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Be My First, Be My Last

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Jimin hated Mondays.

Mondays meant traffic jams, angry commuters and bitter coffee made by even bitterer baristas on his way to work. Mondays also meant that he didn’t get to take the car because his fiance always went to the office and so Jimin was forced to take the bus. Which also meant that he had to suffer through unwashed bodies pressed against his and morning breath.

The only bright side of the start of the week was that he had Art with his Grade 1 class and he absolutely loved it. Jimin was the only teacher with a second degree in Arts at his school in Sangam-dong and as such got to teach kids from all levels beside his own class, definitely a plus if you asked him.

Jimin’s students, in fourth grade, were sweet but he had a soft spot for the little ones.

Finally, the bus announced his stop and Jimin pushed his way to the doors, careful not to drop any of the papers he was carrying in his arms. He had to grade them as soon as possible, since they were key for the tutoring classes he would have to offer facing the upcoming exams.

He stepped into the street with a sigh, adjusting his shirt the best he could and feeling a little better at the prospect of going back home. It was a short walk from the bus stop to his apartment building and he decided to stop by the bakery nearby, so he could get some pastries. It would be nice to munch on them while he made dinner and also a good way to surprise his fiance after a long day at work.

“Jiminnie,” greeted the lady at the register, as he approached her with a box of rice cakes. “Starting the week with a sweet tooth, I see.”

Jimin smiled. “Figured Yoongi might enjoy some sweets to lighten up this Monday, right?”

She patted his hand softly. “You are so nice, he is a lucky man for having you.”

Jimin smiled back, though not so sure himself. To be honest, he had always felt like they were not quite the perfect match. Yoongi was everything Jimin wasn’t: he was handsome and witty, with a particular sense of humor than somehow always got people on his side. He was brilliant and creative, reasons behind him landing a job as the main composer in one of the biggest records company of Seoul.

Still, until this very day, Jimin was not sure how he had managed to get such a wonderful partner.

They had met way back, when they were both still in highschool. Jimin on his first year and Yoongi about to graduate. The older boy had literally swept him off his feet. It had been during a basketball match, one that Jimin had reluctantly attended after the insistence of his friends. He was watching from the sidelines, cheering accordingly every time the school team managed to score.

They were winning.

At some point, Taehyung - who had been his best friend ever since they met in pre-school - started talking to him, taking his attention away from the match. Jimin was giving his back to the court when it happened. A ball came out of nowhere, hitting him so hard in the head that Jimin toppled over, landing unconscious at the feet of a positively freaked out Taehyung.

He woke up minutes later to a pretty pair of eyes staring right at his soul. Jimin blinked a couple times, his own orbs taking in more of the boy looming over him. He had a delicate face and the darkest hair, contrasting beautifully with his pale skin.

“You okay?” he asked in a voice so deep Jimin had been unable to answer, only gaping like an idiot while Taehyung groaned in the background. “I'm Min Yoongi.”

“Park Jimin,” he managed to stutter out, while incorporating himself.

“Jimin…” said Yoongi as if tasting his name, rolling the vowels around his tongue. And then Yoongi smiled and wedding bells resonated in Jimin’s ears while Taehyung murmured a not so subtle shit .

That, right there, had been the end of Jimin.

He fell hard and fast for Yoongi, completely wooed by the charms of his smiles and the poetry dripping from his lips every time they kissed. Yoongi showed him the world. He taught him everything, from how to kiss to composing and Jimin had followed him blindly, even attending his same university so they wouldn't have to be apart.

Like a puppy, as Taehyung often liked to remind him, but Jimin didn't mind. After all, his best friend had followed as well, though he liked to say it was for the outstanding qualities of his program, rather than the fact that he didn't want to be apart from Jimin.

It was at college where they met Hoseok, completing the triad that grew to be the biggest support Jimin had while living away from home. College had been hard on them, the pressure of exams and student loans like a constant gun against their skulls, but through it all Jimin had Yoongi.

And now, after almost ten years of relationship and a ring on his finger, Jimin felt like he didn't regret anything. No matter how many times Taehyung asked him not to marry Yoongi - that he should go out and get to know more - he was as in love as the first day and completely sure that there was no one else for him on the earth.

Jimin was nearing the entrance of his building when he noticed Yoongi’s car parked in a visitor's spot. He frowned, confused, not only because their parking spot was inside but also because his fiance was not supposed to be home until much later that day. Jimin himself was also unusually early, since his last class had been cancelled, so maybe that was why Yoongi had not called to let him know and maybe pick him up.

With the prospect of having more time to enjoy with his fiance and a huge smile on his face, Jimin practically skipped towards the elevators, humming a tune as he waited for the doors to open.

In the blink of an eye he was stepping out on his floor, equilibrating the best he could his paperwork and the box of pastries as he fished for the keys in his pocket. Maybe Yoongi would be sleeping and he would be able to surprise him, waking him up with a sweet kiss. They could use the extra time to discuss some of the items of their wedding; there was still so much to take care of.

“I’m home!”

Jimin closed the door, toeing off his shoes and leaving his stuff on top of the kitchen counter right across the main door, as he shuffled towards the bedroom. To his surprise, Yoongi was not sleeping at all. He was sitting in the living room, head hanging low and hands laced in front of him.

“Yoongi?” Jimin approached him, sunny smile still on his face. Yoongi gestured for Jimin to take a sit and Jimin did so, not quite sure what was going on. “Did something happen?”

As soon as Jimin was sitting down, Yoongi was sliding something in his direction on top of the coffee table. It was a ring. Their ring. The matching pair of the one currently sparkling on Jimin’s finger. Confused Jimin stared at it, taking almost a full minute to notice that said ring was no longer decorating Yoongi’s beautiful hands.

“Let’s break up.”

The statement felt like a slap, startling and burning at the same time.

“W-what?”

“I can’t marry you, Jimin...I can’t…”

The words rang hollow in Jimin’s ears, his brain too sluggish to even detect the true meaning behind them, still too caught up in analysing every angle of the ring. Yoongi waited for Jimin to say something, concern escalating when Jimin’s only reaction was to move his gaze from the ring to the wall.

“Jimin…” Yoongi started, swallowing thickly. His hands hovered over Jimin’s for a second, before he was carding them through his hair. “I'm...I'm so fucking sorry I...fuck-”

Yoongi trailed off, closing his eyes as he felt hot tears prickle his eyes, guilt eating him inside out. He took a deep breath trying to steady his voice. Jimin was still the same, sitting with his arms at his sides, gaze unfocused. He wasn't crying, he wasn't angry...and it was scaring the hell out of Yoongi.

“Listen Jimin, I….I wanted to tell you,” he tried again, his eyes searching for any sign of the other man actually listening to him to no avail. “I’ve been trying to talk to you for so long...things are not the same, I’m not the same...please talk to me,” he begged now on the verge of panicking, maybe Jimin was having an aneurysm or something. He'd never been this quiet before. Yoongi reached for Jimin’s hand then, which made Jimin flinch so he removed them immediately. “Please babe say something...you are scaring the shit outta me.”

Jimin focused on Yoongi then but not truly seeing him. He felt numb, his brain too slow to process what was happening.

“Leave me alone,” he croaked, his own voice sounding far away, detached from his own emotions.

“Jimin, let's talk-” said Yoongi, but Jimin closed his eyes, not wanting to see him anymore.

“Go,” he repeated, his voice now a little shrill and Yoongi stood up, getting the message and worriedly walking to the main door.

He turned one last time to check on his fiance? Ex-fiance? Who was back to a staring contest with the wall and his gut twisted, an ugly mix of guilt and pity turning his stomach sour.

Yoongi closed the door softly, fishing for his phone and scrolling down his contacts until he found Taehyung’s number. His thumb hovered over the call button but he valued his life too much to face the wrath of the best friend, so he settled for a text instead.

Check on Jimin- Yoongi.

He walked outside feeling lighter already. Yes, he felt bad for breaking up with Jimin so close to their wedding, but at the same time he felt incredibly relieved. He had been trying for months to end what they had, only to be unable to do so as soon as he saw how happy Jimin was every time Yoongi came home. The relationship had been dragging for a while, at least on his side, but Jimin seemed completely oblivious of the fact, which bothered Yoongi more than anything in the world.

The sun warmed Yoongi’s pale skin and he heaved out a sigh, just then his phone started ringing and his stomach turned excitedly at the caller display.

Yoongi took a deep breath, before answering the call. “Yes?”

“Yoongi,” came the voice that had been plaguing Yoongi’s dreams for the last few months. “Are you free?”

Yoongi grinned, the question holding a deeper meaning to him.

“Yes. I am free.”

 

Taehyung stuck his sandwich in between his lips, fighting his way out of the bus. He didn’t know the true meaning behind the cryptic message Yoongi had sent him, but he hurried to reach Jimin’s apartment anyway.

On his way over he had called Hoseok, who had agreed to meet him, after settling things with Namjoon.

“He’s picking up the kids today,” Hoseok informed Taehyung over the line. “I’ll meet you there in five.”

Taehyung walked faster, almost jogging across the building’s parking lot when he spotted Hoseok already waiting for him. His friend was still wearing the scrubs from work and Taehyung made a face when Hoseok went in for a hug.

“Gross,” Taehyung said, wrinkling his nose.

“I changed, you idiot,” muttered Hoseok, slapping him hard on the back. “Any idea why we have to come see Jimin?” he asked when they stepped into the elevator.

“Nop,” answered Taehyung, swallowing down the rest of his food and then crouching to tie his shoe. “Not at all.”

The elevator dinged to a stop at Jimin’s floor and the doors opened to reveal a pair of shapely legs clad in an unholy amount of skin-tight leather. Taehyung followed the legs up with his eyes, until he was staring right into the face of Jeongguk, Jimin’s infamously handsome neighbour.

The neighbour that was lifting an eyebrow in response to Taehyung’s not so subtle stare.

Hoseok cleared his throat, kicking Taehyung until he was standing up. They both smiled awkwardly to Jeongguk, who stepped into the elevator at the same time they were heading out, leaving a cloud of masculine cologne behind.

When the doors closed, Taehyung threw himself at them, making a show of fake licking and humping the poor thing.

Hoseok laughed embarrassed, pulling Taehyung by the neckline of his t-shirt.

“Stop,” he said, starting to walk to Jimin’s apartment.

“He’s so hot,” Taehyung moaned, fanning himself.

Hoseok made a noise in agreement, knocking on Jimin’s door. Nothing. A couple of minutes after, he knocked again while Taehyung drummed with his fingers on the wall.

“Are you sure he’s home?” Hoseok asked and Taehyung shrugged, digging into his messenger bag until he found the apartment’s spare key.

When Hoseok gave him a thumbs up, Taehyung fit the key into the lock, opening the door. The apartment was eerily silent and completely dark. Taehyung turned on the light at the receiver, taking off his shoes and making room for Hoseok to do the same. Jimin’s shoes were there, as well as the bag he always wore to go to school.

Weird mouthed Hoseok with a frown and Taehyung had to agree. The aura of the place felt all wrong. He would know, he was the one taking feng shui classes after all.

“Jimin?” called Taehyung, walking further into the place.

It wasn’t until he turned on the lights of the living room that he noticed that Jimin was, in fact, in the apartment, sitting on the couch with his back to them. Taehyung’s six sense tingled in warning.

“What is this not answering when people knock on your door, huh?” Hoseok demanded, walking over with a smile in place, one that disappeared as soon as he faced their friend. “Jimin?”

Taehyung walked over quickly, scared at the worry reflected in Hoseok’s face. He almost flinched when his eyes landed on Jimin and the expression on his face.

Or the lack thereof.

Jimin was a statue, eyes fixed into nothing, arms slack by his side. Not responding to any of his questions. Hoseok was patting his cheek softly, murmuring soft words in an attempt to make him react, but Jimin was not bulging. He was like frozen in place.

“What the fuck?” whispered Taehyung, fishing for his phone and dialing Yoongi’s number. It sent him every single time to mailbox and Taehyung cursed, opting for sending a text, when his eyes landed on a shiny thing.

Taehyung’s phone seemed to fall in slow motion from his hands, the crack of the screen startling Hoseok, who was now taking Jimin’s pulse.

“Tae?” his friend questioned, momentarily letting go of Jimin’s wrist to pick up the phone.

Taehyung didn’t answer. He just leaned down to pick up the shiny thing, rolling it in his palm while the pieces clicked into place. At Hoseok’s insistence, he extended his hand, letting him take a look. Hoseok gasped dramatically, turning to face Jimin.

They both stared at him, mouths drawn down in a sympathetic pout. Now everything made sense, Yoongi’s text and Jimin’s catatonic state.

“Shit,” muttered Taehyung, dropping down on the couch as well.

 

Jimin stared.

He stared for the whole night, seeing but not really looking as his friends fussed over him. His eyes felt dried, painful every time he remembered blinking was actually a thing. When the first light of the morning lit up the room, Jimin took a deep breath. His gaze shifted from the wall to the sleeping faces of his friends, still with him in the apartment. Taehyung had his mouth open, drooling on the armrest, while Hoseok was curled up in a ball on the floor.

Jimin breathed again, this time a little shaky.

He disentangled himself from Taehyung’s legs, careful not to wake him up. Making as little noise as he could, he grabbed a basket from the kitchen counter - where he usually placed fresh fruits - and walked to the washroom. Once in there, he placed all of Yoongi’s toiletries inside the basket, cautious not to break the delicate bottles.

Yoongi had delicate skin, he only used expensive stuff.

Jimin then moved to their room. No, his bedroom, opening the drawers and proceeding to take out everything that belonged to Yoongi. Taehyung and Hoseok found him like that, folding every piece neatly and creating a pile on top of the neatly arranged toiletries.

“Jiminnie,” called Hoseok, sadness dripping from every word.

Jimin ignored him, throwing the last shirt Yoongi had gifted him onto the pile as well. His friends did nothing when Jimin struggled but managed to move the whole thing over to the balcony. They didn’t object when Jimin threw the sliding windows open, the ones facing the street, and stepped out.

The wind ruffled his hair and Jimin’s throat contracted, a knot forming at the base and making it difficult to breathe. Before his friends had time to react, Jimin took Yoongi’s favourite cologne, tossing it out the balcony with a cry. He proceeded to do the same with all the toiletries he collected, his screams raising in volume after each one of them. The neighbours started to show up at their own balconies, casting concerned looks Jimin’s way.

Hoseok tried to stop him, but Taehyung shook his head, saying something about catharsis and stuff. Hoseok bit his lip, more worried about the sudden appearance of the police than Jimin’s sanity at that point.

“I hate you!” yelled Jimin, grabbing armfuls of clothes and letting them fly on the wind, all the button downs and cashmere scarves. “I fucking hate you Min Yoongi, you ruined my life!”

Taehyung groaned. It was bad.

It wasn’t until Jimin had nothing left to throw that he started crying. Ugly, wretched sobs that made Jimin tremble until he was falling like a fabric doll to the floor. Hoseok hurried forward, enveloping Jimin in a hug, not minding the snot smearing over his scrubs when Jimin hugged him back.

Taehyung made a face, walking around the crying pair to have a look out the window. Yoongi’s stuff was scattered all over the parking lot, some people taking pictures of it while others digged around for some goods.

Yep, Taehyung thought when he turned to watch as Jimin rolled on the floor, wailing like a little kid. It was really fucking bad.

 

Jeongguk stepped out of the cab, adjusting the sunglasses on his face. His head was killing him, alcohol still sloshing in his gut. Tequila burned its way up his throat after a few steps and Jeongguk forced it back down, mentally cursing Jackson. If Jeongguk didn’t put and end to it, the bartender was going to fucking kill him one day.

He checked himself with the help of the camera of his phone, adjusting the neck of his jacked so it would cover the bruises visible on his skin. The fling he had wooed the past night had been a biter and Jeongguk had been too caught up in fucking him to notice on time. He had already experienced Mrs. Yoo’s judging stare when evidence of his adventures were easy to catch and he didn’t feel like dealing with her so early in the morning.

When he rounded the corner though, his worries were unfounded. Mrs. Yoo was entertained already with something else. She and some of the apartment dwellers were loitering around the parking lot, eyes fixed on a figure yelling and throwing stuff out of their balcony.

Jeongguk snorted, amused at the scene. Most likely someone had caught their significant other cheating or something like that, and was taking it out on the poor clothes. It wasn’t uncommon, people had gotten really dramatic lately. Yugyeom blamed it on the excessive amount of kdramas passing on TV.

Jeongguk shook his head, rubbing his nose as he made his way to the door.

People never seemed to learn that love was nothing but a fragile thing. Easily broken and forgotten when the object of infatuation was not as shiny as it used to. Hormones and chemical reactions, Mingyu said once around a cigarette, and Jeongguk agreed with him. There were plenty of fish in the sea, why settle for one?

Jeongguk was sure he would never understand.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

Five days into Jimin’s crying spree, Taehyung decided he’d had enough.

He had spent those five days at his friend’s apartment: making sure he ate, holding him while he cried and even forcing him into the bathtub when he started to smell. Taehyung even had to lie over the phone to Jimin’s school, swearing his friend caught a stomach bug so he could take some days off.

And honestly, it was too much.

Taehyung was never the caregiver type. That role belonged to Hoseok, with all the experience he had taking care of the kids and Namjoon. But, just as Hoseok has stated when they were discussing what to do with Jimin, there was no way Hoseok could skip his parental duties. So here was Taehyung, once again handing Jimin tissue paper as he cried while the vein in Taehyung’s forehead threatened to burst.

No, Taehyung wasn’t the caregiver type. He was the fun friend, the one that took you out so you could forget.

“Jimin,” started Taehyung when Jimin had calmed down enough that just little sniffs were heard. “Are you all done?”

“What?”

Jimin’s voice was creaky and pitiful, so fragile Taehyung pressed his lips into a thin line, once again filled with the need to strangle one Min Yoongi.

“This has to stop,” Taehyung said, turning to face his friend. “It’s been five days-” he emphasized his words by sticking his palm into Jimin’s face, fingers open wide. “Five.”

Jimin looked at the digits and his lower lip trembled. “I just...I don’t...why did he leave me, Tae?”

When it looked like Jimin might be starting another weeping session, Taehyung panicked. Truly, he had wondered countless times the why and the how, just like Jimin. It didn’t make sense. They were a happy couple, Jimin and Yoongi, the high school sweethearts everyone talked about. Certainly, Taehyung was never a supporter of long-term relationships, especially ones that started when personalities were not truly defined. But after so many years, he had truly believed that it was going to work for Jimin.

Everyone believed that Yoongi and Jimin would be together forever. Until they weren’t.

“Why…” echoed Taehyung, throwing the box of tissue paper on Jimin’s lap, before pacing the room.

Jimin followed him with his eyes, blowing his nose noisily from time to time.

“Would knowing why he left you make things better?” asked Taehyung, an idea in his mind.

Jimin considered the question. “Yeah, I mean...I think so? It may help to move on…” he trailed off, sighing softly, eyes settling on the ring still on his hand.

“Ok, then,” said Taehyung, fist hitting his palm with resolution. “I know what we have to do.”

 

Taehyung pushed his sunglasses higher up his nose, staring intently at the door of the building in front of them. On the passenger seat of the car, Jimin was worrying his lower lip raw, hands twisting this way and that on his lap.

The back door opening startled both of them, and Hoseok slipped inside with a tray holding three coffee cups. He smiled sheepishly when Taehyung glared at him, hand still clutching his heart.

“Sorry,” whispered Hoseok, handing everyone a cup. “I put extra whipped cream in all of them,” he announced. When Jimin started to protest, Hoseok raised a palm to stop him. “Sugar is good for the heart, Jimin. It won’t ruin your diet, so cut it.”

“Thanks, Hyung,” said Taehyung, going back to staring up ahead.

Hoseok nodded, taking a gulp of his beverage. “So...is anyone going to tell me what are we doing here?”

Jimin shrank on his seat, almost hiding behind his cup. Taehyung, however, lowered his glasses, so he could see Hoseok in the eye. “We are following Yoongi.”

“What?”

Jimin’s cheeks burned in embarrassment. Taehyung eyed him, before replying to Hoseok.

“What you heard. My contacts told me he’s working in this building today. He’s composing stuff for a commercial or something. I don’t know…”

“But why are we following him?” asked Hoseok, scandalized.

“Because Jiminnie needs to know why Yoongi ruined his life,” explained Taehyung calmly, sipping on his drink.

“And this is gonna help, how?” questioned Hoseok, eyes going to the building’s entrance when the sliding doors opened. The three of them held their breaths, only exhaling when a woman stepped out.

“Well…” said Taehyung. “I just have a hunch.”

“A hunch!” scoffed Hoseok. He turned to Jimin. “Jiminnie, this is not like you.”

“Hyung,” murmured Jimin pitifully.

Hoseok was about to thrown a rant that would make any parent proud, when Taehyung shushed them both, waving his hand frantically. They all hid lower in the car, gazes intent as they followed Min Yoongi, all the way from the door to his car, parked at the front. He was alone, dressed in a wrinkly shirt and jeans.

Jimin’s chest tightened at the view, both due to longing and sadness, seeing that Yoongi had gone to work without ironing his shirt. I used to do that, he thought, lips downward in a sad pout. Hoseok patted his shoulder in support and Jimin sighed.

Taehyung on the other hand was already starting the car, driving into the street, settled in following Yoongi.

“Alright,” he said, taking a sip of coffee and cracking his neck. “Let’s do this.”

 

“This is illegal,” whispered Hoseok. “It’s stalking...you made us all stalkers, Taehyung!”

The three of them were huddled behind Taehyung’s car, spying on Yoongi who was still sitting inside his car, busy texting on his phone. They were in the parking lot of a restaurant, an italian place in the heart of Gangnam. It was Yoongi’s favourite, a little jewel not known by many but extremely special for Jimin.

It was the place where Yoongi had proposed, a little over a year ago.

“What do you think he’s waiting for?” murmured Taehyung, taking out a pair of binoculars from his messenger bag. Hoseok glanced at them in surprise.

“Where did you get that?” he asked.

Taehyung looked smug when he replied. “Hyung, you might be an ammateur spy but I-” he patted his bag. “I came prepared.”

“I wasn’t told I was doing some stalking when I agreed to come,” protested Hoseok, crossing his arms.

A car turned into the parking lot at that moment, forcing them to quiet down to avoid been seen. It was a pretty thing, all sleek lines and gold paint. An even prettier man stepped out of it, dressed in a expensive-looking sweater and slacks. For a second Jimin thought he recognized his face, mind traveling to a business party he had attended with Yoongi.

Seconds after Pretty Man was stepping out of his car, Yoongi was opening the door of his. Taehyung squeaked softly, throwing his binoculars to Hoseok and getting out a camera instead. Like in a movie, Yoongi’s facial expressions changed upon gazing at Pretty Man. It was a look Jimin had seen many times. One that was directed exclusively at him for the last ten years.

“Oh my god,” said Taehyung, when Yoongi opened the door to the restaurant to let Pretty Man in, taking pictures like his life depended on it. “That son of a bitch…”

Hoseok, on the other hand, was looking at Jimin. At the way his friend had slumped against the car, gaze lost in the traffic on the street. They stayed in the parking lot until the dishes came to the table Yoongi shared with the mystery man. By then it was clear that the rendezvous wasn’t really a work thing.

Yoongi was all gummy smiles and rosy cheeks, too cheerful for when bussines were involved.

“He has someone else,” whispered Jimin, a single tear rolling down his cheek.

Taehyung, who had given up of the whole spy thing, passed an arm around his shoulder, squeezing him tight. He looked at Hoseok, urging him to say something, but Hoseok was at a loss of words too.

What can you say really, when a whole life seems to end?

“I wanna go,” muttered Jimin, getting up and inside the car.

 

The drive to Jimin’s apartment was silent. They stopped to drop Hoseok off at his house and then continued until Taehyung was parking in front of Jimin’s building. He turned off the car, shifting to face Jimin.

“Hey,” he said softly.

Jimin, who had been staring out the window, looked over only then noticing that they were at his house. He unbuckled the seatbelt, plastering a fake smile on his face.

“Thanks, Tae,” he said. “I’ll get going.”

“Jimin, wait,” Taehyung stopped him with a hand on his arm. “You don’t wanna talk about it?”

Jimin shook his head.

“Will you be ok?”

Taehyung was pouting and Jimin leaned over to hug him, dropping a kiss on his hair.

“I will.”

 

Jimin was not okay. The apartment was dark and cold when he opened the door and with painful awareness, Jimin noticed that it still smelled like Yoongi. Like brewed coffee and cigars, the scent half hidden in the folds of the curtain’s fabric. A reminder of countless nights of working side by side.

Without turning the lights on, Jimin crossed the room, throwing the curtains open and pushing the sliding door until he was walking outside. He crouched there, breathing in the cooling air and the noise of the city. A city where Yoongi was dating someone else.

Tears prickled his eyes, but Jimin kept them in. Too tired to cry. He just breathed, in and out, feeling as if his ribs were cracking on each exhale. Everything was so painful...too painful. Love was shit.

A sudden moan pulled Jimin out of the downward spiral into self-pity he was falling into, and he looked to the right to see his neighbour’s balcony window open. Another sigh of pleasure filtered into the air, followed of a stronger grunt and then, the clear sound of skin on skin.

Passionate love.

Jimin went red in the face, hastily standing and closing the window behind himself. Well, at least someone seemed to be having a great time. Tuning out his neighbour’s carnal party, Jimin looked down at his hand. More specifically at the ring reflecting the light coming from the street. It was over. Ten years of love and companionship thrown, quite literally, out of the window. Remembering the mystery man, Jimin shuffled to the washroom to stare at himself. Sure, his face was more or less the same as it was when he had met Yoongi all those years ago - less the baby fat, of course.

But his body wasn’t.

Jimin used to exercise everyday back then. He had defined arms and thick, muscular legs that Yoongi adored. Most of that went away when University turned difficult and then work consumed most of his free time. Lifting his shirt, Jimin poked at his soft stomach, pinching the slight fat around his hips. Mystery man was everything Jimin wasn’t: handsome and probably successful and a perfect match to Yoongi.

They said love needed to be taken care of, fed during the years for it to last. And Jimin had tried, he had given his all to Yoongi, but maybe it hadn’t been enough. A elementary school teacher had nothing to do with a renowned producer, right?

It was all on Jimin and after having a look at Mystery Man, he really couldn’t blame Yoongi. The other man was probably far more interesting and wonderful than Jimin. Probably had much more experience in the sheets than Jimin would ever had. No, he didn’t blame him at all.

Jimin took off his ring.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

Jeongguk was stepping out of the elevator when he spotted his neighbour, Jimin, struggling in front of his door.

He had been living for a couple of years already in the apartment building when Jimin had moved in with his boyfriend. Jeongguk remembered clearly how loud the man had been, laughing at everything and using every excuse he had to kiss his boyfriend without care. It used to annoy the living fuck out of Jeongguk, how loud Jimin’s laughter was. How every time he crossed paths with the man, he would smile bright and greet him, even when Jeongguk had spent the night out and looked like shit.

The annoyance had eased down to resigned politeness from Jeongguk’s part and more contained happiness as Jimin grew older and it was pretty clear he wouldn’t move anytime soon.

Lately, however, things didn’t seem quite sunny on the adjacent apartment.

It hadn’t taken Jeongguk too long to find out that the person behind the oscar-worthy drama on that Tuesday morning had been Jimin. Not only because it remained the prefered topic of gossip among the old ladies gathering in the convenience store, but also because Yoongi hadn’t come to the apartment in a while.

Also a telltale was the fact that Jimin was a mess.

Jeongguk had noticed, in between silent greetings in the hallways and shared afternoons at the laundry room, that Jimin was quite the neat guy. Sure, he usually came home with paint on his cheeks and stickers on his clothes (probably a side effect of his job) but he always looked well put together and fresh.

Now as Jeongguk approached him, Jimin looked nothing close to his former self. There was paint on his cheeks and on the sleeve of his shirt, Jeongguk could also see some dinosaur stickers on his belt. That wasn’t what revealed how hard Jimin was probably handing the breakup. It was actually the wrinkles on his shirt, the dust on his shoes and how long his hair had gotten, curling around his ears. Yes, Jeongguk paid a lot of attention to details. It was his trademark, the one thing that got him inside the pants of almost everyone and more than once.

Jimin had one knee propped against the wall, a stack of papers and a bag of takeout on top on it. He seemed to be having a hard time holding the whole thing and fishing around his bag for the keys.

Jeongguk considered his options. He could just walk by as always and leave his neighbour to deal with his own problem, as the grown ass man he was. Or, he could for once be a good neighbour and help Jimin out. It was the memory of Jimin lending him laundry detergent one day Jeongguk had none that tipped the balance.

“Hey.”

Jimin jumped at the sudden voice, the food container toppling over and falling to the floor with a wet splash. Jeongguk took a step back just in time to avoid the soup from staining his favorite jeans. Damn.

The sight of his dinner slowly staining the hallway carpet made Jimin groan softly, and he shifted, holding the papers under his arms now.

“Sorry,” he murmured, crouching to retrieve the container but dropping his papers instead. “God damnit.”

The curse startled Jeongguk, who thought someone like Jimin was probably a church goer, afraid of the word dick.

“Here,” Jeongguk said, getting over the surprise and squating down as well. “Let me help.”

“No, no,” waved Jimin, hands flailing. “Don’t worry, no. It’s ok.”

Jeongguk snorted, ignoring Jimin and starting to gather the papers anyway. They looked like school tests, and Jeongguk silently groaned in sympathy at the prospect of having more work after work. Seeing that Jeongguk was already at it, Jimin concentrated in taking care of the soup container, cleaning the carpet as best as he could.

“Cleaning fees are not going to be cheap,” he mourned, absorbing the liquid with a ball of toilet paper.

They both stood up at the same time, Jeongguk signaling for Jimin to open the door when he tried to get his papers back. The inside of the apartment was as untidy as the owner and Jeongguk resisted the urge to lift an eyebrow when Jimin turned to him with a sheepish smile.

“Thank you,” he said, truthfully, when Jeongguk dropped the documents on the kitchen counter.

Jeongguk took in the heavy lines around Jimin’s plush lips, the clear sadness in the way his eyes dropped, and something deep within him shattered - just a bit. He cleared his throat, already considering his ‘good neighbour’ quota met for the whole year.

“Anytime,” he replied, walking out.

Though he hoped Jimin wouldn’t take his word for it.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

“This,” enunciated Taehyung, pointing with his finger at the kitchen sink, “is disgusting.”

Jimin eyed the huge pile of dishes and - by now - living organisms he had managed to accumulate on his sink and shrugged, going back to watching TV. Hoseok and Taehyung exchanged a knowing glance, before they silently decided for Hoseok to intervene.

“Jiminnie,” he said sweetly, moving to the coach where Jimin sat. He lifted a pair of underwear off the cushions before sitting next to him. “What if, now that Tae and I came to visit, we do some quick cleaning, huh?”

“I am not putting my hands in there,” declared Taehyung, making a face at the filth. “You were never like this, Jimin. What the fuck?!”

Jimin swept the room with his eyes, taking in the multitude of cups distributed over all available surfaces. The clothes scattered over the couch and the coffee table. And worst of all, the photo albums documenting the years he spent loving Yoongi still opened over the carpet, from when he had been crying two nights ago.

“I’m lonely,” murmured Jimin, finding Hoseok’s eyes. “I miss him a lot, Hyung.”

Hoseok clucked his tongue, arms reaching to envelope Jimin in a warm hug, when Taehyung snorted, breaking the spell. They both turn to find him with his arms crossed, still by the kitchen counter.

“Lame,” Taehyung said, chucking a duster Jimin’s way.

Jimin stood up indignantly. “I’m having a moment here!”

“You should stop having moments and start getting your life back instead!” retorted Taehyung, ignoring the warning glances Hoseok was throwing his way.

Jimin glared, plopping down on the couch and crossing his arms, Hoseok fussing over him like a mother hen. Taehyung tutted, shaking his head for emphasis. He took one more look at the kitchen apocalypse, before walking over to were his friends were playing ‘let’s live in a world where Tae doesn’t exist’.

He crouched in front of Jimin, trying to catch his gaze, and resolving for squishing Jimin’s cheeks in his palms when he kept avoiding him.

“Jiminnie,” he said patiently. “Do you wanna get over this?”

Jimin nodded, lips sticking out due to the pressure. He looked cute. Jimin was cute, he deserved better.

“Then follow me and everything will be ok,” Taehyung stated, letting go.

“What do you mean?” asked Jimin, massaging his cheeks. Hoseok narrowed his eyes, suspiciously.

Taehyung tilted Jimin’s chin up, studying every angle his his thumb sticking out, like a painter would.

“Have you heard that saying that goes ‘one nail drives another out’?”

 

“I’m so excited, oh my god. It’s been so long since I had a night out!”

Jimin turned to find Hoseok almost bouncing on his seat, pretty eyes lined with charcoal and one of Jimin’s shirts hugging his shoulders. They were all heading to Taehyung’s favourite club in Hongdae, a small place where he often hung out after work.

The line up was long when they walked over, but as a regular, Taehyung managed to get them in without having to wait. Inside the music was loud, the lights coating the dancers in layers of colour and glittery seduction. Taehyung ushered them to a table, signaling to wait while he made his way to the bar.

Jimin looked around, uncomfortable in his own skin. It had been too long since the last time he went clubbing. Never mind about doing so to catch a fling. Yoongi had been his first, he was never in such a position before. Memories of the ways of flirting were scarce in his mind, nothing but random tips read on silly magazines and recollections of Taehyung’s drunken sexcapades.

This was a bad idea, Jimin should have known from the start.

“Hyung!” Jimin shouted, leaning across the table.

Hoseok who was singing under his breath, spared a second from ogling the dance floor to look at Jimin.

“What?!”

Jimin glanced quickly at the couple making out on the booth nearby, at the greedy grip the guy had on the girl’s butt.

“I think I wanna go.”

Hoseok, who was practically dancing on the spot, gestured for Jimin to come closer. “What?! Couldn’t hear you!”

Taehyung chose that moment to come back, balancing drinks in his hands. They were colourful things, the sugary kind Taehyung enjoyed. Jimin made a face but took his anyway. Hoseok yelled in excitement, something about how much he loved mimosas while taking his own.

“Cheers!” said Taehyung gleefully.

Jimin sniffed his drink. It smelled like an unhealthy amount of sugar and fake orange juice, but it was better than nothing and he really needed liquid courage right now. Hoseok and Taehyung gaped as Jimin downed the whole glass in one go, coughing as the gas tickled his nose. It did nothing for him, sweat started to dampen the back of his shirt and his palms, which Jimin kept running down the fabric of his dress pants. Was he having a panic attack?

Too eager to wait, Hoseok went off to the dance floor, body undulating according to the beat. It had been long since they got to see his friend in action but despite the years of parenting and general lack of parties, he was as good as the first day. Maybe just a little outdated on his moves but able to fit in nonetheless.

The feel of a heavy palm on his shoulder brought Jimin back to reality.

“Ready?” asked Taehyung, shedding his jacket. He looked wonderful in the dim lights of the club, smooth skin and inviting eyes. Someone sure on his feet. Jimin on the other hand, was nothing but a shaking mess.

“I can’t do this, Tae,” he confessed truthfully.

Taehyung nodded, pulling Jimin up and away from the table.

“Thought so.”

 

Four shots of tequila and a glass of whisky. That was all it took for Jimin to be blissfully drunk. Not inebriated enough not to know what he was doing, but just the right amount to forget why he was so scared before.

He was on the dance floor, draped all over Hoseok and Taehyung, shouting the lyrics of the songs out loud and giggling like a teenager, a bit unstable on his feet. At some point past midnight, Hoseok kissed them both on their cheeks, claiming that it was time to go check on his kids and then it was just Taehyung and Jimin.

Taehyung gave Jimin a coy smile, plastered to his front and moving sensually. And that was when it happened. A hand curled around Jimin’s waist at the same time that Taehyung was letting go, turning in the embrace of someone else.

“Wanna dance?”

 

In retrospective, things could have gone a lot worse. Both considering that Jimin was extremely nervous and he didn’t have a lot of experience having casual sex (he had none).

As a whole, it had been pleasant. Even pleasurable at times. Heechul was good looking and incredibly charming in Jimin’s eyes. His kisses had been nice and well timed, which made Jimin feel at ease. He was big on kisses, they’d always been his favourite part of making out. Heechul had even been nice enough to take off his shoes and hang Jimin’s jacket, before engulfing him in a passionate embrace once they reached Jimin’s apartment.

It had been thrilling, yeah. But not as deep as with Yoongi and a lot more wet. Sadly not because of a preference for excessive amounts of lube but for the startling fact that Heechul, in the midst of passion, was a crier. Jimin was sort of getting into it, after the whole getting over undressing in front of a stranger and the awkwardness of prepping, when he felt it - little drops on his face.

At first he thought it was sweat, which gross but understandable. However, as Heechul started to pound faster into Jimin, the downpour intensified, which made Jimin want to turn on the light. Which actually was not necessary because just when Heechul was getting into a rhythm that actually appealed to Jimin, a sob escaped his lips. Jimin stilled, because obviously what the fuck, but Heechul just continued on his crying fest, whining like a baby and finishing way before Jimin felt even ready to go. Wow.

Jimin stayed put, face wet with someone else’s tears and a dick still hard in between his legs, patting Heechul’s back until the other calmed down enough to pull off.

“Ah, I always get so emotional during sex, you know?” he said, sniffing and Jimin passed him another tissue, dick already going soft.

“It can happen,” Jimin said, trying to be understanding. Everybody hurts, right? The song was right.

“I’m just...so lonely.”

The confession struck a chord within Jimin and he nodded, shushing Heechul and agreeing when the other asked if he could stay. Of course he could, Jimin was not about to throw someone out into the streets in that state. The next morning, Jimin woke up alone in bed.

All the money from his wallet was gone.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

A few weeks after, and under the insistence of Hoseok, Jimin accepted to go on a blind date with a doctor that worked at his friend’s hospital. Hoseok gushed about how much the doctor had pestered him to arrange a meeting after he had taken a glimpse at the lockscreen of Hoseok’s phone, one that showed both Taehyung and Jimin at the beach.

“He’s quite the catch Jiminnie,” Hoseok said. “it can’t go wrong.”

Jimin was pleasantly surprised when he arrived to the restaurant, a trendy small place that had recently opened in gangnam. His date was Jooheon: good looking, funny and with excellent manners. He had ordered beforehand: steak for him, a salad for Jimin. And although that didn’t sit really well with him, Jimin decided to let it go. Conversation was easy, mainly done by Jooheon who - Jimin was starting to notice - really enjoyed talking about himself.

“I’m about to open my own place, you know,” he commented around a mouthful of beef. “Private practice. You should come see it sometime.”

Jimin smiled in agreement, fork pushing the leaves of the salad around. Jooheon looked at Jimin’s plate.

“Greens are good for you,” he said, placing some cucumbers on top of the lettuce. “They help with the extra fat,” he added, pointing at a random point on Jimin’s cheeks.

Jimin left five minutes after that.

 

“Told you not to believe in Hoseok’s words,” commented Taehyung when they all met up after Jimin’s failed date. “He has terrible taste.”

“Hey!” protested Hoseok. “How would I know he was a control freak. Besides I don’t have bad taste, Namjoon is wonderful.”

“I introduced you to him,” countered Taehyung, licking his spoon and letting go of it with a pop.

Jimin just grumbled, mouth full of ice cream and chocolate sauce. The sweetness of the dessert made his teeth ache and Jimin remembered, with painful clarity, how Yoongi always prepared a tube of especial toothpaste for those days. One designed to relieve the pain when Jimin was set on binge eating sweets.

He let go of his spoon, suddenly not hungry anymore.

His heart throbbed.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

Jeongguk loved Saturdays.

He loved Saturdays because he played poker with his friends on friday nights, so he never woke up to an unknown face on Saturdays. It was just him, the sheets that smelled like his cologne and the quiet of his apartment. On Saturdays, Jeongguk got to forget about work and laze around in his boxers until he was ready to order the greasiest food the local stores could deliver to his door.

It was such a perfect day. A precious amount of time where he replenished the necessary energy to go hunting at night. So yeah, Saturdays were Jeongguk’s day off. Until they were not.

It all started with a knock on his door. One that Jeongguk ignored the first time, too busy with national geographics and the annoying itch in his balls. When the person on the other side of the door kept knocking and the baby seals getting devoured on TV got too gruesome for Jeongguk to digest, he finally stood up. He had a scowl already in place when he threw his door open, clad only in his underwear, chest in full display.

“What,” he said, fixing his eyes on his neighbour, Jimin, who gaped.

It took Jimin a couple of seconds to register that 1. Jeongguk was practically naked and 2. It was very rude to stare at someone’s chest instead of their face. He snapped his head up, plastering a smile on it for good measure.

“Hi.” Jeongguk grunted in response, crossing his arms over his chest and Jimin breathed deeply, determined not to back out. “Are you busy?”

 

Jimin woke up that Saturday morning feeling restless.

It had been weeks since the last time he went out and the stress from work, on top of the chronic solitude currently camping on his chest, felt a little too much. A plain breakfast of milk and cereals did nothing to ease him into the day either and Jimin flopped on the couch shortly after, seven am in the morning and with nothing to do.

Too much free time and Jimin never mixed really well.

He busied himself browsing the TV, skipping show after show and finally settling in cartoons that didn’t manage to hold his attention for long. His eyes soon drifted to the wall. The same plain white walls the apartment had when he and Yoongi moved in. Back then, Jimin had wanted a combination of yellow and blue for it, bright and cheerful. Yoongi, on the other hand, prefered to leave the walls as they were, arguing that too much color gave him headaches. And so, their apartment had remained like nothing but a mix of black, white and gray. For years, even now.

Jimin pouted.

Taehyung had said that if Jimin wanted to get over Yoongi, then he had to help his heart to heal. According to magazines and articles Jimin found online, post break-up was easier to deal with if the person removed themselves from that which was part of a routine. Jimin couldn’t really quit his job (he loved his kids too much) and finding a new apartment would be troublesome (and more expensive, his actual place was a steal), but he could give it a new look.

With that thought in mind, Jimin went to the store, getting all the supplies needed to paint his apartment. He was going to get those yellow and blue walls, no matter the cost. Of course, things were easier said than done and after a couple of hours into his redecorating, Jimin was faced with the first flaw of his plan.

He couldn’t reach the top part of the walls.

Sure, he could use a chair, but going up and down while trying to paint, paired with Jimin’s natural clumsiness didn’t seem like the brightest idea. In theory, Jimin could call Taehyung to come help but that would involve a lot of begging and also would leave him on debt with his friend, which was something he definitely didn’t want. It was then that Jimin remembered Jeongguk - his very tall, very nice neighbour - who had told Jimin he could count on him anytime.

Jimin bit his lip. Technically, Jeongguk hadn't said that, Jimin could recognized words said out of politeness, with no real intention. But truth was, he needed help so his neighbour would have to do.

He didn’t expected Jeongguk to open his door with such a sour expression in place. He didn’t expect him to be so wonderfully naked either.

“So you want me to help you paint,” stated Jeongguk, finally putting on a t-shirt and covering his very distracting abs. Jimin had never been so grateful in his life.

“Yes,” said Jimin, shifting on his feet by the entrance door. “I’ll pay you with homemade food.”

Jeongguk stopped while tying his running shoes. “You consider that payment?” he asked.

Jimin looked around Jeongguk’s apartment. At the neat living room and pristine kitchen, nothing out of place. It looked more like an Ikea display than a place where people lived.

“Well...you eat shitty takeout every weekend, so…” Jimin tried to smile. “I thought it’d be nice?”

Jeongguk took in Jimin’s hopeful smile, the way he fidgeted with the hem of his t-shirt and the paint he already got on his cheek. Damn National Geographic and the baby seals, he was fucking weak.

“Alright.”

 

Turned out, helping Jimin was a lot more fun than what Jeongguk expected.

Jimin’s temper was as short as himself. He was, in fact, like a tiny angry kitten, all blunt claws and baby teeth. Every time Jeongguk would tease him about his height, Jimin would grumble some nonsense about the lack of respect and chickens with hormones, making laughter bubble within Jeongguk’s chest. It had been long since Jeongguk laughed so much, especially with someone that wasn’t really his friend.

“You are annoying,” Jimin whined, flecks of bright yellow like miniature suns in his head, contrasting with the black of his hair. “I regret asking you.”

“I don't,” said Jeongguk cheekily, shaking his brush once more, now getting blue all over Jimin’s face.

“Ugh!”

 

Sooner than expected, the living room was all done. Truthfully, the color palette wasn’t one Jeongguk would have chosen himself, but he had to admit it looked pretty cool. Lively, like Jimin.

Jimin who was busy in the kitchen, finishing up the promised lunch, time that Jeongguk used to scan the rest of the apartment. Most of the stuff was removed due to the painting, but some frames were still on display, with pictures of Jimin and his ex, Yoongi. Jeongguk was surprised but didn’t mention it when Jimin waved him over to eat.

“Here,” said Jimin, placing a bowl of freshly made jajangmyeon, tongue stuck in the corner of his lips in concentration.

The smile that blossomed on his face at Jeongguk’s moan of satisfaction after the first bite was blinding. He actually look very close to clapping in delight and that hard thing in Jeongguk’s heart softened, even if just a little.

Jimin came back to the counter seconds after, with a bowl of salad for himself. Jeongguk frowned, following as Jimin added the tiniest bit of dressing to the greens, before he started eating. The contrast between their lunches didn’t sit well with Jeongguk, so he placed his chopsticks on the table, crossing his arms.

“Are you sick?” he asked.

Jimin stopped mid chew, surprised. “What, why?” he said. “Do I look weird?”

He attempted to have a look at his reflection on the back of a spoon, but Jeongguk batted his hand away. “What with the cow food then?”

“The cow…?” Jimin trailed off, eyes finding the salad in front of him. “Ah, that-”

“Yeah?” prompted Jeongguk.

Jimin flushed, embarrassed. “Yeah, well...I’m...I’m dieting...a bit.” he said, almost in a whisper.

Jeongguk considered the words. In his experience people dieted only when they really had to, say for a medical condition, or when someone told them they were fat. Jimin didn’t look like the first type at all.

On a whim, Jeongguk grabbed his own bowl, dumping half of his noodles in another plate.

“What are you doing?” asked Jimin, confused.

Jeongguk pushed the plate toward him. “Here, eat.”

Jimin stared at the noodles, mouth watering. “Nah, I’m good with my sal-”

“Ah,” whined Jeongguk, face all scrunched up. “You are giving me indigestion, what are these manners. Eat with me. You make it so difficult, I-”

“Ok!” interrupted Jimin, fed up. He grabbed an extra pair of chopsticks, scowling at Jeongguk. His frown all but disappeared when his tongue got a taste of the sauce. God he was such a good cook, wasn’t he?

Jeongguk went back to his noodles weirdly satisfied. “See? Told you it was better.”

“It is,” confirmed Jimin, sauce staining his lips.

“Right? Way better than just eating grass. You gotta put some meat in those bones, Jimin.”

“Hyung,” corrected Jimin.

Jeongguk looked puzzled for a bit, before returning to his food.

“You are too short for that.”

“Yah!”

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

The third time Jimin ventured into the dating pool, he was on his own.

Like a miracle, he had managed to avoid the blind dates Hoseok and Taehyung offered him left and right, deciding that if anyone knew what was better for him, then it was himself and no one else.

With that mindset, he spent some time in front of the mirror on a Friday night, getting the paint off of his body and making sure the bags under his eyes would not show. All in all Jimin considered he looked good, going for a more relaxed outfit that made him look young. Enough for him to get carded at the bar. Still, the outfit seemed to be good enough since not two hours into the night, a man was grabbing Jimin’s hips, grinding almost glued to his back. The guy, named Hansol, was clean-shaven and handsome. Sweet like Jimin hadn’t experienced in a long time.

His kisses were a little sloppy, Jimin noticed when they made it to his apartment, but he compensated with so much eagerness that Jimin had to admit he was endeared. He couldn’t remember the last time someone was so excited to have sex with him.

“Do you have a preference?” asked Jimin, getting rid of his t-shirt.

Hansol, who was already stark naked gaped.

“How is it that your are a god?” he asked rhetorically, hands reverent as they hovered over Jimin’s chest.

Jimin laughed, cheeks dusting red as he crawled on top of the bed, aiming for sexy. By the look on Hansol’s face, he was succeeding, giving Jimin a sudden rush of confidence. This looked really good, finally not a flop.

“So?”

“I don’t care,” replied Hansol, lapping at Jimin’s collarbones.

They ended up trying everything, mainly because Hansol didn’t seem to have much control. He ended up coming incredible fast, no matter how slow Jimin took it. At least he was sweet about it, praising Jimin and whispering that he never wanted to have another dick up his ass if it wasn’t Jimin’s.

It should have worried Jimin, really, how innocent Hansol seemed to be. Yet the feeling of someone holding him to sleep so tight was more than enough to make him drift into dreamland.

 

For a few weeks, Jimin felt very close to happy.

Hansol would show up randomly after Jimin was done with work, carrying flowers and pizza boxes and weird anime movies Jimin didn’t quite understand. They would make sweet love, with Hansol adoring every centimeter of Jimin’s body until dawn came.

Taehyung and Hoseok insisted on meeting the mysterious guy that managed to put a smile on his face, but Jimin declined arguing that he wanted to take it slow. The only one that had met Hansol so far was Jeongguk, who only raised an eyebrow at Jimin when Hansol was back hugging him as he tried to open the apartment door.

“He seems to be very…” Jeongguk struggled with words while folding the clothes out of the dryer, “...affectionate?”

Detecting the mockery in Jeongguk’s tone, Jimin bumped shoulders with him, cheeks red as he told him to shut up.

“He looks young…” continued Jeongguk.

Which Jimin dismissed with a dismissive, “He has a baby face, like me.”

 

Three weeks later, however, Jeongguk’s words came back to slap Jimin in the face. He and Hansol were lazing around in bed after Jimin had served them both breakfast, the warm rays of the sun warming up their skin. Hansol reached to check the time in the clock, groaning out loud before disentangling himself from Jimin.

“What is it?” Jimin asked, stretching like a cat.

“I got a test,” replied Hansol, searching for his clothes. “Can’t fail or my mom will kick my ass.”

“Your mom?” said Jimin, confused.

Whose mother cared that much when you were out of high school? Jimin had never asked Hansol about his age directly but he assumed, based on the backpack he always wore, that he was a college student.

“Yeah, I’m close to failing this class and she threatened to take my xbox away, so-”

Hansol kissed Jimin full on the lips, disappearing into the washroom. It took three seconds for Jimin to fly out of bed, running into the living room and digging into Hansol’s backpack in search of an ID. He was still holding it when Hansol stepped into the living room.

“Baby?”

“You are eighteen,” whispered Jimin, still in shock.

Hansol zeroed in on the card. “Uh, yeah?”

“I had sex with a kid,” continued Jimin as he sank on the couch. “I’m going to jail…”

“I’m not a kid,” protested Hansol, kneeling in front of Jimin. “Babe-”

“Don’t call me that!” Jimin’s voice was shrill, but he allowed Hansol to take his hand anyway. He was so soft, so delighted by everything. First love. Jimin should have known. Perhaps he just didn’t want to see.

“Age is just a number,” Hansol said. “We are happy together. You make me so happy, Hyung. I lov-”

“You should go,” interrupted Jimin, getting up and stepping away. He couldn’t bear listening to those words, not now. Not like this. “Just...go and...don’t come back.”

Jimin marched into his room, closing the door behind him, tears welling in his eyes.

“Jimin-hyung,” came Hansol’s voice from the other side of the door.

Jimin shut his eyes, not budging. It wasn’t until he heard the front door closing that he slided down the wall.

God, he was fucked.

 

“Jiminnie, don’t be sad.”

Hoseok snuggled closer in bed, throwing a leg over Jimin’s hips. Taehyung, who was on the other side, was petting Jimin’s hair, both of them creating a warm cocoon. Jimin wasn’t big in being smothered by his best friends yet at that particular moment in life, when he had reached the bottom, it seemed that nothing else could make him feel better.

They have laughed of course, non stop since Jimin told them about Hansol and until they got to his home. And from that, during the whole week, every time Jimin picked up the phone. It was annoying, of course, but it made ignoring Hansol’s calls easier.

Jimin sighed, burying his face in Taehyung’s neck. Just thinking about Hansol made his heart hurt, both in embarrassment at being fooled like that, and also longing for someone calling him pretty everyday. All due to Min Yoongi, why did he have to break up with Jimin?

“I know what we should do,” said Hoseok, propping himself up on his elbows to look at his friends.

“Eat cookie dough!” chirped Taehyung, getting excited.

“No, no,” dismissed Hoseok.

“What?” questioned Jimin halfheartedly. He should concentrate only on his job from now on, forget about men and dating and all that stuff.

“You are mopping because you miss your kid, right?” he started, ignoring Jimin’s protests. “Well, Namjoon and I haven’t had a night out in months, so-”

Jimin grimaced in anticipation, already knowing what Hoseok was about to proposed.

“How about I lend you my kids for a night?”

Taehyung laughed.

 

Adoring children was a given for Jimin.

He could hardly remember a moment when he didn’t like them. With absolute certainty, Jimin knew since he entered high school that he wanted to work with kids. Each day he spent teaching them everything, from how to colour within the lines to how to make friends, was a day where Jimin was reassured that he picked well.

Loving and caring for his students, though, was completely different from having actual kids at home. Hoseok had stopped by that morning, arms full of kids and snacks, wild expression in place.

“Namjoon had to work this morning,” he said, releasing the kids, who started running all over the apartment almost immediately. “He sent me alone to the supermarket, can you believe?”

Jimin shook his head, lips falling open as Yerin and Haneul made a mess of the living room he had just arranged. Hoseok smiled fondly, a deep sigh leaving his lips, before he turned back to face Jimin.

“Here,” he pushed two bags into Jimin’s chest with more force than necessary. “Thank you for doing this. Good luck!”

And with that, he had disappeared, leaving Jimin alone with two of the most difficult kids Jimin had ever met. It wasn’t that Yerin and Haneul were obnoxious, disrespectful kids. No. They were sweet and kind, very easy to love. They were, however, extremely intelligent and energetic as well, a perfect combination of their adoptive parents more prominent traits.

It was incredible and exhausting at the same time.

Jimin spent half of the morning getting used to Yerin questioning everything he said, and the other half running after Haneul, catching him every time he tried to climb on top of the library, when Yerin told him that he couldn’t fly.

Not everything was a disaster, of course, Jimin managed to engage the kids into activities every now and then, all his experience in teaching elementary school coming in handy. However, there was so much he could do before youthful energy kicked in and Haneul rushed to the library once again.

Jimin was considering being a terrible friend and calling Hoseok when someone knocked on his door.

“Hey, Jimin,” said Jeongguk when the door opened. “Can I borrow some-”

Jeongguk was cut off by Jimin pulling him in, shutting the door firmly behind him. A scream startled him and Jeongguk quickly looked over to the living room, finding two kids running around. Their giggles filling the space.

The smile Jeongguk had in place when he turned back to Jimin banished immediately at the wrecked look his neighbour was sporting: hair disheveled, clothes rumpled and paint. Always the freaking paint. A quick glance told Jeongguk that Jimin had probably attempted to calm the kids by doing art, since their drawing where drying on top of the kitchen counter. It was clear that it hadn’t been enough, Jimin looked close to tears.

“You look busy,” commented Jeongguk, sticking his hands in his pockets.

“You have no idea,” whined Jimin, rubbing his face with his hands and spreading the paint even further. “I’m going insane-”

Jeongguk’s remark died in his lips when his eyes caught sight of the little boy, spreading his arms wide on top of the library, ready to jump. Jimin felt a screech growing in his throat, but faster than he thought possible, Jeongguk was crossing the room, catching Haneul just in time. Jimin sagged against the wall in relief, eyes wide as he saw Jeongguk spin the boy in the air, a cute smile in place at Haneul’s cries of delight. When Yerin started to jump around, demanding that she wanted to fly too, Jimin made up his mind.

“Please help me,” he begged, clutching Jeongguk’s arm. “I need to take care of them until night and I don’t think I’ll be able to survive, I haven’t even had lunch yet!”

Jeongguk chortled. “Are you that desperate, Jimin?”

Jimin resisted the urge to snap at the lack of honorific, but one scream from Yerin was enough to make him bite his tongue.

“Yes, I am.”

“Ok,” Jeongguk said, feeling weirdly proud at the fact that he was needed for something more than just sex. “I’ll stay.”

 

Jeongguk was resting his head against the wall when a glass materialized in front of his line of sight. He tilted his head to find Jimin, hair still wet after the shower.

“Drink?” he whispered.

Accepting the glass, Jeongguk turned his gaze back to the kids sleeping soundly on the carpet, little bodies covered with a blanket. Haneul still had one of his toys clutched in his tiny hand, making Jeongguk smile despite himself. Jimin dropped next to him with a weary sigh. He smelled like candy apples, sweet and crisp enough to be pleasant. It had been a long day of games and running around, one that left Jeongguk exhausted enough to cancel his poker night. Something he had never done before, for anyone.

Jimin was quite something.

A quiet something that settled comfortably by his side, features softening in the stillness of the end of a day. Beyond the peaceful atmosphere surrounding them as they sip on their glasses of wine, Jeongguk could see the bags under Jimin’s eyes - the downturn of his lips.

“How’s the new boyfriend?” he asked before he could stop himself.

Just in the way Jimin’s face fell, Jeongguk knew he had hit the jackpot. Of course he noticed when the kid stopped coming over. Jeongguk used to see him all the time, sitting outside Jimin’s door for hours, waiting.

“I guess he is not the boyfriend anymore?” Jeongguk continued, testing the waters.

Jimin sighed, lips pouty as he watched the rise and fall of Yerin’s chest. Easily, anyone could see that at the end of the day, his life had been reduced to nothing but Yoongi. Due to Jimin’s stubborn devotion, positioning his ex as the center of his life, he had no hobbies, no motivations. He should have listened when Taehyung advised him not to get too absorbed. With Yoongi gone, Jimin had too much time. Time but nothing to do with it.

Jimin had left all behind to follow Yoongi, he no longer knew what he liked.

“He was borderline underage,” said Jimin, lips twitching. “Can you believe my wretched taste? First the crier, that not only left me hanging but also stole my money. Then the self-centered asshole that thought I ought to eat more salad to lose the extra fat. And to top it all, a kid...I spent almost a whole month fucking a kid.”

Jimin’s laughter was hollow, devoid of any glee, bitter in Jeongguk’s ears. It didn’t fit Jimin, even Jeongguk that didn’t know him very well could tell.

“Sometimes I feel like the world is punishing because I didn’t fight for Yoongi,” murmured Jimin, cup dangling from his fingers, “Maybe I should have held onto him tighter, convince him to love me for longer…”

Jeongguk ran his tongue over his teeth, surprisingly annoyed. Love didn’t work like that, not that he was an expert but he was pretty sure it was a two-way street. Like some sort of upgraded version of sex, you needed both parties to push for the happy ending. Or at least that was how he saw it.

“You still hung up on him?” Jeongguk asked.

Jimin shrugged. “I guess...like, I always knew I’d never find someone better than him but-”

“What?” interrupted Jeongguk. “Ok, he might be cool but he isn’t the only cool dude in the world, you know?” he said, a bit offended.

“Oh, I know that,” agreed Jimin, tucking his legs under his chin. “But cool guys don’t look at me. I’m not cool,” he explained, glancing at Jeongguk. “I’m an elementary school teacher that spends his weekends holed up in his apartment reading books. Having Yoongi see me all those years back...it was like a miracle. People started talking to me in the halls, I suddenly existed because Yoongi saw me. Because he liked me…”

“So you liked the attention,” stated Jeongguk, fully aware that he was being difficult but not caring enough to stop.

“No!” hissed Jimin, slapping Jeongguk on his thigh. “That’s not what I meant. I’m happy just being me...I was trying to say that it’s hard to avoid comparing everyone to Yoongi. But I know now that I should settle for someone more like me. That way they won’t feel like I’m not enough and they won’t leave me.”

Jeongguk drank his wine in one go, biting his tongue to avoid yelling at Jimin to just shut up. The kids were sleeping so it was no time to fight. But oh Jimin was going to hear him, yes he was.

Jeongguk was not about to let things stay that way.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

“So I walk in and ha! There it was our Jiminnie getting all cozy with the hot neighbour.”

Jimin rolled his eyes, too busy turning the meat on the grill to pay attention to his friends. It was a pleasant night out, just the three of them. Some soju, some meat and the buzz of the conversation from nearby tables. Taehyung was wiggling like a kid on his stool, clapping excitedly at the details Hoseok was giving him.

“He’s exaggerating,” muttered Jimin, serving each some meat on top of their rice.

“I’m not!” protested Hoseok, shoving some food into his mouth. “They were this close!” he continued, pressing his thumb and index together.

“Yah, Jiminnie!” exclaimed Taehyung, huge proud grin on his face. “Didn’t know you had it in you! Taking over the hot neighbour all by yourself,” he dropped his hand heavily on Jimin’s shoulder, looking solemn. “I’m proud.”

Jimin tsked, shrugging off Taehyung’s hand and concentrating on his food.

“It’s nothing like that. He just came over by accident and decided to stay after someone,” he eyed Hoseok meaningfully, “dropped his kids without calling first.”

“I told you I was going to do it,” Hoseok said, sipping on his water.

“It was ten in the morning!” countered Jimin.

Taehyung shushed them, reaching for the meat before it burned. “You guys are missing the point, which is, the hot neighbour alone with Jiminnie. Like, hello?!”

Hoseok looked giddy. “That’s right! He was so handsome,” he said, looking at Taehyung dreamily. “Just like Joonie when we didn’t have kids.”

Taehyung snorted, earning a slap in the arm from Hoseok.

“His name is Jeongguk,” said Jimin, grabbing Hoseok’s hands to stop him. “And he’s just a nice, helpful neighbour,” he considered the word. “A friend.”

“Friends can fuck,” commented Taehyung wiggling his eyebrows.

Now it was Jimin’s turn to slap him. “Stop it, ok. He doesn’t see me like that.”

“And you?” asked Hoseok, leaning forward.

Jimin felt something stir in his gut at the thought of getting closer to Jeongguk, but he schooled his features into indifference.

“Of course not. He’s just a friend.”

 

“He’s just a friend, for fucks sake.”

Jeongguk leaned back on his chair, cards resting against his chest, while Yugyeom and Jaehyun eyed him suspiciously.

“You, the Jeon Jeongguk, having a friend,” started Yugyeom.

“A friend that’s not one of us,” continued Jaehyun, asking for another card. “Which means…”

“That you wouldn’t be breaking any rules,” completed Yugyeom, wicked smile on his face. “You could fuck him with no shame. No consequences.”

“Nice.”

They high fived and continued making jokes until Jeongguk was showing his cards and winning the round. Yugyeom groaned out loud, cursing some as he wandered to the kitchen in search of more beer. Jeongguk smiled, grabbing the bills and bringing them to his side.

“Asshole,” muttered Jaehyun, accepting the beer Yugyeom gave him.

“That happens when you don’t keep your head in the game,” commented Jeongguk, taking a swig.

“No but, seriously, not even the tip?” asked Yugyeom, eagerly.

Against his will, Jeongguk started laughing, shaking his head. “He’s a friend.”

Yugyeom blew a raspberry. “Old…”

“And he is not my type, at all,” clarified Jeongguk. “He’s a great guy. A good pal but there’s no spark. I need wild, Jimin is the opposite of that.”

“He has a great ass,” remarked Jaehyun, mimicking the shape of a butt with his hands. Yugyeom gave him a thumbs up.

The corner of Jeongguk’s lip curled up, thoughts drifting unwillingly to the way Jimin’s pants hugged his legs so well. He cleared his throat, shuffling the cards and sure that his ears were red.

“Shall we go again?”

Yugyeom cackled.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

It was Jaehyun’s fault. Everything that was happening to Jeongguk was Jaehyun’s (and Yugyeom’s, let’s not forget Yugyeom) fault.

Jeongguk was a chill man. A chill, cool and collected man that had his life all figured out. Ever since he turned eighteen and stopped believing in love. And no, he was not one of those guys traumatized by a bad experience. All the opposite.

At the young age of eighteen Jeongguk decided that sex was better than love.

He had seen his friends mopping after their crushes that didn’t give them the time of the day. He had spent hours patting their backs and murmuring comforting words. Four years of high school were enough for him to decide he wanted none of that. Sex was instant satisfaction. Sex was easy to find and required no compromise.

Sex was perfect.

His vision on the matters of love hadn’t change with the years, all the opposite. Jeongguk was successful, he had the job of his dreams, good friends and a different body to ravish every week. That was not his problem.

His biggest problem right at that moment was the fact that his subconscious had started to conjure Jimin as the faceless stranger he fucked into the sheets. It had first happened during the weekend. Jeongguk had returned home perfectly blissed out after a hurried fuck in the washroom of a club. He had sunk into the sheets, purring in satisfaction only to wake up in the middle of the night with a raging boner and the crystal clear image of a naked Jimin.

His neighbour. His messy, ‘I have paint on my face’, totally not his type neighbour.

Jeongguk blamed Jaehyun.

He blamed his friend for mentioning Jimin’s ass knowing Jeongguk was an ass man and most likely knowing he had already checked Jimin out. Because he did, all the way back to the day Jimin was doing laundry in nothing but a t-shirt and a pair of tiny shorts. Jeongguk was a gentleman, but he had his flaws.

Checking asses was a minimal fault in his opinion.

The worst part was that, every time he was around Jimin, he couldn’t help but steal a glance. And he had been around Jimin a lot. Ever since that conversation they had in between sips of wine and children’s sighs, Jeongguk has spent more than one evening taking advantage of Jimin’s cooking skills.

He couldn’t help it really.

The combination of homemade food and easy banter was the best therapy for his nerves. It calmed his mind after the long hours of creative work, taking him away from the stress of picky clients and unethical deadlines. Soothing, that was the best way to describe what Jimin was to Jeongguk and in short time, he had grown dependent on it.

With Jimin, Jeongguk didn’t have to worry about what he said or how he looked. He didn’t have to check if his hair was in place or if his ass looked good or anything, really. Jimin was easy acceptance and selfless care, things Jeongguk hardly ever came across.

No one could blame him if he was a bit fixated on his neighbour, right? It was normal when making new friends. The desire of sleepy Jeongguk to fuck the living daylights out of Jimin surely meant nothing.

Right? It was just physical, it couldn’t really be anything else.

Love? Jeongguk had no idea how love felt like.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

Mondays.

Mondays were truly Jimin’s worst day. Traffic was bad, the students were grumpy and Jeongguk worked late, meaning Jimin got to have dinner alone. As it was, Jimin was not looking forward to reaching his apartment. He had grown used to Jeongguk’s company, to the laughter and the teasing and the stories of Jeongguk’s one night stands. Eating dinner alone seemed rather bleak.

Jimin walked into his apartment building still trying to convince Taehyung to come visit for the night. With no luck, of course, since Taehyung seemed to have a date.

“His name is Bogum and he’s a journalist and I really like him, Jimin,” he said over the phone. “So not today, my friend. My dick would never forgive me.”

Jimin laughed.

“It’s ok,” he said, stepping into the elevator. “Good luck! Tell me all the dirty details tomorrow, kay?”

“My dick is grateful, please expect a whole lot of nasty if everything goes well.”

The light was on when Jimin opened the door to his apartment. Not the kitchen light, but the living room. For a wild moment, the idea of someone breaking into his place crossed his mind, only to be dismissed because no robber would leave the lights on. Next came the realization that only someone with keys would be able to get in. That was when Jimin took a step back.

Yoongi.

“Jimin, is that you?”

Dread was a nasty little thing, all metals and claws, twisting in Jimin’s gut. He left his things on the kitchen counter slowly, painfully aware of the state he was in. Mondays were the day he had class with his Grade 1 kids. Monday was the day he was in such hurry he didn’t have time for lunch. Monday was the day when everything reminded him of Yoongi and the things Jimin no longer had.

Mondays, Mondays, truly Jimin’s worst day.

“Jimin.”

Yoongi was standing in the middle of the living room, hands in his pockets, sleeves rolled up revealing pale skin. Jimin felt suddenly nauseous.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, slowly moving further into the apartment, cautious of coming nowhere close to Yoongi. He was wearing Jimin’s favourite shirt, the one they had picked together on a trip to Japan. Jimin wondered if Yoongi remembered.

“I came to get the rest of my stuff,” Yoongi replied, “and found nothing. Everything is gone, why is that?”

Jimin shrugged, finally stopping in front of the open door to his bedroom. The place was in complete disarray, even more than the normal. The doors to the closet were open, the hangers pushed to one side, some clothes were on the floor. Jimin felt weirdly violated, like Yoongi had stepped into a private part of himself, even though they had shared the place for almost five years.

“You have no right…” he whispered.

“Where is my stuff?” asked Yoongi.

“I threw it out!” spat Jimin turning around. “All of it, there is nothing left so go!”

“You threw it out,” said Yoongi slowly, anger tinting his cheeks pink. “Why? So you could replace it with someone else’s stuff? What is this?” he asked, lifting a hoodie that clearly didn’t belong to Jimin. “Whose is this?!”

Jimin froze for a second, staring at Jeongguk’s hoodie. One he had left behind one day he was over for dinner.

“None of your business,” muttered Jimin. “Get out.”

“This quickly you replaced me?” Yoongi demanded, not really understanding where all the anger was coming from, but sure as hell didn’t liking that all traces of his pass through Jimin’s life were erased. All that weirdly represented by the presence of a foreign sweatshirt in which used to be his apartment. “Do years really mean nothing to you, Jimin?”

Jimin laughed, not quite believing what he was hearing.

“What the hell did you expect? Did you come here to lift your ego somehow?”

“I came here to check how you were doing, because I worry Jimin,” hissed Yoongi, getting closer. “And I find this stupid sweatshirt and all our pictures gone. I thought what we had meant more to you-”

“You broke up with me, Yoongi!” interrupted Jimin, getting teary eyed against his will. “You decided to end this without even warning me, without giving me any signal that something was wrong,” Jimin blinked rapidly, “you gave me no chance, just smashed my heart to pieces and now you dare come here and get angry?”

“We were not working-”

You, Yoongi!” yelled Jimin losing control. “Yo were not working. It was all you, I had no idea! No fucking idea!”

“Jimin?”

Yoongi looked sharply at the main door, where their neighbour was standing. Anger bubbled in his chest, bursting through his ribs, threatening to explode and paint the room in angry reds. What the hell was his neighbour doing at their door? And most importantly, since when did he have the key? Suddenly the hoodie Yoongi was holding in his hand made sense and he turned back to Jimin, throwing the piece of clothing at his feet.

“Is this who’s fucking you right now?” he asked viciously. “You didn’t have to look far.”

“Hey!” Jeongguk stepped into the apartment with a frown etched in his face, jaw hard in annoyance.

“This has nothing to do with you, get out!” yelled Yoongi. “This is between me and my fiancé!”

“You ex fiancé, asshole!” remarked Jeongguk back.

“Jeongguk…” whispered Jimin, hand covering his face.

“Ah touchy, aren’t we?” taunted Yoongi. “Why? Are you having fun hitting that? Did he tell you he loved you already? He did to me right after the first time-”

“I’m gonna kill you,” said Jeongguk between his teeth, big strides getting him fast across the room.

“Jeongguk!”

Jeongguk turned around to find Jimin not quite looking at either of them, hands balled into fists at his sides. His cheeks were wet and the sight made Jeongguk’s stomach churn, torn between wanting to smash Yoongi to a pulp and run to Jimin and make the tears stop.

He ended up doing none. Jimin tilted his head up, fixing Yoongi with a stare that Jeongguk hoped was never directed at him.

“I love you, Yoongi,” Jimin said, sincerely. “Or at least I think I did. You were my whole world and though I was happy, I,” he let go of a shuddering breath. “I realized it was a mistake. I was wrong, we were never meant to be...I loved alone for too long. I burdened you, I know now…”

“Shit,” murmured Jeongguk, hands liking behind his neck as he paced the room, taking big gulps of air to calm down.

“Jimin,” tried Yoongi, not quite sure of what to say. He had come to the apartment with the idea of getting his things and also checking on Jimin. Despite the happiness he had found away from his ex, there were days Yoongi missed him. And he had been weak, waiting in the apartment when Jimin was not there, eager for just one more look into the eyes that contained nothing but love for him.

There was nothing of that in Jimin’s eyes, though. Only despair, Yoongi’s doing.

“Please, go”

It took Yoongi a couple of dates disguised as work dinners to understand what unrequited love meant, how it felt like. Just a handful of dates to finally comprehend what it was to love alone. He wanted to tell Jimin that, maybe that way he would understand. Perhaps, like that, Yoongi could get a second chance at life.

“I just wanted-” Yoongi trailed off, eyes finding Jeongguk who was facing away from them. It didn’t matter. Not anymore.

“Go.”

When the door closed, Jimin took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. It came out shaky. He tried again, failing to fill his lungs and gasping as he choked. Ice traveled through his veins settling within his heart, and he shivered, not quite sure what to do with himself.

It wasn’t until Jeongguk was gathering him against his chest that Jimin was able to breathe again.

 

“C’mon Jiminnie,” coerced Hoseok, nuzzling against Jimin’s nape. “Get up.”

It was Wednesday evening and Jimin was already in bed. It had been the same for a week already and Jeongguk had been worried enough to fish Jimin’s phone out of his backpack and call his friends. Hoseok and Taehyung had arrived within the hour, armed with bags of takeout and comedy movies, determined to make Jimin smile.

Their efforts, however, had been in vain. Jimin was still there, curled up in bed and driving Jeongguk up the wall. Taehyung had tried everything, from rational conversation to embarrassing whining while sprawled on top of Jimin. And nothing.

Jeongguk was going insane.

“That’s all you got?” he asked Taehyung impatiently.

“Brat!” replied Taehyung, crossing his arms. “Jiminnie is like a fucking oyster when he’s upset. It’s really hard to get through.”

Jeongguk prodded at his cheek with his tongue, totally unsatisfied. He was tired and hungry and he missed Jimin’s homemade food so damn much. This could not continue, it threatened his own health so he had to put a stop to it.

“Alright,” he said, pushing Hoseok to the side and yanking the covers off of Jimin’s body. “Up!”

“Jeongguk,” said Jimin weakly, blindly reaching for the comforter again.

“I said up!” ordered Jeongguk, manhandling Jimin to a standing position, not caring for his friend’s protests. “Go shower, now. We are going out.”

Jimin sighed. “Listen, I appreciate it but-”

“I’m not giving you an option,” Jeongguk fixed him with a stare that left no room to complain. “Now.”

Jimin harrumphed, grabbing a towel from the chair and moving to the washroom, all the while shooting daggers at Jeongguk with his eyes.

“I give you fifteen!” yelled Jeongguk in the direction of the washroom, before disappearing into the living room.

Taehyung and Hoseok followed him with their eyes.

“Amazing,” whispered Hoseok, eyes opened wide and hand covering his mouth in shock.

Taehyung smiled, that satisfying sentiment of being right filling his chest.

 

Listening to Jeongguk describing his latest fling was a thing Jimin had grown used to. He enjoyed those moments when they were relaxed after a tiring day at work, huddled up in Jimin’s tiny kitchen. Jeongguk would lean against the counter, chopping vegetables and talking non stop while Jimin cooked at the stove, huge smile in place.

Sometimes he would complain, some others he would describe stuff with so much detail Jimin would turn red in the face. But regardless, it would never fail to make Jimin feel good. It was nice to get to the apartment knowing that someone would be waiting for him. Which was the usual after he gave a key to Jeongguk.

One thing was to hear Jeongguk bragging about his dating skills. A totally different one was to get to see him in action.

It wasn’t even ten minutes after they had reached the club and Jeongguk already had a guy draped all over himself on the dance floor. And not even any guy, a fucking Adonis at that. From the table, Hoseok and Jimin stared at him, totally mesmerized. Taehyung had dismissed it a good luck but Jimin knew it was just jealousy talking. Up until then, Taehyung had always been the big guy in the game.

“He’s good, eh,” commented Hoseok, playing with the straw of his drink.

“As if,” said Taehyung, and Jimin laughed pointing out that he was just jealous.

“Well,” continued Hoseok, unfazed. He was following the way Jeongguk was maneuvering around the Adonis, teasing but not leaving him an opening at the same time. “He definitely knows how to work it, I mean, look at that poor guy,” he pointed at the Adonis. “He’s gonna die of fucking blue balls.”

“His dick is probably about to fall off,” Jimin agreed, almost choking on his drink when they saw Jeongguk waving the guy off and jogging back to their table. “What the fuck!”

“What the fuck, what?” asked Jeongguk, stealing Jimin’s drink and taking a sip. He made a face immediately, searching for an empty glass and spitting it out. Taehyung stared at him disgusted. “What are you guys drinking?”

“Mimosas,” replied Jimin, grinning. “Why did you let the guy go? I thought you were taking him for the night?” he added, wiggling his eyebrows.

Jeongguk laughed out loud, head thrown back and Jimin’s heart skipped a beat. Woah.

“Nah,” said Jeongguk, reaching for the mimosa again and swallowing the liquid with a grimace. “That’s fucking disgusting- Anyway, we came here to have a good time as friends so we are doing just that. Let’s dance.”

“Yes!” said Hoseok, jumping to his feet and dragging Taehyung after him.

“I’ll wait here,” muttered Jimin, half hiding behind his drink.

Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “That’s a no in my to-do list.”

The burst of laughter leaving Jimin’s lips, when Jeongguk pulled him to his feet, was one of the most satisfactory things Jeongguk had earned in his life. Hoseok and Taehyung received them with shouts on the dance floor and with each song that passed, Jeongguk could see the sad lines disappearing from around Jimin’s eyes. He could see his back straightening, his eyes getting brighter and brighter by the minute.

It was addicting, to see Jimin like that, and Jeongguk found himself turning silly, wanting nothing but for that smile to never stop.

The problem was, Jeongguk was greedy, and soon watching was not enough. He wanted to touch and when Jimin didn’t stop him Jeongguk relished in the feeling of having his friend in his arms. He drank the way Jimin’s body seemed to fit so perfectly against him, the idea so exhilarating that he didn’t even care for the suspicious glances Taehyung and Hoseok threw his way.

Jimin was like a star, warm and glowing and Jeongguk couldn’t give a fuck about anything else.

 

Jeongguk closed the door after Hoseok left, leaving him alone with Jimin.

It was almost four in the morning, about time to go to sleep if they wanted to get up on time for work the next day. Jimin was curled on the couch, eyes blearily staring at the show they were passing on TV.

“You hungry?” he asked when Jeongguk sat next to him.

Jeongguk shook his head. “I’m fucking destroyed. You never told me your friends were that wild,” he complained.

Jimin giggled. “Hoseok was famous for his dancing when we were in college.”

“I can see why.”

“You sure you don’t regret rejecting the Adonis at the club?” Jimin asked. Jeongguk shrugged. “It looks so easy when you do it. Flirting I mean.”

“It is easy,” mumbled Jeongguk.

Jimin considered the words. “Not for me.”

“For you too,” Jeongguk yawned. “For everyone if they are confident enough.”

“Would you teach me?” asked Jimin, mid-yawn as well. “To be confident like you?”

“Sure.”

The word was slurred by sleep and Jeongguk rested his head on the back of the couch, closing his eyes. Just five minutes and he would leave. Just for a little bit…

The next time Jeongguk opened his eyes, he was lying on the couch with a warm weight on top of his chest. Blinking in the light coming from the TV, Jeongguk saw that the weight was in fact Jimin, wrapped against his side. Deep in sleep, his features were relaxed, lips slightly parted and saliva wetting Jeongguk’s shirt. With a start, Jeongguk took in how tiny his nose was, how it made Jimin’s lips look even plumper than what they were. It was all a bit much for that time of the night and he sort of regretted the promise he had just made to Jimin.

Yawning, Jeongguk reached for the blanket thrown over the back of the couch, adjusting it around their bodies before wrapping his arms tight around Jimin. He could worry in the morning for that growing thing threatening to make his heart burst. A thing Jeongguk didn’t dare to name.

It was fucking late, for sure it could wait.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

"Alright,” said Jeongguk, standing behind Jimin as he faced the dance floor. “Ready?”

Jimin exhaled shakily, nodding almost imperceptibly. They scanned the place for a few more seconds before Jimin was calm enough to say a word. “Yes.”

“Cool, so now...remember what we talked about, ok?” Jeongguk continued, lightly massaging the other’s shoulders. “Don’t settle for whatever comes first. Get what you want, what you deserve.”

“Right,” croaked out Jimin, stepping away from Jeongguk’s hands but not quick enough for him not to notice the doubt tilting his shoulders down. “What I deserve…”

Jeongguk pursed his lips, grabbing Jimin by the shoulders and turning him around to face him.

“Jimin…” he said in the gentlest tone he could muster through his annoyance, sometimes Jimin was too dense for his own good. “Stop that, like...right now. You are a great guy, funny and smart and kind and good looking. But you have to start to believe in that too, otherwise this won’t work and you’ll end up walking out with a flop again.”

Jimin sighed. “I know, Jeongguk…”

“No you don’t,” stated Jeongguk matter of factly, breathing deeply before saying his next words. “What Yoongi did to you...it wasn’t your fault and you have to get that into that pretty head of yours. It wasn’t you, he screwed up. He is the asshole, there’s nothing wrong with you,” Jeongguk paused as Jimin’s eyes shined in the club’s lights with unshed tears. “You are amazing…” he continued softer, something unexpected fluttering in his stomach as he brushed the swell of Jimin’s cheek with his thumb. “And if he wasn’t smart enough to see it then he can go fuck himself. Stop punishing yourself...be happy.”

Jimin swallowed, trying his best to smile. “You are going to ruin my makeup.” he commented sniffing and Jeongguk laughed, somehow relieved and a lot awkward as his hands fought against letting Jimin go.

Jimin fixed his shirt, which was unnecessary because he truly looked flawless after Jeongguk had spent the whole afternoon fixing his clothes and overall image. He took a deep breath steeling his nerves, and giving a firm nod.

“I’m ready,” he said looking at Jeongguk and the other gave him a thumbs up.

“Go get’ em tiger!”

Jimin snorted, body finally relaxing. “Thanks, Dad.”

Jeongguk’s smile waned as Jimin retreated to the dance floor, interested glances already being casted his way. His eyes traveled down the body of the other man and the heat blooming over his cheeks made him groan out loud. What the fuck was wrong with him? Jimin was not his type, this was all a construct.

He turned around to find the bartender, Jackson, giving him a knowing smile.

“One on the rocks?” he asked as Jeongguk dropped his leather-clad butt on the stool in front of him.

“Make it double,” said Jeongguk sighing again. It was fine, he was just surprised at how different Jimin looked when he was not carrying tons of papers and paint stains on his clothes.

Jackson chuckled, grabbing the bottle of whiskey and pouring a healthy amount on a glass. “Nice boyfriend you got there,” he commented, sliding the glass towards Jeongguk, shit-eating grin still in place.

“Not my boyfriend,” said Jeongguk, taking a long swig and grimacing as the liquid burned down his throat. “He’s just my neighbour. I’m giving him some dating advice.”

“Right,” commented Jackson cheekily while drying some glasses. “In exchange of head or something.”

“Of course not!”

“True...he has too much of a pretty ass to just settle for a good ol’ blow.”

“Fuck you,” said Jeongguk without much venom, downing the rest of his drink and making Jackson laugh. “It’s nothing like that.”

Jackson grabbed the empty glass, filling it up once again.

“You can go tell that to your grandma and see if she believes you,” he said, pushing it back into Jeongguk’s hands and patting his cheek lightly. “I know you well enough to recognize that glint in your eye, like a wolf about to pounce on some juicy lamb.”

Jeongguk laughed at that.

“Idiot,” he said. Just then, one of his regulars - a boy with wide eyes and narrow hips - was trailing fingers across his back, winking when Jeongguk turned to check who had been. Jackson snorted, following as well with his eyes as the boy disappeared in the general direction of the restrooms.

Jeongguk licked his lips, dropping a few bills on the bar and pushing himself up. He waved at Jackson, making his way to the place where the boy had disappeared from sight. The bartender shook his head, grin in place.

“I give him no more than two months,” he told Mark, his coworker at the bar, pointing to Jeongguk and in the general direction of the dance floor. “Couple months and he’ll be taking a bite of that peach.”

“Wanna bet?” asked Mark, sticking a lime wedge in between his lips and offering it to the girl taking tequila shots at the bar. Jackson waited for him to finish, before replying.

“A hundred?”

“Make it fifty with a blow and we have a deal.” replied Mark, sucking in his lower lip and letting it go with a pop.

Jackson positively purred at that.

“Better get on your knees babe,” he said, taking the order of another customer, “that cutie will be the end of Jeon Jeongguk.”

 

Teaching Jimin how to flirt had been fun, Jeongguk had enjoyed it a lot.

Watching Jimin putting those lessons into action and succeeding was not fun. Jeongguk was most definitely hating it. From his spot back at the bar, he had a mostly clear view of the dance floor, where Jimin was stealing the show. Jeongguk had come back from a quick washroom blow to find his neighbour surrounded by three guys, all of them sporting the same goofy smile every time Jimin laughed. Jeongguk couldn’t blame them, Jimin was extremely charming, he just needed people to give him a chance.

Which was a given considering the clothes Jeongguk had put him in. God, he was such a moron.

“You are going crosseyed,” sinsonged Jackson.

“Shut up.”

Jackson sniggered shaking his head, but Jeongguk was too busy tracking the shift of one of the dude’s hands, from being attached to nothing to be resting on Jimin’s hips. Ah, using the friends as cover, a classic, Jeongguk thought. The guy was now murmuring something against Jimin’s ear and from the way he was blushing, it was most definitely not compliments about how cute he was.

Jeongguk groaned, turning to face the bar. Jackson sighed, getting a hold of the whiskey bottle and pouring Jeongguk one more glass.

“Do you want me to say something?” Jackson asked.

“No.”

“Ok, then. Cheers!”

Jeongguk downed his glass, coughing as it burned down his throat. Just then, Jimin was plopping down on the stool on his right, sweaty and radiant. Troublesome.

“He wants to take me home,” he said, a little breathless.

Jeongguk schooled his face, trying to project excitement. “Do you like him?”

Please say no, no, no -no!

“I think so,” replied Jimin, biting his lip. “Should I take him to my apartment? It’s been so long…”

It was right there that Jeongguk realized he should have said no. Not in response to Jimin’s question but all the way back to the very first time Jimin asked for his help. Jeongguk had put himself where he was now, almost fifty percent certain he liked Jimin as more than just a friend. It was, by default, Jeongguk the only one that could take himself out of it.

“Hell yeah!” fake it till you make it Jeongguk. “You should.”

 

Jeongguk was not one to bring people to his apartment, but this time around, he needed it. Jimin was currently with someone right on the other side of the wall and every sigh that managed to make its way to Jeongguk’s ears was torture.

Now, Jeongguk could be desperate for a distraction, but that didn’t mean he was about to bring just any stranger he found in the club home, no. He was peculiar about it ( a freak, mentioned Yugyeom once) because in Jeongguk’s opinion, not everyone deserved the right to share his bed. Mingyu, however, was no stranger.

Mingyu - tall, handsome and sophisticated Mingyu - had been his friend and fuck buddy ever since Jeongguk met him during his first year of college. He understood Jeongguk like very few did, sharing the same view of love he had, and years of sheet encounters had made the sex one of the best Jeongguk had ever had.

That was why Jeongguk kept coming back and the reason he had called him tonight.

The volume of the stereo was turned up to maximum when the bell rang, and Jeongguk almost tripped over his feet to reach the door. Mingyu was resting against the threshold, clad in an expensive tracksuit, his hair wet and plastered to his brow.

“I was at the gym,” he explained, throwing Jeongguk a bottle of wine as he made himself at home.

Jeongguk was too busy pouring the wine into glasses to notice Mingyu reaching for the control and reducing the volume of the music. The action made Jeongguk frown but before he could complain, a high pitched moan filtered through the walls, making Mingyu go all wide-eyed.

“Please turn that back on,” said Jeongguk with a grimace, handing Mingyu a glass.

“Now I understand,” he said amused. “Why the desperate call...you got excited listening to your neighbour, huh?”

Jeongguk rolled his eyes, not bothering to deny it. He drank his glass in one go, discarding the glass and moving to wrap his arms around Mingyu’s waist.

“Tell me,” murmured Mingyu, licking his lips. “Did you touch yourself?” Jeongguk attacked his neck in response. “Horny little thing…”

“Shut up,” ordered Jeongguk, maneuvering them to the room.

“Make me,” came Mingyu’s breathy response.

Jeongguk did just that.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

Jimin waved at the last of his students, sighing in relief as his day was finally over.

Going back into the homeroom, he walked around, gathering the material scattered throughout the place. Jimin was organizing the chairs when the sudden noise of someone clearing their throat made him stop. He straightened immediately, blinking a couple of times before turning around.

Yoongi was there, scarf looped around his neck and hiding his mouth.

“Do you have time?”

 

The coffee shop was mostly silent, the cold outside scaring the customers away. Yoongi wrapped his fingers around the warm mug, eyes sweeping the place, unable to settle on Jimin. True, it had been him who sought his ex out, but that didn’t make having the other man close easy. Jimin was sitting across from him, still on his outer jacket, not really a welcoming sight.

Yoongi’s lips parted when Jimin finally decided to look up.

“I don’t have the whole night,” Jimin said.

“I know,” Yoongi stopped playing with the mug. “You sure you don’t want coffee? Tea?”

“I don’t plan on staying longer.”

“Jimin…”

Jimin took a deep breath. “Yoongi, what is it? Why are you seeking me out?”

“I made a mistake,” Yoongi said, truthfully. “The way things happened, the way I did what I did-”

“Breaking up with me,” suggested Jimin. “You can say it, I won’t start crying.”

“You are being harsh,” Yoongi protested, though only slightly.

Jimin bit his tongue, pressing his lips together and looking away. If years before someone told him he’d be in such a situation he would have laughed. Never in his life Jimin considered he and Yoongi not being a thing. It seemed to be such a given, Jimin felt they were indestructible. How wrong he was.

“I should have talked to you,” Yoongi tried again. “I should have fought for you…”

Jimin shifted uncomfortable, sensing where the conversation was going.

Yoongi let out a sudden laugh, clipped at the edges. “Don’t make that face, I won’t ask you to go back,” he said, “I know you would never.”

“I would never,” confirmed Jimin, feeling suddenly sad.

His engagement ring was still on his night table, safely hidden within a velvet box. The same was true for the only t-shirt belonging to Yoongi that Jimin had not thrown out, folded right next to the shirt Jimin had bought for his wedding. Memory was a fragile thing, but so was that part of Jimin refusing to let go.

“I just wanted,” Yoongi paused, taking a keychain out of his pocket and working on removing a pair of keys. Once it was done, he slid them across the table, a peace offering of sorts. “What I’m trying to say is that I approve. Not that it matters much, but I do.”

Jimin’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Excuse me?”

“Of your partner, I do.”

With a jolt, Jimin wondered how the hell Yoongi found out about his new fling. Sure they’d been dating lately but hardly anyone knew about it, not even his mom. Just Hoseok and Taehyung and...and Jeongguk.

“I…” Jimin started.

“I know I was an asshole the last time we met,” Yoongi said in a low voice. “I said things I truly don’t think about you. Your boyfriend was right to get that angry…I would have done the same.”

Jeongguk. Yoongi meant Jeongguk. Jimin’s ears burned at the realization. How did Yoongi come to such a conclusion? Was Jimin too obvious in the way he looked at Jeongguk? It wasn’t that Jimin had never thought about it, no. It was hard not to when Jeongguk was everything Jimin had ever wanted and also all those things he never thought he needed. But being friends was good enough, Jimin assumed right at the beginning that it would be the only spot he might ever have in Jeongguk’s life.

Friends. What else could they ever be?

“He’s not-”

Yoongi waved him off with his hand, soft smile gracing his pink lips. “I saw the way you looked at him, Jimin,” he said. “Like he was the hero of those epic novel you like to read.”

Jimin was positive his cheeks were now bright red as well. “Not true.”

“Yes it is,” Yoongi said, pushing his cup aside. “I’d know. You used to look at me that way.”

Jimin looked down when Yoongi started gathering his things, still quite not believing that his ex had been so quick to catch his crush. Hell, not even Jimin was fully aware of it until now. He jumped when Yoongi touched his shoulder, feather soft.

“Good luck, Jimin,” Yoongi said. “You deserve it all.”

Jimin nodded, not quite sure what to say. The weight of newly found feelings keeping him rooted to his spot.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

“Oh my god, I ran here right after my shift. What’s the matter? Is it the other Hoseok?”

Hoseok sat down panting, still wearing scrubs after a day of work. Jimin felt bad for a few seconds, having called his friends in such a rush. But then he remembered the reason why he needed them in the first place and all traces of guilt dissipated in the air.

“So?” prompted Hoseok, reaching for Taehyung’s drink and taking a long swig. He moaned around the coffee flavour, looking less frantic immediately. “I thought everything was ok with Hoseok.”

The Hoseok he was talking about was Jimin’s current boyfriend/partner, the one he had met at the club. The fact that they both shared a name made things unnecessarily confusing for Jimin, and he added that to the secret list of cons he had been creating on his phone.

Taehyung sighed loudly. “Can you please tell us what’s going on, Jiminnie?”

Where should Jimin start?

Maybe he should tell them about Yoongi and how he had managed to mess up Jimin’s life once again. Maybe he should start from the fact that Hoseok, his whatever, was adorable and caring and attractive, but still not enough. Or better yet, from the fact that Jeongguk had stopped coming over at night and Jimin was dying to know why. Perhaps Jimin should skip all that and just jump to the fact that every time Hoseok hugged him or kissed him, Jimin wished it was Jeongguk doing it instead.

That would be a good starting point, telling his friends about his stupid, giant crush.

“Hoseok is fine,” Jimin said, playing with a napkin. “He’s been sleeping at home a lot.”

Taehyung and Hoseok dissolved into a puddle of squeals, laughter and comments about how Jimin was being fed so well lately, thanks god, who the fuck was Min Yoongi?? Jimin tried to get excited along with them, because it was true. After so many flops, Jimin had finally found someone worth dating. A good guy that was sweet and hot at the same time, someone that took care of Jimin.

Problem was, Jeongguk was all those things as well, but more considering that even the shortest peek of Jeongguk’s face in the parking lot made Jimin’s heart race, while Hoseok’s did not. There was also the fact that Jeongguk also seemed to have someone now, at least based on the amount of times Jimin has stepped out of the elevator to find the same handsome guy knocking on Jeongguk’s door.

Why was Jimin like that? Why couldn’t he be happy with what he had?

“I’m happy, Jimin,” said Taehyung truthfully. “I thought you’d never get over You know Who but here we are, with you getting dick almost every night.”

“I’m proud,” added Hoseok, fake drying his eyes.

“I saw Yoongi,” blurted out Jimin, wound too tight to resist any longer.

“What?” Hoseok paused what he was doing to stare. Taehyung choke on the cookie he was eating, sputtering as Hoseok hit him in the back.

“What did he want?!” he demanded in a strained voice.

“He said,” Jimin squirmed. “He said I look at Jeongguk as if he were part of my epic novels.”

Hoseok opened his mouth, confused. “Huh?”

Jimin’s cheeks dusted pink. “I think I like him, Jeongguk not Yoongi.”

Taehyung started cackling almost immediately, even adding claps like a delighted little kid. Hoseok frowned, slapping him so he’d calm down, while Jimin leaned his forehead against the table, resigned to what was to come.

“I fucking knew it,” wheezed Taehyung, trying to catch his breath. “I did. I’m the best. You guys would be nothing without me.”

Hoseok tsked. “Shut up. Jiminnie, what did you say?”

Jimin bit his lip. “Jeongguk had not come for dinner ever since I started with Hoseok and it’s driving me crazy...I think he has a boyfriend-”

“He what?” interrupted Taehyung, chewing on the straw of his drink.

Jimin pouted. He thought getting the stuff out of his chest would help but truth was, it only made it worse. His feelings were like a giant tangle of sticky noodles, heavy in his gut. He liked Jeongguk, way too much.

“What do I do?” he asked, though he sort of knew.

“You gotta break up with Hoseok,” said Hoseok, making a face. “Damn that sounds so weird, I don’t like that he has my name.”

“I think you should keep Hoseok,” commented Taehyung, “until you find out if Jeongguk likes you back, you know? One dick in the hand blah, blah, blah-” Hoseok made an affronted noise, but Taehyung stopped him by pressing a finger to his lips. “However, I know that isn’t you Jiminnie so I’d say our Hoseok is right. Kick pretty boy in the balls - not literally of course - and go get your man!”

Hoseok nodded at the same time Jimin was shaking his head.

“Which part of ‘he has a boyfriend’ you don’t understand?” he protested.

“So what, we can fight for him,” said Hoseok, determined.

“We, as in, we’ll help you,” clarified Taehyung.

Jimin shook his head again, with more intent. “No, no. The boyfriend is like...wow, so handsome. Tall, well dressed, fit...everything I’m not.”

Hoseok made a dismissive noise.

“You forget I caught Joonie’s attention while he was still dating that model, you remember her?” he said, waving his hand. “Huge tits blonde?”

“I do,” said Taehyung raising his hand. They laughed, sweet memories of younger years filling their minds, only to notice that Jimin remained silent.

He looked, in fact, crestfallen, eyes lost in the slowly falling rain. Hoseok tutted, placing an extra cookie in the small pile Jimin had on his plate.

“Love is shit,” murmured Jimin, aggressively breaking a cookie in half.

Taehyung sighed.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

To say Jimin was nervous was an understatement.

Nervousness could never described the amount of heart palpitations and whole body tremors he was currently experiencing. He couldn’t even hold a glass properly ever since he ended things with the other Hoseok and that had been a week ago.

Both Taehyung and Hoseok tried talking him out of it, doing their best to convince him that really, there was nothing to lose. Jimin’s view on the subject was completely opposite, his secret cons list told him as much every night when he stared at it. Of course, there was also his secret pros list, but as the days passed, it just grew to be significantly shorter than the other one.

From Jimin’s perspective, losing was more certain than the tiny possibility that - maybe - Jeongguk liked him back. And it wasn’t a small thing to lose, Jimin much rather have Jeongguk as a friend than not having him at all. Of course, listening to the moans coming from Jeongguk’s apartment more often than not didn’t help to reassure him either.

Jimin could not remember a time where Jeongguk had people over so much. Well, not people, but just one person - Mingyu. Yes, because Jimin had a name now. Hard not to when he could here Jeongguk saying it over and over some nights.

Still, Jimin was a person of character and as such, he was going to get through the plan set for the night.

Every little detail was taken care of, Jimin had wine and a movie with enough action to keep them entertained. Originally he wanted to go for a more romantic one, but Taehyung considered it to be too straight forward for a first date.

Date. The word made Jimin giddy, high on the butterflies dancing in his stomach at the thought of a night with Jeongguk.

When he had arrived after work, he was surprised to find that there were no noises, no telling signs that Jeongguk might be with someone. Just soft music filtering through the walls, like when Jeongguk was enjoying a quiet night in. It was perfect. Jeongguk was alone and Jimin had everything he needed to make a move.

So he did.

He got quickly into the shower, washing away the traces of work and pumping himself up with words of encouragement. He opted out of his regular shirts, going for one of his soft, well worn t-shirts instead. And jeans, they were a must when one was going for a casual look. Jimin eyed his face critically once he was done. There wasn’t much to do with the dark circles, it was a weekday after all, but excitement tinted his cheeks rosy so it was ok.

“Let’s do this,” he whispered to himself, reaching for the front door.

 

Mingyu rocked his hips one more time, and Jeongguk came with a shuddering breath.

It had been a quiet evening. They met right after Jeongguk got off from work, only stopping for a quick bite before falling into Jeongguk’s sheets. Jimin had not been home when they arrived, so Jeongguk settled for some quiet sex, not needing the exaggerated moans that he faked when his neighbour was around.

“God, I’m starving,” murmured Mingyu, dropping to the side with a soft groan.

Jeongguk patted at his nightstand until his hand closed on his cellphone. Checking the time, he let the device drop on the carpeted floor, going back to close his eyes.

“Pizza should be here any moment,” he mumbled, “told him to come in an hour when I ordered.”

Mingyu gave him a congratulatory pat in the stomach, before shuffling out of bed.

“I’m gonna take a shower,” he said. “You coming?”

Jeongguk shook his head, chuckling when Mingyu made a disgusted face. He stretched lazily before standing up, patting his hair down after putting on a t-shirt and underwear. His mouth tasted like dick, but Mingyu was almost singing under the spray and Jeongguk didn’t want to interrupt. He settled for the closest thing, padding to the fridge and cracking open a can of beer.

Mingyu turned off the shower just in time with the ring of the bell and Jeongguk almost purred at the idea of warm cheese melting in his mouth. God he always got so hungry after sex. When he opened the door, however, it wasn’t the delivery kid who smiled up at him. It was Jimin.

Jeongguk had a tiny heart attack.

“Jimin, you are...here” he said, stating the obvious like an idiot.

Jimin giggled and oh fuck, he was gorgeous. He was all soft and sleepy looking and Jeongguk wanted nothing but to crush him in an embrace.

“I am,” Jimin confirmed, the pink of his cheeks intensifying. The view was so amazing Jeongguk’s heart stuttered. “I actually thought we could, eh, have a night in?” he said, phrasing it like a question, an invitation Jeongguk wanted desperately to accept.

“Hmm,” Jeongguk’s mind was racing. How to get Mingyu out of the apartment without Jimin noticing?

“I brought wine,” offered Jimin timidly, raising the bottle. “And a movie? It’s been so long so I thought...”

“What about your boyfriend?” inquired Jeongguk, feeling sweat starting to pool on his lower back. God, he was fucked.

“Oh yeah…” replied Jimin, swallowing hard, “about that-”

The sound of the washroom door opening - and Jeongguk world collapsing - startled them both and in front of Jeongguk, Jimin visibly paled. Jeongguk didn’t need to turn to know that what Jimin was seeing was probably a very naked Mingyu. He cursed under his breath, turning around and finding out that, thanks god, Mingyu had a towel around his hips.

Which didn’t make it better but at least less graphic for Jimin. Not that Jimin wasn’t probably putting all the pieces together in a way that left their movie night out of the question. Mingyu cleared his throat, taking in the view: a flustered Jeongguk, a cute dude and wine...jesus fuck, the dude had wine.

“Emm,” he started. “I can go back in?” he offered, pointing to the washroom.

His voice seemed to take Jimin out of his stupor, making him hide the wine and the movie behind his back. Not that Jeongguk’s boyfriend hadn’t notice but it was never too late to try and save some dignity. He was so stupid, he was never listening to Taehyung again.

“Please no,” Jimin said, shaking his head for emphasis. “I was...uh...I just came to say hi, really.”

Jimin let out an awkward laugh, so horrible Jeongguk winced before turning back to face him.

“Hey, listen-”

“It’s ok,” said Jimin quickly, taking a step back into the hallway. Jeongguk followed suit, closing the door behind him. “Sorry that I interrupted, I thought…”

“Jimin, this isn’t-”

What could Jeongguk say? This isn’t what you think? Not true, it totally was. We were just talking? Mingyu was naked under that towel. He came from the gym, I just lent him the shower? Jeongguk reeked of sex. He was screwed, no way out.

Jimin looked up briefly, eyes shiny in the shitty lightning of the hallway. He pushed the wine and the movie into Jeongguk’s chest, startling the other into taking both.

“It was stupid, this was stupid,” he hurried to say, looking away and reaching for his door. “Have a nice night, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk took a deep breath, keeping it in for a long time before letting it all out. He rested his head on his own door, hitting his forehead repeatedly against it until Mingyu threw it open, fixing him with the look.

“What was that, Jeon Jeongguk?” he asked, closing the door and following Jeongguk into the kitchen, where the other proceeded to open the bottle of wine.

Mingyu was patient enough to wait for Jeongguk to chug a good amount, before reaching to take the bottle away.

“Ok,” he said, taking a swig himself. “Couch. Talk. Now.”

Jeongguk padded to said couch looking like the world had ended just in front of his eyes and Mingyu had to resist the urge to roll his eyes. Who knew Jeongguk could reach that level of dramatic, Mingyu was surprised.

“I assume cute dude used to come here often, right?” he said, pointing with his thumb towards the door. He had never seen anyone that wasn’t Yugyeom, Jaehyun or himself at the place before.

Jeongguk nodded, no point in denying the truth. “He’s my neighbour.”

Mingyu hummed in acknowledgment. There was some intrinsic sadness to Jeongguk, some deep regret that Mingyu had never seen before. Suddenly, the memory of a frantic call and wild sex filled his mind and it was like a bulb was coming to life within his head.

The neighbour

“Is...is him the reason why we’ve been fucking so much?” he asked tenderly, not wanting to scare Jeongguk off.

Jeongguk froze for a moment, before slowly nodding his head. Affirmation that was accompanied by a soft groan, muffled under the palms covering his face.

“Ah, Jeonggukie,” whispered Mingyu sympathetically. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Jeongguk reached for the wine again and Mingyu let him, even going to the kitchen to get more beer. The pizza actually came in after a few minutes and Mingyu was solidary enough to curse the guy for being late, before dropping down onto the couch to munch in silence. They stayed like that, eating and drinking until Mingyu was full and Jeongguk was hiccuping due to way too much alcohol.

“I was like this once,” recalled Mingyu, through the mist of alcohol. “Stupid like you.”

Jeongguk grunted, indicating he was listening.

“Don’t be like me, Jeongguk,” advised Mingyu, as serious as ever. “You’ll regret it later. Like, yeah...the life we lead...it’s nice, and satisfactory. I mean….you are such a good fuck.”

“Thanks,” muttered Jeongguk, halfheartedly. “You are, too.”

“But, it’s just that,” stressed Mingyu. “Sex and gone, you know? Don’t be like me, own that shit.” he added, pointing to Jeongguk’s chest. “That dude came here for something. Give it to him.”

Jeongguk sighed, feeling like crap.

“Because, you know what I learned, all those years back?” Mingyu waited expectantly for Jeongguk to look at him.

“What?” Jeongguk prompted, finally doing so.

“That it’s ok to be in love.”

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

“Taehyung, please!”

Jeongguk was tired. It had been a week since the disaster with Jimin, a full week in which Jeongguk hadn’t even seen the tip of Jimin’s nose. A full week in which his chest hadn’t stopped hurting, clenching harder every time Jimin would not pick up his calls. Goddamnit, Jeongguk was exhausted.

And now, when life had finally been nice enough to gift Jeongguk with the idea of a lifetime, Kim motherfucking Taehyung would not cooperate. Jeongguk had already tried with Hoseok, but the dude had ignored him, walking straight into the ICU and leaving Jeongguk hanging.

That was why, at the end, it all came down to Taehyung. If Jimin was not going to meet Jeongguk willingly, so he could explain - or confess as Mingyu had suggested - then Jeongguk got nothing but a life of despair.

So he tried again, harder.

“Taehyung” Jeongguk whined, cheek pressed against the glass of Taehyung’s office. “Please talk to me.”

Taehyung swiveled on his chair, giving Jeongguk his back. This was war.

“The kids miss you at home!” Jeongguk hollered, feeling only slightly ashamed.

He knew he’d won when Taehyung’s coworkers started whispering from their cubicles and Taehyung let out a muffled scream of rage. Jeongguk waited patiently as the other stood up from his chair, sauntering over to the door, throwing in open.

“In,” he barked, eyeing his co-workers until everyone went back to their tasks.

From his spot on a chair, Jeongguk saw Taehyung lower the blinds and anxiety creeped up his spine. What if he didn’t want to help Jeongguk?

Finally, Taehyung went back to his chair, fingers drumming on the table as he studied Jeongguk.

“Hoseok-hyung warned me, you know,” he said. “About you. Said you harassed him at the hospital and that he was forced to hide in the ICU.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “I didn't harass him. He refused to talk to me and I just tried to make him change his mind.”

“Shameless,” said Taehyung, pointing at him. “But it isn’t enough to get my sympathy, so get out.”

“You don’t even know what I want,” complained Jeongguk, frustrated.

“Ugh, alright. Say it quick, I got shit to do.”

Jeongguk sighed in relief. “Thanks. It’s really simple, actually. I wanna talk to Jimin.”

Taehyung stared and stared some more. “So, call him.”

“He won’t pick up my calls.”

“Knock on his door.”

“Doesn't open.”

“Go wait for him at school,” said Taehyung, patience running short.

“I did and his kids ganged up on me,” Jeongguk lifted one of his sleeves, showing Taehyung a row of scratches.

“Nice,” said Taehyung appreciatively. “Well, message is clear then bud. That’s it. Goodbye. Finito. Go.” Taehyung made a shooing motion, but Jeongguk ignore him, leaning forward.

“Please, I’m fucking desperate.”

“And why the fuck should I care?” asked Taehyung.

“Because I like him,” replied Jeongguk, injecting every ounce of honesty into those words. “And I need him to know.”

Taehyung eyed him suspiciously, even though on the inside he was dancing some weird mix of dubstep and chacha.

“And why is that?” c’mon thought Taehyung, say the right words.

Jeongguk pushed all his anxiety and insecurities overboard.

“Because I wanna make him happy. If he let’s me, of course.”

Taehyung smiled.

 

Jeongguk was not nervous.

Okay, scratch that. He was a fucking wreck but no one needed to know. Taehyung and Hoseok had managed, after hours of coaxing and some threats, to take Jimin out for the afternoon, leaving the apartment for Jeongguk.

Yugyeom and Jaehyun had helped Jeongguk set everything up: the flowers, the petals on the bed, the table. Everything. With a healthy dose of teasing and promises to never let Jeongguk live something like that down but, they helped. They even wished him luck from the bottom of their hearts before leaving.

Jeongguk was grateful.

But also panicking, because the steak he was cooking looked nothing like the one in the recipe he was following. The steam vegetables also looked considerably less vivid but at least they were edible. The real problem was dessert. Jimin’s favourite was creme brulee, some weird thing Jeongguk had never heard of before. Some googling and a desperate call to his mother told him it was actually a fairly common dessert but alas, not one Jeongguk knew how to make.

Pride was one of Jeongguk’s biggest flaws and contrary to Mingyu’s advice, he had gone and tried to make it himself. Which led to the current situation, in which the creme seemed rather jiggly and the sugar coating was too dark to look attractive. A disaster, but Jeongguk didn’t have time to go and buy it now, so it would have to do

Setting the dessert back into the fridge, Jeongguk hurried to the washroom to change, spritzing some cologned before going to his predetermined spot on the couch.

Jimin was about to come home.

 

Jimin grumbled a goodbye after Hoseok kicked him off the car, arguing that he had to go check on the kids and taking Taehyung with him.

He grumbled all the way to the front door and up the elevator, not quite understanding why his friends insisted so much in taking him out, only to ditch him right before dinner time. With the prospect of a night watching reruns of TV shows, Jimin digged into his pockets for the keys, only to find the lights on when he pushed the door open.

Well, not exactly the lights. The room was illuminated but by candle light. Candles that were lit all over the library and on top of the coffee table, some visible even on top of the dinner table. Jimin’s heart jumped and he closed the door behind him with goosebumps on his skin. He wondered wildly if this was another one of Yoongi’s attempts or maybe if Hoseok managed to sneak in somehow.

It was Jeongguk who he found waiting when he rounded the corner, though.

Dressed in a simple white shirt and black pants, Jeongguk was breathtaking, his features glowing softly in the light. Jimin gasped, or he think he did. Whatever it was, he did something because at one point Jeongguk was smiling at him and the next he was right in front of Jimin, removing his jacket with tender hands.

“Hi,” he said in a low voice, almost bashful, making Jimin’s heart shake.

“Jeongguk,” Jimin said, obediently tilting his arms back so Jeongguk could finish removing the outer layer. “What…”

“Come,” Jeongguk interrupted. “Dinner is waiting.”

Somehow, Jimin managed to make it through the steak without shedding a tear or breaking down. He was extremely confused and annoyingly moved at the whole display. It felt almost surreal, being there in his apartment having a dinner he did not prepare. Jeongguk had gone and throw a full on, extremely romantic dinner for Jimin and he was both scared and excited to ask why.

When the food was gone, Jimin considered that maybe it was time to talk. They had only shared silly stories so far, recounts of their week and Jimin was eager to get to the main topic, aka what the hell was going on.

He waited patiently while Jeongguk cleared the plates, making a show of stacking them together, all the while chattering nonstop about a particularly bothersome client. But Jimin’s self-restraint was on the edge of breaking and when Jeongguk mentioned dessert, he just couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Jeongguk,” he said, hands lacing automatically when the other fixed him with a look. “I think we need to talk.”

“Right,” said Jeongguk, forgetting all about the creme brulee and walking back to the couch where Jimin was waiting. “Right.” he said again, taking a seat.

They both remained silent, only quick glances stolen every now and then and Jeongguk felt like dying. None of the fuckers that helped him put the whole thing together taught him how you go about confessing to your crush. Confessing...god he was going to get sick.

“So,” Jimin started, “the dinner...it was really nice.”

“The vegetables were awful,” commented Jeongguk, making a face and Jimin laughed softly.

“The steak was great,” Jimin complemented, happy to see Jeongguk preening at the praise.

“Thank you,” said Jeongguk. “I actually followed this recipe that-”

“Why did you do it?” asked Jimin, interrupting. He just needed to know, he could not stay balancing on the edge for another minute. “Wouldn’t your boyfriend be upset?”

Jeongguk grimaced at the word. “Mingyu is not my boyfriend, Jimin.”

“No?” Jimin’s heart rate picked up.

“No,” confirmed Jeongguk, more confident. “We fuck but that’s it. I’ve been wanting to explain it to you but you were not answering my calls…”

Jimin flushed.

“I was...I just,” he took a calming breath, fuck the what ifs. It was now or never. “I was hurt,” he said hurriedly. “That night...I wanted to spend time with you. I wanted to be with you like before...I wanted you,” he finished in a soft whisper, all cards on display.

Jeongguk mouth went dry, pulse frantic at the revelation. Praise all the gods and the fairies of love. Thanks fuck.

“Me too,” Jeongguk said, slowly reaching for Jimin’s hand and almost bursting with happiness when Jimin reciprocated. “Ever since that crazy night with the kids, I...I like you,” Jeongguk felt his palms going damp at the confession. “I’m fucking terrified, but I do.”

Jimin bit his lip, waiting only few seconds before throwing himself at Jeongguk neck. He was received by strong, certain arms that wrapped around his waist holding him close.

“So you are not dating,” Jimin murmured against Jeongguk’s neck.

“You are not either, right?” Jeongguk asked, just to be safe. Jimin shook his head. “Thanks god, I was going crazy with jealousy, fuck.”

Laughter felt amazing right against your skin, it tickled in the most perfect and comforting way, all honey and promises of good things to come. Jeongguk didn’t know when the kisses started, but he was suddenly under the attack of Jimin’s pillowy lips, leaving featherly pecks all over his cheeks. It felt wonderful, like a fucking miracle if you allowed Jeongguk a moment of tenderness. But there had been too many unfulfilled dreams and nightmares of other kissing was should have been his, so Jeongguk leaned back. He leaned back and stared at Jimin’s face; at his cheeks and tiny nose and the freckles so difficult to catch from afar. He stared at his lips.

“I like you a whole lot, Jimin,” he said reverently, giddy.

Jimin exhaled, lips parting, and Jeongguk used the opportunity to lean in, finally getting a taste of Jimin’s mouth. The kiss was all steak sauce and wine, all that seasoned by a squeak kindly provided by Jimin, but still made it to the top ten of the kisses Jeongguk had ever shared in his life. Jimin was pliant in his arms, eager as he wrapped his arms tighter around Jeongguk, his hips pressing down with a purpose.

And oh Jeongguk was in heaven, god and the angels bless that ass.

Sweet kisses quickly grew to heated touches on warm skin and Jeongguk quickly learned that Jimin not only looked soft, he was all velvet and silk under his clothes. Taking advantage of Jimin’s position, Jeongguk stood up, hands resting right under Jimin’s bottom as he moved them both to the room.

Jimin, however, had very different plans. Right at the moment his back was touching the bed, he was moving away from Jeongguk, giggling at the way the other chased him with his lips pursed in search of a kiss. Jimin was no fool, he was hard as ever within his pants and he could see Jeongguk was too, but he had rushed too many times within the same year to let that ruin what they had.

“Why…” whined Jeongguk when Jimin was not coming close again, hands flying over the other’s thighs.

Jimin gave in, if just a little, bringing Jeongguk close so they could cuddle. Jeongguk’s hands traveled immediately to his ass, pressing them together right where he needed it and Jimin allowed himself to have that. He was a weak human after all.

“This is pretty,” Jimin said huskily, playing with a rose petal stuck to Jeongguk hair.

“Jimin,” said Jeongguk, manners shriveling when faced with what he wanted the most.

“Let’s not rush it, ok,” Jimin whispered, kissing Jeongguk’s nose. “Let’s take our time.”

Jeongguk could see the desire burning in Jimin’s eyes, but he could see the determination and how much he seemed to be enjoying the control he had over Jeongguk. So, leaving his pride and testosterone on the side, he nodded, willing his boner to calm the fuck down while he hugged Jimin - this time with no seconds thoughts.

“We can take all the time you want,” Jeongguk conceded, pressing a kiss to Jimin’s brow. “Just give me all your time,” he added, filled with something he had never felt before. “I’ll make it worth it, sticking up with me. I promise.”

Jimin smiled, burrowing further against Jeongguk’s chest, months of chasing flops only to find that happiness was right next door.

“I know.”

 

The next morning, Jeongguk carefully took out the creme brulee from the fridge.

He set it in front of Jimin a little self conscious, embarrassed at the repressed laugh when Jimin’s eyes landed in the half burned sugary coat.

“Creme brulee is my favourite,” Jimin said, fondly, pecking Jeongguk on the lips.

Jeongguk waited with bated breath as Jimin’s spoon broke the surface, scooping up some of the cream and bringing it to his lips. Soon, however, Jimin was making a face, sprinting to the kitchen to spit it out. Jeongguk frowned, reaching for the spoon himself and putting a good amount on his mouth.

Eggs...it was all disgusting eggs.

Jimin laughed when Jeongguk rushed past him, going into the washroom and almost swallowing a whole bottle of mouthwash.

“Sorry,” Jeongguk scowled when he came out, shooting daggers to his failed dessert.

“You are sweet,” Jimin said, reaching up for a kiss. “So sweet.”

“I ruined it,” complained Jeongguk, arms tightening around Jimin’s waist.

“No,” murmured Jimin, kisses turning languid, drawn out in the morning light. “You just fixed it all.”

They stayed there, making out against the kitchen counter until Jeongguk’s stomach grumbled in a mix of hunger and desire that were reflected in the way Jimin was looking at him. Falling didn’t seem that scary if it was into Jimin’s eyes.

“How about I make us breakfast, huh?” suggested Jimin, moving to gather some ingredients from the fridge.

Jeongguk hooked his head on top of Jimin’s shoulder as he cooked, feeling full and content. All his fears long forgotten in the curve of Jimin’s waist and the slope of his neck.

Warm.

That was how love felt. Jeongguk no longer had to wonder about that.

 

⚘⚘⚘

 

Two weeks later

 

“Mark!”

Jackson went into the back of the bar sporting a shit eating grin. From where he was digging in search of more tequila, Mark looked up, questioning frown in place. Jackson’s smile grew impossibly wider.

“Remember that bet about Jeongguk?” he said, loosening his belt.

Mark jolted in surprise, mouth watering at the sight of Jackson’s exposed dick.

“I won.”