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bees, knees and emotional crises

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Every Sunday morning, at thirty minutes past eight, Jungkook drags three collapsable tables out the back of Yoongi’s beat up kombi van and sets them up for the weekly farmer’s market.

 

He’s not a farmer, and neither is Yoongi, Taehyung, or a good number of the vendors that buzz around the front yard of the local middle school at the same time every week, but ‘Farmer’s Market’ just has a nice ring to it. It looks good on flyers and on the community website, in a sweet hand-written font that Jungkook helped design last year during a summer internship.

 

So he’s super involved in the famer’s market; he goes every week. He knows everyone who works there, and everyone loves him because somehow he’s the youngest vendor. 

 

But he’s not a farmer and he’s not selling anything he made himself.

 

Anyway - that’s not important right now. 

 

What’s important is that Jungkook has just finished setting up his tables and has returned from the van with an armful of new custom-painted jackets (a really big armful because Taehyung had an inspired week - something about the warmer weather or the new brand of mango juice he found last Monday), only to find the stall across from his empty. 

 

And that’s weird. 

 

Mrs. Brouillard always arrives before him, fussing over her embroidered handkerchiefs and tea towels and singing Edith Piaf at the top of her lungs and trying to get Jungkook to join in. He often indulges her, but only ever hums because he knows he would totally butcher the french. Taehyung, however, always flutters over to her when he arrives later in the morning and tries his best to converse with her using his limited vocabulary, because he’s fearless and enigmatic and it’s never a big deal for him to make mistakes. He’s wonderful like that.

 

So anyway, it’s strange that she’s not here. Jungkook feels worried and a little bit sad. When Yoongi comes back from the sign-in desk a few minutes later, he waves him over. 

 

“Hyung, do you know what happened to Mrs. Brouillard?”

 

Yoongi starts hanging up the coats while Jungkook stacks the prints along the front table. “I heard someone say she’s travelling back home. Or moving.” He pokes his face through the clothes. Jungkook pouts; she never said anything last week. He wishes she’d at least called him over for one last duet. “Who knows. But there’s somebody else’s name on the list.”

 

“Already?” Jungkook asks with raised brows. “What are they selling?”

 

“Honey,” Yoongi calls from inside the van.

 

Oh, thinks Jungkook, that’ll be nice. There are a few stalls that sell preserves, but strangely enough nobody has a stall dedicated purely to honey. He hopes they have different flavours. When he was younger, he went to Cape Town with his family and tried this honey infused with wildflowers and eucalyptus, and he’s probably dreamt about it over a hundred times since. 

 

Yoongi unpacks the camping chairs and thermos. He settles into the smaller chair with a sound that makes him sound half a century older than he is. Jungkook pours them both coffee, puts too much sugar in his, and settles into the other chair when he’s satisfied with the layout of postcards, canvases and custom-painted ties. 

 

He notices that the stall opposite theirs is still empty. “It’s almost nine o’clock, hyung. Are you sure they’re starting this week?”

 

Yoongi shrugs. “That’s what the list said. I couldn’t see the name but it had the stall number and today’s date and the word honey.” He pouts at his coffee and then, slowly, like he’s not sure why he’s about to speak, says: “It also said ‘bees’ and then just… a bunch of exclamation marks.”

 

“Bees?” Jungkook laughs.

 

“Not just bees,” Yoongi says. He puts his coffee down, clears his throat, and starts waving his arms above his head like he’s drowning. He shrieks, “BEES!! 

 

Jungkook laughs hard enough that he almost sloshes coffee all over his jeans. He hiccups and puts the cup safely on the grass. Yoongi brings his arms down and smiles with all his teeth. Jungkook smiles back. A young mother pauses in front of the table and he stands up to greet her, tells her all about the postcards and the matching canvases and hey, we’ve also got a blouse with that design and it would look so good with your skin tone, would you like to check it out? And he loses track of time for the next hour or so, speaking to customers and the other vendors that wander past and drop off free samples and anecdotes about their week.

 

So it’s understandble that at first, he doesn’t notice the stall across from theirs being set up.

 

He doesn’t see the table go up. Doesn’t see the glass jars lined up like school children on the left side. Doesn’t notice the stack of pamphlets as they’re placed in the middle, then the right, then the back, and then to the right, where they stay. 

 

And that makes sense: the markets are busy today and the flow of people between their stalls is constant and relatively heavy, sprinkled with prams and dogs of all sizes and heavy baskets and overflowing armfuls from those who forgot to bring a bag at all but just couldn’t resist getting the roses, the bread and the strawberries, because the sky is clear and laughter mingles with the warm breeze and something about this market just makes people feel like Monday is so much further away than tomorrow. 

 

What doesn’t make sense: a giant bee cutout has been propped up next to the singular table opposite, and Jungkook only notices it once the crowd thins out around eleven o’clock and his eyes are assaulted with black and yellow. There are a few people milling around the table, so he can’t see the person behind it, but that cutout is —

 

Wow. It’s really there.

 

“Oh my god,” he says through a mouthful of apricot danish.

 

Taehyung bursts through the coats. He’s wearing one of his blouses with designs painted down and around the buttons, flowing pants, yellow tinted sunglasses and no shoes. He looks like an art teacher’s wet dream. 

 

“Yes! Here we go!” He claps giddily and sits in Jungkook’s lap with an arm hooked around his neck. “You’ve finally seen him.” 

 

Jungkook points at the bee cutout like a question. Taehyung shakes his head. “That’s been there for an hour, Jungkookie. I mean, yes the bee is beautiful, but no - I’m talking about the guy.”

 

“Which guy?”

 

“The guy,” Taehyung emphasises, like Jungkook is thick. “The man. The Korean supermodel with the smile and the knees and delicious samples.”

 

“Hyung, again with the knees,” Jungkook groans. “I still don’t get how that’s a thing and I really don’t want to.” He tries to push him away, to no avail. Taehyung smushes his cheeks in his palms and gets really close.

 

“You say that now,” he says ominously. “But just you wait, Kookie. Just you wait.”

 

Taehyung doesn’t let go of his face until a customer awkwardly clears their throat and asks if they have any extra sizes in the dark denim jacket. Taehyung leaps up to help them but stops to point at Jungkook and then at the bee cutout and mouths, “Knees.” His brows pull together, his eyes roll back and he bites his bottom lip. When he starts audibly gasping, Jungkook throws a shoe at him. Taehyung dodges it with a laugh and then starts casually talking to the lanky teenage boy about fashion like he didn’t just mime an orgasm in front of him.

 

There’s still an old couple hovering at the honey stall. Jungkook sinks into his chair a little, despite still being in full view, and takes another bite of his danish. He savours the taste, chews it slowly.

 

Then he chokes on it.

 

Now, Jungkook would say he doesn’t believe in love at first sight, but he doesn’t like lying. And that’s a big fat lie. Sure, he’s never experienced it for himself, but he’s seen a lot of movies, and he’s cried over his share of books and old people holding hands in the street, so he feels pretty qualified to say that it does, in fact, exist. 

 

That, and he’s experiencing it right now.

 

Taehyung wasn’t exaggerating: the man selling honey is wonderfully tall, with skin the colour of caramel and hair disguised under a navy ballcap that only brings more attention to his face and his cheeks - oh my god his cheeks. Jungkook’s eyes are watering and he’s not sure if it’s because he was choking or he’s just fallen in love and this is how it feels. He remembers how it happened for Taehyung and Yoongi: less crying and more suspicious noises coming from behind closed (read: open) doors followed by the greatest burst of creative energy Taehyung has ever had; Yoongi didn’t stop smiling for two weeks. 

 

Jungkook coughs into his elbow and chugs down half his water before slumping back into his chair, exhausted.

 

This love business is intense.

 

He hasn’t even met the guy - doesn’t even know his name - and Jungkook has already got a 10 year plan laid out, including a St Bernard named George and maybe some goldfish (names to be decided). He’s so wrapped up in the semantics of shared real estate that he doesn’t notice Taehyung until he’s literally nose to nose with Jungkook.

 

“Okay,” he says. “Now you’ve seen him.”

 

Jungkook nods, dazed.

 

“How bad is it?”

 

“Ten years,” whispers Jungkook. “We’ve got our own house and an oversized dog whom we love very much.”

 

Taehyung laughs fondly and tickles Jungkook under his chin. “That’s the worst one yet.”

 

Jungkook nods. He cuts his eyes to the left again, trying to catch a glimpse of the guy, but there are people in the way again. He sighs like all the weight of the world is on his shoulders.

 

“Just wait until you see his knees,” Taehyung smirks, standing up again. “You’ll be planning your retirement.”

 

Jungkook believes him.

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

“Okay. Twenty-three across. 8 letters. Grassland.”

 

Taehyung hums around his spoon. Yoongi says, “Savannah”, and scribbles it in.

 

“What’s the point of asking if you already know the answer?” pouts Taehyung, leaning into his boyfriend with huge eyes. Yoongi shrugs him off.

 

“I’m being inclusive,” he grumbles, leaning in really close to the newspaper and scrunching his nose as if that will reveal the answer to fifteen down.

 

Jungkook sits across from them at the round wooden table in the kitchen, munching on some peanut butter toast and trying (and failing) not to think about Honey Boy. Absolutely unnacceptable that he has to wait another six days until he can see him again. Jungkook walked around the whole afternoon yesterday just feeling dazed and directionless. Taehyung teased him in a stupid baby voice and Yoongi rolled his eyes when he walked into the table for the third time in an hour, but did it with a smile and didn’t complain when Jungkook usurped the rights for movie night and put on Kimi No Na Wa for the umpteenth time. 

 

He loves his friends so much.

 

The curtains above the sink have been drawn to let morning sunlight spill across the checkered tiles and catch the edges of the pot plants hanging above their heads. Jungkook makes a mental note to water them when he gets home. Then he puts it in his phone with an alert because his mental notes always last less than sixty seconds. It’s almost nine o’clock so he’ll have to leave soon.

 

He’s dressed and ready for work, looking like a McDonalds sign in his horrible bright yellow polo, slacks and red cap. 

 

Jungkook doesn’t mind working at the arcade - loves it, even. He just has to avoid mirrors for the entirety of his shift.

 

It doesn’t help that there are so many reflective and oddly warped surfaces in his workplace - really dampens morale to see your reflection on the side of a Pacman machine that held your high score for two years until a 12 year old beat it in less than ten minutes. Just stings, you know? And Jungkook has to face it four times a week. 

 

Seokjin, his manager, says they can have the machine decommissioned if it’s really making him that sad, but Jungkook just channels his anger into beating the score. 

 

Although it’s been weeks without success, Jungkook still tries at the end of every single shift. Today feels good, he thinks. Today is the day. He shoves the rest of his toast in his mouth and stands up to grab his keys. 

 

“What time do you finish today, Kookie?” asks Taehyung, legs now in Yoongi’s lap and arms wrapped around him like vines. Yoongi carries on with the crossword, content to work around his boyfriend’s limbs.

 

“Five,” replies Jungkook, patting his pockets to check he’s got his wallet and phone. 

 

“We’ll be at the gallery until seven, or so,” Yoongi says, eyes still on the paper. “Got a meeting with some buyers from Tokyo. Just text us what you want for dinner and we’ll pick it up on the way home.” 

 

“Roger that, hyung.” Jungkook gives a quick salute. “Good luck with the meeting!”

 

“Good luck with Pacman!” Taehyung calls after him. “You can do it!”

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

The arcade is a twenty minute bike ride from their house. Ten if Jungkook is running late and pedals fast enough that he almost loses control. He hates being late because Seokjin’s solution is to challenge him to a DDR battle. Even though Seokjin loses almost every time, there’s no satisfaction in it for Jungkook beause his manager is a sore loser and five years old and puts Jungkook on toilet cleaning duty to make himself feel better.

 

Thankfully, Jungkook is on time today - early, even. He locks his bike around the back and clocks in. 

 

They only open at ten o’clock, but most of the machines are on already, beeping and whirring and flashing in a chaotic mix of lights and colours and sounds. Jungkook takes a deep breath of the funky smell of old carpet and machines and plushies and popcorn and sighs happily. He loves this shitty arcade so much.

 

He makes his way towards the racing games because that’s usually where Seokjin is in the mornings and —

 

“Motherfucker!”

 

— today is no exception.

 

Seokjin hits the steering wheel as the screen flashes 2nd place! at him in bold red letters.

 

“Better luck next time hyung,” Jungkook says sombrely. Seokjin shrieks and spasms in the plastic seat, causing the whole machine to wobble precariously. Jungkook laughs with his whole body and settles into the seat adjacent, pushing a token into the slot and starting a new course. 

 

“I could have you fired,” Seokjin pouts, linking up his game with Jungkook’s. 

 

“I dare you to do it.”

 

“Maybe I will.”

 

“I can’t wait.”

 

“Today’s your last day.”

 

“Excellent.”

 

Jungkook revvs his car and the race begins. Seokjin keeps up an impressive stream of shrieks and cursing and tries to sabotage Jungkook multiple times by reaching over to yank his steering wheel. 

 

Jungkook wins by a solid ten seconds.

 

“You’re lucky I’m tired this morning,” huffs Seokjin, pulling a notebook out of his pocket and bitterly adding a tally to the column under Jungkook’s name.

 

“Old age will do that to you.”

 

Jungkook sprints out of Seokjin’s reach just in time.

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

Jungkook wakes up an hour earlier than he usually does on Sunday and decides there’s no time like the present, so he gets everything into the van and then sits at the breakfast table drinking hot chocolate and jiggling his leg, checking his watch every two minutes. Once the second hand ticks over to eight o’clock he sprints up the narrow staircase and knocks fervently on Yoongi and Taehyung’s bedroom door. He knows better than to just barge in unless he’s prepared to see things that will probably scar him for a long time.

 

There’s a muffled bang on the other side of the door and when Jungkook opens the door very, very slowly, his suspicions are confirmed: Yoongi threw a shoe at it.

 

“Hyungs. It’s eight o’clock. Market time. Time to leave. Time to go.”

 

Taehyung is all but crushing Yoongi into the mattress but the older boy still manages to lift his head. “Go without us.”

 

“But —”

 

“We’ll come at ten-ish. Thanks, Kook-ah. Love you.”

 

He disappears into his massive pillow and Taehyung offers a sleepy wave. Jungkook shrugs and heads back downstairs, grabbing the keys to the van and downing his hot chocolate like alcohol. His skin is still buzzing with nervous energy so he gets down on the kitchen floor and smashes out twenty push-ups and some burpees. It sort of helps.

 

Before he leaves he checks his hair, straightens the round-frame glasses he nicked from Taehyung’s closet and tugs at the collar of his faintly-striped button down. It’s also Taehyung’s, so it’s very oversized, almost like a pyjama top, but it’s comfortable. 

 

Okay. He looks approachable. He looks great. He can do this. 

 

The market is already teeming with activity when he arrives, thirty minutes later. Jungkook parks in their usual spot and pulls down the visor.

 

“Hi,” he says to the mirror. “I’m Jungkook. Just wanted to — no, that’s shit. Hey! What’s up! I see you sell honey! Fuck, that’s even worse —” Jungkook buries his face in his hands. He can’t do this. He has to do this. There’s a St Bernard called George and a cosy farm cottage waiting for him on the other side. All he has to do is act normal. He takes a steadying breath and levels his reflection with a challenging stare.

 

“Let’s get it,” he says decisively, and pushes the visor back into place.

 

Setting up takes a little longer than usual because he’s by himself, but he welcomes the distraction because Honey Boy is already here and setting up as well, and it’s still early enough that there are little to no customers, so Jungkook has an unobstructed view. Today he’s wearing a denim jacket over a white shirt with navy shorts and boots - socks pulled all the way up. He’s not wearing a hat either, and Jungkook notices with dismay that his hair is sandy blond and messy in the most beautiful way. 

 

Thanks to the shorts, Jungkook does, in fact, see his knees. Multiple times. He sighs as he sets up the clothing rack, resigning himself to the fact that he’s adding knees to the list of things he finds attractive about guys. 

 

He hates when Taehyung is right; it happens more often than not.

 

He tries to be subtle about the way he follows the guy with his eyes, but he’s evidently not doing a very good job because about fifteen minutes in, they make sudden and jarring eye contact and Jungkook freezes, you know, like an idiot. 

 

Honey Boy smiles, wide and bright and without an ounce of hesitation, and offers Jungkook a friendly wave. Jungkook returns it robotically. And then, because things can only ever get worse for Jungkook, Honey Boy starts walking towards him. 

 

Shit, thinks Jungkook, shit shit shit shit sh—

 

“Hey! I thought I’d come over and introduce myself, since I didn’t get the chance last week.” He stops on the other side of the table and smiles genially. Jesus. That dimple is deeper than a meteor crater. He holds out his hand. “I’m Namjoon. I make honey.”

 

Out of all the normal ways Jungkook could respond, he decides to go with,

 

“Lit.”

 

Jungkook immediately wants to abandon ship - Taehyung’s merchandise be damned - but he’s caught off guard when Namjoon laughs, very suddenly and very loudly. Jungkook’s eyes go wide but he can’t help the smile that dances down from his own eyes to his mouth.

 

“It is pretty lit, thank you,” Namjoon says, still laughing a bit through his words. “What’s your name?”

 

“Jungkook.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Jungkook.” He sounds like he really means it. “So you - do you speak Korean?" Jungkook nods and Namjoon beams. He switches from English and continues, "I thought I heard you speaking to your friends last week."

 

Jungkook switches as well. "Yeah! It's just easier."

 

Namjoon's smile grows. Jungkook feels really warm. He can practically hear George barking somewhere in the distance. "This stuff is so cool! Did you make all of it?”

 

Jungkook deflates. “Oh, no I just - they’re made by my friend Taehyung. He’s something like an artistic genius. Makes so many cool things. I just sell them.” He crosses his arms over his stomach. He doesn’t feel as impressive anymore.

 

“Ah, right,” Namjoon nods. “Is Taehyung the one with no shoes?”

 

“That’s him.”

 

“Makes sense.”

 

They lapse into a sudden silence. So far, Namjoon has been the one initiating every new point of conversation and Jungkook doesn’t feel brave enough to say anything else so he shrugs and fiddles with the pile of postcards closest to him. 

 

“So do you, um,” Namjoon clears his throat. “If you could make something to sell, or just make something, you know, for you - what would it be?”

 

“Well,” starts Jungkook. “I mean, I made these business cards for him. And the brochures for the market. A while ago.”

 

Namjoon’s eyes light up. “Wait - that banner at the entrance - did you design that?” 

 

“Yeah, it was nothing. Just like, an internship I did a few months ago. They needed something new so I said I could help out.” Truth is, he is really proud of the designs he made, and even prouder of the fact that Mr and Mrs Leung (the couple who established the markets) liked them enough to plaster them all over the markets. But it always feels weird to brag about things he’s made. They’re not that important anyway. Not like Taehyung’s work. It’s just a hobby for Jungkook, filling up time by filling up notebooks with ink sketches and rough approximations of his friends’ smiles and hands and outlines of their terrible postures and the way they fit together on the living room couch.

 

“That is so amazing!” beams Namjoon. “Seriously, it’s so eye catching and it suits the mood of this place so well. And I mean, even if you don’t sell any of your work, that doesn’t mean it’s any better or worse than people who do. As long as you’re working hard and you love what you’re doing, then that’s enough. You don’t need someone to buy it for it to be good, you know?”

 

“Oh,” Jungkook whispers, stunned. He tries to say something else but he can’t really think through the way his heart is pounding. Surely he’s dreaming. Namjoon can’t be real. They met like, five minutes ago, and it feels like he just looked into Jungkook’s soul and said all the right things.

 

It’s like the emotional equivalent of being presented with your favourite dessert after the shittiest day in history, or waking up and expecting a day of rain only for the sky to be crystal clear. And you don’t have to go to work. And someone just called to say you’ve won the lottery even though you never entered it in the first place.

 

Okay, maybe Jungkook is getting a bit carried away with the metaphors, but like, he’s definitely dreamt Namjoon up. Nobody like this actually exists outside of a romance novel.

 

Except they do, because he’s still standing in front of Jungkook and calmly waiting for him to say something. Jungkook blushes furiously and speaks, a little louder this time.

 

“Thank you. That’s - that’s really nice of you to say.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Namjoon says softly. He points his thumb back towards his own stall. “Feel free to come over and try some honey when you’ve got a moment! I have some new infusions and I’d love to get your opinion on them.”

 

“Okay,” Jungkook nods. “Yep. I can - when my friends arrive, I’ll come over.”

 

Namjoon claps and does this absolutely devastating thing where he shoots both hands into finger guns and hops up onto one leg. Then he turns and walks back to his stall to greet a woman looking with interest at the pamplets. 

 

Jungkook watches Namjoon’s face light up as he starts animatedly explaining something to the woman, eyes wide and hands gesturing everywhere.

 

When a customer approaches Jungkook’s stall a few minutes later, he greets them with a wobbly “Good morning” and they ask him if he’s okay, and he’s not, he’s actually falling apart, but he nods and smiles through the pain and moves around the table to help them find what they’re looking for.

 

Yoongi and Taehyung arrive just after ten, as promised, and they take one look at Jungkook’s pained expression and burst into laughter.

 

Taehyung rushes over to bundle him up in his arms and says, “You’re my absolute favourite mess of a human. I just adore you.”

 

“Love you too, hyung,” Jungkook says miserably into his shoulder, arms limp at his sides. “And I love Namjoon. We’re going to have a long and happy life together.”

 

“When’s the wedding?” Yoongi asks calmly, typing something on his phone.

 

“Autumn sounds nice.”

 

“It sounds lovely,” agrees Taehyung. “As long as I get to design your suits.”

 

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jungkook says, still trapped in the broad expanse of Taehyung’s arms.

 

After heading off in search for a quick snack, Jungkook gets roped into helping one of the dairy farmers carry heavy crates of stock back to their truck for over an hour, so he doesn’t have a chance to visit Namjoon’s stall until the markets are almost closing.

 

He jogs back to their end of the markets but slows into a walk just before he comes into view of the honey stall. Namjoon is reading a battered copy of some Japanese novel that Jungkook doesn’t recognise. He looks up when Jungkook taps the table, and immediately smiles, delighted.

 

“Hey! Welcome!”

 

“Hi,” Jungkook laughs. “Sorry I got dragged into some manual labour by Amos and John.”

 

Namjoon’s brow furrows. “Who’re they?”

 

“Oh, sorry - the guys with the huge tubs of yoghurt. They sell fresh milk in those bright red bottles?”

 

“Yes! I met them yesterday.” Namjoon puts his book down and stands, rubbing his hands together. “Okay. Let’s get into it.”

 

He reaches behind himself and grabs three jars in each hand. Jungkook tries not to think about his hands. He’s got such big hands. Really nice hands. 

 

“We’ve got six flavours going at the moment,” starts Namjoon. He lines them up and opens each lid. “There’s original, cinnamon, elderberry, lemon, orange and wildflower.”

 

Jungkook doesn’t hesitate. “Wildflower.”

 

Namjoon grins. “That’s a popular one! Here you go.” He pushes a bowl of bread pieces towards Jungkook and sticks a honey dipper into the jar. “I don’t like to use toothpicks or teaspoons for tastings. It’s really wasteful. And this looks cooler, anyway.”

 

Jungkook nods, dazed, as he holds his bread close to the jar. Namjoon pulls the dipper out and reaches for Jungkook with his other hand; he lightly touches his fingers to the back of Jungkook’s hand, almost cradling it, and invites it closer so that the honey can drip onto the bread. Sadly, he lets go, and Jungkook hastily shoves the bread into his mouth.

 

“Take it slow,” Namjoon laughs. “You need to sort of - move it around your mouth to get all the flavours out. Don’t chew the bread until you’ve actually tasted the honey otherwise it’ll confuse the tastes.”

 

Jungkook does as he’s told, and it’s all he can do not to close his eyes in bliss. It tastes so good. It tastes even better than he remembers, all those years ago, in a tiny cafe along the South African wine route. If he had to eat one thing for the rest of his life, this might be it.

 

He finally chews down on the bread and nods through it, giving Namjoon an emphatic thumbs up that earns him another sudden burst of laughter. 

 

“So you like it?”

 

“I love it,” Jungkook confirms. Namjoon smiles again, but this time it’s with less teeth and he ducks his head, almost shyly. Jungkook is so enamoured. “How much are they?”

 

“Usually they’re twelve dollars, but you can have one on the house.”

 

“No, I couldn’t —”

 

“Yes, you can.” Namjoon presses an unopened jar into his hand. The label is pale lavender and there’s a crude drawing of wildflowers all along the bottom. It’s impossibly cute.

 

“Thank you,” he says earnestly, clutching the jar to his chest.

 

“Oh! And you can have some pamphlets, if you want!” Namjoon spins around and fusses with the shiny papers scattered across the side table. He hands three to Jungkook like they’re made of gold. “There’s some really cool information about bees and honey and that one—” He taps the pamphlet on top, with a drawing of the earth, the sun, and a colony of bees wrapped around it all “—has some awesome points about climate change and how it’s affecting bee populations, and what you can do to help! It’s actually super doable. Just about spreading the information, making people aware of it so we can work together to make a difference.”

 

He finishes his spiel with a satisfied nod.

 

Jungkook stares at the pamphlets with wide eyes. “I’ll read them when I get home. Thanks, Namjoon-ssi.”

 

“Ah you can - hyung is fine?" When Jungkook nods, a bit dazed, Namjoon exhales. "And, you’re welcome. It was really nice to meet you, Jungkook-ah.”

 

“Yeah.” It’s Jungkook’s turn to duck his head. “You too. Well, I gotta.” He tips his head back towards his own stall. “See you next week?”

 

“Looking forward to it,” replies Namjoon, like it’s nothing.

 

Yoongi and Taehyung have the decency not to make a scene while Namjoon can still see and hear them, but as soon as they’re in the van they both shriek so loud that Jungkook shrieks back out of shock.

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

That night, Jungkook forgoes their weekly movie in favour of curling up in bed to read the pamphlets. 

 

He reads them all until he practically has them memorised and then he Googles bees and cries a little bit because oh my god, they’re so important, and they’re just doing their best, and there are people like Namjoon in the world who care enough to make a big deal out of it - because it is a big deal - and he doesn’t have to do it but he does anyway, because he’s so good. Bees are so good. 

 

Jungkook is having a really big moment: it’s nine o’clock on a random Sunday night and he’s lying in bed listening to piano music and crying about the state of the planet and these tiny little fuzzy insects that are just doing their best and the sandy-haired boy with the knees who makes honey and told him his art matters and made Jungkook feel like he can be happy and in love with what he does if only he chases it hard enough.

 

The ten year plan has shot up to fiftieth anniversary plan and Jungkook thinks he’d like to have wildflowers at their wedding, so maybe Spring would be better. That sounds nice. He falls asleep thinking of the most outrageous honeymoon ideas he can manage, and when he dreams, it’s very quiet, but everything is warm and sticky-sweet and wonderful.

Chapter Text

 

“How much sodium are you allowed each day?” Jungkook asks, squinting at the jar of salsa in his hand. It’s all in Spanish because Jimin is picky about his food and refuses to shop anywhere except this boutique grocer down the road from the arcade. A lot of things are imported and all of it is expensive. Jungkook often wonders if Jimin has a shady side job; nobody that works at an arcade should be able to regularly afford organic almond butter.

 

Jimin crouches down to inspect the hot sauces and hums. “Something like two thousand milligrams.”

 

Jungkook doesn’t know how much sodium is in this; he can’t read Spanish; he shrugs and puts it the basket. 

 

“Okay.” Jimin stands up again. “I need broccoli, kale, cumin and - what does that say - oh, sour cream. Easy, that’s… Kookie?”

 

Jungkook is no longer beside him because he is currently standing in front of the honey selection and having an out of body experience. 

 

The shelves are lined with all kinds of beautiful flavours. Jungkook spots blueberry, peach, blackberry, horsemint and vanilla. His eyes dart wildly around until they spot a label with flowers and he cradles it in his hands. It’s a bit darker than Namjoon’s honey. Doesn’t glimmer as much under these harsh fluorescents. Doesn’t feel the same, with its plastic casing and bright yellow label. 

 

Namjoon would have something to say about the plastic.   

 

“Kookie? Sweetheart, are you okay?” 

 

Jungkook looks up at Jimin when a gentle hand settles on his shoulder. 

 

“Are you… crying?”

 

“No,” Jungkook sniffs. Jimin fails at holding back a laugh. 

 

“Is there something on your mind? Do you wanna put the honey back before you squeeze it any harder and I have to pay for it?”

 

Jungkook complies. 

 

“I’m fine,” he says unconvincingly. “Just have a lot of feelings about… bees…”

 

Jimin hooks his arm around Jungkook’s elbow and pulls him in close as they walk. “You have a lot of feelings about everything, Kookie. And you cry so much it makes me look like the emotionally stable one between us. That’s why I love you.”

 

“I thought you loved me because I feed elaborate lies to Seokjin-hyung whenever you’re late to work. Which is like, every day.”

 

Jimin whacks him on the shoulder with a bunch of kale. “Not every day.”

 

“I can stop, if you want.”

 

“No, please don’t,” Jimin pleads. “I’m not good at DDR like you.”

 

“Nobody is.”

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

The following Sunday is colder than usual; it’s been raining on and off for the past few days and the grass is damp and muddy under Jungkook’s boots as he makes his way back from the pastry stall by the entrance, two bags in each hand.

 

“What’s on the menu, handsome?” Taehyung calls, draping himself seductively over the clothing rack.

 

“It’s a surprise,” replies Jungkook, tossing him one of the bags. Taehyung snatches it out of the air with ease.

 

“Saucy.”

 

He opens it and immediately calls over to Yoongi to swap with him because babe, you know how much I like the chocolate ones, come on, please, I’ll do anything for you, I’ll do that thing where I

 

Jungkook power walks out of hearing range.

 

Right up to Namjoon’s stall. 

 

Naturally, the poor weather is a deterrent to the crowds, so today is much quieter than usual. Anyone that has come out is playing a dangerous game of dipping umbrellas up and down and sideways and trying not to get their eyes poked out. Jungkook is just in a hoodie, copping it.

 

However Namjoon, despite being undercover, is wrapped up in a blue raincoat with a red bucket hat pushed firmly over his hair. Instantly Jungkook is reminded of that little bear plushie with the boots and the suitcase that Yoongi brought back from London a few months ago. His name is Bear (of course) and he sits tucked into the bookshelf next to the TV. He looks exactly like Namjoon. This is a distressing discovery.

 

“Do you like the rain?”

 

Jungkook blinks away his errant train of thought and looks up at Namjoon. “Uh, yeah,” he shrugs. “I guess.”

 

“I just mean. Well, you were smiling to yourself just now. I thought…” He shrugs too and crinkles his nose. His gorgeous nose. “What did you buy?”

 

Jungkook had forgotten about the damn pastries even though they’re the whole reason he came over here. Well, more like the carefully planned excuse. He hands one over the stack of honey jars.

 

“Pastries from the front. Thought you might want one. They give me a discount so it’s - yeah it’s not a thing.”

 

Namjoon opens the brown paper bag like it’s a treasure chest. The soft smells of vanilla, almond and marzipan drift between them, intertwining with those of the rain and the earth. Namjoon’s eyes are set alight.

 

“Wow!” he exclaims. “Thank you, Jungkook-ah. I was just thinking I wanted something to eat. All I’ve had today is honey.”

 

He laughs at himself and Jungkook fights to keep the fond look off his face. 

 

He knows that. He knows because Namjoon has been steadily eating honey straight out of the jar since they set up and Yoongi has made several concerned comments about the state of his teeth and general health levels but Jungkook just leaned into his palm and sighed dreamily. Said something stupid about it making him extra sweet. Yoongi had pretended to throw up into his coffee as though he never makes weird, gooey comments about how perfect Taehyung’s ears are. 

 

Namjoon takes his first bite of the almond croissant and slumps back into his chair with an obscene noise that brings all the blood to Jungkook’s cheeks. 

 

He pulls at the neck of his hoodie; he feels like a horny sixteen year old. The miniature Seokjin in his mind tells him that’s exactly what he is, and then laughs and high-fives himself.

 

“So,” Jungkook says, too loudly, trying to drown out the ghostly echo of Seokjin’s laughter. “Bees.”

 

Namjoon straightens up immediately. “Go on,” he says. 

 

“I read all the pamphlets.” Jungkook doesn’t say how many times. “And I did some research online, because I’ve never really thought about it, you know? Bees. They’re always just there. I didn’t really think about what they were doing, to be honest. I mean, once when I was younger I got stung by one and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would and I was actually more sad that the bee had to die but —” He stops for a breath and a bite of his danish. “They’re like, super important.”

 

“Yeah,” Namjoon sounds choked up. “They are super important. What did you find out? From your research?”

 

Jungkook takes a few more bites because he’s nervous so his speech is really muffled when he says, “So much, hyung. Things like, seventy percent of crops and food we grow to eat is there because of bees, and there are specific flowers you can plant to help them out and that - did you know that they need something to land on to drink water or they’ll drown?” 

 

Namjoon nods. His mouth is fighting a losing battle against a grin. 

 

Jungkook nods back shakily. “So you can put a tennis ball in a dish or whatever, and they’ll land on it and drink and be safe and just fly off afterwards. How cool is that? And it’s so easy!” He waves his hands about. Almost flings his danish at a child. “It’s so easy! Why aren’t more people doing something?”

 

A customer that had started to slow upon his approach to the stall looks a bit freaked out by Jungkook’s exclamations and hurries back to the main walkway. Namjoon’s laughter bursts out of him like a dam. 

 

Weirdly, Jungkook’s stomach drops. “Why are you laughing?” he asks with wide eyes.

 

Namjoon stops immediately. “No, oh no I’m not — it’s just so nice to see someone else get excited about it. Because it does matter. People like to brush these things aside because they think well, they’re only insects, or it’s someone else’s responsibility, why should I bother? But it’s so simple and easy and the whole point is that we all make small changes to contribute to bigger change. I wish more people were as open as you, Jungkook-ah.”

 

He smiles softly at Jungkook and this time, when Jungkook’s stomach drops, it’s for an entirely different reason.

 

During the strange pause that settles between them, the rain picks up again. Within seconds, Jungkook can feel his entire back soak through and yelps when the cold water hits his skin. 

 

Around them, the vendors are rushing about their stalls in a hurry to haul tarpaulins and umbrellas out over their stock. Yoongi’s strange shrieking noises can be clearly heard in the commotion.

 

Namjoon stands too, but his movements are calm, as though the rain settles him. 

 

Jungkook really doesn’t want to but, “I have to go. Gotta help the others p-pack up.”

 

“Yeah, sure. Of course.” Namjoon frets with his pamphlets and doesn’t make eye contact. “You, um. If you’re not busy this week… would you like to come over?”

 

The chattering of Jungkook’s teeth ceases comically fast. Holy shit. Did he just — 

 

“To your house?” clarifies Jungkook.

 

“Well it’s not technically mine but - yes. Yeah. You can meet my friends! I would love to introduce you.”

 

Oh god, it’s happening. It feels really sudden and it’s maybe not the perfect scenario because Jungkook isn’t great with meeting a whole group of new people at once but that’s okay, it’s still an opening. A clear invitation: Namjoon wants Jungkook to come over to his not-his-house and Meet His Friends. He can do that. Jungkook can do that.

 

“I can do that,” he breathes out. 

 

“Sorry? I didn’t - the rain is really loud, did you -”

 

“Yes!” Jungkook says through a laugh. “I would love to.”

 

He walks back to the van in a daze with his hand still on his phone which now has a brand new contact called ‘honey hyung’ with a bee emoji and a real phone number underneath it. 

 

Namjoon typed in the contact name himself.

 

That makes it so much worse.

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

Jimin sighs heavily and throws his keys onto the counter. “That’s the second time this week.”

 

Jungkook finishes with a customer and then turns to him, taking a loud slurp of his milkshake. “What’s up?”

 

“Some kid tried to climb inside the claw machine because they wanted one of the plushies at the back.”

 

“The Apeach one?”

 

“Yeah,” sighs Jimin.

 

“Don’t blame ‘em.” Jungkook shoves some chips into his mouth and chases them with more milkshake. Jimin straightens up and checks his phone, uncaring of how obvious and not-allowed that is. After taking a selfie and sending it to someone, he turns to Jungkook.

 

“You’re in a good mood today,” he observes. 

 

“Yes, I’ve noticed that as well.” Seokjin appears like a mirage, wearing a string of tickets like a feather boa. He sucks at a ring pop on his right index finger. “What’s the deal?”

 

Jimin gasps dramatically. “Has this got something to do with the honey?” He clicks his fingers, triumphant. “Oh my god, of course! It all makes sense. How did I not notice earlier?”

 

“Notice what?” Jungkook asks hesitantly, helping a kid cash in his tickets for a shitty pack of pencils. He gives the kid a sympathetic nod before Jimin physically turns him around.

 

“Honey boy!”

 

“Honey boy?” Seokjin asks, taking a sip of the milkshake despite Jungkook’s protests.

 

Jimin claps excitedly and leans in to gossip. Textbook Libra, thinks Jungkook with a roll of his eyes.

 

“Yeah, he spaced out in front of the honey at the grocery store the other day because he has a fat crush on a cute beekeeper at the farmer's market. Taehyungie told me about it the other week and -” He gasps again. Jungkook wonders if he’ll float away from all the air he’s inhaled in the past minute. “Is that why you got the afternoon off tomorrow? Because you’re going out with him?!”

 

Jungkook is blushing and he can’t hide it so he starts pressing random buttons on the cash register as a distraction. “I’m not going out with him I’m just going over to his place to -”

 

“Did you say beekeeper?” Seokjin interrupts, slapping his hand away from the register. “At the Sunday market? The one at the school?”

 

Jungkook nods hesitantly. He’s waiting for Seokjin to realise that the excuse he gave for not coming in for tomorrow’s shift is actually bullshit. Surely he knew anyway. Nobody pre-emptively calls in sick and means it. 

 

Seokjin narrows his eyes at Jungkook and takes an uncomfortably long suck of the ring pop. Jungkook does not look at his mouth. Okay, he does, but then he looks away, because it’s Seokjin and yeah, he’s hot, but he’s also his manager, and Seokjin. So, no.

 

“Don’t wear anything bright or made of wool when you go,” is all he says.

 

Jimin and Jungkook both reel and say, “What?” in unison.

 

Seokjin flicks the tickets over his shoulder and waves vaguely. “It’s basic bee knowledge. Wear something grey. None of those grubby old tourist tees you love so much.”

 

Jungkook lunges at him, pretending to strangle him with the tickets for his insolence. The joke’s on him, though, because Seokjin only moans and eggs him on, asking him to go harder. Jimin howls with laughter and Jungkook goes beet-red and takes his milkshake to the back room for an early lunch break.

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

After lunch on Wednesday, Yoongi drives Jungkook away from their suburb and out towards the larger plots of land where the houses are all down long driveways and their mail boxes are weird things like motorbike helmets or re-purposed lawn ornaments. Normally Jungkook would drive himself or take the bike but a) Yoongi needs the van for a delivery today and b) Taehyung tried to do a trick on the bike yesterday after drinking one  (light) beer and fucked up the gears, so it’s currently at the repairs shop in town. 

 

The weather is beautiful: all blue skies and crisp air. Jungkook lets his arm hang out the window and closes his eyes against the wind. Yoongi has some sixties British rock and roll band blasting on the speakers and he’s scream-singing, overdoing it just enough to make Jungkook laugh.

 

“Alright, this is it,” Yoongi says after ten minutes, pausing the music and yanking the old handbrake up. “Two-eighty, right?”

 

Jungkook checks the text from Namjoon and nods. The number is painted in white on a huge flowerpot overwflowing with pink azaleas. Jungkook leans to see further past Yoongi and finds a long gravel driveway flanked by deciduous trees, ending at a single-storey faded blue weatherboard house with a yellow Mini-Cooper out the front. 

 

“Well.” Yoongi turns to Jungkook and puts a hand on his shoulder, staring deeply into his eyes. “Have fun. Make good choices. Try not to get stung by any bees.”

 

“Why would I - what?”

 

“Because he’s a beekeeper, Jungkook-ah.” Yoongi taps Jungkook between the eyes. 

 

Jungkook doesn’t follow. “Okay… but I’m here to meet his friends?”

 

Yoongi opens his mouth, closes it, furrows his brow, then smiles, slow and smug. He doesn’t share, just pulls back and turns the music back up. 

 

“Well go on, then. I’ll be done by four, so just text me when you want me to pick you up.”

 

“Bye dad!”

 

“Bye son,” Yoongi calls out the window, pretending to cry. Then he speeds off in a blur of dust and crackly rock and roll music, and Jungkook is alone.

 

He shakes his arms and legs out like he’s preparing for a sprint. “You can do this,” he mutters to himself as he makes his way to the house. “You’re strong and independent and good with new people. You never embarrass yourself. You’re the least awkward person in the world.” 

 

He hops up all three porch steps in one go and goes to knock on the door, but stops when he notices the little sticky-note hanging off the flyscreen.

 

Jungkook, we’re out the back. Go around the right side and follow the path!

 

Every possible inch of the note is covered in little drawings of flowers and bees and suns and Jungkook touches his fingertips to it, tracing them gently and smiling to himself. He leaves the note on the door and walks around the side of the house, past the garage, where a brick path sits tucked between the house and a huge stack of flowerpots.

 

Jungkook slowly makes his way down the path, hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans and ears pricked for the sound of Namjoon and his friends. 

 

The path quickly opens out as Jungkook enters the backyard proper. Despite the beginnings of Autumn creeping along the tree branches and dripping onto the grass, everything is teeming with life and colour. There are flowerbeds lined up to his left, spreading outwards from the wall of the house whereupon lattice has been lain to invite creeping vines and blossoms to reach up towards the roof. He recognises rose bushes and further down, a bright row of sunflowers.

 

Short, leafy trees and bushes cast shadows over the lush grass; it’s one of the softer varieties that he can feel his boots sink into with every step. Jungkook feels like he’s entered an oasis. He’s so happy just taking deep breaths and feeling the mottled sun over his arms that he momentarily forgets why he’s even here.

 

Then he hears someone whistling and turns to see a man with shockingly orange hair emerge from - is that a greenhouse? - and before Jungkook can call out a hello, the man sees him and shrieks, flinching hard enough that he drops his watering can onto the grass. It topples over sadly and starts flooding the grass around him. 

 

“Shit!” he yells out in Korean, clutching a dirty gardening glove to his chest, then in English, “Sorry! Just give me a second!” He bends over and grips his knees. Jungkook hurries over to him.

 

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry - I didn’t mean to scare you.”

 

The man waves him off with a gloved hand and straightens up. He looks Jungkook up and down and grins, bright as his garden. He switches back to Korean. “Jungkook, right?”

 

Jungkook relaxes. “That’s me.”

 

“Jung Hoseok, owner of the house and the garden,” he boasts, pointing to himself before making a sweeping gesture with his arms. 

 

“Nice to meet you, Hoseok-ssi,” says Jungkook. “Your garden is amazing.”

 

“Ah, hyung is fine! Any friend of Joonie’s is a friend of mine. And thank you - it’s my pride and joy.” Hoseok takes off his gloves and soiled apron to reveal a baggy green tshirt that says Sometimes I wet my plants! in huge block writing with a cartoon flower underneath. It looks like something Seokjin would change into after a shift.

 

“Nice shirt,” Jungkook offers. “Very uh, bright.” 

 

“Thank you!” Hoseok laughs. “I wear it to blend in with my kids. And so that I don’t have to go near the bees. Nice going with the grey shirt, though! It’s a perfect neutral.”

 

Jungkook didn’t hear anything after that part about — “Kids?!”

 

“Yeah, I’m a part-time florist and full time botanist so,” Hoseok gestures at the garden again, “these are my kids! They can be brats, but I love them all equally. Except the roses. But don’t tell them I said that.” He leans in and does something with his face that might be a wink but Jungkook can’t really tell. He laughs a little nervously. 

 

“Anyway, I won’t keep you - Joonie is down the back with his ‘friends’,” says Hoseok, doing air quotes and grinning like he’s sharing an inside joke with Jungkook. It only makes Jungkook confused and reminds him that he has to meet even more new people. He only just scraped by with this encounter because Hoseok is apparently the human embodiment of sunshine and carried ninety percent of their conversation. Perhaps Jungkook shouldn’t be so surprised that Namjoon is friends with someone so warm and bright when just talking to him feels like being wrapped up in a hug.

 

“Jungkook-ah?”

 

Jungkook jolts out of his thoughts, blushing. Hoseok laughs, but it’s not unkind. “I’ll go make some food for us. Just follow the bricks, through there.” He points at a row of hedges broken by a white wrought iron archway. “You’ll see them.”

 

With that, Hoseok picks up his watering can, offers Jungkook a salute, and disappears around the other side of the house.

 

Jungkook looks at the hedges like they’re going to swallow him up but he walks through the archway anyway, smoothing his hair down as he goes. This part of the garden is a lot more open, and Jungkook is confused because he doesn’t see anybody else here. Where are all of Namjoon’s friends?

 

He’s about to call out for Namjoon but then he reaches the end of the dirt path and freezes.

 

Namjoon is in a full beekeeper suit, flitting around what looks like a tall wooden doll house, with its a-frame roof and painted sides. He has his back mostly to Jungkook and his face is covered in thin netting, so he doesn’t notice Jungkook’s arrival. He moves like he’s sure of himself, sliding something into the back of the box and moving to the front to make a similar motion.

 

And yet, the suit makes him look a little clumsy. Like the BFG. Jungkook refrains from clutching at his own heart - he has to stop comparing Namjoon to gentle fictional characters. It’s really bad for his health.  

 

As he moves closer, Jungkook hears Namjoon singing to himself, off-key and enthusiastic enough for an audition on The Voice. It’s actually quite awful, sounds a bit like Namjoon is in pain, but after a second he also starts wiggling his butt and bobbing his head. The singing turns into slow rapping and Namjoon bobs and weaves like he’s in a 90s music video.

 

Jungkook moves closer, drifting, like gravity has turned sideways. He only stops when his knees knock into a picket sign. He looks down to find his shoes breaching a painted line in the grass. He hastily backs up.

 

The sign says: If you’re not in the suit, then stay put! and in smaller writing, Hobi, are you wearing the poncho? and lastly, in different handwriting, yes you giant noodle you should be grateful i’m this close at all. There are bee stickers all over the handle. The air smells like pine needles and smoke. Jungkook cannot stop smiling. 

 

“Jungkook-ah, hey! You made it”

 

Namjoon is waving with both arms, despite being close enough that Jungkook can see him smiling, even under the mask. Jungkook jumps in misplaced surprise and waves back.

 

“Yeah,” he replies uselessly. 

 

Namjoon steps to the side of the weird doll house thing (which, Jungkook realises, is obviously full of bees and not dolls). He opens his arms, gesturing at it like Hoseok had with the garden. Like he’s presenting an award. 

 

“Meet my friends!”

 

And all at once, Jungkook understands. It’s like all the locks in a bank vault hissing open at once to reveal a room stuffed with cash and gold and —

 

Oh god. His ‘friends’ aren’t people, they’re bees. Namjoon calls the bees his friends. He helps them by harvesting honey and giving them a home and singing to them and there are flowers everywhere and oh shit all the emotions from last week are coming back and - and Jungkook read in one of the pamphlets that honey bees communicate with each other by dancing and wasn’t Namjoon just doing that? Was he just —

 

“Hey whoa, are you okay?” Namjoon hurries over and pulls his helmet off. His hair is flat and sticking to his forehead but he still looks so beautiful.

 

Jungkook sniffs. He viciously jerks his face to the side to sort of fling the tears out of his eyes and then he rubs at them with his knuckles and says, “Yeah, I’m fine” really unconvincingly. 

 

“Damn, it might be the smoke!” Namjoon says worriedly, completely (and thankfully) misreading Jungkook’s reaction. “Sorry, I should have - some people react to it. I’m so used to it, I didn’t even think. Just let me check that everything is closed up properly and then I’ll give you a proper introduction. One second!”

 

He flits around the hive for a minute before giving Jungkook a thumbs up and retreating into the nearby shed. Jungkook stays rooted to the spot, partly because he’s not sure what else to do and mostly because the sign told him to stay put so… 

 

“Alright, let’s get this party started!”

 

Namjoon emerges from the shed with a decisive clap and it feels like thunder in Jungkook’s bones. Gone is the bulky white suit. Namjoon is left in nothing but a soft white tshirt and grey basketball shorts that barely reach halfway down his thighs. 

 

Again with the knees, thinks Jungkook, but this time he feels less annoyed and more desperate. Tense. He swallows hard. 

 

“You can come closer, if you want,” Namjoon laughs.

 

“I wasn’t sure,” Jungkook says. “The sign -”

 

“Oh don’t worry,” Namjoon waves him off. “That’s for when I’m actually working with them. It’s safe now!” Then he reaches up to fix his helmet hair and his arm flexes wonderfully, and the tshirt kind of rides up a little and Jungkook feels a bit hysterical but it’s fine. It’s chill, this is all easy-breezy-beautiful. 

 

Namjoon remains oblivious to Jungkook practically slobbering over his tanned skin and biceps and squats down next to the hive, motioning for Jungkook to do the same. 

 

“So I know you said you did some research on these guys, but how much do you know about beekeeping itself?”

 

“Not much,” admits Jungkook. “Just that the females do like, most of the work.”

 

Namjoon laughs into his palm like he’s trying to contain the sound. Jungkook pouts. 

 

“That’s true,” Namjoon starts. “But here, I’ll give you a little tour.” They’re at eye level with the middle of the box. Jungkook is close enough to Namjoon’s side that he can feel the warmth radiating off his skin, can smell the pine needles he used to smoke out the bees, can see the beads of sweat still clinging to his neck. “This is a flow hive. Got it off a friend last year when my old one started to wear too much from the weather. She’s great. I won’t bore you with the technical stuff, but,” he gestures to the top of three drawers beneath the rood. “This is the Honey Super. Stores the honey.”

 

Namjoon taps the middle drawer: the biggest one. “This is the brood box! Hobi calls it The Daycare because that’s where all the eggs are laid and they raise the larvae into worker bees.”

 

“Where’s the queen?”

 

“She lives in The Daycare, too.”

 

“Do you have a name for her?” Jungkook asks softly, because he thinks Namjoon would. They’re close enough that he could whisper and Namjoon would still hear. He feels more than sees Namjoon turn to look at him. Jungkook looks out the corner of his eye to find him smiling, his dimples pressed in deep.

 

“Yeah, it’s Daisy. She’s great. More gentle than our last one.”

 

Jungkook smiles back. They hold eye contact for a few breaths before Jungkook starts to feel nervous. He clears his throat and says, “What’s the bottom one for?”

 

Namjoon looks back at the hive. “Similar deal. But that one has frames, which are these slides with cells to help collect the honey!” He mimics pulling one out. “At the moment we’ve got some raw honey in there, so it’ll be a short while until it’s ready for harvest. It’s later than usual but they’ve been loving this weather, so I think it’ll be a good one.”

 

They stand and wander over to the shed where Namjoon keeps his honey stored. Jungkook looks at the love laid out so purely on Namjoon’s face as he continues to talk about his bee-friends and the recipes he wants to try this year and feels like a scooped out pomegranate. A shell, if you will. Nothing but a husk, ready to be whisked away on the wind.  

 

So he’s feeling fragile, and quite frankly more in love than before (see: fifty year plan with dog and house and Sunday morning routine) and that means his brain to mouth filter just kind of carks it. 

 

“You really love them, don’t you?”

 

Namjoon stops mid-sentence about the uses of lavender extract and blinks at Jungkook. The light in here is, dare he say it, the colour of honey: filtering through the small window and leeching the warm hues out of the wooden walls. It smells like pine needles and sawdust in here because of the pile in the corner and there really doesn’t feel like there’s enough oxygen, especially with how long it’s taking Namjoon to respond. 

 

“I do, yeah,” Namjoon finally responds. He leans against the counter and crosses his arms over his broad chest, stretching the white material out. Jungkook presses his lips tight together lest an embarrassing noise escapes. “Will you tell me more about your art, Jungkook-ah?”

 

“My art?”

 

“Yeah, I mean I’ve been talking so much about the bees and honey and what I love… I want to hear about your passions. What do you like to draw? What do you in your spare time?”

 

Jungkook exhales roughly. He picks up an empty jar just to fiddle with it. 

 

“I have a job at the arcade and it’s okay. It’s not a forever thing, but I like it. I like the people and I love video games, so it suits me. And I don’t - I don’t draw much. It’s only a hobby. Mostly just my friends or things around me.”

 

“Like portraits?”

 

“More like outlines. I don’t fill them in unless it feels - hmm - necessary, I suppose.”

 

Namjoon tilts his head. “What do you mean?”

 

Jungkook shrugs. “It’s hard to explain. I think I like line drawings and sketches because they can be neat and messy or both and it doesn’t look like it matters, but it can actually mean something. The mess can be a good tool. Like giving someone a cloud of charcoal as a face instead of, y’know, eyes and a nose and all that. Or drawing a body and giving it nothing but the simplest of details, just enough to give the eye an association and fill in the rest. I never really plan it before I draw so that it feels —” Jungkook visibly fumbles for the right word.

 

“Organic,” Namjoon interjects softly, smiling. He points to the jar in Jungkook’s hand. It makes him laugh. 

 

“Exactly.”

 

“I would love to see some of your work, someday,” adds Namjoon, pushing off the counter and taking a step towards Jungkook. He takes the jar out of his hands with care. “The way your eyes light up when you talk about art is… it’s amazing.”

 

“Ditto,” blurts Jungkook, too tongue tied by the compliment and Namjoon’s proximity to actually sound intelligent. It doesn’t matter - it gets Namjoon laughing again, punched out and gorgeous.

 

“I haven’t said anything much about art,” he giggles.

 

“I meant the bees,” corrects Jungkook. “I said it before but, yeah. It’s really cool, hyung, how much you care about them and the planet. I think it’s inspiring.”

 

“Thank you, Jungkook-ah. Really.”

 

Their laughter dies down, shy at the heavy and sudden sincerity of the moment. 

 

To someone else it might seem surface level - this little ‘getting to know you’ thing they’re doing in between refracted sun beams and honey jars - but to Jungkook, it feels cavernous.

 

He just came here to check out some insects and a hot boy. 

 

He wasn’t expecting Namjoon to live up to his ridiculous expectations. 

 

Namjoon looks past Jungkook’s ear and gnaws a bit on his bottom lip. Jungkook looks at it and in some parallel universe, he’s diving forward to taste it. In this one, he keeps his fingers dug into his palms. 

 

“Jungkook-ah I -” 

 

A shrill beeping comes from the doorway, cutting Namjoon off and making Jungkook jolt in surprise. 

 

“Of all the -” Namjoon grumbles. He moves to the door and presses a button on the intercom. Hoseok’s voice breaks through at full volume.

 

“SNACKS ARE READY! YOU’VE GOT FIVE MINUTES UNTIL THEY’RE GONE!”

 

“Thanks Hobi,” Namjoon says. He sounds annoyed, which is a weird response to an invitation for snacks, thinks Jungkook. He thunks his head on the doorframe before straightening up to give Jungkook a smile that has no trace of the frustration from a second ago. “You hungry?”

 

“I’m always hungry,” Jungkook replies.

 

“Of course,” Namjoon smirks. “Come on. It’s Wednesday so he’s probably made hotteok.”

 

“He’s got a calendar for snacks?” asks Jungkook, following Namjoon back to the main garden. 

 

“Hobi has a calendar for everything. He’s the most organised person I know. He’s like, the lovechild of Pinterest and Marie Kondo.” Namjoon opens the back door and gestures for Jungkook to enter. “You’ll see what I mean.” 

 

And yeah. Okay. Jungkook sees it. 

 

The interior of the house looks like it’s been lifted straight out of Country Home Living and/or every Pinterest mood board ever for bright-yet-cosy-farmhouse-design. Jungkook leaves his shoes by the rack and follows Namjoon through the sea of wicker furniture and throw rugs to a quaint kitchen. It smells like burnt sugar.

 

“I made cinnamon ones today,” Hoseok calls from the other side of the kitchen island, mouth full of hotteok. “If I eat any more honey this week, I’ll throw up.”

 

Jungkook giggles at the look of offense on Namjoon’s face.

 

“You say that every week,” he whines.

 

“And I mean it.” Hoseok pushes the plate towards Jungkook. “Have as many as you want, Jungkook-ah!”

 

“What happened to the five minute limit?” Namjoon asks.

 

“Incentive,” Hoseok shrugs. He turns back to Jungkook. Hoseok is sweet and welcoming, but he also gives the impression that he gets what he wants most of the time; Jungkook shrinks a little under his gaze. “Tell me about yourself!”

 

“Well, I finished studying last year so I’m just kind of, floating around for a bit. Working four or five days at the arcade in town and then on Sundays I’m -”

 

“Wait, the arcade?” Hoseok asks frantically.

 

“Yes?” Jungkook looks askingly at Namjoon but his attention is 100% on the hotteok. 

 

“The one downtown? Near the KFC?” Hoseok flaps a pancake around so quickly that it breaks, flopping sadly onto the counter. He ignores it.

 

“I don’t think there’s another one,” Jungkook says, still confused. “So yeah. Why? Do you go there? I’ve never seen you there before.”

 

“Ah…yes…” Hoseok says stiffly, eyes wide. “I do go there. It’s a place I have been before.”

 

Namjoon inhales a glass of orange juice. “What’s up?”

 

“Nothing’s up. Just getting to know Jungkookie, here.”

 

“You’re doing the thing where you lie but you try to sound natural about it,” Namjoon accuses. He squints at Jungkook. “What did you ask him?”

 

Jungkook looks between them like a tennis spectator. Are they like, against arcades? What is the agenda of this conversation?

 

“I just asked him if he goes to the arcade a lot.”

 

“Oh!” Namjoon scoffs, like it’s obvious. “Pfft, of course he does. His new boyfriend owns the damn thing, he’s always going there to drop off food and look for affection.”

 

Jungkook chokes on his hotteok. “You know Seokjin-hyung?!”

 

Hoseok puts his face in his hands and groans. Namjoon looks between them with a gaping mouth.

 

You know Seokjin-hyung?” he asks, incredulous.

 

“Of course I do, he’s my manager!” Jungkook cries. This is such a weird conversation, what the fuck. How did this not come up earlier, by the way? Earth to Namjoon? Jungkook has mentioned his job so many times since they met and not once did he decide to add that, oh, I know the theatre-veteran-come-arcade-manager whom you co-exist with and earn money from for a living. How neat!

 

Namjoon finally shuts his mouth and hits Hoseok on the shoulder. “Why didn’t you say anything? And why did you just try to pretend you didn’t know Seokjin-hyung at all?”

 

“I don’t know!” he shrieks and starts laughing, but it sounds a little hysterical. “I’m an idiot and I panicked, I don’t know! Jin-hyung didn’t want anyone to know. Fuck.”

 

He instantly sobers up, and his laughing face turns pained. Namjoon makes a sound of concern and stands up to puts a hand at the back of Hoseok’s neck. 

 

“You didn’t tell me that,” he says quietly. 

 

“You didn’t ask,” Hoseok shrugs. “Whatever it’s - it’s still a bit new so he was just. I don’t know. It’s complicated. Whatever. Sorry Jungkookie, I should’ve put two and two together when we met earlier. Ugh. I shouldn’t have even said anything. This is a mess.”

 

“Ah well,” Jungkook shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He hates being flung into the deep end of other people’s romantic issues like this. Especially when it’s Seokjin. He has noticed Seokjin acting a little weird the past few weeks. Ugh, does he have to bring this up? Maybe he can palm it off to Jimin. “To be fair, Seokjin-hyung knew I was coming and didn't say anything, so maybe it's okay? And you did try to avoid telling me.”

 

“Yeah, my bad,” Namjoon winces. 

 

“Honestly, it’s fine. I mean, it’s - you’re not weird about it, or anything?” Hoseok asks quietly, but with that same intensity from before. 

 

“About…” Jungkook says slowly, before he realises. “Oh! Oh my god. I’m the opposite of weird about it. That sounds wrong. What I meant was my roommates are gay and sickeningly in love and not shy about it and I’m -” Jungkook hates that he pauses here, and hates it even more that his eyes dart over to Namjoon, “I’m also gay, so.”

 

Jungkook panics; he makes spirit fingers. 

 

Hoseok chokes out a laugh and circles around the counter to wrap him in a bone crushing hug. Jungkook feels his face crumple in a smile as he holds on for dear life. 

 

“I like you, Jungkook-ah,” he says into Jungkook’s hair. “I hope you stick around.”

 

“Yeah.” Jungkook’s eyes cut to Namjoon again, but he’s got his back to them now, clattering some cutlery in the sink. “Yeah, me too.”

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

 

Jungkook stares at his bedroom ceiling and uses his thumb to set the fidget spinner back into action.

 

He can’t decide if today went well or not.

 

On one hand, he feels great about it. He and Namjoon get along easily, they never run out of conversation topics and they’ve been talking via text for the past two hours, even after spending the afternoon together. 

 

But Namjoon seemed really distracted in the space between afternoon tea and Yoongi coming back to pick Jungkook up. He kept dropping stuff and fiddling with his hair and getting like, weirdly sweaty? Which is a thing that Jungkook can get into if it’s part of the package. That’s chill. However, Namjoon had generally seemed frazzled, and there’s a traitorous part of his brain that connects it to the conversation about Hoseok and Seokjin. 

 

Then again, all things considered, it doesn’t make sense for Namjoon to have a problem with Jungkook being gay.

 

Does Jungkook just not know how to read a room? Is he bad with people? 

 

That’s possible, but Yoongi has never pointed at someone and said, “They’re into men” and been wrong. Ever. And it was the first thing he confirmed for Jungkook after speaking to Namjoon at the markets that first week. Taehyung had yanked on a party popper and cheered. Jungkook doesn’t know where he got it from.

 

He goes around in circles for almost an hour, staring at the blur of the Spiderman fidget spinner. “Give me guidance, Peter Parker,” he whispers at it.

 

The figdet spinner just falls on his nose and Jungkook groans in pain.

 

"Point taken."

 

Chapter Text

“Can we take the long way home today?” Taehyung calls at Yoongi from the van. They’re packing up after a bright and sunny morning at the market; it’s warm enough that Jungkook is breaking a sweat carrying the clothes and racks back to the van.

 

Yoongi makes an annoyed face. “Why?”

 

“Because it’s a nice day and I want to,” Taehyung coos, cradling Yoongi’s face between his hands and nudging their noses together.

 

“Fine.”

 

“Yay!” Taehyung kisses Yoongi on the nose and releases him to help Jungkook with the last table. “Where’d your boy go?” he asks Jungkook, who shrugs.

 

“He said something about a home delivery.”

 

“Aww, that’s cute. He’s like a worker bee, except big and tall and beautiful.”

 

“Stay in your lane,” warns Jungkook.

 

Taehyung only winks and makes a kissing face at Jungkook before they lock up the back door and settle into their usual seats: Yoongi in the driver’s seat, Taehyung in the passenger seat and Jungkook sprawled across the back.

 

It takes a few minutes to get out of the traffic that surrounds the markets but soon enough they’re driving down a wide road bordered by open fields, broken by sporadic driveways and huge trees that shower the road with pollen. Yoongi opens all the windows and Jungkook leans out the right side, elbow and face out in the wind like a happy dog. He watches the scenery whirl past, a blur of wildflowers and overgrown grass and some fields full of cows or horses as they get further away from the town centre.

 

Taehyung flicks through a playlist full of old French music, shouting happily after a minute; he turns up the volume on a song that Jungkook recognises only because Taehyung has been playing it on repeat while he works on his latest canvas series. He’d be sick of it, but it’s easy to nod along when he doesn’t know the words. It also makes it harder for the song to get stuck in his head, and besides, it suits the morning so well.

 

“Oh look, someone’s got one of those bikes with the baskets on the back!” Taehyung says, pointing through the windshield at a figure further up the road. “Hyung, slow down, I want to ask where they bought it.” Jungkook leans over the console to follow Taehyung’s line of sight as Yoongi slows down and—

 

“Is that… Namjoon?” Yoongi says.

 

They catch up with the man riding leisurely along the side of the road and Jungkook’s heart leaps into his throat. It is Namjoon: he recognises the red t-shirt he was wearing at the market, and as they pull up alongside him, Jungkook sees that the baskets on either side of the bike are indeed full of honey jars. He’s about to swoon.

 

Taehyung leans over Yoongi to call out the window. “Helloooo, handsome!”

 

Namjoon startles spectacularly. How he didn’t realise an entire car was pulled up beside him, Jungkook isn’t sure, but he watches in horror as Namjoon yelps and wobbles the handlebars so much that he’s forced to pitch sideways and plant his boot on the ground.

 

Yoongi slams on the brakes and his head pitches forward in such forceful laughter that it honks the horn, which sets him off even more, leaning back in his seat with both hands over his stomach. Next to him, Taehyung is clapping through laughter and the speakers are still blasting crackly old French songs and Jungkook wants to keep his composure but he can’t help the giggles that leak through his front teeth.  

 

“You scared me!” Namjoon cries indignantly, getting off his bike completely.

 

“S-sorry,” Yoongi tries. “We didn’t mean to—oh my god. You looked so funny.”

 

Jungkook hauls the side door open and leans out to smile at Namjoon. “He’s right. How the hell did you not hear us coming?”

 

“I don’t know I just—I wasn’t paying attention.”

 

“That’s kinda dangerous, hyung.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Namjoon says with a roll of his eyes.

 

“Are you finished with your deliveries? Do you want a lift home?” Taehyung calls.

 

“Oh! Yeah, but you don’t have to—”

 

“Just get in, Namjoon,” Yoongi cuts him off. “Jungkook, help him with the bike. There’s space in the back.”

 

“Wait!” Taehyung yells, and everyone freezes. “Jungkookie… what do you think… about a race?”

 

“Taehyungie, no—”

 

“Taehyungie, yes! Jungkook, c’mon oh my god please do it. Namjoon-hyung, it’s okay, right?” Taehyung pleads, leaning all the way across Yoongi. He pouts with eyes wider than saucers and Namjoon just looks nervously between him and Yoongi and Jungkook, like that will give him the answer.

 

“It’s your bike,” Yoongi says flatly.

 

“Uh, sure,” Namjoon finally says. Taehyung hoots and claps as he passes the handlebars to Jungkook. “I’ll just put the rest of my stuff in the car so it doesn’t fall out.”

 

So that’s how Jungkook ends up frantically pedalling alongside the van, breathless from laughter and the effort of keeping up with Yoongi’s incremental bursts of speed along the open road. A few cars overtake them, honking or waving out their windows with smiles that match the boys in the van as they call out for Jungkook to go faster, come on, you’re almost ahead, first one to the oak tree wins! And he almost makes it, because even though Yoongi is pretending to be competitive, he never lets Jungkook lose if he can help it. Then, at the last second, Namjoon yells something like, you can do it, Kook-ah and his pace stutters enough that the car rolls leisurely past him and stops under the shade of the old tree.

 

Yoongi honks three times in quick succession and Taehyung shrieks in victory. Namjoon opens the door of the van and heaves out laughter so loud that he sounds like he might be coughing up a lung. “Oh my god,” he pants, “that was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.”

 

Jungkook has a stitch in his side and his thighs are on fire but he pulls up next to Namjoon, pushes his hair back, and says, “I know.”

 

Namjoon is smiling so hard the corners of his eyes are creasing. Jungkook can’t get oxygen in quick enough. “I didn’t think my bike would survive that.”

 

“It almost didn’t.”

 

Sunshine catches all of Namjoon’s soft edges and drips over them like syrup. When he moves to take the bike back from Jungkook, their hands brush together. If Jungkook hadn’t been looking at Namjoon’s chest to avoid his eyes, he might’nt have noticed the way it swells with an intake of air. It’s brief—the flutter of a hummingbird’s wings—but he sees it. And perhaps it’s all inflated by this stupid crush he’s holding onto, all rose-coloured and a little warped, but Jungkook can’t help but read into it. He’s an expert at reading into things. Namjoon hasn’t even pulled the bike away from him, yet. It’s almost like—

 

“Come on, you two. Get in so we can go home for lunch, I’m hungry,” Yoongi interrupts his spiralling thoughts.

 

Namjoon pulls the bike away with a nod like he had forgotten he was even holding it and Jungkook goes to open the back doors for him.

 

They pile into the back seat in silence and Taehyung turns back to give Jungkook a pat on the knee. “Better luck next time,” he says consolingly.

 

“I don’t need your pity,” Jungkook gripes. His cheeks are still hot. Luckily he has the excuse of street-racing on a bicycle in case anyone points it out.

 

“I think you did really well,” Namjoon says.

 

“Thank you,” Jungkook replies, but Taehyung has started blasting the French music again and it drowns out his voice. The way Namjoon smiles at him—kind of lopsided, one dimple popping out, eyes impossibly warm—tells Jungkook that he heard him anyway.

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

The late morning is the quietest part of Jungkook’s work day. He’s already wiped down every surface he can reach without a chair or ladder and has tapped the start button on ten different games in the hopes they will work without coins. No luck, there. He fishes out some of his own change for one of the claw machines—fails—and even though Jimin’s shift starts now he won’t be in for another ten minutes at least, so there’s nothing left for Jungkook to do besides annoy Seokjin.

 

“What are you up to, hyung?” he asks, slinging an arm around Seokjin’s neck.

 

“Business things.”

 

“Lame,” Jungkook says, withdrawing to dig around the cupboard for a snack.

 

Seokjin hums, eyes on his phone. “Jimin tell you why he’s late today?”

 

“He choked on a granola bar.”

 

“He did that last Monday.”

 

“Oh, well,” Jungkook says around a lollipop. “Guess he doesn’t learn from his mistakes.”

 

Seokjin locks his phone and looks at Jungkook with a raised brow. They both know it’s completely made up. Jimin is too charming to get in trouble for it anyway, and Jungkook likes talking shit. It’s a win-win. He winks at Seokjin, who huffs a laugh under his breath.

 

They stand in relative quiet for a few minutes before Jungkook’s eyes land on a big flower plushie and it reminds him—

 

“I met your boyfriend last week,” he says quietly, but with enough of a teasing edge that Seokjin can take the bait if he wants to. Jungkook expects him to pull a funny face or make a lewd joke but instead he shrugs and looks at something on his phone again, typing furiously.

 

“Yeah I know. He texted me about it. Sounds like you had fun! Did you leave the dumb bright shirts at home like I told you?”

 

“Yeah I wore… grey…” Jungkook says, frowning. His urge to fight was triggered by Seokjin’s incorrect opinion on his fashion choices, but he suppresses it. That’s still not—it’s not really the response he was expecting.

 

Seokjin stops typing and looks up with a small but genuine smile.

 

“So you and Hos—”

 

“Ah!” Seokjin cuts him off loudly. “I just remembered I have to call maintenance! The taps are still leaking in the kitchen. I have to do everything around here!” He flaps his arms about for good measure. Jungkook is used to his blink-and-you-miss-it changes in speed and volume, but it’s still jarring sometimes. And the diversion is painfully obvious. “Are you okay on register for a few minutes? Jimin can switch when he arrives.”

 

Then he blows a kiss at Jungkook despite being close enough to pat his arm or show regular affection, and breezes off to the back office. “Yeah, that’s fine,” Jungkook says belatedly.   

 

The front door creaks open and Jimin struts in with a tray of drinks. It’s cloudy today but he’s still wearing massive sunglasses. The heels of his stupid Chelsea boots echo on the linoleum. Jungkook doesn’t actually think they’re stupid but he’s never seen someone wear one item of clothing so religiously in his life. And that’s coming from Jungkook, who wore the shirt he got at Tokyo Disneyland almost every day for two weeks afterwards. He only stopped because Yoongi came into his room in the dead of night and stole it to a) wash it then b) threaten to burn it if Jungkook didn’t sign an agreement to wear it a maximum of four times a week.

 

“Where’s hyung?” asks Jimin, using his stupidly long legs to swing around to Jungkook’s side of the counter instead of just opening the latch like a normal person.

 

“Sulking in his office,” says Jungkook. “I brought up his boyfriend and he deflected and fled.”

 

“Standard.”

 

“Standard,” echoes Jungkook.

 

Jimin passes an iced chocolate over to him before hanging up his jacket and removing his sunglasses. Jungkook still hates how good he looks in their uniform. Jungkook is an attractive guy—he likes himself—but working with Jimin and Seokjin would make any sane person question themselves and wonder if they are, in fact, a potato with limbs. Taehyung assures him it’s not true. But he’s also… Taehyung…

 

Jungkook needs less beautiful friends. For his own sanity.

 

“He really likes Hoseok, you know,” says Jimin. “I think he’s just scared.”

 

“Of Hoseok?!” Jungkook thinks of the blinding smile and impossibly warm aura the older boy had given off and can’t possibly see how—

 

“No, you idiot, Scared that his feelings aren’t reciprocated. I’ve known Jin-hyung for a long time and trust me: he’s got it bad. And I’ve seen them together a few times and the way Hoseok looks at him is so obvious. Hyung won’t listen to me but...” He looks at Jungkook with narrowed eyes. Scheming eyes.

 

“Whatever you’re thinking,” Jungkook says, backing up a step. Jimin goes with him. “No.”

 

“Come on, Jungkookie,” he whines. “It’s a good cause. Work would be so much easier if hyung was getting loved and laid on a regular basis.”

 

“I don’t want to meddle.”

 

“It’s not meddling it’s—” Jimin makes a sweeping gesture as though he’s painting a rainbow above his head “—helping. A friendly nudge in the right direction.”

 

“Whatever you say.” Jungkook turns to help a stray customer. He can feel Jimin watching him the entire time.

 

“When can we talk about your boy?” he asks sweetly once the middle-aged man has wandered out of earshot.

 

“Never.”

 

“Taehyung said you have a thing for his knees.”

 

“I d—that was his idea! That’s not—they’re just—”

 

Jimin doubles over laughing so hard he has to set his coffee on the counter so it doesn’t spill. Jungkook splutters for another minute until he’s laughing hard enough that he has to take the lollipop out of his mouth and Seokjin has to come out from the office to help customers himself. He flicks them both on the forehead but there’s no malice in it; there never is.

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

Jungkook takes himself out for ice-cream on Saturday morning. He finishes it sitting on the curb outside the shop and watches idly as people trickle through the streets. A few children walk a bit too close to him, still lacking in their spatial awareness. One of them squats beside Jungkook and asks what he’s doing.

 

“Having ice-cream,” Jungkook says happily. The little girl is decked out in a princess costume, plus a unicorn headband. She pouts at the answer.

 

“It’s not ice-cream time,” she says matter-of-factly. Jungkook throws his head back in laughter.

 

“No, I guess not,” he says. She sort of has a point—it’s not even 11 o’clock—but Jungkook is also a twenty-one year old with money and agency so if he wants ice-cream, he can get it. Also, Yoongi and Taehyung were making prolonged eye contact at the breakfast table and Jungkook knows how to take a hint.

 

The little girl pouts at him but she’s cut off from elaborating when her mother scoops her up with a quick apology that Jungkook waves off, content. His phone buzzes and he unlocks it with a grin when he sees it’s a message from Namjoon.

 

It’s a close up photo of some pink flowers. Jungkook shoves the rest of his ice cream in his mouth, ignores the horrible feeling that stabs through his teeth and gums, and grips his phone in both hands. Namjoon has been doing this with increasing frequency since they first hung out: he sends random photos of the sky, or flowers, or extreme close ups of the beehive. Every now and then it will be a photo of himself, and those are the worst. Jungkook has had to tap into his deepest recesses of self control to avoid printing them out and sticking them up on his bedroom wall like an actual stalker.

 

His phone buzzes with another message.

 

saw these ladybugs and thought of you!! they’re loving this sun!

 

Jungkook knows he’s making heart eyes at his phone. Maybe people walking past will think he’s messaging someone that loves him back. The thought makes him feel warm all over, but it’s quickly chased by a prickly feeling of anxiety. His smile droops at the corners. When he replies to Namjoon with a cute sticker and, they’re so cute, hyung! thanks for showing me , it feels oddly melancholic. Jungkook scoffs at himself and opens his chat with Yoongi.

 

JK (11:02am)

my brain doing the thing

 

Yoongi starts responding almost immediately.

 

yoongi-hyung (11:03am)

feeling a lot is not a bad thing

you’re good, jungkook-ah

call me if you need to

 

JK (11:03am)

thanks hyung

 

Jungkook closes his eyes and exhales slowly, letting Yoongi’s words push the wriggly, misplaced feelings of sadness off his shoulders. Namjoon isn’t intentionally making him feel bad when he sends him these messages or speaks to him with bright eyes— something tells Jungkook that he would never do anything like that intentionally— but it’s hard not to read into things that aren’t there. Or... could be there? Was that comment about Jungkook’s shirt a compliment or an observation? Is the current between them flirting or just the calendar ticking closer to July?

 

Jungkook leans over to let his head hang between his knees, feeling absurdly tired all of a sudden. He should be used to this part; he falls in love too often for it to be a surprise anymore.

 

Infatuation is one of his closest friends. And still, she manages to catch him off guard.

 

Yoongi helps. Taehyung, too. They are both so good. Jungkook has never seen a couple grow as well as they have together. They’ve stretched up and around each other like a pair of sunflowers, encouraging each other, wilting and rising together, always so bright on their own but utterly incandescent together. Their love makes Jungkook feel like Sunday morning.

 

His phone buzzes again. The clouds in his chest dissipate slowly, then all at once.

 

yoongi-hyung (11:09am)

btw we’re out of whipped cream. please buy more on the way home.

 

JK (11:10am)

uuuuuggggghhHHHH

 

yoongi-hyung (11:10am)

don’t worry we cleaned the counter twice

and the table

 

JK (11:12am)

actually don’t want to know, thanks!!!

see u soon

🐝🐝🐝

 

Jungkook arrives late to the markets because he slept through his alarm and Taehyung let him. “You work too hard for us,” he said when Jungkook called him to frantically apologise. “I love you, but if you’re here before 11 I will fight you.” Yoongi had echoed the sentiment. Jungkook had still rolled out of bed and started getting ready, even though he had more than an hour.

 

He arrives at 10:53 and Taehyung somehow spots him from the other side of the market. His phone buzzes with a threatening message followed by cute pleas for fresh coffee and two cinnamon scrolls. Jungkook rolls his eyes but he doubles back to the pastry truck anyway.

 

On his way back to their table, his gaze cuts automatically to the left to see if Namjoon is busy with any customers. He doesn’t expect to see the stall completely covered in flowers and in Namjoon’s place, Hoseok, talking animatedly to an old woman. He’s wearing a slouchy t-shirt with white and beige stripes and linen pants; he looks like he just stepped off a boat in the Bahamas. Jungkook approaches the stall like it’s a nervous animal.

 

Hoseok sees him first.

 

“Oh, Jungkookie!” he beams, coming around the table to wrap Jungkook in a hug with more familiarity than he expected, considering they’ve only met once. It’s genuine, though, and Hoseok smells like freesias and sea salt.  

 

Jungkook is supposed to return the greeting like a normal person, but what comes out of his mouth instead is, “Where’s Namjoon-hyung?”

 

Hoseok leans back with a crackling laugh. “Hello to you, too,” he says, pinching Jungkook’s arm lightly and moving back behind the table. It’s covered in metal pots and buckets full of flowers wrapped in paper and string and a few postcards with dried flowers pressed into the parchment. It smells divine, like spring decanted into a bottle.

 

“Sorry, I—hey, hyung. Just wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

 

“Surprise! I’m a flower among the flowers!” Hoseok poses cutely and flutters his eyelashes. “And Namjoonie is having a day off. He’s got some work to catch up on and it just so happens that my roses are cooperating this week, so it worked out nicely.” He settles back into the camping chair and sighs noisily in a way that is so reminiscent of Seokjin it makes Jungkook freeze. “How is your morning going? Did you just get here?”

 

Jungkook’s brain has logged out of the conversation. For starters, Namjoon didn’t say anything about not being here when they spoke yesterday, and that’s super lame, because lately Jungkook has been looking forward to Sunday mornings with the fervor of an old catholic woman.

 

And if that wasn’t stressful enough on its own, Jungkook can feel his facial expression locking in place as his brain echoes and overlaps with Jimin’s voice from last week: it’s not meddling ... he’s just scared...work would be so much easier...

 

“—ngkookie?”

 

“I spoke to Jin-hyung about you,” blurts Jungkook. He forces his eyes away from the table to Hoseok, who meets his gaze with an equally frantic expression.

 

“W-what?”

 

“Oh like, nothing bad!” Jungkook waves his hands, suddenly scared of the panic carved into the line of Hoseok’s mouth. “And we didn’t even really talk. He was… distracted…” Jungkook frowns, unsure of the end goal here but willing to keep talking and potentially humiliate himself anyway. “Just—seeing you here gave me an idea. Have you ever given hyung flowers?”

 

Hoseok’s posture relaxes minutely but his voice sounds harder than before. “No. I mean, it seems a bit performative. Dramatic.”

 

Jungkook smirks. “Are we talking about the same person? You are dating Kim Seokjin, aren’t you? Tall, beautiful, caring? Would sell his soul to be the funniest man in the room? Probably has?”

 

“Yeah, I know, but...” Hoseok pushes his hair back and smiles almost sadly. “When it comes to the real stuff—the dating and the relationship and the talking ”—he says the word like it tastes bad—“it just feels like a lot of pressure. Like, I could give him a rose offhand and he would bite it and dance or something but I just feel like giving him flowers as a romantic gesture … it holds a lot of weight, y’know?”

 

“But you’re a florist,” Jungkook says quietly, not understanding. Who doesn’t want to make romantic gestures? “It wouldn’t be weird. And if you’re scared about how he would, I don’t know, interpret it—I think he can handle it. In fact, he wants to.”

 

All the fight leave’s Hoseok’s muscles as he looks up at Jungkook. Shit, he didn’t think anyone could do puppy eyes better than Taehyung. “Really?” he asks. It’s almost too soft to hear over the crowd, so high and strung with doubt.

 

“Yeah, hyung,” Jungkook says earnestly. “Trust me. I’ve got excellent sources.”

 

Hoseok laughs and there it is: that smile that looks like the sun. Jungkook feels gooey inside.

 

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Hoseok says, wagging his finger with faux-menace. “I’ll think about it. Thanks, Jungkookie.”

 

A family sidles up to the stall and Jungkook takes that as his sign to leave, but before he can, Hoseok taps his wrist feather-soft and passes him a rose. It’s pink and all of the thorns have been removed. Jungkook bows with a flourish and walks off with it between his teeth, just to surprise another laugh out of the older boy.

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

jimin-ssi (8:55am)

jungkook

come to the arcade right now

 

JK (9:01am)

it’s my day off

I’m not unclogging the toilets for you again

 

jimin-ssi (9:01am)

no trust me

there’s something u have to see before jin-hyung arrives

you’ve got half an hour

 

Jungkook makes a face at his phone but he complies. He didn’t have anything planned this morning besides melting into the couch and playing Animal Crossing for a minimum of five hours, anyway.

 

The entrance is still locked when Jungkook arrives and he didn’t bring his keys, so he knocks viciously and rattles the door like he’s trying to escape a jail cell. Jimin comes jogging into view with a wild grin and doesn’t even tell Jungkook off for making a noise. That’s the first suspicious thing. The second suspicious thing is the glint in his eyes and the way he doesn’t say a word, only grabs Jungkook’s hand and tugs him towards the back office.

 

“Hyung you’re kind of scaring me,” Jungkook says. “Are you going to harvest my organs to fund your shoe obsession?”

 

“Just wait, you brat,” Jimin says. They reach Seokjin’s office and he opens the old green door open with a flourish and pushes Jungkook inside. His breath catches in his throat.

 

There are flowers everywhere.

 

All different kinds and colours sprawled on the desk and standing in vases or pots on the shelves, atop the mini-fridge, lining the windowsill; two lush green vines hang off the curtain rod and a few smaller ones dangle from the ceiling fan.

 

“Holy shit,” breathes Jungkook.

 

“He was waiting outside when I got here,” says Jimin, cuddling up to Jungkook’s side and wiggling happily. “Ah, Jungkookie you meddled. I am so proud of you. God, Jin-hyung is going to completely malfunction. I cannot wait.”

 

“You said it wasn’t meddling,” Jungkook whines, “you said it was a friendly nudge.”

 

“You’re stupid, but I love you,” Jimin says, pinching Jungkook on the cheek. “Come on, let’s go wait for—”

 

“Park Jimin! What have I said about leaving the front door unlocked?”

 

Jimin unglues himself from Jungkook’s side and beams. “Here we go,” he whispers excitedly. They hear Seokjin rattling about at the register for a moment before Jimin calls, “I’m in the office, hyung!” and Jungkook holds his breath.

 

“Yah, Jimin, why are you the worst employee I’ve ever—” Seokjin freezes in the doorway, mouth still open from talking. He takes a tentative step into the office and looks around the space with a furrowed brow, turning slowly, making a soft noise of surprise in his throat. Jungkook watches as he takes quiet, careful steps to his desk and finally looks back at them like they’re a thousand-piece puzzle of the night sky.

 

“What is this?” he asks.

 

Jimin pulls a folded piece of paper from the roses on the desk and hands it to Seokjin. As soon as he unfolds it, his wary expression is overridden by blank shock. Jungkook watches his fingers grip the paper so hard it almost tears, then he folds it again and clears his throat; his ears are flaming red.

 

“That’ll be all, gentlemen,” he says.

 

Jungkook and Jimin don’t move. Seokjin hides the letter in his desk drawer with lightning fast movements as though that’ll make it invisible to the younger boys. He crosses his arms. “Go home, Jungkook-ah. Show’s over.”

 

“Hyung spent almost an hour here,” Jimin says. “He didn’t stop talking the entire time.”

 

Seokjin tilts his chin up and pretends not to hear. Jungkook watches his eyes shift to the window. They widen; perhaps he hadn’t noticed the vines.

 

“I won’t tell you what to do,” Jimin says quietly.

 

“Oh, that’s a first,” Seokjin laughs.

 

“But don’t overthink it, okay? That’s Jungkookie’s job.”

 

“Hey!” says Jungkook.

 

“Sorry, but we all know it’s true.” Jimin laughs, but he softens it by hugging Jungkook from behind and nuzzling his nose into his neck.

 

Seokjin herds them out of his office and locks the door. Jimin smiles like they’ve won.

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

On his way home an hour later, Jungkook gets a text from an unknown number.

 

you’re better at this than you think.

you should make a move with Namjoonie! trust me.

 

Then there are ten lines of emojis and, scattered amongst them:

 

from hobi-hyung

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

Jungkook bursts through the front door and makes a beeline for the kitchen in a fever of emotions. Something about the flowers. Something about the look on Seokjin’s face, about the way Hoseok just went for it, how he barely even waited a day. Something about the text he sent Jungkook. Trust me, he said. And he knows Namjoon well—they live together, they’ve been best friends for a long time. Hoseok understands Namjoon. So when he told Jungkook to go for it, that means he should go for it, right?

 

“I’m gonna go for it,” he says decisively. Taehyung’s head pops up off the couch.

 

“Go for what?”

 

“Namjoon-hyung.”

 

An inhuman screech comes from between the couch cushions and Jungkook sees feet and hands flapping about before Taehyung sits up on his knees to look over the back of the couch. “How are you gonna do it?” he asks with bright eyes.

 

Jungkook holds his phone up where it’s open to his and Namjoon’s chat. His hand is shaking. Taehyung coos at him.

 

“How do people do this, holy shit,” Jungkook mutters. “I need... something. Just...” He walks purposefully to the fridge and rips it open hard enough to jostle all the glass jars in the door, but that’s not a Right Now problem. Jungkook grabs the two-litre bottle of chocolate milk and chugs it for five seconds.

 

“Oh my god,” whispers Taehyung, like he’d just mounted a unicycle and started to juggle.

 

“Okay,” Jungkook says, voice strained. He slams the bottle on the counter and burps. “Let’s do this.”

 

Taehyung claps and whoops. Now that his bones are pulsing with calcium (because that’s how milk works) Jungkook unlocks his phone and types:

 

Hey namjoon-hyung, let’s hang o

 

hyung, what’s crackin

 

Jungkook holds his thumb down on the backspace and stares with mounting frustration and terror at the flashing line.

 

Don’t overthink it, Jungkookie,” Taehyung calls gently. Jungkook looks up to find him gazing sleepily, cheek pillowed atop his folded arms. “Just type this: ‘hey hyung, are you free this week? Let’s have a picnic. Just us. I’ll bring the snacks and you can make iced tea with honey. What do you think?’”

 

“Just—and that’s all?” Jungkook asks, disbelieving. He’s gripping his phone tight enough to put stress on its shitty plastic case.

 

“Yeah, Kookie. That’s all.” Taehyung makes it sound so simple. Like Jungkook isn’t sending fragments of his heart through the late afternoon air for Namjoon to inspect and debate whether or not he’d be up for giving them a safe haven in his warm hands.

 

“Send it,” urges Taehyung.

 

Jungkook sends it. The tiny whoosh echoes in the living room and Taehyung smiles so, so wide.

 

Three seconds pass.

 

“He hasn’t responded.”

 

“Okay, Flash Gordon, it doesn’t work like that. What are you, twelve? He needs time to read it before responding. That is, if he even—”

 

Jungkook’s phone pings and the shock almost makes Jungkook drop it.

 

“Is that—”

 

“Him, yeah,” breathes Jungkook, cradling his phone like it’s made of gold.

 

honey hyung 🐝

That sounds awesome!! how about Thursday afternoon? The weather is going to be so good! We can do it at my place

(well, hoseok’s. haha)

Also what flavour tea do you like??

Or do you want it to be a surprise

 

Jungkook goes to reply but Namjoon is already typing again so he just watches with a lovesick grin as Namjoon rambles about tea and these new cookies he found at the supermarket and does Jungkook like cinnamon? Because these things changed his life. Also he has loads of wildflower honey left but they can also try a whole bunch of them and—

 

“Well?!” Taehyung cries. “What’s he saying? I’m dying over here!”

 

“Yes! He said yes! This Thursday. At his house.” Jungkook breathes it all out in a rush. His cheeks hurt. It’s taking all his self control not to giggle and stomp his feet like a teenager who just got asked out by the popular kid. But that’s what he imagines it might feel like; he’s seen all the movies. He’s seen them so many times.

 

Taehyung vaults himself over the back of the couch to bundle up Jungkook in a hug that lifts him off the ground. “You did it! You did it! Jungkook has a date! Jungkook is living his best life and I love him!” He lets Jungkook down and kisses the smile on his cheeks and on either side of his eyes. “I’m proud of you, Kookie.”

 

“Thanks, hyung,” Jungkook says, shy. “I mean, you wrote the text so...”

 

“Yeah, but you sent it.” Taehyung boops him on the nose. “I’m excited for you.”

 

“Me too,” says Jungkook.

 

He’d be lying if he didn’t feel nervous, but... it’s Namjoon. Any nerves he’s feeling just sort of seem irrelevant when he thinks about it. And maybe it’s backwards, because this feels like the biggest love of his life and it hasn’t even come close to starting, so shouldn’t that scare him? Considering his track record, Jungkook feels like he should be keeled over in nerves. Less than a week ago he was sat on the curb, staring at the tangled mess in his chest like they were weeds. He should be preparing his last-minute excuses and a comfort movie to watch when he ditches the date before it even happens.

 

But he’s just... not.

 

When he sends back a general affirmative to all of Namjoon’s rambling and receives a string of emojis and more excited messages in return, Jungkook merely greets the butterflies that swarm through his stomach and his chest like old friends.

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

Thursday comes quickly.

 

Jungkook feels simultaneously unprepared and like he’s been waiting for this moment his whole life. Yoongi guided him through baking a loaf of bread and they all went to the supermarket last night to buy cheese and roasted almonds.

 

Taehyung offers to drive Jungkook to Namjoon’s place but Yoongi just silently puts a hand on his boyfriend’s shoulder and hands Jungkook the car keys with a soft, “Have fun, Kook-ah.”

 

Now he’s sitting with the van in neutral at the top of Namjoon and Hoseok’s driveway. Jungkook pulls down the visor to check his hair and spends too long nudging one strand of hair from side to side to see what looks better. He feels shaky and nervous and really wishes that he’d accepted Taehyung’s offer so that he could get some last minute words of encouragement. But, no, he can do this. “You can do this,” he tells the mirror. His reflection doesn’t look convinced.

 

They’re not going to be around the bees today, Namjoon told him they needed some space because it had rained recently. Jungkook took that as an invitation to wear a sunshine yellow t-shirt dotted with small embroidered cartoons of fruit. Taehyung said it made him look like summer, and who doesn’t love summer? He half-tucked it into light blue jeans and put silver hoops in his ears.

 

“You can do this,” he says again. This time it sticks. He grabs the food off the passenger seat and heads down the driveway.

 

Namjoon opens the door before he’s even at the stairs.

 

“Hey,” he calls with a smile, pushing the fly-screen open. “Hi. Welcome!”

 

Oh god. Oh god Namjoon is wearing shorts. He’s wearing denim shorts with a weird sort of tie-dyed white shirt tucked in. Sun leaks onto the porch and catches the gold of his skin and his legs and--his fucking knees. Jungkook finally reaches the top step and tries to smile. This was a terrible idea.

 

“Do you want me to take that for you?” Namjoon asks, oblivious. “Here, I’ve got everything set up in the back. It’s such a nice day! Wow, and you look great, by the way. Cool shirt. I love yellow. Such a warm colour! I wanted to paint the kitchen that colour but Hoseok is really strict about his interior design. It’s cool and all, but there’s only so much wicker I can take, you know?” Namjoon looks over his shoulder at Jungkook and beams. He rambles more than Jungkook on three glasses of wine. Jungkook is completely enamoured.

 

They move through the living room and down the back steps. A large blanket is spread out on the grass behind the sunflowers. There’s a rectangular wooden block next to it, and lined up on top are two glasses, a jug of iced tea, three jars of honey and a plate of cookies. There are pillows strewn across the blanket and a portable speaker is softly playing some folk music that Jungkook doesn’t recognise, but it fits the afternoon perfectly.

 

Namjoon pauses at the edge of the blanket and scratches his cheek. “I got, uh. I was a bit bored this morning. Sorry if it’s too much.”

 

“It’s not too much,” breathes Jungkook, probably doing a terrible job at keeping the love out of his eyes.

 

When Namjoon just laughs awkwardly and scrambles onto the blanket with his terribly long and beautiful legs, Jungkook realises: Namjoon is just as nervous as he is.

 

The revelation lifts a massive weight off Jungkook’s chest. He kneels down on the blanket and starts unpacking his things.

 

“Are those the cookies you were talking about?” he asks, to break the ice, to get the attention off Namjoon.

 

“Yes! They’re so good. I got them from the markets a few weeks ago and now I get them every week.” Namjoon crosses his legs and offers the plate to Jungkook. He takes one with a nod of thanks.

 

“Wow, that’s good,” he says around the first mouthful. Namjoon smiles like he’s the one who made them. His nose scrunches a little and Jungkook’s stomach swoops at the sight.

 

They make their way through the food and iced tea with easy conversation. Namjoon talks about the paper he’s writing for a local Not for Profit, for some climate change convention coming up in July. He’s stressed about it--one of the scientists he was meant to interview pulled out at the last minute and he’s been scrambling to find a replacement before his first draft is due in two weeks--but the work is meaningful. “It makes me sad sometimes,” he admits around a mouthful of bread, cheese and eucalyptus honey. “Because it can feel a little pointless in the grand scheme of things. The classic: I’m only one person, is what I do really going to make a difference? But then you have to remember that if we’re all doing a little bit, it measures up to a lot. There’s already good progress happening in some places, but we have a long way to go. I don’t know.”

 

Namjoon collapses back into the pillows and stares at the sky. “I used to be really pessimistic. Like, in general,” he continues. “I dropped out of university because I thought a bachelor’s degree was a useless measure of intelligence and I was like, really grumpy about all these parts of society.”

 

“That sounds exhausting,” Jungkook laughs. He hesitates for a few seconds before thinking fuck it and lays down next to Namjoon to look at the clouds float above them. The blanket is big, but not big enough; Jungkook is so close to Namjoon; he can smell the sunscreen on his skin.

 

Namjoon looks over at him with a lazy smile that gives Jungkook heart palpitations. “It was,” he says. “So it was pretty lucky that I met Hobi. He burst into my life just at the right time. Flipped my worldview around a few times and then, somehow we ended up here.” He gestures at the garden and the jars of honey. “I’m so grateful.”

 

“That’s really cool,” Jungkook says. He knows the feeling: Taehyung came into his life when he was still in high school and took a feather duster to the shyness that plagued Jungkook so terribly. Opened up the sky with his hands and told Jungkook to shoot for the farthest star.

 

And when he moved away to love a beautiful boy and make art, he held a hand out to Jungkook (who had recently graduated and was so, so lost), and said come with me.

 

He owes Taehyung so much.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Namjoon asks softly. Jungkook startles; he didn’t mean to lapse into silence like that.

 

“Oh just,” he scrambles, “trying to figure out if that cloud looks like a lobster or a lizard.”

 

Namjoon snorts. “Which one?”

 

Jungkook points directly above them and Namjoon hums thoughtfully.

 

“Lizard.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right.”

 

They play the game for a long time, pointing at the clouds and coming up with ideas that only get more and more ridiculous as they go on. Soon they’re laughing too much to even speak properly. Jungkook thinks he could live forever like this.

 

After they’ve finally quietened down, Jungkook points to a wispy cloud and says, “My third grade teacher” and Namjoon loses it all over again.

 

“You can’t say that! I don’t know what they look like!”

 

“Yes, you do,” wheezes Jungkook, “they look like that!” He points at the cloud again and Namjoon makes a hybrid sound between a scream and a laugh before rolling over to poke Jungkook in the side. He gasps, squirming away from it with a shriek. Namjoon tickles him for another second before collapsing onto his back and taking long breaths to finally calm himself down.

 

Their tousling left them lying a lot closer before.

 

They both seem to notice at the same time. Jungkook looks away first. They’re quiet for a minute, just listening to the music wash over them, feeling the breeze pick up. Jungkook closes his eyes and just feels. He’s had butterflies since he arrived. He sort of loves it.

 

When Namjoon clears his throat, the sound is a lot closer than Jungkook expected and he jolts a little, blinking against the sun in his eyes. Namjoon makes another funny noise in his throat again and Jungkook turns his head to the side. Does he need something to drink?

 

He finds Namjoon staring resolutely at the sky, a muscle in his jaw working and brow furrowed. “What you did for Hobi,” he finally says, “that was really cool.”

 

“Oh, it was nothing. Jin-hyung just needed a nudge.”

 

“It was big, Jungkook-ah. Really. My... ahh,” Namjoon swallows loudly, “my ex-boyfriend was a bit like Seokjin. It would’ve been good to have someone nudge him like that.”

 

And, oh .

 

Jungkook can’t help the way his brows curve towards each other. He said it so casually, like he was talking about the music instead of something that makes your mouth dry up and your heart race like you’re about to leap out an airplane without checking if your parachute works first. Jungkook can see Namjoon’s hands fussing with each other atop his stomach. He can see how shallow his breaths are.

 

And, oh , this beautiful boy.

 

Jungkook can’t swallow properly. He’s still staring at Namjoon’s profile as Namjoon stares at the clouds. He knows he should look away, but he just can’t help it. Something about Namjoon makes him feel open and raw in the most wonderful ways.

 

And Namjoon is so brave. Maybe he can be, too.

 

“I’ve never had a boyfriend before,” Jungkook admits quietly. “Taehyung says I’m a Super Romantic.”

 

Namjoon finally looks at him. This time, Jungkook doesn’t shy away.

 

“What’s wrong with that?”

 

“You’d be surprised,” Jungkook mutters.

 

Namjoon shift to lie on his side, propped up by an elbow. Like this, he looks larger than life—but he’s right here, so real and so, so close.

 

“You have a huge heart. That’s not something you should ever be ashamed of. Be proud of it.”

 

The words make Jungkook feel some kind of starstruck. He’s heard them from his friends for years, in so many different ways, but coming out of Namjoon’s mouth they sound like something Jungkook could actually believe.

 

Jungkook feels so warm and his teeth taste like cinnamon and he just wants to kiss Namjoon so badly, wants to see if the eucalyptus honey he tried tastes any different on Namjoon’s tongue. He’s just so wonderful and so close and this—it’s a sign, right? Jungkook read about open body language once and this is ticking all the boxes. This is—it’s—

 

“I think it’s beautiful,” Namjoon says, beautiful almond eyes roaming around Jungkook’s face like he’s seeing him for the first time. “I think... I think you’re beautiful.”

 

Jungkook’s nose bunches up in response and he squirms; he wants to cover his face but he doesn’t want to stop looking at Namjoon.

 

“No I’m serious I—” Namjoon uses his free hand to frantically gesture at Jungkook’s face and body “—when I saw you at the market I almost dropped the box of pamphlets. Actually, I did. They went everywhere.”

 

The euphoria of the moment plants giggles on both their tongues. Namjoon fumbles through the rest of his story, and his cheeks are all pink and he’s tripping over his words and—

 

“You have really nice knees.”

 

Namjoon’s laugh turns into a confused sound. Shit. Jungkook wasn’t meant to say that thought out loud.

 

“Uh. I mean. Objectively they’re.... they look. Nice. I noticed it that day, too.” Oh, good one, Jungkook! Very eloquent and impressive! You’re practically a poet!

 

Namjoon’s mouth opens and closes like a fish. His blush is fierce and his voice is small when he says, “Oh. Thank you.”

 

Jungkook quietly delights in how flustered Namjoon looks. He did that. Jungkook made his cheeks that colour, made his dimples press craters into his cheeks. And now the floodgates are open—heaven help Jungkook now.

 

“The first time I saw you I already had a ten year plan mapped out.”

 

Namjoon doesn’t recoil. He doesn’t laugh at Jungkook. He just smiles bigger and bigger and says, “And? Farm house? Inner city?”

 

“Cottage,” breathes Jungkook. He can’t believe this is happening. Namjoon doesn’t think he’s weird or clingy. He actually looks happy. “We’ve got a dog. It’s a St. Bernard.”

 

Namjoon nods approvingly. “What’s their name?”

 

Jungkook says, “George” and Namjoon’s face breaks. “We love him but he’s not allowed on the bed. He gets up there anyway.”

 

“That sounds lovely,” Namjoon whispers.

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook whispers back. He’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, but Namjoon is just looking at him like that —all tender and happy—like his heart is also in his throat, like he’s also been waiting weeks for this moment.

 

“I’m in if you are,” Namjoon finally says.

 

And Jungkook has never been more certain about anything in his life when he says,

 

“Yeah. I’m in.”

 

So Namjoon kisses him. He leans over Jungkook and presses their lips and their chests together with his palm on Jungkook’s cheek and his heart racing through his shirt. Jungkook’s right hand springs up to grip Namjoon’s shoulder and he arches into it. The kisses start softly, and they stay soft. They stay like that for so long: kissing on a blanket in the back yard with honey on their tongues and sunshine on their skin. Jungkook feels full of lemonade and syrup. He could bloom in ten different ways, all kinds of colours, in spirals and starbursts.

 

When Namjoon pulls back to let them breathe, he keeps their foreheads pressed together. Jungkook goes a little cross-eyed trying to keep his eyes on Namjoon’s, and when Namjoon sees, he pulls back to laugh. Jungkook doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t think he can put this feeling into words, so he just pulls this beautiful boy back into his arms and puts all of his love onto his lips.

 

It might be the sweetest thing he’s ever tasted.

 

 

🐝🐝🐝

 

In the greatest feat of strength Jungkook has ever displayed, he keeps the details of the date to himself for the rest of the evening. Taehyung puts up a good fight, and Jimin blows up his phone for an entire hour, but Jungkook just lies on his bed listening to the playlist Namjoon had on earlier and tells them nothing.

 

Just before dinner, Jungkook gets a text. It’s not from Jimin, so he opens it.

 

honey hyung ❤️

[sent a link]

this one already has a name and it isn’t George but I still think he’s great

 

Jungkook opens the link to a dog profile from the local animal shelter. He presses his face into his pillows so they can soak up the tears.

 

Turns out being in love doesn’t feel like choking on an apricot danish, after all.

 

It just feels like this.

 

- The End -