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Smoke and Mirrors

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He listened to Namjoon with one free ear and the other pressed against the cool hardwood. “I just find it remarkable—it is remarkable, objectively—that some people live so far away from each other and yet they’re destined to meet. But technology has infiltrated our lives in such a way that it’s possible to meet anyone. It’s fascinating, really.” Jimin just hummed in response. “Yet at the same time, we pass people all day long that we’ll never meet. People we see every day, but we’ll go our whole lives without meeting them.” Namjoon gave it some time, then, as if to allow his words to solidify in the air. As if Jimin were stupid and couldn’t understand what he was saying. “You get what I mean? How we take it for granted that someone right next door actually lives right next do—”

Yes, Joon, I get it.”

“Fascinating stuff.”

“Yeah.”

Jimin was bored. He wasn’t trying to be rude, but sometimes late at night Namjoon would get it in his head that the world was small and the universe was huge, and he had to talk about it. Jimin could keep up with the conversation, yes, but he could hardly contribute. He just sat there and agreed. So it was boring.

Even the room was boring. It reeked visually of Namjoon—all black and white and spread out. Jimin’s eyes drifted to the ceiling, but there was nothing to latch on to. A solid white plane, like a sheet of paper or an eggshell, just hovering above his head. Namjoon didn’t believe in paying the heating bill so everything was cold and uncomfortable.

He pushed himself off the floor in a breath and swiped up the nearest sweatshirt in another. “I’m gonna get some fresh air.” Jimin was a dancer; he wanted to spend his time in open spaces, places where he could move instead of sitting in a cheap post-modern apartment.

Namjoon laughed. “This is Seoul. What fresh air?”

Whatever air was waiting for him outside would surely feel cleaner on his skin than Namjoon’s rhetoric. So he left.

There was a hole in his left shoe. He forgot what caused it, but in that little spot a concentrated coolness hit his foot. It was a summer night, one so still it would have been silent in the winter but was instead filled with tiny cricket chirps. His calves were sore from dancing; he only walked a little ways and then deflated on the side of some road.

Jimin breathed in. The air in the city tasted ugly, but familiar. And, that night, it tasted of fresh smoke. A pinprick of red light flashed in the blackness, then disappeared. He knew someone else was out there in the dark and chose to ignore it. Maybe he’d listened to Namjoon a little too well. We pass people all day long that we’ll never meet. And so Jimin just sat there, thirty-five meters from his apartment, inhaling someone else’s smoke.

He went back inside twenty minutes later when his foot fell asleep. “Did you bump into someone?” Namjoon asked, “You were out there a while.”

“Nah, just me.”

 

---

 

Jimin appreciated Namjoon. Yes, he was sloppy and chaotic, but there was a level of understanding between them. He was always the first person Jimin went to for help.

He popped up behind Namjoon while the other man was browsing his laptop, and the way Namjoon flinched and switched tabs was a clear indication of who he was talking to. “So how’s your mistress?” Jimin teased.

“Good,” Namjoon adjusted his glasses, “Hardly a mistress, though.”

It was this girl, the one Namjoon lost sleep over and yet tried to keep under wraps. All Jimin knew was that her name was ‘Jin’, and she was a pretty girl with lots of confidence (At least, that’s what Namjoon said). Jimin would wake up at 3 A.M. to get a drink of water and find Namjoon talking on the phone, a dazed smile on his face that Jimin rarely saw.

He wondered how far away Jin lived. They were long-distance, and had met online, but Jimin knew she was from Korea. “It’s hard,” Namjoon told him once, “to be so far away from someone I care about, but it’s worth it. There are over six million people on this planet, Jimin, and I found my one. I’m positive. I’m not going to let it go because of a few hours’ distance.”

Jimin couldn’t help but feel there was something odd about the relationship. Whenever Jimin asked if he could meet Jin or at least talk to her, Namjoon refused. He never video-called her, never told his parents about her, never even reached out and invited her to stay with them for a few days. Jimin though he was being a supportive room-mate, always saying, “If your girlfriend has a free week or something, tell her to come over.” but it seemed to annoy Namjoon more than anything.

“Why?” Jimin had asked one day. “Why do you say you love her, but don’t do anything about it?”

There was a tiredness in Namjoon’s face. “It’s more complicated than that. A long-distance relationship, it’s not well-received. And if you knew Jin, you’d understand why we can’t just drop everything and be together.” But Jimin didn’t know Jin, because Namjoon just wouldn’t let him.

It was putting a strain on their friendship, honestly. Jimin couldn’t help it; he was someone who wanted to be involved in his friends’ lives. Namjoon had a few girlfriends in high school, and it never bothered him to share how his last date went or how nice her outfit was that day. This time around, however, he seemed so private about his relationship. Even though he’d sometimes let on that “Jin is so good to me,” or, “I’m really in it for the long haul with this one,” Jimin wondered how true his words were. Wondered if he was really so connected to someone he’d never met in real life. It was draining. More and more often, Jimin would say, “I’m gonna head out for a bit,” and just go outside. The second time was on a Thursday.

There weren’t many streetlights on that side of town, but Jimin didn’t mind. In a strange way, the dark was comforting. It made him feel alone, but not the scary kind of alone. Without even realizing it, Jimin’s eyes had focused themselves on a tiny fleck of red light in the distance. It danced around like a sparkler, but there was an even pattern to its motion that satisfied Jimin. Rise, move in, swing down, repeat. He was so concentrated on the movement of that red dot that he didn’t see the moth, fluttering much too close to his face.

Jimin jumped up and let out an embarrassing scream, swatting the bug with all the strength his wrist could offer. Perhaps what scared him more was the slightly delayed, “Jesus fuck!” from somewhere in the night.

It was a stranger, a man, and Jimin found as he got closer that the red dot of light had been the tip of the man’s cigarette. They apologized at the same time, Jimin’s sentiment of, “I’m sorry! There was a bug!” a bit more enthusiastic than the other man’s.

“’S fine,” the man said, “You just startled me, is all.” They were about five meters from each other. “Want a cigarette or something?”

Jimin shook his head and refused as politely as he knew how, “No, thank you, I don’t…I mean I’ve never—”

“Nah, you’re good. Early death isn’t for everyone, I guess.” He took another drag of his cigarette and Jimin watched the red spark as it raised and lowered. There was something in the way he said it that made Jimin want to see what the man looked like. In the dim light, or lack thereof, Jimin made out a young face with old eyes, pale skin, and hair that reminded Jimin of the smoke around them. The stranger asked, “You just out for a walk, then?”

“Well, I haven’t done much walking,” Jimin laughed a bit forcibly, “But yeah, something like that.”

The man nodded and coughed a little. Jimin wanted to tell him to stop smoking. “And you’re from Busan?”

“Yeah, how—”

“Your accent. I just assumed.” Namjoon’s voice popped into Jimin’s head then: ‘Never assume, Jimin. Assumption leads you to believe things that might not be true.’ But in this case, it was. The smoker didn’t sound like he was from Seoul, either, but Jimin didn’t ask.

That was when the reality of the situation hit him; he was standing in the middle of a road, at night, with a stranger, in one of the busiest cities in the world. He didn’t feel safe, suddenly. “Well, it’s late,” Jimin said, “I should get inside. Sorry again. For scaring you.”

The man just took another drag and waved him away with long fingers. And then Jimin was back in this apartment, a dead-weight on the couch trying to get the burn of smoke out of his throat.

He didn’t live an interesting life. It only took one glance to the left, to see Namjoon slumped over his laptop emitting loud snores, to remind him of that. Jimin had a routine, and thus believed that everything in the world had a routine as well. Namjoon said that was a downfall of Jimin’s. The only thing that he found joy in anymore was dancing. Hours upon hours were spent at the university dance studio, working his body until he lost control and it collapsed. Jimin thought, on that Thursday night, of how dancing himself into oblivion was quite like falling asleep. Slowly building up, until his mind wasn’t his mind anymore and there was a fuzziness in his head and his whole body.

That night he dreamed of darkness, which might not have seemed like a dream at first. But in rolled the smoke and its shape evolved into something more solid, something like a man. And Jimin, in his dreaming form, stared so hard at a red point far away, punctuating the dark. Rise, move in, swing down, repeat. It burned itself into Jimin’s eyelids and his brain, so when he awoke the next morning he swore there was a red mark on the ceiling.

There wasn’t. It was the same ceiling, all white-paper and eggshell-smooth, and in the morning glow he blinked a few times to try and get that redness in his eyes again.

 

Chapter Text

Jimin didn’t know what to say to someone who smoked. It wasn’t a situation he encountered often; none of his friends or family smoked. But somehow he wound up late at night, a few nights a week, standing next to a stranger while he smoked and Jimin didn’t. They had nothing to talk about and nothing in common, as far as Jimin knew. It was just easier to be by each other, because otherwise they’d be standing twenty meters away from each other, just being aware of the other’s presence but ignoring it. And Jimin, being the person he was, couldn’t have that.

The man didn’t seem social. Jimin would make a comment about how he wished there were more stars in the city sky, or how he’s noticed the nights getting shorter lately, and the man would just nod. Whenever Jimin got closer than two meters away, he’d fold into himself and close his arms around his body. “How often do you come out here?” Jimin asked. It was to make conversation. He didn’t expect an answer.

He got one anyway. “Every night,” The man looked directly at Jimin, and his eyes were the same color as the air. “My room-mate doesn’t let me smoke in our place.”

Jimin could see why. It smelled terrible, making his nose crinkle up as he tried to breathe through his mouth. It was one of those smells that some people hate and some people love, like coffee or gasoline. If Namjoon smoked, he’d kick Namjoon out every night as well. That struck him as funny, because even though he could be lounging in his smoke-free bedroom he was indulging in this man’s habit instead, almost encouraging it. “What did you say your name was?”

The stranger looked momentarily taken aback, and even coughed a bit on the smoke. “I didn’t say. Why, are you an informant or something?”

He couldn’t help himself; Jimin let out a string of laughter. “No! I just was curious.” While the man was still considering, Jimin said, “Here, I’ll go first. I’m Park Jimin.”

There was a silence, after which the man took a drag of his cigarette. Jimin though he’d forgotten the question, or just ignored it. But then, softly, he muttered, “Min Yoongi.” It could have been a lie, for all Jimin knew. The unsteadiness in his eyes said otherwise, though, like he didn’t get to know people often. They really were nothing alike. “Did you get kicked out, too?” he asked.

“I left, actually,” Jimin smiled at him, “I can’t be inside for too long. And my room-mate, I mean he’s good friend and all, but that guy’s pretty dull. He’s smart, but dull. So smart it makes him dull, you know?”

Min Yoongi rolled his eyes and let out an amused sound that Jimin didn’t know how to take. “You’re a funny guy.” It was cryptic and almost the opposite of a compliment. He rose the cigarette to his lips and instead of following the red dot, Jimin looked at the man’s face. There was something about him that made Jimin understand why people smoked. Min Yoongi breathed out the smoke and just stared off into the night, some spot far away that neither of them could see. Jimin chased his gaze and it was hardly awkward, just standing there in silence.

He realized, then, that this was part of his routine. Standing outside in the sometimes-cold, sometimes-wet, always-dark, with a man who could give him cancer, talking about nothing. Jimin was a creature of habit. And this little part of his life had wormed its way into his constant routine. It didn’t make any disturbance or ruin the flow of his schedule; it just slipped in quietly.

He didn’t mind.

---

 

 “I think you’re keeping something from me,” Namjoon said it out of the blue. “Am I wrong?”

He was wrong, in a way. Because technically, Jimin wasn’t keeping anything from anyone. He knew what this was about: him taking walks twice a week with nothing to show for it—no sweat, no fatigue. Just the smell of smoke. But it wasn’t a secret. So Jimin said, “I’m not hiding anything. What do you think it is?”

Namjoon took a sip of his coffee. “I did the laundry last week.” He sighed, “When the hell did you start smoking?”

Jimin almost laughed. “Never. I don’t even know how to hold a cigarette,” That part was a lie. In his mind he could see Min Yoongi’s pale fingers straddle the paper tube, his thumb tapping lightly on the orange end. And before Namjoon could say something in response, Jimin thought of Namjoon’s girlfriend and everything he didn’t know. “I promise I don’t smoke. But aren’t you hiding something from me?”

“Pardon?”

“With your girl, Jin.”

Namjoon closed his eyes for a moment, perhaps taking in the two-sided situation. He sat back in his chair, then rose out of it completely. It was a clear indicator to Jimin that the conversation wouldn’t last much longer. “Well, you obviously don’t know what it is. But I’m onto you. I’ll let you have your night-time walks, but if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be, something bad—stop. You could get addicted, you know?”

Jimin knew.

 

---

 

The floor of the studio was cleaned every two days, at 5 o’clock. So naturally, Jimin’s favorite time to dance was 5:30 on those cleaning days. Nobody else was there. Jimin could put on an old tank and some shorts and stand on the newly-polished floor with his bare feet and just dance. He’d look in the mirrored wall, check his form, and imagine a crowd there—hundreds, thousands of people just watching him dance.

Jimin loved ballet. It wasn’t something he was always proud of, being called ‘The Ballerina’ or ‘Prima Donna’ as a kid. Years later, he came to terms with the fact that even though the other boys picked on him, he still loved ballet. It was a sport, something he trained for hours upon hours and went home with sore muscles for. He’d feel the sting in every limb, on the insides of his bones, in his blood, but that was normal for Jimin. And he loved it.

The small boom box in the corner of the studio was outdated and dusty, but it had a CD port and a wall of classical disks right beside it. There were over a hundred easily, mostly foreign and in all different styles. Jimin recognized some of the composers—Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich—but it wasn’t the big-name ballet CDs he was after. It was the bizarre post-romantic-era piano concertos, the bouncing Handel harp suites, the Wagner music dramas. For the ballet pieces, he knew choreography existed, but didn’t care. An old instructor once told him, “It’s rare, you know, to find a freestyle ballet dancer. But you do it well.”

As soon as music was playing and Jimin was on the floor, he could feel it flowing through him. Every beat, every swell, every grace note was in his body. That was his dance.

Afterwards, he’d sit in the corner of the studio, his heavy breath the only sound lingering in the air, and just close his eyes. There was so much adrenaline when he danced. Coming down from the high of it, resting was all he could manage; Jimin feared the day when he’d do something stupid under the influence of pure adrenaline. Sometimes when he was incredibly stressed, Jimin danced until his legs were like a newborn calf’s—wobbly, prone to caving or making him fall down. It was like stepping off a trampoline after jumping for a long time; his legs forgot how to walk and only remembered how to dance. He’d phone his friend Kim Taehyung on those days, who lived on campus in the next building over and would reluctantly piggy-back Jimin to his place for the night.

“You’re gonna hurt something someday,” Taehyung always said it. “I’m telling you. I’m seeing the future here. I mean, you already are hurting stuff, but you’re gonna hurt it more. I even got hurt eating a kebab once, and dancing’s probably worse than a tongue burn. What I’m trying to say is, don’t push yourself.”

“I have to if I want to get better,” Jimin would sigh, “I think if I keep practicing, it’s all going to be worth it one day.”

 

---

 

He was curious. He didn’t want to be, but there was something about mystery that drew Jimin in. And Min Yoongi was certainly mysterious.

Jimin knew him without really knowing him. He knew that Yoongi had his ears pierced because whenever there was a moon out, they caught Jimin’s eye. He knew the man had a top-dollar fashion sense even though he made jokes about lacking money. He knew Yoongi had a colorful vocabulary, and invented curse words on the spot that Jimin would never have dreamed up. And he knew Yoongi played the piano.

It was actually the silver-haired man who brought up the topic. He asked after he looked at Jimin’s university-sponsored shirt. “Seoul Institute of the Arts,” he read, “You go there?”

Jimin nodded. “Yeah, I’m a dance major there.”

He raised an eyebrow, and it was the most surprised Jimin had ever seen him. “Are you serious? So’s my room-mate.”

It was an odd coincidence; the school was competitive and he assumed Yoongi wasn’t a dancer himself. “Who is it? Maybe I know him.” Jimin asked.

The last thing he expected Yoongi to do was look directly in his eyes and say, “Jung Hoseok.” Jimin did know Jung Hoseok, just not personally. It was the same man Taehyung and his room-mate Jungkook never shut up about, even though Taehyung was in the vocal program and didn’t dance. Jung Hoseok was a legend. Jimin had never seen him dance, but he’d heard more than enough stories. “Jung Hoseok is so cool,” Jungkook would say, “Once I heard he had a line of like 30 people who challenged him to a dance-off. He beat all of them and bought them ice cream after!” Jimin respected the dancer, even looked up to him in a way, but it was sad. No one ever had ever talked about his dancing the way they talked about Jung Hoseok’s. Maybe it was childish, but there was a small spot of envy inside Jimin.

“Yes, I’ve heard of him. He’s pretty much a god on campus, actually.” Jimin was sure his jaw went slack; he just couldn’t picture this normal man in front of him living with such a talent.

“Oh, really?” Yoongi smirked, “Then you guys have low standards. I mean he’s good; I just don’t like that whole hip-hop dance craze bullshit.” He frowned, then almost dropped his cigarette realizing what he’d said. “Shit, don’t tell me you’re one of those b-boy types, too.”

Jimin laughed. “No, no. I focus more on contemporary ballet.” He felt embarrassed as soon as he said it.

“Ballet…” Yoongi mused, as if thinking about something. “That’s some hardcore shit. I’m serious. I work in a concert hall. I’ve seen those dancers come off stage and when they pull off their shoes it looks like they marinated their feet in raw ground beef or something. And then they just go right back on and dance more.” He took a drag of his smoke, then continued. “What am I saying—you’d know more about it than me. Do your feet look they fucked a blender?”

Jimin almost snorted at his choice of words. He’d never really thought about it; in class, everyone’s feet were swollen and calloused. So he said, “I mean, I’m not a foot model or anything.” Yoongi nodded like it made perfect sense. “You said you worked at a concert hall?”

“Yeah. I play piano there. I’m not like the supreme overlord house pianist, but I do cheap events and shit.” That was interesting to Jimin. Because as hard as he tried, he couldn’t imagine the man’s fingers doing anything but holding a cigarette. “I go to Seoul National, though. I’ve just known Hoseok forever so we decided, why not live together.”

It was a common ground. If they had nothing else they could share, music and performance were a connection between them. “Are you a music major?”

“Music comp. I just want to play piano all day, but that’s not gonna make me loaded and pay off student loans. You feel me?”

Jimin sighed. It had been a long day. And there was smoke in his brain and darkness in his eyes and a warm body next to his own. “Yeah, I get it.”

 

---

 

When Namjoon got nervous, he talked. He talked about everything. It was an asset Jimin would never be grateful for. “I was thinking the other day, Jimin, about how there’s not really a present. As in time, you know? Once you say ‘presently’ or ‘currently’, it’s already gone and the present is the past. That’s crazy. Maybe if time weren’t linear, ‘present’ would have a whole new meaning. If I exist in another time, then maybe my ‘present’ is longer and I can really feel it.”

Jimin couldn’t do anything in those situations. Once Namjoon started, he didn’t stop until his nerves calmed down.

If he asked Namjoon what the matter was directly after his tangent, the man would say, “Oh, nothing, I’m fine.” So Jimin had to wait until hours afterwards to figure out what had Namjoon so nervous.

In this particular case, he hadn’t seen it coming. “The 20th is my six months with Jin.” Jimin couldn’t believe it. He wasn’t complaining, of course; Namjoon rarely ever opened up about her. “And I mean, we’ve been talking about it for a while. Meeting, you know. I’m kinda sick of this long-distance stuff—Like, I love our relationship, but not the distance. So I want to maybe invite Jin over soon. As in, on the 20th.”

It was huge. For months, Jimin had doubted the relationship. For months, he’d doubted Namjoon. And it felt good, to know that Namjoon trusted him with that kind of stuff. He only had one question for Namjoon: “When do I get to meet her?”

“That’s the thing,” Jimin got the feeling that whatever Namjoon was about to say, he wouldn’t like. “I have one condition: You can’t meet.”

“You’re kidding me.” Jimin respected Namjoon’s love life, even supported it, but when Namjoon said things like that Jimin wondered why he wasn’t more of a jerk in return. “I’ve been the one encouraging you to meet, and you won’t even introduce me to her? I’m your room-mate!”

Namjoon looked sorry, he really did. “I’m just… not ready. What if Jin’s here and it’s just not the same as we expected? Listen, you’re my closest friend. I don’t want you and Jin hitting it off and then we turn around and break up.”

“I’m not going to steal your girl, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Jimin thought he was being irrational, but he looked genuinely concerned about meeting his own girlfriend. His room-mate smiled. “I’m not worried about that, trust me. Just…give me some time, okay?” Jimin nodded despite the cryptic nature of his words.

He had to trust Namjoon. Sometimes it was hard, but he had to. So he’d give them space. Let them work out whatever incomprehensible ‘couples problem’ they had. And he’d hope that someday he’d be the best man at Namjoon’s wedding.

 

---

 

So I mentioned,” He exhaled some smoke with his words, “That I work at a concert hall and play piano and all that.” Jimin nodded, not exactly sure where Yoongi was going with the conversation. “Well that was weird timing, because the next day the director came up to me and asked if I wanted to do a showcase at some recital.”

“Oh, congratulations!”

Yoongi smiled. Jimin could see his gums when he smiled; it was endearing, in a way. “I don’t want you to congratulate me, I want you to help me.  This guy wants me to do the showcase with Hoseok. Like a dance and piano thing. But that’s a problem, because all Hoseok can do is that popping and locking crap. And you know, that doesn’t really go over well with classical fucking piano.” It was probably the most Jimin had ever heard Yoongi talk. “I’d consider you and I like low second-tier acquaintances, right? So I figured, ‘well I might as well ask—’”

“Ask me what?”

“If you wanted to do it instead.” Yoongi shrugged. “Dance, I mean. I don’t really know any other dancers.”

It made Jimin’s stomach feel jittery and he didn’t like it. Ha laughed anyway. “You’ve never even seen me dance.”

“Please, you’re majoring in dance at a performing arts institute. I’m guessing you don’t suck.”

He had a point. And really, Jimin needed to get out there. He needed to perform more and live more and worry less. “Alright, I’ll do it.” He didn’t put much thought into the decision. But Yoongi looked pleased, so it was okay. They shook hands just to make things official, and Jimin knew it was the first time his skin touched Yoongi’s because his hand was tingly in a way it had never been before.

When Namjoon asked why he was smiling that night, Jimin just said, “Oh, I just heard about a job opportunity.” and left it at that.

 

Chapter Text

Yoongi’s apartment was small and neat. The room was nearly vacant, with every belonging pushed to the perimeter. Every surface was clear, and yet every light bulb had a thin sheet of dust coating it.

“Just drop your shit here and we’ll head upstairs.”

Jimin didn’t see any stairs. “Upstairs?”

Yoongi grabbed a keyring out of his bag. “Yeah, we’ve got a studio space on the floor above. It was an empty room for years and the landlord just said we could have it. I’m never here, really. Usually just there.”

He couldn’t imagine what he’d do with his own studio space. A new studio, a new floor or barre to dance on—Jimin imagined it was the same as when an artist had a blank sheet of paper in front of them. Not a canvas; that was the stage for Jimin. A studio was comfortable; it was just…sketches. And if Yoongi had a studio, Jimin wanted to get up on the second floor as soon as possible.

The man led him into the hall and up a narrow set of stairs, to an ominous iron door Jimin never would have entered alone. Muffled music was coming from the inside, just a beat seeping out from under the metal. Yoongi unlocked it, opened the door, and Jimin was greeted with bright lights. There was a lanky man in the room, who Jimin recognized as Jung Hoseok, and he didn’t pay Jimin or Yoongi any mind. He flowed with the obscure beat, something Jimin never thought people could dance to, making it his own. It was the first time he’d seen the dancer in action, and he wondered for a moment how someone could move like that. Hoseok danced like a machine, in a way that far surpassed any hype Jimin had ever heard about him.

Then Jung Hoseok started screaming, a high-pitched noise that seemed to run through his body and stop his dancing entirely. Jimin thought the man was hurt, but the unamused expression on Yoongi’s face said otherwise. “Ahhhh! Welcome, welcome! Look who it is, it’s Min Suga! And is this a friend? I didn’t know you had friends, how exciting! Wow! Come in, come in!”

It was unexpected. Hoseok had obviously been dancing for an hour or so; his breathing was heavy and hair matted with sweat, yet his energy levels were insane. Jimin’s opinion of Jung Hoseok changed in an instant as he began to see him as simply an enthusiastic, affectionate person. Yoongi, however, looked less than enthused. “Geez, Hoseok, let him breathe. This is Park Jimin, he’s a dancer at your school, and we might potentially do the showcase thing because your crusty asshole can’t dance ballet.”

Hoseok’s eyes widened. “Ballet? Wow wow, I couldn’t do that in a million years!” He took a sip of water and wiped the sweat from his brow. “Well I won’t disturb you any longer! Have fun and don’t let Yoongi’s mean face scare you away! Bye-bye!” And then he was gone with the loud slam of a door.

“He’s very energetic,” Jimin mostly said it to himself. “Also, ‘Min Suga’?”

Yoongi sighed and cradled his head in his hands. “It was from when we were like five, okay? And he’s not just ‘energetic’, he’s a fucking glow stick. You shake him up a bit and then he never stops. And he’s probably radioactive.”

Jimin laughed and looked around the room. It was essentially a low-budget version of the university’s studio: worn wood flooring, a water tank in the corner, and a keyboard against the wall. There were just more cracks in the mirrors and more creaking in the floorboards.

“Play something for me while I stretch.” Jimin pulled off his shoes and jacket, then made for his water bottle.

Yoongi grinned and Jimin pretended not to notice. “So demanding,” He sat down at the keyboard anyway, “At least you’re giving me this lovely strip-tease,” It made Jimin choke on his water. “Debussy’s ‘Rêverie’. Is that good?”

It was more than good. He began stretching, sprawled out on the studio floor until Yoongi started playing. Within the first few measures, Jimin was sold. For someone whose exterior was so thick, so tough to crack, the emotion in his song was astounding. It was like he saved any passion just for when he was playing. There were parts of the piece where Jimin felt like crying. The man was a musical genius. It was beautiful—the sound of it, the way it rang in the room, and even Yoongi was beautiful. He sat relaxed, like there were no problems in the world. He didn’t have any sheets in front of him, and would close his eyes every few seconds as if falling asleep. His long fingers, the ones usually curled around a cigarette, lightly brushed the keys with such purpose that Jimin forgot about stretching and just watched Yoongi’s hands instead. About three-quarters of the way through, Jimin resumed his stretching just so Yoongi wouldn’t know he’d been staring. His eyes still followed the hands as they pressed every key. The last note vibrated off the walls and straight to Jimin’s ears. “Alright, now you have to dance.” Jimin wanted to hurt him for writing off such a performance like it was nothing.

“That was amazing. I mean it.” Jimin didn’t know how to express it deeper than that.

“Yeah, yeah, quit stalling.”

Jimin pouted as if that would sway Yoongi. “You’re not accompanying me?” He just wanted to hear the man play piano again.

“Fuck no,” Yoongi scoffed, “I can’t play and watch you dance at the same time.”

Jimin connected his phone to the speaker Hoseok had been using. He chose Saint-Saëns’ “Aquarium”. When the music began, he gave himself some time to adjust and then just started dancing. It was a mysterious piece, something Jimin tried to express in his motions. He looked in the mirror and imagined, just like hundreds of times before, that there was a crowd in front of him. And then Jimin remembered Yoongi was actually in the room, and it was the first time anyone had just sat and watched Jimin dance because they wanted to. He became nervous, perhaps because he was dancing for Yoongi and not some stranger. Jimin still managed to keep his lines steady throughout, ending softly yet strongly. The final beat barely finished before Jimin straightened up and asked, “So what did you think?”

His audience bit his lip and nodded. “I think you can dance. You can dance. And I think I’m lucky.”

That was all Jimin needed to hear.

 

---

 

Jimin was worried without needing to be. He was worried because it was the 20th of August and Namjoon’s girlfriend was in their apartment when Jimin wasn’t. All Jimin wanted that night was for things to work out. He wanted his room-mate to be happy and find the girl of his dreams and make the most of their anniversary.

He said he’d stay over at Taehyung and Jungkook’s for the night, but it was hard when he’d forgotten his phone at home. Jimin finished at the dance studio very late; he couldn’t imagine that Jin was still there anyway. Either the couple was out on a date or Namjoon had screwed something up and she left. So Jimin decided there was no harm in stopping by to grab his phone; he’d just pop right in and then be gone.

The lights were all on when he opened the door. At first, Jimin didn’t notice anything odd, he was just focused on going straight to his bag, but then he heard it: the soft, unmistakable sound of kissing. And suddenly his midnight mission turned into an opportunity to catch Namjoon with his girlfriend. He peeked his head cautiously around the doorframe, and there was Namjoon, in a lip lock with someone Jimin had never seen before.

It seemed at first like the girl was small, but then Jimin remembered anyone would look small pressed against Namjoon and she was actually very tall for a girl. The Jimin noticed her pale hair was cropped short, close to her scalp. Her style wasn’t feminine; she wore a pink shirt but Jimin would have worn the whole outfit himself. And then it became clear that her jaw was too sharp and her hands were too large and her shoulders too broad. And Jimin realized this wasn’t a girl at all.

He’d intended to leave quietly without disturbing them, but Jimin couldn’t do that anymore. Not when Namjoon was fooling around with a man the same night he met his girlfriend. There was something that started then, something not quite at the level of hatred but past the mark of disappointment. He’d thought Namjoon better than that, more loyal and honest. Jimin cleared his throat very loudly, and saw both Namjoon and the other guy freeze in their tracks. They separated and when Namjoon’s eyes caught Jimin’s, he looked nauseous. “Jimin,” he swallowed visibly and put his hand on the man’s back like it was natural. Jimin wondered how long he’d been doing this, how long he’d been cheating. “Why are you here? You told me you’d—”

“Shut up. I just came back to get my phone. I wasn’t even gonna bother you guys. I’m glad I saw this, though. How long have you been cheating on her?”

“Cheating…” The strange man trailed off. He was a pretty boy, all fine lines and sweet voice and wide eyes and just-kissed lips. The way Namjoon looked at him for a second, the raw adoration, made Jimin’s stomach turn over. “Is this the room-mate?”

Namjoon closed his eyes and took a breath. He looked physically ill, drained of energy in a matter of seconds and sweating a bit from his brow. “Yeah,” he cradled his head with one hand and gripped the other man’s hand with his other. “Go ahead, introduce yourself. Geez, I can’t even be mad. I deserve it.” 

The stranger extended his hand to Jimin and sighed when Jimin didn’t take it. “I’m Kim Seokjin,” he said, “Namjoon and I have been together for six months now. There is no girlfriend.”

It took a few minutes for the news to sink in. This was Jin? Jimin had never considered the possibility that Jin would be male. “I’m…I’m really sorry,” Jimin began apologizing profusely, “I really didn’t know!”

“I know you didn’t,” Jin’s smile was warm. “Now hurry up and shake my hand before I think you’re kicking us out.”

Jimin couldn’t help himself; he laughed. Things turned out a lot better than he’d thought, and it was funny. He shook Jin’s hand and turned to Namjoon. “I’m sorry I came home when you told me not to. I really did forget my phone here. Also, I’m sorry I thought you were cheating.”

This time it was Jin who laughed, and wrapped an arm around Namjoon’s waist. “Of course he’s not cheating.” Namjoon rolled his eyes and looked like he was hiding a grin. “If he were, I’d find out immediately, kick his ass, and then leave him for someone more attractive and richer.”

Jimin decided he liked Kim Seokjin. He didn’t seem to take nonsense from anyone, and evidently had Namjoon wrapped around his finger. “I’m actually kind of relieved, Jimin.” Namjoon admitted, “It was a huge weight on my shoulders. I was fully prepared for you to banish me from Seoul or something.”

A thought occurred to Jimin then: “Wait a minute, I’m a bit confused. I mean, I’ve always joked about your ‘girlfriend’ and you never corrected me.”

“That’s your fault for assuming. I warned you not to make assumptions. Never once did I use the word ‘girlfriend’; I was very careful. So now you’ve learned, I hope, that assumptions are—Ow.”

He was cut off by a sharp slap to the chest. “Kim Namjoon, let your friend live. It’s not his fault you were too scared to say anything.”

The two argued briefly, in a light, teasing tone, and Jimin spotted his phone on the table. When he glanced back at the couple, they looked so together. Like they didn’t have anything to care about anymore besides each other, like they’d been through everything, like they knew everything about the other person. Jin was someone he’d have to get used to, but he wasn’t against it at all. It made Jimin smile. “Um, excuse me,” he interrupted, “I’ll be leaving now. Sorry again. And Jin, it was so nice to meet you.”

Jin looked genuinely grateful. His grin went all the way to his eyes and when his hand found Namjoon’s it seemed like second nature. “Thank you, Jimin. Namjoon’s lucky to have a friend like you.”

Jimin left for Taehyung and Jungkook’s with a smile on his face and a heaviness in his heart.

 

---

 

Jimin had never sat at a piano bench before. It was almost discouraging, seeing all the keys lined up in front of him all in a row. He tried to keep his back straight but his hands folded in his lap without direction.

“Just test it out, bang on some keys or something. You could have a natural talent, who knows,” Yoongi stood behind him, evidently amused by how Jimin fidgeted on the leather bench. “Also, relax. You’re gonna pull a muscle without even playing.” Jimin felt two hands on his shoulders then, pushing them down, but the touch only made Jimin more tense.

Slowly, he brought his fingers to the keys and gave one an experimental tap, then another. When he hit them both at the same time it sounded ugly. He heard Yoongi sigh. “Don’t collapse your fingers. Here,” And suddenly Yoongi was hovering right by his back, his arms on either side of Jimin’s body to reach the keys better. “Invert your wrists a bit this way,” His voice was low and too close to Jimin’s ear. It made his neck warm and shiver at the same time. The man’s fingers found Jimin’s wrists, brushing the pulse, and turned them in slightly. Yoongi dropped one of his hands only to press his palm against Jimin’s back. “And sit taller.” Everything was too hot and Jimin didn’t know what to do, because a part of him wanted to lean back into Yoongi, a part he couldn’t ignore. Yoongi was almost whispering because of the proximity. He didn’t say anything for a while, then, “Are you paying attention?”

He wasn’t. He wasn’t thinking about anything. All he could concentrate on was the thumb on the inside of his wrist and the palm at his back and the breath in his ear. “Sorry, I’m a bit distracted today.”

Yoongi distanced himself from Jimin as quickly as he could, because he knew it was more than distraction. In his peripherals, Jimin saw the man lick his lips subconsciously. “Well I’m sorry if I was distracting you.” His voice was like sand.

Jimin swallowed and finally felt he could relax his shoulders. He didn’t say anything to Yoongi, just turned his head back to the keyboard and started poking the keys until he got some combination that sounded okay. He smiled to himself. “Does this mean I can give you a crash course in ballet?”

The pianist chuckled a bit. “You don’t want to see me dance. I look like an idiot.”

“How is that different from normal?” It was something to break the air up a bit.

He felt his weight shift to the edge of the bench as Yoongi sat down on the other side and slid over. There was barely enough room for two people; their hips touched in the middle of the bench. Yoongi began playing a beautiful song Jimin had never heard before, and he was captivated just like every other time Yoongi played. “You’re ruthless, Park Jimin.”

In the end, he never said no.

 

---

 

He could tell there was something on Namjoon’s mind. Jimin had caught the man staring at the blank wall or the blanker ceiling too many times. Finally, Namjoon let it out: “So you don’t care?”

“Hm?”

“You don’t care? That I’m…That I like guys?”

Oh.

Jimin had thought about it. Not just recently, but his whole life. His parents had avoided the subject, acting like it didn’t exist, but Jimin’s classmates were sure to slip in their two cents. All it took was for Jimin to say, “I do ballet,” and he’d be called ‘gay’ by a good number of boys. So Jimin grew up thinking it was something negative. But sometime in high school, Jimin realized the world would change soon and love wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. “I do care,” he said, “I mean, you’re my friend. I care about your life. But I don’t mind. It was unexpected, but not in a bad way. You seem to really like Jin, so I can’t be against that.”

Namjoon nodded. “That’s good to hear. I didn’t tell you because I live with you. I didn’t want you to think I was into you or something.”

That made Jimin laugh. “I’d never think that if you had a boyfriend.” It felt weird on his tongue, the word ‘boyfriend.’ “Does anyone else know?”

His room-mate was quiet for a moment. “My sister does. I needed to tell someone, you know? It was eating me alive. I trust her not to tell our parents. I have no idea how they’d react. My sister just said she’d only support us if Jin treats me well. She made me text her a photo, called me ‘lucky’, and then decided she wants to meet him. So I think we’re cool.”

They dropped it after that, the whole subject. That didn’t mean it wasn’t on Jimin’s mind. He wondered how Namjoon figured it out, that he liked men. He wondered how Jin figured it out, and how they got together. He wondered if Yoongi liked men as well. It made Jimin almost shy; Namjoon wasn’t straight and it wasn’t a problem, but with Yoongi, Jimin felt everything would change. He fell asleep like that, and the thoughts in his head didn’t leave the next morning or the day after or for a very long time.

Chapter Text

“So what’s up with this new gig you mentioned?” Taehyung rested his hand on his cheek in anticipation.

Jungkook’s face appeared as he leaned across the table. Through a mouthful of food, he managed to get out, “New gig?”

“It’s not much,” Jimin smiled, “Just a recital thing. With a piano.”

The light-haired man hummed with surprise. “I didn’t know you could play pian—”

He never finished; Taehyung’s words were cut off by a high-pitched squealing. Jimin knew who it was as soon as Jungkook spat his food out on accident. “Park Jimin!” the voice called, “How are you today? Wow wow, I thought Yoongi was lying when he said you went to school here. This is so exciting!”

Jimin glanced back at his friends, who both had their mouths open while Taehyung emitted little shocked squeaks. “I’m good, Hoseok. How have you been?”

Hoseok knelt down to reach Jimin’s chair height and swung an arm around his shoulders. “I am just wonderful. Are these friends? Introduce me!”

Neither of them talked for a while, but finally Jungkook was able to stutter out, “I-I’m…I’m Jeon Jungkook.”

“And I’m…Ah, sorry, I forgot.”

Jimin rolled his eyes. “That’s Kim Taehyung. Jungkook’s in the dance program, too.”

Hoseok was beaming at the prospect of making new friends. “That’s so cool! I’m Jung Hoseok, and it is so nice to meet you guys! Jimin is super sweet and adorable, so I’d bet anything his friends are just lovely.” He paused for a moment, as if not sure if he should say the next part. He turned to Jimin. “Speaking of you being adorable, Yoongi says you’re a really good dancer. Like, he wouldn’t stop talking about you and complimenting you. And he never compliments anyone! I’m officially jealous.” Hoseok pouted, then winked. “I think he likes you.” The sing-song tone almost made Jimin blush.

He looked back at his friends again, both of which looked increasingly curious and mildly star-stuck. "Yoongi’s really cool, but I wouldn’t even call us friends.”

Hoseok’s laugh was obnoxious and theatrical. “Ah, don’t lie to me, Park Jimin. I hope you come over every day to dance and spend time with Yoongi. He needs people like you.” It made Jimin wonder about Yoongi. To Jimin, he was gentle and acted confident. But it was obvious he hid behind a cigarette and a veil of smoke. Hoseok continued, “Anyway, that’s all I came over here to say. I’ve gotta jet, but you’re welcome over any time, Park Jimin! Bye-bye!” He blew a loud kiss at their table and Jimin wondered how someone like him had ended up living with Yoongi.

They watched Hoseok leave, and it was Taehyung who spoke up first. “Was that—Man, I can’t even talk. You know Jung Hoseok and you never mentioned it to us?”

“Relax, guys, I’ve only talked to him once. He’s just really friendly.”

Jungkook blinked a few times. “And how do you know him again?”

“I know his room-mate. He’s the one Hoseok was talking about.” Jimin didn’t feel like getting into specifics.

“Wait a sec,” Jungkook shook his head rapidly as if snapping out of a trance. “He was talking? I didn’t even pay attention.”

Taehyung reached across the table and gave Jungkook a high-five. “Join the club. Honestly, I just saw he had really nice teeth.”

Sometimes he loved his friends, and sometimes he wondered why he had friends. As Jimin got up to leave, Jungkook caught him by the wrist and called, “Make sure you get me his autograph!”

 

---

 

They’d chosen Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1”. The pick was a combined effort, but Jimin knew Yoongi had wanted to play that song since before he even asked Jimin. It was a classic and Jimin found there was so much he could do with it.

The showcase was in two weeks, more than enough time for Yoongi and Jimin to make something work. And they did; Jimin exchanged contact information with Yoongi and every night he’d walk to Yoongi’s apartment, claiming it was a “study session with Tae and Kookie”. He’d go straight up to the studio, and sometimes just press his ear against the door before entering so he could hear the wonderful sound of Yoongi’s keyboard.

Whenever Yoongi played the song, he insisted on having his back towards Jimin. The man claimed it was easier to play like that, more focusing, and Jimin trusted him. They’d recorded it on video, so Yoongi could watch the performance after and say, “I like it” or “I hate it” (and he always liked it).

Sometimes they’d take breaks and those were the times Jimin enjoyed the most. He thought it was fun to just lie on the studio floor like a starfish and listen to Yoongi play scales or slow melodies. And Yoongi would say, “Mind if I head out for a smoke real quick?” Jimin did mind, but he said it was okay anyway.

Jimin didn’t follow him on those times. At that point, the adrenaline of dancing had already set in and all Jimin wanted to do was stay still. Once, he’d fallen asleep. He dozed off just listening to the bubble of the water tank, the hum of the lights, the sound of people walking downstairs. He didn’t hear when Yoongi came back, and the man didn’t wake him. Instead, Jimin woke to find Yoongi sitting at a piano and a towel covering his arms like a blanket. The pianist turned his head as if to check on Jimin, like he’d done it before. “Not getting enough sleep lately?”

Jimin rubbed his eyes. “Is there such a thing as ‘enough sleep’?”

“Of course not,” Yoongi chuckled and stood up. “It’s late. I’ll walk you back to your place if you want.”

He’d never offered before. Jimin wanted to say no; what if Namjoon saw something? He just couldn’t bring himself to decline the offer. “Oh. Sure.”

So Jimin grabbed his bag and followed Yoongi blindly out of his apartment. Yoongi only lived in the next complex over; it wasn’t a far walk. He led Yoongi in silence, and when they arrived at the base of Jimin’s apartment building, Yoongi laughed. “Right over there is where I come to smoke. What did you do, just step outside and call it ‘going for a walk?’ You live so close.”

“It’s just for fresh air,” Jimin’s voice was shy. The night was cool, more than usual, and Jimin wondered why he hadn’t noticed it on his way there. A quick glance down at his arms confirmed that Jimin had forgotten his jacket. “Oh, I think I left my jacket in the studio. Do you want me to get it now or…?”

“Nah, it’s alright. I’ll find it.”

Jimin let him inside the building and up a set of stairs. He lowered his voice in case anyone was sleeping. “My room’s just a few doors down from here. Thanks. For walking me over, I mean.” And Jimin almost laughed, because he was suddenly reminded of his very first date ever in junior high, where he’d walked the young girl back to her front door. He sighed. “Bye.”

Yoongi was going to say something, and stopped himself. In the end, all he said was, “See ya.”

 

---

 

When Jimin got out of the bathroom, Namjoon was standing there just holding his jacket. Jimin smiled; it was his favorite jacket, but it was the same one he’d left at—

Oh no.

“Who was that?” Namjoon’s face read, ‘Anything you say right now can and will be held against you.’

So Jimin played dumb. “Who was who?”

Namjoon sighed. “This guy just showed up two minutes ago with your jacket, asking if you lived here.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“Well, I told him yes.” Namjoon handed Jimin the jacket. “And then he asked to talk to you and I said you were shitting.” Jimin hated his room-mate. “So who is he and why did he have your jacket?”

Jimin laughed nervously, but nothing was funny. “He’s an acquaintance,” And then came the lie: “He has the same jacket as me and he took mine yesterday on accident.”

He tried to make a break for it, but he wasn’t faster than Namjoon’s brain. “Woah, wait a sec. Since when did you start calling people your ‘acquaintance’? You call everyone your ‘friend’. And why does it smell like—” Namjoon thought for a moment, then his jaw dropped. “Smoke. Oh my God. Are you…Are you sleeping with him?”

“No. I’m not.” It was true, but the answer came too quickly and bitterly.

Namjoon smirked and picked up his laptop. “He was good looking.” He said, like Jimin didn’t know that already. “If I didn’t have Jin…” He shot a wink at Jimin.

Jimin left the room. The whole apartment was usually at sub-zero temperatures, but Jimin felt overheated. When he was alone, he brought the jacket to his face and just felt it. More than smoke, it smelled like Yoongi. And Jimin wanted to say something (anything) to Namjoon, but the words wouldn’t surface and the shame wouldn’t disappear.

 

---

 

 He started having dreams the next night. Not the bizarre kinds of dreams that Jimin could laugh about in the morning, or the nightmarish ones that had him waking in a cold sweat; this was a different type of dream altogether. They were too real, too tangible, like Jimin didn’t doubt their potential even though he’d never thought about it while awake.

The dreams always began with the touch of a hand on his back and a low voice in his ear. He swore the voice was real because he’d heard it so many times while awake. ‘Jimin…’ It sounded too beautiful to be his name, too desperate. And in his dream, Jimin would lean back into the voice and smell smoke and see a red dot in the distance. Rise, move in, swing down, repeat. He stopped watching the red dot and started watching the fingers suspending it in the air (And Jimin wondered when he’d started doing that in real life, too), and then there was Yoongi’s face.

Jimin would hug him in the dreams, embrace him, just hold him like he never actually had. And Yoongi would whisper things in his ear—filthy things nobody had ever said to Jimin before—things that drove Jimin crazy and made his breath hot. ‘You have no idea what I want to do to you,’ ‘I want you all to myself tonight,’ ‘Show me how much you need me, Jimin,’.

He dreamed of Yoongi dropping that damn cigarette on the ground and he dreamed of Yoongi’s pale skin and his large hands. He dreamed of Yoongi’s lips and teeth on his throat and his chest and everywhere, he dreamed of what it would feel like to be under Yoongi and let the man ruin him. It was dirty and raw and exciting and there were no consequences. It was the kind of dream he’d wake up from and hope Namjoon hadn’t heard him moan in his sleep. The kind of dream he’d look in the mirror after, just to see if his body was painted with bruises and marks like it had been the night before. The kind of dream he’d have to do something about, too early in the day, even though he hated morning showers. And when he headed over to practice at Yoongi’s apartment hours later, Jimin was never able to look him in the eye.

There was this guilt. And it was the worst kind of guilt because everything was an accident. He thought the more disgusted he felt, the less he’d dream, but it got far worse. Jimin would notice something little about the man, like how he stuck out his tongue when he concentrated, and that night a vision of Yoongi would be licking at his thighs and his stomach. He asked Yoongi once, “Have you had weird dreams lately?”

And Yoongi just shrugged and said, “I don’t know, not any more than usual.”

Jimin didn’t know what to do. It was one thing to be having sex dreams about his almost-friend, and another to be having them about a male. But he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He couldn’t stop thinking about Yoongi. Namjoon told him once that dreams were unconscious desires manifested, and a part of Jimin hoped it wasn’t true (Another part of Jimin, however, knew it was.) They were just dreams. They didn’t mean anything.

So Jimin passed it off as a fluke.

 

---

 

Yoongi’s arms were cold on Jimin’s fingers, and he flinched every time Jimin made contact with his skin. “This is third position,” Jimin corrected Yoongi’s elbows and shoulders. “Make your feet look like mine.”

“This is bullshit, that’s what,” Yoongi mumbles as he tried to copy Jimin’s stance. “All the times I’ve seen you dance, you’ve never done this stupid posing thing.”

“I’ve never heard you play scales in the middle of a concerto,” Jimin countered.

Yoongi didn’t say anything until Jimin removed his hands. “Seriously, I look like a mannequin in some trendy teen clothing store.”

Jimin laughed, “Just without the trendy teen clothes. Now do first position and let’s see if you remember.”

His scowl was admirable. “Hell no I don’t remember.” Yoongi dropped his arms in surrender and straightened out his feet. “When we were in junior high, Hoseok told me the only dance I’d ever need was the typical slow dance. I found out that was a fucking lie because someone asked me about the Macarena last week and I looked so stupid.”

“I can teach you both of those,” Jimin smiled at him.

Yoongi said it quietly, “Well I don’t really care about the Macarena.”

So Jimin stepped closer to Yoongi and locked his hands behind the man’s neck. It wasn’t weird; he danced like that with Taehyung all the time, when they were tired and in the mood to joke around. But when he felt a pressure on the small of his back, Yoongi’s hands holding him steady, everything shifted. The air became dense. There was no music, but Jimin could imagine some emotional, guitar-heavy song in his head. He’d never noticed before how they were the same height. Together they rocked back and forth, slowly moving across the studio floor.

“I can’t believe you talked me into a dance lesson,” Yoongi’s voice was low and rough and with no strength behind it. “You little shit.”

Jimin laughed quietly and brought his head forward until it fell against Yoongi’s shoulder. He smelled like smoke and light cologne. “You’re better at this than first position.”

He felt the hands carefully slide down to his hips and bring them closer. Everything was on fire—Jimin felt it in his head, his throat, and everywhere Yoongi touched him. The fingers at his hips hovered dangerously near the edge of his shirt; Jimin swore he’d die if Yoongi felt the bare skin there. “Hey,” Yoongi exhaled the words into Jimin’s hair, his voice wavering a bit. “Let’s just accept how you’re better at dancing and I’m better at piano.”

Jimin tilted his head and his nose brushed Yoongi’s chin. “I can do that.”

Because he couldn’t take another lesson. It wasn’t just for fun; it was torture. Yoongi was like a magnet and Jimin just wanted to touch him. It was something he couldn’t define. He leaned back and pressed his forehead to Yoongi’s. They had stopped moving and just stood dumbly, listening to invisible music and breathing the same air. Yoongi’s eyes were closed, as if thinking about something too large for Jimin to understand. He gently pat Jimin’s hip and it was a clear message: We need to stop now.

So Jimin unwound his hands from Yoongi’s neck and Yoongi sat down on the piano bench behind them, and they just started practicing again. They didn’t talk about it, didn’t laugh about it, just let everything hang between them. But Jimin still felt it—the hands on his hips and the breath in his hair. He kept it to himself.

 

---

 

He was hardly paying attention to the movie. It seemed Namjoon wasn’t either, from the soft glow of his laptop and the occasional mouse click. Jimin figured it was as good a time as any to ask the burning question. “Namjoon?”

“Hm. I’m awake, I swear.”

The words just wouldn’t come out. “How did you…Never mind.”

Namjoon lowered his laptop screen and raised an eyebrow at Jimin. “Well now you have my attention.”

“I was just…No, forget about it. I was gonna ask a question but it’s kind of personal.”

The man tapped his chin lightly. “Now, when did Park Jimin ever care about my privacy?” He smiled. “Ask away.”

Jimin took a deep breath, and then everything exited his mouth at once. “How did you figure out you were gay?”

He didn’t expect Namjoon to laugh. “Firstly, Jimin, I am not gay. You’re making assumptions again; you knew I had girlfriends all throughout high school, and I was genuinely into them. Secondly, it’s just always been there.” They’d both forgotten about the movie. “I remember one time when I was seven, we had this young male teacher, and this girl in my class said, ‘I think our teacher is very handsome,’ and I said, ‘Me too.’ I didn’t even know it was wrong to say that, I was just telling the truth. And one time in high school, I dated a girl simply because I liked her brother. Not my proudest moment.” The two shared a laugh about that. It was almost fun, just hearing stories from Namjoon that Jimin had never heard before. “I never did anything about it or else my parents would have found out. But last year when I met Jin, I couldn’t hide it anymore. Remember that time my mom came over and she expected me to cook for her? Jin’s a food critic, you see, and I posted some complaint or cry for help online, and he replied to me. I clicked on his profile, did a bit of digging, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is someone I need in my life.’ After we got to know each other, he was the first person I ever told, that I like guys. The rest is history.”

Jimin loved the way Namjoon’s eyes lit up when he talked about Jin. It seemed almost therapeutic for Namjoon, venting to someone about everything he’d kept secret his whole life. But there was a constant mantra in Jimin’s mind during the whole conversation: Yoongi, Yoongi, Yoongi. And Jimin, on the surface of his brain, craved repulsion. He wanted to hate how every time Namjoon mentioned Jin, Yoongi came to mind.

But Yoongi made him smile. He made Jimin laugh and try new things and think about life in different ways. So Jimin decided that he didn’t care.

Chapter Text

Jimin pat his face dry of sweat and sunk dramatically to the floor. Yoongi was focused; his tongue stuck out a bit, fingers melting into the keys in a soothing rendition of “Leaves in the Wind”. Slowly, Jimin crept up behind him and pushed on the man’s shoulders. The piano emitted a strangled noise when Yoongi froze mid-measure. “Geez, you scared me. Asshole.”

There was a knock on the door. It was the first time anyone had ever tried to enter the studio while Jimin was there. “Hello, my beautiful friends!” Hoseok. “Permission to enter?”

Jimin called, “Permission granted!” at the same time Yoongi said, “Go away, you clingy bastard!”

Hoseok did enter, shaking his finger accusingly at Yoongi. “Min Suga, do you really want to act this way with our guest around?”

“What do you want, Hoseok.” It was hardly a question.

“I want to watch you practice!” He started clapping and it made Jimin laugh.

Yoongi sunk down into his piano bench. “Fine. It’s Satie’s ‘Gymnopédie No. 1’, not that that means anything to you.” And he put his fingers to the keys.

Jimin began to dance. It was slightly daunting, dancing in front of someone so talented himself, but the dance was one Jimin had completed dozens of times. He wasn’t dancing to the song anymore, he was dancing to his own emotion—how he felt when Yoongi played the piano.

 About two minutes in, at a breaking point in the piece, Hoseok yelled, “Woo! Love you, Park Jimin!” complete with claps and stomps. Jimin tried not to laugh, but he heard Yoongi miss a note behind him and then mutter an apology about it. He missed another note when Hoseok called out, “I’m your biggest fan, Jimin!” Something was off with his playing; Yoongi rarely messed up, and if he did there was never a quiet ‘Sorry’ to follow.

They finished strong, with the final tone bouncing off the studio walls and a standing ovation on Hoseok’s part. “That was amazing! I mean, Yoongi said you could dance but I didn’t think he meant like this.” And even though Jimin was sweaty and burning up, Hoseok gave him a tight hug anyway. Jimin giggled when Hoseok puckered his lips dramatically and kissed the air by Jimin’s cheek. “Muah!”

Yoongi’s piano bench made a loud noise against the floor when he stood up. “I’m heading down to the room for a sec.”

“Is something wrong, Yoongi?” Hoseok detached himself from Jimin. “You okay?”

“Am I okay?” Yoongi’s laugh was flat. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? There’s water here if you n—”

“—I’m fine.” The door slammed on his way out.

Hoseok was quiet for the first time since Jimin had met him. He tried to laugh it off like nothing had happened. Jimin was concerned; he’d never seen Yoongi act so temperamental. “Do you know what’s up with him?” Jimin asked.

He did know; it was written all over Hoseok’s face. “It’s nothing. He’s just…you know how he gets.”

“Just what?”

Hoseok beamed a smile at Jimin and swung an arm around his shoulders. He didn’t answer Jimin’s question. “Ah, sometimes I wish I wasn’t so friendly. It’s not your fault, little Jimin—it’s mine. But! I’m not allowed to tell you what’s wrong.” His smile grew sad and pretend. Hoseok filled a cup at the water tank, his way of changing subjects. “You’re really a good dancer. And the showcase is gonna be awesome. I hope Yoongi tells you how amazing he thinks you are.” Jimin glanced at the door, not because he’d heard a noise but because he wanted Yoongi to come back. He didn’t notice Hoseok regarding him with sympathetic eyes. “He’ll be fine, trust me.”

So Jimin believed him.

 

---

 

There was a week left until the showcase. They should have been practicing as much as possible, and yet Jimin found himself outside with Yoongi, standing where they usually did. “Are you sore?” Yoongi asked, and Jimin supposed it was just to be polite.

“I always am. It’s not too bad.” There was something different that night. It wasn’t they stood closer to each other than before, or that Yoongi had been smiling more often, but something in the air. Then Jimin realized he could breathe; he could breathe in the city around them and Yoongi’s cologne, and he’d never breathed when outside with Yoongi before. He glanced down into the gap between them and Yoongi’s hands looked so lost. “You don’t want a cigarette?”

The man laughed, but it was nervous and week. “Not tonight. I’m thinking of quitting.”

“Seriously?” Jimin failed to contain his enthusiasm.

“Yeah. I just realized, I guess, that it’s stupid. Like I say I smoke because I’m stressed, but it’s a circle. I’m only stressed when I don’t have a cigarette in the first place.” His eyes caught Jimin’s in the night, and there was no shield of smoke to hide their depth. “I started smoking when I was sixteen. It was too early. Once you start doing anything at sixteen, you don’t know how to stop. But now I do.”

Jimin looked down again and saw that Yoongi had two free hands instead of just one. His right hand looked empty without the familiar red dot of light. So Jimin’s own hand glided across the gap between them and curled around Yoongi’s. He was warm, and not because of a flame this time. “I’m glad.”

Yoongi wouldn’t look at him. He looked straight ahead, just somewhere far away, and it didn’t take long for Jimin to notice the lack of focus in his gaze. He’d always do that, just stare at nothing, and Jimin thought it was because Yoongi didn’t know what else to stare at. He applied a light pressure to Yoongi’s hand. And Yoongi still wouldn’t look at him, but he squeezed Jimin’s hand right back.

 

---

 

It was one of those times when Namjoon was on the phone at 4 A.M. and Jimin had just woken up. His room-mate was laughing, and as Jimin moved past him to get a glass of water he whispered, “Say hi to Jin for me.”

Namjoon nodded. “Jimin says hi, by the way. Yes, he’s awake. Well, he was asleep. No, you made me laugh so hard it’s probably your fault he woke up.” He lowered the phone briefly and mouthed, ‘He says you should go to sleep’. “Yes, dear, I’m listening. Okay. I’ll call you tomorrow, then. I mean, later today. Bye,” he glanced at Jimin quickly and said, “You too.” before he hung up.

Jimin was lingering. Because the kind of dream he’d just woken up from had been that kind of dream, and he couldn’t go back to sleep without picturing Yoongi in his head. Namjoon just looked at him expectantly, then sighed when Jimin stayed silent. “It’s late. I’m gonna get some sleep before the morning.”

“Wait,” Jimin said it without meaning to, but then decided he needed to say what he was thinking. “I just want to talk for a bit.”

Namjoon checked the clock. “It’s 4:21. Who needs sleep anyway?”

It was an invitation. “You remember that guy who brought my jacket over?” Namjoon nodded and smiled, and Jimin was filled with a sudden burst of confidence. “I just want to tell you about him.” He took a deep breath. “His name is Min Yoongi. He’s a senior at Seoul National University, majoring in music composition. We met outside, when I was going for a walk and got scared because of a bug. He leaves his apartment at night so he can smoke. He’s fowl-mouthed and pouty, and he doesn’t have many friends. Sometime he’s like a little kid and sometimes he’s like an old man. This week, I’m doing a dance showcase while he plays the piano. He distracts me and frustrates me and he’s such an asshole.” Namjoon looked at Jimin with all the pity in the world, like Jimin had just shared the saddest story. “And he’s really special to me. I just wanted to tell you.”

Namjoon exhaled and stared at Jimin for a long time. He reached out and rubbed Jimin’s back as if he were a child. “It’ll get better. I promise you, it’ll get better.”

It was an emotion that pulled so lightly on Jimin’s whole body—his head, his stomach, his heart. And Jimin knew that Namjoon had felt that emotion before, whatever it was. So he trusted Namjoon. All he could do was talk; not explain himself or how he was feeling, but just mull over everything he knew and everything he wanted to know, and mix them all together. He didn’t cry. Jimin just took a shaky breath and drifted off to sleep right there on the couch, with fire in his throat and so many questions on his lips.

 

---

 

Jimin didn’t remember much about the performance. It wasn’t his best and it wasn’t his worst. The stage was a little too slippery and the lights a little too bright, but that’s all he remembered.

Except for the adrenaline. Excitement pumped through Jimin’s body in a more jittery way than ever before, even though it was hardly an important performance, in retrospect. But it was important to Yoongi, so Jimin guessed it was important in general.

He’d expected Yoongi to be mad at him after the showcase. He did things on the stage that he’d never done in practice, but that was true for every performance. It was the expensive lights and the real crowd, the one he’d tried to picture in the mirror and never truly could. It was the sleek grand piano, with such a different sound than Yoongi’s electronic keyboard, and so Jimin danced differently to accommodate. But Yoongi wasn’t mad. When they went offstage and out into the hallway, Yoongi looked like he wanted to say something. Jimin wouldn’t have paid attention then; he was far too affected by the adrenaline to process anything. All Jimin knew in that moment was that the hallway was empty and he was going to do something stupid if he didn’t calm down.

The feeling was almost like vomit, rising inside of Jimin and threatening to surface. His hands shook and his feet stung and Jimin vaguely registered a strong hand holding him upright at the shoulder. “Do you need some water?” Yoongi’s voice was broken and Jimin could have listened to it forever. “Park Jimin, look at me.” The hands reached his chin and then Jimin couldn’t see anything but Yoongi’s eyes. His head felt fuzzy. “You were wonderful out there. You hear me? Park—”

He kissed him.

It was short and dry and Jimin knew it would happen. He just clutched at Yoongi’s button-down shirt and tugged him forward, only to push him away a second later. And then all of the adrenaline evaporated, leaving Jimin stuttering apologies that he didn’t mean. “It was an accident. I don’t know why—I’m sorry.” Everything that came from his mouth then was a lie, except the kiss. “I didn’t mean to. I’ll forget it if you do.” Jimin had saved every lie up in his life for that moment.

Yoongi’s hand was over his mouth and his breath was heavy. Jimin pretended like he didn’t want to kiss the man one more time. He seemed confused, maybe even angry. Then he looked directly at Jimin and said, “Do it again.”

“I’m so sorry.”

That spark in his eyes, Jimin had never seen it before. “God dammit, Park Jimin, stop fucking lying to me. Do it again.” But Jimin was frozen in place; he couldn’t will his body to move. It only took one second of hesitation for Yoongi to change that. He pushed Jimin back against the wall, not roughly but enough so that Jimin would move, and stole Jimin’s lips. “You were wonderful,” He breathed it in between kisses, in between licks and the pressure of teeth, “You’re wonderful.”

Jimin was lost. Through the wall behind him, he caught the faint tones of “Fantasie-Impromptu” (Which was far more beautiful when Yoongi played it), but everything blended to sound like he was underwater. Jimin felt like he was underwater, afraid to breathe yet never getting enough air. He decided he’d rather drown instead.

And he wanted it. The way Yoongi tilted his head, the soft noises they swallowed, the tongue that would hit his or run across the backs of his teeth—he wanted it. Jimin kissed him back with a desperation he hadn’t known existed. He’d wanted it for so long.

His hands traveled up Yoongi’s back and shoulders and into his hair, just every place he could reach. And Yoongi switched between Jimin’s slim waist and sometimes feeling down to his back pockets and it was electrifying. He tasted like peppermint gum with the underlying flavor of smoke; he’d really been trying to quit, Jimin could tell, but Yoongi would never truly get that taste out of his mouth.

Soon they were reduced to a mess of gasps and breaths, in the middle of a hallway. And Yoongi’s thumb passed over Jimin’s jaw and the way Jimin held onto him, it reminded him of a dream. Yoongi leaned in and kissed Jimin once more, then twice, and he said in that rough voice, “I’m gonna let the director know we’re headed out. We’re taking the subway back to my apartment.” He whispered the next part, “And then you’re mine.”

The subway ride was a blur. He remembered the impatient look on Yoongi’s face, and the way Jimin shyly reached for Yoongi’s hand, but that was it. And after a little walk, Yoongi was unlocking the door to his apartment and then they were alone.

“Thank fuck Hoseok’s not here.” Instead of kissing him again like Jimin had expected, anticipated even, Yoongi pulled two chairs from the edge of the room and said to Jimin, “Talk to me.”

It was the first time Jimin had ever really been inside Yoongi’s apartment, besides to drop his bag at the door and head up to the studio. The room was as clean as ever, and just as empty. Jimin still couldn’t think clearly. “Talk about what?”

“Talk as in, what the fuck did you pull back at the concert hall.”

“Well, I…couldn’t stop it.” Jimin looked down at his lap.

He didn’t know what the expression on Yoongi’s face meant. “For how long now?”

The answer was embarrassing, so he said it quietly. “Since the first time I heard you play piano. Maybe before.”

Jimin’s words sunk in and Yoongi stood up. “That long ago? It feels like a while.” And then, “But I’m not one to talk. I’ve wanted you since you fell asleep in my studio and left your jacket there like some Cinderella shit.”

Jimin laughed; he laughed out of pure relief, pure exasperation that he’d kept everything in for so long. “This is so embarrassing. I never thought I’d…with a guy…”

“I didn’t see it coming any more than you,” Yoongi looked happy, happier than Jimin had ever seen him. “But I’m glad.” He reached for Jimin’s chair and took his hand. “You’re not bad. Geez, this is so fucking cheesy. I’m a wreck. Why do I even bother talking?”

“Then don’t talk.” Jimin stood up as well and he met Yoongi’s eyes. “I don’t want to talk right now, either.”

He was quiet for a bit. “This is why I don’t smoke anymore. You’re gonna be the death of me instead.” And he kissed Jimin in the same way he took Jimin’s heart—gently, quietly, slowly. He touched Jimin as if his skin were made of paper. Jimin’s fingers hooked onto Yoongi’s belt loops and he nipped lightly at Yoongi’s lower lip. It was different from kissing a girl, Jimin thought, but it felt so insanely good that he didn’t care.

In that moment, Jimin realized that it was okay to kiss Yoongi. He was allowed to. Especially for someone so cold on the outside, Yoongi initiating anything was permission enough for Jimin. And if Yoongi wanted to kiss him, Jimin would let him. They’d crossed a line that night, one so fragile that they could never go back to being whatever they’d been before, but Jimin liked it.

He all but lost it when Yoongi’s warm hands moved up under his shirt and he breathed, “Fuck, I forgot you have a dancer’s body,” Yoongi was a sneaky man, having slowly paced himself and Jimin over to the nearest sofa without Jimin even noticing. Yoongi lowered Jimin down so carefully, and then they were horizontal and Yoongi’s knee was between Jimin’s thighs and it was bliss.

“Yoongi,” Jimin gasped as the musician’s teeth grazed Jimin’s neck. “Yoongi.”

“Hm?” He felt the hum against his throat.

His hand fell on the back of Yoongi’s head, and it was mortifying to say but Jimin felt it needed to be done. “I’ve never—Never been with a g—Shit—with a guy like this,” Yoongi continued his construction on Jimin’s neck. “And I don’t even know how—I mean, what I’m asking is—”

Then Yoongi started laughing, a real laugh where Jimin could see his gums and everything, and Jimin gave up on trying to form coherent speech. He pulled back and gave Jimin a short kiss. “I’m not gonna have sex with you, Jimin,” It made Jimin’s ears red even hearing the words, “Not tonight.” That definitely made Jimin flush. “You just finished dancing; I’m not that cruel. C’mere,” He shifted a little so they could lay side by side, and Jimin wrapped his arms around the man. Yoongi sighed, “This is nice.”

“Yeah,” Jimin pressed a kiss to the side of Yoongi’s jaw and just breathed. “Really nice.”

They fell asleep like that, with Yoongi’s hands on his waist and Jimin’s face buried in Yoongi’s shoulder, just curled up on the couch. Jimin had no idea where he was when he woke up next. He’d thought it was another dream, but the arms around him and the smell of Yoongi’s cologne told him otherwise. He didn’t want to bother Yoongi, but his wrist had gone numb overnight. “Yoongi,” he whispered, “Wake up.”

He heard Yoongi take in a deep breath and stir to life. “Mhm, Jimin…”

“Yeah?”

Yoongi opened his eyes briefly and looked down at Jimin’s. “Morning.”

Jimin smiled brighter than he had in a while. He tilted his head to look at the clock across the room. “It’s not morning, it’s like 2:30.”

“…In the morning.” That was when he learned how much Yoongi was a cuddler after he woke up. He watched as Yoongi stretched a bit, untangling himself from Jimin. Yoongi felt along Jimin’s cheeks and combed his fingers through Jimin’s hair, hardly aware he was doing it, but stopped suddenly. “Jimin. What the fuck is this.”

“What’s what?”

“In your hair,” Jimin had no idea what he was talking about. “It’s like a pink thing.” He felt a light tug on his scalp as Yoongi removed whatever it was from his hair. “Well shit,” Yoongi muttered, “it’s a sticky note.” He turned it around so Jimin could read.

The note was covered in crudely-drawn stars, a very enthusiastic message in the center: ‘YOU GUYS ARE CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

“That’s Hoseok’s ugly-ass writing.” Yoongi crumple up the note and tossed it across the room. “I should have known.” He kissed Jimin’s forehead almost hesitantly, and Jimin decided he wanted to wake up like that every day for the rest of his life. “You know what, I don’t give two fucks at this point,” Yoongi wrapped an arm around Jimin’s body again and said, “I’m going back to sleep.”

Jimin whispered, “I can leave if you want. I can just walk home.”

“No,” Yoongi’s voice was muffled by Jimin’s hair, “Stay.”

 

Chapter Text

Pssst. Jimin.”

Taehyung pointed behind Jimin with a wobbly hand, as if he’d seen a ghost. “J-Jimin, I think he wants your attention.”

When Jimin turned around, there was no ghost—only smiling Jung Hoseok who waved at the three boys. “Jimin, I’m so glad I found you!”

“Why, is something wrong?”

“No, no, it’s the opposite!” Hoseok exclaimed as he grew closer. The man whipped his phone out and hastily turned it on. “I need to show you my new phone background. You’ll love it.”

As soon as Jimin saw the lock screen, he wanted to steal Hoseok’s phone and throw it across the room. It was a picture taken with the flash on, of him and Yoongi sleeping rather cozily on the sofa, and Hoseok’s hand reaching over to plop a pink sticky note in Jimin’s hair. “Delete it!” Jimin tried to pry the phone from Hoseok’s fingers. “No one can see that!”

Hoseok was just laughing. “Never! It’s too cute,” He pinched Jimin’s cheek and Jimin swore Jungkook’s jaw dropped. “Aw, bring it in, Jimin.” Hoseok hugged Jimin so tightly he almost fell off the chair. Jimin heard Taehyung mutter, ‘Can I bring it in, too?’ and he ignored it. “I’m so happy for you. You’ve grown up! You’re a man now!”

Jimin held him at arms’ length so he could breathe again. “I was never a man before?”

“You were, I guess, but now you’re a real man. You have commitment!” Hoseok let out a little squeal. “We should celebrate! Has Yoongi ever seen you drunk? Oh my God, have you ever seen Yoongi drunk? That’s an experience.”

He laughed. “No? I don’t drink, really.”

I do!” Jungkook seemed to have found his voice, “Me and Tae volunteer in your place, Jimin!”

Hoseok lowered his tone and leaned across the table. “Do you guys know what we’re celebrating?” Taehyung and Jungkook shook their heads dumbly, like Hoseok could tell them anything at that moment and they’d believe it. “Our Jimin here, he—”

“No, please! I’m begging you, don’t tell anyone!”

“—has entered the final stage of his innocence. Now he’s gonna evolve into Adult Jimin. And when he—”

“Seriously, please stop!”

“—and my room-mate take 'the plunge'—”

“Oh, my God.”

“—Jimin will be a boy no longer.”

Jungkook stared blankly and nodded slowly. “Take…’the plunge’?”

Hoseok shrugged. “You’re too young to know.” He patted Jimin on the back and ran away, yelling something like, ‘Stay safe!’ for everyone to hear.

 

---

 

The university dance studio was empty after 5:00 on cleaning days. There used to be a student who would lock himself in the studio and dance until his feet went numb, but none of the custodians had seen him around since August ended.

Because Park Jimin had found another dance studio. One with weaker floors and colder air, but one which Jimin preferred, as it came with a piano player.

They’d talked about it. About everything. The very next day, Jimin had gotten his very first voicemail from Yoongi. “Hi,” he said, “it’s me. Yoongi. Listen, I don’t want you to get a bad impression of me. I don’t just go around making out with people. What I’m trying to say is, it would be kind awesome if I could make out with just you. Exclusively. But not only making out. We can, I dunno, maybe eat dinner and stuff, too. Together, I mean. And do the stupid cute shit that makes Hoseok cry in movies. Because I think you’re not half terrible to be around. Wow, I really sold that, didn’t I? So. If that sounds at all appealing to you, call me back. If not, call me back anyway. Bye.”

He listened to the recording at least ten times, partly because it made him feel special and partly because he liked the sound of Yoongi’s voice. So Jimin called him back. And Yoongi answered. And they just talked, for hours until Jimin’s stomach hurt from laughing and his brain hurt from thinking.

“So I hear,” Jimin said, “that you have a crush on me.”

Yoongi chuckled and it was such a wonderful noise. “And who told you that?

Jimin pretended to think for a moment. “Can’t remember. Maybe it was Hoseok. Maybe it was you.”

Well, there are a lot of people in this world who I don’t like, Jimin. In fact, I can’t stand most people. But you’re alright.

“’Alright’?” Jimin prompted him, dragged him through the conversation.

He heard Yoongi’s sigh through the phone. “Yeah. So ‘alright’ that I want to see you even when you’re not here. It’s stupid. Like remember after the showcase? That was good. It didn’t feel forced, you know? Hey, Jimin, I’m not really good at talking about this stuff.

Jimin couldn’t say he was, either. He could take care of teasing, could handle the joking flirtatiousness, but when it came down to actual feelings, Jimin became shy. He took a deep breath. “Okay, Yoongi, I’ll make a deal.” Namjoon always said that deals were the one place where nobody could go wrong, because there was compromise and they usually ended up better than worse. “Go on a date with me,” He couldn’t believe the words had just come from his mouth; a smile crept onto his face and Jimin felt the need to say it again, “Just one date. It can be anywhere. And if we like it, that’s great. If we don’t, we’ll…I don’t know, we’ll figure it out later.”

The only sounds through the phone were Yoongi’s breathing and the rustle of paper. Then Yoongi said, “Well, I hope you’re near a calendar, Park Jimin, because that sounds like my kind of deal.” All the air in Jimin’s lungs was released at once. “I’m free Wednesday and Friday.

Jimin laughed, maybe because of relief and maybe at Yoongi’s apparent excitement. “Friday seems like a ‘date-night’ kind of day, doesn’t it?”

Perfect. Oh, shit, Hoseok just walked in and he’s yelling about something. I’ll call you later. See you Friday. Could be earlier if you’re looking for a dance studio to use in the near future.

“I’ll know where to go,” Jimin said, “Bye.”

Bye.”

After that, Jimin counted down the days until Friday. He did visit Yoongi’s apartment on Wednesday, and eventually one of them decided on a time and place for their date (6:30, meeting at the spot where Yoongi used to smoke and heading to a barbecue place that wasn’t too expensive for a first date). And when Friday actually did come, it hit Jimin that he was going on a real date, in public, with another man.

On his way out the door, Namjoon stopped Jimin by saying, “Hold up. Where are you going?”

“Just out.” Although he lied frequently, Jimin had never been a good liar.

Namjoon nodded. “Your hair’s messy in the back, by the way.” Jimin’s hand shot up immediately to smooth down his hair, until Namjoon laughed. “I’m kidding. Have fun.”

Jimin did have fun. The most fun he’d had in a while. Sitting across from Yoongi, probably with barbecue sauce around his mouth and just saying whatever came to mind, it was relaxing. Yoongi kept smiling and Jimin loved it. Within twenty minutes, grins were permanently stuck on both their faces. He learned a lot about Yoongi that night—what his family was like, how he started playing piano, and pointless details like how he hated chocolate and how we wanted to be a rapper as a kid (but to Jimin, none of those things were pointless). At one point, he confirmed Jimin’s suspicions: “You have food on your face. But I’m not gonna wipe it off. This is a trial date.” And Yoongi held his hand under the table and everything was okay.

(And Jimin really wanted to pay—he’d even brought his wallet—but Yoongi looked so proud to pay for both their meals that Jimin just couldn’t argue.)

“I’m walking you to your door,” Yoongi told him after they stepped off the subway. It was late, much later than Jimin had expected to be home.

“What if I don’t want you to?”

Yoongi smirked. “Too fucking bad.”

Jimin wanted a second date. He wanted a second date and a third date and a tenth date and a hundredth date with Yoongi. He wanted to go everywhere in Seoul with that man by his side. But he’d never tell Yoongi that; he just led him through the door and up the stairs instead.

It was déjà vu, the two of them standing in Jimin’s hallway and keeping their voices low so no one would wake up. Jimin dared to walk right up to his door that night, instead of just lingering at the end of the hall. “I had fun tonight,” Jimin whispered, “even if you wouldn’t let me split the bill.”

The silver-haired man just stared at him for a moment, then said, “I had fun, too.” Jimin could tell he was debating something in his mind, something that they both knew, so Jimin decided to do it himself. His hands found Yoongi’s shoulders and he drew Yoongi in, closing his eyes and taking enough time so Yoongi could back out. He didn’t; instead, he angled Jimin’s chin and they met in the sweetest kiss of Jimin’s life. It was light, innocent, and left Jimin greedy. He brushed his tongue cautiously against Yoongi’s bottom lip, and the other man pulled back with a smirk. “Nope, no tongue on the first date.”

Jimin smacked his shoulder playfully. “But what about—”

“That was before the first date, so it was okay then.” He dipped back in and kissed Jimin quickly at the corner of his lips as if to apologize for not wiping the sauce from there earlier. “Bye.” It was the fastest Jimin had ever seen Yoongi move, the way he jogged down the staircase before Jimin could get any more words in. And Jimin just stood there, in front of his door like a lost man, with the taste of barbecue and Yoongi on his mouth.

He tried to shut the door quietly, but Namjoon heard anyway. “You have fun?” he asked.

“Yep,” Jimin was a bit unfocused.

“That’s great. Hey, while you’re over there, do me a favor: you see that thing in the center of the door?”

Jimin turned back around and examined the door for whatever Namjoon was talking about. “You mean the peephole?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. Tell me what that does.”

He was confused. “What it does? I don’t know, you can see out of it into the hall—” Shit. “Namjoon, oh my God, I’m done. Never talk about this, never think about it, never bother me for the rest of your life. You’re so messed up and I’m going to bed.”

Namjoon was wheezing with laughter, eventually calming down enough to say, “The tables have turned, Jimin. The tables have turned.”

 

---

 

Jimin was grateful for Kim Seokjin. He’d been seeing a lot more of the man recently, as Namjoon figured, “It’s just you, so we really don’t have anything to hide.” Every weekend, Jin would take the two-hour train to Seoul and spend the night at their apartment. It was a good system—good for Namjoon, good for Jin, and also good for Jimin. He couldn’t dislike Jin; there was nothing to dislike. Jimin wondered how Namjoon, who was so clumsy and error-prone, had snagged someone like Jin. The man was undoubtedly put-together and on top of his game, from his polished style to his light-hearted humor, to the aura around him constantly reminding everyone how cool he was.

Jin acted as the big brother Jimin never had. If Jimin saw him on the street, he would have assumed Jin to be a well-off bachelor who threw wild parties and could get any woman he wanted. And he probably could, if he weren’t so taken with Namjoon. Jin’s appearance was no testament to how caring he was, however. If Jimin came back from the studio on a weekend with any kind of injury, Jin would be thrusting ice packs at him before he even walked through the door. If Jimin was stressed about an upcoming exam, Jin would sit down with him and say, “I don’t remember this, but I’ll try to help.”

And he was perceptive. That was the only complaint Jimin had; the man was too perceptive. Jimin could never hide his smile when he texted Yoongi, and once he glanced up for a moment to see Jin glaring at him. Jin’s judgmental expression reminded Jimin of getting in trouble with his mother. “Park Jimin,” he said, “Who are you texting?”

“Just someone.” Jimin replied.

“Jimin,” Jin’s voice was stern, “would you like to talk about it?”

Yes. He did. And better to talk with Jin than Namjoon. But the answer was always, “No, thank you,” and Jin would just nod and smile.

 Namjoon wasn’t in college. He’d tried, two years ago, but then decided it was a waste of time and money and claimed he could hold a steady job without a degree. And sure enough, four days a week Namjoon reported to a desk job he’d miraculously secured, and ended up with a nicer paycheck than any of Jimin’s other friends. It was almost a running joke between them, where Jimin would come home after a hard day of classes, and Namjoon would ask, “How was school?” as if he had no grasp of the concept.

It was rare for Namjoon to work on Sundays, but someone had to do it and as the youngest employee at the office, that person was usually Namjoon. On those days, Jimin would use every waking hour to avoid studying and hang out with Jin instead. “We’re going out for a No-Namjoon Day,” Jin would say, “Now we can buy whatever we want and say stupid things without Namjoon here to correct us.”

And they’d do anything they wanted to do; Sunday afternoons had become a nearly sacred time for Jimin, because they brought him closer to the man his room-mate loved. He could tell Jin wanted to win him over—he treated Jimin to ice cream and complimented his fashion sense. They’d be halfway through their outing when Jin would sigh, “Namjoon would really like that jacket,” or, “Namjoon would probably hate the font on that sign,” and he’d keep going until it got to, “I wish Namjoon were here.”

Jimin, at those times, would look down at his fudge ice cream and think, ‘Yoongi would say I’m nasty for eating this,’ but he never expressed it out loud, never let Jin know what occupied his mind. Their No-Namjoon days were fun, and stupid, and somewhere along the line Jimin realized that for Jin, they were just a distraction.

 

---

 

They started grabbing coffee together every Monday—or, Jimin would get coffee and Yoongi would sip on a strong tea and tease Jimin about how much sugar was in his cup. It just became a thing, another part of Jimin’s routine that he hadn’t expected to exist at all. Like how Jimin would text him, ‘if ur not doing anything meet me outside in 5 bc i dont wanna go to the grocery store alone’ and Yoongi would act like he hated life the whole time, loading the cart with stupid items to see if Jimin noticed.

Jimin would head to Yoongi’s studio on most days. Yoongi wasn’t even there all the time, if he had classes. But it gave Jimin an opportunity to bond with Hoseok and pick up some popping techniques. When Yoongi was there, however, Jimin never got as much dancing in as he’d like. Because if Jimin practiced and Yoongi enjoyed it, he’d give Jimin a hesitant kiss and everything after that became sloppy performance (and sometimes he just stopped dancing altogether).

It was a Saturday when Jimin decided to invite Yoongi over. There was an unfortunate air to Saturdays; they were one of the only free spots in Jimin’s schedule, but at the same time he couldn’t do much because Jin visited on Saturdays.

But Jimin was bored; he was tired of Namjoon and Jin’s eternal heart-eyes, he was tired of the quietness and tired of not seeing Yoongi that day. So he just decided: “I’m inviting someone over to play video games, are you guys cool with that?”

Jin looked slightly hurt. “Aw, is our company not enough for the great Park Jimin?”

“It’s not that, I’m just bored. You have Namjoon anyway.”

He didn’t like the way Namjoon’s lips turned up. “No, you can invite someone over. Especially if their name is—what did you say it was—Min Yoongi?”

The blond’s head shot up. “Who is this ‘Min Yoongi’, Jimin? Have you been holding out on me? Wait, you told Namjoon but not me?”

“I live with Namjoon! And it’s not a big deal,” Jimin suddenly had to play defense on multiple fronts. “I’ll invite him, but it’s just a friendly game session, okay?”

Then Namjoon whispered something to Jin, probably ‘I saw them kissing in the hallway, so don’t believe a word he says,’ and Jin got a scandalized look on his face. Jimin didn’t think about the repercussions—the endless teasing on Namjoon’s part, the endless questions on Jin’s; he just wanted to play Smash and he wanted Yoongi in his apartment.

Jimin had warned Yoongi, through text, that there were other people in his flat, and that might have accounted for Yoongi’s nervous expression when Jimin answered the door. “Hi,” Yoongi said, “I’m ready to kick your ass now.”

“Are you even good at video games?” He led Yoongi inside, hoping Namjoon and Jin would ignore them over their intense debate over whether forks were better than spoons.

“Nope. If I lose the game, I’ll just kick your ass for real.” When Yoongi turned around, he came face to face with Jimin’s room-mate.

“Hello, I’m Kim Namjoon,” he shook Yoongi’s hand, and Jimin almost laughed at Yoongi’s wide eyes. “And that pro-spoon traitor over there is Kim Seokjin. Don’t pay any attention to us; we’re going shopping in a few minutes anyway.” When Jimin glanced over at Jin, the man attempted a wink and mouthed ‘You’re welcome.’

Jimin just dragged Yoongi over to the couch and set up Namjoon’s old GameCube. Yoongi moved closer to him and whispered, “Why are your room-mates so tall?”

He laughed, ignoring the way Jin’s head turned when he did so. “I only live with one of them. The other one just shows up on week-ends and makes us food.” Yoongi nodded like that made perfect sense.

Yoongi was a button-masher, Jimin could tell. Unfortunately for Jimin, button-mashing was a valid strategy in Smash, and Jimin lost. More than once.

When Namjoon and Jin left, there was unfortunately no discreet exit or a simple, ‘Bye, Jimin’. It was mostly Jin’s fault, he assumed, that their departure turned into an event. “We’re leaving!” Jin’s voice echoed in the small apartment building, “Be good while we’re gone! That means you, Jimin!” Jimin just rolled his eyes and kept playing.

The door hadn’t been closed for five seconds before Yoongi said, “Pause the game.” And it was that tone of voice, the one Yoongi used to make demands in a nearly shy way, letting Jimin know he was hesitant about something. Of course, Jimin wanted to know what it was; his thumb shifted to the menu button and he turned his head toward Yoongi. It was quick and unexpected, the kiss Yoongi gave him, and the man leaned back with an apology having replaced Jimin’s lips: “Sorry, I just…Nah, I’m not really sorry. I just wanted to.”

Yoongi’s smile, a combination of devious and guilty, made Jimin flustered. He beat away the flushing of his cheeks by slapping Yoongi’s arm. “Geez, you’re something else.” Jimin un-paused the game without warning, just as revenge for catching him off guard. He’d lost all concentration, but perhaps kissing him was all part of Yoongi’s plan to win. Jimin supposed he would have to get used to it, especially since—

“Wait a second,” Jimin paused the game again and turned his head to face Yoongi. “Is this a date?”

The glare Yoongi sent him was impressive. “Jimin, what the hell, I was winning.” he sighed. “Sure, this can be a date. Go nuts.”

That made Jimin sit up a little straighter and rotate his whole body. Jimin’s thought process at that moment was ground-breaking, and he could hardly contain himself. “Then are we dating?”

He saw Yoongi gulp and back away slightly. Apparently Yoongi hadn’t considered that thought either. “I mean, that’s the definition, yeah.”

“Yoongi, we’re dating!” It was such an exciting concept, something that made Jimin feel accomplished. “Dating.” The word tickled his tongue and almost made him giggle; it felt childish, nearly innocent. “So are you…like my boyfriend?”

Yoongi couldn’t hide his smile. “I don’t know, Jimin, I’m not some fucking gay romance specialist.”

Jimin pecked his cheek; he didn’t know what else to do or say. He resumed the game, which Yoongi unfortunately won. Halfway through the next round, Yoongi said quietly, “You know, ‘boyfriend’ doesn’t actually sound so bad.”

 

---

 

Jimin had never seen Namjoon cry before. The man was so passive, so good at keeping everything bottled up, that Jimin had believed it would never spill over. But there he sat on the sofa, cell phone in hand and Jin rubbing his back calmingly, just staring at the floor and crying.

“What happened?” Jimin asked the question to Jin, only to see tears at the corners of his eyes as well.

“He posted a picture of us on Twitter. It wasn’t even romantic or anything; it was only a picture. And apparently his sister said something, and his parents called about an hour ago, and Joon just snapped and told his parents they were never getting biological grandchildren.” Jin sniffed a bit and wiped a tear from his cheek. “Sorry. Everything just happened so fast. Namjoon was going to visit home next month, and his father said not to show up. And now I’m all sad. I’m an ugly crier, too.”

“You’re never ugly,” Namjoon’s voice was thin.

Jin’s eyes had so much sadness in them, but he managed a weak smile anyway. “That makes one of us.” He knelt down and wiped Namjoon’s face dry with a tissue. “I’ll tell you what, we can order a pizza and put on any movie you want—”

“They’re my family, Jin. How can you love me if my own family doesn’t?”

“They do,” Jin took Namjoon by the wrist and placed kisses on his fingers. “They just don’t understand why your life is different from the one they wanted for you. And sure, today kind of sucks. It’s a sad day; I lost my sunglasses this morning, too. But maybe we just aren’t supposed to be happy right now.”

Jimin stood back and watched them, two people so lost in their own world, and he knew they could make it through anything. He watched Namjoon hold onto Jin like he was the entire universe, and he watched Jin smooth down Namjoon’s hair like they simply cared about each other. “I’m serious,” he heard Jin whisper, “A pizza, a movie, and both of us will feel better for a while.” When Namjoon didn’t reply, Jin said, “It’s not your fault, you know.”

“Don’t you dare say it’s your fault.” He was still crying.

Jin pulled his phone out of his pocket. “I love you. It’s nobody’s fault.” They didn’t even care that Jimin was standing right there, because it was true. The phone was placed in Jimin’s hand. “Call the nearest pizza place. I don’t wanna start crying when I order a large cheese and some garlic bread. Please.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, Taehyung.”

“That’s me.”

“Remember all those practice hours that you said weren’t worth it?”

Taehyung chuckled, “You mean the ones where you work yourself too hard and hurt yourself? Yeah, I know those.”

“I just wanted to let you know, they were worth it.”

“Every hour?”

“Every single one.”

Taehyung just nodded, like he understood the value those hours held. “Will you tell me why?”

He couldn’t. Not when Taehyung had so many things in his own life to figure out, not when Jimin was so new to everything, not when Hoseok would probably end up spilling the beans anyway. “Maybe sometime,” Jimin said, “But not today.”

“Okay,” And Taehyung gave him one of those trademark smiles, that put his teeth in two rows and pushed his cheeks against his eyes, “I’ll wait.”

 

---

 

The dreams had gotten worse. Far worse. Not the content, necessarily (Jimin had already exhausted his list of unconscious desires), but the circumstances. Because he’d started spending the night at Yoongi’s more and more often. Even if the man texted him to come over and just take a nap, there was always the risk of waking up with a problem.

Yoongi had never caught him. Never caught him wake up in the middle of the night, calm himself down, and return to Yoongi’s arms. Jimin didn’t want to jerk off in someone else’s bathroom, but it was a better option to him than shame. He was internally thankful for the full shower rights Yoongi had granted him.

And then one day, Jimin woke up and Yoongi’s eyes were already open. Jimin could tell something was wrong as soon as he saw Yoongi’s knowing smirk, and only after did he feel the familiar heat in his stomach. “Morning,” Jimin mumbled and leaned up to kiss him, if only as a distraction to distance his crotch from Yoongi’s body.

“You nasty brat, did you eat dog food at some hellish hour last night?” He was so polite in the mornings. Yoongi pointed towards the bathroom, “Go brush your teeth.”

Jimin didn’t need to be told twice. He was off the mattress in two seconds, turned fully around so Yoongi wouldn’t see the redness in his cheeks or the tightness in his shorts. His hand had just fallen on the door handle when he heard Yoongi’s voice: “Don’t close the door.”

It was their little secret, that Jimin had a spare toothbrush at Yoongi’s place. They kept it in the drawer full of Yoongi’s stuff, so Hoseok wouldn’t see. His blue toothbrush looked perfect alongside Yoongi’s grey one. Jimin brushed his teeth with purpose and urgency, cringing at the saturation of Yoongi’s spearmint toothpaste. In the mirror, he saw Yoongi lean against the doorframe and just watch Jimin. It made his coordination weak, and Jimin poked himself in the cheek more than once. Then Yoongi’s thin arms wrapped around him from behind, drawing Jimin into his chest. Jimin wanted him to leave, so he could brush his teeth in peace and then relieve himself. But no—Yoongi felt it was necessary to kiss up and down the side of Jimin’s neck, certainly not helping his case. “You okay?” Yoongi’s question was muffled by his skin.

“Mm. Yeah, I’m fine.” The hardest part was not letting toothpaste drip out his mouth and onto Yoongi’s arms.

“Are you sure?” Yoongi paused in his ministrations, moving his hands down to Jimin’s hips. “Because a few minutes ago you seemed pretty fucked over.” His fingers traced the bottom of Jimin’s tank, just against the elastic of his shorts. It made Jimin shiver. Teeth grazed his throat and the strong toothpaste almost clogged his breathing. The voice in Jimin’s ear was low. “Or maybe you want to be fucked over.”

It was the fastest Jimin had ever brushed his teeth. He spat out the toothpaste in the sink and turned around to look Yoongi in the eyes. There was something exciting about being pinned against the bathroom counter at ten in the morning. He held Yoongi’s hands steady against his hips and let the man chip away at his collarbone.

Except for the first night, they’d never talked about sex. Perhaps it was just because of the sheer foreignness to the subject; Jimin hadn’t even known how it would work between two men. But since then, he’d done research. Embarrassing research that included infinitely many private browsing windows and letting Jin vent about how ‘amazing’ his sex life was (and it was hard to get Jin to shut up about that). And Jimin had come to the conclusion that he wanted to touch Yoongi, and wanted Yoongi to touch him.

So perhaps it was a blessing that he’d woken up with a boner that morning.

“Yoongi…”

“God, Jimin, isn’t there some law of attraction or something that should prevent me from ending up with someone so…Fuck, I don’t even know. Perfect?” His palm brushed Jimin’s stomach and Jimin decided both their shirts needed to come off at that moment. Jimin fumbled with getting the cloth over his head, especially when Yoongi whispered, “You’re fucking beautiful.”

Jimin was modest in his very nature, but he loved the praise. And something about the compliments coming from Yoongi’s lips, they held more weight. He believed them. “Yoongi,” When Jimin’s mind was somewhere else, it was hard to put the words together. “Yoongi.”

Yoongi lifted Jimin’s chin and his eyes were almost nervous. “Tell me what you want, Jimin.”

“I want—” He grasped Yoongi’s hand again. “I want you to—” And he brought Yoongi’s hand down to the front of his shorts and it was already better than anything Jimin had ever dreamed about. “Please just touch me.”

He looked like he had no idea what to do. Someone so sure of actions, someone so relaxed, had transformed into an inexperienced young man, who actually looked his age. His breath became uneven as he palmed the fabric experimentally, but really, Jimin would have liked anything Yoongi did to him. Jimin tried to stop himself from moaning, except he’d given up on that as soon as Yoongi’s hand started moving.

And once Yoongi gained confidence, Jimin should have known he’d be a goner. It wasn’t even a minute before Yoongi decided the contact wasn’t enough and his hand slipped into Jimin’s shorts without any warning. He passed kisses all over Jimin’s skin (Jimin would have kissed him back, but he was concentrating too intently on not disintegrating). “Do you ever touch yourself like this?” he breathed, and it made Jimin’s head spin. He wasn’t in the mood for lying; he just nodded erratically exhaled a most honest, ‘Yes’. “Fuck, that’s—that’s hot.”

Jimin gripped the hem of Yoongi’s shirt and tried to pull it off, succeeding only when Yoongi took his hand out of Jimin’s pants for a moment. Yoongi was lean, and his skin was so smooth and tempting. So Jimin felt him; he felt up and down Yoongi’s chest and his back, and wherever their skin touched was burning and Jimin loved it.  And then Yoongi’s hand was down his shorts again, and the friction was impeccable and filthy, and he kissed Jimin more frantically than they’d ever kissed before.

“Where did you—fuck—learn this?” Jimin couldn’t help himself; he talked like a saint every day, but under Yoongi’s hands it was all gasps and profanities.

“I Googled it,” Yoongi sighed. And that flattered Jimin, to know that Yoongi had taken the time to research hand jobs just for him. Yoongi slipped his other hand down his own boxers, and Jimin wished he could do something else besides kiss Yoongi and feel his skin, but he was a mess.

He came apart like that, by ten-thirty in the morning, pushed against the bathroom counter of Yoongi’s apartment.

It was perfect.

 

---

 

Hoseok passed him a water bottle and a towel. “Let’s break for a sec,” he wheezed out.

“I’m cool with that.” Jimin fell to the floor and began draining the water. They’d been practicing for an hour; a break was well-deserved.

“So,” The older dancer blinked rapidly at him, perhaps in an effort to appear cute. “How are things with you and Yoongi?”

He should have seen the question coming, especially from the man who anxiously inhaled every single interaction between him and Yoongi. “Things are good.”

“Are you sure? Are you sure they’re just ‘good’?” He seemed almost nervous to hear Jimin’s answer.

“Okay, things are pretty great, actually. He’s a really awesome guy.”

Hoseok whistled, a single low tone. “Never heard anyone call Yoongi ‘awesome’ before.” He laughed and joined Jimin on the floor. “Seriously, though, I just wanna thank you. I’ve never seen him so happy before. Like, I know he doesn’t look happy, but he’s probably shitting sunshine right now.” Sometimes Hoseok talked like Taehyung, sometimes like Namjoon, and it caught Jimin off-balance.

“I mean, I’m not some angel sent from heaven to rescue Yoongi, you know?”

Hoseok laid on his back, like the cracks in the ceiling were constellations. “Exactly. But he doesn’t need an angel—just someone who know how he thinks and knows he’s not that much of an asshole. He stopped smoking for you. Even if he says it’s for something else, he did it for you. I’ve been trying for, like, five years now. And it took you—what—two months?”

He was talking like Jimin was amazing, a miracle. Jimin didn’t think so; he hadn’t done anything, really, to make Yoongi stop smoking, or make Yoongi attached to him, but it was all there and it made Jimin’s head hurt. “Alright, hop up,” he yanked Hoseok to his feet, “Break’s over. You taught me popping last time, so today I’m teaching you a little ballet.”

Hoseok sighed and it seemed to bring back all his spunk. “Well, finally! I need to know how you snatched Min Yoongi in the first place!”

And when Yoongi showed up an hour later, called them both idiots, and refused to give Jimin a kiss because he was “sweaty and have been around Hoseok too much,” Jimin thought maybe it was a small miracle that he’d met Yoongi at all.

 

---

 

“I’ve been chewing so much gum lately, my jaw hurts.”

Jimin rolled his eyes; he was sick of hearing about it, and didn’t know what Yoongi wanted him to do. “If you want a cigarette so badly, just take one.”

“It’s not that easy.” Yoongi sat down next to Jimin on the floor. “If I take one, that means I can take another. I can’t smoke anymore; I won’t let myself.”

They were quiet for a moment, then Jimin asked, “Why did you stop?”

“I already told you: it’s just stupid.”

“No, like an actual reason.” He thought back to what Hoseok said, and the curiosity in the back of his brain made itself known.

Yoongi chuckled. “There are a lot of things I want to do in my life, Park Jimin. I want to do those things because I want to do them.” He pulled out a stick of gum—the strong kind, the same as his toothpaste—and popped it in his mouth. “I don’t wanna miss opportunities and shit because of, ‘Oh, I have to go buy cigarettes,’ or, ‘Oh, I have to go to the hospital because I fucking got cancer.’ That sucks. Smoking sucks ass.” He got up and sat at the piano bench. “Want gum or something?”

Jimin’s mind went back to the first night they met, like a camera flashing; Yoongi hadn’t changed much since then, but at the same time he was a different person, a more peaceful version of himself. He nodded. “Sure, why not?”

 

---

 

Months later, Jimin would say that his favorite place in the world was Yoongi’s apartment—either in the dance studio with the new speaker Yoongi had bought (“I know I already have a speaker, Jimin, but I need this one.”), or in Yoongi’s room, with the old mattress and sparse decorating.

His favorite time of day was after 6:00, when he and Yoongi would be in the studio for a mutual practice session—either Yoongi on piano, Jimin dancing, or both. Those were the best times, when their energies would bounce off each other and off the mirrors in music and motion, and it was almost as spiritual as sex (almost).

Because after that first sexual encounter, the dam walls had caved in and the floodgates crashed down. Suddenly, sex was all Jimin could think about. He was addicted to the feel of Yoongi’s body, the rhythm they set on Yoongi’s mattress, the little touches that would never feel as good if Jimin touched himself in the same place. And for someone who liked to take things easy and not over-exert himself, Yoongi was insane in bed. Jimin usually liked to be in control, but he didn’t care if he lost all power when Yoongi was sliding against him. It made him remember, at those times, that Yoongi was two years older than him, with two years’ more experience, and Jimin felt so mature.

Their first time was nothing short of a nightmare, with both of them just figuring things out and having to get over the fact that sex was different with another man. Seeing Yoongi’s naked body, and Jimin not wearing anything himself—it was almost surreal. The experience was more intimate than anything Jimin had done in the past, because it was with Yoongi. But it was incomparable, in a way, because Jimin had nothing to compare it to and because, with Yoongi, he hadn’t expected a flawless first time anyway. And Jimin thought, afterward when they were both spent and dirty and Yoongi laid beside him and kissed him until they both fell asleep, that it was the best feeling in the world.

He started wearing Yoongi’s clothes, started becoming less cautious if there were bruises on his skin, started letting go of embarrassment when he had to buy condoms. Namjoon would always make sly comments about it, if Jimin came home early in the morning, saying, “Well, looks like you had a good time last night,” or, “Jimin, I never knew you were such a deviant.”

Hoseok wasn’t much better, slipping Jimin socks in the dining hall, “you know, in case you need to hang it on a door handle or something later,” and making innuendos that flew miles over Taehyung’s head and just grazed the top of Jungkook’s.

It became normal to joke about sex, something Jimin would never have brought up to Yoongi when they’d first met. Jimin felt childish, laughing at Yoongi’s dirty remarks or making some himself, but maybe that was a good thing. For some fleeting seconds, Jimin would be caught off guard when he saw Yoongi’s face, shot with such an adoration he’d never seen coming. He wondered, at those times, if he’d done a classic misstep and taken lust for affection.

But then Yoongi would smile at him, or play the piano so gently like he always did, and Jimin would think that perhaps the lust had sprung from affection. Perhaps it started with caring and infatuation, hidden deep beneath Jimin’s skin, projecting itself in Jimin’s dreams. Perhaps, at that point, it was love.

 

---

 

Jimin’s mother visited, unannounced, on a lazy Saturday. It was the kind of Saturday where Hoseok would be out somewhere, the social butterfly he was, and Jimin would lie on Yoongi’s mattress and Yoongi would do sinful things to him, made almost innocent by both of their sleepiness. That day, the only noise besides their breathing and the air vent was Jimin’s phone, and Jimin reached over the edge of the mattress to feel around for his pants without opening an eye. “Jimin,” Yoongi’s voice was heavy as he ran a hand along Jimin’s side and pressed tickling kisses on his stomach, “Don’t get the phone.”

“I have to,” Jimin mumbled, grabbing his cell out of his pocket, “It could be—oh, shit—important.” He squinted his eyes open the minimum amount possible and pressed ‘talk’. “’Sup.”

Park Jimin,” Namjoon sounded stern, “I don’t care what you’re doing right now, and please don’t tell me, but Jin is going to be here in two hours and your mother just showed up at our doorstep. I’m in the bathroom currently, and I told her you were out buying eggs—”

Jimin shot his body up, chest bumping against Yoongi’s head in the process. “Fuck!”

“Jimin, what the—”

“No, not you, Yoongi, my mom is at my apartment, and I’m not, and I look like a prostitute, and where am I gonna get eggs?” Namjoon, on the other end, was still rattling off his plan in a hushed voice.

Yoongi’s eyes expanded and he rolled off of Jimin, standing so fast he had to brace himself on the wall, and began scrambling for Jimin’s clothing. He tossed a full outfit at Jimin, half of which consisted of his own clothes. As Jimin yanked shirts over his head and wound socks around his ankles, Jimin whispered, ‘Do you have eggs in your fridge?’ and sighed at Yoongi’s helpless expression. “Namjoon, I’ll be there in five minutes, maybe with eggs. Just hold her off until then, thank you!” He hung up abruptly, running to the bathroom and catching a glance at his appearance in the mirror. “Yoongi, I can’t wear this!” The V-neck Yoongi had hurled at his almost accentuated the impressive array of hickeys on Jimin’s neck. “My mom thinks I’m a virgin! A virgin who likes girls!”

“Well, I like it.” Jimin shot him a look. “Fine. Then put on a jacket—zip it up and say you were cold or something.” As helpful as ever. “And we don’t have eggs; they make Hoseok sick. Just say there weren’t any.”

Jimin had stolen Yoongi’s hairbrush, passing it frantically over his head with one hand and shoving his toothbrush in his mouth with the other. “What store doesn’t have eggs?”

Yoongi threw his hands up. “I don’t know, the store you fucking went to?” He popped out of the room and came back with a high-strung sweatshirt. “Now get out of here and haul ass back to your place.”

Jimin put the final touches on his hair and spit into the sink, splashing water on his face a few times before planting a kiss squarely on Yoongi’s lips. “Thanks, you’re the best, bye!”

He watched Jimin go, calling after him, “Sure, tell your mom she was a cock-block for me!”

The walk from Yoongi’s apartment to his own was not nearly enough time to prepare himself for the onslaught of questions. Seeing his mother again was unusual; she hardly felt like his idea of a ‘mother’, because Jimin did his own laundry and had his own credit card and fixed his own problems. And yet, she looked the same as she did in his five-year-old memories, growing old with Jimin’s brain.

“And there he is,” She took Jimin’s cheeks in her hands and kissed them both. “My Jimin! How have you been? Are you eating well?”

 “I’m fine, mom. And lately, I’ve been eating like a pig,” Ever since Jin came into the picture. “Now how about you? I don’t mean to sound rude, not at all, but why exactly are you here?”

Mrs. Park smiled, a smile Jimin hadn’t seen since he went home for winter holiday. “Oh, you know your brother. Such a bright kid. His school’s science competition is in Seoul this year—right now, actually—so I just had to visit you while we were here.” A bit of warning would have been appreciated, but she looked so excited and proud that Jimin couldn’t complain.

“Say ‘hi’ to him for me,”

Jimin saw the glint in Namjoon’s eye in his peripherals. “Hey, Jimin, did you get the eggs?”

He was really going to murder Namjoon someday. “Well, as a matter of fact, they were out.” Jimin flashed him a clench-jawed smile.

“Out of eggs?” Jimin’s mother looked genuinely concerned. “Where on earth did you go?”

“The store.” Jimin deadpanned, ignoring Namjoon’s suppressed laughter.

Mrs. Park beamed. “Always a comic. I must say, I’m surprised. This place is so clean; you could never tell two young men live here!”

A rush of guilt struck Jimin. Because he didn’t live there, not really. He floated between apartments, between lives, choosing Yoongi’s bare apartment and run-down studio over the place he helped pay for. It was Namjoon and Jin’s flat on the weekends, just like Yoongi’s apartment was his and Jimin’s on the weekends. Namjoon caught his eye for a second and jumped in, “We try to be neat.”

They sat down around a table, the three of them, and Namjoon kept silently begging Jimin to say something that got her out before Jin arrived. As much as Jimin didn’t want to kick out his own mother, salvaging his home life was more important. “Well, mom, it’s been really great seeing you. But Namjoon’s, uh, girlfriend is coming over really soon and they haven’t seen each other in a while, you know?”

She looked at Namjoon with little stars in her eyes. “Young love. I understand, I’ll be out of your hair in a few. Just wanted to drop by. You’re so mature, Namjoon—you have a job, a relationship…Jimin, when will you get any of that?”

Always comparing him to other people, in true motherly fashion. “Actually, I was thinking of getting a girlfriend. And then a few months ago, I decided I didn’t really want one anymore.” It was an honest answer.

“That’s completely fine! I respect your choice, of course.” Jimin wondered if she would respect his relationship with another man. “I’ll wait.” And it seemed to Jimin like everyone in his life was just waiting—waiting for Jimin to grow up, waiting for Jimin to sort his life out, waiting for Jimin to share secrets and come clean.

They could keep waiting.

 

---

 

The slow melody of “Kiss the Rain” reverberated off the mirrors and Jimin rolled his eyes at Yoongi’s evident smirk. He wanted to push the man off the bench for choosing such a cheesy song, but it really just made him smile. “Yoongi,”

“Hm?”

He rested his head against Yoongi’s shoulder, feeling the muscles beneath his ear tense briefly at the contact. “Could you have picked a sappier song?”

Yoongi kept playing, “What’s wrong, Jimin, you don’t like ‘Kiss the Rain’?”

A few seconds later, he stopped and his smile fell. Jimin lifted his head. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Yoongi crinkled his nose a bit, but not in a way Jimin would have found endearing. “I just hate that smell.” And Yoongi’s eyes were trained straight ahead, like he’d said something he shouldn’t have.

But Jimin didn’t smell anything, not really. It must have been subtle; he did notice a sharpness touch his nose, but nothing Jimin could put a name to. “What smell?”

“Never mind,” He looked like he wanted to play piano again, but couldn’t get his fingers back on the keys.

And then Jimin heard talking, and footsteps outside the door. That was nothing new, but when the smell grew stronger, Jimin’s brain numbed a bit. Yoongi had picked up on the scent before Jimin simply because of familiarity; it was the dark, suffocating smell of smoke and nicotine—someone outside had lit a cigarette.

Jimin tried to catch Yoongi’s attention, but he was too wrapped up in what seemed to be shame or remorse. And the words flew out of Jimin’s mouth, maybe driven by how honest they were, or maybe just so Yoongi would look at him: “I love you.”

It was exactly the reaction Jimin had expected (and he had imagined how those words would feel so, so many times), the sudden turning of Yoongi’s head, the near-panicked eyes, the stare that lasted a good two seconds, just figuring out if Jimin was telling the truth. He didn’t say anything back. But he started playing again, that cheesy song, from the beginning. And a few measures in, there was a smile, gums and everything, and small laughs that barely sounded. It made Jimin laugh, too, and he put his head back on Yoongi’s shoulder.

Jimin supposed that to an onlooker, they would appear the same as they had some minutes ago—the same part of the same song, in the same position, but something was hanging between them this time with invisible weight.

That night, sitting on Yoongi’s cheap sofa and paying more attention to Hoseok’s obnoxious laughter than the low-budget film they’d chosen, Yoongi talked to Jimin while still looking at the small screen. “Jimin.”

“Yeah?”

He could tell Hoseok was eavesdropping, but that was unavoidable. “I don’t…hate you.”

Hoseok chuckled loudly. “Well geez, Yoongi, that’s one person off your list!” but Jimin understood.

Yoongi ignored Hoseok and repeated himself. “I really don’t hate you.” For Jimin, that was enough. He’d never expected anything from Yoongi, not since day one, because he had no reason to. And when he looked in Yoongi’s direction, the dim illumination from the television appeared as a red light, rising and shifting and repeating, sparking along Yoongi’s profile. It was mesmerizing.

He followed Yoongi’s eyes, not focused on the television but instead on nothing, and that didn’t surprise Jimin. And so Jimin reached across the gap between them, taking Yoongi’s lonely hand, and he remembered a time when his life was boring and routine, and he would argue with Namjoon and stare at an eggshell ceiling.

But things were different now.

 

Chapter Text

“Hey, I’m heading out.”

Jimin said that a lot; he was always doing something, always practicing or hanging with friends who weren’t Namjoon. Sometimes he felt Jimin was trying to escape, to get away. “Oh, where?”

“Just with Tae and Jungkook. Tae wants to go to karaoke.”

Namjoon chuckled, “I thought you said he’s been getting on your nerves lately.”

Jimin put a jacket on and grabbed his keys and wallet. “He’s always on my nerves. Him and Kookie won’t shut up about this dancer at our school. And Tae’s not even in the dance program!” He scoffed and made for the door. “Anyway, I’ll be back in a few hours. Unless you wanna come with us? Like a room-mate double date?”

He always invited Namjoon. But Namjoon imagined that if a stranger stopped Jimin on the street on his way to Taehyung and Jungkook’s place, Jimin would have invited the stranger to karaoke as well. Because that was who Jimin was: someone with so much affection, someone popular, someone kind and easy to get along with. He was so different from Namjoon. And Namjoon probably didn’t deserve such a sweet room-mate, who invited him places even when he knew Namjoon would decline. “I’ve still got some work to do,” Namjoon said, “So I’ll skip out on this one.”

Jimin frowned. He frowned like he’d expected Namjoon to change his mind. But Namjoon would never want to interrupt plans (although, if Jimin’s friends were anything like him, they wouldn’t care). He did have work to do, that wasn’t a lie, but Namjoon couldn’t shake the feeling that Jimin had only invited him to be nice. So he always said no. He stayed home instead, and put on some music, and tried to convince himself that it was better to be alone.

 

---

 

Kim Namjoon liked people to think he was a simple man. Someone who lived in a monochrome apartment, wore plain clothing, and worked a typical desk job—the perfect façade for a person so involved, so complex.

No one ever called him out on it. No one ever said, “You’re a really complicated guy,” or, “I wish I could know what deep thoughts you’re thinking today.” But everyone knew, everyone who’d known Namjoon for more than a day.

When he started talking to Kim Seokjin, it was almost an accident. Just innocent messages on Twitter between strangers, Namjoon asking him questions because Kim Seokjin had offered and that was his job—to help people with food. One day it would be, “I need to know what settings you put your rice cooker on, for the best-tasting rice, you know,” and the next, “I heard that skim milk is better in cereal than two-percent. Your thoughts on this?”

But he didn’t care about any of that; Namjoon was perfectly content with cheap takeout and microwaved meals every day. He had no use for cooking, and yet he kept trying to talk to someone who was an expert in it. When Namjoon was younger, his mother had cautioned him about talking to strangers on the Internet, and while Namjoon would never want to cross his mother, he was an adult. A very lonely adult who declined karaoke offers in favor of staying home. And Seokjin always responded within ten minutes, always in the most polite way, with a, ‘Hope this helps!’ tacked on like Namjoon wasn’t bothering him at all. Suddenly, he was almost abusing the power, direct-messaging Kim Seokjin about pointless things at least four times a week.

He was too good to be true, Namjoon thought. He had everything in the world going for him, and maybe Namjoon kept pestering him with pointless cooking questions because he wanted to know how Seokjin did it all.

When Seokjin gave Namjoon his number, it was casual and understated, just Seokjin saying, “You know, I can just give you my number so you don’t have to DM me all the time.” And it was something Namjoon couldn’t argue with; it made sense. Namjoon loved things that made sense.

He never texted Seokjin about anything other than cooking. However, through Seokjin’s brief answers and advice that Namjoon would never use, he still ended up learning who the other man was: a man so patient, so genuine and willing to help others, a man firm and confident and powerful. And he wanted to know more, wanted to text Seokjin about something not related to food. But he knew that as soon as he texted Seokjin about anything else, he’d be a goner. He’d latch onto Seokjin in an instant.

Namjoon was hesitant. In everything he did, he was hesitant and indecisive and a part of him hated it. The amount of time he spent with his thumb hovering over the ‘call’ button, just curious as to what Seokjin’s voice sounded like, was embarrassing. Because after a few weeks of pestering Seokjin with stupid cooking questions, he’d grown attached; he’d text a question to Seokjin on a bad day just to know the man was there. But just as much as he was hesitant, he was clumsy, and one day his thumb slipped. His thumb slipped and the ‘call’ button was most definitely pressed, and Namjoon didn’t even try to disconnect; he simply sat there, staring at his phone with wide eyes and silent prayer that Seokjin wouldn’t pick up. And then he heard it, the soft click and the, “Hello?”

He didn’t say anything. He just kept staring and holding his breath, because that was Kim Seokjin’s voice.

Hello? Is this Namjoon?”

“Oh.” Namjoon snapped out of his spell and brought the phone to his ear, “Yeah, hi.” He’d never been good at talking on the phone, especially if it was an accidental call. “Are you still there?”

He heard Seokjin laugh quietly and it made his breath catch. “Yes, sorry. It’s just—your voice, I—never mind. Did you need something?” Namjoon didn’t know how to interpret that.

“Um, no, actually,” he admitted, “I must’ve called you on accident. Sorry if you were busy, Seokjin.”

There was a pause again. “‘Seokjin?’ Oh, just Jin is fine. And I wasn’t busy, don’t worry.” Namjoon couldn’t believe it; his voice was so pure and clear and sounded like honey.

“Well, that’s good.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say. “That’s good.” He took the phone away for a second to clear his throat. “Didn’t mean to bother you. Sorry again. Talk to you later.”

Alright,” Seokjin—Jin—said, “Talk to you later.”

Click. He wanted to call Jin again.

 

---

 

With Kim Seokjin, everything was a first. The first time Namjoon craved talking on the phone, the first person he’d ever hidden from his room-mate, the first time he’d ever felt a connection to someone so far away.

There was no romance between them, just some bizarre and makeshift friendship, and so Namjoon tried to keep down that feeling, the one he got in high-school when he was interested in a girl (or a girl’s brother).

Maybe the worst part was the miscommunication. He couldn’t tell whether or not Jin was flirting, or whether he was interested in men at all. But they’d slipped into a pattern, even in different cities, and that pattern involved Namjoon calling Jin three times a week just to talk. They stopped talking about just cooking and talked about everything—about how Jin got into cooking, about how Namjoon never learned to cook at all, about the weather, about everything.

Sometimes he knew Jin was a little tipsy, and sometimes he was a little tipsy himself, but those were perhaps the best conversations; there seemed to be more things to talk about, and Namjoon could hear Jin’s laugh more (it sounded like a broken hinge or a windshield-wiper). At the same time, it was dangerous. Namjoon knew he was playing with fire. The more he talked to Jin, the more complicated everything became. Namjoon didn’t think they were friends, but they weren’t acquaintances either. All he knew was that he wanted to talk to Kim Seokjin.

A part of him knew he was falling—had been falling since he first direct-messaged Jin on Twitter, or maybe before. And he hated it, because Jin kept pushing, kept insinuating things so lightly and Namjoon never knew if he was serious. He didn’t know if Jin was playing with his head on purpose, or if he talked to everyone like that and Namjoon was buying it for more than it was worth.

Jin asked the question first, during one of their more alcohol-driven conversations: “Namjoon, why are we talking right now?”

Namjoon kept his voice low so Jimin didn’t hear him, “I don’t know, because I called you?”

Seriously, Namjoon? I mean, why are we talking? Like, I don’t even know you, really. And we don’t have much in common.”

“I can hang up, if you want—”

No, don’t be stupid, I want to talk to you, I just don’t know why I am.

He let Jin’s words hang in the air for a moment, then said, “Well, I want to talk to you, too. We don’t need a reason to talk to each other.” It came out as more sentimental than he’d intended. “But I guess, if we did need a reason, it would be wanting to talk to each other.”

Jin started laughing, that high-pitched and squeaky laugh. “Namjoon, I’m much too drunk for this. And I’ve only had three beers.”

“Lightweight.”

Wow, I don’t know if I want to talk to you anymore,” he yawned, and even that was endearing, “I’m kidding. I’m also tired. I need my beauty rest, Namjoon.”

Namjoon smirked, even if Jin couldn’t see. “In that case, good night.”

Good night,” Jin yawned again, “Talk to you later.”

 

---

 

There was something so temporary and limiting about technology that distorted reality. It was for that reason Namjoon detested anything with a light-up screen; they distracted him, made him lose focus on his work and on his life. And technology was unreliable, especially for someone with a destructive touch like Namjoon, making him remember how fragile the world was becoming.

But lately, Namjoon’s phone had become his lifeline. It was pathetic, the way he always kept it in-hand. Even Jimin noticed it: “Hey, why are you always hugging your phone lately? And you’re the one constantly complaining about how phones are the bane of society.”

In Namjoon’s opinion, images never turned out quite right on a screen. Photographs were nothing compared to actually seeing something, actually viewing something from every angle and absorbing the way the light hit its surface. This was also the case with Kim Seokjin. He looked amazing on camera, with every image he posted on social media. But the glare of a lamp, or that perfect-selfie angle, made Namjoon forget that Jin was real. Jin was an actual person who actually existed. And Namjoon would give anything to really examine him, in real lighting, and just take in his appearance and his voice for real.

He was the one who suggested it, when Jin texted him because, ‘I’m bored.’ Namjoon had texted him back with so little thought, just a quick, “You could video call me if you’re decent,” not really meaning to say it at all. Nevertheless, two minutes later he was looking out the camera of Jin’s laptop, the other man greeting him with, “I’m always decent.”

Jin sounded different on video, his voice rougher. He looked different, too, and Namjoon didn’t know which was more accurate to real life. Or maybe it was Namjoon’s headphones; he’d plug them into his phone, so Jimin couldn’t hear.

To Namjoon, Jin was like a goal. It wasn’t that Namjoon wanted to be Jin; rather, he wanted to get to Jin. A very unattainable goal, but one that seemed so close every time they talked. He wanted to get into Jin’s thoughts, wanted to make Jin laugh and wanted to confuse him, to catch him off-balance. He wanted to make Jin feel special, like he’d always have Namjoon’s attention. He wanted to get to Jin in the way Jin got to him.

And it got worse. Every day it got worse; with every video call he’d notice something little about Jin, like how his fingers were double-jointed or how he had one ear pierced or how broad his shoulders were. It was like an illness, consuming every aspect of Namjoon’s life, and all he could do was hope Jin was sick, too.

 

---

 

Namjoon.”

“Yeah?” His words were sleepy, from a long work day.

Jin laid his laptop on his bed momentarily to change positions, giving Namjoon a generous view of his ceiling. “I was going to ask something, but never mind.”

Of course, it only increased Namjoon’s curiosity; Jin didn’t say it in a teasing manner, rather he was actually reluctant to ask Namjoon something. “No, you can ask me. I won’t laugh.”

That’s not what I’m worried about,” Jin smiled lazily at him.

“Don’t worry about anything.” Namjoon assured him, “If you want to, just ask me.”

Jin hummed to himself, “Fine, you’ve convinced me. I was wondering—” He licked his lips and didn’t meet Namjoon’s eyes—“do you ever, I don’t know, think about me?”

“Think about you in what way?” He was almost nervous to ask.

The other man stayed silent for a moment. “I don’t know. I just think there’s something different with you than with other people I know. Like, we act different.”

And Namjoon knew what he meant and he knew exactly why: it was because they were careless. They were careless because there was no risk, no chance they’d bump into each other at cafés or at the mall, and so they flirted dangerously and teetered on the line of intrigue. So Namjoon sighed, he sighed and told the truth. “Yeah, I think about you.”

Jin closed his eyes for a moment, and Namjoon knew he wasn’t tired, “How?

It was ridiculous that he had to ask. “You know how.”

Jin, from his bedroom hundreds of kilometers away, buried his face in a pillow to muffle his voice. “I think about you, too,” Then, in a sudden streak of boldness, he raised his head and looked directly into the camera, directly at Namjoon. “What should we do about that?

Namjoon just smiled. Jin was leading his words, driving them from his mouth. “You ever had a boyfriend before?”

Geez, this feels like a grade-school slumber party,” Jin laughed, and thought for what felt like a long time, then said, “Yes. Have you?

Not even Namjoon knew the answer to that question. He decided on an open answer. “I’ve wanted one before.”

And Jin just nodded, like he understood, and then everything stopped. They dropped the conversation and talked about something else. It didn’t feel awkward, more like a smooth progression of topics that Namjoon welcomed. And he wondered just how much Jin thought of him, just how much he affected Jin. But he didn’t ask.

 

---

 

For the next three weeks, Namjoon made a transition; everything became Jin. The more they talked, the more puzzle pieces he gathered, the more he stuck those pieces on the life already around him. The coffee at the convenience store that he swore was too bitter—that was Jin’s coffee; the pink sweater at the mall he and Jimin walked right past last week—that could be Jin’s sweater; the jjajangmyeon he ate for lunch—Jin could have eaten that. It was astounding, how many things reminded him of Jin. Namjoon was teetering on the edge of giddy with his thoughts.

They started video chatting every night, until dawn or until Namjoon’s phone died (whichever came first). And Namjoon thought he was just a little bit addicted.  Even the way Jin would sit, with his legs crossed and leaning forward like Namjoon had all of his attention, was borderline seductive to Namjoon, even if it wasn’t intended to be. Namjoon hated how selfish he was, how he craved every word that fell out of Jin’s mouth.

He was different. Different from anyone Namjoon had ever met—Jin was both controlled and reckless, he was so masculine and yet enjoyed feminine things, he loved food and still looked like a model. And he cared; whenever Namjoon would say something without thinking, something unexpectedly deep, Jin would just blink and rest his chin against his palm and ask, “Why do you think so?”

It was a dark day, at least where Namjoon was, storm clouds hanging overhead. So Namjoon just stayed inside, sitting in the kitchen while Jimin was at the studio and Jin was projected on Namjoon’s phone. He didn’t know why Jin said it, perhaps just to mess with him: “You look nice today.”

“Oh, do I?”

Mhm,” Jin nodded and a comfortable silence washed over them, broken a moment later. “Namjoon.”

“Yes?”

Jin started laughing then, and Namjoon knew he was either going to say something stupid and ask something stupid. “Remember when you said you wanted a boyfriend before?

Namjoon smiled; he was right, of course, and Jin covered his face with his hands in regret. But he answered Jin anyway. “Yeah, I remember.”

Do you want one now?” Jin kept laughing, and Namjoon felt it too, this giddiness that just appeared and neither of them could explain it. Namjoon thought that even if he hid the truth from everyone else in his life, he could for some reason never hide it from Jin.

“Yes.”

And Jin sat up, like he needed to be in a good posture to express his thoughts. “Then let’s do it.”

It felt surreal, and foolish, and spontaneous, all at the same time. Out of nowhere, but it had been coming the whole time. Because Namjoon hadn’t dated since high school, and it felt like so long ago, and even if he’d dated a hundred or a thousand people, he knew being with Jin was entirely out of his comfort zone. Sometimes, though, Namjoon thought it was good to be a little bit foolish. So he nodded.

“Alright.”

 

---

 

Their conversations after that were different. Almost startlingly different, and Namjoon couldn’t tell if that was a good thing (but he thought it was). There was an underlying tone to each word they spoke, almost an implication of something. If they’d been careless before, it was nothing compared to after that night; he swore Jin was trying to virtually seduce him, constantly talking in the sweetest voice and wearing pajamas that hung too loose on him in their video calls.

Namjoon thought it was a joke. He thought Jin was drunk that night, when he’d proposed a relationship. He thought, at the least, they were testing the water and just seeing how things worked. But it became very clear very fast that Jin was dead serious, and instantly Namjoon felt a sense of commitment that he’d never felt in his life. He didn’t know when it happened, maybe weeks before, but he was devoted to Jin.

And it became real; Namjoon was in a relationship—he had a boyfriend named Kim Seokjin and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. For once in his life, he didn’t care if he was being selfish or not; he spoiled himself with Jin’s presence, let Jin talk to him like he was everything in the world, and it was real.

He craved Jin’s good-morning texts, craved Jin’s compliments, craved when they said good-bye and Jin would blow him a kiss through the screen. And it felt right, more right than any relationship Namjoon had been in and he loved it. Jin was positively an angel. And everything in Namjoon’s life could have been falling apart around him, but Jin would still be there, just a phone call away, and Namjoon never wanted it to stop.

 

---

 

“Jimin, can I tell you something?”

Jimin looked up from the small television with a raised brow. “I mean, yeah, but it sounds scary when you say it like that.”

Namjoon sucked in a breath, a silent one, but filled with all the air in the room. Nothing was particularly embarrassing, and yet he could feel every drop of blood trickle into his cheeks and clog his throat, delaying his words. “I’m—and promise you won’t make a big deal out of it,”

“Promise.”

“Great. Well. I’m in a relationship.” He said it cleanly, quickly just like he’d discussed with Jin. They’d been together a week and Namjoon couldn’t act like he wasn’t smitten anymore; he needed to tell someone. Despite his heartbeat and his shaking voice, an involuntary smile spread Namjoon’s lips apart.

The air grew silent; even the television muted for half a second. Then Jimin sprung up from the sofa and did a 180 to face Namjoon. “Seriously? This is so exciting! Okay, okay, tell me about her. Where’s she from, what’s her name, how did you two meet?”

Hearing the assumption in his tone wracked Namjoon with incredible guilt. Of course Jin had to be a girl. But Namjoon wouldn’t admit it. “Woah, slow down. The only name you have to know is ‘Jin’; it’s a nickname. Jin is tall, blond, and looks like a supermodel. I know, hard to believe.”

Jimin seemed lost in concentration, then muttered, “Wow…And when did you meet her if you’re, like, a social recluse? Is she an office secretary? How scandalous—”

No, we met online.” The words exited his mouth before he realized how pathetic they sounded. “And not on a dating site. I’m not that desperate.”

He didn’t like the way Jimin wiggled his eyebrows.

Because he had to live with it—live with Jimin, live with the teasing, knowing that it was all lies, because not telling the truth is sometimes worse than lying.

 

---

 

Namjoon rarely talked to his sister, even when they’d lived under the same roof. Kim Eunmi—she seemed to detest Namjoon when they were younger, because of his intelligence, and they’d never really patched anything up. But he didn’t know who else to call, who else to talk to; everyone at the office was over thirty, and Jimin had already cemented the idea of Jin being a girl.

It was odd to hear her voice again, the same high-pitched tone he’d endured throughout childhood, even if she greeted him with a sigh and a flat, “What do you want, Namjoon?”

“Hello to you, too. Are mom and dad around?”

No. Call the home phone if you wanna talk to them. I’m at the salon, but my hairdresser’s sure taking her sweet time finding the dye.”

Just as snarky as Namjoon remembered her. “Don’t hang up; I know you were going to. Listen, I know we were never really on the best of terms. But I’m an adult, and you’re almost an adult, and it’s about time that we act like it. I should be able to call you up without the apocalypse happening, don’t you think?”

He heard Eunmi sigh again, “Fine, we’ll give it a shot. Do you need something from me?” Even though she was never as smart as Namjoon, she was still smart.

“Actually, kind of. I just have some…news.”

Good news or bad news?”

If that wasn’t the question Namjoon had been asking himself the whole week. “It depends. And it’s like a two-part news.”

Eunmi paused for a second, “Hold on, my hairdresser finally showed her ass around here again. Okay, give me News Part One.”

The first part was easy; it wasn’t any amount of small news, but it seemed like nothing compared to the part he dreaded. “I’m in a relationship.” He said it flatly, not giving Eunmi any room for false interpretation.

Well. Congratulations,” He thought it was the first time she’d ever said that. “And let me guess News Part Two: She’s pregnant?”

Namjoon sucked in a breath. He needed to just tell someone, even if he hadn’t talked to that someone in months. And if that someone couldn’t be Jimin, it had to be his sister. “No, I’m not that kind of guy. The second part is that I don’t have a ‘she’.” Silence soaked through the other line, and Namjoon though that Eunmi didn’t really understand his implication. So he continues, “More like a ‘he’.” And suddenly Namjoon wanted to tell her everything; he wanted to scream to the universe that Kim Seokjin was his. When he heard Eunmi stutter out a response, just incoherent murmuring, he clarified even further: “I’m dating a man, Eunmi. Please say something.”

Then, the phone exploded with laughter, laughter he hadn’t heard in a long time. “Oh, my God, Namjoon, why would that be bad news? I haven’t cared what or who you’ve done for years!” She paused, “Is it serious?”

Relief was an understatement; to know that someone knew Jin existed and didn’t mind was more than comforting. “I mean, I’m serious about it, if that’s what you’re asking. It’s serious enough that I’d call you about it. I wouldn’t have called you if it wasn’t serious, if it were a one-night stand or—”

Calm down, Joon. Now tell me about this guy—I know you’re dying to.” Even over the phone, Namjoon was an obvious romantic.

“His name’s Kim Seokjin. We met online—not through a dating site—and started talking, and got together. Obviously. He lives a few hours away, and works as a food critic. And he’s really good-looking, Eunmi. You know that actor you obsessed over in middle school? He’d look like shit next to Jin.” Namjoon didn’t even go into specifics, like how Jin’s laugh sounded or that face Jin made when he was disappointed. Because he could’ve talked about Jin for eternity if someone would listen.

Eunmi laughed. “Well, you know I need a picture now. And a normal picture, please, don’t you dare, like, crop a nude or something.”

“You foiled my plans,” Namjoon chuckled, “I’ll send a good one after this. But they’re all good ones, in my opinion.”

And after that they just talked. Just caught up on each other’s lives, caught up on the drama and the happiness and the embarrassment they’d missed sharing. Re-told stories they’d forgotten and just laughed together, the way only siblings could. Yes, Namjoon had missed it, had missed his sister, when he’d never admit that to her face or to the years behind them. So much time had passed, and yet no time had passed at all.

When he hung up with Eunmi, it was because, “Oh, here she comes. What if I don’t even want my hair dyed anymore?” and the good-bye was so casual, like when they were kids and Namjoon knew he’d see her every day. But he had the feeling that it wouldn’t be the last time he called Eunmi, not at all.

 

4:51 P.M.

To: Kim Eunmi (sister)

[Image attached.]

 

4:52 P.M.

From: Kim Eunmi (sister)

YOU’RE LUCKY!!!! i’m meeting him some day.

 

4:52 P.M.

From: Kim Eunmi (sister)

If he treats you badly i’ll kick his ass.

 

Maybe, at that point, it was all Namjoon needed to feel normal.

 

---

 

Jimin was sneaking around. Namjoon knew it, and Jimin knew it, and it was so unlink Jimin. Because Jimin told Namjoon everything. And this time, Namjoon didn’t even know what kind of ‘sneaking around’ Jimin was doing. If it was with another person, they certainly weren’t a girl, or Jimin would have told him for sure.

Maybe it was for the better. Maybe Namjoon was right—maybe Jimin really was so unsatisfied living with him that he stayed out until far after the sun set, and Namjoon didn’t even know where he was going.

But those were assumptions. And it would be hypocritical to start making assumptions, when he’d told Jimin for half a year that assuming anything would get him in trouble.

So Namjoon let him be. He didn’t push Jimin, didn’t threaten Jimin. He just let Jimin keep disappearing and returning home with a look on his face that made it hard not to assume—to assume there was a new person in Jimin’s life.

They were both keeping secrets. And Namjoon didn’t know whose was worse, because he didn’t even know Jimin’s secret. But they were both keeping secrets and that was fine, that was okay, because people had to keep secrets from each other, especially if they lived together.

And when Jimin would come home and not feel like talking, and when he’d seem so anxious to get out the door, and when he stopped inviting Namjoon to hang out with him or go to stupid karaoke—

It was fine.

 

---

 

Jin brought up the idea first, in the nonchalant way he brought up everything that scared Namjoon. It was always hanging between them, between the telephone line and between 270 kilometers, “I wish I could see you right now. Like, really see you.”

He knew—they both knew—that their relationship wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t going backwards or forwards, and that was simply due to their distance from each other. It had progressed, yes, from something tentative to something almost frustratingly intense, but Namjoon had reservations. He wanted to meet Jin so badly, but was nearly afraid to.

It took Jin two hours to convince Namjoon. “If we’re together for six months—” and of course they would be; Namjoon knew that from the start—“then promise you’ll meet me. Talking on the phone can’t satisfy all my needs.” And that was certainly a way to convince Namjoon.

Namjoon showed up to the train station thirty minutes early, maybe in case the trains were extremely ahead of schedule or maybe just to prepare himself mentally. He sat on an uncomfortable bench and jumped every time a train rolled in. He kept his head down and tried not to get worked up, so nervous, until a pair of long legs stopped in front of the bench.

And then Jin was there, standing directly in front of him, and Namjoon didn’t think he looked real. He was dressed simply, in a pink jumper and light jeans, but he looked positively radiant. To see that smile in person, where his full lips would pull back to show a set of straight teeth, was unbelievable. Namjoon, for a fraction of a second, forgot how to breathe. And suddenly he was being hugged, tighter than he’d been hugged in years, and Jin’s arms were linked around his waist and his head was in Namjoon’s shoulder and he smelled wonderful. Neither of them cared, in that moment, that they were at a train station, among hundreds of people.

“You’re real,” Jin breathed it into his shoulder, then pulled back at arm’s length and they just looked at each other. “I mean, hello.”

“Hi,” Namjoon grinned. He wanted to touch Jin’s face and his hair, but couldn’t because of where they were. At the same time, however, he didn’t want to move; he wanted to just stay and look at Jin. “You’re…I don’t even know what to say.”

Jin laughed, a laugh he’d heard hundreds of times, but this time it sounded like music. “Do I look better in person?” He winked and put a hand on Namjoon’s arm, and it made Namjoon embarrassed almost. Which it shouldn’t have, because Jin was his boyfriend.

“I don’t know, do I?” Two could play at the playful-teasing game that Jin always initiated.

“You do,” Yes, Jin was definitely flirting and Namjoon was playing right into his hands. “Now, it’s been lovely standing in front of a train, but I’m hungry and this bag is kind of heavy.”

He hadn’t even noticed that Jin had a bag. “Of course, sorry. We’ll just take the bus back to my place and then go out to eat. If that’s okay, I mean.”

Jin brought his hand down to Namjoon’s own, so briefly, then seemed to remember that they were in public. “It’s perfect. Anything is perfect. I’m just glad I’m here.”

They rode the bus in silence, as Namjoon usually did when he was alone. But instead of plugging his ears with music, Namjoon just sat there and actually had to listen to the silence. He was actually involved, this time, connected to another person, even when it was quiet. His hand weighed heavy at his side, too close to Jin’s, because he all he wanted then was to hold Jin’s hand, but he couldn’t. Jin wanted it too, he could tell, from the way his fingers twitched to how he moved his hand to his lap, away from the temptation.

“I’m sorry if my place is kind of a mess,” Namjoon explained as they walked to his apartment complex, “And if my room-mate’s there, we’ll have to resort to Plan B, because he should be at his friend’s place. He thinks I’m with my girlfriend now.”

“Don’t worry, I guarantee you mine is worse; I have food everywhere, even the floor. I live alone, so there’s one less person to pick everything up.”

“But I have one more person to make a mess in the first place.”

Jin laughed and scanned the street, then quietly linked their fingers together when he deemed it empty enough. “You’ve got me there,” Jin’s fingers were so long and thin, and it just felt so good to hold his hand, “And what’s Plan B?”

Namjoon tried not to concentrate on how warm Jin’s hands were. “In Plan B, you’re my cousin.”

He laughed again, and Namjoon decided he was the luckiest man alive to have caused that laugh. “I like Plan A better, the one where we go on a date.”

It sounded so childish when Jin said it, and it probably would have sounded more childish if Namjoon had said it. Still, he shifted his grip in Jin’s hand (already six months into their relationship and they still had to learn how to hold hands). “I like that one better, too.” And they didn’t say anything the rest of the way there, not like on the bus when people would listen, but because they didn’t need to say anything else.

Jin didn’t have many comments about his brief view of Namjoon’s apartment, just, “It definitely looks like you’d live here,” and Namjoon supposed that was a good thing.

The restaurant wasn’t overly fancy because Namjoon couldn’t afford anything overly fancy for two people, especially with Jin’s habit of over-eating.

The waitress was a young girl, and it didn’t take her long to figure out that the two men were on a date. Namjoon supposed it was somewhere between when Jin said, “Table for two,” and when Namjoon ordered a cheap wine, just to make things feel upscale.

He’d watched Jin eat before, just casually during a video call when Jin was grabbing a late meal, but he didn’t truly believe that Jin ate like that all the time. It became clear, however, as soon as Jin’s food arrived, that Namjoon would be broke within the hour.  Before he ate nothing, Jin started laughing to himself.

“What’s funny?” Namjoon asked.

“Nothing, it’s just—this is so weird,” he explained, “It’s like, we’ve eaten together before but never in person. Those were terrible ideas, by the way, your little ‘video dates’; I almost spilled barbecue sauce on my carpet.”

“Sorry.”

“I forgive you. Anyway, this time you’re really here. Tell me that’s not weird.” And with that, Jin shoved a good amount of noodles in his mouth, and it was perhaps the most unromantic thing ever.

Namjoon laughed. He’d end up spitting out his wine if Jin kept enjoying his food so comically. “Really? You got half in your mouth and half on your face.”

Jin rolled his eyes and gestured to Namjoon’s plate, “Eat your food. I’m still handsome.”

It was late when they got back to Namjoon’s apartment; Jin rarely went to Seoul and ended up dragging Namjoon into more stores than he could count because “that one looks cute!” Jin picked up his bag not ten minutes after stepping past the doorway, mumbling something about not wanting to overstay his welcome.

“Should I go now?” Jin asked, but they both knew what the answer would be.

“No.” Namjoon took his hand—he had a lot of lost time to make up for, not holding Jin’s hand—and dragged him into the room. “Because if you leave now, it’s so early that I’ll end up calling you tonight anyway.”

So they sat on the sofa and Namjoon thought it was like having a normal phone conversation, just face-to-face. Which was much better, because he could see Jin how the laptop camera would never show him, and fell his gentle touch and feel where their knees bumped together because of the couch’s angle. And he didn’t know when it happened, but Jin pulled Namjoon’s head into his lap and played with his hair and all Namjoon could think about was how he wanted that every day.

He wanted to kiss Jin. Of course he did; Jin was his boyfriend. And with someone like Jin, someone with such full and pretty lips, it was hard not to picture what kissing him would feel like. So when Jin got up from the couch, just for a drink, Namjoon had to do something. The urge had been pressing him all evening and he’d never acted on it. But he didn’t want to ignore it for another minute; he rose with Jin and caught the man’s waist in his arms, and by the way Jin brushed his nose against Namjoon’s and curled his fingers around Namjoon’s sleeve, he knew what was coming.

“Namjoon,” Jin tilted his head almost teasingly, driving Namjoon mad with no intention of leaning in farther.

So Namjoon did it for him—he kissed Jin like they’d been dating for six months, because they had been, gripping Jin’s hips and devouring every noise he made, and his head swam and he swore his life flashed before his eyes, because he was kissing Kim Seokjin, kissing his boyfriend for the first time and it was incredible. Everything he could smell and taste and hear and feel was Jin. Jin was the one who made it messy, sucking on Namjoon’s lips and tongue and messing up his hair, and neither of them considered it too fast because they’d been dating for half a year and had been anticipating such a moment all that time.

It was somewhere around when Jin moaned or when Namjoon slid his hands underneath the back of Jin’s shirt when they heard it: a human sound, most definitely not from either of them. Namjoon had never been more still in his life when Jin separated from him and they were greeted by Jimin’s face.

He started automatically defending himself, but Jimin didn’t take any of that. Namjoon didn’t think he’d seen Jimin so disgusted before. He had to choose between Jimin thinking he was a cheater and Jimin thinking he liked men (and only one of those was true).

So Namjoon handed it to Jin. He let Jin explain and closed his ears, not wanting to hear his room-mate’s reaction. And then Jimin was laughing and apologizing and he was the best room-mate in the world.

All of the pressure in his head was relieved then, and maybe all of the pressure in the room. Because Jimin knew; he knew Kim Seokjin was a man and he still didn’t hate Namjoon. He’d worried himself for weeks—months—over nothing. And later, sitting alone once again with Jin, just kissing him softly in silence, Namjoon’s only regret was that they hadn’t met sooner.

 

---

 

Suddenly, there came a new name into Namjoon’s life: Min Yoongi. Min Yoongi, the one who appeared at Namjoon’s doorstep with Jimin’s jacket and a flushed face; Min Yoongi, whose name Jimin whispered as if it were holy; Min Yoongi, a name that didn’t mean anything to Namjoon, but meant everything to Jimin.

He’d lived with Jimin for a long time. And somehow, he’d never seen that look in Jimin’s eye, so genuine and precious. He wondered, just in passing, what was so special about Min Yoongi, but Namjoon knew the answer: nothing. He was just a person, like Namjoon was a person and Jimin was a person, but nothing had to be special in order to fall in love.

 

---

 

Seeing Jin regularly took some time to get used to. Because after their first meeting, he found he always wanted to be with Jin. So every week-end, Jin would commute to Namjoon’s apartment. He always offered to travel instead, to save Jin the trip, but Jin simply replied, “How am I supposed to win Jimin over if I’m not there?”

Namjoon’s attitude towards Min Yoongi changed from cautious to thankful almost instantly; with Jimin not coming home until late, Namjoon could indulge himself. He’d kiss Jin until there was no more air left in their lungs and it felt like learning to walk, studying every detail of Jin’s body, every way to make him sigh or shiver.

If Jimin knew the things they did when he was away, he’d kick Namjoon out for sure. While Jin was pure and perfect in appearance, he was sexually devious in a way that Namjoon adored. He swore Jin would get him into trouble, with every touch he snuck and every dark spot he bit into Namjoon’s skin, but he loved all of it. He loved Jin.

He loved waking up on Saturdays with Jin’s chest against his own, legs tangled and hardly any clothing, when everything smelled like sex and Jin. He loved when he stopped getting ‘good-morning’ texts and Jin told him in person instead. He loved when Jin took him out, even just for a walk, and he’d link arms with Namjoon and laugh at Namjoon’s dumb jokes. He loved how permanent Jin felt, wearing Namjoon’s shirts like they were his own or getting food without asking, ‘Can I open your fridge?’ like he did at first. He loved how there was nothing wrong with anything. He loved how it felt too good to be true.

But maybe it was.

 

---

 

He didn’t remember hearing his phone ring, didn’t remember accepting the call, didn’t remember saying, “Hello.” His mother’s voice sounded so tired, not in the way that she hadn’t been sleeping, but in the way that something was wrong. Namjoon did remember the feeling of Jin’s head nestling in his the crook of his neck from behind, as he often did when Namjoon talked on the phone, delicate and quiet kisses being sprinkled on the skin there.

Namjoon answered his mother blindly, as he always did, the flow of conversation routine and predictable. And then he was thrown. “Namjoon, you’d tell us if you were in a relationship, right?” And that voice, it knew more than she was letting on.

He pat Jin’s hip behind him and mouthed, ‘One second,’ then held the phone tighter to his ear. “Mom, you know that eventually I’ll—”

I’m talking about right now, Namjoon. Are you seeing someone?

And Namjoon hesitated. He hesitated and that could have dug his grave. “What makes you think that?”

They went rounds for a few minutes, just lightly brushing the answer to his mother’s question. Perhaps that was the problem: Namjoon talked too similarly to his mother. He should have surrendered from the beginning. It was when Namjoon asked, “Did Eunmi say something to you?” that Jin began to panic. He got closer to Namjoon’s cell, hearing bits and pieces of the conversation.

Is he there right now?” They both knew who she was talking about.

Jin shook his head, trying to make Namjoon lie, but Namjoon felt it better to stall, “Who?”

Your boyfriend.” The words came like venom in his ears. Namjoon’s brain went numb and all he could see was Jin, Jin’s lovely face filled with so much fear. And Namjoon couldn’t lie anymore. He wanted to tell the truth, wanted to finally take a breath and feel rewarded by the fresh air.

But more than anything, Namjoon didn’t want to disappoint his mother. She meant so much. And Namjoon looked back at Jin—beautiful, beautiful Jin who had changed everything in Namjoon’s life—and realized that he had a choice. So he gently cupped his palm on the back of Jin’s neck, just to feel how real he was, and spoke into the phone: “Yes.”

Everything after was hell. He’d never heard so much betrayal in someone’s voice, so much anger. And after Namjoon had emptied his throat of words he didn’t mean (“You’ll never get a grandchild,” “We live separate lives now,”), he stood and listened. Namjoon wedge the phone between his ear and shoulder, wrapped both arms around Jin’s middle, and listened to every word his mother spat at him.

It was like a roller coaster; he just held onto Jin, closed his eyes, and waited until it was all over. At the end, his mother’s voice was hoarse and uneven. “How do you feel, Namjoon? How do you feel, knowing that we raised you like this? To become… just a disgrace?” When Namjoon didn’t say anything, she hung up.

And for the first time in years, Namjoon cried.

 

---

 

Since he’d started living with Jimin, two years ago, Namjoon had always ordered from the same pizza place. It always tasted the same, with cheap canned-tomato sauce and not as much cheese as Namjoon would like, but it was affordable and nothing short of tradition for him and Jimin. His room-mate claimed that pizza was “the true college experience. And I know you’re not in college but still.”

That night, however, the pizza tasted different. It tasted like a turning point, like a decision and like a loss. He sat across from Jin and just looked at him. Jin’s eyes were deep and so sad, holding something he could never say to Namjoon out loud, but it was there. Namjoon had never seen Jin look so distressed while eating food; the man lived for food, delighted in it with a passion that made Namjoon almost jealous. And he knew that pizza was a favorite of Jin’s, as he once told Namjoon to “give up on trying to pleasure me, because you’ll never be as sexy as pizza,” (Namjoon kept trying anyway).

When he glanced at Jimin, it felt like an out-of-body experience. To know that Jimin was by his side, and had supported him for years—Namjoon was overwhelmed with gratefulness. He was reminded of his childhood, sharing meals with his sister and parents, and Namjoon thought that maybe Jimin and Jin were all he needed to have a family. That maybe ‘family’ was more of a concept than a unit, more of a feeling than a position.

“Ugh, guys,” Namjoon snapped out of his trance at Jimin’s cautious voice, “I love your relationship and all, but can you save the bedroom eyes for after dinner?” He supposed Jimin only said it to lighten the mood, just to break the air up a bit, but it still earned him a scolding from Jin.

“Jimin, we’re overcoming a hardship here, with pizza. If you’d like, you can take some over to Yoongi later.”

It didn’t make Namjoon feel better. If anything, it made him feel worse, dousing shame in humor. “I’m full,” Namjoon said, “Take as much pizza as you want, Jimin.”

“Now, don’t be like that, Joonie,” Jin took a rather large mouthful of pizza, “Eat up. It’ll make you feel better—”

“—No, Jin, my family just practically disowned me. Pizza isn’t going to fix anything.”

They both knew it was true. Maybe pizza would be like a Band-Aid, just something to cover up the hurt, but it would never heal the wound. So Jin stayed silent and ignored his appetite for once. He leaned forward and kissed the crown of Namjoon’s head so softly. And Namjoon held onto Jin with one hand and kept a pizza slice in the other, and tried to forget.

 

---

-Three months later-

---

 

“I know I haven’t called you in a while, but I really want you to be there. Please?”

“I don’t know. I’ll have to check my schedule—”

“Wow, lying to your own sister. Just show up; you’ll be fine. And bring a plus-one. Hey, if you come to my graduation party, I’ll come to your wedding.”

Namjoon sighed. “I’m not getting married. And you can’t compare a graduation party to a wedding.” He thought of everything Eunmi had done for him—supported him, kept his secret—and said, “But we’ll be there.”

 

---

 

The back yard was smaller than Namjoon remembered. It still smelled the same, still had the same tacky lawn ornaments, still the same paint chips in the same places. The decorations were new, however, a white canopy pitched and balloons hanging everywhere.

He’d navigated the cab driver easily through the suburbs he’d grown up in, the eerie sense of familiarity surrounding him. “This is so exciting,” Jin had said, “just to see where you grew up.” But Namjoon didn’t think it was exciting at all; rather, he was worried. Worried about seeing his parents again, worried about the future and about everything.

Eunmi wasn’t hard to find. She tracked Namjoon down as soon as they’d stepped out of the cab. His sister had certainly grown up in the time they’d been apart; her hair was longer, and she wore a dress that Namjoon would have described as too mature years ago. She hugged Namjoon first, catching him off guard. “Woah! Nice to see you, too, Eunmi.”

He found Jin in his peripherals, just standing there, looking insecure and out-of-place. He smiled, just to let Jin know he was alright, then yanked him forward by the wrist. “Eunmi, this is Jin.” No explanation, just, ‘This is Jin,’ because Eunmi knew exactly who he was.

Jin seemed to loosen up then, extending an arm to shake the girl’s hand. “Hello, nice to meet you.”

Eunmi refused his handshake, instead pulling him into a hug much like she had Namjoon. Namjoon wasn’t sure if she was being welcoming, or if she just really wanted to hug Jin. “I’m Eunmi, Namjoon’s sister. Don’t act like a stranger; if Namjoon likes you, I’m sure I will, too. But I don’t know why you like him.”

“Hey, I’m desirable!” Namjoon looked to Jin for support, finding none. “Fine, I won’t tell you congratulations, then.”

His sister pouted at that, then her eyes lit up. “Oh! I’m supposed to tell all the adults that there’s fancy alcohol over there. Old people like you love drinking, right?”

Namjoon ruffled Eunmi’s hair, careful not to mess it up too terribly, “But you wouldn’t know anything about alcohol, would you?” Eunmi shook her head innocently. He felt a hand on his back then, recognizing it as Jin’s.

“Be careful, I’m older than your brother,” he warned, “even if I look better.”

Eunmi laughed and turned to Namjoon, “I like him already. Go get some drinks, Namjoon—I wanna talk to Jin for a while.”

The look on Jin’s face was almost frightened, but Namjoon simply shrugged and walked to the small canopy, easily seeking out where the ‘fancy alcohol’ was. Namjoon was on high-alert; he didn’t need to be, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that his mother would pop up at any second.

When Namjoon returned with two flutes of champagne, Jin and Eunmi were both laughing, and Namjoon knew he’d been talked about. He didn’t know what crazy stories Eunmi had told Jin (or the stories Jin had told Eunmi; he didn’t even want to think about that), but Namjoon didn’t care. His sister got along with his boyfriend and that was enough for Namjoon.

Jin accepted the glass and sweetly clinked it against Namjoon’s. “Cheers,” he said, still giggling from whatever Eunmi had said.

They were halfway through their drinks—Jin perhaps a bit further—when all hell broke loose.

Because that was definitely his mother’s voice, the soft and breathy, “Namjoon?” and he felt Jin freeze next to him.

“Mom,” he said, nodding towards Eunmi as a sign for her to leave. Seeing his mother was so different. She looked the same and yet not the same at all, with more wrinkles carved into her skin and more graying hairs at her scalp.

That scowl she gave Jin, that look made Namjoon close his eyes and wish all of it would disappear. “And who is this?” But she knew.

And suddenly, Jin regained all his confidence and ease, stepping forward and initiating a handshake just like he had with Eunmi, with the knowledge that this one wouldn’t end up as a hug. “I’m Kim Seokjin.” Yes, Namjoon’s mother knew that name—it was the name she’d screamed over the phone, the echo of, ‘That’s a man’s name!’ still echoing in Namjoon’s mind. And she just looked at Jin as if she’d never seen a person before.

 “Shake his hand, mom.” He didn’t want this, he didn’t even want them to meet. His mother stared at Jin’s hand like she was a small child and he was a strange man, almost cradling her own hand to her side like she was afraid of Jin’s touch. Namjoon hated talking down to her; it made him understand just how adult Jin was, just how much control he had over his own life.

Jin smiled at her so gently, at the woman who hated him without knowing him, and it made Namjoon’s heart ache. “I’m Kim Seokjin,” he said it again, and kept that smile on his face like there was nothing wrong. His hand was still extended towards her, as if she were a cat who needed to feel him before she could trust him.

She never shook Jin’s hand.

“I’ll go get us some more champagne,” Namjoon felt Jin’s soft and familiar touch on his shoulder, squeezing his shirt fabric lightly before he turned away to the canopy. 

The whole atmosphere shifted between mother and son while Jin was gone, all the tension in the woman’s body shaken off into the air and a disapproving expression morphing her face. “Champagne?”

“I can drink now, mom. I could drink when I last saw you, too, I just didn’t.” Namjoon forgot how long it had been since he saw his mother.

She wouldn’t meet his eyes. “How old is he? That man,”

Namjoon chuckled. “Jin? He’s 26. Two years older than me.”

“That’s much too old for you.” She said it quickly, almost spitting the words out like she’d planned to say them no matter how old Jin was. Namjoon’s eyes caught on bleached-blond hair in the crowd, and his mother sighed. “I must be going blind. My eyes have been tricking me into seeing some crazy things lately.”

“Like what?”

She let a pause interrupt them. “I wish you two didn’t look good together.”

He took his gaze off of his love to face his mother. “We don’t look good together. We just look normal together. Comfortable. And I’m comfortable with him.”

“Isn’t that the same thing as good? You’re really arguing with me on this?”

“Well, you don’t think it’s good—our relationship,” Namjoon said, “So either you’re lying about us being good together, or you’re lying about us looking good together, and only you know which it is—”

Namjoon’s mother cut him off sharply. “There you go again, Namjoon; you’re always on that high horse of yours. What’s it going to take to bring you down? When will you realize that you’re delusional? You’re wasting so much time chasing after older men—”

“I’m not chasing after him, mom. I’m with him. We’re together. And I’m sorry if you don’t approve, but right now, Jin is always there for me, even when my own family isn’t. This isn’t just a fling, mom, it’s a serious relationship. And I know I’ve never really had one of those before, but I’m an adult now. I know what I want. And he makes me so happy. Why wouldn’t I want that?”

She sighed. Just a sigh, like Namjoon was inconveniencing her. “Your father can’t find out you were here.” He could see Jin to his side, hesitant to approach them, but eventually decided to stand next to Namjoon. He didn’t even have any champagne, but Namjoon thought that was a good thing; they’d probably be leaving soon anyway. “I apologize to you, Namjoon, that our relationship has come to this.” It sounded so final. “Now, I don’t care if you call a cab or what, but you can’t wait for it here.”

“I understand,” Namjoon locked his jaw, “Tell Eunmi I said ‘Congratulations.’ I’m here for her, after all, and I never really said it properly.”

His mother just nodded, and she looked so small. Jin offered Namjoon a weak smile and rubbed circles into his back, then whispered, “Let’s go.” So they turned around, walking off the grass and down the road until his childhood home was no longer in sight.

 

---

“That went well.”

Namjoon couldn’t help himself; he laughed. “Well? Did you miss the part where she kicked us out?”

They kept their voices down, in case the cab driver overheard. “No, I was there. She wasn’t really mad, Namjoon. Just confused.” Namjoon would’ve described it as almost fearful, that lost look in her eyes Namjoon had never seen before. “And your sister was lovely. They both look like you.”

“I’m sure if you told my mom that, she’d deny any resemblance. But Eunmi? She’s great. She’s got a small crush on you, which is cute. I’m almost jealous.”

Jin grinned and shook his head. “Too bad I’ve already got one-too-many Kims to deal with.”

He pushed Jin lightly, just at the shoulder, “So do I.”

The cab, for a few extra won, dropped them directly in front of Namjoon’s building. He was more than ready for a relaxing evening, just something to take the stress off of everything, but it became clear he wouldn’t get that when Min Yoongi was standing in his kitchen.

“Oh. Hi.” the man said. Namjoon had to admit he liked Yoongi and how low-profile he was. Yoongi was older than Namjoon but it really didn’t feel that way.

“Hey, Yoongi, is Jimin here?”

Yoongi raised an eyebrow and glanced towards the bedroom door. “Yeah, he’s in there. He called me over so he didn’t have to watch dramas alone, but I didn’t think he’d cry this much.”

And then Jimin appeared, massaging beneath his eyes and sighing. Yoongi just laughed at him. “Oh, shut up, I bet if we played romantic piano medleys for two hours you’d look like this, too. Hi, Namjoon, hi, Jin,” his next question was hesitant, “How did it go?”

Jin wrapped an arm around Namjoon’s shoulders and offered Jimin a smile. “Let’s just say it’s been an emotional day for all of us.”

Jimin looked like he didn’t know what to do and neither did Yoongi. Everyone in the room seemed to take a deep breath and just absorb the atmosphere for a moment. And then Namjoon moved; he sat at his and Jimin’s small table and turned on some music, not really to listen but just as some noise. Eventually, Jin joined him and Yoongi and Jimin followed.

They were all around him: people who cared, people who loved him or respected him. Namjoon thought back to another time he’d sat at that table, after a phone call that maybe didn’t matter anymore. Jin lifted Namjoon’s hand and kissed his knuckles, and Jimin didn’t even make a snide comment, instead taking Yoongi’s hand and doing the same.

For the first time in Namjoon’s recent memory, he made an assumption. He assumed that the best time in his life was still waiting for him; he assumed he already had something that would last forever.

He assumed that everything would work.