Actions

Work Header

Animal Style

Work Text:

Taemin had imagined it before, of course he had. It would be hard to grow up as a wolf and not think about that moment, the one everyone goes all starry-eyed over- when you first meet your mate. When you just know, right down to your toenails, that this person is the one for you.

So yeah, he’d imagined locking eyes with strangers under the drippy lip of an umbrella. It’d be sometime in the distant future, with a cityscape and expensive shoes and a job worth hurrying to.

Or bumping hands over a carton of eggs in the grocery store and feeling all the electricity in the world jolt up his arm from that little touch, totally blowing any plans for the next few days out of the picture.

He’d even seen it happen, once, the summer before he moved away from home for school. It had been a goodbye dinner, and the air had been thick with emotions and scents as a mass of wolves piled together to drink and eat and send off a handful of their young people into the wider world. Jonghyun had gotten two steps inside the room and started sobbing. Taemin hadn’t thought anything of it, Jonghyun had always cried at the drop of a hat, and the intense swirl of emotional cues inside the room was taking even him a moment to adjust. And besides, he was leaving, of course Jonghyun would cry. Turns out Jonghyun had smelled something in that mess of familiar and unfamiliar that rung out mate, and Taemin had turned back to see it play out across his face clear as anything. The shock, the disbelief, the excitement, the red hot terror, the impulse to run- to or from didn't matter just, run.

So Taemin had witnessed the phenomenon, had daydreamed about it since he was old enough to understand that he was different, and one of those ways was the inevitability of bonding. And yet it had always seemed impossible, some distant event that would slip into his life seamlessly, at just the right time- it was supposed to be fate after all. So he’d saved his little fantasies away and they stayed there, fuzzy edged and rosy tinted, and he got on with his shit.

It was easy to shelve the whole thing at school, away from his family and pack, where he was a blip amidst thousands of very human students. He was a shoe-in with his school’s chapter of Omega Lambda Phi, and even there, surrounded by virile young wolves he could call pack, it was easy to focus on other things. For a whole year he focused on other things; lectures, rushing, dancing, pledging, partying, exams, sex, friends, performing, initiation, more exams- his life was full, there just wasn't room for anything else. His wolf, his gut, they were quiet- it was down to fate anyways, so he didn’t fuss over it.

-

It still felt like summer, the air still heavy and hot around campus despite it being September. Taemin could feel sweat starting to gather behind his knees inside his pants. Those were a mistake. He hoists the box of fliers higher against his chest, and tried to appreciate the breeze billowing out the tank top he’d stripped down to when the morning chill had burnt off a few hours earlier.

“Do you know anyone coming here this year?” Minho calls from behind him, balancing a folding table easily in his long arms.

“Mmm not really.” Taemin shrugs, there were a few people from his old high school coming, but Minho meant people like them, wolves. “What about you..?”

“Yeah, our pack here is giant, and lots of us don’t bother going too far from home, you know?” Minho chuckles, lengthening his already stupid-long stride to fall into step with Taemin. “We’re lucky to have a OLF chapter here, mixed designation houses like ours still aren't common. But yeah, we’ve got six guys from town coming this year. They’re planning on rushing, but you know how it is, at least a couple of them will drop off with new mates. They’re good kids though, I’ll introduce you!”

Taemin’s only half listening, trying to shake a bead of sweat off of its course straight for his eyeball. It doesn’t work and he ends up squishing an eye shut at the sting, turning to smile along to Minho’s rambling. Omega Lambda Phi, or OLF, had played a big part in his decision to come to this university last year. Technically, as an alpha he had more options, could have gone to essentially any university and found a pack in any of the fraternities exclusively for alphas. But Taemin was well aware the kind of bullshit a young, unbalanced group of wolves could get up to and he wasn't interested.

“You know, your first little is special- I’m excited for you… there’re gonna be a lot of firsts.” Minho paused dreamily and Taemin could swear there was a skip in his step, despite the folding table. “Remember your first blackout, Taeminnie?”

Taemin groans, his mouth curving into a smile regardless, swerving to aim a lazy kick at Minho’s calf.

“Hyung why are we even talking about this, you’re getting mushy.” Taemin grunts, “This is why everyone calls you ‘Dad of the House’” Taemin doesn’t bother to hide the fondness in his voice, his eyes squished up in a grin as Minho puffs out his chest at the title. Minho had been his big last year, and Taemin had learned a lot about just how nice a person could actually be while still making you suffer.

-

The info fair was shaping up, tables and tents scattered across the biggest courtyard on campus. Junmyeon and Jinki were standing under banner featuring the OLF letters and a few artistic renderings of actual wolves, all howling dramatically. Taemin grins at the thing and makes a b-line, his elbows starting to ache from carrying the box across campus. It’s not like dancing makes you good at lifting heavy shit.

“Banner looks awesome,” Taemin says, his eyes sparkling as he drops the box and bumps shoulders with Jinki, both trying to keep a straight face.

Junmyeon looks about ready to implode, his forehead bunched in frown lines as he moves to unpack the box Taemin had dropped. “It wouldn’t hurt to be a little subtle you know. Next time. Some people already think we’re as good as animals.”

Minho folds out the table and soothes a hand over Junmyeon’s shoulders. “No one thinks that way anymore hyung,” his voice is soft, a reminder “And besides, everyone knows OLF is a wolf pack, and why would we want to hide it anyways?”

Junmyeon deflates a little, fists full of pamphlets and fliers and calendars. “I know, it’s not the banner, the banner is awesome,” He hauls in a breath and everyone watches while he rubs over his face. “it’s just the greek life meeting this morning was bullshit. I don't get it, they aren’t wolves, why do they care if I’m an omega.”

Taemin feels something tug at the bottom of his stomach, seeing Junmyeon upset. He’s itching to help somehow, so he slinks over to the table, quietly arranging the info material neatly and then stealing the box to finish unpacking it while Minho and Junmyeon talk.

Jinki bumps silently into his shoulder and takes over unloading the box, passing stacks of things to him to arrange. Taemin likes that they don't always have to talk, when Jinki doesn't have a joke to crack and Taemin’s busy watching. He’s on edge, with so much action around him after a quiet summer with Jonghyun. The courtyard is full of people zig zagging around, full of the smells of excitement and frustration, anticipation and nerves.

Taemin squints at his arrangement but doesn't have a chance to question it, as everyone’s attention is snagged by a throaty holler from across the courtyard. It’s immediately recognizable as Jongdae and Taemin watches Junmyeon perk up at the sound, despite the obnoxious, wordless yelling, and smile as Jongdae trots towards them.

“Good to know some things never change.” Jinki mumbles fondly, and Taemin has to agree. The slow comfort of their pack knitting back together after months apart is like coming home. It makes the world sit easier around him, his senses mellowing out as familiarity of his brothers soaks into his skin like sunshine.

“That banner is ridiculous, nicely done.” Jongdae says, grinning brightly and shooting a finger gun and a wink at Jinki as he slows to a stop and joins them. “Hyung, I talked to Hyuna since she's the new president for Zeta Nu and she gave me a form to turn in for our bonfire tonight, then we’re good to go!” Jongdae flaps the sheet of paper around proudly, lip curling as he aims his grin at Junmyeon.

-

It’s three in the afternoon and Taemin is really regretting wearing pants. It’s hot and his entire ass is sweating. He had a break from the info table earlier, but from the air conditioned sanctuary of the student union building, walking back to the house to change sounded like way too much work. So he’s stewing on his fold-up chair, trying not to fidget too much as he makes stilted, wooing small talk with prospective pledges. He likes meeting new people, wolves doubly, but it’s hard like this.

No matter how hard he tries, the lines about pack and purpose, brotherhood and inclusion just don't roll off his tongue the way they do Minho’s. Next to him, Minho has a freshman hooked, eyes locked with Minho as he smiles and passes off a stack of information and a heartfelt invitation to their first rush event- Jongdae’s bonfire. “I’ll be looking for you there, Hoseok! Bring your friends, okay?”

Taemin’s slumped in his chair, resting a cheek on the table and watching Minho wave off the kid cheerfully. “How long do you think it’ll take them to realize you’re secretly evil, hyung?” Taemin mumbles out, peering up at Minho.

Minho just swings his grin around to aim at Taemin, showing off his perfect teeth and overly friendly puppy eyes before letting his smile shift, canines sharpening to points and eyes flashing bright in the sun. A year ago this kind of display from a beta would have had him balking, hyung or not. Now Taemin just rolls his eyes, reaching out to grab onto the skin over Minho’s elbow and giving it a tug, smiling softly. “Put that away, you’ll scare the pledges.”

In most fraternities, rush week is about recruiting pledges, getting to know them and showing them what they could expect from the group. It’s a little different for OLF, where the most important part of rush is throwing a mixed bag of freshly uprooted wolves into their dynamic and seeing who adapts. Last year there had been a handful of hopefuls who straight up walked out after seeing the way they all tangled together. It wasn’t surprising- plenty of wolves chose to simplify the added power structure by opting for fraternities or sororities of a single designation, and Taemin was expecting the same this year.

It wasn't perfect, of course there were tense moments, where their ages and ranks and designations got all mixed up with instincts and emotion. The first time Taemin had seen Jongdae display anything but a disgusting cheerfulness, he had been vibrating at the edges, eyes dark, growling across the living room where Zitao, another beta from their class, was climbing into Junmyeon’s lap after a particularly grueling midterm. The OLF house was infamous for its no-holds-barred attitude with physical affection and Jongdae had always been the first to fling himself into a puppy pile.

Taemin had frozen, eyes wide as the tension in the room ratcheted higher with each second, Zitao pushing his face into Junmyeon’s neck and whining tiredly, too wiped to even respond to Jongdae’s aggression. Even then, Junmyeon’s gaze was soft, and Taemin remembers feeling a surge of affection and awe for the omega, watching him handle the situation with patience and grace. Jinki had been the first to shake out of his shock and start to talk Jongdae down, voice firm and gentle as he guided the beta to Junmyeon’s side. The second Jongdae tucked under Junmyeon’s other arm, the room let out a collective breath, listening as the growl in Jongdae’s throat dropped to his chest in a contented rumble.

That was the first time Taemin started to think maybe half the shit Minho spewed during rush was true, and maybe it’s worth it, and that he still had a lot to learn. They always ended up in the forest after scuffles—maybe that night, maybe that weekend—but they always made a point to settle as wolves, under the canopy of trees and heaped into a panting, dirty pile in the forest duff after chasing each other in circles through the few acres of forest they had. It hadn’t mattered that Taemin wasn’t a brother at the time, he had been there, and there were things more important than the university rules.

Taemin tugs off his cap, running both hands through his sweat-grimy hair and pushing it away from his face before shoving the hat on backwards, the plastic of the closure scraping across his damp forehead. Why couldn't he just be comfortable, maybe then he’d be able to actually do some useful recruiting instead of just sitting here and watching Minho work his magic. He was rush chair for a reason.

Just as Taemin was about to suggest this, his hand stretched out to poke at Minho’s side, Minho shot up from his seat, waving maniacally across the courtyard. At least he doesn't yell like Jongdae.

Taemin squints against the sun to make out two guys weaving their way towards them, the shorter of the two waving back to Minho. “Friends of yours?” Taemin asks, prompting Minho to give him something to go on before the two arrive.

“Yeah! Some of the guys I mentioned were coming this year from my pack!” Minho beams at Taemin, looking grossly paternal already, his eyes flicking over to where they were still strolling towards them. “They’re good kids, that’s Sehun on the right, with the… hair,” Minho gestures to the taller of the two and Taemin rolls his eyes at his douchey undercut. “And that’s Sungjoo, with the hat!” It’s a terrible hat.

They’re both broad, looking like they have too much shoulder to quite know what to do with yet, especially douchey-hair, Sehun, he’s shaped like a vaguely triangular rail.

Taemin’s not really sure if Minho keeps talking, he’s distracted, eyes stubbornly stuck to Sehun’s form as he approaches. Taemin wants to look away, Sehun looks like the worst kind of pledge, and yet he can’t tear his eyes away. All the sounds funneling into his ears turning to mush against the sudden roar of blood and it’s weird, because his body is going haywire, with every step closer Sehun takes, it feels like Taemin’s nerves are going to vibrate further and further away, right out of his body, but his head is blank, clean and calm and totally bewildered.

He doesn't remember deciding to reach out but his hand is clamped over Minho’s forearm, fingers shaking and digging into his skin in a way that must be painful, but suddenly Sehun’s in front of them, staring down at Taemin with a bored pinch to his brows and a boba straw stuck into the tiny pout of his mouth while Sungjoo dodges around the table to plaster himself to Minho’s chest in a hug.

“What’s wrong with him?” Sehun says and it’s weird, because his voice sounds crystal clear, while Minho’s concerned tone is all that makes it through when he turns to ask Taemin what’s going on.

Sehun leans forward over the table, sticking his face in Taemin’s space and tilting his head to the side. It hits him like a fucking freight train. Under the chalky sweetness of the boba Sehun is sucking up, under the chemical musk of obnoxious cologne… there’s the sharp smell of athletic tape, pancake batter, hot plastic and wet grass but it’s like nothing Taemin has ever smelled before and it’s wafting off this douchey looking kid smelling like all kinds of right and home and horrifyingly… mate.

And once his brain supplies that word it’s like every cell in his body takes it up, shouting, demanding, all at once and it has him gasping into action, springing back from the table to put some distance between them, give him some space to think.

“Taeminnie… Taemin look at me, what’s going on?”

It’s Minho, reaching out to pass a hand over Taemin’s sweaty spine and it helps to look at Minho, helps a fuck ton more than looking at him. Sehun looks disinterested, annoyed, vaguely amused. None of the things you should look when you’ve just met your mate, but that is too much to comprehend in this moment. It is all too much to comprehend in this moment.

This was supposed to happen sometime in the distant future, an innocent meet-cute on neutral ground, easy and comfortable and right. It wasn’t supposed to be in the middle of a fucking info fair. It wasn’t supposed to feel like someone setting his bones on fire. It wasn’t supposed to feel so wrong.

“Him… he… this is, wrong. He’s not supposed to- no,” Taemin mumbles, flapping a hand at Sehun and avoiding looking at him, and the more he thinks about it the clearer his head gets. This is way too weird to be happening, something’s fucked up, he needs to figure this out before he says something stupid.

“Taeminnie… what’s wrong?” Minho looks scared, Taemin can smell it now that his head is clearing.

“Sorry, I just- I thought I knew who he was, for a second,” Taemin forces his shoulders down, pushes a stilted laugh out. “Not someone I was expecting to see,  sorry to go all weird on you guys.” Thank fuck he was a decent liar under pressure.

Sehun takes a noisy draw off his drink, still peering down at Taemin. “So do all your friends freak out when they meet a hot omega?”

It’s directed at Minho and Taemin takes a few seconds to stare at Sehun in disbelief. Who the fuck did this asshole think he was. Minho seems similarly annoyed, shooting Sehun a glare and gripping Taemin’s shoulder tight. “Don’t be a dick, Sehun.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Minho continues, trying to catch Taemin’s gaze.

“Yeah, yeah I’m sure. I’ve been kinda wired all day- just, more stuff going on than usual.” Taemin says with a crooked grin, waving around them at the busy courtyard.

Minho nods, easing his grip. He’s a beta and not as prone to getting overstimulated as alphas, but he understands easily. “Why don’t you head home, take it easy for a while.”

Taemin is not about to turn down an offer like that and he smiles gratefully at Minho. “Yeah, I think I will head out, take a nap.” Get the fuck out of here and figure out what the deal is with Sehun.

Taemin pushes to his feet and feels the ground tilt under him and plops right back into his chair with a groan.

“Where’s your house, I’ll walk him back.”

“I’m right here.” Taemin snarls at Sehun, glaring as the dizziness subsided.

“Okay fine, I’ll walk with you to your house.” Sehun looks intrigued, eyes sharp and Taemin doesn’t like this look on him either.

“You want to haul me back home, sure, be my guest.” Taemin spits, leaning back and reaching a hand out towards Sehun like a challenge. There was no way this asshole was his mate.

Sehun just rolls his eyes, dropping his empty boba cup on the table and stalking around it to grab Taemin’s hand and pull him up. “Alright, now which way,”

-

The trip home had been awkward. Taemin had braced for… something, when they touched, but it felt surprisingly normal. Sehun’s hands were cold and damp with condensation and felt good on his overheated skin, but that was it- no tingles no sparks, and it had taken a few tries to get a position they both liked.

Taemin was too wired for the feeling of an arm around his shoulders, and Sehun was quick to point out that he was too short for looping an arm over Sehun’s shoulders, so they settled on one hand under Taemin’s elbow and the other on his waist. It was fine except that every few steps that scent would loop back around and fill Taemin’s chest up to bursting.

Now, tucked into his bed, he could admit to himself that he had leaned into Sehun more than he’d really needed to. After ten minutes of being up and moving, he’d felt fine. But the thought of losing that scent, it had him pressing against Sehun’s side begrudgingly.

He wanted to nap, but sleep was out of the question, he was still too wired. His body still thrumming with heat and adrenaline and an itch deep under his skin, like he’d forgotten something important. It had his hands roaming over his skin restlessly, trying to soothe.

Taemin closed his eyes, focusing inwards on probing for his wolf, extending a hand and waiting for the hot breath over his knuckles, a wet nose bumping against his hand in greeting. This was Taemin’s favorite way to think; imagining curling up with his wolf form soothed him from the inside out in a way not even transforming could. It left his mind clear and his wolf easy.

Taemin drew in a deep breath and tried to lay it out logically. He’d found his mate. It was undeniable. Even now his scent clung to his clothes and stuck in his nose, reminding him over and over with each breath. He’d found his mate and it hadn’t been anything like how he’d imagined, how he had seen with Jonghyun and heard stories of from pairs in his pack.

His stomach squirmed uncomfortably when he played back Sehun’s reactions- his bitchy indifference and the cold curiosity that followed. It sat crooked in his stomach and he worried his teeth over his bottom lip at the feeling of wrongness.

The thing is, your wolf is never wrong. It just isn’t. With so many unknowns and half-truths and blind choices packed into growing up, he was always taught to follow his instinct, and it had always worked out until now. Now it was whining, pawing, insisting some jumped up douchey freshman was his mate. Taemin let out a sigh, dragging his hands through his hair. He didn’t need this right now.

His phone buzzed on the bedside and he threw an arm out and grabbed it, seeing a group text from Jongdae: ‘fire tonight is a go (flame emoticon x3) meet at 6 to help set up (beer emoticon x5)’

Taemin groaned, forcefully thumbing away from the message and pulling up Instagram, trying to distract himself for a few more minutes. Sehun would be at the bonfire, along with all of Taemin’s brothers and countless other wolves planning to rush OLF. He wasn’t even looking at his phone as he scrolled viciously, a blur of color under his thumb.

He knew what he needed to do. Accept Sehun as his mate and get on with… learning to tolerate each other. Taemin scrunched up his face. Maybe it’d be better tonight, maybe it’d make more sense, and if not, he could always just get really, really drunk and hope for the best.

-

Just being outside had Taemin feeling at ease. The night air felt clean around him, filled with the crackle of pallets burning and the chatter of voices over it. The first few hours of the event had been more formal, as far as their rush events go, with Junmyeon addressing the group and encouraging the newcomers to find anyone wearing an OLF badge and ask them questions, hang out and get to know one another.

Taemin stuck to Jinki’s side for most of the evening, letting Jinki quietly orchestrate the conversation with sly jokes and innocuous questions, prodding gently until everyone around him was opened up. Eventually a handful of brothers left to get more pallets to burn, and came back with a few boxes full of alcohol and soda as well.

There was no sign of Sehun, and Taemin was more than willing to toss back a few shots and give the whole thing up for ghost, at least for the night. Jongdae was thrilled to help, pushing aside bottles of Smirnoff and conjuring up a bottle of Patrón with a flourish and pouring a row of shots. The alcohol lit up his nerves, bright enough to smooth out the jagged edges of the day. It helped him relax his shoulders down, gave his eyes traction as he looked around without worrying about spotting Sehun. It felt good and Taemin chuckled while he sipped the cup of sprite Jongdae passed to him “Thanks, I really needed that.”

“Minho said you got sick or something this afternoon,” Jongdae says, unapologetic and curious, eyeing Taemin.

“Yeah, got overstimulated. Feeling better now though.” Taemin nods out, squishing his eyes up in a smile.

“Minho said there was a certain omega..?” Jongdae prods again, his mouth curving against the lip of his cup, unrelenting.

Fucking- no one was capable of keeping their mouths shut for two seconds. “Yeah, a total tool, someone Minho knows from town.” Taemin tries to infuse his tone with disinterest while he thinks of something to change the topic.

Before Taemin has the chance to think of a way to compliment Jongdae on the event that sounds sincere and adequately derailing, he feels a warm body blanket his back, Zitao’s distinctive whine in his ear, already slurring.

“How’d you get Chenchen to give you the good stuff already, s’not fair.” Zitao pushes his face into Taemin’s neck and huffs out a hot breath and the feeling makes Taemin giggle, scrunching up his nose.

“I missed you too Taozi,” Taemin laughs out, reaching up a hand to ruffle Zitao’s hair and then slipping out from under his weight and nudging him towards Jongdae. He was a serial cuddler, liable to glue himself to anyone who catches his affections, especially when drinking, and Taemin didn’t want that right now. Jongdae pulls Zitao to his side, showing off the glinting points of his teeth in a wide grin.

Taemin slinks away, grimacing at the cheap vodka as he crouches down to add a generous portion to his cup. Jongdae’s prying questions weren’t worth his stash of high proof tequila anyways.

The heat radiating off the stack of burning wood is intense. Taemin finds a spot to settle a few feet off and closes his eyes, feeling it wash over him. It’s almost like stage lights. The thought makes him smile, excited to get back into the studio after months of squeezing in mediocre practices wherever he could.

It doesn’t take long for things to get loud after Luhan shows up with a stereo, blasting R Kelly and power-sliding around making bad puns, the vodka dispersing around the group under Jongdae’s care. Yixing wanders over, the skin of his chest glowing with the light of the fire and Taemin finds himself pleasantly, properly drunk, dancing lazily in a clump of freshman and cackling wildly every time they exclaim at his half-hearted attempts at popping. His joints are liquid, and it’s so familiar and easy to bounce along to Luhan’s shitty playlists.

“Hey, Taeminnie!”

Minho appears in front of him and the afternoon comes hurtling back to him, the info fair, catching whiff of his mate, meeting Sehun. Taemin tosses his head back in a sharp cackle, gripping tightly at Minho’s arms. How fucking ridiculous.

“Woah, you alright?” Minho asks, reaching out to steady him. 

“M’good! Totally, normal and fine, cool with Sehun, being the one.” Taemin’s words are thick in his mouth so he just giggles and that feels better.

“He’s here, if you want to talk to him. I asked him to apologize, but maybe he should wait until tomorrow, so you’ll remember- jesus, how did you even get this drunk off Smirnoff already,”

Taemin freezes abruptly, mouth clamped tight and staring up at Minho. Sehun was here. He tips back the rest of his drink, grimacing, and scrambles for something to say.

“Sehun, cool…”  he ekes out, tipping his chin up to try and sniff around them subtly. If Sehun was here, then his scent was too, and while the thought of meeting Sehun now had him cringing, he couldn’t help wanting to seek out that scent of mate. Wanting to press it into his skin to keep.

“Are you trying to scent him? Right now? It’s so smoky I can barely smell you.

Right. That was the point of the bonfire being their first rush event. Neutral.

Minho suddenly drops his arms and pulls him into a dizzy hug, squeezing Taemin’s shoulders. “I don’t know what’s up with you, but go talk to him. Let him apologize.”

Taemin didn’t need the push Minho gave him once he’d spun Taemin around and pointed out Sehun, but he definitely needs the full cup Minho drops into his hand, stacking it in his empty one. He’s standing next to the other kid from earlier, still wearing that terrible hat. Taemin considers throwing it into the fire.

Working his way over to the pair takes an age, dodging around warm bodies and sticky cups, skirting the hot ring of the fire. Sehun had changed since this afternoon, and Taemin frowns at his pants. They are suspiciously shiny.

“Are you wearing… pleather pants?” It comes out soft and horrified, and Taemin squints up at Sehun’s face and sees his hair slicked back too. Those are totally pleather pants.

Sehun’s face contorts into a pouty frown.

“Is that what you came over here to say?” Sehun looks genuinely put out, and it makes something twist under Taemin’s ribs, that’s not what he wanted.

“Hey, no,” he blurts out, “I just wanted to say hey. That’s why I came to you,” Taemin hides his face in Minho’s cup and tries to lean close enough to catch Sehun’s scent, wanting to soothe the way his heart feels like it’s lurching out of his chest.

“Well. Hi.” Sehun says, glancing at his friend, Sungjoo, with raised eyebrows. Taemin watches Sungjoo duck close to Sehun’s ear with a frown and whisper. They’re close, close enough that Taemin can see Sungjoo’s nose bump against Sehun’s jaw, so close he can imagine how the heat of Sehun’s neck must feel.

Taemin feels a mild kind of concern as his whole body aches with the need to be exactly that close, so he tosses back the rest of his drink, swallowing down the hysterical tightness in his chest telling him that this is a bad idea, and creeps forward to mirror the position on Sehun’s other side and yep. There it was, that scent.

The haze of wrongness from this afternoon has dissipated now, with his sloshy brain putting up fewer protests, and Taemin lets out a content little sigh, rising to tip toes to push his nose against Sehun’s collar.

“What the fuck! Are you doing!?”

Taemin tips forward, catching himself as Sehun jerks back from him, clutching at his heart.

“No, no see, the wolf is never wrong, and yeah I thought that was bullshit too but listen, you gotta accept it alright? If our instincts can be wrong then what is even right, like, ever?” Taemin gestures wildly between them, desperate to make Sehun understand, desperate to get back into the warm bubble of his scent.

“Look, I don't know what the fuck you’re talking about. Sorry I was an asshole this afternoon but you’re drunk dude,” Sehun says, eyeing the gathering, mouth pinched in annoyance.

“This is lame, let’s just go. I don’t want to hang around with Minho tonight.” Sehun’s tone is flat, dismissive, and he immediately spins to walk away from Sungjoo and Taemin both. Sungjoo just shrugs and heads straight for Jongdae, happy to let Sehun storm off alone.

Taemin frowns at the situation in general before lurching after Sehun and managing to catch the hem of his obnoxiously branded tee shirt.

“Wait, wait, that was mean, why are you leaving.”

Sehun doesn’t stop walking and so neither does Taemin, stumbling behind him for a few steps.

“I changed my mind, I’m going back to my room,”

Taemin could feel the heat of the fire fading behind him as he focuses on keeping up with Sehun, keeping close enough to let Sehun’s scent fold around him again, sending a different kind of heat seeping right into his bones.

“Can you let go of me, I’m going home.”

Taemin starts with a giggle, looking down to where his hand was still bunched in Sehun’s shirt. “Probably no, you’re stuck with me,” Taemin aims as bright a grin as he can manage at Sehun, twisting his fist to get a better purchase. “Better get used to it sooner because it’s permanent, you know.”

-

His neck was throbbing, stiff and cricked and Taemin skims the surface of wakefulness just enough to huff into his pillow, scooting up and straightening his neck enough to melt back into the bed. His limbs feel heavy and clumsy so he doesn’t move them, ignoring the small noises around him in favor of drifting back towards sleep.

“Do you think we should tell someone where he is? Where’s his phone. Should I text Minho?”

“Sehun relax, he’ll wake up soon.”

“How can you be so… chill about all of this?”

“I didn’t sleep.”

“See! You couldn’t even sleep, that’s the opposite of an answer!”

“I’ve just had some time to adjust or whatever.”

Taemin listens to the whispers above him without registering any of it while slowly coming around to a familiar set of sensations. His mouth is dry, tongue tacky and his gums throbbing fiercely from spending half the night with his canines extended in his sleep. His stomach lurches and he swallows roughly, groaning and scrunching up aching eyes at the thought of moving. How had he even gotten drunk enough to warrant this hangover on the first day of rush?

The bed around him shifts, the covers jerking as someone moves next to him. Under him. Oh. Taemin squeezes his eyes shut harder, not even trying to think back yet, just waiting for the burst of adrenaline that will propel him out of this strangers bed and through the awkward few minutes until he can escape and find his way home.

It doesn’t come.

Instead it dawns on him, slow and bright and awful- He doesn’t want to move, he is warm and comfortable, feels safe right down to his fingertips and besides the headache starting to throb at his temples, the longer he’s awake, the better he feels. His cheek is smashed into the hard curve of a collarbone and nothing makes any sense at all so he freezes, feigning sleep to buy himself a few minutes.

After fighting down his pounding heart, he takes stock of what he can. He’s wedged against someone’s side, his head heavy on their shoulder, an arm and a leg flung over their body, and the back of his brain chips in to suggest this is the most comfortable snuggle of his entire life.

“I can hear you breathing funny… Are you just gonna stay there?”

Oh fuck. Taemin jerks, biting his tongue and pushing his face further into the safety of the covers, incidentally nuzzling into the crook of this guy’s arm. That was the current plan, yeah.

He doesn’t recognize the voice, doesn’t recognize the blurry peeks he gets of the sheets and the room. He doesn’t recognize anything, except- oh. Athletic tape and pancake batter, hot plastic and wet grass and it’s surrounding him, thick and warm and permeating the entire bed, soaking into his skin in a way that makes him wonder if he’ll ever smell like just himself again.

“You’re not Sehun.” Taemin croaks, slowly retracting his limbs to lean back, his body moving clumsy and molasses slow compared to the way his mind is suddenly racing circles inside his skull.

“Yep, definitely not Sehun,”

Taemin doesn’t recognize his face either but it doesn’t matter, because he’s smiling but his face is soft with sleep, wide open and gentle and fuck, absolutely gorgeous.

He’s definitely staring, wide eyed and silent and something at the base of his skull is screaming at him to reply but he can’t, and Definitely-Not-Sehun just keeps smiling at him, so soft and easy it loops right back around to being painful.

“I’m Jongin,” he pauses for half a breath, furrowing his eyebrows. “I’m a beta and Sehun’s my roommate we’ve been friends for forever, I have three dogs Monggu Jjangu and Jjangah and I love them. I just moved in this weekend but I grew up here, I want to get into the dance program and I’m really hungry.”

Jongin smiles expectantly, his eyes squished up entirely and his lips stretching thin and Taemin feels frozen, except that’s not quite right because he’s warm, warm all the way through. Jongin’s hair is a mess over his forehead, tufted up and greasy and Taemin’s fingers itch to run through it and the impulse was so outrageous Taemin snorts out a high, nervous laugh.

Jongin laughs a little too, mirroring the way Taemin hunches in, and he can feel it rumble in his chest and everything snaps abruptly into focus, suddenly real. He’s sharply aware of the way his sweaty foot is pressed under Jongin’s knee, the way Jongin’s hand is spread across his shoulder blades with how he’s tucked under his arm.

“Anyways you’re Lee Taemin, you’re a sophomore in business, you’re in OLF with Minho-hyung and… and that’s really all I know right now, except, I guess all this means you’re my mate, too.”

Taemin doesn’t have a cell left in his body for confusion, the whole of him too busy vibrating with the sheer force of correctness at Jongin’s words, ringing through him viscerally in a way that should be impossible. You’re my mate. Yes, yes yes yes.

Yes.”

The sound of his own raspy voice startles him into finally locking eyes with Jongin and he’s not sure if Jongin’s eyes are just particularly expressive or what, but it’s like he can feel the tinge of concern bleed out of him, leaving him giddy.

“Yeah?” Jongin’s voice is a rasp too, but his is deep and the playful lilt of it feels like pure delight to Taemin, like the whole world is opening up between them on this shitty dorm mattress in a room that Taemin hasn’t even bothered to look around yet.

Taemin nods back, but he feels like wiggling, feels like running and laughing and kissing this boy exactly and so he shuffles up onto his knees, his bottom lip caught tight between his teeth as he reaches out to finally push his fingers through the mess of Jongin’s hair. 

“Is this… I just want to look,” Taemin says in a rush, pausing with his hand tight at the roots.

“It’s okay to touch.” Jongin says, peering up at Taemin with a tiny smile and arching to push into Taemin’s hand to demonstrate.

Jongin’s hair is thick and wavy-messy, dyed a soft brown that makes his skin glow and Taemin marvels at the pink of his palm against Jongin’s forehead, wrestles down the urge to plaster all of his skin against all of Jongin’s skin to see the difference more clearly. He feels unabashedly greedy, wants to know everything about him, Jongin, his mate. Right now that means sweeping up swollen sleepy eyes and wide chapped lips and the shadow of stubble along his dimpled chin.

The press of Jongin’s hand on his hip startles him, his gaze flicking down and seeing the way Jongin’s body is laid out under him and promptly snapping back to Jongin’s face because looking and not touching feels impossible right now, and he is not ready for that. Not before-

“We should talk and also eat,” Jongin says, looking pouty, “Then, more touching.”

Taemin feels his whole face crinkling into a grin and he finally combs his hand through Jongin’s hair. “Yeah, I was just thinking… I do have some questions?” In this little bubble it feels ridiculous, they are mates, nothing else matters, nothing else will matter in quite the same way for a long time. Maybe ever. Taemin feels an abrupt lurch of vertigo, the bubble vaporizing around him. He’s not at all ready to digest all the ways his life is about to be turned upside down.

Jongin sits up, the bed shifting under Taemin’s knees, and bringing a hand up to tuck Taemin’s bangs back, like their hair is some mutually agreed upon safe zone. He looks a little concerned, and Taemin isn’t used to being read this easily.

“Hey, Taemin, is it okay if I kiss you?”

Taemin’s head whips up, and he’s not sure when he decided to look at the holes in his jeans rather than Jongin but it feels like it was an age ago. It’s not what he was expecting, this isn’t how it goes when he pulls back from people and maybe… this is the good kind of upside down.

Taemin lurches forward, halfway through nodding his ‘yes’ and catches his bottom lip under Jongin’s nose. Taemin lets out a tiny whine from the back of his throat, because yeah, kissing Jongin’s nose is definitely great but he wants to taste his mouth, wants a taste of what they can be together, to make the hard parts of this easier.

Jongin huffs out a little laugh, rocking forward to keep them upright and bringing both hands up to grip at the tee shirt at Taemin’s waist and tipping his chin up to slot their mouths together properly.

Jongin’s lips feel hot against his, chapped rough and plush in a way that pushes a shiver down his spine. They move together slowly, each slow drag and part ratcheting the tightness in Taemin’s belly and he presses forward experimentally, but Jongin doesn’t budge, holding them upright.

Taemin eases up, whining against Jongin’s lips between little kisses until he feels Jongin huff out a breath. Jongin’s tongue sneaks out to swipe against Taemin’s lower lip and fuck if that doesn’t feel entirely electric, his whine dropping into a moan. It should be embarrassing but with the way Jongin’s fingers are digging, clutching at Taemin’s waist, he’s not worried. Taemin mirrors him, slicking up their kisses and easing his tongue into Jongin’s mouth, finally getting a proper taste of him and it’s morning breath stale but it’s so completely overpowered by just Jongin that he doesn’t think twice about deepening the kiss.

Jongin groans, pushing up against Taemin and he can feel the way Jongin’s bottom lip is plumping up with attention, pulls it between his teeth and bites. It’s not hard, just a little nip, but the pressure against his aching gums shoots straight to his dick, throbbing in his pants as they both suck in a startled gasp and spring apart.

“Fuck, sorry,” Taemin pants, folding his legs under to sit. “That was more than I thought, wow,”

Jongin’s eyes are even less than half-mast, and he’d look sleepy if not for the way they were glinting regardless, a flush deep over his cheeks, mouth parted and slick.

“Yeah me too,” Jongin says. “Sorry and wow.”

Taemin feels something new grip at his chest and squeeze, his heart so full to bursting he can’t do anything but laugh, tipping back to lean on his palms and giggling. Jongin’s answering smile is slow and captivating and there’s a sharp glint to it that catches Taemin’s attention before he bursts out laughing too, mouth open wide and eyes scrunched shut and loud.

-

“Wait so I didn’t even say anything?”

“Nope you just kind of,” Jongin tilts his head to the side, eyes wide “flopped, onto my bed and passed out.”

Taemin puts down his burrito, staring across the little table covered in their food, digging through his memories of the night before. He remembers following Sehun home, tripping over his feet and trailing after him all the way up to his dorm room, but that’s it. Nothing on the other side of the door.

“What about Sehun?”

Jongin snorts into his coke. “He was mostly relieved, to be honest. You didn’t come out and say anything, but he’s pretty quick with things like that, he’s good at reading people. Yesterday after the info fair he came home and worried about it all evening.”

“Oh, so he knew that he smelled- well, like you?”  Taemin asks, brows pinched together and stabbing his straw into the ice at the bottom of his cup.

“He guessed something like that, I mean, there’s a reason he’s rushing OLF,” Jongin says around a bite of food. “He’s cuddly as fuck, especially when he’s nervous, so he usually smells a bit like me.”

Taemin shoves his burrito in his face, humming in response and giving him a minute to think.

“It’s kind of cute, he’s like one of those dogs that thinks it’s still a puppy and keeps trying to climb into your lap even though it definitely won’t fit anymore.”

Taemin feels himself smiling, that sounded familiar. “There’s a beta in OLF who’s exactly the same way, Zitao? He’s like a gigantic kitty always trying to drape himself over you and curl up in your lap.”

Jongin smiles back, reaching over to pick at the chips in Taemin’s basket. “Well maybe they’ll hit it off and it’ll be like Odd Animal Couples.”

Taemin grins and leans back, glancing around the restaurant for the first time since they sat down. Being with Jongin was so different. The noisy clamor of lunchtime rush was easy to brush off, his focus firmly on Jongin as they talked. It had taken them a while to get out of Jongin’s room. They’d had to find Taemin’s socks and jacket and phone, decide it was probably okay for both of them to use Jongin’s toothbrush, pick a place to eat and walk to the bus stop. Which doesn’t seem like a lot but every single second felt weighted, full of something to learn about each other and how they fit together.

Like when they had finally hauled themselves out of bed and stretched to standing, Jongin had crowded up against Taemin’s back, bumping his lips against Taemin’s hair. “I’ve been wondering how tall you are, look, you’re perfect for leaning on.” Jongin smirked, resting his elbows on Taemin’s shoulders.

Or when they finally made it outside and Jongin bounced towards the cross walk, twirling lazily, his flip-flops catching on the cement and Taemin had to stop and just breathe for a moment because, right, Jongin was a dancer. Jongin was a dancer and his tight washed-out jeans were clinging to the perfect taper of his long legs that just screamed ballet and the longer he’d stood there and stared, the further his mind spun out these images of him dancing, of them dancing together. Taemin had to run to catch up, skipping over the curb, a little breathless. “I dance! I dance too, I’m on the hip hop team.”  Jongin’s face had twisted joyful and mischievous and he pulled his bottom lip in to bite before replying. “I… kinda already guessed, from the feel of your hamstrings.”

Taemin had yelped, reaching down to run his own hands over the backs of his thighs, mouth wide open and trying to arrange some words into it that didn’t have to do with the images flashing through his mind- Jongin’s hands curved over his thighs, squeezing, feeling the swell of muscle. Jongin just cackled, chin tucked back and eyes squished up, and that was quickly becoming a sound Taemin wanted close to him always.

“Hey, Jongin, wasn’t it weird, last night? We didn’t even get to introduce ourselves before I just passed out on you.” Taemin asks, watching Jongin’s face.

Jongin shrugs, fingers creeping towards the last bit of Taemin’s burrito. “I mean… it was surprising, it happened really fast,” Jongin flicks his eyes up to Taemin questioningly and Taemin nods, pushing his basket over. He got the feeling that Jongin will keep talking if he just let him.

“Thanks hyung.” Jongin chirps, and Taemin’s not at all sure if it’s sarcastic, but he’s scooping up the food and finishing it off before leaning back in his chair too. “It was kind of nice to be honest, I had a lot of time to think about it, get used to the idea that all this would be happening, now.”

Taemin hadn’t thought of that. “So you didn’t sleep at all? That’s… actually kind of creepy, not gonna lie.”

Jongin shoots him a crooked smile, eyes soft and a teensy bit embarrassed. “I did eventually for a few hours, I was just really excited to see you. With your eyes open.” Jongin paused, groaning, “That sounded creepy. Look, you’re my mate! I was just happy okay. I am happy.”

Taemin hides his grin behind a hand, smiling at Jongin. The longer he spent with him, the better he felt, the discomfort and uncertainties fading steadily with each new thing he learned about his new mate. They would be okay, they would be happy- more than happy.

“That’s nice but you’re not off the hook for watching me sleep all night.”

 

8.5 months later

Taemin can feel Jongin bouncing beside him, so fast it feels like his whole body is vibrating. Nervous?”

The bouncing includes his head for a few nods. “And excited. I want it to be perfect.”

“Perfect is for your ballet final next week, this is just for fun Jonginnie.”

They’re tucked against a wall backstage, watching the stream of techs and dancers rush around them. It’s the last dance showcase of the year, which is always biggest and boldest- like the dancers and choreographers have sucked up the newness of spring only to spit it back out again on stage.

“No not like that,” Jongin frowns, stilling his body for a moment to give his mind a chance to think. “I know I’ll do great, but I want it to be perfect for us, you know?”

Taemin nudges his shoulder against Jongin, leaning his weight onto him. “Yeah, I know.” It’s their first performance together, the first time they’ll be on the same stage and beyond that they have a breakout solo, just the two of them.

Hyoyeon, the choreographer and leader of the hip hop team, had been beyond thrilled when Taemin had hauled Jongin down for try-outs last fall. Jongin had whined, clinging to Taemin until the last second, trying to insist that he didn’t know how to dance this way, that his training was all classical and he couldn’t move like Taemin did.

Only after Taemin pressed play on Jongin’s track, pushing him into the circle and calling “Then don’t try to, just do whatever feels right!” did he seem to get it.  This wasn’t the kind of dance he had to perfect, had to spend hours upon hours polishing each facet of every movement. That he could split open his chest and let his body move, make mistakes, and keep moving.

He’d become a fast favorite for Hyoyeon and Yixing’s side project, and their last competition had seen the three of them front and center for a piece that Taemin’s convinced tipped them into first place. Jongin had to borrow clothes from Luhan and Yixing for the part, and had spent a few days whining to Taemin about how the bulky sneakers inhibited his movement, and how it was dumb to focus on trying to keep a useless hat on your head while dancing, and why did he have to wear just one glove? Once he was up there though… moving with and against Yixing and Hyoyeon, all three of them oozing sex and precision and intensity, you would never know that Jongin hadn’t spent his dance career perfecting those body rolls.

Now it was Taemin’s turn to dance with him, to split the spotlight between the two of them and show off everything they could be together. Taemin reaches out, grabbing at the waist of Jongin’s gauzy black sweater and tipping his chin up to smile at him, wide and bright and he can feel Jongin relax, next to him and under his hand.

“I love you.” Jongin’s voice sounds small but steady and Taemin leans into him, shifting under the stiffness of his leather jacket.

Jongin bends down to press his lips against Taemin’s messy hair, exhaling a giant puff of hot air against his scalp that sends an excited swoop through Taemin’s chest.

“Come on pretty boys, you’re on standby in ninety seconds, get over there!” Hyoyeon’s voice grabs both of their attention as she hustles by, catching both of them in her wake as they move into position in the wings of the stage. Taemin can hear the last group’s music fade, replaced by raucous applause, but all he can think about is Jongin.

Time always seems to get mushy on stage, and Taemin is not quite surprised when they are signaled onto the stage what feels like a heartbeat later. Taemin can barely take his eyes of Jongin to look at the crowd, just enough to notice the OLF banners near the front and feel his heart surge with warmth for his brothers, but then the lights are coming on and the music is starting and it’s just pure Jongin filling up his brain from there.

Taemin twists and dodges around him, moves with him, with the beat of the music and the sound of their hearts. Jongin’s heartbeat is louder in his ear than his own, and Taemin’s pretty sure he can feel the tension coiling in Jongin’s body before he springs into motion and it’s addictive, it’s such a rush because they are moving perfectly, in-synch in a way that is accessible only to mates. It’s as good as the throbbing push-pull of sex, as good as the bone tired satisfaction after a pack run, better than passing out after your last final for the semester. Taemin doesn’t want it to end, but it does, and he follows Jongin’s lead into a short bow as their music dies.

His chest is heaving, everything lit up to maximum inside and the crowd is yelling, shouting and it’s all for them. Taemin reaches out to tangle his fingers in Jongin’s, soaking it up under the hot stage lights. He catches sight of the small group of his brothers just in time to watch Jongdae climb onto his seat, hands cupped around his mouth and positively scream, “I LOVE YOU!!!” at the stage, triggering a swell of laughter and more shouting. Taemin’s chest feels tight to bursting and when he manages to catch Jongin’s hot gaze, he’s fairly sure it does.

-

It’s been building for a long time now, this impatient itch under Taemin’s skin, making him sensitive and antsy, liable to shrug out of touches he would normally lean in to, liable to snap at jokes that would normally send him into giggles. He knows he’s been working his way up to a rut, he can feel it physically rising in his body, but his reactions still feel unpredictable even to himself. It’s probably so obvious and it’s uncomfortable, being that easy to read.

The OLF house is already loud with the sounds of the post-showcase party when Taemin arrives with Jongin, having slipped away for some space, some food, some privacy to touch and kiss and laugh. Taemin feels buzzed already, tight under his skin from the high of performing and the thrill of pulling Jongin into every alley and alcove he could on the walk back home. Jongin looks like a dream- his hair is soft and messy, eyes smudged with the remnants of their stage make-up and mouth kiss swollen. Taemin’s guessing he looks about the same, with how Jongin’s eyes keep snapping to his, hot and lingering.

“Ready?” Taemin asks, hand on the doorknob.

Jongin’s eyebrows dip down in a weird smile, his eyes shining a little sharper. “Ready.”

Their hopes of darting upstairs unseen are crushed the second they open the door, greeted by a swell of cheers. Minho bounds to them, a wide grin taking over his face, and pulls them both into a hug while Yixing starts up a chorus of “TAEKAI TAEKAI! TAEKAI!” Yixing’s got a drink in each hand, shirtless as usual and eyes squished up happily. 

“You guys took forever, we’ve been waiting for you!” Minho beams, pulling Jongin back against him when he tries to wiggle out of Minho’s grip. Jongin was like an honorary brother here, for how much time he spent in the house.

“Clearly you didn’t wait for us!” Taemin says around a sharp grin, jerking his chin to the living room. The back of the room is taken up by a beer pong table, a game well underway, while the rest of it is divided between groups of bodies drinking and dancing and snuggling. 

Minho doesn’t bat an eye, letting Jongin wiggle away towards the kitchen and steering Taemin towards the game. “Let’s get our man of the night up to bat, he’s got the winner!”

Taemin’s not even sure he wants to play, but there’s a hungry, competitive clench in his gut, and then Minho is shoving a double of… something, under his nose and planting him near the table just in time to see a girl with sharp eyes and long, long hair sink her opponents’ last cup, the ball plopping neatly in. Okay so he’s playing.

He recognizes her partner as Heeyeon, who screeches in victory and jumps up to koala bear onto her partner and kiss her soundly in celebration. Heeyeon is a year above him, and a member of their sister sorority Zeta Nu. They mostly saw each other at parties, and Taemin vaguely remembers kissing her at some point last year. She’s an omega and they’d tried to hang out a few times, but it wasn’t a good fit and they didn’t push it.

“That was a great shot.” Taemin calls to them, smiling at Heeyeon.

Heeyeon stays put for a second, pouting, before her partner gives her butt a little smack and she slides down. They’re both smiling, and Taemin wanders over, close enough to learn that Heeyeon’s partner, no, girlfriend -with how their scents are mingled but not bonded- is an alpha too.

“Thanks, you’re up next right. According to Minho? I’m Hyojin.” She has an arm wrapped around Heeyeon’s waist, fingers tucking into the tiny pockets of Heeyeon’s equally tiny shorts.

“He’s Lee Taemin, pretty alright shot if I remember correctly.” Heeyeon says, tipping her head onto Hyojin’s shoulder and blinking menacingly.

“If you don’t mind me butting in, yeah.” Taemin says, nodding to Heeyeon with a pinched smile.

“Sure, who’s your partner?” Hyojin shrugs, eyebrows jogging up in question.

Oh. Right. Jongin doesn’t like playing pong, but it makes Taemin wonder where he is anyways. Before he can go looking, Taemin feels someone tall and warm press up to his side.

It’s Zitao, tucking his chin over Taemin’s shoulder and sneaking fingers around Taemin’s waist. The heavy warmth feels nice, but it’s ratcheting up the antsy feeling under his skin by the second. He’s still not used to the way Zitao’s scent changed when he mated, even if the hints of Sehun were familiar by then.

“Why don’t we play mixed teams?” Zitao is cooing, flashing shiny teeth at Heeyeon and Hyojin and Taemin can feel him wiggling with anticipation.

“Done, you’re with me.” Hyojin says, straightening and pointing to Zitao.

Taemin whips his head around to watch Zitao’s grin bloom, walking around Taemin towards Hyojin. Something about it sets his teeth on edge, they didn’t even ask him.

Heeyeon pulls a face but untangles herself from Hyojin with a sigh, sauntering over to Taemin and leading him to their side of the table to set up.

They make easy small talk, Heeyeon’s gaze flicking back across the table every few seconds. It’s fine because Taemin’s attention is fixed on Luhan, who is loitering around the speakers, clutching his phone and that can’t be a good sign. Ever since Minseok graduated last year, Luhan has taken to emotional unveilings of his projects. Sure enough a few minutes later he pounces on the aux chord, yanking it out with a loud crackle and clearing his throat. Taemin turns to face him, his mouth curling already.

“What’s he doing?” Jongin’s voice over his shoulder feels like a missing piece slipping into place and Taemin reaches back, pulling Jongin up behind him.

“Shhh, just wait.”

Luhan looks significantly drunk, jacket tossed off his shoulders and flushed bright. His eyes flit around until he must deem them ready, and he shouts out “Alright, if you’re a brother or you’re a wolf, this is for you!” and presses play.

The speakers rattle with the howl that rips through them, setting the hairs on the back of Taemin’s neck standing straight, and he recognizes it as Minseok’s call. It fades and is joined by a wobbly flute melody and chimes, but then the beat drops and Junmyeon’s low growl rumbles over it, and it all goes to hell.

By the end of the track, Taemin feels like he has lived several lives. He has experienced things he never thought possible. He’s electrified and exhausted and distinctly emotional. Jongin is pressed up tight behind him, their combined scent helping to ground him at least a little.

He wants to get out of here, sneak upstairs with Jongin and get him naked. He ducks his chin back and says so.

“Don’t you have to finish your game?” Jongin chuckles, leaning in to blow hot air against his temple.

Taemin looks back to the table, it’s set and everyone looks ready. From across the room he sees Sehun and Sungjoo making their way towards the table, weaving between people. Taemin untangles from Jongin enough to wave him over.

As they get closer the giant obnoxious text on Sehun’s tank top becomes readable and Taemin lets out a bark of laughter. BETAS DO IT BETTER. Since even before Sehun and Zitao bonded, Sehun has been enthusiastic about ensuring the population at large that he is more than satisfied with his beta mate.

Nice shirt,” Taemin says, eyebrows twitching up.

“You’d know, wouldn’t you.” Sehun snaps back, but it’s not unfriendly, his gaze resting over Taemin’s shoulder where Jongin is hovering.

Taemin grins wide enough to show off all his teeth, you know, that sounded nice. “I’d like to know, now that you mention it. Want to step in for me on this game?”

Taemin feels distinctly bulletproof, just barely buzzed and on the brink of a rut and surrounded by pack, and the weight of his words seem to fall on everyone but him.

Sehun’s face is screwing up in confused smile, caught between sputtering and grinning.

From across the table Zitao chimes in. “I’d understand if you didn’t want to, babe. House rules are ‘betas blow’, and I know how much you hate playing at a disadvantage.” Zitao’s grin turns sharp.

Taemin watches Sehun march up to Heeyeon, glaring across the table, muttering about omega solidarity.

“Thanks Sehunnie,” Taemin chuckles out, already grabbing Jongin’s hand and pulling him away.

“No shit, you have a lot to thank me for you know, I brought you two together.”

-

By the time Taemin has his bedroom door closed behind them the thought has filled up his entire brain. He crowds Jongin up against the door, catching the jut of his hipbones in his hands and the places they are pressed together feel so electric already Taemin has to remember to breathe. He’s bottomed before, but never with Jongin, and the idea of it has him dizzy, his rut tipping over to pour into him fully now.

The realization that he’s been having sex with Jongin for months and he never thought to do this feels absurd to the point of insanity right now, he wants Jongin in him so badly.

Taemin gets on tip toes, pushing his face into Jongin’s and breathes, sucks in shaky breaths and tries to put words into his mouth around the tension surrounding every movement, the lust choking him up fast. “Jonginnie…”

Jongin lets out a little whine, warm hands coming to push at Taemin’s shirt, slipping under to splay across his skin. It’s not helping him focus.

Taemin growls, eyeing the thick pout of Jongin’s bottom lip and he dips in to catch it between his teeth and bites. It’s so fucking familiar by now, the way he can feel Jongin’s spine melt, his bones boiling into nothing and leaving him soft and pliable. Taemin slips his tongue across Jongin’s lip, still pinched tight, before letting it bounce back and following it to seal their mouths together properly. He’s aching, throbbing, they both are and it loops between them desperately.

Jongin’s kissing sloppily, getting everything messy wet, his tongue fucking into Taemin’s mouth to trace at his teeth and palate. It feels like intention, right in his mouth, so good he can taste it. Every little spark and stab of pleasure is trickling down Taemin’s spine, steadily building up, and then Jongin’s hands find his ass he pulls away with gasp. Jongin grinds them together slow and hard, rolling his body up against Taemin’s and it’s straight out of the dance practice room.

“Can I suck you off? Do you want.. ?” Taemin pants out, his fingertips tracing along the line of Jongin’s pants and dipping into the little valleys along his tummy.

Jongin’s eyes are shining dark, fixed on Taemin. “Is this a trick question.”

Taemin pants out a laugh, but he catches Jongin’s meaning, fingers busy opening Jongin’s pants and pushing them down. “No, I didn’t really know until now but I meant it. Want you to fuck me.”

Saying it out loud sends a shiver racking through him, so hard his shoulders jerk with it and Jongin just laughs, hands coming up to steady him and then help strip out of his pants.

“Because of your rut?”

Taemin is wrestling with his hoodie, exasperated. “No. Maybe. I don’t care if it is, do you?”

Jongin’s eyebrows pinch together, looking all conflicted and serious and Taemin’s heart lurches.

“No, so long as it’s not gonna be…” Jongin bites at his lip, “a one-time thing, me doing you.”

Taemin’s smiling so wide his cheeks feel funny. “Pretty confident you can handle it then?”

Jongin’s mouth splits into a mirrored grin and he huffs, reaching out to grip Taemin’s shoulder and at first it’s just warm but then it gets heavy, and Taemin catches on, sinking to his knees. This position is unfamiliar to Taemin, for how often and easily Jongin gets on his knees for him.

“You ready?” Taemin winks, his hands coming up to pet through the soft hairs covering Jongin’s thighs.

Jongin’s smile has melted with his breath, eyes fixed hard on Taemin and hands still brushing around Taemin’s shoulders. “Ready.”

Even if the position is new, the act is anything but, and Taemin finds his mouth flooding already, eager to lean forward and catch the tip of Jongin’s dick between his lips. It’s cool, salty, and smooth against his lips and Taemin’s stomach swoops in anticipation.

He loves this. Loves taking Jongin apart with his mouth, and the fact that Jongin’s dick is perfect to the point of being obnoxious doesn’t hurt either. His hands are still enjoying raking up and down Jongin’s thighs, feeling the tick and tremble of tense muscle, so he angles his head to the side, licking up Jongin’s dick, following it as it jumps and twitches under the attention, quickly filling to throbbing.

Taemin savors the first stretch of his jaw, goes slow, easing his mouth open just enough to fit each inch of Jongin inside. Jongin’s so worked up even the slow gentle stretch of Taemin’s lips around him are enough to have him biting back moans, and Taemin knows this part will be over before it’s even really begun.

Taemin sucks in a cold breath through his mouth, smiling as Jongin yelps, jerking back, before Taemin closes his mouth fully and sucks, hard.

“Ohhh fuck, do that again, please Taeminnie, please,” Jongin suddenly gasps out, hands pulling through Taemin’s hair.

Taemin just hums, leaning in further and working up to an easy rhythm, sucking and swiping and he can feel the puddle of pre-come Jongin is leaking onto his tongue. It’s so heady, salty and so full of the taste of mate it has his head swimming.

Jongin is letting out these pained little pants, clenching every muscle and shaking with the strain of it. He’s trying not to come, and Taemin feels affection flood through him. He tightens up the grip of his hands, clawing at the back of Jongin’s thighs and works over him quicker, flicking his tongue harder along Jongin’s ridge. It’s okay, this is just the start, you can come now, it’s okay.

Taemin can feel the tension melt out of Jongin before the first pulses of his orgasm have him shaking again, hunching over and clutching desperately at Taemin. It’s hot and thick in his mouth, overwhelming with how he can feel the way Jongin’s dick pulsing, so, so hard on his tongue. They both moan through it, savoring the release.

Taemin focuses on the rich taste of mate filling his mouth and swallows with a wince. It’s a texture thing. Taemin pushes up to his feet, plastering himself to Jongin’s sweaty chest and catching his lips in a kiss. Jongin’s panting into it, lips so clumsy and slow against his that Taemin lets out a giggle.

“Good?”

“Intense. But really good, yeah, fast” Jongin manages, and Taemin tucks close. He’s hungry, desperate for something he doesn’t know how to describe yet, but he’s waited this long, he can wait for Jongin to catch his breath.

“Think you can get it up again?” Okay maybe he can’t wait.

Jongin huffs out a laugh, tumbling them towards the soft sanctuary of Taemin’s bed and flopping onto it, making the frame squeal in protest.

Taemin pulls off the last of his clothes and nuzzles back into Jongin’s warmth.

“I don’t think it even went down.” Jongin hums, propping himself up to peer down at his dick. Sure enough, it’s resting firmly in chub territory, listing towards Jongin’s hip.

“It knows what’s coming.” Taemin says, forcing his face into something serious.

Jongin just nods along, eyes wide and Taemin watches Jongin’s dick twitch fondly.

“Ready?”

Jongin sits up, gaze hot on Taemin again and it’s like all the sleepy softness sublimated right out of him and he’s right back to desperate, reaching out to wrap his fingers around Taemin’s wrist. “Yeah, ready.”

Jongin finds the lube they keep tucked between Taemin’s mattress and the wall easily, palming the tube and shifting to his knees.

“Do you want me to?” Jongin asks, his mouth pursed.

Taemin hadn’t thought of that, and he glances to Jongin’s hands. His own hands are small, and Jongin’s fingers look delightfully long, delicate and perfect and Taemin finds he very much wants him inside him, now.

You do it, I want you to do it.” Taemin says, turning to grab at the pillows, shoving a thick fluffy one under his ass and settling back to spread his legs open wide and reach down to press his palm against the angry throb of his dick, wanting something, anything to take the edge off. The base of his dick is aching, the very beginnings of his knot forming already and Taemin gets his hand around the swollen shaft, squeezing tight.

Jongin doesn’t move, he's just staring, peering down between Taemin’s legs and Taemin sits up, grabbing his arm and hauling him to sit between his legs. “I want you to do it.” he says again, softer this time.

Thank fuck that seems to do the trick, because before Taemin can even settle back, Jongin is slicking up his fingers and tucking his lip between his teeth, sliding closer, bringing his dry hand to pass over Taemin’s thighs, nudging them apart and up.

The first touch is cold and wet, a slimy path down the seam of his balls and over his perineum. Jongin’s fingertips are soft, and it doesn’t take long for their warmth to bleed through the lube. Jongin takes his time trailing his fingers around Taemin’s entrance, teasing around the ring of muscle, pushing just enough to have him twitching around nothing at all and huffing in impatience. The look on Jongin’s face stops him from saying anything though. He looks transfixed, curious and amazed and heart-stoppingly tender.

Soon enough, Jongin is pressing a finger in and it’s so different than his own, he has no reference. No concept of what is happening because it feels so much bigger than it is, and it has him gasping, reaching out, clutching onto Jongin’s other hand.

“Okay?”

“Fuck, yeah, it’s just more than I thought, wow.” Taemin breathes out, shifting his hips around and orienting himself to the fact that Jongin is inside him. It makes his heart pound, leaping at his throat and he nods under Jongin’s watchful gaze to continue when he’s ready for more.

The next few fingers came easier, like Taemin’s body is finally starting to recognize Jongin’s intrusions, like the more of Jongin he gets inside, the tighter their bond strings them together. Taemin felt dizzy with it, already lost in the push-pull of Jongin rocking his hand against him, three fingers deep and pressed tight against his prostate.

“Want you to fuck me, please, want you inside me,” Taemin moans out, his voice high and straining.

Jongin snatches his fingers away like he’d been waiting desperately for permission, fumbling for the lube and shuffling closer. “Like this?”

“No, let me do it first, then you can,” Taemin sits up, wincing at the tight aching throb of being opened up and left empty. His dick is drooling steadily, leaving little puddles of pre-come all over his tummy and his heart feels like it’s tripping over itself as he sits up, shuffling over to make space for Jongin to lie down.

It still catches him off guard sometimes, how fucking gorgeous Jongin is, and Taemin freezes, his breath caught up in his throat as he takes in his mate. His skin is flushed golden and glowing, Taemin’s eyes tracing the soft curves of the muscles wrapped tight to his frame, the gentle slope of his stomach, the line of dark hairs leading down to a soft crop of them. Jongin’s blinking up at him, quiet and owlish and colored so obviously desperately in love it makes something that feels like a sob push itself out of Taemin’s chest, raw and burning hot and Taemin just tips forward, latching onto Jongin’s lips to pour it out between them.

Jongin’s dick is slick, sliding between his cheeks and it feels better than Taemin thinks it has any right to. He grinds back, down, chasing after the hot hardness and making Jongin twitch and buck under him, groaning.

“Okay, alright, ready?” Taemin asks, wiggling distractingly.

“Tae-min -hah- yes, ready, please.” Jongin grits out, trying to still his hips.

Taemin just smiles, smiles and doesn't stop even once. Not when the stretch of sinking down on Jongin gets to be too much, not when he’s stuffed so full he feels like crying, but instead lowers himself onto Jongin’s chest to wait for the burn to fade, and definitely not once he starts moving, rocking and thrusting his hips back onto Jongin.

It feels like a revelation, each tiny rock and slide of Jongin’s dick inside of him is something to be cherished and copied down in gold, each discovery delightful and arresting and worth repeating at least ten dozen times just to be sure.

Finding his prostate is easy like this and Taemin works it until he feels like exploding, until he can barely breathe and his arms are shaking, his legs are shaking, everything is shaking in time to the high tremble of pleasure pouring through him.

Jongin’s first thrust stops him up short, choking on the newness of it because right he doesn’t have to do all the work. He can flip them and let Jongin roll and roll and roll his hips up into him forever and ever.

Taemin’s not sure he meant to say that out loud but Jongin is huffing with laughter, hands coming up to grip at Taemin’s hips and planting his feet flat so he can pump up and grind Taemin down but it has him shouting, so it’s probably fine. The pleasure punching through him is violent and electric, more than he can possibly hold on to so he relaxes into it, letting it pour through him and out again.

“Holy fuck, again, please again,” Taemin chokes on the words, hands skittering over Jongin’s shoulders and arms, flexed tight with how hard he’s latched onto Taemin’s hips. Maybe he will have bruises. He hopes he will have bruises.

“Can I go on top now?” Jongin asks, jaw clenched tight and still grinding up into Taemin, working his hips in tight circles.

Taemin sobs out a “Yes, fuck yes.” and the next thing he knows his head’s hitting the pillow, his whole body feels dizzy, blurry around the edges and throbbing so hard it’s approaching painful.

“Make me come,” Taemin grits out between riding out the slow, heavy waves of pleasure that mirror the rhythm Jongin seems to be setting. Taemin gets a hand curled tight over Jongin’s forearm. He’s ready to come.

“Okay, okay, yes,” Jongin says, snapping his hips hard on the next thrust, hard enough to have Taemin jerking up the bed, his mind wiped white hot with the force of it. And then again, and again and again, until he can’t tell if Jongin is speeding up or if it’s possible his nerves are melting out of his body because there’s no way this much is even possible, and then he’s coming. It’s such a relief, this moment of pure tension somehow relieving all of the strain in his whole body, leaving him boneless.

Jongin is hunched over him, head dropped heavy and sweat slipping over his skin steadily, caging him in. Taemin needs something to bite down on, he can feel the way his gums are throbbing, itching with the urge, and he doesn’t think about it, just turns his face to the inside of Jongin’s bicep and nuzzles into the soft velvety skin. Jongin gasps, like maybe he knows what’s coming even if Taemin doesn’t, when Taemin lolls his tongue out to feel the pulse in Jongin’s arm, grazing his teeth over the skin and finding the patch he wants. Jongin snaps his hips brutally, fucking into him and Taemin bites down, teeth slipping over the curve of Jongin’s bicep and sinking deep.

It’s instantaneous, the way Jongin’s body snaps tight, slamming into Taemin as deep as he possibly can, and he’s pouring everything out into Taemin, the strain of it making him tremble. Taemin’s awareness latches on to the feeling of it, the way he can feel Jongin’s dick kicking inside him with each pulse of semen, making everything so hot and wet.

Jongin’s breathing hard, eyes screwed shut and when he collapses onto Taemin’s chest, he can feel the thunder of his heartbeat against his own.

“Wow.” Jongin manages, clumsily tucking his elbows out of the way so Taemin can bring his arms up, wrapping around Jongin’s head.

“Yeah, wow.” Taemin rasps, his voice hoarse. When he closes his mouth he can taste a tinge of blood on his tongue and it has his ears ringing suddenly, whipping his head around to look at Jongin’s bicep. There’s a high, trembling trepidation sitting in Taemin’s throat as he looks, sees, yeah, two sets of small teeth marks, smeared and messy with blood.

“Fuck, I bit you.” Taemin wiggles under Jongin’s weight, trying to sit up, wanting to assure himself the bleeding has stopped, wanting to clean up the streaks of drying blood. Jongin just grunts, opening his eyes to peer down at him.

By nature they don’t scar easily, skin just the slightest bit better at knitting back together than humans, but a bite from a mate- one that draws blood, is different. It has history and meaning and it’s steeped in a kind of old school rhetoric that Taemin avoids. This mark will scar.

“How’s it feel?” Jongin’s voice is deep and smooth, more calm than Taemin feels by a long shot.

“Shouldn’t I ask you that? You’re bleeding.” Taemin snaps back. Jongin doesn’t reply, but pulls in a slow breath and waits.

Taemin mirrors Jongin’s breathing instinctually, and after a few moments he feels better. “Okay, sorry,” Taemin starts, pushing his face into the sweaty crook of Jongin’s neck. “I feel bad we didn’t talk about it first. It’s not… something I wanted to just, take.”

Jongin hums.

“I guess I thought, if we did decide to… do it, we could do it together. Both of us, I mean.”

“It’s not too late.” Jongin says, sitting up abruptly with a grin and grabbing Taemin’s hand, bringing it to his mouth, open comically wide.

Taemin bursts into laughter, his heart surging with ten different kinds of relief, wiggling as Jongin begins gnawing at his thumb, then moves to nibble over the pads of his fingers.

As Taemin’s laughter fizzes out, his chest feels full to bursting, excitement and anticipation pulling at his ribs. “Is this really okay?” he asks, quiet and low.

Jongin pauses in his teething of Taemin’s wrist and sits back, thinking. With his arms at his side the mark isn’t visible, but he lifts his right arm out, peering down curiously. Something clenches tight in Taemin’s gut, coiling with satisfaction because it looks good, it feels right, even if Taemin knows it might not be, not yet, not if Jongin doesn’t want this.

“Yeah, I like it, a lot actually.” Jongin says, smile a little shy as he brushes his fingers over the little nicks, brushing away the last sluggish drops of blood.

Taemin lets out a breath with a whoosh, scrambling up to press himself onto Jongin’s chest. He’s leaking semen everywhere, smearing over both of their legs and the sheets but it’s beyond inconsequential. Taemin feels thankful right down to his bones, leans into Jongin and whispers it to him a few times.

“Can I pick where yours is?” Jongin asks, shifting them to lie back down.

Taemin’s freezes, mind catching over the thought of Jongin’s mark on his skin, imagining it on his wrist, on his neck, his shoulder. He imagines walking through his life with Jongin’s mark out where anyone, everyone could see it. It’s terrifying, the way any scrap of hesitation gets vaporized with the heat curling down his spine. “Yeah, where ever you want, yeah-“

Jongin smiles, bright and wide and Taemin watches with something like awe as his canines sharpen, sliding into points and sending a shiver wracking through him. Jongin takes his time, brings Taemin’s wrist to his mouth to lick and suck and kiss, then the inside of his elbow, then the crook of his neck, then leaning back to scrape his teeth over the nape. It has Taemin on edge, vibrating and jumping with each little suck and bite Jongin leaves over his skin.

He’s impatient, nerves strung tight with the knowledge that one of these spots will be the spot, but he won’t know until it’s too late, until Jongin’s teeth are in him and it has him dizzy.

Jongin’s nosing over his hip bone, making the muscles of his tummy jump with every little brush, bordering on ticklish and he reaches out, grabbing for one of Jongin’s hands to anchor him. Jongin’s hand is warm, trembling in his grip and Taemin realizes with a start that they are both in the dark. They are both waiting for the right moment, not knowing when it will come.

“I love you.” It comes bursting out of Taemin’s chest, his voice cracking and harsh and he doesn’t give a fuck because it’s honest that way.

Jongin squeezes his hand, hauling in a breath and moving to push Taemin’s right leg up, exposing the back of his thigh and his ass. He’s still leaking and the stretch has something new and deep inside him aching painfully.

The moment Jongin’s breath hits the skin of Taemin’s inner thigh he knows, this is it, he can feel it in the way Jongin sucks in a breath, his hand steadying abruptly where their fingers are still tangled together. Knows it in the way his entire existence shifts and tilts over that small patch of skin, dusted with hairs and the perfect mirror to Jongin’s own mark.

“Ready?”

“Yeah, ready.”