Actions

Work Header

ce monde est une tempête

Work Text:

Taehyung has never been one to like crowds, with the exception of parties and even then, he’d have to be half drunk in order to be unabashed over how everyone else is having a difficult time following his train of thought in general. That aside, he’d pride himself for being quite the social butterfly, the weather is an extremely boring topic, have you ever wanted to be a bird? Oh and by the way, the name’s Taehyung, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

Which is the reason why said male is currently sprawled out over one of the tiny tables in a café within walking radius of campus, hiding out away from all the first years who are having their orientation week. Bumping into three of them and a campus tour guide was not Taehyung's most ideal way of enjoying the rest of the day’s empty time table.

Being a junior has got to be the most stressful year in college so far, and he’s not even two weeks in. He’s not quite sure what to make of his scraps of free time (or lack thereof).

The barista calls his name, and his head lifts off the surface of the table, where his cheek has become exceptionally smooth from the impromptu nap. With a warm paper cup in his hands, Taehyung is on his way to a better mood and chocolate running in his veins again, except—

“What the fuck?”

Taehyung rolls his tongue in his mouth, lifting the cup to eye level and squinting at it in distaste, the bitter hint of coffee still lingering at the back of this throat from when he’d unfortunately swallowed a mouthful. And an Americano, no less. With no sugar and milk, just black. He wouldn’t have minded if it’d been a vanilla latte, but, honestly.

“Jesus,” a voice beside him mutters, and Taehyung turns to see a similar expression of disgust on the stranger’s face. The boy places his cup back onto the collection counter and leans over, waving a hand for the barista, where he nudges the cup slightly. “Uhm, I think that there’s been a mistake. I ordered a black coffee.”

Sidling over, Taehyung places his own cup beside the one already on the counter and nods in earnest. “And I got a peppermint mocha.”

When the stranger turns, he has a small look of surprise on his features, but it melts into a faint smile, and Taehyung catches a quick flash of bunny teeth when he grins. “Oh, we got switched.”

“We could switch back,” Taehyung says, eyeing the cup where he knows his cravings are in, and it’s definitely not because the stranger has an attractive face and a cute smile and a deep gaze so he wants to know his name. “That is, if you’re not saliva conscious. You’re fine and dandy, aren’t you? All healthy?” He’s also not starting to babble.

The boy laughs, and he shakes his head, pushing his cup into Taehyung's hands which are open on the countertop. “No, no, I’m great. You have a terribly sweet tooth,” he lifts Taehyung's cup a little higher and reads off the warmer, “Taehyung.”

Later, when the chime at the door has sounded his departure, Taehyung turns the cup in his palms and learns that the stranger’s name is Jungkook.

 

Fridays are god sent.

Or at least, that's what Taehyung thinks. With the entire day reserved for minors and cores, the corridors are empty, save for the few unfortunate souls who hadn't accumulated enough credits into senior year, and Taehyung makes a mental resolution that he will absolutely not follow in the footsteps of one foul faced Min Yoongi, whom he'd had the pleasure of crashing into while on the way to meet Jimin at the dance studio.

“You should have just taken the core modules back in freshman year, it wasn't very time consuming.”

Yoongi tosses Taehyung a glare, and whacks his bound version of a workbook over the junior's head, flipping him the middle finger right after as if to say, “watch out”. Belatedly, Taehyung realizes that he'd accomplished all these without even taking out his earphones.

“Didn't anyone ever teach you that it's rude not to pause your music while having a conversation with someone,” Taehyung quips. After all, it wouldn't matter if he went to the grave early, since he got into architecture to fucking design buildings, and not to write a god damn book for his thesis next year (and 40 fucking word-filled pages, no less).

He thinks about fleeing, but Yoongi tugs the left earpiece out and actually growls at him. “If Jimin didn't care about you so much, I'd be painting my doorframe in your blood right now.”

“Oh, I don't think Seokjin would appreciate Namjoon kissing him against a stained surface? But at least I have use in warding off demons even in death—”

Yoongi takes in a deep breath, and after patting Taehyung's shoulder a couple times more than the latter would classify as friendly, he leaves for his class.

Well, Fridays are still god sent.

Jimin is a completely different person when he dances.

Taehyung settles himself in a spot at the corner of the studio as his best friend goes through the practice routine with the rest of the crew, and Taehyung recognizes Hoseok at the front with his back to the mirror, looking serious the way he always does in the studio, his carefree self abandoned for the sake of dance, and his eyes follow every move, quietly correcting mistakes.

The music stops and Taehyung waves at Jimin, who brightens up and plops himself cross legged in front of the other, tipping a water bottle up against his lips, chest still heaving.

“Looking good up there, bro.”

“Thanks, bro.”

“Nice ass, bro.”

“Stop right there, bro.”

Taehyung lets out a snort, then puts both his hands up in mock surrender, his signature box-shaped grin on his lips as he makes a noncommittal noise. “Of course, I'm too young to die, and too important to die by your boyfriend's hands.”

Jimin's laugh is soft, childlike as always, but they share an understanding smile between them. “Thanks for coming down. My memory has been deteriorating lately.”

“Invest in those chicken essence things,” Taehyung says, reaching into his pocket to pull out a key, which he drops onto Jimin's expectant, outstretched palm. “You're going to need them, remember those juniors we saw in the library last semester?”

Jimin nods.

“That's going to be us in a couple of months. Should we set a date to get our hair bleached? Like, we should settle it before it turns white naturally.”

“What the fuck, Taehyung,” Jimin deadpans, but not at all surprised. “I like my hair the way it is, thank you very much. But you, on the other hand, is destroying your hair with a new colour every week.”

“It looks great.” Taehyung's colour this week is a deep red, and he's taken quite a liking to it to have considered keeping it for the next couple of weeks as well.

Shaking his head, Jimin keeps his dorm key into the pocket of his jersey shorts, mumbling something about narcissism until Hoseok joins them.

“Forgot your keys?” The senior chuckles and ruffles Jimin's hair, which earns them an indignant yelp from the boy. “Sorry I couldn't let you borrow mine.”

“Yeah, it's fine. Tae came by, so you go have fun with your family this weekend, all right?”

“Having fun is the only thing I'm good at, anyway.” Hoseok grins, then checks the time. “Right, practice is over. See you guys next week, stay alive till then, no having sex on my bed,” and with the last comment, Hoseok looks pointedly at Jimin, who flushes a thousand shades of red while Taehyung barks out a laugh.

Once Hoseok is out of earshot, Jimin covers his face with his hands and groans. “Embarrassing as fuck, that was only once and Yoongi and I were drunk.”

“So, get drunk somewhere else,” Taehyung rolls his eyes, but something— or someone, catches his attention and his voice immediately drops two octaves lower, speaking in a hushed tone. “Don't look, but that hottie in your crew was that hot stranger I met in the café on Wednesday.”

“What?” Jimin says, and turns around, because “subtlety” is not a word that exists in his vocabulary. His eyebrows raise and he shifts, hooking an arm with Taehyung, the amusement evident in his eyes. “So, your hot stranger is Jungkook?”

“Oh my god! Don't say his name, haven't you heard? ‘Speak of the devil, and the devil shall—’ fuck, what are you doing!”

Because Jungkook has obviously noticed Jimin's rather aggressive wave and is now making his way towards the pair. “Yeah?”

“Hey, Jungkook,” Jimin's voice is smooth, suave even.

Jungkook lifts a brow, then turns his attention to Taehyung, who is frozen against Jimin's side, looking utterly betrayed but still all smiles. “Hey? Who's this?”

He'd never admit it, but Taehyung feels just a little of his hope fall, because Jungkook doesn't remember him. They hadn't spoken much, which is a given, but he would rather like to think that their minimal interaction held a small place in Jungkook's heart the way it does in his own.

At least Jimin has the grace to look apologetic for bringing such humiliation upon him, Taehyung thinks.

“This is Taehyung,” Jimin says, slowly, “my roommate and subsequently the dumbest best friend in the world.”

“Excuse you, but I'm—”

“And Taehyung, this is Jungkook, from my hometown. We were neighbours back in Busan.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says, then for a lack of better response, he holds out his hand, beaming. “Nice to meet you, Jungkook. The name's Taehyung. Kim. Third year architectural design major.”

“The name's Jungkook, Jeon. Second year computer science, cyber security major,” Jungkook imitates, but all in good nature, before a small smile quirks up at the corner of his lips. “Are you, by any chance, a lover of peppermint mocha, heavy on the diabetes?”

Diabetes? Listen here, all that Americano must be getting to you, careful now or you're going to get so bitter—”

Jimin puts a palm over his mouth, and Taehyung's eyes widen. “All right, so that aside, see you at next week's practice, Kookie. Tae and I have to go now.”

Jungkook's eyes tinge with mirth, and he nods, waving at the both of them as Jimin drags a restless Taehyung out of the studio.

“Stop! Carry my god damn bag, you alien.”

“Don't make me, you dwarf—”

 

Because even if Taehyung would never admit to have been wanting to meet Jungkook again, he is not expecting said male to tap him on the shoulder, politely, as if they had never met before in their entire lives (even if they had just last Friday, and the Wednesday two days before that), and ask if the seat beside Taehyung is taken.

“No?” Taehyung says, and immediately hopes that he hadn’t sounded way too pissed about how Jungkook hadn’t even bothered to address him by name because am I really that unimportant, I don’t think I’m lacking that much in the looks department? Hoping for a quick fix of what he thinks was a rude response, he adds, “you can sit down. It was just vacated not long ago.”

Jungkook looks so relieved that Taehyung finds it almost comical, watching the younger boy set his laptop down onto the table with a thick textbook. With a quick glance, Taehyung catches the word “networking” and decides to look no further because computers and such aren’t his thing, unless it’s social “networking” then yeah, he’s all right at that.

“Rough day?” Taehyung turns his attention back to his pencil sketches, blowing over the paper to clear his eraser shavings before he starts to outline them in black pen and fine-tipped marker. “You look half dead.”

“Yeah, had two lectures in a row and then a lab on routing protocols,” Jungkook grunts, flipping his laptop open where Taehyung sees an open window with something that looks like a mind map except that it isn’t a mind map, and when Jungkook catches him staring, he laughs. “It’s a, uh, packet tracer file,” he offers, but doesn’t emphasize because Taehyung looks as if he doesn’t give two shits about what it is, which he doesn’t.

A little relieved, Taehyung settles back in his seat because Jungkook seems to remember him now, and he can afford to babble a little more (and maybe get his phone number).

“Tough,” Taehyung snorts, then goes silent as he presses his pen over his pencil linings to darken the sketches. “You don’t have to explain anything to me, I’m not techy at all, and I will never be.”

“Wasn’t planning to anyway, I don’t even know all this shit, so I’m in no position to explain it to anyone else.” Jungkook has a nice smile, Taehyung realizes after that, and wonders if he’d look even better laughing.

“Modest, I like that.” Taehyung hums, letting his pen smooth over the pencil markings, but a sudden knock of Jungkook's elbow against his throws him into immediate panic, a quiet yelp escaping his lips.

Jungkook holds his breath as the elder mutters “oh my god oh my god” like a mantra, and he doesn't know if he should cry or laugh when Taehyung presses his palms together and starts to pray to Buddha, then Jesus.

“I'm so sorry—”

“Dear Father in Heaven, Jesus fucking Christ—”

“Hey—”

“...Hallowed be Thy name—”

Jungkook extracts the sketch from beneath Taehyung's prayer clasp, then carefully traces over the stray pen marks with a tube of correction fluid. “Here's the plan,” he says, and Taehyung looks like a lost child. “When this dries, we'll make a photocopy of the sketch in draft print, and then you can outline it again, all right? Not all is lost.”

Taehyung calms down after that. “Oh.”

They stand in line at the photocopier, quietly tossing comments back and forth for the next hour or so until the rest of the students have filed out of the library, leaving just the two of them at the long table, freely laughing about how they both have two moles on their skin that resembles an elephant when pinched.

Jungkook notices it first, and Taehyung lets out a soft yelp when Jungkook pinches his arm, staring at the younger, completely nonplussed. “Physical assault,” he hisses, but Jungkook's eyes pull up into crescents and Taehyung allows himself to be distracted by his low, throaty laugh.

“Look, it’s an elephant.”

Taehyung's eyebrows lift sky high in amusement as he glances down and squints at the part of his skin where Jungkook has pressed together, and after a long time, his eyes widen. “Oh,” he says, real eloquent. “It really does look like one.”

“I’ve got one too,” Jungkook chuckles and moves his hand to where his fingers rest back over his keyboard, and Taehyung wishes he hadn’t pulled away so soon. “But it’s on my thigh, extremely inconvenient to show you right now.”

“Well, there’s no one around—” Taehyung begins, but at the look Jungkook gives him, he alters the next half the sentence, “—so, you should give me your number and show me again another time. You pinched me, I return the favour.”

Yeah, Kim Taehyung. That was smooth, real smooth.

Jungkook just rolls his eyes and offers him his phone, fingers gesturing for Taehyung to hand his over too.

Taehyung taps his number in and they switch their devices back to save each other’s numbers as whatever they’d like to, which in Taehyung's case, he saves the new contact as “Kookie”, and lifts his head to ask what Jungkook has saved his number as, when:

“Hey, this is completely backwards but I realized that I never asked you for your name.”

There is a moment of stunned silence, and Taehyung feels a prick of irritation, or maybe hurt, though he classifies it as him being absolutely insulted, but he takes a deep breath, plucks Jungkook's phone right from his hands and types his name in as “Taehyung, Kim”. Returning Jungkook the phone, he gathers his sketches up and tips the other an imaginary hat farewell.

“See you around, Jungkook, Jeon,” Taehyung says, and he wonders if he should have had a cup of Americano that morning, so that he can have something to take the blame for how bitter his voice sounds in that moment.

 

“Jim Jim Jimmy!”

Jimin cringes from the couch where he has his textbook open and is attempting to complete his readings on evolutionary genetics. He shudders and wonders if his atoms have rearranged from how fucking loud his roommate is.

“What do you want.”

Taehyung flings himself onto Jimin's lap, and the smaller boy lets out a disgruntled yelp, pushing at the deadweight that is currently crumpling the pages of his fifty dollar textbook. “Is it just me or is Jeon Jungkook such a fucking jerk?”

“Jungkook?” Jimin growls, finally rolling Taehyung off of him (and his very expensive textbook), carefully smoothing out the pages before glancing up, lifting an eyebrow at the boy sprawled unceremoniously on the floor in front of the couch.

“We met in the library today,” Taehyung says, words muffled from where he is face down on his stomach, then he turns his head so his cheek presses to the floorboards, finally meeting Jimin's gaze. “We talked so much and I thought he remembered who I was. I mean, we just met last Friday, it wasn’t even that long ago, I am your best friend, but when we exchanged numbers, he was like, ‘hey, this is completely backwards but I realized that I never asked you for your name’. Dude,” Taehyung is full-fledged whining now, but he doesn’t actually care. He is hurt, he should be allowed this little bit of comfort. “How could someone just do that!”

Jimin chews on his lip, half amused but mostly worried, shifting himself so his body stretches across the couch, reaching an arm down to pat Taehyung's head in a rather condescending manner, not that the latter minds, just inching closer and feigning sobs. “Stop being dramatic, you little shit. Maybe he just has a really bad memory, you know?”

“No shit,” Taehyung mutters, “I thought you said he was a champ in high school.”

“Haven’t you heard of memory deterioration, like, you know, the kind that I have been experiencing lately, forgetting my keys and whatnot—”

“It’s a completely different thing. He stared into my face for an entire hour and it didn’t even come across to him that we have met.”

“Well—”

“Nevertheless, if we get past the cockiness,” Taehyung pauses to allow the pun to sink in, and Jimin actually gags when he gets it (“oh hell no, I refuse to think about Kookie’s dick”). “He’s a nice person. I mean, he’s funny, he literally pinched my arm,” Taehyung demonstrates, and Jimin's eyes flash with faint recognition, “and called this an elephant.”

“Oh,” Jimin says, “Jungkook has a similar set of moles on his thigh. He used to do that all the time and call it an elephant, too. Man, I didn’t know he’s still doing that.”

They settle into a comfortable silence, Jimin spacing out on the couch while Taehyung remains on the floor, chin propped up on his arms, eyes closed, when Jimin speaks up in a soft voice.

“You know, about Jungkook.”

“Hm?”

“He has an excellent memory. Just… not with faces.”

“Oh?”

“It wasn’t always like that, though.”

Taehyung shifts, pushing himself up into a sitting position where his back rests against the couch and his head is pillowed on the small of Jimin's back, moving ever so slightly whenever Jimin speaks.

“What do you mean?” Taehyung murmurs, feeling his pocket vibrate, and he slips his phone out to see a text from Jungkook.

 

hey

hey yourself

i’m sorry i didn’t recognize you earlier. you changed your hair colour.

 

Taehyung lets out a quiet laugh, fingers hovering over his keypad when:

“He had an accident.”

Taehyung freezes.

“When we were in high school, Jungkook got into an accident. He was taking a cab home after dance practice ran extra late one night and it slipped on the ice. Crashed into a tree and flipped.”

 

Seventeen year old Jungkook was captain of the high school's dance crew, and an honours student. Well-liked, he had an easy smile and referred to everyone by their names. People loved talking to him, because they felt as if he honestly wanted to hold a conversation.

Jimin's never really been much of a social butterfly, but he would make do with random people from around the school approaching their table during lunch to chit chat. Would watch Jungkook sustain a conversation that he himself would never have been able to.

“How do you even remember all those people? I don't even know half their names.”

Jungkook just laughed and patted Jimin on the head, earning him a whack on the shoulder and a short nag on respecting his elders.

If not for the constant pressure and lack of sleep, Jungkook would say that his life had been close to perfect. Pressure to succeed, and pressure to exceed.

His day started at five in the morning, which was unfortunate for Jimin, who lived right next door and had to put up with the unrelenting wakeup call that was Jungkook's loud knocks on his front door and wake up, Jimin, for God’s sake.

Jungkook left the studio most nights past ten at night, dipping his head at the security personnel at the guard house, who had by then long since recognized him. An hour by bus home, and then he would have to stay up to complete his homework because his parents had expectations.

Expectations, Jungkook thought, was such an ugly word. Everyone had something that they were good at. That they were passionate over; something that they wanted to achieve. For Jungkook, it was dancing. For Jungkook's parents, it was a graduate programme at law school.

He didn't know if it was misfortune, or the most twisted sort of luck, because the moment in which Jungkook woke up in a white room with too-white walls, sheets, and the crispy hint of antiseptic in the air, he had a numb feeling that the life he (with the convincing of his parents) had so carefully outlined and paved for himself, was about to take a ninety degree drop.

Faintly, the sound of wheels slipping on the road resonated around his skull, and when he swallowed, Jungkook could taste the faint tang of metal on his tongue. His pulse skipped once, twice.

His parents crowded around him almost immediately, and he could see their relief. The doctor was called, and Jungkook briefly remembered having his vitals checked while staring right into the doctor's face (he had wide set eyes and a perpetual frown), before his entire vision blacked out once again.

They didn't even notice that something was wrong when Jungkook asked, “why do I get checked by a different doctor every time?” This was two days after he gained consciousness for the first time.

And his parents laughed.

“He's one and the same, Jungkook.”

Jungkook's heart clenched, and he thought that it was more of fear than embarrassment.

He tried. He honestly tried to study the doctor's face, but every time the man in the white coat left the room, Jungkook was left grasping at nothing: just a swirl of blank space in his memory where the doctor's face should be. He stole a glance at his parents and knew that it was different. It wasn't right, something was very wrong.

The doctor wore solid navy coloured ties twice a week, the shirt beneath his coat was only of pale colours. He had a habit of saying “all right, so...” and his hair was swept to the left. Jungkook remembered.

Jungkook could remember everything, he could see him perfectly well when they had eye contact, even make out the shape of his eyes and the slope of his nose, but he could remember nothing when the man turned away.

Two weeks later, he told Jimin, “I think there's something wrong with me.”

“Haven't we all already established this a long time ago?”

“No, like, something wrong, wrong,” Jungkook said, and Jimin caught the hint of hysteria in his voice.

“Did you tell your parents?”

“Yeah, but all they did was laugh.”

Jimin didn't waste any time pushing the red button at the head of Jungkook's hospital bunk, much to the younger boy's shock.

Unlike his parents, he doctor didn't laugh. He didn't even crack a smile. All he said was, “how long has this been going on?”

Jungkook told him.

“We need to run you through some tests, Jungkook,” his doctor said, and Jungkook tried not to notice the seriousness in his tone. “Nothing difficult, some visual tests.”

Jungkook sat through every single one of them, asking to identify faces and names after being shown them for a short period of time. With every shake of his head, the paranoia rose within him. Seeing his distress, the doctor showed him pictures of his parents, and only when Jungkook could finally nod, the fear subsided, but only slightly.

“Associative prosopagnosia,” the doctor told his parents that evening when they visited, and they stared at him blankly.

“It's a sort of neurological impairment whereby he is unable to recognize faces. He may be able to tell if they are the same, but he won't be able to remember them. He's lucky that the damage isn't severe, he is still able to recognize facial emotions and more familiar faces from before the accident.”

Naturally, the new information did not sink in with immediate effect, but once it did, the immediate panic was evident.

“New faces will not register at first glance, but we believe that he hasn’t lost all ability to identify faces, he will need to be in constant contact with them. If it’s someone he sees regularly, he should start matching their features to his memory in several years.”

Jimin gave Jungkook's hand a squeeze, because the younger was trembling, trembling, and trembling.

They always say that life is unfair, but in situations as such, Jungkook would prefer if it were.

Gone was his career option of being a lawyer, because he would no longer be a “people” person. Gone were his parents' expectations of him.

It was one burden in exchange for another.

 

Later, when Jimin is fast asleep in bed on the opposite side of the room, Taehyung is staring at his message thread with Jungkook.

 

it’s all right.

i’ll keep trying out weird colours

so you’ll know that it’s me

did jimin tell you?

yeah, not his fault though

i was telling him that you were an asshole for forgetting me

he did it in your defense

i’m sorry

nah.

so, we’re good?

yeah, we’re good

you think i’m an asshole, though

whoops haha autocorrect

 

Taehyung locks his screen and goes to sleep.

 

There is a lump under his blanket and Jimin is terrified. He had returned to the dorm exhausted and in need of a shower, but then this thing laying unmoving in his bed is proving to be extremely unnerving. For a moment, Jimin thinks that it may be Taehyung, because so help them all, that boy is a serial bed invader especially when he’s tired and in one of his touchy moods.

It is no longer a possibility when he hears the shower running and Taehyung's low voice belting out to some random indie song that Jimin doesn’t know the title to. A second guess would be Yoongi, but he never sleeps with the blanket draped anywhere higher than his waist, and Jimin knows this.

So Jimin picks up a broom from the kitchen closet and makes his way back to the room.

Taehyung comes out of the shower dressed in boxers and a towel over his head, and sees his best friend prodding at an unidentified lump in his bed with the wide end of the broom.

“Reveal thyself,” Jimin is shouting, though the ending syllables crack and they come out sounding more afraid than threatening. “Speak up now or forever hold thy peace!”

“Uhm… Jimin.”

Jimin snaps his head to the direction of Taehyung and immediately barrels into him, talking quickly about alien invasion. Taehyung doesn’t hear every word that he says, but he catches some things that sound like “war of the world” references.

The lump shifts, and Jimin whimpers, wondering if he should start screaming when Taehyung chirps out, “oh, it’s Jungkookie!”

Jungkook's head pops out of the blanket and he sits cross legged on the middle of the mattress, hair tousled from sleep while he rubs at his eyes. “Huh?”

“So, Jimin thought that you were an alien and that you’re going to take over the world.”

The sides of Jungkook's lips quirk up into an amused smile, though he dips his head in mild apology. “I’m sorry, I just knocked out.”

Jimin looks absolutely flabbergasted. “What are you doing here?”

“I invited Jungkook over to watch a movie,” Taehyung says, plopping down beside the younger and draping his arm over his shoulder to bring him into a headlock, grinning widely.

“And he agreed?” Jimin wrinkles his nose, eyes narrowing while he regards the both of them skeptically. “I have invited him over to watch a movie about half a million times throughout the entirety of last year, and he has never agreed even once. I. Am. Insulted.”

“Sorry, Jimin, I’m way more appealing to him than you are!”

“I call bullshit, have you seen these abs—”

“Whoa, hold the fire,” Jungkook interrupts, slowly untangling himself from a shirtless Taehyung, and scooting over to the edge of the bed. “What I’d like to supply to this conversation is that Jimin has terrible timing, and he did invite me over three times, but first, it was during mid-sem tests, second, it was during exam week, and third, it was on Christmas day and I wasn’t even on campus.”

“Why are you taking Taehyung's side, we’ve been friends all your life!”

 

Seeing Jungkook in their dorm becomes a normality soon enough, except Jungkook has finally learned which bed belongs to who, and has a tendency to nap under Taehyung's heap of blankets instead, his excuse being, “the last time I fell asleep on your bed, you were whacking my ass off with a broom, Jimin. I sneezed for an entire day after that.”

Jimin offhandedly comments on how Taehyung and Jungkook seem to have become closer, after returning from class to see Taehyung sprawled over his sketches on the floor and Jungkook on the couch with his laptop still powered on and resting on his stomach, the both of them having fallen asleep. One glance at Taehyung's blank papers and Jungkook's blank word document confirms that they had probably been talking right before.

Taehyung smiles widely as usual, nudging Jimin repeatedly with his shoulder, and Jungkook wiggles his eyebrows.

“Are you jealous, Jimin?”

“Hell no, the both of you are annoying as fuck, anyway.”

Jungkook notices how Taehyung would have a new hair colour almost every month, and to be honest, he gets a little frustrated.

“It’s like I have to ask you what colour your hair is, or I’ll never pick you out in the crowd. God damn it, Taehyung.”

Taehyung had shown him his signature box-shaped smile, then hooked his arm with the younger’s as they waited for the barista to call their names, standing near the display for pastries and cakes. “Tell you what, from now on, I’ll always choose colours that you’re sure to notice me by. If you think, ‘man, that kid is crazy’, then it’s probably me.”

“There are more crazy people on campus than you think there are,” Jungkook had rolled his eyes, but even then, he’d known that Taehyung had probably been right.

And he had been.

Jungkook spots Taehyung walking towards him where he is leaning against the campus gates, and his eyebrows shoot up. Taehyung's hair is purple. It is fucking purple. He lets out a short laugh and thinks that it may be a good thing that the elder is so eccentric.

“Let’s go,” are Taehyung's first words before Jungkook finds himself pulled out of campus and to the right where there are a row of small shops. “There’s this place that I found just last week. I wanted to bring Jimin, but he’s so busy with dance practice, what with that dance showcase you guys have, so I haven’t had the chance.” Taehyung lets out a small sound of approval when they enter the shop. “So, congratulations, you get to taste the world’s most amazing black bean noodles ever, courtesy of me.”

Taehyung had texted Jungkook earlier, asking if he wanted to grab lunch when his lecture was over, since the both of them have no afternoon classes on Wednesday. In truth, Jungkook had been thinking of going to the studio to practice, but he’d thought of Taehyung's excited murmuring (though mostly nonsense) and random tugs at his sleeve, and agreed.

“In the world?” Jungkook snorts, but he lets Taehyung sit him down and shove a menu in his face. “Is it really that good?”

“Trust me,” Taehyung says, and Jungkook does.

Jungkook thinks that he may trust Taehyung a little too much.

 

Whenever Jimin is nervous, his word count per minute goes down to one, or at most times, it remains a flat zero.

“You’ll do fine, darling,” Taehyung coos, and Jimin elbows him in the stomach, the nervousness causing his average strength to increase tenfold and the former lets out a strangled, choking noise. “I’ve seen you practice a few times, you’ll have everyone wrapped around your little finger, all right?”

“You’ve only seen me do my part, but not the entire routine,” Jimin's voice is stiff, laced on edge and Taehyung thinks that if he squints hard enough, he would see that the veins are protruding at Jimin's temples. “Watch the eye,” he yelps, when Taehyung brings the eyeliner too close to his eye.

“Whoops,” Taehyung says without an ounce of remorse, but he leans in closer to outline the rest of Jimin's eye, smudging the corners slightly. Slinging an arm around Jimin’s shoulder, Taehyung gives him a side hug, tousling the shorter male’s hair up with an affectionate nuzzle against his cheek. “Jimothy’s fine,” he says in a sickly sweet voice, and Jimin cringes. “Besides, I’m sure it’s muscle memory by now. If you’re nervous, look for me in the crowd.”

With that, Jimin's attention flickers towards the almost obscene-looking orange board that Taehyung has fashioned out of leftover boards from last year’s arts elective, where Jimin’s name had been slapped on in sharpie, drowning in a mess of water based glue and silver glitter. It’s a wonder that Taehyung had managed to scrape through the subject, but the mystery lies in why he’d even chosen it in the first place. He clearly had no other artistic talent outside of three dimensional sketching.

Jimin cringes.

“Please don’t bring that.”

 

Taehyung brings it, of course.

Jimin cringes yet again, but knowing that his best friend is at the front of the audience, waving his ridiculous board and pterodactyl screaming his name until his already baritone voice is going hoarse, he feels significantly less alone.

Yoongi doesn’t look too amused at the noise, but he gives Jimin a thumbs up from his seat beside Taehyung. Namjoon and Seokjin have their hands waving wildly in the air on Taehyung's other side, Seokjin's hand occasionally colliding with Taehyung's board, though neither of them seem to care. In the harsh glow of the spotlight, the flaking off of silver glitter from Taehyung's board seems almost magical.

It starts with a slow beat, their backs face the audience, and Jimin sees the silhouettes of his crew trembling, in anticipation or fear, he can never be sure, but the adrenaline pulsing beneath his skin is as real as it gets, and he remembers one of the most ridiculous things that Taehyung had once said.

“You know how I absolutely hate presenting shit in front of the class?”

“Yeah?”

“I look at them like they’re donuts, and then I think that once I’m done, I can eat them all up.”

“What the fuck, Tae? That’s fucked up, you know that’s basically cannibalism.”

“Appreciate my god damn metaphors.”

The stage is a parallel dimension, a temporary residence that only coexists with rhythm and music. While practice had dragged until the wee hours of the night, and had been going on for weeks, ever since the start of the semester, with hours spent correcting mediocre things such as the angle of an elbow, the showcase itself is an ephemeral flicker, like the transient haze of a passing rain cloud.

First, there was silence. Then, the applause is so thunderous that Jimin flinches alongside the wide smile on his lips. Throwing his glance around, Hoseok and Jungkook have the same expression of wonder and relief on their faces, the spotlight reflecting off the sweat beading at their foreheads. Their heads turn, and for a moment, their eyes meet.

Their showcase is a success, and Taehyung's dying whale noise of a scream confirms the reality of it all.

 

There is nothing more daunting than sitting in a circle with a group of people who know each other, especially when you only know two out of six of them. Problems faced being (1) you are an introvert, (2) you will never remember who is who, because of obvious impairment in face recognition abilities and (3) said company is too busy sucking face with respective partners to commence a normal, healthy fellowship among friends.

Jungkook swallows, head swimming as he reconsiders his life options, letting out a small sigh before he glances around.

Hoseok has his head in his hands, wrinkling his nose at Jimin, who is in Yoongi's lap, while the rest are holding out their paper cups (hastily purchased from the party essentials shelf in the convenience store the moment the showcase ended, together with an assortment of vodka and different coloured bottles of breezer) at Seokjin, whose face has gone pink, and is sloppily filling them up.

“One bottle down, two more to go,” Taehyung slurs, holding his cup up with a small cheer, and Jungkook looks towards the low voice where he catches sight of the male’s flushed skin and the silver bracelet that he almost never seems to take off.

In a moment of sudden revelation, Jungkook dryly takes note of how Taehyung has an obsession with beggar fashion: stonewashed ripped jeans and a long sleeved cotton tee that seems to have had its proper cuff and neck seams hacked away with a pair of kitchen scissors.

It looks good on him though, so Jungkook doesn’t bring it up. He prefers to stay off the offensive team.

Taehyung turns, catches him staring, and a slow smirk ghosts over his lips, which Jungkook notes is wet and almost sinfully tempting. He averts his gaze so the image warps in his mind, though the desire continues to simmer in his stomach.

“Hey, hey,” Jimin calls out, effectively catching the attention of everyone. “Tae, put the bottle down, let’s play spin the bottle!”

“What,” Jungkook deadpans, and if he’d been more sober, he would have stood up and bailed immediately.

But Yugyeom and Bambam aren’t back in their dorm, both of them having mentioned something about club activities before Yugyeom had pulled the smaller male out, a drag in their steps.

Jungkook is forever grateful that his roommates possess contrasting heights and body builds, because it makes it so much easier for him to differentiate the both of them, making his dorm life very convenient. Such as, if he returns one evening to see a smaller male at their kitchenette, he would feel a surge of pity towards his taste buds, and effectively scram the fuck out to avoid a very spicy Thai dinner.

Or, if he sees the taller male shuffling around the dorm with a screwdriver in hand, he would expect to be attacked by a chunk of walking metal in the middle of a guilty nap. The only motivation for him to wake up would be to save the laptop charger he has strewn across the floor from the wall to the couch.

In a way, Jungkook thinks that it works out. Everything is a habit, and things feel familiar. College is settling nicely and he is adjusting fairly well, with the occasional phone call between him and his parents asking him how he’s been, are you eating well? Made any new friends? Be careful of people, Jungkook, you know it’s important that you decide wisely who you mix around with since you have your condition and all.

Enter Kim Taehyung, a tornado one day and a forest lake another. Jungkook has always been fond of constants, of predictability, but Taehyung is a wreck and sometimes Jungkook is a wreck for him. He plucks Jungkook out of his lines of programming code and replaces cout << constant << endl; with low, excited theories of how it has been said that if one can travel ninety times faster than the speed of light around the world, then time travel may be a reality, but no one has ever done that because how will our sight keep up if we travel faster than the speed of light? We’d go blind.

“Haven’t you played it before?” Jimin's tone is condescending, and the younger scowls. “There are only two options: you have virgin lips, or, you’re thinking about who you want to kiss right now.”

He is not thinking about kissing Kim Taehyung.

But neither is kissing a foreign territory to him.

When Namjoon's hand lifts off the middle of the empty vodka bottle, Jungkook feels his pulse skip because it’s happening, it really is happening, the end is pointing at Taehyung, and following the assumptions of the very popular Murphy’s law, the second spin ends with the narrow neck of the bottle sliding to a stop towards him. It isn’t even suspenseful anymore.

“Drink up,” Jimin cheers, sliding off of a very disappointed Yoongi to pour Taehyung and Jungkook a shot each out of their second vodka bottle, the artificial strawberry flavouring tinting the bitterness of the alcohol with a hint of sweetness.

Taehyung has always been the more brazen one. One moment he’s sitting opposite him, and the next, his weight is in Jungkook's lap, lips warm and soft against his own, inviting and urgent. Jungkook feels drunk, but on an entirely different sort of intoxication altogether.

Everyone erupts into cheers, it is chaotic, and Jungkook catches the muffled sounds of catcalls outside of the haze that is Taehyung. Unthinking, his teeth nip down on Taehyung's lower lip, and the noise that the older male makes sends Jungkook's thoughts into overdrive. If he’d thought that Taehyung had a nice voice before, he now knows that his moans are positively salvation.

“Fuck,” Jungkook mutters, and Taehyung takes the chance to deepen the kiss, arms wrapping around his neck and pulling him closer, if he could even get nearer.

The concept of strings in space time theory is that on a one dimensional plane, one only has the option of going backwards or forwards in their direction of travel.

Jungkook chooses to be swept along into the unknown, with Taehyung as his only anchor.

To say that Taehyung is a wave would be an understatement, but Jungkook resurfaces from the kiss disoriented, with his emotions in even more of a mess than before, because how could he feel anything towards someone whose face he can’t even remember?

He hears it, though. Taehyung's soft panting, and he feels the steady, accelerated thuds of his heart against Jungkook's own. He sees the swirl of dark wonder behind Taehyung's eyes, and he never wants to look away, because he never wants to forget.

 

Things remain the same, but Taehyung is now painfully aware of how much his own body reacts upon sight or contact with Jungkook. The younger carries himself with an air of iron self-restraint, or with nonchalance so thick that Taehyung is unable to discern his thoughts.

Jungkook still smiles at him, and they get their weekly fix of hot beverages at the café together all the same, but Taehyung knows. Whenever their shoulders so much as brush, Jungkook tenses up and moves away, and his smile becomes strained.

“What's the matter,” Taehyung had joked once, and hooked his arm with the younger, the way he had always done. Jungkook had shaken his head, but Taehyung hadn't missed the look in his eyes, and for the first time, Taehyung had felt as if Jungkook was looking at him, right at him. Into him.

With a weighted intensity, and one too many beats between Taehyung's question and his response, Jungkook had said, “nothing’s wrong.”

Taehyung learns that Jungkook lies with a blank face and that he doesn’t avoid eye contact.

 

It is movie night.

Or specifically, it is Friday night and as true blue college students, Jimin and Hoseok refuse to spend the weekend alone in the dorm with Taehyung wailing about the different grades in pencils, and what type of graphite is best for sketching with.

“We’re going over to the other room,” Jimin announces, rousing Jungkook from his nap on the couch, and the younger blinks at him without much action done. “You are welcomed to join, Taehyung is not.”

Taehyung shouts, “hey!” from the table beside their kitchenette, and Jimin ignores him.

Jungkook laughs, but powers off his laptop, lifting his arms above his head for a stretch, letting his joints pop before he stands up, his shoulders rolling. “Not a bad plan, Bambam cooks on Fridays, thanks for the ticket out.”

“Trust me, Seokjin cooks the best stuff here,” Hoseok grins, picking Jungkook's laptop case up from where it lays beneath Taehyung's assortment of pencils, scattering the stationery all over the table top and causing the disgruntled male to let out an indignant yelp.

Hoseok tosses it over, and Jungkook zips his laptop in, tousling up Taehyung's hair as he walks by him, more of a habit as of recent, or as an excuse for him to practice how to stop feeling things for the older, he isn’t ready to really sit down and think about it yet. “Come on.”

Taehyung hums, tries not to think about the flutter in his chest from the ghost of Jungkook's fingertips dancing across his scalp.

Namjoon is the one who opens the door, blinking monotonously at the eager crowd of four outside his dorm, who are wearing completely contrasting expressions as compared to his own, and he stands leaning against the doorframe, brows lifted in question.

“We’re here to have quality bonding time,” Jimin chirps, and squeezes his way under Namjoon's arm to head straight for Yoongi's room, no doubt one of the rare times in which he appreciates his lack of height and petite build.

Hoseok snorts, and it is a domino effect, everyone rolls their eyes, but Namjoon grins and lets them in. “Seokjin's making fried rice,” he says, and Taehyung cheers, launching himself into the kitchenette where he wraps his arms around Seokjin in a back hug, rattling off praises about how Seokjin is a gift from the gods and Seokjin is grunting at him to get the fuck off me, kid.

They pile onto the couch, not minding the fact that the tattered piece of furniture is about to fall apart beneath all their weights, holding their bowls of fried rice and bickering over which movie to pick.

Jimin had appeared shortly after Namjoon had put on Frozen, much to Jungkook's chagrin (but Taehyung had clapped his hands much like a mad seal and it was rather adorable), dragging behind him a very sleep ruffled Yoongi, whose lips are set into a thin, unamused line because nothing is worth disturbing his nap for, especially not snowmen who liked warm hugs.

To make up for the interruption, Jimin settles himself into Yoongi's lap, which fixed the grumbling, but not his glare.

Nobody gives a fuck.

Hoseok sprawls himself on the floor in front of the couch on the grounds of him not appreciating feeling like a third wheel, and everyone takes it in stride, except for Jungkook, who suddenly becomes hyperaware of how close Taehyung is, tucked in between him and the side of the couch.

Their knees are pressed tight together, and as the silence settles, like dust over their skin, Jungkook hears every one of Taehyung's inhales and exhales. His hand aches to smooth over the other’s thigh, to brush off the silence, caress Taehyung until he gives in. Until he becomes soft and boneless against Jungkook, lips parted and cheeks flushed.

When Jungkook lifts his head, Taehyung's gaze directly meets his, and Jungkook's breath catches. He hadn’t even noticed that he’d been staring until he’s gotten caught for it, and the panic is a slow burn in his chest, like wildfire spreading, searing at the edges of his ribs.

The movie keeps playing, a white static noise that crackles outside of Jungkook's consciousness, a soft reminder that he is not alone, he is not allowed to do whatever the fuck he is craving to satiate, whatever mistake that he is about to make.

Taehyung's breath is cool and minty against Jungkook's cheek, his rationale drawing up blanks whenever he tries to think. The sudden proximity is unnerving to say the least, and he’s not able to focus on anything but the warm weight of Taehyung's palm against his knee. Jungkook's heart pounds as if it is situated at the base of his skull, and their lips brush.

“So, uh. Do you want to build a snowman?”

They flinch away from each other as if their fingertips are matchsticks and the contact is a spark, Jungkook doesn’t even notice that he’s breathing so hard.

Everyone is staring at them, and Jungkook's face is aflame at the few of them who have raised their brows in amusement. Yoongi is one of them, and Jimin looks slightly disturbed.

“Chill out guys,” Yoongi's voice is a low, easy wave and it washes over them, bringing away some of the awkwardness. “Haven’t you all noticed, it’s like they’ve been eye-fucking each other ever since that game of spin the bottle.”

Jimin wrinkles his nose, says, “I’d appreciate if they don’t actually start fucking, because that would be weird.”

When Taehyung speaks, his signature smile is on full display, the sides of his eyes crinkling, but his voice is strained. “Go away, Jimin!”

The teasing lightens up significantly after that, and later, when everyone has their attention back to the movie, Jungkook's gaze lingers just a little longer over Taehyung's face, and he wonders if he just looked hard enough, long enough, he’d be able to picture that smile even after he closes his eyes.

 

Taehyung turns his key in the lock as easily as he does every day, but the door refuses to budge. Feeling particularly heroic, he assumes what he hopes is an attractive battle stance, then amiably shoves his shoulder against the door. It opens a crack, and Taehyung sees that the couch has been hastily pushed over the threshold, which is basically the exact reason why the door hadn’t opened as normally as it should have.

A muffled moan punctuates the sound of clockworks in Taehyung's head, and he stops thinking, because he gets it now.

He has been sexiled by his roommate.

“Park Jimin!” Taehyung pounds on the door, unsure if he’s supposed to be extremely pissed at not having a proper roof over his head, a sanctuary where he can type up the rest of an essay due for his psychology elective, or to be glad that he’s finally accumulated enough bro brownie points to extort exactly one request from Jimin.

There is an answering whimper from their shared room and Taehyung prays that Yoongi has thrown Jimin onto the correct bed before he begrudgingly shuts the door and turns the key in the lock again.

And so Jungkook finds Taehyung outside his dorm, hugging an A3 drawing block to his chest, faded lavender hair mussed from the slight drizzle he’s probably gotten caught in while he had been hurrying over from his own building to Jungkook's, and a pair of framed, black glasses that Jungkook has seen the junior wear on one or two occasions, only when the situation requires it.

“Help?” Taehyung looks terribly like a lost puppy, and Jungkook lets out a laugh, stepping aside to let him in.

“How may I be of service?” Jungkook makes his way back to the couch where his laptop had been hastily set down upon at the first frantic knock on the door.

Taehyung drops his bag onto the floor and makes a noncommittal noise that borders on a whine and a grunt, arranging his drawing materials over Jungkook's coffee table. “Sexiled,” he makes a face, and the reply earns him a snort from Jungkook. “Turned the lock and couldn’t open the door because the shitheads blocked the entrance with the fucking couch. Talk about planning.”

“I thank god that none of my roommates have done that to me,” Jungkook says, and Taehyung steals a glance at him. “I wouldn’t know where to go otherwise, I suppose this is my cue to start making friends.”

“Make sure they never start, then.” Taehyung lifts his gaze from where he has been scratching his pencil over the heavy paper, looking up at Jungkook from his seat on the floor opposite him, the coffee table between them. “I let Jimin do it once, and then he’s never stopped.”

“It’s submissions week, guess we can’t blame them for wanting to release all that pent up frustration.” Jungkook snorts again, and Taehyung catches the heavy tinge of mirth in his tone of voice, accompanied with the quiet tapping sounds of Jungkook's fingers over his laptop keys.

“What do you do to de-stress?”

The typing pauses, then it continues. “Fuck around, whatever everyone else is doing. Take coffee breaks, read a book.”

The next time Taehyung speaks, it is by his ear, and Jungkook stills, fingers poised over the keyboard as Taehyung's warm breath washes faintly over his skin. “Are you stressed now, then?”

Jungkook closes his eyes, takes a deep breath. “Yes,” his voice is strained.

“So am I.”

The laptop is set onto the coffee table with a loud, hollow thud, and Taehyung finds himself pushed down against the seat of the couch, Jungkook's lips pressing insistently against his own with not enough time lapse for an inhale, because it feels as if he is coaxing every lungful of air out of Taehyung, and he is lightheaded.

Taehyung tastes just as good as Jungkook remembers, except now his lips aren’t soaked in strawberry flavoured vodka and it’s all mint and cinnamon and mocha, tasting so exquisitely of Taehyung that Jungkook doesn’t know how else he should put it. The desire licks up his stomach, a slow burn in his throat that rumbles lowly in content whenever he draws out another hitched moan from the smaller male’s lips.

Impatient hands roam, and Taehyung's have slipped beneath the hem of Jungkook's grey tank, smoothing his palms up his dancer’s torso, all muscles and hard stomach, and Taehyung wants nothing more than to be crushed against that wall of warm flesh. He traces a line across his stomach with his thumb, and Jungkook shivers under his touch, dark eyes watching Taehyung as he draws, over and over, Jungkook a statue with a smouldering gaze.

Jungkook lets Taehyung touch him, lets him tug at his already loose slacks, quietly revelling in Taehyung's light, careful caresses, and he is in no position to stop him, not when Jungkook's own hands are tugging at Taehyung's hair because fuck, Taehyung's mouth is hot and wet and it is sin.

“Stop,” Jungkook's voice is hoarse, because he can’t think, he can’t form any coherent thought, not with Taehyung's head between his legs and sucking him off like he’s been doing it all his life. “I’m going to come, fuck.” He groans, hips lifting and hands pushing at Taehyung's shoulders because he honestly hasn’t got that much self-control. “Taehyung, stop.”

Taehyung ignores him, swallows every drop when Jungkook finally finds release. When he pulls away, his lips are wet with spit and flushed pink. Jungkook grabs him up and kisses him until the both of them are gasping for breath, and Jungkook can taste himself on Taehyung's tongue. Bitter, strange.

“Please,” Taehyung says, his voice low and soft, barely above a whisper, almost as if he isn’t sure what he’s pleading for, even though the both of them know exactly what he wants, and Jungkook isn’t about to deprive themselves.

They are a tangled mess of limbs on Jungkook's bed, having bumped into walls and tables while they tripped over their own feet, stumbling their way into the bedroom. Jungkook thanks every deity he knows that Yugyeom and Bambam aren’t back, and won’t be, at least not until the next afternoon. He doesn’t know what they do in the clubroom, and he isn’t eager to know. He’s just glad that he can have this, have Taehyung the way he wants him.

Taehyung is catching his breath, one leg propped over Jungkook's shoulder as Jungkook reaches into a drawer for the lube, looking at Taehyung as if he still can’t believe that they are here right now. That Taehyung is beneath him, lips parting into an almost relieved sigh as Jungkook presses one finger into him, then two, quiet, hitched moans spilling from his bruised lips while Jungkook works him open, mouthing at his shoulder.

He contemplates leaving a mark, or two, but Taehyung's entire body jerks, and then he’s begging, near sobbing. “Please,” Taehyung whispers. “Jungkook, please.”

And Jungkook gives. He pushes in slowly, until he’s fully seated and Taehyung's back is arching so hard that for a moment, Jungkook thinks that he might break, but Taehyung looks right at him with his dark, expressive eyes, and Jungkook moves.

There is something about the way Taehyung's moans drive him over towards the insane end of the spectrum, but Jungkook's not worried about the mechanics. He lets himself drown in the feeling, slanting his lips over Taehyung's in open mouthed kisses until Taehyung is trembling beneath him, head tipped back against the pillows, unravelling with a soft cry.

Jungkook follows soon after, hips stuttering with release, and he is acutely aware that the room smells like sex, and that he’s just fucked Taehyung, the man who has been a regular in his more explicit dreams the past two or so weeks.

They fall asleep like that.

Neither of them ask any questions, and they don’t laugh it off. Taehyung lets Jungkook draw him close against his chest, feels him kiss his neck just before Taehyung dozes off, warm and content in the afterglow.

Jungkook wakes up like that.

Taehyung graces him with a smile, as if he isn’t currently perched on top of Jungkook and grinding down onto him.

“Wh— what are you doing?” Jungkook's much too confused to handle it, groaning when Taehyung's hips press down once again, the bare friction coaxing the blood down south. He is painfully hard, and painfully aware. “Fuck.”

“Good morning,” Taehyung is all chipper, with just a faint tinge of sleep roughening up the edges in his voice.

He reaches down, and Jungkook thinks that Taehyung had been making to help jerk him off (because Taehyung had caused his problem in the first place), but instead, Jungkook watches, lips parted in mild disbelief, as Taehyung slips his finger into himself.

“I took the liberty of prepping myself,” Taehyung says conversationally, and Jungkook almost chokes at how casual he is being, his gaze drawn to where Taehyung is pumping two fingers into himself now, and he whimpers when Jungkook fumbles for the lube and nudges Taehyung's hand aside, thrusting his own digits into him in a quick, sloppy pace that has the other’s hands grappling behind him to grip tightly onto Jungkook's thighs for fear of falling off.

When Taehyung finally sinks down onto Jungkook's cock, Taehyung feels like an addict who’s finally gotten his dose, and somewhere at the back of his mind, he hears the first sign of warning bells, but he chooses to ignore them.

He rolls his hips, hands splayed over Jungkook's chest as Jungkook keeps a firm hold on Taehyung's hips, looking up at him with a shadowed, indiscernible gaze. He rides Jungkook slowly, quietly panting in the soft morning glow, and Taehyung closes his eyes, letting Jungkook guide him up, then down again, pressing himself down completely, until the stretch has him whimpering.

Somewhere at the floor by the bed, Taehyung's phone vibrates, and his eyes snap open because way to ruin the moment, you dumbass unknown caller. He glances down, and Jungkook is looking at him in amusement.

“Are you going to answer it?”

Taehyung hears the challenge in his voice, and takes a moment to recollect himself, extending a hand out. “Give it.”

Jungkook's brow lifts, but he reaches down the side of the bed to dig for Taehyung's phone that’s in the back pocket of his discarded jeans.

It’s Jimin.

“What,” Taehyung says, and it comes out more annoyed than he would have pegged himself for.

“Sorry about last night, TaeTae, my best bro in the world, you loveable alien—”

“What do you want, Jimin,” Taehyung repeats, wild with impatience, because Jungkook is running his fingers along Taehyung's thighs, and it is distracting, it is fucking frustrating to have to hold himself back to speak normally.

“Right. I just— you didn’t come back the whole of last night. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I went over to Jungkook's.”

“You stayed the night?”

“Y-Yeah.” Taehyung bites down on his lip when Jungkook decides that it’s a great idea to start thumbing the head of his cock, smearing the pre-cum over his throbbing erection. He lets out a long exhale. “I’ll be back in the ah—fternoon.”

There is a long silence, and Taehyung clenches around Jungkook, glaring down at him. “Don’t,” Taehyung mouths at him, but Jungkook grins and fucks up into Taehyung again, making Taehyung's knuckles go white from clutching onto the phone so tightly.

“Uh,” Jimin's voice is careful, on the other side of the line. “You all right?”

Yes,” Taehyung gasps, eyes squeezing shut, shallow moans starting to slip out from between his lips because Jungkook's started to fuck up into him again, sitting up and leaning forwards into Taehyung until he’s trapped between Jungkook and the mattress, legs wrapped loosely around Jungkook's waist.

Jungkook snaps his hips into Taehyung, and Taehyung cries out, his phone abandoned in favour of purring out Jungkook's name in the dirtiest of manners while Jungkook thrusts into him in a fast and relentless pace.

(“What the fuck,” Jimin says, and he hangs up.

Yoongi catches the helpless look on his face and gives him a smug smile. “About time.”)

 

There is no art in kissing.

At least, that is how Taehyung feels whenever Jungkook kisses him. Sometimes slow and deep, as if they’ve got all the time in the world, and Jungkook would hold his hand above his head, fingers loosely entwined as he fucks Taehyung into the pillows, all firm thrusts and gentle touches.

Else, it’s teeth and tongue, a bruising grip on Taehyung's hips where he knows he’ll find marks when he takes a shower later on, gasping and clutching at Jungkook as he presses Taehyung's back against the floor to ceiling mirrors of the dance studio past ten in the evening, whenever Taehyung decides to drop by to say hello, and it always leads to something more.

Jungkook kisses like he’s a maze, and Taehyung is so lost in him that he doesn’t even think about finding his way out anymore.

They settle into this new ambiguous arrangement without so much as thinking through it. Yoongi had asked if they were finally dating, but Taehyung had only laughed and Jungkook just shook his head. No, they aren’t.

Neither of them bring it up, either. Taehyung doesn’t ask, but he doesn’t admit that he’s just as curious as everyone else.

They’re curled up into each other, and Taehyung's finger is tracing over the inked words over Jungkook's left hipbone. “What does it mean?”

Jungkook's eyes flutter open, and he fixes Taehyung with a questioning gaze. “What does what mean?”

Taehyung taps his finger against Jungkook's hip, and hums, murmuring. “This. Your tattoo.”

“Ah.” Jungkook shifts, slowly tugging the waistband of his slacks lower so that he can show Taehyung the entire tattoo, speaking in a quiet voice. “It says, ‘ce monde est une tempête’. It means ‘this world is a storm’, in French. I got it right after I graduated from high school.”

“So, is that how you feel?”

“What, that this world is a storm?”

Taehyung nods, and Jungkook tilts his head back against the headboard, absentmindedly playing with Taehyung's fingers in his lap.

“The world is a storm. It’s unpredictable, you never know when it’s going to be all thunder and lightning, or when it’s going to be mild-weathered and calm. Much like how you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or even in the next hour. I just want to remind myself that I always have to be ready for the unexpected.” Jungkook turns, and finds Taehyung watching him, as if deep in thought, and his thumb brushes over the cool metal of the bracelet on Taehyung's wrist. “And you? This is important to you, isn’t it? I’ve never seen you without it.”

Taehyung lowers his gaze, a fond smile quirking up at the sides of his lips, eyes softening. “Yeah, it’s really important. My grandmother gave it to me before I moved to Seoul for college.” He looks up, lifting his wrist to eye level. “I grew up with my grandmother, in Daegu. She took really good care of me.”

“What about your parents?”

Taehyung shrugs, already leaning in, silently asking for a kiss, lips brushing against Jungkook's as he murmurs. “Busy.”

Jungkook kisses him, and finds art in the way Taehyung is always soft lines and pliant limbs under his touch. Taehyung is trusting, too trusting even, and Jungkook almost never has to read in between the lines.

 

There is a faint crackle of static when Taehyung pulls open the door of the refrigerator, a soft humming of electricity that powers all the essentials in the deserted convenience store, and that’s the only sound in the background, save for the half dead cashier who’s playing a game on her phone.

Taehyung slides his phone out of his pocket and checks the time again. It’s 4:08a.m., and he’s standing here in the convenience store with the hood of his navy green sweater pulled up over his head, holding a one litre carton of chocolate milk under his arm while contemplating getting a few cups of instant ramyun and instant coffee.

It’s study week, one week before the end of semester exams, and ninety percent of the student population in the college are probably still awake, at their desks, powered on energy drinks and midnight coffee runs.

Jimin had been wailing over his neuroscience notes and shaking his fists at the textbook that Taehyung has nicknamed “rubbish”, cursing humans and their brains while Hoseok was already slumped over the kitchenette counter, having dozed off within the thirty seconds in which his chicken pie had spent spinning in the microwave.

“Who finished the milk?” Taehyung had groaned with his head half inside the refrigerator, and Jimin managed to lift an arm, out of sheer willpower and guilt.

“Could you get me some red bull—”

Taehyung doesn’t. Instead, he loads a pack of instant coffee mix onto his arm, over a stack of cup ramyun. Jimin would end up with cancer one of these days, and Taehyung's not about to be responsible.

Oh,” Jimin might say, “when I was in college, my dumb best friend bought me a can of red bull.” And one thing Taehyung's sure he wouldn’t add is that oh, also, it was because I asked him to.

Someone taps him on the shoulder, and for a horrible moment, Taehyung thinks that maybe the girl on cashier duty has finally decided to give up and end her shift early, but his muscles relax when he sees a familiar face.

“Taehyung?” Jungkook sounds as if he’s asking for confirmation, his brows slightly cinching at his forehead. Taehyung lets out a soft laugh, and it is enough for Jungkook to sport a grin. “What’s up with all that junk?”

“It’s for the better good of me and my roommates,” Taehyung says solemnly, and hugs the snacks closer to himself, wincing a little. “Just some pick-me-ups because exams are being a pain in the ass.”

“I could give you a better sort of pain in the ass.”

“That’s tempting, but I’m afraid that I’ll have to decline, at least for now. What are you doing here, though?”

“Was at the studio, I get stressed when I study too, you know.”

They make their way to the counter and as the girl monotonously scans Taehyung's items and pack them into a plastic bag, Jungkook swoops in to leave a peck at the side of Taehyung's neck, and Taehyung startles, letting out a quiet noise of surprise.

“Can I convince you?”

Taehyung snorts, and pats around his back pocket for his wallet, but Jungkook slips his hand into his and presses a crumpled bill into the cashier’s hand, dumping the bag of snacks into Taehyung's arms and tugging him along. “What, are you trying to buy my time?”

“Don’t be crude,” Jungkook squeezes his hand, tossing him a grin, and Taehyung's heart flutters, just a little. “I’m just going to walk you back to your dorm.”

“All right.” As an afterthought, Taehyung adds, “you can stay, if you want.”

Jungkook just smiles, and swings their hands gently. Taehyung wonders if this means as much to Jungkook as it does to him.

Quiet words are exchanged between the both of them as they walk the path back to their dorms, holding hands. Taehyung wants it to be real, to have a reason, he’s long since learnt that Jungkook responses to difficult situations with a smile, and sometimes, he doesn’t do it as well as he thinks he does. He doesn’t tell Jungkook, though. It makes Taehyung feel less distant.

When they’re standing outside Taehyung's dorm, Jungkook cages Taehyung against the door and kisses him slowly, sweetly, and Taehyung's chest swells, eyelids fluttering half closed with a long exhale.

“Don’t lose too much sleep,” Jungkook says, and then he’s gone, walking down the corridor to where the elevators are, leaving Taehyung leaning against the outside of the door and missing his warmth.

“Wait,” Taehyung calls, quietly, and Jungkook stops, not turning around. “Can I come over?”

Taehyung drops the things from the convenience store beside the sink and tells Jimin that he’s got instant coffee instead, making the sleepy male whine, but he thanks Taehyung and goes back to almost nodding off over his textbook. “I’m going over to Jungkook's,” Taehyung announces, to no one in particular, and then he’s out the door, half expecting Jungkook to have left, but he’s still there, hands in his pockets as he waits.

The walk across the campus is quiet, but halfway through, Taehyung dares to reach out for Jungkook's hand, and the younger entwines their fingers without protest. “Yugyeom and Bambam are around,” Jungkook murmurs suddenly, and Taehyung turns to him, squeezes his hand. “They’re sleeping, though. Apparently, they do not believe in a regular schedule. They only remember things for one night, so they’ll probably start cramming during exam week itself.”

Taehyung laughs quietly, humming in thought. “That sounds like me back in high school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work when you’re doing a minor in psychology.”

While they’re waiting in the lift lobby, Jungkook suddenly asks, “have you ever been in love?”

“I’ve dated,” Taehyung answers, slowly, pronouncing every syllable to its point, as if he’s not too sure what to say next, and Jungkook waits. “But love, I’m not sure. It was sad whenever we ended things, but I’d get over it in a couple of weeks. I would move on, and after a little while, I won’t remember much.”

Jungkook hums in acknowledgement, voice low. “I don’t think I’ve ever been. Maybe it’s because I can never remember the face that I’m supposed to be in love with.” When he laughs, it’s wry, strained, and he grips onto Taehyung's hand a little tighter.

“I’ve heard that love comes in different forms, but I’ve never dabbled.”

They leave the conversation as that.

The room is dark when Jungkook presses Taehyung down onto the bed, hands warm over his stomach, fingers lingering over his skin. Jungkook drinks it all in, the soft, contented noises that bubble up from Taehyung's throat, like a sleepy kitten, and he smiles against Taehyung's lips, mumbles, “go to sleep.”

Taehyung's already asleep, though. Lips still slightly parted and flushed, but his chest rises and falls in a quiet rhythm, and Jungkook gathers him close under the blankets, wondering if he could ever make anything work out for them.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook whispers against Taehyung's shoulder, after a long block of silence.

In the space between breaths, Taehyung's listening.

 

Taehyung stirs to the sound of Jungkook's harsh breathing, and when he blinks, he sees the sheen of sweat outlined by the moon’s glow. Jungkook's chest is heaving, features scrunched up as if he’s thinking about something painful. Taehyung shifts, gently shaking Jungkook by his shoulder, trying his best not to startle him.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung murmurs, smoothing his hands over Jungkook's arms, cupping his face, and Jungkook shudders, eyelids fluttering open with an almost wild gaze, and Taehyung whispers quiet words of comfort, smoothing his bangs away from his eyes as Jungkook trembles in his arms.

When he’s calmed down, they lay in silence, and Jungkook says, “I dreamt about my accident.” He sounds small, defeated, and Taehyung's heart aches. “I dreamt about taking the last bus instead of a cab, but the bus flipped, too. It would have happened no matter which route I took home.”

Taehyung doesn’t tell him things like, “it’s all right”, because he knows that it isn’t. He keeps his fingers threaded into Jungkook's hair, talking quietly about his obsession with time and its abstract concepts, about time travel, teleportation, and everything else he can think of.

“I decided to get involved with computers because it makes me feel normal.” Jungkook has Taehyung's hands between them, prying every finger apart and interlocking them with his own, then pulling their fingers apart again, in concentration. “I look at program codes, and they make sense. When I look away and back at them again, they’re still the same, still made up of the same words. It’s different from faces. I’d see someone’s face perfectly clearly,” and Jungkook glances up, meeting Taehyung's eyes. “I’d be able to describe everything, but when I look away, the only thing I have is a description, only words, I’d never be able to picture their features.”

Taehyung gives him a small smile, blinking slowly as he speaks.

“When I’m facing a machine,” Jungkook pauses, voice dipping impossibly low, as if it physically pains him to admit it. “I feel complete. I’m not confused. I don’t feel excluded from anything.”

“There’s nothing wrong with chasing something that makes you feel happier,” Taehyung murmurs, and Jungkook smiles. “When I was younger, I saw a picture of the Empire State building,” Taehyung's eyes are bright in the darkness of the room, and Jungkook is drawn. “That was when I decided that I’m going to build a skyscraper. I’m going to build it, and stand on it.”

“And here you are,” Jungkook chuckles, smoothing a thumb over Taehyung's cheek. “Halfway there.”

“That’s not the catch, though.”

“No?”

“My real dream is to touch the sky.”

Taehyung gets carried away again, and Jungkook is used to it by this point. He goes on about how people always talk about aiming for the skies, but no one’s ever really told him where the sky starts, because how would I know if I’m touching the sky or not, if I don’t know where it begins? “Maybe any space above our heads can be considered part of the sky,” Taehyung's smiling so wide when he’s talking, making those hand gestures, the ones he tends to do when he’s excited, or explaining something he’s passionate about, and Jungkook doesn’t interrupt.

At least, not until he’s finished, and they’re both drifting off to sleep again.

“Taehyung?”

“Mm…?”

“I wish time weren’t so abstract.”

“Mm…”

“I wish it were more defined and easier to manipulate.”

A time lapse, and Taehyung remains quiet as he listens to Jungkook's pulse, slow and insistent from where his ear is pressed against Jungkook's chest, which rises again when the younger breathes out, his voice small, almost helpless.

“I wish I’d met you earlier.”

Taehyung thinks, me too, and pretends that he’s already asleep.

 

When Jungkook stumbles out of the tutorial room, it is almost twenty minutes past the stipulated end time for his paper.

He could have left early, but a particular question had caused his entire momentum to stutter and in that moment, he could literally feel an entire block of his memory wiping out into blanks, and then suddenly, the invigilator had said, “fifteen minutes to pens down, no one is allowed to leave.” So he’d had to stay until all the papers have been handed in.

Someone calls his name, and Jungkook waves at him before shoving past the corridor of tired students, because no, he’s not in the mood for any after exam parties. He’s tired, exhausted, and all he wants to do is to go back to his dorm and sleep for the next eighty hours or so. And maybe call Taehyung.

Taehyung is loud, happy, and excited about the smallest, most insignificant things. He is essentially everything that Jungkook is not, and while it throws Jungkook off sometimes, he finds that Taehyung is a nice change. Taehyung, who barges into his dorm and pulls him out to cafés or his favourite street stalls. Taehyung, who likes to cuddle anytime and anywhere, and Jungkook would always oblige. Taehyung, who makes him feel more like a regular person, and never asks him things like, “do you recognize me?” because he trusts that Jungkook does.

Before he decides to take a shower, Jungkook glances at the living area, and winces at how it looks as if an apocalypse had played out over the place. Yugyeom and Bambam had been sprawled on the floor over their books and lecture pads when Jungkook had left earlier that day for his paper. Didn’t seem like they’d bothered to clear up before scrambling their separate ways for their own papers.

Jungkook calls, and Taehyung picks up on the fourth ring.

“Mm.”

“Taehyung?”

“Jungkook,” Taehyung says, and Jungkook catches onto how he sounds a little deflated.

“Hey. Have you finished all your papers?”

“I’ve still got one tomorrow. You’re done though, right? Congratulations.”

It’s almost as if Taehyung doesn’t want to talk, and Jungkook wonders just how tired the other is. Taehyung doesn’t follow to plans much, so he’d probably procrastinated too much and have spent the past few nights surviving on willpower and coffee alone, even though Taehyung hates coffee.

“Yeah. Do you want me to come over with drinks or anything?”

“It’s all right, I’m probably going to be too busy to pay any attention to you. You should rest, okay?”

Taehyung hangs up, and Jungkook only realizes afterwards, while he’s rubbing shampoo into his hair, that Taehyung hadn’t ended the conversation with “laters, baby”, the way he usually does.

 

When Taehyung lowers the phone from his ear, he’s still standing outside the tutorial room that Jungkook had his paper in, his shoulder burning from where Jungkook's had brushed against when he’d shoved past after waving at Taehyung as if he were a stranger.

He stands there, and everyone that passes by doesn’t have a face, because Taehyung's not looking, just watching, and for the first time since he’s met Jungkook, he wonders how it’s like not to be able to remember faces, not to be able to look someone in their eyes and think of the last time he’d met them, because he wouldn’t recognize them.

There’s a faint throbbing within in his chest, and he only finds out that he’s trembling when he’s back at the dorm and Jimin's arms are around him, asking him what’s wrong.

“I was an idiot,” Taehyung mumbles against Jimin's shoulder, after a series of two-worded responses to Jimin's insistent questions, when the latter finally grasps the situation. “What was I counting on?”

Taehyung's hair is dark brown, and Jimin threads his fingers through the strands, deciding to be so careful with his words that he chooses not to reply directly. “Take a nap, Tae,” Jimin says, and Taehyung's arms tighten around him. “You’re tired. I’ll wake you up later, you’ve got only one paper left, anyway.”

Taehyung says, “okay”, and lets Jimin tuck him in. Even in restless sleep, he dreams about Jungkook without a face, but he knows that it’s Jungkook all the same. He’d know Jungkook anywhere.

 

Three days after Taehyung's last paper, Jungkook calls Taehyung for the fifth time, and Taehyung is still busy. By now, he’s sure that something’s wrong, and since Taehyung isn’t telling him, or is making a point not to, Jimin finds Jungkook’s caller ID lighting up his screen, and thinks that the world is ending.

“Wow,” Jimin says, by way of greeting, and the sarcasm is evident. “Good day to you, golden boy, how may I be of service?”

“Is everything all right with Taehyung?” Jungkook tries not to sound too desperate, because he’s not supposed to be. He’s thought about it, and have realized that he hasn’t got any excuse to be worried about Taehyung, except that fact that they’re friends and maybe more, but “more” is not yet defined, and he doesn’t really want to dwell on it.

There’s silence on the phone, static crackling, and Jungkook catches the faint hum of traffic on the road before Jimin's voice fills the void again. “I’m going to be honest, but he’s not doing that good. Did you know that he went to see you after your last paper?”

“What?” Jungkook's brows cinch together in confusion, and he sets the electric kettle down, leaving the instant coffee mix sitting dry at the bottom of his mug, and turns to lean against the sink so that he can listen to Jimin better. “I didn’t see him that day.”

“He was waiting for you outside the room. Said you brushed past him.”

As if he were a stranger. It isn’t said, but Jungkook can hear it implied in Jimin's voice.

For once, time seems to still, and Jungkook remembers. Someone had called out to him, and he’d waved at them. Taehyung. Had that been Taehyung?

“What’s his—”

“Brown,” Jimin interrupts. “His hair is brown.”

And Jungkook feels something hollowing out in his chest.

 

Standing outside the art studio, Jungkook feels completely out of place, and he wonders if Taehyung had felt the same way, as if he doesn’t belong. If Taehyung had ever felt like running from the computer labs, his drawing block and long ruler clutched against his chest.

Taehyung looks the same, Jungkook realizes. Long sleeved, frayed shirts and his dark, ripped jeans, bracelet thin around his wrist, except that his hair is a dark brown, and when he turns, Jungkook sees that he looks good. Even with surprise outlining his features.

“Jungkook?”

He doesn’t even know he’s been holding his breath until Taehyung speaks, and god, he’s missed his voice so much. “Why’re you still spending so much time in the art studio? Aren’t you supposed to be preparing for semester break, now?” Jungkook saunters over to Taehyung, and reaches for his backpack, but Taehyung flinches, and suddenly, Jungkook feels lost. “Taehyung?”

“Oh, uhm. Sorry,” Taehyung mumbles, lowering his gaze, and he’s chewing on his lower lip. Jungkook realizes that he’s nervous, and that confuses him most above everything else. “I— I actually have somewhere to go.”

“I’ll walk you,” Jungkook says, and keeps his hands in his pockets, because Taehyung looks so small, so vulnerable, and it’s taking everything that Jungkook has not to gather him into his arms and kiss him stupid.

Taehyung's lips part, presumably to refuse, but Jungkook plucks his drawing block out of his arms and turns to walk, so Taehyung falls in step beside him, fingers curled around the straps of his backpack over his shoulders, holding onto them so tightly that Jungkook sees that his knuckles are white.

“So, where to?”

Jungkook glances to the side, at Taehyung, and the latter remains quiet, before admitting that he’s actually heading back to his dorm.

They’re standing outside Taehyung's dorm, and it dawns onto Jungkook that it’s been almost a week since he’s visited. The silence is unnerving, if anything, and they’re facing each other without looking the other in the eye. Taehyung's carrying his backpack in front, hugging it closer to his chest, and for the first time since they’ve met, Jungkook doesn’t feel normal, not in the way Taehyung makes him feel.

Taehyung always smiles at him as if Jungkook will think about the quirk of his lips, makes the effort to talk to him as if he’s going to call out to him the next time they chance upon each other. Other people usually don’t, because they can’t be bothered to put in effort for a lost cause, someone who will just brush shoulders with them despite being acquainted, and Jungkook is angry.

Angry, because it’s not his fault. Angry, because he never asked for this. Angry, because he never chose this. Angry, because why the fuck does it feel like I’m getting punished when I haven’t done anything wrong.

Taehyung had been different, but Jungkook supposes that all differences will eventually meet at a crossroad, and everything continues on from there. There is only one destination, after all. It’s only the paths that are different. So, Jungkook's going to take a shortcut, he’s not going to put himself through hell if it isn’t necessary.

“If you want to stop, I understand.”

Taehyung glances up, then, and Jungkook notes, rather wryly, the surprise written all over his face, but he doesn’t look away, because if it’s the last time he’ll be seeing Taehyung, he should keep his eyes on him more, since he’s not going to remember, and maybe it’s a good thing.

“What are you saying?” And Taehyung sounds genuinely confused.

“This,” Jungkook gestures between them, and Taehyung's staring at him, panic welling up in his chest but still tongue tied. “I get it, it was bound to end, eventually.”

“What…?”

What the fuck, Taehyung wants to say. What are you going on about?

“Our fuckbuddy system.”

It hits him, like that. Two trains with broken brakes, colliding and folding into accordions. The music is twisted, off tune, and haunting. Taehyung feels like a broken radio, and Jungkook's words are a voice recording that will not stop looping.

Our fuckbuddy system.

All those times Jungkook had kissed him, all those times during their weekend get-togethers when Jungkook would come up with an excuse to hold his hand, had meant nothing to Jungkook. Taehyung had let Jungkook in, told him everything about him, and Jungkook had probably passed everything off as small talk. But Taehyung doesn’t do small talk. At least, not with Jungkook. He had meant every word, and every word had been sincere because fuck, somewhere along the way, Jungkook had become so important to him.

He is in love, and terrifyingly deeply so, but the time isn’t right. This is the first time Taehyung has ever felt so strongly about someone, and it is almost pathetic that it isn’t real. That it couldn’t be real. Systems are so rigid, Taehyung thinks, offhandedly. Everything is pre-calculated and runs by a certain set of rules. Just like program codes, and Jungkook is a programmer, I should have seen this coming.

Taehyung does not say listen to me explain, you asshole, you are so much more than that, because when his lips part, it’s a quiet whisper of “okay”.

Jungkook's turning to leave, and Taehyung's words are soft, almost as if he doesn’t want him to hear them, but Jungkook does.

“What were we?”

A silence, and Jungkook continues to walk, never turning around. “Two people whose actions defined their relationship,” he says, and Taehyung knows that Jungkook's face is impassive, because it’s suddenly so cold.

Taehyung doesn’t even realize that he’s crying until Jimin is back from the studio and dropped to his knees in front of Taehyung, who’s still crouched in front of their dorm, head between his knees and shoulders shaking.

“Tae,” Jimin says quietly, running his fingers through Taehyung's hair, while Hoseok picks up his drawing block that Jungkook had set down by the door before he’d left. “Taehyung, look at me.”

When Taehyung does, Hoseok wishes that he hadn’t, because Taehyung's always been the happiest one out of them, signature boxed shape smile and the crinkles at the sides of his eyes. Deep, bubbly voice. But Taehyung's eyes are dead. “I should have listened to you,” Taehyung whispers, “shouldn’t have gone on ahead and fallen so hard.”

“I was kidding,” Jimin continues to pat his head, gathering him to his chest, “but perhaps you should have told him. He doesn’t know how you feel, and maybe he’s afraid, too. Everyone has their own fears, and Jungkook is no exception.”

They spend the night watching old comedy movies, huddled together on the couch with four bags of potato chips and leftovers of sodas from study week, laughing loudly at bad jokes and lame puns without restraint, but Taehyung's smiles don’t reach his eyes.

 

Taehyung doesn’t visit the dance studio much (not anymore), but Jimin's forgotten his key again and Hoseok has gone home for semester break. So had Yoongi, and Jimin spends most of his time holed up in the otherwise empty studio, practicing random dances and taking advantage of the huge space to lay down on his back.

He’s invited Taehyung to hang out too, but the latter has always declined, albeit politely (which is not the Kim Taehyung that Jimin is accustomed to), because the studio reminds him of Jungkook, and even though the younger has gone home to Busan for a visit, traces of him are everywhere.

The door opens, and Jimin turns his head from where he’s sprawled out, spread eagled over to parquet flooring. Taehyung is dangling his key from his middle finger, rather strategically, and Jimin scoffs.

“How subtle,” he says, groaning as he sits up and tugs Taehyung down onto the ground with him. “Thanks, though.”

“Pleasure. I’ve been decomposing away in the dorm, anyway. I kind of hate holidays.” At the look of utter disbelief on his best friend’s face, he adds, “when there’s nothing to do.”

“Yes, there is. Let’s go to one of those parties.”

Taehyung tosses him a skeptical look and drops himself onto his back, resuming Jimin's previous position. “You know I hate crowds.”

“But you love the booze and, no offence, but you’ve been really strung up recently and you need to chill.”

Jimin doesn’t put it right to the point, but Taehyung knows it’s implied. Ever since the day Jimin and Hoseok had found him lost and alone outside the dorm, he had adopted this routine of waking up, sketching randomly in his drawing block, and then going to classes for the rest of the semester.

Once the break had commenced, Taehyung had found himself completely at a loss for what to make of his sudden abundance of time. Now, he spends twenty out of twenty four hours in a day bundled up in bed, reading his way through the stack of books that he’d bought (mostly out of impulse) to add into his reading list.

It’s been three weeks since he’s seen Jungkook, but it’d felt longer. Wryly, Taehyung realizes that he’s become rather pathetic.

“Okay,” Taehyung says, and Jimin blinks at him, thrown off.

“Really?”

So they find themselves sitting at the top of the stairs with a can of coke each, because Jimin had sworn to stick by his “two shot” policy. Drunk Jimin's level of affection boosts up almost tenfold with the effect of alcohol and Yoongi is not going to take very well to hearing stories about Jimin flinging himself at strangers and rubbing up all over them.

“So,” Taehyung drawls, taking a sip of his coke and wincing at the literal feeling of his teeth corroding because what the fuck is coke made of, acid, that’s what. “This is low-key depressing. I thought people are supposed to get drunk and grind on each other at these parties. Why are we being old men and drinking coke?”

Jimin scowls, squeezing the can in his hand to dent the aluminium before letting it pop back out into shape. “You know I don’t handle my alcohol well, and neither do you, for that matter. I cannot handle drunk you, and I cannot get drunk.”

“You told me to come here for the booze!”

“You just need to get the fuck out for some fresh air!”

“All I’m smelling right now is smoke and sex.”

Jimin sighs, and pointedly turns away, where he spots Namjoon and Seokjin standing around with plastic cups in their hands, and Seokjin looks absolutely put off by the entire fiasco. Jimin makes a noise of relief at the back of his throat and waves at them, smiling when Namjoon catches his eye.

“Wasn’t expecting to see you at these things,” Namjoon grins, taking a seat on the step one level down from Jimin and Taehyung, Seokjin settling down beside him.

“Tae needs to socialize,” Jimin tips back the rest of his can and crushes it, staring at it so disappointedly it borders on comical.

Taehyung makes a face and attempts to swap his coke with Seokjin's vodka punch, which the senior gladly complies. Finishing it in one gulp, he gives them a levelled stare. “No, what I need is to get laid.”

Jimin and Seokjin exchange looks, and Namjoon just appears amused.

“Jungkook went back to Busan, though,” Namjoon says, and as Taehyung freezes, Seokjin shoves his shoulder into him so hard that he almost tumbles down the stairs.

“I think, I’m tired,” Taehyung mumbles after a moment of silence, and stands up, running a hand through his hair. “I’ll be going back first.”

When he makes his way down the stairs, none of them try to stop him.

 

There’s already someone in the dance studio when Jimin opens the door, towel slung around his shoulders and water bottle in his hand. He stares, surprised.

“Kookie?”

Jungkook stutters in the middle of a body wave and pulls the earphone out from his right ear, lips parting in a startled “oh”.

“You’re back early?” Jimin breaks out into a wide grin and drops his things, shuffling over for a hug, and Jungkook finds all the breath from his lungs forcefully expelled, letting out a gasp.

“Was boring at home,” he murmurs, but wraps his arms around Jimin, chuckling fondly at how Jimin never seems to lose his tendency to hug him silly. “You know how my parents are like. They talk about things that could have been, and three weeks of that is enough to drive me insane.”

“Mm, does Tae know that you’re back?”

Jimin pulls away, looking hard at Jungkook, and the latter lowers his gaze, instead choosing to bend down, snatching up Jimin's water bottle for a long gulp, in hopes of avoiding the question.

“How long are you going to keep running? The idiot is in love with you, and you’re another idiot who’s too afraid to face your own feelings.”

Jungkook's head snaps up at this, and his expression hardens, gripping the bottle a little tighter. “Taehyung isn’t in love with me, and you know perfectly well why I can’t have that sort of feelings for other people. I can’t even remember someone’s face, what am I falling in love with?”

The silence pulls out a little longer, and Jimin plucks the bottle from Jungkook's hands before striding back to the door. When he speaks, his voice is quiet. “Think about it, Jungkook. There’s more to love than that.”

Two hours later, when Jimin walks past the room again, he sees Jungkook sitting alone in the middle of the studio, staring at his reflection in the floor to ceiling mirrors, his phone placed in front of him.

 

Jungkook doesn’t see Taehyung until one week before the start of the next semester. His hair is a ridiculous shock of orange this time, and Jungkook cracks a small smile, somewhat relieved that he hasn’t changed at all. When he glances down, he sees the thin band of silver wrapped around Taehyung's wrist, and knows that it’s him.

Taehyung is leaning against a pillar in front of the arts faculty building, his sketchpad on one arm while he scratches a blunt pencil over the paper lazily, and Jungkook guesses that he’s sketching the water fountain.

Then, he looks up and right at Jungkook.

Jungkook catches a flicker of hope in Taehyung's warm, brown eyes, but he blinks in return, keeping his face blank and walking past without a greeting. It’s almost a miracle how he’s memorized so much of Taehyung that he can recognize him without even speaking to him. Blasphemous, how he’s so ready to turn around and gather Taehyung into his arms and start to believe in endings that are too good to be true.

Behind him, Taehyung's face crumples, and he presses the pencil against the paper with so much pressure that the lead breaks off.

 

It’s a cold night.

Taehyung pulls the sleeves of his shirt down as far as they could go, but they don’t go past his wrist because, in a moment of epiphany, Taehyung had taken up a pair of scissors and snipped off all the proper cuffs and collars of his entire wardrobe collection. Beggar fashion, he calls it. And now, here is his price to pay.

He’s barefoot, the legs of his jeans rolled up to just below his knees as he treads the shore, walking along the line where the tide barely reaches and pulls back into the sea again. The water is chilly, but Taehyung feels alive. The rushing of the tide beneath his feet steals the sand back into the sea, and it makes him feel as if he’s being drawn away. And he’s wanted to be somewhere else for a long time, now.

His loafers dangle from his hand, lightly swinging as Taehyung digs his feet into the sand and walks further out into the water, staring out into the dark horizon.

“I’m an idiot,” he murmurs to himself, letting the wind whip into his face, tasting salt on his lips. “I’m going to give myself hypothermia before I graduate.”

“That would be a pity.”

Taehyung startles, and would have slipped his way into hypothermia for real if Jungkook hadn’t grabbed his arm and held him steady.

Beaches are like safe places. At least, to Jungkook, they are. Especially during the night; there would be no one in sight for ages, where the only noise in the silence would be the sound of waves breaking against the shore, and the faraway hum of vehicles driving past on the highway.

So, he’d been surprised to see someone walking along the shore, their hair outlined faint orange by the lack of light and a glint of silver reflecting off their wrist. Jungkook thinks that Taehyung is an absolute idiot, but he doesn’t voice it, because he’d ventured outside in a short sleeved shirt and board shorts. It would be hypocrisy at its finest.

“Oh,” Taehyung says, rather eloquently. “Aren’t you supposed to be at home?”

“Left early.”

Taehyung hums in response, and the awkwardness is tense in the air. When had talking to Jungkook become so difficult?

“How did your break go?”

“Nothing interesting,” Taehyung lets out a quiet laugh, keeping his gaze fixed out at sea, faraway, and Jungkook feels the distance straining between them. “I read all day, and lazed around. In other words, I was a bum.”

“Parties?” Jungkook slants his eyes in Taehyung's direction, and glances down. Their hands are so close, and it is so easy to reach out, to tangle his fingers with Taehyung's, but he doesn’t. “Jimin used to force me to go to those in freshman year.”

Taehyung's lips quirk up into a faint smile, because it is just like Jimin to do such things. He says, “one,” and doesn’t elaborate. “Enjoyed your visit back home?”

“Not really. It wasn’t much, and there’s nothing to do in the countryside.”

“I’ve missed you,” Taehyung whispers, and it isn’t a sudden, unexpected remark. It slips into the conversation quietly, almost as a plea, and Jungkook doesn’t know how to reply, so he doesn’t, and Taehyung finally turns to face him. “I tried not to. I picked up weird things like baking in the microwave and getting Jimin to teach me how to dance, but you’re always there, in the back of my mind, and I missed you. I miss you.”

Jungkook holds his gaze, breath caught in his throat as he grips more tightly onto his flip flops, almost losing his balance when the tide drags the sand out from beneath his feet. “It’s late,” he finally says. “I’ll walk you back.”

Taehyung doesn’t argue, just exhales in a long sigh and starts to trudge back up onto dry sand, rubbing his feet together until the sand doesn’t stick. While he slips on his loafers, Jungkook drops his flip flops onto the sand and steps into them.

“Was that all I ever was to you?” Taehyung suddenly asks, and Jungkook glances up. “An outlet to de-stress?”

But Jungkook fixes him with a long look, then smiles faintly and gestures for him to start heading back.

The walk back to the dorm is quiet, and unnervingly so. They reach Taehyung's dorm and he cringes, feeling an eerie sense of déjà vu. The last time they’d been in this very spot, Taehyung had learnt the meaning of heartbreak, and the aftermath still leaves a bitter tang on his tongue.

Jungkook turns to leave, and in a moment of impulse, hinting on desperation, Taehyung grabs at his wrist, startling the younger around.

“You probably won’t want to hear this,” and Taehyung sounds more serious than Jungkook has ever heard him sound, in the entirety of their acquaintance. Taehyung's head is lowered, and he’s holding his breath. “But, you know,” he glances up, and Jungkook doesn’t look away. “I’m in love with you. It’s stupid, I’m stupid. You’ve said it before, that you can’t really reciprocate love, but I went on ahead and fell anyway.”

“Taehyung…”

“Just listen,” Taehyung interrupts, and his hands fall back to his sides. “I just… wanted to let you know, because my grandmother taught me to always say what’s on my mind, and leave no space for regret.”

Jungkook cups Taehyung's face in his hands, and the latter looks up, pulse throbbing in his chest, eyelids fluttering half shut as Jungkook crashes their lips together, making him shiver while his breath hitches.

It’s in moments like these when he remembers, again, that Jungkook kisses like he’s a maze, and Taehyung is so lost in him that he doesn’t even think about finding his way out anymore, because an object in constant motion remains in motion until an external force intervenes. Taehyung is hurtling head first into Jungkook at maximum speed, falling, and the impact hits him hard.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook's voice is hoarse, barely above a whisper, when he pulls back, and Taehyung watches him disappear down the corridor feeling emptier than he has ever been.

Vaguely, he remembers Namjoon telling them something about Newton’s third law, where every force has an equal and mutually opposite reaction, and wonders why love doesn’t follow it.

Mutuality is hard to come by.

 

“Hey.”

Taehyung glances up, somewhat startled, but mostly confused, because Yoongi hardly initiates a conversation with people who aren’t Jimin, and Jimin still has an hour of dance practice left before he starts heading back with Hoseok, so Taehyung is the only other living person in the dorm.

He straightens his posture from where his upper body had been sprawled out over his textbook on architectural history, propping his chin over his hands and throwing Yoongi a questioning glance.

“I know it’s not my place to interfere,” Yoongi is saying, pulling himself up from the couch into a sitting position so that he can look straight at Taehyung, making the latter swallow. “But until when are the two of you going to keep this up?”

“What?” Taehyung breaks the eye contact, focus falling back onto the textbook, and he doesn’t even remember reading anything on that page because he’s been merely staring and not making sense of the words.

“Don’t pretend that you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.”

Yoongi sounds agitated, and that should scare Taehyung, but he’s been giving less shits about everything recently, so he just shrugs.

“Get your shit together. You and Jungkook.”

At the mention of Jungkook, Taehyung stills and flips a page with more force than necessary. “I don’t see how Jungkook, or I, for that matter, is influencing your daily activities.”

There is a shuffle, and Taehyung finds himself hauled up from his seat, Yoongi's fist in his collar, and he stumbles just slightly, finding leverage with a palm on the table top. “What the fuck are you doing?” He hisses.

“No,” Yoongi growls, releasing Taehyung and taking one step back. “What the fuck are you doing? Do you really think that this doesn’t affect me? It affects all of us. We’re worried for the two of you. Jimin is running himself to the ground making sure that the both of you are fine, and it pains me to see him so exhausted, mentally.”

Taehyung remains silent, refusing to let his words spark guilt in him. “I’m fine, he doesn’t have to worry about me.”

“Don’t you get it?” Yoongi reaches out, shaking Taehyung by his shoulders, as if doing so would rattle the senses back into him. “Stop lying to yourself. You’ve been zoning out for the past two months, you forget to eat, you spend all your damn time studying the same page, and you would have missed a ton of deadlines if we hadn’t all decided to take pictures from your course book to help with reminders. You’re a fucking mess, Kim Taehyung.”

“I’m—”

“You’re not the only one affected by this.”

Taehyung doesn’t respond after that, his head goes blank, and he’s trying to reconnect his current situation to his mental state, but he can’t, not with Yoongi spitting truths into his face and breaking up his entire façade.

Yoongi's voice is softer now, and Taehyung feels himself pulled into a hug, though forceful, is comforting. “Talk to him. Jungkook's not any better, if that’s any consolation. Jimin says that he’s become paler and lost weight. Even slipped during practice and got a mild sprain in his ankle.”

“He wouldn’t want—”

“You haven’t tried. You’re both idiots, I’d say that a conversation between two people with the same mental equivalence would go rather smoothly.”

Taehyung knees him in the stomach, and Yoongi grunts.

“Asshole.”

“You little shit. I was trying to be encouraging.”

When Jimin returns to the dorm, he finds Taehyung and Yoongi wrestling on the ground, trying to throttle the other to death. Hoseok's eyebrows raise and he lifts both hands up in mock surrender, sauntering off into his room with a call of “I don’t want to know”.

“Uh… what’s going on?”

What he doesn’t expect is for Taehyung to launch himself at him. Jimin wraps his arms around Taehyung in brief confusion, but pats his back in return.

“Thanks, Jimothy,” Taehyung mumbles (and Jimin tries not to whack him in the head because what the fuck is with that name, seriously), “I owe you a lot.”

“Enough to call it even with all the sexiles?”

Taehyung throws him a dirty look. “Way to ruin to moment.”

But Yoongi's found his spot on the couch again, legs thrown over the other side as he pillows his arms beneath his head, a faint smile on his lips.

 

Thursdays are the worst day of the week, Jungkook's scowling as he runs a hand through his hair. It’s nine in the evening and he’s utterly drained. He’s this close to dropping out of college, but the motivation returns in random bursts, and he supposes that as long as they always come back, he’ll pull through.

Days without Taehyung are exhausting. He’d never admit it to anyone, but the hours are a dull stretch throughout the day, without anything to look forward to except dance practices, where he’d catch himself stealing glances at the door in case Taehyung pops his head inside. He doesn’t even have to be looking for Jungkook, it wouldn’t matter if he’d been looking for Jimin.

It’s a miracle that he’s managed to trudge through freshman year without Taehyung, and he’s been trying to find that rhythm again, but it’s almost sad how a person exposed to the light would start to crave it. Slinking back into the shadows feel close to deprivation, even if he’d started out from there.

He looks up, and sees someone leaning against the wall by the door to one of the tutorial rooms, so he slows down and stands by him, nudging his shoulder to the senior’s own broad, prominent ones. It’s been weeks since Jungkook had talked to any of the others, because when they hang out, they usually did so with Taehyung, and Taehyung is the one person that Jungkook can’t face, not right now.

“Jungkook,” Seokjin is pleasantly surprised that Jungkook had figured him out, and flashes the younger a wide smile, instantly making Jungkook feel more at ease. “Haven’t seen you in ages, how are you?”

“Same old, kind of half dead, though.” Jungkook laughs, and he feels a lot lighter now, because when was the last time I actually laughed? He steers his thoughts away, since the answer is inevitably one bright haired boy with an infectious smile. “Wasn’t aware that we had to take foundational physics, and that foundational physics is this close to alien language.”

Seokjin grins, jerking his head in the direction of the tutorial room that they’re currently standing outside. “Ask Namjoon, then. The fact that he’s majoring in physics already rings warning bells, but he actually likes it.”

“I would… prefer to spare myself.” Jungkook tries not to cringe, and Seokjin gives him a knowing look.

Namjoon tends to start spurting random facts once conversation steers towards science, and then he’d slowly evolve to speaking in such a deeply philosophical manner that the only way of shutting him up would be to beg Seokjin to kiss him. Said man seems rather happy to see them, though. “Oh, Jungkook. Thought you’d fallen off the edge of the world into space somewhere.”

“The difference in pressure would have killed me,” Jungkook deadpans, and Namjoon gives him a thumbs up. “That aside, hey.”

“Been doing good?” Namjoon slings an arm around Seokjin's shoulders, and Jungkook can tell that the other is weighing his words carefully.

“Yeah,” Jungkook says, his mood suddenly shifting into a downward plunge. They’re worried about him, and he doesn’t want them to be, because he’s fine. He’s fucking fine.

“Taehyung doesn’t seem to be doing well, though,” Namjoon gets elbowed in the side by Seokjin, but he bumps his hip to Seokjin's, pressing to continue.

“Oh,” Jungkook lowers his gaze, because what are they expecting him to say? “How is he?”

“Barely eating, barely sleeping, always distracted,” Namjoon says, and would have added more to the list if Seokjin hadn’t started tugging him away.

A dull ache blooms within Jungkook's ribs, and he clutches his laptop case closer to his chest.

Namjoon reaches out to pat his shoulder, and Jungkook lifts his gaze, hoping that he doesn’t look too pathetic at the moment. “I don’t know what happened with you two, but maybe you should talk it out with him. We’re all here for you, yeah? Don’t put too much on your own shoulders.”

Jungkook lets Seokjin pull them into a three way hug, and before he leaves, Seokjin squeezes Jungkook's arm and says, “he probably misses you a lot”, tossing an encouraging smile behind him as he and Namjoon head towards the direction of their dorm building.

“Yeah,” Jungkook mutters to the empty corridor, his voice echoing just a little. “I miss him a fuck ton, too.”

Back in his room, he flips the light switch and sees all the weird post-its that Taehyung had stuck all over his walls and study desk. They are strange drawings that are piled down with too many hearts, but it’s in Taehyung's handwriting and whenever Jungkook reads them, he reads them in Taehyung's voice.

It’s a bit of a mental torture, but Jungkook supposes that he deserves it, for being unable to be there to catch Taehyung's heart when it hits the ground.

 

If Jimin had a choice between a quiet Taehyung and a drunk Taehyung, he would most definitely choose the former.

It is evidently better to have Taehyung still in control of his emotions, silent and brooding at the study desk, instead of him curled up in the space between the wall and the couch, hand wrapped around a bottle of cheap vodka (Jimin wrinkles his nose when he catches “Absolut” on the label), a sobbing, hiccupping mess.

Taehyung has his phone in the other hand, thumb slipping whenever he tries to press in numbers, and Jimin doesn’t even have to take a guess to know who he’s trying to call.

“Tae,” Jimin sighs, feeling the first surge of uncontrollable desperation brim beneath his skin, snatching Taehyung's phone of out his grasp before he does anything stupid. “What the fuck do you think you’re trying to prove with this?”

“Give,” Taehyung gasps, his voice hoarse between hiccups as he instinctively reaches out for his phone, half lashing. “Let me be.”

“No, listen—”

Let me be.”

The exasperation is a steep, upward climb, and when Jimin snaps, Taehyung shrinks back in utter confusion and hurt, his mind a maelstrom, and emotions caught in a whirl. “Stop it,” Jimin says, his usually bright voice dropping low in barely masked anger. “I’ve had enough, you’ve had enough. I refuse to see you ruining yourself this way, Kim Taehyung.”

Taehyung flinches slightly, because even in his hazy mental state, he registers that Jimin hardly ever calls him by his full name. “M’sorry.”

“You should be.” Jimin speaks again, and the venom has eased out, but it still hinges on despair. “I know it’s hard to be all smiles when you’re crumbling inside, and you don’t have to be, Tae. Don’t pack it all up. Look what it’s done to you. You need to fix this,” Jimin pauses, taking in Taehyung's glazed eyes and the way his lips are pressed into a thin line. He sighs. “But you won’t. You’re such a stubborn little shit.”

Taehyung grunts, and Jimin supposes that he’s probably listening if he’s responded as such to an obvious insult.

“God, get the fuck to bed.”

When Taehyung's completely knocked out beneath the sheets and tucked in, courtesy of Jimin, the latter whispers a quiet apology.

 

It feels like a train wreck happened at the back of his skull, and Taehyung screws his already closed eyes shut, a soft, plaintive whine slipping out from between his lips. But before his hand manages to lift, there’s another warm weight pressing down against his temples. With his last bit of energy, Taehyung cracks an eye open.

Half blinded by the morning sun spilling through the slits in the curtains, Taehyung sees Jungkook beside him on the pillow, softly outlined by the light.

“Oh,” Taehyung says, and his voice doesn’t sound as if it belongs to him. “I’m probably still asleep.”

At that, Jungkook laughs, shocking Taehyung to the point of him shooting straight upright and dropping back down again when his head decides to do that splitting thing, especially mercilessly, as if berating him for his self-induced humiliation.

“Stay still, dumbass,” Jungkook mutters, and Taehyung finds himself realizing just how much he’s missed the other’s voice, even if he’s currently insulting his intelligence. “You got shit drunk last night.”

“Why are you here,” Taehyung says, warily, but he leans his head against Jungkook's gentle touch, letting him massage his temples with his warm fingertips, eyes fluttering shut again. Belatedly, he thinks that it probably isn’t the best thing to ask, and that if mistaken, it sounds as if he wants the other to leave. But situations-wise, he’s got a fucking apocalypse of a hangover and frankly, he isn’t in the mood to reconsider his choice of words.

Jungkook doesn’t answer, and Taehyung doesn’t repeat himself because this is nice, let me just steep in the moment, then.

When the worst of the headache ebbs down to a faint throb and Taehyung is drifting, on the verge of dozing off again, Jungkook murmurs, “I’m sorry.”

Taehyung lets out a quiet hum, opening his eyes and shifting his body so that he’s facing Jungkook, reaching out, though tentatively, to rest his palm against Jungkook's cheek. “You did nothing wrong.”

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook repeats, and he places his own hand over Taehyung's, keeping it there as if he’s afraid that Taehyung will withdraw his touch, and he’s trying to grasp onto whatever he’s got left. “For running away from your feelings.”

“Everyone knows that love can’t be forced,” Taehyung's saying, and there’s the old ache bubbling up in his chest again, sad, but now warmer. “It’s not your fault.”

“I’m not finished.” Jungkook's fingers slip into the spaces between Taehyung's, and the latter stills. “I was running too, from my own feelings. I didn’t believe that I’d be able to actually care this much about someone, especially since I can’t even recall their facial features when I’m missing them. When I’m missing you.”

Taehyung doesn’t interrupt, just stares, and Jungkook's pulse is spiking up so fast he feels as if he might convulse.

“I thought,” Jungkook whispers, “that maybe, I was in love with the thought of being in love. So I tried to stop it, before I got too infatuated with a thought, but then I realized that I was wrong. I’m sorry it took me so long. That it took so many wake up calls for me to finally realize, but I’m in love with you.”

He doesn’t even know that he’s holding his breath until Jungkook brings Taehyung's hand down between their faces and squeezes it. Taehyung's too distracted by all the what-ifs.

“I’m in love with you, Taehyung.”

It’s a spark like two universes colliding, and briefly, Taehyung thinks about constellations and wonders if this is how it feels like to be involved in a cosmic phenomenon.

Then Jungkook's kissing him like he just can’t get enough, hands cupping Taehyung's face until Taehyung's dizzy from the lack of air, a low moan sounding in the back of his throat while Jungkook moves on to mouth at his jaw, leaving faint, almost territorial marks down the column of Taehyung's neck in a silent, visual declaration of “mine”.

“That,” Taehyung gasps after what seems like an eternity, “is the cheesiest fucking thing that you have ever said.”

Jungkook stares at him, dumbfounded, before narrowing his eyes. “You’re a master at ruining the moment, aren’t you? A simple ‘I love you too’ would have sufficed, thank you very much.”

“Wouldn’t have pegged you for a romantic,” Taehyung continues, but obliges to silence when Jungkook leans down to claim his lips again, instead managing a hoarse mumble of “where’s Jimin?”

“He went to Yoongi's after letting me in,” Jungkook murmurs against Taehyung's shoulder, the pale skin blooming into yet another bruise. “In case you didn’t know, he called me last night, told me you tried to kill yourself by alcohol poisoning and yelled at me for ten minutes to either come over or lose my balls the next time we meet.”

“Harsh,” Taehyung muses, “it wasn’t that serious.”

“You were groaning in your sleep though, I was actually worried there for a bit.”

Jungkook's eyes glint with amusement as he threads his fingers through Taehyung's hair, the tenderness in the action warranting absolute adoration in Taehyung's gaze, and a low, contented hum.

“I love you,” Taehyung suddenly says, the unexpected declaration making Jungkook pause and blink, lips quirking up slowly into a faint grin. “I just thought I should say it again.” Then there’s that wide, somewhat rectangular smile, and Jungkook chuckles, brushing his thumb over the wrinkles beside Taehyung's eye when the other beams.

Taehyung lets Jungkook kiss him into oblivion, shivering as Jungkook's hands smooth down along his thighs, thumb hooking into the waistband of his boxers alongside the muffled sound of his bedside drawer opening. It’s been so long, too long, and his body craves the feeling of Jungkook's hands on his skin.

Jungkook works Taehyung open slowly, with one finger, then two, drinking in the soft moans and murmurs of his name that spill from Taehyung's lips, the way his eyes are half lidded and dazed feeding the fire that burns slow in Jungkook's chest.

It’s during moments as such when Jungkook is reminded of how he’d fallen in love with Taehyung.

When the older is pliant and forgiving under him, lips red and parted with so much trust in his eyes that Jungkook feels lightheaded. “Taehyung,” Jungkook murmurs as his hips pick up a steady, gentle pace, and Taehyung's eyes flutter shut, head tipping back into the pillow with a drawled moan.

When Taehyung is gripping onto his arms so tightly that Jungkook just knows that there will be marks later, and he presses forward, letting the feeling of being so contented, so warm, overwhelm him until all there is, is Taehyung crying out his name, and a contained burst of white light behind his eyelids.

When Taehyung is curled up in his arms, ever the post coital chatterbox, talking about things that would never, ever cross Jungkook's mind otherwise.

It is strangely domestic, Taehyung thinks, when Jungkook wraps his arms around his waist and rests his chin over Taehyung's shoulder while Taehyung's digging around the shelves for his teabags, water boiling in the electric kettle. In other (Jimin's) words, it is disgusting.

“When I told you two to make up,” Jimin comments from the door, leaning against the frame of the dorm’s entrance, “I predicted some making out, and the worst case scenario, to have you two fucking on the counter, but I definitely was not expecting a married couple.”

“At least the cold war is over.” Yoongi lets out a soft snort, but he’s grinning as he slings an arm around Jimin's shoulders, nosing against the smaller male’s temple. “Leave the lovesick idiots alone, wasn’t this what you wanted? World peace?”

Jimin scrunches his nose up, but his eyes are smiling. “Friendship brownie points?” He quips hopefully, and Taehyung tells him to get the fuck out, because I’m sexiling you.

Much to Jimin's chagrin, he finds lube smears over the counter that night when he’s popping a scone into the microwave, and makes a mental note not to give them anymore ideas, even if they are supposedly rhetorical, since they obviously do not have the sense to realize that.

 

The first thing Jungkook looks for when he steps outside his lecture theatre is a head of dark orange hair, and he finds it within the span of three seconds.

Taehyung bounds over, slipping his fingers with Jungkook's, and this is nice, this is very nice. Jungkook grins, bumping their shoulders together before giving Taehyung's hand a small tug, leading the both of them out of campus and along the familiar path to the café.

“Our café,” Taehyung likes to call it, “it’s where we first met.”

The barista (his nametag reads Sanghyuk) grins at them and waves. “The usual?”

“Please,” Taehyung chirps, and the three of them laugh.

They’re standing at the collection point in comfortable silence, when the sleeve of Taehyung's shirt rides up, and something snags Jungkook's attention. He reaches out for Taehyung's hand and grabs at it, turning it so Taehyung's wrist faces upwards.

“What’s this?” Jungkook's voice is low, quiet, glancing up to meet Taehyung's gaze with his own dazed stare.

Taehyung beams. It dazzles the fuck out of Jungkook (because what’s new?), and he pushes the rest of his sleeve up his arm until the material is bunched at his shoulders. “You’re doing a French elective, aren’t you?”

Across Taehyung's wrist, “et tes bras sont ma maison” is inked into his skin.

“When did this happen?” Jungkook feels punch drunk on the feeling, still staring at Taehyung's new tattoo in disbelief, smoothing a thumb over the words.

“Recently,” Taehyung sounds nonchalant, but his eyes are positively lit up, face glowing in triumph.

With a quiet, defeated laugh, Jungkook lifts Taehyung's wrist to his lips, pressing a soft kiss over the words, eyes flicking up into a mischievous grin. “Aren’t you heavy on the diabetes,” Jungkook says, reaching over for Taehyung's cup, turning the beverage on the collection counter until the warmer is facing him, and he makes a show of reading off the name that’s hastily scrawled in water-based marker ink, “Taehyung.”

When Taehyung laughs, Jungkook knows that it doesn’t matter if he falls in love with his eyes closed, because he’s got four other senses for him to love Taehyung with.