Work. It was always work.
Work on this. Work on that.
Jungkook’s life was an endless repetition of the same phrase. Get off your lazy ass, you ungrateful child. It came in different forms, but it was always essentially the same expectation. His father always wanted more. He wanted a vicarious sort of greatness.
At only nineteen years old, Jungkook found himself without the will left to argue. And so he worked. He studied until he fell asleep on his desk. Until he dreamed of the mistakes he made on papers and tests, ones he could have easily corrected. Until the ceaseless cups of coffee were what kept him tangible.
There were nights when Jungkook couldn’t sleep. He knew this would only lead to further exhaustion, but his father’s voice tormented him. He wanted to do well. He had to do well. When he grew up, when he got just a bit older and a bit more satisfactory, he would take his father’s place at the head of the company. He would sit on his father’s ornate, corporate throne; he would get a wife that he didn’t love, and he would have kids, and he would be trapped; he would spend the rest of his life pleasing one set of people and ordering the other set around to do his bidding. On nights like this, he called Jimin.
Jimin was different from anyone else in Jungkook’s world. He was, essentially, out of his world. He was separate from the parties and the fake smiles. From the need to be charming and impressive. From the school work and the repeating sleepless nights. Jimin was safety.
He was Jungkook’s oldest friend. His best friend. His only friend. Jimin would pat Jungkook on the back and tell him it was okay. He would do silly, teenage things with him that Jungkook knew weren’t really allowed. He told Jungkook stories about his parents and his baby cousin he adored, about his girlfriend who he said was his whole world. He assured Jungkook that some day his dad would understand. Jungkook had met all these people in Jimin’s life, and he couldn’t help but wonder why he and his friend were so different. Why couldn’t the people in Jungkook’s life be like Jimin’s family? Why did he have to go through this alone? Why couldn’t it just be easier?
Jimin was safety. But Jimin couldn’t offer him comfort. Jungkook didn’t know how to get the comfort he needed. He couldn’t. Couldn’t get what he needed.
Jungkook sat before his father with his head bowed. He found it ironic, so, so ridiculous, that the same father who taught Jungkook to never let anyone humble him, this same man, expected Jungkook to bow to him and be humbled. It was all so absurd. Jungkook just kept his eyes on his father’s desk.
“There is no doubt in my mind that you know why you are here. Am I right, boy?”
Jungkook’s eyes didn’t dare to lift from the desk, they didn’t dare to show disrespect. Because Jungkook knew he was wrong. “Yes, sir. I know.”
The tight smile on his father’s face was something Jungkook had seen too often to need to lift his eyes. He knew it was there without looking his father in the face. His father spoke slowly, and Jungkook couldn’t help but think this slow speech was somewhat cruel. “Good. Then I need not elaborate. Your recent marks have been unacceptable.” His father rose from his seat. Tall and intimidating, “Whatever you have been doing in your free time, it hasn’t been improving your abilities at math. Fix it.”
Jungkook nodded his head quickly. “Yes, sir. I will work harder.”
“You are dismissed. I expect more of you, Jungkook.”
Jungkook hated the looks that the women at the desk gave him when he left his father’s building. Their eyes glimmered in pity as they followed his path from the building’s door to his car. Jungkook knew that a B was unacceptable, but his father didn’t have to be so mean about it.
Jimin tried to comfort him later, rubbing a hand up and down Jungkook’s back slowly. “It’s okay, dude. Everyone gets a B sometimes. Everyone does.”
“I don’t, Jimin.” Yoongi was even there, and she brought Jungkook’s favorite food.
“Here you go, kid.” She said as she dropped the takeout bag down on the table. “I paid a lot of money for this, so you better stop moping now.”
Jungkook smiled. “Thanks, noona. You know me. I would never reject free food.” He felt better for a while, while they were still at his apartment. Jimin even promised that he would help Jungkook with his math. But after they left, he realized he couldn’t shake the disappointment he had with himself off so quickly.
Jungkook decided to visit the library. That was what he needed. He knew it.
Jungkook’s favorite place to get some semblance of peace was the library. It was tranquil there. Nobody bothered him there. Except Jimin, because he had a habit of pestering Jungkook anywhere he went. The library was his sanctuary, and it was really one of the only things keeping Jungkook sane.
His father couldn’t get him there.
Jungkook knew everyone in the library. He had a friend at the little cafe that was on the first floor, and a friend at the front desk who always commented on the books he checked out. He knew the people that cycled through shifts at the help desk, and even the people that smiled warmly in the children’s section. Most of them were at least ten years older than him, but they gave him good advice and a respite from his life.
This was his real home. He knew what his father’s house was, what his own small apartment was, and they weren’t home. Jungkook knew it for himself; it didn’t matter if anyone else knew. Anyone in the business world, who he had to be perfect for. It didn’t concern anyone else. Jungkook had a little family there. That was what mattered. The library wasn’t just a building, it was the people inside. The people were the library and the library was the people. A metonymy that was fundamental to his life. The people working in the building made sure he ate and reminded him to get enough sleep.
It was like he had an army of mothers. Taking care of him.
This made it all the more shocking when Jungkook noticed a boy, a boy he had never seen before, replacing books on the shelves.
A boy in his sanctuary.
Jimin was talking about something that was most likely annoying, but Jungkook had stopped listening.
The boy had a badge on, so he clearly worked there. Of course, of course he did, he wouldn’t be putting the returned books on the shelves for fun. His badge was yellow, so he worked on the first floor. It was so strange to see someone his age working there. Perhaps he was an intern of some sort.
Jungkook was staring. He realized it with mild discomfort. But he was just so… perplexed? How could he not stare?
The boy turned to the side to reach for another book, and Jungkook’s felt his breath catch hard in his throat. He couldn’t draw breath, he couldn’t panic, he couldn’t think.
The boy was beautiful.
So beautiful. His hair was dyed blonde, but it didn’t look strange or out of place. His eyes were large and inquisitive, and he looked curious. He looked determined. A little shy, but with fight in him. Not necessarily happy. But determined and pretty and alive.
He wanted to talk to him. But Jungkook thought that in and of itself was a bit strange. Because when, when had the last time that he wanted to talk to someone been? Jungkook didn’t know. But the boy was just so pretty.
A sharp elbow to his side side snapped him out of his daze. “You checking that guy out? Oh my God, you totally where!”
“What?” Jungkook inhaled slowly. Breath in.
“What do you mean?” Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Jimin looked amused. Too amused. “Let me say this slowly so your inexperienced mind understands. Were you. Checking that guy. Out?” Checking him out? Was Jungkook checking someone out? When had he ever checked someone out?
Just breathe. In. Out.
Jungkook couldn’t just breathe. His face flared red. “No. No. I wasn’t. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. You’re suck a dick. I don’t even know why I’m friends with you.” Jimin was laughing at him. He thought that it was kind of unfair. Jimin knew that Jungkook couldn’t like boys. He knew that.
“You were staring.”
“I was staring.” Jungkook glared as hard as he could, but no, Jimin wouldn’t stop.
“That automatically means you were checking him out.”
“I wasn’t. Dumbass. So stop talking about it.”
When Jungkook returned to his apartment that night, he wondered how someone’s eyes could look so interested. Interested in everything. Simply put, the boy looked tenacious. It seemed odd, even to Jungkook himself, but there was something about the boy that forced Jungkook to associate him with a sort of unorthodox bravery. Sui generis. The kind that made Jungkook himself wish he had such a strong will to live as this unfamiliar face.
He shook his head. He was making rash judgements before he even understood; before he knew the person. His father would be proud.
Jungkook avoided the library for a few days. He wasn’t sure if he could handle seeing the boy again. Eventually, though, it all became too much. His father called and scolded him for the pathetic A minus that he received on a report at school. Jungkook couldn’t help but agree with him; he hadn’t done as well as he’d wanted to. At least it was better than that B in math. How was Jungkook ever supposed to take over the company if he couldn’t pass Business Calculus? That shit was important, after all, really important. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t be able it take over the company at all. He’d be disowned and be forced to live under a bridge. Jungkook could see it all now.
He holed up in the library between the shelves.
He bypassed the first floor; it was too noisy there anyway. The second floor was quieter. He could study there.
Slowly, Jungkook became surrounded by books. Finances. Economics. Business. Calculus. Binders filled with his notes. Notebooks decorated with neat writing. There were highlighters and pens. Pencils. Paper. And Jungkook was in the middle. The papers made something of a flower shape around Jungkook, spreading out around him in a way that reminded him of petals. He thought it was kind of beautiful. He was the center. The center, the important part of the flower where all the pollen was.
Jungkook had never asked to be important.
Jungkook worked until Seokjin caught him with his eyelids drooping and his pencil falling from his hand. Seokjin, the fiercest library mother of all.
Seokjin was hard to argue with. When he cared about something, he made it clear that he did. And right now, he refused to let Jungkook continue working without food and coffee.
Jungkook was pulled from the ground and led away from his flower petal textbooks. He was pulled down the hall and to the elevator, the colors around him blurring a bit as though he were in a dream. He hadn’t really noticed how tired he was. “You need to take better care of yourself! How many times have I told you to eat while you study? I get it that you have to study so long, but for God’s sake, eat some food!”
Jungkook giggled. His own laugh sounded far away to him; he felt disjointed. “Hyung, you’re not allowed to eat on the second floor. You should know that. You work here.” Seokjin was one of the only young people who worked at the library, but he still acted like Jungkook’s mother. It was nice.
Seokjin scowled as he shoved Jungkook into the elevator, pressing the buttons with more force than necessary. “Don’t give me that sass! I’ve given you permission to eat up there, haven’t I? Kids these days, trying to kill their elders. I’m just trying to look after you, brat.”
Jungkook leaned into the railing in the elevator, trying to feel the moving elevator cables straight through the walls and into his back. “Yes, library eomma-nim. I’ll eat.” Jungkook had said that many times, but he never really followed through. “I promise.”
“This kid. Trying to make me feel old. I’m not even old enough to be your mother!”
They walked into the cafe in silence. Seokjin ordered Jungkook an excessive amount of pastries and a coffee that would probably be too sweet, but Jungkook didn’t mind. Seokjin fussed over Jungkook as he ate, asking if he was getting enough food and sleep these days. Jungkook said of course he was, even though he wasn’t. Jungkook wished that he could just live at the library. He wished he could just make his problems disappear, that he could snap his fingers and everything that worried him would fade away. No more papers, no more company, no more social gatherings, no more flirting women, no more father. Jungkook’s eyes drooped further, and he only heard the warm tone of Seokjin’s voice; he couldn’t really register words- he was tired.
“Seokjin hyung!” In the corner of Jungkook’s eye he saw a figure moving towards their table. There was a deep voice. But it didn’t quite penetrate the haze. He was so tired. No more father, that was quite a thought. A laughable thought. The coffee hadn’t quite kicked in and everything was still a bit fuzzy and sleepy. “Hyung, can you help me with something? I don’t know where these books go.” Deep voice. There was a giggle. Cute.
Jungkook lifted his eye from the table to which they had been glued; there was an angel in front of him. He was tall and slim, and he looked friendlier than Jungkook had learned was appropriate when dealing with strangers. His eyes. They were guarded but alive. The recognition slowly sank in. The boy from before. He was talking to Seokjin about books and there was a yellow name tag around his neck. It was the boy from before.
He was even more beautiful up close.
There were fingers snapping in front of his face. He jerked back in his seat. “Jeon Jungkook, are you even listening.” Oh, it was just his hyung.
He blinked slowly. He shook his head slightly. “Sorry.” Tried to wake himself up. “Sorry, I didn’t think you were talking to me.”
“Right, because you were too busy staring.” Staring? “I understand. You’re a hormonal teenager. Who could resist Tae’s pretty face?” Jungkook could feel his face grow warm, but he didn’t know how to answer. Because he was right. The boy was gorgeous. It didn’t help that Seokjin was saying the exact same thing Jimin had said a few days ago. Seokjin was just kidding, he didn’t know Jungkook’s secret, he didn’t know how Jungkook thought about boys, Jungkook knew that. Seokjin was just kidding. Either way, he thought he could trust Seokjin not to embarrass him; embarrassing him was Jimin’s job. But then again, isn’t that what moms do?
Jungkook almost missed the boy talking, slipping back into sleepiness. “Hyung, I’m not pretty… stop saying stuff like that! Let’s just go put the books away.” A nervous laugh. The boy’s face was red, too. Why would he say that? Was he shy? How could someone so attractive be shy? Jungkook wasn’t supposed to think boys were attractive. Shit.
Jungkook cleared his throat. “Um, hi. Hello.” A pause. “I’m Jungkook. J-Jeon Jungkook.” He should shake his hand right? That was polite; he was forgetting all his manners. He stood up. Stuck his hand out. “So, hello, nice to meet you.” The boy’s hand was soft and warm when they shook hands.
Another giggle. Still cute. “Nice to meet you, too. I’m Taehyung! I don’t usually encounter library patrons at such a late hour. Do you frequent these facilities? I suppose you don’t want to return books with us. It errs on the side of boring. Or maybe you do. It is quite doleful, but I don’t read minds. How unfortunate is that?”
Jin smacked Taehyung over the head and Jungkook flinched. He looked too delicate to be hit. “What have I told you about ‘practicing your vocabulary’ in conversation. It doesn’t make you sound smarter, it’s just annoying! You almost made that little girl cry today using the word saxicolous. You need to stop. Speak normal.”
“Jungkook doesn’t look like a little girl to me, hyung.” Jungkook’s cheeks reddened.
Seokjin grabbed the boy, Taehyung, by the shoulders and shook him. “Speak. Normal.”
He cleared his throat again- he must get rid of these nervous habits. “Saxicolous is a good word. ‘One who lives under a rock,’ right? I think that’s right. But unless you were talking about algae I don’t see why you’d be using it. Unless you were throwing highbrow scientific shade at a little girl.” Jungkook shouldn’t have opened his mouth; he knew he didn’t talk like a normal person his age. He should have just kept quiet.
Taehyung’s laugh wasn’t musical or majestic. It was sweet and endearing. Jungkook was kind of captivated. “Hey, in my defense she stole a book from my cart before I could put it back on the shelf. No respect! Coincidentally, the book was about algae. What little kid reads about freshwater algae? One with no social life who lives under a rock, that’s who.”
He was smart, too. Wow.
Jungkook had forgotten that Seokjin was standing there for a moment, until he announced his presence with a laugh. “Alright kids, I understand the appeal of weird nerd jokes but we have books to put away.”
“Hey, are you making fun of us?”
“Of course not.”
It was only later that Jungkook realized how foolish he was being before. What was he doing being so enthralled by Taehyung? It was entirely ridiculous that he let himself admire so much. He was a boy. He had his father’s company to think of.
What would his father say if he knew he neglected his homework to spend time with a boy who worked at the small local library?
He was being stupid. He wouldn’t let himself have thoughts like that again. He couldn’t let himself act in such a foolish way, act on his deepest desires and secrets.
Jungkook once again avoided the library for a few days. He did his work in his apartment, where it was too cramped and a bad atmosphere for working. But Jungkook knew it would have to do. Because ultimately, he thought, there was nothing that would make his father more angry than him liking a boy. Not even bad grades.
Eventually though, when a week of endless tests and papers had come to an end, Jungkook needed his library to let himself relax. He resolved to avoid the beautiful librarian. He just needed to see his library mothers again.
Seokjin attacked him as soon as he entered the doors. Jungkook had never been one for hugs, but there was something comforting about Seokjin’s hugs. They were somehow warmer and safer than other hugs.
His hyung rocked Jungkook from side to side a bit, and Jungkook thought it was kind of nice even though he was a little embarrassed. “Where the hell have you been? I haven’t seen you for a week! We thought you died or something.”
“It was only a week, hyung. I just had a lot of work to do.”
Seokjin pulled back from the hug to scrutinize Jungkook. He felt far too analyzed, and he became inexplicably worried that Seokjin knew the real reason that Jungkook hadn’t been present. So what if he did? Would he care? “You always do your work here. What’s wrong, Jungkook?”
Jungkook shook his head. “There’s nothing wrong. Don’t worry about me, okay?”
He heard a sigh come from the man before him. “How can I not worry about you? You don’t even have the sense to take care of yourself properly. Without me you probably wouldn’t even eat food.”
Jungkook smiled. Seokjin always made him feel better, even when he was yelling at him. “Though that is not untrue, I maintain that I can survive solely off of the intake of knowledge that studying gives me. If I took a break to eat, I wouldn’t get to study as much, would I?”
“Just a question. What turned you into a such a little douchebag?”
“Probably my father.”
Seokjin just sighed. “What am I going to do with you?”
Jungkook giggled. “You could buy me food. Just a suggestion, but paying for my lunch is something you could do.”
Jungkook watched as Seokjin just silently grabbed his wallet from beneath the desk he had been working at. “I’m calling your father Douchebag Senior from now on, just so you know.”
“Believe it or not, I’m okay with that actually.”
Lunch didn’t last long, and even though Jungkook enjoyed his time with Seokjin he was eventually launched back into the vortex of his homework. He turned his phone on silent so that he could effectively shut Jimin up, hiding himself in his favorite corner of the second floor of the library.
Jungkook’s whole life really was working. He knew that he still wasn’t good enough for his father’s taste, so the only way he could get better is to work harder. And he had to start with Calculas. There was the most room for improvement there.
At some point Jungkook looked at his phone and realized that it was two am. He had a text from his father inviting him to some sort of social gathering that weekend. Jungkook slowly slumped back in his chair, leaning his head back until it hung limp from his neck. An invitation from his father was not refusable. So like usual, Jungkook would be forced to dress up nicely, and act nice, and charm a nice girl at the party until she asked him to come home with her. And then after all that, he would have to say no, because a gentleman doesn’t sleep around or some shit. Why be charming if it wouldn’t get him anywhere? Not that he wanted to get anywhere with a girl.
God, he really needed a break.
Jungkook packed up his books robotically, placing his Calc book in upside-down, despite the annoyance such a thing would normally cause him. God he hated the parties his father made him attend.
He said hello to one of the janitors as he walked past, knowing her name like he did all the people that worked in the library. His second home. If things were different, Jungkook could just get a simple job that didn’t require so much stress and social finesse, but then, also, maybe he wouldn’t have found his library- wouldn’t need it. Would an easier life be worth not having these people that he loved in it? Maybe not. But probably yes. Yes it might be worth it because would he really need a support system at all in the other scenario? Jungkook’s thoughts were all jumbled. People with simple lives didn’t need a support system. He really just needed sleep.
“Hey, Jungkook! That is you isn’t it? I’m not just embarrassing myself by addressing a stranger?” And just when Jungkook’s mood couldn’t get any worse, there was an angel in front of him.
Taehyung looked especially adorable tonight. “Yeah, I’m Jungkook. I believe we met the other night.” Even at two in the morning he looked amazing.
Taehyung fiddled with the badge around his neck. “Yep, Seokjin introduced us, remember? Well, of course you remember, it was only, like, a week ago? Anyway, hi! Isn’t it kind of late to be at the library? If I were given the choice, I’d definitely be at home right now sleeping.”
“Yeah, it is getting a bit late, isn’t it?” Taehyung liked to talk a lot. He rambled on about the books he had been reading and all the ones on his book list that he had yet to start. Jungkook didn’t know how he could think of so many things to say that seemed truly genuine. Small talk was usually so fake, something that everyone hated, but with Taehyung everything he had to say was honest and interesting.
“Tell me something about yourself, Jungkook. I know it’s late. Oh, geez, we’ve just kind of been standing here awkwardly, haven’t we? Sorry about that!”
“It’s fine.” He didn’t really know why Taehyung would say sorry about something like that. “There isn’t really much to tell about myself though.”
A scoff. “Lies! I’m sorry, but everything has something to tell, Jungkook. I like to learn one new thing about someone every time I talk to them. Can you do this for me? Tell me your favorite mythical creature.”
Jungkook felt himself smile. “Fine then. I don’t know that I completely understand your logic, but fine.”
Jungkook was a bit mesmerized when Taehyung brought his hands up and clapped cutely. “Yay! I knew you’d come around!”
“A dragon. I guess I like dragons.”
Taehyung rested his face on his now stilled hands. “But why? Do you have a reason.”
“There’s a reason for every decision we make.”
The side of his lips quirked up, and Jungkook didn’t know what to do. “Fair enough. But if you acknowledge that you have a reason, you might as well tell it to me. I’m still curious you know! I don’t feel like I’ve learned enough about you to let you leave quite yet.”
“I don’t know Taehyung. I like them because... they are easy to draw?”
“You like to draw?” His eyes got this odd sparkle to them, a product of his apparent newfound interest in Jungkook’s hobbies.
Jungkook could almost feel his brain shut down. “I haven’t drawn anything in awhile. But yes. I used to like to draw dragons.”
“That’s so cool, Jungkook! I always wish that I could draw! You’ll have to show me your dragons sometime!”
The thought of Taehyung seeing his drawings was somehow too much for Jungkook, but he nodded in spite of himself. “Okay. I’ll show you sometime.”
Taehyung’s giggle came back in full force and Jungkook looked at the ceiling. “Alright, Jungkookie. You are now dismissed.” He made a shooing motion with his hands. “I’ve gotten enough out of you. You are now free to return to your bed and sleep.”
Jungkook felt a bit dumb when he nodded slowly in response. “Thanks, I guess. But, hey, you should get some sleep, too. We’ve already established that it’s late.” He wished he had something witty to say, but instead he just felt lost.
“Alright, Jungkook, I’ll make sure to sleep as soon as my shift ends. Now shoo! You look half dead from fatigue!”
Jungkook was herded out the door by the overly enthusiastic librarian; he didn’t understand how Taehyung could look so cheerful at such an hour.
With his hand to the door, Jungkook turned around to face the librarian- responding to a sudden recollection. “But you never told me your favorite. What is your favorite mythical creature Taehyung?”
Taehyung bit his lip, smiling through the action. “I guess you’re allowed to ask questions, too, huh. Mine is the Fenghuang. It’s Chinese, and it’s two creatures, birds, actually! Feng is male and Huang is female. But it is also depicted as just one bird sometimes, and then it is supposed to show the joining of male and female together.”
Jungkook gripped the handle of the door tighter. “I’ve never heard of it. It sounds interesting though. It sounds kind of like Yin and Yang.”
“Kind of, yes!” Taehyung smiled wider. “Actually, it’s funny! I read somewhere that it also came to be seen as the symbol of the Empress. And the Emperor was the dragon! There are a lot of images of the dragon chasing after the Fenghuang.”
Jungkook nodded slowly. “Yeah, that’s kind of funny. Because dragons are my favorite and the fenghuang is your’s.” His head was spinning.
Taehyung’s smile was so bright. “Yep! The two were depicted together a lot! They were shown as either lovers or enemies.” Jungkook didn’t know what to do with his hands. He lifted the other one up to the door.
“Oh, but you probably want to go home now! I’m sorry for talking so long, I get a bit overexcited sometimes! Got to stop drinking so much coffee, you know?”
Jungkook tried to smile, worried that he seemed annoyed by the blonde’s behavior. “It’s okay, Taehyung, really. And believe me, I’ve had some horror stories with caffeine, so I understand.”
“Well that’s reassuring. You know, I’ve been looking for someone to start Caffeine Addicts Anonymous with!”
Jungkook seemed to hear his own laugh from miles away. “I’ll pass. I’m not ready to give up my addiction yet.”
“Okay, Jungkookie. Goodnight!” Jungkook felt so lost.
He dreamed of royal dragons chasing birds through the sky.
Though Jungkook still felt disorientation when in the presence of a certain librarian, he didn’t feel the need to avoid the library because of it anymore. Taehyung mostly left him alone, and when they did talk it was brief- just long enough for Taehyung to ask Jungkook a seemingly random question about himself. Jungkook was always busy studying, and Taehyung understood that, being a college student himself.
Jungkook learned that Taehyung was still an undergraduate student, and he was working in the library to pay off some of his tuition. Apparently the library had some connection to the college Taehyung attended, so an arrangement was made that he could pay for his meals by working at the library, and the remaining money was used to pay the rent for his apartment.
Jungkook expressed his concern that Taehyung was still being subjected to cafeteria food a fourth school year in a row, but Taehyung brushed it off. “It’s really not so bad. The food is pretty decent, and at least I don’t have to stay in the dorms anymore, you know?”
“I still feel bad. Maybe I could buy you something better for lunch some time.” It took him a moment to realize what he had actually said, but the smirk on Taehyung’s face caused him to reevaluate. He flushed deeply. “Um, that’s not what I meant.”
Taehyung laughed, loud and boisterous. “You’re such a cutie, Jungkook. I know what you meant, and yes, I’d love to not eat school food on occasion. I’ll take you up on your offer.”
Jungkook had always thought of himself as smooth, a good talker, but in the presence of Taehyung his carefully structured, flirtatious persona was nonexistent. Perhaps it was easier with women, because Jungkook knew what he was expected to do and what they were rumored to want. Perhaps it was just easy on a less personal level. The people at social functions that he was so often in contact with were like him. They were told to flirt in the same way as him, to charm the room, to get information on potential future business partners.
Those people were of the same world as Jungkook, whereas Taehyung floated along on a plane of existence just above Jungkook’s head.
Jungkook’s cheeks were still hot, but he hoped to God that he might preserve some of his dignity and that the blush wasn’t visible. “Uh, Taehyung. I have to study for a test. Could you maybe…”
“Oh! Of course! I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize I was bothering you!”
Jungkook watched Taehyung’s retreating form with a sad smile. “You weren’t bothering me.” These sorts of things were always whispered to himself, as a sort of afterthought that Jungkook was never able to formulate in time to keep up with Taehyung’s rapid pace.
When Jungkook lay in bed that night he tried not to dwell on Taehyung’s earlier assessment of him. A ‘cutie.’ Taehyung had called him a ‘cutie.’ Jungkook had never thought of himself as ‘cute’ before.
He told himself that Taehyung didn’t mean it in any particular way, and that, even if he did, Jungkook could never have a boy in that way.
The weekend of his father’s party had approached slowly. Jungkook didn’t realize it had come until he was putting on his suit jacket before leaving.
It was still somewhat strange to Jungkook to be going to these parties alone. Now that he was in college, Jungkook met his father there instead of travelling to the venue together. It was somewhat foreign, but not entirely unwelcome. Jungkook has sharply focused memories of his father lecturing him before these parties, reminding him how to act as though this last minute reminder would be what dictated Jungkook’s behavior that night.
In fact, Jungkook was quite glad not to be arriving in the same car.
His father had chosen an especially large country club for that night’s party. Jungkook felt a strange apprehension seeing the establishment, his mind grasping onto the idea that his father had something specific planned for tonight. This was what such a grand venue suggested.
Jungkook’s father spotted him the moment he walked through the front doors, and Jungkook admired how his father was able to make the crowd part for him as he moved towards his son.
When his father reached him, he gripped Jungkook’s shoulder tightly. “You look nice tonight, Jungkook. That’s good.”
“Thank you, sir.” Jungkook was once again herded away, and he vaguely remembered that night in the library with Taehyung, who had swept him out of the doors with soft hands and talked about mythical beasts.
Jungkook was brought to a bright corner of the room. It resembled a living area, with couches and lamps mounted on the walls that casted a soft light. On the couch there was a man about the same age as his father, and a beautiful young woman in a deep purple dress.
Jungkook was suddenly very nervous.
At length, Jungkook was introduced to the beautiful girl and made to dance with her. She was lovely and charming, and reminded him of himself because of it. Jungkook didn’t mean that in a conceited way. Everything was far too forced, in a way that stiffly reflected parental influence. He held her by the waist and she slid her hands up his chest slowly, and when they looked into each other’s eyes there was a sort of recognition of a shared situation that made everything bearable. They spent the evening together under the not-so-subtle gazes of their parents, and Jungkook thought that she wasn’t so bad.
His father decided to walk him to his car after the party. “She’s a lovely young woman isn’t she? What did you think of her Jungkook? I enjoyed seeing the two of you together. Everyone in the room was in awe of the two of you.”
“She was beautiful. I liked her very much, father.”
“That’s good. Have a good night, son.”
When Jungkook looked back at his father through the rearview mirror he saw some semblance of pride in his eyes. And he thought, maybe, it wouldn’t be so bad to marry a girl like that if it would finally make his father happy with him.
At some point during the following day, Taehyung appeared before Jungkook with a coffee in hand. He crouched down to where Jungkook was sitting on the floor among the bookcases and held the coffee out for Jungkook to take.
“Is this for me?” Jungkook reached out hesitantly. He was almost afraid that Taehyung wasn’t offering the drink to him at all; maybe Jungkook was just embarrassing himself again.
Taehyung giggled though, and that was slightly reassuring. “Of course, silly. I’m giving it to you aren’t I?”
Jungkook hummed and took a sip of the offered drink.
“How did you know my favorite coffee?”
“Oh! I forgot to mention: this is from Seokjin. He was worried about you and told me to bring this up to you. He’s such a sweetheart, isn’t he? He’s like everybody’s mom!”
“Yeah, I call him my library mom sometimes.” Taehyung’s smile widened at that, and Jungkook found it increasingly difficult not to choke on his drink.
“That’s a very accurate description.” Taehyung’s hair looked really soft and Jungkook kind of wanted to touch it. “I think it’s really sweet that he knows your coffee order!”
Jungkook laughed, quietly, and somewhat to himself. “Yeah, it’s nice until he uses it as leverage to get what he wants. Actually, I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t using the free coffees he’s given me as leverage to get something he wants.” Taehyung was very giggly today, and he smelled really nice, and it was making Jungkook feel kind of strange and hot.
“Well, I guess if he’s going to take care of you and be an enabler for your caffeine addiction, you might as well be nice to him in return.”
Jungkook nodded and fixed his eyes down on the notes he had been studying, trying to expel the smell of Taehyung from his mind.
“You look really busy, Jungkookie. Are you busy?”
“Um, a bit? I have a Calculus test, and it’s very important that I do well this time. My father almost killed me after the last one.” The last sentence was mumbled to himself, but Taehyung heard it regardless.
“Calculus? I’m not very good at math, but I have a friend who’s amazing! If you need help, I can get him to tutor you!”
“A tutor? I’ve never had a tutor before…” Somehow the thought of it hurt Jungkook’s pride a bit. He had always been the smartest kid in his school. The kind of kid who understood concepts right away.
“Oh come on, I promise that he isn’t scary. He’s actually a bit dorky and clumsy, but he’s the biggest brain I know!”
Jungkook thought of his pride, but then he considered the privileges that would be revoked if he did badly again. He sighed. “Alright, sure. Calc is really kicking my ass.”
Taehyung giggled again, and it made Jungkook wonder if he could hide in his textbook. “Okay, let me know if you want his information, then. It’s funny, but what I was going to ask you today was your standard coffee order.”
“Yep! But I already know thanks to Seokjin, so I guess you’re off the hook today!” Taehyung ruffled Jungkook’s hair as he left- silencing Jungkook before he could return Taehyung’s question of coffee orders, and, in turn, staining Jungkook’s cheeks red.
Jungkook spent the entire weekend with Jimin and Yoongi at their apartment. Jimin said it would be like a two night sleepover, and Yoongi pretended to be annoyed that Jungkook was invading her space, as per usual. Jungkook knew he was lucky to have friends like them.
There was something comforting about the tiny couch in their apartment. It felt good to be squished together as they played video games into the late hours of the night.
Jimin and Yoongi were really polite to him, too. They didn’t flaunt their relationship when they knew that Jungkook was unlikely to have someone he truly loved. They were a reserved couple, and Jungkook hoped they knew how much he appreciated the gesture.
“Jimin you fucking asshole! We’re on the same team, don’t fucking shoot me!” Jungkook smiled- there was something so endearing about Yoongi. She acted tough and swore a lot, but she was secretly so full of love that she couldn’t quite hide it from the ones closest to her. Jungkook could see it, and he knew that Jimin could as well.
They somehow managed to finish eating a record holding number of bags of chips, and by the time they went to sleep their minds were drifting on a high of adrenaline and sugar from the video games and junk food. Jungkook reveled in the illusion of simplicity he could maintain when he stayed with his friends. It was so easy to pretend that he didn’t have problems when he was around people who were so carefree. Jungkook went to sleep blissfully free of thoughts.
When they awoke, the three had every intention of repeating yesterday’s unhealthy escapades. Jimin had insisted upon ordering a pizza for breakfast, and since neither Jungkook nor Yoongi complained Jimin put in a call for it. There was a small balcony outside of the apartment, and they decided to eat there. It was sort of beautiful in the morning, the quality of light superb and the dew coating everything, even though it was cramped.
“So, kid, when’s your next Calc test? I’d say I’d help you study, but I’m shit at math.”
“That’s true, she is.” Jungkook laughed when Jimin got smacked in the head.
“It’s in a week and a half. I think I’ll be okay though. One of the librarians said he has a friend that can tutor me if I need it.”
Jimin seemed to be scrutinizing him, a stare that seemed far too probing for Jungkook’s liking. “I thought Seokjin was the only male librarian there. Is there someone new?”
“Yeah. Yeah, you saw him actually. A few months ago… We were sitting in the cafe on the first floor, remember?”
Yoongi raised an eyebrow. “Wait, is this the kid that you came home talking about? The one Jungkook here was ‘staring shamelessly at,’ to quote you.” Jungkook was suddenly feeling uncomfortably warm again.
“Oh yeah! Now I remember that kid! He was pretty cute, for a guy. He was kind of pretty actually. Had really nice cheekbones.”
“Sounds like you were right to stare, kid.”
Jungkook glared. “I wasn’t staring. I told you, I wasn’t staring. You guys never let me just live my life in peace, you know that? You’re always assuming the worst and making fun of me.”
“That’s because you’re adorable, Kookie.” Jungkook smacked Jimin’s hand away when he tried to pinch his cheek.
They were interrupted by Yoongi’s phone ringing. To Jungkook’s surprise, she looked extremely apprehensive upon looking at the caller ID.
“What’s wrong, Yoongi?” He didn’t get an answer. Yoongi shook her head at him and left the balcony, reentering their small living room. “Hello? What do you want now?”
Jungkook thought that maybe they should close the door to the living room. Maybe they should give Yoongi some privacy. But Jimin moved to stand in the doorway. “Fucking obviously. Yeah I’m still writing music.” It seemed like everyone knew who was on the other side of the phone but Jungkook. It wasn’t that surprising, but it was unsettling all the same. “You know what, don’t call me back. If you’re gonna be a fucking bitch to your own daughter, then you can get the fuck out.” Her mother? “I’ve always been your daughter. Don’t call me back.”
Seconds later and Yoongi was wrapped in Jimin’s arms, and Jungkook was left standing in the doorway. And maybe, he did know what the call was about. Maybe it was that thing that they never talked about.
“Noona, is this about…”
“Obviously. It’s always about it. I don’t get why she cares so much. It’s not such a big deal, right?”
Jimin hugged her tighter, burying his face in her neck. “Of course not. It shouldn’t even matter to her.”
Yoongi sighed and lifted Jimin’s face out of her neck. “Why the fuck are you crying? I’m fine Jimin, don’t worry.” Yoongi’s voice was flat and sad, devoid of the fire it always contained, and Jungkook suddenly felt guilty for complaining about his father. Because maybe, he could suck it up, and get married to a girl, and learn to like her. Maybe he could fake it. But Yoongi? This was different. This was her whole identity, and her own mother hated her for it.
Jimin looked surprised when Jungkook wrapped his arms around the two of them, trying to help in some small way. But Yoongi just smiled slightly, like she had expected it all along. “We know you’re a girl Yoongi. And your mom knows that, too. I know she does. She’ll accept you some day. She will.”
“Thanks, kid.” Yoongi’s eyes squinted and her smile grew, and Jungkook thought she really was one of the most beautiful girls he’d ever seen. “I’m glad you’re here you know. This guy would just cry all over me.”
“I just love you, you know that. I get emotional sometimes, okay.”
“Love you too, babe. And you, too, Jungkook. You’re not getting out of this.”
She pulled her arms out from where they were pinned by her sides and she hugged them both into her body. And maybe, Jungkook thought, just because someone didn’t have the life he had didn’t mean their life was simple at all.
The friend’s name was Hoseok. At least, that’s what Junkook gathered from listening to their conversation. So far, they had just been talking about school work and Hoseok’s dance competition. It occurred to Jungkook that he should put his headphones on so that, if Taehyung were to peer around the bookcase, Jungkook would not appear to have heard any of their conversation.
But really, why should it be suspicious if he was sitting here? He wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was just doing homework. Behind the bookcase.
“Awww, TaeTae you’re sucha cutie!”
“Stop it, Hobi! I’m not cute!” Jungkook knew that he shouldn't be jealous. He knew that, but somehow he couldn’t help the strange, tight feeling in his chest as he overheard. Someone else was talking to Taehyung so sweetly, and Jungkook could barely get out a few coherent words around him.
“Don’t be silly, you’re adorable! I just want to squish your face, you cutie!” He peered around the shelves.
“Seriously, stop!” He watched as Taehyung slapped this Hoseok guy on the arm, lightly, making him laugh.
The giggles soon settled into a soft silence, and Jungkook got the distinct feeling that he was prying. But, no, he was just doing his homework, behind the tall bookcases.
The friend shook his head, and the long look they shared made Jungkook hold his breath. Breathe, in, out. It was caught in his throat.
A hand was placed on Taehyung’s slender one, and Jungkook, for some reason, Jungkook still couldn’t breathe. “Taehyungie. You know, that you’re really attractive, right? You know that, don’t you?”
Taehyung looked down at the table, past the place where their hands rested, stagnant. He laughed slightly. “I’m not, though, Hobi. I’m not anything, special.” But it wasn’t true. Why didn’t Taehyung know how pretty he was? He was gorgeous, he made Jungkook’s heart stop, why didn’t he see that?
“It’s just. I’m worried about you, Tae. You used to love yourself. But now, you just seem…”
“Seem what? I’m the same as I ever was. I don’t really know what you’re talking about.”
“Look, Taehyung, I know you loved him. I know you did, and I know he was everything to you. I know that. But don’t you think you-”
“I wasn’t good enough, Hobi.” The hands on the table, Hoseok’s eyes, Taehyung’s eyes, the abandoned coffees on the table- they all seemed to stare at Jungkook. “I never am.”
Taehyung’s chair scraped the floor as he stood up, echoing throughout the room even though it should have been drowned out by all the idle conversations in the room. “I’m done eating. Let’s go home, okay? I need to go home and do work.”
He was so beautiful.
Jungkook clutched the coffee to his chest. He didn’t know what Taehyung liked, so he just guessed. He thought he’d like something sweet though. He hoped Taehyung like sweet things.
It was just like the first time Jungkook had seen him. Taehyung was putting books on the shelf. It was almost the same, except this time Jimin wasn’t there to annoy him.
“Um, hi, Taehyung?” He tapped him on the shoulder, and Jungkook couldn’t help it when his breath caught because of Taehyung’s beautiful smile.
“Jungkook! Hi! What’s up?”
He coughed to clear his throat. He was suddenly afraid he wouldn’t be able to talk properly. “Hello, Taehyung. Hi. Um, yeah, this is for you.” He thrust the drink towards Taehyung much too fast. Jungkook was powerless to the shaking of his hands, that was bad, he shouldn't be so nervous.
“Oh wow, really?” Jungkook made sure their hands didn’t brush. Taehyung shouldn’t have to feel his shaking nerves through his hands.“Thank you so much! This is so nice of you.” He was sweating. Jungkook felt hot.
Jungkook’s voice came out too close to a whisper, making the situation strange; It was as though something they were saying was intimate or needed to be contained to hushed tones. “I don’t really know what you like. I meant to ask you before, but… I hope you like it anyway…”
They shared a look- a long look like the one Taehyung had shared with his friend, Hoseok, just the other day. But maybe it was different- somewhere inside him, he hoped so. Jungkook didn’t think he had kept eye contact for so long with anyone other than Jimin and Yoongi, not even the girls he danced with at parties, not even the girls he had kissed. Taehyung’s eyes were so lovely.
“Taehyung, I… Pulchritudunous.”
A pause. “Um, what was that?”
“I think you’re, I think you’re pulchritudinous. Very much so.”
Taehyung tilted his head and Jungkook was so, so warm, and so overwhelmed. “I’m sorry Jungkook, but, I don’t know what that means.” A laugh. “It sounds kind of dangerous though! I’m really not sure if that was a compliment, Jungkookie.”
Jungkook felt himself smile a bit, but he turned away to hide it. “Tell me when you figure out what it means. My… my phone number’s on the cup. Text me, yeah?”
“Wait, Jungkook, are you…”
Jungkook practically sprinted away, his heart pounding and his cheeks warm with exhilaration because wow, he just flirted with a boy, he gave him his number, and he felt amazing but this was so wrong.
He shouldn’t be acting like this at all. But Taehyung looked so soft and pretty, and happy. And Jungkook couldn’t find it in himself to regret it.
“I’m pleased with your improvement, Jungkook. As long as you continue to earn high marks in math, I don’t think it will be a problem for us anymore.” He was pleased. When was the last time he had been pleased?
“That being said, I think it may be best to test your abilities as practical application. I’d like you to take over as the head of my sales team in predicting the outcomes of certain variables affecting product sales.” There was nothing that made Jungkook’s heart sink like his father producing a stack of papers. Regardless, they were slammed on the desk, and Jungkook gauged his net loss of free time by the volume of the slam. It was loud, and the stack looked thick, and Jungkook wanted to cry.
“That is a good idea, father. I… I won’t let you down, sir.”
“Good. Now get out of my office, I have a meeting soon. Don’t forget to meet with the sales team.”
Jungkook nodded and walked out with a straight back and head held high.
All Jungkook wanted was to stay up late for no particular reason- no homework, no stress, just the stars. Jungkook wanted to share all the love he knew he had in his heart. He wanted to chase boys and learn about simple things.
He wasn’t that old. It wasn’t fair. He wasn’t ever just allowed to be a kid, and it wasn’t fair.
His phone beeped. When Jungkook was laying in bed, face buried in his pillow and trying to hide himself away, his phone beeped. And it was odd, because the only one who texted Jungkook was Jimin, and Jungkook knew that his friend was busy at the moment.
‘Hi, Jungkookie! It’s Taehyung!’
‘can you at least tell me how it’s spelled? Maybe? This is really hard!’
‘Pulchritudinous. It’s an English word.’
And Jungkook really couldn’t help it at all when he cried.
The next weekend found Jungkook at Jimin and Yoongi’s apartment again, the three of them drinking beer and talking over a forgotten movie that played in the background.
At some point during the movie, Jungkook found himself leaned against Yoongi’s shoulder. He didn’t really know how he got there, but it was comfortable so he didn’t give it much thought. Jimin was in the other room refilling the snacks, and Jungkook had taken to playing with Yoongi’s long hair. “Your hair is so long now. It’s really nice.”
“Thanks a lot. ‘Preciate it.” Silence. “Hey, Jungkook. Look at me, kid.” Jungkook shifted to peer up at her, fluorescent light shining, a beacon, behind her head. “You’ve seemed really down lately. What’s up? You want to talk about it?”
“Oh, I…” Did he want to talk about it? “No, I just…”
“Spit it out, buddy. I don’t have all day.” Her smile was fond despite the words, and the light on her face had Jungkook just a bit mesmerized. He wasn’t drunk yet though. Yoongi was just really beautiful, he could admit that.
“I just… I think Taehyung and I have been flirting. Maybe. The boy from the library, I mean.” Jungkook’s face found its way to Yoongi’s arm and he felt so confused. “What am I supposed to do, noona? Even if I’m right, and there’s some chance that he likes me, too, what am I supposed to do? I just feel so confused all the time. And I’m not supposed to like boys at all, but I think that I like Taehyung so much.”
Yoongi sighed and lifted his head up from where it was buried in her shoulder now. “Look at me, kid. I don’t say stuff like this a lot. So you know I really mean it. It hurts to see you so upset. I think you’re a sweet kid, and I want you to do everything that will make you happy. Your dad is an asshole if he stops loving you over something like this.” Jungkook just stared up at her; he couldn’t help but think- it was obvious she was speaking from experience. “If he makes you feel happy, flirt with him all you want. Hell, ask him out. Date him. I don’t care, just do what you want. What you want is all that matters.”
Jungkook swallowed. He didn’t know if he could do that. “Ok, noona. Ok.”
She patted him on the head. “Good, kid. You’re a good kid. I don’t like seeing you sad. Stop it, ok?”
“Ok.” And Jungkook really didn’t know if he could do that, but he wanted to try. He really did.
The library was quiet at midnight. It was kept open late on the weekends to accommodate college students who worked late into the night, but hardly anyone was ever there. It made Jungkook a bit sad that no one appreciated the work the librarians did, but at least he could get some peace and quiet.
Jungkook had barely managed to improve his Calculus grade. He had memorized everything that he needed to from the textbook after many laborious nights of staring at the words and symbols. Yes, he had managed to get an A. But he still knew nothing about practical application. Jungkook had read through all the papers twice, but he had no idea where to start.
A cough. Jungkook lifted his head, confused, no one was ever around at night. Taehyung. Jungkook gripped his pencil tighter. He was always a bit stunned in Taehyung’s presence. “Pulchritudinous. It means ‘breath takingly beautiful.’”
Jungkook shook his head. “You’ve forgotten something.”
Taehyung’s smile was odd- equal parts uncomfortable, forced, and bashful that almost made Jungkook regret everything he had done. “Have I? What did I forget, Jungkook?” Shaky- the words were shaky.
“Well, it can only be used in reference to a person. Like, you can’t call a skyline pulchritudinous. It’s just, someone. Someone who... takes your breath away.” Taehyung lowered himself to the floor to be beside Jungkook, moving the papers away and pressing his entire body to Jungkook’s side. Taking the pencil from Jungkook’s hand, placing it on the floor.
Again, their eyes met softly. “Jungkook, I’m not… beautiful. I’m not. So I don’t know what you mean by telling me this, but… I’m not.”
“I think you are. Anyone would.” Taehyung’s head nestled into Jungkook’s shoulder, and the soft brush of his hair made Jungkook lose his mind. “Taehyung,” Jungkook breathed into the top of this beautiful boy’s head, “you light up a room. And I’m sorry, if anyone ever made you think you don’t.” Soft arms slipped around Jungkook’s middle, and Jungkook didn’t know where to put his own hands or what to do, but he did know that this was his chance to live. He watched as Taehyung’s hands clasped together on the other side of Jungkook’s body, the arms squeezing so gently against his stomach and back and Jungkook’s heart shivered.
“Do you mean what you said, Jungkook? That’s my question for you today… Do you really, truly mean it? Because I don’t think… I could stand it, if you were leading me on, too. Everyone always seems to be lying to me.”
And Jungkook didn’t know what to do to stop Taehyung’s shaking. He was shaking. “Of course. Of course I mean it.”
“Thank you, Jungkook.” The words were quiet, and they was small, but they were real. “Thank you.”
Jungkook decided he was done being afraid. He was done running away, so he brought his arms around Taehyung’s shoulders, and they, just, stayed that way.
Jungkook finally asked Taehyung about that friend he had who could tutor Jungkook in math. He had been stubborn and refused, but now, when he had to meet with the team soon and his desperation was complete, he knew that he needed help.
“His name’s Namjoon, and he’s super smart! Here, I’ll give you his number.”
Taehyung wrote his friend’s number on a flower printed post-it note, and Jungkook stared at the librarian’s hands. They were pretty. He had only just noticed that.
“Here you go! If he doesn’t answer right away he’s in class, but tell him that I sent you, okay?”
“Okay.” Taehyung was really cute, the way he tilted his head as he grinned up at Jungkook. “Thanks a lot, Tae.”
“Of course, anything to help, right?” This time when Taehyung smiled it was a bit bashful, and Jungkook wondered if it was something he said. “I like the nickname by the way. Only Hoseok really calls me that now.”
“Oh. I didn’t…”
“I expect to be referred to as such from now on, Jungkook. This means we’re closer now, right?” Taehyung sort of skipped as he walked away, and the brush of his fingers on Jungkook’s shoulder as he went was the softest summer breeze- too light a breeze to cool the burning of Jungkook’s cheeks.
“This looks good, Jungkook. I’m very pleased with your report so far, it’s coming along nicely.” Jungkook’s father didn’t give compliments lightly. “I’m proud of you, son. You might be ready to take over my position sooner than I had imagined.” His father was actually smiling. He was proud of him. It was just like after that party, when Jungkook had looked so good with that girl in the purple dress he had danced with. And his father said so. He was proud then, too.
“Father, I…” His father looked up from the report. Jungkook couldn’t stand it. The way he was smiling. “Dad, I’m gay.”
Jungkook closed his eyes too late to miss his father’s smile drop. The sound of his father’s chair being pushed back. Jungkook flinched away- his nerves were on fire. He was going to get hit; he couldn’t look. He couldn’t.
There were no footsteps.
There was only a sigh, and Jungkook pried his eyes open enough to see his father leaning heavily on his desk. “Wonderful, another thing I have to keep out of the press. Fantastic.”
Of course. Jungkook’s voice picked up volume like an out-of-control bike with broken brakes. Terrifying. Softly, it started softly. “Father, I… I understand, you know. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you, because… I understand how you feel. That’s why. I understand if you don’t want me as your heir anymore. I get it if you kick me out of your office, or whatever you want, but I couldn’t hide it anymore. You have to know, right? But I’m telling you I get it.” He couldn’t look. He didn’t want to see the look on his father’s face. “I get it if you hate me. I would hate me, too!”
“What the hell are you talking about? This is ridiculous.” Footsteps. A hand grabbed his chin and Jungkook’s face was wrenched upwards towards the fluorescent light reflecting in his father’s eyes. “Jungkook, frankly speaking I don’t give a shit about your sexual orientation as long as it doesn’t cause me any trouble. You might as well have kept it to yourself for all the good me knowing will do you.”
He dropped his chin forcefully, and Jungkook was shoved back, and he was falling.
Jungkook could only look up slowly. From the floor, he felt pathetic and small. From the floor, he found his father’s eyes. “But, sir,” he swallowed. Everything was so hard; speaking was hard, too. “Aren’t you worried? I mean, won’t I need an heir? I have to keep the company in our family, right?” He licked his lips. “I can’t do that if I like... boys.”
Jungkook’s heart had never thudded so fast before. “So, is that what this is about?” In. Out. Jungkook had to breathe. His father breathed, too- in, out, one long breath before he spoke. “Did you really think that I was trying to find a wife for you so that you could fall in love? Marriage is for business Jungkook, so you can keep whatever cute little boyfriends you want on the side, have as many as you want, i don’t care. But keep it out of the press and don’t make trouble for me. You’ll still have an heir.”
“Do you think I loved your mother when we got married? Business, Jungkook. Business.” Jungkook had kind of thought, that maybe, his parents had loved each other. Maybe not. Breathe. Nothing made sense anymore. Something about his father seemed to change then. He looked a way that Jungkook had rarely seen him- he looked almost softer. “Here’s what you do. You look happy, and you benefit from each other’s wealth, and you have children. I’ll find you someone who doesn’t mind your preferences, and you and this woman can agree that you two will be seeing other people. Away from the press, obviously.”
Jungkook’s eyes widened. “I’ll find you someone suitable for my needs, and you find someone suitable for your’s. Trust me on this. I’ll find you a girl. Now get up off the floor. This is unprofessional.”
What was he saying? Was his father, really, telling him that it was okay? His tone was so angry, but the whites of his eyes shone with some kind of twisted sympathy. Was Jungkook finally being told that who he liked didn’t matter? Is this what Jungkook was meant to understand? For the first time, Jungkook thought that he might cry in front of his father. He might.
Jungkook stood, walked towards the door. Those eyes were still soft, and it made no sense at all, but Jungkook was happy anyway, because his father told him that it was okay. That’s what he said- his father told him that he could love boys, as long as it was kept quiet. That’s what he said. And for the first time, when Jungkook thought of Taehyung, he wasn’t afraid.
His hand was on the door, but it seemed like there was still so much that was unsaid. “And, Jungkook.” He pulled his hand back, turning to meet his father’s words head on. He could do it. Breathe. “I suppose that, I’m proud of you for telling me. It was brave of you.”
Jungkook only nodded, too shocked to say a simple word of thanks. He lingered in the doorway for a moment before opening his mouth to speak again. “I’m sorry, Father, but I kind of thought that… Well, it seemed to me like you did love Mom. Maybe, I don’t know, but... Doesn’t it ever get better? Business marriages, I mean.” Jungkook caught a very odd expression on his father’s face then. He didn’t know how to put a name to it, but it looked distinctly unhappy in a way that made Jungkook backtrack on his words. “It’s stupid. I wasn’t even around to see you two together anyway. What do I know?”
His father shook his head, silently cutting off his son’s words. “No, you are right. It did get better, for me. In the end, I loved your mother very much. I did.”
Jungkook nodded. “That’s good then, I guess.” There was something that held him there; something that wouldn’t let him turn away. “Thanks, Dad. I won’t let you down, okay? I won’t let anybody find out.” Jungkook bowed quickly. “Thank you very much, sir.”
Jungkook had never imagined that he would have left that conversation smiling.
“I told my dad I’m gay. And I think he accepts my sexuality more than I do.”
Jungkook got lots of hugs that night, courtesy of Jimin and Yoongi. Jungkook felt really lucky, for the first time in a while.
“I’m so proud of you, man. I’m glad that it went well. I love you so much, you know that?”
“Not that I’m not happy for you, too, but this all seems fishy. Your dad is a dick head. For some reason I didn’t see him as an accepting guy.”
“Yoongi!” Jimin let go of Jungkook just long enough to smack her. “Don’t say shit like that! As long as it went well, why question it, right?”
Jungkook buried his face into Jimin’s shoulder. “No, she’s right. I’m still processing. That this actually happened, you know?”
“Well, what’s important is that it did happen. You’re free to do what you want now.”
“Yeah, kid, follow your heart. Or some other cheesy bullshit.” Yoongi’s gaze drifted to rest lightly on the floor, and Jungkook caught a smile on her face. “That’s what I did, anyway. Don’t give a shit about whatever anyone says about you, you got that, kid?”
Jungkook nodded into Jimin’s shoulder, and he thought that, this time, he might be able to move on and not care.
The next day found Jungkook in the library. But not studying. The occasion found Jungkook with his sketchbook- years old and filled with dragons. Jungkook had done a bit of research on the fenghuang, enough to capture its likeness leaving a trail behind for a dragon to chase. They had been running across the page for hours now, swirling beautifully since Jungkook first sat down and decided to draw them, since Jungkook decided that today, finally, he would take a break from his work. He felt light today. Jungkook was buoyant and free, and he would be happy to admit the reason behind the addition of a new creature to his sketchbook.
“Good morning, Jungkook!” Taehyung’s had a habit of making himself known quite suddenly. “Oh my gosh, are you drawing?”
Jungkook looked up from his books shyly. “Hello, Taehyung. Yeah, I am. I looked up the fenghuang. It’s quite beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as that drawing. Holy shit, I thought you said drawing was just an old hobby. You’re amazing!”
“Well, I don’t know about all that.” Jungkook smiled shyly into the decorated pages. “Would you… would you like to sit down with me?”
Taehyung’s giggles were tiny bubbles and robust fires and raindrops. “Well, no actually. I have a question to ask you. We’ve both exchanged coffees, but don’t you think it’s weird that we’ve never had one together?” Taehyung seemed to smirk, and it was sort of a funny expression on his lovely features. Jungkook smiled slowly back.
“Tae… are you asking me on a date?” It was said quietly, as though he still couldn’t break the habit of wanting to hide. But it was a start.
“Yeah, I guess I am! Would you like to buy me a drink, Jungkook?”
It was a pretty good start. Jungkook felt far too warm, but he scoffed playfully anyway. “Way to rip me off. How come I have to pay for you, huh? Maybe I wanted a free drink from my date today.”
“And I thought you were a gentleman! Guess I was wrong! You’ve crushed my heart, what do you have to say for yourself, you brute?"
Jungkook’s laughter was uncontrollable. Taehyung was just so cute, he couldn’t help it. “Of course I’ll buy you a drink, Tae. As long as you pay for mine next time, of course.”
And it was just so simple.
If the word pulchritudinous could be used to describe something inanimate, say an equation, or a coffee, or a story, it would be the only way to describe their odd process of simply being drawn to each other. But, alas, the only thing Jungkook could use the word to describe was Taehyung himself, and all his beautiful features. It was only a shame that Jungkook couldn’t chronicle Taehyung’s heart in the same manner, using the same word.
Jungkook could live with that though. And he hoped that he would for quite a while. Because with time he could find another- find a new, perfect word that would encapsulate all of Taehyung’s beauty.