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complications of the heart

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There have been some important, turning moments in Taehyung’s life; moments that have marked a before and after in it. Had they gone any differently, Taehyung knows that he wouldn’t be standing where he is right now, with the life he has. One of them was when, after some persuasion and convincing from his father, Taehyung vocalized that he would be interested in studying Law at the Seoul National University. Even as he uttered those words, Taehyung knew that there wasn’t just honesty to them; deep down, even if he refused to admit it, Taehyung knew that wasn’t what he wanted. Not that it mattered, since it felt like everyone had already made the choice for him.

And it didn’t really end up mattering in the end because, even if Taehyung did try his hardest all throughout high school, even if his records and marks were almost spotless and he barely saw his friends during exams seasons, Taehyung didn’t get in. The day that the rejection email arrived in his inbox was another of those turning points, a day he’ll never forget, and not for good reasons. Two days passed before Taehyung had the courage to tell his family. Seeing the disappointment cloud his father’s semblance as Taehyung told them is not something that he will ever be able to forget. It didn’t feel like he was missing a chance to accomplish his own dreams, but it did feel like he was failing to achieve his father’s. Somehow, that was even worse.

Moving to Europe, almost on the other side of the world, was an important stepping stone for Taehyung as well. It prompted not only the biggest cultural shock of his life, but also the complete disconnection with his life from before, with the Taehyung that existed in Seoul. Taehyung now lived in the Netherlands and went by Tae, much easier for non-Korean speakers to pronounce; he hadn’t stepped foot in South Korea for the last seven years, since he left when he was eighteen, feeling like a failure and so full of shame. But things have changed now. Taehyung is twenty-five, he has a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, which he likes far more than Law, and he’s proud of who he is. After getting his Master’s degree, he was able to start running his own small PR agency, working alongside rising models and TV actors. Somewhere in between all the studying and all the working, Taehyung feels like he’s found himself, and the person that he always wanted to become, even if at the time he didn’t really know.

Which is what prompts him to make another crucial decision, one that will again mark a before and after; one that he might regret, but will have consequences that he won’t be able to elude, no matter how much he tries.

He looks over his shoulder, sees the last pile of sweaters stand out in what, for the last two years, has been his wardrobe. The room looks sad as he lets his eyes wander over it, stripped of everything that once made it Taehyung’s. It doesn’t feel like his room anymore, with all of his stuff gone and packet in boxes, suitcases, bags. It looks unfamiliar and cold, and Taehyung would be lying if he didn’t admit that he’s a little sad to have to say goodbye.

At the same, as contradictory as it sounds, a part of him is excited for this. The open suitcase on top of the mattress, only half full as many of his things have already been shipped, looks like a beginning. Taehyung has plans—big plans. Plans that differ from what his family have always wanted for him, and from the life that he imagined when he was young. Plans that actually make him excited to think about, and that he genuinely feels could fulfill him.

In three long strides, Taehyung crossed the room and gets to his wardrobe, getting the pile of his sweaters. The material is soft under his hands as he takes them to the suitcase, getting a sniff of the laundry detergent that he’s been using for the last few years. He’ll miss this, too, but maybe he’ll manage to find a dupe of the scent when he’s back home, so he can at least hold on to some part of what he had here.

Home. Huh, what an odd thing to think about. Despite not having been there for so long, and even if it wasn’t the happiest place when he left, Taehyung thinks that he’ll always think of Seoul as home. He made the decision to leave, but part of his heart stayed behind, with the city that watched him grow.

Taehyung looks out the window at the pale blue skies, taking a deep breath. It’s time to say goodbye to the Netherlands. Here comes his new life.

 

 

After eleven torturously long hours on the plane, Taehyung finally gets to Incheon Airport at around nine in the evening. His stomach is growling and he’s already starting to feel his body resent the abrupt change in timezones, frowning a little. He just hopes it won’t be too hard to fall asleep tonight. He gets off his seat and picks up his hand luggage before getting aisle of the plane, unavoidably getting stuck as the passengers start to slowly pile out.

It’s a relief for him to be able to walk around a little as he waits for his other suitcase to come out. He checks his phone, sees a text from his mother who just replied to the one he sent as soon as the plane landed. We’re already here, she tells him. Taehyung smiles a little as he looks down at the screen, thinking of finally seeing his parents. He hasn’t seen his mother and sister since they came to visit him for Christmas, and now it’s June. As for his dad… well, it’s been even longer, given that he was too busy with work to travel there in December. He hasn’t seen him since last summer, so almost a whole year ago.

It feels a bit weird to be back here, but it’s not… bad, per se. Taehyung knows his way around the airport well, and so he doesn’t even bother looking at the signs once he gets the suitcase and starts heading towards the exit. He feels the tips of his fingers tingle as he approaches, biting down on his lips. He’s now in front of the door, and…

There’s always been something terribly melancholic and poetic about airport reunions. As someone who has had the luck to travel a lot during his teenage years, thanks to his family being well-off, Taehyung has experienced many of those; summer vacations with friends, going away with his mom and having his dad come pick them up when they were back. He particularly remembers being away one summer, learning English in the United States. It led to his parents and sister welcoming him at the airport, all smiley faces and agitated waves. It’s very similar to what Taehyung sees when the door opens now, only that they’re all a few years older.

Back when he was sixteen, his nine-year-old sister ran to him, attaching herself to his middle as she tried not to tear up. Taehyung had been on the verge of crying, too, crouching down to Miyoung and giving her the tightest hug. Now, Miyoung doesn’t run to him, but she smiles widely as she and his mom start walking towards Taehyung, his dad following close behind.

“Ah, my baby,” his mother says once they’re standing next to each other, going to the tips of her toes so she can hug him. Taehyung laughs a little, returning the embrace before his mother holds his head with both her hands and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “I thought this day would never come. Welcome home, Taehyung.”

“I told you it would,” Taehyung replies, unable to keep the smile off his face. He did tell her, even if at the time he wasn’t really sure if he would stick to his word. His mother knew that as well, of course, even if neither of them brought up the lack of conviction behind his words. “How’s everything been? It’s so good to see you again, mom.”

“Your sister has been keeping us busy,” she replies, as she begins to pull back. Taehyung snorts a little, giving Miyoung a pointed look. “She’s been working hard for that college admission, though.”

“I believe that,” Taehyung says, seeing his sister straight up a little. “Hug?”

Taehyung has always made sure to keep in contact with his family, even when he was away. Despite all the tension that his last year of high school generated, Taehyung has always been a family person. Maybe things with certain members of his family have been distant in recent times, but Taehyung still loves each and every one of them. He’s made sure to talk to them almost daily, with rare exceptions whenever he’s found himself without the time to have a quick call at an acceptable hour for all of them.

This year it was Miyoung’s turn to work her ass off trying to get an admission, like Taehyung did all those years ago. For that reason, Taehyung hasn’t been able to talk to her as much as he wishes he could have. Taehyung sees traces of the little girl that once hugged him so, so tightly he thought he would break after returning from America, when Miyoung launches herself in his arms.

“I missed you so much,” Miyoung mumbles, making it impossible for Taehyung to hold back a smile. “Don’t go away again for so long. I started to feel like an only child at times.”

“Oi! It’s not nice to forget about your older brother like that,” Taehyung tells her, making Miyoung laugh a little. “How’s the year been so far? Have they been pestering you?”

“Not too much. I’m surviving, let’s say,” Miyoung says, pulling back from the hug and stealing a glance at their mom as she says that. From the corner of his eye, Taehyung can see her smile. “Will be better once their focus isn’t solely on me.”

“It will pay off,” Taehyung tells her, poking the squishiest part of her cheek as she narrows her eyes at him, giving him a deadly look. Miyoung stopped liking that when she was around fourteen, but that’s not going to stop Taehyung from doing it. He swallows down then, his eyes drifting to the figure that has been standing behind his mother and sister, for the first time making eye contact. “Dad.”

“Son,” he nods, his eyes unmoving. “It’s good to see you again,” his father says, taking a step closer once Miyoung moves to the right. “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, yeah. You could say that,” Taehyung replies, allowing himself to be pulled into a hug. His father pats his back once, twice; it’s affectionate, even if their relationship hasn’t been the most solid ever since his rejection email. “I’ve missed you, dad.”

“Me too, son. Me too,” he replies. The hug only lasts for a couple more seconds after that, before his dad is letting go. He reaches for one of the suitcases that are still standing next to Taehyung, the bigger one. “Come on then. We’re parked outside.”

The ride back to their house on the outskirts of Seoul is filled with chatter, mostly from Miyoung’s side. She’s sitting in the backseat next to Taehyung, chatting his ear off about everything that crosses her mind—family drama he’s missed, how the cat nex door got lost and she found him in their garage, stuff that happened in high school, who dated who. There’s a lot of stuff that was never brought up over the phone, and that Miyoung seems to be remembering all of sudden. Taehyung is bombarded with lots of names that he hasn’t heard in a while, be it teachers that he once had or friends that Miyoung has had for years. He listens as he lets his eyes wander out the window, relieved that the landscape looks pretty much the same even if everything else seems to have changed so much.

All in all, it feels good to be home, even if Taehyung’s body is starting to suffer the consequences of jetlag. When they get back to their family house, Taehyung is shocked by all the changes they made in the entrance hall, even if his mother documented every part of the process through video calls. He guesses it looks different on camera than it does in real life. Despite all the changes and the different décor, it still feels like home to Taehyung. He decides to properly explore the house in the morning, since the rest of the evening will be spent trying to survive his first family dinner in a while, and unpacking years of clothes and memories. He has a lot of boxes that have already arrived, in addition to the two suitcases he lugged through airports. He should probably start sorting through them as soon as possible.

But that can wait. For now, he’ll have dinner with his family and let himself relish in the fact that he’s back home. What a contradiction that the place he has to call home is one he hasn’t stepped foot in for seven years now. But Miyoung still trots up the stairs far faster than she should, and his mom still leaves her shoes in the same little corner as soon as she steps inside. And maybe, despite all the time he’s been away, Taehyung can get himself used to home again.

 

 

Taehyung’s first full day back at home starts with breakfast with his mom, after his father has gone to work and his sister has left for school. The two of them catch up for a little bit, huddled over the kitchen island; his mother having her coffee as Taehyung sips on his milk. He was always told that as he grew he would slowly develop a taste for coffee, but it still hasn’t happened. Not even after waking up at six every morning for work.

“You know, your father and I are both very excited that you’re back. Miyoung too, of course, but I’ve missed you the most,” she tells him, smiling behind her bright, green ceramic mug. Taehyung gives her a small smile, nudging her shoulder. “And we’re so happy you’ve decided to come back home to settle and start your own business. You know you have our unconditional support.”

“I know I have your unconditional support,” Taehyung says then, emphasis on the pronoun. His mom’s smile falters a little. “Not his. And you know that.”

“Sweetie, your dad is so proud of you,” his mom tells him, setting the mug on the surface of the table.

Taehyung can’t help but sigh. They’ve gone over this a million times, but Taehyung is still not convinced. He doesn’t think he will ever be convinced of this. “He would be prouder if I had done things the way he planned. He wanted someone to take over the Law firm; he wanted a Kim, his son. And now that’s not going to happen, and I know he resents me for it.”

“He doesn’t resent you, Taehyung-ah,” his mother tells him, a gentle but stern expression on her face as she covers his hand with hers, much smaller. Taehyung stays silent, not knowing what to say. “It’s true your dad had… different plans in mind for your future, which wasn’t right for him to do. But now he’s come to terms with the fact that things have gone differently for you, and you’ve found your own path. He’s proud of you for it, especially since you’ve made such a name for yourself.”

“Then he should tell me,” Taehyung says, almost in a mumble. He’s looking down at their linked hands now, but he still can feel his mom’s gaze on him. “He has yet to, you know? Not even on my graduation day.”

“I’m so sorry, Taehyung. You know your father is not the best at showing affection through words,” she says, followed by a sigh. Taehyung knows, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. He’s not going to argue, though; it’s not fair for him to unload all of this on his poor mom. “He loves you.”

“I know. And I love him,” he says, meeting his mother’s eyes again. That seems to cheer her up a little, a little smile making its way to her lips. “Enough of all of this, though. I can’t wait to see the offices in person. I’ve already asked all of my employees to meet me there tomorrow.”

Wanting to have some work done before getting to Seoul, Taehyung had been looking for offices for his agency with the help of his mom and the internet. He didn’t trust just the pictures posted online, since they usually make things look far better than they actually are, but he does trust his mother’s judgement. A deal was closed less than a month ago, and now his mom has the key for them so he can start working as soon as possible. Today, he’ll give himself a free day to recover from the lengthy flight and the time difference, but after that he needs to get to work.

His attempt to change the topic works, and so his mom starts telling him all about the office and how much better it looks in person than in pictures. Taehyung watches with a fond smile as his mom gesticulates excitedly and talks to him, almost as excited as he is himself. He tucks a black strand of hair behind her ear with nimble fingers, grateful smile on her face.

The two of them can’t stay there chatting forever, and so eventually they leave and properly get dressed into something that isn’t pajamas. It’s then, when his mom is busy doing god knows what, that Taehyung starts his mission to walk around his childhood home and spot everything that might have changed. A few pictures hanging by the staircase have been replaced, after Miyoung accidentally knocked down one of a matching set of three with a ball. The corridor upstairs has been repainted, now lighter, creamier color than the one before. There are new pictures framed in the living room; Taehyung recognizes one of himself and Miyoung standing together with the Eiffel Tower in the background, taken last summer in Paris. He’s looking at that, a grin on his face, when another frame resting on the shelf catches his attention.

The smile slowly melts off Taehyung’s face as he takes in what he sees. It’s been so many years and he’s changed so much, but there’s no doubt that it’s… well, him. Taehyung takes the frame in his hand, the picture inside depicting his father and another man; a young man, almost a boy. They’re both smiley, dressed in suits, and in the background Taehyung recognizes his dad’s office at work, back at the law firm. He clenches his jaw, looking at the other man and his sharp jawline, the round bright eyes, the slope of his nose. He looks much older now, much more mature, but Taehyung doesn’t have a doubt. That, right there, is Jeon Jeongguk.

“Mom?” Taehyung calls, taking a step back and walking to the entrance of the living room, heading towards the hall. When he gets no answer, he calls again, “Mom, can you come here for a second?”

“What is it, Taehyung?” she calls, appearing at the top of the staircase. Before she has time to start walking down, Taehyung starts climbing the marble steps. “What do you have there?”

“What’s this?” Taehyung asks, handing her the frame once she’s within reach. His mother hums, taking the frame in her hands, taking a look. Her eyebrows raise when she looks at the picture.

“Well, that… That’s Jeongguk. Don’t you recognize him?” she asks, handing back the frame and giving him an inquiring look.

“I do recognize him. Which is why I’m asking,” Taehyung says, confused. “Why is there a picture of him framed in our living room? And why is he posing with dad?”

“Oh—well, of course you wouldn’t know,” his mom says, almost more to herself than to Taehyung. Taehyung arches one eyebrow. “You did mention that you and Jeongguk stopped being friends eventually, and obviously, this is a very recent thing.”

“What’s a very recent thing?” Taehyung asks, feeling a little bit more lost the more that his mother speaks. None of this makes sense to him, not at all.

“Ah, Taehyung. Jeongguk…” she says, trailing off. “He works for your dad now. At the firm.”

Now it’s time for Taehyung’s eyebrows to raise in shock. His voice sounds a little more high-pitched and strained than usual when he asks, “Jeongguk is what?”

There is a reason for his shock, and the reason is that Taehyung knew Jeongguk. Taehyung knew Jeongguk well, and never once did Jeongguk express any interest in his father’s firm, or in law itself. Jeongguk was more interested in the arts, photography and cinematography being two of his passions even since the two of them met. Never, not once, did he mention law. So now, what the fuck is he doing working for Taehyung’s dad’s firm?

“You’ll have to ask your father for more details on this over dinner. I know the story, but he can explain it better than me,” his mother says, taking one step back. Taehyung holds back the urge to jut his lips out in a pout. “I think it’s better if you discuss it with him. You know your dad was looking for a young, fresh lawyer, so…”

Yeah, the spot that was supposed to be mine, Taehyung thinks. He’s surprised that he’s so bitter, considering he’s far happier doing what he’s doing now than he would have been as a lawyer. He can’t help but feel like his father replaced him with his high school best friend. And that’s fucked up.

“I’ll ask later,” Taehyung says, with a sigh. “Thanks, mom.”

“Anytime,” she replies, before disappearing out of sight.

Taehyung sighs once again and starts walking down the stairs, getting back to the living room and leaving the picture right where he found it. He’s baffled. He’s baffled and shocked right now. But mostly, he’s full of questions that he can’t wait to find an answer to. Although, a part of him is dreading whatever answer he’ll receive.

 

 

“Do you have chewing gum?” Taehyung asks Jeongguk, who is sitting on the floor, playing a game on Taehyung’s iPad.

They were meant to do homework together, but it can wait for a while—maybe fifteen minutes. Or one hour. Jeongguk seems rather entertained, and Taehyung wouldn’t like to interrupt.

“Yeah, it’s in my bag,” Jeongguk replies, distractedly. He doesn’t raise his eyes from the screen, his fingers rapidly tapping over the screen as he keeps playing. “Can you get it? I’m busy with this.”

“Yeah, let me get it,” Taehyung replies, getting off the bed and walking to where Jeongguk left his school bag in the corner of the room.

When Taehyung drags the bag closer to him he notices how heavy it is, but he doesn’t think much of it at first—Jeongguk is two years younger than him, so he doesn’t know what they’re doing in class. Maybe he has a lot of textbooks to take home today, who knows.

He opens the zipper and starts digging inside for the gum, touching blindly with his hand. He takes Jeongguk’s pencil case outside of the backpack, trying to get things out of the way. When he fishes inside the bag again, his fingers touch something that makes him frown.

“What’s this?” he asks, earning himself an inquisitive hum from Jeongguk. When he doesn’t reply, Taehyung reaches inside and pulls the object out from the bag, surprised by what the finds, “A camera?”

Jeongguk’s reaction is immediate after Taehyung says that. “Oh, crap,” he says, leaving the iPad on top of the carpet and starting to crawl his way to Taehyung. “Yeah, uh—yeah. A camera.”

“Is this yours?” Taehyung asks, looking down at it. He’s not looking at Jeongguk, but he can still see him nod from the corner of his eye. “You didn’t tell me you had a professional camera. Since when?”

“Since September. I asked my parents for it for my birthday,” Jeongguk explains, sitting cross-legged next to Taehyung. He doesn’t try to take it away from Taehyung’s hands, but he still says, “Be careful with it, please.”

“Of course I’ll be careful, silly,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk doesn’t seem to relax next to him, shoulders still tense. “Why did you get it? I didn’t know you liked photography.”

“I—well, I’ve taken an interest in it recently,” Jeongguk tells him, Taehyung humming in reply. “It’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid! I’m sure you’re good,” Taehyung tells him, giving Jeongguk a smile and a fleeting look. Jeongguk is looking down at the camera, blushing furiously. He’s embarrassed, Taehyung can tell. “Can I see the pictures?”

“I, uh—” Jeongguk starts, interrupting himself. “I’m not really sure. You probably won’t even like them...”

“Pleaseeee,” Taehyung insists, bumping his shoulder against Jeongguk’s. “I’m your best friend. I deserve to see them.”

Jeongguk seems hesitant, but after a couple of seconds of Taehyung giving him puppy eyes, he agrees. “Fine. Let me turn it on for you,” he says, taking the camera from Taehyung’s hands and fumbling with the buttons. He watches with curious eyes as Jeongguk presses some more buttons, the gallery appearing on the small screen then. Taehyung can see a picture of some scenery then, a mountain with snow at the top.

“Maybe you can take pictures of me some time,” Taehyung suggests as he takes the camera back, smiling cheekily at Jeongguk.

“Yeah, maybe. We’ll see,” Jeongguk says, still shy. He does his best to huff out a laugh as he reaches up with his hand to scratch the back of his head, which is how Taehyung can tell he’s still very much shy.

Taehyung smiles softly at him, taking in the dusty pink that covers Jeongguk’s cheeks. He lets himself stare for a fraction of a second, and then returns his attention back to the images displayed on the screen of the camera.

 

 

“Dad, I have a question,” Taehyung announces that night over dinner, when the four of them are sitting at the table. He’s sitting across from his sister, with his dad to his right and his mom to his left. Upon hearing him, his father hums as he reaches for his napkin, inviting him to continue. “Does Jeongguk work for you now?”

“Ah, Jeongguk,” his dad replies, a smile instantly spreading across his face as he says that. Taehyung tries his best to keep a poker face, not showing the skepticism that he feels upon his dad’s unexpected reaction. “He does. As soon as he graduated, he applied for an internship with the firm, and upon recognizing his name from when the two of you were friends, I took him on. His hard-work and ambition are remarkable, so as soon as his internship was complete, I offered him a permanent spot in the firm.”

“Wow, that’s—shocking to say the least. Didn’t expect that of him,” Taehyung says, still having a lot of questions. “You two seem to get on really way.”

“What can I say? I always liked Jeongguk, even when he used to hang around the house,” he says. Jeongguk always got along with his parents, yeah, but it was never anything too… excessive. They were polite, cordial. That’s it. “Upon getting to know him, I have come to trust him and his instinct for this job. I think of him as my successor in the firm, despite being very new at it. He has a knack for it, a good brain on him.”

Something about those words feel like a slap to Taehyung’s face, having to lower his eyes, looking down at his food. He clears his throat, adds, “I never knew he was interested in law. He never mentioned it.”

“Must have been a change of heart after you left then,” his father replies. “I’m glad he discovered that new passion of his. He’s a brilliant civil lawyer—ruthless when he needs to be, but also human enough to connect with people. He got into your dream college, did you know that? As you failed to do so.”

What hurts the most is hearing him say those last words so casually, as if kicking Taehyung down just came naturally to him.

Taehyung tenses up then, feeling his sister’s eyes lift from her own plate to check for his reaction. Taehyung’s lips part, but before he says anything he might regret he forces himself to calm down, take a deep breath. When he does speak, he says, “Dad, that’s a jab.”

“Not as much a jab as it is a fact,” his father replies. Taehyung swallows down again, feeling his stomach close up and his appetite vanish. At this point, seven years later, he thought they were over this. Looks like they’re not.

The atmosphere at the dinner table changes after that. Things are… quieter, more tense. Taehyung doesn’t feel like speaking much—most of what he has to talk about these days is related to his work, to the agency, and after what his father has just said he doesn’t want to discuss the topic. Bringing it up might cause him to make another unnecessary remark that might dampen his mood even more, and he’s… not ready for that. Tomorrow he has a big day ahead of him and he doesn’t need anyone ruining it.

Once they’re all finished he excuses himself from the table, taking his plate, cutlery and glass with him to the kitchen. His sister mumbles a rushed apology and leaves as well, following Taehyung and taking her own dish. The two of them load the dishwasher in silence, and when Taehyung turns around to leave, Miyoung asks, “Can I go to your room?”

“Yeah—of course you can,” Taehyung says, watching a small smile spread on his sister’s face. “Everything okay?”

“With me, yeah,” she says, as the two of them head to the staircase and start climbing up it. “How about you, though? Are you okay?”

Taehyung takes a deep breath, saying, “I’m fine. I’m used to it. It’s always going to be this way, so…”

“You don’t deserve that,” Miyoung says, Taehyung just shrugging his shoulders as they finally reach the first floor. “He’ll come around eventually. And then, you better make him apologize a lot before you forgive him.”

Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head as he pushes the door to his room open. “You know I’m not like that. And I’m not angry at him or anything. I’m just that used to it.”

“But he makes you upset,” she points out, walking inside and heading towards the bed. She turns around and, before sitting down on the edge of the mattress, says, “I take it you’re surprised about Jeongguk.”

“Really surprised, yeah,” Taehyung admits, following his sister and sitting on the bed next to her. “They seem weirdly close, too. That’s… well, it’s unexpected given he knew about mine and dad’s relationship not being perfect.”

“Jeongguk’s around here a lot. Dad seems to trust him and he’s always coming over for dinner,” Miyoung explains. Taehyung nods; his father always brought people from work over for dinner, so this isn’t a surprise. “He’s nice. He says he’ll always see me as a kid, which isn’t that nice. All of my friends have crushes on him.”

“And you?” Taehyung asks, arching one eyebrow at her.

“Please, I went through that phase when I was eight years old. Jeongguk is old news for me,” she jokes around, waving her hand in a dismissive manner. Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head. “Are you… are you mad about Jeongguk being around?”

Taehyung takes one second to reply, because he honestly doesn’t know. There’s something about all of this that… well, doesn’t sit well with him. On one side, there’s Jeongguk deciding on a path that Taehyung had no idea he’d take, which makes him wonder how much more he didn’t know about his best friend. Then, there’s the fact that his father seems far happier to be around Jeongguk than around him, his own son. Jeongguk is living the life that Taehyung was meant to have—Law at SNU, working at his dad’s firm, having him be proud of him, doting. Taehyung can’t help but feel a little humiliated, knowing that not only did someone else take his spot, but that it was none other than his best friend.

He’s… sad, but he’s not mad.

“I’m not,” Taehyung says, watching Miyoung nod. “I’m glad dad found his successor. It couldn’t have been me, and it’s definitely not going to be you, future doctor Kim.”

Miyoung laughs at that, letting herself flop back onto the bed with a sigh. Taehyung smiles tight-lipped, trying to keep all thoughts about Jeongguk, his dad and the stupid law firm away from his mind. The more he thinks about them, the more he’ll obsess. It’s a never-ending cycle, one he doesn’t need, much less right now.

Tomorrow. It’s a big day tomorrow. And he won’t let anyone—not Jeongguk, not his father—dampen that for him.

 

 

Taehyung drives to the office the following morning in his mother’s car, the keys safely tucked away in his pocket. He can’t deny that he’s a little nervous to meet everyone—he’s been conducting interviews over Skype, and right now he’s pretty confident on the team that he’s built for himself. Most of them are young people, similar in age to him. After the interviews, Taehyung knows that the reason why they’re applying to a brand-new agency is because hierarchy and their little experience in comparison to older people make it hard for them to progress in already-established companies. That lack of experience doesn’t worry Taehyung too much—he’s confident in the people he’s picked, and he’s excited to chip away at his new employees, unearthing their talents and strengths. The people he chose all possessed ambition and seemed excitable in a way that could take his agency in a more youthful, bubbly direction, with fresh, young talent. He has their curriculums, knows about their results during their exams and whatever internships they’ve taken. It’s a young team, but one he believes in.

He’s more worried about being able to do the boss role, to be fair. He had his own PR agency in the Netherlands, yeah, but it wasn’t anything as ambitious as this. He worked with a friend from class and they represented a couple of models; it made enough for him to pay his rent and expenses without his parents’ help, but that’s it. This project is much bigger, and it’s one that once again he is financing with his parents’ wealth. He doesn’t let himself think about the possibility of it not working out, though, because that’s not going to happen. Just like he conducted interviews for employees, he conducted interviews for potential clients as well. Of course, there are no big names yet. His agency hasn’t even started yet. But that’s about to change.

He forces all of these thoughts out of his head when he finally reaches the office, lucky enough to have found a spot right next to the building.  He parks, turns the engine off and takes a deep breath. He’s got this under control. He can do this. And with that, he pulls the door open and gets to the street.

He’s the first one to arrive, as it was to be expected—there’s still twenty minutes until his employees are bound to arrive. It gives him enough time to work around, become familiar with the headquarters of his new agency. His mom was right: it looks even better in person. There are two separate offices, one for himself and one for the account manager. The rest of his employees have individual desks in the main office space, a luminous and open space that he hopes everyone will be happy with.

He and his mom did a great job with this, even if he had to do so from afar. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip and heads towards the break room and the bathrooms, making sure that everything is perfect, ready for his employees. As it was to be expected, his mom took care of… well, absolutely everything. Taehyung won’t ever be able to thank her enough for all the work and time she has put into this place, all the while taking care of her own work and their family.

After that, all he has left to do is wait until everyone arrives. Luckily for him, his employees all seem to be timely, so everyone arrives within minutes of each other. Taehyung greets all of them warmly and with smiles as wide as he can manage, allowing them all to introduce themselves before he starts showing them around. Much to his relief, they all seem to be reacting positively, which lifts a heavy weight off his shoulders. There’s nothing worse than hating the place where you work; Taehyung went through that when he did his own unpaid internship.

After showing them all around, Taehyung gathers them all in the main office area and addresses everyone once again.

“We’ll be starting on Monday, at nine in the morning. Everyone was on time here today, so let’s keep up the punctuality,” he says, earning himself a few smiles from the small crowd in front of him. He heads to the desktop behind him, connected to a projector, and with his hand, gestures to the image projected on the wall by his left. “I think it’s only fair I introduce you all to our clients already, though. We’re only getting started now and as you can see we’re a small team, so we won’t be representing a lot of people as of now. Daehyun—would you mind shutting the blinds, please?”

“Of course, Mr. Kim,” the guy replies, reaching to his right and shutting the blinds of the window behind him. The room doesn’t go completely dark, but enough for the image projected on the wall to become clear.

“Just call me Taehyung. Bit of a cliché thing to say, but Mr. Kim is my dad,” he replies, making a couple of the employees laugh lightly. As he opens one of the files in the USB he’s attached to the computer, he says, “So… let’s see. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the Korean hip-hop scene, but that’s where our first client will be taking us. His name is Jung Hoseok and he’s a solo rapper. He comes from a small entertainment company and has had a very surprisingly successful debut, so his management is looking for someone to handle PR for them.”

There are murmurs between the employees after that, Taehyung looking to see the picture projected. He had never heard of Hoseok before, but the truth is that he had become disconnected from the music here while he was abroad. A couple of his employees seem to recognize him, a couple of them looking at the wall with bright eyes.

“Next up, we have Ha Sooyoung,” Taehyung announces, the picture changing to one of a young girl. “She’s a beauty and lifestyle blogger who does some modelling on the side. She’s been building a brand for herself and thinks it would be wise to let professionals handle her public relations from now on, so that’s where we step in.”

“She’s so pretty,” Taehyung hears a girl, Eunae, whisper. He smiles, but makes no comment on it.

“Then we have… Bohyun, he’s an actor. He’s about to debut with his first leading role in a drama next month,” Taehyung indicates, before switching to the last picture. “And lastly, Jihee. She’s a model as well, and has been gaining a lot of popularity after some very successful campaigns. You might recognize her since there are pictures of her advertising contact lenses plastered all over Seoul.” There’s the rumble of low laughter, Taehyung smiling before he adds, “Any questions?”

“Yeah, me,” a girl called Mina says, raising her hand. “Is there anything we should do over the weekend to prepare?”

“You’re all free. I’ll prepare whatever is needed and tell you all what you need to do when Monday comes, so no worries until then. Seize your last weekend of freedom,” he says. Mina nods, grinning a little. “Anything else?” No one says anything after that, so Taehyung adds, “Great, then. Jimin—I would like to speak to you for a second, but everyone else may leave now. See you on Monday and have a nice weekend!”

The crowd starts dissipating then, all of them walking to the door and leaving as one guy stays behind. Taehyung turns the projector and the desktop off before approaching Jimin, his account manager. From his curriculum, Taehyung knows that Jimin is the same age as him and has a very impressive resumé, having worked in the local headquarter for the multinational company Edelman. His appearance is much less intimidating than his curriculum, though—he’s a bit shorter than Taehyung, has plush lips turned into a kind grin and the brightest eye-smile Taehyung has seen.

“Did you need me for anything, Mr—” he stops himself before even finishing. “Taehyung.”

“Much better,” Taehyung says, the two of them sharing a grin. “I wanted to give you the keys, both for the headquarters as a whole and for your personal office,” Taehyung says, handing him a set of keys.

“Oh! Thank you,” Jimin says, taking them and putting the set in his own pocket. “I was actually gonna ask if it was okay for me to come a bit earlier on Monday to bring my stuff, but this solves that…”

“You can come any time. I’ll probably be here at around eight-thirty since I have some stuff I need to bring along, too,” Taehyung says. “I was surprised when I saw how impressive your resumé is for someone so young. I’m really happy to have you on board with us.”

“Ah, please. I’m happy you’ve given me this chance. This is probably higher than I could have ever gotten at my old job before becoming forty, so it’s me who has to thank you,” Jimin says, tilting his head to the right. “I’m so excited to start working with you. Plus, you seem like a far better boss than the ones I had back at Edelman, so…”

Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head a little. “Actually, one of my goals is to never become the asshole boss I had back when I did my first internship. I’m aiming to have a happy workplace. Well, as happy as one can be at work, you know,” Taehyung says.

“That’s good to hear. I’ll keep you on your toes, make sure you don’t end up becoming a tyrant along the way,” Jimin says, again making Taehyung let out a low chuckle. “I was wondering, since it’s lunchtime—would you like to grab something to eat? Maybe it would be a good idea to get to know each other a bit beforehand.”

“That actually sounds great, yeah,” Taehyung agrees, with a nod. He gestures towards the door with his arms, saying, “After you.”

Despite trying to be approachable and close to his employees, Taehyung also tried his best to put a respectful distance between himself and them in that first meeting. That will seems to disappear when he and Jimin are left alone, both walking to a restaurant only two streets ago. They do indeed try to get to know each other a little bit over the course of lunch, starting to feel more like two people becoming friends rather than boss and subordinate. Taehyung finds out Jimin is from Busan but moved here, to Seoul, for college; in exchange, Taehyung tells him about how he went to study abroad.

“And how come you’re back here now?” Jimin asks, one of his cheeks squished against his palm. “I mean—you said you were doing fine in the Netherlands, right? Why the sudden change?”

“I don’t know. I guess that I ended up missing it here, despite how much I wanted to be away when I left. Home is where the heart is, huh?” Taehyung says, shrugging his shoulders.

“Nostalgia does to a person. I personally miss the sea every single day. But going back to Busan is far easier than coming back to Seoul from Europe,” Jimin points out.

“I could have come back, honestly. Even if it was to visit. I never did when I was away, and fuck, it was seven years,” Taehyung confesses, getting an aghast look from Jimin. “But I didn’t feel ready back then. Not until this year, when I realized that I could finally be the person who I wanted to be. It’s a bit complicated to explain—far too sad for our second conversation over lunch.”

Jimin snorts at that, covering his mouth with his palm before saying, “It’s fine, no pressure. Certain things shouldn’t be brought up at least until we’ve known each other for what, I don’t know, a week.”

All in all, Taehyung and Jimin hit it off well. They stay talking in the restaurant long after they’ve finished their food, until they feel like they’ve probably overstayed their welcome there. Jimin walks him to the car, and the two of them agree to meet over the weekend for drinks—Taehyung hasn’t been doing well at keeping in touch with people from his younger years, so he needs a friend in Seoul. And Jimin, right now, is looking like the perfect friend.

The two of them part ways, and Taehyung then starts driving home. That went well, if you ask him—even better than he was anticipating. Taehyung has a feeling that things are going well for him at last. It was about time he got some good luck on his side.

 

 

Loyal to their word, Taehyung and Jimin end up meeting over the weekend for a drink. Saturday night finds them both in a bar that Jimin suggested, since after so many years away, Taehyung isn’t familiar with the Seoul night scene. The bar is lovely, though—they’re sitting at a low table, each one of them having a cocktail. There’s soft music playing in the background and the lights are dimmed, giving it an intimate atmosphere that Taehyung really appreciates. He leans back against his seat and lets himself enjoy Jimin’s company, conversation flowing easily between the two of them.

Taehyung is sitting facing the entrance of the bar, opposite Jimin. Like this, he can see the people who enter the place, even if he doesn’t pay much attention to them. That is, until he sees a very familiar face walk past the tall glass window, his heartbeat stopping for a second.

He doesn’t know what he’d rather—for him to walk past the door or for him to turn left, entering the bar. He’s unsure, and he’s still hesitant on whether it’s a blessing or a curse when he comes in, accompanied by a blonde guy who is a bit shorter than him, both dressed in expensive-looking yet casual clothes. He takes a step closer, and yes, there’s no doubt about it now. That’s definitely Jeongguk.

Taehyung straightens up in his seat then. He’s right across from him, so Jeongguk is for sure going to see him. Seeing no point in trying to pretend he didn’t see them, Taehyung lets his eyes wander to Jeongguk’s face. It’s then that he looks to the left a little, his eyes falling on Taehyung’s as he approaches, making eye contact. Taehyung is about to raise his arm and wave, smile and maybe stand up to greet Jeongguk with a hug, but then—

Jeongguk walks past him without giving him more than a glance, no glisten of recognition or familiarity in his eyes. He walks past Taehyung as one would walk past a stranger on the street, without even looking like he’s giving a second thought about who he might be.

What a fucking prick

“You okay there?” Jimin asks, bringing Taehyung back to reality. Only then does he realize he’s been ignoring what Jimin was telling him, feeling a pang of guilt. “Who was that?”

Taehyung is about to reply that the guy who just walked past them and didn’t even stop to greet him, was his best friend for years. But the truth is that Jimin doesn’t need to know all the intricate and stupid details of his sad life, not yet. Taehyung doesn’t feel like telling him or anyone, because this, in all honesty, feels like a stab wound. Knowing that his best friend either forgot about him or pretended to not recognize him.

“Just someone I knew from high school,” Taehyung says, which isn’t entirely a lie. At some point, Jeongguk was his best friend. But now? Well, now they’re not anything. Just two people who happened to know each other at some point in their lives, but that’s long gone now. Now they’re different people, and they definitely aren’t best friends.

“And he didn’t even say hi? What a fucking asshole,” Jimin says, making Taehyung laugh as he takes a sip of his cocktail, almost choking on it.

If he didn’t remember him, then it doesn’t matter. And if he purposefully ignored, then, well… he honestly doesn’t deserve to have Taehyung think about it anymore.

 

 

“I’m telling you, Seokjin,” Taehyung talks into the phone, squeezing it against his cheek and shoulder as he taps the code in for getting the door open. He’s coming back from doing some shopping so the amount of bags he’s carrying makes it hard for him to get the door open. “I was at a bar yesterday with a friend from work and I saw him. And he didn’t even say hi to me. Years of friendship, for what? For him to not even greet me?”

Maybe he didn’t recognize you, Tae. You’ve changed quite a lot,” Seokjin tells him. Taehyung scoffs.

“I really haven’t,” he says, pushing the door open with his foot and holding the phone with his left hand again. It’s either sacrificing the blood circulation of the fingers in his right hand or dealing with a neckache for days for trying to hold the phone up, so he’ll go with the first. “Maybe he’s just an asshole. Are you even friends with him still?”

Well, yes,” Seokjin confesses. Taehyung grumbles. “Jeongguk wouldn’t do that. You know him.”

“I knew him,” Taehyung corrects. He can practically hear Seokjin rolling his eyes at him. “And I’m not so sure about that. He’s already snatched my dad from me, so…”

Snatched your—Tae, what are you talking about?” Seokjin asks, sounding confused.

Taehyung huffs, walking towards the living room to greet his family before taking his shopping to his room. The lights are on, so someone must be in there for sure. “I need to go now, but I’ll fill you in soon. You’ll see how he’s a bitch.”

Sure thing, Tae,” Seokjin says, sounding not very convinced. “Take care, yeah? We must meet up soon.

“For sure,” Taehyung replies. “Talk later, hyung.”

Taehyung hangs up then, sighing before making his way to the living room. Seems like no one can see the evil surrounding Jeongguk other than him, huh? It’s fine. He will manage to make others see.

“I’m home!” he announces, about to step in.

“Come here, Taehyung,” his mom calls. “You’ll be delighted to see who’s in here.”

And that intrigues Taehyung, it really does. He hurries towards the living room, now carrying bags in both his hands, with high expectations of who’s visiting. He was already smiling, hoping to maybe see his grandparents who came to visit from Daegu upon hearing he was back in Seoul. However, the smile slowly starts to melt off his face as soon as he walks into the living room and sees who really is there.

Because that’s not his grandparents. That, sitting on his couch, right next to his dad’s armchair, is the last person he wants to see right now. He’s already looking in the direction of the door with a small, very practiced smile. The same person from the picture, the same person from yesterday.

“So it really was you at the bar yesterday then. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he says. Taehyung clenches his jaw.

“Long time no see, Jeongguk.”

 

Chapter Text

Taehyung just stands there, bags hanging from each of his hands as he holds Jeongguk’s gaze for the first time in seven years. Seeing him in pictures is one thing, making fleeting eye contact for a second in a dark bar is another. But this, having him in his living room, both starting at each other as dead silence fills the room? That’s something else completely. It’s uncomfortable, it’s tense, and Taehyung is more affected by this than he should be. His chest tightens, for reasons he has trouble understanding himself.

“Joohyuk, could you come to the kitchen for a moment?” his mom speaks then, breaking the silence that has reigned between the four of them. Taehyung can see the surprised expression on his dad’s look, as well as the pointed look that his mom gives him. She insists, “Come on.”

Even if his dad doesn’t understand his mom’s intention to leave Taehyung and Jeongguk alone, he still obeys and gets up from the couch, walking to the kitchen without more protests. Taehyung drops the bags on the floor then, gently, before he starts to shed off his coat.

“I’ll say, I’m surprised to see you here,” Taehyung starts commenting then, taking a step closer to the sitting area and leaving his coat on the back of an armchair across from Jeongguk. Jeongguk is still holding his gaze, eyebrow cocked up. Taehyung hates the expression—it’s so unlike the Jeongguk he knows.

“I’d say it’s more surprising to see you here. Over the past year, I’ve spent far more time in this house than you have,” Jeongguk replies, making Taehyung take a deep breath then. Jeongguk’s voice hasn’t changed much since he was sixteen. It’s a bit lower, but there’s nothing too dramatic to how it sounds. What’s different is his tone, maybe even the intention behind his words. “So it’s true.”

“What is, exactly?” Taehyung asks, crossing his arms over his chest. He has studied enough body language in business to know it’s a defensive gesture, but he doesn’t care. Jeongguk probably knows as well, given what he’s doing here right now, so he’ll probably get the message. Good. Loud and clear.

“That you’re back,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung keeps a blank expression. “I’ve heard, you know. Seokjin told me but I couldn’t believe it. We all thought you’d never come back,” Jeongguk carries on. He doesn’t sound particularly cold or hostile. It doesn’t sound like he’s holding it against him, or like he’s blaming him for anything. Despite that, Taehyung can’t help but clench his jaw tightly, swallowing down.

“Well, I’m indeed back,” he says. There’s a pause after that, Jeongguk’s eyes still boring into his. He hasn’t moved from the couch, hasn’t stood to greet Taehyung with a bow or a hug. Taehyung uncrosses his arms, resting both of his palms against the armchair as he says, “Surprise.”

“Ever since I got word of you coming back, I thought about asking your dad. I was scared to bring it up, since I know it’s a sensitive topic for him,” Jeongguk carries on. “But he didn’t mention it until today, when your mother said you’d be coming back shortly and that maybe I’d like to see you.”

“That comes as no surprise. My dad doesn’t talk about me often. We all know that,” Taehyung huffs, earning himself another raised eyebrow from Jeongguk. He doesn’t know this for sure, but he can imagine—why would he? Before, when he was in high school, his father always used to brag to his friends about how his son would study Law at SNU, become his successor at the firm. What’s there to brag about now? His father has no reason to talk about him. “Can’t say the same about you, though.”

“That’s flattering to hear,” Jeongguk says, earning himself a tight-lipped and fake smile from Taehyung.

Taehyung isn’t sure what prompts him to say what he says next. Maybe it’s the fact that these thoughts have been circling in his head ever since he found the picture of Jeongguk and his father framed, and found out what kind of relationship existed between them. Maybe it’s because Taehyung has spent days without an end, thinking about what would have happened if he had done things differently, and he had followed the plan his family carved out for him all those years ago. Would he be working at the firm now? Would he be a good lawyer? Would he be the son his father had always wanted?

For that reason, because his mind has been in a turmoil of hypotheticals and what ifs, Taehyung can’t help but blurt out, “So when were you going to tell me you stole my dream college from me?”

Jeongguk’s eyebrows shoot up then, seemingly shocked by the words that have just left Taehyung’s mouth. He takes a couple of seconds to process them, but he doesn’t waste any time before he says, “I didn’t steal anything from you, Taehyung. How does me getting into SNU two years after your attempt mean I stole it from you?”

“Not just the college,” Taehyung replies, not backing down. Jeongguk is refusing to see the point. “The life. You know the spot you have right now was reserved for me. You know I was meant to do what you’re doing, what you’ve been doing all this time. Step by step. That was the life they designed for me, and you knew that.”

“I know it was, but you left, Taehyung. You ran away to Europe, and the moment you made that decision, this life stopped being yours. That spot at your father’s firm stopped being yours. That entire plan wasn’t for you anymore; you didn’t want it,” Jeongguk says, now standing up and facing Taehyung. Much to Taehyung’s relief, Jeongguk hasn’t grown taller than him in the years they’ve been apart. They’re around the same height now. “I discovered I liked Law and was pretty good at it. I saw your dad’s firm in the list of internships my college gave me, and I applied because I know his firm is the best in Seoul. He was looking for someone, and I did the best job out of all the interns, and so he picked me. It’s not a conspiracy theory against you, Taehyung. It had nothing to do with you.”

Taehyung laughs bitterly. “I didn’t run away from anything, Jeongguk. What was I meant to do? Stay here and deal with the disappointment in his eyes every single day for the rest of my life?” he scoffs, forcing himself to not look away. “I could never have done the things I wanted to do under his disappointed gaze.”

“You didn’t have to suddenly vanish, disappear on all of us,” Jeongguk argues. “On me,” he whispers, shaking his head. “You could have kept in touch.”

“That isn’t just on me, you know,” Taehyung says, his brows furrowing as he replies. “When you were free, I was in class. When I was free, you were sleeping. What was I supposed to do? I did my best to keep in touch with you and everyone else, but timezones weren’t in our favor. I did what I could with the time I had.”

“If you really wanted to, we could have found a way,” Jeongguk accuses. “But you didn’t. Was it easier to start a new life and pretend the one you had back here never existed, Taehyung? Was it easier to forget about all of us? About me?”

Jeongguk has changed a lot in seven years. Physically, he has grown taller, wider; he has grown into his features, his nose now fitting his face better than it used to. Most of the baby fat of his cheeks, that Taehyung was once obsessed with, is gone now, but he can see some squish left. As for the rest of him… Taehyung doesn’t know Jeongguk anymore. He doesn’t recognize the man standing before him. And even if he can’t point out what exactly has changed, the fact that Taehyung doesn’t recognize the Jeongguk he’s become, is all the proof that he needs. He’s changed, and Taehyung isn’t sure if he likes it.

He can’t read him anymore, which is surprising considering Jeongguk was once like an open book to him. He doesn’t know if he’s angry, if he’s hurt or upset, or if he’s just indifferent to this entire run-in. Jeongguk used to wear his heart on his sleeve, but now he looks more straight-cut and composed. He looks perfectly put together, even as they discuss this. Taehyung doesn’t know what to think anymore.

“That is not what—”

He starts, but his words are interrupted when there’s a soft knock on the door leading to the kitchen, and then the handle starts moving. They both straighten up when they notice, turning towards the door at the same time to see Taehyung’s mother and father appear. His dad carries a china teapot; his mother a tray with the matching teacups and plates.

“Would you two like a tea?” his mother asks.

Taehyung was raised to do the polite thing, to always be appropriate and make a good impression. Whenever his parents took him and his sister anywhere, be it to a restaurant or to friends’ houses, they always received compliments on how well-behaved the two of them were. Taehyung knows that the polite thing to do when he’s offered a tea is to accept, even if he’s not really in the mood for it.

But when Taehyung went to Europe he freed himself of a lot of those rules. And even if he wouldn’t say that he has turned impolite, he definitely has turned into someone who won’t subject himself to a situation he knows he’ll be uncomfortable in.

“Thanks a lot mom, but I’m gonna have to decline,” he says, picking up his coat from the armchair. He takes a step back, picks up the bags from the floor, and says, “I’ll see you at dinner,” addressing his parents. Then, his eyes drift to Jeongguk’s and he says, “It was lovely seeing you again after so many years, Jeongguk.”

And with that, not waiting for a reply, Taehyung spins around on his heels and leaves the room.

 

 

No matter how much he promised himself that he wouldn’t let his dad, Jeongguk, or anyone ruin these coming days for him, Taehyung turns up at work on Monday in a sour mood. He tries his best to push it away, force a smile and order everyone around politely. He thinks he’s doing a good job since the atmosphere at the office is friendly and not at all affected by the ugly feeling that settles at the bottom of his stomach.

But even if he manages to fool most of them, there’s someone who doesn’t buy the happy act. Taehyung is back in his office, sitting behind his desk, when he hears a knock on the glass door. Looking up, he sees Jimin on the other side of it.

“Come in,” he calls, wondering the reason behind his visit.

“Good morning, Taehyung,” Jimin greets him again, for the second time this morning.

“Good morning, Jimin,” Taehyung says back, straightening a little in his seat and gesturing at the chair in front of him, inviting Jimin in. “Sit down, please. Is there anything wrong? Need any help?”

“Oh, no, no, no,” Jimin rushes to reply as he takes a seat, vigorously gesturing with his hands. “There’s nothing wrong—well, not with me or with the job. Nor with anyone else. I just… maybe it’s invasive of me since I realize that we haven’t known each other for long and maybe you don’t consider us friends yet, but… you seem a little off. So I wanted to ask if everything was okay.”

“Oh!” Taehyung says, eyebrows shooting up. It comes as a surprise to him that Jimin has caught onto his change in mood. “Well, that’s—I didn’t think you’d notice. It’s just that I’ve had a… stressful weekend, to say the least.”

Jimin nods then, sitting back a little. “I won’t ask what, since I don’t want to seem pressuring or invasive,” Jimin says. “But I know you mentioned you don’t have a lot of friends since moving back to Seoul, nor people to talk to outside of your family, so… if you ever need someone, or a helping hand and someone to listen to you, I’m here. And I’ll be happy to help.”

Taehyung lets a wide, bright smile spread across his face as he listens to the words. Jimin was right earlier, they haven’t known each other for very long, but that won’t stop Taehyung from considering them friends. Maybe not long-term friends, of course, but Taehyung has a good feeling about this and how things have gone with Jimin so far. He seems reliable, trustworthy. It makes Taehyung not only think that it will lead to a great friendship, but also makes him feel like he could be someone to confide in. And… well, maybe he hasn’t known Jimin for long. Maybe he has always been wary of people who overshare with strangers, but Taehyung feels lonely. He and Seokjin can’t seem to arrange a time to meet, and Seungjin has barely had time to talk these days. Everyone else seems to be in love with Jeongguk, so it leaves very few options.

Maybe that’s exactly what pushes Taehyung to spill, right there and then. Maybe it’s loneliness, maybe the fact that he trusts Jimin, maybe a combination of the two. Whatever it is, he ends up telling Jimin everything—from the failure of getting into SNU, to the run-in last night at the parents. And he makes sure to mention how frustrated he feels, how he feels betrayed, and how he can’t stop feeling like his dad replaced him with his high school best friend. His fucking best friend.

“Oh, Taehyung,” Jimin tells him, giving him an empathetic look as he covers Taehyung’s hand with his smaller one. “Come here. You could do with a hug right now.”

Taehyung hasn’t known Jimin for long, no. But the moment Jimin pulls him in for a hug, one of the tightest and most comforting ones Taehyung has ever received, Taehyung just knows. He knows he’s going to become one of the best friends and the support he needs in his life.

 

 

Living with his parents has its perks, like not having to worry about paying rent or bills. It also means not having to cook everything by himself, even if he usually tries to help his mother as much as he can. However, after living alone for seven years, Taehyung got a bit too used to having his own space. Don’t get him wrong—he loves his family. He loves spending time with them. But after a week or so, and no matter how big the house is, it starts to get a little claustrophobic. Taehyung wants his independence back.

That was the plan all along, after all. He would come back here and only live with his parents until he finally had a place for himself. Once things were properly settled with the agency and he had some free time, he would start house hunting. So now it’s time to stick to that part of the plan.

He says as much to his mother one morning over breakfast, while she reads the news on her tablet. She adjusts her glasses on the bridge of her nose, looking up from the screen as he says, “Repeat that for me, sweetie?”

“I said, I think I’m gonna start looking for places soon,” Taehyung says, holding his glass of warm chocolate milk between his hands. “So I can move out of here. I’m just too stressed to go searching for something on my own.”

“I can help if you need,” his mother volunteers. “I can ask Soojoung to take over for a few—”

“No way, mom. You’ve already done more than enough for me during these last few months. I can’t keep relying on you for everything,” he says, earning himself a fond look from his mom. He did this on his own before when he was looking for apartments back in Maastricht. He can do it again, can’t he? All he needs to do is organize himself. “I’ll try to get in touch with some real estate agents. I’ll obviously ask for your opinion before doing anything, but I won’t bug you with having to find places for me.”

“You don’t ever ‘bug’ me,” his mom clarifies, before saying anything else. Taehyung rolls his eyes fondly, not surprised that she corrected him on that. “But that’s fine with me, Taehyung-ah. Any ideas of who you’re going to ask for help?”

“No clue,” Taehyung admits. He’s never looked for places in Seoul, so he doesn’t really know who to go to right now. “I’ll have a Google later.”

“Will you let me give you a recommendation, at least?” she asks, locking the iPad and leaving it on the surface of the table. She holds the spoon between her index and thumb, stirring her coffee as Taehyung nods. “Jang Miyeon.”

The name rings a bell in Taehyung’s mind, frowning as he tries to remember where he knows it from. “Jang Miyeon?” he asks, the words tasting familiar on his lips. The lightbulb lights up then, quickly adding, “Wait, isn’t that—”

“Jeongguk’s mother,” she interrupts. Taehyung nods. She smiles before continuing. “She’s the best estate agent that I know, and it helps that she’s a family friend. She’ll find you exactly what you want and need, and maybe even a gem that hasn’t hit the market yet. After all, our families have always been close. I’m sure she’d pull some strings to find you the best.”

Taehyung is about to reply that they’re not close anymore, but then he stops himself. Their families are still close apparently. It’s just Taehyung who seems to have drifted apart, but the rest of them seem to be as close as they were when Taehyung left. Maybe even closer now.

“I’m not sure, mom,” Taehyung starts, hesitant. He’s not too sure he wants to do this with Jeongguk’s mother. Nothing against her, of course—he’s had no problems with Mrs. Jang. The only problem would be that he’s trying to keep as far away from Jeongguk as he can, for his own sanity.

“Why not?” his mother asks, arching one eyebrow at him. Taehyung presses his lips together into a thin line, knowing that his mom is onto him. Of course, as usual, she can see right through him. “She’s good at what she does, and she won’t involve herself in that little feud you and Jeongguk seem to have going on now.”

Taehyung groans at that, not wanting to get into detail with all of this with his mom. Of course she would notice, even if he’s been keeping his mouth shut about Jeongguk. The tension the other day was palpable, and his rejection of having tea with the three of them was probably telling. Someone else could have missed it, but this is his mother they’re talking about. There’s nothing like a mother’s instinct, after all.

“There’s no feud. We just grew apart over the years,” Taehyung says, not completely a lie. The truth is, Jeongguk and he just… stopped being friends, easy as that. There wasn’t a big falling out, or an argument that they could blame the end of their friendship on. Working around time differences and college and high school responsibilities was hard; they both had other friends in real life, as well as more stuff going on in their lives. It was hard to keep the friendship alive like that.

“You could try to reduce that distance now, or you could make it even bigger,” his mother says, taking the tablet back in her hands and unlocking it with the pad of her finger. Taehyung stays quiet at that, not telling her that he feels like the choice has already been made. And it’s not one she will likely agree with. “Will you contact Miyeon then?”

“I’ll see,” Taehyung says, not too sure. He’s yet to decide whether that’s a good idea or not. Maybe it won’t have any impact in the ways he fears it will, but Taehyung is sure that Mrs. Jang would tell Jeongguk if Taehyung contacted her looking for a place. It would be the normal thing to do, considering how close they once were.

“As you wish, Taehyungie,” his mom says, interrupting herself to take a sip of coffee. After swallowing, she adds, “I’m just telling you she’s the best.”

Taehyung sighs. The best. He’s always liked the best, but… well, maybe this time he’ll be willing to make an exception. Anything as long as he doesn’t have to deal with Jeongguk.

 

 

 

As the week progresses, Taehyung finally realizes it’s time to sort his shit together and stop delaying his meet up with Seokjin. There’s no point in staying in his room sulking about feeling lonely, then never making the effort to make their schedules match up. On Wednesday evening he messages him and, after rescheduling something he was meant to do the next evening, they finally agree to meet for a drink on Thursday.

Meeting up again with Seokjin is not any less weird than meeting with Jeongguk, only that there’s a lot less tension. At least he and Seokjin have been talking on the phone for the last two weeks, and are now on good terms. Seokjin pulls him in for a tight hug as soon as he sees him, Taehyung returning it with a laugh.

“You’re all grown,” Seokjin tells him, humored. Then, teasing, he adds, “You look even better in person than you look on Instagram.”

“Please, says you,” Taehyung points out, Seokjin arching an eyebrow. “I barely even post pictures of myself. It’s you who has a selfie fest at least twice every week.”

When Taehyung last saw Seokjin, they were eighteen and twenty-one respectively. Seokjin was already in university, on his way to becoming a screenplay writer—a goal that he achieved without much problem, and that he keeps fulfilling every day. Maybe it’s because he was already an adult when he last saw him, but upon talking to him, Taehyung doesn’t think he’s changed too much. He’s matured, yeah, but he’s still as ridiculous and random as ever. He makes Taehyung laugh until his belly aches, just like he did back in the day, and it’s so familiar and comforting that it makes Taehyung want to cry. Being home up until now felt oddly foreign and unfamiliar, so it’s about time he finds out something has stayed the same. In this case, Seokjin.

They both catch up—and God, there’s so much to say. There’s a lot for the two of them to talk about, since unlike with his family, Taehyung hasn’t really been talking much to Seokjin, or to any of his friends. They still exchanged birthday messages, as well as quick texts to greet each other over the Holidays. Every once in a while, Seokjin called and asked how he was, saying he thought of him when he saw his mother earlier that day, or his sister, or even his dad. Admittedly, Seokjin was a lot better at this distance thing than he ever was, and the sole reason why their friendship managed to survive all the distance. It’s telling that this is one of the few Taehyung managed to salvage out of all the ones he had before.

“So have you met anyone else already or am I the first?” Seokjin asks him. Before Taehyung even has the chance to reply, Seokjin quickly says. “I better have been the first since you’ve been making excuses to not see me. If I find out there was someone else, I’ll be very hurt.”

“You’re not the first, actually,” Taehyung replies. Seokjin’s eyes widen as he feigns shock and annoyance. “But the first was an accident and totally involuntary, so at least there’s that.”

“I don’t think making eye contact with Jeongguk for a split second in a bar without him acknowledging you counts, you know,” Seokjin says then, amused smile.

“Ha, ha, very funny, Seokjin,” Taehyung says, narrowing his eyes at him. Seokjin laughs at that, eyes crinkling. “Not the occasion I was going to bring up, but it’s the same… person, actually.”

“Wait—really? You ran into Jeongguk again?” Seokjin asks. Taehyung nods, with a hum. “Where?”

“At my house.”

Seokjin’s expression turns into a surprised one then, saying, “What—?” But quickly realization washes over his face, smacking his palm against his forehead as he exclaims, “Oh, wait! He works for your dad now, doesn’t he? I think he mentioned it once.”

“Exactly that,” Taehyung groans, watching as Seokjin scratches his chin. “And apparently he and my dad get on really well, and he’s like the son he always wished he had.”

“Don’t say nonsense, Taehyungie,” Seokjin says. Taehyung gives a blank face, not planning to take back his words. It’s the truth after all. “So what then? Have you spoken to him at last?”

“I have, yeah,” Taehyung says, with a nod. “And let me tell you—I don’t know how you can stand still being friends with him.”

“Wait—what?” Seokjin asks, confused now. “What makes you say that?”

“The fact that he has turned into a major asshole,” Taehyung says. Seokjin’s confusion seems to deepen even more. “He’s become so stupidly arrogant and cocky. And rude. And almost like my dad’s little lapdog. Like, damn, I get he’s paying you to be, but can’t you at least stick to working hours? He’s always around my house. They even have a picture of him framed in the living room.”

“Oh, my god,” Seokjin says, letting out a huffed laugh. “You can’t be serious. That sounds like the least Jeongguk thing ever. He’s never been like that, at least not around me.”

“Then you’re lucky. Listen—I know I’m not very receptive now, alright,” Taehyung says, trying his best to give… an unbiased look at the situation. “I’m jealous. Of the fact that he’s everything my dad wanted him to be and he fucking adores him. It almost feels like I’m being replaced by him, you know? But he’s not being nice to me.”

“I think he’s a bit hurt by you leaving, and by how things went down when you two drifted apart,” Seokjin explains then. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip. “You were his closest friends, and you know high school is weird and hard for everyone. At that point, you were almost his world, and so when you left he was kinda lost. It took him a while to adjust.”

Taehyung sighs. Seokjin is making good points, but he still doesn’t think it’s fair to completely blame it on him. “He did seem bitter about me leaving, yeah,” he says.

“Maybe it can be fixed, still,” Seokjin says, tilting his head to the right. “You’re here now. If he’s always around your house, like you said, maybe the next time you see him, you could try a different approach. Don’t let the jealousy get the best of you. I’m sure if you guys talk things through and actually try, things will sort themselves out. I’m sure you’ve both missed each other a lot.”

Taehyung looks down at his hands for a moment because it’s true. Jeongguk was his best friend, and seven years is a long, long time. He would be lying if he said he hasn’t thought a lot about Jeongguk in that time.

“I’ll try,” he ends up saying in the end, watching Seokjin smile at the words. “I promise I’ll try.”

 

 

Taehyung gets to meet Jung Hoseok in the flesh soon after that, that next Tuesday. He’s not nervous about meeting him—he knows, usually managers are much harder to impress or convince than artists themselves, who trust their representatives to pick this stuff for him. Not everyone seems to have the same mindset as him, so before the rapper arrives, Taehyung spends some time trying to calm down the nerves of some people at the office.

It doesn’t particularly help that Hoseok seems to be popular among his workers, and well-loved. Taehyung knew that his debut had been an absolute success amongst the younger generation, but he couldn’t imagine so many of his employees would end up being among the rising amount of followers he had. Taehyung has never been one to involve himself too much with fan culture, finding more fulfillment in other activities, but he’s listened to some of Hoseok’s songs and he was impressed by everything. He’s a good rapper and an amazing dancer, so even if he isn’t a fan, he can definitely see the appeal.

By the time Hoseok arrives at the office, everyone has quietened down and are working at their desks, acting as professionally as Taehyung would expect of them. He greets the pair with a warm smile and a bow, introducing himself and his small team before showing them around and finally inviting them to the office, where Jimin waits.

“And this is Jimin, our account manager,” Taehyung introduces, Jimin standing up from his chair so he can politely bow to the two of them, who return the gesture. “He’ll be managing your portfolio, and will mainly be in charge of your social media.”

“Nice to meet you, Jimin,” Hoseok tells him, a small smile dancing on his lips as he says so. “I’ll warn you that I’m a bit of a spammer when it comes to Instagram, so that might make me a little bit of a pain in the ass for you.”

Jimin laughs at that, shaking his head a little. “It’s fine. I won’t ask you to run things through me every single time you post. I’ll mostly analyze the feedback and engagement you get. I’ll give you certain guidelines before giving any mess a chance to happen, but don’t worry. It’s very intuitive stuff.”

The four of them sit down after that, discussing in more detail what kind of image Hoseok wants to give himself—what kind of deals he would be interested in, photoshoots and interviews for which outlets and magazines, and more of the sort. Luckily for all of them, it turns out the four of them seem to see eye to eye in regards to all of this; Taehyung isn’t surprised, for the last few days Jimin and himself have been working on a profile for all of their clients, and usually he’s very spot on with these things. It’s no different this time around.

Overall, the meeting goes well—cordial, even. Hoseok is very down to earth and friendly, and he’s obviously prepared himself for this meeting. It doesn’t last for too long, and so it’s less than one hour after that Jimin is walking the pair to the door, Taehyung seeing the three of them walk away through the tall glass door of his office. He sees them all bow one last time, Hoseok saying goodbye to the rest of the workers in the main area, before he and his manager disappear behind the door. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when Jimin comes rushing back to his office; Taehyung knew he would like to discuss what just went down.

He comes in before knocking, no greeting when he gets in; that’s a good sign for Taehyung. After all, they’re friends now. No formalities are needed.

“Thoughts?” Jimin asks, walking to the desk and grabbing a chair. He flips it around, sitting, resting his arms on top of the backrest as he gives Taehyung a pointed look.

“Got a good feeling. You did say his Instagram is a good place to start with,” Taehyung mentions.

“Oh, it totally is. He looks like an influencer, or one of those e-boy things, but without the cringe factor. He’s going to grow, just—so fast,” Jimin says, snapping his fingers. “He’s hotter in person.”

“Jimin!” Taehyung says, the comment taking him by surprise. Not because Jimin commented on a guy, not because Hoseok isn’t obviously attractive. But Jimin has been so tremendously professional and unbiased about their clients up until this moment.

“What? It’s true,” Jimin says, wiggling his eyebrows at him a little. Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “Don’t you think so?”

“I mean—yeah, he’s attractive,” Taehyung says, shrugging his shoulders. Jimin gives him a skeptical look, eyebrows lifted as he looks at him. “But I have a boyfriend now, so you know, I’m sure he’d be hotter if I was single.”

Jimin clicks his tongue. “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have eyes,” Jimin says. “Seungjin won’t be bothered if you admit another guy is hot, Taehyung. It’s objective.”

“Oi! I already told you I agree,” Taehyung says, leaning back in his seat and crossing one leg over the other. “I just have, you know... significant other tunnel vision.”

Jimin snorts at that, leaning forward with his tummy against the back of the chair as he chuckles. “You’re ridiculous,” he says, making Taehyung laugh lightly as well. “When’s he coming, though? You did mention he might come visit soon.”

“We haven’t picked a date yet, but soon, yeah,” Taehyung says. “I miss him but he’s busy with his own job, and I don’t want to pressure him into coming here. He’s been really understanding about me deciding to leave and come here all of a sudden.”

“At least it’s his home country, too. I guess it would be way harder to work around it if he was originally from there,” Jimin says, Taehyung agreeing with a hum. “What did he do again?”

“Didn’t tell you the other day. He’s a model,” Taehyung says, with a small smile. “He was a client for the agency I did my first internship at.”

“That’s cute. I deserve a model boyfriend, too. I bet he’s tall,” Jimin says, with a sigh. Taehyung laughs at that, watching as his friend stands up and returns the chair to its original position. “As much as I would love to stay here and discuss your love life for a bit longer, I need to get back to work now. Don’t want my boss to be all up my ass.”

He wiggles his eyebrows at Taehyung as he says that, making him laugh a little. “Sure thing, he sounds like a total bitch.” Jimin makes a gesture as to agree with his words, making Taehyung give him a pointed look. “Come on, then. Do your best.”

With that, Jimin leaves the office and gets back to his own, Taehyung seeing him disappear behind the shut blinds. He sighs, shakes his head, and returns his attention to what’s on the screen of his computer. Enough distractions now. He has work to get back to.

 

 

Later that evening, Taehyung finds out through his mother that his dad has some people from work over tonight, all of them locked in his father’s home study. Taehyung doesn’t ask what they’re discussing, even though his mom probably knows—it’s none of his business. It’s most likely legal jargon that he won’t understand, nor care too much about. He has much more exciting things to tell his mother and sister while they wait until his dad is free and they can have dinner, like how he met Hoseok today.

“Wait, you’re working with him?” his sister asks as soon as he mentions so, her eyebrows raising up comically. Taehyung nods, thus prompting her to let out a strangled noise, “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“Was I meant to?” Taehyung asks, teasing her a little.

“You were! You don’t even know—everyone at school is obsessed with him,” Miyoung starts telling him, straightening her skirt over her legs. She got home not too long before Taehyung, and she hadn’t bothered to change into comfortable clothes either. “What’s he like in person? Is he nice?”

“He seems like a really decent guy actually,” Taehyung comments, not knowing what else to say. They only talked for an hour and it was mostly business, so he doesn’t have more than a first impression of him. He’d rather judge him once he sees him in action, or in a less professional environment. “He laughs a lot and seems really positive. Jimin said he’s hot.”

Their mother clicks her tongue at that, but Miyoung ignores it and instead says, “Jimin has a good eye. Is he taller in person?”

“Pretty average size. He’s a tiny bit shorter than me, but not too much,” Taehyung says. Truth is, he didn’t speculate much about what Hoseok’s height was like when he watched his music video.

“Will you introduce him to me?” she asks, pulling what Taehyung knows is the most innocent face she can manage. Taehyung laughs at that.

“I’m not sure how I’ll do that without looking suspicious. Maybe I can let you know when he’ll next come, and you can drop by unannounced,” Taehyung says, making air quotations with his fingers as he puts emphasis on the word. Miyoung hums. “But don’t make a scene.”

“I would never,” she says, placing a hand on her chest. “I was raised right. Wasn’t I, mom?”

“Of course you were,” their mother replies, nudging at her knee with her ring-adorned hand. Miyoung laughs.

Taehyung is about to reply, but it’s then that the door to his parents’ office opens and the hallway is filled with voices spilling out, approaching the living room. He’s surprised he doesn’t find Jeongguk amongst the coworkers when they all enter the room to say their farewells, but he doesn’t comment on it until everyone has left.

“How come you didn’t invite your star worker to his very important meeting?” Taehyung asks when his father sits down on the armchair, earning himself a look from his mom. Okay, fine, he’ll admit it—maybe this time around he’s the one instigating things.

“I assume you mean Jeongguk, so the answer is simply that the topic discussed today isn’t within his field of work,” his father replies, formal as always. Taehyung nods, not saying anything else. He was expecting something juicier, like maybe hearing that Jeongguk was underqualified for this specific topic. Shame. “Now, Taehyung, I’m not sure what your sudden issue with Jeongguk is, but he’s a very respectable man and an even better worker.”

Taehyung holds back the urge to roll his eyes at that. Respectable man my ass, he thinks to himself. Jeongguk is a little shit—always has been, except, before Taehyung wasn’t the one receiving the torment, but the one laughing along with Jeongguk’s very harmless but very annoying antics. It was funnier when it was Seokjin getting teased, not him.

“No issue, whatsoever. He was my best friend after all,” he says, trying to see if that elicits any sort of reaction from his father. Nothing happens, though. “What does he do anyway? You said he was a civil lawyer, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, yeah. He’s very good at heritage issues, that’s what he does most. He’s also done a great job at defending insurance companies in court before,” his dad says. Taehyung nods, following along.

“That’s good to know. You said he interned for you, yeah?” Taehyung asks.

“He did. He was too good to let go, so as soon as I could, I offered a full time, permanent position. And I don’t regret it.”

“Do you really think he’s your successor?” Taehyung asks. Last question, he promises. He’s aware that this is starting to feel sort of like an interrogation, so after this he won’t ask anything further.

“Quite frankly? Yeah,” his father says, eyes drifting so they can meet his. “He’s a young talent, and one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met. I would be happy to leave the firm in his hands when the time to retire comes.”

Taehyung nods, sticking to his words and going quiet after that. No more questions about Jeongguk, nor about the firm and its future—never again. After all, this is all he needs to know.

 

 

Maybe Taehyung is sensitive—far more sensitive than a man his age should be. Maybe he takes things too personally and that makes his judgement clouded, but it hurts. He’s alone in his room after dinner, and he feels the urge to bury his face in his pillow and cry like he hasn’t in years, until his throat hurts and his eyes are swollen and red.

It’s been a couple of weeks since things kicked off well at his own company. Each and every single one of these days, Taehyung has had dinner in the dining room with all of his family, and every day they’ve all discussed their days. His father knows he’s working now, and obviously, he’s aware of the big risk that starting a company from scratch is. He was there once, even if things have turned out exceptionally well for him.

Is it too much to ask for his father to show any sort of… interest in him? Is it too much to ask for his father to say, hey, how are things going at work? He hasn’t even asked him once; hasn’t made a single comment any time it was brought up by his mother and sister. Taehyung is aware of the help that his father offered, of course—both his parents invested money in this dream of his, not just his mom. But to Taehyung, money has little value in comparison to some encouraging words.

He should have expected this, of course—that’s how it’s been for years. That’s how it’s been ever since he failed at getting into SNU. And now he has his perfect star boy, his smart lawyer boy, his successor. So why would he care about what Taehyung is doing now?

Taehyung shakes his head, turns around on the bed and reaches for his phone on the bedside table. It’s late, but he needs a distraction instead of staying up for hours thinking about this. He refuses to let himself cry over this—not even once.

 

 

“We’ve barely seen each other this week,” Jeongguk protests on a warm afternoon. The sun is high in the sky, heating up their skin as the two of them lie on the grass of Taehyung’s garden with their eyes closed. “You’re so busy all the time now.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says, with a sigh. “I’ve been busy studying. You know how things are in my house these days. My dad’s been pestering me about SNU.”

Jeongguk laughs at that, turning a little to look at Taehyung. Taehyung doesn’t have his eyes closed, but he can tell by the way his laughter sounds when he moves. “That’s true, Mr. Lawyer Boy. Has he been keeping you on your toes, huh?”

“Shut up. I have been keeping myself on my toes. He just makes sure to tell me every single day how important for him, for me and for this family it is that I get in,” Taehyung explains. He stays quiet for a moment, before he admits, “I just feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me.”

It’s the first time that he admits it out loud. His mom has asked about it, but Taehyung has always denied, not wanting to seem like a disappointment. This is important to the family and to the firm, Taehyung knows that. And, if his family is happy, then he’s happy. Therefore, this is important for him and his own happiness, too. His whole life depends solely on this, and so he’ll make sure he works hard and does his best.

“I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes right now,” Jeongguk admits, empathetic. “But I know you can do this and much more. You’re so good, Taehyungie.”

Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head a little. “Shush. You’re too good to me,” he says, stretching his arms over his head. The sun is making him lethargic, and he doesn’t want to fall asleep here, under the sun. “What about you? Have you already decided what you want to do after school?”

It’s Jeongguk’s turn to sigh now. “I’m not sure, no. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do, and even if there’s two years left, I still feel like I’m running out of time,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung would like to say that he felt the same way, but the truth is that he never did. The choice was never there for him—it was always clear that he was meant to be a lawyer. “All I know is that I don’t want to have a super serious job like our parents do. That seems boring to me.”

“You’ve always liked adventure too much for your own good,” Taehyung points out, Jeongguk shushing him quickly. “How about photography? Wouldn’t you like that?”

“I’ve thought about it. I would love to be a photographer but maybe it’s unrealistic,” Jeongguk admits. He sounds almost shy as he says so, making Taehyung want to coo at the adorableness. “I would… I would love to be a movie director. But I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“A movie director? That’s so cool, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung says, sitting up. He sees Jeongguk blink his eyes open, looking up at him. “You could do that.”

“I’m not so sure. It seems hard to make it in that industry,” Jeongguk says, hesitant.

“It’s hard, but you’re the most hard-working person I know. You can do that. I believe in you.”

As soon as he says that, Jeongguk’s mouth spreads into the widest, toothiest grin that Taehyung has ever received. He can’t help but mimic the gesture, feeling an overwhelming wave of affection inside of his chest. This, right here, is his best friend. And he’s going to love him forever.

 

 

Taehyung told Seokjin that the next time he saw Jeongguk, he would try to act in a way that would allow them to end up on good terms. And he made the promise with the same intention that he always makes promises: with the intention to stick to his word, and turn them into a reality. But what he intends and what he ends up doing when he does indeed see Jeongguk, standing in the middle of his hallway, are two very different things.

And, in the end, Taehyung can’t really say he tried.

“You again?” Taehyung complains as he comes in and sees Jeongguk standing there, looking at him. “Why don’t you just move in already, Jeongguk? Is my dad not paying you enough to rent a room?”

Which, now that he thinks about it, probably wasn’t the best thing to say, considering he’s meant to be aiming for a peace offering. The thing is, seeing Jeongguk pisses him off. It pisses him off even more to see him around his house, stealing his dad, charming the pants off his family. How else is he supposed to react? Maybe tomorrow he’ll see him trying to poke his sister’s cheek as he always does, and then he’ll likely have to cut his hand off.

(No, he’s totally not exaggerating.)

“Good evening, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says in response, his tone tired. He’s totally doing that on purpose. “It’s good to see you again as well. How have you been? I’ve had a great day.”

“Great as well, until I saw you in my hallway, invading my house again,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “What brings you here today? Business?”

“I think you’re acting rather immaturely, Taehyung,” Jeongguk replies, not bothering to answer his question. Whatever—not that Taehyung cares about whatever the fuck he was doing here, anyway. “You were never like this, not even when you were younger and… immature, so it’s interesting to see you act like this at twenty-five.”

“Age is just a number, and you’re a total ass,” Taehyung says, walking past him as he makes his way to his room. “If you’ll excuse me, I have very childish business to get to just now.”

“Of course you do. Enjoy yourself,” Jeongguk calls, Taehyung not bothering to look at him as he starts climbing up the stairs.

“Thank you! Will do.”

And yeah, really—he knows he shouldn’t have done that. It’s only been fifteen minutes and he’s already regretting it as he shampoos his hair in the shower, but it is what it is. There’s no point in regretting stuff that has already happened and can’t be undone, is there? All he can do is keep moving forward. Maybe next time he’ll have better luck at keeping it civil. Or maybe, by this point, he won’t ever be able to look at Jeongguk’s face again without feeling annoyed and irritated.

Yeah, that seems like a much more plausible outcome.

Fuck Jeon Jeongguk, Taehyung thinks as he rinses his body of the coconut scented body wash that his sister keeps in their shared bathroom. He doesn’t deserve for Taehyung to stress over him. He doesn’t deserve to be in his shower thoughts, when showers should be dedicated to either singing or trying to find the meaning of life. Not to be spent thinking about stupid, backstabbing and father-stealing friends who don’t deserve his time.

Taehyung walks out of the bathroom as a new man: a man who has no intention of thinking about Jeon Jeongguk again. Two can play at this game—if Jeongguk wants to pretend to be over it and oh-so-mature, then Taehyung will play that game too. He swears he noticed his eyebrow twitching when Taehyung made the rent comment. Taehyung knows Jeongguk and his expressions, and so he’s completely sure Jeongguk is as irritated by Taehyung as Taehyung himself is by Jeongguk. He’s not showing it because he wants to act like the bigger person in front of his father.

Respectable man, he had said. Ha. As if.

Well, Taehyung will put on his best respectable act, as well. He’s thinking about ways in which he could show his indifference to him, trotting down the stairs wearing some luxe, silky pajamas he bought in Milan during a trip, hair still damp from the shower. And then, when he gets back to the hallway, he sees him again.

Ah, fuck being the bigger person.

“What are you still doing here?” Taehyung asks, placing one hand on his hip. Jeongguk, who was looking at the closed door of the office like a lost puppy, turns to look at him.

“Some of us have to work until late into the night,” he says, giving Taehyung a stern look. The unlike others doesn’t need to be uttered. It comes through perfectly.

“You’ve sure learned a lot from my father. First of all, how to undermine other people’s jobs. Great work, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says. He sees confusion take over Jeongguk’s expression, but before he can say anything Taehyung adds, “Well, some of us don’t stab their childhood friends in the back. Looks like we all have different qualities to us.”

Whatever Jeongguk was going to say in reply to Taehyung’s first comment, seems to be forgotten as soon as the second one is made. He throws his head back and laughs, bitterly. When his eyes meet Taehyung’s again, they seem almost poisonous as he says, “Will you let go of that? It wasn’t backstabbing you, Taehyung. Hurting you wasn’t even a thought when I started working for your dad. Not everything revolves around you.”

“Oh, please. Are you gonna pretend you didn’t know how important that was for me? Are you gonna pretend you don’t know that my father is projecting who he wanted me to be on you?” Taehyung accuses. When Jeongguk remains silent, Taehyung adds, “You knew I had the worst time of my life when I was rejected, Jeongguk. You knew how I felt, and yet you’re doing this and claiming you don’t see anything wrong at all.”

“That’s because I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m doing what’s best for me and my career, and if you were able to see past yourself you would be happy both for me and your dad,” Jeongguk says.

“I really don’t need to hear all of this,” Taehyung says, huffing out a sarcastic laugh as he takes a step back.

“Maybe that’s exactly what you needed to hear,” Jeongguk starts. “You selfish little—”

The door to Taehyung’s dad’s office flies open before he can finish his sentence, the bitch hanging in the air between the two of them as his dad appears from behind the door, putting his phone back in his pocket. He spots Taehyung then, saying, “Oh, Taehyung. I didn’t know you were home.”

“Got back a little while ago,” Taehyung says, still walking backwards in the direction of the staircase. “Enjoy your meeting, you two.”

He doesn’t wait to get a reply, but as he climbs up to the first floor he hears his dad invite Jeongguk inside the office, apologizing for how long the call was. Whatever. Taehyung doesn’t care. He’s absolutely not clenching his fists as he walks to his room, unable to believe Jeongguk called him selfish for having feelings.

The same Jeongguk who had been there years ago for him, who had claimed to understand how he felt even if he hadn’t experienced it himself. Turns out he didn’t understand shit, or he wouldn’t be acting like this. It’s just so fucking shitty of him. How dare he? Taehyung is not selfish—he’s anything but. He put his family’s wishes before his own for a long time, but now he’s being called selfish just because he’s upset his dad doesn’t give a shit about him? Yeah, he doesn’t need to hear that.

And just to reiterate—fuck Jeon Jeongguk. That’s the only thing he can think about as he walks to his room, to the room where he has dozens and dozens of pictures of himself and friends stuck to the wall. The room is exactly just like he had left it seven years ago, but that’s bound to change now.

He’s angry, and not thinking straight. It’s petty, but he walks inside the room, grabs the small bin, and rips off every single picture on the wall that has Jeongguk in it. If there’s a group and Jeongguk is in the middle, he’s also quick to throw it away; if he’s on the edge, he rips them and throws the bit with his stupid face away. Those of the two of them? To the trash they go. Same fate for those of Jeongguk on his own.

He’s done. He’s tired. He’s angry. He’s still trying to understand why fate is trying to punish him like this. Making his dad replace him for someone else was bad enough, but for his best friend? The person he trusted the most in the world at some point? That’s just cruel.

Fuck fate. And, again, fuck Jeon Jeongguk. 

 

Chapter Text

After learning from experience, Taehyung won’t let himself make the same mistakes he made seven years ago again, and end up losing everyone he’s met in the Netherlands. He’s made good friends, especially since quickly enough he was able to find a group of Korean students who were studying there and with whom he connected very quickly, thanks to the similar cultural background. He makes sure to talk to Seojoon and Hyungsik often, not willing to go through the same process of losing everyone once again.

And then there’s Seungjin. Taehyung pays special attention to Seungjin, of course. With everyone else it’s mostly texts that he shares, but he and Seungjin try to talk on the phone almost every day, when their schedules allow it. Taehyung does a similar routine almost every day, but as a model, Seungjin’s changes every day, and there’s always travelling involved.

They learn to work around it, however. It’s nighttime in Korea, around ten in the evening, so it must be around three in the afternoon for Seungjin when he asks Taehyung if he’s free to talk. Taehyung replies that yes, he’s in his bedroom, and less than a minute after, a request for a FaceTime call appears on Taehyung’s screen. He doesn’t miss a beat before picking up the call, Seungjin’s handsome face appearing on the screen.

Hey, sunshine,” he says, a wide smile spreading across his face when he sees Taehyung.

“Hello, loverboy,” Taehyung says, his attention leaving Seungjin to focus on his surroundings. After ten months of dating, Taehyung knows Seungjin’s room in his apartment, and that definitely isn’t it. A hotel it must be. “Where are you?”

Amsterdam. Had a shoot here today for some fashion magazine, and they offered to pay for a hotel room for me. It’s not like I have a boyfriend waiting for me back at home anymore, so…” Seungjin says, widening his eyes dramatically in an attempt to give Taehyung puppy eyes. Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head—Seungjin has never been the best at pulling out the cute antics.

“Poor you. But I think you have a boyfriend waiting for you elsewhere, though,” Taehyung points out, rolling to his stomach and squishing his cheek under his palm.

I would hope so. Maybe he’s so busy with his new life that he’s forgotten all about me,” Seungjin says.

It’s a joke, Taehyung knows. But sometimes, behind the jokes people make, there is a bit of truth, a bit of fear. Even if Seungjin’s tone isn’t serious, and neither is the conversation just now, Taehyung still has the urge to reassure him that that is not the case—not at all.

“Your boyfriend misses you so much and can’t wait to hug you and kiss you. He told me,” Taehyung says, keeping a stern look on his face.

Seungjin smiles, warmly. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip. “That’s good to hear. He better miss me as much as I miss him,” Seungjin says. Taehyung makes a kissy face at him in response. “So what have you been up to today? Other than saving the world of PR in South Korea?

Taehyung can’t help but snort at that, followed by a loud chuckle. “Shut the hell up, oh my god,” he says, Seungjin smiling at him once again. Fuck, Taehyung wishes he was right here so he could kiss him all over. “I haven’t done much, honestly. I went to work, had lunch with a friend, worked a bit more and then went to pick my sister up from class. I had dinner with my family later, had a shower, and now I’m here. The same old, really.”

Seems like a good day, though. I’m sure your mom is happy to have you back into the household routine,” Seungjin says. Taehyung hums in agreement—it was a good day, a productive day. Taehyung has a happy feeling at the pit of his stomach just now, but it might have a lot to do with the call, too. He’s missing Seungjin, and a lot more than he originally anticipated. “What friend? Is it that one you were always talking about? Ah—what was the name? Jeon—?

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung interrupts. With a groan, he rolls back on his back and lifts his phone over his face, at great risk of dropping it right on his forehead. “Ah, why does everyone always make him the topic of every single conversation? I was having a very lovely and Jeongguk-free day today.” He’s half-joking. Well, he isn’t at all joking, really, but he seems it as light-heartedly as he can.

Seungjin laughs a little at that, eyes narrowing as he looks down at the screen. “Damn, haven’t things changed since you left Europe. I thought you missed him and that you couldn’t wait to see him and catch up with him.

“That was before I came,” Taehyung says, with a sigh. “When I said I couldn’t wait to see him, I really set myself up for this. He’s at my house all the time, Seungjin—at my parents’ house. And it’s not ever to see me or anything.”

What for, then?

“He works for my dad now. And not only that—he took the spot that my dad was keeping for me, and he even calls him his successor. My own best friend,” Taehyung says, watching his boyfriend’s eyebrows raise. “And when we were younger, he never expressed any interest in this sort of thing, you know? I just don’t know where the sudden interest came from. Do you think it’s revenge?”

Revenge for what exactly?” Seungjin inquires.

“He still seems pretty upset that I left and we didn’t stay in touch,” Taehyung explains. “Although deciding your career path based on petty revenge seems… very unlikely to me? I just don’t understand. He always said he wanted to pursue something in film or photography. Once he even said he would like to be a movie director, and that’s a far cry from what he’s doing now.”

Maybe he found out that those things are more like hobbies to him. Not every dream has to be pursued as a career, and it’s a lot harder when it’s something in the art field. It’s tough,” Seungjin says. Taehyung hums in agreement. It could be that, yeah, but he’s not very convinced. He’s never seen anyone as strong-willed—read: stubborn—as Jeon Jeongguk. “Have you tried to discuss it?

“If arguments count as discussing…” he says. Seungjin gives him a pointed look. “He just gets on my nerves!”

Babe, you’re way better than petty arguments all the time. We both know that,” he says. Taehyung juts his lips out in a pout. “Stop that or I’ll come over there and kiss you.”

“You should totally do that,” Taehyung says, smiling cheekily. Seungjin laughs. “Anyway, enough about Jeon fucking Jeongguk. How’s my favorite boy in the world doing today? Tell me what you got up to other than the shoot.”

Seungjin then starts telling him about his day—about how the shoot went and what working with this photographer is like, in addition to some funny anecdotes that happened to him throughout the day. They talk for hours, until Taehyung is so sleepy that he can barely keep his eyes open, Seungjin teasing him for it.

Taehyung goes to sleep that night with a smile on his face, feeling more soothed than he has in the last week. He truly can’t wait to see him.

 

 

The next day over lunch, Jimin decides after asking Taehyung how adjusting to Seoul has been so far, that Taehyung is stressed. He tries to fervently deny it, but to no avail; Jimin seems to be as stubborn as he is, and so Taehyung in the end gives up. Mostly because he knows it’s true—he’s stressed out. Things at the agency are going well so far, but three weeks of luck are not enough for him to let his guard down now. Three weeks is not enough to make a judgement, and just because they’re doing a good job as of now, it doesn’t mean he can relax. It’s when someone gets too relaxed that things go wrong.

And then, there’s the situation at home. Taehyung can’t help but feel like there’s always some tension built between him and his dad, even when they’re not arguing or bickering. The source of it all is Taehyung’s own insecurities; he can’t stop obsessing over the fact that he’s disappointed his dad in the past, to the point where he can’t go and talk to him without feeling like that’s all that there is in his dad’s mind every time they have a conversation. It’s not something that keeps him awake at night anymore, no, but it definitely conditions their relationship in a way. Taehyung wishes he could just grow up and move past it but it’s hard.

In addition to that, there’s Jeongguk, too. The last thing that Taehyung needed these past days was an asshole permanently invading his home, irritating him to the point of no return. Jeongguk seems to always be there, and whenever Taehyung’s father isn’t around, the two of them end up getting into some sort of argument. It’s then that the true pettiness comes out, when it’s just the two of them; he’s still trying to act mighty, but he ends up giving in eventually, every single time. Taehyung knows how to push his buttons, after all.

As the cherry on top, there’s the housing situation. Taehyung has been searching online, but there’s literally nothing he likes and that is near the area he would like, and that includes a garage. When he moves out, Taehyung is for sure going to get a car of his own, since he can’t take his mom’s with him forever—she needs it, too. He also can’t depend on Uber or taxis for the rest of his life.

Everything is too complicated at the moment, and Taehyung is… tired. He feels like he needs a break from the world. So when upon being asked how things are going, he lets out all of this, and so Jimin comes to the conclusion that Taehyung is stressed. Taehyung can totally see why he’d think that, honestly.

“You need to give yourself a break from all of that. Let yourself have some fun to disconnect from all the stuff that’s giving you stress,” Jimin says, starting to sound like a YouTube influencer promoting candles or bath bombs, or some shit like that. Miraculous cures to stress that never work. If he suggests a bubble bath, Taehyung will genuinely cry.

“And what do you recommend I do in order to disconnect?” Taehyung asks. It’s easier said than done. He’s positive than even if he found himself having a spa weekend, there would still be stress lurking underneath it all. Even if he was in the midst of getting the most relaxing massage in the world, he’d find himself overthinking during it.

Jimin’s response ends up being nothing like what Taehyung was fearing, though. He says, “Let’s go out. Let’s have some drinks, go to a club, get drunk and release some steam. I’ll make sure you don’t give work, Jeongguk, or house hunting one single thought in the entire night.”

Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, considering it. That actually… seems like a good idea. It feels like ages since he last went out with friends, allowed himself to have fun. It’s different than going for a drink, be it a cocktail or a coffee. Thinking about spending an entire night at a crowded club, bumping into sweaty people and drinking overpriced bad alcohol, has never seemed so appealing.

“Okay, yeah,” Taehyung says. Jimin looks surprised that Taehyung agreed as easily as he did, without needing much convincing from his end. “Let’s do that. Let’s go clubbing. I really do need to get drunk, fuck.”

Jimin laughs at that, leaning forward a little as he does so. It’s something that Taehyung has noticed about Jimin—how he laughs with his entire body, launching himself forward as he chuckles. It’s adorable, Taehyung thinks.

“Tomorrow, then?” Jimin asks. “And then you can spend the entire Sunday moping with a hangover.”

“Tomorrow it is,” Taehyung says then, agreeing. He deserves this—a weekend to let himself let loose, relieving every bit of stress. 

Jimin smiles once again, getting back in his chair and giving Taehyung a nod. “Can’t wait, then.”

 

 

Taehyung has done his fair amount of partying during his college years since his parents were too strict to allow anything too wild during high school. He has stayed out entire nights and come back to his dorm at eight in the morning, so drunk that it’s hard to understand how he managed to get back in one piece. He has felt his entire body ache after nights out.

However, Taehyung doesn’t think he has ever danced as much as he does that night with Jimin.

And it’s fun, really. Taehyung glues his back to Jimin’s chest and dances with him all night, in between easy laughter from the two of them and conversation yelled into each other’s ears. The club is loud, but it doesn’t stop the two of them from talking.

When Taehyung gets back home, it’s late. It’s so fucking late that it tethers on the edge of becoming early, around the hour some people wake up to go to work in the morning. He feels drunk, but he still manages to get inside without running into a closed door, knocking a vase over or making any noise. He gets in bed, grabs his phone, and scrolls down his contact list, looking for Jimin so he can thank him for tonight.

It’s pure coincidence, really. He’s scrolling down his contacts, and of course, to find Jimin he has to go to J. And who else is in the J section of his contacts? Of course, Jeongguk. Taehyung never bothered deleting his number, even if they drifted apart.

It’s not a good decision, and he knows that. But Taehyung is drunk. He has never claimed to make good decisions while drunk. Quite the opposite, actually. So can anyone blame him when he starts typing a text to Jeongguk?

 

to Jeonggukie – 04:34 AM:

asssohle

 

Taehyung reads it over—he really does. He reads it twice over. And for some reason that his sober brain will later be unable to understand, he decides that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it and presses send. He watches as the messages appear in the empty chat with a proud look, and then proceeds to text Jimin.

Taehyung goes to sleep proud of himself that night, unaware that in the morning he’ll regret that text and every bit of fall out from it. But as of now, he’s happy with what he’s done.

 

 

Taehyung wakes up at noon the following day, feeling like a truck has run him over. His body is sore from dancing all night, and in addition to that there’s the pounding headache that he can only blame on himself, poor life choices and alcohol. He considers closing his eyes and trying to get back to sleep to will it away, but after a few minutes of trying it proves to be impossible. It hurts too much for him to be able to sleep. He’s going to have to go down to the kitchen and get a painkiller if he wants it to stop. That, or writhe in pain on the bed and wait for his death.

As tempting as the second option is, Taehyung wouldn’t leave Jimin behind with the company on his own, or wouldn’t make Seungjin a kind-of-widow. He gets out of bed with a groan, puts on his slippers, and goes down to the kitchen without bothering to look in a mirror beforehand. His pajamas are haphazardly buttoned up, his hair is probably a mess, and his mouth feels disgusting. Even the thought of water is enough to make his stomach turn unpleasantly right now, sure that it’s going to taste like cheap vodka. But he has to do it.

The house is too bright for him, so he drags himself to the kitchen with half-closed eyes. What he was meant to find there was his salvation, the only thing capable of making his day a little better: painkillers. What he finds instead is the devil himself, the only possible person that could make this morni—afternoon even worse. Jeon Jeongguk.

The worst part of it is that Taehyung knows he looks like a mess right now. He feels like a mess, and so that can only mean that he doesn’t look much better. Yet there he is, the bane of his existence, looking well-rested, fresh-faced, without a hair out a place and wearing a pristine white shirt. Who the fuck looks like that on a Sunday?

Which reminds Taehyung. What the hell is he doing here today? It’s Sunday. Today is not a work day for his father or for Jeongguk. So what does he want?

They make eye contact, Taehyung noticing the two drinks sat on the counter, steaming. He looks him up and down, from the dress shirt without one single wrinkle, to the dress pants that the shirt is neatly tucked in. Pristine. Spotless. Perfect. He’s so fucking annoying, showing up here like this.

“Yep, definitely still a nightmare,” Taehyung says, shaking his head as he walks to the cabinet where his mom all of the medicine.

“Good afternoon, Taehyung. I see you’ve woken up in a great mood today,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung just grumbles something in response, not in the mood to fight. He can’t even string two thoughts together coherently right now, much less fight with Jeongguk. “Almost as good as your mood last night.”

Taehyung freezes when he hears that, not sure about what Jeongguk means. He looks at him, arm raised and door to the cabinet open. “What are you talking about, Jeongguk?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung gets the painkillers from the cabinet, closing the door once he’s done. “You tell me. You didn’t seem to be in a fantastic mood last night when you sent me a text at like half four in the morning.”

And for a second there, Taehyung is confused. He frowns, not knowing what Jeongguk is referring to. He’s bad at recollecting his actions while drunk. But then the memories come back to him, and he remembers going to message Jimin, stumbling upon Jeongguk’s contact, and calling him an asshole. With a lot of typos. And really, if just the hour and the typos were enough to connect the dots and figure out he was drunk, seeing him like this and looking for painkillers must make it so obvious for Jeongguk. God, this is so fucking humiliating.

“I just wanted you to wake up to a good morning text that would put a smile on your face,” Taehyung says, opening the box of painkillers and getting one. “Did you like it?”

“Loved it,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung rolls his eyes. He’s about to get a glass of water when Jeongguk grabs one of the paper cups in front of him and hands it to Taehyung. “Want one? I got one for your dad, but he said he didn’t feel up for one this morning.”

Taehyung looks at the paper cup for a moment. Well, of course his dad wasn’t up for the kind of drinks that Jeongguk likes. Just like Taehyung, he has a sweet tooth. Neither of them could ever tolerate black coffee, not even with copious amounts of sugar. His dad is the opposite, the type to think that sugar, milk or cream ruin coffee. Taehyung doesn’t think too much about it, figures that if it’s a drink that Jeongguk picked, it can’t be that bad, and so he walks over to Jeongguk with little skepticism. He places the pill on his tongue, grabs the warm paper cup, and takes a sip.

And then, he spits it all out over Jeongguk.

“What the fuck?!” Jeongguk exclaims, taking a step back. It’s too late—Taehyung has already emptied the contents all over Jeongguk’s shirt. Jeongguk’s white shirt. “What the fuck are you doing, Taehyung?”

“You did not just give me black coffee,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk doesn’t seem to pay attention, looking down at his now-stained shirt. “I didn’t expect it to be that! The last I checked, you hated coffee just as much as I did. Since when do you like this shit? And why did you offer me it?”

“I grew up, Taehyung. And I expected you to have grown up by now too, but I see I was wrong,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung scoffs, crossing his arms over his chest. All the yelling is making his head pound even more, and now his painkiller is somewhere on the floor. Fucking great. He’ll just get another one.

“Oh my—go fuck yourself,” Taehyung says, walking to the box again. And this time around, he’ll take it with water. Even if it tastes like vodka, it can’t be worse than this.

“Couldn’t you have just swallowed it?” Jeongguk asks.

“Couldn’t you have told me it was coffee?” Taehyung asks, mimicking his tone. He finally has his painkiller now, looking at the coffee stained floor. “Ah, shit. I need to go clean all that.”

“And now I’m gonna need to go change my shirt because you can’t keep shit down,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung rolls his eyes yet again. If Jeongguk thinks he’s going to make him pity him, he’s very wrong.

“Stay in your own house and stop harassing my dad. It’s a Sunday. I thought I could have at least one holy day of not seeing you,” Taehyung says.

“Something came up over the weekend and we need to finalize it before tomorrow. It’s urgent,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung doesn’t reply, seeing Jeongguk walk to the door. “Look—can you do me a favor? Can you tell your dad what happened and that I’ll be back soon? I’m going home to change my shirt, and then I’ll be right back.”

Taehyung presses his lips into a thin line. Being Jeongguk’s little errand boy seems like the least fucking appealing thing to him. But he’s already here, and Jeongguk seems stressed over this. His dad doesn’t like waiting, so for Jeongguk to disappear without any explanation and come back twenty minutes later might not leave him in the best mood. Taehyung doesn’t like Jeongguk, but he doesn’t wish his dad’s bad moods on anyone—not even his worst enemy.

“Fine,” he ends up agreeing, out of the kindness of his heart. “But you owe me one.”

 

 

 

That very same evening, Taehyung makes an exception to his rule of ignoring all human beings while he’s hungover to call Seungjin on the phone. It’s not FaceTime today, just a regular call, but one he really felt himself needing. He feels so much better than he did when he woke, but he’s still in pain. As soon as he mentions it, Seungjin says he should be there giving him a massage, so Taehyung guesses there is a bright side to… well, this.

“But seriously, you really should be here,” Taehyung says, lying starfish on the bed with his phone pressed against his cheek. “I miss you. I think I know why I’m being so dramatic these days and feeling like everything sucks more than it actually does.”

And why’s that?” Seungjin’s voice asks on the other end of the phone.

“Because I urgently need a Seungjin hug. It’s been over a month since I last had one. I’m withering away, Jinnie,” he says, making Seungjin laugh. The sound brings a smile to Taehyung’s face. “Hug me through the phone.”

I’m giving you the tightest hug right now,” Seungjin tells him. “You better be hugging me back, boy.”

Talking to Seungjin soothes Taehyung down in seconds when he feels like things are becoming too hectic for him when he finds it hard to adjust to his new life. When he first arrived in Maastricht, he felt this same way. It felt foreign, like he was out of place. Over seven years he made it his home, so now he’s having to adjust to Seoul all over again, and it doesn’t come without unpleasantries. Being home is much more fast-paced, the days coming and going before Taehyung even has the time to notice they’re passing by. It feels almost impossible to think about how it’s now been a month since he arrived. A little less since his agency has been up and running. A month since he last saw Seungjin and his friends from Maastricht, but also a month since he got back with his family. A month since he met Jimin, or reconnected with Seokjin. And, well, Jeongguk.

So much has happened in the space of thirty days, and Taehyung is having problems with wrapping his mind around it. It feels like he’s living his life in fast-motion, without much time to properly stop and look at things. He hasn’t really had the chance to enjoy being home yet, other than the alcohol-induced club outing with Jimin. But even that had to come to an end eventually, and make way for the hustle and bustle that he gets lost in.

He’s just in need of some grounding, of something that reminds him to slow down, experience things. He needs Seungjin.

“You should come soon. My mother and sister want to see you again,” Taehyung tells him, remembering his sister asking the other day over dinner when they’d get to see Seungjin again. They’ve been together for some time now, with Seungjin meeting Taehyung’s mother and sister the last time they came to visit him. Taehyung likes to think his parents like him, or at least his mom says so; his dad hasn’t met him in person yet, but he knows of him. As for Miyoung, Taehyung doesn’t need to hope—he knows his little sister adores him.

We can arrange something soon. I really want to see you,” Seungjin replies. “Them too, but I’m a little more excited about seeing you, boyfriend.”

“Well, thank fuck,” Taehyung says, making Seungjin laugh on the other end. “Soon, okay? Maybe we can arrange something next week.”

Next week it is then,” Seungjin tells him. Taehyung nods even if his boyfriend can’t really see him, smiling at the ceiling.

He’s adjusting, still. Things still feel a little weird now, but it’s just because he needs to properly settle. Everything will be better when the anxiousness of the first months of business vanishes, and when he moves out of his parents’ house. As much as he loves them, he is twenty-five and he needs his own space, so he must that soon too, as well. But everything is fine, really. He’s doing well—or at least, he’d like to think he is.

Taehyung closes his eyes and lets himself get a little lost in the sound of Seungjin’s voice through the phone. His voice is deep—maybe not as deep as Taehyung’s, but still deep enough to gently lull him into slumber. He hums in acknowledgement every once in a while as Seungjin talks to him, but the truth is that he’s close to falling asleep.

And indeed, that’s how he ends up falling asleep, still dressed and on top all of his covers—while listening to his boyfriend chat him to sleep, and with the hope that things will get a little easier soon.

 

 

Taehyung is woken up from his nap by Miyoung knocking on his door by the time dinnertime comes around, his sister walking inside before he manages to wake himself up enough to ask her to come in. His phone is still squished against his ear, but the call is over now—Seungjin probably hung up when he realized Taehyung had fallen asleep. He knew Taehyung was hungover, and the truth is that Taehyung can barely survive hangovers without a nap. It was bound to happen at some point. Seungjin, of course, is more than aware of that.

“What happened?” Taehyung asks as he sits up on the bed, still sleepy and disoriented. He finds himself a little lost for a few moments, not knowing what time it is.

“It’s time for dinner,” Miyoung tells him, sitting down on the edge of the bed next to him. “I didn’t know you were asleep. I haven’t seen you all day.”

“I had a terrible hangover. Had to sleep it off,” Taehyung explains, moving and hanging his legs off the edge of the bed as well. “Tell mom I’ll be down in a minute. Gonna splash my face with some water to wake myself up a little.”

“Will do,” Miyoung says, starting to walk towards the door. She’s already leaving when she stops in her tracks, turns around and announces, “Jeongguk is staying for dinner by the way.”

Miyoung leaves right after that, not staying for long enough to see Taehyung’s face contort in horror at the news. Jeongguk. Staying for dinner. With them. While Taehyung is grouchy from a nap and recovering from a hangover. Well, that sounds like fucking hell. Taehyung hopes to god he doesn’t bring up the shirt incident again—his dad didn’t question how when Taehyung explained he had accidentally spilled coffee on Jeongguk so he had to go change, but he doesn’t want him to know the whole truth. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt Taehyung.

With a sigh, he leaves his bedroom and gets himself moving to the bathroom, knowing that no one in his family likes to wait too long. He splashes his face with water, fixes his hair a little in order to look more awake, and starts trotting down the stairs. He can do this. It’s the first time he’s going to have a proper meal with Jeongguk since he’s been back, but Jeongguk is around all the time, anyways. What does it matter if they haven’t properly sat down for a meal yet? He can’t be more insufferable than he usually is. If anything, he’ll be busy eating, so it’s probably easier to deal with him like that.

Much to his dismay, Jeongguk takes Miyoung’s usual spot at the table, right across from him. His little sister is sitting to his left now, and so every time he lifts his eyes from his food, he finds Jeongguk’s stupid face staring right back of him. Sometimes his expression is almost mocking, which makes Taehyung hold his cutlery with more force than necessary as he thinks about how damn irritating Jeongguk is.

It’s still dinner with his family, so even if they have an intruder, Taehyung figures he’s still allowed to talk about whatever the hell he wants to. Which is why, in the midst of eating, he considers it’s a good moment to bring up Seungjin and their previous conversation.

“Seungjin will probably come to visit soon,” Taehyung announces then. He clears his throat and, after tapping at his lips with the napkin, adds, “If the invitation for him to come is still on the table, that is.”

“Sweetie, of course he’s still invited to come. You know we’d love to see him. And your father can’t wait to meet him. Right, Joohyuk?” his mother says, eyes drifting from Taehyung to his father when she says those words.

“That’s right, yes,” his father says, sincere. It catches Taehyung by surprise—his father has no reason to dislike Seungjin nor to show him a lack of hospitality, so Taehyung doesn’t understand why he’s so shocked. Maybe because his dad is never too enthused about anything related to him, so he expected him to be the same just as unenthused as he usually is.

“A friend of yours from Amsterdam, huh?” Jeongguk asks, before he raises his glass of wine to his lips and takes a sip.

“I was in Maastricht,” Taehyung corrects. Jeongguk is unfazed, and so Taehyung adds, “And he’s not a friend. It’s my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” Jeongguk asks once he’s wiped his mouth after his drink. Taehyung nods. “What does he do? And how old is he? I take it you met him there.”

These are the sort of questions he’d expect from his father, not Jeongguk.

“He’s twenty-six and yeah, I did,” Taehyung says, seeing Jeongguk nod. “Oh, and he’s a model.”

That seems to surprise Jeongguk, whose eyebrows climb halfway up to his hairline in surprise. He asks, “A model, eh?” When Taehyung hums in confirmation, Jeongguk says, “Well, that would explain why you were too busy in Europe to call or text your friends from home.”

And, ah, there it is. If Taehyung keeps bringing up that Jeongguk stole his place at his dad’s firm from him, then Jeongguk keeps bringing up that Taehyung didn’t keep in touch with him. It’s funny how both of them keep holding it against each other, when rationally speaking, Taehyung knows both of them had something to do with both instances—Taehyung is the one who failed to get into SNU after an exam that didn’t go as well as he expected, and Jeongguk didn’t put in as much effort in keeping close as he demanded from Taehyung. Of course, Taehyung won’t admit this to Jeongguk.

There’s something different about this time, though. Even if most of the other times, Jeongguk gives in to Taehyung’s teasing and ends up bickering with him, it’s mostly Taehyung who initiates it. This is probably the first time that Jeongguk is the first to make a jab. Taehyung doesn’t know what to make out of it, nor does he know what it means. Probably that the situation between them got even worse. But what he knows, for sure, is that he’s not going to back down.

“Aw, Jeonggukie, don’t worry. I didn’t replace you for a model,” he says, purposefully using the nickname that he’s called Jeongguk so many times before. Jeongguk’s eyebrow twitched at that, probably aware that Taehyung is just doing this to irk him. “I’ve only been seeing him for the last ten months, and I didn’t know him until after four years of being there.”

“I see then,” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung can see the way his jaw clenches then. He holds back a smile. “I thought dating a model would be a good enough reason to ignore everyone, you know. An understandable one, at least.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, really,” Taehyung says, before he can bring himself to think twice about what he’s saying. Had he done that, he probably would have kept his mouth shut, especially considering he’s sitting at the dinner table with none other than his family. “I actually had other people to keep me busy before that. I haven’t been lonely. if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Judging by the snort that his sister lets out that, the comment comes out with the exact implications that Taehyung had intended. His eyes are still on Jeongguk, but from the corner of his eye he can see his mom’s head whip up to give him a look.

“Taehyung, not at the dinner table, please,” his father says, even though he doesn’t seem too fussed. “You two can catch up afterward if you wish, but that’s not a conversation to have while having dinner with everyone.”

Taehyung knows his parents don’t like it much when he makes crude comments like this, always acting a bit scandalized. His father has just scolded him and his mom gave him a look, but Taehyung doesn’t mind. He can’t bring himself to care, not when Jeongguk looks as mortified as he does now after hearing his words. He isn’t looking at Taehyung anymore, eyes back to his plate as he focuses on his food, and he doesn’t look like he’s going to say anything. Taehyung shut him up at last.

It feels good. Now is when Taehyung lets himself smile a little self-satisfied, a smirk almost teasing its way onto his face. He knows not to push his luck, and so he goes back to his food without making further comments on the topic, letting his parents take over for the next while. For the first time since he got here, Taehyung feels like he has won an argument against Jeongguk. And it feels fucking good.

 

 

The first month after Taehyung’s agency started working comes around, and Taehyung can’t help but feel proud of himself and his team when he goes over the work they’ve done and where things are heading now. Their clients are doing well, making numbers and connections they weren’t making before. Taehyung has no doubt that part of the reason why is the work done by the agency.

Everyone is doing well, but just like Taehyung predicted even before starting, their strongest bet is Hoseok. The increase in his popularity is almost overwhelming, to the point where he not only is immensely well-known among people in South Korea but also overseas. Taehyung is pleasantly surprised by the fact that he’s now close to one million followers on Instagram, something that seems so incredibly exaggerated for an artist who has just debuted.

It’s around that time that Hoseok and his manager drop by the office again. Taehyung didn’t know, but apparently it was Jimin who arranged the meeting, letting Taehyung know mere minutes before they arrive.

“It’s a very last-minute thing,” Jimin tells him after bringing one of the chairs from his office to Taehyung’s. Each one of them has two chairs for visitors on the other side of this desk, and so another one needs to be brought in order for the two of them to have a meeting. He places it by Taehyung’s, on his side of the desk. “You’re gonna like it, though.”

“What is it?” Taehyung asks, his interest piqued. He deserves to know beforehand, he thinks. Jimin must agree because he doesn’t offer much resistance before he tells him.

“I might have gotten Hoseok an endorsement. For a very popular brand, and while we’re at that,” Jimin says. Taehyung’s eyes widen a little at that—he knew this would come eventually, but he didn’t expect it so soon. It seems like brands see the same potential in Hoseok that Taehyung sees in him, and so they’re offering deals to him before he’s offered a partnership by their rivals. “A globally popular brand, too.”

Taehyung is about to ask more, but it’s right then that Hoseok and his manager arrive. Jimin offers to greet them himself, and before Taehyung can refuse and say he’ll do it himself, he’s already on his way to the door. Taehyung can’t help but smile fondly, endeared by Jimin’s antics. He’s clearly pumped about this, as he should be; he’s the one who got the deal for Hoseok, so he has all the right to feel proud of himself and excited about it.

The reunion starts like all the meetings they’ve had so far. Before bringing up the deal, they go over Hoseok’s Instagram account statistics, his sales, some of the headlines about him that have been released since the last time they held a meeting like this. The four of them seem to be pleased about what they see, and so after that’s done, Jimin decides to bring up the possible partnership.

“I’ve been contacting some brands, too, and we’ve been offered a deal you might be interested in,” Jimin tells him, Hoseok nodding, inviting him to continue. “I assume you know Fila?”

“Oh, yeah—of course I know the brand,” Hoseok says, his eyes brightening up at that. “If you’re not gonna say what I think you’re gonna say and you’ve created false hopes in me for nothing, I’m gonna leave here sad,” he jokes.

Jimin laughs a little at that, shaking his head. “Well, then I hope we’re both on the same wavelength here,” Jimin says. “I’ve been in contact with Gene Yoon himself, the current chairman of Fila. They’d like for you to become the global ambassador for the brand, as well as the face of their next campaign.”

“You’re kidding me,” Hoseok says then, complete and utter shock taking over his head. Taehyung can’t help but smile a little at the reaction—he knows about Hoseok’s humble origins, so asking to be the ambassador of a worldwide known brand like this must be something he never could have dreamed of. “Global ambassador? For Fila?”

“That’s what he said in his email to me this morning. I wanted to give you the news in person since this is a huge deal. I can arrange a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the conditions and terms,” Jimin offers.

“I would love that, yeah,” Hoseok says, nodding. “That’s—well, I feel like it’s the perfect offer, right?” he asks, giving a glance to his manager. “Like, that’s exactly what we’re going for, and I wear a lot of their stuff already.”

“Looks like dressing like an e-boy finally paid off,” Jimin jokes around then, scribbling something down on paper.

Hoseok seems confused by that, frowning a little as he asks, “Dressing like an e-what?”

“You don’t know what an e-boy is?” Jimin asks, giving him a small yet amused smile. Hoseok shakes his head, still looking confused. “Well, e-boys are the internet’s latest obsession. Usually young attractive guys who post the most pointless videos on TikTok and Instagram trying to look hot. You pretty much look like one, with all the cargo pants and chunky shoes, just without all the cringe factor.”

Taehyung wasn’t sure of what kind of reaction that would garner from Hoseok—maybe more confusion, maybe for him to wrinkle his nose at the mention of e-boys, like most people would do. Instead of that, Hoseok’s confusion melts away from his face, one eyebrow arching up.

“So you think I’m attractive then?” he asks, looking at Jimin.

Jimin’s eyes instantly lift from the paper at that, face going white and eyes widening. His lips part, but nothing comes out of them. Hoseok’s smile widens a little and Jimin’s awkwardness grows, and so Taehyung decides to intervene before Jimin explodes.

“We’re getting carried away here,” he says, giving Hoseok a pointed look. He laughs a little, leaning back in the chair and freeing Jimin from his stare. “Let’s get back to business, yeah?”

Conversation goes back to being strictly professional after that, discussing what was said in the emails exchanged between Jimin and the representatives of the brand. Despite that, Taehyung doesn’t miss the occasional clandestine looks that Jimin and Hoseok exchange while the four of them talk, unaware that Taehyung can see everything.

He doesn’t comment on it, of course. Not in front of Hoseok and his management, at least. But he’s still going to have to pull Jimin aside at some point to quiz him more on his greedy eyes.

 

 

Taehyung is fifteen the first time he’s invited for dinner to the Jeons, never having been to Jeongguk’s for anything other than short playdates. He’s seen Jeongguk’s mother a lot since they became friends a year ago, but it’ll be the first time he meets Jeongguk’s dad. He’s always working, according to Jeongguk, and rarely comes home other than for dinner and sleep. If he’s quite honest, Taehyung isn’t sure what Mr. Jeon does. He’s a stockbroker, Taehyung thinks? Or at least, he swears he’s heard Jeongguk mention that before.

He’s never usually nervous about meeting the parents of his friends. Taehyung has always been outgoing and good with people, even with grown-ups, so he’s never had much of a problem with meeting them. It’s different with Mr. Jeon for some reason. Jeongguk is his best friend, and so he cares deeply about what his parents think of him. What if Mr. Jeon decides that Taehyung isn’t a good influence on Jeongguk and doesn’t allow for them to be friends anymore? Taehyung would absolutely hate that.

He knows Jeongguk’s mother likes him at least. She’s always driving them to places, and when she does so and Taehyung animatedly chats to her, she’s always laughing at Taehyung’s joke. She’s currently in the kitchen, finishing up dinner after Jeongguk sets the table for the two of them. Jeongguk and Taehyung are now waiting in the living room.

“He should be back any moment now,” Jeongguk says, leaning back against the sofa as Taehyung scrolls down his phone, the screen cracked. Taehyung puts it down for a second, gives Jeongguk a soft smile. “I’m sure he’ll like you a lot.”

But if Taehyung is nervous, then Jeongguk is even more worried about them meeting. Taehyung gets the feeling—he was always dying for his parents to approve of Jeongguk the first time he invited him home. He has to hold back the urge to pull Jeongguk in for a hug and give him a big, big squeeze.

The TV is on, but it’s not loud enough for them to not hear the tone of Jeongguk’s mom’s phone ringing in the kitchen. Despite hearing it, neither of them pays much attention to it, nor to the muffled sound of her voice as she speaks to however has called. What they can’t miss is the moment she comes into the living room, clutching her phone in her hands.

“Jeongguk, darling?” she calls, the two young boys looking at her. Once she has her son’s attention she continues, “Your dad just called to tell us to start dinner without him. Said he was held back at the office and that he can’t come yet.”

Taehyung’s eyes instantly go to Jeongguk when he says that, hearing him sigh. For some reason, Taehyung’s heart breaks a little at the sight.

“I’ll pick up his plate,” he says then, starting to walk towards the dining room. Taehyung steals a glance at his mom before jumping off the couch and following him. “Don’t worry, Taehyung. You can meet him some other time. He’s just busy.”

“Of course I can,” Taehyung says. He helps Jeongguk take the stuff back to the kitchen, and once that’s done, the two of them get back to the living room. “Are you sad?”

“I’m used to it,” Jeongguk says, shrugging his shoulders. “He’s never home anyway…”

Taehyung smiles a little at Jeongguk, sympathetic. He can’t help but reach for his knee and give it a small squeeze trying to be reassuring. Jeongguk looks at him then, giving him a small grin.

At least he’s managed to make Jeongguk smile.

 

 

Most people, when they can’t sleep, find themselves scrolling endlessly through their Instagram explore page, distracted by the most pointless and random videos. Taehyung does that sometimes, too, but most of the time, he gets distracted even before getting to the explore page. He gets distracted by the suggested accounts to follow that Instagram offers him.

It’s almost two in the morning and he’s sleepy despite not being able to sleep, so he doesn’t pay much attention to the profiles suggested. He doesn’t recognize the usernames or the pictures, anyway, so there’s not much for him to see there.

It’s then, as he’s scrolling, that a profile suggested to him because of the contacts on his phone’s address book calls his attention. J__J.K, the username reads. Taehyung thinks it’s ugly as fuck, with all the underscores and the period, but that’s not why he stops scrolling as soon as he sees it. It’s because he would recognize those initials anywhere. Jeon Jeongguk.

Taehyung doesn’t think twice about it before he taps on the profile and gets it up on his phone, biting down on his bottom lip. The bio is a random song lyric and there are no selfies for him to confirm his suspicions, at least not at first sight. The Instagram page… well, it looks more relaxed than the Jeongguk he knows now. There are pictures of sunsets, sceneries, dogs, coffee cups. Taehyung can’t help but feel something twist in his stomach as he looks at it, because that definitely looks like Jeongguk’s photography. Jeongguk is obsessed with capturing nature, and that’s exactly what Taehyung finds the most on his feed. No excessive filters that might ruin the photo, and all of them in excellent quality, definitely not taken by a phone.

To Taehyung, it screams Jeongguk.

Which is confusing because it doesn’t remind Taehyung of the current Jeongguk. The page looks like the profile of any other guy their age would look, not like the arrogant and cocky shit that Jeongguk has become. Nothing as proper as he acts now—no posts showing off expensive watches or suits.

Taehyung wonders if maybe it’s just someone with the same initials. It could be that. That is until all of his scrolling takes him to another picture of a dog, but this one of a dog he recognizes. That’s Cloud, Jeongguk’s family dog. And if a JJK is posting pictures of Cloud, it can only mean one thing.

This, right here, is Jeongguk’s Instagram. Jeongguk’s Instagram which shows that under all of the arrogance, pressed suits, under all the cockiness and the fights, there’s still some of the Jeongguk he once knew there, somewhere. Or at least, that’s how Taehyung reads it.

 

 

 

 “Hey, Tae!”

Taehyung, who was walking away from school when he hears his name being called, turns around and looks behind himself. Not that he needs to see the person calling to know who it is—he would recognize that voice anywhere, even with the noise of students chattering away as they leave school.

Upon spinning around on his heels, Taehyung finds Jeongguk jogging over to him. He’s wearing their school’s uniform, sporting a wide smile on his face as he waves with one hand and clutches at the strap of his backpack with the other. Taehyung smiles a little at him, waving as well.

“Hey, Gukkie,” Taehyung says, turning around a little once he and Jeongguk are side by side. Jeongguk slows down and starts walking next to him, his breathing not affected in the slightest by the light jog. “How was your day?”

“Boring. Almost fell asleep in class,” Taehyung replies, honest. Nothing different from most days, to be honest. “Yours?”

“Boring as well,” Jeongguk says, silence reigning between the two of them for a second there. It’s not uncomfortable, and they still have the sound of everyone else speaking around them, but Jeongguk breaks it soon. He adds, “Do you want to do something today?”

Taehyung wishes he could say yes, but these days he barely has any time to do the things he enjoys, his days packed with school work. When Taehyung was younger, in elementary school, he played the saxophone and played tennis, taking lessons twice a week, in addition to school and English classes. But as he grew older, those hobbies had to eventually be dropped: first it was tennis, when he started high school. A few months ago, at the start of senior year, he had too much going on, and to his dismay, had to stop with the saxophone lessons. He misses it like crazy, but it was necessary, especially given that he still barely has time for himself with them gone. Life is about prioritizing, his dad always says, and if for a few years he prioritizes his studies and secures a good life for himself, then he’ll be able to eventually spend more time on his hobbies.

“I’m not really sure. I have a lot of studying that I have to do today,” Taehyung says, stealing a glance at Jeongguk from the corner of his eye and seeing him deflate a little. Taehyung feels a pang of guilt in his chest. Jeongguk hasn’t said anything to him, but Taehyung knows that he’s a bit sad about how little they’ve been seeing each other lately. He hasn’t complained since he probably understands Taehyung needs to prioritize his studies, used to hearing the exact same thing at home. What Taehyung doesn’t know is whether Jeongguk is aware that this situation upsets him just as much. More, even.

“That’s fine then, Taetae,” Jeongguk says, not pushing any further. Taehyung feels his heart break a little, aware that he hates what he’s hearing. And mostly, he hates how defeated Jeongguk sounds. “I understand.”

Taehyung stops in his tracks then, at the same time he sighs. Jeongguk takes a couple of steps until he realizes Taehyung has stopped, and so he turns around and gives him a confused look. Students keep walking around them, dodging them. Luckily for Taehyung, no one bumps into him despite his abrupt stop.

“Would you like to come over today? Maybe we can get some studying done together,” Taehyung tells him, blurting it out before he can bring himself to regret it. He’s not as productive when he’s with someone else to distract him, of course not, but… well, he can afford to do this today. He’s been working hard lately. Every once in a while, he needs to take it a little easier. “And maybe when we’re done we can play some video games, and then your mom can come pick you up.”

Jeongguk tilts his head to the side, lips parting for a moment without words slipping past them. He seems almost hesitant, as if he doesn’t know what he wants to reply. “Are you sure? I understand if you need to study. I don’t want to distract you from your studies. I know things are tough,” Jeongguk tells him in the end, voicing his worries.

But Taehyung just nods, sure of himself. People study in other’s company all the time. Taehyung isn’t too used to it, always one to have worked better in isolation, but maybe he can get used to it. It can be a way for him to spend some time with Jeongguk without neglecting his obligations. “Yeah, I am. That way I can get work done and still spend some time with you. What do you think? Good idea or not?”

For a moment there, Taehyung thinks that Jeongguk is going to decline, probably too concerned about being a distraction for Taehyung. He’s selfless, doesn’t like to feel like he’s getting in the way. That is until he sees the change in Jeongguk’s expression. The smile spreads across his face slowly, making its way to his lips almost gently. He nods happily as he says, “I think it’s a great idea, Tae.”

Taehyung can’t help but mimic the gesture then, resuming his walking now that they’ve made up their mind. His chest feels warm then, glad that he was able to come up with a solution that won’t result in anyone being upset. As soon as he gets next to Jeongguk, the other boy starts walking as well, both of them resuming their walk towards the main gate of the school.

“Let’s get going then.”

 

 

Taehyung spends his entire Saturday looking for places to live, with absolutely no success. Most of the places he finds seem to miss at least one of his requirements, and those that meet all of them just… don’t wow him the way he’d expect them to. He understands he’s being demanding, but he knows there has to be somewhere that takes his breath away. And he’s not going to settle for less when he knows the perfect place needs to exist somewhere.

Taehyung is a patient person, but after hours of looking with no avail, he ends up being frustrated. He was two potential places selected, but they don’t convince him too much. He’s not going to completely discard them right now, but he knows that the moment he finds somewhere he really likes, there will be no doubts whatsoever. The fact that he’s so hesitant from the get-go tells him that neither of those places aren’t really for him.

Things aren’t looking too bright, so he decides to give himself a break and go down to the kitchen, serve himself an iced tea and go to the garden for a little to clear his mind. When he walks there, tea in his hand, he finds his mother sitting under the sun, reading a book. Taehyung takes the deck chair next to hers, diverting her attention from the book and on to him.

“What are you reading?” Taehyung asks, watching as his mother closes the book and leaves it on her lap.

Trainspotting,” his mom replies, Taehyung nodding along. “You know it.”

“The movie,” Taehyung replies.

“It’s an interesting read,” his mom replies, pulling her sunglasses up as a headband and giving Taehyung a look. “What’s wrong?”

“Who said anything’s wrong?” Taehyung asks, raising an eyebrow and giving his mom a small smile.

“I do. I know you, Taehyung-ah,” she says, Taehyung tilting his head as his lower lip catches between his lips. “Come on, tell me what’s troubling you. You know I’ll do what I can to help.”

“Nothing is wrong,” Taehyung says, as he takes a deep breath. “I’m just frustrated. I’m looking for places online, but nothing I’ve found is good enough. And I called up about the places I liked most and one of them didn’t pick up, and the other said it wasn’t up for sale anymore.”

“Oh, sweetie. These things can be tricky online,” his mother says. Taehyung lets out a sigh—he knows, he’s looked for places before and it takes time, but it’s never been as bad as this. Usually, he found a few places he liked and then was disappointed when he visited them, but now he can’t even find a place he likes in pictures. He’s starting to lose his patience. “Have you tried getting in touch with a professional? A lot of the time, they have access to places that aren’t accessible to the rest of us.”

“I haven’t yet but I should,” he says, giving in.. A professional will have access to far more sources than him, and they’ll probably have a better eye, too. Maybe it’s about time that he stops being stubborn and seeks for help.

“I can give you Miyeon’s number if you want,” his mother says then, tone persuasive. Taehyung gives her a pointed look, knowing that if she keeps that up she’s going to end up convincing him. “She can help, maybe even make this whole process go by faster.”

“She’s Jeongguk’s mom,” Taehyung points out.

“And a great estate agent at that, as well as a woman who loves you a lot and spent a lot of time with you when you were younger,” his mom reminds him. Taehyung doesn’t reply to that—he knows she’s right, and so he presses his lips into a line and doesn’t bother arguing. “She won’t get involved in whatever unresolved business you and Jeongguk have. Maybe she doesn’t even know about it.”

“But you and dad know,” Taehyung knows.

“Because we’ve witnessed it,” she says. “But I doubt you would have bothered to tell us about your petty fights if we weren’t there. Am I right?”

“I’m not good with hypotheticals,” Taehyung says, making his mother laugh as she puts her sunglasses back on. “So… you think I should contact her then?”

“If you don’t want to spend the next few months searching - yes,” she says. She’s sitting further back on her deck chair now, and Taehyung knows that means the conversation is over, as she plans to continue with her afternoon of leisure.

He bites on the insides of his cheeks, nodding. “Fine,” he says, giving in. He’s not a fool, after all; there’s nothing as unwise as ignoring your mother’s advice. “Can you give me her number, please?”

A small smile starts spreading on his mother’s lips then. Taehyung can see a hint of smugness in it, happy that she got her own way and Taehyung has decided to listen to her advice instead of looking on his own.

“I’ll send it to you in a bit.”

 

 

There’s something incredibly nerve-wracking about speaking to Mrs. Jang for the first time in eight years, even more than it was talking to Jeongguk at first. After his mom gives him her number, Taehyung decides to go for a shower and then procrastinate some more in his bed, before he finally gets the courage to grab his phone and dial her number. By the fifth tone he assumes she won’t pick and feels a mixture of relief and disappointment wash over him, but it’s exactly ten when she picks up.

Taehyung has listened to her talk a million times, but it’s been so long he couldn’t even remember what her voice sounded like. The memories come rushing back to his mind as soon as she picks up the phone, asking, “Hello?”

And she sounds just like she did all those years ago. Taehyung stays frozen there for a second, nibbling lightly on his bottom lip until he snaps out of his daze and realizes he probably seems like a creep. He reacts before she can hang up and block his number forever, asking, “Mrs. Jang? It’s Taehyung—Kim Taehyung.”

Oh—Taehyung!” she says, sounding as shocked as Taehyung would expect her to. It must really come as a shock after so many years. Especially considering Taehyung didn’t even call her when he and Jeongguk were friends, always using Jeongguk’s cell number to call him up. “It’s such a surprise to hear from you again, after so long. How are things? Are you back from the Netherlands?”

It’s a question, but Taehyung can distinguish genuine curiosity from small talk. Jeongguk must have told her he was back at some point, he’d imagine.

“I got back about a month ago, yeah,” Taehyung says, scratching behind his right ear as he tries to come up with a good way to bring up the matter. “How’s everything going for all of you? I’ve seen Jeongguk around a lot lately.”

We’re doing well. Not much news to share, luckily,” she says, eliciting a soft smile from Taehyung that she obviously can’t see. “How about you? Is life treating you well?”

“I have no complaints. I’ve had a good few years, but it’s nice to be home,” Taehyung says, earning himself a hum from her. “I’m gonna stay here for definite now, in Seoul. Which is actually why I’m calling.”

You’re staying?” she asks, sounding surprised. Taehyung makes a small noise in confirmation, and so Mrs. Jang adds, “I wasn’t expecting you to come back after all this time.”

“I guess we all end up coming back home at some point,” Taehyung says, not having a proper answer for it himself. He’s also still trying to figure out what exactly is it about the time where he left that made it so right. As much as he loves small talk, he wants to get on topic. “Mrs. Jang, I’m sorry to be calling you for work-related matters on the weekend, but I could use some professional help. Since coming back, I've been living with my parents, but I’m looking for a place of my own now.”

Oh! That’s exciting, Taehyung. You know by now that I’m always here to help,” Mrs. Jang says, Taehyung able to detect the smile on her face even through the phone. “Do you have any ideas or requirements?

“I have a few, yeah,” Taehyung says, reaching out for the small notebook still resting on top of the mattress, where he’s written down the must-haves for his apartment. “Should we meet in person on Monday and I can let you know?”

No way. You can email them to me right now, there’s no need to wait until Monday,” she says. Taehyung is about to protest since he does see the need to wait. He knows Mrs. Jang doesn’t work on the weekends, so he doesn’t want an exception being made for him. “On Monday I’ll send a few options to you, and we can schedule visits to the places you’re interested in for Wednesday. Does that sound good to you? I’ll just need a really comprehensive list of what you’re after.

“What—so fast?” Taehyung asks, his jaw almost dropped open. Mrs. Jang hums. “There really is no rush.”

I know, I know,” Mrs. Jang says with a laugh. Taehyung swallows down. “Do you have anything at hand to write down my email?

“Yeah, yeah—just a moment,” Taehyung says, reaching for his pen. He uncaps it, saying, “Okay, now.”

In the same notebook, in the lower corner of the page, Taehyung scribbles down the email that Mrs. Jang recites to him. After that, the conversation between the two of them doesn’t last for much longer—Mrs. Jang insists that he sends the information to her as soon as possible, and Taehyung agrees. After some more polite small talk they both say their goodbyes, Taehyung being the first to hang up.

Part of him feels weird about having spoken to her for so long, especially with how things with Jeongguk are now—messy. But the other part of him knows that his mother is right, and this is the best option for him. Mrs. Jang is fast and efficient, and Taehyung trusts her far more than he would trust a random real estate agent he found online, regardless of all the five-star reviews they could have. He takes a sharp breath and drops the phone on the mattress, right next to his leg.

He’s made the right choice.

 

 

It’s on Tuesday that Taehyung and Mrs. Jang finally arrange a meeting for the following day at 12:00. It’s office hours, but Taehyung figures he can leave a couple of hours early for once and catch up with work later that evening when he gets home. He still wants to check with Jimin beforehand, so he drops by his office before confirming and lets him know, earning an enthusiastic nod from Jimin.

“Of course you can, Tae!” Jimin tells him. Since he and Taehyung have been getting closer and closer, he knew about all the trouble Taehyung went through that weekend to try to find places, without obtaining much success. He actually agreed with his mom that asking for help was the wisest idea, and so he seems to have no trouble with Taehyung leaving him in charge for the remainder of tomorrow. “I’m sure the visits tomorrow will go well. Who knows? You might find your dream place. I won’t get in the middle of that.”

“Please—we could have rescheduled or something if it didn’t work out well with you,” Taehyung says. Jimin gives him a pointed look, as if he were spurring nonsense. “Don’t give me that look.”

“It’s the look you’ve earned. I can take charge for a few hours. Let me pretend I’m mister CEO and account director,” Jimin says, leaning back against his chair.

Taehyung has to muffle down his laughter with his palm, not wanting to attract any unwanted attention to the relaxed conversation the two of them are having right now. Not that he doesn’t want people to know he and Jimin are friends—he’s positive everyone knows, anyway—but he doesn’t want to disrupt the working atmosphere.

“Fine, fine. Get it, mister CEO. The agency is all yours tomorrow after twelve,” Taehyung jokes around. Jimin grins at him as deviously as he can manage, tapping the tips of his fingers together into a theatrical gesture.

“Fantastic then,” Jimin says.

Taehyung shakes his head, letting out another fit of laughter before he moves to stand up. “I need to get back to work now,” he says, about to take a step to the door. It’s then, when he’s about to leave, that he’s reminded of something else that he was meant to ask Jimin. “Oh! By the way, are there any updates on the Fila endorsement with Hoseok.”

“I was just emailing his managers and the Fila representative this morning,” Jimin says, looking up at Taehyung from where he’s sitting in front of his desk. “They read over the contract and agreed to sign. Now I’m trying to arrange a meeting so everything can be signed in person, but both parties are wanting to speed things up, so it will probably be tomorrow or the day after.”

“That’s good then. The quicker the better,” Taehyung says, with a nod. “You’ve done a great job with this whole thing, by the way. I barely had any time to congratulate you on it the other day.”

Taehyung is almost blinded by the brightness of Jimin’s smile then, the man looking down at his hands and shaking his head before meeting Taehyung’s eyes again. “Thank you so much, Tae,” he says. Taehyung smiles back. “It’s mostly on Hoseok, though. People like him. It makes my job ten times easier.”

“You know as much as people like him, what you did would be almost impossible to achieve without a good PR team. Let me congratulate you on doing a good job! You deserve it,” he says, again making Jimin laugh lightly. “And he seemed really grateful, too.”

“He was. He thanked me a lot before leaving, too,” Jimin says. Taehyung hums, the events from last time rushing back to his mind. It’s then that he remembers he was meant to ask Jimin something else.

“In my office, too,” he says, Jimin nodding along. “Even with the e-boy thing.”

It seems to take a moment for the implications of what he’s saying to click for Jimin, but once they do, his eyes widen a little and he looks down at the desk before him. He groans, burying his face in the palms of his hands.

“Don’t remind me. I can’t believe I said that in front of his manager. Like—it’s not even what I said, because it’s objective that he’s attractive. But when he asked if I truly thought he was attractive? Fuck, I thought I was gonna die,” Jimin says, words muffled against the skin of his hands. Taehyung still manages to understand him despite that.

“I wasn’t expecting him to blurt out anything like that, either. Much less in front of his manager,” Taehyung says, understanding the mortification Jimin feels. He lets another groan out, before lifting his head up. When Taehyung notices the slight blush on Jimin’s cheeks, he can’t help but narrow his eyes at him. “Wait…”

“I know what you’re gonna say, and no,” Jimin says, eyes widening comically again.

“Do you have a cr—?” Taehyung starts, but before he can finish his sentence, Jimin interrupts.

“No! Of course not,” Jimin exclaims. “Our relationship is strictly professional. We haven’t even spoken outside of meetings or anything like that. It’s his management who I’m in touch with, not him. Like I said—just professional.”

“Alright, alright,” Taehyung says, playful smile as he lifts his hands up, as if giving up. “I had a crush on Seungjin when I started interning for the agency he was signed with, you know. He just walked in there, so tall and handsome, and I was fresh out of college and had a weak heart.”

“I don’t have one, though,” Jimin reassures again. “But just out of pure curiosity—did you do anything?”

“Other than ogle from afar? Not really,” Taehyung says with a laugh. “But around a year ago, when I had already stopped working there, I ran into him and he recognized me. Said he missed seeing my face when he dropped by, and so we exchanged numbers and started talking, and here we are now.”

“God, that’s so cute and perfect,” Jimin says, Taehyung smiling a bit. It is cute now that he thinks about it. “You guys are cute.”

“We are,” says Taehyung, nodding. He lets out a sigh then, aware that their conversation is not only getting a bit too long now, but also steering away from professional matters. “I really need to get back to work now.”

“Of course, of course. Me too,” Jimin says, giving Taehyung a nod before he turns around and starts walking towards the door. “Do your best, Taehyungie!”

Taehyung laughs at that, turning around when he reaches the door to give Jimin one last look.

“Do your best, Jiminie.”

 

 

There was nothing in the emails exchanged between Taehyung and Mrs. Jang that would suggest the reunion between the two of them would include other people. So, understandably, Taehyung is shocked to say the least when she parks up and he sees another silhouette next to her through the tinted windows.

Taehyung is waiting by the first apartment they agreed to view, getting there a bit earlier since he came by taxi. At first, from a distance and through the glass, it’s hard for him to see who’s sitting next to Mrs. Jang in the car. But as soon as the car stops and the two of them get out, it starts making a little more sense. Because that, right there, is Jeongguk.

Maybe that’s why Mrs. Jang didn’t tell him anything—maybe she thought he wouldn’t mind. Taehyung tries not to let his expression go sour as the two of them approach, letting Mrs. Jang pull him into a tight, asphyxiating hug.

“Oh my god, you’ve grown even more since I last saw you. How is it possible?” she asks, making Taehyung laugh lightly at that. She sways him in the embrace, pulling back to look at him. “And you look even more handsome. Look at you, all grown now. Even buying a house.”

“And you look even more beautiful than I remember, Mrs. Jang,” Taehyung tells him, seeing the woman laugh at the comment. “I might be grown, but years surely don’t seem to go by for you.”

He says it to be flattering, because his parents have taught him to always be as charming as possible, and because he can see the way Mrs. Jang’s eyes light up at the comment. There’s truth to it, though—she hasn’t changed much since Taehyung last saw her, other than the fine line between her eyebrows and the ones around her eyes deepening slightly. 

As much as Mrs. Jang likes the comment, Jeongguk doesn’t seem to share the same opinion. He’s standing behind his mother, feigning gagging noises as he watches the whole interaction. It catches Taehyung off guard, used to Jeongguk acting as if he were the most mature person on the face of Earth these days. His mom turns around with a frown between her brows. Maybe he’s the cause of the deepening of the line.

“Jeongguk, what on earth?” she asks, as confused as Taehyung is. He doesn’t show it, though, instead giving the blankest stare he can manage.

“That was uncomfortable to watch,” Jeongguk says, his mom clicking her tongue as she shakes her head.

“Enough, boy,” his mother says. Jeongguk holds her gaze, but there’s no defiance to the stare the two of them share. “Taehyung, forgive me for not telling you before. Jeongguk is looking for somewhere to buy, tool, and since you two have similar things in mind I thought maybe you two could see the houses together. To spare me one visit, mostly,” she says, laughing. Taehyung steals a look at Jeongguk, whose eyes are still on his mom. “Not that I usually do this with clients, but you know—it’s different with you guys. Since you’re—were friends.”

Taehyung can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the correction, surprised his mother seems to be aware of the fact that they don’t really get along anymore. He guesses it must have come up naturally—maybe his mom found out Taehyung came back, and asked Jeongguk if that meant they would get back in touch. It’s only normal to ask, considering their families are seemingly still close.

She seems to know, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying to bring the two of them together. Taehyung is a mature adult, though, and so he won’t let his dislike for Jeongguk get in the way of the stuff he has to get done. He’s adulting. Maybe this is how Jeongguk feels whenever Taehyung tries to start arguments around his father or family—after all, it’s his boss. Taehyung doesn’t think he would be too comfortable letting Jeongguk’s mom see that side of him, so maybe that’s how Jeongguk feels when the roles are reversed.

Knowing that won’t stop him from his petty ways, though. At this point, he’s not sure he can be stopped. There’s a force dragging the two of them into arguments, and Taehyung doesn’t think there’s a short-term remedy to that.

"Nothing to forgive, of course,” Taehyung says, offering Mrs. Jang the kindest smile he can manage. Like he said, he won’t act petty in front of Jeongguk’s mother. Plus, Jeongguk is over at his house all the time anyway. That means two things: one, spending the afternoon in his presence won’t be such an effort, considering he’s around all the time; and two, the sooner they see the houses, the sooner he can move and stop seeing Jeongguk. So he better make the most out of this afternoon.

The visit starts with that, the three of them getting inside the building after being led by Mrs. Jang. The location alone meets the first checkpoint: it’s centric. Taehyung is looking for somewhere in town, relatively close to his office. It doesn’t have to be within walking distance, but definitely closer than his family’s house, which is on the outskirts of Seoul. He wants to properly live in the city now and experience the complete city life.

It’s a nice area, and the building is modern, although just by looking at it Taehyung can tell that it will be on the expensive side. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly what he’s looking for. He wants an open space, something brighter and maybe more minimalistic. He’s not looking for anything too luxurious or over the top, and that’s exactly what the first apartment they see feels like. He’s not looking for his place to be a display of his wealth; more so, a space that makes him feel calm and at home. For that reason, the first apartment they see is an easy no for him.

Jeongguk doesn’t seem too enthused by it either. When they’re done with the visit and Mrs. Jang asks them what they think, both say it’s not exactly what they’re looking for. Mrs. Jang laughs then, humored.

“See? You still have more in common than you guys think,” she says, already making her way to the lift. Jeongguk and Taehyung look at each other, but neither of them says anything before they follow her to the elevator.

After that, the three of them ride in Mrs. Jang’s car to the next location, Taehyung sitting in the backseat, Jeongguk in the passenger seat and his mother behind the wheel. It’s actually during that short drive, and while they struggle to find a decent parking spot, that Taehyung finds out Jeongguk still lives at home. It makes sense, he guesses; living in Seoul, he didn’t have much of a reason to move out while studying. Now that he’s working and earning money for himself, he wants some independence which makes perfect sense.

“So, how’s your husband then?” Taehyung asks, curious. Mr. Jeon hasn’t been brought up yet, not only between the three of them but… at all. Not by his parents either, which is weird now that Taehyung thinks about it. It starts to make sense when Mrs. Jang replies.

“Oh, dear. Younghwan and I split up a few years back,” Mrs. Jang says. Taehyung feels his eyes widen, cheeks heating up. Well, fuck. At least neither her or Jeongguk seem upset or annoyed by the question, but that doesn’t stop a knot from forming in his chest. “It wasn’t working out. He spent more time at work than with me or Jeongguk, so it had to end. I wasn’t a healthy family relationship,” she explains.

Taehyung nods, memories coming back to mind of how absent Jeongguk’s dad always was. He was never home until very late, barely got free days to spend with his family. Taehyung knew it hurt Jeongguk, and it’s not surprising to know his wife was also upset by it. Maybe it was for the best, Taehyung thinks. They both seem to be doing fine now.

“Should I call you Ms. Jang now, then?” Taehyung asks, making the lady laugh as she pulls the handbrake once the car is parked.

“Yeah, Ms. Jang it is now,” she says. “Let’s get going, guys. We have a lot to see.”

The second place they see is more up Taehyung’s alley. It’s very bright, and as soon as Taehyung sees the kitchen he automatically falls in love with it. There’s a big breakfast bar and tall windows, offering a lot of light and a pretty view. It’s very big, too; three bedrooms, the main one with an ensuite bathroom, another complete bathroom, a toilet, a living room with a dining area and lastly the kitchen. It’s more than Taehyung thought he’d need, but it’s… got the appeal he was looking for. A potential and strong candidate. All he would need to do is turn one of the spare bedrooms into an office for him to work at home, but with that he’d be all set.

Jeongguk likes it as well. Taehyung doesn’t appreciate how the two of them seem to have similar opinions, and hopes that that doesn’t mean they might want the exact same place once they’ve seen everything. He doesn’t comment on it yet, but he gives him a dirty look as the three of them walk out of the building and in the direction of the car, ready to head to the next one.

The next one they see is fine as well, although slightly more underwhelming than the second. It’s by the time they get to the fourth that Taehyung feels it. It’s a feeling he gets as soon as he gets inside the place and sees that… well, it’s exactly everything he has ever found himself wanting.

It’s a loft, located at the top of a tall building. Despite being modern, it doesn’t look too pristine or impersonal, but cozy instead. Since it’s a loft, there’s a bigger open space that would easily fit both dining and living spaces. The bedroom area is big enough for a spacious bed and room to move around or get creative with the decor. There’s another space similar to the bedroom where Taehyung could totally see himself setting up his office. The bathroom is obviously an independent room, unlike the kitchen, which is set on one of the ends of the loft, away from where Taehyung would place the bed.

He never thought of a loft, to be honest. But now that he’s here, he wants this. He can see himself living here. The entire outer wall is a huge glass window, from one end to the other of the loft. He’s for sure going to have to invest in some privacy for the windows, but the truth is that he wants this. As Ms. Jang shows them around, all he can think is that he wants this. No doubt.

He thought that when he saw it, he would know. This is a big decision, one that should be made with lots of thinking and considering, but Taehyung trusts his instincts. And right now, his instincts scream at him to take this place before anyone can snatch it from him. He’ll of course ask for opinions from his family before properly formalizing anything, but out of all of the places they’ve viewed, this one has it all, and then some.

“So how did you like this one, boys?” Ms. Jang asks when they’re leaving, locking the door before walking to the elevator.

Taehyung doesn’t wait to see what Jeongguk says. As soon as Ms. Jang asks, he replies, “I want it. I’m so in love with it, I—I want it.”

Ms. Jang looks at him then, the start of a smile appearing on her face. She looks like she’s about to reply when a third voice joins in, interrupting him.

“But I want it, too.”

When Taehyung considered the possibility of this exact scenario happening, he didn’t wish for it. He thought it would be possibly the worst fucking thing, because as much as he likes arguing with Jeongguk over petty things or the past, this is not something he wants to leave to his or Jeongguk’s temper. This is an important decision, his future. Taehyung’s alarms go off when he hears those five words from Jeongguk, giving him a blank stare.

“Sweetie, what?” Ms. Jang asks, confused.

“I want it, too,” Jeongguk repeats. “I liked it a lot. It’s unique and different from what we’ve seen before, and it’s the one that caught my attention the most.”

Well, Taehyung really fucking jinxed himself.

“But it’s not what you asked for,” Ms. Jang frowns. “You said, let me see—a spare room and space for an office, at least. And you wanted more bathrooms in case you had guests.”

“I know it’s a little different from what I had asked for, but upon seeing it I changed my mind. It has that view and a lot of space to make up for a lack of a spare bedroom. I could see myself living here, and I liked it the most out of all the ones we’ve seen,” Jeongguk repeats, voice calm.

Taehyung’s fists clench to his sides. He knows he should just stay quiet since he’s been doing so good at not arguing all day, but this—this can’t happen.

“Well, I claimed it first,” Taehyung says before he can contain himself, Jeongguk and his mother both looking at him.

“This isn’t a playground, you can’t get away with saying stuff like I claimed it first,” Jeongguk replies, one of his hands placing itself on his hip as he arches one eyebrow at Taehyung. Taehyung clenches his teeth. “Didn’t you like any of the others?”

“That’s not relevant. The one I’m interested in is this one,” Taehyung says. “And I know full well that this is not how it works. Are you going to give me lessons on real estate now?”

“You look like you could take one, yeah,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung can’t help but laugh bitterly at that. “What?”

“Just because you’re mister lawyer boy now you think you’re better than everyone else? I’ve rented apartments before, Jeongguk. I’m not as clueless as you wish I was, and I will put u[ a fight for this place if I have to,” Taehyung says, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Boys—”

“I never said that. Why are you so defensive all the time?” Jeongguk asks him, making Taehyung scoff. “You think I won’t put up a fight for it, too?”

“I don’t know. You tell me. I just find it a bit too coincidental that you suddenly want this place, too, even though it doesn’t meet your requirements,” Taehyung says, Jeongguk laughing sarcastically at that. Taehyung doesn’t let him stop that, saying, “I don’t know, Jeongguk. I think you’re just trying to get under my skin at this point.”

“If you genuinely think I will buy a house just to get under your skin, then you’re far more self-absorbed than I thought, and also overestimate how much I care about you,” Jeongguk bites back then.

Taehyung’s eyes widen at that, and for a second there he doesn’t know what to say. Not that it matters, because it’s right then that Ms. Jang decides to intervene, putting an end to the argument between the two of them.

“Boys! That’s enough,” she says, mostly looking at Jeongguk. “I have one more place to show you guys today. I can look for more if you wish, and by talking we might be able to come to a conclusion on what to do. If not, we will let the owner pick who he’d like to sell it to. But no fighting. Is that clear?”

And Taehyung can’t help but feel like a little kid again. He thinks of the time Jeongguk and Taehyung broke a vase at the Jeons and tried to clean the mess themselves, leaving behind some porcelain that ended up getting Cloud hurt on his paw. Ms. Jang scolded the two of them, not only for playing ball inside when they weren’t mean to, but also for not being honest. Taehyung remembers standing there, looking down at the floor as Ms. Jang scolded them both, Jeongguk doing the exact same pose and staying silent. It feels like the same now, and Taehyung’s eyes flicker down to the floor before he can even stop himself.

“Clear, mom,” Jeongguk says, with an exasperated sigh. Taehyung just nods. Ms. Jang takes a deep breath through her nose.

“Let’s get going then.”

The fifth place is nice as well, but in comparison to the loft it’s also incredibly underwhelming. After that is done, neither of them showing much enthusiasm, the three of them walk back to the car. Much to Taehyung’s surprise, this time around Ms. Jang heads straight for the passenger side, earning herself a confused look by the two of them.

“What? I’m tired of driving and working all day,” she replies, pulling the door open and getting in the car. Neither of them questions it, Taehyung getting back in the backseat as Jeongguk circles the car and goes to the passenger’s side. “Jeongguk, you’re gonna drop me home first and then drive Taehyung back to his.”

“But—” Jeongguk starts, but he stops when he realizes Taehyung started talking at the same time.

“Oh, no, no need to bother. I can take a taxi,” Taehyung says, but Ms. Jang refuses.

“Absolutely no way. We’re only five minutes away from home, so Jeongguk can drop me there and then he can drive you. You don’t live close, so don’t try to convince me,” Ms. Jang says. Taehyung pouts a little then, but he doesn’t argue any further. “Plus, maybe if you start talking you can get to some sort of agreement.”

“Alright, alright,” Jeongguk ends up agreeing. Ms. Jang smiles, pleased with herself. “It’s no bother, Taehyung. I need to see your father, anyway. He should be home by now.”

“Well, obviously,” Taehyung says, not very shocked by the revelation. When doesn’t Jeongguk need to see his father? “Why don’t you get yourself a partner, or a best friend or something? Maybe then you’ll stop harassing him.”

“Ha, ha. Very funny, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says. “Not all of us can have model boyfriends like you, you know? You’re one of the few lucky ones.”

“Oh?” Ms. Jang asks, her head peeking through the two front seats to look at Taehyung, at the same time Jeongguk turns the engine on. “You have a boyfriend, Taehyung?”

“I do, yeah. He’s Korean but I met him back in the Netherlands and he lives there. His name is Seungjin,” Taehyung tells her, smiling a little as he does so.

“He probably made it up,” Jeongguk says, giving Taehyung a look through the rearview mirror. Taehyung rolls his eyes, aware Jeongguk can see him as well. “It’s too perfect to be true, Taehyung.”

“Well, my parents and my sister know him, so he’s obviously very real,” Taehyung says, crossing his arms over his chest and one arm over the other.

“Your mother does,” Jeongguk points out. Taehyung gives him a blank look, unsure of what Jeongguk is trying to get at with that clarification. “I don’t know, Taehyung. Maybe you paid someone on the street to pose as your boyfriend. It’s a possibility.”

“Oh my—fuck off!” Taehyung exclaims, Ms. Jang laughs from the front seat, Taehyung feeling his face go red. He doesn’t need to pay anyone to pretend to be his boyfriend, what the fuck? “You’re so fucking cruel.”

“It’s not being cruel. I’m just considering every single possibility there is, that’s all,” Jeongguk says, his eyes now back on the road. “It’s called critical thinking, and it’s a great thing to have for business, but you’d know that.”

“I do, thank you very much,” Taehyung replies.

Jeongguk doesn’t intervene after that, when Ms. Jang asks a bit more about Seungjin and how they met, if they plan on seeing each other soon. The conversation doesn’t last long, as Ms. Jang wasn’t exaggerating when she said their place was only five minutes away. Jeongguk drops her off and Taehyung takes the passenger seat again, but he and Jeongguk don’t really talk much during the drive back to Taehyung’s. The silence is a tense one, unlike the ones they had together through all of their teenage years, and at some point during it Jeongguk turns the radio on, probably trying to lessen it. Not that it works really well, to be honest. If anything, Taehyung is now even more aware of it.

It’s Jeongguk, surprisingly enough, who breaks the silence eventually. They were almost at Taehyung’s house when he speaks, saying, “I didn’t say I want the place to bother you.”

“Alright, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, not really wanting to talk about that again. Ms. Jang suggested getting to an agreement, the two of them, but Taehyung doesn’t think that will be possible.

“I mean it. That’s not who I am and you know that,” Jeongguk insists.

“That’s the thing, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says there, his house appearing before them. Jeongguk slows down as he enters the driveway, and Taehyung adds, “I don’t know you or anything about you anymore. It’s been seven years, and we’ve both changed so much during them. We’re not friends anymore—we’re strangers.”

“We’ve changed, but we’re not completely different,” Jeongguk argues. At this point, Taehyung is sure that Jeongguk is just trying to go against him in absolutely everything. “I wouldn’t do that, Taehyung. And deep down you know that.”

“Well, I don’t care what your reason is. I wanted that place, and now you’ve made everything fucking complicated,” Taehyung lashes out as Jeongguk parks the car. “You always make everything hard. It’s been the same since I got here.”

“It’s—it’s not like that, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says, pulling at the handbrake to stop the car from moving. After that, he turns off the engine. “I’m not doing anything to irk you. Whatever the reason is for us not getting along, it’s not something I’m doing on purpose.”

“Let’s just not dwell on it too much,” Taehyung says, taking his seatbelt off and opening the door right away. The drive was torturously long, and now he can’t wait to go inside and at least shelter himself in the company of either of his parents. 

“I’m not going to apologize for liking the same place you do,” Jeongguk says, following close behind. Taehyung rolls his eyes, even if Jeongguk can’t see him as he’s walking ahead.

“Good, Jeongguk. Then don’t apologize,” Taehyung says, entering the code and pulling the door open. He walks inside, quickly taking his shoes off as he hears the door shut behind himself and Jeongguk. “Clearly we won’t get to an agreement, so I don’t get why you’re so insistent on talking about it.”

“Because your perception of me isn’t real,” Jeongguk says, doing the same Taehyung has just done. Taehyung clicks his tongue. “That’s not me.”

“We’ve already gone over that, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, starting to make his way to the kitchen.

“Yeah, well, you seem rather dismissive about understanding that I’m not the guy you think I am,” Jeongguk says.

“I’m not being dismissive. It’s how you’ve been,” Taehyung says. “Mom?”

“Yes, you are dismissive,” Jeongguk says. No answer from his mom. “Can you stop for a second? I think we should properly sit down and fix everything that’s been going on for the past month.”

“You already know what’s upset me, and you’ve made clear what your position in regards to that is. I don’t see why we need to talk about it again,” Taehyung says, finally turning to look at Jeongguk.

“Well, I—ugh,” he says, Taehyung giving him a skeptic look, one eyebrow raised. “I’ve been doing some thinking, and I—”

It’s exactly then that the doorbell interrupts, Taehyung holding his hand up signaling for Jeongguk to shut up. He doesn’t wait for a reply, starting to walk to the door as he yells, “Coming!”

“Taehyung, it’s important,” Jeongguk says, once again walking behind to the front door.

“It’s probably just one of those annoying door-to-door salesmen. I’ll tell them to go,” Taehyung says, not knowing who else would be ringing their doorbell. Everyone in the family knows the code, and obviously Jimin and Seokjin wouldn’t drop by unannounced.

Taehyung gets to the door, pulling it open. Jeongguk is still standing behind him, his presence impossible to miss. Little did Taehyung know that, as soon as he opened the door and it was revealed who was ringing their doorbell, he would see a familiar face. But it’s not Jimin, nor Seokjin. It was the last person he was expecting to see in front of his door.

His eyes widen, almost comically. His lips part, and for a moment there he’s unable to believe that the person smiling at him, a bouquet of flowers in his hands, is really… well, there.

“Seungjin?”

Chapter Text

Over the past few weeks, Taehyung has been missing Seungjin like crazy. He has missed him, but he’s also missed being on the receiving end of a hug when he needed to be cheered up, or a soft kiss on the lips when waking up. He can’t count the amount of times that, over the course of the last month, he’s wished that Seungjin was here. And now that he has him standing right opposite him, Taehyung can’t quite believe it.

But it is him. Seungjin has a big, toothy smile plastered on his face as he nods, stretching his arms out to Taehyung. And Taehyung, whose mind is working at one hundred miles per hour trying to figure out what he’s doing here, snaps out of his daze with the gesture and throws himself into Seungjin’s arms.

And his hugs are just as warm and comforting as Taehyung remembers them to be. His arms wrap around Seungjin’s shoulders at the same time Seungjin holds his middle, and Taehyung finds himself melting into the hug and against Seungjin’s body. He buries his face in his neck, feeling overwhelmed by happiness when he notices the hint of that laundry detergent that Taehyung loves so much on his clothes, now almost gone after travelling for long.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Taehyung says, hands buried in his hair as he pulls back a little to look at him, a smile now on his face to mirror Seungjin’s. “You—oh my god.”

He’s so entranced that he doesn’t notice his mom and his sister coming closer to them until they’re right by their side, sheepish smiles on their faces. It’s then, after squeezing Taehyung’s waist once and stealing a kiss, a soft press of their lips together, that Seungjin speaks.

“Surprise?” he says, bursting into laughter when Taehyung makes an urgent noise as if to ask him to really explain. “I wanted to surprise you. I know you haven’t had the greatest time ever, so I wanted to give you a surprise and… well, hopefully make you feel a little better. I’ve been conspiring about it with your mother and sister. They came to pick me up at the airport.”

“I—thank you so much,” Taehyung says, his eyes leaving Seungjin for one moment to go to his mother and Miyoung, who are standing behind Seungjin. Miyoung smiles at him brightly. Then, returning his attention to Seungjin once again and taking his face into his palms, Taehyung says, “And thank you. I really missed you so, so much.”

And with that, Taehyung tilts his head up and surges forward, pressing their mouths together into a bit more of a proper kiss then. Seungjin’s hand gently cups his face, stroking his cheekbone with his thumb, and Taehyung feels himself go mushy. It’s been far too long since he last got kissed, or since he last had someone treat him with so much care and affection. After breaking the kiss, he once again throws himself into Seungjin’s arms, making him laugh lightly.

“Hey, baby,” Seungjin calls, his voice soft and his breath fanning against Taehyung’s ear. “Let’s go inside, come on. Also—I think you have someone to introduce me to, huh?”

For a moment there, Taehyung is confused by his boyfriend’s words. It’s then that he remembers that he was not alone in the house and that he and Jeongguk came to the door together. He pulls back from the hug and looks behind himself, finding Jeongguk standing under the doorframe and leaning against it, arms crossed over his chest. Taehyung clears his throat.

“Oh, yeah,” Taehyung says, taking a step back so he can see the two of them. His gaze flickers to Jeongguk for one second as he says, “This is Jeongguk.”

“I’m Seungjin,” Seungjin says then, bowing a little. “Taehyung’s boyfriend. Your name’s familiar, though? Where do you and Taehyung know each other from?”

“He’s my dad’s employee,” Taehyung says then, figuring that’s the most accurate thing to say given how things are right now.

It’s funny, though. Because at the exact same time he says that, muffling words together into an intelligible mess, Jeongguk says, “I’m Taehyung’s childhood friend.”

Taehyung and Jeongguk look at each other, Taehyung slightly narrowing his eyes at him as he hears Miyoung laugh in the background. The look shared between them doesn’t last for more than a second before Taehyung’s eyes drift, once again landing on Seungjin. On Seungjin’s face, which is right next to him, because he’s here. Within hugging distance.

“He was my friend during high school, but then I left and while I was away we lost contact and he started working for my dad,” Taehyung explains, looking at Jeongguk and checking for a reaction from the corner of his eye. Jeongguk keeps a blank face, though; something a bit unusual for him. “I think I’ve mentioned him before, though? Could have referred to him as the bane of my existence.”

Jeongguk clicks his tongue at the exact same moment that Seungjin starts laughing then. “You’ve used that, but also his name, yeah,” he says, giving Taehyung another blinding smile.

He’s about to reply but it’s his mother’s voice that interrupts him this time. She says, “Why don’t we go inside? I’m sure Seungjin would love a drink after traveling for so long.”

“That would be lovely, yeah,” Seungjin says, turning around. “I need to get my—oh, none of that!”

Taehyung guesses Seungjin was saying he needed to get his bag until he noticed Miyoung was carrying it. At least, that’s how it seems by the way she reaches for it, the girl not putting up much resistance and letting him take it. When he turns back around Taehyung tries to get it from him, but Seungjin refuses.

“Let me. You’re the guest,” Taehyung insists, giving Seungjin the best puppy eyes that he can manage.

But Seungjin is firm. “I got it, Tae. Let’s go inside, babe.”

The five of them walk inside like that, with Jeongguk leading the way to the living room in a house that isn’t his. This time around, Taehyung does steal the bag from Seungjin and takes it to his bedroom, much to Seungjin’s dismay.

His mom is making tea, so before getting back into the living room with the other three he stops by the kitchen and asks her if she needs any help. Only when she refuses Taehyung moves, finally able to take a spot on the couch next to his boyfriend.

When he comes back, it's mostly Miyoung and Seungjin doing the talking. Taehyung understands why—the two of them know each other, and Miyoung is so outgoing and chatty that it’s impossible not to have a conversation when she's around. To add to it, Miyoung has been talking to Taehyung about how much she was looking forward to seeing his boyfriend again, so it makes sense for her to talk, and talk and talk. And then there’s Jeongguk, who doesn’t really know Seungjin at all and has probably nothing to talk to him about. From what he remembers, Jeongguk wasn’t too good with new people back in the day. But he's changed now, and he’s a lawyer, so Taehyung guesses he must have gotten a lot better at talking to people. At least, that’s what Taehyung would expect.

He joins in the conversation, his hand linked with Seungjin’s over the model’s lap. He feels so terribly clingy, wanting to rest his head on his shoulder or hug him, but can anyone blame him? It’s the first time he’s seeing him in over a month. He’s been missing his boyfriend, and now he wants affection from him. It’s only natural.

Taehyung’s mother walks in soon after, carrying a tray with the necessary things – brewed tea and enough teacups for everyone. Miyoung and Jeongguk clear some space on the coffee table, and after that, she places the tray on it and lets out a satisfied sigh. “Do you want tea, Seungjin?” she asks, smiling at him gently.

He says yes, and so Taehyung’s mom pours him some. She turns around and asks the same question to Jeongguk, but this time around the answer is different.

“Actually, I think I’m gonna get going now. But thank you so much for the offer, Mrs. Choi,” Jeongguk says, making Taehyung’s mom frown a little.

“But you’ve just gotten here, haven’t you?” she replies.

“I have but I came here with the intention of talking to your husband about work, and given the circumstances now I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to stay,” Jeongguk says, gesturing with his hands. Taehyung arches an eyebrow.

“Joohyuk would still give you some of his time, though. You know how he is with business—he’d deal with it first and join us later,” she says.

“Which is exactly what I don’t want. I would very much rather he joined you right away. Family compromises as more important than business, and this can wait until tomorrow, anyway,” Jeongguk says, managing to convince Taehyung’s mother. “I’ll walk myself to the door. Again, thank you for the offer, Mrs. Choi.”

There’s a beat of silence then, during which Jeongguk stands up from where he was sitting on the couch and leaves for the door. Taehyung hears him walk away, then the door opens and shuts behind him, and only after that conversation in the room is revived. His mom takes the place Jeongguk was previously occupying on the couch right by Miyoung, and the two of them start bombarding Seungjin with more and more questions—about work, about what things are like back in Europe, about his and Taehyung’s friends. Taehyung listens, of course he does, but heʼs also a bit distracted.

The way Jeongguk acted just now caught him off guard. Thereʼs a possibility that Jeongguk was simply uncomfortable and wanted to leave as soon as possible, and so he just used the reasons he told his mother as an excuse to go. It seems much better than to straight up say I don’t want to be here any longer, bye. But if Jeongguk wasn’t lying about his reasons, and he really left because he didn’t want to distract Taehyung’s dad from this… well, that’s important. Because Taehyung knows that, out of politeness and what he would consider respect to his guest, his dad would probably quickly introduce himself to Seungjin, handle Jeongguk first and then join them, like his mother pointed out. Had that been the case, Taehyung knows that he wouldn’t have been able to look at it from an objective point of view, wouldn’t have been able to think it’s fine, he’s just doing it to be polite. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you or wants to meet him. It’s the protocol he uses.

And he’s distracted because acting this way is just so out of character for the Jeongguk that he knows now. The Jeongguk who wants to irritate him and argue with him, and who Taehyung imagined would take any chance to get under his skin and piss him off. This was a golden opportunity for him to do that, yet instead he just… left. Deep down, even if Taehyung won’t admit it and much less thank him for it, Taehyung is grateful; not that he left, per se, but that he allowed him to have his dad for himself tonight.

His mind wanders back to the conversation they were having right before the doorbell interrupted. Jeongguk wanted to tell him something important after doing some thinking. It sounded like Jeongguk was maybe trying to fix things, although Taehyung doesn’t have much hope in them ever being totally fixed, but at least it sounded like Jeongguk wanted to try. Taehyung sighs quietly, not even loud enough for Seungjin to hear. He wonders if Jeongguk will ever bring it up again.

 

 

Seungjin’s first time meeting Taehyung’s dad goes surprisingly well, at least in Taehyung’s eyes it does. It’s not like Taehyung was fearing his father would be mean or harsh, as some people can be when meeting their kids’ partners. His father is not like that, and so Taehyung knew that he didn’t have to worry about his dad being rude. It’s just that Seungjin and his dad don’t have a lot in common; not interests, not hobbies, nothing occupation-related, either. One is a model and the other is a lawyer, so Taehyung was a bit worried they wouldn’t get along.

But things don’t go wrong, not in the slightest. Seungjin is a charmer, always has been; that’s how he won over Taehyung’s heart. Just like he did with him, and then with his sister and mother, Seungjin manages to make his dad fall to his feet. It’s hard for Taehyung to tell if the interest that Seungjin is showing right now for his dad’s law firm is genuine or a technique to make him like me, but whatever it is, it’s convincing. Taehyung’s dad, who has always been one to boast about his empire, is more than happy to talk about the firm with him, answer all of Seungjin’s questions. He even invites Seungjin to come over to the offices one day with Taehyung so he can show him around.

Dinner goes perfectly, and for once, Taehyung has the feeling that his dad approves of one of the decisions heʼs made for himself in his life. And having his dad’s approval makes him happy, even if he told himself years ago that he would stop desperately seeking it.

Seungjin is tired, so after dinner the two of them excuse themselves and head to the bedroom. Before getting in the shower and washing after the long day, Seungjin spends his sweet time exploring Taehyung’s teenage room, taking his sweet time looking at… well, everything.

“What happened over here?” he says once he gets to the section where Taehyung has all the pictures stuck to the wall. It used to look better, but after Taehyung’s rampage the other day there are a lot of empty spaces and some of the pictures have been ripped apart. Taehyung clicks his tongue.

“I had a fight with a friend,” Taehyung says, hoping it’s not too obvious.

But it must be. Either that or Seungjin can read him very well because he asks, “Jeongguk, huh? You need to tell me what that is all about, and not skip any details. I feel like I only know some parts to the story.”

“I will after your shower, if you don’t fall asleep the moment you touch the pillow,” Taehyung says, making Seungjin laugh. “Come with me, then. I’m gonna give you some towels.”

It doesn’t feel in the exact same way it felt to stay over at Seungjin’s or have Seungjin over at his back in the Netherlands, but it’s similar. Seungjin brought his own shampoo and body wash, so when he’s back after his shower and they tangle up in each other’s body, the smell is comforting for Taehyung. This bed is slightly smaller, but that means they have to cuddle closer, so maybe that’s a positive thing. Seungjin is lethargic from all the travelling, as Taehyung predicted, so he just plays with his hair while Seungjin sleepily babbles about his trip, talking to him about how it went. Something about his voice and how sleepy it sounds manages to make Taehyung feel tired, too.

Seungjin is the first one to fall asleep, breathing turning even as his eyes flutter closed. Taehyung only lets himself stare at him for a couple of seconds before kissing his forehead, turning the light off and curling up next to him, making himself cozy.

Even just lying here next to him, Taehyung already feels a little better. He can’t put down into words how happy and relieved he is that Seungjin is here with him.

 

 

Seungjin promised that he would go to visit the law firm, but before taking him there, Taehyung makes sure that he visits the agency first. He was there every step of the way while his mother put the office together with Taehyung’s help from a distance, so when he walks inside during lunchtime he is just as amazed to see the finished result as Taehyung was.

“It looks different like this, doesn’t it?” Taehyung tells him, unable to tear his eyes away from the astonished expression on Seungjin’s face, or the smile dancing on his lips. “Do you like it?”

“I love It, Tae,” Seungjin says, both of them trying to keep their voice low to not disturb anyone. “Show me your office, come on.”

Taehyung does. He takes Seungjin to his private office, and Seungjin is as nosy as he can be without making a mess of anything. After that, when lunchtime is nearing, Taehyung walks with Seungjin to Jimin’s office, knocking on the glass door. Of course, he couldn’t bring Seungjin here without introducing him to Jimin. Not when they’ve become such close friends in such a short space of time.

“Come in!” Jimin calls, eyes rising from the screen of his desktop to see who's walking into his office now. He’s not quick enough at hiding the surprise on his face, Taehyung catching one raised eyebrow before he can conceal it. “Good morning, Taehyung. And good morning…”

“Not a client, so no need to be all formal now,” Taehyung says, making Jimin laugh lightly. Seungjin also chuckles a little next to him. “Jimin, this is Seungjin. He surprised me with a visit.”

“Wait—really?” Jimin asks, his eyes widening a bit and lips parting. Taehyung hums affirmatively at the same time he nods. Jimin stands up then, walking around his desk. “Oh—wow! I wasn’t expecting to meet you so soon. You’re even taller than I imagined.”

Seungjin laughs at that, tilting his head to the right. “I get told that often,” Seungjin says, bowing his head a little. “It’s nice to meet you, Jimin. Iʼve heard a lot about you in the past few weeks, so it’s good to finally put a face to the name. Thanks for taking care of my Tae while I’ve been away.”

“Oi!” Taehyung exclaims, a bit muffled by the sound of Jimin’s coo. “I’ve been taking care of myself, mister. And who’s your Tae?” he asks, no real bite to his words.

“For keeping him company then,” Seungjin corrects, a smile still on his face. “I’m not changing the my Tae part, though. That’s true.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes a little, but he still lets Seungjin give an affectionate squeeze to his waist. He laughs again, feeling overwhelmed with all the joy and happiness and affection, to the point where he almost forgets why they’re here.

“We’re gonna have lunch together at the café opposite the office. Do you want to come with us?” Taehyung offers Jimin then.

“Yeah, that would be great. I just got done finishing some work,” Jimin says, nodding at him. “Let me grab my wallet and we can go.”

The three of them walk outside of the office and get into the elevator, now that lunchtime has officially begun. Jimin makes small talk with Seungjin in the meanwhile—asking how his trip here is going, how long he’s staying for, what he’s planning to do these days.

“You could have told me so you had some days off to spend with him,” Jimin offers eventually. Taehyung knew he would at some point. “Might as well make the most of his time here.”

“Oh, no—I wouldn’t steal time away from his job. I know it’s important to him,” Seungjin says. Taehyung notices his boyfriend stealing a glance at him from the corner of his eye. “Iʼll manage to keep myself busy while he’s at work. Sleeping in late, maybe meeting with some people I knew before leaving for Europe. And then after he gets out, all of his time is mine.”

“That sounds fair enough,” Jimin says, laughing as the three of them sit down at a table. “So… you’re originally from Seoul, then?”

The three of them talk happily as they eat, Jimin and Seungjin getting along well. It makes Taehyung happy to see Seungjin getting on so well with the people in his life, be it his family or new friends. It seems as if every part of the puzzle is clicking perfectly; maybe even too perfectly, but Taehyung won’t let too much goodness worry him. As long as it’s too much happiness that he has, he really has no reason at all to complain.

It’s Jimin who eventually brings up Jeongguk again. “SO have you told him about your enemy troubles?” he asks Taehyung, an amused small smile on his lips.

“Heʼs told me… bits and pieces,” Seungjin replies, looking at Taehyung. “But I’m a little lost as to what exactly happened, and how things changed when he got back here. He talked very highly Jeongguk back in the Netherlands, yet now…”

“People change,” Taehyung explains. “It’s been seven years and he’s not sixteen anymore, so naturally he’s different now. And heʼs changed for the worse if you ask me.”

“You mean because of the job he took with your dad?” Seungjin asks. Taehyung nods.

“Yeah. I know to him or maybe to you it doesn’t hold the same importance, but it was a really hard blow not getting into Law school after high school. If I had gotten in maybe I would have been more miserable since I like what I do far better now, but at that point I felt like my life was over. And knowing someone so close to me took the chance I wanted for myself, and that I worked so hard for, feels weird in a way,” Taehyung explains, going on a small rant. He doesn’t know how many times he has said all of this in the last five weeks—to himself, to Jeongguk, to his parents, to Jimin, Seungjin, even Seokjin. “There’s something else now, though.”

“What is it?” Seungjin asks, perking with interest.

“Well, Jeongguk’s mother is a real estate agent, and as you both now I’m looking for a new place so I can move out from my parentsʼ,” Taehyung starts. Both Jimin and Seungjin nod along. “My mom suggested I give his mom a call since she’s very good at what she does—far better than me, obviously. So I did, and when we meet up, Jeonggukʼs there. And guess what? Heʼs looking for a place as well. She shows us five different places, right? And thereʼs one that totally blows me away. It’s a loft, in Gangnam, and it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Now guess who also wants it even if it’s nothing like what he asked his mom for.”

“No,” Jimin says, eyebrows raising.

“Yes,” Taehyung replies, annoyance dripping from his voice. “And I just—I don’t understand it. I told him he’s doing this to annoy me, and he says that if I think that I must think he cares about me way more than he actually does. Which—fair enough! I know it’s weird to think of anyone doing that just to annoy me, but what are the odds? We saw four other places, and according to Ms. Jang they were more fitting to what he asked for than the place I liked was. So then, why does he have to like the exact same one I do? I’m just tired. I’m tired of him, and of running into him all the time, and having to deal with his stupid face and stupid antics. He’s part of the reason why I feel like being here sucks, and my dad is so fucking over the moon with him. Could you imagine if he gave his own son a fraction of the love he gives him? I’m just—I’m tired.”

Taehyung doesn’t realize heʼs ranting until he’s done talking, tucking a loose strand of hair behind his ear. It’s not long enough to stay there, so it eventually goes back to falling over his cheek. He feels Seungjin and Jimin both look at him, probably processing everything heʼs just said, so he focuses instead on the pattern printed on his napkin.

“Baby,” Seungjin says eventually, breaking the silence. He’s sitting next to him so he places his hand on Taehyung’s knee reassuringly. “Are you feeling jealous of Jeongguk in regards to your father?”

“I don’t know if jealous is the word. Maybe more like, replaced. I think my dad has found in Jeongguk what he always imagined his son to be like, and that he prefers him to me. I feel replaced,” Taehyung explains, voicing whatʼs been on his mind for weeks. Of course, he hasn’t told this to anyone from his family. He doesn’t feel ready to do so. “It was just that at first. And maybe that’s what prompted everything else, but now I genuinely don’t like him. He’s arrogant and cocky, he’s immature but tries to pretend that I’m the one always instigating shit, and he’s just so—I don’t know, fuck. He’s an ass.”

“Oh, Tae,” Jimin says, giving Taehyung a sympathetic look. It’s not pitiful, but almost. “I understand why you feel that way, but have you brought it up to your dad? Maybe addressing it with him can bring some clarity to the situation, since I’m sure not all those fears are true.”

“I haven't and I don’t think I’m going to,” Taehyung admits, with a sigh. “I’m sure once I move out things will start settling down more anyway. I won’t see Jeongguk half as much, and hopefully as I achieve more and more my dad will see that despite not being a lawyer, I’m not a total failure. At least, that’s how I see it.”

“You’re not a failure, babe,” Seungjin reassures him, turning his head around a little to look at him. “You’re ambitious and brave, and youʼve made scary decisions that have taken you to what makes you happy. And your dad loves you a lot, even if he’s not always the best at showing you so.”

“Yeah, exactly,” Jimin agrees, leaning forward on the table a bit. “You have nothing to envy. That life wasn’t made for you, and if you had taken that path the three of us wouldn’t be here right now. So it has its perks, doesn’t it?”

Taehyung stays quiet for a moment, thinking about Jimin’s words. If he had gotten into Law at SNU, he would have never moved to the Netherlands, never met Seungjin—not at the agency he worked at first, not by chance more than a year later. And if he had gotten into it, his agency wouldn’t exist and he wouldn’t have met Jimin, whom he already holds very close to his heart.

He knows it’s true. He knows that path wasn’t for him, as much as himself or his dad wanted it to be. This is the right path, the one that makes him happy and proud of himself. He just hopes that he’s not the only one whoʼs proud.

 

 

That very same night over dinner, his dad asks Taehyung to bring Seungjin over to his office again, so Taehyung knows it’s for the best not to delay it any longer. Seungjin agrees to pick him up for lunch the following day, and so he and Taehyung will sneak to his office during Taehyung’s break. He texts Jimin and says he might be a little late returning for lunch tomorrow, but as it was to be expected, Jimin tells him not to worry about it.

As soon as Taehyung gets a text from Seungjin telling him that he’s arrived, he leaves his office and gets into the elevator. They greet each other with a kiss once they’re together, and then start walking. His dad’s office is relatively close, so it shouldnʼt take any longer than five minutes to get there. It would probably take longer to drive there and try to get a parking spot, considering the time of the day that it is now.

The truth is, Taehyung hasn’t gone to his dad’s office since he’s been back. It’s been seven years, but he also knows that his dad probably hasn’t made many changes around. Not with staff, not with decor. The doorman of the building isn’t the same anymore, but he still politely greets the two of them. They get into the elevator, and Seungjin gives his hand a squeeze, probably aware that Taehyung is feeling a little nervous as well. He lets go before they reach his floor, but it does make him feel a little better.

And just as Taehyung suspected, things in his father’s business are still pretty much the same. Hayoung is still the receptionist, as she has been for as long as Taehyung remembers, her face lighting up when she sees him.

“Taehyung?” she asks, standing up with an incredulous look on her face. “Oh, my. It’s been years. Look how grown you are. Come here, give me a hug.”

With all the time that Taehyung used to spend around here when he was younger, and all the time that his dad’s associates spend at home, it’s no wonder that they all recognize him. He stops several times on his way to his dad’s office to greet people. Some of them give him a hug, some of them just a polite bow, as well as asking how things were in Europe, and how they are now. Taehyung shouldn’t be as shocked that everyone seems to be aware that he’s been back for a while, should he? His dad talks about him more than he thought, which could be both a positive and a negative thing. He hopes it’s a good one.

The two of them eventually get to his dad’s private office. Taehyung gives two sharp knocks, his dad’s voice calling, “Come in!”

He shouldn’t be shocked to find Jeongguk there, considering he hasn’t seen him around the rest of the office and given that it’s the lunch hour. Maybe it was hope, convincing him that perhaps Jeongguk’s desk was on the other side of the big corridor, and that’s why they didn’t run into each other. Whatever the reason is, Taehyung can’t lie and say he’s not baffled when he walks in and sees his dad and Jeongguk together, seemingly having just finished lunch and sitting across from each other. His dad knew he was coming, after all.

“Taehyung, Seungjin—come in. I was waiting for you two,” his dad says, as Taehyung closes the door after Seungjin. “Jeongguk has just told me he already met with you, Seungjin. Even before I got a chance to.”

“Yeah, we met when I arrived, ” Seungjin replies, with a nod. “It’s funny how I got to know one of your employees before I got to know you, Mr. Kim.”

His father laughs at that, standing up. “It’s funny to say the least, yes,” he agrees. “Iʼll show you around as promised now if you still want me to. Taehyung, are you coming?”

“I’ve seen the office enough. I’ll leave you two to bond and wait here,” Taehyung says, walking to the empty armchair placed across from his dad’s desk. He doesn’t look at Jeongguk, even if he’s basically sitting next to him.

“If you’re sure,” his dad says. He hums. “Let’s go, Seungjin.”

Taehyung was expecting for Jeongguk to leave then, after his father left. After all, what’s his business in his dad’s office when he’s not there? But he doesn’t move, which causes Taehyung to look up from his phone eventually, only to see Jeongguk already looking at him.

“What?” Taehyung asks.

Jeongguk shakes his head. “Nothing. I said nothing.”

“But you’re still here, and looking at me,” Taehyung says, locking his phone and dropping it on his lap. “Do you usually have lunch with my dad?”

“Not always. But sometimes, yeah. It’s not always us two alone, either,” Jeongguk says.

“I see,” Taehyung replies, stretching his legs a little. He’s careful not to kick Jeongguk, even though that seems appealing in a way. The silence between the two of them turns too awkward for Taehyung to stand so he breaks it eventually. “Iʼve been doing some research about the place we both like, you know.”

“Oh, really?” Jeongguk asks. Taehyung hums, as to confirm. “And what have you found out?”

“Well, not very good things,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk scoffs softly but lets him continue. “Did you know they don’t allow dogs past a certain size? Which is definitely an inconvenience since I remember you always saying that you wanted a big dog when you grew older. I’m not sure that would be possible in the loft,” Taehyung says, giving Jeongguk a pointed look. “And it doesn’t have a gym or anything like that. According to what your mom said the other day, that was a requirement of yours, wasn’t it?”

“I could just get a gym membership,” Jeongguk says, shrugging his shoulders. “As for dogs, I like tiny ones as well. Those things won’t be a problem. Don’t think you’ll manage to put me off buying the apartment.”

“I’m just saying. I was just telling you about the research I’ve done, that’s all,” Taehyung lies. He was indeed trying to put Jeongguk off buying. He just hopes that, even if he’s not showing it, there are doubts in regards to buying clouding his mind now. “Just trying to be nice, you know.”

Jeongguk laughs then, sarcastic. “Since when are you nice to me, Kim Taehyung?” he says. Taehyung holds his gaze. “Can you even afford a place like that right now?”

“Oh, wow,” Taehyung says, now his time to let out a bitter chuckle. He can’t believe Jeongguk is coming for him and his job like that. “What I can or can’t afford is none of your business. Don’t meddle with my life, Jeongguk.”

“Isn’t meddling with mine what you were trying to do just now?” Jeongguk asks.

“Once again, I wasn’t meddling. And even if I was, I didn’t once try to undermine you or your work,” Taehyung says, not really wanting to hear anything else Jeongguk has to say. Maybe this is a particularly sensitive topic for him since it almost feels as if Jeongguk is accusing him of… well, his business failing. He’s just getting started, so of course it will eventually get more lucrative. What would Jeongguk know when all he does is work for someone else? Taehyung tries to remind himself that the boy is talking out of his ass and that he shouldn’t let it get to him. It’s not worth it.

“I didn’t undermine your work. Iʼm just trying to comprehend how a new business can be enough to fund a luxury loft in Gangnam. Perhaps you’re having a lot of luck,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung doesn’t reply. “Who have you signed under your agency, anyway? Maybe once I know that Iʼll be able to understand.”

“It’s none of your business,” Taehyung says, defensive. He doesn’t need Jeongguk’s validation for his answers. The simple reason why he doesn’t want to tell him is that he doesn’t need Jeongguk to say, okay, yes, these people are good enough, it’s smart for you to make this decision. He doesn’t need Jeongguk’s approval. He has his own judgement to trust, and everyone in his life—Jimin, his parents, his boyfriend—agree with the choice heʼs making. He doesn’t need Jeongguk to agree as well.

“I was just asking,” Jeongguk says, lifting his hands with his palms to Taehyung.

“And I’m just telling you that it doesn’t concern you. Again, you do your job and I’ll do mine. You make your decisions and I’ll make mine,” Taehyung says, staying calm. He’s not going to start an argument in his dad’s office. He’s not going to embarrass his dad like that. He’s not going to make his dad wish he hadn’t extended the offer to him and Seungjin to come visit. He knows better than to do that, and he’s sure that Jeongguk knows better than to cause a scene in his workplace.

Which is probably why the two of them stay together in uncomfortable silence until Seungjin and Taehyung’s dad come back. As soon as that happens, Taehyung gets to his feet and walks to the door, meeting Seungjin there.

“Would you like to stay for a while?” his dad asks.

But Taehyung refuses. “I can’t. My own break is almost over with now, and I need to get back to work. But thank you so much for the offer, dad.”

“No problem. Will I see you two over dinner?” his dad  then asks.

Taehyung is about to reply and say that yes, the two of them will be back for dinner time, but Seungjin interrupts, saying, “I actually wanted to take Taehyung out for dinner tonight. If it’s not too much of a problem for you or your wife.”

“Oh! Of course not, not at all,” his dad says. Jeongguk’s expression is still blank. “Iʼll let her know that you wonʼt be joining us. I’ll see you when you’re both back then.”

“See you later, dad,” Taehyung says, Seungjin giving his own goodbyes before the two of them make their way out.

After that, once they’re back on the street, Taehyung stops by a store to buy a sandwich, one that he eats as Seungjin walks him back. He drops him off at the office and then goes to meet with a friend,  saying goodbye with a kiss to his cheek.

“I’ll pick you up here at five, yeah?” Seungjin offers.

“That would be lovely,” Taehyung says, unable to contain a smile. “See you later, babe.”

“I’ll see you later, Tae.”

And with that, Seungjin walks away. Taehyung wastes no time rushing back inside, happy that he isn’t more than a couple minutes late. Jimin waves at him when he walks by, raising his eyebrows inquiringly, and so Taehyung gives him a thumbs up.

After that, he gets back to his office and gets back to work. But despite that, and despite how hard he’s trying to focus, there’s one doubt dancing around at the front of his mind. Is he doing the right thing?

 

 

Almost as if all the stars aligned and everything has to happen on the exact same day, it’s later that afternoon that Taehyung gets a call from Jeongguk’s mother. When he sees the caller ID his stomach turns, hoping she doesn’t bear any bad news. Like that the place isn’t available anymore, or that the owner has somehow decided without hearing him out that Jeongguk will be the one to get the place.

He doesn’t let himself panic for too long, opting instead for picking up the phone and seeing why Ms. Jang really called.

“Hello?” he asks when he answers.

Hi, Taehyung. This is Ms. Jang,” she greets him. “Have you seen any of the listings I sent to your email? Would you be interested in scheduling another visit to see them?

“I have and they’re very lovely, Ms. Jang,” Taehyung replies. “But I still really interested in the loft as of now, so I would rather focus on trying to get that. And if it doesn’t work out, then we can explore more options.”

Oh, that’s fine. That’s part of the reason why I called as well, to see if you were still interested in it,” Ms. Jang tells him. “I will get in contact with the owner later today. How much are you willing to offer for the place, by the way? I need to ask this since there won’t be just one offer.”

“Well, initially I was going to offer the amount they asked for,” Taehyung starts, playing with a pen with his fingers. “But… yeah. Jeongguk. Is he willing to offer above?”

I think he is, yeah,” Ms. Jang replies. There’s silence for a moment. “As of now, I will just get in contact with the owner and tell him two people are interested. He can contact both you and Jeongguk, and you three can negotiate. I wouldn’t like to be involved in the process since I don’t want it to be said that I have any bias.

“I understand, Ms. Jang. Thank you so much,” Taehyung says. “Should I expect a call soon?”

Tomorrow, probably,” she says. Taehyung hums. “I… I’m sorry things have turned out this way.”

“Oh, no, no. You have nothing to apologize for. It was just an unlucky coincidence,” Taehyung tells her, not wanting her to feel bad or guilty about it. It is what it is, and it sucks, but there’s no reason for her to feel bad. “We’ll be in contact, yeah?”

Absolutely,” Ms. Jang replies, her tone back to being a bit more professional. “Have a nice day, Taehyung.”

“Likewise!”

Taehyung hangs up after that, letting out a big sigh once the line goes dead. So Jeongguk is willing to offer above. Taehyung faintly wonders if this is why Jeongguk was so interested in his earnings today, as well as who Taehyung was representing. But when he said he would put up a fight for the loft, he meant it. Jeongguk is not going to fuck him over this time around, and he won’t give up as easily as Jeongguk would wish for him to. He wants this badly. And he’ll do as much as he can to get it.

 

 

I applied to a photography contest the other day,” Jeongguk blurts out one day, out of the blue. Taehyung, who was reading a newspaper while lying on his bed, sits up to give Jeongguk a look.

“A photography contest?” he asks, unable to hide his surprise. It’s been a couple of months since Jeongguk told him about his passion for photography, when Taehyung found the camera on his school bag, so maybe it shouldn’t be as shocking. Ever since, Taehyung not only has witnessed Jeongguk taking pictures but has had him take his picture a few times. It’s more so the contest part that shocks him. “In school?”

“No, no. It’s not in school,” Jeongguk confesses, tapping away on his phone as he sits next to him on the bed. He then offers it to Taehyung, who looks at the screen with interest. “It’s online. That’s my submission.”

Taehyung looks at the screen with interest, recognizing the picture right away. It’s a picture taken a few weeks ago. Taehyung, Jeongguk and their families went on a hike one weekend, having a picnic lunch in the mountains. The landscape they saw that day was incredible: from the mountains to the forest, including the cascades they visited inside the forest. It’s the waterfalls from that day that are in the picture, surrounded by trees and with the light filtering prettily through the branches. The picture is so pretty, Taehyung thinks.

“By JK,” Taehyung reads out loud, impressed by the amount of upvotes under the picture. Nearly a thousand people have voted for Jeongguk. “Itʼs so pretty, Jeongguk. Could you send me the link? I want to vote for you, too.”

“Ah, thank you, Tae. I’m happy you think so,” Jeongguk says, a small smile appearing on his lips as he says the words. Taehyung smiles back at him. “Iʼll text you the link just now.”

“I’m going to post it on Twitter and on Instagram,” Taehyung tells him, watching a faint blush appear on Jeongguk’s cheeks. “Is it alright for me to do so? I don’t have to say it’s you.”

“You can say it’s me. It’s… well, it’s not like this is anything bad that I have to hide,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung smiles a little, curling his arm around Jeongguk’s shoulder and giving it a squeeze. “You really think it’s good enough to win?”

“I think it’s amazing,” Taehyung says, not missing a beat. “What’s the prize?”

“Just some photography equipment. Well—it’s exciting for me, although maybe to you it doesn’t look like much,” Jeongguk says, eyes drifting away.

“Hey! None of that,” Taehyung tells him, giving Jeongguk’s shoulder another squeeze. Jeongguk looks at him again. “If it’s exciting to you, then it’s exciting to me.”

Jeongguk smiles a little then. “Thank you, hyung,” he says, his two front teeth peeking out from his lips as he grins. “The voting is open for two weeks. Theyʼre gonna announce the winner that Friday so we’ll see how it goes.”

“I’m sure youʼll win,” Taehyung says. He has his own phone now and after Jeongguk sent him the link and he voted, heʼs now scrolling through the other submissions. The pictures are all really beautiful, there’s no denying that, but Taehyung likes Jeongguk’s the most. It’s also among the most voted, too. “Iʼll start a campaign for you.”

Jeongguk laughs again, shoving Taehyung a bit. Taehyung is totally not being dramatic when he lets himself flop on the bed onto his side, not at all. Jeongguk laughs again, this time poking at Taehyung’s ribs and making him squirm, despite how much he tries to fight the urge to. He’s tickly there, and Jeongguk knows that. That isn’t fair play at all.

For the next two weeks, Taehyung keeps checking the website every day, posting the link to Jeongguk’s submission almost every single day, encouraging everyone who follows him to vote. It’s not like Taehyung is the king of social media, but Seokjin retweets one of his posts, which earns Jeongguk a lot of votes that day. On Friday, Taehyung waits almost as nervously as Jeongguk does for the countdown to end, forcing himself to not look at other people’s votes since that will only make him more nervous.

By the time five in the evening rolls around, Taehyung holds is breath and refreshes the page. Itʼs already been updated, even if it’s only one minute past five, and Taehyung waits almost anxiously as he waits for it to load. He can’t put down into words the relief he feels once it finally, finally loads, Jeongguk’s submission appearing on the screen as the chosen submission. He wastes no time before texting Jeongguk, congratulating him with a bunch of party emojis and exclamation marks.

Taehyung can’t believe that, out of all the people who submitted pictures, it was a high schooler who won. It makes his chest swell with pride since it’s not any high schooler, but his Jeonggukie who did that. It’s so easy to see why Jeongguk would be passionate about something like this. After all, he clearly has a talent for it.

 

 

The restaurant that Seungjin takes him to that night is not one that Taehyung knows, but it’s a nice, fancy one from what he can see. They get a table for two in a corner, near the window, which not only gives them a pretty view of the city skyline, but also some privacy. They order a glass of wine and some good food, the soft music playing in the background and the chattering of the other diners contributing to set the mood for the evening. It’s their first date night in over a month, Taehyung realizes then.

Things go exactly as always, which is a relief. Despite the weeks apart, when they’re sat across from each other at the dinner table, Taehyung finds out that no matter how everything else in his life has changed, they’re still the same. Seungjin still makes the same bad, lame jokes and Taehyung still genuinely laughs, even if he shouldn’t. They still play footsie under the table, and Seungjin still manages to spill wine over his dress shirt. Fuck, Taehyung is so fond.

“You’re a mess,” Taehyung tells him, words drowning in laughter as Seungjin rubs his napkin against the fabric rather fruitlessly.

“I really am a fucking mess, wow,” Seungjin says. Taehyung laughs again, and so Seungjin lifts his eyes from the shirt and looks at Taehyung, saying, “Don’t laugh!”

Eventually, conversation goes to more serious topics. They start discussing how Taehyung’s business is taking off, this time around with a little more detail than over the phone. Seungjin is very encouraging and he seems genuinely happy for him, which makes Taehyung feel warmth spread in the pit of his stomach. He wants all the support he can get, thank you very much.

“I’m really happy things are working out for you, baby,” Seungjin tells him, his tone honest. “I just—I guess… I have a question to ask.”

Something about his tone makes Taehyung straighten up a little in his chair, not sure that heʼs going to like what he hears. He already has an idea of where the conversation is going anyway.

“What is it, Seungjin?” he asks, trying his best to keep his tone calm and neutral. The worst thing he can do is start to worry or panic before anything is said.

“I know we’ve discussed this before, but… what are we gonna do? About us,” Seungjin says. His tone doesn’t sound accusatory or even frustrated. He doesn’t sound angry, but he sounds a little upset. Taehyung’s stomach turns.

One of Taehyung’s biggest worries was how things would work between them, now that one of them was in Korea and the other on the other side of the world, in Europe. He’s still not very sure of what will happen in the near future, either—it’s a topic he was worried to bring up. Clearly, Seungjin wasn’t as scared as him.

“I’m not—I don’t know, Seungjin. I’m not sure,” Taehyung says, taking a shaky breath. “You said you would consider coming back to Seoul eventually, but… I guess eventually is not yet, is it?”

“No, not yet. I have my entire career out there, you know,” Seungjin says. Taehyung nods, clicking his tongue. Seungjin sighs, before adding, “I thought it would maybe be easier, you know? To deal with the distance. But it’s just… terrible hours, terrible everything. I missed you so much, Tae.”

Taehyung doesn’t like the direction the conversation is taking, clearing his throat a little before he speaks. “Are you, uh—have you changed your mind?” Taehyung asks then, trying to skirt around the possibility.

It seems unlikely that Seungjin would come all the way over here just to break up with him, especially while on a date. But maybe he thought doing it over the phone or in a text after months and months of dating would be too impersonal or cold. Still, doing it in public… well, it’s not something he can see Seungjin doing. He doesn’t think he would humiliate him like that.

“What? No, no, Taehyung. That’s not what I mean. I want to be with you, I like you,” Seungjin says. Taehyung relaxes a little bit after hearing the words. “I was just saying I thought it would be easier. But it’s not anything I can’t handle. I hope it starts getting easier, but maybe that’s a bad sign.”

“How do you mean?” Taehyung asks.

“If I start missing you less and less,” Seungjin says, Taehyung biting on the insides of his cheeks as he listens to the explanations. “That doesn’t seem like a good sign, does it? I don’t want to stop missing you.”

“You can put the missing on hold for the next two weeks,” Taehyung says, reaching toward the table so he can cover Seungjin’s palm with his, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You’re here with me, okay? We don’t know what will happen yet, but we’ll figure it out. I’m sure we will.”

Seungjin lets out a small sigh at that, looking down at his plate before he meets Taehyung’s eyes. Taehyung can’t help but frown a little at it, but he waits patiently for Seungjin to speak. “I guess… I just wanted an answer that wasn’t as vague as that. So I could know what to expect from the future. When we’d be together and all that.”

“I—I don’t know how you expect me to know that, Seungjin,” Taehyung says, his frown deepening now a little as he retreats his hand. “I told you I would be moving here permanently. We talked about this and our relationship, and you said you still wanted to try, and that you’d eventually move back to Korea as well. It’s your choice to decide when to come back, you know? I’m not gonna leave again, you know that.”

“I know that, yeah,” Seungjin says. “But just like you felt ready to leave, I don’t think I do. I’m sure you can understand that, right?”

“And I can, which is why I never pressured you to come or follow me,” Taehyung replies, not fully understanding where Seungjin is coming from. “What I don’t understand is why you’re coming to me for answers when the choice of when to come back here is… well, it’s yours.”

There’s a moment of silence between the two of them, during which neither of them says anything. It’s Seungjin who ends up breaking it, saying, “I liked how we were. I liked the life we had back there, in Maastricht. We were happy.”

Their eyes meet, Seungjin’s brown stare looking at him intensely. The words die in Taehyung’s throat, as he isn’t quite sure of what to say. “I know we were. But you know I needed this,” Taehyung says, swallowing down thickly. “You were supportive back then.”

“And I’m still supportive now. I just didn’t know it would be as hard. It’s hard to get used to the fact that things have changed. Maybe you’re adjusting better than me since you have a different life, but it sucks,” Seungjin says. “I do the same thing I did three months ago, except now there’s… no you. It gets hard to follow the same routine while missing you, knowing you have an entirely different life here. A life that I don’t know if I fit in anymore.”

Taehyung’s frown disappears then. “Is that what’s troubling you? That you don’t know if you fit in my life anymore?” Taehyung asks. Seungjin stares at him without saying anything, which to Taehyung is an answer as valid as any other. “Seungjin, you fit in this life with me. You fitted before, and you still do now. I want to be with you. I made the choice to still be with you when I left, and I reiterate myself now. I like you a lot.”

Taehyung has always been good at reading people, and over the course of the past eleven months, he’s gotten to know Seungjin well. He can see him relax a little, the troubles disappearing from his eyes as he nods.

“That’s… that’s good to hear, Tae,” he says. Taehyung reaches over the table again, placing his hand on top of Seungjin’s. “I’m sorry I unloaded all of this on you now. I know things are hard for you too, and—well. I don’t know. I don’t want to trouble you more or make it seem like I’m not supportive of you and your choice. It’s an amazing chance for you, and I don’t want you to drop it for me.”

“Thank you for saying that,” Taehyung says, letting Seungjin plays with his fingers as they hold hands over the table. “I’m sorry we can’t find a definite answer yet. But we’ll try our best to make this work, okay? I care about you and youʼre important to me. I don’t want to lose you.”

“You’re not gonna lose me, silly,” Seungjin says, giving him a soft smile. Taehyung smiles back at him. “I’m here.”

They don’t bring the topic up again, and after that moment, things go back to normal. However, and no matter how hard Seungjin makes him smile for the rest of the night, Taehyung still has a feeling, and his intuition is almost never wrong. He has the feeling that some things are left unsaid and unresolved, and that this topic will resurface again, and sooner than either of them would expect after the note the conversation ended on tonight.

But as of now, he’s not going to let himself worry about it. It’s just a hunch. And he could be wrong, right?

 

 

 

It’s a few days later, when Taehyung and his dad find themselves alone in the living room, that his father suggests it. Seungjin is in the shower, Miyoung studying and Taehyung’s mom getting changed in the room. Taehyung and his dad had been sitting in near-silence, with the TV rumbling in the background as both of them checked their phones. Taehyung didn’t expect his father to say much more after their previous conversation died down, but much to his surprise it’s him who breaks the silence between the two of them.

“You know, there’s something bothering me,” he says then, out of the blue.

Taehyung can’t help but straighten up when he hears those words, his body tensing. He doesn’t think he has done anything to bother his dad, but you never know. Maybe he has, without meaning to, upset him. His worries make his tone sound tentative when he asks, “What is it, dad?”

“Seungjin has been here for a week, and we still haven’t had a proper dinner together,” his dad replies. It takes Taehyung a second to process his dad’s words, but as soon as he does he immediately relaxes. Okay, so it’s that. A fucking relief, if he’s honest.

“Youʼre right, we havenʼt,” Taehyung says. They’ve had dinner together, all five of them, but not a proper dinner, by his dad’s standards. A proper dinner where maximum effort is put in. Taehyung’s parents have always liked to host, and have always used food as a way to impress. They have yet to organize something like that for Seungjin, though. That’s what his dad is referring to. “Maybe we could arrange something.”

“We should,” his dad says with a sharp nod. Always assertive. “We could organize it for the day after tomorrow. I’m sure both myself and your mom would be able to clear our schedules to prepare everything.”

“Miyoung and I would be happy to help,” Taehyung offers then. “Seungjin too.”

“No, no way,” his father replies, quickly. “Seungjin is our guest. He will in no way be involved in the preparations of the dinner we’re doing for him. As for you and Miyoung, you have more important stuff to worry about. Your mom and I will handle it.”

Taehyung nods then, humming a little as he does so and returning his attention back to his phone. He knows the conversation is over after that. When his dad first suggested the dinner, Taehyung couldn’t help but think about how things with Seungjin haven’t been… the best since that night at the restaurant. It’s not like they’ve been bad—it’s just that the uncertainty that before didn’t seem to bother Taehyung now is haunting him. Seungjin hasn’t brought it up again, hasn’t shown any signs of being bothered by it anymore, but Taehyung’s paranoid self can’t stop overthinking. What if Seungjin is still upset but he’s just trying to hide it for Taehyung’s sake? What if the two of them have the same feeling that something is wrong, but neither of them is doing anything to fix it?

All those thoughts played in the back of his mind during the conversation, but after the last thing that his father says, they shush down. Because instead of overthinking about his dad and his words, Taehyung’s brain is now too busy overanalyzing what his dad has just said. Miyoung and you have more important stuff to worry about, he had said. When referring to Miyoung, he clearly meant her studies. But when talking about him… well, he must have meant his job. And that would be the first time his dad refers to his work as something important.

It’s the bare minimum, Taehyung knows. This shouldn’t be something he gets excited about receiving—acknowledgement that his occupation is important should be something he always received, not a special occasion to get stupidly happy over.

Still, Taehyung can’t help but feel joy bubbling up in the pit of his stomach. The tips of his fingers tingle as he keeps scrolling down his inbox, deciding whatʼs important and whatʼs spam. Before he can stop it, he catches himself biting down on his bottom lip, mouth stretched into a smile.

Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the point where his dad will start being proud of him.

 

to Jimin – 09:21:

hypothetically speaking

my boyfriend and I sort of got into not really an argument

but a ‘thing’ that is still unresolved and driving me up a wall

but also I’m scared bringing it up again will make it worse

and maybe lead us to the end of our relationship

so what should i, HYPOTHETICALLY, do

from Jimin – 09:22 PM:

oh my god

taehyung

what the fuck happened

to Jimin – 09:22 PM:

HYPOTHETICALLY happened*

let’s say neither of them know how long the distance thing will last

and maybe bf is feeling insecure about his place in my life

because I have a completely new life and he isn’t physically part of it

so he doesn’t know exactly where he fits in all of this

from Jimin – 09:23 PM:

fuck

well that’s a tricky one

gonna assume you’ve already reassured him that he’s very important for you

despite the distance and all that

to Jimin – 09:24 PM:

yeah i have of course i have

but i have that feeling like

that it’s not fully resolved??

so i’m worried

i want it fixed but it’s literally impossible to come to an agreement

he doesn’t wanna come back here yet and i’m not moving back to europe

and he said distance is being much harder on him than he anticipated

from Jimin – 09:24 PM:

so are you guys gonna break up??

to Jimin – 09:25 PM:

no don’t say it

it’s bad luck

from Jimin – 09:25 PM:

are you guys gonna b***k **?

to Jimin – 09:26 PM:

I don’t think so

he said he doesn’t wanna

I’m just worried we might not be able to make it work like this

he said something the other day and I’ve been thinking about it a lot

he said it was maybe harder on him because he does the same things and lives the same life

except now I’m not there… but the house is the same, what he does every day is the same

meanwhile I have a completely new life and a new routine that he was never in to begin with

so maybe that’s why it’s harder for him and why I haven’t felt his absence as harshly

I miss him a lot of course

but it’s different… I think what he said makes a lot of sense

from Jimin – 09:27 PM:

yeah… i think it makes sense too

maybe it’s best not to overthink it too much

right now you’re together here, so you shouldn’t obsess over what will happen after

I feel like obsessing over it too much will maybe make things awkward

as in you acting weirdly around him or something

try to be as reassuring and affectionate as you can but… i really don’t know what else can be done

to Jimin – 09:27 PM:

yeah you’re right

it’s probably better not to obsess over it

I’m gonna talk to him now and tell him my dad wants a formal dinner tomorrow with him

and I’ll make sure not to be awkward

from Jimin – 09:28 PM:

you got this tae

you can make it work if you both wanna

good luck <3

to Jimin – 09:29:

thanks Jimin

I’ll tell you how it goes tomorrow

goodnight and thanks a lot ♡♡

 

 

 

Seungjin gets out of the shower soon after that, already dressed in his sleeping clothes and with his hair damp as he resurfaces from the door to Taehyung’s bedroom. Taehyung, who was waiting for him sitting on the bed, already in his pajamas, gives him a soft smile.

“Hey, babe,” he greets affectionately, as the door quietly clicks shut when Seungjin walks inside the room.

“Hey, you,” Seungjin greets, sitting on the mattress next to Taehyung. They both share a prolonged look, Taehyung’s eyes not flickering away, and so Seungjin asks, “What?”

“My parents are holding some super fancy, proper dinner the day after tomorrow and we’re both going. No choice in the matter—you’re the star guest,” he says, letting out a small smile. Seungjin hums. “Is that alright?”

“I would love to have dinner with them, yeah. And I’m very flattered to be the star guest. I’ll thank them tomorrow as soon as I see them in the morning,” Seungjin says, lifting one arm so he can brush a strand of hair behind Taehyung’s ear. His fingernails gently scratch at his skin as he does so, Taehyung’s eyes fluttering closed. Seungjin laughs lightly, scratching again. This time it’s deliberate, though. “Will it be here?”

“Yeah, it will,” Taehyung replies, eyes still shut as he lets his boyfriend scratch a spot behind his ear which is making him want to sigh just from how good it feels. “Dress code is still fancy, though. They take these things seriously. Pretend we’re going to some ridiculously expensive restaurant instead.”

Another chuckle falls from Seungjin’s lips at that, as he shakes his head a little. “Will do. I can’t wait, actually.”

Taehyung hums at that, opening his eyes again just to find Seungjin’s brown irises looking at him. His lips are slightly parted and his hair is a bit messy. Taehyung has to physically hold himself back from reaching out and running a hand through it, gripping at his own wrist lightly.

“Hey, Seungjinie,” Taehyung asks then, eliciting a soft inquisitive hum from his boyfriend. “Are we… things have been a bit stiff since the other day at the restaurant. Are we okay?”

Seungjin tilts his head to the right then, nodding quickly. “We’re good, Tae,” he says. It’s not quite enough to soothe Taehyung down, still worried that they’re unavoidably heading towards the end. “Why wouldn’t we be? Because of the distance thing?”

“I’m just worried about how the conversation ended the other day. Not because anything bad happened in the end, but because we didn’t find a solution for it,” Taehyung starts to explain, his eyes flickering down from Seungjin’s intense gaze and falling down to his hand, fingers still wrapped around his right wrist. He feels Seungjin still looking at him, but he can’t bring himself to meet his eyes again as he adds, “I don’t like leaving things unresolved.”

“I know you don’t. Neither do I,” Seungjin starts then, his tone gentle. Taehyung swallows down thickly. “But sadly, not everything in life can’t be solved right away. That doesn’t mean it’s gonna stay like that forever. Just… we need some time to figure it out. But we have time, don’t we? It’s not like we’re in a rush.”

Taehyung takes a deep breath, nodding along. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Taehyung says, trying his best to remember Jimin’s words in their texts mere minutes ago. Don’t overthink it. Don’t.

“Hey, Tae—look at me,” Seungjin asks him then.

Taehyung slowly lifts his eyes up, once again meeting Seungjin’s brown eyes with his. Taehyung has always liked Seungjin’s eyes—they’re warm, honest. They’re gentle as they look at Taehyung, and despite being intense, it’s never in an abrasive or invasive way. How stupid is it that it’s the look they share between them then that manages to soothe him down a bit, rather than the words spoken between them.

“Yeah?” Taehyung asks.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen next. I don’t know where I’ll be in a year or what either of us will think about where we live then,” Seungjin says, one of his hands going to Taehyung’s and lightly taking it between them. Taehyung swallows down again, Seungjin’s long fingers tickling his as they dance on top of his skin. “What I know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that I’m gonna try my hardest and best to make things work. I love you, Taehyung. And that’s what people do when they love someone else.”

Taehyung can’t help but let his eyes widen in surprise as he listens to the words. He and Seungjin have been together for a long time—around eleven months now, almost a year. They barely knew each other when they started dating, but it’s been a long time ever since. Now they know each other’s ins and outs, weak spots, strengths. Eleven months is plenty of time to fall in love, and it’s also plenty of time to realize, and then muster up the courage to say it out loud. Still, this is the first time either of them has said those words. Hence Taehyung’s surprise.

“Oh. You—? Oh,” he ends up saying, unsure of what to say. Far from looking upset or disappointed, Seungjin breaks into a smile then, shaking his head a little. “You…?”

“I love you,” Seungjin replies then, Taehyung feeling his chest tighten a little. But it’s not because his heart skips a beat, nor because he feels butterflies or the flutter of them inside his stomach. There’s a nervous, anxious feeling inside of him, one that only seems to calm down when Seungjin adds, “You don’t have to say it back. We all have our own timing and pace for these things. I just want you to know that the compromise I’m making is a serious one. When I say I’ll try to make it work, I mean it.”

It doesn’t go away completely, but at least Taehyung feels like he can breathe and speak. It’s not the first time he’s had these words said to him by a romantic partner. He has said them before too, but deep down he felt like it wasn’t really true—just the infatuation of the moment, the need to say them back to not let the other person down. It’s the first time, however, that he has reacted… like this. Taehyung wishes he could make some sense of it.

“Thank you,” he says, almost in a mutter. Another soft smile from Seungjin. Taehyung clears his throat, coughing before he asks, “Can I give you a hug?”

Seungjin doesn’t reply—instead, he surges forward and pulls Taehyung into a hug, his palm gently rubbing circles on Taehyung’s back. Taehyung closes his eyes, letting himself be comforted by the smell of Seungjin’s body wash and trying to push the feeling in his chest away. This is something good. This is something that works, and this is someone who loves him. There’s no room for feelings like that one here, not when it comes to Seungjin.

“We’ll figure things out,” Taehyung says then, Seungjin humming in agreement. Taehyung pulls back a little then, his eyes meeting Seungjin’s before he says, “That’s what people do when they love each other, right?”

A small grin appears on Seungjin’s lips then, a happy one. Taehyung mirrors him. It’s then that Seungjin leans forward a little, pressing their mouths together. It’s nothing more than a peck, their closed lips brushing against the other before Seungjin pulls back and holds him again, but a kiss nevertheless. It makes Taehyung feel a little better.

“Exactly, Tae,” Seungjin says, then. “That’s exactly what love is.”

 

 

Despite his dad’s insistence that he and Miyoung focus on their important things instead of trying to help them, Taehyung ends up sneaking into the kitchen and offering help to his mom. His mom gives him an accomplice look, taking advantage of the fact that his dad has gone to set the table, and gives him something to do.

“Don’t make a mess of yourself. You look very handsome in that, and I wouldn’t like to be the reason why you end up making a mess” his mother says, leaving Taehyung in charge of stirring a pot while she takes care of making the sauce.

Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head a little. “It’s just a regular shirt,” he says, looking down at himself. He’s wearing something nice like he told Seungjin to do, but the truth is that he didn’t try that hard. He’s wearing slacks and a shirt, but the shirt isn’t even amongst his favorite ones. It’s the first dark one that he found, tucking it inside his slacks before leaving the room and going to help his mom.

“It’s a nice one! It has a funny pattern,” his mom says, making Taehyung laugh. “You weren’t as bold with patterns before, you know. Is this what Europe does to people? I never came back from visiting you wearing anything like that.”

“I don’t think it’s Europe. I think it’s more so  a ‘me growing up and being more confident in what I like’ thing, you know,” Taehyung says, once again looking down at the shirt. It’s not even a crazy or funny pattern, Taehyung thinks. It’s floral, except the colors are mostly black and brown. He guesses that in comparison to his dad’s fifty striped shirts in fifty different colors, they must seem a little crazy to his mom. “But you like it, right?”

“I always think you look stunning, sweetie,” his mother says, bringing a smile up to Taehyung’s lips. “You’re going to be the most handsome boy in the room.”

“I think you’re forgetting the fact that my boyfriend is a model, mom,” Taehyung says, stealing a glance at his mom from the corner of his eye.

“I’m aware of that! And, as I said, you’ll still be the most handsome boy in the room,” his mother insists, Taehyung rolling his eyes fondly at the words. “I’m not sure who Jeongguk will be bringing, but nevertheless, you will without a doubt be the most stunning there.”

Taehyung’s stirring abruptly stops at that, his head whipping to the right so he can look at his mom. “Wait, wait,” Taehyung says, making sure to resume before he ruins or burns anything. “Come again. Jeongguk is coming tonight?”

“Yeah, sweetie. He is,” his mother replies. Taehyung presses his lips together into a line. “Your father told him to invite someone else and he accepted, but I don’t think he told him whoʼs coming. And if he did, your dad forgot to tell me. You know how he is—always leaving out half of the story.”

“Well, that’s interesting,” Taehyung lets out. So he invited someone else? “I thought tonight was just for family, you know?”

“Well, Taehyung-ah, Jeongguk is somewhat like family now,” his mom says, giving him an apologetic look. Taehyung puffs his cheeks out, but he doesn’t say anything. “He and your dad are really close and he’s around a lot. He’s definitely more than your dad’s subordinate.”

“Yeah, it’s quite easy to see that,” is all Taehyung replies to that, trying to help himself from getting trapped in the same thoughts as always. That Jeongguk is his replacement, that Jeongguk took his spot not only at his dad’s office but also at home, that his dad cares more about Jeongguk. He’s been doing a good job at keeping said thoughts at bay for the last week or so, so he would like to keep that up. Letting those thoughts get the best of him would just be a way of sabotaging himself. And that’s not something that he will allow to happen. Instead, he focuses on the other part of his mom’s words that caught his attention. “So then… he’s bringing a date?”

“Look like he is,” his mother replies, shrugging her shoulders. She’s now done with the sauce, leaving it aside as she walks back to Taehyung and says, “Come here, sweetie, let me take over. Thanks for your help.”

“No problem, mom,” he says, taking a step aside as his mom replaces him. “Is it confirmed that it’s a date? Like, you know. Date, date?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t even know the name of the person, much less if they’re involved,” his mother says, giving him a funny look. Taehyung bites on the inside of his lip. “Where has your dad gone to? How can someone take so long to set a table?”

“I wonder what the person will be like,” Taehyung mutters to himself.

His mom doesn’t reply, instead calling, “Joohyuk! Come back here!”

“I’m coming,” his father calls from the other room. He appears at the door a few seconds after, clicking his tongue when he sees Taehyung. “What are you doing here, Taehyung-ah? I told you your mom and I would handle it.”

“He just came for a drink. Now help me with this,” she calls. “Come on, come on. Get out of here before your dad has a meltdown, Taehyung. Guests will be here in fifteen, so make sure your sister is also done by then, alright?”

“Yeah, of course,” Taehyung says, moving towards the door. Before he leaves, he calls, “I’ll see you later, yeah?”

After that, he starts making his way upstairs with the intention of checking up on his sister and his boyfriend, making sure the two of them are ready now. But it’s as he gets closer to the staircase, when he walks past the mirror in the hall, that he catches a glimpse of himself and realizes just how terribly underdressed he is. He was aware he put little effort in, but he didn’t realize he looked like this until he saw himself. It looks… well, too casual.

He was about to go see Miyoung, but instead he walks to his room first. He opens the wardrobe, looks at the clothes hanging on the racks, and then his eyes lie on his favorite shirt. It’s a deep, rich red color, the material velvety and soft to the touch. Taehyung’s eyes light up as he spots it, knowing heʼll look much more impressive and dressed up with it on. This is what’s suitable for tonight, especially after finding out that it won’t just be family at the dinner table. They have guests so Taehyung is determined to dress to impress.

He reaches for the buttons of his shirt and starts undoing them, one by one. He gets rid of the floral shirt and puts it back in the wardrobe. It’s time for an unplanned, emergency outfit change.

 

 

As his mother promised, it only took fifteen minutes before their guests arrived. It’s barely enough time for Taehyung to finish preparing himself—changing his shirt, putting on his nice slacks, picking jewelry both for his fingers and ears that would match the shirt. Seungjin gives him a funny look when he walks back in the room and finds him styling his hair, asking, “I thought you were taking it easy tonight.”

“How can I just take it easy when you doll yourself up like that?” Taehyung asks, stopping for a minute to give Seungjin a look through the mirror. He does look good, even if the outfit is nothing out of this world—black jeans, with a black silk shirt with the first button undone. It’s simple, yeah, but the simplest outfits are the best on people like Seungjin, who don’t need much other than themselves and their own looks to make things work. “You look hot.”

You look hot,” he observes, taking a look at Taehyung from where he’s standing. “And you’re wearing the slacks that make your ass look best.”

“Oh, so you know them well,” Taehyung asks, as he huffs a laugh.

“Not the slacks per se, but I know how your ass looks in them,” Seungjin says, making Taehyung laugh again. He gives one last look to himself in the mirror once he’s happy with the waviness of his hair, turning around to face Seungjin. “You look amazing. And you did this just to compete with me?”

“Partly, but also because my parents invited guests, too,” Taehyung says, earning himself a nod from Seungjin. “Gotta look good if there’s people coming over.”

“Who’s coming? Is it someone else from your family?” Seungjin asks.

“No, no—well, apparently now he is,” Taehyung says, earning himself a confused look from Seungjin. “It’s Jeongguk. He’s my parents’ honorary child now or something. I guess that explains why he’s always around here,” Taehyung explains, with a sigh. “And he’s bringing a date apparently.”

“I see, then,” Seungjin says, taking his phone out of the pocket of his jeans and checking the time. “Should we get going now then?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Taehyung says, stealing a glance from the window of his bedroom to the driveway. “A car just parked outside so we yeah, we better get moving.”

On their way downstairs, they meet Miyoung, who was finishing up getting herself ready. The three of them head down to the hall where his parents are already waiting. It’s just Jeongguk and whoever the fuck he brought to dinner, so Taehyung doesn’t really see the need for the five of them to be there receiving them, but he doesn’t argue it. He’d probably get something about manners and traditions in response, and he’s not in the mood. Instead, he settles for quieting and standing next to Seungjin and Miyoung, waiting until Jeongguk and his date make their way to the door.

Come to think of it, Taehyung didn’t really know what to expect of Jeongguk’s plus one. Like his mom mentioned, neither of them knew whether Jeongguk was involved with the person or not, so even if he’s been calling it a date, it could simply be a friend instead. The moment Jeongguk and the small blonde guy walk within eyesight, Taehyung can’t help but think that he knows the guy from somewhere, even if he can’t quite seem to pinpoint where from. The thought stays in the back of his mind as Jeongguk greets his father and mother, then introducing him. Yoongi, apparently. Taehyung doesn’t know a Yoongi, at least the name doesn’t ring any bells. Neither does his voice when he greets everyone, flashing them all a small smile before going one by one.

After everyone introduces themselves to Yoongi, his father finally guides them all to the dining room. The dinner table has been extended to fit three people on one of the long sides, across from the other two. As it was to be expected, Yoongi and Jeongguk pick the side with two plates, with Taehyung, Miyoung and Seungjin across from them. On the ends of the table will sit his parents, once they’re done serving the food.

With so many people, it’s easy for Taehyung to be able to zone out. His father asks a little about Yoongi, who introduces himself as a friend of Jeonggukʼs, one heʼs known since college. He hears something about music production and about working for an entertainment company, but Taehyung is mostly lost in his thoughts.

What he doesn’t miss is the part of the conversation where his parents and Yoongi bond over coming from Daegu. He knows his parents, knows how proud of their origins the two of them are, so Taehyung isn’t shocked by the wide smiles on their faces when they find out. Taehyung can understand it a little—even if he hasn’t properly lived there, he had spent most of his summers there when he was younger, with his grandparents. There’s a certain feeling connecting them upon finding out someone else is from the place where they grew up. 

Miyoung, on the other side, seems much more interested in the music production aspect. When Yoongi starts to tell her the list of artists he has worked for, both soloists and idol groups, Miyoung’s jaw drops open. Taehyung recognizes every single artist he names, most of them big names in the industry.

“So you’ve produced music for Suran?” Miyoung asks from Taehyung’s right, sounding excited. Even Taehyung, despite his disconnection from most aspects of Korean culture while he was away, has heard speak of her, so he understands his sister’s excitement. Yoongi nods around a mouthful of his food. “That’s so cool. Is there anyone else you’re working with at the moment?”

“I have a few tracks in the works with someone else, but I really can’t say anything yet. It would go against my contract, and I think we have enough lawyers in the room to know that’s a terrible idea,” Yoongi says, making Jeongguk smile a little. “But you’ll know very soon—that is, if you bother to look at the writing credits, which not everyone does.”

“I will from now on,” Miyoung replies. Yoongi raises an eyebrow to her, tilting his head to the left a little.

It’s then, when he sees his profile, that Taehyung remembers where he knows Yoongi from. He straightens up, memories rushing back to his mind from the first time he saw Jeongguk since he got back to Seoul. He was in the bar with Jimin when he saw Jeongguk walk by. He wasn’t alone—there was that blonde guy that Taehyung didn’t recognize, which is the reason why he didn’t pay much attention to him. He didn’t think he would see him again, much less that he’d find him having dinner in his home. Yet, there he is now.

So this is Jeongguk’s date, huh? A renowned music producer from Daegu. That’s interesting, to say the least.

“Joohyuk has promised to not bring work up at all tonight, so it might be our lucky night,” his mother jokes at some point, making Seungjin laugh. “That’s the only downside to inviting Jeongguk over for dinner. It couldn’t all be laughter and charm, huh?”

Jeongguk huffs out a laugh, shaking his head. “I’m so sorry. It’s completely my fault for feeding into it,” he says, eyes fleetingly meeting Taehyung’s before they go to his mom’s. “I solemnly promise that, even if he brings it up, I won’t reply, even if I get scolded by the boss. No need to make conversation boring for everyone else.”

“Don’t worry, son, no law talk today,” his father intervenes then. Taehyung’s eyebrow twitches at the son, but he doesn’t say anything. “I’ve made a promise to my wife, and I intend to keep it. Believe me, sheʼs far scarier than me or any boss I know.”

From where he’s sitting right across from Yoongi, Taehyung can see that as the night progresses the two of them get more… touchy. Nothing raunchy or anything like that. Jeongguk has had a couple of glasses of wine, unlike Yoongi, who only had one and water afterward, probably the designated driver for the night. Taehyung remembers clearly how much of a lightweight Jeongguk was, not too different from himself. What is different is that Jeongguk is so, so damn touchy, even when just tipsy. He reaches for Yoongi’s arm while telling stories, knocks their hands over the table, pokes his cheeks teasingly while telling a story. And everyone else at the table laughs as they watch them interact, but Taehyung has one doubt in his mind.

Are they dating?

Because, see, Taehyung is affectionate, too. More so when he was younger, now a little more reserved, but when alone he’s a very affectionate person. Still, he can’t imagine himself doing all those things Jeongguk is doing to Yoongi with, let’s say, Jimin. Not even slightly buzzed. Which is why the doubt appears in his mind, logically. Maybe he has had a couple of glasses of wine too and is a bit too wild-minded at this point, but it wouldn’t be a stretch. Not with the way they’re acting.

Which, in turn, makes Taehyung terribly hyper-aware of how different it is from how he and Seungjin are acting. Maybe it’s that which prompts him to move his hand over the table then, taking Seungjin’s in his. Seungjin seems almost startled then, probably weirded out since there hasn’t been a lot of PDA between them since they got together. They’re more reserved with that, Taehyung guesses.

“Babe?” he asks in a low voice, making Taehyung hum. He doesn’t say anything, eyes simply drifting to their joined hands.

“Felt like holding your hand,” Taehyung replies in a low enough voice so that no one else can hear. He gives Seungjin a smile then, returning his attention back to the conversation.

Affection in public is a bit weird, but Taehyung slowly gets used to it. He’s more used to being reserved about these displays, especially with the people that heʼs with. Maybe it’s because the kind of affection he shares with his lovers tends to be more intimate than with his friends, and so in his mind he has learned to compartmentalize and push it to the secrecy of his room. Playing with Seungjin’s fingers on top of the table attracts some attention, but it’s not more than fleeting glances. Taehyung slowly eases into it, getting used to the feeling.

It’s Seungjin who opens the Pandora box that evening, asking a question out of pure curiosity. Taehyung immediately tenses up when he hears his boyfriend say, “So, Jeongguk.” He has no idea what’s going to be said, but why would he talk to Jeongguk? He knows that Seungjin wouldn’t befriend someone like him. “How did you and Taehyung become friends?”

Taehyung freezes, his fingers involuntarily squeezing Seungjin’s a tad tighter. Seungjin has asked him before, but all he got was that they met in middle school. Of course that wouldn’t be enough to sate his curiosity, but Taehyung was expecting Seungjin to wait for him to tell him in his own time. Asking Jeongguk, who is a lot more willing to talk about Taehyung than Taehyung is to talk about him, is a bit of a low-blow.

“Ah—we met when I started middle school,” Jeongguk starts explaining then, Taehyung’s mind involuntarily being filled with memories as Jeongguk starts speaking. “I was new and knew absolutely no one because my family had just moved from Busan. I was sitting alone, but Taehyung came and sat next to me, and after that we became friends. There’s not much more to it,” Jeongguk says.

“And you were friends until he graduated, yeah?” Seungjin asks, stealing a glance at Taehyung from the corner of his eye.

“Yeah, all throughout middle school and high school. We were friends until he left for Maastricht,” Jeongguk points out. Taehyung holds back the urge to roll his eyes, not wanting to get into the same he cut contact with me debate once again. He’s over it. It’s then that Jeongguk’s attention goes from Seungjin to Taehyung, an almost mocking smile on his face as he says, “I had an awkward phase, but after that I was much cooler than Taehyung. I was almost doing him a favor by being his friend.”

Taehyung narrows his friends at Jeongguk from across the table, full of questions. It’s unlike Jeongguk to initiate bickering when Taehyung’s family is around, always wanting to be seen with good eyes by them. It’s probably the effects of the wine, both clouding his judgement and making his inhibitions disappear. Jeongguk being tipsy is not enough to not make Taehyung retaliate, though. Not when he’s buzzed himself, too.

“Firstly, talking about being cool demonstrates that you were, in fact, very uncool,” Taehyung says, earning himself a soft playful scoff from Jeongguk. “And secondly—awkward phase? Are you serious? You should have seen him back then,” he says, first looking at Seungjin and then at Yoongi. Everyone else has indeed seen him, after all. “With the toothpick arms and the fringe swooping in his eyes. He looked like tadpole trying to dress and do his hair like the lead singer of an emo band.”

“Taehyung!” Jeongguk calls, muffling the snort that Miyoung lets out from the right of Taehyung’s. From where he’s sitting, he can see Yoongi raise an eyebrow as he gives Jeongguk a funny look.

“I would love to see that,” he says, Jeongguk’s eyes widening as he turns to look at him, alarmed. “You have to have pictures.”

“That was when I was fourteen. And all pictures of me from ages eleven to fifteen have been deleted because of the awkward phase I mentioned,” Jeongguk babbles.

“I’m sure I have some still, though,” Taehyung tells him, Jeongguk’s head now whipping to look at him. God, he’s having way too much fun with this. “I could look them up on my computer and show you. They’re—”

“They’re nothing you need to see,” Jeongguk interrupts, looking at Yoongi. Taehyung can’t tell, but he thinks Yoongi reaches under the table and touches Jeongguk’s thigh, making him relax a little. “Spare me the embarrassment.”

“Fine,” Yoongi gives in, his eyes leaving Jeongguk’s so they can meet Taehyung’s again. “Thank you for the offer, Taehyung. But I’m gonna have to decline, just to protect the honor of my good friend Jeongguk.”

His good friend Jeongguk. Taehyung clenches his jaw a little, arms crossing over his chest—and wait, when did Seungjin let go of his hand? He frowns a little when he sees Seungjin on his phone, scrolling as he looks down at the screen. To say Taehyung is baffled right now would be an understatement. If Yoongi, who is just Jeongguk’s friend, can sense his distress and try to soothe him down with a touch, why can’t Seungjin do the same for him? They’re boyfriends after all. He’s irritated now that Yoongi has rejected his proposal to see the pictures, as it was the perfect opportunity to embarrass him a little. And also, Jeongguk basically called him a loser minutes prior. So why can’t Seungjin give him a little support? 

And Taehyung—he knows it’s petty. He knows all of these fights and arguments are childish and not something worth being upset over. Maybe that’s why Seungjin isn’t reacting in any way, instead scrolling down his phone. It’s just that Taehyung wishes his boyfriend could maybe read his mood a little, try to give him some comfort.

He ends up being more upset over all of this than he should reasonably be, so he pulls his chair back and excuses himself. “I’m going to the restroom. Be right back,” he says, getting a few nods in response before conversation resumes.

He goes to the bathroom downstairs, right by the dining room. All he does there is splash his face with water, looking at his reflection in the mirror as his mind still goes at a hundred miles per hour. There’s much for him to think about—why Seungjin can’t react to his moods, why Jeongguk has to be such an asshole. The favor comment? That was completely out of place. He wasn’t making Taehyung any favors by being his friend. If anything, just like Jeongguk himself said, it was Taehyung who did him a favor by approaching him so many years ago. Stupid ungrateful bitch.

He’s in the midst of his inner ranting when he hears a knock on the door, figuring out it’s probably Seungjin who came to check up on him, as he was maybe taking too long.

“Seungjin, what is it?” Taehyung calls, his voice coming out maybe a little snappier than he intended. He immediately feels bad, voice turning more docile as he adds, “I’m just fixing myself. I’ll be right out.”

But much to Taehyung’s surprise, it’s not Seungjin’s voice he hears when he gets a reply. It’s Jeongguk, Jeongguk who says, “Oh, wow. That’s no way to talk to your boyfriend, Taehyungie. Trouble in paradise?”

Taehyung huffs at that, grabbing the handle of the door and pulling it open abruptly. When he does so, he finds Jeongguk standing there, an almost mocking smile on his face. God, he’s so fucking irritating.

“Why don’t you go mind your own business for once?” Taehyung asks him, raising his eyebrows as he crosses his arms over his chest.

“I’m just commenting. Your tone there was not very nice,” Jeongguk says, making Taehyung let out another huff. “Are you guys having relationship problems? You seem a little stiff around each other. Nothing like the passionate reunion that I saw the other day.”

“That really is not something that you are entitled to comment on,” Taehyung says, getting defensive. He just doesn’t understand Jeongguk’s inability to keep his mouth shut every once in a while. “And what do you mean by stiff?”

“I don’t know. Just a little, eh…” Jeongguk trails off. Taehyung holds his gaze, inquisitively. “Not very affectionate around each other, that’s all. Like, you barely touched each other or acknowledged each other except for the hand-holding, which seemed to take him by surprise a bit. But that doesn’t have to be bad, right? Some people just aren’t into PDA.”

“Yeah, exactly. Not everyone likes flaunting their affection around as much as you and Yoongi do,” Taehyung snaps, Jeongguk laughing at that. He’s still standing in front of him, blocking the door, and so before Jeongguk can even articulate a response so his comment, Taehyung asks, “Can you move?”

“Oh—of course, of course,” Jeongguk says, taking a step to the side.

“Thanks,” Taehyung says, taking a step ahead and walking past Jeongguk. He stops then, looking over his shoulders as he adds, “Oh, and Jeongguk?”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asks, Taehyung feeling the weight of Jeongguk’s gaze on his nape.

“Don’t comment on my relationship ever again. It’s not for you to have an opinion on.”

This time around, Taehyung doesn’t stay long enough to hear Jeonggukʼs reply. He starts walking, going back to the dining room and taking his seat in between his boyfriend and Miyoung. He gives his mother a forced smile as he sits down, hoping that she won’t notice.

Quite frankly, he can’t wait for this hellish night to be over already. He needs some peace.

 

 

When dinner ended and Jeongguk and Yoongi finally went home, Taehyung thought he would have some peace at last. He, alongside Seungjin and Miyoung, helps his parents clean and tidy up, only moving to bed when everything downstairs is sorted. It’s after heʼs washed and brushed his teeth, already in his pajamas and ready to sleep, that Seungjin speaks up.

“Taehyung,” he says, from where he’s lying in the bed next to him. Taehyung, who is on his back, moves a little to the right so he can look at his boyfriend. “Why were you acting so weird tonight?”

“Acting weird?” Taehyung repeats, frowning a little. Seungjin doesn’t say anything else in response, and so Taehyung asks, “How was I acting weird?”

“I don’t know. Just—with the touching and stuff. You don’t usually do that,” Seungjin explains, Taehyung biting down on his lips.

“I just thought it would be nice for us two to be a little more affectionate with each other, even if it’s just when we’re around my family and stuff. It’s—I don’t know. I was more touchy when I was a teenager but it sort of faded away when I went to college,” Taehyung explains, starting to ramble. He doesn’t mention that he was looking at how Yoongi and Jeongguk acted around each other with a certain jealousy; envy, even. He wishes he had someone who would be like that with him. “Why? Do you not like it?”

“No, it’s not that I dislike it,” Seungjin replies. He clicks his tongue then. “It’s just… it’s not what we do. It caught me off guard.”

“Well, I’m sorry, then,” Taehyung says, annoyance starting to drip from his voice. There was something so sharp about Seungjin’s words, something that feels a bit like a slap to the face. “I didn’t know me holding your hand with other people around was such an inconvenience for you.”

“It’s not an inconvenience,” Seungjin says. “I just find it weird.”

“Weird?” Taehyung repeats, sitting up a little as his frown deepens. “What exactly is weird about me holding your hand?” 

“Affection in public is weird. I thought we agreed some things are better when they’re kept just between us two,” Seungjin says, giving him a blank look.

“It’s—I was just holding your hand, Seungjin,” Taehyung says, giving him an incredulous look. One thing is not being used to it, which is totally fine—Taehyung can understand. But Seungjin is acting almost as if Taehyung being affectionate with him in public made him uncomfortable, which Taehyung thinks is a bit of an exaggeration for a gesture as small as hand-holding. “You’re acting as if I was, I don’t know, trying to hump your thigh in the middle of dinner. I was holding your hand, Seungjin.”

“I’m not acting like anything, Taehyung. You’re blowing this out of proportion,” Seungjin tells him, now sounding mildly annoyed. “You could have beforehand.”

“So I need to ask for permission to hold my boyfriend’s hand when my own family is around?” Taehyung asks, not able to believe his ears. Seungjin just looks at him blankly. “Why are you turning something innocent like hand-holding into a big deal?”

“Because it’s not like you, Taehyung,” Seungjin says, now sitting up as well. “Because it’s not like us to do that kind of stuff.”

“And hasn’t it crossed your mind that maybe the reason why it’s not like us is because you don’t want to?” Taehyung asks, feeling hurt. He didn’t think it would bring them into so much shit to simply want to hold his boyfriend’s hand after they were done eating. “Is it that big of a sacrifice? Is it so hard to hold my hand for five fucking minutes when someone else is watching?”

“That’s not what I said,” Seungjin says, not bothering to explain further.

“But it’s what you implied,” Taehyung says. He waits for Seungjin to say anything else, but nothing comes out of his mouth other than a sigh. Taehyung lets out a breath, shaking his head as he reaches for the switch and turns the light off. “I’m going to sleep,” he announces as he lies back down, only this time around with his back to Seungjin.

Seungjin doesn’t say anything else, but Taehyung feels and hears him lie on the bed as well, turning his back to Taehyung, too. Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut and tries to will the feelings of annoyance away, knowing he won’t be able to sleep like this.

No matter how much he tries, the same tension stays in the pit of his stomach all night. And the hunch from the other day, the one that he felt after their conversation. Taehyung has an augury, and it’s not a very positive one.

 

 

“That’s not fair,” Jeongguk complains as the game they were playing ends, the words Player 1 wins appearing on the screen of the TV. Taehyung smiles smugly, jumping to his feet as he does a victorious gesture. He doesn’t reply to Jeongguk, and so the younger insist once again, “It’s not fair. Are you doing something to win?”

“Something to win?” Taehyung asks, getting a nod from Jeongguk. “You mean, other than being the absolute best player in this room?” he teases.

“No, not like that,” Jeongguk replies, an edge of irritation to his voice. It’s then that the smile falls from Taehyung’s voice, realizing Jeongguk isn’t feeling… well, in a good mood. “Something like cheating?”

Taehyung frowns then, his eyebrows furrowing slowly. He repeats, “Cheating?” Jeongguk doesn’t say anything in response, but the stern look he gives Taehyung is enough confirmation that he heard right. “I don’t know how you want me to cheat at this, Jeongguk. It’s a video game.”

“Maybe you changed the settings before I came to make it harder for me to play,” Jeongguk accuses. Taehyung’s eyebrows raise. “I’ve lost every single game weʼve played.”

“And hasn’t it crossed your mind that maybe you’re having a clumsy day?” Taehyung asks as he crosses his arms over his chest, controller still in his hand. “I didn’t do anything to the settings, Jeongguk. I wouldn’t do that. I can’t believe you’re accusing me of something like that.”

“I was just asking,” Jeongguk says, lowering his eyes to the carpet beneath them. Taehyung clenches his jaw a little.

“No, you were accusing me of cheating,” Taehyung tells him, feeling hurt that Jeongguk would even think of him doing something sneaky like that. Sure, it’s just a video game—in the big scheme of things, it’s not anything serious. But it’s the fact that Jeongguk would imply he’d go behind his back like that which upsets Taehyung.

“Well, okay,” Jeongguk replies, his eyes flickering from the carpet back to Taehyung. It’s obvious that Jeongguk is starting to feel regretful of his accusations, especially with the way that heʼs looking at Taehyung now. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Then don’t say stuff like that,” Taehyung says, trying to keep his tone from sounding too harsh. Itʼs one thing to be vocal about something that has upset him, and an entirely different one to torture Jeongguk over it. “I’m not sneaky like that. I wouldn’t go behind your back.”

“I know, I know,” Jeongguk says, shifting a little. “I’m sorry I said that. I was upset that I lost, and I didn’t want to admit I was playing badly. I’m sorry.”

Taehyung relaxes a little at that, biting on the insides of his cheeks. He knows that Jeongguk is very competitive and doesn’t like to lose, so this doesn’t come as a surprise. Luckily for Jeongguk, it takes far more than that to seriously upset and anger him, so Taehyung just reaches for his head and ruffled his hair a little.

“Don’t sweat it, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung says, Jeongguk groaning as he slaps his hand away. “Let’s play again, come on. I’m gonna kick your ass.”

“As if,” Jeongguk says, shoving Taehyung away lightly. “I’m gonna get serious now.”

Taehyung laughs at that, before returning his attention back to the screen and setting the new game up. The tension disappears from the air immediately, forgotten the moment another game starts, replaced by laughter instead.

That’s the way things are and have always been between the two of them, from their very first fight. They can’t stay mad at each other for too long without either of them apologizing and fixing things, doing their best to get back to normal. After all, thatʼs what happens with best friends. 

 

Chapter Text

Much to Taehyung’s relief, he’s the first one to wake up the following morning. Even without turning around, he can tell that Seungjin is asleep just by the sound of his breathing, steady and slow. Seungjin is a heavy sleeper, but Taehyung still moves as carefully as he can, looking over his shoulder to look at his boyfriend as he gets out of bed. He moved to lie on his back at some point in the night, one hand resting over his chest as the other rests next to his head on the pillow. Taehyung’s heart hurts a little when he looks at him, at his dark and thick lashes and his handsome face, so he ends up looking away fast. After finding his slippers, heʼs quick to leave the room and head downstairs for some breakfast.

His mom is there having her morning coffee as she reads the news on her iPad. She always follows the same routine, especially during weekends when she has all the time in the world. As soon as she hears Taehyung’s footsteps approaching she looks up and meets his eyes, smiling a little.

“Oh—hello there, sweetie,” his mother says, Taehyung mumbling something in response as he approaches and finds a mug. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, yeah,” Taehyung says. He isn’t sure whether it’s a lie or not. Is he okay? Are they okay? Heʼll see when Seungjin wakes up, he guesses. What’s not a lie, at least not a total one, is what he says right after. “I didn’t sleep well last night.”

And this is the truth, honestly. Of course, the reason behind his bad sleep is none other than the fact that he and Seungjin didn’t go to sleep on good terms, but he’s not going to tell his mom that. Not yet, at least, just in case Seungjin isn’t upset anymore and the problem doesn’t evolve into something more. Taehyung is not one to run to his mom and tell her his problems in the hopes she fixes them for him, but it would be hard to hide a fight from her considering they’re all living together now.

“Something keeping you up at night?” she asks him, maybe following that motherly intuition that never seems to fail her.

Taehyung just forces out a laugh, a pretty convincing one, at the same time he shakes his head. “None of that, no.”

It’s nice, having breakfast with his mom. The two of them talk in idle chit-chat then—about the neighbors, about his auntie who has been living in Bangkok for three years now and will most likely come visit soon, about his dad. She mentions Yoongi and what a coincidence it is that he’s from Daegu, and Taehyung agrees with her. Time flies past them and their warm drinks go cold, but Taehyung’s heart feels a little better by the time his mom leaves to go get changed, Taehyung staying behind to wash their dishes in the sink. It occurs to him that maybe heʼs delaying going back to the room and meeting Seungjin, trying to push it back as much as possible. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, knowing there’s some truth to that.

He regrets not taking his phone with him since that way he could at least check on his texting app the last time Seungjin was online, knowing that way if heʼs awake already. Then he realizes he’s just being a coward, and so he tells himself to confront his problems instead of running away from them. Taehyung takes a deep breath once he’s done washing the dishes, and before he can have any time to overthink this decision, he heads upstairs.

As soon as he gets to the first floor and sees the door to the room open, Taehyung realizes that Seungjin is awake. He remembers the sound of the door clicking shut behind himself when he left, so there’s no doubt about that. He takes a shaky breath and walks to the room, only to find out that Seungjin is not there. He’s probably gone to the bathroom, Taehyung assumes. He feels guilty about the slight sense of relief that washes over him then, but it doesn’t last long. Because then, something else calls for his attention.

Sungjin’s laptop is on top of the mattress, screen facing the door. Taehyung doesn’t pay much attention to it at first until he notices whatʼs displayed on the screen. Taehyung frowns a little, taking a step closer and zoning in on the screen. Just like he thought, Seungjin is looking at flights. He’s looking at flights from Seoul to Amsterdam for today’s date.

“What the fuck,” Taehyung says, mostly to himself. Expecting Seungjin to still be in the bathroom, Taehyung calls, “Seungjin?”

He’s almost startled when he hears Seungjin’s voice reply, far closer than he expected. “Yeah?” he asks, Taehyung spinning around on his heels to find him standing there. His shirt is still off, as it was last night when he went to bed, and he’s lying against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest.

Taehyung doesn’t know how to… well, approach it. He could ask Seungjin what he’s doing but he feels like itʼs stupid since he already knows. He could ask him to stay, try to be persuasive and promise to work things out. Instead of that, in an almost an accusatory tone, all he says is, “You’re leaving?”

“I am, yeah,” Seungjin says, uncrossing his arms and taking a step closer. Taehyung’s lips tighten as Seungjin properly walks into the room and closes the door behind himself, waiting to see if he has anything else to say. “I’m cutting my visit short.”

“Why? Is it your job?” Taehyung asks, trying to look for an explanation. They did argue last night, yeah, but Taehyung would hope that’s not enough for Seungjin to want to leave like this. They’ve argued before, of course, but they’ve never done anything like this. Not even storming out of each other’s apartments.

“No, Taehyung. It’s not my job,” Seungjin says with a sigh. He sounds almost tired, something unpleasant twisting inside of Taehyung at that. “It’s us.”

“Us how?” Taehyung asks, his eyebrows furrowing slightly. “I—we’re not on bad terms. And I need you here.”

“We’re not on good terms, either. And do you?” Seungjin asks. Taehyung’s frown deepens even more. “Do you need me here, Taehyung? I’ve been here for over a week now, and even if we’ve been spending time together and doing things, I can always tell there’s something else in the back of your mind. All you’ve done is obsess over that friend of yours.”

“What are you talking about?” Taehyung asks, shaking his head. Is he talking about… Jeongguk? “He’s not even my friend, Seungjin. I hate hi—”

“You’re doing it again,” Seungjin says. Taehyung’s eyebrows raise as he promptly shuts up. “If you hate him so much, why are you so obsessed with him? Make it make sense to me, Taehyung.”

“I can’t believe you’re this threatened over someone that I don’t even like to be around,” Taehyung says, bitter laughter escaping his mouth. “Is that why you’re leaving, Seungjin? Because of jealousy?”

“No. I’m not jealous, Taehyung,” Seungjin says, giving him a solemn look. “But we’re not on the same page right now. Because you are my priority right now, meanwhile, yours seems to be some friend you fell out with years ago. It’s not that I think you’re into him or anything like that, Taehyung. But it does feel like you’re much more preoccupied with him than you are about me, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.”

Taehyung lets out a soft scoff. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Seungjin,” Taehyung says, in almost a whisper.

“I don’t know how you feel because you don’t tell me,” Seungjin accuses. “But I do know how I feel. And I know your heart isnʼt in it, not like mine is. And that hurts, Taehyung.”

“How dare you say that?” Taehyung says, with a wince. Seungjin’s words cut deeper than a knife, especially with what he said the other day. “I introduced you to my family, invited you over to stay with me, made time to stay with you every single day. I put work into this relationship too, Seungjin. Is this because I didn’t say I love you back? You told me to do it at my own time, and now you say all this?”

“It’s been almost a year, Taehyung,” Seungjin says. “I’m not saying you donʼt put work in—I’m saying you just aren’t on the same page I am. And if after eleven months you’re not, then I’m not sure you’re ever going to be.”

“You say it as if you’ve been waiting for me to say it back for months when you only said it a few weeks ago,” Taehyung says.

“Yeah, but I’ve felt it for months. I just didn’t know how to tell you since deep down I always knew you wouldn’t feel the same way. And I thought—I thought maybe coming here and settling down would make our relationship develop, as stupid as that sounds. That maybe you’d like to have something more stable, both professionally and personally. I thought maybe your feelings would turn more serious, but—”

“You don’t get to decide if my feelings are serious or not.”

“—but if I haven’t managed to make you fall in love with me by now, am I ever going to?” Seungjin asks. Taehyung swallows down, not having a reply to that. “I love you, Taehyung. I’m so fucking in love with you, but this isn’t working out. We don’t even know where we’re going to be one year from now. Christ—there’s just too much piling up for this to work.”

“What does that even mean?” Taehyung asks, feeling his chest tighten. “Are you breaking up with me?”

“I just think it would be for the best, for both of us,” Seungjin replies, honesty dripping from his voice.

Taehyung can’t help but feel as if there’s a hole in his chest when he hears that, suddenly getting the urge to cry. A knot tightens in his throat and his eyes flicker to the floor, not sure of how to react, or what he should say. He doesn’t know the answer to Seungjin’s questions—if he’ll ever fall in love with him, what will happen to them within a year. Taehyung wishes he could know, instead of just stumbling around and getting hurt. Because this, even if he isn’t at a place where he’d said he’s in love with Seungjin, hurts.

He adores Seungjin. He loves him, even, although it’s not the same kind of love that Seungjin has for him. He likes him and harbors lots of affection for him, and their relationship has given him lots of joy, happiness, good memories that he’s always going to treasure. But deep down in his heart, he knows he’s not in love. Seungjin knows that as well. And if Taehyung hurts like this, he doesn’t want to imagine how much Seungjin hurts too, feeling like the love is one-sided.

Taehyung wants Seungjin beside him. Because his presence makes him happy, and because him being there has made Taehyung feel a lot better. But is it fair for him to feel that way, knowing that Seungjin is in love with him? Taehyung respects Seungjin—he really does. So maybe he should just accept it, honor his decision.

“Are you sure?” Taehyung asks, his voice strained. His eyes meet Seungjin’s and for a moment there he sees a hint of doubt. Probably caused by the fact that Seungjin has never liked to see him hurt, and Taehyung is obviously hurting right now. But resolution takes over his expression once again, at the same time he gives a nod.

“Maybe it’s a matter of timing,” Seungjin says, now almost showing sympathy. “Maybe things will be different one year from now, but right now… this isn’t working out, Taehyung.”

Taehyung looks at Seungjin once again, feeling a single tear roll down his cheek. He’s about to wipe it away furiously, but it’s then that Seungjin reaches first, collecting it with his thumb. It makes Taehyung’s heart break a little, especially with the way Seungjin then leans forward and presses a kiss against his forehead. When he pulls back and Taehyung looks at his expression again, Taehyung can see his eyelashes wet with tears too, a stray one rolling down his cheek.

It’s ironic, Taehyung thinks. Earlier this morning, he woke up in this bed with Seungjin, feeling like he needed to get away fast. But now, now that Seungjin is leaving, Taehyung wants him to stay so fucking badly. He wishes he had stayed and tried to talk before leaving in the morning, even if this is a decision that Seungjin probably made late last night before falling asleep.

He sits on the edge of the mattress and looks at Seungjin, at the face that he knows so well. At the little scar right under his eyebrow caused by a fall when he was eight, at the bridge of his nose that he has run his fingertip over countless times when they laid together in bed. The face of his now ex-boyfriend.

 

 

Seungjin never really unpacked his bags, just fishing inside of them for whatever he needed at the time. For that reason, after booking a flight for that very same afternoon, he doesn’t take too long to collect all of his things and say goodbye to Taehyung’s family. They all give Taehyung a worried look, saying they’ll talk when he’s back from driving Seungjin to the airport.

It hurts but—whatever. Seeing Seungjin pass control knowing it’s over and they might never see each other again breaks his heart a little, but Taehyung refuses to let it consume him. He cries a little more when he’s back in the car, knowing that the more he bottles things up the worse it will be for him. It’s pathetic, really. He’s crying in the parking lot of the airport because his boyfriend broke up with him. And his boyfriend broke up with him because he’s a fucking mess, and he’s incapable of maintaining a normal relationship. Seungjin was right—it’s been eleven months. And albeit, he wasn’t accusatory and didn’t try to make Taehyung feel like there was something wrong with him for not reciprocating his feelings, Taehyung feels like there is.

The overall day sucks. When he gets back and tells his family they all say they’re sorry, his sister giving him a tight hug as his mother gently squeezes his hand. Even his father gives him a comforting squeeze on the shoulder, telling him it’s such a shame that things didn’t work out between the two of them. Taehyung doesn’t like to be pitied, and so he makes sure to spend the rest of the day locked in his room where no other human can see him. He grabs his headphones, opens Netflix and readies himself for an entire evening of watching romcoms and making himself feel like shit.

It works. By the time eight rolls around, Taehyung feels like the worst person in the world and like everything is his fault. Maybe if he had fallen in love with Seungjin they could have gotten his happily ever after. Who the fuck exists at twenty-five without having fallen in love once? His parents were already married at that age, fuck. He doesn’t know what the fuck is wrong with him and his brain, heart, whatever organ is responsible for this. All he knows is that he wants it to get its shit together.

Before he can start crying again, he forces himself out of his room, venturing downstairs once again. He could use some company now—it might help to take his mind off things, and also prevent him from beating himself up over it more than he already has. Heʼs making his way to the living room when, right at the corner, he quite literally runs into someone, almost bumping into them. The only downside? Well, it’s the last person Taehyung wants to see right now.

“Oh—good evening, Taehyung,” Jeongguk greets him. Taehyung takes a step back, grumbles a reply to him. “Damn. What’s with the long face? Did your boyfriend already find out how insufferable you are and break up with you?”

And Taehyung knows he’s just saying it to get to him, really. Because Jeongguk has made comments like that before, about how he doesn’t understand how anyone can put up with Taehyung for months and months. Usually, it earns Jeongguk an eye roll from Taehyung, who then proceeds to reply with something as petty and potentially hurtful. The reason why up until then those comments never got to Taehyung is because he knew they weren’t true. He had the certainty that Seungjin wanted to stay with him, and so he never really took them to heart. But of course, things have changed now. And Jeongguk’s words, with the wound still open and fresh, feel like he just poured salt all over it.

“Well, yeah,” Taehyung says, wincing a little. “That’s what happened more or less. Lucky guess, Jeongguk.”

Taehyung is about to walk past Jeongguk and leave him there, but the change in Jeongguk’s expression right then is what makes him stay. His eyes widen at the same time his pink lips part. Both surprise and horror flash over his face, one hand covering his mouth before he speaks.

“Fuck—for real? Oh, my. I’m sorry, Taehyung, I—I didn’t know,” Jeongguk rushes to say then, stumbling over his words.

Taehyung lets out a scoff, shaking his head. He’s mad. The comment itself irritated him, yeah, but the very much fake apology? That was the cherry on top. “As if knowing would have stopped you from saying the same shit,” he says, unable to feel anything but skeptical of Jeongguk’s apology.

“That’s not true, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says then, tone stern. “I was just messing with you. If I had known, I wouldn’t have said such a cruel thing to you. That’s not how I am and you know that.”

“I know that?” Taehyung repeats, a little incredulous. “I’m not sure what you think I know, Jeongguk. But from my perspective both you and I have been at each other’s throats ever since I came back, so there’s no need for you to act like this just because I’m upset over something else. I don’t need your fucking pity or your apologies, so you can shove them all up your perfect-boy ass and leave me alone.”

Jeongguk stares at him blankly for a second, his lips falling open before he lets out a loud breath. His expression hardens then and, more in the fashion of the Jeongguk that Taehyung knows now, he says, “Well, yep. Still insufferable and a fucking ass. No wonder Seungjin left.”

“That’s more like it,” Taehyung says, now far too angry to even feel hurt by it. Maybe later tonight the words will rush back to his mind and make him feel like shit, but heʼll deal with that later on. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Jeongguk takes a step to the right and Taehyung walks past him and resumes what he was doing—looking for his mom. Without sparing a glance, Taehyung walks away and leaves Jeongguk behind.

It’s not like it’s the first time he does.

 

 

If there is something that the past month and a half proved to Taehyung itʼs that despite the distance and the years, Seokjin is still a good friend to him. Coming back to Seoul and reconnecting with him didn’t feel foreign, and Seokjin didn’t feel like a stranger in the way that Jeongguk does. For that reason, heʼs the first person that Taehyung confides in about Seungjin after they break up, meeting up the very next day.

Taehyung asks Seokjin if they can meet up, and so Seokjin invites him over for brunch on Sunday morning. It’s over food that Taehyung tells him about the break up, Seokjin instantly dropping his chopsticks and walking around the table so he can squeeze Taehyung in a hug.

“I’ll break his kneecaps,” he says, making Taehyung choke out a laugh. “How dare he—”

“Hyung! He didn’t do anything wrong,” Taehyung almost laments. The last thing he wants is to paint Seungjin as the bad guy in the story, especially given that he hasn’t done… anything, really. “He gave me a lot of reasons. That we didn’t know where we could live together or even be close again, that we weren’t on the same page, that I, um—that I had other priorities that weren’t him. And I understand him and know that he was hurting like this, so maybe he’s right and this… is for the best?”

“No one gets to break up with you. That’s not how it works in my books,” Seokjin insists. Taehyung laughs a little, shaking his head. He knows Seokjin is messing around, trying to make him laugh—and it’s working. “But now seriously… how are you holding up?”

Taehyung shrugs his shoulders, gesture accompanied by a sigh. How is he holding up… well, it’s hard to tell. On one side, he does feel better than yesterday. He got some perspective on it. Like he said to Seokjin, he can see and understand the reasons that Seungjin mentioned. And even if they weren’t reasons that would have led Taehyung to break up with him, they have a different importance for Seungjin. It’s not only him in the relationship, it’s the two of them. Seungjin’s thoughts and feelings have the same value as his own, so of course he needs to respect his decision. Because, despite how things ended, he has a huge amount of respect and affection for Seungjin.

“I’ll get over it,” Taehyung replies, confident in his words. Right now he feels a little heartbroken, his ego a little bruised as well, but he’ll move past it. “It’s the cycle of life, isn’t it? Relationships start and end, people come and go. It’s not this that bothers me the most.”

“And what would that be, then?” Seokjin inquires, curious.

Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, meeting Seokjin’s eyes almost tentatively. It’s the one thought that has been wandering around his mind, making him feel like Seungjin and him going to shit is all his fault.

“Do you think it’s weird that I’m twenty-five and I still haven’t fallen in love?” Taehyung blurts out, for some reason embarrassed. His words are fast and slurred against each other, the action of confessing being easier if done this way.

Seokjin seems surprised by his question, eyebrows slightly shooting up as he replies, “I don’t think it’s weird. Why, though? Is that why you broke up?”

“Partly, yeah,” Taehyung confirms, nodding slightly. “He told me he loved me—that he was in love with me. And when that happened he said I didn’t have to say it back, that we all have our own pace, but then he said he doesn’t think I’m ever going to fall in love with him if I haven’t yet. So now I’m wondering if there’s anything wrong with me.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Seokjin says, pulling back to give Taehyung a pointed look. “Something wrong with you how?”

Taehyung sighs again. “Maybe I just… don’t fall in love with people? I’ve had feelings, yeah, but never anything that I would call love. I think that if I had been in love, I would know.”

“I think you would know, too,” Seokjin agrees. Taehyung bites the inside of his cheek. “You’re still young, Tae. Maybe you haven’t met the right person, or maybe the circumstances haven’t been the best up until now. But you’re only twenty-five and someone might appear anytime soon. And if not—then what does it matter? Everyone is different. Just because you don’t feel that particular way it doesn’t mean that thereʼs anything wrong with you. Your time just hasn't come yet.”

“I hope not,” Taehyung says, at the same time Seokjin walks around the table and gets back to his seat. He’s feeling a little better, but he still feels deflated and sad. “But, anyway—the point is I’ll get over it.”

“Of course you will,” Seokjin assures him, now back on his chair. “It’s hard, Tae—and it makes me so sad that you have to go through something like this, but you’ll move on. I’m here for you, and I’m not the only one. You’ve got a new friend, don’t you? Jimin?”

“Yeah, Jimin,” Taehyung says, at the same time he nods. “You’re right. Thank you so much, hyung.”

Seokjin gives him a kind smile, then reaches forward and squeezes his arm gently. Taehyung grins back—he does feel a bit better. Like Seokjin said, these things take time to get over but it’s not the end of the world. All he needs is to adapt to the single life again. 

 

 

Work has always been a great coping mechanism for Taehyung. It started back in high school, whenever things at home were tense and the best possible shelter from it was studying and more studying. It provided a distraction, an excuse to isolate himself and it paid off in the end. It’s not like Taehyung is a workaholic or anything—it’s just that when he feels down, he likes to distract himself with something. Out of all the possible coping mechanisms, Taehyung feels like this is one of the most positive and productive ones. 

The next couple of weeks could be summarized like that for Taehyung—work at the office, working from home. Jimin drags him out for drinks one weekend, telling him he can’t drown in sadness and obligations. Time goes by and eventually, Taehyung starts getting used to waking up to no good morning texts from Seungjin, or to no video calls between the two of them. It feels weird to see him post on his Instagram and not leaving more than a like, no comment or anything like that, but as the days go by, he grows more and more used to it.

He tries not to think too much about him, or about his love life overall. Instead, he finds himself getting invested into Jimin’s, which seems much more optimistic than his. It’s not that Jimin tells him anything, but Taehyung doesn’t need to. When Hoseok comes over the office again that week, Taehyung can practically see the sparks fly between the two of them. Heʼs still focusing on what’s being said, but as a multitasker he can still notice the way in which Hoseok and Jimin steal glances at each other. When their eyes meet, Jimin being caught staring, he quickly looks away, clearing his throat lightly. When it’s the other way around and it’s him who finds Hoseok’s eyes already on him when he looks up, Hoseok gives him a soft grin.

And it’s cute, really. Maybe, given the position that he’s in, Taehyung should ask Jimin about it. Is it appropriate? Could it jeopardize not only Hoseok’s success but also the work that they’ve been putting in as their PR agency? Dating scandals are tough enough, but same-sex dating scandals are much harsher, especially where they live. At the same time, Taehyung doesn’t want to tell Jimin what he can or can’t do. And hey, maybe he’s just jumping the gun. Maybe Jimin and Hoseok are just friends and have some inside jokes that Taehyung isn’t aware of.

Hoseok and his manager eventually leave, Jimin walking them to the door once again. The meeting has been positive—all parties are happy with the way things are going right now, both in terms of sales and public image. Hoseok is now the person that already established celebrities want to be seen with, so many people reaching out to him in the course of the last month. It’s absolutely crazy to Taehyung but in a good way. Hoseok is already preparing his second release after his debut, and if everything stays the way it’s been going until now, then Taehyung thinks  it’s bound to be an even bigger success.

Jimin comes back soon after that, with a wide and happy smile plastered on his face. He sits back opposite Taehyung and says, “He really deserves it, right?”

Taehyung looks at Jimin, before replying with anything. He sees Jimin’s bright eyes and the dreamy look on his face and wonders if he’s right or if he’s seeing things where they’re not. Maybe Jimin is just happy about how things are going professionally, both for Hoseok and himself. It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

So, as of now, Taehyung won’t do anything. He smiles back at Jimin, nods and replies, “He really does, yeah.”

 

 

Taehyung hasn’t had the misfortune of seeing Jeongguk again ever since the day he and Seungjin broke up, and he ran into him looking for his mom. It’s not like Jeongguk stopped being around, it’s just that Taehyung got a lot better at avoiding and staying in his room. Every time he saw Jeongguk’s black Audi parked in the driveway, Taehyung made sure to go straight to his bedroom, only going downstairs when the car drove away from the house.

Of course, this Jeongguk-free period that he’s been blessed with can’t last forever. Usually weekends are safe days, but it’s a Saturday when he’s having breakfast that Jeongguk appears in his kitchen. It’s quite early in the morning, so Taehyung can’t help but frown upon seeing him appear. He almost forgot Jeongguk existed by this point, after those two weeks of nothing. Jeongguk seems to have forgotten too, or at least that's how it seems by the complete lack of greeting Taehyung receives from him.

“Good morning, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says after swallowing down a mouthful of cereal, shamelessly staring at Jeongguk.

He’s not dressed in a stupid suit today, which is surprising. Instead, he has on some black jeans and a fitted cotton top, black as well. Had it been anyone else, Taehyung would have probably looked at the way the top clings to him and thought it was yummy. But this is Jeongguk, so Taehyung absolutely doesn’t do that.

“Good morning, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says, giving him a pointed look. It’s almost as if he were saying, are you happy now? Taehyung smiles at him, exaggerated and fake. Yes, he replies with that gesture. “How are you dealing with the breakup?”

Taehyung hasn’t forgotten about that last incident, of course not. Now that he thinks back on it, he regrets snapping at Jeonggukʼs comments and letting himself be so affected by him. But that day had been hard for him so his judgement wasnʼt the best. Of course, no matter how hard he’s been trying to forget what happened, Jeongguk wouldn’t let him live it down. If anything, it’s just new ammunition.

“Fuck off,” Taehyung replies around his cereal, at the same time he lifts up his left hand and shows Jeongguk his middle finger. Jeongguk laughs, shaking his head. Stupid

“It can’t be good to be so angry this early in the morning,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung clicks his tongue in annoyance. “You missed my presence a lot, didn’t you? It’s been a while.”

“Oh, yeah—madly,” Taehyung says, rolling his eyes. Jeongguk laughs then, trying to think back to the last time he saw Jeongguk other than their three minutes encounter that one evening. And it would be precisely the night before that, when he came over for dinner with Yoongi. With Yoongi. “I didn’t know you were into guys.”

See, it’s something he has been thinking about. Ever since Jeongguk arrived that night with Yoongi, Taehyung has been thinking about how Jeongguk never told him he liked boys, despite knowing Taehyung did. Not that he needed to, but Taehyung would imagine that he would have related, maybe said the same. Or maybe Jeongguk didn’t know then. Maybe he didn’t feel ready to tell anyone. Or, hell, maybe he isn’t into them at all and he and Yoongi aren’t like that.

Jeongguk has always been an open book to Taehyung in most aspects, but then there are a few things where he is just so stupidly cryptic. This being one of them. Taehyung didn’t know who Jeongguk liked back in the day, and that remains the same today. Some things never change, he tells himself.

Jeongguk’s reply to Taehyung’s comment is just as ambiguous as ever. All he says is, “Huh?”

Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “Is that all you’re saying?” he asks, earning himself a bit of a confused look from Jeongguk. “You and Yoongi. Aren’t you guys dating?”

It takes a moment for Jeongguk to react to the question, almost as if he were processing the information before it clicks in. And when it does, the first thing Jeongguk does is start laughing. He shakes his head and keeps cackling, much to Taehyung’s confusion. He arches his eyebrows even further, skeptical. All Jeongguk says is, “What?”

“You heard me,” Taehyung says, standing up even if thereʼs still cereal floating around in his milk. Jeongguk laughs again, and Taehyung starts to get annoyed. “What’s so funny?”

“Yoongi and I are not dating, hell no,” Jeongguk says then, his laughter finally dying down. It doesn’t stop abruptly—his cackles turn into a giggle and then he finally shushes with a breathy sigh. “We’re just good friends.”

“Good friends or good, good friends?” Taehyung asks, giving Jeongguk a pointed look. After all, they’re both adults—they know that sometimes friends can mean more than what they used to understand by the word when they were kids.

“Good friends who don’t fuck,” Jeongguk says, skipping any and all euphemisms. Taehyung sits back in his chair then, nodding as he grabs his spoon again. “Why are you so invested?”

“Not invested. Just nosy,” he says. Jeongguk lets out breathy laughter at that, throwing his head back a little. “You wish I cared.”

“You wish I wished,” Jeongguk says. Only then does he start doing what he came to the kitchen for, going to the cabinet by Taehyung and grabbing a mint colored mug. He then walks to the coffee machine and pours himself some in the mug. He adds no milk and or sugar because somewhere in the seven years they were apart, Jeongguk turned into a monster like that. “I need to put an end to our lovely morning conversation now—I have things to do.”

“Of course,” Taehyung says, catching some more cereal on his spoon. “Bye, Jeongguk.

“Bye, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says. And with that and the mug in his hand, Jeongguk walks out of the room.

Taehyung stays there, eating his cereal and thinking about what just happened. And then, when it clicks, his eyes widen and he sits up straight in his chair, his posture conveying his total and utter shock. Did he and Jeongguk just have a conversation that did not turn into an argument?

 

 

Going out for drinks on Saturdays has ended up becoming one of Jimin and Taehyung’s traditions, even since that first night Jimin invited him to go out to a bar. This weekend is not very different, and so the two of them meet up in the usual bar, as always catching up and gossiping about… well, everything.

Taehyung of course tells Jimin about how after weeks, he finally bumped into Jeongguk again. Heʼs even more shocked than Taehyung himself that the two of them managed to have an actual conversation without fighting each other, especially given the note that their last one ended up on.

“The way I feel for him hasn’t budged, though,” Taehyung explains. Jimin arches an eyebrow, silently inquiring him. “Like—I don’t like him. I still hate him. It was just too early to have a full-on argument. Plus, we were talking about something interesting.”

Which ends up in Taehyung telling Jimin about Jeongguk and Yoongi not being a thing. After Taehyung told him how things had gone at dinner with the two of them, he had the same belief that Taehyung himself did about the two of them being a couple. Once again, he seems to be shocked by Taehyung’s words when he tells him how Jeongguk denied not only being partners but also being anything other than friends.

“I was so sure after you told me how everything went,” Jimin says, playing with the ice in his drink with his straw. “But I guess people are touchy with their friends. I’m quite touchy myself so I get it.”

“Yeah, I shouldn’t have assumed they were a couple or anything,” Taehyung says, shrugging a bit. “I just thought they were because most of the time people bring partners as plus ones. Not friends, but… now I’m not even sure he’s into boys at all.”

“But he didn’t deny it when you asked, did he?” Jimin asks, frowning a little bit.

“He didn’t deny it, but he didn’t confirm it either. I guess he doesn’t want me to know, which—fair enough,” Taehyung says. Jimin’s eyebrows shoot up, and so Taehyung explains, “Since we’re not friends or anything. Maybe he doesn’t want me to know about his sexuality, which is not something I can hold against him.”

“You still want to be nosy, though,” Jimin says, with a knowing smile on his lips. Taehyung doesn’t reply because it’s true. Taehyung likes being nosy and knowing everything, but he’s not going to ask. He’s not pushy. “I wonder if he forgot to reply or purposefully avoided.”

“Even if he avoided, what does that mean?” Taehyung asks. Jimin hums, probably in agreement.

“Did you ever get a hunch about it when you were younger?” Jimin asks, to which Taehyung shakes his head.

“I never did, no. He didn’t show interest in anyone now that I think of it? I would ask him if he had any crushes and who they were, but he never said a thing,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung hums. “Either way, it’s none of my business.”

After that, they move on to something else, Jeongguk and the conversation from that morning forgotten. Like Taehyung said, it’s none of his business, and so he isn’t going to overanalyze every interaction they had when they were kids and theorize about Jeongguk’s private life.

Plus, it’s not like it will affect Taehyung’s life, right? Who cares what Jeongguk likes, if anyone? Taehyung doesn’t need to know.

 

 

The day that the seniors graduated high school was a sad day for Taehyung. Not only because he had friends who were seniors who he wouldn’t see half as often now given the differences in schedules. Not even the fact that it’d mean the time to start his last year of high school, the hardest one yet, was so terrifyingly close. He could keep up with those friends, and the last year was unavoidable. What made Taehyung feel sad is the fact that his crush was graduating.

It’s not like Taehyung and Hyungsik were friends. They knew each other, they smiled at each other in the hallways and Hyungsik even smiled at him when they ran into each other out of school once, but that’s all. Taehyung doesn’t have his number, and of course he has no reason to contact him through Instagram and try to get closer. Especially now that heʼs graduating. And it’s not like Taehyung thinks he has any sort of chance with him, or like he’s planning on acting on it. He’s just sad he won’t be able to stare at Hyungsik during the entirety of his break.

Of course, Taehyung doesn’t attend the graduation. He invites Jeongguk over that night and rants to him about how sad he is he won’t get to see Hyungsik again, and how much he’s going to miss his face. Jeongguk laughs, but he also gives him a hug and tells him it’s okay, hyung, you’ll forget about him. Taehyung is being dramatic, yes, but he genuinely is sad.

“I can’t believe heʼs leaving me,” Taehyung says, rolling on the floor. Jeongguk, who is on the bed, laughs. “I already have zero chances. What do I have now? Negative chances?”

“Not that you would make a move even if he stayed,” Jeongguk observes. They can’t see each other, but Taehyung narrows his eyes at him. “You just stare at him from afar and look away whenever he looks your way. That’s not how relationships start, hyung.”

“Oi! You’re being a brat,” Taehyung says, slightly slapping Jeongguk’s ankle which is hanging off the bed. Jeongguk laughs once again. “You say that like you’re a playboy. Do you make moves on your crush, Jeonggukie? Hell, do you even have a crush?”

“No! I don’t have a crush,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung doesn’t trust him, and so he sits up on the floor so he can look at Jeongguk. When Jeongguk notices, he holds his gaze and assures, “Really.”

Taehyung doesn’t know what he thinks—whether he believes Jeongguk is lying or telling the truth. Well, he’ll let it slide for now. After all, Jeongguk has no reason to lie about something as simple as this.

“Not even someone you think looks cute?” Taehyung asks. When Jeongguk stays silent, not replying with anything, Taehyung insists. “Come on. There has to be someone that you think looks cute at the very least.”

Jeongguk is quiet for a moment, his eyes leaving Taehyung’s as he looks at his phone. “Well, there is someone. But I wonʼt tell you because you’ll end up telling them or something, and then Iʼll die of embarrassment.”

“Gukkie! I won’t tell,” Taehyung says, mildly offended that Jeongguk thinks he would tell anyone. Just mildly, because knowing himself he would end up coming up with a scheme with the intention of helping, that would then fail and end up very embarrassingly for Jeongguk. He insists, “Is it a girl? Do you like a girl from class, Jeonggukie?”

“I don’t like anyone!” Jeongguk exclaims, now Taehyung’s turn to laugh at his reaction. “And no, it’s not a girl from class.”

“Is it a friend?” Taehyung asks, to which Jeongguk nods. Taehyung frowns a little. So that means Taehyung knows them then. “Won’t you tell me?”

“Absolutely not,” Jeongguk says, making Taehyung pout. It doesn’t work with Jeongguk, of course. “Sulk all you want to. It’s not a serious thing, anyway. Just think they’re cute.”

Taehyung spends a solid thirty minutes after that begging, until his mom calls the two of them for dinner and heʼs forced to move on from the topic. Heʼll make sure to ask again, maybe in a couple of days. He just wants to know who that person that Jeongguk thinks is cute is.

 

 

 

Admittedly, the relationship between Taehyung and his father has been getting better and better in the last few weeks. Not only is there less tension between the two of them, but his dad also seems more interested in him and what he does now. 

And, in a way, he also offers Taehyung a helping hand. Taehyung didn’t see it coming but he’s rather surprised by the news that his father gives him one night over dinner.

“Oh, I forgot to mention earlier,” he starts then, right before he reaches for his napkin and gently pats it against his lips. “Your mother and I will be attending a charity event next Friday. We won’t be here for dinner.”

“Noted,” Miyoung says then, before she takes a bite of her food. She looks at Taehyung, fighting a grin, before she adds, “It’s fine, Taehyung can cook for me.”

“Don’t speak with your mouth full,” their mother reprimands, Miyoung pressing her lips together and mimicking the motion of closing a zipper over them. “And we’ll see about that. Taehyung might be busy.”

“Huh?” Taehyung asks, looking up at his mother with parted lips and wide eyes. He might be busy?

Truth is, Taehyung doesn’t have any plans for Friday as of now. He meets with Jimin on Saturdays, and even if sometimes heʼs made plans with Seokjin on Friday evenings, it’s not like it’s a tradition. Nothing often enough for his mom to take into consideration. 

“Fine, then I’ll make myself dinner,” Miyoung says after swallowing down her food, rolling her eyes a little. She meets Taehyung’s eyes, directly addressing him, before she asks, “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know?” Taehyung replies, unsure. His voice tilts up at the end due to the hesitance in his tone, making his sentence turns into a question. Both he and his sister look at their mother at the same time, as he asks, “Where am I going?”

But it’s his father one who replies. He says, “I’ve been offered five invitations for the event. Your mother will be coming, as well as myself and a couple of work colleagues, but I wanted you to have the fifth one.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen a little at that, surprised by his father’s revelation. “Me?” he asks. It’s not like his father is a jokester, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when he doesn’t take back his previous statement, yet it still does. “You want me to go?”

“I do, yes,” his father confirms with a nod. “I want you to come, but not just because you’re my son,” his dad says, Taehyung frowning a little. “I figured maybe it would be good for you to attend one of these events since they’re prime opportunities to mingle and do some networking. A lot of people will be there, many of them well-known faces. That’s a good crowd for you to move around in.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says then, finding himself rendered speechless once again. Having his dad invite him was shocking enough, but having him do so to benefit his business… Even if things have been getting better, Taehyung can’t help but feel so utterly shocked. At some point he just accepted his dad wasn’t interested in the career path that he chose for himself, so seeing developments that indicate the opposite is, well… It’s hard for Taehyung to put into words what he feels. A mixture of euphoria, gratefulness, shock and even nervousness washing over him.

“That’s—thank you so much, dad,” he says, trying to keep his emotions at bay. He knows the gesture is not that big in itself, but it’s not just about that. It’s not about the invitation per se. More so, it’s about the significance that it holds. Taehyung understands it as support, something he didn’t think he would receive from his dad when it came to work—at least not yet. He’s just as surprised as he is overjoyed, honestly.

“It was your mother’s idea, actually,” his dad indicates. Taehyung steals a quick look at his mom, who gives him a sweet smile before his attention goes back to his dad. “But I thought it was a wonderful one. We all need a good push when we start a business, and this is a very good one. I’m sure you’ll make the most out of it.”

Taehyung’s mouth stretches into a smile, nodding a little. “It would be a great chance, yeah,” he agrees. After all, his father knows about these things—he started his own business years before Taehyung was born. He trusts both his father and his mother and their instincts, as they’ve both been very successful in their own field. And they have an eye for business, too. “I will take advantage of it. I promise.”

And yes, maybe from an outsider’s perspective it’s hard to understand why this means so much to Taehyung. Why he feels so nervous, already knowing he’ll be watched from a distance by his father all night. All his life, all he’s ever wanted was to be someone that his father would be proud of. He couldn’t care less about success—he just needs his dad to be proud of him. He wants his father to brag to his friends about what his son does, wants to feel happy and deserving of being a Kim. For a long time, he thought that would translate into taking over the firm once his father retired. Now it’s clear that that is out of the question, but contrary to what he believed in the first place, it doesn’t mean his dad won’t ever be proud of him. There are more chances for that to happen.

His train of thought is interrupted by Miyoung’s complaint then. “That’s not fair,” she says, attracting all three pairs of eyes onto her. “I want to go to events and mingle with famous people as well.”

Taehyung can’t help but laugh at that, fondly shaking his head as his mother replies.

“These things exist mainly for business, sweetie,” she says. “Plus, you’re not missing out on anything. They’re usually very boring and excessively long. I can’t recall ever having a good night at one of them.”

“But it’s also about the experience,” Miyoung insists. “Getting to be there, surrounded by all those people—it must be really cool. I wish I could go, too.”

“And you will when you’re older,” his dad says. Then, in a teasing tone, he adds, “Or did you think Taehyung went to them as a high schooler, too?”

Conversation stirs away from the topic of the charity event after that, with Miyoung saying she’s probably twice as mature as Taehyung was back then. Taehyung smiles and shakes his head a little, but he doesn’t deny it; eighteen wasn’t his proudest year. A lot of impulsive and silly decisions were made back then, so there’s truth to what she said.

For the rest of dinner, and even after that as the night goes on, Taehyung has a smile plastered on his face. And for the first time since he’s gotten here, he feels completely at peace, without anything at all nagging at him in the back of his mind. Maybe Seoul is not that bad, after all.

 

 

Next Saturday, Taehyung and Jimin meet up earlier in the evening, when the shops are still open, with the hopes of finding a suitable outfit for Taehyung and then find somewhere for dinner. Taehyung wants something elegant and solemn, not too eccentric or flashy. At the same time, he wants something that is a bit more exciting than a plain suit and a plain shirt—everyone will be wearing that. Taehyung knows that it’s important to stand out in all the good ways, and appearance is the easiest way to achieve that.

He trusts his own judgement, yeah, but meeting up with Jimin is a way of not only spending time with his newest friend but also mixing things up from their usual bar stop. They’ve only ever been meeting up for drinks, so Taehyung thinks it would be good to change things up a little, grab some dinner together. And after that, knowing the two of them, theyʼll go to get those drinks either way; it’s the weekend, after all. They have nowhere else to be.

They meet at the shopping mall, the two of them hitting some stores without anything convincing them. Don’t get Taehyung wrong—he sees things he likes, and so does Jimin, but nothing is appropriate for the night, at least Taehyung doesn’t feel like it is.

He has high hopes about the next place they’re visiting, though. After being back in South Korea heʼs been here a couple of times, usually going to the more casual, everyday section rather than to the formal wear section. Despite that, while walking around the store heʼs been able to spot some of their formal wear and suits, and the truth is that Taehyung liked what he had seen those times. Up until then he hasn’t needed them, so he saw no need to venture into that section of the store, but now things have changed. The charity is a black-tie event, and so Taehyung will go all out.

“You know, this is where my old boss got all her suits,” Jimin comments as they both walk in. “I worked there for months and I never saw her wear the same outfit twice. Isn’t it crazy to think about?”

“And a bit excessive, too,” Taehyung says, with a small smile on his face. Jimin laughs as Taehyung turns to the desired section of the store, looking around himself as to not miss anything interesting. “What do you do with all those clothes, anyway? This store is expensive.”

“Maybe she wore them once and then returned them. That would explain why she never repeated any,” Jimin says, Taehyung being the one to laugh this time around. He stands by a hanger, diving through the clothes displayed there. “Or maybe she was just filthy rich. Which wouldn’t be too wild to think about, considering where she worked  and the fact that she was a higher up.”

“Very possible, too,” Taehyung distractedly says, reaching through the stack of white shirts and pulling one out. It’s bright white, but the reason why it immediately stood out to Taehyung was because of the ruffling on the front. Frills adore all of it, at each side of the front placket. The rest of the shirt is completely normal and standard, making it a strong option for the night. “What do you think?”

It’s not the most daring Taehyung has ever worn, but there’s etiquette. Maybe if he were back in the Netherlands, if he were more established and his parents weren’t around, he would dare to bend the rules a little. But he doesn’t think it’s wise to do so on the first chance he has to prove to his dad that heʼs also a good businessman. It might blow up in his face and backfire really bad if he does that.

But this—well, it’s safe. It’s a lot better than a plain white or black shirt, and Taehyung thinks it’s a lot more tasteful and unique than a tie with a crazy color and pattern.

“That’s actually really cute, I love the detailing,” Jimin replies, running his fingers down the frills at the front. “I think you should keep ahold of it, consider it an option.”

“I hope it’s not too much,” Taehyung says, before the two of them move onto the next thing.

They find a couple more options, mostly sticking to white shirts. One of them has a Victorian design around the collar, although its downside is that it will probably be covered by the big, floppy bow tie that heʼs picked out. Another one of his options is very much a normal shirt, if not for the fact that the buttons are instead pearls. It’s subtle, probably not as much of a statement as the other two, but itʼs likely safer.

He’s still looking for more options, walking by Jiminʼs side, when he runs head-first into someone in a corner of the store. And as usual, because this is his luck and he seems to be able to find him in the most unexpected places, someone is none other than Jeon Jeongguk.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here. Shopping, huh?” Jeongguk says then, his eyes first scanning Taehyung before moving onto Jimin. “So you really do have friends after all, Taehyung?”

“Ha, ha. Very funny,” Taehyung says, the proud yet mocking smile on Jeongguk’s face not faltering one bit. He probably feels so proud of himself, thinking he said something really witty. Taehyung just inhales, reminding himself to keep his composure in a public place. “You’re out shopping, too?”

It’s obvious he is, of course. Taehyung still feels like it’s the right way to carry the conversation, holding small talk that neither of them will be too invested in and that both know the answers to. After two minutes they can say their goodbyes, move on, and Taehyung can bitch to Jimin about how fate seems to be having fun trolling him. Seriously? On his free day?

“I am, yeah,” Jeongguk says, lifting his arms a little and bringing the attention to the dark, deep red satin shirt resting on top of his forearm. It’s cute, Taehyung thinks. “Have a thing to attend on Friday.”

Ah, and there it is. All the small talk that—wait. Friday. Jeongguk said Friday. Taehyung’s eyes widen a little as he thinks back to his dad commenting on how it would be the three of them and a couple of people from work attending with the invitations he was gifted. A couple of people from work. Jeongguk now qualifies as someone from work to Taehyung’s father.

Well, fuck.

“Wait—really?” he asks, Jeongguk nodding a little. “To a charity event, yeah?”

His worst suspicions are confirmed then, when Jeongguk gives him a nod. “Yeah, your dad invited me,” he says. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, not saying anything. After a second of silence, Jeongguk adds, “You’re going as well, right?”

“I am. Did my dad tell you?” Taehyung asks. Jeongguk nods, humming affirmatively. “Well, he didn’t mention you were coming.”

“Wow. That wounds me, really,” Jeongguk says then, placing one hand on top of his chest and mimicking far more hurt than he actually feels. Taehyung rolls his eyes. It’s then that Jeongguk’s eyes divert from him and fall onto Jimin again, as he says, “Oh, right—excuse my manners. I’m Jeongguk. You must be Jimin, right?”

“That would be me,” Jimin says with a smile, bowing a little and mimicking Jeongguk’s gesture. He doesn’t ask Jeongguk how he knows who he is, and neither does Taehyung. He’s probably mentioned Jimin enough times for Jeongguk to know who he is by now. “And you’re Jeongguk.”

“The one and only,” Jeongguk replies, a half-smile climbing to his lips. Taehyung holds back the urge to roll his eyes again, not wanting to give Jeongguk the satisfaction. “Do you talk about me to your friends that much, Taehyung?”

“Quite a lot, but don’t get too excited,” Taehyung tells him, quick. “It’s never anything good.”

“Well, I guess that’s still better than nothing,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung, as a PR agent, disagrees with the notion that all publicity is good publicity, but he will keep his opinion to himself on this one. Not that he’s here to give Jeongguk any tips. “I need to get going now. Have stuff to do, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah—of course,” Taehyung says, at the same time he takes a step to the right, Jimin following. “Bye now, Jeongguk.”

He starts walking away, not waiting for a reply. Not that he cares for one, anyway. Conversation wasn’t going very well, at least not as well as Taehyung intended it to go. They really do have a gift for being hostile around each other. Keeping that in mind, it’s probably for the best that the conversation ended in such an abrupt way instead of—

“Oh, and Taehyung?” Jeongguk asks then, interrupting Taehyung’s train of thought. He looks over his shoulder then, meeting Jeongguk’s eyes once again.

“Yes?”

“Buy the frilly shirt,” Jeongguk says, giving him another annoying conceited smile.

And Taehyung—Taehyung clenches his jaw because he didn’t ask Jeongguk for his opinion or advice. Had it been someone else he would have thanked them for the tip and ignored it if he didn’t agree, but because it’s Jeongguk, he just can’t. Why does he need to have an opinion on everything related to Taehyung’s life? Why can’t he keep quiet if Taehyung didn’t ask him what he thinks?

He’s not going to listen. He doesn’t care what Jeongguk thinks.

“Get lost, Jeongguk,” he says, at the time he starts turning around, ready to walk away.

He takes the corner then, leaving Jeongguk behind. But even after he does that, trying to focus on all the clothes displayed in front of his eyes, he hears it. He hears Jeongguk laugh.

 

 

It’s a couple of days later, when Taehyung gets back from work late in the evening, that he walks into their living room to find a big box on top of the table. He wasn’t planning on staying downstairs for long, as he was just looking for his mom before getting in the shower, but the sight of the package catches his attention. For that reason, with his jacket still on and his phone in his hand, Taehyung approaches the coffee table with the intention of inspecting the box.

He’s surprised to see his own name written on the printed tag. He takes the box in his hand and sees it’s quite heavy, at the same time he wonders whether he bought something online that he can’t remember now. He spins the box around in his hands, trying to find the remittent. And when he does, everything makes sense.

Choi Seungjin, it says. Written right after, Taehyung recognizes the address of Seungjin’s apartment in Maastricht, the one he has stayed over in so many times. Realization that it’s probably a box full of his stuff that he left behind in the apartment deflates him a little, letting himself flop back on the couch as he looks down at the box on his lap. Taehyung clicks his tongue, then sighs.

He’s accepted it. And he’s moving on, more or less. It’s just that receiving this package means that Seungjin has removed every single trace of him from his apartment. And that—well, it feels final. Not that the breakup per se didn’t feel final, because of course it did. Taehyung didn’t have much hope put on them and their relationship working out, but this just further confirms it. They’re over. They’re over and now Taehyung has all of his shit back with him, and absolutely no reason to ever go back to see Seungjin and his apartment.

And that… that’s fine. Because yeah, it sucks, but Taehyung doesn’t need Seungjin to live. They had a great time, but now that’s over and it’s fine. It’s been three weeks now, and even if Taehyung wouldn’t dare say that all the feelings he had for him are gone at this point, heʼs doing so much better now than he was before. There are times like this when it hits him, but now Taehyung is getting used to the total lack of him in his life.

He lets himself feel sad that they’re over. But he won’t let himself overthink it and end up hurting himself all over again, not at all. Taehyung stands up again, and once back on his feet, he starts carrying the heavy box upstairs. Once showering, heʼll see what’s inside, and he won’t let himself get upset over whatever it is that Seungjin sent back to him.

It was for the best, Taehyung reminds himself. Because as good as what they had was, better is waiting for both of them out there. Not necessarily in the form of another boy, but Taehyung knows it’s out there.

 

 

Taehyung has dinner with his parents and sister the night before the charity event, as per usual. They talk about nothing and everything during it—how each of their days was, what they’ve been up to, funny anecdotes of the day. His mother asks Taehyung whether there are any updates on the loft he’s interested in buying, but he replies that no, there’s nothing still. And it’s not because the seller is slow—but because he and Jeongguk have been raising their offers constantly, trying to outbuy each other. It’s not serious, not at all. But Taehyung guesses that the more the offers raise, the more money the seller will get, so that’s why he’s not stopping the petty game the two of them have going on.

“If you keep this up there’s going to come a time when the loft is out of your budget,” his dad reminds him, bringing up something Taehyung has been fearing ever since the offers started escalating almost dangerously. “Hopefully, Jeongguk will reach that point.”

Taehyung doesn’t comment on how, surprisingly, his dad is siding with him instead of Jeongguk on this one. Maybe it’s because he wants to get rid of him, wanting him to move out already? Whatever reason it is, Taehyung doesn’t let himself focus too much on it. At least his dad is supporting him for once.

“That’s what I’m hoping, too,” Taehyung says with a sigh. “I didn’t want to give up without a fight, much less to Jeongguk, but if he keeps raising his offer there’s not much I can do. I won’t get myself into a problem just because it’s Jeongguk and we don’t get along.”

“I’m glad you see it that way, sweetie. Even if he ended up getting the loft, I’m sure there are a lot more apartments in Seoul that you’d like. The ones you saw the other day are just the tip of the iceberg,” his mom tells him, giving him a gentle smile.

She’s trying to convince him in order to soften the blow. She had done the same before Taehyung took his university admission exams, trying to make him see how if he didn’t get in it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Back then no one expected Taehyung to not get in, so despite all the preparation, even his mom was shocked, and the blow was… well, not very softened. In a way, it ruined the life he and his whole family thought he’d have.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There might be a possibility Jeongguk changes his mind still,” his father says. Taehyung is about to say how he doubts that, but then his father speaks again. “And now that you mentioned him, there’s something I don’t think I have to say, but might be a good reminder.”

“What is it?” Taehyung asks, fighting off a frown.

“Jeongguk will be attending the same event as us tomorrow night, so I expect you two to be civil around each other,” his father says. “I know you two are grown men who can distinguish between a personal and professional setting and wouldn’t engage in some sort of petty argument while there, but still. I reminded him of this today before he left the office, and I thought I should remind you as well.”

Taehyung doesn’t mention how, despite it being a professional setting, he and Jeongguk kind of got into a small, little argument when he took Seungjin to visit his dad’s offices weeks ago. What his dad doesn’t know can’t hurt him, he supposes.

“Of course, dad,” Taehyung says, with a nod. It feels a little humiliating to have his dad remind him how he’s meant to act in public, but he doesn’t comment on it. “I’m there for business, and so I’ll stick to that without doing anything that can potentially jeopardize it.”

“We’ll see once you’re there,” Miyoung says, a mischievous look on her face. Taehyung arches one eyebrow at her, giving her a half-smile. “I don’t think you’ve had one single conversation that hasn’t ended up in an argument, or without any snide comments being made. At this point, I don’t think even being in public will be enough to stop you two.”

“That’s not true! We talked without arguing the other day,” Taehyung recalls, remembering the interaction he had with Jeongguk while having breakfast the other day. He’s still looking at Miyoung, yet still can notice the surprised looks he’s getting from his parents. “I can behave if I want to.”

“That’s a good thing considering you’re a twenty-five-year-old,” his mother says, giving him a teasing smile. Taehyung gives her a pointed look as well. “By the way—you got the package I left on the table the other day, didn’t you?”

“I saw it when I came back from work, yeah,” Taehyung says, nodding a little.

“It was quite heavy,” Miyoung says then, eyebrows raised. “What was in it?”

“You’re being nosy,” Taehyung accuses, Miyoung’s expression not faltering one bit. “It was just some of my things I had left at Seungjin’s place. Clothes, books, some headphones—all that.”

“Oh, sweetie. I figured it would be something like that as soon as I saw his name on the return to sender note,” his mother says, giving him a sympathetic smile. Taehyung gives her a small grin back. “Look at the bright side—you might meet someone at the event tomorrow night. These things exist purely for networking and hooking up, after all.”

“Mom!” Miyoung says, Taehyung and her both giving their mom a scandalized look. For someone who doesn’t like it when her sons make those kinds of comments about their own lives, that’s a daring comment from his mom. Daring and also very unexpected. “Please, don’t say the words hooking up ever again.”

And what’s even more surprising is that his dad starts laughing then, Taehyung and Miyoung whipping their heads to look at him. The two of them share a disbelieving look from across the table then, right before his dad starts speaking.

“Your mother’s right. There will probably be plenty of bachelors at this event,” his father says. “Maybe you can meet someone.”

“Thank you for the interest but I’m not looking for anyone right now,” Taehyung says. He understands that when his parents were younger, everyone was supposed to have their life sorted at the age of twenty-five. But Taehyung is in no rush, and it’s not like he needs a partner, anyway. He has more important things to focus on, like running his own business. “I think I want to stay single for a while.”

“He said fuck men,” Miyoung says, with an amused smile.

“Miyoung! No swearing on the dinner table,” his father says, making Taehyung laugh loudly.

“Are you serious? Mom was talking about hooking up earlier. I thought we were finally loosening up,” Miyoung complains.

“But that’s not swearing,” his mother says, smiling as well. “And don’t take that as a precedent. If your grandmother finds out about this conversation, I will never hear the end of it.”

Taehyung, along with his sister and dad, laughs at that comment. Being away for so long, and especially leaving after things had been so awkward with his family because of the university situation, made him forget about how easy it is to get along with them. How easy it is to laugh together, to talk without boundaries and to… well, be a family.

Admittedly, after he moves out, he’s going to miss times like this. That is—if he ever moves out. He’ll have to wait and see what happens with that.

 

 

Taehyung, for his whole life, has been very aware of the importance of fashion and etiquette. When he was younger, he always saw his father and mother leave the house looking spotless. And not only that—every time someone important came over the two of them dressed up too, as well as making sure their kids look just as impeccable.

He then got into Marketing and discovered the hows and whys behind fashion and how it affects the way people perceive someone. Everything from the kind of clothing, to the color, to the cut of certain pieces—it all adds up, and even a detail that might seem meaningless can completely affect a first impression. He understands the importance of fashion, but Taehyung still thinks etiquette is bullshit and that rigid rules, such as the ones of black-tie events like the one he’s attending tonight, suck. After all, fashion is also a way of expressing oneself, and with such oppressive norms, not a lot of expressing can be done.

Still, because he does want to be let in and he wants the people in there to take him seriously, Taehyung has done his best to stick to the etiquette. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about the suit he’s picked—it’s a black one without any embellishments or anything that calls for too much attention. What’s a bit more of a statement is his bow tie, the floppy one he picked with Jimin at the store, and his shirt. Taehyung looks at himself in the body length mirror in his bedroom, making sure that nothing is out of place and no stains have miraculously appeared on any of his clothes. He runs his fingers down the ruffling of his shirt and sighs. Well, now he’s ready.

He checks the time on his phone and sees it’s already eight, the time he and his parents agreed would be good to leave in order to arrive on time. That means no more overthinking for him—he gets his wallet, pockets his phone and gets ready to go. He looks good, he knows. He’s just been having lots of doubts over the course of the past few days—what if it’s too much? And on the other side, what if it’s too little and it fails to convey the way in which Taehyung would like to present himself and his business? New, fresh, young; but still proper and efficient.

Maybe he’s just overthinking it and no one will pay much attention to his stupid suit, honestly. As long as he looks polished and put together, he doubts people will pay that much attention. Wearing a black suit is almost the only requirement for these things, and he’s doing that. So with those thoughts in mind, he forces himself out of his bedroom and down the stairs to where his parents are waiting for him in the hall.

“You ready to go, sweetie?” his mom asks him when he appears within her sight. Her straight hair has been styled and curled for the occasion, framing her face beautifully.

“I’m ready, yeah,” Taehyung says as he walks down to the bottom of the staircase. As soon as he reaches the end his mother takes a step closer to him, the skirt of her red dress floating around her legs. “You look beautiful, mom.”

“And you look handsome,” his mother says, smiling a little before pinching his cheek. Her hand moves to Taehyung’s back then, as she asks, “Let’s go. We don’t wanna be late.”

Miyoung comes to the hall to say her farewells to the three of them, and with that they leave the house and get in the car. Taehyung, who is sitting in the backseat as his dad drives and his mom occupies the passenger seat, doesn’t engage much in conversation while they drive there—he’s thinking. He hasn’t admitted it to anyone, not even to Jimin, but he’s a little nervous. He’s done a decent amount of mingling and networking before, but this is… different. His project with the agency right now is far more ambitious than what he had back in the Netherlands. And now there’s his father, who might be watching and checking how Taehyung does.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also Jeongguk around. Not that his presence makes Taehyung nervous—he makes him mad. He has an incredible ability of getting under his skin like no one else, making him lose his composure. Taehyung is old enough to know how to behave in public, much more at a place like this, but Jeongguk… God, there’s just something about him. He’s so terribly infuriating, and for some reason Taehyung can’t hold back the urge from fighting him at any chance he gets.

But he’s not going to let that get the best of him or the night. He holds back a sigh, not wanting to alert his parents, and just limits himself to looking out the window. They’re already nearing the hotel where the event is being held, a luxurious one in the heart of Seoul. It’s a matter of minutes before he sees the string of cars at the entry, waiting for the valets to take over and find them a parking spot while theyʼre led inside the venue.

His parents have been going to these kinds of events for all of Taehyung’s life. Taehyung has heard a lot about them, has read about them in the news and has seen pictures his parents have shown of them, but it’s his first time attending one. He can see the guests starting to enter, see the elegancy in the clothes and in the way they carry themselves. He never thought he’d be invited to one of these, especially after leaving Seoul, but the truth is that his life has been taking unexpected turns for the last few months.

Taehyung is brought back to reality by the sound of his mom’s seatbelt being unbuckled, meaning they’re about to get out. They’re right in front of the entrance of the venue when his dad pulls the handbrake, one of the valets walking around the car to open his door for him.

Heʼs quick to follow, opening his own door and stepping outside. The building looks even more impressive from out of the car, Taehyung seeing the chandeliers inside from the tall, wide windows. He takes a deep breath. Time for the night to begin, he guesses.

 

 ⨳

 

One hour into the event, Taehyung would say that things are going surprisingly well. Almost effortless, despite how nervous he felt while getting here. His parents, who know most of the people around, make sure to introduce him to the most interesting people given his line of work, before leaving him on his own. Always one to be good around people and incredibly charming, Taehyung doesn’t have much trouble with networking.

With his tall glass of champagne in his hand, Taehyung flashes bright smiles and exchanges easy conversation. Not only does he earn himself laughter from those he talks to, but also a few cards and promises from others to call him on Monday, as soon as proper business hours are open again. Taehyung feels comforted by just how… similar this is to what he’s used to doing. Yes, the place is fancier and these people seem to be much wealthier than those Taehyung has made business with in the past, that’s for certain. But in the end, networking is the same. Charming people is not that different in Europe than it is here, after all. And Taehyung has a talent for that, no matter the continent he finds himself in.

Other than the networking, the night is rather uneventful for the most part. Taehyung still has the very same glass of champagne in his hand as he did when he arrived, barely touched. He’s not a big fan of champagne, but he’s still hoping he’ll manage to end this one glass before the night is over. Maybe.

His mom finds him again soon after, when it’s time for his dad to give a speech as heʼs one of the top donors of the night. The chatter around the room falls quiet as his father takes the stage, tapping on the mic before he starts talking. As a businessman to the scale he is, Taehyung’s dad is rather skilled when it comes to acting or speaking in public. His smile doesn’t falter during the entirety of his speech, that very same smile that Taehyung knows has gotten him so much success in his profession. It’s all perfectly rehearsed, from his smile to his words, including his tone and the final toast, a gesture everyone mimics. Taehyung knows he wouldn’t let such an important part of the event be left to improvisation, yet it still sounds far more genuine and natural than plenty of the speeches he hears and sees on television every day—from politicians, activists, anyone. Part of Taehyung admires it, especially now that he’s part of the business world himself. Taehyung is good at acting, too. All he needs now is practice.

His dad walks off the stage and makes his way to them, being stopped on his way back by people who want to congratulate him. It’s the first time Taehyung has gotten to talk to him since the evening started, and so they start talking about—how the mingling is going, if he’s been chatting people up, if he got good contacts. Taehyung tries and succeeds at holding out a small proud smile as he tells his dad that yes, he indeed got them; however, the grin spills past his lips when his father nods, smiling a little as he tells him he’s done a good job.

“Thank you so much, dad,” Taehyung says, feeling his lips stretch into a smile. He feels warmth in the pit of his stomach, his suspicions that things were finally getting better between his father and him now sort of being confirmed. Maybe some day he’ll stop feeling the constant need to prove himself to him, but right now he feels as if his congratulatory words are all he needs, quite frankly. “It means a lot to me to hear you say that. I—”

And really, he’s about to at last bite the bullet and say it out loud. After so many years of keeping it to himself, Taehyung feels like he can at least try and tell his father the way he feels, and why this is important to him. But then, right as he’s about to start talking, a more than familiar voice interrupts.

“Good evening,” Jeongguk’s voice calls, making Taehyung look to his right. Taehyung has been so busy with all the networking that he didn’t even remember Jeongguk was attending up until now, when he sees him appear. Like him, he’s holding a glass of champagne in his hand, his a bit emptier than Taehyung’s. He’s wearing a black suit and black tie; a bit boring, but Taehyung guesses it’s safe and elegant.

“Good evening, Jeongguk,” his father greets him then, a smile immediately spreading across his face upon seeing Jeongguk there. “I’ve been looking around for you. Where have you been hiding?”

“I was talking to some friends from university,” Jeongguk briefly explains, not really going into detail. “But I’ve been here for a while now, of course. Great speech, by the way.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to be late,” his father says in a joking, distended tone.

That brings back memories, the comment his dad makes in regards to Jeongguk not being late. Truth is, even in his teenage and probably messiest years, Jeongguk was never one to be tardy. It was usually Taehyung who had to run to places whenever the two of them agreed to meet, finding himself tight with time more often than not. He wasn’t late—he hates tardiness as much as the next person, and so he always made and still makes sure to never leave anyone waiting for longer than they agreed to. It’s just that Jeongguk always got to places first, that’s all.

He zones out for a moment there, too immersed in his own memories of a time when he and Jeongguk didn’t jump at each other’s throats constantly. It’s his mom who brings him back to reality, when she links her arm with his father’s and says, “Let’s go say hello to Ms. Lee over there now, Joohyuk. I haven’t seen her for ages.”

His father lets out a mumble in response, but Taehyung doesn’t quite catch what’s being said before the two of them start walking away, approaching a tall, brunette woman. Taehyung tears his eyes away from his parents and looks ahead of himself then, eyes falling upon Jeongguk and realizing he’s been left alone with him. Jeongguk is already looking at him, smiling rather… smugly?

“What?” Taehyung asks, more questioning than anything else. It maybe sounds a little snappy, but truth be told he’s rather confused by the way Jeongguk is just staring at him with that stupid smile.

“You wore it,” Jeongguk says with a nod towards him, almost as if pointing with his chin. “The shirt.”

Taehyung finds himself quieting down for a second, the memory of their encounter at the shopping mall when he was there with Jimin coming back to his mind. Jeongguk did tell him to wear the ruffled shirt, okay, but Taehyung had already picked it up before Jeongguk showed up. It’s not like he’s wearing it because Jeongguk suggested it, or anything of the sorts—why would he? In the end, Taehyung is far more interested in pleasing himself than pleasing him, isn’t he?

And so, he will make sure to tell Jeongguk just that.

“That—oh, yeah,” Taehyung says, his free hand moving on its own accord and reaching to feel the frills of the shirt between his fingers. “I had already picked it out when I saw you. I’m not wearing it because you told me to.”

Jeongguk throws his head back and laughs then, maybe a little too loud for where they are. Nobody turns around to look at them, and so Taehyung lets himself take in the way Jeongguk’s lips part and curve into a small smile, eyes fluttering closed with laughter. Taehyung arches an eyebrow.

“I know, I know,” Jeongguk says, tilting his head to the right a little. He takes one sip of champagne, almost finishing the glass, and raises his hand in Taehyung’s direction as he adds, “Maybe we have similar tastes. You look good in it, did you know? Kinda cute.”

And if Jeongguk’s laughter was the first hint, then… this, whatever it is, would be the second one. Jeongguk not arguing with everything he says is odd enough. But Jeongguk being nice, and maybe even… complimentary? Well, that’s just straight-up weird.

“Are you drunk, Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks him then, cutting to the chase. Before Jeongguk has the time to answer, Taehyung adds, “How many of those have you had?”

“I don’t know. Three?” Jeongguk replies, turning his answer into another question. “It’s so fucking good, man. Didn’t someone say once that it’s like drinking stars? I would drink this all night.”

“I would be careful with that. I’ve heard champagne hangovers are an absolute pain in the ass,” Taehyung says, playful. Jeongguk’s eyebrows shoot up. “You’re a bit of a lightweight, aren’t you?”

“You’re just the same,” Jeongguk grumbles then, lifting his glass to his lips and finishing it off. “That was the last one, I promise. Need to keep my composure.”

Jeongguk isn’t drunk, although he’s probably somewhere in between the buzzed and tipsy stage right now. Now that Taehyung takes a better look at him, even just by his eyes it’s easy to tell heʼs been drinking a little. There’s no rosiness to his cheeks nor slurred words, but Taehyung doesn’t doubt those wouldnʼt take much to appear if he were to keep drinking.

Like Jeongguk pointed out, Taehyung himself isn’t much more resistant to alcohol. He’s only had half of his glass tonight, partly because he wants to stay sober and partly because he doesn’t like champagne. He’s tempted to offer Jeongguk his stars to drink, but with keeping Jeongguk’s best interests in mind, itʼs probably best for him to not have anything else for the night.

Silence reigns between the two of them for a couple of seconds, Taehyung looking at Jeongguk as the other man entertains himself gazing down at the floor. It’s quick to turn uncomfortable, something Taehyung isn’t going to allow—he’s been talking to strangers all night. He’s not going to let his only conversation with someone he previously knew other than his parents turn painfully awkward.

“So, you’ve been having fun?” Taehyung asks then, in an almost desperate attempt to fill the silence. He tries his best to sound nonchalant, although he’s not really sure whether it works or not.

“It’s been fine, yeah. Like I said I ran into some people I knew, so that was unexpected and nice,” Jeongguk replies, Taehyung nodding along as he listens. “You?”

“It’s been a good evening, yeah,” Taehyung tells him. “I’ve been doing some networking. For the agency.”

“And how did that go?”

“Well—it went well,” Taehyung says, not letting himself sound even remotely unsure. God knows what Jeongguk’s reply might be if he noticed any hesitance in Taehyung’s voice. Just because he’s been nice so far doesn’t mean he’s going to be nice all night. If Taehyung can manage a way to not let any teasing come his way, then he’d rather do that. “Got a few numbers, a few business cards. So yeah—really well.”

“Ah, that’s good,” Jeongguk says, nodding. “Not surprising. You’ve always been quite the sweet-talker, haven’t you? And a charmer.”

“I suppose so, yeah.”

The two of them fall into silence again, with Taehyung trying to come up with something else to say to fill it. He’s not expecting Jeongguk to be the one to bring the conversation back to life right there and then. But what he’s expecting less is what Jeongguk says.

“You ignored what I said earlier,” Jeongguk says, Taehyung narrowing his eyes trying to think of what Jeongguk is referring to. Before he can think of anything, Jeongguk adds, “About you looking cute.”

It’s that which sends Taehyung’s eyebrows up his forehead, raising incredulously. He’s not quite sure of what to say about that, having problems to not only come up with a reply but also… process it. The first time Taehyung didn’t think much of it, other than how bizarre it was of Jeongguk to compliment him. But this time around…? Well, there clearly is some insistence from Jeongguk. Some insistence to call him cute.

And really, what can he do? He should just swerve it again, avoid replying to that. The worst thing he can do is ask more and get Jeongguk to say something else, since this, uh… Well, let’s say this kind of interaction with Jeongguk is far off from what Taehyung is used to with him. No insults, no ugly names, none of that. Cute, he said.

“Are you flirting with me?” Taehyung ends up blurting out. Not avoidant at all, and not half as tactful as he should have been bringing it up. Jeongguk doesn’t raise his eyebrows, nor does he turn red as he sputters that no, he’s not flirting. Rather than that, he just smiles. Somehow, that’s the most infuriating out of all possible reactions he would have had.

“Flirting with you?” Jeongguk repeats, the stupid grin still painted on his lips. “Now you’d like that, wouldn’t you? Maybe I should flirt with you, yeah. After all, you’re single now.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes at that, not sure if that last part is meant to be a fact or a snide comment directed at him. He’s… over it now. Kind of. He’s healing from it.

“Oh, fuck off, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, now almost positive Jeongguk is just taking the piss out of him. Why is he even surprised having reached this point? “You really shouldn’t drink. It makes you even more stupid than usual.”

“I love it when you talk dirty to me like that, baby,” Jeongguk says then, prudentially lowering his voice so no one around them can hear this. Not that the recent instances in this conversation were any better, but at least it’s something. “Say more. It’s turni—”

“Nope! No, no—you’re not saying that to me in public. Enough of this,” Taehyung says, raising his free hand and showing Jeongguk his palm. Stop it right now, the gesture says in case Taehyung’s words weren’t enough to convey the message. He’s almost hissing when he says, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Flirting with you,” Jeongguk replies, blankly. Taehyung is about to reply, but Jeongguk beats him to it. “Your parents are coming back, by the way.”

With a quick look over his shoulder Taehyung finds out that, indeed, his parents are now walking back to them. He swallows down, exhaling through his nose and biting his tongue. He’s not going to reply to Jeongguk—who knows if he’d say anything inappropriate right in front of his parents, maybe with the purpose of embarrassing Taehyung or maybe because his tipsy mind doesnʼt know any better. The safest option is to drop the topic now, Taehyung tells himself.

“—and it’s so good to see her again. It really has been years!” Taehyung hears his mom says once they’re within ear range, followed by laughter. “Do you remember her daughter? She had a girl the same age as Taehyung, didn’t she?”

Still talking about Ms. Lee, Taehyung guesses. His parents get back into the impromptu circle that the four of them built earlier when Jeongguk approached, not interrupting their conversation. Only this time, instead of being stood between his parents, Taehyung is right next to Jeongguk.

He tries not to think about Jeongguk’s stupid words from earlier, even though it proves to be hard when he can feel the weight of Jeongguk’s eyes on his profile. He probably thinks he’s being sly, but Taehyung is very much aware of the looks and glances that Jeongguk steals at him. Taehyung clears his throat, looking back at his mom and trying to focus on what she’s saying instead of Jeongguk. Trying to not think of the conversation just now, trying to appear calm.

Because he, of course, is not affected. Not at all. Why would he be? In the end, it’s just Jeongguk.

 

 

That night, once they’re back from the event, Taehyung finds it hard to fall asleep. It’s not like he’s not tired—it’s quite late and he is both sleepy and physically tired, it’s just that thereʼs a thought in the back of his mind nagging him, keeping him awake.

He sighs, tossing around in bed and rolling from his left side to the right, trying to find the position and hopefully fall asleep. It’s so annoying to be kept awake by something as stupid as this, especially when it’s something he shouldn’t be thinking about. It’s definitely not something for him to consider or wonder about. After all, Taehyung has already made up his mind about him, hasn’t he?

But maybe he’s wrong, he thinks. Maybe they started off with the wrong foot, but the last few days have been… well, different. They talked without arguing, and now Jeongguk is being nice to him. Take tonight as an example—there was a bit of teasing, a bit of messing around, but it didn’t feel ill-intended or poisonous like their previous interactions had been. It felt… playful, Taehyung would say? And that’s a good thing, something that reminds him of how things were years ago.

Taehyung’s heart feels tight for a reason he can’t pinpoint—maybe because he knows he shouldn’t be thinking about this. But it’s then, in the darkness of his room and under the safety of his duvet, that Taehyung dares to wonder. What if… what if Jeongguk isn’t just an asshole, after all?

 

Chapter Text

The following day, Taehyung is woken up by the sound of his ringtone even before nine in the morning rolls around. He sits up on the bed on a jolt, startled and suddenly awakened by the sound, and gives himself a couple of seconds to take in his surroundings, recognizing the melody. Phone, he tells himself, after finally pinpointing why the tones of the default ringtone and his phone feel so familiar.

He’s not sure what time is it, but judging by the way his body seems to be screaming at him that it’s not time to be awake yet, it seems to be early—early for a Saturday. Taehyung reaches for his bedside table, fingers picking up the phone and bringing it closer to himself so he can take a look at the caller ID before answering.

Ms. Jang, it reads. Taehyung frowns a little, but thinks no more of it before he slides his thumb over the screen and picks up.

“Hello?” he asks, taking the phone to his ear.

Good morning, Taehyung,” Ms. Jang’s familiar voice greets him. She sounds far too fresh and awake in comparison to Taehyung, who still isn’t sure if he’s fully woken up yet. “I hope I didn’t wake you up.”

“No, no,” Taehyung lies. He knows his voice is probably a give away given how rough it sounds, but he’s hoping the phone helps conceal it. “Good morning, Ms. Jang. Is everything alright?”

There aren’t many things that Taehyung and Ms. Jang have to discuss, especially now that Taehyung and Jeongguk aren’t really friends anymore. The only reason why she would call him is because of the loft, Taehyung knows, so he guesses that there are at last updates on it. Part of Taehyung can’t wait to hear them, while the other side of him is admittedly really scared of what the answer might be. He bites down on his bottom lip out of nervousness, his fist lightly clenching where it’s resting on his lap.

I have good news for you,” Ms. Jang tells him, Taehyung straightening up a little upon hearing the words. He hums inquiringly, inviting her to continue before saying anything in response. “Jeongguk has decided he’s taking a step back from the loft you both liked. I still have to talk to the seller and let them know, but… well, I think it’s pretty safe to assume the place is yours.

The words come as such a big shock to Taehyung that he almost drops his phone, lips parting into silent surprise. Having reached this point, and after negotiations had been going on for so long, Taehyung felt stuck and was already starting to lose all hope of getting the loft. Even more unlikely than the loft being his was the option of it being his because Jeongguk gave up—Taehyung knows Jeongguk, after all; he’s persistent to the point where it becomes more so stubbornness, and he doesn’t just… take a step back. For a few instants, Taehyung finds himself at a loss for words.

“Oh, that’s—wow. Wait. Really?” he ends up saying, both the surprise and the disorientation from having just woken up making him lack eloquence. Ms. Jang hums then, confirming, and Taehyung can’t help but let his lips part into a big, big smile. “That’s—that’s great, Ms. Jang. Thank you so much for telling me so soon.”

Of course,” she replies, Taehyung able to hear the smile in her voice. “I will talk to the owner first thing on Monday morning, and after that I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. I know you’ve been waiting for a while, given the situation with Jeongguk, so now it’s in everyone’s interest to make the remaining steps go by as quickly as possible.

“Thank you so much for letting me know so soon, Ms. Jang,” Taehyung repeats, aware that Ms. Jang doesn’t really work on Saturdays. Calling him today was an exception, probably for the sake of the old times and how close their families used to be. “And… and well, say thanks to Jeongguk as well. Even if I’m sure he didn’t do it for me, still.”

Ms. Jang laughs into the microphone, the sound coming out a bit distorted. “I will let him know. Talk to you soon, Taehyung.”

“Talk to you soon, Ms. Jang. Have a good day,” Taehyung greets, followed by a likewise before the phone goes dead. Taehyung drops his phone on top of the mattress then, looking ahead of himself and thinking. It’s seconds later that he flops back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling as a grin starts to spread over his face.

The place is his. His. And from this point on, things will only keep getting better.

 

 

Taehyung has become a master at packing over the last few years. Not only packing, but also a master at packing for moving out, not simply travelling. The first time, when he was fresh out of high school, most of his packing was supervised and assisted by his parents, as Taehyung didn’t really have much of a clue of everything that was needed to live. Plus, he was a mixture of scared, excited and terribly sad at the time, as well as inexperienced, so it was a good thing he had help.

Over the years, a few apartment changes later and after his return to South Korea, Taehyung has become impressively good at packing his bags and leaving. As soon as the contract is signed and there’s a date set for him to move into his new place, the process starts again—he makes his lists of everything he needs, he starts filling his suitcases and all of his stuff is shoved back into boxes. At this point, he really is an expert.

He’s set to move on a Sunday. By the Friday of that same week, most of all his stuff is put away, and he’s already dropped some of his things off at the loft before his move-in date. His room doesn’t look too different from what it did when he returned from Europe, except for all the pictures he tore from the wall that one night. Nostalgia kicks in.

Maybe it’s that same nostalgia that prompts him to get the big, red lidded box that he’s kept at the bottom of his closet for years, full to the brim with memories and objects he’s collected since he was little. There’s nothing of value in it—his taekwondo belts, some trophies and medals from sports competitions, drawings he and his friends created, photo albums. Taehyung can’t keep the smile off his face as he revisits all those moments. Some memories rush straight back to his mind, vivid and detailed; others are blurry, making it hard for him to remember exactly how events went down precisely. Some things he doesn’t even remember anymore, so many years later.

He reaches for some drawings, most of them he drew when he was around fifteen, when something slips from between the papers and falls to the floor, right next to his feet. Facing down on the wooden floor is a photograph, nothing written on the back of it. Taehyung’s attention momentarily diverts from the drawings, and so he leaves them back in the box and reaches for the picture, his throat closing when he sees what it is.

It’s him and Jeongguk from almost ten years ago now. Both of them are smiling wide and happily, all of their teeth on display as Taehyung affectionately wraps his arm around Jeongguk’s shoulder. Taehyung can’t help but smile a little, looking at how big Jeongguk’s nose looks in his teenage face and the bright yellow raincoat he’s wearing; not that he looks any better, but it’s easier to poke fun at Jeongguk than at himself.

In the picture, the sky is cloudy behind them. The dark grey clouds seem to announce that a storm is soon to come, yet that doesn’t seem to bother either of them much. In the background of the picture you can see both their bikes, the sight tugging at Taehyung’s heartstrings.

This is one of the things in the box that makes memories come to Taehyung’s mind straight away. The moment his eyes landed on the photograph he pinpointed exactly where it was taken—Busan, during the two weeks Taehyung went with Jeongguk to stay with Jeongguk’s grandparents. It was the summer before senior year, back when the two of them believed they would be friends forever and no one and nothing could ever get between them.

Looking at old pictures of himself and Jeongguk hasn’t been a pleasant experience for Taehyung since he came back, often leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. He couldn’t help but feel like those happy memories were tainted by the way things had become, with the two of them not getting along. This time around, though…

Taehyung looks at the picture, and all he can feel is an overwhelming wave of fondness taking over him. His heart clenches a little in his chest, eyes boring into their smiling faces and making him feel sentimental. For the first time since he got back, Taehyung doesn’t find himself hurting when he thinks back to what he and Jeongguk had, to how close they were.

His hands tremble a little as he swallows down, eyes still on the photograph. Maybe, just maybe, he misses Jeongguk a little bit.

 

 

“Hey, boys,” the voice of Jeongguk’s grandmother calls behind them, making the two of them turn around, “The sky’s getting too dark out here. Maybe we should head back.”

“But we’ve only just left,” Jeongguk complains upon hearing the words, his lips jutting out in a slight pout. The boy holds on tighter to the handles of his bike, adding, “I’m sure it won’t rain for at least a couple of hours.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” his grandmother pipes up then, followed by a gentle chuckle. “It looks like it’s going to rain soon, and hard at that. I don’t think we want to be caught in a storm like the one brewing.”

Jeongguk looks at the ground then, his cheeks slightly puffing out as a defeated look takes over his face. Taehyung, who doesn’t like to see his best friend disappointed, takes a couple of steps closer, dragging his bike along with him as he reaches out to touch Jeongguk’s shoulder gently.

“It’s fine, Guk-ah. We can go out again tomorrow,” Taehyung offers then, giving Jeongguk a kind smile as the younger boy looks up and meets his gaze. “I don’t want to get sick.”

Jeongguk still doesn’t look too convinced, neither of them able to convince him. It’s then that his grandmother suggests, “I had an idea. For now, we can head back and make some hot chocolate. Tomorrow is meant to be sunny, so we can resume our walk then. How does that sound?”

Taehyung is almost positive that the reason behind Jeongguk’s expression suddenly brightening then is the mention of hot chocolate, not possibly repeating the failed walk tomorrow. He straightens up a little, a smile taking over his face as he asks, “Really?”

“Of course,” his grandmother concedes, the corners of her mouth lifting up into a small smile as well. “Let’s go?”

“Wait!” Jeongguk calls then, moving to the right a little and getting off his bike. “Can you take a picture of us? I promised mom we would take pictures every single day.”

Jeongguk’s grandmother’s expression softens, a toothy smile now taking over her face as she shares a look with her husband. He offers her the camera that he’s holding in his hand, that initially they were using to take pictures of the pretty scenery during their walk. While she turns the device on, Taehyung gets off his bike and leaves it to the side, getting closer to Jeongguk and sliding one arm around his shoulders.

“Say cheese,” Jeongguk’s grandmother says, the pair repeating the word after her as they smile widely into the camera.

After that, the pair get back on their bikes and they head home, followed by Jeongguk’s grandparents. Almost as if fate was on their side, it starts pouring right after they get inside, the rain violently hitting against the windows of the kitchen as they make their hot chocolate. No one tells Jeongguk I told you so—they’re all too bothered by the task at hand at the moment, anyway.

Minutes later, Taehyung smiles happily as Jeongguk’s grandmother places a mug right in front of him, full to the brim with hot chocolate. “Thank you,” Taehyung says politely, bringing it closer to himself before his eyes drift to Jeongguk. Oddly enough, when he looks at Jeongguk he does so just to find out that Jeongguk was already looking at him. Curious, he asks, “What?”

“Nothing,” Jeongguk replies, shaking his head a little. He looks down at his mug then, giving his grandmother a grateful smile before he adds, “I’m just so happy that you’re here.”

“Awww, Jeonggukie!” Taehyung exclaims, moving in his chair so he can bump his shoulders against Jeongguk’s lightly. “I’m so happy to be here with you. Nowhere I would rather be right now.”

Jeongguk lets out a soft laugh at that, stirring his hot chocolate with his spoon as he looks down at his hands. There’s a small smile plastered on his face, though, showing that he really is as happy as he claims to be.

Taehyung can’t help but mimic the expression, grinning as well.  The small village on the coast of Busan that Jeongguk’s grandparents live in is much calmer and, in a way, boring than Seoul, admittedly. Despite that, Taehyung didn’t lie about what he said—there’s no place he’d rather be. After all, he’s here with his best friend.

 

 

Sunday eventually rolls around, which means it’s time for Taehyung to pack the rest of his stuff in the boot of his car and leave his childhood home once again. As someone who loves his family as much as he does, Taehyung is feeling very conflicted—on one side, he’s missed his independence ever since he’s gotten back from Europe, and he’s excited to live on his own once again; but on the other side, he knows he’s going to miss his family far too much.

There’s also the fact that his mom, no matter how much she tries to conceal it, is feeling sad. She’s been sad all week, even if she keeps telling Taehyung how exciting this is, and how she can’t wait to see what the place is like after he’s been living there for a few weeks. Taehyung understands—he knows that when he was eighteen he left too abruptly, and went too far at that. In recent years, the occasions where Taehyung has seen his parents have been scarce, and never for very long. Getting him to live with them again was a very unlikely possibility that turned true in the end, but now it’s coming to a close.

“You know, some people say that there are few things more painful for a parent than seeing their kids walk away from them,” his mom tells him when he’s about to get in the car and drive to his new place. They insisted on accompanying him, but Taehyung has been firm—he’s got this, and they don’t need to bother. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me again.”

“Mom!” Taehyung says, pulling her into a hug. His mom squeezes him so tight that Taehyung almost feels like one of his ribs is going to break, but he still smiles widely nevertheless. “I’m less than thirty minutes away. I’ll come see you every single day if you want. It’s not by far the same.”

“But it’s similar, and it’s the same feeling,” his mom says, still not letting go of him. Taehyung lets out a throaty chuckle. “You’re still moving away. And this time it’s not a rental,” she says. She pulls back a little then, turning to her husband as she asks, “Can you believe this, Joohyuk? Our little boy is all grown now. He has his own business and has just bought his first home. It’s crazy how fast time passes.”

“Let’s not get all nostalgic with the reminiscing now, please,” Miyoung says, almost rolling her eyes. Taehyung clicks his tongue at her, almost as if asking her for leniency for their poor mother. “You’ll see. I bet she’s going to start crying as soon as you get in the car.”

“You’ll understand if you ever become a mother,” his mom tells her, a sentence that Taehyung has heard countless times before. Mostly, every time either himself or Miyoung were being scolded for doing some stupid shit.

“Or maybe you’re just dramatic,” Miyoung teases, a mischievous smile appearing on her face as she speaks. “Mom, you need to admit it—you’re a bit of a drama queen.”

“Shush, you,” Taehyung says, reaching with his right hand to squish Miyoung’s cheeks between his thumb and index finger. As a result, her lips pout out, a muffled complaint coming out upon being silenced. “Be good to her. She’s just going to miss me an awful lot.”

Miyoung snorts a little at that, but he doesn’t say anything in response, just smiling teasingly still. It’s a couple of seconds later that Taehyung’s mom finally lets go of him, just to then cup his cheeks and make him duck down a little. “I’m so proud of you,” she says, pressing a kiss to his forehead. Taehyung smiles softly, straightening his back again when she releases her gentle hold.

“Thank you, mom. I love you,” he tells her, watching her smile. He then turns his attention to Miyoung who is looking at him expectantly. “Come here, you menace.”

Miyoung’s smile doesn’t falter as she lets herself be pulled into a hug, but Taehyung thinks that her grin doesn’t seem as mischievous as before. Despite teasing their poor mother so much about this, she seems a little sad about Taehyung moving away, too. Taehyung decides not to tease her too much about it—she’s eighteen, after all. This is the age of looking cool and all that, so he’s going to spare her this one time.

“You’ll still come by, right?” she asks, her voice shaking a little. “I know you told mom you’d come every day, but that’s a bit unrealistic. But weekly? Every week sounds good, right? We’re going to need to catch up.”

“Every week sounds perfect,” Taehyung says, resting his chin on top of his sister’s head as she hugs him. Just like their mother, she hugs Taehyung so tightly that Taehyung almost feels like he’s going to snap in half. Again, Taehyung is endeared by her actions, so opposite to her teasing of their mother just before. “And yes, absolutely. You need to keep me in the loop, especially after how hard it was to catch up with everything.”

Miyoung laughs lightly then, shaking her head as she pulls back. She offers Taehyung a gentle grin and squeezes his arm lightly, as she says, “Take care, Tae.”

And lastly, but no less important, is his dad. He pulls Taehyung into a firm hug, too—not quite as tight as the one his mom and sister just gave him, but still really warm. Taehyung smiles into it, circling his arms around his dad’s middle as he gently pats his back.

“We’ll miss you, son,” he says, voice warm against Taehyung’s ears. “You know you’re more than welcome to come by anytime you want. This will always be your home.”

“I know—I know, dad,” Taehyung says, pulling back with a smile on his face. “I’ll miss you all too. I’ll call you when I get there to let you know how everything is, yeah?”

“Let us know if you need anything,” his mom says, as he takes a step back. “And don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re never too old to need help from your parents.”

“I know, I know,” Taehyung says, unable to hold back a chuckle at his mother’s words. It’s the first time he’s moving into a place that he bought himself, yeah, but he’s lived alone before. He doesn’t have the heart to tell these words to his mom, who looks like she’s about to cry at any moment. “I’ll be back before you have time to properly miss me. I promise.”

With that, and after a few more words of farewell and ‘I love yous’ are interchanged, Taehyung finally gets in his car and starts the engine. He looks at his family through the rearview as he drives away, letting go of the steering wheel with one hand to wave at them goodbye. It’s less than a minute before he leaves his parents’ house and is on the road, driving to a new place to call home.

Taehyung finds himself smiling as he drives, the radio softly playing as background music. This is another piece of the new life he’s been working on the last few months. And seeing how good everything has been working out up until now, Taehyung can’t do anything but be excited about what’s to come.

 

 

Thanks to the amount of help he’s gotten from his parents and sister, the whole process of moving into a new place is pretty easy for Taehyung. He finds himself missing the presence of his family, and he must admit it gets a bit lonely to be alone again after months surrounded by other people, but he knows he just needs to grow used to this again.

It’s only a few days after he’s decorated the loft that he has his first guest outside of his family, Jimin. Taehyung invites him to come over for dinner and drinks when Friday rolls around, and so the two of them find themselves sitting in Taehyung’s living room once the sun has already set, laughing together over gossip about workplace things.

Of course, Jeongguk was bound to be brought up at some point during the conversation. It’s Jimin who mentions him, taking a sip of his drink before he says, “So, let me get this straight—Jeongguk just backed away from the place? Just like that?”

“Just like that, yeah,” Taehyung says, reaching towards the coffee table and leaving his glass on top of the coaster—he doesn’t need any marks on the glass surface, thank you very much. “I guess he found a better place or something. Maybe his mom found him something else? I have no clue, his mom didn’t go into detail and I didn’t bother to ask him when I saw him.”

“Don’t you think maybe he backed out because he wanted you to have it?” Jimin asks him, then. Taehyung’s eyes widen upon hearing that, shocked by the comment. “Maybe he was just being nice, since he saw you cared a lot about getting it.”

See, the thing is that in recent days Taehyung has been finding himself… tolerating Jeongguk a little better, let’s say. Their last encounters have been rather pacific after that one unfortunate comment Jeongguk had made about Taehyung being dumped right after the break-up. It’s not like they became friends, but they became able to be around each other without it ending up in an argument, which is great progress given their history of quarreling ever since Taehyung returned.

It was after the charity event the two of them attended that the idea of Jeongguk maybe not being that bad started playing in Taehyung’s mind. Their last encounters had been rather pleasant, and then came the very much unexpected flirting at the event that Taehyung, of course, didn’t reciprocate. As if that wasn’t enough, it was right after the party that Taehyung got the call from Ms. Jang, letting him know that Jeongguk had given up and that the place was his. In context, looking at all the events and following a timeline, it would make perfect sense to assume that hey, maybe Jeongguk was indeed being nice. Maybe there had been some sort of turning point that had made him change his mind and try to be more of a pacifist around Taehyung.

The issue that Taehyung has with this theory, though, is exactly that—that it’s too good to be true. He and Jeongguk have been arguing non-stop since he got back, and out of the blue Jeongguk just puts an end to it? Taehyung is disbelieving for some reason. He doesn’t want to let his guard down, knowing that the niceness can end anytime soon.

And there’s something else, too. He doesn’t want to be in debt to Jeongguk, or owe him any favors. He backed out from having the apartment on his own accord, without Taehyung asking him to do so. He doesn’t owe him anything. He’s just scared that Jeongguk might want to turn the situation around and ask for something in return.

All of these reasons are what prompt Taehyung to sigh and shake his head before he speaks. “I’m not too sure,” Taehyung replies, rather unconvinced. “I’m more inclined to believe he found something better. He seemed pretty adamant on getting the place as well, and he wouldn’t just do me a favor. Me, out of all people.”

Jimin can’t help but laugh at that, shaking his head. “You haven’t been arguing as much, though,” he points out. Taehyung has made sure to keep him up to date with everything happening between the two of them, as he has become one of his best and closest friends, easy to confide in. “Do you still feel tension between the two of you?”

“I haven’t seen him since I moved out,” Taehyung says with a shrug, looking away as he gets his drink once again. Before taking a sip, he adds, “I feel on edge when I’m around him. Even if we haven’t been fighting, there is always some underlying tension every time we’re together in a room. I don’t know—it’s weird. I can’t relax when I’m around him.”

Jimin’s reply to that is short, straight to the point and very much surprising. He just says, “Maybe you just need to fuck it out.” Taehyung promptly chokes on his drink.

“Jimin—what?” Taehyung says after a cough, looking up to meet the eyes of a very amused-looking Jimin. Thinking maybe he didn’t hear correctly he asks, “What did you just say?”

“I said, maybe you guys need to fuck it out of your systems,” Jimin repeats. Yep, the very same thing Taehyung had heard at first. His eyes widen impossibly more. “Don’t look at me like that! It’s a thing that happens. Some people need to have sex to get rid of the tension and anger between them. Hate sex is a thing, you know.”

“I’m not gonna have sex with Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, wrinkling his nose. Jimin arches one eyebrow, looking skeptical. “What?”

“Are you going to try to tell me he’s not an attractive guy?” Jimin asks him then, knowing that Taehyung can’t just deny a fact. Jeongguk is attractive, yes, but that doesn’t mean anything. Taehyung doesn’t want to have sex with every single hot guy he sees.

“He’s attractive and puberty did him well, yes, but I still don’t want to have sex with him,” Taehyung explains. “He’s my old best friend, and on top of that, he’s not my type. I would never have sex with him.”

“What is your type then?” Jimin asks him, tilting his head a little. Taehyung presses his lips together. “Come on—he’s got the handsome yet terribly cute face, the dreamy eyes and a killer jaw. Great hair, too. And he seems like a decent guy, other than this weird rivalry thing you guys have going on. Why not him?”

“I don’t know what my type is yet, but definitely not him,” Taehyung resolves, making Jimin laugh. Thinking back about Seungjin and his almost imposing 6’2” body, he adds, “I like my men taller.”

At that, Jimin can’t help but laugh again, leaning forward a little on the couch before hugging both his legs. “So you’re trying to tell me you wouldn’t have sex with him,” he inquires once again. Taehyung hums affirmatively, making Jimin click his tongue. “I thought you guys would eventually, after you and Seungjin broke up. After we ran into him at the shopping mall, and then when you told me he tried to flirt at the event… I thought I felt something going on there, you know.”

“Not at all,” Taehyung says, quickly shutting him down. “It’s not like that at all.”

“If you say so,” Jimin says, arching his eyebrows one last time. His plump lips are still curved into a small smile, one that tells Taehyung that Jimin is still not too convinced by his words. That baffles Taehyung, but he doesn’t say anything—after all, his words will prove to be true with the passing of time. He and Jeongguk were never like that, are not like that today and will never be like that, ever.

He doesn’t need Jimin to believe him. Deep down, he knows what’s true, and that’s all that matters.

 

 

Taehyung hadn’t left himself think much about the previous conversation with Jimin during the rest of the evening, but that’s bound to change once he’s alone and in bed. See, he’s good at pushing uncomfortable thoughts away from his mind when he’s wide awake, busying his brain with something else—something far more appealing. But it’s in the late hours of the night, when he’s sleepy and tucked into bed, when his willpower to ignore fades away. And it’s then that he thinks about Jeongguk again.

Like he said to Jimin, he’s aware Jeongguk is attractive. He has grown to be a stupidly attractive man, with a smile that Taehyung is sure makes people feel weak in the knees. He is the perfect combination of pretty and handsome, and on top of that has the capability of being charming as hell when he’s not busy trying to make Taehyung’s life a living hell. He knows this, but he never gave it much thought.

He has eyes, yeah, but being able to objectively admit he’s attractive doesn’t mean that he’s attracted to him. They’re two very different things, and Taehyung can firmly say that he has never thought about Jeongguk in such ways. Not even when Jeongguk tried to flirt with him, something Taehyung still has trouble wrapping his head around.

But he must admit that, in a way, Jimin’s words are… something to think about. Taehyung has seen enough romantic movies during his life to know how these things go: two people who can’t stand each other, one day during an argument they stand too close to each other and, suddenly and completely out of the blue, they end up kissing and then fucking. Taehyung just can’t see that happening between him and Jeongguk—can’t see himself pinning Jeongguk to a wall, just for the two of them to end up crashing their mouths into a kiss. Is there any sexual tension between them that he hasn’t been able to see? He surely would have realized if that were the case, wouldn’t he?

Maybe a couple of times, when the two of them were in the middle of an argument, one of them took a step too close. And maybe back then it would have been easy, so fucking easy for the two of them to end up doing something. Taehyung can’t help but wonder if Jeongguk would kiss like he talked to him during those times—intense, with the two of them licking into each other’s mouths as if their lives depended on it. Something about the thought makes heat lick at the pit of Taehyung’s stomach, toes curling before his eyes snap open.

Taehyung swallows down thickly, turning around onto his back and staring at the ceiling as he tries to collect his thoughts. He bites down on his bottom lip and then thinks. He swears it’s the wine from earlier still clouding his mind, making his judgement cloudy and subsequently causing him to make very, very bad decisions. He clearly isn’t thinking straight as he lets his right hand hesitantly move to the front of his body, creeping down his stomach almost as if he was scared of what he’s doing.

He hates how stupidly easy it is for him to let go of those inhibitions as thoughts of Jeongguk rush back to his mind seconds later. He feels himself harden under his own palm as he thinks of Jeongguk’s mouth latching to his neck, kissing down from his jaw to his neck and leaving a trail of red marks in its wake. If he closes his eyes he can almost pretend that he can feel the weight of Jeongguk’s body on his, the ghost of a pair of hands on his body, a mouth on his. Before he can bring himself to overthink it too much and stop himself, one of his hands slips under the waistband of his underwear.

“Fuck,” he mumbles then, his voice coming out hoarser than he was expecting. He wraps his hand around himself, pumping himself to full hardness, but in his mind it’s not his own fist around his cock—it’s Jeongguk’s. It’s Jeongguk’s long fingers that are stroking him, with stupidly wide knuckles that for some reason Taehyung has been staring at.

He hadn’t considered it before tonight, before Jimin brought it up, but right now Taehyung can’t help but think that his friend is right. He and Jeongguk have had some tension between the two of them since Taehyung first come back, be it sexual or not, and they do need to get rid of it. His stomach twists pleasurably as he thinks about how it would feel to have Jeongguk kiss him, both going at each other’s mouths so angrily that their lips would turn red. He thinks about how he’d yank Jeongguk’s perfectly ironed shirts out of his slacks, unbutton them with frantic hands without letting go of his lips one single second. He thinks about how it’d feel to touch the expanse of Jeongguk’s back under his palms, to scratch red angry lines on the skin as Jeongguk’s hands cling to his hips.

He inhales sharply, a sound threatening to leave his lips at the thought. It’s actually embarrassing how much the thought of the two of them angrily making out turns him on, how much he wants to feel Jeongguk kiss him roughly. He’s had sex like this before, so desperate and hurried and good. Maybe Jeongguk would bury a hand in his hair and pull a little, maybe he’d whisper the absolute dirtiest filth in his ear while his hips fucked into him.

And that’s what finally has Taehyung letting out a weak moan, almost inaudible to his own ears. By now he’s too far gone to be embarrassed, too into it to bring himself to stop. The pace of his hand around himself picks up, and he starts to jerk himself off faster as thoughts of Jeongguk fucking into him rush back to his mind. He closes his eyes and can almost see how he’d look thrusting into him, hair disheveled, pupils blown and face flushed.

He bites down on his bottom lip then, stopping himself from calling out Jeongguk’s name in the darkness of his room. He’s close now—so, so close that his toes are curling, and his jaw is clenching. He comes seconds later, too far gone to care about the fact that he’s going to make a big mess out of his boxers.

For a couple of minutes, Taehyung just stays there, lying down on his bed and trying to catch his breath. As his pants slow down and his breathing turns even, he feels himself sober up. And as he sobers up, the weight and implications of what just happened weighs down on him, the realizations almost as uncomfortable as the mess in his underwear is.

“Fuck,” Taehyung says, sitting up on the bed. Funnily enough it’s the same thing he said not that long ago, as his hand slipped inside his pants, but this time around he’s saying it for entirely different reasons. “Oh, my. Fuck.”

Still sat up on the bed, Taehyung runs his—clean—hand through his hair, trying to make sense of what the fuck has just happened. He’s just jerked off to thoughts of Jeongguk. He has just jerked off to thoughts of Jeongguk and himself having sex.

Taehyung swallows down, closes his eyes and lets himself flop back on the bed, body collapsing against the mattress with a loud thud. Well, now he really is screwed.

 

 

 

The second visitor that Taehyung gets at his loft, again without including family members, is both an unannounced and unsuspected one. It’s Sunday evening and he’s in the midst of making himself some dinner when the doorbell sounds, making him walk to the entry while leaving his food on hold. He wasn’t expecting anyone, so he guesses it’s probably his mother wanting to pay another visit, as Taehyung knows she’s still getting used to him leaving again.

As he makes the assumption that it’s his mom or another family coming to visit, since anyone else would have asked beforehand, Taehyung doesn’t bother looking through the peephole. Maybe if he had he wouldn’t have gotten such a shock when, upon pulling the door to the loft open, he finds Jeongguk standing there.

“Good evening, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says, his mouth quirking up into a gesture that isn’t quite a smile, but is halfway there. Taehyung remains silent. “Can I come in?”

Taehyung doesn’t say yes, but he takes a step back, and so Jeongguk walks inside the loft. He looks around himself at the same time Taehyung speaks for the first time, asking, “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see what you had done to the place—just me being nosy, really. It’s looking really nice, though,” he says, eyes still not focusing on Taehyung and instead choosing to look at his surroundings. It’s only after he’s done talking that his gaze meets Taehyung’s, smiling a little—Taehyung is quite sure it’s a fake smile—as he says, “Here, I brought you something. To congratulate you on the new place.”

It’s only at that moment that Taehyung notices the fact that Jeongguk is holding up something in his hands—a small bag. Given the shape of if, long and narrow, it’s quite easy to figure out that what’s inside the bag is a bottle. Taehyung takes the bag from Jeongguk’s hands as he says, “Thank you.”

“It’s white wine,” Jeongguk explains, at the same time Taehyung digs inside and pulls the bottle out. One of the corners of his mouth tilts up—he recognizes the wine, and he must admit it’s one he likes. Jeongguk most certainly did some asking around before getting it, Taehyung thinks. “You might want to put that in the fridge.”

“You might want not to give me advice on things I know how to go about,” Taehyung says. His words might sound a bit ruthless, but he makes sure to use a teasing tone so there’s no bite between them. He still hopes Jeongguk listens to what he says and stops with the patronizing advice, though—Taehyung knows how white wine is served. “Thanks for the gift, though. Very much appreciated.”

“You’re welcome. It just felt extremely impolite to show up empty-handed,” Jeongguk replies. Taehyung doesn’t say anything, but one of his eyebrows arches involuntarily—is it not impolite to drop by uninvited and without giving any warning? Jeongguk picks up on his expression quickly, asking, “What’s the face for?”

“Nothing,” Taehyung quickly says. Of course, he knows Jeongguk won’t believe that, so before the other has the time to ask again he changes the topic. Once again, he asks, “So why are you really here? I don’t think you’ve ever paid special attention to decoration, so I find it a bit hard to believe you came all over here with expensive wine just to judge my home décor choices.”

His words make Jeongguk laugh at the same time he shakes his head. He tries to act nonchalant, but Taehyung can see right through him—Jeongguk has been caught. Taehyung looks at him with a pleasant smile on his face, one that urges him to reply despite him not asking again with words.

“You’re so disbelieving of my word, Taehyung. It wounds me,” Jeongguk tells him. “Is it hard to believe I just wanted to see your new place?”

“It is, yes,” Taehyung deadpans.

“Is it hard to believe that I wanted to see you, then?” Jeongguk says. The smile slowly melts off Taehyung’s face, not expecting to hear anything like that. It’s only when he sees Jeongguk smirk, looking pleased with himself, that he realizes Jeongguk only said what he did to get a reaction out of him.

“Oh my god—shut up,” Taehyung tells him then, feeling his face get hot. Not at what Jeongguk said, but at the fact that he let his guard down and allowed himself to react just in the way that Jeongguk wanted him to. “I can’t ever get rid of you, can I? Not even after moving out.”

Jeongguk smiles again at this, but this time it’s different. His lips spread slowly, and although it’s smaller, it seems a bit more sincere. More truthful. “You can’t. But you must admit it, Taehyung—without me, your life would be boring. You need me to spice it up.”

Taehyung could reply, could tell Jeongguk that he’s crazy and far too full of himself if he genuinely believes that. But he knows it would be pointless, just as pointless as it would be to try to tell Jeongguk to leave when he obviously has already made up his mind and wants to stay. And so, because he’s frankly too tired to argue, Taehyung walks to the still-open door and pushes it shut. When he looks at Jeongguk again, judging by the pleased look on his face, it’s quite obvious that he has lost this battle. It’s fine, he tells himself, there will be other ones.

“Come on in, then,” Taehyung tells him, leaving the wine on top of the countertop and walking right past Jeongguk. “Let me give you a tour.”

 

 

No matter how much Taehyung tells himself that he won’t let the events from the other night affect him and how he acts around Jeongguk, he doesn’t manage to stick to his promise. It becomes apparent that there’s been a shift. It’s not like he stays for too long—Taehyung really only does give him a quick tour, showing him around the loft before Jeongguk is leaving. Taehyung, always a pleasant host, offered him a drink and to stay for a bit, but Jeongguk had declined, saying he had work waiting for him at home.

And the visit is short, honestly. But that doesn’t stop Taehyung from being terribly hyper-aware of everything now that he’s in Jeongguk’s presence—from the way his hair gently sweeps over his forehead, falling from the side part he’s styled it in after a long day, to the loosened tie around his neck. Every time Jeongguk comes a bit too close he takes one step away, and the worst part is that he doesn’t even mean to. It’s almost as if his body is moving on its own accord, scared to be too close now that Jimin has mentioned all those things.

The same thing happens the next time they see each other, when the two of them are over for dinner with Taehyung’s parents. Taehyung and Jeongguk sit across from each other, and despite the fact that the table is a decent size, he makes sure not to move his legs during the entirety of the meal. What if he kicks Jeongguk under the table and Jeongguk mistakes it as footsie? After all, who says Jeongguk’s friends aren’t planting in his head the same ideas Jimin has planted in his? The last thing he needs is for Jeongguk to mistake an accidental and very innocent kick for an attempt to play footsie with him.

They don’t argue as much, or at least not in the same way. They’re a bit more civil now, their arguments less confrontational and more on the bickering side. Taehyung feels like Jeongguk likes to tease him, and for that reason he teases him twice as much. It all comes back to bite him in the ass when it’s time for Jeongguk to leave and his mom asks him to walk him to the door. Just as Jeongguk is about to walk out the door, walking past Taehyung, he turns around to look at him. The hall is narrow and Jeongguk is stupidly close, making Taehyung way too fucking aware of every single inch in between them. His first reaction is to take a step back, but his heel is met with the wall as he does so.

“Have a good night, Taehyung,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung nods then, with a hum. “And drive home safely.”

This is a very decent distance, he tells himself. It’s no closer than he stands next to Seokjin or Jimin when talking to them, or closer than he’s ever spoken to Jeongguk. If anything, they’ve been far closer before, when during arguments either of them took a step too close to the other, and it never felt like too much. Taehyung thinks about this in order to soothe himself down about how it’s okay, this isn’t new for them, but it backfires badly on him when he’s reminded of Jimin’s comment about hate sex. Some people need to have sex to get rid of the tension and anger between them, he had said. Taehyung holds back a grunt.

“You too!” he says when he realizes he’s taking far too long to reply. Jeongguk looks a bit puzzled, but he doesn’t say anything. “Get back safely, yeah. I’ll see you whenever you decide to pester me again.”

Jeongguk doesn’t reply to that, just chuckles and shakes his head before he finally gets going. As soon as he’s crossed the door Taehyung takes a step forward and clicks it shut, feeling himself relax once the other is gone. He lets out a big sigh as he leans back against the door, throwing his head back against it.

For the first couple of days after that night, he was in denial. After that, he came to silently accept it but refused to think about it or even acknowledge it. Now it’s been over a week and he’s seen Jeongguk twice ever since, and Taehyung feels like he’s starting to properly come to terms with it now. After all, there are worse things in the world than being so ridiculously attracted to Jeon Jeongguk, right?

 

 

Drastic times call for drastic measures, and for Taehyung, having the hots for Jeongguk is rather drastic. He keeps it to himself all through the week until he meets up with Jimin the following Friday. During that time, he considers coming clean to Seokjin when they meet up on Wednesday, but he ends up discarding the idea. He would tell Seokjin if he thought this would be a… well, a permanent thing. But his plan is to get rid of the attraction, somehow. It only became a thing once Jimin brought his attention to it, so there must be a way to get rid of it.

And who should he ask if not Jimin, who in a way is responsible for it?

“Well, it has an easy solution,” Jimin tells him once Taehyung explains to him what has been going on. He leaves out the most explicit details, but judging by the teasing smile on Jimin’s lips he still understood the implications behind Taehyung’s words. Taehyung looks at him with expectant eyes, waiting for him to carry on. “Sleep with him.”

Now, after trying to come up with a solution himself without much success, Taehyung had absolutely no clue of what it’d be that occurred to Jimin, especially given the fact that he had a solution right away. In retrospect and judging by their last conversation in regards to Jeongguk, he should have known. But for some reason he still wasn’t expecting it, and so his eyes widen almost dramatically as he leans forward in his seat, hissing, “Jimin!”

And Jimin just laughs at that, shrugging a lot. “It’s true! Isn’t that what always happens? The best way to stop wanting something is to get it,” Jimin says. Taehyung huffs again, about to tell Jimin how flawed that reasoning is, but Jimin adds, “Right now, you’re frustrated because you want him and you’re holding yourself back. You should just let yourself go.”

“I don’t even know if he’s remotely attracted to me,” Taehyung protests then, bringing up the fact that it might not go both ways for the first time. Jimin gives him a pointed look. “What?”

“You’re not serious, are you?” Jimin asks him. “You said it yourself—he’s made flirty remarks before. Isn’t that a good indicator?”

“I’m not sure about how sober he was back then,” Taehyung brings up, remembering the champagne that they all had the night of the charity event. “I don’t know if he meant those things. It would make much more sense for him to say what he did to try to get under my skin, than because he actually meant it.”

“I honestly doubt that,” comes Jimin’s reply, clearly not too convinced by Taehyung’s argument. “What if he did want it? Would you, then?”

Taehyung stays quiet for a moment, letting himself think. There is another problem to Jimin’s suggestion, one that he is half-scared to bring up. Not because he’s mistaking his own feelings or anything, but because he can see how easy it would be for Jimin to get the wrong idea because of his words.

“But what if…” he starts, quieting down under the weight of Jimin’s attentive eyes. Jimin doesn’t say anything after he pauses, doesn’t ask him to continue, but there is something urging about the way he looks at Taehyung. “What if after that I don’t want to stop?”

And just like Taehyung predicted, as soon as the words leave his mouth Jimin arches one eyebrow and looks at him with a funny expression. “How do you mean?” he asks, words sounding almost cautious.

“What if it’s good and I want it to happen again?” Taehyung asks. He doesn’t want Jimin to get the wrong idea and think Taehyung is considering the possibility of catching feelings for Jeongguk because that isnʼt the case at all. Jeongguk is his old best friend, who turned into an asshole that eventually turned into a tolerable, half-decent to be around guy. He’s not someone Taehyung would get feelings for. This is just physical. “Sometimes a fuck is enough to get it out of your system, yeah, but sometimes it makes you want it again. And that’s the opposite of what I want.”

For a second there Jimin stays quiet, thinking about Taehyung’s words before he lightly nods. “You’re right, you’re right,” he gives in. “How about someone else, then?”

“Sleeping with someone else?”

“Or seeing someone else, yeah,” Jimin says, tilting his head to the right. “Maybe the way to get your mind off Jeongguk is to busy it with someone else.”

Taehyung is hesitant for a moment. Of course, he’s had hook ups and one night stands before, so the idea of some stringless sex is not something he’s foreign to. His break up with Seungjin isn’t fresh anymore, and heʼs had time to heal from it. Maybe Jimin is right, and it’s about time he busies himself with someone again. After all, he hasn’t gotten any in ages.

“You know what? You’re right,” he says, watching Jimin smile a little. “That sounds like it might work.”

Which is how, right then and there, Taehyung ends up downloading a dating app that Jimin recommends to him and setting up a profile. Like most of these apps it offers the premise of finding love and a relationship, but Taehyung is more than aware that what most are looking for is just sex. He’s not too bothered about that, though—after all, it’s not like he’s looking for anything serious either. He just wants to have some fun.

He completes his profile, not adding too much personal information and picking a decent selfie he took earlier that week. He’s actually surprised by the number of non-straight men there are within the 15 miles radius he picked. He and Jimin spend some time swiping around the app and they even get some matches, but that’s all for tonight—he doesn’t bother replying to anyone just yet.

After a while, the two of them eventually lose interest and move on to other topics. His phone keeps pinging with notifications from the app, and so he eventually goes to his settings and decides to turn them off. After all, it’s not like he cares too much about receiving any notifications unless he’s actively using it, whenever he wants to talk to any guys.

For the rest of the night, Taehyung doesn’t pay any attention to it. It joins the colorful mess of unorganized app icons that his home screen is, forgotten just as quickly as he downloaded it.

 

 

To be quite honest, Taehyung doesn’t think about the dating app again until the next evening when he’s visiting his parents’ house. And even then, it’s not that he thinks about it—more so, he accidentally taps on it while mindlessly scrolling down his phone, trying to find some sort of entertainment while Miyoung and his mom talk about a drama they’ve both been watching.

He didn’t mean to tap on the bright yellow icon, clicking his tongue unamused as he sees the loading screen. He’s about to go back to his home screen when he notices the number on his inbox, eyes widening a little when he sees the amount of messages he got over the span of one day. Now curious, he taps on top of the envelope icon, starting to scroll down and see what kind of guys have messaged him.

He has nothing better to do, and so he decides that maybe it’s time to give the app a second chance and see if he manages to find someone that catches his attention this time around. Ignoring all the messages in his inbox he starts looking for new people within that fifteen-mile radius he picked, seeing what this new location has to offer.

Obviously, there are fewer people around here that fit his criteria than in the heart of Seoul, but there’s still quite a decent number of people for a residential area on the outskirts of the city. He’s mindlessly scrolling and swiping right and left, with the chattering of his mom and sister as background noise, when amidst all of the selfies and pictures of different guys something calls his attention.

Now, Taehyung is a rather basic guy. There is something about abs that he just finds terribly attractive, and so when he stumbles upon a shirtless picture he can’t help but do a double take. The face of the guy in question is not in the picture, but Taehyung is not too bothered by it. He’s not too buff, but his abs are defined enough for Taehyung to bite down on his bottom lip and, in the end, swipe to the right on him.

He’s still on the app a few minutes later when a bright yellow bubble pops up at the bottom of his screen, the text you’ve got a new match! written on it. Without thinking much about it he taps on the bubble, eyebrows twitching a little when he realizes it’s the shirtless guy’s profile that he was looking at just now.

If Taehyung’s profile is sparse in personal information, this guy’s completely lacks any. Taehyung at least has his name, as well as pictures of himself, but this guy doesn’t even have that. All there is in his display name is JJ, and none of his pictures include his face. Perhaps it’s the secrecy that intrigues Taehyung the most.

Before he has the time to properly creep his profile he gets another in-app notification. It’s been less than a couple of minutes since he got alerted about having a new match, and now the very same guy is messaging him. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, looking at the very nonchalant message.

Hey, is all it says. Taehyung guesses that JJ is not very talkative, huh?

For the first time since he downloaded the app, Taehyung not only opens one of the many messages piling up in his inbox, but he also bothers to reply. Keeping it just as casual as the other is, he texts hello back.

While waiting for a reply, Taehyung goes back to the guy’s profile and starts looking around. It says he’s 23 years old, employed and that he’s looking for friends and more, but that’s about it. Pictures don’t let on about much more, other than that he has abs to die for and equally nice arms. Taehyung maybe spends a little too much time staring at some of the pictures, until another notification pops up on his screen.

Cute selfie

Well thank you very much

Very nice picture as well lol

Not very cute but it does the job

Are you from Seoul?

Taehyung is actually rather surprised to find himself having a conversation with a stranger he only really noticed because he has a nice body and absolutely no pictures of himself, but he guesses this is how these apps go. It’s the first time he’s personally used one of them, but some of his friends back in the day used them a lot, so Taehyung is not completely foreign to the culture behind them. Mystery guy doesn’t give him a name, but that doesn’t matter as he has more interesting conversations with him than Taehyung would hope from an app like this. They don’t talk about anything too deep or serious, but it’s enough to keep Taehyung busy for the time being.

His attention is diverted from his phone once he hears the door to his father’s office open, voices filling the hallway. As the two people in the corridor get closer and closer to the front door, and therefore to the living room, Taehyung recognizes Jeongguk’s honey voice. Of course, he thinks, holding back the urge to roll his eyes.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” he hears his father say, Jeongguk mumbling something in agreement.

It’s only seconds later that Jeongguk’s head pops from behind the door frame, flashing a charming smile as he announces, “I’m gonna get going now.”

“Do you want to stay for dinner, sweetie?” Taehyung’s mother offers, standing up from where she’s sitting.

“Oh, no, no,” Jeongguk rushes to reply. “Thank you so much for the offer, but I really need to head out. I promised my mom I would drop by hers before so I better go before it’s too late.”

By hers, Jeongguk said. That must mean he found a place of his own to move out to. Taehyung was wondering if he had actually found another place before giving up on the loft or if maybe he had done so because he wanted Taehyung to have it, but of course it’d be the first reason. After all, Jeongguk is stubborn and he wanted the place just as much as Taehyung, so the possibility of him doing it just to be nice is… remote, to say the least.

“Tell her I’m asking for her, will you?” Taehyung’s mother replies then. “God, it’s been ages since we last saw each other.”

It doesn’t take too much for Jeongguk to leave after that, not without exchanging farewells with Taehyung and Miyoung. Jeongguk leaving indicates that it’s time for his parents to start cooking dinner, and so Taehyung follows the two of them to the kitchen to set the table and help them out.

While he waits for his father to pass him the tableware for him to set up in the dining room, Taehyung gets his phone out of the front pocket of his jeans and takes a look at it again. JJ has yet to reply to his last message, so he stares at the chat while biting his lip, considering something. Fuck it, he thinks, going back to his home screen and opening his settings.

He might regret it, in case his phone is again flooded with stupid messages from guys he isn’t really interested in. But, for the time being, he decides to turn the dating app’s notifications back on.

 

 

 

The following day, Taehyung wakes up early with the intention of getting his tasks out of the way so that he can have the rest of the day for himself. It’s Sunday, which means Taehyung doesn’t have to go to the office today, and he doesn’t have a crazy amount of work to do from home. He makes himself a tea, sits by the small desk he’s installed near the window and starts working when, suddenly, his phone vibrates with a new notification. His eyebrows rise in surprise when he realizes it’s from the dating app, and not only that, but from JJ.

They had exchanged a few texts the previous night, yeah, but it’s not like they had a conversation to resume or anything. Taehyung wasn’t expecting him to message again, mostly because he assumed most people on these apps are just looking for a quick, convenient thing. There was a certain suggestive tone last night, sure, but nothing too crazy. Taehyung didn’t expect him to message again, considering how nothing had come out of their previous conversation.

Good morning, is all that the text reads. Taehyung considers ignoring it and coming back to it when he’s done with what he has to do, but he guesses it won’t do any harm to reply to him now. After all, it’s not like there’s a lot to be done, or like it’s a task that requires all of his attention—he just has to fill in some paperwork, really.

Before he can stop himself, he reaches for his phone, thumbs hovering over the keyboard before he starts typing.

Good morning

You’re awake early, aren’t you?

Same goes for you

Early bird gets the worm, isn’t it?

I guess so

So what brings you back to my inbox? lol

Well

I was under the impression we had a pleasant conversation last night

Was I wrong?

No, not wrong

I was just asking

If you’re gonna keep messaging I’m gonna need a name though

JJ is kind of anticlimactic

Oh right

Jinwoo

You can call me Jinwoo

And it’s nothing too crazy, really. They don’t get very personal at any point, nor does it turn suggestive again in the slightest. Jinwoo asks him what he’s doing, and Taehyung replies that he’s up early to work. They talk about the most random topics—from how days are starting to get shorter and it’s actually cold by the time the sun sets, to how Taehyung has been thinking of adopting a dog lately.

It’s a little surprising to Taehyung. If he was already shocked by him messaging again, it’s even more surprising that there’s no flirting happening between the two of them right now. Taehyung tries to think about why someone would end up on a dating app just to look for some easy, meaningless conversation, but he still can’t make sense of it. When he tells Jimin, he’s going to laugh at him, telling him how he’s the one person who would make an account on a dating app like this in search of a hookup and end up with… this, whatever it is. Taehyung isn’t even sure of what to call it.

It’s not like he spends all day texting—replies don’t come that fast, but by the time evening comes around conversation between them hasn’t died. It’s just that while he waits for a reply he gets sucked in whatever he’s doing at the time, and so subsequently he ends up missing the notification and replying late. He starts cooking dinner for himself and Seokjin, who’s coming over tonight, and only remember to give Jinwoo a text back once his friend leaves, hours later.

So yeah—they don’t speak all day. And conversation is nothing too personal or anything like that: they don’t ask each other what they do for a living, about family, hobbies or whether they’re actually from Seoul. He knows nothing about this man and this man knows nothing about him, other than what his face looks like and that he’s called “Tae.”

Part of Taehyung felt dragged to the secrecy last night. Now, 24 hours and quite some text messages later, he doesn’t know much more about him than he did last night. But the last message he sends that night, even after saying goodnight to his mom and to Seokjin, who has just let him know he made it home safely, is to Jinwoo. And as he puts his phone on his bedside table and rolls back on his side, ready to sleep, Taehyung wonders if anything will come out of this.

 

 

Upon being told about Taehyung’s very failed attempt at finding a hookup through the app, Jimin does exactly what Taehyung expected him to—he laughs at him. They’re both spending their lunch break together in Taehyung’s office when he tells him, munching on their food as they catch up on how the weekend has gone for both of them. Jimin’s reaction is exactly what Taehyung predicted, so he’s not shocked in the slightest when Jimin doubles over his desk in laughter, pressing one palm flat against the surface of the table.

“I can’t believe you,” Jimin tells him, looking like he’s on the verge of hiccupping because of laughter. A smile dances on Taehyung’s lip, who didn’t expect Jimin to find it that amusing. “You’re the only person capable of going on an app like that, texting some random guy with a shirtless selfie as his profile picture, and then end up talking about the fucking weather.” When he looks at it that way, it does sound far more ridiculous than it did from his perspective. Taehyung’s smile widens a little as he shrugs his shoulders. “You’re hopeless.”

“Listen, I’m really trying my best. I just find the whole app thing so impersonal, I can’t take it seriously,” Taehyung justifies himself, almost protesting. He has hooked up before, really, but it’s different meeting someone in a bar or a club, hitting it off and going home with them. Creating a profile on an app for the sole purpose of getting laid, picking someone out from the dozens of people that the app offers him almost like he’s buying clothes online, and then forcing out conversation just doesn’t work for him. If it works for other people that’s great, but he’s simply not feeling it. “I was just bored yesterday, and he was there to talk to. It was nice.”

“Most people watch Netflix when they’re bored, you know,” Jimin points out, nodding his head towards him before taking another bite of his food. Taehyung huffs out a laugh.

“What can I say? I’m a very social person. I’d rather engage in some conversation with a random stranger before watching some mediocre movie,” Taehyung comments, causing Jimin to shake his head at him almost disapprovingly. Taking advantage of the fact that Jimin is eating and can’t reply yet, Taehyung is about to add something, but then some movement at the end of the office catches his eye. The front door opens, which is not too surprising considering it’s lunch time and people keep coming and going. He’s about to look away, but then he sees who walks in. A man, dressed in a sober white suit and with his dark hair styled carefully. A man who is none other than Jeon Jeongguk. Without meaning to and at the same time he stands from his chair, Taehyung lets out a weak, “Huh?”

“What’s wrong?” Jimin asks then, craning his neck to look behind himself. He follows the line of Taehyung’s eyesight and ends up looking at Jeongguk, who has now approached the person closest to the door and is talking to them. “Is that Jeongguk?”

The person he was talking to, Mina, turns around in her seat then and points at Taehyung’s office with her hand, saying something in reply. Taehyung guesses that Jeongguk came here looking for him, judging by how after saying something else to Mina, Jeongguk starts walking towards them.

“That’s him, yeah,” Taehyung says, bringing himself to sit down again. It’s then that Jeongguk’s eyes meet his through the glass that separates his office from the main open space, the other man lifting his hand to give him a lazy wave. Taehyung just nods his head at him. “I don’t know why he’s here?”

It comes out more like a question than a statement, which has Jimin smiling wickedly as he puts the lid back on his lunchbox, almost empty. “I don’t know, but it looks like you’re about to find out,” he says, standing up while he receives a very confused look from Taehyung. “I’m going to get back to my office while you two talk, but know that after he’s gone I’ll be right back in to find out all the details.”

“You can stay here,” Taehyung replies, but it’s useless—Jimin is already walking towards the exit, hand on the doorknob. “Jimin!”

Instead of replying, Jimin flicks his wrist and pulls the door open, right at the same time Jeongguk places himself in front of it to knock. Jimin says, “Hi, Jeongguk. It’s good to see you again.” Jeongguk says something in response, but Taehyung doesn’t quite catch it, as Jimin says at the same time, “I’ll see you later, Tae.”

Jimin leaves the office then, after Jeongguk takes a step to the side allowing for him to pass by. Once he’s gone, Jeongguk doesn’t waste any time walking inside, closing the door behind himself.

“Gotta love how you just invited yourself in,” Taehyung says as a greeting, standing up from his chair yet again.

“I just knew you’d be so thrilled to see me that you couldn’t wait to invite me in, so I saved you the hassle,” Jeongguk replies, making Taehyung roll his eyes a little. “Good afternoon, Taehyung.”

“Good afternoon, Jeongguk,” Taehyung replies, watching Jeongguk’s lips part into a little smile. “What brings you here?”

“Right—I have something of yours here,” Jeongguk says, Taehyung’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Your dad brought it to the office today and asked me to bring it to you, since he’s stuck in a meeting just now. Says you forgot it last Saturday or something.”

“Oh, yeah,” Taehyung says, taking the small box that Jeongguk is offering him in his hands. The other day, while helping his parents cook dinner, he took off the rings he was wearing and then forgot them on the kitchen counter when he left. He sent a text to his mom asking whether she had seen them on Sunday, telling her to keep them somewhere safe before he could come and collect them when he had the time, but his mom clearly had other plans. “Thanks a lot, Jeongguk.”

A part of Taehyung can’t help but bitterly wonder why his father had to send Jeongguk instead of coming himself. Taehyung knows that Jeongguk said he’s busy, and he respects that, but he could have dropped by either at the beginning or end of the day. He wouldn’t be feeling this way if not for the fact that his father has yet to come by to visit the office, see with his own eyes the headquarters of his company. It’s been a few months now and every time Taehyung has asked he has gotten similar responses—there’s no time right now, I will as soon as I can, things have been hectic lately. In the end, he stopped asking and his father still hasn’t come. But he should be used to this treatment from him, right?

“It’s no problem. Your father gave me the address and it wasn’t too far,” Jeongguk says then. Taehyung’s mind is still dwelling on his father, so he doesn’t say anything in response—he just nods. “So… how have you been?”

The question takes Taehyung off guard, and so his eyes widen a little as his mouth takes the shape of an ‘o’. Even if he and Jeongguk have been cordial, it’s not very… well, in character for Jeongguk to be showing an interest like this. Taehyung actually points at his own chest, asking, “Me?”

“Well, there’s no one else in here,” Jeongguk points out. Taehyung feels his ears become warm, realizing he’s just embarrassed himself. As if he wasn’t already mortified enough around Jeongguk these days after the whole jerking off incident. “How have you been, Taehyung? Everything good?”

“Well, yeah—nothing new, actually. How have you been?” Taehyung says in return, still a little shocked by the question. It’s the most basic thing to ask someone, the starter of all small talk in the world, but to Taehyung it still feels weird to have Jeongguk ask him.

“I’ve been good, too,” he says, followed by a pause. It’s then that he adds, “Are you sure there’s been nothing, uh, new going on in your life?”

Taehyung frowns, once again feeling lost. “How do you mean?”

Jeongguk seems to hesitate now, almost as if he’s unsure of what he wants to say. In the end and after some long seconds, he replies, “Like, have you been talking to someone? On any apps?”

It takes a second for Jeongguk’s words to click in Taehyung’s brain, but when they do, his face turns into one of horror. His eyes widen again, this time even more, at the same time his mouth goes into a tight, straight line. The one thing that he can think of is how the fuck does Jeongguk know that, and so that’s what he ends up saying.

“How do you know that?” he asks, his tone coming out harsh and urgent.

Jeongguk laughs then but it’s not… smug or anything like that. He raises one of his hands and scratches the back of his head, at the same time he starts, “Ah, well.” There’s a pause then, Jeongguk turning a little and looking down at his shoes for a split second, and only then does Taehyung realize that the tips of his ears are red, matching the apples of his cheeks. “I might have found you on there.”

“What?” Taehyung asks, feeling his jaw almost drop to the floor.

What are the odds that, out of all the apps that exist in the world for these purposes, Jeongguk picked the exact same one he did? It’s not like Taehyung was on Tinder or Grindr, which are some of the more obvious ones he knows. And what are the odds of Jeongguk finding him, out of all the millions of people who live in Seoul?

“Ah—yeah,” Jeongguk says, again reaching to scratch his head. “And… I might have messaged you when I saw your picture… and we’ve talked.”

“You’re not serious,” is Taehyung’s immediate response. Jeongguk raises his eyebrows. Taehyung repeats, “You’re not serious. I don’t know how you found out about the whole app thing, but you really can’t be serious right now. You simply can’t.”

And see, Taehyung was believing the whole thing. But the only person that Taehyung has actually talked to on the app, the only one he has messaged back, is Jinwoo. Unless…

“But I have,” Jeongguk explains, sounding almost frustrated. “I was with your dad the other day and he was talking on the phone so I was on mine, and so I was bored and opened the app and started swiping, and then you just… popped up there,” Jeongguk starts explaining. Taehyung then remembers that the day he matched with Jinwoo and starting talking to him was, indeed, a Saturday—and he was at his parents. While Jeongguk was there with his dad. “So I saw you and thought it’d be fun to swipe, and then we got the match and I started talking to you as a joke, to see how long it’d take you to figure it out. I was just playing along to see if you’d catch me, and that’s why I gave you a fake name and everything, but…”

The more Jeongguk says, the less of a reason Taehyung has not to trust him. Everything adds up—from the location to the story itself. Of course he’d recognize Taehyung right away, and of course he’d like to take advantage of the fact that he has literally no private information to try to mess with Taehyung. Now it makes sense that this Jinwoo was messaging him with literally no intention of flirting or hooking up, despite the nature of the app that they were talking on. Taehyung frowns a little, cursing at himself for not being able to realize it somehow.

“Prove it, then,” Taehyung says then, crossing his arms over his chest. He almost has no doubts now that Jeongguk is telling the truth, but he still wants to see for himself. For confirmation purposes, he guesses. “Show me the conversation on your phone.”

Jeongguk lets out a sigh then, reaching inside his pocket and pulling out his phone. “Fine,” he says as he unlocks it with the fingerprint of his thumb, sliding it over the home screen. Taehyung’s stomach twists when he sees the icon of the app, the wait until it loads feeling far too long. As it was to be expected, Taehyung finds himself right at the top of Jeongguk’s inbox. Jeongguk opens the conversation and shows it to him, saying “See? I didn’t lie.”

“Oh my god,” Taehyung says then, turning around a little. “Oh my god, Jeongguk. You’re so fucking—why would you do that?”

“I told you! I wanted to see if you’d somehow realize it’s me. It was a stupid game, but I really thought you’d notice sooner,” Jeongguk explains again. “Are you mad?”

“I’m not mad, I’m just—I don’t know?” Taehyung says, struggling to find the words to say. What he really, really feels is embarrassed, but he knows it could be way worse. It’d be far more humiliating if Taehyung had made any moves on Jinwoo, unaware that it was actually Jeongguk being a little shit. He did compliment his picture, but it really could have been far worse. “And why are you telling me now?”

Jeongguk shrugs then, a crooked teasing smile climbing to his lips. “I don’t know, I guess I thought I had already messed with you enough,” Jeongguk tells him. This is more of how Taehyung would expect him to act in a situation like this, where he has successfully tricked Taehyung. Up until now he’s been almost embarrassed and apologetic, which was throwing Taehyung off. “I’m glad you’re not mad.”

“I’m over it,” Taehyung lies. Sure, he’s not mad, but he still feels mortified. And as if his attraction to Jeongguk wasn’t painful enough yet, now knowing he has some nice abs is just going to make it worse. This is information about him that Taehyung didn’t need to know. “But you’re still a fucking asshole, I hope you know that.”

“What? Have I ruined your one hope at finding love again?” Jeongguk asks along with a chuckle, back to being his usual self.

And since Jeongguk is back to his antics, Taehyung has to go back to his own as well. Forgetting his surroundings and that he’s literally at his workplace, Taehyung raises a hand and flips Jeongguk off, again repeating, “Asshole.”

At that, Jeongguk just laughs. He throws his head back as he does so, neck exposed, and Taehyung finds himself staring, then thinking about how pretty Jeongguk is. His lips are so pink and delicate and his eyes and lashes are just so beautiful, and it shouldn’t be fair for him to come here with that face, and with those abs, and then be an asshole to Taehyung and a traitor on top of that. And what can Taehyung do, other than thirst and curse him all at the same time?

In the end, what he ends up doing is lightly pinching the skin of his leg through his own slacks. Keep it together, Kim Taehyung, he tells himself. There is absolutely no way he’s going to let himself fall for Jeon Jeongguk.

 

 

Hey lol

Piss off Jeongguk

Not Jeongguk

This is Jinwoo                  

What are you doing…

I was just checking up on you

So how are you

Uh

I’ve been fine

You?

I’ve been good as well

I’m tired though

Long day

You know you can just text me normally instead of here right?

Like I already know it’s you so I don’t get what you’re doing

But ok Jeongguk

Jinwoo* lol

…………..

Fine Jinwoo

Fine

That’s more like it

So

So

I’ve been enjoying talking to you on here

Likewise

Really? I’m glad to hear

So I was thinking since we seem to get along

Would you like to meet up?

Huh???

What do you mean meet up?

Like you know

To grab a drink tomorrow after work

I beg your pardon

What the fuck

Jeongguk???

Jinwoo* or whatever

Are you serious??

Deadly serious lol

So what do you say?

Oh my god

You’re serious

I can’t believe I’m doing this

Alright

Awesome

I’ll text you a time and place tomorrow

Okay?

Okay yeah

Make sure to make yourself look nice lol

Fuck off

 

 

“So let me get this straight,” Jimin replies, one palm pressed flat against Taehyung’s desk as he slightly leans forward. Taehyung, who is sitting down on his own chair, would feel slightly intimidated by the way Jimin towers down over him now, leaning forward, if not for the fact that it’s Jimin. The wicked expression on his face doesn’t help too much, either. “You’re basically going on a date with Jeongguk.”

“It’s not a date,” Taehyung replies, wrinkling his nose in almost distaste. “We’re just having drinks. You and I have drinks together all the time, and that doesn’t mean we go on dates.”

“Yeah, but you also don’t masturbate while thinking of me,” Jimin blurts out, making Taehyung’s eyes momentarily widen in mortification. God, Jimin is never going to let him live that down, is he? “What else could it be? Maybe he’s into some role play shit. Didn’t you just say he kept calling himself Jinwoo?”

“It’s not like that, though,” Taehyung replies with a groan. He buries his head in his palms, closing his eyes. “Maybe he wants to hang out. We’ve been getting along better these days.”

That’s the only possible explanation that Taehyung has found to Jeongguk’s invitation, honestly. Like he said, lately their relationship has seemed to improve. Their fights have turned into bickering which is mostly playful, and Taehyung doesn’t find Jeongguk’s presence to be unbearable anymore. There is a possibility that, given the recent development of their relationship, Jeongguk sees the possibility of them being good friends again. Hence why he’s asked Taehyung to go out for drinks, and do the bonding that they should have been doing ever since Taehyung got back to Seoul, and not so many months later.

“Then why couldn’t he text you normally instead of using the app?” Jimin inquires, voicing one of the many questions Taehyung has been asking himself since Jeongguk messaged him last night.

“To break the ice, maybe?” Taehyung suggests, but Jimin doesn’t seem too convinced. “I can guarantee you that he’s not meaning it as a date.”

“But what if he is?” Jimin says. “Now we know that he’s into guys too, thanks to the app. You’re one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen with my two eyes, Taehyung. Tell me it wouldn’t make sense for him to have any interest in you.”

Taehyung is about to reply but he was my best friend, but shuts himself up when he realizes how incredibly hypocritical it would be for him to say that. Them two being best friends was not an impediment for Taehyung the other night, when he rubbed one off to the thought of Jeongguk. It also wasn’t an impediment for him to feel jumpy and on edge just by Jeongguk’s presence at all, or for him to be overthinking this meetup so much.

So yeah, maybe that’s not a valid argument.

He stays quiet for a few seconds while he reasons all of them, seconds that are enough for Jimin to assume that he’s made a point Taehyung won’t argue. A small, victorious smile starts to spread on his lips then, until Taehyung speaks.

“It wouldn’t make sense for him to have an interest in me,” he says. Jimin’s grin freezes.

His expression turns into one of frustration, a line appearing between his eyebrows and nose wrinkling. “I give up,” he says, at the same time he lifts both arms, palms facing Taehyung. He, quite literally, looks like he’s surrendering. “You know what? I give up. You two can figure out all this shit on your own.”

 

 

Time has taught Taehyung to be a very timely person, and so by the time that Jeongguk and he agreed over text—still on the dating app, for some reason Taehyung still can’t understand—he is at the door of the bar he himself suggested, waiting for Jeongguk. Funnily enough, it’s the very same bar he was at that one night during the summer, when he was hanging out with Jimin and saw Jeongguk for the first time since his return. Back then, the two of them had made eye contact and Jeongguk hadn’t even acknowledged him, but now they’re meeting here for drinks. It’s almost crazy to think how much has changed in the last few months.

Jeongguk, just like Taehyung expected, doesn’t take too long to arrive either. Taehyung sees him turn around the corner and, for some reason that he can’t understand, immediately fishes inside his jeans pocket for his phone, pretending to have not seen Jeongguk. It’s only when he feels the presence of another human right in front of him that he looks up, just for his eyes to be met with Jeongguk.

He’s gotten very used to seeing Jeongguk. He’s so different from how he used to be, far more grown and mature. His features have sharpened and he’s grown into them, and as a result, he’s turned out to be a very handsome man. For months, Taehyung has seen Jeongguk on a weekly basis, sometimes even day after day. And even if he’s always been able to recognize the fact that he’s attractive, Taehyung has never, ever felt the way he does right now, looking right at Jeongguk.

For some reason, he feels like the air has been knocked out of his lungs.

The worst part is that Jeongguk doesn’t look any different than he has during the last few months. His hair is parted to the side, styled with the same care and dedication as it is every other day. He’s wearing a nice black satin shirt, but that’s not very far from his work attire, in which Taehyung has seen him in countless times. It’s then, with the yellowish tint from the street lights bathing his face as Jeongguk looks right at him, that he figures out what might be the reason why this time feels different for him. Jeongguk is smiling at him, wide and honest.

And as soon as Taehyung becomes aware of that, his stomach does a pirouette.

“Hey,” Jeongguk greets him then, breaking Taehyung’s train of thought. “I hope you haven’t been waiting for too long. My taxi got stuck in traffic.”

“No, no—not at all,” Taehyung rushes to reply, gesturing with his hand. “I just got here, anyway. It’s only been a couple of minutes.”

“That’s a relief,” Jeongguk replies, with a nod of acknowledgment. “Should we go in, then?”

It’s a weekday, and so the bar is not especially crowded. Taehyung doesn’t plan on staying for too long, either way—just a cocktail, some catching up and then he will get home. He has work the following day, so he doesn’t want to either stay out too late or drink too much. He has to be responsible, after all.

He feels a bit awkward at first. Jeongguk is sitting across from him, one leg crossed over the other as he sips his drink. And it’s only then when it dawns on Taehyung that this is Jeongguk that he’s here with, which sounds stupid considering how much he’s been obsessing over tonight. Jeongguk, with whom he drifted apart over the last seven years, and had a very rough reunion back at the beginning of the summer. Jeongguk, with whom he’s had so many arguments over the span of the past few months. Jeongguk, with whom he has so much sexual tension, or so Jimin claims; Taehyung didn’t see it at first, but after that one night he’s not sure. And now they’re sitting across from each other, a cocktail in front of each of them, and Taehyung doesn’t know what to say.

Silence between the two of them turns too long, and Taehyung finds himself panicking because he does not want tonight to go badly, the thought of it being awkward and weird is making him nervous. And it’s that very same nervousness that causes him to say what’s very probably the wrong thing.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to call you Jinwoo,” he blurts out.

Upon hearing him, Jeongguk lifts his eyes from the redness of his drink and meets Taehyung’s, looking shocked at first. It’s after a second that Taehyung’s words sink in, and so he ends up smiling slightly, small and as quiet as smiles can be.

“I just wasn’t very sure about whether you’d want to go out and grab a drink with me,” Jeongguk explains, eyes fleeting away and looking down at the ice in his glass again. After a second his gaze is back on Taehyung’s, at the same time he adds, “But I had a feeling you’d maybe like to see Jinwoo, so…”

One of the corners of Taehyung’s mouth quirks up at that, amused. “Oh, really?” he asks, Jeongguk humming and nodding a little in confirmation. Taehyung further asks, “How come? What made you think that?”

“You and Jinwoo seemed to be getting along quite well, honestly,” Jeongguk points out. After the initial embarrassment when Taehyung first learned it was Jeongguk he was talking to, he’s now grown to look at the situation with humor. Now his cheeks don’t burn anymore when he discusses it, and he doesn’t feel as deeply mortified as before. “And, you know, you seemed to like his profile picture a lot, too.”

“Oh my god, shut up. I just said one thing,” Taehyung tells him, taking in the way Jeongguk’s expression turns almost smug. Now he’s feeling so, so fucking thankful that he didn’t let himself comment any further on the picture, keeping his appreciation to himself. “Is the picture real, anyway?” he asks. Jeongguk raises one eyebrow, silently inquiring him. “What I mean is—is it you, or did you take it from the internet?”

Jeongguk looks almost offended by his words, then. He pulls back a little, lips parting as his eyebrows furrow into a deep frown. “Are you accusing me of being a catfish, Kim Taehyung? Is that what you really think of me?”

“Listen here! I can’t be sure,” Taehyung defends himself. “You wouldn’t be the first person to use fake pictures on a dating app to get laid. Plus, your profile doesn’t contain anything other than body pictures and you gave me a fake name. Why are you shocked I don’t trust your word? You’ve given me no reasons to do so.”

“I really can’t believe you’d think that about me,” Jeongguk says as he grabs his phone and unlocks it, but he doesn’t argue any of Taehyung’s point. He taps a few times and then starts scrolling, at the same time he says, “I’ll show you.”

“You’ll show me?” Taehyung repeats, feeling confused.

“Yes—here it is,” Jeongguk says, at the same time he flips his phone. “I’ll show you that it is me.”

Jeongguk’s last comment should have given Taehyung an idea of what he was about to find when Jeongguk showed him the screen, but it still catches him off guard. Right in front of him is the same picture that he’s seen quite a handful of times in the last few days, Jeongguk’s profile picture on the dating app. The only difference is that this version is the uncropped one, and so Taehyung can see that this is undoubtedly Jeongguk. Either that, or his photoshopping skills are so good that he could perfectly insert his own face on some random guy’s shirtless picture. Taehyung is inclined to believe it’s the first option.

“I see,” Taehyung says, swallowing day. He stares for another second, then adds, “It is you.”

“It is me, yeah,” Jeongguk replies, a small smirk on his face. Taehyung clenches his fists at either side of his thighs as Jeongguk locks his phone and leaves it resting on the surface of the table. “And you seem to like it as much as you did when you didn’t know it was.”

At that, Taehyung can’t help but roll his eyes. He reaches forward and gets his drink, taking a long sip before replying. When he does, all he says is, “You flatter yourself too much.”

“So are you going to deny it then?” Jeongguk asks him. Upon Taehyung’s lack of response he asks further, sayING, “Are you going to deny that you liked the picture?”

“I’m not going to deny it, but there are things more important than abs,” Taehyung points out, almost in a provocative tone. He knows what he’s about to say is going to lead to some bickering, but that doesn’t stop him from adding, “Who cares how good your body looks if you don’t have good conversation?”

For a second there Taehyung is worried that Jeongguk will take offense to his comment. All of those concerns vanish when he hears the loud chuckle that Jeongguk lets out then, eyes crinkling at the corners slightly. “Really, huh? So you were having a horrible time talking with me on the app?”

“I was talking to Jinwoo,” Taehyung replies, giving Jeongguk a pointed look as he takes another sip. “Not to you.”

“I am Jinwoo, though.”

“It’s still different,” Taehyung argues.

Jeongguk winces a little as Taehyung says that, seeming skeptical. “That sounds a lot like I enjoy to talk to you, Jeongguk, but I won’t actually admit I do.”

It’s Taehyung’s turn to laugh this time around, even if he knows that what Jeongguk is saying is actually true. He still argues with him, saying, “There is a difference, though. Knowing it’s you sends bad energy my way, so I can’t actually enjoy the conversation. When I thought it was Jinwoo it was far more enjoyable. No bad Jeongguk energy.”

“Oh my god, you’re so full of shit, what the fuck,” Jeongguk says, laughing again. Taehyung smiles at him from across the table, wiggling his eyebrows slightly. “And what exactly about me sends bad energy your way, hm?”

“Well, for starters, you’re a fucking traitor,” Taehyung accuses. He’s called Jeongguk this plenty of times in the last months, and although at first he meant it, now he’s mostly messing around. He still has some feelings about Jeongguk living the life he wanted for himself, but he’s moved on from it now. Judging by the tug at the corners of Jeongguk’s mouth, which is now threatening to split into a smile, he doesn’t seem very hurt by the comment. “And at some point you’ve turned into this arrogant, cocky human being. You weren’t like this before, you know?”

“I bet you like that, though,” Jeongguk says, leaning back against the backrest of the armchair he’s sitting on. Taehyung arches one eyebrow, letting Jeongguk know how wrong he is. The only reason why they’re getting along better is because both their attitudes have changed—Taehyung is not defensive and childish anymore, and Jeongguk has stopped being so arrogant and irritating. Taehyung can’t stand arrogance, and he won’t be making any exceptions for Jeongguk.

“I really don’t, no,” he replies, making sure to let Jeongguk know he won’t be taking any cocky bullshit. This included. “Why would I like it?”

“I just get the feeling you do,” he replies, eyes boring straight into his. There’s something about his gaze and just how intense it feels that makes Taehyung feel like the atmosphere around them changes. It’s then that Jeongguk adds, “You like a challenge, don’t you?”

For some reason, as stupid as that sounds, it seems to be enough to leave Taehyung rendered speechless for a couple of moments. Jeongguk’s eyes don’t leave his for a single second—not while he’s quiet, looking for a reply, and not as he says, “You’re anything but a challenge, Jeongguk. I could figure you out in a second if I ever wanted to.”

The rest of the night went exactly like this, with the bickering tethering on the verge of turning into flirting—or maybe it is flirting. Jeongguk looks at him in ways that Taehyung doesn’t feel like he’s ever looked at him, and for the first time since he talked to Jimin he feels like maybe he’s right. Because at this point it was undeniable that he felt attracted to Jeongguk, yeah, but he really couldn’t tell if it went both ways. But Taehyung is good with people, and he’s good at interpreting gazes and making sense out of them, and right now there’s something about the way in which Jeongguk’s eyes rest on him. Taehyung finds himself heating up under them, having to look away first all the time when the eye contact gets too much.

They don’t just flirt, though. They do some of the catching up that Taehyung expected from tonight, where Taehyung tells him how things back in Europe were, and Jeongguk lets him know about his university friends. Of course there’s Yoongi, whom Taehyung already knows, and someone called Joonie. Jeongguk explains to him in a bit more detail about how the internship with his father went, and although he doesn’t explicitly say it, Taehyung feels like he’s trying to let him know that his intention was never to take anything from him, but to just do what’s best for himself. For the first time, Taehyung doesn’t feel bitter anymore, and just nods as he listens to Jeongguk’s story.

Eventually, their drinks run out and both agree it’s best to get going, much to Taehyung’s relief. Jeongguk also has work in the morning, after all, and knowing Taehyung’s father he wouldn’t be happy to have his absolute favorite employee turning up hungover. After each one of them pays for their drink—Taehyung insists on getting both, but Jeongguk refuses and the waiter ends up taking his card as well—and Taehyung books a taxi on his phone, he announces he’ll quickly go to the restroom before they leave the bar.

Once he’s in the toilet, Taehyung looks at himself just to check if there are any external signs that expose how he feels inside. Much to his relief his cheeks aren’t flushed and there isn’t a stupid grin painted on his face, but truth be told be feels pretty much like a teen with a crush. It’s horrible to feel like he’s back in high school, especially because it’s Jeongguk out of everyone who’s making him feel like this. He splashes his face with water, drying up before he finally leaves the bathroom.

His lips part in surprise as soon as the door opens and he finds Jeongguk there, his back resting against the wall behind him. The restrooms are located downstairs, in a small area isolated from the rest of the bar, and so Taehyung knows that the two of them are pretty much alone now. A knot tightens in his throat but he decides to ignore it.

“What are you doing here?” he asks Jeongguk, their eyes meeting yet again.

“I was waiting,” Jeongguk says, but he doesn’t specify whether he was waiting to use the bathroom himself or if he was waiting for Taehyung. He straightens up a little then, at the same time Jeongguk takes a step closer. “I had fun today.”

Taehyung has to swallow down again, eyes flickering down to the floor before he looks into Jeongguk’s eyes again. “It was a good time, yeah,” he admits, the words coming out of his mouth far easier than Taehyung was expecting them to. “You’re not that bad to be around.”

Jeongguk chuckles at that, his laughter ringing beautifully in Taehyung’s ears. Perhaps it’s that very same laughter that distracts Taehyung, the reason why he doesn’t notice Jeongguk’s arm move until he feels fingers brush up against his. Taehyung tenses up then.

Silence reigns between them once again, but this time it’s not awkward or uncomfortable like it was at the start of the evening. It’s meaningful and charged with something, that tension Jimin had mentioned and Taehyung has been obsessing over. For the first time, Taehyung can feel it between them. He has no doubt about it now.

“Maybe we could do it again sometime,” Jeongguk suggests then. It might be in Taehyung’s imagination, but he feels like Jeongguk’s voice is lower now, barely above a whisper. Taehyung’s fingers lock with Jeongguk’s then, at the same time Jeongguk adds, “If you’d be up for it.”

“I’d be up for it, yeah,” Taehyung agrees. Jeongguk smiles a little then, blinking as he continues to stare at Taehyung. Before Taehyung can stop himself, or maybe think better about his word choice, he asks, “Jeongguk, do you kiss on the first date?”

Both of them have had a drink, but they’re far from drunk or even tipsy. Taehyung is aware of every word he says, and he means them too—well, maybe not date. Because this isn’t a date, right? For a date to be date, both parties have to agree on it, and it has to be made explicit between them. Surely, if Jeongguk wanted it to be a date, he would have—

“Yes,” Jeongguk replies, interrupting Taehyung’s racing mind. “I do kiss on the first date. Do you, Taehyung?”

Taehyung nods, not trusting his words and his voice too much now, in case they let on to more than he intends to; how much he wants Jeongguk, for example. But the nod, as well as the way that Taehyung looks into Jeongguk’s eyes, seem to be enough for Jeongguk. Taehyung feels a pull on his arm, and then Jeongguk is bringing him closer using their locked fingers. It takes a couple of steps for Jeongguk to be pressed right against him, and fuck—the moment that happens, Taehyung feels all reason leave his mind.

Taehyung imagined that the first time they’d kiss it’d be angry, lustful, with their lips crashing against each other. Instead of that, once their chests are pressed flushed together and Jeongguk’s hands are resting on his waist, there’s a pause. Taehyung’s eyes flutter closed and he leans forward a bit, nose bumping against Jeongguk’s, and although he can feel Jeongguk’s breath dancing on his lips he doesn’t kiss  him yet. His hands wrinkle the fabric of Jeongguk’s jacket at the shoulders, and he feels like he’s going to explode. The palms of his hands tingle, his breath speeds up. And when it seems like he’s about to lose his mind, literally go crazy if either of them does something, that’s when Jeongguk leans forward and presses their lips together.

It takes Taehyung a fraction of a second to react, to kiss back. Jeongguk’s lips are soft and pillowy under his, and they taste sweet like the drink he’s just finished. Taehyung kisses him back slowly, letting himself engrave the feelings in his memory. Jeongguk’s hands on his waist keep him grounded, even if the kiss itself is making him feel a little floaty. There’s something so incredibly addictive about the feeling of Jeongguk’s lips against his, and so Taehyung ends up being the one to take control and deepen the kiss. Jeongguk makes a pleased noise, complying happily as he parts his lips to let Taehyung’s tongue slip into his mouth.

It’s then that Jeongguk’s back collides with the wall again, at the same time Taehyung angles his head so the kiss can be better. Jeongguk’s mouth, his scent, his hands on him are all intoxicating, and Taehyung swears there are only a few times in his life that he’s felt this while kissing someone for the first time. It speeds up at the same time it deepens, with Jeongguk desperately tugging him closer as one of Taehyung’s hand creeps into his hair. It almost feels like the kiss has ignited a fucking wildfire inside of him, something that started small, making him quite literally devour Jeongguk’s mouth. He gets impossibly closer, and then—

—and then Taehyung’s phone vibrates against his thigh, startling the two of them and making Taehyung pull back abruptly.

“Fuck,” Taehyung blurts out once they’re apart, reaching down for his phone. His hands aren’t shaky as they reach for his phone, which is surprising considering how shaken up he feels now. Your taxi is here!, the notification on his lock screen reads, followed by a smiley emoji. “Fuck, I—taxi’s here. I’m gonna need to get going now.”

“Of course,” Jeongguk breathes out as he still leans back against the wall, one hand running through his now slightly messy hair. His cheeks are flushed as he replies, “Of course.”

“I, uh—I’ll see you,” Taehyung says, getting a hum from Jeongguk. “You can text me if you want to. Not as Jinwoo, you know? Like. You.”

“Will do,” Jeongguk says, nodding. Taehyung swallows down, the two of them looking at each other for a second. “I’ll talk to you.”

“Okay, that’s great,” Taehyung says, with a nod. He can’t believe how awkward he’s feeling right now, considering he had his tongue in Jeongguk’s mouth one moment ago. “I’ll get going, yeah. See you, Jeongguk.”

With that, Taehyung turns around and in two long strides makes it to the stairs, starting to climb them. “See you, Tae,” calls the voice behind him then, almost making his knees go wobbly.

Taehyung doesn’t let himself think about what has just happened as he gets back into the bar, or when he goes to the street and tries to find his taxi. But once he’s sitting in the backseat, when he’s already told the driver where he’s going and the buildings and lights around them start moving, everything comes rushing back to his mind. And all Taehyung can think is, what the fuck.

 

Chapter Text

Taehyung is not an avid coffee drinker. If he’s being completely honest, he’s not a coffee drinker at all—the smell alone is enough to make him wrinkle his nose, asking himself how anyone can bring themselves to drink it. Tea, if you ask him, is by far the winning option. But Jimin doesn’t seem to think so. And even if he’s not a coffee drinker, what Taehyung is, is a good friend. So when Jimin shows up with big dark circles under his eyes, a runny nose and wrapped up in a too-thick scarf for the start of fall, Taehyung does what any good friend would do in his situation: he offers to go get Jimin a warm drink. And Jimin, of course, asks for a coffee.

Luckily, he knows Jimin’s order by heart at this point, occasionally accompanying him to the cafe on their lunch break. And that’s the story of how, for the first time in his twenty-five years of life, Taehyung ends up buying coffee. Something he didn’t think would end up happening, yet…

He leaves the cafe with the coffee in one hand and a couple of muffins in a paper bag in the other, one for himself and one for Jimin—if he feels like he can stomach it, that’s it. The shop is right by the office, all he needs is to turn around the corner and—

—and bump into someone and spill the drink he has just bought all over the sidewalk, apparently.

“Fuck! Fuck, I’m so sorry,” an unfamiliar voice calls, worry tinting its tone. Taehyung, who was looking at the milky coffee spread through the cracks of the floor, raises his eyes to look at the person in front of him then. “I’m so, so terribly sorry. I’ll buy you another.”

In front of him is a man, a man slightly taller than him and with chestnut-colored hair. His eyes look brown and big, with apologies and regret written all over them. Taehyung, who felt slightly annoyed upon dropping his drink at first, can’t help but feel a little guilty now, seeing the stranger’s reaction. It was just an accident on both parts, after all.

“You don’t have to, it’s just a coffee,” Taehyung replies, at the same time he crouches down to collect all the waste now on the floor. Just as he’s reaching for the cup, the stranger mimics him, going for the lid before Taehyung can react.

“I insist,” the guy says, making Taehyung look at him once again. It’s a rather uncomfortable position, especially considering how busy the street is around them. Dozens of people walk by their side as they squat down, Taehyung’s thighs starting to ache. “It’s the least I can do after I made you drop your drink.”

For a second there, Taehyung considers it, but in the end he gives in. “Fine,” he says, seeing the stranger’s mouth stretch into an honest, happy smile. Of course, Taehyung doesn’t miss the dimples that appear on his cheeks. “Let’s go then. The cafe is just down here.”

“Okay! Okay,” the guy says, following Taehyung as he starts walking back in the direction he was coming from. “I hope I’m not making you late for anything.”

“No, no, don’t worry. I’m on my lunch break so there’s really no rush,” he says, stealing a glance at the stranger and seeing him nod again.

Taehyung might not drink coffee, but he’s bought drinks to take away plenty of times in his life, and of course he’s bumped into people before and ended up spilling everything on himself, the floor and other people. Sometimes people have been nice about it, assuring him everything was okay—even if it takes two people to bump into each other, so Taehyung never understood why it was him to blame. Others, he’s had them bark at him and even insult him, earning themselves a hard look from Taehyung; his parents have raised him not to get into quarrels with strangers on the street, but that doesn’t mean he can’t give them dirty looks. What’s never happened in any of those instances is the other person offering to get him another, even if it seems like basic manners. And for that, Taehyung feels himself automatically liking this random man he doesn’t even know.

“What’s your name, by the way?” he asks Taehyung then, as the two of them walk side by side.

“I’m Taehyung. Kim Taehyung,” Taehyung replies. From the corner of his eye, Taehyung notices him nodding yet again. “Yours?”

“Kim Namjoon,” the guy replies. Before Taehyung has the time to show any sign of acknowledgement, Namjoon adds, “We have the same surname.”

There is something about the statement, as obvious and simple as it is, that makes Taehyung laugh. “Yeah, us and twenty percent of Korea,” he replies, at the same time they reach the cafe. He gestures with his free hand, as he’s still holding the paper bag with the other, as he says, “It’s this place.”

Namjoon follows him inside, asking, “So what can I get you?”

“A cappuccino with soy milk,” Taehyung replies. Namjoon arches an eyebrow. “What?”

“Why the soy milk?” he asks, to which Taehyung shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s for my friend, not me,” he starts to explain. “He’s not feeling too good so I offered to get him a drink.”

“What a good friend you are, aren’t you?” Namjoon asks, almost in a teasing tone. Taehyung narrows his eyes at him. “Is there something I can get you, then?”

“Oh, no—I don’t drink coffee,” Taehyung quickly replies. He knows they offer other drinks here but he was caught off guard by Namjoon’s question.

“That’s disappointing but I can forgive the lack of taste,” Namjoon says, again making him laugh. “A tea, maybe?”

“You’re very sweet for the offer, but I’m going to have to decline,” Taehyung replies, a smile dancing on his lips.

“If you say so,” Namjoon says, with a small smile on his lips. “Let me get to it then.”

“I’ll be waiting here,” Taehyung says, walking to an area where he feels like he won’t bother anyone—not the customers coming and going, and not the employees that are serving the tables during the busy lunch rush.

It doesn’t take too long before Namjoon is back with two paper cups, one for Taehyung—or well, Jimin—and one for himself. Taehyung makes sure to thank him as the two of them walk outside, making sure that he knows that he didn’t have to.

“But I wanted to. After all, I made you spill it in the first place,” he says. Taehyung doesn’t argue then, just gives him a small smile. After a beat of silence, Namjoon says, “I’ve been holding you back for a while now, haven’t I? Don’t let me keep you from your friend any longer. I hope he gets better soon.”

“I’ll let him know the guy who actually got his drink is wishing him a speedy recovery,” Taehyung jokingly says, as he starts to take a step in the direction of his office.

“Bye-bye, Taehyung,” Namjoon tells him then, waving at him with his free hand.

“Bye, Namjoon,” he says. Then, even if he’s aware of the improbability of it, he says, “I’ll see you around, maybe.”

Namjoon gives him one last dimpled smile, and after that, the two of them part ways, each following the path they were on before bumping into each other.

 

 

Of course, Taehyung’s very first stop once he’s back in the office is Jimin’s desk, both to give him his drink and to keep him up to date with recent events. Jimin’s eyebrows go from a frown to rising all the way up to his forehead, and once Taehyung is done talking, he says the most unexpected thing.

“Taehyung,” Jimin says, voice nasal with how stuffy his nose is. “Taehyung, that guy was flirting with you.”

“What?” Taehyung says, giving Jimin a shocked look. Jimin stares at him blankly. “He was being nice, Jimin. He spilled my—your drink all over the ground, so he just got me another. It’s called manners.”

“That’s manners, I agree,” Jimin says, squishing one of his cheeks against the palm of his hand as he speaks. “But what’s not just out of politeness is offering you another drink, when he found out that the one he spilled was for me. He wanted to buy you a drink. And that’s flirting.”

“Of course you’d say that,” Taehyung says, leaning back against his chair and crossing his arms over his chest. “You also said all the Jeongguk bullshit.”

“And I was right! You making out against a wall sort of proves that, doesn’t it?” Jimin says.

Taehyung doesn’t reply, because Jimin doesn’t need him to—he knows he’s right. The two of them making out the other day does indeed prove that he wasn’t too far off when he had that inkling that there was some sort of energy between the two of them. What Taehyung wonders is if that energy was there all along and he was too blind to see it or if it actually was a consequence of Jimin’s words manifesting it, but he guesses he won’t ever know the reason.

“This right now isn’t about Jeongguk, though, is it?”

Jimin laughs at that, which unfortunately ends up resulting in him having a coughing fit. Taehyung gives him a sympathetic look as he recovers from it and then blows his nose, the tip of it red from all the tissue paper.

“So what about this guy? Did you get a number?”

“Of course I didn’t get a number,” Taehyung replies, frowning a little.

“God, you’re a disaster, Taehyung,” Jimin replies, with a sigh. “I can’t believe you’re letting a guy with dimples go like that. If only these things happened to me... I would take far more advantage of them, but all the world brings my way is germs and viruses.”

Taehyung arches one eyebrow at him, the image of Hoseok and Jimin being all friendly and subtle with each other coming to his mind. He doesn’t comment on it, and if Jimin understands what Taehyung means by that pointed look, he doesn’t say anything either. For a moment, there’s silence between the two of them, until Taehyung realizes that lunch time is almost over and he gets up from his chair.

“You can go home if you’re not feeling well,” he tells him, now giving Jimin a soft look. Jimin smiles a little. “And if tomorrow things are still like this you should take the day off. No pressure to come in if you’re sick.”

“Aw, are you looking out for me?” Jimin asks him, his smile widening a little further.

“I’m just trying to make sure you don’t infect everyone else with your cold actually,” Taehyung teases, earning himself a very offended look from Jimin.

“You’re so foul, Kim Taehyung,” Jimin tells him from his chair, probably lacking the energy to put on a proper act and stand up. “You really are the worst.”

Taehyung just laughs at that, walking to the door and leaving as he heads towards his own office. Once he’s there, he turns around and catches Jimin very—fake—angrily looking at him from his desk, arms crossed over his chest and lips pouted out. Taehyung waves, blows him a kiss and then finally gets back to work.

 

 

Loyal to his word, Taehyung makes sure to call Miyoung every single week, in addition to dropping by for dinner during the weekend. His sister makes sure to keep him in the loop about all the gossip that goes on at the dinner table, and about all the funny anecdotes that he’s missing now that he’s gone.

It’s during one of those calls that Miyoung asks him, “So have you met anyone now that you’re not with Seungjin anymore?” He hears her shift on the bed, before she adds, “Or maybe you’ve met someone already.

Taehyung clicks his tongue at that, partly because the question catches him off guard, and partly because upon hearing it, the image of Jeongguk unavoidably pops up in his mind. That’s the closest to meeting someone that he’s been ever since the breakup, which feels like so long ago now, but what happened between Jeongguk and him is far different from what Miyoung means. Miyoung is asking him if he’s looking forward to having another relationship now, and a relationship is the last thing that Taehyung would end up having with Jeongguk.

“I haven’t, nope,” he replies, honest. “And to be honest, I’m not looking for one right now. I mean—I have other things to focus on, like my job and making things stable for myself, so maybe it’s not the right time for getting involved with anyone. Too time consuming.”

Don’t say that! That’s the least you thing I’ve ever heard you say,” Miyoung replies in between laughter. Taehyung smiles, but he understands what he means; Taehyung has always been family oriented, rather than job orientated. He’s always prioritized his family, both the one he has and the one he hopes to form someday, with someone he loves. “What if you met the right person? Would you just shut them down to focus on your work?

“Oi, that’s not what I meant,” Taehyung replies. “All I’m saying is that I’m not actively looking for something. If it comes, then we’ll see, but right now I’m good the way I am.”

That’s a fair point, I guess,” Miyoung says. She stays quiet for a second, before she adds, “I just don’t want you to get too sucked in on work. You know there are more important things than how successful you are, right? None of that really matters if it’s the only thing you have.

Taehyung has an inkling about what’s prompting his sister to say all of this, and it has everything to do with their dad. It’s no secret among his family that he feels the need to prove himself to him, and what better way of proving that he’s worthy of pride than being successful? However, and despite it being his goal, Taehyung is sure that he’s not… obsessed. He just has an objective, and lots of determination to get there and accomplish the goal he’s set for himself. The only problem is that said goal is not something numeric or exact, it’s not a certain number in his bank account or a statistic—it’s just to have his father be proud of him. He doesn’t know when he’s going to achieve it, how hard he’s going to have to work, but he swears he won’t stop until that’s accomplished.

“Of course I know, Miyoungie,” Taehyung says, laughing a little. He swears he can hear his sister sigh in relief on the other end, probably happy to know Taehyung is not letting all of this consume him. “Stop worrying.”

I can’t help it. I take after my brother,” she replies, her tone teasing. “I need to get going now. But take care of yourself, yeah?

“I will, Miyoung. Don’t study too much, okay?” he says, to which she laughs.

Bye-bye,” she singsongs, right before the line goes dead.

Taehyung locks his phone then, leaving it on top of the table with a sigh. He closes his eyes and massages his temples, trying to make sense of everything. The reason why he’s frustrated is not because of Miyoung’s words in regards to his father, since he already knows how he feels about that situation and how he wants to approach it. It’s not even about the question that started all of this, when his sister wondered if he’d end up involved with someone else. No, what Taehyung doesn’t understand and what’s driving him a little insane is different; just why on earth did Jeongguk’s face pop in his mind when Miyoung asked if he had met someone special?

 

 

Something Taehyung has observed over the course of the past few weeks, ever since he moved out and started coming back to his parents for weekly family dinners, is that his mother has developed a strategy. Taehyung is pretty sure that the objective of said strategy is to get him to stay over for the night, so what she basically does is, over the course of the night, offer him alcohol—wine while they’re having dinner and cocktails afterwards, probably in the hopes that he’ll get tipsy and refuse to drive back home, therefore staying the night.

Taehyung, of course, as he is a responsible adult, says no. His mom doesn’t stop insisting, which earns her an eye roll and a “mom!” from Miyoung, who has also caught up on her little strategy. He’s rather endeared by the antics of his mother, and so he makes sure to hug her extra tight every time he goes back home.

Tonight is not very different from all the previous ones. It’s a Friday night and Taehyung came over for dinner as usual, and now that it’s time for him to leave, his mom is offering him to stay.

“I can quickly prepare your bed if you’re too tired to sleep,” she offers, at the same time Taehyung reaches to grab his coat. He gives him a gentle smile, as she adds, “You haven’t had anything to drink, right?”

“Nope, mom,” he says, smiling a little as he places his scarf on top of his shoulders. It’s not cold enough for him to need to wrap it around himself yet, so he just lets it hang over the camel-colored wool coat, more so to accessorize than to keep himself warm. “And if I were to stay, I wouldn’t need you to make the bed. I could prepare it myself.”

“You’d be a guest, now that you live at your own place,” his mother is quick to point out. “So no preparing your own bed. You can do that at your own home.”

Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head a little. He should have seen it coming, in all honesty. Despite what she says, Taehyung knows that his mother doesn’t actually mean that—this will always be his home, is what she had told him when he moved out, both times. Taehyung knows that holds more truth than what she’s said just now.

He’s about to reply, saying there’s no way he’d let her make a bed for him, but his father appears in the hall right then. He disappeared a couple of minutes ago, saying he’d be right back, and has now made his return holding a brown folder in his hands.

“Son, you’re heading to yours, aren’t you?” he asks, to which Taehyung nods. “Could you do me a favor, then?”

“What is it?” Taehyung asks, aware that it’s going to have something to do with the folder. Maybe he’ll want Taehyung to drop by his office and leave the folder there.

“Could you take these documents to Jeongguk on your way back? I forgot to give them to him earlier today, and they’re to do with some business we’d like to have ready by Monday,” he says, lifting the folder and waving it in the air slightly.

The mention of Jeongguk makes Taehyung stiffen a little, at the same time he asks, “Why not scan it and send them to him through email?” His father might not be an IT genius, but he knows enough to defend himself and competently run his own business. Taehyung is certain he knows how to scan some documents and email them to Jeongguk.

“The printer broke last week,” his father replies, to which Taehyung clicks his tongue. “Jeongguk doesn’t live too far away from you, and this is important. I wouldn’t be asking you to drop by on a Friday night if it could wait until Monday.”

Taehyung inhales, at the same time he nods. It’s not like he’s very enthused to see Jeongguk—he hasn’t spoken to him or seen him since they kissed, and he’d rather it stayed that way because he’s feeling a bit awkward about the whole thing. However, he knows that it’s something important for his father to be asking him like this, and he really has no reason to refuse, other than what happened between him and Jeongguk last week. And he, of course, doesn’t want to get into detail about that with his parents.

“I will but you’re going to need to give me his address,” Taehyung replies, in the end. “I don’t know where he lives now.”

“I’ll text it to you,” his father says, offering the folder. After Taehyung takes it, holding the stiff material in his hands, his father reaches towards him and squeezes his shoulder lightly. The touch is fleeting, with his father just holding his shoulder for a split second before he lets go as he says, “Thanks, Taehyung.”

Taehyung smiles a little at that, giving his father a nod. After that, he says his farewells to his parents and sister, like usual, and makes his way back to his car. After leaving the folder on top of the passenger seat, he looks up Jeongguk’s address on his car’s navigation system and, after waving good night to his family one last time, he finally is on his way.

Just like his father pointed out, Jeongguk doesn’t live too far away from him. The one problem that Taehyung encounters is that there seems to be even more traffic than usual. He takes a deep breath, musters up all the patience he can, and just waits as the red of the other car’s brake lights bathes his face.

It takes him far longer than it would have if the circumstances were different, but in the end, Taehyung does make it to Jeongguk’s apartment building. He grabs the folder, his keys and leaves the car, making sure it’s locked before he starts walking to Jeongguk’s. He’s about to press the buzzer when the door to the entrance is pulled open and a familiar yet unexpected face appears before him.

“Namjoon?” Taehyung asks, eyebrows raising as he takes in the appearance of the other man.

For a moment, he’s terribly confused, trying to understand how it’s possible that among the millions of people in Seoul, he’s somehow managed to run into Namjoon twice now. As far as Taehyung is concerned, there are no links whatsoever between the two of them, so what are the odds of them encountering each other yet again?

 “Oh—Taehyung! I wasn’t expecting to run into you again so soon,” Namjoon greets him, offering Taehyung a kind smile.

“I wasn’t expecting to run into you at all, if I’m honest,” Taehyung replies, honest. Namjoon laughs a little at that, shrugging unapologetically.

“I must be a bit of an optimist then,” he says, making eye contact with Taehyung. “Do you live here?”

“No, no, I don’t,” he replies as he shakes his head. “I’m here visiting a… friend.”

Namjoon raises an eyebrow at his words—or most likely, at the pause he took right before saying friend. That leads Taehyung to believe that Namjoon is totally misunderstanding him right now, most likely thinking he meant someone he’s involved with. The truth is that Taehyung is hesitant to call Jeongguk a friend, not sure if they get along well enough to be considered friends now. Plus, it’s not like they bother to talk to each other. Maybe he should have said acquaintance, although that would probably sound a little weird.

“A friend, huh?” he says. Before Taehyung has the time to clarify, Namjoon adds, “Same here, actually. I’d love to stay and talk to you for a bit longer, but unfortunately I need to get home now.”

“Yeah, yeah. Get going. It’s getting late,” Taehyung observes. He takes a step aside, and it’s then that Namjoon steps outside of the building. He holds the door open for Taehyung, who says, “Thank you.”

“No problem. It was nice seeing you again, Taehyung,” he tells him, giving Taehyung yet another dimpled grin. Taehyung can’t help but smile in return, feeling a bit… well, charmed. “Hopefully I’ll see you again soon.”

Taehyung laughs, shaking his head a little. Now, he can believe that they fortunately ran into each other twice, but thrice is too much. As much as an optimist that he claims to be, Namjoon also probably knows that there’s no way they’re just going to coincidentally find each other again in a city like Seoul. As fun as it is to leave things in the hands of fate, if there was any real intention of seeing each other again they’d have to try—and the two of them know that.

“Have a good night, Namjoon,” Taehyung calls as the other starts walking away, not without waving at Taehyung first.

Taehyung looks at him walk away for a couple of seconds, before he forces himself out of his daze and walks inside the building. As he waits for the elevator he thinks of his conversation with Jimin the other day, where he said Namjoon was flirting by offering to buy him a drink, and then to Miyoung asking if he was looking to get into a relationship. The timing of all of these events pieced together, especially with the two of them running into each other, is funny. But Namjoon is really not Taehyung’s type, and like he said to his sister the other day, he’s got too much going on in his life right now for that. By the time the elevator takes him to Jeongguk’s floor, he’s already resolved to not let himself regret not asking Namjoon for his number.

(But he also tells himself that, if for some reason they find each other randomly for a third time, he will take some action. There’s only so many times he can willingly ignore fate, after all.)

He pushes all of those thoughts away from his mind when he gets out of the elevator, focusing on finding Jeongguk’s apartment instead. As soon as he does, he presses the doorbell, hearing Jeongguk’s voice call “coming!” from inside.

It doesn’t take more than a couple of seconds for Jeongguk to pull the door open. He’s talking as he does so, saying, “Did you forget something again? I told you to make sure—oh.” He interrupts himself once the door is fully open and he sees Taehyung standing on the other side. Taehyung lifts his arm, waving a little. “You’re not Namjoon.”

And Taehyung is about to reply, really, but it’s then that he finally makes the connection between Namjoon, the guy he bumped the other day, and Joonie, Jeongguk’s university friend. As soon as he does so he feels his lips part in realization, asking himself how it didn’t come to his mind as soon as he saw Namjoon in Jeongguk’s apartment building.

“Namjoon?” Taehyung asks, voice sounding incredulous. “You know Namjoon?”

You know Namjoon?” Jeongguk repeats, putting special emphasis on the first word. “Namjoon is my uni friend. I told you about him the other day.”

“No, you told me about Joonie,” Taehyung points out, to which Jeongguk rolls his eyes a little. Pursuing his lips out, Taehyung says, “Let me in. And either way, the other day I didn’t know Namjoon. I met him after that.”

“Maybe we’re not talking about the same Namjoon,” Jeongguk says, taking one step back and allowing for Taehyung to walk inside. “There’s probably more than one in South Korea.”

“Pretty sure it’s the same one, since I just ran into him at the door of your building,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk opens his mouth, almost as if he’s about to say something, but he closes his lips again without any words coming out of them. “He’s the one who let me in.”

“I see,” is all Jeongguk says, closing the door after Taehyung. “So how do you know him, anyway?”

“He spilled my drink the other day,” Taehyung explains. It’s then that Jeongguk’s expression changes, his nose scrunching in something akin to distaste. “What? What’s the face for?”

“Please, tell me he actually managed to spill two people’s coffees in the same week and you’re not the one I’ve just heard him talk about for over fifteen minutes, saying how cute you are and how your—” Jeongguk interrupts himself at the end, pressing his lips together into a thin line. Taehyung’s confused expression deepens even further, his eyebrows furrowing.

“How my what?” Taehyung asks, but Jeongguk doesn’t look like he’s going to reply. Taehyung urges him, saying, “Jeongguk!”

“I can’t believe I had to hear him complain about not having asked for your number. Had I known it was you, I would have told him to shut up as soon as he opened his mouth,” Jeongguk laments, making Taehyung cross his arms over his chest as he gives him a tired look.

“Are you done?” he asks, the fingers of his right hand still gripping the folder tightly.

“No, I’m not done,” Jeongguk replies. Taehyung sighs. “He didn’t ask you out just now, did he?”

“What?”

“Did he?” Jeongguk insists.

“No, no, he just let me in,” Taehyung replies. Jeongguk lets out a sigh then, almost seeming… relieved? Taehyung can’t help but be irritated by that, which prompts him to say, “No need to look so fucking glad. I’m not going to pass any illnesses onto him, you know. Fucking rude—”

“Not what I meant, but okay,” Jeongguk interrupts him, not letting him finish his insult. Probably for the best, Taehyung thinks. He takes a deep breath. “Either way, why are you here?”

Jeongguk’s question is enough to get his mind back on the right track, reminding him of the documents. He’s here for a reason, so he better do what he’s meant to do now and then get going home. No need to prolong his stay.

“My dad gave me these for you,” Taehyung says, at the same time he offers Jeongguk the folder. “He said he forgot to give them to you earlier today but that they’re urgent and it’s stuff that needs to be solved by Monday. That’s all I know.”

“I see,” says Jeongguk, giving a look to the folder before he leaves it on top of the table next to him. It doesn’t seem quite as urgent to him as it did to his father, but Taehyung isn’t going to get into that. He did what he was meant to do, which is deliver the folder, so… “Thanks a lot, Taehyung.”

“You better mean that, because I got stuck in traffic for forty-five minutes just to bring them to you,” he replies, crossing his arms over his chest again. Maybe forty-five minutes is a bit of an exaggeration, but he was in the car for at least thirty minutes, in opposition to the twenty minutes it takes to drive from his parents’ to Gangnam.

“Oh, really?” Jeongguk starts, and Taehyung can detect the mockery in his tone even before he says anything else. “Should I get down on the floor and bow to you? Would that be enough gratitude from my side?”

“Not quite,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk laughs a little, but it’ isn’t very sincere. More than laughter that comes from being amused, it feels like he’s just laughing to annoy Taehyung. Then, remembering Jeongguk’s attitude when he dropped by the loft after he had already moved in, Taehyung adds, “Are you going to show me around or what?”

The place is nice, although it’s very different from Taehyung’s, which makes him wonder how it was possible that the two of them were fighting over the same property. It’s a luxury apartment, with a spare room and a spacious office in addition to Jeongguk’s own bedroom. In contrast to Taehyung’s place, decorated mostly in whites and blacks, the walls here have a creamy color, that match both the bed covers and the sofa in the living room. It looks spotless, except for the dishes that rest atop the kitchen counter, presumably from Jeongguk and Namjoon’s dinner just before. What it has in common with Taehyung’s are the tall windows that offer a look of the bright Seoul skyline once the sun has set.

“It’s nice,” Taehyung offers by the time the impromptu tour is over, looking at the big, flatscreen TV hanging from the wall of his living room. “Did your mom decorate it for you? I never took you for the type to be able to make a place look tastefully expensive.”

Jeongguk’s eyebrow twitches at that, before he replies, “You’re so fucking feisty tonight, aren’t you?” When he sees that Taehyung doesn’t say anything, just stares at him with a blank expression, he adds, “Seems like you need to get laid, Taehyung.”

Taehyung scoffs a little at that, letting his eyes wander a little over the room before he looks at Jeongguk again. He’s leaning against the doorframe, still in his work clothes. At least the first buttons of his shirt are undone and his tie is gone, but Taehyung still can’t understand how he can stand the shirt and dress pants at home.

“How’s that any of your business?” he replies, tilting his head to the side as he looks at Jeongguk.

“I don’t know,” Jeongguk says, shrugging his shoulders as he starts walking towards Taehyung. “It seemed to be my business the other day when you were kissing me at the bar.”

Taehyung laughs bitterly at that, but he still feels some warmth rush to his face and neck when he hears Jeongguk’s words. “I wasn’t thinking straight the other day. If I were you, I wouldn’t take that as a precedent.”

He can feel Jeongguk’s eyes drag down his body in a way that is starting to feel familiar to him, the exact same way he looked at him the other day in the bar. Tonight, he’s completely sober, not tipsy like the other day, so he should be in the right frame of mind. The only problem is that he no longer trusts himself to ever be in the right frame of mind when he’s around Jeongguk, after that one night in his bed. Plus, part of him is perfectly aware that the outcome would have been the exact same one even if no alcohol was involved, but he finds it easier to blame the one short drink he had instead of his lack of judgement.

Because as much as it baffles him, when Jeongguk gets closer, he feels like he’s about to shudder. He’s dying to reach out, to touch him, to feel Jeongguk and his body and his warmth under his hands, and he absolutely hates that he wants this so badly. Why Jeongguk out of all people?

“Stop looking at me like that,” he grits between his teeth, feeling every single bit of his self-control slipping through his fingers like sand.

“I’m not looking at you like anything,” Jeongguk says, at the same time he takes another step closer. He’s starting to tether around what Taehyung would consider his personal space, but stupidly enough Taehyung doesn’t want him away. He doesn’t feel uncomfortable when Jeongguk gets closer, eyes boring right into Taehyung’s.

“You’re looking at me like that,” he says. And at this point he knows that they’re standing far too close, and he should be taking a step back and putting an end to all of this. But the memories of the other night come rushing to his mind, and god, it’s tempting. Is it that bad that he wants Jeongguk’s lips on his again?

“Oh, you’d know if I was looking at you like that,” Jeongguk replies, his voice lowering a little. There are so many lies dripping from that one sentence—because Taehyung is not stupid, and he sees Jeongguk and how he’s looking at him, sees how his tongue darts out to wet his lips then. The thing is, right now Taehyung can’t bring himself to call Jeongguk out on his bullshit.

Because right now all that he can think is why not?

Taehyung is the first one to lean in, but Jeongguk is the one that surges forward and ends up crashing their lips together into a kiss, one that is harsh from the start. It takes a few seconds for the two of them to get reacquainted with the other’s lips, to find a pace and a rhythm to the kiss. Taehyung’s arms are circled tightly around Jeongguk’s shoulders, and Jeongguk has reached down to his hips and has brought him closer, their bodies pressed flush against each other.

“Fuck,” Taehyung lets out, almost moaned against Jeongguk’s lips. Because fuck, this is happening again, and this time both of them are completely sober and will have no option other than to acknowledge that there’s something going on between the two of them. Fuck, because Jeongguk’s lips are on his and their hands are on each other’s body, and Taehyung suddenly feels like he’s burning. Fuck, because Jeongguk’s bedroom and his bed are far too close and it’s too fucking tempting for Taehyung, who suddenly feels the urge to be lying on those cream-colored sheets, naked.

The two of them stand there, sharing kiss after kiss after kiss, and Taehyung feels something awaken inside of him. It’s the same something that prompts him to bite Jeongguk’s bottom lip lightly, tugging, making him let out a low sound against his mouth. The same thing that has Taehyung’s fingers threading into Jeongguk’s hair, pulling a little when he feels a pair of hands cupping his ass and giving it a generous squeeze.

“So fucking good,” Jeongguk mumbles against his lips, kissing Taehyung’s chin as he grabs his ass in a way that feels almost greedy, making Taehyung’s mind go blank. He starts kissing down his neck then, only stopping himself to say, “Such a good fucking ass.”

“Holy shit, Jeongguk,” Taehyung breathes out, throwing his head back and allowing Jeongguk to kiss the expanse of his neck. Maybe it’s the kissing, maybe the feeling of Jeongguk’s body right against his or maybe the greedy hands on his ass, but Taehyung feels his cock start to stiffen inside his slacks. It’s then that he commands, “Kiss me again.”

Jeongguk obliges, lips detaching themselves from Taehyung’s neck and finding his mouth. Just like the other day, the kiss is rushed and hurried, almost like they’re worried they’re running out of time. Taehyung’s tongue curls around Jeongguk’s as the kiss deepens, Jeongguk letting out a pleased hum into Taehyung’s eager mouth. There’s something about how insistent Jeongguk’s lips are against him that has Taehyung feeling like he’s going to melt, like his knees are going to fail him at any minute and he’s going to fall down onto his knees. He keeps tugging at Jeongguk’s hair, now a little harder than before, but Jeongguk doesn’t protest. He lets out a groan, a pleasured one, and that just makes Taehyung pull yet again.

“Taehyung,” mutters Jeongguk against his lips. Taehyung doesn’t reply, just hums inquiringly. “I wanna take you to my bedroom.”

“Yeah?” Taehyung asks, hands falling to the back of Jeongguk’s neck. As he scratches the skin of his nape lightly with his fingernails, he further asks, “Do you want to take me to your bedroom and fuck me?”

Jeongguk lets out a low sound from the back of his throat then, stealing a quick kiss before he replies. “If you let me—that’s the plan, yeah.”

With a hand holding the back of Jeongguk’s neck firmly, Taehyung pulls him in for another kiss. Each one of Jeongguk’s kisses feels hungrier than the previous, and now Taehyung really feels like if they don’t get on the bed quickly his knees really are going to fail him. That’s why, in the middle of the kiss, he breathes into Jeongguk’s mouth, “Take me to bed, Jeongguk.”

And Jeongguk does just that, pressing their mouths together yet again as he starts guiding the two of them into the depths of his apartment. Jeongguk’s hands on Taehyung’s hips aren’t enough to prevent him from bumping into any walls, and so Taehyung’s back irremediably ends up pressing against the wall. It doesn’t seem to be much of a bother for Jeongguk, though, as he cages Taehyung against it and kisses him again and again, almost making him go dizzy.

“Fuck, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, his palms now pressed against Jeongguk’s chest as they kiss. He can’t feel his body flush against his like this, but the truth is that Jeongguk has a nice chest. Being able to feel it right under his palms is just as good as having their bodies almost rocking against each other. “Hurry.”

“Hmm?” is all Jeongguk says in response, at the same time he slips his thigh between Taehyung’s. The friction makes Taehyung hiss, lolling his head back against the wall as Jeongguk laughs. “Didn’t think you’d be so wrecked so fast.”

“Shut up,” he says, clenching his jaw to avoid reacting even further to the pressure against his crotch. It’s just hard, so hard, when it feels so fucking good to have Jeongguk touch him like this. “Bedroom. Now.”

And this time, Jeongguk doesn’t fuck around anymore. It’s a matter of seconds before the two of them are crossing the door to Jeongguk’s bedroom, Jeongguk pushing Taehyung back onto the bed with a firm palm against his chest. Taehyung sits up slightly as he watches Jeongguk crawl into the bed before him, kneeling over him with one leg at each side of Taehyung’s. He has to crane his neck to try and kiss Jeongguk, the position only getting a little more comfortable when Jeongguk ducks down.

“Want you to get rid of this right fucking now,” Taehyung says then, words spoken right against the wetness of Jeongguk’s lips. As he speaks, his hands reach for Jeongguk’s shirt, starting to work on undoing the buttons himself. After a couple more kisses and once his nimble fingers have gotten to the very last button, he adds, “Let me see you.”

And really, he knew this. He saw Jeongguk’s pictures on the app, and he could feel his body right against his as they made out—toned just enough, in the exact way that Taehyung likes. But one thing is knowing it’s there, another is seeing it through a screen, and then there’s seeing it in the flesh, right in front of him, under his fingertips. Taehyung’s mouth waters as Jeongguk kneels in front of him, shirt unbuttoned hanging from his shoulder.

“Fuck,” Taehyung almost growls, the sound low and deep coming right from the bottom of his throat. He curls his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders again, pulling him down again. What’s different is that this time he manages to flip the two of them around, placing himself on top of Jeongguk on the bed. Jeongguk looks at him with a raised eyebrow, one that almost seems to ask what you gonna do?

Taehyung surges forward, only this time around instead of kissing Jeongguk’s mouth, he goes for his jaw. He spends far too much time kissing and biting down his jawline before he moves on to his neck, which he also litters with kisses and small red marks that will fade in a few minutes. He’s so fucking into how warm Jeongguk’s body feels beneath him, how he arches off the bed and how his hands permanently cling to Taehyung’s waist.

It’s by the time he starts kissing down his chest that Jeongguk lets out a moan, making Taehyung smile wickedly against his skin. He doesn’t let the sound distract him from his mission, and so he paints a trail of kisses all the way down to Jeongguk’s nipple. It’s then that he looks up at Jeongguk, breath fanning over the sensitive bud, only to find the other’s eyes already on him. Jeongguk’s hair is disheveled and his face flushed, lips red and parted as he looks down at Taehyung. Taehyung bites down on his lip, realizing that he has Jeongguk right where he’s wanted him for the last month or so.

“Come on,” Jeongguk says then, pupils blown and staring into Taehyung’s. “Come on, Tae.”

And that’s all Taehyung needs. He breaks eye contact and focuses on Jeongguk’s nipple again, eyes fluttering closed as he gives it a slow lick. He hears the way Jeongguk’s breath catches in his throat, and so he repeats the motion, licking again before he wraps his lips around it and gives it a harsh suck.

One of his hands reaches for the other nipple, rubbing the pad of his thumb right against it as he grazes the first one with his teeth. Jeongguk is so fucking responsive to the touch, one of his hands burying in Taehyung’s hair as he whispers obscenities, and it makes Taehyung’s cock twitch in his jeans. It’s not too long before he moves to the other nipple, feeling it stiffen even further under his lips.

“So fucking sensitive, aren’t you?” Taehyung teases him.

“Shut the fuck up,” Jeongguk grumbles, his fingers tightening the slightest around Taehyung’s hair. “Come up here. Wanna kiss you.”

Obediently, Taehyung climbs all the way up Jeongguk’s body once again, their mouths meeting in another wet, deep kiss. As they kiss, Jeongguk’s hands travel to Taehyung’s body and slip under his sweater, feeling the warm skin of his torso. Taehyung can’t help but arch into the touch, letting out a soft moan into Jeongguk’s mouth as they keep kissing. Jeongguk’s hands are soft and gentle as they feel up the expanse of his back and his abdomen, and Taehyung almost whines in protest when he lets go of him to go grab the hem of his sweater. It’s then, as Jeongguk starts to lift the piece of clothing, that the two of them have to break the kiss momentarily.

Their mouths crash together again with urgency, almost as if the second apart was enough to make them hungry for each other. Taehyung’s slacks are getting too tight and uncomfortable for his hardening cock, and judging by the erection he can feel under his ass right now, it must be the same for Jeongguk.

Which is exactly why Taehyung reaches down for the waistband of Jeongguk’s trousers, breathing out a low, “Let’s take this off.” With skilled fingers, he undoes both the button and the zipper, Jeongguk then lifting his hips off the mattress to allow Taehyung to peel the fabric off his body.

He can’t help but bite down on his bottom lip when he catches a glimpse of Jeongguk’s bare thighs. Taehyung has heard Jeongguk mention working out and going to the gym before, and of course, he could see them clad in jeans or tight slacks; he knew they were big. But seeing them bare is different, and so he can’t help but stare for a second too long. Of course, Jeongguk notices, and by the time Taehyung looks up at his face again, Jeongguk has one eyebrow raised and one of the corners of his mouth is lifted in half a smile.

“Don’t,” Taehyung tells him, at the same time he kneels up again.

“Not saying anything,” Jeongguk says, eyes meeting Taehyung’s as his hands reach for the waistband of Taehyung’s slacks. “Yet.”

Taehyung huffs, with Jeongguk unbuttoning his slacks and pushing them down. “Don’t. Be good.”

“Maybe it’s you who has to be good,” Jeongguk says, at the same time he huffs out a laugh. He uses the palm of his hand to lightly push Taehyung back, making him fall onto his ass on the mattress so he can completely remove his pants. “You were the one begging me to fuck you a moment ago, weren’t you?”

Taehyung feels his face heat up at the comment, fists clenching into a ball. “I didn’t beg,” he says, right as Jeongguk throws his slacks to the floor. “I asked once.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Jeongguk says, moving away a little. Like this, Taehyung can see his body in all of its glory—the soft lines of his toned stomach, the almost never-ending length of his legs, the bulge in the front of his underwear. All of this distracts him from Jeongguk’s teasing, making the irritation go away and making room for anticipation instead.

He doesn’t reply, just lets himself stare at Jeongguk’s body as he reaches for the bedside table, rummaging through the contents. He gets a condom, drops it on top of the bed covers, then gets back to the drawer, curses, then opens the drawer below. Judging by how frantic his hands are as they feel inside the bedside table, Taehyung is not the only one who’s getting impatient.

“If you take any longer I’m going to get my stuff and go,” Taehyung teases, trying to get a reaction out of Jeongguk. It works, as Jeongguk sends a dirty look his way over his shoulder, which makes Taehyung laugh. However, it seems that his teasing serves as an incentive for Jeongguk to hurry up, as he finds what he’s looking for right then.

“Here,” Jeongguk says, a small tube of lube in his hand. “You don’t want me to fuck you dry, do you?”

Taehyung winces at Jeongguk’s words, but he doesn’t say anything. He’s on his knees now, crawling his way to Jeongguk and pulling him in for a kiss when he’s close enough. Jeongguk’s immediate reaction is to drop the lube, his hands settling on the small of Taehyung’s back and bringing him closer. Like this, with their bodies pressed flush against each other, Taehyung can feel Jeongguk’s erection right against his. It’s a painful reminder of how riled up he is now, and how badly he needs to get off.

“Come on,” Taehyung says, wrapping his fingers around one of Jeongguk’s wrists and tugging. Jeongguk pulls back a little, and Taehyung takes that as his chance to turn around, positioning himself down on his hands and knees. “You’re going to fuck me now.”

Looking over his shoulder, Taehyung can see the way Jeongguk’s eyes linger on his body, dragging down the cleft of his ass and the back of his thighs. He stares for a moment, swallows down and then reaches out, hooking his thumbs on the waistband of Taehyung’s underwear.

“You have a very cute ass,” Jeongguk says, at the same time he starts dragging the piece of clothing down Taehyung’s thighs. Taehyung lifts his knees, one after the other, to allow Jeongguk to completely take his boxers off. “Are you gonna let me finger it?”

Yes,” Taehyung says, only aware of how fucking eager he sounds when he sees a small smirk climb its way to Jeongguk’s lips. “What’s your problem?”

“You’re so defensive even during sex,” Jeongguk says, but it doesn’t exactly sound like a complaint. He sounds amused, even, which is the part that irritates Taehyung the most. He presses his lips into a thin line, watching Jeongguk open the tube of lube, drizzling some on his fingers. “Are you going to try to pick a fight with me when I have my cock in you?”

“Not if you’re good enough with it,” Taehyung says, giving him a pointed look. “You’re going to need to fuck me really good if you want me to take my mind off of what a fucking asshole you are.”

“Think I’m up for the challenge,” Jeongguk mumbles then, getting a little closer. Taehyung’s body tenses then, especially as he feels Jeongguk’s left hand settle on his lower back. He knows what it means. “Ready?”

“Yes,” Taehyung confirms, sucking in a breath when he feels the pad of Jeongguk’s middle finger settle against his rim. “Been a whi—fuck.”

He interrupts himself when Jeongguk starts to push in, slow. It’s just one finger and Jeongguk has used more than enough lube, so the slide is not at all uncomfortable or painful. But it’s truly been a while since Taehyung did this, so it takes him a couple of moments to get used to the feeling once again.

“Good?” Jeongguk asks as he thrusts his finger in and out. It’s a stark contrast to all the teasing earlier, and to the harsh words they’ve been exchanging even at a time like this, but a contrast that Taehyung appreciates.

“Good, yes,” Taehyung says, biting down on his lip slightly and burying his head in between his arms. “Another?”

Jeongguk removes his finger from inside him, only to then push two back in. He’s careful at first, fingering Taehyung slowly, but he eventually picks up a faster pace, driving his digits deeper into him. It’s then that the pleasure comes, Taehyung spreading his legs a little further and a quiet moan falling from his lips, as Jeongguk finds his prostate and ruthlessly pounds his fingers into it. Taehyung grinds back, clenching his hands around the bed sheets beneath him as he gets a little lost in the feeling of Jeongguk pumping his fingers inside him.

Jeongguk gets to adding another finger before it becomes too much for Taehyung, who feels like he’s going to come anytime soon if they keep this up for too long. He looks over his shoulder again, just to find Jeongguk’s eyes already on him. There’s something about how much want there is in his gaze that makes Taehyung feel hot all over; his pupils are blown, almost getting confused with the dark brown of his irises. Seeing him stand behind him like that, all Taehyung can think about is that he wants Jeongguk. He wants him inside him, fucking deep into him until all he can remember is Jeongguk’s name.

“Fuck me now,” Taehyung croaks out. For a second, Jeongguk just stares. “Come on, Jeongguk. Fuck me.”

That’s all Jeongguk needs before he’s sliding his fingers out of Taehyung. Taehyung couldn’t be sure, but he thinks he sees Jeongguk’s hands shake a little as he reaches for the condom wrapper, his fingers still slick with lube. Before he can get a hold of it, Taehyung moves.

“Let me,” Taehyung says, getting off his hands and knees. Jeongguk looks at him with curious eyes, and so Taehyung reminds him, “Take your briefs off. Or are you going to fuck me with them on?”

“Shut up,” Jeongguk grumbles between his teeth, sounding almost embarrassed. Taehyung smiles a little, taking the condom in his hand and tearing the silver wrapper open. He steals a glance at Jeongguk then, feeling himself swallow down thickly as he takes into the girth of Jeongguk’s cock, now that his briefs are off. The bulge promised it’d be good, and Taehyung must admit he’s not feeling disappointed in the slightest. “Are you going to put it on or what?”

“Now you’re in a hurry?” Taehyung protests, too embarrassed to admit—even to himself—that he zoned out staring at Jeongguk’s cock. He looks into Jeongguk’s eyes as he reaches for his dick and gently holds it from the base, giving it a slow stroke before he gets ready to put the condom on him. The corner of Jeongguk’s mouth twitches when Taehyung rolls the condom on, but the touch is gone soon after. Once that’s done, Taehyung starts moving, getting back on his knees and elbows as he says, “Put a bit more lube on.”

“I know,” Jeongguk says, sounding amused at Taehyung’s reminder. Taehyung looks over his shoulder, watching Jeongguk squirt some more lube on his palm, slicking his cock up with it, sighing as he strokes himself. The small sigh he lets out then makes Taehyung feel even more impatient, something he didn’t think was possible.

Taehyung is looking ahead when he feels Jeongguk’s hand clasp around one of his hip bones, then the head of his cock press against his entrance. His eyes flutter shut, a nervous feeling of anticipation appearing in his chest. “Now,” Taehyung calls, his voice barely above a whisper. Jeongguk doesn’t move, and so Taehyung insists, “Now, Jeongguk, I—oh.”

His eyes squeeze shut as Jeongguk’s cock slowly slides into him, inch by inch until he’s buried to the hilt. Taehyung lets out a breathy moan, feeling Jeongguk’s thighs pressed flush against the back of his, feeling a pair of hands slide to his waist. Jeongguk’s hands are firm and insistent, almost harsh, and the force with which they curl around Taehyung’s waist makes him blink his eyes open, another sound threatening to spill past his mouth. And then, Jeongguk starts thrusting into him.

The pace is slow, steady. Jeongguk’s hands on his middle bring him deep down on his cock with every thrust, and Taehyung can’t help but grip tightly at the bed covers. The feeling of Jeongguk’s cock dragging in and out of him is enough to drive him crazy, but there’s something about the harshness of his grip that makes it feel even more intense, even better. It makes Taehyung want it even harder.

“More,” he asks, voice low and words muffled against the mattress. Fearing Jeongguk hasn’t heard him, he again pleads, “More, Guk, more. I want more.”

More—harder, faster. And Jeongguk seems to understand, because he begins snapping his hips faster then, thrusting inside of Taehyung with renewed vigor. One of his hands moved from Taehyung waist to his shoulder, holding him hard enough to bruise. And for some reason, it makes Taehyung moan in pleasure, the thought of waking up tomorrow and finding the imprint of Jeongguk’s fingers on his body.

“Such a tight little hole, hyung,” Jeongguk tells him then, between moans. Taehyung pants against the bedsheets, feeling his dick twitch at the words. He drags himself back on Jeongguk’s cock, meeting his thrust halfway, and so Jeongguk adds, “You like that? You like to be used and fucked into the mattress?”

And yes, yes, yes—Taehyung likes that. Taehyung likes to be fucked from behind, likes to have Jeongguk grip tightly at his body, likes that he’s using him. He loves to have Jeongguk thrust into him so hard that the room is full of the sound of their skin slapping together, of the headboard of the bed banging against the wall. He won’t admit it to Jeongguk’s face, will deny that he’s getting off to this, but Jeongguk’s words send a jolt of pleasure down his spine, making pre-come leak from his aching cock. And he won’t admit it either, but maybe he’d like for Jeongguk to manhandle him a little, to pull at his hair, to whisper obscenities in his ear while he keeps fucking into him. But all of that is for Taehyung to know, and Jeongguk to wonder.

“Just fuck me,” Taehyung says, voice deep and strained. “Just keep fucking me like that, Jeongguk—shit. So fucking good.”

And Jeongguk does—his hips are merciless as they thrust into him, making him feel like he’s driving his cock deeper and deeper every time. Taehyung knows neither of them is going to last very long, can tell by how erratic Jeongguk’s pace is and by how his dick is throbbing from where it’s pressed against his abdomen, hard and neglected. But he wants to make it last for a little longer, wants to be able to think about this when he’s alone in his bedroom.

“Holy fuck,” he moans when Jeongguk drives his cock right against his prostate, making his whole body shake. “Right there. Right fucking there, Jeongguk.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk calls again, slamming his hips into the same spot. Taehyung lets out a loud moan—partly because Jeongguk is now pounding him into his sweet spot, partly because there is something stupidly hot about Jeongguk calling him that during sex. “God, you’re so fucking hot. Such a good ass, I—”

Jeongguk says something else, but Taehyung misses it as another string of loud, needy moans leaves his lips, intermingled with curses and calls of Jeongguk’s name. He’s pressing back against Jeongguk now, desperate to get more—more of the feeling of Jeongguk hitting that spot, more of him and the breathy moans he lets out, the sound of his voice as he calls him hyung. Taehyung just wants more, more, more. He can’t get enough.

“Come here,” Jeongguk calls then. Before Taehyung has any time to react, Jeongguk is using the hand he has on Taehyung’s shoulder to tug him closer so that he’s sitting on his heels with Jeongguk’s chest flush against his back. He feels like Jeongguk’s cock is buried so fucking deep within him like this, reaching all the right places. It’s not a position they can be in for much longer, but Taehyung knows that the climax is coming soon, anyway.

“Fuck,” Taehyung cries when he feels Jeongguk start to thrust into him again. He’s got one hand wrapped around Taehyung’s middle now, keeping their bodies together as his mouth latches on to Taehyung’s sweaty neck. And Taehyung—fuck, all he can do is throw his head back on Jeongguk’s shoulder and let himself be kissed, let Jeongguk suck marks that he’s going to have to hide to avoid uncomfortable questions. But right now, he doesn’t care about that. All he wants is more.

“You’re so fucking good, hyung,” Jeongguk praises against the column of his neck, in between wet kisses. Something twists inside of Taehyung, who feels his climax build in the pit of his stomach. “So damn good. I’m gonna make you come so hard for being so good.”

“Yes,” Taehyung moans, eyes fluttering closed. Maybe, if Taehyung had a little more control over himself right now, he would tell Jeongguk to shut the fuck up. But right now he’s too goddamn close, and quite honestly, doesn’t think there’s anything he’d like more than being good for Jeongguk. “Yes, yes, yes, Jeongguk—I’m gonna come.”

It’s then that Taehyung feels Jeongguk’s free hand, the one that isn’t wrapped around his waist, reach towards the front of his body. He lets out a deep sigh when fingers wrap around his cock, Jeongguk pumping his cock in fast motions. His lips start climbing Taehyung’s neck, finding his mouth and whispering, “Good boy, hyung. Are you gonna come for me now?”

“Oh, my god,” Taehyung moans into Jeongguk’s mouth, squeezing his eyes shut. Jeongguk is still sloppily thrusting into his sweet spot, and that added to the feeling of him pumping his cock would be more than enough to make him come. The fact that he’s whispering all of that filth into his ear is just going to make his orgasm even more intense, if that’s even possible. “Yes, fuck. Jeongguk.”

After that, it only takes a couple more strokes to his cock before he’s spilling all over Jeongguk’s hand, his come staining his chest and the bed covers as well. A chain of intelligible moans falls from his lips as he does, body shaking. The only reason why he’s not collapsing on the bed is because Jeongguk still has a tight grip around him, still keeps him close as he rolls his hips into him erratically, chasing release.

And of course, with how Taehyung is clenching around him, it doesn’t take too long for Jeongguk to come either. He moans right into Taehyung’s ear as he does so, spilling inside the condom as his hips falter. It’s only then, after they’ve both come and their moans have died down and turned into pants, that Jeongguk lets go of the hold he has around Taehyung’s body.

“Fuck,” Taehyung curses as he moves away, feeling Jeongguk’s cock slide off him. There’s something slightly uncomfortable about the feeling of emptiness at first, but he quickly gets used to it. Jeongguk runs a hand through his hair, falling on his ass on the bed, and Taehyung repeats, “Fuck.”

“Hmm,” is all Jeongguk says, again brushing his hair with his fingers as he lies down on the mattress. He looks almost lazy as he says, “Fuck, indeed.”

Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, not knowing what to say. Something along the lines of that was good feels too tacky, something along the lines of that was awful feels like too much of a lie. It doesn’t help that Jeongguk is not exactly talkative himself, leaning back on the bed with his eyes closed. For that reason, because he doesn’t know what to say but he knows he desperately needs to say something, in the end Taehyung blurts out, “Are you going to give me something to clean myself up with or do I have to use your shirt?”

Jeongguk’s eyes remain closed, but he wrinkles his nose. “Don’t use my shirt,” he says, just like Taehyung expected. The material of the shirt felt soft and silky under Taehyung’s hands, far too good and expensive for him to agree to let Jeongguk clean his come with it. He throws one arm over his eyes, his finger pointing towards the door to his right, and says, “There’s towels in the bathroom.”

For a second there, Taehyung stares at Jeongguk with a dumbfounded expression, eyebrows raised and lips slightly parted. He only moves when it becomes apparent that no, Jeongguk is not going to move anywhere. Taehyung gets on his feet and walks to the door, but not without huffing a little.

“You’re such a shit host, did you know that?” Taehyung complains, walking inside the bathroom and looking around himself. It’s then that he finds a small towel and walks to the sink, dampening it a little so he can clean himself before the come dries on his skin. If Jeongguk wants to clean his hand, he can do so himself after Taehyung is done; that’s what he gets for being a lazy fuck. He’s still in the bathroom as he says, “Shouldn’t you be offering to do this for your guests? Instead of just lying there on the bed like a log. I’m tired too, you know. What’s more, I—”

The words die in his mouth as he walks back into the bedroom, just to find Jeongguk in the exact same position he was earlier. His arm is still slung over his eyes and he’s still lying on his back on the bed, naked, but now his chest is rhythmically rising and falling as he breathes.

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung calls, tentative. “Are you asleep?”

Of course, if Jeongguk is asleep he wouldn’t be able to reply to him, so Taehyung is hoping for a no in response. But then a couple of seconds go by, and he gets nothing in return. Taehyung scoffs a little, half in disbelief that Jeongguk fell asleep in roughly thirty seconds, half in offense. But then he realizes that Jeongguk falling asleep is a golden opportunity for him to get dressed, collect his things and leave without having to endure any awkward talk between the two of them. So he does just that.

Once he’s back in his clothes and has made sure he’s not forgetting anything, he walks back to the bathroom to leave the wet towel in the sink, instead of lying around in the bedroom. And then, just because nothing can ever go as planned and the universe hates him, Taehyung knocks something off the comforter right as he goes to pick up the towel that he had left there while he got dressed.

The thing seems to be a figure, a golden-colored one with the shape of an elephant. It doesn’t break when it falls, but it does make a horribly loud noise against the wooden floor. Taehyung’s breath catches in his throat for a moment, scared he might have marked the floor because of how heavy the figurine looks, and only breathes after crouching down and finding out the flooring is intact.

It’s then that he hears a groan behind him, turning around as he holds the elephant in his palms. Jeongguk is now sitting up on the bed, eyes narrowed and looking an odd mixture of sleepy and baffled. Maybe baffled that Taehyung woke him up.

“What on earth are you doing?” he asks, his eyes dragging down Taehyung’s body. Before Taehyung can reply, Jeongguk adds, “You know, if you’re going to sneak out, at least do it with more grace.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Taehyung tells him with an eye roll, leaving the figurine on top of the comforter. “What am I supposed to do? Wait here until you decide to wake up?”

“I mean, if you’re interested in staying the night you can just say so,” he says. Taehyung lets out a bitter laugh, shaking his head.

“Not interested, no,” he says, to which Jeongguk shrugs his shoulders. “I’m going to get going now. No need to walk me to the door.”

“As you wish,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung highly doubts Jeongguk was going to offer to take him to the door, anyway, and the truth is that he can find his way back by himself. Jeongguk’s apartment is fairly big, but it is in no way a palace. “Goodnight, Tae. We’ll talk soon.”

“Goodnight, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, walking out of the bedroom after making sure that both his phone and car keys are still in the pocket of his jacket.

He leaves the apartment, makes sure the door locks after he pulls it closed and gets in the elevator. He doesn’t let himself think much about Jeongguk as he calmly walks to his car, gets inside and buckles his seatbelt. It’s just a hookup, and he’s never had the need to overthink those. Why would it be different this time around?

But as he starts driving home, his resolution to not think about it breaks, and only then does it sink in that this happened between the two of them. That they had sex. God, that he had sex with Jeongguk. Taehyung can still feel the ghost of Jeongguk’s hands on his body, can still smell him and his body wash and hear his wet, breathy moans against his ear. Taehyung swallows down as the events of tonight all rush through his mind, finding himself… well, affected just by thinking of them. He wondered, when he first thought about Jeongguk when getting off, if maybe this is what he needed to get it out of his system and never think about Jeongguk like that again; Jimin said that they needed to have sex to get rid of the tension between them and that that would be it.

It’s just that, right now, Taehyung doesn’t feel like he’s gotten anything out of his system. He feels his mind going back to Jeongguk and what happened and finds out that, if anything, he wants it more than before. Maybe if it hadn’t been that good, if Jeongguk hadn’t made him come so hard and so much, Taehyung wouldn’t find himself in this position. For once, he finds himself wishing that a hookup had been worse, more mediocre than good.

By the time he gets back to his apartment, Taehyung is certain that he has royally fucked up. He drags himself to his room, lies on his bed looking up at the ceiling and sighs. And then, after almost a minute of self-pitying and regretting his own decisions, he gets his phone and types a text for Jimin.

You’ll never guess what stupid shit I’ve done just now.

 

 

Even if Taehyung is quite the social drinker, and often meets up with friends over the weekend to have a drink, the truth is that he never gets drunk. He has a drink on Friday, maybe two at most, but he rarely goes past the tipsy state. During his college days, he admittedly got wasted a lot more often since a lot of partying took place back then, but now he’s past that phase. He’s a responsible adult, and he’s capable of enjoying a drink without ending up drunk off his ass.

Except, sometimes exceptions can be made. More so, sometimes he doesn’t calculate as well. Seokjin came over with a bottle of wine and the two of them managed to drink it over dinner; then they sat down on Taehyung’s couch and had a few drinks, and Taehyung felt fine, really. But then, when he stood up to go for a pee, he realized the room was spinning. It’s only then that, after finishing his cocktail, he decided he didn’t need any more alcohol tonight.

It’s been around one hour ever since, and Seokjin—who was slightly more sober than Taehyung—has left, taking a cab home. Taehyung is alone now, kind of drunk, not sleepy at all and very, very bored. And as if being drunk wasn’t a recipe for disaster on its own, in combination with boredom it can lead to very, very bad decisions. Decisions like, for example, texting Jeongguk.

Taehyung’s autocorrect makes it possible for him to send a text inviting Jeongguk over with an impressive total of zero typos, something hard to believe considering the amount of wrong keys he felt he was pressing. Much to Taehyung’s surprise, Jeongguk replies to him almost right away; what’s even more shocking is that he doesn’t question Taehyung’s invitation or motives. He agrees to come and, around fifteen minutes later, Taehyung is buzzing him in.

It’s been a week since the last time they saw each other at Jeongguk’s, but the truth is that Taehyung hasn’t stopped thinking about him. It’s a blessing they didn’t have to see each other in public during that time, considering how many times Taehyung has replayed their night together in his mind. And now, knowing that he’s going to see him again, and that they’re going to be alone—well, Taehyung is anticipating it. The minute it takes for Jeongguk to get to his apartment seems endless to Taehyung, who is too intoxicated to care about not seeming eager. As soon as his doorbell goes off, he jumps on his feet a little, immediately pulling the door open.

“Jeonggukie!” he calls as a greeting, his voice probably too loud for the hour it is now. He doesn’t care, though—he takes a step towards Jeongguk, invading his personal space and wrapping both arms around Jeongguk’s neck, tugging him close.

“Taehyung?” Jeongguk calls, craning his neck a little so he can look at Taehyung. Taehyung mimics him, pulling back so he can look at him without going cross-eyed and giving him a sheepish smile. One of Jeongguk’s hands wraps lightly around his middle, making Taehyung’s grin widen. And then, Jeongguk asks, “Taehyung, are you drunk?”

“I just had a few drinks with Seokjin,” Taehyung says, not bothering to explain further. Jeongguk’s eyebrows furrow, and so Taehyung starts walking backwards then, dragging Jeongguk inside the apartment. “Jeonggukie, I haven’t seen you since the other night! Since the night that we… you know…”

In any other circumstances, he would have too restrained to discuss this with Jeongguk, much less to bring it up. It’s not like he’s embarrassed—that’s not the word he’d use. But it’s admittedly awkward that the two of them found themselves in that sort of situation together. Especially given how much they’ve been arguing over the past few months. They’re meant to dislike each other, not end up having sex.

Drunk Taehyung, however, seems to give absolutely no fucks about being embarrassed. He holds Jeongguk’s gaze as he gives him a puzzled look, even wiggling his eyebrows when he gets no answer.

“Tae…”

“Did you like it?” Taehyung asks. Jeongguk gives him a pointed look, something that reads a lot like cut the bullshit, but Taehyung doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. He juts out his lips into a pout, then repeats, “Did you like it, Jeonggukie? Because I know that I liked it a lot. And I was thinking that maybe—”

“Oh, my god,” Jeongguk says, taking a step back as he frees himself of Taehyung’s hug. He’s gentle as he does so, but it’s still enough to bring a deep frown to Taehyung’s face. “Stop right there.”

“Where are you going?” Taehyung asks, crossing his arms over his chest as he looks at Jeongguk. Jeongguk stops in his tracks, one hand holding the door.

“Just gonna close the door. I’m not going anywhere, okay? Just closing the door,” he reassures. Taehyung lets out a sigh as Jeongguk clicks the door shut, allowing his arms to hang to each side of his body, but he doesn’t stop frowning. “Is that why you called? To have sex?”

“Yes?” Taehyung asks, not knowing what to make out of Jeongguk’s blank expression. Years ago, Taehyung could interpret every single one of Jeongguk’s emotions just by looking at his eyes, but things have changed ever since, and Jeongguk got far better at keeping a poker face.

“Well,” Jeongguk starts then, “We’re not going to have sex now, Taehyung.”

Upon hearing the words, Taehyung feels his face turn inside out, almost as if he had just bit into a lemon. He moves to turn around then, even if he has nowhere to head to, and ends up stumbling over his own feet. Before he can fall, Jeongguk is back by his side, using one arm around Taehyung’s shoulders to keep him up.

“So you didn’t like it,” Taehyung says, lightly hitting Jeongguk’s chest with his right hand.

“Taehyung, what—”

“You didn’t like having sex the other day and that’s why you don’t want to have it again,” Taehyung says, holding Jeongguk’s confused gaze. “Well, you can go now, then! Why did you come?”

“I’m not going to have sex with you when you’re this drunk,” Jeongguk explains. Taehyung presses his lips into a thin line, not having considered that. “Can I sit down with you for a moment? Please.”

“Fine,” Taehyung says, starting to walk towards the sofa with Jeongguk glued to him. He allows Jeongguk to sit him down on the edge of the couch, taking a seat next to him. “What now?”

“I did like it,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung presses his lips into another pout then, to which Jeongguk clicks his tongue. “I did like it, Tae. But as much as I liked it, I’m not going to take advantage of you being drunk.”

“But I really, really liked it,” Taehyung insists.

“Still. Tae,” he says. Taehyung sighs, shaking his head. It’s fine, he does understand. Maybe it took his drunken brain a minute to get it, but he does. For real. “Do you want me to go?”

“No—no, I don’t,” Taehyung rushes to reply, leaning forward and wrapping his fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist. Jeongguk looks at him then, arching one eyebrow as to ask what, then?, and so Taehyung says, “Stay.”

“Even if we’re not going to do anything?” Jeongguk asks, making sure.

“Yes, yes—even if we’re not going to do anything,” Taehyung says, tightening his fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist. In case the message wasn’t clear enough, he adds, “I want you to stay, Gukkie. Keep me company, please.”

Jeongguk’s eyes stay on his for a second too long there, then he says, “Fine, fine. I’ll be staying with you, then.”

“Good,” Taehyung says, moving on the couch so that he’s leaning against the backrest. Jeongguk turns a little then, still looking at him from where he’s sitting on the edge.

“I’m going to go get you some water, okay? Don’t move,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung just nods.

It feels a bit weird to have Jeongguk here with him, but not necessarily… a bad weird. Things between them are still too volatile and fragile for Taehyung to know what to expect, which admittedly puts him on edge, so it’s hard for him to relax around Jeongguk. Now that he’s drunk, though, those worries are pushed to the back of his mind and he feels like he can just speak to him. When Jeongguk comes back, offering Taehyung a glass of cold water, Taehyung takes one big sip off it before he speaks.

 “So why did you come?” he asks, earning himself a frown from Jeongguk as he sits down on the edge yet again. To clear away the confusion, Taehyung specifies, “Did you think it was a booty call?”

“I didn’t think too much about it. I thought maybe you just wanted to hang out,” Jeongguk replies, shrugging his shoulders a little. Taehyung laughs at that, and so Jeongguk asks, “What?”

“We don’t just hang out,” Taehyung replies to that, throwing his head back against the wall.

“Then maybe it’s about time we do,” Jeongguk replies, easy. As if it were the logical solution, and not something too crazy given their situation. “Or, well—about time we do again.”

Taehyung takes a deep breath when he hears that, his gaze falling down to his hands. About time we do again. There it is, the reminder that things weren’t always like this between them. That, back in the day, the two of them spent every single day attached to the hip. It’s crazy how much things have changed ever since, isn’t it?

“A lot has changed ever since, though,” Taehyung says, still not looking up to meet Jeongguk’s eyes. “Things are not like they used to be.”

“They’re not like they used to be when you first came back, either,” Jeongguk says. “We started off on the wrong foot when you did, but I think we’ve kinda moved on a lot since, don’t you? We get along better.”

With a huffed-out laugh, Taehyung says, “It was hard not to.”

“My point is, we can just hang out again,” Jeongguk says, the hint of a smile tethering now on his lips. “Like we used to.”

“Like we used to,” Taehyung repeats, followed by a pause. Maybe it’s because the alcohol is clouding his mind and judgement, making him loose-tongued, or maybe it’s just because he’s really tired of hiding his thoughts and feelings all the time. He’s tired of being angry, because being angry hasn’t let him be sad. And the truth is that, behind all the fury at Jeongguk stealing his dreams and aspirations away from him, Taehyung can’t deny he feels a little sad about how the two of them ended up. It’s for that reason that gloom drips from his voice as he says, “I used to think that we’d be friends forever, eight years ago.”

Jeongguk swallows down at that, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his neck. It takes a second before he says, “But you didn’t think much about me during the time you were away, did you?”

“Of course I thought a lot about you,” Taehyung rushes to say. “I just—everyone said it was normal for high school friends to drift apart during college years. Everyone said that the same had happened to them, that life had its phases and I had to move on from it. It just didn’t feel like the friendship was working out anymore.”

“I still would have liked to make an effort if you had tried, too,” Jeongguk says in a mumble. The two of them stay quiet for a second, before Jeongguk adds, “It was hard to accept that there was no room for me in your life anymore.”

“Guk…”

“Like, from your perspective, I understand maybe it was easier to move on. You were somewhere new, with a new routine, and new friends and new everything. You had a new life, and you were starting everything from scratch. And I was never in those plans, so maybe drifting apart didn’t take such a toll on you,” Jeongguk starts to explain. The words flow from his mouth effortlessly, almost as if once he’s started talking, he can’t be stopped, and so Taehyung doesn’t try to interrupt him. He just listens, finally hearing what Jeongguk has to say about all of this. “But it wasn’t easy for me, Taehyung. I had the same life, I went to the same school, saw all the same people, except for one. You were my best friend, the most important person for me other than my family. Fuck, you were so damn fucking important to me and suddenly you were gone, and you didn’t even have the time for me anymore unless it was four in the morning, and I—it hurt really bad to lose you, Taehyung. It hurt really bad to realize I wasn’t important to you anymore.”

“You were important for me,” Taehyung tries to explain. “I was—I was exhausted and lost too, Jeongguk. It was so completely different from Seoul and high school, and I genuinely didn’t have time for anything. I didn’t just forget about you or stop caring. I woke up at seven most days and was busy with this and that until like nine at night, and I didn’t know how to manage my time or juggle everything.”

“But you still managed to remain friends with Seokjin,” Jeongguk says, looking at him. Taehyung can see and read the hurt in his eyes, and he hates the fact that seeing it makes something in his chest sting. Even if it’s been seven years since they really were friends, seeing Jeongguk hurt still makes him want to wince. “Why not me?”

“If I remained friends with Seokjin, it’s because he was the one putting all of the effort in most of those years. He had a lot of patience with me, even when I didn’t deserve it,” Taehyung admits. “I know… I know I could have done better, I’m not trying to deny that, but it wasn’t like I just suddenly didn’t care about you—I did, and I thought about you a lot, and drifting away also hurt really bad for me. I don’t want you to think otherwise.”

“Well, that—I mean, it doesn’t change anything of how that year went, or the fact that I still felt tossed to the side and like you suddenly had more important things going on in your life,” Jeongguk says, getting a little rambly. “But at least I’m happy to know I wasn’t as unimportant as I felt.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says in the end. He should have said this to Jeongguk a long time ago, he realizes now. He looks down at his hands, aware that no matter what he says, nothing is going to change the awful months that Jeongguk went through after he left. Nothing is going to take away the pain or make sixteen-year-old him feel any less alone. High school years are hard for everyone, and Taehyung knows how much Jeongguk struggled during them; after he left, being suddenly alone, it probably just worsened. “I know I didn’t do things as well as I could have. I’m really sorry, Jeongguk. For leaving you behind.”

Jeongguk sighs and, after a second of silence, says, “It doesn’t matter anymore, does it?”

Taehyung shrugs his shoulders, not wanting to tell Jeongguk that for him, at least, it’s important. It’s important for him to hear what Jeongguk feels about this situation, as well as to shoulder the blame for the part that he thinks he’s responsible for.

“I still think it’s important for you to hear it,” Taehyung says. “That I’m sorry.”

The rest of the night, as well as his energy levels, go downhill from them; it seems like the peak of his euphoric drunken stage happened during Jeongguk’s arrival, and now he’s slowly easing into a lethargic, melancholic state. Taehyung feels himself getting sleepier and sleepier by the minute, as he and Jeongguk reminisce about the old days, before Taehyung left. He’s been thinking about these stories a lot after coming back, all because of Jeongguk’s newfound presence in his life, but it’s different to talk about them with Jeongguk. His memories seem happier this way, even.

He curls into a ball on the couch, looking at Jeongguk. With time, Jeongguk properly sits back on the couch as well, instead of uncomfortably sitting on the edge. They laugh a little, they bicker, and somehow agree that the summer Jeongguk turned sixteen was both the happiest and saddest one they spent together, as they got to make the best memories but also were aware Taehyung had to leave for a long time soon after.

As sleepiness takes over him, Taehyung grows quieter. The opposite happens to Jeongguk, who gets babbly and talks a lot more, giggling softly every once in a while. Taehyung’s eyes flutter closed at some point, but he’s still paying attention. Or at least he tries to, but it’s hard to stay awake with how much he’s had to drink, and how comfortable he is. Plus, there’s also Jeongguk’s honey voice that eventually lulls him into slumber.

Taehyung doesn’t know this, of course, but after realizing that he’s fallen asleep, Jeongguk stops talking and looks at him for a few seconds, taking in his sleeping face. Jeongguk lets out a sigh then, looking at Taehyung before he gets up on his feet.

“I’m sorry, Tae,” he says, even if Taehyung can’t hear him. “I’m sorry, too.”

 

 

For Taehyung, the following morning starts with a pounding headache and the disgusting taste of a hangover in his mouth. For a couple of seconds he lies there in bed, confused and trying to remember how he ended up getting himself into this—the aftermath of a few more drinks than he should have had. The events from last night start rushing to his mind then, from Seokjin coming over with the wine, to the cocktails, then Seokjin leaving, and then Jeongguk arriving, and—

Wait. Jeongguk arriving. Taehyung’s eyes widen as he realizes that not only did he drunkenly text Jeongguk, asking him to come over, but that Jeongguk actually came. Taehyung’s memories are a bit blurry, but he still remembers Jeongguk refusing to sleep with him because of his intoxicated state, as well as the two of them talking on the couch. He also remembers the conversation, how Jeongguk opened up a little about how things were for him when Taehyung left, and how he ended up apologizing for the way he handled the long-distance friendship.

The realization that he’s asked Jeongguk for forgiveness makes him swallow down hard, feeling his pride bruise a little, but it also feels like having a weight lifted off his shoulders. Over the past seven years, Taehyung has been feeling guilty about how things turned out; it only got worse last night, when he got a better idea of how much it hurt for Jeongguk to find himself alone. He doesn’t know if he’s forgiven but, like he said last night to Jeongguk, he felt like Jeongguk deserved an apology.

It’s only then, after analyzing the conversation they had yesterday, that he realizes he remembers many things about last night, many involving Jeongguk, but there is one he doesn’t remember: Jeongguk leaving. All of his lethargy and heaviness seem to vanish right then, as he sits up abruptly on the bed. On the bed. He doesn’t remember getting in bed, either.

The moment he pulls the bed covers away from his body is also the moment where he realizes he’s still wearing the same clothes as last night. He didn’t dress up to have either Seokjin or Jeongguk over, just wearing some sweatpants and a loose sweater, but he finds himself not wearing those exact two pieces. And socks. Something he wouldn’t have done had he gotten in bed by himself, not even while drunk.

Taehyung is not that dense; he realizes the most likely option is that he fell asleep on the couch while talking to Jeongguk, and that Jeongguk brought him to his bed. There is something about the thought that makes him feel profusely embarrassed, heat rising to his cheeks as he realizes that, fuck, Jeongguk carried a sleeping him through to the bedroom and tucked him in bed. He looks at the bedside table, looking for his phone so he can text Jeongguk and ask him about last night, but it’s not in its usual spot. Guessing Jeongguk forgot to bring it through, Taehyung bolts out of bed—cursing quietly to himself as he feels a sharp pain in his temples—and starts making his way to the living area.

Now, Taehyung’s loft isn’t massive, so it only takes him a couple of steps to notice that there’s someone on his couch. The couch has its back to him, and so Taehyung can’t properly see the person, but he can see a pair of feet hanging from the bottom, clad in black socks. It doesn’t take much effort to deduce it’s Jeongguk; either that, or he invited someone else in after Taehyung fell asleep, which doesn’t seem likely.

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks, crossing the space between where he’s standing and the couch in a few long strides. Indeed, it’s Jeongguk sleeping on his couch, a pillow under his head as he takes up the entirety of Taehyung’s couch. Something Taehyung knows about Jeongguk, especially considering how long the two have known each other for, is that he sleeps like the dead. Of course, Taehyung calling his name is not enough to wake him up, so with both hands on his shoulders, Taehyung shakes him a little and repeats, “Jeongguk!”

Jeongguk’s expression right as he opens his eyes is a startled one, probably from being roughly awakened from deep slumber by being shaken. He stares at Taehyung for a few seconds before his sleepy, rough voice asks, “Taehyung?”

There’s something about how small his voice comes out, the confused expression on his face and his little frown that tugs at Taehyung’s heartstrings, but he doesn’t let him react to it. Instead, Taehyung asks back, “What are you doing here?”

“I—” Jeongguk starts, lips closing before he manages to say anything else. It’s a couple of seconds before he offers, “Sleep?”

For some reason, Taehyung can’t help but smile at the comment, the corners of his lips rising into a small grin. “Oh, really?” he asks, teasing. Jeongguk starts moving then, sitting up on the couch instead of lying down. “I hadn’t noticed. I thought you were wide awake.”

“I was just too tired to drive back home last night,” Jeongguk replies, rubbing at his eye with the heel of his right palm. Taehyung holds back the urge to tangle his fingers in Jeongguk’s hair and brush it down a little, fixing the mess that it is right now. “I hope you don’t mind. I thought you wouldn’t, since you invited me over yourself, after all.”

“I don’t mind,” Taehyung replies, quickly. He moves down, sitting next to Jeongguk on the couch. “Although I didn’t exactly invite you over for a sleepover.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Jeongguk replies, his tone suddenly seeming a lot more awake. “You invited me over to get laid, didn’t you?”

Taehyung realizes he set himself up for that one, but that doesn’t make him any less flustered. Jeongguk looks at him with the hint of a smirk plastered on his face, and Taehyung feels the sudden urge to frown. Deep.

“I was drinking,” he says, as if that explained everything. “Obviously I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“You said the same after that time we kissed at the bar, yet I fucked you sober back at mine the other day,” Jeongguk brings up, making Taehyung’s cheeks heat up even more. “It’s starting to seem like a bit of an excuse, hyung.”

“It takes two people to end up having sex, you know?” Taehyung says, trying to divert the attention from himself and instead bring it to Jeongguk. “What’s your excuse?”

“I have no excuse. I did it because I wanted to,” Jeongguk replies, a lot more honest than Taehyung was expecting him to. “And I would do it again. I told you last night—I liked it.”

Taehyung is aware Jeongguk has grown up, he is. But to him, it’s still shocking that Jeongguk has turned from being a shy little kid who was too scared to stand up for himself into someone who is assertive, blunt. Of course, with Taehyung, his shyness went away a little and he felt comfortable enough to say anything that crossed his mind. It’s just that straight up admitting something like this is not something that Taehyung ever imagined the Jeongguk he once knew doing, but he guesses things have changed ever since. Things have changed a lot.

But if Jeongguk is not shying away from this chat, neither will Taehyung. He turns around a little, giving Jeongguk a coy look from the corner of his eye, and says, “That’s because I’m a fantastic fuck.”

“I’m not going to argue that,” Jeongguk says, laughing a little. Taehyung pretends he’s not at all affected by the fact that Jeongguk is agreeing to him being an amazing fuck, nope. “I’ve been thinking about it, you know.”

Taehyung feels himself tense up a little, but not in a bad way. It’s not like he feels uncomfortable or anything; more like he feels the conversation start to turn suggestive, and he likes it.

“And what have you been thinking?” he asks, tilting his head a little so he can take a proper look at Jeongguk. Maybe it’s just his imagination, but like this, Taehyung thinks they’ve gotten a little closer ever since he sat down.

“I have one question, but maybe you won’t want to answer,” Jeongguk says, eyes boring into Jeongguk’s.

“Spit it out.”

“Do you like it rough, Taehyung?”

He’s resolved to not letting Jeongguk’s words fluster him, and he’s sticking to it. He’s not embarrassed by the question, per se, but he’s incredibly shocked, and so he can’t help but splutter before he finally gives a proper response.

“You’re right, I won’t want to answer,” Taehyung replies, knowing full-well what’s prompting Jeongguk to ask this. It’s not like the time they had sex was rough, rough, but Taehyung did have some bruises on his hips and the back of his shoulder, lingering there for a few days. Thinking about how he admitted to Jeongguk that he likes to, quote-unquote, be used and fucked into the mattress, makes Taehyung want to groan and hide his face.

“But I need to know these things,” Jeongguk protests then. Taehyung doesn’t need to ask him why exactly he thinks he needs to know that, because he knows the answer—it’s going to happen again. That weird energy that Jimin said exists between them is much more prevalent now, and Taehyung knows that it’s going to make them cave in. Jeongguk insists, pulling him away from his thoughts as he says, “Tell me.”

“Why don’t you take a wild guess?” Taehyung says, giving up on trying to hide and conceal it. Who knows, maybe if he admits to it he can get some bomb, rough sex out of it. Jeongguk already knows so there’s no point trying to lie and say it’s not true.

“I think you’re into that,” Jeongguk says without hesitation, not missing a beat. Before Taehyung can either confirm or deny, Jeongguk adds, “And I think you like that I call you hyung during it.”

“That you call me hyung?” Taehyung repeats. Jeongguk nods. “And why do you think that is?”

Now, Taehyung knows this isn’t his imagination—Jeongguk leans closer to him then, invading his space. Either of them could just lean in slightly closer and cross the space between their mouths, melting their lips into a kiss.

“I think you like to know I’m in control even if you’re older,” Jeongguk says then, looking at Taehyung straight in the eye. “You like that I fuck you and call you hyung.”

“Maybe I like it because I want you to address me with respect,” Taehyung says, unable to resist the urge of antagonizing Jeongguk. They’re both smiling a little right now, Taehyung’s eyes flickering down to take a glance at Jeongguk’s pink lips.

“I’m not very convinced, hyung,” Jeongguk says, teeth catching his bottom lip. It’s only then that Taehyung brings himself to look at Jeongguk’s eyes already, only to find Jeongguk already staring at him.

“Maybe I can try to convince you if you take me to the bed,” Taehyung suggests then, taking the initiative. He knows how to flirt, even if he’s been acting like a fish out of the water with Jeongguk, and so he moves his hand to Jeongguk’s neck and lightly touches it, letting it clasp around it. The two of them stay quiet for a moment, exchanging a loaded look.

And then, so abruptly and taking Taehyung by surprise, Jeongguk’s hands are on him and pulling him closer. Taehyung lets out a yelp as he feels himself being pulled into Jeongguk’s lap, his arms circling around Jeongguk’s neck. With ease, Jeongguk holds the back of Taehyung’s thighs and lifts him up, Taehyung’s legs naturally circling themselves around Jeongguk’s tiny waist.

“Second time I take you to bed in like, nine hours,” Jeongguk says as he starts walking, giving Taehyung a self-satisfied smile.

“Only this time you’re staying with me,” Taehyung replies, letting Jeongguk drop him carefully on top of the bed. The perks of having a loft—it doesn’t take ages to get to the bedroom. He parts his legs then, allowing Jeongguk to slot right between them when he pulls at the front of his top, saying, “Come here.”

Jeongguk lets himself be pulled into a kiss, one that turns into two, three, four. And Taehyung, well—Taehyung gets a little lost in the feeling of Jeongguk’s mouth on his, hands roaming his body and kisses being pressed against the inside of his thighs. He’s aware he’s losing the little sanity he’s got left, ignoring all of his good judgement that’s telling him to stop this right now. But frankly? He’s got Jeongguk looking up at him deviously, pink lips wrapped around the head of his cock, so he frankly couldn’t care less.

 

 

Back when Taehyung and Jeongguk were in high school, their families had a tradition of sorts—every month they try to all gather together for dinner, be it out, or at either of their houses. Their parents got along with each other, and for both Taehyung and Jeongguk, any excuse to spend some extra time together was more than welcome.

After Taehyung left, he knew that the monthly dinners continued for a while, but that they eventually stopped. From what he’s heard from his mom, Taehyung knows that Mr. Jeon was more and more absent and rarely went anymore, and that Jeongguk eventually lost interest as well, now that Taehyung wasn't there.

Nowadays, Jeongguk has dinner with Taehyung’s family often, as he always seems to have a reason to be hanging out at his family home. He also knows that Ms. Jang often meets up with their parents, especially with his mom, although he doesn’t think they’ve met up for a proper meal in a long while.

But now, Taehyung is back. And over the course of the last weeks, he’s been getting along better with Jeongguk. Everyone around them notices, and Taehyung’s parents even make sure to tell them that it’s good to see them not arguing as much anymore. Of course, Taehyung doesn’t bother to tell them that the reason why they don’t argue in front of them anymore is because they have other ways to relieve the tension between them. Sometimes, when the two of them are alone, they still bicker but it’s nothing too major.

The point is that, given that the pair seem to be getting along better, it sparks an idea in Taehyung’s mom that they should probably bring back their own little tradition. When his mom tells him over breakfast one morning, Taehyung can’t help but be a little surprised.

“Meet up with Jeongguk’s family for dinner?” Taehyung repeats, meeting his mother’s expecting gaze. “With what purpose exactly?”

“There doesn’t need to be a specific purpose to meet with friends,” his mom replies eventually, in a tone that is almost scolding. “You’re starting to sound so much like your father, Taehyung-ah.”

Taehyung can’t help but smile a little, saying, “I’ll take that as a compliment.” When his mom just gives him a funny look, he adds, “When you say Jeongguk’s family you just mean his mom, don’t you? Not Mr. Jeon.”

“Just her. I haven’t had any contact with him in years,” his mother replies, taking her cup of coffee and bringing it closer to her lips. Before taking a sip, she adds, “I know they stayed relatively cordial after the divorce, but I don’t think Jeongguk has a very good relationship with him.”

“He never had much of a relationship with him even when he lived at home,” Taehyung comments, earning himself a pointed look from his mom. “What?”

“We shouldn’t be gossiping about their private lives,” his mother says, making Taehyung snort a little.

“It’s not gossiping. It’s literally stuff I know through being friends with Jeongguk at the time,” he says. He knows for sure that Jeongguk and his father were never as close as Jeongguk wished for them to be, so there’s absolutely no speculation in what he’s saying. Still, his mother seems reluctant to talk more about the topic. “So you want to meet up with them two for dinner, then? All four of us?”

“If you’d be okay with it,” his mother says. “I’ve been noticing, it seems like you and Jeongguk are rekindling your friendship. Maybe this would help bring you two together.”

Taehyung, obviously, doesn’t bother to explain that it’s not like he and Jeongguk are exactly bringing their friendship back to what it was before he left. He doesn’t really consider declining, even if sometimes being around Jeongguk gets a little complicated. Before, it was because they argued, and now because Taehyung is scared he might say something remotely flirty or suggestive in front of his family, who are not to know about what’s going on. With his parents it’s easier, but whenever Miyoung is around, Taehyung is hyper-aware of what she might pick up on. She’s just as observant and quick-minded as Taehyung is, so he has no doubts she’ll eventually notice something.

Still, he knows that declining when he has less reasons than ever will just make him look even more suspicious. For that reason, and after deciding it’s best to, he agrees.

“I think it’d be lovely to meet up with them every once in a while, yeah,” Taehyung says, watching the smile spread across his mother’s face then.

“I’m glad to hear that, sweetie,” his mom says, Taehyung unable to hold back a grin. “I’ll call Miyeon soon then. Are you free this weekend? Maybe Friday evening?”

“I have no plans yet, no,” he replies, to which his mother nods approvingly.

“Then I’ll talk to them and let you know as soon as I know something. Maybe Jeongguk is busy, so we’ll have to see,” his mother rambles, opening the calendar app on her phone.

Taehyung doubts Jeongguk would be busy, for the simple reason that he’s been taking up a lot of Jeongguk’s evenings, and he knows he usually doesn’t make many dinner plans on the weekends. He meets up with Yoongi for a beer on Wednesdays, and Namjoon often comes over before Taehyung does, a couple times a week, but that’s about it.

Of course, he doesn’t share that with his mom.

“I’ll be keeping my Friday evening clear until you figure out the details,” is what he says instead.

He zones out for a little after that, as his mom tells him about how excited she is they’re bringing this back. He’s been around his family with Jeongguk present, and he’s also been around Ms. Jang with Jeongguk there, too. It’s not like he’s terribly worried—after all, he’s a good actor and, from what he’s seen, Jeongguk is also good at keeping his emotions and reactions under control now.

There really is no reason for anything to go wrong. He’ll have to wait until Friday and see, but as of right now, he’s calm.

 

Chapter Text

Dinner with Jeongguk and his mother, like Taehyung predicted, doesn't turn out to be that bad. He's used to being around Jeongguk and his parents, so there's nothing new there, just like there’s nothing new about Ms. Jang being there. Miyoung is far too unsuspecting and unaware of what's going on between the two of them to pay them any special attention, so Taehyung isn’t too worried about her either.

Something Taehyung has picked up on is that it seems almost impossible to prevent conversation from stirring towards law and business when his father and Jeongguk are in the same room. It’s not like it bothers Taehyung, even though he gets a little lost when things get too technical, but his mother is quick to stop the two of them.

“We're all here together, so we should discuss stuff all of us can understand and are interested in,” she reprimands them—well, more so her husband. “No work talk. This is meant to be a time to disconnect, Joohyuk.”

During Taehyung's life, he's heard both his parents discuss their work with the other incessantly. The two of them know a lot about the other's business than they should considering their lines of work are very different, and of course, the interest they show is genuine. Taehyung knows that the stuff they're discussing is nothing that she can't understand after so many years, or that she doesn't care about; she's just trying to make everyone feel included.

Luckily after that, work isn't discussed again. Not his dad’s and Jeongguk’s—not any. And it truly does feel good and rewarding to be able to disconnect for a while, to gossip about the people they've known for years and where life has taken them recently.

Jeongguk eventually starts talking about all of Taehyung's classmates during high school, the ones he graduated with. Despite being two years younger, Jeongguk managed to keep up with some of them and how things were for them far better than Taehyung. Some he met again during university, others he saw on his Facebook feed occasionally. A girl from Taehyung's class is now a reporter for KBS, Jeongguk tells him, so Taehyung makes a mental note to keep his eyes peeled when he next watches the news, although Jeongguk claims she's changed a lot since high school.

“Jiyeon got married last summer,” Taehyung's own mother intervenes at one point, making Taehyung's eyebrow raise. “I ran into her mother a few weeks ago and she got married to her boyfriend from university.”

“For real?” Taehyung asks, unable to hide his shock. He doesn't know why he's so shocked—it's obvious that the world kept turning for everyone after high school, not only for him. He's had relationships and breakups, he's fallen for people so hard that at some points he was sure he'd spend the rest of his life with them. It was seven long and eventful years for everyone, not just for him. His classmates have lives of their own: some pursued their dreams, some settled for less than what they wanted in high school. Some are already building families of their own, and some are probably still messing around. Taehyung didn't give much thought to where all of them went after high school, but now that the topic is on them, he can't stop listening.

“I haven't heard from her for years, but I do remember seeing her with a guy when I first started college. He was a senior of mine,” Jeongguk comments, nodding a little. “It's probably the same guy. They had been dating for a while by then.”

“And then there's Taehyungie, who got dumped while all of his classmates started getting married,” Miyoung teases him then, earning herself a stare from Taehyung. He can hear Jeongguk snort from where he's sitting across from him, but Taehyung ignores him. “Too soon?”

“I'm over it,” Taehyung replies, honestly. Seungjin is someone who made Taehyung very happy, and someone he loved a lot, but they were also not in love—at least, Taehyung wasn't. It hurt when he left, and it made Taehyung feel lonely and sad at first, but now he's gotten over him. It's not the first time Miyoung jokes about it, as well as Jimin and even Seokjin, so it's not like it bothers him. “I don't mind.”

“You’re still young. There’s no rush to do these things,” Ms. Jang comments then, sending a warm look Taehyung’s way. “Look at me—I got married at twenty-two, only to get divorced in my forties. Sometimes it’s best to wait a little,” she adds.

Taehyung isn’t exactly sure of the details of Ms. Jang and Mr. Jeon’s split, but he’s sure it has a lot to do with Mr. Jeon’s absences. For as long as Taehyung knew Jeongguk and, according to his friend, ever since he was born, things were like this. Mr. Jeon always prioritized his work over his wife and son, and it had been like that for as long as Jeongguk could remember. Maybe Ms. Jang now regrets not waiting for a couple of years before getting married; at the age of twenty-two it’d make sense for Mr. Jeon to have different priorities, especially considering he wasn’t working at the time, still in university.

“As long as it’s a nice boy he brings home. Seungjin was nice, but that other boy was so incredibly charming,” his mom comments, tempting Taehyung to whine in protest for her to shut up. “What was his name? Minho?”

“That was him, yeah,” Taehyung says, almost gritted through his teeth. “He was alright.”

Minho was the other serious boyfriend that Taehyung had while he was away, the two of them dating for almost two years while in college. He was a little older than Taehyung, and so after getting his Masters he returned to South Korea. It’s ironic how things played out; at the time he and Minho were together, Taehyung didn’t feel ready for long distance and that’s why they agreed to break up, meanwhile, it was him who asked Seungjin to give long distance a try years later. Both relationships ended up having the same ending, but Taehyung’s opinion changed over time.

“You didn’t tell me about him,” Jeongguk intervenes then, making one of Taehyung’s eyebrows arch up in disbelief. “Were you together for long?”

“For a while, yeah,” Taehyung replies, keeping the snarky reply to himself. Even if the two of them are more cordial, and definitely closer in ways they’ve never been before, it’s not like they’re friends now. They don’t confide in each other, and they don’t tell the other about their romantic interests. He adds, “It’s not like you’ve been telling me about your relationships either.”

He chooses his words as carefully as possible, not too sure what the rest of the table knows about Jeongguk’s orientation. Hell, he doesn’t even know himself—Jeongguk never expressed too much interest in anyone when they were younger, and nowadays, the only person he’s shown interest in is Taehyung. He doesn’t know if he’s gay, bisexual, or whatever, and he doesn’t know what everyone else knows. For that reason, he asks his question as ambiguously as he can.

Ms. Jang laughs then, at the same time Jeongguk clears his throat. Their reactions intrigue Taehyung, who can’t deny he’s a little disappointed when Jeongguk replies, “It’s been a few lonely years.”

The fact that he has a profile on a dating app people use to hook up, in combination to his shirtless profile picture and the fact that he’s pretty fucking great at sex, tell Taehyung that Jeongguk hasn’t been as lonely as he claims. Sure, maybe he hasn’t had many relationships, but Taehyung refuses to believe he’s had a years-long dry spell until Taehyung came into his life. Plus, Jeongguk is a stupidly attractive guy and sweet when he wants to. Maybe he’s keeping things vague, not wanting to talk about his past escapades or relationships in front of everyone, especially considering his boss is sitting at the table.

“See, that reminds me of something,” Taehyung’s dad starts then, speaking for the first time in a while. All eyes at the table move to him as he adds, “The other night, on Tuesday, I dropped by Jeongguk’s on my way back from the office. I had had a late night, so it was a bit later in the night, at ten or something.”

Taehyung tenses up a little as he hears that. Tuesday night was the last he had seen of Jeongguk before tonight, when the two of them had met up at Jeongguk’s for a hookup. He dropped by after eating dinner by himself, and was back home just after ten. Considering the ride between his and Jeongguk’s is not too long, he didn’t run straight into his dad for a matter of mere minutes, he calculates.

“After I parked, I saw someone come out of the building, but I didn’t think much of it. It was dark and I couldn’t see them well, but it’s a big building complex so it could have been a neighbor. I didn’t pay them much attention,” his father continues. Taehyung’s fists clench lightly on his lap, but he still gives his dad the best faux-interested smile he can manage. “The doorman let me in downstairs, so when I get to Jeongguk’s apartment and ring the bell, right before he opens he’s saying something along the lines of, oh, so you’re back already. As soon as he opened the door, his face went bright red and he started apologizing saying he thought I was someone else, so I assume he thought I was the person I saw leaving.”

Taehyung’s mother lets out a shriek then, at the same time Ms. Jang asks, “Now, I didn’t know about that.” Taehyung, who’s still feeling somewhat shaken up after finding out how close they were to being discovered by his dad, can’t help but flash a little grin at how hard Jeongguk is blushing right now. His mother asks, “Who was that you had over?”

“Mom,” Jeongguk complains, giving her a pointed look. His eyes say so much—from I’m twenty-three and I don’t need to tell you to please, let it go, including the classic not now.  Ms. Jang doesn’t budge though, insisting yet again, so Jeongguk just says, “It was no one.”

“No one?” asks Taehyung, teasing. When Jeongguk’s eyes meet his thereʼs a split second of panic, where Jeongguk interrogates him with his eyes and asks him what the fuck he’s doing. Taehyung felt tense at first, thinking maybe his father recognized him from a distance, but now that the attention is away from him, he’s getting brave again. For that reason, he asks, “What do you mean no one?”

All eyes are on Jeongguk, so Taehyung allows himself a small smirk. Jeongguk’s reply comes after a beat of silence, when he says, “No one. It was something casual,” he replies, almost in a mumble. His voice grows a little louder when he says, “Unimportant.”

Upon hearing the words, Taehyung’s smile starts slowly melting off his face. From the corner of his eye, he sees Jeongguk’s mother make a gesture, rolling her eyes before she calls Jeongguk out in a scolding tone. Taehyung isn’t too focused on her, though, more so paying attention to the ugly feeling that starts spreading across his chest now. It’s something akin to hurt, maybe a little disappointment with some humiliation sprinkled in. Because he knows it’s casual, and he knows this is not something either of them feels like sharing with their families, but it still feels bad. Even if it’s just sex, there’s something ugly about being called unimportant to his face.

Conversation stirs away from the topic eventually, and Taehyung quickly gets over it and starts laughing away with everyone else, acting as if nothing happened. They’re dining at Ms. Jang’s tonight, and so once they’re done eating she stands to start clearing the table, with the rest mimicking her, offering help no matter how badly she tries to decline. Taehyung finds himself carrying the last batch of glasses to the kitchen, finding Jeongguk busy loading the dishwasher as both their parents and Miyoung animatedly chat in the kitchen. Taehyung leaves the glasses on the counter, as close to Jeongguk as he can manage. The sound of the glass against the marble counter makes Jeongguk’s eye raise from his task, a fleeting smile appearing on his lips.

“Hey,” he greets, his voice significantly lower than usual. Just from that, Taehyung knows the direction the conversation is going to take.

“Hey,” he says back, short. He’s still feeling a bit bitter over Jeongguk’s comment earlier. He’s not mad, and he’s certainly not sad. Those adjectives are far too strong for what he’s feeling right now. He’s aware it’s not that serious, but he still thinks he can allow himself to feel a bit petty about Jeongguk’s words.

“That wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating,” Jeongguk says then, standing upright as one of the corners of his mouth tilts into a little smile. Taehyung rests his hip against the counter and presses his lips together, not allowing himself to acknowledge how terribly boyish and charming Jeongguk looks right now. There’s something about the smile, about the way the soft fabric of his thin jumper is rolled up on his sleeves as he takes care of the dirty dishes. But Taehyung isn’t looking, nope. “Was it?”

“It was nice, yeah. It’s just family, after all,” Taehyung says. He’s never been one to lie to his family. Most people his age are guilty of, if not lying, keeping some stuff from their parents. Stuff that they don’t need to know, like parties and sex, and all the alcohol consumed. So even if he doesn’t lie to his family, he’s just as good as any other twenty-something-year-old at keeping stuff from them. And Jeongguk must be the same. “I wasn’t expecting it to be hard.”

“Maybe not you, but I was,” Jeongguk says then, smile turning into a bit of a goofier now. Taehyung keeps a straight face. “You okay?”

“I’m okay. Just tired—had a bit of a long day,” he explains, to which Jeongguk hums and nods. “Why?”

“I was just wondering,” Jeongguk replies, with a shrug. Thereʼs a beat of silence between the two of them, during which Taehyung can hear his sister’s laughter ringing in his ears all the way from the dining room. Jeongguk’s eyes find Taehyung’s then, as he asks, “You don’t happen to want to come over tonight, do you?”

Taehyung’s days of arguing with Jeongguk almost non-stop and trying to pick arguments are now gone, something that he finds himself happy about. Still, heʼs reminded of them right at this moment, when he can’t bring himself to stop before saying, “I don’t think I’m going to. Since I’m so unimportant and all.”

Jeongguk’s first reaction is shock, his eyes widening a little at the same time his lips part. He tilts his head to the right, not tearing his gaze away from Taehyung’s as he says, “Tae…”

He’s about to say something else, probably say he didn’t mean it and that he was trying to get a reaction from Taehyung—probably trying to wipe away his smirk now that Taehyung thinks about it. And Taehyung, who isn’t really mad and finds himself being a lot weaker than he ever remembers in the past, will say that it’s alright and forget all about it, because he knows there’s no real intention or harm behind Jeongguk’s words. He just wanted to tease him, even if Taehyung still thinks his word choice might have been a bit shit.

And after that happens, Taehyung will allow the arm that Jeongguk is snaking above the counter to wrap around him, and will let Jeongguk give him a kiss on the lips, or jaw or cheek that he knows is a promise for something else later. A promise that he’ll take him home with him, and that heʼll end up tangled in his sheets, and Taehyung will happily accept.

Or at least, that’s what he was planning on doing. But then, Miyoung’s voice interrupts.

“Taehyung! What are you doing?” she calls, voice getting closer with each word. She’s clearly walking down the corridor and towards the kitchen, towards them.

“Helping Jeongguk with the dishwasher,” Taehyung says, his eyes still on Jeongguk’s, who looks like a deer caught in headlights. Taehyung quickly reaches for a couple of glasses from the counter and takes them, taking a step back. Jeongguk is a little slower, but he mimics Taehyung’s action, moving closer to the dishwasher.

“What’s taking you two so long?” she asks at the same time she appears from the corridor, crossing her arms over her chest. She gives them both a look as she leans against the frame of the door, then adds, “Men truly are useless.”

“And you’re such a little shit. At least we’re not just chatting away and sneaking away from work,” Taehyung says, making her laugh. The truth is that Miyoung was willing to help him when he last left the dining room, but he told her it wouldn’t be necessary, and that he had it under control for now.

“This is no way to speak to your elders, miss,” Jeongguk adds then, from where he’s standing behind Taehyung. “I wonder how your dad would feel about you talking like this to your seniors.”

“He’d probably give me a pat on the back for keeping both of you on your toes,” Miyoung says, smiling a little as she tucks a strand of dark hair behind her ear. Taehyung snorts a little. “He’s my dad, Jeongguk, not yours. I’ve got privileges.”

At that, Taehyung can’t help but laugh and start walking towards Miyoung, giving a light squeeze to her shoulder when he reaches. “Come on, you warrior. Give him a break,” he says, stealing a glance at Jeongguk whoʼs still standing in the middle of the kitchen. His eyebrows are raised, but he’s sporting a smile that lets Taehyung know he took no offense to Miyoung’s cheeky attitude.

After that Taehyung drags Miyoung to the living room, where their parents and Ms. Jang have moved to now. It takes a couple of minutes for Jeongguk to join them once everything is done in the kitchen, but when he does so, he takes a seat next to Taehyung on the couch. Taehyung turns around a little, stealing a quick look at Jeongguk, only to find Jeongguk’s eyes already on him. He wiggles his eyebrows once, asking a question, and even if there are no words exchanged between them, Taehyung knows what it means. He nods once, confirming.

Looks like he’s going to be making a stop before going home tonight.

 

 

There are some times in life when someone has to bite the bullet and take the first step when pursuing something. Some of those times are actually relevant aspects of life, determinant for either their career or personal life. Some others are more so hedonistic occasions, based on a whim or a pleasure that despite not being necessary, is what someone wants.

Taehyung finds himself feeling lonely on a Saturday night, and therefore, he decides he wants some company. But it’s not Jimin’s company that he wants, or even Seokjin’s; what he’s craving isn’t really friendly chatter, or laughing until he’s out of breath and his tummy hurts. He has a craving inside of him, a craving that feels like a fireball in the pit of his stomach, asking him to reach out to the one person that he knows could satisfy it right now. And that is no other than Jeon Jeongguk.

Over the course of the last few weeks things have been like this between them. They call each other when they’re horny, they fuck, and then they go on with their lives. They’re both adults, and as such, they have certain needs, Taehyung has never been one to do fuck buddies before, but now that he has this… thing going on with Jeongguk, he can see why friends with benefits was so popular among his friends back in college. It’s fast and convenient; easier and safer than a hookup, but also a lot less complicated than a relationship. There are no strings between the two of them, other than the sexual encounters, and both of them know where they stand with each other. It’s easy, and Taehyung likes easy. Taehyung can do easy. 

Tonight, Taehyung feels a little different, though. He doesn’t feel like just asking Jeongguk to come over, even if he knows that a simple text or call would be more than enough to ensure Jeongguk would be at his front door within fifteen minutes. There’s something that has been playing around his mind for the last couple of weeks, based on a sudden memory of something Jeongguk said many, many years ago.

He hasn’t had the courage to execute his plan yet, but the truth is that thereʼs a pair of black stockings hidden in one of Taehyung’s drawers, still waiting to be opened and worn. Just the thought of putting them on has Taehyung’s face feeling warm, as he’s never done anything like this before; not with Seungjin, and not with any of the other people he had previously been with. The thought had never crossed his mind, which is why he was so surprised when he found himself wanting to dress up for Jeongguk.

He bites down on his bottom lip, clenches his fist and gives himself a second to ponder. He has nothing to lose after all; maybe a lot of his dignity if Jeongguk’s tastes have changed a lot in the last few years and he’s not really into it anymore. But what if he likes it, though? Taehyung feels like it could really spice things up, and that’s something he’d like to test out. The more they have sex and the more they know each other’s boundaries and turn ons, the better it gets; adding something to the mix that Jeongguk could possibly be crazy about would just make it even better for both of them.

It’s precisely that fact that makes him think, fuck it. He doesn’t give himself enough time to regret it, immediately making his way to the bedroom area of the loft and starting to shed his comfy clothes away. He opens his drawer and gets the stockings from there, ripping the little cardboard packaging. They feel foreign on his legs as he rolls them up, as he’s never put tights or stockings on, but it’s not an unpleasant sensation in the slightest. Once that’s done, he stands up and looks at himself in the mirror, turning around to see how he looks. The stockings are black and go all the way up to the upper part of his thigh. The top of them is decorated with a flowery, lacey pattern, which Taehyung finds pretty, a little daring. There’s something incredibly flustering about seeing himself in something like this, but he doesn't think he looks… bad? He’d even go as far as to say that his legs look sexy, even if that makes him embarrassed to admit.

“God, what the fuck am I doing,” he mutters under his breath, moving to the kitchen area of the loft again. The stockings are slippery as he walks, so he makes sure to be extra careful to avoid falling and possibly hurting himself. What he’s trying to get out of this is an extra good fuck, not an unexpected trip to the hospital.

He picks the nicest bottle of red wine that he can find in the kitchen, even if he’s hoping that Jeongguk won’t pay much attention to the bottle and rather focuses on him, on his legs. Once that’s done, he makes his way back to the bedroom area and sits on the bed, placing the bottle between his legs. He opens his phone, goes to the camera and points it down to the lower half of his body, angling it and lifting his legs off the leg as he snaps a few pictures. He makes sure to capture the top of the stockings with the lacey detail, as he’s sure Jeongguk would appreciate the detailing. 

Just looking at the pictures that he’s taken makes him a little shy, but he forces himself to push that away; he’s already done all of this, so he’s not going to back away now. After deciding which of the pictures he likes better, he clicks on the share option, finds Jeongguk’s chat—which is, embarrassingly enough, pretty much at the top, right under Jimin’s—and sends it, accompanied by a message that reads waiting for you. And then, with his face red and hot like itʼs never been before, he locks his phone and throws it to the opposite side of the bed, waiting until he gets a reply.

The good part is that it doesn’t take too long for him to get a notification. And it’s not one—his screen lights up and the phone vibrates once, then another, and then another. The bad part is that, as soon as he reaches for his phone and checks the source of all the notifications, he discovers they aren’t from Jeongguk but Jimin instead.

Now, it’s not weird for Jimin to text him, and it’s also not weird for him to send a thousand messages instead of a big one. The reason why Taehyung frowns is because of the content of said messages. Messages like TAEHYUNG, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, ????? or REPLY TO ME RIGHT NOW. All of those make Taehyung waste no time before he’s unlocking his phone and checking Jimin’s chat, trying to see if there is some sort of context that heʼs missed. And once he does that, he suddenly understands the reason behind Jimin’s freak out.

There, staring at him in an almost mocking way, is his picture. The one he took mere minutes ago, with his legs and the bottle of red wine squished between them. He feels his face get impossibly hot as he reads over his own words, words that were meant for Jeongguk. He must have accidentally selected Jimin’s chat instead of Jeongguk’s while sharing the picture, given that Jimin’s was right above. Before he has the time to properly process that he’s sent a thirst trap to his friend and employee, fuck, the screen changes as Jimin calls him. Taehyung, still in too much shock to decline the call and hide himself under his bed and never, ever come back, immediately picks up.

What the fuck, Taehyung?” is the first thing Taehyung hears after he picks up.

“I got confused,” Taehyung explains, glad that Jimin can’t see his face right now. He’s already mortified enough, he doesn’t need Jimin to be able to read the pure embarrassment and humiliation on his face right now. “I meant to send that to someone else.”

I mean, I figured that much. Oh my god, were those—oh my god,” he says, interrupting himself before saying the word stockings. Jimin laughs a little then, and Taehyung buries himself a little further against the pillows on his bed. God, this can’t be happening. “Who was it for? Let me guess—Jeongguk?

It was embarrassing enough that Jimin saw the picture that Taehyung accidentally sent, but what’s making it even worse is the fact that Jimin was able to read him so fast, and figure out instantly who the picture was meant for. Not that there is someone else in Taehyung’s life right now that he could be sending suggestive pictures to, but still.

“Well, yeah,” Taehyung says, reaching up to catch a strand of hair between his fingers, nervously playing with it. “I’m so sorry you had to see that. Can you pretend you never got that message?”

Relax, relax, I don’t mind,” Jimin says, laughing. Taehyung’s lips involuntarily jut out into a pout, because he does care. Jimin doesn’t seem to mind too much, like he said, and by the sound of it, he’s more amused by the whole situation than anything else. Taehyung, on the other hand, feels mortified right now. “I will delete it as soon as we hang up.”

“Thank you so much,” Taehyung says, feeling a little relieved. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not too bad since it’s just his legs. He could have sent something much more explicit, but it’s the stockings that make him feel so fucking embarrassed. “And don’t tell anyone at the office.”

Taehyungie! I wouldn’t do that,” Jimin says, sounding mildly offended that Taehyung would even suggest he’d do something like that. The truth is that it’s hard for him to imagine that Jimin would turn this into some sort of office gossip, as now he’s more his friend than his subordinate. He doesn’t think Jimin would ever break his trust like that but he wanted to make sure. “I have one question, though.

“What is it?” Taehyung asks, hoping that Jimin doesn’t directly address the stockings. That would be the cherry on top, honestly.

You’re putting waaaay too much effort into something so casual,” Jimin says, making Taehyung frown a little. “Are you sure that’s all it is? Maybe I’m just super fucking vanilla, but I don’t know. Aren’t fuck buddies just meant to do the deed and that’s it? No dressing up, or kinky shit.”

“I—I don’t know? Do they?” Taehyung asks, hesitant. “I’ve never had one. It’s not weird to dress up, right? It’s just stockings, after all.”

I’m just asking. Iʼve never had one either…” Jimin tells him. Taehyung hums. “So have you discussed that with him?

“Not really, I just wanted to surprise him. He mentioned it in passing once, but we didn’t properly talk about it,” Taehyung says, scratching his nape. He can’t help but wonder if maybe he is indeed putting far too much effort into something that was meant to be casual and easy, and therefore ruining it. He bites down on his bottom lip. “It’s not weird, right?”

What? The stockings?” Jimin asks. Taehyung hums. “Nah, I don’t think so. I think theyʼre hot. I didn’t know you had sexy legs, Taehyungie. You keep them hidden under those horrid loose pants.”

“Jimin!” Taehyung exclaims, making Jimin laugh on the other end. “First of all, leave my clothing choices alone. I don’t like tight things. And second of all—don’t say that ever again.”

My bad, my bad,” Jimin says, still laughing a little. “I’m gonna hang up now, okay? But you better expect me to bring this up tomorrow.”

“Of course,” Taehyung says, rolling his eyes a little. There’s no bite behind the gesture, though. “Just wait until we're out for lunch. I don’t want anyone overhearing my escapades..”

Got it,” Jimin chuckles. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Tae. Don’t have too much fun tonight.

“See you, Jimin. And don’t worry—I won’t,” he says.

They both say their goodnights then, hanging up at the same time. Taehyung lets out a sigh at that, staring down at his chat with Jimin, still surprised he made such a mistake. He’s twenty-five, Jesus; he’s sexted before, especially during the time when he and Seungjin were apart, and he never made such a mistake before. He guesses the first time had to come eventually.

For a moment there, he considers resending the picture to Jeongguk, with the exact same caption, finally putting an end to what he started. But then Jimin’s words resonate in his mind, about how maybe he was making too much effort, and then he regrets it. Without much of a second thought, he takes off the stockings and shoves them to the back of his bottom drawer, almost as if the mere sight of them was shameful.

He doesn’t know what he was thinking, he concludes as he changes back into his pajamas. All of this was clearly a mistake.

 

 

A little less than a week goes by since the stockings incident took place, and by this point Taehyung is pretty sure that he’s past everything related to it. Jimin didn’t bring it up again after the following day at work, when he teased him some more and told him it was a nice picture again, making Taehyung groan in embarrassment. The thought of putting the stockings on again didn’t cross his mind, and he didn’t have to see them in his socks drawer, as he made sure to hide them as far back as possible.

That’s why he’s so surprised when he gets a text from Jeongguk the following Thursday, one that reads, What’s this I hear about you sending suggestive photos to Jimin in sexy outfits that I’ve never seen before? The moment he reads it, Taehyung freezes, having to go over it again before everything clicks. Once it does, he feels his eyes widen as his thumbs start quickly typing a reply.

 

How do you know about that?!??!

 

For a moment, he wonders if Jimin got in touch with Jeongguk, but he quickly discards the idea. Jimin and Jeongguk haven’t ever spoken, aside from the occasions where they met while in Taehyung’s presence. The idea of the two of them having some sort of secret friendship that they’re trying to keep from Taehyung seems unlikely, and to be fair, Taehyung doubts Jimin even has his number. Jeongguk must have found out through someone else, but who?

His question is answered soon after that, when Jeongguk replies to his text less than a minute after Taehyung sent it.

 

Seokjin told me lol

Jimin told him

So what’s with the outfit?

 

Taehyung lets out a grumble when he reads the messages. At some point, Taehyung decided to introduce Jimin and Seokjin because he thought the two of them would get along wonderfully. And Taehyung was right—they’ve hung out together, all three of them a handful of times now. Jimin and Seokjin are becoming close friends, and of course they talk without Taehyung being involved. When he saw how good their friendship was, Taehyung couldn’t help but congratulate himself for it, but now a minuscule part of him is regretting it. The same part that can’t believe Jimin told Seokjin and Seokjin told Jeongguk, out of all people.

 

It wasn’t even an outfit

Don’t get too excited

Still

Too late

I’m already extremely excited

 

Taehyung takes a deep breath as he reads Jeongguk’s words, closes his eyes and thinks. After sending the pictures to Jimin he was so profusely embarrassed that he threw the entire idea away, deciding it would have been better if he didn’t do anything. But now Jeongguk already knows, he might as well… show him? He still has the pictures saved on his phone, so… Jimin did say that the pictures were nice and sexy and Jeongguk would be a fool if he wasn’t completely over the moon about them. 

He might regret it later if Jeongguk doesn’t react in the way that he’s expecting him to, but Taehyung thinks he’s going to take the risk. He goes to his gallery, finds the picture that he likes, and sends it to Jeongguk. This time around, he makes extra sure that it’s Jeongguk that he’s sending this to—not Jimin, not Seokjin, not any client or any family member. Jeongguk.

He sends it and then waits. Except he doesn’t have to wait for too long, because it’s around thirty seconds later that Jeongguk is replying to him.

 

Fuck

Put those back on

I’m coming over

 

Taehyung feels his stomach twist at the words, biting down on his bottom lip as he reads them. He wasn’t expecting Jeongguk—or anyone for that matter—tonight, but luckily he doesn’t have much to do in order to get himself ready for his visit. He’s still wearing his clothes from work so he takes his slacks and socks off and leaves his big, oversized shirt. The stockings are a bit hard to find in the messiness of his drawer, but luckily he ends up finding both pieces and putting them on. The length of his shirt covers the top of the stockings, which is Taehyung’s absolute favorite part, but this will do. He’s not going to open the door in his underwear and stockings, of course, so if Jeongguk wants to see the lace he can take the shirt off him. Taehyung is pretty sure it would be coming off anyway. 

Jeongguk gets there fast, before fifteen minutes go by. Taehyung buzzes him in and waits by the door, resolving he won’t even pretend to not be waiting by the door when Jeongguk presses the doorbell. After all, Jeongguk’s speed at getting there is a sign of how much he wants this right now, so he’s not going to try to hide how badly he needs it as well. There’s something about having the stockings on that makes him feel sexy, which added to Jeongguk’s reaction of obvious desire is making him feel in the mood. Taehyung bounces on the balls of his feet as he waits and, once the doorbell rings, almost jumps in anticipation as he reaches to open. 

Taehyung has been kissed hungrily before in his life, and many of those times by Jeongguk. The occasions where theyʼve made out or had sex have been more often than not fast-paced, almost desperate, so Taehyung is used to the feeling of Jeongguk’s needy mouth on his, of his desperate hands on his body. However, he’s still taken aback when Jeongguk throws himself at him as soon as he opens the door, arms instantly curling around his hips. Taehyung makes a surprised noise against his mouth, at the same his arms curl around Jeongguk’s neck, but he’s not displeased. Quite the opposite, actually. He can feel how much Jeongguk wants him right now, and that makes him feel good.

Without his lips letting go of Taehyung’s, Jeongguk kicks the front door closed. Taehyung starts walking backwards then, tugging at Jeongguk’s neck and trying to guide him towards the bedroom. Jeongguk knows the way, to be fair; he’s been here a few times now, most of them to do exactly what they’re doing right now. With how many times they’ve made their way to Taehyung’s bed like this, kissing and tangled in each other’s arms, he can probably walk around the apartment with his eyes closed just as well as Taehyung.

They lose no time getting to the bed, where Taehyung ends up sprawled out on the middle of the mattress. His eyes are fixed on Jeongguk’s, who presses his palms to the inside of Taehyung’s legs, parting them.

“You look so fucking sexy like this,” Jeongguk tells him, the first eloquent thing either of them has said ever since Taehyung opened the door. Taehyung swallows down thickly, feeling himself grow hotter under the intensity of Jeongguk’s gaze. “God, your legs. Makes me wanna eat you all up.”

Taehyung can’t help but laugh at that, reaching for Jeongguk and hooking his fingers around the collar of his jumper. He brings them in for another kiss, arching off the bed in order to press his body closer against Jeongguk’s while their mouths move together. Jeongguk’s hands are still on him, gripping tightly at his clad thighs. If Taehyung was already liking the way that the stockings felt on his legs before, now that he’s got Jeongguk feeling them up like this, he likes how they feel even more. It’s driving him fucking crazy.

“Thought maybe you’d like it,” Taehyung says, words muffled against Jeongguk’s lips. Jeongguk seems to understand as he hums affirmatively. “I was expecting you to find me so irresistible you couldn’t help yourself and would come over here and fuck me, so I’m happy that it worked.” His words come out teasing, smug. 

“You’re such a menace,” Jeongguk says, although it doesn’t seem like he’s complaining in the slightest. Actually, it seems like he’s rather pleased with Taehyung’s menacing ways. “Well, it worked. I’m here, and I really wanna fuck you.”

“Then do it,” Taehyung says, starting to feel himself harden against Jeongguk’s body. He can also feel Jeongguk’s semi-erection pressed up against his thigh, so it’s safe to assume both are on the exact same page. “Really, really want you to fuck me.”

“I want to do something first, though,” Jeongguk says, words uttered against Taehyung’s jaw as he moves to kiss down it, making his way to Taehyung’s neck then. Taehyung lets out a breathy sigh, throwing his head back against the mattress as his legs tighten around Jeongguk’s body. “Will you let me?”

“Depends,” Taehyung says while Jeongguk nibbles at his collarbone, his fingers moving to the front of Taehyung’s shirt, fumbling with the buttons. He pops open the ones on top, moving to work his mouth on Taehyungʼs shoulder as he asks, “What is it?”

“I want to eat you out,” Jeongguk says, Taehyung letting out a sound at the words. Jeongguk moves his hands up then, squeezing the upper part of Taehyung’s thighs which are still bare. It’s not his ass but it’s close, so Taehyung interprets it as emphasis for what he’s just said. “Can I?”

“Fuck, yeah,” Taehyung says, breathing heavily under Jeongguk’s body. He hasn’t had this for months, fuck. It feels like ages since someone last ate his ass, and for some reason he wasn’t expecting Jeongguk to ask. The offer comes as a surprise, but a good one—the kind that has his dick twitching inside his underwear, both jolting in anticipation. “Yes, yes, you can.”

“Good,” Jeongguk says, detaching himself from Taehyung’s body. The sudden lack of proximity confuses Taehyung, but then Jeongguk says, “Get on all fours then.”

Taehyung is quick to oblige, but he does steal a kiss from Jeongguk before he gets on all fours. By now he’s not shy about Jeongguk seeing him naked anymore, so he doesn’t even flinch or try to hide his face when he feels Jeongguk kneel behind him, hooking his fingers in the waistband of his underwear. The garment is quickly taken off his body, Taehyung lifting his left knee first and then his right so Jeongguk can properly get rid of it, throwing it to the floor. His shirt is still hanging off his body now, and he can feel Jeongguk devour him with his eyes as he stays there, on his hands and knees.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Jeongguk says then, one of his hands reaching and gripping at his leg. He gives a squeeze to Taehyung’s thigh, exactly on the lacey bit right at the top of the stocking. Taehyung must have been right when he made the wild guess that Jeongguk would enjoy the detail, or at least that’s what he gathers from the way Jeongguk traces his finger over the lace. “Can’t wait to get my mouth on you.”

“Then do it now,” Taehyung says, looking over his shoulder to steal a look at Jeongguk. When he first looks, Jeongguk’s eyes are still fixed on his body, but it’s a matter of seconds before he averts his gaze and meets Taehyung’s gaze. “Give me what I want.”

“If you wanted me to eat you out you could have just asked me, you know,” Jeongguk says, laughing a little. Taehyung scoffs and looks ahead again, parting his legs a little further as if that would lure Jeongguk in. “Needy little thing.”

“I like it better when it’s you asking for stuff,” Taehyung says, unable to bite his tongue. It’s then that Jeongguk delivers a quick, soft slap to his ass. “Hey!”

“Don’t get too cheeky,” Jeongguk says, moving both of his hands to Taehyung’s ass and spreading his cheeks apart. Taehyung groans a little at the feeling, ignoring the need to buck his hips. “Have I told you that you’re so fucking hot?”

“Like, three minutes ago,” Taehyung says, unable to keep a small smile off his lips as he replies. “You can tell me again if you want. I like compliments.”

Taehyung doesn’t know what to expect from that—either another compliment from Jeongguk or another slap to his ass. Both would be very much welcomed, to be fair, so he’s not complaining. What he for sure wasn’t expecting was for Jeongguk to duck down then, leaning forward and giving a lick to his ass, all the way from his balls to his hole. A sound of pleasure gets caught in Taehyung’s throat, who can’t help but clench his fists around the bedsheets.

“Oh, fuck,” he says, eyes closing as he feels Jeongguk’s hands knead the flesh of his ass again. When another lick doesn’t come, Taehyung urges, “Again.”

Jeongguk hums, but he doesn’t reply other than that. Instead, he spreads Taehyung’s ass apart again and leans forward, giving another lick. It starts off as tentative, but this time around Jeongguk doesn’t pull back as fast as he did before. Instead, he circles his tongue around Taehyung’s sensitive entrance, almost teasing. Taehyung wants more—wants Jeongguk to bury his face in there, fuck him with his tongue until he’s a writhing mess on the bed. For that reason, he can’t help but push his hips back a little, pressing himself further against Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk hums at that, which has Taehyung moaning in return.

“Fuck, yes,” Taehyung says when he feels Jeongguk swirl his tongue around his hole, eyes closing as he frowns a little. He arches his back, holding his breath. “Your tongue feels so fucking good, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk doesn’t reply with words, but the way in which he keeps eating out Taehyung with abandon is enough of an answer. Taehyung can tell that he’s not the only one getting off to this; Jeongguk’s tongue is insistent and so good and it’s driving him crazy, especially when he pushes it inside, making Taehyung let out a broken moan.

The thing is, Taehyung has always loved to be eaten out. It feels so fucking good, but also makes him feel vulnerable and exposed and he gets off on that. It’s impossible for him to not keep moving his hips, driving them back against Jeongguk’s mouth in an attempt to get him deeper, fuck. But then Jeongguk is moving his hands from Taehyung’s ass cheeks to either side of his hips, gripping tightly and holding him in place, and Taehyung fucking loves that. Jeongguk knows it, of course—there is no way it was an accident.

Taehyung is so painfully hard now, his cock twitching as it stands against his abdomen. Jeongguk’s tongue is still working wonders on him, alternating between circling around his rim and pushing inside, making Taehyung bury his head between his arms. It feels so fucking good that he feels like he’s going to start shaking any time now, pleasured and loud sounds moving from the depth of his chest.

“Such a good fucking ass,” Jeongguk tells him when he pulls back, moving a little so he can bite the flesh of one of Taehyung’s ass cheeks. It’s not too hard or painful, but the sensation goes straight to Taehyung’s cock, making him let out a moan as he fruitlessly tries to thrust his hips against air. “So desperate to have something big and filling inside of you, aren’t you?”

“Yes, fuck—I want your cock,” Taehyung says then, feeling his face heat up more. By now, he should be used to this, how dirty Jeongguk’s mouth gets when they fuck. He says obscenities to Taehyung that never fail to make his face feel warm, a little in embarrassment and a little in desire. He wonders at what point the two of them started knowing each other so well sexually, because the truth is that right now Jeongguk knows how to press—almost—all of his buttons. “Want you to fuck me so, so bad.”

“That’s right,” Jeongguk says, kneeling up behind him again. Taehyung lets out a sound in protest, as he’s pretty sure this means Jeongguk won’t eat him out anymore. Jeongguk delivers a sharp slap to his ass, one that has Taehyung letting out a gasp as Jeongguk says, “You’re going to ride me.”

Taehyung moans at that, nodding. He’s about to reply with something else—add some eloquence to his reply other than a pleasured sound, but it’s then that Jeongguk moves his hand from his asscheek to his crack, brushing one of his fingers over the rim. Taehyung’s rim is still wet from Jeongguk’s spit so it doesn’t feel uncomfortable when he slowly drags the pad of his finger against his entrance, not applying too much pressure or pushing in. It’s not much, but still enough to make Taehyung’s mouth fall open into a silent moan, body tensing as he waits for Jeongguk to do more.

“Please,” is all he says. It’s all he needs—Jeongguk knows what he’s asking for.

“Gonna get the lube,” Jeongguk says, moving away from him and reaching for the bedside table.

Taehyung nods, then he moves off his hands and knees. His hands resume the work Jeongguk started earlier, undoing the buttons of his shirt which is still closed and taking it off his body. He then turns to Jeongguk, who now has a small bottle of lube in his hands and is back to looking at him.

“Come here,” Taehyung says, taking the bottle from his hands and discarding it next to himself on the bed. He then grabs Jeongguk’s jumper, holding the hem of it, starting to lift it over Jeongguk’s head before he quickly throws it to the floor along with his own shirt. He lets himself stare a little, eyes wandering down the perfect expanse of skin right in front of him. It always gets to him how fucking hot and sexy Jeongguk’s body is, and so he lets him stare a little before he goes for the button of his jeans. “I want to see you, too.”

“Come on then, pretty,” Jeongguk tells him. Taehyung smiles a little, his eyes fleetingly leaving Jeongguk’s crotch to meet his eyes. “Undress me.”

So Taehyung does just that. He takes off Jeongguk’s jeans and his boxers, and then, because he can’t help himself, wraps a hand around his hard cock and jerks him off a little, all the while pressing lewd kisses against the column of his neck. Eventually, he decides he’s had enough and presses his palm flat against Jeongguk’s chest, making him sit on the bed, straddling him.

“Are you gonna let me finger you now, hm?” Jeongguk asks, his tone teasing as he arches one eyebrow at Taehyung.

But Taehyung shakes his head, getting the bottle of lube in one of his hands. “Nope,” he says, watching as Jeongguk’s expression turns into a bit of a puzzled one. He uncaps the bottle and squirts lube on his left palm, saying, “I’m going to finger myself.”

Jeongguk quickly gets his smile back—that smirk he now does, the one that makes Taehyung want to kiss him like crazy. At first he found it infuriating, but now it’s more… infuriatingly hot. Let’s just say that every time he sees it, Taehyung comes to the conclusion that he would very happily suck Jeongguk’s dick.

“And I’m gonna watch,” Jeongguk says, his hands going to each of Taehyung’s thighs as Taehyung coats the fingers of his right hand with lube.

“And you’re gonna watch, yes,” he confirms. Smiling a little, he tilts his head to the right and says, “Just to remind you of how hot I am.”

There is something so incredibly hot in the way Jeongguk always looks at him in times like this, looking like he’s quite literally going to devour him. This time, as Taehyung reaches behind himself and presses the pad of his middle finger against his still-wet hole, he feels that multiplied by a hundred. Jeongguk’s eyes are on him, his hands are gripping Taehyung’s thighs, and Taehyung is sure he’s never felt this badly wanted by anyone in his entire life. No one makes him feel the same way Jeongguk does.

Taehyung fingers himself under Jeongguk’s attentive gaze—first one finger, then two, then three. While he does so, bouncing on his own hand while still straddling Jeongguk’s lap, Jeongguk makes sure to whisper obscenities to him. Some words are of praise, but some others make Taehyung almost want to blush, thinking about finally, finally getting Jeongguk’s cock inside of him.

“Now,” he tells him, his body shuddering as he still has three of his fingers buried deep inside of him. “Now, Jeongguk. Want you now.”

“Fuck,” Jeongguk says. One of his hands is around his cock, stroking himself slowly as the other is still firmly pressed against Taehyung’s hand. When he hears Taehyung, he moves and reaches for the condom wrapper that he left on top of the bed earlier, wasting no time before ripping it open. “Can’t wait to have my cock inside you.”

“Can’t wait to have your cock inside me,” Taehyung repeats, moving his fingers inside of him again. His eyes close, brows furrowing in pleasure. “Hurry up.”

“Doing my best here,” Jeongguk says, at the same time he rolls the condom on his cock. He’s a bit clumsy today, but who isn’t when they’re as fucking turned on as the two of them are now? “Lube.”

“I have enough,” Taehyung says, but he still pushes the lube closer to Jeongguk. Jeongguk ignores him and squirts some more into his palm, coating his cock with it. “It’s gonna squelch so much.”

“That’s not a problem with me,” Jeongguk quickly dismisses, groaning a little at the feeling of his hand around his cock. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip as he stares, fantasizing about the feeling of it inside him. He’s had it in him a few times now, but the truth is that he really can’t get enough. “Come closer, baby.”

Taehyung’s stomach twists pleasantly when he hears the pet name, but he doesn’t think too much of it—he’s always had a thing for that kind of stuff, just like he’s always had a thing for praise. It’s not a big deal. He gets a little closer and lets Jeongguk’s hands go to his ass, palms greedily gripping both cheeks and spreading again. Taehyung smiles a little as he looks down at Jeongguk, then steals a kiss.

“Want you to fuck me so badly,” Taehyung says, now on Jeongguk’s lap. He moves his arm behind himself, blindly looking for Jeongguk’s cock. Once he finds it, he pumps it once, twice, then guides it to his entrance. When he feels the head press against his rim, he sighs, followed by a soft, “Fuck.”

“Come on, hyung,” Jeongguk says, giving a light squeeze to Taehyung’s ass. Taehyung moans a little. “Get my cock inside you.”

And really, Taehyung can’t wait. They both are so riled up now, so he decides it’s best to just do it and end both their suffering. He slowly sinks down on to Jeongguk’s cock, feeling every single inch of it go inside himself. His mouth falls open into a silent moan as he does so, only letting out a low groan when Jeongguk is all the way in.

“Good?” Jeongguk asks. Taehyung nods.

“Good,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk leans forward a little and kisses him, Taehyung happily reciprocating it. He lets his fingers tangle in Jeongguk’s hair while they kiss, giving himself time to adjust before he properly rides him. It’s less than a couple of minutes after that Taehyung pulls back, giving Jeongguk one final peck before he announces, “Gonna move.”

Jeongguk just nods, then lets Taehyung press him back against the mattress with one hand. Taehyung’s eyes don’t leave Jeongguk’s for one second as he places his hands on Jeongguk’s chest and then, at last, starts rolling his hips.

And really, they’ve had sex in a lot of ways. They’ve done doggy, they’ve done missionary, he’s had Jeongguk fuck him from behind standing, pressed against the wall with all of their clothes still on because they couldn’t bring themselves to wait any longer. But riding Jeongguk is still one of his favorites because it’s so fucking hot to see him beneath him like this. Jeongguk’s eyes eat him up like he’s a divine creature, and Taehyung doesn’t think he’s ever been as close to heaven as he is right now.

“So good inside me, Jeongguk,” he moans. He knows Jeongguk likes it when he tells him this—how good he’s fucking him, how big he feels inside, how much he loves to take his cock. Taehyung doesn’t shy away from it, feeling the way Jeongguk’s fingers tighten around his legs as he moans. “God, I—ah, fuck—love your fucking cock so much.”

It occurs to Taehyung, during times like this, that maybe the two of them are made for each other. Taehyung has never had anyone who can read him so well without him having to say anything, and Jeongguk has proven that before—both when it comes to sex and when it doesn’t. When Taehyung leans forward and is within Jeongguk’s reach, he extends his arm and wraps his fingers around the base of Taehyung’s neck, not squeezing but just holding there. Taehyung can’t help but moan, clenching around Jeongguk.

“So fucking dirty,” Jeongguk says, sporting that expression again—like he’s aware of what he’s doing to Taehyung, like he was precisely looking for this. “Show me what those hips can do, fuck yes. You’re so fucking good, Tae.”

And Taehyung moans. He moans and changes the rolls of his hips for bouncing, even if his thighs start to burn from the exertion soon after. He squeezes his eyes shut and throws his head back, Jeongguk’s hand moving to his shoulder and gripping tightly. He gets so loud that he’s pretty sure his neighbors can probably hear him, but he doesn’t care—right now, the only thing that he can bring himself to acknowledge is how fucking divine Jeongguk’s cock feels inside him.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Taehyung says. His words are slurred against each other, but he can’t bring himself to be coherent. He angles his hips then, and then the head of Jeongguk’s cock hits right against the spot where he wants him the most, and Taehyung lets out a loud cry. “O-oh fuck, Jeongguk. Right there, right there—fuck.”

“God, you’re so fucking loud,” Jeongguk says. This time around, when Taehyung slams his ass down on his cock, Jeongguk thrusts his hips up, making Taehyung let out yet another broken cry. Taehyung feels Jeongguk’s hand move, and so he opens his eyes right in time to make eye contact with Jeongguk as he presses two of his fingers against Taehyung’s closed lips, saying, “Suck.”

And Taehyung doesn’t even need to second-guess it—he parts his lips, allowing for Jeongguk to slide his index and middle finger inside his mouth, and starts sucking. He wants to feel Jeongguk so, so fucking deep in him, resorting back to circling his hips as Jeongguk tries to thrust inside. It’s messy and a bit erratic, but Taehyung doesn’t care. He’s so fucking close and Jeongguk is thrusting right against his prostate, and that’s enough. Like this, he’s going to come within minutes.

“You look so fucking stunning like this,” Jeongguk tells him, and Taehyung moans around his fingers. Moans because heʼs going to come so soon, moans because he wants to be beautiful for Jeongguk, moans because sucking on fingers is really fucking hot—especially if they’re Jeongguks. “Such a filthy thing, aren’t you, hyung? Need both of your holes to be filled.”

Taehyung moans again at that, feeling his arms fail him because fuck. He does feel dirty, but he likes it. And Jeongguk knows it. And, deep down, Taehyung knows that Jeongguk likes it as well.

Just like he anticipated, Taehyung doesn’t take too long to come after that. Every thrust of Jeongguk’s cock inside him brings him closer and closer to it, until he can’t stop himself any longer and reaches down for his own dick, starting to jerk himself off in fast motions. The combination of that and Jeongguk’s cock still buried deep inside him is enough to push him over the edge, making him come all over his stomach.

“Fuck—fuck, Jeongguk,” he says, hand still pumping his cock through his orgasm. He flutters his eyes open, just to find Jeongguk’s eyes looking at him and the come dripping down his abdomen. “Oh, my god.”

“I’m close,” Jeongguk announces. Taehyung whines a little, his entire body feeling sensitive. “Fuck, I—”

“Want you to come on my face,” Taehyung says then. Jeongguk’s words turn into a moan, not getting to finish his sentence. Before he can say anything else, Taehyung holds Jeongguk’s cock at the base and lifts himself off it, moving so he’s crawling on the bed. “Will you do that for me? Will you come all over me?”

“God, Taehyung—yes, yes I will,” Jeongguk says, peeling the condom off his cock as Taehyung moves a little closer to his cock. One of Jeongguk’s hands is stroking his own dick, fast and hard, the other is holding the back of Taehyung’s head. “So close.”

Taehyung feels his stomach twist in anticipation, watching how Jeongguk quickly pumps himself in fast motions. It’s less than a minute later that he lets out a loud moan, and Taehyung takes it as his cue to open his mouth, eyes falling closed. Jeongguk’s come falls all over his face—some landing on his tongue, but also some on his cheek, his eyelashes and even his hair. Taehyung waits until he feels nothing else come out and then licks around his mouth, gathering as much as he can. His eyes stay closed until he feels Jeongguk’s thumb softly wipe his own come away from Taehyung’s eye, making it safe for him to open them again.

“Fuck,” Jeongguk says, eyes boring into Taehyung’s. His thumb flickers down to Taehyung’s cheekbone, collecting some more of his load that was there. “God, you’re so—”

“Gimme,” Taehyung knows, holding Jeongguk’s wrist and bringing his hand to his mouth. Before Jeongguk has the time to reply or ask him what he’s doing, Taehyung opens his mouth and wraps his lips around Jeongguk’s thumb, licking his finger clean. He lets go of Jeongguk’s thumb once it’s free of come, then asks, “Dirty? Is that what you were gonna say?”

“I was gonna say you’re so amazing, actually,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung smiles because he has no reason to not believe in Jeongguk’s words. “And so fucking hot. I can’t believe you did this, I—I almost had a heart attack when I saw that picture, fucking hell.”

“That was the point, kind of,” Taehyung admits then, deviously. He uses the back of his hand to wipe away the come thatʼs still left on his face. “I remember you saying you liked that ages ago, so I wanted to… give you a surprise, I guess. I’m happy you liked it.”

“You’ve always had a crazy good memory,” Jeongguk says then, giving him a grin as well. He presses two of his fingers against Taehyung’s forehead then, rubbing little circles. “Come here. I wanna kiss you so fucking hard.”

“I think I should probably shower before your come dries in my hair, actually. I don’t think it would make a good hair mask,” Taehyung jokes, making Jeongguk snort a little before he bursts into laughter. “You’re invited to join me, though. If you’d like.”

Jeongguk reaches for Taehyung’s hand then, as he hums. He locks their fingers together and tugs Taehyung closer, giving him a soft kiss. Taehyung kisses him back, unable to keep a small smile off his mouth. “I think I like that suggestion,” Jeongguk says. “Don’t wanna go home all dirty like this.”

“Of course not,” Taehyung says. He lets Jeongguk give him another kiss, then another, then another. They get a little lost in each other’s lips, but before Taehyung can find himself getting too comfortable—and therefore, too lazy to move—he insists, “Come on. More kisses in the shower.”

Jeongguk groans, but he does let Taehyung get away from him, discarding the stockings before he starts walking towards the bathroom area. Jeongguk is quick to follow, gluing his chest to Taehyung’s back and kissing all over his shoulder and neck as the two of them wait for the water to be hot enough for them to get in the shower.

Taehyung did wonder, after Jimin brought it up, if he was putting too much effort into this. But seeing this, seeing the outcome and the fact that Jeongguk doesn’t seem to be able to stay away from his lips for more than ten seconds at a time, he doesn’t think it matters much. After all, it was worth it.

 

 

Something that Taehyung has learned about Jimin in the months they’ve known each other for is that he’s not one to get easily embarrassed most of the time. Sometimes compliments get him shy or even flustered, but most of the time, he’s quite a cheeky person. He’s also someone to be in control of social situations most of the time, often taking the initiative, so it’s not easy to get him flustered.

That’s the reason why, when one day the two of them are enjoying a warm drink during their lunch break and Jimin splutters on his coffee while looking at his phone, going into a coughing fit, Taehyung can’t help but be curious about what happened. His cheeks turn red as he tries to calm down his coughs, covering his mouth with one palm after locking his phone and leaving it on top of the table.

“What happened? Are you okay?” Taehyung asks, even if he knows Jimin can’t really reply right now. It could be that his face is flushed only because of the coughing, yes, but something tells Taehyung that that isn’t the case.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Jimin says as his coughing dies down, hitting his chest with his open palm a couple times. Taehyung looks at him expectantly, waiting for an answer to his other question. “Nothing happened.”

“Nothing?” Taehyung asks in disbelief. His profession, as well as his good social skills, have made him an expert at detecting lies. And now, Jimin has liar written all over his face. “Are you sure?”

Jimin’s phone conveniently pings then, the screen lighting up with a notification. Taehyung doesn’t mean to look, really, or to invade Jimin’s privacy. It’s just that the sound irremediably makes him look at the source, the phone, and once he does he sees Hoseok’s name pop up on the screen. He immediately tears his eyes away from the device before he can see anything else, looking at Jimin as he reads the text. He doesn’t really know what the two of them are talking about, but now Jimin’s flustered state makes a lot more sense.

“It’s nothing,” Jimin says. Then he sighs, opens his phone, stares at it for a second, then turns the screen around so Taehyung can see it. “Take a look for yourself, I guess.”

The first thing that Taehyung notices is that what he’s looking at is indeed Hoseok’s chat, so he was right in his guess that he’s the cause behind Jimin’s reaction. He doesn’t notice so because of the contact name at the top of the screen, though, but rather because there is a picture in the chat. A selfie, to be more specific. A shirtless selfie.

The selfie has a black and white filter over it, with Hoseok staring at the phone as it’s angled over his head. His hair is a bit disheveled and messy, and his expression is far sultrier than Taehyung has ever seen him look. Thereʼs a hint of abs—nothing too crazy, just the soft outline of them, which is to be expected considering how skinny he is, along with the fact that he’s a dancer.

The message under it, the one that made Jimin’s screen light up when Taehyung saw it, reads is this insta-friendly?, along with the emoji sticking its tongue out and rolling its eyes at the same time. Taehyung’s eyebrows raise.

“He’s flirting with you,” he deadpans. Jimin makes a choked out noise.

“No—no, he’s not,” he quickly denies, getting his phone back and looking at the screen again. “He’s just asking me to do my job.”

“Receiving his thirst traps isn’t your job, though,” Taehyung tells him, to which Jimin clicks his tongue. “He’s so flirting with you. I’ve seen you two before.”

“Seen us two?” Jimin asks, his tone almost panicked. Taehyung nods, humming. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I just get the feeling that you like him and that he likes you,” Taehyung says, studying Jimin’s face for a reaction. “Am I wrong?”

“We just get along well. I like working with him but that’s all,” Jimin says, looking down at the table. He clears his throat, then looks at Taehyung again. “That would be unprofessional of me.”

“I must have been wrong, then,” Taehyung says, with a shrug. Jimin nods. “Forget about it. What are you gonna say to the selfie?”

“I don’t know. I know his fans would like it, but I’m worried about what the general public might think. I’ll think about it,” he says, to which Taehyung hums. “Enough about him, though. I’m not about to spend all of my lunch break talking about work-related stuff.”

With that, the two of them drop the topic and entertain themselves talking about other stuff. However, even if they don’t discuss it anymore and Taehyung admitted to Jimin that maybe he was wrong, Taehyung is still convinced. Maybe Jimin is still afraid of admitting it, since Taehyung is his boss and he’s worried of what he might think.

He might be misinterpreting what he has considered to be signs, but by this point Taehyung is pretty much certain. There is something going on between the two of them.

 

 

Taehyung has grown accustomed to getting random calls and texts from Jeongguk, although they usually take place in the evening and mostly fall into the category of a booty call. Both of them are professionals and know better than to bring this—whatever it is, which Taehyung hasn’t yet figured out—into office hours, especially considering Jeongguk’s boss is none other than Taehyung’s father.

That’s the reason while Taehyung is so utterly shocked to see Jeongguk’s ID on the screen of his phone one morning, not too soon after he gets the office. For a second there he just stares, wondering why on earth Jeongguk would be calling him at ten in the morning, but he snaps out of his daze, rushing to pick up his phone.

“Hello?” Taehyung says as soon as he answers the phone, unable to keep some of his surprise away from his tone.

Hey! Good morning, Tae,” Jeongguk says from the other end. “How’s your morning?

“Fine but very uneventful so far,” Taehyung replies, leaning back on his chair as he crosses one leg over the other. “Yours?”

It’s been fine so far, yeah,” Jeongguk replies. Taehyung hums. “Look, I was wondering if you were available for grabbing some lunch later.

“For lunch?” Taehyung repeats after him. His eyebrows raise up his forehead, now even more shocked than when he simply saw Jeongguk was calling him. “You want us to grab lunch together?”

Well—that’s what I said, yeah,” Jeongguk says in return. “So… can you?

“Yeah! Yeah, I can,” Taehyung says, drumming the pads of his fingers against the surface of his desk. “So what is this? A lunch date?”

Jeongguk laughs at that, the sound coming out slightly distorted from Taehyung’s phone. “I want to talk to you about something related to your work, you know,” Jeongguk says, once again surprising Taehyung. Before Taehyung has the chance to ask more about that, Taehyung adds, “But a lunch date sounds nice. We haven’t done that yet. Or, well—we haven’t had any since the first one.”

“I will squeeze you into my very tight schedule, then,” Taehyung says, to which Jeongguk laughs again. “Can you come to the café by my office?”

Why is it always me moving for you?” Jeongguk asks, but something about his tone tells Taehyung that he’s not actually upset. “I’ll text you when I’m about to leave.”

“Fantastic. See you later, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung says.

See you later, Tae,” is the last thing Taehyung hears before pulling the screen away from his face and hanging up.

Having lunch with Jeongguk is the last thing that expected to happen today, but the truth is that he’s intrigued about what it might be that Jeongguk wants to talk to him about. It must be something important if he doesn’t want to discuss it over the phone, which only feeds his curiosity even more.

But he has work to do, and it won’t do itself if he keeps being distracted and thinking about Jeongguk. For that reason, he pushes all thoughts of him to the back of his mind and forces himself to focus. Whatever it is that Jeongguk wants, it can wait until lunch break comes.

 

 

Taehyung gets to the café before Jeongguk does, which is logical considering it’s right next to his office, but Jeongguk doesn’t take too long to arrive after he does. Taehyung feels his insides jump a little when he sees him walk in, wearing a suit and a pristine white shirt. By this point, one would think he’d be more than used to seeing Jeongguk in such attire, and therefore be unaffected, but that’s not the way it goes. Taehyung is starting to think the sight is always going to make his heart skip a beat, but hey—it’s not at all weird. He’s always liked his men in suits.

“Hey there,” Taehyung greets him once Jeongguk is close enough. “You got here fast.”

“It’s close,” Jeongguk says, almost as if Taehyung didn’t know where his dad’s office is. Maybe a couple months back Taehyung would have taken that the wrong way and started a fight, but now he just laughs. “Did you order already?”

“Yup. You should go do that now,” Taehyung suggests. “And then you tell me what you’ve been wanting to talk about. I’m intrigued, Jeongguk.”

“Let me do that, then,” Jeongguk says, taking a step backwards. “Also—it’s a favor I have to ask for?”

Taehyung’s eyebrows raise at that, asking Jeongguk with his eyes, a favor? He doesn’t reply, though, because Jeongguk is already walking away to the counter so he can order his food. Now that he doesn’t have work to worry about, though, Taehyung lets himself wonder what it might be that Jeongguk needs from him. Who could Jeongguk be close to that needs a PR agent? As far as Taehyung knows, none of Jeongguk’s friends are famous or anything like that. 

It’s not too long until Jeongguk is back, finally taking a seat across from Taehyung. Once he’s there, Taehyung looks at him inquiringly, waiting for Jeongguk to begin.

“So… I need help. Well, not me—a friend needs help, and I thought maybe you’d be able to give him a hand,” Jeongguk explains.

“You’re going to need to be a lot less vague than that, though,” Taehyung says, resting his chin on the heel of one of his hands. “What friend? And what do they need help with?”

“My friend Yoongi,” Jeongguk replies. The moment that Jeongguk says the name, he freezes a little, but he quickly composes himself. “He’s been working as a producer for a small company and they’re about to debut their first soloist. But they’ve been struggling to find a PR agent because they’re unknown. Yoongi has told me they’re even considering handling it themselves because of how stuck they are, but he said he’s not sure that’d go well. When he told me, you came to mind instantly so I told him I would ask him if you’d be willing to help.”

Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip. “So no one is willing to represent their soloist because the company is new?” he asks, tilting his head to the right.

“That’s what he’s told me, yeah. That no one sees them as a safe bet,” Jeongguk explains. “Look—you know how saturated the idol and overall music market is right now, and how hard it is to make some space for new people out there. It’s been hard for Yoongi to find his place there, and now that he’s working with a team he likes and in things he’s happy with, I just want it to work out for him. And I know that if there is someone who would be able to make it work out, even if it’s a new company that nobody knows, itʼs you.”

“Jeongguk…”

“No, I mean it,” Jeongguk says, meeting Taehyung’s eyes. “If all of those companies were as good as they claim to be, they wouldn’t back away just because the company is a smaller one. Sure, they would have a more limited budget, but it’s still something you can work with. I’m not asking you to give any discounts or special treatment, or anything. Just—a chance?”

Taehyung is quiet for a moment, Jeongguk’s eyes boring into his and his fists clenched on his lap, but he nods. Not only because Jeongguk is asking—although that might help a little—but also because he wants to. There’s always been something about the underdogs that has pulled at his heartstrings, so he does want to help. After all, most of the people he represents were also a risky bet when his company first started, yet things have been working out so far. Hell, those people also took a risk by hiring them, a new PR company who had just appeared out of nowhere. Taehyung doesn’t want to take the same chance he had away from other people.

“That’s very flattering, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says in the end. There is something about how much Jeongguk seems to trust him and his skills at his work that makes heat spread in the pool of Taehyung’s stomach, a warm feeling taking over him. “So… how about I schedule a meeting with someone from the company and we go over things?”

From where he’s sitting, Taehyung can see Jeongguk’s mouth slowly spread into a wide, toothy smile—the kind that he reserves only for when he’s extremely happy. Taehyung also can’t help but grin a little upon seeing Jeongguk’s reaction.

“I can’t thank you enough for this. For real—I can’t thank you enough,” Jeongguk says, reaching over the table and taking Taehyung’s hand in his. Taehyung is about to jump a little at the suddenness of the touch, but he contains himself. “Would a meeting with Yoongi be enough? He said he’d like to meet you and discuss things with you if you said yes. Like I said, the company is very small and very new, so with how little staff they have, I’m sure Yoongi knows pretty much everything you’d need to know. He’s been kept in the loop.”

Taehyung laughs a little then, feeling Jeongguk interlace their fingers together. “That’s fine with me, yeah. If you give me his number, Iʼll call him in a bit and meet with him as soon as we can.”

“Awesome. God, you’re the best, Taehyung,” Jeongguk tells him. Their gazes lock again, and Taehyung is unable to hold back a little smile. “You’re really the best.”

Taehyung looks down at their joint hands, aware of the heat rushing to his face upon hearing that. He was a little reluctant at first when he heard it was Yoongi who needed help, if he’s honest with himself. It’s not that he dislikes Yoongi per se, really; he doesn’t. But the first and only meeting he had with him, that night when Jeongguk and Yoongi came over for dinner while Seungjin was there visiting, left a bitter taste in his mouth. Plus, he remembers Yoongi and Jeongguk being more than affectionate back then, and wondering for days and days if they were more than just simple friends.

Now Taehyung has no doubts that thereʼs nothing more than a friendship between the two of them, especially considering the situation that Jeongguk and Taehyung have roped themselves into. Plus, he’s not a jealous person—he’s not going to let himself dislike Yoongi for no reason at all when heʼs done nothing to him. And it’s not like he likes Jeongguk or anything like that. So…

For all those reasons, Taehyung tells himself he’s going to do his best to help Jeongguk out. He’s going to go to the meeting completely unbiased, he’s going to discuss business and he’s going to try his best to help his friend’s friend out.

After all, he’s a professional, isn’t he?

 

 

The meeting with Yoongi, in all honesty, goes well. Like Jeongguk promised, despite working as a producer, he’s been kept in the loop about most matters that are of importance to Taehyung. He’s for sure going to schedule a meeting with Yoongi’s boss to discuss everything in detail and to write up a contract, yes, but this was definitely helpful.

The truth is, after talking to him, Taehyung’s resolve to help is even bigger, and it has a lot to do with the fact that he sees potential. He tries to go about this as a friend to Jeongguk, wanting to give a hand to Yoongi and the company he works with, but the businessman in Taehyung also sees a chance here. The soloist they’re debuting, Dahye, is a girl a little younger than Taehyung. She’s pretty and has a good voice, and from what Taehyung has been able to hear—because after the meeting he made sure to raid Soundcloud—her music seems good. Like he said, Taehyung sees great potential.

Through the meeting, Taehyung stays professional. He focuses on what he needs to, listens to Yoongi carefully and keeps all personal feelings away from his mind. For as long as theyʼre together, Taehyung doesn’t let thoughts of Jeongguk and Yoongi come to his mind because it’s really not the time. But of course, that happens once Yoongi goes.

He’s already come to the conclusion that Yoongi and Jeongguk are of course not boyfriends, because if they were he wouldn’t find himself involved with Jeongguk in the way he is. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been a thing in the past—be it a romantic thing or just a sexual one. Who knows? If Jeongguk has this thing with Taehyung now, he could have had a similar one with Yoongi in the past, too. It would be naïve of Taehyung to assume he’s the first and only one.

Part of him also wonders if, had they been a thing, they’d be able to remain close friends. It’s not like Taehyung has ended his relationships on notoriously bad terms, but he doesn’t consider himself to be friends with any of his exes. Whenever he ran into them after breaking up, he was always cordial, and he wishes them all well, but they’re not close. They’re not friends. Jeongguk and Yoongi are quite the opposite, so Taehyung can’t help but wonder what went down between the two of them—if anything did, that’s it.

On the other hand, it also makes him wonder what will happen when the thing that they have going between the two of them ends. The thing about getting into these situations is that no one ever thinks about what will happen once it’s over. Would they just be able to be casual friends, or maybe the way they are with each other right now will forever define their relationship? There is another option, the one that Taehyung knows more often than not ruins arrangements like theirs: feelings. Taehyung doesn’t let himself think about that, though.

It’s hard for Taehyung to tear those thoughts away from his mind, and he finds himself going back to them again and again. It frustrates him because he should be focusing on other things instead of on Jeongguk. Situations like theirs exist out of convenience and the lack of complication surrounding them, but that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.

Something that pulls him away from his overthinking happens right then, but Taehyung isn’t sure whether this option is much better. Taehyung can hear the door to the office open and so he looks in its direction, a bit shocked since he doesn’t think they were expecting anyone. And so, it comes as a surprise when he sees none other than Jeongguk standing there.

Taehyung’s first reaction is to stand up, watching as Jeongguk comfortably walks inside the office—he greets a couple of people and starts walking towards Taehyung’s office. Taehyung’s second instinct is to look in the direction of Jimin’s office; his blinds aren’t shut, and so heʼs obviously seen Jeongguk walk inside and is now looking at Taehyung. But instead of as aggravated as Taehyung himself feels, Jimin is smiling at him. Of course.

And then comes Taehyung’s first reaction. He walks away from his desk and pulls the door to his office open, heading towards where Jeongguk is. It doesn’t take long for Taehyung to get to him, and once they’re side by side he asks, “What are you doing here?”

He keeps his voice down, trying not to disturb anyone, but he still feels a couple of eyes on him. Of course, no one in his office knows who Jeongguk is, other than Jimin. However, they seem to recognize him since it’s not the first time he’s come over to the office. It’s precisely the fact that he’s come to talk to Taehyung twice now and no one knows who he is, that probably intrigues them. After all, who doesn’t like some office gossip? Especially if it’s regarding the boss.

“I came to check up on you after the meeting,” Jeongguk replies, simply. “SO how did it go?”

“Did you know that phones are a thing?” Taehyung asks in almost a hiss, making Jeongguk laugh. Lowering his voice a little more he adds, “You can’t just show up here when I’m working.”

“I come in peace,” Jeongguk says, lifting his arms with his palms facing Taehyung. Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “So? Did it go well?”

“It went really well, yeah,” Taehyung says, placing one hand on the middle of Jeongguk’s back and pushing a little as he starts to walk towards the door. “I’ll tell you more about it later, but now you have to go.”

“You’re such a bad host,” Jeongguk complains in a teasing tone, making Taehyung roll his eyes.

“You’re distracting everyone. This is an office, Jeongguk,” Taehyung tells him, to which Jeongguk laughs a little.

“I think the only one distracted is you, you know,” he teases. Taehyung gives him a blank look, not allowing himself to be affected by the implications behind Jeongguk’s words. He reaches for the door handle, pulling it open.

“Leave. Now,” he says, Jeongguk laughing again.

He walks out to the corridor, but wraps his fingers around the edge of the door so Taehyung can’t close it. “Do I not get a farewell kiss?”

“Oh, my god—fuck you,” Taehyung grumbles, now unable to bring himself to not blush. That seems to terribly amuse Jeongguk, who bursts into giggles.

“Damn, I knew I looked good in this suit, but I didn’t think I looked that good,” he says, making Taehyung groan.

“Bye, Jeongguk. I’ll talk to you later,” he just says, with Jeongguk laughing and shaking his head before he walks away.

“I’ll text you,” Jeongguk says. When Taehyung doesn’t reply, Taehyung adds, “And you better reply!”

He sticks his tongue out before finally closing the door, Jeongguk now walking away from the office and the curious gazes of Taehyung’s employees. Taehyung, on the other side, is not—as soon as he turns around, he sees a couple of people quickly avert their gaze from him and busy themselves with something else, making it obvious that they were staring. He tries to look unbothered as he walks back to his office, but he feels their eyes on him as he does so.

It was bound to happen at some point, Taehyung guesses—especially with him being the boss. It looks like it’s time for him to become the center of office gossip.

 

 

Other than the fact that they have sex, Taehyung doesn’t think that there is any aspect in his relationship with Jeongguk that could be considered uncommon, or even improper for a friendship. The two of them have started talking and texting throughout the days far more than Taehyung could have fathomed when he first arrived, but he doesn’t think thereʼs anything weird about it. The way he sees it is: the two of them are just being friendly, picking up a friendship that was interrupted years ago. But other people’s opinions differ.

There’s Jimin, who wiggles his eyebrows at Taehyung every time he happens to see Jeongguk’s name pop up in Taehyung’s notifications. Or every time Taehyung brings up an anecdote that Jeongguk told him about. Or, to be fair, every time Jeongguk is brought up in conversation, at any point. He doesn’t say anything because Taehyung doesn’t let him. He already planted the seed in his mind once, one that led to the current situation theyʼre in right now. He doesn’t need Jimin to get any other ideas—far more dangerous ones—in his head.

And then, there’s Seokjin. Taehyung hasn’t been keeping him in the loop as much, which is understandable given that he doesn’t see him every day like he does Jimin. They meet up over the weekend, agreeing to grab a coffee—a tea for Taehyung, who still can’t see the appeal of coffee even if Jeongguk has been trying to convince him it’s life-changing for a person on the go as much as Taehyung is. As soon as the two of them are sat at the table, their orders before them, Taehyung quickly gets his phone out and opens the camera app, snapping a picture.

“For Instagram?” Seokjin asks distractedly as he pours sugar into his coffee.  

Taehyung shakes his head. “Nope, not for Instagram,” he says, looking at the picture for a second before he taps the send button. Once he does that, he locks his phone and leaves it on top of the table, adding, “For Jeongguk.”

Thereʼs a pause then, almost as if Seokjin were trying to take the words in. “For Jeongguk?” Seokjin repeats, sounding incredulous.

“Yes, for Jeongguk,” Taehyung asks, lifting his eyes from his chai latte and his slice of cake. It’s then that he notices the expression on Seokjin’s face—his eyebrows are raised, making him look both surprised and skeptical. “What?”

“So you’re on a sporadic texting basis? Fucking and texting basis?” Seokjin asks. Taehyung nods a little. “How much do you guys text in a day?”

“I don’t know—all through the day, I guess,” Taehyung says, shrugging his shoulders a little. “I text whenever I have some free time, so does he. We talk a little more in the evenings after work.”

“And you don’t think that’s weird?” Seokjin asks him. Taehyung’s eyebrows furrow. “Like—don’t you realize Jeongguk is a shit texter? I could text him at ten in the morning and I doubt I’d manage to get a reply before eight at night at soonest.”

“Why would it be weird? It’s how things have always been, anyway,” Taehyung asks. “He was bad at texting other people but good at texting me. I’m just a good conversationist. Maybe we can go back to how things were before I left.”

“Except you weren’t fucking back then,” Seokjin points out. Taehyung doesn’t deny it—thereʼs no point in arguing with the truth. “And besides, that just proves my point.”

“What point?” Taehyung asks, confused.

“That things between you two were also special back then,” Seokjin tells him. “In regards to how Jeongguk felt for you.”

Taehyung’s frown deepens then, not knowing how to feel about Seokjin’s words just now. On one hand, he knows he was special to Jeongguk, just like Jeongguk was special to him. They were each other’s best friends and, as such, things between them were different from how they were with everyone else. What Taehyung doesn’t get is why Seokjin is being so cryptical about it.

He doesn’t get to ask, though, because it’s right then that his phone vibrates, screen lighting up. Taehyung’s eyes quickly dart to the screen, taking in Jeongguk’s contact name and the couple of text Jeongguk has just sent him, saying his food looks amazing and that he’s envious. But he’s not the only one who decides to look.

“Are those hearts?” Seokjin asks, putting emphasis on the word. Taehyung’s eyes widen as he looks up at Seokjin, almost like a kid getting scolded. “Do you have Jeongguk named with hearts?”

Technically, he has Jeongguk saved with one heart. It says, Gukkie, a bunny emoji and a white heart emoji. So, yes—no multiple hearts.

“He picked it himself,” Taehyung explains, quickly. “It wasn’t me.”

“So he saved himself with heart emojis. And you didn’t change it.”

Taehyung opens his mouth, then closes it without saying anything. Opens again, closes again. “He just did it to annoy me,” he says in the end, although Seokjin doesn’t seem too convinced by his explanation. “And I didn’t change it because that was the deal. We have to stick with what the other picked.”

“You know, that’s not the most platonic thing I’ve ever seen,” Seokjin says, making Taehyung roll his eyes. “I mean it. If it were me telling you I was acting like this with someone, you’d agree with me. It seems like more.”

“It’s just a joke between friends,” Taehyung says, reassuring both himself and Seokjin. When Jimin brought up the sexual tension, he started overthinking it until it became a reality, so he’s not going to allow this to happen yet again. “There’s nothing going on other than casual sex.”

“If you say so,” Seokjin says, pulling back a little and resting his back against the booth. “Let’s see where you find yourselves a couple months from now.”

Taehyung doesn’t say anything, just looks back at his tea and runs away from Seokjin’s eyes. He knows himself and his boundaries, as well as what is good for him and what’s not. Getting into a relationship only a couple of months after breaking up with his long-term boyfriend isn’t good; much less with someone he seems to clash so easily with, and someone with whom he knows he works better with as friends. He has nothing to ponder over here, the right choice to make is very clear.

He’s not going to let himself fall for Jeongguk.

 

Chapter Text

With adulthood come responsibilities, and with responsibilities, considerably less free time than one person would like for themselves. Taehyung has been there—some weeks at work are just absolutely hectic, where he’s worked from the moment he sat down in the office until the moment he left, usually later than his office hours are meant to be. Whenever that has happened, be it at his own company or when he used to work for someone else, all he could think about as he walked or drove home, was to get in bed. He wasn’t even hungry, just so terribly exhausted that he couldn’t wait for the moment to get into bed and sleep away until the next morning, when the madness would start all over again.

And as it happens to him, it also happens to other people. More specifically, it happens to Jeongguk. It starts with the texts they’ve been exchanging throughout the day, abruptly turning much more sparse, with Taehyung having to wait hours and hours before he gets a reply. Then Jeongguk cancels on him after they had agreed the previous week to grab food together and, well, fuck. And then, when he’s on the phone with his mom one day, she finally tells him how hectic things at his dad’s company have been.

He’s been staying late every single night for the last week. He even went in during the weekend. The weekend! I think Jeongguk has been staying with him, as well as some other people,” his mother tells him on the phone. The conversation had started with Taehyung’s mom inviting him over for dinner on Friday, but it quickly turned into his mom telling him all about how absent his dad has been for the last few weeks.

“You know he doesn’t do it because he wants to, mom,” Taehyung gently reminds her. He knows she knows, as she also has her own business and sometimes is busy like this, but he also understands her position. “Do you happen to know what’s going on?”

Something about a settlement with some big insurance company. I don’t think it’s going the way they wanted it to; they’re almost out of time and your dad is feeling stressed. I don’t know much more—he leaves early in the morning and comes back when I’m already in bed, and he’s too tired to talk then,” his mother tells him, followed by a sigh. “I want my husband back.”

Taehyung laughs at that, shaking his head a little. “Is he grumpy?” he asks, knowing how his father usually gets when hard times at work come.

Just a little bit. I’ve seen him grumpier before,” his mom replies, a hint of amusement in her voice. “So, will you be coming on Friday? I don’t know if your father will be joining us, but hopefully he will. I’d hope that all of this is sorted by the end of the week.

“Friday is good with me, yeah,” Taehyung replies, scratching the back of his neck. “You said Jeongguk has been staying late with him as well, yeah?”

I know he’s been busy with all of this, yeah,” she replies. “Your father told me he’s had to send him home because he’d try to stay too late, and that even then he would still work from home.

“Sounds like Jeongguk to me,” Taehyung mumbles, a small grin appearing on his lips. Now that he knows this, it makes sense for Jeongguk to have been so quiet in the past week or so. Always an overachiever and the most hard-working person Taehyung knows, of course he’d make sure to work as hard as he can to get through whichever trouble it is that they’re facing. After a pause there, he asks, “So, what time on Friday, then?”

After that, it’s not too long before his mother hangs up, after the two of them have agreed on a time for him to go over for dinner. However, what’s on Taehyung’s mind as soon as he gets off the phone and lets himself flop on the bed is not dinner, nor is it his mom. Taehyung can’t help but let his mind wander back to Jeongguk as he stares at the white ceiling and wonders if Jeongguk is okay.

Of course, Jeongguk is an adult and as such, he should be able to manage his own time. It’s just that he also has the tendency to overwork himself, always wanting to offer as much as there is within him. Crazy office hours are something that can be endured for a couple of days, yeah, but Taehyung can’t help but feel… well, a little worried. Almost in the same way that he sensed his mother to feel while talking on the phone, even if she tried to mask it as annoyance about his father being absent. Taehyung is good at reading people and could see right through it, could tell that she’s worried about what’s going on, and more so worried about him not talking about it.

He feels some of that worry for his dad, too, and also for Jeongguk. In recent weeks, they’ve been spending a lot of time together and they’re something akin to friends again. Of course, it’s only natural for him to worry—he did when Jeongguk tried to balance his studies and all of the extracurricular activities he did in high school, and he does now. What kind of friend would he be if he didn’t?

And really—in times like this, he doesn’t want to be overbearing or a distraction. But he thinks maybe Jeongguk could use some encouragement, maybe a little cheering up just so he can at least smile a little amidst all the work he’s doing.

That’s what Taehyung tells himself as he reaches for his phone and looks up Jeongguk’s chat. The last text Taehyung sent was around lunch time and now it’s a little after dinner, and it’s still there having been left un-open. That almost stops him from messaging again, but in the end he tells himself to grow up and stop caring about absurd things like double texting.

 

Heard you’ve been having a busy week!! I’m cheering on you

Stay strong Jeonggukie, I’ll see you when you’re next free

Maybe reward you for all the hard work~

 

He doesn’t expect a reply soon, and he doesn’t get one. However, by the time he’s ready to go to bed, already changed into his pajamas after having washed his face, he notices that he has two new messages from Jeongguk.

Thank you so much Tae

I can’t wait to see you

 

 

It turns out, Taehyung doesn’t need to reach out to Jeongguk and organize an opportunity to meet up once Jeongguk’s free—his parents do that for him.

It happens on Friday when Taehyung goes over for dinner just as they had scheduled. He wasn’t expecting to see his father there, just his mother and sister, but it turns out that they had finally reached a settlement with the company, after all the hard work and stress. His father looks tired, all of the days of poor sleep and exhaustion catching up with him, but he also looks happy. He has a pleased, content smile plastered on his face, one that reveals that things worked out in his favor in the end.

They don’t talk much about it over dinner, mostly because Taehyung is sure that his father can’t wait to disconnect from it all. After obsessing over it for days and days, it’s only normal that he now wants to forget all about it. During dinner, Miyoung talks about the latest drama in her high school class and Taehyung shares anecdotes that happened at the office with his employees. All of it is very trivial, very irrelevant, but it feels nice to be sat at the dinner table with his family. After being away from them for so long, Taehyung has come to really value just being able to sit with his family during dinner and talk about the most unimportant things.

They’re almost done with their food when his mom turns to him and calls his name, catching his attention. When he hums inquisitively, she says, “By the way, I hope you’re not busy tomorrow.”

Taehyung’s eyebrows raise. “I’m not busy, no,” he says, as he has no plans yet. He was planning on asking Jimin and Seokjin to hang out earlier, but after learning about Jeongguk now being free he had had a change of heart. It looks like that’s going to have to wait, though, since it seems like his mom has other plans for him. “How come?”

“I invited someone over for dinner tomorrow and I think it’d be nice for you to join us,” she replies. Taehyung has to try extra hard to keep the frown away from his face, as he feels a little… unenthusiastic right now. He doesn’t mind, of course not. It’s just that after not seeing Jeongguk for so long, he was kind of hoping to be able to meet with him on Saturday.

“That’s good with me, sure,” Taehyung says, nodding a little as he reaches for his drink. He knows it’s probably one of his mom’s friends coming over, so he guesses he can endure it for a few hours. “Who?”

“Miyeon and Jeongguk,” she replies. Taehyung almost chokes on his water as he hears the names. “I thought you’d want to know since you guys are getting along so well these days.”

“Yeah! Yeah, I’d love to join,” Taehyung says, aware that he’s suddenly seeming a little more enthusiastic than he was a few seconds ago. From the corner of his eye, he takes a look at his sister’s face, trying to catch any sort of reaction that would imply she knows more than Taehyung would like for her to, but he sees nothing. “How come they’re coming, though?”

“Just to celebrate things going well. And to disconnect, too—Jeongguk has had a busy week, too,” his father replies then, voice serene. After a pause of a few seconds, he adds, “Although, I’m sure you already know.”

Luckily for Taehyung, he’s not drinking or eating anything at the time his dad says that, because had he been, he for sure would have choked right then. Feeling heat rush to his cheeks, he immediately asks, “How do you mean?”

“I’ve just noticed that you two talk a lot more now,” his father replies again. He doesn’t sound remotely teasing or mocking, just neutral. Like he’s making a simple observation. “Through text messages, I mean. I’ve never seen Jeongguk be that pendant of his phone.”

And god—that makes Taehyung’s face get warmer somehow. If his dad knows that it’s him that Jeongguk’s talking to, there are two possible options: one, Jeongguk straight up told him, and two, he saw the stupid contact name that he picked for himself in Jeongguk’s phone. He can’t even remember the exact name, just that it said Taetae hyung with more emojis that one person should be allowed to use in a contact name. Keeping that in mind, Taehyung would honestly rather Jeongguk told him himself.

“So is that why you’re on your phone all the time these days?” Miyoung asks, resting her elbow on the table and her chin on her palm. She gives Taehyung a devious smile, and that’s how Taehyung knows that she’s caught up. “Because you’re texting Jeongguk?”

“Elbows off the table, miss,” his father gently scolds.

“It’s not like that,” Taehyung replies almost at the same time.

“It’s not like what?” his mom asks.

 “Taehyung has a—”

Friend,” Taehyung says, raising his voice a little to interrupt his sister. Everyone at the table is now looking at him, as he says, “Jeongguk and I are friends again, I can confidently say that now.”

“Really? I’m so glad to hear you say that,” his father comments, nodding a little. “It was admittedly sad to see how bad things between you were when you got back, considering how close you were for all those years. I’m glad you were able to rekindle your relationship.”

“Yeah—yeah, it’s been great,” Taehyung agrees, glad that his parents don’t know how much they’ve been rekindling their relationship. Again, it’s not for them to know. “It’s been good to get to know him again.”

“That’s great. I’ll be telling Miyeon you’re coming as well, then. Although I’m sure you’ll tell Jeongguk yourself,” his mother jokes. Miyoung steals a glance at him, and Taehyung pretends that he didn’t see and busies himself eating. “By the way! Did I tell you I ran into Seolhyun when I went to the bank this week? It’s been ages since I last saw her.”

At that moment, Taehyung can’t help but feel glad about the abrupt change in conversation, even if he can’t bring himself to listen to his mother’s recap of her encounter with their old neighbor. Instead, he thinks about how fucking close that was.

Luckily, he managed to interrupt before Miyoung said anything that would make things even more awkward, even if the conversation as it stood, made Taehyung feel weird enough. He didn’t think his father would bring it up so casually, maybe because he’s never been like this about any of Taehyung’s other friends. Jeongguk’s case is a little different, though, since they work together, so Taehyung resolves that’s where the differences come from.

Luckily, the conversation is over and they’ve all moved on to something different now. There’s just one thing bugging him now, though. Despite not letting her finish, Taehyung thinks he knows what Miyoung was about to say.

Taehyung has a crush.

 

 

Taehyung discovers the very next morning how, as the head of his own company, there are few things scarier than boss, I need to talk to you.

Jimin calls him the next morning when Taehyung is still in bed, stretching out those few minutes he gives himself between waking up and properly starting his day. He was already on his phone, playing a random game he downloaded the previous night, when the screen changes and he sees Jimin’s caller ID appear. He doesn’t think twice about it before sliding his thumb across the screen, picking up the call.

“Yeah?” he asks, at the same time he brings his phone closer to his ear.

Usually when Jimin calls him it’s often for more lighthearted topics. Sometimes he calls with gossip, sometimes he calls just because he wants to talk to Taehyung—they’re at that stage now, where there doesn’t really need to be a reason for them to call each other up for a chat. But then Jimin speaks, and Taehyung knows that today isn’t one of those occasions.

Boss, I need to talk to you,” he says, which immediately alerts Taehyung. It’s not just the words itself, really—it’s the tone Jimin uses. He sounds worried, a bit nervous, too, which immediately makes Taehyung sit up on the bed as an uneasy feeling sits in the pit of his stomach.

Plus, Jimin called him boss. Now that they’re friends, it’s been so long since Jimin called him boss, even while at the office. It lets Taehyung know that what Jimin wants to talk to him about is work-related, which only makes Taehyung’s worry grow even more. In the field they work in, instability is a constant. One can go to sleep one night with everything under control, yet wake up the following morning to a complete circus. News reports are ruthless and more often than not sneaky, so Taehyung can’t help but fear that the press might have leaked something about one of their clients overnight.

“What is it?” Taehyung asks, trying to mask all of that worry and keep his tone calm. Jimin seems nervous enough already, so the best he can do is try to keep his cool for the two of them. Two panicked people are less likely to solve a problem. Besides that, he’s the boss and he feels it’s his duty to be calm and collected in a situation like this. If he can’t remain calm, who will? After a pause with no reply from him, Taehyung insists, “Jimin, what is it?”

I fucked up,” Jimin replies. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, waiting for him to elaborate, but Jimin just replies, “I really fucked up.”

“Hey, hey, don’t say that,” Taehyung says, shifting on the bed. “Come on, what’s going on? Is everything okay?”

I just really fucked up with Hoseok,” Jimin tells him. Taehyung’s eyebrows raise. “I can’t believe I…

“Okay, fucked up how?” Taehyung inquires, voice cautious.

Saying he fucked up is incredibly ambiguous, but Taehyung has a few hypotheses. Maybe the flirting between them might have gone well—so terribly well that it escalated into something more, hence why Jimin is so frantic right now. On the other hand, maybe things fell through between the two of them, which could lead to a lot of awkwardness and discomfort, considering Jimin is Hoseok’s agent. Both of them are very possible, so Taehyung doesn’t really know what to think at this point.

We kissed,” Jimin blurts out then. There’s a beat of silence then, Taehyung trying to process the confession. “We saw each other last night and—and we kissed. I didn’t want to tell you last night because I knew you were with family and I didn’t want to ruin your Sunday evening. And then I considered not telling you until Monday, since it’s the weekend and you shouldn’t have to worry about this stuff, but I just felt bad keeping it from you.

“Okay, that’s…” Taehyung says, trying to find a word to convey what he really feels. The truth is that after hearing what was actually bothering Jimin, he can’t help but feel relieved. He thought maybe they had a situation going on, something out of their control that could really be considerer a fuck up, something that could jeopardise them as a business. But this? Well, Taehyung can’t say he’s that worried about it. “You kissed? How did that happen?”

We were talking last night and he invited me to come over, and I just—I don’t know. I got carried away, I guess,” Jimin says. He still sounds worried but he seems to have calmed down a little since the start of the conversation, probably due to Taehyung’s mellow reaction. “I’d understand if you were upset or mad.

“But I’m not mad,” Taehyung replies, frowning a little. When Jimin doesn’t say anything, he repeats, “Jimin, I’m not mad. Really.”

You’re not?” he asks, sounding surprised.

“I have no reason to be. There aren’t any no-dating clauses or anything of the sort in Hoseok’s contract. He’s allowed to date as far as I know, and to be fair, what he does in his private life is none of my business. What concerns me and our job is his public life and image,” Taehyung replies. “So, as long as none of this somehow surfaces and blows up in his and our faces, then I’m not bothered. He’s free to kiss, fuck and date whoever he wants. What I care about is what the public knows.”

Wait—for real?” Jimin asks again, still clearly in disbelief. “You really don’t mind?

“I don’t—in the sense that I’m not mad about it. I’m happy you told me, but I don’t think it should be a problem,” he says. He faintly hears Jimin sigh in relief, which brings a little smile to his lips. Now that Jimin seems to be calmer, Taehyung allows himself to joke, adding, “You might have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, though.”

Taehyung!

“What? It’s true,” Taehyung says. “You’ll have to wait and see what his PR agent says, if things end up turning into more. Dating a celebrity is hard.”

I’m sure you’d know, given you’ve been with a model,” Jimin bites back, making Taehyung laugh. “But seriously, thank you for being so understanding. Even if he’s allowed to date, I know it’s still unprofessional of me to do anything with him. I would really understand if you weren’t happy with me for this.

“I’ve already told you I don’t mind. I’m your friend as well as your boss, so the part of me that’s excited about this is kind of cancelling out the part that should maybe be scolding you,” Taehyung teases. “Unless you make a habit out of this. If you start hooking up with all of our clients we might have to have a talk.”

Jimin laughs at that, saying, “I really doubt that’s gonna be the case. At least, I hope it’s not. Like—I hope I don’t hook up with other people at all, you know?

“Is that so?” Taehyung questions, aware that the conversation is now stirring away from professional topics and getting more into personal terrain. It happens a lot between the two of them, always fluctuating from work to their personal lives, then back to work again. “So you’re serious about it?”

I think so? That’s the vibe I get,” Jimin replies. “I like him—for more than a hookup, I mean. And I get the feeling that he likes me, too. But I might be wrong! I could be wrong.

“I’m sure you’re not,” Taehyung replies, not missing a beat. Not only does he know how incredibly good Jimin is at reading people’s moods and emotions, but he’s also seen the two of them interact. He’s seen the fleeting glances, Jimin’s silly grin whenever Hoseok is around and the way Hoseok looks at Jimin. To Taehyung, the confession that Jimin likes Hoseok doesn’t come as a surprise, and he’s pretty sure that the feeling is mutual. “So are you gonna make a move?”

We’re kind of taking it slowly. It definitely helps to know you’re not unhappy about it, though—if you felt like it could jeopardize the company, I definitely wouldn’t do anything,” Jimin rushes to add. Taehyung clicks his tongue—the last thing Taehyung wants is for Jimin to sacrifice these aspects of his personal life and happiness, especially given that they’re compatible. “But we’ve been talking a lot lately.”

“Better take it slow and be safe, yeah,” Taehyung says, flopping back on to the mattress and rolling on to his stomach. All nervousness away now, he’s back to chilling in bed. “You have to tell me about it, though. What did you do over at his? And was the kiss good? You need to keep me in the loop, Jiminie.”

Jimin laughs at his complaining tone, which makes Taehyung smile again.

I’ll tell you all about it,” Jimin replies, Taehyung’s cue to get comfortable. “But let me warn you—it might get long.”

 

 

Taehyung might be many things—a failure of a son, a petty bastard, a procrastinator, the person with the most fucked up sleeping schedule ever—but what he’s not is a liar. He’s honest, more often than not in a way that people don’t like too much, and there’s nothing he hates more than lies or half-truths.

So if someone asked him whether he’s missed Jeongguk or not for the last few days, where they’ve barely been able to talk and much less see each other, he’d have to say yes. And trust him, there is nothing harder than admitting it to himself. It might be mortifying to tell other people, namely Jimin, but accepting it himself? It takes him so long to get to that stage, honestly. It takes him so long that he doesn’t even realize it until the very same day they’re meant to see each other again, when he finds himself dressing up nicer than usual.

Taehyung likes fashion, he really does. But whenever he goes to his parents’ house like today, or is just having a casual meeting, he doesn’t try too hard. Despite his interest in clothes, he values comfort over fashion so there really isn’t a reason for him to dress up today. The previous times when he’s gone over to theirs for meals, he’s kept it rather casual so there shouldn’t be much of a difference today.

There is nothing different about tonight from all of those other nights, except for one little thing—the company. And sure, guests from outside of the family often require a little more effort, but not too much. It’s more so about who the guests are, Taehyung realizes. It’s all because Jeongguk is coming.

And really, at first he denies it to himself, looks at his reflection in the mirror and tries to convince himself that he just wants to look nice. But eventually he figures that if he hates it when others lie to him, and hates having to lie about his stance on things, shouldn’t he especially hate lying to himself? Shouldn’t that be the most upsetting thing for him?

After all, there are worse things in the world than missing Jeongguk. Because, as unexpected as it might be to think about it, he likes being around Jeongguk now. He makes him laugh, they get along, and he’s… nice to look at. So maybe he’s excited to see him after over a week of not meeting up. Maybe he hopes that Jeongguk reciprocates it. And maybe, just maybe, he’s dressing up because he wants Jeongguk to see him and not only realize that he’s missed him too, but also that he wants him. Just like how he wants Jeongguk.

So he resolves not to change. He looks fucking good—he looks hot, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He knows he put effort in, and there isn’t anything wrong with that either. And now he can admit to himself that he’s looking forward to seeing Jeongguk tonight, and that’s fine as well.

They’re adults now, aren’t they? So they should be acting as such instead of running away from feelings, Taehyung thinks. That seems like a good place to start.

 

 

Taehyungʼs ideal situation for his reunion with Jeongguk would have been far different from what their actual first meeting after Jeonggukʼs busy week is. The perfect scenario would involve far less people, just the two of them, some more intimacy and no family involved, but he guesses he canʼt really complain. After all, it was thanks to said families that he got an excuse to see him as soon as he was free.

Plus, he might get a chance to be alone with Jeongguk a little later. The night has just begun, there’s still a lot ahead of them, and Taehyungʼs seat being just across from Jeongguk gives him a perfect chance to stare at him. As evenings go, this doesn’t particularly seem like a bad one.

The recent realization that he really, really missed Jeongguk only hits him harder through dinner. Because there he is–right in front of him, scrunching his nose adorably as he laughs, chatting animatedly, looking the same perfect mixture of devastatingly handsome and cute at the same time that Taehyung is finding himself so fond of. It makes him wonder how he managed to go over a week with no Jeongguk? Trust Taehyung, he has always been a pretty independent person, but something about Jeonggukʼs presence and energy drew him in back then, when they became best friends, and that hasn’t changed with the years.

Miyoung isnʼt here tonight as one of her friends is celebrating her birthday, and for that, Taehyung is relieved. Because he thinks that, considering how fucking good Jeongguk looks tonight and the fact that he's just opposite him, he'd had a hard time trying to avoid staring at him.

There’s this side of Taehyung that not only is feeling happy to finally be around Jeongguk again, but is also feeling a bit sappy about it all. He can’t help but think about how he’s missed him, about how hard the last few days have probably been for him, and about how relieved he is that Jeongguk is finally getting some free time again. And not just to be with Taehyung, no—also just to rest. Overall, Taehyung is glad that Jeongguk doesn’t have to be stressed over work-related things.

And then there’s this other side of him, the one that’s feeling a little more… thirsty. Because Taehyung’s only company for these last few nights, when Jeongguk was away and drowning in work, has been himself. At no point did they ever agree there was any kind of exclusivity between them or anything of the sorts, but the thought of being with someone else didn’t even occur to Taehyung. It wasn’t even a case of him stopping himself because of Jeongguk; it had just never crossed his mind.

Taehyung wouldn’t say he has a particularly crazy sex drive, but he’s a guy in his twenties and he has needs. And suits like the one he’s wearing tonight fit particularly well on Jeongguk, looking so sharp and smart with his forehead on display, a self-satisfied smile on his face. Despite all the stress he’s gone through for the last couple of weeks, he’s happy with the outcome, something easy to tell from the way he seems to glow tonight. There’s almost an aura of triumph emanating from him, and for some silly reason, Taehyung finds himself stupidly attracted to it.

When Taehyung first came back from Europe and reunited with Jeongguk, meeting the new version of him, he thought Jeongguk had gotten cocky. Arrogant, even. Right now, he wouldn’t use arrogant with all of its negative connotations. He’s good at what he does, and Taehyung is sure that he knows it, but despite that, Taehyung doesn’t think that Jeongguk is full of himself. After getting to know him again, he doesn’t think he has an ounce of arrogance in him. He does, however, have cocky moments—like right now. The way he speaks about his accomplishments with a bit of a smirk appearing on his lips as he hears words of praise coming his way.

A few months ago, Taehyung would have hated it. It would have made his blood boil, but right now it has the opposite effect on him. It’s probably due to the fact that he hasn’t been getting any after growing used to being active again and so he’s finding the bare minimum things hot, but god, he wants him so much.

It happens in between their last course and dessert, when Taehyung’s parents have left the living room and are about to bring in the cake Taehyung brought over with him. Taehyung offered to help but his mom told him that he better not dare move—you’re a guest now, she had said, and so Taehyung stayed right in his seat. He shifts on his chair then, crossing one leg over the other, when he accidentally kicks Jeongguk under the table. It’s not too hard, just Taehyung’s sock-clad foot hitting Jeongguk’s calf, but he’s still about to apologize. That is, until he feels Jeongguk tense up a little.

And that’s what gives Taehyung an idea—a very, very bad idea. He doesn’t bother hiding the fact that he’s staring at Jeongguk as he slowly slides his foot up Jeongguk’s calf, clad in black skinny jeans. Jeongguk isn’t looking at him, though—his mom is talking to the two of them, even if Taehyung isn’t doing a great job at listening. Jeongguk, however, is still looking at her and replying, voice clear even if his body is still tense.

Their eyes meet then, the nth time tonight thanks to their very convenient seating arrangements. And it’s so fleeting, really—doesn’t last for more than a second before Taehyung is looking away, paying attention to something his mom is saying to him as she walks into the dining room. But just those milliseconds of eye contact, with Jeongguk’s eyebrows slightly raised in a silent inquiry, are enough for Taehyung to know he’s not the only one feeling affected.

His parents are back, and so Taehyung retreats his foot slowly and spares Jeongguk. He doesn’t want to risk too much either way. Being caught up in a situation like this by their own family would be not only stupidly mortifying, but also weird and uncomfortable, so Taehyung drops it. They can have their fun later, anyway.

What he wasn’t expecting right then and there is to get a text from Jeongguk, the sound of the notification startling him. Jeongguk’s contact name pops up on his screen right at the same time Jeongguk leaves his own phone on top of the table, screen facing down. Luckily for Taehyung, no one is sitting right next to him, able to see his screen, so he unlocks his phone and reads.

 

You’re a menace

 

Taehyung can’t help but smile to himself as he reads the text, pleased. Truth be told, he’d feel more than a little disappointed if Jeongguk’s reaction wasn’t like this. He’s feeling on edge right now, so Jeongguk should too, right?

I didn’t do anything

Wink wink

As I said, menace

I hope you know you’re coming over tonight

 

There’s something about the message that almost makes Taehyung shiver, the smile from earlier still not fading away from his lips. He doesn’t reply to it, though—just looks up from his phone as he locks the screen, giving Jeongguk a small grin. And after that, he forces himself to stop thinking about Jeongguk and start giving some attention to the rest of the people in the room. At least for a little while.

 

 

As it turns out, Taehyung can’t bring himself to wait for some alone time with Jeongguk until after they’ve left his parents’ house. The two of them end up sneaking into Taehyung’s room after dessert, while their parents spend some time lounging in the living room.

“Been wanting to do this since I came through the door,” whispers Jeongguk right against Taehyung’s lips, making him giggle. “Really. You look so fucking stunning.”

“Shut up, oh my god,” Taehyung replies, tightening his hold around Jeongguk’s neck. It’s not that he doesn’t want to hear it, it’s just that he is tired of how easy it is for Jeongguk to fluster him. “You’re just saying that.”

“I’m not just saying that,” Jeongguk starts to complain. “Actually, I think that—”

Whatever he was going to say gets swallowed up by Taehyung’s lips, as he leans forward and steals another kiss. Jeongguk’s fingers tighten their hold around his hips as he eagerly kisses back, sighing into Taehyung’s mouth.

He’s got plans for later on at Jeongguk’s, sure, but right now he doesn’t have any of that in mind, and neither does Jeongguk. He just felt like he was really, really missing Jeongguk’s soft, pink lips, and like he’d even die if he didn’t get to kiss them right away. Hence why he sent another text to Jeongguk and told him to follow him to his bedroom.

After a few kisses, the two of them end up lying on top of Taehyung’s bed, staring up at the ceiling. Taehyung isn’t sure how that makes him feel—it’s weird, yet at the same time familiar. Weird, because in their recent meetups, even if they’ve spent a considerable amount of time together, they haven’t really done… this. They’ve been together in bed but never to just lie there, enjoying each other’s company. They fuck, sometimes eat something together if after-sex hunger gets to them, but that’s about it. They don’t sleep near each other. They don’t just lie together for the sake of it, like they’re doing right now.

But it’s familiar because they have done this before. They’ve been in this exact same position in Taehyung’s bed, when they were far younger and things between them were entirely different. It was ages ago and now they’re different people, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been here before.

A few things are different now. Back then, things between them were far easier than they are now. They were best friends, nothing more. They had no unresolved problems that had been building up for years, both of them refusing to talk about them, and they had no confusion about where they stood with each other. Back then, Taehyung and Jeongguk didn’t lie in bed together with their pinkies brushing, the touch so minimal yet still able to make Taehyung so hyper-aware of it. Back then, accidentally brushing his finger against Jeongguk’s wouldn’t have made Taehyung’s breath catch in his throat the way it does now.

“I used to spend more time here than I did in my own room when I was like fifteen,” Jeongguk speaks then, breaking the silence. It doesn’t make Taehyung’s heart slow down, but at least it distracts him from it. “Your mom said there was no better place for you to study than your own bedroom.”

“And yet we always ended up playing around and getting distracted,” Taehyung says, making Jeongguk quietly laugh by his side. “Sometimes we pretended to forget about the hour just so you could ask your mom to stay for a sleepover, saying it was too late to get the bus home.”

“I don’t think she bought it, but she still humored me,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head a little. Taehyung looks at him. “Now, when I think back to it, I feel a little bad. My dad didn’t even go home most nights for dinner and when he came he was always in a bad mood, yet I ditched her like that. I just didn’t really like to be at home.”

“Hey, no—don’t say that, Gukkie,” Taehyung tells him, his eyebrows furrowing slightly. “You know she doesn’t hold that against you. There’s no need to beat yourself up over it. Besides—maybe she enjoyed having some time for herself.”

Jeongguk grins a little, even though it looks sad. “I hope so. I just don’t want her to feel lonely. I think she felt lonely a lot during those times,” Jeongguk rambles. “Is that weird? That I feel like she felt lonelier before the divorce than after it?”

“How so?” Taehyung inquires.

“Because—because before they got the divorce, it always seemed like she was holding on to hope, always expecting some sort of… company? Love? I don’t know,” Jeongguk replies. “But then she let go of that, and ever since I just think she looks happier. She goes out more with friends, she smiles more, she doesn’t seem as… sad. Realistically, she spends a lot more time alone than she did back then. But I don’t think she’s lonely.”

“Loneliness doesn’t always go hand in hand with being alone. Sometimes you can be with other people, and still feel lonely,” Taehyung reflects, to which Jeongguk hums in agreement. Taehyung has a question on the tip of his tongue, one that he’s been dying to ask, but he doesn’t know if it’s perhaps too invasive. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re in his childhood room, where they have too many memories together, that makes him decide to bite the bullet and ask. “How was it for you? The divorce.”

“Honestly? Both a blessing and a curse,” Jeongguk says, with a sigh. “On one hand, it really hurt to watch their marriage fall apart. Like my mom, part of me was always hoping that it was just a phase for my dad, and that eventually he would prioritize other things more, you know? Things like his family. So seeing them split and having him leave us for good hurt, especially because I knew that if he hadn’t made an effort with me before the divorce happened, he wouldn’t make it after.” Jeongguk makes a pause there, inhaling deeply. Taehyung links their pinkies together and squeezes. “But after it happened, everything got better. Things at home were better, no longer stiff. Mom was happier. It was different from the family I had always had, and from the family that I saw everyone else had, but it was a family nevertheless. And a happy one. I didn’t remember having a happy family before then.”

“I’m happy she’s happy,” Taehyung says then. He stops, swallows down, then adds, “And I’m happy you are, too.”

“I’ve been doing fairly good lately, yeah,” Jeongguk says, turning his head a little so he can look at Taehyung. Only the little lamp on Taehyung’s bedside table is on, but the yellow light is enough for Taehyung to see Jeongguk. The shadow of his eyelashes falls prettily on his cheek, and Taehyung thinks that he looks so heartbreakingly beautiful that he wants to remember this forever. Everything about this—the way Jeongguk looks, the quiet whisper of their voices, their linked pinkies, the way Taehyung’s heart feels like it’s swelling up inside his chest. “I’m happy you’re happy.”

Taehyung smiles, and next to him, Jeongguk does the same. After that, neither of them says anything else, but Taehyung doesn’t think they need to. Their still-joint hands are doing all the talking for them.

 

 

 

When it comes to Jeongguk, it’s safe to say that Taehyung is used to acting feisty. Immediately after their reunion it was clearly because of his obvious distaste for Jeongguk. He didn’t like him, and so something in him constantly asked Taehyung to antagonize him. Months passed and their relationship evolved, and now Taehyung’s initial feistiness turned more so into… playfulness. Now the intention is not to get under Jeongguk’s skin anymore, nor to piss him off; right now, he just wants to mess a little. Because it’s fun, more than anything else. 

But like all rules, this has an exception. And if Taehyung likes to play around and antagonize Jeongguk in most areas of life, always pushing his buttons, there has to be that one occasion or situation where he’s not antagonizing like that. And that situation is, of course, the bedroom.

Now, this isn’t something that Taehyung discovered with Jeongguk, but it’s definitely something that he’s exploring more now. He’s known for a while that he likes to please, that he likes to follow orders and even be roughed up in a sexual way. The previous men that he’s been with have also been aware, and so Taehyung has done stuff of the sort with them. But with Jeongguk? God, Taehyung doesn’t think that anyone has ever done him like Jeongguk. And he doesn’t think he’s ever felt as stupidly eager to please someone as he does with Jeongguk.

Which would explain, in a way, why they barely make it past the hall of Jeongguk’s apartment before Taehyung is dropping to his knees, hands working on Jeongguk’s belt. They had been kissing in the elevator on their way up, maybe spent some time making out in the hallway because neither of them could bring themselves to stop. Something Taehyung has come to realize is that Jeongguk’s mouth and his hands on him are addicting, so much that the thought of letting go for a few seconds in order for Jeongguk to unlock his room is an unpleasant one.

Once they’re inside, the situation doesn’t get much better. Now in the safety of Jeongguk’s apartment and without the possibility of any of Jeongguk’s neighbors running into him, the two of them really let go. Jeongguk lets himself be pushed against the wall by Taehyung, who slides one thigh between Jeongguk’s as he eagerly licks into his mouth. At the same time, Jeongguk’s hands start making their way down Taehyung’s body, finding his ass and giving it a generous squeeze. Taehyung can’t help but hum into Jeongguk’s mouth at the feeling, which only encourages him to do it again.

Feeling Jeongguk’s growing erection against his upper thigh is what, in the end, pushes Taehyung to sink down to his knees, eyes locked into Jeongguk’s. And Jeongguk doesn’t say anything, really, but he doesn’t need to—his hair looks a little messy now, falling into his eyes, and he’s biting down on his bottom lip as he watches Taehyung undo his belt and the zipper of his jeans. Despite the fact that no words are exchanged, Taehyung thinks that there is something so stupidly hot about Jeongguk right now, from the way he looks to the way he looks at him. It makes Taehyung shift a little on his knees, tugging at Jeongguk’s jeans and peeling them off his legs.

Now, something else that Taehyung knows about himself is that he loves giving head. For that very same reason, he doesn’t bother beating around the bush too much, or trying to tease Jeongguk—he can tell how badly Jeongguk wants this now, and the truth is that Taehyung would be lying if he said he doesn’t want to do it as badly. Once Jeongguk’s jeans are pulled down, Taehyung doesn’t waste any time before he’s leaning forward and giving Jeonggukʼs hardening cock a lick through the fabric of his underwear, making Jeongguk inhale sharply.

“Fuck,” he mutters as Taehyung focuses on the head of his cock, making sure to look up at Jeongguk as he does so. Another deep breath, followed by a, “Take those off too, c’mon.”

And who is Taehyung to not listen? He hooks his fingers in the waistband of Jeongguk’s underwear and pulls down, freeing his hard and flushed cock. The first thing he does is wrap his fingers around it, giving it a couple of weak strokes as he smiles a little at Jeongguk.

“I wanna suck you off,” he announces then, in case it wasn’t obvious enough. Jeongguk raises an eyebrow.

“Is that so?” he asks, to which Taehyung nods. “Well, then you better get to it now, right, pretty?”

Taehyung doesn’t need to be told twice. He leans forward, one hand still holding Jeongguk’s cock while the other keeps Jeongguk’s shirt out of the way. He gives the underside of Jeongguk’s dick another long lick, this one all the way from the base to the tip, before swirling his tongue around the head, collecting the pre-come that is gathering there. It elicits another moan from Jeongguk, whose hand moves to the back of Taehyung’s head and tangles in his hair, tugging a little at it.

“Fuck, Taehyung,” he says, and holy shit—Taehyung thinks that Jeongguk calling his name like this is his new favorite sound. When he’s turned on and his voice gets airy, almost strained. It makes Taehyung feel his own cock twitch inside his underwear, an almost painful reminder of how turned on he is himself. “Fuck, just like that.”

And really, if he says so himself, Taehyung must admit he’s rather good at sucking cock. Jeongguk’s moans and groans of pleasure are just further confirmation. Taehyung takes him in his mouth, getting him deeper every time he bobs his head down, until all of Jeongguk is buried down his throat. His cock feels thick and heavy inside his mouth, enough for Taehyung to feel his own dick twitch inside his underwear. He takes his hand to the front of his jeans and palms himself through the fabric, riling himself up even more.

As he does that, Taehyung looks up at Jeongguk through his eyelashes once again, hollowing his cheeks around him, which ends up in Jeongguk’s hold around his hair tightening a little more. The sensation makes Taehyung moan around Jeongguk’s cock, one of his hands gripping tightly at Jeongguk’s hips as they jerk forward. Taehyung’s eyes slide closed then, because fuck. He swallows around it, making Jeongguk let out another loud, pleasured sound.

“So fucking good,” Jeongguk grits out then, lips red from biting on them to hold back his sounds. Taehyung’s stomach does a pirouette inside his ribcage. “Come on, look at me. Can I fuck your mouth, Tae?”

Taehyung blinks his eyes open then, starting to pull back as he lets go of Jeongguk’s cock. His lips are glossy and shiny with spit, a little bit of it dripping down to his chin, but something in him tells him that Jeongguk is into it.

“Yes, fuck,” he says, his voice a little hoarse. “I want you to fuck my mouth.”

Jeongguk swallows down, moving his hands to the front of his shirt as he starts undoing the buttons. Taehyung is glad—not only because he’s always happy to get a peek of Jeongguk’s abs, but also because hopefully that means the stupid fabric can stop getting in the way now.

“God, Taehyung,” he says, nimble fingers still working on the buttons. His tone is teasing as he adds, “You’re such a slut, aren’t you?”

“Only when it comes to good dick,” Taehyung teases, wiping the drool off his chin with the back of his hand. Jeongguk smiles a little at that, undeniably flattered. “Hurry up. You’re taking ages.”

“Don’t get too cheeky,” Jeongguk says, his shirt now undone. He still has his blazer on, so he quickly gets rid of it and haphazardly throws it to the floor. His black shirt hangs to the sides of his body now, and Taehyung would be lying if he said part of him doesn’t want to lean forward and lick up his torso, but he’s got something else to do right now.

“Or what?” he inquires, at the same time Jeongguk reaches forward and holds his chin, eyes locked on his.

“Or I might have to do something about it,” he says, moving his thumb and pressing it lightly against Taehyung’s bottom lip. Taehyung isn’t sure if this was Jeongguk’s intention when he did that, but he still wraps his lips around Jeongguk’s digit, sucking it into his mouth. Jeongguk seems a little shocked at first, but it’s not soon before he’s pressing down on Taehyung’s tongue with the pad of his thumb, letting him suck on it more. 

Everything about it is stupidly lewd—from the way Taehyung takes Jeongguk’s thumb into his mouth, to the obscene pop that fills the air between them as Taehyung lets go of it. They look at each other for a moment there, Taehyung still on his knees with Jeongguk standing before him, until Taehyung breaks the silence between them.

“Fuck my mouth,” he says, voice barely above a whisper. But despite how low it was, it still seems to be able to switch on something inside Jeongguk.

One of his hands moves to the back of Taehyung’s head, fingers yet again tangling themselves in his hair. The other moves to hold the base of his cock, guiding it to Taehyung’s mouth. Taehyung’s lips part, welcoming the weight of Jeongguk’s cock in his mouth again.

Earlier, Jeongguk was controlled, keeping his own instincts at bay and letting Taehyung take him at his own pace. Now, however, Jeongguk lets go—the first thrust of his cock inside his mouth makes Taehyung choke a little, throat tightening around Jeongguk. He starts off slowly, using the hand he has tangled in Taehyung’s hair to manhandle his head away as he jerks his hips back.

Part of Taehyung wishes he understood just why he loves this so much—to have Jeongguk thrust inside his mouth relentlessly, his cock making Taehyung gag and making his eyes glassy with unshed tears. He doesn’t reflect much about it, though, because now’s not really the moment. What he does instead is use his now free hands to clumsily undo the front of his jeans as well as he can, as he’s still kneeling before Jeongguk. One of his hands reaches for his raging erection, palming himself through his underwear and making himself moan around Jeongguk’s cock.

Eventually, Jeongguk’s hand tightens around Taehyung’s locks, keeping him in place as he completely takes over. Jeongguk’s cock is merciless fucking into him, and Taehyung can’t help but let his eyes flutter shut as he slips a hand inside his underwear to jerk himself off in fast, erratic motions. He’s so stupidly worked up just from sucking Jeongguk off that it’s not very likely he’ll last long, but it’s okay. From how messy Jeongguk’s rhythm has turned and the high-pitched moans he lets out, Taehyung knows that he’s not far from coming yet.

“S-such a good boy, hyung,” Jeongguk tells him then, his voice raspy. Taehyung’s cock throbs in his hand, and god. He was already so fucking close, so Jeongguk saying that to him definitely doesn’t help. “You look so pretty like this, Tae. Fuck. Look at me.”

He blinks his eyes open then, eyelashes wet from how roughly Jeongguk was fucking him. He doesn’t even want to imagine how ruined he looks now, hair a mess from Jeongguk constantly pulling on it and lips red and swollen from getting his mouth fucked. He’s sure Jeongguk can see him touch himself, getting himself off just from sucking his cock in his mouth.

Jeongguk lets go of Taehyung’s hair now, as he says, “Gonna come.” Something inside of Taehyung’s stomach twists pleasurably, because fuck. He’s done this before, he has sucked Jeongguk before, but never has he had Jeongguk come inside his mouth. He’s pretty sure the reason why Jeongguk has let go of his hair is to allow him to pull back before he comes, but the thing is, Taehyung doesn’t want to pull away. Instead, he looks up at Jeongguk again, at the same time he swallows down around him again.

After that, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for Jeongguk to reach his orgasm, spilling inside Taehyung’s mouth. He swallows every last drop of Jeongguk’s load, his hand still working rapidly around himself, and fuck—yes, yes, yes. He pulls back from Jeongguk’s cock, a string of saliva connecting it to Taehyung’s glossy lips.

“Fuck,” he whispers then, his voice hoarse.

“Come on, hyung,” Jeongguk encourages him, letting himself lean back against the wall as he recovers from his orgasm. Taehyung sees his chest heavily move up and down, his breathing turned into pants. “Come for me, Tae. I wanna see how pretty you are when you come.”

And really, Taehyung was already so fucking close. But Jeongguk’s words are enough to definitely bring him over the edge, the feeling and taste of Jeongguk coming inside his mouth in combination to the work of his hand around his own dick.

He ends up coming all over his own hand, unavoidably staining his palm and the front of his underwear. A moan slips past his own lips then, a loud cry of pleasure as he finally reaches his climax. His eyes flutter closed and his mind goes blank for a couple of seconds, trying unsuccessfully to calm his breathing down. When he finally manages to open his eyes, he sees that Jeongguk has let himself slide down against the wall, sitting right in front of him with his underwear and jeans still pooling around his calves. And Taehyung thought he was a mess, really. But now, after seeing the state that Jeongguk is in, he’s sure he can’t be looking much worse.

“Fuck,” he repeats, still unable to conjure up a complete sentence. He feels like every last drop of coherence and eloquence have been squeezed out of his body, and now he can’t really do much more than curse.

Jeongguk is still panting, his shirt is still open and his face, neck and chest are flushed bright red. When he looks at Taehyung, he still has that glint in his eyes that Taehyung only really sees when they’re having sex, so that’s proof that neither of them has really come down from the high yet. Still, he’s the first one to break the silence between them, making an offer that Taehyung can’t really refuse.

“So…” he starts, pausing for a few seconds. “Do you wanna wash up?”

 

Taehyung learns that night that a shower with Jeongguk, unavoidably brings along with it more sex with Jeongguk, despite what had just happened between them. One thing leads to another, and suddenly, boom—it’s three in the morning, Taehyung is stupidly tired, and not really in the mood to go home. He doesn’t even have to ask, as Jeongguk offers him to stay over after their third round of the night.

It’s the weekend, neither of them has work or any other obligations tomorrow, and it’s late. Plus, he’s wearing an oversized t-shirt of Jeongguk’s, who has been playing with his hair for the last thirty minutes or so. He’s sleepy, which is making him let his guard down, and in Taehyung’s defense, the thought of going out into the street and then driving home seems like a horrible one right now.

For all of those reasons, Taehyung accepts his invitation to sleep over. Even though maybe he shouldn’t, even though that just complicates things when they were already complicated enough, even if he knows himself and how this will make him feel.

Right now he can think of few things he’d like more than staying right here, with Jeongguk. Everything else, be it what this has to mean or if Jeongguk feels the same way he’s feeling right now, can wait until morning time. As of right now, Taehyung is going to let himself have this.

 

 

Waking up next to Jeongguk in his bed is definitely not something that Taehyung was planning on, but the truth is, he isn't going to bring himself to complain about it. At first he was a bit disorientated, especially as his eyes were still closed when he noticed the soft snoring right to his left, but soon the realization of where he is sunk in. Taehyung flutters his eyes open, giving himself a couple of moments to adjust to the brightness of the morning, before rolling to his side and finally looking at Jeongguk.

And really, Taehyung would be lying if he said it's the first time that he's woken us like this–next to Jeongguk, in his bedroom. Things were different back then, though, and Taehyung thinks that context is incredibly important here. They're not the same as they used to be, are they? And what brings them together now is definitely not the friendship that used to tie them together.

They're different, too. They're grown. Jeongguk is not the same scrawny kid that Taehyung used to know, always teasing him about his height after his own growth spurt hit him. Now the two of them are around the same height—Taehyung is convinced he's slightly taller, but he knows that Jeongguk will never admit it if he were to ask.

Along with Jeongguk's body, his mind and maturity grew too. Jeongguk isn't as shy with strangers as he used to be, and how little is left of the kid who could barely address Taehyung's parents without his voice trembling. He's more assertive now, and has become even more hard-working and responsible, which doesn't mean he can't be playful when it's just the two of them. That aspect hasn't changed.

Some other things remain the same. His mouth still hangs open when he sleeps, which makes him snore softly. The sound is still familiar to Taehyung's ears, even if it's been years since he last heard it, and that brings a small smile to his face. The round slope of his nose is still the same, and so is the messiness of his bedhead, a witness of how much he moves and tosses in his sleep.

Jeongguk did a poor job of pulling the curtains closed last night, so the room is bright. Light bathes Jeongguk's face, who seems rather unbothered by it and is still sleeping soundly with his palm resting on top of his stomach. Taehyung's stomach turns a little when he spots a red bite mark right under Jeongguk's collarbone, knowing it was him who left it behind. Something about the whole picture tugs at Taehyung's heartstrings. It might be just how peaceful and angelic Jeongguk looks now, eyes still closed and still deep in slumber. Maybe it's the way his front teeth peek out from behind his parted lips, maybe it's the nest on top of his head, maybe just that Taehyung is starting to fall in too deep. Taehyung doesn’t know, but what he’s sure about is that his heart skips a beat right then and there, and it’s all Jeongguk’s fault.

In that moment, Taehyung feels like he could spend considerably longer than it’d be considered normal or platonic just like this, his cheek squished against the palm of his hand as he watches Jeongguk sleep. And he probably would, to be honest, if not for the fact that his phone starts ringing just then. He still gets startled by the sound of his ringtone, even if he was already awake, and so he quickly turns around in bed and looks for his phone that is somewhere on the floor, along with his pants and the rest of his clothes. He has no choice but to jump out of bed, feeling cold as soon as the covers are away from his body.

His phone is easy to find, as it was on the carpet right under his slacks. As soon as he sees the caller ID things start to make sense, because realistically, who would call him at nine on a Sunday morning other than his mom?

“Good morning!” he greets as he picks up, bringing his phone to his ear. He turns around on his heels then, finding out much to his displeasure that he has woken Jeongguk up. Good morning, he mouths to him, getting a sleepy wave in response.

Morning, Taehyung-ah,” she greets back. In the background, Taehyung can very faintly hear the sound of a spoon clinking on ceramic, which must mean his mom is having her morning coffee right now. “I hope I didn’t wake you up.”

“I was awake already, don’t worry,” he says, moving back to the bed and sitting where he was lying seconds ago. As soon as he does so Jeongguk moves his arm, bringing his hand to Taehyung’s back and tickling him lightly. Taehyung tenses up then, back arching a little upon being tickled. “Why’d you call so early?”

Do I need a reason to call you?” she teases.

“You know you don’t,” Taehyung explains, feeling Jeongguk’s eyes slowly climb down his back. Taehyung turns around, giving him a killer look. “I was just wondering since we last saw each other last night. Did something happen?”

Nothing happened, don’t worry,” she tells him. Taehyung is about to say something in reply, but then Jeongguk’s fingers move to Taehyung’s outer thigh and pinch him softly, almost making him yelp. “It was actually last night that I wanted to talk to you about.

“About last night?” Taehyung says, his fingers wrapping tightly around Jeongguk’s wrist to try to stop his devious act. “What about last night?”

It’s about you and Jeongguk,” his mother says then. Taehyung tenses up, looking at Jeongguk to check if he heard his mom’s voice through the phone. Jeongguk doesn’t seem to be paying attention, though—he’s smiling a little, eyes on his own hand as he tries to break free from Taehyung’s grip. “I just wanted to ask you a question.”

“What question?”

Is something going on between you two?” she says. And there it is—the dreaded question. What he knew would come at some point, even though he was hoping it’d take longer. “I’ve been noticing things. Both in you and him, you know? And how you act around each other, or when the other is mentioned.” She pauses then, the two of them going quiet. The truth is, Taehyung doesn’t even know himself. Plus, there’s little he can say with Jeongguk in front of him. “You don’t need to tell me if there is, of course. But you know you can talk to me, and that your dad and I want you to be happy.”

His mom’s entire speech reminds him far too much of what happened when he had come out, making heat rush to his face. “I really can’t tell you right now because I don’t know myself,” he blurts out in response, being the most honest he’s been about this whole thing to anyone so far—including himself. “It’s complicated.”

I’m sure it is,” his mom replies, sounding somehow smug. Like she’s happy that she cracked the code, and figured out that something was indeed happening. “I hope it uncomplicates itself, then.”

“I don’t think it’s going to,” Taehyung says, before he can bring himself to stop. He’s always had a close relationship with his mom, and that has included talking about his relationships, but now it’s different because his parents know Jeongguk well. It makes him shy to talk about this—especially with Jeongguk listening. “Mom, can we talk about this some other time?”

Whenever you want to, sweetie,” she replies. Please, do not let her figure out why this is bad timing, Taehyung silently prays. He can’t imagine many things more humiliating than his mom finding out like this that he slept over at Jeongguk’s. “Let me know if something is bothering you, okay? It’s not good to bottle up.”

“I will do,” Taehyung says with a nod, even if she can’t see. “I love you, mom. I’ll talk to you soon.”

I love you too, Taehyung-ah. Message soon!

After that, Taehyung hangs up and quickly locks his phone, throwing it to the end of the bed. Jeongguk watches him silently for a couple of seconds, Taehyung feeling his eyes boring holes in his cheekbone.

“Everything okay?” Jeongguk asks, tone cautious. He’s probably scared of making a joke and fucking up, like when he had asked Taehyung if his boyfriend had dumped him when, in fact, that was exactly what had happened.

“Everything’s okay, yeah,” Taehyung replies, turning around to meet Jeongguk’s eyes. “Don’t ask about it, though.”

“Okay, okay,” Jeongguk says, lifting up his hands and showing Taehyung his palms as if he were surrendering. “I wasn’t even curious, you know.”

“I’m sure you weren’t,” Taehyung replies, giving Jeongguk a teasing look.

“Not in the slightest,” Jeongguk says. His arm stretches again, now climbing up Taehyung’s thigh as he lets his index and middle fingers walk over the bare skin. “You know what I’d be into, though?”

“Surprise me,” Taehyung says, following Jeongguk’s fingers with his eyes.

“Brekkie,” comes Jeongguk’s reply. Taehyung’s lips split into a smile. “Come on, let’s go. I’ll give you some sweatpants to put on.”

Before Taehyung can agree or disagree—in all fairness, he’d agree since he’s actually starving—Jeongguk starts moving, getting off the bed. Just because he’s Jeongguk and doesn’t like to make things easy, instead of leaving the bed from his side, he instead moves to Taehyung’s side and sits up behind him. Taehyung thinks it’s probably because the side he’s slept on is closer to the wardrobe, but then he feels Jeongguk duck closer to him and press a kiss on his cheek. Taehyung’s eyes widen.

“Are you listening? Come on, hyung. Don’t be lazy,” he says, giving a light slap to the outside of Taehyung’s thigh as he finally jumps off the bed.

And Taehyung, well—he takes a moment to react because currently he’s still trying to process what has just happened. Even if they’ve been casually affectionate with each other for the last couple of weeks, for some reason this still hits especially close to Taehyung’s heart. Maybe because of the conversation he’s just had, maybe because the more time that passes the harder it is to make sense of his feelings. He can feel his heart pound loudly in his chest, all because of a kiss to the cheek.

He then looks at Jeongguk, who is now up on his feet and walking to the closet. He pulls it open, grabbing the first pair of underwear that he seems to come across and putting them on before he turns and arches an eyebrow at Taehyung. That, for some reason, is what finally makes him snap out of his daze.

“Coming,” Taehyung sing-songs as he gets back on his feet again, Jeongguk smiling as he watches him walk towards him.

And it’s that smile alone that makes something in Taehyung shift. Jeongguk’s pink lips stretching into a toothy grin, his eyes bright and sincere and so terribly happy as they watch Taehyung make his way to him while wearing one of his t-shirts. Seeing that, seeing Jeongguk react to him like that, is what finally makes Taehyung make up his mind.

Whatever it is that’s going on between them, Taehyung is going to let it flow. He’ll let himself go, even if it means falling head over heels for him. Having Jeongguk look at him like that, as minuscule as it might seem, has made him feel more than any other person ever has. And Taehyung knows better than to let something like this go away when it just feels so right.

 

After breaking up with Seungjin, Taehyung had tried to leave things on friendly terms. Not that he was trying to be friends—something about how the whole thing had gone down told him that Seungjin wasn’t particularly interested in that, and that’s fine. But Taehyung just wanted to make sure that there was no bad blood between them whatsoever, so he had made sure to keep in touch a little bit. Just a few messages every now and then, mostly small talk, after making sure that Seungjin was okay with it.

It’s been a while since he last messaged Seungjin, but Taehyung thinks that in the end, his plan to get them to stay on friendly terms worked. He already suspected it had, from the tone of their last interactions, but now he’s pretty sure that it has. And the reason why he is, is because he gets a few texts.

 

Hey, Tae

I’ll be dropping by Seoul for work-related stuff next weekend

I thought maybe you’d like to meet up?

Have a catch up and stuff

Maybe have some fun later

 

Now, it’s been months since they last spoke, even more since they broke up. But after being with him for so long, Taehyung knows Seungjin. He knows him, he knows how things between the two of them were before and during their relationship. When Seungjin texts him to catch up and have some fun later, Taehyung knows that it has implications. And he knows that what’s implied there is more than grabbing a drink, keeping each other up to date and then going separate ways.

And there comes the dilemma. Because if Taehyung accepts, he knows that Seungjin is going to accept the proposal which, in Taehyung’s opinion, is nothing less and nothing more than a booty call. Even if he pretended to play dumb and act like he hadn’t noticed in the message, he knows that rejecting Seungjin is irremediably going to make things awkward. But he also doesn’t want to straight up say no, I don’t think this is a good idea at all, because what if Seungjin takes offense to that? Taehyung would like to preserve this fragile state of tranquility that reigns between them just now, and neither of those options seem like they’re going to achieve that.

Realistically, Taehyung knows that he should just be a big boy and tell Seungjin the truth—that he’s not interested, that he’s getting to know someone else and so all he can offer is some company and time for a coffee if he’s interested in that. But the thing is that, given that right now he and Seungjin aren’t boyfriends anymore, that they aren’t even friends, Taehyung thinks that he can prioritize other things over total transparency and honesty. Things, for example, such as tranquility and cordiality.

For that reason, Taehyung decides to tell a lie. A little white lie just to get himself out of a complicated situation without hurting or making anyone uncomfortable.

 

Oh hi!! That’s so cool Seungjin

Unfortunately I’m packed all weekend :(

I’ve already made plans and I’ll be out of Seoul all of it

It’s such a shame though!! I hope your business here goes well

 

He rereads his messages after he’s sent them, hoping that they sound as genuine as possible. Luckily, it’s been far too long for Seungjin to notice if there is anything off with his texting. He’s going over them for a third time, wondering whether he should add something else, when a voice speaks next to him.

“Who are you texting?”

Taehyung looks up from his phone and meets Jeongguk’s eyes, who look at him expectantly. The two of them are hanging out now, passing some time before it’s time to start making dinner. Jeongguk has been doing this thing lately where he just drops by after work, and the truth is that Taehyung is pretty into it. They don’t really need to come up with stupid excuses to hang out anymore, which Taehyung thinks is good progress.

“Just Seungjin,” Taehyung says. “He texted me just now.”

Taehyung doesn’t know how he expected Jeongguk to react because, as far as he knows, Jeongguk has absolutely no opinion of him. At first he didn’t believe he existed but that’s about it. Whenever the two of them have seen each other, he’s been nice and polite, so Taehyung doesn’t think that Jeongguk feels particularly strongly about him in any sense. However, instead of just a nod and a blank face as he was expecting, Jeongguk’s eyebrows raise.

“Seungjin?” he repeats.

Taehyung nods. “Yeah, Seungjin.” Jeongguk’s expression still seems a little puzzled, so Taehyung adds a short explanation. “He said he’s coming to Seoul this weekend for work and asked to meet up.”

Jeongguk’s eyebrows twitch then, almost being pulled into a frown. “He asked to meet up?” he repeats again.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to. I mean, I’d be cool with just meeting up and maybe having a drink, talking about how things have been, but from the way he texted me I can tell that he’s looking to have a hookup,” Taehyung explains. Jeongguk’s eyebrows raise again. “I just told him I’m busy all weekend.”

“Do you actually have plans?” Jeongguk asks Taehyung then, one of the corners of his mouth tilting up in a half-smile.

“Nope,” Taehyung replies, to which Jeongguk scoffs. “It’s a little white lie. I just don’t want to sleep with him.”

“I wonder why that is,” Jeongguk says, wrapping his fingers around Taehyung’s wrist and tugging him closer. Taehyung laughs a little, letting Jeongguk bring him closer to him.

“I don’t need hookups right now. I’m satisfied,” he says, to which Jeongguk wiggles his eyebrows rather ridiculously. Taehyung holds back some laughter, but can’t contain a smile as he adds, “Plus, I refuse to downgrade from boyfriend to booty call. I’m fine with the opposite, but this one is just sad.”

This time it’s Jeongguk’s turn to laugh, cackling breathily before he presses his lips against Taehyung’s into a clumsy kiss. It’s toothy, since the two of them are smiling, but Taehyung thinks kisses like this one are the best. “I’m gonna have to make sure that you’re occupied all weekend then,” Jeongguk tells him, pressing a light peck against the corner of Taehyung’s mouth. “Just to make sure that you’re not a little liar, you know.”

Taehyung hums a little, pretending to consider the situation, but the truth is that the two of them already know that he’s going to say yes. Just like the two of them know that Jeongguk couldn’t give less of a shit if Taehyung lied to Seungjin about being busy or not, and that he’s just using this as an excuse to see Taehyung during the weekend.

“I think that’s a good idea, yes,” Taehyung replies, before giving Jeongguk another kiss. This one is slightly longer, more than just a chaste peck. Jeongguk’s fingers slip under Taehyung’s shirt, his hand caressing the small of Taehyung’s back. Still, Taehyung doesn’t let himself zone out just yet, as he asks, “How do you feel about a trip to IKEA on Saturday?”

“Oh my god, I would love that,” Jeongguk says, before diving in for another. And oh, fuck—yeah, this is the one. Their lips slot together just so fucking perfectly as Jeongguk holds his waist tightly, making Taehyung’s toes curl as they kiss.

Right now, Jeongguk’s mouth is on his and his hands are under Taehyung’s clothes, so it’s a little hard for Taehyung to not give in, to just let himself get lost in Jeongguk’s kisses and touch. The details for their IKEA date—because yes, Taehyung has decided it’s a date—can wait until they’re done with this, right?

 

At some point in the midst of their sexcapades, Jeongguk tells Taehyung the passcode to his apartment. Not that he needed him to—after seeing him write it for him so many times, Taehyung had already memorized it. However, it’s different when Jeongguk tells him the code himself. At least, to Taehyung it seems different.

After that happened a few times, Jeongguk telling him that he knew the passcode so he could just walk in, Taehyung had sort of started to let himself into Jeongguk’s place. And he never had walked into something strange, really—no strangers, no weird scenarios, not even Jeongguk casually hanging out half-naked. The weirdest thing, he’d say, is when he one days walks into Jeongguk sighing sadly as he looks at his laptop.

Taehyung frowns for a second, taking the scene in. He leaves all the groceries he’s carrying on top of the counter—the two of them have decided to put minimum effort into dinner tonight, so he dropped by the store before coming to Jeongguk’s—and then walks over to him. “Are you okay?” he asks, one hand squeezing Jeongguk’s shoulder lightly as he moves to sit next to him.

For a moment there, Taehyung thinks that something really bad has happened—maybe something went wrong with work or with family. There’s a frown between Jeongguk’s eyebrows and he seems to be involuntarily pouting, so Taehyung thinks that something really upsetting must have happened. But then, when he moves to sit by Jeongguk’s side, he sees that what’s open on his screen is not mail. It’s not any news site where he could have read something bad. What Jeongguk is looking at is fucking eBay.

“I’m fine,” Jeongguk replies, as Taehyung turns to give him a pointed look. “I just lost an eBay bid.”

“Oh my god—Jeongguk! You were looking so sad, I thought something really bad had happened,” Taehyung says, almost sighing in relief. Maybe he’s a bit of a pessimist, but after seeing Jeongguk like that he couldn’t help but let his mind go to the worst-case scenario.  

“It is bad. Well—it’s not bad, but I’m still upset,” Jeongguk complains. Taehyung’s eyebrows raise a little in disbelief. “Look, I know it’s not the worst thing in the world, but hear me out. There’s this rare, limited edition manga that I’ve been looking for for months, and I found it on eBay the other day. I’ve been keeping an eye on the bid for days, but in the last second this motherfucker pulled something out of his ass and I lost.”

Taehyung does feel bad because after knowing Jeongguk for so long he knows that he’s into this kind of stuff. Hell, they both were back in the day, spending hours and hours in shops buying all sorts of graphic novels, then going home and sitting together while reading. Taehyung wouldn’t say he doesn’t like manga or anime anymore, but the truth is that he eventually lost interest in it and now has other hobbies that he pays more attention to. But judging by Jeongguk’s reaction to losing the bid, his interest hasn’t faded like Taehyung’s has.

“Oh my god, you poor thing,” Taehyung says with a small smile, getting a grumble from Jeongguk. He understands why he’s upset, it’s always frustrating to lose out in the last few seconds, but he’s still a tiny bit amused. Still, because he does feel bad for Jeongguk, he wraps his arm around his shoulders, giving him a squeeze. “Hey, Gukkie—cheer up. I’m sure you’ll find it again eventually. And next time we’ll make sure you get it, okay?”

“I just thought I had it. I knew he’d make another offer right before time ran out, and I had one ready myself, but it still didn’t work out,” Jeongguk complains again, huffing. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip to hold back another grin. “I fucking hate bids.”

“You’re so whiny,” Taehyung laughs, earning himself a look from Jeongguk. He’s feigning indifference to him, trying to give him a blank look, but Taehyung can tell by the look in his eyes that he’s not actually mad. “Giving me the cold shoulder, aren’t you?”

“I might have to. You don’t seem to be very understanding of my worries, Kim Taehyung,” Jeongguk replies, again making Taehyung laugh as he leans back on the couch, letting go of Jeongguk’s shoulders.

“Oh, please,” Taehyung says as his laughter dies down, placing one hand on top of his stomach. He stays quiet for a moment, then adds, “I didn’t know you were still into that kind of stuff.”

“Are you kidding? I made a vow to be a weeb for life, and I plan on sticking to it for the rest of my days,” Jeongguk says, making Taehyung snort a little. “I mean it! I brought my manga collection here for your information. I just don’t have it on display because I’m trying to make this look like a proper adult’s home. But it’s here.”

“Wait, do you really?” Taehyung asks, having Jeongguk nod in confirmation. “You should have told me! Can I see?”

“Of course you can,” Jeongguk says, at the same time he stands up. He nods with his head towards the opposite side of the living room, then adds, “Come on, follow me.”

Jeongguk’s manga collection happens to be hidden in the cabinets of his living room, and is now much bigger than Taehyung remembers it being back in the day. For some reason, Taehyung finds the sight right in front of him so endearing—Jeongguk is still wearing his suit from work, even if he’s gotten rid of the jacket and tie now, and he’s browsing through all of his manga just like he used to back in the day. He tells Taehyung all about the new additions, telling him how he needs to get back on his weeb game.

“You know, I wasn’t expecting you to still be so into this,” Taehyung teases, sitting on the floor across from Jeongguk as he looks at all of the books that are piling up on the floor now. When Jeongguk gives him an inquiring look, raising one of his eyebrows, Taehyung elaborates, “It’s so weird to see you always being so proper, such a professional businessman who always wears suits to work, but then still having this side to you.”

“Well, hyung,” Jeongguk starts then, tilting his head to the side a little. “I’m still a lot like I was back in the day. You always go on and on about how much we’ve changed, but I’m still a lot like I used to be in many aspects. Are you just catching up now?”

Jeongguk is giving him half a smile now, almost looking humored by how long it took Taehyung to realize. And, really—Taehyung would like to be able to say that he caught on before, but that would be a lie. Ever since he came back, Taehyung had assumed that he and Jeongguk were completely different from who they were then, and that they had to get to know each other from the start again.

It took him embarrassingly long to get to this, to the realization that, deep down, they’re still the same. Jeongguk still likes his manga as much as he did back in the day, which shouldn’t be at all surprising considering he’s still Jeongguk.

Surprisingly enough, that comes as the biggest relief ever to Taehyung. Because after all of these years, after college, after getting a job and growing into the established adult that he is today, he’s still him. He’s still his Jeongguk.

 

 

The very next day, on Thursday, Taehyung leaves the office a tiny bit later, trusting Jimin to handle the closing for today. He was a bit reluctant to do it at first, as there is nowhere he needs to be, even if he does want to. But Jimin, after Taehyung told him the little plan that he had come up with last night, had managed to convince him to during their lunch break.

“I can close today. You gave me my own set of keys for this reason, remember?” Jimin had said, raising an eyebrow at Taehyung. Taehyung then bit down on his lip, still reluctant. Feigning offence, Jimin had added, “Do you not trust me, Taehyungie?”

“You know it’s not that,” Taehyung had replied. “I just feel bad leaving earlier for personal things that I could be doing on the weekend instead of work hours. It’s not responsible.”

“You haven’t been absent one single day since starting your business, though, and it’s been almost six months,” Jimin pointed out. “Plus, when someone else—including myself—has asked to leave a little earlier for personal matters, you’ve been understanding. There should be no difference just because you’re in charge.”

“I don’t know,” Taehyung had said, still doubtful. “I could go on Saturday.”

“You already have plans for Saturday! Just go today, it’s barely half an hour,” Jimin replied, sounding almost like he had made the decision for Taehyung. “I can handle it. You have nothing to worry about. And no more arguing!”

And after that, Taehyung indeed didn’t argue any further. He knows that, even if he had tried, Jimin wouldn’t have stopped until convincing him. He’d kick him out of the office himself if he needed to, Taehyung thinks, so there really was no point in discussing it any more.

So, Taehyung leaves the office around thirty minutes early that day, walking to his car and immediately driving to his father’s—and therefore Jeongguk’s—workplace. He’s still wearing his work clothes, as Jeongguk will also be, but if they go home to change, leaving work early will have been completely pointless. He doesn’t take long to park his car, quickly making his way into the building, greeting the receptionist once he enters his dad’s office area. It doesn’t seem to be too busy, but he still stops to talk to a couple of people on his way to Jeongguk’s personal office. Once he’s standing in front of the door, he sharply knocks twice.

“Come in!” calls Jeongguk from the other side, his voice slightly muffled.

Of course, Taehyung planned to come here as a surprise, so Jeongguk knew nothing about it. Taehyung can see the shock bathing his face once he steps into Jeongguk’s office, clicking the door shut behind himself.

“Hey there,” Taehyung greets, waving his fingers at Jeongguk.

“Tae?” Jeongguk says, standing up and starting to make his way towards Taehyung. He stops himself a couple of steps away from Taehyung, looking hesitant about what to do. Taehyung knows what it’s about—Jeongguk probably wants to greet him with a kiss or a hug, but he’s doubtful since he’s at work. In the end, Jeongguk ends up reaching forward and wrapping his fingers around Taehyung’s wrist, giving it a light squeeze. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to pick you up,” Taehyung replies, watching as the confusion in Jeongguk’s face deepens. “C’mon. I already asked my dad about it, and he says you can leave early. Get your stuff and let’s go.”

“Go where?” Jeongguk asks, still not moving. Taehyung gives him a pointed look and doesn’t reply, and that’s enough for Jeongguk to move to get his coat. “Are you not going to tell me?”

“It’s a surprise,” Taehyung says, watching Jeongguk walk behind his desk and do something on his computer. “Don’t take too long.”

“Don’t be so impatient,” Jeongguk says, giving him a funny look from above his computer’s screen. Taehyung sticks his tongue out at him. “I just have to save a couple of documents and we can leave. Are you at least going to give me a clue about where we’re going?”

“Nope.”

“What if I guess it? Will you tell me if I’m right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Taehyung lies, mostly so Jeongguk stops asking. Even if he guessed right, Taehyung wouldn’t tell him since he doesn’t want Jeongguk to know until they’re there, but his response is enough to make Jeongguk smile as he stands up straight again. “Done?”

“Yep. Let’s go now.”

After that, the two of them quickly drop by Taehyung’s father’s office to say bye before making their way out. Obviously, most people there recognize Taehyung, so they get some curious looks upon seeing the two leave together. Taehyung’s instincts tell him to reach out and hold Jeongguk’s hand in his own, but he contains himself—he’s not going to let Jeongguk become the center of office gossip, just like it happened to him after Jeongguk’s visit a couple weeks ago. Plus, if that were to happen, word would inevitably reach Taehyung’s dad. After the phone call with his mom last Sunday, Taehyung knows that he’s also suspicious of the two of them. If things between the two of them become serious eventually, Taehyung will tell his parents, but he’ll tell them himself, not let them find out through others.

Conveniently, Jeongguk didn’t bring his car to work today, so the two of them get into Taehyung’s as he drives them to their destination. During the ride there, Jeongguk makes some guesses, some of them rational and others just plain stupid—to grab some coffee, to the movies, to the nail salon, to Disney World. That last one makes Taehyung laugh, telling Jeongguk that he guessed right and they’re going to Orlando.

It’s a lucky thing that Jeongguk doesn’t actually figure out where they’re heading, since that means Taehyung doesn’t have to tell him a little lie. Taehyung is actually shocked that he doesn’t recognize the area once they’re close, because this is a place that the two of them have come to many times before in the past. In all fairness, things look different now, and coming by car instead of using the metro like they did back in the day takes them down a different route. Still, Jeongguk doesn’t realize until they make it to the very same street they’re headed, letting out a rather dramatic gasp.

“You did not,” Jeongguk says, turning to look at him as Taehyung parks the car. “Taehyung.”

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung replies, not sparing him a look—he’s busy right now.

“You did not just bring me here almost eight years later, holy shit,” Jeongguk says.

Taehyung finishes parking the car and pulls the hand brake, only then turning around to look at Jeongguk. “I thought it’d be nice to come.”

A few meters away from the car is the entrance to a place that the two of them are very familiar with. It’s a bookstore, one that more so specializes in manhwa, manga and other comics. They used to come here together all the time when they were younger, so it’s no wonder that the place is away from Gangnam and all of its fanciness.

Jeongguk looks away from Taehyung then, turning to look at the shop as he unbuckles his seatbelt. “I just—I wasn’t expecting this at all. Of course it’s nice,” he says, turning around to look at Taehyung again. Much to Taehyung’s relief, Jeongguk’s eyes are bright and his lips are parted into a big, toothy smile. “I can’t believe you’ve brought us here. I haven’t been here since you left.”

“Really?” Taehyung asks, shocked. It was their absolute favorite bookstore to go to, and they came at least once every week, so Taehyung is surprised Jeongguk hasn’t come in so long. Especially considering that Jeongguk’s passion for this kind of stuff hasn’t died down in all of these years. “How come?”

“It just didn’t feel the same to come alone. And it was so far away from school to come on my own, anyway, so I eventually found other places that were closer,” Jeongguk explains, waving his hand dismissively. He doesn’t sound upset or remotely mad, but something about the words makes an unpleasant feeling appear in the pit of Taehyung’s stomach—guilt. After that one night where Jeongguk told him about how things were for him once he was gone, Taehyung can’t help but feel a little bit guilty whenever he thinks about it. Especially if what he’s hearing is that Jeongguk stopped coming to a place they loved because he was gone. Jeongguk must sense that Taehyung is overthinking because he then cheerfully suggests, “Should we go inside?”

And so they do. The two of them walk inside, and even if neither of them explicitly say it, Taehyung knows that the two of them are relieved to see that the place looks the same as it did all those years ago. They earn themselves a surprised look from the girl standing behind the counter, someone that Taehyung doesn’t recognize, but he’s not shocked—they really don’t look like the kind of crowd that usually come to the store, from what Taehyung remembers. Both are still wearing their work clothes, a stark contrast from the school uniforms and casual clothing that the rest of the people inside the shop are wearing.

Taehyung doesn’t care if the two of them stick out like a sore thumb. Being here, being here with Jeongguk brings too many good memories for him to focus on what anyone watching them thinks. He stops in his tracks for a moment, watching Jeongguk with a smile on his face as he looks at the shelves. It takes a moment for Jeongguk to realize that Taehyung isn’t moving, and so he turns around a little to look at him. That same content, happy grin is still plastered on his face, and Taehyung can’t help but wonder if Jeongguk is aware that he’s smiling.

“Are you coming?” Jeongguk asks, reaching out to Taehyung with his hand.

There are many, many moments in his life that Taehyung would consider happy, and many of them have Jeongguk as their protagonist as well as himself. Something about this, though, feels special to Taehyung. It feels different. Taehyung knows why, even if he’s too scared to admit it just now. What he knows for sure is that, no matter what ends up happening between the two of them, Taehyung will remember today forever. 

Taehyung walks to Jeongguk, crossing the space between them before he slots their hands together. Their fingers lock around each other perfectly, Jeongguk’s thumb lightly brushing his own. It almost feels like they’ve done this a thousand times before.

“I’m here,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk looks at him, smiling still.

He’s here. It took him a while, but he’s here at last.

 

 

In a city like Seoul, that is constantly busy and buzzing with people, where the odds of running fortuitously into someone you know in the street are slim. The chances of bumping into the same stranger not once, but twice in the span of a month are even slimmer. And if you add to the mix that not only is it Seoul, but Gangnam, Seoul, during rush hour, well—it’s almost impossible, Taehyung would think.

Miracles happen sometimes, though. Or at least, that’s the conclusion that Taehyung comes to when, once again, he bumps into Namjoon in the middle of the street.

This time around neither of them are carrying warm drinks, fortunately, which means no unlucky spills. Taehyung stares at Namjoon’s face for a moment, eyes widening when he realizes why the face of the person he’s bumped into seems so familiar. It clicks right away—Namjoon, the drink for Jimin, then seeing him again leaving Jeongguk’s apartment. To say that Taehyung is impressed at how much they seem to run into each other would be an understatement.

“I think,” Namjoon starts then, a smile slowly spreading across his face, “that you’ve been following me around.”

Taehyung can’t help but laugh at that, shaking his head a little. “I can promise you I haven’t, no,” he replies, returning the smile. “But maybe you are the one following me.”

“I’m not too sure about that. You’re the one who was trying to get into a building I was just leaving, so I think my theory makes a lot more sense,” Namjoon points out.

“You make a good point,” Taehyung agrees. “I guess you’ll always have to live with the doubt about whether I’m a stalker or not.”

“I don’t think I can live with the uncertainty,” replies Namjoon, giving Taehyung a dimpled smile. Taehyung can’t help but think that he looks so terribly adorable and that, if things weren’t the way they are right now, there would be a big chance that this would have pulled at his heartstrings. “But for real—it’s a big coincidence that we keep finding each other randomly, don’t you think? It’s the third time now.”

“I mean—obviously,” Taehyung says. He bites down on his bottom lip as he says, “Didn’t Jeongguk tell you? That night we saw each other outside of his apartment, I was going to see him right as you left. So it looks like we have a common friend.”

“Wait, seriously?” Namjoon asks, looking dumbfounded for a minute. “I had no clue. Jeongguk didn’t mention anything.”

Maybe in another time, Taehyung would have let himself feel annoyed over Jeongguk not bothering to tell his friends about him. But now, the truth is that Taehyung doesn’t find himself getting mad about that. He doesn’t need Jeongguk to talk to everyone about him to know that he’s important to Jeongguk—it shows through his actions.

“He must have forgotten to,” Taehyung says, shrugging a little. He’s positive that Namjoon knows of him, he just hasn’t made the connection between Jeongguk’s childhood friend who is back and the guy whose coffee he spilt. It took Taehyung a moment to connect the dots as well. “You know Jeongguk.”

“That I do, yeah,” Namjoon says, laughing a bit. The two of them fall quiet for a moment, with Namjoon looking like he’s considering whether it’s a good idea to say something else or not. Taehyung is about to pipe up and add something before the silence turns uncomfortable, but Namjoon beats him to it. “Hey, um—I know this might seem awkward, but I really need to ask. Do you think we could maybe meet up at some point? Or even just exchange numbers to talk. I don’t want you to think I’m a weirdo or anything, but I’ve really enjoyed bumping into you so far. You seem like a really nice guy, uh… yeah. I doubt we’ll see each other like this a fourth time, so I feel like I need to ask.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen there, lips parting as well. He remembers Jimin telling him that Namjoon was for sure flirting with him, as well as Jeongguk mentioning that Namjoon regretted not asking for his number and called him cute. Taehyung doesn’t want to flatter himself, and he doesn’t want to assume, but right now he’d be lying if he said he doesn’t think that Namjoon has a bit of an interest in him.

Jeongguk, obviously, hasn’t told Namjoon about who he is and what’s going on between them. And Taehyung respects that—Jeongguk has the right to tell his friends things at his own pace and, after all, there’s nothing going on between the two of them, officially at least. Taehyung doesn’t really have an interest in Namjoon romantically right now, mostly because of Jeongguk, but he can’t tell Namjoon that; on the other side, Namjoon has been very nice to him and he sounds like a cool dude, so Taehyung would love for them to be friends.

So, taking all of that into account, he resolves that he has no reason to reject Namjoon’s proposal. He can just make clear that he’s not looking for anything later on, and everything will be fine. He’s sure Namjoon will understand.

Which is why Taehyung ends up saying, “Sure! Write it down and send me a text, and we can keep in touch.”

He recites his number to Namjoon, who saves it in his contact list and promises to send him a quick text later. After that, the two of them say their goodbyes and go separate ways for a third time, with certainty that they’ll see each other again. Be it because of their texting or through Jeongguk, Taehyung is sure he’ll be seeing a lot of Namjoon.

 

Saturday comes around, which means that it’s time for Taehyung to drag Jeongguk to IKEA with him. He would be lying if he said he’s not oddly excited about the premise of looking at furniture with Jeongguk for hours. It’s half-past ten on the dot when Taehyung arrives at Jeongguk’s apartment, not wanting to waste one second of their day together. Of course, Jeongguk is punctual as always. The moment that Taehyung sees him appear from the building, wearing light wash jeans and the thickest jumper Taehyung has ever seen under his coat, Taehyung’s heart melts a little.

“Hey there,” Jeongguk greets him after getting in the car, giving Taehyung a quick peck on the lips before he moves to get a hold of his seatbelt. He stays still for a second, just looking at Taehyung, before he adds, “You look pretty.”

“Oh, shut up,” Taehyung replies, the first thing he says to Jeongguk that morning. But far from being offended, Jeongguk just laughs.

Now, Taehyung has consumed his fair share of contemporary media to know that IKEA dates are it. He’s never had one himself, but he’s enough of a millennial to know that they are top tier dates, so he has high expectations.

And if he’s completely honest, he has to admit that the date not only meets his expectations, but also surpasses them. There is something stupidly cute about the fact that Jeongguk agreed to go furniture shopping with him, even if they’re only looking at things for Taehyung’s loft. It’s mostly stuff to make the place more him—some cushions, as well as decorative elements to make it feel more like home. Despite it not being for his own place, Jeongguk seems as excited as if it was. At some point he even offers to push the cart for Taehyung, and Taehyung takes full advantage of that.

There are different room setups scattered around the entire store, and even if Taehyung has no intention of purchasing any proper furniture, they still try every single mattress they come across. The plastic walls around them keep them away from the eyes of the rest of customers, so at some point Jeongguk ducks down and steals a kiss from Taehyung—nothing too long or raunchy, but still more than a simple peck.

“Jeongguk!” Taehyung hisses once Jeongguk pulls back, despite having kissed him back. He’s lying on his back on the bed still, Jeongguk looking down at him with a smug smile. “We’re in public.”

“People do this all the time,” Jeongguk replies with a shrug.

Straight people do,” Taehyung points out, making Jeongguk shrug.

“There’s no one around, we’re fine,” Jeongguk comments, looking around. Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip. When Jeongguk looks down at him again, he asks, “Can I kiss you again?”

And that’s how Taehyung has his first ever make out session in IKEA, at the age of twenty-five. As soon as they hear muffled voices and steps approaching, the two of them abruptly pull back, looking at each other before bursting into giggles. They move from that specific bedroom setup then, but it’s not long before they find another with no one around, where they end up doing the same thing. And then in the shower area of a bathroom setup, just to spice things up a little more.

At some point, Taehyung turns around to grab a blanket, unfolding it in front of himself and looking at it before he turns around to ask Jeongguk what he thinks about it. The thing is, when he turns around and looks behind himself, Jeongguk is gone. The cart he was pushing is there, but there are no signs of him.

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks. He looks around himself, but none of the people he can see in the large space are Jeongguk. “What the fuck?”

Now, Taehyung has been friends with Jeongguk for long enough to know that he didn’t go get something that caught his attention to bring it to Taehyung—he wants to play. And Taehyung, who might not be quite as competitive as Jeongguk but is always up for a good time, is going to indulge him. He folds the blanket back and leaves it where it was before taking care of the cart himself.

It takes him ages to find Jeongguk, but in the end he does—and without accepting the hints that Jeongguk was offering over text. He’s back in the kitchen area when Taehyung finds him, hiding behind a corner with his back to Taehyung. He’s peeking out from behind the wall to look out at the people, unaware that Taehyung is coming at him from behind. He makes his way to Jeongguk as quietly as the cart allows, placing both hands on his shoulders as he says, “Boo!”

“Fuck!” exclaims Jeongguk then, jumping a little. It earns them a few surprised looks from the rest of the customers, which only makes Taehyung laugh as he covers his mouth with one hand. “Holy fuck, Taehyung. Where did you come from?”

“Surprise, surprise,” Taehyung says, wiggling his eyebrows. “My turn?”

It turns out that Jeongguk is a lot better at hide and seek than Taehyung because he gets him in half the time it took Taehyung to find him. Taehyung isn’t even mad—that means they can finish up with the shopping soon and grab something to eat, which is good news to him as he’s starving.

After paying for all of his shopping they both head to the restaurant, Jeongguk helping Taehyung carry his shopping. Taehyung is determined to make this as cliché as possible, so after convincing Jeongguk the two of them get Swedish meatballs. Taehyung must admit he’s pleasantly surprised—something about the color of the sauce made him wary at first, but once he starts eating he finds out they’re actually really good. Jeongguk seems to be enjoying them as well, but something about Jeongguk that has remained the same ever since he was a scrawny teen is that he will eat just about anything.

“I had fun today,” Jeongguk says randomly out of the blue. “I was secretly dreading it because the previous times I’ve come here have been hell, but I had a good time.”

“Wow, so you didn’t actually want to come?” Taehyung says, placing one hand on his chest and feigning offence. “You should have told me.”

“I did want to! I wanted to spend time with you. It was just the IKEA part I wasn’t that happy about,” Jeongguk explains to him. Taehyung tries to keep his expression as neutral as possible, but truth be told Jeongguk’s words make him melt a little.

“Coming to IKEA with other people is a lot more fun than coming alone, I suppose,” Taehyung reflects.

“It wasn’t even alone. I’ve been with my mom a couple times before, but she doesn’t want to play hide and seek with me,” Jeongguk teases, smiling. Before Taehyung can reply, he adds, “I’ve also come with Joonie before, when he moved into his current apartment. Helped him move a shit ton of furniture into the trunk of my car.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen when Jeongguk says that, suddenly remembering yesterday morning’s encounter with Namjoon. He meant to tell Jeongguk, but he had forgotten up until now. Luckily, Jeongguk has brought it up now.

“Oh! That reminds me of something,” Taehyung starts. “I ran into Namjoon again yesterday.”

Again?” Jeongguk repeats, to which Taehyung hums affirmatively. “I don’t understand how you two keep randomly running into each other. So what happened, then? Did you talk?”

“We talked,” Taehyung confirms with a nod. “Found out that you haven’t told him who I am, which was a bit surprising considering everything,” he says, getting an unapologetic smile from Jeongguk. “And he asked for my number.”

Jeongguk is at a loss for words for a second, looking confused. He frowns a little as he asks, “And did you give it to him?”

“I did, yeah. He texted me and I saved his number, and promised I would talk to him some time soon,” Taehyung comments.

“Tae…” Jeongguk starts. “Are you, like—you know he asked because he’s into you, right? Remember I told you how he had been calling you cute and all that?”

“I know. I figured that was the reason why he asked,” Taehyung replies. He’s about to explain more, but Jeongguk beats him to it.

“Then why’d you do it?” he asks. Taehyung looks at him for a moment, puzzled. “Why did you give it to him?”

“Because I’m not a rude person,” Taehyung replies, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “He was being nice to me, I think he’s a cool guy and even if I’m not into him like that, I thought we could be friends. Especially considering he’s your friend. What am I supposed to do? Be rude to him when he asks for my number and then have you introduce us?”

“Well, I don’t know—but now he’s going to think that you’re into him, too,” Jeongguk says.

“Which is why I was going to tell him when we texted that I’m not looking for anything romantic with him. I don’t know what there is to be upset about or why you seem so bothered,” Taehyung says, leaning back in his chair. Jeongguk doesn’t say anything, remaining quiet, so Taehyung adds, “If you had told him who I was and what’s going on between us, none of this would have happened, you know? He wouldn’t have asked with that intention.”

“I just don’t get why you would give him your number when you know that he liked you, that’s all,” Jeongguk says, crossing his arms over his chest.

Taehyung clenches his jaw, feeling rather powerless. If Jeongguk had such a big problem with this, then why didn’t he tell Namjoon who Taehyung was and what was going on between them? After all, he’s the one who told Taehyung about what Namjoon had said about him. Surely he could have done something himself, instead of getting mad at Taehyung for having basic manners.

“I don’t even know why you care about what I do,” Taehyung mumbles, looking down at his plate as he shakes his head.

“I think it’s pretty obvious why I care, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says then. Something about his tone, about the way in which he says Taehyung’s name, seems hurt. It makes Taehyung look back up at him, just to see Jeongguk’s eyes already on him. “I think it’s always been obvious, I’d dare to say.”

Taehyung can’t help but be confused by Jeongguk’s words, but he doesn’t argue anymore. He’s someone who hates conflict so much, and he can tell that the conversation is getting more tense by the minute. He just scoffs and shakes his head, not saying anything else in response.

The silence between the two of them is quick to turn uncomfortable, neither of them daring to look at the other. After a little while, Taehyung bites the bullet and says, “I think we should head back now.”

“I think I’ll take a taxi,” Jeongguk says. The words almost feel like a slap to the face to Taehyung, but he just nods. He understands because he also feels uncomfortable now, but it still makes him feel like shit. “Do you want me to help you carry this to the car?”

“No need to bother. I’ll do it myself,” Taehyung replies. Jeongguk nods. “I… I’ll see you, Jeongguk.”

“See you around.”

Taehyung doesn’t wait after Jeongguk replies, getting the stuff he bought and quickly making his way out of the restaurant. A knot has formed in his throat now, tightening the more he thinks about it, but he can’t bring himself to stop. He still doesn’t let himself cry—not as he walks to the car, not as he packs his shopping into the trunk, and not even as he gets in his seat and buckles his seatbelt. The only thing he allows himself is a deep sigh, at the same time he buries his face in his palms and closes his eyes.

Well—the afternoon sure didn’t really go as planned.

 

 

Taehyung messages Namjoon that very same night, mostly to clarify the situation between the two of them. Just in case he was somehow leading Namjoon on—which he hopes not since all he did was be nice.

Jeongguk still hasn’t messaged him or reached out to him in any way, but it’s okay. Both of them need their time to cool down, and it’s only been a few hours, after all. Part of him is scared that this might take them back to where they were when Taehyung first arrived, but he doesn’t let himself dwell too much on the thought. It would take the two of them to actively try to make that happen, and he knows that he’s not going to do that anymore. He cares far too much about Jeongguk right now to do that.

But he’ll worry about him later. Right now, Taehyung thinks that he owes Namjoon the whole truth. Which is why, before he can bring himself to overthink it and therefore regret it, he opens his texting app and sends a message to Namjoon.

 

Hey there, Namjoon! It’s Taehyung

 

He decides to start the conversation easily, before getting straight into the topic. It would be weird of him to abruptly send a paragraph explaining that he doesn't like him, as well as a bit rude, so he just patiently waits for Namjoon to reply.

 

Hey, Taehyung!

I was starting to think you weren’t gonna message lol

 

Taehyung bites down on his lip, thumbs hovering over the keyboard as he thinks of a reply.

 

It’s only been a day!

I’ve been a bit busy hahah

Yeah, I get that

That’s not why I said that though

It’s because Jeongguk called me earlier

Oh god

And what did he say??

That you two knew each other and what you guys are right now

This is so terribly awkward holy fuck

Look, I know I was flirty towards you at first

But I really had no idea you were Jeongguk’s Taehyung

And I also didn’t know that you two were involved now

I don’t want to make anything complicated or awkward

So please forget about all of the advances I made

I hope we can be friends?

That’s good with me

I think friends sounds very good

Let’s hang out sometime, okay?

 

Namjoon is still online and typing a reply, but Taehyung doesn’t wait to see what the reply is. Instead, he quickly goes to his chat list and finds Jeongguk, thumbs quickly writing a message.

 

So now you wanna tell Namjoon?

 

Jeongguk’s reply comes almost instantly.

 

You told me to

You said I should have so I did

You just told him because you’re annoyed I gave him my number

Not because you wanted to tell him about me

So??

So now you’re a mind reader?

Thank you so much for telling me my own motivations

I wouldn’t know my reasonings if it weren’t for you

 

You’re a shit head

Like

You’re SOOOOO irritating

You seem so mad he knows now??

Is it because he isn’t interested anymore?

?????

Are you serious right now

You got it all wrong god

It’s not like that in the slightest

I don’t care about that because I’m not even into him

 

His fingers hover over the keyboard, about to type another message, but then he stops himself before typing anything. He doesn’t wait for a reply from Jeongguk, locking his phone and dropping it on the mattress before he heads to the bathroom. Only when he’s there, standing in front of the mirror, does he realize that his cheeks are red, pressing his palms against them because of how red they are.

He doesn’t even need to wonder why they feel so hot—he knows. Right before stopping himself, he was on the verge of writing Jeongguk a rather embarrassing message that he would have for sure regretted. Not because of what it said, but because of how.

I’m not even into him, he had sent to Jeongguk in regards to Namjoon. It’s a lucky thing that he stopped himself from writing, because I’m into you.

 

Chapter Text

Taehyung doesn’t get a very good sleep that night, constantly tossing and turning around in bed. Despite that, once morning comes, he still delays waking up as much as he can. He tangles himself in his bedsheets, hugging his pillow between his arms and thighs, and refuses to move or even look at his phone. The reason why is because he knows there will be nothing from Jeongguk.

After his shower last night, Taehyung thought he’d be coming back to some texts from Jeongguk, but there was nothing. He went on with his day after that, making dinner and trying to keep himself busy with work, but still nothing. Not even by the time he decided to go to bed.

There’s a dull ache in Taehyungʼs chest right now, caused by the stupid tension and unresolved conflict that sits between them. Arguing with Jeongguk again has made Taehyung realize how scared he is of losing him for a second time—how scared he is of things between them going sour again, of any resentment growing back. The situation was hard as it was when Taehyung returned, but now if you put the feelings they have for each other into the mix, it’s just bound to get worse. Taehyung knows that it would make him unhappy, at least.

Which is why he’s dreading getting out of bed or getting started with his day. Not that lying there and pretending that the world isnʼt a thing would help in the slightest, but Taehyung doesn’t care. This is his coping mechanism.

He doesn’t even bother to check the time, so he isn’t sure how much time he spends lying in bed, unmoving. His overthinking is keeping him entertained, time passing by fast. What he knows is that a good while goes by before he hears the doorbell sound, making Taehyung let out a deep breath as he looks up at the ceiling, wondering who it could be. Probably Jimin—Taehyung told him earlier that he and Jeongguk had argued and hadn’t talked since so he’s probably worried about him. The doorbell goes again, whoever is waiting outside the loft obviously getting impatient, and that’s what finally prompts Taehyung to drag his ass out of bed to see who’s outside.

He was expecting a friend, Jimin or maybe even Seokjin. Possibly his mom, who occasionally drops by unannounced—luckily, never when Jeongguk was over. However, it turns out that it’s no one he suspected. Much to Taehyung’s surprise, the person he’s faced with when he opens the door to his apartment is none other than Jeongguk.

For a second there neither of them says anything, both staring at each other in silence. Taehyung’s lips part in shock, as Jeongguk was the last person he was expecting to see outside his door. Jeongguk looks just as tired as Taehyung feels, the faintest hint of darkness under his eyes. In addition to that, Taehyung can also see the worry in his expression, in the slight frown of his brows. Taehyung hates seeing him like this, of course he does, but part of him is also relieved that he’s not the only one who’s feeling upset at the moment. It’s good to know that Jeongguk cares.

“Hey,” he greets at last. Taehyung swallows down. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah. Yeah, of course,” Taehyung says, snapping out of his daze and only then realizing how rude of him it was to just stare, wordlessly. He moves away from the door, nodding his head as he adds, “Come in, Jeongguk. Let’s talk.”

In the space of the last couple of months, Taehyung grew to love the quiet when he was with Jeongguk. It’s not something he was completely unused to—back in the day, when they were the best of friends, the quiet between them was also the comfortable kind. However, right now Taehyung can’t bring himself to like the quiet. Neither of them says anything, Taehyung watching Jeongguk take off his shoes before he steps inside, but rather than feeling comfortable and intimate, everything feels stiff. And that’s enough to make Taehyung feel like his chest is tightening, panicking because what if they can’t go back? What if he’s, once again, losing Jeongguk?

“I wanted to talk to you,” Jeongguk says, at last breaking the silence between them. Taehyung looks up from the floor, meeting Jeongguk’s eyes. “About yesterday and about last night. I wanted to apologize.”

“Apologize about what?” Taehyung pushes.

“About how I acted. I know it was uncalled for. I know I had no reason to act like that,” Jeongguk says, looking down at his feet. Taehyung can see that he’s actually regretful, which eases him a bit. In the end, what he’s upset about isn’t even what happened, even if he thinks Jeongguk was being petty for no reason. What upsets him the most is that they’re not on good terms anymore. “I just—I was being… I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” Taehyung asks, frowning a little out of confusion. “What don’t you know?”

“How to say this. I just—oh my god, this is so fucking stupid,” Jeongguk says, running a hand through his hair. “Namjoon is taller.”

“Namjoon… is taller,” Taehyung repeats, trying to make sense of it. Jeongguk doesn’t say anything in response, so Taehyung adds, “Than you?”

Jeongguk nods. “He’s taller than me.”

“I really don’t understand what that has to do with anything, Jeongguk,” Taehyung tells him.

“Well,” Jeongguk says, with a sigh. “Seungjin was also a lot taller than me.”

“Okay…”

“And that guy you liked in high school—what was his name? Hyungsik? He was older and he was taller, and when he graduated you kept complaining about it for weeks,” Jeongguk explains. Taehyung thinks he’s starting to follow now.

“So what you mean is that you’re jealous of Namjoon because he’s tall?” Taehyung says, sounding skeptical. At that, Jeongguk stays silent. “Jeongguk, just because I’ve liked people who are taller than you doesn’t mean that I’m going to start magically liking Namjoon. You know that.”

“I don’t know that,” Jeongguk mutters, making Taehyung sigh. “Why wouldn’t you? He’s an attractive guy, and he’s more or less your type.”

“You do know that, though. I don’t care if he’s my type,” Taehyung replies. “I’m not going to fall for anyone else when you and I…”

He trails off, not knowing how to end his sentence. The truth is that they’ve yet to discuss what they are, so it’s hard to put a name to it right now. He looks at Jeongguk, trying to decipher what he’s feeling, but Jeongguk is looking down and avoiding his eyes.

“I’ve always been here, though,” Jeongguk mumbles.

“I know you have, but—”

“No, Taehyung,” Jeongguk interrupts, looking up and meeting Taehyung’s eyes. “I have always been here.”

“Been here how?”

“I have always had a massive thing for you, Taehyung–everyone knows. My mom knows, Seokjin knows, your parents probably know, too. But in your eyes I was always your best friend, just that,” Jeongguk explains, looking away from Taehyung. The hint of pain that Taehyung sees in his gaze makes his stomach turn unpleasantly. “And then you left, and I wasn’t even that anymore. I was just someone you left behind. And when you came back... when you came back I was angry that you left me behind, but I wanted to talk things through and fix everything eventually. But what happened instead was you hating me and, fuck, you don’t know how much that hurt. Because I have liked you since forever–I have loved you since forever, and what happens when you’re back after seven years is that you hate me and don’t even want to see me. You don’t know how much that hurt, Tae.”

“Jeongguk—”

“No, let me finish,” Jeongguk says. “I have always been here, Taehyung. I have always had feelings for you, but there was always someone else. You never had eyes for me. You left without looking back, and I still loved you for years after that because how could I not? You have no idea how special you are, Taehyung. How fucking hard it is to move on from someone like you,” Jeongguk tells him, stopping for a couple seconds. “And when I finally feel like I’m over it, like I’m over you, you come back and I feel like I’m back to square one. Except this time you can’t even bear to see me because of how much you dislike me. And, as always, there’s someone else.”

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything after that. He’s still avoiding Taehyung’s eyes, but Taehyung knows better than to take that as a sign of insincerity. He would never call Jeongguk a coward, especially given that he’s anything but. However, he has his insecurities like everyone else. Taehyung knows this—for a long time, Jeongguk always worried about maybe not being enough to meet people’s expectations, or maybe not being enough for people to like him. Even if Jeongguk is older now and he’s worked a lot on those insecurities, Taehyung can still see traces of those insecurities, of his need for validation. Especially with the way he’s speaking right now, talking about how Taehyung had eyes for other people that weren’t him.

He gives him time, but eventually, it doesn’t seem like Jeongguk is going to say anything else. Only then does Taehyung speak up, when he feels like he’s allowed Jeongguk the time he needs. “There’s no one else now,” he says, watching Jeongguk carefully. He can see Jeongguk’s fists clench to the sides of his body, his Adam’s apple bob up and down as he swallows thickly. “Look at me, Gukkie. There’s no one else, no one other than you. I promise.”

Jeongguk looks up at him, gaze meeting Taehyung’s. “Do you mean you…?”

“Yes,” Taehyung replies, knowing what Jeongguk means even if he trails off. “Look—I didn’t feel that way back then. I wish I had noticed you did, and maybe that way I could have done something to make you hurt less. I was dumb and oblivious, I can’t say I ever noticed. I’m sorry,” he says, taking a pause. Jeongguk nods, his eyes urging Taehyung to continue. “It’s… it’s different now, Jeongguk. I have—being with you like this in these last few months… I don’t know. I guess what I’m trying to say it’s that I’ve been falling for you. And it’s been scary because of our history as best friends, but it felt so right that I didn’t want it to ever stop. I have feelings for you, Jeongguk.”

“Oh,” says Jeongguk. “You have feelings for me?”

“Yes. And I want to be with you because you make me feel stuff I’ve never felt for anyone before,” Taehyung confesses. “I’ve never been in love with anyone. I wasn’t in love with Seungjin, and that’s part of the reason why we split up. But with you—it just feels like it’s meant to be, Gukkie. And I think I could—”

“Don’t say it,” Jeongguk interrupts. Taehyung looks at him, surprised. Seeing the shock on his face, Jeongguk elaborates, “I don’t want you to jinx it.”

It’s almost ridiculous how that makes Taehyung feel, almost like a heavy weight has been lifted off his shoulders. Something about it tells Taehyung that the switch has been flipped—the tension and the conflict is now gone, after the talk they’ve both had. He lets out a breath, the ends of his mouth tilting up into a little smile.

“You’re a fucking nerd,” he says. It’s not the most romantic thing in the world, Taehyung knows, and it kind of ruins the intimacy of the moment they were having, but it makes Jeongguk laugh. It comes out a little choked, like there’s still a knot in his throat, but it sounds genuine despite that.

“A nerd you like?” he inquires then, with the smallest hint of doubt in his voice. 

“A nerd I like,” Taehyung confirms. He adds, “A nerd I’d love to kiss and hug if he’d let me.”

“C’mere,” Jeongguk mutters, taking Taehyung’s hand in one of his own. He pulls him closer like that, cupping Taehyung’s cheek with the other one. Taehyung holds his breath in anticipation before Jeongguk closes the space between their mouths, feeling his lips tingle.

The kiss is short and sweet, but it’s enough to make Taehyung feel like there’s an earthquake shaking his insides. He meant it when he said Jeongguk makes him feel in ways that were unknown to him up until now. Even just a kiss from him is enough to make Taehyung’s handS shake as they cling to Jeongguk’s shoulders, letting himself be pulled into a hug as the kiss breaks.

“You’re everything, Tae,” Jeongguk says, his arms settling around Taehyung’s body. The weight of them around his waist is familiar to Taehyung, comforting. Having Jeongguk hold him is probably the most soothing thing to him right about now. “I hope I can do it.”

And Taehyung can read right through what that means, even if Jeongguk is too scared of saying it in case he jinxes his chances. He knows that what Jeongguk really means by that is, I hope I can make you fall in love with me

 

 

The decision to adopt a dog is not one that Taehyung makes overnight—it’s been playing on his mind ever since Ms. Jang mentioned in passing that his building allows pets. Taehyung has always loved animals, especially dogs, and when he was younger he always liked going down to his grandparents’ home in Daegu because that meant he could play with the dogs. Unfortunately, his dad is allergic to them so he was never able to have one of his own as a child, and he didn’t feel ready for that kind of commitment back when he was in Europe. Now, however, things are different. His living arrangements are stable and he has the time and the funds to provide a good home to a tiny friend. So that’s why, after months of debating, he finally makes up his mind: he’s going to go to the shelter and adopt a dog.

Now, given that he lives in an apartment, his options are limited to small dogs but that’s not a problem for him. He’s been browsing different shelters’ websites—not without lots of cooing and heart-melting—and has found a few that have caught his eye. Hopefully, he’ll make his mind up once he’s there and meets them all in person.

It’s during one of his free days, on a Saturday, when Taehyung finally decides to make his way to the shelter. The thing is that he doesn’t want to go alone—he doesn’t feel comfortable driving with the dog riding on the backseat unattended since it’s possible that they might feel distressed because of the environment change, and being surrounded by new people. For that reason, he decides to call someone for help; just someone who will be willing to drive him there, or ride in the back with the dog. He considers asking either Jimin or Seokjin for help but, in the end, he calls Jeongguk.

And Jeongguk, of course, says yes. He offers to drive even if Taehyung mentions the possibility of a dog peeing in his car, but he just laughs it off. He drops by Taehyung’s place fifteen minutes after their call, two takeaway paper cups in his drink holder.

“I got us hot chocolate,” he explains, as soon as he sees Taehyung’s inquiring expression while he gets in the car. Something that Taehyung particularly likes about how things between them are now is that they’re back at that stage where words aren’t really needed anymore—they can read each other so well, just like in the old days. “Since you don’t like coffee.”

“You also got hot chocolate for yourself even though you could have gotten coffee,” Taehyung points out, reaching back for his seatbelt. “Could that mean you’re still a normal person who would rather have chocolate instead of coffee?”

Jeongguk laughs at that, shaking his head a little. “It just means I don’t want you to refuse a kiss from me because of the coffee taste,” he says. Taehyung smiles a little. “Speaking of—where’s my good morning kiss?”

Taehyung leans forward then, giving Jeongguk one, two, three kisses before he’s sitting back in his seat. Jeongguk starts the engine then, and upon seeing his hand resting on top of the console, Taehyung can’t help himself from reaching over and locking their fingers. Jeongguk doesn’t say anything, but a smile still climbs to his lips.

The first thing they do is make a short stop to a nearby pet store, getting a harness for the dog. They will have to drop by again later to get everything they need for them, but Taehyung is waiting—even if he’s seen a couple of dogs that he likes, he still isn’t one hundred percent sure of which one he’ll adopt. Once he knows, he’ll drop by and get the specific kind of food and other utilities that he’ll need for the dog.

“So what are you gonna do with the dog while you’re at work?” Jeongguk asks as he drives, curious.

“It depends,” Taehyung says, straightening up a little. He’s thought long and hard about this, so he’s considered every possibility. “If I end up adopting an older dog who’s already been trained, I’ll take them to the office with me—I have already asked everyone if they’d be okay with me bringing them to my office, and they’ve all said yes. No one at the agency is allergic, and if I need to meet someone, I can always ask beforehand.”

Work was one of the reasons why Taehyung was hesitant about adopting at first. He didn’t want to adopt a dog just to be away from them most of the day, or leave them alone locked in an empty apartment. Since he’s planning on adopting a small breed and has his own office, he thought about the possibility of bringing the dog to work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem, neither for the dog nor for the work they do there. Luckily, when he mentioned it to his employees, they were not only okay with it but also seemed pretty excited. Most of them were delighted at the premise of having a dog around the office, so that worked in Taehyung’s favor. 

Jeongguk nods at that, as if he were agreeing. “And what if it’s a puppy?”

“If it’s a puppy then I’m gonna need them to be trained before I bring them to work with me,” Taehyung replies. “There’s a dog daycare center close to the office. I read on their website that they help train them up, too,” he says. “I could drop them off there on my way to work, then drop by around lunch time and spend my break there, and then pick them up before going home. And once they’re trained and ready to come to the office, I’ll take them with me.”

“You really did plan everything, huh?” Jeongguk replies, stealing a glance at Taehyung. There’s a playful smirk on his lips, one that lets Taehyung know that Jeongguk is messing with him. “When did you become such an obsessive planner?”

Taehyung doesn’t reply—he just uses his fist to lightly punch Jeongguk’s arm. Not hard enough to hurt, of course, but hopefully it sends a message. Jeongguk laughs, clearly not very bothered by the weak attack.

The ride to the shelter is not too long, but it is fun. Taehyung plays music on Jeongguk’s phone, as it’s linked through Bluetooth to the car’s sound system. He has the terrible habit of only listening to a song up until the chorus, then switching to another, a tendency that he knows Jeongguk is not particularly fond of. He drinks his hot chocolate, brings Jeongguk’s cup to his lips whenever he asks—their hands are still linked, after all. Taehyung dances and sings along to the music, and even though Jeongguk is looking at the road, Taehyung knows that he steals a few glances every once in a while. The small, amused grin on his mouth, glued there the entire time they’re in the car, is proof of that.

Taehyung is almost sad when they get to their destination, but it doesn’t last for long—soon he remembers that they’re here for dogs, so that immediately cheers him up. They throw away their cups, their hot chocolate now gone, and start making their way into the shelter. Taehyung, who has previously phoned the shelter, would be lying if he said he’s not stupidly excited about this.

The perk of calling beforehand is that they were already aware of his visit. The employee at the reception recognizes him, and so she greets him warmly and immediately calls her colleague. There are a couple of people visiting, but luckily it’s not super crowded. It doesn’t take long for a man slightly older than the two of them to arrive, politely bowing as he introduces himself with a smile.

“Follow me,” he says to the two of them once introductions are over. “You said you’re more interested in small dogs, right? So let me take you to the back.”

The three of them cross through a door, and that’s where a long corridor with cages to each side appears. At first, they see some cats, and even though part of Taehyung wishes he could just stay and play around with them a little, he contains himself and follows the employee. Jeongguk seems to have the same dilemma, judging by the way he looks at the kittens as he walks past.

They eventually make it to the dog area. Taehyung recognizes some of the dogs he saw online, although some of them weren’t posted on the website yet. There’s puppies and adult dogs, as well as small, medium or big breeds. Part of Taehyung wishes he could just take them all with him, but he knows unfortunately that isn’t possible.

The employee asks if there were any dogs that caught his eye online, so when Taehyung replies affirmatively he proceeds to take him to them. It’s right after meeting the third one, when they’re getting to the fourth, that Taehyung sees a small puppy they didn’t have online. The dog is small—just a tiny, black fluffy hair-ball, with some brown fur on the front. What catches Taehyung’s attention immediately, aside from the non-stop motion of his tail as they stand right behind the metal cage, are their eyebrows. They’re the same brown as the fur on their face and chest, but they look so angry. Taehyung, for some reason, finds it adorable.

“How about this one?” he asks, stopping in his tracks to look at the puppy. He takes his fingers closer to the cage, watching the small dog get closer to his hand and tentatively sniff it. “I didn’t see them on the website.”

“Oh—he’s been here for a while. We had some more from the same litter, but they all got adopted because Pomeranians are a popular breed. This one was a little sick for a while, so people were a bit reluctant,” he explains. Taehyung watches the dog playfully nibble on his fingers while he listens. “He’s not on the website yet because of how young he is. He and the rest of the litter only became available for adoption last week, but because of how fast Pomeranians are adopted, he’s the only one left. We’re a little slow at updating the website, so…”

“Hey there, buddy,” Taehyung says, moving his finger from one side to the other and watching the puppy cling to it. He turns to the employee of the shelter then, asking, “And is he still sick?”

“He’s fine now, but people are still a little reluctant, I supposed. He shouldn’t have any more problems according to the vet,” he answers. Looking at the tiny, black puppy he adds, “I don’t think he’s gonna stay here for much longer, though. Probably won’t last until next weekend.”

Taehyung looks back at the puppy, biting down on his bottom lip. He told himself he’d give himself the chance to see all of the dogs he had seen online before making a decision, and probably meet some more. But right now, looking at the tiny dog play with his finger, tail moving energetically and tongue peeking out from his mouth every time he pulls back, Taehyung can’t help but feel like the decision is already made. He got a similar feeling when he and Jeongguk were seeing apartments with Ms. Jang and he saw the loft, and months later he doesn’t regret his decision. Over the course of the years, Taehyung has learned to trust his instincts, and his instincts are screaming at him right now.

Which is why, after a couple of seconds of silence, he says, “I want him.”

“Really?” the guy asks. He doesn’t sound at all surprised—like he’s mentioned, Pomeranians are popular. It just sounds like he wants to make sure. “Would you like to see the rest of the dogs first?”

“No, no—I want this little guy right here,” he says with a nod towards the cage, where the puppy is now licking at his fingers. “Could I take him home with me today?”

“Of course! Yeah, of course you can,” the guy replies. “If you follow me I’ll tell you a little more about him and we can go over all of the paperwork. It won’t take too long, and our policies will allow you to take him home with you today. It’s a fast process. We like to get them into their permanent homes fast.”

So Taehyung does just that—while the employee takes the puppy with him to prepare him for leaving the shelter, Taehyung gets back to the reception and starts filling out all of the paperwork. The door to the animal area is now open, so he can faintly hear Jeongguk talking to one of the dogs, as he stayed behind playing with him. It makes Taehyung smile to himself as he fills in all of the information, amused by Jeongguk’s antics.

It’s not too long before he’s done and they finally give him the puppy, as well as a copy of all the papers he needs. With the dog in his arms, he walks back into the corridor and gets closer to Jeongguk, asking, “Are you coming or not?”

Jeongguk, who is crouching next to the cage where a big, white Nureongi is, looks up at him. “You’re done?” he asks, standing up and looking at the puppy in Taehyung’s arms. “You’re all done now?”

“I’m all done. We can leave now—we need to go to the pet shop again,” he says, watching Jeongguk stand up and gently pet the puppy’s head. “Do you like my baby?”

“I do like your baby,” Jeongguk says, grinning. “You got any names in mind?”

“I was thinking Yeontan,” Taehyung replies. “Because of the color.”

“Yeontan. I like it, suits him well,” Jeongguk replies, laughing a little as he shakes his head. “Let’s get to the car, then. Take little Tannie home.”

Taehyung looks at the little dog once again, then back at Jeongguk, who is already walking, then back at the puppy. Little Tannie, Jeongguk had said. Taehyung smiles, at the same time he starts to follow Jeongguk to the car. He feels inexplicably happy right now.

 

 

One hour and a decent amount of shopping later, Taehyung gets back to his apartment along with Jeongguk and Yeontan. The first thing he does is, with the help of Jeongguk, set everything up. He’s got the dog the kind of food he needs, as well as a dog bed and bowls for his food and water, but that’s not all; he also got baby gates to avoid him going everywhere while he’s not properly potty trained and, of course, puppy training pads. Jeongguk holds Yeontan on his lap while Taehyung sets up the gates, placing a couple of the pads on the floor as well as the bed.

“I really do hope he’s easy to train. You’re gonna be a good boy, aren’t you?” Jeongguk asks, looking down at the puppy and nudging him with his index finger. Yeontan chases Jeongguk’s hand, squirming on his lap.

“I don’t think I’ll have much trouble. I helped to train my grandparents’ dogs, you know,” he says, flashing a quick smile Jeongguk’s way. He wasn’t expecting Jeongguk to already be looking in his direction, so finding his eyes on him makes Taehyung smile a little. “I hope he likes the treats.”

“I don’t think he’s gonna mind much, hyung,” Jeongguk says, laughing a little. Taehyung just clicks his tongue—it’s a valid thing to wonder, he thinks. “You know, I’m gonna have to come over a lot more now that you have a dog.”

Taehyung takes a second to process the words, after which he says, “You’re gonna have to come over a lot more, huh?”

“To help with Tannie,” Jeongguk clarifies.

“I can guarantee you, Jeonggukie, that I would be perfectly capable of taking care of a tiny puppy without your help,” Taehyung replies, tone teasing.

“Well—then I’m gonna want to come over a lot more now, then,” Jeongguk rephrases. Taehyung likes that wording a little more. “To play with your dog.”

“Just to play with my dog?” Taehyung asks, now feigning offence. “So now you only want me for my dog? Is that what you’re telling me?”

“No! Not true at all,” Jeongguk rushes to reply. “Okay—not just for your dog. I might want to come over to see you as well, but mostly for Tannie.”

The two of them talked about their feelings the other day—well, Jeongguk talked about his feelings. He told Taehyung about how he had liked him for years, and implied how now those feelings are back. But ever since then, neither of them has brought up the topic again. It’s not like Taehyung is afraid to—he’s not scared, that’s not the word. The two of them seem to have agreed to not bring it up again, even though Taehyung knows they should. He thinks, however, that their actions speak louder than words. He might not have said the words back, but hopefully Jeongguk can read between the lines and see what Taehyung feels. They’ve been acting more like a couple than like fuck buddies for a while now, but the fact that it hasn’t changed even after Jeongguk confessed does mean something. It means that Taehyung shares the same feelings, otherwise they wouldn’t still be in the situation they’re in right now.

Taehyung thinks that he’s not the only one to have come to this conclusion. Knowing Jeongguk as well as he does, Taehyung knows that he’d feel insecure and doubtful if he didn’t feel like Taehyung reciprocated his feelings. And, of course, Taehyung would be able to notice the signs. Rather than that, things between them seem to be better than ever now. They’re more comfortable around each other, especially when it comes to staying over and all the stuff that could be considered more couple-y. Taehyung knows that, realistically, it really won’t be that long before things between them become official.

So when Jeongguk tells him that he wants to come to see him, Taehyung doesn’t shut down. He doesn’t freeze up or spend a few seconds over-thinking before reacting, cautious of each of his words. Instead, he just smiles and leans forward, moving a little to press his lips against Jeongguk’s. The touch doesn’t come as a surprise to Jeongguk, whose hand immediately climbs up to tenderly cup Taehyung’s cheek.

It’s sweet and chaste, nothing further than a touch of their lips. Taehyung just likes to feel the sweetness of Jeongguk’s mouth against his, his thumb gently rubbing his cheek. The only reason why he pulls away when he does, breaking the kiss, is because he can feel Yeontan squirming between them, trying to get in between their faces.

“Tannie!” Taehyung exclaims. Yeontan still doesn’t know he’s Tannie, but he’s still excited just to be there—he jumps then from Jeongguk’s lap, escaping his grip now that Taehyung is distracted, and jumps onto Taehyung’s. He tries to reach for Taehyung’s face, tongue peeking out from his mouth adorably. “Are you jealous of him?”

“He should be,” Jeongguk says, leaning back a little. “I’m your number one.”

“I think you got a little too excited there,” Taehyung teases, letting his palm run over Yeontan’s tiny body. “I have a baby to take care of now.”

“And? We could be dog-dads together,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung gives him a funny look. “You shouldn’t pick favorites between your puppy and your fellow dog-dad, you know.”

“I think I should prioritize him,” Taehyung says, but Jeongguk immediately shakes his head negatively.

“No, no—that’s not how it goes,” he replies. “In a family, you’re not meant to pick favorites.”

“Oh my god, you’re so—” Taehyung exclaims, Jeongguk bursting into laughter. In the end, Taehyung uses one hand to shove Jeongguk as he grumbles, “Shut the fuck up.”

At that, Jeongguk just laughs even harder. He lies on the floor and gets Yeontan from Taehyung’s lap, placing him on his tummy. The puppy walks down Jeongguk’s torso, looking a bit startled by the way Jeongguk’s body still shakes with laughter beneath him.

Taehyung just sits there, watching the scene with a smile painted on his face. A family—he knows that Jeongguk was kidding when he said that, of course, but truth be told? Well, Taehyung is not at all opposed to that.

 

 

Later that very same day, Taehyung gets a text from Jimin. Upon opening it, he sees Jimin’s face giving the camera a kissy-face, but not only him—Hoseok is in the picture too, chin hooked over Jimin’s shoulder. He’s giving a peace sign, mimicking Jimin’s kissy-face. The two of them seem to be outside, judging by their clothes and the background, although it’s hard to tell where they are.

Taehyung sends a bunch of heart-eyes emojis, telling Jimin how cute the two of them are together. After that, he opens his own camera app, stretches his arm and says, “Say cheese.”

He’s curled up on the bed with Jeongguk, Yeontan standing on Jeongguk’s chest—he seems to have taken a liking to it over the course of the last few hours. Upon hearing Taehyung’s words, Jeongguk lifts up his eyes and looks at the phone, immediately picking Tannie up with one hand and making him face the camera. Taehyung snaps a couple of pictures of the three of them like that, before Jeongguk goes back to playing with the puppy.

Taehyung looks through them before sending them. Next to him, Jeongguk is scrunching his nose a little for the camera; he, on the other hand, has kept a blank face. And in between them is Yeontan, with his angry brows and his parted mouth, tongue peeking through. Taehyung smiles a little looking down at his phone, then sends it to Jimin.

“Who is it for?” Jeongguk asks distractedly then. He’s not looking at Taehyung as he asks, eyes still on the puppy.

“Jimin,” Taehyung replies.

Jeongguk nods, then smiles. “Cute,” is all he says.

Taehyung hums, not saying anything further. He looks down at his phone, gets an idea and lets himself reflect on it for a couple of seconds. After that, he thinks fuck it and proceeds to do it, taking less than a minute to make one of the selfies his new homescreen.

It might seem silly, but seeing the picture set as his wallpaper makes butterflies flutter in Taehyung’s stomach. Taehyung feels like it makes things a little more official to a degree; no one makes their hookup their home screen, and probably not a lot of people do the same with a casual friends with benefits thing. But with a boyfriend? Well, Taehyung would say that’s standard protocol. And while they’re not boyfriends just yet, Taehyung hopes that it’s not long before they’re exactly that.

So, yes—having them as his wallpaper makes him happy. It gives him hope. Taehyung lets himself stare at it for a couple more seconds, a grin still plastered on his face, before locking his phone and putting it away. After all,  there’s no point in gushing over the photo when he has the real thing right next to him.

 

 

It’s not too long before Miyoung drops by to meet Yeontan—in fact, she does so the very next day. Jeongguk isn’t around when she comes by, so it’s just the two of them after Taehyung went to pick her up. He’s agreed with his parents to drop her off before dinner time and stay there for a meal, but not for too long. He doesn’t want to leave Yeontan home alone all evening, especially since it’s still a very new environment for him and he could get distressed.

She seems to be just as in love with Yeontan as Taehyung himself feels, which he appreciates. The two of them sit on the floor in the living area with Tannie between them, Miyoung messing with him as he energetically jumps from one place to another. It makes Taehyung happy to see that his sister seems to fall in love with Yeontan right away; he wants everyone in his life to adore him, even if it sounds stupid.

It’s one of the first times that he gets to hang out with Miyoung alone ever since he moved out—most of the time they see each other when Taehyung visits the family home, which means that either of his parents is around. Part of Taehyung knew that she would take advantage of his fact and ask the question, although the other side of him was hoping she’d have some mercy on him. 

She, as it happens with most little sisters, doesn’t spare him.

“Do you have a new boyfriend?” she eventually asks out of the blue. No preparation, no hey, can I ask you something? beforehand to ready Taehyung for the question. 

Taehyung swallows down. “I don’t,” he replies, honest. He and Jeongguk are a thing, yes, but they’re not boyfriends. Taehyung is glad that he doesn’t have to lie. He knows that Miyoung won’t be happy with just that, and will ask more, but still. “What makes you ask that?”

“Because I know that that jumper isn’t yours,” she replies. Taehyung looks down at his clothes—he’s wearing one of Jeongguk’s jumpers, a baby blue one that he eventually stole from Jeongguk’s wardrobe. “Is it Jeongguk’s?”

“Have you seen it on him?” Taehyung asks, surprised. The jumper is old—it’s easy to tell from touching the material, and how the color has slightly faded away. Plus, it’s not the kind of thing that Jeongguk wears outside, especially to visit Taehyung’s family.

“No—no, I haven’t seen it on him, but I have eyes. And I’ve talked to mom,” Miyoung says, getting Yeontan on her lap and lifting her eyes to look at Taehyung. “You sort of confirmed it’s his, you know?”

Taehyung lets out a soft breath. “Yeah… yeah, I know.”

“So he’s your boyfriend?”

“Not my boyfriend, no,” Taehyung reiterates. “But we’re together. Sort of.”

“What do you mean sort of?” she asks with a frown. “That’s some cowardly shit. You need to define the relationship.”

“We’re just taking things slow. That’s what adults have to do, you know,” Taehyung teases her, prompting her to roll her eyes. He mimics her, adding, “Jumping straight into relationships is teenager shit. Adults test the waters beforehand.”

“You’re talking like you’re divorced and have three kids to feed, and that’s why you’re testing,” Miyoung teases. Taehyung snorts. “Seriously! There’s nothing stopping you from having a relationship with him. I think you both should clear things up and become official.”

“We’ll see about that. I like the pace we’re going at and I think he likes it, too,” Taehyung says. “Plus, the families are close to each other and he works for dad. That could make things messy. I need to tread lightly.”

“They’re not gonna be any messier than they were when you came back. You guys couldn’t stand each other and dad did nothing about it, so maybe it won’t be any different now,” she says. Taehyung laughs a little, not arguing—she makes a good point, after all. There’s silence for a second, as if Miyoung was thinking about things for a moment, before she says, “I always thought you would end up together.”

“Thought we’d end up together why?” Taehyung asks, surprised.

“I don’t know. You two were always together, and then when we learned that you liked boys I guess in my mind it turned into oh, they must like each other,” she says. “I remember being ten, eleven, and seeing you two together and it always felt like he adored you. Like—you loved him a lot, too, but he adored you, Tae. And I always thought, I hope someone looks at me like that someday. Maybe I’m wrong but…”

Miyoung trails off and Taehyung quietens for a moment. Jeongguk said to him the other day, when he confessed he had feelings for him, that everyone knew. Everyone knew but Taehyung. At the time, Taehyung thought it was a hyperbole, but now he’s starting to think that Jeongguk meant it quite literally. Even his little sister, who was eleven at the time he left, caught up. How could he be the only one to not see it, when it was so obvious to everyone else?

“He told me the other day that he had a crush on me before we left, too,” Taehyung confesses.

“I knew it!” Miyoung exclaims, her face lighting up from being right. “God, I knew it—and you? Did you like him, too?”

Taehyung takes a deep breath, then shakes his head. “No, no. Back then I didn’t like him. He was just my best friend, that’s all,” he admits. It feels a little cruel to say, especially since he knows that Jeongguk had a hard time because of his unrequited feelings, but it’s the truth. He then blurts out, “I like him now, though.”

It’s the first time he says it out loud. He hasn’t uttered the words before—not to Jeongguk, not even to himself. And he didn’t even have to force himself to say it or anything of the sort. It was the opposite: he felt the impending need to say it, like his chest would burst if he didn’t. It feels like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

Miyoung just smiles at him, probably unaware of what a big deal this is to Taehyung. She shakes his head a little, like she’s endeared, then pets Yeontan as she says, “You guys are so cute. I can’t wait until Jeongguk’s your boyfriend.”

And Taehyung doesn’t reply, really. He keeps his lips closed and his thoughts to himself, but the truth is that he agrees. He can’t wait for Jeongguk to be his boyfriend either.

 

 

Jeongguk enters Taehyung’s apartment one night, carrying a small package in his hands as he greets him with a, “Hey, babe.”

Taehyung arches an eyebrow, not bothering to look at Jeongguk as he asks, “Babe?” At some point they had to start with the pet names, Taehyung is sure, but this one took him by surprise.

“Yes, babe,” Jeongguk says, flopping on the couch next to Taehyung. He hooks his chin over Taehyung’s shoulder, looking down at the Excel sheet displayed on the screen on his laptop. “Are you busy?”

“Not per se,” Taehyung replies, turning his head around a little to look at Jeongguk. “Just keeping myself busy until you were here.”

“Good because I bought something and I want to show you,” Jeongguk says, moving away a little. Taehyung takes that as his chance to shut the screen of his laptop and move it to the coffee table, deciding he’s had enough work for today. Jeongguk is pushing the package into his hands as soon as he’s done, sitting up straight and looking almost nervous. “You okay over there?”

“I’m good! I just want you to open it,” Jeongguk says, staring at Taehyung’s hands as he plays with the package. “Come on.”

The package itself is not too big—one of those yellow, padded envelopes. Taehyung can tell that inside there’s a box, but that’s not very telling at all. He’s now starting to get curious about the contents of the package, so without waiting much longer he rips open the envelope and fishes inside, getting the box from inside.

Taehyung’s eyes widen as soon as he registers what he’s looking at. The box is white and small, almost square-shaped, and printed on the front of it is a picture of what appears to be a butt plug. Underneath, in purple, it reads bluetooth butt plug. Taehyung stares down at the box for a couple of seconds, then raises his eyes to look at Jeongguk.

“Jeongguk,” is all he says.

“If you’re straight up thinking of saying no, hear me out first,” Jeongguk says, taking the box from his hands. “You said the other day you were into exhibitionism and I thought this could be interesting. So, let’s say—we’re out somewhere, and you have it inside, and I can control it from my phone.”

“Oh, my god,” Taehyung mumbles, the suggestion making heat rush to his cheek. “When I said exhibitionism I meant maybe having sex with the curtains open with the possibility of a neighbor seeing me through a telescope, you know? Maybe having sex in the bathroom of a club. Not having a butt plug inside while I try to eat my dinner.”

Jeongguk snorts a little at that, saying. “That’s okay, then,” he says, playing with the box in his hands. Taehyung reaches out and takes it back, thinking. “We can use it at home if you’d rather. Did you know you can link it to music as well? Imagine listening to Zimzala—”

“I’m not gonna let you sync that to fucking Zimzalabim,” Taehyung interrupts. Jeongguk laughs again, cheery. “It should be quiet, shouldn’t it?”

“It should. I mean, it’s called Hush so I would hope so,” Jeongguk says, wiggling his eyebrows. Taehyung looks down at the box then, removing the lid and looking at the plug itself. Straight away, it looks like a regular butt plug, not too different from the silicone ones he’s used before. Those, however, did not vibrate, much less through a remote control. “We don’t have to use it if you don’t wanna, you know.”

“I’m curious,” Taehyung says, taking the plug out of the packaging. “If we did—you’d be good to me, right?”

“I’d always be good to you,” Jeongguk says, frowning a little when Taehyung steals a glance at him. “But how do you mean?”

“Like, you wouldn’t go too hard,” Taehyung says, looking at Jeongguk. “You’d have mercy on me.”

“Of course, baby,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung smiles happily, looking down at the plug again and looking for a way to turn it on to test the vibrations, but he finds nothing. “So you’re up for it?”

“Yes. But I say we try it at home first, just to test the waters,” Taehyung suggests. Jeongguk hums in agreement, moving forward to press a kiss against Taehyung’s hair. “You pervert.”

“Oi,” Jeongguk says, gripping Taehyung’s thigh and giving it a soft squeeze. “We’re both perverts, aren’t we?” 

“I guess we are,” Taehyung says, resting his head on top of Jeongguk’s. “But you’re a pervert that will make me dinner, right?”

Taehyung closes his eyes, pulling the most adorable expression he can manage. Jeongguk pulls back a little and, for a couple of seconds, looks at him. It’s only a couple of seconds before Jeongguk is saying, “Fine. Fine, I’ll make you dinner.”

Upon hearing that, Taehyung wraps his arms around Jeongguk and almost climbs on top of his lap, proceeding to pepper kisses all over his face. Jeongguk groans in complaint, but Taehyung knows it’s all bullshit—there is nothing that Jeongguk loves more than a kiss attack like this, Taehyung is sure. And given that Jeongguk is kind enough to cook for him tonight, giving him some loving is the least Taehyung can do, isn’t it?

 

Finding himself in the middle of a restaurant with a butt plug pushed inside of him is, to say the least, interesting. Taehyung is not completely unacquainted with these—he’s used them before when he was dating his college boyfriend, but the truth is that he never wore them outside. He can’t help but fixate on the feeling of it, digging inside of him as he sits down and tries to eat his dinner.

For a while, it almost seems like Jeongguk has forgotten all about it. He sits across from Taehyung and eats his food, chats to him about everything just like he always does. He’s acting so damn normal that, for a moment, Taehyung almost forgets about the whole butt plug ordeal. If only the feeling of the toy inside of him wasn’t a clear reminder.

They have all night for themselves since Jimin is staying with Yeontan for the evening. That’s why they take things slow, take their time enjoying their food and the wine they’re having with it. After all, they took a taxi here, so might as well let loose. Taehyung loves it because it’s been a while since they last did this. He loves time alone with Jeongguk at home, but every once in a while it’s also good to go out for the night. The only problem is that every time he shifts in his chair, the plug moves inside of him. And that’s making the night seem terribly long.

It’s not unpleasant, though—if that was the case, he and Jeongguk have agreed that the best thing would be to go to the bathroom and take it out. In a way, it’s almost exhilarating. Taehyung is sure that he’s a lot more fidgety today than he usually is, and part of the reason why is because he likes the feeling of the plug pushing inside every time he moves. He looks at Jeongguk every time, hoping that Jeongguk sees and understands, but it doesn’t come.

Every time he sees Jeongguk unlock his phone, Taehyung tenses up, waiting for the vibration to come. However, it doesn’t come—not for a while. They’re waiting for their dessert when Jeongguk, once again, unlocks his phone with the pad of his finger and slides his index finger over the screen, phone resting on top of the table. Taehyung sucks in a breath, although he’s not feeling hopeful. It’s starting to feel like Jeongguk is teasing him, making him wait for it.

But then, it comes. Taehyung has to hold back a full-body jolt when the vibrations start inside of him, clutching at the end of the table with one of his hands. He tried the plug with Jeongguk the other day, so he knows that this is only the first setting. It’s not too intense, Taehyung has definitely taken more, but at the time it leaves him breathless for a moment, muscles tense. 

“Fuck,” he whispers lowly, eyes fixed on the wooden table. When he dares to lift his gaze up he finds Jeongguk already looking at him, studying his reaction. “Jeongguk.”

“Good?” Jeongguk asks, as always making sure. Taehyung swallows down, nodding quickly. “So—what were you saying? Seokjin forgot what?”

Taehyung takes a shaky breath, feeling far more affected than he thought he would by the first fucking setting. “He forgot—his glasses, when he came to meet Tannie the other day,” Taehyung forces himself to say, resuming the conversation where he had left it before Jeongguk turned the device on. Taehyung thinks he feels especially on edge because of the fact that they’re in public, but he’s still able to compose himself and keep speaking. “He said he’s coming to pick them up through the week.”

“Oh, really?” Jeongguk asks. He taps on his phone screen again, as the intensity of vibrations increases. Taehyung inhales. “After work?”

“N-no. In the morning,” Taehyung replies. He shifts in his chair, pushing the toy deeper. “Before work.”

“Can’t work without his glasses, can he?” Jeongguk asks, accompanied by a swoopy smile. “You okay over there, hyung?”

Taehyung doesn’t reply—he just looks into Jeongguk’s eyes again, giving him a nod. Jeongguk’s smile widens.

They had agreed to keep the butt plug to the lowest settings when using it in public. Not because it wasn’t as quiet and discreet as it promised—it was, but the thing is that it was also as potent as advertised. Taehyung wouldn’t trust himself to handle the highest settings in public, and the last thing he needs is to be arrested for indecent exposure because of something as embarrassing as this. Still, the lower settings are enough to get him bothered, biting down on his lip to keep his reactions as minimal as possible. Jeongguk’s eyes are on him, almost devouring him as Taehyung tries to eat his dessert and act like nothing is going on.

There’s more they can do with it, anyway—Jeongguk constantly changes the vibrations pattern, so every time Taehyung gets used to it, it changes into something different. It only riles him up even more, even though it’s frustrating. His hands are clutching the table tightly, nails digging into it.

“Should we ask for the check?” Jeongguk asks eventually. His tone is mostly neutral, but Taehyung can tell that deep down he’s teasing him. Taehyung nods vehemently.

“Check, yes,” he says. His voice is starting to strain now, and he’s sure that his face is flushing slightly as well. “Then home.”

“Then home,” Jeongguk repeats. “Yours or mine?”

“Yours,” Taehyung replies, not missing a beat. “It’s closer.”

And really, it can’t take them more than twenty minutes to get back to Jeongguk’s apartment—they pay for their food, get a taxi and then head home. However, to Taehyung it feels like an eternity. Jeongguk is kind enough to tune down the vibrator while they take care of the check and wait for their taxi, but once they’re sitting in the car he turns it back up. The driver has the radio on, luckily, so there’s absolutely no chance of the vibrations of the plug being heard over the music. Taehyung tries not to writhe too much in the seat, gripping tightly at Jeongguk’s wrist during the entire ride. If the driver notices anything strange, he doesn’t say anything.

Taehyung doesn’t think he’s ever felt as relieved to make it to Jeongguk’s building as he does now. As it was to be expected, the moment the two of them walk inside the elevator, it feels as if some magnetic force pulls them together. Their lips crash together into a kiss that lacks any sort of finesse, but makes up for it in hunger and need. One of Jeongguk’s hands is holding him, but the other is still clutching his phone. He doesn’t stop kissing Taehyung for a moment, yet he’s still able to turn up the intensity of the toy. The vibrations of the plug speed up, making Taehyung’s hands tighten around the lapels of Jeongguk’s coat.

“Holy fuck,” Taehyung says, words spilled right into Jeongguk’s mouth as they kiss. Jeongguk’s hand moves from the small of Taehyung’s back to the cleft of his ass, blindly looking for the base of the plug. Once he finds it, he presses against it, pushing it deeper inside of Taehyung as it vibrates on the highest setting. That’s enough to make Taehyung moan loudly, pressing against Jeongguk. 

There are no words to express how grateful Taehyung is that they run into none of Jeongguk’s neighbors on their way to his apartment. They don’t let go of each other for a single moment while doing so, mouths kissing each other frantically. If he was already feeling desperate before, what Taehyung is feeling right now is impossible to describe. They waste no time once they’re inside the apartment, both knowing the way to the bedroom.

“Want you to undress me,” Taehyung breathes into Jeongguk’s mouth as the two of them lie on the bed. Jeongguk kisses his chin while he speaks, then keeps travelling down to his sensitive neck. Taehyung’s eyes roll back. “Fuck, Jeongguk—I want you so bad.”

“Jesus Christ, Taehyung,” Jeongguk mumbles, words kissed against the column of Taehyung’s throat. “Wanna see all of you.”

After saying that, Jeongguk wastes no time before he’s reaching for the front of Taehyung’s slacks, undoing the button and pulling down the zipper. The friction of it against his raging erection makes Taehyung inhale sharply, but he still lets Jeongguk go at it as he keeps pressing wet kisses against his neck. It’s not too long before the two of them are stripped down to their underwear, the toy still vibrating inside of Taehyung.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Jeongguk praises, Taehyung writhing beneath him. Jeongguk’s breath is warm as it fans against his skin, but then he’s pulling back abruptly and Taehyung frowns. “Will you get on your hands and knees for me, pretty?”

Taehyung’s stomach does a pirouette when he hears that. He knows full well that, had he been standing, he would have felt his knees go weak at that. He moves then, getting into position, but not without stealing another quick kiss from Jeongguk’s lips first. The position makes him feel exposed and vulnerable, but he likes feeling that way—especially with Jeongguk.

Jeongguk delivers a light spank to his ass then. It’s not hard enough to even remotely hurt, but it catches Taehyung off guard, a noise escaping his mouth. He looks back over his shoulder, meeting Jeongguk’s eyes as he grabs a handful of his ass. 

“Having fun?” Taehyung asks, teasing. Acting like having Jeongguk touch him like this doesn’t do things to him. 

“Lots of it,” Jeongguk replies with a small smirk. He opens his palm, raising his hand in the air again before he gives Taehyungʼs other ass cheek a spank. Again, itʼs nowhere near harsh nor strong, but Taehyung still bites down on the insides of his cheeks to suppress a moan. “I love your ass so much, holy fuck.”

And, really—Taehyung can tell. Not just from the spanks that Jeongguk has just given it, of course there are other factors. Like the way Jeonggukʼs hands always seem to find their way to Taehyungʼs ass whenever they’re kissing. Or how he grabs at it when he fucks Taehyung, just wanting to feel it under his palms. Sometimes, when they’re lying together, cuddling, Jeongguk just rests a hand on top of it for the sake of it. Taehyung knows all about Jeonggukʼs slight obsession with his ass, and he loves it. But right now, with the toy still vibrating inside of him and as painfully hard as he is, Taehyung doesnʼt want to hear about it. Heʼd honestly rather Jeongguk jumped straight into action.

“Guk-ah, come on,” Taehyung urges him, parting his knees a little. “Do something.”

Jeongguk hums a little, at the same time the vibrations of the plug tune down. It’s back to one of the lower settings, Taehyung unable to decide if itʼs a blessing or a curse. On one hand, he feels like having the plug working so strongly inside of him would have sent him over the edge soon, which he needs. But on the other hand, Taehyung wants to come because of Jeongguk, not the plug. So, all things considered, this is probably for the best.

“So impatient,” Jeongguk mumbles, one of his hands slipping under the fabric of Taehyungʼs underwear. Taehyung arches a little in anticipation, letting out a breathy moan when Jeongguk finds the base of the plug and presses against it. “Patience is a virtue, Hyung. We have time.”

Part of Taehyung wants to tell Jeongguk that, had he been in his position, heʼd be the same right now. He has had the plug inside him for over two hours now, and itʼs been on for a good forty-five minutes. Heʼs not impatient—he has literally been edged for so long. Heʼs desperate for release, yes, but thatʼs within reason. He keeps all of this to himself, though, because right now he doesn’t trust himself to say much, head spinning. That, and because he knows that Jeongguk already knows all of this. Of course he does.

“Still need you so bad,” Taehyung says, ignoring Jeonggukʼs words. “I want you to fuck me, Jeongguk. Been thinking about it all night, wishing it was you inside me instead of the plug.” 

Taehyung knows, while saying this, that itʼs going to have an effect on Jeongguk. He moans lowly at the words, his hand gently squeezing the flesh of Taehyungʼs ass.

“Iʼm gonna undress you,” he announces, at the same time he retreats his hand from inside of Taehyungʼs underwear. Taehyung feels himself vibrate with excitement, especially as Jeongguk quickly hooks his fingers in his boxers and pulls them down. “Let me see again how that plug looks inside you.”

Taehyung lets himself be undressed, not bothering to move so Jeongguk can fully remove his underwear. Instead, he just lets it pool around his knees.

Jeongguk groans, then reaches to touches the base of the plug again. Only, instead of simply pressing at it like earlier, this time around he grabs it and slowly thrusts it in and out. Taehyung moans, the thrusting motion in combination with the vibration enough to leave his mind blank. That only seems to encourage Jeongguk further, as he doesn’t stop himself, instead choosing to keep up a rhythm that’s sure to leave Taehyung feeling numb. 

“That feels so fucking good,” Taehyung moans, unable to contain himself. His fists clench around the bedsheets, wrinkling the fabric. Itʼs right then that the vibrations stop abruptly, making Taehyung frown. Heʼs about to complain but Jeongguk beats him to it. 

“You’re so greedy, hyung,” Jeongguk tells him, hand still working on the plug. This time, he pulls more insistently on the silicone toy, starting to pull it out of Taehyung. The feeling of it elicits a moan from Taehyung, who tries to adjust to the sudden feeling of emptiness. “Is the plug not enough? Do you want more?”

Taehyung hears the plug fall on top of the duvet then, but he’s quickly distracted by the feeling of Jeonggukʼs hand back on his ass. He cups one of his cheeks again, giving a quick squeeze before teasingly grazing Taehyungʼs hole with his index. 

“Yes, yes,” Taehyung starts to reply, breath hitched. The feeling of Jeonggukʼs hand touching him like this is working him up even more, something that he didn’t really think would be possible by this point. “I want more. I want you, Jeongguk. I want you so, so bad.”

Taehyung loves to beg, just like he knows Jeongguk loves it when he begs. For that reason, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that Jeongguk gives in then, succumbing to the temptation of finally giving Taehyung what both of them so badly want. 

Without wasting any time, Jeongguk quickly moves towards his nightstand and gets a bottle of lube from the first drawer. There are still remains of lube on Taehyungʼs body from the toy being inserted earlier, but he guesses it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Shit, the condom,” Jeongguk mutters then. Taehyung can tell that heʼs about to move back to the bedside table, ready to get the condom, but he speaks before Jeongguk has the chance to move away.

“When did you last get tested?” he asks.

Jeongguk pauses for a moment. “Around two months ago. After we started sleeping together,” Jeongguk replies. He doesn’t need to specify that he hasn’t slept with anyone since—Taehyung already knows. He hasn’t, either.

“I got tested just over a month ago,” Taehyung replies. He was clean, of course, and he’s guessing so was Jeongguk. Otherwise, he would have told him when he found out. Just like he would have told Jeongguk. There is a mutual trust that doesn’t need to be said out loud. 

“So...” Jeongguk starts, but he doesn’t get a chance to finish.

Taehyung interrupts him, blurring out, “Do you want to have sex without a condom?” Jeongguk is quiet for a second, so Taehyung makes sure to add, “Only if you want, of course. No pressure.”

Jeongguk wastes no time to reply. “Fuck, yeah—I would like that,” he says, nodding. Taehyung swallows down thickly. “Are you sure?”

“Positive, yeah,” Taehyung confirms. He’d be lying if he said the idea hasn’t been playing around in his mind for a while, but he never found the right moment to ask. 

They’ve both made up their minds about the condom, deciding to skip it, so Jeongguk wastes no time before he gets the lube and squirts some of it on his palm. Over his shoulder, Taehyung watches Jeongguk slick himself up, hand working around his length. Taehyung’s entire body feels on fire right now, as he watches Jeongguk with anticipation. The truth is he’s never craved someone like this, to the point where he literally can’t wait until he has Jeongguk inside him once again.

“I’m gonna slide in,” Jeongguk announces then, one of his hands reaching for Taehyung’s hips and holding them in place. Taehyung just waits, gasping a little when he feels the head of Jeongguk’s cock press against his hole. He offers no resistance, as he had the plug inside of him for hours, so Jeongguk slides inside him easily. “Fuck.”

Jeongguk doesn’t move then, probably used to giving some time to adjust right after sliding in for the first time, but Taehyung has other plans. If Jeongguk doesn’t thrust, then he’ll do it himself—using his elbows to balance his weight, Taehyung moves his body forward, fucking himself back on Jeongguk’s cock right after.  “Come on,” he urges at the very same time, voice breaking down a little at the end. “Move. Fuck me.”

The comment earns Taehyung a spank to his ass, this one slightly harder than the previous ones. Taehyung hisses, because at the same time he slapped him, Jeongguk started moving inside of him, his hand still gripping Taehyung’s hips. And god, yes—the butt plug felt good. But it didn’t feel half as good as Jeongguk fucking into him feels. Taehyung doesn’t think anything or anyone has ever felt anywhere near as good as Jeongguk.

“You’re getting so mouthy,” Jeongguk tells him, bending down a little so he can speak the words right into Taehyung’s ear. His body feels hot right against Taehyung’s, his breath warm on his ear. He doesn’t stop thrusting into him for a second, hips building up a pace that has Taehyung’s jaw dropping, moans spilling past his lips. “Do I have to teach you a lesson?”

“I don’t—oh, fuck. I don’t know,” Taehyung says, struggling to get his words out. “Should you? I think I’m being good.”

“I think you could be better,” Jeongguk replies, kissing the spot right behind Taehyung’s ear while he keeps drilling into him. “Hyung, are you gonna be good for me?”

“So, so good,” Taehyung replies, eyes fluttering shut as he feels Jeongguk’s hand move from his hip, climbing its way up Taehyung’s abdomen. He brushes his fingers over Taehyung’s chest, flicking at his nipple and making him yelp. “Gonna be the best.”

“That’s right,” Jeongguk says, fingers now pinching one of Taehyung’s nipples, flicking it. “My good boy.”

And really—it’s not the first time Jeongguk calls him that. One would expect that, by now, Taehyung would be used to it. Yet every time Jeongguk calls him good boy he feels himself melt, knees getting wobbly as he moans. Taehyung buries his face between his arms, feeling himself get worked up so fast.

Jeongguk is now thrusting inside of him mercilessly, but Taehyung still moves his own body back, meeting him halfway every time. His thighs are getting sore, his arms have already given up and he can barely hold himself up on the mattress, but fuck, it feels so fucking good. He’s fucking drooling on the sheets because of how fucking good it feels to have Jeongguk fuck into him like this, finally giving him what he’s been needing for hours.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Taehyung moans breathlessly then, his hips rutting against Jeongguk’s. With that last jerk of his hips Jeongguk thrusted right into his prostate, making Taehyung’s mind go blank as his eyes rolled back into his skull. “Right there, Jeonggukie, I—more, harder.”

If Jeongguk thinks he’s being mouthy now, he doesn’t show it. Instead of reprimanding, Jeongguk listens to his pleas—he thrusts into him with renewed vigor, both hands keeping Taehyung’s waist in place as he keeps fucking into him. Like this, Taehyung can’t work himself on Jeongguk’s cock anymore, but it doesn’t matter; Jeongguk is doing all the work for him now, anyway.

“I want to make you feel so good, hyung,” Jeongguk tells him, hands tightening around Taehyung’s waist. Something about the tightness of his grip makes Taehyung shudder, a broken cry falling from his swollen lips. “I want to make you come untouched all over yourself. Just from being fucked like this. Can you do that for me, hyung?”

“Yes, I—ngh—yes, yes, I can,” Taehyung moans, feeling a wave of heat rush to his face. “Gonna come so soon.”

“That’s it, hyung,” Jeongguk encourages him, his own voice feeling airy and strained. Taehyung loves to see him all disheveled, but he loves hearing him like this just as much. His eyes are closed, yet he’s still able to imagine how Jeongguk looks right now—skin glistening with sweat, hair messy and falling in front of his eyes. “Look at me, Tae-ah. Want you to look at me when you come.”

Taehyung forces himself to blink his eyes open then, looking at Jeongguk as well as he can from the position. The sight makes something inside of him twist pleasantly, letting out a breathy mouth.

“Holy fu—” Taehyung starts, unable to finish his words as he breaks into a sob. He’s close, so close. After holding it back for so long, he’s about to come, and fuck, he wants it so badly. His cock stays neglected between his thighs, aching, but the feeling of Jeongguk thrusting right into his prostate is enough. Jeongguk’s pace, despite turning erratic and messy as he’s close to his own orgasm, still manages to send jolts of pleasure down Taehyung’s spine. “Yes, Jeongguk, yes.”

Jeongguk still mumbles out words of encouragement, but Taehyung doesn’t quite catch them. He comes then, his entire body shaking as white streaks of come spurt from his cock. He comes with Jeongguk’s name rolling off his tongue in a broken moan, toes curling as he clenches around Jeongguk’s cock. Jeongguk keeps thrusting into him through the orgasm, letting out high-pitched moans as his hands tighten around Taehyung’s waist.

“Taehyung, you’re so—” Jeongguk starts, but he doesn’t get to finish. He comes then, words turning into a drawn-out moan as his hips falter inside of Taehyung. His pace slows down then, thrusting through both of their orgasms until he eventually stops.

Taehyung lifts himself up with shaky arms then, their loud panting filling the room. He moves a little, Jeongguk’s cock slipping out of him and allowing him to turn around and sit on his ass. They make eye contact, both quiet for a moment before Taehyung says, “Hi.”

Jeongguk smiles a little. He leans forward on the mattress, balancing his weight up on one hand. “Hey there,” he starts. One of his eyebrows raises, the corner of his mouth tilting up, and even before he gets a chance to say anything, Taehyung knows what’s coming. “Drooly baby.”

Taehyung’s face is already flushed from the sex, but he feels it warm up even more. “Shut up,” he grumbles, at the same time Jeongguk starts laughing. Taehyung shoves him then, repeating, “Shut up. Jeongguk!”

“We’re gonna have to change the bedsheets now,” Jeongguk teases him, Taehyung trying to frown. However, a smile escapes. “Are you sure you don’t want a glass of water? You must be dehydrated.”

“Oh my—you’re insufferable,” Taehyung replies, wrapping his hands around Jeongguk’s arm and tugging. “I don’t even know why I put up with you anymore.”

Jeongguk lets Taehyung pull him closer, leaning forward and pecking him lightly on the lips. Taehyung smiles against Jeongguk’s mouth. “I think you like me,” Jeongguk replies. “Even if just a little.”

When Jeongguk pulls back a little, Taehyung just looks at him, a small smile plastered on his lips. Neither of them says anything, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable in any way. Silences with Jeongguk are more comforting than anything. 

Just a little, Jeongguk had said. If only he knew.

 

 

Taehyung is used to waking up in the middle of the night most of the time, unable to sleep from night to morning without disruption. When that happens, out of habit he always checks his phone—it’s a routine he developed while he was in Europe, since friends and family who lived in South Korea texted him while he was still sleeping. Taehyung does the same tonight when he wakes up, moving Jeongguk’s arm away from his waist and reaching for his phone which is charging on his bedside table. He keeps doing this out of habit, not because he really expects to find anything. 

Tonight, however, is different. The first thing he sees when he checks his phone screen is a notification from a media outlet, one that reads Lee Bohyun spotted on a date with fellow actress Park Sori. Upon reading that, all of Taehyung’s sleepiness suddenly disappears, sitting up straight on the bed as he taps on the article.

Lee Bohyun is one of his clients. Taehyung makes sure to get notifications on news reports from all of his clients—most of the time it’s stuff that he already knows, like a brand deal, a photoshoot for a magazine, a new single release. But the reason why he does this is for occasions precisely like this one, for when something makes its way to the press before it makes its way to him. Especially if it happens while everyone is sleeping, like right now.

There’s not just one article, there’s dozens. Taehyung eventually gets out of bed, leaving Jeongguk sleeping soundly. He moves to the living room area, where his laptop rests, and decides it’s time to get some work done.

Unfortunately for him, thereʼs not much that can be done at this hour. He sends an email to the PR agency of the actress his client was spotted with, but he obviously doesn’t expect a response from them so early in the morning. He also comes up with a plan of action for later in the morning, just to have some idea of how to act in a situation like this. It’s not the first time Taehyung has had to deal with a dating scandal, but it’s the first time itʼs happened since founding his own company. Plus, a dating scandal in Europe and for the people he represented at the time—models, influencers—wasn’t half as scary as it is now; a dating scandal in South Korea having the ability to blow far more out of proportion than elsewhere in the world, where the general public doesnʼt care as much. 

He’s so focused on his work that he doesn’t hear Jeongguk stir awake, even if every time he wakes he ends up grumbling under his breath. He doesn’t hear him move out of bed, or walk towards the living area. Taehyung doesn’t hear him at all—instead, he feels him when a hand rests on his shoulder. 

“Holy fuck—Jeongguk!” Taehyung scolds, feeling like his heart is about to beat out of his ribcage. He couldn’t help but jump a little, startled by the sudden contact. “What are you doing awake?” 

“I woke up and realized you weren’t in bed, and your side was already cold so you weren’t peeing,” Jeongguk explains. “What are you doing?” 

“Working,” Taehyung simply explains, to which Jeongguk frowns. “I woke up to a notification from some media outlet. One of my clients got into a dating scandal.” 

“Oh, fuck,” Jeongguk says, mouth falling open. 

“Oh fuck, indeed,” Taehyung says. “I’m just getting some work done now so that it can be easier to deal with in the morning when everyone is awake. You should get back to bed—you need your seven hours.” 

“You need them, too,” Jeongguk replies, softly. It doesn’t seem as if he’s scolding him, just… well, just that Jeongguk is caring for him. “I’m sure you’ve done a lot already. You need to sleep a little more, hyung.”

Taehyung looks at Jeongguk, whose expression seems firm. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be possible to convince him. Instead of trying, Taehyung just reasons, “Fifteen minutes?”

For a second, Jeongguk seems hesitant, but he knows Taehyung well enough to know he’s stubborn, just like Taehyung knows that Jeongguk wouldn’t rest until he agreed to go to bed. “Fifteen minutes. Not one more,” Jeongguk says. “Iʼll be waiting awake for you, so don’t try to stay any longer.”

Taehyung laughs at that, low. “Just fifteen. I promise,” he says.

Jeongguk, who still hasn’t let go of his shoulder, gives it a soft squeeze then. Taehyung looks up at him then, the living room dark except for the light coming from the street lights and the screen or Taehyung’s laptop. Silence reigns between them for a moment, before Jeongguk says, “You’re doing so good, Tae. I’m so proud of you. So, so proud.”

Jeongguk doesn’t wait for a reply from Taehyung then—he immediately turns around, dragging himself back to bed and pulling the duvet over him. He’s so sleepy, but Taehyung knows that he’ll stick to his promise of staying awake to make sure Taehyung goes back to sleep. He knows Jeongguk well.

Taehyung looks fondly at him for a minute, then tells himself to get back to work and take advantage of the fourteen minutes he has left before sleep. When you’re in the right mood, fourteen minutes can be worth much more than one would expect. Taehyung wouldn’t particularly say he was in the best mood previously, but the truth is that Jeongguk’s words of encouragement change things. Because Jeongguk thinks that he’s doing well, that he’s good at what he does—he’s proud of him. And that, for Taehyung, means more than he could ever put down into words. 

 

 

At first, when Jeongguk and Taehyung hooked up, they never stayed the night at the other’s—staying the night was kind of in the middle of being friends with benefits and being something more, so the two of them held back from it. After the first time, however, it was hard to stop. Waking up in Jeongguk’s arms was far, far better than waking up alone, and not only because it meant having a quickie first thing in the morning. When they first started staying over at each other’s place, it was usually on the weekends.

But eventually, what happened only on Friday and Saturday kind of… well, expanded. Jeongguk has his own place that he still goes back to sometimes, but nowhere near as much as one would expect. And really—Taehyung is cheesing about it. He finds that Jeongguk’s frequent visits give him the perfect balance of solitude and company, so he welcomes him whenever.

They keep invading each other’s routines, to the point where they build one of their own. Jeongguk has to leave for work around half an hour before Taehyung, so Taehyung takes care of making breakfast while Jeongguk showers and gets dressed. Much to his dismay, Jeongguk convinced him to let him buy a coffee machine to keep at the loft. Taehyung was opposed at first, but it turns out that he doesn’t mind the smell that much. He still refuses to have any of it, but at least it doesn’t linger in his kitchen.

Monday morning follows that very same routine, Taehyung making the two of them breakfast while Jeongguk gets ready in the bathroom. The coffee machine is on now, Taehyung humming along to a song as he happily skips around the kitchen while wearing Jeongguk’s baby blue jumper. He’s in a good mood today for some reason.

When he first hears the buzzer, he’s lost for a moment. He stops for a second, knife still in his knife, before it clicks. Seokjin. He rushes to the screen, effectively seeing his friend standing before the camera, and so he wastes no time before buzzing him in.

In the time it takes for Seokjin to get to his apartment, Taehyung does two things: first, he puts some basketball shorts on to make sure he doesn’t greet Seokjin in his underwear. Once that’s done, he goes to find Seokjin’s glasses that he forgot the other day. And then, just on time, he gets the door and finds Seokjin standing on the other side, about to press the doorbell.

“I don’t even want to know how you knew,” Seokjin says, Taehyung flashing a smile as he wiggles his eyebrows. “Good morning, Tae.”

“Good morning, hyung,” Taehyung replies. “Here are your glasses. Wanna come in? I’m making breakfast.”

“You know what? Might as well since I have time before my meeting,” Seokjin replies, taking the glasses Taehyung was offering him and putting them on right away. “What are you offering?”

“Anything your heart desires,” Taehyung replies, gesturing for Seokjin to come in and closing the door once he’s inside. “We have a decent variety here.”

Seokjin comes inside, sitting on one stool by the breakfast bar while Taehyung resumes his tasks. No more than a couple of minutes go by before the bathroom door opens and Jeongguk resurfaces from it, dressed for work—he has slacks on, as well as a white shirt tucked in. His jacket and tie are still not on, but he usually waits until right before leaving to do those.

“Hey there, hyung,” Jeongguk greets cheerfully as he walks towards them, getting behind the counter with Taehyung. Seokjin’s eyes widen as he watches as Jeongguk walks behind Taehyung, one hand on his hip as he kisses his cheek lightly. “And good morning to you.”

“Good morning, Gukkie,” Taehyung says, a smile finding its way to his lips. “Seokjin came to pick up his glasses.”

“I can see that,” Jeongguk replies, detaching himself from Taehyung’s back. He walks to Seokjin, sitting by his side on the other stool, and says, “How’s getting your eyesight back?”

“Pretty good actually,” Seokjin replies. Then, pointing between Taehyung and Jeongguk, he asks, “So… what’s going on?”

“We’re together,” Taehyung replies. He looks at Seokjin and, with a raised eyebrow, says, “I told you that already.”

“You told me you were hooking up,” Seokjin refutes. “This looks like more than hooking up, though. So, again—what’s going on?”

“We’re together,” Jeongguk repeats, sending a quick glance Taehyung’s way. It’s the easy answer, and to be fair, the only one they have as of now. Do they have to define what they are at some point? Yes, for sure, but as of right now they’re good. There’s no need to rush. 

“Well, okay,” Seokjin grumbles, not too convinced. Taehyung moves to place a cup of coffee right in front of him. “It was about time.”

Taehyung looks at Jeongguk again, both of them standing opposite each other while leaning on the counter. He thinks about how, unlike him, Seokjin has known about Jeongguk’s crush on him for ages now. He wonders how Seokjin feels now, seeing them together after Jeongguk pined for years at first, then was left broken-hearted. It probably feels pretty rewarding as a friend of the two of them.

Taehyung won’t know, at least not from the same perspective, but he still can’t help but agree. After all those years, after all the pining, after all the arguments and misunderstandings, it was about time.

 

 

Taehyung loves sex with Jeongguk. At first, after that eventful night when Taehyung was meant to just take some documents to Jeongguk, that’s what brought them together. And for a while after that, sex was the reason why Taehyung kept coming back to Jeongguk, the two of them getting roped into a friends with benefits situation.

But a lot has changed ever since, and their relationship has since evolved a fair amount. What’s going on between them is far more than hooking up, fuck buddies or anything like that. Taehyung values every single moment he spends with Jeongguk, even if they still have their arguments here and there.

So of course, just as much as he likes sleeping with Jeongguk, Taehyung likes to cuddle. In bed before sleep, on the couch, standing as he clings to Jeongguk while he tries to brush his teeth in the morning—every way is a good way.

With cuddling, more often than not, comes kissing. Taehyung has come to love the evenings where they just find themselves together in bed more than anything else, bodies tangled as they just soak up each other’s company. Jeongguk kisses him softly, lips moving together without any hurry or pretense. One of his arms is wrapped around Taehyung’s body, his fingers lightly tracing a sliver of exposed skin right above the waistband of his sweatpants. The touch is light, feathery; it makes Taehyung giggle in Jeongguk’s mouth, body jolting against Jeongguk’s every once in a while.

It’s moments like these that give Taehyung the certainty that he’s doing the right thing. That let him know that he didn’t rush into a thing with Jeongguk as a rebound from Seungjin, or that he was just seeking out sex and comfort. Taehyung knows that none of this would feel this right with someone else. His heart feels more content than it ever has, and Taehyung knows it has everything to do with the fact that it’s Jeongguk.

Taehyung likes all time spent with Jeongguk, but he especially treasures evenings like this one. For that reason, when their peace and tranquility is interrupted by the sound of his phone’s ringtone, Taehyung can’t help but feel a little irritated.

He pulls back abruptly, looking over his shoulder to the phone resting on top of the table. “Hold on,” he tells Jeongguk, followed by a sigh as he twists and stretches his arm, reaching for the device. “Whoever it is better have a good fucking reason to call me, or—oh.”

“What?” Jeongguk asks, seeing Taehyung’s sudden mood change as soon as he saw the screen. “Who is it?”

“My dad,” Taehyung replies, biting down on his lip. He sends a quick glance at Jeongguk, adds, “Let me get this.”

Jeongguk nods, at the same time Taehyung picks up the phone and brings it to his ear. Once that’s done, he says, “Hey, dad.”

Good evening, son,” his father greets, sounding as formal as he usually does when he speaks on the phone. It brings a smile to Taehyung’s face because he and his sister always tease his dad telling him he’s forgot how to talk casually through the phone. “I hope I’m not bothering you right now.

“You’re not! You never do,” Taehyung rushes to reply, now feeling a little bad for his previous annoyance. “What’s up?”

I was calling to ask if you’d be available to meet for lunch one of these days,” his dad says. Taehyung’s eyebrows raise, as he’s surprised about the proposition. His mom is one to often suggest meetings like that, but his dad? Nope. And it’s not even that he doesn’t meet up with him like that, it applies to everyone. “I can’t tell you the exact day just yet, but sometime this week.”

“That sounds like a lovely idea, dad,” Taehyung replies, his lips stretching into a wide smile. “I would love to.”

I will phone you tomorrow or the day after. Just so we can agree on the details,” his dad says. His phone calls are always like this—short and efficient. Taehyung is almost ready for his dad to say his goodbyes and hang up there, but what happens next only adds to his current shock. “How are you, son? Do you need anything?

“I’m fine. I’m very good, actually,” Taehyung replies, still unable to process the conversation. It might seem like something stupid or trivial, but to him? Well, this is huge. “How are you? Everything good at home?”

Good as always, yeah,” his father replies. “I will see you soon, Taehyung. Take care.”

“You too, dad. I’ll see you soon,” Taehyung says, the line going dead shortly after that. Taehyung pulls the phone away from his ear, looking down at his phone and trying to make sense of what happened. He gives himself a couple of seconds, then looks at Jeongguk and finds his eyes already on him, not looking half as surprised as Taehyung does. “You’re not gonna believe what just happened.”

 

 

After having lunch with his dad, Taehyung comes back to the office vibrating with excitement. There is a big, cheesy smile plastered on his face as he walks into Jimin’s office, quickly checking up on him before he gets back to work.

“Hey, you,” Taehyung greets as he pushes the door open, Jimin leaning back on his chair and giving him a smile. “Everything okay? Was Tannie good?”

“Of course he was good. Everything's been fine here, yeah,” Jimin says, grinning a little. Taehyung knows it was just lunch break, but he still feels the need to ask. “How about you, though? Did it go well?”

For dramatic purposes, Taehyung takes a second too long to reply. He looks at Jimin, keeping a blank face and seeing worry start to appear in his eyes. It’s only then that he lets himself smile widely, saying, “It went amazing. He said he's going to drop by the office this Friday and finally see how everything is.”

“Really? That’s amazing, Taehyung,” Jimin says as he stands up, looking genuinely excited for Jeongguk. “I’m so happy that things are good between you two and that he’s showing some interest. It was about time.”

“I—thanks a lot, Jimin,” Taehyung says, a small smile dancing on his lips. Jimin is the most supportive person Taehyung has ever met, never missing a chance to leave some encouraging words here and there. Taehyung isn't used to this, so sometimes it makes him a little shy. Jimin, now standing, parts his arms a little, clearly offering a hug. Taehyung doesn’t hesitate to accept it, surging forward and wrapping his arms around Jimin’s shoulders. During it, he confesses, “I’m really happy right now. With work, with my dad, with Jeongguk—everything seems to be finally going right. It finally feels like everything is fitting into place.”

At that, Jimin’s arms tighten a little around Taehyung. “You deserve it. You really, really deserve it, Tae.”

Taehyung closes his eyes, letting himself enjoy the last seconds of the hug. For the first time in forever, Taehyung does feel like he has everything. He has a family who loves and supports him, his professional life is going well, he has a relationship that fulfills him and makes him happy, he has friends that he loves and trusts with his life. Hell, he even has the cutest, best puppy in the world. He really does have everything he’s ever wanted.

Right now, Taehyung feels like the luckiest man in the world. And he won’t let anyone take this away from him.

 

 

Taehyung has obviously taken a liking to Jeongguk’s old, baby blue sweater, wearing it as often as he can. The jumper is permanently at his now, and the truth is, these days he wears it far more often than Jeongguk does. However, he doesn’t seem to be the only one to be in love with the piece of clothing. 

Taehyung has the horrible habit of leaving his clothes on the floor right before bed; he folds them or throws them into the laundry basket the following morning when he makes the bed and tidies the area, yes, but the clothes spend some time on the floor. The first thing Taehyung does in the morning after waking up is open the baby gates so Yeontan can roam around the loft, since he’s there to check up on him. On most days, today being one of those, Jeongguk is also there with him, which gives them an extra pair of eyes. 

And most days that’s not a problem, really. Sometimes Yeontan steals his socks, but Taehyung is quick to find them. He doesn’t usually cause a mess. Today is different, though. Because after having breakfast, when Taehyung walks to the sleeping area ready to clean up, he notices that there’s something off with his—Jeongguk’s—jumper. He notices that there is a big, wet patch on it.

“Tannie!” Taehyung exclaims, turning around and looking for the puppy. “Tannie, did you pee on my sweater?”

Of course, Taehyung is not expecting any answer from the dog, but upon hearing his words, Jeongguk laughs, walking to him to see the mess for himself. “No way,” he says, resting one hand on Taehyung’s hip and looking down at the floor. “Seems like you have competition for that sweater now.”

“My own baby is trying to steal from me,” Taehyung complains dramatically, as Jeongguk hooks his chin over his shoulder. He wraps both arms around Taehyung’s body, hands clasped together and resting over his tummy. “I must smell really good.”

“At this point it probably smells more like me than it does like you,” Taehyung teases, getting a soft scoff from Jeongguk. “Let me go. I better throw this in the washing machine now. Do you have any laundry?”

“Last night’s clothes, yeah,” Jeongguk says, letting go of Taehyung so he can pick the jumper up from the floor. “Should we change the bedsheets?”

“Probably,” Taehyung says. He wrinkles his nose, thinking of the events of last night, and adds, “Yeah—yeah, we should change them.”

“Then I’m gonna go strip the bed,” Jeongguk says, moving towards it. He takes care of that while Taehyung picks up their clothes from the floor, shoving everything into the basket. Once Jeongguk puts the bedsheets in as well, it’s full to the brim. “Do you want me to put the washing machine on?”

“I got that. You put on clean bedsheets, yeah?” Taehyung suggests, to which Jeongguk nods. He lifts the basket, about to start walking in the direction of his tiny laundry room, but before he leaves he calls, “Jeongguk?”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asks, looking at him with inquiring eyes.

“I never thought I would like laundry mornings until this started,” Taehyung confesses. As stupid as it is, something as boring and tedious as doing his laundry becomes a little better just because Jeongguk is involved. “Until we started.”

Jeongguk grins softly. “Sap,” he says at first, making Taehyung laugh softly. “Come on—get that done right now. Because once you’re back, I’m gonna drag you with me and eat your entire face.”

Taehyung just laughs at that, taking his fingers to his forehead and saluting to symbolize he’s following the order. He rushes to the laundry room and loads the washing machine as fast as he can, trying to get the task over with as soon as possible.

And, well—there’s another reason. If Taehyung is honest, getting a faceful of kisses seems pretty appealing right now.

 

 

As it was to be expected, Taehyung’s mom doesn’t let it go after just asking once about Jeongguk. The next time she sees Taehyung, she brings up the topic again, nonchalantly mentioning, “So, how’s Jeongguk?”

Taehyung raises an eyebrow, looking at his mom over the rim of his cup as he takes a sip of his tea. When he’s done, he leaves the cup back on the table as he replies, “He’s been fine. How come you’re asking me?”

“Just because you’ve been spending some time together,” she says. Taehyung hums in confirmation, not bothering to deny his mom’s words. He might have been waiting until things between the two of them got a little more official before telling his mom, but he’s not a liar. “It’s been a while since I last saw him, though. We should organize a dinner with him and his mom soon.”

“That sounds like a good idea, yeah,” Taehyung says. Never has he ever felt so relaxed about dinner with the parents of the person he’s seeing, and he’s sure the same happens for Jeongguk. “Do you want me to let him know?”

“If you don’t mind. Or I could text Miyeon,” she suggests. Taehyung nods. “You know we love Jeongguk.”

“Mom,” Taehyung complains. What she said is we love Jeongguk, yes, but Taehyung can read between the lines. We love Jeongguk, you can tell us, we’ll be happy for you. His mom looks at him, feigning innocence. “When there’s something worth telling, I will tell you. I promise.”

Taehyung knows his mom is smart, so she’s probably more than able to see past Taehyung’s literal words and get what he means. She seems to do so, smiling a little as she nods. “Fine,” she agrees, in the end. Taehyung knows she’ll ask again, because it’s his mom and he knows her, but at least she’s agreed for now. “But just know that I’m happy.”

Taehyung laughs, shaking his head. His mom has already made her mind up about them, and nothing he can say is going to change it. Not that he’s helping, anyway—he could have denied everything, yet he didn’t. Maybe it’s just because he wants people to know that he and Jeongguk are something, even if they haven’t quite figured out what that something is yet.

He's fine with this, though. He doesn’t mind his mom knowing about this. Plus, they probably won’t take too long to take things to the next level, anyway.

 

 

Taehyung doesn’t usually come home during the weekdays, but when plans with his parents and Jeongguk take up all of his weekend, he needs to dedicate some other time to his friends. He decides to meet up with Seokjin one evening for dinner and, although he didn’t plan on coming home late, one thing leads to the other and Taehyung gets caught up. He ends up getting home far later than expected—so late that the lights at his loft are already out and Jeongguk is already in bed.

There are no words to describe the giddy feeling Taehyung gets in the pit of his stomach when he realizes that Jeongguk feels comfortable enough at his place to just… well, treat it like his own. It makes Taehyung smile as he tip-toes his way to his bed, trying to be as quiet as possible in order to not wake Jeongguk up. Usually he’s a very deep sleeper—Taehyung doubts that him barging into the room with a marching band would be enough to wake him—but he’d rather be safe than sorry. He lightly pets Tannie on his way to the bed, as the puppy is wagging his tail and jumping excitedly to greet him. Taehyung wishes he could stop there and properly greet him, but he’s afraid it might wake Jeongguk, so that’s all he does for now. He’ll make it up to Tannie in the morning, he promises. He quickly gets to the bed, his side free as Jeongguk sleeps on the other one, and starts stripping.

He doesn’t take too long, letting his clothes quietly fall to the floor. It’s less than a minute before he’s slipping under the covers, now wearing his sleeping clothes. The moment he’s under the duvet, Jeongguk tosses in bed, rolling to his other side. He was previously with his back to Taehyung, but now he’s facing him.

“Hey,” Jeongguk greets, sleepy, at the same time he moves his arm to rest on top of Taehyung’s waist.

“Hey,” Taehyung greets, looking at Jeongguk and smiling a little. It’s dark, obviously, but Taehyung thinks that Jeongguk can still see the gesture. “Did I wake you?”

“No. I was just falling asleep,” he says, his breath fanning against Taehyung’s cheek. There’s a pause, then Jeongguk asks, “Did you guys have fun?”

“We did! You should have tagged along,” Taehyung says, repeating the offer he made earlier when he told Jeongguk he was going out for dinner. “Even if I doubt Seokjin would be happy about third-wheeling.”

“Hmm, no. I just wanted to rest after work,” Jeongguk replies, slurring his words a little. “Plus, I had to stay with Tannie. Otherwise you would have had to cut your time short.”

“As you wish, babe,” Taehyung replies, using his index to flick Jeongguk’s chin. Jeongguk just hums, eyes fluttering closed. “Sleepyhead.”

“That’s me,” Jeongguk says, not bothering to open his eyes. “Goodnight, hyung.”

“Goodnight, Jeonggukie,” Taehyung whispers, a tiny grin on his face as he looks at Jeongguk. As he looks at his pink lips, pushed into a small pout as he falls asleep; at the slope of his nose and the hair falling in front of his eyes. “Sleep tight.”

He gets no response from Jeongguk then, but he wasn’t waiting for one. He gets comfortable in bed after that, legs tangled with Jeongguk’s. He’s always liked to hug something when he sleeps, but right now, Jeongguk’s arm is still slung around his waist and he’s the one being held. It’s not a bad place to be, though—Taehyung has recently found out that he gets the best sleep when he’s in Jeongguk’s arms.

Taehyung closes his eyes and lets himself be pulled into slumber, as well. The feeling of content that has been growing in his heart for the last few days intensifies. He’s happy. The truth is that, right now, Taehyung feels like he’s made it home.

 

Chapter Text

The last couple of weeks by Jeongguk’s side, now that they’ve both somewhat established that they’re into each other, have been a dream. Taehyung has never felt so comfortable and deeply understood by someone, which is interesting to say considering they both have a lot to discuss regarding their feelings. It’s just that there seems to be a connection between the two of them, a bond so strong that can overcome everything. They had their issues with communication for a long time, yes, but now things seem to be going well. Taehyung has no doubts—at least, not in regards to what they are and what he wants them to become. Step by step, but surely and without stopping.

There is just one thing that has been running around his mind, though. It’s not anything bad, but it’s something that he questioned when it happened and has now in recent times come back to his mind. Taehyung thinks about the time where he and Jeongguk went apartment-hunting with his mother, and about how the two of them instantly fell in love with the loft Taehyung owns. After a couple of weeks of back and forth, Taehyung one day suddenly got a call from Jeongguk’s mom telling him that Jeongguk had changed his mind and he didn’t want the place anymore. Taehyung never got to ask Jeongguk what caused him to change his mind, but he sure did wonder. It never seemed like the right moment to ask, to bring it up to Jeongguk. Now, however... Well, now there’s nothing stopping him.

So he starts, “Hey, Jeonggukie.” It’s right after dinner and Taehyung is finishing up wiping the table as Jeongguk washes their dishes. Upon hearing Taehyung call his name, Jeongguk hums inquiringly. “I have a question.”

“What’s your question?” Jeongguk asks him. The sound of the water running from the tap doesn’t stop, nor does the sound of dishes clinking against each other as Jeongguk handles them. 

“It’s about when we were looking for apartments,” Taehyung says. “You wanted this loft at first, but then you suddenly gave it up. Why?”

Had Taehyung not been paying attention, maybe he would have missed the sigh that Jeongguk lets out there. He takes a second to reply, turning the water off. When Taehyung looks over his shoulder, he sees Jeongguk reaching for a dish cloth and drying his hands before he turns around. For some reason, Taehyung feels the need to stop his task and spin on his heels to face Jeongguk as well.

“A series of different factors,” Jeongguk says, shrugging his shoulders a little. “The main one is that, as much as I liked the loft when I saw it, it wasn’t really what I was looking for or told my mom I needed—she even said that, remember?” Taehyung nods at that, quiet. “My mom eventually found a place that had everything I needed and that I liked more, so I ended up taking that instead.”

“That makes sense, yeah,” Taehyung mumbles. He had already figured out that must have been the reason. 

“There’s something more, though,” Jeongguk adds then. Taehyung looks at him, asking him to continue with his eyes. “Ah, this is a little bit embarrassing.”

“You know there’s no judgement from me,” Taehyung reassures.

“You say that now, but then you’ll spend weeks laughing at me,” Jeongguk whines. Taehyung can’t help but laugh a little at that, at the same time Jeongguk adds, “I know your ways, Kim Taehyung.”

“But I do it lovingly,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk side-eyes him. “C’mon, tell me. You already brought it up so now I wanna know.”

“Okay, so...” Jeongguk says. He takes another deep breath, almost like he’s about to tell Taehyung about one of his darkest, most embarrassing secrets ever. “Part of the reason why I insisted so much on that place might have been because I wanted to antagonize you.”

Taehyung feels his eyebrows shoot up in surprise at the confession, shocked. During all of the time his quarrel with Jeongguk lasted for, Taehyung always felt like he was, by far, the pettiest one. He was the one reacting more strongly to Jeongguk’s antics, and he failed at keeping the collected façade that Jeongguk always put up. So, to find out that Jeongguk did something as incredibly petty and big as to buy an apartment just to piss off Taehyung, well... That’s shocking, to say the least.

“You’re lying. You have to be lying—you didn’t almost buy an apartment just to antagonize me,” Taehyung says with a smile. Jeongguk doesn’t reply, just leans back against the counter wordlessly. “Oh my god. That’s so—”

“Humiliating? Embarrassing? Terribly petty of me?” Jeongguk completes for him. Taehyung laughs a little, nodding. “At the time it seemed like a good idea, you know.”

“So then why didn’t you go through with it, huh?” Taehyung asks, raising one eyebrow.

“Because I realized that I was being an ass,” Jeongguk says. Once again, Taehyung finds himself shocked by Jeongguk’s answer. Not because Jeongguk is admitting it now, but because he realized he was being a dickhead during the time they were fighting. Oh, if only Taehyung had had that same realization. “And you were having a rough time, I could tell. Also the thing with your boyfriend, I just—I felt awful. You were already having a hard time and I was just making it worse. And when I realized that and my mom showed me the new place, I immediately changed my mind and got that other apartment. I didn’t want to make things even harder for you.”

A warm, happy feeling spreads in Taehyung’s chest as he listens to the words, butterflies flying around in the pit of his stomach. The way Jeongguk looks at him and speaks to him would be enough to achieve that, but if you add the fact that Jeongguk stopped to think about him like this back then... Taehyung is impressed, but very pleasantly so. 

“You cared about me back then,” Taehyung says. It’s not a question—he knows he doesn’t need to ask.

“I’ve always cared about you,” Jeongguk confesses, voice quieting down a little. “Even if I’ve done a very poor job at showing it at some points.”

“Neither of us did very well back then,” Taehyung says, tilting his head to the side. “But we’re doing a lot better now, don’t you think?”

“I think so, yeah,” Jeongguk says, giving him a crooked smile. “Can I hug you?”

“Come here, yeah,” Taehyung says, Jeongguk taking a step closer and cupping his cheek. “Thank you for letting me have it.”

“Just did what was right,” Jeongguk says, resting his forehead against Taehyung’s. Taehyung closes his eyes, letting himself get lost in the proximity of Jeongguk’s body. “Plus, I ended up spending most of my time here, anyway. Didn’t work out too bad for me, did it?”

Taehyung smiles at that. “I guess it didn’t, no.”

He barely has time to finish his sentence before Jeongguk is leaning closer, sealing their lips into a chaste, slow kiss. Taehyung sighs into his mouth, happily. 

Taehyung doesn’t want to think about what would have happened if, all of those months ago, Jeongguk hadn’t been the first one to take a step back and put an end to the rivalry between them. Hadn’t it been for him, the two of them wouldn’t be here like this today, would they?

But luckily, Taehyung doesn’t have to worry about that. Because this happening between them, whatever it is, is very real and very much here.

 

 

One of the many perks to having a lover, Taehyung thinks, is the mornings with them. Taehyung kind of missed that over the course of the last few months, the feeling of waking up to kisses being pressed against the junction of his neck and throat. He’s only half-awake when a sheepish smile climbs to his face, a sound akin to a purr groveling in his throat.

“Good morning,” Taehyung greets. His voice is raspy from sleep, even deeper than usual. Jeongguk hums against his skin. 

“Good morning,” Jeongguk greets in return, pulling back a little so his words don’t come out muffled. He licks at Taehyung’s skin, making him suck in a breath. “You slept for so long.”

“So you decided to wake me up on your own,” Taehyung states. Jeongguk doesn’t deny anything, so Taehyung must have been right. Jeongguk kisses his neck again, his mouth wet and hot against Taehyung’s skin, and so he curses, “Fuck.”

“You okay over there?” Jeongguk asks him, laughing a little. Almost like he knows exactly what he’s going, and knows exactly the effect it’s having on Taehyung, and it amuses him. Taehyung writhes a little on the bed.

“That feels good,” he groans, as Jeongguk starts to nibble on the skin of his neck. If he’s not careful, he might even leave a mark. 

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asks, at the same time he places one of his hands on Taehyung’s bare abdomen. Slowly, Jeongguk starts trailing his hand down Taehyung’s body, taking torturously long. “How about this?”

At the same time he says that, Jeongguk gets to Taehyung’s crotch and cups his hand around it, feeling him up. Taehyung was already hard—thanks, morning wood—but Jeongguk’s kisses and touches definitely helped. 

Taehyung could reply, of course he could. But he also could thread his fingers in Jeongguk’s hair and pull him in for a kiss, a solution that despite the lack of words would be more than enough to convey that yes, that feels good. So, in the end, Taehyung does just that. Jeongguk’s mouth is eager when it meets his, both of them kissing lewdly as Jeongguk’s touch on Taehyung’s crotch becomes a little more insistent. He’s palming him, the tips of his fingers playing with the head of Taehyung’s cock through the fabric of his underwear.

At this point, Taehyung is sure he’s never going to get tired of kissing Jeongguk. Be it languid, lazy kisses when they’re both in bed, ready for sleep, or hungry kisses like these. There is something about the feeling of Jeongguk’s mouth against his that makes Taehyung tremble. He’s addicted, always finding himself coming back for more whenever Jeongguk gives him a little.

It’s not too long before Jeongguk’s touches start getting more insistent and, sooner rather than later, he ends up snaking his hand under the fabric of Taehyung’s underwear. The touch of skin on skin makes Taehyung let out a breathy moan into Jeongguk’s mouth, who swallows it gladly.

“So good,” Jeongguk pants into his mouth, probably out of breath because of the kissing. "So pretty."

Jeongguk’s long fingers wrap around Taehyung’s dick so perfectly, starting to stroke him at a slow pace. He uses his thumb to stimulate the head, dragging out raspy sounds from Taehyung’s throat as they keep kissing. Eventually, Jeongguk frees his hip and starts trailing down Taehyung’s neck again, attacking the same spots from earlier.

"Fuck, faster," Taehyung grits out. His demand makes Jeongguk bite his neck softly, almost as if he was warning him not to ask for too much. Jeongguk’s hand around him doesn’t speed up, and so Taehyung languidly thrusts his hips up, looking for more

“Tae,” Jeongguk says, pulling back a little. Taehyung misses the weight of Jeongguk’s body half-lying on top of his as soon as it goes away, but at least he doesn’t stop jerking him off. “You’re so greedy.”

Taehyung looks at Jeongguk, biting down on his lower lip. Greedy. He doesn’t think anyone has ever called him that during sex before Jeongguk. That might have a lot to do with the fact that, admittedly, Taehyung has never been as greedy as he is now with him. It’s a mixture of a lot of factors—he has never wanted anyone this much, he has never liked anyone this much, he has never had someone give it to him as good as Jeongguk does. So, yeah, Taehyung might be greedy. But it’s not just on him, is it? If Jeongguk wasn’t this fucking hot then Taehyung wouldn’t be like this with him. 

“I always want you to give me more,” Taehyung admits. He doesn’t even know what he means by more. The truth is, he’ll take absolutely anything that Jeongguk gives him. Anything.

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asks. By the look on his eyes, Taehyung can already tell that his words have given Jeongguk an idea. He’s got that mischievous smile of his plastered on his lips, one corner of his mouth tilted up. “You want more?”

“Yes,” Taehyung says, eyes not fleeting away. He swallows down, then adds, “More of you.”

Jeongguk doesn’t have to think twice about it. He is immediately leaning forward, once again pressing a wet, sloppy kiss against Taehyung’s now swollen mouth. He starts the same path of kisses down his neck that he’s already done twice this morning, except this time he doesn’t stop himself on the column of his throat. He sucks and nibbles at Taehyung’s collarbones, adorning them with small red marks. Theyʼll fade away in a couple of minutes, but knowing they’re there still makes Taehyung’s breath hitch.

He’s too engrossed in the feeling of Jeongguk’s mouth traveling down his torso that he can’t bring himself to complain when his hand leaves the front of Taehyung’s underwear. Jeongguk goes to one brown nipple, licking a stripe over it, then swirling his tongue around it; Taehyung cries out, Jeongguk smiles at him from above. Then moves to the other nipple, giving it the same treatment before he keeps kissing down his abdomen. 

And, fuck—Taehyung can already tell where this is going. Especially when Jeongguk gets to the waistband of his underwear, catching the hem with his teeth and playfully pulling it down a little. He lets go of it quickly, though, Taehyung’s boxers still on as Jeongguk keeps going down. His breath fans over the tent in the front of his underwear, a wet patch staining the light blue fabric.

With one palm on the inside of each thigh, Jeongguk gently nudges Taehyung’s legs open. He places himself in between Taehyung’s parted thighs, running his hands down the skin as the two of them share a look. Taehyung swallows down thickly, his Adam’s apple bobbing down as he does so; Jeongguk holds his gaze, tongue darting out to wet his lips. He almost looks more eager than Taehyung, which no doubt sends his head spinning

Wordlessly, Jeongguk surges forward and presses an open-mouthed kiss against the sensitive skin of Taehyung’s inner thigh. He doesn’t hold back here like he did on Taehyung’s neck—he sucks and bites, his mouth surely leaving angry marks at its wake. The feeling makes Taehyung moan loudly, slamming his head back against the pillow as he flails on the mattress. Once Jeongguk is satisfied he moves to the other thigh, nipping at the skin in the same way. 

“Holy fuck, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, his voice strained as he has to hold back a moan. “Just like that, baby.”

Jeongguk hums, but he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he starts moving his face closer and closer to Taehyung’s crotch, still kissing at the skin. He reaches for the fabric of his underwear and looks up at Taehyung, moving until he’s right on top of Taehyung’s erection; he lingers there for a moment, breath fanning right over him.

“I want to suck your cock,” he says then. He announces it so casually, so nonchalantly—it makes something twist inside of Taehyung, his heart skipping a beat.

“Come on, then,” Taehyung says. He hooks his own thumbs in the waistband of his underwear, but he doesn’t pull them down; he’s waiting for Jeongguk to do it. There’s nothing like being undressed by a lover, after all. “I want your mouth on me.”

And that’s all it takes, really. Jeongguk’s fingers soon replace Taehyung’s on the hem of his briefs, sliding them down Taehyung’s thighs without wasting any time. What really, really gets to Taehyung is the way that Jeongguk looks at him. His eyes don’t leave his for a moment, and there is something just so candent about them. Taehyung doesn’t think he’s ever going to get used to the intensity of Jeongguk’s gaze. No one Taehyung has ever met looks in the same way Jeongguk does. There’s just so much feeling and intimacy to the way in which he’s looking at Taehyung right now, and it makes Taehyung’s face flush and his chest tighten a little. 

The l-word pops in his mind there, but Taehyung forces himself to ignore.

“Much better,” Jeongguk mumbles once Taehyung’s boxers are off, mindlessly throwing them to the floor. He presses his palms against the inside of Taehyung’s legs again, close to the knee, and settles between them. “Has anyone ever told you how fucking beautiful you look like this?”

Taehyung is usually good at taking compliments. It might sound a little too conceited to say so, but he’s used to it. This, however, is an entirely different scenario. He’s currently spread wide open on the bed, his cock hard and oozing pre-come against the lower part of his abdomen. No, no one has ever told him that he looks beautiful like this. No one until Jeongguk.

“Shut the fuck up,” he grits between his teeth, feeling flustered. Jeongguk laughs, leaning forward and pressing a kiss against the inside of his kneecap. “You’re teasing me.”

“Now that’s my favorite thing to do, baby boy,” Jeongguk replies, humming a little. He kisses down Taehyung’s thigh once again, taking his sweet time as he makes his way back to Taehyung’s dick.

Taehyung sucks in a breath, waiting for Jeongguk to do something. He almost feels himself melt into the mattress when Jeongguk finally humors him, holding his cock at the base and liking a stripe from the end of his cock to the tip. He swirls his tongue at the top, stimulating the sensitive head before he wraps his lips around it.

"Yes," Taehyung breathes out. Jeongguk bobs his head, taking a little more of Taehyung’s cock inside his mouth as he goes down. "Your mouth feels so fucking good."

And it looks even prettier, Taehyung thinks. Jeongguk’s lips are so pink and pouty, and the sight of them wrapped around his cock is enough for Taehyung to feel dizzy. He grips at the sheets beneath him, fists clenching until his knuckles turn white.

Jeongguk hollows his cheeks around him, looking up and making eye contact with Taehyung. There is something about the sight that makes Taehyung’s dick twitch: Jeongguk’s hair falling over his forehead, shiny with a thin layer of sweat, as he takes Taehyung deep into his mouth. Taehyung thinks that, despite how sinful Jeongguk looks right now, heaven must feel pretty similar to this.

Jeongguk goes down all the way to the base then, taking every inch of Taehyung’s cock inside of him. The tip of Taehyung’s dick hits the back of Jeongguk’s throat, making him gag a little. He pulls back, drool falling from the corners of his mouth as he lets go of Taehyung’s hard cock.

“You’re so big,” Jeongguk tells him then, sounding breathless. “Fuck, hyung.”

“And you’re so fucking good,” Taehyung says then. Jeongguk gives him a lopsided smile, about to lean down and take Taehyung’s cock in his mouth once again, but Taehyung stops him. “Wait—wait. I don’t want to come like that.”

“No?” Jeongguk inquires. The surprised expression that took over his face when Taehyung stopped him is now replaced with a smirk. “How do you wanna come, then?”

The smugness makes Taehyung feel like Jeongguk already knows what he’s going to say. Still, he shamelessly asks, “I want you to fuck me.”

“Hmm,” Jeongguk says. He gets closer, slowly—so close that his breath is hitting Taehyung’s mouth now. Taehyung holds in his breath, parting his lips and waiting for Jeongguk to kiss him, but instead he says, “Care to repeat that for me, pretty?”

Taehyung feels his cheeks heat up even more, something he didn’t think was possible.

“I said,” he starts, “that I want you to fuck me.”

And that’s what triggers Jeongguk to close the space between them, their mouths crashing together into yet another kiss. It’s just as needy as all the ones they shared before, lacking all finesse and delicacy. Jeongguk’s teeth catch on to Taehyung’s bottom lip, pulling on it softly before he goes back to devouring his mouth. 

Taehyung’s tongue slips into Jeongguk’s mouth, curling around Jeongguk’s own. He lets his arms curl around Jeongguk’s neck and pulls him even closer, their chests now flushed together. It’s then, as he kisses Jeongguk so deeply, that he feels Jeongguk’s hands go down to his legs, to the back of his thighs. Jeongguk, who has kneeling between Taehyung’s parted legs, pulls Taehyung up without much of a struggle, not breaking the kiss. Taehyung lets out a surprised noise—Jeongguk swallows it, of course—but he still wraps his legs around Jeongguk’s small waist, keeping himself up.

He allows himself to be laid out on the bed, Jeongguk’s body hovering over him as his thigh slots between Taehyung’s. Taehyung lets out a wanton moan as Jeongguk presses it against his crotch, giving him some friction.

“Lube,” Taehyung instructs in between kisses. He knows how carried away Jeongguk gets, and how little patience he has in moments like this. It’s not that Taehyung is hurried—it’s just that he’s needy. He wants more. He wants the feeling of Jeongguk fucking into him.

Luckily, this time around Jeonguk doesn’t put up much of a fight. He reluctantly pulls back, letting Taehyung stretch out one arm and open the drawer. He blindly looks for the tube of lube they keep there, cursing until his hand finally stumbles upon it. Once he gets it, he gives it to Jeongguk, who wastes no time before taking the lid off and squeezing some of it into his palm.

“We’re running out already,” Jeongguk complains, coating his hands with the stuff. Taehyung hums.  “We need to buy more.”

“I’ll pick some up tomorrow,” Taehyung says dismissively, not too bothered about how much lube they have right now. “At least this means we have a good sex life, huh?”

“Guess you’re right,” Jeongguk laughs, leaning forward again and taking one hand to Taehyung’s lower body. Taehyung spreads his legs again, feeling Jeongguk’s slick fingers prodding at his entrance. “Ready?”

“Yes. Go, come on,” Taehyung commands. Jeongguk’s middle finger slowly pushes inside of him, Taehyung’s eyes fluttering closed. He waits until Jeongguk’s finger is all the way in him, then nods and says, “Good. More.”

Jeongguk’s fingers feel as fucking good inside of him as they usually do. He works Taehyung up until he’s almost coming, head lolled back and toes curling from the pleasure. In the end, Taehyung ends up circling his hand around Jeongguk’s wrist, making him stop. It’s not that Jeongguk wouldn’t listen to him if he told him with words—it’s more so that, right now, Taehyung can’t get out any sound that isn’t broken moans.

“Impatient,” Jeongguk mutters. He takes his own underwear off now, then leans forward, a small grin hanging from his lips right before he pecks Taehyung’s mouth. The kiss is quick, and when Jeongguk pulls back he says, “I want to spoon you.”

“Spoon me?” Taehyung asks, to which Jeongguk hums in confirmation. That’s not a position that they’ve done before, even if they’ve been having sex for months. “That sounds intimate.”

“It’s meant to be,” Jeongguk replies. “So, you up for it?”

“Yes,” Taehyung says, starting to move his legs so he can comfortably turn on his right side. “Come on. Spoon me, then.”

Jeongguk doesn’t need to be told twice. He immediately presses his own body right against Taehyung’s, chest to his back. Their bodies are warm and sweaty, and they slot together like two pieces of a puzzle. He can feel Jeongguk’s erection pressed right against his ass cheek, which makes Taehyung’s own cock throb. Taehyung cranes his head a little, allowing for Jeongguk to kiss him on the mouth once again.

“No condom?” Jeongguk asks.

“No condom,” Taehyung confirms. He feels Jeongguk reach for his cock, holding it at the base, and he adds, “I want you so, so badly.”

“Me too, hyung. Me too,” Jeongguk says, leaning to press a chaste kiss against Taehyung’s shoulder. It’s so contrasting to the rest of their kisses this morning, and especially to what’s about to happen, but it still makes Taehyung feel breathless. “Spread yourself for me a little.”

Taehyung does so, using one of his hands to push one of his ass cheeks aside. It’s then that he feels the head of Jeongguk’s cock, slick with lube, press against his rim. Taehyung’s mouth falls slack into a silent moan as Jeongguk pushes into him, his cock sliding right in without any resistance. Jeongguk grunts, resting his forehead against Taehyung’s shoulder. 

“More. All of it,” Taehyung demands. Like Jeongguk said, he’s greedy.

And so, Jeongguk pushes all the way in, just to then jerk his hips back until only the tip of his cock remains inside of Taehyung. It’s then that he slams his hips inside of Taehyung again, thrusting all of his cock inside of him in a fast motion. Taehyung hisses at the feeling, body arching against Jeongguk’s.

“Fuck,” he curses, at the same time Jeongguk’s hips thrust again, starting to pick up a pace. “Just like that, Gukie.”

There are a million things that Taehyung could say to Jeongguk right now, all of them to tell him how fucking good he’s making him feel—that he’s fucking him just right, that he makes him so, so full. However, all of those turn into a drawn-out moan when Jeongguk surges forward, kissing behind his ear. Especially as his teeth catch on to the lobe, softly nibbling on it and sending shivers down Taehyung’s spine. 

One of Jeongguk’s arms wraps around Taehyung’s waist, making sure that their bodies stay glued together. His palm is pressed against Taehyung’s chest, his touch burning against Taehyung’s skin in the best of ways.

“You’re so fucking tight, god,” Jeongguk cries out against his ear, feeling just as affected as Taehyung does. The pace of his hips has picked up now, and he’s mercilessly thrusting into Taehyung. There’s not much Taehyung can do in this position, other than try to buck his hips back in an attempt to meet Jeongguk’s hips halfway. It doesn’t work too well, but it’s enough to make the angle of one of Jeongguk’s thrusts just right.

“Oh, holy fuck,” Taehyung moans, his body jolting forward. Jeongguk’s arm, however, prevents him from moving much. “Fuck, fuck, fuck—right there, again. Right there, Jeongguk, that felt so fucking good.”

“You’re so—” Jeongguk says, but he stops himself before he even gets to finish his sentence. He starts pistoning his hips right into that spot then, making Taehyung cry out in pleasure at the feeling. He’s thrusting right against his prostate now, right where Taehyung needs him the most. “Gonna come all inside you.”

“Fill me up,” Taehyung blurts out then. Jeongguk’s hips falter, but it’s just a second before he picks his pace back up. “Fill me up, Jeongguk. I wanna feel your hot come inside me, I—”

His babbling is interrupted by a sob then, as Jeongguk’s hand that was previously pressed against his chest moves down to his cock then. He wraps his fist around it, starting to pump Taehyung in fast, erratic motions. It’s so uncoordinated from the pace of his hips, now starting to get sloppy as they’re both so close, chasing release.

“You’re a fucking dream, Tae,” Jeongguk whispers right in his ear. For some reason, words as innocent as those sound incredibly dirty at this moment. “A goddamn angel. I want you to come for me.”

“I’m so, so close,” Taehyung says in response. He lolls his head back on to Jeongguk’s shoulder, looks at him through his eyelashes. “I’m so close. You’re gonna make me come so soon, Guk.”

Upon hearing the words, Jeongguk doubles his efforts. The feeling of his hand around him and his cock hitting Taehyung’s sweet spot over and over again eventually becomes too much, making Taehyung come all over his own stomach and Jeongguk’s hand. Jeongguk keeps thrusting into him, but it’s not too long before he’s coming as well, spilling inside of Taehyung.

The feeling still catches Taehyung off guard, making him gasp as he feels all of Jeongguk’s come fill him up. Jeongguk, who was whining in his ear as he came, goes limp against him, riding out his orgasm as he slips his cock out of Taehyung. Taehyung gives himself a couple of moments to recover, their heavy breathing filling the air between them for a couple of minutes. Once he’s caught his breath, he moves to look behind himself, just to find Jeongguk already looking at him with a sheepish smile.

“Wow,” Taehyung says. And he doesn’t say it just because. That really did feel wow. Dirty, but still intimate and, well—probably what sex with someone you’re in love with feels like. Not because it was romantic, but because there was a connection. There was a spark. It was, for lack of a better word, wow.

“Wow,” Jeongguk repeats, his smile widening. He looks like he’s about to say something else, lips parted, but in the end he just says, “wow,” again. 

It makes Taehyung giggle for some reason. He moves a little, enough to turn around and press a peck to Jeongguk’s lips. It’s so fucking ridiculous that something like this makes him laugh, but he guesses that’s what happens when you really, really like someone. When you lo—yeah. 

For the third time that morning, that word crosses Taehyung’s mind. Love.

Taehyung doesn’t want to overthink things, but it’s hard not to. Especially as Jeongguk’s hand travels down to his hips and gives it a light squeeze, the pads of his fingers digging into the flesh there softly. It’s hard not to think about how his heart feels whenever Jeongguk is close these days.

And maybe, just maybe, Jeongguk could be his first, in that sense. Maybe Jeongguk could be the first person that Taehyung falls in love with.

 

 

On Sunday evening, Taehyung gets a text from his father reminding him he’ll be dropping by his office the following day, finally setting a time. The other day, over lunch, the two of them had agreed on a date, but his father told him he’d have to give him a time later on. And that’s what he did just now, over text—12:00, the message says. Taehyung sends a thumbs-up emoji in response, to signify he’s okay with that.

“Look,” he says, elbowing Jeongguk lightly to get his attention. The two of them are sitting side by side on the couch, their legs tangled as Jeongguk gets some work done on his laptop. Jeongguk tears his eyes away from his screen, leaning forward a little to get a closer look at Taehyung’s phone. “My dad is coming tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? I thought he had a busy day tomorrow,” Jeongguk says in response. Taehyung shrugs, as he really has no clue. It was his dad who suggested Monday, he just said it worked with him. “Are you nervous?”

“A little,” Taehyung admits, locking his phone and letting it fall on his stomach. “Just a little.”

It’s a big deal to him, even if to many it might seem like something minuscule. His company is something that he has worked hard to get, and something that heʼs proud of. Showing the headquarters of it is like showing its core, so of course Taehyung is nervous. If to that you add that it’s his dad he’s showing it to—well, it only makes him feel even more nervous. But not everything is negative feelings; he’s also incredibly happy and excited, because this is a leap that feels important to his and his dad’s relationship. All in all, he’s anticipating tomorrow.

“You have nothing to be worried about,” Jeongguk says, placing one of his hands on Taehyung’s thigh and giving it a light squeeze. It’s reassuring, encouraging, but it also serves as a way to anchor Taehyung to reality, instead of letting him get lost in his nervous thoughts. “I know your dad is going to love it.”

“You don’t know that,” Taehyung replies, half playful, half worried. 

“I do, though,” Jeongguk says, stealing a look at Taehyung. “You’ve done a good job with the place. It looks like a clean, healthy working environment. You’ve got yourself a good team. And you’ve been doing your job well so far, in terms of managing your clients. He’s going to see and appreciate that.”

“I hope so,” Taehyung replies. He shifts a little, rests his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder. “He does seem to be a little more—I don’t know, interested in it lately. He seems to be proud of what I do.”

“I know he is, Tae,” Jeongguk tells him, voice soft.

Taehyung closes his eyes, sighing. Jeongguk’s hand is still on his thigh, his fingers lightly tickling the inside of it. The touch is gentle, soft, and it does wonders to soothe Taehyung’s nerves down. In a low voice, barely above a whisper, he confesses, “Sometimes I worry that this career path isn’t serious enough to him. That it’s not Law, and that to him isn’t important enough.”

“What you do is important. It helps people have a career. It’s different from Law, yeah, but what you do is important, too,” Jeongguk tells him, voice quiet as well. “It’s hard to please dads, isn’t it?”

“So damn hard,” Taehyung says, voice complain-y. He tosses one of his arms around Jeongguk’s body, hugging him loosely. “At least I have you to cheer on me.”

Jeongguk laughs at that, the sound like honey to Taehyung’s ear. He turns his head a little, letting himself inhale the gentle smell of Jeongguk’s body wash, still clinging to his skin. Jeongguk has a sensitive nose, so he rarely wears cologne. Sometimes he puts on body spray, the fruity smell far gentler than most cologne. Taehyung likes it, though—it’s comforting to him. The smell itself is enough to make him feel cozy.

“You always have me to cheer you on, hyung,” Jeongguk says. He cranes his neck a little to kiss the crown of Taehyung’s head, circling one arm around Taehyung’s shoulders and giving him a hug. The laptop moves dangerously on his lap for a moment, Taehyung’s breath catching in his throat until it stabilizes itself again. “You know I’m always gonna be here for you.”

Taehyung pulls back a little then, looking at Jeongguk. Their eyes meet, and fuck. During the past few months with Jeongguk, Taehyung has felt cherished. He has felt adored. He has felt taken care of. He has felt loved. And he, too, feels an almost overwhelming amount of love in his heart, filling him up. His chest feels tight with it and there’s a knot in his throat. He can’t speak for a moment there. Taehyung is sure that, right now, he’s quite literally overflowing with love.

He doesn’t blurt it out. The words come out of him low, slow, like the confession they are. “Jeongguk, I love you,” Taehyung says, managing to keep his voice from breaking. “Fuck. I’m in love with you.”

It’s probably not the most romantic confession. He’s managed to curse in the midst of it, and they’re both wearing sweatpants and hoodies—Jeongguk’s has a tomato stain on the front to add to the lack of romance in the moment. But to Taehyung, saying this feels like such a relief. For so long, when he was with Seungjin, Taehyung wondered if there was something wrong with him. He loved Seungjin, yes, but he wasn’t in love, and that’s the reason why their long-distance relationship didn’t work. Taehyung has felt loved before, but it has never been something like it is with Jeongguk now. It’s so intense, it feels so deep and safe, and good and permanent. Taehyung has always been reluctant when it comes to thinking about the future. But right now? Right now, he wants everything with Jeongguk: their past, their present, and whatever the future has in store for them. Together.

Jeongguk looks stunned, his pink lips falling open as he wordlessly stares at Taehyung. “I—are you serious? You love me?” Jeongguk asks. The questions make Taehyung laugh, as he nods. Oddly enough, he’s not scared of Jeongguk not saying it back. Not in the sense that he’s sure that Jeongguk will say it, but in the sense that… well, if Jeongguk didn’t feel the same, Taehyung wouldn’t regret having said this. “You love me. Oh, Taehyung, I love you. I’ve always loved you.”

“You told me that before,” Taehyung says, biting his lip a little. “But do you love me now? Are you in love with me now, Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk’s eyes don’t look away from his for a moment. He says, “Yes, Taehyung. I love you. I loved you yesterday, I love you today and I love you tomorrow. I think I’m going to love you for the rest of my life.”

Taehyung chokes out a laugh, his heart swelling at the words. He doesn’t reply—instead, he surges forward and presses a long, sweet kiss against Jeongguk’s mouth. He kisses him back slowly, their mouths slotting together like they were always meant to be. Like he was always meant to kiss Jeongguk’s lip.

Jeongguk thinks he’s going to love Taehyung for the rest of his life. And Taehyung, on the other hand, thinks that a life with Jeongguk is possibly the best one that he could live.

 

 

On Monday morning, after dropping Yeontan off at the care center, Taehyung stops by the flower shop close to his office to get a bouquet. He doesn’t want anything too obnoxious—just something simple and elegant so he can place them on his desk for when his father comes. Taehyung, just like his dad, has become a big lover of flowers over the years, all because of his mother’s influence. So it could give a nice touch, he thinks.

It’s close to the end of spring now, so there’s a lot to choose from. In the end, Taehyung picks a bouquet of white amaryllis. The flowers are big and vibrant, the petals white except for a soft, pink tint on the inner part of them. The scent, in contrast to the flowers, is very mild and delicate, sweet without it becoming too sickly or overbearing. Taehyung can’t help but smile to himself a little as he walks into the office, proud of his choice. He thinks his dad is going to love them, as well.

His bouquet seems to catch some people’s eyes as soon as he walks into the office, walking to the desk after greeting everyone. He hasn’t been in for more than thirty seconds when Jimin approaches him, knocking softly on the glass of his office’s door. Taehyung gestures at him to come in with his hand.

“Good morning, Taehyungie,” Jimin greets him, moving to his desk and sitting across from him on one of the chairs. Even before Taehyung has the time to reply, Jimin asks, “What are those? Are they for…?”

“Nope. Not for Jeongguk,” Taehyung interrupts, knowing full-well where that was heading. Jimin snickers. “My dad said he’ll be coming today. I got them for my office—thought they looked nice.”

“They’re so pretty. Smell good, too,” observes Jimin, leaning forward a little and inhaling. He closes his eyes and hums dramatically, making Taehyung laugh a little. Part of Taehyung feels like Jimin, aware of how big of a deal this is, is just trying to make Taehyung smile. “When is he coming, then? Do you have a time?”

“At 12:00. He’s coming at 12:00,” Taehyung says. “I’m nervous.”

“It’s gonna go so well. He’s going to love it, and he’s going to let you know what a good job you’re doing and how proud he is of you,” Jimin says, reaching over the desk and giving Taehyung’s hand a quick squeeze. “Do you want some water to put those in? I’m pretty sure we still have the vase from Valentine’s Day around somewhere.”

“I will get it myse—Jimin!” Taehyung calls, seeing his friend stand up and spring out of the office before he can do anything about it. Jimin sends him a look over his shoulder, as to say, I’ve got this. Taehyung just pursues his lips, sitting back as he waits for Jimin’s return.

As dramatic as it might sound, this could be a turning point for Taehyung. It could be the day where his biggest insecurities and fears vanish or, at least, decrease considerably. For each and every one of his achievements and conquests, there has always been a dark, ugly shadow towering over him and telling him it wasn’t enough. It was okay, but it wasn’t what his dad had always wanted for him. So, even if Taehyung was achieving things, it wasn’t the things he was meant to be doing.

Being away from his family and surrounded by a different crowd made Taehyung come to terms with everything. He accepted that he didn’t get into his dream college, but that it didn’t mean he wasn’t smart or good enough; he had back luck, but it wasn’t the end of the world. He accepted that, even though Law is something he had wanted to do, it maybe wasn’t the most suitable career path for him. He liked what he was doing, found it far more interesting and felt like he was far better at it than he would have been at being a lawyer. It also was a lot more exciting and felt like something he was meant to do.

Still, there was always some noise at the back of his mind. The words disappointment and shame usually crossed his mind at the moments where he felt at his lowest. His relationship with his father became colder and colder, to the point where sometimes he felt completely disconnected from him.

That changed when he came back. Little by little, the two of them were able to get closer to each other again. They had their stumbles: disagreements, or moments where Taehyung thought that all he’d ever get from his dad was just disinterest. But now things were better than ever, even better than before Taehyung was in high school, so he really thinks this could be it. That today could be a turning point.

Taehyung sighs, watching Jimin come back from the bathroom with the vase in his hand. There are some pebbles at the bottom, as well as some water. He pushes the door open with his butt, flashing a smile at Taehyung as he leaves the vase on Taehyung’s desk and says, “Here, boss.”

“Thanks a lot, Minnie,” Taehyung says. He gets the flowers, putting them inside the vase. “Hope this goes well.”

“It will, Tae,” Jimin says, giving a squeeze to Taehyung’s shoulder.

Everyone seems so sure about that, but Taehyung doesn’t feel as confident himself. He holds back a sigh, not wanting to worry Jimin or to entertain him any longer. There’s not much time to go now. All he can do right now is wait and see.

 

 

Taehyung wouldn’t call himself an impatient person, but by the time the clock strikes 12:00 and his dad isn’t there yet, the truth is he starts to get nervous. Well, even more nervous than before.

His dad is punctual. If he says 12:00, what he means is that at 11:59 he’ll be at the door, and that he’ll be knocking as soon as another minute goes by. Taehyung tries to soothe himself down, though—it’s Seoul, it’s midday, and it’s busy. For all he knows, his dad might be stuck in traffic so he’s not going to panic. At least not yet.

But then fifteen minutes go by with still no sign of his dad. Not even a text to let him know that he’s late, because he’s in a traffic jam or whatever. Taehyung can see Jimin throw looks at him from his desk, but he pretends not to notice; he pretends not even to realize the time or that his dad is not here, instead pretending to be busy on his computer.

By the time thirty minutes have gone by, Taehyung can’t really help himself, and ends up texting Jeongguk.

 

Have you had lunch with my dad today?

 

He tries not to come off as too accusatory at first. He doesn’t ask why is my dad not here yet or did he forget about me? Maybe like this Jeongguk will answer the question he’s asking himself, without him having to ask.

Jeongguk’s reply comes fast, as expected.

 

Not today

He had lunch earlier today 

Because of the board meeting

Why?

Oh

Board meeting??

 

Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip, thinking that actually makes a lot of sense. So… a board meeting. He was stood up for a board meeting. Taehyung clenches his jaw, kind of wishing that it was at least something unimportant that his dad was doing—at least that way he’d be able to be mad without feeling guilty about it.

 

Yeah he had a board meeting like an hour and a half ago

Why?

Is he not there?

Nope

Hasn’t shown up

Or texted or anything

;/

Hm

I guess he got caught up

 

Taehyung looks down at his phone for a moment, not knowing how to reply to that. In the end, he locks his phone and puts it away, not messaging back just yet. He wants to clear his head beforehand, let himself cool down a little. He buries his face in his palms, trying to think. He squeezes his eyes shut when he notices they start stinging, absolutely refusing to cry.

You’re at work. Focus, Taehyung. Focus, he tells himself. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, right? He didn’t think it would happen, but it was a possibility. Thereʼs a tight knot in his throat now, almost making it hard for him to breathe.

But he’s not going to cry at work. He’s not going to think about this until he gets home, and then heʼll talk to Jeongguk, and Jeongguk will cheer him up, and he’ll feel better. But right now, he’s not going to let himself obsess over it. That’s the worst thing he could do.

Taehyung gets the mouse of his computer, dragging it over the desk and making the screen light up again. He’s going to be a professional right now; this is exactly what he’s been trying to prove to himself and his dad, after all. That he’s grown and mature enough to run his own business, and that he doesn’t let his emotions get in the way of things.

So work now, Taehyung tells himself. Being sad can wait.

 

 

Taehyung stays late at the office that day. Everyone else has gone home now, including Jimin, who gave him the biggest hug before leaving; he didn’t ask about it, which Taehyung is grateful for. He didn’t particularly want to discuss it, anyway.  

Taehyung is about to leave the office when he gets a text from his dad.

 

I’m sorry I couldn’t make it today. I got caught up with something.

 

Taehyung looks at the notification on his phone screen, expression hardening as he reads the text. He’s about to open and reply, telling his dad that it’s okay and that he hopes he can come another day, but then he stops himself. He locks the screen again, shoves the phone in his pocket, and stands up to leave. 

Right now he’s far too upset to deal with this. It can wait until later when he’s home.

He’s about to leave the office when he notices the flowers, still on top of his desk. In an act of impulse, he gets them, some droplets of water dripping on the floor. Before he can stop himself, Taehyung gets to the bin in his office and throws the flowers away. He walks out of the office then and leaves, not looking behind himself. 

Well, today surely didn’t go the way he expected it to go. 

 

 

Taehyung’s loft is still empty when he gets home with Yeontan that evening, no trace of Jeongguk anywhere. Taehyung walks inside with a sigh, seeing Yeontan jump around then run to one of his toys that is lying on the floor in the living area. Taehyung wishes that he had the energy or spirits to play with him, but the truth is that he’s still feeling quite low about the incident with his dad earlier. He feels like he’s carrying something heavy on his back, the weight too much on top of his shoulders. 

The first thing he does is change into comfortable clothes, shoving on the coziest hoodie that he can find in his closet and a pair of grey sweatpants. After that, he moves to the couch, Yeontan not taking too long to join him. He’s still not too confident with jumping on top of the couch, so he sits on the floor and looks up, expectantly, at Taehyung who immediately gives in.

“Hey there, buddy,” Taehyung replies, picking Tannie up and cradling the tiny dog in his arms. He hugs Yeontan close to him, the puppy contentedly letting himself be coddled. “I hope you had a better day than I did.”

Of course, Yeontan doesn’t reply. But he does twist around a little, stretching his little neck and trying to lick at Taehyung’s chin. Taehyung pulls around a little, smiling as he pets Yeontan’s body, scratching a little. He has his puppy to comfort him, at least.

Not too much time goes by before Jeongguk arrives as well. Taehyung is still sitting on the couch, distractedly petting Tannie as he pretends to pay attention to the news report on the TV. As soon as he hears the sound of the keys on the padlock outside being pressed, he perks up, waiting for Jeongguk to come in. It’s almost embarrassing how terribly bad he wants Jeongguk here now. He just needs a hug, some reassurance that he’s doing well and that this isn’t his fault. That it’s not his fault that his dad doesn’t care about him as much as he’d like him to.

“Hello there,” Jeongguk greets as he walks in, closing the door behind himself. Taehyung doesn’t reply, but Jeongguk immediately spots him upon seeing that the TV is on. He takes off his shoes, then walks closer to Taehyung as he says, “Hey, babe.”

“Hi,” Taehyung says, giving him a tight-lipped smile. “Had a good day?”

“It was okay,” Jeongguk replies, shrugging his shoulders. He sits on the couch right next to Taehyung’s feet. Yeontan, who as soon as the door opened went to it to greet Jeongguk, sits right next to his feet. “Are you upset about what happened?”

Taehyung doesn’t think that his tone in the messages was much of a giveaway, but what definitely was is the fact that he stopped replying. Truth be told, Taehyung didn’t feel much like talking to Jeongguk or anyone for that matter. He just wanted to be left alone and focus on his work, the only thing capable of distracting him from the ugly feeling of worthlessness that currently is eating him up from inside.

“Of course I’m upset,” Taehyung says, clenching his fists in his lap. “He stood me up. He promised he’d come today after so many months, yet he stood me up without even letting me know he couldn’t come.”

Jeongguk sighs a little then, lifting his hand and scratching at the back of his head. After a couple of seconds he says, “He had a board meeting, Tae. It was something important.”

Taehyung looks at Jeongguk surprised,  after not getting the response that he was looking for. This is exactly why he said he wished his dad didn’t have an important, valid reason to not show up—because he knew it’d end up in people making him feel like he doesn’t have a right to be upset.

“He could have told me at the very least,” Taehyung says, feeling himself get a little defensive. “A text telling me he couldn’t make it and we’d have to reschedule would be enough. I sat there waiting for hours.”

“It wouldn’t be professional of him to use his phone during the meeting,” Jeongguk refutes. “I’m sure he’ll apologize.”

“He won’t apologize. He didn’t after the meeting was over. He has never apologized for anything like this,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk stays quiet, looking at him blankly, and so Taehyung adds, “I don’t understand why you’re so eager to defend him.”

“I’m not eager to defend anyone,” Jeongguk replies. “I’m just trying to give you some objective input here. Input that isn’t blindsided by the strong feelings you have about the situation, that’s all.”

The words make Taehyung scoff softly. “Blindsided? You think I’m blindsided?” Taehyung asks, completely in disbelief.

“I think you feel strongly about this situation as a whole and that it isnʼt letting you look at this situation in a completely impartial way,” Jeongguk replies, again shrugging. “It’s hard to detach our personal feelings from stuff so close to us.”

“I’m not—I’m not struggling to detach any feelings, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, sitting up a little straight. He doesn’t like where the conversation is going, or the feeling that it is awakening inside of him. “Can’t you see why this is upsetting to me? Why it feels like he doesn’t care?”

“I can see it, but I also think you need to consider other factors as well,” Jeongguk says. “Isn’t it a bit selfish to expect your dad to drop all of his work commitments for you? When he could very well come visit on the weekend.” 

He and Jeongguk have argued a lot—both as kids and as adults, in the first few months after Taehyung returned. During those months, the two of them said all sorts of things; some petty, some cruel, some ill-intended. However, none of them have felt as incredibly hurtful as this does. A knot instantly forms in Taehyung’s throat, preventing him from saying anything. Not that he knows what to say, honestly.

“It’s so easy for you to say something like that since my dad is always so quick to tell you how amazing you are,” Taehyung ends up saying, eyes on Jeongguk’s as he speaks. “You’re so up his ass that you can’t even acknowledge how badly he acts when it comes to me, Jeongguk. In the last eleven months he couldn’t spare ten minutes of his day to come see my office. And today, he couldn’t even make a quick call or send a single text to let me know he wouldn’t be coming. And you think it’s not okay for me to be upset? That itʼs selfish?” 

“I’m not saying that you don’t have the right to be upset,” Jeongguk says. “I just said that you’re letting your emotions get to you, and that’s not gonna help fix it.”

“Then so be it,” Taehyung says, his voice involuntarily raising. From the corner of his eye he can see Yeontan’s ears perk up, the puppy looking at him alerted. “I’m tired of forgiving someone who hasn’t apologized even once. I’m tired of putting my feelings and my pride aside for the sake of the family. I’m his fucking son, Jeongguk. All I want from him is support and some sort of validation. I don’t think I’m asking for too much.”

“C’mon, Tae, don’t be like this,” Jeongguk tells him. “If neither of you makes an effort, then it’s always going to be like this.”

“Why does it always have to be me who makes the effort?” Taehyung asks, tensing up.

“Because you know full-well that he won’t,” Jeongguk replies. “Because that’s not how he is.”

“Excusing someone’s shitty behavior because that’s how they are is the worst damn thing you could do, Jeongguk,” Taehyung tells him bitterly.

Jeongguk sighs, looking away. He shakes his head, which only makes Taehyung’s frustration and hurt start to bubble up, turning into anger. “I think you’re misunderstanding me,” Jeongguk says.

“I’m not,” Taehyung is quick to reply. “Youʼre just making shit points.”

“I—” Jeongguk starts, but he interrupts himself. After a pause he stands up, raising both palms as he says, “I think I should go.”

Taehyung stands up then, too. Had their disagreement been about literally anything other than this, Taehyung would have most likely backtracked now, making himself calm down and asking Jeongguk to talk it out. But this—well, this is way too close to his heart for him to do that. Taehyung thinks that not having Jeongguk’s support on this is possibly the worst thing that could happen to their relationship. Especially given that his relationship with his dad has always been a sore topic. 

So, he says, “I think you should, yeah.”

For a moment there, Jeongguk looks like he’s about to say something, his lips parting. However, in the end nothing comes out and he just ends up turning around and making his way to the door. He gets his jacket that he had left on top of a chair earlier, and his laptop case, starting to make his way to the door. Yeontan trails after him, his tail wagging behind him happily. If only he knew.

“Bye,” Jeongguk says, opening the door. Taehyung knows this is the last chance he has to ask Jeongguk to stay. He doesn’t take it.

“Bye,” he replies, voice emotionless. A stark contrast from the turmoil of feelings that he has going on inside his chest and mind right now, honestly.

The sound of the door clicking shut comes right after. It wasn’t too loud—Jeongguk doesn’t like to slam doors, but to Taehyung it feels just as loud as a gunshot. Yeontan sits in front of it, looking up expectantly as if he was expecting Jeongguk to come back anytime soon. Taehyung has to make himself look away.

Realization of what really has happened doesn’t come until a few minutes later, as Taehyung replays the conversation in his mind. It sinks down then: Jeongguk is not coming back tonight. And with that realization, all the weight of Taehyung’s loneliness comes crashing down on him.

 

 

On Wednesday, exactly two days after the fiasco with his father not visiting and the argument with Jeongguk, Jimin drops by before work to pick Taehyung up. The previous day, when he had seen Taehyung walk into the office with big dark circles and swollen eyes, he had instantly realized that something was wrong. Taehyung confided in Jimin, wanting to at least be able to share all of the ugly feelings going through his mind at the time, and so Jimin had offered to pick him up the next day—just a little favor, because he wanted to do as much as he could for him. Taehyung had declined at first, but in the end he gave in.

So that brings them to now. Jimin is here, waiting as Taehyung finishes getting himself and Yeontan ready. The truth is that he’s still feeling just as shitty as yesterday, but at least he looks better. He did manage to get some sleep last night and he didn’t cry, so that’s a good start. He’s still working on everything else, though.

He’s almost done now. After one last look in the mirror, Taehyung looks to the living area, getting Yeontan’s harness and leash. He doesn’t have to call the puppy, as he’s already following him around the room. Taehyung sits down on the couch, ready to pull the harness around Yeontan’s body, when Jimin speaks.

“Have you managed to talk to him since Monday?” he asks, distractedly. He was previously on his phone, but now he’s locked the screen and is looking at Taehyung with questioning eyes.

“Do you mean Jeongguk or my father?” Taehyung asks. Before Jimin has the time to reply, Taehyung adds, “The answer to either would be no. I haven’t talked to either of them, and they haven’t reached out either. Things are kind of awkward right now.”

“Oh, Tae,” Jimin says then, giving Jimin a sympathetic look. Had it been anyone else, Taehyung would have probably felt like he was being pitied. He knows, however, that Jimin doesn’t pity him, so he doesn’t mind the look too much. “Will you reach out?”

“To Jeongguk, I should. Because he actually makes an effort with me, and that other time we had an argument he showed up here and apologized, so I wouldn’t mind taking the first step. Just not yet, because I’m still really upset,” Taehyung replies. He finished putting the harness on now, the lock clicking, and so Yeontan starts walking excitedly. By now, he knows that harness equals a walk before they get to work. “To my dad—I don’t know. I’m sure my mom has talked to him, but…”

“It’s normal for you to get upset over these things,” Jimin says, understanding. “Your feelings are valid. You can take a little time off from things that are upsetting you, you know? You deserve to.”

“I know I can,” Taehyung says. “I just—I don’t want a time off from Jeongguk. And I don’t want things with my dad to go back to square one either. I just feel fucking stuck. And I can’t stop obsessing over all of this, and it’s driving me nuts.”

“How about we take your mind off things, then?” Jimin suggests. Taehyung looks at him, raising an eyebrow in question. “Let’s go out for dinner tonight. We can invite Seokjin as well. At least that way you can stop overthinking, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.”

“I don’t know,” Taehyung says, a little hesitant. “What about Tannie?”

“Two hours. He can stay alone for two hours,” Jimin says. Taehyung looks at him, not convinced. “One and a half?”

“Alright,” Taehyung gives in, in the end. He guesses he could benefit from some time with his friends. “But not too long.”

“I promise,” Jimin says. “Should we get going, then?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” says Taehyung, reaching for his jacket. “Come on, Tannie.”

Maybe a day away from his thoughts is all that he needs. And after distancing himself from all of his troubles, he promises he’ll get back to things and fix them. He just needs today off.

 

 

Taehyung is about to leave for dinner with Jimin and Seokjin later that evening when his phone rings from where it’s lying on top of the bed. He takes one last look in the mirror, taking a couple of seconds, before making his way over to the bed. What he assumed as soon as the phone started ringing was that it would be either of his friends, probably in regards to meeting. That’s why, as soon as he approaches the phone and sees his mom’s picture on the screen, Taehyung is surprised.

He reaches for the phone and swiftly unlocks it. “Hello?” he asks, bringing the device closer to his ear.

Good evening, Taehyung-ah,” his mother greets, not sounding too cheery. 

“Hi, mom,” Taehyung replies, sitting on the edge of the bed. Luckily he isn’t tight on time today, so he’ll have a few minutes to talk to his mom before he needs to get going. “How are you?”

I’m good, sweetie. Same as always,” she replies. “How are you? Have you been well?

Taehyung doesn’t like to lie to his mom, but sometimes the situation requires it. He hasn’t told his mom about him and Jeongguk in the first place, so he’s not going to tell her he’s been feeling like shit these days because they argued. So he lies, saying, “I’ve been okay, yeah.”

His mom doesn’t say anything for a couple of seconds. Taehyung knows that his tone was convincing, but his mom probably has her own suspicions. Not because of Jeongguk and him precisely, but because she probably knows about the whole incident with his dad.

Are you sure?” she asks. Taehyung hums in confirmation. She only resumes talking after a short pause, and Taehyung can tell that she was holding back a sigh. “Would you like to come over tonight?

“I can’t, mom,” Taehyung replies. “I already have plans for dinner tonight.”

With Jeongguk?” she inquires. Taehyung winces a little as he hears the name.

“No, not with Jeongguk. With Jimin and Seokjin,” he replies instead.

That’s good, Taehyung-ah. I hope you have a lovely time, then,” his mother says. Taehyung feels like she’s about to drop it, but then she adds, “How about dropping by after dinner for a little bit?

Taehyung sighs. For that, he doesn’t really have an excuse. “I don’t know...” he starts, trying to come up with a reason for why he can’t come.

If this is about your dad...” she starts, trailing off. Taehyung stays quiet, waiting for her to say more. “If this is about your dad, I’m sure he would like to talk about it and apologize.” 

Taehyung can’t help but let out a skeptical chuckle at that, not at all convinced by his mom’s words. 

“I really doubt that, mom,” he says. “If he wanted to, he would have called me himself instead of having you do it for him.”

You know how your dad is. He’s not good at all of this stuff, or at putting his pride aside,” his mom tells him. Taehyung doesn’t say anything, but he thinks back to how Jeongguk had said something similar. Part of him wishes that everyone would stop excusing this behavior just because that’s how his dad is. So what if it is? Maybe it’s about time he changes then. “Things were going so well lately, Taehyung-ah. I don’t want them to go back to how they were.

There is a sadness to his mom’s tone that especially gets to Taehyung. The situation with his dad has been painful for him for years, but he obviously wasn’t the only one affected. Miyoung has told him before how sad and uncomfortable it was to grow up around it, seeing the tension between the two of them all the time. In regards to his mom, even if she has never told Taehyung about it, he still knows that it makes her sad. Of course it does—it’s not exactly like seeing her family crumble, no, but at some points Taehyung has f