Hello folks!! (^3~))
Yes, your favorite golden_Cgull is back. I know it’s been a while since I posted, but I got sucked into…yep, you guessed it, another dating sim: Forever Young (available on Steam for 28,000 won)!
I stumbled across the free trial on Steam while I was checking updates for a few of my old favs and fell for one of the love interests immediately. Of course I ended up downloading the full version (yes my wallet is crying, shut up I already know all about my poor life choices OTL).
The game is set at KKT University, where you (a sophomore with a prelim parameter choice between being a dance or music major) have 16 weeks to win over the guy of your dreams. Will it be the grumpy childhood friend? The mischievous roommate? The comedic dance hyung? The awkward tutor? The friendly classmate? Or…the über-super-mega-gorgeous-cinnamon roll-but-still-totally-dom TA?
There’s not a bad-looking character in the game, but let me tell you: Kim Seokjin is where it’s at. This guy’s storyline is no walk in the park though, so I decided to do y’alls a solid and write up a walk-through for Seokjin so you don’t waste an entire semester pining after the guy (like absolutely nobody I know *cough cough*).
But on to the game…
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead!!]
WEEK 0 (INTRO) | Performing Arts Building Café
“I can’t help but notice you’re signed up for Developmental Psych.”
It’s not phrased like a question, but Jeongguk can practically read the okay, so what’s the BS this time? subtext floating in the air between them. Clearly, Yoongi does not approve of Jeongguk’s life choices.
“Understanding human psychology is critical to producing good music, hyung,” Jeongguk says primly, because Jeongguk’s nearly as salty as Yoongi and a little shit on top of that.
“But Developmental Psych.”
“The youth market is huge. Look at how well those They Might Be Giants albums sold. It’s an untapped goldmine.”
“Jeongguk, you do EDM.”
“What, and babies can’t appreciate a good beat drop?”
The slightly tight look on Yoongi’s face suggests that he’s struggling to count to ten inside his head. Jeongguk takes advantage of the lull in conversation to toss back the sugary dregs of his iced coffee. It’s only quarter to nine in the morning, an unholy hour for a Saturday—normally he wouldn’t be up for another two hours at least, like any self-respecting college student. The deserted state of the small café tucked into the lobby of the Performing Arts Building seems to confirm this: with the exception of himself, Yoongi, and the student barista practically napping over the cash register, it’s completely deserted.
Eventually Yoongi sighs, pulling his glasses off to massage the red indents on either side of his nose. Yoongi’s even less of a morning person than Jeongguk, and he looks tired, bluish bags under his eyes and a sag to his shoulders even though the double-shot cappuccino sitting on the small table in front of him is his third of the morning. He probably pulled all-nighter rather than face the misery of waking up early for their 8:30 am meeting. Jeongguk should appreciate him more, considering most graduate peer advisors wouldn’t put up with their advisees talking to them this informally. But Jeongguk’s known Min Yoongi since long before Yoongi was assigned to be his advisor, and old habits die hard.
“I’m not even going to try to talk you out of this one, it’ll fulfill your last science requirement anyway. But don’t think I’m not on to you,” Yoongi warns. “If you end up bombing this class because you’re only there to stare at the TA, it’ll be all on you.”
Jeongguk scoffs. “The TA? What TA? I don’t even know who’s TAing that class.”
The single eyebrow Yoongi raises is heavy with judgment. “Right. I completely believe you are the one person on campus who doesn’t know that Kim Seokjin is TAing Developmental Psych this semester,” he says. “Nothing suspicious about that.”
“Why would I be interested in Kim Seokjin?” Jeongguk widens his eyes and puffs out his cheeks in faux earnestness. “I’m here for the joy of learning .”
“Let’s just thank god you aren’t majoring in drama, because that aegyo was truly revolting,” Yoongi says in a pained voice. “You can’t blame me for asking. You’ve never shown any interest in psychology before.”
Jeongguk shrugs. “Like you said, I have to take a science class. It looked interesting.”
“And you’re seriously not just taking it because the TA’s hot?”
“Hyung, for fuck’s sake.”
“Fine, fine, I believe you. Just don’t swear in here, the department chair’ll be up my ass in a minute if he hears you, Jesus.”
Yoongi takes a last swig from the coffee at his elbow, then gathers up Jeongguk’s paperwork and stuffs it into a folder neatly labeled, “Advising Shit For Brat.” And Yoongi wonders where Jeongguk picked up his colorful language.
“We still on for Thursday night?” Jeongguk asks as Yoongi stands. “Ramyun, Left 4 Dead, the usual?”
Yoongi’s sharp eyes soften a little. “Yeah. ‘Course.” He ruffles Jeongguk’s hair, though he has to stretch a bit to reach. “Stop growing already,” he grumbles, rocking back on his heels.
“Maybe you should try drinking strawberry milk, hyung,” Jeongguk deadpans. “Noona says it’ll help you grow. I’ll even buy some for you.”
“Don’t you fu— freakin’ dare. Just because I’ve known you since you wet the bed doesn’t mean I won’t end you.”
“Sure hyung. You’ll end me from all the way down there,” Jeongguk can’t help needling. It’s Yoongi’s fault really for bringing up the bedwetting. So what if Yoongi knows all of Jeongguk’s embarrassing childhood stories? Jeongguk knows that Yoongi nursed a pitiful ten-year crush on his oldest sister (only to crash and burn when Sooyoun returned home from her junior year of college engaged to some billionaire Canadian). “Should I bend down to make it easier?”
Yoongi punches Jeongguk hard on the arm, and damn, it actually hurts. He’s pretty strong considering he seems to subsist entirely on coffee and cantankerousness. “Ungrateful brat. See if I save your ass when you’re being overrun by zombies.”
Before they part ways in the lobby (Yoongi to his cubicle in the grad student dungeons and Jeongguk back home), Yoongi pauses and puts a hand on Jeongguk’s arm, gently patting the spot he’d just hit. “Seriously though,” he says gruffly, “it’s not cool to hit on your TA.”
“Why are you so stuck on this? Are you sure you’re not the one with a crush on him, hyung?”
“Of course not.” Yoongi snorts unattractively. “I’m just saying, it’s not cool.”
“Whatever.” Jeongguk shakes his wrist out of Yoongi’s grasp and turns towards the doors. “I’m not interested in him like that, hyung. It’s just a class.”
The facts are these:
- Jeongguk is not, in fact, interested in Kim Seokjin.
- Jeongguk doesn’t even know Kim Seokjin.
- It’s all Park Jimin’s fault.
WEEK -2 | Jeongguk’s and Jimin’s Apartment
“God, how is it fair for someone to look this good in glasses? He’s stunning.” Jimin sighs, tilting his head back against the side of Jeongguk’s bed. He’s on the floor because Jeongguk is the only one allowed on his bed and also because Jimin’s just come from dance practice and smells like wet dog. “Seriously stunning.”
Jeongguk hums, eyes glued to the screen of his Nintendo DS. It’s a little outdated, sure, but some of his favorite games are on it. Plus, there’s something special about handheld consoles that cellphone games just can’t replicate. Or maybe it’s nostalgia.
Either way, he only has a week until the new semester starts in earnest and until then it’ll take a lot more than Jimin (Jeongguk’s housemate, best friend, font of Bad Ideas™) sighing over some so-called “stunning” guy to distract him from his precious gaming time.
“Gukkie, are you listening?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Couldn’t Jimin’s romantic problems have waited until he got to the next save point? Was that really too much to ask? “Who’s stunning?
“Seokjin-ssi!” Jimin exclaims, waving his phone. Jeongguk squints at the picture onscreen, but all he can make out is a blurry Instagram photo of a guy in a pale pink shirt. “Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of him?”
“I guess.” Jeongguk shrugs. “He’s some grad student right?”
Jimin practically gasps in horror. “He’s just some grad student the way Yoo Ah In is just some actor. He’s the most gorgeous guy on campus. And he’s totally unattainable. I heard he turns down everyone. Even Kris-hyung, and he’s modeled for Burberry.”
Jeongguk snorts. “That doesn’t mean Kim Seokjin’s unattainable, just that he has standards. Kris is a pretentious asshole. I’d turn him down too.”
“You’re just bitter because Kris-hyung got the solo in last year’s showcase.”
“I’m bitter because he sucked.” Jeongguk grimaces as he thinks back to Kris’s terrible solo. So what if the guy’s 187 cm tall with the looks of a runway model? It hadn’t stopped him from flopping on the floor like a cross between a hung-over gorilla and dead fish. Kris had called it “interpretive modern dance.” Jeongguk called it bullshit. “Hobi-hyung should’ve gotten that solo. Even you would’ve been better.”
“Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Jimin rolls his eyes. “Anyway, the point is Seokjin-ssi is even more gorgeous Kris-hyung and he’s single.”
“Great, so ask him out. I fail to see what this has to do with me.”
“I’m not into him, jeez Kookie. I just appreciate him. Aesthetically. He’s like a painting. They should hang him in the Louvre.”
“Uh huh.” Jimin had said something similar about Wheein last semester, and Seulgi the semester before that. Don’t even get Jeongguk started on the horrible year Jimin spent pining over Hoseok. “Sure, hyung. And how many years has it been without a girlfriend again? Or a boyfriend?”
“Like you’re any better,” Jimin huffs, shoving at Jeongguk’s shoulder. Jeongguk wrinkles his nose. Even Jimin’s palms are sweaty. “When was the last time you went on a date with a non-virtual person?”
“I’ve got real world experience!” Jeongguk’s hooked up with a respectable number of people, and okay, so he doesn’t remember most of their names (or faces), but he does know that none of them ever complained.
“Yeah, somehow I don’t think your extensive history of one night stands is going to impress Seokjin-ssi.”
Jeongguk juts his chin out mulishly. “I bet I could get in his pants by the end of the semester.”
“Yeah right,” Jimin snorts. “Gonna sweep him off his feet with all that otome gaming experience of yours? If you even manage to score a date, I’ll take you out to barbeque and let you eat all the bulgogi you want.”
“Hey! I could date if I wanted,” Jeongguk absolutely does not whine. “I just don’t wanna. It’s boring.”
“Uh huh,” Jimin says, shooting Jeongguk a sly, sideways look. “I guess some things are impossible, even for the great Jeon Jeongguk…”
It’s not even a real flag—Jeongguk never turns down a bet, not even the incredibly stupid ones Jimin thinks up, like the time he bet Jeongguk couldn’t eat an entire bowl of spicy ramyun while standing on his head (turns out he can. It’s the keeping it down part that’s hard). There’s not a chance in hell or video games that he’ll say no.
But in retrospect, it’s the start of everything.
“I hope you’ve been saving up, hyung,” he says, “because I really like meat.”
“That’s what she said,” Jimin giggles in response, because he’s an actual 12-year-old. “Yeah, good luck Gukkie,” he continues, patronizing. “Put those grade-A wooing skills to use, or you’ll be doing my laundry for the rest of the year.”
Hmph. Just wait, Park Jimin, Jeongguk thinks. You’ll be eating your words before long.
WEEK 1 | Lecture Hall P501
By the time classes start the following week, Jimin’s talked Kim Seokjin up so much that Jeongguk’s sure he’ll be disappointed. The fact that Developmental Psychology is an early morning lecture that meets twice a week plus mandatory discussion section isn’t helping his case either.
Jeongguk’s barely settled in his seat at the back of the lecture hall when the professor (“Choi Ikje” according to the name written on the whiteboard) stands and calls the class to attention.
“Since the course is over-enrolled, we’ll be taking attendance today,” Professor Choi announces. He looks way too young and handsome to be teaching at a university, and Jeongguk thinks Kim Seokjin might not be the only reason the class is packed. “Only you lucky folks who made it to the first class will have the opportunity to sign up for discussion sections on the course website. Seokjin-ah?”
Jeongguk perks up at the name, straightening to get a better view of the front of the lecture hall. A guy in the front row is standing up with his back to the class, and Jeongguk’s first impression is shoulders. He’s got the perfect body, shoulders broad enough to double as an aircraft carrier tapering to an impossibly slender waist and endless legs. When he turns around… whoa. Jeongguk’s man enough to admit the guy really is stunning. He looks like he just stepped off the pages of GQ Korea. His face is a perfect, oval with stylish, burnt caramel-brown hair framing a stunning set of cheekbones and doe-like eyes. And those lips. They look soft and kind of shiny like he’s wearing lipgloss, but without any of the gross, fake-glittery stickyness that lipgloss usually imparts. He’s 10/10 would bang… er, date. For a bet. Jeongguk’s going to date him for a bet.
Seokjin clears his throat. “Hello, I’m Kim Seokjin, and I’ll be TAing for Professor Choi this semester. When I call your name, please raise your hand so I can mark you present.”
He starts calling names, going down the list in alphabetical order. Jeongguk knows the value of first impressions (let’s just say being attacked and killed by a flock of virtual pigeons leaves a lasting psychological mark) and, despite all appearances, he actually does have some respect for authority. But he’s also competitive as hell. So while the other students are responding with boring, respectful head bobs and “present’s,” Jeongguk’s got…other ideas.
Jeongguk leans back further in his seat and crosses his arms aggressively. Seokjin’s response will tell Jeongguk a lot about his type—is he a fiery kind of guy who’ll get pissed and make Jeongguk stand in the hall? Or is he an Ice Prince who’ll ignore it and freeze Jeongguk out? You never win the game by playing it safe, Jeongguk thinks. He lips his lips.
“Jeon Jeongguk?” Seokjin calls again from the front of the classroom, a small frown marring his face now as his looks out across the silent crowd of students. His pen hovers over the enrollment list, poised to mark Jeongguk absent.
“Yeah?” Jeongguk grunts. “What?”
Seokjin meets his gaze, and Jeongguk raises an eyebrow in challenge just to see what the TA will do. Seokjin’s frown deepens when Jeongguk fails to tack on the appropriate honorific, but he doesn’t comment, just continues on down the list. Well then. Ice Prince it is. (At least they made eye contact. It’s more than most of the other students in class can say, so take that Park Jimin.)
But that’s pretty much it for the rest of the first class. Seokjin seats himself in the first row on the left, and doesn’t speak again. Professor Choi just goes over the syllabus and drones a bit about the importance of Developmental Psychology and yeah, Jeongguk is officially bored. He slumps in his seat, shuffling so his phone is hidden from view behind the pile of notebooks and textbooks on his desk, and pulls up a new search tab.
Jeongguk has no trouble locating Seokjin on social media. He has a ton of followers, even though his posts on twitter and Instagram are pretty much exclusively selcas and pictures of food. It’s nothing unusual, but damn he photographs well. He even manages to look sexy with a roll of kimbap the size of a baby’s arm hanging out of his mouth. Jimin’s right. It really is kind of unfair.
Seokjin’s Facebook is friends-only, which is a bit disappointing but not surprising. Jeongguk considers the pros and cons of friending him, but decides that would be too creepy this early in the game. He’s just opening up one of the dating sims he has stored on his phone (he’s already played all the official endings, but he read online that there’s a hidden route if you start tutoring your next-door-neighbor’s little brother), when a text alert pops up on his screen.
Hobi hyung hyung \( ≧v≦ )/*)))
[Tues Aug 22, 9:24 am]
hey you coming to dance team practice today?
Perfect. Hoseok’s charm levels are off the charts, Jeongguk thinks. He’s friends with pretty much everyone on campus.
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Tues Aug 22, 9:25 am]
I’ll come if you give me your facebook password
Hobi hyung hyung \( ≧v≦ )/*)))
[Tues Aug 22, 9:25 am]
geez you brat
w/e sure it’s same as the old one, just add 321 on the end
who’re you stalking now
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Tues Aug 22, 9:26 am]
who says I’m stalking someone
Hobi hyung hyung \( ≧v≦ )/*)))
[Tues Aug 22, 9:26 am]
FFFF nice try
It’s seokjin-hyung isn’t it
a little bird told me you’ve got a crush Gukkie
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Tues Aug 22, 9:26 am]
…Jimin is dead
Besides it’s not me who has the crush
Hobi hyung hyung \( ≧v≦ )/*)))
[Tues Aug 22, 9:28 am]
piece of advice always use honorifics. Seokjin-hyung’s pretty chill
but he hates it when little brats forget to use formal language
…Oops. Well fuck.
Hobi hyung hyung \( ≧v≦ )/*)))
[Tues Aug 22, 9:28 am]
U already screwed up didn’t you
Jeongguk you never cease to amaze
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Tues Aug 22, 9:29 am]
Hobi hyung hyung \( ≧v≦ )/*)))
[Tues Aug 22, 9:29 am]
he likes food, cook something and give it to him
maybe he’ll forgive u
Jeongguk probably has negative fifty billion cooking skills points, but maybe he can buy something to bring to class.
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Tues Aug 22, 9:30 am]
Hobi hyung hyung \( ≧v≦ )/*)))
[Tues Aug 22, 9:31 am]
you’re welcome brat. practice at 6:30 don’t be late
Seokjin’s Facebook is…pink. Like, really pink. If it weren’t for the profile picture—and the fact that Jeongguk’s got the real deal sitting just twenty meters in front of him—he’d swear it’s the Facebook page of a teenage girl barely out of junior high. The background is pink, and he’s got some kind of cupcake theme installed, complete with rainbow sprinkles and gummies instead of the usual menu buttons. He looks sweet in his profile photo, too, laughing open-mouthed with his arm thrown over the shoulders of someone whose face is cut out of the frame. Seokjin also appears to have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Mario if his liked pages and status updates (“up till 4 playing SMBU best/worst life decision ever?”) are any indication.
This is unfortunate, because (a) Jeongguk will not, under any circumstances, ever wear pink; and (b) Mario games are boring. Mario Kart is okay, and he’s been known to humor Jimin with the occasional Super Smash Bros tournament, but Jeongguk’s first love is and will always be dating sims.
And yeah, he knows how that sounds. He’d gotten teased enough in middle school that he knows what people think of guys who play dating sims. But Jeongguk’s not using them as a replacement for real-life dating, and he’s not perving on virtual girls (he doesn’t even like eroge sims that much—the storylines are always lacking even if the art is nice). No, he’s in it to win.
His oldest sister once said that playing a good otome game is like a chess tournament. You have to think through every move, plan each step in advance, manipulate the other players in order to get the outcome you want. Jeongguk still remembers beating his first otome game (the 2010 version of Tokimeki Memorial: Girl’s Side filched from his second-oldest sister’s room) and how exciting it had been when all his scheming and strategizing finally paid off and he got a confession on graduation, how powerful he’d felt after winning one of the most difficult characters in the game. It was addicting.
The bell sounds, and Jeongguk jolts up in his seat looking around.
“…that’s it for today,” Professor Choi is saying, “remember, register your preferences for section assignments on the class website before our next lecture or Seokjin will just stick you wherever he wants! See you next class.”
Jeongguk shoves his things quickly into his bag, heading towards the front of the class before the mass rush for the door makes his goal impossible.
“Excuse me? Seokjin-seonsaengnim?”
The TA turns. He looks surprised and maybe a little bit annoyed to see Jeongguk there, his full lips pursed tight and twisted slightly to the side. “Yes?”
“What sections will you be TAing?”
Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “That hasn’t been decided yet.”
Damn. Jeongguk has to be in one of Seokjin’s sections. “Is it possible to move sections later on?” Seokjin’s eyes narrow, and Jeongguk suddenly realizes how that sounds. Shit. “I mean, if I find out the time slot I picked initially won’t work with my schedule,” he hurries to explain. “Dance team practices haven’t been finalized yet.”
Seokjin nods slowly, still looking suspicious. “Right. Yeah, that should be possible. I’ll be taking three sections, and Professor Choi will take the fourth. At least one should work with your practice schedule.”
So that gives Jeongguk a three out of four chance of landing one of Seokjin’s sections, plus he can always claim a scheduling conflict if he gets the professor instead. “Okay, thanks! Uh, seonsaengnim,” he adds belatedly, ducking his head in an awkward bow.
“No problem,” Seokjin says, already turning his attention to the next student. Jeongguk frowns. It’s a polite dismissal, but he feels kind of pissed off anyway. He shrugs it off as he exits the classroom. Whatever. It isn’t like he has to like Seokjin. He just has to get Seokjin to like him.
The thing about otome games is that they’re deceptively simple. Step one: choose your target. Step two: find out what the target likes. Step three: give them what they like. Step four: sit back and reel ‘em in. There are variations and complications of course, but the basic strategy stays more or less the same.
The problem Jeongguk is facing now is that he doesn’t really know much about what Kim Seokjin likes. Sure, he likes pink and Mario and food (but who doesn’t like food? Except maybe Yoongi, but he’s a grandpa so he doesn’t count), but none of those things are particularly useful when it comes to breaking the ice. Particularly since Seokjin has been treating Jeongguk with a reserve that verges on polar ever since the first lecture.
Normally in this situation Jeongguk would turn to his most trusty sidekick: the internet. But there are no cheats or online walk-throughs to consult when it comes to real life—or at least, none that are particularly helpful (the Naver results for “how to seduce your TA” had been both nonsensical and slightly scarring). He needs a new strategy.
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Mon Aug 28, 6:29 pm]
Soojung THE BEST noona ★★★
[Mon Aug 28, 6:35 pm]
I'm not lending you money
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Mon Aug 28, 6:35 pm]
Why do you always assume I'm asking for money
maybe I just wanna talk to my favorite noona
Soojung THE BEST noona ★★★
[Mon Aug 28, 6:35 pm]
Yeah right Sooyoun is your favorite don't even play
But no really what do you want
Jeon Jeongguk ~^^
[Mon Aug 28, 6:36 pm]
I'm stuck on a teacher and I was hoping you could give me some help
Like what strategies normally work and stuff
In response, Jeongguk’s phone starts blasting Adele’s “Hello.” He sighs. It was probably too much to hope that he could get away with having this conversation over text. He picks up, only a little reluctant.
“Are you finally playing the teacher options for Tokimeki?”
Her voice manages to sound both excited and gloating at the same time. Jeongguk should have known she’d get way too worked up over this. Jeongguk’s always preferred the older-brother types, the ones that baby you and treat you like a kid until you turn up in one of the “sexy” outfit options and turn your cute little sibling image upside down. Teachers, on the other hand, are Soojung’s specialty.
“Nah. It's a new game.” Sorta. “Anyway, that doesn’t matter. Just tell me how you win over teacher characters.”
Soojung sighs dramatically. “You’re no fun. Well, have you tried, I don’t know, studying?”
“Noonaaaa,” Jeongguk whines.
“Oh my god, it’s a video game. It’s not like you actually have to study,” she says. “Okay, fine, what type of teacher are we talking here. Not all teachers are the same you know.”
Jeongguk thinks back to Seokjin’s icy reception, the way he’d dismissed him after class. “Very cool. Definitely an ice prince type.”
“Maybe? But also like…straight-laced. I don’t think he likes me very much.”
Soojung laughs. “’Course he doesn’t, you always choose the worst flag options, I swear. Well, gifts are usually a good start. What does he like?”
That’s the problem. “So far, all I know for sure are pink, video games, and food.”
“What kind of weird stats are those?” Soojung sounds incredulous. “Is this an indie game?” When Jeongguk fails to answer, she continues. “Well, food’s the obvious choice for a gift. But since he’s a tsundere, you can’t be too obvious about it or he’ll get all worked up.”
“What do you mean?”
“Bro. You know what tsundere is, right? Hard shell, squishy insides? Like a turtle?” Soojung says. Then she snorts loudly into the receiver. “What am I saying, you are tsundere.”
“Like you have room to talk.” Soojung may be famous for her cool personality, but Jeongguk knows his sister is a huge goof with a bleeding heart. “But no, I mean like how can I give him a gift without being obvious about it.”
“Send him something anonymously,” Soojung suggests. “Or buy him something and pretend you got it for free. Oh, and you should make sure you’re a bit of a dick about it, but I doubt you’ll have any trouble with that part.”
“Thanks, noona,” Jeongguk says drily.
“You’ll have to study sometime if you actually wanna win though. Just FYI. Final parameters for teachers almost always require high study points.”
“Yeah, yeah.” This isn’t an actual videogame though, so who knows what the final parameters will look like. Maybe Jeongguk can get away without studying too hard. “Okay, thanks noona, but I gotta go now. I’ve got dance practice in an hour. Talk to you later!”
Soojung THE BEST noona ★★★
[Mon Aug 28, 6:54 pm]
rude brat don’t just hang up on your noona like that
Hey let me know if the game’s any good okay
WEEK 2 | Lecture Hall P501
Operation Woo Kim Seokjin begins immediately. Jeongguk grits his teeth and wakes up extra-early the next morning in order to stop by the café on his way to lecture. When he places the plastic cup on Seokjin’s desk, the TA startles.
“What is this?” Seokjin demands, staring at him.
“It’s an iced coffee.” Obviously. Jeongguk wipes his damp hand on his jeans to rid it of the chilly condensation from the cup. “Seonsaengnim.”
Seokjin is frowning. “Thank you, uh…”
“Thank you Jeongguk-ssi, but I can’t accept this.” Seokjin sounds firm and formal, almost like he’s rehearsed the line, and Jeongguk can’t help but wonder how often he gets hit on. With looks like his, probably a lot.
“I mean, if you don’t like coffee you don’t have to drink it.”
“It’s not that I don’t like coffee,” Seokjin says. It’s a little condescending. “But I really can’t accept things like this from students. I appreciate the thought, but it wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Why is Seokjin so sure Jeongguk got the coffee for him? Of course, he did get the coffee for Seokjin, but still. How full of yourself can you get?
“Okay, whatever.” Jeongguk shrugs, hiding his annoyance behind a blank face. “I got it for free because they messed up my order, and I didn’t want to waste it. But, if it’s like, inappropriate for you to accept you can just throw it out. I don’t care.”
Seokjin seems kind of thrown by Jeongguk’s answer. He's still frowning, but he looks awkward now, too, like he’s not sure how to handle this situation. Jeongguk feels a slightly vindictive thrill at his discomfort. “I guess,” he says slowly.
“Cool.” Jeongguk turns and starts up the steps without looking back. He can feel Seokjin's eyes following him all the way to his spot at the back of the lecture hall. Jeongguk mentally fist pumps. Score one for the cool approach. He definitely owes Soojung-noona now. He is going to kill this bet.
WEEK 3 | Lecture Hall P501
“It’s an iced latte this time, seonsaengnim.”
Seokjin closes his eyes. “Jeongguk-ssi, you can’t keep doing this every class.”
“It’s not my fault the barista never gets my order right,” Jeongguk says, biting down on a laugh. It’s only the third time he’s brought coffee to lecture for Seokjin, but the frustrated look on the TA’s face is just too much fun. Even Professor Choi looks amused while he studiously pretends to review his lecture notes before class starts.
“You’re not even drinking coffee,” Seokjin points out.
“Sure I am.” Jeongguk wiggles his half-drunk caramel frappuccino at Seokjin.
Seokjin does not look impressed. “That’s practically a milkshake. There’s no way the barista mixed that up with a latte.”
“I changed my mind when they said they’d remake my order.”
Professor Choi’s shoulders are shaking with suppressed laughter now, and Seokjin looks pissed.
“Class is about to start,” he says between gritted teeth.
“Yep,” Jeongguk agrees. “See ya, seonsaengnim.”
WEEK 4 | Lecture Hall P501
“It’s a frappuccino, seonsaengnim. Lucky mistake, huh? Since you seem to like them.”
“It’s Jeongguk, actually. But Jesus is okay too.”
“Go sit down.”
WEEK 5 | Lecture Hall P501
Seokjin doesn’t even look up when Jeongguk delivers the cup to his desk—a hot vanilla latte this time, since the weather is beginning to turn chilly.
He pauses, but Seokjin doesn’t say anything more, just stares resigned at the latte in front of him. After a moment, Jeongguk turns and walks towards his seat. It’s probably a positive sign that Seokjin’s started accepting his gifts with minimal fuss, right? So why does Jeongguk feel so disappointed?
When he takes his seat, the guy next to him leans over. “You seem to know Seokjin-seonsaengnim pretty well.”
“Huh.” The guy is staring at him with an intensity that borders on invasive. It’s a little weird. Jeongguk doesn’t even know this guy. “You don’t talk much in class though.”
“It’s a lecture,” Jeongguk says. “You’re not supposed to talk.”
“No, in section I mean.” The guy leans forward, and his hipster glasses slide a little down the bridge of his nose. He’s good looking, Jeongguk thinks, noting the sharp jaw and high cheekbones, the perfect clear skin. He doesn’t have Seokjin’s plush lips or broad shoulders though. “You don’t talk to Seokjin-seonsaegnim much in section, Jeongguk-ah, just in lecture.”
“What?” Jeongguk blinks. Who is this weirdo? “That’s—have you been following me?”
Weirdo Neighbor’s forehead wrinkles in confusion. “What do you mean? We’re in the same section, Jeongguk-ah!” He’s pouting and for some reason that makes Jeongguk feel a little bad, like it’s his fault he didn’t recognize the guy. Which, okay, maybe it kind of is. But they’ve only met twice for section so far, and Jeongguk’s never been that great with names.
That seems to have been the right response, because the guy’s pout disappears and is replaced with a grin. “Kim Taehyung,” he says. “I’m a junior in Education. You’re a sophomore right?”
“Cool!” Taehyung seems excited even though there’s really nothing all that thrilling about the fact that Jeongguk’s a sophomore. “I’m your hyung then.”
He seems more like an incredibly overgrown elementary student than a hyung, but Jeongguk decides to keep that information to himself. “Yeah,” he says again. Taehyung looks like he’s about to say something more, but just then Professor Choi stands.
“We’ll be returning the results from the first exam at the end of class today. I’m pleased to say that the majority of you did very well. But there are a few,” he pauses, and Jeongguk feels sure for a moment that the professor’s gaze lingered on him, “who could do with a little more review. But don’t worry too much, you’ll have another exam and the final to make up the difference.”
The class breaks into a frenzy of whispers. Taehyung leans over.
“How d’you think you did?”
Jeongguk shrugs. “Okay I guess.” Jeongguk had winged it, but it had been an open book exam, so he doesn’t think he did too badly. “I mean, it was open book.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says, “but I’ve heard Professor Choi grades really hard, especially for open book tests. Like, if you haven’t done all the readings and the homework or you’re totally screwed.”
Jeongguk shrugs again. According to his sister, there are two methods to attracting a teacher’s (or TA’s) attention: route one, do really awesome in their class and generally suck up; or route two, do really shitty in their class and beg them for tutoring sessions. No prizes for guessing which route Jeongguk’s picked.
So when Seokjin passes out the exam papers at the end of lecture, he keeps his calm even though Taehyung is practically vibrating in the seat beside him.
Jeongguk flips through his test. It’s a sea of hot pink (of course Seokjin would grade his exams in pink). On the last page, a miserable 34 is circled twice. There’s a note: “Talk to me after class.”
“Thank god,” Taehyung sighs, slumping down in his chair. Jeongguk glances over. What he can see of Taehyung’s test is practically pristine. “I was really worried about the fourth essay, that question about Piaget’s stage model and cognitive development was crazy hard.”
Jeongguk nods. “Uh huh.” He doesn’t remember that question. Had he even made it to the last page of the test? Maybe he’d fallen asleep. That happens sometimes.
“You do okay?”
“Sorta.” Sorta like not at all, but no way is Jeongguk going to tell that to Taehyung. “Think I might go talk to Seokjin-seonsaengnim after class about it though.”
“Yeah? I think I will, too. Maybe he can explain question 23. I only got partial credit on that one.”
Great. Just what Jeongguk needs, an audience for his conversation with Seokjin. “Don’t you have a class next period?”
“Nah,” Taehyung says brightly, packing up the rest of his things, “only on Tuesdays. I’m free for the rest of today.”
“Awesome,” Jeongguk sighs.
The rest of the class has mostly cleared out by the time they reach the front of the lecture hall. Seokjin turns, his eyes falling on Jeongguk immediately, and he opens his mouth.
“Seonsaengnim!” Taehyung says bounding over. “Can I ask you about—”
“Ah. Um, sorry, Taehyung-ssi, but I have an appointment with Jeongguk-ssi,” Seokjin says, and Jeongguk wrestles down the urge to grin smugly at Taehyung, who looks crestfallen. “Why don’t you come to my office hours tomorrow? We can talk then.”
“Okay,” Taehyung says, his mood brightening again as quickly as it had before. “Thanks, seonsaengnim.” He turns his megawatt grin in Jeongguk’s direction. “Bye Guk-ah!”
Guk-ah? “Um, bye?” Jeongguk feels Seokjin’s eyes on him. Right, he likes honorifics. “See you later, hyung.”
Taehyung’s grin, amazingly, widens even farther. Jeongguk thinks he can see every tooth in his head. “See you in section!” He disappears, leaving Jeongguk alone with Seokjin at the front of the empty lecture hall.
“Let’s go to my office,” Seokjin says, “the next class will be coming in soon,” and Jeongguk nods.
He follows Seokjin down the hall and up two floors to the Psychology Department. The main area is basically a long hall with a mess of cubicles in the center, a coffee machine and water cooler standing to one side. Doors line the walls, probably offices. There are a few people—graduate students Jeongguk guesses—clustered by the coffee machine, and they wave as Seokjin and he pass by.
“Here we go.” Seokjin pushes open one of the doors and leads Jeongguk into the cramped office. It’s really not big enough for the two desks and enormous file cabinet crammed into one corner. “Sorry there’s not much space,” Seokjin apologizes. “You can take Yoondo-hyung’s chair, he’s not in today.”
Jeongguk perches on the second desk chair while Seokjin sets his bag on his desk and settles back into his own chair.
“You’re majoring in music, right Jeongguk-ssi?” Jeongguk nods slowly, and Seokjin sighs, crossing his arms. “Let me be straight with you,” he says, looking Jeongguk straight in the eye. Jeongguk has to fight the instinct to glance away. “This isn’t a fluff class that you can take for an easy A. If you don’t study, you will fail.” Jeongguk opens his mouth to speak, but Seokjin shakes his head.
“Listen, it’s not too late to drop the class,” he continues, not unkindly. “It won’t even show up on your transcript.”
Jeongguk feels himself flush, hot and irritated. So what if he failed the first midterm? That doesn’t mean he’s flunking the entire class, does it?
“I can study. I just need some help.” Some up-close and personal help. Jeongguk widens his eyes at Seokjin. “Please?”
“Okay,” Seokjin says, nodding decisively. “I’ll set you up with a tutor. I know just the person.”
Well. That’s a snag Jeongguk hasn’t considered. “Can’t I just come to your office hours?” he says, dialing up the cute with a pout. “I don’t really think I need a tutor.”
Seokjin ignores him, turning away from Jeongguk to grab his phone. “Namjoon-ah should have some free time this semester, and he owes me a favor. He’s minoring in Music production, so you have something in common. I think you’ll get along.”
Shit. This isn’t going according to plan at all.
“I don’t want a tutor,” Jeongguk says, and it comes out harsh enough that Seokjin stops tapping out the message he’d been drafting. He narrows his eyes.
“It’s not a matter of wanting or not wanting,” he says. “Jeongguk-ssi, I hate to say this, but you really do need a tutor. Your grade was the lowest in the class.” Jeongguk flinches. “You still have a chance to do well in the class overall. But if this test is any indication, you’re really struggling with the material right now, and my office hours won’t be enough to get you up to speed.”
The carpet in Seokjin’s office is really hideous, Jeongguk notices, a kind of faded puce with little red and pink squares dotting the fabric.
“Jeongguk-ssi.” Jeongguk stares even harder at the ugly carpet. Seokjin sighs again. “I don’t mean to discourage you. I think if you give the class a chance you’ll really enjoy it and do well. Professor Choi is a great teacher.”
“Just think about it, okay?”
WEEK 6 | Yoongi’s Apartment
Yoongi’s got something on his mind. He’s chewing on his lip, something he always does when he’s thinking hard about how to say something. He used to bite his nails when they were younger, but he grew out of that in middle school.
“So,” Yoongi says finally, thumbs still moving over the controller without pause. “I heard you’re flunking psych class.”
Ah. So that’s what this is. Jeongguk should have guessed.
“It’s just an exam.” He aims, blasting a zombie off Yoongi’s tail. It’s only the first test, and he’s taking this class for a bet (not that Yoongi knows that). Why does it matter how he does? “It’s worth less than 20 percent of the grade. We still have the final and another exam. I have time to make it up.”
“So you’re telling me you’re gonna get straight A’s from here on out?” Yoongi drawls. Really, his lack of faith in Jeongguk is uncalled for. Has Jeongguk ever flunked out of a class before? “Be serious Gukkie. I don’t want to see a repeat of freshman year.”
Okay, so there was that one time.
“I was a freshman. I didn’t know what I was doing.” Who could’ve guessed that college-level calculus would be so hard? He’d done fine in math during high school. “I won’t fail psychology, hyung, I promise. I’m even gonna get a tutor.”
That gets Yoongi’s attention. “Yeah?” he says, and he actually looks away from the screen for a moment to narrow his eyes at Jeongguk. “Who?”
“Seokjin-ssi’s going to help me,” Yoongi’s eyebrows shoot up skeptically but Jeongguk ignores him, “just as soon as I can convince him.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “He’s your TA, not your home tutor. He’s got better things to do than help out every idiot who’s flunking his class. Like finish writing his dissertation or whatever shit PhD candidates do.”
Jeongguk’s chin juts forward. “He’s got office hours.”
“Yeah, and what if he needs to meet with another student? Just sign up for a tutor through the student center, like everyone else.”
“The student center sucks, hyung,” Jeongguk says in what is absolutely not a whine. He’s right anyway, the student center does suck. Yoongi’s complained about it himself, how they never have enough peer tutors lined up for humanities classes like music and art history. Jeongguk hasn’t actually checked whether they have tutors for Developmental Psych, but he seriously doubts it.
Yoongi seems to agree, because he doesn’t dispute the point. “What does Seokjin-ssi think about all this?”
Jeongguk shrugs. Yoongi exhales noisily.
“Yah, Jeongguk. You better not be doing this just to get in his pants.”
“Hyung, are we back to this? I’m starting to think you really do have a crush on him,” Jeongguk says. He glances over at Yoongi, who’s frowning at the screen where they’re waiting for the next level to load. “Or…have you started getting anonymous love letters again?”
“That was one time. And it was a mixtape not a letter!” Yoongi contests, fish-pale skin turning a blotchy tomato. Jeongguk doesn’t bother arguing, but it was definitely a love letter, no matter what Yoongi likes to say. The mixtape’s tracklist had started with “Nobody” and ended with “Don’t Go Home,” with “Heaven” and “Good Love” thrown in the middle for good measure. It doesn’t take a musical genius like Min Yoongi to read between the liner notes.
“Stop trying to distract me. We’re talking about you, not me,” Yoongi grumbles. “Seriously, I dunno why I even let you sign up for this class when it’s designed for Psych majors. It’s not gonna be easy like Rocks for Jocks or whatever.”
The remark hits just close enough to what Seokjin had said in his office that it stings. Jeongguk hates it. He knows he’s not sharp like Yoongi, who can pull A’s and B’s out of his ass at the last minute no matter what the subject. He’s not diligent Jimin, who does all his homework and plans for every pre-med exam months in advance. And he’s certainly not a people-person like Hoseok, who seems to orchestrate group projects and complex choreos as easily as breathing. It shouldn’t bother him. He should be happy to have such awesome friends, right? But sometimes he can’t help feeling, well, ordinary. Which is stupid, he knows it’s stupid, and that’s what he hates most: not only is he stupid to begin with, but he’s even stupider for feeling jealous of his supernaturally talented hyungs.
“Shut up,” Jeongguk says. His eyes are hot and his hands feel sweaty, slipping on the smooth plastic handles of the Xbox controller. Stupid . “You know I’m not smart like you, hyung. Or Jiminie. I’m not good at studying.”
He can feel the silent weight of Yoongi’s stare boring into him for one full, interminable minute. Then Yoongi hits pause and the game freezes onscreen just as the loading bar reaches full.
“Guk, listen to me for a second.” Jeongguk turns to face him, and shit. He’s got his hyung face on.
Normally, Yoongi is naggy and whiny and not much like a hyung in person really. It’ll only be later, when Jeongguk notices that his and Jimin’s refrigerator has been mysteriously emptied of junk food and refilled with fruit and containers of (obviously store-bought, but still probably healthier than their usual instant-noodle-only fare) curry, or realizes that the broken drawer on his desk has been fixed, or finds a copy of the song he’s been struggling with covered with notes and suggestions in Yoongi’s cramped handwriting, that he remembers.
But sometimes. Sometimes, Yoongi will look at him with that face and Jeongguk knows he’d better shut the fuck up and listen. He’d made that face when Jeongguk told him that he dreamed of going to university for music and dance instead of business, like his mother wanted. He’d made that face when Jeongguk told him he thought he might like boys at least as much as he likes girls. He’d made that face when Jeongguk’s parents went through a messy divorce during his final year of middle school, and Jeongguk was getting into fights every other day just to postpone having to go home to their angry, empty apartment.
Yoongi is making that face now, and even though Jeongguk wants to say something to diffuse the tension, to distract Yoongi and get them back to the game, he can’t. His tongue is frozen inside his mouth.
“I don’t know where you got this idea that you’re not smart. You’re plenty smart. You’ve aced all the upper-level music classes you’ve taken, yeah? That piece you wrote for Composition 203, Professor Mun said it was the best he’s ever gotten for a class.”
“Hyung—” Jeongguk’s ears are already burning, but Yoongi keeps going.
“I don’t think you realize how everyone in the Music department talks about you. And you’re a sophomore.” Yoongi shakes his head. “I could only dream of getting that kind of praise when I was your age.”
“But,” Jeongguk stops and swallows, his mouth sticky, “but that’s just in music, hyung. I’m not good at other things.”
“Hoseok says you’ve got more potential than anyone else on the dance team,” Yoongi counters. “The Art department wanted to steal you after you took that drawing class last year. Professor Kim got so worked up she almost started a departmental war over it.”
“She did not,” Jeongguk breathes. Kim Hyojin, the scarily calm Applied Vocal Studies professor, never got worked up over anything, let alone someone like him. It was impossible to imagine.
“She did.” Yoongi nods. “So don’t say you’re stupid, okay? You don’t wanna call Professor Kim a liar, do you?”
“No.” Jeongguk values life. “I really don’t.”
Yoongi gives Jeongguk a half-smile. “Good.” He turns his attention back to the game, clicking to let the level finish loading. He’s kind of pink around ears, and it makes Jeongguk feel better knowing that this conversation is a least a little bit awkward for his hyung, too. “Now stop giving me headaches and get yourself a damn tutor. I can’t help you, I don’t know shit about psychology.”
“Or kids,” Jeongguk tries to joke. His voice cracks, too rough for the joke, but Yoongi just smacks him lightly on the shoulder, so that’s okay.
“Brought you up alright, didn’t I?”
“Oh yeah? Should I start calling you ‘appa’ now?” Jeongguk pitches his voice up on the nickname, making it come out saccharine and cutesy. Yoongi’s face scrunches comically.
“Ugh gross. If I puke up my dinner, I swear I’ll make you pay for it.”
“Fine, brat. ”
Things are gonna be okay.
WEEK 7 | Seminar Room 223
Things are not going to be okay.
Why? Because of Kim Taehyung, that’s why. Because Kim Taehyung, destroyer of curves, despoiler of grade point averages, ruiner of lives, has apparently made it his business to make Jeongguk’s existence miserable. But Jeongguk digresses.
After his gaming session with Yoongi, Jeongguk spent the better part of the weekend buckling down on his Development Psych homework. It was harder than he’d imagined. At first, he tried to look up things he didn’t understand in the textbook—but, since he hadn’t bothered with the readings before, he was now so behind he had no idea where to begin. He ended up sticking terms into Naver and scrolling through pages on Wikipedia in the hope of getting some basic idea of what they mean. What on earth is monotropy? Who the hell was Kohlberg, and why is Jeongguk supposed to give a damn about his Theory of Moral Development? By Sunday evening, he managed to plow through the worksheet and short response essay they’d been assigned for the week, and he feels like his brain has been put through a blender.
Jeongguk is actually a bit nervous when he walks into section on Wednesday. They will be getting back their homework from Seokjin towards the end of the class, and for the first time since perhaps the beginning of freshman year Jeongguk is both hopeful and uncertain of how he will do.
They spend the class period going over the readings and Professor Choi’s lecture on moral development and the Heinz dilemma. Jeongguk is surprised to find that he’s able to follow most of the conversation, and it is (as Seokjin promised) kind of interesting.
“So, what is Kohlberg’s pre-conventional stage?” Seokjin asks, turning to look at the class. Jeongguk feels a thrill of nerves in the pit of his stomach. He thinks he knows the answer—he certainly remembers reading something about it in the textbook. “Anyone?”
Screw it. You never win by taking the safe route, Jeongguk reminds himself. He raises his hand.
“Jeongguk-ssi?” Seokjin looks so surprised to see Jeongguk’s hand in the air, it’s actually kind of offensive.
Jeongguk clears his throat. “Doesn’t it have to do with, um social conventions?” That sounds okay. “Like, different social conventions govern how we think about morality. So the pre-conventional stage would be, like, the pre-moral stage that kids go through before they understand social standards.”
Seokjin’s eyebrows go up. “That’s definitely one interpretation. Kohlberg’s theory does take social convention into account—in the conventional stage, Kohlberg argues that people follow social custom and law. But he does think that children have some moral compass in the pre-conventional stage, they’re not completely pre-moral. Does anyone else have any more thoughts on what governs that moral compass?”
“Kids in the pre-conventional stage are motivated by self-interest,” Taehyung says smoothly. “They judge ethics either by the direct positive or negative consequences on themselves. Although, adults can be pre-conventional,too.”
“That’s right, thank you Taehyung-ssi,” Seokjin says with a smile, “So, going back to our example earlier, what would that mean for Heinz?”
Jeongguk sinks into his chair and stares at his feet where they’re planted on the turquoise and blue patterned carpet. It’s a sort of checkerboard-glen plaid hybrid that shouldn’t really be noticeable enough to be unattractive, but something about the combination of colors and patterns makes the carpet swim nauseatingly before his eyes, an unintentional optical illusion. Is there some mandate requiring institutions of higher education to have ugly wall-to-wall carpeting? Maybe they do it in order to give students something to look at while they flunk their Developmental Psychology classes. Personally, Jeongguk wishes that they’d installed an escape chute instead. Or that a flock of angry pigeons would descend on the section and carry him off to his doom. Unfortunately, the room stays cruelly escape-chute-and-pigeon-free, and instead Jeongguk is forced to suffer through the remaining fifteen minutes of the discussion section in excruciating silence.
When the hour finally crawls to a close, Seokjin hands back their homework. Jeongguk doesn’t want to so much as look at it, but even with the paper facedown he can see the tidal wave of pink bleeding through the paper. This is officially the worst day.
“Don’t forget, next week we’ll be meeting at the university’s daycare center,” Seokjin reminds everyone as they begin packing up their bags. “And remember to read and sign the permission forms on the class website if you haven’t already, otherwise you won’t be able to participate.”
Jeongguk takes his time packing up his things, waiting for most of the class to leave. He’s unsure of his next step, and it’s unlike him: usually, when he plays dating sims, he has his strategy completely planned out in advance; if he doesn’t, he at least knows which save points he can double back to in order to correct any missteps.
But there are no save points in real life, and there are no do-overs. Jeongguk’s not even entirely sure where he went wrong. Sure, maybe he could’ve studied more, but it’s not like he would have been at the top of the class if he had. Jeongguk’s never been top of anything, unless you count singing and dancing and dating sims. Now, it feels like he’s stuck with an impossible choice, a trick flag—no matter what he does, it’ll just take him further away from his goal.
As the last student files out the door, Jeongguk picks up his bag and steels himself.
“Seokjin-seonsaegnim, can I speak with you for a moment?”
Seokjin pauses where he’s wiping down the blackboard. “Jeongguk-ssi?”
“I…” Jeongguk shuffles his feet, hitching his bag up his shoulder. He barely manages to glance at Seokjin before his eyes return like magnets to the floor. “I was wondering…what you said about tutoring before…”
“Oh, have you changed your mind?” Seokjin somehow manages to sound smug without a single change in intonation, and Jeongguk hates everything. “I can put you in touch with Namjoon-ah. Shall I?”
Namjoon-ah this, Namjoon-ah that. Jeongguk grinds the toe of his boot into the ugly turquoise-blue carpet, imagining the face of his future tutor (a bespectacled nerd with 2:8 parted hair and an underbite) plastered all over it. “Yes, please,” he says to the floor. “Thank you, seonsaengnim.”
“No problem, Jeongguk-ssi.” Is Jeongguk imagining things, or does Seokjin sound a bit warmer? “I’m glad you decided to work with Namjoon-ah. He’s a great tutor. Aced this class last year. I’m sure he can help you get your grades up.”
No, Jeongguk thinks, gritting his teeth. Definitely imagining things.
“Thank you, seonsaengnim,” he repeats tightly. He turns to the door to make his escape, but Seokjin stops him with a hand on his arm.
“You did better this time,” Seokjin says softly. “I can tell you worked hard.” He gives Jeongguk’s arm a little pat, like Jeongguk’s his pet dog or something. “Keep up the good work.”
He exits first, leaving Jeongguk standing in the middle of the room. Jeongguk must hate Kim Seokjin, he decides staring at the empty door through which the TA had disappeared just moments before. He must. There’s no other explanation for this strange burning sensation in the pit of his stomach. This is righteous anger. Definitely.
WEEK 7 | Library
Two days later, and Jeongguk is standing on the threshold of the library. He’s supposed to meet the mysterious “Namjoon-ah” by the circulation desk, but even though he’s a good five minutes late there’s no one there. Jeongguk pushes away the faint hope that perhaps his tutor had gotten impatient and left—he actually needs to study—and pulls out his phone. No new texts.
He looks around the library again. There’s no one who fits his mental image of Namjoon. Maybe Namjoon decided to grab them one of the study rooms in the back? Not that there’s any lack of space in the main area—the library’s practically deserted. Most people are probably off-campus having fun. That’s where Jeongguk would normally be this late on a Friday evening, anyway. Jimin had laughed in his face when he said he was going to the library after dinner, and refused to believe Jeongguk when he said he was serious. (“Sure, the ‘library,’” he’d snorted, making obnoxious air quotes around the word. “Well, have fun. And tell the ‘library’ hello from from me.”) Jeongguk is about to head towards the back of the library to check the study rooms, when the door behind him flies open with a bang.
Kim Namjoon is, without a doubt, the most pretentious-looking person Jeongguk has ever met.
He’s dressed in a floppy army-green hat and silver tracksuit, with a sweatshirt knotted over his shoulders like a cape. He’s wearing mirrored sunglasses. Jeongguk glances out the window of the library, just to be sure. Nope, still raining. What the hell.
“Hi, you’re Jeongguk-ssi right?” When Jeongguk nods, Namjoon leads the way to one of the big tables just in front of the circulation desk and dumps his bag on an empty chair. He takes off the hat and sunglasses, leaving the bleached blond, frazzled strands of his hair sticking up in every direction thanks to the static.
“Seokjin-hyung said you’re in Music, right? What’s your focus?”
“Yeah. I do vocal performance mostly, but I’ve taken some composition courses, too.”
Jeongguk places his own things on the table. He’s only brought his textbook and notebook, but seeing the huge bag Namjoon’s got he wonders if he should’ve brought more supplies.
“I heard that you’ve been having some trouble with the terminology, so I brought some extra study materials,” Namjoon says, almost like he’s read Jeongguk’s thoughts. He pulls several books, a packet of what look like photocopied worksheets, and a bunch of flashcards out of his bag, and pushes the latter at Jeongguk. “Here. You can borrow them.”
Jeongguk looks down at the index cards in his hands. There have got to be at least 500 of them. He picks up the first one, “Instrumental Behavior.” He turns the card over. “A concept stemming from the Behaviorist movement, which asserts that disorders are learned responses to traumatic experiences.” He has no idea what the Behaviorist movement is. Hell, he doesn’t even know what a traumatic experience is. Does losing in the last round of Uta no Prince-sama count?
“So, I was thinking we could start with some worksheets,” Namjoon says, interrupting Jeongguk’s train of thought. “That way, I can get a sense of where you’re having trouble. Unless you have something in particular you want to focus on?”
Jeongguk doesn’t. It’s all confusing and overwhelming and he doesn’t have any idea where to start. Namjoon seems unfazed by his general lack of study skills. “Don’t worry, that’s what I’m here for, right?” He smiles, and two deep-set dimples appear. It transforms his entire face. He looks almost…cute.
The worksheets Namjoon gives Jeongguk, however, are anything but. Jeongguk puzzles over the first few questions, but he’s screwed. Namjoon takes pity on him after twenty minutes of Jeongguk writing increasingly nonsensical answers, and tells Jeongguk to read through the first couple chapters of the textbook (or rather he says “reread” and Jeongguk decides not to correct his assumption) while he grades the worksheets.
“So, Seokjin-seonsaengnim was your TA last year?” Jeongguk asks casually, flipping a page in the textbook. He’s been wondering since Seokjin suggested Namjoon as a tutor. Seokjin had mentioned that Namjoon did well in Developmental Psych last year, which made it sound like maybe he’d been the one TAing the class. But it can’t be that common for TAs to have ex-students’ numbers saved in their phones, right?
“Nah.” Namjoon frowns at the worksheet, circling another question in red. “Huh, looks like we’re going to have to work on your vocab. And maybe some cognitive development theory, too.”
“So how did you meet?”
“You and Seokjin-seonsaengnim.”
Namjoon’s pen pauses, hovering over the next question on the worksheet, and Jeongguk notices that he’s chewing on his bottom lip. “Oh. Uh, I dunno, through mutual friends I guess? I can’t really remember.”
Jeongguk studies him carefully. “You’ve slept with him.”
“What? No!” Namjoon exclaims much too loudly, then looks around the library, frantically checking that they haven’t been overheard. When he turns back to Jeongguk, his ears are flushed bright red. “Jesus, no, of course I haven’t,” he continues in a harsh whisper. “Why would you even think that?”
“But you like him,” Jeongguk presses.
Namjoon sighs and runs a tired hand through his bleached-out bangs. “ No , I do not like him, what the hell. We went on one date, like, a year and half ago. It didn’t work out. Obviously,” he huffs, gesturing widely to take in Jeongguk, the psychology textbooks, the deserted library they’re both stuck in on a Friday night like the sad, single losers they are.
“I dunno. No spark, I guess?” Namjoon shrugs. “Hyung is really into romantic stuff, like, flowers and candles and stuff. I’m shit at that kind of thing. We weren’t a good fit.” Namjoon frowns, narrowing his eyes at Jeongguk. “Why’re you asking anyway?”
Jeongguk sits back, affecting disinterest. “No reason. You just seemed upset.”
“Well, I’m not. Let’s get back to work, okay?”
That doesn’t sound like the response of someone who’s secretly pining over Seokjin, but Jeongguk’s been thrown off before.
“Sure, hyung,” Jeongguk agrees easily, eyeing Namjoon’s profile. “Should I say hi to Seokjin-hyung for you next time I see him?”
“Yeah, whatever,” Namjoon replies, already buried back in the worksheet. “So tell me, what’s the sensorimotor stage according to Piaget’s theory? Because this drawing of a train, while very artistically rendered, isn’t going to cut it in class.”
Jeongguk heaves a deep internal sigh, and flips through his textbook to the index.
WEEK 8 | University Daycare Center
Jeongguk's never been to the university’s daycare center before, but he finds the place easily enough. It’s a small, squat concrete building so overshadowed by the goliath campus library just next door that it’s practically invisible.
One foot inside the door, however, and Jeongguk feels like he’s been transported to a totally different universe. It’s warm and cheery, one wall covered in crayon drawings and other with a giant poster of the phonetic alphabet, complete with bright illustrations of apples and cats and butterflies. There are squishy beanbags in one corner, a pile of giant building blocks in another, and the floor is covered in the first non-hideous carpet Jeongguk has seen since he started university. If it weren’t for the fact that the place is absolutely crawling with children between the ages of one and four, Jeongguk thinks he could feel quite at home here.
Taehyung, of course, is in his element. The moment their discussion section walked in the door, he’d been mobbed by midgets, and now he’s reading aloud from a picture book surrounded by no fewer than a dozen children, all hanging on his every word like he’s the goddamn pied piper or something. Not that Jeongguk’s bitter or anything. Okay, so his mortal enemy happens to be a child-whisperer, no sweat. Jeongguk’s cool. Jeongguk’s cool as a cucumber.
A small boy shrieks piercingly enough to break glass, and Jeongguk retreats to stand by the windows. He’s observing, that’s what he’s doing. He’s a scientist. He needs distance to be objective. And also to protect his eardrums.
Something small hits Jeongguk in the knees with the force of a cannon. “Ow, shi—shiitake mushrooms,” he mutters, scanning the room quickly (did someone hear?) before looking down to see what nearly bowled him over.
It’s a kid, of course. She can’t be more than four, which is lucky because if she’d been much taller she’d have hit Jeongguk in a much more sensitive location than his knees, and Jeongguk doesn’t know any vegetables that start with F-U-C.
“Hello,” he says, staring at the tiny terror. The kid’s still hanging onto Jeongguk’s legs like they’re her new favorite toy. What the heck is he supposed to do now? They’re supposed to be “interfacing” with the kids, whatever that means. Jeongguk has no idea. What do four-year-olds normally talk about? “Um. How are you?”
The kid blows a raspberry into Jeongguk’s kneecap.
The sound of smothered laughter comes from Jeongguk’s left and he looks up. Seokjin has his hand pressed to his mouth, but his bunched cheeks and curving eyes are a dead giveaway. It’s different from the tight, closed-mouthed smiles Jeongguk is used to seeing on Seokjin’s face, and even with the view partially blocked by Seokjin’s hand Jeongguk likes it more.
“Sorry, but,” Seokjin tries and fails to stifle another giggle, “you’re not used to kids are you?”
Jeongguk glances back down at the small girl clinging to his legs like a barnacle. “Not really.”
“No younger siblings?”
“Just two older sisters,” Jeongguk says, shifting his weight experimentally. His new barnacle just tightens her hold, bringing his knees closer together to limit his range of movement. She’s pretty strong. Jeongguk’s grudgingly impressed.
Seokjin hums. “I’m the baby in my family, too. Here, let me.”
He squats down so he’s on the same level as the girl. “Hi there,” he says, smiling, and it’s yet another new smile: closed-mouthed, but soft and sweet. “I’m Seokjin-oppa. What’s your name?”
The girl blinks at him. “Hyeri.”
“Oh, Hyeri!” Seokjin’s eyes go wide, “that’s such a pretty name, it’s like a flower. Do you like flowers, Hyeri?”
The death grip on Jeongguk’s legs loosens. “I like daisies,” Hyeri says, hesitantly. “Eomma likes daisies too.”
“I don’t know if I know what daisies look like.” Seokjin makes a thoughtful face. “Are they blue?”
Hyeri’s tiny mouth drops open. “No!”
“No!” Hyeri laughs.
“Huh, I was sure that they’re red,” Seokjin says. He catches Jeongguk’s eye and his mouth quirks to the side, like the two of them are sharing an inside joke. “Jeongguk-ssi, what color do you think daisies are?”
Jeongguk’s brain stutters. “Green,” he says without thinking.
Seokjin turns back to Hyeri. “Hyeri what do you think? Is Jeongguk-oppa right?”
Hyeri looks up at Jeongguk through her lashes, twisting a finger in her hair. “Nooo,” she says to Seokjin finally. “Flowers aren't green.” She shoots another glance up at Jeongguk. “Oppa is silly.”
Seokjin grins at her. “Ah, you're right! That oppa is very silly, isn’t he?” Jeongguk’s stomach, the traitor, flips. “So what color are they?”
“White!” Hyeri yells, throwing up her tiny arms in excitement, and Jeongguk realizes that she’d let go of his legs at some point in the conversation.
“Wow, you know a lot about flowers don't you, Hyeri,” Seokjin says. “Why don't you get some crayons? You can draw a picture to show silly oppa what daisies look like.”
Hyeri trots off in search of crayons and paper, babbling happily about flowers, while Seokjin smiles warmly after her.
“That was amazing,” Jeongguk breathes.
Seokjin looks up at Jeongguk, his eyes wide like he’d forgotten about him for a moment. He’s still squatting on the floor, and from the low angle he looks almost younger than Jeongguk, all big eyes and forehead. Jeongguk feels disoriented. “Ah, kids are pretty easy actually,” Seokjin says, recovering his smile quickly. He stands. “You just need to distract them, you know?”
“It was still amazing. I had no idea what to say.”
Seokjin smoothes the wrinkles out of his trousers. “There’s no right or wrong, really. I mean, there are a lot of theories and studies about how to handle problematic behavior in children, of course, but most kids just want attention.”
Jeongguk feels a tug on the leg of his sweatpants. “Oppa.”
Hyeri is back, and she’s brought a friend. The little girl she’s dragged over with her doesn’t look particularly happy to be there, though. As Jeongguk watches, she tugs her hand out of Hyeri’s grip and crosses her tiny, pudgy arms, frowning thunderously. On her round face, the expression looks about as threatening as a kitten sneezing.
“Who’s your friend, Hyeri?” Seokjin asks.
“Minah,” Hyeri trills. “She’s going to be my bird—my bird-maid.”
Jeongguk has no idea how to interpret that, but Seokjin seems to get something out of it, because his eyebrows rise. “Oh? Are you getting married?”
Hyeri nods solemnly. “I’m dressed and everything. See?” She holds out her skirt for Seokjin’s and Jeongguk’s inspection. It’s clearly a white cotton napkin—Jeongguk guesses she took it from her lunchbox—wrapped around her tummy and tucked into the waistband of her red denim pants.
“It’s, um. Very nice,” Jeongguk says. Hyeri beams. Minah glowers.
“Oppa, you have to hold my hand now.” Hyeri tugs on Jeongguk’s pant leg again. “So we can start the cerrie-monnie.”
Jeongguk glances at Seokjin, but he’s just watching quietly and not giving Jeongguk any clue of how to proceed. He looks back down at Hyeri, who is smiling up at him expectantly.
“Okay,” he says finally. He squats next to the two little girls and takes Hyeri’s hand. “Okay, oppa’s holding your hand now.”
Hyeri closes her eyes and clenches her tiny hand around Jeongguk’s, squeezing tight. After a moment, she lets go and blinks her eyes open again, grinning widely at Jeongguk. “Hyeri is married to oppa now!”
Jeongguk splutters, but his surprised “What?” is drowned out by Minah’s wail.
“No!” she yells, her small round face red with anger. She shoves at Jeongguk’s arm with enough force that he drops Hyeri’s hand in surprise. “Hyeri’s supposed to marry Minah!” Her voice rises with every word until she reaches a piercing pitch that can probably be heard half-way across campus.
Hyeri clings to Jeongguk. “Stupid Minah!” she shouts, “you messed it up. I hate you!”
Minah’s tiny face crumples. “I hate Hyeri!” she wails, tears spilling down her cheeks, and suddenly Hyeri is crying too. Jeongguk feels an answering panic rising in his stomach. He turns at Seokjin, helpless.
“Ah, come here, Minah.” Seokjin lifts Minah easily, rubbing her back in soothing circles. Catching Jeongguk’s eye, he nods towards Hyeri.
Jeongguk doesn’t trust himself to pick up a small, likely breakable child, so he stays squatting beside the sobbing little girl instead. “There, there,” he says awkwardly. God, he’s so terrible at this. He pats her back, and she practically throws herself into his arms. “There, there,” he tries again, shooting another panicked look at Seokjin.
“You’re doing fine,” Seokjin says, soothing, “don’t worry so much.” He shifts to settle Minah more securely against his hip, muscles flexing under the smooth cotton of his shirt.
“You must work out.” The words are out of Jeongguk's mouth before he has time to register them. He flushes. “I mean. Sorry, just you, ah, picked her up so easily?”
Seokjin laughs. “I started hitting the gym to stay in shape, but now I like it. It's relaxing, you know?”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk agrees without thinking. “Yeah, the gym is great.”
Minah whimpers in Seokjin’s arms, and he pats her back again. “It helps that I’m around kids regularly, too. There’s no workout that can hold a candle to toddlers.”
Jeongguk nods. “I think I’m beginning to get that.” Hyeri hiccoughs, then sniffles wetly against his chest. Jeongguk tries hard not to think about the little girl snot currently being rubbed into his t-shirt. He sighs.
“Sorry I messed up.”
Seokjin looks surprised. “You didn’t.” He smiles at Jeongguk, a warm real smile. “You don’t give up easily, Jeongguk-ssi. That’s the most important thing.”
WEEK 9 | Gym
Jeongguk has always considered himself in pretty good shape. He’s not cut or anything, but he’s got a pretty nice body. He eats a lot of instant ramyun, sure, but he dances and even runs occasionally. He lives on the four floor of his apartment building, and he almost always takes the stairs. So what if he sometimes struggles to open that really heavy door on the way to the cafeteria? Yoongi has to practically throw his entire body weight against the thing to get it to budge, so Jeongguk figures he’s coming out ahead.
One look around the crowded gym on Sunday morning, however, and Jeongguk is beginning to reevaluate.
It’s mostly guys, unsurprisingly, but there are few women, too. Everyone looks unbelievably fit and muscular and confident. One girl is doing squats with a barbell that looks like it weighs at least twenty kilos more than she does. Another is powering through a set of lat exercises on a pull down machine. There are a bunch of guys on the mats doing what looks like an impromptu push up contest, and going by the chanting the two red-faced participants are already well over 70 reps. Jeongguk’s arms tremble in sympathy.
But probably the biggest group is clustered around the extensive rack of free weights, doing various kinds of exercises or checking themselves out in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors (or both). Seokjin’s standing by the free weights, too, talking to a short guy wearing a shirt so tight Jeongguk can actually count his abdominal muscles through the fabric. He could probably play the xylophone on them, they’re so defined. As Jeongguk watches, the guy picks up an enormous kettlebell weight and swings it with apparent ease. It looks like there are more muscles in his arms than in Jeongguk’s entire body.
Seokjin is shaking his head at his friend, his mouth forming the words “show off.” He turns to the rack of free weights beside him to select a medium-sized dumbbell, which he brings over to one of the benches beside the free weight area. The bicep curls he starts with aren’t as showy as his friend’s efforts with the kettlebell, but Jeongguk can’t stop staring at the swell of muscle in Seokjin’s right arm, the way the pale pink cotton of his t-shirt sleeve stretches taut when he lifts the weight and loosens as he relaxes.
Jeongguk tears his eyes away. He’s here to work out and (more importantly) to flirt, and staring at Seokjin from across the gym like a creeper isn’t going to achieve either of those goals. He starts with the treadmill, his go-to exercise the rare times he pays a visit to the gym. Usually, he’ll run for half an hour and finish off with stretches and maybe a set of push-ups, but today he cuts his run down to ten minutes and heads towards the free weights. Seokjin isn’t there anymore—Jeongguk can see him out of the corner of his eye, standing by one of the leg extension machines—but it’s clear that the free weights area is the place to see and be seen. If Jeongguk wants to catch Seokjin’s attention (and he does), this is the place to do it.
He strides over to the rack of weights. There’s an alarming variety to choose from, from kettlebells and weighted plates to dumbbells of various shapes and sizes.
Jeongguk picks up a 15 kg dumbbell and does an experimental curl. It feels comfortable in his hand, heavy, but not impossible to lift. He takes it over to the bench where he’d seen Seokjin before. He sits and braces his elbow on his thigh, like he’d seen other guys do.
The first curl feels pretty easy. The second, a little harder. By the time Jeongguk has reached twelve, he’s sweating and his wrist is trembling. As he curls up for number thirteen, his elbow slips on his sweaty thigh and the weight plummets towards his shin.
“Careful!” Seokjin is suddenly right behind him with a hand braced under his forearm. “Jeez, Jeongguk-ssi,” he sighs, and it ruffles the hair at the nape of Jeongguk’s neck. He shivers. “You scared me. You have to be careful with free weights, you can really hurt yourself.”
“S-sorry,” Jeongguk says. He lets Seokjin help him ease the weight back onto the bench. “I don’t usually use free weights,” he admits, shaking out his tired arm. It hadn’t looked so difficult when other people used them. Like Seokjin, for instance. “I mostly just work out for dance, and we don’t really do weight training.” He bites his lip. Fuck. So much for looking cool. Now Seokjin is going to think he’s a weakling, or worse, a whiner.
But to his surprise, Seokjin plops down next to him on the bench. “That’s cool. I’m terrible at dancing,” he says, giving Jeongguk a little self-deprecating smile. There’s the faintest sheen of sweat on his face, making his skin gleam a little under the lights. Jeongguk wipes his sweaty hair out of his eyes, feeling a little self-conscious all of a sudden. “So, are you working out to help you improve at dance?”
Jeongguk feels himself blush. “Not really. I just thought I’d give it a try.” He looks away from Seokjin and catches a glimpse of their reflections in the mirror, sitting side-by-side. He’s nearly as tall as Seokjin, but Seokjin’s broad shoulders and handsome face make Jeongguk look like a little kid beside him. He flushes harder. “But I didn’t realize how hard the free weights would be.”
“They’re not hard, you just have to know the right form to use them properly,” Seokjin clucks. “How about I show you?”
Jeongguk blinks, shifting to look at him. “Really?”
Seokjin laughs loud and loose, his eyes disappearing into gleeful crescents, and Jeongguk feels warm. Is he still blushing?
“I think ‘hyung’ is fine for outside class,” Seokjin says, and he winks at Jeongguk. Winks. Jeongguk’s expecting the theme song from Ouran High School Host Club to start playing any time now.
“Yeah,” Jeonguk responds, feeling a bit dazed. “Yeah, okay. Hyung.”
Seokjin smiles softly and Jeongguk swears he sees something sparkle. He blinks. Sweet jesus. Does Seokjin really have to be so dazzling all the goddamned time? It’s just rude is what it is. How is Jeongguk supposed to win this stupid bet with Seokjin sparkling at him like that?
“So,” Seokjin begins, and his smile suddenly looks a lot more wicked, “let’s start with bench presses, the form’s pretty easy to master. How many do you think you can do, Jeongguk-ah?”
Jeongguk gulps. He has a premonition that there will be much pain to come in his future.
WEEK 10 | Lotte Mart
Jeongguk winces as he reaches out to grab another bottle of banana milk from the display. Urgh, his deltoids are killing him. He drops the bottle into his basket. Nearly two weeks into his new workout regime-slash-TA-wooing-strategy and he’s still hurting. His fitness points are through the roof though. Seulgi-noona had even commented on it the other day during dance team practice, much to Jimin’s annoyance. (“How come she notices when you work out?” he’d whined. Obviously it’s because Jeongguk is hot and Jimin is a midget, that’s just fact. There was really no reason for Jimin to drink all Jeongguk’s banana milk in revenge.)
Long story short, they’re out of banana milk and instant ramyun and a number of other necessities, and Jimin is being a whiny dick and refuses to go shopping. So here Jeongguk is, in Lotte Mart, rueing the poor life choices that brought him to befriend one Park Jimin.
Jeongguk avoids shopping as a general rule. He hates it. Not because he hates spending money—the bill on his Steam account can attest to the fact that he has no problem with that. No, what Jeongguk hates about shopping are shop attendants. Shopping excursions with his older sisters rank among some his worst childhood memories—Sooyoun and Soojung would insist on dragging Jeongguk along, only to abandon him the moment they arrived at the department store. This was actually okay as long as Jeongguk was left to his own devices, but inevitably some bubbly, cheery and, worst of all, chatty shop attendant would swoop in out of nowhere to harass him into trying on some horrible combination of clothes or smelling some disgusting cologne or taste-testing some gross cheese sample.
So when Jeongguk hears someone clear their throat just behind him in the dairy aisle, he barely manages to stifle a groan. Maybe if he pretends not to hear and walks faster towards the paper goods section he can escape unscathed?
Jeongguk turns. It’s not a shop attendant at all. Instead, Seokjin’s standing behind him in worn-out jeans and a zip-up hoodie, his burnt caramel-brown hair flopping over his forehead. The t-shirt he’s wearing under his hoodie is emblazoned with the English words “Pragmatic beatnik” and a picture of a slice of pie. He looks relaxed. He looks...edible.
“Funny running into you here of all places,” Seokjin says with that soft, pretty smile on his face, the one that makes something strange happen to Jeongguk’s insides. “We seem to be seeing a lot of each other, huh?”
“Funny, yeah.” Seokjin doesn’t need to know that working out at the gym has become Jeongguk’s new favorite activity, now that he knows Seokjin’s there nearly every day.
“I guess everyone needs to eat.” Seokjin glances down at Jeongguk’s basket, and Jeongguk suddenly wishes he could hide it. His selection of banana milk, instant ramen, frozen meals and the occasional piece of fruit (for Jimin) looks pretty pathetic next to Seokjin’s cart overflowing with fresh produce.
“I don’t know much about cooking.”
“Yeah,” Seokjin says, and he’s nice enough not to tack on the ‘obviously,’ but then Jeongguk guesses he doesn’t really need to. It’s, well. Obvious.
He swallows back his embarrassment (will he ever stop embarrassing himself in front of Seokjin?) and tries to steer the conversation in a more productive direction. “So, um, you like to cook?”
“I like to eat,” Seokijin corrects. “Cooking is just a means to an end. I’m not particularly good at it or anything, but if I want to eat well on a grad student stipend, I had to learn how to make a few simple dishes.”
If the ingredients he’s buying are any indication, Seokjin knows how to cook more than just a few simple dishes. There's sweet winter pumpkin, two types of mushrooms, broccoli, ground beef, and a variety of different herbs Jeongguk can't name. There’s even some kind of knobbly beige root that Jeongguk isn’t sure is meant for human consumption.
“That's a lot of mushrooms.”
“You know, mushrooms were my favorite food as a kid? I know it’s weird,” Seokjin adds, taking in the grossed-out expression on Jeongguk’s face. It’s definitely rude of him, but Jeongguk can’t control his reaction. Mushrooms. What kind of kid likes mushrooms? “It’s because of Mario,” Seokjin sighs. “I was really into Super Mario as a kid, and there were these mushrooms—did you ever play?”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk says. “You’re talking about the 1-up mushrooms, right?”
“Right!” Seokjin looks excited. “There’s also the super mushroom—those are the red ones—and the mega mushroom, and the mini mushroom. There are a ton of them in the expanded universe games, too, like the boo mushroom, that one gives you ghost powers for a while, or the propeller mushroom which—well, you can probably guess. But the 1-up mushroom is the best. When I was a kid, my mom used to make this special mushroom dish for me, and whenever I ate a mushroom I’d make the 1-up sound.” He stops suddenly, and Jeongguk notices that his ears have gone red. “Sorry, that’s probably more than you wanted to know.”
“Nah, it’s fine, hyung.” It’s freaking adorable is what it is. “So, are you making that mushroom dish now?”
“Oh, no.” Seokjin shakes his head. He’s still a little pink. “I thought I’d just make pumpkin curry with beef, maybe throw in some broccoli and mushrooms. Whatever’s in season.”
Jeongguk’s stomach, ever the traitor, takes this moment to growl loudly. “Sorry. It just sounds really good,” Jeongguk says, while Seokjin covers his giggle with a hand. “I haven’t had beef since last Chuseok. It’s so expensive.”
“My mom always says that you should never be frugal when it comes to food,” Seokjin says. “Besides, you don’t need a lot of meat to make something delicious. A little goes a long way. You should give it a try.”
“Maybe.” Jeongguk’s cooked before, but only with his older sisters or mom. The idea of striking out on his own is more than a little overwhelming. He glances down at the items in Seokjin’s cart in trepidation. How does Seokjin know that pumpkin and beef go together? That the mushrooms (mushrooms) won’t make everything taste gross? And what the heck is he going to do with all those green herby things? Jeongguk’s at a loss.
“If you’re new to cooking, the best thing to do is start with a protein.” Seokjin has a hand around Jeongguk’s elbow and is guiding him towards the butcher counter before Jeongguk can even attempt to put up a fight. “Chicken breast is easy. One of the first things I learned how to make is chicken tits in chili sauce…”
By the time they reach the checkout line, Jeongguk’s basket is overflowing and he’s got seven new recipes saved in his phone courtesy of Seokjin. “I’ll give you a ride back to campus,” Seokjin says as they exit the store.
“You don’t need to do that,” Jeongguk assures him. “I’ll be fine.”
“It’s no big deal. You can help me load up the car, anyway.”
Seokjin’s car is a ten-year-old sedan with peeling leather upholstery (“second-hand,” Seokjin admits. “It was my brother’s”), but it’s spacious and neat. Jeongguk and Seokjin fill the backseat with their groceries, since the trunk is currently resident to several enormous bags of kitty litter and a bulk box of cat food (“My brother’s cat, too,” Seokjin sighs). As Seokjin pulls out of the lot, he asks for Jeongguk’s address.
“You can just drop me at campus. I live nearby.”
Seokjin chuckles. “Don’t want your TA knowing where you live, huh?”
“What? No, nothing like that, hyung,” Jeongguk says, flustered. “I’m at 244 Umyeonno.”
“See, that wasn’t so hard was it?” Seokjin glances at him quickly, his eyes crinkling at the corners. Jeongguk feels a little warm, despite the chilly temperature in the car. “So, Jeongguk-ah. How’s the life of a music major going?”
“Fine, I guess,” Jeongguk says. “I like singing.”
“Do you perform a lot?”
“Not really. Just for classes. I’m not in choir or any of the acapella groups.” He’d thought about joining freshman year, but none of them really caught his eye. He likes singing—he’s probably happiest when he’s singing—but he doesn’t really like performing very much. “I mostly do dance team outside class.”
They take a left turn off the main road. “A shortcut,” Seokjin answers his unasked question. “You really seem to like dance, Guk-ah. Have you always danced?”
“Yeah, pretty much. Since elementary school at least. I thought about majoring in it, but my parents worried I wouldn't be able to find a job after university.” Not that vocal performance is the most useful degree either, but at least he could point to Soojung’s success as a vocal trainer and Yoongi’s growing reputation as a producer to back himself up.
“Hm. My family isn’t thrilled with my choice of degree either,” Seokjin muses. “Early childhood psychology doesn’t measure up to law or medicine, apparently.”
Jeongguk’s heard the same thing too many times to count. “It’s so dumb that parents all want their kids to do the same two things. If everyone was a doctor or a lawyer wouldn’t that be boring?”
Seokjin seems amused at his outburst. “Exactly. The world needs dancers and singers to keep things interesting.”
“And psychologists,” Jeongguk adds. “To keep things from getting too interesting.”
Seokjin looks over at him, eyes wide, then half-laughs half-coughs into his hand. “You’re an interesting guy, Jeongguk-ah,” he says finally, turning back to the road. “I’m not too sure about your take on psychology though.”
“So what do you do with a PhD in early childhood psychology then? Become a therapist?”
Seokjin hums. “To be honest, I don’t really know. I used to think I wanted to become a professor, but now…I’m not sure. Acadamia’s really different from what I thought.” He’s silent for a moment. They slow to a stop in front of a red light, and Jeongguk wonders if the conversation is over.
“I like teaching,” Seokjin says suddenly. Jeongguk looks at him. He’s staring straight ahead, so Jeongguk can only see him in profile, but his lips look tense. A muscle twitches in his jaw, like he’s clenching his teeth.
“You're good at it,” Jeongguk says. It’s sincere. Seokjin is a good TA—he’s clear and approachable and even though he grades kind of hard, he’s still fair. The students in Jeongguk’s section love him, and it’s not just for his looks.
Seokjin smiles a little closed-mouth smile, wry. “Thank you Jeongguk-ah. But unfortunately teaching isn't what gets you tenure.”
“What does then?”
“Research.” Seokjin's hands shift slightly on the steering wheel. The light turns green, and they move forward again. “I don't hate it, but…I went into psychology because I like people. And research is much more lonely than I'd thought it would be.”
Jeongguk has never really thought about what conducting research is like. He knows Yoongi spends a lot of time alone producing tracks and working on his master’s thesis, but then Yoongi likes spending time alone. “Do you have to be a professor?”
Seokjin shrugs one shoulder. “I don’t have to. I’m just not sure what else there is.”
“I don’t know either,” Jeongguk says, wishing he had something better to offer. They’re less than a block from his apartment building now, but it seems wrong to leave things here with Seokjin so quiet and solemn. “But, well...you could always go for a career as a model, if psychology doesn’t work out.”
“What was that?”
Jeongguk bites his lip. Did he lay it on too thick? Usually guys like that kind of thing, at least in his dating sims, but it sounds more...awkward in real life. “Come on,” he says. He’s shooting for a nonchalant tone but it comes out defensive instead. “I can’t believe you haven’t been scouted. I mean—” he waves vaguely to take in all of Seokjin’s everything. “You’re really good-looking. Just sayin’.”
Seokjin slows the car to a stop and puts it into park. When he turns to Jeongguk, he has one eyebrow raised, but his lips are twitching like he’s holding back a smile. “You, Jeon Jeongguk,” he says, pointing a finger at Jeongguk’s nose, “are trying to butter me up.”
“You are.” Seokjin’s definitely smiling now. “You can keep going, by the way. How good-looking do you think I am, again?”
Jeongguk crosses his arms. “I never said I think you’re good-looking.”
“Oh, I see. It was an objective statement of fact, hmm?”
“Shut up.” Jeongguk feels the beginnings of a blush. “Don’t you have to go feed your cat or something?”
“I think you mean, ‘Don’t you have to go feed your cat, hyung,’” Seokjin corrects him with a sniff, but he sounds more amused than angry. “And yes, I do. So I’ll be leaving you here, Guk-ah.”
Jeongguk unbuckles his seatbelt and moves to get out of the car, but Seokjin stops him.
“Wait a sec, you’ve got something in your hair.” He reaches forward, balancing his weight on the flat of the gear console with one hand, and brushes something out of Jeongguk’s bangs. “There.”
Jeongguk releases a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding. “Thanks.”
“You’ve got really huge eyes, Guk-ah,” Seokjin says, staring straight at Jeongguk. He’s still leaning across the gear stick, his face just slightly too close, and Jeongguk feels his cheeks begin to heat again. “Like a manga character.”
“They’re not that big.” Jeongguk looks away, willing his blush to subside.
“They’re really nice,” Seokjin says. Jeongguk is fighting a losing battle against this blush. “Pretty.”
Jeongguk snorts derisively. “Exactly what every guy wants, to have pretty eyes.” He’s probably fire-engine red right now.
“There’s nothing wrong with having pretty eyes,” Seokjin tuts. He sits back in his seat. “You need to learn how to take a compliment, Guk-ah. Didn’t your parents ever tell you it’s rude to argue with your elders? You should just say, ‘thank you, hyung’.”
“I’m gonna go now,” Jeongguk says instead, pushing open the door. He retrieves his groceries from the backseat, then pauses next to the car. Seokjin rolls down the window, looking up at him expectantly.
“Thank you, hyung,” says Jeongguk. Seokjin smiles.
WEEK 11 | Seminar Room 223
Despite running into Seokjin pretty regularly at the gym and once in the grocery store, Jeongguk hasn’t shaken things up much in class. He doesn’t really like drawing attention to himself in section, preferring to sit back and listen to others make their points. Plus, the last time he’d said something he’d made a total fool of himself, which didn’t exactly encourage participation.
So when Seokjin cold-calls on him during section, he can’t help but shrink a little in his seat.
“What did you think of the readings, Jeongguk-ah?” Seokjin asks. “Did you prefer Erikson or Marcia?”
Everyone turns to look at him, and Jeongguk licks his lips a bit nervously. It’s not that he doesn’t have anything to say. The current unit is on Identity Formation, and Jeongguk has surprised himself by really enjoying it. Professor Choi’s lectures on adolescence and the concept of self were interesting; Namjoon’s two-hour rant on the subject had been even more so, if a bit repetitive towards the end. He’d even liked the readings, despite the dry style of the writing. But he’s not sure he can put his thoughts into terms of liking one author’s theory over another.
“Truthfully, seonsaengnim, I didn’t really like either of them,” he says finally. Seokjin tilts his head to the side.
“Could you explain why?”
“Um. Well, with Erikson, I felt like he was too focused on adolescents figuring out exactly who they are before they can move on. I mean, in his stage model, kids are supposed to figure out their role in society by the time they hit twenty, but,” Jeongguk looks around the room, catching Taehyung’s eye, “frankly, I don’t feel like I know what I’m supposed to be doing half the time.”
A couple people, including Taehyung nod in agreement. It gives Jeongguk the confidence to continue. “Both Erikson and Marcia are too stuck on that. People change their identities all the time. Like, take careers. In our parent’s generation, most people worked in the same place for their entire lives, but now it’s really common to change jobs and do something completely different, or to spend a while exploring different options.
“Plus, Erikson seems to say that you can’t, you know, progress to the next stage and form lasting relationships until you’ve figured out your identity. That makes it sound like you can’t change once you’re in a relationship, or, like, changing your concept of who you are threatens your relationships. I mean, lots of people have childhood friends who’ve known them since they were little. If change was so threatening, how would those friendships last?”
Jeongguk shrugs. “I guess my issue with both theories is that I don’t feel like people ever really stop changing. I mean, I definitely feel don’t finished most of the time. But I don’t think that means I have to be alone.” He trails off, not really sure how to wrap things up, but when he looks up, Seokjin is smiling at him.
“Those are all really great points, Jeongguk-ah. I think all of us, including myself, feel ‘unfinished’ sometimes. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It would be pretty boring if no one changed after their teenage years,” Seokjin says, his eyes not leaving Jeongguk’s. Is Jeongguk imagining it, or is that a hint of Seokjin’s wry smile from their conversation in the car?
Seokjin clears his throat and shifts his gaze to the rest of the class. “Does anyone want to take up Erikson’s side on this?”
Taehyung raises his hand. “I agree with Jeonggukkie, but I think Marcia’s theory of exploration versus commitment fixes a lot of the problems with Erikson.”
Seokjin nods. “Go on, Taehyung-ssi.”
“So, imagine you didn’t have the chance to explore different career options when you were young and now you decide you want to try something different, but you’re already married and have kids and stuff. According to Marcia, you could go back to school and re-explore that aspect of your identity while staying committed to other aspects of your identity, like your religion or gender role or your relationship with your partner.” Taehyung pauses. “Neither Marcia nor Erikson leave much room for fluid identities though. I think that’s a big problem with both theories.”
“Thanks Taehyung-ssi, I’m really glad you brought that up,” Seokjin says approvingly. He turns to the girl sitting beside Taehyung. “Yerin-ssi, do you think Marcia’s and Erikson’s theories could be modified to better incorporate fluid identities?” The class discussion moves on, but Jeongguk feels inexplicably sour. He agrees with Taehyung—he’d even talked about fluid identities with Namjoon during their study session on Monday (after the two hour rant) and come to essentially the same conclusion. He just wishes he’d been the one to speak up about it in class.
Jeongguk sinks a little lower in his chair. This is exactly the reason why he doesn’t normally go after teacher characters: in the end, it comes down to doing well in class—and Jeongguk’s never going to be an A+ student, whether in video games or in real life. But the idea of Taehyung winning Seokjin pisses Jeongguk off enough that he actually wants to be an A+ student, and that’s a first.
Section winds down with Seokjin announcing that their exams (the second of the semester, and the last big grade before the final) have been graded and are available for pickup in the department office. The rest of the class beelines out the door after the announcement, obviously eager to see how they did, but Jeongguk is barely paying attention. He packs up his bag slowly, still feeling irritated, but before he can leave Seokjin pulls him aside.
“I wanted to give this back to you personally,” he says, handing over Jeongguk’s exam. Jeongguk turns the paper over. The bright pink 92 is circled twice beside a winking smiley face and a couple exclamation points.
“Congrats, Guk-ah.” Seokjin beams at him, a real grin, and Jeongguk can barely stutter through his thank you.
He stares down at the shiny 92 on the page. He’s been doing all the readings and the homework, paying attention in lecture and section, even going to his tutoring sessions—but somehow it hadn’t occurred to him that, on top of winning Seokjin’s approval, he might get good grades, too. He wants to snap a pic of the test to text to Yoongi and Namjoon.
“You’ve really been studying hard,” Seokjin says, patting him on the shoulder. “Namjoon-ah’s a good tutor, right?” He pauses, waiting for Jeongguk to agree, and Jeongguk feels his glow of achievement dim.
“Yeah,” he says, a bit reluctant. Sure, Namjoon’s been really helpful, Jeongguk definitely has a better grasp of the material and better study habits thanks to him. But does Seokjin have to look quite so happy about it? “Yeah, he’s good.”
“It’s really incredible that he can tutor outside his major,” Seokjin goes on. “He took Developmental Psych last year for fun, did I mention that? He’s majoring in English literature. But he’s so smart, he just gets the material.”
“Incredible. Yeah.” First Taehyung, now Namjoon? Does Jeongguk even stand a chance? Maybe he should start researching Seokjin’s favored outfit combinations. He needs something set himself apart from the academic overachievers.
Seokjin smiles beatifically, seemingly oblivious to Jeongguk’s darkening mood. “Keep up the good work, Jeonggukkie.”
WEEK 12 | Dance Studio 5
Between all the studying and exercising and cooking, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to Jeongguk when his friends start complaining.
“It’s like I never see you these days except in the studio,” Hoseok whines as he braces himself against the wall next to Jeongguk to stretch his hamstrings. They’re winding down from a grueling two-hour practice session, and everyone is worn out. The spring showcase is still months away, but there’s a ton of work to do in the meantime, from picking the music to auditioning for solos. For graduating dance majors like Hoseok, things are even more intense—he’s got his senior capstone stage to choreograph.
Jimin huffs a weak laugh from where he’s sprawled flat on the floor. “Hyung, I live with him and I don’t even see him.”
“That’s because you’re too short to see over the counter,” Jeongguk says, and Jimin chucks his empty water bottle half-heartedly in his direction. Jeongguk dodges it easily. “Weak, hyung.”
“You’re a demon,” Jimin grumbles, sticking out his tongue. “Why aren’t you dying like the rest of us?”
“Gukkie’s been working out,” Hoseok says. He stands with a groan and reaches over to poke at Jeongguk’s belly. “Look at these chocolate abs. Who’re you trying to impress, Guk-ah?”
“No one. Stop poking me,” Jeongguk says, pulling away from Hoseok.
Hoseok pouts. “Yah, Jeongguk, I thought we were bros.” He wraps a sweaty arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders. “Help a hyung out, won’t you? I bet your girlfriend has some pretty friends, hmmm? We can double-date.”
“Hyung, there’s no girlfriend.”
“Your boyfriend then,” Hoseok says easily, “with handsome friends. I’m not picky.”
“Jeez, you’re so annoying.” Jeongguk shoves Hoseok off, groaning mentally. Things are going so well with Seokjin right now, he can practically taste the beef Jimin’s promised to buy him. He doesn’t want to screw it up. Why don’t his hyungs have lives? Can’t they go to a party or hook up or something without his help?
The answer to that is no. Frankly, if it weren’t for the fact that Jeongguk is an ace wingman, Jimin’d probably never have gotten past the sighing-from-afar stage with any of his past crushes. Hoseok’s hardly any better. Last year, he’d taken Seulgi on a date to a pro-wrestling match and promptly passed out from fear, even though literally everyone on the planet knows that pro-wrestling is 100 percent rigged (“It was really intense, okay!”). Poor Seulgi had had to take him to the emergency room.
If only there was some way to distract them, something that would take their attention off Jeongguk’s love life and focus it back where it should be—namely, on improving their own pathetic game.
Then it clicks.
“Yeah?” Hoseok squints at him, already a little suspicious. It would take a little doing, but if Jeongguk plays his cards right, he could take out two birds with one stone. Or, well. Four hyungs with two bribes, if he wants to be specific. “What is it?”
“What are you doing Friday night?”
WEEK 12 | La Cuillère D'Argent
“Okay, so he kind of looks like a pretentious dick. And talks like a pretentious dick. And maybe acts like a pretentious dick. Sometimes. But he’s not a pretentious dick, hyung, I promise!”
“I feel like I’ve heard this saying before,” Hoseok drawls. “Except, you know. The opposite.”
“I promise, hyung, he’s actually a nice guy!” Hoseok lets himself roll his eyes. Jeongguk can’t see him over the phone anyway. Not that that would stop Hoseok in person, of course.
“It’s fine, I’m here anyway,” he says, because he’s actually a good hyung and also because Jeongguk had promised his date would pay, and Hoseok isn’t rich enough to turn up his nose at a free meal. Even if spending the evening with this Kim Namjoon guy is sounding less and less appealing the more Jeongguk says about him. “But how’m I supposed to recognize him? I’m sorry, but ‘looks like a pretentious dick’ is too broad a category, that’s gotta cover, like, sixty percent of the people in this fancy-ass restaurant.”
It’s a nicer place than Hoseok would normally go with friends, that’s for sure. Hoseok scans the tables, but everyone looks at least ten years older. God, he hopes Jeongguk didn’t set him up with a professor or something. That would be hella awkward.
A guy bursts in the door, tripping over the lintel and nearly taking out the maître d’ in the process. He’s got a shock of frazzled bluish hair, full cheeks flushed a contrasting shade of red, and he’s wearing a truly bizarre combination of boxy pastel sweatshirt, black cutoff jean shorts and—dear god, are those actual knee socks?
When the guy finally rights himself, stuttering apologies at the wait staff, Hoseok can see he’s tall but not exactly gangly, like Hoseok had expected. Instead, he’s all warm golden skin and smooth muscles, arms exposed by the hiked-up sleeves of his sweatshirt. Not that Hoseok’s checking out some random clumsy guy’s forearms while waiting for his blind date or anything. Nooo way. Hoseok’s a class act.
“Ah, I think he’s got blue hair at the moment? And he wears, like… weird clothes,” Jeongguk is saying when Hoseok finally manages to tune back in. “He always has these tight necklace thingies on? Like a regular necklace, but really tight around your throat, you know.”
“A choker,” Hoseok says, eyes glued to the place where a slim leather band presses against Clumsy Guy’s adam’s apple.
“Gotta go, Guk,” Hoseok replies distantly, and presses ‘end call’ over the sounds of Jeongguk’s protests.
“Hi,” Hoseok says, stepping forward, and when Clumsy Guy swings around to face him, Hoseok smiles his patented noona-killer smile. Who knows, maybe it works on awkward fashion disasters, too. “I’m Jung Hoseok.”
“Hey,” the guy says, smiling hesitantly, and Jesus. Jesus. Hoseok feels his own grin freeze, then jolt up another degree as the slow smile spreads across the other guy’s face. Dimples. Jeongguk hadn’t said anything about the dimples, curse him. “Kim Namjoon.”
“So, Namjoon-ssi, how would you feel about getting out of here?” Hoseok asks, nodding his head toward the door. “This place isn’t really my thing.”
The look of complete and utter gratitude on Namjoon’s face is not quite as endearing as his dimples, but Hoseok thinks it could grow on him. “God, yeah, it’s not my thing either.” Namjoon leans forward a little. “Plus, I think they already hate me here,” he adds under his breath, words tickling the shell of Hoseok’s ear. “If we stay, they’ll probably spit in our food or something.”
Hoseok swallows, throat suddenly dry. “Can’t have that,” he says. “Chinese?”
Namjoon beams. “Perfect. I know a great place around the corner. Cheap, too.”
“You’re still paying,” Hoseok reminds him as they walk out the door.
“Huh?” Namjoon’s brow creases. “I thought Jeongguk-ah said you were paying.”
Hoseok stops dead in the middle of the sidewalk. “That sneaky brat.” Hoseok kind of has to admire the kid though. Well, Jeongguk had learned from the best.
Namjoon frowns, worried eyes peering at Hoseok from under those absurd blue bangs. “You don’t have to,” he says. “Go to dinner with me, I mean. I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
Hoseok considers him. “Do you want to?”
“Yeah. If you’re okay with it,” Namjoon answers, and his shy, dimpled smile makes another appearance. “I’m pretty hungry.”
“Okay.” Hoseok’s decision has 100 percent nothing to do with Namjoon’s dimples, he swears. Or his forearms. “Yeah. Let’s get dinner.”
WEEK 12 | Jeongguk’s and Jimin’s Apartment
Jimin wonders whether Jeongguk will even bother to show up. He’s nearly an hour late, and he still hasn't deigned to send a response to the stream of texts Jimin’s been bombarding him with for the past forty minutes. At least the food Jeongguk ordered had had the decency to arrive on time, but even greasy takeout can’t detract from the extreme awkward of having to entertain his idiot of a roommate’s classmate alone while said idiot roommate plays ghost.
Not that Taehyung’s a bad guy. In fact, he seems remarkably chill with the idea of spending his evening hanging out with some random dude he’s never met before. Though Jimin supposes the free food can’t hurt.
He glances down at his phone yet again. No new texts. Goddammit, Jeon Jeongguk.
“Sorry, Taehyung-ssi,” Jimin sighs, slipping his phone back into his pocket and flopping back against the futon. “I don’t know what’s up with Jeongguk, but he’s not answering.”
Taehyung shrugs. “S’okay. Maybe he got stuck in something.”
“Stuck up his own asshole more like,” Jimin grumbles under his breath, and Taehyung laughs loudly. “He can be a dick sometimes.”
“Don’t worry about it. You seem pretty cool.”
“Thanks, I guess.” Jimin helps himself to another chicken wing, then pushes the box towards Taehyung. “May as well finish the food, since it’s here.”
Jimin tunes the television to some dumb reality show, and they eat without talking for a while, companionably working their way through the pile of chicken wings and half a container of tteokbokki. Jimin’s just beginning to feel comfortably full when Taehyung speaks.
“So,” Taehyung starts, breaking the silence. “I’m pretty sure Jeongguk-ah wants us to screw.” He says it casually, like he’s commenting on the weather or perhaps the combination of spices in tteokbokki they’re sharing. Jimin’s lucky Taehyung is focusing on the TV in front of them and not on his face.
“Yeah, I kinda figured,” Jimin finally replies with a shrug, once he’s schooled his expression (and stopped choking on the bite of rice cake he’d unfortunately been in the process of chewing). If Taehyung can be chill about it, then so can he. “What’s less clear is why.”
Taehyung tilts his head curiously. “Isn’t it kind of obvious?” When Jimin doesn’t say anything, he continues. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I think Jeonggukkie is trying to get rid of the competition.”
“For Seokjin-seonsaengnim.” Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “Jeongguk’s into him, you know?”
Oh. The bet. “Right. I’d forgotten about that.” Jimin wants to roll his eyes. Of course Jeongguk had to go and get Jimin involved in his machinations. Isn’t this cheating somehow? They hadn’t said anything about getting other people involved, but it feels like cheating. “What a pain in the ass.”
Taehyung is in the process of stuffing the last of the tteokbokki into his mouth, his cheeks bulging squirrel-like, so he just shrugs in response.
“Seriously? It doesn’t piss you off that Jeongguk tried to set you up with his roommate in order to,” how had Taehyung put it again? “‘get rid of the competition’ for your TA?”
Taehyung swallows. “Eh, whatever. At least we got food out of it, right?” he grins winningly, and Jimin wonders how he can be so laid-back about everything.
“Dude, you are way too chill. You should be a least a little pissed.” Jimin’s more than a little pissed. Taehyung’s cute and all, but totally not his type. Plus, who sets someone up on a date without telling them? If Jimin’d known, he could have at least worn his hot jeans instead of his grungy old dance sweats. Not that it matters since, as previously mentioned, Taehyung is definitely not his type. “What if I’d been a serial killer or, like, nevered showered or something?”
“You’re not a serial killer are you?” Taehyung blinks at him, like he actually thinks this might be a possibility. “Because you seem pretty nice. You let me eat most of the tteokbokki. And yeah, washing is important, but as long as you don’t smell it’s all okay with me.”
Jimin wrinkles his nose, leaning away from Taehyung. “ Please tell me you bathe regularly, Taehyung-ssi. We’ve been sharing food.”
Taehyung grins. “If we’ve got to the level of personal hygiene questions, I think you can call me Tae.” He stacks the empty takeout containers and shoves them to the side, stretching. “And you’ll be happy to know that yes, I shower, floss, and wash behind my ears everyday.”
“Awesome.” This guy is kind of weird. Jeonggukkie sure knows how to pick them. “So, um. What do you want to do, Tae?” Since Taehyung doesn’t appear to want to leave yet, Jimin figures they’d better move on to the entertainment portion of the evening. Anything to avoid more personal hygiene show-and-tell.
“You’ve got video games right?”
Jimin scoffs. “What kind of question is that? Of course we have video games. What do you want to play?”
“How about MapleStory?” Taehyung asks, wiggling his eyebrows. “I’ll kick your ass, and make sure it’s the best game you’ve ever had.”
“Oh yeah? Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
Taehyung just grins, wide and boxy, not backing down. “I’ll bet three boxes of pepero sticks on it.”
Jimin raises an eyebrow. This kid doesn’t know what he’s got coming, but hell if Jimin’s going to turn down an easy win like that.
“Oh, you’re on.”
WEEK 13 | Yoongi’s Apartment
Yoongi should really have known something was up when Jeongguk spends the first half hour of their regular Thursday night gaming session chattering about his Developmental Psychology homework.
“They don’t tell you this in any of the parenting books, but babies are tiny psychopaths,” Jeongguk hisses, eyes wide with the horrors he’s witnessed. “They don’t even develop the ability to feel empathy until they’re like three or something, did you know that?”
“No,” Yoongi says, “and since I have zero intention of spawning, I have absolutely no desire to know more. You can keep your weird-ass psychology facts to yourself.”
They’re sitting on the floor in front of Yoongi’s television eating leftover japchae that Jeongguk had made. Apparently, he’s been experimenting with cooking. It’s not half bad, Yoongi thinks. A little bland for his taste, but since the only title Yoongi can claim in the kitchen is Master of Instant Ramyun, he doesn’t really have much room to complain.
Jeongguk pushes his empty plate to the side and burps impressively, grinning when Yoongi calls him gross. “I brought a new game to try, hyung,” he says, reaching for his bag beside the sofa. He shuffles around for a moment before pulling out the case.
“You want to play Kingdom Hearts?” Yoongi can’t believe what he’s seeing. “You hate Kingdom Hearts. You think—and I quote—‘if I wanted to play something disgustingly cute and depressingly predictable, I’d just follow Jimin around and pelt him with pepero sticks.’ Unquote.”
But Jeongguk is already crouching over Yoongi’s Xbox to queue up the game. “Someone recommended it to me. Apparently the expanded universe in this version is really good.”
“Uh huh.” Yoongi has a sneaking suspicion as to who this someone is, but he’ll keep that to himself for now. “And does this person also have anything to do with your choice of Halloween costume this year?” Not that Mario was a bad look on Jeongguk, but it was a clear divergence from the Batman costume he’d worn every year since he turned fourteen.
Jeongguk looks a little shifty. “Maybe.”
In retrospect, that should have been Yoongi’s second clue. But he’s a bit distracted (in his defense the track he’s been working on all week is refusing to come together, and he’s got a chapter of his Master’s thesis due in to his advisor on Monday, and hey, he never said he hates playing Kingdom Hearts), so it takes another hour for him to notice that something is very, very wrong.
“Yah, are you texting during game night?” Yoongi asks, affronted. The very idea of Jeongguk getting distracting during a video game—even a supposedly boring game like Kingdom Hearts—is sacrilege. The kid was practically raised on video games. According to Jeon family lore, he used a Nintendo controller as a teething toy.
“No! I’m just looking at something.”
Yoongi leans over and jerks Jeongguk’s phone out of his hands. Jeongguk yelps and tries to snatch it back, but it’s too late. Yoongi’s seen it.
“A shopping app?” He doesn’t try to hide the surprise in his voice. “Seriously?”
Jeongguk’s a bit red-faced. “I buy clothes sometimes!” he whines, taking the phone back. Yoongi lets him have it.
“Yeah, no, of course you do,” Yoongi hurries to agree before the kid begins to spiral into sulk. It’s just weird. Jeongguk’s never shown any interest in clothes before, which is why he’s been cycling through the same four or five pairs of slowly-disintegrating sweatpants since high school.
Except, now that Yoongi’s looking, Jeongguk is wearing a pair of jeans today. What’s more, they’re even new jeans, or at least Yoongi’s never seen them before—tight, dark-wash denim that clings to the muscles in his thighs and calves. He’s got his hair styled too, with his bangs brushed off to one side instead of hanging in his eyes like usual.
When did these changes start to happen? When has Yoongi ever looked away from Jeongguk for long enough for the kid to change without his knowledge?
“You know, Guk-ah, I haven’t seen you much lately. You getting too cool for your hyung?” He pauses, adding up the weeks. “It’s been, what, three weeks since our game night?”
“Not you too,” Jeongguk groans nonsensically. “I’m running out of desperate single people to set my hyungs up with.”
“Never mind.” Jeongguk is pouting a little, looking off to the side. “Actually, hyung there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
Yoongi is getting whiplash from this conversation. “Okay?”
“Actually,” Jeongguk pauses and Yoongi feels a chill of foreboding, “I’ve been thinking of dyeing my hair.”
“You’re thinking of dyeing your hair.”
Jeongguk nods. He runs his fingers through his bangs, pulling the slightly-too-long strands out straight to look up at them. “Do you think I could pull off red? Or…pink?”
It’s like Yoongi has entered some kind of alternate universe in which Jeongguk actually cares about things like his hair color and clothing choices. Or is the kid just coming down with something? How does one diagnose temporary insanity, anyway?
“You could probably pull off pink hair,” Yoongi says carefully. Jeongguk doesn’t look ill. In fact, he looks…good. Chipper. Happy even. “But why the sudden interest?”
Jeongguk shrugs. “It’s Seokjin-hyung’s favorite color.”
“It is, huh?” Yoongi says, managing to sound only slightly strangled. Jeongguk has a crush on Seokjin. An honest to god, sickeningly cute, junior high-type crush. Yoongi had teased Jeongguk about signing up for Developmental Psych just to stare at Seokjin, sure, but that was just because Seokjin is hot. Anyone with eyes can see that, and Jeongguk has always had eyes for the pretty ones. But crushing on him? The idea never seriously crossed Yoongi’s mind, and now that it has, he really, really wishes it hadn’t. “And he wants you to dye your hair?”
“He hasn’t said anything about it, but…I dunno, I thought it might be a good idea?” Yoongi watches as Jeongguk worries at his lip, staring blankly at the game menu displayed on the TV. “I haven’t figured out which outfit options hyung likes yet, but he seems to like pink and I really need to up my style points.”
Sweet Jesus. Jeongguk is trying to woo Seokjin like he’s in an otome game. Can Yoongi get a refund on his hyung membership card now please? Because he did not sign up to deal with this shit.
But Jeongguk is looking at him now, a hopeful expression on his face, and Yoongi has to say something. “Yeah,” he says slowly, drawing out the word to play for time. “Sounds like a plan.” He clears his throat. “So, um. What do you think of Seokjin-ssi?”
“Hmm? Oh, he’s cool. Well, hot, obviously, but you know. Cool, too.”
“Yeah, he seems like a cool guy.” Fuck. Why don’t conversations like this come with directions? “And he, um. Thinks you’re cool too?”
“Duh, I’m adorable,” Jeongguk says carelessly, but his shrug is just a little too deliberate to be real. He cares alright.
“So…” Yoongi shifts uncomfortably, “you, you know. Like him.”
Jeongguk’s forehead wrinkles. “Yeah, I guess? What’s not to like?”
“No, I mean. Do you like like him.” Goddammit, now Jeongguk’s got Yoongi regressing back to junior high. “As in, want to date him.”
Jeongguk’s expression transforms from one of confusion to annoyance, his lips pursing into a tight line. “What the hell, hyung, of course I don’t like like him.” He sounds positively affronted at the very idea, and relief washes over Yoongi. Okay, so he’d got it wrong. Great. Perfect.
“It’s just part of my strategy,” Jeongguk continues, rolling his eyes. “For the bet.”
Jeongguk flicks his hand as though batting away Yoongi’s question like an annoying fly. “Jiminie bet I couldn’t get Seokjin-hyung to go on a date with me. I’m gonna prove him wrong.”
It takes more than a few moments for the reality of the situation sink its teeth into Yoongi, slowly, like a lion circling its prey before pouncing. This is far worse than than the teenage crush he’d expected. This, he realizes, staring at the mulish set of Jeongguk’s jaw, is a clusterfuck approaching Boys over Flowers levels of drama, and Yoongi has absolutely no idea what to do about it. If only Soojung were here, he’d dump the whole thing in her lap and run for the hills. Actually, he could call her. It’s not a terrible idea.
Yoongi can just imagine how that conversation would go. “So, noona, have you talked to your baby brother lately? No? Well, seems like he’s got the hots for his probably extremely unavailable TA, but wait! He doesn’t really like him, he's wooing him to win an ill-advised bet with his roommate, except that of course he really does like him, he's just being a tsundere little shit and refusing to acknowledge it. Oh, and he’s trying to use, like, goddamn Tokimeki-fucking-Memorial as his manual for romance. Hilarious, right?”
On second thought, calling Soojung is a terrible idea. She’d probably just egg the poor kid on, then she’d start a betting pool and rig it so that she’d win everything. Jeongguk would end up scarred for life.
No, Yoongi thinks as Jeongguk turns his attention back to the game. He’d better handle this himself.
The facts are these:
- Jeongguk is trying to woo Kim Seokjin like he’s in an otome game.
- Kim Seokjin may or may not find this adorable.
- It’s all Park Jimin’s fault.
WEEK 14 | Dance Studio 5
It goes without saying that Min Yoongi knows how to make an entrance. He storms into the dance team’s practice room like he’s charging into battle: the door crashes open with satisfying bang, and he stomps across the threshold as though crushing each centimeter underfoot.
It also goes without saying that Jung Hoseok reacts to said entrance like a particularly jumpy cat with a spray bottle aimed directly at its head. He shrieks and gets at least fifteen centimeters of air, landing with his hand pressed dramatically to his chest like Yoongi’s given him palpitations.
“Jesus, hyung,” he groans. “You’re going to kill me one of these days.”
“I am going to kill Park Jimin,” Yoongi growls, stalking into the studio. “Where is he?”
“Whoa.” Hoseok stops Yoongi with a hand on his arm. “Calm down, there’ll be no murder in my studio.”
Yoongi jerks out of Hoseok's grip. “It’s the university’s studio. And since I’ve been here longer’n you, I’ve got more right to call it mine.” The studio is mostly empty, just Hoseok and a few petrified-looking kids (probably freshman, Yoongi thinks) watching their exchange with eyes the size of dinner plates. “If I say there will be murder, then there will be murder.”
“Hyung. I seriously cannot let you kill one of my best dancers. Not unless you want to take his place?” Hoseok steps back to give Yoongi a mock once-over, as though sizing him up for a role. “You’ve got nice collarbones for a ballerino, you know.”
“Hoseok, I seriously do not give a shit. Where is Jimin?”
The humorous looks slides off Hoseok’s face. “He should be here soon. Why? What’s wrong?”
“Jeongguk, that’s what’s wrong.” Yoongi’s not sure how much he should say. Jeongguk’s close to Hoseok, but would he have talked to him about Seokjin? It seems unlikely. Jeongguk hates talking about feelings. Then again, he’s so deep in denial about his crush on Seokjin, he may have mentioned the bet to Hoseok anyway. This whole thing is a fucking hot mess. “He’s...having some problems. With stuff. And Jimin’s involved.”
“Oh.” Hoseok tilts his head. “Is this about his puppy-love crush on Seokjin-hyung?”
Yoongi’s jaw doesn’t drop (he has better control than that), but it’s a near thing. “He told you?”
Hoseok scoffs. “Are we talking about the same Jeon Jeongguk? Of course he didn’t tell me. He’s just disgustingly obvious, what with the exercising and the cooking and shit. Plus, Jimin mentioned he’s taking Developmental Psych this semester and actually studying. I put two and two together. S’not exactly rocket science, hyung.”
Yoongi rubs a hand over his face. “Okay, great, so you know.” Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe he can get Hoseok to help him convince Jeongguk that this was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. Maybe he can get Hoseok to help him throw Jimin into the Han River.
“I don’t get why you’re so upset about this, hyung,” Hoseok says. Yoongi glares at him from between his fingers. Fucking Jung Hoseok. “I think it’s kind of cute how Gukkie’s trying to win him over. Kinda pathetic, but cute.”
“It’s not cute.” Yoongi sucks in a breath. So Hoseok doesn’t know, not really. “It’s not cute, because Jeongguk thinks he’s doing it to win a bet.”
Hoseok stills. “What?”
“A fucking bet. With Jimin,” Yoongi seethes. “Jimin bet that Jeongguk couldn’t get a date with Seokjin-ssi, so of course the idiot went and fell head-over-fucking-heels in like with him, but he keeps insisting everything is part of his strategy. To win the bet.”
“Jesus fucking Christ.”
“Yes, Jesus fucking Christ,” Yoongi says. “Now will you let me kill Jimin?”
“No,” Hoseok says, “but I’ll let you talk to him.” He jerks his chin towards something over Yoongi’s left shoulder. When Yoongi turns, Jimin is standing behind him, eyes huge.
“Is that true, hyung?” he asks. “What you said about Guk-ah?”
“Yeah,” Yoongi bites out. Isn’t Jimin supposed to be Jeongguk’s roommate? Shouldn’t he know this shit?
Jimin opens his mouth, then closes it. “I didn’t think he’d actually do it.”
“Bullshit,” Yoongi flares up. “When has Jeongguk ever turned down a bet? Remember that time he ate an entire bowl of spicy ramyun upside-down and then didn’t stop puking for an hour?”
“He did what?” Hoseok mutters, but Jimin and Yoongi ignore him.
“No, I mean,” Jimin pauses, chewing his lip. He sounds worried, sad. “I didn’t think he’d actually fall for Seokjin-hyung. I really thought he’d just—that he’d, you know, try to win him over like one of his dating games. And suck at it,” he adds. “I didn’t think he’d take it seriously.”
Yoongi feels himself deflate. “I know. Shit.” He knows Jimin didn’t mean it, Yoongi doesn’t really blame him, but it was still just so incredibly stupid. Everyone knows how competitive Jeongguk can get. Jimin should have known better.
“It’s not fair to Seokjin-hyung, either,” Hoseok adds suddenly. “I mean, if Gukkie’s just doing it for a bet…”
“I know, hyung, don’t bite my head off. But he thinks he is,” says Hoseok. He runs a hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up in the back like a cockatoo. “How’s Seokjin-hyung going to feel if he finds out that Jeongguk thinks he’s flirting with him to win a bet?”
Yoongi shakes his head. “Probably shitty, But Seokjin-ssi is not my problem.” He turns back to Jimin, poking him in the chest. “You. Fix it,” he says. “Get Jeongguk to quit the bet. Tell him you’ll pay up or whatever, I’ll cover you. Just get him to stop.”
Jimin nods, but he looks undoubtful. “I’ll try.”
Yoongi should argue, but he doesn’t. He knows Jimin will try. It’s just that Jeongguk doesn’t like to give up on bets. No matter the incentive. “Okay. Try.”
It goes spectacularly, as expected.
“Are you kidding me?” Jeongguk scoffs. Jimin’s clearly just trying to save his own ass since he can see Jeongguk’s about to win. “You really think I’d give up now? You’re just trying to avoid paying up when you’ll inevitably lose.”
“I’ll pay, even if you don’t do anything.” Jimin’s oddly solemn, not even rising to the bait when Jeongguk takes a dig at his losing. “I’ll treat you to bulgogi, just like I promised. I’ll even buy you to soju.”
Jeongguk frowns. Jimin may mess around a lot, but he has never, ever bought Jeongguk alcohol. Before Jeongguk turned twenty and could start buying his own booze, he’d tried every method he could think of to change Jimin’s mind: he’d wheedled and pleaded and bribed and blackmailed, all to no avail. The fact that Jimin is offering to buy him booze now, totally unprompted, is downright weird.
“Oh my god,” Jeongguk says, enlightenment striking. “You just don’t want to admit my otome strategy actually worked. That I’m actually better at picking up dates than you.”
That gets a reaction out of Jimin. “In your dreams,” he snorts, rolling his eyes. “No, I just think it’s a dumb bet, Guk. Come on, let’s go out to bulgogi and forget about this. Chalk it up to a learning experience, yeah?”
It sounds so reasonable. Forget the bet, and still get a free meal. But—
“No.” Jeon Jeongguk isn’t a quitter. Particularly when he’s about to win.
Jimin’s eyebrows tip up. “Gukkie—”
But Jeongguk’s already on his way out the door. He’s got a confession scene to plan.
WEEK 16 | Jeongguk’s and Jimin’s Apartment
It’s nearly eight o’clock, and things are just about as perfect as Jeongguk can possibly make them.
The table is set. Dinner is bubbling on the stove. There is music (Yoongi’s not-so-secret “romantic” playlist) and flowers (a potted geranium borrowed from the ajumma downstairs—Jeongguk doesn’t like her much, but a pinched cheek and a few minutes of awkward small talk are worth the free table decor), wine (liberated from Jimin’s stash when he was looking the other way), even candles (leftover from Jeongguk’s last birthday party).
He picked out his outfit in advance: a soft, long-sleeved t-shirt in a warm oatmeal color (which Jimin had said made him look “cuddly”) and his new pair of tight black jeans (which Jimin had said made him look “like sex on legs. Or sexy legs? I dunno, but I’m looking at your legs and thinking about sex, which is frankly kind of disturbing, so can you please stop?”). No pink, but pink isn’t really Jeongguk’s color anyway. He has swept his hair out of his eyes though. Seokjin likes Jeongguk’s eyes.
All that’s left is for Seokjin to turn up. There’s a chance he won’t.
Jeongguk had been nervous before the Developmental Psych final on Wednesday. Not because of the exam—thanks to all his studying, Jeongguk had pretty much breezed through it—but because on his way to turn in his exam paper, he’d stopped by Seokjin’s desk with a handwritten note asking him to dinner.
It was a gamble. But Seokjin is a romantic (according to Namjoon) and he likes good food (according to Hoseok), so Jeongguk hopes that the combination of an old-fashioned invitation and the promise of home cooking will be enough to pique his curiosity.
The doorbell rings and Jeongguk nearly jumps. It’s showtime.
Seokjin looks nervous when he opens the door. “Hi Jeongguk-ah,” he says, glancing around the entry. He’s dressed casually in jeans and a peacoat, a thick scarf wrapped around his face. When he peels off his coat Jeongguk can see that he’s wearing a soft, baby-blue sweater, oversized so that the loose V of the neckline drapes low over his collarbones. Jeongguk swallows.
“I hope I’m not intruding. Your note said you needed some help testing a recipe?” Seokjin pulls off his boots and sniffs the air. “Are you making mushrooms?”
“Yeah.” Jeongguk realizes he’s been staring with Seokjin’s coat held limply in one hand, and he turns around to hang it on a peg. “They’re already cooked, though. Why? Are you gonna make the 1-up sound when you eat them, hyung?”
Seokjin groans. “I regret everything, including teaching you how to cook. If there’s nothing but mushrooms, I’m going to turn around and leave right now,” he says, turning as though to walk out the door in his socks.
“But you’d miss out on the steak, hyung.” That’s the magic word—Jeongguk can practically see Seokjin’s ears prick up at the word ‘steak.’
“I didn’t give you a recipe for steak, did I?”
“I found one online.” Jeongguk leads the way into the small kitchen, where two ribeye steaks are already marinating in a mixture of red wine, olive oil, garlic, and soy sauce. The recipe had called for Worcestershire sauce, but Jeongguk hadn’t been able to find it in the grocery store. It seemed to be mostly salt when he’d looked it up online anyway, so hopefully soy would be an okay substitution.
“Looks good.” Seokjin sounds impressed. “I don’t know what you need my help for.”
“I need a taste-tester. This steak would be wasted on my roommate.”
Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “And all this?” He gestures to the already-set table, the wine and candles and flowers.
Jeongguk shrugs. “Doesn’t food taste better when the presentation is good? I read something about wine tasting better in fancy glasses.” Seokjin snorts.
“Alright then. Let’s get cooking.”
The steaks don’t take long on the stove. Jeongguk melts butter in a skillet and arranges the steaks, letting them cook for seven minutes before flipping them. The second steak is stubborn, flopping back onto the already-cooked side, and when Jeongguk shifts to get a better grip on it his shoulder protests and he flinches.
“Here, let me.” Seokjin takes the chopsticks from Jeongguk and flips the final steak expertly.
“Thanks,” Jeongguk sighs and rolls his shoulder. He’d wrenched his shoulder during the last dance team practice trying to do a backflip. “I guess I’m still a bit sore from auditions.”
“Auditions?” Seokjin asks curiously. “For what?”
“Dance team. We’re prepping for the spring showcase in March. It’s a ways off, but the team does all our own choreography, so we have to start auditions early.”
Seokjin leans back against kitchen counter. “That sounds pretty intense for an extracurricular.”
Jeongguk nodes. “It is. We have a few small performances throughout the year, but the spring showcase is a big deal. Recruiters from agencies and dance companies even come to watch, sometimes.” As a sophomore, Jeongguk isn’t really all that concerned about looking good for the recruiters, but he has overheard some of the more serious dancers like Seulgi and Hoseok (both of whom will be graduating this year) talking about it.
That doesn’t mean Jeongguk hasn’t got someone he’d like to impress, though.
“Would you like to come?” He crosses his fingers below the counter where Seokjin can’t see.
Seokjin’s eyes go wide. “Can I?”
“Yeah, of course. I’ll get you a ticket.”
“No way,” Seokjin dismisses him immediately, and Jeongguk feels something clench fist-tight in his stomach. “I have to buy one! It’s to support the dance team, right?”
Jeongguk exhales. “Ah, okay. I mean, are you sure? The performers get a bunch of free tickets, and I never have anyone to give mine to anyway.” Last year, after giving one to Yoongi, he’d let Hoseok and Jimin have his extra tickets to spread among their endless pool of friends.
Seokjin frowns. “That can’t be true. What about Namjoon?”
“Namjoon?” Jeongguk hadn’t considered inviting his tutor, but anyway— “I have a feeling someone’s already invited him. Or he will, anyway.”
“Hmmm, I see.” Seokjin pokes at the steaks on the stove. “I think these are done. Do you have the plates?”
Jeongguk lights the candles and they sit at the table, their plates piled high with steak, mushrooms and rice.
“This is delicious,” Seokjin says around a mouthful. Jeongguk puffs up a bit. “You have to send me the recipe. Seriously, these mushrooms are fantastic.”
“Fantastic enough for the 1-up sound?” Jeonguk teases.
“Yah, let me live Jeon Jeongguk.” Seokjin shakes his head, but he’s smiling. “Weren’t there any video games you really loved playing as a kid?”
Jeongguk hesitates. “It’s pretty embarrassing.”
“Please,” Seokjin laughs, “I told you that I used to make the 1-up noise when I ate mushrooms. I’m pretty sure I’ve cornered the market on embarrassing childhood video game obsessions.”
“That’s just cute, not embarrassing.” Jeongguk shakes his head when Seokjin goes to argue. “It’s...I like otome games.”
“Dating sims?” Seokjin questions, tilting his head.
Jeongguk winces. “Not in a creepy way. Just, like—I like the stories, you know? But it’s not just that. It’s also kind of a family thing. I mean...” Seokjin is quiet, patiently waiting as Jeongguk searches for the words to explain. “My sisters were really into them, and then my parents divorced and they went to live with my mom, but they left a bunch of their old games behind. I sort of got sucked in, I guess.” It had been nice having something to talk about over the phone with Soojung and Sooyoun that wasn’t about their parents or the divorce. “I know it’s weird.”
“It’s not weird,” Seokjin says. “Really,” he adds when Jeongguk looks at him doubtfully. “Look, your parents’ marriage didn’t have a happy ending, Guk-ah. It’s only natural that you’d go looking for that somewhere else.”
Jeongguk frowns. It’s a little weird to hear it put that way, like gaming was a coping mechanism for something Jeongguk couldn’t handle. It’s not entirely wrong, he thinks. But it’s not entirely right either.
“Sorry,” Seokjin says when the silence stretches on a bit too long, “I didn’t mean to shrink you. There’s obviously a lot more to it than that.”
“No, it’s okay. I was just thinking you might be right. At least, a little.” It had been lonely living with his dad after the divorce. He’d had Yoongi of course, but Yoongi is different from his sisters. Playing his sisters’ otome games has been as he could get to climbing into a time machine and going back to a time when their family had been whole, if not exactly happy. But Jeongguk’s not sure if that’s the same reason he still likes to play dating sims. Jeongguk’s always liked competitive games, and playing with people is more exciting than playing with chess pieces. He likes strategizing and manipulating and working out all the endings, even the unhappy ones. He plays just for the fun of it.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think video games are great,” Seokjin says. “There’s a lot of prejudice against video games, but I think they can be really good for families. I used to play Mario with my older brother a lot. He’d seven years older—I don’t think we’d be so close if we hadn’t had video games to bring us together. I wish there were more games out there for kids to play with their parents or siblings, you know? But most of the stuff aimed at kids doesn’t appeal to older audiences, and a lot of the educational games aren’t multiplayer.” He shakes his head. “It’s a real hole in the market.”
“Maybe that’s what you should do, hyung, when you graduate. Make games like that.” Jeongguk thinks he’d be good at it.
“Wouldn’t that be the living the dream.”
“Why does it have to be a dream? Game companies would probably love to hire someone with PhD in child psychology,” Jeongguk points out. “I’d hire you.”
Seokjin laughs. “Well, one day when you’re president of a video game company, I’ll send in my resume.” He stands, picking up his empty plate to bring into the kitchen. Jeongguk hurries after him before he can do something horrible like start on the dishes. There’s nothing remotely romantic about letting your date do the washing up.
After convincing Seokjin to let him clear the table and leave the dirty dishes for the next day (“It’s Jimin’s turn anyway,” Jeongguk says—a downright lie, but Seokjin doesn’t need to know that), they relocate to the futon in front of the television.
“I should probably head home,” Seokjin says, but his eyes stray to the bottle of wine sitting on the coffee table. It’s still mostly full—they’d each only had a glass during dinner. Jeongguk reaches for Seokjin’s glass and refills it.
“Or you could stay,” he suggests, offering the full glass. Seokjin takes it, a small smile quirking the corner of his lips. “We could watch a movie.”
Seokjin sinks back onto the futon, sipping his wine. “What do you want to watch?”
“We have two options.” Jeongguk holds up the two DVD cases.
“I didn’t know you were into Miyazaki films.”
“I’m not. Or, I guess I haven’t watched any? But I remember you said you liked them, so.”
Seokjin points to the one in Jeongguk’s right hand. “If you haven’t seen anything by Studio Ghibli, this one is a great intro.”
“Ponyo it is then.”
He loads it into in the DVD player and flicks off the lights, before settling onto the futon next to Seokjin. The DVD starts with a bunch the out-of-date previews that Jeongguk would normally skip, but Seokjin seems to like them. (“Oh my god, this movie was so bad,” he laughs at one point, “I can’t believe I paid actual money to see it in theaters. Did you?” “Hyung, I twelve when that came out.” “Ah. Right.”) Jeongguk tries to focus on the feature as it starts, but it’s hard to concentrate with Seokjin right next to him. The futon is old and dips in the middle, so as the movie goes on he and Seokjin begin to slide closer and closer together, until Jeongguk can feel the warmth of Seokjin’s thigh pressed up against his own.
The bottle of wine is empty now, and Seokjin is completely absorbed in the film, gasping whenever something dramatic happens and chewing his lip when it gets tense. His lips look red and slightly puffy from how he’s been biting them, and It’s distracting. Jeongguk can’t tear his eyes away from Seokjin’s mouth.
Seokjin turns mid-laugh and catches Jeongguk’s eye. His smiles fades slowly, his eyes locked with Jeongguk’s. Jeongguk leans forward slowly, and the world drops away. There’s nothing but Seokjin’s face, his wide eyes, his full, bitten lips coming gradually closer, the thud of Jeongguk's pulse in his own ears, and two of them drawn together like magnets to meet in the middle.
Seokjin’s lips are firm and slick and taste faintly of beeswax lip balm. The kiss is tentative, soft and sweet. Jeongguk tilts his head and Seokjin sighs a little against his mouth, a breath just short of a moan. Jeongguk lets himself sink deeper into the kiss.
Seokjin’s hands settle on his shoulders.
Then suddenly Jeongguk is being shoved back into the futon hard enough that his head cracks the wall behind, leaving him slightly stunned.
Seokjin is standing looking down at Jeongguk. His face is flushed and his hair mussed, mouth still parted, red and wet from their kiss. His eyes, though, are horrified.
“I’m—I’m so sorry Jeongguk, I can’t,” he stutters. “This was a mistake”
Jeongguk is disoriented. He can still feel the phantom press of Seokjin’s lips against his own, but Seokjin is standing in front of him, red-faced and stiff. “What—what the fuck,” he grates out, and his own voice sounds strange in his ears, hoarse and thick with rejection.
“You’re my student,” Seokjin says, and he actually wrings his hands. “I—you’re like a little brother to me.”
It’s like a hand has reached into Jeongguk’s gut and twisted. He feels like he might be sick, like whatever kind of burning-hot substance his veins are pumping through his body simply can’t be blood. He struggles, unsteady, to his feet. “Fine,” he hisses, spitting the word out like an arrow. “Fine, whatever. S’not like it matters, I still got a date right? So I win the bet anyway.”
Seokjin freezes. “What bet?”
Jeongguk laughs, an ugly, stunted sound. “My roommate bet me that I couldn’t get the hottest guy on campus to go on a date with me.” This is wrong, this is all wrong. Why is he saying this? “Thought you’re too picky. Proved him wrong, huh?”
“So what, you were only nice to me in order to win some bet?” There are two red spots burning high on Seokjin’s cheekbones. He’s trembling, and when he continues his voice shakes. “I’m not a trophy for you to win.”
Jeongguk clenches his teeth so hard pain lances through his jaw. “What the fuck do you care?” He throws an arm wide, and it’s meant to be mocking but it just comes out frustrated, his hand fisted like he’s trying to punch air. “Aren’t I just your student? Why do you care if your fucking little brother wants to win a bet?”
Seokjin pales. His lips are pressed together so tightly they look completely bloodless, nothing but a sharp slash in his white face. “Fuck you,” he says quietly. Jeongguk can hardly hear him over the DVD home menu music still playing cheerily in the background, like some kind of horribly inappropriate backing track. “Just—fuck.”
Jeongguk shuts himself up in his room. Jimin is worried and loudly so, but Jeongguk ignores him. He has his Wii and stash of instant ramyun and a stack of games to work through, and frankly he doesn’t need anything else. On the fifth day, Jimin comes back with reinforcements.
There’s a knock on the door, and then Yoongi’s voice filters through the wood. “Yah, Jeongguk. Open up.”
Jeongguk rolls over to look up at the ceiling. “Go away, hyung.”
“Don’t make me get out the big guns, kid. You know I have Soojung on speed dial, and I’m not afraid to call her.”
Jeongguk jolts upright. He wouldn’t. “Don’t you dare.”
“Hey, watch who you’re threatening kid. Fine, I’m calling. Wait a moment.” There’s a pause. “Hey, noona. So have you—”
Jeongguk’s across the room in seconds, yanking the door open. Yoongi’s standing on the threshold with his arms crossed and his cellphone in his jeans pocket. Jeongguk goes to shut the door in his face, but Yoongi grabs it. “Nice try, but I’m coming in.”
“Fine.” Jeongguk huffs and stomps back to his bed, flopping down onto the mattress. He knows he’s acting like a sulky brat, but he doesn’t care. “Do whatever.”
The bed dips, and Yoongi settles himself next to Jeongguk, hugging his knees to his chest. He sighs. “You wanna talk about it?”
“Yeah, that was a hypothetical question.”
Jeongguk rolls over and pushes himself into a sitting position, hunching over to stare down at his hands. He doesn’t want to see the serious look on Yoongi’s face, his hyung face. Jeongguk hates that face. He hates it almost as much as he hates the disappointment that he’s certain he’s going to hear in Yoongi’s voice when he next speaks, because Yoongi’d warned Jeongguk and Jeongguk had gone and fucked up anyway.
But what comes out of Yoongi’s mouth next is completely unexpected.
“Falling in love is shit.”
Jeongguk’s head snaps up. What?
“But I guess you’ve figured that out by now.” Yoongi actually has the gall to laugh at Jeongguk’s miserable, shocked expression. “Welcome to adulthood, brat.”
“I’m not in love.”
“Can’t you shut up and listen to your elders for five goddamn minutes?” Yoongi says, but he’s smiling and the harsh words come out fond. He slides an arm over Jeongguk’s shoulders. “Fine, you’re in like, whatever. Did you think it was all flowers and rainbows or whatever’s in those dating games? That’s horseshit. Liking someone is like getting clobbered in the head with hormones. It’s terrible and full of bad life choices. The most you can hope for is that the other person is equally debilitated.”
Debilitated. That’s one word for how Jeongguk’s feeling right now.
“Hyung,” Jeongguk sighs, slumping a little against Yoongi’s smaller frame, “has anyone ever told you that you suck at this comforting thing?”
Yoongi pats Jeongguk’s shoulder gently. “I’m not trying to comfort you, I’m trying to give you some goddamn advice.”
“I don’t think I need that kind of advice.” Jeongguk just wants to be left the fuck alone with his debilitating life choices, thanks. Maybe he should become a hermit. Hermits spend a lot of time alone. He bets if he were a hermit he’d never have to see Seokjin or Yoongi again. Then again, he’s not sure if hermits are allowed to play video games. That could be problematic.
“Well, I see two options,” Yoongi says, ignoring Jeongguk’s comment. He lifts two fingers.
“One. Get your shit together and apologize to him,” he lowers one finger, “or two, move the fuck on.” He taps the remaining finger against Jeongguk’s forehead. “It’s up to you.”
Jeongguk groans, leaning his head back against the wall. The paint on the ceiling above him is cracked and buckled from where a pipe burst in the apartment above theirs last year. This time last year, Jeongguk had been celebrating the end of the semester by getting drunk and getting down with more than a few willing partners at some party or another. He’d spent the entire weekend after his last exam in a hormonal haze of dancing and alcohol. It had been fun—he thinks it must have been fun, going by the increasingly blurry and hilarious snapchats he’d sent to Jimin—but he doesn’t really remember it all that well.
He kind of wishes he could drink away his memories of this year’s post-final exam celebration. If he could call it a celebration.
“I don’t know what I’d say to him. Hey, I know you hate my guts because I was trying to date you to win a bet, but surprise! I think I actually like you for real. Want to go out?”
“I think ‘I’m sorry,’ might be a better opener,” Yoongi says drily.
“I think I just want to let things go, hyung.” Jeongguk thinks about Seokjin’s face when he laughed at Jeongguk’s pathetic attempts to deal with Hyeri. He thinks about how cute Seokjin was when he was eating mushrooms, how hot he looked lifting weights at the gym. He thinks about the look on Seokjin’s face when Jeongguk had kissed him. “It wouldn’t work out.”
Yoongi nods like he’d been expecting Jeongguk to say that. “Okay.”
He sits up, nudging Jeongguk off his bony shoulder. “Alright, enough of this feelings business. Get your ass up and into the shower. You smell disgusting.”
Jeongguk groans and falls over onto his side, pulling his blanket over his head. “Hyung.”
“Up. Shower. Now.” Yoongi yanks the blanket off him. “Then food, and then we’re gonna blast the fuck out of some zombies. Got it?”
Jeongguk doesn’t feel better exactly, but Yoongi is right. He can try and let things go.
“Yeah. I got it, hyung.”
The new semester begins with a heavy snowfall. Jimin spends the first week shivering miserably under layers of coats and complaining about the cold (he’d gone home to Busan for the mid-year break, and the return to sub-zero Seoul had not been a welcome one), but Jeongguk doesn’t mind. The campus looks totally different under the snow, and it’s freeing in a way: like the world is trying to give Jeongguk a fresh start.
Things change, and they don’t. Yoongi and Jeongguk still have their regular Thursday night gaming sessions, except now they are often joined by Jimin, Taehyung, Hoseok, and Namjoon. Jeongguk continues hitting the gym—it really is a great stress-reliever—but he’s careful only to go when he knows Seokjin won’t be there.
January melts into February into March. Jeongguk splits his time between the apartment and the dance studio, throwing himself into preparing for the showcase. News has somehow leaked that the choreography this year is particularly jaw-dropping, and on the night of the performance the theater is packed and buzzing with energy. Jeongguk barely registers it, too focused on landing his moves, on the music thrumming through his body like a pulse. The showcase is nearly over by the time he gets a break long enough to take a peek at the audience.
“Gukkie, what are you doing?” Jimin hisses, tugging at Jeongguk’s belt loop. They have only moments before the Seulgi’s solo wraps up and they’re onstage for the final act of the evening, a breakdance-inspired piece choreographed by Hoseok. Jimin has been particularly nervous about this dance—his part includes running up the backs of the five other dancers before launching into an aerial flip. He’s practiced the move hundreds of times in the studio, but he’s still convinced he’ll screw up in front of an audience.
“Just thought I recognized someone.” Jeongguk lets the the edge of the curtain fall back into place. He’d thought for a moment that he saw a flash of burnt caramel in the crowd, but he must be imagining things.
“Oh, that reminds me, Tae texted that he’s here with the hyungs. They want to take us and Hobi-hyung out to dinner after the show.”
Jeongguk shrugs. “Sounds good.”
Jimin pats him on the back. “Don’t worry, Gukkie, you’ll do fine,” he says. Jeongguk rolls his eyes.
“You’re the one who’s nervous, hyung.”
Jimin shoots him a knowing look. “Sure. I’m nervous.”
The last notes of Seulgi’s dance track fade into the air, and raucous clapping takes its place. Jeongguk starts when a hand comes down on his shoulder, and he turns to see Hoseok standing behind him and Jimin, heart-shaped smile stretched across his face.
Taehyung is on them the moment Jimin, Hoseok and Jeongguk exit the dressing room.
“You were amazing Chim Chim!” Taehyung gushes, looping an arm over Jimin’s shoulders and reeling him in. “Like that time when you did the thing?” He raises one leg and wiggles the fingers of his free hand to illustrate. Jeongguk honestly has no idea what he’s talking about, but whatever. Jimin seems happy. “That was so awesome.”
“I thought I was gonna puke,” Jimin says, his voice muffled in Taehyung’s armpit. “Hobi-hyung’s choreo was so hard!”
“It was really great,” agrees Namjoon, glancing at Hoseok with a bashful smile. He’s sporting silver hair today and a pair of horn rimmed, lens-less glasses that make him look a Harry Potter wannabe. “The freestyle you did at the end was really cool, Seok-ah.”
“Thanks, Joonie! I’m happy you liked it.” Hoseok grins and bounds over to poke at his boyfriend’s dimples. “So cute,” he coos while Namjoon blushes.
“You two are gross,” grumbles Yoongi. He sidles over to Jeongguk. “Good job, kid.”
Jeongguk feels tired. No, more than that he feels empty, like he’s been drained of something more than energy now that show is over. He’s glad Yoongi’s here, and Tae and Namjoon, but part of him wishes he could just go back home and sleep. He looks up to find Yoongi watching him, a little crease between his brows. Jeongguk shakes his head slightly.
Yoongi doesn’t push, but the crease between his brows doesn’t disappear either.
“Okay, let’s get this show on the road!” Taehyung claps his hands. “The car’s not big enough for all of us though, so some people are gonna have to walk to the restaurant.”
“Guk-ah and I can walk,” Yoongi volunteers quickly, and Jeongguk stares at him. Yoongi never volunteers to walk. He hates walking. His ass is probably moulded into the shape of his desk chair, with the amount of time he spends sitting in it. If he could get away with it, Jeongguk’s pretty sure that Yoongi would never leave his room.
“S’not that far. We’re just going to that Chinese place ten blocks down.”
“Yeah, but unlike some of us, I’ve been dancing instead of sitting on my ass for the past two hours,” Jeongguk whines as they exit the building. “Come on, hyung. Tae and Jimin can walk.”
“Yah, why do I have to walk? It should be Gukkie and Tae, they’re the maknaes! ”
They round the corner of the building, still squabbling, and suddenly Jeongguk realizes why Yoongi’d volunteered to walk.
Seokjin looks good. Of course he looks good, when has he ever not looked good? But Jeongguk hasn’t seen him since December, not up close at least, and even though he knows Seokjin always looks good (so good), he can’t stop himself from pausing to drink in his features, as though he doesn’t already have them committed to memory.
It’s that moment just past sunset when the sky is still tinged with scarlet, and it brings out the warm highlights in Seokjin’s caramel-colored hair, accentuates the pink in his cheeks and lips. The low light throws his cheekbones into high relief, too, making his face look more angular and masculine than usual. The way he leans against the side of the beat-up old sedan in his leather jacket looks like a still from a music video or movie, like the bad boy in a drama waiting to sweep the lead girl off her feet. He looks like the kind of guy who’ll make you cry.
Except Jeongguk’s the bad guy in this situation.
“Hi hyung.” He feels unsteady, as though the pavement is shifting beneath his feet despite the fact that he isn’t moving. Or maybe he’s unsteady because he’s too still—his feet glued to the ground, even as his head spins.
He feels a sharp tug on his elbow, and he almost stumbles. “Guk-ah and I are walking,” Yoongi declares. He pulls Jeongguk around and begins to steer him bodily towards the other side of the parking lot. “We’ll meet you there.”
“Wait, Yoongi-hyu—” Jimin begins, but Hoseok cuts him off, exclaiming loudly that he’s calling shotgun. The sounds of bickering and laughter fade into the distance as Jeongguk and Yoongi walk farther down the block.
“I can walk you home, if you want,” Yoongi says suddenly, after several long minutes in silence. “We could order in ramyun and play Left 4 Dead. I don’t mind. Don’t really wanna sit there watching Hoseok mack on Namjoon all night, anyway.”
Jeongguk snorts. “Yeah. They’re pretty gross.”
They walk another block. “Tae would be sad though,” Jeongguk says finally. He hadn’t liked Taehyung much when they’d first met in class, but in the months since they’ve become nearly as close as he and Jimin. “And Jiminie and Hobi-hyung.”
Yeah, they probably would, Jeongguk thinks. He’s supposed to be moving on. He has been moving on, or at least he thought he had been until a few moments ago. Five seconds in Seokjin’s presence, and he feels like he’s stepped on a trick square in a game and now he’s back at level one. It hurts that Seokjin doesn’t seem to be having the same trouble, that he seems completely unaffected by Jeongguk when Jeongguk can barely breathe around him.
“I’ll go.” He can see the sign for the restaurant on the next street. The others are probably already inside, waiting for them. “I want to go.”
Yoongi reaches up and pats Jeongguk on the shoulder. “Good.”
The restaurant is noisy and busy, full of people celebrating the start of the weekend. Their group of seven is seated at a booth clearly meant for four, with Seokjin, Namjoon and Hoseok on one side, Jimin, Taehyung, Yoongi and Jeongguk crammed in on the other. Jeongguk’s grateful. It means that Seokjin is too far away for them to talk.
Despite his discomfort, the evening passes quickly. Everyone is high on the success of the performance, particularly Hoseok. Apparently, a recruiter from a new-ish entertainment company had been impressed by his choreography. “Big Hit is known for their hip hop acts,” Hoseok explains, bouncing so excitedly in his seat that he accidentally elbows Namjoon in the ribs. Namjoon just smiles indulgently. “So I could be training idols to break dance. I could teach them to pop. I could teach them to freakin’ boogaloo. How cool would that be, Jeonggukkie?”
“Just as cool as it was the first two times you told us about it,” Jeongguk says, rolling his eyes. He’s happy for his hyung, but there’s only so many times he can get worked up over the same piece of news. He glances pointedly at the small forest of empty soju bottles littering table, ninety-percent of which Hoseok, Taehyung and Jimin are responsible for. Mostly Hoseok. “I think Hobi-hyung has had enough.”
Namjoon nods. “We should probably pay and get going. They’re going to start closing up soon.”
Jeongguk heads to the bathroom while the hyungs wrangle over the bill, but on his way back he pauses, hearing the arguing.
“I don’t like it.” It’s Yoongi, and going by the clipped tone he’s pissed. Jeongguk flattens himself against the wall, hiding in the shadows by the restaurant entrance.
An exasperated sigh. “Just give him a chance, hyung,” Jeongguk hears Jimin reply. He sounds surprisingly sober. Maybe the chilly night air has woken him up. “He wants to talk. That’s good, isn’t it?”
“I still don’t like it.”
“Your objection has been noted.” That’s definitely Taehyung, his low voice is unmistakeable. “And overruled.”
Yoongi grumbles and says something under his breath that Jeongguk doesn’t catch. “Fine. I’m gonna go have a quick talk with hyung,” he says. When Jeongguk peers around the corner, he can see Yoongi towards Seokjin’s car.
“Hey, Guk!” Jimin’s spotted him. “Hyung said he’d give you a ride home.” He nods towards where Seokjin is standing by the car, speaking in a low voice with Yoongi.
“What about you?”
“I’m staying over at Tae’s,” Jimin says brightly. “We’re going to watch the series finale of Descendants of the Sun .”
Damn. “Haven’t you already watched that?” Jeongguk asks hopefully. He doesn’t want to be alone with Seokjin. “We have it at home.”
“But Tae’s got a version with commentary by Song Joongki!” Ugh, of course, Jimin’s newest bias. Jeongguk knows better than to try and get between a thirsty Jimin and the object of his affections.
“I can take the bus. I don’t want to make hyung go out of his way.”
“You’re not, I don’t live too far from your place.” Seokjin has somehow crept up on Jeongguk while he was talking with Jimin, and now he's barely a meter away. Jeongguk feels a strange swooping and sinking sensation at how close and yet how far away he is. Once upon a time, Seokjin wouldn't have hesitated to come right up next to Jeongguk and ruffle his hair. “And I’ll feel better knowing you’re home safely. Otherwise I’ll just worry.”
Would he? Jeongguk isn't sure he can believe it. “What about Yoongi-hyung?”
“Yoongi is helping Joon-ah with Hobi.” Seokjin looks rueful. “Apparently, he’s a bit of a handful when he’s drunk. I offered, but Hoseok lives in the opposite direction from me so they’re getting a taxi.”
Jeongguk is out of excuses. He glances at Jimin, hoping for an out, but the traitor just pats him on shoulder. “See you tomorrow, Guk.” He leans in, whispering in Jeongguk’s ear, “I promise not to interrupt until after two, so don’t rush.” He grins when Jeongguk splutters and dances over to where Tae is waiting. They round the corner, arm in arm.
Seokjin gestures towards the car, and Jeongguk nods without looking at him. The ride is silent, awkward like he’d known it would be, but mercifully short. They’re less than a five minute ride from campus, ten minutes from Jeongguk’s place, and soon enough they’re pulling up beside his apartment building. Jeongguk is about to get out of the car when Seokjin clears his throat.
“You danced really well tonight, Guk-ah,” he says. “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you until now.”
Jeongguk shrugs awkwardly. “S’okay.” He turns to look out the passenger side window. He can see his face reflected in the dark surface, Seokjin a blurry smudge behind him. “Thanks for coming. And for dropping me off.”
It hurts. Jeongguk can admit that it hurts, the way Seokjin can slip back into his comfortable hyung role, smooth and unruffled. It just drives home that he doesn’t care about Jeongguk that way, the way Jeongguk wants him to. The way Jeongguk cares about him.
They both stop.
“You first,” Seokjin says, and Jeongguk swallows. He should get out of the car. He should leave before he does something stupid.
“I’m sorry. About the bet.” He tries to gather the messy, splintered pieces of his emotions into something that Seokjin will understand. Something that will make him understand. “I didn’t mean it. I mean, I did mean it, but only in the beginning. I just...I’m not good at people.” Talk about stating the obvious, but Seokjin doesn’t interrupt. “It was easier to tell myself that I was doing everything because of the bet instead of because I...because I liked you.”
He swallows again. His tongue feels sticky and too big inside his mouth. “I still like you.”
Seokjin is silent and unmoving as a statue as he stares straight at the road, his hands gripping the steering wheel as though he were still driving. Jeongguk wonders if it’s to avoid looking at him, or if he’s just that anxious to leave.
“I’m sorry.” Jeongguk bites his lip, watching Seokjin’s frozen profile. What the hell is he doing? He’s not helping Seokjin understand by telling him all this shit. He’s being selfish, trying to make Seokjin see his side of the story when Seokjin doesn’t look at Jeongguk that way, never has. Jeongguk had been his student, and now he’s not. He’s nothing. “I shouldn’t have said anything, I know you probably don’t want to talk to me, or hear any excuses, or—not that there is any excuse. But, I’m sorry. I fucked up, and I’m sorry.”
Jeongguk looks down at his own hands, the bitten nails curled tight into his palms, and the sight swims a bit. He blinks hard until the hot prickling in his eyes subsides. He forces himself to unclench, to relax, and unbuckle his seatbelt.
“I’ll go now, hyung,” he croaks. “Thank you for the ride.”
Jeongguk stills, one hand on the door.
“Don’t go. I...” Seokjin trails off, as though he’s unsure how to continue. “I had to ask Professor Choi to grade your final.”
Jeongguk isn’t sure what to make of this non sequitur. So Seokjin hates him so much he couldn’t even grade his exam? He was so disgusted with Jeongguk that he had to get someone else to do it? His hand tightens on the door handle. He knows he deserves this, but he doesn’t think he can stand to hear it.
“I had to ask Professor Choi to grade your final, because I—because I didn’t trust myself to be objective,” Seokjin continues and Jeongguk suddenly realizes that he’s blushing, and flushed flame red from the tips of his ears clear to the collar of his shirt, and he’s grasping the steering wheel like it’s the only thing keeping him from melting into his seat.
“Do you have any idea how mortifying it was to admit to my advisor that I’d fallen for a student? He still hasn’t stopped teasing me about it.”
Seokjin is blushing, and staring at the steering wheel, and saying something about about “asshole advisors” and “so unprofessional,” and all Jeongguk can think is, he’s fallen. He’s fallen for—?
“You’ve—” his mouth is too dry, so he swallows. Starts again. “You’ve fallen for—?”
Seokjin’s face is half-hidden in in shadow, but when he turns to looks at Jeongguk his eyes are wide and dark and just a touch anxious. “Guk-ah. Jeongguk,” he says, low, and licks his lips. They shine wetly in the dim yellow light of the street lamp outside.
Jeongguk sucks in a breath. “I want to kiss you,” he breathes.
Seokjin swallows. Jeongguk can see the bob of his adam’s apple above his shirt collar, the way his right hand tightens momentarily on the steering wheel then relaxes, sliding off to rest against Jeongguk’s thigh. “So why don’t you?”
Comments on post Forever Young: Boy’s Side [Seokjin Walkthrough + Review]
Bb_gee [commented Apr 23 11:23 pm]
What the hell? No final kiss scene?!?!? What a rip-off
URHOPEJHOPE [commented Apr 24 12:01 am]
So cuuuute Gukkie omg!!!!!!!!!! ^o^ so cute
glosslis [commented Apr 24 12:24 am]
jesus why did i read this
glosslis [commented Apr 24 12:24 am]
also what the hell i do not have a ‘hyung’ face
golden_Cgull [commented Apr 24 12:34 pm]
U totally do hyung its kind of like your constipated face u should eat more fiber
glosslis [commented Apr 24 12:36 am]
you wanna die jeon jeongguk?
runchranda [commented Apr 24 2:14 am]
i’m confused by your rating system. Is more poop good?
Bb_gee [commented Apr 24 2:15 am]
They’re golden poops for our golden maknae of course more is good
Bb_gee [commented Apr 24 2:25 am]
This is Tae Tae btw Jimin gave me his password
Krystalhoney22 [commented Apr 24 11:52 am]
ha! knew my advice would do it. Good job dongsaeng
Princesspeach92 [commented Apr 25 7:29 am]
wait you actually dressed up as Mario for halloween?! PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN
Princesspeach92 [commented Apr 25 7:32 am]
also I’m making bibimbap for dinner if you wanna come over
Princesspeach92 [commented Apr 25 7:33 am]
golden_Cgull [commented Apr 25 9:35 pm]
Princesspeach92 [commented Apr 25 9:43 am]
golden_Cgull [commented Apr 25 9:45 pm]
glosslis [commented Apr 25 9:46 am]
oh my god please stop already before you make me puke
Bb_gee [commented Apr 25 3:14 pm]
Here you go: https://twitter.com/BBG_jimin/status/78598245928375
Bb_gee [commented Apr 25 3:20 pm]
btw Tae Tae and I are coming over for dinner so make enough for us too hyung!
golden_Cgull [commented Mar 24 12:34 pm]