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the best medicine

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Jeongguk makes it back to his apartment and immediately beelines for his third-hand sofa, flopping down on it and burying his face in one of the cushions, effectively smothering himself in his own misery.

He doesn't move for approximately two hours unless it's to check his phone from where it lies on the floor beside him, occasionally buzzing.

He doesn’t move even when there’s a knock on his door. Or a second knock. Or a third.

“Jeongguk-ah, it’s hyung,” Seokjin’s voice calls, though the walls are so thin in Jeongguk’s apartment complex Seokjin could probably whisper and Jeongguk would still be able to hear him.

Jeongguk coughs. 

“I’m letting myself in, okay?” 

Jeongguk tries to say, “‘kay, hyung,” only to dissolve into another coughing fit, squeezing his eyes shut as pain shoots down his throat, already scraped raw from how much he’s been hacking recently.

The keypad beeps with Jeongguk’s code, and then a rush of cool air accompanies the door opening and closing.

“I brought some groceries,” Seokjin says, something clunking in the background. “Yoongi won’t finish with rehearsal until later, but I thought we could start on dinner in a few- Jeongguk?”

“Dinner’s good,” Jeongguk croaks, though he doesn’t try to move. The room spun the last time he tried to sit up to check his phone. 

“You don’t sound like anything’s good.” Footsteps patter across the floor of Jeongguk’s cramped apartment, and then there’s a hand squishing itself between the couch cushion and Jeongguk’s forehead, cool against Jeongguk’s sweaty skin. Seokjin’s always warm. Jeongguk doesn’t know how high his fever must be by now for Seokjin to be the cold one.

“Oh, Jeongguk-ah,” Seokjin says softly. “You’re burning up. Have you been to the doctor yet?” 

Jeongguk shakes his head miserably, shifting so he can squint at Seokjin through watery eyes, cheek squished against the sofa. “Thought it would go away.”

That and Jeongguk doesn't like going to the doctor. Jeongguk hasn’t been to the doctor for anything other than routine check-ups since he moved to Seoul for university.

Seokjin moves his palm to Jeongguk’s cheek as he squats down beside the sofa, perfect face a little bleary in Jeongguk’s vision. “Is this why you didn’t come over the last few nights? You’ve been sick?”

Jeongguk tries to shrug, sniffing when he feels his nose start to run again. “Yeah.” There are lots of reasons he didn’t go over to Seokjin and Yoongi’s apartment. He didn’t want to get them sick. He didn’t want to be gross and miserable at their place. He didn’t want to give them one more thing to stress about. Seokjin’s been busy with a project at work and Yoongi’s been busy accompanying a high school concert choir, so the last thing Jeongguk wanted was to ask them to take care of him. 

Seokjin’s lips tug into a frown, and Jeongguk thinks there’s something unhappy flashing in his eyes before Seokjin gently strokes Jeongguk’s hair. “I’m going to put the groceries away, and then I think we should drive to the clinic in our neighborhood.”

Jeongguk lets out another nasty-sounding hack, curling in on himself so he doesn’t cough on Seokjin. “I’m ‘kay, hyung, just need to sleep it off.”

“You can sleep it off with medicine,” Seokjin says, and his comforting touch is gone as he stands up.

Jeongguk almost whines. He doesn’t know how he spent the last feverish two days without Seokjin’s hands. He just wants Seokjin to pet his hair again, to stroke his fingers across his cheek. But Jeongguk’s made it through plenty of colds without anyone, and he can do it again so Seokjin doesn’t have to deal with him. “Don’t need the doctor. ‘m fine, hyung. Don’t worry,” Jeongguk mutters.

Seokjin’s already rustling around in the kitchen, the sound of the refrigerator humming as he opens it. “I’ll worry if I want to,” Seokjin says, almost grumpily. Then his voice softens. “You’re really sick, bunny.” 

“Don’t want to get you sick,” Jeongguk insists, even if the nickname on Seokjin’s lips practically compels him off the couch and into Seokjin’s arms. He refuses to be melted by Seokjin’s sweetness, remaining resolutely in his solitary cocoon of misery.

“Well lucky for you I have a strong immune system.” 

“But Yoongi-hyung-”

“Will be over here fussing over you if I don’t take you to the doctor,” Seokjin says firmly, coming back from the kitchen. He’s still in his coat, thick white padding. He’s already out of his work clothes beneath, wearing simple black jeans and a pink sweater. He looks cozy. Cuddleable. 

Jeongguk coughs again, pushing away his own treacherous thoughts. “Yoongi-hyung doesn’t fuss,” he rasps instead.

“You’d be surprised. The last couple nights he’s been whining about how you haven’t been over enough,” Seokjin says, and he steps in front of the sofa and holds a hand out for Jeongguk. “Jeongguk-ah, please let me take you to the doctor. I want to go with you to the clinic, okay? Hyung wants to get you some medicine so you’re not this miserable.”

Jeongguk’s eyes are watery again from more than whatever virus is currently floating around inside of him. He peers up at Seokjin’s face, finds his boyfriend looking back down at him patiently, kindly, no lies or frustration at having to take care of Jeongguk, no annoyance that Jeongguk is a gross human moping on a sofa and not the bright, energetic partner he tries to be for Seokjin and Yoongi. 

“Okay,” Jeongguk croaks, and he reaches for Seokjin’s hand, familiar crooked, soft fingers. Jeongguk wipes his face on his sleeve once he’s standing, tries to pass off his sniffing for being sick rather than near-crying. 

“Do you need your backpack?” Seokjin asks, gesturing at where Jeongguk dumped it by the front door after his last class.

Jeongguk nods. He has some more editing to do for his group’s silent film project that’s due soon. He hasn’t worked on it at all because of how awful he’s felt every day after getting home. He hasn’t been to the gym in a week, either. He’s a mess. More of a mess than usual, at least.

Seokjin just picks up Jeongguk’s backpack and slings it over his shoulder.

“I can get it,” Jeongguk says, and his voice cracks, scratchy and ridiculous, as he reaches for his bag.

Seokjin shakes his head. “Let me take care of you tonight, okay?”

Jeongguk is quiet, other than his coughs and sniffs, on the drive to the clinic, streetlights blurring by. 

Seokjin hums quietly to himself, keeping the radio off. He reaches over periodically to touch Jeongguk’s arm, his thigh, once brushing Jeongguk’s sweaty hair off his forehead at a stoplight.

Jeongguk walks into the clinic and braces himself for the forms and the questions at the front desk, something that also makes him hate going to the doctor, makes his anxiety spike as he fumbles for his insurance information and stutters his way through answering basic adult questions.

But Seokjin stays with him, pressing against his side, and keeps a hand at the small of Jeongguk’s back.

Seokjin squeezes Jeongguk’s hand when his name is called, says, “I’ll be right out here when you’re finished.”

It’s a friendly nurse who takes Jeongguk’s temperature and swabs Jeongguk’s throat, and Jeongguk waits in the little white room until the doctor comes in and tells Jeongguk he seems to have the flu.

Jeongguk leaves with a prescription, a face mask, and Seokjin’s hand in his as they walk through the parking lot.

The next half hour passes with Jeongguk sleeping in the car, face pressed against the chilly window as he sweats beneath his jacket and continues to cough his lungs out.

Seokjin wakes Jeongguk when they arrive at Seokjin and Yoongi’s complex, a gentle, “We’re home, Jeongguk-ah.”

There’s a pharmacy bag in Seokjin’s hand, though Jeongguk doesn’t remember them stopping there. He clambers out of the car and buries his face in Seokjin’s shoulder, too miserable at this point to care about being clingy, even if something unpleasant is sitting at the base of his stomach, something that squirms with discomfort at being a burden. Always a burden, it whispers, the same words as the dark thing that lives in the shadowy corners of Jeongguk’s mind. 

But Seokjin simply presses a kiss to Jeongguk’s overwarm cheek once they get inside, and Jeongguk’s knees go weak from a wave of what feels like exhaustion mixed with relief as he toes off his shoes and into his pair of red slippers.

He’s home.

Not his apartment, empty and dark and always a little bit mildewy. 

Seokjin and Yoongi’s apartment. Full, even if Jeongguk’s the only one there. Bright, even before the lights are flicked on. Cozy. Safe.

“Thank you, hyung,” Jeongguk croaks as he watches Seokjin pull off his coat, tossing it over the arm of the couch.

“Thank me once you’ve had some tea and medicine,” Seokjin tells him. There are bags beneath his eyes, his hair unstyled as it falls across his forehead. He looks tired . He’s been so worn out from that project at work.

Jeongguk bites his lip. “Let me make the tea.”

Seokjin smiles softly. “I’ve got it. Why don’t you go take a shower?”

“Let me make the tea, hyung,” Jeongguk insists, and he sniffs again as he walks toward the kitchen. “Promise I’ll wash my hands.”

“And that you won’t sneeze into it?”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Yah, Jeon Jeongguk,” Seokjin squawks. “However much I love you, I have absolutely no desire to drink tea that you’ve sneezed into.”

Jeongguk starts to laugh, feels his eyes crinkling and lips curling up for the first time in days. It’s worth it, that little rush of happiness that comes when Seokjin laughs too, even if Jeongguk almost immediately dissolves into frenzied coughing as his throat burns. “Alright hyung, I promise. No sneezing into your mug,” he amends with a rasp.

Seokjin’s face softens into something that makes Jeongguk’s heart lighter, and Jeongguk, as promised, washes his hands before turning on the kettle and fumbling around the kitchen for mugs and cartons of tea.

“I’m ordering porridge for you,” Seokjin says, and Jeongguk looks over his shoulder to find him tapping away on his phone, hovering by the table.

“What about you and Yoongi-hyung?”

“Leftovers. Yoongi’s on the bus home, too. He just messaged me.” 

Jeongguk nods, pours the tea and brings the mugs over to the table. 

“Thank you,” Seokjin tells him, and he presses his palm to Jeongguk’s forehead again. “Your fever’s still high. Or is it your love for me that’s burning this hot?” He adds the last part with a lowered voice, lips twitching.

Jeongguk wheezes out a giggle, pushing Seokjin’s hand away. “I’m sick. Don’t take advantage of my illness for your pick-up lines.”

“Brat. I’m blessing you with my flirting. Now go sit down with your tea.” 

Jeongguk smiles as he walks away with the mug clutched between his hands, still feeling physically awful but no longer ready to flop down in and melt into a puddle of misery again. 

After another bout of coughing that feels like it’s ripping apart his throat and two more sips of tea, which Jeongguk swears tastes not as good whenever he makes it, Jeongguk’s eyes droop closed on Seokjin and Yoongi’s couch.

He comes to later with the sound of Yoongi’s voice, a gentle flurry of kisses pressed over his forehead. “Dinner’s here, baby.”

Jeongguk blinks slowly, immediately reaching out for Yoongi and curling his fingers into Yoongi’s shirt. He’s wearing a black turtleneck today instead of a sweatshirt. Rehearsal, Jeongguk remembers.

“Hyung,” he whispers, still holding onto Yoongi until his boyfriend is curved over him on the sofa. “How did practice go?”

“Good.” Yoongi punctuates this with another kiss to Jeongguk’s forehead. “Long as fuck, though.”

Jeongguk smiles sleepily at that, though he lets out a rasping noise of protest when Yoongi backs away.

“Everything’s on the table,” Yoongi says, and Jeongguk worms his way off the sofa, disturbing the fluffy pink blanket someone must have put over him at some point. 

Seokjin’s setting two steaming bowls of jjigae down on the table, and Jeongguk wishes he could smell it.

“The porridge is for you,” Yoongi says wryly, like he can sense Jeongguk’s longing stare at the leftover stew he won’t get to eat.

Jeongguk eats his take-out porridge slowly, each swallow making him wince, throat grating, as Yoongi rambles about rehearsal, voice climbing in pitch like it always does when he’s excited about something.

Jeongguk likes Yoongi’s soft mumbles, but he likes this too, finds it cute, even if Yoongi would go back to grumbling if he ever heard Jeongguk say it.

Seokjin fishes Jeongguk’s medicine out of the pharmacy bag after dinner, and Jeongguk takes it before finally going to take a shower, washing off the sweat he worked up with the fever.

Jeongguk’s knees are still wobbly as he stands beneath the warm spray, but he uses Seokjin and Yoongi’s shampoo and conditioner and soap until he’s surrounded by their scent, even if his nose is too stuffy to smell it at all.

“-part of the project will be over by the end of the month, at least,” Seokjin’s saying when Jeongguk steps back into their room with a towel wrapped around his waist. He and Yoongi both have face masks on, ghostly and a little ridiculous with only the light of the lamp to illuminate the room. Seokjin’s talking while he scrolls through his phone, though he looks up when Jeongguk walks in. “Jeongguk-ah, how are you feeling?”

“Better,” Jeongguk croaks as he pulls a pair of boxers, gray sweatpants, and a t-shirt from his drawer. “Thank you.”

“Face mask?” Yoongi asks, holding one up. He’s flopped on the foot of the bed, his head in Seokjin’s lap.

Jeongguk nods and crawls up on the mattress to join them. 

Yoongi sits up so he can put the mask on Jeongguk for him carefully, smoothing it down with well-practiced motions.

“I think the medicine is helping,” Seokjin says when Yoongi finishes. “I haven’t heard you cough in at least five minutes.” 

“Don’t jinx it,” Yoongi mutters.

Jeongguk snorts, which of course makes him cough.

“Told you,” Yoongi says.

Seokjin hmphs to himself and swings his legs over both Yoongi and Jeongguk, his feet, covered in fluffy white socks, end up in Jeongguk’s lap.

“We don’t do this enough,” Seokjin says, wiggling in closer. 

Jeongguk smiles, wraps his hand around Seokjin’s ankle just to hold him. “Yeah,” he croaks. 

“We missed you,” Yoongi says quietly, and he doesn’t look at Jeongguk while he talks, instead tugging at the edge of his sheet mask and staring in the direction of the bedroom door. “Last couple of nights,” he clarifies.

Jeongguk tugs at a loose string on Seokjin’s sock. “I wouldn’t have been good company. ‘m not really good company now either.”

Seokjin stiffens. Jeongguk can feel it even in just the legs he has thrown over Jeongguk’s lap. But he doesn’t say anything. It’s Yoongi who says, “Good thing we’re not dating you for entertainment, then.”

Jeongguk’s eyes dart up to Yoongi’s face and finds his eyes soft, the mask covering up the crest of his expression. But Jeongguk knows Yoongi’s eyes well. He loves Yoongi’s eyes, fox-like and sharp but so, so gentle. And this is the softest his eyes get. 

“I didn’t mean- I know you don’t,” Jeongguk says. He knows. He does. “I just. I don’t know. I don’t like being sick. And I’m used to waiting it out on my own.”

“You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to,” Yoongi tells him, and it feels a little ridiculous that Jeongguk’s sore throat is tightening with emotion while they’re all sitting around in face masks. “Seokjin-hyung and I want to take care of you. We do it for each other, Jeongguk-ah. You took care of me when I had a cold last month.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Jeongguk rasps in protest, even as his eyes sting, because he understands what Yoongi’s saying. He feels it.

Yoongi bumps his shoulder against Jeongguk’s, and Jeongguk leans into him, running his fingers along Seokjin’s ankle, tracing against his skin.

Jeongguk sniffs back tears and hopes Seokjin and Yoongi pass it off as a sick-snuffle. Though he supposed they probably know, anyway. And that’s okay. 

Not a burden, he thinks, and it echoes all the way back to those shadowy corners of his mind, the ones that stockpile his fears for days when darkness creeps over him. Tonight, the curl of insecurities shrinks back, leaving room for this. For them. For Seokjin and Yoongi. 

“If I’m the next one to get sick,” Seokjin says, breaking the silence of the room with a teasing lilt to his voice, “one of you has to go pick up my mom’s homemade soup and bring it back here.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes, but Jeongguk just nods. He would do anything for Seokjin. He knows Yoongi would, too, if Seokjin really asked. 

“How about no one gets sick next month,” Yoongi drawls. “We take a four weeks where all of us are healthy.”

“I guess that would be good,” Seokjin says, as though he’s actually pondering it. 

“Agreed.” Jeongguk sniffs again. 

“But now I want my mom’s soup,” Seokjin mutters, and Yoongi huffs a laugh while Jeongguk rubs at his ankle, smiling.

They peel off their masks when the timer on Seokjin’s phone rings, brushing their teeth one by one and climbing into bed together, Jeongguk on the left side so he can cough safely into the room instead of on someone’s face.

“Yoongi secretly loves being the biggest spoon,” Seokjin faux-whispers as he wraps his arms around Jeongguk.

“Because he’s the smallest otherwise,” Jeongguk croaks back, snickering when Yoongi mutters something about sending them both to sleep on the couch.

But there’s some rustling and a content sigh from Seokjin, and Jeongguk knows that means Yoongi’s wiggled up to Seokjin’s back, pressing in close.

“Love you,” Jeongguk says.

Seokjin and Yoongi whisper the same words in return. Jeongguk’s throat is still raw and scratchy and his head is impossibly heavy and he coughs himself awake twice during the night, but he’s cocooned in warmth, tucked in bed with Seokjin and Yoongi, and that in itself makes him feel a little bit better. 

A lot better.