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Prepare for Trouble

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FRONT DESK, 16:32

Jungkook has thoroughly cleaned and tidied the pokemon center, arranging the potions he’ll need to care for several travel-weary pokemon and then changing into a freshly pressed uniform. There are still a few minutes before the others are due to arrive, but Namjoon is already standing outside, Sudowoodo swaying merrily at his side, and it just makes sense for Jungkook to wait with him.

Blissey is still in the back, singing calming songs to the patients in the dragon-type ward, but Jigglypuff follows him out. She hops and drifts down beside him with gentle buoyancy, a soothing, familiar rhythm, as he smooths his hands nervously down the front of his uniform’s full pink skirt.

“Good afternoon, Professor Bonsai,” he says, using Namjoon’s full formal title, as he steps outside.

The professor turns to him with a devastating dimpled smile. “Good afternoon, Nurse Jungkook.” He dips his head closer. “But really, you don’t have to use the title when it’s just us.”

Namjoon’s lab is right next to Jungkook’s pokemon center, and they’ve spent a lot of time together after-hours, sharing bottles of rich Johto wine and talking about Namjoon’s experiments in developing new pokemon healing technologies. In those moments, it’s easy to think of Namjoon as a friend.

But now they are at work. Jungkook takes his job seriously—when he zips up this dress and steps his stockinged feet into his soft pink slippers, he takes the health and comfort of innocent pokemon into his hands. He was trained to be respectful and polite in pursuit of this duty. And the professor—Namjoon—is so intimidating in his lab coat. The betraying heat of a blush warms Jungkook’s cheeks as he says, “Hyung.”

Namjoon lifts a hand as if he’s going to touch Jungkook, but he pauses and sticks his elbow out, rubbing the back of his own neck instead. Jungkook looks away before Namjoon tries again, giving Jungkook’s upper arm a couple quick, tight squeezes through his sleeve.

Jungkook holds himself carefully still, like Namjoon is a nervous Sobble he might scare into fleeing, until Jigglypuff jumps up and floats too far sideways, hitting his knee as she lands and sending him stumbling a step closer to Namjoon.

Namjoon’s grip tightens to hold Jungkook steady, and suddenly his surprised eyes seem very close. Jungkook steps back, clearing his throat. “Be careful,” he says to Jigglypuff, but she just trills at him, all pleased with herself for some reason.

A roar cuts the quiet of the wooded road in front of the pokemon center. Namjoon and Jungkook both turn toward the sound as Team Sope comes around the bend.

In their matching orange tracksuits, they look every inch the powerful trainer team—well, Jungkook is clearly a sucker for the authority of a uniform. Gyarados, punctuating the silence with roars as he undulates through the air at Hoseok’s side, cuts a powerful profile, too. But it’s actually Bulbasaur who’s leading them, the wobbling roll of her three-legged walk carrying her a step ahead of her trainer, Yoongi.

“Namjoon-ah!” Yoongi calls, waving. “What trouble have you gotten into this time?”

“It’s a whole mess, hyung,” Namjoon calls back mournfully, a childish whine coloring his voice that doesn’t seem to faze Yoongi but absolutely shocks Jungkook.

“That’s all right!” rings a high voice from the other side of the road, and Jimin comes into view, fists on his hips and chest puffed bravely out. “We’re here to help. Don’t give up until the end!

Perched on Jimin’s shoulder, Pikachu chirps his agreement.

“That’s right, Jimin-ah,” Taehyung says, strolling up behind him. The Fuschia City gym leader is far from home, and his dramatic purple robes are out of place in this little country town. He has his red mask pulled down around his chin, and he puts a hand next to his mouth as if he’s speaking secretly to Namjoon and Jungkook, although Jimin is much closer and can obviously hear him. “Isn’t he cute when he’s trying to be tough? Look at his tiny fists.”

Jimin scowls. “Not too tiny to beat you.”

“You haven’t beat me since Muk started helping defend the gym,” Taehyung shoots back as all four trainers climb the steps to the pokemon center.

Jungkook disappears into a Jimin-Taehyung hug, and when he surfaces, Namjoon is already in the middle of explaining the situation to Yoongi and Hoseok again. “—three Team Rocket attacks in the last two months. Jungkook’s pokemon have been able to fend them off, but they keep coming back.”

“So you need to escalate before they do,” Yoongi says seriously, thinking like a battle strategist.

“I just want the lab and the center to be safe,” Namjoon replies, so forlorn that Jungkook almost tries to grab his hand.

Instead, he opens the door to the pokemon center and holds it for everyone to shuffle inside.

He steps behind the desk to check everyone in, and Taehyung leans over the counter on one elbow to give him a rakish wink. “Beautiful, gracious Nurse Jungkook,” he lilts. “Jimin and I did a little, ahem, training while we were on the road.”

“It’s important to practice as much as you can!” Jimin declares.

“Go ahead give me all your pokemon,” Jungkook says. “Just in case. We want everyone ready if Team Rocket shows up again.”

This is Jungkook’s job—no, his vocation, his whole life—and he doesn’t need to be seduced into doing it. Taehyung certainly knows that. Still, he purrs, “Thank you so much, our Jungkook. You take such good care of us all.”

Jungkook absolutely does not blush as the trainers push their trays of pokeballs across the counter to him. He leaves Namjon to explain the problem with Team Rocket while he gets to work.

 

EXAM ROOM, 17:00

Suspicious of what “a little, ahem, training” means, Jungkook opens Taehyung and Jimin’s pokeballs first. 

In this job, Jungkook does see pokemon who get pushed harder by their trainers than Jungkook would recommend, and it’s tough to give them back. Sometimes, he takes in pokemon who get used up and abandoned—working with and healing those pokemon is part of his work with Namjoon.

These are not those pokemon—these are well fed, well tended creatures. 

But they are also very well exercised. No one has fainted yet, but they’re all fast asleep. Jungkook has to nudge them awake to take a potion each, and then he places them gently under heat lamps or fans, depending on the species, to nap while the potions do their work.

Team Sope’s pokemon are—as expected—more sprightly. Yoongi and Hoseok look and talk and strut like badass trainers, but the team Jungkook pulls out of the pokeballs is mostly gentle Luvdisc and Alomomola. Hoseok catches them all the time because Yoongi gets shy when Hoseok makes jokes about giving him his heart.

Jungkook recognizes Oshawott, abandoned at the center last year for being too nervous to battle. Now, it takes only a little coaxing with berries to get her out of the pokeball, and then she takes the food from Jungkook and eats happily.

“Yoongi’s been taking good care of you, hasn’t he?” Jungkook asks.

“Oshawott!” she chirps, beaming with her scowl-shaped face.

Jungkook smiles back. Most of these pokemon are fine. “Potions and baths for all of Team Sope,” he says to Blissey, who trills and trundles up to take over.

Yoongi and Hoseok are in pokemon training for the travel and to meet as many pokemon as they can, not to win battles. Most of the seriously injured pokemon that Jungkook and Namjoon work to heal together stay in Namjoon’s lab, but the ones who aren’t ready to settle down, who want to keep exploring the world, often end up with Yoongi and Hoseok.

Like sweet Bulbasaur. “How’s my best girl?” Jungkook asks her—quietly, of course, so none of the others will hear. But she is his favorite, one of the first injuries he dealt with in this job that couldn’t be fixed by berries, crystals, or potions. Jungkook cried when Namjoon said they wouldn’t be able to save her front leg. But now she walks strong and brave without it, leading her trainer around the world.

Jungkook cleans her with an oil rub and kisses the top of her head. “I’m so proud of you,” he says.

“Bulbasaur,” she grumbles, turning away as if embarrassed by the attention.

Gyarados is the only true battler on Team Sope, and he evolved on accident during a lightning storm, a blood-red dragon grown from the strangely tarnished golden magikarp that Hoseok had been planning to take care of, just as it was, forever.

“Are you keeping the hyungs safe?” Jungkook asks as he checks Gyarados over.

Gyarados roars proudly.

“Good boy,” Jungkook says. Gyarados needs a bandage on one flank, and Jungkook gives him an extra potion, too, just to be safe.

As Gyarados settles into a hot tub, Taehyung and Jimin’s napping pokemon start to stir.

Taehyung specializes in poison-types. Venusaur holds herself with a stately dignity as he checks her over, but Muk and Trubbish start chattering away as soon as they wake up. 

Venusaur needs two bandages on the back of her head—Jungkook resolves to give Jimin and Taehyung a stern talking-to—but everyone else is fine once Jungkook gets them another round of potions.

Jimin, league champion for two years running, has a more balanced team—Pikachu is joined by Fletchinder, Froakie, and Hawlucha. Froakie happily jumps in the tub, and Jungkook cleans the feathered pokemon with oil.

Pikachu’s gently buzzing fur makes Jungkook’s hair stand on end with its static electricity. Jungkook came up through the training leagues with Jimin, when he started with this Pikachu, and Taehyung, when his Venusaur was just a little starter Bulbasaur.

Jungkook would never have said it bluntly when he was training, but, well—he was good at it. People talked about him as a future champion, and he knew the idea was meant to make him proud. He figured everyone must find the battles so painfully stressful they would cry after, that they all felt the same dizzying relief returning to the pokemon center each night.

Taehyung was different, though—he was training to take over the gym, his family’s legacy, and he was truly devoted to it. He used his battles to learn, and would pull strange surprise moves, even in competition, that sometimes worked and sometimes ended in total disaster. Either way he was delighted.

Jungkook could not figure it out. He had a long conversation with Jimin, one night, where he brought it up—why would Taehyung take such wild risks? Maybe Jimin could explain so Jungkook could understand. Jungkook always thought he and Jimin were made of the same stuff, in some elemental way. And that’s true, but it’s inside out. Jimin is a delicate cloud of cotton candy spun around a core of steel; Jungkook can hold a steely surface when he has to, but he’s all soft sugar inside.

“Well, Taehyung isn’t here to win this, he’s here to learn how to run his gym,” Jimin said. “He has a different goal.”

“How can you have a different goal?” Jungkook asked, astonished. It was a competition league—there were rules and a points system that clearly assigned everyone the same goal.

Jimin laughed at his fervor, but when he spoke, the curiosity in his voice was tender. “Have you ever thought about your goals?”

Jimin was the only one who wasn’t surprised when Jungkook dropped out mid-way through a league championship to register for his first day of nursing school. The little Chikorita Jungkook started with is all evolved into a Meganium, now, but instead of battling, she spends her days eating berries in the woods between the center and the lab and nudging Namjoon over if he hasn’t visited all day.

“Are you all having lots of fun adventures?” he asks.

Pikachu squeaks in unbridled delight and starts chirruping through a story that Jungkook, of course, can’t really understand. He gets the gist, though, the way Pikachu flips over the exam table and mimes punches with his little fists.

“Very exciting,” Jungkook murmurs, toweling Pikachu off. 

Jungkook doesn’t have those kinds of adventures, the storied travels that make up the stuff of pokemon legend. He still meets people who are shocked he gave it up—trainers who come to the center and whisper behind their hands that the nurse here is Jeon Jungkook, the trainer who walked away.

But, truly, he doesn’t miss it. This is the work that’s right for him, and he would not give up the opportunity to care for so many pokemon, not for anything. The people he loves are near—his parents live in town, and he sees his best friends, Officer Yugyeom and the local gym leader, Bam Bam, a couple nights a week. He helps with Namjoon’s research, and talks to him every day.

There’s only one thing missing—someone to be Jungkook’s own, to be with him when he closes himself into his room at the back of the center each night and discards the Nurse Jungkook uniform to become simply Jungkook. He knows exactly who he wants to share that intimacy with, and he doesn’t need to travel to find him. That person is close enough to touch, if Jungkook could be brave enough to reach out.

 

DINING ROOM, 19:00

Jungkook gets everyone brushed and polished and back in their pokeballs while Muk gleefully slurps up the dirty bathwater. Some of them want to stay out and keep exploring—Jungkook heads to the cafe to return the pokeballs with Muk and Pikachu at either side, and, of course, Bulbasaur leading the way.

He brings his own team, too—Blissey is in charge of the team, and Jigglypuff leaps to attention even though she’s never been in battle before. He calls Conkeldurr from the pokeball in his pocket, too.

“The trainers are here,” he tells Conkeldurr. “Time to talk strategy.”

Conkeldurr emits the low, menacing growl that means he’s getting hyped, and gives Jungkook a fist bump. They move to fist-bump Blissey, too, but she just pats them both on the head and pushes them gently toward the dining room, where the others are gathered.

“All your pokemon are recovered,” Jungkook reports, passing pokeballs back out to each trainer. “Everyone’s doing just fine.”

“Nurse Jungkook, what do you think Team Rocket is up to?” Jimin asks. “Why would they keep attacking this center and Professor Bonsai’s lab?”

“It’s strange,” Yoongi adds. “I wouldn’t have thought researching pokemon injuries would be Team Rocket’s thing.”

Jungkook gapes and turns to Namjoon. “I thought you were going to explain it.”

Namjoon fidgets. “I told them everything I know for sure.”

“They’re not trying to steal pokemon,” Jungkook says. “They’re trying to steal the professor.”

The trainers gawk, and Namjoon ducks over the table to hide his face.

“They want… your research?” Hoseok asks.

Namjoon only shrugs, and Jungkook drags a chair from the table behind him to sit down. Conkeldurr shoves in next to him, and Blissey nudges Namjoon’s chair to move in on his other side—as they all try to fit, Jungkook ends up pressed right against Namjoon. 

“No, they want him,” Jungkook says. “Professor, tell them what happened last time. All of it.”

Namjoon sighs, and Jigglypuff hops up to his lap with a comforting trill. Namjoon’s long, elegant hand pets the spherical curve of Jigglypuff’s back.

“I tripped into a net while I was walking in the woods,” Namjoon says. “Then this huge robot shaped like a Meowth came up to pluck me out of the tree and take me to their hideout. They’d taken over one of the little cabins in the woods people use for pokemon catching, but they didn’t have it set up for catching.”

The others are leaning forward over the table—Jimin’s fingers are spread tensely over the wood, and glee is slowly dawning underneath Taehyung’s properly horrified expression.

Jungkook crosses his arms. He can’t seem to get comfortable in his chair, holding himself too tense as he thinks about Namjoon in Team Rocket’s clutches.

“They had a little round table with a tablecloth,” Namjoon continues.

“Candles,” Jungkook interrupts. 

Taehyung gasps in something that could equally be shock or delight. Hoseok covers his mouth to hide a giggle.

“A single red rose,” Jungkook adds, and Hoseok’s laugh breaks out.

“So that’s how Team Rocket asks you on a date,” Taehyung says. “With a net.”

“Consent is the foundation of a healthy romantic relationship!” Jimin declares.

Taehyung pats his hand. “You are so right, Jimin-ah.”

“How did you get away?” Yoongi asks, frowning gravely.

“Well, there were only two chairs at the table,” Namjoon says. “And so Jin and Halsey started arguing over who was going to get the other one. They got distracted and I took the chance to run away. I found Nurse Jungkook and Conkeldurr right outside the cabin.”

“The professor was late for—a meeting,” Jungkook says, strangely reluctant to admit that he and Namjoon eat breakfast together most days, in the park behind the center. “I guessed what had happened, and Conkeldurr and I went out to find him.”

“Did you take them out all by yourself?” Jimin asks, and Conkeldurr growls proudly.

“A couple dynamic punches had them scattering,” Jungkook says. “But the thing was, they seemed more mad their little date had been wrecked than actually scared off. That’s why we called all of you. I really think they’ll be back.”

“Back for our Namjoonie,” Hoseok says, faintly stunned.

Namjoon shakes his head, just as mystified.

“So many people have wondered how to get Team Rocket to stop trying to steal other people’s pokemon,” Taehyung says. “And all this time, the answer was a hot professor with dimples.”

Something almost like anger—maybe fear—rushes Jungkook’s heart. He hasn’t ever let himself think about other people looking at Namjoon’s dimples, too.

Namjoon just hides his face on top of Jigglypuff’s head. “I’m not hot.”

“Of course you are,” Hoseok says soothingly. “I wouldn’t be friends with you if you weren’t hot.”

Namjoon shakes his head. “Not like Jin and Halsey. I mean, they are both so sexy. It’s completely overwhelming.”

“It’s not sexy to be evil and take whatever you want,” Hoseok says.

“Well,” Taehyung says. “It’s a little sexy.”

“It’s only sexy if you’re good at it,” Jimin says in a know-it-all voice. “Team Rocket always loses.”

Yoongi points at him. “I don’t even understand how Jin walks in those thigh-high boots, much less gets any work done.”

“He doesn't get any work done,” Jimin says. “Maybe Jin and Halsey should both think some more about practicality.”

“Yeah,” Jungkook blurts. He doesn’t mean to be petulant, but he must sound like he needs comfort, because Jigglypuff hops from Namjoon’s lap to his own.

Taehyung glances at Jungkook’s face and shrugs. “It’s so funny that they’re Jin and Halsey now. Remember in training league, when they were just Seokjin and Ashley?”

Yoongi snorts. “That’s rich, from Gym Leader V.”

“People challenging a gym appreciate a sense of ceremony,” Taehyung says primly.

“You just like flash,” Jimin says.

“You are the flashiest battler I know,” Taehyung replies.

“Everything has a purpose,” Jimin says. “Just because it looks great doesn’t mean I’m messing around.”

“Yeah, the purpose of making you look cute,” Taehyung replies.

Jimin turns pink under the compliment, but he sticks his lip into a pout instead of giving into it. “Let’s go out back and see whose battle style works better.”

“Absolutely not,” Jungkook says, drawing up his spine and straightening his nurse’s cap on his head in a gesture of total authority. “Those pokemon need a good night’s rest, and so do you.”

“There will be plenty of time to battle when Team Rocket comes back,” Yoongi says darkly.

“That’s right, hyung,” Hoseok coos, squeezing Yoongi’s cheeks in his hands. “You’ll have Jin shaking in his thigh-high boots.”

Jungkook is still thinking: Namjoon called Jin and Halsey sexy. It’s somehow the only thought in his head, wailing and flashing like an alarm.

Conkeldurr wants to stand guard at the center’s front door all night, but Jungkook bargains him into sleeping in his pokeball on the front desk, where he’ll still rest, but someone will be able to get him quickly if there’s a break-in. Blissey takes his instructions for the evening’s last rounds, and Jungkook leads the others to the rooms he prepared for them earlier. 

Team Sope gets their usual private double overlooking the pond, where they’ll be able to keep an eye on Gyarados. Bulbsaur runs into the room ahead of them and jumps up on the bed, splaying belly-down over one of the pillows. She and Yoongi are having a little argument about who’s going to get to sleep there in their matching grumbles as Jungkook closes the door.

He set aside one of the four-person dorms for Jimin and Taehyung—the center isn’t so busy that they’ll need every bed tonight, but it’s also not big enough for everyone to have a private room. They’re still bickering as he leads them up the hall. “Are you two okay to share?” he asks.

They stare at him, surprised at the question. “Of course,” Taehyung says.

“Sure,” Jimin adds, “even though Taehyung smells.”

Jungkook lets them into their room and gives them a moment to check things over. As he’s closing the door behind him, he catches a last glimpse of Taehyung breaking into a wicked smile and pouncing, tackling Jimin to the bed. The door clicks closed.

“Wait.” Jungkook turns to Namjoon, the last one left with him in the hall. “Are they… like… together?”

“I think they might be getting there,” Namjoon says. “They’re all tension-y.”

“Oh. I didn’t notice.”

Namjoon smiles at him, too gently. Maybe Jungkook just isn’t sexy enough to notice that sort of thing.

Namjoon is staying in the last private room in the center—since the point of getting all these trainers together was to keep him safe, it seemed to make the most sense. It’s just a few more steps down the hall, and they take them in silence.

What is it about Team Rocket that Namjoon finds so sexy, anyway? Is it the way they know what they want and go after it, undeterred by failure after failure? Jungkook works hard for his ambitions, but he’s terrified of failure. Scared enough that sometimes, if he’s not sure something is going to work, he just doesn’t try. Like, well, this terrible-wonderful way he feels about Namjoon.

Maybe it’s the simplest thing, those tight, tiny uniforms Team Rocket wears. Jungkook loves his uniform, the authority and the duty it gives him when he wears it but also the way the full skirt emphasizes his waist and the soft pink color lights up his skin. He’s never felt embarrassed in it before. But now, standing in front of Namjoon, he feels dowdy and childish at once.

“Goodnight, Professor Bonsai,” Jungkook says as he opens the door to Namjoon’s room and hands over the key.

Namjoon starts to say something, hesitates, and closes his mouth before he starts over. “Goodnight, Nurse Jungkook,” is all he says.

Jungkook closes himself into his room and droops like a sleepy Florges. Jigglypuff jumps into his arms, and he squeezes the rubbery balloon of her little body in a hug. He kisses the spot on the top of her head where Namjoon was resting his face earlier. Jigglypuff coos a soft charm to help calm him down and jumps from his arms to the bed, readying her spot next to his pillow.

In his role as a caretaker, Jungkook was stern about sending everyone to an early bedtime. Now that he’s alone—now that he has changed out of his uniform into pajama pants and a plain t-shirt, and he’s only Jungkook again—he stays up too late playing Battle League on his computer.

Jungkook would never treat a real pokemon the way he plays the game, but this is only a collection of pixels shaped like a Conkeldurr, not his friend. He powers the video game pokemon up until he’s out of tokens, and then he goes into battles and smashes, and smashes, and smashes.

 

TRAINING FIELD, 09:17

The next morning, Jungkook—who overslept after his irresponsible gaming night and is running behind—finds Taehyung and Jimin on the practice field behind the center. They look like they’ve been training for a long time—and also like they are not training anymore.

Jimin is held in place at one end of the field by the ropy vines of Venusaur’s grass knot attack, winding around his limbs and waist. He’s definitely stuck, but he’s writhing around, anyway. Taehyung dances just out of his reach, laughing as he speaks. Jungkook can almost taste the hypnotic venom of a poison-type from all the way across the field.

Jungkook jumps as Hoseok’s arm lands around his shoulders.

“Cute, aren’t they?” Hoseok asks. “And look at my little husband, hard at work.”

Yoongi is sitting at a picnic table with Oshawott and Bulbasaur, three scowl-shaped faces set in focus.

“Are they working on battle strategy?” Jungkook asks.

Hoseok grins. “Nah. Yoongi took over your kitchen to test some new pokepuff recipes.”

On closer look, there’s a scatter of crumbs across the table. Yoongi takes notes on a little pad as Oshawott waves her arms around.

Past their table, Namjoon and Seismitoad are walking around the edge of the park, hand-in-hand. Seismitoad came to the center with a strange leg injury last month, and they’ve been working hard to help him recover. Held steady with Namjoon’s strong hand, he’s barely even limping.

God, I wish that were me, Jungkook thinks as he watches the giant ambulatory frog grip Namjoon’s hand with its sticky, knobby fingers. But quickly, Jungkook shakes the thought off and checks that the cuffs of his shirtsleeves are sharp before he turns on his heel and strides back inside.

He knows what Namjoon thinks is sexy, and it’s not a standard Jungkook can meet, or even wants to. He doesn’t want to be someone else; he just wonders if the person he already is might be someone Namjoon wants, and he doesn’t know how to figure that out. The clues are confusing and contradictory and they don’t add up. If he asks and the answer is no, it would mess up his work, his pokemon center, his whole life. 

Jungkook can only be the best Nurse Jungkook in his power, and that doesn’t mean standing in the backyard yearning. It means going in to do a round of check-ins on his long-term patients and then taking over the front desk from Blissey.

Business at Jungkook’s pokemon center is slow—a guest or two a day come to town to challenge the gym, but beyond that, most of his patients are transfers from other pokemon centers. Nurses from all over the world contact him to send him patients with unusual or chronic injuries—or to send them to Namjoon, really. There are no planned intakes on the schedule today.

Sudowoodo’s syncopated steps bounce down the hall, pattering around the quieter rhythm of—Jungkook looks up—Namjoon. 

Jungkook opens his mouth to say, good morning, Professor Bonsai, his precise line, but Namjoon quickly cuts him off. “Hi, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook swallows down the lump in his throat. “Hi. How was Seismitoad?”

“Great,” Namjoon says. “Actually, I was thinking, while Yoongi is in town, maybe we should see if Seismitoad wants to travel with him.”

“Oh. Ready to move on?” Jungkook asks.

“If they both want to,” Namjoon says. “If not, Seismitoad is welcome at the lab, of course.”

Jungkook nods. “Good. I’ll update his file and send it over to the lab.”

He means he’ll do it eventually, he’ll put it on his list, but with Namjoon watching him too intently and Sudowoodo bopping noisily around the lobby, his hands twitch nervously for something to do, and he goes right to the keyboard to pull the file up.

“Hey,” Namjoon says. He moves closer, though he knows not to cross behind Jungkook’s desk. The collar of his button-down is popped over the lapels of his lab coat, and he has one fewer button done over his chest than is strictly professional, and he drops his voice to this low, deep murmur as he says Jungkook’s name again. “Listen, Jungkook-ah…”

Jungkook shoves the keyboard away with a clatter. “Hmm?”

“Is anything wrong?” Namjoon asks. “Something feels weird here.”

“Weird?” Jungkook’s voice cracks.

“If you’re upset—if I’m putting the center in too much danger—”

“No, no,” Jungkook says. “We’re in this together. I lo—I really like working with you. I think what we do is important.”

“I do, too.” Namjoon hits Jungkook with that smile. “I… also enjoy working with you.”

Jungkook has to grip the counter to stay upright. Do you like me, he thinks, do you like me, blink twice if you like me—

The door to the center crashes open like an explosion, swinging so hard it bashes into the wall as three people burst through at once and a man’s high voice wails, “Good morning!”

Namjoon leaps back like they were doing something wrong, and Jungkook is faintly dazed as he turns to the guests. “Welcome to the pokemon center. How can I help you?”

“I think you’ll find it’s how we can help you,” says a woman at the front of the group. Light winks off her red cat-eye glasses, clashing vibrantly with her pink braids.

She and the man who hollered his way into the building are the only ones Jungkook can make eye contact with, as the last member of the group is so short they’re hidden by the counter. He’s leaning over to try to see when the man jumps in front of him, broad shoulders filling the counter and a heady rose-scented cologne taking up even more of the space.

Jungkook leans back.

“We hear you have a small security issue at this center,” the man says, tapping the brim of the hat he’s wearing—an elegant sort of trilby situation, very arresting—lower over his eyes.

“Oh, we do,” Jungkook says, just as Namjoon is saying, “How did you know that?”

“We have our ways,” the man says in a low, authoritative voice.

Namjoon frowns, and the woman shoulders her way in front of her companion. “You could call it our business to keep track of Team Rocket,” she says. “We are the foremost security consultants in this region.”

“Here are our references,” says the short one, jumping so that a piece of paper in their hand comes over the top of the counter before falling out of sight again. 

“I don’t mean to alarm you,” the man says in a low, grave tone, “but we saw at least sixteen serious security holes just walking up to the front door."

“Oh, no,” Jungkook says, alarmed. His security plan for the center is 1. faith in human goodness and 2. Conkeldurr, still waiting safely in his pokeball on the desk in case Team Rocket shows up in one of their usual obvious disguises. So it makes sense that professionals would see issues he’s never even thought of before.

“We’re happy to offer you a consultation,” the woman purrs in a voice that immediately soothes Jungkook’s screeching nerves. “Free of charge.”

“Wow, thank you,” Jungkook says, relieved. He glances over at Namjoon.

“That sounds like a perfect opportunity,” Namjoon agrees. “Do you think… would you be willing to look at the lab, too?”

The man smiles and taps the brim of his hat even lower. “Of course, professor. We… can discuss pricing.”

“Free of charge,” the woman intervenes, elbowing her partner short but sharp. “Why don’t you take us over now? And nurse, if you wouldn’t mind…” She unzips a bag and reveals a pile of pokeballs.

“Of course.” Jungkook gets a stack of trays from under the counter. His heart sinks as she loads tray after tray with pokeballs and her business partner leads Namjoon away.

It appears Jungkook will not be joining them for a tour of the lab. This many pokemon is at least a couple hours of new work.

He pages Blissey to meet him in one of the exam rooms and sets out the trays. “Come on out, everyone!” he calls as he turns to the cabinets. “I have berries for you!”

He turns back at the suspicious sound of—silence. None of the pokeballs have moved. It’s not unusual for one or two fainted pokemon to come through, but this is a huge team to have no one left awake.

Jungkook picks one up and taps the button to open it, and the pokeball falls into two pieces—the hinge is broken, so only the latch was holding it together. It’s empty inside, of course, a broken ball wouldn’t be able to hold a pokemon anymore.

Blissey comes in and makes a noise of surprise as another broken ball falls apart in Jungkook’s hands. She starts opening the ones in another tray, and they’re all empty—and unusable—too.

“What’s going on?” Jungkook asks out loud. 

Blissey chirrups urgently, waving her arms around, but Jungkook just stares—he doesn’t know what she’s saying.

She works her arms up and down, gesturing like something exploding, or blasting off… like… a rocket….

“Oh, motherfuck,” Jungkook says, and takes off running.

 

POKEMON CENTER ROAD, 11:48

He’s too late. As he hurtles out of the pokemon center, a truck with a huge steel trailer is already pulling away. Sudowoodo grins through a dim window.

Jungkook isn’t thinking, he’s just running. He leaps on the tail of the trailer, grabbing the door handle and the side of the truck and hanging on desperately as his slippers—designed for moving quietly through the center, not for balancing on the bumper of a moving truck—fumble for traction.

Jungkook’s hands scramble for purchase against slick metal as the truck gains speed, though it hasn’t even yet pulled to the road. The asphalt under his feet is rushing so fast and close, much more treacherous than it looks when he’s watching cars move from the safety of the sidewalk.

He gets one stroke of luck—Meganium is standing at the edge of the grounds, munching happily on the belue berry bushes Namjoon planted between his lab and the center, and she stands to wide-eyed attention when she sees Jungkook hanging off the back of a moving truck.

“Get Jimin!” Jungkook calls, and Meganium nods and immediately lopes away.

Jungkook’s heart lurches as the truck turns onto the main road and starts to pick up speed. His hands already ache from clinging to the door. His foot slips again and he gasps and plasters himself to the vibrating steel.

Namjoon is in there. He has to be brave. He doesn’t have any choice except being brave—it’s too late to jump off the truck without seriously injuring himself, and if he tries to hang on he’ll inevitably lose his grip. He has to move forward to save them both.

It takes a few tries to make his hand let go of the door handle, trusting his feet are steady on the bumper and his other hand has the side of the truck. There is a tricky latch—Jungkook needs to hold the closure down as he lifts it up. His hand slips, and he gasps and grabs the handle again.

The truck is already moving faster, and the next turn is the highway. Jungkook growls to himself and lifts his hand.

It’s counterintuitive to try to move slowly, but he does, each motion deliberate, and he gets the latch to release. The trailer door swings open, and inside, Namjoon lets out a high-pitched scream that Jungkook folds away in his memory for mocking purposes later even as he’s creeping sideways, inch by agonizing inch, across the bumper and throwing himself into the back of the truck.

“Oh my god,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook whimpers.

In the corner, Sudowoodo jumps and waves merrily.

The truck is pulling onto the highway now, too fast to try leaping out of again—not after the harrowing speed Jungkook just experienced. He hangs onto the side of the truck and reaches for the swinging open door, heart rushing in the wind, until he can snatch the edge and pull it closed.

Jungkook doesn’t so much sit on the floor of the trailer as he collapses, his knees turning to liquid. His heart is pounding so loud it’s making his ears buzz, and he can see Namjoon’s lips moving in his panicked face before he can actually make out the words.

“Were you hanging on the back of the truck?” Namjoon is asking, crouching in front of Jungkook to put a steadying hand on his shoulder.

Jungkook nods. “They were already pulling away by the time I realized what happened. I saw Meganium, though, and I told her to get Jimin.”

“Wow.” Namjoon lightly squeezes Jungkook’s shoulder, more testing than steadying now, and he doesn’t reply to the important part of the statement. “You must be really strong.”

Jungkook shrugs, heating under a blush. The inside of the trailer is dim, so he hopes Namjoon won’t see it. “Yeah, I mean, I work out and stuff.”

“Wow,” Namjoon repeats, almost to himself, and then starts and snatches his hand back.

Now that it’s time to move on to the next part of the plan, Jungkook is fully confronted with his total lack of a plan. If Meganium gets to the others quickly, if they’re able to understand her and figure out what happened, then help is on its way. But he doesn’t have anything else, not even—Jungkook slaps his hand over the pocket where he usually keeps Conkeldurr’s pokeball, heart sinking even before he feels it empty.

“I don’t have Conkeldurr,” he says. The one thing they already know is stronger than Team Rocket, and Jungkook left him in the center. “I put his pokeball at the front desk so we’d be able to get to him if Team Rocket showed up.”

Namjoon huffs wryly, rolling his eyes.

“I know,” Jungkook whines. “I totally missed it.”

“We were so ready, too,” Namjoon says.

“While we were waiting for Team Rocket, they showed up and said they were going to help us with Team Rocket.” Jungkook is astonished. “How were we supposed to know?”

Namjoon shakes his head. “They outplayed us again.”

“They’re very good at being tricky,” Jungkook says. He still feels small and scared—the sheer adrenaline coursing through him after jumping onto the truck won’t settle—and he sniffs and blurts out the rest before his sense can stop him. “I guess some people find that sexy.”

Namjoon frowns, moving closer to study Jungkook’s face in the dim light. “Is that what’s been bothering you?”

Jungkook tries to shrug it off, but he’s embarrassed, and it feels obvious, the way he can’t keep from curling in on himself.

“That’s not what I meant,” Namjoon says. “When I said they’re hot, I meant, like objectively—you know—to look at—”

“I understand,” Jungkook says miserably.

“You don’t understand,” Namjoon quickly replies. “The point is… that’s not who I want to be with.”

He places his hand on Jungkook’s shoulder again. The heat of it burns through his sleeve.

“Jungkook-ah…” Namjoon hesitates. “Working with you is—”

The bubble of hope swelling in Jungkook's chest starts to deflate.

“No,” Namjoon says, interrupting himself. “No, that’s not what I mean. It’s not just work.”

Jungkook might know what Namjoon means. He thinks he does. But he needs to hear it, and—in a secret, sneaky part of his heart—he really wants to hear it.

“What’s not just work?” he asks.

Namjoon takes a deep breath, brave in this weird, scary space, and says, “I really like you.”

Namjoon has been creeping closer, and Jungkook scoots forward the last bit, so his knees are touching Namjoon’s as they sit together on the floor of the truck. “I like you so much,” he whispers. He’s sort of talking to Namjoon’s neck, but as Namjoon rubs his nape nervously, Jungkook is too happy to make himself look up. “I really admire your work, but it’s not just that for me, either.”

“Wow,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook grins at him.

“I mean… wow,” Namjoon says again.

Jungkook pouts a little. “Even though Team Rocket’s uniforms are cuter than mine?”

“Now, listen,” Namjoon says gravely. “This is really important.”

Jungkook looks up and meets his warm, intelligent brown eyes, so focused and close.

“Nothing on this planet,” Namjoon says, “is cuter than you in your uniform.”

Jungkook laughs, just a small bleat of irrepressible joy, and he moves a little closer, hand on Namjoon’s impressive thigh. Namjoon leans closer, too. Jungkook turns his head.

The truck hits a bump, and Jungkook’s face smashes into Namjoon’s so hard he reels back, squealing and clapping a hand to his throbbing lip. He tastes metal. What if he’s bleeding? Oh, no, what if Namjoon is bleeding?

Jungkook peeks between the fingers covering his face and finds Namjoon looking much the same as him, laughing and wincing. Jungkook slumps over, and Namjoon’s arms are moving around him. There’s something awkward about it—the wrong angle, Jungkook’s throbbing lip—but for once, they keep moving through it instead of flinching away. 

And then, somehow, Jungkook has his head on Namjoon’s shoulder.

Namjoon smells like the trees between his lab and Jungkook’s center, like the industrial bleach and starch his team must use to clean this lab coat, and like the man underneath, personal and warm. 

“I want to kiss you,” Namjoon murmurs, “but I don’t think I want to kiss you like this.”

Jungkook hums in agreement. He has had a lot of fantasies about kissing Namjoon, and none of them were set in a dirty truck with Sudowoodo dancing obliviously around them. Maybe outside, under those trees they share. The truck jolts again, the road getting rougher. “Can we stay like this?” Jungkook asks.

“Yeah.” Namjoon shifts them around, leaning against the side of the truck and pulling Jungkook into his chest. Jungkook turns into him, hooking a leg over Namjoon’s lap.

Namjoon drops his hand on Jungkook’s thigh, and his thumb finds the little button where his garter is holding his stocking up, just a bump through his skirt. His thumb circles a few times, curious, and then he must figure out what it is, because he freezes, his whole body going rigid under Jungkook’s.

“Oh my god,” Namjoon whispers.

“It’s practical,” Jungkook whines, embarrassed and flattered at once.

“Wow,” Namjoon says, so low it’s just a vibration where his chest is pressed against Jungkook’s.

Namjoon circles his thumb around the button once more before he moves his hand deliberately away, sliding his palm down Jungkook’s thigh to his knee. 

Jungkook’s whole body lights up with something both powerful and vulnerable. After all that talking and wondering about what’s sexy, he understands it in a way that’s past words. Namjoon’s body is so solid in his arms, a strange new sensation in holding something he’s only stared at for so long.

The truck goes over another hard bump and the feeling evaporates as Jungkook clamps his arms tighter around Namjoon’s shoulders. 

With a sickening lurch, the truck starts to fishtail back and forth—Jungkook puts a protective hand on the back of Namjoon’s head.

“What do you think is happening?” Jungkook asks.

“I bet it’s the others,” Namjoon replies, his low voice so steady Jungkook calms even as the truck screeches to a jarring halt and his stomach drops painfully.

And the next sound is Jimin’s voice, calling clearly even through the walls of the truck. “Pikachu, use iron tail!”

The crash is so loud it’s bigger than sound, a sheer wall of force that fills Jungkook’s head and pushes the breath out of his chest. He pants back to himself in the settling dust and then turns, wincing against the bright light pouring through the smashed-open truck.

Jimin is peering in, all prepared to battle, standing tall with his chest puffed up. His jaw drops, and behind him, Taehyung’s face breaks into a knowing smile.

Right—Jungkook is still basically in Namjoon’s lap, holding him and being held, and making no move to let go as he winces into the bright light.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Yoongi says dryly.

 

SHADY CLEARING, 12:29

The door of the truck’s cab slams and Jungkook scrambles up. Jimin gives him a hand over the torn, jagged metal that used to be the wall of the truck.

The dirt road under Jungkook’s slippers explains the bumpy ride. The truck has swung around sideways into a clearing in the woods, leaving deep gouges in the earth.

The other trainers and their pokemon are all standing ready—Pikachu crouched on all fours next to Jimin, Venusaur and Muk flanking Taehyung and filling the air with a poisonous haze, Gyarados circling Hoseok in slow spirals, and little Bulbasaur growling fiercely a step ahead of Yoongi. Namjoon helps Sudowoodo out of the truck, and even his happy dancing gets more serious.

Standing alone feels almost naked, dangerously exposed, and Jungkook wishes again that Conkeldurr was here, or any of his pokemon. Even Jigglypuff could get a few charm attacks off when confronted with a threat.

Jungkook straightens his cap and smooths his wrinkled skirt. Namjoon comes to stand next to him and takes his hand, and he is not alone, not at all. He’s surrounded by friends and teammates, and Namjoon is here.

When Halsey and Jin walk around the side of the truck, Halsey’s Meowth dressed in the third disguise and Jin’s Linoone alongside, Jungkook isn’t even afraid.

Now their getups—Halsey’s thick glasses and Jin’s hat, the bulky trenchcoats they’re both wearing—seem obvious, and Jungkook can see right through them. But Jimin still steps forward and says with his whole chest, “Who are you and what do you want with Professor Bonsai?”

“Prepare for trouble,” Halsey says, whipping open the panels of her trenchcoat. She wears the baggy Team Rocket pants with the tiny crop top, her small, soft midriff on startling display. “You haven’t guessed yet?”

“Oh, no, not the rhyming,” Yoongi groans.

“And make it double,” Jin says, throwing his hat in the air. The thigh-high boots the others were joking about last night don’t seem so funny as he reveals his strong, sculpted legs under the regulation Team Rocket miniskirt. “I believe we’ve met.”

“No, no more rhyming,” Yoongi says sternly. “Stop that.”

Jin glares at Namjoon and Jungkook’s linked hands. “When did Nurse Twerp get here?”

Jungkook sticks his tongue out at him. Jin’s mouth pulls down in an offended pout.

“He jumped on the moving truck and pried the door open,” Namjoon says. Dreamily, he adds, “He’s so strong. It was amazing.”

Jin and Halsey glance at each other, assessing.

“Namjoon-ah,” Jin purrs, his whole demeanor going hot and languid as he turns hooded eyes to Namjoon. “We just want to talk.”

“We’ve tried everything,” Halsey says, pushing just enough of a whine through her pouting lips to be cute. “You’re a hard man to get alone.”

Okay, Jungkook gets it. They are extremely hot. He wouldn’t even blame Namjoon for going over there and hearing them out.

But now he understands: they’re so scorching hot to look at, it’s painfully intimidating. That doesn’t change what he wants. The only thing he wants is Namjoon’s hand in his, and that hand tightens firmly in his grip as Namjoon says, “Well, you haven’t tried everything. You haven’t tried... asking to talk.”

“Well, yeah, we’re not nerds,” Jin says, like it’s obvious.

Hoseok makes a disapproving noise, but Taehyung nods thoughtfully.

“Look, if this is about my research,” Namjoon says, “everything is published in widely available journals, it’s not secret—”

“Oh, ew,” Jin says quickly.

“No one cares about the research, Dimples,” Halsey adds, grinning.

“I care about his research,” Jungkook says, smirking openly at Jin again. It’s not his fault. Something about Jin was just made to be smirked at, and Jungkook is doing his duty in following through. Everybody here wants to be holding Namjoon’s hand, but he’s the only one who is. He swings it a little, just to show off.

“Now, let’s not misunderstand one another—” Halsey takes one step forward.

“Venusaur, grass knot,” Taehyung says, so quick and sharp that the vines are already whipping out of the ground and wrapping all four members of Team Rocket up tight in place by the time Jungkook looks over and sees Taehyung acting entirely casual again, nothing giving away the power of the Fuschia City gym leader except his watchful eyes.

Yoongi’s Bulbasaur jumps in delight and spits out another grass knot, much smaller, that wraps around one of Jin’s legs. “Nice,” Yoongi mutters down to her.

“You didn’t tell me we were battling yet,” Jimin whines. “I wasn’t ready.”

“I’ll tell you if I need your help,” Taehyung says languidly.

Jimin starts to puff his chest up in a righteous little rage.

“Um, excuse me?” Jin says. The grass knot has one of his arms sticking straight out; he looks ridiculous. “If you don’t mind.”

“You know,” Taehyung says to him, “some of us would love to be romantically kidnapped.”

“You didn’t tell me that, either,” Jimin says, still pouting.

“Let us go and we’ll see if you can take a real battle,” Jin says.

“This is the battle,” Taehyung says. “You already lost.” With a mournful sigh, he says, “Yet another challenger fails.”

“We’ll see about that!” Jin shouts. “Linoone, use baby-doll eyes.”

“Meowth, use scratch,” Halsey adds, lower and hotter, a truly battle-ready tone.

Jungkook stands to attention as Linoone’s eyes grow wide and glossy and Meowth’s silver claws start to glow. Bit of vine scatter around the clearing as Meowth tears through the first layer.

One stray leaf flies into Hoseok’s face—he jerks away, spluttering in a pitiful squeak, but Gyarados roars like thunder booming. The air in the clearing shatters around a whirling twister, whipping Jungkook’s cap away. He ducks his head into his arms against the battering wind.

When the twister settles, there’s nothing but a wreckage of vines where Team Rocket used to be and the sound of Jin’s outraged shout fading into the woods behind them.

“Aww,” Hoseok coos, cupping Gyarados’ huge, scowling face in his delicate hands. “Did you get scared, poor baby?”

Jimin meets Jungkook’s gaze with wide, disbelieving eyes. “Well, that’s one way to solve a problem.”

 

TRAINING FIELD, 21:17

Jungkook stuck an emergency number on the door of the pokemon center and sent Rotom to clean up and Blissey to do rounds while he napped off his adrenaline crash face-down on his bed. Now he’s just sitting out back with the others, drinking wine as the sun sets over a peaceful pokemon center.

Conkeldurr jumped out of his pokeball as soon as they got back to the center and won’t go back in, determined to make up for his missed chance to protect Jungkook and the center. Jungkook sits on one of Conkeldurr’s cement blocks and lets Conkeldurr hold his hand, keeping his wine glass in the other. Conkeldurr cracks his neck threateningly and glares around the perimeter of the training yard.

Gyarados, too, is still nervous, sitting circled around Hoseok’s chair. Jimin goes over with a fresh drink, and Gyarados growls as Jimin passes the glass over his head. Jimin steps back slowly, hands up. Hoseok just laughs and pats Gyarados’s head.

Jimin returns to his spot in Taehyung’s lap. “Wine,” he says, and opens his mouth. Taehyung lifts his own glass to Jimin’s lips.

“Ugh,” Yoongi says, but it doesn’t really seem to be about them. Both he and Oshawott, in his lap, stare wistfully at Hoseok’s well guarded seat.

Venusaur trundles around the training field, clearly preening under the attention of Bulbasaur toddling devotedly behind. Pikachu, Sudowoodo, and Jigglypuff sleep in a pile in the center of the circle, bellies happily round with Yoongi’s pokepuffs.

And last, of course, there’s Namjoon. He sits on Yoongi’s other side, too far away to touch, but at least now Jungkook gets to look at him—at his long legs extending from his low lounge chair, his hands holding his wine glass—and feel more sweet anticipation than hopeless anxiety.

Namjoon is looking at him, too. Jungkook could have changed out of his uniform, but he left it on. It’s like he can feel Namjoon’s hand tracing his garter through his skirt every time their eyes chance to meet.

“Jimin-ah,” Taehyung says. “I think you should get a little belly shirt, like Halsey’s.”

“You wish,” Jimin says, somehow managing to give Taehyung a lazy, unapproachable stare while seated in Taehyung’s lap.

“It would be so sexy!” Hoseok says, delighted. “Belly shirts for everyone. What do you think, hyung?”

Yoongi and Oshawott scowl at him in unison.

“How about you, Jungkook-ah?” Taehyung asks. “A two-piece nurse’s uniform? Sounds very hot.”

“Says the person letting their poison types leak all over my center,” Jungkook says. “Bare skin isn’t very safe on the job.”

“It wouldn’t be safe for our Namjoonie, either, would it?” Hoseok asks, his voice rich with teasing.

“Jungkook’s uniform is dangerous enough for me as it is,” Namjoon says.

The others burst into squawks of laughter. Jungkook has a feeling he’s going to have to get used to this, Namjoon just saying he’s attractive in front of people. He doesn’t think it will be too hard.

Every star that winks to life in the darkening sky narrows Jungkook's focus more clearly to Namjoon. It takes a while to get everyone ready for bed—a lot of the pokemon don’t want to get back in their pokeballs, and everyone needs another round of potions to rest well. Jungkook gets distracted by the work, dropping everything off and making sure both teams are safe in their rooms; he’s almost surprised to look up and find himself in the hall outside Namjoon’s room, alone together again. Even Jigglypuff is floating on ahead, her trills fading away to silence as she turns the corner.

“Do you, um—” Namjoon clears his throat. “I mean, if you are interested—”

Jungkook throws his arms around Namjoon’s neck. Namjoon’s longer body rocks to hold them both up, but he finds his balance and keeps deliciously steady as Jungkook sighs and presses his lips against Namjoon’s full, soft ones.

Namjoon presses Jungkook’s jaw, and Jungkook moves for him, opening under a full, slow kiss. Namjoon makes a low, urgent noise, one Jungkook feels down to his toes.

When Namjoon pulls back he still stays close, sharing Jungkook’s space and rubbing his thumb in circles around the corner of Jungkook’s jaw.

“You know what’s better than the uniform?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon raises his eyebrows.

“No uniform,” Jungkook says, and grins as Namjoon pulls him through the open door.