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Jeongguk goes the remainder of the ride back to Taehyung’s place wordlessly, thanking god the others never questioned him about it. Taehyung let Hoseok be in charge of the music, passing him the auxiliary cord, yet still requested a new song every 10 seconds.
“Hyung, this is a drive, not a dance battle. Enough of the aggressive hip hop please,” Taehyung begs.

“You said I’m in charge of the music,” the eldest retorts.

“And you don’t bother to take into consideration the people around you? It’s called compromise, hyung. When I say
someone is in charge of the music, what I mean is that they’re in charge of choosing the songs out of the compiled list of songs the entire party has agreed everyone can tolerate. What is not clear about that?”
“Sorry, but I don’t recall communicating in creating this predetermined list that supposedly everyone got a say in,” Hoseok defends, ridicule evident in his tone.

“Can you just play Daniel Caesar?”

“Wow I don’t even get a please,” Hoseok tuts but relents to his request anyway.
The song starts, the melody instantly familiar in Jeongguk’s ears. It’s called Streetcar.

He glances briefly in Taehyung’s direction, sees him lip syncing the words, his eyes sparkling from the fast passing streetlights. The song choice highly appropriate to the scene.
“Tae, I’m pretty sure you’re the only one enjoying this song right now,” Hoseok challenges.

“Too bad,” the driver answers.

Jeongguk wants to defend the guy. He wants to correct Hoseok and tell him that Streetcar is in fact his current favourite song and that he is very much
enjoying the sight of Taehyung getting lost in the lyrics as the blur of lights pass by his mellow figure. Instead, Jeongguk just chuckles lightly at Taehyung’s unbothered response, the boy huffing a short laugh alongside him and they share a knowing glance.
Finally, after several minutes of arguing over the music, they pull up to Taehyung’s apartment complex.

“You didn’t replace me yet, did you?” Hoseok asks concerned.

“No, hyung. Your old room is still empty and vacant,” Taehyung assures.
“You don’t have a roommate?” Jeongguk suddenly asks, catching them both off guard.

“No, just an empty bedroom…”

They make their way up to Taehyung’s place on the fourth floor. Jeongguk reverting back to his silence while the other two provide all the conversation they need.
They make it to his front door, Taehyung unlocking it with little finesse. They show themselves in, Hoseok immediately prodding into Taehyung’s kitchen cabinets for the booze while him and Jeongguk shed their jackets by the front door.
“Lemme take that,” the elder offers.

He takes Jeongguk’s jacket from his hands and puts it and his own jacket on just one hanger together.

Hoseok re-emerges from the kitchen with three bottles of beer, one in each hand and the last one tucked under his armpit.
He offers one to Jeongguk which he accepts openly and the other to Taehyung to which he surprisingly denies.

“No, no. No drinking for me. I’m driving this kid home later,” Taehyung explains, patting the younger’s shoulder.

“Taehyungie is responsible now?” Hoseok mocks.
Jeongguk’s brows furrow after processing the elder’s words.

“What? I’m not a kid, Taehyung,” Jeongguk whines in offence.

“I’m kidding, Guk,” the boy giggles.

“Oh…” he pouts.

“But I’m still not drinking though. I actually have to drive you home.”

“Thanks.”
The boys get settled in Taehyung’s living room. Jeongguk and Hoseok sit on opposite sides of the sofa as Taehyung sets up his TV to put on a movie.

“Can you put on The Society?” Hoseok suggests.

“Movies, Hobi,” Taehyung scolds.

“You don’t like anything I suggest!”
“I said movies!”

“C’mon, it’s not like we’re actually gonna pay attention to it.”

“What about Titantic?” Jeongguk suggests, voice soft and quiet like a drop of honey in water.

Taehyung’s expression softens, a smile spreading to his almond eyes. “Sure,” he agrees.
He doesn’t look, but the younger can feel the way Hoseok stares at him, his eyes burning holes into the side of Jeongguk’s face. If he could get good look of the elder’s expression, he still wouldn’t be able to read it. Probably a mixture of guilt (hopefully) & jealously (maybe).
The movie eventually begins when Taehyung realizes he has popcorn. He gets up and leaves to the kitchen to go and microwave some, leaving the two exes alone who have yet to have an actual conversation.
Jeongguk takes short and quick swigs of his alcohol out of anxious habit, a need to just do something — to distract himself from the tension in the air suffocating them both.

“How’s Jeongsuk and Jeonghui?” Hoseok asks, breaking the silence.
“Good,” he answers, keeping his responses short and brie, forcing the conversation to end as quickly as possible.

There’s a pause—an awkward pause— albeit a pause that Jeongguk preferred over meaningless small talk. “So what do you think of Taehyung and Jeongsuk’s relationship?”
Jeongguk takes another sip of his beer, this one longer, more of a giant gulp than a sip to stop him from snapping right then and there. Hoseok knows the weight of that question, knows how it affects the younger boy and knows that his answer will serve a double meaning.
He might as well have asked, “what do you think of our past?” And if the boy were completely honest, he still hasn’t decided his opinion on both ends of his question.

“Uh–“ he starts but is distracted by the sound of the microwave beeping angrily in the distance.
“Do you guys want extra butter??” Taehyung shouts from the kitchen.

The two let out a simultaneous yes and no that has the guy confused.

“What? Yes?” Taehyung asks.

“NO!!” Jeongguk affirms without missing a beat, wanting the other to just come back as soon as possible.
Taehyung emerges from the kitchen with a giant bowl of popcorn and makes his way to sit in between the two exes. He sits with his legs crossed as the bowl gets situated in his lap. Immediately, Jeongguk reaches for a handful of popcorn and shoves it all in his mouth earning a
disturbed look from the elder. Jeongguk just shrugs in response.

“Taehyungie,” Hoseok says but his eyes land on Jeongguk, “how are things with Jeongsuk?”

Jeongguk glares at the guy over Taehyung’s shoulder, eyes narrow like knives.
“Uhm, good, I guess,” Taehyung sighs.

Jeongguk begins to chew on his mouthful of popcorn, the bite too big so he chews loudly with his mouth open. The crunching noises cutting through their conversation.

“Jeongguk. Are you good?” Taehyung worries.
He nods rapidly as a stray kernel falls out of his mouth.

“You dropped something,” Taehyung teases.

“Tae,” Hoseok cuts in again, regaining his attention. “Things with Jeongsuk, give me details.”

Jeongguk’s crunching is insistent and Taehyung can’t help but laugh.
Taehyung turns back to the younger. “Can I put you on mute for a second?” He teases once more, tapping the underside of Jeongguk’s chin. The gesture leaving him frozen on the spot, mouth hung open, before Taehyung is turning back to Hoseok.

“Details?” Taehyung repeats back.
“Yeah, details. Like, how far did you guys go?” The eldest badgers.

Jeongguk chokes on his mouthful, several pieces of the snack falling out of his mouth as he coughs trying to regain himself.

“Aiya,” Taehyung snorts turning back to the younger. He hands him a napkin from
the coffee table, gets another for himself to clean up the crumbs Jeongguk had dropped. “That’s what happens when you eat too quickly,” Taehyung scolds him.

Hoseok rolls his eyes at how softly he treats the younger, fingers impatiently tapping the glass of his beer bottle.
“Tae?” Hoseok tries one last time.

“Ah, sorry, hyung,” Taehyung speaks while tending to the flustered mess beside him. “Well, to answer your question, hyung, we’ve decided to take it slow.”

Hoseok huffs a defeated sigh. “Figures…” he mutters under his breath.
“Jeongguk, why would you eat that much all at once?” Taehyung asks him once the boy’s finally regathered himself.

“I… just really love popcorn,” the youngest sputters.

“You didn’t even order popcorn when we went to watch Paper Hearts,” Taehyung recalls.
“Paper Hearts? I thought you were gonna watch that with Jeongsuk?” Hoseok adds.

Taehyung turns back to Hoseok. “Well, I mean, I did. Jeongguk wanted to watch too so we invited him,” he lies.

“Really? Jeonggukkie, I didn’t know you were into those movies.”
Jeongguk chugs his beer until it’s empty, the eldest watching him stunned.

He stares at his empty beverage like he’s just lost a loved one. “Do you have anymore beer, Taehyungie hyung?” He asks, a little dazed from the alcohol added with his anxiety.

“Yeah… in the fridge.”
Jeongguk makes a beeline for the kitchen—a literal beeline as he walks without grace in a jagged line like an excited bumblebee. No wonder they call drunkness a buzz.

The boy opens the fridge and stares blankly at the shelves, unable to register what he’s looking at.
He scans over the shelves about a dozen times before finally recognizing the cases of beer on the bottom shelf. He pulls out two bottles for himself, opens one against a counter top before stumbling back into the living room.
Taehyung has worry written across his face when he sees the second bottle in his hands.

“Are you alright?”

Jeongguk plops himself back down on the sofa. “Yes sir!”

“He’s got a high tolerance, don’t worry,” Hoseok reassures.
“How many beers can be take before he… does something stupid?” Taehyung whispers.

Hoseok sips his own before answering. “I’d give him… hmmm… two and a half bottles?”

“Two??”

“You said before he does something /stupid/!”
“Before he does something he might regret!” Taehyung reiterates.

“Oh! Then 6 bottles,” Hoseok corrects.

Taehyung turns back to Jeongguk who he realizes had been staring at him the whole time. “Jeongguk. I’m cutting you off at your fourth bottle. Okay?”

“Yeah, whatever.”
Taehyung throws him a look as if reprimanding him to give a more appreciative answer and the younger understands it shockingly. He fixes his irritation into a shy and grateful smile, eyes shifting away from the elder’s influence, his cheeks warming slightly.
Taehyung hums in satisfaction, maybe a bit endeared but Jeongguk doesn’t dare look back to him to see it.

Taehyung’s attention is shifted back to his hyung, suddenly curious. “So, how long have you guys been family friends?” He asks, gesturing between the two exes.
“Gukkie!” Hoseok blurts in excitement, stopping the younger in the midst of taking another giant gulp of his beer, “why don’t you tell Taehyungie about this one?”

He wipes his mouth with back of his hand of the excess beer on his lip. “Uhh,” he clears his throat,
“our parents went to high school together.”

Jeongguk hugs his bottle close to his chest, splaying innocence in his eyes toward Taehyung.

“Really?” Taehyung looks impressed, his expression still fixed on the younger for more information.
“Th-that’s… pretty much it,” he finishes, pressing the mouth piece of his bottle to his lips as if waiting for permission to continue drinking.

“That’s not it!” Hoseok chimes.

“Then /you/ tell it!” The youngest defends, voice raising significantly.

“Alright fine!”
Hoseok shuffles closer to Taehyung, looking completely baffled at the others’ banter, “So our parents were friends, but they never introduced us until I was like… 3 years old - when Guk was just born.”

“So you knew him you’re whole life, huh?” Taehyung asks the younger.
Jeongguk nods half-heartedly, lips pressed in a line.

“Wow, I feel sorry for you,” Taehyung teases, earning a slap in the shoulder from the eldest. He takes the pain gladly after seeing Jeongguk laugh slightly.
“ANYWAY, our parents thought his elder brother and I would get along better, but this stupid baby stole my heart so naturally we became best friends. Right, Jeonggukkie?” He dares to ask him with the most clueless tone he’s ever heard.

“Yep,” Jeongguk answers, cold.
“You put up with this over-the-top dramatic-pain-in-the-ass for 17 years??” Taehyung gasps. He sees Jeongguk’s eyes sparkle, feeling like he did something right, not caring for the harsh shove he receives from Hoseok.
“Alright, listen brat! You wouldn’t have met either him or Jeongsuk if it weren’t for me. Be fucking grateful!” The eldest objects.

“Oh, hyung, I’m so honoured to be graced by your presence!” Taehyung exclaims sarcastically, placing his hands over his heart in fake awestruck.
“Also, I wouldn’t have met Jeongguk without Jeongsuk. Don’t give yourself that much credit,” he taunts.

Hoseok rolls his eyes, gently placing his beer bottle on the coffe table before shoving Taehyung backward with full force. The boy falls back into Jeongguk’s lap, popcorn on
the precipice of disaster. As much as Jeongguk wants to move himself and his beers to safety, he can’t seem to concentrate his mind on anything else other than Taehyung’s head resting on his thighs.

Hoseok pounces on the boy before him, the two now wrestling on Jeongguk’s knees.
Jeongguk is frozen in his spot, nowhere to go to escape the chaos, just watches as Taehyung maneuvers his hand around Hoseok’s waist and pinches the skin. The eldest makes a startled yelping noise before jerking away from his hold, slapping Taehyung’s wrist away.
Hoseok retreats with his hands up in surrender, shuffling back to his original spot on the couch. Taehyung makes no move to get up from his spot on Jeongguk’s lap. And Jeongguk doesn’t have the mindset to tell him to get off.

“You’re paying for dinner,” Taehyung declares to him.
Hoseok huffs, snatching back his bottle from the coffe table. “Whatever,” he sips his beverage, “what are we eating?”

Taehyung looks up to Jeongguk’s comically wide eyes above him. “Any suggestions?” He asks them both.

“Classic pizza,” Hoseok suggests with confidence.
“Pizza again??” Taehyung whines.

“Why are you always against me?” Hoseok accuses.

“I’m not! I just—“

“Kimbap?” The youngest lets out, so quiet they almost miss it. Had Taehyung not been in the position he’s currently in, he probably would have.
Jeongguk looks down to check Taehyung’s reaction. Taehyung, smiling with genuine expressions of joy, looks up to the younger unaware of how Jeongguk’s heart strangely skips a beat.

“That sounds so good right now!” Taehyung kicks up, sitting upright now, “lemme order it!”
Taehyung immediately stands and heads for the kitchen, leaving his bowl of popcorn on the couch for the other two. And, once again, the two exes are left to boil in their sickening tension for as long as Taehyung is in the other room.
At least this time, the movie Taehyung had put on earlier is far enough into the plot to the point where it’s actually interesting to pay attention to. Jeongguk focuses on the screen, doing his best to ignore the knowing glances thrown in his direction from his ex.
He tries to block out Taehyung’s voice just a room away ordering their food, tries not to hear the liquid in Hoseok’s bottle swish as he takes a sip from it and— oh wow, that Billy Zane dude is a real dick.

“Jeongguk.”

His jaw clenches, breath hitched in the back of his throat.
“Guk, is there something going on?”

Jeongguk hears the question… he also hears Taehyung’s low toned voice echoing against the tiles in his kitchen— wow.

“Um…” he starts, then finishes by chugging his beer empty.

“I’m sorry, Guk. I didn’t think you’d still be mad over this.”
At the same time, as Jeongguk ‘listens’ to the guy’s half-assed apology, he can hear Billy Zane’s character in the background being extremely arrogant and snobbish.

He reaches for the second bottle of beer he grabbed earlier, this one now being his third, and pops the cap open.
He gulps down another sip of beer, letting Hoseok just watch him in awe, before diverting his attention back to the screen and suddenly, Leonardo DiCaprio’s flawless face is on screen just as Taehyung walks back into the room. It’s then that Guk remembers Titanic is a true story.
“Jack!” Jeongguk shrills to Taehyung.

He stops in his tracks, staring at the younger in confusion, his head tilted slightly to the side.

“Is that your third beer?” Taehyung asks.

“Jack, I’m flying,” Jeongguk spreads his arms.
“Okay, Rose. That’s your last beer,” Taehyung proclaims, arms crossing in front of his chest.

“See, Tae? Wasn’t that pretty stupid?” Hoseok points out with a chuckle.

“Did you order the kimbap yet?” Jeongguk asks, waving Taehyung to sit back down beside him.
Taehyung obliges to the drunkie’s gestures and sits back down in his original spot. “Yes, I did. The delivery will be here soon,” he affirms.

“Ahh, really, nothing can beat Korea’s 24/7 delivery!” Jeongguk sighs.

Hoseok snorts to himself on the other side of the couch.
Taehyung shushes the elder. “Get your debit card ready, mister,” Taehyung scolds him.

Hoseok groans momentarily before pulling out his wallet. He takes out his card with a flick and hands it to Taehyung.

“Wow, a real sugar daddy, huh?” Jeongguk comments.
“Mm… you would know, wouldn’t you?” Hoseok bites.

“What?” Taehyung huffs an empty laugh, looking between the two for answers. Though, relying on Jeongguk for an explanation may be a lost a cause.

“Shut up, Hoseok-ah,” the youngest snaps.
“He’s my sweet little dongsaeng, buying him everything he wanted was inevitable,” Hoseok saves, choosing his carefully so that they aren’t total fabrications. “Not so sweet anymore, I see,” the eldest notes.

“I’ve grown up,” Jeongguk retorts, voice getting louder.
“I can see that as well,” he comments, looking up and down Jeongguk’s body. That, he has grown and his body changed accordingly yet his mentality has remained the same.

Taehyung is caught in the middle (literally), their intense words piercing through his body to the other.
It’s the thick layers of tension that glue him to his spot on the sofa unable to remove himself from the conversation.

“Did you want me to stay sweet and naive for you? I bet that was a cute thing to see, right? Don’t you think so, Tae?” Jeongguk bugs into his personal space.
The boy swallows down immense gulps of his beer to which Taehyung believes is enough alcohol for the night. The elder reaches for the bottle in his hands, but the boy’s grasp never lets up.

“Jeongguk, you need water, not beer. Give me the bottle,” the elder cautions, pining
Guk down in his seat with a firm hand on his thigh.

As they play tug of war with the bottle, Taehyung pulling just slightly but not forcefully, Jeongguk just giggles to himself.

“Hobi hyung, do you like the sight of Taehyungie babying me?” He taunts, sticking his tongue out.
“Jeongguk!” Taehyung’s voice comes out abruptly, loudly, firm and low. It has the younger’s attention snapping back to the guy in front of him with the hand on his thigh. “Give me the bottle,” he orders, his deep timbre vibrating in Jeongguk’s chest.
Jeongguk pouts releasing the beverage from his grip. Taehyung backs away from the younger cautiously before getting up to put the bottle away far from where Jeongguk can find it.

“I’ll come back with some bottles of water for us, alright?” Taehyung assures before disappearing.
“Fuck you,” Jeongguk exhales the moment Taehyung turns the corner.

“What the fuck?” Hoseok exclaims.

“I’m not speaking to you. Ever!” He declares.

“You’re such a child,” the elder facepalms shaking his head.

“And you’re ugly!” Jeongguk spits, crossing his arms.
Taehyung returns, feet shuffling quickly against the wood flooring. He tosses a water bottle to Hoseok who tries to catch it but fumbles as it falls into his lap. Jeongguk watches Taehyung intently, waiting to receive his own water bottle but never does until the elder sits down.
He twists the cap off for him before outstretching it to the younger. “Chug like you chug beer,” Taehyung encourages.

Jeongguk takes the bottle reluctantly and does as he’s told. He didn’t realize how dehydrated he was until the refreshing liquid touched his lips.
Indeed, Jeongguk necks down half the bottle in one go before coming off the bottle with a gasp for air. Some water drips down his chin. He goes to wipe it with his hand when Taehyung waves his hand away, replacing it with a napkin, wiping the boy’s face himself.
Jeongguk can’t help but stare at the guy being so careful in front of him. Can’t stop the question that spills from his lips. “Are you sexually frustrated, hyung,” he dares to ask with a lilt of innocence to it

Taehyung freezes, brows furrowing. He hears Hoseok choke behind him.
“Jeon Jeongguk, it’s not even 7pm yet and you’re already this drunk? From beer, of all things?” Taehyung avoids the question. He tips the bottom of the water bottle back toward Jeongguk’s lips, encouraging him to drink more.

He takes smaller sips before repeating his question.
“Seriously, Tae. Jeongsuk said no sex, right? So, what do you do?” Jeongguk questions with genuine curiosity.

“Actually, little Gukkie,” he bops the younger’s nose with his finger, “I’m the one who said no sex. So no, I’m not sexually frustrated.”

“What??” Hoseok gasps.
“What?” Says Taehyung.

“Why did you say no sex?” The eldest pries.

“Having trouble relating, Hobi hyung?” Jeongguk accuses, the connotations behind it only meant for Hoseok’s understanding.
“Jeongguk, shut up. Why did you even ask in the first place, you perv?” Hoseok deflects.

“He’s drunk, hyung,” Taehyung excuses.

“That’s right!” Jeongguk proclaims, head nodding with pride.
Taehyung shakes his head, throwing a shameful look in the younger’s direction. His look of arrogance immediately fades, eyes lowering to his own fidgety hands in his lap.
“Anyway, I said no because—“

“Because I disapproved?” Jeongguk assumes.

“No. I told her this way before I met you,” Taehyung corrects him. “I said no because—“

“Wait, so she lied??”

Taehyung sighs. “Who lied?”

“Jeongsuk! She said /she/ told you no sex!”
“Well, I mean, it was sort of a mutual decision…”

“That means she expected to go that far!” Jeongguk spouts, ignoring Taehyung’s explanation. “If you hadn’t been the angel that you are, Jeongsuk would’ve… she would’ve…”

“Lost her virginity,” Hoseok finishes for him.
“SHUT IT, HOBI!” The boy explodes.

“I wouldn’t say that was particularly angelic…” Taehyung says shyly, scratching the back of his head, and if Jeongguk wasn’t so busy glaring at his ex, he would’ve notice the tinge of pink against Taehyung’s cheeks.
“Taehyungie, I misjudged you,” the change in his tone has Taehyung blinking back at the younger a little dazed, “I’m sorry for thinking you’re a pedophile. You’re a good person.”

Hoseok bursts into a fit of laughter, flopping onto Taehyung’s shoulder. “Pedophile??” He snorts.
Taehyung lets his face fall into his hands, head shaking, palms muffling sounds of mortification.

When Hoseok’s laughter settles into a quiet giggle, there’s a knock on the door and suddenly they’re reminded of the food they ordered that Hoseok gets the privilege of paying for.
Taehyung shoots up from his seat on the couch, Hoseok jerking away from the movement, and hastens to the door. Jeongguk follows suit, the need for food overtaking him. Taehyung opens the door to greet the delivery man as the boy comes up behind him, chin resting on his shoulder.
The delivery man hands them their food and before Taehyung can grab it, Jeongguk snatches it from his reach and retreats to the kitchen. Taehyung pays quickly, muttering a polite thank you to the man before following after Jeongguk. He walks in to find the boy already digging in.
“Guk,” Taehyung approaches the boy, elbow leaning on the counter, “Are you actually drunk or are you just really chaotic?”

Jeongguk swallows a mouthful of donkkoseu kimbap before answering. “Why not both?”

Taehyung shakes his head for the third time, rubbing his temples.
“Jeongguk, when I met you, you were a shy, passive, reserved and soft spoken guy. So what the heck is this?” Taehyung gestures to all of Jeongguk’s being.

“I’m,” Jeongguk puts down his chopsticks, then spreads his arms wide, “I’m Jeongguk.”
He says it confidently, a smirk spreading to his lips with a grain of rice perched on his top lip. Taehyung wipes the excess food off his mouth with the pad of his thumb, eating it himself.

“And I thought you and Hobi hyung were friends!” He whisper yells.
“If I would have known you guys would be arguing all night I wouldn’t have invited… you guys over,” he trails off on the last words but Jeongguk is too drunk to notice.

“We /are/ friends,” Jeongguk lies, rather horribly, “this is how we talk.”
Taehyung can sense there’s something more to the picture but doesn’t bother him about it. They don’t each other very well, he doesn’t need to know the details of Jeongguk’s personal life.

“Whatever, can you bring some of this food to the living room, Guk?” The elder requests.
Jeongguk nods, picking up a couple containers before waddling back to the living room where Hoseok is sat playing games on his phone. He sets the food down on the coffee table before flopping back onto the couch.

“Finally!” Hoseok exclaims, rubbing his hands together.
Jeongguk is slumped on the backrest of the sofa, head laid back looking up at the ceiling. He feels his eyelids getting heavy.

“Hey, Tae! Jeongsuk is calling your phone!” Jeongguk hears Hoseok shout.

He hears Taehyung shuffle back into the room to retrieve his phone.
“Hey, what’s up?” Taehyung answers, “What? What are you talking about?”

Jeongguk swears he kept his eyes open until he feels his eyelids suddenly widen, realizing they were in fact closing in on him.

“No, that’s— Suk, can you just—“

“The kid fell asleep,” Hoseok interrupts.
“Jeongguk?” said a soft voice in hushed tones. Soothing just how Jeongguk preferred which only made him sleepier. “Guk-ah? You gotta wake up.” The words are muffled out of his comprehension, might as well be garbled noises because this low timbre only puts him in a sleepy trance.
Blindly, Jeongguk swats his hand around with little grace, trying to wave off the heavy presence that makes the sofa cushion dip next to him.

“I’m gonna carry you, Guk,” the voice warns.

The younger hums, arms curling in on himself, looking small and easy to carry.
There’s a huff that’s heard. Then he feels a body against him, arms engulfing him, a hand gripping his waist tightly, another hooked under his legs. Briefly, he opens his heavy lids to stare up at a blurry image of Taehyung straining to carry his frame.
Jeongguk giggles to himself, his head lobbing to the side and into Taehyung’s chest.

“Ah…” the younger exhales, “Jeongsuk is lucky…”

He wasn’t expecting much of a reaction let alone the sound of the elder’s throat clearing uncomfortably… then the click of his tongue.
Had he said something wrong? Of all the things he’s spoken of that night, nothing in the last 5 minutes could be all that offensive.

“Hyu—“ Guk starts, having his train of thought derail itself as he’s being dropped off on a mattress.
His eyes bug open at the fall, a yelp escaping his lips. His head darts around the room looking for some sort of anchor so that his vision stays clear - no nausea, no dizziness. He finds Taehyung looming over him as he lays practically at his feet.

“Woah…” is all Guk sputters.
“I sold the old bed frame for this. Hope you don’t mind,” Taehyung says as he moves to open a closet behind him. He opens the door and finds a pillow and blanket on the top shelf, his shirt riding up as he reaches for the items.

“Ah…” Guk breathes as he watches him wordlessly.
Taehyung turns back around finding that Jeongguk has now sat up like a puppy waiting for his treat. The elder shakes his head tossing him the pillow and blanket onto his lap.

Although, Jeongguk makes no move to get comfortable. Instead, he oggles up at the tall boy before him.
“Aren’t you gonna sleep?” Taehyung asks him, gaze never prying away from the boys wide and glossy eyes.

“Remember when I asked you if…” Jeongguk hiccups, “if you’re sexually,” hic, “sexually frustrated?”

Taehyung lowers himself to sit on the floor beside the boy. “Yeah.”
Jeongguk leans in, a lazy grin plastered across his face. “Well, I have a confession,” he whispers playfully.

“What’s that?” Taehyung consults, playing along with the younger’s mood.

“It’s actually me who sexually frustrated,” he mumbles, placing hand over his chest.
Taehyung laughs a low chuckle that reverberates in Jeongguk’s chest. The younger giggles with him. “I think you should go to sleep, Jeongguk,” Taehyung urges, pulling the pillow from his lap and placing it by the head of the mattress.
He pats the upside of the pillow, encouraging the younger to lay down. He does, leaving the blanket crumpled in his lap and Taehyung can’t stop himself from tucking him in. He sighs before pulling the cloth up to the boys neck and then pulling the other end over his feet.
“Am I sick, Taehyungie hyung?” Jeongguk asks out of nowhere.

“Should I feel your forehead or something?”

Jeongguk nods cutely, sporting a toothless smile that makes dimples appear in his cheeks that weren’t normally there earlier that day.
Taehyung rolls his eyes but decides to abide in the boy’s hazy playfulness. He leans in close, brushing the stray hairs out of Jeongguk’s face before resting the back of his hand to the younger’s forehead. He melts into Taehyung’s touch, humming satisfactory.
“Wow…” Jeongguk sighs.

“What wow?” Taehyung’s hand retreats to caress Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“Jeongsuk is very lucky. I’m jealous,” he confides.

“You’ll meet someone eventually, Guk. Now go to sle—“

“I’m jealous she’s dating you before me…” Jeongguk whines.
Taehyung pauses. “Uhm, lets talk tomorrow morn—“

“I don’t wanna wait,” Jeongguk pouts.

“You’re just drunk.”

“No, I’m not. Smell my breath. No beer.”

Taehyung thinks now is a good time to say no to Jeongguk’s antics and take control of the situation.
“No, I’m not going to smell—“

Jeongguk sits up slightly, resting on his weight one on elbow. “Hyung, I wanna kiss you.”

His free hand reaches out to caress Taehyung’s nape, pulling him closer. And before Taehyung can deny him, the boy has already connected their lips.
He feels Taehyung reciprocate but it’s only for second before his touch is fleeting. The elder pulling away, his hand on Guk’s chest to lay him back down as sleep overtakes him the second his head touches the pillow. He hears footsteps growing quieter and a door clicking shut.
Jeongguk woke up the next morning with drool dripping down his chin, staining the pillow he slept on. He rolls over, realizing that he’s still fully clothed underneath a fully insulated comforter. The excess amount of layers suffocating and sticking to his sweaty skin.
He yawns, cringing at the gross taste in his mouth. He moves to sit up, grimacing at the pounding feeling in his head. He might as well be a formless pile of sweaty laundry that throbs to be washed. He takes off his shirt, freeing half of his body of his own smothering body heat.
He groans, quite loudly actually, cradling his head in his hands when there’s a knock at the door. It opens before he can let them in, Taehyung emerging slowly from the other side with water and a bowl of cereal.

“Good morning,” he greets with hints of sarcasm.
Jeongguk groans in response as the elder approaches his side of the mattress. “Is that for me?” He asks, reaching for the water.

“The water is. The cereal is for me,” Taehyung teases, handing over the glass.

Jeongguk chugs it gratefully, washing out the taste of lingering beer.
“So,” Taehyung waits until the other has slowed down his drinking, “Hoseok told me about you two.”

Jeongguk nearly drops the glass that’s already half empty. Water spilling out onto his face that he wipes with the back of his hand. “Huh??”
Taehyung stares at the boy pitiful. “I reckon he didn’t tell me the whole story?”

“He didn’t tell you anything!” Jeongguk denies, “whatever he said to you isn’t true.”

Taehyung nods in understanding, slight epiphany. “Ah, because if it were true, you’d be a hypocrite, right?”
“I don’t have anything I need to say to you,” Jeongguk bites.

There’s a beat before Taehyung is sighing and getting ready to leave. “I suppose I’ll be eating breakfast by myself then,” he exhales is fake agony.

“Am I supposed to feel bad for you or something?”
“Well… I do for you…” Taehyung replies, half way out of the room, “there’s a toothbrush for you in the bathroom. I’m driving you home in 20.” And then he’s gone.
Although, Jeongguk isn’t finished getting under his skin just yet. He emerges from the spare bedroom and find Taehyung on the sofa on his way to the bathroom.

“I hope you and Jeongsuk haven’t touched that mattress yet,” the boy comments.

“What the fuck is your deal, Jeongguk?”
Taehyung’s voice comes out much more stern and demanding than Jeongguk’s ever heard, as he stands frozen in place.

“What?”

Taehyung stands up, leaving his bowl on the coffee table, and walks up to him, eyes narrow, seeing straight through him. “What. Is. Your. Deal?”
Taehyung pokes his finger square in Jeongguk’s bare chest. “Do you have a problem a with me or something?”

“Yeah, I do!”

“Oh? What?”

“You’re dating my sister!”

“What’s wrong with that?”
Jeongguk would be lying to himself if he said it had anything to do with their age gap.

“Because you’re like three years older than her!” He still sticks to it because he has no other excuse.

Taehyung huffs a sarcastic chuckle, crossing his arms.
“Oh, but isn’t Hoseok /also/ three years older than /you/? I don’t know, Guk, that just sounds very hypocritical,” Taehyung implores.

“I’m not a fucking hypocrite.”

“Okay, so what’s your problem with me? If you’re not a hypocrite than you have no problem with our age gap.”
“You’re no good for her, Taehyung. That’s just that.”

“Really?” Taehyung’s smug smile grows wider, “do you remember ‘Jeongsuk is so lucky,’ ‘Jeongsuk is so lucky to have you’? Do you remember that?”

Yes. “No,” he lies.

“Do you remember anything?”

Yes. “No.”
Taehyung steps in closer to intimidate the younger but Jeongguk stands his ground, albeit, shaking a bit. “Do you need me to jog your memory for you?” Taehyung grabs the back of the boy’s head, taking in a fistful of his hair.

Jeongguk bites his lip, his eyes surrending under
Taehyung’s as they drop to stare at the elder’s lips.

He pulls the boy close, their lips centimetres apart, their breaths fanning over each other’s mouths. Jeongguk is about to close the gap, getting impatient, when Taehyung pulls him away forcefully by his hair.
Jeongguk lets out a garbled moan at the harshness and when Taehyung lets go of his hair, he almost whines and the elder doesn’t miss it when the whine reaches his face and not his lips.

“You smell like beer,” Taehyung scolds.

Jeongguk is at a loss for words.
Can’t find an appropriate way to react, cant recognize these feelings bubbling in his stomach. He could probably throw up any second.

“Tae-“ Taehyung raises an eyebrow expectantly as Jeongguk’s words trail off into nothing.

“Do you have a problem with me, Jeongguk?” He repeats.
Jeongguk shakes his head no, ducking low to avoid the elder’s gaze.

“That’s what I thought,” the elder remarks in a condescending tone. “So who’s gonna be the one to tell Jeongsuk about the kiss?”

Jeongguk’s head snaps up in fear, eyes blown wide, heart beginning to hammer.
“What kiss?” He asks out of a defensive reflex trying to force the reality to be fake.

Taehyung sighs in frustration, rubbing his temples. “Oh my god… Guk. You don’t make anything easy, do you?”

“Fuck you,” he snaps back instantly.
“I’m gonna ignore that because you’re a little heated and you haven’t learned to control your emotions yet.”

“What the fuck is this ‘childish’ narrative you’re trying to fit me into?” Jeongguk stands up taller, chest puffing out, abs flexing.

Taehyung rolls his eyes and laughs.
“I’m not doing anything! You’re the one acting like a child! You even acknowledged it last night.”

“I was- just… trying to piss of Hoseok!”

“Is that it? Maybe you should’ve kissed me in front him then, hm?” Taehyung scolds disdainfully.
Jeongguk groans a disgruntled scream to himself. “For fuck sake! Whatever he told you, it’s not true,” he continues to lie for his own ego.
Taehyung waves him off with his hand before turning to go sit back down on the sofa. “Oh my god, I don’t wanna deal with you anymore. Hurry up so I can drop your ass off at home. I’ll tell Jeongsuk about it myself.”

“No!” Jeongguk urges. “You can’t tell her!”
“What do you mean I can’t? She deserves to know and what does it matter if neither of us even have feelings for each other?” Taehyung reasons.

Jeongguk swallows nervously, the words to object his statement in the back of his throat. “You just… can’t…” he stammers.
Taehyung lets out a huff of frustration, thinking over the situation. “I’ll tell you what, Jeongguk,” he starts, “I won’t tell her if you tell me what’s going with you and Hoseok.”

“What? No!”

“Why not? What’s the big deal? Are you afraid of looking like a hypocrite?”
It’s scary how the boy can easily slip into Jeongguk’s mind and poke at all the right spots - his fears, his insecurities. “It’s literally none of your business,” he argues.

“Alright, then I’ll just text Jeongsuk right—“

“Fuck you!” Jeongguk shrills to stop the other.
Taehyung just stares at the boy expectantly, his phone in his hand already opened to taunt the younger even more.

“Jesus Christ, fine,” Jeongguk concedes.

Taehyung upturns his chin in satisfaction, a half snide of a smile smugly across his features.
He side-eyes the other side of the sofa gesturing for him to sit down and begin his story.

Jeongguk grunts like he’s just been told to clean his room by his parents before sitting down. “What did Hoseok tell you?”

“That you two dated in high school. You, freshman. Him, senior.”
“He said that he broke up with you after he graduated because of school.”

“Is that it?” Jeongguk questions.

“Yeah, pretty much.” Taehyung sees the boy facepalm. “So, why all the fighting?”

Jeongguk whines into his hands, the noises muffled and almost comedic.
“Taehyung, it’s complicated, okay? I’m not about to spill all my meltdowns and panic attacks to you. It wasn’t just a break up,” the boy explains as best he can.

“…so what I’m getting here is that you don’t want what happened to you to happen to Jeongsuk?” Taehyung observes.
“Something… like that,” admits the younger.

Taehyung sighs in relief. “Well, why not just start with that?”

“Excuse me if I didn’t wanna be called a fucking hypocrite,” he defends.

“What am I supposed to think if you’re trying to hide it?”
“Just /don’t/ think about it, okay? How about that? It’s none of your fucking business in the first place,” Jeongguk barks hoping the conversation would be over soon. Yet he still stays planted in his seat across from the elder.

“Okay…” Taehyung’s voice is softer than before,
“Why don’t you want to tell Jeongsuk about the kiss?” He shifts a bit closer to the younger, trying to be reassuring.

“She’d never trust me again,” he confesses.

“But if you’re telling the truth—“

“Taehyung, no, I’ve been on both your backs about your stupid relationship ever
since I met you. And then I go and do this. And basically go against everything I’ve said, yeah I’m a hypocrite,” he rambles.

“… I’m not following,” Taehyung mutters a bit confused.

“She won’t forgive me after all the shit I’ve put her through.”
“Well, what about me?”

“Huh?”

Taehyung moves closer to Jeongguk as if being closer would get him to understand better. “She’s your sister but she’s also my girlfriend. I have to be honest with her when someone’s tried to make a move on me.”
“Just don’t tell her.”

“Jeongguk—“

“I won’t tell her. You won’t tell her. It’ll be like it never happened. Please, Taehyung,” he begs.

“I don’t know if I’m comfortable lying to her,” he discloses.

This time Jeongguk moves closing the space between their legs,
his hands finding rest in Taehyung’s lap. Their faces are too close for him to be sober but he needs to be sure the boy won’t tell. He throws him his best puppy-like eyes until the elder concedes.

Taehyung exhales defeated, “okay.”
Jeongguk backs away with a glint in his eyes, relief written across both their faces now that they’ve created a distance between them again.

“Your breath smells like ass,” Taehyung coughs, trying to lighten the mood.

Jeongguk gets up immediately and heads for the washroom.
The drive back to Jeongguk’s place is quiet except for the faint sounds of mainstream radio playing in the background. Eventually, Taehyung, with a click of his tongue, switches the station to the aux cord and a song that Jeongguk’s familiar with begins to play. He smiles.
Taehyung hums along with the melody, his fingers tapping along to the beat on the wheel. Jeongguk thinks it’s not his place to be friendly with the elder yet, so he smirks to himself at the sight before turning his shy head away to look out the window.
It sucks how rough they started out. Under any other circumstances, Jeongguk would think they’d be great friends. Jeongguk might even admit to being a little attracted to the guy… under the right circumstance, that is. Taehyung is Jeongsuk’s.
Before he realizes, Taehyung is already pulling up in front Jeongguk’s house. But he doesn’t get out right away, just zones in on the big tree just down the road.

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung calls.

Jeongguk’s head snaps to Taehyung’s attention. “Yeah?”

“We’re here.”
“Oh! Thanks,” he sputters, before opening the door.

He’s half way out when Taehyung calls for him again. “Jeongguk?”

He freezes. “Yeah?”

“I still wanna be your friend. Alright?” He assures, getting the younger to believe he’s been reading his mind.
“Sure,” the younger affirms with a brief nod of his head before closing the door shut and heading off.

Jeongguk pauses before unlocking the front door, turns back around expecting for Taehyung to already be driving off. But he’s still there, making sure Jeongguk gets in safely.
His chest warms a little. That is, until he opens the door and finds Jeongsuk already standing there with her shoes on.

“Where are you going?” He interrogates her.

“Gonna get coffee. Do you want anything?” She asks casually, stepping out the door past him.
“Uhh, no, I’m good,” he sighs.

“Ok, see ya,” she bids.

He watches her hop into Taehyung’s car with a smile, laughing too. And soon, they’re gone as Jeongguk is left to pray Taehyung keeps his word. If Jeongsuk found out and questioned him, he wouldn’t have an honest answer.
If two people kiss one person is the receiver and the other is the instigator. Taehyung was not the instigator. Which means Jeongguk has no excuse. No other option than to keep it a secret-another thing to keep hidden from his sister when he specifically promised no more secrets.
Jeongguk comes inside the house, his back slumping onto the closed front door with a sigh. He’s so out of it he didn’t even bother to argue with Jeongsuk about another date with Taehyung regardless of being a hypocrite or not.
He stays there, resting against the door, eyes falling shut when–

“Gukah!” Come Jeonghui from upstairs.

Jeongguk snaps up straight, eyes wide to attention to his brother. “What??”

“Come here!” the elder orders.

The boy slugs up the stairs into his brother’s bedroom slouched.
He finds Jeonghui at his desk browsing through his laptop and it’s then that he notices his bedroom being emptier than normal.

“Hyung?” Jeongguk questions from the doorframe.

Jeonghui turns and waves him in, to which the boy obliges, and he shows him his computer screen.
The screen displays house prices in the city, apartments for rent, and people on Facebook looking for roommates.

“What?” Jeongguk mutters trying to put the pieces together.

“I’m thinking about moving out soon,” the elder explains. “What do you think about that?”
“Moving out?” The boy repeats dumbly.

“Yeah,” Jeonghui shrugs, “not too far though. Just further into the city to be closer to my job and other opportunities and what not. Finally be independent.”

Jeongguk stares at the screen with a blank expression.
“Have you told mom and dad yet?” He asks, not sure of how he feels yet.

“No, not yet but dad has been… ‘encouraging’ me to get out of the house soon,” he explains, patting the younger’s back while he reads. “So, which place do you like best? Roommate? Or no roommate?”
“Do you wanna move out?” Jeongguk asks ignoring the question, his full attention now on his brother sitting next to him.

He doesn’t answer right away, let’s himself think on the question which has Jeongguk worried. “I guess, yeah. I think it’d be cool. Why?”
“Well, I’m just thinking about how dad can sometimes be a little bit… /too/ encouraging…” he trails off hoping he won’t have to finish his thought.

“That’s true but this time I actually want to. It’ll be good for me to start my life,” he assures.
“It would…” the younger agrees, though, it’s not very convincing.

“You don’t want me to move out,” Jeonghui inquires.

“I never said that!”

“Your eyes are bad at keeping secrets.”

Jeongguk pouts as he stares holes into the floor away from his brother.
“I won’t move if you don’t want me to, Guk,” the elder offers, a reassuring hand outstretched onto Jeongguk’s arm.

“But you said you want to. And what about dad,” Jeongguk counters.

“You should know by now I don’t give a shit about what dad says.”
Jeonghui has always been stronger than him. Has known how to get out of their father’s manipulations–never let him have control over the eldest son. It’s something that Jeongguk thinks he’s overcome until he takes a step back & realizes what he’s doing is all in favour of his dad
Like when he first agreed to meet Jeongsuk’s boyfriend instead of Jeonghui. Then he threatened to break them up by snitching to their father. It all comes back to him and his approval.

“You’re always tough like that,” he sighs.

Jeonghui gives him a firm pat on his shoulder.
“You’re tough too, hm,” he reminds.

Jeongguk shakes his head, cringing at everything he’s been doing.

“What?” The elder questions.

Jeongguk lets out an exaggerated sigh before moving to the foot of Jeonghui’s bed to flop down on it face first.
Jeonghui chuckles at the sight of his younger brother. “Ah, Jeongguk, what’s wrong?”

He turns himself over so he lays on his back staring up to the ceiling. “Jeonghui,” he whines, “I’m a bad person.”

“Agreed,” he teases.

“But, hyung,” the boy sits up, “I’m a bad bad person.”
“How so?”

Jeongguk lets out another garbled groan, frustrated with himself that he has no idea what to start with first. “I’m just— aaaghh!” He lays back down.

Jeonghui is ever so patient with him. “Okay… I don’t follow.”
“Hyung,” he starts, “I’m not supposed to tell you this…”

“Right.”

“But I’m gonna tell you anyway.”

“Sure.”

“Jeongsuk’s boyfriend is…”

“Is?”
Is… really attractive. Is… three years older than her. Is… best friends with my ex boyfriend that you don’t know about.

“He’s…” Jeongguk’s expression strains trying to pick out the right words.

“Take your time, bud,” the elder remarks.

Don’t tell Jeonghui, he remembers.
“Jeonghui hyung, Jeongsuk’s boyfriend is so weird,” he blurts out.

“…okay. How weird?”

“Like,” Jeongguk waves his arms in the air, still laying down on his back, “weird!”

“Can you explain?”

“It’s like you hate me, hyung.”
“What?” Jeonghui chortles.

“It’s hard to explain!” He buries his face in his hands.

“Can’t you maybe give me an example of when he was being weird? So I can understand you better.”

Jeongguk sits up straight now, legs crossed. “Okay first of all, he keeps paying for me.”
Jeonghui’s taken aback at the underwhelming statement. “What?”

Jeongguk shuffles closer to the edge of the bed, suddenly enthused to explain. “Like when I first met him, he bought me coffee. And when we went to the movies, he paid for my ticket!”

“You guys went to the movies?”
He freezes. “Th-that’s not important,” he retracts.

Jeonghui gives him a pointed look, suspicious of the way his brother reacts but doesn’t badger him about it. “So he pays for things. Maybe he just wants get on your good side.”

“No, hyung, he’s so–“ the boy fumbles his words.
Jeonghui tries to rationalize over the boy’s rambling. “Guk, I really don’t understan—”

“Like, what kinda of guy with a girlfriend lets another guy kiss him??”

“What?” Jeonghui’s tone is loud and urgent, scaring Jeongguk back to reality to process what he just said.
“Wait–“

“Have you told Jeongsuk?” Jeonghui is sitting up in his chair from his slouched posture, intimidating the younger.

“I- n-no, but–“

“Guk, you have to tell her. He’s unfaithful and she’s gonna get hurt.”

Jeonghui stands up, making a move to go and find her.
Jeongguk stands up hastily, grabbing at his shirt to stop him. “Wait, hyung, she went out–“

The sound of the front door opening cuts him off. “Oppa!!! I got your coffee!!” Jeongsuk calls from downstairs.
Jeonghui clasps his hands together, delightful of the perfect timing. “Ah, right on time. Now we can go tell her about her dickhead boyfriend.”

He takes long strides toward the stairs before Jeongguk is scurrying to get in front of him. “No!”

“What?” Jeongsuk overhears.
“NOTHING!” Jeongguk responds immediately over his shoulder before turning back to his brother. He lowers his voice. “You cannot, and I mean /cannot/ tell her. Jeonghui, you can’t.”

Jeonghui throws him a look of disgust. “What is wrong with you?” He yells in hushed tones.
“She would do the same for you, Gukah.”

“Hyung, please! I can’t explain right now. Just please don’t tell her!” He pleads.

“You can explain right now!” The elder demands.
Jeongguk tosses his head around in frustration, his heart pounding against his ribs. How much of his dignity is left for him to spare and come clean? Time is running thin as he searches for an excuse but it’s no use. Nothing will validate anything he’s done at this point.
Choose
“BECAUSE,” he’s bouncing up and down in his spot, the anxiety going straight through him. “It was me!” He confesses.

The elder’s eyes widen incredibly so, a mixture of shock and absolutely appalled written over his expression. He stands there wordlessly, mouth hung open like he
was about to say something but nothing ever comes out.

“Hyung, please, I’ll tell her when the time is right. I promise,” Jeongguk begs, trying to get the elder to say something.

“What are you guys doing?” He hears Jeongsuk ask from behind him, coming up the stairs.
Jeongguk jumps at the sound of her voice so close behind him, bumping into Jeonghui’s chest. “SUK!” He yelps in his sister’s face.

Jeonghui holds the boy by his arms to keep him close, escape not to be had at this time.

“Uhmm… Jeonggie oppa, I left your coffee in the kitchen.”
Jeonghui nods before their sister disappears into her bedroom. He drags the younger by his jacket’s sleeve down to the kitchen with him, Jeongguk letting out noises of complaints at the harshness.

Now far away from Jeongsuk’s peering ears and eyes, Jeonghui practically tosses
the younger into the kitchen island. Jeongguk winces at the impact.

“Did you just say what I think you said?” Jeonghui asks with his eyes shut, too ashamed to look his brother in the eye.

“No…” Jeongguk tries to deny.
Jeonghui walks up to him, backing Jeongguk into the island, before delivering a ruthless punch into his stomach. Not hard enough to leave a bruise, but harsh enough to knock the breath out of him.

“What the fuck were you thinking??” The elder scolds as Jeongguk pants for air.
“I…” he coughs in between breaths, “…was drunk…”

“That doesn’t matter, Guk! What matters is that you kissed–“

“SHH!” Jeongguk urges him to be quieter, shoving his hand on top of Jeonghui’s mouth.
The elder waves him off, only getting angrier. “What matters is that you chose to kiss him!” He repeats in a quieter voice. “And I know you’re the type of drunk who gets terribly honest.”

Jeongguk sinks to the floor, his back sliding down the counter before plopping his bum down
His head finds solace in his hands, muffling his groans of guilt and stupidity.

“Why were you even drinking that much in the first place?” Jeonghui questions.

“Hyung…”

“Never mind that. Jeongguk, you need to be honest with your sister. Your SISTER,” he repeats for emphasis.
If only he knew the full scale of Jeongguk’s idiocy. How everything leads to the fact that Taehyung is 3 years older than Jeongsuk and he swore to never let Jeonghui know.

“Hyung, she won’t forgive me,” he simply states, hopeless.

“She’s your sister, Guk,” the elder reasons.
Jeonghui crouches down to his level, ultimately sitting on the kitchen floor across from him.

“She won’t,” he says, voice firm and sure and Jeonghui finds no use in arguing.

The elder rubs circles into the boy’s knee for reassurance, still shaking his head.
“Do you think that’s fair? For Jeongsuk and Taehyung?” Jeonghui chides.

“What’s the damage in pretending it never happened? We both agreed to it. It won’t happen again. No strings attached,” Jeongguk tries to convince himself.
“If it left you this worked up, then there has to be strings attached.”

“That’s all the more of a reason to keep this a secret. Why would I openly admit to being attracted to my sister’s boyfriend? No way!” Jeongguk crosses his arms, almost believing his reasons were justified.
“Guk, you just—“

“No! I don’t like him. I just met him. I don’t even know him!” He shakes his head rapidly, letting his messy hair swish back and forth.

Jeonghui sighs defeatedly.

“He was rude to me anyway, dick,” the boys rambles to himself.
“I think you should stay away from him for a while,” Jeonghui suggests.

“No, no. I still have to make sure he’s a good boyfriend for Jeongsuk like dad asked.”

“Jeongguk, I bet you dad’s already forgotten about the whole thing! Do as I say and stay away. Do you understand?”
Jeongguk’s mind is hazy, his priorities all out of line. He wants to be a good brother, a good son, a good friend. Why was that so hard for him to be all at once?

“I’ll try,” he mumbles.

“And if Jeongsuk ever finds out and asks me about it, I will tell her truth.”
Jeongguk laughs to himself mentally because in Jeongsuk’s mind, Jeonghui has not the slight idea of Jeongguk’s involvement on the two’s relationship.

“Fine,” he agrees knowing full well Jeongsuk will never go to him for anything of that kind.
The boys sigh in unison as Jeonghui stands up to retrieve his long awaited iced coffee. Jeongguk stays seated on the tiled floor, looking up hopelessly at his brother.

“So you’re gay?” Jeonghui asks, finally coming to a realization.

Jeongguk huffs a short laugh. “Yeah…”
Jeongguk felt like he was treading water for all of the week, holding his breath around everyone in his family. He’s lying to his sister, his brother, his parents-everyone. At the most innocent of questions he forces himself to limit his answers for a fear he might burst.
Granted, he was never the most talkative person in the first place so no one batted an eye at his indifference. His friends let him be, his family took it as stress from school (half true). But on the inside he was imploding. He needed to vent to someone.
Obviously, his family was out of the question. He couldn’t trust his school friends, the rumours of his sister dating a college guy would spread rampantly all around the school. And he most definitely was not on speaking terms with Hoseok. Someone religious would go to
confession though it’s pretty clear Jeongguk is anything BUT religious i.e. the homosexual agenda.

Yet there’s one person he still hasn’t considered. The one person who is the cause for all the secrecy is the one person Jeongguk can be completely honest with.
The restraint to hold his breath is taking a toll on his nerves. He’s jumpy, paranoid, always looking over his shoulder, constantly overthinking his words before saying the wrong thing. At any other time, he could handle keeping a secret, but to this degree and the complexity of
it all – it wracks his brain when he tries to understand the point of all this. And to no ends, he makes a /desperate/ call to Kim Taehyung.

“Hello?” The elder answers after a few rings.

Jeongguk says nothing for a bit, relishing in the way the low voice speaks to him.
“Um… hello?” Taehyung repeats.

“Shit,” Jeongguk mumbles under his breath before speaking up, “hey!”

“Hi…”

“H-hi…” Jeongguk breathes.

“Uhm, why are you calling me?” The vivid baritone rings through Jeongguk’s ears, the hairs on his neck standing at a attention.
He’s getting reckless, spontaneous, making heat of the moment decisions without thinking them through. “C-can I come over?” The younger asks naively.

Taehyung groans. “Guk, Jeongsuk isn’t here, okay? I–“

“No. I don’t care. I just… need to talk to you. Alone.”
Jeongguk arrives at the elder’s door about 45 minutes later. Almost in 30 but there was traffic. He knocks softly, his heart kicking in his throat that he tries to swallow down. When Taehyung opens the door, a camera swinging from his neck, Jeongguk feels his jaw unclench.
“Are you doing a shoot?” The younger asks.

Taehyung glances down at the DSLR strapped around his neck and grabs the lens briefly. “No, not really,” he softly answers.

The elder retreats back into the apartment letting Jeongguk haltingly follow in after him.
In the living room, Taehyung’s got his laptop open on the coffee table next to crumblings of torn paper probably from the pad and pencil on the sofa. The elder situates himself in the centre of the chaos, reading off the screen of his laptop as Jeongguk watches him curiously.
“Did I intrude on your homework?” Jeongguk worries.

Taehyung looks up toward the boy, eyes impossibly pure and harmless. “No,” he reassures with a subtle shake of his head, “you can sit if you want.”

He gestures to the side of the sofa that isn’t cluttered with stationary.
Taehyung takes one last glance at his laptop before he shuts it completely as Jeongguk sits down just within a few feet from comprehending his work. “You needed to talk?” Taehyung mentions.

Jeongguk nods, suddenly feeling shy. He looks away from him to the piles of paper.
“Uhh…” he starts slowly. He takes a deep inhale, building up his air supply before he faints from holding his breath for so long.

“Are you okay?” Taehyung’s hand reaches for Jeongguk’s knee but he’s too far from his touch.

Jeongguk finally exhales. “Look,” he begins.
He tells him everything starting from that dinner when Jeongsuk let it slip she had a boyfriend to when they kissed just a week ago. It was the longest Jeongguk has ever spoken without interruption, Taehyung attentive to every word he said making sure to process it all correctly.
When Jeongguk finishes, there’s a pause. A long pause. Silent. The air blowing from the vent that moves the corners of a single sheet of paper keeps the atmosphere between them spinning.

After what felt like years, Taehyung finally speaks.
“So you’re telling me about how difficult your life is because of me,” the elder implies.

Jeongguk shakes his head immediately. “No! But–“

“Look, I’m not offended. But why are you telling me this?”

Jeongguk shrugs helplessly. “Because I’m… lying… to everyone…”
“And I was the only person you could confide in?” Taehyung guesses correctly.

Jeongguk nods wordlessly. “I just needed to get it off my chest.”

“So are you satisfied now?” Taehyung asks.

As obvious as the answer should be, Jeongguk still has to think about it.
“Not really…” admits the younger. He scolds himself mentally, realizing how inconvenient he’s being. “Sorry. You can get back to your work here. I’ll just leave you be.”

He gets up to leave but the elder calls out for him.

“No, you don’t have to leave,” Taehyung consoles.
Jeongguk stops in his tracks to stare at the elder blankly. “What are you gonna do at home? Spill your secrets?” Taehyung teases, Jeongguk’s heart lightening at the lilt in his voice.

“Come,” Taehyung nods his head back to the sofa but this time for him to sit closer.
Jeongguk gives in, shuffling himself to sit next to the elder, leaving as much as three inches between them.

“I’m working on that project,” Taehyung shows him his laptop screen, “these are the photos I took of Jeongsuk.”

What Jeongguk sees isn’t as lewd as he thought they’d be.
He sees fashion, art, performance, emotion – just in these photos alone. The subject is placed perfectly in the frame complimenting all other focal points in each photo. He’s truly amazed.

“Wow…” is all his brain comes up with but it’s genuine nonetheless.
“Wow?” Taehyung echoes.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk agrees, “they look… really good.”

Taehyung smiles, eyes disappearing into crescents, his cheeks poking outward like bread rolls. Jeongguk’s never seen him smile like that. It’s refreshing to say the least.

“Thanks,” he mumbles.
“What’s it for?” The younger inquires.

Taehyung shrugs. “I have no idea yet.” That explains the bottomless ball pit of crumpled paper they sit in.

Jeongguk shifts, turning his body completely toward the elder. “Do you know what themes you’re trying to convey?”
Taehyung takes a hot second to think about his answer. “Mmm… maybe naivety?”

Jeongguk feels a bit uneasy at the answer. “Why that one?”

“I think it’s just because you have everyone around you in a trance. You have everyone fooled. Everyone except me,” the elder explains smug.
“So what? I’m your model now?” Jeongguk taunts sarcastically.

“Can you?”

Jeongguk blushes immensely at the genuineness of the elder’s voice like he actually wants him. “I was joking.” He shies away from Taehyung’s pleading gaze and before he knows it,
the elder is already snapping a picture of him and his flushed cheeks as he sits cross legged on the couch.

“Taehyung!” The younger whines.

“I’m sorry. I had to.” Taehyung looks to the camera to review the photo. He grins in satisfaction and shows it the boy. “See?”
The embarrassment rises, his face burning as he stares at the photo. And it’s then that he remembers he has one more secret, realizing he can’t be completely honest with Taehyung like he thought.

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung calls.
Jeongguk stares at the elder like a deer caught in headlights. “Yeah?” He responds, oblivious to the mild suspicion in Taehyung’s expression.

Taehyung decides to leave the modeling for another time. The project isn’t due for another couple months.
He senses the tension in the boy, the muddled mess wracking his brain. After everything he’s been told, he figures the poor boy needs to distract himself, relieve some stress.

“Do you wanna have a drink?” Taehyung asks him.
[deleted next update] wooP it’s 2am. Goodnight.
curiouscat.me/kthvhoney
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