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The Scenic Route

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You couldn’t help but let out a little scream when the letter came. It was official, your application to the exchange program had been approved, and you were going to Seoul.



***



He looked good, you couldn’t deny. Not normally your type, you didn’t like all the muscles, preferred the lankier waif-type boys. The ones labeled twinks in the videos you didn’t tell anyone you watched. But he could possibly still be labeled like that, you thought, watching him move about gracefully, the way his threadbare tee fit snug around his tiny waist. And his face. His face was something not of this world. He looked like a porcelain doll, innocent in the way that made you wanna fuck it up, and that. That you liked.

There was something else about him too, though, that drew you in. The way he held himself maybe? A little insecure in the cute way that he would cover his mouth when his smile grew wide. But then behind that there was a stilted quiet confidence, you got that feeling in the stillness of his stare and the composed almost lazy lilt to his body, weight resting primarily on one leg.

Before coming here, you'd vowed not to get fucked up over no boys. This was an exciting time for you, and this scholarship was something precious. Hard earned with a soul-bearing essay you agonized over for months, a professional recommendation from the General Manager at the firm you worked five long years to receive, an assload more of paperwork, and an abandonment of everything familiar to you. If you were absent for any lectures, or God forbid, managed to fail one of the classes, your ass was grass, thrown carelessly onto the first plane back to the States. Hence, you'd promised yourself, but...

 

It’s not like a little flirting would hurt, right?

 

He didn’t initially see you approach, still giving his all to the apparently riveting conversation amongst his buddies. As you neared, the fear set in. What exactly were you thinking, just walking up to a bunch of strangers like that? What would you even say? Before you could get too caught up in your sudden fretting, though, a familiar figure approached you.

 

It was Jeongguk, the reserved but kind freshman you remember leading you through orientation. You were surprised to learn he was a freshman at first, as he was an acting tour guide for all the exchange students, but it turned out that Jeongguk knew this campus like the back of his hand, having essentially grown up here, both of his parents tenured. professors in the Arts Department.

 

“Hey, noona, “Jeongguk offered as he approached with what appeared to be a nervous smile.

“Jeongukkie! What are you doing out of class?”

“I had a free period, noona.”

“As a freshman?”

You knew, as was with most universities, that freshman usually had a packed schedule, as they still had to finish with all their core class requirements before starting their program.

“I tested out of all that stuff,” he replied with a smirk, as if sensing your thoughts. “What're you doing out here?”

You were more impressed than annoyed at how quickly he turned the tables like that.

“As you know, they give the exchange kids time to acclimate. I have the day to mingle apparently." You scoffed. It was really quite ridiculous.

This made Jeongguk laugh.

“Have you made any friends yet?”

“Besides you?” you winked, which made him chuckle again. “Not yet.”

“I can help if you like,” and before you could stop it, the boy was already turning his head this way and that, apparently super unaware of how socially awkward you could be.

“Wait Jeongukkie, I don’t need your he--“

“Namjoon-hyung!“

Your head whipped back to where the porcelain boy was still chatting animatedly, his conversation partner suddenly distracted. He was looking right at you, then at Jeongguk, face breaking out into a dimpled smile, and before you knew it, both he and the pretty one were making their way forward. You ducked your head, feeling your ears go hot. You had thought Jeongguk was the quiet type, but he was apparently a real fuckin' social butterfly.

“Hey hyung. This is Suni-noona.“

The dimpled boy gave you a once-over, and you were shocked at how tall he was now that he was standing close.

“You're exchange, right?“ Namjoon asked, eyeing your pale skin and light hair.

You finally summoned the courage to look up at him.

“Mm. That obvious?“ You were trying for playful but you worried it sounded cocky.

You needn't have though because Namjoon just laughed, throwing back his head.

“I only ask because I'm an English-major. What’s your real name?”

“Y/N.”

“That’s pretty. I like that better.”

The boy next to him, the one made of porcelain snorted, like he was used to his hyung using these cheesy lines on people.

The two of you made eye contact for a fraction of a second before Jeongguk stepped in.

“Noona, this is Namjoon, as I'm sure you’ve gathered. And Jimin." He briefly motioned to pretty boy. “Now you’ve made two friends, and it’s all thanks to me.”

You gave him a friendly punch, not really bothered if it was too early in the friendship for this type of play. Jeongguk kind of deserved it.

“I'm sure Namjoon and Jimin are plenty busy without having to make friends with the exchange student."

You found yourself making eye contact with pretty b-- Jimin, you reminded yourself. He seemed to smile at the mention of his name, but you could have just been imaging things.

“Busy, yes." You heard Jimin’s voice for the first time and boy was it something else. “But never too busy to make friends."

And okay, now he was definitely smiling.

Jeongguk coughed loudly.

“Enough flirting, guys.”

Which. Weird.

“Why don’t we introduce noona to the culture, and take her to our favorite place?”

At this, the other two boys seemed to perk up, and before you knew it, the four of you were making your way across the courtyard and onto one of the student busses.

“You’re gonna love it, Y/N.” Jimin had chosen to sit beside you on the ride over, but he kept a polite distance on the cramped seat. “Best jajangmyeon on campus.”

“Great,” you heard yourself say. “I'm starving.”

While not untrue, you mostly just felt nauseated.



***



It was more of an outlet than a restaurant.

The staff were very friendly and the food was boiling hot, both of which you were starting to learn were commonplace in this country.

Just as promised, the jajangmyeon was delicious, and you ate it so, the boys giggling when you spilled a bit of your drink on your cardigan in gesticulation, as you were prone to do when telling a story. You didn't stay mad for long, though, as the boys made for great company.

You learned that, same as Jeongguk, Jimin was from Busan, though unlike Jeongguk he didn't consider himself a frequent beach-goer. He majored in dance, which-- you couldn't be surprised, not really. Not with the graceful way Jimin seemed to do everything, right down to the way he held up his chopsticks full of sticky rice to his plump lips thoughtfully as he listened to your talk about your own backstory.

The more time you spent with him, the less of an unattainable God he seemed, both of you settling into a friendly back-and-forth about nothing and everything. It was comfortable, though certain things still had your heart speeding up.

"So are you seeing anyone?" Namjoon asked, out of nowhere. You were soon learning how blunt the boy was, though he seemed harmless. An English major, but also apparently an underground rapper, the man full of contradictions smiled from the table across from you.

"I--"

"We don't need to be asking her about such things, hyung," Jimin spoke up from beside you. Despite the short time you've known each other, this struck you as a bit overprotective. The thought wasn't as completely off-putting as it should have been.

"No, it's okay," you smiled. "I'm not, Namjoon-ah. I really want to focus on my studies."

Jimin shifted in his seat, and you saw him trying and failing to hide a smile into his napkin.

"That's good, noona." You were coming to find that Jeongguk, while sometimes the most extra of his friends, was still the quiet type you took him for on first impression. He ate jovially, and really only piped up when necessary, but you found it endearing. "Wouldn't want one of these two messing that up for you."

Curious at his wording, you eye him boldly. "Not you, though?"

Jeongguk blushed while the other two laughed.

"I, I didn't mean..."

"You know I have a girlfriend, Jeongguk." Namjoon cut him off, saving Jeongguk from his adorable little mental breakdown.

Jimin said nothing though, which...?

"And what about you Jimin-ah? Got a girlfriend?"

"Nope. Not yet, anyway," he smiled sweetly, too sweetly for the dark intention in the squint of his eyes.

It was your turn to blush.

"Jimin only likes younger girls, noona." Jeongguk seemed to gotten his nerve back not that all attention wasn't on him.

"Brat!" You saw Jimin land a soft smack to the maknae's head across the table. "When did I ever say that?!"

"You didn't have to, hyung, the porn you watch--"

Jimin hit him for real this time, though the younger continued smiling teasingly.

It seemed everyone was blushing now, so you took it upon yourself to order a round of drinks as soon as you spotted the waitress across the way. You tried not to think about the younger-girl comment. If anything, you should be exceedingly happy; knowing you weren't Jimin's type is exactly what you needed to keep your head on straight for school.

You ordered a pitcher of beer as well as a cocktail for yourself. It being Friday with no homework to speak of, you figured you might as well.

"I'll have what she's having," Jimin offered cheekily, ignoring the waitress in favor of staring you down. Man, did you need that drink!

When eunnie returned, you immediately made a grab for your Soju and Yogurt combo making Namjoon crack up.

The rest of the evening was a blur, and you wake up with the boys' numbers in your phone.

***

 

Chapter Text

***

 

You have a lot of fun picking your electives, and actively have to stop yourself from overloading. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you’re left with Web designing, Sculpting, and Intro to Modern Dance. Not only are you interested in all of those (unfortunately previously without the opportunity to indulge said interests), the hands-on nature of these courses would hopefully grant you a pleasant reprieve from the non-stop drain of having to translate everything you hear and say.

 

You’d missed the fresher’s fair due to Exchange obligations, but made a point to also go sign up for Improv club. You love silly stuff like that, and you know it’ll be a terrific opportunity to make friends. You also reluctantly sign up for the work study program, knowing it’ll look good on resumes and help you earn a scholarship again next year. Feeling content with your decisions, you head off to your first class of the day.

 

You’re glad your first block is art, as it will give you some time to fully wake up before you have to do any heavy-duty Braining. In the process of cracking your impossibly stiff bed-neck, the teacher’s voice startles you. You hadn’t even seen her come in. She looks young, not straight-out-of-college, but definitely under 45. Her soft face contrasts wildly with her polished physique, everything from the bun atop her head to the crisp press of her slacks is meticulous. She introduces herself as “Mrs. Jeon.”

 

You no longer feel very sleepy. You vaguely recall Jeongguk mentioning his parents working in the art department, but you hadn’t known what subjects they taught. Now that you really looked, the relation was obvious. Saying very little but commanding attention when she did, with the same gorgeous almond eyes and curved nose. You know Jeongguk is an Honors student, the Class President, to be specific. Kids like him usually grew up under parents with lofty expectations and no tolerance for failure. You find yourself wondering if this is the case with Jeongguk’s mother.

 

It’s an exhausting hour of trial and error at the turntable, learning how to operate it, change the speed setting, and apply just the right amount of clay.

 

Your hands are filthy by the time you finish, and you want nothing more than to hightail it out of there so you can wash up, but Mrs. Jeon beckons you over to her desk.

 

“Ms. Y/N, yes?” she asks, not unkindly.

 

Not knowing why you’ve been singled out, you manage a meek affirmative.

 

She smiles.

 

“Welcome to the University of Seoul. We have one of the most successful exchange programs in the country, I hope it’s finding you well?”

 

You can’t tell if she’s being intentionally self-flattering or just stating the facts. Finding your footing, you meet her eyes.

 

“I am. I like it here a lot so far.”

 

Mrs. Jeon smiles and it thankfully reaches her eyes.

 

“As you may know, my son oversees the transitionary process for Exchange students. He’s a little quirky, but he gets the job done.” She reaches behind herself into her bag, and offers you a card. “He sometimes forgets to hand these out, but please call him should you have any questions.”

 

You thank her profusely, and bolt for the exit. You thank your lucky stars you didn’t accidentally blurt out that you already had his number, and that you certainly didn’t get it from a business card.

 

 

***

 

The rest of the week progresses rather slowly, and after days of radio silence, you become convinced you saw the last of the kind group of boys who took you out on your first day here. It’s a disheartening thought, but it was just drinks with acquaintances after all, so it wasn’t like they owed you anything.

 

Which is why you stop dead upon entering your first Friday dance class, nearly biting off your tongue in the process. You know that logically there are probably other things in the room, but all you register is Jimin. More accurately, Jimin’s thighs, and the obscene way they bulge through the flimsy spandex of his leggings. He notices you staring and makes a bee-line. You pray you managed not to drool any in all your gaping. You’re gonna have to see a specialist about re-hinging your jaw probably, and you’re gonna send Jimin the bill.

 

To his credit, the half-naked Thigh God seems just as surprised to see you.

 

“Jagi, what are you doing here?”

 

Once you can breathe again, you become aware of your surroundings. There are others scattered about the room (mostly female, all of similarly petite but strong build, and all dressed like Jimin aka not really dressed at all) stretching vigorously in what you assume is an attempt to appear as though they’re not eavesdropping on your conversation. Which, to be fair, the class takes place in a rather large and open dance studio with acoustics that broadcast even the smallest noises.

 

You don’t own a leotard, and this class has given you a headache before it’s even started. You feel you may have been in over your head on this one.

 

“Jagi?” Jimin’s soft voice breaks through your spiraling thoughts.

 

You shake yourself.

 

“You keep calling me that, what does it mean?”

 

You are seriously the Queen of deflecting. If you were a Pokémon, you’d yield like 30 Evasion EV’s. You don’t even realize you’re doing it again, now, until you see Jimin take a step closer. You forget the question.

 

“I guess it’s like ‘babe’? But that might be wrong, I’m not the best at English.”

 

In this proximity, he can whisper, avoiding the echo. You realize this must be the reason he closed the distance. You hear him loud and clear nevertheless, his breath right at your neck. You start thinking about how much you enjoy being the same height as a boy when his words dawn on you.

 

“B-babe?”

 

“Yeah.” His eyes bulge a bit, belatedly seeing the connotation. “If you don’t want me calling me that, I won’t.”

 

Pssht, like you were going to let that happen!

 

“No!” Your almost-shout makes him jerk but he’s smiling now. “It’s fine, Jimin. I like it.”

 

After the awkwardness of this encounter, you make a mental note to up your game. If Jimin really is flirting with you, he needs to know this is NOT your first rodeo and that you are NOT a distracted stuttering mess. Going into into effect as soon as he changes back into normal pants.

 

“So you’re in this class too then?” You meet his eyes, silently begging him to high five you for so smoothly avoiding the subject again.

 

“Actually, I…”

 

It’s then you notice that Jimin’s blushing a bit, too obvious with how little he’s wearing, painting his pale neck in pink splotches of pretty. Did you really gain the upper hand so easily?

 

“Jagi, actually. I teach it.” He smiles sheepishly.

 

And okay, what? He te—And that meant—you screamed internally in outrage. That fucker wasn’t blushing because of you, he was blushing from second-hand embarrassment on your behalf! Foul ball, man.

 

When your response is little more than a curled lip, he continues.

 

“I teach this class.” He takes a step back to give you a once-over. “I don’t do special treatment.” He turns back to other students, not bothering to hide their interest anymore. “I expect you to come dressed appropriately next Friday, Jagi.” He makes eye contact with you through one of the long wall-mirrors. “Because I intend to make you sweat.”

 

***

 

Despite (or perhaps because of) your awkward encounter, Jimin suddenly takes to texting you. A lot, and never made up of less than five messages, all within a few seconds of each other, more emojis than actual Hangeul, and all on the premise of discussing dance class.

 

Before you came here, you learned it was commonplace to text potential partners often, Korean men playing none of that hard-to-get game or caring if they came off as desperate by texting too soon. You doubt that's what you are to Jimin, though, but the point stands.

 

No guy looked like Jimin did and was this hot-and-cold. If he was interested, he should about something other than dance practice. If he wasn’t, he should cut it out with the pet names and dirty talk.

 

You see no signs of his assertive little outburst last week in his texts. He’s passionate about dance, and he obviously hopes you do well, but as sad for your neglected and overly excitable body it is, you resign yourself to the truth. Park Jimin lacks intent. He purposely makes you crazy with no plans of actually doing anything about it. What’s the saying? The simpler explanation is usually the right one? Well plain and simple, and without having to make any leaps to explain it: Park Jimin is a textbook tease.

 

Lucky for you, Park Jimin also seems to be a bad judge of character. Or considerably unlucky. Of all the women he could have picked, he found the one with a bona fide teasing kink. Hell, you enjoyed being teased more than the actual orgasm half the time. You’ll let him work that one out on his own. You figure if you’re gonna get played, you should at least enjoy it. It feels a little vindictive even though he’s the fucker who gets off pushing people to their limit and then leaving them high and dry.



If you were right about his game, you knew the type. They didn’t even care if the girl was attractive or not, it was all about the ego boost and the seizing of power only to immediately abuse it. Somehow that doesn’t sound like Jimin, but you hardly knew the guy, and it’s better to err on the side of caution. And if you were wrong? He’d be none the wiser.



You loved games, but only on the condition of fair play. Jimin must make a move to trigger your counterstrike.

 

Your phone buzzes from its deck on the table, forcing you to finally leave the comfort of your bed. At some point when you weren’t looking, Jimin had changed his contact photo in your phone. How had it taken you so long to realize what a grease monkey this boy was? You saved the photo because, even at his most cringe-worthy, Park Jimin was still overwhelmingly pretty. Which—fuck. That answers your question. You didn’t notice that Jimin was a shallow sleazeball because you’re a shallow sleazeball who will forgive most things for a pretty face or a nice ass. Jimin has both, so he’s doubly exempt from rational judgement.

 

It’s not often you wake to such candid and unpleasant self-revelations, so you’re already soaked when you remember to check the text.

 

Mornin' jagi. Bring an umbrella t'day, 'sposeda rain

 

You’d roll your eyes but you’re soft for him speaking in dialect. Not being a Native speaker, you didn’t notice at first, but being around him enough, you started to listen for the tell-tale drop in his voice, the emotive drawl. You asked him about it, and he started teaching you. He was clearly doing an excellent job if you’ve already progressed to spotting it in writing. You’re convinced the the whole thing is part of his plot to drive you crazy, but you suppose you can let this one slide.

 

Jimin is right about the rain. Despite the season, liquid sluices all along the black of the roads leading into center campus. You’re running late for your first lecture but you let it roll off you like the cool tickle of water spattering at your brow. You can’t get worked up over punctuality today, not when the sun’s reflecting the rain out onto the usually empty roads and looking like one of those conceptual paintings that are supposed to mean something, like the birds are irony and the stenciling effect is something about the human condition. You don’t necessarily understand the message but you respect the fact that it has one. That kinda shit makes you feel calm and restless at the same time, a little floaty. Today has that kind of feeling, and rushing to class would be to waste this quixotic moment and a disrespect to the cosmos and painters everywhere.

 

It’s with these sleepy half-thoughts that you purposely slow your pace, soaking up this unique mixture of slaphappy giddiness and the flight-or-fight response. There’s probably something medically wrong with you, but you feel too good to go to the hospital, and you can’t afford to miss today. It’s Friday, and Fridays are Dance class with Jimin. You purchased the stupid leotard and you can’t wait to see the look on his face when he sees the design.

 

The teacher doesn’t even reprimand your tardy, taking in your sopping appearance and the faraway look in your eyes. Your weird high had followed you out of the rain and into your seat, which kinda sheds new light on your all your rain allegories and one-with-nature bullshit. You’re happy you refrained from hugging that tree. Jimin would never let that go.

 

You’re still out of it by midday, but cognizant enough to recognize that it’s weird. You finally haul your ass to the infirmary where they diagnose you with a mild fever, exacerbated by stress and failure to treat at onset. They give you a cup of water, an Ibuprophen, and a note that excuses you from the remainder of you lessons and stresses the importance of proper sleep. As though, you, a college student, did not know.

 

You miss Dance, and after a good few hours of naptime, you predictably wake to Jimin’s series of texts about it. Still not feeling up to much, you boil down the details behind your absence to a healthy gist.

 

was sick :(

 

He thankfully doesn’t pry and even sends you a ‘get well’ followed by the chicken soup emoji. You smile fondly, leaving him on Read and sinking blissfully back into your duvet.

 

You had fallen asleep for all of 5 seconds when you hear another text notification.

 

You know, Jagi… I DID warn you about the rain. I want 5 pages on the importance of maintaining good health practices as a dancer, on my desk and cited properly by next Friday. Reviewing it is gonna eat into class time, so come in wearing the leotard already to help move things along

 

You wing your phone into the darkness of your bedroom, too frustrated to listen for an impact. Your shock gives way to pure adrenaline. Admittedly, there had been a part of you who doubted your premature assertions about Jimin, but it was just as you had suspected. If he wanted to play, it was game on. You liked to be teased, but only because it built you up. Your real end game was turning the tables, using your insatiable energy to return tenfold every unfulfilled promise. But not with teasing, you weren’t that cruel. You preferred to exact your revenge by making a guy come so many times he questions if he ever liked it. And that was before you ever started your turn.

 

 

***

 

In dealing with the pure and utter chaos that that was Park Jimin, you nearly forgot about said boy’s best friend and your other newest friend, Jung kook. You wonder how much, if any, Jimin has shared with the boy, but lack the conversational finesse to ask without asking.


Jungkook still has a few days left to oversee the Exchange Orientation, and it gives the two of you some (while very public) time to chat. You catch up on classes in between rehearsed-sounding bits of history he half-shouts, gesticulating over… somewhere. You thought you’d be bored, but despite Jeongguk’s lackluster descriptions, you find yourself staring in awe, structures built higher than the clouds or creating grandiose scenes that change shape across thousands of solar reflective panels with the most miniscule tilt. Stuff you only see in movies. Stuff you’re not sure belong to this Earth!

 

You knew Seoul was gorgeous, you knew this University was gorgeous, you’d seen the pictures. People didn’t just come here for their superior academic acumens, yourself included. But pictures couldn’t do this place justice. There was something about seeing it up close. Walking on this ground, taking up the same space as things marvelous as these. You struggle to remember the exact moment you vowed to see this thing through, practical lifetimes ago, setting out on a journey you were still taking. It’s one of those things you don’t remember doing, but just know you did. You know you were feeling a lot then, most prominently the restlessness. In times like this, moments that taste of Seoul air and cement your simultaneousness triviality and paramount significance in the universe, you think maybe you’ve made it. You feel calm at least, and it’s more than you can usually say.

 


You’d been lost in thought for a while, but you don’t startle as you regain awareness, little pieces of reality always clamoring for attention at the back of your mind. Your group is taking lunch at the mess hall in the Amphitheatre, and you notice another of your group is a bit teary. You reach out to her, not knowing her name but that she is a second year French student. She seems to welcome the contact, taking your proffered tissue and pulling you down to sit at her table. You were originally going to eat with Jeongguk, but for some reason his Mother had decided to accompany him on this outing, and nothing about their closed-lip demeanor and meter gap of bench betwixt them suggested that was a promising idea.

 

You talked with the French girl, Natalie, while you tucked into your sack lunch. You made it yourself because you had like the Jjajangmyun at the restaurant so much, but you hadn’t anticipated how different it could be. As the name suggests, the Amphitheatre is designed by nature to well… amplify. Which, gotta love that, all that booming swashbuckling theatre action. You doubt any of architects had you in mind, you think, letting out what would have been a small retching sound but is now the stereoscopic soundtrack to the loss of everyone’s appetite.

 

You make fast work of inhaling the edible bits of your meal with the goal of hightailing it out of this God awfully stuffy atmosphere. Leave it to a bunch of lousy people to ruin a perfectly good building. You didn’t catch much of anyone’s reaction because you were doing a good job to finish the non-lethal part of your meal and hightail it the hell out of there. You catch the tail-end of what sounds like Mrs. Jeon’s giggle. You make to be offended, but her and her son are looking at each other again, so there’s that.

 

As everyone’s packing up to leave, Jungkook approaches you. You’re not really surprised, but you’re really… not surprised. You note that he’s much quieter when he’s not screaming facts about the University to exchange students at the top of his lungs or tipsy inside Jjajangmyun restaurants surrounded by his close friends, so your ears barely register his words. You’re pretty sure he didn’t say anything about you embarrassing yourself earlier so he’s off to a great start, you figure.

 

“…and I’ve got two computers, I can quiz you like that.”

 

He finishes strong for what was essentially not much more than the passage of air from his mouth. He’s looking at you expectantly like he thinks he just made words, and you feel bad for the guy. Trying not to dwell too much on the consequences of this action, you nod.

 

He looks bewildered, and you wonder if it’s too late to take it back, whatever it is.

 

“Sure thing, Jeongguk. Whenever you want, just—"

 

You begin slowly backing away, not really sure how to sneak away from someone who’s looking directly at you.

 

“Thanks, Noona,” he says with air that actually has volume. You’ve never felt so relieved. He picks up his bag and catches up with the fray until he’s out of sight.

 

Well, whatever this coming week has in store, you have faith that it statistically didn’t allow for much more weirdness. A vow to mind your own business has so far landed you in some weird sex game with Jimin that may or may not involve indecent exposure and about a thousand broken school rules, a fever-induced haze wherein you attained a deep emotional understanding of trees, cried on by a French girl, in some unbeknownst psychological samba with Mrs. Jeon that only she understood, poisoned by your own food, hated by a bunch of dancers for owning any clothes not made by UnderArmor, and pity-accepting a mystery request that was just casually fish-mouthed at you by Jeon Jeongguk.

 

You call your Mom, and tell her you miss America.

 

***

 

You eventually encounter Namjoon again as well. He’s the one who answers the door when you turn up to what turns out to be a tutoring session, a culminated result of his offer to help you with Korean upon your first meeting. Confused about Namjoon’s role in this, he politely explains that he lives here, and that being assigned to each other is how he and Jeongguk met.

 

Joon offers you a seat and a bottle of water as you take it all in. Their dorm is absolutely lavish. As the son of faculty, Jeongguk is permitted lodge at the Graduate dorms on the West side, usually only offered to long-term Master’s and PhD students. As for Namjoon, Jungkook explains, he is earning his Master’s, to which the blonde boy flushes and mumbles what sounds like “just skipped a few years, not a big deal.”


As though summoned by his name, the smaller boy joins you on the couch. He is back to speaking like a human being again, to your relief. Hopefully that last episode was Jeongguk’s poor attempt at humor or a hallucination brought on by your bad cooking. No matter the case, it seems to be forgotten.

 

Before you get down to business, you chat with the boys, snacking on Pocky and watching music videos being streamed to the massive flat-screen tv plaqued onto the front wall. The wall of unfamiliarity that had seemed to build up between you and Jungkook in the time you hadn’t interacted crumbles in a manner of minutes. Namjoon smiles fondly at your friendly banter, and starts outright cackling when you put Jeongguk in a chokehold for “forgetting” his honorifics.

 

***

 

You’re reciting diphthongs for what feels like the aeons when you decide you’ve had enough.

 

“Did you know Jimin teaches dance?”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t look up from his flashcards, only offering a noncommittal “mm” and proceeding to quiz you.

 

You sigh dramatically.

 

“You know I mastered these about five years ago and that we’re accomplishing nothing right now, right?”

 

He drones on.

 

“Your mother gave me your number.”

 

Nothing.

 

“I’m not actually a student, I’m a hitman hired to silence you.”

 

Jeongguk adjusts his perfectly already-adjusted sock.

 

“What would you think about me sucking Jimin's dick?”

 

The flashcards fall to the ground and Jeongguk keels over in sputters.

 

Jeongguk never mentions diphthongs again.

 

***

 

When the session ends, Namjoon asks you to hang back for a second. He explains that his girlfriend, a senior in the Science department, is throwing a Halloween party.

 

“All the guys will be there, so it’ll be a great opportunity to make more friends.”

 

“All the guys?”

 

“Yeah, Yoongi-hyung, Jin-hyung, Taehyungie, Hoseok, and you already know Jimin, but he’ll be there too.”

 

“Uh… am I supposed to recognize those names or…?”

 

Namjoon looks to Jeongguk who looks sheepish.

 

“Did you seriously not tell her about the guys? I knew you didn’t love us.”

 

“So these are just some of your friends you want me to meet?”

 

“Well technically yes, but we’re more than “friends.”

 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Joonie-hyung, that sounds gay.”

 

Namjoon ignores him. “It’s more like an exclusive brotherhood. Like a fraternity without the frat house or the hazing. Well… maybe the hazing. And Taehyung’s kind of got a house, but it’s more an abandoned fallout shelter than anything. And even that belongs to his brother, which…”

 

Namjoon trails off, finally reading the room.

 

You must look confused because Jeongguk grabs your hands, doing a worryingly good impression of a Doctor giving grave news.

 

“Noona. I knew this day would come, but I hoped you could think of me coolly for just a little bit longer.”

 

“Jeongguk, I’ve never thought of you coolly.”

 

Namjoon squawks. “She burned you, dude.”

 

“I’ll understand if you don’t want to be friends anymore.”

 

“Jeongguk, what the fuck? Are you in a cult?”



“It’s worse, noona,” he whispers, Namjoon nodding solemnly at his side. “We’re in a boy band.”



***