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Jungkook wasn’t sure what woke him. It could have been everything, from the sound of someone buzzing around in his room, to the sunlight streaming in through his window or that familiar scent of sweet tangerines and cinnamon. Burying his face in his pillow with a sound trapped somewhere between a whine and the growl of an irritated grizzly bear, Jungkook did his best to cling to the last, vanishing cobwebs of sleep. His brain still felt fuzzy with exhaustion and even in that muddled state between sleep and awareness, the alpha’s body knew that it didn’t want to be awake. That it shouldn’t be awake. It was his day to sleep in and being woken up like this definitely hadn’t been on the agenda.

Judging by the sounds drifting over to Jungkook’s bed, his intruder was busy rummaging through his stuff and he didn’t have to open his eyes to know who was responsible for his early awakening.

“Tae,” he breathed out on another long-drawn whine, definitely more pitiful than irritated this time, “what the hell?”

There was a momentary cease of sounds, as if Taehyung was throwing a quick glance over his shoulder, before the shuffling resumed again.

“Sorry, but I have class in twenty minutes and I need another one of your sweaters. Your scent's mostly gone from the last one I borrowed and I don’t have the time to deal with anyone hitting on me today.”

Rolling over with great reluctance, Jungkook blinked open one eye and watched his best friend pluck the sweater he had worn the day before off the floor to give it a verifying sniff. Taehyung seemed satisfied, as he yanked the shirt he was currently wearing over his head and wriggled into Jungkook’s instead. Then, not bothering with a warning, Taehyung dove onto the bed next to Jungkook and had the younger man bouncing lightly. The frame of his bed gave a protesting groan and Jungkook might have been worried if he'd had any energy to spare. As it was the young alpha dutifully raised his blanket and let Taehyung shimmy close until they were pressed up against each other from their shoulders all the way down to their toes. He was quite familiar with the drill after all. At last he shifted until he was lying half on top of Taehyung to nuzzle into the curve of his best friend’s neck and breathed out another quiet, but content sigh as he felt Taehyung’s fingers curling into his sleep-tousled hair. Taehyung wasn't quite as comfortable as Jungkook would have liked, his leanly muscled body making for a rather hard resting place for Jungkook, but the alpha still preferred him to his regular pillow. Taehyung was warm, smelling sweetly of omega and letting out all those little sighs of contentment.

And then, with a silly, high-pitched tone that was the polar opposite to the usual, deep rumble of his voice, Taehyung stage whispered, “Do me, oh big bad alpha.”

Jungkook just couldn’t help it, he really tried to hold back the giggle at Taehyung’s antics. But judging by the gleeful sound of his best friend’s happy belly-laugh he wasn’t doing a very good job. Rubbing his cheek and nose against the omega’s skin to transfer as much of his scent as possible, he slowly felt his limbs growing heavy again. There was something infinitely soothing about the mix of his and Taehyung’s scents, about the repetitive motion of his friend's gentle strokes over his nape. He was on the brink of falling back asleep, when Taehyung started wriggling under his weight.

“You’re half asleep again, aren’t you?”

The alpha didn’t bother with an answer, settling for a quiet huff instead, and the next second he felt an insistent finger poking him in the ribs. Rolling away with a squawk of protest, he glared up at Taehyung in a way that would have been way more effective without the outrageous bed hair and pillow crease on his cheek. The older man ignored him completely to crawl out of bed again, straightening the collar of Jungkook's sweater in the process.

"Gotta go or I’ll be late for class. But I'll swing by again with dinner tonight. I want to watch the new Haikyuu episode."

"Make sure to bring back some of my clothes as well. You've poached so much of my stuff, I have almost no sweaters and shirts left. I'll have to show up shirtless to class soon."

"Please, you have enough white shirts in that closet of yours to last you a lifetime." Taehyung was laughing at him again. Jungkook had no problem making out the poorly disguised laughter in his voice, before a calculating glint replaced some of the amusement in his eyes. "But you know, that's actually not a bad idea. I bet there'd be a lot of people willing to pay me a shit-ton of money to let all your shirts disappear. You'd have to leave your apartment with those delicious abs out in the open for everyone to see and I'd be a rich man."

"I'd rather wear a trash bag to class than give you the satisfaction, punk."

Taehyung's mock gasp of outrage was thoroughly ruined by the glint of laughter in his way too expressive eyes. "I'm a broke college student and you’re my best friend! Are you telling me you wouldn't be willing to make that small of a sacrifice?"

"You're not that broke and I'm currently rethinking that whole 'best friend' part," Jungkook grumbled into his pillow. If he burrowed a bit deeper to let the remaining traces of Taehyung’s comforting scent in the fabric relax every last muscle in his body, no one was the wiser. Except for his best friend who was looking at him knowingly, but it wasn’t as if he had any right to judge. Especially if you considered the fact that he was currently wearing Jungkook’s sweater for the sole purpose of smelling like him.

"Ah, Kookie. Don't be like that," Taehyung cooed, his deep voice lowered to that soothing pitch he knew Jungkook couldn't resist. "You know I wouldn't actually do that. No way I'm sharing you with that many people. No one’s allowed to thirst for my favorite alpha in the whole wide world."

Jungkook might have acted all huffy and grumpy, but they both knew the look on his face was smug, rather than annoyed like he pretended to be.

 

 

The early afternoon air was a lot warmer than Jungkook would have liked, when he stepped through the doors of the air-conditioned building and out into the sun. The lawn in front of the econ department was littered with way too many students who obviously preferred to spend their lunch break outside and Jungkook actually felt the relaxed expression on his face fall with disappointment. He'd never been a friend of crowds and some part of him had hoped that for once he'd be able to escape the lunch rush. He'd almost been excited after receiving Seokjin's text message about meeting in the quad instead of the dining hall.

The deep voice to his left pulled him out of his forlorn musings.

"So you're saying we don't have to hand this essay in until the end of the month?" Mingyu's voice was laced with more than just a little disbelief. "What the hell? Why did no one bother to tell me?"

Jungkook just barely resisted mentioning the fact that their professor had reminded them of their deadline at least twice during their last few classes. But Mingyu was gathering steam for his rant and the alpha knew better than to try to reason with him in that state.

"I can't believe this. Are you telling me I've been slaving over this damned essay for nothing? I've passed up Jackson's party last night because I thought I'd need to finish it until today."

The look on the beta's face could only be described as pure heartbreak and Jungkook couldn't help but feel a little cheered up at the sight.

"And did you? Finish it, I mean?"

"No, I fell asleep halfway through the cursed thing and spent my entire morning class trying to come up with an excuse our professor would actually buy."

"Yeah right. I'd pay a lot of money to see that happen," Jungkook scoffed, derision heavy in his voice. He knew from first-hand experience that their professor had the bullshit-detecting abilities of a seasoned cop. He had his first term grade to prove it.

Letting his gaze sweep over the group of people sprawled out on the gigantic patch of grass and trying not to scowl at that unwelcome reminder, he decided his friend obviously hadn't arrived yet, when he caught the flash of Yoongi's pink hair towards the back of the quad. His mood improved considerably when he realized that his friends had somehow managed to snatch a spot in the shade of one of the large trees. To avoid Mingyu talking himself into any more theatrics, he cut the other man off in the middle of bemoaning the fact that he'd missed out on what must have been an insane party.

"At least you have two more weeks to finish your essay. Stop whining."

"Harsh," Mingyu replied, dramatically clutching his chest in mock-offense, before he followed Jungkook's gaze and realized his whining time was officially over. "Well then, I'll see you later for the class that shall not be named?"

Jungkook allowed himself the tiny amused snort and gave the beta a salute of agreement, before he hitched up the slipping strap of his backpack and started off across the quad. Mingyu and he had a number of classes together and for all his occasional dramatics, he was a chill guy to be around. Especially compared to the way too energetic beta that had permanently attached himself to Jungkook's side during his freshman year. He'd been incapable of outright telling the guy to leave him alone, while said leech had been just as bad at taking a hint. His friends - Taehyung that traitor included - had found the entire thing highly amusing, refusing to be of any help, but much to Jungkook's relief, his stalker had met his mate over the summer and consequently lost all interest in Jungkook. Compared to that, Mingyu was the ideal college buddy. They got along well, but weren't close enough to distract each other too much during classes. In contrast, he'd had one general requirement class with Taehyung during his freshman year and it hadn't ended well for either of them. The only thing that had saved them from the cruel fate of a failing grade was Jungkook's stubborn refusal to fail and the fact that Taehyung was the most intelligent and most hard-working person Jungkook knew - Namjoon and his freakishly high IQ included.

The inside of the econ building had been blessedly cool and compared to that he felt himself break out in a light sweat from nothing more than the insignificant hike across the lawn. Shrugging off his backpack and stripping out of his open button-down shirt to the white tshirt beneath, Jungkook let himself sink down onto the grass in a cross-legged sprawl as soon as he joined his friends in the shade.

"Remind me again why you guys thought it would be a good idea to have lunch outside? It's too hot for this."

"Fresh air is good for you, kid. And Hoseok made the mistake of hooking up with a close acquaintance of his and he needs to avoid her for the next few days," Yoongi answered in that lazy drawl of his, giving him an unimpressed look when Jungkook made a face at Hoseok. A moment later the beta’s gaze flitted to the side, breaking the prolonged eye-contact.

As a child it had upset Jungkook, how other kids never seemed to want to hold his gaze. Taehyung never looked away from him like that and Jungkook just couldn’t understand why everyone else seemed to dislike him that much. It wasn’t until his parents had explained to him that Taehyung’s ability to hold his gaze was something very special that Jungkook had stopped being upset. The fact that the other kids never held his gaze for long didn’t mean they hated him. It just meant that they recognized him as an alpha and had no intentions of challenging his dominance. Back then Jungkook hadn’t really understood. But he’d always had Taehyung at this side, completely unimpressed by Jungkook’s so-called dominance, and the alpha had decided that was all that mattered.

Letting his friends' undoubtedly chaotic conversation lull him into a semi-relaxed state without actually listening to what they were saying, he lazily considered lying down for a short nap. But then he felt the prickle of awareness on his nape and craned his neck around far enough to spot Taehyung walking up to them. The omgega's long legs were eating up ground at his usual, brisk pace and had his hair flopping with every step. He'd clearly been on lunch provision duty, because the second he reached their circle, he dropped the large paper bag in his hand in front of them and had their friends descending on it like a pack of starved wolves. Jungkook on the other hand didn't even have time to find out what was on the menu. Instead of lowering himself onto the grass next to Jungkook, Taehyung plopped down in his lap, winding his arm around the alpha's shoulders and Jungkook's hands automatically settled on his waist to steady the omega.

"Alpha creepin' on two o'clock."

It took Jungkook only a few moments to spot the woman staring at Taehyung with intense focus. She was sitting among her friends in the shade of another tree and he felt the tiny hairs on his arms and nape rise in an instinctive reaction. It was a testament of how attractive Taehyung must have seemed to her that it took her several seconds to become aware of Jungkook's unblinking gaze. Not to mention the way the omega was currently draped all over him. The tension in the air multiplied by a tenfold as the alpha finally met Jungkook's gaze, eyes flashing with something that might have been challenge, before she seemed to realize what she was doing. And still it took the female alpha a few more, mostly defiant moments of bristling staring before she averted her gaze and returned her attention to her friends.

Taehyung's hand petting the tense expanse of his nape was all it took for Jungkook to snap out of the aftermath of his visual pissing contest, head turning back around and finding Taehyung smiling at him from just a few inches away.

"Thanks."

Jungkook hadn't been aware of the growl trapped in his throat until he opened his mouth to reply and his words rumbled out, spiced with a wholly unintentional menace. The sound had all of his friends - except for a totally unconcerned Taehyung - going completely motionless. "You're welcome."

From the corner of his eye, he could see Jin's head snapping up, the only other alpha in their circle clearly unable to ignore the rough sound. But his focus was still on Taehyung, who raised an eyebrow at him as he slid out of his lap and into the empty spot next to him. "What's with the alpha voice?"

"You know I can't help it," Jungkook shot back with a glower, clearing his throat to get rid of the annoying gravel in his voice.

"Right, I'm sure those 'I'm the big bad alpha' instincts must be a bitch to deal with."

Taehyung sounded way too amused, the smile on his face growing even brighter, while Jungkook's scowl only darkened.

"You suck."

"Eh, you love me."

Just like that he was forced into irritated silence, because as much as it annoyed him, Taehyung was totally right - and knew it. So he settled for pulling a face at his best friend, which had the omega playfully butting his head against Jungkook's shoulder with a warm, satisfied laugh.

“Everyone knows I’m your favorite, Kookie. There’s no use denying it.”

Another inconvenient truth Jungkook would rather ignore at the moment, but really couldn’t. Not when Taehyung just kept on smiling that box-shaped smile and nudging his shoulder with his own.

“Relax, Jimin.”

Yoongi’s softly spoken words had Jungkook and Taehyung swivelling their heads towards the only other omega in their group, to find him sitting there, still completely motionless, sandwich frozen half-way to his mouth and eyes so wide, he reminded Jungkook of a deer caught in the headlights of a rapidly approaching truck. It took Hoseok curling his hand around his nape to finally pull him out of his rigor.

“Come on, Chim-Chim. There’s no reason to play dead. Jungkookie here is all bark and no bite.”

For a second Jungkook wondered if he should feel offended by Taehyung’s appraisal of him, but ultimately settled for hooking his arm around the omega’s neck and pulling him in until their sides were firmly pressed together again. It was a move his best friend was very familiar with. The pull into his side was sharp enough to tell Taehyung that Jungkook wasn’t all that happy with him, but also making it impossible for his best friend to move away from him. Not that Taehyung ever actually tried.

“Easier said than done. I’m not used to hanging out with alphas, this is stressing me out! I have no idea how you do it, Taehyung.”

Jimin looked so genuinely puzzled, Jungkook was suddenly reminded of the fact that it had only been a few weeks since they had met the other omega. The other man still had trouble grasping the fact that Taehyung didn’t give a single damn about status and most people’s warped idea of how an omega should behave.

“Please, I’ve known this guy since he was three years old. One time I’ve seen him throw a fit and cry because his mom wouldn’t let him have cereal for dinner. Nothing he does could ever seem intimidating after that.”

“Kids get upset about small things, you know,” Jimin was quick to come to Jungkook’s defense.

“That was in his last year of middle school.”

“Hey!” Cheeks flushing a deep red, he shoved Taehyung over and wrestled him to the ground, the omega beneath him in two seconds flat. Mostly because his best friend didn’t even pretend to put up a fight, too busy laughing that deep, full-bodied belly laugh of his. Around them the rest of the guys burst into gleeful laughter and even Jimin’s lips tugged up at the corner, even though he heroically held off the laugh that was clearly trying to be let out.

“First of all, there’s no shame in crying over Fruit Loops, and secondly, you’re all assholes.”

 

 

Jungkook knew something was up as soon as he heard Taehyung put in the code at his door and enter his apartment. He didn’t slam the door, but it sounded a lot like he’d just barely kept himself from doing so, the thumps of shoes being kicked off rather ungently echoing through the hallway and into the living room a second later. There Jungkook was camped out on the floor, hunched over his books spread out on the coffee table and his back against the couch.

A mere moment later Taehyung flew into the room, his arrival announced by the thump of his bag being dropped to the floor and that scent of cinnamon and tangerines. A scent so familiar, the first hint of it loosened some of the tightness that had settled right between Jungkook’s shoulder blades after three torturously boring classes in a row. (Wednesdays sucked.) The second the omega let himself plop down on the couch, he scooted over until he was seated directly behind Jungkook, the omega’s feet coming down on each side of him so his knees were bracketing the alpha’s shoulder. Bare moments later Jungkook felt Taehyung’s cheek press against the top of his head, as if the omega had simply folded his upper body forward to use the alpha’s head as his personal pillow. The position couldn’t be comfortable, but judging by the weary sigh ruffling Jungkook’s hair, Taehyung didn’t really care.

"Rough day?"

Even though Jungkook wasn't sure what to call the sound Taehyung made in reply to that it was definitely an affirmation.

“I’m sick and tired of entitled asshole alphas and their overblown egos.”

Turning his body sideways until his back was resting against only one of Taehyung’s legs, left shoulder pressed against the couch, he looked up at the omega without the need to crane his head to a painful degree. The move jostled Taehyung’s head, had him sitting upright again and his best friend didn’t look too happy about the need to pull away from Jungkook.

“I resent that.”

“You know I wasn’t talking about you. I said ‘entitled asshole alphas’. You’re neither an asshole nor entitled, so stop scowling.”

He’d thought acting offended and giving Taehyung his best, fake pout might be enough to momentarily distract his best friend. Judging by the look on the omega’s face he, was more pissed than Jungkook had expected, though. But before Jungkook could do anything about that, Taehyung was talking again, face softening and eyes crinkling up at the corners.

“I mean, your nose scrunches up when you laugh or feel shy, you get really grumpy when you don’t get your daily dose of cuddles and you’re literally incapable of passing by a puppy without petting and playing with it for at least five minutes. You don’t consider yourself better than anyone else simply because you were born an alpha and I love you for it. You’re my Jungkookie, my precious child.”

Something reared its head inside of Jungkook’s chest at that. Just rolled over to show its soft, vulnerable underbelly. Any other time that speech would have had his cheeks turning an embarrassing shade of pink, but the last three words out of Taehyung’s mouth had the alpha staring at him with an open-mouthed expression of pure disbelief. Something that clearly didn’t escape Taehyung.

“Okay fine, maybe the ‘my child’ part was bullshit, but I stand by everything else.”

“I’ll just pretend you never said that,” Jungkook grumbled to cover up his belated blush and turned his head to the side to pretend to mark down the spot in his textbook where he’d stopped reading. It wasn’t as if Taehyung couldn’t tell Jungkook was caught smack-dab between embarrassment and feeling genuinely touched, but sometimes the alpha liked to pretend his nonchalant act wasn’t completely useless around his best friend. “Now tell me who pissed you off like this. Your brows are doing the thing.”

The words had Taehyung’s hand jerking up to his forehead, fingers rubbing at the tiny frown line just above the bridge of his nose, before he let it drop back down into his lap with a sound that was part sigh, part growl.

“It’s just been one really sucky day. So of course one of the alphas in my Mediation class had to ask me if I was there to take notes for my mate. Wednesdays suck,” Taehyung announced with enthusiastic distaste and let himself sink lower into the cushions of Jungkook’s couch with an exasperated huff. The younger man on the other hand felt the flames of his rising temper lick at his throat, manifested in a growl he just barely managed to swallow down. Jungkook’s temper had always been a lazy thing, slow – practically impossible – to wake, but burning brightly and hot once the fire was lit. And if there was one thing that pissed him off for real, it was the way Taehyung was treated and constantly underestimated by his classmates. Not to mention an infuriatingly big number of his professors. In their eyes there was no place for an omega in their midst. Especially not if said omega was determined to become a lawyer. It was a profession dominated by alphas and betas, but Taehyung didn’t give a damn, had known what he wanted to be since the age of seven. Whereas Jungkook still wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with his degree once he finished college.

It wasn't a surprise when his best friend immediately picked up on his quiet seething. Because the only person that had ever been able to read him as well as Taehyung was his mother.

“Ah, Jungkookie, don’t think about it too much. There’s no use in you being upset about it as well.” Taehyung’s long fingers combing through the strands of Jungkook’s hair didn’t exactly calm him down, but they were enough to momentarily distract him from his anger. “I’m fine, I promise. You know I won’t let them get to me. I just needed to vent a little bit.”

“You can’t tell me stuff like this and then expect me to just shrug it off.”

“Your alpha is showing again, Kookie.”

“This has nothing to do with being an alpha and everything to do with my best friend not being treated the way he deserves.”

Taehyung didn’t break their eye contact, neither did he pull the hand away from where it was still curled into the strands of his hair, but the change of his expression was almost too quick for Jungkook to follow.

“Get on the couch.”

The random request had the alpha narrowing his eyes at his best friend in suspicion. “Why?”

“Because I could use a hug and a nap and you have nice arms and a chest that’s way more comfortable than your cheap-ass couch.” It was more than obvious that the omega was trying very hard not to smile. “You said I can’t just expect you to shrug it off without letting you do something, so come up here and cuddle with me. That’ll cheer me up.”

Jungkook might be exhausted from his long day, but he could still move fast if he wanted to and a few seconds and a bit of reshuffling later he was comfortably sprawled out on his back, a contently sighing Taehyung stretched out on top of him.

“When are you leaving on Friday?” With Taehyung’s chin propped up on Jungkook’s chest and looking up at him from beneath his unfairly long lashes, he could feel the slight rumble of the omega’s chest as he spoke.

“Right after my last class. I’m just making a quick stop here to grab my stuff and then I’m taking the 3.40 train. To Busan, ha.”

All he got was a quiet scoff at his lame joke, before he watched Taehyung’s lower lip push out in a light pout and eyebrows pull together.

“I can’t believe I’m missing out on your dad’s birthday because they had to hold this damn seminar this weekend. They postponed the stupid thing twice.”

“It’s okay, Tae. Dad’s not angry at you for missing out on the celebration. You’ve signed up for this thing months ago. That it turned out to be this weekend was just seriously bad luck. You can come home with me on another weekend.”

“I still wanted to be there.”

Taehyung’s expression perfectly mirrored the sulky tone of his voice and it was a sight so rare – the omega simply not the type to pout or sulk around – Jungkook ended up blinking down at his best friend in genuine surprise. He got it though, the younger man and his parents, had been bummed out too when Taehyung had told them that the new date for the rescheduled seminar fell on the same weekend as his father’s birthday. But in the end there was simply nothing to be done about that. It had taken Taehyung so much effort and sleepless nights – working on and perfecting his presentation – to be accepted for this damn thing. On top of that it would be an invaluable opportunity to make an impression on the right people and build up connections he was currently lacking. Still, it would have been much more fun to go back to his hometown with his best friend.

“Just promise you’ll bring me back some cake.”

 

 

A knock had Jungkook glancing up from his sprawl on the bed, phone clamped between his head and shoulder because he was too lazy to hold it up properly. His look to the side revealed his mother standing in the open doorway of his old room. “Dinner will be ready in an hour. And an old friend of your father is joining us for dinner with his family, so make sure you dress nicely. Now get off the phone and start getting ready.”

“Seriously? Dad’s been on the phone with the Tae for the entire, last hour and I don’t even get five minutes?”

So maybe there was a slight whine in his voice – which definitely wasn’t helped by the deep sound of Taehyung’s amused laughter in his ear – but he’d literally just started talking to his best friend. He wanted to know if everything had gone well with Taehyung’s presentation.

“It’s Jungho’s birthday, he can talk to whoever he wants for as long as he wants. And you can call Taehyung tomorrow and even get to see him again on Monday. I know it must be incredibly hard,” there was no mistaking the teasing tone in his mother’s voice, “but I’m sure you’ll survive one day of not being in constant contact. Now hand over the phone, I need to talk to him real quick as well.”

Before he could come up with a proper complaint, his mother was standing in front of him, palm of her hand held out to him in a wordless order, and Jungkook had no choice but to hand over the phone with a sigh and quick, “later, Tae.”

There was nothing like returning back home to make you feel like you were fourteen years old again.

Watching his mother raise the phone to her ear, he felt his pout growing even more pronounced.

“Hi sweetie, good job on your presentation today. I already heard from Jungho that it went really well.”

Jungkook just barely bit back the exasperated growl when he realized that even his mother knew more than him.

“I’m sending you some food with Jungkook. You were way too skinny in that picture you sent today. But I love the new haircut, it makes you look even more handsome.”

And as much as Jungkook wanted to stay annoyed at his mother, the open affection in her voice as she spoke to his best friend had his stubborn grip on resentment slacking helplessly.

“Alright, I have to hang up now and make sure dinner is ready on time. If you go out to celebrate, make sure not to stay out too long and get some proper rest. I’m sure you already have a new deadline coming up soon. I remember you law students have crazy schedules, because I barely ever saw my roommate back when I was in college.” Jungkook couldn’t make out Taehyung’s reply, his voice audible but not loud enough for him to hear what he was saying, but his mother’s startled laughter told him it had very likely been something sarcastic. “I’m sure. Oh, and just so you know I’m not handing the phone back to Jungkook. I know my son, he’ll just call you back as soon as I’m gone and then rush through getting ready for dinner in the last five minutes before our guests arrive.”

Since it was nothing but the truth, Jungkook couldn’t even protest.

“Bye sweetie. Make sure to come visit us soon.”

A second later, after an exaggerated smack of her lips that had the muted sound of Taehyung’s laughter travelling all the way across the room, his mom was ending the call and turning to him with that no-nonsense look of hers that usually had him, as well as his dad, scrambling to follow her every order.

“Alright mister. Stop lazing around and go take a shower. You’ll get your phone back after dinner.”

“Seriously, mom? What am I? Ten?”

“Well, you know what they say. If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck...,” with that, and completely ignoring Jungkook’s rather ironic squawk of protest, his mother was gone and the younger alpha rolled himself out of bed, grumbling all the way to the bathroom.

 

 

Jungkook knew something was up the second he came down the stair wearing one of his nicest sweaters and jeans without any holes in them, only to have his mother sending him back upstairs with orders to change into the button down shirt he apparently had hanging somewhere in his closet.

It all started to make horrible sense when he returned back downstairs, just to find out their guests had arrived – including their daughter, an admittedly very pretty beta by the name of Dahyun. Things became especially clear when halfway through dinner, Jungkook’s and Dahyun’s mother started talking about the campus tour the alpha was apparently going to give the girl this upcoming Thursday. From the sound of it Dahyun was going to transfer to Jungkook’s university in her next semester and his mother had graciously offered Jungkook’s services to show the beta around campus. Since said news were totally new information to Jungkook, he was about to open his mouth and ask what all of that was about, when his mother’s warning look had him keeping it carefully shut. So for the sake of his own life, Jungkook became even more fascinated with the food on his plate for the remainder of the evening.

 

 

Under the guise of helping his mother clear the dishes from the table, Jungkook managed to corner her in the kitchen after dinner, putting down the stack of plates in his hands and whirling around to face the female alpha.

“What the hell, mom?”

The hissed complaint earned him nothing more than a raised eyebrow and cuff to the back of his head.

“Who do you think you’re talking to, pup?”

“I don’t know, maybe the woman who didn’t bother to warn her son that she planned to turn his dad’s birthday dinner into a poorly disguised match-making session? The woman who just signed her son up to play tour guide on the day he promised to go see some unpronounceable, foreign movie with his best friend?”

“Ah, baby. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you already had plans with Taehyung that day, but Dahyun and her family will only be in Seoul for two days and they’re going back to Jeju on Friday, so Thursday was the only option.” She looked genuinely sorry and it wasn’t as if Jungkook had ever been able to hold on to his anger or annoyance when it came to his mother.

“You could have just told me. That way this whole thing could have been avoided.”

“Yeah, but you would have said no and I knew you wouldn’t exchange more than a few words with her during dinner. So this was the only way for me to make sure you got a chance to get to know her before she moves here for her next semester.”

“Mom.”

“Don’t look at me like that. There’s nothing wrong with meeting new people and she’s a lovely girl.”

“I know, but…”

“Jungkook, I know you think I’m just meddling with your private life, but your father and I just want to see you happy.”

“I am happy, mom.”

“You keep telling me that, but with Taehyung so busy with his studies, you’re alone so much. I know you’ve always been comfortable on your own and the only person you ever truly let in was Taehyung.”

Jungkook was about to speak up, when his mother raised her hand, signaling that she wasn’t finished yet.

“There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m well aware that you don’t need to surround yourself with people to be happy, but I’d feel so much better if you had another person looking out and being there for you.”

Once more Jungkook opened his mouth to reply, but before he could get out a single word his mother cut him off again.

“And before you tell me that you can take care of yourself, which I’m well aware of, thank you very much, I’m the one who raised you after all, I just want to remind you that I’m your mother. It’s in the job description to worry about you 24/7.”

And there really wasn’t anything Jungkook could say to that. He knew his mother couldn’t help it – her maternal and alpha instincts busy at work. So with a small sigh he reached out to give his mom’s hand a short reassuring squeeze and watched her face soften the way it always did a moment before she reached out to brush his fringe out of his face.

“You won, I’ll show her around campus, but it’s not a date.”

“I never said anything about a date,” his mother replied with an amused glint in her eyes.

“But you were thinking about it.”

“I hate to repeat myself, but… hi, your mother speaking. Of course I’d like to see you happily mated. And like I said, Dahyun is a lovely and clever girl.”

Jungkook wasn’t quick enough to bite back the instinctive sigh of exasperation and knew the second his mother’s eyes narrowed on him that he just earned himself another little speech.

“Don’t give me that look, Jeon Jungkook. For the longest time your father and I were hoping you and Taehyung might turn out to be each other’s mates, but that didn’t happen.”

“Mom!”

“Calm down, pup. A parent can dream. But since you two seem perfectly content with staying best friends I’m just hoping you’ll find a mate who loves and treats you as well as Taehyung does.”

It was just as well that Jungkook’s throat suddenly felt too tight to speak, a thick lump of emotion blocking the path, because he had no idea how to respond to any of that. Instead he just let himself be engulfed in a tight, loving hug and resigned himself to playing tour guide for Dahyun at the end of the week. And his mom had been right about one thing, she really was a nice girl, so maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as he feared.

 

 

The second he got his phone back from his mom – and didn’t that just remind him of those times he’d had his phone confiscated as a punishment for pulling a few too many pranks with Taehyung during their Middle and High School years – he disappeared up to his room to finally call his best friend in peace.

“So how was the birthday dinner?” Taehyung inquired the second he picked up, not bothering with a greeting.

Used to it, the alpha didn’t even bat an eyelash, as he let himself sink down on his bed with care, feeling way too full for any sudden movements.

“Birthday dinner, my ass. But at least the food was great as usual. Mom packed up the leftovers for you already, so you can look forward to the food on Monday. Now tell me how your presentation went.”

“In a sec. First you have to explain what you mean by ‘birthday dinner, my ass’. ”

“Turns out it wasn’t so much a celebration of dad’s birthday as Mom’s subtle attempt to set me up with the daughter of some family friends. And with subtle I mean she couldn’t have been more obvious if she’d waved around a banner with our names in a heart.” There was no immediate teasing as Jungkook had expected, but he brushed it off with a quiet huff off discomfort, as he tried to settle into a more comfortable position on the bed. Later he would blame his rapidly approaching food coma on the fact that he hadn’t immediately clued in on the sudden, strange silence on the other end of the line and had instead seen it as a chance to convey his bad news as quickly as possible. “Which is why I can’t make it to that movie with you on Thursday. I’m really sorry, Tae, but Mom kind of signed me up as a tour guide.”

Another few seconds of silence that felt strangely loud and that was the moment Jungkook realized something wasn’t quite right. Taehyung’s next words, but especially the peculiarly sharp undercurrent of his voice, had him heaving himself upright in slight alarm.

“And you didn’t think about saying no and telling them that you already had plans that day?”

“Of course I thought about saying no, but they sprung the news on me in the middle of dinner, with her right there next to me. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that would have been? And it really looked like she could use the help. She’s transferring here from a small college in Jeju, that’s a big change.”

“You promised.”

This conversation really wasn’t going the way he'd thought it would. He’d expected Taehyung to make fun of him for the whole Dahyun thing, had been sure the omega would start naming all the things he now owed him for skipping out on their movie date – a back rub, anime night provision duty for a month, stuff like that. Secretly he’d even hoped the omega would simply invite himself along to the campus tour and save him and Dahyun a whole lot of awkward silences. What he hadn’t expected was to find his usually so easy-going best friend seriously minding the unexpected change of plans.

“I know, Tae. But I honestly didn’t think you’d mind that much. I mean, it’s just a movie. We can go watch it another day.” There was another dragged out silence and Jungkook could all but feel the arrows of displeasure shooting at him from the other end of the line. “Are you really that upset about it? Because I thought that maybe you could-“

He didn’t get to finish his sentence.

“You know what? Nevermind.” The tone of his voice told the alpha that his best friend actually minded very much. “I’m tired. It’s been a long day and I really don’t want to do this right now.”

An astonished part of him knew what was going to happen, even before the beep in his ear signaled the end of the call.

“Wait, Tae! Don’t... Taehyung?”

Pulling his phone away from his ear and staring at it in disbelief, the lit up screen making it very clear that Taehyung had indeed just hung up on him, Jungkook just sat there for several stunned seconds. He couldn’t believe it, he honestly couldn’t believe that his best friend had seriously just done that and he felt as indignant about it as he was confused. Taehyung had acted strange as hell, not at all like his usual, happy-go-lucky self and Jungkook wondered if something had actually happened that day.

In the end he decided to ask Jimin about it and give Taehyung some time and space to calm down – even if he hated the fact that his best friend would go to sleep being angry with Jungkook. He just hoped they’d be able to talk about it in a calmer manner once he returned to Seoul.

 

 

Joining his friends for lunch on Monday and seeing Taehyung curled into Jimin’s side, refusing to even look at Jungkook when the others greeted him with cheerful shouts of his name – or a wave and half-smile in Yoongi’s case – made it pretty clear that two days definitely hadn’t been enough for Taehyung to calm down. Any hopes he’d harbored of things maybe going back to normal between them fell like a sand castle under the soles of a mischievous child and heavy dread settled in his gut like lead. He saw the anxious way Jimin was worrying his lower lip, noticed Namjoon looking between him and Taehyung with confusion written all over his face and felt himself relating a lot to the older beta, as he dropped heavily into the empty chair next to Hoseok. Jungkook didn’t understand what the hell was going on either. It was the first time Taehyung was giving him the cold shoulder and he hated it, he hated it with every part of his soul. The omega had never been so easily angered before and he just wanted to know what had triggered his sudden change of attitude. Especially since he didn’t think he deserved that kind of treatment for skipping out on a single movie date.

“Sooooooo... this is... new.”

The last word had barely left Hoseok’s mouth when he was already cursing, rubbing the back of his head where Seokjin had aimed a sharp flick of his finger. “Ouch man! What the hell?”

“You’re being an idiot.”

“What do you want me to do? Ignore all of... that?” Hoseok hissed, gesticulating between the alpha and omega on opposite sides of the table. “I’d just like to know why Taehyung looks like he’s chewing on something foul, while Jungkook is sitting right here next to me, instead of getting all up in Taehyung’s personal space as usual.”

Before the older alpha could reply, Taehyung was speaking up instead and the tone of his voice had Jungkook’s entire body stiffening in his seat.

“Why don’t you ask Jungkook about that?”

Just like that the table went deathly quiet, Jimin appearing downright panicked as he shrunk even more into himself next to Taehyung, who was finally looking at Jungkook – if the glare directed at him could be called that.

“I said I was sorry, Tae. My mom asked me for a favor and I said yes. I don’t understand why you’re making such a big deal out of this. You’re overreacting.”

So maybe it hadn’t been the most diplomatic choice of words, considering his best friend was already pissed off at him, but part of Jungkook simply rebelled at being treated like this for something that had been pretty much out of his control. Sure, he could have said no to showing Dahyun around campus, but that would have just ended up being extremely uncomfortable for everyone involved. Apart from that Dahyun's face had lit up with genuine gratitude at the news of the tour. Cancelling on her just seemed unnecessarily cruel. Transferring from a small college to one almost three times as big wasn’t an easy thing and if he could make it a little easier on the beta then Jungkook was happy to help. The fact that he couldn’t make it to the movie with Taehyung as planned sucked, it really did, but they saw each other every day. It wasn’t the end of the world.

His best friend didn’t seem to agree.

Eyes narrowing in a way that turned the pissed off expression on his face into something infinitely more dangerous, his voice was a deep, venomous growl when he spoke. How he managed to sound furious and condescending at the same time, Jungkook would never know. “Oh, that’s right. Because your alphaness decided it wasn’t a big deal, so now the whiny, hysteric omega is overreacting of course. How annoying of me.”

Jimin’s gasp was only drowned out by Yoongi’s bitten off curse, but Jungkook barely paid attention, literally reeling as Taehyung's arrow found its mark. It was a cheap shot, everyone on the table aware that Jungkook had tried his entire life not to be that kind of asshole. So even though he knew Taehyung’s words had merely been an attempt to lash out, to get a rise out of the alpha, there was no biting back the growl breaking free of his throat. But it was what happened next that had everything inside of him wrenching to a horrible, painful halt.

Taehyung flinched.

His best friend, the one person who had never been intimidated or cowered by Jungkook, flinched away from him and the sick feeling that flooded his chest at the sight would have had him staggering a step back if he hadn’t still been seated. As it was, he simply pushed himself up from his chair onto unsteady legs, arms just as shaky where they were braced against the surface of the table, and started walking away without another word.

The calls of his name from the table behind him sounded strangely distant, as if muffled by fog thick enough to touch, but Jungkook didn’t even bother slowing down. The way the few people in his path all but threw themselves to the side to make room for him told him the expression on his face must have been truly horrible. Or maybe it was just the pained anger radiating off him in waves. Whatever it was, he was ridiculously grateful for it because all he wanted was to get away.

Away from the people staring at him. Away from his worried friends. But most of all, away from Taehyung, who had just managed to do the one thing Jungkook had been sure he’d be incapable of.

Taehyung who had just put a tiny crack in Jungkook’s painfully pounding heart. A heart he'd thought would be forever save with the other man.

 

~

 

He’d screwed up.

Oh god, he’d screwed up so badly.

Taehyung couldn’t believe he’d been that cruel to his best friend – on purpose.

All he knew was that Jungkook had told him he was overreacting – which he had been, even he could admit that – and the next moment his temper had shot up like an erupting geyser. The look of stunned hurt on Jungkook’s face, right before he’d sprung up from his chair and walked out of the dining hall, was on constant replay in his mind and the omega felt a little bit sick with remorse. He needed to fix this.

Jimin had told him the day before – hesitant and with so much care, as if afraid to make him angry – that he’d been unusually sensitive for the last few days and Taehyung had to agree. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, but he’d been feeling out of it for days now. Tired, but wired at the same time, and he really hoped he wasn’t coming down with a cold. None of that was an excuse for the way he had treated his best friend, though. And all of their friends agreed on that. He could still feel their reproachful looks sitting heavy like stones in his gut.

But as many times as Taehyung tried to call, Jungkook was ignoring him completely. Call number seven went as unanswered as all the calls and texts before and Taehyung felt his eyes burning with the humiliating prick of hot tears. Purposefully slowing down his steps in hopes of getting himself under control before reaching his last class of the day, his feet felt heavy as he walked down the hallway.
By the time Taehyung was seated in his usual seat in the classroom, he felt so maddeningly anxious, he actually considered skipping for a second. Mark, who was busy rummaging around in his backpack for a pen, seemed to be able to tell that something was seriously wrong as well, if the regular, worried looks he threw in Taehyung’s direction were anything to go by. Before he could address the omega’s abnormally restless behavior though, their professor was entering the room and Taehyung breathed out on a sigh of relief when Mark’s attention shifted to the front of class. But not before sweeping his body with a last, unsure side-glance.

Unfortunately the relief was rather short-lived, the skittish tension inside of him only growing more pronounced by the second. He had no idea what the professor was talking about, when all he could focus on was the sensation as if his body was growing too big for his own skin.

He didn’t immediately realize what was going on. The first several flares of heat, accompanied by the sharp twisting of his stomach and sweep of goose bumps across his skin had him wondering if he was reacting badly to the few measly bites of lunch he’d been able to choke down before class. But then the flares suddenly shifted lower, making it almost impossible for Taehyung to stifle an instinctive whimper, and the other omega sitting next to him tensed up the exact same moment realization hit Taehyung like a punch to the gut.

No.

It couldn’t be. He was on suppressants. He’d been taking them religiously. This couldn’t be happening to him right now.

Oh God, no.

“Taehyung.”

There was worry, true urgency in Mark’s voice, even though the omega obviously tried to keep his voice as low as possible, but Taehyung didn’t respond. He didn’t try sinking lower in his chair, didn’t try to hide what would become horribly obvious to every single person in this classroom very soon. Taehyung simply shoved his stuff back into his bag and surged out of his seat, the same moment another ripple of heat had him almost folding in on himself at the force of it.

All but stumbling out into the aisle, after attempting a last reassuring nod in Mark’s direction and failing spectacularly, Taehyung made his way to the front of class and towards the door. He was still several feet away when realization visibly dawned on his professor’s face.

“Mr. Kim, do you need someone to accompany you to the infirmary?”

“No!” His voice didn’t sound like own, thin and weak, and he had to swallow down on a rising moan when an especially powerful wave of heat rolled through his body. “It’s... it’s alright. I’ll call my alpha, he’ll come and get me.”

The semi-lie slipped off Taehyung’s tongue without trouble, easing the worry on his professor’s face and with a short nod from her he was free to go. The stares of his classmates felt heavy on his back as he forced himself to set one foot in front of the other, stumbling towards the door as if drunk, and the flare of humiliation felt ironically similar to the waves of heat radiating outwards in his body. He wasn’t the first omega to unexpectedly go into heat and he certainly wouldn’t be the last, but the thought was a weak comfort.

Making it out the door of the lecture hall with teeth-gritting effort, he took a few staggering steps down the hallway before he collapsed against the wall at the sound of the door closing behind him. He didn’t wait to think about what he was going to do, about the possibility of Jungkook simply ignoring his call again after the way they had parted earlier that day. Instead he just fished his phone out of his back pocket, hand shaking so badly, the device almost slipped out of his desperate grip. But before he managed to dial his best friend’s number, his phone came alive in his hand, vibrating and screen lighting up with the picture he had taken of a barely awake Jungkook a few months ago. In it, the alpha was blearily looking up at him, sleep blanketing that gorgeous face of his, but there was the hint of a smile there as well. It had formed the second Jungkook had come awake enough to realize it was Taehyung leaning over him and the omega just hadn’t been able to resist, capturing the moment like the greedy fiend he was when it came to his best friend’s smiles.

Now the sight of it brought a rush of such profound relief, Taehyung felt the first tears sliding down the cheeks – tears that had stung in his eyes from the moment realization about his heat had settled like rocks in his gut. For a second he thought he might be imagining things, was simply stuck in the middle of a heat-induced hallucination, but even after several sawing breaths the phone was still vibrating in his palm. The sob of relief that exploded out of him at that twisted into a pained moan as he was gripped by another wave of pulsating heat and it took him three tries until he managed to swipe the green button and accept the call.

“J-Jung-“

“Taehyung! What’s wrong? Are you hurt? Where are you?” His best friend’s voice was frantic, the alpha all but stumbling over his words as he spoke into his phone with more urgency than he’d ever heard from him before.

He didn’t question how Jungkook knew that he was in trouble, gratitude overpowering anything else in a rush of near boundless affection.

“I’m outside of-“ breaking off at the painful clutch of his stomach, Taehyung muffled his next whine into the back of his hand, but knew it wasn’t enough. He could feel Jungkook pitching headfirst into panic on the other end of the line, his own chest seizing as if it was echoing the frantic worry of his best friend.

“Taehyung!”

“I’m... I’m outside of class. Can you... come get me? Please?” That last word fizzled out on another stuttered whine, the omega lowering himself until his butt hit the floor, back pressed against the wall and knees pulled up protectively against his chest.

“It’s your Rhetoric class, right? Stay where you are, I’m already on my way. I’ll be there in five minutes! It’s going to be okay, Tae.”

With that last, shaky promise the call cut off and Taehyung had to bite down on the sob that wanted to rip free of his throat. For these few seconds Jungkook’s voice in his ear had seemed like a lifeline, something to hold on to and fight off the insidious tendrils of a heat he shouldn’t even be going through. But now, completely on his own again, the twisting in his gut and itch just beneath his skin seemed to flare up like a scorned lover bent on revenge.

Letting his head drop until it was touching his knees, Taehyung tried to regulate his choppy breathing, realizing he was mere moments away from hyperventilating. Even through the fog in his head and mounting discomfort of his body he tried to remember what he’d learned in his omega classes. But it had been so long – years – since he’d last gone through a heat, before he’d turned eighteen and been allowed to go on suppressants and he couldn’t remember it ever being this bad – this painful.

Slow down your breathing, try not to tense your muscles too much and imagine yourself somewhere calm and safe.

It had never worked for Taehyung before. He’d never been someone with the ability to simply ignore physical pain, but in that moment it was his only option. His emergency meds were uselessly stored away in his dorm room – stupid, stupid, stupid – and there was no way he’d make it there on his own. All he could do was breathe through the waves of discomfort, staunchly ignore the erection pressing against the zipper of his jeans and pray for Jungkook to get to him before someone else passed him in the – so far – blessedly empty corridor. The mere thought of someone else – possibly even another alpha – finding him cowering on the floor like this had his chest seizing with a mindless kind of panic.

It seemed like hours later that the faraway sound of a door slamming open penetrated through the loud rush of blood in his ears. He heard Jungkook before he could see him. The pounding of his steps as he flew down the corridor towards Taehyung was the most welcome sound in the world. And by the time Taehyung managed to raise his heavy head, his best friend came skittering around the corner, eyes zeroing in on Taehyung’s curled up form with the accuracy and speed of a heat-seeking missile. It was as if he’d known he would find the omega there.

Taehyung’s entire body swayed forward at the sight of the alpha coming to a wavering halt in front of him – sweaty, wide-eyed, breathing heavily from his sprint across campus – and his scent was so intense, it slammed into the omega with the force of an angry battering ram. But even as it ripped another pained moan from him, Taehyung was already raising his arms towards his best friend, pulled up a second later by a firm grip around his wrist and just like that he was clutching Jungkook with every ounce of strength he had left in him – nose buried in the damp curve of his neck and fingers curling into the fabric of his shirt. Every instinct was screaming at him to get closer, to not let go, and for once Taehyung and his instincts were in perfect agreement. He heard the sharp intake of Jungkook’s breath, felt him going completely motionless for two, seemingly endless seconds, as the alpha was hit with the undoubtedly overpowering smell of Taehyung’s rising heat. But a mere heartbeat later his best friend’s arms banded around him – strong, familiar, protective – and Taehyung sank against him with a trembling sigh.

He didn’t even realize how badly he was shaking until Jungkook pulled his arms even tighter around him. The hand on the back of his nape gave his clammy skin one desperately soothing stroke, before Jungkook crowded him against the wall as if he could shield him from any possible harm this way.

“Tae.”

The move should have made him feel caged in, his itchy skin already making him feel like he was coming apart at the seams. Instead the way Jungkook held him made the omega feel oddly save, his clamoring chest quieting by a merciful, if tiny degree.

“Can you get me home?”

“Yeah.” God, Jungkook’s voice sounded like his throat was lined with sandpaper. “I’ll get you home. Everything’s going to be alright.”

Somehow, Taehyung actually believed him.

 

 

Taehyung had no way of telling how long it took them to make the trek across campus. Settled on Jungkook’s back, face buried against his best friend’s neck, the minutes until they reached the omega’s dorm seemed almost endless. Alphas weren’t actually allowed inside, but Jungkook didn’t even hesitate as he pushed the door open with his hip, hitching Taehyung higher and cursing at the way it made the older man whimper against his skin. “Almost there. You’re doing so well. It’s going to be okay.”

Using Taehyung’s key card, Jungkook let them both into the room and the second the door fell closed behind them, the omega stifled a miserable sob against his best friend’s shoulder. He felt the way the alpha tensed, sensed the frustrated helplessness radiating off him and made him feel sorrier than he could ever say. Jungkook sat down on the bed, carefully lowering Taehyung onto the mattress and not even his hazy vision could hide the fact that the younger man was shaking. He knew it had barely anything to do with the fact that he’d just carried him across campus and up two flights of stairs, but everything to do with his alpha instincts reacting to Taehyung’s scent and telling him to act. The expression on his face was nothing but worried affection and determination, though, as he shot the omega a quick glance over his shoulder.

“Where are your meds?”

“B-bottom drawer of my desk. The really small, red pills,” Taehyung managed to choke out, before he pulled his knees up against his chest to make himself as small as possible. A small part of him was aware of Jungkook rummaging through his stuff, the sound of his steps and the tap in his bathroom coming on, but the sounds didn’t properly compute. The omega was unable to focus on anything but the burn inside of him rising higher and higher.

“Taehyung.” Prying his eyes open, he found his best friend standing in front of him, holding out a cereal bar he recognized as the one he’d carelessly thrown into his bag this morning. “I know you don’t feel like it, but you need to eat this. I don’t want your meds to make you sick.”

It took teeth-gritting determination to force down the few bites, with Jungkook hovering next to him, muscles tight and body all but vibrating with tension, but he knew his best friend was right. The last bite of food felt like it was only growing bigger and bigger in his mouth, but Taehyung forced it down despite of it. The next moment Jungkook was holding out his meds and a glass of water so cold, condensation was already forming on the outside.

The second the red pill was washed down, followed by a few more sips of water after Jungkook’s urging, he put the glass down on his bedside table and immediately curled back in on himself at the edge of the mattress. Now that there was nothing to do but wait, he couldn’t quite hold back the whimper of misery and embarrassment. The omega could feel his slick and precome soaking his boxers, could practically taste his own scent it was so thick in the air around him, and all he wanted was for it all to go away.

He almost keened at the feeling of fingers carding through his sweaty hair. His body was craving contact, any kind of touch, and he couldn’t even be embarrassed about the mindless way he was arching into Jungkook’s soothing strokes.

“It’s okay, Tae.”

He didn’t know how many times the younger man had uttered the words up until this point, but Taehyung clung to them like a lifeline. Jungkook was there, he was telling him things would be alright, so Taehyung listened and he hoped. But as if the heat was determined to prove them all wrong, its next surge was so powerful, he had to bite his lips to keep himself from outright moaning. Clawing his fingers into the blanket beneath him wasn't a conscious choice, but his body had stopped obeying him a while ago and he no longer cared.

“What do you want me to do? Do you think it’ll be better if I leave? Should I get Jimin?” Jungkook’s voice cracked with fear and urgency, but the omega barely noticed, panic surging up inside of him and momentarily drowning out the seething need at the thought of Jungkook leaving.

“No! Please don’t go,” Taehyung croaked, not sure if he was shaking from anxiety or his heat.

“Isn’t having an alpha around supposed to make your heat worse? Fuck, I don’t want to hurt you, Tae.”

Taehyung didn’t have the strength to raise his head and check, but his best friend sounded like he was pulling at his hair in frustration – worry about Taehyung and his need to stay and help undoubtedly warring inside of him.

“Please don’t leave,” the omega simply repeated, mind fuzzy with fear and unwanted lust, and all he could do was curl tighter into himself and stifle his next sob into the soft fabric of his blanket.

The following, tense beats of silence, only broken by Taehyung’s labored breathing, were bordering on pure torture, but then he felt the bed dip behind him and almost cried out in relief when Jungkook settled down against him. They were the same height, which made curling himself entirely around Taehyung a thing of impossibility, but Jungkook gave it his best shot. As if he could somehow manage if he just wished for it hard enough. Strong arms curled around him, one coming to a rest over his waist, while he helped Taehyung raise his head so the alpha could push the other arm beneath him, the omega settling down with his head pillowed on the other man’s bicep. Next was a thigh slipping between Taehyung’s and the omega instinctively rutted forward, before he stilled his hips with a hissed curse.

“Tell me if it gets too much. Promise me.”

But Taehyung simply clamped his thighs tighter around Jungkook’s, reached down to curl his fingers around the alpha’s wrist and just like that they were touching from head to toe, so close not even a sheet of paper would have fit between them. And the omega was ridiculously grateful for it. He was feeling like he was shaking apart at the seams and his best friend’s arms tightening around him were the only thing holding him together.

“It’ll be okay, Tae. Everything’s going to be okay.”

The alpha whispered the words like a mantra, repeating them over and over again, as Taehyung shook and gasped in his arms. He wasn’t even entirely aware of his best friend’s words, simply clung to the sound of his shaking voice and pressed his face more firmly against the skin of Jungkook’s arm. His scent was intense, almost overwhelming, and Taehyung wasn’t sure if it made the sharp tugging in his gut better or worse, but at this point he didn’t even care. His best friend’s scent was familiar, another constant in a situation so completely out of his control, and the omega sucked in his next breath with a frantic kind of desperation.

Behind him Jungkook was nuzzling his face against the oversensitive skin of Taehyung’s nape, but the move didn’t feel invasive, didn’t feel sexual or pushy in any way. Instead it was a touch meant solely for comfort – lips and nose brushing over the back of his neck in soft, careful intervalls. It didn’t numb the burning in his core, didn’t stop his body from acting so completely against his will, but the pure affection of the touch made the god-awful pressure in his chest lessen. It made this entire humiliating situation just a bit more bearable. Jungkook was there, his best friend was there and he wasn’t leaving him alone to deal with this on his own.

He wasn’t surprised by the fact that the alpha was rock hard against him, sweating as much as Taehyung, but neither of them paid the erection pressing into his backside any mind. Jungkook didn’t try to shift away, his touch still infinitely gentle and nothing but protective, and the omega knew neither of their bodies’ reactions were under their control at the moment. He had a feeling this entire situation was as hard for Jungkook as it was for him, and the gratitude and love that flooded through the omega at the thought were almost enough to push away the unwanted need flickering inside of him.

It felt like an eternity before Taehyung started to notice the gradual changes – medicine finally taking effect. It was the itch of his skin that faded first, followed by the disappearance of the wrenching feeling in his stomach. The flashes of heat were slower to settle, gradually growing more muted and by the time his cock stopped tenting the front of his soaked boxers and jeans, Taehyung felt like all his energy had drained out of him on the heels of his heat. Through it all, Jungkook had simply kept on holding him, arms keeping him anchored against his hard body and never ceasing the soothing strokes of his hand across his stomach and hip.

But still, neither of them moved. Taehyung himself wasn’t sure if it was because they needed to keep the full-body contact going just a little longer or out of fear of possibly breaking the merciful disappearance of all of Taehyung’s symptoms. All he knew was that his breaths were finally coming easier again, completely in synch with the slow rising and falling of Jungkook’s chest against his back, and he wasn’t sure if he was ready yet to give up on the protective hold his best friend had on him.

“You okay?”

It seemed Jungkook was as reluctant to break the sudden calmness of the room, voice pitched carefully low. It was probably the mix of hot air brushing over his nape and the hoarse, rough sound of Jungkook’s voice that had the shiver travelling up Taehyung’s spine, because even if his meds had put a stop to the burning in his stomach, his body still felt unnaturally sensitive.

“Yeah, I… I think it might be over now.”

“Good. The scent’s gone as well.”

It was an innocent statement, but it spoke of how intense Taehyung’s scent must have been to the alpha and it was more than enough to have the shame bubbling up inside of him like hot tar again.

“I’m sorry.”

The words were mumbled into the sweat-soaked fabric of his blanket, had Jungkook sitting upright as if burned, and Taehyung’s bitten off whine of protest only strengthened the burn of embarrassment in his chest.

“Tae, look at me.”

His best friend’s voice was still gentle, but his tone told him that he was deathly serious, that he wouldn’t let Taehyung hide away from him. So the omega reluctantly turned over onto his back and let his gaze travel up until it met his best friend’s unflinching gaze. He looked calm, calmer than Taehyung would have expected, despite the strands of hair plastered to his forehead and sheen of sweat on his skin.

“Don’t apologize. This wasn’t your fault. None of this was your fault.”

“But I-“

“No buts, Tae. I know how anal you are about taking your suppressants. You couldn’t have predicted something like this happening.”

“I’m still sorry. I’m so sorry you had to take care of me like this,” he heard the shame in his own voice, felt it rolling around like hot stones in his gut.

“You’re my best friend.”

Jungkook said the words like they were explanation enough and maybe they actually were. There was no hint of incrimination in the alpha’s dark eyes, only conviction and worry – so much worry.

“Thank you.” He hadn’t even been aware of reaching out, until Jungkook’s slightly shorter fingers slotted between his own. “I don’t think there’s a way for me to tell you how grateful I am to you for what you did. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

“You could have. You’re so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, but I’m glad I was here to help.”

After Jungkook pulled him upright, he let himself lean against his best friend for a few more, quiet moments, before he pulled away and got to his feet with a grimace at the cooling stickiness in his boxers.

“I need a shower. I feel disgusting.”

He stayed under the hot spray of water until the entire room was foggy with steam and his fingers started getting pruny. But he reveled in the feeling of finally being clean again, reveled in the fresh scent of his soap and shampoo, and it was only the thought of Jungkook waiting for him outside – as well as the slight shakiness of his legs – that finally had him getting out of the shower. He didn’t bother being too thorough with toweling off, more interested in getting dressed as quickly as possible.

Taehyung felt close to tears of gratitude, when he stepped out of his tiny bathroom, to discover that Jungkook had used the time to strip his bed of the old sheets and replace them with freshly laundered ones.

“I love you. You’re the most amazing person on the planet. A god among humans.”

The omega’s overflowing thanks had a smile tugging at Jungkook’s lips, even though it didn’t quite manage to vanquish the worry still lingering in his eyes.

“I thought you’d probably be more comfortable this way,” the alpha eventually replied, handing over a cup that definitely didn’t belong to Taehyung and staring at him with a raised eyebrow until he took a careful sip.

“That’s chamomile tea. Where did you even get that? I know for a fact that I didn’t have any tea lying around in this room.”

Taehyung set the cup down on his bedside table after a few more sips of the wonderfully warm, if not especially tasty drink, before he turned towards Jungkook again. His best friend was still looking at him as if he expected Taehyung to simply drop from exhaustion any second – which wasn’t as far-fetched of a worry as the omega would have liked.

“I got it from your neighbor. I’m sorry, but I had to explain the situation to her. She looked a second away from screaming the entire house down when she saw me standing on her doorstep. She promised not to tell anyone, though.”

And that small gesture, on top of everything else, almost had Taehyung bursting into tears. He felt the emotion rising up from his chest, seeming to swell and swell as he tried to choke it down, to somehow keep the mess of emotion from spilling out. But of course Jungkook noticed and a second later Taehyung found himself pulled back into a tight hug. Jungkook’s familiar minty scent was still laced with the residues of his cooling sweat, but Taehyung didn’t care, simply let himself sink into the welcome hold, forehead lowering until it rested against the alpha’s shoulder and fingers slipping beneath the soft fabric of his shirt until he was touching warm skin. Nothing could ever feel more comforting.

“It’s okay, Tae. You’re okay now.”

A soft kiss pressed to his temple had Taehyung swallowing down another lump of emotion and his voice sounded scratchy, almost brittle when he could finally muster the strength to speak.

“I know you don’t want me to apologize, but I’m still sorry for all of this. I don’t know how or why this happened, but thanks for being here.”

Jungkook just kept on nuzzling his temple, the tip of his nose brushing along his hair line and the unapologetic display of affection was more soothing than any kind of vocal reassurance could have been.

“We’ll go see your doctor tomorrow.”

His eyes refused to open as he sluggishly nodded his assent, eyelids and limbs growing heavy in Jungkook’s steady hold, and he was barely aware of being tucked into bed, exhaustion stretching inside of him like a lazy cat. Sleep claimed him suddenly and without mercy, but when he woke what must have been hours later – judging by the complete darkness of his room – Jungkook was still there lying next to him, fingers intertwined with his and turned towards him on the bed. Eliminating the slight distance between them, Taehyung squirmed close until he was cuddled up against the alpha’s body and even though Jungkook didn’t wake fully, he curled his arm around Taehyung with a quiet sniffle. Love spread its fluttering wings inside his chest, the sensation so familiar it was its own kind of reassurance, and with his forehead pressed against Jungkook’s, the alpha’s warm breath hitting his face in soft puffs, he drifted back into sleep mere moments later.

 

 

Taehyung had never been a fan of doctors or hospitals and despite the fact that the middle-aged, soft-spoken beta seated opposite him had been his doctor for years, Taehyung still found himself battling the urge to sink low in seat and curl up like a scared hedgehog.

“As far as I can tell from my initial examination there’s nothing wrong with you. But we’ll get the results of your blood test in a few days and then we’ll know more. It’s not uncommon for omegas your age to experience a sudden spike in their required dosage of suppressants. I’ll just ask you a few questions to see if we can figure this out, alright?”

At Taehyung’s hesitant nod the beta gave him a quiet smile that unfortunately did nothing to settle his roiling stomach.

“According to your file, you’re still unmated. Did that change since our last appointment?”

“No.”

“Are you in a relationship or has there been an increase in your sexual activity recently?”

Another shake of his head and despite the distracting worry gnawing at him he could see his doctor’s nostrils flare slightly, something flickering across his face before he masked it.

“Do you mind telling me about your experience? How did it start? What were your symptoms?”

“I’ve been feeling achy and tired for the last several days, but I just thought I was coming down with a cold, or something like that. Then yesterday during class it got worse. It was exactly like people described it - itching sweaty skin, irregular, kinda painful flares of warmth that got hotter every time, a cramping stomach. I didn’t want to believe it, but it was kind of useless to deny when I felt myself getting hard in the middle of class.”

The beta looked almost amused by Taehyung’s dry tone and for the first time since he had entered the office, the omega felt himself relaxing just a little bit.

“So what did you do then?”

“I didn’t have my emergency meds with me, stupid, I know,” Taehyung continued in a small voice, staring down at his knees, “so I got out of class to call my friend to come get me, but he was already on his way. He could somehow tell that something was wrong with me.”

His doctor’s head went up from where he had been looking down while taking notes and Taehyung felt a prickle of apprehension on his nape at the unreadable expression on his face.

“And your friend is an alpha?”

For a second Taehyung wondered how the beta knew, before he realized that he could probably smell Jungkook on him. After all the alpha hadn’t left his side for more than the five minutes it had taken him to shower since they had woken up this morning.

“Yes. He took me back to my dorm room and stayed with me. I’m pretty sure he was the only thing that kept me from losing it completely before the meds kicked in. It was way more painful than I remembered and I’m afraid I didn’t deal very well with my symptoms. I tried to do the breathing exercises they taught us in our omega classes, but that didn’t really work.”

“There’s no need to be ashamed. Heats take a lot out of omegas, even more so when there is no time to prepare yourself for it. You’ve done the right thing to ask for help from your friend, instead of trying to deal with it on your own. I think you’ve done a great job.”

The words were a weak consolation, but Taehyung still appreciated the effort.

“So if I understood you correctly the presence of your friend made you feel better?”

His doctor was clearly trying to confirm something with his questions, but Taehyung just couldn’t figure out what it was. Something stirred in the back of his mind, like a persistent itch that refused to be soothed away, but every time he tried to focus on the thought it vanished like smoke slipping through grasping hands.

“Yes.”

There was no hesitance in Taehyung’s reply. He couldn’t imagine how he would have made it through the ordeal without Jungkook there beside him. He’d been so scared and embarrassed, but his best friend’s fiercely affectionate presence had settled something inside of him, his strong scent settling like a blanket around him, even as it had fanned the flames in his gut a little higher.

“And how long have you been friends, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Since we were kids.”

At that the beta clearly came to a conclusion.

“Do you think it would be possible for you to come back with your friend in the next few days?”

“Is something wrong?”

Even Taehyung could hear the anxiousness in his voice and his doctor’s face immediately softened at that. Something that should have probably been impossible, considering he’d been smiling his most gentle smiles since the beginning of their appointment in an attempt to dispel Taehyung’s glaring discomfort.

“There’s nothing wrong, Mr. Kim. I’d just like to talk to the both of you.”

“Oh, okay. He’s actually waiting for me outside.”

Somehow his doctor didn’t seem remotely surprised by those news and Taehyung wasn't sure if that was supposed to make him feel better or worse.

A nurse opened the door a bare minute later, stepping aside to let Jungkook enter the room, and Taehyung only had enough time to turn around and blink before the alpha was at his side. He'd moved through the room at a speed almost too fast to follow.

“Are you alright?”

The worry on Jungkook’s face, as well as his own need to touch, had Taehyung reaching out and his alpha friend intertwined their fingers without a single hesitation.

“There’s no need to worry, Mr...?”

“Jeon. Jeon Jungkook.”

“Ah yes, Mr. Jeon. Like I said, no need to worry. There’s nothing wrong with Mr. Kim. I just wanted to talk to the both of you. Please take a seat.”

Jungkook lowered himself into the chair next to Taehyung, never letting go of the omega’s hand, and that alone had the worst knots of anxiety in his chest coming loose. The doctor waited until it was clear he had their attention before he continued.

“Have you ever heard of the term ‘ghost mating’?”

From the corner of his eye Taehyung could see Jungkook’s shake his head in very much the same way he did – hesitant, tentative, knowing something was coming despite the fact that they didn’t have a clue what the doctor was talking about.

“It’s something that sometimes occurs between pairs in a relationship who haven’t officially claimed each other. Especially when one or both parts of the pair have dominant personalities. The result can be a bond close to that of actual mates.” Taehyung was barely aware of Jungkook’s grip tightening around his hand, focused on his doctor’s in a way he hadn’t been before. “The fact that Mr. Jeon could tell you were going into heat and that his presence was making your symptoms more bearable instead of worse are very definite signs of such a ghost mating. It would also explain why Mr. Kim’s dosage of suppressants is no longer sufficient.”

For several seconds the room was almost eerily quiet, tension thick enough to touch, before Jungkook finally spoke up, voice sounding oddly breathless.

“But we’re not even in a relationship.”

“That is indeed very rare, but it has happened with very close, long-term friends as well.”

If the tension had been thick before, the doctor’s explanation all but turned it into a living, breathing thing, curling around Taehyung like an old friend.

“I know it’s a lot to take in.”

'A lot' felt like an understatement.

“So we’re... mated?”

“In a way. It’s not necessarily a permanent bond, even though it can be. It would be overridden by an actual claiming, that means both of you are free to find other mates if you should want to.” Once again Jungkook’s hand tightened around his and Taehyung found himself gripping it in return, the doctor’s words scraping across his skin with the sensation of fur being rubbed the wrong way. “But until that happens or until the nature of your relationship changes drastically, you’ll most likely continue to experience a heightened awareness of each other, as well as other effects of a mating.”

 

 

The fresh air hitting his face as they stepped out of the clinic almost felt like a slap to Taehyung's face. He felt a little drunk, head swirling with seemingly a thousand thoughts, but still only one was able to penetrate through the confused haze.

Mated. We're mated.

Kind of.

It was still too big of a revelation to wrap his mind around.

Jungkook, who had followed him around everywhere as a kid, who had grown up into such a wonderful and gorgeous man was mated. To him.

Kind of.

He had a feeling they were both more than just slightly shell-shocked, as they walked back towards campus, hands still firmly intertwined. But when the tug on his hand came, Taehyung was expecting it. He’d been able to all but hear Jungkook think for the past several minutes, nerves radiating off his best friends in waves that had skittered across Taehyung’s skin like static. Turning around he found Jungkook's lips puffy from the way the alpha had been biting down on it and his eyes swirling with too many emotions to differentiate. His best friend looked so torn between his needs to talk and hide away from any kind of confrontation that Taehyung didn’t even realize he was rubbing his thumb across the side of the alpha’s hand in soothing strokes until the rigidity of his jaw slowly started to lessen. The next moment he was drawing in a breath so deep, it had his shoulders visibly drawing up and Taehyung knew the time to talk had come.

And if he braced himself just a tiny bit, no one had any right to blame him.

“I’m so sorry, Tae.”

That definitely hadn’t been what he’d expected and for several moments Taehyung simply stood there, blinking at his best friend uncomprehendingly.

“I’m sorry for the whole movie thing. Please don’t be mad at me anymore. I hate it when we fight. I really didn’t mean to just skip out on our movie date, but-“

“No. Oh Kookie, no. I’m not mad at you anymore, how could I be? I totally overreacted that day and I’m really hoping those were my hormones from my rising heat acting up, because I like to think I’m not that much of a petty asshole. I’m the one who needs to apologize.”

“Are you sure? Because those two days you wouldn’t talk to me sucked. They really really really sucked and it’d be great if we could never ever do that again. I hate not talking to you.”

His best friend looked so much like a kicked puppy – bottom lip sticking out in a unwitting pout, eyes pleading and shoulders slumped just a tiny bit – that Taehyung didn’t have any other choice but to step forward and butt his forehead against the alpha’s shoulder in the most affectionate way possible. It had Jungkook’s free hand coming up to run his fingers through the soft hair at the top of Taehyung’s nape – probably more instinctive reaction than conscious choice – and the gentle touch had the omega all but melting against his friend.

“I’m 200% sure. I was jealous and an idiot and I hated not talking to you as well.”

“You were jealous?”

“Yeah.” It was a grumbled admission, muffled by the fabric of Jungkook’s long-sleeved Henley.

“Do you... do you think that’s because of the ghost bond? Do you think it’s influencing your emotions? The way you feel?”

He couldn’t quite read the strange undercurrent in his best friend’s voice, but he could definitely feel tension creeping back into his body and Taehyung wanted nothing more than to banish it for good.

“I don’t think that’s how it works. The way I understood it, the ghost bond is there because of the way we feel, not the other way around. And we both know that I can be a tad possessive sometimes.”

“So you don’t think I somehow forced that bond into existence?”

“Jeon Jungkook.”

The way Jungkook instinctively pulled up his shoulders at Taehyung’s tone jostled the omega’s head, but he refused to move it from where it was still nestled into the curve of the alpha’s neck. His nose was pressed against Jungkook’s skin and the alpha’s scent soothed something that had been clamoring in his chest since the moment his heat had started to rise.

“Don’t Jeon Jungkook me. It’s just... I mean... “

“It’s just that you’re the big bad alpha and you like to take responsibility for everything. Believe me, that’s not exactly breaking news.”

“Wise ass.”

The sudden pinch of his side had Taehyung twitching with a squawk of protest, but instead of moving away he just pressed closer and blew a purposefully wet raspberry against Jungkook’s collarbone in revenge. The alpha’s chuckle ruffled Taehyung’s hair and the older man felt his chest tingle pleasantly at the relief he heard in his best friend’s laugh. Whatever his Jungkook had been worried about, it was pretty obvious Taehyung had taken at least some of those heavy feelings away.

“Mating is a mutual thing, it doesn’t work unless all parties are ready for it – all of them – and I don’t think a ghost mating works that differently. You clearly aren’t responsible for this by yourself, so stop worrying. There are worse things than being kind of mated to your best friend, right?”

And Jungkook’s nod might have been small, but Taehyung had a feeling it was in hopes of not jostling the omega, rather than a sign of his doubt.

“So what do we do now? Do we just ignore it?”

Taehyung sure as hell wasn’t a fan of the feeling flooding through him at those words spoken against his temple and his hand automatically tightened its grip around Jungkook’s.

“Do you think we can? More importantly, do you want to ignore it?”

“No.”

There was no hesitation to Jungkook’s reply and Taehyung had a feeling that if he pulled back now he’d find a blush spreading across the alpha’s cheeks at how revealing his immediate answer had been. But the omega had no intentions of moving away from Jungkook any time soon, perfectly happy with continuing to breathe in his best friend’s scent as he felt the pull of a smile on his face.

“Great, because neither do I.”

Taehyung’s neck was starting to hurt from his prolonged, hunched-over position and it left him with no other choice but to finally pull upright. As if Jungkook knew he was still craving the comfort the physical contact had provided him with – and there was a good chance Jungkook actually did know – the alpha pushed up against his side instead, their whole arms pressed together, from their shoulders all the way down to their firmly interlocked hands.

The ongoing silence wasn’t uncomfortable – silences between them never were – but for once it wasn’t easy either. The realization of the bond between them was just too predominant, slowly sinking in and charging the air surrounding them.

“That still doesn’t tell us what to do, though.”

“Let’s just... see what happens.”

 

 

Things mostly went back to normal in the week following the sudden appearance of Taehyung’s heat and ringing revelation of the ghost bond between him and Jungkook. For a few days the alpha rarely left Taehyung’s side, instinctively knowing that Taehyung was still feeling the after-effects of his heat. He was tired, as if his body was struggling to return to its normal state, and being alone left him feeling oddly anxious. He would have been embarrassed by his constant need for contact – preferably in the form of cuddles and naps with his head pillowed in his best friend’s lap – if it had been anyone other than Jungkook. But the younger man seemed perfectly content with giving Taehyung all the attention he needed and making sure Jimin or one of their other friends was there to keep the omega company if Jungkook had no other choice but to leave for a few hours.

They’d ended up showing Dahyun around campus together and Taehyung had felt a little bit like slapping himself when Jungkook admitted that he’d planned to ask Taehyung to accompany them from the start.

“You’re so much better at talking to people than I am and I’m sure she’d feel more comfortable with someone around who doesn’t drive every conversation into a dead end after two minutes.”

When the beta had sidled up to Taehyung’s side at the end of the evening and mumbled a quiet “you’re seriously cute together”, he’d blushed, but hadn’t bothered telling her they weren’t technically together. And if that proved that the hint of possessiveness in him was still very much at work, Taehyung would simply have to accept that.

 

He’d only made short pit stops at his own dorm room during the last week to change his clothes or grab a textbook and some of his other stuff. So when he returned to it after six continuous nights of sleeping in Jungkook’s bed, his best friend a warm, comforting presence beside him, he wasn’t too surprised to realize he had trouble falling asleep all by himself. His bed – even though it was a single, compared to Jungkook’s double – felt too big and too cold. His room was too quiet without the sound of the alpha’s breaths and occasional sniffles beside him. And even though it was embarrassing to admit, Taehyung simply felt lonely. It was closing in on three am when the omega finally gave up on tossing and turning in his bed, untangled himself from his two blankets – still not enough to make up for the lack of his personal, human furnace curled against his side – and rolled himself out of bed.

There was a slight, but annoying pounding behind his temples and his eyes felt gritty from the lack of sleep. He knew he wasn’t going to fall asleep like this and between staying awake all night and heading back over to Jungkook’s, his choice was very obvious. Even if it meant he’d have to brave the chilly temperatures outside for his hike across campus.

Five minutes later he was bundled up in as many layers as he’d been able to grab in the few seconds he’d given himself before bolting out of his room and already at the half-way point to his best friend’s place. His pace was brisk and determined, even if his body felt weirdly sluggish from exhaustion, and so it took him a few moments longer to notice the person getting closer than it would usually have.

He couldn’t be sure, but something about the way the approaching man walked, about the way he held himself, just screamed alpha to Taehyung. He hadn’t expected to run into anyone at this time of the night and even though he wouldn’t go as far as say he was worried, he still didn’t like the way the guy was looking directly at him as they steadily drew closer. It was when they were maybe ten, fifteen feet away from each other – close enough for Taehyung to pick up on the obvious flare of the stocky guy’s nostrils – that the most peculiar thing happened. He watched the alpha’s eyes widen, before his gaze abruptly skittered away. It was a reaction Taehyung was used to. He saw it on a daily basis, mostly while walking into his classrooms engulfed in one of Jungkook’s hoodies or sweatshirts, but it was rather puzzling to witness in his current situation.

He’d showered after returning to his dorm, was dressed in nothing but his own clothes, so he wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the alpha’s behavior. But then there were more important things to worry about at the moment. The alpha hadn’t bothered him, so Taehyung let any more thoughts about the strange incident float away and simply focused on making it to Jungkook’s place as fast as possible.

Taehyung did his best to be quiet, as he closed the door after typing in the code and letting himself into his best friend’s apartment, peeling himself out of most of his clothes in the living room and picking a random shirt out of the clothes basket filled with clean laundry. It didn’t have the same soothing effect as wearing one of Jungkook’s previously worn shirts, but the subtle scent of detergent was still oddly comforting in its own right. A second later he was tip-toeing his way into the alpha’s bedroom.

He just barely managed to choke back a startled scream. “Holy shit, Kookie. You scared the hell out of me.”

“Yeah, same. I thought someone was breaking into my place or something like that.”

Instead of finding Jungkook asleep and sprawled out across the mattress – which was the way he usually slept when he didn’t have another body taking up space beside him – the alpha was sitting upright in the middle of the bed. Even in the heavy darkness of the room he could make out the disbelieving expression on his tired face.

“So you just decided to stay in bed and wait until the burglar made his way to the bedroom?” Taehyung’s voice was too slurred from tiredness to properly convey his amusement at his best friend, but said alpha didn’t seem to have a problem picking up on his intent. At least if the sleepy scoff he got in return was anything to go by.

“You’re always the first to die if you leave your bedroom to check out the weird noises in the middle of the night. Have our horror movie nights taught you nothing?”

Already the short, bickering exchange had most of the tension draining out of Taehyung and by the time he was crawling into Jungkook’s bed – the alpha lifting up his blanket and surrendering his warm spot to him without hesitation – he was pretty sure he was already half-asleep.

“Not that I’m complaining, but are you ever going to tell me what you’re doing here?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Taehyung mumbled into Jungkook’s shoulder and wiggled around until his best friend surrendered with a quiet huff and threw his arm over the omega’s waist.

The last thing Taehyung remembered, before sleep claimed him - as if he hadn’t been tossing around in his own bed for four hours - was the alpha’s barely audible, “yeah, me neither.”

 

 

He woke to Jungkook’s head tucked under his chin, one of his legs hiked over the younger man’s hip and the alpha’s hands radiating warmth through his body where they were touching his bare skin. One of Jungkook’s hands was cupped around his lower thigh, pinky touching the soft skin at the back of his knee, while his other hand had obviously found its way under his shirt during the night, resting against the small of his back as if it belonged there.

Taehyung woke to the alpha’s scent all around him and feeling blissfully comfortable in the warm cocoon of their blanket. Tipping his head down just a little bit, he affectionately nuzzled into Jungkook’s sleep rumpled hair and earned himself a little whine of complaint, before Jungkook burrowed deeper into him. At least tried. Considering the fact that they were already pressed up together from head to toe, the alpha simply succeeded in shuffling around in place and nosing tiredly against Taehyung’s collarbones. Which the omega didn’t mind in the least.

Neither of them moved for several more minutes, before the call of Taehyung’s bladder became too hard to ignore and he started to untangle himself. The blanket was shoved off easily, but it was the sleepy, clingy alpha stubbornly tightening his grip on him that was presenting the real challenge. By the time he finally managed to free himself – it took half a dozen of kisses pressed to the top of Jungkook’s head and the promise of cooking breakfast – he wasn’t sure if he was more amused or exasperated.

He didn’t realize the alpha was following him to the bathroom until he felt him drop his forehead against the dip between his shoulder blades, so they could shuffle forward together. At that point the fondness and amusement had already won out over everything else. Sleepy Jungkook was simply the most adorable and grumpily clingy thing in the world.

 

 

Stepping into the kitchen, to find Jungkook there already, Taehyung thought it was the perfect moment to address what he’d been too tired to talk about when he’d crawled into his best friend’s bed at way past three am. After all he was fresh out of the shower and wearing his own clothes again, which would make checking if his suspicion was correct rather easy.

“Do I smell like you?”

Jungkook had been blearily staring at the gurgling coffee machine on his kitchen counter, still dressed in his sleep clothes, feet bare and hair standing up in adorable tufts, when Taehyung’s sudden question had him slowly looking over at him from beneath his messy fringe.

“It’s Friday. You don’t have any classes until four pm on Fridays,” the alpha’s voice was rough from sleep, but he still managed to sound as confused as he looked when he gave Taehyung a quick once-over. “You’re not even wearing any of my stuff.”

“I’m not talking about when I’m wearing your clothes. What I mean is, do I smell like you when I’m just like this?”

And all of a sudden Jungkook didn’t look all that sleepy anymore. But he also wasn’t moving closer or saying something, so Taehyung simply tilted his head to the side, baring his neck in a silent prompt. For several seconds the only sounds in the kitchen came from the hissing coffee machine, while Taehyung and Jungkook stood facing each other like wary fighters in the ring. But Taehyung could wait. He knew his best friend was in the process of working up enough courage to move towards him. Five more seconds later his patience was rewarded by the alpha setting carefully into motion. He didn’t stop until their chests were brushing against each other and then he was lowering his head without any more hesitation – probably in hopes of getting this over with before either of them lost their nerve.

Jungkook’s breath was warm, the strands of his hair cool, as they tickled across the skin of Taehyung’s neck and the omega’s body shivered at the sensation. He himself was holding his breath as he listened to Jungkook breathe in deeply. The sudden spike of his best friend's scent and shaky gasp were all the anwer he needed.

Meeting the alpha’s unfocused gaze when he eventually raised his head from the curve of his neck, he didn’t think the sudden glassiness of Jungkook’s eyes had anything to do with the way he’d rolled out of bed just minutes ago.

“I’m guessing that’s a yes on me smelling like you?”

A nod was all he got out of Jungkook and the situation would have almost been funny, if Taehyung’s heart hadn’t currently been on its best way to exploding out of his chest. But then Jungkook was tilting his own neck to the side and Taehyung knew what the alpha was asking for. Something hot and anxious bubbled up from his stomach at the realization.

With their roles switched Taehyung could definitely understand why it had taken Jungkook so much effort to make himself move. It was nerve-wrecking, not knowing what to expect. Knowing that maybe one small breath would be enough to find your scent imprinted in someone else’s skin.

Always the more impatient one, Jungkook poked his finger into Taehyung’s ribs, when the omega still hadn’t moved after several seconds. There was no real force behind the touch, but it was still enough to have the older man jolting out of his frozen state. And then he was leaning forward, hovering over the arch of Jungkook’s neck and chest feeling like a beehive had collectively taken flight behind his rib cage.

It wasn’t something Taehyung had noticed before – at least not consciously – but one unsteady breath was enough to confirm that there was definitely a hint of cinnamon and tangerines beneath Jungkook’s naturally minty scent. Without the conscious decision to do so, it had him moving closer, nose pressing more firmly against Jungkook’s collarbone to draw in another deep breath. And Taehyung was sure, there was a new depth to the familiar scent of his best friend’s warm skin.

The omega couldn’t have predicted what that particular revelation did to him.

His entire body flashed with a sudden heat that felt almost possessive in its nature, the way it twisted and radiated through his insides. Because that was his scent on Jungkook. Not just a superficial taint, but as if some part of himself had somehow found its way beneath his best friend’s skin – permanently.

“Oh.”

He felt, as much as he heard Jungkook’s shuddering breath when the alpha realized what Taehyung’s silent exclamation meant. And when he pulled away from his best friend’s neck, head ringing and chest feeling impossibly full, something that looked a lot like stunned wonder was written on the younger man’s face all over again.

“Do you think it’s one of the side-effects of the ghost bond thing? Scent marking your mate is one of the steps of a claiming, so it’d make sense,” even with the stunned surprise splayed on Jungkook's face, Taehyung managed to catch a short flicker of alarm, as if the alpha had been hit with a disconcerting thought. “I promise I didn’t do it on purpose!”

“No, it’s okay! I’m not upset about it or anything. I had no idea I was scent marking you either. I was just wondering why that last alpha I ran into didn’t seem to want to look me in the eyes. Because that’s the reaction I usually get when I’m wearing your clothes.”

It was at that point that his own doubting thought managed to creep up through the overwhelming shock of this newest revelation.

“Are you? Upset that you smell like me, I mean?”

“Not even a little bit.”

It was a way more straight-forward answer than Taehyung had expected and it had another flare of heat shooting through him, like flames licking at dry cinder. Because Jungkook didn’t hesitate, neither did he let his gaze flit away like the alpha usually did when he blurted out things he hadn’t meant to.

They hadn’t spoken much about the ghost bond, had only touched upon it in passing and with too much care, almost bordering on awkwardness. It was as if they'd been afraid to kick off something they would be unable to stop. But something just told him it was time and Taehyung wasn’t about to resist.

“You... you said you don’t want to ignore this ‘ghost bond’ thing. Does that mean you think of me as more than your best friend?”

His voice was surprisingly steady, considering the way his insides clamored and twisted with a mix of anticipation and nervousness. He wasn’t scared, completely secure in his knowledge of his and Jungkook’s friendship. He knew that no matter what the alpha’s answer would be, they’d be okay, but there was no denying the strange mix of hope and something else entirely. Something strong and waking and luminescent.

And even though there was another flash of shock in Jungkook’s eyes – the alpha clearly not expecting the direction of this conversation – his gaze on him was steady. Taehyung was more grateful for it than he could ever say. He knew how helpless and uncomfortable his best friend got when it came to facing his own – or someone else’s – emotions. Even more so when the situation required him to talk about them. But the omega could tell that he was making an effort, holding his gaze even as he shoved his hands behind his back in an instinctive attempt to pull back into himself.

“I...”

He looked so young and out of his depth, standing there with his eyes swirling with uncertainty, hair rumpled into a cute, soft-looking mess and the hint of a pillow crease on his cheek. His best friend looked warm and just a little scared and Taehyung felt his chest expand with the flood of boundless, all-compassing love.

“I don’t know, Tae.” Taehyung felt himself tremble at the way Jungkook’s voice dropped to a near whisper, before he steadied it again. And then something just clicked in his gaze, shoulders squaring, his next breath turning unusually deep, as if he had decided on something he knew wasn’t easy – but still very much necessary. “I’ve loved you for as long as I can remember and we both know you’re the most important person in my life. I don’t... I mean I know it’s not just friendship. What I’m feeling for you is definitely too much, too big, to be nothing more than me purely looking at you as my best friend, but I don’t know what it is I’m feeling. You know I’m bad at this, Tae.” His voice twisted into an almost-but-not-quite-whine and Taehyung would have laughed at the petulant expression on his friend’s face, if it weren’t for the Mt. Everest-sized lump in his throat. “There hasn’t been any sudden change in the way I feel about you. I didn’t wake up one morning to the realization that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you, because to be honest, I’ve known that since I was five years old. But... I know that I love you and I want you to be happy and I’m the most content, the happiest when you’re right there next to me. I don’t know if that means I’m in love with you, but I think it might.”

For someone who claimed to be bad at talking about his feelings, Jungkook definitely excelled at it when he put his mind to the task. Taehyung found himself on the brink of speechlessness, chest alive with surprise and an iridescent kind of joy. Until utter disbelief drowned out everything else at the realization that his best friend wasn’t actually finished with his speech yet.

“And... damn, this is even more embarrassing than I thought it would be. Okay, listen... what I’m trying to say is... I mean... I’d probably get really upset if you ended up liking someone else as well. I know you’ll always love me, but... there’s a really selfish, really big part of me that kind of wants you all to myself.”

He was unimaginably grateful for the way Jungkook immediately lowered his head after that confession. The embarrassment radiated off his best friend in waves, but that was fine. That was good. Because the next moment he felt the intense bloom of heat on his own cheeks. But he realized he’d still betrayed his reaction when Jungkook’s head immediately snapped back up, eyes widening and nostrils quivering at the sudden spike of Taehyung’s scent.

“Tae?”

“I really don’t know why you’d think that’s embarrassing, when I’m the one who got all possessive at the thought of you showing Dahyun around campus instead of going to the movies with me.”

He watched Jungkook’s lips tug up at one corner, but could tell the alpha had no idea how to respond to his words. Which was for the best, all things considered. He didn’t think he wanted to give Jungkook enough time to come up with an undoubtedly cheeky reply, so he quickly hurried on.

“So you like me, you want me at your side and you’d preferably have me all for yourself,” it was enough to reverse their situation again and Taehyung definitely felt more comfortable as he watched the small blush form on Jungkook’s cheeks again. “Then what about kissing me. How would you feel about that? Weird? Excited? Nervous? Disgusted?”

His voice kind of wavered on that last word and just like that Jungkook was right there in front of him, the few inches of distance between them bridged in the blink of an eye. The way the alpha’s fingers closed around his hand had him breathing out the twisting tension that had settled in his chest at the mere thought of Jungkook being disgusted at the prospect of kissing him.

“I kiss you all the time, Tae.”

“Don’t be dense. I’m not talking about pecks on the nose and neck, or the way you sometimes nuzzle my fingers when you’re distracted. I’m talking about kissing me. Really kissing me.”

“Not weird, definitely not disgusted. Maybe a little excited and nervous, but mostly... it just feels like it’d be... right, you know?”

“That doesn’t sound very platonic, Kook.”

“I guess not.”

His best friend’s smile was almost sheepish and any tension that might have still clung to Taehyung melted out of him, when Jungkook’s expression suddenly turned oddly vulnerable.

“What about you?”

Jungkook had never been good at hiding his emotions from Taehyung and right at that moment there was no denying the hope and nervousness swirling in those big deer eyes, echoing in his shaky voice. It gave Taehyung the tiny push he’d still needed, made him decide right then and there that holding anything back was no longer an option. His best friend deserved to know the truth – the whole truth.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve been in love with you for years.”

He’d thought about confessing his feelings to Jungkook too many times to count, had imagined what it would be like, but none of his scenarios had come close to this. None of them had that wonderful mix of surprise and delight blooming on his best friend’s face or Jungkook shuffling closer when Taehyung reached out to circle the alpha’s wrist with his fingers.

“I wasn’t pining for you or anything like that. It’s hard to explain, but I was never unsatisfied with our relationship. Maybe that’s weird, maybe I should have wanted more, but I mean... you were always right there at my side and I knew you loved me. It didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. Sure, sometimes I thought that it would be nice to kiss you. And seeing you shirtless or stepping out of the shower might have triggered a wet dream on one or two occasions,” Jungkook’s eyes flashed at that, even as his body shook with a snorting laugh that had Taehyung’s own lips stretching into one of his happy, boxy smiles. “But I was fine. I would have said something if I’d ever felt unhappy with the way things were between us.”

Taehyung wriggled his fingers until Jungkook loosened his grip on his hand, pulling free, just so he could intertwine their fingers properly, and the second their palms touched again, Jungkook pressed closer until their hands were safely caught between their chests.

“So, to answer your question, I definitely like the idea of kissing you.”

Taehyung’s stomach fluttered pleasantly at the catch of Jungkook’s breath in response to his words, followed by a beat of heavy silence before his best friend seemed capable of speech again.

“Right now?”

The alpha’s voice went almost squeaky and Taehyung just couldn’t help the broadening of his smile when he watched Jungkook’s eyes go wide. It only seemed to dawn on him now what exactly they had just admitted to each other.

“Right now would have been nice, but you honestly look a little bit terrified, so we’ll save that for another day.”

“I might have talked a big game when I said I was only a little nervous at the prospect of kissing you.”

They were both laughing two seconds later, his chest filling with fluttering warmth as he watched tension flowing out of the younger man, as his nose scrunched up adorably and Taehyung just couldn’t help himself. The fact that they were the same height made leaning in and pressing his lips to Jungkook’s in a feather-light kiss ridiculously easy. He had honestly meant to keep it at that, just a short affectionate peck of his best friend’s mouth. But then the alpha’s breath gave that barely noticeable hitch again, body swaying forward as if to chase Taehyung’s lips when he attempted to pull away, and the omega realized he was only that strong.

Jungkook’s lips were soft when Taehyung moved back in and stayed there for another gentle kiss. The alpha didn’t pull back or tense up again. Instead he carefully caught Taehyung’s bottom lip between his and tilted his head to the side on a happy little sigh, just loud enough for Taehyung to realize that he definitely wanted this.

“Saving it for another day is good, but maybe... maybe now is better after all.”

A delighted laugh escaped Taehyung at Jungkook’s barely understandable admission, the alpha refusing to draw back enough to keep their lips from touching, and the renewed wave of joy flooding his chest made him feel as if he might just float away if he let go of his best friend. So he slid the hand that wasn’t still holding on to Jungkook’s up the younger man’s chest and brushed it over the side of his neck, feeling the other shiver against him, before he finally curled it into the soft hair at the alpha’s nape.

Rather than one kiss, it was a series of softer, shorter ones, mere brushes of their lips, not exactly hesitant, but almost careful in their exploration of each other. And all the while Jungkook just kept on making these pleased, little sounds in the back of his throat, sighing every time Taehyung pressed in closer or rubbed their noses for an affectionate nuzzle.

It was endless, neither of them seeming to want to stop, and Taehyung knew he wasn’t going to be the first one to pull away. He liked being right where he was – his fingers intertwined with his best friend’s, Jungkook’s free arm secure around him and the alpha’s amazing scent only growing heavier, the longer he let his lips linger on the other man’s.

It was only when Jungkook eventually pressed their foreheads together, instead of returning for another kiss, that Taehyung realized his lips were puffy and actually tingling from the oversensitivity. Blinking his eyes open he found the alpha’s lips looking fuller and redder as well and found his insides flooding with a powerful sense of satisfaction. He did that.

They did that.

“That was... really nice.” Jungkook’s voice came out as a deep rumble, with color high on his cheeks and those big eyes shining brightly, and Taehyung just couldn’t help the way his hands tightened their grip on the alpha’s shirt. “Do you think we could do that again?”

Taehyung knew he was smiling like an idiot, lips undoubtedly stretched into that familiar box shape. But there was no stopping it, with Jungkook’s scent enveloping him like another hug and the alpha looking so completely content – so happy.

“As many times as you want.”

And when Jungkook simply leaned back in at Taehyung’s indulgent reply, the omega’s joyful laughter was the sweetest of tastes on their tongues.

 

 

Taehyung stepped into the dining hall and didn’t even have to turn his head to find the table his friends were seated at. It was hard to miss the sheer amount of noise they were making, not to mention the fact that his eyes had zeroed in on Jungkook the second the person in front of Taehyung had stepped out of the way. The alpha was already looking at him, as if he too had felt the omega approach.

The look on his best friend’s face – his boyfriend’s face – had warmth bubbling in his chest like champagne.

He was almost completely blind to his surroundings as he crossed the room and was reaching out as soon as he came to a stop next to a seated Jungkook. Taehyung stroked the alpha’s cheek in a way that seemed almost instinctive and Jungkook just kept on smiling at him, nose scrunched up the slightest bit, before he turned his head into Taehyung’s touch and pressed his lips to the inside of the omega’s wrist in a quick kiss. It was such a stupidly affectionate gesture, he was pretty sure the smile on his face turned goofy with happiness. It was simply impossible to keep himself from leaning down to demand another kiss from Jungkook, this time directly on his lips.

For a second Taehyung thought the fact that they were surrounded by their friends, as well as the rest of the lunch crowd might have Jungkook’s shy side winning out. But the alpha tilted his head up almost immediately, eyelids fluttering shut as Taehyung eliminated the distance between them. The kiss was chaste, just one pair of lips touching the other, but it still had tingles travelling up his spine and warmth pooling in his chest. Which definitely wasn’t helped by the smile he got from Jungkook the second he pulled away – scrunched up nose, crinkled eyes and lips stretched so wide, he was showing off even more of his teeth than usual.

So Taehyung absolutely wasn’t responsible for the five additional kisses he had to pepper across the younger man’s face. Nose, cheek, forehead, the other cheek and one more kiss to those smiling lips for good measure. It earned him a happy giggle and the affectionate nudge of the alpha’s nose to his jaw.

“I’m not imagining things, right? These two definitely just kissed.”

Hoseok’s near-whisper had both of them looking to the side to find their friends – all of them – staring at them with various degrees of surprise.

Yoongi was frowning at them, Jimin staring in wide-eyed wonder, Seokjin looked as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on and Namjoon had a knowing smile on his face, while Hoseok looked downright delighted.

“Yes, we kissed. Obviously. Jungkook and I are testing out how we feel about being boyfriends. So we're together now.”

He saw no reason to hide it, his voice proud, on the brink of tumbling into downright gleefulness. From the corner of his eye he could see Jungkook blush, felt the grip of the alpha’s hand tighten around his hip, as their friend’s crowed at the news, but was delighted to realize the younger man didn’t seem to feel the need to lower his head as he usually did when his shyness got the better of him.

“Ha! I knew it!” Hoseok’s triumphant shout echoed through the entire dining hall, but he didn’t even seem to notice as he whirled around in his seat to face the still scowling beta next to him. “You owe me a date, Min Yoongi.”

That, more than Taehyung’s announcement, had everyone’s head snapping in their direction. The only one who hadn't jumped at the startling exclamation was the only other omega on their table.

“Oh come on! Jimin already agreed to be your date for your cousin’s wedding, why do I have to go as well?” Yoongi did not sound happy. He was looking rather torn between scowling at the beta beaming at him or turning that glare on Jungkook and Taehyung.

All the while Jimin just looked at Hoseok and Yoongi, once again heroically suppressing a rising smile.

“There’s no ducking out of it now. You lost that bet fair and square. And the reason you need to come with me as well is because the only thing that’ll piss my father off more than me bringing a guy as a date, will be bringing two guys. Now stop being a sore loser and make sure your tux still fits you.”

“Yoongi stopped growing in Middle School, of course it still fits him.”

“You’re dead, Kim Namjoon.”

 

 

We so need to get Jungkook a new couch, Taehyung thought to himself as he wriggled around to find a more comfortable position. Still, he wasn't planning on moving anytime soon. He was fine. Better than fine actually. Jungkook was curled into him, head tucked under Taehyung's chin once again, and the omega wanted to sigh at how warm and content he felt.

"I like this."

"Hmm."

Jungkook was tracing his fingers across the dips and curves of Taehyung's collarbones and sounded like he was a few seconds away from falling asleep. But he shifted closer, nuzzled his face into the omega's shoulder and it was answer enough.

"I'm just a little pissed that my Middle School teacher was right after all. She told me on that first day you entered Middle School and she realized how close we were that it wouldn't last. That omegas and alphas couldn't stay friends in the long run."

He still remembered the day clearly, remembered the defiance and anger shooting through him at her words. Just as he remembered being a total pest to her for his entire third year. Even back then he'd reacted badly to everything and everyone trying to get between him and Jungkook.

"She was a fossil, Tae. And she couldn't have been more wrong. We've been friends since we were kids and nothing about that has changed. Just because we're together now doesn't mean you're not still my best friend. If you think I'm letting anyone else take that spot then you need to think again."

Jungkook didn't even bother stopping the lazy exploration of Taehyung's collarbones, but it made his reply all the more powerful because of the matter-of-fact way he'd given it. And if words existed to describe the way Taehyung felt right there in that moment – Jungkook's body warm against his own, his easy reassurance settling like a precious, welcome weight in his chest – then Taehyung hadn't found them yet. All he knew was that he hoped they'd forever make each other feel that way.

"Possessive."

"Bet your very excellent ass."