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come take it (if you want a piece of me)

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Jungkook is really, really bored.

A bored Jungkook is never a good thing, as all two of his friends will attest to without hesitation. Bored Jungkook is eating six pints of ice cream to see how many it’ll take for him to throw up. Bored Jungkook is painting his nails to look like stained glass and then forgetting to let them dry so nail polish gets all over his clothes and hair. Bored Jungkook is making six-tier card houses and crying into his roommates’ arms like a child when it falls because he sneezed on it right at the end, wailing about how he’s going to stitch his nostrils closed so he never sneezes again and wailing harder when Taehyung logically points out that that won’t actually work.

In essence, it fucking sucks. 0/10, do not ever recommend, unless you want to be subjected to a twenty year old baby giant knocking on your door to make your bed inordinately pristine enough to bounce hundred won coins off it until he passes out from exhaustion.

“Jimin,” Jungkook calls out, face stoic as he sits across his roommate at their meager dining table. Taehyung bought it off Craigslist a few months ago but refuses to tell them where. “You love me, don’t you?”

“We’re playing this game?” Jimin doesn’t even look up from the textbook he’s bent over. Neuroscience, the overachieving fuck. He finishes jotting down a sentence into his notebook and flips his pencil to erase a mistake at the end of it. Jungkook pouts, and like Jimin has eyes over every inch of his big head, he says, “oh, so we are playing this game.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines, pouting harder, as if him playing the respectful dongsaeng will somehow summon Jimin to entertain him.

“Absolutely not,” Jimin says. He flips the textbook onto the next page mindlessly.

“I didn’t even say anything.”

“You don’t have to.”

Belatedly, Jungkook realizes that the signs of his boredom are obvious: he reeks of six different perfumes. His fingers are covered in Crayola washable markers. His phone is programmed into simplified Mandarin. Of course Jimin had easily identified his current state of mind. Rookie mistake, Jeon, he chastises himself. Somewhere, James Bond is crying over his inaptitude to complete covert operations in even the most simplest of scenarios. He’d vow to avenge him, but this problem is practically unsolvable.

“But—”

“I was trying to be nice, but please don’t talk. Your voice haunts my dreams enough already.” Jimin finally looks Jungkook in the eye with a steely gaze. He looks tired, no doubt from the constant studying for exams this time of year. Jimin works hard under pressure. Jungkook just short circuits. “I do love you, but I’m busy. Go annotate a Starbucks cup or something.”

Well. It appears that Jungkook’s reputation precedes him.

It’s not necessarily Jungkook’s fault that he gets like this sometimes. There isn’t anybody to blame. His restlessness worsens during exam season, when expectations are high and unforgiving thanks to his disappointing grade point average. One week proves to be not nearly enough time to correct all of the academic mistakes he’s made over the course of a semester.

Don’t get Jungkook wrong; he loves being a creative writing major, but sometimes the pressure to create something good and impactful on command is too overwhelming. He blanches, shockingly avoidant as all his determination to succeed withers, the world slowing down until it stops.

It’s Taehyung and Jimin’s final year, though, and their study schedule is a fucking circle. Jungkook usually wouldn’t complain, considering his affinity for going out by himself just to facilitate the location of his introversion, but he’s become lonely without the presence of his roommates around their cramped apartment. Coming home to empty rooms creates a pit in his stomach that only gets wider and wider, and he needs more.

His friends’ affection has been nonexistent, and Jungkook has unintentionally become touch-starved. Taehyung gives the most amazing hugs. Jimin likes to kiss his nose. Sometimes they both come at him at once if he’s been really good, tickling his sides until tears spring to the corners of his eyes and he’s squirming underneath them. The decline in this type of behavior has resulted in an increase in Jungkook’s boredom, from basic whining to flat out staying up for forty-three hours to see what happens.

And god, desperation is ugly on him.

Taehyung comes back from the library at a little past eleven at night. Jungkook diligently stays in his room while his older two roommates chat quietly in the living room over reheated leftovers. He counts the slats on the blinds covering the window without abandon while listening to Rap Monster’s Voice on repeat. His mind is utterly empty as he catches their murmurs, Taehyung’s low voice a soothing timbre paired with Jimin’s tenor. Sweet laughter like honey, a comforting sound he’ll never be able to disassociate from home. He gets comfortable under his bedsheets and counts the slats like sheep, 34, 35, 36, 37.

Jungkook has moved onto the other window by the time Taehyung knocks on his door. The light from the other room cuts through the darkness, shrouding the older in a silhouette for a few moments as he turns off the music humming from Jungkook’s speaker before he shuts it behind him. Bathed in darkness, as quick as it started.

Taehyung slinks onto the bed easily and digs underneath Jungkook’s covers. At the prospect of cuddling, Jungkook hums contentedly, too warm and too excited to help the other slip under the sheets smoothly. He knows that Taehyung is too tired to really have a conversation right now, thoughts all muddled with whatever archaic nonsense he’d been studying due to neglecting his required courses so late, but it’s okay. Taehyung is warm, his body hugging Jungkook’s larger frame, hand draped over torso. It can wait.

It strikes Jungkook how tired he is all of a sudden. It’s a selfish exhaustion, misplaced without progress from earlier in the day to justify it, but one that blooms from the tips of his fingers and settles in between his ribs to get to his heart.

“You’ve been lonely, haven’t you?” Taehyung asks, mumbling the words into the back of Jungkook’s neck. Taehyung’s breathing seems to slow right as Jungkook’s gets quicker. “Minnie said you were bored all night.”

He is lonely, but he won’t be the one to tell Taehyung that. Jungkook is no good at expressing himself. He deals in stilted actions and gestures, shy at the idea of exposing himself to another person that’s more than willing to listen to him even after all this time.

“I’m fine,” Jungkook murmurs back, because he is. Jungkook is simple and the feeling of at least one of his best friends giving him some needed attention is like fucking uncut cocaine.

“You’re good at being fine,” Taehyung replies, and shifts to hold Jungkook a bit tighter. “I’ll paint your nails next time.”

A small laugh escapes Jungkook’s mouth before sleep overtakes him.

“Deal.”

 


 

Jungkook cautiously picks up his iced americano with both of his palms, his fingers fanned outward so as not to disrupt his drying nail polish. Come on, Jungkook, he encourages himself, awkwardly tilting his head forward to capture the straw poking out from the cup. He’s wholeheartedly determined to have at least half of the small drink without ruining his nails.

His lips touch the straw. That’s it, his mind says. He takes a tentative sip, even though the joints of his wrists aggressively want him to hurry up. Holding things by the palms is not a practical, every day option for carrying objects, Jungkook realizes. He gulps down a bigger swig and sets the plastic cup down, blowing on his wet nails while Jimin laughs at him from across the sticky café table.

“What’s so funny?” Jungkook asks, eyes narrowed.

Jimin sips at his vanilla latte wordlessly in response. He is very good at pretending that Jungkook is not one of the most important people in his life. It’s reverse psychology, Jungkook thinks. Refusing to give his attention in order to coax Jungkook to give up his own. Studying the human brain is the worst thing to have ever happened to Park Jimin.

“You, doing your best to drink that. You could have dried your nails properly before we left.”

Jungkook’s gaze is empty. “I’m vulnerable, Jimin. I make mistakes.”

“Of course.” Jimin snorts, nods at Jungkook’s hands. “Did you let Taehyung pick out the color? It’s cute on you.”

Jungkook smiles at the small compliment and nods, dips his head forward to reach the straw without his hands. It successfully hides his blush. Jungkook has always been shy at the slightest of praise. It’s a little embarrassing.

Taehyung woke Jungkook up at eight to paint his nails before his morning classes started. With two dry throats and nasty bedhead between them, he painted Jungkook’s nails a pale pink, their hands laid out atop old newspapers draped over the coffee table to prevent a mess. Taehyung chatted about the progress of his thesis collection in a low voice, showing off the pricks in his fingers from folding and pinning fabric together in a rush while Jungkook basked in the early morning light and chemical smell of acetone.

By the time Taehyung finished, Jimin took over. Ruffled Jungkook’s hair, said he’d treat him to coffee at that one café he likes going to to write because it has fluffy cushions with lace trims on the chairs. It was damage control from last night, most likely, but considering how much Jimin loves to spoil him, Jungkook didn’t mind. He likes spending time with his friends, likes being doted on.

“Tae told me he thinks you’re lonely,” Jimin starts conversationally, pushing the coffee sleeve adorning his cup downwards then upwards. Jungkook watches his fingers move and swallows down his defense. “I don’t want to sound like your mom, so tell me if I am, but—Tae and I are graduating at the end of the year, you know? We want you to have more than just us.”

“But I’m bad at making friends,” Jungkook argues, trying to tone down his vitriolic stink-eye. “Besides, you guys aren’t even really leaving me. You wouldn’t dare.”

Jungkook is, unfortunately, notorious for being socially awkward when it comes to interactions with others. Ordering at a restaurant is impossible. Buying groceries for the apartment is like completing a heist. The dialogue in his short stories requires him to disassociate and reassociate several times in order to completely grasp the wildly complex minds of his pedantic characters.

Yet bizarrely, according to Taehyung and Jimin, finding a boyfriend will somehow fix this.

Jungkook promptly shoves his face into his drink straw in avoidance, humming at the taste. Mixing water and espresso shots together to make an americano sounds like a consolation prize in theory rather than something enjoyable and popular, but fuck if Jungkook isn’t entirely bought into the notion of stylish caffeine consumption. Paying for aesthetics. He’s into it.

“What do you want me to do?” Jungkook asks, feeling cornered from the set gaze of Jimin’s eyes. He wears colored contacts lately, deep hazel with big circle lenses. Jungkook thinks he looks kind of like an alien in them.“Write my KakaoTalk ID on the side of a bathroom stall in Hongdae and see what happens?”

“No, Kookie, that’s not what I meant.” Jimin runs a hand through his messily styled blonde hair in thought and fastidiously tugs at the strands until he finds them acceptable. “And to be honest, you’ll have better luck in Itaewon considering your tastes.”

“My tastes? You and I have the same exact tastes. Your gayness is practically contagious at this point.”

Jungkook may have said that a little too loudly for a private conversation. A woman sitting in the booth to the right of them turns to look at him, scandalized.

“You’re an idiot. Being gay isn’t contagious,” Jimin says, and struggles for a few moments before settling on, “it’s like, congenital.”

“Ugh,” Jungkook groans, severely pained, “This sucks. My nails are wet, I can’t hit you for being annoying.”

“Right,” Jimin cedes. “Because you’re vulnerable.”

Jungkook nods. Finally, Jimin is beginning to understand him. Angels are singing. The clouds part, revealing pure, undulated sunlight—

“That’s why I’m making you a Tinder.”

—Wait, what.

“Excuse me?” Jungkook stammers out. Did Jimin just say what he think he said?

“Tinder, Jungkook. The dating app.” At Jungkook’s blank expression, Jimin sighs and tries again. “The one people use to meet new people and go out with?”

“I know what Tinder is,” Jungkook says, still a bit confused, “I’m just not sure what possessed you to think that I want anything to do with it.”

It’s not exactly true. Objectively, Jungkook understands that his dependence on his two friends can’t be a long term thing; fully acknowledging that fact is another story, though, and ignoring that reality about himself is far more desirable than practicing any typical social interaction. Jungkook isn’t a recluse—he enjoys doing things on his own for a change of pace outside of their apartment, and finds walking around in nature to be almost excessively motivational for his writing—but he’s not good at branching out. Jimin would probably say that his obsession with Rap Monster’s RM album is the only interest he’s had in other people since birth.

But Tinder? Really? Two years of dedicated friendship and this is what Jimin and Taehyung have come up with? Sure, Jungkook is lonely and bored and frankly a little unusual due to isolation, but come on. He doesn’t need somebody demeaning his lack of interpersonal prowess. He can do all of that by himself.

But Jimin’s face is uncharacteristically serious. His lips are pulled into a tight-lipped frown, fingers pressing hard enough into his empty disposable coffee cup to create small divots against the plastic. Eyes not glowing; no, they’re much more expressive, emphatically genuine.

“You’re actually serious about this,” Jungkook realizes.

Jungkook thinks of Taehyung saying you’re good at being fine, and understands what exactly that means.

Jungkook can’t say no to Jimin whenever he’s serious about something. It’s his greatest weakness. His body is programmed to prove that he can do the things that he’s been asked to do, and by now, his blood is 6.2% praise.

“Just make the account, okay, Kookie?” Oh, fuck. There it is. The soft, encouraging tone that makes him melt. The endearing sound of his nickname on Jimin’s tongue. “Break it out if you’re bored. I don’t care if you’re using it just to message random people or if you wanna fuck around, but have it. I hate seeing you so listless all the time.”

“I just can’t believe my intervention is a dating app,” Jungkook grumbles.

It’s as close to a yes as Jimin will get, and the older seems to notice this too. He jumps up unexpectedly from his chair with a smile on his face and grips onto Jungkook’s hands in a deathlock, almost dancing in place as he shakes the horrified younger. They speak at the same time:

“I’m so proud of you, Kookie! Thank you, thank you, thank you—”

“Jimin, get your grubby little fingers off my nails; they’re still wet oh my god—”

 


 

It turns out that making a dating profile is way harder than it looks. After several hours of struggling with the limits of the Korean language to convey Jungkook’s entire personality in five-hundred characters, he ends up with something vaguely good enough.

Jungkook, 20

Writer, broke college student, nail polish enthusiast

Looking for someone to keep up with the demands of my non existent social life. Will 100% make you into a character in my upcoming novel. I know what the word “accolade” means and will give the answer to you two ways if you treat me to an expensive meal.

Not interested in making an effort to actually scroll through other profiles, Jungkook casts his phone to the other side of his bed and sinks into the warmth of his thick blankets. It’s a little past ten by now, and a day full of classes combined with supplementary studying with Taehyung has left him stretched thin from stress. He considers how to spend his night, surveying his options:

  1. Write poetry in iambic pentameter about the cognitive dissonance one experiences when they want to turn into a full-blown gym rat but lack the funds to possess a gym membership
  2. Online shop for throwing knives to understand the feeling of exhilaration one of Jungkook’s characters experiences when they themselves throw knives
  3. Watch season 6 of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix
  4. Masturbate and then watch season 6 of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix

It really is astonishing how interesting Jungkook’s life is.

He shops for the knives before he forgets, Amazon Prime’ing the fuck out of a stainless steel set with red-corded handles along with a self-indulgent pack of 0.38mm pens to arrive tomorrow. The poetry is going to have to wait for the nice pens to arrive, so he discards that option. Jimin is home, and his room is right next to Jungkook’s—while Jungkook very much could try to stay quiet while fisting his dick like an insatiable teenager until he reaches dissatisfying orgasm, he knows that it’s not realistic. He likes things drawn out, likes to be loud.

Option 3 it is, then.

He’s going to need snacks for this. Habit states that Jungkook rifles between the folds of his blanket to snatch his phone on the way out of his bedroom so that he has something to do while waiting for his popcorn to cook in the microwave. This is because otherwise Jungkook will organize the food in the fridge by color and weight and spend upwards of twenty minutes finishing the singular task alone if he doesn’t have it. It’s a lesson in preventative measures and safety precautions. He’s a genius.

There’s four packs of popcorn left in the pantry, so Jungkook doesn’t feel bad about taking two of them for himself. He puts the first one in the microwave and presses the conveniently labelled button on the surface of the machine titled POPCORN. He pours himself a tall glass of water, then sits on the counter adjacent to the sink with his phone in hand.

The Tinder app stares Jungkook in the face the second he unlocks his phone, deceptively close to the Naver Webtoons app that he was interested in opening in the first place. I’m watching you, Jungkook threatens the small icon, as if it can hear him. He waits several seconds for it to do something, but when nothing inevitably happens, he clicks on the app with the pad of his thumb dejectedly and waits for it to start up.

A sequence of profiles appear on the screen, categorized by people in Jungkook’s general vicinity that share similar interests to him. There are rules to this, Jungkook has learned. Swiping left means no, and swiping right means yes.

He pictures the production meeting in which a pig-faced business man in a suit a size too small proposes this simplistic, key feature to the team, saying something overtly cliché like even a chimpanzee could figure it out! The businessmen around the table clap for this innovative idea and stop for a coffee break. This motivates Jungkook to fuck around with this rule, as it is entirely dictated by personal preference. The businessmen screech like banshees in response.

Because Jungkook doesn’t have an ulterior motive or goal for using Tinder, he decides to make a game out of it. He switches rules as they begin to prove less interesting while sticking to a few basic ones: Every person must be around Jungkook’s age and male. Swipe left if the person’s profile has the letter E in it. Swipe right if the profile looks like an obvious catfish. Super like anybody with a pet in their profile that isn’t a cat or a dog.

Sometimes, Jungkook connects with other people, and an odd animation sequence appears on the screen to tell him It’s a match! Uninterested in these users as anything other than objects for passing time, Jungkook recklessly messages them first.

Jungkook’s favorite profile, by far, is one claiming to be Kim Namjoon, otherwise known by his stage name Rap Monster. He’s a notorious rapper in the underground scene that manages to break the Naver Top 100 chart whenever he releases a new track, and Jungkook has been a fan of him for years now. The notion that anybody would be fooled by the high quality photos of Namjoon rapping and experiencing nature on his profile is hilarious to Jungkook. He reads the bio:

Namjoon, 23
Seoul, South Korea
9.8 km away

If I’m not rapping, I’m writing. I’ll take you out if you teach me how to work Tinder. #accidentalrightswipes #wtfisasuperlike

Jungkook swipes right, per his personal rules, and is surprised when the It’s a match! animation shows up on his screen.

The microwave beeps, signalling that Jungkook’s second bag of popcorn is finished. He decides to send a quick message before retrieving the bag and pouring both of them into a bigger bowl.

Jungkook
lol obvious catfish but i’ll still bite...what’s up?

Back on his bed, Jungkook gets under the blankets with the popcorn nestled underneath his left arm. He scoops a handful of the buttery snack with his free hand and shoves it in his mouth, pressing play with the back of his palm.

It’s not until after the first episode is over that Jungkook decides to check his phone. Alleged Kim Namjoon replied to his message seven minutes ago.

Namjoon
not sure what you mean, but thanks for biting anyway
i dropped this mug my friend gave me so i’m trying to fix it. me + gorilla glue is a dangerous combination i think 3 of my fingers are stuck together
you?

Jungkook snorts. He paws at the bottom of his bowl for the kernels laying there and crunches them in his mouth for no other reason than the fact that they’re the only thing available. He mulls over the pros and cons of talking to this person. Catfishers are dangerous, he knows, but impersonating someone as well-known as Kim Namjoon seems more like parody than manipulation.

That, and Jungkook said he’d bite.

Jungkook
watching the new season of oitnb before my hyungs spoil it for me...basic, i know
idk if having all ur fingers glued together lowers the chances, but try not to cut urself on the glass!!

This is okay, right? Jungkook’s knowledge of Tinder etiquette only extends so far. His other conversations have both started and ended with abysmal pickup lines and responseless greetings. For some reason, Jungkook didn’t really think that he’d...get this far, even given the circumstances.

He hits play on the show and keeps the chat log open, praying that his ability to multitask has evolved enough to handle low to moderate stimulation.

It’s ten minutes into the episode when Namjoon sends another message. Jungkook debates on either ignoring it to continue the episode or just forgetting about his show entirely, the odd excitement at talking to a complete stranger too ubiquitous for him not to. The scene is just beginning on his laptop screen, and it’s already almost eleven; his online conversationalist might be going to sleep soon. It’s best not to miss this chance. Jungkook closes his laptop and places it on the nightstand next to his bed along with the empty popcorn bowl, rolling onto his side to get more comfortable.

Namjoon
i may have cut my fingers on the glass

Jungkook
my expectations were honestly not that high in the first place


Namjoon
i’m older than you. don’t push it

Jungkook
fine
my apologies, hyung-nim. how may i repay u for my insolence

Namjoon
stop being insolent
cmon, jungkook, this isn’t rocket science

Jungkook laughs aloud before he can stop himself.

Jungkook
rocket science might be easier than keeping up w witty convo, but who am i to judge

Namjoon
i believe that the highest judge of our character is ourselves

Jungkook
deep

Namjoon
thanks

Jungkook
well, how bout we meet up for coffee sometime if ur into that?
and if concerned about my potential serial killer status, allow me to suggest platonic bro coffee. it’s the same thing but more no homo

Namjoon doesn’t reply after that message. Jungkook worries pathetically that he’s exposed the catfish too soon and scared the poor guy off, caught between intrigue of the mystique behind this complete stranger and the unexpected enjoyment of their conversation. Jungkook doesn’t want to admit it, but he would be disappointed if their interaction was cut off this early; his innately competitive personality hates the idea of losing to his own lack of skills, and paired with his naggingly self-conscious brain, he’s easily upset.

Jungkook has resigned to go to bed by the time his phone finally buzzes, toothbrush shoved in his mouth as he stands in front of his bathroom mirror to get to bed at a reasonable time. He brightens at the notification, humming as he finishes cleaning his teeth and washing his face. Jungkook opens the message, not knowing what to expect.

Namjoon
i’m into coffee...but i kind of wanna take everything slow, platonic bro version of meeting or not. u seem cool but i’m new to all this lol
not how tinder works ik so it’s cool if you aren’t interested

Jungkook understands. Maybe the reason why this person is impersonating Kim Namjoon is because they’re lonely or insecure about themselves and don’t know how to reach out. Keeping the façade is an important part of talking to Jungkook, then, by this logic. He gets it. Some shit is harder than other shit, and meeting new people is a prime example of this. Sometimes, it’s easier to be somebody else.

Jungkook
u asking me to go steady w u on tinder?

Namjoon
i think so lmao

Jungkook thinks about it for a few moments. Why the fuck not?

Jungkook
count me in

 

Chapter Text

“Alright, I’m heading out,” Taehyung announces, rubbing at his temples with a frown. He stands, gathering his textbooks before shoving them messily into their respective place in his backpack. He slings it on his shoulders. “I’ll leave the apartment unlocked until you get back. Minnie said he cooked already, so hope for something remotely edible in the fridge.”

“Thanks,” Jungkook says, not looking up from his computer. He glances at the clock on the screen out of habit: 9:04 PM.

They’ve been in the library for the past three and a half hours by now, but Jungkook is insistent upon studying at their small table on the second floor until he becomes illiterate from staring at his laptop for too long. A part of him knows that he should go home at a reasonable hour, but the other part of him knows that if he doesn’t get this writing kick out of his system while it’s still there, he’ll never have another opportunity.

Sanity, or fleeting inspiration? Fuck social curfews. He’d die for this.

“And no dropping dead. Passing onto the afterlife without me is just plain selfish.”

Well, okay, Jungkook thinks, aggressively backtracking.

“I’ll do what I can,” Jungkook says, tone light and joking, “but if God decides to take me while you’re gone, then I can’t help that.”

Taehyung’s smile, bright and wide, betrays his words. He crosses his arms awkwardly with the padding of his backpack’s straps interfering with the tight-locked stance and bites his tongue to keep from grinning. “Guess I’ll have to take it up with the big man, then.”

“I don’t think you’re even allowed on church property.”

“Probably not.” Taehyung leans forward to peck Jungkook’s cheek sloppily, laughing at the groan of dissatisfaction in response. “See you at home.”

“God, you’re like my mom.”

“Fuck you. I am your mom.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. See you at home, Mom.”

Taehyung laughs as he pushes his chair in and exits, leaving Jungkook to wipe at the gross spot of saliva on his cheek from the older’s antics with the back of his hand. He grimaces as he retrieves a small bottle of hand sanitizer from his backpack and cleans his palms with the substance, pinching his nose and applying it thinly onto his cheek for good measure, too. He is both severely underwhelmed and completely appalled by Taehyung’s actions. He should just name the bottle of sanitizer after him.

Jungkook stretches, arms above head, as he rolls his neck in half-circles. He stares down his incomplete essay, mulling over the last paragraph’s sanctity before giving himself the green light to continue it, pleased. Jungkook does the math in his head—with more than a little difficulty, but if he wanted to fuck around with numbers for a living then he would have a much more gratifying and necessary work ethic than I’m trying —and if he continues at this pace, he’ll be finished within an hour. Not ideal, but not terrible. At least he’ll be done before the library closes for the night.

With a new resolve, Jungkook gets to work. Writing an essay has proved to be a stress-inducing act of emotional catharsis, born from stitching sentences together with calculated syntax. He finds diction to be boring, far too precarious in its niche of connotation, but revels in the idea of using just the right word just the right way. It’s exhilarating. Sometimes, Jungkook wonders if he’s the only one like this: visualizing words onto a spatial plane where they can be stretched and manipulated into something artistic.

He autopilots his works cited, too busy contemplating his erroneous state of being that both doesn’t require any thought and way too much of it—then catches himself. Smiles. Tugs at the train of thought from the bottom of its illustrious pit and reels it back into a tight, ugly coil.

God, he sounds like fucking Namjoon.

Jungkook turns in his essay after skimming it quickly and then reaches for his phone like a madman. He should probably do something about his growing attachment to a catfishing stranger whose identity he knows nothing about. Fumbling fingers tap at the Tinder icon on his phone and flick up the private message tab.

He isn’t going to do jack shit about it.

Jungkook
i used the word “erroneous” in my head without using a dictionary
what the literal fuck do u think ur doing to me?

Satisfied with his progress, Jungkook packs up his laptop and charger inattentively. His brain is glorified Jell-O at this point bar the artificial cherry flavoring; cheap, over the counter migraine medicine will serve as his drug of choice for the night, rebound headache from Advil overdose or not. The small detour will be good, anyway. His foot has fallen asleep and his eyes are burning from the computer screen.

Jungkook turns left down the street after exiting the library. The streets are busy, considering both the hour and time of year, the uninviting winter chill doing nothing to act as a deterrent from the rampant city tourism. Jungkook shoves his headphones into his ears and puts on RM, his fingers tapping the album and the shuffle button without hesitation. He bumps into a woman wearing a tacky pink vest and clunky heels in what he swears is an accident, then power walks the rest of the way to the small convenience store on the corner of an intersection.

Namjoon’s response comes a few minutes after Jungkook has arrived at the store and is in the process of mulling over what the actual difference between Advil and Aleve is. The cashier is staring at him, like this is a pivotal moment for the two of them. Jungkook dumps the Aleve into his hand cart because it just sounds prettier and hopes he hasn’t disappointed them.

Namjoon
educating you
wild, ik

“₩7,500,” the cashier says, like Jungkook isn’t getting robbed for being in pain. She’s young, probably still in high school, so Jungkook doesn’t voice his frustrations towards the South Korean tax system to her.

“Of course,” he says instead.

Jungkook hands over the money with a small smile that does a subpar job of covering up his social anxiety and makes sure their hands don’t touch when she gives him his change. He’s finicky with physical contact with strangers, whether he’d like to admit it or not. Thinking this brings him back to Namjoon, and he takes out his phone to type a message.

Jungkook
pls educate me as to why i just paid ₩7,500 for a bottle of aleve. i have loans, namjoon

His phone buzzes indistinctly with it shoved against the medicine in his hand. A block of text lights up the screen. Holy fuck.

Namjoon
maybe because we live in a capitalistic society that punishes the working class for merely existing, much of which is heavily exemplified by the inaccessibility of adequate insurance and affordable healthcare...which are basic needs of any individual, but god forbid our blood-sucking government takes its proverbial fangs out of our necks and sees that we’re bleeding to death. no, let’s inflate prices on amenities and console struggling young adults by digging their graves for them so they don’t have to!!

Jungkook
are u ok

Namjoon
...no

Jungkook
deep breaths, big guy

Namjoon
i just get a little bit emotional sometimes

Jungkook
nothing wrong with that
i mean if the system’s gonna fuck us over, why not make it our bitch

Namjoon
u don’t mind?

Jungkook thinks about it for all of three seconds. Sure, a warning before effectively transforming into a feral Karl Marx would have been ideal, but it’s entertaining and—god, dare Jungkook have to fucking say this about a literal stranger he doesn’t even know the real name of—a little bit endearing.

Jungkook
not at all. it’s cool that ur so passionate about shit

Namjoon
huh
thanks, kook
nobody’s ever said anything like that to me

Jungkook can’t fight the blush that spreads across his cheeks. It’d be impossible to.

Namjoon has become somewhat of a constant in Jungkook’s life over the past two weeks that they’ve been talking. It’s hard not to fall into his charm and easy way of speaking, that odd type of humor that’s the right side of self-deprecation and absurdity that has Jungkook rolling on the floor laughing. Namjoon rants about the pain of fleeting moments in life after dropping his favorite ceramic mug on the floor of his kitchen. He complains about his shit sleep schedule because his roommate’s boyfriends never stop coming around their apartment to fuck at odd hours of the morning. Two days ago, Namjoon drunk texted Jungkook a keyboard smash with the only explanation being a text the next morning that said sorry, i was trying to spell my name with my nose. bad idea.

Namjoon doesn’t particularly talk about himself, but Jungkook doesn’t expect that. Chatting about daily life and stresses that occur in passing might seem trivial or inconsequential, but they mean a lot to Jungkook. He likes hearing about the small things. He likes knowing about what goes on in a person’s life.

Jungkook worries that they won’t be able to properly be friends in the future. For all he knows, he might be talking to an ex-con with a lonely streak and a penchant for 80’s American hip-hop who doesn’t want to ever reveal their identity. Jungkook shoves that idea in the back of his mind for another time. He’d rather think about anything else than that.

True to Taehyung’s word, the apartment is unlocked when Jungkook gets back. He locks the door properly once inside and maneuvers to take his winter coat off to hang up before passing the living room.

Jimin and Taehyung are lounging on the sofa while what looks like an episode of Wildest Islands: Sri Lanka plays lowly on the TV, Taehyung passed out against Jimin’s chest in nothing but a pair of grey sweatpants. Jimin lights up when he sees Jungkook, frowning as his gaze flickers to the bottle of Aleve in the younger’s hands for just a moment. He smiles again quickly.

“Did you get some work done at the library?” Jimin asks.

“Just an essay,” Jungkook answers. His tone is quiet as to not wake Taehyung.

Jungkook drops his backpack off at the foot of the sofa and pads to the kitchen to fill up a glass of water for the medication he bought. His headache has escalated from a dull throb to a stabbing feeling at the back of his eyelids, a familiar sensation from studying for an extended period of time. Two pills will have to suffice in order for any interaction to take place. Jungkook fumbles with the child lock on the cap for a few moments before shaking two gel capsules onto his palm. Taking a swig of water, he throws them back and fishes for the leftovers Jimin left for him in the fridge to accompany it.

Jimin has scooted towards the middle of the small, understuffed sofa by the time Jungkook arrives back to the living room. He flashes a smile at the older in thanks before settling down in the created space, resting his head on Jimin’s shoulder. It’s warm, all body heat and cushioning.

“You’re doing well,” Jimin mutters into the crown of Jungkook’s head, playing with the strands of his hair absentmindedly. The praise is like honey in Jungkook’s veins, and he preens at it. “You find anybody to talk to yet?”

“Sort of.” Jungkook leans into Jimin’s touch and closes his eyes. “I’m not sure where it’ll go.”

Jimin hums in response.

There’s a dog food commercial playing on the TV. Jungkook watches the puppy on the screen eat from an aluminum bowl with mild interest. The audio is muted, so there isn’t much of a point to it, but Jungkook likes animals. The puppy barks happily, but there’s no sound to hear it. You’re adorable, Jungkook thinks anyway, and privately maps out the amount of time that it’d take for him to become financially stable enough to take care of a dog. He’s banking on three years if he’s lucky.

Jungkook is not a very lucky person. He discards this train of thought entirely.

“You’re thinking about adopting a dog, aren’t you,” Jimin says, nodding at the screen.

“Guilty.”

They laugh. The commercial changes to a landscape with a new Hyundai model driving through the countryside. Jungkook closes his eyes again.

“We’re not gonna leave you when we graduate, you know.” Taehyung snores lightly from the other side of the sofa like he’s attesting to Jimin’s words. Jungkook smiles.

“I know.” He does know.

“You’re a pain in the ass sometimes, but we care about you,” Jimin says. It’s a moment of vulnerability, this honesty, from the hour or the low lighting Jungkook isn’t sure. He knows better than to break this moment with some poorly articulated dig about his hyung’s sappiness, so he keeps quiet.

“Even when I bug you when I’m bored?”

Jimin snorts. “Yeah, even then.” He rearranges their position slightly so Jungkook’s head is resting on his chest, Jimin’s arm wrapped around the younger’s shoulders. “Doesn’t matter. We care no matter what.”

He can’t help himself. Forgive me Lord, for I am a little bitch.

“...That’s pretty fucking lame, Jimin.”

Jimin shoves Jungkook off of his chest. Jungkook’s cackle is so loud that it wakes Taehyung up.

 


 

This is getting a little out of hand.

Open on Jungkook’s laptop is Rap Monster’s Wikipedia page, exactly where it’s been sitting for the past hour and a half waiting for him to grow the fuck up and read it. He hasn’t gotten past the first sentence, admittedly, too worried for his well-being if he were to read more and too prideful to even entertain the idea that his rising obsession with the rapper may or may not have to do with a certain person impersonating him on Tinder. It’s embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as the fact that Jungkook is drinking straight from a bottle of gin to give him the courage to do this. Sobriety, at this point, is just a scam.

Kim Namjoon, better known as Rap Monster, is a South Korean rapper, songwriter, and record producer.

Jungkook throws back another giant swig and hisses at the burn in his throat. No. No thanks. Not going to happen.

Jungkook can feel his heart rate increasing in his chest. This may or may not be accentuated by the alcohol buzzing in his system, but he’ll do anything to emulate his complete and lack of utter control in his life by turning into a hot mess while alone in his room on a Wednesday night.

Calm down, dipshit, you only read sixteen words, his mind uselessly supplies. Jungkook internally formulates a plan to move to a remote island off the coast of Tuvalu to successfully evade any exposure and thought process regarding Kim Namjoon. It’s for his health, he justifies. He can write his novel on palm fronds. The idea of eating bugs and scavenging in the searing island heat suddenly sounds appealing.

But Overwatch, his mind reasons.

Fuck you, Jungkook childishly thinks back.

He’s being dramatic. He knows this. Yet somehow, he can’t find it within himself to care. Jungkook forces himself to believe that he is appropriately affronted at the existence of a man that he doesn’t even know, even if he is tall and attractive with a wide, dimpled-smile...With more accomplishments in the music industry under his belt than Jungkook can even dream of acquiring for himself...While maintaining a notoriously confident and intimidatingly intelligent image...And possessing body proportions that make Jungkook’s head spin if he thinks about it for too long...

Yes, this is definitely getting out of hand.

 


 

Jungkook
i thought of u today

Namjoon
gay
tell me about it

Jungkook
found a giant wad of chewed gum under the table at the library

Namjoon
why on earth did that make you think of me

Jungkook
it was wintermint??
didn’t u tell me once that u love wintermint gum

Namjoon
i mean
i do enjoy wintermint gum a little bit more than the average guy

Jungkook
then it’s valid. no take backs

Namjoon
thanks, kook
who knew u were such a romantic

 


 

The rungs of the monkey bars are loose and rusty. They creak as Jungkook moves across them two by two.

Children play on this, he realizes. Children play on this with their small hands and struggle with just one rung at a time while their bodies dangle helplessly from the top of the structure. And yet here Jungkook is the night before his biggest final with his knees up to his chest doing double time because somehow he grew up and got taller and has to compensate now. Part of him thinks this is unfair. He gets to the other side in less than ten seconds anyway.

He gives in. This is acceptable. 5/10.

There’s a layer of snow settled over the ground like a blanket, pure and untouched. Jungkook reaches down to swipe at it with his fingers and pack it into a ball, hissing at the contact of the cold against his bare hands. It’s not his best work—actually, it’s kind of fucking ugly—but nobody’s going to say anything about the dirt and wood chips sticking to the snowball, so. His nonexistent standards can be broken.

Jungkook throws the snowball as far as he can. A metal thunk resounds from the other end of the playground as it hits a recycling bin. For some reason, this is extremely satisfying.

I am an adult, Jungkook thinks.

The next fifteen minutes are subsequently spent throwing snowballs in the general vicinity of the metal bins past the point in which Jungkook’s fingers have gone numb and red from the cold. At one point he has to walk the distance to wipe off all of the snow splattered onto the surface of the recycling bin because it’s completely covered and doesn’t make the same, gratifying noise.

Thunk. Another snowball hits. Jungkook, pathetically, has never felt this alive.

Jungkook is just beginning to be concerned about frostbite when his phone buzzes. He doesn’t have to look to know who it is; Taehyung would have joined him tonight if he wasn’t so busy studying, and Jimin practically threw Jungkook out of the house the second he suggested making tomato face masks together instead of helping the older review for his cognitive neuroscience final.

“Please don’t have sprained your other thumb while playing competitive Jenga with your friends,” Jungkook mumbles as he retrieves his phone with numb hands, “I can’t do twenty minute replies for one sentence again. I deserve more than that—”

Jungkook’s stomach drops.

Namjoon
i need you
call, if you can.

It takes an embarrassingly long amount of time to type the phone number written at the bottom of the text into Jungkook’s phone. Fuck cold hands. Fuck throwing snowballs at a recycling bin for twenty minutes to fulfill whatever odd need Jungkook has inside of him.

He doesn’t think about the fact that if he calls Namjoon, it’ll be the first time that they’ll have legitimately spoken—right now, his unusual conversationalist partner of the past month needs him. This is the same guy who falls down two flights of stairs and calls it typical. God knows what the fuck is going on.

Part of Jungkook is, as embarrassing as it sounds, excited. He can’t deny the magnetism that he feels towards the other. Namjoon is compelling and intricate simply in his way of speech; curiosity blooms from the tips of Jungkook’s fingers at the prospect of getting a chance to listen to him speak in real life, unabashed as he goes on about his interests and beliefs without pause.

Jungkook shivers. He hits the green dial button on his phone.

Namjoon answers on the sixth ring.

“Kook,” Namjoon says. Says with his lips, Jungkook’s nickname on Namjoon’s lips, and Jungkook just—just loses it for a moment.

Namjoon’s voice is deeper than he thought it would be. Smooth and alluring, familiar. Like something Jungkook has heard a thousand times before and committed to memory, stayed up trying to understand the syntax and diction of a single sentence pouring out of his mouth.

“Kook? You there?”

Jungkook pushes that thought away for now.

“Yeah,” Jungkook replies. He swallows. Clears his throat. “I’m here.”

Namjoon laughs, then, low and breathless. It sounds strained. “Sorry for calling so late.”

“It’s alright,” Jungkook reassures him. “I was up.”

He doesn’t think that they’re at the point in their relationship in which Jungkook can disclose the fact that he’s been pelting a recycling bin with snowballs for the past fifteen minutes. Maybe some other time. A late Christmas present? He’ll have to schedule it or something when his heart isn’t about to get acquainted with the outside of his body from beating so hard it bursts right out of his chest.

“Yeah, but you have that big final tomorrow, don’t you?”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

Namjoon snorts. “You told me God is gonna fuck you over so hard that the immaculate conception will look like a bro-hug.”

“I said that?”

“Uh-huh. Verbatim.”

“Shit.”

Namjoon cracks up on the other line, Jungkook joining him easily. The sound of Namjoon laughing, deep and hearty and loud, is enough to leave the younger reeling. It feels as if any lingering tension inside of him that he had felt has vanished, the awkward hesitation that had accumulated the second he hit the dial button distant in the back of his mind. It might be the late night or the fact that Jungkook’s body is quite literally convulsing from the cold, but he nearly allows himself to feel giddy. That is, until he remembers why Namjoon needed to call him in the first place.

Jungkook jogs towards the park exit. His phone is a temperamental, melodramatic piece of shit that drains its battery whenever it gets cold, and he’d rather not have to make Namjoon wait twenty minutes for him to get to a decent charger. Jungkook grabs his backpack from off the bench next to the swingset and struggles with slipping it around his shoulders with his cell phone wedged between his ear and shoulder.

A comfortable silence settles over the two of them.

“Talk to me,” Jungkook prompts, voice gentle. He’s realizes, belatedly, how much he wants to help. He wants to do anything that he can do for Namjoon.

Jungkook has always been an empathetic person. His grandmother used to tell him that his heart was the size of ocean, able to touch the coasts of every land and be filled with both low and high tides. She said that his emotionality was an intrinsic and valuable part of himself. It was nothing for him to be ashamed of. Sensitivity is difficult to understand if you aren’t born with it thrumming through your veins. Jungkook likes to think that he’s good at being able to understand people, even if it’s hard to apply it and relate to them, get close to them.

“Do you ever just feel stuck?” Namjoon takes a deep breath. The other line becomes muffled with the sound of air blowing over the speaker.

Jungkook nods before realizing that Namjoon can’t see him. He takes a turn down one of the busier streets, phone in between his cheek and shoulder while clenching his numb fists in a pathetic attempt to restore some semblance of heat back into them, saying, “Yeah. Nothing is happening, but you still feel overwhelmed.”

Maybe talking to Namjoon has made Jungkook better at relating to other people. In the harsh weather, he blushes.

“That’s it—that’s exactly what it is. I feel doubtful and lost and it’s like everything has just blurred together, you know? Like; why am I doing what I’m doing right now? What’s the point?”

“Well, why did you start?”

Namjoon is silent on the other end. Jungkook grips onto the cold surface of his phone and jogs as fast as he can on the ice-slick streets to get back to his apartment, joints stiff. His ears are fucking freezing, holy shit. Everything feels heightened. Every breath, every step, every beat. For the second time, it hits him: he’s talking to Namjoon. The voice on the other end of this call is Namjoon. Namjoon.

“You started for a reason,” Jungkook continues, because he doesn’t know what else to say. Namjoon is pensive on a daily basis; he’s as good as astral projecting onto a spiritual plane at the moment. “I don’t know what you’re stuck on, and I know this sounds really fucking dumb, but—you have me.”

“Kook,” Namjoon says, Jungkook’s nickname an exhale, and Jungkook shivers.

“Well,” he backtracks awkwardly, trying to find the right way to say what he means to say, “not just me, of course. That grumpy best friend of yours, too, and his boyfriends—the 3D sunshine guy and the model with the twelve-step skin care routine.”

Namjoon laughs. “Yeah. I got them, too.”

“It’ll all be okay, hyung.”

“Thanks.”

Jungkook thinks that’s the end of the call, but there’s something in Namjoon’s tone that says otherwise. Something hopeful, if not hesitant. Jungkook is just reaching his apartment building. He jogs a bit faster to get there and rummages in his pocket for his keys.

“Say, Kook,” Namjoon starts, and Jungkook’s ugly, internal teenage girl that occupies nearly ninety percent of both his irrational and rational thinking starts screeching like a pterodactyl, “I want to meet you.”

“You do?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon says. He laughs, like it’s a ridiculous thing to ask. Jungkook is so excited that he’s nauseous. It’s a little gross. “Can we meet?”

"Yeah." Jungkook ignores the odd twist in his stomach at the idea of seeing Namjoon in person. He nods vigorously, like one of those bobbleheads they sell in overpriced gift shops. Up and down, up and down. "Yeah, we can meet." 

Chapter Text

“I think this is what people call a red flag, Kookie.”

“No, Jimin, this is an iPhone. C’mon, it’s not even red. It’s black.”

“Taehyung,” Jungkook says, sighing with exasperation. For good measure, he glares at the both of his roommates sitting across from him as if they’re putrefying organic matter. “I love you, but please, please shut the fuck up.”

Taehyung grumbles under his breath about how nobody in this household ever appreciates him. Both Jungkook and Jimin are too exhausted to stop him from going on this rant. It’s the fourth time he’s gone off today, anyway, and this is both better and much more manageable than a few hours ago when he tried to sell Jimin a feral cat that he found on the side of the road. He cried in the middle of his sales pitch when it scratched his elbow hard enough to bleed. The neighbors banged on the wall in complaint for twenty minutes.

Jungkook hadn’t intended on telling anybody that he was going to meet Namjoon this afternoon. Actually, on a list of things that Jungkook was majorly keen on avoiding, mentioning the fact that he was going to meet his catfish in person and offer to buy him a coffee was at the top of the list. There’s just something about the look on Jimin’s face when he yells at Jungkook for doing something completely idiotic that doesn’t sit right with him. It might be the deep-set frown on his face or the pointedly sharp gaze, or maybe the fact that Taehyung likes to watch when it happens and cheer Jimin on for moral support as Jungkook sinks deeper and deeper into his proverbial grave.

It’s probably that.

Jimin snatches Jungkook’s phone from the other side of the dining table with aggravated abandon, the device clanging against the porcelain squirrel centerpiece that Taehyung stole from Bed Bath and Beyond as he retrieves it. Jungkook blankly watches as Jimin inputs his passcode and opens the Tinder app to get to his and Namjoon’s conversation, this nosy behavior the exact reason why the older had even found out that they were meeting in the first place, and doesn’t even blink as the screen is shoved into both his and Taehyung’s face.

“What does this say.” It’s not even a question, the way Jimin says it.

“Um,” Jungkook fails to articulate.

He knows how to read. His brain just feels waterlogged.

Taehyung, fortunately, does it for him. Slowly, the older reads: “‘Meet me at the abandoned playground you told me about— Kookie, I think Jimin’s right—”

“There’s another message!” Jungkook interrupts sharply, his tone defensive enough to make even himself internally cringe, “you have to read the next one.”

Taehyung gives him a look, eyebrows furrowed and lips pursed. Because Jungkook has the dexterity of an infant and would like to continue to live his life without being cut into asymmetrical chunks, he recoils in an act of submission. Taehyung is the opposite of intimidating in any and all contexts and prefers pacifism over any form of violence, but he’s petty as fuck. Jungkook will forcibly remove himself from their apartment’s lease agreement if his body lotion is replaced with mayonnaise again.

“Please?” Jungkook settles for instead.

Taehyung’s smile is saccharine enough to make Jungkook shiver. There is something so purely acerbic about Taehyung’s personality that has managed to circumvent all suspicion, and Jungkook has never been able to shake off the feeling of skepticism and faint distrust that he feels around the older. He wonders if this is what conspiracists feel like when they meet someone who is secretly an alien.

Jimin flicks at Taehyung to hurry up. The moment passes. Jungkook considers making a theory board.

Taehyung reads the other half of the text: “‘...And then we can walk to Wide Awake for coffee?’— Jiminie, is this the place that does buy-one-get-one-free pastries after two o’ clock?”

“What?” Jimin asks blankly, whiplash from the switch in Taehyung’s demeanor, “I mean, yeah. I guess it is.”

“It is?” Taehyung gasps in childish wonder. “Oh, fuck yeah. Kookie, I’ll make your nails look really good for this guy if you want. Those pastries are so good. My funeral is going to be catered by that place.”

“Your funeral?” Jungkook chokes out.

Taehyung smiles kindly in response.

Red yarn might not look good on Jungkook’s theory board because it clashes with his brown walls. He wonders if the nearest department store sells a deep burgundy instead.

“You can’t meet this guy,” Jimin says, bringing them back to the point of this conversation while maintaining a strict tone. Jungkook finds this façade of authority hilarious, especially because Jimin still orders rainbow sprinkles on his soft-serve vanilla ice cream even though they taste like gay, glorified plastic. “He’s a catfish! He could be anybody."

“Okay, but,” Jungkook parries, annoyed that Jimin cares for his well-being so intensely when Jungkook can handle himself, “is it really a catfish if you know it’s a catfish?”

“This is not what I thought you meant when you said you were talking to somebody.”

“I said sort of!” Jungkook defends.

“And omission of information does not constitute as a liability,” Taehyung adds. Jungkook stares at him openly; a large part of him is still in shock over the fact that he managed to get Taehyung on his side with a mere mention of discounted pastries. This is groundbreaking. “No actus reus. Fuck you, your honor.”

Jimin’s glare is poisonous. I am going to die, Jungkook thinks.

Taehyung laughs wildly before whisking Jungkook into the bathroom by the wrist to grab nail supplies before any lasting damage on his body can be done. The last thing he hears Jimin saying from the dining room is a surprised, “Wait—what the fuck did you just say?"

They end up in Jungkook’s bedroom, sitting cross-legged on the floor and trying not to knock heads while bending over to see how Taehyung’s meticulous painting is turning out. The radio is tuned to a hip hop station as a means to effectively drown out Jimin’s muttered choice comments from the other room, and like a curse, Do You flows through the speakers. Jungkook takes a deep breath and relaxes his shoulders, letting Taehyung fuss about the state of his cuticles as he coats his fingernails.

It would be childish to not admit just how nervous Jungkook is to meet Namjoon. He can think of approximately twenty-three different ways that this situation can go wrong, and at least fifteen that end with Jimin blowing Jungkook’s tuition money to buy him a sick casket for his funeral. A snotty and insecure part of himself tells him to not go to the meeting in order to live past the age of twenty-five and surprise both himself and his peers around him. The irrational part of himself that’s even entertaining the idea to meet a stranger at an abandoned playground pushes him further.

The problem is is that this isn’t exactly a stranger. Namjoon is a nuance in between multiple different personality types that would otherwise clash together in one big, existential clusterfuck. Jungkook is curious about what it is exactly that makes Namjoon who he is, what would leave him scrabbling for a semblance of identity if he were to go without, what he lives by everyday of his life. Those kinds of things—the things that make you realize shit, I’m in too deep when you stop and think about it—are what Jungkook wants to know, wants to be a part of.

Taehyung finishes the top coat, layering the clear polish over the bubblegum pink of his nails with an eerie precision. Anxiety bubbles underneath Jungkook’s skin. He itches to move his hands and dig into his arms to rid the sensation.

You’ll regret wasting your nice nail polish if you don’t meet him, Jungkook thinks, gazing at the dainty way Taehyung holds his fingers up. It strikes Jungkook as appalling that this is an actual train of thought that makes him more motivated to succeed, but he’s long given into the notion of using capitalistic ideals as a means of comfort. Money buys what your debilitating self-esteem can’t conjure on its own, after all. It just depends on how much you’re willing to accept it.

Taehyung spills the top coat bottle over. It pools onto the newspaper laid over the hardwood floor and seeps under it.

Maybe this will be a good thing. Maybe it’ll go well.

 


 

This is not going well.

Jungkook sways on the swingset because his legs are too long to properly push off of them. The chains are old, and they groan with disuse at any slight movement. The snow on the ground has become a pathetic slush, wet and awful, and it’s cold enough for the windchill to bite right through Jungkook’s clothes and dig under his skin. Jungkook typically isn’t privy to complain about such trivial matters, but he’s irritated by what seems like everything right now.

Namjoon hasn’t shown up.

In the compendium of Things That Could Go Wrong that Jungkook had documented in his brain, he hadn’t anticipated being stood up. It sounds cocky to say that, but Jungkook is not a particularly cocky person—he wears baby blue sweaters and straightens his hair and can’t buy cigarettes because he doesn’t know how to properly use a lighter and has anxiety about people knowing this if he were to try to smoke one; come to think of it, Jungkook is the definition of a person that grew up with strict parents and now doesn’t understand the concept of independence as an adult—but he has standards for himself, okay? He’s wearing his nice nail polish. He ran a lint roller over his turtleneck. He’s trying.

Namjoon was supposed to meet him at four. It’s four-thirty, now, and the sun is starting to set in a muted glow behind the clouds. Jungkook stubbornly refuses to walk home and give Jimin the satisfaction that none of this worked out. He kicks at a mound of snow next to his foot and grumbles in annoyance when it inevitably gets wet. Fuck Tinder. Fuck Jimin. Fuck his poorly insulated shoes that are now wet with slush. If Namjoon decides to show up, he’s going to have to buy Jungkook two americanos to make up for it.

Jungkook is suddenly aware of the fact that his catfish’s name probably isn’t Namjoon. This feels weird to him, like the gummy space of a tooth right after being pulled out.

I bet he has a dumb name, Jungkook thinks childishly, gripping onto the swing set’s chains just to hear them creak. Something ridiculous and uncommon that sounds like a curse word. Maybe he’s actually a foreigner and uses the name Marcus. What an idiot name. He probably doesn’t even like wintermint gum.

This is good. Jungkook feels better.

It’s another ten minutes later when Jungkook’s phone—drained to twenty percent because of the cold weather, a design flaw that he would complain about if he had the type of personality that did shit like complain —buzzes in his pocket. Resigned and more than a little bit spiteful, Jungkook decides not to answer it.

His phone buzzes again. Jungkook does not waver whatsoever on his decision. All the apologies in the world don’t matter to him.

Another buzz. Fuck Marcus.

When Jungkook’s phone buzzes for the fifth time, he caves in. He makes an executive decision not to care about what the messages say, as if this is a function of the brain that he can compartmentalize and control with his childish, meaty hands. No, he rations, he’s not even going to look at them! What would be the point of listening to what some random guy catfishing him has to say—

A bang resounds from next to the twisty slide, colliding against the metal harshly. And then:

“Oh, fuck!”

Jungkook jolts in surprise, nerves spiking. What was that sound?

Jungkook reacts in the same way he envisions a person caught in a minefield would. He rises from the swingset hesitantly, his thighs stiff after being confined to the U-shaped seat, and frowns as he stretches. Jungkook, in the back of his mind, is untimely reminded once again of the fact that he is an adult with no purpose in life other than to churn out a New York Times Best Seller and then die. Focus, Jungkook, he thinks at himself, and decides to investigate. He’s always wanted to star in his own horror movie. See? Look at you. You’re focusing.

The snow sloshes around Jungkook’s shoes as he moves through it. It's a diluted brown now, stark against the muddy wood chips of the playground and tracking Jungkook's footsteps like bright paint. Sitting outside for so long has left a numbness to his body; he'd completely forgotten about how cold it was outside until he started moving.

There’s a person lying in the snow. Jungkook nearly trips over them because he doesn’t see them at first. In his surprise, it doesn’t hit him that there’s a person on the ground who is clearly unconscious and probably in need of medical attention. No, instead he steadies himself against the side of the slide and stares, transfixed at the sight in front of him.

It’s a man, no more than twenty-five, sprawled out and unconscious after a no-doubt painful collision against the side of the slide. He’s tall, a cable knit sweater pulled over his long torso and a dark pair of jeans snug on his legs, wet snow staining the deep color—

God, if you can hear me right now: fuck you and fuck your son. Amen.

It’s Kim Namjoon.

This is the same Kim Namjoon that has been haunting Jungkook for the past month and a half from inside of his wikipedia profile; the same Kim Namjoon that Jungkook assumed did not even realistically exist in his personal realm of college stress and idiosyncrasy to any degree. He pinches himself, convinced that this is a dream that he’ll inevitably wake up from in a cold sweat.

When nothing happens, he impulsively crouches next to Namjoon and pinches the man on his cheek. Maybe the movies have lied to him, he reasons. Maybe it’s the opposite, and you must pinch other people in order to escape from the vivid nightmares plaguing you about the rapper your catfish is using as a means to talk to you.

Namjoon groans from the ground, beginning to regain consciousness. Jungkook’s eyes widen; he moves his hand away from his cheek as if burned. As Namjoon opens his eyes, long lashes casting shadows against his cheekbones in the late afternoon sun, Jungkook gasps, as if witnessing the awakening of the monster from Frankenstein.

It’s alive, Henry Frankenstein screams in his brain obnoxiously, voice reaching decibels that man had previously deemed impossible for species other than dolphin to reach. Rap Monster is alive!

“Holy fuck, are you okay?” Jungkook shrieks, rattling Namjoon with an iron grip on his shoulders. Logically, he understands that this is not the best course of action to perform on a person who has sustained an obvious head injury, but he can’t help himself. He feels split in half. All executive function has ceased. It is impossible to comply with a regimen that no longer exists.

“Jungkook?” Namjoon croaks, bringing a stiff arm to his forehead. It’s red, but not bleeding; he must have banged his head against the slide there while trying to reach the swingset. It looks like it stings more than anything else.

“Hello, hi, yes; I’m Jungkook,” Jungkook babbles, caught between grabbing Namjoon’s shoulders in an effort to help him onto his feet or moving as far away as possible so as not to breathe on the rapper. Distantly, he wonders how Namjoon knows Jungkook’s name. He’s positive that they have never met before. What if he and Namjoon were enemies in a distant, past life? What if the person catfishing him on Tinder is actually a demon that needs Jungkook’s body as a sacrifice in order to complete the final ritual to possess Namjoon’s body? “Are you okay? Does anything hurt?”

“I’m fine,” Namjoon reassures, but Jungkook doesn’t miss the way that he grits his teeth as he sits up. Can demons feel pain? Is it improper etiquette to ignore a celebrity to web search whether or not demons can, in fact, feel pain? He pushes the thought away for now. He needs to focus on the task at hand; he might break a nail if consumed by his careless thought process, and that would be unacceptable. Jungkook would rather die.

“You fainted,” Jungkook reminds Namjoon, scoffing incredulously at the older’s response. “You need to be seen by a doctor.”

Namjoon scrunches his nose childishly in distaste. He refuses to comment.

Jungkook does eventually have to aid him in standing up, helping him regain balance on two separate occasions within a minute. One of these incidents nearly results in Namjoon banging his head again on the frigid, metal slide for a second time.

Namjoon searches for lumps on his head. Jungkook watches him in vexing fascination. How someone can be so attuned to the finites of their body is unclear to him. Jungkook struggles with understanding the origins of his own nausea after shoving thirty-two churros down his throat in rapid succession.

"I saw you on the swings and ran to get to you," Namjoon explains, wincing slightly, "and then I ran into the slide."

"Oh my god." 

“I think I’m fine,” Namjoon declares once he’s finished. When Jungkook opens his mouth to complain, he continues, “I really don’t want to spend our first meeting in a hospital, okay? And I want coffee.”

“Fine,” Jungkook says stubbornly. It is not fine. Namjoon’s last comment has him reeling. He has no idea what is happening. He goes along with it, wringing out the stain of confusion at the forefront of his mind as quickly as possible. “We can book you an appointment while we get some, then.”

“Jesus, Kook,” Namjoon says, almost like a curse, “I didn’t know you’d worry this much.”

His tone is almost chastising, but his expression is the opposite: eyes full of mirth, smile fond. Jungkook stares at his lips, the way they split to show beautiful rows of white teeth, and his grimey, barbaric teenage brain screams like a pterodactyl dive bombing into a volcano. Oh no, he thinks, completely devastated, he’s hot.

“Don’t make me sound like the weird one here. I’m allowed to be concerned,” Jungkook huffs. He and Namjoon start moving towards the entrance of the park, feet carrying them forward unconsciously. Part of him likes it. The other part of him is absolutely terrified. “First meetings should be a little awkward. They don’t tend to—tend to look like this.”

“Awkward?” Namjoon snorts. He walks slightly in front of Jungkook, as if he knows the area better. Thinking back on the amount of albums the rapper has most likely written while wandering through these streets, he probably does. “You don’t do awkward.”

“You wouldn’t know.” Jungkook swallows the lump in his throat that threatens to rise higher and higher until it suffocates him. “I didn’t necessarily get the chance to show you.”

“It’s all about the details with you, isn’t it?”

Jungkook is having the equivalent of six existential crises at the same time. He’s considering the probability of instantaneous time travel. Did he pass through several dimensions in his haste to get to Namjoon? They’ve never met before—certainly don’t know each other well enough to joke so lightheartedly; Namjoon’s friendliness and familiarity towards him is almost stifling—but it’s obvious that Namjoon knows him. God, if only his catfish had shown up—

Wait.

Jungkook eyes Namjoon walking next to him, committing every detail about him to memory. His clothes are sopping wet, crystals of snow tangling in his knit sweater and slush seeping into his jeans. He gesticulates wildly with his hands as he talks, almost as if his body can’t quite keep up with the speed of his thoughts. Jungkook watches his lips move, the soft pink of his tongue darting out to moisten them in the dry, winter air every so often.

And then he sees it: Namjoon is chewing wintermint gum.

Jungkook stops dead in his tracks. Suddenly, everything makes sense: the familiarity, the clumsiness, the ease. There was never a catfish at all. This entire time, Jungkook had been conversing with the most popular rapper in South Korea without knowing it. He recalls the day he read through Namjoon’s wikipedia page fervently, the way he traced the slope of his nose as it connected to his eyebrow with an infatuated gaze...

“You’re Marcus,” Jungkook blurts dumbly, interrupting whatever tangent Namjoon had been going on about. He realizes his mistake two seconds too late, blushing furiously, cheeks painted pink.

A few laborious moments pass. Namjoon opens his mouth and then closes it. “Excuse me?”

Wow, Jungkook thinks, grimacing at the evidence of Namjoon’s confusion on his face, all scrunched eyebrows and blank eyes, you sure did say that.

No, this is not going well at all.

 


 

Jungkook has never been to the coffee shop Namjoon leads them to. It’s one of those places that appears smaller from the outside than it really is on the inside, a striped awning and wooden door the only indication of its location. Jungkook nearly misses it as they walk down the icy streets, but Namjoon guides him before he passes it with a hand on the younger’s waist. His touch burns.

Jungkook’s mind is racing. He recalls moments in his life that he had considered precious—flashes of memories, like earning his black belt in taekwondo or publishing his first short story in Korea Lit when he was seventeen—and realizes that none of them amount to a fraction of honor needed to be worthy enough to get coffee with Kim fucking Namjoon. In his life he hasn’t contributed enough to the goodness of the world. How is he supposed to have a conversation with the older when he has yet to singlehandedly cure the common cold? Cancer is still out there, and Jungkook is doing nothing to solve it. How could he be so useless?

The coffee shop, for lack of better wording, could probably be used as a darkroom to develop film. The ambience is heavy and warm like a thick blanket, all strung lights adorning the walls of the dimmed area and sofas with fuzzy pillows shoved messily onto their surfaces. It looks like the kind of place that Namjoon would go to, Jungkook thinks, and then promptly disregards that thought. Any detail of Namjoon’s personal life that he had shared, Jungkook ignored entirely because it appeared to be false information created just to make him laugh. Some kind of joke that’s been run into the ground too many times, and yet you still find it funny.

“I’ll order,” Namjoon says, flashing Jungkook a quick smile. The walk here was easy, conversation flitting between the two of them without hesitation. However, as Jungkook finds himself more comfortable around Namjoon, his terror increases from mildly horrifying to extremely traumatic. “You wanna grab a table for us?”

“I can do that,” Jungkook says, nodding stiffly. Maybe Namjoon will think that this is how Jungkook typically operates from day to day life. Would it be that detrimental to their relationship if Jungkook were to act like his closest evolutionary ancestor is a robot with only a quarter of its required electricity to function? “Table or sofa?”

“Table is fine. Don’t get one of the ones too far in the back though,” Namjoon cautions, gesturing to the back wall, “it’s cold and dark, like the inside of a cave. You’ll get vertigo.”

Jungkook finds himself laughing at the absurdity of the situation.“Everything about you is a safety hazard.”

“I think the word you’re looking for is endearing.”

Namjoon is just as witty sitting next to Jungkook as he is over text. Repeat: Namjoon is just as witty sitting next to Jungkook as he is over text.

“Sure, hyung,” Jungkook says, trying out the honorific on his tongue for the first time. It comes out sweet, like dark honey spilling right out of his mouth. God, Jimin would kill him if he found out that Jungkook was enjoying showing respect to somebody else. “And charming, and charismatic, and exasperating.”

“Wow,” Namjoon says, tone childish and mocking, “you sure have convinced me that you know more words than a twelve year old, Kook.”

“You did this to me,” Jungkook chastises, nudging Namjoon with his elbow. “I told Jimin he was studying ‘scrupulously’ last night for his finals, and he started going on about how oh, you just can’t call me a dick anymore; now you have to abuse an entire language to do it.’ I was trying to call him diligent.”

Jimin. Why didn’t Jungkook think of this earlier?

Namjoon snorts. “Are you actually blaming me for furthering your vocabulary?”

“I’m serious,” Jungkook pouts, “he made Taehyung refuse to give me ice cream after dinner, too, like my mom or something. It’s your fault. I hate you.”

Namjoon smiles, then, something genuine and bright that makes Jungkook want to both look away and stare. Namjoon’s dimples are like craters in the side of his face, half moon, waning crescent. Jungkook finds himself lucky for the low lighting. It masks the deep blush on his face, his wandering eyes that flit from the corners of the rapper’s mouth to the strong set of his jaw, down to the side of his neck.

Oh, God.

As soon as Namjoon leaves to order their drinks, Jungkook pulls out his phone from his pocket and taps out a short, discreet message to Jimin. Thinking it over, he decides to snap a picture of the rapper, too.

Jungkook
u get out of pilates in 10, right?
call me asap. its urgent

Jungkook neglects to mention the fact that he is not in danger nor being held captive for ransom by a serial murderer. He finds the sense of urgency a nice touch.

It isn’t as if Namjoon’s company is uncomfortable, however. Jungkook finds the ambience of the café overbearing and expensive, but it’s not unpleasant. Namjoon is eloquent and educated. He laughs with his whole body. But it’s different, talking to him in person; Jungkook just can’t stomach it right now. He has no idea what he’s supposed to do. He has no idea how he’s supposed to act.

It’s surreal watching Namjoon at the counter, hands in his pockets and rocking on the back of his heels as he pours over the menu board indecisively. The waitress seems to recognize him. They bow politely at each other far too many times than necessary, and she takes his money with both hands. The casual display of fame offsets something inside of Jungkook, depleting both all energy and expectation that he had for this day to go. It’s odd; a few months ago he was lying in his bed listening to RM on repeat, and now he’s with the artist behind every track on the album.

Jungkook is certain that his internal breakdown over the identity of his not-catfish has become a national crisis. All he has to do now is alert the authorities of its severity and wait for the local news station to arrive at his door for a press release.

Jungkook envisions this in startling clarity: the sopping matter of his brain submerged in a jar filled with saline solution that’s elevated on a gleaming, silver platter above the reception station. Somebody, most likely an intern, has painstakingly duct taped a pinstriped tie and a pair of cheap reading glasses onto the face of the glass. Breaking news, his brain announces, although there is no feasible way in which it should be able to talk. Nobody finds this unusual. Local homosexual Jeon Jungkook, twenty, has been reported to have a disparaging infatuation towards famous rapper Kim Namjoon, twenty-three. The public is aching to know—when will Jeon understand the concept of a “league”?

“I got you an iced americano,” Namjoon says when he returns to their table, breaking Jungkook from his thoughts. He slides the drink across the table with more force than necessary; Jungkook has to grab the plastic quickly to ensure that it doesn’t topple over. Namjoon doesn’t even seem phased. “You said you liked it once, I think. Sorry if I got it wrong.”

Jungkook’s brain breaks in half inside of its saline solution. The studio audience gasps. It grits out its last words weakly: And now, the weather.

“No, this is right,” Jungkook reassures Namjoon. For good measure, he takes a sip of it, humming at the taste. It’s better than he imagined; he supposes what this coffee shop lacks in lighting they put towards the drinks. Swanky. “Good, too. Holy fuck.”

Namjoon laughs at Jungkook’s vulgar reaction, cupping his steaming mug of hot chocolate with both hands in an attempt to warm up. The backs of his clothes are still wet, the fabric stiff and borderline frozen from the wind from when they walked to the coffee shop. Despite Jungkook’s adamance, Namjoon decided not to either call someone to bring a change of clothes or simply go back to his apartment and make life several metric tonnes easier on himself. He didn’t say why, but Jungkook figured that it was because either his roommate’s sleep schedule is voraciously nocturnal, or he doesn’t want anybody to meet Jungkook yet.

Suddenly, Jungkook’s phone rings loudly. Deepthroat by CupcakKe plays through the speakers to signal that none other than Park Jimin is calling. It’s noisy, the sound booming throughout the coffee shop, travelling easily in the small space.

Jungkook clearly did not think this plan through.

He comically fumbles with the seams of his pockets in an attempt to wrench the device from the confines of his tight pants. As soon as he can grip his fingers around it, he slams it on the table. Jimin’s contact name—eloquently titled “bitch baby”—and his contact photo—him, nude, in a bathtub with only frothy bubbles to cover his body—displays on the caller ID.

CupcakKe sings, Hump me! Fuck me! Daddy better make me choke!

“Sorry,” Jungkook says hurriedly, already beginning to stand up from his chair. He has never been more grateful that the coffee shop is blissfully empty right now. “Roommate. I gotta take this.”

Namjoon looks like he wants to say something. More than one something. Multiple somethings.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jungkook answers before Namjoon can ask. He darts towards the men’s bathroom like a hunted animal in order to take the call.

In the safety of a locked bathroom stall, Jungkook answers the call. Jimin is already screaming in his ear before the younger can lay toilet paper over the germ infested toilet seat in order to sit down:

“Are you dying? Are you dead?” Jimin yells; Jungkook winces and extends his arm to hold the phone away from his ear. This is the equivalent of a twenty-first century Howler. “Oh, you better wish you were fucking dead! Who sends cryptic messages like that? Do you want me to have hypertension at the age of twenty-two?”

Jungkook does not know how to articulate anything right now. There are several squares of toilet paper in his hand that are only inches away from the seat. Logically, he knows that he must lay them down. He knows this, but his arm doesn’t feel like his own arm. Jimin has undoubtedly forced Jungkook to astral project from his human form with his concern.

Wow, Jungkook loves his friends.

“I’m not dead, Minnie—”

“Yeah, I gathered that, thanks.” Jimin exhales on the other line, a sharp sound that cuts through the receiver like static. “Excuse me for freaking out! The word ‘urgent’ makes me queasy when paired with the fact that my idiot roommate thinks it’s a good idea to meet some guy who’s probably a murderer.”

At this, Jungkook can think again. It’s like he unfreezes from a curse. He smiles unconsciously at the thought of Namjoon, the corners of his mouth just barely tilting upwards.

“Not a murderer,” he says. Deeming the toilet seat as sanitized as he can personally make it, he sits down, leaning forward to rest his elbow on his thigh.

Jimin scoffs, as if Jungkook is absolutely mad for thinking that statement is an accomplishment. “Low hanging fruit, Kookie. Did you ask him about his homemade doll collection made from human hair?”

“Oh, fuck off.”

“Guess you didn’t.” There’s a pause on the other line, and then the sound of a car being unlocked. Jimin must still be in the parking lot at the pilates studio, loading his mat into the trunk before settling in the passenger’s seat. Faintly, Jungkook hopes that he’s wearing something warm. His concern for his friends’ well-being is practically an intrinsic facet of his personality at this point. “If it’s urgent and you’re not dying...Why are you calling me?”

Jungkook sighs, the reality of his situation suddenly heavy and constricting on his shoulders. Despite the haze of anxiety shrouding his ability to articulate his thoughts properly, his tone is surprisingly even. He whispers, as if indulging Jimin in a secret:

“There’s no catfish, Minnie.”

A pause.

“Excuse me?”

Jungkook leans into the receiver, as if telling a secret. “Kim Namjoon just bought me an americano. I’m probably going to explode if I don’t figure out how I’m supposed to act.” Jungkook moves his phone from in between his ear and shoulder, fumbling to send the photo he snapped of Namjoon to Jimin. He’s glad that he thought so far ahead; God only knows how childish he would feel if he had to put Jimin on the phone with the rapper to verify his allegedly illegitimate existence. Once he hits the send button, the photo loading into their roommate groupchat with Taehyung on KakaoTalk, he says, “See? Look at him. He’s even wearing that jacket he wore to the airport the other day, the one in the pictures you decided to send me in the middle of my lecture without context.”

“I did no such thing,” Jimin hisses, and then goes quiet. His breath catches on the other line, a short burst of air that brushes through the receiver. “Wait—hold on. What?”

Jungkook finds his reaction so funny that he starts laughing, loud enough that he has to slap a hand over his mouth to keep the sound from travelling. This is such a fucking trainwreck. It’s funny. Comical, even. The given assumption that catfishers exist in the world and are inherently dangerous combined with the modern, lax indifference towards any personal danger has resulted in a rather interesting, hesitant coexistence on the internet. There’s trouble online, but everybody knows that it’s always going to be there. Its presence is avoidable most of the time with common sense, and besides; interacting with it isn’t going to hurt you. Anonymity is designed for that. Goes both ways.

“That’s...That’s Kim Namjoon.”

“Yes.”

“He’s exactly who he said he was.”

It’s quiet for a moment.

“We are both absolute idiots, Minnie.”

Jungkook gets a notification from their groupchat, signaling that Taehyung has both seen the photo and replied to it.

Taehyung
creepy that you took this but whatever tell mr. monster i say hi
also bring me a danish
strawberry is preferable but i will settle for blueberry

Jimin snorts on the other line. Jungkook follows easily, and then realizes that he’s laughing alone in a bathroom stall with Rap Monster on the other side of the door, most likely sipping his hot chocolate before it gets cold. Jungkook decides he needs to be serious about this, even though it is arguably very true that Jungkook has never been serious about a person in his life. His competitive nature is fleeting at best when it comes to long-term relationships, typically reserved for petty bets and arguments that last moments. His pet hamster ran away when he was eight and was never found—how the fuck is he supposed to adequately maintain conversation with Kim Namjoon?

“Here’s what you gotta do, Kookie: be yourself, have fun, and charm his pants off with your little baby bunny teeth,” Jimin says, and Jungkook feels lighter knowing that his friends are helping him. His friends, who he cares so much about, would honestly die for— “I mean that last part literally. Go ahead and get in his pants.”

Jungkook sputters, choking on his spit. He coughs gracelessly, banging on his chest in order to get air out of his lungs.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Tae and I know that you like him,” Jimin says. His tone is serious. This is the most absurd aspect to this entire phone call; Jimin is actually serious about Jungkook—socially awkward, emotionally stunted, reckless Jungkook—making a move on Namjoon. “Sometimes we look through your search history because you always look up the funniest shit—” Jungkook squeaks in indignation, “—and we may have happened to stumble upon hours of interview footage with Rap Monster. Accidentally.”

Jungkook’s cheeks heat up in embarrassment. The grip on his phone tightens at the prospect of Taehyung and Jimin ransacking his computer in the middle of the night to pour over its contents like evil witches in need of a spell. He dares to fathom what secrets of his the two of them have collected over time, face falling as he remembers his dreaded phase a few months ago where he exclusively watched glittery, pink makeup tutorials on YouTube. A dreadful part of his brain whispers to him in a snake-like tone at the new knowledge that his roommates undoubtedly know about his affinity for dewy makeup looks: They have seen everything.

“Regardless of the violation of your privacy,” Jimin continues, ignoring Jungkook’s stuttering on the other line as he attempts to formulate any sort of comeback, “you know I’m right. You needed to meet someone, and yeah—this is a little bit unconventional—but you’ll psych yourself out if you don’t at least make an effort now.”

Jungkook continues to violently stutter out a litany of complaints. He finds himself spitting. Oh God. This is the beginnings of a seizure. Jungkook is going to die in this bathroom stall and Namjoon is going to have to find his dead body.

“You were completely against it this morning,” Jungkook manages to grit out.

“Yeah, well, to my current knowledge, he’s not a serial murderer. People change, Kookie. Don’t be a bitch.”

“I hate you.”

Jimin laughs. “You don’t.”

His phone beeps as Jimin hangs up.

Jungkook takes a deep breath. He unlocks the stall door and cleans up his sanitary ring of toilet paper around the seat and throws the wad of tissue into the garbage bin. Looking at himself in the mirror, cheeks flushed with embarrassment and his big, beady eyes staring back at him, he suppresses the urge to scream.

Chapter Text

Jungkook looks just as mentally distraught as he feels when he exits the men’s bathroom and into the main area, apparently, because Namjoon’s eyebrows furrow at the mere sight of him.

“I gotta grab a danish,” Jungkook rambles quickly, panicking and saying the first thing that comes to mind. His tone so frazzled that he doesn’t even realize just how loud he is, how his voice fractures at the last second. He whizzes past Namjoon without acknowledging him.

Calm the fuck down, Jungkook. He picks at his nail polish anxiously at the counter, trying to ignore the weight of Namjoon’s gaze on his back. Yeah, he’s hot. Boohoo, you’re not sixteen years old anymore. Get over it.

He buys two strawberry danishes for Taehyung because they’re on sale and a piece of lemon cake for Jimin. The waitress eyeballs Jungkook as she packs the desserts into a small takeaway box, no doubt trying to discern the nature of his and Namjoon’s relationship. Does she think they’re friends from within the same industry catching up over coffee? Business partners? Childhood friends? Lovers?

Jungkook nearly chokes, his mind involuntary supplying the idea in an array of red hearts and wistful gazes. He peers down at his ripped jeans and tugs at his deep blue turtleneck self-consciously. The waitress can most likely tell that he’s gay, he realizes stiffly. It’s probably because he decided to lint roll his turtleneck before he left the house. At this point he should just start wearing a sign that says, knock knock, I like cock!

Jungkook clears his throat. Broadens his shoulders a bit, and finds himself completely lost. Fuck. How are straight men supposed to even act?

“₩9,000 on the dot,” the waitress says with a smile. Jungkook pays with an embarrassingly large amount of leftover coins from within his wallet and watches as her face drops from high interest to absolute boredom.

He gets it. He wouldn’t date his poor ass either.

Jungkook places the box of desserts on the edge of the table once he walks back and smiles encouragingly at Namjoon. Part of him wants to shake the older’s shoulders like a madman and shame him for shaving multiple years off Jungkook’s life in pure stress. The other part of himself wants to pull Namjoon closer by his damp cable knit sweater and kiss him senseless just to spite the waitress at the counter not-so-secretly taking photos of them together.

This is the duality of man.

“Everything okay with your roommate?” Namjoon asks, because he’s considerate.

Jungkook nods. “Was worried I’m meeting up with a murderer or something.” He sips at his americano as Namjoon huffs in exasperation. The drink is a little bit watery by now, but it’s alright. He’s not the one who paid for it. “I can neither confirm nor deny anything at this point.”

“Hey!” Namjoon exclaims, affronted, “you’re the one who invited me for platonic bro coffee in the first place.”

“And somehow I fail to see the no homo part of the deal.” Jungkook motions to Namjoon with a dismissive hand. “Look at you. I bet you read your own fanfiction.”

Namjoon chokes on his drink. Jungkook watches it in slow motion: the contraction of Namjoon’s chest; the fist banging on his sternum in an attempt to allow air to pass through his lungs; the blooming look of incredulity on his face. Part of him wants to help the older with a palm slapping between his shoulderblades, but Jungkook has learned not to do that the hard way—there’s still a dent in the hardwood floor in the living room of his apartment from when Jimin was spiked into the ground like a volleyball after choking on a piece of melon chicken. Taehyung was the only one who knew how to get the blood stains out of the wood.

“Thanks, Kook. You’re real cute today,” Namjoon wheezes, as if Jungkook is the most repulsive being on the face of this planet.

It’s an interesting deflection pattern towards Jungkook’s annoying attitude and lacks all of the malice that his roommates typically portray it with. Refreshing, even. Jungkook feels like crying.

It really is disconcerting how nervous he is that Namjoon is meeting all of his low standards.

A silence grows between the two of them like flowering ivy, coiling and spreading and becoming suffocating very fast, even if Jungkook is ninety percent sure that he’s the only one who can feel it. Looking up at Namjoon with a shy smile, he decides to take the leap into his curiosity.

“Tell me why you took me here,” Jungkook requests, tone quiet, hesitant. Namjoon lights up silly at the question, the thought behind it. Jungkook’s stomach flips.

“Well,” Namjoon starts, sipping at his drink shallowly, “I write here a lot. Lyrics, mostly. Probably not anything near what you work on for your novels, but—it’s a good place to meet people, I think.”

The price and location keep prying fans that lack knowledge on the fundamentals of personal space away, and the dimmed lighting masks the identity of customers well. It makes sense why Namjoon frequents here often.

“Do you mostly come here alone, then?”

“Are you trying to ask me if I come here often?” Namjoon laughs at his own joke, snorting over his straw, but it’s more endearing than anything else. “You know, it’s kind of funny—one of my old teachers from high school still goes here with me so we can catch up, talk about life. He’s one of the only people I talk to about personal things.”

Jungkook tries to imagine that. Namjoon, worn out and exhausted from press releases, jacket shootings, recording studio bookings, finding solace in the presence of a teacher’s wisdom to get away from it all. Him tangling his fingers together in that subconscious way he seems to do when he’s nervous, a stern-faced man drinking tea across from him, breaking even over the fact that they’re both living for the sake of moving forward in their careers. Namjoon laughing brightly one day, pensive the next, anxious another; just like the rapid, bittersweet changing of the seasons.

It seems lonely to have to uphold such an image of confidence in the self as a rapper. At what point of fame do you feel so isolated that your high school teacher is the only person you can honestly talk to?

Jungkook worries at his lip. Namjoon’s staring at it, but Jungkook doesn’t notice.

“I’m glad you have somebody like that in your life,” Jungkook says honestly. The atmosphere has shifted a bit. He starts to blush, deep and red, blooming.

“Me too,” Namjoon says. He gives Jungkook a small smile that looks like hope. “I think that the world is only as big as the things you decide to put in it. When I’m here, it becomes smaller in the best kind of way.”

“What do you mean?”

Namjoon’s ears are red and it’s not from the cold. “Not suffocating, not overwhelming, just—just me,” he pauses, eyes flickering to Jungkook quickly, “and the person I’m sitting with.”

It’s only after Namjoon has excused himself to meet with his doctor for a check up on his head injury and Jungkook has gone home with his small box full of desserts, lying on his unmade bed and staring at the ceiling, that he understands what exactly Namjoon had meant.

Left unspoken: just you, just me.

 


 

Water splashes against the porcelain sink. The tap is running cold. It’s turned obscenely towards the right, metal handle glinting in the yellow light of the bathroom and mocking Jungkook as it spews incessantly into the basin like liquid glass. He stares at it with utmost conviction, like it’s killed his family or is responsible for several serial murders spanned over the course of months.

She was so young, Jungkook thinks aggressively at the sink. He wants to turn the faucet off but can’t exactly move; one of his hands is holding the corner of the small, paper square of a children’s temporary tattoo over his bicep, the other pressing down on it with a sponge saturated with water from this very sink. She was so young, and you killed her.

Jungkook forgot to turn the sink off before he rendered himself immobile.  

It’s a little bit unfortunate but still entirely solvable. The instructions on the variety pack said that he only has to be in this position for thirty to thirty-five seconds.

Coincidentally...these just happen to be the longest seconds of his fucking life.

It’s Saturday night, and Jeon Jungkook is very, very bored.

Logically, he knows that there are many things that he could be doing with his spare time. He’s already behind on two essays for his literary analysis class now that the new semester has started, and Jimin has been begging him to watch the newest bee documentary—titled All About Honey Bee —for weeks. He took up paper mâché last week and audio engineering the week before, but Jungkook’s eclectic personality dictates that he gets bored of new projects easily once he runs out of the passion that had originally driven him towards it.

And yet—

Jungkook tosses the sponge into the sink and turns off the tap with his now empty hand, peels back the paper covering his bicep with the same amount of care as somebody disarming a bomb. Easy does it, he thinks as the tattoo begins to reveal itself. The last thing the wants to do is tear the fucking thing. He is at least ninety percent sure that that’s bad karma or something. That’s it.

Underneath the sopping wet paper reveals a ladybug with three little black dots on its back.

Jungkook throws the wet paper into the trash bin next to the toilet and takes in his appearance in the mirror above the vanity sink. He’s shirtless, body prickled with goosebumps from the cold water and dotted with ladybugs. When he moves they stretch over the plane of his muscles, shift with the wrinkle of his skin. There’s even a tiny ladybug on the corner of his cheekbone.

Oh fuck yes. This, truly, is the height of his life.

He’s gotta show Taehyung. Taehyung would love this.

Jungkook is three steps outside the bathroom and walking down the hallway, discarded sweater in his hands, when Jimin bumps into him. Gives him a once over with the most uninterested gaze Jungkook has ever bared witness to, and then sighs.

“Don’t you have an essay for Lit Analysis to do?” Jimin asks. Under his breath, Jungkook can hear him counting the amount of temporary tattoos on Jungkook’s body, four-five-six-seven- what the fuck, Kookie, -eight-nine.

“Two,” Jungkook mumbles, blushing pink with embarrassment. He clears his throat. Speaks up a bit ‘cause it’s one of his nasty habits to speak too quiet. “I have two to do.”

Jimin scoffs, taken more than slightly aback, and moves behind Jungkook to begin pushing him forward and down the hallway, towards his bedroom or a laptop or a piece of paper and a pen or whatever will force him to complete his devastatingly necessary coursework. Jungkook stumbles forward with the pressure on his back and whines.

“I wanted to show Tae the tattoos,” Jungkook complains, digging his heels into the floor in an effort to stop Jimin’s momentum. Jimin pathetically crashes into Jungkook’s shoulder blades and hisses as his nose makes contact with his spine. “He got me them a few days ago. He’s gonna think it’s fuckin’ adorable.”

“First of all, Taehyung didn’t buy you those polka-dotted nightmares; he shoplifted them,” Jimin says, voice nasally as he rubs at the sore bridge of his nose, “second of all, you have shit to do. Plural shits. So much shit that it’s formed a corporeal body and become sentient.”

“That’s nasty.”

“I don’t care.” Jimin pushes at Jungkook again in a feeble attempt to bring him closer to his room, tiny hands pressed against the younger’s chest. He skillfully ignores Jungkook’s pout, the wiggle of his bottom lip.

They reach Jungkook’s bedroom. Based entirely from the innate and utter disbelief in Jimin's eyes, Jungkook begins to truly debate the concept of self-euthanization.

The space is devastated by piles of clothes the size of mini landfills, white t-shirts coating the La-Z-Boy stuck in its reclining position in the corner of the room like a layer of paint. There’s a tower made out of shiny, pastel nail polish bottles whose labels have been scratched off haphazardly on a dresser. Several origami sheets lay crumpled on Jungkook’s night stand, surrounded by one perfectly crafted crane propped up on top of volume five of Cardcaptor Sakura.

The room is a fucking mess through and through, and absolutely decimated within the past two hours of mindless, inherently incessant, disgusting boredom.

Jimin looks like he’s resisting the urge to commit murder. His expression is a mix between half-convinced strangulation is an acceptable idea, half-uninterested in the depravity of a life sentence because of his idiotic roommate. It’s kind of funny. His eyes twitch. Jungkook believes that Jimin is as harmless as a teddy bear with all its stuffing ripped out. Jimin opens his mouth and closes it multiple times, then sighs in what can only be labelled as eternal suffering.

“I’m calling Namjoon.”

Jungkook jolts. Excuse me?

“He’s not my babysitter, hyung,” Jungkook scoffs incredulously. He crosses his arms over his bare chest self-consciously, but he’s sure it just makes him look more like a petulant child.

“And yet somehow, you’re acting completely like a twelve year old.”

Jimin stalks down the hallway towards the dining room table and snatches his phone off the surface as if unleashing an ultimate threat. Jungkook grips at the older’s arm before he can even open his lockscreen and dial a single digit, but Jimin wrenches it away. Gives Jungkook a glare, like he’s daring him to touch him with his grubby little ladybug hands.

“I don’t like you right now,” Jungkook says.

Jimin ignores him. He continues to glare at Jungkook while the phone rings.

Truthfully, the idea of seeing Namjoon still ravages Jungkook’s insides with butterflies the size of baseballs. He’s stuck in a perpetual cycle of wanting to see Namjoon and not wanting to see him at all, knowing that he’ll openly gawk at the rapper and act on devastatingly inaccurate social cues several times in their interaction. Jimin is more than jeopardizing this infantile purgatory right now.

So it’s poor luck that Namjoon has completed recording for the evening and is in the area because of a formal company dinner, and absolutely shit luck that when Namjoon shows up at their apartment both in a suit and a little buzzed, Jungkook answers the door.

Shirtless. Body still covered in tiny little ladybugs.

“Um,” Namjoon says, tripping over his words as his eyes pour over Jungkook’s bare chest inquisitively. He snaps his gaze back to Jungkook’s face as if worried he’s been caught. “Jimin said you’re bored...?”

They stand in the doorway for a moment just staring at each other.

“You don’t have to come in if you’re busy,” Jungkook says to break the silence. He resists the urge to cover his chest. It’s cold in the hallway and his nipples are stiff and pink with the draft from the winter air.

“I’m—I’m not busy. Sorry. Just being weird.”

There’s tension in the air, thick and acrid. Jungkook decides to just bite the bullet. “Wanna order Chinese food?”

“...Chinese?”

“Yeah.” Jungkook leans against the doorway to appear casual. The frame is metal and colder than the Far North of fucking Russia, but Jungkook sustains it for the aesthetic. “We could watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind if you want.”

Namjoon’s face splits into a huge grin. It’s both of their favorite movie, a discovery made when firing mundane knowledge about themselves back and forth in an effort to simply get it out of the way. What kind of friend doesn’t know what their friend’s favorite color is, favorite food? When the topic had shifted towards films, they had laughed upon the knowledge that they were similarily hung up over a good Jim Carrey film that they had both seen offhandedly in hotel rooms when traveling as teenagers.

When Namjoon nods, Jungkook doesn’t even try to ignore those ugly, baseball-sized butterflies swarming in his chest. It’s a very obvious step down from a formal company dinner, his proposition, but the novelty is in the right places. Jungkook moves to let Namjoon inside and shuts the door behind him, cutting off the stream of cold air from the complex hallway.

Namjoon drapes his suit jacket over a chipped, wooden chair in the dining room, loosening his black tie from its suffocating position around his neck. Jungkook is startled by how good he looks, long legs clad in black slacks and a Rolex on his wrist, hair mussed in the way that must take hours to style to appear inherently effortless. Jungkook’s testosterone-soaked brain is near drooling in clear, watery cerebrospinal fluid. It’s a miracle that Jungkook manages to not climb Namjoon like a fucking tree right then and there.

He is still very distressed over the rapper’s existence being a reality rather than a practical joke. The fact that Kim Namjoon is standing in his apartment rocking business casual and rambling off his takeout order does nothing to help calm this feeling.

“It’s kind of a mess in here,” Jungkook says in apology. He gestures to the dent in the wall and the upturned lamp on the side of the table. “Jimin was doing a home DVD workout when a spider crawled on the screen.”

“Is he alive?” Namjoon asks very, very seriously.

“He’s fine,” Jungkook reassures, “but I don’t think Jimin or the lamp will ever be the same. Wrong weapon of choice, in my opinion, but adrenaline makes us crazy as fuck.”

Namjoon laughs, covers his mouth with both of his hands. He looks like he feels kind of bad about it, but not enough to do anything about it. “Did he even kill the spider?”

Jungkook shakes his head. Darkly, he whispers, “legend has it that it’s still crawling in this very room, waiting for Jimin to return in order to exact revenge.”

When Namjoon flicks at the lamp, it falls off the table. The bulb doesn’t break, but it still cracks.

Taehyung appears from his bedroom as Jungkook dials the Chinese place on the corner of their block. He looks at Namjoon, who’s seated on their understuffed sofa with his knees pulled up to his chest surfing through the DVR to get the movie, and then to Jungkook. Then to Namjoon. Then to Jungkook. And back to Namjoon again.

“I love your ladybugs,” Taehyung says absently to Jungkook by way of entering the conversation. The temporary tattoos are peeking from the corner of the sweater the younger threw back on, up the side of his neck towards the one splash of decal film on his cheek. Taehyung waves at Namjoon and greets him with a civil, “Hello.”

“Hey, Taehyung,” Namjoon greets back.

The fact that Namjoon and Taehyung get along well is still an odd fact for Jungkook to be aware of. The two aren’t exactly friendly with each other, but there is a level of respect that Taehyung has for Namjoon despite the rapper being only one year his senior. Jungkook thinks it has something to do with the fact that Namjoon won against Taehyung in a drunk game of Jenga the first time the youngest brought him over to the apartment; Taehyung had clapped Namjoon on the back after he managed to balance half of the crumbling tower on a single wooden block and slurred, absolutely shitfaced, you know, I was skeptical of you—but you’re a real fuckin’ man, Kim Namjoon.

“I’m ordering Chinese food,” Jungkook says, feeling like he’s interrupting something with the intense, curious way that Taehyung is staring Namjoon down. “You want egg foo young?”

“And dumplings,” Taehyung adds. He gestures to Namjoon. “What are you getting?”

“Um,” Namjoon starts, and doesn’t look like he knows how to finish exactly, unsure, “extra spicy Mapo tofu, probably. It’s been a long day, and it’s, um,” he pauses, thinking for a moment, “good comfort food?”

Taehyung nods, as if Namjoon has just passed a test. And then he leaves, retreating back to his room, as if nothing has just transpired between the two of them.

Jungkook ignores the quizzical look that Namjoon bores into his face and starts ordering the second an employee picks up on the other line. Namjoon huffs and goes back to trying to find the movie. It takes him two full minutes to type out the long title on the search bar with their shitty remote control, but the title is available for rent at only a few thousand won, so it’s worth it. If Jimin’s credit card information is linked to the TV and the money is mysteriously charged to his account, then Jungkook will deny knowing anything about this fact if ever brought up. 

They settle on the couch when the food gets there, thighs touching, elbows knocking. They eat voraciously and loudly. It’s a little disgusting, but because it’s Namjoon and Jungkook is stupid infatuated with him, he doesn’t care. Jungkook hits play on the film and smiles michievously as he sneaks a piece of tofu from Namjoon’s bowl. Doesn’t know if there’s a word for the way he feels, anxious yet buzzing and good, but he feels it all the same.

Kim Namjoon is going to be the death of him.

 


 

It’s only after Namjoon has left later that night, empty cardboard takeout boxes littered on the surface of the coffee table in front of the couch, that Taehyung comes back into the living room to sit next to Jungkook. He offers Jungkook a tissue because open endings in movies always make him upset and curls into the younger’s side, reaches for his hands like a compulsory habit.

“Does Namjoon know?” Taehyung asks lowly, playing with the fingers of Jungkook’s left hand.

Jungkook does not tell him to get off of him so that he can properly blow his nose, simply maneuvers his wrist at an awkward angle to snot into the tissue with his free hand.

“Does he know what?” Jungkook asks, furrowing his eyebrows in slight confusion. Taehyung could be talking about anything— Does Namjoon know you used to kiss your Justin Bieber poster before you went to bed every night when you were sixteen? Does he know you sing all the depressing songs from Les Misérables in the shower after you lose a singular round of Overwatch? Does he know you started chewing wintermint gum because of him?— so it’s only fair that Jungkook questions him further.

“Does Namjoon know,” Taehyung says a bit slower this time. Jungkook is rather confused because he’s simply saying the same words with a different enunciation and this does not change any meaning in his original question in the slightest. At Jungkook’s distressed look, Taehyung huffs. “Does he know that you thought he was a catfish?”

Oh. That.

“Uh,” Jungkook answers, and promptly begins to blow his entire nose into the tissue in his hand in avoidance.

“You haven’t,” Taehyung says, scandalized. He wrenches his hand from Jungkook’s and sits up to stare him down from his wobbly position on the couch. “Kookie, that’s bad. That’s like, super bad. Like Jimin buying lingerie for himself a size too small bad.”

The picture that pops into his head is gross. Jungkook winces at it. “I know, okay? I know. But it’s not like it’s getting in the way of anything when we hang out—”

“You can’t look him in the eyes when he mentions anything about his album,” Taehyung supplies unhelpfully.

“—and I’m fine! I’m completely fine. Totally fine.”

Taehyung sighs. He lies down and aggressively worms his head onto Jungkook’s lap, dissatisfied yet still clingy. “You’re lying.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes you are. You’re lying and it’s tacky. Go put Law and Order on. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Tae, I said I’m fine.”

Taehyung tilts his head to glare at Jungkook. Jungkook is taken aback by the power behind it, the intensity of his stare. It says everything that his hyung doesn’t want to be forced to say out loud: you don’t take care of yourself, so now I'm worried. You always make me worry.

“You’re always good at being fine, Kookie,” he says instead. Turns away from Jungkook, and the words hurt like a punch. “I get it. Give me the remote if you’re not going to do anything with it.”

 


 

Namjoon
today i have learned that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it

Jungkook
who hurt u this time
corporate south korea?
min yoongi with his tiny fists because u never put ur dishes away?

Namjoon
i’m getting better at putting dishes away fuck u i shouldn’t have told u about that
anyway only GOD is hurting me, bc that ancient fucker decided to put me on this planet!

Jungkook
what a selfish bitch!
actually idk i never read the bible
genesis? more like geneSNOOZE

Namjoon
im ignoring that comment for my sanity

Jungkook
fair

“Look at him,” Taehyung whispers to Jimin from across the living room, as if discussing the behavioral habits of a wild animal. He sounds disturbingly similar to a narrator for a nature documentary. Jungkook is at a loss of what to do with the knowledge of this new talent. “He’s smiling. You think they’re sexting?”

Jimin smacks Taehyung on the shoulder and hisses in a poor attempt at a whisper, “Do you smile when you get a dick pic from somebody?”

“I thought we weren’t going to talk about the fact that I’m not getting any right now, Minnie,” Taehyung grits through his teeth.

Namjoon is typing on the Tinder window to reply, so Jungkook takes the opportunity to throw a well executed glare at his roommates. They instantly busy themselves with tying up their boots and zipping up their coats for the walk to campus, fumbling with gloves and scarves under the weight of their backpacks. Taehyung innocently whistles for emphasis, as if to say: Look at me, I’m an angel from heaven.

Namjoon
but why won’t you support me in my existential despair
this is not what love looks like

Jungkook
because ur a melodramatic bitch
and besides
god is divine. ur on this planet bc he is the personification of unconditional love......or something

Namjoon
underneath my cool, swaggy rapper exterior
i too am a man deserving of unconditional love

Jungkook
booooooo
settle for shitty self-care like the rest of us

Namjoon
oh how you wound me, jeon jungkook

Taehyung cups his hands in a makeshift megaphone and yells across the room, “Hey Mrs. Rap Monster! We’re leaving to go get an education! Give us a kiss goodbye, why don’t you?”

Jungkook puts his phone down and resists the urge to roll his eyes. His roommates are a sight: Taehyung, bright orange scarf wrapped around his neck and blueberry patterned gloves adorning his hands; Jimin, fuzzy earmuffs draping over his ears and swaddled in a coat twice the size of his body. They’re making kissy faces at him, and the gesture is enough to make Jungkook blush.

Things are still odd with Taehyung and Jungkook since their conversation a few days ago about Namjoon, but it’s not like the younger isn’t trying to approach him. Taehyung can be conveniently distant when he wants to be. It’s only in moments like these, with Jimin around, where he is utterly fabricated and sugary sweet. Taehyung can’t hurt Jimin like that. Doesn’t know how to, doesn’t think he can.

Jungkook pads over towards them—he’s only wearing a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, and the front door is so poorly insulated that a cold shiver zips down his back like lightning—and swallows, shyly giving Taehyung a kiss on the cheek. Jimin doesn’t see the stiffness of the action. Jungkook kisses him, too.

“I hate who you turn me into,” Jungkook grumbles.

Jimin’s grin is giddy. He tugs Jungkook by the front of his shirt to bring him close enough for a dizzying, slobbery peck on the cheek. The contact is enough to make Jungkook itch for the hand sanitizer he keeps in the front pocket of his backpack. His face is burning. Briefly, he wonders if there’s somewhere on the market he can buy industrial sized barrels of Purell.

Jungkook flops stomach-first onto the living room couch after they leave, raises his arms over his head and rubs at the tendons on the back of his hand mindlessly with the pad of his thumb. It’s still the early afternoon, and sunlight filters through the blinds in thick stripes on everything its rays can touch. When Jungkook lifts his hand up slightly into the light, warmth absorbing into his fingertips, he wonders what he would do if he could catch it, hold it in his hands.

Thoughts like that inevitably leave him thinking of Namjoon.

Jungkook debates messaging the older back for a moment before remembering that his phone is on the other side of the room and he’s an invariably lazy individual with zero emotional prowess. He can see the device perched on a side table as if taunting him, beckoning him to check it. Jungkook stares at it intensely, hoping that his lifetime of wishing that he’s capable of telekinesis will finally reveal itself to be true.

He focuses. Nothing happens. He pouts, affronted, and glares at it instead.

I hope you feel like shit, phone, Jungkook thinks, before remembering that cell phones are not sentient. He glares at it harder from the couch, silently fuming at his lack of telekinetic powers. He could have been the next Matilda, dammit.

Jungkook grabs at one of the cushions on the couch and smushes his face into it. Already he’s feeling himself start to get a bit bored without anybody to speak to. The pillow smells faintly of the curry Jimin spilt on it last night while watching A Silent Voice with Namjoon and Jungkook. The rapper had never seen it before, so Jimin had found it absolutely necessary to tell him that Jungkook is a whiny little bitch who loves romantic animated movies and shoujo manga as a means to get him interested in the concept of Jungkook sobbing into a bowl of popcorn because of a kiss scene. The movie was amazing even though it was the third time Jungkook had seen it. He fell asleep on Namjoon’s chest afterwards, emotionally exhausted. He knows because Jimin took a picture of it to use as blackmail material.

Maybe Jungkook can read Orange again. He shifts so he’s lying on his back, neck supported by the gross, curry-stained pillow, and decides against it. For some reason, Jungkook can’t...get Namjoon off his mind right now.

He doesn’t want to think about the catfish problem right now, so he buries it in the back of his mind. Focuses hard and wills himself to direct his attention onto other things, other parts of the rapper that Jungkook can’t seem to stray from.

He thinks of Namjoon in flashes of moments since they’ve started seeing each other regularly—the way he buries his face in his hands when talking about something he’s passionate about; the way he yearns to do better for the sake of being a better individual; the way he touches the thick of his bottom lip with the pads of his fingers when thinking, sometimes pulling the pink flesh between his thumb and index finger and letting it snap back into place.

A part of Jungkook tells him to quit thinking while he’s still ahead. The other part of himself is thinking of those lips on his mouth, his neck, trailing down to his collarbones and sloping around his shoulders.

Jungkook groans in frustration. He’s lying in the middle of his living room for fuck’s sake. It’s impractical and it’s wrong on so many different levels and it's in no way a solution for how he’s feeling. He knows better than this. He knows so much better than this.

Except it’s Namjoon, and Jungkook has wanted him for so fucking long.

All it takes is for him to think about Namjoon’s long fingers and wide palms and then suddenly his hand is moving lower, down the front of his chest and underneath the waistband of his sweatpants to grab at his half-hard cock. Jungkook exhales lowly, lazily stroking himself to full hardness, feeling himself pulse in his hand.

It’s easy to imagine. Namjoon’s body pressed up against Jungkook’s, closing the distance and laughing in bewilderment at just how easy it is to get Jungkook to whine for him. He’d ask Jungkook what he likes, what he wants from Namjoon, and Jungkook would blush, say everything, everything you can give me.

That thought does it for him. Jungkook chases it, slicking his shaft with precum and twisting his wrist around the head on every upstroke. His other hand pushes his t-shirt up and reaches for his nipples, pinching the sensitive skin hard enough to make him whine.

Namjoon would bite at Jungkook’s neck and grip his ass with those hands, god those hands, grinning at the blush on Jungkook’s cheeks, the shine of spit still slick on his lips. Panting and breathless from kissing, he’d whisper, go ahead, be loud.

“Ah, fuck,” Jungkook hisses, nearly biting his tongue. A hot sensation builds in his stomach too quickly for his liking, so Jungkook starts jerking himself slower, flicking his nipples mindlessly with his thumb. It feels good, feels even better when he rolls his balls in his hand and a long, long whine escapes his mouth.

Jungkook wants more. Needs more.  

Heaving a sigh, he retrieves his phone from the table before padding into his bedroom, flinging the device onto his comforter and rooting around his desk drawer for the bottle of cherry flavored lube he keeps underneath old short stories and term papers. He nearly whines when he finds it, instantly plopping onto the bed and shucking off his sweatpants, not even bothering with his t-shirt.

Jungkook is just uncapping the bottle of lube when his phone buzzes from across the bed.

He doesn’t even think before digging around for it. He’s made it this far, hasn’t he? There’s not much pride left to lose, not much else with his own precum sticky on his stomach, skin flushed and hot.

The text is from Jimin, but Namjoon has left him four messages, so Jungkook unlocks his phone and taps at the Tinder app with his index finger. He gnaws on his lip as he waits for it to load, lazily pumping his cock. Almost like he’s waiting, almost like he’s anticipating for something to happen.

The last message was sent nearly fifteen minutes ago.

Namjoon
hey sorry i gotta go
im @ kbs’s radio station about to go on so wish me luck!
ill text u later
maybe we can hang out this weekend when i’m done with all these fuckin interviews

Jungkook sucks in a breath. Oh, fuck. Does he...?

For one small, torturous moment, Jungkook thinks about Namjoon’s low voice filtering through the speakers of his dingy radio CD player he still has from high school, tone baritone and smooth even on the grainy broadcast connection. Laughing with the host, passion spilling right out of his mouth.

Jungkook’s cock twitches in his hand. His face heats up in shame. He can’t help the bubble of desperation welling at his throat, the small whine as precum leaks from the head. Fumbling hands grab at the player, fingers jabbing at the seek button to get to KBS’s station. What frequency is it again? 89.1? 90.9?—

“—never could have imagined the album sales would reach so high, much less the pre-orders. It’s insane, really.”

It’s Namjoon’s voice. Jungkook lets out an embarrassing whine, cheeks burning in shame as his legs shake just the slightest bit.

He’s doing this. He’s really, really doing this.

The host rattles off some question regarding the future prospective success for Namjoon’s upcoming projects or whatever. Jungkook is far from listening at this point. Blush high on his cheeks, he warms up a dollop of lube on the tips of his fingers, some of it sliding down the digits messily. It smells like cherries in his bedroom now, artificial and sickly sweet.

“I don’t think anybody can really know where the future will take them,” Namjoon says through the CD speakers. Jungkook slips a finger inside of himself and whines, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling. “I just hope that I can keep making music, can keep sharing my voice to whoever wants to listen to it.”

Jungkook squeezes his eyes shut, imagines that voice right there with him. Egging him on, touch ghosting over the inside of Jungkook’s thighs so that they spread wide before Namjoon has to even ask him to open up for him.

Jungkook groans and adds another finger, crooking them a little too soon, a little too overeager. The burn that laces up his spine is only that much better when he pretends Namjoon is watching him, plush lips suckling at the head of Jungkook’s cock, gaze dead center and commanding Jungkook to look at him even as he wails at the sensation.

“—the figures don’t lie, no,” Namjoon laughs, and god, what is Jungkook doing? Shame hiccups out from his throat but it only adds fuel to the fire, the building feeling boiling underneath his skin. He searches for that spot inside of him that he knows is going to drive him crazy, whimpering as his fingers slide in and out of himself deep but not deep enough and— oh. Fuck.

“I can only thank previous rappers and their hard work for the overwhelming international response to the album.” Jungkook gasps, shivering as his fingers reach his prostate. Thinks of Namjoon’s mouth bobbing on his cock and sets up a slow grind with a third finger inside of him, rocking his hips forward ever so slightly. His other hand teases his nipples, rolling the sensitive flesh between his fingertips. “They truly opened the gate for newer artists like myself.”

The announcer says something about humility and it brings the shame right back to the forefront of Jungkook’s mind. How dirty, how filthy, to be getting off to Kim Namjoon while he’s talking about his album on a radio show. What would he do if he knew what Jungkook was doing right now? If Jungkook recklessly sent him a photo of him three fingers deep and blushing like mad, eyes dark and foggy with arousal? Would he sputter, embarrassed? Or would he punish Jungkook for sending him something so utterly lewd at work?

Jungkook comes across his chest, cock jerking and drooling, to the thought of Namjoon pinning him down and making him cry.

He slips his fingers out of himself still panting. Stares at the ceiling as he comes down from his high. There’s a glob of cum on his t-shirt, so he takes it off and wipes off his chest uncaringly with it. He throws it into his laundry basket mindlessly once he’s done.

“You would be surprised at how devoted fans can be these days,” Namjoon’s voice echoes through the speakers, answering some question that Jungkook hadn’t heard the host ask. Jungkook’s face flushes as he stands naked in his bedroom, thighs still shaking, to turn the player off. “The things that they do for me are amazing.”

 

Chapter Text

Jungkook unravels the crumpled ball of his weekly grocery list, smoothing out the yellow notebook paper by running his thumb against the surface. It makes a weak noise of dissent as it opens, folded so many times that it resembles a wrinkled shirt rather than stationary. Taehyung must have been the last one to write on it. He has an odd fear of people outside of Jimin and Jungkook being aware of the things that he likes to eat.

It’s Jungkook’s week to do the shopping. The three of them take turns, typically, chipping in odd bills crammed into envelopes to cover their individual costs unless Jimin has previously labelled something for “communal use”—like Windex, for example, or personal lubricant; ever since Taehyung called Jimin while he was at the market asking for some because he was in a little bit of a pinch, Jimin has been extremely careful—and in that case, they divide the total amount between the three of them. It’s a good system. It’s worked for a long time.

Jungkook finishes shopping for himself relatively quickly and with hardly any problems. It would be a lie to say he has recovered from the crippling sadness of there being only two small cartons of banana milk left on the shelf, though, because he hasn’t. His heart feels heavy and sad, like when he eats too many grilled cheeses with a hangover.

Namjoon is in the studio all day, but Jungkook complains to him regardless.

Jungkook
there’s not enough banana milk at the grocery store for my weekly shop
my world is ending
i’m in aisle 9. when ur done being an internationally acclaimed rapper can u come pick up my corpse

Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, Jungkook begins to shop for Jimin. It isn’t that difficult to find the items on his list because he eats anything that is green and disgusting and will probably lead to a prolonged life expectancy. Jungkook pushes the cart in the direction of the produce aisle with a grumble, the wrinkled list held loosely between his lips for safekeeping. It flops when he moves.

If Jimin is still bothering Jungkook at the age of ninety, he’s going to go insane. His gravestone will probably have Why do I have to call you hyung? engraved onto its surface in angry, capitalized lettering.

Jungkook is just placing a head of cabbage underneath his arm like a football when he spots a cart filled with five cartons of banana milk sitting pretty and unattended in the extended child seat.

He gasps. Those are his children. His.

Jungkook does the math in his head easily enough: five cartons combined with the measly two in his cart would equate to a perfect amount of seven banana milk cartons, one for every day this week. Jungkook’s fingers twitch over the cabbage at the prospect of obtaining them.

He’d have to be stealthy. And quick.

God must have other plans for him, though, because as soon as Jungkook steps remotely near the cart, someone to his right shouts out a startled, “Oh, Jungkook! Hey!”

Jungkook jolts backwards as if he’s been burned. He turns to defend himself in front of what is probably one of his friends from college—

But stops. He has no idea who is standing in front of him.

He has got to be one of the most hauntingly attractive people that Jungkook has ever seen in his life. He’s dressed well, bundled in a thick scarf wrapped intricately around his neck and tucked into a maroon sweater. His shoulders are broad. His lips are thick and pink, shiny with gloss. In this current moment he is also saying something with a pleasantly surprised expression on his face and Jungkook is definitely not listening to a word of it.

A thought strikes Jungkook when he realizes that the stranger has stopped speaking and is waiting for his response. He replies late but is too dazed to care.

“I’m sorry...Who are you?”

The stranger raises his—perfectly sculpted, lusciously thick—eyebrows in confusion. Jungkook realizes with a disappointed  oh  that while he was too busy ogling some—beautiful, picturesque, breathtaking—random guy in the produce aisle with his football cabbage, he must have already introduced himself. A blush heats on Jungkook’s cheeks in embarrassment. He feels utterly asinine.

“I’m Kim Seokjin,” the man answers. His tone is a little forced. Jungkook can tolerate people judging him but it is infinitely worse when it’s by Adonis him-fucking-self. There are limitations to the human psyche. “Namjoon told me about you.” He pauses. “Well, he told  Yoongi,  but I’m one of Yoongi’s boyfriends. Nothing is a secret between us.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says blankly.

There’s a picture of Seokjin on his refrigerator door that Taehyung pins up for inspiration when he’s on a diet. Jungkook refrains from mentioning that.

Jungkook gives Seokjin a onceover as if taking in a skyscraper top to bottom. He feels like a tacky tourist taking in an extravagant, once in a lifetime view for somebody as poor and unskilled as himself.

It doesn’t necessarily hit Jungkook that this is Kim Seokjin, top model and runway legend with individual spreads in prestigious fashion magazines. Jungkook doesn’t know enough about his work for that. Sometimes Taehyung blabs about him when he’s fashion crazy after a long workshop, though, despite his syntax and diction bordering on unintelligible language. Usually it’s just streams of high pitched whining and angry huffs of breath because Kim Seokjin is hot  and perfect  and Jeon Jungkook, if I could run my tape measure over those broad shoulders, I’d instantly understand how to triangulate the entire fucking planet. Don’t you want to know what enlightenment is like?

“It’s nice to meet you,” Jungkook amends much more civilly.

He wishes he knew more personal information about Seokjin than his job and his ability to maintain a twelve-step skincare routine without keeling over from stress. Namjoon once mentioned that Seokjin can fit a lot of food into his mouth at one time, too, but Jungkook doesn’t think that counts.

“You too,” Seokjin replies.

It gets awkward very quickly when Seokjin stands behind his grocery cart and offers Jungkook a small, polite smile. Jungkook gets that feeling of bone deep inadequacy that only a man sculpted from pure marble can make him feel.

The banana milk still sits in the extended child seat of Seokjin’s cart, calling out to him in desperation.  Drink me,  they say, but Jungkook has lost this battle. He gazes at them forlornly instead.

You’re being dramatic, the logical part of Jungkook’s brain thinks to himself.

I’m in mourning. Don’t be insensitive, his stupid, childish birdbrain squawks back indignantly.

“Do you want to shop together?” Seokjin suddenly asks.

“What?”

Jungkook is choking. Jungkook is choking on his spit and asphyxiating from it and there is nothing that can be done to save him.

Seokjin is too perfect to blush but he still appears bashful. “I hate buying things for Hoseok because I can never find the things he likes. He has a really eclectic taste—last week he hated tomatoes, and now he wants a spaghetti dinner like we’re some kind of PTA power couple who thinks al dente is a fucking civil right. Please. I can’t go through this alone.”

“Uh, um—I’d love to shop together! Sure!” Jungkook exclaims in obvious hysteria. He realizes belatedly that he is very loud and very dumb. He clears his throat. “I mean, sure,” he repeats again in an attempt to sound cool and composed. “I know where they keep the marinara here, so. Um. Yeah. Count me in.”

Jungkook doesn’t know why he just said that. The remaining items on his grocery list are for Taehyung. While their relationship is repairing at a much more accelerated rate due a well-timed peace offering—a packet of lemon wafers and a Smirnoff Ice distributed minutes before Taehyung’s nightly bath was all it took; truly, their relationship is centered around meaningful displays of care for one another through the grandest of gestures—but there still is much more that can be done to improve it. Taehyung would maim Jungkook with a curtain rod if he knew that his fashion icon and idol helped hand pick his weekly groceries.

Jungkook sighs, resisting the desire to wince. Taehyung is going to owe him so much.

“I’m just shopping for myself,” Jungkook lies. It physically hurts him to grit out the words. “I'm halfway through my list, but we could pick stuff out together and chat?”

Seokjin smiles warmly at Jungkook and nods.

Taehyung likes to dip his strawberries in sour cream. He puts chocolate pudding on pizza. One time he accidentally poured a teaspoon of salt into his coffee instead of sugar and now he drinks it like that all the time.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Seokjin is going to hate him.

It becomes evident very quickly that the two of them are shopping for very different price ranges. They finish produce quickly, Seokjin grabbing organic while Jungkook scrambles for the smaller sized heads of broccoli for Jimin that are peaking with yellow over their florets. Seokjin grabs an expensive brand of imported coffee that he says Yoongi can’t go without. Jungkook blushes and grabs instant from the bottom shelf.

Seokjin makes light conversation as they shop. He seems like the kind of person who needs to fill in the spaces of conversation with words to circumvent the heavy oppressive nature of silence between strangers, his disposition a constant form of awkward and smiley and clumsy, but it’s not bad. He cracks a pun about oranges at one point and explains any purchases that have a singular speck of relevance to Namjoon, adding his own dark comments—“Yoongi has been obsessed with this dried squid for weeks because it’s one of Namjoon’s favorites. I don’t get it. It hurts my teeth like a bitch. If I wanted to have the sensation of grinding my teeth into uneven rubber I could just eat a fucking tire.”—and gets scared by a box of rigatoni when he knocks it off the shelf trying to grab linguini.

It’s not bad at all. Seokjin is actually really, really likable.

“Should I get one ginseng root or two?” Seokjin asks. Jungkook’s mouth drops. Seokjin has already bought truffle oil and vanilla beans for a dinner party later this week. What the fuck is he going to do with raw ginseng?

“One,” Jungkook answers quickly. He is struggling to understand why his opinion is important. Regardless, he can’t imagine needing more than one ginseng root. He finds a way to justify his anxiety of people spending a lot of money around him with, “They’re really strong, right? You wouldn’t need more than just one.”

Seokjin hums, like he’s thinking about it with utmost concentration. And then he shrugs, placing the root carefully over the cartons of banana milk. Jungkook stares at them.

“You’re right. Cold season makes me into such a worrier, I guess.”

“Yeah! Haha. Yeah.”

Way to make a guy feel relatable, Jungkook. Good one. Real natural.

At the next aisle, Jungkook crouches uncomfortably over cans of tuna fish, racking his brain for the brand Taehyung is partial to but forgot to specify on his list. Seokjin stands behind him aggressively swinging a bunch of bananas by the stem that he found discarded next to cans of artichoke hearts and diced tomatoes. They move like a wind chime would if caught in a hurricane. Jungkook wonders which one is going to fall off first. The thought gives him anxiety.

Seokjin says, “People who don’t put their unwanted items away drive me bananas. It’s super una-peeling.”

“That’s awful,” Jungkook replies. Does Taehyung like Ocean Minerals or Wildin’ Planet? Should Jungkook call and ask? He’s supposed to look like he’s shopping for himself, though. Shit.

“It’s not that bad,” Seokjin defends. “Have you ever heard Namjoon sing in the shower when he’s drunk?”

"I don't think I've ever heard Namjoon sing for me."

"Well it's awful."

“How is that awful?”

Seokjin snorts. “He doesn’t close his mouth. He just gurgles. It’s like listening to a cat drown.”

“Oh.” Jungkook doesn’t really know what to say to that. The image itself is horrifying. He goes with a small, "That is a lot." 

Silence.

"When are you gonna speak formally to me?" Seokjin asks suddenly.

"What?" Jungkook did not know that this was a thing that he was failing to do properly. Being polite comes as second nature to him. He was born knowing how to fold a napkin to make it look like a sliding fan. "I didn't know." 

“Well now you know. Do it.” Seokjin demands harshly, but it’s obvious that it’s all in good jest. He plucks a banana and holds it like a pistol, pointing it in Jungkook’s direction. “You have the ripe to remain silent! Charged with no fucking respect for your elders. It’s alarming. You’re like, twelve in comparison to me. Speak formally.”

This is so fucking weird.

“I got it. I can do that."

Seokjin merely shrugs in response.

If this is a test, Jungkook is ninety percent sure that he has just failed it.

Seokjin grumbles about how Jungkook is too polite to arrest with fruit. Jungkook distantly thinks, okay.

They’re quiet for a moment. After reading the nearly exact ingredients on the back of both of the cans of tuna and with a little prompting from Seokjin about how Jungkook’s taking a lot of time down there, he decides to just go with Wildin’ Planet.  The name is cooler. He stands back up and cracks his back, feeling much older than twenty with how his joints creak from the simple movement.

“You know,” Seokjin starts conversationally, watching Jungkook drop the can into his cart. It clangs against the metal and lands next to a box of bran cereal. “I think you and Namjoon would be good for each other.”

Jungkook’s heart jolts pathetically in his chest at the words. He instinctively whips his gaze up to meet Seokjin’s face only to see that he’s serious, smile bright and warm. Seokjin laughs at the shock plastered on Jungkook’s expression like he wasn’t expecting him to react like that—which, honestly, seems poorly planned, because it's very obvious that Jungkook had envisioned this conversation to go anywhere other than his and Namjoon’s relationship status.

“Excuse me?” Jungkook manages. His voice sounds strained, as if drunk through a straw.

Seokjin reels back his smile and purses his glossed lips instead, struggling to fight back another laugh. “Don’t look like I’m trying to joke with you. I’m not. Namjoon’s a pensive person and he feels a lot. You and him would work together well.”

Jungkook stares at the bananas still being twirled in Seokjin’s grasp. Seokjin looks cool while doing that. Jungkook thinks Seokjin could be holding a dead fish and singing to it and still look cool. Jungkook was not born with this gene.

“He’s fun to be around, even if we haven’t known each other that long.” Jungkook kicks at the linoleum floor with his boots to appear casual. “I respect how much he cares about his music. He’s smart. Clumsy but thoughtful.” Jungkook stops talking, all too aware that he sounds like an idiot in love. He shrugs, confessing, “I don’t really know what I’m saying.”

“People have taken advantage of him since he’s gotten big,” Seokjin says, like he doesn’t want to have to, “but you’re not doing that.”

“No,” Jungkook answers easily, mainly because he has never even given thought to it. “I wouldn’t do that to him.”

Namjoon’s schedule is frenzied and hectic, but they make it work more often than not. The rapper sends photos of the sky when Jungkook has stayed in all day pathetically writing clipped sentences onto a document without direction. He tells Jungkook about the hollowed, chipped feeling that festers in his chest when he reads fans’ letters and can’t comprehend the amount of devotion in such small messages. He asks Jungkook: What rhymes with deeply?

“He writes more now since he’s met you. Did you know that?”

What Seokjin really means: do you know what it’s like to inspire somebody?

Maybe, Jungkook would answer. He’s a naturally competitive person. His drive to be the best and push forward regardless of consequences forces other people to become better with him. The element of choice has never occurred to him in this context. For as much as he keeps moving, people move with him. That’s just how things work.

Jungkook stands in front of his cart and leans his forearms over it. They’ve been chatting in this aisle for too long. The lights are suddenly very, very bright.

“Do you like him?”

So much, Jungkook thinks, but can’t get past the lump in his throat to say it.

“I need to get ice cream,” Jungkook replies instead.

Seokjin seems to understand anyway. He snickers, like he’s just thought of something good. “I’ll go with you. Could be a rocky road, if you know what I mean.”

Jungkook groans, throwing his face in his hands. The air is clearer but Jungkook’s heart won’t stop beating out of his chest. “Yeah,” he sighs. His reply is muffled. “I know what you mean.”

 


 

The ache starts right between his eyebrows, a pain so intense that it’s mind-numbing. Jungkook screws his face up at the sensation, jaw dropped and panting like an overheated dog in his attempt to get rid of the feeling.

It doesn’t really do much. This inconveniences him immensely.

“Brain freeze?” Namjoon asks through a mouthful of ice cream, chocolate smudged on the corner of his lip.

Jungkook nods so quickly that his brain jostles a little in his skull. Tongue pressed up against the roof of his mouth, he whines and waits for his body to quit harassing him for eating that astronomically portioned scoop of rocky road.

“That’s what you get for not listening to me when I told you to slow down,” Namjoon chides. Jungkook glares at him pitifully and shoves him onto the other side of the couch. Namjoon just snorts. “You know what they say, 'karma’s a bitch and so are you'—you gotta be careful about that stuff.”

Jungkook blinks. What? “Uh, nobody says that. There is not a single person I know who says that.”

“Shit." Namjoon digs his spoon into the ice cream again. "Is that the Mandela Effect? It’s gotta be. It really fuckin’ has to be.”

“Please. End my life.” Jungkook shakes his head, exasperated, not sure how exactly to entertain Namjoon’s personal oppression of standard conventions at the moment. He opens his hand from a fist to gesture that he wants the tub. "Pass me that. I read somewhere once that a guy ate ice cream for fifteen hours straight and fucked up his circulatory system so bad that he dropped dead."

“Where the hell did you read that?"

Jungkook bites down on a chunk of ice cream that's almost all marshmallow. "Internet," he says, but it comes out warbled.

"I think that's a myth."

Jungkook huffs, indignant. “You can’t prove anything.”

Namjoon snorts at Jungkook’s expression and rolls his eyes, digging his own spoon into their shared gallon of ice cream. He purposely avoids all of the marshmallows because he’s noticed that Jungkook likes them the best, even though Jungkook hasn’t told him about that. It’s disgusting: Jungkook has reached such an appalling level of gross depravity that every time Namjoon’s spoon politely scrapes away from the sweet marshmallows, he has an insatiable urge to squeal like a teenage girl.

“Do you have a plan for this?”

Jungkook jerks his head in the direction of the small pile of nail polish bottles standing on the coffee table in explanation. They’ve been ignoring it for the ice cream the past ten minutes. Jungkook thinks it’s intentional.

“Application wise? None.” Namjoon shrugs and shoves another bite of ice cream in his mouth. “I think I wanna use that seashell pink, though. It’s your color.”

“Don’t pretend like you know what fashion is."

“I know what fashion is," Namjoon defends, appalled.

"You don't. You own a choker made out of duct tape."

"Ha-ha,” Namjoon deadpans, but Jungkook doesn’t miss the blush rising hot on his cheeks in embarrassment at the memory. “You're so mean. Teenagers are so mean, why are you like that?"

“I'm interesting and think it's cool you managed to go platinum with a song that literally just says do you in it a billion times?"

"Don't think that's it."

"Yeah it is. You need me for the emotional support. Admit it."

“Christ, we need to hang out less.” Jungkook squeaks in offense. Namjoon rolls his eyes and explains, “You sound like me. I don’t like it.”

“That,” Jungkook grits out, taking a deep breath, “is not. My. Fault.”

It’s so late at night that Jungkook can feel his eyes drying out. They meet at two in the morning these days more often than not because Namjoon practically lives in the studio during the inhabitable and much more preferable hours of the day. He says he’s producing something that’s taking up all his time lately, something that chews him up and spits him out at an impossible time of night. Somehow it ends up being Jungkook’s ratty apartment where he goes to, but it’s good. Jungkook gets bored when alone anyway, craves the company of another person next to him too much.

There are only two lamps that illuminate the living room in the apartment—any more and Taehyung wouldn’t be able to sleep well, and a disgruntled and cranky Taehyung is something that should be avoided at any and all costs— and the light is orange around them, muted and full. Their shadows flicker on the wall when Namjoon moves too much in excitement when he speaks, his body swaying, hands gliding. Jungkook is transfixed by it.

They wash bowls in the sink and then settle back into the living room. Jungkook finds himself content with the proximity and conversation that Namjoon provides now that he’s not as intensely threatened by his internationally acclaimed success.

It just...It feels good to be around Namjoon. Comfortable. Safe.

If Jungkook had any concern for Namjoon’s prowess in painting his nails, it amplifies astronomically as soon as the older attempts to open the bottle with his fucking teeth.

“You’re giving me anxiety,” Jungkook whispers harshly, swallowing back the urge to screech.

He watches helplessly as Namjoon finally pries it open and then dips the brush into the soft, seashell pink polish. He dabs a glob of it against the side of the bottle in a way that makes Jungkook think he must have seen it in a movie maybe once, awkward and clunky yet grossly, grossly confident.

“I got this,” Namjoon says, like he’s reassuring himself more than Jungkook. “Relax.”

Jungkook is not a very relaxed person. He vocalizes as much, but all Namjoon does is wave him off with his free hand.

They’re sitting on pillows on the floor next to the lamp, now, hunched over the newspaper laden floor with rapt attention. The top headline displayed underneath Jungkook’s hand at the moment is titled Rap Monster Dominates Music Charts Once Again and the photo they used of Namjoon is from 2014, and yeah, it’s a little uncomfortable. Jungkook’s back hurts in this position. Namjoon did not look good with his hair both bleached and slicked that high up. Jungkook has to squint from the poor lighting, and Namjoon’s breath smells like walnuts and that cinnamon toothpaste he uses because he thinks the taste of mint is too harsh.

It unfortunately takes Namjoon upwards of three minutes just to paint Jungkook’s index finger. Jungkook thinks that he might go crazy from the proximity, Namjoon gently holding his hand up into the scant light of the living room, brush unsteady in his hand as dots of pink polish smudge on the side of his finger.

He talks softly around the mistakes he makes, vocal exercises he doesn’t like but has to do, clothing sponsorships that don’t fit his image but fits what Korea  wants  his image to be. Things that matter to him. Things he wants to know more about.

It blurs together very easily in Jungkook’s head. He can’t help it that he stops listening. Namjoon is very close to Jungkook’s face and very attractive when up close and personal.

“—but even though Hoseok says it is, I don’t really get it. How can not having your driver’s license be gay culture? Am I missing something?” Namjoon huffs and aggressively sets down the nail polish remover that he’s been using to wipe off half of Jungkook’s mispainted hand. At the lack of response, he looks up. Raises his eyebrows in amusement, lips curling into that smile that drives Jungkook insane. “You’re not listening, Kook.”

Jungkook blushes furiously, caught. He tilts his head back in order to hide the lovesick expression on his face and wills himself to act natural.

“How do you know this isn’t what my listening face looks like?” Jungkook asks, indignant.

“Because it’s the same face you make when you’re zoning out.” Jungkook squints. “Don’t act like you didn’t—oh my god, you’re kidding, right? You zone out like, 95% of the time.”

“I fed you ice cream. How could you betray me like this?”

“Betrayal?” Namjoon points a finger at Jungkook in accusation. “Big talk for somebody who ditched me last week to go purify the library with their roommate.”

“Taehyung has a name, you know,” Jungkook defends, “and besides, that place is haunted. It was urgent. Don’t you have any respect for public safety?”

“We were gonna get bagels and play Doki Doki Literature Club, though,” Namjoon grumbles, defeated.

Jungkook screws his nose up. “You weren’t kidding when you were talking about wanting to play that? You—you know that game isn’t actually about literature, right?”

“What? It’s not?” Namjoon scrunches his face up in confusion. “Then what the fuck is it about?”

Jungkook cannot fathom how it would be humanly possible for him to even begin to explain the plot of the popular dating sim turned psychological horror. He’d rather have six consecutive aneurysms than even try. “Don’t worry about it.”

Namjoon diligently goes back to mauling Jungkook’s hand with pink nail polish, humming under his breath. He looks like he wants to say something, a fond kind of smile on his face at Jungkook’s antics, but he doesn’t.

The taste of ice cream is still in the back of Jungkook’s throat. He tries to swallow it down, replace it with something else, but it doesn’t seem to stick. The atmosphere in the room has shifted; the lights feel brighter. The silence isn’t as thick.

“Thanks,” Namjoon says, sudden, clearing his voice with a small cough. He doesn’t look up, expression set on Jungkook’s hands. Aware of the suddenness of the statement, the stiff way it comes out of his mouth. He tries again: “For being here. You do a lot more than you think. I mean—it’s just...You’re really good, Kook.”

The butterflies in Jungkook’s stomach go from gentle fluttering to swarming like fucking crazy.

I’m good, Jungkook thinks. A shiver runs up the length of his spine. I’m good. Holy shit.

On the outside, Jungkook hasn’t moved an inch. “It’s not a big deal,” he says in an attempt at sounding blasé. He’s impressed by how unembarrassed he manages to sound for somebody who has the social prowess of a fucking cephalopod.

Seokjin’s obnoxiously attractive face pops up into Jungkook’s head.

You and Namjoon would be good for each other, he says with his perfect, glossed lips.

Jungkook blushes scarlet.

Jungkook becomes all too aware of Namjoon’s hand cradling his fingers, the wet nail polish spitting onto the newspaper in thick, pink droplets. He doesn’t know where to look. Where is a safe space? The side of Namjoon’s ear? The mole on the slope of his jaw? Maybe he can go for the nose. The nose seems safe.

He zones out a bit like this.

The scene sets itself up relatively quickly: Jungkook’s tiny little teenage brain cheers for him from the depths of a harshly lit basketball stadium surrounded by slimy cerebrospinal fluid. His last two brain cells are competing with each other to win the championship game, but it’s hard to tell who exactly is winning. His frail, despicable consciousness announces the various plays on the screen with absolutely zero interest. Half of the spectators are falling asleep just trying to bear with it.

Suddenly, the kiss cam revs up right over Jungkook and Namjoon. His dingy living room is projected onto the jumbotron screens. The crowd roars. They chant: Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

“Kook?”

Jungkook shakes his head. Snaps out of it. Namjoon has finished painting his nails and is now wiping at the sides of his fingers with isopropyl alcohol.

“N-nothing,” he stutters, shy. “It’s nothing.”

“Whatever,” Namjoon says with his dumb, dazzling smile. “Welcome back to reality.”

Jungkook stammers, blushing. He’s going to euthanize himself.

He is so, so fucked.

 


 

It doesn’t take much to clean up after Namjoon leaves. Jungkook works on autopilot at a steady pace, crumbling the nail polish-stained newspaper and throwing it in the bin underneath the kitchen sink with stiff hands. Cleaning up his nails takes a bit longer, but it’s mainly just because his fingers look like the glorified byproduct of a natural disaster, the raw and deserted beach in the aftermath of a tsunami.

Jungkook can’t stop staring at his fingers, stupidly enamored with Namjoon. His skin feels prickly with the ghost of his touch. Holy shit, he thinks, Namjoon held my hand.

Four in the morning comes like an omen. That winter stillness, everything slow and dark like molasses. Jungkook pads down the hallway in a fit of desperation and disrupted sleep, dazedly standing outside of Taehyung’s bedroom, anxiously deciding whether or not to knock on the door.

He knows how to knock. He’s got that part down. But the idea of baring himself to somebody has never been easy for Jungkook. Hell, the most he has ever connected with Taehyung emotionally was when his pet lizard died two years ago and Jungkook volunteered to lead its funeral procession. It lasted over two and a half hours and had over thirty guests in attendence. In the end they almost got arrested for burying the lizard behind the bushes surrounding their apartment complex.

You know what? Fuck knocking. Jungkook deserves to cuddle one of his best friends. He’s done more than enough for Taehyung in his life to have deserved it.

The door creaks when Jungkook opens it. He tip toes across the room towards Taehyung’s bed and nearly trips and falls on the amount of clothes on the floor. It doesn’t matter how many times Jungkook’s been in here, none of Taehyung’s things stay in the same fucking place. Jungkook truly, genuinely thinks that Taehyung buys furniture according to what’s most similar to the catalogue in his Animal Crossing: New Leaf town.

Jungkook carefully pries the pillow that Taehyung always sleeps with from his grasp and wedges himself into the free space, smiling at the sleepy whine Taehyung lets out at being awoken. He moves the pillow to the side; it’s a bit damp, but it’s not like Taehyung can help it. He’s a chronic drooler.

“J’ngkook?” Taehyung slurs, lifting his head up. “What the fuck are you doing here...? Everything okay?” He jolts up from his position on the bed, body alert but mind still groggy with sleep. “Is Jim’n okay? He’s not dead, right? Not without me?”

“Jimin’s okay,” Jungkook reassures him.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, Tae. I’m sure. And we gotta let him sleep, ‘cause he’s got that neurobiology seminar at 9:30, remember?”

Taehyung pouts. His arms snake around Jungkook’s waist and constrict at just the slightest pressure, long fingers tapping against his sides mindlessly. “But if I’m fine,” Taehyung says with a long, arched yawn, pointing at himself, “and Jimin’s fine, then you must be...Oh my god. It’s Namjoon, isn’t it?”

“I—I mean, um,” Jungkook stutters, unable to finish. A hot blush burns onto his cheeks.

“I’m up at four in the fuckin’ morning ‘cause my roommate has boy problems.” Taehyung deadpans, yawning again. “Amazing.”

Jungkook’s throat closes, the time suddenly catching up to him. Most of the people in the city are probably still asleep, squeezing out those last few drops of rest before getting ready to work overtime for the fourth day in a row.

Most. Taehyung is very, very awake. His arms are like a fucking python’s.

“Oh, I, wow, I’m an idiot,” Jungkook stammers, “it’s so late, holy shit let’s just talk tomorrow—”

Taehyung cuts him off. “Kookie, this hasn’t happened since last year when Jimin dated that hockey player that had a Heathers complex and wanted to kill all of those assholes in his lab rotation for him. Let me have this.”

Jungkook winces. He remembers when that happened. Jimin’s text messages in their group chat were exclusively attachments for three weeks, mostly photos of cryptic, magazine character cut-out notes they kept receiving in the mail. They detailed graphic threats to their lives on the basis of some small comments made about Jimin’s test scores or his weight that Jimin had complained to his boyfriend about in passing. He blew up those comments and printed them onto paper like some creepy, teenage horror movie.

It’d be worse if Jimin wasn’t completely okay with it, but he just found it funny. Someone trying to kill for Park Jimin? Jimin, the bubblegum bitch who would publicly execute another person just for the page 3 newspaper headline? He’s the type of person to become student body president just so people know his name. Of  course  he was fine.

“I know, but still,” Jungkook says shyly. He squeezes his eyes shut even though it’s pitch black in the bedroom. “I don’t—say things. Even when it’s hard.”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to try, dummy.” Taehyung laughs. “You know when Minnie gets all grumpy and picks at his food but we tell him to eat anyway?”

“That’s because it’s good for him to eat. Makes it a little better.”

“Exactly.”

Jungkook’s blush deepens, understanding the care beneath Taehyung’s words. He hides his face in Taehyung’s chest like a baby koala, nose poking against his collarbone and inhaling small, frustrated breaths. Taehyung smells like an odd combination of playground mulch and lemon floor cleaner, but Jungkook has grown to really like it. Associate it with home.

“That’s why you gotta talk to me,” Taehyung says, voice low, baritone. He moves his hand to run his fingers through Jungkook’s hair, smoothing out the tousled strands from the younger’s restless sleep and massaging his scalp lightly. Jungkook melts into the touch. His eyes flutter shut. “You’ll feel better. Promise.”

Jungkook huffs. He knows that.

The dissatisfying fact of the matter is that what Jungkook can understand in full capacity intellectually means jack fucking shit when forced to truly absorb it on an emotional level. He understands the limitations of his psyche. He knows that there are ways to feel better. The problem is feeling it, not just having intellectual knowledge within a third-party outlook apart from himself. Believing his words are worthy of others’ time and energy not because they’re interesting or funny, but because they’re spoken by himself.

Jungkook wants to get there one day. He really, really wants to get there.

“I think I’m going to go insane if I don’t tell Namjoon how I feel,” Jungkook explains, tone already uncertain. He clears his throat. “I just. You know. I’m terrified of rejection and the terrible reality that I'm a human who feels emotion.”

“I know that’s not all it is,” Taehyung says. Ugh. Perceptive bitch. He knows everything. “You’re scared of something else, too, right?”

Jungkook gnaws on the inside of his cheek and thinks about what he wants to say, how he wants to say it.

“I like what we have,” he starts. “It’s comfortable, you know? He’s cute and funny and successful and he just, he does this thing, okay, this thing where he always makes you feel like you’re being heard. You could be talking about how writing poetry with 0.38mm pens makes ideas flow from your brain better than when you write with 0.7mm and he would just smile and ask you about your best 0.38mm thoughts and—ugh.” Jungkook takes a deep breath. “God. I’m rambling. I’m rambling and I’m in love and I don’t know how to fucking handle it, Tae. It’s killing me.”

In a perfect world, Namjoon falls in love with Jungkook and they skip the Cinderella bullshit trying desperately to convince each other that a relationship is a good idea. The shoe already fits, it’s got Jungkook’s name on it, and they don’t even have to bother trying it on.

But it doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes the first step is a bunch of little first steps that are all equally as terrifying as the last. Sometimes a confession is just a conversation.

“I think you should tell him that. He looks at you differently, you know. Always wants to be the one to take care of you when Minnie and I can’t.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say to that,” Jungkook mumbles.

His heart is beating so fast he’s starting to get concerned about the possibility of cardiac arrest. Can you have a heart attack from falling in love? Can that happen?

Taehyung snuggles against Jungkook. “Just be honest and tell him everything. I really think that’s all you can do, Kookie.”

“Ugh, you sound like Seokjin,” Jungkook groans in frustration, smushing his face against Taehyung’s torso in a poor attempt at hiding. Maybe he can burrow in there forever if he tries hard enough. It sounds nice.

Suddenly, Taehyung freezes. His grip on Jungkook constricts tighter to the point where it becomes painful, his breath catching on an inhale and refusing to exhale.

“Holy shit, Tae, not so hard,” Jungkook chastises, confused at the sudden shift in his roommate’s demeanor. “What are you—”

“You,” Taehyung interrupts, voice raspy and overcome with emotion, arms still trapping Jungkook in a vice grip. Jungkook tries prying them off little by little with his hands, but the position makes it weird. He can’t get a good grasp.

“I?” Jungkook wheezes.

“You. Met. Seokjin.” A pause for emphasis. “And you didn’t  tell  me?”

Oh.

Jungkook forgot to mention that, didn’t he.

“Um. Yes?”

Taehyung lets go of Jungkook and sits up, rubbing at his eyes aggressively. His hair is sticking up in several different directions, just barely visible in the bruising light of the morning. His energy is all different now: not as sleepy, not as wistful. Now it’s all intensity and excitement. Buzz buzz, motherfucker.

“When. Where. How.”

Jungkook laughs. Taehyung can be really cute sometimes.

“Last week,” Jungkook answers. “Grocery store, the one I like going to ‘cause it’s next to the dog groomer’s place and I like seeing the shih tzu’s with the funny haircuts.” That’s irrelevant, Jungkook. Move the fuck on. “Anyway, he came up to me. Said Namjoon had told him about me or something. He was really cool, though. I legitimately believe you now when you tell me his shoulders are sixty centimeters.”

“Okay that’s it,” Taehyung says decisively, turning and shaking Jungkook by the shoulders. “Text Namjoon and ask him out on a date. I’ll take care of your outfit and nails, so don’t worry. But you are going to get your man, and so help me fucking god, I’m going to meet mine.”

 


 

Jungkook
are u busy on thursday at approximately 2:35pm

Namjoon
for the last time i am not going to another matinee showing of that new pacific rim movie with you
we’ve seen it four times. there’s only so much a man can take

Jungkook
don’t u wanna make it a lucky five :-(

Namjoon
absolutely not
i can do friday evening, though?

Jungkook
okay!!
can we go to that one bookstore near that really good smoothie place??

Namjoon
i don’t see why not
do you need something for class?

Jungkook
nah. i just read online somewhere that bookstores are a good place to go to on a first date

Namjoon
what

Jungkook
that’s right! uve won 1 free coupon for a date with me, jeon jungkook!
i call it: “Smoothies N’ Sci-Fi: a Tragedy”
that last part is me. i’m the tragedy

Namjoon
a date?
......are u......asking me out.....?

Jungkook
yes and i clearly have no idea what the absolute fuck i am doing
if u make me explain everything i think i will go into cardiac arrest

Namjoon
oh yeah?
then go get the defibrillator, lover boy

NAMJOON-HYUNG is calling...

Namjoon’s contact photo displays on the caller ID. It’s a grainy iPhone quality photo of him smiling and winking for the camera, peace sign poised on the side of his face. Looking at it still gives Jungkook chills. It's unfair for a person to be that attractive. 

Namjoon had spilt bingsu all over his sweatshirt at a small restaurant apart from prying eyes and shining cameras. By the time they'd arrived at Jungkook's apartment he had to borrow a white T-shirt from Jungkook. The fit was just the slightest bit too small on him, and every time Namjoon’s hem rose up to reveal a strip of tanned skin, Jungkook found himself getting dizzy.

“This is Jeon Jungkook,” Jungkook answers monotonously. It’s supposed to be a funny joke because Namjoon definitely knows who is picking up, and this is not a call center. It’s actually Jungkook’s worst nightmare.

Truthfully, Jungkook feels like he’s about to vomit. His hands have become so sweaty that it’s a struggle to even hold his phone upright. The lump in his throat is bordering on the edge of suffocating.

“Hey,”  Namjoon replies. His voice sounds strained. Jungkook does not know whether or not that is a good thing.“I think you had something you wanted to tell me?”

“Ha, whaaaaat?” Jungkook says in disbelief. “Pfft. Me? No way.” 

Jungkook is losing the executive ability to perform functions. His tongue is doing somersaults right now trying to form words and it is not working.

“Ask me,” Namjoon says. His tone is a little bit commanding. It makes Jungkook’s dick twitch in his sweatpants.“Ask me out on a date.”

He should just give up and die, right? That sounds good. It’d be really organic. He could probably get Namjoon to be into it, too, if he phrased it as abstractly as physically possible.

Fuck society, you know?  He would say in that blasé tone that teenagers use when they care about something way too much but don’t want anybody to know. Listen: if you don’t have a brain, then it can’t get corrupted with all the shit going on in the world. You think the guy who invented the lobotomy was onto something?

“Do you,” Jungkook starts, swallowing thickly, “do you wanna go on a date with me? Like, I’m confessing on the basis of fear that I can and  will  asphyxiate on my feelings for you if I don’t get this out because they’re just way too big for me to handle. Every time I think about you I go ‘wow, he’s so smart and interesting and out of my league, holy shit. Holy fucking shit.'’’ Jungkook clears his throat. “But, um, it’s cool if you don’t wanna go out with me. Pinkie promise. I actually think that talking to you right now is the most mortifying thing that’s ever happened to me, so the rejection won’t even be a big deal—”

“Jungkook,”  Namjoon interrupts.

Jungkook snaps his jaw shut so quickly that his teeth chatter. “Sorry.”

“No, no, it’s good.”  Namjoon’s voice catches on the receiver. He clears his throat to hide it, but Jungkook doesn’t miss the sound.“I don’t know if I can put it the way you did, but I...God, holy fuck. I can’t believe this is happening.”

Those butterflies that have laid residence in Jungkook’s stomach? Forget them. They’re all bombs now. Jungkook is going to fucking explode.

It’s silent for a moment before Namjoon speaks.

“I don’t think I can tell you it all over the phone,” Namjoon says, voice calm and slow.“Some things just feel too big, I guess. But I really, really fucking like you, Jungkook. Probably since the time you told me it was cool to be passionate about things."

"You were talking about capitalism," Jungkook points out. He feels dizzy. Flushed.

"So?" Namjoon laughs, beautiful and full. "But I want you to see me, okay? I...I want you to know.”

“Okay,” Jungkook says, and can’t help the smile that blooms on his face. The world feels like it's turning a little bit slower, a little bit more gracefully. It's nice. Calm. Jungkook takes a deep breath and takes it all in. “I’ll see you, hyung.”

Chapter Text

“Now remember,” Jimin says, straightening up Jungkook’s winter jacket, “be safe, have fun, and if anything else—”

“You’re the top bitch.” Taehyung finishes, swatting Jimin’s hands away from Jungkook’s clothes and ruffling his hair like he’s shuttling his kid off to senior prom. Jimin looks scandalized. Taehyung just grins. “You got this, Kookie.”

It’s a little after five now. Slats of orange light slice through the blinds on the west side of the living room, mottled pinks streaking across the exposed window in thin brushstrokes. Jungkook keeps tapping his foot anxiously on the hardwood floor, an erratic rhythm that betrays his calm exterior. Jimin and Taehyung don’t say anything about it, but Jungkook knows they’ve noticed.

“Text if you need us, okay?” Taehyung asks. He does that weird thing where he positions his head in front of wherever Jungkook’s line of sight is in order to get him to make eye contact with him.

“Okay,” Jungkook replies, feeling more than a little like his friends have turned into a walking intervention for his social proclivities. “I can do that.”

Taehyung gives Jungkook a peck on the cheek with a little laugh.  

“Hey, me too!” Jimin cuts in, kissing Jungkook’s other cheek.

Jungkook groans in distaste, reaching in his front pocket for his emergency hand sanitizer. Taehyung grabs his wrist to stop him.

“You stick that on your face and Namjoon’s not gonna kiss you,” he warns.

Jungkook obediently removes his hand, blush high on his cheeks. Jimin sneaks his grimy, ravioli-sized fist into the pocket of Jungkook’s jeans and fishes it out, shaking the viscous liquid around to show that it’s in his possession now.

“That, and germaphobes ruin the mood,” Jimin says, sticking out his tongue childishly. “There’s a law about that, Kookie.”

You are smarter than every person I’ve met combined, Jungkook thinks at Jimin, watching as he and Taehyung pour excessive amounts of Purell on each other’s hands in an effort to ensure there is no possible way Jungkook can use it to embarrass himself on his date. They’re trying to work up a lather with it, which is impossible, because it’s 70% ethanol. How on earth do you fail to comprehend the fundamental concepts that make up the judicial system?

Going into the bookstore fifteen minutes earlier than the time he and Namjoon had agreed on gives Jungkook more anxiety than is humanly acceptable, so he bypasses going inside entirely. There’s a small crowd gathered in the center of the main floor that looks like a nightmare for Jungkook’s puny, socially inept brain, anyway. He heads into the smoothie place just down the street instead.

Mango is an amazing confidence booster, Jungkook justifies as he stammers out his order at the register and slaps his debit card against the counter. He’s going to need fifteen of them.

Jungkook knows that Namjoon’s favorite kind of smoothie is orange pineapple even though he’s actually never told him. Jungkook is kind of banking on Namjoon thinking he guessed it by pure luck so that he believes they’re soulmates, but the depressing truth is that Jungkook has watched over thirty separate interviews with Rap Monster on YouTube over the past few months and it was mentioned offhandedly once to Billboard in 2016.

That being said, Jungkook will never listen to the KBS interview that Namjoon was on recently ever again. Never. He even sold his radio CD player online so he wouldn’t have to look at it in his room staring at him like a sinner. When Taehyung asked him why he was putting it up for sale, Jungkook panicked and told him he was trying to save up money to buy drugs.

By the time Jungkook leaves the smoothie place, it’s already 6:29 PM. They agreed to meet at 6:30, but Jungkook has always been too much of a perfectionist, too easily deluded into thinking late appointments make them useless appointments. He walks into the bookstore with a bit of struggle, the cold smoothies biting into the palms of Jungkook’s hands with an aching chill, paper-wrapped plastic straws tucked into his jacket pocket. The crowd has only gotten bigger since he passed by previously; it’s hard to get through the door.

Nonetheless Jungkook shoulders his way inside shyly, mumbling out excuse me’s and pardon me’s with every exhale of breath. There must be a book signing going on, he surmises. Maybe it’s some hotshot author with a big name that published something recently Jungkook hasn’t read because he’s too busy with school to check the Best Sellers list. Maybe it’s a novelist making their first appearance in twenty years. Maybe—

Standing at the epicenter of the crowd is Namjoon, two melting smoothies held loosely in each hand.

He looks at Jungkook and smiles, wide-toothed and beautiful, and the world around them melts away.

“I got you this,” Namjoon half-shouts over the crowd, gesturing to the smoothie in his left hand. His attention is somewhat divided between Jungkook and a girl wearing an RM t-shirt who’s crying just barely a meter away from his side, but it’s okay. It’s all okay.

“This is crazy!” Jungkook replies, breathless.

He means the crowd, the noise, the commotion, but Namjoon just laughs and says, “I know. How did you know orange pineapple is my favorite?”

 


 

“Okay, this is perfect,” Namjoon says, leading Jungkook towards a section at the back of the bookstore. It’s absolutely deserted. “Nobody’s gonna find us here.”

Jungkook looks up at the sign pinned to the top of a wide, crowded bookshelf: SELF-HELP AND PERSONAL GROWTH.

Jungkook snorts around his smoothie. The two of them sit down with their backs to one of the shelves, comfortable in their secluded corner.

Amidst the crowd control, Jungkook went back and forth to drinking his smoothie and gawking at Namjoon’s professionalism as he and several security guards from the building dealt with the mob situation. Now Jungkook’s halfway done with his drink and more than a little giddy, adrenaline still pumping hot in his veins. He can’t sit still. Namjoon keeps looking at him funny, but he doesn’t even have the presence of mind to care.

All those fans, and Jungkook is the one who gets to be with Namjoon at the end of the day. Hell, Namjoon even said the line that Jungkook has daydreamed of hearing over and over again for months: don’t worry, he’s with me.

“You really know how to plan a first date,” Jungkook comments. He reaches for the extra smoothie in Namjoon’s hand he bought and punches the straw through the lid. Jungkook hums as he takes a sip: strawberry and banana. Fuck yes. “I have to admit, your strategy is pretty good.”

Namjoon watches the way Jungkook sucks around the straw, the way his throat dips as he swallows it down. He’s kind of obvious, the way his gaze lingers. Maybe he always has been, but Jungkook has just never noticed until now. “What do you mean?”

“You know,” Jungkook says, waving his hand in a blasé fashion, “shared trauma brings people closer together; we feel more connected even though it’s only our first date; my poor, frail psyche is convinced that you look like a god in those jeans; suddenly I want you to take me out again.”

“Right.”

“Yeah, I copied Jimin’s psychology notes for a test once. I know this shit.”

Jungkook’s aforementioned psyche is smacking him on the side of the head with a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul for opening his embarrassing and pathetic mouth. The laugh that Namjoon lets out, though, small blush rising to the surface of his cheeks, is absolutely worth the trouble. Jungkook might be a little bit in love with the sound of it.

“Your expectations of me are way too high,” Namjoon says, wrapping his lips around his straw. He bites at it absently between thoughts, frowning when he tries to suck up the smoothie with the plastic chewed shut. It’s adorable. Why is it that everything Namjoon does is so adorable, what the fuck?

“So you’re not gonna take me out again?”

“I didn’t say that.” Namjoon nudges Jungkook, pointing at the baby pout on the younger’s face. His cheeks puff up like a fish. “Look at you, you’re already a master manipulator. Why, pray tell me, do I get the feeling you’re gonna burn a hole through my wallet?”

“No clue,” Jungkook hums, and sips at the drink Namjoon bought him. “Maybe you get a kick out of philanthropy?”

Maybe you just like me, Jungkook thinks hopefully.

The adrenaline rush dies down naturally, but Jungkook’s heartbeat is still fast in his chest even as Namjoon jumps into a story about the worst time he’s ever embarrassed himself in public. It’s an attempt to convince Jungkook that the crowd control from earlier is nothing in comparison to how dysfunctional of a person he can be in everyday society, and it kinda works.

Either way it’s kind of funny, the way Namjoon tells stories—he moves his hands all over the place and starts laughing before he gets to the interesting parts, almost like he can’t help himself from spoiling the punchline a little too soon. Jungkook hangs onto his every word in what he hopes comes off as very casual. He is what some may call a master at obsessively playing it cool.

“You could not believe how hungry I was, Kook,” Namjoon continues. They’re laughing again, leaning into each other’s sides as Namjoon details dropping two full cartons of eggs in the middle of a convenience store at 11:00 PM on a Wednesday night about a year ago, yolk and whites smearing all over his palms as he attempted cleaning it up before being seen by anybody. “I wanted an omelette so bad. When I dropped the eggs, that’s— that’s when the heartbreak started to set in. I wanted to die just so I could face god in heaven and punch him in the face.”

Oh my fucking god, Jungkook thinks, choking on his spit.

“Did the cashier recognize you?”

“No, and that’s the worst part,” Namjoon says, and he’s giggling again, giggling —Jungkook shakes off the remnants of shock that Rap Monster is giggling next to him on the floor of a bookstore because it’s their first date, their first date— “I assumed he knew who I was, but he didn’t. The stars were all aligned for him to know: there was an ad for toothpaste with my face on it in the store, he looked barely twenty, and some underground rapper’s mixtape was playing in the store—the niche shit. In the moment I thought, ‘alright, this is it. This is the worst day of my life.’”

Jungkook knows exactly which advertisement Namjoon is talking about. He might have bought that exact toothbrush when it was being sold last year.

Maybe. Possibly. Perchance.

“But he didn’t know,” Jungkook continues. Namjoon shakes his head in confirmation, taking a sip of his diminishing smoothie. Jungkook watches it get sucked up the straw through the translucent plastic. “You fucked up, were trying to scoop broken eggs back into their shells, but at least he didn’t know who you were. That’s good, right?”

“You’d think that, yeah. But picture this: me in a full suit, tired because I just got off work, begging this poor cashier who’s nice enough to bring two new egg cartons to the counter to please not tell anybody about what happened because I don’t want the public to turn my embarrassing story into what could pass off as a drug abuse scandal. I have maybe—oh, I don’t know—₩300,000 cash in my hands, and I’m ready to throw it at him if I have to.”

“Okay,” Jungkook says, laughing, and he really is picturing it. All the details, everything Namjoon’s saying. That pinstriped suit Namjoon hates wearing and takes off the second he gets to Jungkook’s apartment on the nights they watch movies together after work; the cash in his hands, sticky with raw egg; the exasperated and desperate expression on his face.

“I go, ‘here, take it, the money’s yours.’”

“Right.”

“Are you picturing it?”

“Yeah, hyung,” Jungkook says, nudging Namjoon’s side, “I’m picturing it.”

“The cashier says, confused as all fuck, ‘sir, your total is only ₩6,000.’”

“Oh, no.”

They laugh about it. They laugh because it’s embarrassing, and because when it comes to Namjoon anything, absolutely anything, is possible. When Jungkook leans into Namjoon’s side, elbows bumping and shoulders touching, it feels like electricity. Wild, crazy, cliché electricity. Jungkook loves it.

Namjoon looks good today. Jungkook’s sweat-soaked teenage brain is going batshit just staring at him. A simple gold chain hangs from Namjoon’s neck, pendant framing his chest in clear moonstone and purple amethyst. He’s been wearing this digital watch Jungkook got him recently, silver with a smooth interface—it was a minor impulse purchase that only cost him around ₩20,000, but the fact that Namjoon is wearing it makes his heart loop in circles.

“You have a really cute smile,” Namjoon comments, poking the side of Jungkook’s cheek lightly.

Jungkook freezes. His skin tingles.

“You—you can’t just say that,” he sputters.

“Sorry,” Namjoon apologizes, not sorry at all, and laughs.

Jungkook has an almost animalistic urge to press his finger against Namjoon’s dimple. His hands are twitching at the prospect of it. But the fear that Namjoon has bodyguards that are secretly lurking in the shadows of the bookstore, sniper rifles ready to blow off his extremities, keeps him at bay.

Jungkook looks down at the floor, a pink blush heating up his cheeks. Not confident enough to be able to look Namjoon in the eye while he continues to talk, he focuses intently on a patch of smoothie that somehow managed to spill onto the carpet. After a few moments of intense concentration, it begins to speak to Jungkook in a wise, raspy voice: stop being embarrassed, Jungkook. You’re gay. You’re in love. It’s fine. We get it.

Jungkook isn’t entirely sure how he even got this far. Like, realistically. How it is feasible for him to have landed a date with the top rapper in South Korea continues to confuse the fuck out of him. Just a few months ago Jungkook was struggling to piece together a short story without begging Jimin to end his tiny, pathetic life. He stayed in on Saturday nights to build replicas of Taehyung’s expensive shampoo bottles out of popsicle sticks and cried when he ran out of glue. Hell, he bought fifteen bags of gummy bears for the express purpose of organizing them by color, weight, and size—not even for consumption.

He still does that shit with the gummy bears, though. It’s fun. He likes to watch Jimin eat them all afterwards and marvel at the fact that so much food can fit into the human body.

It’s not like Jungkook has made a colossal change in his behavior. He’s a skittish person with no refined concentration skills, and taking an ounce of criticism will throw him into a panic. He will forever hate horror movies with a passion. You would have to pry the cold, hard jaws of his corpse apart in order to get him to eat a morsel of soybean soup.

Jungkook can’t even begin to fathom how mortified he’d be if he told Namjoon he initially thought their entire relationship was based off of a major lie. It would devastate him. In one cruel, cruel daydream, Jungkook envisions the fate of his first novel reaching store shelves, its gleaming front cover mocking him: I Thought My Boyfriend (I Don’t Think We’re Boyfriends Yet???) Was a Catfish: A Conspiracy Told in Tinder Conversations.

Jungkook really hates epistolaries. They go against all of his personal values.

Besides, it’s not like Namjoon could tell much about Jungkook before they met.

Huh. Wait a minute.

“Did you like me before you met me?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon pauses in the middle of his sentence, what was the tail edge of a rant about the amount of sliced bread Yoongi’s frail, old body somehow manages to consume on a weekly basis (Apparently it’s obscene) now cut short. It’s rude to have interrupted, yeah, but the thought occurs to Jungkook so suddenly that he can’t help but vocalize it.

“I told you that, didn’t I?” Namjoon replies, looking kind of smug. “Since the time you went out and got—”

“Got those painkillers because studying for finals was giving me a migraine,” Jungkook finishes for him. He groans. “Holy shit.”

Has it been that long for Namjoon? Since December?

“Call me irresponsible, whatever,” Namjoon says. He looks at Jungkook like he’s trying to fight back a laugh, which is extremely disarming and horribly unfair, “but I fall really quickly—stupid quickly—and I don’t know. You just made it really easy for me.”

Jungkook’s heart skips a beat. Code blue! Code blue! his brain announces in a very drained tone, as if tired of having to deal with Jungkook’s bullshit so frequently. He’s going into cardiopulmonary arrest. Get the AED.

“I don’t mean to be insecure,” Jungkook replies, metaphysical sledgehammer banging against his chest, “but that...that has to be untrue.”

Jungkook covers his face with his hands in embarrassment, hooking the collar of his black pullover up over his mouth with his thumbs. Part of him almost wishes that they’d gone to see the new Pacific Rim movie for the fifth time just so that he could focus onto the screen with a rapt intensity. It’d be easier than this. Right now, Jungkook is melting into a puddle of sticky, fluorescent goo.

“To you, maybe.” Namjoon snorts. He reaches to grab Jungkook’s hand away from his face and lowers it down. To Jungkook’s absolute—horror? Pleasure?—Namjoon laces their fingers together gently. “You gonna overthink everything, or are you gonna let this happen?”

“You know I’m gonna do both,” Jungkook grumbles, staring back at the glob of mango smoothie on the carpet. It grounds him in its ugly serenity. It’s like looking at an archaic god.

“Yeah, I know.” Namjoon squeezes Jungkook’s hand. “Look at me, Kook.”

Tentatively, Jungkook does. He looks at the brightness of Namjoon’s eyes, the way his mouth twitches as he tries to hold back a grin. His lips are full. Pink. Jungkook wonders what kind of chapstick he uses. He wonders if he’d be able to taste it on his mouth.

“Hi,” Jungkook croaks out, flustered. His mind is racing. None of his thoughts are cohesive—just a massive, jumbled whir. Completely fizzed out.

“Hey,” Namjoon replies. He gives in and smiles. Jungkook counts his teeth.

“I wanna kiss you,” Jungkook blurts out.

Namjoon raises his eyebrows in surprise, because Jungkook just said that, didn’t he.

Oh no. Oh no. Mayday. Mayday. Jungkook’s entire brain is capsizing. All neurons are ripping apart from each other and jumping overboard in order to save themselves; this is an unfortunately futile effort; none of them will survive; neurons can’t even fucking swim—

Namjoon kisses him.

Jungkook leans into it, surprised, eyes fluttering shut as he takes everything in: the gentle press of Namjoon’s lips against his, the warmth of Namjoon’s body as he moves just the tiniest bit over him. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands. He rests them on Namjoon’s hips, hoping it’s enough.

“You’re gonna kill me like this,” Jungkook mumbles against Namjoon’s lips, pulling back just enough to kiss him again for a second time. He can taste his chapstick, sweet peach and honey.

Namjoon laughs, full-bodied and beautiful. Jungkook can feel the vibrations because they’re so close. He moves to kiss Jungkook’s cheek, then the corner of his mouth, and then back to his lips. It’s dizzying.

“Been wanting to do this for so long,” Namjoon confesses between kisses, which, in essence, is a fever dream in itself.

“With me?” Jungkook asks, voice breathy and shallow. He shivers.

Namjoon hums. “Those.” Kiss. “Fucking.” Kiss. “Ladybug tattoos.” Kiss. “You said Taehyung got you them?”

Jungkook nods, jittery. “Stole ‘em,” he corrects. His mouth is moving at a much slower pace than his brain.

“God, your friends are such assholes. You included. Do you know what it did to me when you showed up at the door in nothing but those tattoos all over your body? Your neck?” Kiss. “Your shoulder?” Kiss. “Your cheek?” Kiss there, too.

“I can, ah, I can imagine,” Jungkook replies, and his whole body is fuzzy, mind turned to mush. “I’m nice to look at, huh?”

Namjoon kisses him once more, this time lingering on Jungkook’s lips, before pulling away.

Jungkook comes back to himself a little, still kiss-dazed and smiling. His hands are sweating. It’s kind of embarrassing, but then again this whole ordeal has been more than bit insane. I just kissed Kim Namjoon, Jungkook thinks shyly, staring up at the tower of books surrounding them. He tries not to circle back on the thought but it’s continuously blowing his mind.

Namjoon’s blushing too. The two of them are both on the wrong side of introverted most of the time as it is; he must have caught up with the moment, the situation in front of them. The...kisses. The many of them. The multiple.

“You, uh, have really soft lips,” Jungkook says awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

For some reason Namjoon finds this very, very funny. He starts laughing, folding in half with his arms wrapped around his torso to anchor his stomach. It’s contagious; Jungkook can’t help but break into a smile just looking at him. Nobody is there to tell them to be quiet or to mind their own business, and being able to be comfortable in public like this with Namjoon is really nice. He wants to do it again.

“Cute,” Namjoon gasps out, voice airy and light, “oh my god, you are so fucking cute.”

“I didn’t know what to say!” Jungkook defends. He puts his head in his hands again, embarrassed. His words come out muffled. “I don’t—I don’t know how to do this.”

“C’mere,” Namjoon says with a little eye roll, pulling Jungkook back in by the front of his shirt, closer and closer, “I have a pretty good idea.”

 


 

Jungkook’s body shakes with exertion. Sweat drips from his eyebrow, sloping down the side of his jaw. Everything feels so heightened, so intense—Jungkook licks his lips trying to ground himself, but finds himself without success. How this happened so quickly is beyond his comprehension.

“C’mon, Kook,” Namjoon says from behind him, his breath hot on Jungkook’s neck. “Just a little bit more. Can you do that for me?”

Jungkook bites the inside of his cheek, nodding imperceptibly. “I’m trying, hyung,” he says. He hasn’t blinked in twenty seconds. Tears are starting to well up in his eyes.

Slowly, with absolute precision, Jungkook pulls a wooden block away from the Jenga tower.

He hovers for a moment, eyes trained to the wobbly structure in front of him. He concentrates on the one spot and stays completely stockstill, both him and Namjoon frozen in time. Don’t move, Jungkook’s brain warns from within the cage of his skull, the Jenga gods can sense your fear.

Jungkook has been very, very afraid for all twenty years of his life. The tower falls against the table in a sad pile of blocks.

“God fucking dammit,” Jungkook groans, exasperated. He throws the block he’d pulled out into the pile with disgust. “How do you always win this game?”

Namjoon moves from behind Jungkook to start stacking the pieces again. “I have never actually broken something that’s supposed to break, believe it or not.” Jungkook watches his hands as he gathers them, fingers grasping three blocks at a time. Twisting them into position. “No clue how it’s possible. The general public seems to believe that it’s the karmic equivalent of trying to push the same poles of two magnets together.”

“Yoongi and Tae do not count as the general public.” Jungkook leans over to help, straightening out the stack from base to top.

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “Our general public, then. You’re so fussy.”

“I’m detail oriented. There’s a big difference.”

“In opinion, maybe,” Namjoon replies. He straightens up with a yawn, raising his arms to stretch. The bottom of his t-shirt rises up ever so slightly at the movement, revealing a tanned strip of skin. Jungkook tries not to stare, but he is a weak man. “You want coffee? I want coffee.”

Jungkook doesn’t really care about coffee. “Coffee sounds nice,” he says anyway, because the concept of  confrontation is debilitating for him to even think about.

Namjoon nods and walks towards the kitchen to flick on the coffee machine. It has too many settings for Jungkook to be comfortable standing within a five foot radius of it, but he makes do leaning against the back of the counter near the sink and watching Namjoon clean out the pot next to him.

They left the library after realizing making out in a public area is a very bad idea. Namjoon’s high profile enough as it is, and the crushing reality that anybody could come by and see two boys kissing next to copies of What Do I Do If My Son Is Gay? and How to Cope With the New Wave Gay Agenda type novels made it a quick decision to head back to a more private location.

Jungkook’s never been to Namjoon’s place before, though.

The style of his apartment is very modern with its sleek, black surfaces and crystalline light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. The space is relatively open between the lounge and the kitchen, backlit enough by the countless windows that the natural lighting suffices well after the sun has been swallowed up by the city line. Tall paintings frame the walls, ugly streaks of color combined with murals of famous musicians—the one of Prince is enormous.

It’s nice. Outside the clouds rip like a zipper over the city and beg the sun not to sink, skyscrapers tugging at its last rays. Everything is tinted orange in the light, basked in a glow. Jungkook traces the outline of shadows against Namjoon’s features, eyebrow to nose to lips, enamored.

“You’re staring,” Namjoon says, lightly tapping Jungkook’s thigh from where the younger is sitting on the counter.

Jungkook blushes. “Oh,” he mumbles, shifting his weight nervously, “sorry, I just,” think, idiot, use your head for once, “you’re pretty? I think you’re really pretty.”

“Pretty?”

Jungkook nods, biting his lip. Why is he so shy all of a sudden?

“Nobody really ever calls me pretty,” Namjoon says with a laugh.

“Sorry, I just didn’t,” ah, yes, what’s the word, “think. About what I was saying.”

“I like it.” Namjoon opens his mouth and then closes it, as if unsure of what to say. He bites the bullet. “I like when you call me pretty.”

Gay panic mode: activated.

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines, face a blistering pink. His skin feels tingly from even the most minuscule amount of praise. A small shiver laces up his spine; he’s reminded of the fact that Namjoon kissed him just over two hours ago, but somehow now it’s not enough anymore.

Namjoon pretends like he doesn’t hear him. He sets out to shove the coffee pot under the machine and skim the cabinets above the counter for the grinder. Namjoon’s hands are red from keeping them under the faucet for so long, glistening with drops of water. Jungkook looks away and forces the thrum of heat in his stomach to still, desperately trying to keep his thoughts clear.

Here are Jungkook’s frazzled thoughts as they appear in numerical order:

  1. Imagine Namjoon’s hands on you.
  2. Wait. Don’t imagine Namjoon’s hands on you. Stop that. Think of something else.
  3. The Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 and was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms. That was pretty fucked up.
  4. Imagine Namjoon’s hands in you.
  5. Oh, fuck. This isn’t working. Fuck fuck fuck.

“Can you grab two coffee mugs, Kook?” Namjoon asks. He points lazily in his general direction. “They’re in the cabinet next to you.”

Jungkook blinks, the haze of his thoughts not entirely clear yet. “Uh, mugs?” He asks confusedly.

“You know, the ceramic cups with handles?” Namjoon turns to glance at Jungkook, shaking his head in amusement as his blank expression. “You’re zoning out on me, aren’t you.”

“I know what mugs are,” Jungkook answers defensively.

I was thinking about the Spanish Inquisition, he doesn’t have the heart to add.

Jungkook shoves his tongue against the inside of his cheek, turning his body so he can open the cabinet to his right. The door is in the way, though, and pivoting himself to duck or move out of its trajectory is uncomfortable. Not wanting to seem like an idiot with no other ability than generating carbon dioxide, Jungkook blindly wedges his left arm between the cabinet door and the shelf inside, pawing around for anything mug shaped.

Namjoon doesn’t miss a beat. “I gotta do everything, don’t I?” He teases. He reaches to grab the mug from the cabinet shelf, unintentionally caging Jungkook in with his front.

This is fine. This is great. Managing proximity? Perfect. Super easy. Jungkook needs an inhaler.

But because it’s Namjoon, his elbow accidentally bangs against the cabinet door adjacent to Jungkook’s body and collides against the side of his temple. Because it’s Namjoon, the surprise of a human head existing in a space where a human head should very much not exist forces him to drop the pair of mugs in his hand, handles looped through his pinkie, onto the tiled floor beneath them both. Because it’s Namjoon, he stumbles in order to move out of the way and climbs on top of the kitchen counter like an overgrown, terrified cat.

“I liked those mugs,” Namjoon mumbles as he stares at the floor. Jungkook winces at the tender spot where he’d gotten hit and blinks as the ringing in his ears from the shrill sound of the ceramic breaking clears. “Sorry I hit you. I didn’t mean to.”

The floor near the counter is littered with shards. One of the mugs was yellow and printed with countless smiley faces, but Jungkook can’t even tell anymore. It looks kind of funny, the circular face of the smiley broken into pieces and wedged next to fractions of its mouth and eyes. Sorta like modern art.

Distantly, Jungkook wonders if Namjoon would be interested in going to a museum with him at some point. The thought of another date is enough to make him dizzy.

Jungkook closes the cabinet door so that he can see Namjoon better. He’s sitting cross-legged on the adjacent counter with his torso turned to Jungkook, but his gaze is dead set on the carnage scattered over the floor. It concerns Jungkook how he’s able to find Namjoon attractive no matter the scenario. Namjoon could be covered in mud and grime and Jungkook would bite his tongue to keep himself from incorrectly quoting a sonnet about his eyes, or his dimple, or his smile.

Thou art cool as fuck, he thinks.

“I’m fine,” Jungkook defends. He does feel alright.

“Does it hurt? Do you need to go to the doctor?”

It kind of stings, but it’s a fading pain. As much as Jungkook likes Namjoon fussing over him to make sure he’s okay, he smiles and shakes his head. “Not really. I think I’m okay.”

Namjoon brushes his fingers against Jungkook’s hairline as if unconvinced. Jungkook holds his breath as Namjoon surveys the area for any marks or bumps. His touch is tender and careful as he soothes over the skin, the pads of his fingers warm. Jungkook shivers. He’s suddenly brought back to the first time they met: the cold, the snow, the coffee.

“Remember when we met at that playground and you slipped and rammed your head into that slide?” Jungkook asks playfully, peering at Namjoon through his eyelashes. “You saw me and got so excited you started running, but then— wham. KO. You were out like a fucking light.”

“Ugh, you gave me so much shit for that,” Namjoon replies, gently massaging Jungkook’s head with his fingers. He scoots closer to get a more steady grip, and his ministrations feel even better. Jungkook’s eyes flutter closed. His body is thrumming like a live wire. “Any time I tried to text you, you’d just yell at me to rest instead. I wanted to see you so badly.”

I was too freaked out by the fact that you’re Rap Monster to be able to stand in the same city neighborhood as you, he thinks lamely.

“You had a minor concussion,” he says instead.

“Yeah, and water’s wet,” Namjoon says. “At this point I always have a minor concussion.”

Jungkook snickers. He tilts his head. It’s almost like the two of them are magnets, pulling each other in closer and closer. “Then at this point I should always be giving you shit, huh?”

They should really clean up the broken ceramic on the floor. They should grab a broom and a dustpan and start sweeping at the mess until it’s all clean. At this point Namjoon is going to forget about there being anything on the floor and will slice his socked feet on the jagged ceramic when he jumps down, and Jungkook’s gonna have to be the one to take him to the hospital because he won’t be able to walk with all of the cuts on his feet. It’ll end up badly. Really badly.

But Jungkook is holding his breath. He really, really doesn’t want this moment to end.

“Evil. So evil.” They’re inches apart now. The granite of the kitchen counter is cold when Jungkook wraps his hand around the edge to steady himself. “What’s the deal with teenagers being so cruel?”

“Pent up frustration, probably,” Jungkook hums. “Gotta get all that feeling out somehow.”

“You might be right,” Namjoon murmurs, as if distracted, and closes the distance between them.

Kissing Namjoon is something that Jungkook doesn’t think he’ll ever get tired of now that he’s finally gotten a taste of it. They’re positioned awkwardly on the counter, Jungkook leaning too far forward and Namjoon’s knees brushing the side of his abdomen as his fingers grip at his hair, but it’s good. Addicting. Jungkook presses his lips against Namjoon’s and lets himself simply take and take and take.

Namjoon’s lips are soft but chapped. He tastes like peach and orange, dregs of it on his tongue that Jungkook chases every time they break apart for air. Jungkook decides he likes it instantly. He likes it as he fists at the fabric of Namjoon’s t-shirt with his free hand in an attempt to pull him closer; he likes it as Namjoon tugs at his hair and sucks at the fat of Jungkook’s bottom lip, making him gasp.

“God, you’re so—” Jungkook pulls back just enough for Namjoon to start kissing the side of his jaw, tilting his neck gently to allow easier access to the column of his throat, “you’re so fucking—annoyingly hot, god, what the fuck.”

Namjoon laughs, like he’s amused. The coffee pot is gurgling, still percolating. Jungkook glances down to the shards of ceramic scattered across the floor and thinks, this is going to be a bitch to clean up.

But it’s twice as good when Namjoon rests his hand on Jungkook’s thigh. The weight grounds him, and there’s something hot and aching that drags along the pit of his stomach at the touch. Namjoon kisses him hard and slow, almost as if he’s trying to pry him apart with his tongue. Jungkook moves his hand from Namjoon’s t-shirt and puts it on top of the hand that’s on his thigh.

The pace of the kisses changes, then. Jungkook doesn’t know how it happened, can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but suddenly he’s licking into Namjoon’s mouth and drawing a low moan from his chest, push and pull, push. The hand on Jungkook’s thigh starts moving upwards towards the inner seam of his jeans. The anticipation, the wanting—it makes his head spin.

“We should stop,” Jungkook mumbles against Namjoon’s lips, forcing himself to pull away. The hand on his thigh disappears obediently, which Jungkook is grateful for. The heat goes away, too, almost as if it had rushed back out just as quickly as it had rushed in. He feels a little disoriented. “If we keep going, I—I’m not gonna be able to stop.”

Jungkook opens his eyes over the course of one breath, two, as if coming back to himself. Namjoon’s lips are swollen and shiny with spit, eyes blown out like a power surge. Something flips over in Jungkook’s stomach just looking at him, knowing that he did that. Namjoon’s affected because of him.

“I don’t get how that’s a problem,” Namjoon murmurs.

“I like you more than I know what to do with,” Jungkook confesses nervously, biting his lip. Jungkook watches as Namjoon’s chest heaves next to him. Up and down, up and down. “I don’t want you to think all I want is to get in your pants.”

Namjoon wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand, staring at Jungkook with confusion. Jungkook worries that he hadn’t expressed himself correctly, perhaps stamping over a social cue without realizing it. It’s entirely possible; Jungkook doesn’t understand roughly eighty percent of all social cues. Sometimes when Taehyung gets angry at Jungkook and tells him to get lost Jungkook doesn’t understand that he doesn’t mean it literally and wanders off in the woods until he can’t find his way back without calling Jimin for help.

“I really don’t think that,” Namjoon replies honestly. His voice comes out raspy.

“Okay,” Jungkook says defensively, worrying at his bottom lip, “but I’m not really good at this self-control thing, and I don’t want you to think that just because I’m barely twenty it means I only know how to think with my dick—”

“Kook, you took me to a bookstore. We drank smoothies. Fuck, we even played Jenga.” That’s...true. They did do those things. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that everything we’ve done has matched up with things we both like. You’re so thoughtful. It’s amazing.”

“I have anxiety about not being good at everything,” Jungkook says, as if this writes off the behavior entirely.

“I know you do.” Namjoon rolls his eyes. “I still think you’re amazing. And if you just wanna kiss me, we can just keep kissing. We don’t have to do anything more.”

Jungkook swallows. He feels relief, but he feels something else, too. It crawls at the base of his throat and worms its way onto his tongue insistently. Namjoon starts playing with his fingers when Jungkook doesn’t reply right away, tangling them together in his lap. It’s a nervous habit, Jungkook knows.

Jungkook wants to learn all of Namjoon’s nervous habits. He wants to know every single way he can possibly tick.

Oh. He gets it now.

“What if,” Jungkook starts, breaking the silence, so shy that he feels a blush at even the tips of his ears, the sides of his neck, “what if I wanna do something more?”

Namjoon grins.

Slyly, he says, “I’d ask you if I could suck you off, probably.”

 


 

They’re kissing again.

Sort of. It’s on and off. Namjoon kisses Jungkook lazily while he sits on his lap, massaging circles at the base of his hip as he works Jungkook’s mouth open from the seams of his lips. It’s that good kind of dizzy that Jungkook doesn’t feel the need to chase after. A deep contentment that settles in his bones and hardens like glue, keeping him still as he and Namjoon chat softly in between kisses.

It’s the first time Jungkook’s been inside Namjoon’s bedroom, but he likes it.

The whole room reeks of jasmine incense. Stacks of CDs in the process of being organized by genre tower over the desk. Ryan plushies and dolls line the shelves above the bed. Jungkook likes the books that litter every surface of every piece of furniture—they’re constantly in use, whether as paperweights or coasters or, in the case of Namjoon’s fraying copy of IQ84, doorstops. Being in a place that is wholly Namjoon’s makes Jungkook feel both like an intruder and a guest, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s actually surprisingly comfortable to be in here.

The whole I’d ask you if I could suck you off thing, though, that may be what finally tips the scale in favor of Jungkook’s anxiety-induced hypertension and lands him in a coma. Or, preferably, dead in a ditch.

“Is this okay?” Namjoon asks when he removes one of his hands from Jungkook’s hip and grazes just underneath the hem of his shirt.

He keeps asking that—if everything’s okay. If it’s too much, too quick. It’s so considerate that Jungkook doesn’t know what to do with it. He’s beginning to realize that surrounding himself with genuinely good people gives his psyche whiplash.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” Jungkook answers, voice coming out just above a whisper.

Jungkook feels the hand that disappears underneath his shirt more than he can see it. Namjoon’s fingers splay out across the center of his abdomen just above his waist before they slide back down to his hips, blunt fingernails dragging lightly against the sensitive skin. Jungkook whines softly, unable to help himself. The touch makes him shiver and flare up all at once.

“Sensitive,” Namjoon says, awed. Jungkook tries to stay still as Namjoon hikes up the front of his shirt to the collar and flicks at his nipple experimentally, but he jolts as if shocked. “God, look at you. You’re so good, baby.”

Oh.

Jungkook’s brain splits in half right down the middle. He sputters, covering his hands with his face to hide the blush that burns into his cheeks, biting his lip to keep from saying something extremely stupid. Something like you are a wet dream, sorry, I don’t make the rules, or maybe hey I don’t know if you knew this, but the thought of you calling me a good boy has made me come in my pants before.

Jungkook is good. A good baby.

Namjoon’s baby?

Goodbye, conscious thought, Jungkook’s brain bids farewell, slowly sinking into a sea of cerebrospinal fluid.

“Say it again.” Jungkook’s voice comes out muted and strange, so he removes his hands from his face. Staring Namjoon down with the biggest blush of his life, Jungkook stammers, “Tell me I’m good, hyung.”

Namjoon pulls Jungkook down by his waist and kisses him, just the slightest pressure of their lips together. Jungkook’s eyes flutter shut as he melts into it, hands steady where they rest on Namjoon’s chest. He rocks his hips against Namjoon’s lap so gently it’s almost as if he’s unaware that he’s doing it.

“Such a good boy,” Namjoon murmurs, grinning against Jungkook’s lips. “I should’ve known you’d like this. You always get so worked up, it’s cute.”

“It’s not cute,” Jungkook defends, “I just, ah—”

Namjoon moves lower, mouthing at Jungkook’s neck and sucking wetly at the tender skin. Jungkook keens from above him, losing his train of thought entirely as Namjoon drags his teeth down the column of his throat.

“That’s it,” Namjoon encourages, and it’s only then that Jungkook realizes he’s been grinding against Namjoon’s hips, cock half-hard in his jeans where he’s pressed against Namjoon’s thigh. “You’re not the only one who gets affected, you know. You fuck me up so bad, Kook.”

“Baby,” Jungkook corrects, almost as if on autopilot. He heard Namjoon say it once, and he needs to hear it again.

“Demanding,” Namjoon replies, but he’s breathless, too.“Baby, baby, baby. Is this doing it for you?”

“Oh my god, shut up.”

“Fine,” Namjoon acquiesces, tugging on Jungkook’s pullover again, “but only because I already offered to suck your dick.”

Namjoon laughs as Jungkook shoves him, mortified. He helps Jungkook sit back up properly so he can help him out of his clothes, letting Jungkook keep the minuscule pace of his hips rocking against Namjoon’s as he tries to balance everything out. He can’t keep himself from wobbling with his shirt halfway pulled over his head, but it’s okay.

Jungkook bites his lip as Namjoon guides him by the waist up and off his lap, the anticipation rising in his gut as he shimmies out of his jeans and rests his back against the cool surface of the headboard. His boxer briefs are plain black—Jimin physically would not let Jungkook leave the house wearing his Iron Man ones, and internally Jungkook is thanking him to hell and back for it. He can only embarrass himself so many times before it causes traumatic brain injury.

“Gotta open up for me, baby,” Namjoon says, and fuck, it’s not even a command but Jungkook parts his legs easily, body acting separately from his mind. “Just like that. Good boy.”

Holy shit, Jungkook thinks. He feels it crawling down his spine, feels it flooding the pit of his stomach. His legs are spread open with Namjoon right between them and in this moment he’s never wanted to be so good for somebody else before.

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines. It has no intention, no breadth to it, but the way his hand knots into Namjoon’s hair and tugs his head closer to his dick conveys all of his desperation for him.

And Jungkook has fantasized about this moment—countless times, probably, all in varying ways with varying grips on his dick—but it’s different in reality. It’s different when Namjoon’s snaps the waistband of his boxers teasingly and kisses his hip in apology when Jungkook hisses at the sting. It’s different when Namjoon mouths at his cock through the fabric and tells him he wants to taste him, feel him on his tongue. It’s different, it’s—

“So fuckin’ hot,” Namjoon says, watching the way Jungkook’s flushed cock bobs against his stomach after he finally pulls his boxers off. He wraps a hand around Jungkook’s length, marvelling at the way precum pearls at the tip already. Glancing up at Jungkook, he asks, “Is this okay?”

“God, how are you so considerate all the time, yes, it’s okay,” Jungkook replies a little sharply. He clears his throat, backtracking. “Ah, I mean. Please? Please, hyung.”

So Namjoon gives it to him. He sucks the head of Jungkook’s cock into his mouth and swallows him down, pressing the flat of his tongue against the underside.

It takes every ounce of strength not to buck up. Jungkook clenches his stomach instead and moans brokenly as Namjoon works him over. He can’t help the way his hand tightens in Namjoon’s hair, scrambling to find something to ground him, keep him together.

Namjoon’s shirt drags over the meat of Jungkook’s thigh as he grips the base of Jungkook’s cock and teases his slit, moving down to coat his shaft with spit. His eyes darken as he meets Jungkook’s gaze through his eyelashes, and then he sinks down.

“Ah, oh, hyung—”

He wonders if Namjoon likes the way he tastes, likes the weight of Jungkook’s cock in his mouth. If he likes the spit, the wet slide of his hand on what he can’t swallow, the sinful way his thick lips stretch over Jungkook’s girth. How fucked out Jungkook sounds right now, rocking his hips in that unconscious way he can’t help. How every noise that spills from his throat is for Namjoon, Namjoon, Namjoon.

“Fuck,” Jungkook gasps, pulling Namjoon’s hair back where it starts to fall into his eyes. “You’re so good at this. I think I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die and Saint Peter’s gonna high five me when I get to heaven.”

Namjoon pulls off just to say, “You’re ruining this.”

“Sorry,” Jungkook mutters, but Namjoon seems not to have been too serious anyway. He rolls Jungkook’s balls in his free hand teasingly, gaze wolfish as he tracks the way it makes Jungkook’s back arch off the headboard.

A deep, lingering pressure coils in his stomach and begs to snap in half. Namjoon sucks him down, bobbing his head and swallowing around him.

“Hyung, ah,” Jungkook gasps out, “this isn’t fair, what the fuck.”

Namjoon pulls off of Jungkook’s cock with an audible pop. He tongues at the head, almost a little too smug at the way it makes Jungkook moan.

“So cute, all riled up,” Namjoon says, pecking Jungkook’s hip sweetly.

Jungkook whines, embarrassed.

Jungkook’s chest is heaving, body pulsing right from his cock, but it’s worth the way Namjoon kisses up his navel before working his way back down again. His voice as he teases him. The way he asks, “You wanna come like this?”

“Yeah, please.” It’s a lot. Everything is a lot. Jungkook tilts his head back, setting his gaze over the polished trophies earned from music shows lined up along the top of a shelf as he lets himself fall blind to the pleasure, the heat pulsing through his body.

The trophies all say number one. They all say Rap Monster, Namjoon’s stage name. Jungkook always thought the name was dumb as shit until he heard Life for the first time and started bawling his eyes out.

Namjoon’s stage name...?

Oh.

The situation crashes over Jungkook like a tidal wave.

In an instant he realizes: he’s in Namjoon’s bedroom. In Namjoon’s apartment. In Namjoon’s neighborhood, in the richest part of Seoul.

Jungkook’s dick was just in Namjoon’s mouth. He was going to come down his throat.

Jungkook never told Namjoon the truth about toying with him up until they met because he thought it was all a catfish, a joke. It hits him so hard, so viscerally, because Namjoon doesn’t know Jungkook thought none of this was real. Namjoon fell for him before they even met and oh my god, I thought his name was fucking Marcus.

“Are you okay?” Namjoon asks, panic written all over his face. He must have felt Jungkook freeze up underneath him. “Did I do something wrong?”

Namjoon? Doing something wrong? Get it together, Jungkook. Stop thinking with your dick and let your heart take over for a second.

“No, no, no,” Jungkook reassures him. His tone must not be convincing, because Namjoon sits up and places a comforting hand on Jungkook’s thigh. “I just.”

He doesn’t say anything else, so Namjoon prompts him. “You just?”

“...I have to tell you something.”

Namjoon nods, confused, biting the inside of his cheek. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

Oh, Jungkook could cry. Namjoon’s tone is so genuine, so concerned.

“No, nothing like that.” He kisses Namjoon’s cheek. “Promise.”

Jungkook feels like his dick shouldn’t be out while he confesses the most embarrassing thing of his life to Namjoon. Covering himself with a blanket might make Namjoon freak out even more, though, so he doesn’t.

You’re on your own, Jungkook’s brain gurgles from its abyssal depth of cerebrospinal fluid.

“So.” Jungkook clears his throat. He no clue how to say this. “We met on Tinder, right?”

Namjoon’s face scrunches up in confusion. “Yeah?”

“And we clicked, so we decided to meet up.”

Namjoon stays silent, opting to let Jungkook continue talking. Jungkook sort of wishes he’d ask a few questions so Jungkook could figure out how to direct his thoughts, but he doesn’t want to push.

Jungkook decides to just bite the bullet.

“Do you know what a catfish is?”

Namjoon blinks.

“A...catfish?” He asks slowly, unsure. “You mean like the fish with the whiskers—”

“Okay, so you don’t know what a catfish is,” Jungkook interrupts, physically feeling himself deflate.

“Gee, alright then.”

The tone in Namjoon’s voice hasn’t left, but at least he’s trying to crack a joke. At least he’s using the word gee to express his confusion instead of something like well, fuck you. It lightens up the situation a lot even if he doesn’t know it. Absently, Namjoon continues rubbing circles into the muscle right above Jungkook’s knee. That helps, too.

“A catfish is someone who pretends to be somebody they’re not online because they want attention,” Jungkook explains. “Usually they’re just trolling people so most of the time it’s relatively harmless, uh...especially when they’re impersonating a celebrity, I guess. It’s just one of those internet things.”

More silence. Jungkook can see the gears turning in Namjoon’s brain, he just wishes they’d move faster.

“Basically,” here goes nothing, Jeon Jungkook, “I...thought you...were a catfish.”

It should feel good to get it all out there, but Namjoon squints, unsure. “Huh?”

The truth pours out of Jungkook like a hole through a dam. “I thought you were some random person pretending to be Kim Namjoon on the internet—not that I don’t think you’re a real person, but you’re so, so famous, and there was no way I could even consider Rap Monster was using Tinder, and it was kind of funny, so I kept talking to you.”

“Jungkook,” Namjoon starts, but Jungkook cuts him off.

“I felt so fucking stupid when we met because you were real and tangible and all the pent up feelings I had just kind of crashed and Tae kept telling me I had to say something but I didn’t know how—”

“Jungkook—”

“—And now I’ve been feeling guilty about it since I figured out you’re you and not some random person but I had no idea to tell you, and you just sucked my dick, and I really want this to be good for you but I also don’t want you to throw me out of your house—”

Namjoon kisses Jungkook hard.

It throws Jungkook off. His eyes widen, all the breath he had used to ramble suddenly knocked out of him by the force of Namjoon’s lips crashing against his. Their teeth clash and it kind of hurts, but it does the job of shutting him up.

Namjoon lingers only for a moment, hand curling against Jungkook’s neck, before he moves away.

“I saw that in a movie once,” Namjoon says, breathless.

Jungkook’s mind is in a whir. His resting heart rate feels like it’s gone up to two hundred a minute with all the scattered ways he’s feeling right now. It’s like every shred of emotion Jungkook has built up since he met Namjoon has suddenly started pouring out of himself like some gross, human-sized sponge.

“I was sort of in the middle of a mental breakdown,” Jungkook says, trying to catch his breath.

“Yeah, I know,” Namjoon kisses his cheek. “I wanna be able to listen, though. I just don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

...That’s fair, Jungkook decides.

The floor is fascinating now that Jungkook knows Namjoon is looking to him for an explanation, studying his face for anything that might give to an answer. Meticulously well taken care of wood. Wow, this is the standard of someone so rich, huh? Must be nice. Jungkook’s heart keeps going too fast for his liking, looping around and around like the blade of a ceiling fan. Mmm, he thinks desperately, willing the blush creeping up his neck to subside, red oak floorboards.

Jungkook reiterates the story, this time with not as many sloping turns. He uses less slang. Talks slower, too, but the second time makes it even harder to get through it with the amount of his stammering and stuttering. If it was embarrassing before, now it’s mortifying. Jungkook wonders if he would die if he jumped out of Namjoon’s bedroom window from the eighteenth floor. The risk might be worth the shame.

Namjoon rubs at his eyes a little once Jungkook finishes. Jungkook loses himself for a moment as he admires the way Namjoon looks when he’s thinking hard about something. There’s something about the way his eyebrows furrow and his lips purse. It takes the edge off the absurdity of this situation.

“Let me get this straight,” Namjoon says. Jungkook snorts, because—straight. Namjoon. Straight. It’s funny. “You really thought that I was some random guy impersonating myself on Tinder? Like, actually?”

It sounds bad when Namjoon puts it like that, but Jungkook can’t particularly defend himself. He deflates against the headboard, painfully aware of how exposed he is both physically and emotionally. It’s all catching up to him, the adrenaline, the pent up guilt. He grits his teeth, rationing that the sooner they get through with this, the sooner Jungkook can either amp Namjoon back up again with a hand on his dick or find the nearest cliffside and eject himself off of it.

He would peg his chances of either scenario occurring at 50-50 right now, but that’s a generous estimate.

“But when we met you were genuinely yourself,” Namjoon continues, “just like. Panicky.” Understatement. “‘Cause I make music, or whatever.” Much much bigger understatement.

That phrase was so humble Jungkook doesn’t think he’ll have the time in his entire life to unpack it. Jungkook nods like a bobblehead with a broken spring.

Namjoon blinks, digesting the information. Jungkook can see the gears in his brain going too fast, now, and he’s terrified they’re going to short-circuit and break down.

Jungkook’s heart beat goes whir, whir, whir.

He doesn’t expect it when Namjoon bursts out laughing.

Legitimate, uncontrollable laughter. The kind where you have to hug your sides and grit your teeth because you know it’s gonna hurt after a while. The sound echoes through Jungkook from one ear and out the other, and—huh?

“Kook, baby, that’s so fucking funny,” Namjoon chokes out, unable to compose himself. Jungkook watches the way his muscles shift underneath his skin, utterly bemused. “You—you thought I wasn’t a real person. You really thought I was just some random guy impersonating myself.”

It feels like tonight Jungkook is continuously breaking his personal record for the biggest blush ever known to man. He throws his head in his hands, digging the heels of his palms into the base of his eye sockets with enough pressure that he starts to see white. He feels so embarrassed.

But yeah, it’s kind of funny.

“Oh my god I’m crying,” Namjoon wheezes, rubbing at his face where tears start to well up in his eyes. “This is the best news of my life.”

“It’s the worst of mine!” Jungkook shrieks, and his ears must be the bright red but he doesn’t want to know because that’s embarrassing, too, “I think my body’s going into shock! Fuck you!”

“Hey, hey,” Namjoon stumbles through giggles. He pries Jungkook’s hands away from his face and peppers kisses all over his cheeks. It doesn’t do a particularly good job at diffusing the situation, however, because he breaks into another round of laughter almost immediately. “I got carried away, sorry. I know you were nervous about this, I just—” giggle, “—I think you’re really cute. So cute.”

“Not cute,” Jungkook denies. It’s instinct to refute the compliment, but it’s also the truth.

“Extremely cute. You know, this explains why nobody was matching with me on Tinder.” Namjoon reaches forward into Jungkook’s lap and starts playing with his hands. “I complained to Yoongi about it for almost a whole week. He stopped picking up my calls after the first two days, but I thought that was just the thing he does where he avoids anything that reminds him of how lonely and single he was before Hoseok and Jin-hyung found him.”

“I wanna die,” Jungkook announces through gritted teeth.

“It’s not that bad,” Namjoon reassures him. But it is that bad, and Jungkook is determined to convince him.

“I fingered myself to the sound of your voice on the radio once,” Jungkook blurts out, because there’s something very wrong with his brain.

Namjoon’s eyes widen. “Really?”

“Holy shit. I just said that out loud.”

“It’s okay,” Namjoon interrupts, but he sounds more than a little affected, his eyebrows raising in surprise. “I just think that’s hot.”

He kisses Jungkook again. This time is the best. It starts off slow, their lips barely touching before it turns into something dangerous. The faint taste of peach is still present on Namjoon’s lips. Jungkook realizes that he would be more than comfortable familiarizing himself with it.

Namjoon shifts to get closer, one hand on the inside of Jungkook’s thigh. The other steadies himself on the bed, absently curling into the sheets. Jungkook can barely believe that this is happening—that Namjoon is cool with everything, that Namjoon thinks he’s cute, that he’s hot.

“Is this okay?” Jungkook asks, breathless. Nothing points otherwise, but he wants to be sure.

Namjoon smiles and nips at the tender skin of his jaw. “Isn’t that my line?”

“Get out of those dumb jeans,” Jungkook says resolutely, shoving Namjoon off of him.

Said dumb jeans come off in record time. Namjoon almost falls over in the process, feet clamoring over his pant legs. His arms flounder at his sides as he tries to catch his balance, ending with him knocking over a small stack of CDs labelled Easy Listening right onto the floor with the back of his wrist.

Namjoon is all lean muscle and tanned skin. Jungkook can’t help but stare at the plane of his stomach, the small mole nestled right above his hip. Everything is finally starting to click into place now that the truth is out in the open, an excited and blooming feeling rising to the surface. Being with Namjoon like this could not be a better way to kickstart it.

“You’re staring,” Namjoon says, leaning down to flick Jungkook’s elbow.

Jungkook blushes furiously. “Was not.”

Namjoon flicks his elbow again, harder this time. “You don’t sound so sure.”

Jungkook...isn’t. He peers down, sneaking a glance at Namjoon’s cock, and—fuck. He’s big.

“Let’s take this slow,” Namjoon says. He moves so that his forehead rests against Jungkook’s. “I have more questions for later, though.”

“Later,” Jungkook agrees. Namjoon smiles at him something disarming, dimple pushing into the side of his cheek. Jungkook wonders if he knows he has a monster cock. “And slow is nice, slow is good—don’t know how much I’m ready for past just, um.” He gestures to their proximity a bit lamely. “This. If that’s okay.”

“More than okay,” Namjoon says. “Tell me if anything’s weird, or if you wanna do something else?”

“You too.” Jungkook feels warm. Cared for. It’s really, really nice. “Now c’mere. Want you like crazy, it’s killing me.”

Jungkook’s cock is soft between his legs, but Namjoon has no problem working him up again. He wraps a hand around Jungkook’s length and jerks him slowly, getting him to hardness without disrupting the pace of the kiss. That familiar buzz starts to pulse through Jungkook’s abdomen, and with the weight of confessing off of his chest, it feels fantastic. He’s twice as sensitive, every touch electric.

“Look at you, baby, so responsive.” Jungkook sucks in a breath at the nickname—they’re back to this, they’re really back to this. Namjoon drags the tip of his index finger down Jungkook’s balls and massages at his perineum, switching between featherlight touch and dizzying pressure.

“Ah,” Jungkook exhales. He lifts his hips closer. “Stop—stop teasing, hyung.”

“Sorry.” Namjoon is not sorry. “You just look, like, edible.”

“That’s not sexy,” Jungkook says, frowning.

“Yeah, that is not sexy,” Namjoon agrees.

Namjoon lets up for a few moments to retrieve a bottle of lube from his nightstand, laughing while he goes. He tosses it gently to the other side of the pillow and faces Jungkook, poking his tongue against the side of his cheek in thought. Almost like he’s deliberating what to do, of how to take care of Jungkook in the best way that he can.

It takes Namjoon a few beats to talk again.

“This might be a weird thing to say so ignore me if it’s too much, but,” Namjoon starts, pushing his hair out of his eyes, “you said you got off to my voice that one time, on the radio, and—can I see? How you did it?”

Jungkook blushes so hard that he feels the tips of his ears start to redden. Namjoon isn’t exactly any better, gaze steely but cheeks dusted pink from saying something so crude. It’s cute the way he avoids eye contact, the obvious only if you want to etched into the statement.

Jungkook’s body reacts in a way that his mind can’t keep up with. Before he knows it he’s curling his fingers around the bottle of lube and scooting down the bed to get into a more comfortable position, trying to contain himself and his very, very frazzled mind. Namjoon’s pillow smells just like him. Jungkook props it up to rest it on his back and settles into a semi-sitting position, squirting way too much lube onto his fingertips by accident.

“This is so—” embarrassing, nerve wracking, hot, “god, what are you doing to me,” Jungkook chokes out with a nervous laugh.

Namjoon laughs, too. He kisses Jungkook’s shoulder and says, “I’m not gonna make you if you don’t want to.”

Oh, but Jungkook wants to.

The lube is cold on Jungkook’s fingers. He warms it up between his thumb and his middle finger, not bothering to work with the excess that slips down towards his palm. He tries to think of a logical course of action to take towards this, measuring up a few possibilities, but ultimately falls short.

“I’ll just‚ um,” Jungkook stammers, too embarrassed to finish his sentence. He slips his hand between his legs and ever so slowly works a finger inside of himself, sinking in to the knuckle.

It’s hard to get used to the feeling of being watched, but Jungkook realizes that he likes this. Likes opening his legs just a little wider, running his hands up and down his thighs mindlessly now that he has an audience to see it. Namjoon’s eyes track his every movement, zoning in on the sight of his finger sliding in and out of himself slowly, and the attention makes Jungkook’s head spin.

Jungkook looks up and traces the line of Namjoon’s shoulder, the edge of his collarbone. He keeps his gaze anywhere but Namjoon’s face. It works for a while until Jungkook starts to take in the smaller details: the way Namjoon is sat in front of him, leaning forward on his knees with his hands diligently kept to himself, cock hard and flushed as it sits against his thigh. He slips a bit, rhythm puncturing as he sucks in a breath.

One finger becomes two. Jungkook shakes out a stuttering breath, humming at the way he stretches so nicely to fit his fingers inside. He pumps the digits in and out, and Namjoon is looking at him, so open and curious and affected, and Jungkook wants—needs—more.

“Touch me, hyung,” Jungkook chokes out through an exhale. “You—you can touch me.”

“Yeah. Fuck, okay. Yeah.” Namjoon sits up on his knees and nods, swallowing thickly.

He steadies a hand against the headboard, leaning forward, caging Jungkook in. There’s the sound of the bed creaking under Namjoon’s shifting weight, and then the warm feeling of Namjoon’s mouth against Jungkook’s neck. Jungkook cranes his neck to the side, letting him suck on the thin skin above his collarbone.

“You did this to yourself while listening to me?” Namjoon asks, breathless. His voice is ground out and rough. “Got off to my voice?”

It’s not so much dirty talk as it is awe, trying to gain a comprehensive understanding, but Jungkook absolutely shivers at the way Namjoon says it. Like he can’t believe it, like he never knew Jungkook was capable of something so lewd. Precum pearls at the tip of Jungkook’s flushed cock. Namjoon watches it drip down.

“Yeah,” Jungkook gasps out, scissoring his fingers open inside of himself with a mewl. Namjoon sucks a mark on his neck and uses his free hand to ghost his touch over Jungkook’s bare chest, skating over his nipples, his stomach. “Turned on the radio, spent so much fucking time trying to find the right frequency with my hand over my dick like some kind of idiot—”

Namjoon swears something under his breath that sounds a lot like fucking Christ. His mouth is so close to Jungkook’s ear that he shivers, a chill sinking down to the base of his spine.

Jungkook slips in a third finger and fucks inside of himself deeper, horribly aware of how Namjoon is staring at him like something reverent and beautiful, and tries to settle the thundering beat of his heart.

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines. It comes out like a plea.

“I’m here. I’ve got you.”

Namjoon’s hand moves from Jungkook’s waist to his hip before finally curling around his wrist, loose grip guiding the hand fucking Jungkook’s fingers in and out of his wet entrance.

“Curl your fingers,” Namjoon mutters in Jungkook’s ear, voice barely above a whisper. Jungkook does, reaching that spot inside of himself as Namjoon controls the drag of his fingers in and out, and oh, oh.

“Ah, hyung, ” Jungkook gasps, eyes fluttering shut, trying to even out the onslaught of pleasure even as it clings to him, pulls at him. Namjoon snickers a little, squeezing Jungkook’s wrist. “Tease. Why are you such a fucking tease?”

“Maybe I am,” Namjoon replies. “But you’re gonna be a good boy and take it, aren’t you?”

Jungkook’s breath hitches at the sound of something like that coming out of Namjoon’s mouth. He blushes bright red. “Quit trying to dirty talk me in front of all six hundred of your Ryan dolls—”

Namjoon tilts Jungkook’s wrist to change the angle of Jungkook’s fingers fucking himself. A moan suddenly punches out of him, because holy fuck.

“Okay you win, you win,” Jungkook gasps. Namjoon doesn’t let up, keeping Jungkook in place to hit that bundle of nerves with every thrust. He nibbles at the lobe of Jungkook’s ear, a juxtaposition. It tickles; Jungkook laughs, breaths punching out of him as he lets himself get overwhelmed by the sensation.

It’s so easy to fall for Namjoon.

Jungkook tries to hide himself in the crook of his neck, all too aware of the whines spilling out of his mouth, the way his body shivers as if unsure whether or not the stimulation is too much or too little. He feels somewhat silly spread out like this—he can’t even finger himself without losing his composure, without Namjoon having to help him—but he likes it, enjoys the feeling it gives him. A spike of pleasure rolls over in his stomach, hot and full. Jungkook keens at it.

“Look at you,” Namjoon whispers, “so good, Kook. Hyung loves being able to make you feel like this.”

“‘M a baby,” he corrects, not sure where the bite to his voice came from. He lolls his head to the side and sees the edge of a lazy smile curl over Namjoon’s lips.

“Can’t let me have just one thing, can you,” Namjoon says. He tightens his grip on Jungkook’s wrist and watches Jungkook arch beautifully for him off the bed.

Jungkook wonders how he looks right now: hard cock leaking precum onto his stomach, the erratic rise and fall of his chest, the red flush skating over his cheeks. He mumbles praises under his breath, small nothings that spill out without cause. Everything builds up more and more with each thrust like a tidal wave.

“Hyung, please—” Jungkook sucks in a breath, unable to finish his sentence. He doesn’t know how to articulate the thought, the need to be pushed over the edge.

Namjoon’s eyes darken. He can probably feel it, Jungkook thinks, can probably feel the way he could snap and shatter into a thousand pieces at even the slightest touch. Namjoon’s breath hitches just barely, somewhere at the back of his throat as he says, “Come here, baby.”

Namjoon hooks Jungkook up the headboard and over back onto his lap. Jungkook squeaks in surprise at the sudden movement, jostled somewhat like a doll, but feels comfort in an instant as soon as Namjoon has him upright and situated over his lap with two hands on his waist to steady him.

Hair splayed over the pillow, dimple dipping into the side of his face, Namjoon looks like a dream.  Jungkook doesn’t even know where to look. His eyes unconsciously drag over the plane of his chest and absorb the tan skin on display before dipping lower where—god, Jungkook’s mouth just about waters —his hard cock curves against his stomach.

“Is this okay?” Namjoon asks, voice barely above a whisper.

“Yeah.” Jungkook smiles. “Yeah, it’s okay.”

He leans down to kiss Namjoon, ending up with two hands planted on either side of the mattress by Namjoon’s head to keep himself up. Their cocks slide together at the movement, and even the smallest friction is enough to make Namjoon groan into Jungkook’s mouth. Jungkook shivers, the sound spurring him on, and shifts his hips to catch that same slide again.

“Like this,” Namjoon pants. He spits on his palm and wraps a hand around both their cocks. Thumb digging into his own slit, Namjoon hisses, “C’mon, baby. Lift your hips up, fuck hyung’s hand.”

Jungkook whimpers, lifting himself up slightly to rut into Namjoon’s loose grip. It feels—oh, it feels so good, Namjoon guiding him through a delirious pace. Jungkook loses himself in it. He screws his eyes shut, letting the wave finally wash over him, finally take him under.

Jungkook comes over Namjoon’s fist with a gasp, streaks of white that smear against Namjoon’s cock and dribble onto his hip. His hips stutter and still but Namjoon works him through it, hand slick with the mess of cum. Jungkook wedges his lip between his teeth to keep from choking out what could very well end up as a sob, frantically snaking a hand over Namjoon’s fingers to edge out the oversensitivity biting at his stomach.

“Fuck, I can’t believe you’re real,” Jungkook mumbles to himself. It’s just loud enough for Namjoon to hear. He takes over, mind barely registering the lukewarm stickiness of cum against his dry fingers as he bats Namjoon’s hand away and starts to jerk him off. “Look so good, hyung.”

He does look good, with his brows drawn together and his pink lips parted. He looks even better when he comes a few moments later, so hard that he shoots up the line of his abdomen and onto his collar bone.

Without even thinking, Jungkook leans down and laps at the cum on Namjoon’s pec, close to his nipple. The taste is bitter, but it’s not that bad. Maybe this is what Namjoon had meant when he’d called Jungkook edible earlier?

“Oh my god,” Namjoon wheezes from underneath Jungkook. “You’re gonna be the death of me.”

Jungkook shrugs. He doesn’t quite feel like he’s all there, not yet a composite image of himself. Contentment settles in his bones like warm jelly, comfortable and full. His usual anxiety, for once, is absent. Huh. Strange.

They clean up lazily, Namjoon pulling Jungkook up by his clean hand into the bathroom down the hall to wash up. Jungkook wipes the cum off Namjoon’s stomach with a wet paper towel and tosses it in the bin next to the sink, then uses another to clean the inside of his thighs from the excess lube. Namjoon watches him fondly with a toothbrush shoved in his mouth, winking at Jungkook’s through his reflection in the mirror. It does something to Jungkook, makes prickles of electricity singe underneath his skin.

“Stay the night?” Namjoon asks slowly. He’s close to Jungkook, a hand on the small of his back rubbing slow circles with the base of his palm. It’s dizzying.

Jungkook nods, fumbling for the mouthwash on the counter. “Right side of the bed is mine, though.”

Namjoon laughs. He kisses Jungkook’s temple. “Alright, baby. It’s all yours.”

Dizzying, dizzying, dizzying.

Jungkook can’t help but break into a grin.

 


 

Jungkook
guess who i saw in the mcdonald’s parking lot last night at 2 am

Namjoon
good morning to you too, jungkook. i slept well, thanks

Jungkook
answer the question or face the consequences

Namjoon
was it the devil
are you finally going to be engulfed in the flames of eternal damnation, a horror second only to the prison of the human psyche?

Jungkook
no, but that shit was breathtaking bro

Namjoon
consider me charmed
who’d you see?

Jungkook
JIN-HYUNG AND TAE SWAPPING SPIT IN YOONGI’S ROLLS ROYCE

Namjoon
what the fuck
really?

Jungkook
THERE’S MORE
JIMIN WAS ON JIN’S LAP. HE TOTALLY FED HIM ONE OF THOSE APPLE PIES IN BETWEEN STEAMY KISSES

Namjoon
holy shit it must be serious
wait. why were you at mcdonald’s at 2 am

Jungkook
i was craving meat and u weren’t around

Namjoon
jungkook.

Jungkook
...i was craving those vanilla cones they sell for like 500 won so i uh
bought sixteen of them and ate them all at once

Namjoon
i don’t think you’ve ever said anything that has surprised me less

Jungkook
ur the one who's literally in love with me
anyway
wanna come over and go through tae and jimin’s shit with me? we could find corroborative evidence that all 5 of them are boning

Namjoon
i thought you'd never ask :)