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Feel it Kicking in

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“Life is shit,” says Taehyung one morning, flat on his back on the roof of his RV, sporting a killer headache. “Life is shit and I’m living it.”

Jeongguk hums, lying next to him. “I’d argue that it’s you.”

“Hm?”

“That you’re shit.”

“That I’m shit?”

“Yeah.”

“And life?”

Jeongguk shrugs and squints at the sky, faded pink and orange, clouds blooming over the horizon. Pretty like a peach, ripe and soft in a way that makes him want to mush it between the webs of his fingers. “Life’s shit ‘cause you’re shit.”

At this point Taehyung’s used to it. Jeongguk and his shit-talking, talking in circles, talking, talking, talking. In all honesty it’s most likely a trait he acquired from Taehyung, who could live to be a thousand and still never understand what ‘shutting your damn mouth’ quite means.

“Life is shit,” Taehyung says again and kicks Jeongguk’s shin as they sink into the mess of quilts. “And friends are shit.”

“Again, I would argue,” Jeongguk says, his eyes shut and his entire face relaxed save for the grin forming on his lips, “that your friends are shit ‘cause you’re shit.”

Taehyung sighs. “This is abuse.”

The RV is parked on the narrow strip of concrete flanking the beach, its metal rooftop heating like a branding iron as the sun climbs. Pretty soon the blacktop will get gummy and the white sand will get hot, hard to walk over as it kicks up after their feet like dust. But Jeongguk can’t be fucked to move, and based off the way Taehyung basks in the sunrise, neither can he.

“We should fuckin’…get up or something,” Taehyung murmurs.

“Yeah, man.”

Lying on the roof of Taehyung’s RV in the exact place they’d fallen asleep last night, Jeongguk is comfortable. As they move deeper into summer, the nights getting warm enough to spend outside, they’ll only do this more often. It’s not the worst decision they’ve ever made, the only thing coming to bite them in the ass being how sore they get. Cheap quilts don’t provide much padding.

“I’m, like,” Taehyung begins, scratching the side of his nose, “so fuckin’ hungover. It’s unreal. Haven’t hurt this bad since, like…last year.”

“That when you got punched in the face?”

“Sure, yeah, since then.”

“That was shitty.”

“Super shitty.”

Jeongguk turns his head, eyes half-open and bloodshot, and looks at Taehyung. “Why’d it happen?”

“I was…being shitty. Kinda.”

“Yeah. Told you.” Blinking a couple times, Jeongguk takes in the sight of Taehyung properly, sees him smiling. It’s funny. A layer of beer-stench and party-sweat, long hair matted to his neck, eyes bleary and stupid-looking—and he’s still sexy as fuck. Somehow. “You’re shit. All the bad things? Your fault.”

“Oh, man.” Taehyung laughs, gruff and deep. His morning voice has always been something Jeongguk likes to listen to. “Jeongguk, givin’ me the rundown. Look at you, Mr. Life Expert.”

“Mm. Super professional too.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Guk, you know what?” He turns to him, the tendons in his neck stretching. His hair fans out over the crappy felt blankets, black and glossy, the tips sharp with dried sea salt. “We should get up.”

“Should.”

As Taehyung sits up Jeongguk stays sprawled out, watching him stretch, shirtless, screwing his eyes up at the ocean. In the morning light he almost glows. A sort of natural beauty.

“Oh, man,” Taehyung says. “I’m serious now. You gotta see this.”

“See what?” Jeongguk’s eyes are on Taehyung, the easy way he holds himself, his breath suspended behind a struck smile. Such a nice sight. Jeongguk feels warm under the sun, warm looking at Taehyung. “The ocean?”

“Tide’s coming in.”

“Dunno why you’re so impressed,” Jeongguk mutters, yawning and cracking his back. Taehyung looks at the shore as if there’s something magical out there, as if he doesn’t see it every single day. Always finding wonder in the small things, he pairs up well against Jeongguk’s cynicism—tasteful cynicism, as he often argues. More mature, like shitty crime novel protagonists.

“It’s heaven,” Taehyung says.

“Ain’t that good.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “You’re just used to it, buddy. C’mon. Up.” Threading a hand into Jeongguk’s hair, Taehyung tugs.

“Jesus,” Jeongguk says. “First life’s shit, now it’s heaven. What’s with you?”

“Discovery. It, like—changes things. Circumstantially. Like personalities, y’know, and life. All circumstantial.”

Jeongguk scoffs, sitting up, his shoulders stiff and his back caked with sweat. “Namjoon tell you that? Sounds like some Namjoon brand bullshit right there. Him and his online phil courses.”

“I mean…yeah, but like—I believe it. ‘S why I’m saying it.”

“All right, man. Keep jacking your dick to that knockoff-intellectual shit. Not my business.”

I’ll do me, as they say.”

Jeongguk leans back on his arms and throws his head back, stretching out his legs and wiggling his toes. The thin fabric of his t-shirt billows in the warm ocean breeze. This is one of those times where he can feel the words this is nice or I’m happy or some other sentimental, gay shit bubbling at his tongue. He never says it—that’s not his style. Would probably fuck it up and make the moment awkward.

In the end it’s always Taehyung who voices it. “I like it up here. Just us and the sea.”

“Gay,” Jeongguk says as always.

“Thanks, Jeon. I’m serious.” He smacks the spot next to him, palm flat against the roof of the RV, the hollow clanging sound rattling beneath them. “I’m so glad we do this. Sleeping inside sucks ass.”

“One day we’re gonna get fuckin’ rained on again.”

Taehyung laughs. The mentality he holds, however often it backfires, is that nothing can go wrong until things actually start to go wrong. Smooth sailing until something somewhere in the universe fucks up. “Eh, one day, maybe.”

Jeongguk chuckles, shaking his head. “Why do we do this?”

With a lazy hand Taehyung gestures to the coastline, the water rippling in the sunrise and crawling up onto the shore. It’s breathtaking in an objective way, the water and sand, crisp blue on dust white. “Heaven,” he reiterates.

“I swear, you’d fuck the ocean if you could. Ram your head straight up Poseidon’s ass. You goof.”

“Don’t goof me, you goof.” Playfully, Taehyung bumps Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Ask anyone, anyone in the world. Nine times out of nine they’ll tell you—the coast? Shit, man, the coast is heaven.”

“So us then,” Jeongguk begins, smoothing his palms over his board shorts, caked with sea salt. “So us—you’re saying we live in heaven?”

“Why not?” Taehyung laughs. “Like angels. I’m pretty angelic, no? Might need to doll up a bit, but—”

Might,” Jeongguk scoffs.

“Yeah, might.” For show, Taehyung shoots him a smile. “You can say it, Jeon. I’m an angel. Very Vogue-esque, you feel me?”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. A bad idea, considering his hangover. He winces at the spearing headache. “I’ll let Sean O’Pry know he’s got competition. But listen, angel. You woke me up for the waves, so why are we not on the waves?”

“You tell me, man. You’re the one getting gay over Sean O’Pry.”

“Not trying to. Just something I think about.”

“About what?”

For a moment Jeongguk works over the idea, fatigued eyes trailing the in and out of the waves, foamy and clear. Seeing the water only stokes the urge to head out—to leg it across the beach and splash into the waves like an idiot. “Runway shit, it’s kinda cool. I mean, could you imagine, right, representing—no, being that kinda serious idealism.”

“Mm. ‘S gotta get boring.”

“Bet.”

“But why Sean O’Pry?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Eh, kinda handsome. Too marketable, y’know, but all of ‘em are.”

“Nothing wrong with that, I guess. How much tail you think they get?”

“Too much. Not enough. Pretty ambiguous. Depends on who you ask.”

Taehyung nods slowly, pulling up his knees to rest his knobby elbows on, squinting at the ocean and probably thinking about sex. “Here,” he says after a while, rolling a black hair elastic off his wrist. It leaves a red indent in his skin, next to his row of other bands. “Tie up. You look like a damn hobo otherwise.”

Me?” Jeongguk scoffs, acting more offended than he is, and takes the elastic. It’s partly true, that he can look like a hobo if not done up right, a little short on caffeine or having postponed a few too many laundry days. Usually he’d say he rocks the buff surfer dude look a bit better, although Taehyung would argue the buff part—and maybe the dude part too, if he were feeling extra lippy.

“Yes, you.”

“And you?” Jeongguk holds the elastic between his teeth and tugs on a lock of Taehyung’s hair, falling just past his shoulders. “This shit’s long—longer than mine. Hippie aesthetic as fuck. If I’m homeless then so are you. Y’know, drifters in crime.”

Taehyung laughs and rolls another elastic off his bony wrist. “Man, I’m already a drifter. In the soul. Not physically—fuck driving highways.” Jeongguk watches him bundle up his hair into a ponytail. It’s messy as always and pathetic strands of hair hang at the sides of his face. “But in all the other ways. Spiritually a drifter.”

“You’ve, like, never left this place. Born in this town,” Jeongguk reminds, fingers working through his hair as he ties it up.

“And I will die”—Taehyung gets up, his knees cracking—“in this town.”

“Dark, man.”

“I mean—realistically. Where the fuck else am I gonna go?”

“True.”

Looking up at Taehyung, all Jeongguk can see is a lanky silhouette printed against the paper sky. Part of him doesn’t want to get up, just wants to watch the way Taehyung holds himself, stretching and limbering his muscles up for the waves, his sharp elbows stark against the stunning backdrop.

“You too,” Taehyung says. He offers a hand and pulls Jeongguk up.

“Me what?”

“You’re dying here.”

“Whoa. Chill.”

“Not presently.” Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Eventually, I mean. You will die here.”

Jeongguk scoffs and looks out at the sea, his shoulder bumping Taehyung’s. His headache pounds in time with the ins and outs of the waves.

“Probably today,” Jeongguk says, wobbling and leaning on Taehyung. “This headache’s killing me.”

Taehyung pats the small of Jeongguk’s back, just lightly but with enough feeling or fucking whatever that Jeongguk’s heart starts with this shitty pounding business just like his head. His limbs are heavy, blood beating through him like a drum.The comfortable weight of Taehyung’s shoulder against his is a nice contrast.

“You’ll live.”

“Guess we’ll see.”

“All right, cynic.” Taehyung’s hand trails down Jeongguk’s forearm, follows the path of his tattoos, circles his wrist. He and Taehyung—they probably look cool, Jeongguk thinks. A little gay but cool. Lit well in the sunrise, half-naked and sort of holding hands, framed like the shot for the end credits of some artsy pseudo-porno, a bit of plot sprinkled in to make it seem legit.

Cool.

“You’re doing the board wax,” Taehyung says, ruining Jeongguk’s moment, his out-of-body self-appreciation. Taehyung runs to the corner of the RV’s roof, where the ladder is, and hops down. A few years ago Taehyung had hooked the thing up because he’d gotten sick of people climbing up by way of the hood and smearing sandy footprints on the windshield. Typical beach party shit.

“Lame,” Jeongguk calls after him and follows.

 


 

“So Seokjin told me he’s out, that fucker,” Taehyung says, leaning against the counter, elbow resting on the cash register. It’s the last hour of his shift and Jeongguk can tell he feels like dying more than usual because of the way he speaks, words slow and heavy. Something about the heat, probably. “Tell me that’s fair, Jeon. Tell me.”

Jeongguk shrugs, eyes closed, sweating. With the air conditioner broken and a single, pathetic excuse for a ceiling fan creaking its blades, concern for fairness over Taehyung’s pot-and-money deal is the last thing on his mind.

“If he’s out then he’s fuckin’ out, I guess. Man up. It’s economy shit. Supply and demand, was it? And scarcity.”

“Fuck scarcity.” Taehyung flicks his hair, dripping sweat under the ceiling fan. “Maybe I’ll go to Hoseok’s guy. Hear he’s generous with the bags, too.”

“Don’t.” Jeongguk shakes his head slowly, the thick air sticking to his skin. So hot it’s a damn effort to speak. “Don’t man. His stuff’s seedy as fuck. Bet they plant forests with the garbage he sells, swear it.”

“Didn’t seem that bad, what Hoseok had. From what I’ve seen.”

“When he smoked with us?” Ass planted on the glossy wooden counter, leaning back on his arms, Jeongguk turns his head to Taehyung and opens one eye. He’s less tweaked-out than he had been this morning, and is now just tired as fuck, skull thin and cracking under the force of his headache.

“Yeah. The times he shared.”

“Man, that’s just ‘cause he’s blowing him. His dude. He gives him the good shit, rips people off with the bad.”

“Fuck,” Taehyung says, his fingers drumming over the countertop, in deep thought over this apparent crisis. “Fuck, really?”

“Mm-hm. He told me once when we were talking ‘bout…some shit. I can’t remember.”

“But Hoseok blows him.” Taehyung spells it out.

“Righto. Blows him.”

“For weed.”

“Yep.”

“Really.”

Yes. Blows him for bud. Sucks cock for chronic. Need me to phrase it some other way? Dude”—Jeongguk scoffs and smiles, a drop of sweat dripping off his brow bone and past his eye—“it ain’t some new concept.”

“Sex for drugs.” Probably pondering it, Taehyung clicks his tongue and squints at the scuffed floor of the surf shop.

“Drugs for sex,” Jeongguk reiterates and looks up at the ceiling, his head dropped back so his sweat drips onto the counter instead of down his back. He closes his eyes when the shitty fan manages to get some air blowing his way.

“Think I could do that?” Taehyung asks.

“Cheap fuck.” Of course that would be the first thing Taehyung says. Broke off his ass, he’s always been trying for new methods of cranking down the expenses, his body’s gravitas be damned. “And no. You’re not hot enough.”

“Neither is Hoseok. Like, he’s hot, but he ain’t free kush hot. Maybe cheap kush hot. Not free.”

“Dude,” Jeongguk drawls, his eyes trailing the slowly spinning fan, watching the specks of dust fall. The plastic blades creak. “If he’s only cheap kush hot then your ugly ass should get a fuckin’ markup. Hundred-fold.”

The fan stutters and it strikes an irrational fear in Jeongguk’s heart. Then it picks up speed again, as if the shitty thing is teasing him. And in a brain-decaying temperature like this? God, the audacity.

“You think he sucks cock better than me?”

“I’ve got no grounds,” Jeongguk says, narrowing his eyes at the fan to cut it out with this funny business. “But probably. He once said it himself.”

At that, Taehyung lifts his upper body off the counter, still lethargic but in a humorously offended way. “He said that? Bullshit. Like he knows how well I suck cock.”

“I mean.” Jeongguk shrugs. “He’s older than you. More cock experience. Cocksperience.”

“Older by, like, a little. I bet I’ve sucked more dick than him. Ten bucks. Twenty. Bet.”

“Ain’t doubting you.”

“Should I call him and ask?” Taehyung flips his phone over, checks the time. “How much dick he’s sucked, I mean.”

“As if he’ll pick up. He thinks he’s too cool for us.”

“Psh. Maybe for you.”

For a moment they sit there, the air too humid, the shop too musty. The tail-end of Taehyung’s night shifts are always quiet, which is the only reason Jeongguk bothers to come by. A pair of customers are wandering somewhere in the back of the shop, near the surfboards, chattering about some swanky tourist shit.

Sweating under the bleeding yellow of the sodium-vapour lamps, trying to splay his body out as flat as possible in the insufficient blow of air, Jeongguk can still say he’s had worse days.

“How about you?” Taehyung asks.

Jeongguk hums and nods.

“Your dick-sucking proficiency,” Taehyung elaborates, wanting to keep this a running topic for whatever reason.

“Subpar, I guess.”

“How many you done again?”

“Just one.”

“Once?”

“No, multiple times. Like—one dick, multiple sucks.”

“Any good?”

“Nah.”

“What was it like?”

“Opposite of good.”

“Taste?”

“Bad.”

“Texture?”

“Very…cock-ish.”

“Dude,” Taehyung says in a blunt voice that makes Jeongguk lift his head and look at him. “Talk about the dick you sucked. I’m bored.”

Jeongguk laughs and rolls his eyes. The front of his threadbare shirt clings to his chest. “What’s with you today?”

“Dunno. Feeling inquisitive. My young mind is thirsting.”

“It’s more than your young mind that’s thirsting, but all right.”

“Was his cum salty?” Taehyung asks, but someone’s coughing interrupts him and cuts this conversation short. Jeongguk doesn’t bother to sit up straight and just watches as Taehyung picks himself up off the counter.

Some more coughing—a customer. Probably a little uncomfortable, considering.

“Yeah?” Taehyung blinks, staring at her, looking dazed. It’s kind of funny, the way his eyes swim over her face, trying to fix his lazy ass into something resembling professionalism.

“Can we buy that one?” The woman points at the board across the shop. A man stands behind her, squinting accusingly at Taehyung, and then at Jeongguk. As a response, Jeongguk snorts and lies flat on his back, kicking his feet up onto the counter and resting his head on his hands.

“Which?” Taehyung asks.

“The black one,” the woman says, her shitty lei dangling around her neck, the plastic flowers catching on her lace neckline. “With the blue designs. Costs 450.”

“Oh…” Taehyung nods slowly, clicking his tongue. “Yeah, man. You probably don’t want a black one, though. Hot sun and stuff, you know? I’d go for a white one, blue accents. Still pretty snazzy all around.”

“No, thanks,” the man in the back pipes up. “We want the black one.”

“You sure? It’s bad news. Gets mad hot here. Board wax will melt.”

“We’re sure.”

“Real rip-off too. Crappy board like that’s maybe worth 250.”

The man shakes his head, and so does the woman. Like machines, some haughty part of Jeongguk’s brain supplies. Filthy rich, citified machines—

Fuck, he’s been spending too much time with Taehyung.

“Black one,” the woman says.

With a sigh, his lips pressed together, Taehyung concedes, punching buttons into the register. “All right.”

Jeongguk doesn’t move from his spot on the counter, melting into the lacquered oak, watching Taehyung walk over and unlock the board. The shop isn’t well-lit, leaving his face softly shadowed. In the few times Jeongguk’s met the owner of this place, the guy had dubbed this lack of proper lights mood lighting. In reality it’s just an excuse not to shell out the dough for a new set.

It makes everything warm, cozy, awash with a honey-like glow that makes Taehyung’s tan look that much sexier.

“Loaded,” Jeongguk comments once customers finish paying, struggling with the board at the door.

“And stupid. But what’s new?” Coming behind the counter, Taehyung tosses the keys beside the register and leans next to Jeongguk, quite close. “Fuckin’ tourists, man. The fuck do they know?”

“Chill.” Jeongguk chuckles. He feels Taehyung’s palm on his knee, hot and clammy. Even in the muggy air, he allows it.

“How much you think they make?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“Just ballpark it. 70K? Each?”

Jeongguk grunts and peels his back off the counter, sitting up only to hunch over, legs swinging, Taehyung between them.

“Nah. Christian travellers making bank, I’m guessing. Good, import babies like them, stick up the ass? Gotta be in the six figures. At least.”

“Six.” Taehyung hums and thinks about that for a moment, hand squeezing Jeongguk’s knee. “Six, six. Number of the beast, man.”

“Hm?”

“Dunno. It’s ironic.” Glancing quickly at the couple at the door, still fumbling with the board, Taehyung then looks up at Jeongguk. “How do you know they’re Christian?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Just a feeling, really.”

A stand of Taehyung’s hair falls across his face, blown by the fan. Most of it’s tied back, as stated in his job’s dress-code. Other than that there are no rules, and he’s wearing the same board shorts he has been for the past three days, a black t-shirt clinging to his sticky skin.

They’re looking at each other, oozing some out-of-order affection, Jeongguk’s mind muddled with summer grunge and floaty clouds.

“A feeling,” Taehyung repeats, raising an eyebrow.

“Eh, I’m just being shitty. They’re probably cool, fuck if I know.” Tearing his eyes away from Taehyung’s, Jeongguk looks over his shoulder just as the couple drops the board. It bangs on the wooden floor, topples, and the woman swears, one foot holding open the door. The man tries and fails to kick it outside. “I mean, maybe cool,” Jeongguk amends, laughs at their fumbling and then looks back at Taehyung.

“Tell you what.” Taehyung’s thumb rubs circles into the side of Jeongguk’s kneecap. “I can close up in ten. Once Dolce and Gabbana over there pack it in, we should head over to Namjoon’s.”

“Mm.” In Jeongguk’s head this eye contact isn’t as heavy as it seems. Maybe it’s an excuse to let it last longer. “Why?”

“Seokjin’s there usually.”

“Thought he was out.”

Taehyung shrugs and grins. “I’m convincing.”

Then he steps away and leans on a different portion of the counter. Leaves Jeongguk with his legs in some awkward, overstated manspread, and for some reason unsure of what to do with his hands.

 


 

“Smell. Rose hips.” Jimin clicks the cap on the small vial. “Nice, right? Good for the skin.”

Jeongguk rubs the oil between the pads of his fingers. “Smells like ass.”

“Buddy.” Taehyung barks out a laugh, splayed across Jeongguk’s lap as he sits cross-legged. “That’s what I said.”

A movie plays on the old CRT, some vulgar thing with excessive purple backlighting. It flickers through the small room, catching in the smoky air. It’s something Hoseok suggested they watch. Now he’s the only one paying attention.

They’re in Namjoon’s basement, a stuffy space beneath his cramped box of a house. It’s only Namjoon’s in principle—he bought the place years ago. Now he shares it with four others. Probably some wild homosexual happenings going down, as Jeongguk and Taehyung often like to joke. Really, they’re just bitter that their ‘home’ of an RV isn’t as good.

“Wavelengths.” Namjoon coughs through his drag and passes the pipe to Yoongi.

“Friendship wavelengths,” Yoongi murmurs, half-asleep against Jimin’s side.

Taehyung turns his head up, skull pushing into Jeongguk’s thigh. His hands are sprawled above his head, shirt riding up. The screen’s neon purple flashes over his belly button, creates shadows. Jeongguk wants to dip his tongue in there.

“Sounds moronic,” Taehyung says, “when you phrase it like that.” He reaches over and flicks Jimin’s thigh. “No wavelengths. Just that Jimin’s rose hip oil smells like legit ass and everyone knows it.”

“Fuck off. Know what you need?” Jimin leans back and sinks into the couch, taking the pipe from Yoongi and leaning against his shoulder. “Fuckin’ sandalwood. Or, like, lavender. Good for agitation. Gotta quell your saltiness.”

Jeongguk laughs, his fingers running through Taehyung’s hair. “Some fragrance shit’s not gonna do jack to quell The Saltiness of Taehyung.”

“Listen up.” Taehyung sighs, his eyelids fluttering shut. The scene on the movie is now less purple and more pink, a warm colour, slightly sexual. Disco-like. It illuminates Taehyung’s skin, his thick eyelashes making shadows that flit over his cheekbone as he smiles. “’M not salty.”

“You’re salty,” Jeongguk deadpans. In one hand he has a plastic cup of iced coffee, condensation slicking his hot palm. His other brushes from Taehyung’s scalp down to the ends of his hair. Taehyung looks content. Jeongguk notices this.

He’s noticing a lot of things—how Taehyung’s eyes look when they’re dilated, all dark and sexed-up. How his black hair looks against his tan skin. How he sometimes spreads his legs a little too far to be pristine, how his thighs look when his shorts ride up, skin all young and tight and perfect for hickeys. Fuck.

He’s like that now, legs spread all obscene, definitely something to do with how he’d been complaining about this basement being too hot, his balls itchy with sweat. Jeongguk, with his smoke-logged brain, all horned up and stoned, is totally not thinking about that now.

Taehyung stretches his shoulders. “Nah. I’m chill as fuck. Swear it.”

From the floor, Hoseok interjects, “You’re salty. Now shut up. Movie is gettin’ good.”

“Mm.” Taehyung points at a woman on screen, standing in an elevator. “Is that Sasha Grey?”

“Dude, shut up.”

“Look who’s salty now.”

“Still you.”

“Hoseok. My man. Salt-man,” Jimin says. Passes him the pipe and lighter. “Shut up.”

The movie is some snuff film with a second-rate cast and cheesy one-liners, something that would have been juicy and controversial had it been released thirty years earlier, perhaps. Now it’s just bad. Perfect for times like these—a bunch of dudes getting high in a basement, lying on oriental rugs, a sad suede couch.

There’s a potted plant in the corner but it doesn’t change that this place is a dumpster. Against the yellowing walls, the foliage looks pathetic. Jeongguk watches the shadows of its broad leaves flit across the walls, trying very hard not to think about Taehyung’s balls or Taehyung’s thighs or Taehyung’s anything.

“Why are we doing this with a pipe?” Hoseok’s shaky hands fumble with the glass handle.

“’Cause Seokjin’s not here and none of us can roll as well as him.” Namjoon picks at the fraying edge of the rug, lying there and looking thoroughly dead, overheated. Red and brown skeins twirl around his fingers.

“And your lame ass forgot to buy papers,” Jeongguk mutters.

“Saving money,” Namjoon says. He tosses a ball of carpet thread at Jeongguk.

“Where is he?” Taehyung asks. “Seokjin. Not that I’m not totally feelin’ your guys’ company. Like, totally. But still.”

“Adult shit,” Namjoon says.

Bullshit,” Jeongguk scoffs.

Blinking slowly and becoming a puddle on the floor, Namjoon stares at the TV, body limp like a jellyfish. “Yeah. Probably.”

They don’t expand on it more and just sit in the heat, the way it rests heavy over their limbs. Jeongguk dissolves into the couch, the warmth of Taehyung’s body on top of him too much to take. But as always he allows it. Even encourages it, fingers carding through Taehyung’s hair, feeling as though there should be something more to this.

It might be uncomfortable, Taehyung’s bony edges pressed over Jeongguk’s legs, skin damp and sticking, but Jeongguk’s hotboxing a dingy basement and his brain is turning to steam. It’s hard to care much about anything. Taehyung nuzzles his head into Jeongguk’s hand. This is easy; Jeongguk’s totally cool with it. All this lowkey affection and cuddling Taehyung likes to take part in. Nothing new.

“I need to buy from him,” Taehyung says, voicing a floating thought, watching the TV with lukewarm interest as the lead spin-kicks a baddie.

“He’s gonna go pick up from his guy in a few days,” Namjoon says. His words are a gust of smoke and he passes the pipe to Taehyung. “Tuesday. Wednesday. Shit, dude, I dunno.”

“Few days.” Taehyung nods slowly. “What’s he doing? Like, for real.”

“Chill. You’ll get your fix soon enough.”

“Nah, I mean it though. I’m curious. Fucker’s always doing shit.” Slowly, Taehyung holds the pipe to his mouth, fingers trembling. For a while Jeongguk watches his attempts at angling the lighter right, the movements calming. His fingers are nice, the cuticles clean. The movie reflects off the lighter. “Guk.”

“Mm?” Jeongguk blinks, snaps out of it.

“Light me?”

“Mm.”

There’s something about the way Taehyung shifts in his lap that makes Jeongguk feel like he needs to be more alert. He sits up slightly, holding the lighter to the bowl, thumb on the striker wheel.

“Now?” he feels the need to ask. Taehyung’s elbow digs into his inner thigh, holds his upper body up.

A pause, and Taehyung raises an eyebrow, the yellowed tip of the pipe held to his lips. Weirdly poised—or as poised as one can look in this situation, in a filthy pit of a room, sweating his brains out and jacked on cups of coffee and pills, PreToxx and Aleve.

“Yes, now,” he scoffs.

Jeongguk flicks the wheel, a metallic fizz and click. The movie buzzes in the background, some faded noir tune playing over deep voices.

“Fuckin’ A,” Taehyung says as he exhales. The cloud of smoke floats up, warm and musty past Jeongguk’s face. “I’m too jittery for this shit.”

“Mm.” Jeongguk nods. “I feel you. Hold my coffee, man.”

Taehyung takes Jeongguk’s plastic cup and gives him the pipe.

At one point there had been another going around, but that was hours ago, and something happened. Got too far gone and left it to clatter on the floor, black with ash and sticky.

“Just don’t drink any,” Jeongguk says.

“Mm-hm.” Taehyung nods with the lip of the cup held to his mouth. Jeongguk gives him a flat gaze, and Taehyung’s smile shows in his eyes as he takes a sip. A gulp, more like. Greedy fuck. In the dark with the gaudy sonic-pop colours flashing from the TV, Jeongguk watches Taehyung’s Adam’s apple bob as he drinks. Just for a moment.

Then Jeongguk flicks the striker wheel and inhales, unsteady hands holding the Bic. The plastic is slippery in his clammy hands.

“Anyways,” Taehyung says. He slides his foot off the couch and pokes Hoseok’s chest, who bats him away, half-asleep. “About Seokjin?”

“No idea,” Hoseok mumbles. Looks up at Jeongguk, eyes bloodshot, puffy. “Jeon, you know? You guys work at the same place, right?”

“He said he’d be doing something. Can’t remember.” Jeongguk shrugs and tips his head back, half-succeeding at blowing a smoke ring. At this point he can’t be fucked to try very hard. “I dunno. Some vague-ass west coast shit. Riptides. Heatstroke. God, dude”—he coughs and jabs Taehyung in the arm—“you wearing chapstick?”

“Hm?” Taehyung blinks, disoriented.

“Chapstick. Been noticing it since earlier.” Lifting the pipe, Jeongguk waves the end before Taehyung’s face while pressing his lips together. “Cherry?”

“Ah, yeah. Sorry.” A little sheepish, Taehyung grins. Looking at him, Jeongguk’s eyes immediately flit to his lips. It’s just because it’s the topic right now—Taehyung’s chapstick, how it shimmers on his lips in the purple, watery lighting of the room. “Could you taste it?”

“Yeah. Mad gross.” Jeongguk snorts. “Cherry. Fuckin’—cherry?”

“Don’t judge.” Taehyung groans and stretches, his back arching off Jeongguk’s legs. Watching it makes Jeongguk feel wobbly, a butterfly-like rush making his fingers tremble. His nails clack against the glass of the bowl. “My lips were just chapped.”

“Were they?”

“Yeah, man. Flaky as fuck.”

“No they weren’t.” Suddenly feeling giggly, Jeongguk smacks Taehyung’s arm.

“Like you know, Jeon. They’re my lips.” Smiling up at him, Taehyung places the cup of cheap iced coffee on the floor. Lifts his arms and grabs the hem of Jeongguk’s t-shirt. Scrunches his nose. Again, Jeongguk feels something in him turn jelly-like. Weak and nervous.

But happy—stupidly so.

“I’m attentive,” Jeongguk reasons, “to things.”

“Lips and all?” There’s something about Taehyung’s tone, a glimmer to his smile. A tragically good thing caught amidst the sulky, humid air of the room.

“Some things more than others,” Jeongguk says. The answer sounds the most accurate to him, the topic itself being hard to work out. He threads his fingers through Taehyung’s hair and wraps a strand around a knuckle. Once, twice, three times. “Like your hair.”

“What about my hair?”

Jeongguk has no immediate answer. Licking his dry lips, tasting the synthetic cherry of Taehyung’s lip balm, he toys with Taehyung’s hair. His other hand holds the pipe, and he finds himself worrying he’s going to drop it.

“It’s soft,” Jeongguk says. The best words he’s got. “Usually it’s…nastier.”

“Psh. Yeah?” Eyelids drooping, Taehyung looks like he’s half a second from passing out. Right there in Jeongguk’s lap. Talk about comfort. “It’s the coconut oil, I think.”

“Coconut oil.”

“Righto.”

“Fruity.”

“No, really.” Taehyung tucks his body closer to Jeongguk. “It’s super legit. Like, just a bit, right? In your hair. Then—” He claps his hands, too loud. In the corner of his eye, Jeongguk sees Hoseok jolt at the sudden sound. “Hair like Jesus.”

Then from the floor, Hoseok butts in, “It’s true.”

“See?” Grinning, Taehyung points at Hoseok. “My man. Got my back.”

“Sounds like some wack, new-age Jimin shit,” Jeongguk says.

Hoseok shrugs. “It is. Kinda. Not really. But even the new-age shit isn’t that bad.”

“Now,” Taehyung says, “you’re talkin’ crap. But I’ll stand for coconut oil. Any day.”

“No, really. Have you tried bergamot oil or whatever? Incense, I think. Supposed to make you less sad or something—fuck, or maybe it was jasmine…”

Hoseok rambles a little longer and Jeongguk tunes it out. Again, new-age hippie bullshit. It’s sort of a token surfer thing so Jeongguk should fit the bill, but the desperately self-actualizing part of him makes him reject the stereotype a bit harder than he needs to. It’s a little immature but everyone is in some way, he reasons.

“Jeez, look at that.” Taehyung’s fingers curl around Jeongguk’s wrist, tracing one of the tattoos snaking up his forearm. An absentminded little gesture. “The hippies even got Hoseok.”

He looks at Jeongguk, expression soft, eyes a warm brown in the hot summer night. It’s fucking stupid, the way it makes Jeongguk’s heart beat quicker. A thrumming he feels bouncing back and forth between his temples, not heavy but present nonetheless. Maybe a little tender.

He wonders if Taehyung can feel it, his quickening pulse as Taehyung traces a black ink design that creeps over the veins of Jeongguk’s wrist.

“Now it’s just you and me, Jeon. You and me against the world, fuckin’ shoreline hippies and all.”

Lying on the opposite side of the couch, Jimin is asleep. Yoongi is sleeping against him. Namjoon and Hoseok are awake but not really, blinking at the TV, looking somewhat confused.

The movie is coming to an end. The final scene, a gun held to a rich man’s head. It might be interesting if Jeongguk could pay attention to anything other than Taehyung. His dismal sort of beauty in what could no doubt be better conditions.

“You and me, buddy.” Jeongguk laughs, loose and somewhat on the fritz. He passes the pipe to Namjoon before he drops it.

 


 

The catalyst—or at least one of them—enters the story through Taehyung, his bad ideas, habits, tendencies to attract the odd ones. It’s very anticlimactic altogether, the night not notably good or bad. Perhaps a little too humid, although that always seems to be the case.

Jeongguk’s at a house party—supposed to be at a house party. In reality he’s standing outside on the porch, leaning against a wooden pillar. The music bleeds through the walls, having a somewhat rippling effect that makes him feel dizzier on top of what he’s already drunk on.

“Whoa, man.” Behind him he hears someone whistle under their breath, stepping next to him. Hoseok. “Someone’s brooding.”

“Not brooding. Stargazing.” Jeongguk points the burning end of his cigarette at the sky.

“Why?”

Jeongguk shrugs.

“Feeling broody?” Hoseok supplies.

“Nah. It’s just hot inside.”

“It’s hot everywhere.”

“Well it doesn’t smell like sweaty taints and buttcracks out here.”

“Got me there.”

Hoseok hops up onto the railing, moonlight glancing off his tangled hair. In the recent months he seems to really be embracing the whole dirty surf town ethos that’s been floating about all their lives. Age, Jeongguk supposes. Age and some convoluted idea of maturity that they all feel the need to adhere to one way or another.

He wonders if it’s been catching up with him.

“And how’s your brooding been going?”

Jeongguk chuckles. “You mean stargazing? Pretty rad. I found Orion.”

“Right, Jeon. Orion’s a winter constellation.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh.” He stretches his leg out and pokes Jeongguk’s arm with the thick edge of his flip-flop. “Boink. Lighten up, buddy. Your other half’s inside having a blast.”

Other half—Taehyung. At this point he’s so used to it, the way people see them as one. It’s no mystery. They live together in the RV, have done so for years. Not exactly perfect living conditions for two men. It’s mostly a matter of balance, the way they hold each other up so well.

“My other half’s loaded up on some wack shit and is probably gonna pass out with his face in a toilet again.”

Again,” Hoseok scoffs. “He’s living, ain’t he?”

“Some life.”

Again, he pokes Jeongguk with his flip-flop. Twice. “Boink. Boink. Join him, man. Usually you’re all about this garbage.”

“Mm. Am I?”

“Don’t bullshit. It’s usually you with your head shoved in a toilet come morning.”

Jeongguk coughs through a drag and laughs. “You think he’s rubbing off on me?”

“Can’t even tell you guys apart anymore.”

Jeongguk feels at ease, closing his eyes and revelling in the wind blowing past, the way it soaks down to his bones. The smell of the ocean is making him a little wistful. The day’s heat still sticks to the night, desperate.

What Jeongguk wouldn’t give to be back in winter.

“You miss her?” Hoseok asks.

A small smile steals over Jeongguk’s lips and out of nowhere he feels like getting totally black-out wasted.

“Nah.” He snuffs out his cigarette against the wooden pillar of the porch, sky blue paint peeling off in stiff chips. “Nah. You wanna go inside?”

Now you wanna go in. Weak,” Hoseok says, but jumps off the railing. With a hand around Jeongguk’s wrist to lead him, Hoseok’s the first to step through the door.

“Your fingers are cold,” Jeongguk comments. It’s more to keep himself grounded, to find something to focus on as he enters the blasting heat of the house, bodies and smoke melding in the dim lights, an almost tangible wave of filth.

“I was making mojitos,” Hoseok explains. “Come, I’ll make you one. You need it.”

Need is a bit of a strong word but when Hoseok slips a cold glass into Jeongguk’s hand, with liquid smelling like dish-soap lime and off-mint toothpaste, he’s not complaining. It goes down his throat easy, kind of slimy but not bad.

“You’ve gotta get over it one day,” Hoseok says. “Her.”

“Thanks for this,” Jeongguk says instead, lifting the glass and swirling it. Avoiding the topic as always with a toothy smile, only half-faked. “Kinda fruity for my style, but you know.”

“You’re the fruitiest fucker I know, Jeon.”

“Hm.” He sips it and winces, then forces himself to take a bigger gulp. “What about Tae?”

Hoseok chuckles and shrugs. Legs swinging as he sits on the edge of the counter, he looks miles more comfortable than Jeongguk here—in some stranger’s house, getting washed over by low-quality psychedelic rock warbling through a set of cheap speakers.

“Okay, whatever. One of the fruitiest. At least he wears it well.”

“You saying I don’t?”

“Jeez.” He rolls his eyes. “Offended when I call you fruity, offended when I don’t. What do you want from me?”

Jeongguk knocks the rest of his drink back, a sticky residue left on his lips.

“His fruitiness is different,” Hoseok goes on, hand around the narrow neck of a bottle as he pours white rum into his plastic cup.

When he’s finished with it, Jeongguk takes it from him and does the same, not bothering with making another mojito. They taste terrible anyways. They both just top it up with some generic-brand club soda.

“Louder, brighter. Like—when you just look at him you can’t tell he sucks cock but he’s the type to straight up tell you so it doesn’t matter anyways. You know? Shameless, I guess. Kinda.”

Watching the ice melt in his glass, Jeongguk hums. “Kinda slutty, actually.”

Way slutty.” Hoseok throws his head back and laughs, the subdued, quasi-sophisticated lighting of the kitchen glimmering off the sweat on his neck, arms bracing himself as he leans back. “Super slutty. Max slutty.”

“So slutty it hurts.”

“Who’s slutty?” Someone slams his palms on the counter next to Jeongguk, unsteady. It’s obvious who it is without even looking.

“You,” Hoseok says with a rude nod.

“Speak of the devil. Hyper-slut Taehyung.” Jeongguk tilts his glass at him, a cheap sort of toast. The clear, bubbling liquid is tinted a mild green from the leftover lime flavoring Hoseok had felt the need to use, some squished lime wedges and pulp floating next to a wad of mint leaf.

Me?” Taehyung squints playfully, his smile lazy. Probably too drugged-up to be standing. His arms tremble, holding up his weight, his ribcage heaving visibly beneath his clinging shirt. Nights like these, Taehyung looking even less put-together than other times, Jeongguk can’t help but worry.

It’s stupid because it’s not as if Jeongguk’s any better, as if he doesn’t do the same stupid crap, all that youthful business of pretending to be indestructible and free.

There’s always been something more reckless about Taehyung, though. Biting off more than he can chew.

“Yes, you. C’mere.” Jeongguk reaches forward and Taehyung’s dilated pupils attempt to focus on his hand as it brushes away a lock of hair. Some of it is tied back but a lot hangs limp around his face, long strands clinging to his neck. “You’re mad sweaty, man. You all right?”

Too all right,” Taehyung reassures. “Very, very all right.” His words meld like his tongue is swollen and he overcompensates for that by speaking slower. A right mess of a show, standing here at a cheap home bar, knuckles turning white as he grips the counter.

“Your forehead’s hot,” Jeongguk murmurs.

“I just need something. Gimme a beer. I’ll live.”

Hoseok chuckles. “Good motto, my dude.”

Taehyung wobbles over to the fridge, pulling the door open and keeping his grip on the handle for stability. Stark in the refrigerator light, it’s easier to see the lipstick smudged on the strikingly low collar of his shirt. As for whose it is, Jeongguk can only wonder.

“Shit, they have Guinness?”

“Just get something light,” Jeongguk suggests. “You already…like, gotta chill.”

“You’re one to talk. What’s that you got? Bacardi?”

“Yeah, but I’m still standing straight.”

“Excuses, buddy boy. Excuses.”

Jeongguk snorts and sips his drink. “Don’t call me that. Just grab a can, light. I don’t wanna deal with your passed-out ass.”

Surprisingly, Taehyung does as he’s told. Staggers back over and cracks the push tab, watching the liquid bubble over his fingers before knocking it back.

“Who says you’d have to?”

Nice, Jeongguk thinks instead of responding, distracted, watching how a trail of beer dribbles down Taehyung’s neck. It’s only for a moment, his world becoming less clear by the second.

“Mm?”

“Met someone, man.”

Jeongguk hums, used to it. Taehyung’s always meeting people. “Who?”

“Actress. Super legit, sorta.”

“Sorta?”

“I mean…” Taehyung laughs and takes a sip, a bizarrely suave air about him, his hair mussed. Like someone has run their fingers through it. “Y’know. As legit as people here can get.”

“So like…” Jeongguk clicks his tongue and clinks his fingernails against the side of his glass. “Half-baked.”

“Well no—”

Hoseok says, “You mean knock-off Uma Thurman?”

With a huff, Taehyung rolls his eyes, rocking back and forth on his feet. Swaying noticeably enough to spark an itch in Jeongguk to step over and steady him, a hand on Taehyung’s elbow. He doesn’t act on the urge but it lingers, a crawling, dogged thing beneath his skin.

“Sounds lame when you say it like that,” Taehyung says.

“About as lame as you.” Leaning over, Hoseok grabs the neck of the frosted-glass bottle and pours himself some more to mix with his club soda concoction.

“Who?” Jeongguk asks again.

“Knock-off Uma Thurman, apparently,” Taehyung says, taking nothing seriously, rolling his eyes. His index finger flicks the push tab of his can back and forth and Jeongguk watches the weakening aluminum, waiting for it to snap off.

“No dude, really. Uma Thurman’s like 40. You’re not gettin’ 40-year-old tail, right?”

This place is congested, greasy and off and everything Jeongguk hates. But Taehyung’s loose smile, the general haziness of his eyes but the way he at least tries to focus them on Jeongguk—it all takes this bizarre heaviness off his chest.

“C’mon.” Taehyung gives Jeongguk an over-exaggerated purse of his lips. Mind probably swirling, all stifled up on effects like he lets himself get way too often. But it’s still too easy for him to make Jeongguk laugh. “C’mon. Do I look that desperate?”

“You’re asking me?” Jeongguk teases and sips his drink, feeling the harsh spike less and less the further in he gets. “Taehyung: hyper-slut and oldie-fucker? Wow, man. Wow.”

“Don’t be a dick. She’s cool, okay? And young.

“Hey, Hoseok?” Jeongguk looks at him. Hoseok watches the lame back and forth between the two with an exasperated smile. “Is she? Be real.”

“Ain’t old. But she ain’t cool either. A friend of mine, sort of. My age, again, sort of. A bit older, but, you know, that’s kinda Tae’s style anyways. Creep with a mommy kink.”

“Listen—” Taehyung butts in, offended.

How much older?” Jeongguk interrupts, snickering.

“Dude,” Taehyung says, stretching out the syllable to make room for himself to speak. “You’re being so cheap right now. Like so, so cheap.”

“Cheap like you or cheap like her?”

Hoseok barks out a laugh and lifts his foot, pointing with his flip-flop at Taehyung. “Shit. Get schooled, kid.”

Taehyung snorts. “Abuse, Jeon. Like always. I don’t deserve this.”

He really doesn’t, some sad, gay part of Jeongguk’s brain supplies. Not in reference to this as in the teasing, but this as in the scenario—weird people and weird drugs and weird atmospheres. It’s not Jeongguk’s place to decide what’s good or bad for anyone, but he can’t help but feel something’s always out of place on nights like these. Something about Taehyung, something about himself, who knows.

Or maybe all that’s just the shitty mojito talking. Outright, there’s nothing wrong with anything.

“This place is a fuckin’ sausage fest,” someone says, coming up behind Jeongguk and walking past him, over to Taehyung—some girl Jeongguk doesn’t recognize. Her voice cuts into his thoughts. A good thing, really. He thinks too much, often about dumb things. Wishy-washy brain waste, who the fuck needs it really?

“Guilty.” Hoseok grabs an empty glass off the counter. “Drink some shit. Bottle’s there.”

“Thanks.”

This stranger, now standing next to Taehyung, takes the glass from Hoseok and pours herself a bit of that sharp white rum, mixing it with crappy club soda. She stands tall and slender and sweaty. Looks downright classy next to the sharp angles of Taehyung’s body.

The lighting is so dim a yellow it might as well not be there, but Jeongguk knows that’s not the reason her pupils are blooming almost as fat as Taehyung’s are.

“Wheein,” Taehyung says, saying her name slowly and with feeling to come across as friendly. This is a thing he does, Jeongguk knows. Repeating a person’s name when he just meets them. To remember it. “Wheein, I need you to prove something.”

“Yep.” She looks at him, steps closer. Her hand rests on his elbow, steadying him where Jeongguk hadn’t.

“What are you?”

She snorts, quirking an eyebrow. “A human being—or you mean, like, metaphysically?”

“No, I mean…” Taehyung shakes his head, laughing at himself. Jeongguk wonders what it is this time, the shit he’s on, how much it cost, how it looked going down his throat or up his nose or into his lungs or whatever. Other pointless things. “What do you do? Like, tell him. Tell Jeongguk. Oh, yeah—that’s Jeongguk. My favourite boy. Say hi. Be friends.”

“Hi, Jeongguk.” Her smile is hazy and hot and stunning. Words calm, relaxed. Haircut a little uneven, quite clearly done by herself with a bathroom mirror and a home-quality pair of styling scissors. “Wheein. A human being, as Tae here wants me to tell you. Apparently. You?”

Beside her, Taehyung squawks, miffed.

“Same.” Jeongguk grins. She’s cute, Wheein. Something about her reminds Jeongguk of Yongsun but he tries not to think about that. About her.

“Nice to meet you. Hey, y’know,”—she leans forward and teeters, knifepoint elbows braced on the granite counter—“I like your tattoos.”

Suddenly he feels self-conscious, his shirt a little too tight, the collar too low. The harshness of her gaze tickles and stings, a cold thing creeping along his skin. Too intense. “Oh—thanks. Yeah.”

“I mean,” she goes on, “Taehyung tells me you’re a tattoo artist yourself.”

“I—kinda. I mean, yeah. Sorta. Not really, but like, sometimes. Y’know? Just…sorta.”

“Rambling,” Taehyung butts in, rude as ever, and Jeongguk huffs.

From the side, Hoseok lifts a strand of Jeongguk’s hair and begins braiding it, undoing it, braiding it again. It calms him, which is honestly kind of stupid, but he takes the comfort as it comes.

Wheein leans farther over the counter and gets closer to Jeongguk, her eyes locked on his, so wide and dark they’re almost unsettling. “Yeah, y’know, I vibe with that. A lot. It’s kinda my thing.”

“Your thing?” Jeongguk prompts, wanting to get the topic off of himself.

“Your thing!” Taehyung pats the small of her back, too friendly as always. “Tell him. It’s really cool.” To Jeongguk: “Trust me, dude. So cool.”

“Nothing that cool,” she says and rolls her eyes. “I’m an artist too. Do films, plays, live performances. Y’know, hot shit. Marina Abramović style, sort of.” As she adjusts herself, Taehyung’s hand stays on her back and he leans on her, looking dizzy. “Just more nude and, like, flashy. Neon and that, you know? It’s my specialty.”

“Sure it is,” Hoseok murmurs, teasing.

Wheein ignores him and says to Jeongguk, “You know the dome?”

“Um…main street?”

“Yeah, big, ugly auditorium, low ceiling. You know the one.”

“Sure.” He doesn’t but he just goes with it. “The dome.”

“Yeah, there, right? I performed there. Some Pali Canon scripture interpretation with the body.”

Taehyung says, “Isn’t that supposed to be Buddhist shit?”

She shrugs. “Yeah, but naked and under spotlights, with an audience. So it makes sense.”

“Yeah, man.” Taehyung nods slowly, a look on his face that shows he obviously doesn’t get it but is agreeing anyways. Jeongguk does the same.

“But I just do the performing. Ask the conceptualizers, buddy, now they could really tell you. Hey, Mr. Jeongguk, you know movies?” She’s hard to keep up with, words coming in bursts. Her eyes flash to him, quick and hopped-up. If he looks closer he swears he can see her pupils vibrating. “I do movies too. Nothin’ fancy. A bit of neo-’80s, and lotsa mock-Tarantino, just, you know—good.

“Fuckin’ knock-off, I swear.” Hoseok chuckles. “Fuckin’ asshole Uma Thurman knock-off.” He grabs a loose aluminum can tab off the counter and throws it in Wheein’s direction.

“Not Uma Thurman—art.”

Taehyung chuckles. “Dude, don’t actually get bent over this.”

All in good nature, she shakes her head, most likely too high to truly get mad over anything.

“Uma Thurman, okay, she rocks that psycho babe vibe well. Maybe. Everything else? Second-rate trash.”

Hoseok laughs. “Jesus, so what’s that make you?”

Some risky corner of Jeongguk’s brain wonders what Wheein’s gonna become to Taehyung. The guy meets people, sure. Meets people all the time. He fucks some of them and some of them fuck him, all good and fun happenings until he actually starts to get involved. Then it gets messy.

In truth, Jeongguk doesn’t know how deep this involvement ever gets, if at all. Too much to keep track of. What he does know is that, one way or another, Taehyung’s always got some experience to share, some story to tell.

“You know what?” Wheein says. “I think I’d rather that other sausage fest than you lot.”

She pushes herself off the counter and takes a few steps back, her body a loose, wobbly thing. Looking at her, it’s the little things Jeongguk notices. The sweat from between her toes reflecting off her Birkenstocks, the frayed edges of her cutoffs and how the strings graze her thighs, casting thin shadows upon her skin. Very much Taehyung’s type.

“Don’t drop that,” Hoseok says, nodding at the glimmering glass in Wheein’s hand.

“Sure, sure.”

A quick smile. Jeongguk blinks and she’s gone, becoming just another silhouette in the shiny, loud mindlessness of the other room, the colours bleeding along the walls.

“Meant to ask you,” Taehyung says to Hoseok, completely moving on apparently, “about your dealer. Blowies?”

“Jesus, Kim,” Jeongguk says. “No class.”

“Exactly. I’m desperate and broke and I mean, fuck, I’ve got a mouth. Why not?”

“We’re exclusive,” Hoseok says. “Kinda. Exclusive fuck buddies and exclusive free drugs. Totally exclusive.”

Jeongguk snickers. “Kinda totally exclusive?”

“Gotta get anal over it? Mostly exclusive. Whatever.”

Jeongguk hides his smile behind the crystal rim of his glass, his amusement showing in his eyes. Deep yellow and blue lights glint off the sloshing liquid.

“Kim, Listen,” Hoseok says, “you don’t want him anyways. My guy. At least Seokjin’s cool and, like, sane.”

“Well, Seokjin’s lame ass has run dry and he probably doesn’t want any sexual favours from me.”

“Never know,” Jeongguk says. Then to Hoseok, with a rude thumb jabbed in Taehyung’s direction, “Word on the street is this one’s got a killer mouth.”

“You’d know,” Hoseok says and wiggles his eyebrows.

“Oh, wow.” Taehyung laughs. “Cheap gay joke, I’m all for it. C’mon, hit me with more, I love the adrenaline.”

Kidding. Fuckin’ Christ. As if Jeon here would get with you and your nasty everything anyways. Not when he’s been with someone like Yongsun.”

“Careful.” Taehyung smirks and gestures at Jeongguk. His hand is shaky; his eyes aren’t quite focused. “Hot button.”

“It ain’t.” Jeongguk shakes his head to reiterate that, really, it ain’t. The name, the topic. None of it gets to him at all. He’s past it, past her. He has been for a long while. “Really,” he adds, only because Taehyung and Hoseok both give him a look that states they need some convincing. “I’m chill. Over it.”

“You say that.” There’s no accusation in Taehyung’s words. Just something akin to worry and maybe curiosity, but not exactly.

“Fuck, I say a lot. The hell do you want from me?”

This defensiveness is something Taehyung sees through too easily. Cloudy as his eyes are, they hold a definitive sharpness as he looks Jeongguk up and down, probably thinking, knowing he’s not over it.

Jeongguk always feels transparent when he’s around Taehyung. A good thing or a bad thing, who knows what it is.

“But about Wheein,” Hoseok says, flipping the topic upside-down. “Psycho babe, Uma Thurman wannabe. Tae met her through me.”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk teases, glancing at Taehyung and being quietly thankful for the shift in conversation. “Ain’t slick enough to catch ‘em on your own?”

“Point is you could too.” Hoseok gives him the look. The same one he gives him every time they talk about this, about Jeongguk and his tactical inability to get the fuck over things and people and situations. How he dwells on them in silence instead. “Know a few people I could introduce you to.”

“Give him a rest,” Taehyung drawls, fingers drumming over the surface of the counter. It’s as though he’s impatient, itching for something to happen, as if there’s something worth anticipating in the first place. “He’s got all the time in the world. We all do.”

It’s more a youthful abstraction than anything and a part of Jeongguk knows just how cracked it is to go along with it, but it’s comforting. The far-reaching idea of all this time, every last fucking bit of it.

“How long’s it been? Two months?” Taehyung looks at him, blinking with a screwy, blitzed slowness.

“One months, three weeks,” Jeongguk says. Of course he knows.

“And days?” Taehyung snickers, stepping closer, hip pressed against the counter for balance. He pokes Jeongguk’s arm. “C’mon, I know you’re keeping track.”

Jeongguk sighs and fights a smile. This shit about Yongsun makes him feel like garbage but right now he feels weirdly all right. There’s something restful about the mugginess. This sea-salted and waterlogged air that he’s gotten too used to, the way it combines with the smokiness of the house.

The way Taehyung looks among it, sweating in the darkness.

“Two days.”

Putting on some idiotic sage-like aura, trying to look somewhat sensible while being unable to stand, let alone think, Taehyung nods and purses his lips. Then he pats Jeongguk on the shoulder, grips it a bit too hard, and uses his body for support as he leans over and grabs the bottle of rum.

“You’ll get over her, buddy. Troubles and shit, we all do. Every good lover’s got a few who go wrong.”

Hoseok laughs. “Good lover. Jesus, next you’ll start calling it ‘making love’ or something.”

“I’m just being supportive.”

“Don’t need it, man,” Jeongguk reassures. “It’s chill.”

“Over it?” Taehyung asks. His smile carries a certain tentativeness. The topic had stopped being sensitive over a month ago and Jeongguk had acted like it had never been from the start, but Taehyung is, as always, a little too sharp.

“Over it,” Jeongguk solidifies. “Building fucking bridges, moving on in life—hey, c’mon, help me make a shitty mojito.”

A stingy excuse, a quick shift in focus. He points at the bottle in Taehyung’s hand, knobby knuckles curled around the narrow neck. His grip is too tight, the shaking of his hand seeming to get worse. When Jeongguk takes the bottle from him, he uses his other hand to flip Taehyung’s over, Jeongguk’s fingertips placed lightly on his wrist. They pause. The thud of Taehyung’s heartbeat is a bit heavier than normal but it’s nothing he hasn’t lived through before.

“See? I’m fine, dude. Fine,” Taehyung says, plain as always.

Fine seems to have a wide range of meaning in his vocabulary, everything from sober but a little sleep-deprived to loaded-up and essentially unconscious all meaning the same thing. Sometimes Jeongguk wonders if this unease is just him.

“C’mon,” Taehyung says. “Mojitos. Bet I can make ‘em better than Hoseok can.”

 


 

“I feel,” Taehyung says the next morning, “like shit.”

“You always do.” Jeongguk kicks his feet up on the round table, not feeling quite as shitty but still considerably bad having to deal with Taehyung’s complaining. The metal table legs clang against the concrete and a few nearby cafe-goers shoot him nasty looks. Jeongguk can’t be fucked to care.

“This is the case I was making. About life.”

“Which case? You’ve always got some bootleg-philosopher shit going on.”

“About life being shit,” Taehyung elaborates.

“That’s your own fault.”

“And the solution, Mr. Know-it-All?”

“You just, like, gotta cut down on the shit you take.”

“But I’m fine.”

Jeongguk scoffs. “Fifteen minutes and you’ll be hurling.”

“Yeah? Hundred bucks.”

“You don’t have a hundred.”

“You don’t know that,” Taehyung mutters, sinking into his chair, floppy and dead-looking.

Jeongguk hums and does the same. There’s nothing consoling about the screaming light of the sun or the way it burns through their closed eyelids, but the warmth is what they’re here for. Its weightlessness, its relative dryness in comparison to the damp nights.

Balancing his chair on the two back legs and tilting himself back, Jeongguk sips his seven-dollar iced coffee through a thick straw. The local joints always justify the high prices by saying it’s support for small private enterprise and shit. Taehyung likes to call it an overblown capitalist circle-jerk.

“The fuck’s up with the people here anyways?” Taehyung says. “It’s like seven AM.”

“It’s ten, but okay.”

“Same thing. It’s all AM. Like, go to bed.”

“So you get an exception?”

“Only reason I’m awake is ‘cause I got work later.”

“That’s weak. You’re going to the radio shack, don’t play it up to be something big.” Jeongguk knocks his head back and shakes his grimy hair out, squinting at the sky, feeling purer and more caffeinated by the second. “Your ass ain’t even getting paid.”

“Volunteer work. Makes me a fuckin’ soul if you ask me.”

Jeongguk laughs, a little raspy and weak but he still means it. In reality all Taehyung does at the radio shack is set up a playlist and sit around with two or three people and smoke a few blunts, usually provided by someone else. And maybe he’ll say some stupid shit into the mic between the tracks to make it seem like a respectable radio station. Only the locals listen to it really.

“These people?” Taehyung gestures around himself, pointing at every person in the outdoor seating of the cafe, speaking too loud. People stare but, again, Jeongguk couldn’t give a shit if he tried.

“Fuckin’ tourists,” he murmurs.

“What’ve they gotta do? Blow loads of cash and jack off some?”

“Man, nice life.” Jeongguk sighs and melts a bit more into his seat.

“Daily loads blown.” There’s a single cloud suspended in the sky, a pinkish white in the late-dawn, and both Taehyung and Jeongguk follow it with their eyes. “Could you imagine? Money and money and money. Loads. You think being rich is like having constant orgasms?”

Jeongguk snorts and says nothing because that’s fucking stupid. He lets Taehyung keep talking.

“Being broke is pretty much like having blue-balls. Like, pretty much. The blue-ball life, Jeon. I’m telling you it’s shit.”

“Blowing loads and blowing cash is different.”

“Yeah?”

“Gotta be. Spending and, like, realizing dreams, I guess. That stuff’s cathartic.”

“But how cathartic?”

Jeongguk lifts his head and sits up slightly, looking around. The people around him—many rich in some fashion—don’t look caught in any form of catharsis at all. Rather most look dull, sullied, castigating their last-night selves for the dumb shit they must have done. Coming down to it, they’re not much different from him.

“Dunno. Enough?”

Taehyung nods slowly, slouched so low in his chair that Jeongguk almost can’t see him over the small table. “Know what I’d do?” he prompts, eyes swimming over the sky.

Jeongguk’s heard this all before but he still asks what because he likes hearing Taehyung talk about it—those dreams of his, too vast for a town like this, too hopeful for someone like him. Kind of miserable, if you think about the unattainability of it all.

“Hoseok and I talked about it. Where we’d go. New Zealand first, ‘cause Hobbiton and, y’know…some Kiwi culture shit, I dunno. What the fuck even goes down in New Zealand?”

“Sheep?”

“Hills?”

Jeongguk chuckles. “Sheep on hills.”

A jet plane steadily moves across the sky, tailed by two white lines that fray like ribbons near the end. It reminds Jeongguk of a time a year or two ago, with Taehyung’s brief obsession with the idea of chem trails. A fuckass idea that he’d most likely picked up from Hoseok.

“Anyways, then we were thinking Asia, east, southeast kinda thing, just…y’know, thattaway.” Taehyung makes an arbitrary hand gesture in a direction that is most likely not toward East Asia or Southeast Asia or really any part of Asia. “Probably Korea, for the personal history and all that jazz. But I’m mostly thinking Vietnam, y’know, for the food.”

“What kinda food?” Jeongguk closes his eyes and thinks about it, recalling the faded memories of Vietnamese cuisine back when the one family-run restaurant still existed in this town. It’s since been torn down and replaced with something decidedly more fitting with the tourist-trap vibe, which gets particularly gaudier on main street.

“Pho, like, duh.”

“It’s pronounced ph—”

“Yeah, okay, go fuck yourself. And then Hoseok talked about some gay, junkie shit he wanted to do there.”

“He would.”

“Probably bún chả, seeing the colonial buildings, getting butt-fucked all in Saigon. Classic traveller outings, I guess. And then Europe. He was really feeling Europe.”

“Lemme guess,” Jeongguk says. “That loser and his boners for red-lights, huh?”

“Spot on. Said he wanted to give that De Wallen place in Amsterdam a whirl.”

“Would you?”

“Eh. Dunno why I’d pay to fuck someone, but maybe there’s some novelty to it that my peasant ass just isn’t getting.”

“Gotta be. And what next?”

“Hm?”

“After Europe.”

“After Europe,” Taehyung repeats, watches the jet plane, sips his iced coffee. “Good question.”

“The world?” Jeongguk asks, only because he knows that’s the answer Taehyung’s gonna give him one way or another. They talk about the little things so damn often that they seem big. Important. Plausible.

“You sound like Hoseok right now, but yeah. The world or whatever.”

This almost feels like too dynamic a conversation to take in the monotony, clouded by yet another pounding headache. The sickly smell of fake, sugary coffee tickles Jeongguk’s nose.

“Why with Hoseok in the first place?”

“Dunno. He was there when I was thinking about it.”

Jeongguk hums and taps the toes of his run-down sneakers together.

“Why?” Taehyung laughs. “Would you miss me?”

“Would you want me to?”

Taehyung sighs, looking relaxed in the soft sea breeze and the silence.

“Probably.”

Jeongguk kicks back farther in his chair. “I probably would,” he says, wondering how far he’d have to lean to completely fall over. Part of him wants to try it out just for kicks. Right now, bored out of his mind in the type of lazy, hot mornings where the sun looks silver, it doesn’t seem like the worst idea. Kicks and such.

“We should shower,” Jeongguk says at the sky. “Soon.”

“Should.”

“Facility at Cave Point’s open till, like, midnight. Usually.”

“That place smells like balls.”

“It’s cheap. Like a dollar for five minutes cheap.”

“I’d get gonorrhea just standing in there.”

“Where else, then?”

“Let’s just go to Namjoon’s.” Even though Jeongguk’s not looking at Taehyung, he can tell from the way he talks that he’s chewing on his straw.

“Water pressure at his place sucks.”

“But it’s not gonna make my dick fall off.”

Jeongguk groans but concedes that it’s true. Cave Point is the campground bathroom all the hippies go to when they need a shower. It never smells good, usually more like some putrid thing caught between the toes of a flower child.

Lifting his head, Jeongguk looks at Taehyung, the sickeningly pretentious John-Lennon-style sunglasses so low on the bridge of his nose. The lenses are a very telling rose shade and the coincidental joke makes Jeongguk want to laugh. He hates those shades.

But Taehyung looks hot and Jeongguk hates that too. The ease he wears as he basks in the sun, black hair let down and draped over his shoulders. Jeongguk loves how it falls when it’s not put in a ponytail, the way it blows in the wind all delicate and sexy.

“I’m gonna barf, I think,” Taehyung says, and ruins it.

“Told you.”

“You’re a hypocrite,” Taehyung says, “most of the time. Stuff just never hits you as hard.”

“I also don’t take weird shit with weird performance artists. Personal limits. I know mine.”

“I know mine.”

Jeongguk laughs and sucks on his plastic straw, making a guzzling, hollow sound around the ice in the now-empty cup.

“Here,” Taehyung says, leaning forward and sliding his cup over to Jeongguk’s side of the table. He rests his elbows on the metal top and rubs his temples, eyelashes fluttering. “Have mine. I’m dead.”

“’Kay. Dude, hey”—a pause to sip Taehyung’s coffee, too sweet but not bad enough to trash—“can you play some post rock for me today? I’m kinda feeling it.”

“On the station?”

“Yeah. Where else?”

“Sure, man.” Taehyung swallows, winces, his Adam’s apple jutting out. “How accessible you wanna go?”

“Go all out.”

“Like?”

“Like 20-minute songs, 50 bridges, 900 verses.”

“Seascapes of the Interior.”

“Sure.”

Taehyung laughs, coarse. “That hippie crap sucks. Our station sucks ass ‘cause of you.”

“So you gonna do it or what?”

“Eh, why not?” He always does, always for Jeongguk.

“Cool.” Jeongguk looks at Taehyung, really looks, raises an eyebrow, his expression playfully flat although the concern inside is real. “You good?”

“Not really.”

“Bathroom?”

“Ugh.” Reaching across the table, Taehyung grabs Jeongguk’s wrist, his fingertips cold from his iced coffee. It feels nice over the sticky humidity on Jeongguk’s skin. “Piggy-back me. You gotta.”

“Nah.” The chair’s legs grind over the concrete as Jeongguk puts down his coffee and stands up. He walks around the table to Taehyung. “Up.”

“But I’m in pain.”

“Tough life, buddy.”

The bathroom is in the back, and Jeongguk has to haul Taehyung’s lazy ass from the outdoor seating at the front all across the whole shop. People stare the whole way and Jeongguk would be embarrassed if he weren’t distracted by the way Taehyung’s body rests against his own. Friendly and casual. Heart-stopping too, but that only applies one way.

“Dude, hold my hair,” Taehyung manages, gripping the sides of the toilet bowl as he heaves.

“Gay.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes, fingers already combing the strands back.

 


 

“See that?” Taehyung points at the shoreline, the scattered mess of people along the bright, vast space.

“What?” Jeongguk squints behind his sunglasses and pops a grape flavoured Hi-Chew in his mouth.

“That crowd. Neon board shorts, there,” Taehyung says, clearly judging. “Total douchebags.”

“Says you.”

“I ain’t wearing neon.”

Side-eyeing Taehyung’s chrome aviators and that tacky shark tooth necklace—very douchebag in essence—Jeongguk says, “There’s shit worse than neon.”

“Doubt it. But listen, them, there—” He keeps pointing.

“Chill, I see ‘em.” Jeongguk’s fingers circle Taehyung’s wrist and lower his arm. Their hands stay there, half-linked on the salt encrusted sun-bathing towels. Hi-Chew wrappers scratch their skin, tucked under the folds of the towel, some blowing away.

“One of ‘em came into the shop, top dog of the group, you know? Talked about some plans he had with ‘them boys’ and then bought some wax, Zog’s or whatever. Point is he talked about surfing and how he was so good at it. So pseudo about everything it hurt.”

“God. So?”

“Fuckin’ asshole, is all.” Taehyung leans back and stretches his legs out in front of him, his hands folded beneath his head. Too tall for the beach towel, his feet go off the edge, heels digging into the sand. “Something shitty about the way he spoke, that white boy righteousness they think they’ve got going on. Big talk. Bet I could beat him on the waves if we went head-to-head.”

“You think?” Jeongguk adjusts his shades and tries to focus on the distant dots of people. The bright colours of their boards glint in the concentrated sun. “They got mad gear, looks like.”

“Just loaded parents, is all. They’re not serious about it, not like we are, growing up with the waves and all this realness. It’s a lifestyle, Jeon.”

“I know.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes because Taehyung loves to go on and on about this stuff. How, no, it isn’t a sport, thank you very much, but indeed a lifestyle. Kinda pretentious if you ask Jeongguk, but there are worse things about Taehyung’s character so he doesn’t dwell on it. “This just their summer retreat then?”

“Bet.”

“Oceanside cabin, you think?”

“Totally.”

“Sick,” Jeongguk breathes, trying not to envy them and failing.

“Can’t help but hate ‘em for it, really. Totally goes against that inner-peace thing I’m trying to get behind but, God, they’ve just got it so good and they’re real cunts about it too.”

“Rich boys.” Jeongguk laughs.

“The worst part,” Taehyung says, his sharp elbow jabbing Jeongguk’s side as he moves to slide his sunglasses lower on the bridge of his nose, “is that he was smoking hot. The one that came into the shop.”

“Bullshit.” Even though the air is uncomfortably humid, thick and warm, Jeongguk untucks his legs and lies down next to Taehyung, the soft sand shifting beneath the towel. “It’s just the money talking.”

“It wasn’t. Swear it on my heart and soul and everything else I’m good for. Fake-blond and blue-eyed enough to make it work. Classic sexer-upper look, Jesus.”

“He looked like Jesus?”

“No, like—Jesus, he was hot.”

“Mm.” Nearing mid-afternoon, it’s getting hotter and Jeongguk feels the gradual change, the way he sweats in his threadbare t-shirt and the way it’s almost glued to his skin. “But the real question is”—rolling onto his side, he tucks his arm beneath his head and faces Taehyung—“would you let him fuck you?”

Raising an eyebrow, Taehyung looks at him over the silver rims of his obscenely reflective shades. Amused, even a little sheepish.

“Y’know, honestly—”

“You wouldn’t.” Cracking up, Jeongguk lifts a lazy hand to smack Taehyung’s chest. “Don’t tell me you’d bend over for some Daddy’s boy, trust fund scum, Kim. You fuckin’ disgrace, holy shit.”

“Not, like, 100 percent,” he argues, a half-made, vain attempt at defending himself. Even he knows this is too much. “But 90, maybe. 95.”

“Jesus.” Jeongguk shakes his head, totally not thinking about how Taehyung would look getting fucked. Just like always, how Jeongguk’s totally never thinking about that, ever.

“Just saying.”

“You’re always saying shit.”

“Mm. My specialty.”

“Sure.”

Out beneath the sky with the sea breeze on his skin, in the silence with the voices drowned out by the waves and the distance of the water’s edge, Jeongguk is content. There’s something better about Taehyung, about himself, something more true and raw and unshakeable. Parties and pulsing nights and hour hands ticking well past midnight are fun, but they feel wrong.

Looking at Taehyung now, Jeongguk feels that happy pressure in his chest grow.

“It’s hot,” Jeongguk murmurs, worn out and lifeless but with a smile he hadn’t noticed pulling at his lips.

Taehyung scrunches his nose, looking cute, and tugs at the front of Jeongguk’s shirt. “Then take this off, bud. It’s your life.”

“But—”

“But,” he scoffs and pulls up the hem of Jeongguk’s shirt himself. “C’mon. Let’s see this. It’s been too long.”

He likes looking at Jeongguk’s tattoos, he always says. Part of Jeongguk wants to point out that Taehyung sees him shirtless every morning in the RV, and every time they go surfing, and probably during every waking moment during the summer, but that would sound too implicative and he doesn’t want to make it weird. Sitting up again, he pulls off his shirt, a little too aware of Taehyung’s gaze.

This used to be worse, back when he’d been dating Yongsun. Sometimes he thinks about it, not as over the whole ordeal as he says he is. The memory of the way his skin had felt under the sun back then, stinging heat over the bruises Yongsun’s hands left on his sides from when he’d fuck her. The way their aggression felt like misplaced love but still love nonetheless.

Her fingers never dug in quite right and Jeongguk, in the shittiest, hidden-away parts of his mind, was always wishing those hands were Taehyung’s.

Maybe that’s why they didn’t work out, he and Yongsun. Lots of reasons, but maybe that’s the biggest one.

“See?” Taehyung says, sounding proud, and gives Jeongguk’s lower back a pat.

Folding up his shirt, Jeongguk creates a makeshift pillow and lies down again. Sprawled out, watching the sky, he listens to Taehyung’s breathing flow in time with the soft waves.

Sometimes he wonders, why don’t you just tell him? It’s a simple solution, a dumb, drawn-out string of words that he’d likely stumble over. You know, back when Yongsun and I were a thing, when she kissed me too hard and when I fucked her too rough and when she fingered me—just sometimes, y’know, we weren’t weird—and even when we were just together, I’d always wish it were your body instead of hers.

A fucking lousy confession that Taehyung would no doubt take in stride, an easy laugh and an easier response.

So easy.

But it’s an entirely different worry Jeongguk’s got biting beneath his skin. As he’s thinking, Taehyung’s glancing around the beach, scanning through the people for his next big deal. Someone hot and willing. Being the turbulent thing he is, never in a relationship that’s lasted long enough to constitute being called a relationship in the first place, Jeongguk wonders if the two of them would even make it a day.

For now Jeongguk basks in the sun, his skin tan and bruise-free and—at least visibly—virginal.

“It’s been too long.” Taehyung lets out a long sigh. “Since…fuckage.”

“Gross.”

“I’m just thinking. Talking about that dude got me thinking.”

“Gross and horny.”

“Desperate too. C’mon, keep it coming, I love getting trashed.”

Jeongguk snorts, the nose pads of his shades digging in and worsening his headache.

“Too long,” Taehyung says again, almost nostalgic.

Humming, Jeongguk unwraps another Hi-Chew and grimaces at the flavour. Grape has never been his favourite but Taehyung likes it. Hi-Chew has also never been his favourite, the texture too gummy, but (again) Taehyung likes it. Now and then Jeongguk goes down to the Asian food store just to get him some.

“Hey.” Taehyung taps his arm. “Gimme.”

“Mm.” Jeongguk unwraps another and reaches over, laughing when Taehyung opens his mouth and motions for him to put it on his tongue.

“Weirdo,” he murmurs, smiling, and pretends to be disgusted when Taehyung bites the melted, mushy thing from between his fingers. Then he lies back down.

Obnoxious grape flavouring sits in their mouths, the smell of seawater in the air, the sun beating down on them, not a stagnant warmth but dynamic along with the flowing wind—one of those better days. Jeongguk is a boneless creature, a beach rat, washed up but still totally enjoying himself.

“Lazy,” someone says, walking up, footsteps shifting the sand, a soft sound. “You seein’ this?”

It’s Hoseok, Jeongguk doesn’t even have to look to know.

“Why’re you guys over here dying?” That’s Namjoon. He and Hoseok stand at the edge of the towels, mere silhouettes against the glaring sun. Without moving, Jeongguk squints at them.

“Basking,” Taehyung corrects, shooting them a smile. With a slow wave he motions them to the side. “Move, dude. Blocking my sun.”

“As if your tan needs work,” Hoseok scoffs. Shaking the water out of his hair, not quite dog-like but getting there, he sits on the towel he’d left on the sand. It’s separated from Jeongguk’s and Taehyung’s because he didn’t want to “butt in”, again going for the classy gay joke. Namjoon, now moving to sit on his own towel, had done the same.

“Can’t have too much of a good thing. Hey—want a Hi-Chew?”

“Nah,” Namjoon says. “Shit sucks.”

You suck.”

“I know.” He kicks the edge of a towel. “You guys gonna surf? Waves are really goin’ off today, could really catch a few good ones.”

“Boards are in the RV. Up”—Jeongguk gestures toward the general direction of the small beachside parking lot—“over there. Too far.”

“You’re missing out.”

“You say that every day.”

“Summer. Days of miracles. It’s always true.”

“Then,” says Taehyung, “we can do it tomorrow.”

“Lazy, lazy.” Hoseok’s already lying back and becoming a puddle on his towel.

Part of Jeongguk wants to hit the waves but another part of him hurts too bad to even consider it—swimming out and duck-diving under to get far enough out, finding a moderately acceptable wave and winding over the face before it crashes over. Too much fucking work really. Especially when he’s this tweaked out, barely coherent in the throbbing heat.

“Where’s Yoongi?” Namjoon asks, long limbs sprawled out like a starfish. “Said he’d be here.”

“Mm…dunno.” Taehyung sighs and Jeongguk looks at him, watching how his chest rises and falls, how his shirt shifts, how the fabric is so thin Jeongguk swears he can see the outline of his nipples. “Probably stuffin’ pretty-boy Jimin in the backseat of their pick-up.”

Jeongguk snorts. “Nothing new.”

“They don’t surf enough,” Hoseok says. “Fakes, man.”

Yoongi doesn’t surf enough,” Jeongguk says. “Pale ass can’t handle the sun. And Jimin’s just a softie, doesn’t wanna let his babe feel excluded.”

Taehyung sits up, arms holding himself up. Jeongguk’s eyes trace the curve of his forearm as he wonders how hot Taehyung would look if he were covered in tattoos just like Jeongguk. Sometimes Taehyung says he’s thinking about getting a few but he never goes through with it.

“God,” Taehyung says, “you remember back before they got together?”

“It’s been years, man,” Jeongguk says.

“Yeah, but you remember? They were both so much cooler.”

“True.” Jeongguk thinks for a moment. “But there’s some good things. They’ve kinda chilled out, both of them.”

Taehyung hums. “We all have, really.”

“Can’t believe it’s been years, though.”

For a moment Taehyung watches the sea. As always, Jeongguk watches Taehyung.

Then Hoseok says, “But you and Yongsun made it, like, almost one, right?”

Jeongguk shrugs. Chooses his words carefully for some reason. “Pretty much.”

“Long time, considering it was you guys.”

Not completely sure of what that means but still getting it, Jeongguk nods. “Yeah, man. Too long, really.”

“I mean, it’s chill though,” Taehyung says, a different air about him now, a warmth as he looks at Jeongguk that extends beyond his usual easygoing self. “You’re cooler now, without all that going on.”

The only reason Jeongguk can see Taehyung’s eyes is because his lurid chrome shades have slid so low on his nose he looks stupid. Jeongguk smiles. He appreciates it, this lowkey consolation and Taehyung’s inherent understanding of the small yet infinitely shitty things.

“You guys were too fuckin’ hetero anyways.”

“Thanks, bud,” Jeongguk scoffs, too ready to forget about this.

“You’re good to be rid of it all.”

“…Totally.”

It’s stopped being a bad feeling a while ago, how the memories had sucked ass then and how they suck just as much ass now. How the season’s shifted, the summer humidity a more pressing thing, yet how the discomfort itself doesn’t change much. Yongsun’s hands on his bicep, cold with sweat; the uncomfortable tickle of her hair as they slept together; other recollections—compared to now, the lonely but freeing haze of sun, the ripples over the horizon.

“Know what?” Namjoon cuts in. Jeongguk had been sure he’d fallen asleep. “You guys need to shower. Like, for real.”

Taehyung laughs, sounding sort of sheepish but not actually meaning it. “Really?”

Really.”

“Guk, how long’s it been?”

“I dunno. Like four days. Hey”—he looks at Namjoon—“can we use your shower?”

“No, you fucks take like thirty minutes in there.”

“So?”

“So water bill.”

“Lame ass.”

“Just”—Namjoon rolls over and lies on his side, too ready to take an unnecessarily long nap—“use the ones over there.”

The public ones at the far end of the beach, he means, a spicy two-in-one deal with the bathroom facility. Cold with a next-to-nonexistent water pressure, always with the floating aroma of piss. But free. Often those are what Taehyung and Jeongguk have to resort to, one of the more unappealing aspects of living in an RV, among various others.

“Gross. Gonorrhea hut numero dos.” Taehyung grimaces. “Please, dude. Save us.”

“Ugh…” Namjoon lifts his head. “When you need it?”

“I dunno. Jeongguk has work this evening, so later, probably. Nighttime.”

“Nah. I’ve got shit to do.”

“Bullshit. What is it?”

“Reading.”

“That phil crap again?”

Namjoon grunts. “Yes, that phil crap again. Now fuck off, or I ain’t letting you use my shower ever. Like, ever ever.”

“Whatever.” As Taehyung stands his knees crack. He wobbles. “Aristotle was a fuckin’ elitist anyway. Just saying.”

Namjoon just chuckles because he’s heard this all before.

Feet shifting on the hot sand, Taehyung places his hands on his tailbone and stretches, a perverse beauty to the arch of his back, a low groan that Jeongguk only catches because he’s listening.

“Jeon,” Taehyung says. “Waves.”

“Yeah?”

“Why not? Apparently they’re mad good, as I’ve heard through the grapevine. We can shower after. ‘Sides, you have work tonight. Could use the rest.”

He offers a hand and Jeongguk takes it. His head spins when he stands, and he grips Taehyung’s forearm with his other hand. Clutches him like that for a moment before letting go.

“Jesus,” Jeongguk mutters, squeezing his eyes shut and blinking rapidly.

“Hurts like hell, right?”

“Dude,” Jeongguk says empathetically, a good enough response in essence.

“I’m telling you, last night, man—never doing that again. Can’t even stand straight.”

“So how you gonna surf?” Jeongguk gives him a teasing glance, already knowing the answer.

“Magic,” Taehyung says with enough inflection that it sounds like he means it, even decorating it with a flare of half-assed jazz hands and a dorky smile.

And Jeongguk feels it heady and hard in his chest, that so-called magic.

He really doubts Taehyung’s gonna stick to that talk about party-celibacy. This quasi-spiritual fuckboy with a quick tongue, he’s constantly talking about betterment and never following through.

It’s always the same. That sort of wild, raunchy boy shit. Dumb drug shit and dumb sex shit and the raging, sweaty senselessness that follows, the seventy-two-hour bouts of exhaustion that keep the body wired for some stupid reason, the way the world pulses for the next week.

The worst part is, despite all that, it would take Taehyung fifteen minutes max to convince Jeongguk to do it all over again. They just have fun together.

“Carry me,” Taehyung says, a hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder to turn him around.

“Why?”

“C’mon, just to the RV. Then I’ll walk from there, carry my board.”

Too easily, too comfortably, Jeongguk bends his knees a fraction and picks him up. A hot, wiry body pressed against his back in the stifling heat, the fabric of Taehyung’s shirt soft against Jeongguk’s bare skin.

“Jesus, dude,” Taehyung says under his breath, words a palpable rush over the back of Jeongguk’s neck that all somehow feels too lovely and just right and not enough, a rush of dispersed thoughts over such a simple thing—breath. Jesus Christ.

“What?” Jeongguk looks over his shoulder, adjusting Taehyung on his back, feeling the flex of his thighs around his waist. Not missing the semi-erotic undertones as their eyes meet.

“Nothing, man. I just always forget how strong you are.” Taehyung raises his eyebrows and smirks, clenches his thighs, this time on purpose.

“Psh.” Rougher than he needs to, Jeongguk jostles Taehyung. “Shove it, gaylord.”

“Just playing,” Taehyung drawls, hooking his arms around Jeongguk’s neck, waving this off like it’s something uncomplicated. He nods toward the parking lot. “C’mon, buddy. Let’s go.”

He presses closer, tucks himself against Jeongguk, a solid pressure. Something so natural in the way they fit. The pointed tip of Taehyung’s shark tooth necklace digs into Jeongguk’s back, the few black beads hot from the sun, the wrinkled leather of the cord tickling his skin.

It’s funny how Jeongguk hates the necklace itself but loves it on Taehyung. So damn funny it hurts.

 


 

In the tender heat of the night shift, Jeongguk still feels burnt, dead. His head hurts. It might be because his ponytail is tied too tight, but probably not. He loosens the band and the world remains unfocused.

“We’re almost outta yellow,” Seokjin says, holding a vial of tattoo ink by the nozzle. He sits at the counter, head in his hand, cheek smushed against his palm. The viscous ink inside the vial moves as he flips the bottle from side to side.

“More in the back.”

“We’re out. Only got the ones up here.”

“Whatever. The boss’ll deal with it.”

“Maybe.”

“Yeah.”

Seokjin squints at the plastic ink vial like it’s wronged him in some way. Then he swivels in his stool and places it back on the rack. “Not my problem.”

It’s not that customers at this place are scarce, it’s just that there are seasons for this. No one’s made any appointments tonight. Walk-ins are plausible, but they close in an hour so probably not. Right now, Jeongguk wants to be anywhere but here, this dilapidated tattoo parlour he’s worked at for years, apprenticed at for even years before that.

There’s no air conditioning. Not even a fucking fan.

“Taehyung was saying,” Jeongguk says, pulling his phone out of his pocket, “he wanted to buy from you soon.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Gettin’ real up his ass about you and your failure to keep up with the economy.”

Seokjin snorts. “What a dick. And?”

Jeongguk looks at him. He’s pulling his phone out. In the weak lighting, the blue and punch pink of the multiple LED open signs—showy things the owner of the place had felt the apparent need for, possibly a failed visual hawking scheme—Seokjin looks as washed-out as Jeongguk feels. Dead tired like everyone else, a side effect of the budding summer heat.

“And so when can we buy from you? Like, for real.”

“I mean, whenever, man. Text me, come by when you want.”

“Namjoon’s?”

“Mm. Where else?” Now focused on his phone, Seokjin doesn’t even look up as he speaks. The numb blue of the screen casts a lighter hue over his amused expression. “You desperate too? Should’ve known. Taehyung’s rubbing off on you.”

Jeongguk smiles, a little sheepish because it’s true. “Just want him to shut up about it. He talked about stealing from Namjoon’s stash, you know. Shit like that’s gonna get him beat up.”

Seokjin’s laugh is mellow, good on the ears. Of the few people who work here, Seokjin’s really the only one Jeongguk knows personally. It’s always a good shift when they’re on together.

“You think, like…” Seokjin begins, bored fingers toying with the flap of a half-empty cigarette pack. It scrapes over the linoleum countertop. “You think Tae could take Namjoon?”

Jeongguk clicks his tongue, toys with the idea.

“Fuckin’ grand showdown,” Seokjin says. “Kim vs. Kim. In the ring.”

Jeongguk snickers. “That’s stupid, man.”

“Really, though. They’re both, like—tall, jangly as hell. Joon’s more weird-looking, but Tae’s more bony, you know?”

“They’re both weird-looking, really.”

“But who’s worse?”

With nothing better to do, Jeongguk actually thinks about it for a moment.

“Both pretty shit, ain’t they?” Seokjin says.

Jeongguk snorts. “But who’d win?”

“They’d probably both lose somehow.” Seokjin shrugs. “Dunno. Want a smoke?” He holds the pack out, the opened flap swaying and casting a long shadow in the dull, buzzing light, a weak and white thing in the corner of the room that barely illuminates anything.

“Sure,” Jeongguk says. They’re menthols and he hates menthols—it’s admittedly more of an image thing, but he still clings to it. Taking one, he lights it with Taehyung’s old Zippo, something that belongs to him now because Taehyung had apparently ‘gotten over it.’ It’s a harsh smoke.

“Where is he anyways?” Seokjin asks.

“Hm?”

“Tae. Where’s he at?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “No clue. Why?”

“Dunno. You always seem to know, thought I’d ask. A buddy of mine wanted to know where he could get an RV like his, hard-on for that drifter lifestyle you two got going on.”

“Ah. I think Tae bought his used from his cousin or something. I could text him though.”

“No worries, it’s—”

Jeongguk pulls out his phone anyway. He opens up the texts between him and Taehyung.

Seokjin rolls his eyes. “Well tell him I said hi.”

“Ass,” Jeongguk grunts, only because there’s a certain domesticity implied in those words. Like he and Taehyung are some boring married couple with twenty years of cranked love and dissatisfaction crammed beneath their belts. As if.

To: tae

Me

where’d u get ur rv

seokjin says hi, wants to know

also where r u rn

 

The bright screen of his phone feels too head-splitting in the dark and quiet. Taehyung’s response is immediate.

 

tae

idk uncle or somehting

super cheap tho could probabyl hook him up with one if he wants

tell him

also tell him i m weed depirevd

 

Me

i did he thinks ur pathetic

 

tae

im at wheeins

ok ya he can fkcuk off??

 

Me

wheein’s?

 

tae

yea super cool ppl here why ur lame ass gotta work tf

place is so rad theres afucking opEN BAR?????

ok but is seojkn there for real

im serious t his is seirous

 

Me

chill jfc

he said u can buy whenever

 

tae

k

 

Me

wyd at wheein’s

 

It’s kind of stupid but Jeongguk deliberately avoids using question marks, just to seem nonchalant. In reality it’s a different story. Standing behind the counter, leaning against its side, his foot taps rapidly against the floor. Something in him feels heavy, steel weights in his limbs.

His cigarette dangles between his lips, burning away at the tip. He lets it.

 

tae

gettin crunk

jk no were jusy hanging out

u shoudl come sometime??

 

Me

idk man i don’t know her

 

tae

i dont either i met her like yetsreday its fine shes super nice

theres cool peopel here youll like htem

theyre hot

a hot model dude youll like him

your type super hot

 

Jeongguk tries not to smile at his screen, aware that he’d look like somewhat of an idiot. Not that Seokjin’s paying any attention, half-asleep and distracted by his phone.

 

Me

lmao my type??

 

tae

yeah like hot

and hsit

u kno

 

Me

hot

 

tae

stfu yeah u knw whta i mean

built af like gof

**god

 

Me

i’m built too stfu stop sucking his dick suck mine

 

tae

yeah but ur nto like he is ok hes

idk

hes so jacked

porno dude style istg

ur like /lowkey// jacked ok

this dudes fuckin smalldicked on steroids

still id bottom for him real talk iso would

 

Me

gay

you’d bottom for anyone

 

tae

so woudl u

more gay

btm

 

Jeongguk types out a few sentences but ends up deleting them all, not sending anything. All he’s got in his head is the image of Taehyung having gross sex with strangers at Wheein’s house, wherever that is, surrounded by smoke and wild lights. Colours glinting off bottles. Maybe some music. House, electronic, something like that. Dim and mechanical and altogether daunting when put in the wrong light.

It’s no new thought, imagining bodies like this, some familiar and some not. The sharp joints that make up Taehyung’s. Sometimes Jeongguk imagines that body with his own.

They’d go good together, he knows that for sure. Maybe that’s the worst part.

“Buddy,” Seokjin murmurs. “You look…troubled.”

“Hm?” Jeongguk glances up from his phone, from the stupid thing Taehyung had texted him. It’s the sort of thing they’ve always said to each other, really. Something that shouldn’t feel out of the ordinary at all, not like it does now. Jeongguk might just be falling out of tune.

Seokjin is looking at him, exhaling a gust of cigarette smoke. It reminds Jeongguk of the one stuck between his lips, forgotten as he thinks about other things.

“You good?”

“Tired,” Jeongguk says. Part of it’s true. “Long day.”

“Hoseok told me you guys were at Jackson’s last night?”

“I—” Jeongguk shrugs. He hadn’t known whose house it was but that name sounds about right. “Yeah, I think.”

“Mm. Busy.” Seokjin laughs. “Gotta get your shit together, Jeon.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

This shop is relieving. Somewhat of an escape. Although Jeongguk can’t say he loves working, he does like being here, the atmosphere of the place. The high ceiling with exposed pipes flashing in the darkness, metal-barred windows and ugly plaster trying and failing to seal the cracks in the brick walls. The neon signs, the purplish haze falling over everything, the way it looks shining off Seokjin’s hair.

“Do you know a Wheein?” Jeongguk’s voice breaks the silence, cuts into the faint hum of the fluorescent lights.

“Maybe? Hoseok’s friend, right?”

“I think, yeah.”

“Kinda weird? Actress shit going on?”

“Yeah.”

“Then yeah, sold to her a few times. Why?”

“Just…” Jeongguk breathes in until his lungs hurt and lets it all out. The air is heavy and wet. He pinches his cigarette and crushes it against the wooden edge of the counter, where a strip of linoleum’s flaked off. “Wondering, I guess. Met her. Tae—met her.”

At that, Seokjin raises an eyebrow.

“Last night,” Jeongguk says, a leaden feeling coming over him, the thought that he has to fill the quiet with something. The buzzing open signs seem too loud suddenly. “He’s there now. With Wheein. I dunno, is she—”

“She’s chill,” Seokjin reassures. “You worry too much.”

“Ain’t worrying.”

“She’s not into him like y—”

“I mean, she’s like—” Jeongguk starts speaking again, just for the sake of saying things, quickly ending Seokjin’s sentence. Not really considering his words. “She’s not wack, right? Like not totally? ‘Cause everyone here’s a bit wack, but…”

“Taehyung’s probably more wack than she’ll ever be, really.”

“Just wondering.”

“I guess she has a thing for molly, but that’s about it. Got a bit of money, pretty fun all around.”

Jeongguk nods, his nails clicking on the countertop, flicking at the peeling corner.

“Why?”

“Just wondering,” Jeongguk says again.

“Worry too much,” Seokjin says again. “Want a brownie?”

For a brief moment Jeongguk pauses. But he thinks about it, sure. “I mean, I’m working…”

Seokjin rolls his eyes. Too easily, teeth balancing his smoke, he grabs his backpack from beneath the counter and sifts through it, pulling out a tupperware container, grabbing a brownie and removing the saran wrap.

“Come on, man,” he says, holding the dense slab of chocolate to Jeongguk’s closed lips. “I’ll give you one free. On me. A little TLC never hurt no one.”

Jeongguk begins to say you mean THC? but Seokjin shoves the brownie past his lips the second he parts them and it comes out a muffled, disgruntled noise.

“See? You gotta unclench your butthole a bit. Life’s good.”

Frowning, Jeongguk considers spitting the brownie out, but it tastes good, albeit a bit bitter. Maybe too much cocoa powder. He holds the rest of it and begrudgingly chews.

“Irresponsible,” he says around a mouthful. “You’re old as fuck, you should be more like a parent.”

“Gross. Don’t.”

“Really,” Jeongguk teases, taking another bite, becoming more okay with this. His shift’s almost over and this shit takes about half an hour to kick in. He’ll be fine. “Drug dad Kim Seokjin.”

“Shut the fuck up.” But he’s laughing and so is Jeongguk. Jeongguk’s phone buzzes. “Text your boy.” Seokjin waves a flippant hand at him, fiddling with his phone again.

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, not saying anything because his mouth’s stuffed full of what is probably the thickest brownie he’s ever had, its sweetness a little sickening and the texture more like molasses than a pastry. Unlocking his phone, he screws his eyes up at the glaring light.

 

tae

uknwk whtabthey hve here???

oneofnthe guysi s loaded sf

and so

 

Me

type properly jesus

what

 

tae

sry ok

i was using one hand

everythjngs so nice rn i want you here

whens the lsat time we took lsd togetehr i miss it u always got so fuckin stupid its s good seeign u goof up that hard

 

Me

stfu i never goof

also have seokjin’s brownies always been this fuckin nasty

???

like

 

tae

idk but

tf u doin ur on shift

 

Me

channelling you

also

 

tae

ya

 

It’s almost midnight. His shifts often run this late, although at this hour being here is mostly pointless. Still, this town lives for the nights, and there are always a few stragglers and those classic life-on-the-edge type folks who come in for a midnight tattoo now and again.

 

Me

when u gonna leave wheein’s

 

tae

idk

soon mayeb

place smells lke armpit kindaand tripping balls but its bad and my head hurts

acids alwyas better with you ugh

whered u park the rv

 

Me

usual free lot kinda down the street

not too far

we’re gonna start closing

 

Jeongguk types out a couple things but doesn’t hit send on them, deleting everything instead. Thinking too much, as Taehyung always accuses him of doing. Where are you now? Are you leaving now? Is she there with you now?

 

Me

i’ll see u at home?

 

“Let’s—” Jeongguk begins, clearing his throat, feeling nervous for some reason. Like there’s something tight stuck inside him, a thick and hopeful tension. “Let’s start closing.”

Seokjin frowns, checks the time on his phone. “Still got a while.”

“It’s fine.” Jeongguk shakes his head. He just wants to leave. It’s been a long day, a long week, a long last couple of months. Kinda shitty overall, even if he’s not completely sure why. “It’s fine, no one’s gonna come in anyways.”

Seokjin nods slowly, sitting up and stretching. “Yeah. You’re right, yeah.”

Jeongguk’s phone buzzes and he checks it too quickly.

 

tae

yeah man

i migh tbe alseep whne u get there but yeah

ill be home

 


 

He isn’t.

When Jeongguk gets home—as half-assed as it might be to call it a home, this old junkie-hideout looking RV parked in a quiet sandlot near the shore—that’s the only thing he’s thinking. That Taehyung isn’t home.

It’s only off-putting because usually, when Jeongguk returns from a late shift, sometimes going till 2 or 3 AM, Taehyung is home. Usually the light is on, a loud, busted thing that barely works. The bulb is probably gonna die soon. As Jeongguk steps through the door, tucking his keys in his pocket, that’s what he’s thinking about.

Not about how cold all this feels despite the pressing heat.

It’s not until an hour later that Taehyung gets back, with a sorry so easy it feels unmeant. By now Jeongguk’s thrown on a pair of sweats and a loose t-shirt, hair untied and let down over his shoulders. He’s lying on the wall bed that they never actually bother to fold back up into the wall. It’s at the back of the RV, on the total opposite side of the driver’s area, so it doesn’t get in the way of anything.

“I get the bed tonight,” Jeongguk says, looking up from his sketchbook, the pen held on the page where he’d stopped his line. Black ink bleeds into the paper but he doesn’t notice. He’s well into his high now, the overwhelming taste of that shitty brownie still clinging to the back of his throat. Looking at Taehyung, glowing in the soft light of the open doorway, he’s clearly far worse off.

Taehyung mock pouts. “But Jeonggukkie.” A drawn-out whine. Gross puppy-dog eyes—they’ve stopped working on Jeongguk a long time ago, he claims.

“Don’t look at me like that, dude. You were late.”

Taehyung’s laugh is low, mellow. Quite obviously still dizzy and weird on acid. He shuts the door, leans against it for a moment, closing his eyes. The yellow light casts over his sweating brow. Jeongguk feels an urge to get up and wipe it for him.

For a moment it’s a frozen scene—Taehyung standing at the door, Taehyung’s eyes fluttering open, Taehyung smiling softly at Jeongguk through the dark blur of the lamp. Jeongguk watching him.

“What are you doing?” Taehyung asks, voice deep and oddly gentle.

“Drawing,” Jeongguk says. The words feel chewed up and spit out, forced through his teeth even though there’s nothing wrong about right now. Nothing at all. Just the distant, soft rush of the waves against the seawall across the street near the lot, filling the lack of noise with a certain comfort.

“Can I see?”

Steadying himself with a hand on the counter, the edge of the sink, the handle of the small built-in fridge, Taehyung walks over and flops on the end of the bed. Scoots closer till he’s lying on his stomach, next to Jeongguk’s crossed legs.

“Just some new designs,” Jeongguk explains, looking down and removing his pen from the page when he sees the bleeding ink. It leaves a fat blot on the paper.

“For work?”

“Mm.”

“Wicked,” Taehyung breathes, chin resting on his hand. His other lifts to trace the lines. Jeongguk’s eyes follow the curve of his knuckles, the scrapes on the skin, calloused, somewhat graceful in a way.

On the page is a dragon design, similar to the one Jeongguk has on his right upper-arm, a big piece trailing from his shoulder to his elbow. Taehyung says that one’s his favourite. Funky pseudo-Yakuza aesthetic but, like—not, y’know? That’s how he describes it.

Jeongguk didn’t get it for the purpose of funky Yakuza aesthetic or anything stupid like that. Really he just liked the colours, a reasoning which goes for most of his ink.

“I haven’t coloured it yet.”

“What are you gonna use?”

“Red, orange. Green and blue too, not a lot though. And faded. Some white but just a tiny bit. It doesn’t come out on skin very well.”

“Ah.” Taehyung nods. Leans closer to Jeongguk. Closer still, until he’s resting his head on his knee. “Can I help you? When you do?”

Jeongguk huffs a laugh through his nose, his hands instinctively coming up to comb through Taehyung’s hair, all the way to the ends. “Help me colour it?”

“Yeah.”

Pausing, Jeongguk pretends to think about it. “Maybe.”

“That’s a no,” Taehyung accuses, looking up at him playfully.

Jeongguk smiles. “Maybe a no.”

“Then can you save it for me?”

“Hm?”

“The design. Like, can I get it?”

“You wanna get inked?”

“Maybe. Would you do it for me? If I wanted, like, an original. JJK prime.”

“That’s pricey.”

“But I’m broke.” Taehyung tugs on Jeongguk’s loose shirt. “Please, man, help a friend out.”

“’S only free if you let me put it somewhere weird. Ass-tat. That’s my stipulation.”

“Bargaining on my ass? Low.”

Jeongguk huffs a laugh, trying and failing to mask it.

They stay like that, comfortable. Good and not weirded out by proximity. There’s something sticky clinging to Taehyung’s hair, Jeongguk notices. The end of a strand is wet and pasted to the sheen on his collarbone.

“What’s this?” Jeongguk teases, lifting the strand and poking at the sticky part.

“Jizz,” Taehyung jokes, then adds seriously, “and, like—jello, probably.”

“Ew. Why?”

“The jizz or the jello?”

Jeongguk gives him a flat stare.

Taehyung snickers. Even though it wasn’t funny at all, Jeongguk feels the corners of his lips pull up. “Dunno. There was jello there, so I ate jello.”

“Gross. Jello is gross.”

“Nah, it was the blue flavour. I liked it.” Sure enough, Jeongguk sees the stains of blue lining Taehyung’s inner lips.

“Blue isn’t a flavour.”

“It is in America.”

He grins wide and there’s that blue again, this time smudged on his teeth. The impulsive part of Jeongguk wants to lick it off, see if he still tastes like it. Sugary and blue-flavoured.

“Hey,” Taehyung says, adjusts his head in Jeongguk’s lap. To make it easier on his neck, Jeongguk shifts the side. “Why did Seokjin want an RV?”

“Dunno. His friend did, I think.”

“He didn’t want to borrow it, right? Ours.”

“Nah.”

“Good. Remember when we did that?”

“Jesus. Yeah.”

“Jesus,” Taehyung repeats. “Remember when we—”

“Yup.” Jeongguk cuts him off because he doesn’t want to think about it. A few years ago they’d lent a semi-friend the RV for a day, some coastline road trip with a few friends. Got it back with the interior totally trashed, the sewage tank full.

“Can’t believe that fucker used the bathroom when we told—”

“Yup,” Jeongguk interrupts again, grimacing because God is that a fucking memory. They still have the Rhino Flex pump they had to use to empty the tank, tucked in the storage compartment. Sometimes Jeongguk swears he can still feel the pangs in his gut from how hard he’d vomited.

They’ve always enforced the “don’t shit or piss in the RV” rule, but since then they’ve double-enforced it. People other than them are rarely allowed inside in the first place. And public facilities aren’t that bad anyway.

“Memories, man.” Taehyung sighs and spreads himself out some more.

Like this, taking up over half the bed and getting all up in Jeongguk’s personal space—never a problem—he looks like he’s going to fall asleep.

“How was your day?” Jeongguk asks, playing with Taehyung’s hair and watching how the locks drape over the webs of his fingers. Taehyung lies there in his lap, in his hands. “…Your night,” he amends, because they spent their morning hungover and dying and together.

“Fine. Boring. Kinda shitty, I dunno. Would’ve been better if you were there.”

It’s said without thought, easy words shoving a hard knot into Jeongguk’s chest.

“I told you about that buff porno dude, right?” Taehyung blinks his eyes open, looking half-insane and half-sexed-up with his pupils this dilated. “Can’t remember but I think I did.”

“The hot one?” Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. “My type?”

“Yeah, man. That one.”

“What’s his name?”

“Fuck if I know. But like—hot. Super cool guy, I dunno. So porno though, God. You gotta meet him. And Wheein, right, get this—she’s rich.”

Jeongguk snorts. “Bullshit. She’s an actress.”

“Well, okay—her parents are rich.”

“Another trust fund baby, then?”

“This place is full of ‘em. So yeah, must be.”

“Look at you,” Jeongguk teases. “Draggin’ in the loaded ones. Get her to buy you a house, yeah? A bungalow.”

Taehyung’s gaze is warm, eyelids hooded, grin lopsided and lazy. A real hot thing here in Jeongguk’s lap, melting in the haze and the high. “Would you still live with me?”

“Where else would I go?”

Above them, the lamp flickers and buzzes, sounding angry. Jeongguk wants to tell it to fuck off because that loud shit’s not what this moment needs.

“Your hair,” Jeongguk says, fingers still carding through it. “It’s always so much nicer after you shower.”

“Duh.” Taehyung’s fingers play with the fraying hem of Jeongguk’s shirt. “We should shower more often. Probably. I was thinking—man, four days? Man, we’re not all right. Four days.”

“Yeah. Four days was kinda nasty.”

“Kinda.”

Jeongguk tries to suppress a laugh and fails. His teeth sink into his bottom lip and he makes a dumb sound in the back of his throat. Watching him, Taehyung giggles, pokes his nose. It’s easy to read, this casual moment just like any other.

“You wanna sleep on the roof?” Taehyung asks.

But it’s so late and Jeongguk’s so sleepy and Taehyung is on the bed with him. A small bed, sure—it’s why they normally take turns sleeping on the cramped couch, or on the floor with piles of blankets—but it’s big enough to fit them both. Good enough, comfortable enough. Just enough.

“Nah.” Jeongguk closes his sketchbook and places it on the floor. He reaches for the switch and flicks the lamp off, then stretches out, flops onto his back. In the pitch black it all feels the same, this closeness and the warmth of their bodies. “Nah, here’s fine.”

 


 

The second catalyst is something bigger, and once again enters the story though Taehyung. No surprise there. This time Jeongguk’s at a different house but the rest is all the same, the air humid, Hoseok off his ass.

“What’s new pussycat?” he greets him, looking very high and happy, a pat on Jeongguk’s shoulder that’s a little too rough, all enough to set the tune of the night. Dumb and pointless. Taehyung’s gone off somewhere, mingling with the ugly shadows.

“You seem…” Hoseok looks at Jeongguk, presses his lips together. In the thick air Jeongguk can barely see the coral pink glistening on his lips, maybe his or maybe someone else’s, some smudged to the side of his mouth. “Seem quiet tonight.”

“I’m always quiet,” he reasons.

“Ain’t drinking.” Hoseok pokes Jeongguk’s bottle. “’S weird, is all. You’re usually alchy as fuck.”

“That’s Tae.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Lush, alchy, everything else. All Tae. Don’t rope me in, man.”

“You always say that. Like you’re not the same fuckin’ person. Listen—” Hoseok pauses to sip his drink, thin fingers balancing it like it’s something dainty and too breakable for this environment. “He’s with Wheein?”

It’s posed as a question, as if Jeongguk’s just supposed to know. He does, of course, but that’s beside the point.

“Yeah. Went off with her a while ago.”

“Why didn’t you?”

Jeongguk shrugs, one hand tucked in the warm pocket of his jeans, the other chilled and wet around the bottle. “Was with Seokjin.”

“Sure Seokjin has friends other than you.”

“But my company. I’m fun. He’d miss me.” Jeongguk grins and leans against the wall, so sober it feels strange. The wooden floorboards hum in time with the music.

Hoseok scoffs, then asks, “Would you be down if I introduced you to someone?” It’s hard to hear him over the other voices so Jeongguk has to stare at his mouth as he speaks, leaning closer to reply because his own voice naturally lacks volume.

“Not really.”

“Cool. Whatever.” Hoseok smiles, his teeth eerily white in the lighting, and takes Jeongguk’s hand. The sweat on Hoseok’s skin glows and his hand is so cold. “Trust me. Totally your type, too. Hot, tan, Asian. Looks like Tae if it’s dark enough. He’s cool. So cool.”

The fuck’s that mean? Jeongguk starts to ask but Hoseok can’t hear him, leading him through the crowd, the dark filth and the sticky proximity of strangers. He regrets wearing jeans, should’ve went for shorts, something not so oppressive and sweat-inducing.

So cool is how Hoseok describes everyone he introduces Jeongguk to. It usually doesn’t mean much, an umbrella term that can be applied to anyone if it’s moulded hard enough.

The guy’s name is Changmin and, yeah, he’s pretty cool. Sure. Jeongguk’s met better. He looks nothing like Taehyung. Hoseok had probably just said that to make Jeongguk want to come along.

But this Changmin understands personal space and knows a thing or two about eye contact, enough to make Jeongguk feel flustered and under scrutiny—the good kind.

“I like your tattoos,” he says, and Jeongguk’s heard it a million times before, but there’s something about the way this one’s mouth works around the words that pumps Jeongguk’s chest with an unstable swell.

“Thanks,” he says, smiling, tucking his hand back in his pocket and holding his bottle close to himself. Hoseok smirks and pinches his side before he leaves, dissolving into the rest of the party.

This guy’s eyes, so pretty, make Jeongguk nauseous. Eyelashes heavy and sexy as he looks at him, only him, gaze not as kind as Taehyung’s but enough for Jeongguk to feel comfortable.

“I hear,” says Changmin, bicep mushed against the wall he’s leaning on, “you’re a tattoo artist.”

Sometimes Jeongguk wonders if that’s his only fucking selling point. The shit on his skin, stupid lines and colours that he sometimes hates just because they’re a part of himself.

“Kinda,” he says.

“That’s hot.” Changmin leans closer and a laugh bubbles from Jeongguk’s lips. It’s such a stupid thing to say, so grade-school. But part of him likes this simplicity. By this point he’s on his second beer. Who knows when that happened.

“Uh—It’s just a job. Really.” He laughs, feigning breeziness, trying to shake this unsteady air off himself. “You?”

“Hm?”

“What about you? What do you do?”

“Oh, right now?” Standing taller than Jeongguk, Changmin’s eyelids droop as he looks down at him, smiling and nodding. “I don’t believe in work.”

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. “Wow. I mean, neither do I, but we’ve all gotta. No?”

“Eh.” Changmin shrugs. The strong tendons in his neck shift beneath his smooth skin, glistening. Everyone here is so illuminated. Jeongguk feels dull and beat down by comparison, dead in the heat. “Money can’t buy happiness—my parents always said that. I don’t need to work anyways.”

Suddenly Jeongguk feels like he understands a lot more. He can’t wait to talk trash about this guy with Taehyung later, this rich, fake-ass sex symbol, living off the folks’ money and playing the game on easy.

Still, Jeongguk feels like having fun tonight, gives this guy a coy smile and steps the tiniest bit closer. “That’s…interesting.”

It’s almost funny, how Changmin’s eyes light up. “Yeah?”

“Mm-hm.” Jeongguk clinks his fingernails over the neck of his bottle. “So interesting. I like how you see things.” He looks up at Changmin through his eyelashes, putting up a reticent front and letting his eyelids droop in a tender way, as if he’s saying come closer, come find out.

Turns out he read this guy right.

All it takes is a few slick words, lips plush and parted just right, a falsified blush. Jeongguk’s done this before. He’s got this.

A little while later he has Changmin mouthing down his throat, pressing him against a wall, all fake-macho and fronting some soft-dom aura that Jeongguk really can’t get behind. So fuckin’ easy.

Changmin’s body is firm, skin elastic and manufactured. He smells like skincare products, tastes like petroleum jelly. It’s not right. The feel of their movements and the way they fit together—all wrong. Too forceful.

It’s obvious to Jeongguk what it is exactly that’s wrong, but it’s an entire different story to let the thought become more than just a murmur. All this dangerous business of being into people he shouldn’t be into and not getting over the people he should, using other people to try to push that shit out of his mind.

Feeling the scrape of Changmin’s teeth, his clear intention of leaving a mark, Jeongguk grits his teeth. Frustrated with himself and his fickle heart, frustrated with this Changmin and his irritating demeanour. Something about him.

“Not now.” It almost sounds like a growl. Now that Jeongguk’s got the guy, he’s being decidedly less flirty, less nice.

“Hm?” Changmin’s voice vibrates against Jeongguk’s Adam’s apple.

“Don’t do this shit now.”

“I just want—”

“I ain’t yours. We’re not even gonna fuck tonight. You know that, right?”

Now Changmin’s pulled back, lips pursed and swollen slightly. “We’re not?”

“I’m busy tomorrow. Early.” Feeling like he was a bit too rude, Jeongguk leans forward and presses a kiss to Changmin’s jaw. It’s not a sweet kiss, more empty, just for formality. He nods toward the end of the hall, toward the room where all the people are. “We should head back.”

“Already?”

Jeongguk hums. He thinks about circling his fingers around Changmin’s wrist as they walk, but drops his hand before he does it. It’s a stupid idea. This—all of this—is a stupid idea.

As he walks down the hall, buzzed, unhappy for a reason he can’t place, he feels Changmin’s saliva cooling along his throat. Wet and unwanted.

 


 

“Sweet things,” someone says, a gentle brush of fingers on Jeongguk’s forearm. For a second he thinks it’s some stranger, some old girlfriend of Changmin’s, coming to whisk the guy away and leave Jeongguk in peace. But when he turns to look, it’s Wheein. And Taehyung.

“You guys met,” Taehyung says, only looking at Jeongguk as he gestures between him and Changmin.

“Yeah.” Jeongguk nods. “Hoseok. Y’know.”

Taehyung grins. “Yeah, I know.”

As unsure Jeongguk is about Wheein’s presence and influence on Taehyung, he’s thankful that the two of them are here. After leaving behind that semi-awkward make-out session in the hallway he and Changmin had taken part in, things have stayed quite tense between them.

Now, standing here with a beer and a physically buff yet fairly stale conversation partner, Jeongguk can safely say he’s having a spectacularly shitty time.

He’s not sure why it is, but he doesn’t like Changmin. It’s not much of a surprise though. He’s always had a case of “sour old bitch syndrome”, as Taehyung calls it, something that he claims has transferred from Yoongi to Jeongguk over the years. Apparently scientifically proven.

“How’s your night been?” Wheein asks Changmin. He’s far more drunk than Jeongguk is.

Jeongguk tunes them out, running his tongue over the roof of his mouth, grimacing at the dryness of the cheap beer. He glances at Taehyung and their eyes meet.

This feels different. A certain guilt as Jeongguk looks at Taehyung now, seeing how he clings to Wheein’s willow branch arm, the pads of his fingers on her cutting elbow. It gets heavier when Jeongguk looks at Changmin, guilt heavy like iron chained to ankles. And he really has no idea why the guilt’s there in the first place.

But Taehyung looks glad to see him, smiling in this darkness and warming it. Quite charming in his own way, lean and poised, miles off from the bulky presence Changmin holds.

Thinking about it now, how these three all seem to know each other, Jeongguk realizes this must be the guy Taehyung had been talking about. Hot and “his type”, the buff porno dude.

“Jeongguk,” Wheein says, Taehyung leaning on her, eyes kind of lost and dazed in a trashy but somehow cute way. In comparison Wheein looks gorgeous, well put-together. “Jeongguk, missed you last week. Tae’s always talking about you. We have to hang out.”

“We should,” he lies, nodding and smiling in what he hopes is a polite manner. His fingers drum on the neck of his empty bottle and he wishes he had another. It’d probably be rude to leave and go get one. And he probably wouldn’t come back if he did.

“She lives,” Changmin says, speaking with his hands, “in the coolest house. Shoreline cliff hanging over the water. Luxury out the asshole.”

Rich, Jeongguk remembers Taehyung saying.

In the corner of his eye he sees Changmin pulling out a pack—Dunhills, Jesus, what jackass smokes Dunhills—plucking a cigarette, pinching it between his fingers. On his first try he lights the wrong end. His face is one of those Jeongguk can only describe as chiseled, stark and wrong in the orange flicker of his lighter. The tip of his smoke burns too bright to look straight at in the darkness.

Changmin is saying something, Wheein is saying something—

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, a better sight. Not quite elegant but getting there. He extends his hand, shaky but good to hold onto. Occasionally a stray beam of light will bounce their way, a flash of colour over Taehyung’s sweaty face and matted hair, still smooth despite the nasty euphoria of this place threatening to ruin everything.

“Yeah?”

“Come with me.” He pulls and Jeongguk pushes himself off the wall, follows. “Wanna get another beer.”

 


 

“That fuckin’ seagull,” Jimin says, pointing at the sky. “I’m gonna kill it.”

Yoongi laughs. “Good luck, buddy.”

In the end last night had turned out blurry and uneventful. Now Jeongguk’s out under the sun again, head pounding, laughing. Happy and jellylike, Taehyung’s leg barely touching his own as they lie sprawled on the far end of the beach—this one smaller, more niche, with less tourists.

The only problem, according to Jimin’s bitch ass, is the sound of the seagulls.

“I can’t hear myself think,” Jimin says.

Yoongi scoffs. “I’m not even gonna say it.”

“I will.” Taehyung lifts himself onto his elbows to look at Jimin through his aviators—those appalling chrome ones again for whatever reason—maybe trying to prove a point. “’S ‘cause you’re stupid.”

“Chill,” Jeongguk mutters, puts a hand on Taehyung’s chest, brings him back down so he’s lying next to him. “Blocking the sun,” he says, even though he wasn’t.

“You working on your tan too?” Yoongi laughs.

“Nah. Just warming. You should though.”

Taehyung chuckles, thoroughly relaxed and out of it. “Ouch.”

“Pale skin is in right now,” Yoongi says flatly.

“Lies.” Taehyung shakes his head. “Fuckin’ vamp lies.”

“Hey, Yoongi—I’m into it,” Jimin says, smiling at Yoongi, teasing but reassuring. And Yoongi rolls his eyes but he smiles too, Jeongguk catches it, glancing at them only briefly. Any longer and it would feel intrusive. The worn out fabric of Jimin’s red aloha shirt—a total shitty tourist thing Yoongi bought for him years ago that he still wears out of irony—billows in the sea breeze. So cute, the two of them.

“Jesus,” Taehyung says, watching them as well. “You seeing this shit, Jeon?”

Jeongguk laughs. Sure he is. His calf brushes against Taehyung’s, probably lying too close considering the heat, but their towels are (kind of) too small to allow for more distance.

His limbs ache from last night. It’s not like he did anything or fucked anyone—thank God, considering the slim pickings consisted of Changmin and a few other skeevy-looking bodies—it’s just he was standing for so long. Right now, melting into the scratchy towels and watching the sunbeams move like water in the sky, he imagines all that grime of yesterday washing off, fading, and himself getting better, purer.

“That guy last night,” Taehyung begins, facing the clouds.

“Don’t,” Jeongguk grumbles.

“That guy,” Taehyung says again, this time with a smile, “he was totally coming onto you, right?”

“Don’t.” Jeongguk groans and lifts an arm, brings it over his eyes. But Yoongi and Jimin are already listening too, asking what, who.

“I saw it. And you liked it.”

“What happened?” Yoongi sits up. “Tell me. Gimme the dirt, all of it.”

“The curious case of Slut Jeon,” Jimin says, probably thinking he’s funny or something. “Wanna hear it.”

“Don’t,” Jeongguk repeats, his arm still slung over his eyes. “Nothing happened. Only a little happened. Nothing big happened.”

“That’s just ‘cause you’re boring,” Taehyung says, pokes his side. Then, to Yoongi and Jimin: “You know Changmin?”

They nod. Seems everyone’s in the loop except for Jeongguk.

“Yeah, so, that guy. Jeon here reeled in the hottest thing on the West Coast last night. Just sitting there, gettin’ drunk and lookin’ pretty like he does.”

“Changmin’s not even that hot,” Jeongguk says. “Seven.”

“Point five?”

“Sure. So average. I’ve done better, done worse.”

“Yeah, okay. Tell that to Yongsun. Anyways—” Taehyung makes a gesture with his hands. This isn’t the biggest story but their lives aren’t that exciting to begin with, so it works as entertainment.

“Changmin?” Jimin prompts.

“They fuck or what?” Yoongi asks.

“So fuckin’ nosy,” Jeongguk mutters, but Taehyung’s already talking.

It’s not any experience he really wants to relive, which isn’t to say it was a shitty moment, but it also wasn’t one of his proudest. How he initially stood there and giggled and blushed and lowkey faked it under Changmin’s open attention—especially as he got a few more drinks in. Sometimes Jimin’s right about the whole Slut Jeon thing, only sometimes.

“You get his number?” Yoongi asks.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, trying his best to appear casual about all this. “Ain’t gonna call it. It’s just—formality. You know me, always nice.”

Always nice,” Taehyung scoffs.

“Shut up. Such a douchebag—and take these off, you look like one too.” Jeongguk reaches forward, pinches the thin metal bridge of Taehyung’s sunglasses and plucks them off his face. He’s left squinting and frowning.

“Why don’t you like those? They were expensive. Got ‘em at some bougie outlet on main.”

“Big deal. Everyone can fake bougie if they wanna.” Jeongguk puts them on, gives Taehyung a proud smile, toothy and dorky. “I look better in them anyways.”

“As if,” Taehyung echoes him. “Here, get the full look. KTH name brand.”

Taehyung takes off his necklace, the shark tooth one that Jeongguk hates just as much as the shades, and motions for Jeongguk to sit up and lean closer. He does. Jeongguk shivers at the way Taehyung brushes his hair away from his neck, how it feels so soft and weightless. Then Taehyung slides the necklace over Jeongguk’s head, the leather cord coming to rest around his neck.

“See? Beauty.” Taehyung nods, satisfied, and frowns at him as if he’s studying the little details. “I can see it.”

“Hm?”

“Why Changmin went for your ass. In a weird way, y’know? I see it. A guy like that’s way too hot for you but—”

“Okay,” Jeongguk interrupts him, patting Taehyung’s knee and standing up. “Okay, you can shut up.”

“Where you going?” Taehyung looks up at him, squinting and blinded by the harsh brightness of the world.

“Waves. You wanna?” he asks, even though he knows the answer.

Taehyung scoffs and stands, stretching. “Why would I not? Listen, folks—” he turns to Yoongi and Jimin, both fully reclined and soaking up the sun. The asshole-ish part of Jeongguk’s brain wonders if Yoongi remembered to put on sunscreen. “Don’t miss us too much.”

“No worries.” Jimin waves them to the side. “Move. Blocking the sun.”

Taehyung turns away and touches the inside of Jeongguk’s wrist. The pads of his fingers are calloused, his palm warm and sweaty. It’s gross but Jeongguk doesn’t mind. Then Taehyung gestures at his face. “Take this shit off. You look like a poser.”

“You mean I look like you?” Jeongguk grins and removes the sunglasses, throwing them on the towel. The necklace, though, he leaves on. Just because.

“Jesus. Stay rude like this and pretty boy Changmin won’t want your ass anymore.”

“Stop talking about him.” He grabs Taehyung’s board, an ugly, orange thing with a fat, blue stripe across the middle, some white flower patterns on the nose. Now that Taehyung works at a surf shop, he should be able to afford a better one. As this point it’s mostly that he doesn’t care enough to bother, and that he has a little bit of loyalty and attachment to his old one. Jeongguk brushes off the sand and holds it out to him, the leash dangling from the side. Some of the grains stick to the board wax they’d spread on earlier.

“Why?” Taehyung asks as Jeongguk grabs his own board, red and white and—in his head—classy as fuck. They begin walking down the beach, a slow pace, the sand seeping between their toes, boards tucked under their arms. “He’s not bad. Like, totally rolling in it and kinda haughty but…other than that, he’s pretty solid. I’d suck his cock for free if I got paid.”

Jeongguk snorts. “The other day you were saying you’d let him fuck you. The hell happened to that?”

“Rash decisions.” Taehyung waves it off. “Surprised he went for you, even with your acne scars and all. Like this big one—boink. Right here.”

Jeongguk’s quick to bat Taehyung’s hand away from his cheek. “My acne scars have faded. And that one ain’t even an acne scar, you jackass.”

“What is it then?”

“Battle wound. From you.”

“Psh. What?”

“Back in high school, I think. When your stupid board hit me in the face.”

Taehyung blanks for a moment, but then he nods. “Shit, yeah…oops.” And he shrugs, not seeming guilty at all. “Whatever. Hey”—he nudges Jeongguk—“you see that wave?”

Looking out, Jeongguk sees a bigger wave building on the horizon, foaming as it rolls toward the shore. It’s too close to where the waves are breaking, and the two of them are standing too far from the water to make it, but Taehyung’s a dreamer.

“Fight me for it,” he says, and breaks out running.

 


 

Moments like these, Jeongguk can almost feel it—the drop, the further fall.

Right now Taehyung’s on a wave, a substantial one, far out from shore. Jeongguk can barely see him, a silhouette against the filtered sunlight through the clear blue water, board slicing the smooth face.

He’s good. Jeongguk knows that.

Often he and Taehyung have competed, but it’s never been serious and they consider themselves evenly matched. The big difference is style. And right now Jeongguk can really see it.

Maybe he should feel like a creep, just watching his friend surf like this, but Jeongguk’s floating in the warm water, resting on his board and letting the waves rock him about, the sun hot on his tan skin, and Taehyung’s a real sight on the waves. Balanced and in control, poised and almost professional.

One with the water, that’s Taehyung’s motto. He goes about surfing with a much cleaner method than Jeongguk, who mostly relies on making the water his bitch.

That oneness Taehyung preaches, it shows here in his graceful carve and clean trim, board angled just right as he cruises down the line, leading the crash of the wave. Right up until the very end, riding it out.

Good?

Jeongguk can’t hear him yelling from all this way, but he sees him floating afterward, waving his hands wide.

“Great!” Jeongguk yells back, coupling it with an over-exaggerated wave as well, just as silly.

 


 

Hours later, Jeongguk is fucking spent but still relatively enjoying himself. Right now his and Taehyung’s “surfing” has somewhat devolved into waist-deep wading and shitty conversations, the waning waves occasionally crashing against their sides as the tide falls.

“You should call him,” Taehyung says.

“You should drop it.” Jeongguk splashes water at Taehyung. The ocean is so warm today, feels like silk as his fingers glide through it. An offshore wind blows toward the waves, smooths the arch and makes them rise up high.

“I’m just pushing you in the right direction.”

“Of?”

“Sex and glory. And, like, self-assertion.”

“Huh.” Jeongguk nods and wades a little deeper, seeing a drop in the sand beneath the water, its blue becoming a darker shade a couple metres off. “How’s that? The self-assertion part, I mean. The sex and glory I get, sorta.”

“Proof,” Taehyung explains, wading deeper with Jeongguk, going until their toes are just barely touching the sand. They’re hanging onto their boards, relying on them to keep them afloat instead of having to put in effort. “I dunno, of moving on and shit. Imagine Changmin. Getting with him. A wet, hot, middle-finger type of fuck, like saying suck on that to getting dumped—”

“It was mutual.”

“Okay. But, like, story was you were totally hosed when you were with her and still hosed but kinda less hosed without her. Right? So just”—Taehyung shrugs and rolls over, doing a starfish float as the subtle waves lap at his body—“fuck someone, I dunno. Have fun.”

“I am having fun.” It sounds pathetic even to his ears. When he thinks about Yongsun it’s always the same, the bad shit coming back again. Everything about their relationship, such a contrived, sexual thing, pumped full of acid and mismanaged emotions. Thoughts he’s always too quick to be rid of.

“So am I, really. I get you, buddy. But Changmin.” Lying on his back and lazing around like this, Taehyung smiles at the sky. His hair fans out, swaying in the waves. Jeongguk watches the nose of his board slice the surface of the water, the splashes like malformed, rippling pearls. “He’s gotta be fun.”

Jeongguk snorts and says nothing.

Taehyung goes on, crystal seawater running along his chest. Tan and firm, skin taut over his ribs. “He’s hot though. Right? Don’t you think? ‘Cause I think. Wanna wear his ass as a hat.”

“Dude, what’s that even mean?

Both Taehyung and Jeongguk take a moment, actually bothering to think about it.

“Face-in-ass,” Taehyung concludes too quickly.

“So you’d eat out his butt?”

“Sure.”

“Bull.” Jeongguk skims his palm over the surface of the water, splashing some more at Taehyung, who doesn’t react much at all. Whether to attribute it to laziness or inattention, Jeongguk isn’t sure. Probably a bit of both to be honest. “As if you could get him ass-up and open. For you.”

“I so could,” Taehyung says, affronted, because apparently his only virtues lie in dominating snobby rich kids who stand taller and wider than him—a feat Jeongguk is 90% sure the guy’s never actually accomplished. “You, on the other hand, Mr. Jeon Bottom Jeongguk—”

“Bottom my ass.”

Exactly, your ass. He’s like 10 feet tall, and I bet his dick hangs down to his fuckin’ knees. Flaccid.”

Jeongguk bursts out laughing, a hard sort of laugh that comes from his gut. This is a stupid conversation, but today is such a nice day and he hasn’t felt this content in a while, a finespun rightness falling over the moment like feathers.

This time it’s Taehyung who’s splashing water, childish and silly as they drift back and forth together in the waves. Jeongguk flinches and laughs harder when the droplets spatter over his cheek.

“Ten bucks you’re a total size queen.” Reaching forward, Taehyung turns his body somewhat upright to less resemble some repulsive dead thing drifting on the water’s surface, poking Jeongguk’s arm. Jeongguk grabs his wrist with a bit too much force.

“Then why would I be shooting for his dusty dick? Changmin’s reserved for you and your shallow-holed, twink ass. I don’t want any of this.”

“But the point. It’s not about want, Jeon. The point is he’d dom you.”

“Then he’d dom you too, by that logic.”

“Jeez.” Taehyung snorts. “Fuck’s that mean?”

“It’s a hierarchy. Of dommage.”

“I’m not at the bottom.”

“Kim, you’re always at the bottom.”

Taehyung jerks his wrist free from Jeongguk’s grip, their skin slick and glistening. Beneath the water their legs brush against each other’s as they float, a subdued homoeroticism lining all of this, aggressively and unnecessarily so.

“I’m not even in this hierarchy. Stop making it gay, we’re not like that.” As the words leave Taehyung’s mouth, Jeongguk almost wants to roll his eyes. Yeah, so straight, all this—Taehyung’s calf touches Jeongguk’s shin for a second beneath the water, their bodies so close. Wow, so straight, so not like that. “You and Changmin, though. That guy, he’d fuck you so hard you’d get pregnant.”

“God.” Jeongguk doesn’t even have a response, just snorting and rolling his eyes.

From the way Taehyung smiles you’d think he’s accomplished something better, something more worthwhile than winning this moronic argument. His eyes look so bright like this, pupils constricted in the sun as he squints. Or maybe he’s just happy, so happy Jeongguk feels it too, this dumb, fuzzy thought creeping into the back of his mind—say it, say it.

It’s good timing that it happens, because the next thing Jeongguk hears is his name being called from somewhere onshore. When he looks, it’s Hoseok. A couple other people too, but it’s just Hoseok that he knows.

Taehyung kicks Jeongguk’s shin. “Good timing, huh? My skin’s pruning. Come on.”

Such good timing. Jeongguk feels those words, the confession, the embarrassing, stammered string it would have come out as, die in the back of his throat. Leave his mouth dry and sooty.

Then Taehyung, pushing his board over the calm water, the waves dying down along with the wind, starts toward the shore. Guides Jeongguk come with, a soft hand brushing right over the waistband of his board shorts. A shiver threatens to move through him but he suppresses it, chalks it up to the cooling ocean in the lingering wisps of late-afternoon heat.

“Listen, kiddos,” Hoseok says as soon as they’re close enough to hear him over the hushed rise and fall of the waves. “You promised you’d help. Instead you’re out there, floating and gaying.”

Jeongguk furrows his brow. “Help with what?”

“Bonfire.” Hoseok looks at Jeongguk like he should remember. He doesn’t and nods anyway, and Hoseok laughs and shakes his head. “Jesus. So typical.”

“Sorry, bud.” Taehyung laughs as he says it, squeezing the water from his hair.

Jeongguk’s eyes follow the gesture of Taehyung’s body, the smooth line moving down from his raised and bent elbow, how his shoulder blade protrudes, the roll of his joints and the spill of water down the diamond-dented muscles of his back. Skin bronze and wet and tight, the edge of a tan line gracing over his shorts.

And Jeongguk forces himself to look away.

 


 

After placing their boards back in the RV, towelling off their hair and getting dressed, Jeongguk and Taehyung help with the set-up—somewhat.

“Have you texted him?” Hoseok asks, referring to Changmin, leaning against the side of Jimin’s ‘04 pickup as Jeongguk hauls a cooler out of the back. Around them the gravel parking lot is awash with orange, the sun setting, people casting long shadows as they get things out of their trunks to take to the far end of beach.

“No way, slimy thing like that. Never will, either.”

“Why not?” Hoseok steps in Jeongguk’s path, stops him from leaving and stays there, looking mildly disappointed.

“Why not not?” Jeongguk tries, giving him a grin and hoping it’s enough.

“Just try. You’re pathetic like this.”

“Like what? I’m fine.”

“I know you are. But Jeongguk—”

A group of people pass by, chattering loudly. Hoseok shuts up, as if he doesn’t want them hearing this. Jeongguk watches them walk past, crossing onto the beach. Their shadows stretch out long and ripply in the low sun, morphed by the tiny dunes of the surface of the sand.

“We should go too,” Jeongguk says to Hoseok. Grabbing the cooler, he bumps against him as he walks past. “Come on, we’re being losers over here.”

“Jeon—”

“I’m over it,” he promises, turning around. Looking at Hoseok as he stands there, looking partly pissed off, Jeongguk wonders what the guy thinks the real reason is. If he really thinks Jeongguk’s recent mood is all because of Yongsun.

In reality, it’s an amalgamated thing. The past fuck-up with Yongsun and a few more stacked fuck-ups. All that curious love and whatever else—drowned in some other things, some other people.

“Totally over it.”

“I know you are,” Hoseok says like he always does, patting Jeongguk’s shoulder in a way that feels too consoling, considering the general ease of how they handle the topic. “You’re right, we’re being losers over here. Come on.”

Jeongguk follows after him and they fall into a steady pace toward the end of the beach, gravel crunching under their sandals.

 


 

“Jeongguk here,” Taehyung says, drunk and loud, clapping a hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder, “gets so fuckin’ meek around the hot ones.”

“Dude, shut up,” Jeongguk grumbles, shakes that hand off. He turns the tuning peg the slightest bit. It’s such a cheap guitar that it falls even worse out of tune. “Got such a big mouth. I’m tuning.”

“Doing a shit job.” Taehyung leans closer to look, his chest pressed against Jeongguk’s shoulder, his body feeling hotter than the bonfire before them. “Want me to do it?”

“You’re worse than I am.”

Glancing away from the guitar’s headstock, Jeongguk looks at Taehyung. He’s too close, chin on Jeongguk’s shoulder, firelight flickering off his flushed cheekbones.

It’s been a few hours since they’ve set up the bonfire, the sun long set, only darkness on the beach now. From a distance they must look stupid, this group of a dozen or so young people sat around the fire pit in the tiny outdoor amphitheatre, buzzed and relaxed. Jeongguk doesn’t know half these folks. The wooden planks of the seats make his ass numb.

“But what happened?” Seokjin presses, sitting behind Jeongguk, up one level. Perfect height for playing with his hair apparently, since it’s all he’s been doing for about the past hour. Behind Taehyung is Wheein, doing the same thing to him.

Jeongguk’s not jealous. Like the rush in, rush out of the waves, people come and go and he’s used to it. These tidal people, ebbing and flowing—totally used to it. It’s just that guys with long hair are a hot commodity in this economy, and Taehyung’s no exception, and Jeongguk’s not jealous.

“Nothing. Stop”—he lightly swats at Seokjin’s hands—“pulling my hair, Jesus. And stop asking.”

Taehyung snorts. “You’re always a hardass when you’re not gettin’ any. When you are it’s, like, all you ever talk about.”

“Selective prude,” Seokjin murmurs, still playing with Jeongguk’s hair.

“I think it’s classy,” Wheein says.

Seokjin nods at her fingers, doing some complex thing with Taehyung’s hair. “Are you braiding?”

“Yeah. Are you?”

“No. I will.” He digs a foot into Jeongguk’s back. “Jeon, what do you want?”

“A fishtail,” he says, once again fiddling with the tuning pegs. “Like Edward Elric but cooler.”

“Gotcha.”

“Dude.” Taehyung turns to Wheein. “Do mine like that.”

“Can’t, I already started a four strand. And”—she gently tilts his chin so he’s facing forward again—“stop moving your head.”

“Mm.” So instead he slides a bit closer to Jeongguk, the sand scraping between the wooden planks and his pants, and leans his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder. “’Kay.”

Seeing her in the corner of his eye, Jeongguk feels a dangerous knock in his chest. She’s beautiful, yeah. Totally Taehyung’s style of beautiful and, in a way, Jeongguk’s as well. A freer than free kind of person, made for and on the coast. It’s not hard to imagine Taehyung’s fingers threaded together with hers, rougher than romance but still sweet.

“God,” Taehyung murmurs, “you smell like a virgin.”

Jeongguk snorts. “It’s bergamot.”

“Ah. Supposed to make you less sad, I think it was? Hoseok’s words.”

“Yeah. I dunno, I just like the smell.”

“Virginal?”

“Shut up, Tae. It’s just nice. Citrusy.”

They’re close and speaking quietly so only they can really hear each other. It’s odd how private this feels considering the people that surround them, all caught amidst their own conversations.

“Fair. You get it from Jimin’s shop?”

“Yeah. All that aromatherapy shit—I don’t really buy into it, but those oils are fuckin’ rad. You use ‘em in your hair, right? Sometimes?”

“Yeah. Coconut.”

“Jesus. And you say bergamot’s virginal. At least I don’t smell like my mom’s Body Shop candles.”

“One day,” Taehyung breathes, pausing to take a swig of his beer, “you’re gonna have nasty-ass, tangled hair, and you’re gonna wish you were cool like your old buddy Taehyung here, using coconut oil and shit. All proper care. This is what those pretty people do.”

“So you’re gonna become pretty, then?”

At this point Jeongguk’s forgotten about the guitar. It’s shitty anyways, the wood of the neck too soft and weakened by the humidity. No way he’s gonna get this busted thing tuned right. Instead he’s looking at Taehyung, the swooping neckline of his tank and his jutting collar bones. The curious bareness there, he realizes after staring a few seconds too long, is the lack of the shark tooth necklace, his inane trademark—still resting around Jeongguk’s neck from earlier.

“Joke’s on you. I’m already there.”

Jeongguk hums, smiling. A familiar tingle over his skin. His entire front side feels warm before the large fire, occasionally being stoked by some other people sitting around it. “Pretty boy—and a hypocrite now, aren’t you?”

“Please.” Taehyung’s breath rushes over Jeongguk’s neck, raises goosebumps. “If I’m pretty then you’re worse.”

“As if, Kim. All I’m hearin’ are excuses.”

“Really.” Taehyung’s hand is on Jeongguk’s upper thigh now. When did that happen? Hot and sweaty, pressed right next to where the body of the acoustic is resting. Unnecessary. “Pretty boy JJK. You’ve got a good thing going—athletic but kinda shy, cute when you wanna be and straight up sexy without even trying. Like, I’m just saying.”

The last part sounds like an afterthought. The fire cracks loudly, a blackened log snapping in the heat, the careful wood pyramid falling and the flame getting bigger. It’s intense and stunning.

“Like, as a friend,” Taehyung says in Jeongguk’s silence, taking another swig of beer and staring into the fire.

Jeongguk nods. Don’t make it gay, Jeon.

“Y’know. Like,” Taehyung says, “friendly.”

“You’re rambling,” Jeongguk settles on saying.

“I don’t ramble.”

“Yeah. Sure you don’t.”

This time when Taehyung takes a swig, he tilts the bottle back upright too quickly and it bubbles up over the lip.

“Scrub. You even know how to drink a beer?” Jeongguk laughs, the sound tight in his throat for some stupid reason. He can never drop this, the sorta-sweet shit Taehyung says that always makes him feel like he’s floating, body like those nice things caught in the breeze, petals and autumn leaves. “Jesus, man.”

The bubbles run down Taehyung’s knuckles.

Bad tension, Jeongguk thinks. It’s always there. His shoulders feel looser now though, looser still as Taehyung barks out a laugh, crudely licking up the side of his bottle so it’s not as sticky. Wet and pink muscle slick on brown glass. Jeongguk’s blood is liquor and hormones and his gut burns as he watches Taehyung.

“What should I play?” Jeongguk asks. “Gimme any song. You’re the one singing this shit.”

“In Your Eyes.”

“Not Peter Gabriel.”

“But you said any song—”

“Any song but Peter Gabriel’s songs.”

“You just don’t know art, Jeon. Hey, Seokjin”—Taehyung turns around, jolting when Wheein tells him once again stay still, giving his hair a quick tug—“ow, Jesus, okay. What’s a good song to play?”

From off to the side, sitting somewhere next to Hoseok and in Seokjin’s shadow, Jeongguk hears Jimin call play wonderwall while Seokjin also says, “Play Wonderwall.”

Taehyung’s not having it. “You guys—go fuck yourself.

“Everyone here’s a piece of shit.” Jeongguk nudges Taehyung with his elbow. His arm’s starting to feel sore just from being propped up uncomfortably on the curve of the acoustic for so long. He doesn’t feel drunk enough for this but the cooler’s on the opposite side of the fire, a good 10 steps away at least, and he can’t be fucked to get up. “Just pick your own.”

“How ‘bout you pick, yeah?”

Seokjin’s still braiding Jeongguk’s hair but all Jeongguk’s thinking about is how good Taehyung looks with his hair pulled back like that, even if the hairstyle itself is intended as a lame joke, solely to make him look stupid—a four strand braid, as Wheein had said. He looks nice with it.

Taehyung turns to Jeongguk, blinks slow and drunk, looks so bright. The light of the flames dance in his eyes. For a moment they stay like that, eye-to-eye and smiling at each other, Taehyung coming alive in the firelight, Jeongguk falling harder.

“I’m feelin’ romance. Love songs. Hit me with something good.” Taehyung puts his beer down, his version of getting serious. “I feel like I can do anything tonight.”

 


 

The next morning, they’re sitting in the outdoor seating of a sweets shop along the seaside walkway.

The ocean crashes on the seawall, hits the concrete like it’s angry, or maybe just lonely. People cling to the steel railing lining the quaint brick path, looking down at the water. The sounds wash over Jeongguk’s muddled mind and he can’t quite tell if the rushing waves are relaxing or not.

“All this good shit,” Seokjin says, rising sun beating down on his sweating face as they talk about unattainable travel plans, “and all you lot can think about is escapism.”

Taehyung twirls his plastic spoon. “I don’t like it here. Surf town where less than half the people even know how to surf.”

“They’re all tourists, is why,” Seokjin says.

“All posers.”

“It’s ironic.”

“It’s filthy.”

“So are you.”

“I’m—”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes because he already knows what Taehyung’s gonna say: classy, sophisticated, dirty but decent enough for it to count.

“Shut up, Kim,” Seokjin says, also knowing what to expect. “Eat your ice cream.”

Right now Jeongguk’s eating Neapolitan ice cream from a plastic cup. Taehyung has strawberry, his lips cold and pale pink around the white spoon. His tongue looks firm and wet as he licks into the dip.

“But Amsterdam,” Seokjin says, “I hear you can get so fucked up there.”

“That’s its only selling point, really.” Jeongguk shrugs, dragging his spoon through a chocolate strip of ice cream and frowning when he accidentally scrapes up some vanilla as well. The combined flavours make his head pound harder, blood and brain liquid hitting the insides of his ears. “That’s all everyone says when you talk about Amsterdam. Like, wow, you hear about all the money you can spend to fuck someone? Like, wow, can’t do that here.”

“Some novelty to it cause it’s legal,” Seokjin says.

“Sure. It’s the reason Tae wants to go there.”

“Hey—no,” Taehyung butts in, licking his spoon clean with bizarre care. Jeongguk stares at his tongue and wonders if it would be cold against his own. “That’s the reason Hoseok wants to go there. I’m interested in, like, the history. Anne Frank House. Van Gogh Museum. And such.”

And such.” Jeongguk snorts. “And why do you wanna learn about the history?”

“I dunno. I really like—the culture? I mean, I hear they’re more left-ish there, right? Politically?”

Seokjin says, “My friend went there. Said it’s just like here, tourist-trappy and tory-washed. Can’t escape it.”

“But what if you could?”

“Such a dreamer.” Jeongguk swirls his ice cream, a melting, gushy mess of light brown and pink, like cow udders. The thought makes it ten times more unappealing. “And don’t start that talk again about looking for the good in the world or whatever. I’m eating here.”

“Wheein’s like that.”

“Hm?” At the change in topic, Jeongguk looks up.

“All about change.”

“Progressive?” Seokjin’s hair glimmers in the sun, the soft orange light of morning bleeding over the coastline.

Taehyung nods. “She says that. Really she’s just rich and hates her parents. Some hail Mary technique, going against them, but it’s all she’s got. Her last stand, I think, against how we’re all kneeling before the system. I hear it too often.”

“Well, you know her,” Seokjin says.

“All for the everyman?” Jeongguk guesses.

“Says the girl that’s never worked a day in her life.”

“So salty today,” Taehyung comments. Scrunches his nose and holds out a spoonful of strawberry ice cream to Seokjin. “Have some.”

He snorts but lets Taehyung feed him anyway. Jeongguk does his best to ignore the ugly pang in his chest. It’s Seokjin for fuck’s sake, get it together. Nothing’s gonna happen between those two and, fuck, Jeongguk wouldn’t even care if something did. Shouldn’t care.

“Is she really like that or are you guys just playing it up?” Jeongguk asks.

“Kind of. Not really.” Taehyung swirls his ice cream, collecting some onto the spoon. “Bad actors are always more interesting offstage. That’s the saying. Kinda true in this case.” Then he’s leaning over the table, arm extended, strawberry ice cream dolloped on his spoon. “You too, buddy.”

It’s gooey on Jeongguk’s tongue. The knowledge that this is the very spoon Taehyung had been somewhat sexually licking over runs rampant in his head—that applies to Seokjin too, but it’s kind of different. Just because. Lips wrapped around the spoon, glancing at Taehyung, Jeongguk feels a hard thud of his heart, a swoop of his gut. Chalks it up to the hangover because it’s simpler.

“Soon,” Taehyung says, settling back into his seat, “you and Wheein are gonna get real close. I’ll make it happen.”

“Maybe,” Jeongguk says, and doubts it. This topic plunks down on his shoulders, and he wants it gone. He’s more than done with his ice cream, playing with the cup on the table. “Strawberry’s so gross, dude. Why’d you get strawberry?”

Taehyung scoffs. “Because it’s my life and I’m a free being. Listen”—he finishes off the last of his ice cream, the tip of his tongue poking at the pink sweetness lining the corner of his lips—“didn’t you have somewhere to be? Instead of shit-talking me and my choices?”

“Sounds like you wanna get rid of me.”

Never.”

“I do have somewhere to be, though.”

“Now?”

Jeongguk sighs and leans back in his chair. “Yeah. Now. Promised Jimin I’d help with some fucking clean-up. Stocks, dusting, other shit.”

“At his shop?” Seokjin asks, now eating Jeongguk’s ice cream.

“Yeah. At his shop. Yoongi’s gonna be there too, so I’m gonna have to deal with that.”

“Praying for you,” Taehyung says. “Bring me souvenirs. Polaroids of the sunburnt one getting fingerbanged to Rodriguez and that. They do that apparently. Romance.”

“Real romance,” Seokjin says. “Nasty love.”

Jeongguk says, “I think Hoseok’s gonna be there too.”

Double nasty.”

Beneath the table, Taehyung’s foot pokes the side of Jeongguk’s leg. “Get on with it, buckaroo. Promises are promises.”

“Mm. Responsibilities,” Seokjin says around a mouthful of Neapolitan, nodding sagely.

“You’re one to talk,” Jeongguk mutters. Stands up, stretches his back, sighs. The ocean wind lifts the hem of his shirt, cool on the skin of his lower abs.

“Oh, and—Guk,” Taehyung says.

Jeongguk looks down just in time to catch Taehyung glancing away from his exposed stomach.

“Uh—I’ve got the radio gig tonight. Till midnight.”

Jeongguk nods. A strong gust of wind blows, tangy with sea salt. It plays with the ends of Taehyung’s hair, still sweaty from last night’s bonfire. He and Jeongguk probably need to shower soon. The ocean isn’t the best in terms of aiding hygiene.

“You’ll come pick me up?” Taehyung asks.

It feels so normal, this pattern of how they always are, always have been. This solid friendship and the delicate balance of all the shit they keep beneath their tongues, the things they should say, the same things that might ruin everything.

This ease, papery and soft—Jeongguk doesn’t want it gone.

He smiles. “Sure thing.”

 


 

“I think the worst one we ever had was that ‘Ribbed Rippler’ thing,” Jimin says, playing with a bottle of lube—sealed and clean. “Something about it. ‘80s Predator style.”

“What’d it look like?” Yoongi asks, sprawled out across the countertop of this aromatherapy-cross-sex-toy joint Jimin runs.

“Ribbed and ripply.”

“No shit. Gimme details.”

“I dunno. Atrocious? I had better things to worry about. I’m just sayin’, that’s the worst thing we ever sold.”

“Anyone buy it?” Hoseok asks. He leans against the counter on the opposite side of Yoongi, shooting cautionary glances at the hand Jimin keeps running up and down Yoongi’s thigh. Jeongguk watches it too, those short fingers hovering somewhat possessively, toying with the hem of Yoongi’s shorts. He wonders if Jimin will eventually get bored enough to stop giving a shit about decency and start jacking the guy right in this musty shop.

It’s been four hours. Jeongguk bets there are about three more.

“One person. Lady who runs the tarot bullshit at the boardwalk sometimes. Y’know.”

Jeongguk grimaces. “She’s, like, 80.”

“52, but close enough. Too wrinkly for the hardcore life, if you ask me, but it’s not my business.”

“Really isn’t.” Hoseok sighs and drums his fingers over the counter, a cigarette between his lips that he’s not actually bothering to smoke. It just stays there, lit, embers glowing in the dim shop. Grey wisps crawl upward, suspended in the humidity. “What’d she do with it?”

Jimin snorts. “Fuck you think, Sherlock?”

“Went to town on that dusty thing,” Yoongi says. A wonderful image. Jeongguk frowns, feels bile crawling up his throat. “Y’know, sometimes I think about getting old. Like, not ‘old’ but old.”

“Like?” Hoseok taps the ashes off his cigarette and puts it back between his lips.

“Like real old. Not like, oh, my thighs ain’t tight and rubbery anymore, but like, oh, my dick’s fuckin’ broke. Old like when I’m pulling flaccids no matter what I do. Scrunchy-balled and soft-cocked.”

“We still got time,” Hoseok says.

Jeongguk nods at the cigarette balanced in Hoseok’s mouth, the slow smoulder. Just looking at the tiny embers makes the heat feel worse. “Smoke like you do and it might come earlier.”

It’s midday now. Even being indoors like they are, shielded from the sun in this small, damp shop, it’s unbearable. Ugly moisture crawls beneath their skin. Heat seeps through the cracks in the walls, soaks in from the low ceiling.

“Not even smoking. I just like the smell. Keepin’ it lit.”

“So light some incense,” Jimin says. “I can spare some stock. No one comes here anyway, business is dry as hell.”

“Look at that,” Yoongi teases. “Too hippie for a hippie-town. Breaking records, babe.”

Jeongguk hops off the counter. “Don’t babe in front of me, you nasties.”

“Jeez, hear that?” Jimin says, rolling his eyes. “We got royalty on our hands.”

The past few hours had been spent cleaning the shop and taking inventory, something Jeongguk helps Jimin with from time to time when he’s got a free day—which is pretty much every day. During these times he gets to learn quite a few ‘sexing-up tips’, as Jimin calls them. The guy likes to think he’s suddenly an all-knowing pimp god just because his glorified Bath and Body Works carries some lube and dildos.

All Jeongguk knows is this place smells like synthetic 21st century sex and burnt, gummy resin.

Taehyung likes this smell. Sometimes when Jeongguk comes home with this fragrance caked in his pores, Taehyung casually says something about him smelling good and buries his face in Jeongguk’s shoulder or neck, nuzzles there a little. It tickles when he does that, and Jeongguk always acts like he hates it—those hands that settle around his waist, the way Taehyung jokingly pulls him closer, face pressed into the crook of his shoulder.

Yeah, Jeongguk fucking hates when Taehyung does all that.

“Sandalwood?” Jeongguk asks, staring at the tall shelves of incense sticks, his hands shoved in the pockets of his shorts. Small labels are etched in the wood—amber, patchouli, ginger.

“Nah,” Jimin says. “Not right for the mood. Myrrh.”

“Murr…”

“No, like—m-y-r—”

“Yeah, yeah. Got it. Murr.” Reaching up, Jeongguk grabs a couple sticks. “Got a light? Tae stole mine, I think.”

“Yeah, right here.” Hoseok twirls his rusty custom lighter between his fingers, something he chanced on at a pawn shop a few months back. “’S too damn hot for this, really.”

They light the incense anyway, all three at once, watching the tips smoulder, ashes crumbling into the clay burner. Myrrh, or whatever the fuck it is, turns out to smell pretty good.

“Where even is Tae?” Yoongi asks, looking at Jeongguk, squinting when he gets a wisp of smoke in his eye.

“Radio. Slow rock, 103 point something. Jammin’ out and wasting time.”

“So just like you, pretty much?”

“Yeah, but he’s probably high off his ass right now. I’ve got dignity and, like, incense, I guess. Murr.”

“Myrrh,” Jimin corrects, and Jeongguk pointedly ignores him.

“That station sucks anyways,” Yoongi says, threading his hands behind his head. The counter is essentially his bed now. In the faint yellow flicker of light, Jeongguk can see the sweat on his back smear onto the lacquered countertop. “Just a bunch of baked, west-coast quasi-hippies. Is anyone ever sober?”

“Nah. That’s its selling point. What else has it got? Bad tunes, bad reception.”

“Super fuzzy,” Jimin supplies. “Dumb hosts.”

“They play too much Pink Floyd,” Hoseok says. “Like, jeez, get over it. ‘S fuckin’ Pink Floyd, who cares?”

Jimin hums, then adds, “Lotsa girls tune in ‘cause of Taehyung though. Like, they got it hot for his voice when he’s a few hits in.”

Jeongguk knows what he means.

“Deep,” Jimin continues. “I mean, he’s kinda gross and annoying and I hate him, but when it’s just his voice, you know, through the speaker sometimes, when I don’t have to see his face? Kinda nice. Fuck the other hosts, they all suck. Like, even worse than Tae. But his voice is all right.”

“But he always sounds like he’s stoned,” Yoongi says, “even when he’s not. And his singing voice at bonfires sucks ass.” He nods at Jeongguk. “And you suck ass on the guitar. Why do we let you do that?”

“’Cause we’re the life of the party.”

“You’re just loud.”

“What more do you want?”

“Class?”

Jeongguk snorts. “Funny.”

It’s too stuffy in here, the walls too close together, the shelves too loaded, stocked with vegan, cruelty-free products and bottled fluids that smell like petunia petals and sand.

“You’d think,” Hoseok says, sort of in his own world, staring at the shelves of natural soaps and fiddling with an extinguished cigarette filter, “that radio thing would get him a girl easy.”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk looks at him. Sweat glimmers next to Hoseok’s short sideburns. The neckline of his tank-top is so low Jeongguk can see one of his nipples, body so lanky his ribs web beneath the skin.

“Yeah. Don’t you think? I dunno, he’s always going off about that shit.”

“Guess.”

“Maybe he could find you someone, too.” Hoseok nods at Jeongguk with a playful smile. “Since Changmin doesn’t seem to be your style.”

Jeongguk sighs and huffs a laugh. “All in due time.”

But it’s true, what Hoseok says about Taehyung. He’s always been interested in people. Jeongguk recalls poorly lit scenes, themselves half-clothed and classically not sober, maybe sitting on a couch or maybe leaning on a wall, always someplace dark and gross. Taehyung talking so someone. Jeongguk talking to someone else.

As if there are all these people that they’re both so interested in.

Sometimes Jeongguk thinks, like, hey, he’s a person too, so what the fuck?

What the fuck, Taehyung? What’s going on between us? Really. What the fuck.

He remembers when they were at Namjoon’s one night. A dirty, fast-paced thing a year or two ago where Jeongguk took speed for the first time and promised himself he’d never do it again. Taehyung’s hair had been a bit shorter then, just past his chin, kind of in that “awkward phase” of growing it out. The texture hasn’t seemed to change though, always sleek whenever Jeongguk would run his fingers through it.

These memories are mostly torn up, but the only thing Jeongguk remembers clearly is Taehyung leaning really close to this one woman who looked over twice his age as he grinned like the horny, young fuck he is and said Y’know, where I’m from we call older women like you noona.

Jeongguk remembers dragging him away and hitting the back of his head for that. They were both laughing though.

You don’t even know what that means.

I know it well enough.

That woman was older and his philosophy is if he can make anything sexual, he will.

Half plus seven, Tae. It’s weird.

Weird to see Taehyung with other people—of course Jeongguk didn’t voice this part. Over the years he’s gotten used to hearing about it, all that fornication talk boys tend to get up to, but it’s another thing to really see the lead-up. To have to face that twisting of his gut, to have to admit to himself on some level, yeah, shit fuckin’ hurts sometimes.

“He’s caught up right now though,” Jimin says. “Right?”

He’s looking at Jeongguk now. Like he expects him to know.

“Hm?”

“Tae. Caught up with some girl, right? Saw him with her last night. Kinda hippie, wearing those lesbian sandals—Birkenstocks? Braiding his hair?”

“Yeah—y’know, they’re just like. Y’know. Wheein. Her name’s Wheein.”

“He told me they’ve got a date set up,” Hoseok says so easily. Sounding bored, burned out, tired. Just like always. This is no news, just lazy talk to fill the air. “Well, not a date, I guess. But close, y’know. Close enough.”

Jeongguk hums. Waits for the familiar vile jealousy to make a home in his chest. A hot and heavy brand. It always comes and this time is no different.

The corner of the doorjamb catches his interest and he stares at that instead of making eye contact with anyone. It’s a dark oak colour, cracked and distended from the humidity.

“Bets on how long it’ll last this time.” Yoongi snorts.

“Ten,” Hoseok starts, then looks at Jimin.

“Fifteen.”

 


 

“You remember?” says Taehyung.

“Mm?” Jeongguk looks up and sees him silhouetted in the sunset, squinting through the harsh light. The sky looks too perfect, stretched wide like a painted cyclorama, clouds low and bubbly. The horizon goes on forever and from up here, on top of the RV, Jeongguk can see it all.

“Back when I first got this thing.” Taehyung smacks his hand on the metal edge where his feet hang off and sway, heels hitting the side of the vehicle. “That summer when we’d do this every day. Back, like, when we were lame, eighteen-year-old stoner virgins, super shitty on the waves and way too into that new school shit, tryna look cool. Get laid.”

“Psh. What’s changed?”

“Got older. Got laid.”

“Not like you’ve given up.” Jeongguk goes back to fiddling with his guitar. Now, substantially less drunk than he had been at the bonfire a few days ago, he has a much easier time tuning it.

“My lifelong quest.” Taehyung leans back on his hands, lets his head fall back, shakes his hair out. He smells like cigarette smoke, nice and rich. “But I’m talking about us back then.”

“What about it?” Jeongguk plucks out a small tune, headed nowhere and just enjoying the sounds of the steel strings and the world. The crash of the waves on the far end of the beach and the wind, the gulls.

“Dunno. Things were different back then. I just think about it sometimes. Like, having an RV was this big, floaty dream, a real novelty for me. Living with you was too. Never thought it’d happen. Then—man, y’know. Now we’re here.”

“Do you like it?” Jeongguk doesn’t know why he bothers to ask.

“’Course I do.”

“We got rained on that one time. Like, real bad. You remember that?”

“Yeah. But it was good, you know? Being up here, seeing everything. I think you kinda forget how big the ocean is—the world is—when you only ever see this part of it.”

Jeongguk snorts. A steel string buzzes as his finger grazes a fret. He’s not the best guitarist. “You’re losing me, man. Stop with this big-picture bullshit.”

“You get it though, right?” Taehyung looks at him then, the brown of his irises a gentler shade in the golden, sun-wrought haze. Light falls over his nose, glances off his cheek and chin, off the sweat gleaming down his neck.

“Totally get it.” Jeongguk plucks out a string of notes, satisfied as they begin to sound like music, less disjointed. “Back then. Us back then. Getting rained on was worth it.”

“What a time, too.” Taehyung runs his fingers through his hair, the long strands weaving over his knuckles. His hair has a slightly different quality than Jeongguk’s—doesn’t become something resembling a mane when it gets unkempt, which is why he can essentially grow it out as long as he wants. Jeongguk’s not jealous. “Back before we got our shit sorted. Back before Yongsun, even. Hell, back before you would admit you like cock. I mean, you still really never say it—”

“Fuck you, I’ll say it.”

“Hm?”

“I’ll say it,” Jeongguk repeats, this time with a little less conviction.

“You’ll say what?” Taehyung wiggles his eyebrows and pokes Jeongguk’s side. Jeongguk flinches and reaches around the body of his guitar to smack that hand away.

“Kim.”

Taehyung’s incessant. He brushes off Jeongguk’s flat stare easily and makes a kissy face. “That you’re a cockslut, Gukkie?”

“Fuck off.”

They’re both laughing though, Taehyung teeth showing in a wide grin as his nose does that scrunching-up thing Jeongguk likes.

“Nah,” Taehyung says, waving a hand, “I’m just messin’ with you. I get it, the cockslut thing.” There’s a bizarre contrast between his crude words and his demeanour, the almost tranquil way he sits in the ocean breeze, letting it wash over him, taking in the world. “‘Cause dudes are kinda like—nah. Dudes are grody. But, fuck, you get a cock right in your face, all hard and hot and good, and it’s like, yes. Ugh. You feel me?”

Jeongguk stifles a laugh. “Fuck, sure thing, I guess.”

“Yeah.” Taehyung nods. “You get it.”

And Jeongguk does.

“Wasn’t your first fuck a guy?” Taehyung asks.

Jeongguk hums. “Yeah. Super shitty though. Pushed in too fast and his asshole bled.”

“Jesus.” Taehyung barks out a laugh. “So you’re, like, a shitty top, then?”

“Shitty everything,” Jeongguk amends, feeling calm and in a rather self-deprecating mood. “Should’ve seen me the first time I took it up the ass. I fuckin’ cried, dude. I mean, I’ve gotten better, sorta. At both. But also haven’t been with a guy in like a year, so.”

“Jeez. That Yongsun had you inebriated, huh?”

“…Inhibited?”

“Yeah, that.”

“Mm. Well, for one”—Jeongguk grabs his acoustic by the neck and places it next to him—“you’re an asshole.”

“Yup. For two?”

Jeongguk lies back. The clouds are thin, like shredded paper. “It’s kinda true.”

Kinda,” Taehyung scoffs. “You were missing out. Guys ain’t bad. Some good things to the gross parts.”

“Like?”

“Y’know. Easy things. Frottage when you’re feeling lazy, mutual handies in the shower. I think the no homo rule applies if it’s for the sake of convenience.”

“The shower or the handies?”

“I mean…both. Really—” A strong gust of wind blows then, carrying the fresh aroma of sea-salt and something older, an ancient comfort. It skims over Jeongguk’s skin, flits his thin tank about, the ends of his hair tickling his collarbones. “Really, ‘s like you were tied down or whatever.”

“All right, Mr. Modern Bachelor. C’mon, we all live differently. Relationships aren’t bad.”

“I know, I know. It’s just…you’re young and you’re you, and…fuck, I dunno.”

Slowly leaning back, Taehyung lies next to Jeongguk. They both watch the sky, the dark orange fading into red into purple, all tender hues in the dissipating sun-dazed chaos.

“You seem—like, recently, I dunno, ‘cause you just used to be so…with Yongsun, that entire year and a little bit more, you were never you. Not really. Not like I knew.” A flood of disjointed words. Taehyung turns to Jeongguk. “So are you—”

Jeongguk doesn’t need to hear the end of that to know what he means.

Are you better? Happy? Not-as-shit, at least?

“That makes no sense,” Jeongguk settles on saying. “You make no sense.”

The metal ridges of the RV’s roof dig into his shoulder blades as he rolls over and faces Taehyung. And now they’re looking at each other. That same bad thing lurches in Jeongguk’s gut—he could always say it if he wants.

He chews that shit up and swallows it. Smiles till it hurts.

“No damn sense, buddy.”

 


 

Jeongguk sits with his legs crossed, hunched forward, jittery fingers drumming over his ankles. Taehyung leans against his side, struggling through the last of the second blunt they’re sharing.

The bitter tang of lime soaks Jeongguk’s tongue, lingering in his mouth. According to Taehyung the effects of mushrooms are stronger if you eat them with citrus. As for the actual credibility of this, Jeongguk has no idea. But at this point it’s become somewhat of a tradition, this midnight beach excursion with spongy hallucinogens, lazy kush hour always accompanied by some citrus fruit.

“Wednesdays,” Seokjin says, lying on his back, eyes swimming over the stars. The way his hair fans out on the striped beach towel is almost mesmerizing. “I always go pick up on Wednesdays when I’m running low.”

Taehyung nods. “So in three days.”

“Two days. It’s Monday.”

“Technically it’s Tuesday,” Jeongguk says. Checks his phone. The screen is too bright and it stabs at his head. “1:05 AM, Tuesday. So it’s one day if we’re being mathematical.”

Two days if we’re not being assholes,” Seokjin says. Then to Taehyung: “I’ll give you a call. No worries.”

“Aw, thanks, man.” Taehyung smiles loosely, his cheek pressed against Jeongguk’s shoulder. “You’re so good to me.”

“Jeez, don’t get weird.”

“Taehyung’s always weird,” Jeongguk says. He, like Taehyung, feels thoroughly at peace with the world. The air, the sea, the earth. How the harmony of it all drapes over his skin. Or maybe that’s just the shitty weed messing with him.

“So are you, sad meme boy,” Seokjin says and sits up. Placing a hand on the cooler for support, he slowly stands. Jeongguk watches half-dazed as Seokjin’s limbs drag shadows in the backlight of the moon.

“Hey.” Taehyung extends a hand, speaking around the roll shoved between his teeth. “While you’re up—get me a beer. I’m fuckin’ dying and Jeon’s bitched out.”

Limits,” Jeongguk reasons, hands rubbing up and down his bare calves. His leg hair prickles his palms. The beaches are cold at night. White starlight swathes the sky, sparkles in the water.

Out in the distance, Jeongguk can barely make out the dots of people, splashing around and catching the shallow waves on their boards, too fucked up to take chances in the deep. Some run up and down the shore with the tide, laughing and yelling loudly. Echoes ring out into the blanketing night.

“Your throat’s just dry.” Seokjin hands them both a can. Jeongguk doesn’t really want one but he’s too high and softened up to refuse. The aluminum is ice-cold and slippery.

Cracking the tab, Jeongguk blinks slowly and watches the liquid fizz and bubble over.

“I’m taking Namjoon’s board,” Seokjin says. “If he asks. You guys should surf too.”

“We will,” Taehyung promises, “when the shrooms kick in. Don’t wanna get hit on a wave. Probably end up eating shit.”

Jeongguk laughs lazily, pressing closer to Taehyung. “Gonna end up eating shit anyway.”

“Maybe you will.”

“You guys’re so…” Seokjin doesn’t finish that thought, rolling his eyes instead. He runs off to join the scattered group of people in the water. Jeongguk’s vision is too unfocused for him to count how many there are.

Something slimy touches his elbow. Looking down, he sees Taehyung nudging him with a shiny fruit wedge.

“Here. Lime up. Shit’s like magic—makes these cheap beers taste fucking exotic.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Ooh, exotic.”

“Yes, exotic. It’s true. Fight me.”

“Nah, I like having you alive, man.” Jeongguk squeezes the lime over the opening of his can. His shaky hands miss and dribble most of the juice all over the top.

“Fuck you’re saying?” Taehyung slurs, voice muffled as he speaks into his can. There’s a pause as he tips his head back and takes a long drink. “I could take you. Could take two of you. Three if I were feeling spry.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, man. Imagine that, whoa. Three of you all in one fuckin’ body, right. Like, Jeon-gattai. Like a machamp of little Jeonggukkies.”

“Machamp only has four arms, dude. Brush up.”

“Wait—” Taehyung sits up straight and looks at him, eyes wide, bleary, glimmering in the starlight.

“Really.”

“So what has six arms? I fuckin’ swear there’s one with six arms.”

Jeongguk inhales, exhales. Clicks his tongue. Thinks deeply. “Hoopa,” he says after a while. “Hoopa Unbound.”

“Shit,” Taehyung breathes. Then he’s leaning on Jeongguk’s side again, bony angles pressed against his body. “Shit, dude, you’re right.”

Taehyung fumbles with his beer, the blunt held between his fingers an apparent nuisance. This is kind of trashy, Jeongguk thinks, watching as Taehyung places the can in the sand, next to the towel they’re sitting on, twisting it in a few times so it doesn’t tip over. Jeongguk does the same with his own can.

“Your tats look so cool right now,” Taehyung says. He pokes the ink on Jeongguk’s forearm, the colours dark and washed in the dust-white moonlight. “When am I gonna get one?”

“You want one?”

“Yeah.” He traces along the thick line of Jeongguk’s wave piece. Jeongguk shivers—it’s the cold, the wet air, the wind, he tells himself. “You promised, remember? Ass tat.”

“Fuck, you were for real? ‘Cause I’ll totally do it.”

“You gotta. I’m down for anything.”

Totally.” It takes Jeongguk a second too long to realize the very daunting implication of that. How he’s gonna have to be palming over Taehyung’s butt for a solid couple of hours. Super great. But by then it’s already a promise, technically.

Taehyung looks out over the beach. The pads of his fingers rub slow circles into Jeongguk’s skin, hand warm around the wrist. Then Taehyung brings the blunt back to his lips—wet with alcohol and red-raw from the acidic lime.

“Help me finish this,” he says, his words a tumbling cloud of smoke. “I’m dry and withered.”

“So am I.”

“Dead inside. C’mon.”

“We all are.”

“Please. Almost done.” Taehyung lifts a hand and brushes his fingertips right over Jeongguk’s jawline. Almost on instinct, Jeongguk turns to look at him just as Taehyung lowers the blunt from his mouth. “C’mon, it’s nice, see?” he says, voice so low, the same comforting rumble Jeongguk’s come to love.

It doesn’t even feel intrinsically weird as he parts his lips, letting Taehyung come close, too close, breathing smoke into his mouth. Jeongguk just lets it happen. The heavy inhale. Because they’ve done this before, they do this a lot, it’s so chill Jeongguk’s not even thinking about it, not even dwelling on it, not one bit.

“Tastes like lime and Pilsner’s. Peach blunt wrap,” Jeongguk murmurs, the smoke now floating from his lips and swimming between their mouths. A gross, shared cloud of marijuana just hanging all ugly there. “Your breath.”

“Mm. Nice though, right?”

It’s said in a tone that makes Jeongguk feel soft, impulsive. A feeling that makes him want to take Taehyung’s face in his hands and kiss him breathless, ending in a scene where Taehyung might pull back afterwards and ask: why are you laughing?

“So nice.”

Jeongguk has no fucking clue what he’s referencing but he know he’s back there, back on that dangerous precipice where the words are playing right on the tip of his tongue. It’d be so easy too, the two of them trashed and holding forth under the stars, draped in moonlight and waiting for the psychedelics to kick in. A sweet time for a sweet confession.

Jeongguk has no idea how long they stay like that, frozen in a smoky kiss.

“Dude,” Taehyung says, huffing a low laugh, eyelids hooded, a lazy smile. “Feel it?”

Jeongguk blinks and tears his eyes away, sees the world shifting now, the vibrancy of the darkness steadily becoming apparent. More colours. Everything much brighter. Much funnier.

“Totally.” Jeongguk’s already loosening up, kicking back. Forgetting that old thought, the bad whims he’s got to stop trusting. A soft smile pulls at the corners of his lips and he closes his eyes. Against his side Taehyung’s body is warm, wiry and so boyish it makes Jeongguk dizzy.

“Feels good.” Taehyung sighs.

“So good.”

 


 

“Are we actually doing this?”

Jeongguk snaps his latex gloves, mostly for comedic effect. “Yes. Now chill, your buttcheek’s all tight.”

His tone is solid but that’s just a front. On the inside his gut’s doing that weird flippy shit it always does whenever he’s unsure of something.

This scene here is all that ass tat talk culminating into a very real, very precipitous set of circumstances.

“Gimme something cool,” Taehyung says. He lies on his front over the leather tattoo couch, wearing a shirt, his pants shoved down. Ass very exposed and right there. “Something that gives off a fun guy kinda vibe without being too gay or, like, pretentious.”

“You’re gettin’ a trashy ass tat, man. Could get a Sigil of Baphomet and still give off a fun guy vibe.”

“Maybe”—Taehyung lifts his upper body to look behind him, at Jeongguk—“I just naturally give off a fun guy vibe.”

“Maybe.” Placing a hand flat on Taehyung’s back, lowkey copping a feel of the toned, very surfer’s body-esque muscle there, Jeongguk pushes him back down. “Stay flat. Relax. Your body’s connected, right. If your back’s tight, your glutes are tight, and then your tat’s gonna come out wonky.”

“Ooh. Education.”

“For serious,” Jeongguk warns. “Also it’s gonna hurt, and I don’t have a bullet for you, so just grit your teeth and don’t clench.”

“No clenching.” Taehyung nods.

“All relaxed.”

“Relaxed. Gotcha.”

Jeongguk snorts. “I’m being real.”

“So am I. My butt’s totally chilled out. 100% unclenched. I’m glamorously hungover and we’re listening to Peter Gabriel—let’s get on with it.”

“Right, dude.”

The tattoo parlour is dark, and had closed half an hour ago. Jeongguk’s closing partner for the night has already gone home, and now it’s just him and Taehyung and the tender, somewhat homoerotic vibe they always seem to carry when together. The vintage diner style neon signs buzz angrily in the muffled silence, washing the variegated bricks with colours. Jeongguk’s metal tools clink, warm purple tones glinting off the hard edges.

“Can I change the album?” Jeongguk asks, fiddling with the black ink.

“No. I like this album.”

“You’re lying.”

“Kinda.” Taehyung shrugs. The album is So by Peter Gabriel. Taehyung’s only listening to it because it contains the track “In Your Eyes” that was used in some cheesy romance flick he’s never actually seen but loves to make fun of. His hair is splayed across his back, colour looking less plain black and more opalescent under the neons. “But it’s nice, y’know. Super ‘80s and loving.”

“Loving?”

“Yeah. Good to bang to.”

“You say that about every album.”

“Yeah, but—listening to it, just being here, don’t you feel it?”

“Hm?”

“The love.”

“For you? Never.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Think you’d love me more if I turned it up?”

“Unlikely. And don’t turn it up, don’t you dare.” Hooking a finger in Taehyung’s waistband, Jeongguk pulls down his shorts a bit more.

“Not too low,” Taehyung says. “I don’t want my dick touching this nasty couch. Smells like Lysol and feet.”

“Neither do I, dude. Just keep your dick in your pants and we’re both happy.”

Humming, Taehyung folds his arms and rests his head on them. He looks so content here, even with his ass all exposed like this. Always so comfortable in any situation. Jeongguk wonders how he does it.

“Gonna sleep?” Jeongguk asks.

“Nah. Just resting. You gonna go?”

“Yeah, one sec. Giving you the dragon. Remember that? The one from my sketchbook.”

Taehyung nods. “Funky pseudo-Yakuza aesthetic, right? I remember.”

“’Kay. Don’t cry,” Jeongguk warns. That’s all he says before he turns the machine on, a high, mechanical trilling slicing the air, and starts.

Taehyung makes a discontented noise and tenses for a second. “Fuck, dude.”

“Weird, right? I’ve had clients tell me ass tats tickle. How’s it?”

“…Tickly.”

“Yeah?”

Glancing up, Jeongguk feels himself smiling, realizes he’s loosening up about all this. He’s done ass tats before. This is no biggie. And Taehyung’s always been someone he could relax around.

So it’s only the tiniest bit offbeat, seeing Taehyung with his head shoved in his arms as he complains about how weird this shit feels, how it hurts a little. His hair is all over the place. Part of Jeongguk itches to reach over and fix it up for him, but that would be weird and too compassionate, plus he’s got his hands full. The machine vibrates in one hand, and he uses his other to hold Taehyung’s skin taut.

For a long while they’re quiet, the metal hum warbling in tandem with the fourth track of the album. Jeongguk only knows this because the fifth track is “In Your Eyes”, and he’s anticipating it.

“Hear that?” Taehyung says when it comes on, laughing. His voice gives away how tired he is. It’s sometime past midnight and Jeongguk’s pretty sure this is the first night they’ve spent sober in a while. It’s nice. Just the two of them without any unwarranted dizziness. “Lovin’.”

“It’s cheesy.”

“That’s the charm.”

“Could think of better songs to bang to.”

“Yeah, but would they be as easy to parody? That boombox scene in that one movie, whatever the fuck it’s called—it’s all about this. Watch me come to your window one night in my Chevy Malibu that I don’t have, slick you up with this sweet tune. Classic courtship. Think you’d love me more if I did that?”

“We live together, but okay. Come to my window, buddy. Slick me up all you want.”

“The Lloyd to your Diane. All-American sweethearts except we’re not white or straight or middle-class.”

Jeongguk bites his lip and makes a stupid sound in the back of his throat. “Dude, don’t make me laugh. I’ll fuck this up.”

“Ah, it’s cool, man. No one’s gonna see it, fuck it up all you want. Make my ass yours.”

The black ink collects on Taehyung’s skin. Colourful lights shimmer off it, make it look like viscous oil. Jeongguk wipes the excess clean with a tissue. The piece is being done on the side of the cheek, just along the dip of muscle.

Taehyung hums along to the end of the song.

“You’re not even being ironic anymore,” Jeongguk accuses.

“Eh. C’mon, it’s a good song.”

“Jesus.”

“So gimme a better one.”

“Better one?”

“Better love song.”

“Oh, man.” Jeongguk clicks his tongue, working the machine. This design is a smaller, more simplified thing, but it’s still gonna take a while. “Anything else.”

“But what’s your favourite?”

“Favourite love song or favourite lovage song?”

Taehyung laughs. “Either. Both. I dunno.”

Suddenly feeling awkward all over again, Jeongguk repeats, “Anything.”

“Oh, come on. Weak. Don’t be a prude, I know you and Yongsun were all into that fucking with music shit just ‘cause you hated hearing the other speak.”

“God, dude. So harsh.”

“But true, right?”

Jeongguk’s silent for a while. The machine drones on. They don’t talk about this often, this shitty deal with Yongsun. It just stays over their heads, stays in Jeongguk’s heart, locked up in there like everything else.

“Kinda true.”

“Right? So gimme some tunes.”

“Ugh.” Jeongguk thinks about it for a while. “She really liked Van Halen. All of Fair Warning.”

“Lame.”

You used to be way into Van Halen, what the fuck?”

“Yeah, but that was high school. I’m better now. Less mainstream.”

“Fuckin’ hypocrite,” Jeongguk mutters, shaking his head. As he works the machine, his eyes are glued on Taehyung’s butt. It should be more awkward than it is. “She liked…rock. Just rock, y’know? One of those people. Super big on classic but also way into glam. Like, way. Not bad, I guess. I dunno. She was—”

She was—what? Jeongguk has no idea.

“Good,” he concludes quite lamely.

Taehyung nods and says slowly, “Yes, she was good. Yes. Right.”

“Don’t sass me. I’ll stab your butt skin.”

Taehyung chuckles and shakes his head. He’s quiet for a while, and when he speaks again there’s something about his tone that feels different. “Really, man…‘cause, I mean, she was—she was such a big part of your life, right?”

“I—yeah.” Jeongguk shrugs even though he knows Taehyung can’t see him. “Sure, yeah.”

“But, like, I knew nothing about her. It’s just weird. I dunno. Does that make sense? You and I, we’ve always been so close, and she was that first. Where, like…I felt this disconnect. No. Yeah. Fuck, I dunno. Between us.”

Jeongguk says nothing. Doesn’t feel like he has to.

“A disconnect,” Taehyung reiterates, chin resting on his folded hands, eyes on the racks of tattoo ink lined up before him. Colours bleed in the shroud of darkness, a coldness spreading through the tattoo shop, melding into the weight in Jeongguk’s heart.

Jeongguk clicks the machine off. The silence is eerie.

“Does that make sense?” Taehyung asks again. His voice is a low, soft rumble.

“I guess.”

“You were weird that year. I never said anything. Didn’t wanna shove my ass up between you and her. But something was different, y’know. Just assumed it was ‘cause you loved her.”

“I never loved her,” Jeongguk says. The words come off his tongue almost without thought, sit in the air undisturbed. And it seems so easy to say now. Feels almost like a joke, something simple just between him and Taehyung. “She never liked it anyway. Never liked us. As a concept. She liked me fine, and I guess I liked her too, but we weren’t good together. I never—fuck, I dunno. Never loved her. Tried real hard.”

“It’s chill. I get it.” Taehyung’s nodding. And Jeongguk knows he gets it, because he’s Taehyung, and Taehyung gets everything when it comes to Jeongguk. “Just one of those things you can’t do. We’ve all got those, man. All do.”

It’s a bigger story than that, but that’s how Jeongguk lets it sit.

“Tough things,” Taehyung says, sounding almost wistful. Sad, but in a way that feels so misplaced and glaringly ironic as he lies here with his bare ass glowing in the lights.

“Tough things,” Jeongguk repeats softly. “Do you think…” He taps his fingernails on the side of the tattoo machine. The blunt, metallic sound is swallowed by the blurs between the darkness and the fluorescence. “Do you think people ever get over it?”

“Hm?” Taehyung lifts his upper half and looks over his shoulder at Jeongguk.

“They don’t haunt you forever, right? Those tough things. They end?”

There’s much more he’s not saying, much more he means by that.

Taehyung shrugs and smiles. “Think you’d love me more if I said yes?” Then he turns back around again, laughing, seeming more at ease. A lost tension in his shoulders. It brings a swift change of mood.

Jeongguk realizes his wrist hurts a bit. It’s been a long while since he’s done a freehand tattoo, and he tends to go slower when he does these. Maybe it strains more.

“Now finish this ass tat,” Taehyung says, settling back down, looking ready to fall asleep. His eyelashes flutter. Kinda cute, Jeongguk thinks. “Still got a long way to go.”

 


 

A few days later they end up at the boardwalk, on the far end of the portion that extends into the sea. On the other side, closer to the sand, are a few booths—including the tarot lady who Jeongguk no longer likes making eye contact with—and the occasional strolling person or two. Like always, it’s mostly empty.

The only thing filling the peace is the lapping of the waves on the rotting, barnacled wood of the platform.

“I look good, don’t I?” Taehyung says, swaying his hips gracelessly as he struggles to keep his hula hoop up. It drops a bit lower around his hips, moving in slow circles.

“Define good,” Jeongguk says.

“Like, ethereal. Shamanistic. Utterly fuckable. Yes? Yes. I look good, dude. Know I do.”

Arms raised awkwardly to his sides, giving exaggerated circles of his hips, he looks anything but.

“So fuckable, dude,” Jeongguk deadpans. “So.”

“Damn right,” Taehyung says quietly, mostly to himself.

Jeongguk sits on the edge of the deck, legs hanging off the side, submerged up to his calves in the cool salt water. He grips the edge of the wood, wondering what would happen if he jumped in. Taehyung’s hula hoop—a gross, plastic thing he’d found when they’d been walking on the shore—drops and hits the boardwalk with a clatter.

He picks it back up and tries again.

Looking at him, Jeongguk feels a gentle flutter of his heart. The sunset glances off Taehyung’s hair, whipping in the wind. The strands are lightly crimped in the middle from where he’d earlier had his hair in a ponytail.

“That tattoo was a bad idea. My asscheek feels crusty.” Taehyung squints at the sunset. “That weird ointment shit. Stickin’.”

“Gross. Don’t stop using it though. Endure the crust. It’s gotta heal properly.”

“Mm. God forbid my ass tat comes out bad, hey?”

“God forbid.” Jeongguk picks up a stray pebble and flicks it into the water. It doesn’t skip over the surface like he’d intended it to, and just sinks.

“Everyone who sees it is gonna trash me. All those people, y’know. Society. When I strut around butt-naked every day, just givin’ the world an eyeful of my ass. Every day.”

“Shut up. I didn’t spend hours giving you a free tattoo for you to fuck it up ‘cause you’re incompetent.”

“Just saying. The only people who see my ass are the people who love me. Ain’t gonna love me any less ‘cause I got an ugly ass.”

“Debatable.” Jeongguk tilts his head back and breathes in. The world looks gorgeous from the pier. A perpetual beauty, changing colours, the oranges of the burning sky becoming deeper. “I feel like we’d have a better friendship if your ass weren’t so ugly.”

“My ass is”—Taehyung briefly stops hula hooping to flick the top of Jeongguk’s head—“exquisite.”

“Your ass is a fuckin’ pancake, dude.” Jeongguk snickers. “And your hips are lying.”

“Fight me.” Taehyung gives the hula hoop a good spin and gets it going again, swaying in circles. His shadow stretches out long on the wooden planks, looking gangly and comical.

“Maybe if you weren’t wearing cargos,” Jeongguk says, gesturing loosely at the chunky, brown shorts Taehyung’s wearing, “your ass would look better.”

“We just gotta do laundry. Ran outta clean underwear too. I’m freeballing here, can feel this wind to my fuckin’ soul.”

“Gross.”

“I know you are too. We share, like, everything. If I’m outta clean boxers then so are you.”

“Yeah, but—gross,” Jeongguk says with a laugh, kicking his legs slowly in the water. The surface ripples over his skin. “Laundromat near the tattoo parlour’s open 24/7. I can go there after a shift or something.”

“Sweet. Hey—” Taehyung claps his hands, and Jeongguk jolts and looks at him, squinting through the bright, low sun. Taehyung has his arms raised now. Stands with his legs apart. Seems to have somewhat got the trick down, circling his hips and keeping the hula hoop up, though it’s not elegant in any way. “Sing some Shakira for me. I’ve got this now.”

“No.” With the sun falling toward the horizon, streaking light over the sea, Jeongguk thinks this is the perfect time for a smoke. He pulls his pack out. “The day I sing for you will be the day I die.”

“The day you die is soon, living like that,” Taehyung accuses. “Sing for me. A simple thing, Jeonggukkie. All I want.”

Jeongguk doesn’t sing. Just snorts and lights his smoke with that old Zippo, the one that used to be Taehyung’s, the one he now always keeps in his pocket. A lovely little memento, as pathetic as it might be.

Taehyung huffs. “Whatever, dude. Smoking kills.”

“Not yet.” Jeongguk takes a long drag, his laugh a thin, grey cloud.

And he feels so tranquil now. Like there’s no one else in the world, like it’s just him and Taehyung, this nasty hula hoop and the distant seagulls, this strip of boardwalk and the ocean. Like the world is this finite thing that Jeongguk’s wrapped up in, the solitude and the steady pace of his heart, the typical guy-talk about ass and balls and everything else that makes him weirdly content.

“You look happy,” he hears Taehyung say.

Jeongguk blinks and meets his eyes. A comfort there. A different type than normal. Softer.

Jeongguk just hums. “You look stupid when you smile like that.”

“You don’t.” It’s the genuine weight to his words that makes Jeongguk pause. Taehyung smiles wider, that dumb, boxy smile where he scrunches up his face, looks so moronic, and still wears it well. “Should smile more. Looks good on you.”

Jeongguk wonders what that means. Has he been smiling less? But he doesn’t want to ask, doesn’t want to give it any additional truth.

“Everything looks good on me,” he jokes, and blows smoke at the clouds.

 


 

Taehyung leans over the kitchen counter, squinting at the small, distorted mirror glued to the wall.

“Do you know who Kat Von D is?”

Jeongguk shrugs, adjusting his position on the bed. “Sure. LA Ink. Heavy duty smoker, right? Frog voice.”

“Right. Her makeup line has this fuckin’ eyeliner.” Taehyung leans closer to the mirror and wipes his thumb over the corner of his eye. The elbow of the arm supporting his weight looks too sharp in the dim light. He flips the plastic stick in his hand. “Wheein lent it to me, ‘cause apparently just pencil ain’t hard enough and tonight’s supposed to be—hard, I guess.”

“And?” Jeongguk traces over an ink line in his sketchbook, adding some weight, only half-listening.

“And lemme tell you—liquid’s fuckin’ tough to use.”

“So just use your own makeup, you dweeb.”

“I can’t. Everyone’s gonna look hot so I’ve gotta look extra hot. Come”—Taehyung leans off the counter and clicks the cap of the eyeliner back on—“help me do my hair.”

“So gay,” Jeongguk mutters, but puts his sketchbook to the side and gets up anyway. “And c’mon, pancake-ass. Pants up.” Stepping behind him, Jeongguk hooks his thumb in the waistband of Taehyung’s sweats and pulls them up. Not too high, but enough that it’s respectable. At that moment he glances up at the mirror, sees their reflection, how close they stand and how odd they look with Jeongguk’s hands resting near Taehyung’s hips like this.

It makes no sense, but the image of them together, comfortable, makes him feel a little less shitty about this situation—how Taehyung’s going to a thing with Wheein, together, to do things. He’d invited Jeongguk but of course Jeongguk had said no.

Then he drops his hands because it feels weird.

Taehyung passes him the flat iron, the cord extending from the outlet on the wall. They used to have to be more careful about using power in the RV, but ever since Taehyung got the dual-battery installed, it hasn’t been much of an issue.

“How’s your tat?” Jeongguk asks, combing his fingers through Taehyung’s hair and separating a small strand. His hair’s already straight but he’s going for pin straight, which is apparently sluttier and subsequently much sexier.

“Y’know.” Taehyung shrugs and grabs a Hi-Chew from his pack off the counter, unwraps it, pops it in his mouth. “Ass-y.”

“Can’t wear clothes too tight,” Jeongguk warns. The flat iron smokes a bit when he clamps it over Taehyung’s hair, dragging it down to the ends. “Know you’re into that so, like, just saying. Take care of your ass.”

“I’ve got it.” Taehyung rolls his eyes. Unwrapping another Hi-Chew, he reaches behind him and offers one to Jeongguk. “Here, have one.”

“I don’t like grape.” Jeongguk lets Taehyung shove it in his mouth anyway. “’S gross.”

“You’re gross.”

“Says you.”

In the mirror, Jeongguk grins when he sees Taehyung’s unamused expression. He looks good, but there’s something uncanny about the way the shadows fall over his subtly made-up face. The light of the RV is a warm yellow, flickering in and out. Taehyung’s coal black eyeliner is thick, kinda smudged at the places he fucked up, matte and almost classy.

Jeongguk looks back down at Taehyung’s hair, picks out another strand and straightens it. Above them the feeble yellow light buzzes, fades in and out, washing them with a warm, caramel coloured hue.

“Have you been working out more?” Taehyung asks.

“Hm?” Jeongguk looks up again.

“Lately,” Taehyung says. “You look…”

He pauses and swallows. Jeongguk meets his eyes in the mirror. Light shimmers off Taehyung’s lips, looking more pink than usual.

He wonders if Taehyung feels it too, the weight of the summer heat. How it’s more invasive now.

Then Taehyung says, “Dunno.” Shrugs it off. “Just noticed. You look—you look good.”

“Oh.” Jeongguk gives a jerky nod. “You too.” He turns his attention back to Taehyung’s hair. “And yeah. Been less busy. The gym’s always nice.”

“Ah.”

This is a new thing. For the first time in a long time Jeongguk has no idea how to fill the silence.

The low hum of the old flat iron is too loud. The hinges creak. The heat leaches and Jeongguk feels it on his knuckles, almost painful.

“You really should come,” Taehyung says.

“I—Nah.”

“C’mon, man. What else are you gonna do tonight?”

Again, their eyes meet in the mirror. The glass is grimy, the corners bent and chipped.

“Only till like, 2, maybe 3 AM,” Taehyung promises. “Just that. Then we’ll leave, come home. Just want you there. ‘S always better with you.”

Jeongguk shakes his head, combing his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, touching it up at points. “This thing is yours and Wheein’s, y’know? I have work tomorrow anyways. Doing this shit till 2 ain’t good.”

“Nothing good’s ever happening at 2 AM.”

“That’s crappy reasoning.” Jeongguk has a tough time smiling, has no idea why. With a soft click, he turns the flat iron off and places it back on the counter. He pats Taehyung’s shoulder, runs his fingers through his hair. “I’ll pick you up if you need it, so gimme a call. Just don’t get too weird.”

 


 

For the next while Jeongguk doesn’t do much. It’s just a typical night, the only difference being that he’s alone. The random sounds are much harsher on the ears in the deafening silence. He takes detailed notice of every single one.

The drip of the tap, the hollow sound as an occasional water droplet hits the metal. The unidentifiable, mechanical creaking coming from the bathroom. The buffeting wind against the rippled siding of the vehicle. It’s been a while since he’s properly paid attention these sounds. A while since it’s been just him in the RV. A while since he’s jacked off too.

That last point makes him pause.

He taps the back of his pen against the pages of his sketchbook, the unfinished drawing—a cheesy anchor design someone had requested—staring back at him. It’s just after 1 AM. Taehyung had said he’d be back sometime around 2 but, considering it’s him, Jeongguk knows that’s gonna be around 4.

So he has time. Opportunity. He drums his fingers over the leather spine of his sketchbook and ponders this for a bit. The he realizes he’s being stupid because, really, what fucking loser needs a rationale for jacking off?

Something about that scene earlier with Taehyung had made everything feel a little wonky. Now he’s overthinking everything. For the past few hours, as he’d been trying to draw, the only thing on his mind was the thought of Taehyung and whatever the fuck had just happened between them. Odd glances in the mirror. The ongoing stuff too. The strain in Jeongguk’s chest whenever Taehyung would mention Wheein. The recent weird talks about sex and love, so much love.

Needing to chill out is a good jack-off rationale, Jeongguk decides.

The dull sound of pages on pages as he shuts his notebook is an obtrusive one, as are the sounds of the mattress creaking as he crawls over it, the clatter as he drops his pen on the bedside table, the thud of his sketchbook that follows.

At first Jeongguk’s kinda decent about it.

Sitting there, back reclined on the hard wall behind the bed, he scrolls through the front page of xnxx on his laptop, hating himself a little. This is the site Taehyung had told him about back in high school, because apparently Pornhub and those sorts of proper sites were too advertised.

The light emitted by laptop is too bright, the cracks in the edges of the screen an electronic bluish-white. Flicking his eyes over the vulgar thumbnails with mild interest, gaping holes and tight skin, all women as most front pages of porn sites tend to feature, Jeongguk realizes his mind is drifting to Taehyung.

Instead he snaps his focus onto the tasteful, tenderly misspelled titles—big fat cock for little girl hardcore sex; intercorsce On tape With Wild busty housewife; Hardcore trio with legal age teenagers; jan092016-mp4; and so on.

A few of them are so stupid they’re funny. Something about this brings back a stray memory from a while ago, when he and Taehyung had spent an entire night downing beers and scrolling through porn sites, talking shit on the titles and the artistic taste of the layout and visuals. He remembers them both sporting painful-as-fuck boners and not really being able to do anything about it. It was on this laptop too, the one Jeongguk’s using right now.

He runs his index finger over the keys. This laptop belongs to both him and Taehyung, because they’re broke as fuck and don’t mind sharing. The thought that Taehyung’s probably jacked off while staring at this same screen skitters through Jeongguk’s mind, coming too quick for him to push away in time.

And he’s thinking about that now.

Thinking about Taehyung lying back, right on this same bed, watching some random porno, maybe nibbling on his bottom lip a little. About him slipping his hand into those sweats he always wears as pyjamas. About his hips twitching when he loosely palms at his cock, his eyelids fluttering shut, the soft sigh he might let out as he strokes himself, licking his lips, all pink and spit-slick in the soft light, pulling his sweats down and—

Yeah. So Jeongguk’s thinking about that now.

He pushes the thought to the back of him mind, pretends it had never been there. Staring blankly at the screen, the thumbnails, all this hetero shit, Jeongguk is rock hard and suddenly in the mood for men.

On the left-hand column, just below Gaping and just above German, is the category labelled Gay. Jeongguk practically feels a part of his self-respect die when he clicks it, when the thumbnails load, squares of ball skin and puckered assholes and dicks.

Because he knows what he’s thinking, what he’s trying to avoid acknowledging—that he’s consciously looking for videos of guys with long hair, tan skin, lanky bodies, visually East Asian enough to pass, and for a moment he wonders if that’s racist and then he realizes he’s being a fucking creep-loser because that’s Taehyung in his mind there and he’s gotta fucking stop this shit—

But his hand’s already trailing down his front, over the tense lines of his abs, fingernails scraping the frayed waistband of his sweats. He’s already clicked on a video, his dick’s already this hard, he’s come this far, and yeah, he already fucking knows he’s lowkey hot for his best friend. There’s really no point in stopping.

Logically speaking.

Yeah, logic, Jeongguk tells himself, skipping the cringey porn intro, dipping his hand into his pants. His dick is hot and straining against the front of his boxers, the ones he sometimes ends up sharing with Taehyung. He feels a little gross about himself when he feels precum leak from the slit and soak into the fabric. But he’s a little into it too, finds it nasty in a fucked up but good way.

Hooking a thumb beneath the elastic waistband, he snaps it hard against his skin, tensing and letting out a soft groan at the muted bloom of pain. He rubs the heel of his palm up and down his length, the fabric hugging his cock tight. He loves this impatient edge it gives him, this feeling of wanting more, of teasing himself.

The guys on screen are on the bed now. Grinding, wearing just tight underwear. Mouth-on-mouth, making squelching noises. Jeongguk wonders why these guys get paid to do this shit when they can’t even kiss properly. He wonders how good a kisser Taehyung is. Other dumb thoughts. Jeongguk should’ve gone for amateur shit—it’s always better.

But at this point he can’t be fucked to change the video. He’s not even paying attention, not really.

His mind wanders and his eyes go a little unfocused, so the images on screen are just blurred bodies. Like this, it’s easier to picture the scene how he wants—Taehyung against Jeongguk, Jeongguk against Taehyung, dicks all hot and hard and rubbing up against each other as they kiss way fucking better than these no-name pornstars on screen do, because Taehyung’s probably an incredible kisser and Jeongguk can only imagine how fucking good his lips must feel—

Stop.

Jeongguk grits his teeth, swallows, feels his Adam’s apple bob. Rubs his thumb over the fabric that covers his cock, chafing a bit against the head, feeling the fat vein running along the underside.

Stop thinking about that shit.

Recently Jeongguk’s finding it’s getting harder to ignore these thoughts about Taehyung. It’s getting worse. This moronic infatuation, this friendship-fucker-upper.

So he focuses on his dick. How it leaks, trapped in his boxers. How it twitches when he starts rubbing it a little harder, taking this shit slow because he loves to drag it out, to make himself want it. To take care of himself. He pulls his cock out of his boxers when the restriction gets unbearable, his thighs tensing and pressing together as his body seeks relief. Then he shoves his sweats and underwear halfway down his thighs.

His cock catches on the waistband and then slaps against his stomach, smearing precum over his white t-shirt, making him hiss at the harsh stimulation. He shucks up the hem of his shirt, not bothering to actually take it off. With the pad of his finger, Jeongguk traces up the shaft, letting out a shaky sigh when he flicks beneath the head, a clear drop of precum being pushed out his slit.

Giving in, he wraps his hand around the base of his cock, slowly stroking upward and letting the foreskin ease over the head. His thighs tense and his hips roll gently. His knees bend a little.

The porno is in full swing now. Jeongguk doesn’t really give a fuck about what’s going on but glances at it anyway, just for kicks. Nothing bad about some extra visual stimulation, even if it’s all desperate half-chubs and circumcision scars. He vaguely recalls Taehyung talking about being uncut a while ago, how it made him exotic in comparison to the majority.

Jeongguk spits on his hand and jacks his cock slowly, and he’s forcing himself to think about the butt-ugly guy in this video and the other, slightly less butt-ugly guy in this video and not Taehyung.

But Jeongguk’s picturing it now.

How Taehyung’s foreskin would roll over his pink head and then back down as he strokes himself. How his big hand would look wrapped around his big cock. Jeongguk knows this because they’re guys and they’re friends and that sorta discovery is just the shit that happens. He tries not to make this knowledge sexual. Fails spectacularly.

The memory is vague. He’s only seen Taehyung actually hard once, when he’d walked in on him by accident, having gotten home earlier than expected. They’d both seen it as wildly hilarious. Part of Jeongguk wishes he’d looked for just a second longer, studied how Taehyung’s dick looked and how he held it. For science.

What he mostly did was double over laughing. Where’s your fucking class, dude? No dicks out before midnight.

No doubt about it though—Taehyung’s got a fucking great cock. A great body too. Jeongguk sees it when they surf together, when Taehyung’s topless, tan, glistening in the sun with water dripping over the lean muscle that shifts beneath his skin as he steadies himself on the waves. It reminds Jeongguk of those centrefold dudes in gay porno mags that he’s seen only a few times. Cheesy and gross and homo as fuck.

He tries not to think about it. Emphasis on tries.

But God, what he wouldn’t give to have Taehyung here right now, to have his hands on Taehyung’s hips, lips on his skin, fingers threading through his long hair. To slam him against a wall and feel his body, all sharp and masculine, the years of surfing in his bones—to have all that submit to Jeongguk, fight back, then dominate him, make him fight back. Some frantic push-and-pull.

Jeongguk thinks about the earlier scene, how soft Taehyung’s hair had felt between his fingers, the unspoken tension as their eyes met in the mirror, the things Taehyung had said.

Have you been working out more?

Jeongguk groans, surprisingly loud, as the memory of Taehyung saying that slaps him across the fucking face.

You look good.

He gives his cock a quick squeeze and gives in, letting out a moan because yeah, he likes that, he likes being told how hot he looks, especially when he’s all flushed and sweaty. Imagining Taehyung saying that in a different, decidedly more sexual context makes his cock buck in his hand.

Yongsun never did that shit, was never much for talking during sex, but Jeongguk just knows Taehyung would be. That he’d say whatever the fuck he felt like saying. Nothing like this awkward stuff going down on his laptop, but obscene in a way that works. You look so good like this, Jeongguk, so fucking good, want you so bad. Yeah, your cock’s so fucking hard for me, isn’t it? Do you want—

He wants—

You want me to fuck you? Wanna take my cock?

“Nh—fuck,” Jeongguk spits quietly, feeling winded and squeezing his eyes shut, his hips bucking.

He thinks of the lube he keeps in the bathroom. His hand stills on his cock.

Really, sometimes you’ve gotta to stop and ask yourself: Are you really gonna finger yourself to the thought of your lifelong best friend? Are you? Are you fucking really?

In the time that it would have taken Jeongguk to answer that question, he’s already pulled up his sweats, his erection tenting ridiculously, walked with shaky legs to the cramped bathroom, and grabbed the lube from beneath the sink.

Jeongguk cracks the cap open and throws his dignity to the wind, reclined on the bed, an old, prickly towel spread out beneath him to protect the covers from his Nasty, the video long finished. He’s fucking doing this.

The first finger is nothing. The angle, lying on his back and reaching down his front, is a little uncomfortable, but it’s better than the common alternative: on his knees with his face smushed into the sheets as he reaches behind himself, ass up. That’d make him feel like too much of a bitch—says the fucking loser rubbing a second slicked finger around his hole, biting his lip and letting out a shuddering breath as he works it in.

Jeongguk hates himself and really, really wants Taehyung to fuck him. It’s almost funny, how deplorable all this is.

He scissors his fingers, gritting his teeth at the squelching sound, quivering as he moves his fingers in and out. Slides them in deeper. Runs the pads over his ridged inner walls. His other hand holds his asscheek to the side to spread himself open. Lube drips down his crack and soaks into the towel. His cock lies against his stomach, twitching as he fingers himself, as he makes himself feel good. He doesn’t touch it. Forces himself not to.

Because he imagines Taehyung might do something similar, might tease him till he’s shaking and begging even though, by principle, Jeongguk does not fucking beg, he makes people beg. But no doubt he loves when someone can prove that wrong.

With his cock red and hot, pulsing against his lower belly, a thick drop of precum leaking from the slit, he curls his fingers inside himself. He jerks when he finds his prostate and lets out a soft noise of pleasure, abs tensing. A clear trail of precum drips onto the lines of muscle.

A guilty part of him wonders how different this would feel if it were Taehyung—his fingers longer and bonier, his hands just bigger in general.

It’s not even about the straight up sex appeal at this point, and that might be the worst part. Feelings and all that other heart-stuff. Things that would ruin everything. Jeongguk knows he couldn’t fuck Taehyung without getting all gooey about it, which is pretty fucking expensive considering the type of people they both are.

Sometimes he wishes he could see Taehyung for just that, a talkative sex object, grinning desire. What the people Taehyung has sex with see him as. A hot, fuckable boy, sure. But there’s more than that, Jeongguk knows him so well, too well.

It’s not love, it can’t be love because what even is love? Jeongguk’s young, only 22 and not in love, just kinda horny, lying here with his fingers up his ass, making himself feel good in a mildly unorthodox, un-straight way.

It ain’t love.

That’s what he tells himself as he bites his lip in a pathetic effort to keep quiet. He’s breathing hard and each exhale is accompanied by a pathetic mnh sound, his eyebrows furrowed and his eyes shut tight. His entire body is hot and tense, back arched off the bed in an effort to get the best angle, applying pressure in a way makes him let out involuntary moans as his hips twitch. He rubs slow circles over his prostate and presses hard until the pleasure is too much, hips jerking away from the feeling, his fingers pulling out halfway before pushing back in, looking for that spot again. It's easy to find, the gland swollen and his rim so loose.

The air in the RV is hot and stuffy. Sweat soaks from Jeongguk’s back and into the sheets, drips down the side of his face, an uncomfortable tickle. Everything is overwhelming for some reason, even though he does this often and it’s not different. But it is. Something closer to admittance, maybe. Jeongguk just wants another body here, another set of hands to do this for him, another someone breathing as hard as he is and pressing against him.

The thought of Taehyung lingers and at this point Jeongguk’s just giving in, going with the wind and the rhythm. He might as well say it—that he wants to fuck Taehyung and wants Taehyung to fuck him, wants all that dick-on-dick jazz that they always joke about but supposedly never mean, wants it maybe even to the point that he’s stopped caring about consequences and probable fuck-ups.

Crooking his fingers again, he groans, a strained sound that he tries his best to keep soft and quiet, his cock painfully hard and throbbing against his stomach. He gives in and wraps his free hand around it, letting out a pleased sigh and running fingertips over the hot vein along the underside, stroking himself slowly, his foreskin rolling over the head and smearing the welling precum. He always leaks so much when he plays with his prostate.

His thumb flicks across the slit and his breath catches, hips jerking. Heat coils in his lower belly and makes him feel dizzy as he begins to roll his hips in slow circles, fucking down onto his fingers and then back up into his hand. His thoughts are ugly, disjointed things, hopeful imaginings—the hard line of Taehyung’s cock as their bodies press together; the heat of his breath on Jeongguk’s naked skin; his hand working over Jeongguk’s cock; his lips pressing against Jeongguk’s shoulder and neck, and then the scrape of his teeth, nipping playfully; Taehyung inside Jeongguk, hot and throbbing, his girth stretching his lubed-up asshole and his balls hitting Jeongguk’s perineum as he fucks him and—

In short, this situation’s got Jeongguk straight boned.

He makes a stupid, high-pitched noise and feels himself get closer, his body a taut wire, chest heaving as he pants, shaky moans escaping him. He’s fairly quiet but his sounds seem embarrassingly loud, hard on the ears in the thick silence of the RV. He tenses his thighs for leverage, bends one of his knees up and digs his heel into the bed to spread himself open. Shoves his fingers deeper, deeper, scooting down and parting his legs more till the stretch along his inner thighs hurts, the new angle leaving him breathless.

Jeongguk moans, unfocused under the heat of the night and the scalding light buzzing from the ceiling, his body shuddering in pleasure, sweating, and fuck this is so good, this feels so fucking good and he doesn’t even notice the noises he’s making until he’s being loud, loud enough he grits his teeth in embarrassment. He tries to be quiet, those sounds getting caught in his throat as helpless, desperate whines. He’s always so vocal when he gets something inside him—whether it be fingers or toys or cock or anything really. He just likes being filled.

His orgasm builds in his lower belly and his head drops back, lips parted as he breathes heavily, chest flushed, knowing he’s close. He moans and curses under his breath. It only takes a few more hard strokes of his dick for him to cum, fingers massaging his prostate. He clenches his jaw and lets out a grunt, balls pulling tight as he blows his load over his stomach. His cock pulses, his rim squeezes around his fingers and he shoves them in deep, keeping a firm pressure against his prostate, panting and moaning weakly. Spurts of cum hit his skin, dribble down slowly.

It’s sticky and uncomfortable. Really white, Jeongguk notes, slowly coming down and lying there in the afterglow and staring at the jizz on his chest in mild, post-orgasmic awe. He runs his fingers through it, the two fingers of his other hand still shoved up his asshole because it still feels kinda good in a comfortable, full sort of way.

He’s spacing out and playing with his cum when the implications of this really hit him—that he just jacked off to the thought of Kim Fucking Taehyung.

Jeongguk sits there for a while. Does nothing. In the distance he can hear the faint rush of the waves, back and forth on the seawall. It’s raining now, he notices, a soft patter on the metal roof.

I’m so fucked, he thinks. Then he kind of laughs because hey, he is, fingers still up his ass and all. He’s pathetic and whipped and cum-covered, lying on a bed he often platonically shares with the guy he just fantasized about having raunchy gay sex with. Kinda funny if it weren’t for the impending destroyed friendship he can feel coming on.

But he’s been dealing with this pining for a while. Some manifestation of it like this isn’t gonna change anything. He winces as he pulls his fingers out, and then gets to cleaning up slowly, fingers unsteady as he wipes up his cum.

He’s in the midst of towelling off the lube and cum when his phone buzzes.

 

tae

gk

gku

guk

 

Jeongguk stares at it, bitter guilt in his mouth. Before he responds he quickly finishes wiping himself off, then pulls his boxers and sweats up, grimacing when the chilly wetness of his precum from before touches his skin. He’s too lazy to change.

 

Me

??

 

tae

r u up

 

Me

fuck u think

 

tae

come puck me up

pick**

pls

 

Me

rn?

 

tae

yeah

 

Jeongguk scoots to the edge of the bed. It’s not even 2 AM yet.

 

Me

why

u good?

 

tae

idk yeah

no

dfck

everyhting feels weird and shitty and sad and i just wanna be w you man

where r u

 

Me

at home where r u

 

tae

wheenis house

lol

wheenie

 

Me

lmao wheenie

where’s wheenie’s house then

 

tae

cliff thign

346 bay rd

no wait

im ilke outside a 711 nearthere

 

Me

ur outside?? it’s raining

r u ok for real

 

tae

lol no i jsut puked a lot and idk where anoyne is

 

Me

ugh k

k just stay at 7 11

dont leave

promise

 

tae

k ily <2

**<3

 

Me

stfu ur so dumb

 

When Jeongguk stands up his knees shake and he feels lightheaded, body all floppy from his orgasm. The keys are left on the dash as always. The RV’s engine sputters but works fine. Rain patters against the windshield, thin rivulets that glisten in the lamplight of the sandlot.

Jeongguk runs his fingers over the cracked leather of the driver’s seat. Then he smooths down his shirt, fabric clinging to his uncomfortably sweat-cooled skin. He realizes there’s a bit of cum crusted on the hem of his shirt.

The guilt is a flood of bile crawling up his throat.

 


 

“My angel,” Taehyung says as a greeting, smiling dazedly. “My lovely boy.”

Jeongguk wants to hit him, hug him, this very pretty, very sad boy in the rain.

Water drips from Jeongguk’s hair, down the side of his face. Taehyung’s soaked to the bone, sitting here on the curb right outside a corner store. The orange and green lights of the 7-Eleven sign wash his black hair with a clean fluorescence, make the colour look almost kaleidoscopic.

It had taken Jeongguk about 10 minutes to drive to this side of town—the swankier side—and about 5 more to find this corner store with Google Maps and the limited information Taehyung had given him. It looks like time hasn’t passed for Taehyung.

“You look cold,” Taehyung says as Jeongguk stands before him, wet and shivering with one hand in his pocket, the other holding an umbrella.

“Me?” Jeongguk smiles softly.

“Yeah. Are you?”

“I’m fine. You look cold. And all sorts of fucked.” Jeongguk reaches to help Taehyung up. “C’mon, man. Stand.”

Taehyung grabs his hand but pulls him down instead. In his other hand is a plastic bottle of something—maybe juice. “I’m not cold, though.”

“Jesus.” Jeongguk relents, sits next to him, ass on the cold, hard concrete, soaked in rainwater. He tries to position the umbrella between them. Rain patters on the nylon, dull sounds. Their hands stay linked between them and Jeongguk leans closer. “So what’s the deal with you?”

“We came here for sandwiches. Packed shit ‘cause our hands weren’t working right. But I didn’t like it—”

“Start at the beginning,” Jeongguk interrupts, finding this kind of funny now. It’s been a weird night. He can still feel the crusted precum in his boxers. “You’re making no sense.”

“Fuck, dude. Sorry. I’m just, like, fucked off my ass right now.” Taehyung grins weakly, looks hesitant and dizzy. Behind him the parking lot is quiet. Coloured lights glimmer off the puddles, reflecting the bright sign of the corner store and the softer hues of the street lamps. Jeongguk sees Taehyung’s eyes—pupils blown, blinking too often.

“Fuck are you on?” Jeongguk murmurs, sliding closer for warmth and something else.

“DXM.” Taehyung’s eyes flutter shut as Jeongguk gently brushes a strand of soaked hair off his forehead. “It’s so bad. Like, the shittiest high, so synthetic. When I turn my head it feels like my head keeps moving. Like, I dunno. I feel dead, I feel—mmh.” He nuzzles his cheek into Jeongguk’s hand. “We didn’t even have the pills, like fuckin’ legit folks I guess. Just that bottled shit, all pharmacy like we’re fuckin’ 14.”

“Syrup?”

Taehyung nods, his skin an almost sickly colour, washed out in the buzzing brightness of the neon sign. Jeongguk’s slides his fingers down Taehyung’s cheek before dropping his hand back in his lap.

“So then?”

Taehyung goes on. “So it was really bad. Like, I dunno. Like 300 milligrams I think, but I fuckin’ projectile vomited on the dumpster behind 7-Eleven so, like—don’t laugh, shut up—so I, yeah, no, like I felt sick and we were at 7-Eleven for sandwiches and I…no, we were—”

“Tae.” Jeongguk laughs almost pitifully and squeezes his hand. “We should go.”

“I have a point,” Taehyung insists. “I feel really hot. The rain is cold. They say not to drink alcohol with this shit, not your first time. I don’t get it but all I know is everything feels shitty. And I went and bought this earlier.”

Taehyung shakes the plastic bottle in his hand.

“Gatorade. Blue flavour. To like, wash it out, the vomit and sadness. But, no, right—we were at Wheein’s. A bunch of people, but I only knew Changmin and Wheein. And, like…fuck, how do I even…like, we wanted sandwiches.”

Jeongguk sighs and nods. “Sandwiches. C’mon, you’re gonna get a cold.”

Taehyung ignores him and continues. “So we came to 7-Eleven for sandwiches, Changmin and Wheein and I, those other people too. I dunno, I didn’t like them. They were so—yeah. So I left, and they didn’t want me to leave but I just didn’t wanna be there, so, yeah—I left, but I didn’t know where to go and it was dark and then I felt like throwing up.”

“On the dumpster,” Jeongguk says with a laugh.

“Yep.”

“Then you texted your ‘lovely boy’”—Jeongguk stands and forces Taehyung to get up with him, grunting as he supports his weight—“and now you’re going home.”

“Mm…with my lovely boy,” Taehyung drawls, leaning against him, mouth so close to Jeongguk’s neck.

“Leave your Gatorade. Gotta walk.” Jeongguk forcibly steadies his voice, feeling a blush on his cheeks, thankful for the cold rain and the darkness. His hair is plastered to the sides of his neck. He adjusts the umbrella in his hands. “Parked the RV down over there. Figured we could just stay and kick it roadside tonight.”

“Smart,” Taehyung says. His breath is hot on Jeongguk’s skin.

Together, with Taehyung clinging to Jeongguk’s body, staggering, they walk along the empty sidewalk. Their shoes splash on the shiny, wet pavement.

“Your foundation’s getting on my shirt,” Jeongguk notes.

Taehyung smiles, cheek pressed against Jeongguk’s shoulder, a bit of his skin colour smeared on the white fabric. “Your shirt’s getting on my foundation.”

His eyes are unfocused, fluttering shut, smeared with eyeliner. Drenched in the rain like this, he still looks so good. So pretty, so sweet. Jeongguk wonders if it’s because he’s kinda admitted it to himself now, more than before—that there’s an ugly love oozing under his skin and in the way he looks at Taehyung.

Their eyes meet just for a second and Jeongguk swallows hard, feels as if Taehyung knows. Somehow.

“Y’know.” Taehyung’s arm is around Jeongguk’s shoulder. Jeongguk’s arm is around Taehyung’s waist. “Wheein’s an Aries, you know that?”

Jeongguk hums. “And?”

“And I dunno. I’m a Capricorn. Shit like that doesn’t work apparently. The sea goat and the ram. Clashing horns maybe.”

Jeongguk snorts. “Jimin tell you that?”

“Jimin tells me lotsa shit. But yeah. Only, I dunno. Maybe I’m just looking for a reason, right, ‘cause I feel like I fuck everything up. All relationships. And this one with Wheein wasn’t even—yeah.”

Jeongguk sees the RV down the block, a looming, boxy silhouette with a lone streetlamp casting light over the side.

“Wasn’t even legit.” Taehyung sighs. “Did you know Changmin and Wheein have a thing going? They talked a lot about getting me involved in this rank-ass threesome with them, but y’know.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“Eh, they’re gross and—I dunno. I’d feel out-of-place.” Taehyung bumps Jeongguk with his hip, wiggles his eyebrows. “They talked about inviting you.”

Jeongguk grimaces.

“Would you?” Taehyung asks, completely joking. “The two of them. Real gems. Plus you’re all hot for Changmin, right?”

“He’s sleazy. Pinched between two rich kids—I’d rather die.”

“What if it were just one rich kid—Wheein? Or if I was there? A rich kid and your favourite boy?” Taehyung leans against him, laughing.

“The worst threesome in the world, you mean? No thanks.”

“Give it time.” Taehyung sighs. “It’s just—fuck. Those two, right? Hooking up. Like, Wheein and I are still kinda…y’know. But I dunno. They just work, I guess.”

“So you’re bitter?” Jeongguk teases.

“Not bitter. Just self-loathing. You get me?”

Jeongguk nods. They’re standing before the RV now, the metal door rattling in the wind. He squeezes Taehyung’s side. “I’ve gotta get the keys.”

Taehyung leans against the side of the vehicle as Jeongguk closes the umbrella, fishes in his pockets.

“But it’s kinda pathetic, isn’t it?” Taehyung stares at the stars, hands in his pockets, squinting through the soft fall of rain. A long strand of hair falls across his face. “Like I’m getting cucked by a girl I was never even with.”

“So you are bitter.” Jeongguk snickers.

“Tastefully self-loathing, as I said.” Taehyung smiles at him, not with happiness per se, but his eyes are gentle. Jeongguk can’t place why. “Has it stopped raining?”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Nah, dude. Hold this for a sec.”

When he holds out the umbrella, Taehyung grabs his wrist instead, pulls him closer. So close.

Their breath mingles, warm between their lips, almost touching.

“But Jeongguk.” Taehyung’s body is firm, his face right before Jeongguk’s, mouth slanted in a lazy, buzzed smile. Jeongguk feels Taehyung’s heartbeat, the way it’s steadier than his own as they’re pressed together like this. Very, very close. “I feel so warm.”

And they’re kissing now, slow and fond. Jeongguk doesn’t get what Taehyung means but he still gets it. Jeongguk feels warm too, the rain a distant thing. Maybe it has stopped raining; maybe he’s just fucked up on love.

Jeongguk’s heart is frantic and his brain is useless but his lips are just fine, moving against Taehyung’s. He smells like cigarettes and cologne.

Taehyung holds Jeongguk’s wrist, his other hand on his hip. Jeongguk’s hands rest on Taehyung’s waist, and he’s trying not to grip too tight or let his fingers twitch at all. He doesn’t want to get stupid about this, doesn’t want to give away the crazy shit going down in his mind. Just wants to reside in the peace, this casual, rain-soaked kissing session against the side of a rusty RV.

When Taehyung pulls back Jeongguk forces himself not to surge forward again, trying to appear calm and totally fine, trying not to let spill the moronic words on his tongue.

You’re blue-flavoured; you’re so hot; I love you, like, so much, what the fuck.

“What? Do I taste like projectile vomit?” Taehyung asks softly, laughing.

“No,” Jeongguk breathes, laughing as well, and leans forward again because fuck it. Jeongguk’s young, only 22 and very much in love.

“Okay, that’s good,” Taehyung mumbles against his lips. “I—I feel like I’m gonna black out.”

“Like, good or bad?” Jeongguk parts his lips and presses closer, feels Taehyung’s breath hot and messy, mingling with his own. His fingers shake and the pads press into Taehyung’s sides.

“Bad but good.”

“Inside?” Jeongguk pulls back. Taehyung’s eyes are glazed over, half-shut, looking quite like a dirty, tenderly drugged-up surfer, messy long hair and all. Almost picturesque in the gleaming streetlamps and rain, if it weren’t for how bleary his eyes are, how clearly not here he is.

“Yeah,” Taehyung says breathlessly, still smiling, his eyelids heavy.

As Jeongguk takes him inside, feeling Taehyung go more and more slack in his arms, he wonders about ideas—good ideas and bad ideas and miraculously regrettable ideas.

 


 

“I thought this shit was a myth.” Jeongguk, sitting on a creaky chair next to the bed, holds a spoon to Taehyung’s lips. “Getting sick ‘cause of the rain.”

Taehyung shrugs. “Guess I’m just an actualizing kinda guy.”

“You smell. Like fever and sweat and rain.”

“Mm. Can go shower at Cave Point later, when I’m not, like, dying. Y’know.”

Last night Jeongguk had had the mind to change out of his wet clothes before going to bed, but Taehyung was out cold and Jeongguk wasn’t feeling generous enough to do the same for him. It’s possibly the reason Taehyung’s lying in bed sick, although again—myths and such.

“Careful,” Jeongguk murmurs, frowning when a bit of soup spills onto the sheets.

Taehyung hums. His lips pop around the spoon. Jeongguk stares. “Just sit on the bed, man. It’s easier.”

“I will. Later.” Jeongguk gets him another spoonful. “Don’t spill.”

“Fuck is this anyway?” Taehyung’s tongue pokes at the corner of his mouth. “’S nasty.”

“Chunky. Like, trademark, y’know. Clam and corn chowder…with bacon, I think.”

Taehyung gags around the next spoonful. “Is there something wrong with toast?”

Jeongguk ignores him and shoves the next spoonful in his mouth. “We also have Chef Boyardee Beefaroni. If you’re feelin’ it.”

“Don’t we have toast?” Taehyung insists around the spoon.

“We have bread. We don’t have toast.” Biting his lip to hide his smile, Jeongguk scoops up the remainder of the white, creamy pseudo-vomit from the bowl. “Last bite. Vroom. Airplane, dude.”

“Airplanes don’t vroom, you dumbass,” Taehyung mutters, swallowing the last mouthful with a frown. “Chunky—that’s Campbell’s, right? Warhol shit?”

“Yeah. Soup cans, fake artist.”

“Wow, edgy. Don’t slice yourself there, buckaroo.”

Jeongguk places the bowl on the floor and slides it to the corner, promising himself that he’ll clean it later.

“Guy ain’t bad. Pop art and shit.” Taehyung slides over on the bed, pats the space next to him. “Come sit. And get the bong.”

“You have a cold.”

“I’m just sniffly, dude, don’t get anal. I left it in the bathroom.” Taehyung pokes him with his foot. “Go. Vamoose.”

When Jeongguk goes to look beneath the sink, he sees the bottle of lube tucked safely next to the bong. Like a religious emblem of everything wrong right now—the jacking-off, the kiss, the weird lack of tension. The way they’re both acting like nothing’s fucking happened and doing a great job of it.

Staring at the bottle, transparent blue and plastic, Jeongguk takes a moment to ponder. Maybe Taehyung’s forgotten. Fucked on DXM, it’s not impossible.

They end up together on the bed, sitting too close as always, coughing through thick smoke. The air feels cold and damp, a result of last night’s rain. Goosebumps rise on Jeongguk’s skin and he scoots closer to Taehyung, letting him rest his head on his shoulder as they argue about pop art.

“I don’t hate it,” Jeongguk defends, his voice soft and slow, a happy little bounce to his tone as he soaks in the weed smell and humidity. Feels Taehyung’s fever on his shoulder. His soft hair and the low rumble as he speaks.

“Lying to yourself.” The space beneath Taehyung’s feverish brow is shadowed, light falling over the smooth arch and dipping away into the hollow. He’s sweating. A faint sheen. Jeongguk resists the urge to lick it. “You’ve always hated kitsch.”

“Fuck off. I love kitsch. This.” Jeongguk taps the neck of the glass bong, marvelling at the globs of acrylic paint suspended inside. The base is tucked in Taehyung’s lap, his legs crossed. “This is kitschy as fuck. And I love it.”

Taehyung raises and eyebrow covers the carb with his thumb. “But you hate Warhol.”

“C’mon, everyone hates Warhol.”

“Mm.”

Jeongguk watches as Taehyung flicks the lighter, the orange of the flame dancing off the thick glass, off the bridge of Taehyung’s nose, off his eyelids that flutter shut as he inhales. Again he’s staring at Taehyung’s lips.

“But I don’t hate Warhol,” Taehyung says as he exhales, handing Jeongguk the bong.

“Something wrong with you then.” The glass is cold. Jeongguk’s hands feel clammy. “Catch up. I heard he was an asshole.”

Taehyung chuckles. “Dead now though, ain’t he? All we got left are soup cans and hatred.”

“My life, my woes.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes. Extends his hand for the lighter. “Gimme that. But yeah—pop art. Like, it’s kinda popular in tattoo designs, so the artists gotta know some shit about it. You always see that modern graphic vibe being requested.”

“Mm. Need help with that?” Taehyung gestures to Jeongguk, struggling to line the flame up to the bowl.

“Ah…nah, I got it.” After a few tries Jeongguk finally gets a good light, loads up the hit and inhales.

“I always”—Jeongguk blows a wispy smoke ring and reclines onto the stacked pillows—“like, at the shop, I always gotta do all the pop art tats. Whenever clients ask for that style, the guys at the shop all set them up with me. Guess ‘cause I like that whole comic style they assume I’d be the best fit.”

“Comics, though.” Taehyung nods takes the bong from Jeongguk’s lap. “Remember when you did those mock DC covers?”

“Man.” Jeongguk sighs, stretching his arms above his head. “That was so fun.”

“Know what it reminds me of?”

Jeongguk rolls to the side, the back of his hand brushing against Taehyung’s waist. It’s just a shock of a memory, but he’s briefly reminded of how his hands had gripped Taehyung’s sides last night as they’d kissed.

The memory doesn’t linger—Jeongguk doesn’t let it linger.

“That one guy from the DC Universe.” Taehyung taps his fingers against the glass tube. “Deathstroke the Terminator. In this one show, though, like some kids show or something, they changed it to Slade. Like, man, get that, right? Deathstroke. Just too hardcore for television.”

“Sounds like a handjob tactic,” Jeongguk murmurs, resting his arm behind his head, seemingly very interested in the dirty, coffee stain-like blots on the ceiling. “Like—pew pew, finish him: deathstroke.

Taehyung snorts. “You always ruin everything. He’s a ruthless killer.”

“I’m just being creative.”

Jeongguk hears the scrape and flick of a lighter, the sound striking a harsh polarity with the bubble of calm they seem to be in. He jolts and looks over at Taehyung, watches as he takes another hit, and then laughs as he proceeds to cough up a fucking lung.

“You good?” Jeongguk asks, not concerned so much as amused.

“Ugh. I feel like death and dying. We need to buy cough meds.” Taehyung holds the bong out to him. “Here.”

Jeongguk sits up with a grunt and balances the base in his lap. “Watch your spit on the mouthpiece, ya nasty.” Grimacing, he wipes the glass with the hem of his shirt. “Gonna transfer your sickness.”

“Already transferred it last night,” Taehyung says, flopping down onto the bed, eyes closed. The springs in the mattress creak and Jeongguk bounces with the movement. “Would’ve gotten sick by now.”

But there’s something in Taehyung’s tone now, flighty like regret and a pressing sense of wanting to take back those words. Quick, short things, feather-light as jokes should be.

Jeongguk feels them heavy in his gut.

He takes a hit and tries to ignore it—the way Taehyung chews on his lower lip, looking almost contemplative; the racing beat of Jeongguk’s heart; the invasive cold of the glass that barely grazes his lips and the cooled smoke; the way everything feels like too much.

“You remember?” he asks as he blows that smoke out, trying to sound casual.

“I mean…” Taehyung laughs, sounds nervous, seems stiff, as if he’s made of porcelain, as if he’s about to fall to the floor and shatter. “Fuck, sorta? I mean—mostly. Your lips were soft. I—I mean. Nah. It’s fine.”

Jeongguk huffs a laugh, his throat closed in. “What?” His finger tighten around the glass neck. His sweaty palms squeak.

“Ugh. Sorry. I dunno, I’m being weird, don’t listen to me. I just—” Taehyung threads his hands into his hair. His fingernails dig into his scalp. It’s something he does when he’s tense and trying to hide it. Jeongguk watches those cascading locks, soft things he wants to touch. “Wasn’t gonna bring it up?”

Taehyung says it like a question. He’s looking at Jeongguk now, an uncertain inquisitiveness in his eyes. The stress lines in his forehead show.

“Oh.” Jeongguk nods.

“Guess we should, though. Talk about it, I mean.”

“Sure. About…”

“Elephant in the room. Elephant between two dudes.” Taehyung pauses for a moment like those words don’t sound quite right, and amends it. “Between us.”

Eye-to-eye, this is all just static and emotions.

Jeongguk blinks. The smoke accumulated in the RV is too thick.

Taehyung pokes Jeongguk’s stomach. “Let’s downsize the elephant, Jeon.” Then he grins, doesn’t look bothered—or at least not as bothered as Jeongguk feels. Or maybe he’s just good at hiding it, better than Jeongguk had thought he was.

“I—I’m good, y’know,” Jeongguk says very lamely. “It’s good. Everything’s…good.”

“Like, we’re chill, right? We’re fine? We’ve always been fine.”

Good and chill and fine.

Yes. Very.

Taehyung’s brow smooths out. He presses his lips together and then passes his tongue over the bottom one, leaving it slick and pink, a lot like how his lips had looked last night.

Truth is nothing’s good or chill or fine, but Jeongguk acts like it anyway.

It’s just what he does.

“It’s just weird, is all. But it ain’t the first time we’ve gotten a little homo.” Taehyung shrugs. It’s quiet for a while. A moment of avoided glances. Then Taehyung sits up, speaking louder. “Good to talk about it though. ‘Cause fuck the elephant. We’re not like that, you and I. Never.”

Jeongguk smiles. At this point he’s so used to faking it—hiding this romantic unease and moronic love—that it feels genuine even to him. Watching Taehyung relax again, the gnawing in Jeongguk’s stomach reduces to a background hum. Still there but gone when there are other things to focus on. The air is too dense, too hot, swathed in an almost palpable sense of shortcomings and the feeling of being close, so close.

“Never,” Jeongguk says with a grin.

The promise reminds him of that big forever, the glaring shadow of the future. Makes him ponder it. Is there an expiration date on feelings? Can Jeongguk drag this out until the two of them are fine again? As fine as they say they are, as fine as they’ve always been.

Taehyung scoots down on the bed, lies back. Jeongguk turns his head to the side to look at him. His hair splayed out around his head. His profile, a halo of yellow light filtering over the slope of his nose. The strand of hair clinging to his feverish, flushed neck. His lips curved in a soft smile, like he’s content with everything.

“So am I a good kisser or what?” Taehyung jokes. His irises are a muted brown with darker flecks, the gossamer of his eyelashes casting thin shadows.

“I’ve had worse,” Jeongguk teases easily, and they move on from the topic.

Feeling floaty and coming apart at the seams, Jeongguk lies there and wonders about pretenses. About holding forth, about the backbone of lies and the purpose of talking, talking, talking. Taehyung’s a good talker and Taehyung’s a good liar.

Jeongguk wonders how he is with fronts.

 


 

“See, that’s the thing about finding yourself.” The girl in front of him gets jostled by the crowd around her.

“What?” Jeongguk yells over the music and leans closer.

“Finding yourself.” She grins, blending with the music like she belongs here. Her teeth flash in the dark. Behind her there’s a gay couple pressed together against the counter, sucking face under the hot lights. “Like, who are you if—uh, ‘cause, if you can’t even love yourself, right? Then what the fuck’s your love for others mean?”

It’s Saturday.

Taehyung’s out with Wheein again. Jeongguk doesn’t care.

Sometimes Jeongguk just likes going out to clubs and getting fucking disgusting with total strangers. Maybe that’s just his shtick.

It’s not an obligation to jealousy or anything like that, as he’s been repeating to himself all night. He really hadn’t meant for this to be the location—in fact he’d never meant for this night out to happen at all—but here he is with this convenient stranger he happened to meet, sweating in neon and blacklight.

He tightens his grip on the girl’s waist and says over the bass, “I asked you what drink you wanted.”

“Interior love to flesh out the exterior love,” she goes on. “Otherwise you’ve just got a hollow shell of emotion.”

Her hair is sleek and black but not as nice as Taehyung’s. Her skin is tan, all sun-kissed like a good modern trendsetter and follower alike, tight and youthful, but again her skin is nothing next to Taehyung’s. Jeongguk’s thinking a lot about Taehyung.

Especially since that night.

Jeongguk wonders how this girl’s kisses would compare to Taehyung’s. Some part of him knows, no matter how good she might be, that she could never hold a candle to him.

Jeongguk nods. “I’ll get you a daiquiri. Yeah?”

She rolls her eyes. “Get yourself a daiquiri, flower boy.” She pats his bicep when he quirks an eyebrow. “Kidding. I’m already fucked up, don’t need nothing. Just shootin’ the shit. You got good hips, Jeon. Girls go on about you, I kinda get it now. But see”—she blinks hard through a stuttering flash of light beams—“people always talk about love like it’s this nasty concept. A new thing you tack on when you get sexual enough for it to count. But—”

Jeongguk watches her eyes roll over the bodies around them, leaning close so he can hear. He feels kind of bad because she seems to know him to some extent. In this murkiness he can’t even tell what colour her eyes are. He can almost pretend they’re the same dark brown as Taehyung’s.

“But I think it’s an extension of yourself. You ever see those self-hating ones, like, not ironic but real, ‘cause I know we all hate ourselves to some degree but I’m talkin’ the real shit. Yeah, that. So you see ‘em fall in love but it’s always shaky, like, y’know? God, it’s so loud in here—but you get it, right?”

“Nah, but keep going.”

Even with her in heels he stands taller, has to stoop lower to hear. This song is a remixed 2009 pop hit. The club air is sticky. Jeongguk’s only halfway drunk and already down a couple hundred bucks.

“So, I dunno, I just think it starts with the self. Like, everything. Not just love. That tarot lady down at the boardwalk, she told me that.”

Jeongguk nods. “I heard she owns this massive dildo.”

“Dude.” She’s nodding as if she cares, as if she can hear more than half the words he’s saying. “Dude, I’ve heard that too. Crazy, right? Hey—”

She scans the room. Sweat gleams off her smooth neck, colours bouncing off her moist, hot skin. Her body is tucked against his front, very close and somehow not sexual at all.

“You wanna get the fuck outta here?” She laughs. “I feel suffocated and my pits are wet.”

Jeongguk’s nods. This is a good plan.

With this girl’s hand around his wrist, they push through the crowd of tourists and people rich enough to come here. Jeongguk feels out-of-place, feels like fresh blood, targeted. The sweaty bodies against him are slimy, like worms or something else just as vile.

It’s colder outside. There are no cars on the street. Just the sound of the sea, the falling tide off the shore.

“What was I saying?” she asks, falling into pace next to him.

“Love,” he breathes. His lungs feel clearer already, but there’s a certain heaviness he can’t rid himself of. Something that’s been lingering for a while, something he’s plenty used to.

Love.” She pulls out a pack of smokes and holds it out to him. He takes one. “Let’s walk.”

“Where?”

“Path. It’s kinda romantic, right?” She points across the empty street at the clean, paved walkway, street lamps buzzing overhead.

Jeongguk listens to the waves. The way they crash on the seawall, the rocky siding of the breakwater that extends into the night-black ocean. The girl shines with sweat, a gentle glow on her forehead. The night is humid.

“I mean”—she shrugs, lighting her smoke, shielding it from the soft sea wind—“we can take that romance idea with a grain of salt. I’ve heard you’re caught up.”

“Huh?” Jeongguk blinks and looks at her.

“Here. Light.” She holds up the lighter and they stop in the middle of the path. The flame is a harsh orange against the black sky, drowning out the stars for just a moment as it’s held close to his face. Then they start walking again. “Tonight was fun.”

Their footsteps are muted sounds on the pavement.

“Kinda weird.” Jeongguk takes a drag, his other hand in his pocket. “I don’t like that place. Discotheque-wannabe joint. It’s really…”

“Disgusting? Crowded? Yeah. Everything on main’s kinda gotten all outré and shit in the past few years. Used to be really laid back.”

“Remember that one Vietnamese restaurant? Family-run.”

“I do.” There’s a little hop in her step. “I loved that place. They tore it down for some gross thing, right? Overpriced and tacky.”

They talk like that for a while, about everything and nothing. It’s so easy, so casual. Very non-romantic.

Jeongguk would wonder what he’s doing wrong, but he already knows.

He kind of feels like asking: Hey, sorry—what was your name again? But it feels too late at this point. It’s been hours.

The path ends on a low ledge, water crashing against the rock face down below. Jeongguk rests his elbows on the metal railing, his smoke almost entirely gone. She stands next to him. They look out.

In the distance the small lights of boats flicker, muted yellow tones that ripple in the water.

“I’ve heard…” She looks out at the bulky lighthouse perched on a rock in the distance, casting a thick beam into the satin black of ocean and night sky. “I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, but—”

Jeongguk whistles lowly, lighthearted for the most part. “This gonna get real now?”

“Not real. I just don’t know what I expected.”

“Hm?”

“With you. I dunno. I always heard you’re…the distant type.” She gives him a weak smile.

He pauses and hums, watching the angry waves hit the rocks, having an idea where this is going. Wind whips through his hair, against the cooled sweat on his neck.

“At least that’s what Yongsun said.”

He takes the final drag of his smoke, drops it into the water. Flecks of orange fall free from the smouldering tip. “You guys friends?”

She shrugs. “Kinda. Not really, but we talked some.”

She drops her cigarette too. Jeongguk watches it fall, watches it go out when it hits the water. The hiss of the dying flame is drowned out by the rushing waves.

“This here, us”—she gestures between them—“ain’t romance, ain’t ever gonna be anything, so it shouldn’t matter. But I’m kinda drunk and I’ve got a big mouth. Just punch me if I go too far.”

“Will do.” He chuckles softly, not because it’s funny but because he doesn’t know what else to do.

“I just got a question. ‘Cause Yongsun—right, she talked a lotta shit, not tryna, like, get on her side or whatever—”

“There ain’t no sides,” Jeongguk assures. “It’s fine.”

“Right.” She nods. “She always said you were…never there. Never looked happy with where you were, always like you had someplace better to be. Caught up, if you will. Other places, other people. So…”

She nibbles on her bottom lip. Her voice is soft like the whisper of the waves. A daring caution in her tone, treading on weak ground and Jeongguk knows it too. Can feel the seconds giving way as they speak, the topic a small but cumbersome thing.

“So are you?”

Are you caught up?

Jeongguk chews on the inside of his cheek. Thinks of Yongsun. It’s been months but he remembers the bland things, seemingly unimportant. The weird groping and kisses that were all teeth. The bitter taste of her sweat and the way nothing with her ever came to feel familiar.

He shakes his head. “Nah. I’m just…”

Just in love. Just warm and lost in the bigger picture, the confusion of youth catching up to him now, hitting him with reasons—reasons behind the flutter in his chest when he looks at Taehyung and the way he’s never, ever felt that with anyone else.

“Wandering,” he settles on saying.

“Looking for?”

And he shrugs, closes his eyes and feels the sea-salt breeze, the budding summer.

“Lotsa things.”

 


 

Jeongguk lies on the bed, drawing a lazy figure sketch with a ballpoint pen.

“How’d it go?” Taehyung asks, voice fuzzy through the receiver.

“Good. Sweaty.”

“Like, sex-sweaty or club-sweaty?”

“Club.” Jeongguk sighs and stretches, his shoulder beginning to ache. “Where are you?”

“Radio shack. Gonna start some midnight gig in a few minutes. Was just…checkin’.”

“On?”

“You? Duh.”

Jeongguk snorts. He steadies his hand to draw a line, frowning when it comes out too shaky. “Think I can handle a fuckin’ night out without supervision, bud.”

“I’m just being nice. How was it?”

“Ugh. Fine.”

“You meet anyone?”

“Define meet.”

“All right, tone down the sass, salt man. You good? Were they nice?”

“Nice enough. But I’m not…not gonna go on with it or anything. I’m just gonna chill for a while. Not looking for a relationship.”

“Everyone says that, dude. Fuck, I say that. But we all want a little lovin’. Sweet shit for the heart, bullshit for the soul.”

“Depends on who you are, but sure.”

“God. You sound emo. Stop being emo.”

Jeongguk laughs, forgetting his sketchbook and rolling onto his back, staring at the filthy ceiling. “I’m not. I’m just—thinking. I dunno. Tonight got me thinking.”

“Well stop. It’s not good for you.” Taehyung says nothing for a while, seemingly doing something. On the other line Jeongguk can barely hear the sounds of a door opening, a few people talking in the background—probably Taehyung’s co-hosts for the night. “Or I mean, like, are you being real? Like—thinking-thinking? ‘Cause I could ditch this joint, easy.”

“Nah,” Jeongguk’s quick to say. “It’s not—”

“You sure? Not gonna pry, know it ain’t my business, but like—if you wanna, we could talk. Like, for real. We talk a lot of shit but that’s just gross guy shit, right? Like, real talk, I mean. We could do that.”

“You say like too much,” Jeongguk accuses. He finds himself smiling, studying the yellowed constellations stained across the roof. “And I’m good. Just tired. You know those places, fuckin’ revved-up clubs, they’re too much for me. I’m drained. ‘S hot too.”

“It’s always hot.” Taehyung’s quiet for a second. The silence is fuzzy through the line. “But you’re good, right? It’s just—recently you’ve been—”

“I know.” Jeongguk laughs and means it. He breathes. “I know.”

“You think too much, buddy.”

Jeongguk hums softly. “Go—do your radio thing. Have fun. I’m gonna sleep.”

“Good. ‘Kay. Chill out your brain, find peace. You gonna listen?”

“Hm?”

“To the radio. You—should listen. Like, if you wanna. I’m, yeah—I’ll be home later.” Taehyung again seems distracted. Jeongguk hears the scrape of a chair, the rustle of fabric. “Just—‘kay. Later.”

Jeongguk listens to the blank dial tone for a long time before he hangs up. He doesn’t sleep, just lies there, thinking too much like he always does. The silence in the RV is unloving, a cold reminder. He feels a tickle as sweat drips down his temple.

On the couch connected to the wall, there’s a small, plastic radio. Taehyung had bought it a while ago, after getting frustrated with being unable to use the dash radio in fear of it draining the RV battery. Jeongguk stares at the small thing, antenna sticking out at an odd angle. Then he reaches over, grabs it, turns it on.

The local station is complete shit. Always has been.

What’re we gonna play?”

Jeongguk doesn’t recognize that voice, nor does he recognize the few others coming through the speaker. A bunch of very obviously stoned losers, sitting around a broadcast console, rambling. Then he hears Taehyung.

I got a friend that really likes Peter Gabriel. Like, really.

Jeongguk snorts. He turns the radio down to a comfortable volume and tosses it on the couch, lying back on the bed.

Should play it, man,” some stranger says, a raspy voice.

Dude, totally should, right?”

There’s some more chatter from the people Jeongguk doesn’t know. A moment as Taehyung sets up the song. The first few notes of “In Your Eyes” ring out, and it’s such a stupid joke between them but Jeongguk loves it for some reason—the piano and the tender beat and the gross, breathy tone of the lyrics.

Fuckin’ A.

That’s Taehyung speaking over the song. Very professional. Jeongguk feels stupid laughing alone like this, but he does it anyway.

The things we do, hey?”

 


 

Jeongguk finds himself in a dingy bathroom, not drunk but feeling like he should be. The pink flood of light pulses before his eyes, his headache booming in time with the muffled music. The din of conversation washes through the tiled walls.

He’s at Wheein’s house, a swanky, cliffside mansion-looking place she lives in with her parents, who are often never around. Jeongguk’s not sure what he expected but he’s not exactly surprised.

Tonight is another one of those parties she likes to throw. Again Taehyung had invited him. Jeongguk only said yes because last time, without him, Taehyung had turned out a fucking mess.

And then that had happened.

Not wanting to third wheel, he’d texted Changmin to join him. Now he’s here in the bathroom with Taehyung, hiding from his so-called date.

“My lips are soft,” Jeongguk notes, squinting at the mirror, arm bracing himself on the porcelain sink. “That self-care shit. On top of my game.”

“Nivea?”

“Always Nivea, dude.”

“I hear it’s a scam.”

“Hm?” Jeongguk glances away from the mirror, looks at Taehyung. He’s leaning against the cold walls, hands shoved in his pockets. The neckline of his shirt droops low, makes him look rightfully fuckable with his collarbones exposed like that. Jeongguk wants to suck hickeys down the tan skin of his neck, too perfect, too good.

There are granules of white powder crusted into the cracks of the bathroom counter, old, circular burn marks in the linoleum. The surface is sticky like honey and tree sap, sickly sweet things.

“Nivea. And all lip balm companies really.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes and turns back to the mirror, carefully dotting the lipstick against his lips, not quite sure what he’s doing.

“All right, man. So capitalist scams and corporate chokeholds and—what else? Enlighten my sheeple ass.”

“Really. They make that shit so your lips get really dry when you stop using it. Probably. It’s not scientific, just evidential. Trust me though.”

Jeongguk hums and nods, focusing on the mirror. “Will do.”

“You don’t believe me,” Taehyung accuses playfully.

“Do I ever? Listen”—Jeongguk twirls the lipstick between his fingers—“am I doing this right? There’s, like, no colour.”

Taehyung shrugs. “I think that’s kinda the point. Like, it’s all about the feel of the thing. See the flower?” He points at the tube of lipstick, the pale pink flower suspended in the clear bullet, gold flakes glimmering around it. “Classy.”

“Gimmicky, but sure. Are my lips pink?”

Taehyung squints, steps closer. The bathroom is dark, the only source of light the pink-tinted halogen bulb in the corner. A very loving sort of aura if it weren’t for the cracked toilet in the corner, the wafting odour of piss and the burnt-plastic scent of crack.

“Pink enough.” Taehyung shrugs. “It’s supposed to change colour with temperature. Give it a few minutes.”

“Gimmicky,” Jeongguk mutters again, turning away because Taehyung is too close. “This Kylie Jenner shit ain’t for me.”

“It’s Kailijumei. And I bet you just did it wrong.”

Then Taehyung steps closer and places a hand on Jeongguk’s side, turns him so they’re face-to-face.

“I think I know how to apply lipstick,” Jeongguk scoffs, leaning back. Taehyung doesn’t let him, his palm resting along Jeongguk’s waist, moving around the curve, fingers pressing near the small of his back.

“Just c’mon.”

Jeongguk goes still as Taehyung grabs the tube from him, twisting the gold base. Close like this, he’s all Jeongguk can see. In the pink neon light he glows, looks stunning and suave in a bizarre, washed-out sense.

“So tense,” Taehyung murmurs. “Chill out your mouth.”

“My mouth is chill.”

Jeongguk forces himself to hold still as Taehyung smooths the flat edge of the lipstick over his bottom lip for him, then very carefully along the top one. He feels the movement of Taehyung’s body as he breathes, the flow of air between them in this rich girl’s stuffy bathroom. Taehyung’s hair is let down over his shoulders, looking almost dark purple in the watery fluorescence.

“Good?” Jeongguk breathes after a moment of Taehyung just standing there, staring at his lips.

“Turning pink,” Taehyung observes. “Look.” His hand is warm on Jeongguk’s waist, over the threadbare fabric of his shirt.

When Taehyung steps back Jeongguk feels like he can breathe again. Sure enough, leaning close to the mirror, he can see his lips are tinted a faint pink. Or maybe it’s just the hazy blush of light from the weak lamp. Either way it makes his tattoos look pretty cool, he notes. Shimmering and rosy on his skin.

“We done?” Jeongguk asks, turns to Taehyung and takes the lipstick back.

Taehyung blinks and stares at Jeongguk for a second longer. “I’m done if you’re done.”

“Just lipstick.” Jeongguk and clicks the metallic red cap over the base. “Help me find Hoseok. I gotta give this shit back and it’s way too crowded out there.”

“Don’t get lost.” Taehyung grips Jeongguk’s arm just above the elbow, his other hand on the elegant crystal doorknob.

Jeongguk smiles. “Don’t lose me.”

 


 

“Are you sober?”

Jeongguk turns to his side. The room is too dim and the lights are multicoloured in an overwhelming way, but Jeongguk can make out the shape of Wheein’s figure, slight and very sexy. He leans lower, closer.

“What?”

“Sober. Are you?”

“Yeah, mostly. Why?”

“Have you decided?”

“Huh?”

“Are you gonna join us?”

“Join who?”

She looks confused for a second. Then she shakes her head, glancing around the room. “Never mind. I—I’ve been looking for Taehyung. No idea where he is. You seen him?”

Jeongguk furrows his brow. “Uh…not for a while.”

She clicks her tongue. Steps closer. The darkness is an overwhelming shroud and Jeongguk’s head hurts as he tries to make sense of the silhouettes and shapes.

Standing closer like this he can see Wheein’s hair—dyed a killer platinum just like her eyebrows—has been trimmed quite haphazardly, the ends uneven, bangs cut short at the top of her forehead. A pretty terrible style choice. Jeongguk would feel sorry for her except she’s got money and beauty and technically Taehyung. Her hair glints like pearls.

“How’s your night been?” She looks at him now, considerably smaller than he is. Her eyes are hooded, lashes long and heavy. They cast shadows on cheekbones, shimmering with highlighter and pale blush.

“Uh—good.” He nods, very distracted by her low neckline, the tilt of her hips. She smiles, lips lustrous and velvety in the hard lights.

“Y’know…” Her hand in cool on his bicep, creeping up, manicured fingernail scraping at the hem of his tight sleeve. “You’re really nice. Tae likes you.”

“Uh—yeah?” Jeongguk swallows and stutters, feels inundated in this atmosphere, the music too loud, the people even louder. “M—me too? We’re, like, tight, I guess. Y’know. Yeah.”

I really like you.” She regards him with amusement, a certain adoration. Her hand traces down his arm and her thin fingers thread between his. Her skin is soft, silky.

Jeongguk blinks and makes a dumb sound of affirmation in the back of his throat. Not quite catching up, too trapped in whatever this is, feeling like the room should be spinning more than it is right now.

“You are sober, right?”

“Too sober.”

Wheein leans in further, her hand tugging gently on the collar of his shirt, urging him to stoop lower. She purses her lips playfully. “It’s kinda loud over here—the music, the people. Can you hear me fine?”

And she’s already leading him away from the circle of conversation. He wasn’t participating much anyway, just zoning out and waiting for Taehyung to text him that they should head home. The air is stifling and Jeongguk just wants to leave.

But Wheein’s here, looking graceful in her unique way, smiling all friendly. Guiding his hand to her slender hip. Tracing up the tattoos on his arm, then down over his chest, his shirt just tight enough to be inviting.

Her perfume is flowery, dizzying, body warm and lean and he wouldn’t mind having her closer.

“Aren’t you and Changmin…” He trails off, not even realizing how close she is until she’s right there, skin dewy and flushed in the tender lighting. Her lips curve into a gentle smile.

“Aren’t you and Taehyung?” she mocks.

“We’re not like that.” He feels that drowning, head-just-above-water sorta rush from this sexual tension.

“So what are you like?”

“Just…hangin’ out.”

“Just that, huh?” She brushes her thumb over his jawline. Then over his bottom lip, gently. “Is this lipstick?”

He nods. “Flower jelly.”

“Can I try it?”

“Yeah, I borrowed it from Hoseok—” he begins, pulling a typical Jeongguk style of stunt right there, boyish idiocy, just not getting it.

Wheein cuts him off. She’s kissing him now, a very good sort of kiss, sugary and glossy.

Jeongguk makes a small, surprised sound but goes with it. Slides his hand over her hip, feels himself get pressed against a wall, her smaller frame holding him there, his eyelids fluttering shut. His shoulder blades hurt. The surrounding voices in the room fade to a hum.

“It’s nice,” she says when she pulls back, referring to the lipstick. His mind is fuzzy.

“You’re nice,” he breathes.

“Aw.” Reaching up, she combs her fingers through his hair and giggles, twirling the ends around her pinkie. “So sweet, Jeon.” And then a little more serious. “And I meant what I asked earlier.”

“Hm?”

“Like—joining.” She shakes her head, seeming bashful all of a sudden. “Just ask Taehyung. I mean, I’d assumed he’d asked you already.”

“Oh.” He nods, totally not getting it.

“Me and Taehyung—he said he’d be down if you were down.”

“Dude, I’m so down,” Jeongguk says with no idea what he’s agreeing to, his mind pleasantly misted and muddled by the taste of Wheein’s lip gloss. The he leans forward again. Another kiss as he pulls her closer for a moment, her hand squeezing his shoulder.

“That’s good, then,” she says into his mouth with a soft laugh.

 


 

Taehyung catches him in the hall on the second floor about an hour later.

“So—like, what the fuck?”

“Hey.” Jeongguk smiles, tired but light on his feet. “Wheein was looking for you.”

“Not that. I mean—what the fuck? Like, for real.”

“You good?” Jeongguk cocks his head, tipsy, feels the world sway.

“I—are you?

“Fine, I dunno. Why?” Jeongguk shrugs. “When are we leaving?”

“You wanna leave now?” Taehyung furrows his brow, the hollows of his eyes shadowed dark in the dimly lit hallway. A soft light comes from the far end, washes everything in pink, stark against the ivory walls. It makes Taehyung look almost glamorous in a very twisted and modern sense.

“Yeah? I mean—fuck, dude, I always wanna leave. You know me.”

“I guess?” Taehyung steps closer to Jeongguk as someone passes behind him with a slurred ‘scuse me. He takes Jeongguk by the wrist and pulls him to the side, leaning against the wall, looking kinda drunk. But refined. A bizarre interest in his eyes as he regards Jeongguk, a smile playing at his lips. “Dunno, I just—never really took you as the type. Like, I know people always lowkey wanna fuck in threes but I didn’t think you’d be the type to really go for it, and not like that.

Jeongguk blinks, raises his eyebrows. “Hm?”

“You said you were down. For…” Taehyung trails off and makes a vulgar motion with his hands. “Fuckage.”

“With you?” Jeongguk asks automatically because oops. That kinda thing’s just always on his mind. Sex with Taehyung. Especially now, with his shirt hanging off his lean body like that, his hard edges and his dark, subtle eye makeup, all contrasted against the soft blur of this classy mansion, the cold alcohol.

“I—” Taehyung shrugs, biting his bottom lip, looking uneasy as he briefly avoids Jeongguk’s gaze. It’s weird because he never does that. Always puts up the impression of having a firm hold on a situation, even when he clearly doesn’t. “With both of us?”

Jeongguk slowly nods, the stench of tequila hot on his tongue, as the pieces click into place.

Right. I’m a fuckin’ idiot.

He thinks of Wheein and her warm body. Of Taehyung’s body language now, elbow bracing himself against the wall, leaning closer. Quite close, too close, Jeongguk realizes, and then Taehyung’s hand is squeezing his wrist, his face just inches from Jeongguk’s.

“Just full of fuckin’ surprises, aren’t you?” Taehyung’s smile is crooked, his eyelids hooded, lips visibly wet. “Tryna get freaky, Jeon? What’s your forte? ‘Cause I thought that was mine.”

His makeup looks very sexy, smudged with sweat as he and Jeongguk stand close, breathing each other’s air. Jeongguk unthinkingly passes his tongue over his bottom lip, tasting the flower jelly and the faint sugary flavour of Wheein’s lip gloss.

“So you want this?” Taehyung asks. “Like, I really didn’t think you’d say yes.”

“So why’d you tell Wheein you’d do it if I did it?”

“Dunno.” Taehyung shrugs, his thumb rubbing circles into the soft underside of Jeongguk’s wrist. Maybe he can feel the rapid pulse. “Like, I kinda wanted it but I kinda didn’t. But it might be chill if you were there. ‘Cause—I thought you’d say no. Figured I had you worked out. Know you better than I know myself, really.”

Jeongguk scoffs. “That sounds like an Adam Lambert lyric, but all right. So you’ve got me worked out, just in a different way. It’ll be fine, right?”

“Fine how?” When Taehyung stops chewing on his bottom lip, it’s red and slightly swollen, barely visible in the darkness but visible enough to draw Jeongguk’s attention.

Those lips look soft and quite kissable. Might look good with a cock between them—who knows, wow, Jeongguk doesn’t. Jeongguk’s not even thinking about that.

He’s not a pervert, he’s not in love, he’s not having a fucking aneurysm as he and his best friend discuss how this nasty threesome between them and an essential stranger is gonna go down. None of that shit really.

“If…I just—I don’t wanna, like, shove myself between you and her,” Jeongguk haphazardly explains, catching fragments of his thoughts as they run rampant in his mind.

Her?” Taehyung rolls his eyes. “She’s nonexclusive and rich and wild. Nothing was even legit, and Wheein and I’ve barely done jack. We can forget about all this afterward if you want.”

Jeongguk nods. “I’ve never fucked more than one person at once. Threesome or anything more.”

“’S fine.” Taehyung shakes his head, squeezing Jeongguk’s wrist gently. It’s probably meant as a friendly gesture but it makes Jeongguk feel stupidly horny, a whipped idiot with sex on the brain. “I’ve done it once. Kinda. Super high and lethargic as fuck, but it’s enough to count.”

“Experienced, then?” Jeongguk chuckles softly and wiggles his eyebrows. His entire body feels light. His chest is tight with excitement, getting tighter still when Taehyung exhales, his breath loaded up with alcohol and sweet diet chasers.

Taehyung’s laugh is giddy. “I’m just saying. ‘M here for you. Support.”

“Mm.” Jeongguk leans closer. The wall is smooth against his arm. A few people stumble past down the hallway, swaying, giggling and chatting, all lost in their own world. “Are you sober?” Jeongguk asks, fighting the urge to lean down and suck marks into Taehyung’s neck, to feel his pulse beating under his tongue, hot and fast and in sync with his own.

“Sober enough. You?”

“Same.”

“Breath smells like tequila.”

Jeongguk smirks. “So just don’t kiss me.”

There are other pieces now. The ones not falling into place but being put there deliberately, all leading up to making this a reality. The weirdest part is Jeongguk wants it. For Taehyung, sure. But for the experience as well.

Because how bad could it be to get together with a few young, sexy, equally brain-dead people and fuck till it hurts? Realistically.

Yeah, Jeongguk’s just a realist. That’s his excuse. A realist and a filthy opportunist, a cynic with a cruel disbelief in love but still hopeful when it comes to the raunchy shit, the right shit.

“So we’ll just be careful,” Taehyung says. “Keep the mutual dickage to a minimum. We’ve got this.”

Jeongguk nods. “No crossing over. We’ll be fine.”

“And don’t stare at my ass.”

Jeongguk snorts. “Wouldn’t fuckin’ wanna anyways. Ugly pancake ass.”

Taehyung laughs and smacks Jeongguk’s chest. The sudden contact makes him tense, the touch in a different context now, with this sex topic smoking up the air and his mind.

“Don’t insult my ass. My ass is great.”

“Yeah, I know, you’ve told me. Don’t believe it.”

Taehyung huffs, all in good nature. Jeongguk wonders if he feels the gravity and the anticipation as much as he does.

“Whatever. You’ll like my ass when you see it. But listen—when?”

It’s all too sensual. The way Taehyung looks, tender and attentive, his eyes soft in the melting lights. Jeongguk shrugs, forcing indifference.

“What time is it?”

“You mean tonight?” Taehyung blinks.

Jeongguk feels reckless. Impatience runs in his bones, all his caution thrown to the wind because who gives a fuck? He doesn’t. He’s in love and sometimes it hurts like hell, spends too much time thinking and not enough doing, has a lot of good shit between him and Taehyung and has fucked up so much of it. So what’s a little more?

“Why not?” He grins as if this is the easiest decision he’s ever made. “Night’s young. So are we.”

 


 

Jeongguk doesn’t know what he’s doing, what he’d been thinking.

All he knows is he’s got knocking back drinks, talking to people he doesn’t know, riding on the high and subtle stress of the knowledge of what’s to come later. Another weird concept he’s still getting used to.

“Jeongguk?” Wheein holds a small, disc-shaped pill between her index and thumb. “Want one? I’m only on the come-up and it’s the best decision of my life. I have a test kit too. This shit’s fine, trust me.”

He shakes his head mostly because Taehyung had said no.

Light beams flicker in the suspended smoke. Jeongguk watches through the cloudiness as Wheein’s throat works around the ecstasy pill.

He’s thinking about a lot of things. Thinking too much, as Taehyung always says, but it’s so true it hurts. This really shouldn’t be happening. Is it so fucking hard to just admit it to Taehyung? This crush, this love, this—whatever it is.

But Jeongguk’s kinda buzzed and the black bloom of Wheein’s pupils is quite lovely in a somewhat contrived sense. She’s a slick fucking catch, but as Jeongguk meets her eyes his mind is somewhere else, blurred in the sauna of those coital little imaginings.

Taehyung stands to the side, leaning over the couch and talking to a few people. Then Wheein taps him on the shoulder, wiggles her eyebrows and smiles.

Jeongguk’s not drunk enough for this.

 


 

“Wanna get the lube?” Wheein asks.

It’s not real.

Jeongguk blinks, processes it. “Uh—now?”

Not fucking real.

“When else?”

Jesus fuck.

Jeongguk feels frozen as he watches this scene going down on this huge bed. California king because that’s the dough Wheein’s type of rich is rolling in. This entire room, the ritzy drapes, the elegant settee in the corner, the Egyptian silk duvet, is all hers.

Taehyung smiles warily, like he’s testing the waters. He’s lying on his back with Wheein between his legs, looking quite powerless.

Jeongguk has no idea how they got to this point—kinda.

It’s mostly Wheein and her curiosity about “how that prostate jazz works” and the way Taehyung’s a little too easygoing, too casual about offering to let some girl get all up in his hole.

Jeongguk hates the part of himself that’s excited.

“It’s in the drawer,” Wheein says.

Jeongguk nods jerkily and crawls over the bed. In the drawer, among the strips of condom packets, there are many bottles of lube, all half-empty—no, half-full. Optimism, gotta keep this shit intact.

“Which one?” Jeongguk asks.

Wheein shrugs, seemingly distracted with Taehyung’s body beneath hers. An almost medical interest in her eyes as he strokes his thighs and calves.

“Whichever. Something for anal, maybe.”

“Sounds weird when you say anal.” Taehyung chuckles. Something is off about his voice, forced and mechanical, just like the moment itself.

The lube is in an orange-tinted bottle—Forbidden Anal Lubricant by Adam & Eve™—and Taehyung’s right, it does seem quite obscene to see it printed like that. Anal. In any other circumstance Jeongguk would turn to Taehyung and make a crude joke about buttholes and probably comment on the irony of the labelling, some joke about straight people and maybe some other dumb shit, but now isn’t quite the time.

“Got it?” Wheein asks. She smooths her hands down Taehyung’s torso and he tenses and laughs hard, curls up, lines of his abs becoming prominent.

“Ticklish,” he says through a giggle, grabbing her wrist with a certain force, pulling her hand away. Something about seeing the blunt action makes Jeongguk feel dizzy, hot in his lower belly. He watches how the light glances off Taehyung’s skin and muscle, wants to lick up his sweat and suck hickeys all over, mark him up just to make a statement, something that would sit well on the tongue. Mine, mine, mine.

“Sorry,” Wheein says. She smiles down at him and something ugly burns in Jeongguk’s gut. Arousal and jealousy. Jeongguk’s eyes meet Taehyung’s and he huffs a laugh, biting his lip because he doesn’t know what the fuck else he’s supposed to do or say—like, hey, buddy, you’re lookin’ real fucking fine with that girl sitting between your legs there, getting ready to ream you. Also I love you.

That probably wouldn’t fly.

Taehyung grins back like they’re sharing some inside joke. “Come back?”

Jeongguk swallows, praying he doesn’t look as keyed up as he feels. “Sure? Uh—sure.”

“‘Kay.” Taehyung feigns confidence but there’s still something—that same something Jeongguk’s always been able to recognize whenever the guy’s feeling off.

“Come,” Wheein urges, beckoning him with a telltale glint in her eyes that points to her experience. “Are you still wearing that lipstick?”

“It probably came off.” Jeongguk clambers back, the silk fuchsia duvet soft under his knees. Wheein traces the lines of muscle down Taehyung’s torso, and he once again breaks into a fit of giggles.

Stop,” she chides, pokes him in the belly and he tenses, batting her hands away. Taehyung’s so big in comparison to her, such a graceful structure against his masculinity. Jeongguk watches and tries to ignore the hateful acid in his blood.

“I’m ticklish,” he says.

“Well stop being ticklish.” Then she turns to Jeongguk. “Gukkie—”

He lets out a nervous sigh when Wheein reaches for him, threads her fingers into his hair, tugs hard. Seems she has a thing for that—she’s been doing it to Taehyung all night. Kinda hot. She pulls him closer and his eyes flutter shut as their lips meet. Her mouth is nice, just as sweet and soft as before.

She makes a low noise and tightens her grip in his hair. She kisses him harder. Bites his lip. Smiles when he lets out a squeak and laughs softly. He palms across her chest, squeezing her breasts and flicking his thumb over the nipple.

Then she takes the bottle of lube from Jeongguk and guides him around her. He follows because there’s just something about her that makes him feel like jelly. She turns to Taehyung and pops the cap. “You ready?”

It’s hitting Jeongguk all at once now, the gravity of this bad idea, this terrible idea, this completely asinine idea—that you can watch the person you’re, like, 90% sure you love fuck someone else and be all cool with it.

As if.

Jeongguk wonders if he can really do this. At this point he’s really fucking doubting it, seeing Taehyung like this, his lean, tan body and his dark hair falling over his bare shoulders, naked in a more sexual sense than what Jeongguk’s used to. A part of him worries he’s gonna somehow drift over to Taehyung and end up mouthing somewhere at his body, compelled by the dense, youthful lust in the air.

Don’t think with your dick; don’t think with your dick.

Wheein sits between Taehyung’s legs and forces them apart so they’re bent at the knee. Jeongguk lets out a shaky breath because it kind of exposes everything. Taehyung’s cock is hard and long, lying against his belly, very enticing. Jeongguk wants it in his mouth, wants to choke on it, wants Taehyung’s hand in his hair, forcing his cock deeper down his throat.

Jeongguk wants a lot of things. It’s getting worse by the second.

“As I’ll ever be.” Taehyung bends his knees closer to his body. His pubic hair is neat and trimmed, with a trail moving up to his lower navel. Wheein thumbs his asscheeks apart and Taehyung makes an uncomfortable noise. “Careful.” He drops his head back.

Jeongguk can’t look away. He’d try but he can’t really think clearly enough to do that either. Instead he just sits there, biting his lip and pressing closer against Wheein’s back, putting his arms around her waist, watching her fingers dance up Taehyung’s inner thigh and play with his balls, wrap her hand around his hard cock and stroke slowly toward the tip.

“Do you wax?” Jeongguk hears himself asking, eyes stuck on how Wheein spreads Taehyung’s asscheeks, his crack smooth.

Taehyung snorts. “Do you?”

“I’m just—asking. You’re all…”

Laughing, Taehyung turns his head and lets a stray lock of hair fall over his face. He’s blushing, Jeongguk realizes. “Yeah. But just my ass.”

“Yeah. Me too,” Jeongguk says, sounding dazed, tucking his chin into Wheein’s shoulder, feeling like he’s drowning, like he’s falling. Taehyung’s eyelashes flutter as he and Jeongguk look at each other. Jeongguk has to remind himself that the pleasure he sees on Taehyung’s face is because someone else is touching Taehyung’s cock right now. That lust in his eyes ain’t just for him. Jeongguk has to remind himself of that. Jeongguk has to remind himself of a lot of things.

But with the way Taehyung looks at him, glances away in a definite act of uncertainty that he so rarely shows, a too-hopeful part of Jeongguk is inclined to think something more.

“That’s good, Guk,” Taehyung breathes, getting into this, letting his hips roll up into Wheein’s grip. “Hairy assholes are the worst.” And he lets out a soft groan.

Jeongguk’s grip tightens around Wheein’s small waist, his dick kicking hard against his stomach, standing straight from between his legs and almost hurting with how full it is. Unthinkingly he grinds against Wheein’s back. She doesn’t seem to mind so he just stays like that, lazily moving his hips and rubbing his length against the ridges of her spine.

“Gonna fuckin’ start?” Taehyung asks, sounding a little breathless already. Wheein’s hand works in smooth motions up and down his cock, deft fingers playing with his foreskin and her thumb flicking across the head. Precum smears from the slit and Jeongguk’s mouth waters because fuck, he wants to taste it so bad.

“Want me to?” Wheein lets go of his cock, letting it bob heavily, red and leaking.

There’s something forced about the moment. Jeongguk feels the wrongness to his core, a heavy, beating thing that runs off-pace with the booming of his heart.

Wheein can probably feel his rapid heartbeat against her back. The tension in his body, the almost possessive clench of his jaw as he mouths along the side of her neck, using her as a distraction from the jealousy, licking at the hickeys Taehyung had left.

His eyes on Taehyung. Taehyung’s eyes on him.

“‘Course I want you to.”

“Would you prefer Jeongguk to do it?”

It’s right out of nowhere. Jeongguk swallows and chokes on air.

“Wh—him?” Taehyung doesn’t mask the panic in his voice very well.

Jeongguk’s eyes go wide and he quickly looks at the corner of the bed, afraid he’s gonna end up making eye contact with Taehyung. Afraid of what Taehyung’s gonna say.

Wheein shrugs, her lips twitching in a smile that she doesn’t hide very well. “Fuck, why not?”

“We’re—uh,” Jeongguk cuts in, wanting to avoid hearing Taehyung’s rejection, wanting to say it himself so he can pretend he has more control over this situation that he does. “We’re not like that really. Not really.”

All the bad shit that could’ve happened is happening. Jeongguk doesn’t know why he’s surprised. Should’ve expected it really. Casual sex, threesomes or not, coupled with emotions and all that jazz tend not to mix well together. Fire and ice, or maybe more like fire and napalm.

Jeongguk’s not sure. Jeongguk’s not sure about a lot of things right now.

For example: would it be a good idea for him to finger his best friend just to sate some hippie-actress’ curiosity (and a bit of his own)?

Yeah, Jeongguk’s really not sure.

“I mean, all of us are not like that, technically.” Wheein’s platinum-blonde hair glows in the soft lights. The ends are damaged. “This isn’t romance so you don’t have to worry about it. Just some good old sex. All about comfort. So”—she looks pointedly at Taehyung, whose hair is splayed out beneath his head in a messy halo—“what’s your comfort?”

“Uh…I guess…” Taehyung trails off, his voice even, not betraying a single thing he’s thinking. Then he raises his eyebrows at Jeongguk, seeming not to notice that his world is fucking imploding. “Jeongguk? If you’re down?”

There’s something very now-or-never about this moment.

Without even thinking Jeongguk breathes, “I’m down.” The words are shaky but he means them. The implications are terrifying, hot and black things that burn into the back of his mind, but at the same time his dick is hard and his best friend is naked, legs spread, and Jeongguk’s an idiot who gives into desire too easily.

There are these things called consequences but Jeongguk couldn’t give a fuck if he tried. Not anymore.

It’s all a blur. Wheein’s quick, an excited bounce in her movements as though she had been anticipating this.

“I just wanna see this prostate business go down,” she says. “Gukkie here knows how it feels. He’ll be more careful than me, will know what to do.”

“Right…” Jeongguk’s mind is hazy. Wheein is pressed against his back, her soft fingertips brushing up and down his side, tracing the thicker lines of his tattoos.

Taehyung’s lying on his back, his legs on either side of Jeongguk. Their eyes meet and he feels his world zoom in, everything focused on right now.

How Taehyung looks as he tries to hide the nervous look in his eyes.

Jeongguk can really see it now. Taehyung’s act is quite transparent—at least to him.

“You look hot,” Taehyung says, smiling softly, joking and trying to lighten the mood.

A tense laugh bubbles up from Jeongguk. He smirks. “Do I?” Then he grabs Taehyung’s ankle, jostling him into a better position before he can answer, not wanting to stagnate because that would allow for time to think, to realize this is a bad idea.

Taehyung makes a surprised noise and shifts himself closer to Jeongguk to ease some of the stretch on his leg. “Jesus—chill, what the fuck—”

“Sorry.” Jeongguk snickers, feeling a bit more comfortable with this just because he’s with Taehyung. Touching him, teasing him. It’s a little gay but whatever. Lifting Taehyung’s leg a bit more, he notices the vibrant colours of Taehyung’s tattoo on the lower curve of his ass. “Nice ass tat,” he comments sarcastically, and then smacks the back of Taehyung’s thigh, just below the tattoo.

“I—ngh.” Taehyung’s eyes go unfocused and his hips stutter, rolling up and away from the pain, then back down as he lets out a groan. Jeongguk watches his cock bob with wonder. Then he glances up at Taehyung, quirking an eyebrow when he sees him swallow hard, a gentle blush down his neck.

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asks incredulously, finding this too amusing.

“Shut the fuck up.” Taehyung rolls his eyes and brings his free leg up to kick Jeongguk’s side. The ankle of his other leg is still caught in Jeongguk’s grip, and Jeongguk laughs and holds it tighter when Taehyung tries to wiggle that leg free.

“Okay—c’mon already,” Wheein says, her breath rushing hot over Jeongguk’s shoulder. She reaches around his body, holding the opened lube in front of him, her breasts pressing against his back as she leans closer. He can feel the cool sheen of sweat on her chest. “Let’s do this.”

Jeongguk breathes in deep.

She holds Jeongguk’s wrist, her touch slightly cold, and steadies his hand before pumping a whole load of lube onto his fingers. Some dribbles to his palm. It’s probably too much but that’s never a problem per se. Dropping the bottle somewhere on the bed, she then collects the excess lube dripping from Jeongguk’s hand and smears it over her palm.

She wraps her slick hand around the base of Jeongguk’s dick with a pleased hum. His hips buck at the sudden touch, and he lets out a surprised moan. Circling the girth tight with her fingers, she pulls the foreskin over the pink, wet head of his cock.

“So hard, Jeongguk,” she whispers, brushing his long hair away from his neck and kissing up the side, nibbling on his earlobe. He sighs and tilts his head, shuddering as her tongue flicks over his piercings. His earlobes have always been sensitive. It’s almost impossible for him to focus, to keep his eyes open as he spreads Taehyung’s asscheeks, fingers making indents in the plush skin.

“Is my ass still ugly?” Taehyung teases.

Jeongguk’s laugh is breathy. Nervous. “So ugly, dude. Brush up on your squats.”

“I don’t exercise.”

Jeongguk nods, eyes on Taehyung’s asshole, pink and pretty and clenching as Jeongguk’s touches him. “But you surf.”

“I live,” Taehyung corrects.

“Get your head outta your ass,” Jeongguk teases, his voice soft, low and measured because anything more and it would probably crack, all embarrassing, giving away how flustered he really is. He cautiously presses his fingertips at the soft, wrinkled skin right where Taehyung’s balls and perineum meet, leaving it shiny with lube as he drags down and slowly rubs over his puckered asshole. Taehyung grunts and twitches, jerks his hips toward Jeongguk’s hand.

“Done deal if you get your fingers in my—” Taehyung begins, quickly getting cut off by a pleased sigh as Jeongguk works one finger in. “F—fuck, okay, just—nh.”

“You good?” Wheein asks Taehyung as she scrapes her teeth on the outer shell of Jeongguk’s earlobe. He lets out a weak moan.

It’s all overwhelming, a caustic sensory rush. Taehyung’s inner walls are hot and tight around Jeongguk’s finger, clenching and wet with lube as he runs the pad of his finger over the ridges of muscle.

“So good,” Taehyung says, lips parted, eyes closed, hips rolling slowly onto Jeongguk’s finger as he squirms the tiniest bit.

“Look so pretty, Tae,” Wheein says. She squeezes Jeongguk’s cock once, hard, making him whimper and buck into her hand. “You too, Gukkie. So pretty.” She licks up his neck, the muscle of her tongue pressed flat. The trail of saliva cools in the air of the room, leaves his skin tingling.

“Gimme ‘nother,” Taehyung says lazily, dropping his head and letting his hair splay out. “Feels good, Guk.”

“Already?” Jeongguk worries his brow. But Taehyung looks so content here, back arching gently off the bed, opening up for Jeongguk and looking so gorgeous doing it.

“Yeah, man. I like—mmh.” He moans as Jeongguk circles a second finger around his entrance, pressing it in alongside the other. “I like the stretch,” Taehyung finishes with a heady exhale. He’s so tight, the muscle rippling around Jeongguk’s fingers as he scissors them, and Jeongguk’s cock kicks, drooling precum down the hot shaft, making a wetter mess with the lube as Wheein strokes him slowly, teasing him.

Then, Wheein’s slightly tentative voice: “Can you fist him?”

Almost immediately Taehyung jerks and his leg knocks against Jeongguk’s thigh. “F—no!”

“Hey, hey, chill.” Laughing, Jeongguk soothes a hand down Taehyung’s torso and urges him to lie flat again.

“I dunno. Might be fun.” Wheein shrugs, not fucking dropping the fisting topic for some reason. “You’ll be taking that.” She nods at Jeongguk’s dick, being carefully worked by her skillful hand, very red and aching. “Just a fist. Good prep and fun.”

Jeongguk blanks, still stuck on the part that implied his dick and Taehyung’s asshole would be having anything to do with each other. He stutters. “I…w—we won’t be—”

“Yeah,” Taehyung cuts in, sounding frazzled. “We’re not like th—”

Wheein snorts. “Not like that, yeah, you’ve fuckin’ said. Hey, Jeongguk, how’s Tae’s asshole feeling? Just by the way.” She gives him an amused look over his shoulder, her fingers trailing down his length and fondling his balls, making him have to hold back a moan.

Jeongguk nibbles on his tongue, trying to appear casual. “I’m not gonna fuck him, I mean.”

“No?” Wheein purses her lips, furrows her brow. “I just assumed. I mean, not like Tae’s gonna fuck you, right?” Something about the statement makes Jeongguk’s jaw clench. “Taehyung has to bottom. ‘Cause you’re all…all big and shit. I dunno.”

Maybe Taehyung senses the tensing of Jeongguk’s muscle, the hard set of his jaw, because he quickly speaks up in an almost conciliatory tone. “We’re just not like that in the first place, I mean.”

She hums. “Right, sorry.” She probably senses the change in mood—from tense to very tense. She presses a kiss to Jeongguk’s jawline, and another, then scrapes her teeth there. As she strokes his cock a few times he relaxes in her hands, biting his lip, a soft moan coming from his throat. “Not like that,” she repeats, sounding amused.

“Just fingers,” Jeongguk says, ignoring what she’d said because it’s just too fucking much to think about, with Taehyung’s ass tight around his fingers, letting Jeongguk feel the pleased shudders moving through Taehyung’s body. The ring of muscle catches around his knuckles as he moves them in and out, scissors them with care.

“Just fingers,” Taehyung agrees, his body losing its tension, giving in to Jeongguk as he opens him up. He reaches down and wraps a hand around Jeongguk’s wrist, urging him to look up and meet his eyes. In the washed-out backlight of Wheein’s room, pink bedspread and pink rug and pink walls, Taehyung’s gaze is so heartfelt, pretty, even a little loving in a way that makes Jeongguk’s heart skip. “Hey.”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk’s tone is shaky and he pauses, his insides turning to mush. He wonders if that affection shows in his eyes.

“Don’t fist me, man,” Taehyung says, biting his plump lip. His teeth scrape the pink skin. Very inviting.

Jeongguk nods, crooking his fingers, pushing them in deeper, the absurdity of the statement overshadowed by other things, equally as absurd. “I won’t fist you. Promise.”

“’Kay.” Taehyung exhales, letting go and leaning back, shadows glancing over his ribs as the lines show through his tan skin. “You’re the best. My asshole is in your care.”

Jeongguk laughs, jittery with nerves and tension and fragments of feelings. “You trust me?”

“So much.” And it sounds painfully genuine. A pang right in Jeongguk’s chest.

He finds himself leaning closer to Taehyung, hovering over his body, away from Wheein’s touch, her hand leaving his cock. “I’ve got you, dude,” Jeongguk murmurs. The rush of Taehyung’s breath over his lips is warm and sweet. Their eyes are locked and it seems like Taehyung’s expecting something.

But Jeongguk’s a little pussy bitch so he moves down instead, grazes his lips over the juncture of Taehyung’s shoulder and neck. A bit of teeth, bit of tongue. He tastes like sex, sweaty and fucking lovely.

“Y’know—why am I the focus?” Taehyung muses, tilting his head back as Jeongguk sucks marks up his neck, eliciting small noises from deep in his throat. Taehyung presses his palms against Jeongguk’s waist, fingernails digging into his skin.

Jeongguk smiles, licks over Taehyung’s Adam’s apple. “’Cause it suits you.”

“Suits me how?”

For a moment Jeongguk’s quiet, everyone’s quiet, the only sounds in the room the satisfied noises coming from Taehyung as Jeongguk marks him up, kisses his jawline, sucks his earlobe into his mouth, tongue flicking the cold piercing.

“Look good, is all,” Jeongguk says after a while. A measly response but it’s the most he’s got the balls to say. He doesn’t pull away because he’s too tweaked out to risk eye contact with Taehyung.

“Psh. Not too bad yourself, you hot young thing.” The sarcastic smirk is apparent in Taehyung’s voice.

His hand soothes down Jeongguk’s spine and makes him shiver. Jeongguk feels the colder touch of Wheein’s hand as her fingers thread together with Taehyung’s, sort of a surprise. He’d forgotten she was here.

Jeongguk kind of feels bad for it, but he wants her gone. Wishes it were just him and Taehyung and the weird tension they have to work out, the wide-eyed, affectionate gazes and playful teasing, the way Jeongguk doesn’t think he can handle a kiss even though his fingers are currently shoved right up Taehyung’s ass, all that clenching muscle and lubed-up wetness making his dick pulse and leak.

Wheein says, “But, like, do you wanna get fucked?”

Taehyung chokes on a laugh, his hips jerking as Jeongguk does something a little different with his fingers and sucks hard on the spot just below his jaw. “Fuck, I guess, it’s just—oh God, Guk, fuck, fuck—”

“Just what?” Wheein asks.

Ngh—only, uh, only Jeongguk’s here.”

“What if Jeongguk were down?”

Jeongguk tenses again but Taehyung’s not really paying attention to anything other than the fingers in his ass.

“Mm, fuck,” he breathes, “I really—don’t give a shit, I don’t need it.” He blindly reaches for Jeongguk’s forearm and pats it a few times. “Three, Guk. Gimme.”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asks, quite satisfied with Taehyung’s reactions.

“Mm-hm.” He looks mildly delirious, sweat dripping down the sides of his face. As Jeongguk slides the third finger in, Taehyung’s body tenses, trembles, his rim resisting the stretch and clenching tight. Jeongguk wants to be inside him, wants to have that heat squeezing around his cock. He groans, hips twitching slightly.

“So tight,” Jeongguk says in a low tone, massaging Taehyung’s inner thigh, trying to coax him open. “Just chill.”

“I—mmph.” Taehyung grits his teeth. Jeongguk feels the tension in his jaw as he kisses him there. “Maybe you’re just bad at this.”

Jeongguk growls, a soft sound that only Taehyung can hear, and scrapes his teeth along Taehyung’s skin, leaving another red mark. It makes something inside Jeongguk burn—possessiveness, the word mine, mine, mine a pulsing heat wherever his skin meets Taehyung’s.

Taehyung goes on. “Sure you know what you’re doing—”

Jeongguk makes a low noise and crooks his fingers, shoving them in deep. “Shut up, Tae.”

And Taehyung whines. Tries to stop the sound in his throat. “F—fuck you,” he spits through a chuckle, extending his neck as his back arches up against Jeongguk’s weight pressing on top of him, giving his mouth more room to explore. “Mmph, Jeongguk.”

We’re not like that.

It floats around in Jeongguk’s head, that bullshit statement.

“Y’know…” Wheein begins, a floating voice in Jeongguk’s periphery. “I’m tired.”

“Hm?” Jeongguk lifts his head away from Taehyung’s neck, from the taste of his sweat and the soft hums in his throat that vibrate against his lips.

Wheein doesn’t look tired. Not any more than Taehyung or Jeongguk.

“Coming down,” she explains. “Peaked a while ago.”

“If you wanna, you can…” Taehyung trails off and looks at Wheein, swallows hard.

The world slows down just a bit, Jeongguk losing track of time. Does Taehyung mean that?

Wheein hums softly and kisses Jeongguk’s shoulder, then with her lips traces out the pattern of the tail-end of his dragon tattoo, snaking all along his bicep. “Take a rest?”

Taehyung’s eyes flicker to Jeongguk’s, both of them saying nothing but asking so much without words.

Are we like that?

Just a little.

Jeongguk’s throat feels tight.

“Yeah,” Taehyung whispers after a while. “Take a rest. If you wanna.”

“Mm.” There’s a rustling as she shifts. Her fingers are a feather down his sides. “Gukkie, you won’t mind, right?”

He feels slightly out of the loop, like there’s some wavelength Wheein and Taehyung just jumped on that he can’t quite reach.

He almost laughs. Whether it’s out of disbelief or this weird sexual instability he’s overrun by, he has no idea. “Um—yeah. Or, like, no. Wouldn’t mind. Like, sure, go ahead, um…”

Stuttering, he looks at Taehyung and it all feels different now. The flutter in his chest as their eyes meet, a heavier thrumming, love-logged, emotions all manifesting in these continual fuck-ups. The other people they distract themselves with, this threesome, how it all snowballed into this erotic mess.

Wheein’s hot mouth once again latches onto Jeongguk’s earlobe, sucking gently. Nice and wet, a tingly sensation. He shudders and closes his eyes, letting out a small whine to his embarrassment when she bites it gently and tugs.

“I’m gonna go,” she whispers.

“That’s fine,” Jeongguk quickly says, voice raspy.

The soft lamplight casts along her graceful body, a silhouette of a slender, naked, sweaty girl coming down off molly. She grabs a thin blanket off the settee as she leaves. Flushed skin on fuchsia silk, she’d look dignified if it weren’t for the circumstances.

Taehyung takes his hands off of Jeongguk and lifts himself onto his elbows, watching the door close behind her with a muted click.

Now it’s very quiet, the muffled sound of the party melting through the walls, the sound of Taehyung’s breathing layered over Jeongguk’s

“It’s weird now,” Jeongguk murmurs.

Taehyung nods. His words are careful. “It was weird the whole time.” He smiles nervously. His hair is plastered with sweat down his neck, falling over his shoulders. All soft. “I mean, your dick’s this hard and my asshole’s all open—we might as well.”

Somehow, even with his legs spread and his hole stretched and slicked up around Jeongguk’s three fingers, Taehyung looks impeccable. Such a lovely boy with a good heart and a clean smile, trust in his eyes, skin moist with spit and sweat and a bit of smeared lube in some places. He nods at Jeongguk’s dick, drooling precum and throbbing, his balls full and pulled tight to the base of his shaft. Taehyung’s just as hard, precum dripping onto his lower belly.

So Jeongguk keeps going, moving his fingers again, curling them and groaning as he feels the muscle clench, Taehyung rolling his hips down.

“You look so good, Tae,” Jeongguk murmurs with a choked laugh. “Really wanna—”

He bites his lip and shuts up.

“Hm?” Taehyung urges, raising an eyebrow, brushing Jeongguk’s hair away from his shoulders and then threading his fingers through the strands, holding tight right at the roots. Pulling, a good sort of pain that makes Jeongguk dizzy.

“N—nothing.” Jeongguk lets out a sigh of pleasure, going lax and giving in as Taehyung pulls him closer till their lips are almost touching. Almost. Just a breath’s width away.

“You wanna fuck me?” Taehyung whispers, voice so deep and sultry in a way Jeongguk’s never heard before.

“Dude, I—” Jeongguk groans and squeezes his eyes shut, feeling a bead of precum well at the slit of his cock and drip down. His hips cant up, length twitching as a hot rush of arousal flows through him. “F—fuck, yeah, I wanna.”

Taehyung laughs breathlessly, hips jerking at each twist of Jeongguk’s fingers deep inside him. He winces as Jeongguk slips them out, a crude squelching sound.

The condoms are in the bedside table drawer. Even with his clouded mind, Jeongguk can remember that much. He opens the packet and rolls it on.

“Is this fuckin’ grape flavoured?” Taehyung laughs, grabbing the empty foil packet and twiddling it in his fingers before tossing it off the bed.

Jeongguk snorts. “Your favourite.”

“I can’t taste with my ass, you idiot.”

“Thank God, dude,” Jeongguk mutters, hiding his smile in Taehyung’s collar as he leans over his again.

“Ugh, don’t be gross.” Taehyung slips a hand around Jeongguk’s waist, fingers drawing circles at the small of his back that make Jeongguk moan softly and shiver. “Gross boy.”

Your gross boy.”

Possession is an interesting concept and Jeongguk finds he likes the sound of that word. Yours.

Palming down Jeongguk’s front, fingers dipping into the lines of his muscle, Taehyung hums. Then he wraps his hand around Jeongguk’s cock, pumping him a few times through the latex and groaning in appreciation. “Hey.” He looks up at Jeongguk through his eyelashes with a playful quirk of his eyebrow.

“Hm?” Jeongguk blinks.

Deathstroke, dude.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Shut the fuck up.”

“Like, you remember? Pew, pew, finish him—”

Jeongguk smacks the side of his head. “Stop.

“Okay, okay.” Taehyung laughs and plays with the lower edge of the condom, fondling Jeongguk’s balls a bit, holding Jeongguk’s hips down with his other hand when he starts to twitch them upward. Taehyung bites his lip, breathing hard and groaning softly. “God, you’re real fuckin’ hard.”

“I know.” Jeongguk can’t hold back the giggles, scrunching his nose. He’s not exactly sure what’s so funny, but Taehyung’s laughing too, jacking Jeongguk’s dick and looking at him like he’s his everything. “’M fuckin’, like, pulsing and all that.”

“Want you in me,” Taehyung says, his breath catching a little. “Wanna feel your cock, Jeongguk, want you to fuck me open, make me yours.”

Jeongguk exhales shakily and nods, a rough jerk of his head. “Yeah, wanna fuck you. Want you to be mine.”

“Always yours.”

He presses their foreheads together, not sure if he’s allowed to go for the kiss and not sure if he could even handle it just yet. Their breath is hot between their faces, lingering alcohol that they’re not feeling the effects of anymore. Just the bitter liquor stench on their tongues, teeth, lips, and Jeongguk’s tilting his chin because he wants it, he wants Taehyung, wants to be kissing him.

And then he is—kissing him with parted lips and letting Taehyung groan into his mouth, licking over Jeongguk’s teeth and pressing their tongues together, hot and slick.

“Guk,” Taehyung mumbles desperately, voice breaking as Jeongguk lines himself up, gripping the base of his cock with an unsteady hand, sliding the tip against Taehyung’s puffy, pink hole and revelling in the way he shudders. All this lean muscle, tan skin and long limbs beneath him, the ugly hickeys left by other people and the way they make a molten anger scald the pit of Jeongguk’s gut, make him want to fuck Taehyung till Jeongguk’s name is the only one he knows. Make his the only name he can scream as he get pounded into the mattress because Taehyung is Jeongguk’s and no one else’s.

“Mine,” Jeongguk snarls, the word coming out rougher than he intends, but Taehyung throws his head back and laughs, strained, seeming to get it. That it’s a statement from the heart and all that, the soft shit that comes through when Jeongguk’s overwhelmed like this. He’s not about emotions much. Only sometimes.

Like now, as he slowly eases himself into the clenching heat of Taehyung’s body, feeling his muscle squeeze with each inch he pushes in. Taehyung’s asshole swallows Jeongguk’s cock as though he’s built for this. Pulling Taehyung’s cheeks apart with his thumbs, Jeongguk rubs the pad against where he’s buried, the rim red and stretched, and he moans when Taehyung jerks.

“Ah—Guk.” He groans and arches his back, dropping his head onto the sheets when it becomes too much. His neck is extended, perfect for Jeongguk to kiss up and bury his face in as he notches his hips forward, little by little, holding Taehyung’s hip with one hand and keeping him steady till his balls are pressed against the round swell of Taehyung’s ass.

“Nh—oh, fuck, feels good.” Jeongguk swallows and lets out a choked ah as he exhales, his hips jerking involuntarily into the tightness around his aching cock. “Are you—nngh.”

“One sec,” Taehyung says, voice tight. “You’re so—ugh, fuck, dude. So big.

Pulling back, Jeongguk sees Taehyung’s eyebrows are furrowed, eyes squeezed shut, wincing occasionally in pain.

“Jesus, sorry,” Jeongguk murmurs, pressing an apologetic kiss to Taehyung’s temple.

“For having a big dick?” Taehyung snorts, smacking Jeongguk’s hip. The skin is left tingling. “Course you’d say sorry, Jeon.”

“I’m just—” Jeongguk doesn’t finish that thought and instead buries his face in Taehyung’s neck again, mumbling something incoherent, a little embarrassed and really too turned on to think. All his attention is focused on staying still, to wait to fuck into Taehyung till he’s good and ready and not clenching and shifting in pain.

“Y’know,” Taehyung breathes, “what Wheein said—she’s a punk-ass, just sometimes. Ain’t about build, muscle, ain’t about anything. Anyone can bottom if they believe hard enough.”

Jeongguk laughs, high-strung. “Your point?”

“I dunno, man…I believe.

In a weird way Jeongguk gets it. He nods. “Same.”

“You wanna”—Taehyung gives an experimental roll of his hips, tilting his pelvis the best he can while pinned beneath Jeongguk’s bigger body—“ah, yeah, go now. Fuck me, I’m—”

Jeongguk immediately complies, drawing outward and immediately thrusting back in, burying himself in Taehyung’s tight ass. With a low moan Taehyung grapples at the bedsheets, fingers curling into the fabric and pulling hard, veins in his forearm bulging.

“Jesus fuck,” Taehyung grits, gritting his teeth at the force. “Nngh, oh, that’s fuckin’ good, feels so fuckin’ good.”

His thighs clamp around Jeongguk’s sides and tremble as they squeeze him.

“Quit tryna thigh-choke me, you loser,” Jeongguk teases, breathless, smacking Taehyung’s soft inner-thigh and delighting in the pleased breath he lets out.

“Sorry—habit,” he manages, eyelids fluttering shut as Jeongguk builds up a steady pace.

“Here—” With a grunt Jeongguk hauls Taehyung’s lower half slightly off the bed, supporting him just beneath his tailbone. He gets his hands around Taehyung’s thighs, spreading them and keeping him up, much rougher than he needs to.

Mnh, ah—chill the fuck out, holy shit.” Taehyung laughs, shaking his head, but God this angle is amazing. He must feel it too. His panting gets heavier and he bites his lip, looks delirious and lets out harsh grunts each time Jeongguk fucks into him, balls slapping his asscheeks. Hips hitting hips, hard and a little painful.

“You like it.” Jeongguk scrunches his nose in a smile and kisses Taehyung on the nose once. Immediately he’s hit with the thought that fuck, that was too gay, way too gay, but Taehyung rolls his eyes and places one palm flat on the bed, lifting himself up to do it right back to him.

“Boop,” he says. A little kiss on the nose. “C’mon, big-nose, let’s go.” With that, Taehyung collapses back onto the bed, slapping Jeongguk’s thick thigh once.

“Hate you,” Jeongguk murmurs, a fond smile that he tries to hide by ducking his head and letting his hair fall in long strands in front of his face.

“I know.” Then Taehyung threads his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair, moving the strands away so they’re looking at each other. Too heavy and wet with love, a hard punch of eye-contact that makes Jeongguk’s head spin.

He picks up the pace again and Taehyung’s hand drops from Jeongguk’s face, to his pectoral and down to his abs, palming at the firm muscle there, flexing as he rocks his hips. That hand goes to Jeongguk’s bicep, trails down and grips his forearm, digging in, bracing himself as his fingernails make indents.

“God, Jeon, you’re so—ugh.” Taehyung sounds somewhat frustrated, overwhelmed, letting out an almost feral sound of pleasure as Jeongguk jostles him a bit, pulls him closer in his lap and rises up on his knees a bit, flexing his thighs to fuck into Taehyung with a bit more leverage.

Taehyung’s rim tightens and pulls as Jeongguk fucks him, deep and rough, thighs hitting thighs, making the flesh and muscle jiggle. The sound of lube squelching as they move together is obscene and disgusting and makes Jeongguk’s hips stutter, push deep into Taehyung’s asshole and stay there for a brief moment, groaning as he feels the way Taehyung shudders and squeezes around his cock.

“Fuck, yeah,” Jeongguk says through his teeth, voice low and wrecked. His hair tickles his shoulders, swaying and dripping sweat. Beneath him Taehyung arches and moans, thighs straining as he instinctively keeps trying to snap them shut, the hold Jeongguk keeps on them preventing him from doing so. “You—nnh, you good?”

“So fuckin’ good, Guk. You’re so hot, fucking me so good like this, so deep.” Taehyung sighs, his head falling back and lolling to the side. Jeongguk leans over him, letting go of Taehyung’s thigh for a moment to thread a hand into his hair, pulling at the roots, enjoying the angry choked sound Taehyung lets out. “Fuck—Jeongguk, don’t—hah, shit.” He growls when Jeongguk tugs again with an amused hum.

“Like that?” he teases, a sweet kiss on Taehyung’s jawline.

“Fuck you,” Taehyung spits between pants, and then he’s batting Jeongguk’s hand away, reaching up. His sudden movement throws off the balance Jeongguk had maintained, and he quickly wraps his hand beneath Taehyung’s thigh again, holding him in his lap, ass off the bed, legs spread in the position Jeongguk wants him in.

“Don’t—” Jeongguk starts to say, but then Taehyung’s hand works its way into Jeongguk’s hair, tugging him lower with a blunt rush of pain that has Jeongguk biting his lip, holding back a pathetic moan. His dick kicks inside Taehyung, who feels it and smirks.

“Think you’re funny,” he scoffs and tightens his fist, pulls again, looking quite pleased with himself. Jeongguk feels the flush along his neck worsen, the pain making him hot and lightheaded. When Taehyung pulls him closer he just gives in, a drawn-out moan spilling from his lips as Taehyung sucks his earlobe into his mouth.

“Oh f—fuck, ‘s good, I—I like that,” Jeongguk says breathlessly, pleasure shooting down his spine, making him buck forward into Taehyung’s clenching hole, getting deep, balls right up against Taehyung’s asscheeks as his dick throbs inside him, twitching when that tongue runs over the cool metal of Jeongguk’s piercing.

“I know,” Taehyung murmurs, warm breath flowing over Jeongguk’s earlobe. Then he licks around the shell, scraping his teeth along the top, making Jeongguk shiver, shaky fingers digging bruises into Taehyung’s thighs. “Saw Wheein doing it. Looked like you were enjoying yourself.”

“Ah—” Jeongguk chuckles quietly, having trouble keeping his eyes open. “Yeah. S—sensitive. It’s just—mmph, so good.”

Jeongguk’s lower belly burns, and for a second he’s afraid he’s gonna cum just with his dick shoved in Taehyung’s ass like this, whining like a prissy virgin and holding still as he gets his fucking ear sucked. It might be a bit far-fetched but he just want this to go over all right, wants it to be the best fuck Taehyung’s ever had because Jeongguk wants this to stick with him.

Even if they never fuck again after this. Even if this is just one night, Jeongguk wants Taehyung to remember it as his best. The thought wrenches a hideous knot in his gut—what happens after?

Technicalities. Something to worry about later.

“Gonna keep going,” he says, slides his hands down Taehyung’s taut stomach, grabbing him by the waist and applying pressure with his thumbs, hard enough it leaves indents as he urges his hips up. “Lift your ass.”

Taehyung snorts, going lax against the bed. “You lift my ass, big boy. I’m tired.”

“C’mon,” Jeongguk insists, gripping a bit tighter, smirking at the flash of discomfort across Taehyung’s face. The angered grit of his teeth and the hard line of his jaw, the sexy smoulder of his eyes as he shoots Jeongguk a glare. “Helps with the angle,” Jeongguk explains, giving a cocky twitch of his eyebrow that he knows Taehyung hates.

“Fine.” As Taehyung huffs and complies. Jeongguk adds a bit of force to his grip anyway, tensing his forearms and using that strength to tilt Taehyung’s pelvis. Almost immediately he seizes in Jeongguk’s grip, holding his breath and letting it all out in one long groan. “Nnah, there, oh God, Guk, keep—yeah, there, keep going.”

It’s Taehyung’s enthusiasm that really gets Jeongguk, the way he arches, lithe and thin but cut rough like a guy, the muscle of his shoulders and back held tense as Jeongguk fucks him open.

“Love this,” Taehyung mumbles, eyes closed.

Love you, Jeongguk thinks but doesn’t say. Instead he leans over Taehyung and kisses him hard, muffling those stupid, affectionate words and letting them come out as some desperate sound of pleasure.

“So tight Tae,” Jeongguk says, a little incoherent, words jumbled. He gasps when he thrusts in particularly hard, Taehyung clenching around him. “Your ass is the best. Best ass.” He gives it a smack and Taehyung curls up against the curve of his body, hissing through his teeth.

Mmnh, yeah—oh God, Guk, stroke’s so fuckin’ good, holy shit.” Taehyung grabs Jeongguk’s thick thigh, hand coming down rough on the reddened flesh, the sound resounding in the cushy little room, loud and wet. “Fuck me like this, just—oh, yeah, yeah—faster.”

His tone is breathy, on-edge and fucked up on the rush of sex, of pleasure, of that contrived love the body makes you feel when you’re in the moment. The heady air to his voice makes Jeongguk burn.

Vertigo, a tilt. He feels dizzy, a shitty reluctance and the hazy choke of realization. It really hits him, what they’re doing now. What’s gonna come after. Jeongguk’s always tried to be a casual sex kinda guy but he’s never been very good at it. Always catching feelings. And Taehyung’s a softer heart than he is, as much as the guy tries to hide it. So it makes Jeongguk wonder.

“C’mon.” Taehyung grunts and hits Jeongguk’s sturdy thigh again, pulls him out of his daze. Sweaty and fucked-out and gorgeous, that’s how Taehyung looks now. “’S wrong with you, don’t you know how to fuck?”

Jeongguk doesn’t know what to say so he laughs. “I dunno. I just—” And he snaps his hips forward again because he’s always been better at fucking than speaking. Collapsing his body weight over Taehyung, Jeongguk gets close, feels the heavy beat of Taehyung’s heart against his own. “Don’t wanna cum yet. Think I’m close though.”

“’S fine.” Taehyung shakes his head, flexing his thighs in Jeongguk’s grip to stop them from quivering, fingers grappling at Jeongguk’s body as he picks up the pace. “Close too, ‘m so fuckin’ hard, your dick’s so good, Jeongguk.”

Taehyung steadies himself with his heels dug into the mattress, clinging to Jeongguk tighter as he really fucks him now, all fast and hard and nasty, aggressive because as big as Taehyung might be, Jeongguk’s more muscular, has the strength to really haul him around as he likes.

“S—so fuckin’ good, don’t want it to end,” Taehyung’s saying, words unsteady with the bouncing movements of his body as Jeongguk’s hips slap against his.

“’S fine, we’re fine.” And Jeongguk catches his gaze, all dazed with his cheeks flushed, thinking he must no doubt look the same, just as fucked up. He doesn’t know why he says what he says but he’s just a young thing, a soft heart, a stupid little optimist who loves to love. “We can just do it again, dude,” he mumbles, the phrase spoken into Taehyung’s mouth as he leans in to kiss him, lips slick and parted.

Taehyung moans, voice breaking, biting Jeongguk’s lip. The hard angles of his bones dig into Jeongguk’s body, hurting a bit in a good, tingly way. Taehyung grabs his cock, pumping it with slick, fast strokes, the veins engorged and bulging and the skin flushed dark. He grunts and rolls his hips up into his fist and then back down onto Jeongguk’s cock, and it’s so hot, how delirious he looks with Jeongguk’s cock inside him.

“Wanna cum,” Jeongguk grits through his teeth.

Taehyung’s breath of laughter is hot over his lips. “Do it, Gukkie. Wanna feel it.”

Nnh—you close?”

“So close—oh, fuck, yeah.” He pants, jacking his cock, thumb running over the fat vein on the underside and making him grunt, hips jerking, asshole clenching tight and sucking Jeongguk in. As Jeongguk forces his weight over him, the head of Taehyung’s cock rubs against Jeongguk’s lower belly, smearing the skin with sticky precum.

“Oh—fuck, Tae—ngh, I’m gonna, ‘m gonna.” Jeongguk’s hips stutter and he thrusts forward one final time, shoving Taehyung back on the sheets and pressing him into the mattress with the force of it, muscles tensing and seizing up. He holds himself there, letting out a choked grunt as he cums, body flush with Taehyung’s, cock throbbing, balls tight as the pleasure works through him. Buried inside Taehyung like this, his hips twitch as he unloads into the condom.

Ah—oh my God,” Taehyung spits, shuddering, clasping his thighs firm to the sides of Jeongguk’s body, hooking his legs around him, arching and holding him there, rocking himself onto Jeongguk’s dick. “F—fuck, ah—cumming.”

Jeongguk maintains a good hold on Taehyung’s thighs, keeping his legs spread as Taehyung’s tries to squeeze them together, and pants hard with his lips touching Taehyung’s. Not even kissing—just being nasty and breathing each other’s liquor-logged, warm, wet breath. Taehyung cums with his teeth gnashed together, fingernails digging marks into Jeongguk’s tattooed skin. His dick flexes, spurting cum against his belly. He lets out breathless sounds of pleasure as his entire body spasms and Jeongguk pins him to the bed when he writhes and squirms too much.

They stay there for a second. Breathing. Slowly adjusting himself, Jeongguk pulls out, holding the condom in place with trembling fingers. Taehyung’s hole is left puffy and gaping slightly from the girth.

“Fuck,” Taehyung bites out, the fire and tension in his voice fading, his breath evening out. “Just…fuck, man.”

Jeongguk moans weakly in agreement and drops Taehyung’s thighs, lets him fall on the bed with a shocked grunt. Taehyung punches him in the chest—not rough but still enough to make him stop.

“What?” He swats Taehyung’s wrist away.

“Who said you could cum first, you fuck? Gotta make the bottom cum first, it’s the rule.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes and slips the condom off his flagging cock. “Gimme a break. Last person I fucked was Yongsun. ‘S been too long.” He ties up the condom and swings it from his finger, watching the cum swish inside the purple—and grape-flavoured—latex. “Where do I put this?”

They both stare at it, this dirty thing covered in Adam & Eve™ anal lube and filled with man-juice, tinted a tender lilac in the glow of Wheein’s pink-on-pink bedroom, dangling from Jeongguk’s index finger.

Some divine icon.

“Just chuck it,” Taehyung says after a while, gesturing in no particular direction at all.

“’Kay.” Jeongguk shrugs. With delicate care he places the sloppy condom on the bedside table. It drapes over the dark wood with a squelching sound.

Taehyung is cleaning the lube from his asscrack and thighs with black fabric—Wheein’s shirt, Jeongguk realizes, mildly amused.

“Still, I can’t believe,” Taehyung says, lying on his back and throwing that shirt to the side, looking sweaty and very content, “that we came almost at, like, the same time, dude. Like, it was so close. That’s so hot, holy shit. ‘S never happened to me in my life.”

“Some life,” Jeongguk teases, collapsing next to Taehyung, pulling the bunched covers over them as best he can. His hands shake a bit.

Taehyung ignores him and goes on. “Like magic…magic dick, buddy. You got game, good dick. Such a good dick, Jeon-boy.”

“Thanks, man.”

“Like—real good. God, can’t believe your dick could make missionary that fuckin’ good.”

“Go to sleep.” Jeongguk snorts, shoving at Taehyung and lying down. There’s a lot of room on his bed but for some reason they’re lying close. Sticky bodies heavy from exertion, lethargic. The pillow smells of flowery perfume and Taehyung’s sweat, vaguely.

Jeongguk wonders what Taehyung’s thinking. Sometimes figuring him out is the easiest thing in the world; other times Jeongguk hasn’t got a fucking clue.

Taehyung rolls over and his hands are soft as he touches Jeongguk, tracing the dips of his abs and following the curves of his body. Tentative fingers over his tattoos, inked lines Taehyung’s memorized by now.

What happens now?

But Jeongguk’s in that good, post-orgasmic lull where problems stop being problems and all he’s got is a heart full of heat, pumping heavily and thrumming. All goodness, purity, sexual serenity.

“Night,” Taehyung mumbles into Jeongguk’s hair, and makes him shiver like a soft bitch in love.

 


 

In the morning the atmosphere is a bit different. Much brighter, the windows with their thick drapes pulled to the side, leaving the sheer curtains to stain the sunlight a pale rose.

Jeongguk blinks and lies there, too afraid to move. Taehyung’s asleep, hand heavy on the dip of Jeongguk’s waist.

He’s been here for about five minutes, just staring at Taehyung’s long and thick eyelashes, the shadow falling under the smooth roll of his lips, the line of dried drool next to his mouth. The hickeys down his neck, a few from Jeongguk. Only a few.

With the utmost care Jeongguk slides out of Taehyung’s grip—even though he knows how hard it is to wake the guy to begin with—and scoots to the edge of the bed. He looks down and stares at his flaccid cock with mild regret. He’d been thinking with his dick again, chasing that cum-pump-into-a-tight-hole feeling. And now everything’s fucked.

He doesn’t risk glancing at Taehyung as he stands, wobbly knees, swimming vision, just for a second before he rights himself, gets his bearings. There’s no one else in the room, the pink settee abandoned and left with only a sad, unknown stain on the lush suede. The plated gold and the curved legs look tackier in the light of the morning.

He throws his clothes on. Halfway down the spiral staircase he freezes, met with the sight of Wheein, elegant legs peeking out the hem of a long t-shirt, turned away from him as she fiddles with the stove. For a moment he’s tempted to run back upstairs and jump out the window from the second floor with a cheap prayer that his legs don’t break on the drop.

“Want pancakes?” Wheein says over her shoulder, apparently aware of his presence.

He’s quiet for a while.

“Dude, I know you’re there, just come. I’ve got chocolate. And blueberry.”

“Sorry,” he says, letting out the breath he’d been holding.

She flips the last pancake onto a plate and turns around. “Guk.” She smiles.

“I like your place,” he murmurs, slightly in awe. Last night the veneer of money around here had been swathed by the darkness and thick smoke and dizziness. Now Jeongguk can see everything, the cream-coloured walls and the big windows, letting white light illuminate everything. The wide kitchen, sleek and modern. The way it opens up into a spacious living room, plush carpet and a wall-mounted television. A high ceiling with a large, glimmering chandelier, glass tinted a soft rouge.

Swank out the asshole, as Taehyung often describes this type of set-up.

“Sleep well?” she asks.

The awkwardness of this moment reminds him somewhat of when he’d woken up after the first time he had sex, years ago, some youthful ugly-bumping session that ended quite badly, as most desperate virginity-ridding escapades go.

The ivory tiles are cold under his bare feet. He sits at the kitchen island, granite countertop sticky with spilled beer from last night.

“Yeah,” he says. “Fine, I guess. You?”

She shrugs. “Good as it could be under the circumstances. Chocolate or blueberry?”

“Either.”

She frowns playfully. “C’mon, pick one.”

He grins. “Both?”

As she sets up plates he sits there and thinks, the clinking of ceramic a backdrop to his inner monologue.

“Here.” She slides the plates over the glossy counter, dark grey shimmering under the latticed sunlight that gleams through the crystal-cut windows. “You like syrup? Butter? I’ll just get everything.”

They sit there and eat for a while, gold-embellished utensils clinking. He can occasionally feel Wheein’s eyes flicker up to look at him.

“You two were loud last night,” she eventually comments.

He chokes, swallows, a bite of pancake going down his throat hard. “Uh—sorry.”

She giggles. “Don’t be. I was super out of it anyways. But you guys work well together. I could see that.”

He feels the prickling flush crawl up his neck, hot blood suffused underneath his skin. He nods and mumbles, “Yeah. He’s nice.”

“Tae?”

Jeongguk nods again, twirling the ends of his hair around his finger to distract himself.

“He is,” she says, eyes curved in a smile as she takes another bite of her pancakes. “You like him.” It’s a statement.

He’s trying to seem all nonchalant and cool about this, shoving a wad of buttered pancakes in his mouth, mumbling around it. “Sure. Everyone likes him.”

She purses her lips. “You love him.”

“Whoa, I—” He shakes his head, feeling red and crippled under her amused scrutiny. A strand of hair falls in front of his face and he’s thankful. “It’s—not like that. He doesn’t see me like that.”

“So you keep saying.” She extends her thin arm across the counter and pokes his forearm, nails manicured, lustrous and clear. “Not like that, huh? He says that too. When we talk about you.”

Jeongguk blinks. “You talk about me?”

There’s something mischievous in her eyes. “He mentions you a lot, is all. Said the same thing too: he doesn’t see me like that.

Then she stands, taking her plate to the sink, giving time for that statement to brand an ugly hope in Jeongguk’s mind.

“Sometimes I wonder,” she says, running water over her plate. The metal faucet glints in the streaming sun. “How you two made it this far without melting into some raunchy, gay sex-fest on every damn surface in that nasty RV you share.”

“It’s not a bad RV,” Jeongguk defends, finishing off his pancakes.

She laughs, a breezy and tinkling sound like wind chimes and other pretty things. “You’re right. I’m sure it’s lovely. You done?”

“Yeah.”

She comes and takes his plate and places it in the sink. He feels kinda bad, like a guest who’s overstayed his welcome, but he also feels too awkward to stand up.

“Guess both of you really can’t take a damn hint.”

“Why—”

“You see it. I know you do. Last night and everything else.”

Jeongguk thinks for a moment, nibbling on the inside of his cheek. “Last night was just…”

“Just?”

“Collateral damage.”

She rolls her eyes. Turns to get two tall glasses from the cupboard, filling them with filtered water from the tall fridge. “You can’t collaterally have sex with someone, Jeongguk.”

“Watch me,” he mutters, mouth in a soft pout, very aware that Wheein’s right.

She slides him the glass of water over the counter. The water sloshes. Droplets cling to the clear glass, shimmering in the morning sunlight. Cooled sweat from last night sticks to Jeongguk’s body but he feels oddly clean in this environment.

“Thanks.” He picks up the glass.

“Just think about it.” She walks around the island and he sips his water. It’s wet and refreshing down his throat, washing away the sticky, salty pancake residue and the taste of morning breath and old alcohol. Then her hand is on his lower back, sliding over to his waist.

He blinks and looks at her.

“Can I kiss you?” she asks softly, face very close. “For the road.”

He hums and puts his glass down. “For the road,” he says, the words turning to a mumble as his mouth meets hers, warm and sweet like syrup. She’s not wearing makeup, no gloss or powder like last night, and he can feel the dryness of her lips. Her fingers brush his hair out of the way, tuck it behind his ear.

She pulls back smiling. “Tae’s lucky, y’know.”

Just quiet words that sit heavy in Jeongguk’s heart, make a home there. Lucky, so lucky.

He shakes his head but doesn’t know what to say because he doesn’t want to deny anything, not yet, not really.

 


 

He leaves Wheein’s place before Taehyung wakes up. He tells her he has work early in the morning, but that’s not true. His shift starts in the evening. Before he leaves he grabs his board from the RV and carries it through the neighbourhood, down from the suburban hills and toward the shore. He doesn’t actually take the RV because he’s not a bad person, doesn’t want Taehyung to be left with no home or transportation.

He spends the whole day on a small beach just outside town, right near the southern marina, silver sunbeams glancing off the pleasure crafts and motorboats. A relatively unknown place, familiar only to locals.

Morning mist seeps over the waves and he hits them head-on, wanting to forget and choke on the salt-logged seawater, the fresh ocean air, to swallow the lingering taste of dirty kisses in his mouth.

He’s not a bad person.

As he surfs he tells himself this. Duck-diving beneath the wimpy ankle-busters and paddling out, far out until he’s probably too far, and then a bit more, waiting for a fucking kahuna to come and drown his sorry little ass.

He fucked his best friend and left him right after but he’s not a bad person.

Just a little confused.

The sun is a rising haze on the blurry line where the water meets the sky, blue on blue. It gleams over the droplets on his skin, the tattoos, the tan line exposed where his shorts drag low on his hips. In the distance he sees a big wave coming. White foam over the curl, the arch glassy and clean.

The tide is high and the water is warm and today is a very good day for surfing. He feels like he doesn’t deserve it, this shred of peace, of comfort.

But as he lines up and catches the face, he’s not thinking about that, about anything but the smooth glide of water between his fingers and the pleasant ache of his muscles, this spectacle he must be, some lonely boy with a killer carve, riding the barrel like he owns it.

The one thing he can’t fuck up.

 


 

Jeongguk scratches a rough line onto the page of his sketchbook.

It’s exactly 10:39 PM.

He knows because he’s been checking his phone constantly. The time flashes at him from the top of the screen, counting down.

The line he drew looks ugly so he goes over it again.

It’s been exactly 12 hours and 9 minutes since he left Wheein’s house this morning. A little more than that since he’s seen Taehyung. Maybe close to 13 if he includes the time he spent with Wheein. Maybe a little over 13. Maybe he’s overthinking this.

But sex is medicinal and all he and Taehyung did was engage in a little self-healing. Nothing is a big deal and romance is superficial and in the end everyone’s gonna die anyway so who cares? Jeongguk doesn’t give a single fuck—not about life nor love nor petty angst.

He’s not avoiding anything. Not avoiding Taehyung, not avoiding the 46 texts that Taehyung’s spammed him with throughout the day.

Right now Jeongguk’s trying to design a rose tattoo.

And now it’s 10:40.

And make that 47 texts.

This design isn’t going well.

“Look tense,” Seokjin says through the quiet. A smooth lick of modern jazz hums in the background, sound crackling from the old stereo in the corner.

“Hm?” Jeongguk looks up, slouched over the counter, swivelling on his stool. His hair hangs limp at the sides of his face, kinda gross from the sea salt that he hadn’t properly washed out at the oceanside shower facility.

“You seem tense.”

“I’m just tired.”

“You always say that.” Seokjin squints at him, hair falling over his eyes and casting shadows. Something about the looming glow of the tattoo parlour makes him look sinister. Then Jeongguk blinks and it’s gone. Just concern now. Just Seokjin being a good friend and Jeongguk feeling like shit because he doesn’t deserve kindness.

“I’m always tired.” Jeongguk’s voice is barely a murmur above the buzzing neon signs. He wonders when the owner’s gonna replace them, these old, busted things, watery and washed-out colours bleeding like stains on the bricks and concrete.

Seokjin nods and looks pointedly at Jeongguk’s phone. Another angry buzz amplified by the peeling linoleum countertop. “You’re getting texts.”

“No shit,” Jeongguk bites out. It’s harsh, unnecessarily so, and he realizes that only after he’s said it. “I—sorry—”

“Listen.” Seokjin stands and pats Jeongguk’s shoulder as he walks past. “I get it. But don’t take it out on me.”

“Sorry,” he mumbles again because he has no clue what to say, how to explain this, why he’s even avoiding Taehyung in the first place.

“Is it Tae?”

Normally Jeongguk would say no, would say it’s the shitty weather, the headache, the mundane problem he comes up with on the spot. But something about now, about the way he feels in the slow heat and burns under the fluorescent lights, softened by Seokjin’s casual warmth—it’s different. Something is different, a little off kilter in a way he can’t place.

He drops his head into his arms, hunches over the countertop and mumbles, “’S always Tae.”

“Buddy.” Seokjin chuckles and pats Jeongguk’s shoulder. It still aches from the way he’d slept last night, cuddled against Taehyung. “That’s harsh. You holdin’ up?”

Jeongguk knows Seokjin only has a vague idea of what he’s upset about, but the sentiment means a lot.

“Nothin’ else to do. Listen—I’m just moping.” He sits up and puts on a smile, lips stretched over his teeth, dry and cracking. “I’ll get over it. You gonna do the back room?”

Just like that, they drop the topic.

“Yeah. Closing soon. Stay up front.” Seokjin leaves, wobbly shadow disappearing past the decaying door frame in the back.

Jeongguk checks his phone again. 51 messages from Taehyung. He doesn’t open them because he’s nervous—what if he’s pissed off? What if he’s upset? What if he doesn’t give a fuck?

What if he’s acting like nothing ever happened?

Jeongguk’s uncapped ink pen rolls over the counter, forgotten.

With this feverish mess going down in his mind, he stares at the locked screen of his phone, at the preview of the most recent message from Taehyung.

cos i rly think we should t…

Then another one comes. Jeongguk doesn’t want to care but he can’t help but try to extrapolate some meaning. Opening the text would mean he cares. This means he’s just casually curious. Yeah, sure, some logic like that.

cos the fucks up w us anyw…

we gotta talk wya

u said youd be at work jus…

Then there’s a burst of messages and Jeongguk blinks, watching the words fly by.

i said id be here anwser ur…

im like outsdie fuckin answ…

wtf ur ass lookin at ut pho…

omg dude

i hate u

Then the chime of the front door rings. A part of Jeongguk wants to fucking book it to the back room and swap with Seokjin, make him stay up front while Jeongguk cleans instead.

“Hey,” Taehyung breathes, leaning against the door, glass stained a dirty yellow from the smoke and years.

Jeongguk swallows, locks his phone and flips it over, sliding it to the corner of the countertop. As if that’s gonna solve anything. Taehyung watches as it skids and comes to a stop right near the edge. A cracked, old thing in the dark shop, the plastic reflects colours. Looks quite pretty.

They both stare at it for a while.

Then Taehyung looks at Jeongguk and raises an eyebrow.

“Why are you here?” Jeongguk asks, trying to sound casual.

“Circumstance.” Taehyung shrugs, his hand worrying at the hem of his t-shirt. “And a little desperation. You bailed this morning.”

Jeongguk nods. “I was busy.”

Taehyung says nothing. He doesn’t look angry. Not even bothered. It’s just a flat expression, the only thing giving away his unease the gentle knit of his brow, the occasional nibble at his lip. He holds himself against the door, far enough from Jeongguk that the distance is awkward.

Taehyung nods at Jeongguk’s sketchbook. “You drawing something?”

Jeongguk tongues the edge of his sharp canine, a nervous tic. He nods.

“Can I see?”

Jeongguk laughs, low and choked with dry humour, false ease. “If you wanna.”

“I always wanna.”

“You always can.”

Footsteps light on the concrete floor, Taehyung comes closer. Sharp elbows pressed on the countertop as he leans over. Hair tucked behind the ear on one side—his left—and falling loosely on the other. He smells like lilacs.

Jeongguk notices these things.

His hand is balancing the edge of his sketchbook and he’s too tense to take it away, to make any sudden movements. Taehyung’s hand comes over his, fingers touching fingers as he turns the sketchbook slightly toward him.

He’s not looking at the drawing but at Jeongguk. They stay there for a while, breathing the humid air, the tension between them thick like wet down.

“You smell nice,” Jeongguk says after a while, trying to ease this dead-silent calamity.

“Showered at Wheein’s.”

“Lilac?”

Taehyung nods. “Herbal Essences.”

He’s the one to break the eye contact, looking down at the drawing. There’s a dusting of pink over his cheeks. It might be the glowing neon of the parlour; it might be something else. His hair sways at the sides of his face and Jeongguk wants to brush it out of the way.

“I don’t get it,” Taehyung says after a while, an absentminded finger flicking the corner of the page. “Last night—”

Jeongguk holds his breath because it feels too loud.

“—we were cool last night. So cool.”

Jeongguk doesn’t know what to say. I choked. I’m a piece of shit. I love you.

“Guess there’s lotsa things I don’t get,” Taehyung goes on, voice low, still not looking Jeongguk in the eye but their faces so close. “But…you were like, this one thing, right? That I felt—I dunno. Felt like I knew you. Felt like everything in the fucking world could go to shit and I’d still get you and I guess I just assumed you’d get me too.”

He’s silent as he stares at the drawing, a wilted rose in black ink. Maybe he’s waiting for Jeongguk to fill the silence. But Jeongguk’s a class-A idiot with a fat tongue and he doesn’t know jack about what’s going down in his mind, let alone how to put that mess into words. Especially not when Taehyung’s this close, smelling like lilacs and looking like a good, clean beach boy with a shitty shark tooth necklace draped around his neck.

“Have you ever felt that way?” Taehyung looks up.

Jeongguk’s heart is a steel weight in his chest and his ribcage not a ribcage, just a flimsy thing collapsing in on his lungs because Taehyung is close and looks just as nervous as Jeongguk right now. His cold fingers rest over Jeongguk’s, index tracing the veins.

Jeongguk flips his hand, catching Taehyung’s wrist. He nods. It’s supposed to mean something, gestures over words, the sweetheart shit you see in poems.

“I’m still on shift,” Jeongguk ends up saying. So much for romance. He’s a moron. “We can talk about this later.”

Taehyung sighs. “Fuck later. Listen, man.” Then he leans over the counter. Close and hot, pupils wide in the mildly sexual darkness and colliding disco-esque colours of the shop. “Elephant in the room. Y’know?”

Jeongguk vaguely recalls this topic but it’s kinda hard with Taehyung’s lips just inches from his.

Downsize the elephant, yeah, he vaguely remembers that.

“We’re not like that,” Taehyung murmurs. “We don’t let shit get in the way. Right? We…talk it out. All open and good and chill, no issues.”

Jeongguk breathes in deep. No issues. “So what’s this?”

Taehyung shrugs and lets the silence speak for a moment. In the back Jeongguk can hear the clatter as Seokjin moves things around, cleans things off. From the road outside comes the whir of a car. That smooth jazz is still warbling from the radio, an elegiac little tune melting with the mechanical hum of the neon lights.

“The elephant,” Taehyung says.

“Are we talking about it?” Jeongguk’s thumb rubs slow circles on the inside of Taehyung’s wrist.

“I dunno. Kinda. Not as much as we should be.”

“Is that good or bad?” Jeongguk finds himself tilting his chin up, leaning closer to the heat of Taehyung’s body, taking him in for the sight he is, charming in his own way among the colours and the dim sodium-vapour lamplight.

“I dunno.” Taehyung’s lips are parted just slightly, words slow and quiet, breath warm. “I love you. Is that good or bad?”

Jeongguk is breathless, dazed in a nice way.

“I dunno,” he says softly. The words come so easily because this is the elephant that’s been taking up all this space between them, and nothing is new about it. “I love you. You knew that.”

And Taehyung gives him a lopsided smile, tentative and gentle. “I did.”

“Should kiss me,” Jeongguk mumbles, and he doesn’t even feel weird about it, his sentence ending muffled as Taehyung closes the gap and presses his mouth against Jeongguk’s. Just an overwhelming sense of rightness, so heady it makes his head spin because nothing’s been this fucking sweet in years.

“Guk,” Taehyung murmurs and brushes a strand of Jeongguk’s hair away from his face. His breath rushes over Jeongguk’s lips, tongue wet and hot as he coaxes Jeongguk’s mouth open.

Part of Jeongguk wants to say it again, but he doesn’t want to overdo it. His throat’s so choked up he’s not sure he could say anything in the first place. He just parts his lips and presses closer, the peeled edge of linoleum digging into his abdomen as he allows Taehyung to lick into his mouth, letting out a held breath in one shaky, relieved exhale.

Taehyung’s hand smooths down Jeongguk’s shoulder, bicep, forearm. Fingers threading together, resting limp and unsure on the countertop. Jeongguk tightens his grip and holds, leans a bit deeper into the kiss and scrapes his teeth over Taehyung’s bottom lip.

With a low sound in his throat Taehyung pulls back, and Jeongguk fights the urge to protest like a needy loser and kiss him more.

“Let’s leave,” Taehyung says, lashes fluttering as he looks at Jeongguk’s eyes, then his lips, then his eyes again.

Jeongguk blinks. “I’m on shift, dude, I can’t.” His voice is rough.

“But you wanna.” Taehyung smirks and pecks Jeongguk on the lips, once, twice, snickering between the kisses like he’s high.

Then Jeongguk works his fingers into Taehyung’s hair and pulls him close, holds him in a slow, long kiss, lips sliding together. “Seokjin’s gonna kill me.”

“This is gonna kill you,” Taehyung mumbles. Squeezes his hand once where their fingers are still threaded together, a reminder, a soft statement—it’s been a long time coming. And he’s right. Jeongguk feels like any further stagnation between himself and Taehyung would be worse than death and dying.

Seokjin is still in the back and Jeongguk will probably get written up for this but he doesn’t give a fuck.

“You’re a bad influence,” he’s saying as he grabs his phone and hops off the stool, making his way around the counter, taking Taehyung’s hand in his and leading him out of the shop at a quick pace.

“But you’re still here.”

The chime of the hinge sways and rings as the door shuts, the metal grate rattling against its glass panes. Outside the sea breeze blows, playing with the ends of Jeongguk’s hair. Giggling and rushed, they keep each other close as they run through the parking lot.

“Who knows why,” he teases, jabbing his elbow into Taehyung’s side.

But he knows why.

And Taehyung’s sure to give him a few more reasons. The minute they’re in the RV, past the stubborn keys and fumbling hands, it’s all force. Taehyung slams Jeongguk against the door right as it shuts, years of sexual tension jammed into this—frantic hands, tense muscle, hard bodies pressed together and aggressive with anticipation.

Hurts,” Jeongguk snarls, but Taehyung just laughs and kisses him silent. Teeth over his bottom lip, hands pushing hard at his hips, shoving him back against the door.

“Sorry.”

There’s no time to focus. All Jeongguk can think and feel and see—it’s all Taehyung.

His hands hook into Jeongguk’s belt loops, using the leverage to shove him harder against the door. The sudden jostle makes Jeongguk let out a small sound of surprise. The door rattles, cheap plastic siding making a dangerous snapping noise under the weight of their bodies.

“Chill,” Jeongguk mumbles with a light laugh. “You’ll break the door.”

Taehyung just hums. He sounds breathless. “I’ll break you.

“Cheesy.” Jeongguk doesn’t acknowledge the way those words make him shiver, kissing Taehyung a bit harder.

Their hips rut together, impatient and rough. It’s not enough, and all Jeongguk wants is Taehyung closer. With a hand on Jeongguk’s hips, Taehyung grips hard, rolls his pelvis and groans into Jeongguk’s mouth, shoving a firm thigh between his legs.

“Mmh—” Almost instinctively Jeongguk’s hips twitch, his hardening cock grinding on Taehyung. Against his thigh he can feel the heat of Taehyung’s arousal as he ruts against Jeongguk, cock pressing hard against his hipbone, making low sounds in his throat like an animal. Feeling the heat of Taehyung’s crotch makes Jeongguk dizzy.

“Love how you move,” Taehyung says, voice low and gravelly. Jeongguk shivers. “Got good hips, Jeon.”

Jeongguk smirks, smooths his hands down Taehyung’s sides, grips him by the waist and pulls him closer. He rolls his hips and shudders when he feels how hard Taehyung is in his pants. “I’m not the only one.”

Jeongguk’s eyes are closed and he gets lost in the kiss, but he can imagine Taehyung rolling his eyes. He smiles against Jeongguk’s mouth and huffs an exasperated laugh. His breath is hot and wet, and he licks over the seam of Jeongguk’s lips and coaxes them apart. Tongue pressing against Taehyung’s, Jeongguk moans. He tastes like cigarettes, like synthetic grape sweets, like the boy Jeongguk loves.

Passing his hand over Taehyung’s waist, Jeongguk runs his palm along Taehyung’s lower belly and appreciates the way his muscles feel, tensing and relaxing, tensing again. All this tension. Jeongguk feels that strength in Taehyung’s body, his casual masculinity an inherent thing. He palms lower, thumb hooking on the front of Taehyung’s waistband, pulling at it to force him closer.

Then he grabs his waist hard, feeling the way Taehyung lets his sturdy body give in to the pressure Jeongguk applies. The aggression between them burns against the polarity of the small things, the fingers Taehyung brushes through Jeongguk’s hair, the hand he strokes down the side of his face, the happy little sound Jeongguk lets out, nuzzling into the feeling.

Taehyung dips down, hot mouth along Jeongguk’s jawline. Humming, Jeongguk tilts his head to the side, feeling weak in the knees as Taehyung sucks his earlobe into his mouth. His teeth scrape a bit and Jeongguk can’t help the deep groan he lets out.

“Do you—” he begins, but Taehyung shoves his thigh in harder between his legs and that sentence ends in a stuttered mumble. He swallows and tries again. “Do you wanna do it this time?”

“Hm?”

“Like, do you wanna put—fuck…” Jeongguk bites his tongue, feeling a blush creep up his neck, tingling and hot. He squeezes his eyes shut and laughs softly at himself, letting his head fall forward. His hair shields his eyes and when Taehyung pulls back, Jeongguk buries his face in his shoulder.

Taehyung breaks into a fit of giggles and then he runs his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair. “Yeah. Yeah, I do wanna put fuck.”

“F—shut up, God.” Jeongguk makes a frustrated sound as his hips rock steadily back and forth on Taehyung’s thigh. His dick is hard, trapped behind his zipper and painful, straining.

Taehyung’s hands are on Jeongguk, anywhere he can touch—gripping his hips and urging him to grind against him harder; palming across his abs and making a low, throaty sound of appreciation; squeezing his hips, his sides, just touching. Because he can now.

Jeongguk shivers.

“C’mon,” he urges, pushing at Taehyung. It takes so much effort to pry himself away, missing the heat of Taehyung’s body, the grind of his hips and the twitch of his muscle beneath his fingers even when they’re only parted for a second. As they stumble to the bed, not even ten short steps in the small RV, Jeongguk keeps a firm hold around Taehyung’s forearm.

“Off.” Taehyung fumbles with Jeongguk’s jeans, shoving him onto the bed and climbing on top of him. His knees are on either side of Jeongguk’s waist and it makes him feel overpowered. Maybe getting impatient with Jeongguk not responding as quick as he wants him to, Taehyung drags Jeongguk’s jeans down slightly and dips a finger beneath the waistband of his boxers. He snaps the elastic. Jeongguk’s hips jump and a surprised sound comes from the back of his throat.

He glares, his eyes already a little unfocused. Taehyung just smirks and sits back, tugging up the hem of his own shirt, shucking it off and tossing it to the side. His ribs shift beneath his skin, mildly sweaty from exertion, glowing a soft bronze beneath the yellow light. His hair falls over his shoulders and his shark tooth necklace hangs stark against his collarbones, the leather worn and cracked. He takes that off too, puts it to the side.

“Get naked. Hurry up.” Taehyung kicks his shorts off, ugly cargos that Jeongguk really wants him to trash for good. His boxers are a plain black and his cock is so fucking hard, outlined beneath the fabric. It makes Jeongguk’s mouth water, his erection twitching at the sight.

“We’ve got time.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes but does as he’s told. He makes quick work of his pants, cursing when his finger catches on the zipper in his haste and then tossing them onto the floor.

“I know, I just”—then Taehyung’s on top of him, a sudden movement before Jeongguk can even get his shirt off, and he shoves Jeongguk onto his back with a growl—“wanna fuck you so bad.” His jaw clenches as he catches Jeongguk’s lips in a kiss, tongue hot and sliding against his, teeth scraping over the delicate skin of his lips. Jeongguk lets his mouth fall open, lets Taehyung lick into his mouth.

Taehyung grinds his hips down, a slow, deliberate movement that has Jeongguk holding himself back from bucking up against him. He feels so desperate but he doesn’t want to show it. It’s just a convoluted pride thing, something about the knowledge that he’s gonna be bottoming, something about just how much he’s loving the way Taehyung takes charge.

Taehyung moves down and Jeongguk instinctively spreads his legs, allowing him room between them, feeling Taehyung’s palms slide down the smooth skin of his thighs and push them apart farther, just slightly, just enough to make the insides ache. Jeongguk shudders and arches his back at the first press of Taehyung’s lips along his inner thigh.

“Tae,” he chokes out. He gets no other words out and groans when Taehyung ghosts his fingers over the outline of Jeongguk’s cock through his boxers. The fabric slides along his length, chafing a little. He’s sensitive but not overworked, just desperate for any sort of friction and his hips jump as Taehyung rubs the heel of his palm over his bulge. His cock twitches and leaks a bead of precum, the wetness soaking the front.

Taehyung presses another kiss a little higher up on his thigh, closer to his crotch, and Jeongguk grunts in dissatisfaction because he’s teasing. Smoothing a hand over Jeongguk’s abs, Taehyung shoves his shirt up.

“Off,” Taehyung says again, this time with a little more command in his tone that makes Jeongguk want to obey. He quickly pulls it over his head. Goosebumps rise to his skin as his hair fans out and tickles his shoulders. Then he takes his boxers off. His cock bobs above his stomach, hot and heavy with blood, a string of precum stretched between the head and his lower belly.

“Love your body,” Taehyung mutters, moving up and kissing Jeongguk’s stomach, dipping his tongue into his navel. “Your tats. Your thighs”— a blunt smack, right along the soft skin there, making Jeongguk jolt—“so fuckin’ thick. You sexy little thing.”

Taehyung’s very unpredictable with what he does, tonguing over Jeongguk’s abs one moment, then kneading his cock through his boxers the next, or moving down to kiss his thighs instead, latching his mouth onto the skin and sucking hard. Something so possessive about it.

“Don’t get weird over my thighs.” Jeongguk snorts, blushing a little. “You thigh fetishist, you.”

“Yeah…” Taehyung licks at the reddened spot his mouth left, hot and tickling, and then gently bites down on it. Jeongguk makes a displeased noise but his hips twitch up into the sensation, caught between whining about the pain and loving it. “So fuckin’ hot for your thighs, dude,” Taehyung mumbles, sucking another mark into Jeongguk’s inner thigh. This time when Jeongguk rocks his hips, Taehyung holds them down forcefully, pinning them to the bed and groaning as he sucks harder.

It hurts and burns and Jeongguk knows it’s gonna leave a mark, an angry red and purple thing, bruises dotted across the tan and taut skin of his thighs. The image makes his cock throb.

“What do you want?” Taehyung’s breath fans across the trails of saliva left on Jeongguk’s skin. His fingers leisurely stroke up and down Jeongguk’s straining cock, throbbing and leaking. His thumb rubs lower, over his balls, then just a bit lower still, right at the tight skin of his perineum.

And having Taehyung’s mouth so close, Jeongguk knows what he wants. He just doesn’t want to say it.

“What’re you down for?” he asks instead, realizing how embarrassingly breathy he sounds only after he’s spoken.

“Anything.” Taehyung hums absentmindedly and wraps his hand around Jeongguk’s thigh, bending his leg up a little. The strength he puts into his fingertips, squeezing and digging them into Jeongguk’s soft flesh, will most likely leave bruises. “Can I rim you?”

Jeongguk’s hips jerk and his cock bobs, drooling from the slit. He moans and nods frantically, feeling the hot rush of Taehyung’s breath on his skin, so close to his asshole. “Fuck—yeah, please, yeah.”

Reaching down, he gets a firm grip of his supple cheek and pulls it to the side, spreading himself. He rubs the pad of his index finger over his puckered entrance.

“You like that, right?” Taehyung asks, sounding very casual as he watches Jeongguk play with his clenching rim. “Remember you saying it a while ago, drunk and such.”

Then Taehyung swats Jeongguk’s hands away and thumbs his cheeks apart, groaning in appreciation at the sight he is, spread open and trembling. He presses his tongue flat over Jeongguk’s asshole, licking right up to the perineum, then past it, laving his tongue over Jeongguk’s balls.

“Mmph—” Jeongguk nods to answer Taehyung’s question. His jaw is clenched as he tries to keep from making too many stupid sounds. “Love it so much,” he slurs, his head falling back onto the sheets, his hair fanning out. He bends his legs a bit closer to his body, heels digging into the cheap mattress.

Taehyung’s fingers rub over Jeongguk’s rim and he sucks one of his balls into his mouth, humming. Jeongguk lets out a low sound of pleasure and rocks his hips into the feeling, breath catching as Taehyung trails his tongue down again, pushing it flat at his perineum, and then right over his tight hole. Jeongguk’s hand snakes down and grips Taehyung’s firm shoulder, fingers curling involuntarily as Taehyung flicks his tongue, flexing the wet muscle and using his thumbs to hold his cheeks apart as he pushes it inside.

Ah—fuck, ’s real good,” Jeongguk says, holding his breath for a second and letting it out in a pleased sigh as Taehyung’s tongue delves in a bit deeper, wet and flexible. There’s just something about this that Jeongguk’s always found ridiculously erotic. His nails dig into Taehyung’s shoulder, grip tightening as he gets lost in pleasure. The low growl Taehyung lets out at the pain vibrates against Jeongguk’s asshole.

Panting, Jeongguk moves his hand to Taehyung’s hair and pulls, moaning softly at the sounds he makes. Jeongguk tugs again just for kicks and laughs, a dry and strained sound. “Fuck, you got—you got game. Some real good tongue game right there.”

Taehyung snickers and pulls his tongue out. “Sweet. Keep stroking my ego, I love it.” He presses his full lips against Jeongguk’s hole and then drags the flat of his tongue along his asscrack a couple times. He pushes it down on his perineum, then licks down and lets it slide into his hole, fucking his tongue in and out and loosening him up a bit.

Jeongguk’s cock is shiny with dribbling precum, suffused a hot, angry red and kicking hard against his taut stomach. His back arches off the sheets, sweat cool in his flushed skin. Taehyung points his tongue, flexing the length and pushing it in, stretching Jeongguk’s rim as he shoves it in deep, the muscle thicker and stronger as it glides into him farther. Taehyung’s tongue flattens inside him and presses against the ridged inner walls.

“Fuck—nnh, where’s the lube, I need—oh, fuck—” Jeongguk’s hips jump and buck without rhythm, and Taehyung has to grab him by the upper thigh to pin him down, using that same grip to tug his ass closer to Taehyung’s face to let him lick deeper into Jeongguk’s asshole.

“Bathroom,” Taehyung pulls back to say. Then he sticks his tongue in deep again, sucks and pops his lips around the rim.

“Go—go fuckin’ get it, man,” Jeongguk says breathlessly, patting at Taehyung’s shoulder with a weak hand.

“’Kay.” Taehyung doesn’t leave immediately, continuing to tongue in and around Jeongguk’s puffy hole, humming when he moans shakily, thighs trembling as he keeps his legs bent.

Taehyung leaves and Jeongguk lifts himself onto his elbows, panting heavily. His cock stands red and hard between his legs, and he watches with dazed interest as a drop of precum slide down the shaft, kind of pretty in the soft light. Part of him is compelled to stroke himself but he doesn’t, just subtly rocks his hips, muscles tense and quivering with need. He doesn’t even have the time to collect his thoughts before Taehyung’s back on the bed with a bottle of lube and a crinkled condom packet.

“Want me to do it?” Taehyung asks, clicking off the cap of the bottle and tossing the condom to the side for now. There’s a light sheen of sweat on his neck.

“Yeah, please.”

Jeongguk takes his weight off his elbows and lies flat on the bed, watching as Taehyung slicks his fingers with lube. Thick gobs roll down to his wrist, onto the sheets.

“Lube enthusiast.” Jeongguk giggles, suddenly feeling very silly. Now that he can think again, Taehyung’s mouth no longer working around his asshole, he really realizes what they’re doing. It makes him feel giddy.

Taehyung snorts and throws the bottle to the side, a hand on Jeongguk’s knee to spread his legs farther. When Taehyung rubs the first slick finger over Jeongguk’s hole, he’s anticipating it, eyes closed as he nibbles at his bottom lip. Taehyung circles the wet pad of his finger around the puckered skin and drags it up and down the crack, humming when Jeongguk responds viscerally and shoves his hips down toward Taehyung’s touch, so responsive it feels obscene.

“Chill,” Taehyung says with a soft laugh, smoothing his wide palm up Jeongguk’s thigh.

“C’mon.”

Jeongguk grunts as Taehyung works the first finger in, moving slowly, pushing it in just past the first knuckle.

“You good?” Taehyung asks, thumb rubbing slow circles against Jeongguk’s perineum, pressing just right and making him shudder.

“So good,” Jeongguk breathes, doing his best to relax, trying to urge Taehyung to press his finger in deeper.

“When’s the last time you took it up the ass?”

“Too long.” Jeongguk feels Taehyung’s finger slip in a bit deeper and sighs. “Finger myself sometimes.”

Taehyung groans and brushes a second finger against Jeongguk’s hole, the tight rim stretched around his finger, catching on the wider part as the muscle swallows it up to the second knuckle. He pulls the first finger out a bit, allows room to massage the second finger against the soft skin and then press it in.

“You gotta show me someday,” Taehyung murmurs, watching in awe the way Jeongguk’s hole takes his fingers in so smoothly.

Jeongguk nods, too breathless to speak, adjusting to the second finger. The stretch is something noticeable now, but it’s barely a sting, no discomfort he can’t work past. He inhales deep and lets out a helpless sound when Taehyung pushes them in deeper, the pads rubbing against his inner walls, that tight ring of muscle squeezing around Taehyung’s knuckles.

“Love your fingers so much,” Jeongguk breathes. In any other circumstance he would be more apprehensive about being so honest, but with Taehyung’s finger stretching his asshole open like this he doesn’t think there’s much more to hide at this point. “So—so deep, nngh, fuck.”

Taehyung drags his fingers out, pumps them back in, scissors them just slightly, opening Jeongguk up. The noises are lewd and wet, squelching sounds of his lubed-up asshole getting reamed by a couple digits. Curling his fingers and pushing them in with a bit more force, Taehyung applies pressure right against Jeongguk’s prostate. In response he writhes and makes a high sound in the back of his throat, flushed with embarrassment at the sounds he makes.

“That’s good, so good, so—fuck, your fingers—I can never get this deep myself, it’s so nice,” he babbles, his hands curling into the bedsheets at his side. His spine arches gracefully off the bed as he tries to keep his hips angled just right.

“Do you ever use toys?” Taehyung sounds quite casual considering he’s got two fingers sheathed entirely inside Jeongguk’s asshole. He curls them and rubs back and forth against Jeongguk’s hot walls, the muscle gripping tight as Jeongguk’s hips move involuntarily.

“Nah, don’t own any.” Jeongguk shakes his head. A drop of sweat slides down the side of his face. “Used to fuck this one guy sometimes, he owned a few, liked playing with me. It was—nnh, oh yes—uh, it was good, real nice—” Taehyung’s fingers curl again, pushed hard inside him, free hand keeping Jeongguk’s asscheek to the side. They work back and forth, deep. “Oh God—oh wow, Tae—”

Jeongguk laughs, hating how breathless he sounds and at the same time too far gone to focus. He brings a hand to his mouth, lazily muffling his sounds with his knuckles shoved between his teeth.

“We should buy a few,” Taehyung says. “Look so good like this, ass stretched around my fingers. Wanna see how you’d look with a vibrator up there.”

Jeongguk’s hips jerk at the idea. “Y—yeah, hah, oh fuck, three now, do three, I want—”

When Taehyung pulls his fingers back and makes room to wiggle in a third, Jeongguk’s body tenses at the shock of pain, the rough stretch as he gets filled up, his rim taut and red around the girth. Taehyung thumbs Jeongguk’s plump cheeks and rubs the pad of his thumb around his hole, catching and pulling on the knuckles as they slide in and out of him, twist and rub hard. Jeongguk yelps and then quickly bites down on the back of his hand, muffling those sounds with a quiet, disgruntled noise.

Feels good when you do that, Jeongguk tries to tell him, but Taehyung does it again and applies pressure a little harder, crooks his fingers and strokes along the muscular ridges inside Jeongguk’s asshole. Jeongguk’s words come out as a loud moan, whimpering a little as his hips rock, pelvis tilting to maintain this angle, to keep Taehyung’s fingers pressing right there. His cock pulses and dribbles, heavy and neglected. The pleasure is overwhelming and he’s torn between touching his cock and letting Taehyung do all the work. His forearm tenses as he takes his frustration out on the sheets, gripping and pulling the fabric.

“There?” Taehyung asks.

There.” Jeongguk nods, sounds breathy and so lost, so pleased, lips parted as he mewls. It’s spectacularly humiliating and so submissive of him, the way he reacts to Taehyung. But it feels so good, he can barely see straight, his eyes water and he squeezes them shut. It’s bad enough that he’s whining like this. He doesn’t want to end up crying like a prissy little bitch.

Reaching down, Jeongguk grapples at Taehyung’s wrist, forcing those fingers to still inside him.

“Fuck me now.”

Taehyung hesitates. He pumps his fingers in and out a few times, applying pressure around the rim in an effort to open him up wider, and Jeongguk’s breath hitches.

“Should really stretch more, you’re really tight, Guk.”

But Jeongguk’s stubborn when he wants to be and even more so when he’s horny, moaning and circling his hips and clenching around Taehyung’s fingers in a deliberate effort to make him want to fuck him.

“Please, want your cock.”

Taehyung purses his lips and wiggles his fingers inside Jeongguk, chuckling when he makes a surprised sounds and bucks his hips, cock bobbing and smacking his stomach. Precum drips and spatters over his navel, his lower belly, slides into the lines of his abs.

“C’mon, I’ll just get on my knees. I can always take it deeper when I’m like that.” Jeongguk doesn’t wait for Taehyung’s response and guides his wrist to slip his fingers out. He winces and then scrambles onto his front, gets on his hands and knees, exposed. Lube cools on his puffy hole.

“’Kay…you sure?” Taehyung asks. Without saying anything Jeongguk presses his ass back, presenting himself. He shudders and arches when Taehyung smooths a hand down his spine, palm dipping with the hot, sweaty curve of his back.

Hearing the tear of a condom packet, Jeongguk ducks his head. His hair splays out over the flat pillow, his forehead pushed against the threadbare fabric. The plastic crack of the bottle cap is followed by a cold dribble of lube right onto his hole.

“You dick, warm it first,” Jeongguk spits, hating the way his body responds positively, pressing closer to Taehyung, while his words are hostile. He feels the glide of Taehyung’s hard cock over his asscheek, feels the roll of his foreskin and wetness of his head as he ruts against Jeongguk’s firm ass.

“Sorry,” Taehyung says flippantly.

He thumbs up and down Jeongguk’s wet crack, his hole so loose and slippery that his thumb slips right in as he drags it up from his perineum. Taehyung makes a low noise of appreciation and Jeongguk growls.

“Hurry up.”

“Hm…” Taehyung's large hands smooth over Jeongguk’s round asscheeks, kneading at the hot flesh. “You should get an ass tat too.”

Jeongguk snorts. “You wanna match? Gay.”

With a scoff Taehyung pushes three fingers into Jeongguk’s drenched, opened hole. “Yeah, so gay, dude.”

The digits are met with a bit of resistance but not much—Jeongguk knows Taehyung was right about needing to stretch him open a bit more, but he’s impatient and not about to be proven wrong.

Letting out a low moan, he drops onto his elbows. “Ugh, f—fuck,” he mumbles. “Feels good, feels so good. Gay feels so good, I love gay.”

Jeongguk squirms and clenches around those fingers and Taehyung hisses. “Yeah…ass so fuckin’ tight, Jeongguk, love your ass.” He squeezes at the cheek again, gives the flesh a good jiggle and groans.

“So fuck it,” Jeongguk urges. He reaches back to once again pull Taehyung’s fingers out of his hole. They slip out with a squelch. “C’mon, I want it.” His voice is almost a snarl. “Fill me up with your fat cock, Tae. Hurry up, gimme.”

“You’re fuckin’ nasty,” Taehyung murmurs, and Jeongguk laughs because he kinda likes the sound of that. “Nasty Gukkie.”

“You make me feel nasty,” Jeongguk breathes. He turns around to watch Taehyung roll the condom on with deft fingers, his knuckles shiny with lube. As Jeongguk moves his hair tickles his shoulders and his upper back.

“Is that a good thing?” Taehyung wonders out loud.

“Totally.”

Jeongguk grunts when he feels the head of Taehyung’s cock press against his loosened, twitching hole, blunt and hot. Then Taehyung places a hand on the small of Jeongguk’s back and makes him dip his waist down a bit more, his ass shoved higher. Taehyung lets out a low sound of approval. The head of Jeongguk’s cock occasionally bobs lower and brushes against the coarse blankets. He’s so sensitive that even such a small thing makes his hips jerk.

Ungh.” Jeongguk growls as he feels the head of Taehyung’s cock slip past the initial ring of muscle. “Fuckin’ good, Tae,” he mumbles, but it’s muffled into the bed.

Taehyung continues to push in slowly. So slowly. Jeongguk huffs and rocks his ass back.

“Chill,” Taehyung says, his voice tight, his hand resting on Jeongguk’s waist and forcing him to stay still.

“I—I need this.” Jeongguk is insistent and impatient, body twitching as Taehyung’s cock slides in a bit deeper.

Humming, Taehyung notches his hips forward, and immediately Jeongguk collapses and whines because, fuck, okay, it kinda hurts. A little. Taehyung was right, just a little.

“Big,” he grits through his teeth, his fingers threading into the sheets, shaking.

“Sure you’re fine?” Taehyung asks, concerned.

Jeongguk grunts, irritated and a little indignant. “Yes, don’t fuckin’ st—fuck, Tae, oh—” He feels helpless, tense and slowly being filled, entirely at Taehyung’s mercy. It’s impossible to think straight.

“Guk, should’ve stretched you more.” Smoothing his hands along Jeongguk’s waist, Taehyung begins to ease out of Jeongguk’s body. Jeongguk snarls and reaches around to grab Taehyung’s hip.

“If you pull out I’m gonna fuckin’ gut you.” He clenches hard around Taehyung’s cock, his tight walls rippling around his length, and he revels in the way Taehyung groans and stills, tense as he fights the urge to fuck into Jeongguk’s tight and sopping hole, squeezing and adjusting to the girth of Taehyung’s cock. “Ain’t a fuckin’ virgin.”

“I know.” Taehyung laughs, a strained sound between sharp breaths. “You just get too competitive about dick.”

“I live for dick,” Jeongguk mumbles, his lips parting in a sigh of pleasure, slowly sliding himself back on Taehyung’s cock. He’s still not quite ready, still becoming accustomed, clenching and relaxing around Taehyung’s thick, pulsing cock. “Can’t believe I was so chill with just fucking Yongsun for a whole year.

“Literally don’t talk about your ex when I’m inside you.”

Jeongguk hums. “Jealous?”

“I don’t get jealous.” Taehyung’s hand squeezes Jeongguk’s hip. The hickeys left on Jeongguk’s thighs still tingle.

“Lies.” He chuckles, a little breathless. “Tryna front polyamory like some modern bimbo when all you want is someone to love you till it hurts.”

Taehyung snorts. “Whatever, Jeon. How’s your ass?” He palms at the flesh, the hot skin stinging.

Jeongguk breathes hard. “Adjusting. Go deeper.”

“Mm…so tight, though…”Taehyung pauses for a second, spreading Jeongguk’s cheeks and admiring how his hole looks. He thumbs just around where the rim stretches around his shaft, such rough prodding at sensitive skin that Jeongguk makes an unhappy noise and writhes.

Then Taehyung leans over Jeongguk, chest hard against his arched back.

“Just…relax a bit.” Taehyung’s breath is hot over the shell of Jeongguk’s ear. Gently, he nibbles on the earlobe and Jeongguk gasps, holds his breath and lets it out in a low moan, the tension flowing out of his body. As his asshole relaxes he feels Taehyung slip in deeper.

“Fuck—there you go, just like that, oh God.” And he pushes in deeper.

“Ah—” Jeongguk chokes and goes even more lax beneath Taehyung, shaking and sighing as his asshole takes in more and more of Taehyung’s length. “Nnh, fuck fuck fuck, Tae, that feels s—so good, oh my God.”

Taehyung moves from sucking Jeongguk’s earlobe to bury his head between Jeongguk’s shoulder blades with a groan. He’s panting hard, kissing Jeongguk’s skin, hips stuttering and shifting deeper into Jeongguk’s warm and writhing body.

Feeling Taehyung’s heavy breathing burn against the back of his neck, Jeongguk’s dick pulses and jerks between his legs. A drop of precum dribbles out. He’s already leaked so much, the sheets beneath him covered in his mess. When Taehyung’s hips press flush against his, Jeongguk whimpers quietly, reaches back and gently presses his fingertips just below Taehyung’s navel, a hesitant little cue—it’s too much.

He’s delirious. It’s hot in the RV and hot beneath his skin, his ass is stretched and full and he has to admit he’s kinda forgotten just how tough it is to take cock. And he’s worried he’s gonna bitch out.

But Taehyung coos you’ve got this and gently squeezes Jeongguk’s wrist, a reassurance, then grips it and gently pushes it against Jeongguk’s lower back. A small show of dominance that makes Jeongguk’s head spin as Taehyung eases in the last bit.

“You,” Jeongguk stutters out, “ah, fuck—bottom?”

“You are,” Taehyung teases.

Jeongguk shakes his head with a breathy laugh, the ends of his hair clinging along his sweaty neck. “No, I mean—mnh, y—you bottomed out?”

Taehyung hums, a low and choked sound. “Mm-hm.”

Jeongguk shivers and wiggles his ass to tease, delighting in the way Taehyung’s hand tightens around his hip, hard enough to bruise.

“Can I fuck you?” Taehyung mumbles, sounding quite cute, letting go of Jeongguk’s wrist and petting up and down his sides in an attempt to coax him.

“Wait a sec,” Jeongguk teases, circles his hips back and shudders when Taehyung snarls against his back. His hands grip Jeongguk’s waist and slam his ass back onto Taehyung’s cock, burying his throbbing length deep inside and holding him still. The feeling of being handled so rough burns down Jeongguk’s spine.

“Fuckin’—just—Jeongguk.” Taehyung scrapes his teeth over Jeongguk’s shoulder, chuckling low and restrained.

“Go now,” he manages, and sighs as Taehyung eases out and then slides back into his hot and wet hole. Jeongguk tilts his hips to take him in deeper and moans, feeling full.

“So big, Tae,” he says shakily, sliding his legs farther apart on the sheets, spreading himself open.

“Mmh—” Taehyung snickers. “Keep strokin’ my ego, maybe all the blood’ll go to my head.”

Jeongguk chokes out a laugh, and it melts into a moan when Taehyung gets a good grip on his hips and jostles him into a better position. Taehyung’s hands dig fingerprint bruises into Jeongguk’s supple flesh, his palms warm. A bit of lube smears from his fingers onto Jeongguk’s sweaty skin.

Taehyung hisses through his teeth and grinds his hips, keeping the thrusts to a minimum as Jeongguk works up to being used to it. Each sound Taehyung let out makes Jeongguk burn beneath the skin, flush hot. He’s mildly embarrassed by the sounds he makes, by the way he gets louder and higher-pitched as Taehyung begins to fuck him open at a steadier pace.

Jeongguk’s cock is heavy and engorged and it bounces with their movements, the sounds of wet skin on skin slick and disgusting as Taehyung’s cock pumps in and out of Jeongguk’s hole, ring of muscle taut around his pulsing girth.

“Love—nhg, oh, yeah, love the way you fuck me.” Jeongguk moans and his shoulders shake, holding himself up. His head dips down and Taehyung kisses along his tense shoulder blades, tongue tracing his tattoos, and he licks up his sweat and sucks at the side of his neck. He scrapes his teeth and then bites down just hard enough to make Jeongguk whine and jolt.

“Fuck, Jeongguk— your ass feels so good around my cock.” Taehyung grunts and snaps his hips, and the force drives Jeongguk forward on the bed, his legs sliding farther apart. Taehyung delivers a light slap to the side of Jeongguk’s thigh and the thick flesh jiggles. With a loud moan Jeongguk’s hips stutter and he shoves himself back on Taehyung’s cock, asshole clenching when it rubs against the deepest parts of him.

Taehyung jerks forward with a grunt, shocked by the sudden tightness, his hipbones hard against Jeongguk’s cheeks. A light giggle bubbles from Jeongguk’s lips, blushing at his reaction. Taehyung shakes with laughter and leans forward to bite the curve of Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“Kinky fuck,” Jeongguk teases, lifting himself off his elbows and onto his hands, looking over his shoulder. Taehyung looks good. So pretty, skin honey-like in the muted light, his hair long and clinging with sweat to his forehead and neck. Jeongguk is winded—it really hits him that they’re doing this, that’s Taehyung’s inside him and that everything between them is all right.

Taehyung grins his dorky, boxy grin and brushes his nose against Jeongguk’s, eyelashes fluttering. A smile pulls at the corners of Jeongguk’s lips, and Taehyung leans closer and meets him in a kiss. His lips are warm and soft and Jeongguk makes a content sound in the back of his throat. Then Taehyung rocks his hips forward, a gentle movement that makes his cock drag thick and hot inside Jeongguk, making him shudder.

Taehyung huffs a laugh and smacks the back of Jeongguk’s thigh again, the thickest part right below his plump asscheek, gripping the flesh hard. He tugs Jeongguk back by the hips and holds him there as he growls and squirms.

You’re the kinky one. Nasty Gukkie.”

“We’re both nasty,” Jeongguk works out between moans. He can barely speak and all he wants is to keep going, rolling his hips back with a pleased gasp.

“So nasty.” Then Taehyung crowds his weight over Jeongguk’s body.

Jeongguk gives in and moans weakly, feels Taehyung’s dick works inside him, deep and rubbing just right against the ridges of his inner walls, squeezing tight around the entire shaft. With a grunt he collapses forward onto his elbows again, his forehead pressed against the mattress, Taehyung filling him up so well from behind. Hands on Jeongguk’s hips, he rocks into him in a way that makes a whine catch in his throat, the sound instead coming out as a humiliating hiccup.

“Good?” Taehyung teases. Jeongguk can hear the smirk in his voice and growls but when Taehyung rocks into him again, the tension in Jeongguk melts and he nods into the sheets with a pathetic moan.

“Fuckin’ great,” he slurs. “A-1 dick, Kim. Never been fucked this good.”

Taehyung laughs breathlessly and kisses Jeongguk’s shoulder, short and sweet. The way he leans over his body changes the angle of Taehyung’s cock inside him and God, Jeongguk feels that pleasure to his fucking bones. His thighs twitch and his teeth gnash together as he tries to keep himself from getting too loud.

“God—Jeongguk—” Taehyung groans, sounds so hot, breathing rough and fast against Jeongguk’s back and—Jesus, Jeongguk’s wanted this for so long. Wanted Taehyung panting and moaning on top of him, inside him, body hot and firm against Jeongguk’s. And now he’s his.

Taehyung snarls and buries himself with a quick snap of his hips. He goes still, and Jeongguk whines in protest and lifts his hips, drops them again. His back arches and he surges backward to encourage Taehyung to move harder and faster.

“Don’t stop, you fuck—I’m so—mmph.” Jeongguk makes a needy, frustrated sound into the sheets.

“Gonna cum,” Taehyung explains, body rigid and infuriatingly still against Jeongguk’s back. With a snarl Jeongguk circles his hips, shivering when he hears the choked moan that tears up Taehyung’s throat.

“That’s the fuckin’ point,” he bites back. Held still like this, he can feel the throb of Taehyung’s cock, hot and wet with lube inside him.

“Touch your cock,” Taehyung instructs, his voice raspy and strained. He begins a slow, steady pace. Jeongguk lets out a happy noise at the shallow thrusts Taehyung gives him.

You touch my cock.” He hums and arches, dips forward, body lithe and flexible as he leans forward and takes it.

“Christ,” Taehyung mutters, but obliges, reaching around Jeongguk’s waist, tracing down and running his fingers along the thick vein on the underside of Jeongguk’s cock. As he leans forward Jeongguk’s asscheeks plump up, squeezed by the weight of Taehyung’s body.

“If you don’t make me cum first I’m gonna kill you, you fuckin’ shitty top.”

Taehyung laughs, the deep sound rumbling against Jeongguk’s back, and fuck there’s just something that feels wonderful about how close they are right now. Skin on skin, bodies pressed together, just loving and feeling good. Such a nice thing.

“Keep going,” Jeongguk mumbles, barely coherent. “Don’t stop.”

“As if I could fuckin’ stop.” Taehyung groans, his hand finally wrapping around Jeongguk’s dick, rolling the foreskin over the sensitive head. Precum drips from the tip. There’s so much that Jeongguk swears he can feel it gushing out the slit.

“You’re leaking a lot, Guk,” Taehyung murmurs in appreciation, his voice low and wrecked.

Mmh—” Jeongguk whimpers, fingers curling into the sheets, moans spilling from his lips. He can’t get himself to just shut the fuck up and it’s so damn embarrassing. “Tae, oh my God—there, oh, oh yes—”

With a forceful hand on his waist, Taehyung tilts Jeongguk’s pelvis and rams into him like that, grunting with each thrust.

“Guk, I’m so fuckin’ close, I need to cum,” he chokes out, his hand tightening around Jeongguk’s cock and stroking him faster.

Jeongguk’s breathing hard. “Ah—hn, it’s fine, I—I’m close, I’m s—so close, Tae.”

Taehyung’s balls smack against his perineum, skin hot and wet and soft, and a violent shudder tears through Jeongguk. His breathing is so uneven and his thighs are tense and quivering. Once again Taehyung smacks his thigh, and Jeongguk wants to be mad because that shit is unnecessary. But he lowkey loves it, hips jumping and pushing back against Taehyung with a breathless grunt.

“I’m gonna cum,” he spits, his lower belly tight and hot, his lips parted as he pants hard into the sheets.

Taehyung grunts some affirmation and fucks into him a bit quicker, a bit rougher, and that’s the final surge of force that tips Jeongguk right over the edge, his toes curling and his body spasming as he cums, trying to muffle his loud sobs of pleasure. Taehyung fucks him through it, hands pressing harder into Jeongguk’s flesh and muscle.

Jeongguk’s cum spatters against the sheets, his cock twitching and flexing in Taehyung’s hand, his balls pulled tight. And he’s so loud, moaning and riding out his orgasm.

“Tae—” Jeongguk gasps helplessly.

“Yeah, gonna cum, gonna—” Taehyung’s hips lose rhythm and he ruts into Jeongguk violently, the clench of his asshole sucking Taehyung in deeper. He snaps his hips forward with a snarl and keeps his throbbing cock pushed deep inside Jeongguk’s tight little hole, cumming with those walls squeezing around him. He pants, bucking into him a few final times, moaning quietly.

“Fuck.” Jeongguk grunts and collapses, trembling at the way Taehyung’s cock stays inside him. Both of them lie there, chests heaving, slowly coming down.

Taehyung’s body lies over his, hot and sweaty. For a blissful moment it’s just his breath warm against the back of Jeongguk’s neck, his hair tickling between his shoulder blades. Jeongguk reaches back and pats Taehyung’s bony hip.

“Don’t overstay your welcome,” he slurs into the pillow.

“Nh?”

“Get outta my ass,” he translates, and jerks himself back. Taehyung hisses, overstimulated and flaccid enough that it hurts.

“My bad.” He slips out of Jeongguk’s hole, so loose it doesn’t even clench in immediately, hanging open for a few very mortifying seconds. Lube glides down his tenderly reddened thighs.

Then Taehyung’s a dead weight on the mattress, a sweaty body flopping down next to Jeongguk, half asleep. Cheek smushed against the pillow. Hair fucked up and lips shiny and red. Jeongguk wonders if he looks just as defiled himself—if he maybe looks worse.

Taehyung’s arm rests over Jeongguk’s waist. “You—mnnph?”

“Totally.” Jeongguk nods lazily in agreement.

“Mm…sweet.”

“Very.”

As Taehyung slides the condom off Jeongguk turns his head to the side and watches. His limp cock flops over his thigh, glistening. Jeongguk stares at it, his mind going to those bizarre, post-nut lands that wonder how such a funny-looking bit of meat could ever make him drool into a pillow and moan like a girl.

“I love your dick,” he eventually breathes, concluding that must be why.

Taehyung meets his eyes. He smirks and doesn’t say anything for a moment, and Jeongguk pauses, worrying he said something wrong because he’s a worrier before anything else. But then Taehyung scrunches his nose in one of those ugly, dorky smiles that Jeongguk totally hates and says, “I love you.”

It’s a little out of nowhere and Jeongguk makes an affronted noise, grumbles into the pillow. “Don’t make it gay. Don’t—we—we’re past that part.”

“Are we?” Taehyung ties up the condom and throws it carelessly off the bed. Lube smears over the carpet, crusty burn marks dotted where cigarette butts must have fallen over the years. “Dunno ’bout you, but I’m not.”

When Taehyung pulls Jeongguk close beneath the covers, he lets him.

“I love you,” Taehyung says once again, so soft against Jeongguk’s neck.

Jeongguk is sugary and whipped. He’s a happy, fucked-out piece of shit with his equally shitty best friend, a romance protag filming the afterglow of his softcore porno moment.

He’s living it up except not exactly, because right now it’s real. Very real people and very real love.

Jeongguk ducks his head and gives in with a bashful love you mumbled into Taehyung’s collarbone.

“Clean me up,” he says soon after, too awkward to let it sit. Taehyung snorts but complies, reaching over and grabbing a couple tissues from the bedside table.

Lying back, Jeongguk sighs as Taehyung does all the work for him, very comfortable with Taehyung’s fingers poking around between his wet asscheeks. It’s a peaceful moment, a quiet night, sweat on skin and Jeongguk basking in the warmth with his hands sprawled above his head.

Taehyung tosses the wet tissues onto the floor next to the condom. It’s fucking gross but there have been worse things on that floor.

“C’mere,” he mumbles as he lies down. His arm falls over Jeongguk’s waist, a little too rough as he pulls him closer. He buries his face in the back of Jeongguk’s neck. “You smell like the ocean.”

“Mm. Is that good or bad?”

“Very good. Smell like you.

Jeongguk chuckles, so thankful Taehyung can’t see him blushing. “It’s only ’cause I didn’t use shampoo.”

Taehyung snorts and his breath tickles the back of Jeongguk’s neck. “Gross boy.”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk sighs. “Your gross boy.”

 


 

Jeongguk brushes his fingers through the loose braid in Taehyung’s hair, unravels it and starts another one.

“You ever made love before?” Taehyung’s asking. He looks good in Jeongguk’s arms, lazy and half-asleep.

Jeongguk scoffs. “Nah. Why?”

“I dunno. I’m just thinking.”

Taehyung nibbles on his lower lip and squints through the morning sunlight filtering through the patchy brown curtains of the RV. It washes the interior pink and orange, soft like a peach. Jeongguk is feeling strangely at peace and Taehyung’s hair is sleek between his fingers. The shirts they’d thrown on after waking up are old and thin, bare slips of fabric that let them feel the dips and lines of each other’s body.

“Well don’t,” Jeongguk says. “I’m too young to make love.

“Don’t you wanna try it, though?”

Jeongguk gives Taehyung’s hair a quick tug.

“Ow. Dude.” Taehyung turns his head to face Jeongguk. His hair moves with him and the strands of the braid fall from Jeongguk’s fingers. With a laugh, he pokes Jeongguk’s chest. “Don’t you?”

Jeongguk shrugs, a small smile resting on his lips. “Can’t believe you’re making me talk about feelings. Gay-ass. I just got buttfucked and I’m still recovering.”

Guk, oh my God. I’m just thinking lots right now.”

“Since when were you the thinker?” There’s something very fond about Jeongguk’s tone.

“Since I drank the elixir of realization. Really—Jeongguk.” Taehyung’s hand smooths over Jeongguk’s waist. It makes him shiver, the way his palm brushes over the soft fabric of Jeongguk’s t-shirt, pulls up the hem just enough to slide it above his thighs, exposing his lower belly. “I’m just—”

“Hm?”

“Just…wondering. Hoping I don’t fuck this up.”

“Oh.”

Taehyung’s quiet for a while. Then he pokes Jeongguk’s stomach. “Don’t ‘oh’ me and zone out, you fuck. I’m not good at the duo thing. Dunno if you’ve been informed.”

Jeongguk bends his leg and hooks his calf around Taehyung’s. “Most people would say relationships, but yeah.”

“My track record is a mess.”

“Like you.”

“And so is yours.”

“So we’re both messy.” Jeongguk shrugs, a small smile resting on his lips. “For the record”—he combs through the half-finished braid and sits up, throws a leg over Taehyung and straddles him—“I think you and I rock the ‘duo thing’ just fine.”

Taehyung quirks an eyebrow. “It’s different, ain’t it?”

“Friendships and relationships—same thing at the bone.”

“So this is a relationship now?”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Don’t do this to me. Not even noon. It’s just—we’re good. I’m good, you’re good. All good.”

“All good?”

Jeongguk purses his lips. “I mean, how do you feel?” He won’t say it but there’s something cold creeping under his skin, the bad bitch, the friendship-fucker-upper. It’s not real, right? Just imaginary, just themselves being young and stupid and terrified of any form of monogamy after pulling the ‘nihilistic slut’ act for so long.

Taehyung’s neck relaxes and he rests his head on the pillow with a sigh. His thumbs rub circles just above Jeongguk’s hipbones. “Surprisingly good. Like a deer in the headlights of love.”

Jeongguk laughs, finds himself staring at Taehyung’s lips, and they stay like that for a while before Jeongguk remembers—he can now. He stoops forward and slots his warm lips over Taehyung’s.

“That’s good,” he mumbles.

Tingling and warm, naked from the waist down, with Jeongguk’s thighs still aching a bit, they press close and listen to their breathing. Steady and sure. Then Jeongguk tilts his head and deepens the kiss, parts his lips and slides his tongue out, and his hips twitch when he feels the wet warmth of Taehyung’s tongue.

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung says with a chuckle, his voice raspier, his grip on Jeongguk’s hips a little tighter.

“C’mon, loser.” Jeongguk nips at Taehyung’s bottom lip. “Shut the fuck up and make love to me.”

It’s a joke but he lowkey means it, and when Taehyung laughs and flips them over, he might mean it a tiny bit more.