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“You don’t have any plans today, do you?”

Jeongguk peers blearily up from his coffee. Taehyung is regarding him from his position leaning against the kitchen counter, voice entirely too bright for someone who can’t have been awake for more than an hour. He isn’t an early bird by any means—Jeongguk doesn’t think he could ever live with a roommate who woke up, of their own accord, before nine—but it’s ten, and Jeongguk only just managed to drag himself out of bed six minutes ago. He’s basically still asleep.

“It’s Sunday,” he says, like that should answer everything. It kind of does; Sundays are for kicking back and relaxing. Taking a break from the rat race of Real Adult Life. Jeongguk rarely leaves the apartment on the seventh day of the week, not even to go to the gym.

“No shit,” Taehyung says. “It’s also Valentine’s Day.”

Jeongguk frowns, cupping his hands around the warmth of his mug. “Oh. I completely forgot.”

“I take it you’re free, then?”

“Pretty much,” Jeongguk says warily. He’s not sure he likes the glint in Taehyung’s eyes. “Why?”

“I had the most brilliant idea when I woke up this morning,” Taehyung says, and this is definitely not a good thing. This is Jeongguk’s cue to back the fuck out. The last time Taehyung had a brilliant idea, Jeongguk went to the emergency room with a raisin lodged in his ear.

“You know,” he begins, bringing the mug to his lips, “I just remembered this thing I have to do. Very important, can’t skip it—”

“How do you feel about pretending to be boyfriends?” Taehyung asks, and Jeongguk sloshes hot coffee onto his hands.

He reaches for a napkin to wipe his fingers dry. “Excuse me?”

“I was just thinking of these special things that some stores do for Valentine’s Day—you know, like those couples-only discounts or bargains or whatever. So I was like, ‘it’s a shame that I can’t take advantage of any of these deals because I’m painfully single,’ right? But then I remembered that you’re painfully single, too. And I had an epiphany.”

Jeongguk folds the napkin carefully. He needs time to process this proposition. Weigh his options. Fabricate some excuses. Then he makes the mistake of looking at Taehyung.

Taehyung’s got this thing, see, where he doesn’t know the effect he has on people. Or possibly he does and he just acts like he doesn’t, which is totally plausible. But that’s irrelevant. The point is that he’s watching Jeongguk right now with the most expectant expression on his face, almost delicate, like every hope and dream he’s ever had will be shattered into a million pieces if Jeongguk says no. Or possibly he doesn’t care much at all and Jeongguk is just whipped, which is also totally plausible. But Jeongguk doesn’t think about that.

He says, “So you want to pretend to be a couple?”

“I want to trick the system.”

“Right,” Jeongguk says. “Okay.” He eyes the remains of his coffee and thinks that it’d be nice if it were alcohol instead. Then he looks back at Taehyung and thinks that this might potentially be fun. “I’m in.”

 

“Do you care which movie we watch?”

“Nah. Up to you.”

Jeongguk regrets granting Taehyung this latitude approximately twenty seconds later, when Taehyung goes up to the ticket booth and says, “Two tickets for Moonlit Wishes, please.”

Jeongguk elbows him in the ribs. “That’s a rom-com,” he hisses.

“We’re a couple,” Taehyung hisses right back, even though Jeongguk doesn’t see how this has anything to do with what genres they are and aren’t allowed to watch.

“That’ll be twenty thousand won,” says the bored girl in the booth.

Taehyung pauses in the middle of pulling a green bill out of his wallet. “Oh, but we’re dating,” he says. “Doesn’t that mean we get two tickets for the price of one?”

She squints skeptically between the two of them. “Uh, yeah, that’s right.” She sounds unconvinced. “My bad. That’ll just be ten thousand, then.”

Satisfied, Taehyung slides the bill over the counter and retrieves the tickets they receive in return. “Thanks a ton,” he says, leveling his most dazzling smile at the girl.

She blinks back, utterly unimpressed. “Have a nice day.”

“She totally saw past us,” Jeongguk says when they’re out of earshot, headed toward the ticket taker. “We’re not convincing at all.”

“I know. People are just gonna assume we’re friends unless we start acting more lovey-dovey.”

Jeongguk pulls a face. “What’s it gonna take? ’cause I’m not kissing you, if that’s what you had in mind.”

Taehyung snorts. “I’m so hurt. Am I that undesirable? Is it the halitosis?”

“Oh my God—”

“And I thought the breath mints were working, too—”

“Fuck off—”

“Hold my hand.”

“What?” Jeongguk stops in his tracks. Taehyung doesn’t realize it immediately, goes on a few more steps before noticing and stopping as well.

He rolls his eyes. “I said, hold my hand, loser. The ticket guy’s up ahead, and if you want to make this convincing, then we’re gonna have to change something about our strategy.” He stretches his hand out, waiting for Jeongguk to get the hint, and Jeongguk grumbles under his breath but accepts it. The instant he does, Taehyung laces their fingers together in a cast-iron grip and, without warning, tugs him the rest of the way to the ticket taker.

“Asshole,” he hisses as he nearly stumbles over his feet. Taehyung cackles remorselessly, and Jeongguk glares. Fuck the discounts, fuck saving money; they’re twenty minutes into this charade, and he’s already regretting it.

“Cheer up,” Taehyung says, coaxing. “We’re on a date, remember?”

A date. Yes. This is a date. A fake date, because they are fake boyfriends who are manipulating the so-called system to their favor, but a date nonetheless. Jeongguk fixes his mouth into what he hopes is a convincing smile just as they reach the ticket taker, an elderly man whose gaze slips from Taehyung to Jeongguk to their linked hands.

“Theater Six,” he says when he glances at their tickets. “It’ll be on the right.” He tears them along the perforated lines and hands the stubs to Taehyung. “You kids have fun.”

“Thanks,” Taehyung chirps, practically radiating sunbeams. He’s enjoying this; Jeongguk can tell.

“Do you know what the movie’s about?” he asks as they proceed down the corridor.

“No idea.”

“You didn’t even check the reviews?”

“Do you want me to look them up right now?” Taehyung makes to grab his phone from his back pocket.

“No, it’s fine, it’s too late. Just—” Jeongguk searches for the words to convey the extent of his exasperation and comes up blank, “I can’t believe we’re going to watch a movie called Moonlit Wishes.”

Taehyung makes a noise of protest. “I thought it was a nice title.”

“Did you see the poster?”

“Not in detail, why?”

“It’s one of those movies,” Jeongguk says ominously. “You think it might be a rom-com from the title, but then you look at the poster and you know. We’re going to be the only guys in the theater. Or the only guys who didn’t come with their girlfriends.”

“You can’t assume that. It’s not against the law for a guy to like a rom-com.”

Jeongguk huffs. “Whatever. You’ll see what I mean.”

He’s correct in his prediction about the demographics of the audience. One glance at the seats tells him that the crowd is jam-packed with women, interspersed with the occasional boyfriend or husband. It’s a fact, that these kinds of movies are marketed toward people of the young and female kind. Maybe he has some internalized prejudice against liking things made with girls in mind, but so does the majority of the male population. Jeongguk isn’t an exception; Taehyung is.

Except that’s not entirely right, because twenty minutes into the movie, Jeongguk is fully invested in the characters and their individual struggles, and Taehyung is picking at the fabric of his seat. Seventy minutes in finds Jeongguk chewing nervously on his lip as the conflict comes to a head while Taehyung dozes off. By the time the credits start rolling and the lights come on, Jeongguk is staring fixedly into space in an attempt to hold back his tears and preserve his stoic and manly facade. Beside him, Taehyung lets out a soft snore.

“Hey,” Jeongguk says, poking him in the side. “Tae. Wake up.”

Taehyung squirms away from Jeongguk’s touch, but his eyes remain firmly shut. Really, Jeongguk should have known better than to think that it would be easy to wake him up. They’re heavy sleepers, the both of them, and that’s part of why the apartment doesn’t come to life until nine or ten in the morning on the days that they don’t have work. Ignoring the strange looks that he’s getting from a couple who passes down the aisle, he reaches for Taehyung’s shoulder, only to pause.

They’ve been flatmates since Jeongguk moved in, after graduating college a little less than a year ago. It’s enough time for them to have grown close, certainly—sharing a bathroom with someone tends to do that, at least in the cases where it doesn’t just wind up fostering hatred instead—but they have their private lives. Jeongguk sees Taehyung leave the bathroom fresh out of the shower, cheeks still flushed with steam and hair dripping water onto the floor, but that’s because the hallway is a communal space. The bedroom isn’t. Jeongguk has his room and Taehyung has his, and while they’ve seen each other’s rooms—been in them, even—it isn’t like Jeongguk sticks around to watch Taehyung go to sleep. He doesn’t stand at Taehyung’s bedside to watch him through the night. He’s not a fucking creep.

Although, he might be acting like a bit of a creep right now, taking the moment to observe and appreciate what Taehyung looks like asleep. His brow is softer, his mouth a neutral line, far stiller now than Jeongguk’s ever seen him be for extended periods of time while awake. But there’s still the darkness of his eyelashes, startlingly long, and the cut of his jaw and the fullness of his lips, the upper lip slightly thicker than the lower one, and—that’s enough, you’re really being a creep now

He shakes Taehyung none too gently, doesn’t relent until Taehyung stirs with a groan, swatting hazily at his shoulder in a half-hearted attempt to remove Jeongguk’s hand. “Movie’s over, dumbass.”

Taehyung cracks an eye open. “Is it lunchtime?”

Jeongguk checks his phone. “It’s almost one.”

Taehyung opens his other eye. “Good. God, I’m starving.” He lifts his arms over his head, bends this way and that, stretching out the cramps in his upper body. Jeongguk absolutely does not look at the strip of skin that his shirt exposes when it rides up.

“You fell asleep,” he says, accusatory. “You chose the movie, and you couldn’t even be assed to watch it.”

“Listen, I tried, but it was just so boring it put me right to sleep—”

“You can’t seriously tell me that was boring.”

“But it was. Wait—” a thought occurs to Taehyung, and he gives Jeongguk a judgmental once-over, “are you telling me that you liked it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it in those exact terms—”

“Oh my God,” Taehyung crows. “You did. After everything you said, you liked it.”

“I found the characters compelling,” Jeongguk concedes. “The plot was pretty predictable, and it got sappy at points, but Sooyoung—”

“Wow.” Shaking his head, Taehyung pulls himself to his feet. Jeongguk follows suit. “I stopped paying attention after she spilled her coffee on him. But hey, I’m glad you liked it. At least one of us had a good time.”

“What, are we going back now? Or did you have plans for lunch?”

At the mention of lunch, Taehyung brightens. “Oh, no, I have plans. There’s this pizza place I know that’s doing a thing for Valentine’s, too.”

“Pizza?”

“Yeah. Come on, let’s hurry. I’m so hungry I could eat an elephant. Hell, I might accidentally eat you if I’m not careful.” Taehyung seizes Jeongguk’s wrist and pulls him down the aisle toward the exit, and it hardly even crosses Jeongguk’s mind to protest.

 

The pizzeria is a five minute walk from the movie theater. Taehyung leads the way, explaining the types of crusts it offers in extensive detail to Jeongguk, right up until they come to a stop in front of a squat brick building. “Remember the strategy?” he says.

Jeongguk returns his gaze with a blank one of his own. “What?”

With a sigh, Taehyung takes it upon himself to grab Jeongguk’s hand. “We have to at least try to make this believable. You remember the girl from the ticket booth. I don’t want people to think we’re just going around and scamming them.”

“But that is what we’re doing.”

“Okay, I don’t want them to know, then.” Taehyung pushes through the glass door and lowers his voice as they approach the counter, muttering, “Just try to play along, all right?”

Jeongguk doesn’t get the chance to ask Taehyung what he means before he’s turning to address the boy at the counter. “I’d like a heart-to-heart with my boyfriend here,” he says, squeezing Jeongguk’s hand with an unwarranted amount of force. Jeongguk winces, but he turns his grimace into a hasty smile when the boy glances in his direction. It takes him a good second or two to realize that Taehyung’s referencing the blackboard on the wall behind the counter—Valentine’s Day Special Heart-to-Heart Pizza! 30% Discount for you and your significant other!

“What topping do you want, sweet cheeks?” Taehyung asks, and Jeongguk nearly chokes on his own spit, breaking into a coughing fit instead.

“Did you just—?” he manages to wheeze, only to be cut off when Taehyung starts patting (pounding) his back sympathetically.

“I think he said he wanted pepperoni and bulgogi,” he tells the cashier. “Isn’t that right, honey pie?”

“Uh. Yeah?”

The cashier raises his eyebrows but doesn’t comment. Jeongguk imagines that he’s gotten stranger customers. “You want any drinks with that?”

“Maybe some water for my boyfriend,” Taehyung says.

“Fifteen thousand and two hundred,” says the cashier, typing in the order. “Is that for here?”

“Yes. I just love the ambient lighting here, it’s so romantic,” Taehyung gushes. He wraps an arm around Jeongguk’s waist. “Isn’t it?”

Jeongguk smiles nervously at the cashier, who’s paused to stare at them with what may quite possibly be an expression of disgust. “Definitely.”

Taehyung pays. The cashier gets them a bottle of water, and they settle down at a free table to wait.

“Sweet cheeks?” Jeongguk demands the instant his ass hits the chair. “Honey pie? Are you out of your mind?”

“Keep your voice down. I told you to play along, didn’t I?”

“It would’ve been nice to have some warning.”

“Relax.” Taehyung leans back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head. The picture of leisure, like he hasn’t just made it so that Jeongguk can never again show his face in this establishment, ever. “He totally thought we were dating.”

“You don’t think you might’ve laid it on a little too thick?”

“I take no chances.”

“You’re—” Jeongguk fumbles for words and settles on, “so much to deal with.”

“But you love me for it,” Taehyung coos. “That’s why we started dating three years ago.”

“We didn’t even know each other three years ago.”

“Be a little louder, would you? It’s our cover story.”

“Who’s going to ask?”

“You never know. Better safe than sorry.” Taehyung sits up straight and leans forward, folding his arms on the table. “But seriously, let’s come up with a cover. We met three years ago, so that’s—what, when we were both in college, right?” His gaze is intent on Jeongguk’s own; to anyone watching, they’d look like any other lovestruck couple in the peak of their honeymoon phase, gazing dreamily into each other’s eyes. Personally, Jeongguk feels like it’s a bit of a staring contest in truth.

“Where did we meet?” he hears himself ask.

Taehyung thinks for a moment. “Let’s say it was a coffee shop,” he replies at length. “I’ve always wanted a coffee shop romance.”

“That’s so cliche.”

“It’s cute. You were the barista, and I was the regular who came in every Saturday afternoon to sit at the same table.”

“How did I ever work up the courage to ask you out?” Jeongguk deadpans.

“You didn’t.” Taehyung dismisses the idea so quickly that Jeongguk is almost offended. “You left your number on my cup five months in, and I was the one who asked you out.”

“Oh? And what was our first date?”

“Pizza.”

“Original.”

“I pride myself on it.”

“One pepperoni and bulgogi Heart-to-Heart?” says a voice, and Jeongguk looks up to find a waitress standing by their table, a large slab of wood in her hands.

“That’s us,” Taehyung says, and she sets the pizza down carefully. “Thanks.”

“Thank you,” Jeongguk says absently as the waitress nods and walks away, but his attention is preoccupied by the thing in front of him. “So this is the ‘Heart-to-Heart?’”

Taehyung’s eyeing the pizza as well. He makes no move to dig in. “Guess it is.”

“I didn’t expect it to be so… literal.”

“Neither did I.”

The Heart-to-Heart is, as Jeongguk supposes he should have gathered from its name, a pizza baked in the shape of two opposite-facing hearts. They’re connected by the tips of their tails to form an almost hourglass-like shape.

“This is so interesting,” Jeongguk says. “How are we supposed to eat it? Do we tear it in half?”

“Of course not. That would be bad luck for our relationship,” Taehyung says, sounding scandalized at the very prospect. He nods over at a couple sitting a few tables down. “I think we’re supposed to eat it like that.”

Jeongguk follows his gaze. The couple in question is holding their Heart-to-Heart between them and eating it simultaneously, each working at their respective end of the pizza. They look like they’re almost done; as Jeongguk watches, their heads grow closer and closer, on track to meet in the middle of the table.

He says, “No.”

“Isn’t it adorable?”

“I’m not doing it.”

“But look, they’re kissing now—”

“I will walk out.”

Taehyung sighs deeply. “Fine. We can do it your way. But I hope you know that you’re basically dooming our relationship. The pizza is a symbol of our love, and you want to rip it in half.”

Jeongguk looks around to make sure no one’s eavesdropping before leaning over the table and saying, “But we’re not even dating. We got the discount, didn’t we? That’s all that matters. The pizza doesn’t represent shit.”

“I’m wounded,” Taehyung says, clutching at his heart. “You’re so callous.”

“Like you’re one to talk,” Jeongguk fires back. “It was your idea in the first place.”

“You got me there.” Taehyung gestures at the pizza. “Would you like to do the honor?”

“Melodramatic,” Jeongguk chides, but he’s already reaching for the Heart-to-Heart. It doesn’t come apart easily; he has to work at the junction between the two hearts, and when he finally does manage to separate them, the crusts are jagged and ugly along the tear.

Taehyung shakes his head. “Bad luck, I’m telling you.”

“Is this going to mean that we’ll break up in two weeks?”

“That’s a high estimate. I’d say one. And after I’d bought an engagement ring, too.” Taehyung takes a bite out of his half of the pizza. “Such a shame.”

“Who knows? Maybe it was meant to be. Maybe even the power of the Heart-to-Heart won’t be strong enough to tear our love apart.”

Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “That,” he says decisively, “was even cheesier than this pizza.”

“Whatever.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes and hides his smile with a sip from his water bottle. It’s comfortable, this back-and-forth; Taehyung is easy to talk to, easy to make fun of. Easy to like, really, and altogether too easy to fall in love with. People like him don’t stay single. Jeongguk may be twenty three and certain of far less than he was when he was younger, and he may not know where they’ll be at this time next year—whether they’ll still be roommates or friends or acquaintances—but it doesn’t take a genius to know that the person who ends up stealing Taehyung’s heart for real is lucky indeed.

 

After lunch, they go for ice cream. It’s a convenient thing, that this part of the city is so densely packed with stores; everything’s within walking distance, which makes it all the easier for Taehyung to scout out a target.

“I’m not letting you order this time,” Jeongguk says. They’ve reached an ice cream shop with a sign in the window, proclaiming that they’re offering an extra large ice cream cone for couples to share—aptly named the Couples’ Cone.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m ordering. And paying.”

Taehyung looks downright offended. “But why?”

“You paid for the movie tickets and the pizza,” Jeongguk points out. “And you suck at playing boyfriend.”

At this, Taehyung’s jaw drops. “What the hell? I’m an amazing fake boyfriend.”

“It’s either too much or not enough,” Jeongguk says. “You have to find a happy medium if you want anyone to believe that we’re not just in this for the discounts.”

“Give me a break. We’ve only had, like, two chances. You know how the saying goes, third time’s the charm—”

“—because I’m going to order, and I’m going to show you how it’s done.”

“You think you can do a better job than I did at the pizza place?”

“Yes. Not that that’s saying much, because that was way overboard—”

Excuse you—”

“Hold my hand, loser,” Jeongguk says, mimicking Taehyung’s voice from before as he stretches his arm out.

Taehyung narrows his eyes. “Fine,” he says, accepting Jeongguk’s hand. “If you’re so confident that you can ‘show me how it’s done,’ then do it.”

“I will.”

“Will you?”

“I’ll be so convincing that you’ll forget I’m just pretending.”

Taehyung laughs. “All right. Go on, then, lover boy. Work your magic.” His tone is skeptical, but Jeongguk isn’t discouraged. He’s competitive by nature, never been able to turn down a challenge.

To his credit, it goes smoothly at first. Jeongguk leads Taehyung into the ice cream parlor and up to the counter. The woman manning the tubs of flavors smiles when she sees them, and her smile widens when her eyes land on the way they’re holding hands. Fingers casually laced, fitting together as naturally as pieces of a puzzle.

“What flavor do you want, babe?” Jeongguk asks, leaning over to to murmur the question into Taehyung’s ear. Taehyung’s shoulders stiffen, the only sign of his surprise, but Jeongguk allows himself the brief satisfaction of knowing that he’s caught Taehyung off guard.

“I think it might be interesting to try gochujang,” Taehyung says. He’s scanning the flavors, reading the little labels in front of them. “What about you?”

“Gochujang?” Jeongguk repeats weakly.

Taehyung blinks innocently at him. Way too innocently. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Gochujang as in the spicy thing?”

“That’s the one.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“I haven’t been this sure about something since I decided to date you,” Taehyung says, smoother than anything. “And that turned out to be the best decision of my life, you know. Have a little faith in my judgment.”

He’s really laying it on thick. Jeongguk casts a nervous glance at the woman behind the counter. She’s watching them like they’re the cutest thing she’s ever seen, and that gives him some gratification; they’re finally starting to get this fake relationship right. He turns back to Taehyung.

“Gochujang sounds amazing,” he says. It really, really doesn’t. “What other flavors do you want?”

Taehyung hums, considering. “Maybe pineapple,” he says. “And coconut. For good measure. Some sugar to balance out the spice, am I right?” He directs this last part to the woman, who nods enthusiastically.

“Oh, absolutely. That’s such a clever idea,” she says.

“Then I guess that settles it,” Jeongguk says, hoping he doesn’t sound too much like he wants to cry. “One Couple’s Cone with gochujang, pineapple, and coconut.”

The woman pulls out the biggest waffle cone he’s seen in his entire life and sets about filling it with the appropriate flavors. It takes several scoops from the coconut alone just to reach the rim of the cone, and it’s all Jeongguk can do to watch in despair as she proceeds to top that with the pineapple and gochujang flavors, respectively.

“That’ll be eleven thousand five hundred,” she says when she rings them up at the cash register, handing Taehyung the cone as Jeongguk fishes for his wallet. “You two have a wonderful day.”

Taehyung doesn’t speak up until they’re back outside, strolling aimlessly down the sidewalk. “You were right,” he says. “You are better at this.”

“I said I’d show you how it was done, didn’t I? I’m the definition of boyfriend goals. I even let you get—that.” Jeongguk jerks his chin at the ice cream cone. He doesn’t think it deserves the title. It’s a monstrosity, not a dessert.

“Do you wanna try some?”

“Couldn’t you have just stuck with chocolate?”

“That would’ve been boring.”

“But it wouldn’t have been this. You don’t even like spicy food.”

Taehyung frowns at the ice cream. “Yeah,” he says. “Probably should’ve taken that into account. But I was expecting you to stop me.”

“Well, it’s all yours now. The gochujang and the pineapple and coconut.”

“What’s wrong with pineapple?”

“It was never meant to be an ice cream flavor. Just as it was never meant to be a pizza topping.”

Taehyung looks at Jeongguk like he’s just killed Taehyung’s mother and spat on her grave. “This is grounds for divorce.”

“We’re not even married yet.”

“The key word being yet. I had an engagement ring, remember?”

“But the pizza doomed our relationship. We’re breaking up before you ever get the chance to propose.”

“Damn,” Taehyung says. “I almost forgot about that.”

“Mhm. Our love just wasn’t strong enough.”

“Do you want the cone?”

“No.”

“Come on,” Taehyung wheedles, trying to push it into Jeongguk’s hands. The ice cream is going visibly soft, but the weather is brisk enough that it hasn’t started dripping yet. Eyeing it with distaste, Jeongguk edges away.

“No thanks. Consider it my treat.”

“But what if I don’t want it, either?”

“No one’s stopping you from throwing it away. But that would be a waste of my money. And my love.”

“Your love?”

“I let you get those flavors, didn’t I?”

“Are you sure that’s a sign of love? I feel like you were deliberately setting me up for torture.”

“You couldn’t pay me to touch that cone.”

“But we’re supposed to share it,” Taehyung protests. “That’s why it’s called a Couple’s Cone, not a Single’s Cone. It’s romantic.”

Jeongguk suppresses a shudder. “You have fun with that. Where are we going now, anyway?”

“Nowhere. At least not until you help me eat this.”

It’s testament to how good of a pretend boyfriend Jeongguk is, that he caves. Either that or he’s just a bit too infatuated outside of the act to let Taehyung deal with the ice cream on his own, but regardless of cause, the point stands: he caves. Taehyung’s tolerance for spiciness is far lower than he likes to let on, so Jeongguk finds himself with his mouth burning and his eyes watering when he eats the scoops of gochujang himself.

“I hate you,” he says when he’s finished. His tongue is on fire. His throat is on fire. Everything is on fire, and Taehyung’s sunny smile does little to alleviate the pain. “I hate you so much.”

“Love you too,” Taehyung says. He’s working at the pineapple, which Jeongguk flat-out refuses to touch, licking at the ice cream cheerfully enough as they wander through the streets.

Coconut is generally a controversial topic, but they’re both ambivalent enough to tolerate it, so they switch off. They take turns munching at the cone, too, so it doesn’t end on a totally awful note. Jeongguk thinks he might never recover from the simultaneously hot and cold hell that had been the gochujang ice cream, but it’s not all bad. Taehyung is a warm and solid presence at his shoulder, and that’s enough to make everything seem a little better than it is.

“Hey.” A nudge brings Jeongguk back to reality. They’ve left the main shopping district, turned into a rather more seedy part of the city. Now they’re stopped in front of a store—The Lovebird’s Nest, according to the unlit neon sign hanging over the awning.

Jeongguk takes it in—the lingerie on the mannequins in the display window, a rack of whips just a little farther back. He says, “This is a sex shop.”

“I know, but look.” Taehyung points at a handmade sign propped up against one of the mannequins. “‘Valentine’s Day only—bring your S.O. in for a 50% discount.’”

“You can’t be serious,” Jeongguk says.

Taehyung smirks.

 

The girl working the shop introduces herself as Jiyeon and asks them if they’re looking for anything in particular.

“I’m not sure yet,” says Taehyung. “How about you, Jeonggukkie? I’m open for suggestions.”

Jeongguk smiles through gritted teeth. “I’m down for anything.”

“Open-minded, I see,” Jiyeon says approvingly. “That’s a good thing to have in a relationship.”

“Do you have any suggestions?” Taehyung asks. “We haven’t… explored much, really. You could say we don’t have a lot of experience with these things.”

“No worries. You said you’re open to anything, right?”

“Yeah, why not?” Taehyung says. He’s watching Jeongguk now, but if he’s waiting for a verbal agreement, he’s got another thing coming. Jeongguk has every intention to be as physically and mentally uncooperative as possible without making Jiyeon overly suspicious. If Taehyung wants to buy something here, that’s his prerogative, but Jeongguk isn’t going to pretend that he’s even half as eager about this.

Jiyeon claps her hands together. “Wonderful. Are you looking to try BDSM? We have everything. Or lingerie? You saw some of our items in the display window, but we have even more in the back.” She gives Taehyung an appraising once-over. “I think red would suit you quite well.”

“Who says I’d be the one wearing it?” Taehyung asks, laughing. He elbows Jeongguk too hard. “Maybe it’s Gukkie here who wants to try some on.”

Jiyeon pauses, tilts her head. She’s pursing her lips in consternation as she looks between the two of them. “Wait,” she says, “I have to know: who wears the pants?”

Jeongguk blinks. “Sorry?”

“You know, like, who’s the man and who’s the woman? Who throws and who catches?” She points at Jeongguk. More precisely, she points at his biceps. “I just thought, because you’re all—” she gestures at her own upper arms.

Jeongguk isn’t sure he quite understands what she’s getting at. Or he does, but he wishes he didn’t, because this has to be the singularly most awkward moment of the day and probably his life. He shoots a panicked glance at Taehyung. The look Taehyung gives him in return is steadier than his own, certain and self-assured. I’ve got this. Jeongguk commits the grave error of trusting that look.

“Actually,” Taehyung says, “it’s me.”

Jeongguk says, “What?”

Jiyeon is nodding along, though, like she knows exactly what Taehyung means. “I see. I shouldn’t have assumed. Sorry about that.”

“No worries. It’s a common mistake,” Taehyung says reassuringly. His smile is too wide to be genuine. “I actually have an idea of what we want to get. Do you have any vibrators?”

Jeongguk keeps his eyes determinedly averted from both Taehyung and Jiyeon. Then he realizes that he’s staring at a row of dildos and looks down at the floor. His shoes, he decides, are the safest and most innocuous objects to focus on in this place.

“Oh, we have all kinds of vibrators,” Jiyeon says. “Dildo-shaped, remote controlled, butt plugs, cock rings—”

“Wow, the options are endless,” Taehyung remarks. “What do you think, Jeongukkie?” Both he and Jiyeon have turned their attention to him, waiting for a response that Jeongguk does not have.

“Would you like me to explain the differences between each type?” Jiyeon says, a well-intentioned attempt to be helpful. Somehow, Jeongguk can’t bring himself to appreciate the effort.

He tries to smile. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Don’t mind him,” Taehyung tells Jiyeon, patting Jeongguk’s arm consolingly. “He’s a bit shy, but I swear he’s the wildest little thing in bed.”

“Ah,” says Jiyeon. “A lamb in the streets and a lion in the sheets?”

“That’s my Gukkie,” Taehyung says proudly. Jeongguk definitely needs to have a talk with him after this. “About those vibrators, though…”

They keep it simple: a classic phallic vibrator and a bottle of strawberry kiwi lube that Taehyung spots last minute and insists on purchasing. Jiyeon rings them up at the cash register in the back, and Taehyung pays with cash while Jeongguk loiters near the door, determined to have as little to do with this transaction as possible.

“Have fun,” Jiyeon calls after them when they leave. “Come back soon!”

Jeongguk waits until they’re a good distance away from the shop before he turns on Taehyung. “What the fuck was that all about?”

“It was a fifty percent discount,” Taehyung says defensively. “I couldn’t just walk past that.”

“Not that. I don’t care about your sex life. That’s your business. I’m talking about the whole—you know.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says. “Are you upset because I implied that you take it up the ass?”

“Keep it down, we’re in public,” Jeongguk hisses, mortified. “I’m just. You didn’t have to do that, we’re not even real boyfriends, and now this girl thinks you’re gonna put that vibrator in me when we get home—”

“Aw, did I wound your male pride?”

“I honestly loathe you.”

“Come on, it’s not like we’re ever going to see her again.”

“Still. If you wanted a new vibrator, that’s fine. Buy all the vibrators you want. Knock yourself out. But you didn’t have to drag me into it.”

Taehyung relents. “All right,” he says, “I’m sorry. I got carried away. I just got kind of pissed when she made that assumption, like. It’s not my fault you’re a gym rat, y’know? I wanted to prove her wrong.”

“About our imaginary sex life.”

“It’s very active.”

Jeongguk arches an eyebrow. “You don’t say.”

“It’s so active that I get all of my exercise in bed,” Taehyung says.

Jeongguk laughs in spite of himself, and Taehyung laughs, too, and like that, the tension is gone. The episode at the sex shop, the events of the entire day—just another funny story to call upon somewhere down the line. Hey, have I ever told you about the time me and a friend pretended to date for Valentine’s Day?

He asks, “Are we doing anything for dinner?”

“Honestly? I was just planning to go back and make ramyun or something.”

Jeongguk masks his disappointment with disapproval. “That’s anti-climactic.”

“I know. But it was a good run while it lasted.”

“So are we heading back now?”

“Unless you have somewhere else to go.”

Jeongguk looks at Taehyung then, the shape of his profile, the play of light across his face. The sun is setting and the street lamps are coming on and the vibrator knocks against the lube every time Taehyung swings that stupid bag from The Lovebird’s Nest, and Jeongguk can’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be.

“No,” he says. “I don’t. Let’s go home.”

 

“I just realized I never thanked you,” Taehyung says when they’re back in the apartment.

Jeongguk’s making a beeline for the kitchenette, but he stops upon hearing this, turns to find Taehyung lingering by the door. “Thank me for what?”

Taehyung shrugs. “Everything. Playing along. Being a good sport, even at the shit I did on purpose to annoy you.”

“Oh,” says Jeongguk. “Uh, no problem? Yeah. Anytime, man.”

Taehyung snorts. “Anytime, man,” he mimics in an exceedingly poor imitation of Jeongguk’s voice. “No homo, though, am I right?”

“Fuck off. You can’t just make it serious like that.”

“But I am serious,” Taehyung says, sober again. “I could’ve just spent the day watching TV and being bitter at the Valentine’s Day commercials.”

“Would’ve watched them with you,” Jeongguk mumbles before he can stop himself.

“What?”

“I said, that would’ve been pretty lame.”

“Yeah.” Taehyung breathes a laugh. “It would’ve. But hey, you went along with my idea. Saved the day.”

Jeongguk doesn’t know how he’s supposed to be reacting. Whether he should mirror Taehyung’s glib tone or whether he should focus more closely on the more somber undertones, whether he should play it off as a big joke or whether he should treat it with the kind of weight that he thinks he hears in Taehyung’s voice. “You had me sold on the discounts,” is what he settles on. “Who am I to say no to a good offer?”

“The discounts. Right. Those.” Taehyung looks down at the bag with their purchase from the sex shop as if just remembering that he was holding it at all. Then he proffers it to Jeongguk. “Do you want this?”

Jeongguk stares. “Are you crazy?”

“It’s a gift,” Taehyung tries. “A token of my appreciation.”

“I thought you bought those for yourself.”

“I mean, I can keep them if you really don’t want them. But I doubt I’ll use them.”

Jeongguk laughs incredulously. “Then why the hell did you buy them?”

“I was caught up in the moment, and they were just there,” Taehyung says. “I don’t know. I don’t have a good reason.”

“You were caught up in the moment,” Jeongguk echoes.

“Something like that. You make a surprisingly good fake boyfriend. Very convincing.”

“I’d make an even better real boyfriend,” Jeongguk says without thinking, this time loud enough for Taehyung to hear.

There’s a pause as Taehyung digests the words. He’s staring at Jeongguk in shock and Jeongguk is staring back in horror, and several seconds—a minute, an eternity?—tick by before Taehyung breaks the silence.

“That was ridiculously smooth.”

Jeongguk licks his lips. Figures that there’s no harm in digging himself a deeper grave if he’s already started on it. “I’m just saying.”

“I believe you.”

“Is that all you’re gonna say?”

“I’m trying to figure out if you mean what I think you mean.”

“And what do you think I mean?”

Taehyung tilts his head. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you might be suggesting in some roundabout way that we should date for real.”

It’s liberating, to hear it said aloud. Like all Jeongguk needed was for Taehyung to give it voice—for Taehyung to acknowledge the elephant in the room, the thing that Jeongguk didn’t want to acknowledge first, not in explicit words. We should date for real. He’s been thinking that for a while now, hasn’t he? For the past several hours at least, though he suspects the sentiment stretches back further.

“Are you going to correct me?” Taehyung asks. His calm exterior is faltering, doubt beginning to seep through the cracks the longer Jeongguk remains silent.

“Only if you think you need correcting.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then I’d say that you’re right.”

“You want to be real boyfriends?” Taehyung says, a smile tugging at his mouth. Jeongguk finds himself grinning back. He doesn’t need to give it a second thought. Not when it’s second nature to settle so comfortably into conversation, to return Taehyung’s comments with a ready comeback of his own—to return Taehyung’s smile with an even readier grin.

He says, “I wouldn’t mind if we were.”

“Would you mind kissing me?”

“I guess you’re tolerable enough.”

Taehyung’s crossing the room then, stopping in front of Jeongguk just long enough for Jeongguk to register the fact that he’s about to make out with his hot roommate, fucking finally, before leaning in to capture Jeongguk’s lips in a soft kiss.

It doesn’t stay chaste for long. Taehyung licks along Jeongguk’s lower lip and Jeongguk’s mouth falls open on instinct, welcoming the warm press of Taehyung’s tongue. Too quick, too eager; their teeth clack almost painfully. Taehyung pulls back with an apology and a sheepish grin, but Jeongguk just rolls his eyes, tugs him back in by the collar. Then he splays that hand flat on Taehyung’s chest, lets it roam over the fabric of his shirt before bringing it around to cup the back of Taehyung’s head and bring him even closer, as close as he can get them, bodies flush together—there’s a crinkle—

“Why’re you still holding the bag?” Jeongguk says, drawing away with a frown.

Taehyung blinks. “I forgot to put it down.”

“Are you gonna?”

Taehyung hesitates. “I’m already holding it.”

“Are you suggesting—?”

“Only if you want to,” Taehyung says quickly. “It’s fine if you don’t. We can stop now, make dinner—”

“Chill,” Jeongguk says, like his own stomach isn’t doing somersaults at the implications. “I didn’t say no, did I?”

Taehyung’s eyes have gone owlishly round. “Wait, so you want to? Right now?”

“Why not? As long as you’re already holding it.”

The benefit of living in an apartment as small as theirs is that it’s a short distance from here to Taehyung’s bedroom. Taehyung grasps Jeongguk’s wrist, tugs him down the hall with a sly grin that makes Jeongguk’s heart beat all kinds of different ways, like he’s back in fucking middle school with his first serious crush.

Taehyung throws the bag onto the bed when he reaches it, only just has time to turn around before Jeongguk’s kissing him again, directing them both toward the bed until the backs of Taehyung’s knees meet the edge of the mattress. Jeongguk breaks the kiss to push him backward, and he hits the covers with a grunt.

“Is this an attempt to reassert your dominance?” And the nerve of him—he’s flat on his back, lips red and swollen with his appearance far more rumpled now than it was ten minutes ago, but his eyes are nothing short of mocking. If he’s trying to rile Jeongguk up, it’s working; Jeongguk feels himself sneer, an automatic response.

“My ego’s not that fragile.”

“Is that so? Could’ve fooled me otherwise.”

“Fuck you.”

At this, Taehyung has the audacity to wink. “Maybe next time.” Sitting up, he scoots back on the bed, giving Jeongguk room to climb onto it.

“Is that how we’re doing it?” he asks, crawling over to guide Taehyung’s mouth back to his own, brushing their lips lazily together.

“Didn’t I tell Jiyeon that I’m the man in this relationship?”

Jeongguk scoffs. “That man-woman thing is bullshit, and you know it.”

“Mm. Was fun to see you get flustered, though.” Taehyung pulls out of the kiss. “So are you down?”

“What, to let you fuck me?”

Taehyung’s eyes are dark, brown irises almost completely consumed by the blackness of his pupils. “Among other things. I was talking about the vibrator, but if the shoe fits…”

“I have condoms in the bottom drawer.”

A shit-eating grin crawls across Taehyung’s face. “So you want my cock?” he says, unabashedly crude.

“Essentially,” Jeongguk replies, hoping that the blush in his cheeks isn’t as bad as it feels. A futile wish; the way Taehyung’s grin widens suggests that it might be even worse.

It’s awkward, interrupting the moment to clamber to the side of the bed, reach for the bottom drawer of his nightstand, dig around for a condom, and toss it with the bag from the sex shop. It’s even more so, clambering right back to where Taehyung’s waiting.

“Take off your clothes,” he tells Jeongguk.

“You’re not going to?”

“Nah, I’ll just fuck you fully-clothed,” Taehyung says sarcastically. “Trust me, I have a plan. This is gonna be hot.” He wiggles his eyebrows unnecessarily.

Jeongguk doesn’t know what else there is to do but comply, so he does, shucking off his shirt and everything else with it as Taehyung crawls around him, reaching for the bag from The Lovebird’s Nest.

“Just so you know,” he announces, pulling out the vibrator and tearing the packaging away, “I’ve never used one of these, so. This’ll be a learning experience.”

“That’s really reassuring. Makes me feel a lot better,” Jeongguk says flatly. Part of him wants to curl in at the way Taehyung’s looking at him, eyes raking over his bare skin with an intensity that Jeongguk swears he is tangible. The rest of him wants Taehyung to keep looking, keep admiring, because this is what the hours in the gym pay off to: muscles taut and defined beneath smooth skin, from his shoulders to his abs to his thighs. All this power that Jeongguk’s more than willing to concede to Taehyung, all this strength.

“Try to relax, will you? I’m about to give you the best time of your life.” Taehyung states it bluntly, like a fact: you are going to enjoy this. Jeongguk is inclined to believe him. “Just—lie back,” he continues, cracking the seal on the lube and twisting it open, dribbling some onto his palm. “Spread your legs wider.”

Jeongguk does. He spreads himself out as much as he can, propped up on his elbows so he can see what’s going on. His cock is already half-hard, a bit embarrassing considering that they’ve done little more than kiss, but he feels that it’s understandable. He’s exposed enough, lying naked on Taehyung’s bed; obeying Taehyung’s command exposes him even more.

Taehyung wraps his hand around Jeongguk’s cock, and Jeongguk sucks in his stomach at the sudden contrast—Taehyung’s palm, hot even through the coolness of the lube. He pumps until Jeongguk is fully hard, hand sliding along Jeongguk’s length with deft movements, smearing it wet all over. He’s devoted the whole of his attention to the task, brow furrowed with concentration, and Jeongguk’s skin tingles beneath the intensity of his gaze.

Then Taehyung looks up, meeting his eyes, and says, “You have a nice dick.”

“Wow, thanks.”

“You don’t have to sound so ungrateful,” Taehyung huffs. He pulls his hand away. “I’m just making small talk.”

“Fuck small talk.” Jeongguk watches Taehyung reach for the lube again, slather his fingers in it. “I want you in me.”

“Patience is a virtue, Jeonggukkie. One step at a time,” says Taehyung. “I’m gonna finger you, ’kay?”

It’s instinct to go pliant. “God, yeah.”

Taehyung pushes a finger into Jeongguk’s hole, achingly slow. Careful, monitoring Jeongguk’s expression for discomfort. It would be touching if Jeongguk weren’t so impatient.

“Faster,” he says. “I’d rather not be here for the rest of the week.”

“Brat,” Taehyung saying, narrowing his eyes, but he sinks his finger the rest of the way in. Jeongguk releases a shuddering breath. It’s tight, borderline uncomfortable, but not painful yet. He hasn’t done this in a while.

“You good?” Taehyung asks. He’s started moving his hand, sliding that finger in and out, and Jeongguk nods.

“I’m fine. Add another.”

Taehyung works a second finger in, sets up a steady pace, but it’s impossible for Jeongguk to just take it passively. He wants Taehyung deeper, wants him harder, wants him fucking Jeongguk so relentlessly that Jeongguk feels it to his fucking core. They’re not at that point yet, but Jeongguk’s hips seem to have a mind of their own, rutting onto Taehyung’s wonderfully long fingers. Probably disrupting the rhythm, not that Jeongguk can be bothered to notice or care.

“Fuck,” Taehyung says. His composure is unraveling, coming undone in the hitch of his breath and the stutter of his arm as Jeongguk rocks shallowly against his fingers. “You’re so hot, God—”

“More,” Jeongguk pants. “Need more. Please.”

Three fingers in and Taehyung’s less careful. Jeongguk feels the stretch of his rim with every thrust, revels in the burn of it, the discomfort. Taehyung crooks his fingers experimentally, dragging them agonizingly deliberate along Jeongguk’s inner walls, and Jeongguk doesn’t even try to muffle the moan that spills from his lips.

“How’s that? You like it?” Taehyung coos.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, breathless. “Feels good, Tae.”

Taehyung removes his fingers with an obscene squelch, and Jeongguk’s hips buck in protest. “Let’s try this thing out,” he says, grabbing the vibrator. He squirts a helping of lube onto his hand and wraps it around the length of the toy, slicking it up until the surface is glossy. Then he switches it on.

“That’s the lowest setting,” Jeongguk says.

Taehyung smirks. “That’s the point.” He circles the tip of the vibrator around Jeongguk’s twitching rim, coy. The buzz is low, infuriatingly unsatisfying, especially with the way Taehyung handles it, pressing it so lightly against Jeongguk’s entrance that Jeongguk thinks he might go mad with the need for more.

“Stop—fuck—stop teasing,” he growls out, pelvis jerking.

“But you make it so fun.”

Jeongguk shoots him a death glare, and Taehyung snickers. But he takes pity, slides the vibrator in without warning, and Jeongguk clenches in surprise.

“How is it?”

“D-disappointing,” Jeongguk says, cursing the giveaway stutter in his answer. “You should turn it higher. So I can judge properly.”

Taehyung humors him, switching the vibrator to its next setting and resuming the rhythm he’d set with his fingers. Sliding it smoothly in and out, rotating it just to see Jeongguk react at the drag of its texture against his walls. The sounds it makes are embarrassing, and embarrassingly loud; Taehyung had been more than generous with the amount of lube he’d used, and Jeongguk can feel it in the ease with which the vibrator moves, the wetness in and around his hole.

“Higher,” he says, but the demand comes out as a whine. “The highest setting, Taehyung, please, I can handle it—”

He asks for the sake of asking, doesn’t expect Taehyung to comply. But Taehyung flips the switch, and the intensity of the vibrations increase tenfold, or Jeongguk feels like they do, humming through him, within him. Taehyung picks up the pace faster than before, the buzz of the vibrator strong enough to make Jeongguk’s thighs tremble at the sensation.

He’s getting close. His cock is aching, painfully hard, curved hot and heavy against his stomach. Jeongguk’s hand creeps toward it without any real thought, but Taehyung swats it away, and the vibrator comes to a still inside him.

Jeongguk scowls. “What’re you doing?”

“Don’t touch yourself,” Taehyung says. “And don’t come.” He flicks the vibrator off and pulls it out, leaving Jeongguk’s entrance wide and gaping, hole dripping lube onto the covers.

“You can’t stop me,” he says. He’s itching to touch himself, can already envision it. Pumping his cock, thumbing over the thick vein, rubbing the slit roughly. A few strokes is all it’ll take; he knows himself well.

“That would be cruel. What about me?”

And right, Taehyung’s still clothed. He’s straining in his pants, dick a prominent outline against the dark fabric, has to be dying from the discomfort of it even though he hasn’t voiced a single complaint. With his bangs all a mess, lips bitten raw and the color of his eyes swallowed by his pupils, he looks almost as wrecked as Jeongguk himself.

Jeongguk runs his tongue over his lips. “Take your shit off. Your dick looks like it’s about to suffocate.”

“Hilarious,” Taehyung says sardonically. “I needed that image.” He doesn’t need to be told twice, though; he pulls his shirt over his head, fumbles at the fly of his pants, kicks them off along with his boxers and pulls off his socks, dumping everything over the side of the bed to deal with later.

And Jeongguk’s seen Taehyung in all types of situations, in whatever they call for—dressed up and dressed down, shrugging on a suit jacket for a job interview and slouching around the apartment in shapeless gray sweats on a Saturday afternoon. None of it compares to the way he looks now, muscles shifting lean and sinewy beneath his skin as he twists around to grab the condom. He gives his cock a few good pumps. It’s overkill, considering how hard he already is with the tip of his cock leaking precome along its entire length.

Then he’s tearing the wrapper with nimble fingers, rolling the condom on. Jeongguk’s mouth goes dry. Taehyung’s cock is thicker than the vibrator, certainly thicker than three fingers combined had been, and it’s going to be in Jeongguk in a matter of seconds, assuming that Taehyung doesn’t decide it’ll be fun to draw things out. Though Jeongguk wouldn’t put it past him; Taehyung enjoys a healthy variety of hobbies, and making Jeongguk’s life difficult is near the top of the list.

He catches Jeongguk’s stare and smirks. “Are you admiring my godlike physique?”

Jeongguk snorts. “Don’t flatter yourself,” he says, playing it off like he isn’t fucking reveling at how nice Taehyung looks with his hair shaken so messy, skin coated in a sheen of light sweat. He’s talking shit, but Jeongguk can hear the hitch in his voice, the shallowness of his breathing, and it’s one of the most powerful feelings in the world, knowing that he’s the one who made Taehyung sound like that.

“You don’t have to lie.” Taehyung shuffles even closer, forcing Jeongguk’s thighs farther apart, and leans down to kiss him, bracing his arms on either side of Jeongguk’s head for support. “I go to the gym twenty five hours every day. My weights are my best friends.” He’s grinding down casually, cock rubbing somewhere in the general area of Jeongguk’s asshole and bumping against the rim every now and then in a tantalizing taste of what’s yet to come. It’s all Jeongguk can focus on, how easy it would be for Taehyung to just push forward a bit, but Taehyung hardly seems to notice. He punctuates each sentence with a kiss, dropping them against Jeongguk’s lips like he’s whispering sweet nothings. “I have a workout log just to keep this sixteen-pack in top shape—oh wait, that’s you—”

“Christ. Just shut up and fuck me, would you?” Jeongguk’s face burns, but it’s worth it to feel Taehyung’s surprise, the falter of his hips.

He recovers quickly. “Your wish is my command.”

“You need to stop talking.”

“But you’d miss my voice.”

Jeongguk opens his mouth to respond, but his denial melts into a gasp when Taehyung lines himself up and abruptly sinks into him, pushing past Jeongguk’s rim and stretching it wider than ever. He’s dipped his head in concentration so that the crown of his hair is all Jeongguk can see of him, pressing forward until he’s buried to the hilt.

Jeongguk lets his own head fall back against the bed, content to have Taehyung do the work. His hands have found purchase on Jeongguk’s hips, thumbs digging involuntarily into the flesh there as he starts moving. Slow at first, and then faster, but not fast enough.

“You’re holding back,” Jeongguk accuses. He ruts his hips down, trying to compensate, because if Taehyung isn’t going to fill him to the fucking brim, Jeongguk’s just going to have to do it himself. The movements are desperate and more than a little needy, and Taehyung grins.

“Do you want it harder?”

“Are you even capable of going harder?” Jeongguk tosses back, not missing a beat, and Taehyung’s smile drops.

He responds by pulling back as far as he can without pulling out, and Jeongguk just barely has time to realize what he’s doing before Taehyung snaps his hips forward, slamming into Jeongguk with a force that nearly lifts Jeongguk off the mattress.

“Oh, fuck, that’s good, that’s what I want—”

“You like it like that?”

“Exactly like that,” Jeongguk pants out.

“You like my cock?” Jeongguk can hear the smugness in Taehyung’s voice, but he’s past caring. “Do you want more of it?”

“Please.”

It’s like flipping a switch. Taehyung’s expression goes hard, eyebrows knitting together and mouth flattening into a line; he isn’t kidding around anymore, and it makes Jeongguk’s dick twitch in anticipation. He lifts Jeongguk’s hips from the bed, shuffling closer to adjust for the new angle. Jeongguk gets the hint, wraps his legs around Taehyung’s waist. Releases a shaky breath.

But knowing what comes next isn’t the same as being prepared for it, and Jeongguk isn’t prepared for Taehyung to start up a rhythm as brutal as this. Hips rolling relentlessly, fucking hard and ruthless into him, burying deep enough to make the headboard knock against the wall—and now he’s hitting a spot in Jeongguk that makes his body jerk and his eyes see stars, over and over and over. Jeongguk’s fingers scrabble for something to grab on to, anything, and he curls them into the covers as the heat starts to coil low in his belly.

“S-shit, just like that, keep going,” he says, voice breaking. “You fill me—ugh—so good, wanna come this way—”

“Fuck,” Taehyung grits out. His rhythm stutters, breaks, turns haphazard. No rhyme, no reason; it’s animalistic, carnal. “You can’t just say that when you look like—look so—fuck, so pretty.”

Pretty is an interesting way of putting it, but Jeongguk finds that he doesn’t mind it. He knows he looks wrecked, can feel the flush in his face and his body, the pure need in his face as Taehyung fucks him. Needing more and wanting more because Taehyung’s cock feels so damn good, sliding along Jeongguk’s slick walls with these filthy wet sounds and rubbing up against Jeongguk’s prostate. Coaxing him toward the edge, nudging him to the cliff-drop, all the need and want pooling together until Jeongguk thinks he might go mad from the heat of it. At this point, his mouth is beyond control; he’s babbling about Taehyung and Taehyung’s dick and Taehyung again, Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung, because he can’t focus on anything else. Taehyung with his fingers burning pressure points into Jeongguk’s asscheeks, Taehyung with his cock sunk balls-deep into Jeongguk’s hole, Taehyung with his head bent down to lick at one of Jeongguk’s sensitive nipples and roll it between his teeth—

And then he’s not babbling anymore, just repeating Taehyung’s name like it’s the only word he knows, managing a warning only in the instant before he comes, spurting his load all over his stomach. Taehyung rides it out, nursing Jeongguk through his high with quiet murmurs of encouraging, telling Jeongguk how well he takes his cock, how hot he is, how pretty. There’s that word again. Pretty. Jeongguk thinks he could get used to it.

“Come for me,” he tells Taehyung, hazy and blissed-out in that delirious post-orgasm state of mind. “Use me, use my body, I don’t know. Don’t care. Wanna see you come.”

Taehyung chokes back a moan. “God, okay, I’m coming, I’m—”

He buries his face in the crook of Jeongguk’s shoulder, hips shuddering to a standstill. His cock fills the condom in pulses, and Jeongguk brings one of his hands up to tangle his fingers in Taehyung’s silky hair.

They lie there for a few moments, chests heaving, Taehyung a near dead weight on Jeongguk’s body. Then Jeongguk pushes at his shoulders.

“Get off,” he says. “You’re crushing my ribs.”

“Shit, sorry.” Taehyung grasps the condom and pulls out, rolling off Jeongguk to slide it off his softening cock. He ties a secure knot and tosses it onto the ground. Jeongguk wrinkles his nose.

“That’s gross.”

“Says you. You’re a mess.”

All at once, Jeongguk becomes aware of the drying come on his abdomen, always an uncomfortable sensation. “It’s your fault for making me come. Now I’m gonna have to clean up.”

“You want me to help?”

“You’d do that?”

“Sure,” says Taehyung. “That’s what boyfriends are for.”

“That and nothing else? Sounds about right.” Then his stomach growls loudly and he says, “Wait. We haven’t eaten dinner yet.”

With a grunt, Taehyung sits up. “Lucky thing that boyfriends are good for cooking, too, then.”

“You burned your eggs last week.”

“Technicalities,” Taehyung says dismissively. “My cooking skills endear me to you.”

“You mean your lack of them?” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung pouts.

“Now you’re just picking on me.”

Jeongguk doesn’t respond to that, not immediately. He pushes himself upright first, smiling like an idiot but too happy to stop. Endearing. That’s a start. It would be more accurate to say that everything about Taehyung endears him to Jeongguk. Corny as fuck, but Jeongguk can’t bring himself to care, even if he won’t tell it to Taehyung’s face. Not yet, anyway. They’ve only just begun; it’s early still.

Next year, though—next year is a different story.