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march

 

“Jungkook, stop chewing your lips.”

Jungkook looks up from the paragraph he was reading. Namjoon’s eyes meet his and he shies away, looks at the flyaway lint on Namjoon’s sweater collar instead. White, today. Gentle on his skin.

“Sorry,” Jungkook mumbles. His incisor teases his chapped bottom lip by habit and he immediately squishes his lips together like a kid caught red-handed.

Beside him, Namjoon takes something out of his bag. The rustling catches Jungkook’s attention.

“Here.” Namjoon places a small pack of xylitol on the desk. The packaging is torn across vertically, and a few of the plastic-wrapped gums spill out.

“You didn’t open it properly.” Jungkook giggles.

“Hey,” Namjoon reprimands.

“There’s a red string on top, hyung. You just need to pull that and the pack’ll unwrap.”

“I know, smartass. Take one before you bleed out.” Namjoon takes a piece for himself and unwraps it, popping it into his mouth. His jaw clenches, endearingly annoyed, and Jungkook takes a gum from the table, too, smiling. He thinks his cheeks are heating up, but then again the sunlight from his window is brushing on them. Spring is steadily warming up.

“Have I told you that story about that time I got a mouth infection?” Jungkook says.

“No, and don’t start. You have to finish these reading problems before your mom shoos me out for dinner.” Jungkook pouts. “And don’t pout.”

Jungkook peels the gum and starts chewing on it. Minty minty-mint. “Korean is hard.”

“It is.” Namjoon doesn’t gloss over it. “You’re not going to get perfect points in Korean, don’t fuss about it too much. You’ve been staring at the same reading paragraph for quite some time now, don’t do that, you’ll waste time. Read the question and multiple choices first. The answer’s usually either one of the first or the last sentences.”

“None of those are in the multiple choices.”

“Lemme see,” Namjoon says. He drags his chair closer to Jungkook’s. Their arms almost touch when Namjoon leans close. Namjoon taps at choice 2) with his mechanical pencil. “This,” he circles a word, “and this,” he circles another word from the passage, second to last sentence, “mean the same thing in this context.”

“That’s tough.”

Namjoon sits back, and Jungkook laments that for a second before he sees Namjoon smile. “This one is.”

“Told you.”

“You can skip it if it’s hard. Just mark the number and go back to it later.”

“What if I don’t have the time?”

“Better spend the time you’ll lose mulling over it on two other questions rather than throw away two other questions for this one. They’re worth the same points.”

The gum Jungkook’s chewing is quickly losing flavour. In the shadow, he can faintly make out the outline of Namjoon’s chest under his sweater.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon calls again and Jungkook stops chewing. “You got 15 minutes left.”

 

 

The next day, Jungkook stops by a CU and buys an unscented lip balm.

He still chews his lips, conscious and unconsciously, but he’d like to think they look better now when Namjoon catches him.

Minty minty-mint.

 

 

In Jungkook’s school, they have self-study sessions every day after the timetable lessons end, four-thirty to six p.m. It’s not obligatory or strict, they’re a private school, not a national one. ‘Self-study’ is just code for ‘we’re opening the library until six’.

As Jungkook reaches his last year of high school, less and less third-years attend self-study. Most are off to cram schools right away, and those who stay only stay because their cram school starts after six.

Jungkook’s mom doesn’t really trust cram schools. She says they’re no good because his older brother, Junghyun, used to just skip them. Tutors don’t check attendance; why bother when they get the money anyway?

Jungkook actually planned to skip them, too. His grades are not ‘bad’, and he agrees with some of his friends that your brain will probably not absorb an extra two-three hours of study after eight, counterproductivity and all. Might as well bum the two hours at a PC room. If his parents were to enrol him, he’d come some days before a test, but not every day, that’s taxing.

So he hated to break the news to his friends when his mom said she hired a home tutor. Two hours a time, three days a week. He’s Junghyun’s friend’s sunbae, she said over dinner, the one who got into Seoul National, remember? What was the friend’s name again, it was incredibly textbook, Minseok or something, a Lee.

The tutor’s name was Kim Namjoon. Jungkook remembered that one. Everybody in his life so far with joon in their name has been memorable. Nam-joon. Kim Namjoon. Please be a pushover.

He went home one day early March, must be either a Monday or Wednesday or Friday, the days where he got tutoring with Namjoon. His mom was talking to somebody in the living room. Jungkook took off his shoes at the entryway and thought, this man is very polite. Another Seoulite, TV commercial voice. Jungkook was a bit afraid he’d hate this guy.

“Jungkook-ah,” his mom called him when he came into the living room.

Kim Namjoon stood up from the sofa. Short, black hair, fresh from the military but not too recent, skin tone on the tanned side.

Pretty eyelids.

“This is the tutor I talked to you about, Kim Namjoon-sshi,” said his mom.

The left strap of Jungkook’s backpack slipped down his shoulder, and Jungkook somehow couldn’t move to fix it into place.

“Um, sorry?” Jungkook said, even though he heard the name. And although rather embarrassing, he was glad that he did that, because Namjoon smiled at him and reintroduced himself:

“Kim Namjoon.”

Maybe it was an exaggeration, or maybe it wouldn’t make any sense, but Jungkook swore he felt it to his knees.

 

 

The truth is, Jungkook doesn’t know Namjoon enough to like him, so he doesn’t understand. The night he first met Namjoon, after Namjoon left, he asked his mom about him over dinner. He pretended that the meal he had that day was more interesting and that he was asking merely for formality’s sake, but he didn’t even remember what he had for dinner that day.

How old is Namjoon-hyung? he asked his mom. That was the first time he said Namjoon’s name out loud. The syllables made a cottony taste in his mouth and soon melted like spun sugar on his tongue.

He’s 22, his mom answered, a year above Junghyun.

A year above Junghyun. 1994. Four; Jungkook liked even numbers, they were balanced.

What did he study again in Seoul National?

Electrical engineering.

Jungkook nodded and didn’t ask any more. His mom gushed about Namjoon unprompted, anyway, going on about how Namjoon spoke fluent English, was very well-read, and how he could even play music instruments.

Jungkook hmm-ed and nodded and hmm-ed and nodded. English, books, music. 1994. Tall, with pretty eyes, pretty skin, a pretty smile. Kim Namjoon had dimples.

“Do you like him, Jungkook-ah?”

Do you like him as a tutor? Jungkook placed his chopsticks on the holder to pick up his spoon. His mom would scold him if he ate with both hands. “I don’t know yet.”

He washed the dishes after dinner. Showered, brushed his teeth, played some games. Before bed, he scrolled through a humour webforum and his Melon music player happened to shuffle to an old Urban Zakapa song.

In 2011 when the album released, he was in middle school and he listened to it all the time. His assigned desk in his classroom then was by the window. During his Maths class a high school class three years ahead of him had gym in the courtyard and Jungkook would watch his first love play basketball. His first boy, a sunbae, tall and tanned. Choi Sungjoon was born in 1994.

Ever since that night, every song in the album sounded like Kim Namjoon.

 

 

 

april

 

Jungkook nearly trips when he opens his bedroom door and finds Namjoon already sitting on his desk. His hand on the door handle slips and it springs back, hitting his pinky finger. He stifles a wince.

“Oh, you’re here.” Jungkook plays it cool, closing the door soundly and like a normal person, but on god his finger stings right now. His heartbeat is in his throat, he gulps to swallow it back down.

Namjoon shuts the book he was reading. The little grin on his face tells Jungkook that he sees through Jungkook’s act. “Your mom told me to just go up from now on,” Namjoon explains.

Jeez, she could’ve given him a warning, she was downstairs watching variety shows and she only said welcome home Kookie-yah without even looking away from the TV.

Turning to hide his reddened hand, Jungkook places his backpack on the floor and starts digging for his study materials. His efforts end up meaning nothing because he sits down next to Namjoon and Namjoon asks cheekily, “Hurts?”

Jungkook frowns. Or pouts. He pouts all the time, Namjoon is catching on, holding back his grin from widening.

“Show me your hand,” Namjoon says easily. He didn’t think before saying that, Jungkook supposes, doesn’t know how Jungkook’s heart jumps back into his throat. Tongue on the roof of his mouth, Jungkook holds out his hand. His pinky twitches and he tells himself he’s not expecting anything, not for Namjoon to hold his hand because that’s not going to happen, because that’s something middle-school Jungkook would think of and not high-school Jungkook.

Namjoon doesn’t hold his hand.

Namjoon lifts his own hand up. “Do this,” he says, curling his fingers into his palm and making a fist, uncurling, curling again.

With a huff that only makes him seem more childish, Jungkook follows, getting the blood to flow back to his fingers.

“Good boy,” Namjoon praises. Jungkook wants to break his fingers next time, but that’s also what middle-school Jungkook would’ve thought. High-school Jungkook would… Jungkook isn’t sure what high-school Jungkook would want.

High-school Jungkook sticks out his tongue because at the very least, that makes Namjoon laugh.

They go through that day’s material. With the lesson plan they’ve worked their way around so far, for the first few minutes Namjoon makes Jungkook read chapter summaries while he takes a look at Jungkook’s notes to gauge where they can start from there.

Jungkook is skimming through the printed bullet points when he hears Namjoon hum in low voice.

He knows that song.

Keopi-reul mashigo?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon looks up from Jungkook’s notes and blinks, as if he didn’t notice that he’s been humming. “Old song,” Namjoon says rather shyly. “I didn’t think you’d know it.”

“Urban Zakapa?”

“Yeah. Had a caramel macchiato on the way here, and it got stuck, apparently.”

Baby baby, geudae-neun, caramel macchiato,” Jungkook half-speaks, half-sings, spinning his pencil between two fingers as he rereads a sentence. Namjoon smiles and all of a sudden Jungkook is embarrassed, bottom lip tucked behind his teeth.

“Ah-ah, there you go again,” Namjoon stops him. He fishes out a pack of gum from his pockets and wags it between them. The pack is torn in another clumsy job but this time the red string is actually pulled apart, looping around the flimsy pack before it strays to form a gash. “Gum time.”

Jungkook giggles. “Gum time?”

“Gum time.”

Jungkook doesn’t really buy coffee. He likes them, but they’re too expensive, and all his other friends are into bubble tea recently. So he doesn’t get a cup of caramel macchiato, but he hums that song again and again. Until his mom tells him he’s noisy and his dad starts humming it, too, until his friends play the song with him on the bus ride from school, sharing earphone buds side by side.

Jungkook still doesn’t know Kim Namjoon well. Maybe he shouldn’t. What Kim Namjoon and Choi Sungjoon have in common except for that pretty, pretty syllable, is that Jungkook doesn’t know them.

What Jungkook knows of them lives solely in Jungkook’s head, an ideal that he crafts around this infatuation. Somebody taller than him with a polite voice, somebody who’ll go on bike rides with him, somebody who tells him he’s cute and somebody who can hold him close under the covers.

Jungkook doesn’t think he likes Namjoon. Sure, his heart beats a little bit faster, and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday have become his favourite days of the week. Sure, he scribbles the name Kim Namjoon on the corner of his notes and erases them after, because Namjoon would open them, so he writes Kim Namjoon on the inside of his eraser cover where nobody will find out.

Even so, Jungkook doesn’t think he likes Namjoon. He likes the person in his head with Namjoon’s face and Namjoon’s voice. He likes a two-dimensional image, not a person with all the complications he isn’t aware of.

Kim Namjoon is every song in an album. Sure, he is. Jungkook replays the album every day, but someday the melody will dull and the tune will no longer be new, and he’ll listen to some other song.

One night, that Urban Zakapa album on repeat for almost a month now, Jungkook goes to Google Incognito and types in Kim Namjoon.

Of course, there are dozens of Kim Namjoon in Seoul, and he types in Kim Namjoon Seoul National University next. A couple of instagram profiles pop up. None of them have profile pictures with a face on them, but Namjoon’s Ka-talk profile picture doesn’t have his face on it, either.

He scrolls through one and finds—Namjoon.

In his bed, Jungkook turns to lie on his other side, pulling the duvet up to cover his shoulders. He rubs his toes together, knees bent.

The instagram post is of Namjoon and another boy around his age with bleached blond hair, posing on chairs in what looks to be a recording studio. Caption: Yoongi-hyung’s new studio.

It feels wrong to be there, like a breach of privacy, yet Jungkook goes further, opens up more of Namjoon’s life that he shouldn’t see if he wants to keep that tall, polite boy in his head.

He finds more. The blond is there many times. Apart from him, there’s a skinny black-haired boy, too, whose smile looks like it can light up the whole world. Namjoon smiles the widest whenever that boy’s around, a smile Jungkook can’t ever have him make. The three seem to go a long way back, since they have pictures together even before Namjoon’s conscription.

Kim Namjoon has a whole other life that doesn’t have Jungkook in it.

Jungkook locks his phone and slips it underneath his pillow. He needs to sleep, he has class tomorrow. The songs play in his mind, one track after another. Someday he will tire of it. Someday.

 

 

The day before Jungkook’s Korean test, Namjoon tells him to nap.

“Your brain needs a rest,” Namjoon says, taking his backpack for him to put by his bed.

“I have a test tomorrow,” Jungkook says, tilting his head to remind Namjoon.

“Yeah, and you look like a zombie,” Namjoon says. “Rest. There’s nothing to memorize for Korean. You’ve done your compulsory reading, yeah?”

Jungkook nods. He wants to pout and Namjoon quirks an eyebrow in challenge, so Jungkook juts his lips out more.

“What are you going to do while I sleep?” It’s the way the question is phrased, innocent yet more, that makes Namjoon blush.

A chain reaction, Jungkook blushes, too, and tries not to bite his lip. He sheds his school jacket and hangs it on his closet door.

Namjoon explains, “I’ll go over your mock-tests. I’ll wake you up in an hour so we can review it together later.”

“Okay.”

“You can change into your house clothes.”

“Nah, I’ll sleep wearing my uniform. Mom doesn’t like me changing into house clothes during tutoring, right? Said I’ll get sleepy.”

“You get sleepy regardless.”

“She doesn’t need to know,” Jungkook singsongs.

Another ambivalent innuendo. Namjoon clears his throat. “Y’know what, on second thought—”

No, please, I’m so tired! Don’t take back your word!”

Namjoon pinches the bridge of his nose. “Get your notes out.”

Jungkook does. Not just Korean, English, too, Maths. Anything Namjoon can look over in an hour.

They leave the sheer curtains on, and Jungkook pretty much flops onto his bed, burying his face in his pillow to draw a long, content sigh.

On Jungkook’s desk with his back to the bed, Namjoon gets to work without waiting.

To be frank, Jungkook wants to sleep. No, really, he does. He’s been awake since six and he crammed that day’s History test (last period) through all his breaks. His limbs are heavy, like they’re barely latching onto his hollow bones.

But from where he is he can watch the subtle movements of Namjoon’s shoulders as he scribbles a note on the corner of Jungkook’s mock-exams, and Jungkook doesn’t want to sleep like this. He’s caught a glance inside Namjoon’s Moleskine before, swirls for lines, ribbon-strokes. They’re different from the kind, block hangeul Jungkook finds in the margins of his notebook.

Sometimes in class, Jungkook runs his finger across Namjoon’s pencil writings. They don’t smudge, the paper is durable. But he wishes they would just so he can have it on his skin.

“Hyung,” Jungkook bothers him. “Can’t sleep.”

“Close your eyes, then.”

“Already am,” Jungkook lies.

Namjoon hums, not once looking back. Jungkook spots him picking up a highlighter. “Tell me about your mouth infection,” Namjoon says.

“Huh?”

“Last time. You told me you had a story about an oral infection.”

“Oh!” Jungkook recalls. Namjoon didn’t let him tuck himself under the duvet because then he’d really sleep, but Jungkook bunches it up on one side to have something to rest his hand on. His wrists get tired otherwise. “That was like, last year.”

“Mhm.”

“It was nasty, lemme tell you. I got a fever one day, right? Like, right before summer holiday, I think.” Namjoon puts down the highlighter to pick up a pencil again, but he hums to show that he’s listening. “My mouth started to get kind of stuffy, like my tonsils were swollen, but it’s still pretty common so we waited for the fever to go down. It did go down, like the day after, but my mouth was just… my whole tongue was white, hyung.”

“You’re lying,” Namjoon says, not meaning it entirely, just to fill in.

“I’m not! And it wasn’t like the colour turned white either, hyung. I’m not sure how to say this but it was like my whole tongue was covered in white fungus kind of thing? Mom freaked out, of course, so we went to the doctor, and I kid you not, hyung—the doctor brought out an encyclopaedia in front of my face. Like, wasn’t he supposed to know what it was?”

Namjoon chuckles. His shoulders shake and Jungkook pulls down a pillow to hug.

He goes on, “So hm, not good, right? Anyways, he gave me a pill. For fever? I forgot because it was redundant. My entire mouth started hurting the day after. I couldn’t move my mouth, hyung, it was hell! My tongue was so swollen, and my throat. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak for like, two days? I thought I was gonna go mute.”

“Sounds—”

“No!” Jungkook stops him, sitting up to slam his hand on his pillow. “Don’t you dare say it! You love it when I’m a chatterbox, say it.”

Namjoon shrugs, but Jungkook hears him chuckle as he scribbles another thing in Jungkook’s notes and Jungkook lies back down, forgiving him way too easily.

“Go on, tell me what happens, chatterbox.”

Jungkook rubs his knees together. Chatterbox. Like a term of endearment. “I uh, it gets disgusting. We went to the doctor’s again, same guy. But he probably did his research this time, because he gave me like a gurgle medicine? It worked, but like, it turned out the fungi thing bled out when it healed, and it healed partly overnight, so I’d wake up with a mouthful of blood.”

“What the—” Namjoon’s head whips backwards, and Jungkook whines.

“Don’t look at me like that! Turn your head back around, you’re making me self-conscious.”

Namjoon lifts his eyebrows, both eyes widening, but he turns back around.

“Anyway, the bloodmouth thing lasted around three days before I completely healed. I was suffering, hyung, you gotta understand. It physically hurt to eat, mom made me eat like those, supplement jelly, you know those right?”

“Uh-huh.”

“That was all I could eat for nearly an entire week, I lost four kilos!”

That got Namjoon turning around once more. “You—” Namjoon shakes his head, blowing a puff of air out of his mouth.

“I gained them back, don’t worry.”

Namjoon turns back onto the table. Pencil scratches again, already. “What was the first thing you ate?” Namjoon asks.

“Hm?”

“After you could eat again. I bet you remember your first meal. What did you eat?”

“Rapokki.”

Namjoon snorts. “Masochist.”

Jungkook splutters. “I was craving spicy! And I missed chewing, nyamnyamnyam, the thrill!”

“Go to sleep.”

“How am I supposed to go to sleep? I want rapokki now. Mom definitely won’t make rapokki.”

“She won’t. She’s making doenjang jjigae.”

Pouting for no audience, Jungkook walks his fingers atop the pillow. There’s something tight in his chest. It’s been there since he met Namjoon the first time and it won’t go away, squeezing tighter.

“Hyung,” Jungkook says what he shouldn’t say. “Take me to eat rapokki.”

Namjoon hums again, another squeeze. “If you get perfect marks.”

“You said it’s impossible to get perfect marks in Korean.”

“Go to sleep, Jungkook.”

Jungkook huffs. Maybe if it squeezes enough, it’ll feel better? Not a press but a weight, something to last. “Tell me a story, hyung?”

“My life’s pretty boring,” Namjoon says, then laughs. “Oh, is that why?”

Boring? Don’t lie. Jungkook’s seen his instagram. He plays along, anyway. “Tell me the most boring part.”

“I’ll tell you a military story, yeah?”

Jungkook hugs the pillow to his chest. Namjoon starts talking about being taught to sew in the military, and Jungkook closes his eyes. It’s loud where the pillow meets his chest, thundering loud, and he knows that’s so, so stupid, but he doesn’t know what to do.

Felt it to his knees, didn’t he?

Namjoon turns a page. The room floods in sounds, Namjoon’s steady voice, pencil scratches on paper, the far, faint buzz of wind brushing the window and the walls.

When Jungkook wakes up, it’s Namjoon’s voice before anything else, too.

“Kook,” he says. “Let’s go over your revisions.”

Half-asleep, he wasn’t prepared for that squeeze in his chest, and he hugs the pillow tight, burying his face in it.

“Kookie-yah, turn around.”

I like you, Jungkook’s chest says. Exhausted and foolish. I know you don’t but I like you so, so much. He burrows his face in the pillow once more.

Jungkook’s not dense. Not too much, at least. He can tell that Namjoon is being cautious. Jungkook is rather obvious, part of him wants Namjoon to know what he feels without going through the tedious task of telling him.

He knows Namjoon would say sorry.

Namjoon is… nice. Jungkook was working on an English practice once and he saw Namjoon tap like on a picture on instagram, one of his male friends with a boyfriend. So he assumes Namjoon won’t push him away or ridicule him. In high school, Jungkook’s made a few good friends, people like him, but he’s lived the same life everybody has, some harsh words here and there that make him want to curl up and hide underneath the covers, turn off all the lights, and sleep for a long, long time.

Sometimes, he thinks Namjoon makes him feel that way, too. Not for the same reasons the harsh words do, but he makes Jungkook feel small, nonetheless. Like Jungkook’s not enough, his features all wrong, inarticulate and ineloquent. Because what is there in him that’s worth a person like Namjoon?

He knows Namjoon knows. Got an idea, at least. They’re both boys so this much distance is unnecessary. Jungkook turns to lay on his other side and sees Namjoon crouched on the floor to level their line of sight. Not a single part of him is touching the bed.

“My face is swollen,” Jungkook says. His voice comes out coarse and Namjoon smiles.

“No, it isn’t.”

“I bet my lips are puffy.”

“I can’t tell because you’re pouting all the time,” Namjoon says, only prompts another pout, really. “C’mon, get up.”

“Help me up?”

“You can do it by yourself.”

“I don’t want to.” Namjoon blinks. Jungkook guesses the drowsiness made him bold, and he’s scared for a while but Namjoon’s smile stays.

Namjoon stands up, dusts his lap. “C’mon,” he says again, and unspoken you first.

Please let him read all the right cues. Jungkook stretches out both of his arms toward Namjoon and Namjoon grabs both of his wrists to help him up.

Wrists, not hands.

(Burns, anyway.)

“Can’t we revise on the bed?” Jungkook toes the line.

“No.”

“Give me a solid reason.”

Namjoon rolls his eyes, not so much annoyed but fond. “You can’t concentrate on the bed, and you’ll sleep again, it’s too comfortable.”

“I’m stressed. You’ve been where I am, I need comfort.”

“Yes, I have been, and the answer’s still no.”

“For English next time, then?”

It’s on Namjoon’s planner, but if there’s anything Jungkook likes about Namjoon more than everything else he already likes, it’s that Namjoon is not a planner. “When’s English?”

“Day after tomorrow.”

“Get perfect marks and I’ll think about it.”

 

 

Korean is second period the next day. Jungkook grabs his pen and reads all the problems question-first, then first two sentences, last two sentences. He tackles the synonym, antonym, and grammar problems to begin with, then the fill-ins, and finally the readings. As Namjoon taught him, when the paragraph’s all mush in his head he circles the number and skips the question.

Time’s up.

He thinks he did quite well. He was pressed for time but he managed to answer all of the questions, although there were a couple that he guessed because the gears in his brain just don’t grind that smoothly anymore.

Good. Finished. Then there’s third-to-fourth period. Maths.

Jungkook’s friend threw him an eraser she borrowed right before the Maths teacher walk in. She’s written a message with a pen on the cover. Best of lucks! in English. Jungkook thinks that’s a grammar mistake, and he better be right if the test’s the day after tomorrow.

Maths’ tomorrow, though. Those gears better start grinding.

For pre-test preparations, the Maths teacher ran through the formulas with them and gave them a few sample problems that would be similar to what would come out on the test tomorrow. It’s open-notes, and Jungkook goes through his to guide him.

Namjoon’s written a few simpler methods to break down the formulas on the margins of his notes again, some pointers where he noticed Jungkook’s repeated mistakes. Pencil. Permanence makes me iffy, Namjoon says once, when Jungkook asked him why he never brought a pen with him.

Then he finds it.

Right where his notes end, doodles. They’re simple. Three round-faced boys with circle eyes and a J-shaped noses. They’re all Jungkook, drawn in a sequence. The first, leftmost boy has swollen cheeks, then the one after him opens his mouth, where Namjoon wrote the hanja 白 on his tongue, then the last boy has his mouth closed again, cheeks puffed up, red ink running down the corners of his mouth to his chin.

There’s a message, too:

 

You talk too much.

Good thing I like your voice, chatterbox.

 

It’s written in pen.

 

 

Korean test results come out the next day, right after Maths where Jungkook believes he either aces it or bombs it entirely. Well, that’s a problem to come.

The problem at the moment is Korean. Jungkook gets a 44/50. That’s 88%.

For Korean? Phenomenal. He’s third in his class, the first place got 92%, only two points ahead of him. For him, though? Devastation.

Perfect marks is provenly impossible in Korean, Namjoon’s being mean.

He shows his graded test papers to Namjoon that afternoon, with a pout to match.

“Hey, great job,” Namjoon praises. He takes the paper from Jungkook and skims through the answers, smiling in that dimpled way of his that melts Jungkook through his knees.

“No rapokki?” Jungkook pushes harmlessly.

“Nope,” Namjoon says, popping the p. “No, no! No pouting.”

“God, I wish my pouts were audible.”

Namjoon laughs. He drags their chairs out and gestures Jungkook to sit down, and Jungkook doesn’t need to be prompted to lay out his English materials on the desk. English is designed to fit into the TOEFL and TOEIC testings, which means it’s uselessly difficult for no purpose whatsoever. Half the class can’t even hold a five-minute conversation in English.

There are patterns, though, and Namjoon keeps emphasizing on them.

“Here,” Namjoon says. He places a stick of chupa chup on top of Jungkook’s opened English workbook. “Congrats on being third in class.”

Fuck, that’s a squeeze.

Jungkook picks the lollipop up and the squeeze turns to pins and needles on his fingertips. He spins the lollipop to wake his fingers, and sees that the wrinkled wrapping says cherry. “Is this a consolation prize?”

“No, it’s something so that you don’t go beast on your lips reading English paragraphs.”

“What can I say, bleeding from the mouth is my trademark.”

Namjoon almost doubles over at the desk, his chest rumbling from laughter. The corners of Jungkook’s lips are lifting, too, as he twirls the lollipop stick between his fingers. Namjoon might not like him the way Jungkook likes Namjoon, but Namjoon seems to like Jungkook as a person, and that might be enough.

He’s young. He’ll get other heartbreaks.

“Let’s see, first off,” Namjoon begins, sliding the thick workbook over to his side. “I’ll mark some questions with similar patterns compared to your previous tests, and you need to tell me where the pattern is. I’ll give you around ten minutes. How long will your test be again?”

“Fifty minutes.”

“All right. After that I’m going to give you a fresh test-practice paper, and I’m going to time you 45 minutes to finish it, okay?”

“Roger.”

The ten minutes pass by in no time. Jungkook taps the wrapped head of his lollipop intermittently on the desk as he marks some recurring patterns within the questions with a green highlighter and pen. He hands it over to Namjoon just a minute shy of ten, and Namjoon nods, elbow propped on the desk as he studies Jungkook’s work. His face is cradled in his hand, and his pointer finger pokes into his cheek, one tap, then two.

“If you stare at me too long, I’ll get nervous,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook very nearly jumps off his seat. He retracts into his space on instinct, and Namjoon blinks deceptively innocently.

“Don’t be too anxious about your answers, you’re doing great,” Namjoon steers the topic to be polite. He fixes his sitting posture and places the old tests papers between them on the desk. “You only have one mistake. This word here works as a verb, while this one is a noun. When they’re both nouns they do match, but their meaning in this passage is different. Oop, you’re starting to chew your lips again.”

Jungkook sucks in his lips at once, not even realizing that he’s been biting on them again. Habit’s habit.

“You’re going to get out of your exams looking like Dracula or something, aren’t you?” Namjoon teases.

“Maybe if I catch on the fact that I’m fucking up early enough, I can chuck a spit of blood on the paper. Will they make me retake the test then?”

Sighing, Namjoon slides the new test paper onto the centre of the desk and knocks his knuckles on it. “They’ll just make a whole new set of questions for you. Your teachers are underpaid, don’t act out, vampire.”

“Ooh-kay.” The lollipop’s there for something. Jungkook peels the wrapper open and balls it up before he throws it into the bin under his desk. Here goes, Question 1), he pops the candy into his mouth.

English is—tricky. He relies on sounds to concentrate, but he doesn’t even know how to pronounce all these words. Clauses flip in his head, front to back and back to front, the middle goes wherever it wants. He feels as if he’s circled more questions to mark for later than actually answering them.

This one, number 34, looks promising. He reads the excerpt once and it seems like he has the answer already. It’s either b) or c) and it’s right on the tip of his mechanical pencil but somehow he can’t grasp it.

Which one?

Unconsciously, he looks up toward Namjoon for guidance, but when he does, Namjoon is staring at him with blank fascination.

Their eyes lock.

Namjoon gulps. Turns away. Jungkook rolls the red candy over his lips and pushes the lollipop between them, into his mouth again. The answer is c).

 

 

 

may

 

Both Maths and English test results come out on Friday that week.

It’s English after lunch, and he gets a 41/50. 82%. Safe. His mom usually throws a fit if he gets below 40, and even worse Namjoon will furrow his eyebrows and huff.

Last period, Maths. The teacher holds off until a minute before the bell rings to hand out their results.

She hands the paper to him upside down, and on the way back to his seat he flips it. Top right corner, right marker: 50/50.

100-fucking-percent.

 

 

Nyemjoon-hyungie

 

You sent a picture [16:32]

Nyemjoon-hyungie [16:33]:

Good job!

me [16:33]:

rapokki? 🥺

Nyemjoon-hyungie [16:45]:

Tomorrow

 

Namjoon actually said yes. Jungkook didn’t plan this far ahead.

Technically, he said tomorrow. But he gave Jungkook a place and a time and a date. A date. Jungkook slaps his cheek in front of the bathroom mirror. He’s persistently brushing the very back of his molars, where his gums slightly protrude, hard bone underneath the flesh.

He’s turning 20 this September. A couple more years until the whole wisdom tooth ordeal, perhaps?

Jungkook spits out the foam and rinses. Observing himself in the mirror, he puckers his lips and prods them with his finger, pinching. One of his female friends mentioned that lathering lotion all over his lips and then scrubbing them with a toothbrush acts as an exfoliant.

That’s precisely how Jungkook learns that The Body Shop’s lotion tastes like moldy butter.

His lips after that are raw, pink. Swollen, but he’s not worried, they’ll come down by tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

In his bedroom he turns down the lights and lays underneath his bedsheets. Lately, he’s only been wearing t-shirts and sweats to sleep, but tonight he has on the button-down pyjamas his mom bought him, the one that falls soft on his skin.

He tries playing a few rounds of Clash Royale but gets bored of it rather quickly. He thinks his eyes hurt. Books and texts and screens the whole day. Nobody in his family needs glasses, he doesn’t want to be the first.

It’s early in the night at ten p.m. He isn’t sleepy yet but he wants to sleep already, for tomorrow to come a little bit faster. So he turns to his side and curls, puts on some music. Lee Sora. It’s not Urban Zakapa but unchangingly, it sounds like Namjoon. How many other songs will sound like Namjoon?

He wants to know what Namjoon is doing right now, wants to ask, to be able to. If Namjoon’s asleep or not, if he’s tired, how was his day. If, as wishful as this might be, if Jungkook crosses his mind even just for a second, because Jungkook’s been lying under his bedsheets since day one, repeating the name Kim Namjoon voicelessly into the quiet of his bedroom.

Joon. Pretty, pretty syllable.

His phone screen lights up in the dark. He stares at the queues of chats on his Ka-talk, at Namjoon’s modest display picture, a simple block of white. Maybe in the many universes there are, he can send him a goodnight, maybe in one.

 

 

Tomorrow comes and it unsurprisingly takes a lot of effort to give the impression that he didn’t put in that much effort.

May’s warming up. The weather is oscillating indecisively between below and above 20 degrees Celsius. Jungkook puts on the long-sleeve Junghyun bought at an antique clothing store and left behind because it ‘didn’t fit his image’, the grey one with a Russian band’s concert setlist on the back, not a single letter he can read.

For good luck he puts on the handy lip balm he bought. They’re colourless; not much effort, right? He smacks his lips in front of the mirror and laughs to himself.

What does he think will happen, really?

Namjoon meets him in the afternoon at a bus stop in Yongsan, a few streets away from Itaewon. Jungkook told his parents that he was going to hang out with some friends. Not Namjoon. And he supposes that’s what’s so precarious about this all. The wall is waist-length and easy to climb over, but they shouldn’t. It’s the right thing to stay.

Or wait. But wait for what? What will they be after this tutoring deal ends? They don’t even chat about things that aren’t Jungkook’s subjects. Jungkook will graduate high school, pass his university entrance exams, and he will not see Kim Namjoon ever again.

This is all that he will have, and he will make the most of it.

At the meeting point, Jungkook is five minutes early but Namjoon is already there. He does a double-take when he sees Jungkook, eyes going wide. Something soars in Jungkook’s chest but the wings are clipped the moment it takes off:

“You look fresh,” Namjoon comments. Not cute, just fresh. “First time I’ve seen you out of your uniform.”

“You’ve been tutoring me for months.” Jungkook grins. It’s fine. What does he expect, Jungkook-ah, you look cute today? He’s not delusional.

“I know,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook follows as Namjoon guides him the way. Namjoon has contacts on, today, browner than usual, and Jungkook can’t help but vy for his attention. “Do I look like an adult?”

“Keep dreaming, kid.”

“You’re just jealous I’m young.”

“Trust me, I actually am.”

“Maybe I just want to look like a university student fast.”

“Do you?”

“No,” Jungkook answers honestly. Quite the opposite, he feels as if everything will end the moment he graduates. His friends, his routine, Kim Namjoon. “Not really.”

The place they go to is a small one, a guilty pleasure type of shack that sells budae jjigae, ramen, twigim with tteokbokki, and soondae. Namjoon pays for their rappoki and drinks, a cider for Jungkook and a chilled sujeonggwa for Namjoon.

“Sweet tooth?” Jungkook teases.

“Hush. I told you it’s really spicy here.”

They take out their chopsticks and have some of the banchan while they wait for the rapokki to boil. Namjoon puts his chopsticks on top of the serving bowl, and folds his paper chopstick wrapper into a ribbon. Jungkook does the same out of habit, folding it over twice.

“Wow,” Namjoon marvels, as if all Korean kids weren’t taught how to. “I can’t fold it over twice.”

Jungkook unfolds his second ribbon. “It’s easy.” He demonstrates the steps to Namjoon. “It’s the same. You just twist this one here, turn it over, and fold this one under.”

Namjoon tries it with his own wrapper but fails miserably, laughing at himself. “I’m hopeless.”

“You go to Seoul National, hyung.”

“Different parts of the brain.” Namjoon shushes him. He fails the second time and Jungkook takes the wrapper from him. First chance; their hands do not touch. Doesn’t matter, Jungkook tells himself, folding the part that should go under. “Oh, you’re smart!” Namjoon praises.

Jungkook blushes just a bit. He’s always smiling with Namjoon. It’s difficult not to. “I should be, or you’re not doing your job correctly.”

“You’re already smart to begin with. I don’t have to do much.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines. “One compliment a day, please.”

“Why are you afraid of compliments?” Namjoon chuckles.

Because then I’d think I have a chance. “It’s boiling. Let’s eat before I pout.”

“You have a permanent pout. You speak in pout.”

“You’re saying I’m cute then?” Too forward. Abort, too forward.

Namjoon only shakes his head, smiling the same smile fondly. He doesn’t say anything else. He picks up the tongs and doesn’t say yes you’re cute. Because he doesn’t have to say that, not when he doesn’t mean that, they’re not flirting or anything. This isn’t a date.

And it’s fine. Really, it is.

Despite being older, Namjoon transfers Jungkook’s share of food into a serving bowl, steaming hot. He gets a few splatters on the side of his palm and Jungkook giggles when Namjoon recoils from the heat.

Jungkook holds out a napkin, Namjoon takes it from him with a thanks. Second chance; their hands do not touch.

It turns out Namjoon isn’t lying, the sauce really is spicy, and Jungkook ends up having some of Namjoon’s sujeonggwa in the end because water and cider aren’t enough. Namjoon spins the glass the other way, so Jungkook can drink from the side Namjoon hasn’t been drinking from.

Jungkook glances at Namjoon’s lips when he sets the glass down on the table. They’re all puffy from the heat, slick from his drink. If in another universe they’d kiss, would Namjoon’s lips taste like sujeonggwa?

“Your lips are swollen,” Jungkook covers up.

For a split second, Jungkook’s mind white-lies himself that Namjoon glances at his lips, too. “You’re one to say.”

After, Namjoon walks him all the way home. Hands in his pockets, he says goodbye to Jungkook, and Jungkook watches his back disappear along the turn of the street. Jungkook had fun. The food was good and he got to hear Namjoon talk to him about things that aren’t his revisions. They talked easily, and Jungkook made Namjoon laugh several times. It was fun.

So he doesn’t know. He really doesn’t know why he cries himself to sleep that night.

 

 

The next tutoring session, Namjoon gets him xylitol again. Not a pack, he gets Jungkook the bottle box this time.

“No more chupa chups?” Jungkook asks, popping the cap and taking a piece from inside.

Namjoon takes his own piece. Third chance; their fingers almost touch. “They’ll give you cavities. Go chew gum like an adult.”

“I’m not.”

“Un?”

Jungkook smiles at him, he’s not really sure of what he wants out of Namjoon. “I’m not an adult.”

With or without lollipops, Namjoon still blushes prettily. “Chew on a gum, Kook.”

 

 

 

 

june

 

Somehow it happens in June. Late June. Not sure why. Maybe the rain?

The school announces that students are to change from their winter uniform to their summer uniform although it’s still quite chilly from all the rain.

Rain. June rains almost all month. The hydrangeas on the way to the bus stop bask in it, purple and blue and even pink.

Namjoon tells him hydrangeas change colour depending on the soil they were planted in. Namjoon knows plenty of trivias. Sometimes Jungkook wishes he could take note of them, put them on pages for him to keep whenever he wants to read. Jungkook doesn’t really read books but he can read about Namjoon for days on end.

School calendar says examinations will fall in early July before the summer break, but it doesn’t stop them from giving students tests after tests before that. Third year is another plane of existence, Jungkook runs on a daily average of three hours of sleep.

He still doesn’t buy coffee. Proper coffee is too expensive. But he does buy Red Bull, until his mom tells him it’s bad for his health, then he buys Monster, until his friend tells him it makes him look like a weeb, then he buys Lotte Hot 6, Bacchus D, Oronamin C, until his dad knocks on his door and tells him for god’s sake, Kook-ah, just go to sleep your brain isn’t absorbing anything anymore.

Namjoon buys him chocolate milk.

Not just chocolate milk, Chokoemong chocolate milk. Yes, the one with Doraemon on the pack.

Jungkook squints at the packaging. Not to say he doesn’t like chocolate milk, but why? “I’m nineteen, hyung, not four.”

“My mom wouldn’t let me drink that until I was 13,” Namjoon brings up a point. “Seriously. That packaging is deceptive, the caffeine content in that thing is off the charts, kids go bonkers drinking that.”

“That’s an exaggeration,” Jungkook says, although he’s already tearing the straw wrapper and punching it through the hole.

“I’m not kidding! My friend drank two of those when he was eight or something and he did multiple flips on the horizontal bar, made himself sick and proceeded to vomit all over the playground.”

“Maybe he was just a weird kid.”

Namjoon points a finger at him. “To be fair, he was.”

Jungkook snorts. He drinks the milk anyway. “Thanks, hyung.”

It rains too, today. A Wednesday. It’s not exactly a storm outside, no thunders or lighting, but a heavy downpour, nonetheless. Jungkook wonders if the hydrangeas are doing all right. Too much love can tear things apart.

His mom promised to call Namjoon a cab because Namjoon usually takes the train back to his apartment. Namjoon declined at first, but she managed to convince him that even with the sturdiest umbrella, there was no way he could walk through this weather.

The sound of the rain provides good focus. The stream drowns the bedroom, sheets of water over Jungkook’s window, shadows soaking the tables and the walls.

It’s Korean test again for tomorrow. The tip of Jungkook’s pencil hovers over passages of poems and prose, there’s so much about the wind.

What’s up with writers and wind, hyung? He wants to pester Namjoon, but he tilts his head towards him and then Namjoon is kissing him.

It’s raining outside.

Maybe the rain seeps inside Jungkook, too, washing over his throat and his lungs. He realizes belatedly that his teeth are sinking into his bottom lip and he draws them back, parts his lips just enough for Namjoon’s to press between them.

When Namjoon pulls away, Jungkook thinks he understands why writers write of wind.

“We ran out of chewing gums,” Namjoon explains.

“Oh.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t buy them anymore.”

They don’t kiss again. They don’t talk, either. Jungkook goes back to his multiple choices, reads all the problems question-first, then first two sentences, last two sentences. He circles all the answers he thinks are right.

It’s still raining when their two hours are up. Namjoon bows to Jungkook’s mom, gets on the cab, and leaves. The evening continues as if nothing’s happened. Jungkook eats his meals, showers, brushes his teeth.

He doesn’t study anymore. It rains all night and in his head and the sound drowns everything else. The water whispers to him, not a song, a name.

Under the bedsheets and in his thoughts, Namjoon kisses him a thousand more times.

 

 

Korean test results are returned on Friday. Jungkook gets a perfect score.

He goes home and his mom tells him Namjoon called in sick.

 

 

It doesn’t rain on Saturday. There’s an open-house at Seoul National, a half-day event with several university students from various faculties that would show prospective candidates around. Grades only slightly above average, Jungkook won’t ever pass Seoul Uni and he doesn’t bother dreaming of it, but Soo-eun, one of his friends, is an overachiever and she asks him to come along with a handful of other top-20 kids to see what’s up.

Why not? the rest of them says. The most prestigious university in the country, once in their lives they need to know how the top 1% uses their tax money.

Jungkook has no reason, really, to decline. What’s there to say? ‘My tutor goes to Seoul National. He kissed me last Wednesday and I haven’t heard from him since, so it’s awkward, guys, I don’t want to go’?

They all know he likes boys, they’re all the ‘good friends’ he met in high school, Soo-eun has a rainbow-flag keychain. But it’s not that. It’s that he doesn’t want to tell anybody about Namjoon. Not the kiss part because he’s not even sure if it’s real anymore, but just Namjoon.

The more people he tells about Namjoon, the more Namjoon becomes a person, fleshed out and real. He doesn’t want Namjoon to be real. He wants Namjoon to be the tall and polite boy in his head. Who takes him on bike rides and tells him he’s cute. Who kisses him and doesn’t leave.

So he goes to Seoul National with his friends. He’ll be fine. The campus is big, it’s a Saturday. He’s not going to see Namjoon. Coincidences don’t happen.

Does he want to see Namjoon?

“Kook.” Soo-eun taps his shoulder. “We’re moving buildings, c’mon.”

“Oh, okay.”

He would’ve gotten a move on, the day would’ve gone by just as normal, only if Soo-eun didn’t ask, “What’s wrong?”

“My tutor kissed me,” Jungkook blurts out. Soo-eun’s eyes widen, she pulls at the strap of her backpack too strongly that it tightens all wonky. “He goes here,” Jungkook adds. “I like him, he’s the cutest boy I’ve seen.”

“Slow down, slow down.” Soo-eun blinks away a fallen eyelash from her eye, rubbing it out with her hand ultimately.

It’s her day and Jungkook feels bad keeping her, but she accompanies him on the tail of the group without complaints, listening to him gush and rant and whine about Kim Namjoon. He’s so cool but he doesn’t like me back.

He kissed you.

He hasn’t said anything since.

Maybe he’s shy?

No, he doesn’t like me.

Soo-eun licks her teeth. Jungkook doesn’t want to talk about it anymore and she says that’s fine, he won’t see him anyway, the campus is too big, he doesn’t have anything to worry about.

The last building they visit is the library. A huge, daunting archive. The volunteer students run them through the basic blueprint of the building and then they’re finished for the day, left to look around by themselves. They can’t go inside some of the reserves since they don’t have clearance, but even so they can roam around the study rooms and some of the public resources area.

Namjoon likes books. Jungkook wonders if he spends a lot of time here.

Jungkook flips through a few large photography books that caught his interest. Words don’t go well with him but pictures do, like they tell their own stories, their own emotions. Every piece that Jungkook sees in the books has a wind to them now, a gust or a breeze or a typhoon. He keeps going round and round the maze of shelves and without noticing, he’s wandered off from his group of friends.

Soo-eun messages him personally, and he realizes the Ka-talk group chat is vibrating with new notifications.

 

Kang Soo-eun, Cha Minho, Lee Dongseop, Je…(5)

 

Kang Soo-eun [16:02]:

let's meet up outside

im w seoseop

 

Lee Jihoon [16:03]:

cool im w mino

jk where r u

 

Lee Jihoon [16:12]:

we're all outside already

jaykay where r uuuu

 

Lee Jihoon [16:18]:

bro ignored ㅠㅠㅠ

 

Cha Minho [16:18]:

bro heartbreaker jaykay

jihoon eong-eong ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ

 

me [16:21]:

yo sorry i'll come outside

 

Cha Minho [16:21]:

waiting for u always bby

 

Looking around, he isn’t even sure where he is right now, but he follows the map on the wall and finds a staircase downstairs and a side entrance in no time.

He pushes open the heavy doors, and it’s raining outside.

Lots. Loud. A squall.

He didn’t check the weather report this morning, he didn’t bring an umbrella. Soo-eun brought one, Jungkook remembers seeing the handle of a fold umbrella peeking out of her backpack’s side pocket.

He brings out his phone and types out a quick message to the Ka-talk group chat. The side entrance itself is big, paths crossing through the garden under an awning, he hopes they can find him. The library’s huge, he bets there are at least a couple more side entrances.

There’s another building across the road with a sign post. Jungkook squints and reads Natural Sciences, and he texts that to the group again. Jihoon replies swiftly, telling him that they’re coming and only Minho forgot an umbrella, he can share Dongseop’s bigger one.

Jungkook shoots a thanks with an emoji and locks his phone. And when he looks up, he sees Namjoon by the Natural Sciences building.

Jungkook puts his phone back in his pocket.

There’s no thunder. Why does he hear one?

That’s fine, you won’t see him anyway, the campus is too big, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Do you want to see him?

Namjoon doesn’t notice Jungkook there. Not yet. Namjoon has an umbrella, walking down the pathway by the Natural Sciences building. He’s walking closer and closer and if he turns his head to the right, he’d be able to see Jungkook. Jungkook should move away, go back inside the library, yet he doesn’t. He watches Namjoon’s side profile through the rain, the slope of his nose and lips that kissed Jungkook once.

Then Namjoon’s expression changes, lights up in recognition, but it’s not at Jungkook, no. Jungkook follows his line of sight and finds a girl under the awning of the Natural Sciences building. Namjoon calls for her, the rain drowning his voice. She sees him and smiles, waves. They exchange a few words and she steps under Namjoon’s umbrella, walking with him down the road, shoulders brushing.

Kim Namjoon has his own world that doesn’t have Jungkook in it.

And yet the rain in Jungkook’s world still whispers the same name.

 

 

Jungkook goes home that evening with shoes soaked all the way through the soles. The cuffs of his jeans are sopping wet, and his mom tells him to change while she fills up the tub for him.

As he bathes he can hear his dad playing the piano in the living room. The tiles dull its melody and the rain drowns it. Despite that, it still sounds like what it sounds like. Every song every voice every whisper. One name.

Jungkook stays in the bath until the pads of his fingers wrinkle and the water is lukewarm.

His mom forgot to defrost the meat for dinner. They have rapokki instead.

 

 

He spends Sunday in Soo-eun’s house. To study, he says to his parents. The semester exams start next week and they’re reluctant to let him go, but if there’s any friend they can trust their son with for sure it would be the school’s number-one girl.

They don’t study, though. Jungkook cries on Soo-eun’s shoulder and they play Lee Sora all afternoon.

 

 

 

july

 

Namjoon comes on Monday. Technically, it’s still June, but the rain’s stopped as July waits on Wednesday, first day of exams.

Namjoon’s sitting at Jungkook’s desk again, reading a different book. He smiles at Jungkook when Jungkook walks in.

“What do you have Wednesday?” Namjoon asks.

“Ethics, Hanja.”

Not subjects Namjoon can help with, he didn’t take Hanja or Ethics in high school, but he can help Jungkook revise, he has an elective on Ethics from his university. “Okay, let’s go.”

“I want to nap.”

Namjoon closes his book and puts it on the desk. “Do you know all your hanja’s?”

Jungkook shrugs. “I’m good with shapes.”

“All right. You can drop your notes on the table and I’ll go over them for you. What do you have Thursday?”

“English, History.”

“Got it.”

Jungkook puts down his textbooks and notes. Namjoon takes out the Ethics textbook from the row of books on the desk. He isn’t paying attention and the books tip out of balance like dominoes, saved only by the hefty bookend.

“Clumsy,” Jungkook whines. He helps Namjoon line the books upright again, Namjoon laughs and Jungkook smiles.

Nothing happened in June. Just like nothing happened in May or April or March.

Jungkook falls asleep with his back turned to Namjoon. Two hours later, Namjoon wakes him up without touching the bed or Jungkook again. Namjoon says good luck and goodbye and Jungkook doesn’t follow him downstairs.

There’s a new bottle of chewing gum on the desk. Jungkook’s notes are annotated with pencil writings on the margins and pencil writings on post-its, nothing permanent. There are no doodles of round-cheeked boys with J-shaped noses this time. No messages.

Jungkook opens up his notes again before bed. He doesn’t read anything except good thing I like your voice, chatterbox, over and over again.

It doesn’t mean anything. He doesn’t like me.

He doesn’t like me, he doesn’t like me.

 

 

The week and the next (until another Wednesday) he has his sessions with Namjoon per usual, except a little busier as they catch up with exam materials.

Exam weeks always feel like a long single day. Compartmentalization at its finest. One subject, done, throw aside, another subject, done, throw aside, another. He remembers only what he needs to remember for that day, then they’re told to put down their pens and Jungkook forgets everything instantly. Next, next.

He finishes the new bottle of chewing gums in a week.

“You better get nothing below 85%,” Namjoon reminds him. Jungkook gives him a thumbs up.

Once summer holiday starts, Jungkook doesn’t see Namjoon again. His mom teases him that he must like that, Jungkook says yeah actually.

He hangs out with friends at movie theatres, Cheonggyecheon’s night market, bowling. For a few weeks, he gets to enjoy not-studying, the privilege of being a middle-upper private school student aiming for a local university. His friends still go to cram school busting their asses off studying, but again his parents don’t believe in that so he’s off the hook, at least until late August.

Namjoon doesn’t text him. Why would he, there’s no reason to. By the time Jungkook’s family leaves for Busan on the second week of summer break, unless he scrolls down, Jungkook can no longer find Namjoon’s bland white profile picture in the queue of Ka-talk chats.

 

 

 

august

 

Busan keeps him both occupied and idle with days that pass rather idyllically. His grandparents play cards with him, his dad takes him hiking and his mom makes him watch Hugh Grant movies with her. Junghyun visits for a few days and they spend it playing games and taking naps in their grandparents’ living room.

“You keep singing that song,” Junghyun comments one morning.

Jungkook pours milk into the blender liberally to make misugaru before a run. “What song?”

“Urban Zakapa.” As sloppy as ever, Junghyun takes the milk from him and drinks it straight from the carton, mouth away from the opening. He wipes his lips with the back of his palm and says, “It’s not spring anymore.”

“A good song’s good to sing whenever,” Jungkook says. He closes the lid of the blender and the blade whirs.

The following days, Junghyun puts that album on repeat. He plays it at night from the guest room beside Jungkook’s, during the day when he’s reading manhwa slouched on the living room sofa, and on car rides because he has the wheel and therefore ‘the given right to pick the music’—his words. Junghyun takes Jungkook to eat everything he couldn’t eat in the military. They go to a bingsu cafe to cool down and Junghyun orders an injeolmi bingsu to share and two cups of caramel macchiato. He picks up their order and comes back to their table humming baby baby geudae-neun caramel macchiato.

Why is it so hard to fall out of this song?

To be frank, to this day Jungkook still can’t figure out why he likes Namjoon. Maybe because he’s gentle, maybe because he’s handsome, maybe because of how he speaks.

But there’s no need to like a person who doesn’t like you back. In the very crux of it, love comes from mutual connection, and in the end, someday—someday, he will fall out of this song.

 

 

A day before they’ll take the KTX back to Seoul, Jungkook wakes up to a Ka-talk notification.

Kakaotalk [04:03]
Kim Namjoon: i want to call you

He sits up groggily. Brushes his bed hair back, rubs the sand out of his eyes.

4 a.m. Was he drunk?

He was drunk, Jungkook decides. He doesn’t open the chat and keeps it unread; it’s only for the best. Namjoon doesn’t text him anymore the rest of the day, either.

And it’s fine, Jungkook has no time to think of it. The whole day, his grandparents drag him out shopping since he’s going back to Seoul tomorrow, buying him more clothes than he needs and feeding him more food a person could eat. He doesn’t think of Namjoon, he doesn’t.

On the drive back, his grandpa puts on the radio channel for throwback hits, and a Lee Sora song comes on. Baram-i bunda. They’re driving by the sea and his grandpa rolls down the windows to feel the breeze. The wind tousles Jungkook’s hair and caresses his cheeks, he tastes it between his lips.

Do you understand now?

 

 

That night, the power goes off at one a.m. His dad calls the power company while his mom stands beside him tapping her foot. A usual happening, perhaps, because on the contrary his grandparents seem unbothered, lighting candles up and having tea on the dinner table. They check the metre, yes, they’ve paid the bills.

One a.m. is too late in the night to put up with his parents’ moods, Jungkook goes back to his room only to discover that it’s too hot to sleep, so he walks out to the balcony to catch some breeze. His phone is charged, that’s good. Wifi’s down but his data plan will hold.

He doesn’t know what to do, the summer wind blows calm and kind. He opens up Ka-talk and presses call.

It picks up on the first ring.

Then he really doesn’t know what to do.

Jungkook?” Namjoon’s voice rustles from the other end of the line, a well-mannered baritone. Been awhile since he’s heard proper Seoul intonations outside of radios and TV’s.

Jungkook turns to lean his back on the banister. “You said you wanted to call me.”

I did.”

“Were you drunk?”

I wasn’t. I—

Jungkook waits, but Namjoon doesn’t continue and Jungkook has to be the one to lead him by the hand. “What do you want to say to me?”

Silence.

Under his skin, Jungkook thinks he can feel the deep-seated beat of his heart, echoing from his chest to all over. A few beats pass, and Namjoon says, “I’m sorry.”

For once in his life, Jungkook really doesn’t want to know what somebody is sorry for. But that’s the only way this can go on: “Why are you sorry?”

I—” Namjoon halts again. He was always so articulate, why can’t he be now? Please say it. Please admit it. “I kissed you.”

He did. Some mornings Jungkook feels the ghost of the touch, a feather’s weight. He thinks and dreams of kissing Namjoon so many times that the real one feels as if a trick of mind, even if Namjoon admitted it.

I’m sorry I did that.

“I wanted that.”

Jungkook.”

“Did you not mean to do that?” Did you make a mistake? Am I a mistake?

The quiet wind is louder than Namjoon’s breathing, and the line rustles like the leaves of the tree by the balcony.

Namjoon says, “Jungkook, I like you.”

And the wind blows the same. Words are words. His heartbeat echoes a little louder, the inside of his palm is stiff. There’s a spot on the tiles that Jungkook worries with the sole of his slipper.

There’s no reason for Namjoon to like him.

It was very unprofessional of me,” Namjoon continues. He’s articulate once more, so really, words are just words. “I wanted to tell you that I’m finding you a new tutor right now. I’ll tell your mom I got busy, and you don’t have to see me anymore when you come back.

“No.”

No?

Everything’s ending soon. Final school exams wrap up in October and the CSAT is in November. This year will end, and until it does, he doesn’t want to let Namjoon go. He’ll make the most of this.

“I don’t want you to go. I like you, too.”

Jungkook—”

“I’ve liked you since the day I met you. And you know that, you knew. I know that you knew.”

I… I did. Yeah.

“Then why don’t you want to see me anymore?” Louder, now. His heartbeat is now louder than the wind, the rhythm is faster, everything is messed up. It doesn’t sound like a song. It sounds like a storm.

Namjoon falters between coherence and incoherence. Do you feel this wind, too? “It’s not—I’m your—and you—

Jungkook fills in the gap by himself: It’s not right, I’m your tutor, and you are still a kid. “But I like you.”

Jungkook, please.”

“You said you liked me, too. Did you not mean that, like you didn’t mean the kiss, like you didn’t mean the notes you wrote—”

I like you. Please. This is already—I crossed the line, I’ll pull back, okay?

“I don’t want you to, I don’t understand.”

Jungkook, I’m supposed to be teaching you, I’m not supposed to—”

“You’re not my teacher,” Jungkook argues. “You’re my tutor. I’m nineteen and you’re only three years older and this is my last year and if I have to make decisions on what school to go, what I should do for the rest of my fucking life then at the very slightest, I should be allowed to make decisions about you.”

Something crackles. The lights in the rooms flicker on and the air conditioner hums back alive.

Please understand.

It’s okay if you don’t want to, Jungkook says to himself. If you want this to end, if you want to leave and never see me anymore, that’s okay, but say it please, make this clear. There will be more heartbreaks to come for me.

I can still meet you,” Namjoon says. Jungkook’s breath stutters in his throat. The wind has come down in a tender descent. “If you want to, I can come see you. I don’t need to be your tutor.”

Jungkook shakes his head. He knows Namjoon can’t see that, but that’s fine, he’ll be honest the whole night. “I don’t want any other tutor. I won’t be able to see you as often as I did, I don’t want that.” Namjoon hasn’t said anything, he knows that’s the truth. “Don’t you want to see me, hyung?”

I do, I want to see you.

“Then don’t go finding a new tutor, yeah?”

Namjoon sighs. It’s the kind that makes Jungkook smile, and he does, as small and exhausted as it is. He wins this round. “You better still study.

“I won’t if it’s another tutor.”

Brat.”

“I like you.”

I get it,” Namjoon says. “I like you, too. Do you get that?

Not really. This is new, nobody ever likes him back. Jungkook cups his neck with his clammy hand, it’s like Namjoon can tell. “I think you have to teach me that one.”

Namjoon laughs airily. Outside his room, Jungkook can hear his parents’ footsteps returning to their bedroom. “Go to sleep. I’ll see you the day after tomorrow.

“Goodnight, hyung.”

Goodnight, Jungkook-ah.

What does he know? Among the many universes, myriad possibilities, it turns out he happens to be in one where he can say goodnight to Kim Namjoon.

 

 

Like an unspoken agreement, they don’t text each other again before they meet, as if they’re afraid that there’s some magic that they’d break, as ridiculous as that is.

On the KTX back to Seoul, Jungkook eats the snacks his grandparents packed him while he watches the scenery rush on by. He puts Melon on shuffle but he doesn’t remember any of the songs. Everything blends with the summer colours outside the compartment window, every moment feels like Kim Namjoon.

The two days before they’d see each other pass like he’s on his tiptoes the entire time, a steady thrum under his ribcage.

Mid-August, Jungkook’s school hasn’t started yet. This is his first time hearing the doorbell ring and knowing that it’s Namjoon outside the door. His study materials are ready on the desk, he’s put on the least shabbiest house clothes he has, and lip balm, he… bought one with a bit of transparent tint at CU yesterday. Yeah.

Should be fine.

Jungkook doubles over on his desk chair, hugging his stomach where the thrum and the ever-present squeeze have reached.

The door knocks.

He takes a few breaths. It’s nothing. It’s another tutoring session. What does he think will happen?

Jungkook gathers himself and turns the knob open. Should be fine, should be. The door opens and he’s met with two glasses of iced tea on a tray.

“Hi,” Namjoon greets.

Jungkook’s hand on the door knob almost slips the same way as the last time. He grips a little tighter and says, “Hi,” back.

Like he knows what’s going on, Namjoon squishes his lips in a smile. “Your mom made me bring this up. Can I come in?”

“Y-yeah.”

He steps aside to let Namjoon in. Namjoon nods his head slightly, unchangingly polite. Jungkook closes the door as soundly as he can—or he doesn’t know, maybe he just can’t hear it over the raucous heartbeats between his ears. Namjoon sets down the tray on the table and is kind enough to call “Jungkook, come on,” without turning his head back at Jungkook.

He knows Namjoon is stalling, placing his bag on its usual place by the foot of the desk, taking his pencil case and his phone out onto the table.

“How’s Busan?” Namjoon asks too leisurely. They both pull out their chairs to sit, the same position, the same distance.

“Hot. Ate a lot of bingsu with my hyung.”

“Kook-ah?” Namjoon calls again, Jungkook notices he’s been staring at the same spot on the table. “Look at me.”

Jungkook looks up at him and Namjoon is blushing. He’s lost count of how many chances he’s had and missed, but this time Namjoon reaches to hold his wrist, his touch travelling down to Jungkook’s hand. Jungkook doesn’t want to let this go to waste again, so he stays still, lets Namjoon’s other hand tip his chin up.

This midday dream doesn’t seem to end. Namjoon asks him, “Can I, one more time?”

He didn’t say what he wanted to do, but Jungkook would let him do anything. “Yes. Yes, please.”

This one feels more like a first kiss. Namjoon leans in and suddenly Jungkook feels him all over. Full lips flush on his, Namjoon’s thumb caressing his cheek.

When Namjoon lets go, it’s like he’s never left at all. “Tell me I wasn’t your first,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook holds onto the hem of Namjoon’s shirt. “You weren’t,” but you should’ve been.

“Okay—okay.” Namjoon kisses him again. His tongue brushes the seam of Jungkook’s lips and Jungkook shivers but Namjoon is patient, always so, and Jungkook lets him in. The kiss doesn’t step past innocent, Namjoon pulls away and Jungkook chases after him, kissing Namjoon’s smile, his cheek when Namjoon turns his face away.

“No, no more.” Namjoon’s hand curls around his nape. Every part and extension of Namjoon is breathtakingly kind, and isn’t that why Jungkook feels the way he feels? “Chew your gum,” Namjoon says.

“Ran out.” Jungkook’s hand falls on his own thigh, and Namjoon covers it with his.

“I’ll get some more next time, yeah?”

“Don’t.”

“You’ll chew your lips again.”

“Just kiss me again, then.”

Namjoon chuckles, his thumb brushes Jungkook’s knuckles. “Oh, getting brave, now? You won’t have time to study if we just make out for two hours.”

“You don’t want to?”

“Maybe not during the time I’m supposed to be tutoring you, yeah? I’ll get you some chewing gums.”

“Buy me a lollipop instead,” Jungkook blurts and Namjoon freezes over.

Namjoon’s eyes are as wide as saucers. It’s like his life just flashed across him and Jungkook quite likes this power. A wave of courage surges in him and he moves to climb onto Namjoon’s lap. He can feel Namjoon jolt under him, not used to this closeness and not having any idea on what to do with a lapful of boy.

“I swear that time—” Namjoon splutters, cute, Jungkook just has to kiss him. “—that time I didn’t, not to—Kook!” another kiss, a touch of tongue and Namjoon holds him back by his shoulders. Namjoon’s sigh skitters on Jungkook’s lips, and Jungkook calms.

The hands on Jungkook’s shoulder slide to his arms, then tentatively, to grab his waist. Jungkook shivers but he wraps his arms around Namjoon’s neck.

It’s adorable how Namjoon still tries to clear things up. “I didn’t buy you that lollipop for that purpose, okay? I was—just. Very, incredibly stupid. Believe me. I’m so sorry.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Jungkook says simply.

“What are you talking about now?”

“If it’s for that purpose, I wouldn’t mind.”

Namjoon looks like he both wants to laugh and cry at the same time, the agony is a bit funny. “Jungkook.” He pats Jungkook’s flank. “Revisions, let’s go.”

Jungkook pushes his luck. “Can we study on the bed?”

“Do you realize the connotations of what you just said?”

That… honestly didn’t cross his mind, Jungkook feels his cheeks boil. He flips the topic. “I got perfect marks in Korean.”

“Exam results are back?”

“No—the one, last time, after we—” kissed for the first time.

Namjoon blinks, blushes, too. “Oh, that one.”

“You promised you’d let us study on the bed.”

“Fine. But no kissing until we finish your revisions.”

“Last one before we go?”

Namjoon giggles. He’s generous, gracious, cupping the back of Jungkook’s nape as he kisses him again, a little closer, a little deeper. Namjoon might not have been Jungkook’s first kiss but he feels like one, because Jungkook’s never been kissed the way Namjoon kisses him.

They part one final time, Namjoon’s lips are plump and pink and Jungkook doesn’t ask for any more for the moment. They transfer the study materials they need to the bed, where they sit on top of the covers and Namjoon keeps to the corner of the bed, still wary and self-conscious about the spaces he’s allowed to be in.

Jungkook doesn’t pressure him. One barrier at a time. They get some revisions done and when the materials run out Namjoon asks him about where he plans to go. His questions aren’t overwhelming the way the questions from his relatives in Busan were, Namjoon’s are explorations and not suggestions, and it’s like a brainstorm, really, Jungkook being able to talk to himself and ask himself where he wants his path to go at this turning point in his life.

“I like pictures,” Jungkook says, maybe the first time to anyone ever.

Namjoon smiles. “Pictures?”

“Yeah. Like photographs. Moving or not moving.”

“I had a dongsaeng who took photography, he’s in the military right now but it’d be fun if you could meet.”

The headboard is a dangerous place to be, Jungkook joins Namjoon on the other end of the bed. Namjoon opens up a Google Drive on his phone and shows Jungkook the pictures his dongsaeng took for his classes, landscapes and people. They’re not always pretty, but they’re raw and real, a moment in a moment being. And Jungkook thinks he wants to capture that too, a moment to keep.

As an exchange, Jungkook shows him the pictures he took in his phone gallery, too. They’re mostly sceneries. His school’s rooftop when they hung out after Dongseop cracked the lock open, the sea during the drive to his grandparents house, the bank of the Han in the sunset from Yeouido. People, too. Junghyun getting injeolmi all over his top lip, his grandma peeling a peach, Soo-eun captured mid-laugh as Minho pulled another silly act.

“You’re good,” Namjoon tells him. His hand lays so close to Jungkook’s ankle.

When it’s time for him to go, Namjoon gives him one last kiss by his bedroom door. One step backward and Jungkook would’ve been pinned to that door. Strangely, Jungkook lamented that it didn’t happen. He wanted Namjoon to be around and all over him.

He didn’t ask Namjoon what they are now, but it’s fine, it’s one barrier at a time.

 

 

As much as Jungkook wants to rush, he supposes there’s no need to. Being whatever they are right now is not bad. It’s wonderful, actually. Feels like he’s living out all the songs he’s been listening to, the bubble-gum easy-love pop songs. Melon’s doing a one-year throwback. This time of summer last year, he didn’t listen to Kisum as much. Makes sense. This time of summer last year, he wasn’t head over heels in a fever dream.

Namjoon texts him. Not long conversations, but he sends Jungkook pictures, says good morning and good night. Jungkook wants to see him every day, and Namjoon doesn’t mind, Jungkook’s only got a week before school starts.

They go get a double-scoop at a Baskin-Robbins on Thursday when they don’t have tutoring. Jungkook learns Namjoon doesn’t like mint chocolate chip ice cream, and Namjoon pinches Jungkook’s cheek when Jungkook calls him coward.

It’s hot out but they stroll along Banpo Hangang Park after their little ice cream date, watching kids Jungkook’s age slide past them on rollerblades and skateboards.

“I always wanted to have a bike date,” Jungkook blurts, seeing a couple ride by the bank.

He doesn’t mean to confess, but the heat got into him and Namjoon doesn’t skip a beat. “You want to bike along the Han?”

“Yeah. Is that—weird?”

Namjoon laughs. “Yes but as in that’s what I’ve always wanted to do with someone so how did you know?”

It’s really hot. They shouldn’t have finished their ice cream so soon. “What? I—no—”

“You’re cute,” Namjoon says, and Jungkook shuts up. His checklist is being ticked off way too fast. “So, Saturday, then?”

“Y-yeah.”

“Cool down.” Namjoon presses the sweating bottle of Sprite they bought to Jungkook’s neck. The skin only turns even redder.

 

 

“Who are you going with?” His mom asks on Saturday afternoon when she saw Jungkook put on his shoes at the entryway. Not where but who with. Well, he did say yesterday that he’d be out and wouldn’t be having dinner with them, but she didn’t ask where then, either. Suspicious.

Is his tank too fancy? Is it weird to wear a tank? It’s 31 degrees outside.

“Dongseop,” Jungkook says right off the bat, an adds hastily, “to Soo-eun’s.”

“Bring a jacket, you’ll catch a cold.”

“It’s August, mom. I’ll catch a heat stroke better.”

His mom gives him a once-over. She dusts her apron with her hands, turning around like she knows what’s going on but doesn’t really care. “Be back before ten.”

 

 

Namjoon texted him the location last night. Nanji Hangang Park, the one in Mapo. Namjoon is already waiting for him at the World Cup Stadium Station when Jungkook arrives 10 minutes early. Today, he’s sans glasses again, unlike most days they have tutoring, and Jungkook finds himself shying away from his gaze.

They take a bus and then walk down to the information centre. There’s a bike rental farther in and Namjoon pays for both of their fees. “In a way, it’s your parents’ money,” he says when Jungkook pouts at the treatment. “You’re a high school kid, you don’t have much with you, I know.”

“Do you have much with you?”

Nodding a thanks to the bike rental staff, Namjoon wheels out his bike and kicks the dock in. “I’m comfortable.”

Jungkook whistles. “Comfortable,” he repeats.

“Shut up. Lead the way and stop whenever. Take as many pictures as you like.”

Jungkook hasn’t been on many dates before. None, he supposes. He’s never had after-school coffee or weekends at the planetarium, none of that jazz. He didn’t think he’d ever have it. That’s what being gay’s like, Dongseop said to him once, you lose the youth other kids have. Yeah, that’s it. Crushes all your friends know about, sneaking Valentine’s chocolates under their desks, liking someone without fear—that’s the youth they will lose.

Most kids like him are lonely. Practised words and gestures and all. Jungkook and his group of friends, they have each other and they’re one of the lucky ones.

Riding beside Namjoon like this, the yolk-orange of the sunset sinking slowly by slowly into the Han, Jungkook realizes that he’s the luckiest of them all.

This is his youth and he will have it.

They bike through the paved roads and into the wilder ones beside the tall weeds and short trees. Jungkook makes a lot of stops, takes pictures of the river from different vantage points, other snaps of some wild dandelions that are yellow, funny signs and gazebos. Namjoon goes along patiently, tells him where they are in the park and what part of Seoul is on the other side of the river.

Summer means it doesn’t get dark until late enough, seven or so, but by six Namjoon ushers him back to where they came from, the better-lit part of the park. They return their bikes and walk along the bank some more before the sun fully sets.

There’s a spot close to the water by the fountain landmark, and they didn’t bring any mats but Jungkook doesn’t mind sitting on the grass. From here, they can see the boats stream along, the city is beginning to light up.

“Which bridge is that one?” Jungkook asks, pointing at the girder bridge over the river.

“Seongsan-daegyo,” Namjoon names easily. They watch the cars drive past, the funneling weekend traffic. “Beyond there is Yanghwa-daegyo.”

Hangsang Yanghwa-daegyo,” Jungkook quotes the song and Namjoon laughs.

“It’s kind of true, though, isn’t it?” Namjoon smiles. “My mom used to call my dad after work and ask where he was, and he’d say Yanghwa-daegyo. Felt like everybody’s dad drove through Yanghwa-daegyo.”

“Not mine.” Jungkook grins, and mimicking his father’s Gyeongsang accent, says, “Yes, yeobo, passing through Dongnae now, sorry sorry I’ll be quick.”

It gets a laugh out of Namjoon. “When did you move to Seoul?”

“Middle school, actually. I slip into the intonation when I get too excited, and middle school kids had a lot of fun with that.”

“Were you bullied?” Namjoon asks, concern plastered all over him.

“No, no! I just mocked them in the dialect and then laughed at them when they tried and messed up.” Namjoon sighs in relief, and somehow that makes Jungkook giggle. “I’ve been in Seoul for quite a while now. I’ve just never gone to this park.”

“Not a lot of people have. My mom’s lived here all her life and she’s only been to Yeouido, everybody’s been to Yeouido. Do you know this park used to be a landfill?”

“I know Cheonggyecheon used to be one.”

“Gosh, Cheonggyecheon used to be a total dump.” Namjoon has a different smile for that. Jungkook scrunches the clovers underneath his palm even when he promised himself he wouldn’t dirty his hands. This feels good, the way Namjoon smiles, like he’s letting Jungkook into a part of his past. “Even here, the trees are still growing, you know? It’s only going to get prettier.”

“You sound like you love it here,” Jungkook says.

“Here as in here or here as in Seoul?”

“Seoul.”

Namjoon presses his lips together, a bashful smile. “I do,” he says, the warming colour of the river swims in his eyes. “It’s a complicated feeling. It’s too noisy and too bright sometimes, but at the same time it’s very grey and very—lonely. And I get on a taxi on the way back home late at night when I’m tired to the bone and I hate this place. Everything changes so fast, moves so fast. I want to leave this place so badly, I swear.”

It’s better than Busan, Jungkook believes. Black sand in his hair, the stench of rust and salt at Haeundae. Better—is that true? “But you love it here?”

“I do, I do,” Namjoon reassures him. “Guess you could say I’m attached? I’ve never lived anywhere else. I can’t really explain it, but this city raised me, didn’t it?”

Behind Jungkook, the sky is saturating into pink and purple, and the shadows of the sun float above Namjoon’s skin. Jungkook must’ve been staring because Namjoon’s smile turns apologetic. “I’m sorry. I’m boring you, aren’t I?”

Jungkook shakes his head. “No, I—want to see more now, but I don’t know where to start.”

“I like Seonyu-do in the fall, and Dduksum at night.”

“Oh?”

“Have you been?”

Four years in this city and yet, “No, I haven’t.”

“I’ll take you there, okay?” Is that a promise? Namjoon stands and wipes the dirt off his palms before offering Jungkook his hand to help him stand. Jungkook wobbles a bit, pins and needles on his calf, but Namjoon grips his wrist and keeps him upright. “Home?” Namjoon asks.

No. It’s seven, he has until ten. “I’m hungry.”

“I’ll buy you dinner.”

“Hyung—”

“Exactly. I’m your hyung.” Namjoon turns it against him. “What do you want to have?”

Until ten. Time is ticking. “Can we have it at your place?”

Namjoon blanks out. “Jungkook.”

Their hands almost part but Jungkook squeezes. “We can’t even hold hands here. Please?”

It’s hesitant, but he feels Namjoon squeeze back before they let go. “My place is a mess.”

“I don’t care.”

“What time do you have to be at home?” Namjoon relents.

The sky has purpled out. Time, he wants more time. “Midnight.”

 

 

Namjoon lives by himself in an apartment in Dongjak-gu. The location makes a lot of sense, it’s a good detached distance from Seoul National, not too close that his daily life narrows down, and Yongsan is just a bridge away, where most of the city’s buzz is at above the Han. Jungkook’s house, too, is in Yongsan.

They call a cab and stop by a Nene chicken to pick up an order before walking the rest of the way to Namjoon’s place.

Namjoon punches in the code; Jungkook’s heartbeat is overwhelming enough that he barely hears the beep of the machine.

“It’s messy,” Namjoon warns once more.

And it is. Most of the shoes are not on the rack, and dirty plates are in the sink and on the kitchen counters. But that’s not the first thing Jungkook notices.

“It’s bigger than I thought,” Jungkook marvels.

It’s not a one-room. There’s a proper living space with a dining table and a coat hanger next to the bathroom door. The sliding doors to the bedroom are open, where he can see a two-seater sofa and the unmade bed. T-shirts thrown over a chair, mismatched pairs of socks scattered on the rug.

The apartment isn’t something typical college students live in, Jungkook doesn’t have to be a college student to see that. Namjoon is… comfortable, that’s for sure.

“Bad impression?” Namjoon winces.

Jungkook snorts. “What impression? You don’t even bother to unwrap a gum wrapper properly, hyung.”

“I hope you still like me,” Namjoon jokes. He places the takeout back on the table, and when he turns around, Jungkook catches his wrist loosely.

“I—” Jungkook starts. Doesn’t continue.

Understanding him, Namjoon turns to pull him into his arms. Their chests press flush against each other’s, Jungkook is afraid Namjoon will be able to tell how fast his pulse is racing.

“I’ll be careful,” Namjoon says. Jungkook doesn’t want him to be.

“You don’t need to be.”

Namjoon draws back just enough to meet him face-to-face. His hair is a little sweaty, but Namjoon strokes the short strands behind Jungkook’s ear. “You’ll want me to be.”

This proximity feels more intimate than a kiss, Jungkook thinks, and then Namjoon leans in to lock their lips and oh, he was wrong.

Jungkook clings to the collar of Namjoon’s t-shirt. He seeks out another kiss, eager and impatient, and Namjoon slows him down, he cups Jungkook’s nape, a thumb on his jaw to hold him back. Namjoon traces their lips together delicately, Jungkook wants him so much it’s dizzying. His tongue peeks out and he licks Namjoon’s mouth like a kitten, from the bottom lip up.

Namjoon pulls back, but he chuckles and that’s another squeeze around Jungkook’s ribs.

“I’ll turn the AC on,” Namjoon says.

“I’ll uh, get the food ready.”

“There’s soft drinks in the fridge. Don’t take any alcohol.” He pecks Jungkook’s temple once before he lets him go, moving to toggle at the central controls.

The fridge is more stocked than Jungkook expected. Kimchi, banchan, and cut watermelons in tupperwares, milk, eggs, some desserts. There are two cans of Guinness at the fridge door and a couple bottles of soju.

“My parents already let me drink, you know,” Jungkook tells him.

“I’m not your parents, I’m not letting you drink.”

“Fine,” Jungkook resigns. He wasn’t hoping Namjoon would let him, anyway. He takes out two bottles of ginger ale instead.

The modest dinner goes like the day’s been, friendly jokes and banters, Namjoon scolding him for eating a bit messy, getting sauce around his mouth and his fingers, as if his apartment isn’t the real mess here.

Truth be told Jungkook hasn’t said anything about this significant development in their relationship to anybody, not even Soo-eun. That middle-school kid sitting on the window-side table still lives inside Jungkook, forever afraid that his ideals will become real and thus disappear, so much that he becomes blunt and bold, pushing at boundaries because he can never wait and he never knows what to do.

Namjoon tells him to move to the sofa where it’s more comfortable and rest while Namjoon himself goes to clean up, wash the dishes that he’s been putting aside. Won’t be long, Namjoon says, the accumulated plates have to be a day old at least but he lives alone and it’s less than what Jungkook has to wash after dinner at home daily.

The sliding panels dividing the living space and bedroom look heavy, Jungkook leaves them open as he steps into what must be the threshold of the bedroom.

“Your clothes are all over the sofa,” he calls for Namjoon over the running tap.

“Just throw them on the bed!” Namjoon yells back. “I’ll decide which ones are clean and which ones are dirty.”

“Faster you wash them than decide.”

“What?” The teasing goes inaudible over the water and Jungkook just smiles to himself.

“Nothing!”

“I’ll get you later, brat!” Namjoon swears and Jungkook laughs.

It tingles somewhere under his skin. Jungkook is… nervous. Maybe. Definitely. He doesn’t know where this night will go but he knows that the last thing he wants is to go home. To calm his nerves, he picks up Namjoon’s t-shirts one by one and folds them before he places them on the bed.

The bed is big. Queen-sized.

Like the entire place, it’s a mess, too. The comforter is rumpled and tossed to the side, dented pillows piled haphazardly.

Even in the mess, however, the room isn’t dirty per se. The floor is clean, and it smells faintly like lotion and linen, reminding Jungkook of how his own room would smell after Namjoon left, something he wants to linger on his skin and carry him to sleep.

“Hey.” Namjoon walks in just when Jungkook’s settled on the sofa, phone browser opened. “You didn’t need to fold them.”

Jungkook locks his phone. He puts them on his lap and he notices he’s sitting with his thighs closed, his spine stiff. “I got bored.”

“You’re cute,” Namjoon says again. It’s a loveseat more than a sofa, figures somebody living alone won’t need anything much bigger, and Namjoon’s knee brushes against his when he sits down.

“Hyung,” Jungkook calls.

“Hm?” The innocence is all pretense, Jungkook pouts.

“Come closer.”

“There’s no more space.”

Hyung,” he whines and Namjoon dares to chuckle. But that’s forgiven, because the next thing he does is put his arm on the spine of the sofa behind Jungkook.

Tentatively, Jungkook reaches out first. He curls his hand around Namjoon’s wrist and although Namjoon rustles slightly under the touch, he reciprocates, lifting his other hand onto Jungkook’s shoulder, close to the crook of his neck. The temperature makes Jungkook shiver.

“Sorry,” Namjoon says, but he keeps his hand where it is. “Just washed the dishes. Cold?”

“Feels good.” It’s been sweltering outside and even if the aircon is on, the coolness is welcome. Unconsciously, Jungkook purrs. He only catches on when he sees Namjoon blush. It makes him blush, too.

“Hyung,” he calls again, and that’s the switch that finally starts Namjoon up. The hand on Jungkook’s shoulder slides up to the side of his neck, Namjoon kisses him.

Maybe it’s the newness of the whole thing, but Jungkook swears he melts every time. He’s putty under Namjoon’s touch and he can’t explain how much he craves that feeling. Namjoon parts his lips and Jungkook’s mouth opens along willingly, until Namjoon’s tongue swipes his lower lip and all of a sudden he remembers something, drawing back with a wince.

Namjoon is understandably surprised, but Jungkook covers Namjoon’s hand on his neck with his.

“I don’t—I don’t taste like chicken, right?”

Namjoon laughs, relieved. “Do I?” he returns the question.

Jungkook shakes his head. “The ginger ale washed it off.”

“Same goes for you, then.”

“You sure?”

“Want me to make sure?” He’s a tease and Jungkook pouts too much. The pouting trick’s foolproof though, so Jungkook guesses it’s fine. Namjoon kisses him again, something short and brief but has his chest fluttering all the same. “Ginger ale,” Namjoon assures, tapping Jungkook’s cheek.

Jungkook scrunches his nose. He decides to be as insufferable and pokes Namjoon’s dimple. “Good.”

“Do you want to watch a movie?” Namjoon asks.

A movie is two hours long. It’s almost nine. “Can’t you take me to bed?”

Namjoon’s hand on Jungkook’s neck leaves and rests on the back of the sofa instead. “It’s unmade.”

Anyone can see that’s a shitty excuse from a mile away. “So?”

“If you want to make out we can do that here.”

“I want to do more than make out.”

Namjoon blinks. Jungkook knows him enough to know that a sigh is rising up Namjoon’s throat, and Jungkook restrains his urge to roll his eyes. Come on, why are they even here if not for more? He pins Namjoon’s shoulder against the sofa and climbs on top of his lap.

Last time it worked like a charm. This time is no different, apparently. Namjoon thaws underneath him. Easy, easy. Be home by ten. Jungkook throws all of his inhibitions out of the window. He’s new, he’s clumsy, he doesn’t care, he licks Namjoon’s lips open, tasting that tongue. Not ten. Midnight. He’s got his phone on silent, it’s fine.

“Jungkook—”

“I want,” Jungkook presses. The sigh slips out of Namjoon, he holds onto the small of Jungkook’s back. They spent the whole afternoon out, Jungkook’s shirt is cool from the sweat. “I can shower if you want me to.”

Another sigh. Namjoon peels Jungkook’s arm away from around his neck. “No.”

“No?”

“We can’t.”

“Why?”

Namjoon huffs now. “You know we can’t.”

Know what? He thought they were over this. They had that phone call, Namjoon’s kissed him for god’s sake. Lines have been crossed. There were no lines to begin with, Namjoon imposed them by himself.

“I don’t know,” Jungkook says petulantly.

“You’re—” No, Jungkook doesn’t want to hear that. He’s not a kid. His teachers have been telling him that, his parents, his brother, you’re not a kid anymore Jungkook, you gotta know what you want.

He does. He knows what he wants.

He rolls his hips downward daringly and Namjoon scrambles for purchase. His grip on Jungkook’s waist tightens and without meaning to, Jungkook moans. The effect is instant. He feels it, they’re so close to each other, Namjoon wants this, too.

“Hyung,” Jungkook seeks him out. His nerve endings are alight with good good good and he falls onto his palm on Namjoon’s knee, the angle grinds their crotches up against each other’s. Namjoon is hot and heavy under him, and Jungkook’s mind goes deliriously blank.

Namjoon’s voice winds. They’re not even moving but Namjoon is still growing. “Jungkook, stop—”

“But you’re—” You’re hard, you want me, why won’t you admit that?

Namjoon moves his hand onto Jungkook’s arm for better leverage but Jungkook’s wearing a sleeveless and the contact with his bare skin shoots a bolt of lightning down Jungkook’s veins. His balance on Namjoon’s knee wavers, Namjoon is numbingly hard under him. This is crazy, how much Jungkook wants him.

“That’s it.” Manners won’t do anymore. With strength he’s been holding back, Namjoon flips their position, pinning Jungkook flat on the sofa cushions. Jungkook startles. Is he always this strong? “Go home.”

“I don’t—”

“It’s late, go home.”

Thorned ropes twist in Jungkook’s guts. Why? He doesn’t understand. Namjoon clearly wants him and Jungkook wants this, too. Nothing needs to be this difficult.

Jungkook’s face burns with shame and he shoves Namjoon off him. If Namjoon wants him to leave then he will. He sees Namjoon clench his jaw and Jungkook whips his head away.

They don’t talk. Jungkook only brought a drawstring backpack with him and he yanks that off the floor, making a beeline for the front door.

Go after me, go after me—and Namjoon does, but not for anything that matters. Jungkook has his shoes laced when Namjoon catches up to him.

Namjoon’s expression is stern. A mirror of the adults in Jungkook’s life. You’re not a kid anymore you’re still a kid you’re not a kid anymore—make up your fucking mind.

Namjoon has a windbreaker slung over his arm.

“It rained,” Namjoon says flatly.

Jungkook snatches the windbreaker from him and walks out the door.

 

 

The term ‘walk of shame’ is a foreign concept for him, but walking off his hard-on at nine p.m. positively tops whatever correct definition it should have.

The stupid erection deflates before he turns onto the main road to get into the metro station, which is good, considering public decency.

When did it rain? The streets are puddled and wet. Soggy. The air sinks that way. Heavy with moisture. The back of his neck is hot and his palms are sweaty. The thorns in his belly crawls, pricking his fingertips. He doesn’t want to think of Namjoon, and it isn’t cold, but he wears the windbreaker and it warms him.

Why did the rain stop?

He’s home by five minutes before ten. His mom opens the door for him.

“Whose jacket is that?” She asks while he returns his shoes on the rack.

“Minho’s.”

“I thought you went with Dongseop?”

“We’re a set,” Jungkook covers. “Mom, can you draw the bath for me?”

Sweat sticks to his back. His mom doesn’t say what she sees. “Sure.”

 

 

Namjoon texted him.

Right before he takes that bath, text me when you’re home. Jungkook chucks his phone onto his bed. He’s halfway down the hallway when he huffs and goes back to his room. Like a loser, he enters the wrong pin three times, types out home, sends.

He doesn’t think of a reply in the bath. Steam fogs the tiles, his exhales damp. Jungkook’s hand sneaks to the inside of his thigh, where the skin is warmest from Namjoon’s stubborn weight. He slides down the tub and submerges his head in the water.

He doesn’t think of a reply. He doesn’t. There’s none.

 

 

School starts that Monday. Jungkook hates their summer uniform, it cuts his figure where he lacks. Skimpy. They have to tuck their shirts and Jihoon likes to squeeze his waist from behind, blowing raspberry on his ear with a corset today, doryeon-nim?

It’s not that small. Well, he has to punch extra holes into his belt but that’s normal, okay?

Homeroom hasn’t even begun and Jihoon’s already on his shit, dragging Jungkook onto his lap. They’re a closeted bunch but the class is used to their skinship, especially from Jihoon.

“Moody today, doryeon-nim?” Jihoon teases. His spit lands on Jungkook’s earlobe and Jungkook bristles. He hand-chops the side of Jihoon’s neck, the boy chokes. Good.

Bending over Jungkook’s desk, Minho pokes Jungkook’s forehead with the butt of his mechanical pencil. Irked even more, Jungkook swats his hand away, both Minho and Jihoon giggle.

“Cheer up, doryeon-nim.” Minho pinches the corner of Jungkook’s lips up.

“‘m tired,” Jungkook grumbles.

“Minho, leave him alone, Double Vision’s here,” Dongseop says. Soo-eun smacks Minho’s back. Their nicknamed teacher clears his throat and Minho promptly scrambles off Jungkook’s desk and returns to his own desk in front of Jungkook’s.

First day, first class. Their homeroom teacher distributes each of them their schedules. Midterms in late September, finals in October, then the CSAT in November. Their homeroom teacher teaches English, there will be a first test that very Thursday.

Here it is: purgatory in full-throttle.

By recess, Jungkook’s bad mood has transferred to the entire class, if not the entire grade. Now that summer’s ended, all they have until the New Year’s is a routine of textbooks and pencils and more Redbull.

Do university students get enough sleep? At what age do human beings stray from sleep cycles?

They have Maths on the period before lunch. As Jungkook flips through his notes, he catches a glimpse of red ink bleeding through a thin page.

The back of his neck heats up from last Saturday’s shame, and so do his thighs. Jungkook crosses his legs. Despite thorns and the pierce of his canines into the inside of his cheek, the scratch of the teacher’s marker on the whiteboard, the mouse-quiet tap-tapping of Minho’s heel, the flicks of his pages—every sound is endlessly Kim Namjoon.

Good thing I like your voice, chatterbox.

The lecture drowns out. Jungkook meets Dongseop’s eyes, who’s sitting on the seat diagonal to his. Jungkook opens his left palm and closes the fist of his right, making a key-opening gesture with it. Subtly, Dongseop cocks his head, understanding the sign, and returns to face the board.

Under his desk, Jungkook types out a message with his left hand.

 

Kang Soo-eun, Cha Minho, Lee Dongseop, Je…(5)

 

me [11:54]:

roof lunch

will crack the lock w seoseop

@Lee Jihoon get my lunch i’ll pay later

Lee Jihoon [11:54]:

call me oppa

me [11:54]:

oppa

Lee Jihoon [11:54]:

yissss

 

On his periphery, Jungkook sees Soo-eun roll her eyes and stifles a laugh himself.

The bell rings at ten past twelve and Jihoon, Soo-eun, and Minho heads out to buy their lunch at the cafeteria while Jungkook follows Dongseop to the emergency staircase. Dongseop’s the quiet type. They chat about music as the topic floats on the top of their heads. Dongseop takes out a bobby pin from his wallet, bends it skewed, and gets to work with the lock.

This must be their fifth time breaking it, yet the janitors keep buying the same cheap lock. Dongseop barely takes 30 seconds with this one.

The door closes. They sit by the shade and Jungkook hugs his knees.

He doesn’t have to talk with Dongseop, quiet’s just as comfy with him, but he isn’t as transparent as he thought, because Dongseop sends the group his lunch order, locks his phone, and asks Jungkook, “What’s wrong?”

Jungkook frowns. “Nothing.”

“Okay.”

“Ugh,” Jungkook grumbles for the umpteenth time that day. “Walk home with me today.”

Dongseop bites a smile. “‘Course.”

 

 

There’s a lot to unpack. Jungkook hits the buzzer on the bus two stops early and Dongseop doesn’t ask any questions, Jungkook likes him that way.

“So?” Dongseop gives him the floor once they’ve turned to the neighbourhood roads.

“I got turned down for sex last Saturday.”

Dongseop squints at him. Jungkook pouts and he shakes his head in disbelief. “Don’t bother organizing your thoughts,” Dongseop says.

With conscience, he chooses Dongseop and not Soo-eun because Dongseop sobers him up while Soo-eun just reels out the crybaby in him, and crying isn’t what he needs right now, he already feels sorry enough.

He rants while Dongseop nods. He talks about tutoring and then June, and July, and then summer break. He skims through that, more like, and drops the bomb about last Saturday.

Dongseop doesn’t offer any advice or any consolation. “He sounds conflicted,” that’s all Dongseop says, and it’s the best thing to hear because it’s the truth.

Kim Namjoon is one conflicted son of a bitch.

On the intersection of the street to Jungkook’s house, by some coincidence, they chance upon Namjoon on the other side of the road. Jungkook’s expression sours and Dongseop is sharp enough to catch on. He bows his head politely to Namjoon, taps Jungkook’s arm, and then excuses himself to the left turn of the streets.

The way to his house is actually the way they came from, but given that Jungkook’s house is to the right, Namjoon is ahead, and walking backwards would look awkward, the left it is, then.

Namjoon stops in his tracks and Jungkook grits his jaw. If only they suck it up and walk the rest of the way to Jungkook’s place together, they’d arrive at the same time, but of course they don’t choose to do that. Jungkook goes home first, announces I’m home to his mom in the kitchen, places his shoes on the rack, and climbs up to his room.

In his room he slams his backpack onto the floor. Midterms September, finals October, CSAT November.

Kim Namjoon.

He sounds conflicted. Damn fucking right he is.

Jungkook dumps his study materials on the desk. The clear file he stashes all his homeroom materials into bends into a wonky shape and his papers are all crumpled now.

What are they supposed to do now? Replay their post-kiss, tip-toe around each other again? What does Namjoon even want?

(Not him, that’s for sure.)

Somebody knocks on the door.

Is Jungkook not allowed, for a fucking second, to take a breather?

Swallowing a groan, he goes to open the door. No surprise, Namjoon is on the other side with another tray of iced tea Jungkook’s mom prepared. Jungkook doesn’t bother to even glance at Namjoon’s face anymore.

Even so, Namjoon’s presence is a weight he can’t ignore. Namjoon sets the tray aside and sits beside him, the same distance as he always does yet too close for comfort now. Their knees bump and heat flares on the inside of Jungkook’s thighs, he squirms.

“What did they tell you to focus on?” Namjoon begins. Like nothing happened, all over again.

Jungkook slides out his schedule papers from his folded clear file. Namjoon presses the lines with his thumb to smoothen the creases.

“Busy, huh?” Namjoon says. Jungkook ignores him. If Namjoon is bothered by the pause, he doesn’t mention it. “Okay, let’s start with Maths, then, since you have a test this Wednesday.”

Whatever. Jungkook takes out his Maths textbook and notes from the pile, and Namjoon double-checks the test materials to sort their revision plan.

“Do you want to go over your formulas?” Namjoon asks, marking the pages Jungkook needs to focus on with post-its.

“No.”

“Let’s start with this exercise, then.” He slides the workbook back to Jungkook, and Jungkook starts reading the questions immediately to recall which pages of his notes have the formulas down. “Oh yeah,” Namjoon says. A plastic bottle is placed down the desk. “Gums.”

Jungkook doesn’t process it entirely, what snapped in him exactly, but the next second he’s tugging Namjoon down by his shirt collar, kissing him breathless.

It startles Namjoon, who tenses but doesn’t push Jungkook away. He lets Jungkook lead the kiss, only helping by cradling Jungkook’s skull when Jungkook licks inside his mouth.

“Slow—”

Jungkook yanks him closer. “Don’t pretend.”

“Okay,” Namjoon breathes out. They kiss until their lips are slick with spit and Namjoon’s swell from the graze of Jungkook’s canines on them, and Namjoon pulls back, lines their forehead and the tip of their noses together because god knows they need to breathe.

“I can’t study like this,” Jungkook whimpers.

“You have a test on Wednesday.”

“It’s just a recap.” Jungkook closes their distance once more, this time the kiss is chaste. Namjoon kisses back but he won’t go forward. “Why can’t we?”

“You’re not ready.”

“You don’t get to decide that.”

“Jungkook.” Namjoon strokes Jungkook’s cheekbone with his thumb. “Open your eyes. Look at me.”

Jungkook sniffles. He opens his eyes, only realizes then that he’s ever closed it in the first place. It’s not fair, Namjoon is so pretty. He knows so much and he’s supposed to teach Jungkook. Why doesn’t Namjoon want him more?

“You scare me,” Namjoon confesses. What’s there to be scared of? It’s warm, he leans into Namjoon’s touch. “I’m pretty sure I’m not even supposed to be kissing you.”

Jungkook wonders if Namjoon plays instruments, the pads of his fingers are calloused, yet Jungkook doesn’t want them to ever leave his skin. “I’m not a kid,” Jungkook challenges.

“I know.” Namjoon admits. “But you’re not an adult either.”

“You can make me one, can you?”

Namjoon retracts, but Jungkook catches Namjoon’s hand midway and guides it to his waist. Jihoon likes it, Namjoon will, too, won’t he?

Namjoon slumps in defeat. “Stop making me sound like a goddamn predator.”

“But I want you to eat me up.”

“Don’t—don’t say that.”

Namjoon’s averting his gaze now and Jungkook will have none of that. He places his palm on Namjoon’s thigh, fingers curling in as the muscle twitches.

September is soon. “I’m turning 20 this Thursday. Do you want to wait until then?”

“It’s not about your age—”

He’s got the leverage here. Jungkook slides his hand higher up Namjoon’s thigh. “What is it about then?”

“It’s about—” Namjoon hiccups. Jungkook looks at him through his eyelashes and Namjoon whisks his head away again. “It’s that you’re still in school, Kook-ah. It’s that your parents hired me to tutor you and not—not to—”

“Not to?”

Namjoon squirms. “Jungkook, please.”

Satisfied by the reaction, Jungkook stands up, leaving Namjoon there dazed. “I want to study on the bed,” he says, without room for compromise.

While Namjoon stays frozen, Jungkook gathers his study materials and moves to the bed, setting his notes down on the mattress. He makes himself comfortable by the pillows and watches Namjoon rub his nape, sigh, and finally stand to follow him.

No longer as timid, Namjoon is exasperated enough this time to be bolder, joining Jungkook by the pillows instead of keeping his distance. It’s what Jungkook wants but his heartbeat stutters, that stubborn squeeze again.

“If you get below 90% on your Wednesday test we’re not studying on the bed ever again,” Namjoon says.

“That’s unfair.”

“That’s bare minimum,” Namjoon strictens. “Now go finish your exercise, I’ll make some harder ones for you in the meantime.”

Jungkook pouts, he catches Namjoon blinking twice in succession at it, good, still effective, then. “I won’t study if we don’t do it.”

“Do what?”

Um. Jungkook clams up. “I—”

“If you can’t even say it that means you aren’t ready.”

It doesn’t work like that. Jungkook’s hands close into fists. He’s not good with words, they don’t use words in books or movies, people just… do it.

Right. It’s better to just do it. Jungkook shifts to straddle Namjoon, and Namjoon still reacts, but he’s more ready for it after every impulsive action Jungkook’s pulled.

Namjoon’s arms wrap around his waist. Like Jihoon’s, they dwarf Jungkook’s waist, but at the same time it’s unlike Jihoon. Jungkook isn’t this strung taut with Jihoon. Flustered, he rests his hands on Namjoon’s shoulders, tripping over his words. “I-I want to—make you feel good.”

“Tell me how.”

“Hyung.”

Namjoon hooks a finger around the belt loop of Jungkook’s uniform trousers. “You better finish your exercise after this,” he resigns. Namjoon dips a thumb under the waistband and Jungkook looks down to realize that he’s hard.

Namjoon asks, “Can you be quiet?”

Are they—are they doing it? “I c-can, I will.”

“Do you have any lotion?” Fuck.

“It’s uh—um, in the bathroom, do you want me to—”

“Go get it.”

“No, let’s—” Before he processes any thought, Jungkook grabs Namjoon’s hand and licks a wet strip across Namjoon’s palm.

“God.” Namjoon holds back a flinch. “Can you—are you shy or are you not, can you make up your mind?”

“Sorry.”

With his dry hand, Namjoon brushes Jungkook’s bangs back. The aircon is on but he’s sweating already. “Don’t be. You’re not making any mistakes. Are you scared?”

“No.” That, he’s sure of, and that, Namjoon isn’t sure Jungkook is.

His erection lays embarrassingly stiff on Namjoon’s thigh, and he can feel Namjoon’s, too, a brand just as hot. Namjoon does him a favour and unbuttons the top-most button of his uniform shirt for him, and suddenly his exposed skin burns even more.

“You’ll get them dirty,” Namjoon explains. “Take them off.”

Red as a cherry, Jungkook unbuckles his belt to help out. His hands keep shaking, the tremors are negligible but they don’t escape Namjoon.

“Hey,” Namjoon says. He takes Jungkook’s hands in his. “Do you want this? Do you really want this?”

Jungkook wants to speak but his throat feels unbearably dry, so he nods. “I’m nervous.”

Namjoon smiles. It calms Jungkook down like a breeze. “I’m nervous, too.”

“You’re lying.”

“I am nervous.” Namjoon chuckles. “C’mere.” He tilts his head upward and kisses Jungkook. They’ve been doing this a lot, Jungkook’s muscle memory knows what to do already, he cups Namjoon’s face and feels Namjoon’s eyelashes brush his cheeks as the kiss deepens.

It takes his mind off it, when Namjoon unbuttons his trousers, but then the zipper slides down and the sound is so suggestively lewd. Jungkook draws back from the kiss without meaning to, heat rushing to his face. For a few seconds he sees that Namjoon’s ears are red, too, but Namjoon buries his face in the crook of Jungkook’s neck before he can see more of that.

Namjoon is really, really hard.

They have to do something, Jungkook’s mind is floaty. He can’t tell whether Namjoon does it first or if it’s him, but they both work to unbutton Jungkook’s shirt, all the way down. Without taking it off yet, Namjoon’s arms come to envelop his bare waist.

“Fuck,” Namjoon curses. “You’re so fucking small.”

“Is that—do you like it?”

“Take off your shirt,” Namjoon doesn’t answer him. Namjoon gives him room and Jungkook shrugs his shirt off his shoulders, tossing it to the floor. “Kook.”

“It’ll wrinkle less on the floor.”

“What does that even mean?”

Jungkook opens his mouth to explain and promptly decides against it, nothing will sound cohesive anyway. He must be pouting again because Namjoon laughs and kisses him. Really works each time, he should pout more.

“I’m gonna touch you now,” Namjoon says. Their faces are so close and Jungkook feels safer, less exposed. Namjoon tugs the waistband of his briefs, the side of his palm grazing Jungkook’s dick. A ghost of a touch yet Jungkook is tensing already, much too responsive than he’s supposed to be.

“It’s okay.” Namjoon soothes him, wrapping his hand loosely around Jungkook’s cock to pull it out. “I’m here, it’s okay.”

“I—” Jungkook loses the words. “Ah.”

Keeping an arm hugging Jungkook’s waist, Namjoon lets go of his cock to lift his palm up. “Spit on my hand.”

Jungkook nods. He grabs Namjoon’s wrist, gathering saliva in his mouth before he spits it out on Namjoon’s open palm. Wet strings of it stick to his tongue and Jungkook licks up Namjoon’s fingers, not keen to waste any.

When he looks up, Namjoon is staring at his hand in awe. “You’re going to end me someday.”

“Mmn.” He’s not sure what sound that was. Namjoon leans in and licks below the corner of Jungkook’s lips before kissing him, and Jungkook realizes it’s because he drooled and Namjoon is cleaning it up for him.

It happens all so fast. Namjoon’s grip is back on his dick and the new slickness of it reels out a moan from Jungkook, who immediately slaps his own hand to cover his mouth.

“Quiet,” Namjoon shushes him.

Not talking will be better. Jungkook nods again. He never had anybody else touching him there, it’s only been himself and he didn’t think it’d be this sensitive, Namjoon’s hand is so big.

It’s wet, too. His spit warms as Namjoon slicks him up. “Feels good?” Namjoon’s voice sounds thick.

“Y-yes.”

“Look at me.” Namjoon seeks him out. His waistband gets in the way of each stroke, and Namjoon stretches it down past his balls. It’s not uncomfortable, but the elastic digs under them and Jungkook gasps. “Look at me,” Namjoon repeats. He can do this, he keeps his eyes level with Namjoon’s. “You’re doing so good.”

“H—hn.” What does he want to even say? Jungkook hiccups, embarrassed.

Gracious, Namjoon only smiles again. “You’re cute,” he says. The fist around Jungkook’s cock tightens. With every upward stroke, Jungkook’s foreskin blankets his cockhead and it unsheates again with every downward stroke. It always looks like that but right now it’s too obscene. Is he always this pink?

“Jungkook.” Namjoon squeezes his waist.

“Uh?”

Right when he’s gotten Jungkook’s attention, Namjoon twists his wrist and Jungkook hics again. “Cute,” Namjoon repeats with a chuckle. “Pretty.”

“M-me?”

“Yeah.” A thumb teases his foreskin, tugging it past the flare of his cockhead even during an upward stroke. “Your cock, too.”

Jungkook’s hips jump. Fuck.

“Big word?” Namjoon teases him. If everything isn’t so overwhelming, Jungkook would’ve kicked him, but all Jungkook can manage now is furrowed eyebrows.

It’s not a big word. It’s part of Jihoon and Minho’s daily vocabulary and it’s the only word Jungkook can say while playing games most nights. “No.”

“Say it to me, then. Where do you feel good, Kook?”

“P-please, hyung.”

“Where am I touching you?”

Shit, he’s leaking. It’s coming out, drooling out of his slit and onto the fold of his foreskin. “My uh—” it’s not a big word, it’s not a big word. “My cock.”

Namjoon’s fingertips catch on his pubic hair on purpose, god, Jungkook feels his balls squeeze. “Good. You’re not a kid anymore, are you?”

“No.”

The pace picks up. His hips are bucking along with Namjoon’s hand and Namjoon lets him, even if that means Jungkook’s thigh keeps rubbing against the tent Namjoon has in his pants. “Are you an adult, Kook-ah?”

“No.” He’s biting his lip and Namjoon stops him with a kiss again. Wet, as wet as his cock, Namjoon is drinking him up. “H-hyung, I can’t—won’t last.”

Namjoon doesn’t change his pace. He only grabs Jungkook’s waist tighter as he nuzzles Jungkook’s neck. “It’s okay. Do you want to come?”

“Ah, please—” Everything’s insane. If he was doing this to himself he would’ve sped up, chasing that peak. Namjoon isn’t doing any of that and yet Jungkook is inching dangerously toward that edge faster than he’s ever been in his life. “Hyung, I’m—I think I’m—”

It’s a whole other sensation. Jungkook feels his sight lose focus first, hazed up, his belly feels so tight, his thighs, too, his balls. He looks down to where his dick is fucking Namjoon’s fist and he’s coming, oh, he’s coming. It dribbles out of his slit down to Namjoon’s fingers and knuckles, some slipping under his foreskin as Namjoon pushes it up.

“That’s it, that’s it,” Namjoon leads him. “So quiet for me. Good boy.”

Jungkook clings to Namjoon’s arms. In this angle some of his come shoots on his bare stomach but thankfully, not Namjoon’s shirt. His consciousness is lofty and he feels as light as cotton on Namjoon’s lap. Is it because it was the first time someone ever touched him that way? Or is it simply because it was Namjoon?

Namjoon rubs the small of his back as he comes down. Jungkook gulps. “Was that too fast?”

“No. Don’t worry.” Namjoon lets go of his softening cock slowly. The loss of touch is cold and Namjoon seems to understand that, caressing Jungkook’s cock with his knuckles. “You were cute. So cute, believe me.”

With his own taken care of, Jungkook is only more aware of how hard Namjoon is under him. He shifts, it feels like so much. “Hyung, you?”

“Oh. It’s okay, it’ll come down.”

“But I—”

Namjoon pats his flank. “You need to do your exercises.”

“I can—if you—”

“Do you have a tissue?” Namjoon ignores him. “You have to clean up.”

Is he serious? Jungkook’s not fully lucid yet. Namjoon spots a tissue box on the desk and pats Jungkook’s flank once more to get Jungkook to climb off him, and dumbly, Jungkook follows.

He doesn’t understand what’s going on. Namjoon walks up to the desk like he’s not hard as a rock, soberly wipes his hand with a tissue, and brings the box back to the bed, picking up Jungkook’s discarded shirt on the floor along the way. He wipes up Jungkook’s tummy and tucks him back in, all the while Jungkook’s staring at his erection because it’s there, right? It is. It’s all up their faces, why isn’t Namjoon taking care of it?

“Go wash up.” Namjoon zips him up.

“Hyung?”

“I’ll give you a ten-minute breather before you have to start that exercise.”

Jungkook frowns, but Namjoon starts buttoning Jungkook’s shirt, gets the order all wrong, and laughs when Jungkook swats his hand away to do it himself. Namjoon gives him a peck on his temple and then moves off the bed himself to sift through Jungkook’s schedules on the desk.

And there’s really… nothing Jungkook can do. There is, there should be, but he’s fogged up from his orgasm and maybe he’s… scared?

Not sure.

He listens to Namjoon anyway. He goes wash up with a damp towel in the bathroom, splashes some water on his face. Warm. Squishing his cheeks in front of the mirror, he registers that he looks drunk. Feels drunk.

Namjoon goes next after he comes back into his room. He thought Namjoon would do something about it in the bathroom, but he only washes his hand and it’s still there when he comes back less than a minute later. Makes sense, it would be rather impolite to take care of it in somebody else’s house, Jungkook supposes.

But Jungkook’s there isn’t he? He can help.

“Don’t fall asleep,” Namjoon says. “I’ll go over your History materials, that’s Thursday, right?” Jungkook nods. “Good. I’ll be on the desk. We have an hour-ish left. Rule still stands: if you don’t finish all your exercises before then, I won’t let you study on the bed on Wednesday.”

Jungkook sulks. “I thought that was if I don’t get 90%?”

“If you don’t get 90%, it’s no bed forever.”

Jungkook tosses his head back on the pillows and groans. “No fair.”

“Better finish them, then.”

“Ten-minute breather?”

“You got seven left.”

So an orgasm before having to complete Maths practice problems might not be the brightest idea. Jungkook is almost afraid Namjoon’s set a timer or something, but he’s not that tacky and he simply returns to the bed when Jungkook’s seven minutes are up. He makes himself comfortable on the other end of the bed again, and Jungkook takes a peek at his crotch to see that yes, Namjoon’s gone down.

The fuck. Is he a monk?

While Jungkook works through his exercises, Namjoon prepares new practice problems for him and tells him to finish it by tomorrow, he’ll send the answers via Ka-talk. Jungkook’s gotten a bit rusty after the long break and Namjoon has to give him a refresher on some formulas.

With that help, Jungkook manages to finish the exercises, so he secures his study-in-bed rights for Wednesday, at the very least.

Namjoon collects his belongings once they wrap up, and Jungkook remembers to return the windbreaker Namjoon lent him.

“Was it cold?” Namjoon asks, bunching the windbreaker arbitrarily to fit inside his bag.

“No.”

“Oh, so you didn’t wear it?”

“No, I wore it,” Jungkook says and he’s supposed to have the upper hand here, but Namjoon smiles at him fondly and it’s Jungkook who loses, blushing like the schoolboy that he is.

Namjoon zips up his bag. He pops the cap of the plastic bottle of xylitol on the desk and has a piece of gum for himself. “See you Wednesday,” he says, about to head for the door. Jungkook stares him down with a pout. “What?” Namjoon snickers.

He intensifies his pout on purpose, and Namjoon’s not dense, snickering even more.

“I’m chewing gum,” Namjoon says.

“Hyung.”

“Okay, okay. Spoiled.” Namjoon steps into his space. He tips Jungkook’s chin up and kisses him, and Jungkook has a strange thought about everything coming into full circle. Minty, minty-mint.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, Jungkook can’t sleep that night. He takes a bath again and his mom shoves a cup of yuja sorbet at him after he goes out to cool down.

“Haven’t you been taking too many baths lately?” His mom gives him the spoon, too.

“Do you know big companies waste an exponentially greater volume of water than households can possibly do?”

“Do you know who’s paying our water bill?”

Jungkook stuffs his mouth with the spoon.

He curls up in bed with the lights all out and wonders how many people are doing the same thing he’s doing right now, there seems to be something inherently human about lying under the covers in the dark.

He can’t stop thinking of Namjoon’s bulge.

His shorts were a bit baggy, and Jungkook couldn’t really gauge its size or shape, just that it was a lot, hot where it touches Jungkook’s thigh.

He’s turning 20 this Thursday. Legal age, if that means anything because his parents obviously don’t care, already letting him have soju during some dinners and egging him to get a license.

Namjoon cares too much.

Jungkook tosses and turns again, trying to find a good tangle in the sheets that would rest his legs perfectly. He unlocks his phone and opens up an incognito tab on his browser app. He swallows his saliva, can’t believe he’s really doing this, but he types out how to prepare for gay sex.

The results come up and he locks his phone in an instant. Namjoon’s voice rings in him, that means you aren’t ready. No, Namjoon doesn’t know anything.

Breathe in, breathe out. It’s not embarrassing. It’s not a big word.

He goes on several different websites and is relieved to find out that they all say roughly the same thing. Be comfortable, do what feels right for you. Namjoon feels right for him. Being on Namjoon’s lap, in his arms, it feels like he’s afloat yet anchored. It’s not a big deal, the websites say. He hopes Namjoon stops thinking it is.

 

 

On Wednesday they don’t do anything except study, which Jungkook’s parents pay Namjoon to do in the first place.

Jungkook doesn’t really have any qualms. There’s a History test on Friday and Namjoon has him go through Jungkook’s flashcards, then they work through an English listening practice. In the last 20 minutes once they’re done with everything, they watch an undubbed Spongebob episode without subtitles on Jungkook’s iPad, because Namjoon says Spongebob uses difficult yet practical words.

Jungkook snuggles closer to Namjoon’s neck, Namjoon laughs and strokes his hair every time Spongebob calls for Mr Krabs and Jungkook mimics him.

When Namjoon has left, even when Jungkook is already turning down for the night, his sheets smell like lotion and linen, the way Namjoon’s room smells.

 

 

 

september

 

For his birthday, Jihoon, Minho, Soo-eun, and Dongseop pitch in to buy two whole cakes from Tous le Jours for the class to share. They sing happy birthday to him and make a racket and have fifteen minutes of fun as they ignore the schedules breathing down their necks.

Jihoon slaps a wet kiss on his left cheek and then Minho on the right because no homo, guys. Classic diversion tactic.

At lunch they have their meals of sweet bread and fruit-flavoured milk on the rooftop again, making the most of it before the janitor gets a new lock. There’s not exactly much time to relax, the History test is tomorrow and while Jungkook got to go home and revise, the rest of them had cram school until nine p.m. studying everything else but History and would only get home by ten p.m.

In that perspective, his parents had a solid point about ‘effective studying’ and hiring a tutor.

For camaraderie’s sake Jungkook revises their History materials with them. He flicks to the last filled page of his notebook and finds pencilled writing where his own notes end.

 

Turn the page over.

(But in case it’s still Wednesday, stop here.)

 

His chest pulses. Fills, tightens. His ears grow hot and he instinctively reaches to rub the back of his earlobe, but the heat spreads to his jaw and his neck and then everywhere at once.

Jungkook turns the page.

He’s met with a pastel pink. A sticker of a cartoon rabbit with a birthday hat. It weighted the page just a tad noticeably, and he felt rather silly for letting it go unnoticed, there must at least be a silhouette of it on the previous page.

Next to the rabbit, there’s more writing. Pink ink.

 

Happy birthday, bunny.

 

“Holy shit,” Minho swears.

Jungkook jolts, slamming his notebook close. “What the—”

“No, I’m asking you what the fuck,” Minho counters. Jungkook has stars in the corners of his eyesight from the whiplash and Minho seizes the advantage to snatch his notebook off of his hand.

“Yah!”

“Hold him down!” Minho shrieks and Jihoon’s already trapping Jungkook down with a loyal set of arms around his waist without the need of direction.

Jungkook trashes but to be frank, Jihoon is one hulking mass of a boy and he’s got Jungkook by his weak spot.

All of them except for Jungkook and Minho are staring wide-eyed at the spectacle, Minho flicking through Jungkook’s English notes.

Minho,” Jungkook snarls.

“Holy fuck holy fuck,” Minho completely disregards him.

“Hey what’s going on?” As Jihoon asks, Minho shows out the open page to him. “Happy birth—oh holy shit.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes so far back he might just have rendered them irreversible. As nonchalant as they’d like to pretend, Soo-eun and Dongseop are nosy high school kids, too, and they poke their heads in. When Minho turns the notebook their way, Soo-eun goes powder-blush red and Dongseop flattens his lips.

They fall into a gauche silence suddenly. They never do that, they’re always loud. Jungkook fidgets under the attention and Minho closes the notebook, putting it down on the floor as he lies back on his palms, sighing.

“You don’t go to cram school, you get a tutor, you date that tutor,” Minho rambles. “It’s not fair, your life is so fucking fun.”

Jihoon pinches his waist. “You got a picture?”

“How far have you gone?” Minho follows.

“Do you ‘study’ or study ‘study’?”

“Guys, cut him some slack,” Soo-eun intervenes.

Migraine. That time he drank three Red Bulls within an hour? This piercing headache is way worse than that. His friends seem eager for him to spill his beans, if that’s not an understatement, they’re all thirsty for distraction from this societally imposed cramming.

Jungkook grabs his notebook back and places it on his lap. He forgets where he starts the story but he thinks he’s covered all necessary bases as he flicks the corner of his notebook pages.

As expected from Minho and Jihoon, the whole thing goes through more like a Q&A section rather than a proper talk.

He’s as red as a boiled crab when it’s all over. Soo-eun passes him her strawberry milk to cool down.

“You’re dating your tutor, huh?” is Minho’s takeaway.

Soo-eun says he can finish the milk, so he sucks on the straw until the box hollows. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know, it’s a yes or no question.”

“I mean I don’t know!”

Jihoon jumps on the bandwagon. “He called you bunny, Jungkook! You kissed him! He gave you a handjob!”

It’s not a big word but Jungkook squirms. “Not so loud!” Jungkook warns.

“Handjob!” Jihoon reiterates with vigor, hand gesture added in.

“Jihoon, shut up!” Soo-eun scolds. In hers and Jungkook’s defence, even if it’s not a big word he’s pretty sure they’ll get a reprimand if any faculty member hears Jihoon screaming that word—they’ll get a reprimand being found here period, the rooftop is off limits. “So, are you dating him, Kook?”

Is there no more to this milk, it still sloshes. “I don’t know I… I just like him.”

“Does he know?”

Oh yeah, he skipped that part of the story. “Yeah I told him. Like, during summer break.”

“And what did he say?”

“That he… liked me, too?” Twice. Namjoon said it twice, he remembered. Or was it three times? The point is that Namjoon said it.

“That means you’re dating, stupid!” Minho groans, throwing his own notebook at Jungkook, where it lands harmlessly on his arm and flops to the floor.

Jungkook squeezes the milk box dry. “Oh.”

He looks up and Dongseop is squinting at him again. Jihoon pets his hair and congratulates him for nabbing an older guy, and there’s a funny kind of wind in Jungkook’s chest. Light, but sinking. Are they dating, do they need a formal confession for that, what will change if the brand ‘boyfriend’ is attached?

This is his first everything and he feels as if he’s too old to not have done anything, that’s why he rushes, as if his birthday, his graduation are deadlines. He needs to do this, have everything done before this and that happen.

Before what happens? What will he lose if he waits?

Chance, perhaps. Everywhere he goes youth is exonerated as something reckless, and losing that chance scares him. And yet at the very same time, ‘reckless’, he thinks, is what Namjoon is scared of.

 

 

He’ll meet Namjoon after school at the bus stop near Namjoon’s place, where Namjoon will pick him up. Minho backhugs him and sways him side to side as Jihoon cooes about how our little boy is grown now.

Ridiculous. Jihoon’s birthday is in December.

Soo-eun, like any normal person, tells him to have fun. He would expect the same from Dongseop, who’s as rational, if not more.

But what turns out is that Dongseop feels particularly mercurial that day.

They take the same bus together since Dongseop doesn’t have cram school on Thursdays. They got their seats and Dongseop fishes out a decorative paper bag out of his backpack.

“Birthday present,” Dongseop says.

“Cool, thanks,” Jungkook says. “What is it?”

Dongseop shrugs. Suspicious, Jungkook narrows his eyes. He peeks inside the bag and sees a small, palm-sized tube.

Pink.

Oh.

Jungkook registers what’s written on the label and smacks Dongseop’s arm so hard Dongseop had to bury his face in Jungkook’s neck to stifle both wince and laughter.

Cherry fucking lube.

 

 

Dongseop’s stop is before they cross the Han, then the bus stops in Dongjak-gu and Namjoon is already waiting.

“I could’ve walked to your place by myself, you know,” Jungkook tells him.

Namjoon shakes his head. “That feels like crossing a boundary.”

Here they go again. Jungkook scrunches his nose but he lets Namjoon have his way. The walk’s not even long, a single block and they’re at Namjoon’s apartment lobby already. Nobody is in the halls, it’s a quaint three-storey. His knuckles brush against Namjoon as they climb up the stairs and Namjoon’s hand moves to hold his properly, their fingers interlocking.

First everything. Is this how those straight kids feel, who had coffee dates by fourteen years old, planetariums on the weekend? Living out movies and songs.

Namjoon guides him by the hand up the entryway, and Jungkook notices the change in his apartment right away.

“Did you clean up?” Jungkook asks, grinning.

“Don’t get too full of yourself,” says Namjoon. The effort’s palpable. All the dishes are washed and put aside, the kitchen counter is wiped clean, he even has flowers on a small vase on the dining table.

The panels to the bedroom are closed. Namjoon slides them open and Jungkook gets giddy from the lack of scattered laundry.

The bed is made, too, sheets tucked in and pillow wrinkles smoothened out. Jungkook appreciates it but he’s twenty now, so he takes the initiative and bypasses the sofa to sit on the bed.

Namjoon stares at him, and then shakes his head in disbelief. That’s right, Jungkook knows his way around already.

“What time do you have to be home?” Namjoon asks. There’s a box on the desk, Jungkook pretends to not have seen it when Namjoon picks it up.

“Ten,” he makes up a number. As far as his parents know, he’s with Dongseop.

“It’s a weekday.”

“I’m not lying. I’m twenty.”

“You’re nineteen in every other part of the world.” Namjoon sits down a respectable distance from him on the bed, which Jungkook has to admit, is a fair share frustrating and cute.

“I’ve been an adult in every other part of the world since last year, then.”

“Here.” He hands the box to Jungkook, ending their lighthearted banter.

Jungkook can’t imagine how he looks right now, grinning so wide his cheeks hurt. The present is wrapped in cardboard-coloured wrapping paper and a red string, dry flowers tucked under the knot.

“I got it done at a florist,” Namjoon tells him.

“It’s okay. I try not to expect too much from someone who can’t unwrap a gum wrapper.”

Namjoon laughs, he covers his mouth with his hand but his dimple is still visible and Jungkook really wants to kiss him there. He holds back. “Thank you, hyung.”

“You haven’t even opened it.”

“It’s too pretty.”

“Pretty things need to be opened,” Namjoon says, and the implication drifts off somewhere else that has them both blushing. Namjoon clears his throat and Jungkook occupies himself with the present on his lap.

The string unravels easily, and the flowers are too pretty to waste so Jungkook slips them inside his breast pocket, making Namjoon laugh again fondly. The wrapping tears neatly where it’s taped shut and Jungkook slides the box out of the opening.

It’s a polaroid camera.

“I don’t know if you have it already,” Namjoon rushes. “I’ve never seen one in your room.”

Jungkook traces his finger on the print on the box, a classic Fujifilm instax. “No, I, uh, I don’t have one.”

“That’s… that’s good.” The seal on the box is cut, it’s been opened once, which Jungkook supposes was to check for defects. Jungkook clicks open the cartridge. Namjoon tells him, “The film’s inside already, so you don’t need to, um—yeah.”

“Can I take a picture of you?”

“You want to?”

“Yeah.”

Namjoon shifts in his seat, he’s obvious when he’s nervous and it’s adorable. “Will the lighting be good enough?”

But to be honest Jungkook is nervous, too. “It will, it’s… good light, here. Yeah. Good.”

“Okay.”

Jungkook scoots away to get a better angle. Under the attention, Namjoon is stiff, so Jungkook peeks out his head to the side to stick out his tongue at Namjoon. One carefree laugh and the shutter clicks, a flash, the film rolling out.

“Let me take one of you, too,” Namjoon says without waiting for it to develop. “I know it’s your present but can I keep it?”

Too many butterflies might not be good for his health. Jungkook smiles nonetheless, high on the endorphins.

In the photo, he’s shy, too, like Namjoon is, and as their polaroids print out, lines boldening and colours seeping in, he can see that clearer. Both are of opened-eye smiles, shoulders that are drawn in. Jungkook puts the one with Namjoon between the pages of his notebook in his bag, and places the one with his own picture on the table.

Namjoon is still on his spot on the bed when Jungkook returns, opening his phone to answer a message. The Namjoon manual isn’t complicated, Jungkook just has to be assertive. He learns from his past attempts and this time he goes straight onto Namjoon’s lap.

“Whoa.” Namjoon yelps, nearly drops his phone. He holds onto Jungkook’s waist to balance him.

“Heavy?” Jungkook wraps his arms around Namjoon’s neck smugly, asking without intention to do anything about it.

“Kinda.”

Jungkook pouts. “I saw the notes.”

“Oh.”

“I’m bunny?”

“Uh-huh.” The phone is set aside on the mattress, Namjoon’s dimple shows again when he smiles and Jungkook’s finger finds its way into the dip. “Cutest bun on the planet,” Namjoon says. He takes Jungkook’s hand away from his dimple and Jungkook forgives him only because he’s kissed oh so very chastely the next moment.

Jungkook has kissed someone before Namjoon. Granted, it was Dongseop, all their other friends were there and it was a ‘never-been-kissed’ pity-party more than anything. They fumbled every step of the way as if they forgot which part of their limbs went where.

Jihoon and Minho made sure they got further than a peck, but even still, the this is it intimacy he sought for wasn’t there. A first kiss was exciting, but Dongseop was Dongseop. The rush in Jungkook’s lungs wasn’t the same.

Namjoon is different. He’s comfortable in his skin. He knows more, been through more. Older.

There’s a practice in the way his knuckles trace the line of Jungkook’s jaw. I like you, Jungkook says without speaking, as Namjoon kisses him again, closer, soft plump lips between Jungkook’s, I like this one I want this one this feels right.

This is it.

He loses his breath eventually, and Namjoon spares him, playfully mouthing Jungkook’s cheek instead, down to his jaw and his neck, where it strings Jungkook as tight.

“I still can’t believe I get to kiss you,” Namjoon says. There’s a reverence to his voice and Jungkook might be dreaming.

“You can do a lot of other things, too.”

“Like?” That’s cheating, he hates it when he’s shy and Namjoon’s not. “C’mon, you’re twenty now. Big boy.”

He plays with the short hair on Namjoon’s nape, fluttering to his fingertips. His voice is small but it’s something. “Touch me.”

“Huh,” Namjoon teases. “Where?”

“Like before.” If he keeps his eyes on Namjoon’s, it’s less frightening. He takes Namjoon’s hand and guides it low on his belly, where his uniform shirt is tucked into his trousers. “More like before, please?”

Which boundary is it this time? One moment Namjoon is pensive and the next he’s not. He’s not this time, so Jungkook tries not to think too much about how that philosophy works.

“I don’t have lube.” Namjoon says, unbuckling Jungkook’s belt without a clink.

“I do.”

“You what?”

“M-my uh, my friend bought me. Prank present.”

Namjoon stammers, too, if that’s any consolation. “Not—not today.”

But when, then? He’s twenty, legal age. They don’t have to study today and Jungkook’s prepared for this. “I got myself ready.”

“Fuck.” Namjoon presses his forehead to Jungkook’s clavicles. “Where is it?”

The belt slides out of the loops all the way and Jungkook blanks out. “Where’s what?”

“The lube, Jungkook.”

“Oh! It’s in my bag.”

Namjoon sighs. He flips their position until Jungkook’s back meets the mattress gently, only to climb off him. “I’ll get it. Undress.”

He asked for this, wants this. But fuck, he thinks he can hear his heartbeats between his ears. With the belt taken off, his trousers hang loose on his hips and he takes them off, covering his bare legs with Namjoon’s pillow.

“It’s cherry,” Namjoon says accusingly, having found it.

“I told you it was a prank present!”

“This one—” The bag rustles, Namjoon gives up on it. “I don’t want to waste this. Let’s just use mine, it’s the normal one.”

“You said you didn’t have any.”

“Obviously, that was a lie.”

On the bed Jungkook’s backed himself up against the headboard. Climbing in beside him, Namjoon opens up the top shelf of his nightstand and tosses a tube of lube on the bed.

It’s not that Jungkook’s never seen one before. He has one at home, a small 50 ml bottle with a press cap that he keeps in the drawer with all his old middle school textbooks his mom won’t ever check, but Namjoon’s is—not that.

“Thinking too loud,” Namjoon tuts. He knocks Jungkook’s temple with his finger, and when that catches his attention, combs Jungkook’s bangs back. “Scared?”

“No.” Well, Namjoon’s arms are bracketing him on the pillows, that’s one. “Nervous,” Jungkook amends.

Namjoon pats the pillow on Jungkook’s lap. “Can I get this aside?”

His tongue feels thick. Jungkook nods and Namjoon does as so, positioning them so he’s sitting between Jungkook’s legs.

“You’re relatively easy to convince, do you know that?” Jungkook points out.

“I know and you’re taking advantage of it.” Namjoon undoes the bottom two buttons of Jungkook’s shirt, then his fingers hook under the band of Jungkook’s briefs. “Lift your hips.”

Jungkook grabs Namjoon’s arm as he lifts his hips like Namjoon told him to. The elastic catches on his erection and he draws a sharp breath. Namjoon shushes him, brushes his lips on Jungkook’s cheek.

“Hyung.” Jungkook’s voice sounds lofty. “Can you undress, too, for me?”

“Okay.” Jungkook’s briefs slide all the way off. Namjoon settles Jungkook’s legs on either side of him. He has a simple t-shirt on and that goes off and onto the floor.

Ah. That’s a lot of skin.

“Jungkook.” Namjoon nudges his chin up. “With me?”

“Take off your pants, too, hyung?”

“Let’s think about that later,” Namjoon brushes off. “Wanna be like this or on your front?”

“Like this.”

Nodding, Namjoon spreads Jungkook’s thighs wider. There’s nothing Namjoon hasn’t seen before but Jungkook’s so dizzyingly hard and he feels like he’ll die if Namjoon keeps staring at him without doing anything.

Anything works. Anything.

Namjoon lies his hand high up Jungkook’s thigh, on his pelvic bone. It’s summer and he feels Namjoon’s body heat amplify his own the moment Namjoon wraps his hand on the base of his cock.

“Relax.” Namjoon kisses the skin under his navel. “Put your hands in my hair if it helps.”

Having heard that, Jungkook realizes that he’s been fisting the sheets and he moves them cautiously, his fingers tangling in Namjoon’s hair.

He’s not sure what’s coming but then Namjoon has his mouth on his cock and he has to restrain himself from pulling Namjoon’s hair.

Shit, it’s wet.

Namjoon drools on his slit and licks under his foreskin. He looks at Namjoon’s pink lips around his cockhead, and Namjoon is so, so pretty. Thick lips, soft cheekbones. It’s surreal. His thigh twitches and Namjoon holds it steady, taking more of him into his mouth.

“Hyung,” he whines. Namjoon translates the cue as a stop and pulls off.

“You said anything I want, right?”

“Y-yeah.”

“What do you want?”

What does he want? Weren’t they heading there in the first place?

Namjoon keeps his hand occupied, stroking the base of Jungkook’s cock, and it’s nothing short of distracting. “I, ah—hyung. Can you—I want to be—” Assertive. That’s on the Kim Namjoon manual, he has to be assertive. “I want your fingers in me.”

“Yeah? Okay.”

He grabs the back of Jungkook’s knees and folds Jungkook’s legs in. The action is deliberate but Jungkook squeaks anyway.

From this position, Jungkook can’t see himself properly and he thinks that that’s maybe his only saving grace. He feels Namjoon’s touch wander lower, groping his ass. Namjoon spreads him out, the rough pads of his fingers pressing the stretch of Jungkook’s rim.

“You ever touched yourself here?”

He needs to be—fuck he’ll explode—he needs to be kissed, but he can’t ask for it somehow. “Yeah.”

“Yeah?”

Jungkook huffs the embarrassment out. “Of course, I’m a horny teenager.”

Namjoon flusters. Serves him right. He grabs the lube to pop the cap open, squeezing out a dollop into his palm to warm up. “You’re beyond me sometimes.”

“Sometimes?”

“All the time, baby.”

Oh, that’s new. “Call me that again.”

“Baby?” Namjoon tests out. His voice dips on purpose, Jungkook swears. “You like that?”

“Uhn.”

As if he knows what’s coming, Namjoon beats Jungkook to it, “Don’t call me weird stuff, I’ll feel like a predator again.”

Jungkook giggles. “Okay. Just hyung, then.”

“Uh-huh.”

Hyung,” he goes. If Namjoon can pitch his tone lower, Jungkook can do it, too.

It’s effective; Namjoon’s eyes widen. “How the hell did you make that sound wrong?”

“Maybe you’re just horny.”

“I—”

“Admit it.” Not giving up the battle, Jungkook tugs at Namjoon’s waistband. “Hyung, lemme see.”

“No, it’s fine.”

Before Jungkook insists any more, Namjoon takes charge and spreads Jungkook out.

This way, there’s nowhere left for him to hide. Jungkook’s breath hitches.

“Tell me if it’s cold,” Namjoon warns, rubbing the gel around Jungkook’s rim.

“Ah—”

“Cold?” It’s not cold but it’s something.

“No. Go on,” he says and Namjoon hums, sinking the first finger in.

The hand on the back of Jungkook’s knee squeezes, and that’s all it takes for Jungkook to relax, allowing Namjoon inside him slowly by slowly until the last knuckle.

“You’ve really done this?” Namjoon asks twice. The single finger draws back and then pushes back in, and it feels like it’s been doing that for ages. Jungkook nods. “How many did you put in?”

Jungkook doesn’t mean to mewl. “O-one.”

“One?”

“I wanted to—put more,” Jungkook tries to explain.

“But you’re scared?”

“No.” Jungkook grabs the back of his thighs and holds himself open, too, wanting to help. “I mean yes, but it’s because I… was scared I wouldn’t be—tight enough.”

Bad timing for Namjoon to thrust both of his fingers in. Jungkook gasps. One of his hands darts out to stop Namjoon back by the chest.

“You’re tight enough,” Namjoon grunts. When his arm moves Jungkook feels the muscles under Namjoon’s chest shift, too, and he just might fucking die. “Believe me, you are.”

They’re just fingers but the little space inside him clamps down on them that Namjoon’s fingers squirm with every little movement. “Hyung—hyung.”

It’s so wet already, Jungkook’s ass cheeks and thighs are slick from the lube but Namjoon adds more, pushing the gel in with those two fingers, and then it’s wet inside, too, the friction spongy and warm.

“Fuck, you’re the tightest I’ve felt,” Namjoon blurts out.

“I’m a—” Jungkook’s laugh comes out in a wheeze. “It’s my first time.”

Namjoon curls his fingers in an angle that has Jungkook’s hips jump, chasing for more. “Yeah I don’t think that matters,” he says matter-of-factly. “You’re just—fucking tight.”

“Even after this?”

“You wanna bet?” Namjoon bumps his knuckles on Jungkook’s stretched opening and Jungkook throws his head back, choking on a restrained moan. “Baby, just moan if you want.”

Uh—” It bubbles out almost on command. “Hyung, I—ah-ah.”

“Does it feel good?”

It does. Oh god it does, like his balls are squeezed from the inside. Jungkook’s focus has narrowed down on his ass being played with that when Namjoon takes a grip of his cock it strikes him like a lightning bolt.

Hyung.” Jungkook’s legs threaten to close. Namjoon gives his thigh a light slap, and Jungkook braces himself open.

The fingers are moving in and out on a steady pace now, fucking him. Namjoon is fucking him with his fingers.

“Guess pretty things really need to be opened,” Namjoon remarks with a light laugh.

Head in the clouds, the humour misses Jungkook completely. “Open me,” he finds himself blabbering. “Hyung-ah, o-open me—”

“Holy fuck.”

There’s something inside him that feels, whenever Namjoon’s fingers slide across, that feels mind-numbing.

“Hh-hyung,” Jungkook begs. “Inside, th-there’s—please, please.”

Namjoon slows down. His hand on Jungkook’s cock tightens around the base. “Okay, okay,” he stumbles. He turns his wrist, massaging Jungkook’s walls as he seeks for it, then he crooks his fingers again and Jungkook seizes up.

“Does it hurt?” Namjoon rushes to ask.

“No.” Jungkook clutches Namjoon’s chest. He lifts his hips up unconsciously, needing Namjoon deeper inside him. “Keep doing it, please.”

Namjoon obeys. He nudges the mound-like flesh once more and Jungkook’s shameless moan says more than any reply.

It’s no help that Namjoon’s fingers are so long, he can feel each knuckle and with every movement his walls cling to them, is he that tight? He wants to be less tight all of a sudden, wants to give and make way for Namjoon.

“Put more,” Jungkook says.

Namjoon starts stroking Jungkook’s cock again. “Two feels best, trust me.”

“Noo,” Jungkook whines. “Put three, p-please, hyung.”

“Do you know how tight you are?” Namjoon growls.

“That’s why I—”

“No.”

His whines die in his throat when Namjoon takes his cock into his mouth again and sucks him off.

“Hyung, hyung.” Not yet, Jungkook doesn’t want to come yet but he’s one foot off the ledge and Namjoon’s fingers are hitting that place without letting up. “I’m gonna—gonna cum, hyung I wanna cum hyung please, please—hyung!”

Namjoon takes his fingers out to hold Jungkook’s belly down as he thrashes. His moans are high, he never thought he could sound like that.

This kind of orgasm is brand new, from the core of his belly, a knot tugged so harshly that it unravels.

Namjoon stays with him through it, swallowing the come that’s spilled onto his tongue. Somebody’s wheezing and Jungkook knows it must be him but it doesn’t sound anything like him.

He’s buzzing. His legs are twitching, that much he knows, his hands, too, all tangled in Namjoon’s locks. Namjoon sucks him clean, and just to prove his previous point, slips his pointer finger inside Jungkook once more.

And it doesn’t—fit. It meets some resistance, Namjoon having to pull it out and then fuck it back in to get past the second knuckle.

“What did I say? You tightened up already.”

His muscles are all puffy inside. The lube is still wet and Namjoon tries to wiggle in another finger but Jungkook’s clenching so much, he locks up when they’re halfway.

“That’s because you didn’t put in three.” Jungkook sniffles.

Namjoon draws his fingers all the way out and pats Jungkook’s ass. There’s a bit of come on Jungkook’s stomach and he licks the stain up.

“You taste sweet,” Namjoon tells him casually, sitting back on his heels.

“Hm?”

“You’re a good boy, are you?” Slowly, Namjoon straightens Jungkook’s legs out. “Eats well, doesn’t smoke.”

“Does it—taste bad when you smoke?”

“Mhm. When you don’t eat your veggies, too.”

“Do you eat your veggies, hyung?” Jungkook tilts his head. Namjoon looks so big in his pants, Jungkook can make out the shape of it on his thigh and he reaches for the button of Namjoon’s shorts. “Let me see you.”

Namjoon pushes his hand aside. “No, you don’t need to.”

“But I want to.” Last time, he didn’t get to make Namjoon feel good. “It’s not fair for you.”

“Another time, okay?” Jungkook doesn’t understand, what’s wrong with now?

Is this another one of those boundaries?

Jungkook shouldn’t listen to him, Namjoon gives in if he just pushes a little bit more, but his fingers have barely ghosted over Namjoon’s erection and the next second Namjoon’s caught his wrist, pinning him back down on the pillows.

His balance flips, the breath knocked out of him.

Namjoon growls. “I said no.”

The flick in Namjoon’s countenance frightens him. But it reminds him of the night of that bike date and the back of his throat burns with a similar heat. He swallows it down hotly. It’s his birthday, they were being civil, just this once he’ll suck it up.

If he can’t have one thing he’ll settle for the other, then.

He locks his eyes with Namjoon’s and says, “Kiss me, hyung.”

The grip Namjoon has on his wrist loosens. “You came in my mouth.”

“Don’t care.”

The creases of Namjoon’s eyebrows soften. He cups Jungkook's chin and slides their lips together.

As Namjoon’s tongue touches his, this is how he tastes like, Jungkook thinks. A bitter, salty tang. Not exactly sweet, but the aftertaste is clean, he gives Namjoon that.

“Pretty,” Namjoon calls him when they part.

Jungkook smiles, pacified by the praise. “I’m pretty?”

“So pretty.”

“Open me again, then.”

Namjoon surges in to kiss him deeper. The more he tastes himself the sweeter he gets, but maybe he’s just getting used to it.

Namjoon goes to get the lube again and Jungkook only notices the crescent marks his blunt fingernails made on Namjoon’s chest then.

“S-sorry,” Jungkook stammers.

“Felt good,” Namjoon assures him, not oblivious to the worry in Jungkook’s eyes. “Now shush.”

The second time Namjoon fingers him he keeps to two fingers still, but the slide is stickier and the squelching from all the lube is so obscene that Jungkook comes faster than he can whine for three. He thinks his mind whites out during his orgasm, and then in the descent he just melts. Incredibly, inexplicably undone.

Fleetingly, while his eyelids get heavier and heavier, he registers the soft sensation of Namjoon’s lips on his neck and then his mouth, before he falls asleep.

The sun’s set when he wakes up. No longer orange but a pink that’s turning subtly purple. He’s tucked under the bedsheets and the material of his uniform is gentler; he realizes then that it’s not his uniform shirt at all, Namjoon’s lent him a t-shirt of his own.

His senses come one by one. His stomach is warm, Namjoon’s arm is wrapped around it, Namjoon’s nose buried in his nape.

Lotion and linen. Will he smell like Namjoon the whole night?

Crossing these invisible boundaries, Jungkook doesn’t believe he’s being reckless. He curves his hand around Namjoon’s wrist and whispers, “I like you.”

You don’t know how safe you make me feel in your arms.

 

 

Namjoon wakes up around five minutes later. He doesn’t have a raging hard-on anymore and Jungkook assumes he took care of that while Jungkook’s asleep.

That’s stupid. Not like there’s an eager young boy more than willing to take care of it, is there?

Go have fun with your boundaries, then.

Outside, the sun’s gone down entirely, it’s past seven. There’s enough spam, cheese, and gochujang in Namjoon’s kitchen to whip out a budae jjigae for two, and Namjoon lets Jungkook drink a couple shots of yuja-flavoured soju.

They joke around and make out until nine-thirty, then Jungkook changes back into his uniform and Namjoon walks him to the bus stop.

At ten, his mom unlocks the door for him and gives him a once over right there at the entryway. He raises an eyebrow at her. She shrugs and doesn’t tell him anything, which is weird, but okay.

Then he goes to shower and instantly understands what that was all about. He’s just about to take his uniform off in front of the bathroom mirror. In his breast pocket, the dried flowers are still tucked in.

 

 

“Did you pop your cherry?” Minho asks him in lieu of a greeting the next morning.

Jungkook chokes on thin air.

“Good morning to you too, Minho,” Soo-eun says in exasperation.

Right before homeroom, the class is loud enough to not be privy of any conversation outside their respective groups. High school students are like that, caught up in their own circle. The grape vine exists of course, some rumours here and there, but at the end of the day they’re too busy with their print-stained faces to give a fuck about anybody else outside their immediate cliques.

“Let’s be honest here, we all want to know.” Minho slings his arm around Dongseop. “Isn’t that right, Seoseob-ah?”

Dongseop quirks a curious eyebrow and Minho giggles.

To be frank, Jungkook doesn’t mind telling them. Heck, he wants to tell them, they know he’s seeing his tutor anyway, and if he has to go to sleep having another round-table discussion with several imaginary clones of himself on why the fuck won’t Kim Namjoon show me his dick, he might just fucking combust.

But for now the classroom door opens and “Sit down, Double Vision’s here.”

 

 

Most likely, the janitor will get around the rooftop lock over the weekend. While it’s still bust, they buy their lunch at the cafeteria (Jungkook endlessly thanks god and his parents for not enrolling him at a school with provided meals) and eat under the shade on the rooftop.

“You mean he’s a prude?” Jihoon summarizes Jungkook’s rant on Namjoon’s dick predicament. Soo-eun shoves him.

“Maybe it’s like, ugly or something,” Minho gives his two cents on it around a mouthful of gimbap.

“Oh, bet,” Jihoon agrees. “Maybe he got those like, yakuza piercings?”

Dongseop scrunches his nose. “The hell is a yakuza piercing?”

The rest of them sans Jihoon have perplexed expressions on their faces. Jihoon has the gall to roll his eyes like he’s the only cultured person in the group and hits up yakuza piercing on Naver. He turns his screen towards them and a chorus of Jihoon, urgh, gross pelts out.

Jungkook thinks he almost vomits chocolate creme in his mouth.

“Let’s be real,” Minho says. “Maybe he’s got a colossal dong or something.”

Jihoon shuts down the idea in a flash. “No chance. People show that off usually, believe me.”

“Because you have a massive dong?” Soo-eun steals his Pringles.

“Hell yeah.”

“Whatever you say, peppero.”

Minho gags on his food mid-shriek, Jungkook having to slap his back even though he’s laughing his rocks off himself at Jihoon’s scandalized face.

The lunchtime conversation goes nowhere, but to be fair there were some inputs that make sense, like how Namjoon might be afraid to hurt him, or that he might feel like he’s taking advantage of Jungkook if he gets pleasure out of it, too. In the end, they all unanimously agree that those are pretty dumb reasons, and some validation is all Jungkook needs, really.

 

 

 

october

 

It’s October and Namjoon still hasn’t done anything but finger him.

The rest of September burned off on a short fuse. Namjoon and he didn’t do much; that was to be expected, there were the midterms and then the CSAT simulation back to back. They went over Jungkook’s revisions diligently, made out for a few minutes when Jungkook’s head hurt from too much cramming, but that’s all.

It didn’t mean Jungkook didn’t want to.

He’s a high school kid, of course he wants to. But Namjoon rarely initiates and Jungkook doesn’t want Namjoon to go anywhere near his previous suggestion of finding a new tutor because Jungkook can’t keep his libido in check for two hours.

In short, he doesn’t want Namjoon to be right.

Tutoring sessions are for tutoring only. Putting himself in Namjoon’s shoes, it doesn’t seem right to do inappropriate things during the time Jungkook’s parents entrust him with their kid, said parents being just downstairs. That is morally sketchy, even Jungkook can agree on that.

They went as far as necking once until Namjoon said let’s stop. Jungkook learnt not to push firm no’s from Namjoon, lest they fall into a silent argument again.

And Namjoon was busy. Well, Jungkook, too. Other than their tutoring sessions, Namjoon was often out on weekdays and Jungkook’s parents would probably throw a fit if their son went MIA until ten in the evening every other school day.

On the Sunday before Namjoon’s birthday they went to Dduksum to have some pizza and beer by the river, and since the following day was Monday, Namjoon asked the cab driver to drop Jungkook off by his place first.

They didn’t really do anything and that was fine.

Jungkook doesn’t want to constantly ask for sex. First and foremost, it makes him look desperate, and second, he doesn’t want Namjoon to misunderstand that he can’t enjoy Namjoon’s company without sex.

It wasn’t like they abstained from it, either. Jungkook allowed himself to be particularly needy the couple of times they were at Namjoon’s place. Namjoon sucked him off one time and Jungkook got a good fingering until he screamed and spasmed the second time.

And it felt good. It felt out of this world, in fact.

But it didn’t feel enough. Like everything hanging unfinished at the ending, and he knew well why.

He’s never wanted a dick more in his life.

 

 

One weird Saturday towards late October, he gets a Ka-talk call from Namjoon in the middle of Minecraft with Soo-eun. They were supposed to be reviewing the upcoming Geography test, but Soo-eun said their brain would probably explode by this point if they didn’t wind down, so Minecraft it was.

Jungkook tells Soo-eun to hold up and turns off the mic before picking up the call.

It’s not Namjoon on the other line:

Hi!” Jungkook doesn’t recognize this voice. It’s a man, but he doesn’t sound too old. “I’m Kim Seokjin, Namjoon’s friend,” the man introduces himself. Okay. Friend. Shit, he thinks he’s going through cardiac arrest.

“Hi…” Jungkook greets.

Are you free, Jungkook-ah?

Jungkook glances at the fortress he’s building with Soo-eun. “Yes.”

That’s great! Come hang out with—” Jungkook hears a hyung? that sounds unnervingly like Namjoon in the background, hyung is that my phone? and Kim Seokjin wraps up the call speedily, “Namjoon will text you the address okay bye!

And the line cuts.

Speechless, Jungkook stares at his Ka-talk home screen.

Not even a minute later, a barrage of texts floods in:

 

Nyemjoon-hyungie ✏️📚💕

 

Nyemjoon-hyungie ✏️📚💕 [14:02]:

Jungkk

So fcking srry

Fuck

Thatwas myhyung

 

Nyemjoon-hyungie ✏️📚💕 [14:03]:

As in uni sunbae

I help out at his studio smtmes

I told you

Didnt I?

Jus ignre him

me [14:03]:

so i can’t come hang out? 🥺

Nyemjoon-hyungie ✏️📚💕 [14:03]:

Noooooo!!!

me [14:04]:

🥺

Nyemjoon-hyungie ✏️📚💕 [14:04]:

Imean you cn!!!!

CNN

You Can

If you want

me [14:04]:

yay 😊😊

 

The location Namjoon dropped him isn’t far. It’s in Mapo, a bus ride away.

There’s a Tom N Tom’s across the road and the entrance to the building is a manual glass door with black frames.

He’s about to ring Namjoon like arranged, but the man’s already on the sofa by the concierge, shaking his leg. He sees Jungkook and shoots up to his feet, Jungkook has to bite back a laugh.

“Oh god.” Namjoon wipes his chin. “I haven’t shaved.”

Jungkook can’t say it isn’t visible. He’s sporting a scruffy stubble but Jungkook finds himself not minding it one bit. “You’re handsome, hyung.”

“Hush.” Namjoon ushers him along down the hall where he taps open another glass door with an access card.

“You don’t like it?”

“Feels like it added an extra five years to our age gap.”

“That’s hot,” Jungkook teases and Namjoon looks like he’s about to bawl. Namjoon fixates over their meaningless age gap and Jungkook’s learnt that the best way to cope with that is to take it with a grain of salt.

The last door Namjoon brings him to is at the end of the hallway. It’s girthy, Namjoon did mention that it was his friend’s studio. There’s a mat of the RIPNDIP cat, go away written in English. Ironic, considering the three pairs of shoes around it.

“Take off your shoes, the host’s fussy about that,” Namjoon says. He’s keying in the passcode and Jungkook surreptitiously checks the ceilings for surveillance cameras. There’s none; he takes a leap of faith and places a quick kiss on Namjoon’s stubbly cheek.

He doesn’t see Namjoon’s reaction to that. He’s too shy himself, pretending his beat-up converses need a nudge on the heel to take off.

But Namjoon pets Jungkook’s neck before he opens the door, so it’s good.

Jungkook, though, does not expect two grown men to be waiting right behind the door like a pair of pet dogs.

Namjoon groans, “C’mon!” and the other two burst into an obnoxious laughter, startling Jungkook even more. “You’re scaring him!” Namjoon scolds, closing the door.

“Aw, he’s so cute!” One of the men coos. Jungkook thinks he’s seen him before. In Namjoon’s instagram pictures?

“How did you end up with lame ol’ Namjoonie?” The other one teases. “Looking like a caveman in front of this bunny boy.”

Jungkook tilts his head. Does he look like a bunny that much?

“You’re the one who bugged me to ask him to come over, hyung!” Namjoon whines. “Now stop ogling him like a zoo animal and let me introduce you.”

Jungkook gathers himself. He wants to be presentable, needs to be.

“This one’s Hoseok, we’re the same age.” Namjoon gestures at Instagram Guy first. Hoseok grins and grinning suits him, Jungkook thinks. “This other one’s Seokjin-hyung.”

Seokjin-hyung, the one who called Jungkook and gave him a heart attack.

Seokjin is pretty.

Round eyes, plump lips. Like a doll’s.

Jungkook’s jaw drops slightly, and he closes his mouth to be polite the moment he realizes it, sucking his lips in to avoid from gaping. Is this how college students look?

“I’m not a college student, by the way,” Seokjin corrects. Wait. Did Jungkook say that out loud or did Seokjin just happen to be able to read faces really well?

“He graduated so he’s basically expired,” Hoseok says, giggling.

Seokjin balks. “Yoongi! Did you hear that? Hobi called us expired because we’re not college students anymore!”

The ‘Yoongi’ he’s shouting for is further inside the studio, swivelling his chair properly to face them. Jungkook didn’t even notice him before. The third pair of shoes.

“Hey, I didn’t say anything about Yoongi-hyung!” Hoseok argues.

Yoongi blinks at them disinterestedly, eyelids slow like a cat’s. He says, “I didn’t graduate, I dropped out.”

And Jungkook’s eyes widen like saucers. He didn’t know dropping out was ever an option.

Namjoon must’ve caught that blip, because he says to Jungkook, “This is Yoongi-hyung’s studio. He makes music for a living.”

It’s not a shabby studio by any means. The equipment looks polished, the woodwork on the padded walls sophisticated, a brown upright piano pushed against the wall. Rent in Mapo isn’t cheap, either.

Yoongi clarifies, “I only compose for commercials, in-game theme songs.”

“Stop being modest, you did one with Primary,” Hoseok says.

“Once.”

“More rolling’s in, genius.”

Yoongi narrows his eyes. “Whatever. Let the kid in since you all want to have fun with him so much.”

“Oh hey, play the song you did with Joonie!” Hoseok says. Hoseok and Seokjin have stopped crowding Jungkook, making way inside where Seokjin settles on the sofa and Hoseok contents himself with the floor, tapping the empty space on the sofa to beckon Jungkook along.

Jungkook needs a tug on the sleeve from Seokjin to sit down.

Jungkook doesn’t really know what to feel about today. Namjoon’s friends are hospitable, doing their best to make Jungkook comfortable, but at the same time Jungkook feels an inch dislodged.

Namjoon never told him that he wrote songs. This revelation is just a hard cold reminder that what Jungkook knows about Namjoon is but a sliver of him.

Is he supposed to be here?

Namjoon sits on the floor in front of Jungkook, within arm’s reach.

“You wrote a song, hyung?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon scratches his nose. “Kinda.”

“Kinda,” Seokjin mocks. “He has a whole mixtape.”

“What?” Jungkook gasps.

“And he’s working on another one, to boot,” Hoseok adds. “You’re too embarrassed to tell him, aren’t you, Joonie?”

“Stop being embarrassed, you’re good,” Yoongi joins in to bug him. From the sofa, Jungkook can see Yoongi pull up a folder on his Mac, clicking and clicking. “I’ll play the newest one. It’s just empty beats because the guide vocal hasn’t arrived yet, I hope you don’t mind, Jungkook-ah.”

“You know my name?”

“From how much Namjoon talks about you? I’ve probably known you for half a year already.”

“Hyung, please,” Namjoon begs.

“What?” Yoongi snickers. “You’re shy in front of your boyfriend?”

“Hyung, don’t talk about it like that,” Namjoon says and Jungkook doesn’t know.

The ground he’s standing splinters and loses balance, threatening to tip over, but his feet are planted firm. He’s not given the time to mull over it, Yoongi’s pressed play and a set of beats drums the room. Jungkook catches subtle strings, some piano.

It’s good.

Namjoon smiles sheepishly at him over his shoulder, and he pouts at Namjoon for having kept this side hobby from him. The song plays for roughly fifteen seconds before Yoongi pauses it with a that’s the preview.

Beside him, Seokjin whispers not so secretively, “He writes most of Yoongi’s lyrics, bet he’s never told you.”

“No.” Jungkook sulks.

“It’s because they’re not good enough,” Namjoon says.

“The song’s good, hyung.”

“But you haven’t heard the lyrics—”

“Ugh, shut up with your inferiority complex,” Seokjin scolds before Namjoon can go off, reaching over to tug Namjoon’s ear. Hoseok laughs and that suits him, too, Jungkook thinks again.

They’re nice people. Jungkook steadies himself on that shaky ground. He rarely let loose around people he’s just met, but Namjoon’s friends are more than hospitable.

Seokjin orders them jjajangmyeon and they all spill Namjoon’s embarrassing episodes to Jungkook while they eat. Jungkook steals glances at Namjoon throughout the conversation and Namjoon doesn’t seem bothered by his friends uncovering all the sides of him he’s been too shy to show Jungkook. Namjoon can’t blush, but he covers his face often, groaning and whining harmlessly.

Instead, Jungkook’s the one to be sporting a permanent blush. Their lives inch closer as Namjoon welcomes him where Jungkook willfully assumed was off limits to him.

It’s a good day. His chest fills up with warmth.

But then, in the few moments before he leaves, he catches Hoseok staring at him as they exchange Kakaotalk ID’s.

Their eyes meet and Hoseok breaks into a grin, face lighting up in revelation.

“Namjoonie has a type.” Hoseok whistles.

Namjoon squints. “What does that mean?”

Hoseok widens his eyes in an imitation of Jungkook’s big eyes. “Puppies.”

“The accent, too,” Seokjin points out. They’ve gotten into inside joke territory, a line Jungkook can’t step inside.

Jungkook’s Seoul accent is natural, but every time he gets too excited, hints of his Gyeongsang accent aren’t hard to pick out. To be fair, Hoseok is guilty of the same habit, the ends of sentences ending in an aing.

“What accent?” Namjoon asks. He sounds apprehensive.

“They’re different,” Yoongi scowls.

“Not to Namjoon’s uncultured Seoul ears they’re not,” Seokjin denies.

“They’re different,” Namjoon pushes Yoongi’s stance. He picks up his canvas bag from the sofa and taps Jungkook’s arm, and whatever Jungkook’s wrapped up in, he snaps out of it. “C’mon, let’s drop these boring old men.”

Seokjin sticks out his tongue at Namjoon. “Fine, go have fun with your boyfriend.”

“Hyung, I’m tutoring him.”

“So?”

“I’m not that kind of person.”

Given up, Seokjin rolls his eyes and casts Jungkook a sympathetic acknowledgement. “How do you put up with him?”

“Joonie will get there someday,” Hoseok assures Jungkook.

Jungkook only nods, he’s not sure what he should do. Namjoon says his see you later’s to get it over with and Jungkook bows on his way out.

It’s still early in the afternoon. They take a cab to Namjoon’s place. Throughout the ride, Namjoon talks about his friends, just what they do in general, jobs and studies and all those conversational fillers. Jungkook’s only half listening.

The driver has the radio on. Songs play between ads, they buffer in Jungkook’s head louder than Namjoon’s stories, and yet he can’t really remember what was playing at all.

Namjoonie has a type. The accent, too. Hyung, I’m tutoring him. I’m not that kind of person.

What does that mean?

The taxi crosses Mapo-daegyo and the bottleneck traffic slows them down. This taxi driver’s not a good one, he steps on the brake choppily and Jungkook is a little carsick. Maybe he should’ve just stayed home.

 

 

“What’s wrong?”

Shoes off, they’ve barely stepped up from the entryway and Namjoon cuts the tension between them. Jungkook doesn’t think that’s a good question. His stomach’s heavy with jagged stones, and that cracked, slanted ground he’s standing on is fragile underneath him.

What kind of person are you? Jungkook hears himself say it in his head loud. He’s nauseous.

“Got a bit carsick,” is what he says. Not sure if that’s a lie.

“That driver sucked, didn’t he? Do you want to lie down? I’ll make you some tea to feel better.”

Namjoon puts his canvas bag down on the dining chair. He goes to heat up the kettle, but Jungkook catches his wrist before he crosses the kitchen, stepping into his space. Their chests bump and Namjoon wraps his arm around Jungkook to steady them, his palm flat between Jungkook’s wingbones.

“Baby?” Namjoon whispers, worrying.

“I want to lie down with you,” Jungkook says.

Namjoon pets his head. The touch does him a little better. “Okay. Will that make you feel better?”

Jungkook nods. Namjoon holds him for a bit more, swaying their bodies lightly where they stand. He leads Jungkook to the bedroom and lets Jungkook lie in his bed while he sets up the aircon, joining Jungkook under the covers shortly.

Nothing’s going wrong. Everything’s fine. They’re not like other couples Jungkook knows, with petty fights and silences.

That’s not what Jungkook wants them to be. So he shouldn’t stir things up, shouldn’t ask what kind of person Namjoon is, what that conversation with the hyungs meant, what type Namjoon is into.

Shouldn’t ask if they’re boyfriends or not because Namjoon never said they were, right?

And what would change if they were? Worrying about labels when they’re doing just fine is childish. He can’t be a child, he’s graduating and he can’t scare Namjoon like that, make Namjoon think that he’s not ready for anything when he is ready.

He wants to be like Namjoon and his friends. Mature, composed, like they know everything already.

(School’s ending in November and Jungkook doesn’t even know what he wants to do yet.)

“You’re thinking too loud, baby,” Namjoon brings him back. Fingers come to play with Jungkook’s ear, the pads pressing gently yet firmly on Jungkook’s temple. “It’s best if you let it out now.”

“Hm?”

“Whatever’s on your mind, it’s best if you let it out now.”

“Because it’s finals?”

Namjoon smiles, entertains him. “Yeah,” he says, but there’s more to it.

Too many things are bugging Jungkook. He can’t sort them out into a neat file, they’re too cluttered and his head is too loud.

Am I your boyfriend? is perhaps the loudest of them all.

But what’ll happen if he asks that? What if Namjoon says no, or doesn’t know what to say? I’m tutoring him, that’s all Namjoon said. I’m not that kind of person.

What kind of person are you? “Why don’t you want to show yourself to me?” Jungkook skirts.

Namjoon’s hand stops rubbing his ear. He presses his thumb on the jut of Jungkook’s jaw. “What do you mean?” Namjoon stalls. Their eyes lock and Jungkook widens his on purpose.

“You know what I mean.”

“I know. But—”

“It’s best if you let it out now,” Jungkook uses his own words on him. “You’ve been putting it off for too long, I know something’s up and I want to understand. And I’m saying this not because I’m asking for sex or anything, but. I just—it’s what’s bugging me.”

Who would've guessed? He’s more articulate than he thought he can be.

The table’s turned. Namjoon lets it ripple on the surface. “It feels wrong.”

“I want to touch you, too. We already did so much.”

“Yes but if I make you do things to me it feels like I’m—using you. And that’s not right.”

“I want it.” Namjoon worries again. He worries too much, his hand flinches and Jungkook grabs his wrist. “I want you to use me.”

That’s gutsy. It startles Namjoon and Jungkook holds onto his wrist. Namjoon sighs. “You’re really good at this, aren’t you?”

“Really good at what?”

“Making me say fuck all and not hold back.”

Jungkook pouts. “You’re still holding back, so I’m not good enough.”

After seeing Namjoon’s friends, Jungkook can see that Namjoon is the most uptight of the bunch. “I’m holding back for your sake, you’re new to all this.”

“Show me the ropes, then.”

“I shouldn’t teach you.”

“I thought you were my tutor.”

Namjoon makes a pained face, but Jungkook knows he’s won with that.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon calls his name, the same kind of patronizing, you’re-a-kid tone Jungkook’s been hearing for months. Jungkook lets go of his wrist, places his hand on Namjoon’s clavicle instead. He doesn’t know what he's done exactly but Namjoon leans in to peck his lips and Jungkook has to hold back a smile.

He’s easy to appease, or maybe Namjoon already knows his way around, too.

“If you won’t teach me then how will I learn? Do you expect kids to just turn 20 and then somehow know whatever the fuck they should be doing?” Jungkook’s tone is teasing, but the damage is still devastating enough for Namjoon.

“You’re supposed to figure it out together, with people your age.”

“Who said that?”

“It’s common—that’s… the safest path.”

“You want me to figure it out with people my age? Do you want me to call Dongseop, then?”

Namjoon splutters. “That’s not what I—”

Jungkook doesn’t think he’s found his balance yet. But it’s better, Namjoon is holding him. It really is best to let it out.

“Have you ever thought, on the contrary, that because you touched me and made me come but never let me touch you back, that it made me feel, hm, what’s the word, groomed?”

The word’s a trigger. “Fuck.”

“Honestly didn’t cross your mind?”

Namjoon scrunches his eyebrows, an arm wrapping around Jungkook’s waist to have him closer. “Did you feel that way?”

“No, I just felt horny.”

“Gosh,” Namjoon exhales. Jungkook taps between Namjoon’s eyebrows and he relaxes them.

“Two months. You made me horny for two whole months.”

“You weren’t supposed to be horny, you’re supposed to study.”

“Yeah well I studied while being incredibly horny, then.”

Namjoon laughs, burying his face in the crook of Jungkook’s neck. His hand sneaks under Jungkook’s sweater to pinch at the skin there and Jungkook kicks his ankle, laughing along.

Counting, there are more months between now and June, when they first kissed, than between June and March, when they first met. Yet his heart still races, his belly warm. Their faces inch closer. Jungkook angles his chin up coyly, eyes closing before Namjoon’s lips meet his.

Those movies, they’re not telling the whole truth. More than ‘adult’ heated kisses Jungkook sees on screens, he likes this slow, soft one more, Namjoon’s full lips on his. Like he’s taken care of.

He wants to be taken care of.

Namjoon’s chin brushes his and Jungkook giggles. “Stubbly,” Jungkook says.

Namjoon gives him one last peck before pulling back for good. “Sorry. I’ll shave, wait a bit.”

“No, don’t need to.” Jungkook catches the hem of Namjoon’s hoodie as Namjoon sits up,

“If you get stubble burns on your cheeks how are you going to explain that to your parents?”

“Fair point,” Jungkook gives him that. The fist crumpling Namjoon’s shirt lets go and pats Namjoon’s back instead. “Hurry up.”

Namjoon ruffles Jungkook’s hair on his way off the bed and Jungkook laughs. He curls and hides his face in the pillow as the tap runs from the bathroom down the hallway. He shuts his eyes, lest he overthinks, listening intently to the sound of water and the clinks against the basin.

In no time, Namjoon’s weight is back on the bed, lying down beside him. Jungkook lifts his face up from the pillow, pouting, and Namjoon coos. He squishes Namjoon’s cheeks between his palms. They’re smooth now, fun to play with.

“Baby,” Jungkook mumbles.

“You’re the baby,” Namjoon says with his cheeks still squished, making Jungkook giggle. He only lets Namjoon go so he can nuzzle the soft cheeks.

That somehow turns into lazy kisses, too. Ones that melt him. Namjoon kisses the mole on his nose and the one under his bottom lip.

“You have one, too,” Jungkook muses.

“Hm?”

He taps the matching mole under Namjoon’s lip with the pad of his finger. “Here.” Namjoon smiles. His dimple shows and Jungkook’s thumb dips into it naturally.

Namjoon is so handsome. Jungkook wants to tell everybody about him.

(It’s not possible, but someday. Maybe someday.)

“Do you want to do it?” Namjoon asks. How he can sound courteous when implying something like that is beyond Jungkook.

“Now?”

“Yeah.”

“Mn.” Namjoon’s finger brushes his earlobe and Jungkook purrs, blushing. “I, uh—” he stammers, “I always want to do it with you, so anytime works, you don’t have to ask."

“I… might need some time,” Namjoon says, apologetically honest. “I don’t think I’m ready for you to touch me.”

“Oh.”

“Sorry.”

“That’s okay. I never—thought it that way. Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Namjoon says before Jungkook can feel selfish about it. “I should’ve said something about it.”

He feels selfish about it anyway, and now he’s spinning excuses. “I just thought—because when I ask if you would touch me, you would—”

“I always want to touch you,” Namjoon promises him. “It’s… different.”

That’s what’s not clicking. Jungkook huffs, lying his back flat on the bed. “I still don’t get what’s different but you’re cute so I’ll let you do whatever.”

That line’s usually Namjoon’s. Now that it’s used on him, Namjoon grins, open and carefree. Namjoon takes things slow, that’s who he is, careful steps in a fluid flow, wading Jungkook in.

But today’s not the case, apparently. In an instant, Namjoon is on top of him and it’s like a wave’s just crashed into Jungkook, submerging him.

Namjoon’s fingers are in his hair, his mouth on Jungkook’s jaw. He’s all over and Jungkook feels him everywhere.

That’s it. Take care of me.

A hand travels underneath Jungkook’s sweater to trace his ribcage, Namjoon licks a stripe up the skin of his neck and Jungkook shivers.

“Hyung, please,” Jungkook whimpers. “Mark me.”

Namjoon pulls away. His grip on Jungkook’s scruff stiffens and his eyes look directly into Jungkook’s. Both of them overthink in different directions.

“We’re wearing winter uniforms already,” Jungkook begs. “Please.”

“You better not show your friends,” Namjoon says and Jungkook has to laugh. Of course he can read Jungkook’s mind.

It’ll be easier access if they strip Jungkook’s shirt, but Namjoon’s rather reluctant to let go of him, so what he does is tug the collar of Jungkook’s sweater lower, stretching the knitting. Namjoon’s mouth is like a brand on Jungkook, like too much soju in Jungkook’s veins, a steaming hot bath. He’ll stay until the pads of his fingers wrinkle.

Jungkook squirms. Namjoon plays safe and sucks right under Jungkook’s collarbone. His teeth graze the thin skin and he soothes the blossoming bruise with his tongue. One’s a bit too lonely, and Namjoon leaves another close to Jungkook’s shoulder.

When Namjoon’s satisfied with his work, Jungkook is breathless. He thinks his sweater collar might be ruined, but it’s fine. It’s Junghyun’s anyway.

“You bruise far too easily,” Namjoon says. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing.

Jungkook can’t see the bruises but they’re warm. Namjoon cups his chin. His thumb slips between Jungkook’s lips and Jungkook knows how to be kissed the best. Namjoon just wants his tongue, the thumb slips out and Namjoon holds him still by the neck as he licks inside Jungkook’s mouth.

It’s silly and perhaps all that’s wrong, but Jungkook feels so, so grown with Namjoon. Mature. He can do more than the other kids, he’ll definitely tell his friends. Soo-eun’s the most satisfying to fluster.

Namjoon kisses him deeper and his hood falls awkwardly around his face, Jungkook has to grab it by its sides so it won’t bother them.

“Okay. Off,” Namjoon decides, he’s had enough of it. He sits up straddling Jungkook and pulls his own hoodie up and over his head, taking it off along with his undershirt. “You, too.”

Dazed, Jungkook only nods, obediently moving his arms when Namjoon strips that hand-me-down knit off him.

“Wh-what are you planning to do?” Jungkook asks.

“Finding out is part of the fun, isn’t it?” Despite saying that, Namjoon is straightforward. He hooks his fingers underneath the waistband of Jungkook’s jeans.

“You uh, you don’t need to unbutton it,” Jungkook tells him. He raises his hips to help Namjoon. “You can take it off just like that.”

He really can. Jungkook’s so small that Namjoon can peel his jeans off him without unbuttoning it. “You need to eat more.”

“Finals,” Jungkook reasons.

“Eat or your brain won’t run. I’ll feed you while you study on Monday.” That sounds almost like a threat.

Jungkook kicks his pants off, pouting. “What if I won’t have the appetite for dinner?”

“You’re a growing boy, you’ll have the appetite.”

He expects Namjoon to be back on top of him, but he’s planning something else because Namjoon reaches for his bedside drawer. “I don’t think I’m growing anymore,” Jungkook says.

“Not your height but you’re going to get broader.” Namjoon tosses a bottle onto the mattress. Jungkook glances at it; it’s the cherry lube he left at Namjoon’s place back then. “What?” Namjoon huffs when Jungkook stares at him. “Birthday presents should be used.”

Jungkook gulps. Flavoured lubes are only used for a few things. “Are you gonna—”

“Did you wash?”

“I told you I’m horny.”

Namjoon snorts, shaking his head in disbelief. Jungkook’s briefs are next, he lifts Jungkook’s legs up to take them off and Jungkook yelps at the brazen manhandling. Namjoon should also make up his mind on whether he wants to be shy or not.

That last piece of clothing away, Namjoon gets between Jungkook’s thighs and bends Jungkook in half.

“Hold yourself open,” Namjoon says.

“This is, um.”

“There’s no part of you I haven’t seen, where did all that gusto go?”

It’s painfully embarrassing, but Jungkook listens, holding the back of his knees to keep himself spread. “You’re exhibiting preda—”

“You finish that sentence and I’ll stop.”

Jungkook whines. “Hyung.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Bunnies are prey, you know.”

“Oh god, shut up.” Namjoon clicks the push-cap of the lube open. It’s revenge, he doesn’t warm it up or warn Jungkook or anything, squeezing a dollop right on Jungkook’s crotch.

Jungkook hisses. The lube runs down to the base of his stiff cock. “Why’s it r-runny?”

Deeming it enough, Namjoon chucks the bottle of lube aside. “Wanna ask Dongseop about that?”

“Ugh, don’t talk about him, I’ll go limp.”

Namjoon laughs. He massages the lube around the bottom of Jungkook’s tummy, wasting no time to slick up Jungkook’s cock.

Unfair. What Namjoon does next is extremely predator-behaviour. He dips the lube inside Jungkook’s cockslit and Jungkook bucks his hips, immediately snapping out of it to spread himself back open after hearing Namjoon make a disappointed grunt.

Namjoon’s surprises after surprises today. He lifts his hand and licks the thumb that had just been between Jungkook’s slit.

“That’s—”

“Meant to be tasted,” Namjoon says nonchalantly.

Jungkook’s cock has never been wetter and yet Namjoon licks it from base to tip, and Jungkook is caught in a trance, irrationally afraid to move as if this moment will disappear. Namjoon’s eyes are half-lidded, the lines of his cheeks soft and pretty.

The lube is sticky. Namjoon approaches this differently than he usually does, he wraps his lips around Jungkook’s cockhead but he doesn’t suck, holding the base of Jungkook’s cock loosely as he swirls his tongue on the tip, purposely catching his teeth on the tender flesh before he moves lower, kitten licks here and there.

Namjoon will forgive him, Jungkook lets go of his thighs to hold Namjoon’s head back. It’s too much. He can’t help it, they’ve barely gone anywhere and he’s overstimulated already.

Kept back, Namjoon glares at him. His heavy cock pillows on Namjoon’s cheek, the lube drooling on Namjoon’s face and Jungkook is so dizzy.

He’s completely at Namjoon’s mercy. Namjoon drags him down by his hips until he’s flat on the mattress.

“Tell me if it strains,” Namjoon tells him in a tone that says I’ll stop if you beg but now I’m going to do it anyway. He grabs the back of Jungkook’s knees and folds Jungkook practically in two. “Can you hold?”

Jungkook nods. The stretch isn’t painful but it’s a stretch. He’s been sitting down too much, he swears he’s more flexible than this. Jungkook replaces Namjoon’s hands on the back of his knees with his own, holding on firmly.

Namjoon sits back. The lube’s going to run out if they keep using it like this. Namjoon squeezes out another glob on Jungkook’s taint and Jungkook squirms. The slick slides down to his ass, Namjoon rubbing it around his rim.

His cheeks and ears burn. He’s so exposed in this position. Hyung, get to it, he wants to say but he can’t find his voice.

That’s all right, Namjoon understands. He kisses the inside of Jungkook’s thigh where it’s dry, moving down and treating it like he did to Jungkook’s neck, leaving marks there, too.

Jungkook’s thighs twitch, his breathing’s winded. Then Namjoon’s mouth is on his balls and he loses it, his legs kicking on impulse. Namjoon growls, sinking blunt nails into the flesh of Jungkook’s thighs shallowly.

“S-sorry,” Jungkook stutters.

“Stay still.”

His voice is lost in his throat, Jungkook can only nod again. Namjoon spreads his hole open and just fucking licks across.

No,” Jungkook gasps.

“No?”

“N-no, I mean—please.”

Namjoon’s bangs are curtaining over his eyes, his hair’s getting long. He combs it back and goes back to Jungkook. Namjoon has definitely, definitely done this. He has definitely done this a lot, and Jungkook’s fucking jealous but he can’t deal with that emotion now because Namjoon’s mouth is on him, sucking at nipping on his rim.

Then Namjoon is pushing his tongue inside and whatever jealousy is there is as good as gone.

Unh.” A breath’s punched out of Jungkook.

It only reels Namjoon in more. He’s eating Jungkook out without holding back, this is what it feels to be eaten out. Fuck, Jungkook feels like he can die.

“Hyung—” oh no, he feels greedy. “Fuh-fingers.”

Namjoon doesn’t respond, and Jungkook’s scared he’s wanting too much but then Namjoon gives him one last good suck before drawing back, filling Jungkook’s hole with his finger.

Namjoon glowers at him and Jungkook scrambles a “Th-thank you.”

That pacifies Namjoon. He shifts his attention back to where he was, pushing that finger deeper, Jungkook wet enough to take it until the last knuckle.

“You’re getting used to this,” Namjoon says like an observation.

“Does that mean—”

“It only means you’re getting better,” Namjoon clarifies before Jungkook can misunderstand. “The more you have sex with a person the more your bodies adjust with each other’s. Feel that?” He draws his hand back and puts in two now, Jungkook’s walls welcoming them better. “You’re getting used to me.”

“I, um.”

“Relax,” Namjoon says. His hair tickles his eye again and Jungkook brushes it back for him. Namjoon returns to Jungkook’s thigh, licking the excess of lube on Jungkook’s crotch and then his stretched rim around Namjoon’s fingers.

Jungkook’s legs and stomach tenses. He clutches Namjoon’s hair, lets Namjoon savour him a bit more, those familiar bony fingers prodding inside him.

His hand is about to wrap around his cock when Namjoon grabs his wrist. Namjoon pulls out and sits back entirely.

“On your stomach, I’m gonna give you a treat,” Namjoon says.

The pleasure has gotten Jungkook rather hazy, but he does what Namjoon says, flipping to all fours. “Treat?” he asks.

“To destress. You’ve been whining about it.” Namjoon taps Jungkook’s flank and Jungkook knows what to do, pushing his ass out, his chest now flat on the mattress. “No hiding if it’s too much. But I think you can take it.”

“Mn.” Jungkook feels more of that runny lube slathered between his ass cheeks. Namjoon puts two fingers back in easily, the movement making Jungkook clench around him, wet lube dripping down to his balls.

“I’m giving you three,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook’s eyes go wide. “Fuck.”

“Don’t show your gratitude too fast.”

Jungkook turns his head back to see him. “I can take it.”

“I know.” Namjoon bends to kiss his temple. He pumps the two fingers a couple more times before he twists his wrist out. He seeks Jungkook’s hand on the bed and covers it with his own, holding Jungkook surely.

It’s not too much, but then again Namjoon’s been fingering him for a month now. It’s wider, that’s for certain, roughened and dry where the lube hasn’t coated Jungkook’s walls. He holds on tightly to Namjoon’s hand, holding his breath.

Three fingers meant Namjoon can’t go as deep as two, but they’re heavier. Jungkook hiccups at the outward slide. His knee bears down on the mattress. He’s getting used to it, adjusting.

Namjoon is his first and the only one his body knows.

He’s been built for Namjoon.

The thought flutters his chest. “You’re relaxed,” Namjoon says.

Is he? “Feels good.”

“Does it?”

“You should’ve done this earlier.”

“Really?” That’s a challenge. Namjoon shoves his fingers in without warning and Jungkook yelps, nearly falling face first on the pillow. Namjoon grabs his waist before he can shy away. It’s too much in an entirely different meaning now. Jungkook can take it, he didn’t even know he could.

Namjoon doesn’t stop, hitting a dull place under Jungkook’s belly in a pace that’s loud, wet lube squelching on flesh.

“Uh, uhn, h-hyung.” Why can’t he be coherent whenever he’s like this? It’s embarrassing.

“You want me to slow down?” Namjoon teases.

“Sh-shut up.”

Namjoon drapes himself over Jungkook’s back, hugging his middle. His laugh tickles Jungkook’s nape and makes Jungkook laugh, too, never mind their position. The angle forces Namjoon to slow down, arm wedged between them, but he uses that lack of space to cram his fingers even deeper.

Namjoon’s knuckles brush at where he’s most sensitive. “Hyung—”

“I know,” Namjoon says again. “Hold yourself up, I’ll jerk you off.”

Jungkook goes up on his elbows, that’s the least he can do. His senses are in overdrive, with Namjoon palming his balls and that constant pressure on his prostate, the lewd squelch of lube that sounds like nothing but sex. Jungkook feels turned inside out.

But what does it for him isn’t any of those, isn’t even how Namjoon is pulling him off and fucking Jungkook with his fingers at the same time.

What does it is Namjoon’s hips rutting against his thigh, so close to humping Jungkook if it weren’t for Namjoon’s arm between them.

“Hyung, hyung,” Jungkook whines. He slaps Namjoon’s hand away from his cock.

“What’s wrong?”

“Touch yourself.” Jungkook can take care of himself, already squeezing his shaft. “For me, touch yourself.”

“O-okay. Okay.”

A zipper is pulled down, the loudest sound in the room. More than anything Jungkook wants to see him, touch him. Undo him like he undoes Jungkook himself.

Jungkook presses his forehead on the pillow. Namjoon lets out a quiet moan and Jungkook shuts his eyes. He imagines it in his head, what’s happening behind him, Namjoon getting off to him. He can make Namjoon this way, too. Namjoon wants him like this, too.

“Hyung, I’m coming,” Jungkook whimpers. His cock is throbbing in his grip, something melting right under his navel. Namjoon still won’t leave his prostate, Jungkook won’t hold.

“Do it,” Namjoon grunts.

“Sh-sheets—”

“It needs a spin in the washer, let go. Come on it, baby, let go.”

Jungkook wails. Namjoon fingers him through it as his cock pulses and spills onto the sheets. He’s sure by now that Namjoon doesn’t know the definition of ‘enough’ because he’s still on Jungkook’s prostate, and Jungkook has to tug Namjoon off him clumsily, whining from relief.

Namjoon’s body heat is stuffy. Jungkook elbows him off and falls on his back on the bed, panting.

When his vision clears, he sees Namjoon’s flushed face first, his plump lips and clouded eyes. The first time Jungkook’s seen him like this, so aroused that Namjoon’s not fully there.

Namjoon has his hand in his briefs, his jeans hanging loosely on his hips. What is there to hide by this point?

“Take ‘em off,” Jungkook commands.

“Fuck.” Namjoon listens to him. “Don’t,” he still manages to say even when he’s yanking both his pants and underwear down, “don’t fucking say anything about it.”

“I’ll—” Turns out that warning is unnecessary. Whatever Jungkook’s about to say is knocked out of him.

Which of his friends said it? Minho?

Well, Minho’s fucking right. Namjoon is big.

“Okay.” Jungkook squeaks. His head hurts, Namjoon’s cock looks angry, almost bruised red in Namjoon’s grip. He expected it to be big, he’s felt Namjoon’s bulge before, but he didn’t expect it to be this big.

Just how—how many cm is that? Is that why Namjoon’s been fingering him for a month?

“It—it makes sense now. Thank you for the demonstration.”

“You’re being such a brat.” Namjoon grits his teeth. He’s not pumping his fist anymore, trying to cover his dick with his hand even when it’s impossible and redundant, Jungkook’s seen it anyway.

Jungkook doesn’t bother asking. He thinks he’s misplaced his conscience. He moves forward eagerly and grabs Namjoon’s wrist, pushing his luck.

“In my mouth?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon’s hand tenses. “I’m going to last like ten seconds.”

“Cool.”

Namjoon sighs. He stops trying to clumsily cover himself and steadies his cock properly in his grip, Jungkook daring enough to hold it over Namjoon’s hand.

The shaft brushes the side of Jungkook’s thumb. It’s searing hot.

His heart’s pounding. This is really happening.

“You don’t need to, if you’re scared,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook shakes his head. He can do this. He looks up at Namjoon from under his eyelashes, and how Namjoon turns redder gives him the confidence.

He’ll have to learn this someday.

The head of Namjoon’s cock pokes his lips. It’s soft, rubbery. Jungkook lets its weight open his mouth.

He sees Namjoon’s pupils dilate when he takes Namjoon into his mouth. Namjoon tastes salty, his precome having coated his cockhead. Jungkook closes his lips around it like a popsicle, flicking his tongue on the slit.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon whimpers.

He doesn’t quite know how to do this, so he follows what he thinks feels right, sucking Namjoon’s cock how he sucks on that lollipop Namjoon gave him, more of wanting to taste Namjoon himself than being too focused to pleasure him.

A dick tastes like a dick, but he thinks he’s going to tell Soo-eun it tastes like velvet. Warm salt.

Namjoon doesn’t guide him, lets him take his time to explore. Jungkook takes enough of him to fill his mouth, and yet that’s not even half of him.

God, will this thing fit inside him?

“I-I’m really, really close,” Namjoon warns. Jungkook ignores him, hollowing his cheeks as he fondles Namjoon’s balls. “Jungkook, I’m serious, p-pull out.”

Jungkook does, but he sucks Namjoon off as he does so and Namjoon groans. “Fuck, Jungkook—” His damp fingers tighten in Jungkook’s hair and he yanks Jungkook’s head back, his cock coming just as it falls out of Jungkook’s mouth. It’s a bit too late, the spunk lands in strips on Jungkook’s lips and chin.

And Jungkook knew this would happen, he didn’t pull off on purpose, but he still stays there dazed, blinking blankly.

“Holy shit.” Namjoon panics. “Oh my god, Jungkook—I’m so, I’ll get you—” What if he—? Jungkook darts his tongue out onto his bottom lip, swiping the come there. “—aah, Jungkook!”

Jungkook scrunches his nose. It’s bitter. “Bweh.”

Namjoon flails his hand. He’s closing his fist over his cockhead to stop his dripping. “Don’t—actually, do whatever.”

Jungkook spits into his palm and Namjoon winces. “You need to eat more vegetables, hyung,” he complains.

“I will, I will. I’ll get you—fuck it, let’s shower.”

To put it shortly, Jungkook learns that if he gets come all over his face, he really needs to scrub it off with soap.

 

 

Namjoon lends him his clothes and orders food as Jungkook texts his mom that he’ll be staying at ‘Dongseop’s’ tonight. She’s fine with it, tomorrow’s Sunday.

They change the bedsheets and spend at least an hour talking at the dining table as they eat their takeout omurice and katsudon.

Jungkook’s hair dries during that time. Lying in bed with his head tucked under Namjoon’s chin, Namjoon tells him Jungkook suits the smell of his shampoo. What kind was it? Some herbs, lavender.

Either by purpose or instinct, Namjoon is mellower for him after sex, his touches more careful as he keeps Jungkook in his arms like a child would to a stuffed animal. Jungkook snuggles closer. Namjoon’s chest is warm, and with the all-nighters he’s pulled recently, it’s getting harder to keep his eyes open.

“Was it good?” Jungkook asks, not wanting to sleep just yet. “The lube Dongseop bought.”

Namjoon is playing absentmindedly with Jungkook’s hair. “The strawberry ones tasted better,” he answers frankly.

Right, Namjoon’s had people who weren’t Jungkook. “Oh, you—”

“Yeah, but I think it really depends on the brand, some strawberry ones are terrible.”

Jungkook tries to be an adult, drawing circles on top of Namjoon’s chest. “Do you want to get the strawberry one you liked next time, then?”

“I’d… rather not.”

Namjoonie has a type. Jungkook’s not dense. “Was it your ex?”

“I don’t want to talk about this,” despite saying that, Namjoon keeps that kind voice and Jungkook appreciates it.

“I’m not the jealous type,” Jungkook says. He lifts his head up to look at Namjoon’s eyes, more to convince himself than Namjoon.

Namjoon only smiles at him fondly. “Really, now?”

“Yeah, well… I mean obviously you broke up with the guy.”

“I didn’t,” Namjoon says, then he frowns, realizing that could imply something else. “I mean—we never dated. He wasn’t anybody.”

Not anybody. He wasn’t any of the hyungs, if the hyungs talked about him like that. The hyungs talked about him like he was a part of Namjoon’s past, something amusing to look back to (like Namjoon’s mistake) but he’s still a part of Namjoon’s life nonetheless, a part that Jungkook was not in. So he’s not so sure what he feels.

“Okay,” he says.

“Trust me?”

“I do.”

Namjoon tucks a lock of hair behind Jungkook’s ear. CSAT rules would require him to cut it shorter, but for now amidst the chase to finals, he hasn’t gotten the time.

“Did it taste like Chokoemong, the first time we kissed?” Jungkook asks out of the blue.

“Hm?”

“The first time we kissed. Did it taste like Chokoemong?”

For a random musing, Namjoon thinks it over like a mathematical equation. “I… don’t know. I kinda shut down.”

Jungkook taps that crease between Namjoon’s eyebrows to loosen him up again, giggling. “Me too, I guess.”

They stay there in the calm for a few seconds, then Jungkook doesn’t know who initiates it, but their lips meet in the middle. Closed-mouthed, at first, until Jungkook’s turn slack, receiving. His eyelids are getting heavier, Namjoon takes care of him too gently.

“Sleepy, baby?” Namjoon asks him, voice aloft.

“Love you.”

“I love you, too,” Namjoon says. By the time Jungkook realizes that was the first time they’ve ever said that to each other, he’s already too deep in sleep to be able to tell his dreams and consciousness apart.

 

 

“So was he? Was he big?” Minho cuts to the chase.

Jungkook recalls telling Soo-eun about it as she screams at him through the phone, not anybody else. But what can he do? Word spreads, and god knows these caffeine zombies are pressed for any form of distraction.

They’re at ‘lunch’, technically, even if there’s no lunch because finals week means two tests per day that effectively ends school at eleven p.m., but they loiter in the classroom, anyway. Books and pencils in lieu of proper food.

Tomorrow’s History. Jungkook wishes he could eat a textbook and memorize all of the materials that way, but alas.

“Uhh,” Jungkook goes. He searches accusatively for Soo-eun, who averts his gaze and hides behind Jihoon’s hulking shoulder.

Dongseop, as helpful as ever, passes him a 30 cm ruler.

Jungkook can’t believe any of them. They all stare at him expectantly, and Jeon Jungkook delivers, what else is he if he doesn’t. He taps the 0 cm mark on the bottom of the ruler and closes his finger somewhere along where he estimates it would reach.

Soo-eun gasps. Minho shrieks. “You’re lying.”

Why did he agree to this again? Jungkook covers his ears. “I’m not?”

Jihoon slow-claps it out. “RIP your ass.”

“They haven’t gone that far,” Soo-eun says on his behalf.

“Soo-eun!” Jungkook whines and Soo-eun reflectively hides behind Jihoon again.

“You should do one of those, what, sphincter exercises,” Minho says shamelessly. Jungkook lets out a silent scream, his ears are burning. At least the attention’s on Minho now, the rest of them judging him. “What? It works, right?”

“I don’t know, I’m a top,” Jihoon says.

Soo-eun scoffs. “No you aren’t. You’re a virgin.”

While Minho loses it cackling, Dongseop takes the ruler back from Jungkook, squinting at that centimetre mark before he places it back on the table. “Enjoy your peace while it lasts.”

 

 

 

november

 

November 17, 8:40 AM.

That’s the date and time for the 2016 CSAT.

Junghyun calls him from the military only to tell him to have a blast! Have what blast? Jungkook pouts at the receiver as if Junghyun could see it. His dad sees it, though, and he gives Jungkook a sympathetic thumbs up from across the living room.

With finals week and the CSAT simulation dotting late October, November kicks off with no kick whatsoever. Days are just days, nights just nights. They all mush into one, an aftertaste faintly of Red Bull. The only constant? Past exam papers.

School’s done, that’s for one, but they still have to go for mock-exams and revision classes Jungkook needs to attend until lunch time.

He’s not in this battle by himself, which doesn’t console him and rather makes him feel incredibly guilty.

First of all, it stresses the fuck out of Namjoon, too, who also has his own finals to deal with. Their tutoring sessions become more irregular, Namjoon showing up from three in the afternoon and staying until eight or nine p.m. sometimes to make up for the days he can’t go.

They study Jungkook’s material, Jungkook naps and Namjoon studies his own material, then Namjoon naps when Jungkook works on past papers. His mom brings up their dinner, bowing and thanking Namjoon endlessly. Namjoon says it’s no big deal and thanks her for the food, bowing back, then the door closes and Jungkook giggles.

He knows Namjoon gets iffy when Jungkook’s mom thanks him. “She makes me out as this kind of saviour,” Namjoon says as Jungkook winds his arms around Namjoon’s neck.

“Too bad she doesn’t know this saviour defiles her son behind closed doors, huh?”

For that, Namjoon turns his head away when Jungkook goes to kiss him. “Go practice your hanja.”

In all honesty, Jungkook just wants to be over with everything as quickly as possible. Go take the CSAT’s, turn in his papers, forget his entire high school education on the way out of the test centre, eat as much samgyeopsal as he can with his friends, and then sleep for 48 hours.

He’ll be fine. All he’s been doing is repeat similar problems on similar paper formats for almost a year now. He won’t get out of it with flying colours like everybody knows Soo-eun will, but he’ll do just fine.

But then on his last mock exam, he gets a 78%.

The students from his class crowd around the results posted on the notice board. Jungkook sees Jeon Jungkook 16M2003 on the left grid, and then on the right grid, 312/400 (78%).

312/400. 78%.

Jihoon pulls him aside. A friendly arm loops around Jungkook’s shoulder and all Jungkook can make out are flurries of white, black, and navy of their uniform, faceless students milling about, until Jihoon sits him down on the staircase.

“It’s okay,” Jihoon says, crouching in front of him.

Jungkook presses the heel of his palms behind his eyelids. They’re damp when he lets go. His stomach hurts, maybe he ate something bad, he feels like throwing up.

What did he do wrong? Where? He can find out if he goes to the teachers’ office and asks them for a transcript but he doesn’t—he doesn’t want to know. 78%. What university would accept him? And then when he graduates, what job? Why does his entire future depend on this one November day?

He doesn’t even know what school he wants to go to.

“Jungkookie.” Jihoon rubs his arms. “It’s just a mock exam. We’ll be fine.”

Jungkook can hear the rest of his friends approaching them, Soo-eun’s voice. Soo-eun never gets below 390. Top first percentile, his parents talk about her as if she’s their own. He shoves Jihoon’s arm aside and stands up.

 

 

They won’t have tutoring that day, Namjoon has a practical exam. Dongseop takes the bus with him. He gets off at his stop and Jungkook doesn’t, the bus taking him across the river and to Dongjak-gu.

He texts his mom that he’ll go over his results with Namjoon at Namjoon’s place. She doesn’t ask why, Jungkook doesn’t want to go home and have her ask him why.

78%? She’ll freak.

Namjoon’s not home yet but Jungkook has the combination off the top of his head, punching them in and allowing himself inside.

When he’s not expecting company, Namjoon really doesn’t clean. Well, Jungkook’s got to cut him some slack, he’s been studying for both Jungkook and himself, after all.

Jungkook can’t sit still. He washes what is definitely Namjoon’s entire tableware in the sink, wipes the counters and tables, and recycles the paper waste, keeping busy.

78%.

Isn’t that funny? His finals were 87%, general school grades 90%. Three years worth for a 90% on top of a twelve years worth of education. And yet none of that matters if he slips during his CSAT’s.

If you don’t know what to do for the future just do good, get into a good school, get a good job.

But what if he bombs his CSAT’s? What if his pencils break, what if he doesn’t make it in time, what if he reads the questions wrong?

Should English, a language he doesn’t speak, decide his future in a country that doesn’t speak English? Should hanja decide it, when the newspapers have abandoned it? He won’t see a mathematical problem ever again, so why does he have to memorize all these equations? Why does it decide his job and his worth and how much he earns, how much he deserves, for the rest of his life?

(How the fuck did Namjoon get into Seoul National?)

(Soo-eun can get into Seoul National.)

Jungkook shuts the tap. The dish soap has dried up the edges of his nail bed all rough. He pulls at a peeled skin and it bleeds out.

He doesn’t want to graduate.

Because after this, what’s left?

Jungkook sighs and dries his hands with a kitchen towel, tearing a strip to loop around his finger while it’s bleeding.

He has some more steam to blow off, and he walks to Namjoon’s bedroom to find something to clean. Cleaning up is good, he doesn’t have to think when he’s cleaning. That’s one other thing he’s looking forward to once the CSAT’s are over: not thinking anymore.

As he predicted, Namjoon’s room is a laundry basket. Jungkook carries the hamper from the bathroom under one arm as he picks up the obviously dirty items of clothing on his way. He dumps them into the washing machine on the balcony, and then realizes that the detergent is all out.

He remembers Namjoon has spares before, not because he’s prepared or anything, but because he forgot he bought them already and ended up buying another tube. What Jungkook remembers is correct, he finds two unopened bottles of detergent under the rack of cacti and succulents.

He’s cracking open a new Downy tube when he sees it, under the rack like it’s something that’s dropped without anybody noticing, a green zippo lighter.

Does Namjoon smoke?

Jungkook doesn’t get the time to ponder that; his phone pings a couple of times.

He expected it to be his mom or his friends, or even Namjoon if he’s done with his exam.

It’s Yoongi.

They’ve met again a couple of times after that studio, Yoongi promised him he’d send the newest song he was working on with Namjoon when he got tired of toggling it.

That’s today, Jungkook supposes.

There’s an .mp3 file attached, they’re going to submit it for a solo R&B singer’s debut EP, so it’s meant to be hush-hush.

A message underneath that: Good luck on your CSAT’s.

Jungkook flicks the lighter with his nail. He types out can I stop by your studio, hyung? The lighter doesn’t spark and he taps sends.

 

 

That’s how he ended up in Yoongi’s studio, pretty simple. The man is eating chips with chopsticks as he stares at Jungkook to make sure Jungkook hangs his school jacket properly.

“I know I should be studying,” Jungkook tries to explain. The jacket slips off the peg twice and Jungkook folds it out angrily, adding a bit more weight under the collar.

“Should you?”

Is that a trick question? “Um.”

“When’s the test?”

“November 17.”

“I’m going to be honest with you, kid, I don’t even know what date today is.”

Must be nice. “November 17 is next week.”

Yoongi gestures at the sofa with his chopsticks. “Oh, cool. Sleep lots after that, you deserve it.”

Gingerly, Jungkook seats himself on the sofa, legs closed and spine straight, and Yoongi wrinkles his nose at him. The hyungs aren’t bad company, they like him and are very eager to get to know him, but they are older and older people make Jungkook nervous. This is also their first time alone together.

Yoongi catches on quick. He goes up from his swivel chair, grabs another pair of wooden chopsticks from the pile of chopsticks, plastic spoons, and wet tissues, and joins Jungkook on the sofa.

“Here,” he says, holding the fresh pair of chopsticks out for Jungkook. “You’re a growing boy.”

Just as he receives them, his stomach rumbles and Jungkook blushes at record speed. “Sorry.”

“Did you have lunch?”

“No…”

Change of plans. Yoongi snatches back the chopsticks and throws them on the coffee table along with the bag of chips. “I’m ordering food. You want pho?”

“Um.”

“We’re getting pho. You look like a beef person.” He’s typing away on his phone already, Jungkook has no control over this situation.

“Th-thank you, hyung.”

“Did you get bad grades or something?” Yoongi forgoes all formality. Jungkook would’ve jumped from the sofa if he wasn’t so frozen. The order’s made and Yoongi locks his phone. “It’s mock-exams period, right? Namjoon goes to me when he has bad grades, too, you don’t need to hide it.”

He’s not sure what it is about Yoongi, but the tension on Jungkook’s shoulders eases out and he slumps into the backrest. “Namjoon-hyung gets bad grades?”

“His bad grades are A.”

“Figures.”

Yoongi snorts and Jungkook loosens up enough to smile. “That’s devastating for overachievers, okay? You’ll be fine. What’s the worst that can happen anyway?”

“I’ll fail the test.”

“What’s the worst that can happen if you fail the test?”

Jungkook scrunches his eyebrows. What’s the worst that can happen? “The worst?”

“I’ll tell you the worst thing that’s going to happen,” Yoongi points out seriously. “Your parents will be very disappointed in Namjoon.”

Jungkook blinks. A beat passes between them where Yoongi waits for him uninterestedly, and then Jungkook just bursts into laughter. “Guess you’re right,” Jungkook says, wiping the water dampening his eye. “Thanks, hyung.”

“C’mon, get your mind out of the gutter. Ask me something else. I’ve known Namjoon since he was 17, I got tons of dirt on him. Go wild.”

Thing is, Jungkook wants his mind in the gutter. Gutters are empty, his thoughts would just roll like a bowling ball, no clash nor collision.

“Does Namjoon-hyung smoke?” Jungkook asks.

Yoongi has one ankle on his knee, and he looks at Jungkook weirdly. “When he was uh, 19? He stopped.”

The zippo lighter was old, but not that old. Jungkook knows it’s not his and he knows that whoever had it has been gone for a while, but he doesn’t really know. His mind won’t go into the gutter, it keeps spinning, spiralling into worries he’s put away and knocking them all down like a pinball game.

What a time to have mood swings.

Jungkook knows who smoked, and he knows who left. They’re not there anymore. Why is he feeling like this?

“The guy he used to see smoked, didn’t he?”

Yoongi doesn’t appear awfully alarmed by the question. “Ah yeah, he did.”

“Can I ask about the guy, then?”

Yoongi uncrosses his legs and sits back, are you okay, kid? written all over his face. “What did Joon tell you about the guy?”

“That he wasn’t anybody,” Jungkook says.

“Then he wasn’t anybody.”

“I just want to know!”

“Ask Hoseok.”

He did last time they met, Hoseok was drunk and yet sober enough to keep his mouth shut. “Hoseok-hyung didn’t want to tell me.”

“Then probably you shouldn’t know.”

“I’ll go ask Seokjin-hyung then.”

Jackpot. That sends Yoongi into a coughing fit. “Fuck. Okay. What do you want to know?”

“Where is he now?” Jungkook starts with the basics.

“Military.”

So that’s why he’s not around. “Is that why they didn’t date?”

Was that childish? Yoongi is sighing. “They didn’t date because they didn’t like each other that way.”

“How are you so sure about that?”

“Because he’s dating you now.”

“He’s not—”

Yoongi makes a face. “What do you mean he’s not?”

“He never told me he is.”

“I’m having serious doubts you’ll pass the CSAT now.”

“Did he part in good ways with the guy, then?”

“I don’t know, it’s none of my business.” Jungkook pouts. Yoongi rolls his eyes, not immune to it. “They fucked one or two times, that’s all.”

“So they did fuck.”

He’s giving Yoongi hell right now but frankly Jungkook couldn’t care less. The more bullshit he spews the less his head hurts. As far as he’s concerned, this talk is therapeutic.

“They’re both gay, Jungkook. You’re old enough to know that our ‘fucking’ pool is either dating apps or friends we know who are gay. And Joon doesn’t trust app people if they’re clean or not. Not much option there, is it?”

“Can I see a picture of him?”

“If you’re going to sulk about it, no.”

“I won’t sulk about it!”

Jungkook hasn’t had any private time with the other hyungs, but so far Yoongi is his favourite. He’s so easy to sway, maybe even more than Namjoon. Yoongi clicks his tongue at Jungkook and unlocks his phone, scrolling through what Jungkook assumes is either the Ka-talk app or his gallery.

“Okay. Here.” Yoongi finds it and turns the screen to Jungkook’s side. It’s the Ka-talk app, Yoongi is showing him a 1:1 profile picture of a boy holding a DSLR camera. The boy has round, doe eyes, his most striking feature.

Puppies. So that’s what it meant.

“What is it now?” Yoongi grumbles at his lack of reaction.

“He’s pretty.”

“And so are you! I’m not having this high school sleepover discussion with you.”

“But I am in high school,” Jungkook says.

At that, Yoongi spaces out. “Right,” he says. He really did forget that for a moment, did he. “Can’t you stress about your CSAT’s again?”

“Sorry.”

Yoongi taps on his phone for some more before he locks it back. “Don’t be. It’s cute that you’re worried, but Namjoon’s not that kind of asshole, okay? Just go pass your fun little standardized examination for him.”

“Okay.”

“But don’t stress about that, either. Our pho’s here, you need to eat up.”

The brief venting with Yoongi already helps, and having his stomach filled helps even more, it turns out. This is why his mom and Namjoon keep telling him to eat, he can’t think rationally on an empty stomach.

While they eat, Yoongi talks to him about Seokjin and Hoseok. Jungkook asks him about Namjoon’s old flame a bit more, and although Yoongi grumbles and complains all throughout, he doesn’t deflect from the topic. The kid was in Hoseok’s dance group, yes, everybody knew they fucked, yes, they never dated.

Yoongi also texts Namjoon that Jungkook’s with him, sending Namjoon a picture of Jungkook eating pho like a babysitter would to show a parent that their child is still alive. The topic Yoongi did deflect from was the bill, he doesn’t let Jungkook pay for his share of the meal. Not long, Namjoon texts back that he’s on his way home, and Yoongi shoos Jungkook out.

 

 

Namjoon himself has just gotten back home when Jungkook arrives. He opens the door with his beanie still on and takes Jungkook’s school jacket off for him.

“You didn’t have to clean,” Namjoon says apologetically.

“It’s exchange for the Baskin-Robbins you’ll buy me. Two-scoop, Gone with the Wind and mint chocolate,” Jungkook jots out his order.

Namjoon chuckles. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Jungkook follows him to the bedroom, where Namjoon slings the jacket over his desk chair. “What did you talk about with Yoongi-hyung?”

Admitting it to Namjoon is hefty. Jungkook skips the number and says, “My mock-exam results weren’t great.”

Taking his beanie off, Namjoon hums. “Hyung’s the best person for that.”

“We also talked about the green zippo lighter I found on your balcony.”

For the first few moments, Namjoon looks confused. Then he puts two and two together and a slight panic sinks in his expression. “Oh. That’s—”

Jungkook waves him off. “It’s okay, I know. Yoongi-hyung told me he’s in the military.” He climbs into Namjoon’s bed, patting the empty space next to him on the pillow.

As a high schooler nearing his expiration date, lying down is Jungkook’s favourite activity. It centres his equilibrium. Lying down is introspective.

Namjoon lays beside him. That March, before even seeing Namjoon’s face, from his voice Jungkook could tell that he was handsome. The more time they spent with each other, Namjoon only got prettier.

The static from the beanie has Namjoon’s hair sticking up. Jungkook smoothens it down for him. “I’m not a replacement, right?”

“What? Of what?”

“Of him.”

Namjoon frowns. This isn’t unprompted. This is an accumulation, a zippo lighter. “What makes you think that?”

“They—the hyungs said you have a type and that guy and I, we—”

“You’re different.”

They’re not entirely different. There’s a lot of significant overlaps. “We’re kinda alike, hyung. He was from Gyeongsang, too, right? Those photos you showed me before, the one your dongsaeng took. He was your dongsaeng, wasn’t he, hyung?”

Namjoon’s not mad or annoyed, but this is the most stern Jungkook’s ever seen him, more than grades dropping below 80% or misplaced x variables. “You’re different. You speak differently, you act differently. Photography aside, you’re different people with different interests.”

“But I don’t feel different.”

“You don’t feel different?”

Perhaps it’s not just Namjoon who doesn’t clean up. Jungkook’s been putting away taxi rides across Mapo-daegyo for later days, and now the shadow of his insecurities latch onto his soles. “If I’m not your boyfriend, then I’m not any different from that person.”

“What do you mean you’re not my boyfriend?” That sentence took him courage, and yet Namjoon returns it so simply.

“I mean, I—you said you weren’t that kind of person.”

“What are you talking about?”

“That time. With Seokjin-hyung, you said I was just a kid you were tutoring, and that you weren’t ‘that kind of person.’”

Namjoon takes some time to figure out just what the hell he’s talking about. His mouth opens when it dawns on him, but no voice comes out. Namjoon takes a deep breath and wipes his face. “Holy shit, Jungkook. I said that so Seokjin-hyung wouldn’t say inappropriate things in front of you, okay? Not because I don’t think you’re—have I never said that you’re my boyfriend?”

“No.”

“Why would I be anything but your boyfriend? I thought you asked me out over the phone that summer?”

Oh. Now Jungkook feels like a total idiot. “Well I’m—we never said the word, and you were always putting things off so I thought you were those types to like, wait until I graduate, or something—”

“You want me to ask you out after you graduate, then?”

“Forget about that! You already said that I’m your boy—boyfriend.”

“Yes, I think I am.”

“Hyung, be quiet, okay, I’m dumb! It’s—it’s just the CSAT’s and I don’t know, I was hungry so I was thinking like a hundred thoughts at once and then I got jealous. Not because I thought you cheated or anything! It was because—I was jealous that you’ve had other people before when I’ve only had you and I was jealous because—did you go all the way with him?”

The last question hits both of them out of nowhere.

Jungkook waits. Does he wish he can take it back?

“Do you really want to know?” Namjoon is too patient with him.

“I want to know.”

Without lying, Namjoon says, “Yes.”

“Then why don’t you want to go all the way with me?”

“Because he was of age. And you—”

“Are of age, too. I’m a legal adult,” Jungkook reminds him.

“You’re still in your school uniform,” Namjoon stresses the same point again and again.

“Now you’re just coming up with excuses.”

“I’m not doing anything more with you as long as your parents are still paying me.”

This is Jungkook’s mom’s fault. She thanks Namjoon too much. “I hate it when you pull the parent card.”

“It’s for a fact.”

“Does the parent card say you can do anything except put your dick in me?”

“Oh my fucking god.”

Boyfriend is more embarrassing to say than ‘put your dick in me’. Whatever, Jungkook’s not the only one with messed up priorities. “Your boundaries don’t make sense, hyung.”

“Fine, you caught me. I’m making some allowances because I’m horny, too, okay?”

“Then go all the way,” he whines.

“Why do you want to go all the way so much?”

“It’s—I told you! You’ve done a lot and you’ve done so much with him but not with me and—and it makes me feel like I’m not enough.”

Namjoon cups the side of Jungkook’s face. He’s barely hanging in there, but he gives it his all to look at Jungkook in the eye and say, “That is exactly why I’m scared of you. I don’t know if you really want things or if you just want to prove yourself.”

“I’m not trying to prove myself! I just want to do what I want.”

“Do what you want after you graduate.” So after he graduates he just becomes this socially responsible adult that no other adults can take advantage of?

Sure. Sounds credible.

That stubbornness has been with Namjoon for as long as Jungkook’s known him, however, and arguing won’t change Namjoon’s perspective.

“That’s in February,” Jungkook says. December and January are empty months. So-called ‘break’, university preparations.

“February it is then.”

Maybe he can still find a loophole. “I thought the parent card only says you can’t put your dick in me until they stop paying you.”

“And?”

Does he really have to point out the obvious to a Seoul National student? “They stop paying you the moment you stop tutoring me.”

“Mhm?”

“You don’t tutor me anymore after the CSAT.”

“That’s true.”

“CSAT’s next week.”

It all finally falls into place in Namjoon’s head. “I can’t with you,” Namjoon says in disbelief. Not as easy to sway as Yoongi, but child’s play, regardless. “Sure, I’ll mark my calendar.”

Ohmygod.” Jungkook nearly bites his tongue. No way, was it the loophole? Did it work? “Are you saying yes?”

Namjoon pinches his cheek. “Shut up before I change my mind.”

Jungkook has never shut up faster in his life.

 

 

The morning of the CSAT’s, his mom wakes him up at five thirty. He has kimchi jjigae for breakfast with anchovies as banchan, and his dad gives him two pieces of toffee for good luck.

His high school isn’t one of the official test centres, and he takes a different bus from a different stop.

In his subconscious, there’s the illogical fear that the bus will break down, or that he’ll miss his stop, the student sitting across the aisle keeps shaking his leg.

Yet Jungkook is oddly calm.

He’s listening to the mixtape Yoongi told Namjoon to submit to a label but never does. Namjoon’s lyrics are blunt and breathtaking, an edge where it cuts and a wave where it flows. They’re demure, but the more he listens the more the layers peel. Namjoon’s good at that. Saying a thousand with one.

The school he’s assigned to for the CSAT’s is crowded from down the slope to the gate. Underclassmen from neighbouring schools including his own holding up signs and placards to root for the test takers.

They’re only one and two years younger than him, but Jungkook sees them bow and cheer him on and thinks of how young they look. Kids.

(Is this how Namjoon sees him?)

Soo-eun and Minho were assigned to this test centre, as well, though Jungkook takes a quick look at the room seating and he’s the only one in the different room, with mostly kids from another school.

Past the school gate, only test takers and exam proctors are allowed in, some staff here and there. He still can’t find either Minho or Soo-eun. Minho texts him to meet up near the gymnasium before they turn in their phones.

Turns out the gymnasium is on the other side of the baseball court, and Jungkook gets lost on the way, ends up behind the school building itself.

Who he finds, rather, is Soo-eun.

She’s standing outside a window. He makes out pianos and string instruments inside, a music room.

“Hey,” Jungkook calls for her, catching her attention. “Why’re you here by yourself?”

She jolts when she notices him. Her hand is tap-tapping her thigh. Closed fist. A habit she’s grown into from thucking packs of smokes. (She’ll stink, and Dongseop always has a tiny bottle of perfume to remedy that.)

Soo-eun licks her lips. Her eyes are watery.

Jungkook goes alarmed. “Are you okay?” He hurries to her side. “Did you forget your pencils? Pencil sharpener? Eraser? I have spares—”

“Jungkook, I don’t think I can do this,” she blurts out.

“What? That doesn’t make sense, of course you can! You’re smarter than me, you’re top 1%.”

“But what if I’m not this time?” Crap, she’s crying. Jungkook really panics. “What if I missed a few points and I didn’t get in? What if I couldn’t make top 1% here, then it doesn’t matter if I was top 1% for our simulations! That doesn’t count, this is what counts and if I don’t get in the top 1%—”

Yoongi was right. It’s more devastating for the overachievers. Nobody notices if above-average students like Jungkook drop a grade, and if he does better the next time it gets him a rush of accomplishment.

All Soo-eun gets for another first place is a sense of relief. Then another test comes, and the pressure to maintain that number one tugs at her chains again. She can’t afford to slip. 12 years of education, 3 years of high school. Every move she makes has to yield perfect results.

“You’ll get in the first percentile,” Jungkook convinces her. She’s a little rattled now, but she’ll sit down and pick up her pencil and she’ll be right again. He believes in her. “It’s like, written in the stars.”

That’s so tacky that she scoffs at him. “You’re dumb.”

“You’ll get into SKY, KAIST, anywhere you want.”

“I can’t go to KAIST, I’m not a science student.”

“But you’ll still be able to get in, believe me.” It won’t be a surprise if she changed her mind last minute and takes the science course. Maybe not this year’s CSAT but next year’s. Or if KAIST has a separate entrance examination, she’ll probably pass that, too. “Stop crying, I’m the crybaby.”

She pouts, wiping her tears with her knuckles and then the back of her wrist. Jungkook’s cheesy choice of words did the job.

“Thanks, Kookie,” she says. Her voice is thin.

“It’s cool.”

She laughs next, just as thin. “I’m going to sound super childish but, even after this you’ll still meet me, right? We can still hang out?”

Jungkook laughs, too, small but warm. “Oh wow, a Seoul National student wants to hang out with a loser like me?”

“You’re dating a Seoul National student, asshole.”

“You’re obligated to write me letters when I enlist. Or else.”

“I’ll send postcards.”

“I want the ones with the LINE characters.” He plays around with her. He remembers what he has with him and takes one of the toffees his dad gave him from his pocket. “Here, it’s for good luck.”

She smiles, amused, and accepts the modest offering. “Thank you. Let’s get this over with.”

He unwraps his own toffee and she does the same. They pop them into their mouths. For good luck. Though she won’t need it.

 

 

The CSAT passes like how he expected it to pass. Eight gruelling hours of nothing he can remember.

He walks out the room, and then the school gate, pouring out into the downward slope amidst the bubble-coated high school students with faces and expressions he won’t remember, either. And he’s back. From where and to where, not really sure, just that he’s returned where he was before the ticking clock and papers and papers and papers.

12 years for these eight hours, gone without a trace.

He met Soo-eun and Minho by the bus stop, both of them surprisingly in high spirits. Adrenaline, all that. Minho’s bus comes first. He says catch you later, failures and has to tap his card three times because of the jitters.

Next is Jungkook’s bus, bound for Dongjak-gu.

Soo-eun digs through her bag and hands him a pink paper wrapping. Sleep well, she winks. Jungkook’s heartbeat is on his throat for the rest of the bus ride.

He doesn’t listen to a single song. Late autumn’s turning to winter, but the wind still sounds like spring.

 

 

Since he has class until six, Namjoon arrives twenty-some minutes after Jungkook made himself home.

The door clicks open and Jungkook jumps out of his skin, his feet taking him nervously to the entryway.

“You didn’t fail, right?” Namjoon asks with humour. His shoes are off already and he’s shrugging off his jacket as he steps into the living room.

Didn’t even remember the fuck I did, Jungkook wants to say, but he thinks better of it. He pushes Namjoon against the wall instead, dragging Namjoon down by the collar of his hoodie. Namjoon’s jacket drops to their feet and Jungkook kisses him.

Their teeth clack and their lips don’t slide as fluently as they’ve practiced for months, not enough tongue, until eventually Jungkook has to pull back.

Namjoon’s a bit stunned. He cradles Jungkook’s skull and knocks their foreheads together. “Calm down, you’re making me nervous.”

“It’s nothing different, right?”

“It is kind of different.”

Jungkook whines. “You’re making me nervous!”

“Should we postpone until February, then?” Namjoon teases, and Jungkook looks so affronted that Namjoon just has to laugh. He rubs Jungkook’s ears with his thumbs, doesn’t comment on how red and warm they are. “I’m kidding. I’m nervous, too. I’ll go… hang my jacket, wash my hands. Stuff. Wait for me in the bedroom?”

Jungkook sniffles, but nods nonetheless.

There’s this smile Namjoon gives him as he lets Jungkook go. A nostalgic one, keopi-reul mashigo and light banters over gum wrappers.

That was so long ago. Jungkook’s heart races at the memory.

Without full consciousness, his feelings for Namjoon have grown into something else. Songs have changed. Jungkook is no longer that boy lying in the dark of his room or that boy with the wrinkled finger pads in his bathtub.

He loves Namjoon differently now. It doesn’t mean that the way he loved Namjoon before was wrong or lacking, it’s just become something more.

He loves the way he loved Namjoon before, too, and he’d love the way he’ll love Namjoon in the future, as well.

He loves him.

By the desk in Namjoon’s bedroom, Namjoon has pinned Jungkook’s polaroid picture onto a small magnetic board. It hangs there among torn notebook pages with the lyrics Namjoon wrote, either in neat blocks or wild scribbles.

 

널 알기 전

내 심장은 온통 직선뿐이던 거야

난 그냥 사람, 사람, 사람

넌 나의 모든 모서릴 잠식

나를 —

 

The song that plays in Namjoon’s head, what does it sound like?

For now, Jungkook leaves them be. He moves to the bed to get a head start.

There’s a new bottle of lube in the drawer Namjoon keeps his supplies in, and Jungkook’s cheeks burn. Condoms are there, too, though he doesn’t think he’s heard of the brand before.

Oh.

Namjoon probably needs special ones, doesn’t he?

Namjoon walks into the room right in the middle of that thought and Jungkook suppresses the knee-jerk reaction to slam the drawer close.

The sliding door shuts, and Namjoon looks at him strangely.

Clearing his throat, Jungkook picks up the lube bottle and closes the drawer. “You restocked?” He wags it in front of Namjoon.

He sounds so matter-of-fact that Namjoon laughs. “Uh-huh.”

“I don’t want to use condoms.”

Cool, that laughter fades quick. “Ah, um. You sure?”

“It’s my first time.”

Namjoon steps towards him and winds his arms around Jungkook’s neck. “You want to feel me whole?”

That’s—rare. He didn’t expect Namjoon to connect the dots and actually say it. Jungkook gulps. “Yes.”

Namjoon leans in to kiss the corner of his eye. Not so much a kiss, really, merely a brush of lips. Jungkook hugs his waist and he doesn’t know which of one of them leads the other one to the bed, but the back of Jungkook’s knees meet the mattress first and Namjoon climbs onto his lap.

The lube is placed next to him on the bed. Jungkook pulls Namjoon closer to him, flush chest to chest.

“Can I mark you up?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon nods. Tentative yet eager, Jungkook puts his lips on Namjoon’s collarbone. That subtle scent of the house lingers there. Lotion and linen.

Jungkook leaves two marks, too. One on Namjoon’s shoulder and the other above Namjoon’s collarbone.

“You look proud,” Namjoon says, hissing when Jungkook lets go.

“Your pride, pride, pride?” he recites a part of Namjoon’s lyrics.

That surprises Namjoon, but a smile curves on his lips, nonetheless. “You’re my person, person, person.”

Having said that, Namjoon flips their positions deftly, Jungkook being the one to straddle him now. This is something they’re more comfortable with.

“I wish you wouldn’t have to wear your uniform,” Namjoon says.

This potential guilt talk is cute now. “It’s sexy,” Jungkook counters.

“Uhh.”

“It’s hot. You think it’s hot. Admit it, it’s fine.”

“I, uh, it’s—”

“I’ll make it easier for you,” Jungkook offers. He takes Namjoon’s hand and guides it to the knot of his uniform necktie. “Here. Start here, please, sunbae-nim?”

“Jungkook.”

Jungkook smiles mischievously. “You’d rather I call you seonsaeng-nim?”

“Th-the other one.” Namjoon coughs, running his hand down the necktie. “You can’t even take this off for me first?”

“I want you to have the full experience of debauching a high school student.”

“As if I haven’t been doing that for three months.”

“You haven’t eaten me up.”

Jal meoggesseumnida.”

Jungkook laughs. Namjoon loosens his pretentious tie for him, Jungkook’s school was too good for a clip-on.

Any other day and Jungkook would’ve thought Namjoon would get the knot caught in the middle of taking it off, but Namjoon is less clumsy when he’s nervous, apparently. The knot comes off without fuss, and Jungkook helps him strip it off and toss it to the side.

Namjoon undoes the buttons of his shirt from the very top. He reaches the second one and says. “I can feel your heartbeat, you know?”

“It’s beating that loud?”

“Mhm.”

“Sorry.”

“Why? Mine’s just as loud.” Namjoon noses Jungkook’s neck, lips on Jungkook’s pulse point. “You’re my wind, wind, wind.”

The button right above Jungkook’s waistband comes off. Namjoon unbuckles his belt for him and Jungkook uses his hands, too, before he overheats, untucking the rest of his shirt and then unbuttoning the last two buttons.

Then Namjoon freezes.

He saw it, didn’t he? That last-minute surprise.

“Y-you—” Namjoon tries to find the words. “Did you wear this all day?”

Jungkook’s ears burn so hot they feel like they’re going to fall off. “No,” he sulks. Of course not. Throughout the CSAT’s? “I changed in your bathroom.”

“You’re going to be the end of me someday.”

It was an out of whim decision. He thought it’d be fun, but now he shallowly regrets it from how much the embarrassment is wringing him inside.

Namjoon pulls back and Jungkook threads his fingers in Namjoon’s hair, needing something to hold onto. At the very least, Namjoon’s blushing like mad, too. Their eyes met but it’s more of being too shy to look anywhere else.

Namjoon traces the lace around Jungkook’s hips. They fit, thankfully, Soo-eun chose the right size.

“Did you buy this by yourself?” he asks. His finger sneaks under the band, careful to not stretch the dainty material.

“Soo-eun bought it for me. Well, I gave her the money, but. She was the one to actually go to the store.”

“She’s a keeper.”

“Do—do you—” Jungkook hiccups. “Do you like it?”

“Might have to take a better look.”

Jungkook tugs Namjoon’s hair for that one and Namjoon laughs, rubbing Jungkook’s flank.

He thinks it maybe counts as a thong, the band goes higher up his hip bones and the lace is visible even with his pants on. Soo-eun sent him a picture of it before actually making the purchase, but how was Jungkook supposed to know which is a panty and which is a thong when they’re rolled up in a display case?

“You look good in black,” Namjoon compliments. He unzips Jungkook’s pants and Jungkook’s thighs tighten around him reflectively.

“Just good?”

“Pretty,” Namjoon corrects, amused.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t be into it. Like, maybe you’re into less feminine stuff, or, I don’t know, maybe you’re boring.”

Namjoon pinches Jungkook’s tummy in retaliation and that gets Jungkook laughing louder.

“Hush,” Namjoon reprimands. He soothes the skin he pinched because that’s the way Namjoon is.

With his palms Namjoon feels up the lace, down to Jungkook’s crotch, then up again to his hips. “You’re so pretty,” Namjoon marvels. They’re not joking around anymore.

Jungkook can’t say that the lingerie has no effect on him, either. It’s soft the way cotton isn’t, a novel kind of touch. The material strains above his filling cock. He can feel the pattern of the lace on him and how Namjoon’s petting his thighs does nothing to help with that.

But today, he gets to touch Namjoon, too, doesn’t he? Jungkook coyly follows the seam of Namjoon’s zipper with his thumb. What have they done that’s gotten them like this? Only jokes and soft-spoken words, yet Namjoon’s as hard as he is.

“You can,” Namjoon gives him the permission.

Jungkook bites his lip and unfastens the button of Namjoon’s pants. Namjoon’s hard enough that the zipper slides down almost like it can’t bear the weight anymore.

Jungkook’s not sure what to do, he feels as if he’s kneading Namjoon’s bulge like a cat. “This is your fault,” Jungkook sulks. “You never let me touch it and now I don’t know what to do.”

“You’re doing just fine,” he says, when he’s covering Jungkook’s hand with his own. “Look, doing so good with your bunny paws.”

Jungkook gives his dick a squeeze and Namjoon has the audacity to laugh.

“Hyung!”

“Help me out, come on.” This once, Namjoon actually initiates it, lifting his hips as he tugs the waistband of his pants down.

Jungkook’s breath catches. Namjoon’s dark cock curves against his stomach and Jungkook can’t stop staring at it.

He pouts. “Why are you this big?”

“Why are you this cute?” Namjoon returns the question. He’s in no position to say that when he’s got his hand on the base of his cock.

Jungkook juts out his pout more. The magic always works, Namjoon gives him a peck.

The more their hips grind together, the more Jungkook starts to believe that the thong wasn’t meant for this. The head of his cock peeks out of the waistband obscenely, the lace dragging his foreskin past the pink flesh of his cockhead.

Jungkook moves to cover it up but Namjoon seizes his wrist midway.

“Cute,” Namjoon says. He lines his cock against Jungkook’s clothed one and feels that new friction for the first time. “Oh.”

“Soft?” Jungkook asks.

Like a curious kid, Namjoon drags the band of Jungkook’s thong lower, exposing more of his shaft. Jungkook spreads his thighs and it’s so apparent how different they are. Namjoon is so big. Jungkook feels him everywhere.

It’s a full grip for Jungkook to gather both of their cocks together in one hand, Namjoon has to help him cover them with his own hand.

“Did you shave?” Namjoon asks.

“It’ll look prettier that way,” Jungkook says. The lace is dainty, and if he shaved there’d be more skin visible through it. “Isn’t it?”

“Y-yeah.”

Gosh, Jungkook loves it when Namjoon stutters. With that confidence, Jungkook paws for the lube beside him and taps Namjoon’s forearm with it. “Pretty enough to open up?”

Namjoon blinks, then a slow smile curves on his lips. “Always.”

Namjoon takes the lube from him and Jungkook grips both of their cocks with his hands to compensate the loss of Namjoon’s touch.

He doesn’t dare move much, merely lifting his hips obediently when Namjoon snakes a hand behind him. It’s a flimsy little lingerie, Namjoon’s fingers slip beneath the satin without even trying.

The lube is cool, not an unpleasant temperature. Namjoon rubs the gel across his pucker, before he stops and asks, “You’re… smoother?”

Here comes another embarrassing part. “Y-yeah, I shaved there, too.”

“I thought you didn’t grow hair here.”

“Turns out there was some, um, peach fuzz.”

“Cute,” Namjoon coos. He’s barely fingering him, if at all, only massaging the lube on Jungkook’s crease and groping Jungkook’s asscheeks for the fun of it.

Hyung, get on with it,” Jungkook whines.

“Sorry, sorry. You’re so cute.” An apology doesn’t count as one when he’s still giggling. Finally, the tips of two fingers prod his hole. One of them drags the opening to the side for the other one to sink in, stretching the ring of muscles from the inside. “So soft inside, Kookie. You’re ripe.”

Blood rushes to Jungkook’s cheeks. He wants to say something smart, but everything escapes him and only a squeak comes out.

Laughing fondly, Namjoon kisses his jaw. He rubs Jungkook’s walls inside and then pushes more of the lube in with his second finger. There’s resistance like it always is in the beginning, but Jungkook gives in sweetly. Each ridge of Namjoon’s knuckles fits inside him like a habit.

“I’m already so used to you,” Jungkook says, a thought that floats above his mind. “Some—sometimes when I do it by myself, it feels wrong.” Slick runs down to his taint and he squirms, reacting by squeezing their cocks together.

The hitch in Namjoon’s breath is endearing. “As in, it doesn’t feel good?”

“No, it just doesn’t feel… enough. It’s not yours so it doesn’t feel right.” Jungkook can’t stop obsessing over their size difference. He frots them together and he swears Namjoon’s cock pulses on the upstroke. “Will your cock make me feel that way, too, hyung? Make everything else feel not enough?”

Namjoon’s other hand on Jungkook’s waist clutches and Jungkook moans from that. “S-sorry.”

Hyung.”

Namjoon takes the cue. He thrusts his fingers up, deep against a swelling inside Jungkook he’s been avoiding so far. “No—” Jungkook sobs. If Namjoon even as slightly curls his fingers, he’d be done for. “H-hyung, don’t—don’t make me come, just open me.”

Kookie,” Namjoon grunts. He’s never used Jungkook’s nickname this much before.

The panty string is dangerously threatening to tear. Namjoon rubs circles on top of Jungkook’s puffed rim with three of his fingertips.

“Kookie—” That’s all the warning Jungkook gets before Namjoon shoves three of his fingers in. Jungkook’s hips jump, a response that backfired because that meant it pleasured them on their front. “S-sorry,” Namjoon apologizes.

“‘s o-okay, hyung.” Namjoon wriggles his fingers inside of him in hopes of loosening him up better. Jungkook’s not sure if it does the trick but they’re right on his prostate that way, and he lowers himself down on them on shaky legs.

Jungkook doesn't realize it until Namjoon curses, that he’s unconsciously grinding his hips down against Namjoon’s. Their movements have gone far from controlled. Namjoon grips his thigh and tries to guide him, but he only ends up moving with Jungkook, rutting to chase the friction.

Namjoon’s forehead drops to Jungkook’s shoulder. Fingernails sink into Jungkook’s waist. While their sanity’s intact they stop to a slow and it’s like a hit to Jungkook’s chest. Namjoon’s holding him down firm enough that Jungkook can’t move, forced to sit with Namjoon’s bony fingers crammed up inside him.

“You’re wet,” Namjoon says, and it’s then that Jungkook feels it, a trickle running down the side of his palm. Precum is drooling from his slit and Jungkook gasps at the sight.

It’s all right. Their breathing has become somewhat composed now. Namjoon eases his fingers out of Jungkook. His knuckles catch at the flimsy panty. Namjoon says, “Let’s not ruin this.”

“You planned to ruin it? Hyung, it’s expensive.”

From how much Namjoon’s playing with the thong, he’s bound to tear it if they don’t come up with any contingencies. “I’ll buy you more,” Namjoon says.

“With my parents’ money?”

“Listen here, you—”

Namjoon shifts their weight and the next thing Jungkook knows, his back has met the mattress and Namjoon is on top of him. The pesky hoodie covers Namjoon’s head again and Jungkook hauls him down by it, claiming his lips. This one’s another clash, but Namjoon’s lips are so plump that the kiss mellows before Jungkook knows it, a tongue on his tongue, sweet and pink.

Despite that, Namjoon’s not moving any gentler. Namjoon strips Jungkook’s pants down his thighs, but he’s right between Jungkook’s legs and the maneuver goes floundering quick.

Namjoon’s elbow bumps Jungkook’s calf and then Jungkook’s foot kicks Namjoon square in the stomach, and they both can’t stop laughing at it, tumbling over and getting both their limbs and Jungkook’s pants tangled between them.

“Stop,” Jungkook shrieks, chest heaving from all the laughter. “Stop, do it properly.”

Namjoon’s shaking, giggling. He kicks off his own pants first before he lifts Jungkook’s legs up, more careful now as he takes off Jungkook’s trousers. He’s hoarding his fill out of this, sliding that dainty little thong off Jungkook’s legs with all the leisure he has.

What a waste. So much money only to end up on the floor of Namjoon’s bedroom. (Or perhaps then that’s not a waste at all.)

“Don’t take off your hoodie,” Jungkook says, before Namjoon even thinks about it.

“Don’t?”

He wraps his arms around Namjoon’s back. “Soft.”

“Okay. Don’t take off your shirt, too.”

“Oh?”

“I want the full experience of debauching a high school student.”

Jungkook snorts. His school crest is sewn on the breast pocket of his shirt, there’s no going around that one. “Predator.”

“You’ve been waiting to say that, haven’t you?”

“Thank you for the perfect opportunity.”

“Bunnies are prey,” Namjoon recycles Jungkook’s words and Jungkook shrieks in laughter when Namjoon necks him.

Marks, again. Winter’s a blessing. The last time Namjoon bruises him Jungkook presses on the swelling in front of his bathroom mirror, and has never felt prettier. Never felt more wanted.

“Oh, shit, I didn’t get to see your ass in that lingerie.” Jungkook snickers as he passes the lube to Namjoon. “Can you, uh?”

“Ugh, no, hyung. It’s on your floor already.” Namjoon pouts. “I bought two pairs, okay? Happy?”

“Fuck, you bought two?”

“Yeah, other one’s blue.”

“Baby blue?”

Yes. Don’t get too excited.”

Namjoon grins and kisses the mole on his nose. “Get on your stomach for me?”

Jungkook shakes his head and says, “Wanna see sunbae-nim,” and Namjoon blushes the harshest that day. Chances are Jungkook would probably forget that little roleplay along the way, he already well did. So while he’s still lucid enough to do it, might as well.

Namjoon sits back on his heels first. There’s a click of the cap again, this is the main attraction.

“I can’t give you the whole thing,” Namjoon says.

That’s absurd. They haven’t even tried it. “Why?”

“Because it won’t fit, Kookie.” He’s using his responsible adult tone again. This is not the time for that. “Believe me.”

Jungkook sulks. Namjoon’s slathering the lube on his cock now and Jungkook’s staring again, it caught him unawares when Namjoon cups his chin and kisses him plushly.

“Mn?”

“You’re biting your lips again,” Namjoon explains. “What are you so focused on?”

Rather than answering, Jungkook reaches to wrap Namjoon’s cock in his hand. It’s sloppy contact, what with Namjoon’s own fist already on it and the dripping amount of lube.

“Wan’ it,” Jungkook begs.

Namjoon’s pupils cloud, fascinatingly dark. He grabs the underside of Jungkook’s knee, but Jungkook is more compliant than Namjoon is assertive, and it’s really more of Jungkook folding his legs toward his chest than Namjoon pushing him.

“Tell me,” Namjoon says. “Anything you feel, good or bad, say it to me, okay?”

Jungkook nods. Namjoon crowds him against the pillows. The length of Namjoon’s cock rests heavily on Jungkook’s crotch, brushing his balls and his shaft. Frighteningly big, if Jungkook could admit.

That’s all he can think about, to be frank. Big, big, big. Namjoon’s cockhead nudges his wet opening as Namjoon lines himself up, his precum and lube smeared on Jungkook’s rim.

“You’re so good to me,” Namjoon thanks him.

Jungkook can’t believe it. Namjoon’s cock breaches in, his muscles are giving in for this ridiculously big cock. The stretch is dizzying, but he’s taking it. Maybe those two months of being fingered have a purpose to them, actually.

If Jungkook felt full with Namjoon’s fingers, that was nothing compared to this. Jungkook knows his fingernails are clawing Namjoon’s hard chest even through the hoodie. Keeping it on was the correct choice.

“It’s okay.” Namjoon caresses the side of his face. “It’s okay, you’re taking it so well.”

He’s shushing Jungkook, Jungkook hears himself then, the hhn hhng he’s whimpering out. Namjoon’s pushing his cock in at a painstakingly slow pace. How far deep is he? Jungkook’s stuffed to his belly.

Falteringly, Jungkook tries to hold Namjoon’s face, too. Both hands, his fingers in Namjoon’s sweaty hair.

Namjoon’s eyebrows are knitted, his lips slightly parted. He’s so breathtakingly handsome. “D-does it feel good, hyung?” Jungkook asks. His voice’s ruined, he hasn’t even moaned yet.

“Jung—Jungkook.”

“Am I tight for you?”

“Y-you are, you’re—fuck.”

“Hyung feels so good,” Jungkook says. And he means it. The drag of Namjoon’s cock on his lube-slicked walls is intoxicating. “So good, hyung, you’re making me feel so good inside.”

There it is. There he goes, the first shallow thrust. “Kookie, please.”

It has to feel good for Namjoon, it has to. Namjoon’s eyes are black, Jungkook can feel the most intimate part of himself cling to Namjoon’s cock. He’s being moulded for it. “Ah, I—ah, I’ve been wanting this for—for so long, I’ve wanted your cock for so long—”

“Kookie.” Jungkook brushes Namjoon’s hair back, cradling his head in his palms so lovingly. “Kookie, I—I need to.”

“Please,” Jungkook voices out, no matter how feeble he sounds. Taken apart in the most tender of ways. “Please fuck me, hyung.”

Namjoon thrusts in. He draws back and does it again, his rhythm flowing into fluidity the more he fucks Jungkook.

Jungkook can’t feel Namjoon’s hips on his ass. Even like this, he’s in control. He’s not giving Jungkook his whole length. And Jungkook’s not sure if he can take it all because he already feels like he’s filled to the brim, like Namjoon’s rammed up all the way past his belly button, every inch that’s inside pressing everywhere, not a single second where it isn’t on his prostate even if he’s sliding in and out.

But Jungkook’s greedy. “P-put it all in, h-hyung.”

Namjoon shakes his head. Like he knows Jungkook’s going to ask for more, he seals Jungkook’s lips with his before that happens, swallowing both of their whimpers.

Next time, then. Next time Jungkook wants everything. Next time Jungkook wants to be his doll, wants to be used, to be ruined.

Namjoon takes Jungkook’s cock in his hand, and really, Jungkook’s forgotten that up until now. It strikes him like a wave. “I-I’m gonna cum, Kookie,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook thinks he’s going to come, too. Is he? This isn’t any orgasm he’s gone through before. He’s throbbing under his skin, there’s something molten inside him and the sloppy sound of Namjoon fucking him isn’t doing it any better.

“Please,” Jungkook only manages to say.

He’s not sure who came first, but there’s this wetness inside of him suddenly. He feels a tight squeeze both in his cock and his ass, another wetness on his stomach. He came, he doesn’t have the chance to register that, all of a sudden Namjoon shoves his entire cock in him in one swoop.

Their sweaty skin meets, finally. Jungkook’s pushed past his limits, but it’s… oddly satisfying. Namjoon’s balls deep inside him and Jungkook is claimed.

“You said it wouldn’t fit.” Jungkook finds his voice after what seems like two full minutes of them grasping for breath.

Namjoon grunts, but makes no effort to move. “S-sorry.”

“But it fit.”

“I wasn’t fucking you with the whole thing,” Namjoon says. They’re banter-mode already, then. Jungkook wraps his legs around Namjoon’s waist, circling his hips once before he locks his ankles on the small of Namjoon’s back. It squelches and that’s so cute. “What are you doing?”

“Stretching myself so you can fuck me with the whole thing next round.”

Namjoon laughs. Choppy and sounding like he’ll collapse any second, but a laugh’s a laugh. “You’re so—you’re so stupid, I love you.”

“Thanks, you’re kind of stupid, too.” It’s sweltering and probably Jungkook shouldn’t do it. Which means he’ll do it all the more; he flaps Namjoon’s hood over his head and pulls him in by the strap to kiss his swollen mouth. “I love you, too.”

 

 

They shower, eventually. Give or take half an hour later, but they showered and that’s an accomplishment.

Jungkook learns two new things about sex. One, he lost a great percentage of his legs’ motory function and will need to lean heavily on Namjoon for the foreseeable future. Two, cleaning come out of his ass takes an insane amount of time. He’s not sure if he likes it. It’s time-consuming, but it’s hot to have it inside and it’s hot to finger himself to take it out, too.

They do a bit of housekeeping before they collapse on the bed again. Jungkook calls his parents to tell them he’s staying over at Dongseop’s because he fell asleep right after lunch and he’s too tired to go home. Namjoon orders some food to be delivered an hour after (they need to rest) and prepares a fresh change of clothes for Jungkook.

When they do get in bed, Namjoon’s the clingiest.

He holds Jungkook in his arms tight, his face buried in Jungkook’s chest. Like a blanket, that’s how Namjoon is. Weight and body warmth. For a moment, Jungkook feels as if Namjoon’s younger than him, then. Like a baby.

“If you feel just the slightest bit not good, do what you need, okay?” Namjoon tells him, patting Jungkook’s back lightly. “Like if you feel any guilt, or anything uncomfortable. If you need to hold me, hold me. If you need to be away from me, I’ll give you space.”

Nothing’s like that for now. He just feels sleepy. “Do you usually feel like that?”

Namjoon shakes his head. “No, but… but it might feel like that after your first time. My first girlfriend felt like that, and I didn’t understand, so I acted like an asshole.”

Jungkook hums, he’s stroking Namjoon’s hair absentmindedly. “I’ll tell you if I felt like that, but I don’t think I will. I just want to sleep for two days.”

“Sure.” Namjoon chuckles. The vibrations lulls Jungkook to half-slumber. “You did well on the CSAT’s. You’ll get good grades.”

“Thank you.”

“You deserve it.”

Jungkook hums again. His sleep’s there, he’s on the precipice of it. It’ll only be a short nap for now, though, their food’s coming and he needs it in his system or he’ll probably die in his sleep. Before he plunges into sleep, a thought surfaces into his mind.

“Hey, hyung,” Jungkook calls him. Namjoon hmm’s. Hope the delivery guy has enough persistence to wake them up. “Guess I’m an adult now, am I?”

“Sex doesn’t make you an adult,” Namjoon says forwardly.

Jungkook smiles. Although really, he expected Namjoon to say that. It’s just utterly fun to mess with him. “Oh huh.”

“I don’t even think I’m an adult.”

“Oh huh.”

“Brat.”

Jungkook doesn’t argue further. His eyelids are getting heavy, and his hand that’s stroking Namjoon’s hair comes to a stop. The nap he’ll have will be the warmest he’s ever had.

 

 

 

february, the next year

 

Jungkook graduates on a Friday. February 12, 2016.

Much like the CSAT’s, he has close to no idea how it passed, but it did. A two-something hour ceremony in his school auditorium. Speeches he didn’t listen to, faculty faces he’d forget in time.

Mainly, they took pictures. He took pictures with his teachers, his classmates, his friends. Along the auditorium wall, the school has lined up pretty flower arrangements and they took a group picture there, as well. Jihoon swept Dongseop off his feet in a bridal carry at the last second and the shutter clicked then. None of their faces were camera ready but that was Jungkook’s favourite picture out of the bunch.

Namjoon came. Talked mostly to Jungkook’s parents, and then introduced himself to the rest of Jungkook’s friends, too. Minho’s face was red as a tomato and he couldn’t look Namjoon in the eye at all. Soo-eun had a laugh about it, even if she couldn’t look Namjoon in the eye, either.

After the address, when his parents stick around to chat with the other parents and faculty, Jungkook nudges his chin at Namjoon and leads him behind the auditorium.

The school building itself is empty during the ceremony. Jungkook takes him on a short tour through the corridors, an everyday that’s now his past. This is the art room, this is administration, cafeteria’s down the hall, he goes, like he’s telling that to himself, too. This is where it is, do you remember?

Jungkook’s classroom, along with the other third year classrooms, are on the fourth floor, and they go there last.

Next month, the new school year will start. The janitors have cleaned the desks and wiped the boards. There are no more Geography projects hung on the wall with their names, no more pencil scribbles and cheats on the desks.

The classroom that was his now looks just like any other classroom. New kids will fill in the space they left, until their time comes next year and they leave, too, for another batch of kids to replace them.

It’s only been three months since his last class, but nothing here feels as if it was ever his. Even the uniform he’s wearing feels like something he’s never worn before. The lapels are stiff, the cotton scratchy.

Jungkook sits on the table by the window. The class overlooks the court from the same angle his middle school class did. “Do you miss high school?” he asks Namjoon.

Namjoon follows Jungkook’s line of sight down on the court. He wonders if Namjoon did any sports in high school. “Sometimes,” Namjoon answers him. “I miss people telling me what to do.”

“You’re lying.”

“Nope. Nobody will tell you to do anything anymore from now on and you’re going to be begging for them to.”

Jungkook tilts his head. He plays with his tie. Last time, too, maybe? Until he gets a job. “There’s still the military for me.”

“Oh yeah, that’ll suck.”

“I don’t want to graduate anymore, suddenly.”

Namjoon laughs. “Too bad, you’re holding your diploma.”

The thing is prop, more than anything. No way they’re going to roll up the real diploma. Jungkook shakes the cylindrical case in his hand. “Maybe if I throw it out the window?” he jokes, having Namjoon laugh more, the kind where his eyes turn to crescents and his dimples show.

“Don’t do that. I got you a graduation present already.” Jungkook perks up at the mention of a reward. Namjoon digs something out of the inside pocket of his coat and takes out a box of xylitol, much to Jungkook’s disappointment. “Here?”

Really? Jungkook pouts, but accepts it anyway. “Sure, hyung. Not like you haven’t been feeding me gums the whole school year.”

“It’s a different packaging.” That’s not wrong. This one’s a rectangular box, Namjoon’s only been giving him the plastic bottle kinds or the aluminum packs at the beginning, the ones he never opened properly.

But, still. He really thought he’d get a real present.

“Have one to commemorate,” Namjoon says.

Jungkook sighs. Why not? They should’ve gotten this kind of box back then, it opens neatly from the side. Wait. It has been opened already.

“Hyung, this isn’t even bought for me is it, it’s just you giving me your gums again,” Jungkook whines. He opens it the rest of the way and only then realizes the trap he’s fallen into. On the other side of the flap, written in blue marker:

 

Jeon Jungkook,

Be my boyfriend.

 

And Jungkook’s complaints die in his throat. That dumb misunderstanding months ago is handed back to him all wrapped up in ribbons.

Namjoon’s laughter breaks him out of his trance. “What, you wanted it, right?” He grins, with full knowledge that his joke was executed impeccably.

“I can’t believe you,” Jungkook grumbles. His hands are trembling and his face is so, so hot. He wants to dunk his head in a bucket of ice, who cares if it’s February? A frostbite is a fantastic idea right now.

“But will you? Be my boyfriend?” Namjoon messes with him.

There are pins and needles all over his palms, he needs to move his hands. Jungkook unfolds a strip of gum from the box and slides it into his mouth. “Get me a real present.”

“I will,” Namjoon promises.

It will be March soon. They will have known each other for a year.

This has been one long spring.