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Jeon Jeongguk is acting weird.

Taehyung picks up on it the second Jeongguk walks through the door. Jeongguk walks through the door and Taehyung looks up from his book and says, “Welcome home, Brobi-Wan Kenobi.”

Which is Jeongguk’s cue to say something like, “What up, Vincent van Bro,” or “Hey there, bromeslice,” or “Good to be back, Methuselbrah.” It’s their thing. But today Jeongguk barely spares Taehyung a glance before dropping his dance bag on the floor and shucking off his coat. He doesn’t even say hello, let alone anything else.

That’s the first sign.

The second sign is that earlier this evening, Taehyung went to all the trouble of ordering sweet and spicy chicken for them—Jeongguk’s favorite, everyone knows that—and when he tells Jeongguk there’s chicken waiting for him on the counter, Jeongguk says:

“I’m not hungry.”

Not hungry.

Not hungry? Jeongguk. Jeon Jeongguk, who can easily devour six cup ramens in a row, who once inhaled an entire extra-large pizza right in front of Taehyung (who was equal parts disgusted and impressed) and Jimin (who was just disgusted). Jeon Jeongguk, who is always hungry, at all times, without fail, whether or not he just ate, because he is a growing boy with like 0% body fat and the world’s fastest metabolism. Jeon Jeongguk, who literally just got out of a three-hour dance practice and Taehyung knows he forgot to pack a snack, he always forgets to pack a snack, so he definitely hasn’t eaten in at least three hours, maybe not even since lunch, and he’s just been exercising vigorously, and Taehyung ordered his favorite food and he’s not hungry?

“Are you sick?” Taehyung yells after him, even as Jeongguk heads straight for his bedroom. “Jeongguk, are you dying? Answer me!”

But Jeongguk doesn’t answer.

Third, Taehyung has a sense for this kind of thing. He just does. He’s been roomies with Jeongguk for two years now, so yeah, they know each other pretty well. They like all the same memes and play all the same video games and Jeongguk is a neat freak but somehow doesn’t mind the fact that Taehyung, like a beautiful jungle flower, thrives in chaos. Also they share a manga collection, which means that realistically they’ll have to live together forever because god knows neither of them are gonna part with the signed copy of Haikyuu!! Volume One. Not that Taehyung’s thought about living with Jeongguk forever.

Not that Taehyung’s thought about living with Jeongguk forever, but sometimes Taehyung is having a horrible day and then out of nowhere Jeongguk will text him hey i got u a green tea and a muffin, wya? and Taehyung honestly doesn’t know how he does it. It’s some disturbance-in-the-Force shit. The Force is Taehyung’s emotional well-being, and Jeongguk is a Jedi.

And vice versa.

Anyway. Jeongguk is acting weird, and Taehyung is gravely concerned.

He waits a few minutes, giving Jeongguk some time to cool off and change out of his dance clothes, and then Taehyung gets up and heads down the hallway.

“Guk?” he calls out softly, knocking on Jeongguk’s bedroom door to the tune of the TWICE song. “Guk, you okay? You want some dinner?”

A long pause, and then Jeongguk says, “No thank you.”

His voice sounds muffled. Like he’s got his face buried in a pillow.

“You sure? I got your favorite.”

No response.

“Gukie,” Taehyung wheedles, tapping his knuckles against the door again. “Gukie, tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Okay, but it sounds like something is wrong.”

No response.

Great.

Taehyung sighs and heads back into the kitchen to put away the uneaten chicken. If Jeongguk wants to talk, he’ll talk.

Except—

Except the thing about Jeongguk is he never wants to talk. He deals with his problems by listening to emo music and lifting weights. He says it’s because he’s not good with words and doesn’t want to burden anyone, but Taehyung thinks it’s also because Jeongguk is sort of a crybaby and very embarrassed about it. Which he shouldn’t be. It’s sweet. He’s got a soft, sweet heart, a ripe mango of a heart, yellow and full.

He’s also got one hell of a stubborn streak.

True to form, Jeongguk doesn’t come out of his room for almost three hours. Taehyung sits on the couch the entire time, waiting up for him, and tries to watch Yuri!!! on Ice but can’t concentrate on it, he’s so worried. Not only is Jeongguk clearly freaking out about something, but also what if he actually starves to death? Will he even remember the stash of emergency granola bars in his underwear drawer? Probably not.

So when Jeongguk shuffles down the hall at 9:49 p.m., wrapped up in his duvet like a big cute maggot, Taehyung nearly weeps with relief.

“Hey, man,” he says, trying to play it cool. “You feeling better?”

Jeongguk grunts.

“There’s chicken in the fridge,” Taehyung tells him.

“Okay,” says Jeongguk.

“You wanna tell me what happened?”

Another grunt.

“You wanna talk to me like a person and not like a horrible Neanderthal?”

Finally Jeongguk turns around. He definitely doesn’t look good. His face is drawn and pale like it always gets when he’s really anxious about something, and his lips are all chapped and bitten. He’s doing what Taehyung secretly calls the Bug Face, which is when Jeongguk’s eyes are super wide and he looks like a scared little bug.

“Guk,” says Taehyung. “Tell me what happened.”

Jeongguk covers his face with both hands and groans.

“Gukie—”

“Someone asked me on a date.”

Taehyung blinks.

That’s—not what he was expecting.

“O…kay,” he says. “So…what’s the problem?”

Jeongguk takes his face out of his hands to stare at Taehyung incredulously.

“What?” Taehyung asks. “I don’t get it. Was it someone you hate or something? What did you say?”

“No, it wasn’t someone I hate,” Jeongguk says. “It was a girl in my dance class. She’s cool.”

“So…?”

“So—,” Jeongguk splutters for a couple seconds, face going from pale to blotchy red. “So—I haven’t—I haven’t….” His eyes dart around the kitchen like he thinks the police are listening in. “I’ve never….”

“Never what?”

“I’ve never been on a date, okay?”

Taehyung bursts out laughing. And then immediately shuts up. “Oh my god, you’re not joking.”

“Obviously I’m not joking!” Jeongguk screeches.

“Okay, okay, deep breaths. Deep breaths, dude.”

“Don’t tell me to take deep breaths!”

“All right,” Taehyung says soothingly. It looks like Jeongguk is about to either run away or burst into tears and he would like to avoid both of those options. “Sorry, Gukie. I’m really, really sorry, I shouldn’t have laughed. That was a dick move. I was just surprised, you know?”

Jeongguk makes a dying whale noise.

“Look. You go sit down, I’ll heat up some chicken for you, and then we’ll figure it out. Okay?”

“Fine.”

Jeongguk shuffles over to their ancient plaid couch and flops down on it, curling up in a tragic little ball. Taehyung heats up a bowl of chicken for him and brings it over, settling down beside Jeongguk on the couch and shoving his toes under Jeongguk’s legs for warmth.

“Eat,” Taehyung instructs him. “Then we’ll talk.”

Jeongguk nods obediently and begins to eat.

He really does look freaked out, which makes Taehyung feel even worse about laughing at him. But—Taehyung really had been surprised. For the past two years, he’s sort of been operating under the assumption that Jeongguk is…not a playboy, but also not not a playboy. Sure, Jeongguk’s never brought a date or a one night stand back to the apartment, but still.

He looks like that.

It’s both an undeniable truth and something Taehyung spends the majority of his life not thinking about.

“I’m sorry for laughing at you,” Taehyung says once Jeongguk is done with his chicken. “Really, I am. That was mean, and I sincerely apologize. I just—I thought you were joking.”

“Why would you think I was joking,” Jeongguk says, staring down into his empty bowl.

“Because”—you’re lovely? you’re beautiful? you’re a total freak in the best kind of way?—“because, I dunno, you’re in your prime. You’re a hottie with a body. I figured people would be asking you out left and right.”

“Doesn’t mean I’d say yes.”

“No, I guess not.” Taehyung clears his throat, fiddling with a loose thread on the couch. “Um. But you said yes this time, huh?”

Jeongguk just shrugs.

“Cool,” says Taehyung. “Cool cool cool, that’s—that’s so cool.”

“I guess,” says Jeongguk, giving him a weird look.

“Okay, so back to my original question. What exactly is the problem here?”

Sometimes, like right now, it takes Jeongguk a long time to find the exact right words. Taehyung arranges Jeongguk’s duvet to cover the both of them and waits patiently, letting Jeongguk think it through. If he interrupts the thinking process it’ll just make Jeongguk more anxious; he’ll think he’s being a bother or wasting Taehyung’s time or something equally impossible and untrue.

“I don’t want to embarrass myself,” Jeongguk says finally. “I feel like—I’m already so awkward, and I don’t know Dahyun that well, and I feel like there’s so much pressure to, you know, be a good date, and—and I don’t know how to do, um.” He’s blushing again, avoiding Taehyung’s eyes like his life depends on it. “You know. The end of the night stuff.”

There it is.

There’s the real problem.

“End of the night stuff,” Taehyung echoes. “You mean, like—kissing? Sex?”

“Not sex!” Jeongguk yelps. “Not on the first date, oh my god. I mean, unless Dahyun—no. No. No no no no, no way. Just, um, the first thing.”

“Kissing?”

“Please stop saying it.”

Taehyung can’t even examine his own feelings right now. “To clarify, have you never been kissed?”

Jeongguk yanks the duvet up to hide his face.

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Taehyung says, poking at the duvet in the general area of Jeongguk’s forehead. “Seriously, Guk. Everyone does these things on their own time. It’s not a big deal, I promise.”

“I’ve been kissed before,” Jeongguk says, his voice muffled by the duvet. “But. I was like fourteen and it lasted two seconds and, um. Not since then.”

“Hey, that’s fine. That’s totally normal. It’s only in movies that everyone makes out with someone or loses their V-card by age eighteen. In the real world it takes most people a lot longer.”

“You’ve had sex with like a billion people.”

“Don’t slut shame me,” Taehyung says mildly.

“I wasn’t,” says Jeongguk, lowering the duvet. His entire face is bright red and he looks absolutely miserable. “I’m sorry, that’s not how I meant it. I just meant, like, you’re barely a year older than me and you’re already so experienced.”

“Everyone moves at their own pace, dude.”

“Well, I want my pace to be faster. Preferably before this Friday.”

Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “I’m sorry, what? You want to lose your virginity in the next three days?”

“No!”

“Then—?”

“Just the—kissing part.” Jeongguk’s knuckles are white where he’s gripping the duvet. “I just don’t wanna be totally horrible at it. If the date goes well.”

“You won’t be horrible.”

Jeongguk mumbles something.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“No, really,” says Taehyung. “What?”

“Nothing,” Jeongguk says. “It’s stupid, it’s stupid and I didn’t mean it, ignore me.”

“I don’t want to ignore you.”

Jeongguk looks extraordinarily shifty. “It’s stupid. It was a joke.”

“Okay, so tell me.”

“I just—I just thought, like. Maybe I wouldn’t be so horrible if someone more experienced than me taught me what to do.”

Taehyung stares at him.

“But I was joking,” Jeongguk says in a rush, his voice cracking. “I was joking, I said it was stupid, I only repeated it because you told me to—”

“It’s not stupid,” Taehyung says automatically. “You’re not stupid, Jeongguk.”

“Okay, well, it was just a joke.”

Taehyung’s heart is pounding in his ears. “Was it?”

“Yes,” Jeongguk says. He’s staring at Taehyung, eyes huge. “Yeah, of course it was.”

“Because…,” Taehyung lets the sentence trail off, mostly because he can’t believe he’s actually—considering this, offering it, whatever he’s doing, it’s a terrible idea. It’s a terrible fucking idea, the stupidest thing he’s ever even thought about doing, which is impressive. But god, Jeongguk sitting there wrapped up in his duvet, starry eyes and soft black hair and that perfect mouth, that flush on his cheeks, the way he’s looking at Taehyung with a mixture of shock and something else, something darker, ink in water. God.

“Because?” Jeongguk whispers.

Taehyung shakes his head. He can’t be the one to suggest this. Jeongguk has to ask for it, which is fine, because he won’t; there’s no way he would ever want that from Taehyung, so it’s totally fine and any second now Jeongguk is going to laugh and then Taehyung can laugh and they can both forget about Taehyung’s momentary lapse in sanity and move on with their lives—

“Would you?” Jeongguk says. “Would you…be okay with that?”

Taehyung coughs. “With what, exactly?”

“You know. Teaching me how to….”

“You have to be able to say it, Guk. You can’t do it if you can’t even say it.”

Jeongguk’s eyes flash and his jaw sets, the challenge landing exactly like Taehyung knew it would. “Teaching me how to kiss. So I can be good at it. For—for Dahyun.”

“Are you sure?” Taehyung asks, trying to look totally cool, totally casual, like this is just a favor between friends and not a big deal at all and definitely not something he’s been imagining in vivid detail for, oh, two years now. The kissing part, not the teaching part. He’s thought up about a thousand different scenarios in which he might kiss Jeongguk, including one set in the Cowboy Bebop universe in which he saves Jeongguk from certain death at the hands of a corrupt Inter Solar System Police officer and then they become bounty hunters together and make out on multiple planets, but admittedly this—teaching Jeongguk how to kiss so he can impress a girl—is not something he's ever imagined.

“I’m sure,” Jeongguk says firmly, even though he looks nervous as hell. “I don’t want to embarrass myself. I have to be good.” Then his shoulders slump. “Or at least not the worst.”

“You’re not gonna be the worst,” Taehyung says. “You’ve never been the worst at anything in your entire life and you’re not gonna start now.”

Jeongguk snorts. “Well, I guess that depends on how good of a teacher you are.”

“I’m sorry, what was that? Did you just throw down a gauntlet, Jeon Jeongguk?”

“Reckon maybe I did,” says Jeongguk.

“A gauntlet,” says Taehyung. “In my own home.”

“It’s my home too.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Go take a shower, will you? You’re always smelly after dance and I don’t want you stinking up my room.”

“What, we’re—we’re gonna do this tonight?” Jeongguk squeaks. “Like, tonight tonight?”

“You said before Friday, didn’t you? I mean, obviously we don’t have to do anything tonight, I don’t wanna do anything if you’re not comfortable with it, but I figured, you know, we’re both home….”

“Tonight is fine.” Jeongguk scrambles up off the couch, his ears bright red. “Okay. Um. Shower. I’m gonna go do that.”

“Cool. Meet in my room when you’re done, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Oh, and Jeongguk?” Taehyung calls after him.

“…Yes?”

Taehyung gives him a big, cheesy wink. “Brush your teeth.”

 

*

 

Thirty minutes later, they’re sitting across from each other on Taehyung’s bed, Jeongguk fresh out of the shower in a black hoodie and a pair of…SpongeBob boxers.

“I can’t do this,” says Taehyung. Jeongguk’s eyes widen, but Taehyung holds a hand up to shush him. “I just mean because of the boxers. I cannot physically do this if SpongeBob’s face is staring at me from your crotch. You have to go change.”

Jeongguk pouts. “These are my lucky boxers.”

“And I love that for you,” says Taehyung, “and normally I would think they are hilarious. But I really, really need this to not be an impromptu threesome with SpongeBob Squarepants. Please go change.”

“Fine.”

Two minutes later, Jeongguk comes back wearing a perfectly acceptable pair of dark blue boxers.

“Thank you,” says Taehyung. “I appreciate your sacrifice.”

“Just get on with the lesson,” Jeongguk says, trying and failing to leer. “Educate me, Professor.”

“Okay, then. Kiss me.”

The smirk drops right off Jeongguk’s face. “Wh-what?”

“Kiss me,” Taehyung says, much more gently. Jeongguk acts the most obnoxious when he’s either very, very anxious or not at all, and Taehyung knows that tonight it’s the first one. “It’s okay. There’s no wrong way to do it. It’s just me.”

Something flits across Jeongguk’s face, but he doesn’t say anything.

“Let’s just get the first one out of the way,” Taehyung says. “Like ripping off the Band-Aid, right? Then we can get more into, um, technique. Does that make sense?”

Jeongguk nods. “Yes.”

“Okay. So. Whenever you’re ready.”

Taehyung scoots closer, sitting cross-legged on the comforter. He’s in his pajamas—an oversized T-shirt and his comfiest sweatpants—and it’s strange, sitting here on his bed, teeth brushed and pajamas on but not relaxed at all, his skin just absolutely singing, heart a mess. He gives Jeongguk what he hopes is a super calm, super encouraging smile.

“Okay,” Jeongguk mutters. “Okay, okay, I can do this, I’m just gonna….”

“No rush. Whenever you’re ready.”

“I’m ready.”

And Jeongguk leans forward, closing the space between them. He brushes their lips together for a split second and then leans back, blinking rapidly.

“How was that?”

“Great!” says Taehyung.

Jeongguk narrows his eyes.

“I mean, it was a great start,” Taehyung says, scratching the back of his head. “Could have used a bit more pressure, maybe? I’m gonna be honest, Guk, I barely felt it.”

“More pressure,” says Jeongguk. “Got it.”

He looks so cute and determined, Taehyung wants to hug him. “There was nothing wrong with it, don’t worry. I think you were just lacking some confidence.”

“Confidence,” says Jeongguk, nodding. “Got it.”

“Do you wanna try again?”

“Yes.”

This time Jeongguk is the one to scoot closer, shifting so he’s cross-legged as well, their knees touching. It’s pretty dark in Taehyung’s bedroom—he’s only got the one lamp and then his glow-in-the-dark stars, and he closed the curtains for privacy so none of the city light is seeping in. Jeongguk’s face is a chiaroscuro, the right side illuminated in lamplight, the left in soft shadow. He’s stunning. Is always stunning, but especially now.

His eyes are zeroed in on Taehyung’s lips.

“Take two,” Jeongguk says, trying for jaunty, and then he just sort of—lurches forward, crushing their mouths together.

This kiss lasts longer than the first one, but it also feels even less like a kiss. Taehyung sits there until Jeongguk pulls away, and then he reaches up to touch his bottom lip, wincing, because it feels like there’s a good chance Jeongguk actually drew blood.

“Oh god,” says Jeongguk, covering his face with both hands. “Oh god, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay!” Taehyung says quickly. “It’s totally fine. Just, um, maybe a bit less pressure next time. The good news is that you’re awesome at following instructions!”

Jeongguk peeks through his fingers. “Did I hurt you?”

No. No, definitely not.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“It’s seriously okay,” says Taehyung. “Look, the best part about your mouth is that it’s soft, you know? It’s soft and warm and—and wet, and that’s why it feels good. So don’t take that part away. It’s not about shoving your faces together, it’s about, like, opening up. Letting someone in.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk says. He still looks mortified, which Taehyung wants to rectify as soon as possible. “Okay, sorry.”

“Nothing to apologize for. Let’s just try again, yeah?”

Jeongguk nods.

He leans forward, putting his hands on Taehyung’s shoulders.

And stops.

His face is red. He’s not meeting Taehyung’s eyes, and he keeps sucking his bottom lip into his mouth and worrying at it, releasing it dark and wet and bitten, little white teeth marks right below. His fingernails are digging into Taehyung’s shoulders.

“You good?” Taehyung asks. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Can you do it,” Jeongguk says, and then flinches. “I mean—I just, I keep getting it wrong, and, and I don’t know how to do it right, and—can you just show me, like, give me a good example, and then I can try again?”

He wants Taehyung to kiss him.

Jeongguk is sitting there on Taehyung’s bed, hands on Taehyung’s shoulders, eyes wide and nervous, and he wants Taehyung to kiss him. To kiss him well, to make him feel good, to show him how it’s done.

For practice. For practice. Taehyung repeats it over and over again in his head: You are doing this so he can kiss a girl.

“Okay, Gukie,” he says quietly, and it’s gross, probably, how much he wants to say baby, okay baby, c’mere. “Sure, I’ll do it.”

Jeongguk doesn’t look any less anxious. He nods jerkily and takes his hands off Taehyung’s shoulders, sits back, twists his fingers in the hem of his sweater. Christ. All muscle and still he looks so skittish, still he looks like Taehyung could ruin him with a word.

“You ready?” Taehyung asks.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathes.

Okay.

Taehyung leans in, but he doesn’t kiss Jeongguk just yet. “Here’s a lesson for you,” he murmurs, lifting a hand to Jeongguk’s cheek, thumb at the corner of his mouth. “Sometimes the anticipation is almost as good as the kiss itself. You want her to want it, right? You want her to want it so bad.”

He brushes their noses together, their faces so close that he can feel the flutter of Jeongguk’s breath on his lips. He can feel when Jeongguk’s breath hitches and when it quickens.

Taehyung hovers there for a long moment, waiting until Jeongguk’s eyes fall shut, until his brow is furrowed and he’s white-knuckling his hoodie to keep from reaching out, until he’s tilting his face just the tiniest bit under Taehyung’s hand, a flower turning with the sun.

Then Taehyung closes his eyes and leans forward that last half inch.

He kisses Jeongguk gently, right on the center of his mouth. In that first instant, Taehyung learns:

Jeongguk’s lips are soft, slightly chapped from a cold winter and his own incessant biting. His cupid’s bow is sharp and defined, a perfect little peak. Lower: a full bottom lip, a sweet soft curve like a slice of peach, apricot, plum. In that first instant, Taehyung learns that when kissed, Jeongguk’s breath catches in his throat. A tiny non-sound, his lips parting almost in surprise. Just enough for Taehyung to feel a hint of teeth and wet.

Taehyung presses the kiss onto Jeongguk’s mouth like a stamp and then pulls back.

Oh, god.

He clears his throat. Jeongguk is staring at him with those big eyes, dazed, looking almost drunk. It should be funny. It’s not.

“Lesson two,” Taehyung says. Steady voice, nice job. “Test the waters. That’s what I just did. You made your move, now she makes hers.”

He gives Jeongguk a pointed look.

“…Oh,” Jeongguk says. “So—it’s my turn?”

“Yup. Don’t freak out about it, just do what I did. Nothing crazy. You’re just reciprocating, you know? This is like, small talk. You’re just taking turns.”

“Small talk,” says Jeongguk, “right, okay, I can totally do that, I’m so good at small talk, small talk definitely doesn’t make me wanna die.”

He leans forward, eyebrows drawn together, which almost makes Taehyung laugh because usually Jeongguk only looks like that when he’s focusing really hard on schoolwork. Then Jeongguk kisses him and Taehyung doesn’t want to laugh anymore, not at all.

Because Jeongguk’s finally got it.

It’s pretty much the perfect kiss. Not too soft and not too hard, just a lovely, unfurling pressure, Jeongguk’s mouth fitting so perfectly against Taehyung’s, slightly off-center in a good way. He even angles his head so their noses are properly aligned. A beautiful kiss, if a chaste one.

A few seconds and then Jeongguk pulls back, but not entirely. He only breaks the kiss long enough to take a breath and then—

oh—

—then he’s swaying forward again, one hand coming up to Taehyung’s chest, fingers curling into the front of his T-shirt. Taehyung wasn’t expecting another kiss but leans into it anyway, Jeongguk’s mouth soft and warm against his own.

It’s less chaste this time. That hint of teeth and wet from before, it’s less of a hint and more of a firm suggestion, a flicker of tongue against Taehyung’s bottom lip. Jeongguk doesn’t try to go any further, but it’s too late; Taehyung’s already tasted him like sugar, like licking honey from the tip of a finger; he wants more.

Then Jeongguk jerks away abruptly, gasping for air.

“How—how was that?”

“Good,” Taehyung manages after a long moment. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he’s just as fucking breathless. “That was—that was good.”

“But how can I make it better?”

Typical.

“Breathe through your nose,” Taehyung says. “You don’t have to stop every time you need to take a breath, just—through your nose. Or your mouth, it doesn’t matter, it’s hot.”

“Through my nose,” Jeongguk says. “Got it.”

Taehyung snorts. “You wanna go get a pen and paper? Take some notes?”

“The thought did cross my mind.”

“You’re doing great,” says Taehyung. “Trust me. My first kiss was with this guy who literally sent me a text afterward in which he apologized for getting too ‘tongue-y.’”

“Oh, gross.”

“It was like”—Taehyung sticks his tongue out and sort of lolls it around—“like a dog cleaning out a peanut butter jar.”

“NO,” Jeongguk wails, covering his ears. “No no no no no why would you say that. No. No no no. No thank you, nope, I hate this, absolutely not.”

“It was like kissing a washing machine on spin cycle.”

“Oh my god hyung please stop talking.”

“I’m being descriptive,” Taehyung says primly. “I’m painting a word picture.”

“Stop painting! Stop painting!”

“Fine. All I’m saying is that as long as you don’t feel the need to send an apology text to the person you’re kissing, I think you’re doing pretty dang good.”

Slowly, still squinting at him suspiciously, Jeongguk takes his hands off his ears. “…Really?”

“Yes,” says Taehyung. “Really.”

“Cool,” Jeongguk says. He smiles, flashing those cute front teeth. “Hey, um….”

“Yeah?”

Jeongguk stares down at his own lap again, where he’s still twisting the hem of his hoodie around his fingers. Taehyung keeps having to physically stop himself from reaching out, covering Jeongguk’s hands with his own, lacing their fingers together.

Because Jeongguk doesn’t want that. Not from Taehyung.

Don’t fuck this up, Taehyung tells himself sternly, but he can’t help but think that maybe it’s already fucked up. Maybe it was fucked up the second he let Jeongguk kiss him.

Maybe it was fucked up over a year and a half ago, the first time they passed out on the couch together after a video game marathon and Taehyung woke up the next morning with Jeongguk’s head on his chest, Jeongguk’s hair smelling like mint and rosemary, the rest of him like lavender.

Maybe it was fucked up two years ago, barely a week after they started living together, the first time they hung out not as roommates sharing a common space but as friends—friends who were planning to just go out and grab some ramen for a quick dinner but ended up lingering over the ramen for three hours and then wandering around the dark streets just off campus, ducking into a bookstore and geeking out over the manga section, grabbing coffee at midnight because neither of them wanted the night to end. Even though they lived together, even though they’d be heading back to the same place. They still didn’t want the night to end.

Maybe it was fucked up the first time Taehyung saw Jeongguk laugh.

Maybe it’s already so fucked up that one more fuck-up doesn’t matter.

Or maybe Taehyung just wants Jeongguk to kiss him again.

So when Jeongguk asks—

“Can I—? One more time? Just—just for practice.”

Taehyung says, “Yes.”

Jeongguk takes a deep breath. He’s doing the Bug Face again, big dark eyes, mouth rose-pink and parted. He looks nervous but determined, singularly focused. His gaze keeps skittering down to Taehyung’s lips and back up again, like he’s afraid to look for too long.

Taehyung knows the feeling.

Sitting there on the fluffy white duvet, hair still damp from his shower, rivulets of water snaking down his collarbones, Jeongguk looks like art. Like a Romantic’s wet dream, tan skin and dark hair, lit golden in the lamplight, a bright spot in the surrounding dark. He looks incredible. He looks kissable, like he needs to be kissed, like he’s aching for it. Maybe Taehyung is projecting.

“Okay,” Jeongguk says firmly. He squares his shoulders like he’s gearing up for a fight. Bracing himself. For what? It’s only a kiss.

It’s only a kiss, Taehyung thinks, and then Jeongguk’s reaching up, hooking his fingers in the collar of Taehyung’s shirt. He’s swallowing, throat clicking audibly, shuffling forward on the bed. If he draws it out any longer Taehyung’s going to lose his mind. It’s his own fault, he’s the one who told Jeongguk that the anticipation is just as good as the kiss itself, but goddamn.

Taehyung’s heart feels like summer rain, hot and light and pattering.

He closes his eyes. And then Jeongguk’s mouth is on his again, sweet and firm. Jeongguk breathes out shakily against Taehyung’s lips and for a moment, neither of them move.

Then Jeongguk takes Taehyung’s bottom lip between his own and sucks at it. Grazes it with his teeth.

Taehyung almost opens his eyes again, startled by Jeongguk’s boldness, but Jeongguk just presses in harder and Taehyung finds himself leaning into the kiss, letting his mouth fall open. Pressing his tongue against Jeongguk’s lips and then, dizzyingly, slipping it into Jeongguk’s mouth.

Spearmint toothpaste, cool water. Taehyung only caught a hint of Jeongguk’s taste before, a trace of it on his breath and lips, but now Jeongguk is gasping and his lips are parting and Taehyung is curling their tongues together, hot and wet. They use the same toothpaste, they taste the same. Something about that is intoxicating. The domesticity of it, maybe, or the mix of strangeness and familiarity, Taehyung tasting himself in Jeongguk’s mouth.

He needs to stop thinking.

“You’re doing good,” he mumbles into Jeongguk’s mouth between deep, open-mouthed kisses. “You’re doing so good, Gukie.”

Jeongguk doesn’t respond. His grip tightens on Taehyung’s T-shirt and he scoots even closer, surging up into the kiss. Their teeth clack together and Taehyung wants to pull away, or more accurately knows that he should want to pull away, because it’s really going on a little long, surely they should stop, Jeongguk’s obviously got the hang of it—

But when Taehyung hesitates Jeongguk just yanks him closer, making a tiny noise in the back of his throat. Taehyung almost loses his balance, hands flying up to Jeongguk’s waist to hold both of them steady.

“Guk—,” he starts, but then Jeongguk’s hands are in his hair, and they’re still kissing and it feels so good, it feels so good: Jeongguk’s pretty little mouth, the soft swell of his bottom lip, the taste of his tongue. He’s sloppy, nipping at Taehyung’s lips, a little unsure about what to do with his tongue, but he’s so fucking enthusiastic. He’s kissing Taehyung over and over again, hard and deep and messy, just how Taehyung likes it.

“Just wanna, just wanna get it right,” Jeongguk gasps out, his fingernails skritching across Taehyung’s scalp in a way that makes Taehyung shudder. “Wanna—wanna be good.”

“You’re so good,” Taehyung says, kissing at the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth, and then the other corner and then the center, the center, the fullest part, red and shiny-wet from the press of his own mouth. Jeongguk gasps for breath and the kiss lands halfway on his teeth and Taehyung says, “You can slow down, Gukie, you can take a minute, draw it out,” and his hands are sliding up Jeongguk’s waist, up his sides, over the soft material of his hoodie. Where is the line? Is there a line? Jeongguk’s shivering under his touch.

Slow down, draw it out. For once, Jeongguk is obedient. He slows down almost immediately, the frantic, desperate kisses melting into something sweeter and more sensual. Taehyung opens his eyes for a split second to see Jeongguk’s brow furrowed in concentration, the smear of his dark lashes against his cheek. Then Taehyung’s eyes fall shut again and everything is taste and sensation, the soft wet sounds of their lips catching, their shared breaths.

It’s good. It’s so good. Jeongguk has taken to this like he takes to everything: beautifully, with singular focus. His fingers are tangled in the longish hair at the nape of Taehyung’s neck. He keeps making these noises. Sweet tiny sounds, little drops of sound, like someone is plucking at the strings inside him.

This is going to hurt, Taehyung thinks distantly as he drops kisses along Jeongguk’s jawline and ear and then lower, mouthing at the smooth skin of Jeongguk’s throat. The rivulets of shower water he follows with his tongue, tracing them like veins, lapping at the base of Jeongguk’s throat and then working the spot until it blooms red. Jeongguk is gasping in his ear, fingers tight in Taehyung’s hair.

This is going to hurt, Taehyung thinks as he pushes the collar of Jeongguk’s hoodie aside to kiss the wings of his collarbones. This is going to hurt me, this is already hurting me, I will not walk away from this unscathed. Jeongguk’s skin tastes like salt. This doesn’t feel like something Taehyung will be able to forget about, it never did. He is being used—as practice, as an experiment, as a fuck buddy, whatever it is—and he knows it and still he sucks at Jeongguk’s neck, memorizing every little sound, every breath and breathless moan.

“Tae,” Jeongguk says, “Tae,” and then Taehyung is being pulled back up and Jeongguk is kissing him hard, open-mouthed, rolling their tongues together. His fingers leave Taehyung’s hair and Taehyung doesn’t even have time to protest before Jeongguk is grabbing Taehyung’s hands and shoving them up under his hoodie, oh god. Oh god, he’s not wearing a shirt or anything, there’s nothing but bare skin underneath, hot and smooth and perfect. The muscles of his stomach twitch under Taehyung’s hands and Jeongguk whimpers, actually whimpers, into the kiss.

Of course he’s like this: an exhilarating mix of shy and pushy, sweet and obnoxious. Of course he is.

Taehyung runs his hands over Jeongguk’s stomach, his narrow waist, the bottom of his ribcage. Not higher, not lower. He’s fascinated by the movements of Jeongguk’s body, the flutter of his muscles as he breathes, the way he tenses up when Taehyung touches a new place or grazes his teeth over Jeongguk’s tongue.

His hands on Jeongguk’s bare skin. Jeongguk’s mouth open beneath his own, wet and hot. Taehyung finds himself sliding his hands up Jeongguk’s back, fingers trailing over the ridge of spine, and then Jeongguk is grabbing Taehyung’s face and kissing him even harder and pulling him forward—and they’re overbalancing, Jeongguk toppling backward onto the bed, Taehyung just barely managing to catch himself on his elbows before he actually crushes Jeongguk.

Their teeth knock together and Taehyung pulls back, wincing. It’s a mistake, because pulling back means that he gets a full view of Jeongguk beneath him: Jeongguk spread out on the white duvet, face flushed, hair fucked up and falling away from his forehead. His mouth swollen and kiss-bruised. Lovebites on his neck, his collarbones, the shape of Taehyung’s mouth imprinted on his golden skin.

They’re both breathing hard. Taehyung swallows and Jeongguk’s eyes flick down to follow the movement of his throat.

“Am I still doing okay,” Jeongguk whispers.

Taehyung can’t answer for a moment. Just can’t fucking speak.

He nods.

Jeongguk bites his lip. The same place where Taehyung was just kissing him, licking at him. “I feel like—like you’re touching me and, and kissing me in other places, and I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Ears,” Taehyung says. His voice is embarrassingly husky, even lower than usual. He clears his throat and tries again. “Ears. Jawline. Um. Neck.”

“That’s where you like to be kissed?”

Taehyung blinks down at him. What kind of a question is that? This isn’t about what Taehyung likes. “Uh, I mean. I think it’s pretty universal.” He forces a laugh. “I’m sure Dahyun will be just as into it as I am, promise.”

“Right,” says Jeongguk after a long moment. “Right. Dahyun.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk shakes his head a little as if trying to clear it. Taehyung can relate. “Okay. Then can I…can I try it?”

“Sure,” says Taehyung, because he’s an idiot, a masochist, and if this is the only chance he gets with Jeongguk then he’s going to take it. Even though it will hurt. Even though it already hurts. Deep down inside him, in a place that is very quiet and old, Taehyung’s always known that it was going to hurt: loving Jeongguk like this. Living with him, getting to know him, loving him for new reasons each day and then also for no reason at all.

So fuck it. Fuck it, seriously.

Taehyung tilts his head to the side, exposing the line of his throat.

Beneath him, Jeongguk takes a deep breath. Pushes himself up.

Presses his open mouth to Taehyung’s skin.

He stays there for a second—a half-kiss, a flicker of breath—and then moves lower, dragging his lips down the curve of Taehyung’s neck. He presses his tongue flat against Taehyung’s skin and scrapes his teeth over the wet spot and kisses it and then—god—begins to suck, first lightly and then harder, harder.

Taehyung only realizes he’s making noises when Jeongguk pulls back to look at him, eyes wide.

“Sorry,” Taehyung says, and he sounds wrecked but he can’t even help it. “Sorry, ’s just, ’s good, ’s how I like it, I—oh—”

Jeongguk’s lips are back on his neck immediately. There’s no hesitation this time, no buildup; he just fits his open mouth to the delicate skin over Taehyung’s pulse point and sucks hard, hard enough that it stings a little, a tiny bloom of pain, the perfect ache, and Taehyung knows he’s trembling, knows he’s grinding down against Jeongguk’s thigh, but he can’t help it. The world has narrowed to Jeongguk’s mouth on his neck, Jeongguk’s hands on his waist.

Taehyung slides his fingers into Jeongguk’s hair and tugs, pulling him away from Taehyung’s pulse point and onto the hinge of his jaw, the soft, hypersensitive spot right below his ear.

“Right there,” he gasps as Jeongguk sucks at his skin, bites his earlobe, trails wet kisses along his jaw, “right there, Gukie, oh my god, yes yes yes,” and Jeongguk’s definitely smiling, a flash of teeth, fuck him. “Fuck you,” Taehyung says dazedly, “fuck you, fuck you, fuck—,” and he’s dragging Jeongguk back into a wild, messy kiss, licking at his teeth and tongue, biting at his lips.

And Taehyung just—stops thinking. Stops thinking, stops freaking out, stops pretending this is a fucking lesson, stops obsessing over his own stupid feelings. He just loses himself in the kiss, loses himself in the act of kissing Jeongguk. Kissing and kissing and kissing him. Jeongguk arches under him, wraps his legs around Taehyung’s waist, and Taehyung leans down and takes him. Cups his face with both hands, thumbs on his cheekbones, and takes his mouth over and over again, licking into him. Awareness becomes a blur, disparate flashes of sensation: the shape of Jeongguk’s body under his own. The soft wet of his mouth, the way his breath stutters when Taehyung sucks on his tongue, the way he’s gripping Taehyung’s shoulders so tight, like he’s about to fly apart.

Jeongguk moans into Taehyung’s mouth and Taehyung swallows the noise like a mouthful of wine, a line of heat from throat to belly. He wants: more. He wants: the hoodie off, the boxers off, Jeongguk naked underneath him, his hands all over Jeongguk’s body, everywhere. He wants: inside. He wants to push his fingers inside, he wants Jeongguk tight and hot around him, wants to make him feel so good. He wants his name on Jeongguk’s lips. He wants to push himself inside, wants Jeongguk to let him in, to ask and then beg for it; he wants to make Jeongguk come. Taehyung fucks his tongue into Jeongguk’s mouth and pretends he’s doing something else, doing the thing he wants most, the two of them as one, coming apart in each other’s arms, Jeongguk naked and gorgeous and shuddering. You feel so good, he wants to say. I could make you feel so good.

“Tae.” Jeongguk twines his arms around Taehyung’s neck and tosses his head back so Taehyung can work his throat, suck another mark into his skin. “Tae. Tae, Tae, oh my god.”

“Got you,” Taehyung murmurs. He kisses Jeongguk’s collarbones again, runs a hand up and down his thigh, those ridiculous thighs still wrapped around Taehyung’s waist, ankles hooked above his tailbone. All thick and stupid sexy—dancer thighs, athlete thighs, life-changing in a pair of skinny jeans. “Got you, ’s okay, you okay? You good?”

Jeongguk just whines, high-pitched and needy, heels digging into Taehyung’s ass.

“What do you want?” Taehyung drops a kiss onto Jeongguk’s chin, noses at his temple. “What d’you want, Guk, you gotta tell me. Gotta use your words.”

“Fuck you,” Jeongguk slurs, still so fucking whiny. “F’ck you, don’t—don’t condescend to me.”

“What do you want, Gukie?” Taehyung says just to be an asshole. “What do you want, baby?”

He’s not expecting Jeongguk’s full-body shudder.

Shut up,” Jeongguk snaps, obviously catching the look on Taehyung’s face. “Shut up, don’t say anything, just—just—I wanna—,” he squirms, practically rutting up against Taehyung’s lower belly. “Please.”

Taehyung stares down at him, stunned.

“Please,” Jeongguk says again, and Christ, the way he looks right now, like he’s already fucked out, like they’ve been fucking for hours: his face pink and sweaty, neck and collarbones covered with little marks, mouth a wreck. Jeongguk makes a frustrated noise and rolls his hips again, and this time Taehyung can feel the shape of him in his boxers, the swell of hardness, Jesus fucking Christ.

Slowly, holding eye contact the entire time, Taehyung reaches down between their bodies and brushes his fingers over the front of Jeongguk’s boxers.

“Is that what you want?” he asks quietly.

Jeongguk makes a terrible, wrenching noise, almost a sob, and then Taehyung finds himself yelping in shock as Jeongguk flips them over, landing on top of Taehyung with one knee planted between Taehyung’s legs and the other by Taehyung’s hip. He shoves his face into the crook of Taehyung’s neck and gasps wetly, rolling his hips against Taehyung’s thigh.

“Guk,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk’s hoodie is all bunched up around his ribs, Taehyung’s hands on the smooth skin of his waist. “Guk, baby, holy fuck.”

“‘M so, ‘m so close,” Jeongguk mumbles, lips smearing against Taehyung’s neck. “Just wanna feel good. Want you to make me feel good.”

“You’re—?”

Close?

Like—close?

“Please, Tae.”

Taehyung looks down and sees the wet patch on the front of Jeongguk’s boxers, the way he’s grinding almost desperately against Taehyung’s thigh. Taehyung can feel the curve of him through the two layers separating them, Jeongguk’s boxers and his own sweatpants, and he wants to feel more, he wants to see Jeongguk, wants to take him in his hand. In his mouth.

“Tae.”

“I got you,” Taehyung says shakily, wrapping his arms around Jeongguk’s back and holding him tight. “I got you, baby, take what you need.”

Jeongguk keens. He’s panting hard, mouth open against Taehyung’s neck in something too sloppy and far gone to be a kiss, hands in Taehyung’s hair. He shivers once, hard, and then he’s grinding down for real, frantic little movements, no rhythm. Biting at Taehyung’s neck, whimpering into his skin. Wordless, mindless, shameless, just chasing his pleasure, working himself up, taking what he needs, just taking it. Taehyung holds him and breathes quiet words into his ear, got you, got you baby, doing so good, so good for me, wanna see you come, c’mon baby, you’re so hot, you’re so perfect, wanna see you, wanna feel you—

“Oh god oh god oh fuck, Tae, Taehyung,” Jeongguk gasps, and then his entire body tenses up and he’s coming with a high, broken moan, hips jerking, his fingers so tight in Taehyung’s hair that it actually hurts.

A moment later Taehyung feels Jeongguk’s come seeping through his sweatpants, hot and wet. He stares up at the ceiling, dazed, as Jeongguk trembles in his arms and then collapses sideways across Taehyung’s body, elbows giving out.

(Jeongguk just came in his boxers. Jeongguk just rubbed himself off on Taehyung’s thigh and came in his boxers, untouched. Jeongguk got that close just from kissing, holy shit.)

Taehyung brings a hand up to pet at Jeongguk’s hair, scratching at his scalp.

Distantly, he knows that he’s also hard. His cock is full and heavy between his legs, has been for a while, and he really really really wants to touch himself, wants to find that perfect friction against Jeongguk’s body and follow it until he’s shaking apart. He wants both of them naked and rolling around in his bed for hours. He wants to taste Jeongguk’s come; he wants to come with Jeongguk’s hands on him and Jeongguk’s tongue in his mouth.

But.

“Oh god,” Jeongguk says, and this time it’s not like oh god yes.

Not like oh god oh fuck oh Tae.

This time, Jeongguk doesn’t sound dazed. He sounds horrified.

“Guk, wait,” Taehyung says, heart plummeting into his stomach, but Jeongguk is already scrambling off of him. “Jeongguk, just hold on a second—”

“Oh my fucking god,” Jeongguk says. His face has gone white. Bloodless. He looks like he’s about to throw up. “Oh my god. Oh, fuck.”

“Guk—”

“Don’t,” Jeongguk chokes out. He practically throws himself off the bed, backing away toward the door like he thinks Taehyung is going to fucking grab him or something. “Please please please don’t say anything, just—oh my god, I have to go, I have to go right now.”

Taehyung pushes himself upright, trying to look as calm and non-terrified as possible. He opens his mouth to say something, literally anything to make Jeongguk stay—you didn’t do anything wrong, I liked it, I really really liked it, I wanna do that at least three times a week, I wanna kiss you every single day for the rest of my big dumb life, you’re perfect, you’re beautiful, please come back—but it’s too late. Jeongguk gives him one last terrible, gutted look and then bolts out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

Fuck, Taehyung thinks, alone in the mess of blankets.

Fuck.

 

*

 

They don’t talk for three days.

Which is pretty impressive considering that they, you know, live together.

Taehyung is doing a really bad job of pretending he’s not miserable about it.

On the first day, he waits up in the living room until one a.m. until he finally accepts that Jeongguk is clearly not coming home that night. On the second day, Taehyung gets home from class and tentatively greets Jeongguk with a, “What’s up, Broseidon King of the Brocean,” and then stands there like a fucking idiot as Jeongguk gathers up all his stuff from the kitchen table and escapes into his bedroom without even once looking back.

The third day is Friday. The day of Jeongguk’s date with Dahyun. Taehyung wakes up so sad that he’s actually sick with it, and then immediately feels like an asshole, because Jeongguk is his roommate and best friend (tied with Jimin) and Taehyung has no claim over him, and he did this to himself. He kissed Jeongguk knowing it would hurt. And now it does, and it’s his own stupid fault.

 

taehyung >> jjiminie <3
i did something stupid and now im rly sad
kinda heartbroken maybe
not to be dramatic

jjiminie <3
baby :( what happened?

taehyung
ugh its 2 much to explain over text
are u in class?

jjiminie <3
i don’t have class until 12
call me

 

“Is it Jeongguk?” says Jimin as soon as he answers the phone.

Taehyung actually pulls the phone away from his ear and stares at it for a second. “Are you a psychic?”

“No,” says Jimin. “Well, maybe a little. But mostly I just know you.”

“Oh.”

Taehyung rolls over in bed. He should be in class right now—Econ started thirty minutes ago—but he’s the kind of sad where he doesn’t want to get out of bed at all. He’s the kind of sad where he feels like a big sad worm drowning slowly in a puddle, limp and pale.

Jimin sighs, his breath a rush of static in Taehyung’s ear. “Also, Jeongguk looked seriously messed up during dance practice yesterday. He kept making mistakes with the choreo and looked like he was about to cry the whole time. I figured maybe something had happened between you guys, I don’t know who else could upset him that much.”

“What does that mean?” says Taehyung, newly horrified. “What—is that what I do? Do I just upset him all the time? Oh my god, what the fuck is wrong with me?”

“Tae! That’s not what I meant at all.”

“Then what did you mean?”

“I just meant, you know.” There’s a long pause in which Taehyung can hear the clinking of dishes and a voice that sounds like Namjoon’s asking a question. “One sec, babe, I’m on the phone with Tae,” Jimin says, muffled and faraway, and then he’s back. “I just meant, like…I mean, you guys are so…close.”

“Of course we’re close,” Taehyung says slowly. “We’ve lived together for two years. He’s my best friend.”

Jimin clears his throat.

“Tied with you, obviously. It goes without saying.”

“Still love hearing it, though,” says Jimin. “Anyway, I don’t mean close like roommates. Or even best friends. I mean, come on, Tae. You know you’re in love with him, right?”

No no no—

Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut. “I’m not.”

“Tae. Honey.”

“It’s just a crush,” he whispers, sounding totally pathetic. “You know how easily I get crushes on people. That’s—that’s all it is. Seriously.”

He’s close to tears and Jimin must hear it in his voice, because he doesn’t push Taehyung any further. “Okay. We can talk about it later. For now just tell me what happened between you guys.”

Over the next ten minutes, Taehyung tells him the entire story: Jeongguk’s anxiety over his date with Dahyun, the “joke” suggestion of a kissing lesson that Taehyung—like a desperate loser—pretty much fell all over himself to volunteer for, everything that happened in his bedroom.

“And then he, you know,” Taehyung says, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “You know, he….”

“No,” Jimin says, sounding both horrified and delighted.

“Yup.”

“He came in his pants?”

“Boxers, technically. But—yeah. And obviously you can never, ever, not in a million years, ever tell him that I told you this. I’m pretty sure he would literally die of humiliation. Or move to Antarctica to live out the rest of his days amongst the penguins.”

“Jeongguk hates the cold,” Jimin points out.

“But he loves belly-slides and he’d be so good at catching fish,” says Taehyung, and begins to cry.

“Oh, Tae.”

“It’s fine,” Taehyung says, voice thick from tears. “It’s—it’s gonna be fine, or maybe it won’t, I just, I feel like I took advantage of him, like I took something he didn’t want to give me, and I feel terrible. I think he”—he sobs for a second, curling up in a tight ball under the blankets—“I think he hates me, and I don’t blame him one bit. Oh my god. I can’t believe I fucked up this bad.”

“Tae, I’m sure he doesn’t hate you. It sounds like he’s just embarrassed.”

“No, he does. You should have seen the way he looked at me right before he left the room. He—he thinks I’m gross and horrible and he never wants to see me again, and it’s all my fault. I should never have kissed him, I just…,” he takes a shuddering breath, eyes stinging, tears salt-wet on his lips. “I, I just thought I’d only be hurting myself, and I thought it would be worth it to—to just kiss him once, just the once, and then let it go and try to be happy for him and his—his date. But I didn’t just hurt me, I hurt both of us, and now he hates me, Jimin. He actually hates me. He can’t look at me. We share this tiny freaking apartment and he can’t even stand to be in the same room as me, it’s like he thinks I’m gonna try to—to jump his bones or something.”

“From the sound of it, you weren’t the one doing the bone-jumping.”

“But I’m the more experienced one,” Taehyung says, sniffling. “I should have stopped him before it got that far, but I was just so caught up in it.”

Jimin makes a sympathetic noise. “I mean, yeah, there should have been more communication there. But Tae, it doesn’t sound like you were taking advantage of him. I know you, I know you’d never pressure him into anything. It sounds like he wanted it just as bad as you did.”

“Maybe in the moment. Like, as a purely physical thing. But trust me, he definitely doesn’t want anything to do with me now.”

“I’m so sorry,” Jimin says softly. “I really think you guys will work this out, but I’m sorry he’s acting like this. It sounds like he’s really confused.”

“Or he just hates me and wants to move out and never speak to me again until five years from now when he’s marrying perfect beautiful Dahyun and they invite me to the wedding out of pity because in this scenario I live under a bridge because I’m a disgusting troll and that’s where I belong.”

“Okay, I think we’re maybe getting ahead of ourselves here.”

“And I have a pet raccoon named Garbage Boy and I can talk to him because I learned to talk to animals after all of humanity rejected me for being so horrible, and I bring Garbage Boy to the wedding but then he finds out what I did to Jeongguk and he rejects me too and goes to live with Jeongguk and perfect beautiful Dahyun in their perfect beautiful house and then I’m alone forever and that’s how I die. And wild animals eat my face.”

“Okay,” says Jimin. “That’s—okay.”

“And my death is so utterly gross that it makes the papers and a thousand miles away Jeongguk is eating breakfast with perfect beautiful Dahyun and she’s like, Look honey they found a disgusting faceless body under a bridge, I wonder who it was, and Jeongguk is like, It doesn’t matter baby because all that matters is our love. And then they make out. And Garbage Boy is still there and he loves them way more than he ever loved me, which is exactly what I deserve.”

“Please tell me you’re done,” says Jimin.

“I’m done,” says Taehyung.

“Okay, cool. I’m gonna state for the record that you’re never going to live under a bridge, and you’re definitely never going to have a pet raccoon. Because that’s how you get rabies, Tae.”

“I already have rabies,” says Taehyung, sniffling again. “Rabies of the heart.”

“I’m going to ignore that because I love you and I know you’re upset right now.”

“Thank you.”

“But seriously, Tae. Talk to Jeongguk. He doesn’t hate you, I promise. He could never hate you. I bet he’s just as confused and freaked out as you are right now.”

“…Okay,” Taehyung whispers. “I’ll talk to him. After his date tonight, I guess.”

“It’ll work out, Taetae. Really. I have to go get ready for class now, but I love you, okay? Keep me posted on how it goes.”

“Love you,” Taehyung says, and ends the call.

Then he bursts into tears all over again, and that’s pretty much how it goes for the rest of the day.

 

*

 

Taehyung doesn’t know exactly when Jeongguk’s date is supposed to be, but he assumed it would be sometime in the evening. So when he’s in his bedroom and hears the front door open and shut at barely seven o’clock, he’s slightly concerned that he’s about to be murdered.

He shoves his laptop aside and reaches for the baseball bat his mother instructed him to keep beside his bed in case of emergencies. Then he creeps over to the bedroom door, pressing his ear up against it. He can hear someone shuffling around in the living room. It could be Jeongguk, but it could definitely also be a thief. A murderer. A murderous thief.

Taehyung is in the middle of deciding whether or not he is willing to literally die for the signed copy of Haikyuu!! Volume One (the only valuable thing in the apartment) when suddenly there’s a knock on his bedroom door, directly on the other side of where he’s pressing his ear. He shrieks and leaps backward, dropping the baseball bat with a loud clatter, and then the door is opening and Jeongguk is staring at him, looking very concerned.

“Oh my god,” Taehyung gasps, forgetting for a moment that they’re not really on speaking terms right now. “Oh my god, you scared the absolute crap out of me. I didn’t hear you come down the hallway. Ohhh my god. Walk louder, asshole.”

“I’m…sorry?” Jeongguk says. “Uh, why were you holding a baseball bat?”

“Because I thought you were a murderer!”

“Why on earth would you think I was a murderer?”

“Because—,” Taehyung looks at the floor, all the adrenaline bleeding away into that same old hurt, that dull, aching bruise inside him. “Because aren’t you, like, supposed to be on a date right now?”

And just like that, it’s terrible again. Awkward between them in a way it’s never been, not even in the beginning when they started living together after a single Facebook conversation (Jeongguk: Hey, saw your post about looking for a roommate. Do you still need someone? Taehyung: ARE YOU A SERIAL KILLER? Jeongguk: No. Taehyung: CAN YOU MOVE IN ON MONDAY?).

“About that,” Jeongguk says stiltedly. “I kind of, um. Need to talk to you about something.”

Even though he knew it was coming, knew it had to happen, Taehyung still feels cold.

“Yeah,” he says. “Okay. Do you wanna sit?”

Jeongguk’s eyes dart to the only available seat in Taehyung’s bedroom—the bed—and then back to Taehyung. “Um. Maybe not.”

Right.

“Let’s go out to the living room,” Taehyung suggests. His ears are burning. His eyes are maybe also burning, and he really just hopes he can stave off the tears until after Jeongguk friend-dumps him and announces his imminent move-out date.

They head into the living room in silence. Jeongguk takes a seat on one end of the plaid couch and Taehyung sits on the other end so they’re facing each other, feet meeting in the middle. If things were normal, their legs would be all tangled up, or Taehyung would have his head in Jeongguk’s lap. But things aren’t normal, and they aren’t touching at all.

“You can go first,” Taehyung says into the silence. “Um. If you want.”

Jeongguk just nods.

Then he takes out his phone, scrolls for a moment, and holds it out to Taehyung.

“What…?”

“Just read it,” says Jeongguk, not meeting his eyes.

Taehyung takes the phone. On the screen, Jeongguk’s pulled up a text from Kim Dahyun.

Oh god. If Taehyung has to read their freaking love confessions to each other, he will actually just wither away into dust and become yet another stain on this nasty couch. He glances up at Jeongguk, but Jeongguk still isn’t looking at him.

Fine, then.

Taehyung reads the text.

 

Kim Dahyun
Hey JK, there’s no easy way to say this so I’m just gonna go for it. I shouldn’t have asked you out. I was in a bad place that day and I realized afterward that while I think you are super cute and sweet and kind, I only asked you on a date to kind of…get back at someone who had hurt my feelings. Like. Make them jealous or whatever. And that was really, really shitty of me, to use you like that. It was petty and immature, and I feel terrible. I messed up. I’m sorry.
I would love to be friends with you but I’m not looking for more at the moment. If you would like to be friends I promise I don’t usually drag innocent ppl into my personal drama. :< Again I’m really sorry.

 

Taehyung reads it three times. Then passes the phone back to Jeongguk, who takes it wordlessly.

“I’m…I’m really sorry about that, man,” Taehyung says. “She seems nice.”

“She is,” Jeongguk says. “She’s really nice. We got coffee after class today and she explained the whole situation, and then we just hung out for a while. I think she’s going to be a really great friend.”

“Okay,” says Taehyung. He doesn’t understand what’s going on—that’s good news, right? So why does Jeongguk look so haunted? “Um. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Jeongguk doesn’t even seem to hear him. “She explained the whole situation. She—she had an FWB type thing with this girl and then the girl slept with someone else and Dahyun realized she’d caught feelings. Then she panicked and asked me out.”

“Guk—”

“But I told her that—I told her that it was okay. Because I shouldn’t have said yes to the date in the first place. I was doing the exact same thing she was, I was using her to—well—basically it wasn’t fair to either of us.”

Taehyung’s heart is doing something weird and he doesn’t even know why.

“I don’t understand,” he says.

“It wasn’t fair,” Jeongguk repeats. He’s picking at a rip in his jeans, tugging at the loose white threads. “Because—because I’m not, I’m not, um.”

“It’s okay,” Taehyung says quietly. Jeongguk’s breathing has gone all shallow like it does when he’s on the verge of panicking. “Jeongguk, it’s okay, take your time. No matter what it is, it’ll be okay.”

“It won’t be!”

Taehyung wants to reach out, to pull Jeongguk in, to nose at his hair and breathe with him. He wants to, but he doesn’t.

“It won’t be,” Jeongguk says, miserable. “It won’t be okay, Taehyung. I can’t date Dahyun, I can’t date anyone. Because I’m not emotionally available. Because I already like you.”

It takes a second to sink in. And then Taehyung goes absolutely still.

“But I fucked it up,” Jeongguk continues. He curls up in a ball, face hidden in his knees, still yanking at the hole in his jeans. “I fucked it up.” It sounds like he’s crying, or close to it. “I can’t believe I—can’t believe I did that. I humiliate myself on like a daily basis and that was still the most humiliating thing I’ve ever done.” He’s definitely crying. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want you find out because I wanted to keep living together, like, forever, and you’re my best friend and maybe my favorite person I’ve ever met and, and, and then I got off on you and I didn’t mean to and it was so gross and embarrassing and I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I can move out if you want, I just wanted to say sorry.”

“I forgive you,” Taehyung says the second Jeongguk stops talking.

Jeongguk’s breath hitches. “W…what?”

“I forgive you. You’re completely forgiven. I’m sorry too. Do you forgive me?”

“I—I mean, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Neither did you, but I forgive you anyway,” says Taehyung, barely managing to keep his voice steady. “I forgive you, please forgive me. Gukie, please say you forgive me right now.”

Jeongguk looks up. His face is wet with tears, the tip of his nose bright pink. “I—I forgive you?”

“Thank you,” Taehyung breathes. “Thank you, okay, now we can start this off right. I love you. Can I kiss you?”

Jeongguk’s eyes go huge. It’s like the most intense Bug Face he’s ever made. “What the fuck?”

“I love you,” Taehyung says again, and he’s grinning, he can’t help it, Jeongguk looks so confused and shocked and weepy and beautiful and Taehyung is grinning at him, breathless, heart doing a fucking waltz, the rest of him nothing but moonlight and air. “I love you, wow, sorry, I know you only said that you like me, but I don’t wanna be anything but honest. I love you and I wanna kiss you again. A lot. Preferably all the time.”

“What the fuck,” Jeongguk says weakly. “What the fuck. What the fuck.”

“Please don’t move out. I’ll be really sad.”

“What the fuck.”

“Okay, now you’re making me nervous,” Taehyung says. He scoots toward the middle of the couch but keeps his hands to himself, still hesitant to touch, especially because it appears as if he has broken Jeon Jeongguk. “Are you broken? Is that all you’re going to say for the rest of your life? It’s fine, I can work with that.”

“You’re not joking,” Jeongguk says. “You’re—you’re not joking, you’re being serious.”

“I have never been more serious in my entire life,” Taehyung declares. “And I will never be this serious ever again. This is it, buddy.”

“Don’t call me buddy.” Jeongguk’s eyes are flicking over Taehyung’s face like he’s trying to catch the lie, the joke. “You can’t confess your love to me and then call me buddy.”

“I’ll call you anything you want. Lovemuffin.”

“Not lovemuffin.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

“You should kiss me,” Jeongguk blurts out, still looking slightly terrified. “You should definitely kiss me. Right now.”

“Your command is my command, baby,” Taehyung says grandly, and then he swoops in and kisses Jeongguk before he can reply. He kisses the salt off Jeongguk’s mouth. Kisses his wet cheeks, his eyelids, his forehead, drops kisses all over his face and then goes back to his mouth, kissing every inch of it, over and over again, Jeongguk’s breath shaky against his lips.

Taehyung brings both hands up to Jeongguk’s face and swipes his thumbs across Jeongguk’s cheekbones, wiping away the last of the tears. He pulls away to catch his breath and Jeongguk chases his mouth for a moment, drawing Taehyung in for another kiss, a second, a third, before finally opening his eyes.

“How are you feeling?” Taehyung asks him.

But he doesn’t really need to ask. Jeongguk is smiling up at him, almost glowing in the evening light. Incandescent.

“Why’d you stop?” he asks.

Taehyung feels himself blushing. “I had to catch my breath.”

“But you said to just breathe through your nose.”

“Previously, kissing hasn’t been quite this overwhelming.”

“Oh,” Jeongguk says, hushed.

“Yup.”

Jeongguk smiles even wider. “Cool,” he says. “Um, hey, so. I like, love you or whatever.”

They stare at each other.

“…Did you really just say ‘I like love you or whatever’? Did you really just say that to me?” Taehyung says. “Is that seriously how you chose to phrase your confession of undying devotion? I like love you or whatever?”

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk whines.

“Nope, I’m not done,” says Taehyung. “Oh my god. I’ve wanted to hear you say that for two years and you didn’t just say I love you, which would have been so nice. Nooooo, of course you didn’t. You said I like love you or whatever. Oh my god, Jeongguk. How am I supposed to tell that to our children? Yeah, sweetie, I guess your dad like loves me or whatever.”

“If you continue to be a butthole about how I choose to express my feelings, I will shove you off this couch and not kiss you for forty-eight hours.”

Taehyung sighs loudly.

Jeongguk raises a challenging eyebrow.

“Okay, I’ve come to terms with it,” Taehyung announces after a short pause. “I guess I knew what I was getting into. I like love you or whatever too.”

“Thank you,” says Jeongguk. “I appreciate that.”

Then he reaches out and drags Taehyung in for another kiss, pulling both of them backward, Jeongguk up against the arm of the couch with Taehyung’s body curving over him, Taehyung’s hands on his waist. It’s not a perfect kiss—it’s all sloppy because they’re both laughing and their teeth keep clacking together.

But there’s plenty of time to practice.

 

[end]