if Namjoon would let him nibble on the skin there, leave a mark. The thought of Namjoon’s possible reactions alone makes a dripping of slick trickle out of him. It leads his thoughts further, further. Too far. He wills himself to stay in the moment. To savor it.

 

Regretting that he hadn’t shaved as well before he went to bed, Jeongguk carefully nuzzles against Namjoon’s neck, realizing that scenting is a give and take. He doesn’t only rub his scent into Namjoon’s skin but gathers Namjoon’s scent all the same. Their scents smell good together. Right.

 

The lightheaded feeling takes over Jeongguk’s senses again when he gets braver, let’s his closed lips wander over the skin that now holds both of their scents. The starlit night has become a little brighter, the sea a little warmer.

 

He wants more of it. More.

 

Namjoon inhales sharply when Jeongguk lets his lips drag over his pulse point where the scent on the side of his neck seems to be the strongest. Somehow, Namjoon has managed to push up Jeongguk’s jumper with his thumb, is now touching Jeongguk’s stomach without the layer of fabric. His hand feels so big around Jeongguk’s waist, he leans into the touch, nuzzles his cheek against Namjoon’s jaw, doesn’t even notice the small thrusting movement he does with his hips until Namjoon gasps his name.

 

There’s no way Namjoon could have noticed that Jeongguk is half hard in his pants, the duvet has piled up between them, has softened Jeongguk’s movement. But in this second he can smell himself, the light but obvious musk of the slick that is cooling between his ass cheeks.

 

“Bun,” Namjoon breathes.

 

“I’m sorry.” Jeongguk hides his face against Namjoon’s chest, wishes he could disappear. “I know you’re used to this, to touch someone like this. But I’m not. I’m— I’ve always been sensitive.”

 

“Hmm, I remember what happened on the train.”

 

“Don’t make fun of me.” Jeongguk stabs one of his fingers against Namjoon’s sternum.

 

“I have to. Otherwise I would lose my mind. Do you have any idea how good you smell like this?” His hand is lingering around Jeongguk’s waist, his thumb still touching him, petting over his skin.

 

“Namjoon,” Jeongguk complains.

 

“I wish I could—,” Namjoon stops himself quickly, his face buried into Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“What? You wish you could what?”

 

“Too many innocent cinnamon bun ears around here.” Namjoon’s hand moves from the back of Jeongguk’s head to tickle him on his ear lobe.

 

“I’m not innocent! I’ve had sex before you know.” Jeongguk pouts, “Just not with an alpha. Obviously.”

 

Namjoon shakes his head no .

 

“You could whisper it, maybe I won’t hear it.”

 

A chuckle reverberates through Namjoon’s chest. “Not a chance. Not tonight.”

 

“Hrrm,” Jeongguk mutters, a little disgruntled. He shifts in Namjoon’s arms, pushes both of them back towards the pillows so they can lie down, his back hurting from how long he’s been sitting leaning forward like this. “I should go wash up.”

 

“No, stay.” Namjoon’s hand is so warm when he lets go of his waist just to sneak under the jumper and place it lightly on the small of Jeongguk’s back. “If you’re not too uncomfortable like this, please stay.”

 

“It—It wasn’t that much of it. It’s fine. I’m perfectly comfortable.” Embarrassed of his sensitivity maybe. But not uncomfortable. Not at all.

 

Namjoon hums warmly, reaching behind Jeongguk’s back to get his phone from the nightstand. “I wanted to show you this earlier before you nodded off.” He pulls up a  picture on his phone, then turns it around to let Jeongguk look at it.

 

It shows a group of young men around Namjoon’s age, draped all over each other on a couch. They are smiling at the camera, some of them laughing.

 

“That’s Jimin, the one I told you about earlier.” He points at a man with honey blond hair at the front of the picture.

 

“The competitive one.”

 

“That’s him. Next to him is his mate Hoseok. He’s an omega too.”

 

“I didn’t know that was possible.” Jeongguk gapes at the picture. The two omegas look so happy with each other, Jeongguk can almost feel their love radiating from the photograph.

 

“Two omegas mating each other? Of course it is. Alphas too.”

 

“Sorry, I guess I’m the best example for internalized heteronormativity,” Jeongguk apologizes. He can’t understand how Namjoon hasn’t lost his patience with him yet.

 

“You need to stop apologizing for things you don’t have any fault in.” Namjoon thumbs along the dip of Jeongguk’s spine, the motion nothing but calming. “You’ve learned so much already during the last two days. The only way is up.”

 

It’s then Jeongguk notices a familiar building through the windows in the background of the picture.

 

“Namjoon?” His hand is shaking when he takes the phone from Namjoon to zoom in on the picture. “Where was this photo taken? Where do you live?”

 

“It’s our den in M-town. Why?”

 

It’s thirty minutes by train from where Jeongguk lives. Thirty minutes. For a moment all he can feel is unbound happiness. But then he stills. There’s still the chance that Namjoon doesn’t want to see him after they leave. A little voice inside his head tries to reason with him, tells him that Namjoon wouldn’t show him pictures of his pack, tell him that he wanted Jeongguk to meet his pack if he never wanted to see him again.

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

“Do you really want to see me again after all this?”

 

“What gives you the idea that I don’t? Of course I want to see you again even if you lived far away we would still manage to see each other. If that’s what you want, too .”

 

“Namjoon. I live in K-town.”

 

The motions of Namjoon’s thumb on Jeongguk’s back still completely. “You have no idea how happy that makes me, bun.”

 

“I’m not imagining anything, right? This. Here. It’s—”

 

“No, no, you’re not imagining anything.”

 

It’s how they fall asleep. Close, so close. A whole possible future ahead of them.



You wanted to tell me something??

 

With everything that happened the night before, the promise to text Taehyung today has vanished into a hidden corner of his mind. Jeongguk sighs - not at the prospect of having to talk to Taehyung, more at himself for being a lousy friend.

 

“Everything okay?” Namjoon asks from his corner of the sofa, his hand touching Jeongguk’s ankle in the same way he usually does with his wrist. Jeongguk’s lower legs are propped up on his lap, Namjoon’s laptop placed on top of his shins. They have been keeping close together all morning, even while Jeongguk had cleared out one of his drawers in the dresser so Namjoon didn’t have to live out of his suitcase any longer. They are both hungry for touch, both constantly inhaling their mixed scents. They are already fading.

 

“‘M Fine, I’m just. Well. How do I tell a friend of mine - my best friend, that I’m not alone here without making it sound super weird or dangerous.”

 

Namjoon chuckles. “You could always tell him the truth?”

 

“He doesn’t even know I’m an omega.”

 

“You’ve been friends for how long?” Namjoon tightens his hold on Jeongguk’s ankle as he asks the question, his thumb drawing calming circles on the skin that peeks out between his sweats and his socks.

 

“Since my first year of high school.”

 

“Jeongguk.”

 

“I know . But I don’t, I didn’t want it to define me. What if he doesn’t take me seriously anymore if I tell him?”

 

“You shouldn’t tell him right now, but what about when you’re home again, hmm?”

 

Home. Everything has changed. His whole look at the world has changed in just two days. He has gained so much knowledge, enough to explain everything properly, enough to dissolve possible prejudices.

 

“I’ll try. I mean— Taehyung knows that I’m a cuddle addict and— stuff, but yeah.”

 

“He’ll understand.”

 

Jeongguk nods noncommittally, taking up his phone again to type out his answer.

 

Yeah. I’m

I’m not alone here. I have company. And we’re snowed in.


The three dots that tell that Taehyung is writing something appear next to his name. Then they vanish without a text coming through. Jeongguk realizes he’s gnawing on his lip again.

 

But how? Who? Wow.

 

For as long as Taehyung had been seemed to be typing, his answer is unexpectedly short. Jeongguk sighs again.

 

We met on the train. I know how that sounds. But we started talking, and we clicked, and then he came up to the cabin with me and ended up staying. Might be the snow’s fault ultimately. But he’s still here, and he makes me happy.

 

The most important thing is that you’re safe and happy. (I’d still like to ask for a selca just to be sure that it’s really you writing and. Yeah.)

 

Coming right up.

 

Jeongguk tries to turn his upper body around so he can take a snapshot of both him and Namjoon. Somehow, he manages, having caught Namjoon’s perfect side profile and himself with a goofy grin. It will do.

 

It takes a few minutes for Taehyung to get back to him. Unusual for someone like Taehyung whose phone is like an extension of his right arm.

 

“'Cute. Have fun?’ ” Jeongguk reads aloud. “This is weird.”

 

“He’s probably just busy.”

 

“Yeah, maybe.”

 

There’s something you don’t know about me.

Can we talk when I’m back in town?


I think

We should talk about this the second you’re back.


Tae? You’re not making any sense.


Take care, Guk. Please take care. Love you 😘


The emoji at the end seems forced. Jeongguk doesn’t like the way the conversation ended. Something about it makes an anxious nagging unfurl in his stomach. He stares past Namjoon out of the snow-crusted window. The path they cleared yesterday is gone. Jeongguk is glad that they carried enough firewood to the cabin to last them for a week.

 

“— cook tonight?”

 

He must have spaced out again.

 

“Huh?” Jeongguk asks, his face probably as puzzled as he feels.

 

“What do you want to cook tonight?” Namjoon repeats patiently.

 

“Sorry, I’m—”

 

“Everything alright with you and your friend?”

 

“I’m not sure, but I‘ll see once I’m home.” He plucks at the tiny hairs on his cheeks. “We could make vegetable soup though? Before they go bad.”

 

Namjoon closes his laptop, then puts it on the coffee table, and places Jeongguk’s feet back on the floor. The loss of contact hurts immediately.

 

“C’mere.”

 

“But you have work to do.” He’s such a menace. He should simply go outside, shovel some snow, clear his head.

 

“I’m not exactly working right now.” Namjoon’s smile is inviting, and so are his open arms. Jeongguk cannot stop himself from falling into the hug, into the warmth. Namjoon shouldn’t have this effect on him, but Jeongguk can’t help himself as his body calms down, running on pure instinct as he breathes in Namjoon’s scent that still holds traces of cinnamon.

 

His breath is going a lot faster than Namjoon’s. Too fast. Namjoon noticed how agitated Jeongguk had gotten because of Taehyung’s text. Noticed and acted on it.

 

Silence never seems to be awkward with Namjoon. Silence is what Jeongguk came up to the cabin for. Silence is the quiet crackle of the fire, the wind that is still howling around the house, Namjoon’s even succession of inhales and exhales. Silence is comfort and understanding. Being held and wanting to be held.

 

It’s all it takes.



Jeongguk wakes to the clattering of cutlery, and a delicious smell that’s wafting through the room. It reminds him of something. Of happy childhood days up here, of his grandma smiling at him. He watches Namjoon’s back, hears him humming a melody that is unfamiliar to Jeongguk’s ears, but sweet, so very sweet. Almost on its own accord, his hand reaches for the sketchbook and the soft 4B pencil on the coffee table that have been lying untouched during the last few days. Only when the lead touches the paper, Jeongguk realizes how much he has missed this.

 

Namjoon must have heard the rustling of the paper, the scratch of the lead. He turns around, the warmest smile on his lips, his cheeks dimpled. Not for the first time, Jeongguk feels the need to get up and kiss Namjoon on those little patches of skin, but for now, he stays where he is, answers the smile as best as he can. Sleep is still clinging to him like fog on murky days, making everything seem too bright and dark at the same time, his vision a paradox by itself.

 

It’s already dark outside. Another day almost over. Forty-eight hours. Forty-eight hours and this feels like home. Being with Namjoon feels like home. Jeongguk closes his sketchbook and pads over to the kitchenette.

 

“Did you sleep well?” Namjoon’s hand settles on the small of Jeongguk’s back when he leans forward to peek into the huge pot on the stove.

 

“You should have woken me up,” he grumbles but not meaning it, “I could have helped.”

 

“You looked so peaceful, I couldn’t,” Namjoon confesses. “I know you wanted to make vegetable soup, but we had almost all the ingredients for Doenjang Jjigae, so I kind of made my own version.”

 

“My grandma always made that in winter.”

 

Namjoon doesn’t say anything at the weak sound of Jeongguk’s voice. Simply pulls him closer and leaves the smallest kiss on his temple. Jeongguk closes his eyes, once again overcome by the feeling that it’s all a dream, but when he opens them again, Namjoon still holds him close, stirring the ingredients in the pot with his left hand.

 

“Would you— Nevermind.” His heart is still warm from the gentle kiss, he doesn’t want to destroy the feeling for himself.

 

“Remember what I said about honesty and that you don’t need to be afraid of asking anything?”

 

“But it’s not about alpha and omega stuff, it’s a personal question. So—”

 

“That’s okay too.”

 

“Would you have stayed without the snow?” It hurts to ask the question alone, Jeongguk isn’t sure if he’s ready to hear the answer.

 

“Honestly, I don’t know. I guess I would have left.” Jeongguk’s heart sinks. “But I would have hated it. I would have hated the thought of you being all by yourself up here, alone with all those half-baked answers, and even more questions. But I would have left because I wouldn’t have wanted to impose myself on you. Perhaps— If you had asked me to stay, I would have stayed. If it had been your explicit wish, I would have stayed.”

 

“I would have asked you to stay.”

 

“Then I would have stayed.” Another kiss to his temple. Another rush of warmth through Jeongguk’s body. “And very happily so.”

 

“I’m relieved.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Huh?” Jeongguk turns his head to give Namjoon a puzzled look.

 

“Your scent. It tells me everything. It’s so free and unrestrained. I’m still trying to get used to it.”

 

“It will change once I’m on suppressants, right?”

 

“Probably, yes. But you’re still going to smell good. Still gonna be my cinnamon bun.”

 

My. My cinnamon bun.

 

My.

 

Mine.

 

Jeongguk hides his face in Namjoon’s crook of the neck. Already knows that the excitement he feels over that little big enormous word is mirrored in his scent judging from Namjoon’s warm chuckle, and from the way he’s ruffling Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“Come on, let’s eat before the noodles get too soggy.”

 

“I like soggy noodles,” Jeongguk protest, slinging his arms around Namjoon.

 

“Soggy noodles, sweet things, no coffee. Noted.”

 

Jeongguk laughs as Namjoon winds himself free and gets two bowls from the top drawer without having to ask where to find them. He already knows his way around the cabin as if it’s his own home. It’s enough to make Jeongguk’s heart flutter weakly again.



 

“You know, with all the talking we did about you, and all the things you needed to learn, I barely told you anything about myself,” Namjoon says when they are doing the dishes together. Namjoon washing up, Jeongguk drying.

 

“It’s fine, I figured you’d tell me when the time was right.”

 

“It’s not that I want to hide anything. I hope you know that.”

 

Jeongguk nudges his nose against Namjoon’s neck in confirmation, eliciting a contented hum from him.

 

“There isn’t much to tell anyway. I had and still have an okay relationship with my parents. They are your usual alpha and omega pair. I was a scrawny, clumsy thing when I grew up. First too small, then too big for my limbs, it took ages until I started to bulk up, grew some muscles. My dad used to ridicule me because I love to take long walks, love nature in general, and it was and is something he doesn’t get. He likes cars and sports. And that’s it. I was more like my mum, which scared both of them. Prejudices are anchored deeply, even within the community, too. I left home when I went to uni, soon met Jimin and Hoseok, who were searching for an alpha to join their pack, become their friend, because they were both new in the city just like I was.”

 

“It must be nice to get another family like that.” Jeongguk takes the last dripping plate that Namjoon is handing him, and dries it thoroughly.

 

“It is.” Namjoon wrings out the cloth, starting to clean the drained sink with it. “Some people say that your second pack is your true pack.”

 

“That’s a nice sentiment,” Jeongguk agrees. Maybe, someday, he can be part of Namjoon’s pack. If they want him. If Namjoon wants him. “Are you the only alpha in your pack?” he asks, clearing the last droplets of water away from the sink.

 

“No, not anymore. There are two beside me. One of our youngest, Beomgyu, was kicked out of his old pack because he feels more like an omega. Is an omega. We took him in.”

 

The pack must be the safest place Jeongguk has ever heard of.

 

“And the second one?” he asks.

 

“Seokjin, he’s the oldest. Takes care of the younger ones. He’s in touch with the media and government all the time, to make things right for us. He doesn’t live with us, but he’s still part of the pack.”

 

“That sounds nice. I really would love to meet them all.”

 

“You will,” Namjoon says, the fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist a promise all by itself.

 

Chapter Text

The next morning, Jeongguk has trouble waking up. His head hurts, sleep is a swamp, holding him down, trying to keep him in. It’s not like he hadn’t gotten enough sleep during the night. Although they had scented each other again before they went to sleep. Touched and nuzzled up to one another until Jeongguk had felt almost drunk from Namjoon’s scent, drunk from the closeness and the soft kisses on his skin. He should be able to open his eyes, clear his mind. He’s trying to fight the murkiness, reaching for Namjoon who should be next to him, but his spot on the bed is empty. It’s what ultimately pushes Jeongguk into wakefulness.

 

Namjoon is across the room, making tea. Using the last of the dried chamomile buds his grandmother used to collect during summer. The ones of her last summer.

 

It feels wrong, wrong that Namjoon isn’t here with him, in his nest. When he sits up an unwanted whimper spills from Jeongguk’s lips. His head is throbbing, stars are dancing in front of his eyes. It’s as if he sees through a haze how Namjoon whirls around, his eyes worried, so worried as he comes closer.

 

“Are you okay?” Almost here. “Jeongguk. Are you okay?”

 

“No, yes, I don’t know.”  He doesn’t know. He feels weird. Out of place. And Namjoon is still too far away, has come to a standstill somewhere next to the couch. Jeongguk can’t smell him from there. It’s as if he isn’t here at all. “ Namjoon.

 

“I-I’ll be right back,” Namjoon grits out. Then he’s out of the door. In his thin cardigan, his denim jeans, with nothing more on his feet than socks. It’s still snowing. It only stopped for a few hours yesterday afternoon, but now it’s snowing again. Namjoon can’t go outside like this. He’ll freeze his toes off. But before Jeongguk can do so much as open his mouth, the door shuts with a bang that seems too loud. Too final. Jeongguk curls in on himself, suddenly feeling like he can’t breathe against the weight on his chest.

 

The night before he had fallen asleep with his heart filled to the brim with happiness. Namjoon had sighed contently when Jeongguk laced their fingers together, pulled him closer to nuzzle his nose against the side of Jeongguk’s neck one last time before they fell asleep.

 

I’m so glad you’re here, Jeongguk had whispered. It had earned him one of those kisses on his temple that made his heart quiver with joyful anticipation.

 

Now, he feels. Empty.

 

He hasn’t felt like this since they came here, not even on the first evening when his deepest feelings had spilled out with his tears. That evening. It had been a good emptiness. It was the complete opposite of how he feels now. That nagging hollow inside of him that yearns. Yearns.

 

Namjoon left the jumper he wore yesterday on the edge of the bed. It’s yellow. Too bright, too happy, too big, so big on Jeongguk when he pulls it over his head. Namjoon’s scent, their mixed scent is all over it. Jeongguk inhales it as if he is about to drown and the scent that wafts up from the piece of clothing is his only hope to stay alive.

 

What is happening? A single coherent thought makes his way through his fogged mind, What is happening to me? To us?

 

Namjoon is still outside in the snow with his socks as the only barrier between his skin and the freezing cold. Hurting, Jeongguk curls himself into a ball again, his hands hidden in the long sleeves of the jumper. He wants to follow Namjoon outside, wants to tell him to come back in, but he doesn’t feel able to move, can’t move beyond his bed, his nest, the comfort it holds.

 

The creaking of the door has Jeongguk jolting, the air that comes in with Namjoon is unforgiving. There’s a glass cup in his hands. Chamomile tea judging from the color that resembles a caught summer sun. Namjoon halts when he sees him, and it takes Jeongguk a while to comprehend what causes the softness in his eyes. The jumper. It’s the jumper he slipped into without asking.

 

“Oh, baby.” An exhale.

 

Later, Jeongguk can’t remember if Namjoon really said it or if his ears played a joke on his clouded mind.

 

“It cooled down enough,” Namjoon says as he finally, finally comes closer to the bed, “Drink. Please.”

 

Sitting up, Jeongguk groans from behind his gritted teeth, he’s hurting, has to sit with his eyes closed for a moment to fight the dizziness that worsens the fog.

 

The glass is cold against his fingers when he reaches for it, almost burning, but the tea is perfect when it wets Jeongguk’s mouth, and only then he realizes how thirsty he is.

 

“Slow down, bun.”

 

Bun . The first affection since he’s woken up.

 

“There’s more. I made a lot more of it. I—” Namjoon’s voice seems to be the only thing that can reach him through the haze. That, and his scent. He seems to be troubled, worried. There’s no trace of the calming starlit nights. He’s all sea. “Jeongguk, I’m so sorry.”

 

“What for?”

 

Namjoon shakes his head. “I don’t want you to feel like this.” Cool fingers against Jeongguk’s brow. A gentle touch brushing back his fringe.

 

“I think I caught a cold. Why are you sorry?” Jeongguk croaks before he takes the last sip of the soothing tea.

 

“Jeongguk, we don’t get colds,” Namjoon whispers, “I’m— I’m going to get some more logs for the fire. Just stay where you are. I’ll get you another cup of tea, okay? Do you think you can eat something? I made rice soup, too.” Everything he says is rushed.

 

Jeongguk can’t keep up. He’s not sure if his stomach can keep food in. More tea sounds good though. He nods. Whimpers, because it hurts. The movement hurts, Namjoon walking away from him hurts.



Namjoon is back in no time, handing him another cup of tea. Not as cool as the one he had taken outside, but enough to make the thirst calm down a little. He holds a small bowl of soup too, mostly broth, only a few grains of rice gathered at the bottom.

 

“Let’s try, okay? If you can’t eat right now, we’ll try again later.” Careful so he doesn’t squish the blankets too much,  Namjoon sits down on the edge of the bed. He gathers some of the soup on the spoon, then holds it out for Jeongguk to eat.

 

It’s more reflex than anything else when Jeongguk opens his mouth. The soup is warm, salty, warming when he already feels so warm. Feverish. When had that started? Jeongguk can’t remember. He takes three other spoonfuls until he stops Namjoon with a weak wave of his hand.

 

“Okay, bun. No more, I get it. You did well. We’ll get some more into you later, okay?”

 

“Don’t—” leave he wants to yell, but his voice doesn’t seem to be able to carry a sufficient amount of sound.

 

Namjoon whispers, “I need to tell him, I really need to tell him,” as he walks out the door, armed with a snow shovel. Jeongguk’s eyes fall shut before Namjoon closes the door behind him.




His dreams are a whirl of black abysses and colors that are too bright. Blinding. It’s too hot. Too cold. Namjoon is walking away from him. Jeongguk needs to reach him. He’s running, panting so hard his lungs feel like they are bursting inside his chest. He can’t be alone again. He needs to break out of it, wants to wake up. Wake up. Wake up .

 

“Wake up, Jeongguk. Come on, bun. You need to wake up.”

 

Wet coolness against his brow, against his cheeks, against his neck. It’s heaven. It’s hell. But Namjoon is still here, he didn’t leave. He’s still here. The coldness brings calmness brings a small sliver of consciousness. Slowly, slowly, Jeongguk opens his eyes and ends up looking directly into Namjoon’s, worry and agitation almost palpable. Not only his eyes are telling that something is wrong, but his scent is screaming uneasiness at Jeongguk.

 

Then he sees the washcloth Namjoon is lowering into a bowl filled with melting snow.

 

What is happening to me?

 

“Namjoon.”

 

“Hey,” he says quietly, his fingers brushing through Jeongguk’s wet, tangled fringe again. “It will get better soon. The first hours are always the worst when it comes to the sickness part of it. I’m so sorry I did this to you. I’m so sorry.”

 

“I don’t understand. You don’t make any sense. I’m—”

 

“You’re slipping into heat, Jeongguk.”

 

“Heat—” Jeongguk echoes. “But I—” Then it dawns on him. What it means. Why Namjoon is sorry. Why this is happening at all. “Shouldn’t you be flattered?” he tries to joke to mask the utter confusion and fear that races through him.

 

Namjoon’s expression remains mostly composed, only the smallest smile is tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Bun, you are impossible,” he breathes. “I’m worried. I’ve never seen someone react so strongly during the first phase. You’re with me right now though, aren’t you?”

 

“I guess,” Jeongguk whispers. “And I don’t know anything about heats other than the sexualized image society draws. But right now I feel like shit. Nothing sexy and alluring about that.”

 

Namjoon makes a strangled noise, then gets the washcloth to wipe it gently over Jeongguk’s brow once again. He closes his eyes, welcomes the soothing coldness. Heat. He’s slipping into heat. Because. Because he’s here with Namjoon. Because he can imagine being with Namjoon. His body is a backstabbing piece of shit. Jeongguk almost laughs bitterly at the thought that all the feelings he had been barely able to hide anyway, are now out in the open. Like a confession.

 

“There are phases,” Namjoon says, ripping Jeongguk away from the thoughts that make his insides squirm with embarrassment. “It starts with sickness, heightened temperature, fatigue, aches. But your symptoms seem to be severe. I’ve been trying to get your temperature down, but it was only of little help. I didn’t want to undress you and get you into the bathtub while you were still out of it.”

 

Only then Jeongguk notices the rushing sound of running water coming from the bathroom. “Okay,” he says, taken aback once again by just how considerate Namjoon is, by how good his soul is.

 

“Do you think you can walk to the bathroom?” Namjoon asks, putting the bowl on the nightstand, as he gets up from the edge of the bed, careful as always, so he doesn’t throw down any of the blankets or pillows.

 

“‘m not sure,” Jeongguk admits after he has swallowed down an of course I can. He knows that Namjoon can carry him with ease, remembers the moment with a faint flutter in his chest. It’s okay to be carried, it’s okay.

 

“Come here then,” Namjoon says, gesturing for Jeongguk to scoot closer to the edge of the bed to make it easier for both of them.

 

Even the small movements are enough to make Jeongguk’s heart jump into overdrive again. Cold sweat is running down his back where his t-shirt isn’t already clinging to his skin.

 

“Take it slow. We’ve got time. Let’s get you out of that jumper first, hmm?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk says before he can even think about it, crossing his arms in front of his chest. It feels wrong, getting out of the jumper again that carries so much of Namjoon’s scent. Somehow, Jeongguk wants to keep it close, wants to keep Namjoon’s scent close.

 

“Right,” Namjoon sighs, “I’m sorry. Look. I’m going to scent you once you’re out of the bathtub okay? You can wear one of my sleeping shirts too if you want, and we can keep the jumper in your nest.”

 

“Fine,” Jeongguk breathes. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m acting like this.”

 

“Don’t apologize. None of this is your fault.”

 

As the days passed by, Jeongguk had gotten a lot better in interpreting Namjoon’s scent. Now it carries a sense of guilt, tangled with shame. He’s staring at the wall behind Jeongguk’s head, not looking at him directly.

 

“I should have left, I should have considered what it could mean that you are not on suppressants. Everything is accelerated, everything is too much for you. What if we don’t get your temperature down? What if this will have a negative impact on your general health? We’re stuck up here. I couldn’t even take you to a hospital. I couldn’t help—”

 

“Namjoon. Hey. I’m—” Jeongguk tries to make a point by tugging the jumper over his head. “I’m fine.” There’s no chance he can hide how fast his breath is going from the exertion of getting out of the piece of clothing. He puts it to the side, next to his main pillow, then touches Namjoon’s shoulder to get him to look at him again. “You’ll help me, won’t you?”

 

Namjoon swallows audibly. “Yes. Yes, I’ll help you.”

 

Jeongguk would be a liar if he said that he only had the sickness in mind. He’s read too many stories. Too many in which an omega’s heat was the pivotal element. What he is experiencing has never been described as bad as he’s feeling right now. It was never more than something close to what regular humans would describe as a light cold, and after that it’s just want, and lust. Maybe it is like this for omegas who haven’t been wronged by their family, their doctors. Omegas who haven’t been told lies and thus lived unknowingly in danger their whole life. But right now, Jeongguk feels like he will never feel remotely appealing to anyone again.

 

He whines when Namjoon picks him up. His skin is sticky and clammy with sweat, his own scent has an unfamiliar tang to it. Jeongguk can’t tell if it’s good or not. It just smells weird to him, so he hides his face against Namjoon’s neck until all he can smell is the sea. It’s still more prominent, the calmness of the starlit nights seem repressed. But Jeongguk loves both sides of Namjoon’s scent. The sea is wilder, less restrained. More intuition than focus. But still safe. Still sound.



The water inside the bathtub is warm when Jeongguk puts his hand in to check the temperature. Namjoon sat him down on the edge of the tub so Jeongguk would have the chance to catch his breath and fight the ongoing dizziness. Small buds of chamomile are swimming on top of the bubble bath Namjoon must have added to the water.

 

“They are good for inflammation of any kind. Soothing,” Namjoon says when he catches Jeongguk’s puzzled gaze, running his hand through his short hair in a nervous manner. “Figured it couldn’t do any harm.”

 

After a moment, Jeongguk starts to realize why Namjoon is fidgeting, seemingly unable to hold his hands still. Before he can say anything, Namjoon is clearing his throat.

 

“You can keep your underpants on, or I’ll turn around. Whatever you prefer. I just. I’d like to stay in here in case something happens.”

 

“Can you turn around, please?” Jeongguk says softly after a moment of consideration. He can only imagine how uncomfortable the cotton boxer briefs would feel on his skin soaked with bathing water.

 

“Yeah, sure. Of course.” Namjoon practically whirls around on the spot, facing the door, then he chuckles, embarrassment lacing his voice.

 

Jeongguk understands. It’s futile in a way. Namjoon turning away. They both know what is coming. It hangs above their heads like the sword of Damocles. But Jeongguk also gets why Namjoon is doing it. There is a vulnerability about getting naked while Namjoon stays dressed, there is a vulnerability in getting undressed for something that isn’t connected to any kind of intimacy.

 

It takes longer than expected to get out of the three remaining pieces of clothing. They are unwilling, clinging to Jeongguk’s sweaty skin, and he’s exhausted, so exhausted , while the hellfire slowly seems to take over again. He feels so warm, too warm, but shivers at the cold air on his overheated skin all the same. Once he has finally tugged his shirt over his head, he needs a break, feeling like he has run a longer distance at full speed. Funnily enough, he wonders if it’s known why this is taking such a toll on his system, what it is that is happening inside his body. Namjoon might know, but there are more important questions to discuss.

 

Jeongguk takes off his sleeping shorts and his boxers in one go. Another break is necessary before he finally dares to stand up and lower himself into the water. It feels nice on his skin. Not too cold, not too warm. Jeongguk supposes that it’s not going to stay this way. He needs to cool down after all. With a sigh, he lays back against the tilted backrest.

 

“You can turn around if you want,” he says after he has made sure that there are enough bubbles accumulated over the general direction of his groin, and Namjoon turns around almost tentatively to face Jeongguk again.

 

“Feeling comfortable?” Namjoon asks, sitting down at the edge of the bathtub again, so he can let his hand run over Jeongguk’s brow and check for his temperature.

 

“Still dizzy,” Jeongguk admits, his head is hurting too, but it seems to come along with the dizziness.

 

“I’ll get you another cup of tea.”



It doesn’t take long for Namjoon to come back. Yet, Jeongguk feels that painful tug in his chest as soon as Namjoon has stepped out the door, and it only lessens when he’s back, handing Jeongguk the cup. Namjoon is taking a seat on the edge of the tub again, he’s still worried according to his eyes and his scent, but he doesn’t seem to be panicked anymore.

 

“Can you tell me more about what I need to expect? So I can— brace myself?” Jeongguk says once he emptied the cup and gave it back to Namjoon.

 

“You should feel better by the evening, I hope the fever will break once you’re out of the bathtub,” Namjoon starts, “And if we’re lucky you’ll get a quiet night to regain your strength. You might feel the urge to stay close— to me.” A soft smile forms on his lips, his eyes warm and gentle and maybe a little proud. “You’ll need your strength to give your body what it— what it’s going to demand.”

 

He stops there, but this time he doesn’t look away, he holds Jeongguk’s gaze. “If you feel at any point that you don’t want me to help you through this anymore, you have to tell me right away. You need to promise me, Jeongguk.”

 

“Promise,” Jeongguk says. He knows that Namjoon would never hurt him, that he would never take advantage of him. “I trust you.”

 

“I trust you too, bun.” It’s always Namjoon’s fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist when he has something essential to say. It makes Jeongguk feel like the promise gets a meaning that is beyond anything that words could say.

 

For a moment it’s all there is. A touch. A gentle smile. The sea making more space for the night sky again.




“I’m going to wash your hair,” Namjoon says after a little while, softly touching Jeongguk’s shoulder to tell him that he should get his hair wet by sliding down further into the tub. He gladly does so as he can’t wait to get rid of the sweat that is clinging to his tangled strands.

 

Once Jeongguk is sitting upright again, Namjoon’s hands lather up the perfume free shampoo in Jeongguk’s hair. The slight pressure Namjoon applies to his skull is almost a massage. It helps Jeongguk with sorting his thoughts again, clear his mind. He leans against the touches, a contented sigh leaving his lips when Namjoon massages his neck above the hairline, just shy of his scent gland.

 

Eventually, Namjoon stops to reach for the shower head, checking the temperature before he tells Jeongguk to tilt his head back so he won’t get any of the suds into his eyes. Jeongguk doesn’t remember when someone last washed his hair, cared that much for him that he could trust them completely. Maybe it’s because he has never felt this way before. He never truly trusted his parents as they had never failed to let him know that he was different. Different from them. Different from everyone else.

 

Trying to stay away from those thoughts, he focuses on the positive feelings that are evoked by being cared for by Namjoon.



“You’re going to hate me for this,” Namjoon says after he has put the shower head back into the holder, reaching for the faucet, turning the handle to the right. Blue. Cold. He motions it upwards, lets the water flow freely. “But cooling you down is my top priority right now.”

 

It takes a while for the coldness to reach Jeongguk. It proceeds slowly, but then it seems to be everywhere, prickling on his overheated skin, making him shiver, his teeth audibly chattering. It gets better. Slowly. But it gets better. It feels like the hell inside of him is getting sucked out and is then replaced by exhaustion that feels almost healing.

 

“Okay, that’s enough.” Namjoon grabs the towel that he has been warming over the radiator. “Come on, bun. You can get up now. Let’s get you back to bed.”

 

While the problem before the bath had been the fatigue, now it’s the rigidness that has taken possession of Jeongguk’s cold limbs. It takes time for him to stand up, but then there’s Namjoon, patiently holding out the towel, waiting for him, engulfing him in comfortable, soft warmth before he picks him up to carry him back to the bed.

 

There’s an additional sheet on top of the old one on the bed, carefully tucked under Jeongguk’s arrangement. Namjoon must have added it when he went back to get the tea for him. He reaches for Namjoon’s jumper as soon as he comes to sit in the middle of the bed, but Namjoon stops Jeongguk before he can pull it over his head.

 

“Nope, we are not going to risk you heating up like this again. There’s a much better solution.” The smile on Namjoon’s lips is very close to a smirk when he gets out of the thin, almost threadbare t-shirt he has been wearing since last night.

 

“Let’s swap,” Namjoon chuckles, “I’m rather cold.”

 

He is, Jeongguk realizes. Namjoon’s nipples are perky in the cool air, there’s a trail of goosebumps on his bare arms, and only then Jeongguk notices that Namjoon hasn’t lit another fire. It’s not freezing, since the radiators seem to be running on a low setting. But still, Namjoon is cold, and it’s because of Jeongguk.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbles, “You don’t need to go out of your way for me like this.”

 

“I could have worn something warmer, don’t worry.” He takes the jumper from Jeongguk’s hands and pulls it over his head. God, he’s adorable in that thing. It’s enormous on himself, but even on Namjoon’s well-built frame it’s a little too big.

 

Laughing lightly, Namjoon sniffs the air, “You like me in this.”

 

“I need to clog your nose, huh?” Jeongguk joins Namjoon in his laughter. Then, quieter, “Yeah, a lot. But it. Ah, it sounds stupid.”

 

“It won’t.”

 

“Okay. It makes me forget that there are other alphas out there. Those who wouldn’t wear cute jumpers and generally be big cuddly bears. You’re still the first I’ve ever met, and you’re setting the standards impossibly high. I hope you’re aware of that.”

 

“I’m not perfect,” Namjoon says, and he’s blushing while he does so. “I have my faults too, you know. And you should never forget that there’s scum out there. Never let down your guard again as easily as you did with me, okay?”

 

“I was overwhelmed and not thinking straight,” Jeongguk defends himself before he lets insecurity get the best of him again. “And I’ll have you to protect me from now on, right?”

 

“Yeah. Yes, Jeongguk. You’ll have me.”

 

Hearing it out loud makes Jeongguk’s heart sing. No one can tell him if it will come true. No one can tell him if there is a happy ever after for them. But for now he wants to believe it, wants to paint his future in the brightest colors and all of the images that are forming inside his mind include Namjoon.

 

Somewhere on the edge of his mind, he doubts it all, mostly doubts himself. The first alpha he’s ever met, and it is a match made in heaven from the beginning? Never has he believed that it could happen outside the stories he loves to read. Mere fiction. He can’t tell if his preheat confused mind makes Namjoon’s promise sound more sincere, makes him hope and believe, but for now he doesn’t care. For now, hearing it out loud is enough.

 

“You should get dressed, bun,” Namjoon says softly, his fingers drawing circles on Jeongguk’s naked shoulder. “Are you feeling any better?”

 

“Lots, thanks to you.”

 

“I’ve barely done anything.”

 

“But you knew what to do. What I needed and stuff.” He’s slowly warming up again, but this time it isn’t the heat that had threatened to burn him alive. It’s a comfortable warmth that gradually spreads through his limbs, tingles into his fingers, his toes. Namjoon’s hand on his shoulder seems to amplify the pace of how fast he’s warming up. He wants more of it. More touches, more .

 

“You’re right. I should get dressed,” he mumbles before he can lean more eagerly into the touches. With a still unsteady hand he takes the light shirt from Namjoon, sighing in relief when he pulls it over his head, and Namjoon’s scent is engulfing him, making him feel safe. “Can you give me some boxers from the drawer over there? And maybe some socks too?”

 

“Sure.” Namjoon gets up to rummage through the drawer, and comes back with simple dark grey boxer briefs with a black waistband, and black, fluffy socks. He hands them to Jeongguk before he sits down on the edge of the bed again, holding his hand against Jeongguk’s brow to check his temperature. “You’re not burning up anymore. It feels more like regular heat temperature now. Still warm but not burning. It was really worrying to see you like that, Jeongguk. I didn’t know it could be that bad without the suppressants.”

 

“I’m fine now. It’s fine.”

 

“I’m still sorry for putting you through this.” Namjoon rubs the back of his neck. “I mean. I’m glad you feel this way. I’m glad that you can imagine more between us, because I can too. But maybe we shouldn’t talk about this while you are still in that state of undress,” he chuckles.

 

“Namjoon,” Jeongguk whispers, half embarrassed, half giddy with happiness.

 

“I know.” Namjoon pulls Jeongguk towards him, giving him one of those kisses on his temple that Jeongguk came to love so much. The gentleness of the little affection never fails to make his chest feel tight with feelings he still needs to sort out. “I’ll warm up the soup, and add some of the dried meat to it for strength.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Namjoon shakes his head, smiling when he walks to the kitchen. The painful pull comes immediately. It’s the pain he used to feel at night when he’s alone, longing for a hug, a touch, multiplied by several factors. Startled, he bites on his lips, on the insides of his cheeks to hold back the whine that is threatening to spill free. Namjoon had warned him that it would happen. That he would feel attached. He just hadn’t thought it would happen quite so soon.

 

“He’s right there. He’s not gone. Calm the fuck down, Jeongguk,” he hisses to himself.

 

Still, he has the feeling that he needs to keep watching Namjoon to make sure he doesn’t leave, cursing his irrational thinking, his instincts. Namjoon keeps focused on what he’s doing in the kitchen, giving Jeongguk enough space to get dressed even though it’s a distance Jeongguk doesn’t particularly want. He breathes in once, then twice, gritting his teeth as he tries to focus on getting dressed. First the boxer briefs, then the socks. The fever is still settled in his muscles, making them feel stiff and tired. By the time he has pulled on the second sock he’s breathing heavily, beads of sweat accumulating around his hairline.

 

“You okay over there?” Namjoon calls out, but he doesn’t turn around. He must have heard his ragged breathing, the way he had let himself fall back into the pillows with his chest heaving.

 

“I’m fine,” Jeongguk answers. Somewhere in his mind, he’s wondering how he should get through the rest of the heat. The— physically demanding part. It’s still something that seems far away. He’s not aroused, not slicking up, not ‘thirsting for dick’ - like most of the omegas would have been in the stories he frequently reads. Yesterday night it hadn’t seemed that far away with the way he felt Namjoon pressing against his thigh as he had scented him. But Namjoon - ever the gentleman - had coaxed him into sleep by running his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair before anything got the chance to happen.



“Do you feel like you’re able to join me on the couch for the meal?” Namjoon asks a few minutes later.

 

Standing up sounds so easy. It should be easy. But it isn’t. Jeongguk doesn’t want to leave the bed. He feels uneasy just thinking about it, but then again he wants to be close to Namjoon too.

 

“I’d rather stay here if that’s alright. And maybe you can join me too?”

 

“Of course, bun.”  

 

He balances the bowls in one of his big hands and brings another cup of chamomile tea for Jeongguk to drink.

 

“Hey, no need to be embarrassed. It’s only natural that you want to feel protected and safe during this vulnerable time.”

 

“At least I know why this is happening. A few days ago I would have freaked out. Embarrassment is quite an improvement, don’t you think?”

 

“Absolutely,” Namjoon confirms, handing Jeongguk one of the bowls. It’s the same soup from earlier, but Namjoon filled it with a lot more of the rice this time, and he also added a considerable amount of dried beef. It seems to have become chewy and soft again, soaked with the broth, and it adds a wholesome aroma that makes Jeongguk’s stomach growl quietly. “Is it okay if I join you?”

 

“I’ll write you a permit,” Jeongguk laughs, “For the duration of a lifetime. You don’t need to ask every time. You are always welcome inside my nest.”

 

Only when Namjoon’s answer doesn’t come immediately, Jeongguk looks up from his bowl. Namjoon is staring at him. “Um, Jeongguk—”

 

“Huh?” he asks, the first spoon halfway to his mouth after he scooted over to make room for Namjoon so they can both sit comfortably on the bed while eating.

 

“Usually—,” Namjoon pauses before he can even start and then he’s rubbing his neck again, a clear sign that he’s embarrassed.

 

“I said something that has a different meaning again, haven’t I?”

 

“Yeah,” Namjoon chuckles, “You did. But it’s okay. I just keep forgetting that you still know astonishingly little about all our habits and lingo.”

 

“You should tell me then.”

 

“Usually,” Namjoon tries again, “Usually, being allowed into a nest without asking is something that is reserved for mates. ”

 

“Oh.” Jeongguk stares into his bowl. He had known before how sacred nests were, but he couldn’t have anticipated that they were that much of a deal. Mates. It’s such a big word. A word he thought about more than he would like to admit during the last few days. “It still feels weird if you ask every time. You really don’t need to ask.”

 

“Thank you. I’ll try. I’m not used to not asking though. I might let it slip a few times anyway,” Namjoon says as he finally gets into the bed, balancing the bowl as good as he can without letting some of the broth drip on the clean linen. He crosses his legs, bumping knees with Jeongguk as he finally settles down. The small touch is enough to lessen the painful longing, and Jeongguk catches himself exhaling in utter relief.

 

“I’m here now, and I won’t leave unless it’s necessary. Eat, bun. You must be hungry.”

 

With relief, Jeongguk notices that the dizziness and the upset feeling in his stomach are gone. The meal is more than needed, and despite its simplicity, it’s full of flavor. Namjoon is there, his hand steady on the small of Jeongguk’s back to assure him that he won’t leave.

 

“It’s so stupid,” Jeongguk says between two spoonfuls, “Intellectually I know that you won’t leave, that there’s no danger for me, but I’m still anxious and restless.”

 

“It’s the hormones. Your instincts. Your body knows that you will need an alpha soon, so it reacts accordingly. It tries to keep me close. I don’t know if you can smell it, but your scent has changed. It’s just a little change, but it carries more pheromones, I guess. Your scent was alluring before - to say as much - but now—” A rough exhale leaves Namjoon’s lips.  

 

Jeongguk is glad that his bowl is almost empty when a sudden burst of arousal plunges down his stomach, taking him by surprise. It flares up and is quickly gone again. But it’s enough to make his scent spike. Enough to make Jeongguk realize that his scent indeed has changed. Belatedly, Namjoon’s scent thickens too, reacting to Jeongguk’s. There’s a musky layer to it that Jeongguk already knows from when scenting each other before they went to sleep escalated just that little bit. It’s stronger now. Sated. Promising.

 

“Oh, the power of scent,” Namjoon chuckles. He spoons up the remaining grains of rice from the bottom of his bowl, grinning when he puts the spoon into his mouth.

 

Jeongguk would love to fling his own spoon at him, but he doesn’t want to make a mess of his nest, so he just stabs his elbow into Namjoon’s side. “I’m eating!”

 

“Oh, the modesty,” Namjoon adds, and Jeongguk can’t do anything else but laugh and bump Namjoon’s side again.

 

It’s silly. They are both silly. But he loves it. Things are going to change soon enough. They both know what’s coming. Or at least Namjoon knows, and Jeongguk can imagine. There’s this small part inside of him that hopes he won’t be too delirious through it all. He wants to take part. He wants to see, feel, and taste. Another little part of him is more negative, trying to tell him that he should savor this because it might be his only chance to be with someone as perfect as Namjoon. The other part clings to the hope, clings to the 30 minutes they live apart, clings to every promise that has been made during their time here.





When Jeongguk wakes up again, it’s quiet. Only the occasional crackle from the wood giving into the heat of the fire slices through the silence. The howling of the wind and snow around the house seems to have subsided. There’s a premonition of dawn coming in from the windows. The black isn’t so black anymore.

 

Jeongguk finds himself wrapped around Namjoon like a koala. His right arm lying spread over Namjoon’s stomach, his right leg over Namjoon’s thighs. He remembers falling asleep held tightly by Namjoon, so tightly that he was able to calm his anxious mind that kept telling him he would wake up all alone. So he had clutched the excess fabric of Namjoon’s yellow jumper between his fingers, pressed his back even closer to Namjoon’s chest, so close that he was able to feel Namjoon’s heartbeat against him.

 

They must have shifted during the night. The blanket has slid down to their legs, and while it’s warm enough for Jeongguk, Namjoon’s hand feels cold when he searches for it to interlace their fingers, trying to make sense of what he’s feeling. His breathing and heartbeat are accelerated, but he’s not feeling uncomfortable, even though Namjoon’s shirt is clinging to his skin that seems to be layered with a thin sheen of sweat. It’s different from the morning on the day before. He’s feeling good . He’s feeling— aroused.

 

Not sure how he hasn’t noticed that he’s pressed against Namjoon’s legs, his dick straining the fabric of his boxers, dimpling the skin of Namjoon’s toned thighs, he reels backward, creating a gap between them. It hurts. The distance is not something Jeongguk wants. He wants to come closer again immediately, but he can’t. Not when Namjoon is sleeping, not knowing what is going on. Jeongguk can’t use him like this. He can’t use him like he’s just another toy to get off with.

 

Panting from shame, from shock, but still from arousal too, he has to watch how Namjoon wakes up, disturbed by Jeongguk’s sudden movement. His eyebrows furrow when his eyes blink open. Momentarily confused, seemingly dazed as he tries to find out what has roused him to wakefulness.

 

“Bun, you okay?” he croaks, his eyes still unfocused as he tries to catch Jeongguk’s gaze in the dark.

 

“Namjoon. I think it’s. Happening?” His breath is going too fast, the back of his boxers are wet, getting wetter at the rough sound of Namjoon’s voice.

 

It takes a while for Namjoon to break the silence again, but he doesn’t need to say anything. For the first time, it’s Namjoon’s scent that betrays him. Spiking with interest, mixed with the wild sea and the heady layer that smells far too good, far too dangerous for Jeongguk to be exposed to.

 

“Let me just hold you for now, okay bun? We don’t need to hurry.”

 

A shiver of delight runs along Jeongguk’s spine when he gives in and lets Namjoon pull him closer. Honestly, it’s not as if he's got much of a chance. He needs this. He needs the closeness. Needs Namjoon. It’s obvious that Namjoon tries to keep their lower bodies apart when he spoons him again.

 

“There’s so much spice in your scent now, baby.”

 

It takes everything Jeongguk has to hold back the moan that tries to escape him. Baby. He never knew that it would give him so much. So much delight, so much giddiness, such a thrill of pleasure. Now, that he knows that he’s allowed to feel this way, knows that it doesn’t make him weak to draw joy from such an endearment.

 

Eagerly, he tilts his head when Namjoon starts nosing along the side of his neck. It feels good, every little touch feels so good. He can’t say for sure if they wouldn’t have progressed to this stage even without the heat accelerating it all. The signs had been there. The want had been there. Flaring up night by night until Namjoon had calmed him down, telling him by his gentle touches that they had time, that they didn’t need to rush into it. Even now, with the smell of arousal, and the scent of Jeongguk’s slick woven around them, Namjoon is nothing but caring, calming.

 

“Jeongguk, when you said you had sex before—”  Namjoon’s voice has a tentative sound to it when he stops nuzzling against Jeongguk’s neck and leans his head against Jeongguk’s instead as he waits for his answer.

 

“I always topped. I was always wearing a plug too because I was too embarrassed about my slick, and too scared of  the people I had sex with finding out what I am.” It’s easy to admit that now, even though Jeongguk stumbles over some of the words, feels like he shouldn’t be able to talk so freely about something that intimate. On the other hand, he realizes that he should feel blessed. Blessed, because Namjoon makes him feel safe to an extent that makes Jeongguk want to spill his whole heart out.

 

“Wow, that's—”

 

Jeongguk shakes his head, thinking about all the sexual encounters he’d had, starting from when he’d just started college. He never felt specifically uncomfortable, but he also never felt like he could start something meaningful with any of the guys he had slept with.

 

“Don't get me wrong. I had fun. Otherwise I wouldn't have done it more than once, but I still knew I'd prefer it the other way round with the right person. And of course it was feeding into my anxiety to be less than others, to be weak, you know. I get that now. I was always afraid about someone finding out who or what I really am, not even sure of who I was myself.”

 

“But you feel like you are getting there now?”

 

Jeongguk has to think that over, which proves difficult in the current situation. His thoughts are getting distracted by what he wants. Amplified by all the stimuli around him. Namjoon’s scent of arousal, Namjoon’s hand on his hip, the heady scent of his slick, Namjoon’s breath getting caught in Jeongguk’s hair, hot and wet and promising.

 

He feels small. Likes the feeling because he feels powerful as well. He’s the one who induced the roaring sea in Namjoon’s scent. It’s telling of want this time, not of the anxiety it held the day before. Namjoon’s heartbeat is fast against Jeongguk’s back. Jeongguk’s is faster.

 

“Namjoon,” he whines, “I— I can’t think straight right now. I just want.

 

“What do you want, bun?” Namjoon whispers.

 

It’s a bold move when he scoots backward, pushing himself into Namjoon’s space until he can feel Namjoon’s cock pressing against his backside. Drinking in Namjoon’s surprised gasp, drinking in the surge that goes through Namjoon’s scent, drinking in the hardness he feels, the sheer display of arousal.

 

For a moment, the world stops, and immediately Jeongguk’s wonders if he has dared too much too fast. But then Namjoon’s big hand on his waist tightens, using the leverage to pull Jeongguk closer, grind against him. It’s such a delicious friction when Namjoon’s cock parts Jeongguk’s buttocks under the fabric of his boxers, where Jeongguk is so wet with slick he’s sure he’s making a mess of Namjoon’s underwear as well.

 

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon groans, “Wait.”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t want to wait. He wants to feel everything of Namjoon, wants to be spread by the girth of Namjoon’s cock which feels so promisingly big against his ass. He wants to be touched everywhere. Wants to— Needs to—

 

He’s unable to stop himself from whining when Namjoon turns him around, so Jeongguk comes to lie on his back. “Don’t stop.”

 

“I won’t stop. I’m here,” Namjoon promises, his hand has moved from Jeongguk’s waist to come to rest on his tense abdominal muscles. It’s a grounding touch, anchoring, with the cool skin of Namjoon’s palm spread over the hot skin of Jeongguk’s belly. “But there’s no reason to rush. Let me take care of you properly. Like I promised to.”

 

His eyes are as sincere as the tone of his voice. Stars are meeting the sea again, emphasizing Namjoon’s instinctual need to protect, to give care. For a few seconds, Jeongguk can think more clearly as he tries to focus on the grounding factors around him.

 

“Namjoon.” A plea.

 

“I know. I know you need relief. I know what you need. And I’ll give it to you. All of it. But for now, let me take care of you.” Namjoon whispers the last words against the shell of Jeongguk’s ear. It’s enough to make him moan quietly, his lower lip caught between his teeth, worrying it with such a force that he’s afraid he’s going to draw blood.

 

“Hey, don’t. Don’t hold back. If you feel good, I want you to show me, okay? No one can hear us but you and me,” Namjoon says, a finger coming to rest right under Jeongguk’s lips.

 

“Okay,” Jeongguk breathes, “Okay.”

 

He lets his lip pop free, feeling the dents in the supple skin that his teeth have left there when he lets his tongue run over it to moisten his lips again. Namjoon is watching him, his eyes fixed somewhere around them. The light outside has changed, the night now fully receded to make space for the day. It doesn’t have enough power yet to reach them fully in the edge of the room where the bed is nestled against the wall, but it’s bright enough so Jeongguk can make out every feature of Namjoon’s face.

 

“There’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Namjoon chuckles lightly as he props himself up on his elbow, his finger still laid upon Jeongguk’s chin and right under his lower lip with the softest press against his skin.

 

Unwantedly, Jeongguk’s scent spikes, and there’s nothing sweet about it anymore. It’s all cinnamon. All Spice.

 

“God, you’re so responsive. What do you think I’m about to do, hmm?”

 

“I don’t know,” Jeongguk whines, although he has quite the clear picture in front of his eyes of what he would like Namjoon to do with how he’s bent over him, still looking at his lips.

 

With a quick shake of his head, Namjoon grins at him. “No. Not that. Not yet. Soon. But not yet.”

 

“You could have told me you were such a tease, and a mind reader, too,” Jeongguk scowls, but Namjoon only laughs at him, his gaze not moving a millimeter. Jeongguk wriggles a little closer so that at least their legs are touching. He feels restless, in a good way. Excited anticipation runs through him when Namjoon finally moves, comes closer. Expectantly, his eyes flutter closed when Namjoon moves his hand to cradle Jeongguk’s cheek instead. Namjoon’s breath is warm against his lips, so close, but still not close enough.

 

While they had explored each other’s necks and jaws with their lips, and had paid a lot of attention to one another’s clavicle, they’ve never gotten as far as a kiss before. Which is almost funny, Jeongguk thinks. And a little sad when he thinks more about it. What if Namjoon only wants to kiss him right at this moment because of the circumstances, what if it’s all because of his heat? Namjoon had assured him time and time again, that he wanted to be here, but—

 

“Jeongguk. You need to stop thinking so hard. I can’t access your cute little freckle if you’re scowling like this.”

 

“What?” he blinks his eyes open again, finding that Namjoon retreated from where he’s been before. He’s almost sitting up again, looking down. His freckle. Oh. Namjoon must be talking about the one right under his lip, almost at the exact same spot where Namjoon has one as well. Namjoon’s is mostly hidden under the jut of his bottom lip, but Jeongguk notices it every time Namjoon smiles at him.

 

“Will you let me kiss your freckle now?”

 

Jeongguk nods. He gets what Namjoon is doing. Trying to distract him from his throbbing cock that is begging for attention of any kind, from the slick that is undoubtedly staining the bed sheet they are lying on, from the urge that is roaring through him, that wants to be heard. He’s doing all that for Jeongguk, to make sure he feels safe, to make sure he does not feel like Namjoon is only here for the sex. He wouldn’t do any of this if he were only here to take advantage of Jeongguk’s situation. Jeongguk scolds himself for even thinking that when Namjoon has done nothing but be gentle and considerate with him from the start. Neither of them could have known that Jeongguk would slip into heat so easily. But here they are now. Brought together by a train. Kept together by the snow.

 

Intuitively, he closes his eyes again as he tilts his head back a little more so Namjoon can reach better. A faint trace of Namjoon’s breath flies over Jeongguk’s lips, and it’s all the warning he gets before Namjoon lightly presses his lips on the spot just below Jeongguk’s lips. Before he can even let himself enjoy the feeling of softness on his skin, it’s gone again. The whispered ‘again’ that was about to spill from his lips gets caught in his throat when a soft sigh from Namjoon is followed directly by another touch of lips against Jeongguk’s skin.

 

“How soon is soon, Namjoon?” Jeongguk asks softly, his bottom lip brushing against Namjoon’s upper one as he talks. It would take only the smallest tilt of Namjoon’s head. It’s the smallest of distances to bridge.

 

“I—” Namjoon lifts his head to look at Jeongguk, his eyes shadowed. “I want you to know that it means something when I kiss someone, that I’m not one to give kisses away easily.”

 

“But you want to kiss me?” Insecurity unfurls deep inside him again.

 

“Bun—” A mere whisper against Jeongguk’s lips. “You have no idea.”

 

It feels like a sigh when Namjoon finally leans down, finally closes the distance between them. Relief. Palpable, utter relief floods every cell of Jeongguk’s body.

 

It means something.

 

It means everything.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t dare to breathe, doesn’t dare to move. Afraid that reality will shatter around them if he does so. It’s an innocent touch of their lips. Fleeting. Gone far too soon. Two seconds fly by. Two seconds in which Jeongguk barely manages to gasp for air, his fingers tangling in Namjoon’s short strands while Namjoon’s hand slides to Jeongguk’s side, warm and safe against his skin as he holds him closer to lean down again.

 

It lasts longer this time, feels more urgent, more. It’s different to any kiss Jeongguk has had before. Namjoon hadn’t lied when he said that it would mean something. It’s noticeable in every touch, even the smallest movements they share like they have been destined from the beginning to reach this point.

 

Contrary to what Jeongguk thought would happen, the kiss doesn’t feed into his arousal at this point. It calms him. Even though his heart won’t slow down at all, his state of mind is more relaxed, signaling him that there is time, and that Namjoon is here, making sure to show him that every second that ticks by is a second worth spending with Jeongguk.

 

Their kiss gradually moves from chaste territory to something different, proceeds from a gentle mapping to more daring nibbles and small licks. It’s exhilarating to feel both of their lips slicking up with saliva, to feel a low rumble set free in Namjoon’s chest when Jeongguk lets his tongue slide over the crevice of Namjoon’s closed lips. He wants to taste Namjoon, wants to taste all of him.

 

Namjoon allows him in, meets him halfway, his tongue almost cool against Jeongguk’s. He tastes of the chamomile tea he had filled the large teapot with last night and placed it onto the nightstand, so they are both provided for. It’s a taste of summer, despite the coolness of his mouth. Inviting and laced with something that must be Namjoon’s own distinct aroma.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t care that he is maybe a little too eager in the way he lets his tongue meet Namjoon’s to explore the softness of his mouth. But Namjoon kisses him back with the same enthusiasm, he’s not trying to make him slow down anymore. Gone is all his hesitancy when he pushes the shirt Jeongguk is wearing further up as they keep kissing, his hand coming to rest on Jeongguk’s sternum for a moment before he keeps caressing Jeongguk’s burning skin.

 

A sigh slips from Namjoon’s lips when he seemingly reluctantly breaks the kiss, his breath almost as ragged as Jeongguk’s. ”Let me take this off, okay? So I can reach better, scent you everywhere.”

 

“Everywhere,” Jeongguk echoes, his breath momentarily taken away by the prospect and the expectation that accompanies it. Eagerly, he sits up so he can help Namjoon with pulling the shirt over his head. The whole situation seems unreal in the cold twilight of the room. To some extent, Jeongguk still can’t believe that it’s happening, that they are here, sharing his nest, sharing kisses.

 

“Here,” Namjoon says when he hands Jeongguk the shirt. For a second, he doesn’t know what to do with it, but then he understands. Namjoon doesn’t want to put it down somewhere in his nest without Jeongguk’s consent. The shirt carries both of their scents, and belatedly Jeongguk realizes that he wants to keep it close to him. He places it next to the main pillow. It’s the same spot where he had put the yellow jumper for safekeeping the day before.

 

When he turns around again, Namjoon is watching him, taking in all there is to see of Jeongguk’s upper body while he’s still covered by the blanket from the waist down, and Jeongguk knows there isn’t anything to be ashamed of. He realizes now that the reason why he has always kept to his rigorous workout schedule is futile, but he won’t give it up as he likes it how his body feels when he’s fit. He won’t do it to complete the image he wanted people to have of him. Instead, he’ll do it for himself from now on.

 

Namjoon clears his throat. “You should drink something. Your temperature is still elevated.”

 

I don’t need to drink, Jeongguk wants to say, all I need is for you to touch me again, scent me, be with me.

 

It still feels good when he gets to wet his mouth with the cold, clear tea. The taste will always remind him of their time here from now on, remind him of Namjoon. “Don’t you want to put on some music?” Jeongguk asks, his hand placed loosely on Namjoon’s thigh. “To remember? Make it a memory for your jukebox?”

 

“It’s fine,” Namjoon answers, lacing their fingers together after he has put his own glass back on the nightstand. “This is about you, bun. I will never forget this moment.” He pauses for a moment, his eyes gentle but laced with something that makes Jeongguk’s heart skip a beat as Namjoon massages along Jeongguk’s neck with his free hand. “Now let me make sure that it will become a memory we both want to think back to. Let me make it good for you.”




Namjoon lets his hand glide from the side of Jeongguk’s neck up into his hair. Jeongguk doesn’t know if it’s accidental when Namjoon brushes his scent gland for a fraction of a second, but it sends a jolt of pleasure through him. The sensitivity of the small patch of skin enhanced with how much more he’s feeling every touch on his whole body. He sighs happily when Namjoon engages him in another kiss, gently pushing him backward until Jeongguk lies down with his back against the pillow, Namjoon hovering over him, his weight balanced on his elbows. Kissing Namjoon feels so good, so right.

 

Jeongguk almost protests when Namjoon breaks away from him, but he swallows the objection down when he gets to watch how Namjoon pulls the jumper over his head. His skin spans softly over the gentle swells of his muscles, his boxers fail to hide the prominent bulge that reveals that Namjoon is anything but unaffected by it all.

 

“I want your scent on me too,” Namjoon admits, “Can’t waste it like this, hmm?”

 

“You’re beautiful,” is all Jeongguk can say, reaching out to playfully touch the toned planes of Namjoon’s stomach, the trail of fair hair that leads downwards from Namjoon’s belly button, vanishing beneath the waistband of his boxers.

 

Namjoon chuckles, grinning as he gently swats Jeongguk’s hand away, and pushes him back into the pillows. “This is about you.”

 

“I still want to touch you.”

 

“And you can.” He kisses Jeongguk on the lips, nothing more but a chaste peck before he peppers a series of kisses over his cheeks until he reaches Jeongguk’s jaw where he stops just kissing him. Instead, he nibbles and sucks on Jeongguk’s skin, undoubtedly leaving small bruises as he moves on to his clavicle. Every nip makes Jeongguk sigh, every lasting suck draws muffled moans from him. “But for now, let me scent you.”

 

Namjoon halfway nuzzles, halfway kisses his way along Jeongguk’s body, watching every reaction, listening to every sound that comes from Jeongguk as he leaves his scent on him.

 

There’s a deep, satisfied rumbling in Namjoon’s chest when he brushes one of Jeongguk’s nipples with his lips, and he can’t help but arch his back at the pleasure, chasing the feeling that only makes his cock throb harder. He can feel that he’s leaking, the head of his cock pressed against a wet patch of fabric on the front of his boxer briefs, not to mention the slick that doesn’t seem to stop trickling out of him. He’s a mess. But he can’t linger on that thought. Not when Namjoon brushes against the perky nub again, and again. Teasing, never settling.

 

“I knew you’d be susceptible to this.” He’s reaching up to wipe the sheen of sweat from Jeongguk’s brow. “I’m going to make you feel so good, Jeongguk.”

 

He does. Jeongguk loses his ability to think straight when Namjoon takes one of his hyper-sensitive nipples in his mouth and teases him with his tongue while he rolls the other nipple between his thumb and index finger. Jeongguk is gasping and shuddering, his back arching to ask for more, more , not realizing that he’s pushing the blanket down to his thighs with his movements.

 

“Oh, baby,” Namjoon whispers when he straightens himself a little, his gaze flying over Jeongguk’s groin. “You like it that much, hmm?”

 

His hand is resting just short of Jeongguk’s waistband where the head of his cock is straining against the fabric, twitching at the pet name, a visible spot of clear wetness accumulated around it. Jeongguk would lie if he denied that his hardness hurt by now. He needs momentary relief, assuming that coming once won’t mean that it’s over. He’s going to need more than that.

 

“Namjoon,” he breathes. “Please touch me. You’ve taken so much time to show me that I’m safe with you, and I truly appreciated it. But please. It hurts.” Admitting it sounds like it’s coming straight from of the A&O stories, but it’s the truth. It hurts. The want hurts . And all Jeongguk needs is for Namjoon to do something about it. Anything.

 

“I don’t want you to hurt,” Namjoon says quietly, as he caresses the skin around Jeongguk’s belly button with his thumb. “I just wanna do right by you.”

 

“You are,” Jeongguk affirms, as he takes hold of Namjoon’s hand to lead him where he needs him the most right now. But then an idea takes hold of him, and he stops midway, both of their hands hovering over Jeongguk’s pulsing cock. “Can you like. Maybe. Scent your hand before you touch me there?”

 

A barely restricted groan of arousal falls from Namjoon’s lips as he stares at Jeongguk in wonder. “You want my scent there?”

 

“Everywhere,” Jeongguk whispers, “I want it everywhere.”

 

Namjoon curses under his breath, and for a second Jeongguk is scared that he did something wrong again, that he misinterpreted something. But then he sees that the front of Namjoon’s boxers now have a wet patch of fabric too. It must excite him to be able to scent Jeongguk there. It must be a good thing then. A good curse. Jeongguk chuckles quietly. Proud of himself in a way. Breathlessly, he watches how Namjoon winds his hands from Jeongguk’s grasp and touches himself on the back of his neck where he thoroughly rubs his fingers over his scent gland until waves of the sea are playing around them.

 

Jeongguk loves Namjoon’s scent. He loves the fierceness it’s laced with when it’s reduced to the sea, knowing that Namjoon would only use the ferocity to protect Jeongguk. It’s a display of strength, of pride. Everything about it tells of Namjoon’s instinctual need to protect. Jeongguk feels lucky to be the one under his protection. He’s so lucky.

 

The cold morning light that falls in from the windows frames Namjoon’s silhouette, makes him glow in the dim light of the room. Jeongguk reaches for Namjoon’s cheek, touching him with a gesture that he hopes tells everything he feels.

 

When Namjoon stops to let his fingers run over his scent gland, he leans down again, meeting Jeongguk for another kiss. It’s only been a few minutes since they’d last kissed, but he missed it already. Missed Namjoon’s taste, the soft sounds of pleasure he sighs into Jeongguk’s mouth. Namjoon doesn’t stop kissing him as he lets his scented hand glide from Jeongguk’s neck over his sternum, dipping a finger in the shallows of his navel before he skims the waistband of Jeongguk’s underwear, leaving a fresh trail of his scent everywhere he touches.

 

It is as if he waits for another confirmation to continue, so Jeongguk slings both of his arms around Namjoon’s neck, deepening the kiss as he bucks his hips up to tell him that he needs him there.

 

The first touch, the first finger hooked under the waistband makes Jeongguk gasp into the kiss. It’s nothing more but a brush of Namjoon’s finger on his base, but it’s liberating. He’d needed that kind of friction so badly. Had longed for it so much. The alleviation makes him moan against Namjoon’s mouth, he wants more. Needs more.

 

There is still no hurry in Namjoon’s touches, but there, pressed against his outer thigh, Jeongguk can feel every twitch of Namjoon’s cock, reacting to his moans. Precum is leaking through the thin cotton, smearing on Jeongguk’s thigh.

 

“Let me take these off, hmm?” Namjoon suggests as he pulls on the waistband, futile with only one hand until Jeongguk lifts his hips so Namjoon can pull them down his legs and then over his ankles. The piece of fabric is a mess. It hangs heavily from one of Namjoon’s fingers, soaked with slick and precum.

 

“Ah, put that down,” Jeongguk complains, swatting at Namjoon’s arm. But Namjoon does the contrary, wiping the boxers over his pecs before he lets them drop on the floor in front of the bed, then gets up on his knees to wiggle out of his own boxers too. His smile is playful when he looks back at Jeongguk who doesn’t know where to look. Namjoon’s cock is bent against his stomach, fully hard, flushed, and leaking. And he’s big. Bigger than Jeongguk anyway. Instantly, Jeongguk feels another surge of need rushing through him at the thought of Namjoon filling him up.

 

“Rub that in for me? Please, bun?” Namjoon lays his head down on his propped up hand again, his other hand drawing lazy circles on Jeongguk’s inner thigh, slowly moving upwards. “I just want your scent on me. And it lasts longer with scent marking.”

 

When Jeongguk looks up, he can see that the soaked fabric left a broad trace of wetness on Namjoon’s skin. His slick. Namjoon wants his slick massaged into his skin. He remembers the other ways of scenting Namjoon had mentioned but hadn’t wanted to talk about in detail during their second night here. Scent marking. He gets now why Namjoon had refused to tell him about it. It’s intimate. The mere thought is so stimulating that Jeongguk’s cock twitches where it’s laid against his stomach, a drizzle of precum trickling from his slit. Namjoon makes that contented rumble deep in his throat again, as he kisses Jeongguk’s sweaty temple, his hand almost at his groin.

 

Testing, Jeongguk strokes over the wet stripe, marveling at the feeling of the softness of Namjoon’s skin, and the perfect swell of muscle underneath. The scent of his slick is an enhanced version of Jeongguk’s usual scent. A little sweeter, a little headier as Jeongguk methodically rubs it into Namjoon’s golden skin. He has a hard time staying focussed when Namjoon’s hand slides between his cheeks, gathering up slick before he finally, finally takes Jeongguk’s cock in his hand.

 

“Namjoon,” Jeongguk pants. He needs him closer, needs his warm body to engulf him, hold him. He wriggles closer, hides his face in the crook of Namjoon’s neck as he slings his arm around Namjoon, forgotten is the task of massaging his slick in. He knows he’s not going to last long. They feel too good, those pumps of Namjoon’s wrist, the little twist he adds to every smooth upstroke, lubricated by Jeongguk’s own slick.

 

He wants to reach down, wants to touch Namjoon too, but he shakes his head.

 

“Don’t. I have to ration my stamina, baby. I gotta keep up with you. And when I come, I want to be inside you.”

 

It’s what pushes Jeongguk over the edge for the first time that day. He’s not even able to utter out a warning before he orgasms, his cum spurting over Namjoon’s hands, over Jeongguk’s stomach while his body gets overwhelmed with an intense wave of pleasure. Namjoon holds him close, doesn’t let go of him as he rides out the last bouts of his climax. Only when Jeongguk whines at the sudden episode of oversensitivity does Namjoon loosen the hold around Jeongguk’s cock.

 

It’s not surprising when Namjoon wipes every dollop of Jeongguk’s cum he can gather onto his own skin to mark himself with it while he hugs Jeongguk close with his other arm. Jeongguk melts into the embrace, his face still hidden in the crook of Namjoon’s neck. He feels soft, pliant, but the want inside him hasn’t waned. It’s still there, nagging, demanding. His cock still throbbing and hard.

 

“Breathe for a minute, baby,” Namjoon says, his voice rough, but still so very gentle. His body is warm around Jeongguk’s, but it’s still cooler than Jeongguk’s heated skin. Soothing. “Do you feel a little better? Does it hurt less?”

 

“Hmm, still hurts,” he mumbles, ”But not as much. It’s okay for now.”



He always wondered if it really would be like that. This insatiable arousal he’s feeling. He’s still basking in the afterglow, but it’s the only thing that holds him back from starting another round right away. That and the fact that Namjoon smells so much of cinnamon, so much of him. He smells like he’s Jeongguk’s and Jeongguk is his.

 

“Bun, are you with me?” Namjoon asks, his fingers carding gently through Jeongguk’s tangled hair.

 

“I think so,” Jeongguk says, his voice muffled by how close he’s cuddled up to Namjoon. “I thought I would be more - I don’t know - gone?”

 

“I’m afraid we’ll come to a point where you will be. But it depends.”

 

“On what?”

 

“How long it will last. Can be just one day, can be up to four.”

 

“Four days?!” Jeongguk’s head snaps up, but Namjoon makes him settle down on his chest again.

 

“That’s the longest I’ve heard about,” Namjoon says, drawing circles between Jeongguk’s shoulder blades. “Typically the heat of  male omegas last around two days.”

 

“It’s still a lot,” Jeongguk sighs, trying not to be too obvious as he presses his groin closer to Namjoon’s leg. “And it’s unnecessary, right? Please don’t tell me it was another lie when my doctors told me male omegas can’t get knocked up anymore.” Suddenly, Jeongguk feels panic clamp around his heart as he is reminded that he still knows so little.

 

“It’s been centuries, Jeongguk. The last case was reported in 1678, and even then we can’t tell if it’s something that was really happening or was a myth altogether. Maybe we should have talked about this before.”

 

Jeongguk lets out a shaky breath, loosening the pressure he had applied to Namjoon’s biceps without really nothing. “Thank god. I was freaking out here for a second. So, it’s true too, that we can’t get STDs?”

 

“We can’t even get common colds. So, yes. It’s true. Our DNA is built differently. There’s no danger for us coming from that. I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to talk to you about all of that before this happened. I should have told you last night after your fever broke.”

 

“It’s fine. You couldn’t have known before. We couldn’t have known.” Jeongguk lets his fingers play over the soft skin of Namjoon’s stomach. It’s calming to feel his stomach move with every inhale, every exhale. Jeongguk realizes with a smile that it became so natural, so normal to lie next to each other without caring about their nudity in such a short amount of time. He still can’t believe his luck, that he’s allowed to touch Namjoon’s beautiful body everywhere he wants. Holding onto that sentiment, he straightens up just enough to be able to kiss Namjoon on the lips again.

 

Similar to their first kiss it draws a contented sigh from both of them. Namjoon lets his hands wander down Jeongguk’s back, slowing down when he’s just short of the swell of his behind. With a bite on Namjoon’s bottom lip, Jeongguk tries to signal him that it’s okay to venture further, that he wants Namjoon to pay attention to his butt. It’s a nice butt after all the squats Jeongguk does daily.

 

Namjoon groans when he finally allows himself to squeeze a handful each cheek. It’s a happy groan. One Jeongguk also lets out  when Namjoon squeezes again, less gentle, pressing Jeongguk’s cock to Namjoon’s leg where it had been resting. He’s about to beg again, for Namjoon to move on, but he doesn’t need to when Namjoon lets one of his fingers slide down, lets the tip brush against Jeongguk’s rim.

 

“You’re so wet,” Namjoon mouths against Jeongguk’s lips. “Will you lie down on your back again so I can make you come with my fingers?”

 

“Namjoon,” Jeongguk gasps, taken completely unaware. His body seems to like the idea a lot. More slick dribbles out of him and Namjoon is right there to spread it over his rim, humming quietly.

 

He presses another kiss against Jeongguk’s temple before he helps him to shift, so he is on his back again. Namjoon climbs over him, settling on his other side. “I’ve got more control in my right hand,” he admits, as he parts Jeongguk’s legs, fondling his balls for a breathtaking second before he lets his fingers glide over Jeongguk’s perineum with just the right amount of pressure. It makes Jeongguk’s hips buck up, the sensation promising of what is yet to come. He always liked teasing himself with his collection of dildos and prostate massagers, but the fact that someone else, that Namjoon is going to touch him there, makes him come almost from the thought alone.

 

“I love learning what pushes your buttons,” Namjoon admits, watching Jeongguk with an intensity in his gaze that makes it hard for Jeongguk to look away as he keeps circling two of his fingers on Jeongguk’s perineum. It feels good. Feels too good. Unwantedly, Jeongguk can feel his balls draw tight, the familiar sensation spreading to his loins, through his whole body, as his cock spurts out a small amount of cum onto his stomach.

 

“So sensitive,” Namjoon hums, collecting the white fluid from Jeongguk’s skin so he can use it to mark himself again, the smile on his lips nothing but soft and caring, contrary to his action.

 

Jeongguk begins to miss Namjoon’s scent that is overpowered by his own. As much as he likes that Namjoon is smelling of him in a way he never thought was possible, he wants to smell of Namjoon too, more than he does now.

 

“What are you doing?” Namjoon gasps, frozen in the motion to get back to Jeongguk’s hole when Jeongguk takes hold of Namjoon’s heavy erection, pumping him once, twice until he’s satisfied with the amount of precum that is spread over his hands.

 

“Learning from the best,” Jeongguk says nonchalantly, although his heart topples over the excitement that rushes through him when he brings the hand up to his neck, making the roaring sea a part of himself. A strangled sound slips from Namjoon’s lips before he leans down to kiss Jeongguk with an enthusiasm that takes his breath, and the cheeky smile on his lips away in a heartbeat.

 

For a while, there’s nothing more than the lewd sound of their wet, unrefined kiss, of their ragged breathing. The silence is broken by Jeongguk’s moans when Namjoon presses one of his fingers into him, into the wetness that demands to be filled. It’s liberating. So, so good that Jeongguk forgets to breathe for a moment. So good that he needs to claw his fingers into the sheets to keep himself from giving in to the urge to come again.

 

Before Namjoon touches him where he promised he would, he lets a second finger join the first one, the drag along Jeongguk’s walls intensifying, but still not enough. The longing for something to fill him up completely is momentarily forgotten when Namjoon bumps his fingers against Jeongguk’s prostate. Starting with small, teasing strokes of his fingertips, Namjoon builds up a rhythm until he has Jeongguk almost screaming from pleasure. It takes the residue of restraint away that had kept holding him down. His hands fly up from the sheets to hold onto Namjoon instead, and when Namjoon leans down to suck on one of his nipples into his mouth, his free hand searching for Jeongguk’s to support him, interlacing their fingers, Jeongguk is gone.

 

“I’m—” White laces his vision, then blackness, realizing that the sound he hears is coming from him. Somehow, he keeps breathing. Somehow, through the shivers of the intense orgasm he can hear Namjoon whispering his name, can feel the soft press of Namjoon’s fingers around his own.

 

Eventually, his body relaxes again, his head falling back into the pillows. He whimpers when Namjoon pulls out his fingers. He doesn’t want to feel the loss. Doesn’t want to feel— empty. At least Namjoon is there, pulling him as close as possible again, not caring about the sticky sensation of semen and slick trapped between their bodies. Namjoon’s cock is throbbing hard against Jeongguk’s thigh.

 

“It must be hurting you,” Jeongguk says, carefully moving his leg so he can give Namjoon at least some friction while he can’t reach him with his hands. “You don’t have to hold back any longer. I might need a break too after that.”

 

Namjoon nips softly at Jeongguk’s shoulder, his hips meeting every circle Jeongguk makes with his thigh. “You need to tell me if anything is too much. I’m assuming you haven’t bottomed before, and a knot is a lot to take.”

 

“Inflatable toys,” Jeongguk says, so quietly that it’s barely audible for himself. “I wanted to know, and— I can take it.”

 

“You’re incredible,” Namjoon chuckles, nipping at his shoulder again. It feels good, not painful at all. Intimate. Jeongguk wants to ask if it means something, if it’s supposed to tell him something Namjoon can’t put into words, but he quickly forgets about it when Namjoon gets up after a lingering peck to Jeongguk’s lips, his clean hand stroking Jeongguk’s fringe back.

 

Jeongguk watches his every move, the way his muscles move under the golden skin when he comes to kneel between Jeongguk’s thighs, his cock bobbing up against his stomach, colored almost an angry red, telling how much Namjoon needs his own release. Jeongguk wants him to feel good, wants to share the pleasure with him. His previous orgasms have been nice enough, but he already has an inkling that coming from Namjoon’s knot is going to be mind-blowing, that it is what the heat is all about. It might be a dubious residue from the past that was supposed to make breeding easier, still set in their DNA for no apparent reason, but Jeongguk plans to take all the pleasure that comes with it, and he hopes that Namjoon will draw joy from it too.

 

Reaching down to touch himself between his cheeks, Jeongguk collects some of his slick, bending slightly forward, so he is able to lube Namjoon’s cock with it although it is already wet from the generous amount of precum that is still dripping down from his slit. But Namjoon’s responsive moans tell Jeongguk that he’s doing the right thing.

 

“Promise me that you’ll fuck me one day, using your slick.”

 

Surprised, Jeongguk sucks in air between his teeth, he can’t help his cock twitches at the idea. “I didn’t know this was something alphas wanted.”

 

I want it,” Namjoon says, his hand caressing along the backside of Jeongguk’s thigh. “And I want it with you. Not today, not during your heat, because this is all about you. But someday.”

 

Jeongguk hums contently. Someday.

 

Namjoon kisses him again, his weight balanced on his elbows as he moves forward. Their cocks brush against one another, slick and hot, making both of them utter out broken moans. The promise of the position makes the pain of indescribable longing flame up again. He whimpers, nipping Namjoon’s shoulder just like Namjoon had done with him before.

 

“You don’t need to wait any longer,” Jeongguk urges, dimly realizing that he’s losing himself a little, in the instinctual behavior of his body, his hormones. The change is so fast it scares him. “Please, Namjoon. You know I need it. Please.”

 

“Sorry,” Namjoon tries to calm him, “I’m here. I’m right here, bun. Stay with me okay?”

 

Another whimper leaves Jeongguk’s lips, his hands searching until Namjoon takes hold on one of them, tangling their fingers together, as it comes to lie next to his head. He bucks up his hips, trying to lure Namjoon in, to make him see.

 

“Shhh, it’s okay. You’re okay.” With his free hand, Namjoon pushes Jeongguk’s thighs apart, angles his legs so he can position himself. His breathing is as ragged as Jeongguk’s as he presses the head of his cock against Jeongguk’s rim, hot against the cooling slick that doesn’t stop trickling from him. He’s proceeding slowly, carefully, peppering Jeongguk’s face and neck with uncountable kisses.

 

The stretch, the fullness is everything Jeongguk needed. It doesn’t hurt, every cell of his body seems to be geared to make this happen. A weak spatter of cum comes from his slit, a wave of pleasure running through his system as he clenches around Namjoon’s hardness when he bottoms out, both of them vocalizing the pleasure that it causes.

 

“You feel so good, bun.” A hot whisper against Jeongguk’s ear.

 

He lifts his legs, crossing them behind Namjoon’s back to meet him when he starts rolling his hips, to pull him closer, get him deeper. Gladly, he lets Namjoon intertwine the other pair of their hands too, both of them using the leverage they gain from this position. Jeongguk’s mind is blank, washed out by the insane amount of pleasure of being stretched like this, his body moving along pliantly to every one of Namjoon’s thrusts.

 

Instinctively, Jeongguk untangles one of his hands from Namjoon’s hold to reach up, following Namjoon’s neck up to the hairline. He needs more of his scent, more of the sea that is all ocean foam and roaring waves. The sound Namjoon makes when Jeongguk touches his scent gland is different from any other sound he had uttered out today. Almost a sob, laced with a satisfied groan. His hips snap forward, pushing Jeongguk up the mattress. He feels so full, feels so good. Namjoon’s scent on his fingers, even more intoxicating when he’s rubbing it into the skin of his own neck. He can’t think, his mind is reduced to the tight feeling in his groin, the fullness, the way Namjoon’s cock seems to swell, to fill him out even more.

 

“Bun,” Namjoon groans, “Let’s get you on top. I’m about to come, and— It takes a while for the knot to subside again. I don’t want to risk hurting you by moving around too much or squishing you with my weight once we’re locked together.”

 

It’s Jeongguk’s fantasy come true. Namjoon turns them around, leaning back against the headboard as he holds Jeongguk steady with his big hands around his waist. His face is painted with a beautiful mix of stern focus and pleasure while he fucks up into Jeongguk with a force that makes his cock bob, precum dripping over both of their bodies. He’s holding onto Namjoon’s shoulders, knowing that he can’t hold himself back any longer, doesn’t want to hold himself back, not with how Namjoon’s cock brushes his prostate with every thrust. He’s going to come untouched again, his testicles drawing tight, his insides clenching around Namjoon.

 

“Come,” Namjoon pants, the thrusts shallower now as the knot around the base of his cock makes it hard for him to pull out and push in every time. “I’m almost there, don’t hold back.”

 

He pushes himself inside Jeongguk again, holds him down against his knot, digging into his prostate. Jeongguk keens when Namjoon takes hold of his cock, his thumb pressing into the sensitive spot under the head. Streaks of cum paint both of their skin without warning. Jeongguk helplessly lets his head sink down against Namjoon’s shoulder, shaken by the immense pleasure, unearthed by the feeling of Namjoon’s cum mixing with his slick. Namjoon’s arms are strong around him, holding both of them up while he keeps pumping cum into Jeongguk, his cock twitching and throbbing as his knot spreads Jeongguk out, filling him so well.

 

“I’m not hurting you?” Namjoon asks, his voice weak as he finally comes down from his high.

 

“No, it’s what I needed. Feels good.” For the first time since the heat has taken proper hold of Jeongguk, his cock is almost flaccid, and although Namjoon’s knot is still swollen, keeping them together, he feels like he can breathe again, think again. “Does it hurt you? The swelling?”

 

“No, not at all,” Namjoon reassures him, taking Jeongguk’s face in his hands to give him a peck on the lips. “It’s sensitive now that I came, but it doesn’t hurt.”

 

“Good. That’s good.” Suddenly, Jeongguk feels the burn of his muscles, feels fatigue wash over him. He leans heavier against Namjoon as he tries to keep his eyes open.

 

“You can’t fall asleep yet. Stay with me Jeongguk, hmm?”

 

Trying his hardest not to fall asleep, he nuzzles his face against Namjoon’s neck, sucking and nibbling on his skin to keep himself occupied. Somehow, there’s nothing sexual about the action. He just feels like doing it, and Namjoon lets him.

 

Eventually, he can feel the pressure inside him lessen, and a relieved sigh from Namjoon confirms his assumption. What he wasn’t expecting was the panic that overwhelms him when Namjoon moves him to slide out of him.

 

“No. No, you can’t,” Jeongguk stammers, “It will all leak out. I want to keep it in me. I don’t know why. I don’t know, but please. Namjoon.

 

“It’s okay, you’re fine, baby bun.” Namjoon stops pulling out, a barely stifled groan of pain leaving him as he slips back in as well as he can. “You’re okay. Did you bring anything? A plug maybe?”

 

His plug. He brought his plug. “In my backpack.” Which is halfway across the room.

 

“Okay, listen.” Namjoon says, “I’m going to get it for you. But you need to stop it from leaking once I pulled out.”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk sobs, “I can do that.”

 

Namjoon takes Jeongguk’s right hand, leading him to his backside. “I’m going to pull out now.” He motions Jeongguk to a lying position, slowly sliding out. Jeongguk feels tears spill over when he some of Namjoon’s cum trickles out of him anyway. He doesn’t understand himself, only knows he needs to keep it in him for now. So he presses his fingers against his rim, trying to hold back what is still inside him.

 

It takes some rummaging through Jeongguk’s backpack for Namjoon to find the plug. Even after all that just happened, Jeongguk is terribly embarrassed when he realizes that Namjoon is going to see all the toys he brought to get him through the lonely hours he planned to spend up here.

 

“There you go,” Namjoon whispers when he’s finally back, easing the plug in. Jeongguk feels like crying again. Of relief, of exhaustion. But Namjoon doesn’t let him rest yet, he makes him drink, feeds him with the high-calorie bars he found in Jeongguk’s backpack. Only when he’s made sure that Jeongguk is well cared for does he let him lie down, gathers him up in his arms to keep him as close as possible to show him he’s here.

 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk whispers before his eyes flutter closed from sheer exhaustion.






When he wakes up again, it’s dark outside. The reading lamp next to the couch has been turned on, there’s a small fire flickering in the fireplace, and Jeongguk can feel Namjoon lying behind him, his breathing even and relaxed. There’s a fresh duvet cover without filling spread over them, their body heat is enough to keep them warm. Jeongguk sighs when he realizes that he’s hard again. It doesn’t hurt as much as it had in the morning, the longing not as burning. Namjoon’s hand is holding him safely around the waist, his skin smooth and dry. Jeongguk doesn’t feel as sticky anymore too. Namjoon must have washed them both while Jeongguk was asleep.

 

For a second he’s afraid that their scents with which they had marked each other are gone, but the sea lingers on his skin. Strong and unwavering. He realizes that the bed sheet they are lying on is clean too. The old one lies folded at the bottom of the bed. Jeongguk doesn’t know how Namjoon managed all of the tasks while he must have been exhausted as well.

 

Jeongguk decides to let him sleep a little longer, touching himself lazily while he thinks about the earlier hours of the day to give himself some relief. He comes with a moan he tries to muffle against the pillow, but he can feel Namjoon stirring behind him.

 

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he murmurs, yawning as he stretches.

 

“You’ve done so much for me already.”

 

“And I’m more than ready to keep taking care of you.”

 

“Fine,” Jeongguk fake-grumbles, wiping his hand off on his thigh before he shifts to face Namjoon. “Indulge me.”



His heat takes another day and a half to finally break. By the end, Jeongguk is so exhausted, so oversensitive that when he comes dry and realizes his cock stays flaccid after that last orgasm, Namjoon, who has waited to knot him all day, knowing that he was at the end of his strengths too, has to fuck his thighs instead of his hole. But he doesn’t seem to mind as he gets to scent mark Jeongguk’s thighs.

 

They stay cuddled together for what seems like hours afterward. Until the euphoria leaves Jeongguk’s body, making him aware of how an absolute mess both of them are.

 

“Bathroom,” Namjoon croaks just as Jeongguk thought of saying something too. Namjoon squeezes him close one last time before he gets out of the bed and limps towards the bathroom. Jeongguk waits for the awful pain of separation to settle in, but it doesn’t come. He still feels safe and sated. Happy.

 

The sound of rushing water promises a relaxing bath, and cleanliness. Namjoon comes back to him with a big glass of water, another one of the high-calorie bars, and a chocolate bar he cut into small pieces. “I’ll cook some proper food later.”

 

“We can cook together,” Jeongguk smiles. “You’ve done enough for me.”

 

“Baby, in case you haven’t realized, I like taking care of you.” He sits down on the edge of the bed, watching as Jeongguk gulps down most of the water in one go.

 

So, the baby seems to be staying. Jeongguk can feel his smile widen at the thought that all of their promises still seem to be in function. Nothing has changed. Except that they are even more comfortable around each other than before. After sharing something that intimate, there is hardly anything left to hide.

 

“I know. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t take care of you too.”

 

Namjoon takes the almost empty glass from Jeongguk, kissing him with a gentleness so fragile, Jeongguk wants to cry.

 

He lets Namjoon carry him to the bathroom, and now that the heat has left him, he needs the water to warm him up. It’s so much better this way around, the hot water playing around his cold skin, washing away the residue of cum, slick and sweat from his body.

 

“Join me?” Jeongguk suggests when he realizes Namjoon is just standing there, keeping an eye on him. He scoots to one edge of the tub so Namjoon can fit in with him. “Unless you’re grossed out.”

 

Namjoon laughs, as he takes the offer and steps over the edge of the tub, leaning back so Jeongguk can lie down on his chest, his arms slung around Namjoon’s waist. They both know how filthy they are, but Jeongguk still enjoys those quiet minutes it takes to warm up, the foam of the bubble bath crackling at his ears, creating an interesting cacophony when mixed with Namjoon’s heartbeat.

 

“Do you still have the plug inside you?” Namjoon asks suddenly, and Jeongguk can feel his cheeks heat up at the question. He had completely forgotten about that.

 

“I. Um. Yeah. I forgot.”

 

“Let me help you. Just hold onto me when it hurts.”

 

Even with how slow and gentle Namjoon is pulling it out, Jeongguk still has to grit his teeth together, his fingers dimpling Namjoon’s sides where he holds onto him. “Sorry,” he gasps when it’s finally out, thoroughly embarrassed when he sees that Namjoon is washing it clean underwater before he puts it on the edge of the tub.

 

“It’s fine, you’re okay. Just relax for a while, hmm?” Namjoon’s fingers are a blessing on the small of his cramped back. He gives in to the soothing feeling, tries not to think about anything but the warmth of the water, and Namjoon’s calm heartbeat.

 

He’s about to doze off when Namjoon starts lathering shampoo into Jeongguk’s hair. When Jeongguk feels that the foam and Namjoon’s gentle rubs have done their deed, he sits up to take care of Namjoon’s hair. His hair is shorter so it doesn’t look or feel as bad as Jeongguk’s had, but when Jeongguk starts lathering the shampoo into Namjoon’s hair , he draws a contented sigh from Namjoon.

 

The domesticity of the moment is everything Jeongguk ever wanted, he realizes. His heart doesn’t stop singing as they help each other rinsing the suds out of their hair. It’s blocking out the exhaustion that is still settled deep inside him, making him feel like he could sleep for days. Uncontrollable giggles spill out of him when Namjoon spreads the lavender shower gel over his skin to get rid of the dried body fluids.

 

“I-I’m sorry,” he laughs, “I’m extremely ticklish when I’m touched in a, um, non-sexual context?”

 

“Already guessed with how sensitive you are in a, um, sexual context,” Namjoon imitates him, grinning when Jeongguk dabs some foam on his nose to reprimand him for it as he comes close for a kiss that allows him to get the foam on Jeongguk’s nose too.

 

They let the minutes tick by as warm water drizzles around them. Jeongguk knows that this is one of the moments that will stay with him for a long time. The smell of lavender, Namjoon’s soft, clean skin under his fingertips, the soft touch of their lips, the kiss that is almost like a second first kiss.

 

“You are happy,” Namjoon states, nuzzling gently along Jeongguk’s neck when they’ve finally stepped out of the tub. He wraps him into the fluffiest towel he must have been able to find, warmed up on the radiator. It’s like a warm cloud on Jeongguk’s skin.

 

He doesn’t need to ask where Namjoon got that knowledge.

 

“I am,” he says.





They air the room with the crisp and clean mountain air after they took a look outside to check the weather. There is no sign of the storm on the sky that is once again gilded in that enchanted hour just after the sun had set. There’s no clouds at all. The car isn’t discernible under the heaps of snow, and Jeongguk can already feel raw refusal bubble up inside him when he thinks that at some point he’ll have to clear it so he can drive them back to town. Back to the train station where it all began.

 

Despite that, he’s relieved to see that the snow groomer has cleared up the winter hiking path so they will be able to get to the bigger streets with relative ease.

 

“Can you put on your Blue Hour Playlist?” Jeongguk asks, as the sky gradually changes, and Namjoon plays the soft piano music for him again.

 

The batteries on their phones had been drained when they finally were able to check them, and of course there had been panicked messages from Taehyung again, asking him when he would come back and if he was alright. Jeongguk had answered them with a strange feeling in his stomach, that something wasn’t quite alright with Taehyung.

 

It’s a slow rest of the day when they have finally eaten something substantial. Jeongguk isn’t completely sated, but Namjoon had warned him not to overeat after two and a half days of barely eating anything.

 

“I should have made you eat more,” he sighs, his fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist in the familiar touch, but his eyebrows are furrowed. “You lost too much weight.”

 

“I’m fine, Namjoon. You’ve barely eaten more than I have. And it’s not like this will happen again anytime soon, right? I’m going to go to the hospital right away, get my prescription, and bling no more heats.” He takes another sip of his hot chocolate, regular hot chocolate this time. Stifling a yawn, he leans his head back so he can kiss Namjoon on the cheek. He knows he won’t be able to stay awake much longer with the happiness receding to a low, calming buzz, the warmth that comes from the first real meal, from the hot chocolate, and least of all because Namjoon is cuddled against him under the fuzzy blanket.

 

“I’ll go with you if you want me to.”

 

“I’d really like that.”



Not too long after that, Namjoon suggests that they call it an early night, ushering Jeongguk to the bed that smells fleetingly of fabric softener. They found out that they both like it better when the linens have a neutral scent, but the sheets they used to remake the bed where the only clean ones left. Even though they changed the sheets and the covers, even though they aired the room, the smell of sex is still hanging over the corner where the bed is nestled against the wall, reminding Jeongguk of what had happened. How insatiable he was, how—

 

“Ugh,” he mutters.

 

“What is it, bun?” Namjoon asks, he looks so tired, the dark circles under his eyes accentuated by the low light of the bedside lamp.

 

Only then, Jeongguk realizes that Namjoon didn’t ask if he could come into his nest this time. He tries not to show how happy it makes him, as he laces their fingers together.

 

“I think I’m beginning to realize what happened, and I’m trying really hard to put everything on my instincts and our DNA, but it was good too. Right now, I’m pretty embarrassed about some things, but it was good for the most part. And I’m somehow looking forward to like— do it the normal way, so we are both satisfied in the end.”

 

“What makes you think I wasn’t satisfied?”

 

“The last— round? God, you held back all day, so we were able to come together and then I left you hanging. Quite literally.” He tries to resist the urge to hide his face at the weak joke.

 

“You have no idea how sexy your thighs are, do you?” Namjoon chuckles, poking one of his fingers in the sides of Jeongguk’s thigh, right where his sore muscles are. “It was great for me too. But I know what you mean. With the normal way. It’s less exhausting, more about the why, less about the need to still your physical needs. It’ll be nice to have sex without having to be careful because of the knot.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon sighs, but it’s rather amused than unnerved. “I only knot during heats. Omega heat pheromones are what makes the knot swell. Other than that my dick is pretty much just a dick.”

 

Jeongguk can’t help himself as he bursts out laughing, holding his sides because it feels like all of his muscles are on fire. “Ugh,” he snorts again, “I went through a damn heat, and I still know nothing.”

 

“Jeon Snow,” Namjoon cackles.

 

“Oh my god, Namjoon! Go to sleep with your normal dick!”

 

The mood takes a while to sober up again after that. Jeongguk realizes when they lie in full darkness with Namjoon’s arms safely around him, that neither of them has addressed the fact that they can’t stay here forever.





“Jeongguk, are you ready?” Namjoon calls from outside.

 

They have just finished packing the car, but Jeongguk is still lying on the bed, doing the one thing he felt like he needed to do before they left. It’s a perfect day for driving, dry and clear, and since Jeongguk has rented the car for another two days anyway, they decided to skip the train altogether and drive the whole way home. Jeongguk is glad that he has rented the car from a chain that has branches in every big city.

 

“Just a sec!” he calls back, picking up his phone again to continue typing.

 

‘I don’t know why I’m writing you this, dear author. Maybe because I found an alpha that is exactly like your alpha characters. He’s the most gentle, and caring person I’ve ever known. I’ve always dreamed of something that compares to your stories, as they made me dream, and it seems like the dream is coming true. (Your story might even be part of this, I can’t tell you why, but it is. )

Thank you. I love your stories so much, and I’ll continue reading them, even now.’

 

He rereads the comment and then clicks send with a content hum. It isn’t the first comment he left on his favorite story on A&O, the exact one he was reading on the train when he met Namjoon. During the past few days he had been thinking about the story again and again, and finally decided that he needed to thank the author.

 

He’s about to leave the bed, his phone securely stored into the back pocket of his jeans when he hears a buzz coming from the general direction of the headboard. Jeongguk lets himself fall back again, reaching out from where he thinks the sound to come from. As he suspected, it’s Namjoon’s phone, lit up with a notification.

 

“Hey Namjoon, you forgot your—” He doesn’t want to look closer at the notification, he really doesn’t, but he can’t overlook the familiar logo. A&O. You got a comment from Noturcookie. “Phone,” Jeongguk whispers.

 

“Did you say something, bun?” Namjoon asks as he steps into the main room of the cabin again, ready to leave, with his beanie and his coat donned.

 

“Namjoon. I— you— are you—” He doesn’t seem able to form a proper sentence, so he gives up the senseless stuttering, and although everything inside him tells him not to do it, he hands Namjoon the phone.

 

“Your scent doesn’t make any sense, baby. Are you okay?” Namjoon asks, his eyes distressed as he sits down next to him, his arm going straight for Jeongguk’s back to pull him into a hug.

 

“The notification,” is all Jeongguk can say, kind of exhausted as he lets his head sink onto Namjoon’s shoulder. “I didn’t want to look, but the screen was still on and— I just happened to. Ugh. Just. Just read it.”

 

Namjoon takes the phone, taps the notif and swipes to open it, his eyebrows furrowed as reads the few sentences. Jeongguk watches him as he tries to make sense of what he’s reading, watches as his eyebrows shoot up, his eyes widening. “Noturcookie,” he mouths. “Holy shit. You’re Noturcookie.”

 

“And you’re Moonjune,” Jeongguk says, strangely satisfied about the fact that his username seems to be familiar to Namjoon. Well, he left a ton of comments, likes, and recommendations.

 

Then the last thing that Jeongguk expected happens. Namjoon grabs one of the pillows, lets himself fall back on the bed and smushes his face into it, a strangled sound of embarrassment coming from him. Jeongguk watches in wonder and endearment, scrunching up his nose when Namjoon’s scent hits him in a weird mix of excitement and utter bashfulness.

 

“Namjoon,” he tries, tugging on the sleeve of Namjoon’s coat. But he really doesn’t know what else to say. This is bizarre. Namjoon is the person he had admired for years. The only author he ever trusted to know what he was talking about. He can’t tell how many times he cried himself to sleep after reading his stories wishing for someone to care for him as deeply as the alpha characters cared for the omegas, how many times he got off to the sex scenes, how many times he—

 

“Listen,” he starts again when Namjoon still doesn’t come out from under the pillow. “I wondered how I got so lucky to get to know an alpha that is exactly like the ones I admired so much in those— in your stories, one that’s kind and doesn’t take me for granted, takes care of me 24/7 and never gets tired of my cuddles and antics.” He’s lying down next to Namjoon, reaching for his hand so he can lace their fingers together to anchor himself. Anchor both of them. “And realizing that it has been you all along, that it’s been you I’ve dreamed of. It’s crazy. This coincidence. It’s fucking crazy.” He can’t help himself when a giggle of pure delight bubbles out of him.

 

There’s an incoherent mumble trying to get out from under the pillow.

 

“Hmm?” Jeongguk asks. “Can’t hear you.”

 

Finally, Namjoon places the pillow down behind his head. His cheeks are flushed, probably from bashfulness, the warmth, and the lack of air combined. Jeongguk cuddles up to him, nuzzling his cheek along the side of Namjoon’s neck to tell him it’s alright, to let him know that this unexpected discovery won’t change anything.

 

“The train,” Namjoon wonders aloud, his scent suddenly layered with the musk Jeongguk is now able to interpret as arousal, “Were you reading back then? Is this why I was able to notice your scent?”

 

“You’ll never let me forget that this is how we met,” Jeongguk admits. “That one of your stories affected me in a way that led you to me.”

 

Namjoon chuckles, shifting them around, so Jeongguk comes to lie under him. “Who knew that publishing my stuff on this damned site would make me this happy one day.”

 

Jeongguk knows it’s a rhetorical question, so he simply pulls Namjoon down to him by his scarf, bringing their lips together in a sweet kiss. The sweetest kiss. Maybe a last promise before they leave this small bubble they created, the sanctuary where Namjoon now belongs too. Jeongguk sighs into the kiss. Relieved. So relieved when he notices that he isn’t scared anymore, that he trusts Namjoon enough to know that they will figure out a way to be together.

 

Perhaps he will always have that small voice inside his mind that tells him everything is a little too perfect. But for now, he has no reason to be scared. He’ll have to return to his true self, as Namjoon had put it in the night when he first scented him. Jeongguk doesn’t know who that is yet. He might have a hunch, might have figured out a general direction that will lead him back there, but he also knows that the way might be obstructed, might be full of tripping hazards and dead ends.

 

There’s still so much to learn, so much to discover. Jeongguk can’t wait to meet the omegas of Namjoon’s pack. Can’t wait to be taught by them, learn things that not even Namjoon might be aware of.

 

He can’t wait to belong.




“Would you say that this is a good happy ending for a story?”

 

“This isn’t fiction, Jeongguk. Happy endings are futile in real life.”

 

Jeongguk’s stomach drops with a force that almost makes him sick, he tries to turn away, doesn’t understand how Namjoon’s scent is still so calm - all starlit night - when what he said— What he said— He tries to wriggle himself out of Namjoon’s hug.

 

“Ah, shit. Jeongguk. Baby bun, stop. You’ve got it all wrong. Listen.”

 

Reluctantly, he lets himself fall back again, lets Namjoon pull him closer, so close he can hear his heartbeat. The touch of Namjoon’s fingers is calming against his skin, even though he doesn’t want to admit that right now. Suddenly, he’s overwhelmed by fear again. Scared of what Namjoon has to say.

 

“Fiction. Happy endings. They are just that. They end at some point. What I want for us is a happy continuation. A way to look beyond the ending.”

 

“That’s cheesy,” Jeongguk mutters against Namjoon’s chest, but he can’t hold back the happiness of both - the ending of their time here at the cabin and the continuation that stands for everything that lies beyond their upcoming departure - from overwhelming him. He lets Namjoon kiss the top of his head, lets Namjoon pull him upright again so they can scent each other one last time before they leave, although he still has Namjoon’s scent marked into his skin from this morning.

 

The bottle with the artificial scent is still hidden in the bottommost drawer of the bathroom dresser. Jeongguk had considered throwing it away while he was cleaning the bathroom, but then decided to leave it as evidence of how far he has come. Putting it there had been the first step to returning to himself. Leaving it there means that he can venture on.

 

Jeongguk stays behind when Namjoon heads to the car, making sure that everything is alright. The electricity has been turned off, the bed has been made. And while Jeongguk knows they can always come back here, there is still that small painful pull in his chest when he turns the key to lock the door.

 

“You coming, cinnamon bun?”

 

Jeongguk rattles at the door one last time to make sure that it’s properly closed before he turns around to Namjoon who is waiting next to the car, waiting with the calmest sea, and the most beautiful stars Jeongguk has ever smelled on him.

Chapter Text

I’m back, is what Jeongguk texts Taehyung after he sat down on his couch. I’m back. Not I’m home . His vision of home has changed.

 

We’ll be there in five.

 

So Taehyung hadn’t been kidding when he said that they should talk as soon as he gets back. Jeongguk keeps sitting on the couch for a few more seconds before he’s able to shake off the feeling of premonition that takes possession of him. It’s unsettling him in a way he can’t describe. In a way that makes his stomach twirl uncomfortably, his heart rate picking up. He feels like he hasn’t seen Taehyung and Yoongi for months, although it hasn’t been longer than a week and a half.

 

With the way his view of the world - and most importantly on himself - changed it feels like he has advanced past their time. They know the old version of him. The version in which he was lost and insecure. Not that he isn’t still, but Namjoon made him see him what kind of person he could be.

 

It’s cold inside the apartment. He misses Namjoon although he has just kissed him goodbye. He misses his calming presence, his fingers on his wrist, the soft kisses on his temple. He misses the stars and the sea although he can still smell them on himself. It’s different when he is able to smell them coming directly from Namjoon.

 

Reluctantly, he leaves his spot on the couch to bring his backpack and the small paper bag from the hospital, which contains three months worth of suppressants, to the bedroom and puts his jacket on the hanger by the door before he turns on the heating. He misses the fireplace, the way the flickering shadows had been painted on Namjoon’s skin, the comfortable warmth. Letting his eyes fall closed he allows himself to sigh, allows himself to let the fleeting pain of separation wash over him before he has to function like a human again.

 

Jeongguk has just switched the kettle on when the doorbell rings. His stomach constricts, and he hates, hates that he isn’t looking forward to seeing them as much as he should. Not after Taehyung’s weird messages anyway. He pads to the door, pulling his wrinkled shirt down in a feeble attempt to look more presentable after the long drive.

 

“Hey!” he says, putting as much positive energy into his smile as he can muster, but then Taehyung pushes through the door, throwing himself into Jeongguk’s arms like he always does, and just like that Jeongguk’s smile widens, becomes a real one again. Yoongi is right behind him, closing the door before he gives Jeongguk a little wave.

 

“I’m so glad you’re alright,” Taehyung says quietly. “I’m so glad.”

 

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Jeongguk asks, and suddenly the tentative atmosphere is back. There is something in Yoongi’s eyes, something in Taehyung’s demeanor as he lets go of Jeongguk again, and not least their scent is off. “What is it, Tae?”

 

“Let’s sit down,” Yoongi says, his hand reaching for Taehyung’s, pulling him along to the couch.

 

“I was about to make tea, I’ll be with you in a second,” Jeongguk says, practically fleeing to the kitchen. He pulls a box of classic English Breakfast Tea from the shelf, personally not really liking the taste, but it’s the closest he has to coffee. Carefully, he fills the dried leaves into the tea steeper before he fills the pot with water, then he picks three cups from the shelf and carries everything back into the living room.

 

No one says anything when he comes back and places the cups and the pot on the table. They have both slipped out of their jackets, balling them up behind them. Yoongi’s hand is still holding Taehyung’s as if he’s trying to calm his boyfriend. Only when Jeongguk sits down, facing them, Taehyung speaks up.

 

“The person you’ve been with. Do you know what he is?”

 

Jeongguk’s world shatters, then crumbles into little, sharp pieces.

 

What. Not who.

 

What.

 

“Yes,” he chokes out, “Yes, I know.”

 

Peripherally, he smells his scent spike with fear, hears a gasp from both of his friends, rapid shot whispers between them he can’t discern. How do they know? Do they know what Jeongguk is, too? Will they hate him? Turn his back on him?

 

“Guk,” Taehyung whispers, “Guk, you need to breathe.” Taehyung lays his hand against Jeongguk’s sternum, rubs his back with his other hand. Somehow, his touches succeed in making Jeongguk realize that he indeed stopped breathing, and with a gasp of air that shudders through him like a sob, he finally gets oxygen into his lungs again.

 

“Did he hurt you?” Yoongi asks quietly.

 

He’s wrong. So wrong.

 

“He would never,” Jeongguk whispers. “How do you know what he is?” Neither of them said the word yet. Maybe Jeongguk got it all wrong.

 

“Jeongguk,” Yoongi says, “We are alphas.”

 

Jeongguk closes his eyes. He tries to shut out the world, shut out Taehyung’s quiet hiss of Damn it, Yoongi. We agreed to stick to plan, shut out the bright light of the ceiling lamp, the sound of his faltering heartbeat, the acrid scent of fear. His thoughts are tumbling, falling.

 

He’s been betrayed. All his life. First his parents. Then his doctors. Now— his best friends. He can’t trust anyone.

 

“So you know what I am?! You’ve known all the time?” It breaks out of him. Too loud. Too accusing. But maybe just right.

 

“Guk,” Taehyung whispers. “We tried to keep you safe.”

 

“I didn’t need safekeeping. I needed the truth.”

 

None of this makes sense. They don’t smell like alphas, not really. Jeongguk had always thought that their scent was a little stronger, but missing that one element that made him recognize Namjoon as an alpha at once. He realizes how dangerous the whole ordeal was, how easily he could have slipped into heat because of them. He loves them. As friends. But he loves them.

 

“Your scents,” he murmurs when neither of them says anything, “They’re not alpha scents.”

 

“Scent blockers,” Taehyung says. His voice is very quiet as if he was afraid it would break if he raised it. “We’ve been using scent blockers.”

 

It’s the first time Jeongguk has heard of them. Namjoon hadn’t mentioned their existence, but Jeongguk can very well understand what they do, what they are used for.

 

“So it was okay for you to take scent blockers, but you weren’t able to tell me that I was in danger all the fucking time because I wasn’t taking suppressants?”

 

The accusation hangs between them like a thick, impenetrable veil. Jeongguk can see that Taehyung’s eyes are swimming with tears, his hands are clamped so hard around the fabric of the pillow he’s hugging that Jeongguk can see the white of his knuckles. He’s not crying. Not yet. But even if he were, he would have no right. He has no right to cry.  

 

“We took care of that,” Yoongi says. He seems calmer than Taehyung on the first glance, but he’s picking at the irritated skin of his right thumb, his hands shaking.

 

“What are you talking about?” Jeongguk asks, his mind not able to make sense of what Yoongi said.

 

“Our scents are still carrying enough alpha pheromone to make it seem like you belonged to a pack, that you had an alpha to protect you,” Yoongi explains.

 

“It was easy,” Taehyung adds hesitantly, “as you like cuddles so much.”

 

“And you always use that horrible perfume. It made it harder to recognize you as an omega from your scent alone.”

 

“I don’t use it anymore,” Jeongguk says. It’s hard to keep his voice down with the anger that is boiling inside him. Nothing of what they said yet has in any way explained why they had wanted to keep him safe this way, why they didn’t teach him what he so desperately needed to know, why they were taking scent blockers. “But it wasn’t of use in the end anyway. Namjoon - the alpha - he knew I was an omega right away. Wait— you knew who he was. How?”

 

“He’s the leading alpha of the principal pack in M-town,” Yoongi says after a moment of hesitation. “Everyone in the district knows who they are.”

 

“I didn’t,” Jeongguk snaps.

 

“I recognized him on the picture,” Taehyung sighs, “And I was so worried. I didn’t understand how you suddenly had become acquainted with someone from the community we tried to keep you away from. And yes, we know what he looks like, but we didn’t know if he was a good alpha or not. Seeing him with you up at the cabin. It scared me so much, Guk. I was about to drive there to get you out of there in case you were mistreated, but then again you looked so happy in the picture. It didn’t make any sense to me. To both of us. And when we smelled him on you right now, it just pulled the wrong instincts. We care so much about you.”

 

The only information that stays with Jeongguk is ‘ the community we tried to keep you away from.’ He shakes his head to let them know that it’s enough. That he doesn’t want to hear more nothings. More of hot air that doesn’t explain anything.

 

“Let me tell you something,” he bites. “I went into heat. Because I wasn’t on suppressants, because I didn’t know shit. I could have died from the fever if Namjoon hadn’t been there to take care of me.”

 

It’s enough to make them shut up. Jeongguk catches the horrified gaze they are sharing with a weird sense of satisfaction. His breath is going hard. He didn’t mean to share that one intimate detail, but now that it’s out in the open he feels relieved. He needs to take two deep breaths before he can think clearly again, set the anger aside and focus on what he really needs to know.

 

“You better tell me now why you tried to keep me away from a community that could have prepared me, that could have really kept me safe, that could have told me everything I needed to accept myself, to love myself.”

 

“Oh, so you think the community is an accepting, loving place?” Yoongi’s voice sounds hostile as he spits out the words.

 

Jeongguk watches how Taehyung comes closer to him, nuzzles his nose along the side of Yoongi’s neck. He can make sense of that gesture now. The calming touch of scenting. He gets that there must be something that riled Yoongi up like that, but he still needs more.

 

“Guk,” Taehyung says. He’s calmer now. The tears in his eyes have receded again. Instead, they’ve been replaced with something close to grief. He tries to reach out for Jeongguk, but he feels himself recoiling from Taehyung’s hand. He can’t even bear the thought of being touched right now. His reaction adds a tired touch of resignation to the grief in Taehyung’s eyes. “They aren’t as accepting as you might think.”

 

It’s contrary to what Namjoon had told him about his pack. To Jeongguk it had sounded like the safest place on earth. But then again one pack isn’t representing the whole community.

 

“I need more than that. I need the whole story.”

 

Taehyung looks at Yoongi with questioning sincerity in his eyes, searching for his boyfriend’s hand again. Yoongi sighs heavily, but then he nods. “Tell him.”

 

Taehyung tells him how he fell in love with Yoongi, gradually, while they’d been growing up together. Their parents were all members of the same pack, and while they were fine with the two alphas playing together while they were still pups, they had to notice in the most hurtful way that their parents tried to interfere with the time they spent together when their friendship started to evolve.

 

“They tried to keep us apart,” Taehyung says quietly, “I wasn’t allowed to go to the same high school as Yoongi, even if meant that it took one hour and three different buses to reach the one they ultimately sent me to. When Yoongi woke up in the morning, I had already left. When I finally came home, Yoongi had already eaten, and was locked into his room for homework.”

 

They still found time to sneak off, skipping school more than once so they could spend time together. But it didn’t mean that they could touch one another, or even hold hands, since their parents would have noticed their scents on their skin. When Taehyung says something about disposable gloves they used, Yoongi laughs sadly.

 

Inevitably, their parents still caught them one day.

 

“They dragged us to our lead alpha. He droned on for hours how unnatural the attraction of two alphas towards each other was, how we would never find a pack that would accept us for what we were. We lost everything that night. The love of our parents, the respect towards our status in the pack. So we decided to leave.”

 

Yoongi takes over then. Tells him how they decided to leave not only their pack but the community altogether, vanish from their radar, paying way too much for their first blister of scent blockers on the black market to be as human passing as possible. They moved to another city, Yoongi who was already of age working nights between finishing high school, so they had a roof over their head and didn’t starve, while Taehyung tried to help out with smaller jobs.

 

Jeongguk learns that this is why Yoongi never went to college. How he tried his best to look out for Taehyung, to make sure that at least one of them got a proper education. Jeongguk knows that Yoongi got lucky and has a very good job, college education aside. They’re living a good life now. But apparently, for a heavy price. They miss living in a pack, they are tired of fending for themselves on their own all the time. They miss one another’s natural scents.

 

“When I met you on the first day of the new school and realized that you didn’t belong to a pack, that you didn’t know anything about the community. Like at all,” Taehyung says, “We decided to help to keep it that way, to keep alphas away from you. You didn’t even recognize me as an alpha, it was the first time we could be sure that the blockers actually worked. We thought it would be better if you stayed in that bubble that kept the world out, kept the pain of reality out.”

 

“I still hurt. I was hurting all the time. I felt lost. I was lonely. And just because your pack was a bunch of assholes doesn’t mean that everyone is like that, it doesn’t mean that you had the right to decide for me.”

 

Somewhere in a small corner of his mind, Jeongguk realizes that he’s maybe a little unfair. They had kept him safe after all. They shared their story with him, which must have taken them a lot of bravery, but then again they could have told him from the start. Telling him doesn’t atone for what could have happened to him, it doesn’t atone for all the hours he wondered if he really was alone, it doesn’t atone for the distorted, stereotyped image he had of his own kind.

 

“We only tried to—” Taehyung starts again, but Jeongguk has heard enough.

 

“What happened to you is horrible, but I can’t even stand to look at you right now. All the things that could have gone wrong. Everything you could have taught me but didn’t—”

 

“You didn’t tell us that you were an omega either,” Yoongi says.

 

It’s the last straw. It’s what makes Jeongguk unable to see reason any longer. He couldn’t have known that Yoongi and Taehyung were alphas, it was on them to breach the topic, since Jeongguk’s scent pretty much told everything about his status.

 

“Please leave,” he says, his voice as cold as the feeling inside him. Unable to move, unable to lift his head he listens to them leaving, hears Taehyung’s barely concealed dry sob that breaks out of him before the door of Jeongguk’s apartment closes behind them.





 

Even with the radiators on, he feels cold. Cold and empty, as if all the happiness he had felt this morning and during the drive has been sucked out of him. He tries to conjure it up again, but it’s of no use. Too much has happened. His head feels heavy when he lets it sink down into his cold, cold hands. Is this the price? he wonders, Is this the price I have to pay for meeting Namjoon?

 

It takes a while for Jeongguk to feel able to move again. It’s only nine p.m., but he longs for his nest. Startled, he stops for a second on his way to the bedroom when he realizes that he's calling it nest now without the weird feeling that had always accompanied the word. It has become normal. Yet there is a bitter taste in his mouth when he thinks about the possibility that it could have been normal a long time ago if Taehyung and Yoongi had told them the truth about themselves.

 

Skipping his nightly skin care routine is tempting, but he hates the feeling of overly greasy skin in the morning, so he rummages through his backpack to get his toiletry bag, gasping in a way that is almost a relieved sob when he noticed the sleeve of a very familiar yellow jumper hidden beneath some of his books. He pulls it out and puts it over his head right away, his nose buried in the fabric for a few seconds, inhaling Namjoon's scent that is all over the freshly washed item. Realizing that Namjoon has scented the jumper for him so that he could still have something that smelled like him even after taking a shower makes his heart just that little bit softer again.

 

His thoughts are still tangling around the fact that he asked Taehyung and Yoongi to leave. He could have told them that Namjoon’s pack was a good place. That two omegas who were mates belonged to the pack. He had been about to tell them, but then felt like they didn’t deserve to know. He can't think about anything else while he washes the long drive in the car off his face, while he brushes his teeth, while he finally curls himself up in the bed that smells of nothing else but his own scent. It's only been ten days, but it feels like a whole eternity since he's slept in a bed that only held his own scent.

 

He tries. He really tries to let sleep wash over him and take the hurtful thoughts away for a few hours. But the coldness and the silence of the apartment get to him in a way that makes him hug himself so hard that it hurts. The times in which he kept in everything, let the poisonous thoughts eat him up from the inside are supposed to be over. He needs to let them out, share them. Honesty is key, Jeongguk.

 

He grabs his phone from the nightstand, pulls up his contacts, and does what he needs to do to get through this night.

 

“Bun, hey!” Jeongguk can hear Namjoon's smile in his voice. “Did you settle in alright?” There are voices in the background, laughter. He’s with his pack as he had planned. He's happy. Jeongguk wants that type of happiness too. Would have loved to share it with Taehyung and Yoongi. If they had asked. If they had simply asked him.

 

“Namjoon.”

 

It’s the only word he manages to utter out before sadness and that little amount of anger choke him. He tries to stifle the sob that fights desperately to get out of him with his pillow, but it’s still audible. An unmistakable sound.

 

“Jeongguk, what’s wrong?”

 

It’s calm, but Jeongguk has learned to listen to the nuances of Namjoon’s voice, can tell that the instincts that urge him to protect have kicked in.

 

“I’m fuh-fine,” he sobs. Realizing, that this won’t calm Namjoon down at all. “Can you Can you come and get me? Please?”

 

“I’ll be with you in half an hour. I’ll be right there, okay?”

 

“O-okay.”

 

Only when Jeongguk has finished the call, he realizes that Namjoon has neither a car nor a license to drive with. He’s back in what feels like an old life. A past life. And the first thing he does is demand impossible, selfish things. He could have come with Namjoon, he had offered time and time again. But Jeongguk didn’t want to impose himself on the pack without giving Namjoon the chance to settle down first. (Or give him the chance to back out, that small little voice in his mind says.)

 

Angrily wiping at his tears, he tries to get back his composure. But he can’t win. Not when he understands that he isn’t crying for himself but for Taehyung and Yoongi and what they went through thanks to the pack they’d been born into. How the world wronged them in a way that made them decide not to trust anyone, that made them leave the community altogether without searching for people like them, people who would love them without judging them.

 

I could have been their pack. I could have been part of their pack. I would have loved to be part of their pack, he thinks, but now he doesn’t know how to ever fix this. How he should ever look past the betrayal towards him. How he should ever forgive them.

 

Eventually, he succeeds in telling himself to get up, stuff his toiletry bag back into his backpack, and get some change of clothing from his closet. He doesn’t know how long he’ll stay, how long Namjoon will let him stay, but he can’t be in his apartment. Not when he notices the clinical coldness to Taehyung’s and Yoongi’s scents where warmth and care should thread through them. The smell lingers in his living room when he finally finds it in him to step out again. It’s wrong. So wrong. He doesn’t know how he has never noticed it before, possibly because he never even once considered the fact that his best friends could be alphas.

 

The doorbell startles him, but he gladly welcomes the sound, quickly grabbing his jacket, his backpack already slung over his shoulders. He lets the door fall closed behind him and rushes down the three stories that lie between his apartment and the front door of the building, between him and Namjoon.

 

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon breathes when Jeongguk flings himself into arms. His scent is radiating distress, worry, and Jeongguk almost starts crying again, because he is the one who did this to Namjoon, he’s the one who made him feel like this. Jeongguk hates to make him feel like this. “What happened?”

 

“Taehyung and Yoongi, my friends they — I—” he starts sobbing again, unable to get another comprehensible word out.

 

“Are they okay? Are you okay?”

 

First he nods, then shakes his head. Namjoon kisses him on the crown of his head, and while it has only been a few hours, Jeongguk is melting against Namjoon at the affection. He sniffles, breathing in Namjoon’s fresh scent which is mostly laced with the sea. Rough and wild. Still worried. Jeongguk longs for the stars, longs for their calmness, he would do anything to make Namjoon feel content again, but all he can do right now is hold onto him, let himself be held.

 

Slowly, he notices that there are other scents woven through Namjoon’s. It makes him feel even worse that he has ripped him away from his pack who has missed him, just so that he would come here to make Jeongguk feel better.

 

Namjoon brings a little bit of distance between them so he can look at Jeongguk. His eyes are softening when he notices Jeongguk is wearing the yellow jumper, and his scent calms down along with it. “Come. Let’s get you to the car so we can go back to the den.”

 

The den. Namjoon is really going to take him to the den. Take him to his home.

 

Jeongguk nods again, lets Namjoon wipe at his tears and lead him to a car that is parked parallel to the sidewalk, the engine running. Even before he sits down in one of the back seats, he can smell that it’s an omega on the driver’s seat. It’s a warm, welcoming scent, full of life, reminding him of apple pie laced with something flowery, and Jeongguk’s heart rate picks up at the thought that this is the first omega he’s ever met.

 

“Hey,” the omega says as he turns around in his seat with a bright smile, and now Jeongguk recognizes him from the picture Namjoon had shown him. “I’m Hoseok. It’s very nice to meet you, Jeongguk.”

 

“Nice to meet you, too. Thank you so much for driving Namjoon here,” Jeongguk says, his voice still hoarse from the tears, embarrassment spiking in his scent. His face feels blotchy, heated, with now cooled down tears still clinging to his eyelashes. But Hoseok doesn’t mention any of it, just continues beaming at him while Jeongguk stores his backpack between his legs.

 

“You really are a whole cinnamon bun, huh?”

 

“Hoseok!” Namjoon chides him, but he’s laughing, his cheeks deeply dimpled.

 

“We could open a bakery then,” Jeongguk grins, his heart feeling considerably lighter, “With your apple pie scent and all.” It has Namjoon and Hoseok laughing.

 

Hoseok shows him both thumbs up before he turns around again and steers the car back on the street. “To the den?” he asks, and Namjoon gives him an affirmative hum as he leans over to check if Jeongguk’s seatbelt is fixed accordingly, leaving another calming kiss on his temple.

 

The night is clear and cold. And somewhere in the silence, somewhere between letting the city lights, then the darkness rush past them, his fingers tangled with Namjoon’s, he finds a way out of the dead-end the early night has led him to. He feels himself getting back on the right path again where it’s okay to show feelings, where it’s okay to be himself.





 

The den is a townhouse, nestled between an office building on the right and a similar house on the left, four stories high from what Jeongguk can see from the front of the building. There are lights behind the windows, promising warmth and comfort.

 

Namjoon pulls Jeongguk to the side while Hoseok is unlocking the front door, his fingers wrapped gently around Jeongguk’s wrist. “Do you want to talk first, or do you feel like meeting them? They are all pretty excited to get to know you, so if you aren’t up for the racket just tell me and we’ll go to my part of the house right away.”

 

“I think I could do with some distraction,” Jeongguk sighs, almost whining when Namjoon’s scent spikes with worry again. He listens inside himself, testing if he can at least hint at what was going on without starting to cry again. “They told me something I didn’t expect. It hurt and still does. And I might need your help to fix parts of it. But I’m fine. For now, I’m fine. It took me by surprise, and I couldn’t stand the thought of being alone all night. I’m sorry I chased you and Hoseok around at this time. I’m sorry I triggered your instincts.”

 

“Don’t apologize, bun,” Namjoon says quietly, “I might have chased Hoseok through the night anyway, even if you hadn’t called. One so easily gets used to not being alone.”

 

Jeongguk exhales, feeling his lips form a smile around the happy puff of air. He nuzzles against the side of Namjoon’s neck. “I bet Hoseok told them already that we’re coming. Let’s not make them wait.”

 

Stars are spreading their calming light through the roughed up waves. Chasing the protective urge, the anxiety in Namjoon’s scent, away until the sea is peaceful again, small waves reflecting the distant blinking of the stars. There’s so much joy now, pleasant anticipation. Like Jeongguk meeting his pack is the best thing that has ever happened to Namjoon.



He takes Jeongguk’s hand when they are walking up the stairs to the second floor, a calming pressure, a promise.

 

Jeongguk’s heart feels like it’s going to beat out of his chest. While he’s excited to meet them, he can’t turn off the thought that they might not like him after all. That he’s nothing more but an outsider, an intruder. Someone who doesn’t know what’s going on in their world. He digs his teeth into his lower lip as he tries to ban the thoughts again and meet them all with an open mind, an open heart.

 

The stairs lead to an open plan living area. There are six or seven people in the room, sitting on the large u-shaped couch, or on the carpet in front of it. Only Hoseok stands in front of one of the windows, talking to a blond man. The ones on the couch seem to be watching a movie that is playing, but when Namjoon clears his throat to announce their arrival all of their heads whip around as if they’d been waiting, and they most likely have.

 

The next fifteen minutes fly past Jeongguk in a blur of names and faces that he tries to memorize, only to forget them two seconds later. When the blond man he’d seen talking to Hoseok approaches him, Jeongguk already knows who it is. Hoseok’s scent seems to be part of his own distinctive lilac scent, it’s settled so deep Jeongguk would have thought he carried two scents at once if he hadn’t met Hoseok before.

 

“You must be Jimin,” he says, and it makes the omega’s smile widen to an almost impossible degree.

 

“I am.”

 

Jimin is the first one to hug him that night, radiating happiness and solid warmth. There’s no shyness at all when Jimin lightly nuzzles against Jeongguk’s neck to exchange small bits of their scents, and Jeongguk carefully answers the gesture. He might be new to all of this, but he still knows that it’s Jimin’s way to show him that he’s welcome here. Welcome in the den. Welcome in the pack. So Jeongguk wants to show him that he’s glad to be here.

 

“I heard you liked games?” Jeongguk prompts, and Jimin smiles wickedly at that.

 

“I like winning games,” Jimin corrects him.

 

“I like winning too.”

 

Behind them, Hoseok and Namjoon are groaning in unison.

 

Soon they are all sitting around the large coffee table with plenty of chips and other snacks. Jeongguk in the middle, perched between Namjoon and Jimin, seated opposite of Beomgyu who seems to follow every interaction between Jeongguk and Namjoon with his curious, big eyes. Jeongguk remembers what Namjoon had told him about the young omega, but even if he hadn’t learned about the cold, clinical smell of scent blockers only hours before, Jeongguk would have never questioned the realness of the artificial omega scent.

 

Every time Jeongguk catches him looking, Beomgyu looks away with a shy smile, and Jeongguk understands. He’s trying to learn from him, how to interact with an alpha that is more than just a friend, an alpha that could be a potential mate. Jeongguk would love to tell him that he probably isn’t the best subject to study, since he’s new to allowing himself to be an omega, has a lot to learn himself, but he doesn’t have the heart to do so.

 

He lets Namjoon fill his plate with the more sustaining snacks on the table, vegetable sticks, and small meatballs mostly when he admits that he hasn’t eaten yet. A bashful giggle escapes him when Namjoon gently pushes a carrot coated with garlic dip against his lips as Jeongguk doesn’t pay any attention to the food because he’s too distracted by the conversation he has with Jimin about his art.

 

The small, grumpy voice inside him tries to tell him that there will be derogatory laughter if he allows Namjoon to feed him, but Jeongguk succeeds in overriding it and takes a hearty bite from the carrot stick while he keeps talking to Jimin as if this wasn’t another huge step towards accepting himself. It feels good to let Namjoon take care of him, but he hadn’t been lying when he said that he wanted to take care of Namjoon too. So he takes up one of the meatballs and holds it out for Namjoon to take a bite.

 

Namjoon’s eyes are so soft when he smiles at him before he takes the whole thing between his teeth, his scent spiking with affection, and this is what ultimately makes everyone around the table groan at the lovebirds. It’s a fond groan, but Jeongguk still blushes with all the attention on the two of them.

 

“You’re acting like I’m the first guy Namjoon brought here with him,” Jeongguk jokes, and suddenly all the banter stops. “What?” he asks.

 

“You are the first omega I brought home with me, Jeongguk.”

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk breathes, “Really?”

 

Suddenly, it feels like they are back at the cabin, in their own bubble that is filled with warmth, cuddles, and affection. Namjoon’s eyes don’t waver when he answers Jeongguk’s startled gaze, his free hand steady on Jeongguk’s back as he leans down to kiss him. It’s only a brief touch of lips, nothing more but a peck, but it alleviates the last doubts Jeongguk still had locked away in his heart.




“You know,” Jimin says later between loud and exciting rounds of Tabu, that are close to a war, and Namjoon and most of the remaining members of the pack went to the kitchen to get more soda and snacks. “That’s why we were all so excited to meet you. It’s all or nothing for him. With practically everything. The fact that he brought you here? It’s huge. I don’t want to give you the talk, because I like you a lot already. But you better not hurt him.” Jimin’s scent is calm but protective. His eyes sincere, but still full of warmth. There is no hostility in them, just raw honesty.

 

Jeongguk can’t take offense from what Jimin said. If he were part of the pack, he’d do everything to protect his leading alpha too.

 

“I won’t say ‘don’t worry,’” Jeongguk says quietly, “Because it’s a phrase that is said far too lightly, far too hurried. All the time. But I don’t plan on doing anything that could hurt him. I realize I’ve only known him for a little more than ten days, but in those ten days I felt alive. And before meeting him I—” He’s talking too much again, talking of things Jimin might not care about. “I care about him. And you warning me - even if it was a very nice warning - only shows me that he’s worth it. Not that I didn’t know before.”

 

Jimin nudged him gently. “You talk a lot when you’re nervous, hmm?”

 

“I guess.” Jeongguk shrugs, but he gladly leans into the hug Jimin is offering him. He’s very generous with touches and affections. Towards the other pack members, too. It’s a small fact about Jimin that Jeongguk sees with happiness bubbling through him. It stands in stark contrast to the competitive, almost ferocious side he displays during the games they are playing. Namjoon had been right, they are alike in a lot of ways, and Jeongguk is glad that Namjoon had compared him to someone like Jimin.





The buzz and excitement of meeting everyone dies down in the small hours of the night when Jeongguk gets the chance to breathe again.

 

Namjoon has the whole top floor for himself. There are books everywhere, in the dark, wooden shelves, and random stacks on the floor but without making the interior look messy. They only add to the comfortable feeling of the room, that is the epitome of warmth with the dark red and orange throw pillows on a cream-colored loveseat that is the only modern item in the living space next to the antique looking bookshelves, and the assortment of small tables that are littered with small plants, bonsais as it seems, and - of course - more books.

 

Everything seems to be chosen with a sophisticated eye, but it is still playful with those little stacks of books, colorful pillows and curtains, and plants everywhere. Jeongguk is also pretty sure that he saw a piano nestled in one of the edges of the room, but since he only had the chance to look at it in passing, it could be a secretaire as well.

 

Namjoon ushered him to the bedroom as Jeongguk’s Uno cards had fallen out of his hands during one of the last rounds while he’d been dozing off against Namjoon’s shoulder. It had already been late when they’d arrived at the den, and between games and getting to know each other, the time ticked away until it was suddenly two o’clock in the morning.

 

When he curled up in Namjoon’s bed after they had brushed their teeth, excited about the fact that it felt like letting himself fall into a sea of stars, he stilled for a second, asking Namjoon if it was okay for him to get into his bed without asking first.

 

“It’s not a nest. Of course you can,” Namjoon said softly.

 

“It’s kinda sad that alphas don’t have nests,” Jeongguk sighed, his mind already clouded by sleep and drunk from Namjoon’s scent.

 

That was half an hour ago. Half an hour they filled with gentle scenting and soft kisses.

 

But now.

 

Now, Jeongguk feels like he’s falling fast. Cold reality is catching up with him, threatening to swallow him whole.

 

“Namjoon,” he whispers. “Namjoon. I know it’s late, but—”

 

“I didn’t know if you still wanted to talk. You seemed so tired, and happy. I didn’t want to remind you of whatever made you so sad,” Namjoon admits as he nuzzles against the crown of Jeongguk’s head, drawing a sigh of comfort from him. His hand is resting on Jeongguk’s waist, warm and solid. “Tell me everything.”




Five weeks later



“Can you get the basil pots from the trunk?” Namjoon asks while he’s balancing two huge paper bags full of groceries in one arm, the other one occupied with carrying the white plastic bags from the butcher’s shop. His articulation is off as he has the front door key clenched between his teeth.

 

Jeongguk laughs at Namjoon as he walks past him to get the fresh herbs from the trunk, freeing him from the accidental gag in his mouth. Jeongguk’s backpack is filled with groceries too, heavy on his shoulders, but at least he has both of his hands free. He and Namjoon had lost the draw that decided who had to go to buy groceries for tonight’s barbecue. It’s the first time in two months that Seokjin is coming home from his work in the capital, so they decided to use the occasion to celebrate.

 

With a household of four young men under twenty who are still growing, and five adults who love to eat, it needs a lot of meat and vegetables to satisfy everyone’s appetite. Jeongguk picks the herb pots up, pushing the trunk lid closed with his elbow before he hurries after Namjoon. The pleasant anticipation that has had the whole pack on their feet since the early morning is tingling through Jeongguk’s body as well. Everyone seems so excited for the oldest alpha to come back and have shared so many stories with Jeongguk that he feels as if he knows Seokjin already.

 

Humming the melody of the last song they had listened to during the drive, Jeongguk puts his nose close to the pleasant smelling plant in his hands, his step almost skipping. It doesn’t matter that they had to park a little further away because parking spots are always scarce on the street during this time of the day. It doesn’t matter because the sun is telling of an early spring, tickling Jeongguk’s hair with her cheeky rays as he follows Namjoon home under a blue, blue sky. Once, he would have told himself that he didn’t deserve the beauty of a day like this. Today, he tries to embrace it with all his might.





He still spends the weekdays in his apartment in K-town. He had tried commuting for a few days, but quickly gave up on it again as he had come home with a headache every day because local trains turned out to be the root of all evil. Hoseok had offered to drive him to college and pick him up again in the evenings, but he didn’t want to be a burden. Now, Hoseok drives him to his apartment on Monday mornings and picks him up after Jeongguk’s shift at the photographer’s shop on Friday evenings.

 

There is something about watching Namjoon get ready for his job at the university on Mondays. How his - Namjoon calls it pledged partner , Jeongguk calls it boyfriend - changes from the most attentive, caring, sometimes right out goofy cuddly bear, to this person that radiates an intimidating aura of authority. His hair in a seemingly effortless gelled back style, and his three-piece suit clinging to his fit body as a masterpiece of tailoring. When he’d seen Namjoon for the first time in this attire, Jeongguk’s scent spiked to such an extent that resulted in Namjoon fucking him hard against the wall in the living room, his suit pants pulled down just enough to be able to pound into Jeongguk, while Jeongguk himself was fully naked as he had just stepped out of the shower.

 

How Namjoon had wiped his cock clean on Jeongguk’s thighs, zipped up his pants as if nothing had happened, his hairdo still perfectly intact. How he had pushed up his glasses, so they were settled perfectly on the bridge of his nose again and how he took the smallest droplet of Jeongguk’s cum to rub it into the skin of his neck. It’s an image Jeongguk recalls again and again when he’s alone in his nest at night, swallowed by one of Namjoon’s oversized scented jumpers, his bare legs spread wide as he fucks himself with his biggest toy.



Jeongguk might miss Namjoon terribly during the week, but for now it’s the best solution. It’s bearable with the thought in mind that it’s only for one and a half semesters, with the thought in mind that it isn’t too long until spring break when they will take the opportunity to return to the cabin for a week or two so Namjoon can see the surroundings of the alpine world during spring.

 

Between those four weeks that went by fast enough in hindsight, the den has become Jeongguk’s home, his apartment nothing more than a place he sleeps in and paints his heart out during the week. He had welcomed the stench of the oil-based paint, which was strong enough to override the lingering coldness that was laced through Yoongi’s and Taehyung’s scents when they had visited him. It’s something he wants to forget. As well as the unread messages from Taehyung that are sitting in his KKT, swiped away, but a steady buzz on the edge of Jeongguk’s mind.



“Are you coming?” Namjoon calls, and only then Jeongguk realizes that he has stopped walking, staring up into the sky that is almost too blue, too perfect. Something he always tries to avoid when he’s painting the sky. Always adding little imperfections that nature itself forgot to add.

 

“Sorry,” he calls back, speeding up as he tries to bridge the distance between him and Namjoon, who is almost at the den already. It doesn’t take long to close up to him. Thirty steps on the cobbled pavement.

 

But Namjoon is not alone.





 

It’s the day on which Jeongguk learns that the sea is part of every alpha’s scent. It’s the day on which he learns that Taehyung smells like a forest in the early morning, that Yoongi scent is reminiscent of the first snow in winter.

 

It’s the day on which he learns that Taehyung and Yoongi will have to forgive themselves first before they will allow Jeongguk to forgive them.

At the end of the day, they aren’t that different from Jeongguk. They need to learn about trust and faith all over again.

 

At the end of the day, they are not the ones to blame.

 

They are here, in the first den they entered since they left the pack they’d been born into. They are here to try. Try to belong. It’s Jeongguk who wipes Taehyung’s tears away when Namjoon tells them what he had told Jeongguk too.

 

The second pack is the true pack.