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The Fundamentals of Sleeping

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Jungkook stirs at 2 and leaves his bedroom 30 minutes later to sit in the kitchen. He opens the living room curtains that block the door to the balcony and the view beyond it, then drags a stool around to the other side of the bench so that he can sit and stare outside. He pulls his sleeves down over his hands, rests his elbows on the counter and - waits, breathing slowing, body relaxing, mind going vacant. His body rests without sleeping, as it’s learned to do.

 

Soon the sky grows light, then burns, then it’s daytime again.

 

Jimin comes out of his shared room with Yoongi, rubbing at his eyes and trying to comb his hair into place. He blinks at Jungkook and sighs, moving around him to start getting stuff out for breakfast. “Again, Kook?”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook mutters, watching Jimin move about the kitchen but not bothering to move out of the way.

 

“Reckon you should see the doctor again?”

 

Jungkook shrugs and looks outside again. He lifts his hood up over his head and buries his face in his arms. “Why bother?”

 

“Jungkook.” Jimin huffs out a breath and squeezes Jungkook’s shoulder. “Hey.”

 

The greeting isn’t directed to Jungkook. Yoongi must be up. Before 9? The world must be ending.

 

“Hey,” Yoongi says, voice rough. He clears his throat and Jungkook lifts his head enough to see Yoongi take a seat opposite. Yoongi stares back for a moment. “Couldn’t sleep again?”

 

“Nah, I got to sleep this time. Just couldn’t stay asleep.”

 

“Maybe you should take some new shitty hobby up. Exhaust the fuck out of yourself.”

 

Jungkook snorts and buries his head in his arms again. “Trust me, hyung,” he says. “I’m plenty exhausted.”

 

 

 

Jungkook is still up that night when Yoongi comes home from his shift at the bar. Yoongi groans at him and throws his keys onto the counter.

 

“Kid it’s three in the fucking morning. You slept?”

 

Jungkook looks up from his bouncing knees. His fingers twist together anxiously, restlessly. His knuckles hurt from where he keeps scratching over them. “What?”

 

Yoongi frowns at him. “You on something?”

 

Jungkook lets out a quick breath and frowns at him. “Seriously?”

 

Yoongi holds his hands up defensively. “Just checking. You look buzzed.”

 

Jungkook nods his head in the direction of three empty beer bottles. “Was hoping to hit the sleepy stage,” he admits. “Didn’t work.”

 

“Dude that brand packs the sugar into their brew.”

 

“Oh. Well. Fuck.”

 

Yoongi sits down on the couch next to Jungkook with a heaving sigh. He leans back into the cushions. “Want me to stay up with you?”

 

“Nah, hyung. You go to bed.”

 

“Aren’t you lonely?” The question startles them both and they turn to see Jimin standing in the doorway to his and Yoongi’s bedroom. He shrugs and comes to join them. “I heard you toss your keys. I’ve told you to stop that. They’re loud.”

 

“They’re not that loud.”

 

“They’re very loud,” Jungkook says, knees bouncing faster. He looks at Jimin. “Why do you think I’m lonely?”

 

“Sitting in the darkness like this all the time, Kook,” Jimin says with a laugh. “It can’t be healthy.” He chews on his lower lip thoughtfully. “You guys hungry?”

 

Yoongi pulls his head back and gives him a weird look. “The fuck?”

 

“Lemme go get dressed. I know a joint we can go eat at.”

 

“Tae’s place?” Yoongi asks, calling after Jimin. “He on tonight? I expect free food.”

 

“You always expect free food you fucker,” Jimin calls back to him.

 

Yoongi looks affronted and turns to Jungkook.

 

Jungkook shrugs. “Sorry, hyung. He’s not wrong.”

 

“Fuck you both.”

 

 

 

Jimin takes them a few blocks over and the walk soothes Jungkook’s frayed nerves. Jungkook doesn’t know ‘Tae’s place’ very well. He only moved in with Yoongi and Jimin about a month ago when he was diagnosed with chronic insomnia - not that the diagnosis was the catalyst for the move. They just happened to be around the same time.

 

Tae’s place is a 24 hour ramen and kimbap joint that isn’t called Tae’s place at all. Tae is Taehyung, one of the staff there, who beams rectangles at them when they enter.

 

“Jiminie!”

 

“I’m here too, kid,” Yoongi mutters, sliding into a table.

 

Taehyung comes out from behind the counter to greet them. Jungkook watches him, takes in the skip in his step and the pen and highlighter stains on the inside of his hands and he looks so damn awake.

 

“Hey, man” Taehyung says, leaning his weight up against the table as he holds a hand out to Jungkook. “Kim Taehyung.”

 

“Jeon Jungkook,” Jungkook says, lips quirking as he shakes Taehyung’s hand.

 

“Oh, the new roommate, right? Sorry I haven’t been round to meet you. Kinda busy,” Taehyung says with a laugh, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Why you guys in so late? You hang out at the bar with Yoongi tonight or something?”

 

Jimin shakes his head and flickers his gaze to Jungkook, who shrugs because really it isn’t that big a deal. “Nah,” Jimin says at last. “Jungkook couldn’t sleep so I thought we’d come say hi.”

 

“Can’t sleep?” Taehyung pouts at him. “Dude that’s no good. Too much coffee?”

 

“Chronic insomnia,” the three of them chorus.

 

Taehyung laughs, startled, and nods his head. “Yup, yup, that works too. That sucks, man. Want some tea or something? Promise it’s good.”

 

Jungkook shrugs. He’ll try anything. His brain is wired. The restaurant is small but warm and bright - so is Taehyung. His hair shines under the lights and his teeth flash with every wide grin as he talks. Jungkook stares and he’s not sure if it’s because he’s tired and spacing out or because Taehyung is comforting to look at.

 

“Three ramens and kimbaps?” Taehyung asks, moving backwards towards the kitchen, hands behind his back.

 

“Make mine a dumpling ramen,” Yoongi says.

 

“Cheese for me,” Jimin adds.

 

Taehyung nods at them then turns to Jungkook. He smiles when he notices Jungkook staring. “Jungkookie?”

 

Jungkook jolts then frowns at the nickname and Taehyung laughs.

 

“Sorry, I know you’re younger. I’m the same age as Jimin and he calls you Kookie all the time.” Taehyung grins apologetically. “Just normal ramen or?”

 

Jungkook clears his throat and sinks further into his seat - and leans left into Jimin’s warmth. “Ddokramen please.”

 

“Coming right up!”

 

Taehyung disappears into the kitchen and Yoongi sinks into his seat with a groan. “Why is he so cheery?”

 

“Because it’s Taehyung,” Jimin says. He lifts a hand and plants it on Jungkook’s head, massaging his scalp. “How you doing, Kook?”

 

Jungkook grumbles at him and ducks out from under his hand. He smoothes his hair back into place. “How do you know Taehyung?”

 

“Same uni,” Jimin says. “We shared a class last year and then I found out he was working here, so I come say hi when I can.”

 

“I come after work a lot,” Yoongi adds as Taehyung approaches.

 

“Because I give you free food,” Taehyung says, sliding a jug of water onto the table and a cup of tea Jungkook’s way. He grabs three glasses then pulls out the cutlery drawer for them. “You a student, Jungkook?”

 

“Uh, sort of.” Jungkook sits up a little in his seat and nods his head in thanks when Yoongi puts out a cutlery set for him. “I deferred this semester. Doctor’s recommendations.”

 

Taehyung nods and drags a chair over to sit at the end of the table. Yoongi makes an offhand comment about how their food had better not burn but Taehyung waves it away. “What were you studying?”

 

“Double major in music and dance,” Jungkook mumbles because for some reason it feels so damn cliche and embarrassing sometimes.

 

“Oh is that how you know Jiminie? Same uni? Do you know Hoseok too?”

 

“Jung Hoseok? Yeah. His roommates too.”

 

Taehyung smiles and rests his elbows on the table. “Namjoon and Seokjin? That’s cool. Do you play an instrument or sing or write or…?”

 

“Sing,” Yoongi supplies. “Know that track I showed you last semester?”

 

Taehyung’s eyes go wide and his attention narrows in on Jungkook. “That was you? Fuck, Jungkookie, you got a killer voice.”

 

And Jungkook doesn’t know what to say to - to that level of enthusiasm and sincerity from - some guy he’s only just met and Taehyung is so - bright. Taehyung laughs to himself and stands to go check on the ramen.

 

Jimin must see something on him because he grins and nudges Jungkook’s thigh. “He always works nights. Always. So if you do get lonely sitting in the dark and we’re not up or around or whatever - “ Jimin nods his chin in Taehyung’s direction. “Taehyungie will look out for you, Kook.”

 

“Honestly,” Yoongi says, and his tone of voice makes Jungkook look over. “There’s no one better.”

 

 

 

Jungkook walks laps around their small living area. It’s an old habit. He used to do it in an attempt to wear himself out. Now he just does it because it’s soothing and he doesn’t have to think, to focus. He comes to a slow halt in front of the balcony and pushes the curtain aside to peek outside.

 

He then glances back at the time. It’s just passing midnight.

 

He looks outside, gnawing at his lower lip. He’s too unsettled tonight and he doesn’t know why. He knows the doctor recommended he defer the semester but he’s thinking it’s a mistake because now there’s nothing else to think of, to focus on, other than this unending nightly cycle of - Jungkook inhales sharply and lets it out slowly.

 

“He always works nights. Always. So if you do get lonely sitting in the dark…

 

Jungkook hesitates - then turns on his heel, grabs his phone and keys from the counter, and leaves the apartment.

 

 

 

He gets one block over before he starts to feel stupid. The fuck is he doing? He met the guy just last night. He was their fucking waiter. Sure he’s a good friend of the hyungs’ but -

 

Jungkook stops and scrunches his face in thought. Fuck. He should turn back. He should definitely turn back. Or - or he can just keep strolling - but if Seokjin or Namjoon find out they’ll kill him. They don’t like his nightly strolls being taken alone - but then just who the fuck is he going to wake to go with him? That’s just mean.

 

“Taehyungie will look out for you, Kook.”

 

When Jungkook thinks about it, he’s heard Taehyung’s name dropped before - in similar intonations and circumstances. Taehyung - Taehyung is to be trusted. He can tell that much. Taehyung is too dear to Jimin to not be - be - be -

 

Jungkook huffs out an irritated breath. This is stupid. He forces one foot in front of the other. And again. And again and again and again and again and - the restaurant is across the road. Jungkook stops and put his hands in his hoodie pocket and tilts his head, gazes through the window - and tries to not let disappointment crush him.

 

Taehyung isn’t working.

 

It was a stupid thing to hope for anyway, Jungkook tells himself. It was a stupid fucking idea in the first place. He rocks on the balls of his feet. There’s a convenience store at the end of the street. He knows they need milk and - well he’s already here.

 

Jungkook sets off for it, reaches down to turn up the volume of his music in hopes of drowning his thoughts out. He doesn’t know why he got so stupidly fixed on the idea of being able to spend sleepless nights with Taehyung - fuck, he even got his hopes up. And he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t get lonely at night -  he can sense the others in the apartment, can sometimes hear them. The quiet of the household sleeping is - is nice.

 

Fuck. Why did Jimin go have to put the thought in his head?

 

Clicking his tongue in irritation, Jungkook shoulders the convenience store door open. He pulls his hood up over his head and ducks into the back to the cold section and grabs them a two litre bottle of milk. He dumps it on the counter unceremoniously, forcing the clerk to hurriedly pull his textbook back out the way, and reaches into his pocket for his -

 

“Jungkookie?”

 

Jungkook peers up from under his hood and his eyes go wide. “Taehyung hyung.”

 

Taehyung grins and bites down on the end of his highlighter, then caps it and puts it down on his textbook. “Hey.”

 

“You - you work here too?”

 

“Hmm?” Taehyung blinks at him. “Oh. Yeah! I work the nightshifts for both places. Sometimes the day shifts too. Thursdays are the worst.”

 

“Thursdays?”

 

Taehyung laughs and rubs the back of his neck. “Yeah. I have three hours of class then a shift at the restaurant then an all nighter here - and then an 8 am class the next morning.”

 

“Hyung…” Jungkook blinks at him. That can’t be - healthy.

 

“Just the milk?”

 

“Huh?” Jungkook blinks down at the milk. “O-oh yeah. Thanks.”

 

“This an early or late night for you?” Taehyung asks, scanning the item and putting it in a bag.

 

“Um.” Jungkook holds out the cash and tilts his head to try to see what Taehyung’s studying. “Uh, it’s - neither. I guess.”

 

Taehyung frowns at him sympathetically. “Can’t sleep?”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook mutters, and that irritating buzz is starting under his skin. He starts to twist his fingers together and bounce his leg. Fuck.

 

Taehyung studies him for a moment, still holding the bag with the milk, and Jungkook wishes he would pass it over so he can leave, so he can fucking go home and get rid of these damn jitters somehow.

 

“Y’know,” Taehyung says suddenly, and his voice has dropped a whole octave and it’s serious and - and Jungkook wonders how that’s even possible because fuck if his voice isn’t deep enough already. “If you ever want some company…”

 

Something in Jungkook quietens at that and his shoulders sag in - he kinda maybe thinks it’s gratitude and awe. “Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.” Taehyung puts the milk on the counter then he’s lifting a stool up and over the counter and setting it down next to Jungkook. “Like tonight, if you want.” He smiles.

 

Jungkook blinks at him then down at the stool. “You don’t - you don’t have to study?”

 

“Hmm? Oh, this shit. Nah, it’s fine. Just going over some things.” Taehyung’s smile widens some. “Seriously, Kook.”

 

And Jungkook can feel his own lips curling up as he relents. “Thanks, hyung,” he says, sliding onto the stool and resting his elbows on the counter. “If you need me to leave then - “

 

“It’s fine, Kookie,” Taehyung says, laughing. He sits up on the back counter and presses his hands beneath his thighs. “I like the company. Time goes slowly at night when you’re by yourself.”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook murmurs, pushing his hood from his head and fixing his hair. “It does.” He licks his lips. His legs are still bouncing. “What are you studying?”

 

“Anthropology.”

 

The answer throws him. Jungkook frowns and tries not to splutter. “But - but Jimin said you two shared a class together.”

 

And Taehyung is laughing again and - Jungkook doesn’t know why but something about Taehyung, his warmth or character or fuck even his goddamn laugh, soothes something in Jungkook, makes his gut unwind and his lungs relax.

 

“I have a minor in music,” Taehyung explains.

 

“You minor in music?”

 

“Yup!”

 

“Do you sing or…?”

 

“Sing,” Taehyung tells him. He flushes a little. “Or, a bit, anyway. Not like you. Not - not like Jimin either.”

 

“Your voice is deep,” Jungkook murmurs, tilting his head. “I bet it makes your singing really interesting.”

 

Taehyung blinks at him then bites his lip, suddenly looking shy. “Thanks, Kookie.”

 

And before he knows it, Jungkook is smiling at the gratitude.

 

 

 

Time passes easily with Taehyung, who is interesting and inquisitive and - weird. That part is undeniable.

 

Soon the sun is rising and Taehyung is stretching and packing his textbook away. “I finish in 15, Kook.”

 

“Oh, yeah.” Jungkook gets off the stool and holds it over the counter for Taehyung to take, then takes the milk which is certifiably warm now. “Thanks - thanks for tonight, hyung.”

 

Taehyung smiles at him. “Anytime.”

 

Jungkook plays with the sleeves of his hoodie. “I’d better head home.”

 

“Sure. I’ll catch you?”

 

“Yeah, sounds good.” Jungkook gives him a small smile and makes to leave.

 

“Oh, Kookie, wait!”

 

Jungkook turns at the door. Taehyung is scribbling something down on the back of an old receipt.

 

“Here,” he says, holding it out to Jungkook.

 

Jungkook takes it. It’s his number.

 

Taehyung grins. “So you can check where I’m working at.” Taehyung tilts his head and his gaze softens. “I’m serious about the anytime thing, Kookie. Seriously. Whenever you need.”

 

Jungkook curls his fingers around the number carefully and nods. “Yeah… thanks, hyung.” He takes one last glance at Taehyung and leaves.

 

 

 

Something about Taehyung is addictive. It must be, because Jungkook doesn’t even give himself until midnight, doesn’t even give himself the chance to see if he can fall asleep and last the night, before he’s out the door and heading for Taehyung. He doesn’t text to see which joint he’s working out, is worried he might come across too - clingy. Or desperate.

 

Jungkook’s finds him at the convenience store again.

 

Taehyung looks up from his notes when he hears the bell above the door chime and he smiles, setting his pen down. “Jungkookie.”

 

And just like the night before - and the night before that - something in Jungkook settles.

 

 

 

It doesn’t take long for it to become routine. Sometimes Jungkook is out seeking Taehyung before midnight even hits, and other nights he’s only spending one or two hours with him before his shift ends. Jimin and Yoongi notice but don’t comment. Neither does Taehyung, who happily smiles and greets him with the same warm ‘Jungkookie’ every time.

 

And the restlessness deep in Jungkook’s chest eases. Sleep comes to him more easily on the nights that it does come, and doesn’t abandon him as easily either.

 

And soon Jungkook and Taehyung are texting each other all through the day and continuing their conversations when they meet up at night - and when Taehyung has his first night off in the eight days that Jungkook has taken to visiting, he soothes any worries Jungkook might have by calling him at three minutes past midnight and talking with him over the phone until the sun rises.

 

 

 

Jungkook stirs and pushes himself up slowly, eyes bleary. He looks about himself, glides his palms over the counter he’d been sleeping on. He’s disorientated as fuck.

 

Taehyung’s low chuckle grounds him, centres him. “Am I that boring?”

 

Jungkook looks at him blankly then rubs his cheek and glances around the store. “…I fell asleep.”

 

“That you did.” Taehyung regards him for a moment then slides his textbook out of the way, rests his elbows on the counter, and leans in. “Go home, Kookie.”

 

Jungkook stares at him, thoughts jumbled, mind still thick with sleep. “What?”

 

“Go home,” Taehyung repeats, smiling as he runs his gaze over Jungkook’s tired face. “See if you can’t get some proper sleep in an actual bed.”

 

It takes Jungkook a moment to process the suggestion, but eventually he stands and nods, movements sloppy. “Yeah,” he says, still dazed. “Yeah, ok.”

 

“See you tomorrow, Jungkookie,” Taehyung calls after him, amusement heavy in his tone.

 

Jungkook nods numbly and pushes open the door. “Yeah. Ok.”

 

 

 

Jungkook doesn’t notice it but it’s only 12:30 when he crashes onto his bed and passes the fuck out - and he sleeps right through until midday, blinking awake to a bright sun and a text from Taehyung.

 

From: Taehyung

Hope you slept well Jungkookie~

 

Jungkook reads the text again and again - a smile forms over his face and he drops his phone on the pillow beside him, drapes an arm over his eyes, and laughs.

 

He did. He really fucking did.

 

 

 

Their routine shifts. Jungkook still visits Taehyung every night he’s working and Taehyung still calls him every night he’s not - but their conversations last for maybe an hour, two at the most, because Taehyung’s warmth has settled Jungkook’s restlessness so beautifully that on most nights he now - sleeps.

 

So that becomes their new routine. Jungkook sleeps and Taehyung studies, and then Taehyung shakes Jungkook awake and leads a groggy Jungkook to the door and sends him home to an actual bed. And each morning, Jungkook wakes to the same text and the same grin curves his lips and the same giddiness erupts in his chest.

 

From: Taehyung

Hope you slept well Jungkookie~

 

 

 

Jungkook has to run into campus to drop something off for Yoongi and is making his way back to the subway when Taehyung calls out to him.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung says, running up him. He huffs out a breath - and then beams at him. “Jungkookie.”

 

Warmth flutters in Jungkook’s chest and he smiles. “Hey, hyung.”

 

“What are you doing on campus?”

 

“Had to drop something off for Yoongi.”

 

“Ah.” Taehyung nods and shoulders his backpack higher. “Oh - I don’t have work tonight. I’ll call?”

 

Jungkook nods slowly - then stops. He - he wants to meet Taehyung out like this more often, in the daylight, when he’s not working. Fuck, he wants to spend time with him outside of a restaurant or a convenience store or a midnight phone call.

 

(And he wants the warmth Taehyung provides, that warmth that curls up inside Jungkook’s chest and soothes the restlessness and lets him sleep.)

 

“Sleep with me.”

 

0/10 for brain to mouth filter. 0 out of fucking 10.

 

Taehyung chokes, eyes going wide. He laughs it off but his brows are furrowing in confusion. “Jeon Jungkook how awfully forward of you.”

 

“Yeah no not like - “ Jungkook sighs and drags a hand over his face, the beginnings of a laugh escaping his mouth. “Tonight do you - do you have time?”

 

“To sleep with you?”

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines, shoving Taehyung’s shoulder. “I mean to come round. Or - or I can come to yours.”

 

“So we can sleep together.”

 

“No!”

 

Taehyung laughs. “Your place is fine, Jungkookie.”

 

“Yeah? Jimin and Yoongi are out tonight so I figured we could order some chicken and beer and just hang out, or something…” Jungkook trails off, frowning. Taehyung’s expression is - suspicious. He ignores it. “And yeah, you’re welcome to stay the night, if you want.”

 

“…Sooo we can sleep together.”

 

“Fucking - I’ve never regretted opening my goddamn mouth so fucking much.”

 

 

 

Taehyung comes round at about 9 and they order chicken and beer almost immediately because they’re both starving and Taehyung likes to make dramatic comments about how he’s wasting away. They put on a movie to watch but it mostly goes ignored as they slip into conversation - and Jungkook likes the look of Taehyung sitting sideways on the couch, one arm draped over the back of it, the other propped on his knee as he holds his beer. Jungkook likes the look of Taehyung’s head tipped back in laughter even more.

 

“Have you seen the doctor, told him you’re sleeping better?”

 

Jungkook shakes his head. “He only told me to come see him if it was getting worse.”

 

“That can’t be all he said.”

 

Jungkook hesitates but it’s Taehyung, who is looking at him soft and openly, quietly imploring to know more. “He recommended maybe seeing a psych, but…”

 

“Ah,” Taehyung says quietly, nodding his head. He starts to peel off the label from his beer. “There’s nothing wrong with seeing a psych.” He offers Jungkook a smile. “Nothing wrong in not wanting to see one either. I know it’s hard.”

 

“He thinks it’s anxiety that’s triggering it. Not - not depression, he said.”

 

Taehyung hums and leans more of his side into the couch so that he can rest his head on the back of it. “And what do you have to be anxious about, Jungkookie? What makes you anxious?”

 

And that’s a really good damn question but Jungkook doesn’t know. Just knows that he is - and knows that for some reason Taehyung ensures that he’s not. So Jungkook shrugs and turns the question around. “What makes you anxious, hyung?” Though Jungkook isn’t even sure Taehyung knows how to be anxious because - because he’s Taehyung.

 

But that’s a pretty shitty reasoning.

 

Taehyung laughs and stands from the couch. He stumbles a bit but they’re both five or six beers in now and the sleepy soft haze that the alcohol drapes over them is - nice.

 

“There’s a lot of things that make me anxious, Jungkookie,” Taehyung says as he fiddles with the TV and then manages to connect his phone. He changes input then presses play on his phone and grins as music comes through the speakers. It’s a soothing sort of indie EDM blend that plays and Jungkook is a little surprised by it if he’s honest - that and he’s had Taehyung rap and sing Big Bang to him word for word on countless occasions.

 

Jungkook rests his head back on the couch and nurses his beer as he watches Taehyung hold his own drink above his head, body rolling to the music as he sings along. He catches Jungkook watching, offers him a crooked grin, and makes his way over to stand above Jungkook.

 

Jungkook tips his head back further, blinks slowly at Taehyung as he blocks out the ceiling light. Taehyung leans down, closes the distance between them, and breathes the lyrics over Jungkook’s mouth, head still moving to the beat.

 

Something in Jungkook starts to stir and his fingers twitch around his beer. He swallows. He likes having Taehyung close, has always liked having him close, but even now this isn’t - this isn’t enough.

 

“Dance with me,” Taehyung murmurs, resting a knee on the couch.

 

Jungkook’s gaze darts to it for a moment before he’s focusing back on Taehyung’s face. He starts to smirk and shakes his head.

 

“Jungkook-ah,” Taehyung says, setting his other knee on the couch so that he’s damn near straddling Jungkook, weight held above Jungkook’s thighs. He holds his beer to his chest and plants his other hand on the couch beside Jungkook’s head. “I said dance with me.”

 

“Make me,” Jungkook challenges, voice low and quiet.

 

Taehyung’s lips quirk briefly before he leans in, breathing over Jungkook’s mouth, eyes darting to Jungkook’s lips. “Dance with me…”

 

Jungkook pushes up, closes the gap between them. Taehyung’s lips are warm against his. Jungkook moves over his mouth slowly, hand coming up to curl around Taehyung’s nape. Taehyung hums, his own hand falling to Jungkook’s shoulder as he leans into the kiss.

 

Jungkook presses his tongue to the seam of Taehyung’s lips and Taehyung’s mouth opens obediently. Taehyung rests his weight on Jungkook’s thighs and Jungkook winds an arm around the small of his back, pulls him closer until they’re chest to chest and crotch to crotch. Taehyung’s breath shivers out into Jungkook’s mouth, followed by the hot slick slide of his tongue over the roof of Jungkook’s mouth, and Jungkook can taste the beer they’ve both been drinking.

 

“Jungkook…” Taehyung murmurs, and Jungkook cracks an eye open to see Taehyung’s beer tipping precariously.

 

He chuckles and pulls away from the kiss to set both of their beers on coffee table, careful not to overbalance Taehyung. When he sits back against the couch again and looks up, Taehyung is already there waiting for him, meeting him halfway, fingers clenching in Jungkook’s shirt as he tilts his head and deepens the kiss.

 

Jungkook licks into the back of his mouth, traces over his teeth, feels Taehyung shudder before he starts to rock his hips against Jungkook’s. Jungkook swears quietly into Taehyung’s mouth, cups Taehyung’s face as he nips gently on his lower lip, then holds his waist with both hands.

 

“Off,” Taehyung says between kisses, tugging at the hem of Jungkook’s shirt.

 

Jungkook pulls back, lets Taehyung pull his shirt off over his head then does the same to Taehyung and immediately presses kisses to the bare skin revealed to him. He grazes his teeth over sharp collarbones, presses firm hands to Taehyung’s lower back and holds him close. He comes up again for another kiss and Taehyung’s fingers weave into his hair, hips rocking down again.

 

And fuck, Jungkook swears his very being is burning with want for Taehyung. He circles both arms around Taehyung then turns and twists them so that they lay across the couch, Taehyung beneath him.

 

Taehyung chuckles into his mouth, arms looping around Jungkook’s neck, thighs spreading to give Jungkook more room. “Show off.”

 

Jungkook grins and pays attention to Taehyung’s neck, scraping his teeth over his pulse point and leaving open mouthed kisses over the tanned skin. “You love it.” His hands explore downwards, searching for the waistband of Taehyung’s jeans.

 

Taehyung sighs beneath him, tipping his head back. “Maybe.”

 

Jungkook laughs quietly and kisses him again.

 

 

 

Jungkook takes Taehyung slowly, lets the stuffiness of the room encompass them, sweat slicking their skin. Taehyung sighs and shudders beneath him, eyes closed in bliss, fingers shaky where they press into Jungkook’s skin. Jungkook rubs his thumbs over Taehyung’s hips as he thrusts into him, careful not to bruise - and eventually Taehyung pulls him down to him, kissing him messily and bucking his hips to meet Jungkook’s thrusts.

 

He comes with a violent shudder, limbs convulsing tightly around Jungkook. Jungkook follows soon after. He holds his weight on his arms, chest heaving, and pushes Taehyung’s sweaty hair back from his face.

 

Taehyung hums and lets his head loll. He gazes up at Jungkook, taking his time to take Jungkook in - and then closes his eyes, tilts his head into Jungkook’s touch, and smiles sleepily.

 

“Bed?” he says, voice husking out of him. He clears his throat and drops a hand from Jungkook’s shoulder to rub at his eyes.

 

“Yeah, hyung,” Jungkook murmurs, leaning down to press a kiss to Taehyung’s nose.

 

Taehyung scrunches his nose and bats him away. His gaze drops to the mess on his stomach and he groans, letting the noise quickly turn into a tired laugh. “Ok. Maybe shower first.”

 

So they shower, sleepy and soft, hands ghosting over each other, slow tired kisses shared under the spray of water. They towel each other off and Jungkook watches Taehyung with a small smile as he pays careful attention to every inch of Jungkook.

 

They collapse into bed soon after. Taehyung throws a leg over Jungkook’s waist, an arm over his chest, and buries his face into Jungkook’s neck. Jungkook falls asleep to the weight of Taehyung and the touch of his breath on his skin.

 

 

 

Their routine shifts the slightest as Taehyung uses his nights off to come round to Jungkook’s for chicken and beers (which always always always seems to lead to fervent kisses and clothes on the floor and Taehyung trapped beneath Jungkook’s weight, pulling him down for open mouthed kisses and shared breaths).

 

“Jungkookie,” Taehyung greets, perking up from where he’s seated at one of the tables, study materials strewn around him.

 

Jungkook slides into the seat opposite him. “Hey, hyung.” He tilts his head and scans the notes around him. “Exams are soon, aren’t they?”

 

Taehyung chuckles nervously and leans back into his seat, hand coming up to rub at the back of his neck. “Don’t remind me. Between those and the two gigantic fucking projects I’ve got due.” Taehyung sighs and lets his head hang back. “I’m fucked.”

 

“You’ll be fine, hyung,” Jungkook says, laughing as he nudges Taehyung’s knees with his own. “I can help if you need.”

 

Taehyung lifts his head again. “Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.” Jungkook picks up a page of notes. “All right. What’s - mmph.” Jungkook blinks at Taehyung, who’s leaned across the table to kiss him.

 

Taehyung grins at him, works Jungkook’s mouth open and kisses him slowly. Soon he’s pushing materials out of the way and crawling up on the table, then swinging his legs around so that they dangle either side of Jungkook. Jungkook’s hands find his waist and Taehyung’s curl around his shoulders and soon they’re panting, pressing forward for more.

 

“No one ever comes in around now,” Taehyung says between breaths, nails scratching over Jungkook’s scalp as Jungkook presses open mouthed kisses to the column of his neck. “We can - fuck.”

 

Jungkook grins and soothes the bite with his tongue. He tugs Taehyung’s collar aside, grazes his teeth over the skin newly revealed. “I’m not having sex in front of those gigantic windows. Sorry, hyung.”

 

“There’s a whole fucking kitchen out back.”

 

Jungkook laughs, startled, and pulls back to look up at Taehyung. “Isn’t that a bit unsanitary?”

 

Taehyung takes Jungkook’s hand and holds it to his crotch, brow raising. “You think I fucking care about sanitary right  now?”

 

Jungkook stares at him, mouth agape, eyes wide. “…F-fuck.” Then he’s surging up to kiss Taehyung, pushing him down to lie on the table so he can kiss him deeper, run his hands over him.

 

“Kitchen,” Taehyung says between breaths and kisses and laughter. “Kitchen.” And he rolls out from under Jungkook, stumbles to his feet, and drags Jungkook into the back with him.

 

 

 

They sit on the bench together, backs up against the wall, chests heaving. Jungkook lets out a tired laugh and tips his head back, eyes closing for a brief moment.

 

Next to him, Taehyung leans forward and taps his forehead to his knees. “Oh god,” he groans. “I’m gonna have to wipe everything down like six times over.”

 

“It was your idea,” Jungkook reminds him.

 

Taehyung sighs and lifts his head to look at Jungkook. “You didn’t exactly work hard to discourage me.” He rubs at his forehead with the heel of his palm - and Jungkook starts to frown because the emotion behind that is - “Fuck and I still need to get through half a chapter of notes.”

 

“Hyung.” Jungkook reaches out and puts a hand on Taehyung’s shoulder, vying for his attention. “Hey, I can help out with all of that.” Taehyung works his jaw, lips pursed, eyes pinched. It’s not a look Jungkook is used to seeing on Taehyung and it makes his insides twist. “Hey,” he says gently. “What’s going on?”

 

Taehyung snaps out of it - or at least tries to. “Huh? Oh.” He digs the heel of his palm into his forehead again then slides down off the counter. “Nothing. Sorry I’m just tired and - thinking.”

 

“Seriously, hyung, if I can help - “

 

But Taehyung smiles at him, big and warm and bright and very much not ok. “Thanks, Kookie. But I’m fine.” His smile softens a bit. “I promise.”

 

 

 

But it’s like that night triggers a downward spiral. Taehyung’s warmth starts to dissipate, leaving him to look worn, expression tight. Jungkook gazes at him sadly whenever Taehyung fails to hide it, reaches out to soothe over hunched shoulders with steady palms.

 

Each time Taehyung offers him a small grateful smile - but it never hangs around for long, attention going back to his study notes or the schedule he keeps arranging and then rearranging for himself, fitting studying in around classes and work and then scribbling through it all and trying again and -

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook says one night when Taehyung has his elbows on his textbook and his hands buried in his hair and his eyes closed, brow furrowed. “Take a break.”

 

“Yeah, ok,” Taehyung says, voice tight. His hands slide out of his hair and he rests his head on his arms and hides his face away. “Can you - can you just talk to me? For a bit?”

 

“Sure, hyung,” Jungkook says quietly, fingers weaving into Taehyung’s hair to soothe.

 

 

 

Taehyung comes over the next week, smile weary but bright, arms laden with textbooks. They set up on the couch. Taehyung rests his back up against Jungkook’s chest and reads through his notes, headphones in place, whilst Jungkook watches Taehyung and a movie in equal parts.

 

Taehyung nods off at some point, head dropping back to rest on Jungkook’s shoulder, study notes fanning out across his stomach. Jungkook wraps an arm around him, drops a kiss to his head, and rests there, enjoying the weight and the warmth of Taehyung as he sleeps quietly. Jungkook can feel the weariness on him, rubs a hand up and down Taehyung’s arm in hopes of soothing it.

 

Two hours later, Taehyung stirs - and panics.

 

“Hy-hyung?” Jungkook asks, frowning as Taehyung pushes away from him and scrambles to collect his study notes then climbs off the couch all together. “Hey,” he says, sitting up. He rubs at his eyes. He’d managed to nod off too. “Hyung, hey, what’s up?”

 

Taehyung shakes his head and sits at the coffee table and spreads his notes out around him with shaking hands. “You should have woken me.”

 

Jungkook’s shoulders sag and he lets out a quiet breath. “You’re exhausted, hyung. You needed the sleep.”

 

“I’m fine. I need to study, Kook. That’s what I need to do.”

 

Jungkook sighs into his hand and closes his eyes, massaging at his temple. He climbs from the couch and goes to the kitchen, puts the kettle on to make them both a cup of tea and grabs some fruit out of the fridge. When ready, he slides it all onto the table, sits opposite Taehyung, and watches him work.

 

 

 

Jungkook isn’t greeted with the usual ‘Jungkookie’ when he rocks up at the convenience store because - and Jungkook can’t help but start to smile - Taehyung has fallen asleep with his elbow on his textbook, his chin in his hand, and an uncapped highlighter in the other.

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook says quietly, fingers wrapping around Taehyung’s forearm.

 

Taehyung jerks awake, arm ripping free of Jungkook’s hold. He looks about himself quickly then groans and rubs his eyes. “Jungkookie, hey.” Taehyung covers a yawn and combs his fingers through his hair and drops his attention back to his textbook. He highlights a few lines.

 

Jungkook stares at Taehyung’s hands. They’re shaking. He slides his gaze right. There’s two empty coffees and a crushed energy drink can. He tries to think back to the last time he saw Taehyung eat something of substance and can’t.

 

He focuses on Taehyung, who is fighting not to nod off again.The harsh lighting makes his cheek bones look sharp and Taehyung squints irritably against the glare they cause off the page, rubbing at his eyes again and again and again until Jungkook reaches up and makes him stop.

 

Taehyung’s shoulders sag and he blinks to himself, tries to focus on his textbook. He part his lips to let out a shaky breath - they’re chapped and bitten beyond hope.

 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook says, and that catches Taehyung’s attention. “You need to take a break.”

 

Taehyung laughs quietly and his hands are at his eyes again, rubbing. He drops them and flips the page. “I can’t afford to, Jungkookie. Exams are too close.”

 

Jungkook rolls his eyes heavenward and works his jaw. “Fine then,” he says, exhaling the words. “Then take a break from work. Ask for a couple more nights off.”

 

“That one I literally can’t afford to do,” Taehyung says, lips quirking. He looks up and notices Jungkook’s not as humoured by it and sighs, setting his highlighter down. “Kook, honestly, stop worrying.”

 

“How can I not?” Jungkook mutters, nodding his chin in the direction of the empty drinks.

 

Taehyung just winks at him and smiles.

 

 

 

The restaurant actually has patrons tonight. Three groups, in fact. Jungkook slips in unnoticed and sits at the usual table. Taehyung’s notes already cover it. Taehyung is taking an order from the table at the back and when he turns, he catches sight of Jungkook.

 

He smiles tiredly, mouths a cheery ‘Jungkookie’ at him, and disappears out back.

 

Jungkook waits a beat - and follows.

 

He finds Taehyung leaning with his forehead pressed up against a cupboard, eyes closed, face pale, packets of ramen clutched to his chest. Stress pulls at his edges. “Tae?”

 

“Hmm?” Taehyung pulls back, blinks his eyes open. “Oh, hey, Kookie. What are you doing back here?”

 

“Want a hand?”

 

“Nah, their orders are easy.” Taehyung offers him a smile. “I’ll make us something too?”

 

“…Yeah, sure.”

 

“Sweet. Go wait out front. I’ll join you soon.”

 

So Jungkook does - and as promised, Taehyung does come join him with two bowls of ramen and some side dishes for them to eat. Taehyung scoffs his down between reading over study notes and doing his job. Jungkook abandons his half way through, watching Taehyung work himself into a coma with a stony expression.

 

Taehyung slides back into the seat opposite with a hefty sigh and scoops some more food into his mouth. “Hmm? What’s that face for, Kook?”

 

Jungkook works his jaw. “You need to stop, hyung.”

 

Taehyung’s expression twists into something tired and irritated before he smoothes it out into something very very carefully blank. “Can you drop it? Please? I’ll be fine once they leave. I’m just doing my job, Kookie, and then everything will be fine.”

 

Jungkook nods slowly. “Ok. All right.” He exhales and runs a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry.”

 

And Taehyung smiles at him, all warm and bright and soft like he’s supposed to be.

 

 

 

Eventually the restaurant clears out. Taehyung goes about wiping down tables and washing dishes and forbids Jungkook from helping as he mutters to himself, running through the notes he’s already memorised. There’s a crash as Taehyung drops one of the cutlery boxes. Chopsticks and spoons, newly cleaned, tumble onto the floor. Jungkook glances over. Taehyung stands with his eyes closed, heel of his palm pressed between his brows.

 

“Hyung?”

 

Taehyung sighs and opens his eyes. “I’m good.” He crouches and starts to clean up.

 

Jungkook goes over to help but mostly just crouches there, cutlery in hand, and stares at the exhaustion casting shadows over Taehyung’s features. God this is so frustrating and he wants to get angry, wants to shake Taehyung and make him see reason but - his resolve weakens and turns into something aching and desperate.

 

“You need to sleep, hyung.”

 

Taehyung’s lips quirk at the irony. “Seriously?” He reaches out and takes the cutlery from Jungkook. “I’m fine, Kook,” he says quietly, setting the lid back on the container, and there’s something different in his voice when he says it this time. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

 

Jungkook focuses on how brittle Taehyung’s wrists look and says nothing.

 

 

 

“You good?”

 

Jungkook is sitting with his head leaned right back against the couch, hands on his forehead, gaze on the ceiling. Jimin plops down next to him and Jungkook slides his gaze left to see him holding out a packet of chips. He sighs and drops his chin, reaching out to take a handful. “Yeah, I’m good.”

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Nothing, just - “ Jungkook makes a frustrated noise. “Taehyung’s being stupid.”

 

Jimin snorts. “That’s what he does.”

 

“No - I mean - about his health.”

 

Jimin frowns at that and twists to face Jungkook better. “He all right?”

 

“He says he is,” Jungkook mutters. “He’s just working himself into an early grave.”

 

Jimin worries at his lower lip and reaches out to put the chips down on the coffee table. “He’s always been a hard worker, Kook. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.”

 

“Yeah but -“

 

There’s the sound of keys in the door and then it’s opening and Yoongi steps in.

 

Jimin tips his head back against the couch. “Hey how was - “ He frowns. “What’s up?”

 

Yoongi is frowning down at his phone, even as he dumps his stuff and kicks off his shoes and closes the door. “Seokjin just called me,” he says slowly. He looks up at them. “Taehyung collapsed in class today.”

 

Jungkook’s stomach drops. He sits up and twists to see Yoongi better. “What?”

 

Jimin mirrors him. “Is he ok?”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, coming to stand behind the couch. He looks at his phone again then pockets it. “Seokjin said it was from fatigue but he checked out fine and they sent him home straight away.”

 

Jimin looks to Jungkook. “Did you know about this?”

 

“N-no, I haven’t heard from him all day.” Jungkook stands from the couch and heads for his room. He’s already bringing Taehyung’s contact up on his phone. “I’m gonna - “

 

“Yeah,” Jimin says. “Let us know how he is. Tell him he’s welcome here.”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook says quietly, phone to his ear. “Thanks, hyung.”

 

 

 

Taehyung doesn’t answer. It’s Friday, Jungkook thinks numbly, the day after Thursday, the day after three hours of classes and a double shift.

 

Jungkook sits on the edge of the bed and drops his head into his hands with a sigh. He shoots Taehyung a text, tells him to call when he gets the chance. But Taehyung doesn’t and there’s no reply. And when Jungkook goes into the convenience store - not sure whether he’s going to shower Taehyung with concern or try shake some fucking common sense into him - Taehyung isn’t on. Instead it’s some guy Jungkook’s never seen before, who shrugs awkwardly when Jungkook asks after Taehyung.

 

Taehyung doesn’t answer, doesn’t reply, and doesn’t go to work.

 

And not the next day.

 

Or the next.

 

Or the next.

 

 

 

There’s no sign of or word from Taehyung for a week and a bit and it jumbles up the inside of Jungkook’s chest, brings back that uneasy restlessness that has him bouncing his knees and twisting his fingers and scratching at his knuckles. He tries to swallow it down, tries to find other outlets and solutions and - fuck he even tries meditation. He can’t just depend on Taehyung. He knows this.

 

But he does and he - he isn’t even all that sure that the uneasy restlessness is the same as it was because fuck he’s so scared for Taehyung. Jungkook plays their interactions over in his head, tries to spot when the signs were that fucking glaringly obvious. He should have said more, been sterner, more forceful. Fuck he should have - should have -

 

Should have what? Taehyung wormed under his skin so easily, so charmingly, knew Jungkook’s ins and outs before Jungkook was even sure he did. That’s what Jungkook should have done. He should have been that same easy comforting warmth for Taehyung that Taehyung was for him.

 

The worry and anxiousness sends Jungkook’s sleeping schedule to shit again. He sits on the couch, rubbing at his eyes, body weary, then reaches forward to pick up his phone and send Taehyung another text.

 

“Still haven’t heard from him?”

 

Jungkook glances up to see Jimin closing the front door behind him and toeing off his shoes. Jungkook shakes his head. “No. He still hasn’t been to work either.” And Jungkook’s checked. Every night. Without fail. Jungkook hesitates. “Do you know where he lives?”

 

Jimin looks at him sadly as he puts his keys on the counter and drops his bag to the floor. “Nah, sorry, Kook. He doesn’t like people coming round. I can try asking one of the hyungs but I don’t even think Namjoon and Seokjin know.”

 

Jungkook purses his lips and nods slowly. He looks back to his phone, smooths his thumb over the screen. “I’m worried.”

 

Jimin sighs and drops onto the couch beside him. “Me too, Kook. But hopefully he’s just resting up. Hopefully he’ll be back around next week.”

 

Jungkook lights up his phone display. Still nothing. “Yeah,” he says, turning the display off again. “Hopefully.”

 

 

 

Jungkook gives up on sleep a little past 1 and creeps out to the kitchen. He opens the curtain in the living room, drags the stool around, and sits with his phone in front of him on the counter. He checks it periodically, debates texting Taehyung. He knows calling doesn’t work. At least if he texts… there’s maybe a hope Taehyung is reading them, that he knows Jungkook is worried for him.

 

Is waiting for him.

 

Jungkook spaces out, breathing slowing, muscles relaxing, body resting as best it can as he stares at his phone. The sky lightens and starts to burn - there’s a quiet knock at the front door and Jungkook looks up. He hesitates, conscious thought still coming to. He checks the time. It’s only a little past four. There’s another knock and Jungkook sighs, pockets his phone, and slides off the stool to answer it.

 

His grip slackens on the door and slides down the edge of it. He lets it swing open wider. Relief and longing makes his chest swell in equal parts. “Hyung…”

 

Taehyung swallows and averts his gaze. There’s shadows under his eyes and his cheeks are hollow and his shirt is swimming on him and his hair is a ruffled mess and he looks wrecked and - and Jungkook is both glad and terribly saddened to see him.

 

Why have you done this to yourself, Tae?

 

“Can I…” Taehyung trails off. His voice is quiet and hoarse and Jungkook watches as he pulls the sleeves of his cardigan down over his hands and god it comes with an awful twisted sickening sense of deja vu. He folds his arms across his chest, hugging himself, then looks at Jungkook and tries again. “Can I sleep with you?”

 

Jungkook release a quiet breath. He nods, steps back to let Taehyung in, and closes the door behind him. Taehyung hunches his shoulders, standing in the middle of the entranceway, eyes drifting over the apartment. Jungkook says nothing, just takes Taehyung gently by the wrist and leads him to the bedroom.

 

Taehyung slides out of his cardigan and shoes whilst Jungkook pulls the covers back and fixes the pillows. He shimmies out of his hoodie and sets his phone on the bedside table, then climbs in and waits for Taehyung to join him. Something inside of him shivers when, after a moment of hesitation, Taehyung gets in and curls right up against Jungkook - and he looks and feels and seems so small and Jungkook’s heart hurts.

 

“God, hyung,” Jungkook says, not even realising the words have left him until Taehyung is releasing a quiet apology. Jungkook slides an arm under the curve of Taehyung’s neck and drapes the other over his side, pulls him in close and lets him bury his nose in the crook of his neck. He presses his lips to Taehyung’s hair and draws pattern on his back and listens for the sounds of sleep - they don’t come. “Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung releases a shaky breath, muscles unwinding. More of his weight comes to rest against Jungkook. “Have you been sleeping?”

 

It’s whispered. Jungkook hums. “About as much as you.”

 

“I’m sorry.” It’s even quieter, if possible.

 

Jungkook holds Taehyung tighter to him. “Don’t be.”

 

It takes a while but eventually Taehyung lulls to sleep. Jungkook sighs quietly, closes his own eyes, and falls asleep to the weight of Taehyung and the touch of his breath on his neck.

 

The sun rises, paints them both in strokes of morning gold, but Jungkook and Taehyung sleep on.