(“Why the long face?”
“Shut up, Jay, your mom’s an island and the world is her Lost: Season One.”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“It means they all crash-landed in her vagina and you’re the product.”)
Out with Jin tonight. Don’t wait up.
Taehyung stares at the text message as if it were written in a foreign language. His phone is the only thing lit in the library besides the desk lamp beside him that he brought from home and another belonging to some student across the room that he hasn’t bothered talking to. His little light illuminates the sheaves of paper he’s spread out in front of him and a singular corner of a bookshelf off to his side, appropriately labeled “HISTORICAL PERIOD: 1800.” It’s the beginning of the semester, the first of his freshman year of grad school, and not many people that he knows with even two cents worth of a social life spend any of their time here yet besides weirdos like himself and the occasional janitor. Not that he cares for the company all that much. He likes having the libraries to himself during the times in between test seasons. It might get him the label of Super Nerd by his roommate, whose recent text is nurturing a bruise deep within Taehyung’s soul, and it might screw him out of Sexy Rendezvous’ with all the Seokjins of the world, but it’s not like that matters. Taehyung knows he’s a nerd. He has a wide mouth and a pointy nose and hair as flat as Yoongi’s dumb face would be after he's punched it a few times (not that he's fantasized about that), and he’s been called hot once before, but it was by his hometown's local librarian (whom he has not seen since, considering he set his old library card on fire in the toaster that very same day).
He puts his phone down without answering. Taehyung had never planned on “waiting up,” and he doesn’t know why his roommate’s plans with Seokjin of all people permits him to send stupid text messages like that at any hour of the night. Honestly, it’s two in the morning. Taehyung could be sleeping now for all he knew, having remarkably unsexy dreams about Times New Roman-printed dissertations and getting the next Minion toy from McDonald’s and definitely not his old librarian.
(Yoongi knows Taehyung doesn’t sleep. Taehyung doesn’t know that Yoongi knows this. He thinks he’s pretty good at pretending. Yoongi thinks he’s stupid for thinking that.)
“Okay,” Taehyung whispers to himself, rolling his trusty #2 pencil along his thumb. It nearly flips out of his hands, and he mentally berates it for not being all that trusty, after all. “One more application. One more and then you can pretend to sleep, you cheeky bastard.”
He leafs through the pile of papers on his desk and pulls out one long, clean sheaf, neatly printed with (boring) words and (boring) short phrases and (REALLY REALLY boring) blank lines. There’s a name at the top: Department of Criminology and Justice. Internship Application Form. He runs a finger along the edge of the paper.
“Looks good,” he says affirmatively, flipping to a clean sheet of notebook paper and trying to push back the thoughts of how utterly boring his life must be if he's filling out internship applications for fun. “Looks good. This will be easy. This one’s in the bag. So not boring. Fun, fun, fun.”
Taehyung doesn’t know when he became this: some machine running on library books and pencil lead and the dead quiet of the early morning. He spends all of his time here, from his last class at 7pm to the time he pretends to sleep at 4am. He spits out homework after homework, application after application, until there’s a shiny spot on his finger from where his pen fits in his hand. There’s an orderly stack of papers in the back pocket of his notebook that he’s aptly labeled “finished,” all ready to be typed up and shipped off to their respective email recipients. He’s even got them in alphabetical order (which is something he meticulously hides from Yoongi to keep him from gagging and trying to drag him out for Necessary Non-Study Fun-And-Illegal Bro Shenanigans time again). If there’s one thing that Taehyung is at this point, it’s READY, with a capital R, E, A, D, and Y.
It’s just for what that he isn’t quite sure of yet.
For all his hard work and effort, Taehyung doesn’t exactly know where he’s going. Yeah, okay, he’s already graduated uni with a Criminology major, sure. It’s not like that’s one of the “crackpot” majors that parents bitch about when they’re worried about money – there’s probably a billion and one things he can do with it, and most of them don’t suck too bad. He’s been in enough extracurricular activities to have an entire army of connections, including some whack multi-cultural fraternity affectionately nicknamed Alpha Beta Suckass, where he first learned how to ask someone in French if they like piss in their tea and to tie his shoes with his mouth. They're surprisingly just as active in his realm of job expertise as they are in his realm of Weird Habitual Shit expertise, which is a plus his parents weren't expecting when they told him they'd cut his allowance if he joined. His grades are, for the most part, pretty decent, too – he didn't flunk, anyways, and he's well-versed in the art of plagiarizing just enough to seem eloquent . In theory, there’s no actual reason for Taehyung to have graduated into becoming A Real Life Couch Pillow alongside Yoongi, The Real Life Floor Mat.
But that’s what he is. A directionless, planless, brainless Couch Pillow with lots of finished internship applications and none of them sent because Couch Pillows belong on couches and not on laptop computers.
He’s gotten three done within the span of four hours, double and triple and quadruple and quintuple-checking the little paragraphs about himself and his long list of qualifications, none of which include his ability to chew a gumball for a week straight, which, according to him, is pretty dope. Every once in a while, he gets up for a stretch break because man do cheap library stools do a number on your ass, and he wanders around the library in search of book references.
He's careful not to cross into the area where the other student is probably drooling on his/her textbook because, let’s face it – other humans are of little use to him.
At 12a.m., he finally shucks internship apps in favor of his math homework (and Yoongi’s, as he will inevitably copy him – something about Calculus III being useless to music majors ). It doesn’t take long, just a few basic review problems that keep him from sticking his pencil in his ear out of boredom and pushing until it hits his brain, but he drags them out for another hour. His various major classes fall just as easily under the tip of his pencil, including the one lecture he's attending in English, and as he stretches for the last time, everything perfect and neat and TOTALLY NOT BORING in a pile in front of him, he checks the time.
3a.m. It’s actually a little earlier than Taehyung is used to, but after rewriting his answer to an English question four different times to pass the time, he’s pretty sure he’s run out of options. He shuts his stuff up and packs it slowly, painstakingly, into his backpack. His light is the last to go, and he grunts as he rolls his backpack up onto his shoulders, turning in the direction of the exit. At this point, he knows the library so well in the dark that he can maneuver his way through it without any source of illumination. (It’s another talent he hasn’t put on any of his applications, unfortunately.)
He stops when he notices that the light across the library still hasn’t faltered.
It’s mildly irritating for Taehyung to see another person still going steady in a library that he's mentally claimed as his own. He’s the king of the libraries, and the prince, and the princess, too. Just who does this guy-girl-person think he-she-they is-are? A world-famous astronaut or something?? Taehyung himself isn’t even sure how that logic works, but he decides that, astronaut or not, he will not be beaten out of his library – his only true dojo, considering Yoongi is a sad sack of lusty shit and taints their shared room with his presence.
Taehyung slinks over to the other side of the room to investigate and wrinkles his nose at the sight of some dude, hoodie up and earphones on, sleeping on top of an Advanced Music Theory workbook.
He scoffs. Not only is he there past everyone’s curfew but Taehyung’s, he’s also sleeping on the job. Repulsive. Taehyung sidles up to his table and kicks the plug to his lamp so that it comes undone, and they both fall into darkness. The kid shifts in surprise, tumbling out of his chair, and Taehyung resists the urge to kick him, too, as he puts on his best Kind And Considerate Human voice.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t see your lamp there,” he says, dropping to his knees and reaching out to pat the guys shoulder. Taehyung can make out the semblance of a thick nose in the now-shit lighting, but what with the black hoodie, black hair, and black eyes, the kid practically blends in with the night. He retracts his hand as the boy goes tense, readying himself for him to pull some kind of weird underground ninja shit and roundhouse kick him out the window. “I hope nothing is broken. But as the manager of this library, I need to ask you to leave – we’re closing up soon.”
Manager, king, same thing.
The boy coughs and sniffles petulantly. “Isn’t this a 24 hour library?”
Curses. He’d forgotten that real humans know things, too. “Today is a holiday.”
“Saint Choo’s Day, he saved miniature horses from extinction by way of sabertooth tigers. You can find a book on it in the HISTORICAL PERIOD: 1800s section of the library later, if you're interested. Please leave so I can go home to my ponies and start worship of my saint.”
He can actually feel the suspicion in the room spike. “The fuck, dude, you look my age, how do you own a library—”
“Excuse you, but I am a young librarian prodigy. I went to librarian school when I was ten.”
“Okay, now I know you’re bullshitting.” He finally stands and brushes himself off, replacing his book on his desk and fumbling to replug his dingy little desk lamp. “I don’t know what your agenda is, but just let me study in peace, okay? It’s important.”
“Didn’t look important by the way you were napping,” Taehyung mutters only a little bitterly, but the boy is ignoring him in favor of flicking on the lamp. The light almost seems blinding, and it glints off the kid’s pale skin as if a five-year-old had attacked him with gold glitter glue. His bangs are plastered to his forehead with sweat, and all his exposed bits of skin look dewy under the yellow glow. He coughs again, and Taehyung leans forward almost out of instinct. “Hey, are you sick?”
“Go away,” the kid orders, flipping his book back open to a random page and pretending to concentrate on it. Taehyung isn’t fooled – his eyelids are fluttering already, as if the second Taehyung leaves, they’ll close again.
Taehyung rocks onto his heels and stares at the look of fabricated concentration on the boy’s face. “You know, you shouldn’t be studying this late if you’re sick,” he muses in sing-song. Somehow, the kid ignores him louder, so Taehyung purses his lips and raises his voice from Inside-A-Library-At-3:30a.m. to Outside-A-Library-But-Within-Earshot-Of-The-Language-Arts-Teacher. “Your face is pink.”
“Shut up,” the kid grunts through another cough. “It’s just a head cold. I’m fine.”
Taehyung twists his hands behind his back in his best effort to look unconvinced. “Why are you studying so hard, anyways? The semester just started. There’s not even homework. We haven’t even managed to stray off the syllabus in any of my classes yet.”
“Why do you care so much that I’m in this damn library?” The kid finally looks up, meeting Taehyung's eyes with mild curiosity and major annoyance. “What, you want me to leave? Is my silence disturbing you? Am I flipping pages too loud?”
“Actually, you snore really obnoxiously,” Taehyung deadpans, and if he thought that the kid was flushed before, it’s nothing compared to the red of embarrassment that colors his face now. Bullseye. “Yeah, no, really, you should get one of those machines to help you out with that. You sound like a cyborg that just swallowed a blender.”
“Shut up,” the boy hisses, shutting his book and rummaging through his bag to break out another – Advanced Harmony: Theory and Practice this time. “I won’t sleep then, Jesus Christ, just leave so I can actually learn something.”
Taehyung very pointedly does not leave.
The kid does a good job at ignoring him for the first five minutes, reading and penciling notes as if he’s actually a good student, but that’s only because it takes that five minutes for Taehyung to get horribly bored. He starts rocking on his feet, the worn bottoms of them scratching at the carpet, and humming the Ghostbusters theme under his breath. Rocking turns to pacing, humming turns to whistling, and the boy’s studying turns to watching Taehyung walk back and forth among the library hallways and fisting his hands into his own hair. When the Ghostbusters theme upgrades to T-Pain, autotune-mimicking warble included, and the pacing upgrades to Full Out Dance Battle (he tries to drag the kid into it more than once), he finally slams his book shut a second time and throws his hands up in exasperation.
“Fine, okay, I get it! I’m leaving! I’m going home and going to bed so you can have your stupid dance-off with yourself or whatever it is you’re doing when you’re off singing Kanye West in the corner.”
Taehyung’s head pops out from behind a shelf far too fast. “It’s T-Pain.”
“You put me in T-Pain.”
"Hey, that was a good one."
The kid mutters something to himself and unzips his backpack with only a small hitch of his fingers, shoving the oversized book inside and slinging it onto his shoulders without zipping it back up. “See? I’m leaving now. Happy?”
Taehyung grins, full body unearthing itself from behind rows of library books as he strolls over to the kid again. “I guess everybody has a breaking point.” He plops himself into the chair across from where the kid was sitting and waves enthusiastically. “Safe travels, friend. I’ll keep your seat warm for you.”
The kid gives him a blank look. He doesn’t even seem all that angry anymore, just a little curious and a whole lot of confused. “You’ve got problems,” he says in wonder. Taehyung frowns and makes to give a gladiator-sized rebuttal, but the kid has already turned his back on him and slipped out the front door from whence he came.
Taehyung’s frown deepens. “I’m perfectly normal,” he says, whipping out his phone to tweet about the horrible experience and thumb through his To Do List – internship applications, homework, wake Yoongi up with used articles of clothing, embarrass Yoongi in front of a massive group of people, actually brush your teeth before you go to bed today, goddamn. He’s already managed to make Yoongi red with anger when he’d brought his own personal copy of the Karma Sutra to the university-owned bookstore where he worked and gave it to him to ring up, but it’s looking like he won’t be waking up Yoongi by prank today, considering he’s been ditched for a wannabe booty call. He sighs. It seems as though he’ll never get through a full to-do list, but he guesses he can actually brush his teeth, at least.
He adds another bullet to the list: Enforce and maintain library reign. By that one, he puts a little check emoji, along with two heart-eyes and an elephant. The elephant is his prize. The elephant is life.
He gives it about five minutes longer before he gathers his stuff up again and rises. He pops on his phone one last time to check the time and whistles. 4:30a.m. That kid actually managed to set him back past his normal time. What a punk.
Taehyung strides through the double doors purposefully, one hand in his pocket, and takes a deep breath as he reaches the outside air, clean and fresh with his victory.
Except it’s not. He nearly coughs a lung out when he accidentally inhales a puff of cigarette smoke that has wafted directly into his path, and he has to stoop down to catch his breath again. His eyes water up like little bathtubs, and he nearly drops to his knees in agony. What kind of punkass motherfucker smokes outside a library at nearly 5 in the morning? Taehyung wants some answers.
When he looks up, he sees a figure frozen in mid-puff, eyeing him with disbelief, and he's suddenly not so keen on answers anymore. Taehyung slowly straightens, clearing his throat one more time before he waves as un-awkwardly as he can manage – which, unsurprisingly, makes it twice as awkward. The cigarette is dropped and destroyed under the kid’s Nike Airs, and he crosses his arms knowingly as Taehyung attempts to subtly slink away.
“Hey,” the kid calls. “Fancy seeing you out here so soon.”
(“Seriously. I’m being serious. Why do you look so bummed lately?”
“I’ve just…been questioning a lot of lame ass things.”
“…just. Just stuff.”)
“I don’t actually snore, do I,” the kid finally says a few minutes into the walk home.
Taehyung makes a noncommittal grunt somewhere between his chest and his throat. The kid has been just barely gloating ever since they’d set out, ironically in the same direction. At this point, Taehyung can’t tell if the creature's house is actually this way or if he’s just following Taehyung back to rub in the fact that he caught him in his deceit just a little more. The kid laughs, somewhat condescendingly, and smacks Taehyung on the back. Taehyung growls in response.
“Lighten up. You’re the one who essentially kicked me out of the library for apparently no reason and you don’t see me being all bitter about it.”
“Because you’re probably of Satan and Donald Trump,” Taehyung mumbles, breath fogging up the air in front of him. “Why aren’t you bitter, anyways?”
The kid shrugs. “Dunno. Because I pity your intellect?”
Taehyung shoots him a glare but says nothing, choosing instead to loop his arms around the back of his head, elbows sticking out like elephant ears. If he’s truthful, he’s partially doing it because it allows him to almost whack the boy in the head, and mostly doing it because it’s what all the cool guys do in animes and he needs all the cool points he can get right now.
The boy seems unimpressed. He hits Taehyung’s elbow away from where it’s nearing his face. “What’s your name, anyways?”
“Why do you care?” Taehyung accuses, and the boy just laughs again.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry. I thought that was one of the first things you ask a stranger you just met.”
“After this, we haven’t met,” Taehyung says authoritatively, “so it doesn’t matter anyways.”
The kid makes a small oh sound, and Taehyung almost thinks it sounds pitiful until he looks over and sees the kid’s shit-eating grin. “Well, my name’s Jungkook. It’s nice to not meet you.”
Taehyung scoffs and elects to not reply again, closing his eyes to further emphasize his role as the cool one (it’s mostly to make up for the fact that he’s wearing ratty old Reeboks, and he squints through it anyways so he doesn’t run into any poles). They finally fall into some sort of silence, the kid re-inserting his earphones and Taehyung pretending he didn’t just watch him do so.
They’re starting to get uncomfortably close to Taehyung’s building, though, and he can feel himself sweating at the thought of this Jungkook kid figuring out where he lives. With that look of self-righteous satisfaction on his face, Taehyung is sure that he would stalk him just to rub it in his face that he’s a total tool, and Taehyung’s pride really can’t take that for much longer. It’s barely holding up now. A few paces away from his home, he abruptly stops and turns to Jungkook, blurting, “Are you with the police?”
Jungkook looks a little startled, removing one earphone. “I’m sorry, what?”
Taehyung coughs and recomposes himself. “I mean, are you following me?”
Jungkook cocks his head, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “You really think you’re so important that I would follow you all the way home?”
Taehyung huffs defensively and starts to say something, but Jungkook holds up a hand to silence him and points to the building behind him. Taehyung gulps. “That’s my dorm. Don’t worry, I’ll be leaving you here.”
“But that’s—” Taehyung starts, and stops himself in the nick of time. “Okay,” he says, waving almost a little too excitedly. “Have fun doing your thing back in your room. Don't fall on the elevator. Or on the toilet. Remember, wash your hands for twenty seconds after you piss if you don't want to catch AIDS. Sleep tight. Won’t see you around. Later.”
Jungkook’s eyes narrow, but he returns the wave anyways. “Don’t trip over your own ego and die on the way home.”
“I won’t!” Taehyung announces brightly. Jungkook’s Suspicious Eyes somehow get even more Suspicious, but he turns around and walks towards the dorm anyways, not looking back at the enthusiastically waving Taehyung even once before he’s swiped his card at the door and safely entered.
Taehyung waits fifteen minutes this time, completely shrouding himself in a bush as he keeps watch on what is apparently a dorm that he shares with a demon. He grimaces at the thought of being caught red-handed again, Jungkook just waiting at the front, smoking an illegal cigarette despite the protests of an RA and grinning from ear to ear. It’ll be hard avoiding being discovered for the rest of the semester, but he can do it. He’s avoided specific people for even longer periods of time before, anyways. It’s not like this guy is an old friend from high school or, god forbid, his middle school pre-algebra teacher, where the Law of Social Interaction dictates that, once seen, he must make nice. He’s some asshole that Taehyung may or may not have unintentionally antagonized in a library. Avoiding the likes of him shouldn’t be so hard. He already considers his interaction with him done by the time he decides the coast is clear and circles around to the back door of his dorm, swiping in and taking the stairs up to his room on the fifth floor.
It’s as he’s getting ready to brush his teeth in the hall bathroom that it happens. He’d already found Yoongi asleep in his bed, to his surprise, and he’d giddily woken him up with the pair of boxers he’d worn that day and promptly received slurred death threats in between being assaulted by every stuffed animal Yoongi’s short arms could reach. He’s changed into his favorite pajamas, furry and sea green and covered in teddy bears, and his hair is tied up away from his forehead, partially to avoid breakouts, partially because it’s fun to flip around. He’s pacing the bathroom in circles, going in and out of the stalls mindlessly as his toothbrush whirs in his mouth, when the door creaks open and a black head of hair sleepily bends over a sink to splash water over itself. Taehyung pauses in the stall he’s taken refuge in, more to avoid having to talk to anyone with his mouth full of minty spit than anything else, but when he peers out, he almost chokes at the face in the mirror.
Of course it would be that kid, looking a lot less poisonous and smug with his hair clipped back and his eyes screwed shut as if he were in pain. He grips the sink with both hands, breathing just a little ragged, before almost faceplanting into it. He catches himself just in time, which is thankful, considering Taehyung had frozen in fear instead of lunging like his instincts should have made him. Not that he’d really much like to reveal himself at this particular moment in time, whether the kid looked like death on two legs or not. Jungkook opens his eyes slowly, peeking up into the glass at himself, and Taehyung tries to silently turn his toothbrush off.
When he manages to, Jungkook glances back over his shoulder at the absence of sound, as if just now aware of the bathroom being shared. Taehyung squeaks and withdraws back into his stall, slamming the door shut and locking it as fast as he conceivably can. He perches on the toilet like a mother hawk, holding his breath when he sees Jungkook’s socked feet pad by, but they don’t stop. Instead, he goes to the stall next to him, fumbles to shut the door, and throws up before he’s able to.
Taehyung holds his breath and plugs his nose, watching Jungkook’s legs shake with effort from the crack under the stall. The kid tries to stand but immediately falls to his knees one second afterwards and throws up again. Taehyung groans internally and buries his face in his knees, trying to push back the urge to follow suit.
Jungkook goes quiet after the third or fourth time, spitting and (from the looks of it) laying down on top of the toilet. Taehyung listens hard, but he can only hear the sound of heavy breathing and little murmurs of fuck and goddammit and of course it would be today vibrate through the air between them. He finally musters up some courage and clears his throat. Jungkook goes rigid, noises quieting to nothing but shallow breathing, and Taehyung does it again.
“Are—are you okay?” Taehyung asks in his best falsetto. He sounds like a man that’s gotten his balls stuck in a toaster, but at least Jungkook probably won’t recognize his voice this way. Probably. “I can—I can call an ambulance, or something.”
More breathing. Taehyung presses his ear against the wall between them and knocks twice. “Hello in there. Are you dead yet?”
“I think,” Jungkook finally starts, voice raspy and strained, “that I might be in here a while. You can leave if you want.”
Taehyung closes his eyes and blows a long breath of air out. Overthinking is what always gets him into these situations, so he responds before he can consider what he's saying.
“Um, no, I’m good.”
Okay, nevermind, that was the shittest answer of all time, what kind of masochist even are you, Kim Taehyung.
Jungkook falls silent again, and Taehyung almost thinks he might have fallen asleep (or fallen a-dead – either is plausible), but then he mutters, “Please don’t call an ambulance.”
Taehyung opens his mouth, but words fail him for a moment. He finally manages, “Any reason why?”
Jungkook shifts. Taehyung watches his legs move to encircle the toilet, almost as if he’s moved to embrace it. He makes a face. Unsanitary, dude. “Yeah. There is.”
Jungkook doesn’t offer more. Taehyung decides to let their conversation die at that. He doesn’t have a cell phone on him, anyways, as much as he’d like people related to cops to take the kid far, far away from here. He curls his arms up and rests his cheek on his knee, eyes fluttering shut. He thinks he hears something briefly as his mind fills with cotton balls – something that’s probably a curse, but sounds more like “thanks.”
(“What kind of stuff?”
“Just us stuff. Like, what’s going to happen when you transfer, what’s going to happen when we graduate, what’s going to happen when Yoongi and Seokjin are gone. Y’know. Dumb shit.”
“That’s not dumb shit.”
“Well, I wish it were, then.”)
Taehyung passes out sitting on the toilet and comes to when he hears the clop of Yoongi’s god awful Adidas flip-flops hitting the heel of his foot. He grunts and kicks at the lock on the bathroom stall, flipping it open with his big toe and pushing at it with the bottom of his bare foot. It opens as Yoongi’s walking by, and he pauses only long enough to look at Taehyung, who is blinking up at him sleepily.
“Why,” he asks emotionlessly, but the lack of intonation in his question suggests that he doesn’t want an answer. He’s found Taehyung in weirder places, anyways.
Taehyung’s brains filter back in a little at a time, and he hangs himself off the toilet to check underneath the stall next to him. There’s no one there now, and no remains of the gross, watery spit-up that Taehyung had suffered through listening to all night. Yoongi watches him, and when he finally sits back up, he just shakes his head and walks off in silence. Taehyung lets him – it’s too early for him to explain this kind of thing, anyways. He escapes from his stall after a brief, half-assed scan of the bathroom to make sure it’s empty of certain raven-haired cretins and goes to open the door from whence he came when he notices a pale yellow Post-It stuck on the mirror. He peels it off and squints at the messy scrawl of handwriting.
Thanks for not sending me to the hospital last night. - JK
He scratches his head as he makes his way out of the bathroom, appraising the note. He’s not entirely sure why the kid was so grateful to a stranger for potentially letting him die on a bathroom floor commonly puked on by inebriated undergrads that somehow break in on semi-regular basis. He drowsily hopes that the kid has showered since last night as he trudges back to his room, unwashed toothbrush in one hand and sticky note in the other, and collapses on his bed. There’s light filtering through the window that Yoongi has probably intentionally left open, but it doesn’t stop him from falling asleep again, this time to the sound of dust particles hitting each other instead of Jungkook’s labored breath and quiet curses.
A few hours later, however, he somehow wakes up to something very similar.
It’s a lot louder, the FUCK resonating through his wall. That and a disarming crash is what finally jostles his brain awake. He groans and checks the time on his phone, which he’d conveniently kept in his bed (and maybe snuggled with, but that’s not something he’ll admit to). It’s 11:42, which, Taehyung realizes, is the latest he’s slept in years.
So late, in fact, that he’s missed all but the last three minutes of his 10:30 to 11:45 class.
He rolls out of bed in a panic, all flailing limbs and flapping bedsheets and crumbs of various microwaveable dinners being flung from his comforter. His next class is at 12, and it’s close enough for him to make it if he pees for a minute and thirty seconds, skips brushing his teeth (sorry, to-do list) and sprints. His legs are long enough. He has faith that they can get him there. He scampers to the door and throws it open, running out into the hall on autopilot—
—and immediately (and TOTALLY accidentally!!!) tackling someone who’s laboring to carry a gigantic cardboard box. Toys and folders and knick-knacks all seemingly shaped like ducks conveniently spill out onto the floor, where Taehyung and the stranger are now both lying.
Taehyung leans up onto his elbows at the sound of the person’s groan. His eyes widen when he sees that his victim is no other than Jungkook, who is staring disbelievingly at the spilled contents of the box. He finally meets his eyes after a moment. Taehyung opens his mouth.
“Uh,” he says in his best falsetto. “Sorry.”
Jungkook squints at him. “Are you—” he starts, but Taehyung has already hopped up and made a beeline straight into the bathroom because if he doesn’t go piss in a toilet right now, he’s definitely going to piss there.
“Wait a damn second—” he hears from somewhere behind him as the door to the bathroom finally falls shut. He locks himself in a stall for a second time in the past twenty-four hours and gets up on the toilet again, trying to silence the puff of his breath.
He counts seconds, waiting for Jungkook to fly in Super Saiyan-style and end his life. He gets to one minute. Then another. When he gets to the fifth minute, he finally lets himself pee (while still perched on the toilet, mind you – he isn’t about to get caught red-feeted), and at the eighth minute, he chances opening the door up again and peeking around. Nobody has come barreling into the bathroom in fury yet. In fact, it eerily resembles a ghosttown, the whisper of his bedshirt against the tile floor as he rolls out like a tumbleweed the only sound echoing through the silence. He gets to the door and presses his back against it, gathering himself before he reaches for the handle.
He brings his other hand up in front of himself and conducts his own countdown. On the fourth beat, he swings open the door and swiftly speedwalks through it.
He makes it a couple strides down the hall in the direction of his room. Then: “Yo.”
He doesn’t know why he stops. It’s a total dipshit move – dipshittier than when Yoongi first told Taehyung he sorta thought Seokjin was cute at four in the morning on a Tuesday, knowing that Taehyung would insist on calling the poor kid until he picked up to tell him so. He closes his eyes, one hand frozen in the air, and mentally berates himself for all of two seconds before he turns and waves as if he’d always intended to do so. “Hey, fancy meeting you here! Look at the time, it’s almost twelve, I’m late for class, I’ll see you—”
“Are you stalking me?” an incredibly unimpressed Jungkook interrupts, crossing his arms from where he’s stood outside the bathroom. Taehyung slowly puts his hands behind his head again and hopes he looks nonchalant. He nods in Jungkook’s direction.
“You’re the one who was just waiting for me outside the bathroom,” he notes, but when Jungkook’s eyes narrow in response, he swallows and laughs again. “Um, you need help picking up your—?”
“I already did it,” Jungkook breaks in again. “Since you, y’know, made a break for it.”
“Right. That. Sorry to your ducks.” Taehyung whistles, scuffing at the carpet with his shoe. It’s the color of egg yolks, and it looks like it’s been puked on, too. He hides his trademark Dass Nasty behind a too-wide, too-friendly smile. “Welp, I’m actually late for class, like seriously, El Oh Capital El, so I’ll just—”
“Are you just incapable of admitting when you’re being a fuckcanoe or?”
“Are you going to stop interrupting me or—”
“No.” Jungkook uncrosses his arms and turns to walk down the hallway in the opposite direction. “Have fun in class, neighbor.”
Taehyung watches him until he enters a room all the way down the end of the hall and slams the door shut. He winces at the sound.
“You, uh, too,” he calls after belatedly, a little too quiet to hear.
When he gets back to his room, kicking over a little pile of colored rubber bands that he had stacked beside his bed out of boredom a couple weeks ago, he takes out his phone. It's 12:01.
He sighs in defeat and opens up his To-Do List. The previous day's list decorates his screen proudly with elephants and animu glitter and a girl dancing the flamenco. All of them, according to yesterday's Taehyung, were accounted for. He scrolls down to his last entry. Enforce and maintain library reign.
He holds his fist to his mouth and, with a heavy heart and slightly teary eyes, he finally deletes his last bullet's prize elephant.
(“You know I love you. You know I’m not going to leave you just because I go somewhere else—”
“I know. I know, I just—it's so far away, and you're so close right now, and it's so hard to imagine—”
“Tae. You want to hear a story?”
“I feel like those words never end without me crying.”)
“Hey, Tae. You met the new kid down the hall yet?”
Taehyung gives Yoongi his best death glare from where he’s sprawled out on his bed, chin tucked unflatteringly against his chest and phone balanced along his ribcage. “Don’t you even tell me you made nice with that guy already. Don’t you even.”
“You can’t hate all unknown humans forever, man,” Yoongi continues, swinging his dumb rolly chair around to face Taehyung. He points. “Don’t you make the judgey face at me.”
“It’s not a judgey face,” Taehyung huffs. “It’s an I’m Disappointed In You Because You’re Supposed To Be My Friend face.”
Yoongi stares hard at him, as if he’s been given a riddle to solve. “What, are you jealous? You think he’s hot or something?”
Taehyung makes as indignant a noise as possible and flicks to the next line of pictures on his Instagram feed, liking them all without really looking. “That is the most dually ridiculous and disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
“So you think I’m hot.”
“Just kidding, that one just broke the record.”
“You’re acting like a middle school rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge again, dumbass.” Yoongi throws a towel at him. It lands on his face. He makes no attempt to move it in order to emphasize his displeasure. “You’re a terrible actor, you know.”
“Am not.” Taehyung finally takes the towel off and throws it on the floor. “Your towels smell like sweaty armpits.”
“And the face you’re making right now is so ugly that it makes me think Jeon Jungkook must have killed a man in a past life.” He stands up, stretching his arms over his head. “What’s your problem with that kid, anyways? He was perfectly nice to me.”
“He makes me look like an idiot and steals my library time and almost threw up on my feet once.” He pulls his blankets over his head instead to cover up his scowl. The last thing he needs is Yoongi snapping a photo of it and putting it on social media. “He’s gross.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes and walks over to sit on Taehyung’s lump of a figure underneath the bed covers. “You make yourself look like an idiot.”
“That’s only the first part of what I said!” Taehyung shimmies underneath him in a valiant attempt to knock him over. He’s sadly unsuccessful. “He’s mean to me and you should take my side because you’re my roommate and I’ve known you longer.”
“I am your roommate,” Yoongi confirms thoughtfully, “and I have known you longer. But that also means I also know you better. And knowing you better means I know you somehow did this to yourself. Besides,” and at this, he stretches himself out again, wiggling his ass to find a better fit on Taehyung’s torso, “he’s in practically all my music classes, and having him as an enemy because of you would just be really stupid.”
Taehyung throws his covers back off, eyebrows knitting together in Yoongi’s direction. Yoongi matches his stare blankly. “Whose side are you even on?”
“The side of justice,” Yoongi declares, whacking Taehyung in the face with a Pillow Pet within his reach. Taehyung retaliates by dumping him off the bed, but Yoongi catches himself and snickers as he crosses the room to the door. “I’m going out. Make nice with the Jung of Kook while I’m gone or else I’ll bring Jin back and confess to him right in front of you.”
“You will not,” Taehyung answers, but the thought is enough to make him shudder and reconsider.
It is near nighttime, after the one class he’s managed to make it to on time, that Taehyung finally gets himself together and retrieves a pencil and scrap notebook paper from the floor beside his desk. He hasn’t gone to the library today in fear of running into Jungkook, which also means he hasn’t done anything productive, and it’s driving him insane enough to do The Impossible, Troubling, Terrible, Inexplicable, and Enigmatic (“TITTIE, for short,” he writes in parentheses). He balls up the letter when he’s done messily penning it up and stuffs it into a makeshift envelope that he'd folded out of last week's English homework (he hopes Jungkook can't read English because the amount of effort he put into talking in a foreign language about the United States' Miranda case was just shy of 0%).
He creeps down the hall as noiselessly as possible and covertly slips the letter under Jungkook’s door. His quest back to his room is not nearly as silent, feet already pounding at the carpeted floor by the time he forces himself to knock on the door. He makes it back to his room before Jungkook answers, gasping for air and feeling somewhat like a survivor of Final Destination.
Okay, I've done my part, he concludes. Now Yoongi can bitch at someone his own size.
He falls asleep that night (without brushing his teeth) at 12 in the morning, a far cry from his usual 4 – all while recounting what he’d written over and over again in his head.
Jengkook (Jamkook? Jonkook? I think I have the ‘kook’ part right, right???),
Hi! Hello there! Bonjour, mi casa! My name is Douchebag From The Library, also known as Douchebag From The Bathroom and Douchebag From The Hall, but I guess you can call me Taehyung if you want because, you know, Douchebag is kind of a dirty word in some places and we don’t want you to end up forever unemployed or something for saying it in front of the elderly and/or the depressingly youthful. (run on sentences woooooooo who needs college literature skills among FRIENDS, RIGHT)
Anyways, I was informed by my roommate Yoongi (bitch face, smelly socks, you know the one) that I should, and I quote, ‘Make nice with the Jung of Kook,’ end quote, so this is me, making nice and stuff. I was – at least 16% wrong in my actions the past couple days. Also I miss my library. Please forgive me so I can return to its waiting arms. It beckons from Sixth Street beyond the void.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Taehyung
P.S. I was not blackmailed into this. I swear on my right arm and my ponies.
(“Once upon a time, there was a Douchebag.”
“Welp, I already know where this one’s going.”
“Do you want to hear the story or not?”
“I’m asking myself that question, too.”)
Weeks go by without a response from Jungkook. It appears that he is one of those social recluses who is either a) studying at home or b) studying at not-home. Taehyung isn’t even sure if he bathes or sanitizes himself in any way – especially as he himself has taken to using the boys’ shower downstairs instead to avoid that particular minefield. He isn’t exactly sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this strange silence. He expected gloating, at the very least, considering Taehyung had actually admitted wrongdoing, and, at the most, he expected Jungkook to just come knocking on his door and dancing into his room with the letter held high like a pirate’s flag. Jungkook doesn’t strike him as the kind to let things like that go without rubbing it in his face at least a teeny tiny bit.
Which probably means he hasn’t let it go – something Taehyung probably wouldn’t care too much about if the kid didn’t live down hall and take a billion and one classes with Yoongi, who is now on his case all the time to be friends with him because, surprise surprise, he actually likes him. He constantly raves about how good he is at literally everything now. If Taehyung didn’t know any better, he would have thought that Yoongi had somehow grown a monster boner for Jungkook. He wonders if his sights have finally lowered from the enigma that is Kim Seokjin to a more appropriate target – an ass for an ass, as the 1900s say.
“He’s, like, two years younger than you, you know,” Yoongi’s saying one afternoon from his desk. Taehyung mocks him with his hand, but he’s too focused on whatever he’s typing up on his laptop to turn around and react to Taehyung’s antics. “Like, five younger than me. He started school a year late and still managed to skip twelve and a half grades. And he’s in all advanced music classes. I’m like a grandpa compared to that kid, and he’s practically my level as far as performing. His composing could use some work, but man, when that kid sings, I swear the entire class goes absolutely silent, and his dancing…”
This spiel goes on for several more minutes. Taehyung almost puts on his headphones several times but, for some reason, doesn’t. He just sits there, sulking, until Yoongi finally pitters off and shuts his laptop, picking it up and standing. Taehyung follows him with his eyes, but refuses to move any other part of his body. “Where are you going?”
“Date with Jungkook,” Yoongi says nonchalantly, and Taehyung almost chokes.
“Date?” he repeats incredulously. “You haven’t been on a date in, like, three years. I thought you were saving yourself for Seokjin’s massive shoulders and equally massive—”
“Stop right fucking there,” Yoongi breathes, already clenching Taehyung’s future death in his empty fist. Taehyung holds his hands up defensively, and Yoongi rubs his cheek with one hand. “It’s not a real date. We’re doing homework. Separately. But in each other’s presence.”
“It’s a relief that’s not a date,” Taehyung drawls, “because that would bore him out of his mind.” Yoongi glares daggers, but Taehyung avoids them by sitting up and folding his hands in his lap. “While you’re out with your totally not Seokjin-replacing boyfriend, can you do me a favor and relay some words?”
“Are you finally trying to get in with the Kook?” Yoongi crosses his arms over his laptop and leans against the wall. “I’m listening.”
“Okay, first off, never call him the Kook where he or I can hear it. Ever.” Taehyung stretches and takes on his customary Anime Boy pose, trying to keep the hope out of his eyes. “Tell him – exact words, now – that I am sincerely, truly, absolutely 116% sorry. Exactly 100% more sorry than before. Exactly like that.”
Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “About what?”
Taehyung takes in a deep, dramatic breath. “Me and Jungkook… We have a history. A history of three meetings, and a whole lot of heartbreak.”
“Right. Okay. I’ll relay your psycho words to him and hope he doesn’t throw me out for being associated with your weird.” He slings a jacket on and pauses. “Taehyung.”
“Mhm?” Taehyung has resumed Couch Pillow position, flipping through one of the three dating apps on his phone and swiping right at every other profile.
“Dude. Get off Tinder for two seconds and listen to me.”
“Mmm.” Taehyung swipes right again.
Yoongi kicks a slipper from beside the door at Taehyung’s head. He misses by a couple inches, managing to hit the phone out of his hands instead, which, by his standards, is still a success. Bewildered, Taehyung looks up. “Bro. That was my life you maybe just damaged.”
“Shut up and listen.” Taehyung finally sits back up and crosses his legs obediently. Yoongi leans against the wall again and looks up at the ceiling, trying to find the proper words. “Jungkook is… He’s kind of hard to get a read on. And I think he might be a little hard to win over, and I don’t think you’ve exactly been charming up until now, so…”
Taehyung’s eyes narrow progressively with every word until they’ve become two little swipes of retina on his face. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” Yoongi sighs, “I’ll still give him your apology, but don’t expect much out of it unless you’re prepared to try really, really hard to make him like you.”
Taehyung snorts and rolls over onto his stomach, turning his attention back to his phone. “I don’t care that much. I’m just doing this because you told me to.”
Yoongi kicks the second slipper at him, nailing him right in the back of the head. Taehyung whines. “In that case, forget it. Apologize when you actually mean it.”
“No, oh my God, Yoongi, please.” Taehyung scrambles out of the bed and wraps himself around Yoongi’s legs like a koala, looking up at him with the best puppy eyes he bring his pride to make. “Okay, I admit it, it’s driving me insane that he hasn’t already responded to my written apology. That thing was gold and funny and charming and I just feel bad for him because he’s missing out on awesome friendship material right here, you know?”
Yoongi shakes his leg out, but Taehyung holds fast. “Try again, idiot.”
Taehyung rests his chin on Yoongi’s knee. “It’s…awkward walking around the hall and being scared of seeing him hate me in person?”
“A little harder.”
Taehyung pouts, but Yoongi doesn’t budge. “I…was an ass.”
“That’s the one.” Yoongi shakes his leg again, and Taehyung obliges this time, letting go and rolling himself onto the floor. “I’ll do you a bigger favor and ignore all the other shitty stuff you said. But, seriously. Try, okay? He’s really worth getting to know. He reminds me of you a lot.”
Taehyung wrinkles his nose. “And you actually still want to hang out with him?”
“He’s still not actually you, dumbass.” He finally opens the door. “I’m leaving.”
Taehyung frowns at the floor this time as Yoongi shuts the door behind him without waiting for an answer. “Bye,” he says anyways, the empty room echoing it back at him.
(“This douchebag had a castle.”
“Whoa, whoa, hold up. Don’t douchebags usually have motorcycles and/or locker rooms?”
“This one wasn’t just any douchebag. He was the king of douchebags.”
“Somewhere, somehow, King Arthur is crying.”)
Yoongi spends more and more time with Jungkook and less and less time in his room, where Taehyung has taken to lingering and shucking out his homework. He’s set up his own work desk amongst a giant pile of socks and a One Piece poster that spans almost the entire wall with Luffy’s grinning face front and center and very much in his business. It doesn’t nearly do justice to his library; the lighting is off, the socks smell like old butter, and having scarred anime eyes watch your every move is surprisingly unmotivating. He really misses being out on cold mornings, and cradling his textbooks in between his legs under the dim light of his student-bought lamp, and leafing through the book-shaped possibilities of knowledge when he needed a break from whatever kind he'd currently been trying to swallow.
Taehyung was once a man of Never Half-Ass Anything Island (yes, the same island that NASA is currently hiding in, you heard right). Now, he doesn’t even half-ass anymore. He’s gone down to quarter-assing, and his grades are reflecting every last bit of his lack of drive.
He misses his dojo. Dorm rooms are so not a dojo.
Despite the fact the he has suddenly become Jungkook’s Left Hand Door Mat, Yoongi has still been remarkably unuseful in mediating between Taehyung and Jungkook. Each time he comes back (later than an apathetic teenager with no feet running to school at 8 in the morning, mind you), Taehyung stops everything he’s doing, looks at him expectantly, and asks, “Did you talk about me?”
The first time, Yoongi shrugs and says, “I tried, dude, but he’s not taking the bait.” The second time, he says, “Same as before.” By the third time, he starts complaining about how weird it would be if he brought up Taehyung every time he saw the kid, and by around the eighth, he tells him to drop it altogether. "Maybe it's just not meant to be, Taehyung. Maybe you fucked up too bad for once."
Whether it’s the pride, the loneliness, the desperate need for quiet bookshelves and unlit hallways, or the actual speck of guilt growing bacteria in Taehyung’s previously unfound conscience, Taehyung finds it hard to just drop it.
In fact, he finds it hard to stop thinking about it at all. The columns of his in-class notes have stopped getting unconsciously filled with little scribbles of words like bored and kill me and byun seonsaeng has a nice ass in favor of the word jungkook being written over and over again in giant blocks. Half the time, he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it until it’s too late. He’s had to throw away enough study material to get him at least a B on all his midterms, and although in high school he’d gotten through entire classes without so much as having to crack open a textbook (or his eyes during lecture), he’s found it increasingly inconvenient to have to go through official webpages to find all the classes’ PowerPoint presentations. His first exams are coming up, and fast. Taehyung doesn’t ever procrastinate, but without the quiet of dusty books at 3a.m. to keep him company, he finds himself pushing off studying more and more.
A week before his first exam, Taehyung finally sucks it up, pulls on a hoodie with a Spiderman face zip-up for quick disguise if needed, and goes back to the library.
It’s busier now that the semester has kicked into gear, to Taehyung’s dismay. He manages to score a desk right as the previous occupant is packing up to leave, practically ripping the chair out from underneath the guy and giving him an award-winning smile when he jumps. He gets to work right away, cracking open one of the four textbooks he’d stuffed in his too-small bookbag and taking notes in a little pink notepad he’d found covered in ketchup on the floor of the cafeteria a couple weeks back. (Free is free, man. Besides, he likes the smell of old French fries.)
He tries not to be nervous. He really does. But every time someone passes him, he feels himself peek up from under his fringe to gauge whether or not that person happens to be the black-headed, grumpy-faced kid that had slowly and unknowingly been chipping away at Taehyung’s fragile sanity. He doesn’t seem to be in Taehyung’s direct vicinity, anyways, which should be a plus, but for whatever reason, he still finds himself tense and stressed, hunched over his homework as if expecting to be pounced on at any time.
At 3:12a.m., after checking his phone for the twenty-second time, Taehyung finally can’t take it anymore. He rises for a stretch break, peering around the corner at whatever students haven’t filtered out by now. He isn’t exactly alone, like usual, but it’s not quite so crowded as before, and the light outside the windows has faded from the dusk, bathing the world in deep blue shadows. He thinks of how Jungkook had blended into them the first time they’d met, and he shudders at the thought of the kid creeping around in the night like some kind of werewolf-vampire-faerie stalker, out for Taehyung’s blood and already-shodden perfect attendance record. The thought worms itself into his head and pulls at the tendons in his shoulders until he’s fully channeling The Hunchback of Notre Dame, crossed eyes and all.
That’s it. Either this stops or Yoongi’s favorite doll gets it.
He circles the library slowly, looking into the face of every patron with great concentration. Some of them feel his eyes and glance up in confusion, to which he smiles brightly and bows before shuffling past them as quickly as possible. He gets a couple scares – two dudes with big noses and one girl who has a remarkably similar haircut – but there’s no Jungkook anywhere that he sees. He feels his nerves settling with every row of shelves he makes his way through.
He deems it safe after he's searched pretty much all of the half of the library he's in. It’s even later than before now, wasted minutes clucking at him like disappointed mothers, but he can still make time to study – heck, who even needs sleep, anyways? With all his tests right around the corner, sleep would only wipe out all his hours to do more productive things, like studying, and studying, and, oh, studying –
A foot darts out suddenly from under a desk. Taehyung doesn’t see it due to his chronic selective blindness, and he tumbles to the floor, landing solidly on his chest with a puff of breath. He sits there for ten seconds, staring into the carpet as if trying to read its mind, before rolling over to look up at his assailant, who is snickering behind his hand.
“Yoongi, you bitch,” he says too quickly upon recognizing the gummy smile before registering the extra fluff of red hair at Yoongi’s table that is currently facing resolutely away from him. He squints at the unfamiliar hairdo and counts the two people in his head that Yoongi associates with besides him. “Seokjin? Is that you? What the fuck did you do to your hair?”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “No, you idiot,” he says in a muted whisper. He turns to the mystery person, who, Taehyung realizes with a sinking feeling, is probably not so much of a mystery after all, and gestures towards Taehyung’s fallen figure on the floor. “You probably haven’t seen him around here in a while, huh?”
“No, can’t say I have,” comes a rumbling voice that has Taehyung’s eyes shutting in exasperation. He pushes himself up onto his elbows to eye Jungkook as he turns around, eyes a little too hard and mouth a little too straight when he reveals it from behind a heavy red-striped scarf. His nose twitches, and he scratches at it lazily with his pinky as he waves a gloved hand. “Hey.”
“Fancy meeting you here. Did you just survive an avalanche or did your mom dress you before you came?”
Jungkook smiles wryly in response. “You’re just setting me up for a ‘your mom’ joke, aren’t you.”
“Maybe.” He turns back to Yoongi, who has his mouth open, probably to point out everything that is wrong with what he just said. He cuts him off. “This is where you’ve been going all this time? To my library? You hate the library.”
“I hate it less when you’re not in it,” Yoongi jokes, but when Taehyung doesn’t so much as snort, he holds his hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay, I admit, it’s not my favorite place, but Jungkook says he studies here really well, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s not so bad. Too quiet for a music major, but not so bad.”
Taehyung huffs and finally pulls himself into a sitting position, grabbing the bottoms of his Converse and rocking himself onto the tip of his ass. “Okay. Cool. Sure, whatever. Not like I’ve been trying to get you into a library since my freshman year of college or anything. No, I'm not bitter.”
“I had band then, you dick. You can’t just study sheet music.” He turns back to Jungkook again, and Taehyung is disgusted to see that he has pleady eyes on. Min Yoongi. Begging. Taehyung never thought he’d see the day where his bossy, no-nonsense, Nicki-Minaj-Is-The-Only-One-Who-Can-Tell-Me-To-Shave-My-Balls roommate would get had – by a kid even younger than Taehyung, no less. “Can Taehyung study over here? He’ll be quiet,” meaningful look towards where Taehyung is making bunnies out of carpet lint, “so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“It won’t be a problem,” Taehyung pipes up before Jungkook can answer, “because I don’t want to study here anyways.”
“Taehyung, if you don’t shut up and get your ass over here, so help me, I will cut holes in the nipples of all of your shirts and I promise you you won’t rock them like Regina George.”
“But I really don’t want—”
Yoongi kicks his Adidas flip flop off at Taehyung, who yelps and ducks for cover, before smiling sweetly at Jungkook. “One moment please.” He gets up and grabs Taehyung by the collar, dragging him to a secluded corner of the library and shoving him against the wall. Taehyung pretends to faint, tongue lolling out of his mouth, and Yoongi pinches it hard between his thumb and his forefinger.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Taehyung whines open-mouthed, “let go, let go—”
Yoongi releases him, and Taehyung massages his tongue with an overdramatic pout towards the tip of his own nose. “Tae, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Nursing a battle wound,” he replies, brows furrowing as his eyes cross trying to get a good look at the tip of his tongue. “If tongues had blood vessels, I think you’d have just popped about fifty.”
“That’s not what I mean, asshole. I mean, what the hell do you think you’re doing with Jungkook?”
“I’m not doing anything with Jungkook.”
“That’s exactly it. Why aren’t you?”
“I can’t study with that guy around,” Taehyung mutters. “It’s hard enough studying when I’m worried he’s gonna pop up at any time and ask me how my ponies are doing.”
“Assuming I actually understood what the fuck that meant,” Yoongi rubs at the bridge of his nose and sighs, the sound hard and melancholy, “why would you pass up a free chance to finally win him over? You’ve been badgering me about him for weeks now, but the second a beautiful, shining opportunity to finally apologize and show him the side of you that isn’t a complete asswipe flies through the window and chirps Beethoven’s Fur Elise on your shoulder, you pass it up because you ‘don’t want to?’”
Taehyung quiets. “You were supposed to do that for me,” he admits forlornly.
Yoongi shakes his head. “Sometimes even I’m impressed with how much of a dipshit you can be.” He smacks his cheek lightly and nods toward the table where Jungkook is still diligently working. “Pack your shit up right fucking now and get over there before I topple a bookshelf onto your head and riverdance on it.”
Taehyung does as he’s told begrudgingly, muttering things like you’re not an Irish elf under his breath as he follows Yoongi back to the shared desk, dragging an extra chair behind him. When they arrive, Jungkook finally diverts his attention from his studies, lips quirking up just the tiniest bit when his eyes fall on Taehyung. Taehyung waves, smile large and sarcastic, before turning the chair around backwards and plopping into it, legs spread wide apart and chin resting on the back.
“Glad you could join us,” Jungkook murmurs as he goes back to writing notes in the margin of the same Advanced Music Theory textbook he’d been reading the last time Taehyung had seen him there. “Today isn’t another saint’s celebration day or anything, right?”
Taehyung turns to Yoongi and gestures wildly towards Jungkook. “You see? You see what I mean about him making me look dumb?”
Yoongi returns the look blankly. “I don’t get it.”
“Don’t worry about it, Suga,” Jungkook snickers into his book. Taehyung’s jaw drops down further with an audible pop that sounds vaguely like a soda can opening. “Just an inside joke between me and the library’s favorite manager, right, Taehyung?”
Taehyung opts to ignore Jungkook’s obvious and slightly off-color jab in favor of hissing “Suga?” at top whisper-volume. Yoongi hushes him, glancing around to see if anyone is watching them yet.
“It’s my composing name, okay,” Yoongi snaps under his breath. “Just let it go and go back to studying how to free delinquents or torch your fingerprints off or whatever it is you freaky justice majors do.”
“Even Wolfgang Mozart isn’t as terrible a name as Suga,” Taehyung grumbles, fishing through his backpack for the book he’d been quarter-ass attempting to memorize before he’d run himself into this unfortunate situation. “At least he’s named after vicious packs of bloodthirsty creatures instead of a cookie.” Nobody answers him, so he takes that to mean end of conversation, shut up and deal for the next hour, and although he doesn’t want to be there currently, his old passion for being the last one out of the library has similarly reawakened. Even as his eyes start drooping and he starts becoming less aware of his mouth being open long enough to drool, he keeps reading, pressing the thought of Yoongi scratching behind his ear and Jungkook swinging his legs out of his mind. This is the dojo he had been searching for. This is exactly what he needed. This is Sparta.
He doesn’t look up when he hears Yoongi rousing himself after a short bout of napping, yawning obnoxiously loud and stretching his arms way too close to Taehyung’s head. He doesn’t register when he leaves shortly afterwards, either, throwing a curious glance over his shoulder at a motionless Taehyung. He doesn’t even really look up when the first lights of daytime start pushing themselves out from behind nighttime clouds breezing by on unseen drafts. He doesn’t so much as blink when Jungkook leaves to take a leak with his earbuds still on and comes back moonwalking and mouthing the lyrics to Partition in a fit of early-morning, no-sleep induced madness. It takes him nearly falling asleep and promptly flailing out of it to realize that it’s nearing on 7:30 in the morning and he’s still there – along with a now lightly snoring Jungkook, who, somewhere between Yoongi leaving and now, has passed out facedown on his book again. Taehyung shakes his head and blinks sleepily, reaching out to push at Jungkook’s shoulder.
“Hey,” he rasps, looking around to find that they are, once again, the only ones there. “Hey. Jungkook. Pal.”
Jungkook groans loudly in protest and pushes his hand back. “I don’t care about your ponies,” he snaps, crossing his arms on his book and cushioning his cheek with one hand like a pillow. “Let me sleep.”
“We need to leave,” Taehyung insists, fighting back a yawn. “I want to go to bed.”
“No you don’t,” Jungkook accuses in his best sleep-drunk voice. “You just want to trick me again and trip me in the hallway.”
“No,” Taehyung sighs. “No, dude. We can leave together this time. Come on, you’re sleeping anyways, just get up and walk for a few minutes and it can actually be in your bed for once.”
Jungkook doesn’t open his eyes, but he does murmur, “Together?”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever you want, princess.”
It takes a few minutes of what seems like mental convincing, but Jungkook does eventually get up, mechanically putting his stuff back into his backpack with his eyes still closed. Taehyung follows suit, hitching his backpack up onto his shoulders, and grabs Jungkook by the wrist when he almost runs into a bookshelf.
“This way,” he corrects quietly, yawning again as he shuffles forward towards the exit. Jungkook follows blindly, sleep deprivation turning into strange and unfounded trust, as Taehyung pulls them out into the biting cold of the early morning. The wind is enough to wake them both up all at once, and Jungkook wrenches his arm away suddenly to pull his scarf up around his mouth with both hands. Taehyung shoves his hands in the pockets of his Spiderman hoodie. It's the thinnest jacket he owns, but he’s always been at least a little accustomed to the cold from how many times he’d accidentally locked himself out of his dorm in freshman year of his undergrad.
Jungkook seems to disagree, however, as he sidles up close enough to nearly press his sweater-clothed arm against Taehyung. Taehyung makes a noise like a badger and attempts to skitter away, but Jungkook follows him and growls, “Hold still, you dickmonger, I’m trying to keep you warm. It's not like I want to touch you, either.”
“Who even says dickmonger,” Taehyung breathes, but he obeys begrudgingly, and Jungkook eventually relinquishes his scarf as well to balance it gingerly over Taehyung’s windblown hair. The gloves come next, although he gives them not to Taehyung’s hands, but to Taehyung’s ears that are flushed from the wind and sticking out of the sides of his head. Taehyung almost stops him, but Jungkook is giggling like a choking hyena, and having him not glare at him for once is…almost nice, he decides. He does spare him a glance and say, in as unimpressed a voice as he can manage, “Are you done giving me a makeover?”
“Almost,” he responds, fishing through his backpack until he pulls out a pair of dusty glasses with a flourish. They’re nearly as big as Taehyung’s face when he plops them onto his nose, and Taehyung promptly sneezes, which, if nothing else, makes Jungkook give him the two meters of space he’d wanted before. “Ew, gross, that almost got on me.”
“Suits you,” Taehyung announces, pushing the glasses back up by the bridge. “I don’t think these glasses will make my nose any warmer, though.”
“You just aren’t giving them a chance.”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t leave them on.” He throws his arms out by his sides and twirls around, almost dislodging one of the gloves sticking out from his face in the process. “How do they look?”
“You actually look like a manager now,” Jungkook beams, pushing Taehyung’s face away with the palm of his hand when he retaliates by sticking out his tongue. “If you’d come to me in that get-up the first time, maybe I’d have believed you.”
“You should lend them to me so I can scare out other unsuspecting library goers,” Taehyung jokes back, pulling the glasses off and folding them neatly. “Although you’re a little too blind for me to be taking your prescription.”
“They’re bifocals, too. I’m a total grandpa.” He shoves them back in his backpack, neglecting yet again to zip it back up, but he makes no move to take back any of the other gifts that decorate Taehyung’s head. “Hey, Taehyung. Why’d you try to kick me out the first time, anyways?”
“And so the questions finally come.” Taehyung holds his hand to his heart. “And to think, I believed we’d literally just now gotten over those bygones with spontaneous winter dress-up parties.”
“It's not like I'm mad,” Jungkook throws back. “I was never mad about that part, anyways. Just confused. Maybe mildly irritated. You were interrupting me in the middle of really important study time, y’know.”
“Tell me what you were studying for a week into the semester and I’ll tell you why I headbutted my way into your life from there.”
“Why should I explain myself? You were there, too.”
Taehyung wiggles his finger with a grin. “Nuh, uh, uh. No questions. These are my terms.”
Jungkook purses his lips. “Well. Okay, this school—it’s not exactly a music school, right?”
“Riiiiight…” Taehyung says slowly, dropping his voice another octave to Radio Announcer Decibel 1.
Jungkook snickers but continues nonetheless. “I got into this school pretty easily, honestly. My music credentials are good, I graduated uni, like, two years earlier than I should have at my age, and I had some real solid recommendations, if I do say so myself.”
“If I knew any better, I’d say you’re about to trashtalk my school.”
“No, no, it’s not that,” Jungkook says quickly, waving his hands around apologetically. Taehyung doesn’t break character, frowning deeply in Jungkook’s general direction, and Jungkook desperately tries to backtrack. “It’s just… This school isn’t the one, you know? I graduated from a really good music school, but I was so scared to take the next step, like I was going to get denied from that one school that I really wanted to go to, that I just…” He shrugs. “I went for this instead. But I came here with the intention of, you know. Studying for that music school’s entrance exam, too. That’s what I was doing. And that,” he pokes Taehyung’s chest meaningfully, although his voice holds no poison, “that is what you interfered with, you creature.”
Taehyung huffs indignantly. “I’ve let you study in my library every day since. I even spared you from my actual presence, too.”
“Something tells me that wasn’t exactly your own choice,” Jungkook muses, and even though Taehyung would easily admit that to himself and somewhat difficultly admit it to Yoongi, he finds it hard to open his mouth and affirm it to Jungkook, who, God forbid, almost looks sad about it. He coughs awkwardly instead and elbows him.
“Well don’t cry about it,” he says. “I can start coming back any time I want to. I am the king, after all.”
Jungkook snorts. “King?”
“And queen, and prince, and princess. Manager is just my official title.” He grins and kicks at Jungkook’s feet, Air Jordans still mocking his shabby blue Chucks, and Jungkook doesn’t trip like Taehyung did, but he does laugh instead of yell and push instead of punch, and Taehyung wonders why the hell they hadn’t done this a million years sooner.
When they get back to the dorm this time, they go up to the same floor together. Jungkook removes himself from Taehyung’s side eventually when they get inside, the warmth of the heaters bringing circulation back into their pale cheeks, but it isn’t immediate. It’s almost like a second thought, like he had forgotten he was too close to Taehyung in the first place, and Taehyung, despite the fact that he’s already started to sweat again, doesn’t really notice or mind the extra body heat until it’s gone.
“So,” he says to break the silence on the elevator ride up. The RA on duty had stared at them as if sympathizing when they walked in at nearly 8 in the morning, and Taehyung had waved in grim acknowledgment before the elevator doors shut. “Some night, huh?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook agrees. “Some night.” He slants his eyes towards Taehyung almost apprehensively. “You…you didn’t tell me why you kicked me out, though.”
Taehyung reaches out and ruffles his hair on instinct. Jungkook’s scowl is swift, and his hand is even swifter, batting at Taehyung’s fingers as if he’s annoyingly used to that happening. Taehyung laughs, soft and low, and says, “Next time,” and the sound of his voice is somehow enough to wipe the line of Jungkook’s brows clean.
They both split at Taehyung’s room, both with timid see you laters, as if unsure of how the other will react. Taehyung falls asleep without brushing his teeth, washing his face, or taking off his two-ton backpack. Sorry, to-do list.
Down the hall, unbeknownst to either of them, Jungkook does the exact same.
(“Now, this douchebag – his castle was his precious. He had, like, another smaller castle that was probably a better place for sleeping and shit because that castle actually had his family and all his One Piece knick knacks in it—”
“Oh my God, they’re not knick knacks, they’re collectibles—”
“—but he, for whatever reason, didn’t like that castle, whatever, castles don’t have feelings anyways, and he didn’t like when people would visit his big castle. But then, a knight—”
“—knight came to the castle one day. That was the day the king started to change his mind.”)
Taehyung is late for his morning class for the second time in his entire life.
This time, he blames it on the fact that he only really had, like, an hour and a half to sleep before he was supposed to get up and start getting ready, and probably the fact that his iPhone alarm is so quiet that it filters into his dreams as background music, albeit the really annoying kind that plays in elevators and hospital waiting rooms. He does actually make it this time, though, slinking into the back of the classroom with a rumpled t-shirt and bloodshot eyes. Although his mind is about as intellectually functional as mashed potatoes, he takes better notes than he has in weeks, completely free of condemning names coloring the sides of them pencil gray. He hasn’t felt so happy about getting good study material in quite some time. He decides it probably stems from the fact that his blotted conscience is now clear and ready to disappear into the abyss of his subconscious mind once again – something that he is all too prepared for, considering that it is now the time to get cutthroat with exam prep.
He eats lunch alone after his 12 o’clock class and before his 4 o’clock class, as per usual – Yoongi’s schedule is night and day from Taehyung’s, and he’s really neglected to branch out and make new friends this year, considering his recent mental state – but he likes it, anyways, nibbling at a bowl of ddeokbokki on the stone benches deep in his school’s arboretum, surrounded by flowers and shedded pollen. He lays down parallel to the ground, closing his eyes for a moment to feel the sun prick his vision until it bleeds red. He has an alarm set so that he doesn't forget himself and miss his class, and it's this knowledge that makes him think that maybe it's okay if he sleeps, just for fifteen minutes or so —
Two hours pass without him realizing, and it isn’t his alarm that wakes him up (that’s been beeping for a good ten minutes now), but a head of fire bent over him and peering curiously into his face.
“What are you doing,” Jungkook laughs, kicking at the legs of the bench with his stupid high-class Michael Kors sneakers. Taehyung blinks the blur of confusion out of his eyes. “Do you sleep here normally?”
“No,” Taehyung slurs, searching around the bench for his phone. “I just – I eat here but – tired, so – sleep.” He sees his phone flashing with the alarm on the ground, screen covered in misplaced dirt and grass. He picks it up and swipes a dirty finger across it to shut it up, groaning loudly as reality knocks the sleep out of his too-heavy body. He unlocks his phone to check his messages and happens to catch the time.
“Surprisingly literate for someone who slept at—” Jungkook is interrupted by Taehyung shooting up into a sitting position, feet scrambling for purchase on the cracked sidewalk. “Wait, where are you—”
“Shit, I’m going to be late,” he whines, throwing one strap of his backpack over his shoulder in front of an extremely bewildered Jungkook. His shoes are untied, he notes with distress, but he doesn't bend down to fix them, choosing instead to take a step forward. He stops at the tilt of Jungkook’s head, indecision coursing through him, before he finally blurts, “I have class at four and it’s 3:55 and it’s, like, ten minutes away by sprint and I’m going to be late.”
“Are you not used to being late?” Jungkook asks, sly glint in his eye as he takes Taehyung’s place on the bench and crosses his legs. “You’re one of those tryhard students, aren’t you?”
“Have been all my life,” Taehyung says, already taking another step away. “I’ll see you, okay?”
“If you ever want to skip,” Jungkook calls after him, making Taehyung freeze in his tracks, “I’m here every day, around this time. You can find me.”
Taehyung pauses for a beat too long, not quite turning around to look back. “Does—does this mean we’re friends now?”
Jungkook pauses a beat longer than that. Taehyung doesn’t feel his eyes. “It means, the day you finally do it, we will be.”
It’s 3:58 by the time he leaves, and he gets to class at 4:14, somehow getting lost along the way.
“Okay. Spill. Right now, if you know what’s good for you.”
“Mmph?” Taehyung manages around a mouthful of instant spaghetti.
Yoongi swivels around in his chair and curls his lips as Taehyung wipes stray tomato sauce from the corner of his mouth and inspects where it’s coagulated underneath his fingernails. “Jungkook is messaging me about meeting up to do homework in the library tonight.”
Taehyung cocks his head and chews a little slower. “Mm…mmm?”
Yoongi crosses his arms. “He told me to invite you.”
“Mmmmmmm!” Taehyung swallows and licks his lips, nodding enthusiastically. “Yeah, I’m coming.”
“That’s not the point, you—okay, let me spell this out for you, then.” Yoongi stands up and pads over to Taehyung’s bed, where he’s still scraping leftover noodles off his plate and directly into his mouth. He pauses, staring up at Yoongi suspiciously. Yoongi responds by calmly removing the plate from his grasp and bending down to peer straight into his face. “What happened after I left the library?”
“What do you mean, what happened,” Taehyung mumbles, reaching for his plate again. Yoongi holds it just out of reach. “We were just too tired to fight by the time we left. That’s all.”
“You sure you didn’t make out behind a tree on the way back or something?” Taehyung squints at him and bites at the cleft of his forearm as he reaches farther. Yoongi skitters away, kicking at his outreached arms and holding the plate above his head like an offering. “What? It’s a legitimate question. He keeps getting really hot and bothered when I mention you, and not in the old, Taehyung-is-a-dumb-fuck way like before.”
“Really?” Taehyung asks, and it’s too eager even to his own ears. Yoongi raises an eyebrow. He coughs. “I mean, I’m just surprised he got over whatever was going on between us that easily or whatever. You made him sound like he was the Great Wall of Unforgiveness.”
“That’s because I thought he was. He told me that an eight-year-old kid accidentally suffocated his goldfish last year by taking it out of its bowl so he could take a nap snuggling with it. He still hates that kid.”
Taehyung whistles. “Wow. Well, I mean, that’s goldfish lives versus dirtying his duck figurine collection, but still. Wow.”
“It’s still crazy. And he doesn’t even mildly dislike you. It seems like he almost…admires you. It’s so gross. How did you get someone like Jeon Jungkook to dig you?”
“He doesn’t dig me,” Taehyung insists. “We’re just. Sort of acquaintances. Maybe he’s impressed by how I’m somehow lazy and diligent at the same time.” He sits up, licking his finger and rubbing it carefully on a little spot of grease that’s splashed onto the hem of his shirt. “He’s probably doing it for you, honestly.”
Yoongi shrugs, tossing the empty plate on top of Taehyung’s sock pile, far out of reach. “Something deep, deep inside my chronically accurate psyche says that’s not the case, but I’ll let you think whatever won’t make you jizz in your gym shorts when you sleep tonight.” He ties a scarf around his throat and pulls a cap over his ears, saluting Taehyung with two fingers. “I’m out.”
“Wait, wait,” Taehyung says, looking down at his white spaghetti-stained t-shirt and said currently unjizzed gym shorts. “Are you leaving to meet him right now? Can you wait, like, two seconds for me to change?”
“I told him you’d meet him alone tonight and gave him your phone number, since I’m the best wingman ever,” Yoongi says flatly. “You should be getting a message from him in a few. I have other plans.”
Taehyung gapes at him. “You don’t mean—?”
“Oh, I do mean.” Yoongi grabs a little velvet box from his drawer and holds it up for Taehyung to see from across the room. “Bought it this morning. Tonight’s the night.”
“The fuck, Yoongi, I’m supposed to be there for this!”
“Like hell I’m letting you anywhere near me when I tell Seokjin I dream about worshipping his ass in skinnies and maybe buying him chocolate on White Day. No thanks.” He flips open the lock on the door and waves Taehyung off when he tries to give him the pleady eyes. It never really works for him. “Go wash your pits and change into something that doesn’t make you look like a toddler just exploded on you. You smell like body odor and baby food.”
Taehyung sniffs himself and makes a face. “You’re actually right. I don’t even know how that happened.”
“Happens to the best of us.” He opens up the door, and Taehyung hisses only slightly as the fluorescent lights of the hallway wash over him. “Delete Jin’s number from your phone before I leave. If he gets a message from your number asking if he’s sucked my dick yet, I will mentally, physically, and multi-dimensionally destroy you.”
“Fine. No cockblocks from me tonight.”
Yoongi nods affirmatively and makes to leave again, but Taehyung coughs in that There’s-Something-I-Need-To-Say-And-I-Need-An-Excuse-To-Say-It way that he does when he wants to make a comment Yoongi definitely doesn't want to hear. Yoongi takes the bait and humors him anyways. “What is it.”
“I just may have thought that your boner compass had started pointing in Jungkook’s direction. I’m a little surprised.”
Yoongi laughs dryly on his way out. “That, my friend, would be your magnetic pole, not mine.”
(“The knight wanted to use the castle because he had nowhere else to go. He’d wanted to go into another castle and ask for acceptance, but he wasn’t ready yet. So he thought, hey, this castle is pretty decent, I guess. There’s not too many socks on the floor.”
“Those socks are royally knitted and used as décor and incense, thank you very much.”
“So the knight asked, very politely, if he could enter the king’s castle and practice to be a better knight. But, as we all know, the king was a total dick-in-the-box—”
“Okay, we should all cut the king some slack, he is a changed man.”
“He’s still a dick-in-the-box.”)
True to Yoongi’s word, Taehyung gets a text while he’s in the shower from an unknown number. It says, your castle awaits you. Taehyung reads it while he’s towel-drying his hair in the downstairs bathroom and sniffing himself again to make sure he smells like Suave Everlasting Sunshine body wash and not baby spit-up.
After wrapping his plain white dorm-issued towel around his waist and adding Jungkook's number to his contact list, he looks up into the mirror to appraise himself and realizes he’s unconsciously smiling.
He coughs until he chokes.
He rationalizes it to himself as if he’s talking to Yoongi as he walks slowly up the stairs leading to his floor. It was a funny text. No, really, it was funny, like, it’s an inside joke we have going on. You just had to be there.
A voice draws Taehyung up and out of his mental argument, and he lifts his head questioningly from where he’s still staring at Jungkook’s message. “Hel—oh.”
It’s Jungkook, as per frickin’ usual, except this time, he’s twinning with Taehyung in the amount of clothing he currently has on his body. He’s still holding the bathroom door as if he’d just come out of it, red hair dyed burgundy with water and the same towel hugging the dip of his hips, and no, Taehyung is not drooling, his mouth has just been open too long because Jungkook is practically naked in the middle of the hallway. He comes to about fifteen seconds into his shock and exclaims, “Clothe yourself, you heathen!”
Jungkook bursts into laughter, loud and mirthful and unafraid, and Taehyung is having trouble understanding because his brain is still on the fritz and, the last time he checked, he was being dead serious. “Oh my God, Taehyung, what even. Where are you even coming from if you showered? There’s a bathroom up here, dumbass.”
“Oh, that,” Taehyung starts directly before stopping again. He’s not entirely sure how to tell Jungkook that he’d made it a habit to avoid that bathroom specifically because of him. “Um, you know, it’s got foam soap.”
“Foam soap,” Jungkook repeats, eyebrows doing that Thing where they question the entire foundation of Taehyung’s existence with a single wiggle. “Right.”
“It kills 99.9% of bacteria.” Taehyung rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, belatedly realizing he’s still kind of wet and half-naked and dripping on the floor. Not that it couldn’t use the cleaning. “I should probably—”
“Oh, right, me too,” Jungkook blurts back, running a hand through his hair. It slicks back on his head and then falls back down piece by piece, and Taehyung watches as if it were a movie he’d just paid thirteen bucks to see in 3D. “I’ll go—yeah. You wanna meet out here or?”
“Yeah, okay, sure,” Taehyung says back, a high-pitched laugh escaping him to alleviate the (totally not sexual) tension. “I mean. Yeah. Okay. Uh, sure.”
Jungkook looks like he’s going to say something else, but he stops himself and sort of nods instead, turning in the other direction to trudge to his room. Taehyung watches for a moment before tearing his eyes from the small of his back to enter his own.
(He briefly forgets where it is, probably for all of two minutes – long enough for another student to come back with what looks like his mom and his little sister. Taehyung slowly covers his nipples with his hands and smiles at both of them. They don’t look like they appreciate the gesture.)
It takes him twenty minutes to get ready, painstakingly picking out an outfit that doesn’t make him look like he just crawled out of the gutter where he’d served as Ruler over the sewer system’s rats. He doesn’t have basketball shoes like Jungkook, but he does have a pair of knock-off Timberlands that make him look a little bit hipster, so he shoves his feet in those and smooths out his shirt in front of Yoongi’s full-sized mirror. His hair has air-dried into little puffy clumps, so he drags a forest-colored beanie down on his head to hide all but his fringe, blowing strands of it out of his eyes. When he deems himself worthy, he grabs his backpack, already pre-packed with his books from hours ago, and walks out into the hall.
Jungkook isn’t out yet. Taehyung shoves his hands in his pockets and leans the top of his back on the wall, trying his best to channel all of his inner cool as he waits. This keeps him occupied for about two minutes and thirty-four seconds, but at the two minutes, thirty-five second mark, he’s bored out of his mind and too antsy to keep any one position. He paces his way down the hallway, peering into the peepholes on all the doors to see if he can reverse-stalk their inhabitants. He even walks into the bathroom, breathing in the sour scent of familiar bath soaps and Febreze air fresheners and almost missing it. It's basically empty, save for one person who has physics books spread out on the floor of his bathroom stall. Duty calls, even when duty calls. (Taehyung totally doesn't laugh at this when he thinks of it.)
All at once, after trekking through every accessible part of the fifth floor, he finds himself at the foot of Jungkook’s door. He doesn't plan on doing anything special, really, he's just going to pass it like all the other rooms, but he stops when he hears R&B music thrumming inside. Alongside the recorded voice, there is the raw, unfiltered sound of singing that makes Taehyung’s stomach drop into his guts. Half of him doesn’t want to interrupt, but the other half is aching to hear it from the inside, to be in on the secret that Yoongi’s known for ages now, and that half has him knocking on the door well before he’s actually thought about doing so.
The voice pauses and calls out. “Yeah?” Taehyung clears his throat.
“Um, Jungkook? Sorry, it’s me. Er, Taehyung. I finished a little early so—”
The door unlocks and opens in one fell swoop. Jungkook leans against the doorframe, hair dry and fluffy now, in a white V-neck and a brown faux leather jacket. At the bottom of his dark wash jeans, Taehyung notices, are a pair of real ass Timberlands that put the dirty peely soles of Taehyung's to shame.
“Sorry, I was tidying a little before I left,” Jungkook says, gesturing inside his room. “You can come in and sit on my bed for a sec if you want. I’m practically done.”
“I—yeah, okay, sure.”
“The words of the evening, I see,” Jungkook grins, but before Taehyung can grind out a fuck yo couch in response, he’s already withdrawn back into his room to shoot laundry hoops with his balled-up gym shorts. Taehyung hesitantly shuffles the tips of his toes inside, sticking his full head in to survey the place before following with his body. It’s about as clean as a college boy’s room gets – a little dusty on the shelves, a little messy on the bedspread, but otherwise neat. The duck figurines that Taehyung had accidentally caused him to spill Once Upon A December are lined up neatly on the top shelf of his desk-turned-bookcase, organized from smallest to largest. Even though Taehyung still thinks the ducks are kind of weird, he has to admit this place is much better than Taehyung and Yoongi’s personal bug-and-stuffed-cat heaven – and the birds do hold a certain charm.
Jungkook points to the bed nearest to the door. “That one’s mine. The other one’s my roommate, Jimin’s. He shouldn’t be back until later, so feel free to jump on that one, too, if you want.”
“Do you have a vendetta against him or something?” Taehyung asks only half-jokingly, opting to sit in Jungkook’s bed anyways.
Jungkook shoots a black t-shirt at his laundry basket this time. He misses. “He brought a girl back last month without telling me. You could say I’m a little bitter.”
"Ah, I see." The Great Wall of Unforgiveness strikes again. He tries not to think too hard about the nickname, lest Yoongi’s clipped words about Jungkook-inspired boners come back to haunt him. Just thinking about the word boners in front of Jungkook is enough to make him shudder. “So essentially, I should definitely piss in his bed.”
“Saves you the steps you’d have to take to get to the downstairs bathroom.” Taehyung frowns, but Jungkook only laughs, kicking a pair of Transformers boxers under Jimin’s bed. “Done. Are we ready?”
“Actually,” Taehyung starts, toeing at his own inferior shoes with great concentration, “I wanted to ask you a favor.”
“Oh?” Jungkook plops down on the bed next to him, accidentally knocking their knees and elbows together as he makes to spread himself out. “I’m listening.”
“I heard you singing earlier. Before I barged in all knight-like.”
Jungkook snorts. “That? That’s nothing. I’m working on a composition project right now, and it’s going to blow everybody away.”
“Especially Yoongi. He thinks my composing is subpar.” Jungkook’s hair fans out on his pillow as he shifts to look at Taehyung, one arm hanging off the bed and the other draped across his stomach. “The prompt was, ‘write about something that inspires you.’”
“What did you write about?”
“That's the most typical question ever.” Jungkook sits up. The look in his eyes is some Hardy Boys mystery case, and Taehyung is no detective. He just stares back, waiting for Jungkook to answer. “It’s not about writing, loser. I haven’t even written it.”
Taehyung frowns exaggeratedly. Riddles and metaphors make his brain melt out of his ears. There’s a reason he was never an English major. “Then how…?”
Jungkook taps his temple. “It’s all in here. That's going to be my project. Whatever I'm feeling at the time, whatever I'm inspired by at the time, is going to come out of me.” He leans back, looking incredibly pleased with himself. "Clever, right?"
Taehyung presses the back of his head against the wall. “Is this all some convoluted way to wiggle your way out of singing?”
Jungkook shakes his head. “Nah. I’ll sing for you eventually. Just not now. The first time you hear me, really hear me, I want to totally destroy you.”
“That’s comforting.” Taehyung hops up and holds a hand out for Jungkook, who pretends to lick it. “Ready to go, riddlemaster?”
“That nickname is so lame.” Jungkook accepts the hand nonetheless, following him out the door and closing it behind him. “Hey, Tae.”
Jungkook stops for a moment, as if trying to gather his thoughts, before saying, “Do you want to go eat somewhere before we go to the library today? I just—I skipped dinner, so I’m kind of hungry.”
“Oh,” Taehyung responds intelligently. His stomach is full of synthetic spaghetti and tomato sauce that’s probably actually made of ketchup and unflavored Jell-O, but Jungkook’s face is hopeful and really, who is he to deny a growing fetus a balanced meal? “Yeah, okay, sure. I haven’t eaten, like, all day, anyways.” (Besides the spaghetti, he’s eaten three donuts and a footlong turkey sub. What Jungkook doesn’t know won’t hurt him.)
“Yeah, okay, sure,” Jungkook mimics. “Sure, yeah, okay. Okay, yeah, sure.”
“Yeah, sure, okay, shut up while you still have your lips.”
“My lips? What, are they on your mind?”
“That’s it, no lips for you.”
(“So, obviously, the king pissed off the knight pretty bad. Like, pretty damn bad. Like, the knight doesn’t even really get pissed off, so that’s a pretty impressive feat—”
“Okay, we get it, the king fucked up…royally, you could say. Haha, get it—”
“So anyways, bad puns aside, the knight still felt this weird bubbly feeling when he saw the king. Like really bad indigestion, but somehow nicer.”
“Ew, really? Gross, Jay, I was a dick-in-the-box, how the hell could you already like—”
“Did I say the king was you? Get your head out of your ass and stop interrupting me or I’ll push it farther up there.”)
Dinner, to say the least, is a little awkward. In the entirety of time that Jungkook and Taehyung have known each other, they’ve only really hung out alone once, at the library, and it was kind of by accident. Yoongi has always been their buffer, like the friend who tags along in sogaeting to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and without him, Taehyung is pressed for words to say.
He’s also new at this Doesn’t-Hate-My-Guts Jungkook thing, and although he’s never been one to give a quarter of a shit about what people thought of his sarcasm, habits, and poor choice in shoes, he worries about saying the wrong thing to Jungkook. He’d thought that he’d fucked up already with the very first library stunt. This second chance seems something like a hoax. It makes Taehyung feel wary, like a mouse in a science experiment, just waiting to make a wrong turn and get his little mousey feet electrocuted.
“So,” he says as they’re waiting on their burgers. They’d walked the road that winded around their campus, full of restaurants and coffee shops and ice cream parlors and affectionately nicknamed Fireball Street for the one time a kid streaked there in the beginning of time with a Fireball whiskey bottle he’d somehow gotten from Europe. They had settled on the old American 50s-style burger joint because Jungkook is apparently into that shit. Jungkook looks up at him, relief at the break of silence in his eyes, and Taehyung immediately forgets what he’d finally thought to say. “Um. You think they have foam soap in the bathrooms here?”
Jungkook points to the back, where “MADAM” and “SIR” plaques are hanging over their respective bathrooms. “You can go check, if you really need to piss.”
“No, uh, I’m okay.”
Jungkook’s eyebrows raise just a hair. “Just casually wondering about the bathroom soap, huh?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m a bathroom soap connoisseur. I’ve traveled the entire world, looking for the bathroom with the fanciest and most sanitary soaps.”
Taehyung sees the ghost of a smile on Jungkook’s lips, and he internally applauds his tendency to ramble idiocy when he’s nervous. “What place had the best soap?”
“Florence,” he says without pause. He kisses his fingers exuberantly. “It was magnifico. It was shaped like miniature versions of Michelangelo’s David, penis and all. Works of art, I tell you. But I will say it looks pretty scary when you’ve used it for a while and his face turns into, like, a blob of bacteria-fighting animal fat.”
“Ew,” Jungkook says, and Taehyung wonders briefly if that’s not proper table etiquette, but then he realizes that the smile that was hiding before has surfaced, small and appreciative. “Soap uses animals?”
“There’s a huge movement in the soap industry to ban animal cruelty. I’m currently leading it.” Taehyung pillows his hand in his palm and looks at Jungkook expectantly. “But enough about how awesome I am. What kinds of feats has the great Jeon Jungkook of Underage-And-In-Chargeland achieved in his life?”
Jungkook raises his chin so it’s parallel to the floor and puffs out his chest. “I won the talent show in my high school. Twice.”
Taehyung whistles lowly. “Wow. High school talent shows. Way to blow me out of the water. Are you trying to make me look like a failure?”
“Are you making fun of me?” Jungkook asks in rebuttal, but in truth, he doesn’t seem to mind that much. “I’m just saying, it was a big deal in my old school. I almost tried out for Superstar K once.”
“Why the hell didn’t you? From what I’ve gathered out of Yoongi’s big, praise-filled mouth, you’re practically a legend. And Yoongi really doesn’t compliment people all that often.”
“I’m no legend,” Jungkook denies, but he’s blushing all the way down to his neck. “I’m just a kid who happens to be good at a thing I like to do.”
“Yeah, okay, sure. Put that on the front page of your autobiography.”
Jungkook quiets for a moment, silent thoughts etched along his curled mouth and scrunched nose, and then he whispers, “Did he really call me a legend?”
“Not verbatim, but essentially. I thought he liked you for a while ‘cuz he wouldn’t stop talking your ass up.”
Jungkook makes a face so horrified, it rivals the Life Alert commercial’s old ladies, right as they slip down the stairs and into their elderly doom. “Are you serious? You don’t still think he does, right?”
Taehyung shakes his head, and something like relief colors Jungkook’s features. He wonders what the hell Yoongi must have done to make Jungkook react so violently to the idea of him being on the opposite end of a crush. “You seem like you wouldn’t be very happy if he did. What, did he show you the album he wrote that one time about how in love Katara was with Prince Zuko?”
“No, no, it’s not that,” Jungkook says, scratching the tip of his ear. “Wait, he did that?”
“Uh. Okay, tell no one of what you’ve learned today.”
Jungkook laughs and stirs the water in his cup with the tip of his ring finger. “Oh, don't tell me that. Now I want to ask him for a private concert."
Taehyung mirrors him, grinning devilishly when Jungkook catches on. "He will actually fake-firebend my ass right into an oven and bake me alive."
"The real question is if you'll be a tasty Taehyung treat afterwards."
Taehyung frowns loudly. "Stop making things vaguely sexual right now, Mister Practically Illegal Compared To My Grandpa Ass."
"Stop making it so easy, then," Jungkook snickers. “To answer your original question, yeah, Yoongi’s pretty hot and all. A little rough and apparently with the common sense of a microwaved tadpole – like, who even would ship those two, for real – but definitely cute, yeah. I just—I have a friend who’s apparently liked Yoongi for a while, so.”
Taehyung’s eyebrows raise right into his bangs. “Whoa, what? Who?”
“Kim Seokjin,” Jungkook responds, and Taehyung chokes a little as he sips his Diet Coke. “Maybe you don’t know him. He was a hyung I was really close to in my neighborhood back in the good ole high school days, and—Taehyung, dude, are you okay?”
“I’m just,” and his laugh is a little breathy due to the soda still sitting at the bottom of his lungs. “The coincidence here is hilarious.”
Jungkook frowns like he doesn’t understand, but before he can open his mouth to ask questions, Taehyung reaches out with his thumb and wipes at the corner of his lips. Jungkook smacks his hand away with his anti-coddling maknae reflexes, but the look on his face isn’t one of annoyance – it’s just a little surprised. Taehyung gives him a winning smile, Dentist Poster Child-style. “Just wanted to wipe that dumb angry look off your face.”
“It wasn't angry, and that was really gay.” He looks like he could say more, but it’s then that a pudgy-faced waiter swoops in like an Avengers outcast with their burgers on a little plastic tray. He leaves almost as quickly as he came – probably saw the Batman symbol by the cash register or something – and even though Taehyung has already eaten, he is not one to ever leave a plate full of BLT untouched. He wolfs down his food probably a little too quickly, eyeing Jungkook, who delicately pulls the tomatoes off his burger before taking a tiny bite.
“You eat like an upper-middle-class pre-adolescent,” Taehyung comments as Jungkook chews thoughtfully.
“You eat like a starved cannibal wildebeest who’s just been forced to sacrifice his own brother for food,” Jungkook says through a mouthful of mangled bread and meat. It makes him look a thousand times less posh, even when he swallows and pats the crumbs off his lips with a napkin. “It’s not my fault my school tried to teach me proper etiquette, even though it’s probably my fault I actually studied it.”
Taehyung shrugs, tearing apart another piece of bacon between his teeth. Table etiquette has always bored him, anyways. “It’s not my fault everyone was normal at mine.”
“Everyone except you.”
They finish pretty quickly, Taehyung before Jungkook, and although Taehyung is all but salivating at the dessert menu, Jungkook pushes away the last two bites of sandwich and declares that he is so overstuffed, he could probably apply for his pot belly to become a new country.
“Are you a more plainsy or foresty country?” Taehyung asks, picking up the check and handing it to their superhero server with his credit card attached. Jungkook doesn’t notice, too busy patting his barely-bulged stomach as if it were an animal. “I’m looking for a nice country to take frequent vacations to. Preferably not an icicle like Seoul. Maybe a little balmy, Caribbean-esque, with enough free soap to clean an entire city’s worth of hobos.”
“Are you suggesting that you want to move into my body?” Jungkook asks, wriggling his eyebrows like gross little hormonal caterpillars. Taehyung is both disgusted and mildly aroused by the suggestion, which disgusts him even more, so he logically responds with, “My strange mix of emotions prevents me from answering truthfully.”
“Whatever,” Jungkook sniffs, belatedly thinking to pull out a wad of five dollar bills from his pocket. “How much is it?”
“Zero dollars and zero cents,” Taehyung says proudly. The server returns with his card right on cue, and he signs the receipt with a flourish. He gives Jungkook a meaningful look, one that he hopes says something along the lines of yeah, that’s right, we’re not even dating and I still paid, whuddup. Gentleman level wildebeest right here.
The fist that’s holding Jungkook’s money waves lamely. “Then what am I supposed to do with this?”
Taehyung taps his chin in thought. “Buy me a thank-you present. Then we’ll be even.”
“Why would I do that,” Jungkook says tonelessly, but he’s still shoving the money unceremoniously back into his pocket. He stands and brushes nonexistent particles of dust and food off his jeans. “Are we going to the library now?”
Taehyung mimics him, twisting around to look at the ass of his jeans and make sure he didn’t sit in a toddler’s spit or something. “If you want to.”
“If I want to?” The sound in Jungkook’s voice makes Taehyung pause and regard him curiously. “Are you saying if I didn’t want to, we could do something else?”
Taehyung gives him a blank stare. “Um. I guess if you want to interpret it that way, yeah.”
Jungkook’s grin lights up his entire face. “I know just the place.”
(“The knight doesn’t like people very easily. Not even as friends. It’s even hard to get a pet he likes. He only really likes goldfish. And maybe, like, didgeridoos. That's an animal, right?”
“Can you get on with it?”
“Rushing the storyteller is seven years of bad luck, you know.”
“But, for some reason, the knight liked this king. One day, for no reason, the king just stopped being a sassmaster. Mostly. And the knight realized that the reason he liked him at all was because this really cool person was somewhere in there, underneath all the massive piles of Dickhead and Asshole, and that this person would come out once the massive piles of Dickhead and Asshole were filed away.”
“Please don’t say ‘dick’ and ‘ass’ anything in the same sentence.”)
“Hmm.” Taehyung looks up from his phone mid-emoji battle and then immediately looks back down. “Hold up, if I don’t keep spamming dolphins then Jungkook is going to win.”
“Go ahead and talk, I’m listening.” He's not actually listening. He has no room to think of anything besides beating the shit out of Jungkook’s sunflower emoji spam.
Yoongi is not nearly as enthused about Taehyung destroying Jungkook's ability to ever emoji again. He walks over and takes Taehyung’s phone from him, as he always does with Taehyung's things when he wants undivided attention, and Taehyung whines in response, as he does every time Yoongi bullies him into being a decent friend. “What? Come on, now he’s totally going to outdo me.”
“What is going on between you and Jungkook and why am I not in the front row to watch it go down?” Yoongi frowns and pockets Taehyung’s phone without pressing the lock button. “Jungkook told me you guys didn’t even make it to the library the other day. He said you guys ate dinner and then climbed trees in the arboretum.”
“Hey, I studied in that tree. I studied nature.”
“I don’t think that’s a subject you can fail during midterms next week.” He stares at him, a little searchingly, and Taehyung responds by picking a hole in the bottom of his shirt. “You haven’t even asked how things went with Jin yet. It’s been two whole days and you haven’t asked.”
“I thought you wanted your private life to be all private and not-my-business and stuff.”
“I do,” Yoongi stresses, “don’t get me wrong, your silence on the matter is an almost beautiful thing. But it’s weird. You haven’t straight up ignored me like this since you wanted to bone that barista at the campus Bean Grinds back in junior year.”
“I don’t want to bone Jungkook,” Taehyung says matter-of-factly. “And that barista was a fine specimen of human being that I met during the decent-human-being drought of ’13, okay? It was excused. Besides,” and here, he wiggles his eyebrows and bites his lips and laces his hands together as sweetly as he can, "I have inside info about that situation that pretty much solves that mystery."
“How would you— You know what? I just made a decision with myself to not care.” Taehyung’s phone buzzes about twelve times in Yoongi’s pocket, and Taehyung groans as Yoongi pulls it out. His eyes widen. “Jesus Christ, that is an entire fucking planet’s worth of emoji garden.”
“Look what you did,” Taehyung gripes, reaching out to swipe his phone from Yoongi’s grasp. “Now I have to double up my efforts.” He has two thumbs pressing between the whale and the octopus when Yoongi gives up and leaves with an “I’ll be seeing my boyfriend now,” and Taehyung neglects to even look up.
He does, however, text him a couple minutes after he leaves the room: kiss the seok of jin a lot for me!! and for christ’s sake yoongi touch his ass at least once you vanilla piece of shit. remember the you-know-whats are in those kitty socks i keep in the back of our closet❤ have fun being a Gaylord no matter what jesus loves u!!1!1!
Yoongi texts him back five minutes later: I just texted Jungkook and told him you have something important to say to him. He’ll be at your door in 5. I suggest you think on your toes, you little shit.
Taehyung chokes and falls out of bed. no way. there’s no way you’d be that cruel.
Sure enough, a tentative knock comes from the door, and Taehyung curses to himself from where he’s scrambling up off the floor and peeling candy wrappers off the side of his face. YOU BITCH he sends back before throwing his phone back at his bed (he underestimates his own strength, and it makes a loud crack as it hits the wall instead). He sighs, smooths back his hair, and coughs into his hands. Thank God he’d actually brushed his teeth on time this morning. “Uh, who is it?”
“It’s, uh,” comes an unsure voice. “It’s—Jungkook? Didn’t you ask to see me—”
“Oh, right,” Taehyung says, mind racing for excuses. “Uh, one moment please, I’m indecent. You know, ass out and all, haha, wow, where’d I put my panties—I mean underwear—”
“Oh, well,” Jungkook seems a little strained, “if you’re not ready, I can just come back later—”
“Yeah! Yeah, no, totally, do that!”
Jungkook’s voice stutters to a stop, seeming a little taken aback, and Taehyung presses his ear to the door to catch whatever noises he’s making from the other side. “Okay,” Jungkook finally voices. “I’ll just—text me when you actually need me, or whatever.”
Taehyung listens for the tell-tale footsteps of his leaving, but he hears nothing. Frowning, he leans up to look out of his peephole. There’s no one there.
What he does next is way against his better judgment. Jungkook’s suggestion to come back after Taehyung had gathered himself had been an uncanny stroke of luck, and Taehyung should have gotten right to using it, sitting down at his desk and brainstorming a shit ton of good excuses as to why Yoongi would have asked for them to meet – preferably ones that didn’t require a confession of any sort, since that's probably what Yoongi implied, that bastard. He should have stepped away from his door and called him back thirty minutes later and told him he had a deodorant malfunction or that he couldn’t find his other sock or something.
What he shouldn’t have done was crack the door open and stick his head out into the hallway to see if Jungkook had gone away.
“Are you done clothing yourself?” Jungkook asks dryly from where he’s leaned up against the wall next to Taehyung’s door, out of sight of the peephole. “Can I come in now?”
“Uh,” Taehyung says.
He pushes himself up off the wall and curls a hand around Taehyung’s doorknob. “Can I come in even if you’re not?”
Taehyung’s eyes wander down Jungkook’s arm to the base of his knuckles, watching how his hand encloses the entire doorknob. He had never realized Jungkook’s hands were that big.
“Uh,” he says again.
Jungkook rolls his eyes. “If you’re not going to be coherent, I’m going to have to assume you popped a blood vessel in your brain looking at your own reflection or something. That makes this an emergency situation.” He shoulders the door a little. Taehyung gives in a lot easier than he’d thought he would, opening the door wider so that Jungkook’s breadth can fit through the crack. Jungkook frowns when he’s all the way in. “Okay, yeah, you’re acting really weird. What’s up? Does it have to do with what Yoongi told me?”
Taehyung stands unmoving by the door. His brain is in overdrive. He hadn’t even spared a thought about his story, and he’s definitely not making the situation any better by staying rooted in place like a petrified piece of wood. “Uh,” he says a third time. “I wanted to ask if you have clean socks.”
Jungkook’s lips downturn a little more. “Don’t play with me. I know something’s up with you.”
Taehyung finally breaks his own spell by bringing his hand up to run it through his own hair, letting it fall between his fingers in dry, tangled strands. “I—” He stops, ruminating on which made-up story he should just blurt out. “I just—I guess I just wanted to see you.”
Wow, that is really not the right story.
He resists the urge to clap his hand over his mouth as this sentence settles into Jungkook’s face, twisting it into some strange expression between curiosity and confusion. “You wanted to see me?”
“Apparently,” Taehyung says, shrugging as nonchalantly as he can manage as his pulse skyrockets into Back to the Future time travel-level speeds. “I hadn’t thought about it until just now.” He turns to hop on his bed, retrieving his phone from where it’s fallen in the crack between his bunk and the wall (it’s not broken, thank Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost). Jungkook watches him.
“But Yoongi said you had something to tell me.”
“It was an excuse,” Taehyung explains slowly, playing with his phone’s number pad, “to see you.”
There’s a second’s worth of tense quiet between them, and Taehyung keeps his gaze riveted to the Facebook app he’s just opened out of awkward necessity. It’s as he’s checking a notification from some old high school friend, a comment on his ninth grade profile picture that says AYE GURL SLAY, that Jungkook snorts disbelievingly somewhere behind him. He feels a weight collapse into his bed next to him and turns to see Jungkook, laying belly-down, his legs swinging off the edge and grazing the floor.
“You don’t have to make excuses to see me, idiot,” Jungkook says, taking out his own phone to mimic Taehyung. Taehyung watches him, feeling something like warmth rise from his stomach to bathe his cheeks, as he flicks to Snapchat and opens up a snap of his friend working out like some kind of rabid animal. “I’m right down the hall. Just show up whenever. And next time,” and here he gives Taehyung an I’m Your Head Bitch So Don’t Give Me That Shit look, “don’t leave your dirty work to your minions. Stop being a fuck and text me yourself. I thought we were cool.”
Taehyung stares at him long after he’s returned his attention to his phone, taking extremely aesthetic selfies and sending them to various people in his Snapchat friendlist. When he takes a sneak picture of Taehyung and snickers as he draws boogers running down his face, Taehyung smiles without really thinking about it.
“Give me your Snapchat,” Jungkook orders. “I’ll send it to you. And you can stare at my face on there instead.”
Taehyung scoffs, looking down to admire his bedsheets instead and throwing his phone at Jungkook without looking up. Jungkook catches it before it hits his face and plays around on the apps on Taehyung’s phone. “Find it yourself, you leech,” Taehyung says, curling up around his pillow. Jungkook crinkles his nose. “And stay off my emails. You’ll find unsavory things in there.”
“Gross,” Jungkook says, but there’s laughter in his voice, even when Taehyung has to wrestle the phone from his grasp when he opens up his Naver account anyways.
Yeah. Yeah, we’re cool.
(“The knight starts wanting to see the king more and more, but he has to play it cool, for name’s sake, you know? So he just kind of rides on his coattails and studies—er, table etiquette, and sparring and shit, all that knightly stuff, with the king. Then, the king has a servant call him over one day. Says he wants to tell him something. The knight swore the king was about to confess his undying love to him or something. He honestly didn’t really want him to. There’s no way the knight actually liked the king, like, come on, he was a total asshole. So the knight was scared of leading him on.”
“The king didn’t confess. It’s okay, cuz the knight wasn’t ready yet. He would have said no. He would have probably left and never talked to that dumb king again.”)
Things progress from “we’re cool” to “we’re not friends but we may be acquaintances that are obsessed with each other” faster than Taehyung can say Poopdy Pewpdy Pants. When Jungkook gives him the okay to chill at any time of the day, Taehyung – strange as it may be – actually does.
Instead of eating at the arboretum alone and taking impromptu naps, he hits Jungkook up and they crash at the only Samtong Chicken on campus that opens for lunch, order the strangest new fad on the menu, and pelt each other with leftover bones.
Instead of scrolling through pages and pages of potential Tinder matches on his bed while Yoongi’s out gallivanting with Seokjin, he military crawls down the hall and knocks on Jungkook’s door, yelling, “GET DOWN SOLDIER!” the second he opens it. (Jungkook doesn’t really play along, but he does step on Taehyung’s back and pretends to ride him like a surfboard.)
Instead of studying at the library every night from the light beginnings of evening to the dark endings of night, he and Jungkook go campus exploring. He had never really given it that much weight as a hobby before – like, who wants to walk around getting sweaty on the same campus they have class at all day, get real – but Jungkook shows him places he’d never thought would be nestled in the heart of a fast-paced city like Seoul. There’s a little stretch of unmanaged grass cut in half by a tiny sliver of man-made river near the arboretum, but nobody seems to really know it exists. At least, nobody’s there when they end up there together, anyways, which seems to be more and more often as the semester drags on. That place is Taehyung’s favorite. When Jungkook first leads him there, it feels like he’s stumbled upon some broken piece of a magic field, and he feels wrong being there.
“It’s like being a Stark in the land of the Lannisters,” Taehyung complains when Jungkook approaches the riverbed. “I am literally Sansa.” Jungkook doesn't even pretend to know what he's talking about, ignoring him in favor of taking off his Supra Skytops and dipping his toes in the water.
When he beckons for Taehyung to do the same, the feeling of being foreign in this natural world immediately dissipates, replaced by something he’s gotten really used to feeling around one Jeon Jungkook.
The falling itself happens a few weeks later, and it goes something like this:
Said Jeon Jungkook is in the bathroom, taking a shower, and Taehyung is sprawled out on Jungkook’s bed, having already asked Park Jimin if he could crash there until Jungkook comes back. Jimin and Taehyung have finally settled into a comfortable place socially thanks to Taehyung just sort of showing up whenever he feels like walking two seconds down the hall. They've both taken on the Friend of a Friend role pretty well, making small talk and sitting quietly in each other's company when left alone, and Jimin doesn't typically ask anymore why Taehyung is at their door when he drops by unannounced, which is...nice. Routine is nice, and Taehyung, despite his tendency to avoid people, is pretty much fine with Jimin.
This particular day, Taehyung’s on Tinder again, scrolling past person after person in search for Hot Meat ™. He’s having an extremely off online dating day, unfortunately for his pants. He hasn’t swiped right on anyone since the morning, and that one had been an accidental slip of the finger when Yoongi had thrown a dirty pair of jeans over his phone to get his attention. He keeps managing to find some reason not to want to bang them, which is usually not all that strange, considering how picky Taehyung prides himself to be.
This, though, is a whole new level. He finds himself having thoughts like, Ew, no, his shirt is atrocious. Gross, her earrings are way too big, just look at them dragging down her ears. Why does he have that dog? What, you think I’m gonna fall for the ‘I’m-an-animal-lover’ spiel? No thank you.
He’s getting frustrated with himself, and he's so concentrated on his phone that he doesn’t realize Jimin is behind him until he whispers, “Whoa, why are you on Tinder?”
He flinches so hard that his phone jumps out of his hand and lands on Jimin’s toe.
“Oh, shit, sorry,” he drawls as Jimin cradles his foot in his hand, whimpering as if a two-ton truck had been dropped on it instead of a Samsung Galaxy. Baby. “Can I have my phone back?”
“No,” Jimin hisses, snatching it up off the floor with his free hand and holding it out so that Taehyung can see his open Tinder screen. He shakes it around pointedly. “What are you doing on here?”
Taehyung frowns. “Looking for hook-ups. What does it look like I’m doing?”
“What the fuck is wrong with — Okay, wow, h ow do you think Jungkook would feel about that?”
Something drops into the pit of Taehyung’s stomach like a paperweight. He looks up into Jimin’s determined face, looks back at his phone, open on a picture of some five-foot-six scene kid with the name “Johnny Trash” on his profile, and has never been more confused in his entire life. “Excuse me?”
“All I’m saying is Jungkook is, like, my best friend, and if you’re going to be dating him—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, okay, slow down, detective. We are not dating.”
Jimin’s mouth turns down farther. “Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying!” Taehyung insists, making a wild grab for his phone. Jimin holds it just out of reach, waving it in the air like some sort of prize. Jimin really isn’t tall, honestly – Taehyung could probably just stand up like the average sized human male he is and pick it right out of his infant hands – but something about this conversation has him stuck helplessly on the bed, trying to understand. “We’re not even technically friends yet. Or something. At least, he hasn’t said we are yet.”
“Who informs other people when they’ve become friends?” Jimin asks. "You guys are basically attached at the hip. That's pretty much the same thing." There’s still a tiny flame in his voice, but the accusation in his eyes is fading slowly. His arm lowers, imperceptibly at first, then all at once, hanging by his side like a dead weight. “Are you seriously not dating? Like, seriously? Not even secretly?”
“No,” Taehyung manages, scratching at his arm to distract himself from the itching sensation in his chest. “Why would you even think that?”
Jimin stills and quiets, and if there’s one thing that’s scarier than everything in this world, it’s a quiet, still Jimin. "Like, you don't even want to?"
"What the hell is with this sudden interoggation," Taehyung demands, brow furrowing and hands still reaching out towards nothing.
“I just...” Jimin looks soft like this. Concerned, almost. “How he's like when he's around you, I just thought—” He seems to catch himself, clearing his throat and holding out Taehyung’s phone as a peace offering. “Nevermind. Forget I said anything, okay? Fuck whoever you want, but—” He clears his throat again. “Just don’t tell Jungkook, okay? And don’t tell him I asked.”
Taehyung’s throat is burning with unused questions, but he just nods, and Jimin takes this to be the period of their conversation. He returns to his desk, and not even a minute later, Jungkook is opening the door with a towel around his waist and his fingers combing out his wet bangs.
“Hey Jimin, can I borrow your—oh, Taehyung,” he says upon noticing him still perched at the edge of his bed. He raises his eyes slowly to Jungkook’s chin, but he hears Jimin’s words in his head, how he's like when he's around you, and he can’t bring himself all the way up to his eyes. “What, do you want more chocolate bombs or something? I only have two left thanks to you.”
“Uh,” Taehyung says.
“He was just waiting for you to come so you guys could go hooliganning it up at Fireball,” Jimin comments offhandedly, glancing at Taehyung. “Right, Taehyung?”
“Right,” Taehyung answers slowly. “Uh, yeah, that. But I just remembered I need—pants.”
“…pants.” Jungkook looks down at the lightwash jeans on Taehyung’s legs, ripped from a sad incident he had a couple years back involving a skateboard that he didn't know how to ride and a cactus. “I’m not going to ask.”
“Better pants,” Taehyung quickly amends, hopping down onto the floor and shifting his weight awkwardly onto his left foot. “I’ll text you when I’m ready.”
“Sure,” Jungkook calls back, sifting his hands through the collection of graphic tees in his closet. He pulls out one that has what looks like a demented robot owl on it, blood staining its tiny little beak and the words Owl Be Back written in dripping font beneath its feet, before making a face and discarding it. It lands on Jimin, who squawks indignantly. Jungkook ignores him. (It's really easy to ignore Jimin.) “Just be ready quick, I’m hungry.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says, slipping out of the room with Jungkook’s back to him. “Yeah, sure.”
Taehyung never texts him because he is never ready.
That’s how the slow slip into madness begins.
(“Things get good. So good. They’re friends there for a while, and it’s the nicest while ever. They do all this cool stuff together, and some not-so-cool stuff, and they’re always with each other…”
“Oh, you already know, anyways. Can’t I skip this part?”
“I already know what, Jay? What do I know?”
“You wanna know what I know? I know that I've had to pee for thirty minutes now, and this story is making that bush over there look hella nice.”
"I will punch you in the bladder, so help me God.")
Jungkook’s voice is tinny and deeper than usual over the phone. Taehyung grunts in reply, arranging his pencils by size on his desk.
“What did you call me for?” he asks, picking out his best one. He holds it up to his nose and squints at the edge of it before slotting it into his pencil case next to a collection of Hello Kitty pens in various colors.
“I just…” Jungkook trails off, and Taehyung can just imagine him playing with his jacket sleeves or the bottom of his gym shorts or the untied shoelaces on his Roshes. He hears the hesitation in his robotic voice. “I haven’t heard from you in a while. I wanted to know if you wanted to library hop tonight with me. I’ve got a couple exams—”
“I was actually going to eat with Seokjin and Yoongi and then turn in early tonight,” Taehyung interrupts, tucking two more pencils into his bag next to his notecards. He at least has the nerve to make his voice sound apologetic. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I don’t think I’ll go if you don’t.” The line buzzes a little at the loss of Jungkook’s voice, flatlining, and Taehyung thinks he's hung up. Then, he says, “You sure you don’t want me to come? Sounds like you’re going to be the ultimate third wheel to me, and we all know Yoongi’s going to use that to his advantage.”
Taehyung laughs, but it’s a little forced. “No, it’s okay, really. I don’t want to make you a target, too.”
“I wouldn’t mind.”
Taehyung holds his head in his heads, dragging a long breath into his lungs. He can’t think of anything to say, so he shuts his mouth and says nothing at all. Jungkook breaks the silence.
“Are you in your room?”
Taehyung doesn’t answer again.
A knock comes on the door. “That’s me,” Jungkook says into the phone. Taehyung glances at the door but doesn’t stand up. “What, are you going to ignore your guests now too? I thought Socially Inept Taehyung had taken the high road out.”
Taehyung still doesn’t move.
Jungkook sighs, and all the fake cheeriness drains out of his voice. “Taehyung, I’m already here. Will you please just talk to me.”
Taehyung says nothing.
The line goes dead shortly after without any word of warning. Taehyung drops his phone unceremoniously onto his desk and then mirrors its fall with his own head. He lays there, facedown, questioning all his life choices, for what seems like decades. If he'd only known how to cut Jungkook off slowly, bit by bit, maybe he wouldn't have even noticed. Maybe he would have let Taehyung leave without posing dumb interventions by phone call and stalking him to his room and shit. It's all Jungkook's fault for being an actual good person and knowing when something's wrong with the people around him. That bitch.
Although, Taehyung thinks, it's also a little bit his own fault for not knowing how to friend or not-friend or even how to enemy, apparently, since that's what they were supposed to be – are supposed to be . Enemies. Contenders to be Library Royalty, engaged in a preliminary Fight To Death By Exam Stress.
A rustling at the door interrupts his thoughts. There’s something like a scraping sound, and Taehyung lifts his head to stare in its direction but still opts not to stand. After a few minutes of what sounds like the steady whisper of pennies brushing against each other, he hears an audible click and the door swings open, revealing an illuminated Jungkook with a broken bobby pin in his hand. Taehyung’s eyes are like UFOs on his face as Jungkook steps inside, coughing and waving his hand in front of his face as if he’s just inhaled a small animal.
“Jesus Christ, it’s dusty in here,” he says, plugging his nose. “And dark. Do you not turn on the light anymore? Does it burn your retinas to see the sun now?”
“Uh,” Taehyung says.
Jungkook shakes his head. “Nevermind,” he comments, waving his hand again with a sense of finality. “I just wanted to ask what the fuck has been wrong with you. And also to confirm that you look the same because it’s been about twelve years since I’ve seen you last.” He walks up to Taehyung so that about a half a foot of distance is between them and squints. “Yup. Same ugly face.”
The first thing Taehyung manages to say that is actually a coherent string of words is, “Where the hell did you get a bobby pin?”
Jungkook lifts up the bent contraption as if it were a work of high technology, inspecting it from between his fingers. “Taemin is in a long-hair phase, so he has a few spares. He let me borrow it.” He stops for a moment, throwing Taehyung A Look, and then says, “You don’t know who Taemin is, do you.”
“Not a clue.”
“Down the hall? My next door neighbor?”
“Not ringing any bells.”
“He came in once while I was beating you up and threw a blanket over us.”
“Oh, yeah, because he thought we were making out and he didn’t want to see, right?”
Taehyung runs a tired hand over his face and groans. “Does everybody just think that we’re a thing?”
Jungkook’s playful exterior drops for a moment. Just a moment. His confidence seems to waver in that instant, as if, without humor, he doesn't know what this is, but he speaks anyways. “You don’t seem to.”
“Because we’re not—” He stops suddenly, eyes flying up to outline Jungkook’s face. “Wait. Wait a damn second. I don't seem to?”
Jungkook doesn’t wait, as it turns out. Even as the gears are still turning in Taehyung’s head, he goes straight for the kill. “Let’s go on a date.”
There’s a white fuzz blocking literally everything that Taehyung is thinking at the moment. “Let’s—let’s what?”
“You heard me.” He pauses, a flash of insecurity washing over his features again. “You—you did actually hear me, right?”
“I mean—yeah, Jungkook, I heard you.” Taehyung runs his hands through his hair, whistling to himself. “Does this mean—?”
“That I don’t hate you?” Jungkook nods, seeming a little apprehensive. “Well…yeah. Okay, yeah, it does.”
“That’s not what I was going to ask.”
Jungkook squeezes his eyes shut, linking his hands behind his back, and bows his head a tiny fraction of a bit, as if beseeching Taehyung of something. “Please don’t ask what you were going to ask. Just say whatever, say yes, and — ” He cranes his head down even more. “And if it sucks, let’s be friends who don’t avoid each other like this again. Okay?”
Taehyung isn't even thinking anymore. "But I haven't skipped class for you yet."
Jungkook's smile is rueful. "I forgive you."
Taehyung’s mind is a whirl of emotions, of the need to push Jungkook out and slam the door and of the need to pull Jungkook in and hug him until he stops breathing. It makes his chest feel tight and uncomfortable, like a corset of strings that have already been pulled as tight as they'll go, and it is because of this that he doesn’t get involved with strangers. Ever. It's not entirely a foreign feeling, but it's something that Taehyung has been avoiding for a long, long time. Jungkook is some kind of strange piece of magic, a blip in a near-perfect record of self-alienation that he never asked for. He never asked for Jeon Jungkook to take him up trees and to call him an almost-friend and to apparently not-hate him. He never asked for Park Jimin to become some strange, comfortable fixture in his life as a result of him taking spontaneous naps in Jungkook’s bed. He never asked for Yoongi to start playing wingman between the two of them as if he knew what Taehyung wanted better than he did himself. He never asked for Seokjin to hit him up for double dates – of course not an actual date, Taehyung, God, don’t act so disgusted at the idea of being seen as Jungkook’s boyfriend, it’s not like he’s ugly. He never asked for any of this. He never wanted it.
Taehyung thinks seriously about telling Jungkook no. He pictures his face falling as he makes an escape from the room before he can let on just how disappointed he is, and he thinks that this prospect could be a fair and promising route of getting this feeling the hell out of his life for good. He never asked for whatever this icky feeling is. He never wanted it, either.
Taehyung is a lot of things. He knows this pretty well. But there are some things about him that even surprise himself. His answer is one of them.
“Yeah. Okay. Sure.”
Jungkook’s face, so hesitant, so determined, on the brink of stormy and dark and ready to clam up at the drop of a hat, clears up impossibly fast. He doesn’t look pleased. He doesn’t look excited. He looks shocked. “Wait. Wait, really?”
“Are you wanting me to change my mind?”
“No! I mean, no, not at all, I just.” Jungkook inhales a deep breath. “I thought with the way you were trying so hard not to see me, you’d just—say no, but you didn’t, so yeah, um, tomorrow? Normal time? Or, like, the normal time from before. Since normal time now is…not at all. Please don’t stand me up.”
“I’m not going to stand you up,” Taehyung says, and he’s laughing, just a little. It isn’t faked this time. “I’ll—okay. I’ll see you tomorrow. Normal before time, not normal after time.”
“Okay. Okay, yeah.” Jungkook moves as if he’s going to step forward and then backtracks, waving his fingers haltingly instead. “Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow,” Taehyung echoes affirmatively, and Jungkook makes a satisfied noise and leaves.
When Yoongi gets home, Taehyung is starfished in his bed, staring at the ceiling. Yoongi unloads his backpack onto his stomach, and Taehyung unleashes a puff of breath he’d been holding.
“I’m meditating,” he protests. “Get your shit off me.”
“You don’t meditate unless you’re thinking too hard, and when you’re thinking too hard, I have to distract you before your head explodes and sets off a fire alarm.” He pats the bookbag, sitting next to Taehyung on the bed. “What’s wrong with you.”
“Nothing,” Taehyung says, and he marvels at the truth of it. “Everything.” There’s truth in that one, too. Taehyung feels like a wrinkle in space-time. A contradiction that shouldn’t exist. An anomaly. (He also feels like he's probably being overdramatic.) “What do I do.”
“Well, given that whopping amount of information,” Yoongi says sarcastically, standing and stretching. “Nothing. You do nothing at all.”
“What the hell kind of advice is that?”
“The best you’re ever going to get,” Yoongi retorts, finally retrieving his backpack and heading over to his desk to do his own Calculus homework for once. Taehyung thinks of a million things to respond with, but he doesn't say any of them.
Sometimes, Taehyung hates Yoongi a little for making so much sense.
(“So, you know, King Assbutt over there ignores the knight for like, a millennium, whatever, it sucks but he gets over it. But then. Ohohoho, then they go on their first date, and man, is that a disaster.”)
Their first date is a disaster.
At least, that’s what Jungkook will say over and over again later. Taehyung, who had spent all his time leading up to the date imagining various scenarios in which it went horribly wrong, had thought it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. They could have stumbled into the next Jurassic Park and gotten eaten by scientifically resurrected T-rexes, for one.
But even Taehyung has to admit defeat on this one, because although they don’t accidentally witness a murder or become the first couple of victims in the sixteenth sequel of Friday the Thirteenth, Jungkook does fall off a docking pier, Taehyung does get stung in the ass by a very angry jellyfish, and there may have been a firework-caused fire of some sort.
It starts off innocently, really. Taehyung, in (almost) every aspect of his life, is a Go Hard Or Go Home To Mommy kind of guy, and this extends to his love life. He may not have necessarily wanted to go on a date with Jungkook, especially considering he is not quite ready to accept the implications of Jungkook asking him out at all, but damn it all if he wasn’t going to make that date the best of Jungkook’s entire life.
Their "tomorrow" just so happens to be Friday, so he calls him up at three in the morning the same day of The Incident. “I made reservations at a place down in Busan for Saturday, at Sushi Berry. Have you heard of it? It has really famous sushi and it’s pretty close to Haeundae, so I thought we could go chill by the ocean afterwards. I bought fireworks this morning and the train tickets were on discount ‘cuz—”
“Whoa, hold up,” Jungkook splutters through the phone, ignoring the whispered “grab the wall” that follows from Taehyung’s end of the call. “You did what? Busan is, like, across the world from here.”
“I know,” Taehyung says a little uncomfortably, scratching the small of his back with his pinky. “I just thought—it would be cool, you know. Busan is a cool place, and I’ve been to this restaurant before, so I wanted to show you—”
“I grew up in Busan.”
“Oh.” Taehyung smacks himself straight in the nose and pushes down the little whimper of pain he almost lets loose. “I didn’t know. Wow, that’s a really stupid idea, then, I apologize, I can cancel the reservation—”
“Actually,” Jungkook breaks in softly, “I’ve been feeling kind of homesick, so. The idea is…appreciated. We can go.”
"Really?" Taehyung shifts the phone to the other side of his head, small seed of hope growing in his chest because he really doesn't want to re-plan their whole date. "Are you not tired of your place yet?"
Taehyung can almost hear him shrug. "Maybe a little, but it's always newer with someone else there, anyways."
Taehyung breathes a sigh of relief, sitting with a thonk on his carpeted floor and absently twirling his shoelace around his finger. “In that case, I expect a really good high-five for my good work when I see you next.”
There’s a snort. Taehyung expects it. “Don’t push your luck, fuckboy.”
They depart last minute the very next day. Taehyung, for the first time in a long, long, LONG ass time, intentionally skips his last class so they can make a train that won’t arrive at Dead O’Clock in the morning. They get there by 7 in the evening, both their stomachs rumbling. Jungkook had been intelligent enough to pack snacks, but Taehyung is a vacuum, and he destroys them all within the first hour of confinement. He then proceeds to whine the entire rest of the three-and-a-half hour ride that he's going hungry, at one point biting Jungkook’s finger “for sustenance.” Jungkook, on the other hand, doesn’t complain at all about his hunger like the real-life Mary Sue he is, even though he’d only managed to wrestle a bite of cracker from Taehyung’s clutches.
Jungkook is the one who shepherds Taehyung out of their train in the middle of an extremely convincing rendition of Oliver Twist, in which he begged the elderly woman next to them for a piece of her saltwater taffy. (It works.) He’s still happily chewing on it when they climb the stairs of the station up onto the frost-lit street parallel to Haeundae's coast.
“This place never fails to give me chillbumps when I see it,” Taehyung announces, swallowing his candy in order to open his mouth in awe. He twirls around, and no matter how many times he's been here, it's still strange, having the glow of city lights on one side and the dark silence of the ocean on the other. “There’s something about it that just feels different than Seoul.”
“Damn straight,” Jungkook whispers, and Taehyung doesn’t miss the tiny outline of a pleased grin curling up his lips.
They decide that their hotel can wait on their empty stomachs, so they crash in the first chicken restaurant they can find, ordering three helpings of something smothered in garlic and honey and splitting a bottle of Joeun Day Blue for enjoyment's sake. They don’t really talk while they eat, shoveling down two platefuls in the span of fifteen minutes as some celebrity reality show plays on a big-screened T.V. across the restaurant. It isn’t until they’ve paid and popped themselves back into the crowds Busan's night life has gathered that Taehyung speaks up.
“So the reservation is for six tomorrow,” he starts, still wiping crumbs of sticky breaded chicken off his mouth, “and I thought we could do something beforehand, like maybe go to, I dunno, the culture villages or something? Unless you’ve already been there, which…you probably have, actually, nevermind, um. We can—”
“Hey,” Jungkook interrupts. Taehyung welcomes the permission to stop talking, honestly, because he really doesn't know what he's doing anymore. Jungkook claps his hands together as Taehyung titters off into silence. “I know you wanted to plan your own elaborate—” He pauses on the word ‘date,’ eventually deciding to leave the space where it belongs blank, “—but this is my place. Let me take you around.”
“You mean like with campus?” It’s cold enough to see Taehyung’s breath when he speaks. The chilly breeze from the beach pushes him farther into his jacket, and Jungkook laughs as Taehyung turtles himself into the puffy neck of his outer vest, too. Jungkook pulls his scarf up around his nose as they turn a corner to follow the flashing neon lights of hotels down the back alleys. Taehyung follows the movement of his mouth from the corner of his eyes, but when Jungkook turns toward him, he looks away.
“Yeah. Yeah, like with campus.”
(“So it starts out ok, the first night is decent enough, but then our knight makes the mistake of taking the king around people.”
“Okay, if you got to skip the ignoring part, then can I skip the date?”
It turns out to be frankly nothing like campus.
In Busan, there are many cozy hiding places away from the rumbling mass of moving bodies that is Society. Taehyung has been here his fair share of times, and if there's one thing he's good at, it's finding the parts of cities where no one else looks. There are empty, quiet coffee shops galore, decorated with stuffed toys and little Studio Ghibli figurines, and there are plenty of places by the beach sheltered by smooth pebbles and jagged rocks that Taehyung would probably frequent, had he been the one who lived here instead of Jungkook. There's a little box-like pet shop full of tiny puppies and fat frogs where there are no customers save for the occasional frothing-at-the-mouth girl dragging her boyfriend in by the tail, and, if you're as desperate as Taehyung sometimes is, there are even some abandoned bathrooms in the subway stations that no one uses because of the constant presence of a cleaning ahjumma. (Taehyung has befriended many a cleaning ahjumma in the past because of this, honestly.)
The thing is, Jungkook takes them to none of these places. In fact, he takes them to the places where the exact opposite occurs. Taehyung has never been a fan of crowds, especially when they’re big enough to swallow you up like a cool, refreshing drink, but he still somehow finds himself in one with Jungkook holding tight to his hand so he doesn’t get lost.
“This place has the best streetfood ever,” Jungkook declares as he drags Taehyung to a place selling giant coconuts punctured with straws. Taehyung takes his furtively, brushing himself off where a little girl had run into him and spilled fish flakes from her takoyaki all down the front of his shorts. He’s pretty sure there’s a couple pieces still rotting inside his sock, but before he can take it off and empty it out, Jungkook is pulling him elsewhere to try kebabed strawberries covered in dried red syrup. Taehyung opts for a pineapple smoothie himself, and they share Jungkook’s candied-fruit-on-a-stick between the two of them, tossing the remnants into a trash bag by a hoddeok vendor.
“Isn’t it good?” Jungkook asks, godforsaken glitter in his eyes, and Taehyung swallows down his candy-flavored spit.
“Uh, yeah,” Taehyung says as he’s jostled to the side by a woman chasing after a dog dressed in a fur jacket. He's never wanted the company of a toilet so badly in his entire life. “Yeah, tasty. Super tasty.”
Jungkook eyes him. “Not your scene, eh?”
“No way,” Taehyung denies, holding his hands up defensively until he remembers that Jungkook’s is still latched to one of them. He disentangles himself sheepishly. “This is totally my scene. I love being touched on all sides by humans I don’t know.”
“You say ‘humans’ as if you aren’t one,” Jungkook jokes, elbowing him hard in the stomach. Taehyung wouldn't mind the touch if it weren't for the fact that he’s having trouble finding his lungs now. “We can go somewhere else. I hear there’s pretty cool knick-knack stores around here.”
And knick-knacks they indeed find, in a shop with a giant Totoro doll sat in a rocking chair by the window (which is over a million won, both to Taehyung's disappointment and horror). They mostly take the forms of Disney-themed stuffed animals and cutesy stationery papers with disgustingly cheesy one-liners like "You're the one I love most in the world" printed at the top in English. Jungkook wanders back to where there are fancy Eiffel Tower-shaped pens and gift bags with bear faces on their fronts, but Taehyung ravages the entire store and emerges with a stuffed turtle keychain and One Piece figurines that he keeps in the bag so Jungkook won't know. He presents the keychain to Jungkook as he is thumbing through the sales section full of blank journals and portable fans modeled after penguins. “Tada!” he cheers with a flourish of fingers, dangling it in front of his face.
“I don’t get it,” Jungkook says flatly, reaching out with a finger to poke at the creature’s smiling face. “What is this for?”
“For memories, dumbass,” Taehyung huffs, reaching down towards the hem of Jungkook’s jeans.
Jungkook jumps away on instinct. “The fuck are you doing?” he demands, but his voice is a high whine, and he looks more frightened than angry.
“Chill out,” Taehyung says, rolling his eyes and reaching out again. Jungkook backs himself up against an Avengers toy display, but Taehyung doesn’t stop, hooking a finger onto one of his beltloops and promptly slipping the latch of the turtle through it. It closes with a little snap, and Taehyung straightens, dusting off his hands in triumph. “See? That wasn’t so bad.”
“It looked like you were about to sexually assault me,” Jungkook whispers hotly, eyes slanting to look somewhere behind Taehyung. “That mom is staring at us.”
“Then make it seem natural before she calls the police,” Taehyung challenges, tossing his arm carelessly around Jungkook’s neck. It’s warm and damp with sweat, and Jungkook’s face flushes almost purple, but he doesn’t shake him off.
Taehyung chooses, once again, not to think about it.
The crowd surges outside the shop. Taehyung slows as people rush past in order to avoid the ahjussis that are desperately trying to sell scarves and hats at their side stands. He's wary of them all. Let's be honest – they probably know by now that Taehyung doesn't like them and are just waiting out there to crush his bones between their bodies and a rip-off Gucci stand. If the apocalypse started right now and all those people turned into zombies, they would be completely fucked is all he's saying.
Jungkook stops with him and looks hard at the sea of people, too, like he's trying to figure out what to do next. "Hey. We can get out of here and go check out my high school, if you want. I've never shown anybody it."
And Taehyung shouldn't want to all that much. It's not exactly normal to be interested in your acquaintances' high schools beyond maybe asking about the juicy gossips – who hated who, who got laid in the principal's office, who followed them to college and who was still selling cans of Milkis to twelve-year-olds in convenience stores.
He nods, though, not out of politeness, but because he's wondering what kind of high school could have raised Jeon Jungkook. "Sure."
They have to wade through the crowd again, but Jungkook gets them out relatively quickly, dragging him down to the subway again to get back to Haeundae (but not before getting another strawberry kebab. That kid can put away some high fructose corn syrup.). Jungkook's school is apparently in the Gijang district, a good 30 minutes away by vehicle, but the bus they take is empty for most of the trip and Taehyung really appreciates that. Jungkook sits next to him, not too close, and Taehyung is both way too painfully aware of him and comfortable enough to say fuck it and stretch his legs into Jungkook's space anyways. Jungkook doesn't say anything, just fluctuates between ignoring him and punching his knee when it drifts too close to his, and Taehyung thinks about napping on his shoulder but doesn't.
The school itself is something else. It's apparently an international school, aptly named Busan International Foreign School, and Taehyung doesn't exactly know how Jungkook got into it as a Korean, but knowing his credentials makes it not all that surprising. Jungkook explains the music program as a mixture of composing on some sophisticated software Taehyung has never heard of, performing with instruments or voice alone, and memorizing a shit ton of historical pieces. Of course, that's just the school school part. That doesn't hardly count the fact that he's also been in the beginner's orchestra, the junior and senior choir, a prep Suzuki violin course, various extracurricular music theory and voice classes and literally fuck it all why is he good at everything.
Taehyung is two parts impressed and five parts hella jealous.
Taehyung, upon seeing the school, knows exactly what Jungkook had meant when he'd said talent shows at his school were "kind of a big deal." The entire school is huge and prestigious-looking, more like a college campus than any kind of place for a sixteen-year-old. It stands tall as if it knows it has something to prove, being an international school in Busan, and a range of primary colors are painted on the columns next to the windows. They linger outside, staring up at it together as the sun tries in vain to warm their backs.
"I can't take you inside," Jungkook says regretfully. "Classes are going on, and it would probably seem really sketchy to have graduates wandering around in there. I would have totally dragged you to the music rooms otherwise."
"Would you have finally performed for me?" Taehyung asks, not tearing his eyes from the top floor's windows. He sees a flash of a shirt, and then a young boy peeps his head out to stare back at him. Jungkook had mentioned it being a Pre-K through Grade 12 school, but Taehyung still startles at the kid as he presses meaty fists into the glass pane. A woman who Taehyung assumes is the teacher comes up from behind him and pulls him away by the shoulders, but not before catching sight of Taehyung and closing the curtains almost threateningly. Jungkook seems to have gotten the hint, too, because he takes Taehyung by the wrist and tugs.
"No," he says with a little smile as they leave the building to loom behind them, sun filtering through its glass and painting the ground in rainbows. "No, I wouldn't have."
There are no kids by the soccer fields, so Jungkook and Taehyung sneak out and sit on the bleachers together. Jungkook gives Taehyung one of his gloves, and Taehyung gives Jungkook a hand warmer that he'd found in a forgotten pocket of his backpack, and they sit in silence, watching the sun fall as children and teenagers alike scream and rip through the school halls like they own them.
Taehyung wonders if Jungkook did that once, but he doesn't ask. There's a look of sappy reminiscence on Jungkook's face that tells him basically everything he'd ever need to know.
It’s nearing the finger-light brush of dusk when Taehyung remembers their reservation and suggests that they start to head back to the restaurant he’d booked. This is when things start going a little screwy.
For starters, they’re pretty far away, and the buses take a long ass roundabout route to get back to their place, so Taehyung flags down a taxi for the sake of convenience. When Jungkook realizes what he’s doing, his face contorts in fear, and he pulls Taehyung’s arm back down to his side right as an empty one putters up to where they stand on the curb of the sidewalk.
“What are you doing,” Jungkook hisses. “Busan taxis are insane.”
“All taxis are insane,” Taehyung retorts, leaning down to where the taxi driver has rolled down his window and giving him the name of the place. He opens the back door for Jungkook despite his protests, which get continuously louder the closer he gets to the taxi’s interior. Taehyung eventually has to push him in by the head like a cop arresting a criminal. “The fuck, dude, you’re causing a scene, just buckle your seatbelt if you’re that piss-scared.”
Turns out there’s a reason why he is that piss-scared. The taxi driver is an ahjussi well into his fifties, talkative and gruff and more than a little bossy, and he not only smokes in the car, but he runs red lights and slams on breaks when there a people behind him, too. More than once, he rolls down the passenger side window and throws curses at other taxi drivers, who roll down their windows and do the same as their customers similarly cower in the backseat. It's almost like they have their own language between each other that consists primarily of insults and slight-to-moderate levels of old person anger.
Taehyung doesn’t admit himself with words. He admits himself by clinging to Jungkook’s elbow for dear life as Jungkook holds the Oh Shit handle above him with an iron grip. He is absolutely 116% piss-scared.
They do shave a good ten minutes off their arrival time, though, which Taehyung points out once he’s managed to get out of the taxi on his wobbly Bambi legs.
Jungkook glares at him and throws a crushed ball of won through the passenger window of the taxicab. The driver cackles as if he’s used to these reactions and drives off, taillights winking as they disappear into Busan again. Taehyung makes a mental note to himself: you better damn well walk back to the hotel. He considers briefly putting it on his to-do list, but Jungkook is brushing past him to go inside, so he follows him.
The unfortunate part of getting there ten minutes early is that they now have a thirty minute wait instead of twenty. The drive there has demolished both their moods, so sitting together in front of the register is more than a little awkward. Jungkook goes outside for a smoke break, which, from what Taehyung has gathered, is what he does when he hits an Emotional High – in this case, probably from the near-death experience Taehyung had just unfortunately enacted upon him. When he comes back ten minutes later, cheeks a cherry red and still smelling a little of ash, they dither in uncomfortable silence, Taehyung staring at the underside of his scuffed-up winter Crocs and Jungkook staring at a plaque on the wall that has detailed skincare instructions written in hanja.
There's nobody waiting with them besides their silence and the awkward server manning the front desk, who is looking between the two of them as if expecting an explosion. Then, Jungkook says, “'Use diaper rash cream to get rid of big ugly pimples.’”
Taehyung chokes. Jungkook tears his gaze from the framed picture of Chinese acne tips and meets his eyes.
They both crack up into laughter.
There’s something about being comfortable with someone that’s always been strange to Taehyung. So many times, he has met a person – a perfectly nice person with perfectly nice qualities and perfectly nice habits and perfectly nice breath – and has still noped his way to another galaxy where they are but an infinitesimal speck in the distance. It’s hard to find people he clicks with, and when he doesn’t click immediately, he gets bored of them. When he gets bored of them, he cuts them off, and when he cuts them off, nine times out of nine and a half, they hate his guts for the rest of eternity.
It’s not like he does it on purpose. He just can’t be bothered to sift through people on a regular basis to find the ones worth getting to know. It was a blessing that he found Yoongi in his very first semester because, for all the guy’s crass words and wicked aim with dirty smelly laundry, he is the first person Taehyung has met in a long time that he doesn’t get tired of being around. If it weren’t for him showing up at his door and dragging him out to his band concerts and bars and other various places that Taehyung wouldn’t be caught dead at alone, that’s exactly what he would have been – alone.
And that’s not a bad thing. Taehyung doesn’t mind being alone. But he does admit that, sometimes, having a little good company isn’t so bad, either.
That’s the problem with Jeon Jungkook. That’s the core of every issue that Taehyung has because Jeon Jungkook is that kind of company. He’s the kind of company that Taehyung wants to tuck into his pocket and unearth every time he feels lonely. He’s the kind of company that could run into Taehyung at any time, in any mood, in any setting and in any reality, and he’d still pretty much always accept it. He’s the kind of company that, were it to never leave, Taehyung wouldn’t mind.
And he likes Taehyung.
And Taehyung doesn't exactly know what to do with that.
Taehyung’s not exactly a dating man. In fact, “dating man” encompasses every quality that Taehyung lacks. Charming. Compassionate. Communicative. Caring. The four C’s have been a plague in Taehyung’s life for as long as he can remember because he can only barely get a grasp on any of them. He’s a regular on the right side of the Love To Hate spectrum, but the left? Unless Yoongi counts (he definitely fucking doesn't), then not so much.
He’s not one to go into dating very easily because of this. Hell, it’s not like he likes breaking hearts or hurting people’s feelings or anything, either. It's just more convenient to not even try. And that spark in Jungkook’s eyes, the thrumming energy in his walk, the silly words that spill out of his mouth when he’s on top of the world – Taehyung isn’t too keen about taking those, either.
But Jungkook eats sushi like he’s made of it, and when Taehyung buys them a bottle of wine, he chugs it like he’s never tasted something so sweet in his entire life. Something about the way he smiles when he’s a little tipsy on Merlot and a lot drunk on bliss can make Taehyung forget to think of these things – maybe even forget to think of anything at all.
If Taehyung could think about that, he'd know it's a very, very not-good thing.
The date dinner itself goes way too well. Jungkook always forgets this part – maybe because of his alcohol-flushed mind, probably because of the Accident that eclipses it afterwards. Even through his drunken haze, Taehyung can remember it all – the taste of raw fish on his tongue and the weight of Jungkook's laughing eyes on his mind, the gloss of his hair in shit fluorescent lighting and the beer goggles Taehyung had on that made a pretty boy even more beautiful .
It was his favorite part of the night. It still is. It probably always will be.
And then came the not-so-favorite part, which, ironically, is the only one Taehyung ever hears about anymore. Taehyung had emptied all his books out of his backpack the day before and packed up his fireworks and a 500 won lighter he’d picked up at a Daiso last week for the after-party. Once they pay for their food (Drunk!Jungkook insists on paying for both but somehow manages to lose the rest of his money, so that pretty much doesn't happen), they haul ass to the beach and set up next to a little jetty that juts itself out into the ocean. It's as he's digging shit out of his bag that he realizes that he is way more inebriated than he gave himself credit for.
He also desperately needs to pee. The ocean calls to him, waves whispering gently against the sand, and Taehyung hands over the supplies to a dazed-looking Jungkook.
“I’m gonna go piss in the ocean,” he says. “Light the big fireworks, okay? I’ll be back in a sec to do the handheld ones.”
“Okay, I got it,” Jungkook says. Taehyung is too drunk himself to hear the slur in Jungkook’s words.
Despite the fuzz wiping out half of his brain’s capacities, Taehyung has the decency to look around for stray passerby before stripping off his shorts. He’s aware that nobody really wants or needs to see his tighty-whitey-clad ass while taking a leisurely night stroll along the beach. He steps into the water bit by bit until he’s submerged up to his waist.
(We don’t have to talk about him peeing. Nobody needs that imagery.)
It occurs to him suddenly, after a few minutes out to sea, that Jungkook still hasn’t managed to set off any fireworks. When he turns around to fight the current back to shore, he notices, with a blast of sobriety, that Jungkook is no longer where he left him.
“Jungkook?” Taehyung calls warily as he treads back to where he’s positive he left him last. “Jungkook, the fuck, where did you go?”
“Over here!” he hears a voice laugh off in the distance. His eyes close of their own accord, and he turns, slowly, slowly, until he’s facing the pier they had set up camp next to.
There’s a black figure waving from the very edge of it, holding a little red item that Taehyung can’t make out from where he’s standing. He wills it not to be true.
Then, the moon glints off Jungkook’s hell-borne hair, just as he lights a flame and holds it up to the rod he has clutched in his other hand.
The warning yell is meant to stop Jungkook from setting off the firework on a very wooden, very flammable bridge. What it actually does is scare the shit out of Jungkook, who drops the already-lit firework on Taehyung’s bookbag and stumbles backwards. In one second, Jungkook is hanging from the tip of the pier by his big toe. In the next, there is no Jungkook – only the sound of a splash and a frothing circle of water.
And in the one after that, the firework explodes, and Taehyung’s backpack is engulfed in flame.
“BACKPACK,” Taehyung squeals, taking off towards the pier as fast as his bare feet can go on mounds of unstuck sand. He somehow gets there before anything on the bridge catches fire, and, after a moment of deliberation, he kicks his backpack off into the water. It lands with a soft plop, the fire extinguished upon impact. Taehyung watches for a moment, hand over his heart, as its charred remnants sink to the bottom of the ocean.
Then, he hears sputtering and the sound of hands frantically hitting water. Jungkook. Taehyung races to the edge of the pier and peers out into the dark mass of saltwater, spotting Jungkook’s flailing figure just a little ways out to sea.
“HOLD ON,” he bellows, stepping back from the pier. He closes his eyes, prepares himself, and conducts his own four-count. One-and, two-and, three-and—
He doesn’t wait for four before he takes a running jump into the water.
It’s cold enough to wake up most of Taehyung’s senses, but he still struggles to keep his head above water as he searches for Jungkook’s thrashing body. He listens hard to orient himself and catches the familiar noise of cursing and heavy breathing, and he struggles to swim towards it past the waves.
“Jungkook,” he gurgles through a mouthful of ocean water that assaults his face. “Jungkook, swim over here.”
Jungkook obeys the best that he can, and when Taehyung is within an arm’s reach, he grabs onto the junction between his arm and his shoulder and refuses to let go.
"You're okay," Taehyung breathes into the top of his head, feeling relief for about half a moment before Jungkook kicks himself up and accidentally(?) headbutts him in the face.
Jungkook, in his extremely compromised state, turns out to be the kind of so-called “damsel in distress” who literally tries to drown the person saving him. At some point, he tries climbing onto Taehyung’s head as if it were a tiny man-sized island, and at another, he hooks his legs around Taehyung’s middle and squeezes until Taehyung thinks his ribs have punctured his lungs.
“Jungkook, you fuck,” he wheezes, prying him from around his neck for the third time and backpaddling towards the shore, “you’re safe now, Jesus Christ, stop trying to choke me to an early death.”
"I don't want to die," Jungkook says, eyes wide. "Please don't let me die."
"Don't worry. I actually have a balloon for a body. I can't sink."
That’s when Taehyung feels it. A prickle along the left side of his barely-clothed ass, like seaweed rubbing against his skin. It lingers for a second, and Taehyung has half a mind to reach down and flick it off because that's all he thinks it is. Then, the cleft of his ass explodes into a supernova-like pain that radiates up his spine like electricity.
“SHIT,” he howls as he kicks to dislodge it, and Jungkook, upon hearing the distress in his voice, clambers on top of his shoulders again.
Taehyung, to this day, does not have any earthly idea how he got them back to shore. He remembers pumping his legs one second, working through the sting the best he can with a very wet Jungkook riding his back like a child. Then, he’s dragging himself onto land, wet sand stinging his wound and Jungkook practically passed out on top of him. He remembers coughing up water and dirt and maybe a bug, and he remembers somebody in a red uniform coming up to him to pull him the rest of the way in.
The rest is history. Taehyung soaks his butt in a solution made for jellyfish stings while sheepishly explaining to the lifeguard that it had been him who’d accidentally started the fire, not Jungkook (a lie he feels obligated to tell, considering Jungkook’s cheek is glued to the sand and his eyes are still fluttering like he’s having a bad dream). He gets a ticket, but he also gets a pat on the back and a “Sorry about your ass” from the lifeguard before he leaves them to their business. (He had also offered to call them a taxi. Taehyung had almost hit him in his refusal.)
Taehyung carries Jungkook home piggy-back style after he feels well enough to walk. He practically crashes through the door of their hotel room and chucks the kid onto their shared bed as soon as he's close enough to make it. The other patrons in the hallway and at the bottom floor stare at them as if they know what they've been up to, but Taehyung is pretty sure they could never guess why he has no shorts and a soaked kid draped over his back like a fashion accessory.
Jungkook doesn’t stir beyond curling up in a ball in the comfort of the mattress. Taehyung desperately wants to shower and brush his teeth and bring himself to some semblance of humanity again, but he doesn't manage to do anything else but join him there, kicking the comforter over Jungkook and hugging the kid’s unused pillow to his body. He falls asleep all at once, consciousness melting into a loop of Jungkook's gentle breaths and the sound of a streetlamp flickering outside.
That, friends, is the story of their first date. It also, somehow, is not the story of their last.
(“Seriously, I felt so bad for that lifeguard. Like, can you imagine having to administer anti-sting care to a grown man’s asscheek?”
“You weren’t even awake for it! You don’t know. He could have been extremely happy about being able to touch my butt.”
“Nobody would be happy about seeing you in skintight panties.”
“Hey, hey, hey. At least they were boy panties this time, give me some credit.”)
When Taehyung comes back home that weekend, he opens the door and is promptly covered in every last bit of Yoongi’s used laundry.
He pulls the basket off his head, looking up at where it had been balanced on top of the half-open door before turning to look at where Yoongi sits at his desk, looking incredibly pleased with himself.
“That’s what you get for going on a date with Jeon Jungkook and not fucking telling me, you prick.”
Taehyung pulls stained underwear off his ear with the tip of his fingers, making a face as he throws it in a corner where he will never have to lay eyes on it again. “You’ve been out all week, when the hell was I expected to tell you?”
“As soon as it happened. No matter where I was at.” Yoongi stands up and crosses the room to where Taehyung stands, swatting him in the back of the head. “I had to hear from Jin because Jungkook actually talks to him about stuff, unlike you. I’m starting to question whether or not I’m even your best friend anymore.”
“Maybe I moved on to bigger and better things,” Taehyung sniffs, holding the back of his head sulkily. “It went terribly, anyways, in case you were wondering. Jungkook almost died and I—um. Hurt myself.”
Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “Hurt yourself where.”
Yoongi’s perceptiveness will one day be the death of him. “You don’t need to know.”
“Given that answer, I don’t think I want to.” Yoongi peers into his face. Taehyung usually doesn’t like to be searched with his beady little eyes, but he really doesn’t feel like talking about it, so he lets Yoongi do his work. He leans back a beat later, looking moderately impressed. “That bad, huh?”
“We didn’t really talk on the way home. Mostly because he was hungover and took one long, continuous nap on the train.” Taehyung tugs off his shoes and throws them into the corner with Yoongi’s underwear. “It’s fine. I didn’t really want to date him anyways.”
Yoongi, thank the lord for him, doesn’t give Taehyung shit for saying so, even though he looks like he really wants to. He just pats him on the back sympathetically and moves to retrieve Taehyung’s favorite monkey stuffed toy. Taehyung hugs it pitifully to his chest. “I can talk to him if you want me to,” Yoongi offers.
Taehyung shakes his head. “Nah. I’ll talk to him tomorrow or something, make sure we’re still cool. He said he wanted to be friends even if it didn’t work, so.”
Yoongi nods. “Sounds like typical Jungkook to me. Just let me know what goes down. And I actually mean it this time. Tell me.” He gives him The Eye before gathering his jacket and shoving his wallet in his pocket. “I was due to meet up with Jin about an hour ago, but I was waiting on you to get back first. Wanna come?”
Taehyung shakes his head. “I just want to sleep right now, but thanks, man. I'll catch up with you guys later, okay?”
“Sure.” Yoongi gives him one more pat, nodding affirmatively at him in the way Yoongi does when he’s faced with things he doesn’t know how to talk about, and sweeps himself out the door all at once.
Taehyung sits for a while, considering, before he takes out his computer and does a bit of homework that he had slacked on, thanks to his shit date. It doesn't take too long, maybe an hour or two, and Yoongi still isn't back by the time he finishes, so he settles down with his monkey for a well-deserved nap that will hopefully remove his mind from this strange, barren Jungkookland that he has become a peasant in. He has to admit that he's a little relieved that he doesn't have to be a Boyfriend. Like, Boyfriends have no fun. It's clinically, factually and scientifically proven that life sucks when you become a Boyfriend, and you eventually die from either nagging or jealous psycho Other Boyfriend shooting you in the foot for talking to another man. Taehyung is well-versed in Buzzfeed articles. He knows this stuff.
He can't even remember the last time he did the Boyfriend thing, anyways. Maybe high school? If his ongoing affair with his neighbor's dog counts, then maybe college. He's way too out of practice, as he has since proven. (His monkey nods in agreement, and he frowns at it. That's not nice, monkey.)
Unfortunately for him and monkey, a knock on the door comes before he’s even managed to adjust his blankets to the proper 3:4 ratio over his body. The only conclusion he can reasonably come to is that Yoongi left his keys or something. He crosses his fingers that he did so he can give him shit about it as he jerks himself off the bed and pads over to swing open the door.
He's met with a mop of hair that should be red, but is now dark purple. Taehyung’s face is a complementary pink.
“Jung—what are you doing here?”
“I wanted to show off my new ‘do,” Jungkook says, framing his face with his hands and scrunching up his nose like Park Shin Hye on crack. “Looks good, right? I think it suits my face.”
“Yeah, it looks really—okay, wait a minute, just wait a damn minute.”
Jungkook doesn’t wait a damn minute, to Taehyung's unsurprise, strolling into the room as if he owns it and thunking heavily into Yoongi’s chair. He swivels it so that he’s sat directly in front of Taehyung, who has made no move to follow him back inside. His muscles have honestly shocked themselves into paralysis. Like, seriously, he had been convinced that Jungkook would be a sad sack the next few days, crushed by their incompatibility, ruined by his one-sided love.
And instead, he’s trying to see if he can make it all the way across the room in one push on Yoongi’s stupid rolly chair.
Taehyung is mildly offended.
“Why are you—”
“Did you see that? That one was so close! Hold up, I need to try again.”
“Jungkook—” Taehyung tries again, but the kid is too busy scooting his chair back to put his feet on Yoongi’s desk. Man, Yoongi will kill him if he notices the dirty footprints he's leaving behind. “Jungkook, Jesus shit, stop.”
Jungkook doesn’t stop. Taehyung pulls a Yoongi and kicks up a black wifebeater from Yoongi’s spilled laundry, still amassed in front of the door. It lands unassumingly on the tip of Jungkook’s nose.
Jungkook pauses just long enough to giggle. Then, he sneezes. The shirt flies off his face and onto the floor in a crumpled heap. "Oops. I hope you weren't planning on wearing that."
Yeah, no, Yoongi is definitely going to kill him.
“Jungkook,” Taehyung says for the third time, sidling up and stealthily stepping in front of his chair so he can’t move anywhere. Jungkook looks up at him obediently, and Taehyung’s words falter in his mouth. “Uh.”
“You crash in my room all the time,” Jungkook says almost defensively. “Why am I not allowed to visit?”
“It’s not that,” Taehyung quickly amends, brows etching together over his nose. “It’s not —I thought you would sleep half your life away before I saw you again."
"I tried to nap, but I suck shit at sleeping when I'm hungover, so I did this instead." Jungkook twists a strand of hair between his fingers and lets it fall over his nose. Taehyung watches dumbly. "What, are you surprised?"
Taehyung swallows. "It's just like…assuming because of what happened this weekend—”
“Assuming what about it?” Jungkook asks innocently.
Taehyung trails off again. "Um. What."
Jungkook finally stands up, brushing off his shorts as if being in Taehyung’s room for five minutes has already made them gross. Taehyung is mildly offended all over again. “Okay, I admit it. There was another reason I came in here.”
Taehyung holds his breath. “…what? Why?”
Jungkook leans in, almost uncomfortably close, and Taehyung knows damn well that Jungkook is not an uncomfortably-close-leaning kind of person, so he is doubly taken aback. He nearly topples as his back bends down to accommodate, and Jungkook grins at Taehyung’s absolute and utter confusion.
“I wanted to ask when our second date will be,” he announces cheerily.
And that, friends, is how Taehyung fell on his wounded ass and bruised it in the same spot. (And the crowd goes wild.)
(“Ahahahaha, hahahaha, hahahahahahahaha—”
“It’s been an entire school year and you’re still laughing at that?”
“What? It’s one of the only times I've made a guy drop dead for me.”
“I'm not dead."
"Aw, you're almost less ugly when you're embarrassed."
"Okay. Moving on from this horribly insignificant moment: and then?"
“So then they started real-talk dating. Literally no one was surprised except the knight and the king. Seriously. Nobody.”)
Their before-relationship starts like this:
“FINALLY,” Jimin bellows from where he’s stepped out of the bathroom when he catches sight of the two of them awkwardly holding hands in the hall.
Yoongi pokes his head out at the commotion, spots the same thing, and flashes a thumbs up, even though his face is void of any and all emotions.
Then, Seokjin pokes his head out directly above Yoongi’s, locates the source of the excitement, and flashes a thumbs up, too, looking about a thousand times more excited about it.
Jungkook reddens and almost pulls his hand out of Taehyung’s, but Taehyung squeezes it silently and flips them all off. Jimin and Seokjin look properly scandalized, which is reward enough for Jungkook, even though Yoongi just flips him off right back. They all filter back to their respective rooms (minus Jungkook, who quietly follows Taehyung into his), exam prep settling in over all of them like a Black Plague of Learning.
They make the mistake of beginning the tentative first steps of their Whatchamacallit (which is what Taehyung will affectionately refer to it as whenever Yoongi asks) on the cusp of another series of tests. Because of this, they don’t actually go on their second date until well after their first (unless library study sessions until Shit-I-Lost-My-Eyeballs o’clock count as a date). This is both relieving and anxiety-inducing because Taehyung is honestly really stressed about how the next date is going to go. He really just doesn’t have any ideas for another one. He hadn’t even expected it to go past one in the first place, considering he, y'know, totally fucking blew it, so now, as he sits and vaguely considers shaving his head so he won’t pull all his hair out from Exam Stress, he finds himself racing to think of something unique and fun and moderately stupid to do with Jungkook while he should be studying.
Yeah, no, this is a huge mistake. Jungkook is too Jungkook and Taehyung has, like, twenty exams and really, what is Taehyung even doing sort-of dating someone like Jeon Jungkook. Not even – h ow dumb is Jungkook to be sort-of dating someone like Taehyung? Taehyung wouldn’t even sort-of date someone like Taehyung. Taehyung would rather gut himself with fishing wire than sort-of date himself.
And yet, in spite of exam seasons, Jimin's stupid and constant "gaaaaaaaay" one-liners, Yoongi's funk room smell, and Taehyung's general attitude toward life, that's exactly what Jungkook does. He invades Taehyung and Yoongi's room almost every day, when he isn’t calling Taehyung to come over to his, and he doesn’t hesitate to stretch himself out along the floor when Taehyung is doing his own thing, one eye on his homework and the other on his iPhone’s music library. It almost hasn't really changed from before. Besides Taehyung deleting Tinder off his phone and Jungkook blushing furiously when he walks in on Taehyung in a piece from his Victoria’s Secret collection (“The silk is comfortable, judge me”), their friendship stays pretty constant. There's just this vague feeling in the air, something that's not exactly friendship but behaves like it in this strange, twisted, comfortable kind of way, just out of the grasp of Taehyung's understanding.
Jungkook isn’t big on being touched, which is something Taehyung loves when he’s familiar with the person, so when they sit on the bed, Taehyung usually just presses his arm to Jungkook’s side. That’s about all Jungkook lets him do beyond occasionally holding his hand (not typically in public anymore after the Jimin Screaming Bloody Murder And Possibly Pissing His Pants incident), but Taehyung is pretty sure that it means more than it seems. Jungkook doesn’t let Yoongi touch him, not that Yoongi really tries, and even Seokjin, someone he’s apparently known for a few years now, is hesitant about laying his hand on Jungkook’s shoulder in that distinctly hyung way of his. Jimin sort of invades his space anyways, noogieing Jungkook when he whines about his personal space and cackling whenever Jungkook takes a swing at him and misses, but even after an entire semester of dealing with Jimin’s antics, Jungkook hasn't really gotten used to him.
But with Taehyung, he sort of lets him be. If it’s Taehyung who puts his arm around his shoulders, he relaxes into it. If it’s Taehyung who pets the top of his head, he blows his fringe back up out of his face instead of socking him a good one. If it’s Taehyung who lays his legs heavily in his lap, he just rests his hands on the shins of them, tapping out a distracted beat with his fingertips as he speaks.
Jungkook is about as versed in relationships as Taehyung, but when he lets Taehyung brush his bangs away from his fluttering eyes as he’s about to fall asleep on Taehyung's gross cheeto-covered carpet, Taehyung thinks that there’s something to the both of them, anyways.
Their second date is a lot less involved than the first, but that also means there’s less room for mistakes. It’s a simple and typical kind of date, mostly because Jungkook takes all rights away from Taehyung to plan it when he calls him at four in the morning to ask if he’s scared of sharks. They have dinner at a popular pizza joint on Fireball that people only really deliver from (they do get weird looks from the servers when they say it’s for here, not to go). Afterwards, Jungkook drags Taehyung to a screening of Transformers: Age of Extinction at the old-school four dollar theater for students because he’s really into big robots and end-of-the-world AUs and apparently Mark Wahlberg. (Taehyung doesn't like it at all, but Jungkook is glowing, so he just comments about how Bumblebee had a nice paint job and leaves it at that.)
Their third date is a coffee date at Davinci, where the drinks are expensive but the Wifi is free, and Jungkook orders black tea to match Taehyung's espresso macchiato. Their fourth is stargazing in the soccer arena on campus, where, if you turn all the lights off, the constellations are the most visible. And their fifth is at the same place during the day, soccer match in full swing. Jungkook buys the popcorn, and Taehyung roots for the other team, just 'cuz.
It's on their sixth date that the line between what's new and what's routine completely blurs. It happens on the rooftop of a building on campus currently undergoing construction. The workers leave out their ladder when they go home – honestly, on a college campus, you might as well be sending out invitations to use it illegally – so Taehyung packs up sandwiches and non-alcoholic cider (he will NOT make that mistake again) and calls up Jungkook the night of, telling him to skip studying and have a late-night picnic. It’s not usually Taehyung who’s suggesting they skip studies, so Jungkook immediately obliges. That's how he ends up following Taehyung’s jeaned-up butt as it works itself up the rickety ladder.
“We’re not going to die, right?” Jungkook asks. “By falling ladder or corporal punishment or anything?”
“Unless I decide on behalf of the state to smother you with turkey and bologna, no,” Taehyung answers from where he’s got the picnic basket between his teeth. He slings it over the side of the rooftop the second he’s close enough to do so and pulls himself up straight afterwards, laying comfortably on his stomach as Jungkook follows suit.
Jungkook whistles once he’s joined Taehyung and straightened up, walking straight up to the ledge that overlooks the athletics buildings’ alleyways and toeing at the fall. “Wow,” he breathes. “I feel so high up.”
Taehyung stares at him blankly. “You do realize we go higher than this in our own dorm, right?”
“Are not,” Jungkook denies petulantly, raising his nose in the air. “Let me have my moment. It’s cool up here, okay.”
“Moment allowed.” Taehyung stretches out his arms and wiggles himself to grab onto Jungkook’s ankle. Jungkook pays him no attention. “Okay. Moment over. Food time.”
Taehyung whines and shakes at Jungkook’s leg. “Jungkooooooook.”
Jungkook steps on Taehyung’s pointer finger with his other shoe, and Taehyung yelps and releases him. He glares up to say something snappy, but Jungkook is already settling down cross-legged in front of the picnic basket and unpacking their dinner. He wipes his finger off on his shirt and sticks it in his mouth to heal instead.
“Don’t be a baby,” Jungkook chastises without looking up.
“Wouldn’t be necessary if you didn’t injure me on the job,” Taehyung mutters before dragging himself upright and chipping in.
It's been six dates now, six times where they have set out with the intention of only being around each other, but they’re somehow still weird whenever they sit down to eat together. Half the time, they’re joking, laughing, talking about life, and badgering each other like children. That's what Taehyung craves nowadays, when bad grades come back and his teachers rail on him and his life feels strangely out of his control. Jungkook is good for him when the mood is right, his laughter hiccuped and his eyes round and happy in that innocent, fetusy way, and something about the way he smiles when he's like that makes Taehyung think that the overarching scheme of his existence is pretty much the least important thing in the world.
But then there's the other half of the time, when they sit in silence and Jungkook stares off like he's looking into another time. Sometimes, it feels pretty okay, sitting with Jungkook without having to talk. Sometimes, he likes the sound of the undisturbed quiet between them, only ever ruffled by Jungkook scratching his head or cracking his knuckles or scuffing his shoes on the pavement.
Other times, though, their silence feels charged, like an electric bomb waiting to short-circuit. This is one of those times. Taehyung doesn't know why. Taehyung chooses not to know why. He doesn't look at Jungkook for the entirety of the meal.
Jungkook is usually the one to break the silence whenever this happens, so it comes as no surprise when he does it this time, too. “Did you get exam results back yet?”
“Yeah. Two B’s and an A-minus.” He nibbles on his sandwich thoughtfully, looking up at Jungkook’s face for the first time in the better part of a half hour. He’s turned away from him, looking up at the sky, his back pressed against the railing. “What about you?”
“Are we dating?” Jungkook asks instead.
Taehyung’s sandwich gets caught in his throat. Jungkook lets him cough it out, heaving for air and trying to relocate his stomach. “Jesus, what?”
“Are we dating,” Jungkook repeats, this time without the intonation.
Taehyung stares at him. “I don’t know. What kind of question is that to ask over sandwiches?”
“Do you want to be dating?” Jungkook tries again. Taehyung squints to find any semblance of an emotional reaction in Jungkook’s face, but it is completely stoic and unchanged. Maybe his guard is up. Maybe it has been all night, preparing for this question.
“I…” Taehyung doesn’t have any kind of answer. He swallows, even though he'd stopped eating the second Jungkook had started them on this train of thought. “Do you?”
Jungkook purses his lips as if thinking. “No.”
Taehyung’s heart halts. He blames it on Jungkook's bluntness, on his surprise, on anything but what he thinks it is. His entire world shifts into soft focus, and by the time his breathing starts up again, it’s stuttered. “No?”
Jungkook doesn’t answer. He slowly pulls a smoke out of his pocket, lights it without even looking at the fire, and promptly tosses the lighter out over the edge of the roof. They both watch it fly through the air, landing on a sidewalk railing down below with a tiny ping. Taehyung searches for the proper reaction, the proper words, but he pulls up a number of blanks, one by one. Jungkook’s profile has faded from his line of sight. He’s so confused. No. No. No.
Taehyung laughs without being quite aware that he’s doing it. “If you don’t want to date, you should have just said so. I wouldn't have called—”
“Tell me something.” Jungkook is finally facing him, head cocked, looking at him with an expression that is more curious, more questioning, than it is stony or hurt. The cigarette balances between two of his fingers, drooping, as if ready to fall. “When I said ‘no’ just then. How did it make you feel?”
Taehyung stares at him. The dawn is slow, tendrils of morning pushing at his thoughts sunray by sunray. “Not good,” he finally answers.
Jungkook’s smile is small. “Then let’s date,” he says simply. He puts out the full cigarette without taking more than a single hit, tossing its carcass over the edge, too, in favor of raising a sandwich up to his mouth and gnawing into it like a big-toothed hamster.
Taehyung doesn't so much as raise a finger in protest.
The next day, Jungkook knocks at Taehyung’s door as he’s getting dressed for class. Taehyung opens it and startles a little. Jungkook looks incredibly nervous, holding his hands behind his back, and Taehyung is surprised to see him up so early. He shifts, still unsure of how to go about addressing him. “Did you need something?”
Jungkook pulls a stuffed duck out of nowhere, presenting it to Taehyung with a slightly determined, slightly ashamed look in his eyes. When Taehyung just stares blankly in response, he holds it out with one hand, reaching forward until its beak is pressed against Taehyung’s cheek, and makes a tiny, almost inaudible “chu” noise with the smack of his lips.
If Taehyung had an Animorph, in that moment, it would have been a red tomato. A big, juicy, embarrassed, unbelieving and horrified red tomato.
Jungkook drops the duck into Taehyung’s arms clumsily and says, “Have fun in class, boyfriend,” before turning his back and speedwalking down the hall to his room. His door slams when he closes it.
Somewhere behind him and still in bed, Yoongi groans.
(“And then you know what happens?")
Their actual relationship starts like this:
Taehyung is a fucking sap and everyone hates it.
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been about a thousand years since he's had a boy/girl/not-Yoongi-friend last. Maybe it’s because he’s fluent in Digimon fanfiction and has been secretly living vicariously through Taichi x Sora (FUCK SORATO) for the past eight years of his life. Maybe it’s because he’s still impressed with how Jungkook had totally reverse-psychologied him into making their “thing” an actual "Thing" (which are two very different things, mind you). Maybe he's just actually a fucking maple tree.
Whatever the reason, from the moment Jungkook first calls him “boyfriend,” Taehyung is like a trained puppy dog, there at Jungkook’s every beck and call.
He texts him icky couple things in class like “i miss you” and “my hand is cold without yours” and “to infinity and beyond (is our love).” He stalks his schedule as if it’s his own, meeting Jungkook in his ten-minute breaks between classes and milking every last drop of his company before he has to sprint all the way across campus to where his departments are. He regularly buys flowers with fake bees in them from the students stores and leaves them outside of Jungkook’s door, even though he also regularly spots Taemin picking them up and throwing them in the bathroom trash can.
And when Yoongi makes fun of him now with comments about the gigantic hearts in his eyes when he hears Jungkook’s name, he actually agrees.
That is the moment they know he’s completely gone. He is in like with Jeon Jungkook.
Taehyung doesn’t even realize it’s happening. While his friends whisper about how he’s staring at his phone, waiting for the response ding to go off, he is just thinking about Jungkook, where Jungkook is, what Jungkook’s doing, if Jungkook would be cool with hanging out tonight, whether Jungkook would punch him in the throat if he tried to kiss his forehead outside his dance practice rooms. He walks around every corner and through every door wondering if Jungkook will be on the other side, and sometimes, he frequents the places he knows Jungkook goes, just on the off chance that he'll maybe be there and Taehyung might get another chance to see his ugly gross face in his oversized gym shirts and expensive shoes.
Taehyung ’s never been in like before. Sure, you know, he's had a lot of obsessive around-campus crushes that are kind of similar, but they're still really different. When he saw Bean Grinds guy around without his barista cap on, he'd get sweaty palms and shaky fingers and temporary muteness, and he'd suddenly be all too aware of whether you could smell his breath from two meters away. That's sort of what just plain liking is. But when he sees Jungkook, it isn't like that. It's like a calm settles over him, a warmth blooming in his chest like the comfort of warm coffee in the winter wind or a motor fan in the sticky sweat of the summer, and he feels at one with the world. Maybe that's why it's so nice. Maybe that's why he's so into it. And maybe that's why he seeks it out, wandering through the arboretum in his free time and checking all the trees to make sure Jungkook isn't sat in one of them, just waiting for Taehyung to appear.
He doesn’t know any of the symptoms or consequences of being in like, and Yoongi, the only person capable of being blunt enough to tell him, is too disgusted by the way he lays on his floor and mopes when he’s not with Jungkook to try to approach him anymore. In fact, the last time Yoongi tried to initiate conversation with him, Taehyung promptly shushed him, stared deep into his stuffed duck's eyes, and whispered, "Connect us, Sailor Duck. I want to see through Jungkook's eyes." Yoongi had left without even commenting about how fucking weird Taehyung was, and Taehyung hadn't even noticed.
It is actually Seokjin who has to snap him out of it, to everyone's surprise. The cold days are being filtered out slowly in favor of the crust of summer, and Taehyung is getting tan from how much sun he’s getting while standing outside of the mess hall every day waiting for Jungkook to arrive. Seokjin catches him one day as he’s running across campus, about twenty seconds late for his meeting with Jungkook and in the midst of panicking about it. He’s about to just wave and run by, but Seokjin catches him by the arm with a “Whoa, hold your horses,” so he begrudgingly slows to a stop.
“What,” he pants, wiping the sweat off his forehead. “I’m late, could you save this for later—”
“I just wanted to talk while I’ve got you,” Seokjin says, squeezing his arm as if to tack the word literally onto the statement. “You know I never see you anymore.”
“Well, you know, I’m a little busy nowadays,” Taehyung says, laughing breathlessly. “What with Jungkook and all.”
Seokjin’s frown is almost imperceptible. “I still see Jungkook.”
“Well, uh.” He doesn’t really have a response for that, so he settles for, “So how are you and Yoongi?”
“Yoongi’s your roommate, wouldn’t you know?” Seokjin’s fingers are a little cold. He must have just come from indoors because it’s way too uncomfortably warm out for his hand to be chilling Taehyung’s upper arm like this.
“Like I said. Busy.”
“We’re fine.” Seokjin looks like he’s about to release him, but decides against it, as if afraid Taehyung will bolt. “You and Jungkook should come on a double date sometime.”
Taehyung sees an opening, and he damn well takes it. “Yeah, sure, okay,” he says a little too enthusiastically, bobbing his head as a gust of wind flutters at the ends of his button-down. “We’re free tomorrow. How about then?”
He says it mostly to satisfy Seokjin's weird influx of overbearing parent-ness, but the guy smiles like he hasn’t caught on. He doesn’t comment about how Taehyung somehow knows Jungkook’s schedule, too. (It's not like he studies it or anything.) “Awesome! I’ll let Yoongi know and text you two, okay?”
“Deal,” Taehyung smiles, subtly freeing himself from Seokjin’s grip. “I’ll see you tomorrow!”
He takes off before Seokjin can answer, but his phone pings in his pocket, as if to remind him that Seokjin’s not going to forget. Taehyung reads it when he’s gotten to the place where he was supposed to meet Jungkook and finds that his (insert violent coughing around the word “boyfriend” here) still hasn’t arrived.
See you! it flashes cheerily.
Taehyung frowns and doesn’t answer.
Taehyung knows when things are up. He can be a remarkably unperceptive blockhead sometimes, but when it comes to his friends, he always knows better. Seokjin may be more of an extension of Yoongi than an actual friend, but Taehyung could still tell that something was off about him. He doesn’t know what (probably because he’s still an unperceptive blockhead), but he isn’t sure if going through with this double date is such a hot idea anymore.
Jungkook comes flying up ten minutes late, gasping for air and forcing out apologies between every breath. He bends and puts his hands on his knees in recovery, and Taehyung solemnly pats his back.
“It’s okay,” he says seriously. “It’s not like my heart has been shattered, its shards lost with the wind, to one day be buried in the ocean. And probably the dumpster outside Samtong Chicken.”
“Shut up,” Jungkook wheezes, finally finding it in him to straighten himself up. “What are we doing today?”
“No hard copy plans right now,” Taehyung starts, creeping his hand down Jungkook’s arm to weave their fingers together, “but Jin may or may not have invited us to a pretty sketchy outing with him and Yoongi tomorrow. No details for now. Just a whole lot of weird.”
Jungkook looks mildly uncomfortable at the suggestion. “Oh. He did that? When did you see him?”
“Before I got here.” Taehyung peeks up into his face curiously. Jungkook clears his throat and plays with his bangs with his free hand, not meeting Taehyung’s eye. “Is something up? Do you not want to go?”
“No, no, it’s not that.” Jungkook sighs and finally looks over at Taehyung, flashing him a tiny, close-lipped smile. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s think about that when it comes, alright?”
Taehyung knows when things are up. But he’s also too whipped for Jeon Jungkook to protest.
Jungkook doesn’t say anything else about it. Seokjin texts Taehyung the next day, asking about times, and Taehyung asks him if he’s talked to Jungkook about it. Seokjin confirms that he’d gotten permission, so Taehyung slots him in at 7 and clicks his phone shut, waiting for Jungkook to join him for lunch and their scheduled synchronized afternoon nap in the arboretum.
Jungkook doesn’t react when he tells him. He just settles down next to him on the blanket he’s spread out on the grass, pillowing his head on Taehyung’s thigh. Taehyung cards a hand through his gelled up hair, and Jungkook usually protests when he’s styled it like this, but he seems too sleepy today. Taehyung hums with his eyes closed until Jungkook is snoring softly, hand curled around the bottom of Taehyung’s open-toed sandals.
Taehyung has class first, and Jungkook sleeps like a two-ton rock, so he gets up after an hour, gently laying Jungkook's head back down on the blanket and pushing fallen strands of hair back into the quaff where they belong. Jungkook hardly even stirs, but Taehyung still always finds it hard to leave him like this. He looks like an extremely dead angel when he sleeps, face smooth and shiny, lips parted to showcase his overbite. It makes Taehyung's heart swell up like it's having an allergic reaction, and if he's right, it's probably because he's allergic to Jungkook's particular brand of Cute.
So he leaves already five minutes late for class and really, this is becoming a serious problem.
Seven comes too fast after that. He meets a very groggy Jungkook back at the arboretum later to hang out before his last class of the day, but Jungkook starts getting progressively more and more nervous as he wakes himself up, and something tells Taehyung that it’s not just the handholding this time. By the time Taehyung is out of his evening class, Jungkook is pacing in circles outside of the building where the class takes place. When he sees Taehyung, he approaches him hurriedly, all but forgetting to wave.
“Maybe we should cancel,” Jungkook suggests immediately, pleading look in his eyes. Taehyung isn’t really surprised, but he is taken aback by the urgency of the request. He pulls his phone out of his back pocket and checks the time.
“It’s 6:52, Jungkook,” he says slowly. “We’re supposed to meet him in eight minutes.”
Jungkook bites his lip. “He’ll understand,” he says, but it doesn’t even sound like he believes it.
Taehyung takes his hand in his, running a thumb over his white knuckles. “I have a feeling that we're screwed in that respect.” When Jungkook looks down at the ground, Taehyung tips his head back up and smiles as earnestly as he can. “Don’t worry. Whatever he’s got planned, I got your back. And you’ve got mine. Right?”
Jungkook pauses like he’s mulling over words to say, but before he can speak, Taehyung spots Seokjin running at them from a few meters away, carting a terribly perturbed-looking Yoongi behind him. Taehyung squints and looks at the time again. 6:55. They’re really early. Seokjin’s eagerness is starting to creep him out.
“So, are you guys ready?” Seokjin grins through his loud breaths, Yoongi sullenly attached to his hand, looking for all the world like he doesn’t want to be there. Actually, upon looking around at the group of four, Taehyung realizes that Seokjin is probably the only one who does.
“Uh…sure,” Taehyung finally offers when Jungkook makes it apparent that he isn’t going to answer. He reaches out instinctively to take hold of Jungkook’s hand, but the way he’s fidgeting makes him think twice, and he drops his arm at his side instead. “Ready when you are.”
Seokjin takes them to a Vietnamese place that a friend he met in a cooking class owns. The pho is really good, but given the awkward tension hanging in the air, Taehyung is having trouble focusing on what he’s tasting. He shares a bowl with Jungkook, who is just scooping out the broth with his spoon and sipping at it lethargically. Seokjin orders them all jasmine tea, and Taehyung accepts his gratefully – anything to busy his hands and warm his belly and maybe distract him from this strange sense of impending doom. He wonders if Seokjin is going to admit to stealing the Declaration of Independence or something. Or maybe to being a North Korean spy. Or maybe he and Yoongi are getting married, but Jungkook has secretly been in love with Yoongi this whole time, and that's why he's getting all teary over the fact that they're going to announce it publicly at last, his favorite hyung, and his one true love —
"Your ears are red," Jungkook whispers. Taehyung's hands fly up to cover them, and he stares embarrassedly into their bowl, trying to read his future in the beansprouts.
The heavy silence returns. Taehyung thoughts start drifting off again, and, out of self-preservation, he stops them and starts talking. "So."
Everyone at the table turns to him, as if they've all been waiting to give their undivided attention to the brave soul who killed the quiet first. Taehyung coughs uncomfortably. There's about a million and one things that he could say, especially considering that Seokjin hadn't been wrong about him not having talked to anyone but Jungkook much in the past few weeks, but he decides it's probably a little better to just get to the point they're all wondering about. “Any reason why you were so desperate to meet up with us?”
“Well, we haven’t seen you in a really long time,” Seokjin begins, elbowing Yoongi for back-up. “Right, Yoongi?” When Yoongi grunts in response, Seokjin gives him a death glare, but it only takes him a second to resume his chatter. “We just wanted to talk about your life a little, see how it's going. And there’s…actually something we wanted to talk about, right, Jungkook?”
“Jungkook?” Taehyung asks, eyebrows raised. When he turns to the boy beside him, Jungkook is wearing the same glare Seokjin had had on. “Jungkook, what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Jungkook says firmly, eyes not leaving Seokjin’s face. “There’s nothing to talk about.”
Seokjin looks at Jungkook sympathetically before reaching out to take Taehyung’s hand. Taehyung startles at the touch, tugging himself away without even really thinking about it. “Taehyung,” Seokjin starts. “We just all think you’ve been a little…too attached to Jungkook lately.”
“Too attached?” Taehyung echoes, heart sinking a little in his chest. He doesn’t dare look at Jungkook now.
Seokjin nods. “You haven’t been seeing any of us. You only really talk to him, and when you’re not talking to him, you just sort of sit by yourself all sad and—”
“I’m not too attached to Jungkook,” Taehyung protests. “I could—I could be away from him any time I wanted.”
Jungkook shifts beside him at that, but Taehyung still doesn’t look at him.
“We’re not saying you have to be away from him,” Seokjin says with a frown. “We just think you should, you know, remember school, remember your friends, remember yourself, you know?”
“Who is ‘we?’” Taehyung snaps back. “And who decided I needed this intervention?” He finally whips his head towards Jungkook, who is staring resolutely at the marble tabletop. “What, was it you? Are you already tired of me?”
“Fuck that,” Jungkook throws back, still not looking at Taehyung. “I wouldn’t want to be away from you, you ass. I just don’t want to be the reason you end up a friendless loser.”
“Friendless frickin’ loser,” Jungkook repeats, enunciating every syllable. He drops his spoon with a clatter. “Are we done, Seokjin? I didn’t ask you to drag us out and make us have a talk.”
“It needed to be done,” Seokjin chastises. “And you need to—”
“Fuck what I need to do,” Jungkook interrupts him, eyes blazing. “What I want to do is go home and play League of Legends and pretend you’re not my hyung right now.”
“That’s a little harsh.”
“I hope it’s a little harsh,” Jungkook says, and the age gap between the two is glaring at the moment. Seokjin remains unruffled, looking for all the world like he wants to hug the kid or something as Jungkook gives him the angriest look he can muster . Jungkook whips out his wallet and tosses enough cash to pay for both his and Taehyung’s meals. He stands up and offers Taehyung his hand. Taehyung eyes it, not bothering to mask his suspicion. “Taehyung, please, let’s just go. I don’t want to be here right now.”
And, goddammit, Taehyung is way too whipped for Jeon Jungkook. He takes his hand and lets himself be led out of the restaurant.
They don’t talk the first few minutes of the walk back, the cool spring night air washing over them like lukewarm water. There is an unspoken decision in the air between the two of them to not go home, so they both wander to the arboretum, and Jungkook sits on a bench, patting the side of it meaningfully. “Let’s…let’s talk.”
Taehyung pauses in front of it. “I don’t know if I want to.”
“I just want to clarify what Jin was saying. He may think he was doing the right thing, butting in and stuff, but he really doesn’t know shit about anything. So let me say it instead.”
“Yeah, because ‘I don’t want to make you a friendless loser’ is much better wording.” Taehyung sits anyways, careful not to touch Jungkook. Jungkook looks like he's very aware of the fact that Taehyung's doing this. Even when he’s kind of miffed, it’s hard to be, watching that kid fumble with his hands in his lap like he’s too nervous to know what he’s doing. Jungkook sits quietly for a while, Taehyung looking at him expectantly, and then, slowly, unsurely, he reaches to cover Taehyung’s hand with his own.
Taehyung lets him. Taehyung is so, so, so fucking whipped.
“I don’t want to break up,” Jungkook blurts out eloquently. He coughs. “I mean, I thought that would be the best first thing to say because that’s what Jin sort of seemed like he was implying. Which is not what I want. At all. Even a little bit. And…” He looks up at Taehyung briefly, but seems to lose his nerve and looks down at his lap again. “And I meant it, you know. When I said I didn’t want to be without you, or whatever. As a friend. As an anything. Do you know how much it sucked for me when you ignored me that week and a half? God, the fuck is wrong with you, seriously. That was torture.”
Taehyung plays with the hem of his tank top. “Sorry.”
Jungkook snorts and squeezes his hand. “Little late, but thanks.”
He doesn’t seem like he’s going to go on for a moment, so Taehyung clears his throat. It seems to bring him back because he breaks the silence again. “You really like me, don’t you?”
It sounds amazed. Like he had never, in a million years, expected that sentence to come into fruition. Taehyung frowns loudly. “Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do as your—”
He doesn’t say the word, but they both know what he meant. Jungkook laughs softly. “It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to, or that you necessarily will.”
Jungkook closes his eyes, small smile playing on his lips. “Say it again.”
“Why the hell should I—”
“You know you’re going to do it anyways.”
Man, even Jungkook knows he’s whipped. This needs to be stopped. “I like you.”
Jungkook hums. Then, he says, “Am I the only person you like?”
The question takes Taehyung by surprise. “Of course.”
Jungkook shakes his head. “No. Wrong answer.”
“What do you mean, wrong answer—”
“I mean, wrong answer.” Jungkook opens his eyes back up, a little flutter of his eyelashes, and looks directly at Taehyung. “You like Yoongi. And I know you, Taehyung, I know you like Jin, too, just like I do. Even though he’s such a fucking mom sometimes.”
Taehyung presses his lips together. “Not the same way.”
“Obviously not the same way. But anybody you like, you should treat them like you like them, you know? If you like them, then they’re already taking up your time. You need to give them what they’re worth.”
Taehyung quiets. And then, he coughs in that There’s-Something-I-Need-To-Say-And-I-Need-An-Excuse-To-Say-It way that he does when he isn’t sure if he should open his big mouth, but Jungkook doesn’t get it the way Yoongi does yet, so he just squints at him and says, “Are you choking on an acorn or something?”
“No, goddammit,” Taehyung answers, hands finding their way to his temples. “It’s just… It’s just that if I sacrifice any time away from you, it feels like I’m not giving you enough.”
Jungkook stares at him. Taehyung stares at his feet, and Jungkook, that little bitch, just stares at him.
Then, he finally says, “That is the worst excuse ever and if you ditch your friends for me one more time, I will dump your ass.”
Taehyung glances up, eyes widening, and Jungkook meets him with the most serious look Taehyung has ever seen on his fetus-level face.
They both break up into laughter. Again. This is becoming an unsettling trend, honestly.
“Alright, I get it,” Taehyung says, wiping at his eyes when they both manage to catch their breath. “No more Mr. Nice Guy. I’m going to start ditching you, and you are gonna cry about it.”
Jungkook puts a hand over his heart, sniffling as if tearing up. “What else would a shitty boyfriend like me do?”
Taehyung feels a smile coming on. “Say it again.”
Jungkook cocks his head, searching Taehyung’s face as if he doesn’t understand. “Say what again?”
Jungkook and Seokjin make up within the next week. Taehyung is beginning to think Yoongi was wrong about Jungkook never forgiving people – or, if nothing else, Jungkook is bad at not-forgiving people he actually cares about. This is a blessing for Future Taehyung, who will inevitably fuck something up, as is his tendency, even though he likes to believe he'd never in a million years kill his goldfish.
Seokjin apologizes back, to both of them, but Taehyung doesn’t accept it immediately solely because Seokjin acts a lot less hyung-ly when he thinks someone is mad at him. Instead of playing Big Brother and bossing them around, he just sort of whines a lot and brings them way too much food, and Yoongi finds it absolutely hysterical.
Taehyung, as much as he almost always wants to be barnacled to Jungkook’s side, gets more of a handle on himself. Seokjin seems to approve, at least, and he has no subtlety about it, shooting a thumbs up every time he sees Taehyung sans a Jungkook, which is just often enough for it to become a habit.
Taehyung starts going out with Yoongi again, who is honestly just as bad about following Seokjin around, anyways. Taehyung is pretty sure that most of the reason why Seokjin was so pushy about resolving things between he and Jungkook was because he had an ulterior motive to get Yoongi off his back every once in a while, too. If nothing else, it gives the two of them something to talk about when they go out for beers with Yoongi’s music crew, which really just consists of two other guys that are in Yoongi’s composition class with Jungkook. They call themselves J-Hope and Rap Monster, and when they hang out together, they call Yoongi Suga, like Jungkook does, and Taehyung just thinks it’s really weird.
“Come on, Tae,” J-Hope teases on night, pinching his cheeks. J-Hope is the touchy and affectionate type, Taehyung has found, but he’s likeable enough to make up for the invasions of personal space he enacts on a regular basis. “Join the fun. I bet we can even think you up a cool composer nickname!”
Taehyung snorts and dislodges J-Hope’s fingers from his face. “I’m about as close to a music major-composer type as a smoker is to an Olympic runner.”
“Doesn’t matter when you’re already one of us,” J-Hope declares, although Yoongi, the original reason Taehyung is even here, looks like he’d beg to differ. “Guys, guys, guys. We’ve got to win him over with a cool nickname. Something, like, English and stuff. English stuff is cool, right?”
“What about…” Rap Monster pauses for dramatic effect, looking off into the distance. J-Hope sits farther up in his seat. Yoongi looks unamused. “Law Monster.”
Yoongi pipes up before Taehyung can even fathom just how awful that name is. “No.”
"But, like, cuz he's a Criminal Justice major, and monsters are really cool —"
"No," Yoongi repeats.
Rap Monster doesn’t do pouting so much as he does very thugly frowning. He sits back with his arms crossed, looking like a huffy child from the West Side as J-Hope continues to brainstorm name ideas. He suggests T-Kindness, which Taehyung also physically and morally disagrees with, and then tries T-Smart (“If only that one were true,” Taehyung hears Yoongi mutter from his corner). They suffer through a list of English adjectives for a few long, painful minutes, and then Yoongi gets fed up and says, “V.”
Everybody at the table stops what they’re doing. “What?” J-Hope prompts.
“V. It’s a letter in the English alphabet, nobody thinks about it, it sounds like something a pretty boy would go by. V.”
Taehyung wiggles his eyebrows. "Are you saying I'm a pretty boy, Yoongi, my dear?"
"Would you like to taste my foot?" Yoongi deadpans.
J-Hope rubs his chin thoughtfully. “What about V-Hope?”
“V it is,” Taehyung announces, ignoring J-Hope's look of raw butthurt. He says it for Yoongi’s sake, since he currently looks like he’s going to murder everyone at the table, but when Rap Monster and J-Hope transition seamlessly into using it, he finds that he actually kind of likes the sound of it. It makes him feel mysterious.
He tells Jungkook about the experience on Jungkook’s bedroom floor, Jungkook’s stuffed duck balanced on his head, and Jungkook laughs and says something like, “I’m jealous. I don’t even have a name yet.”
Taehyung stops to think, but not for too long. Patience and creativity have never been his best points. “Jay. Your name will be Jay.”
Jungkook shuffles through some papers on his desk. “Why Jay?”
“It’s another letter in the English alphabet,” Taehyung says affirmatively. “And it’s got the same sound as your name. We can be Alphabet Soup!”
Jungkook rolls his eyes. “You barely know English.”
“I know enough to give you a snazzy nickname. So hah.”
And thus, Jay and V are born into the world. Jungkook never uses V – that’s more of J-Hope and Rap Monster’s thing, who, honestly, have still not told Taehyung their real names, anyways – but Taehyung is proud of Jay. He’s proud, and Jungkook, despite the sarcastic eyeroll he gives Taehyung every time he uses the nickname, lets him be.
Things are good with Taehyung and Jungkook. Things are so, so good. Jungkook initiates handholding now, which is a new and extremely welcome development for Taehyung, who has become an addict of sorts to the pressure of Jungkook’s fingers between his. Taehyung himself has upgraded to hugging him when he least expects it (which has almost resulted in Taehyung’s untimely death on a number of occasions) and yelling petnames at the top of his lungs whenever Jungkook ignores him (which has also provoked death threats from Jungkook, although he usually softens pretty easily afterwards). He snuggles into Jungkook’s side when they share his bed, arms around his slender waist and head curled into his armpit, and on the rare occasion that Jungkook is at his desk instead, he sits on his lap and disrupts everything he’s doing with no remorse. These are still not things that Jungkook is necessarily cool with, but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere.
You’ve gotta end somewhere, too. Taehyung knows that. And frankly, Taehyung has started thinking about kissing Jungkook way too often to be normal.
He’s almost done it about a million times, too – by the downstairs vending machines, in a leaf pile at the arboretum, in the library between the Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelves – but no moment ever turns out to be right. There have been way too many times that he’s gotten so distracted by Jungkook that the only logical next step would be to kiss him, and too many times, Jungkook has turned away, a person has walked in on it, or Taehyung has basically leaned forward and then promptly chickened out. He got so tired of waiting at some point that he seriously considered just kissing Jungkook one night while he was brushing his teeth and hopping into pajama bottoms at the same time, one leg of them pulled up to his thigh and the other pooled in an unkempt heap on the ground.
If even a sort-of-half-naked, frothing-toothpaste-at-the-mouth Jungkook is getting Taehyung bothered, there’s got to be something wrong with him.
It’s anticlimactic when it happens, but Taehyung supposes that has been their entire relationship so far. It suits them, just like their shitty first meeting suited them, and like their shitty first date suited them, and like their shitty first half-argument suited them. It’s the same day as the composition class’s final concert, the one that Jungkook and Yoongi have been preparing for basically all semester. Yoongi usually doesn’t tell Taehyung when he has concerts – mostly because Taehyung is that friend who holds up giant “I HEART YOONGI” posters and passes off dolphin impressions as cheering – but Jungkook extends him an invitation directly this time, which Taehyung rubs in Yoongi’s face. Taehyung doesn’t know what to expect, exactly, because Jungkook has divulged no information about what he’s been working on in his free time since Taehyung had found out that he actually does stuff when Taehyung isn’t around. When Taehyung asks, he just cleverly avoids him, and even Yoongi, J-Hope and Rap Monster seem to be in the dark.
Taehyung has been planning their first kiss elaborately since Jungkook told him about the concert itself because, if fanfiction is anything to go by, things like this always end in a swell of emotions that are the perfect conditions for violent makeouts in the backstage changing rooms.
He’s actually thinking of this as they walk to class together that morning. Jungkook has been a ball of nerves, which is strange, considering Yoongi is always going on about how confident the kid seems in class. Taehyung wonders how many other things Yoongi could be wrong about when Jungkook steps out of his room with his shirt on inside out and backwards, toothbrush hanging from his mouth and a panicked look in his eyes that is probably the result of being at least twenty minutes late into his routine. “Give me two minutes,” he says shortly around the toothpaste in his mouth, and Taehyung masks laughter with a serious nod as Jungkook takes refuge in the bathroom.
It takes him five minutes, not two, but they manage to get out of the dorm with just enough time to only be a couple minutes late to class. Taehyung lets his mind wander, making a mental note to ask Yoongi where he can get the six jars of apple jelly that he needs for his Ultimate Plan that night, when he notices Jungkook juggling about twenty books that he still hasn’t had time to put in his backpack. Taehyung grabs half of the stack without thinking about it, and when Jungkook looks at him, he grins.
“Your class is the opposite direction of mine,” Jungkook says pointedly as Taehyung jokingly balances them on the top of his head.
“And because of that, I am going to be late,” Taehyung responds mildly. “Hey, did they ever teach you book balancing at your fancy etiquette school?”
Jungkook surges forward and kisses him silly right in the middle of the sidewalk. Two girls that were walking behind them pause when they completely stop and then awkwardly step around their PDA party, glancing back as Jungkook breaks away self-consciously. All of the books have fallen onto the ground in a mess of bent pages, and Taehyung is staring at Jungkook as if he weren’t of Earth. The Ultimate Plan very suddenly seems like a pile of shit.
Jungkook wipes his mouth off with his sleeve and stares at Taehyung right back. “Yeah, they did teach us. And they told us not to let it fall for anything.”
He walks off without missing a beat. Taehyung almost leaves the forgotten books as he scrambles to follow him.
They reach their destination in silence, Taehyung’s brain having malfunctioned around the time that he first saw Jungkook’s entire head coming at him. Jungkook reclaims his books when they get to the classroom and walks off without begrudgingly hugging Taehyung like usual, but Taehyung, in his compromised mental state, doesn’t pout and demand a boyfriend refund for once.
He makes it back to his dorm on autopilot, having made the unconscious decision to skip his class, and by the time he comes to, he is pissed to high heavens.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” Yoongi comments when Taehyung swings the door open, but upon actually looking up into Taehyung’s face, he seems less concerned about his schedule. “What happened?”
“Jungkook did the worst thing ever.”
Yoongi frowns. “What, did he tell you to stop trying to lick his face again? You know, I'm kind of on his side for that one.”
“No.” Taehyung flops on the bed facedown, shoving his entire head into his pillow. “He stole our first kiss.”
There’s a short silence. Then, “You are actually insane, aren’t you?”
“I’ve been planning this for, like, two weeks now!” Taehyung protests into his pillow, kicking his legs into the bed. “I was going to make it really awesome and romantic, like, right after his performance when everyone’s in an emotional high. It was going to be our climax, Yoongi, and he just took it in the middle of the fricking sidewalk on our way to class, that bitch. What ever happened to the old fashioned first-kiss-in-the-rain sequences? The pecks on the doorsteps after your first date? The 'eyefuck in a business meeting, then make out in a bathroom stall' scenes of our lives? You tell me that.”
“It was good, wasn’t it.”
Taehyung neglects to answer.
“It totally was.”
Taehyung is so fucking whipped.
“You can still go through with your plan, you know,” Yoongi says plainly as he notates a music sheet and holds it up to the light, as if admiring it. “Just because he took the first one doesn’t mean you can’t take the second with a huge-ass bang.”
Taehyung sits still for a moment. Then, he lifts his head up to stare at Yoongi, who, as usual, is completely, 116% right.
Taehyung does revise the plan, mostly because Yoongi says “If you try to use any form of jelly to get that kid to kiss you, I’m outing you.” Despite the fact that just the idea of Taehyung and Jungkook kissing warrants the “get a room” reaction from Yoongi before anything even happens, Yoongi (slightly disgustedly) helps Taehyung put together some form of chain of events that will eventually, if everything goes right, lead to some form of “Taehyung and Jungkook awkwardly attempt to kiss for at least 3 minutes before a staff member probably walks in on them.”
Taehyung is pretty much completely okay with this.
When classes end that day, Jungkook and Taehyung go to dinner together, back to the first diner they ever ate at because Jungkook still loves the American 50s and Taehyung just wants him to chill out before he goes on stage. Jungkook never eats much, but this time around, his appetite is even worse than usual. He orders a children’s cheeseburger and still manages to leave three-fourths of it on his plate. He stares at it in woe as Taehyung licks the last of his mayonnaise off his fingers and looks him over.
“You’re going to do fine, you know,” Taehyung says, tossing a french fry at his unfinished food. “Not even fine. Great. Fantastic. Top-of-the-class, probably the best performer. Better than Yoongi. If you tell him that, you die.”
Jungkook smiles but shakes his head. “I’m not nervous about singing.”
Taehyung cocks his head. “Are you lying to me right now?”
“No,” Jungkook says, flicking the fry off where it’s landed on his bun. It settles into the side salad that he’d ordered, which he has not touched minus eating all the croutons.
“Then what are you nervous about?”
Jungkook stares at his fry-tainted salad, furrowing his brow. “It’s just, like…you’re going to be there. And stuff.”
Taehyung wiggles his eyebrows, even though Jungkook is still not looking at him. “Since when do I make you nervous, Jeon Jungkook?”
Jungkook scoffs. “Since never. Don’t let it get to your head, dumbass.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t make fun of you if you bomb. Mostly because you won’t, so I won’t really get the chance, anyways.”
“Thanks. Kind of.” Jungkook finally glances up at him, nudging Taehyung’s shin under the table with his foot. “Hey. Really. Thanks for coming today.”
“Fuck off,” Taehyung jokes, kicking him back. “I’ve been bugging you to sing for me since the olden days when we sort of hated each other. There’s no way I’d miss it now.”
“I never hated you,” Jungkook says, and Taehyung thinks it comes out softer than he intended because his face nearly turns green and he looks away so fast that Taehyung is convinced his head is going to pop off and roll under somebody’s table. “Are you done gorging yourself? I’m gonna be late.”
“I’m never done gorging myself,” he responds, but he gets up anyways, brushing bun debris off his legs. He’s a little underdressed – plaid button-up and jeans, which is still much nicer than what he usually wears – and standing next to Jungkook, who is fully tuxed up, red bowtie and all, makes him feel a little inadequate.
But Jungkook still holds his hand all the way to the concert. He turns around to face him as they approach the entrance to the Great Hall on campus, gnawing at his lip. “Where are you going to be in the crowd?”
“Front and center, if I can manage,” Taehyung says, squeezing Jungkook’s hand. “Don’t worry. If you can’t see me, I’ll scream or something. I give you permission to pretend not to know me afterwards.”
Jungkook snorts, but there’s a tinge of appreciation blanketing his face that makes Taehyung feel like he’s succeeded somehow. “Thanks. I’ll look for you, okay?”
Taehyung nods, and Jungkook walks off towards where the performers are gathered, disappearing into the crowd.
The first thing Taehyung does is to find Yoongi. J-Hope is manning the tickets desk, so Taehyung gets in line behind all the families to buy one. When he gets to the front, J-Hope smiles, almost manically excited, before leaning forward conspiratorially. “I heard you’re doing something big for Jungkook’s performance.”
“Not big,” Taehyung denies, shuffling his feet a little awkwardly. “Just…something, I guess.” He hands J-Hope money, and J-Hope thumbs through a stack of cash to give him change before giving him the ticket. “Do you know where Yoongi is?”
J-Hope nods toward one of the entrances. “He’s holding the door for parents. He’s on the committee that helps organize the events with me and Rapmon, but the teacher thought his attitude needed some social interaction to fix it, so.” He winks, as if he and Taehyung share some secret that no one else knows – except literally everyone is aware that Yoongi is like a barely taller version of Grumpy the Dwarf. “He wasn’t happy about it.”
“Seeing my face probably won’t make him much happier, but he’ll live,” Taehyung grins. He gives J-Hope a thumbs up. “Good luck with whatever performance you’re doing, by the way. Yoongi mentioned that you were really great at what you do.”
“Dancing,” J-Hope confirms with a happy nod. “I’ll be sure to thank him for the compliment later. I won’t tell him that you're the one who told me. We don't need him hurting your pretty face before you put it all over Jungkook's.”
“You’re a saint,” Taehyung says, waving as he makes his way back through the line towards the door that J-Hope had directed him to. Sure enough, Yoongi is standing there with his arms crossed, one foot acting as a doorstop as men and women and children and students all push their ways inside to find seats. He looks like he would smack them all with a stick if he had one. Taehyung edges forward slowly, convinced that the element of surprise is on his side, but before he can sidle up too close, Yoongi holds out an open palm and closes his eyes.
“Don’t with me right now,” he says seriously. “Just don’t.”
Taehyung straightens a little disappointedly and nods, joining him on the other side of the door, where he won’t block the way. “Okay, what am I doing again?”
“Just find a seat,” Yoongi says, leaning over to peek inside. “It looks like they’re filling up fast, so make it quick. Text me which one you end up in. Jungkook’s performance is a couple people after mine, so when I finish, I’ll come find you.” He smiles wryly. “This is going to be gross, isn’t it?”
“Probably,” Taehyung confirms conversationally, easing his way back into the crowd. “Do you have the sign?”
Yoongi grimaces. “Do I really have to be the one who holds that?”
“Considering both J-Hope and Rap Monster cited conflicting schedules, it looks like it.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes so hard that his irises to disappear. “You owe me so huge.”
The casual sarcastic reply that Taehyung is used to giving Yoongi almost comes out of his mouth, but when he glances down at where Yoongi stands, looking into the room for a free seat and tapping his fingers impatiently against his dress pants, something comes over him. He leans forward and hugs Yoongi where he stands instead, draping his body across his shoulders and down his back. Yoongi startles and doesn’t respond to it, looking over his shoulder almost embarrassedly at the families filtering into the room until Taehyung lets him go. “The fuck was that for. We’ve never hugged, and I’ve known you for five years now.”
"That's because you always threatened the lives of my unborn children if I touched you." Taehyung grins. “Now I don’t owe you anymore.”
Yoongi doesn't get it immediately, which is fortunate for Taehyung's health. He skips his way into the auditorium before Yoongi can realize what he’s said and throttle him in front of toddlers. That's not exactly Music Composition Major role model material, after all.
It’s extremely crowded inside. Taehyung didn't know what he thought was going to happen when he got here, but he definitely hadn’t realized exactly how popular this program was. Yoongi has always been a part of it, even when they were both still puny little undergrads, but Taehyung was essentially banned from scoping it out, so he never got to see how big a deal it was. He looks around at all the people in awe, wondering if they all know Yoongi already from previous years, and feels a surge of giddiness stemming from somewhere in his chest when he thinks about the fact that his roommate and his boyfriend are somehow a part of this.
He doesn’t sit front and center, sadly, as he had promised Jungkook, but if he understands the plan correctly, that won’t matter, anyways. He chooses a lone seat beside some grandparents who smile and shake their heads when he asks if anyone is already sitting there, and he opens up his program to peruse the acts. The concert opens with a bunch of people and acts he isn’t familiar with. He sees Jungkook’s name nestled in between a bunch of others that Taehyung doesn’t know, and he picks out Yoongi’s name next a bit above his. He looks for J-Hope and Rap Monster’s names, but he can’t find them. He frowns and wonders what they’re doing because he is completely sure that they both have performances scheduled that day.
The lights dim, and Taehyung looks up expectantly. A spotlight pops up with a click, illuminating a mic, and then Rap Monster, J-Hope, and Yoongi make their way onto the stage from behind the curtains. A round of applause starts up for no good reason, but Taehyung joins it anyways, whooping when Rap Monster takes the microphone.
“Hi, everyone,” Rap Monster says warmly, smiling so hard his dimple shows. Taehyung feels a weird surge of affection pop up at the stars that sparkle in his eyes when he looks out at the crowd. “My name is Kim Namjoon, but here, you can call me Rap Monster.”
The crowd snickers as Rap Monster holds out the mic to J-Hope, but Taehyung is too busy chanting OH MY GOD HE HAS A REAL NAME inside his head to respond in kind. J-Hope leans forward so his lips are nearly against the head of the mic. “Hello! I am Jung Hoseok, but I go by J-Hope.”
Rap Monster passes the mic to Yoongi next, who his wearing his best People Pleaser smile. “And I’m Min Yoongi, but here, they call me Suga.”
Rap Monster takes back the mic. “I am the president and the man of the night, ladies and gentlemen, and I am here to welcome you with open arms to a little something we like to call Free Day, where we Music and Composition majors and minors put on a show to free y’all’s souls.”
Yoongi drags the mic to his lips with Rap Monster’s arm still attached to it. “It’s funny because it’s not free, and we have no souls.”
The whole crowd laughs, and Taehyung claps hard, biting back the urge to yell “THAT’S MY ROOMMATE” at the top of his lungs. Rap Monster rolls his eyes and holds up a card. “Today’s performances will start out with the dance crew Infinite doing their own rendition of EXO’s Growl and APink’s NoNoNo, so please give them a round of applause for coming out here and doing what they do best.” The crowd bursts into applause as the three of them leave the stage in different directions and the crew comes out, taking their places on the darkened stage with learned efficiency.
Taehyung has always been someone who is easily impressed, but even he knows that the performers they’ve recruited for today are fucking legendary. The dance crews all go first – Infinite slays, even with the silly intermission of them swaying their hips in a gradually opening line and performing bad aegyo, and the next group, VIXX, does some weird ass interpretive dance that has Taehyung both completely absorbed and a little bit frightened. Solo and duo acts come next – two really pretty girls, Ailee and Hyorin, murdering some song from a Disney movie Taehyung barely knows; a solo rapper who calls himself San-E performing a heavily edited version of a Lil Wayne song; and an indie group called Akdong Musician with a guitar and two beautifully intertwined voices that nearly rock Taehyung to sleep.
Yoongi performs somewhere in the middle, and Taehyung immediately recognizes the tune of the beat from late nights of Yoongi playing around with it until it put them both to sleep. He raps, fierce and proud and quick, and Taehyung has never seen Yoongi in his element like this, emotions actually surfacing on his face with the words that he says. Taehyung can feel every bit of what he's trying to convey, from the quiet start to the rushing syllables to the angry "god damn it" that resonates through the middle to the wind-down at the end, the heavy breaths he lets the audience hear through his microphone and the near-hopelessness he leaves etched on his face. The second the track finishes, it’s back to blank-faced Yoongi who bows but doesn’t smile as he exits, but he hears a loud bellow of Yoongi’s name from across the room that sounds suspiciously like Seokjin, and he swears he sees Yoongi almost grin as he disappears backstage and Rap Monster takes his place.
Taehyung is antsy when Yoongi finds his way out to him after his performance. Yoongi is all business, dragging Taehyung to a corner to wait for Jungkook to go to the next room over and finish touch-ups on his makeup, but Taehyung is still reeling from his performance. “Yoongi, you’re fucking awesome.”
Yoongi looks at him uncomprehendingly before returning to spying on Jungkook from behind a crack in the curtains. “What makes you think that?”
“Did you hear yourself?”
"Just wait until Rap Monster goes up there. He’s the best out of all of us. There’s a reason he’s president.”
“You were fucking awesome,” Taehyung repeats insistently.
Yoongi finally levels a real look at him, and Taehyung’s eyes are still wide on his face. Yoongi actually smiles. It’s tiny and coarse, but it reaches his eyes with something like affection, and he reaches out to ruffle Taehyung’s hair. “Thanks, kid. Remind me to let you come next year, too.”
Taehyung nods enthusiastically, but he’s interrupted when Yoongi gives him the clear by dragging him backstage by the wrist. Jungkook is nowhere to be seen, but J-Hope is prancing around by the rack of costumes in his suit as another performance goes on – some kind of acapella rendition of a Big Bang ballad. He stops upon seeing Yoongi and Taehyung enter, racing over to them. “Are you guys here for Jungkook?”
Taehyung nods, and J-Hope grins even wider, taking him by the shoulders and shaking him around. “I’m so excited! He’s going to pee his pants when he sees you!”
“Just remember he can’t see him before he gets onstage,” Yoongi reminds J-Hope gruffly, checking the time on his wristwatch. “I have to go get the poster. Is Rap Monster taking care of which side Jungkook is entering from?”
J-Hope nods. “Stage left. I’ll take Taehyung to stage right and wait there.”
“Sounds good.” Yoongi turns back to Taehyung and punches him in the shoulder. Taehyung holds it in mock offense, mouthing “ow” when Yoongi neglects to react. “You. If you make me do this and then end up failing, I will make you sleep on the streets. Got it?”
Taehyung salutes. “Sir yes sir. Failure is not an option.”
It’s meant to be sarcastic, but Yoongi seems satisfied with the reaction. “Good. Yoongi out. Good luck out there, guys.”
J-Hope shoos him away, tossing his arm around Taehyung’s shoulder again and leading him subtly towards the dressing rooms. “Before we get you in position, you’re changing,” he deadpans, sweeping his eyes over Taehyung’s outfit. Taehyung looks down at himself, kicking at the ground with his dirty Converse and only slightly regretting his poor college student status. J-Hope throws him into one of the rooms and tosses a costume at him – one of the club-issued suits, like what J-Hope is wearing. It’s not as nice as Jungkook’s tuxedo, but Taehyung has also realized, upon arriving at the show, that most of them were dressed pretty much the same, and Jungkook is just that little tryhard freshie who’s got things beyond his age to prove. “There’s a few more minutes in this performance, so change quickly. I’ll get the flowers from the other room.” He bounces away before Taehyung can ask what flowers he’s talking about, so Taehyung does as he’s told and changes himself behind the curtain.
When he comes out, J-Hope is already back, a bouquet of dazzling red roses in his hands, and Taehyung would probably puke at the cliché if he wasn't so anxious. J-Hope whistles as he gives him a once over, walking up to straighten Taehyung's tie like the domestic creature he is. “Wow. I have half a mind to give you these flowers and ride off Jungkook-less into the sunset.”
It’s not exactly a classy thing to say, but Taehyung is laughing anyways, and J-Hope looks perfectly unruffled by what’s just come out of his mouth. He shoves the flowers into Taehyung’s arms and guides him to where there’s an opening in the curtain. Taehyung can see the stage perfectly from here, where the previous performance is still going on, and J-Hope pats his back. “Me and Rap Monster go on after Jungkook, so I’ve got to go get myself ready. Think you can manage from here?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Taehyung says without tearing his eyes from the quiet, soulful rendition of Monster. “I just stay here until he sees me, right? And I guess,” he shakes the bouquet around, but J-Hope stops him when some of the petals fall to the floor, “give him these?”
“Right! So smart. I tried to tell Yoongi that T-Smart was a good name.” Taehyung laughs, and J-Hope gives him one last pat on the back. His face, normally so happy and excited, goes a little soft. “Knock ‘em dead, V.”
Taehyung shoots him a thumbs up back. “You got it, Jung Hoseok.”
After J-Hope leaves, Taehyung watches the last dregs of the performance with attentiveness he hadn’t known he’d had, sucking in a deep breath when the group all bows simultaneously and makes their way offstage. Rap Monster walks briskly up to the microphone, little notecard still in hand, and immediately looks to the side. When he spots Taehyung, he winks knowingly. Taehyung is as red as a brick as he clears his throat. “Next is an up-and-coming musical prodigy. He’s the youngest person you’ve seen thus far, but don’t underestimate him yet – he’s got the whole world in front of him, ready to hand over the reigns. Give it up for Jeon Jungkook!”
Taehyung has already seen Jungkook in his suit today, but when he steps out from the opposite side of the curtain, he still feels his lungs deflate at the sight. Rap Monster pats him on the back as he passes, and Jungkook adjusts the mic nervously, fitting it to his height. The stagelights play off his hair, gleaming along the deep purple highlights, and Taehyung can see a few beads of sweat on the back of his neck. He takes a breath and smiles at the crowd. Taehyung can only see that smile from the side, thank God, because if he saw it head on, he’s pretty sure he’d be blinded.
“Hi, everybody,” Jungkook starts haltingly. “My name is Jeon Jungkook, but here, there, and everywhere, I’m known as Jay."
Taehyung’s heart is pounding so hard that he can hear it in his head, and the pride that sits in his stomach is threatening to pop him from the inside out.
“Today, I’ll be singing a self-composition, and—”
He suddenly pauses, smile turning into something confused as he squints out into the crowd. Taehyung follows his line of vision and knows exactly what he’s looking at.
It’s Yoongi, holding up a sign as big as a small ox at the back of the room that reads, in poorly painted letters, “LOOK BEHIND YOU.”
Taehyung straightens his tie furtively. Jungkook glances over his shoulder searchingly, swiveling his head around in both directions.
It takes him a moment, but he finally sees him. Taehyung waves the flowers timidly as their eyes meet, scuffing the too-tight dress shoes that J-Hope had forced onto him on the ground. Jungkook stares at him, as if not entirely sure what to do with this information, and Taehyung is momentarily scared that he’s going to choke or cry or turn away or something of equal awfulness. He feels small in his suit, and he kind of wants to disappear.
Then, Jungkook's face bursts into a smile so wide that the whole world goes dim for a second, and Taehyung is pretty sure his plan has just succeeded.
After their moment is allowed, Jungkook turns back to the crowd, smile not disappearing. “Um. Sorry, I got distracted, but—but this song is called, ‘Yeah, Okay, Sure,’ and I hope you guys like it.”
The track starts up in the background, a quiet guitar overlapping a quieter piano, and the second Jungkook opens his mouth to sing, Taehyung is absolutely destroyed.
It’s not strong, like Yoongi’s creation. Maybe that’s why Yoongi seemed to confuse himself that Jungkook wasn’t a good composer. It’s soft and gentle, and Jungkook has the tender voice of some R&B Soul singer that crows and wavers and runs itself in circles, and Taehyung doesn’t even think he’s in like anymore. As Jungkook presses his voice into the microphone, into Taehyung’s head, into the beating heart of the silent crowd, Taehyung is convinced that there is something much more to it than that. He feels dizzy with the thought, blood pulsing in his head to the tempo of plucked guitar strings, but he keeps himself up by the sheer force of Jungkook’s voice, resting in the coils of his muscles and looping through the curves of his veins. He feels settled, even though his knuckles are white around the stems in the bouquet, and by the time Jungkook tapers off into quiet, there is something akin to tears in his eyes that he wouldn't be caught dead with if Yoongi were anywhere near him.
The crowd roars. Taehyung even sees a couple people stand up, a lot of strangers and a short, stocky male at the front that Taehyung is pretty sure is Jimin, and Yoongi isn’t holding the sign anymore, but Taehyung catches him stick his fingers into his mouth and whistle. Jungkook bows, low and humble, and when he turns to face Taehyung, the smile returns full force. He nearly runs offstage, stopping close enough in front of Taehyung for the tips of their shoes to touch.
“Hi,” he says, adrenaline coloring his voice playful. Taehyung hands him the flowers and reaches up to brush his cheek.
“Hi,” he says back, voice breathy and awed, and fanfictions prove themselves right once again when the moment crashes down on them hard enough to bring their lips together.
It’s still Jungkook who initiates it, goddammit, but even Taehyung’s pride isn’t enough to stop him from pressing back up into him, mouth molding like clay around Jungkook’s. Jungkook fists his hands into the sides of Taehyung’s suit jacket, and Taehyung throws his arms around his neck and hooks himself there. He tips his head from side to side in compliance with Jungkook, and in his fantasies of this night, he always pictured himself being the one who sweeps Jungkook off his feet and takes charge of the kiss, but Jungkook is all raw enthusiasm and desperation and Taehyung finds himself not wanting to stop him. Jungkook kisses like he’s never felt before this moment, and Taehyung has been his fair share of obsessed with Jungkook’s lips, but this is different than any of his strangest and, frankly, most uncomfortable dreams. This is real and solid and he thinks he understands how Jungkook’s kissing him because he feels it, too, bubbling up from his gut, and he clings harder, pushes into the spaces of Jungkook’s body, and melts there.
Taehyung and Jungkook separate immediately, putting a foot’s worth of distance between them and rubbing their swollen lips with their shirt sleeves. Rap Monster stands behind them, raising an eyebrow purposely, and Taehyung is pretty much purple because that basically means that they'd managed to make out through his entire performance. He apologizes in his head but not out loud as Rap Monster gestures behind him to the place where Taehyung had changed out of his ratty hipster clothes earlier that night.
“Get a room,” Rap Monster says, but it sounds more like a suggestion than a high school remark. “Friendly reminder that dressing rooms are also acceptable.”
Taehyung and Jungkook share a weighted glance, and before Rap Monster can even register what’s happened, they’re in the dressing room, Jungkook pulling the door shut as Taehyung wraps his arms around his neck again.
(“Absolutely nothing. Nothing happens, and they’re the happiest people in the entire world because that nothing is all they could have ever wanted. But maybe that makes them used to it – the nothing.”)
In Language Arts classes, it's most often taught that the climax of a story is when an underlying conflict reaches a head and bubbles over to drown the protagonist and all the protagonist's faithful lackeys.
Taehyung decides that that's not true. His and Jungkook's climax is the moment their lips meet for the first (okay, second) time outside the curtains, and that is as far from a conflict as he could possibly imagine.
From then on, the excitement ends, and they go back to being daily company of each other exactly like before. The only difference is the feeling that hangs thick and warm in the air. Jungkook isn’t touchy, never really has been, but the looks he gives Taehyung when he’s just sat doing nothing across the room fill Taehyung up the same way the touch of his fingers does. Plus, there's kisses now in between fighting for hand-holding dominance, and Jungkook never actually refuses the constant pucker of Taehyung's lips near his face, even when it's a little inconvenient (like when Jimin is in the room stalking them from the corner of his eye, or when Jungkook is in the middle of an online quiz).
Jungkook is the first to say “I love you,” and Taehyung is the first to say “If we weren’t in public, I’d laugh at my boner right now,” and that's pretty much them in a nutshell.
Taehyung still temporarily falls into awe at how good his life is with Jungkook in it. Sometimes it happens when he hears Jungkook hum in the shower (which Taehyung is no longer afraid to use) or watches him laugh at the stupid memes he finds on the internet, and sometimes it happens for absolutely no reason at all. He remembers the struggle he’d felt when he’d first said yes to the date, remembers how panicked he was when Jimin mentioned something about Jungkook liking him, remembers how disappointed he was when he found out Yoongi was friends with the guy, and he laughs at himself. It always crops up suddenly and without warning, when he’s just in line waiting for a coffee or working at a desk in the quiet of the library, and he can't even be embarrassed, really, because it’s just too ridiculous for him not to be a little hysterical about it. When Jungkook is with him and asks him what he’s laughing at, he never answers. He just shrugs, makes a Your Face joke, and moves on, because although he knows Jungkook would understand, he likes it better when he doesn’t.
"Taehyung," Jungkook calls from his desk one day. Taehyung lays belly-up on the floor, scrolling through his Facebook feed and rejecting the several "Hi ur hot" messages from the Thirst Club in his "Others" inbox because he's already well quenched, thank you very much. He grunts but doesn't look up.
There's the sound of a camera shutter. Taehyung looks up to see Jungkook snickering and typing something up on his phone.
He gets the Snapchat two seconds later. Man, he is unflattering in that position. It pops up on Jungkook's story, too. Taehyung feels betrayed. "You fuck."
"You love me," Jungkook singsongs as he sketches out more lyrics onto a sheet of notebook paper he's been crinkling in his pocket for days now. "Or you just constantly want to make out with my face. Either or."
"I'll accept the latter." He forces himself up by sheer will and wanders over, wrapping his arms around Jungkook's neck and pressing his lips to his cheek. "Actually, that sounds like a really good idea right now."
Jungkook snorts. "I'm working."
"And I'm your inspiration," Taehyung declares, nuzzling at his jaw.
Jungkook pushes at his head weakly. Taehyung doesn't budge. "I'm sorry, have I ever once said that?"
"It's scientifically proven. Songwriters always make their best work after smoking pot or banging."
"I don't want to do either of those things."
"Kissing it is, then," Taehyung whispers, mouthing at the underside of Jungkook's chin, and maybe Jungkook is a little whipped, too, because he just closes his eyes and lets him.
There's date night once a week now, complete with after-dinner movies at the dorm curled up in Taehyung's blankets and munching on popcorn siphoned from the stash Jimin keeps in the pockets of his favorite hoodies. They mostly just watch documentaries about Star Wars and whatever latest movie has the best CGI (which is more of Jungkook's taste than Taehyung's but hey, he'll give if it means he gets buttery couch kisses, too). Taehyung still always overplans when its his turn to pick what they do, which results in them going to the tippy top of Namsan Tower more than once and buying overpriced souvenirs since the locks get removed once every few months, anyways. They start their own lock tree on Jungkook's bed instead, feathering down from the sidepost in a giant mass of pink because it's the only color lock that Taehyung will ever buy. Jungkook's turtle hangs from the very top of it, smiling in that slightly unnerving happy-go-lucky way that has Taehyung constantly turning its head to face the wall. It's kind of a nice memory when it's not tainted by Jungkook's big mouth, but seriously, Taehyung would rather not have nightmares of that thing grinning wide as it eats him from the toes up.
They study in the library almost every night, and there is a bookshelf that they have claimed in the back corner as their Designated Makeout Area for when exams make them more than a little stressed. They've kissed in every tree that Taehyung is capable of climbing (which is less than Jungkook, who is practically a forest nymph), and they are now well-known regulars at that old 50s diner, whose owner's eyes get starry every time she sees them holding hands (Taehyung is beginning to think she's shipped them from the beginning).
And, you know. Kissing. A lot of it. So much kissing. Car kissing, top-of-broken-in-apartment-buildings kissing, in-between-the-shoes-sales-racks-at-Footlocker kissing, next-to-the-smelly-back-alley-dumpsters kissing. All the kissing. All of it.
(Taehyung really likes the kissing.)
That’s the problem with all good relationships, though – they have to change. And when they’re already this good, unplanned things are fifty times as scary.
Taehyung finds the letter on Jungkook’s desk one day when he lets himself in without knocking. Jimin is passed out on the bed, but Jungkook doesn't seem to be back yet. He'd just bought chocolate bombs from a convenience store that he'd wanted to share with Jungkook, but given the fact that said boifurendo is currently MIA, he's fully prepared to eat them by himself. He rips the bag open and pops one in his mouth, chewing as he shuts the door and crosses the room to where Jungkook's stuff is.
It's weird, though. Jungkook's supposed to be home. He hadn't told Taehyung that he was going anywhere after class, and he already knows that Taehyung has his entire schedule memorized and that keeping secrets from him is futile. Taehyung glances up at Jimin's sleeping form, wondering if he'd know. He doesn't risk waking him up, though, because if he were awake, there is no doubt in Taehyung's mind that he'd be all over Taehyung's chocolate pack. He wouldn't put it past him to throw it on the ground and stomp it into chocolatey mush. He's still a little bitter about his stolen popcorn, after all.
Taehyung sits down on Jungkook’s chair, frowning disappointedly when he finds that it’s not a spinny chair like Yoongi’s, but he’s almost immediately distracted when he sees the official-looking seal at the top of a paper buried under a couple letters from Jungkook's mom and dad and a card that says "God Loves You And We Do Too."
It’s folded, but he sees the stamp, and his heart sinks when he realizes it’s the seal of another university. He could almost convince himself it's just a lowdown community college looking desperately for promising recruits to drown in scholarship money – he gets those all the time and he isn't even half the prodigy Jungkook is – but he recognizes the stamp. He really wishes he hadn't.
Jungkook’s dream university. The one he’s been talking about since the early embryonic phase of their friendship. The one that Jungkook had once studied himself into sickness to prepare for. Taehyung unfolds it slowly, unsurely, and glances at its contents.
Jungkook lets himself in while Taehyung is reading it. He stops at the sight, and when Taehyung meets his eyes, he looks torn.
“Hi,” he says awkwardly.
“Hi,” Taehyung responds. “You got into the university.”
Jungkook bites his lip. He only has his backpack half on, and Taehyung thinks it looks a little heavy, but he makes no move to take it off. “Yeah. I just got that today.”
“I didn’t even know you applied.” Taehyung folds the letter back up neatly and stacks it on top of Jungkook’s abandoned textbooks in the corner. Maybe if nobody can see it, it'll stop existing. Maybe. “When do you leave?”
Jungkook finally sheds his backpack, setting it quietly on the floor when he notices Jimin sleeping in the bed beside him. Not that it matters. The kid is practically dead under his covers. He drops his voice to a whisper anyways. “I still have next semester. I start sophomore year.”
Taehyung looks up at him, eyes a little round. “How far is it?”
He looks a little pained, but he answers truthfully. Taehyung wonders if the truth is really what he wanted. “Pretty far.”
“Far by train?”
“Not by train. Just by car. Days by walking, but I could still do it.”
"Is it expensive?"
"Nothing I can't afford."
Taehyung tries to crack a smile. He really does. “But you just got here.”
Jungkook sighs and slides down the wall to sit, wrapping his arms around his knees. “I’m not supposed to stay here, remember?”
Jungkook gestures with his hand for Taehyung to sit next to him, and when he does, Jungkook pulls him over so that his head rests on Jungkook’s shoulder. He cards his hand through his hair. Taehyung rubs a piece of Jungkook’s t-shirt between his thumb and his forefinger. It's a little soothing. “It’ll be okay.”
“It’ll be okay,” Taehyung repeats.
“I’m not going to leave you.”
“You’re not going to leave me.”
"And I'm going to come back. Every weekend, every holiday, every second of free time I can get. I'm going to come back."
"You're going to come back."
Jungkook quiets at the monotony Taehyung's voice has taken on. He tugs him closer, almost forcibly, and Taehyung responds by pressing his nose into the hard bone of Jungkook's shoulder. Jungkook kisses the crown of his head and stays there. Taehyung can feel the flutter of his eyelashes on his hair. “I love you, V.”
Taehyung smiles softly. Jungkook's thumb works circles into his arm, but all he can think about is the thoughts running circles through the circuitry of his brain.
The one thing that he doesn't have to worry about is his answer. At least that's still natural. “I love you.”
Jungkook doesn't talk about it anymore, and Taehyung doesn't ask. He's beginning to think he'd rather hear the lies, after all.
(“So when change comes, it’s scary. It always is. But somewhere along this awful story that you forced me into telling with your shitty mood, that knight and that king fell in something. And they’re not going to fall out of it just because it’s written on some dumb, sanctimonious, save-the-world rune somewhere that the knight still has to go to his castle. This castle has been his thing for a long ass time, but that's not all there is for him anymore. It's just a place. The king is the king of all the knight’s castles.”)
Taehyung tries to be okay, but it hits him harder and harder as the days draw them closer to when Jungkook has to pack up and leave him for what feels just short of forever. It’s a scary thought to him that, one day, this campus won't know Jungkook's familiar steps anymore, that the grass in the arboretum will forget the feel of Jungkook's sneakers squashing it flat and the quiet of the library will no longer hear the sound of Jungkook humming T-Pain under his breath (they really have come a long way since their first day at the library, honestly). It's freaky thinking about not being able to walk ten steps to see him or having him just break in in the middle of the night and bellyflop into Taehyung's bed like he owns it. When there's no one around him, Taehyung pictures himself being like this for days on end. Weeks, even. He tries to imagine being alone and not constantly expecting to have Jungkook poke his head in at any given moment to see what he's up to.
Taehyung doesn't like it. Not even a little bit.
Jimin asks Taehyung to room with him next year, since Yoongi and Seokjin are both graduating this semester, too, and Taehyung is going to become similarly roommateless. It's nice that, even though all the people he's closest to are leaving, he still has Jimin, who is pretty much in the same boat without Jungkook. He likes Jimin. He really, really does. And coming back to a room where Jimin is at his desk writing papers about the physics of hackey sacks might convince him every once in a while that Jungkook is just in the shower or out getting them two coffees to go, and that he'll be coming back any minute.
But when he's doing his housing contract and Jungkook isn't, it becomes more real. Jimin is going to be Taehyung's roommate because Jungkook is leaving.
Taehyung isn't even alone yet, but he's already started feeling just the tiniest bit abandoned. He’s sad about Yoongi and Seokjin – seriously, Yoongi has been there from his tiny baby undergrad days to now, and the thought of him not being around, griping about Taehyung leaving dirty dishes on the floor and sweeping all the dirt under his desk, kind of makes Taehyung want to manly cry. And Seokjin...well, Seokjin smiles a lot, and he makes Yoongi smile a lot, and Taehyung is going to miss that, too.
The thing is that he's not scared of losing contact with them the same way he is with Jungkook. He does honestly believe Jungkook when he says the word “love.” He believes himself when he says it back, too. But Taehyung is still a cynic, and love that feels like it will last forever never seems to.
He can't really decide if Jungkook can tell. Sometimes, he falls into mute stages that he can't help, but Jungkook never comments on them, really. Whenever Taehyung lets the kid's jokes fall flat, he just stops everything that he's doing and drops himself next to Taehyung, pressing their shoulders together and leaning in to kiss the lobe of his ear. It's almost enough. If nothing else, having Jungkook physically present in his spaces does make him feel a little more at home.
But when Taehyung is left to his own devices, the thoughts are still there, and no amount of kissing can make him forget that each one is just another step towards their limit.
Essentially, for at least half of their last semester, Taehyung isn't King of the Library. He is Prince of the Pity Party, and it takes Jungkook that entire period of time before he says anything about it.
It’s on a Tuesday. Taehyung is standing outside his classroom, waiting for the previous class to end so he can claim his normal spot in the back corner where he plays on his laptop and pays zero attention to anything. His phone pings in his back pocket, and the boredom that people with no friends have while waiting in a group makes him take it out immediately to check it.
The message is from Jungkook, obviously. Come to the arboretum. I want to talk to you.
i’m about to go to class jackass, he texts back.
It’s important you dumbfuck. Come to our spot.
Taehyung is so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, SO whipped.
He leaves before the teacher even shows his ass and plugs himself into his phone's Pandora radio station, making his way through campus to the manmade river that Jungkook had showed him once when they were almost friends and not quite lovers. When he doesn’t immediately spot Jungkook, he starts wandering around and looking up into the trees, sticks and leaves crackling underfoot. He spots a figure dangling his legs from one right above where the riverbank lies. A billow of smoke puffs out from between the branches, and Taehyung waves his hand in front of his face.
“Jay,” he calls.
Jungkook looks down, and the smile on his face is legendary. Taehyung doesn't know when the hell he's ever going to get used to seeing that face. (Or not seeing it, for that matter.) “Fancy seeing you out here so soon.”
Taehyung snorts and drops his stuff at the trunk of the tree, immediately hopping up to scale it by the branches. He sits himself comfortably next to Jungkook, leaning his back against the trunk and eyeing the burning cigarette in his hand. “When are you going to stop doing that?”
Jungkook looks down at it, too, shrugging and putting it out on the box it came from. He sticks its butt back in and closes it up, tossing the box down so that it lays next to Taehyung’s stuff. He crosses his arms. “So you skipped class, huh?”
Taehyung nods, running his hands down the length of the branch until his pinky touches the toe of Jungkook’s sneakers.
“Guess that makes us friends, right?”
Taehyung looks at him, confused, before the memory slams into him like a left hook and he bursts out laughing. “Wow. That took me a long ass time, didn’t it?”
“You’re telling me,” Jungkook says, pleased smile playing at his lips. Taehyung grins back, but it dies out the second he looks away, Jungkook's ethereal smile singed on the back of his eyelids. Jungkook notices, and this time, he doesn't ignore it. He gestures toward the tip of Taehyung’s nose. “Why the long face?”
There’s still a hint of playfulness left in the air from the echoes of Taehyung’s laughter, so Taehyung tries using it. “Shut up, Jay, your mom’s an island and the world is her Lost: Season One.”
Jungkook grimaces. “I don’t even know what means.”
“It means they all crash-landed in her vagina and you’re the product.”
Jungkook sticks his tongue out at that, seeming a little too grossed out at the word vagina to be a graduate student, but he sobers up pretty fast. Gauging by the calculated look in Jungkook's eyes, Taehyung thinks he knows why he got called out here now. “Seriously. I’m serious. Why do you seem so bummed lately?”
Jungkook watches him carefully. Taehyung is hyperaware of the fact that he already knows why, but he still makes a show of kicking his legs so that his calves hit the branch. “I’ve just…been questioning a lot of lame ass things.”
“Like what?” Jungkook prods gently. Taehyung shrugs.
“What kind of stuff?”
Taehyung sighs unnecessarily loudly. Jungkook gives him The Look, and he knows he’s going to crack, anyways. “Just us stuff. Like, what’s going to happen when you transfer, what’s going to happen when we graduate, what’s going to happen when Yoongi and Seokjin are gone. Y’know. Dumb shit.”
“That’s not dumb shit,” Jungkook responds with a frown in the pull of his eyebrows.
Taehyung shrugs without looking at him. “Well, I wish it were, then.”
Jungkook looks at him hard, as if he’s trying to decide what to say. “You know I love you,” he finally starts, leaning back on his palms. He reaches out to flick Taehyung's arm. Taehyung bats him away, but he knows that Jungkook just wants an excuse to touch him, and he's okay with that. “You know I’m not going to leave you just because I go somewhere else—”
“I know,” Taehyung interrupts, holding his hands up defensively. He tries to look at least a little positive, forcing gravity to stop pulling the corners of his lips down by sheer willpower. “I know, I just—it's so far away, and you're so close right now, and it's so hard to imagine—”
Jungkook holds up a hand. Taehyung stops talking, stops moving, stops thinking, because a look crosses Jungkook’s face that says that he’s heard exactly what he wants to, and Taehyung was not expecting that at all. It's not quite a smile, but amusement dances across his face. Taehyung narrows his eyes. He knows better than to trust that look. Jungkook calmly folds his hands in his lap.
“Tae. You want to hear a story?”
And in hindsight, maybe Jungkook always knew that this moment would come. Maybe he had been preparing this story since the day they met. Maybe he’d been preparing it since just this morning. Maybe he knew this was exactly what Taehyung needed to hear, and maybe he had absolutely no clue. Maybe Taehyung knew then, too, that all of what they'd built so far was leading up to this: sitting in their tree, dangling above their river and deciding whether or not to listen to a silly narrative that was on Jungkook’s mind. Maybe the world was breathing the words into both their ears and making them make sense.
Maybe Taehyung knew this was their loose ends. Maybe Jungkook knew this was their new beginnings. Maybe they both knew that this was their story, right now, just like it had been their story yesterday, and the day before, and the day before.
Or maybe they’re both idiots who just happen to fall well together. A leaf flutters down to rest on the top of Jungkook’s head, and he doesn’t notice. Taehyung reaches out to brush it away, and as it floats off, Jungkook’s fingers find his where they’ve paused in the air. Jungkook is looking at him expectantly, like the words are sitting at the edge of his tongue just waiting to tumble, and Taehyung, as usual, is extraordinarily, incomprehensibly, inordinately whipped. “I feel like those words never end without me crying.”
“That was the sappiest piece of shit that I’ve ever heard, and I think I love you.”
“I know. You're not crying, are you?"
"Fuck off, I have allergies."
"Sure, okay. Wipe up your allergy tears and let's go get some ice cream.”)