Wrapping himself around his roommate like a needy koala, Kim Taehyung dropped his chin on a thin shoulder and whined loudly. “Can’t we just order something in?”
“No,” Park Jimin replied, laughing as he tried to unwrap himself from Taehyung’s hold, “we ordered in yesterday.”
“We agreed we’d only order in once a week to save money!”
Taehyung frowned but relented, falling back with a dramatic sigh. “Right. Fine. I’m still going to pout though.”
“You do that,” Jimin agreed as he stood up and disappeared into the kitchen. Taehyung could already hear pots and pans rattling, letting him know Jimin was going to make them both dinner. At least he hoped it was both, he really didn’t want to cook for himself. His cooking was passable at best and he didn’t want to take that chance tonight. Work had been long and trying, his models just not doing what he wanted or needed and he desired nothing more than to fall asleep on the couch, snuggled in his favourite pyjamas and giggling with Jimin.
His roommate of four years, Jimin was probably the best friend he’d ever had. Undoubtedly the person he was closest to. That hadn’t been the case at first, of course. They’d clashed, Jimin calling him an alien while Taehyung doubled down and invented a language just to piss him off even more. Looking back, it had been stupid and childish, but it had only made them closer. At least he thought so anyway. Now it was something they looked back on with a laugh, shaking their hands at their previous selves.
“Do you want an egg in your ramen?” Jimin called from the kitchen, making Taehyung smile. He knew Jimin would make him something.
Taehyung didn’t hear his reply. It was hidden under the sound of frantic knocking at their front door. Like the millennial he was, Taehyung frowned at the door, confused. People didn’t just show up at the door and he hadn’t ordered anything. He was about to ask Jimin if he was expecting someone when the smaller man called out the same question. “Someone for you?”
“Nah. I’ll get it though,” Taehyung told him, rolling off the couch with a less than graceful thump. He hoped it wasn’t the lady next door, she was so nosy. Every time they even breathed too loud, she got all fussy, said she could hear them. He knew she couldn’t, they’d splurged on a nice apartment with soundproofing, but she complained nonetheless. Taehyung was convinced she just didn’t like that they were young and living together in what she considered a ‘refined’ building.
But that’s not who was at the door when Taehyung opened it. Instead, there was a small man wearing a beanie and oversized sweater. His head was down and he was clutching a duffle bag for dear life as if he was terrified someone would take it away from him. When he looked up, Taehyung was faced with small eyes, rounded and shiny, paired with a small upturned nose and pouty lips. That would have been enough to stop Taehyung usually, he was an admirer of beauty after all, but this time it didn’t. No, that was the cut on his lip and a large, purple bruise on his cheekbone. Someone had hit this man and he looked terrified. Taehyung was about to ask who he was and if he needed help when those eyes turned confused and panicked. “I-I’m sorry, I-I thought– he said– I’m sorry.”
For a moment, Taehyung was momentarily shocked by how deep the man’s voice was. He’d expected something higher for someone so small. Like Jimin. Shaking that line of thought off, Taehyung softened his frown. “Are you looking for someone?”
“I-I-I,” the man stuttered, his fingers now gripping his bag even tighter, if that was even possible. “Jiminie.”
As if summoned, Jimin peeked around the corner, two bowls of ramen in his hands. “Tae, who is— hyung.”
“Jiminie,” the man repeated, relief flooding his features seconds before he broke down, tears overflowing as if only sheer will had held them back. “Jiminie.”
Without thinking, Jimin dropped the ramen, one bowl shattering on the ground as it hit, and lunged at the man, pulling him in. The man jumped back, hissing at the contact, which made Jimin’s face change in a way that Taehyung had never seen before. He looked absolutely murderous. Taehyung knew it wasn’t directed at him, but even he stepped back, afraid of Jimin’s wrath. The man didn’t seem fazed though, he only cried harder, dropping the bag so he could cover his face.
“Come inside,” Taehyung offered quickly. Jimin looked back at him gratefully before pulling the man to him again, this time more gentle. He led the small man to the couch, carefully avoiding the spilled ramen, and sat him down. After a moment of fussing, Jimin wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and knelt in front of him. When the man didn’t look up, he reached out and gently tilted his face so they were eye to eye. As Taehyung watched, Jimin’s fingers trailed lightly over the cut on the man’s lip and bruise on his cheek.
“It happened again,” Jimin said simply. It was a statement, not a question, but the man nodded anyway, so Jimin continued. “Why?”
“I-I was late. From groceries. There was a line and it took longer. I thought— it was only a little late but dinner wasn’t ready when he got home,” the man mumbled, curling into himself. “Stupid. I know better than that. Shoulda—”
“No, hyung,” Jimin said firmly, “if you thought that, you wouldn’t be here.”
The man looked up tentatively and nodded again. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, hyung.”
“Sorr—” the man began, then sniffed, realizing what he had been about to do. Jimin smiled a bit, clearly amused but it never reached his eyes. Taehyung, not wanting to intrude, grabbed the man’s bag and placed it by the edge of the couch then busied himself with cleaning up the ramen on the floor. He was putting the broken pieces in the bowl when he heard the man speak again. “I didn’t know where else to go.”
“I’m happy you came here. Daegu is a long way from here.”
“I figured he wouldn’t find me here,” the man whispered. Though Taehyung couldn’t see him, he could picture him curling into himself again. Taehyung had no idea who this man was, but even he could see that he was acting defensively. Skittish. Like he had run without a plan. Judging by what he’d heard so far, he figured he wasn’t far off.
“You can stay, Tae won’t mind and neither do I, but only if you promise me one thing,” Jimin said seriously. There was no response but Taehyung assumed the man had nodded again because Jimin continued. “You can’t go back this time, Yoongi-hyung. I can’t do this again. Not again. Promise me.”
A long pause greeted that statement and Taehyung found himself holding his breath as his thoughts scattered. Again? This had happened before? Taehyung frowned to himself, he knew of Yoongi. Jimin talked about him a lot. He’d helped Jimin when he’d first moved. Jimin spoke of him as a knight in shining armour. A strong man with a strong personality who protected people. That was not the person Taehyung had seen on his doorstep but Jimin didn’t seem surprised, which meant he’d known about this. Whatever this was. But even if he did, Taehyung was still surprised by Jimin’s tone. It had been harsh, angry even. Not the tone he’d have used with a clearly upset and hurt person, but then again, Taehyung didn’t know the situation. He’d ask later, but for now, he just listened.
“I-I promise, Jiminie. I promise. I can’t— not anymore.”
“Then you can stay as long as you want,” Jimin said. “Why don’t you go get cleaned up while I set up the guest room for you?”
“You don’t have to—”
“I want to, hyung. This is the first time you visited me.”
Taehyung waited for Jimin to show Yoongi the bathroom before emerging from the kitchen. He met Jimin’s eyes instantly, but Jimin only shook his head and walked straight to the linen closest and proceeded to the spare room. Taehyung followed closely behind, then, leaning on the wall as he watched Jimin work, he spoke. “How long?”
Jimin looked back, a dead look in his eyes, “too long.”
“You never mentioned it.”
“How could I?” Jimin snapped, then sighed, rubbing his face. “I tried so hard, Tae. But at first, he waved it away, called it passion and by the time it got bad, it was like his soul was crushed. He stopped doing what he loved, stopped hanging with his friends, everything. I was here, I didn’t see until it was too late but even then I tried.”
“This isn’t the first time,” Taehyung said softly.
“That he’s left? No,” Jimin shook his head sadly, snapping the bedspread out as he continued to set up the room for Yoongi, “it’s the third. He’s never made it this far though.”
Taehyung nodded. “You were mean, Jiminie.”
“I know,” Jimin admitted, “but I wasn’t lying. I really can’t do it again. It’s always the same. Yoongi-hyung leaves and then he shows up, crying and pleading, saying it’ll never happen again and that he’s sorry. Same tired routine but it works. For a while it’s good, then it happens again. Last time he put him in the hospital. Broken ribs. He promised then too.”
“You know it’s not that easy,” Taehyung told him, feeling a wave of sadness crash over him.
“I know,” Jimin said again, “but it’s not easy for me either. I can’t keep seeing him all beat up and hollow, Tae. It hurts too much.”
“Then we’ll make sure this time is different,” Taehyung decided firmly. “We make sure that bastard doesn’t take him away and we help him rebuild what he lost.”
Jimin smiled sadly. “Now who’s the one pretending it’s easy.”
“I never said it’d be easy,” Taehyung countered, “but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”
Pausing for a moment, his eyes still fixed on the pillow he’d been fluffing for Yoongi, Jimin contemplated Taehyung’s suggestion. Truth be told, he hadn’t tried in that way before. He’d asked Yoongi to leave him, to run away, but he’d never tried to actually help Yoongi himself. He’d spent a lot of time over the years researching why abuse victims stayed and why they went back. He knew it had to do with emotional and psychological manipulation just as much as physical, but it’d never occurred to him to try and fix it. But he supposed it shouldn’t surprise him that Taehyung knew what to do. Personal experience with a situation will do that.
“Okay, let’s do it. Let’s help Yoongi-hyung.”