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It's about three thirty in the afternoon, or so does Namjoon's inner clock tells him. Though more like his inner famished student, with having spent the last seven? Eight hours? Trying to memorize literature rules he is probably going to have to break anyway once he starts his grad school dissertation.

His brain feels mushy, his upper back is tense, and perhaps he should have taken a pee break about ten minutes ago. Everything screams at him to stop revising and go tend to his body, treat her like a temple, feed her, thank her for carrying him around, and… well, whichever another way there is to cherish one's flesh vessel.

Flesh vessel. Ha! And to think he once considered Philosophy as a major. What a ride could that have been.

After that late vocational revelation - and upon noticing he'd been reading the same sentence for the past five minutes, Namjoon takes off his glasses and rests his head on his forearms, over the open book he was trying to understand. Maybe he should go eat, take a shower and keep trying in a couple of hours when his brain stops feeling gooey and useless.

He's musing the pros and cons of bringing a sandwich into the shower when his phone buzzes on the fake wood of his desk. Namjoon grabs it, the screen overly bright without the extra layer of protection his glasses usually provide. He squints at it, the name “Taetae” clear even with his short sight. He opens the chat.

 

Hyung can I ask you a favor?

Of course. What do you need?

Would you make out with me?

 

As expected, Namjoon's currently impressionable brain short-circuits and nearly dies. Namjoon.exe has suddenly stopped working, and all that jazz.

When Namjoon's remaining brain cells make enough contact between themselves to remember how to text, their owner manages to reply:

 

What do you mean make out?

 

It might be the dumbest question in the history of questions, and if it turns out it is, Namjoon would take full responsibility. Then again, we're talking about the same roommate to whom Namjoon had to explain not so long ago how staring into people's eyes while clutching their hands between yours could make others uncomfortable, so he guesses he'll take his chances.

 

I mean kissing.
With our mouths.
Is there any other make out meaning I'm unaware of?

 

Oh. So at least he's clear on what he's asking. Not that it makes it any better.

 

I know what making out is.
What I meant was, why are you asking so suddenly?

Oh…
It's for a class.

You want us to make out in front of your whole class!?

No hyung, of course not.
That'd be awkward.

...of course.

Oops, gotta go. Tty tonight.
Bye~

What.
Tae don't go yet we're not done!
Tae?

 

And just like that, Kim Taehyung stops reading his texts.

Namjoon stares at his phone for about a minute, until the screen turns black. He shakes his head, knowing fully well that Taehyung is not going to text him back after he said he was busy. It's actually pretty weird he texted him in the first place, with how particular he tends to be with everything technology related. If anything, Namjoon can safely assume Tae has a good enough reason to have asked what he did. Or perhaps Jimin stole the boy's phone and texted him just to mortify him.

Be as it may, he can't do anything about it at the moment. So he stands up, stretches his arms over his head, and starts his epic quest for the promised sandwich.

 

***

 

Namjoon is on edge.

He's on edge and he knows it, which is the worst because knowing one is on edge only adds to the edge - at least in Namjoon's case, so he ends up on edge and overly conscious of his own edginess.

Namjoon hates being on edge.

After Taehyung texted him - and subsequently left him in read - Namjoon hasn't been able to focus on anything else that isn't his roommate's request. It's silly, honestly, because for all he knows, the whole thing is a big misunderstanding. Yes, he asked Taehyung and the boy insisted he meant making out as in kissing. Yes, he's old enough to know making out with someone can be strictly platonic given the right circumstances - he's been friends with Kim Seokjin long enough to know more embarrassing stage kissing anecdotes than he'd like. Yes, he's also aware Taehyung is his friend, and they've known each other for over two years now, and there is not a single reason for Namjoon to make a big deal out of it...

Namjoon is making a big deal out of it.

It's not even his fault, really. Not with the way Taehyung looks when he cares enough to take a shower and comb his hair. Though truth be told, the man looks as good in a suit as he does in a pair of extremely worn out pajamas. Taehyung is fucking gorgeous in that sort of ethereal way one can only find in renaissance paintings or described in sonnets. He's gorgeous and Namjoon is not blind. He's gorgeous and Namjoon used to have a tiny little crush on him.

It happened a long time ago - after someone fucked up somewhere and paired up a Plastic Arts freshman with a Literature second-year inside a tiny campus dorm and got away with it. Namjoon was too stressed out at the time to fight his uni's administrative shenanigans, the kid seemed nice enough, and the eye candy wasn't unwelcome.

He got to know Taehyung eventually, got to see his looks had nothing to do - or perhaps too much - with the kind of free-spirited soul his new roommate was. Namjoon's sweaty palms and nervous giggles every time Taehyung so much as spared him a glance died down eventually, shifting into the comfortable feeling of having a new roommate who happened to be easy to talk to, easy to laugh with, and as prone as himself to stay up well past midnight.

So yeah, perhaps Namjoon had a fleeting thing for Taehyung in the past, but a couple of years in and after actively searching for an apartment to share, every butterfly living inside Namjoon's stomach evolved into something cozy he liked to categorize as friendly affection...

Then what are those winged things fluttering in his belly ever since he read Tae's text?

He doesn't have much time to think about them, however. Not when their front door is clicking open and Taehyung comes into view. He looks like he usually does - except maybe a bit more serious, as he takes off his shoes and carries an eco bag to their dinner table.

“Hey! I brought some stir fry and rice from Jin-hyung's. Yoongi-hyung says hi.” And that’s that.

Namjoon greets him like he always does, asking about Tae's day, talking about his own. They start eating and Namjoon learns Jimin and Hoseok's second date went well, Seokjin landed a supporting role on a local play, Yoongi's secretly planning a dinner to celebrate, and Jungkook slipped and told Seokjin about the surprise dinner - but Jin's gonna act surprised when it happens because he's a professional and he loves his two boyfriends more than he loves clowning people.

Everything is as it always is, but today this shouldn't be the case. Today there's something else lingering in between them, a goddam elephant in the room Namjoon desperately wants to acknowledge but that Taehyung seems to have forgotten about.

Namjoon is getting antsy.

He hates getting antsy.

“So,” Taehyung says, after shoving the last chopstickful of rice to his mouth, “did you think about kissing me, hyung?”

Namjoon does his best not to choke on his food, which is wickedly hard given his previous inner turmoil. Taehyung's phrasing is so odd - then again that's how Tae expresses himself more often than not, and it makes Namjoon feel a tad guilty because yes, indeed he thought about kissing his roommate. In embarrassing detail even, because his brain is Namjoon's sworn enemy.

“I-” Namjoon starts with a shaky voice. He clears his throat and tries again. “Could you explain to me what this is about?”

Taehyung nods once, setting the chopsticks aside and looking Namjoon in the eye. Namjoon does his damnedest not to squirm under his roommate's gaze.

“I need to work on a piece for my composition class,” he explains. “We're supposed to express a feeling we've never tried to convey through art before. So I thought about conveying human closeness, as in, the one that comes through physicality.”

“Physicality,” Namjoon repeats cautiously. “You need someone to kiss you in order to convey physicality.”

Is not posed as a question, but Taehyung seems to take it as one. “I've never kissed anyone so it might be a good opportunity.”

That part makes Namjoon's brain pause.

“You never-?” He asks dumbly, regretting it almost the second it leaves his mouth. Taehyung is unfazed, though, so perhaps Namjoon still has a chance not to have made a fool of himself. “What?”

“I haven't been kissed,” Tae says, shrugging nonchalantly. “Nor I've felt the need to kiss anyone. It just never happened, no biggie.”

The two years Namjoon has known Taehyung flash inside his head, all those weekends at home playing video games or working on a project. The time Namjoon thought Jimin and Tae were an item but it turned out Jimin had a big crush on Hoseok and he and Taehyung were just close friends. He always imagined Taehyung dated/hooked up in his own time - not that Namjoon thought about it a lot or anything, and all this time this was the real reason he could always count on Taehyung to be available at unholy past midnight, on a weekend, to keep him company while he felt like overanalyzing the meaning of human life as an abstract concept out loud.

Huh.

“And now you want me to kiss you so you can use the experience for your assignment,” Namjoon states, still half mentally rearranging everything he thought he knew about Taehyung.

“Pretty much.”

“Are you sure you want to do it for a class?” Namjoon asks sternly. “I mean, you already made it this far. May as well let it happen organically.”

“Believe me, hyung, it might not happen ever if I just sit on my knees and wait, not that I'm all that eager,” Taehyung assures quickly. “Besides, right now it presents an opportunity for me to improve my skills. How can I learn to express through my art if I don't push myself into the unknown?”

Well. That's a convincing argument.

“Okay,” Namjoon concedes, then insists. “But why me? Why not, say, Jimin? You two are soul buddies, right?”

“I did try asking him, but he said he didn't like the smell of my breath. I think he just didn't want things to get awkward between us, so I let him be.”

“And you don't think stuff could get awkward between us ?”

“Not really, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because I trust you, hyung, don't you know that?” Taehyung says matter of fact. “You're always centered, always know what to do when neither of us does. I figured if there was ever gonna be someone who could help me execute this experiment without making it weird, that'd be you.”

Namjoon allows himself to blink in bewilderment for a couple of seconds, his brain wrapping itself around the idea. Also, he's not going to lie: that last bit made him all soft inside. He clears his throat.

"An experiment, huh?” He says, watching Taehyung's face illuminate as he notices Namjoon's intention to give the whole thing a shot. He knows Namjoon a bit too well. “Okay, I can do that. I can kiss you 'for science' or whatever. I'm a science man."

"Hyung, you're a literature major,” Taehyung says, and he seems more amused than anything else.

"I know all about the scientific method, shut up," Namjoon retorts, earning himself a snicker from the other man.

They stay silent after that, Namjoon still trying to come to terms with what he just agreed to and Taehyung simply looking at him, in that particular way he has like he wants to dig into Namjoon's soul, and perhaps he kind of does. Given the current circumstances, the intensity makes Namjoon's brain glitch, meaning he's got to move this along or else he'll probably end up blurting out something silly - like a belated crush confession.

“So do you wanna-” he starts, moving his hands to find the right words. Taehyung's brows perk curiously. “I mean, uh… when do you want to-?”

“Are you free right now?” Taehyung interrupts, and Namjoon feels his own eyes go big at the suggestion. Tae seems to notice, though, because the next time he talks he sounds painfully apologetic. “I mean, or whenever you want. If you want at all, that is. You can still change your mind and it's totally fine too, positively fine, cooler than cool, and I won't even be-”

“Taetae,” Namjoon says, brain instantly catching up on his friend's doubts. He schools his features into something he expects is soft and reassuring, placing his hand on top of Taehyung's on the table. “I want to do it, for real. I want to help you.”

“You do?”

The vulnerable expression in Taehyung's face is enough to make Namjoon melt, but he makes himself keep talking, thumb rubbing Taehyung's skin soothingly.

“I do,” he nods. “And I'm free right now,” he adds, not missing Taehyung's sharp inhale. Namjoon is so endeared; he could really kiss that boy right now. “Where do you want me?”


***

 

Finding a comfortable enough place to do what they’re supposed to be doing proves itself a bit tricky, mostly because they’re doing this out of scientific curiosity, not want - of course not want. So there’s a lingering awkwardness in the air Namjoon is trying to navigate as best as he can while presenting himself as calm, collected, and all those things Taehyung seems to trust the older to be.

Although in reality, he’s barely keeping it together.

He can’t even remember when was the last time he felt this nervous about kissing someone, palms sweaty, goosebumps in his neck, overly conscious about everything around him, the room’s temperature, his own gangly limbs, and the exact distance between Tae and himself. He’s honest to god one wrong thought away from freaking out, and the only thing keeping him in check is how very much he doesn’t want to fuck this up for Taehyung.

So he powers through, smiling reassuringly every time Taehyung so much as glances in his direction. Bottling up every single urge to crumble for future examination. Fake it til you make it, and all that jazz.

“I’d never brushed my teeth so thoroughly before,” Taehyung jokes, emerging from their shared bathroom. He kneels across Namjoon on the couch, ducking his head and avoiding eye contact.

Namjoon said it was fine if he didn’t brush his teeth, but Taehyung had insisted. “I had Yoongi hyung’s spaghetti aglio e olio,” he’d said, mortified, “and you know how excited he gets with garlic.”

For his part, Namjoon had settled on chewing a breath mint and hope for the best, more worried about what he is going to do with his mouth than for the smell of it. He checked his breath quickly just before Tae got out of the bathroom, just in case. It smelled like peppermint and worry.

“I’m flattered,” Namjoon replies, smiling at Taehyung even if his friend is not looking. He scoots closer, knees brushing Tae’s. His friend inhales at the contact, hands twitching on his lap, and Namjoon can’t help but feel endeared. “Taetae, look at me, please,” he asks gently, ducking his head a little bit to search for Taehyung’s pretty eyes. “I don’t bite,” he remarks. “Unless you ask me to.”

Taehyung snickers quietly, and Namjoon sees some of the tension leave his shoulders; he chooses to count it as a win.

After a second or two, Taehyung looks up tentatively. Namjoon makes sure to keep his smile warm and his body language open. “Are you sure you wanna do this?” He asks again, receiving a nod in response. “Okay then,” he says, scooting even closer and taking a deep breath.

Namjoon raises his hands to cup Taehyung’s jaw, running his thumbs soothingly as he looks into his friend’s eyes, melted dark chocolate framed by thick eyelashes, staring right back at him. Something aches inside of his chest at that moment, something big that he doesn’t even know how to catalog. So he chooses not to, immersed as he is in the holy task at hand.

“Close your eyes, Taehyung-ah,” he requests calmly, marveling at how stunning Taehyung is with his eyes closed. The boy is so incredibly gorgeous in this light, sharp features softened by the shadows cast by Namjoon’s frame practically hovering over him.

The only thing disrupting the piece of art that is Taehyung’s face is the subtle line of worry wrinkling the space between his eyebrows. Namjoon wants nothing more than to make the worry disappear, so he leans forward and places a tender peck on that spot. Taehyung giggles at the contact, visibly relaxing, and Namjoon does it again. He pecks Taehyung’s forehead, the apple of each cheek, the tip of his nose; Taehyung giggles every time, mouth stretching into a lovely smile Namjoon definitely wants to kiss.

He wants to kiss Taehyung’s smile. He wants to kiss Taehyung.

So kiss Taehyung he does.

He starts carefully, placing his lips against Taehyung’s in a tender, chaste way, barely there pressure that makes the boy exhale through his nose as if he had been holding his breath all along. Namjoon mentally counts one, two seconds before pulling back, opening his eyes to be greeted by a brown pair staring at him in awe.

“Okay?” He whispers, and Taehyung nods, closing his eyes again and puckering his lips adorably.

Namjoon leans forward once more, parting his lips enough to trap Taehyung’s upper lip between his own. He stays there for a moment, breathing through his nose and giving Taehyung time to adjust before he pulls back slightly only to dive in again, now trapping Taehyung’s bottom lip while angling his head to the other side. Namjoon starts moving his lips then, opening and closing, trying to guide Taehyung through the motions. His friend seems to pick up the hint, lifting his chin just a little, enough for him to move his lips along Namjoon’s, finally corresponding.

They keep kissing like that for about a minute, Taehyung’s hands inching toward the hem of Namjoon’s sweater, timidly clutching it with his fingers. The tip of Namjoon’s fingers tangle lightly on Taehyung’s unkempt hair, his back straightening in an unconscious attempt to gain more leverage. He puts more pressure into Taehyung’s lips, tongue trying to dart out of his mouth to taste more of Taehyung’s minty lips. He catches himself, however, because this isn’t about him at all and he needs to know whether they should stop or not.

When Namjoon pulls back from the kiss, Taehyung honest to god whines, chasing Namjoon’s lips with his own, making their owner get a firmer hold on his face. He chuckles, low and delighted, giving time for his friend to open his eyes. Nonetheless, the second Taehyung looks back at him, Namjoon’s amusement flies out the window.

With stars in his eyes. That’s the only way Namjoon’s brain has to describe the way Taehyung is staring at him. He's suddenly out of words, speechless at the sight of Taehyung's beautiful eyes shining like they hold complete galaxies; at his full lips, plum and pink thanks to Namjoon's ministrations. A sudden rush of want washes through him at that moment, hitting Namjoon's solar plexus with full force. He wants to keep kissing those lips. He wants to kiss those lips forever.

Oh, boy.

Namjoon keeps his panic in check somehow, clearing his throat while unconsciously running his thumbs over Taehyung's cheekbones.

"Are we gonna-" he starts, not sure of what to say or how to say it. He's not sure of a lot of things right now, to be honest. "Do you want to-" he tries again, still having problems to make his mouth catch up with his brain. He takes a deep breath and tries one more time. "Is this enough?" He asks, tilting his head, searching for Taehyung's gaze.

Tae blinks once, twice, like processing Namjoon's question is a task taking a great effort from his part. After a moment, something flashes through his expression, something Namjoon can only categorize as determination.

"Kiss me more, hyung," he whispers, deep and pleading. "Please."

After a request like that, how could Namjoon deny Taehyung anything?

He surges forward again, seeking out Taehyung's lips as if he's starving for them, which could honestly be the case. Tae corresponds in kind, much more eager than before, clutching at the hem of Namjoon's shirt like a lifeline. It's such an innocent gesture, a proof to Taehyung's inexperience. It makes Namjoon smile inside the kiss, using his height to his advantage, angling Taehyung's face just right to finally - finally! - deepen the kiss.

He starts slowly, a barely there brush of his tongue over his friend's bottom lip. He feels Taehyung shiver at the contact and it only fuels Namjoon, making him lick properly at Tae's upper lip. Taehyung gasps now, parting his lips against Namjoon's, who takes the opportunity to lick the space between them and slide his tongue inside.

Tae reacts with a moan that makes Namjoon's skin feel feverish, pushing him forward, to the depths of his friend's mouth, warm and welcoming, with a taste of minty sweetness that is oddly intoxicating. Their tongues slide together, Taehyung's getting bolder every passing second. Soon enough, Namjoon's subtle guidance feels unnecessary, so he stops trying, allowing himself to only feel.

He takes his hands off Taehyung's jaw, placing one on the back of his head to keep him steady while the other wanders down, to his neck, shoulder, arm, to finally reach Tae’s hand. He intertwines his fingers with Taehyung's, taking both his hands up against his own chest, just where his heart must be. He doesn't really know why he does it, only able to process the feeling of rightness when their hands lie in between their chests.

Things get a bit blurry after that, the kiss becoming more frantic, demanding. When Taehyung's tongue isn't exploring the inside of Namjoon's mouth, he's busy nipping at Namjoon's lips. It feels good, more than good. It feels fucking amazing, and for the first time all day Namjoon can't be bothered to think beyond what is happening. There's no past nor future, only Taehyung's plush lips against his, Taehyung's tongue inside his mouth, Taehyung's free hand subtly gripping at Namjoon's waist under his shirt. Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung. Everything around him, everything inside him, everything that really, truly matters in his life happens to have a name, and the name is Kim freaking Taehyung.

Eventually, the heat dies down. The kiss starts to get less frantic, tongues out of mouths to give way to open-mouthed smooches with no further intentions other than dragging out the lip to lip contact as long as possible. It's then a there when Namjoon's brain decides to wake up again, noticing every single part where their bodies are touching, each of them burning hot even when their initial heat is long gone.

After one last peck, Namjoon breaks the kiss. He doesn't open his eyes yet, nor he goes too far; he's not ready to break all contact, which is why he rests his forehead against Taehuyng's, smiling, breathing in the other’s air for just a little more, holding Taehyung’s hand against his heart as both their heart rates subside. Just existing in this tiny pocket of time and space where the afterglow of their first kiss ever allows Namjoon to feel more at peace than he has felt in a long, long time.

Is this how kissing a friend always feels like? Or is this something else entirely?

Oh, boy.

A giggle throws Namjoon back to earth. He feels Taehyung shaking from trying not to laugh, which of course makes him laugh even more. Namjoon opens his eyes at last, too close to Taehyung to actually see him but trying his damnedest all the same. The kid is glowing, eyes scrunched shut while his shoulders and chest move to the rhythm of his laughter. Namjoon can’t for the life of him discern what in the world can be so funny, but he laughs nonetheless, Taehyung’s happiness extremely contagious.

“What’s so funny, yah?” He asks after a moment when Tae’s head goes to rest on Namjoon’s shoulder.

“Nothing, hyung, is just-” Taehyung starts, voice muffled against Namjoon’s sweater.

He feels Tae’s head shaking slightly before he straightens himself, angling his face so he can look into Namjoon’s eyes and man! Is Kim Taehyung fucking gorgeous when he’s happy. It’s such a great sight to witness, Namjoon momentarily loses the ability to speak, so he stays silent, waiting for his friend to elaborate while having probably a hundred on internal breakdowns he’ll probably have to analyze later.

“It was such a great first kiss, Joonie, thank you,” Tae says after a moment, eyes shiny as stars, wrinkling on the edges with the force of Taehyung’s smile. “You’re a great kisser and I’m so lucky to have chosen you.”

Namjoon doesn’t know what to say to that, so he blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind.

“I’m the one who’s lucky,” he says dumbly, his eyes unconsciously darting to Taehyung’s lips to follow the boy’s tongue running over them. What an unfortunate tick to have.

They remain silent for a second or two after that, none of them trying to stand or even move from their places. Taehyung’s expression is odd. He’s still smiling, but he also looks like he wants to add something to their conversation. Namjoon waits, but in the end, he sees Taehyung exhale deeply before pushing himself to his feet, letting go of Namjoon’s hand.

“I should go to bed now, I have a class in the morning,” he says softly, expression somewhat regretful, which Namjoon’s foggy brain doesn’t quite understand. “See you tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay,” Namjoon repeats, shoving down a sudden urge to stand up and peck Taehyung’s lips good night. “Sleep well, Taetae.”

“You too,” Taehyung says, and just like that he’s gone, leaving Namjoon on the couch, with a bundle of feelings inside his chest and the ghost of soft lips against his own.

 

***

 

“Hey Hobi, can I ask you something?”

Hoseok leaves aside the textbook he’s been trying to understand for half an hour and turns to look at Namjoon. “As long as it isn’t money. You know I’m saving to take Jimin out for his birthday.”

Namjoon snorts, more than amused about his best friend’s priorities. “I know you are, I’ve been buying you lunch for over a week. Couldn’t you pick somewhere cheaper?”

“Sacrifices shall be made in the name of love,” Hoseok says solemnly.

“Yeah, but you’re sacrificing my wallet too.”

“Collateral,” says Hoseok, waving a hand dismissively. “Weren’t you gonna ask something?”

Namjoon sighs, trying to gather his courage. Hoseok isn’t one to judge when it comes to Namjoon’s worries; he always sits there and listens carefully, giving such great input when requested and staying silent when not. He’s an awesome friend, and Namjoon feels lucky to have him, which of course doesn’t make him any less nervous about bringing up what he’s meant to bring up.

And now Hoseok is looking at him funny because he’s taken too much time to start talking. He probably knows something’s up by now. Great.

“Do you think,” Namjoon starts after taking a steadying breath, “someone could fall in love after just one kiss?”

Hoseok expression is deliberately neutral for about three seconds before it turns into something fond and slightly amused.

“Have you been watching My Girl again, Joon?” He asks softly.

“Shut up, it was just one time!” Namjoon hisses, feeling embarrassment creep to his cheeks. Are his friends never going to let that one go?

“You sobbed for an hour and a half, and called Yoongi-hyung at two in the morning to tell him real love was dead.”

“He didn't have his glasses okay?” Namjoon says defensive, lifting his chin and crossing his arms in front of his chest. “He needed his glasses, fuck you.”

“I love you too,” Hoseok says, self-satisfied. “Now why are you asking that so suddenly?”

Hoseok’s question makes Namjoon’s flustering go a completely different direction. He forces himself talk past through the lump forming in his throat, to voice what has been gnawing at his insides for the past week and a half. He’s gotta tell someone or he might explode. Or worse; he might knock on his roommate’s door to ask for a repeat.

“I-” Namjoon starts, not knowing how to put his thoughts into words. Better blurting it all out then. “I made out with Taehyung for science about two weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about him ever since.”

There. Now he can die in peace.

“You did what?”

Or not.

“I- kissed Taehyungie,” Namjoon repeats, unsure of what exactly is Hoseok confused about. “On the lips,” he emphasizes like a fool.

“Figured that much,” Hoseok says unamused, brow raised. “But ‘for science’?”

“Oh, it was for one of his classes!” Namjoon states as if that settles is, which it doesn’t, judging by Hoseok’s baffled look. “I’m gonna have to tell you everything in detail, am I?”

And so he tells Hoseok everything, from Taehyung’s request and their conversation over dinner to the actual making out and the fact Namjoon hasn’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since it happened. He even tells him about his crush from back when university assigned them as roommates because there’s no point in withholding information now, less so from his best friend.

The first couple of days it was easy to ignore, blaming it on the novelty and the fact Namjoon hadn’t kissed anyone like that in months. But after the time went by, days over days of Namjoon’s brain recalling every single detail of their kiss, of his eyes finding Taehyung’s lips every time they as much as greeted each other good morning, of his hands aching to touch Taehyung’s hands or hair or cheeks whenever they were at grabbing range from each other.

Even worse, Namjoon had started to daydream about Taehyung in completely different contexts. Imagining how it would be taking Taehyung out for dinner; how cute he’d be under the soothing shadow of the big three from the park near their apartment; how lovely it’d be to spend a night with him on the rooftop, just holding hands and talking about life and death and the cosmos…

He’s positively screwed, is he?

“So you used to have a crush on him,” Hoseok says after listening intently to all of Namjoon’s retelling.

“Yeah.”

“And you can’t stop thinking about him now, correct?”

“Not for a second,” Namjoon says, slumping in his chair across from Hoseok on his friend’s dinner table. It’s a good thing Jimin isn’t there at the moment; Namjoon’s not sure what would he do if Taehyung would find out about his lack of professionalism.

“Well, you’re screwed,” Hoseok says matter-of-factly, causing Namjoon to bump his head against the dinner table in defeat.

“No shit, Sherlock,” he says from under his forearms, head still on the hard surface. “Ugh, what do I do now? I can’t simply go confess to him, can I?”

“Wait, why not?”

“Because this is exactly the opposite of what he wanted me to do,” Namjoon explains painfully, turning his head to the side to look a Hoseok’s profile. “He asked for my help because I am always chill under stress, always in control-”

“Pffft, you? In control?” Hoseok interrupts. “You’re one of the least chill persons I’ve met in my entire life. You packed and unpacked your suitcase three whole times before we moved here to study, and you still forgot your student ID!”

“Because he sees me as always in control,” he amends, not losing a beat, “and he didn’t want to make a fuss out of this. He didn’t want for stuff to become weird or awkward between us and that’s exactly why I can’t waltz into his bedroom to tell him ‘Hi, Tae, guess what? I’m not so chill after all, wanna elope into the sunset with me?’ just because I don’t know how to compartmentalize!”

Namjoon throws his forehead back against the table with more force than necessary, moaning in pain for more than just the physical discomfort. He feels Hoseok carding his fingers through his hair and sighs, leaning into the touch.

“Oh, Joonie,” Hoseok whispers in sympathy. “For someone so brilliant, sometimes you do the stupidest shit.”

And that Namjoon can’t refute.

 

***

 

“Hyung, can we cuddle?”

The request takes Namjoon by surprise, more so because he hadn’t even noticed Taehyung standing there the edge of their living room couch.

It’s been about a week since Namjoon confessed to Hoseok, and to be honest having told someone about it has taken off the edge quite a lot. Yes, Namjoon still wants to die slowly every time Taehyung as much as breathes in his direction, but he’s getting better at managing himself around the younger; just as it happened the first time around.

Right now, though, is not his silly crush what has him pausing the documentary he was watching just to observe the boy in front of him. It’s something else, something about the hunch of Taehyung’s shoulders, the wrinkle of worry between his perfect eyebrows, the twitchiness in his hands. He’s very clearly upset, and Namjoon would be damned if he let his silly little crush get in the way of their friendship.

“Sure, yah. C’mere,” he says, opening his arms in a welcoming gesture. Taehyung sighs in relief and launches himself forward, snuggling against Namjoon’s body until they find a comfortable position to keep looking at the TV while cuddling for dear life.

Admittedly, they hadn’t cuddled in a while, but it’s not like they’d never done it before. They and their little group of friends honestly cuddle quite a lot for a bunch of men - mostly - in their twenties, always platonic and full of affection one can only get from found families. Nonetheless, one-on-one platonic cuddling sessions are rare occurrences now that most of them also happened to find love inside their cluster. Namjoon sometimes cuddles with Hoseok in between hardcore study sessions, sure, but Namjoon and Taehyung? He’s not even sure when was the last time that particular ship left the dock.

They watch the show for a good half an hour, Taehyung’s hand in his because Namjoon knows for a fact the gesture calms his friend as well. It’s almost time for the next documentary to start when Namjoon decides to give his intuition a go.

“What's wrong Taetae?” He asks, in the gentler tone he can manage. “Can I help?”

Taehyung looks up at him, staring blankly for a moment before sighing loudly. He snuggles even closer to Namjoon, practically tucking himself into Namjoon’s side. Namjoon does his best to keep it together.

“I'm stuck with my art piece for the composition class,” Tae says, and even though Namjoon can’t quite see his face, he can hear the pout in his voice. It’s adorable. “The one you helped me with, remember?”

As if he could forget.

“Yeah, I remember,” Namjoon acknowledges quickly. “Is it giving you trouble?” You need me to kiss you again? Because I would, is what he wants to say, but he refrains, clearing his throat while he waits for Taehyung to elaborate.

“I just don't know what to do with it,” Tae confesses, absentmindedly caressing the back of Namjoon’s hand with his own free hand. “I mean, I have an idea of what I wanna convey, a feeling, you know? But when I discussed it with my professor, showed her some ideas about what I want people to feel with it, she said it wasn't sincere enough. Sincere enough! What does that even mean, hyung?” Then he proceeds to hide his face in his free hand and growl in frustration. As stated above, adorable.

Namjoon thinks about it for a second, running his thumb soothingly over the back of Taehyung’s hand.

“Perhaps you're approaching it the wrong way?” He suggests, feeling Taehyung perk on attention. “I mean, I know nothing about painting but if it was a written piece, like a poem or a short story, I'd go inside myself, try to discover what makes me feel the way I want others to feel. If I want them to feel hate, then what makes me hate. If I want them to feel love, then what makes me love. In your case you told me you wanted to give a sense of human closeness, so what makes you feel like that? When do you feel it most? Once you find the source, it might be easier for you to shape your work accordingly.” Taehyung is watching him with wide, unblinking eyes. Namjoon feels his cheeks heat and thanks whatever deity is listening above for the darkness of the room to cover up his mess. “If that makes any sense at all,” he finishes, way more insecure than he felt when he started speaking.

About two seconds of awkward calm pass by before Taehyung is promptly ejecting himself from the couch and into a standing position.

He’s still holding onto one of Namjoon’s hands when he says, “It makes all the sense, hyung. Thank you!” Then he kisses the back Namjoon's hand and sprints to his room, leaving Namjoon flustered and perplexed, with the feeling of Taehyung's lips still lingering on his tingly skin.

 

***

 

“Joonie-hyung, are you busy? I want to show you something in my room.”

It’s somewhat late at night when Taehyung knocks on his bedroom door. Namjoon is no longer busy with schoolwork, with having turned in all his due projects for this part of the semester the day before. He’s just lazying around, enjoying the feeling of freedom he rarely gets to feel like an advanced courses college student, when he hears the knock and sees Taehyung’s head poke into view. There’s a stain of mint green paint on his left cheek and his hair stands up in odd places; he looks perfect.

“Sure, I’m coming,” Namjoon says immediately, earning himself a boxy smile. He follows Taehyung to the hall and to his bedroom, taking in the whole collection of things that is Kim Taehyung at the moment.

The stain on his cheek is nothing more than an appetizer for a whole lot of splashes and splotches of color over his baby blue jean overall. He’s barefoot, gloveless, and shirtless, only the overall to shield his body from the paint - not that it seems like he was actually trying to stay stainless. Namjoon’s first thought is that he looks exactly as one of those contemporary pieces of art, one where the human body is the canvas in and of itself. In short, to Namjoon’s eyes, Tae is a work of art. Period.

They get into Taehyung’s bedroom and it’s like entering into an alternate reality, one where color is the norm and there’s no room for black or white. Almost every surface except the ceiling are covered in plastic, all splashed with different degrees of paint stains. An easel stands proudly near the window, holding a large, colorful canvas Namjoon has never seen before but makes him feel like he’s already committed it to memory.

“Is that your project?” Namjoon asks, turning to Taehyung. His roommate nods shyly, a small smile playing in the corner of his mouth.

“Just finished it,” Tae explains, walking toward the easel. Namjoon does the same. “I’m supposed to send a picture to my professor, to confirm it’s done so she can check me out of her little ‘in-debt’ list thingy. But I wanted to show you first.”

Namjoon opens his eyes in surprise, Tae wanted to show him first? Wow, speaking of limitless fondness toward one’s crush.

“I’m really honored,” he manages to say, through the lump he didn’t notice it was forming inside his throat. “May I?” He asks, gesturing toward the painting. Taehyung nods his permission and then Namjoon gets even closer, close enough to truly look at it.

Truth be told, he doesn’t understand much of it, or at least not from an artistic point of view. However, Taehyung’s painting is an explosion of pastel color that makes Namjoon feel all kinds of things when looked up close. He feels happiness, longing, belonging, familiarity, love. A whole lot of emotions he doesn’t know how to voice out loud but that reminds Namjoon the exact moment he realized he was in fact in love with his roommate. It’s as if the painting was talking to him, a physical embodiment of Namjoon’s feelings for Taehyung that first time they kissed on their couch, if that’s even possible at all.

He feels so much about Taehyung’s piece that he starts feeling overwhelmed by it, the back of his eyes prickling alarmingly. He can’t cry here. He won’t cry in front of the boy he likes, goddamnit!

“It's very good,” he manages to say, clearing his throat to prevent it from closing up. “You can really feel the love in it, the connection,” he emphasizes. “It's awesome.”

Namjoon turns to look at Taehyung and finds him beaming at him, with his big eyes and his warm smile. It’s almost more than his heart can take. Damn, he’s so whipped.

“Thank you, hyung,” Taehyung says, not looking away. “I'm glad you like it.”

“I’m glad you showed me,” Namjoon assures, just to fill the silence. To avoid thinking of Taehyung’s gaze on him. “And what is it called?”

Taehyung’s demeanor shifts noticeably with the question, turning sheepish, insecure. He licks his lips and bites his lower one, making Namjoon’s determination not to stare at the boy’s mouth exponentially more difficult. He forces himself to look into Taehyung’s eyes, though, needs to find out what’s causing such behavior. He poses a silent question with his eyes and Tae seems to take the hint.

“It's called First Love,” Taehyung says after a moment, in a voice merely above a whisper. He’s smiling, though, brightly than ever before.

“That's a good name,” Namjoon says honestly, smiling back without being able to help it. “You'll do great, I'm sure.”

He turns to see the painting one more time, maybe a little too anxious to stand Taehyung’s heavy gaze on him. First love, huh? It's fitting, in a sort of poetic way. It makes Namjoon feel all sort of things when he looks at it, the pastel pinks and subtle blues taking him back to the moment he first kissed Taehyung, the evening his world shattered at the edges without him realizing. He’s actually so deep in memory land, he almost doesn’t hear Taehyung speaking again.

“It has an alternative name too,” he says, capturing Namjoon’s attention and gaze once more.

“Yeah?” Namjoon asks, more than a little curious. “What is it?”

“Its name...” Taehyung starts. He takes a deep breath, like he’s gathering his courage. Then he says, “is Namjoon.”

To say Namjoon is rendered totally and absolutely speechless is a huge understatement.

He feels his eyes go wide, and his heartbeat peak to unimaginable rates. Taehyung keeps staring right at him and even though Namjoon wants nothing more than to hide under a rock - for that gaze to not pierce into his soul - the truth is he also wants to submerge into those deep, beautiful eyes and stay inside them forever.

Then Namjoon remembers another thing he wants to get to do forever.

He crosses the space between their bodies so quickly he might as well be apparating, his hands cupping Taehyung’s cheeks as if that's what they were made for - like there’s nothing else in the world they should be doing. Taehyung is smiling at him with stars in his eyes, the same look the boy gave him after Namjoon started kissing him with intend that night so many lives ago. And to honor that evening, Namjoon dives right in, kissing the lips he’s dreamt about so many times for the past weeks, reveling in the feelings of warmth and love and coziness, discovering that Kissing Taehyung not only is as good as he remembers. It’s even better.

They kiss for what feels like decades, but truthfully can’t be more than a few minutes. When they break the kiss, Namjoon keeps them close enough to still breathe in each other’s air. It’s perfect. Taehyung is perfect.

This is perfect.

“Guess now I'll have to write you a novel,” Namjoon says without meaning to voice it out loud. His brain is fuzzy with adrenaline and happiness, he can’t be blamed for what comes from his mouth at the moment.

Taehyung’s reply is a deep giggle that reverberates through his whole body. It’s delightful.

“Only if you want to,” he says, hands gripping strongly at the hem of Namjoon’s sweater. Just like that first time.

Cute.

They kiss again standing in the middle of the room, and then again after going outside to cuddle and talk about their feelings for each other on the living room couch. Truth be told, Namjoon doesn't even know if he'd ever write Taehyung anything novel length that is worth reading. Nonetheless, and writing talent apart, with Taehyung’s lips on his, Taehyung’s hands tangled in his hair, and his own arms surrounding Taehyung’s waist, Namjoon feels like he could compose the more beautiful sonnets the world has ever seen.

 

***

 

“This is the one,” Taehyung announces once their little group is all gathered in front of his painting, the one that happens to be the center of their class end of semester exhibition.

Namjoon feels so much pride inside his chest he thinks he might float to the sky and beyond, Tae’s hand in his the only anchor keeping him near the ground. His boyfriend’s first exhibition - a class exhibition, but an exhibition all the same. He’s such a proud partner, holy shit!

He’s so deep in his own floaty world he almost fails to notice the way Jimin is crouching and squinting at Taehyung’s painting. He gets closer then farther, dragging Hoseok through the movements by their linked hands.

“And you say you painted this after kissing Namjoonie-hyung that one time?” Jimin asks bluntly, to which both his boyfriend and the rest of their group open their eyes in varying levels of surprise. Apparently, Namjoon and Taehyung’s get together story isn’t as common knowledge as Namjoon originally thought it was.

“Yeap,” Taehyung says, proud of himself, seemingly oblivious to the group’s current atmosphere. “Perfect score thanks to him!” Then he lifts their intertwined hands and kisses the back of Namjoon’s.

“I did nothing, really,” Namjoon tries to dismiss, fighting the blush threatening to take up residence in his cheeks. “You're just very talented, baby.”

“Oh, but you did!” Taehyung insists, smiling that boxy smile of his, glowing with happiness. beautiful. “You inspired me, Joonie. You're my muse!”

Well okay, that is actually more than Namjoon can take without blushing like a fucking teenager. He covers his face to hide both that and the silly smile he can feel it’s plastered all across his face, barely minding the teasing coming from his friends.

“Was it really your first kiss?” Jungkook asks a second later, sounding serious.

“Yes it was,” Namjoon and Taehyung both say in unison. Then they look at each other and laugh, because really? Are they one of those couples now? Not that Namjoon is complaining.

“Woah,” Jungkook breathes.

And then there’s silence, just for a bit, until Seokjin goes, “Can't imagine what's gonna happen after Namjoon sucks your dick.”

A variety of “Hyung!” and “Ew!” and “Gross” can be heard from their friends, along with Seokjin's obnoxious laughter at his own tasteless comment. Namjoon turns his head to look at Taehyung and finds him staring at him, smiling shyly. He tightens his grip on Taehyung's hand and smiles right back, thinking back to all the lovely pieces already decorating their apartment walls, and thinking about all the art they're definitely going to keep creating together.