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Submerge Me (Teach Me to Breathe)

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In a world where people can breathe fire and float up into the sky, a boy as fluid and tumultuous as the ocean shouldn’t be anything remarkable. But he sweeps Jimin away on waves of wonder all the same, against the swaying of his feet and the breadth of his shoulders.

He smells of saltwater, with fingertips too rough for a face so soft and rippling – smiling and laughing and serious and crying and back.

Jimin wonders if he tastes like the ocean.

*

The night of his Awakening, his mother tells him that being blessed by the Great Sorceress is a gift. That he is meant for greatness. She runs her hands through the hair that had turned pure white and blubbers about how proud she is of her son.

Or at least, that’s how Jimin likes to remember it.

When he had stumbled through their door that night, dazed and confused and exhilarated, she was already working through a third bottle of soju. What he thinks she said to him is just a mixture of words and phrases he managed to pick out through the slur of her voice and the stench of her breath.

He isn’t sure, still, if there is any reality to the memory of her words at all or if it’s a fabricated dream of happier times carefully threaded together by the words of strangers and the wishes of a picture-perfect family whispered into the dark of night.

Jimin doesn’t find out about the rest until the next morning, from Mrs. Bae next door. She fingers his snow white hair gently, it takes him by surprise. She says that he’ll find himself soon –

The other parts of himself.

It scares him and he asks questions but she says he’ll figure it out himself. That it is only for the Gifted to truly understand.

But he’s not interested in mysteries or finding himself. Jimin is interested in power and he wants his Gift, his real gift, as soon as possible. He wants to know what it’s like to weild something in the palm of his hand and know it’s what he was born for.

He wants to feel capable.

He doesn’t want to be weak.

*

 Raindops tap, tap, tap against the window. Jimin kneels on the cold linoleum of the kitchen floor, washing away the mess that sat there all night. It matches him, he thinks. The insistence of the water outside and the murkiness reflected back at him from the bucket beside him. It would only be fitting if he is Gifted with water, considering the tsunamis that wreak havoc inside of him.

But he isn’t meant for water, no. There’s no cruel twist of irony either – for he gets burned too often to mold himself into a dragon.

No, Jimin harnesses the air and all he can think is – I don’t understand.

Those with the Gift of air are known to be pillars in the face of trouble, to have calmness of mind and soul.

Jimin has never known peace and thinks the only way this can make sense is if he embodies a tornado.

The hair at the top of his head wisps to and fro, too gentle even when it’s responding to his idle thoughts of ripping the house apart.

*

Jimin connects with his Others earlier than most Gifted children. Mrs. Bae tells him he must be extra special when he looks over his shoulder and begins speaking, only explaining when he notices her concerned expression beyond the tinfoil she’s folding in his hair. He wonders what she would think of Jungkook if she thought he was special.

Jungkook is the first Other Jimin meets. He appears one day, out of the blue, as bright and chaotic as the fire he represents.

The first words he says to him are, “Oh, you can finally see me? Took you long enough, shorty.” Jimin thinks he should punch the brat, but holds off.

Jungkook is younger than him, by two years, but he’s already more in control than any other child with the Gift of fire he has ever met. Jungkook always ruffles when Jimin calls him a child but it’s what he is. Fourteen years old and voice breaking all over the place, the only thing he has over Jimin is his height. He shot up overnight, towering above him like a skyscraper, breaking apart the clouds that are supposed to be his.

Sometimes, Jimin gets jealous. Especially when Jungkook points out that he’s also quicker at getting a hang of his Gift. It makes him feel ugly and tiny, like a monster only someone like his mother could birth. But when he thinks it, feels it, he knows Jungkook does too. It comes with the territory of being a Gifted. Of not being alone.

Sometimes, Jimin thinks he would be better off without anyone else.

Sometimes, he thinks he doesn’t deserve anyone else.

It’s during one of these moments that they discover the scope of visiting each other. Jungkook gets angry at him because he’s young, because he’s a spitfire, because he can’t always interpret his emotions properly. But his anger dissolves quickly and he doesn’t know what to do other than wrap his arms around Jimin tightly.

It’s awkward and bony and neither of them know what to really do with their hands. They stand there in uncomfortable silence for a solid minute before it hits them – they’re touching.

*

Jungkook becomes clingy after their discovery. He sticks to Jimin like saran wrap – in all the worst ways, Jimin claims.

He thinks if he’s going to have someone constantly visiting him and poking around in his head, they should at least be gentle. There must be boxes in the corners of his mind that say FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE. Jungkook is hopeless though, only laughing a, “Hyung, you know that’s not how it works,” when Jimin says as much and wrapping an arm that runs too hot across his shoulders.

Jimin can feel himself evaporating.

Jungkook says he’s returning to his natural state. Then punches him. He’s not sure who the hyung is anymore.

Then again, Jimin is rarely sure of anything.

*

His life is always teetering on the razor sharp edge of a blade, always threatening to be thrown out of balance. So, of course, the next Other he meets is the poster boy for balance.

Namjoon comes into his life quietly. One second he’s there, the next, he’s not. It drives Jimin halfway mad before he realizes it’s him that is the cog in the wheel. It’s him that iss reaching out but then shuttering away and off and hiding before things become too real.

Jungkook is comfortable, Jimin has been around him long enough to always be okay with him. Namjoon is new and scary.

But the fear only lies in Jimin’s mind, within himself and a result of some inner demons that he rolls his eyes at the thought of. The real Namjoon is gentle as a bird and open. So, so open. He waits for Jimin, lets him feel at least that much out before Jimin is running away again.

The barriers to Namjoon’s mind never shut down the way his own do. He reaches out some nights when he’s lying in the dark and looking for an escape. He never pushes too far, though. Not far enough that he can’t snap back as soon as he’d like, a tense elastic pulled tight in every sense.

Jimin is always tense and only more so when he’s mulling over what to do with Namjoon. He’ll visit him eventually, of course. He can’t not. They’re Others, stuck together for the rest of eternity and possibly for whatever the universe hides beyond that, as well. But he’s still tense and unwilling because Jimin is everything but air, everything but yielding and flowing. He is cautious, wary, harsh, biting –

Jungkook says he’s putting up too much of a fight. Then he pinches his ear and says the wind bites too.

But he also massages the tension out from between Jimin’s shoulder blades with hands that run hotter than the sun until Jimin feels languid. Until Jimin feels a little bit like the breeze that comes in through his window.

And Jimin, wanting to taste more of that silky, slippery feeling, opens the gates to his mind and visits Namjoon.

It’s not a mistake.

If anything, waiting so long is the mistake.

Namjoon is intelligent. Solid. Dependable. He’s Gifted with earth and it makes sense.

Jimin can feel himself grow when he’s around Namjoon, as if he’s being cultivated and nurtured, grown by the magic that flows through Namjoon’s nature rather than the nature of life. He sometimes sits while Namjoon gardens and watches as flowers bloom and follow the path his fingers draw toward the sun. He thinks if the flower could feel, it would have a lot in common with him.

Usually, in these moments, Namjoon will leave his flowers and come sit with Jimin. He’ll tell him ancient stories woven with a different kind of magic and Jimin will wrap them in cool winds that tinkle the chimes that had been hung up.

Jimin will learn. About life, about history, about his Gift.

*

“How come you didn’t dye your hair, hyung?” Jimin asks. They’re lying in the tall grass, hair splayed. He reaches up to let the white, silvery strands slip through his fingers.

“I like it like this. I think it suits me.” Namjoon has his eyes closed, sounding on the verge of sleep. Jimin almost reaches guilt for disturbing him but decides Namjoon didn’t need a nap anyway.

“Everything about this suits you.” Jimin rolls over onto his stomach, his chin pillowed in his hand. He feels more than hears Jungkook approaching.

“Hm,” Namjoon hums, peeking up through one eye, shooting Jungkook a smile. “Why didn’t you just dye your hair back to black like Jungkookie?”

“Only cool kids can pull off my hair,” the devil himself speaks, dropping onto Jimin’s back, eliciting a groan of pain when his knee digs into Jimin’s back.

Jimin half-heartedly tries to reach around to punch Jungkook.

“This is the color my dad’s hair was, supposedly,” he says, his hand going to his own brown locks this time. Two identical oohs of understanding reach his ears and Jungkook rolls off him with a thump.

*

Out of all his Others, Jimin starts off the most wary of Yoongi.

He burns, the way Jungkook did when he first appeared. But he’s quieter, like a snake, and slithers into Jimin’s mind before he’s ready. Before he can shut him out, the boy knows everything there is to know. In return, Jimin sees him for who and what he is as well, his life and mind laid out bare.

Despite it all, it takes a while to warm up to him.

Yoongi is everything he shouldn’t be. He runs hot but appears cold, in looks and demeanor both. The icy stare he levels Jimin with is matched by the almost white-blonde hair and the layers upon layers he piles onto his small body.

He should be apathetic, then. But he isn’t. His passion is unmatchable, in Jimin’s eyes. He loves music and pursues it with a vigor Jimin doesn’t think he could muster for anything. Anger should come to him easily but it doesn’t – only annoyance. He glares and snarks but it disappears as quickly as it comes.

Jimin tells Jungkook to learn a thing or two and only comes away with a bruised and aching shoulder in return.

When Yoongi does anger, it’s quiet and foreboding. Nothing like the volcanic eruptions Jimin has come to expect.

Yoongi is an anomaly.

Jimin sees himself in him. Yoongi returns the sentiment, as strange as it may be.

In the end, he teaches Jimin the most about himself and his Gift. Jimin isn’t slow or dimwitted, he reads and collects information like figurines. Most of his grades excel even if he zones out for the majority of his classes. One of his teachers claims math is his calling and he thinks about going into engineering in college.

He, and Jungkook, were the first to be able to communicate. There aren’t any trouble when he tries to visit or when he allows himself to be visited. The way he sees into people is likened to fully grown Gifted. Yet, he hasn’t mastered his true Gift.

It doesn’t feel like it should belong to him.

Yoongi understands this when no one else does. Jimin says he would think Yoongi was Gifted with water had they met on the street. The older boy agrees, says that he’d expected as much for himself.

But they are what they are and the universe knows better than they do.

Jimin needs to stop fighting, Yoongi says, he needs to stop fighting and accept himself for what he is. Even if it’s slowly and tentatively, it will make a difference.

He tries, because what does he have to lose. Except accepting himself has always been a weakness. Little by little, though, he sees improvement, he sees a change.

The next time he thinks of destroying the house, the windows shatter.

He comes away with a cut across his cheek that didn’t come from glass but he smiles wider than he has in years, for longer than he has in years.

Yoongi tells him his smile is the best thing about him.

*

The only person that manages to help him harness his Gift better than Yoongi is Seokjin.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, since Seokjin is also Gifted with air but Jimin remains astonished all the same. Seokjin says he’s just easily impressed but he would beg to differ.

He’s never impressed. Seokjin is just remarkable. More so for how different he is.

Not in general. In general, Seokjin is a perfectly normal, nice boy. A stand-up citizen. The boy all the mothers in the neighborhood want for their daughters. Seokjin is good.

Good looking, good grades, good family, good Gift, good abilities, good everything.

He is everything Jimin is not.

Jimin is convinced of this and Seokjin knows he is. He knows Seokjin knows because whenever he’s around, he doesn’t give Jimin’s mind a rest. He feels like he’s running a path that is never-ending and he’s exhausted. The path is beautiful but he’s weary.

But that’s Jimin every day of his life. Tired. Weary. Ready for it to be over.

What “it” is, Seokjin refuses to let him think.

Instead, he sets about on teaching Jimin. How to create tiny tornados in the palm of his hand that barely make up five percent of what he wants to set upon everything he knows. How to create tiny breezes that keep up and don’t die away or go awry. How to help a baby bird find its wings on a passing wind created just for it.

It makes Jimin feel just as beautiful as Seokjin. He almost cries. Seokjin hugs him and he almost cries again. It’s much better than the awkward embrace of too long limbs Jungkook is prone to wrapping him up in.

Seokjin teaches Jimin the beginnings of peace and maybe he doesn’t have the full picture yet but slowly, slowly, slowly, he is coming to terms with that. Learning of peace’s name and giving it a passing hello is enough for now.

*

“Seokjin hyung,” Jimin is staring at him while Seokjin cooks. He’s amazed by everything the older boy does, even if it’s something as small as cooking or cleaning up around his apartment.

“Yes?” Seokjin barely glances up from the stove to look at him.

Jimin hasn’t thought of where he was going so he speaks whatever comes to his mind first. He blurts out, “I think I could fall in love with you if I let myself.”

Seokjin is grinning up at him but a harsh, “Don’t even think about it kid,” comes from behind him. Jumping, he turns to see Yoongi sitting there, splayed out across a chair.

“Charming, isn’t he?” Seokjin rolls his eyes, gesturing with an elbow as he continues to stir. Yoongi just grins, wide and toothy.

*

Hoseok appears as if he’s been part of Jimin’s life all along. And truly, he feels that way as well.

While Yoongi had been warning signs and had CAUTION: TURN BACK written all over him, Hoseok is more like a childhood teddy bear that he kept into old age. Yoongi mutters something about brats being biased when he catches hold of that thought while Hoseok crows and guffaws and pokes fun.

He is the brother that Jimin always wanted but never got. Soon, he becomes a fixture. His mother even takes notice. Jimin manages to go long periods of time without feeling like the world is caving in around him now, if for no other reason than because Hoseok manages to make everything around him lightweight.

He says it’s because he’s Gifted with water. He can wash away negativity and sin. He likens himself to a prophet.

Jimin says that can’t be it. He’s always felt like he was drowning – especially around water.

Instead, he compares him to the sun and Namjoon and Yoongi appear to toss around lyrics at Hoseok, using him as a muse, roping him into the fun. It makes Jimin feel warm while simultaneously making him feel like he should run.

He feels like it won’t last, this won’t last, and it terrifies him. Sometimes he’ll be so happy with all of them there that goosebumps will pop up along his arms, like everything dark and terrifying in the world coming to remind him not to get too comfortable. They’re always lurking in the shadows and waiting for him.

In the dark of night, when even his own personal sun isn’t there, that’s when they come, when they sink claws into him until his stomach turns and he has to fight back bile that scorches the back of his throat worse than Jungkook has ever managed to make his skin boil.

*

Taehyung joins them last and for that Jimin is grateful.

He doesn’t think he would have been able to handle the him alone, before he had the foundations the rest of his Others had given him. Even with that, Jimin is taken aback and swept away. It just takes minutes to wrap him up in Taehyung rather than seconds.

Enough to be grateful for.

The first time he visits them, they’re all together with Yoongi. He’s setting off fireworks and Jungkook is busy trying to replicate them with his own. They start switching back and forth between a view off a cliff and one from a skyscraper, the night skies of both lit up in brilliant hues of blues, reds, and golds. It’s dizzying, a whirlwind, a rollercoaster that takes his breath away.

In the midst of it all, of whooping and cheering and awe that’s multiplied amongst them and between them, comes a new presence.

He’s only there for a short while, grinning a wide, box grin at them and letting them have enough of a peek to know who he is before he’s pulled away. Jimin wants to reach out, needs to for some inexplicable reason but Kim Taehyung is not accepting visitors at this time only plays on a loop in his head.

The second time he comes into Jimin’s mind, Jimin is alone. He’s met with wave after wave as Taehyung crashes against the shores of Jimin’s life, carving away his landscape in a way only water is powerful enough to do. He engulfs him and submerges him and he’s left feeling comfortable, of all things.

After all, Jimin is old friends with the sensation of drowning.

And just like that, the waves of Taehyung are pulling away, calming until Jimin can fill his lungs with more air than he needs, until he feels like he’s bursting at the seams. Until he feels safe.

“I don’t want you to feel like you’re drowning.”

Jimin looks at the boy standing in front of him and is surprised he doesn’t see the actual ocean. There’s no reason to be, it’s a stupid thought, but Jimin feels so thoroughly washed away and pulled apart that seeing a human body is enough to leave him in shock. Much less this human body.

Kim Taehyung is beautiful.

“Well, it’s too late for that,” he croaks, blinking himself back to earth. His voice sounds broken, even to his own ears, and his throat is raw.

Taehyung approaches him slowly, as if he’s afraid Jimin is some kind of wild animal that needs quiet tones and upturned, unthreatening palms. He doesn’t.

“You don’t,” Taehyung echoes back at him in confirmation, “But you’re practically throwing me off this balcony with how strong these winds are and I would appreciate if you’d… Relax? I don’t want to hurt you at all, Jimin. That’s not what I’m here for.”

Jimin blinks up at him. He didn’t realize what he was doing. He barely realized where he was. It took him a moment still to realize Taehyung wasn’t unusually large but that he was sitting flat on his ass, staring up at him. He had been knocked down by the force of Taehyung’s being and now his inner self was doing its best to subconsciously knock Taehyung down as well.

Jimin pulls back, forces Taehyung to follow until they’re away from the balcony and back in Jimin’s room. They sit on his bed, where the only whirlwinds reside downstairs, coming out during the cover of night.

Taehyung sits with his back straight but looks like he couldn’t be more at ease. He watches Jimin not uncarefully but his eyes, demeanor, mind are open. Jimin takes what he can in an attempt to not focus on himself.

Soon, his breathing has evened out and their hair is no longer being tousled at random intervals. It feels as if a gentle rocking has taken up between them, Taehyung’s ebb and flow working in time with the inhale and exhale of Jimin’s winds.

“We’ve been waiting for you for a while, you know,” Jimin says, unable to hold his gaze for long before dropping it back down to his hands. He wonders if he’ll always feel like he’s just barely treading water around Taehyung.

“I know,” he hears before there is shuffling. Taehyung settles beside him, hand coming out to pat against Jimin’s fingers. “Sorry for taking so long.”

He wants to hold his hands, Jimin knows, but it makes him stiffen and Taehyung doesn’t push. Surprisingly. He just sits there. Jimin closes his eyes and counts his breaths until they’re in sync with Taehyung’s, until his chest doesn’t feel like it belongs to a decaying marionette and his threads aren’t coming lose.

He doesn’t know how long they sit there in half silence, the only buzzing taking place in their heads. Their waves and winds and the constant push and pull never end, never abate, but it’s not terrifying. It doesn’t make him wary. It’s steadying and for once, Jimin feels calm.

He doesn’t feel like his own Gift is fighting against him at every turn.

*

“You are what I thought I would be,” Jimin says one day.

They’re sitting, knee to knee, on the rooftop of Taehyung’s apartment building. From here, it feels like he can see the entire world below him. Like he’s flying.

The wind – warm and soft, rather than the cool bite of an impending frost Taehyung said he felt before Jimin arrived – plays against his skin, lifting his lips into a picture of contentment. He thinks his grin is too toothy, too wide. Taehyung says it’s just perfect.

“What do you mean?” Taehyung asks, after a long moment. His fingers curl tighter around Jimin’s hand, pressing confessions and all the beautiful things in the world into his skin.

Jimin can’t look away from the sight of his hand being enveloped. He feels small again but safe. Like he’s cocooned in how much Taehyung cares for him.

“You’re… Unpredictable. Constantly moving… Chaos and beauty all rolled into one,” Jimin huffs, not able to translate his thoughts into words. He knows Taehyung feels it anyway, feels what he wants to portray, but he wishes the words would come out anyway. That there would be something tangible and real between them – something that wasn’t just a twist of a gut or flutter of a chest.

“I’m the crash you’ve always thought yourself to be?” Taehyung supplies for him, in the end. Jimin finds he doesn’t mind his own voice being substituted by the rich timbre of the other’s.

“Yeah.”

“That’s funny.” Jimin looks at him in question, eyebrow raising, because Taehyung isn’t laughing. He isn’t even smiling. His gaze is solely focused on boring into Jimin’s soul, eyes as deep as the sky above and dark as the clouds on the horizon. “You’re everything I’ve always wanted to find.”

Jimin hopes Taehyung doesn’t see his blush against the glare of the setting sun.

He thinks this is tangible enough and tastes sweetness on the back of his tongue. 

*

They’re in Namjoon’s new greenhouse the first time everything he holds for Taehyung, all the emotions encompassed within his chest, become too much, too overwhelming, too uncontainable. They burst out of him with the fury of a desert storm, blanketing over them – all of them – in dusty waves until it reaches the point that Jungkook retches whenever he sees him for a week straight.

Everyone is together and it’s one of those moments when life feels carefree, cotton soft, like Jimin could float away to cloud nine. Their connections are strong, thrumming with happy energy as they play in the grass, wrestling or snoozing or munching.

Taehyung pulls him out of the way of Jungkook’s rolling tackle and he ends up flat on his back, Taehyung’s boxy grin floating above him. He should be saying something, he thinks vaguely, hazy and disconnected, but all he can comprehend is the way the sun frames Taehyung’s body.

His hands are cool where they’re touching against Jimin’s neck and cheeks and he can’t help but flicker between the garden and his bedroom. Taehyung’s eyes keep him anchored, though, and Jimin feels like he’s sinking.

Into cotton, into the earth.

Into Taehyung.

It feels slow in the beginning – creeping at his toes, tickling the tips of his fingers – but then it rushes through him all at once, deafening him and stinging his eyes. The affection he feels whenever Taehyung is with him, voice echoing in his head and ears, washes into his chest and through his limbs until he feels like he’s bursting.

His lungs seize up and he can’t breathe because god, he loves him so fucking much, he only chokes on the emotions stopping at his parted lips, multiplied against and off of the six other boys with him.

He snaps out of it, his hearing suddenly unmuted and gaze locking into focus, when Taehyung rubs his cold nose against his own. Their foreheads are pressed together, chilly fingers warming themselves against the back of Jimin’s neck. He thinks he sees tears prickling at the corners of Taehyung’s eyes and doesn’t know if it’s a good thing or not.

Jimin thinks this must be exactly what drowning feels like. It’s terrifying. Invigorating. Intoxicating.

He fills his lungs in time with Taehyung’s breaths and doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to breathe on his own again.

*

The first of his Others that Jimin meets – in person meets – is Jungkook. Of course.

He curses his luck, later on. They all give him shit for it because even a stranger can tell he doesn’t mean it.

It’s a surprise they haven’t met sooner, considering they’re the closest in proximity. Both living in Busan, both close in age. Jimin wonders if Fate was too busy playing her cruel tricks with the Sorceress to let them have time together, in the flesh.

Really, sometimes, Jimin can admit that maybe he was just too scared to seek Jungkook out. To seek any of them out – even Taehyung who lived across seas. Seokjin says being able to acknowledge that at all is a sign of growth.

Usually, they reserve the mornings for text messages. A call here and there, when Jungkook needs extra help getting up for the morning classes Jimin told him not to sign up for. Jimin rarely visits, not until Jungkook is headed home, usually.

Because he’s jealous. Because he wishes he could live this life too. Because he hates this hell hole he’s stuck in, dead-end part-time job and all.

Today is different, though. Today is different because Jimin took off work and headed to the nearby university. He did this sometimes, to remember what it was like to sit in class and soak up everything he could in hopes of a better anything. He tries to, again, but it’s hard to learn when you don’t know what’s going on and only catch slivers of information that manage to paint a clear picture beyond the haze of confusion.

He’s sitting in the courtyard, eyes closed and enjoying the scent of freshly brewed coffee wafting over to him when he decides to visit Jungkook. The younger boy is just barely settling down in his seat. He’s in a large class, a group of friends sitting in the row with him. He grins up at Jimin, a surprised, “Hey hyung,” wiping sleepiness from the corners of his eyes.

Jungkook has been taller than him for years but from this angle, Jimin can see the snow white roots peeking out amongst the head of black. Just like old times.

“Hey, Jungkookie,” Jimin reaches over to ruffle his hair.

Jungkook sits next to him on the stone bench, taking a deep breath and looking around. “My class is about to-“

He cuts himself off and Jimin frowns in question. Icy fingers of panic threaten to wrap themselves around his throat when Jungkook swivels his head back around to look at Jimin, eyes wide, mouth a perfect “o.”

Jimin isn’t sure what he’s scared of, Jungkook is in class and there’s nothing wrong in the lecture hall from what he can see. Seeing Jungkook so thrown off guard, so winded, terrifies him. “What? What is it? Jungkook?”

“You’re—I know where you are!”

Jungkook is standing – at his desk, at the bench – gaining the attention of others. A finger is pointing straight at Jimin’s chest, almost-accusing. “Hyung. Hyung, stay right where you are. Holy shit, stay right—“

He’s running off before he can finish and Jimin is left stranded, standing now as well, at his stone bench. He doesn’t know what to do, hand reaching preemptively for his phone, when he hears Jungkook’s voice shouting again.

But this time, it isn’t resounding from the back of his head.

Jimin spins around to face Jungkook across the courtyard, staring at him with his mouth dropped open. His stomach flips upside down and he’s seeing himself, seeing Jungkook, seeing everything in literal double vision.

When Jungkook finally tackles him into a hug, both of them falling onto harsh, crunchy gravel, Jimin experiences what it must be like for others to hug him for the first time. Especially his Others.   

He thinks of Mrs. Bae as he holds onto both Jungkook and the ball tightening in the center of his chest. He thinks of how she told him there are things only the Gifted understand, how she always listens to his stories wistfully. There are times when he doesn’t understand her wish to be like him but now, right now, he doesn’t understand how people could ever not want to be one of them. 

*

Jimin has bad days, sometimes. When his mask becomes too difficult to wear and starts falling, shattering, breaking against the thunder that shakes his windows. They usually come with the hoarse yelling of a voice that must have been beautiful, once upon a time, and leave him locked in his room for days.

Jungkook has taken to being the one that knocks down his door. Physically because Jimin wards himself off.

They’d be better off without him. They didn’t need to know what this is like. What he is like. What his head is like.

When he hears the familiar knock, a pattern only Jungkook uses, Jimin burrows himself deeper in darkness, expecting it to come. The voice that echoes from beyond the wooden door isn’t his though.

“Jimin, can I come in?”

Jimin’s breath leaves him in a swoosh and he turns around to stare at the door. It’ll never stop being strange to him, to hear a voice that is normally housed in the confines of his head float to his ears first, instead.

“Seokjin hyung?” his voice croaks, barely above a whisper. He wills his winds to unlock the door, to take down this invisible barricade he’s forced it shut with. The door swings open almost immediately, Seokjin shouldering his way in.

He takes a quick, sweeping survey of the room and Jimin feels a rush of shame. He wants to hide when Seokjin’s eyes fall on him. But then Seokjin’s face breaks into a smile, warm and comforting, and he walks over to lay beside him.

“I came all the way from Seoul for you, Jimin. It’d be rude to stay in bed all day instead of showing me around, hm?” he says. But his arms come around Jimin to hold him in place, against his broad shoulders that bring too much comfort.

“You shouldn’t have come.” His voice breaks. He hears shuffling and there’s another dip in the bed, Jungkook laying against Jimin’s other side.

“Why wouldn’t we have come, hyung?” Jungkook asks, in that voice that says Jimin, you idiot and Jimin, we love you.

“This is what we do for each other, Jimin.”

The tears that break out from behind his lids find themselves soaked into Seokjin’s shirt.

 

*

They’re lying in each other’s beds when Taehyung tells him he’s jealous.

“You would have blue sheets.”

“Shut up. Blue is my favorite color.”

You’re my favorite color.”

Jimin blushed, smiled, couldn’t hold Taehyung’s gaze.

He’s making little orbs of water that float above them before sprinkling down in tiny showers. Jimin thinks he should maybe get annoyed but he doesn’t mind getting soaked as long as he’s not alone when it happens. He’s had enough of being poured on alone, he thinks it’s time to find some enjoyment in it with someone else.

So, he lies there and lets Taehyung spin orbs of liquid out of his hands, trying to see if he can catch a glimpse of the future in the crystalline surface.

“It’s not fair,” Taehyung says, the small ball falling apart, water slipping out between his fingers. Jimin wonders if Taehyung will be just as hard to hold on to. “I wanted to have a first with you too.”

“What are you talking about, Tae?” Jimin nuzzles into Taehyung’s hair, feels him sink even deeper against the curve of his body. He’s never felt so exposed and so content at the same time before.

“You’ve had firsts with all of our Others… I don’t have anything special with you. Nothing that’s a first time, anyway,” Taehyung turns to press his face into Jimin’s shoulder, muffling his words. Jimin’s hand comes up to trace half-formed thoughts into his back.

“You have a first,” Jimin says after long moments of listening to their lives tick away. He turns onto his side, rearranges the tangle of their limbs, until they’re facing each other. His heart is beating out of his chest but he can feel Taehyung’s pounding along with it on its attempt to shoot to the moon. It’s comforting.

His hand worms its way between them, tracing along the lines of Taehyung’s face. He grazes against the sharpness of his jaw, the slope of his nose, the softness of his lashes, before presses against the plush of his lips. Jimin feels it again, that overwhelming affection, the feeling of not breathing, the feeling of being swallowed up whole. His hearing fades, gaze flickers, until there’s nothing but him and Taehyung and their breath mingling between them.

“I can give you another first if you’d like,” he whispers with barely a centimeter separating them, waiting achingly until Taehyung pulls in a shuddering breath, nodding the barest of nods.

The first press of their lips is slow, tentative, his own chapped lips scratching against Taehyung’s softer ones as their noses bump. He kisses him with his breath held, feeling dizzy and giddy and nervous. His skin prickles and he feels Taehyung bounce the same emotions back at him.

They part and Jimin keeps his eyes closed for a moment, working hard to right himself and his world. His heart suddenly feels like it’s too big for his body.

Their kiss isn’t much more than a peck but he feels winded.

He blinks his eyes open to Taehyung staring at him with the softest gaze that’s ever been laid upon him, lashes brushing against the tops of his cheeks when his focus flicks back down to his lips. It’s the only signal he needs for more. Jimin’s fingers bury themselves in Taehyung’s hair and he pulls him back with a new determination.

This time he kisses him with a fervor, like a dying man that can’t get enough oxygen in his lungs. Like Taehyung is the only source of air left in this word. Like without him, he may as well have no soul, no heart, no reason to fight these water that threaten to pull him under.

Instead, he lets Taehyung pull him under.

He never says what the first first he gives Taehyung is but he hopes he can tell. Taehyung pulls his tongue along the roof of Jimin’s mouth and Jimin sends over sensations of being stranded at sea, of finding a treasure trove of riches. His toes curl and he bites at Taehyung’s lips, receiving images of standing at a cliff, yelling the secrets of his soul for the universe to hear.

Jimin kisses Taehyung with everything he has and is and hopes he hears the words that he can’t say yet.

*

Jimin’s favorite hobby quickly becomes kissing Taehyung. Followed closely by holding his hand and breathing in the scent of citrus that clings to his skin when they cuddle in a half-awake haze.

But Jimin knows, distinctly, that he doesn’t deserve this. Not a second of it. The thought haunts him, self-doubt creeping in loud and heavy until it blinds him.

He feels Taehyung tense against him and stiffens in return, trying to swallow down the ugly darkness trying to make itself known. It’s no use.

“Why do you do this?” Taehyung’s voice is harsh, rough. It makes Jimin flinch.

“Do what.” He’s defensive, his own tone clipped.

“Pull away. Doubt me,” Taehyung’s untangling his arms from around Jimin. He wants to beg to say no, please, stop, come back. His vocal chords refuse to cooperate.

“It’s not you I’m doubting,” Jimin sighs, rolling onto his back. This isn’t the first time this particular conversation has broached the shaky boundaries of their relationship.

“Then what? Yourself? Because I told you that’s bull—“

“I don’t know why you don’t get it, Taehyung.” His voice is loud even to his own ears and Jimin starts to feel the tentacles of regret wrapping around him but he can’t stop himself. “You’ve seen what I… What I did—“

A glass breaks against a wall, shattering against the wall next to where he’s standing. His mother is yelling, screaming, the picture of a raging mad banshee. Her face is red and ugly and Jimin sees himself standing in her place.

It makes him want to be sick, his face twisting in disgust. In fury. He’s so angry. So, so, so angry. He thinks it’ll swallow him up until there’s nothing more to him than that.

He yells for her to shut her fucking mouth but she won’t.

“You didn’t—What you did was a mistake but! What else could you do!” Taehyung is on his knees now, kneeling before Jimin. He mirrors the position, pushing Taehyung’s hands away where they reach for him.

“I could have done anything!”

“It’s not your fault, Jimin. You lost control and no one would blame you in that situation—“

“They should! They should blame me! I’m…”

She won’t shut up and Jimin’s vision is shaking. His face stings where she’s made contact. He’s yelling and his vision is shaking and he hears something else break but he doesn’t know if it’s him or her or him. He thinks maybe he feels the burn of a cut but he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know anything until suddenly it’s too quiet save for choked, breaking gasps.

His mother scrabbles against the ground and he stares at her as he watches the air create a vacuum around her, robbing her of the one thing she needs most. Her mouth is parted, gasping, choking, begging for mercy. Her eyes are pulled wide and he watches in sick horror and fascination as the blood vessels become more and more prominent. Jimin’s more surprised to find that he doesn’t want to stop rather than the fact that he’s doing this in the first place.

It lasts almost a moment too long before he’s throwing himself back, before he’s dropping any Gift he was controlling and ripping past the front door.

He empties his barely filled stomach into the bushes.

“Stop, stop, stop, stop!” Taehyung’s yelling, pounding a fist against Jimin’s chest.

Jimin feels like he’s going to be sick again and pushes away from Taehyung too hard. They both tumble off the bed, in different directions. Before Taehyung can make his way back to him, before Jimin has to face those tear-glazed eyes again, he’s yelling a, “Don’t come near me!”

It’s quiet for a minute before Taehyung sobs a, “Jimin, please.”

“I’m a monster, Tae. I’m… What if I did that again? To you? I could have… Killed her. I wanted to kill her then. I’ve wanted to again. I’ve wanted to kill myself  and I can’t—I don’t deserve you. You shouldn’t be with someone that’s like this.”

“You do—“

“No. Leave. Just – god just, leave. Please. Fuck.”

*

Taehyung leaves and Jimin spends the next two weeks hating himself.

He did the right thing in the end, he thinks. Taehyung will be better off without him. He’ll find someone better. Someone that won’t taint the sunshine that makes his skin glow or cause his eyes to look like glass.

But the thought of Taehyung with someone else, someone that would be perfect for him, makes Jimin dry heave. Makes him stare at his reflection until he can’t recognize who is staring back at him.

His fist lands in the glass – over and over and over again. He keeps punching until rivers of crimson run down his arm, the flesh of his knuckles torn, jagged, and flapping open.

Jimin can’t stand it.

*

It takes two months before Jimin can bring himself to visit Taehyung and it only comes with aggressive prompting from the others.

“You’re not a monster kid, don’t be ridiculous,” Yoongi rolls his eyes at him. “If wanting to hurt your abusive bitch of a mother is monstrous than we’re all in the same fucking boat.”

Jimin refuses to meet his eyes. Hoseok slings an arm around him.

“Jiminnie, what you did… You gave into a side of you that’s all too human. It wasn’t right. But you know that. And we’re here to protect you from it happening again.”

Taehyung is sitting on the foot of his bed, staring at his hands.

“I had a feeling you’d be coming,” he says, voice monotone.

“How?”

He glances up at Jimin, finally. “We’re part of each other? I know everything about you? Take your pick.”

Jimin winces. He hates himself a little more than even before for a minute. He hates that he is the one that put that look on Taehyung’s face.

“Stop. If you came here for a pity party, you can leave. I’m not interested.”

“Taehyung, wait,” Jimin steps forward, falters, steps forward again. He drops to his knees in front of Taehyung. His hands reach out, slow, shaky, giving Taehyung enough time to pull away if he wants to. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so stupid, I’m so sorry, I…”

He dissolves into hysterics, saying and promising anything he can think of. Jimin can’t imagine life without Taehyung’s energy constantly buzzing around him, pushing and pulling him from edge to edge, anymore. He’s not sure how he survived these past two months – if he even calls what he did surviving and he needs Taehyung to know how important he is.

How much Jimin needs him.

And Taehyung – dear, sweet, loving Taehyung – forgives him almost too easily. He takes Jimin’s face into his hands, kissing away tears he hadn’t even realized had slipped down his cheeks.

“Breathe,” he whispers, breathing air into Jimin’s lungs. “Breathe. I’m right here, Jimin. I’m right here, it’s okay.”

And Jimin breathes. He gulps down air more greedily than he ever has before. In and out, up and down, the way he watches Taehyung’s chest rise and fall.

“I’m sorry,” he says, after he’s composed himself. He lets his body fall forward until he’s resting his eyes against the side of Taehyung’s neck. “Please come back to me.”

“I never really fully left if I’m honest with you,” Taehyung cards his hands through Jimin’s hair, “I don’t think I could even if I wanted to.”

Taehyung smiles and even when it’s wry and filled with resignation, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

“I can’t have you pushing me away again, Jimin,” he pulls back, biting the inside of his cheek. Jimin nods, pressing his thumb into the pulse point at his wrist, encouraging him to go on. “I just need you to trust me. To trust all of us.”

Jimin counts the beats of Taehyung’s heart, skipping by too fast. “It’s hard.”

“I know. But you can lean on me. Lean on me and it’ll get easier.”

Jimin fits his palm against Taehyung’s and vows to never let go. He lets him pull him up onto the bed next to him.

They fall back into routine quickly, back into themselves, looking at crystal orbs of water. But this time, Jimin shows himself too. He spins tiny tornados against the skin of Taehyung’s belly, watching as he shakes with laughter from where the wind tickles him.

Jimin pushes his energy against the small ocean Taehyung holds in his palms and watches it create waves that recycle themselves. When they fall asleep it splashes over onto their chests but neither of them mind.

*

“You shouldn’t feel alone anymore, Jimin,” Namjoon tells him one late, winter afternoon. His garden is different in the winter and even more different in person.

Jimin takes a sip of the hot chocolate his hands are wrapped around. He looks over at where Jungkook and Hoseok are playing with twigs they found. A stranger would never guess they are grown men in their twenties. “I try not to.”

“Trying is better than nothing,” Namjoon hums, smiling into his own mug. “I don’t know how you ever even managed with all of us in your head. I never stop hearing you.”

Jimin thinks about how warm he feels sitting here. How he can taste the dinner Seokjin is cooking miles and miles away, can hear the beats of Yoongi’s music, can feel the playfulness emanating from Jungkook and Hoseok as if it’s resonating from his own chest.

He thinks about the comfort Namjoon provides.

He thinks about Taehyung standing at his balcony, wondering if the winds kissing his cheeks are Jimin.

“Yeah, I get that,” Jimin smiles, “You’re all hard to drown out.”

“It’s because we’re you. And you’re us. We’re too ingrained in each other to drown out,” Namjoon shrugs and looks over at him, “You never have to be afraid of being alone again.”

*

“I wish you were here,” Jimin says to the sky as he watches the snow fall in quiet flutters.

“I’m always here.” The smile Taehyung wears is the same as ever – boxy, large, blinding, washing everything away until it’s only the two of them.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know what you meant. I’m here,” Taehyung is imploring him now, his hand tugging at Jimin’s to turn him around. “I’m going to round that bend any minute now.”

Jimin’s heart stops in his chest. He blinks and he’s shuffling down a sidewalk, one street over. Trying to avoid getting bumped into as he keeps pace with a speed walking Taehyung.

“There’s no way,” he gapes, mouth dropped open. “You’re in California.”

Taehyung just grins at him, like he’s managed to keep a huge secret. And he has because Jimin is floored. He thought he knew everything going on in his boyfriend’s pretty little head.

Jimin reaches out when Taehyung’s hand slips away from his, when he’s standing back where he was and Taehyung is disappearing from before his eyes. He wants to panic, even when he knows Taehyung is never gone for long but then his gaze refocuses.

Taehyung is there again but not with him. Not in his mind but right there. Across the street. Waving at him like a madman and grinning that special grin he holds for Jimin.

He moves when he’s standing next to Taehyung. When he’s on the opposite side of the road, staring back at himself.

His feet lurch into motion and he’s running across the street in seconds, back in himself and to himself.

Arms bind themselves around his back and there’s hysterical laughter pushing past his lips, echoing back in Taehyung’s deeper tones. The winds whip past, nipping at their ears and Jimin pushes his nose into Taehyung’s chest before he remembers to gentle them.

“You’re here.”

“I’m always here.” The kiss Taehyung presses against his lips is chapped and cold and imperfect but it’s everything Jimin could ever hope for and more. He pulls back and wants to scream, shout, dance in the streets but Taehyung has a frown forming on his face. “You shouldn’t run across a street without looking both ways, Jimin.”

 Jimin laughs, body bending as he throws his weight into Taehyung. Their hands cling tightly onto each other.

Taehyung whispers a vow into his ear and Jimin kisses promises into the skin of his neck.

“I love you.”