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1.

 

It is on Fridays only that Hoseok’s long-suffering mother allows the gathering of her son’s friends around the TV screen in her living room, shouting obscenities and fighting over who has the controller long into the night. Right now, Jeongguk knows deep in his heart he should still be at school, mindlessly revising the complexities of subordinate clauses and mitosis, rather than being sandwiched pleasantly between the radiating warmth of Taehyung and comforting yells of Hoseok as he is routinely beaten at every game he plays. But it is on Fridays only that he finally feels even a smidgen of a breath of freedom from the routine of seemingly unnecessary amounts of work and teenage angsting of his life.

So, he’s here, bare thighs being scratched lightly by Hoseok’s cheap furniture, fingers working diligently on the slightly greasy buttons of the controller. He feels vaguely sick from fatigue and his eyes ache from staring at the TV screen.

An especially loud shriek erupts from Hoseok as the on-screen race finishes, with Jeongguk sliding smugly into 1st place as usual, and Hoseok and Seokjin coming 11th and 12th, consecutively.

“Yah, Jeongguk! I don’t get it. You’re what, 5 years younger than me? How do you manage to beat me every time I see you?” Seokjin complains. Jeongguk has decided he likes Seokjin, the awkward, sweet boyfriend of Hoseok’s older sister. He blinks a lot and eats like a pig.

“We’ve only met like three times, hyung.”

“Don’t worry,” Hoseok says. “This brat beats everyone in everything. There’s nothing he can’t do excessively well.”

“That’s not true!” Jeongguk tries not to smirk, but he can’t help but enjoy the praise. He doesn’t believe it’s true, and he knows it’s not. But being the youngest member in a group of friends predominantly all one year above him means he often feels uncomfortably young and inexperienced. When he’d first joined the dance group, he’d felt an all-encompassing urge to prove all his abilities, all the time. He’d overworked himself to make up for his youth. Eventually Hoseok told him to chill.

“Stop bickering and switch controllers to whoever’s next,” Yoongi pipes up from the armchair, his dark hair lying almost completely over his eyes.

“OK, but you guys have gotta leave soon,” Hoseok says, glancing at the clock. Jeongguk notes how the action is useless, seeing as the room is almost entirely pitch black apart from the obnoxious glare of the TV screen. “I’m pretty sure my dad’s getting back in like 10 mins so.. you know.”

“I want to play Jeonggukkie,” suddenly comes a soft voice from the floor.

Jeongguk is then thankful for the pitch black of the room because he feels a hot rush of blood to his cheeks. And it pisses him off.

Out of all of his hyungs in the dance crew, Jimin intimidates Jeongguk the most. Jeongguk had known since day one that Jimin’s dancing was phenomenally superior to everyone else - maybe even sometimes Hoseok, though he’d never say that out loud if he didn’t want to be whacked round the head with a slipper. Whilst Yoongi and Taehyung are in the group to have some fun and occasionally dick around during the abnormally difficult school year, Jimin is there because he needs an outlet for his ridiculous talent. Every time he dances, Jeongguk feels this same burning blush in admiration as he watches on. Admires the smoothness of his movements and the dizzying concentration on his face.

But Jeongguk can’t work out why his admiration has spiralled so embarrassingly out of control, to the point where he feels like a fan freaking out around his favourite idol. He’s started freezing up every time Jimin starts a conversation with him, answering shortly and bluntly, and still feels that familiar suffocating pressure to dance the best whenever Jimin’s sprawled at the edge of the practice hall, legs spread wide, taking a break to wipe his forehead or drink from his water bottle.

Jimin wanting to play Jeongguk at a videogame is not groundbreaking stuff. But Jeongguk’s heart starts racing anyway, and he almost lets out a sigh at the absurdity of his own bodily reactions.

“Alright then,” says Hoseok. “With the three barely functioning controllers we have left thanks to Tae spilling ramen broth all over the console and its components -”

“Hoseok, get over it that was like a week ago -”

“- why don’t Jimin, Jeongguk and Yoongi have the last go.” Hoseok passes the controllers over.

Jimin yawns and hauls himself up to the sofa, shoving a protesting Taehyung to the roughly carpeted floor to make way. Jeongguk budges over to make room for him, settling into the dip in the sofa between the two cushions. He tries to ignore the sensation of Jimin’s bare thigh being pressed hotly against Jeongguk’s own.

As Yoongi flicks through the list of tracks amongst the loud chatter of his surroundings, all Jeongguk can hear are the soft puffs of breath beside him, and he watches from the corner of his eye as Jimin bites his plump lip a little, almond eyes fixed on the TV screen. He laughs at something Hoseok says; throws his head back. Jeongguk feels a sudden urge to make him laugh like that. He considers planting his head into the bowl of chips in front of him.

His unconventional plan to capture Jimin’s attention is quickly scuppered, however, as a booming “Hoseok-ah!” from the hallway permeates the pleasant mumble of the room.

“Shit, Dad’s back.” Hoseok scrambles up and starts shooing the group. “He’s always grumpy on Fridays, ‘cos he has to work late.”

“You’re nineteen years old Hobi, why are you still living in fear of your father?” Yoongi scoffs.

They filter out of the apartment, grabbing their bags full of sweaty clothes and schoolbooks on the way, Jeongguk sticking right next to Jimin as they briskly hug Hoseok goodbye and bow to Hoseok’s father. He sighs in response.

“I’m kind of scared of him,” Jimin giggles in Jeongguk’s ear. Jeongguk grins stupidly back.

They reach the cold, refreshing air of the night, stars a little fuzzy in Jeongguk’s vision as he is overcome with exhaustion. He asks Jimin how he’s getting home; he replies that he’s taking the metro. Unfortunately, Jeongguk lives about 2 stops away on bus 30, so he lets Jimin give him a quick hug goodbye, completely forgetting to say anything to the rest of the group as he stumbles into the night. His cheeks are burning, again.

 

 

2.

It is currently 6:30pm and Jeongguk cannot get the move right.

It’s a simple maneuver; a quick sidestep to a jump then a spin - but just incredibly fast. His head is spinning more than his body is at this point, and his t-shirt has actually moved a shade darker from how disgustingly drenched in sweat he is. He’s red all over from both physical exertion and embarrassment. A disappointed, probably smelly reflection stares back at him from the mirror.

It’s much worse considering Jimin is currently sitting out this dance, after hurting his ankle mildly in the song before. He is slouched directly opposite to where Jeongguk is dancing. His eyes are fixed on Jeongguk’s body, and once again, Jeongguk completely fucks up the move and lands about 90° out from everyone else.

“Okay, let’s try that again,” Hoseok sighs, turning off the stereo. The sound of breath resonates around in the silence. “Jeongguk, are you okay?”

“Ahh, I’m sorry Hoseok-hyung, just let me try once more -”

“Why don’t you sit this one out for a bit? With Jimin missing too, it will make the formation a bit more even for the time being.” Hoseok’s got his serious voice on, which secretly freaks Jeongguk out a bit. It's the voice he whips out whenever he wants anything done. Something about the direct contrast between his usual sunshine self and this low, fierce authoritative tone makes Jeongguk feel like his 12 year old self being punished by his science teacher.

Jeongguk shuffles to the edge of the room, trying not to laugh at how Taehyung’s eyes have widened considerably at Hoseok’s scary-voice. It’s only once he’s sat down that he realises he’s automatically placed himself next to Jimin, who happily sidles up to him. He throws an arm around Jeongguk and squeezes him. Embarrassed, Jeongguk pushes his arm off, a little too harshly.

“Don’t worry, Jeonggukkie,” Jimin whispers, unfazed by Jeongguk’s sudden move. “You looked cooler than everyone else when you were doing it.”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”

“Yeah, I am. Did it work?”

Jeongguk laughs and hugs his knees. The music starts again and Hoseok yells his signature ‘five, six, seven, eight’. Trainer squeaks begin to echo again.

“I just...” Jeongguk muses. “I don’t get why I can’t do it. It’s -”

“Huh?”

“I said, I don’t get why I can’t do it.”

Jimin frowns and leans his ear in, and suddenly Jeongguk realises can see every sweat droplet running in rivulets down Jimin’s slightly irritated skin, down the crevice of his nose and resting in the dip of his philtrum above his full lips.

“What are we all doing after this rehearsal?” Jeongguk mumbles into the offered ear, choosing to change the subject.

“That isn’t what you said.”

“How do you know, you didn’t hear me?”

“Yeah but I like heard enough to know you said something else, like I got the gist -”

“I just said, ‘I don’t get why I can’t do it’.”

“Oh. That’s not very interesting. Why did you repeat that 3 times?”

Jeongguk bursts out laughing, even though it’s really not that funny, and Jimin slaps his leg. Jeongguk looks up at him. Jimin’s dark eyes are sparkling, somewhat puffy around the edges. Some remnants of brown makeup seem to remain at the sides. He can’t stop staring. The curves of his face seem to mimic his body; dance is ingrained even into his facial structure. Cheesy.

“Anyway, I have to study this evening... but next week Hoseok says his house is free and Seokjin will buy us soju, so we’ll probably do something then.”

“Oh, right,” Jeongguk says bluntly. The image of him scaling a lamppost at 3am using Taehyung as a stand before promptly falling on his ass and vomiting whilst hysterically laughing materialises in his head.

He most certainly doesn’t want to repeat this behaviour in front of Jimin. Jeongguk has been drunk a number of times, due to the fact that his friend Namjoon gets served basically anywhere, but never around Jimin, him being a newer member of the group. He’s not sure if this is actually an experience he wants to have.

“Come next year, you won't need Seokjin or old-looking friends anymore,” Jeongguk adds. “Can’t believe you’ll be actually twenty.”

“Crazy, huh. Only like a few months away.”

“Yeah, especially since you’re still the height of a 12 year old.”

“Yah! You want to die?” Jimin hits him again.

Eventually Jeongguk rejoins the group, and this time he can’t even tell how he’s performing because he’s so lost in his own head. The weird thrill of Jimin’s presence is getting to him more than it has ever since the beginning, when he first met him only 6 months ago.

Right now, the dark gaze of Jimin is steadily locked on Jeongguk’s body. He’s monitoring him again. Jeongguk simultaneously feels like curling in on himself and bursting into a strip-tease routine; a mingled attitude, it’s undecideability much like the nature of Jeongguk’s brain.

Once the rehearsal finally finishes, an hour early, Jeongguk is the first to leave the stuffy building, reeking of sweat and boy, striding out onto the street. He feels cloudy and dizzy, like something glutinous is stuffed down his throat. He feels so out of it he almost misses the pat-pat of feet running up behind him.

“Jeongguk-ah!”

Jeongguk swivels around: Jimin is there, lit only by the streetlight, cheeks dashed with pink, lips parted wide as he bends over in exhaustion.

“You forgot your water bottle, silly,” he says, laughing. “Why did you leave so quickly? You didn’t say goodbye to anyone.”

“Oh, um.” Jeongguk just loves his fucking eloquence. “Sorry.”

“You’re weird.” Jimin tilts his head to one side and wraps his coat tight around himself. “So cute, Jeonggukkie.”

Jeongguk ignores the way his stomach performs a Chinese burn on itself and chooses to shove Jimin instead. Jimin giggles and Jeongguk just needs to get away, get away from here, get on his bus, get home and sleep, long and hard.

“Anyway, as well as giving back your water bottle, I was wondering, you know, since we finished the rehearsal so early, do you want to come and study back at mine? My parents don’t want me to work in the library because it’s late or whatever so -”

“Yes. Definitely. Let’s go.” Jeongguk accidentally interrupts.

Jimin grins wide, pulling Jeongguk by the arm down the empty street towards the metro.

 

 

3.

Concrete stairs smelling a little of piss and littered with chewing gum lead up to Jimin’s apartment, door labelled boldly as “118” in rusted lettering. The building is on an incline, and overlooks the vast expanse of the East Sea, the pinprick of a beach cleaner barely visible on the sand. The aroma of cooking slips through the crack under the door, along with the faint muffled croon of some trot singer. Jimin fumbles around his bag, brows scrunched in concentration, before finding his keys and unlocking the door. He gives it a hard shove with his shoulder, and it judders open.

“Eomma!” Jimin yells. “I’m back!” Jeongguk shucks his shoes off before peering inside. Jimin chucks his bag on the table. “Come on inside, Jeonggukie. Sorry its a mess.”

It’s not a mess, as such, but extremely crowded, in the almost artistic, homely way. Stacks of books and pot plants and pictures all over the walls kind of way. Multiple photos of chubby baby Jimin and his brother, Jeongguk assumes, are stuck with blu-tack or hung in tiny picture frames everywhere. Baby Jimin in overalls on the beach, baby Jimin with mushed carrot all over his face, baby Jimin kissing his mother’s cheek.

“You were a cute baby,” Jeongguk states.

“Aww Ggukie,” Jimin turns around and sees Jeongguk looking at the photos. “Wait no - stop looking, some of those are really embarrassing.”

Naked 5 year old Jimin covered in ice cream with a huge grin is the next one Jeongguk spots, and he bursts out laughing. Jimin whines and covers Jeongguk’s eyes, ushering him into the main room. The smell and noise of frying then hits Jeongguk all at once, as a small lady bobs around the kitchen with a pan, trot blasting through the radio speakers.

“Eomma!” Jimin shouts. “We have a guest.”

Jimin’s mother immediately spins round, her glasses completely steamed up and her stripy apron covered in flour. “Oh! Jimin you’re back! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I did -”

“Oh, and who’s this?” Jimin’s mother puts the pan back on the hob and turns down the radio, wiping her hands on the front of the apron. Jeongguk bows deeply.

“This is Jeon Jeongguk,” Jimin says. “We’re in the same dance group, we’re going to study together.”

“Ah, lovely to meet you, Jeongguk!” She bows her head, smiling. “I’m sure Jimin’s mentioned you before.” Jimin widens his eyes.

“Nice to meet you too,” Jeongguk replies and he bows again.

“Agh, what a polite boy, Jimin! I wish you’d treat me a little more like this.”

“Right, let’s go upstairs before she embarrasses me,” Jimin mutters, tugging Jeongguk’s sleeve.

However, before they are able to leave the room, they are forcefully given tea, some watermelon pieces and a few cupcakes, which were apparently carefully prepared earlier by Jimin’s father. Jeongguk can tell Jimin is anxious to escape, but he’s actually quite enjoying the slight eccentricity of Jimin’s mother.

“Right, well, dinner should be ready in about 20 minutes, so I won’t give you anything else for the moment. Just tell me if you need anything.” Jimin’s mother gives the pair a smile and returns back to her cooking, cranking up the radio again.

They return to the hallway, yielding the unnecessary piles of food, Jimin leading them to his room, with his name labelled in big, brush-pen calligraphy script, sellotaped to the door.

“Did you write that?” Jeongguk asks him.

Jimin nods and looks down, smiling. “Do you like it?”

“It’s so cool, hyung. Just like you.”

“Hope that was sincere,” Jimin grins at him.

He opens the door and the first thing Jeongguk notices is the huge black dog which has spread its entire body across the bed. Other than that, as expected, the room is like most other teenage boys’; socks on the floor, faint smell of sweat mingled with aftershave, unmade double bed with blankets on top, computer drowning in piles of books and bits of paper on the desk. And yet, Jeongguk feels a little thrill knowing he’s in Jimin’s bedroom, like he’s been given access to some special zone where only people Jimin approves of can go.

He grimaces as he steps on and snaps a ballpoint pen, but Jimin doesn’t notice, too busy nattering on about how he persuaded his mother to let them have the dog, and occasionally discreetly kicking unruly bits of underwear under his bed.

Jeongguk asks the name of the dog, and Jimin replies, very softly, “Ddosun,” stroking its curly black fur. “He’s a labradoodle. Agh, isn’t he cute…”

Ddosun’s tongue flops out and he drools on the blanket.

Jeongguk sits on the other end of the bed and strokes the dog, Jimin busying himself finding various textbooks and stationery. He edges his face nearer to the dog, using it as an excuse to get closer to the mussed-up sheets; they smell of Jimin. It’s an un-pinpointable scent; sort of like washing powder infused with something sweet, and something so appealing to Jeongguk. He tries not to think about how weird that is, instead focusing his attention on stroking the dog and replying occasionally to Jimin’s comforting chatter.

Then something catches his eye. There’s a poster, but it's not hung on the wall. It seems to have been stuffed under the mattress; the top peeking out. Jeongguk smirks to himself, knowing it's probably some topless actress for Jimin’s wank bank.

“I’m just going to the toilet, you can set up on the desk if you want to,” Jimin says, giving Ddosun a quick stroke before bouncing out of the room.

“Okay,” Jeongguk replies, but he’s not setting up. Taking advantage of this window of time, he tugs the paper gently, edging it out from under the mattress, and flips it around. His heart jumps.

It’s a very shirtless, very sweaty, black and white photo of Taeyang from Big Bang, seeming to have come from some teenage girl magazine as a freebie.

The flush of the toilet comes from the next room and Jeongguk panics, suddenly feeling very intrusive. He quickly yanks the mattress up and stuffs the poster back, hands shaking a little. Ddosun snorts awake as Jeongguk faffs around trying to make the bed look normal again, blood rising in his cheeks. He’s already being a creep and they haven’t started studying yet.

Jimin pads back into the room, wiping his hands on his jeans.

“...Why are you looking at me like that,” he laughs warily, Jeongguk fully aware that he is unable to not act suspicious.

“Sorry, me and Ddosun were just talking shit about you,” Jeongguk replies, feeling the blush reside. Jimin bursts into laughter.

 

After 20 minutes, Jeongguk has highlighted in pink about 10 words from his English textbook, written out two sentences, and drawn a picture of Iron Man in the margin. For the rest of the time he has either been looking around Jimin’s room, analysing every object and its meaning, or just staring at Jimin. Luckily he hasn’t noticed yet. But there’s something so fascinating about the way Jimin taps his pen on his lip when he’s thinking, or absentmindedly hums a little when he’s stuck on something. He’s lit a candle by the bed and its light keeps flickering gently on his face, little orange dancing beams across his rosy cheeks and nose. His t-shirt is too big for him; it hangs at the collar and Jeongguk tries not to look, but he sees Jimin’s smooth chest and the dark shadow of a nipple and suddenly he feels strange, intrusive, again.

“Shall we put some music on?” Jeongguk suddenly asks, wanting to stop his mind from wandering.

“Yeah sure, what do you want?” Jimin leaps from the bed and grabs a red bluetooth speaker from the table. He switches it on, and some piano music starts playing. “Oh, Tae put this on the other day.”

Jeongguk feels his jaw clench. He can’t believe himself, Jimin and Taehyung are best friends. Of course Tae would visit. Why is this bothering him.

“Oh, did he come round?” No, Jeongguk, he didn’t come round, he magically controlled Jimin’s speaker from 2 miles away randomly last week.

“Yeah, we studied together for a bit. But you’re better to study with, Taehyung always wants to watch TV or play video games.”

Jeongguk can’t decide whether to revel in the fact that Jimin prefers him or be concerned about the fact that he’s the boring friend that’s good to study with because he doesn’t say anything.

“I’ve been desperately wanting to ask you to watch TV for the last 20 minutes, but I guess I’ll just shut up then.” Jeongguk deadpans, kind of not actually joking. Jimin laughs anyway, lightly hitting Jeongguk’s leg, the touch leaving a buzzy heat on his skin.

“Yes, do shut up. I can’t get distracted, I have exams soon. You’re lucky you don’t have any proper ones until next year.”

“I know. At your height, it seems like I should be the one taking college entrance exams, and you should be taking high school entrance exams.”

“Yah! Jeongguk!” Jimin shouts, and suddenly leaps from his spot, catapulting himself onto Jeongguk and tackling him down flat onto the mattress, giggling. Jeongguk is so taken aback he lets himself fall backwards, feeling his hands pinned by his head, Jimin’s laughing eyes centimetres from his own. Then, he quickly releases himself from Jimin’s weak grip and forcefully flips him over, pins his arms down and sits on his thighs. Jimin gasps, almost inaudibly.

“Fucking hell, you muscle pig.”

He’s not really laughing anymore, just sort of breathing heavily under Jeongguk. Jeongguk knows he should get off now, the joke’s over. Jimin’s just staring at him, chest rising and falling, black hair lain out beneath him on the bed like some sinful halo. His body feels so hot against Jeongguk’s skin, so weirdly pleasant, he can’t bring himself to move away. He only vaguely registers some faint noise from outside amongst the soft tinkling of the piano piece and Jimin’s short breaths.

“Jeongguk,” Jimin mumbles. “Ggukie.”

“Huh? Oh, sorry -”

“My mum’s calling for dinner.”

Jeongguk’s cheeks flare up and he quickly crawls off Jimin, his skin prickly and hot. He looks away. In his peripheral vision, Jimin jumps off the bed and grabs his hoodie, tying it haphazardly around his waist.

When in the kitchen, Jimin’s mother lifts the lid off a pot of spicy pork bone stew, and the whole family gasps appreciatively. Steam rises up from the bowl and fogs up Jimin’s father’s glasses. Jeongguk is in awe; his family never cooks this much food or makes it look so appetizing. He feels like he’s in a restaurant.

After thanking Jimin’s mother for the food, she first dishes out Jeongguk’s portion, and his mouth waters at the sight of the meaty broth, soft potatoes and cabbage on top. He starts eating, head down, focused on the red heat and homely saltiness of the food, avoiding eye contact with Jimin.

“So, Jeongguk, what are you thinking of doing after school finishes?”

At the sound of his name, Jeongguk is snapped out of his food daydream counting the amount bubbles he could see in the soup, and chokes on a bit of meat. Jimin bursts out laughing, hand covering his mouth. Jimin’s mother tuts worriedly, passing the water jug across the narrow table.

“Oh, um-” Jeongguk tries to answer in between coughs. “I’m in the year below Jimin… I don’t know yet what I want to do when I leave.”

“Jeongguk’s really good at singing,” Jimin says, resting his chin on his hand. “I heard him in the practice room the other week.”

“No I’m not!” Jeongguk replies, flustered. “Anyway, I hear you singing in the gym showers all the time.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m good at it. Seriously, Jeonggukkie could be an idol, eomma. I’m not joking.”

Jimin’s mother laughs and reaches for her glass. “You must sing for us sometime then, Jeongguk. Do you want to be an idol? Doesn’t sound like a particularly easy job.”

He does, really. But he doesn’t like saying it; he feels arrogant and naïve for wanting it. Also the bleach and dating bans don’t really appeal to him. His parents want him to go into the medical field, but to be quite honest, the only thing he’s good at in science is not gagging at the chopped up lamb hearts.

“I don’t think so, no.”

“Our Jimin wants to go to a performing arts university,” Jimin’s mother sighs. “It’s not ideal but we trust him to do well because he’s so hard-working.”

“Yuck,” Jimin’s brother pipes up from the other end of the table. Jimin’s mother tuts at him. Jeongguk honestly doesn’t think he’s heard one word from him for the entirety of the meal before now.

Jimin’s parents start discussing some upcoming event they’re invited to; a sort of parent dinner where people sit around gloating about their little darlings’ achievements, and Jeongguk slips back into silence. Instead of staring at his stew, this time he looks up at Jimin.

Who’s staring directly back at him.

Jeongguk doesn’t break it, just scans over Jimin’s features as he lifts his chopsticks back to his reddened lips, chewing slowly. Under the table, he starts to softly drag his foot up Jeongguk’s shin, the act seemingly friendly, and yet Jeongguk almost flinches at the contact; it leaves a trail of sparks up his leg. Jeongguk lifts his water glass to his lips and drinks deeply; watches Jimin’s pink face through the muffling glass, watches as he briefly shatters into magnified crystals.

Then the image of himself sat on Jimin’s muscular thighs with the other heavily breathing underneath flickers in his head. He jerks his gaze down and yanks his leg away. The heat of the stew starts to get to him, sweat rising to the surface of his skin and the chilli irritating his tongue. For the rest of the meal, he stares at his food as he eats it, and hates himself for it. Usually as a houseguest he contributes considerably to the conversation, but he currently feels like a emotionally drained hermit crab, it’s only ability being picking lamely at pork bones and occasionally making noises of acknowledgement.

Jimin and Jeongguk study until 9:30 after that. Jeongguk chews his pen. Occasionally makes jokes. Stares at Jimin.

He leaves at 9:35; says bye to Jimin’s parents, ties his laces by the entrance as Jimin leans on the doorframe.

“I won’t lie, Jeongguk, I did fuck all for the last two hours,” Jimin says, crossing his arms. “I bet you did so much work.”

“Ha, ha. I wish. Anyway, every time I looked at you, you had definitely achieved more than I had at that moment in time.”

“Wow, that’s deep.”

Jeongguk laughs, stands up. “Well, um, bye then. Thanks for having -”

Suddenly he’s in the warm arms of Jimin, wrapped around his chest, chin resting on his shoulder. Jeongguk embraces him back quickly. Tries not to feel like a creep when he presses his nose to Jimin’s neck and inhales, the sweet, a little sweaty scent, somehow familiar. He loves the feeling of Jimin’s little arms on his back, his chest pressed against his, hair tickling his cheek, rise and fall of his ribs. The way Jimin’s hand has accidentally slipped a little under his school shirt, palm laying hot against his waist.

He feels it, the way Jimin doesn’t pull away. Like negative space. Something not happening having meaning.

Jeongguk lets go. He feels drunk.

“Bye bye, Jeonggukkie!” Jimin calls down the echoey staircase, Jeongguk’s footsteps ringing out in the artificial light.

That night, as he lies in his suffocating bed sheets, Jeongguk thinks of the poster under Jimin’s mattress; thinks of what he’s doing right now, his hot breath and tensing thighs, small moans. A hand slips under Jeongguk’s waistband. He covers his mouth with his arm. He decides to question his actions when he feels sane in the morning.

 

4.

The bell rings, and Jeongguk sweeps his books stealthily into his open bag, waiting to engulf the offending items swiftly before swinging it onto his back. Just seconds before, he had been contemplating the dichotomy paradox whilst watching the clock hands turn minute by minute. Somehow, the hand had eventually reached the number 6 and, after spending two hours trying comprehend the possible relevance of polynomials in his life, Jeongguk is out of the classroom.

He feels a hand grab his shoulder, and Namjoon spins him around.

“You usually wait for me outside the library? What’s going on?” Jeongguk asks.

“If I spend one more minute near there I’m going to go crazy,” Namjoon replies. His top button is in the wrong hole and the bags under his eyes are almost concerning.

“I am so dreading next year,” Jeongguk mutters, tugging the frail student down the hallway.

As they sit in the cacophony of the lunch hall, Jeongguk notices how Namjoon keeps missing his mouth with his chopsticks.

“Shit, Namjoon-hyung, you look half dead.”

“Do you think I can sleep in a toilet cubicle or is that too weird?”

“Taehyung did it once. But his feet did end up slipping under the door and everyone thought he’d died, so maybe don’t.”

“Where even is Taehyung?” Namjoon asks, chewing on some pickled radish.

“He’s off sick today, but I bet he’s lying.”

“He was probably round at Jimin’s last night playing video games or something and now he’s too tired to come in. They’re obsessed with each other, those two.”

Jeongguk clenches his jaw and looks away. “Yeah, they are.”

Namjoon furrows his brow, and slurps his black bean noodles. The sauce splatters onto his nose. “What’s with you?”

“Huh?” Jeongguk drinks his water again.

“Awww, are you worried Jimin’s taking your best friend from you?” Namjoon teases, poking Jeongguk’s cheek with his saucy chopsticks.

“I didn’t say anything!” Jeongguk says, wiping his face.

“Don’t worry, Jeongguk, Taehyung still loves you the most. Besides, Jimin won’t shut up about the time you went to his house. When even was that?”

“What do you mean he won’t shut up about it?” Jeongguk flicks a bit of rice off the table. He’s not really hungry.

“He just keeps mentioning it at really irrelevant times… literally yesterday I was talking about how nice the food I was eating was and he was all like,” - Namjoon heightens his pitch by an octave - “‘ooh, we ate really nice stew when Jeongguk came round, I hope Jeongguk liked it, gosh I hope he thought my house was nice, I hope my dog didn’t fart on him’-”

“His dog did fart on me,” Jeongguk says. He doesn’t know why he smiles at that.

“Ew. Anyway, I didn’t even think you and Jimin were friends.”

“What? Why?”

Namjoon shugs, grabbing some more noodles with his chopsticks and slurping them noisily. Jeongguk drinks, again. “You usually shrug him off whenever he comes near you or speaks to you. Don’t you find him annoying?”

“No!” Jeongguk protests in shock, banging his cup down on the table too hard.

“Alright, alright,” Namjoon says, laughing. “I guess you went round to his house, so you can’t hate him that much.”

“I don’t hate him! Seriously.”

Namjoon looks at him. “You seem more stressed than me, and you’re not even the one who has exams coming up,” he laughs awkwardly.

“I guess you’re rubbing off on me,” Jeongguk says, wanting to change the topic. “You should sleep more hyung, you’ve lost your spark.”

Namjoon just sighs. Jeongguk decides to work on being less of a twat.

 

5.

As the blur of city lights and cloudy night sky rushes past Jeongguk’s face pressed to the train window, he wonders how often you can actually see the stars in Busan, he wonders what the buildings are like in Seoul, if they’re even taller than the ones he can see, wonders where everyone on the streetlamp flooded streets is going. He wipes the steam from the window by his cheek and cups his hand around his eyes to block out the light from the train. Sometimes the sea peeks from behind rows of purply-grey buildings, little flashes of the moon reflecting off the water. He pushes his earbuds back in his ears as the train jolts a little on the track.

Opposite to him in the carriage he notices Min Seoyeon, the girl with pretty eyes and hair that falls softly around her slim face. She’s in Jeongguk’s Korean history class, and sits two places down, one across from him. He used to watch her a lot instead of looking at the board, admiring the way she always managed to make the girl sitting next to her laugh just by whispering stupid remarks about the stain that the teacher had on his trousers every single lesson.

He looks over at her briefly, and catches her eye. She smiles sweetly, holding onto the handrail above her. Usually, his heart would jump, but instead he just smiles back and returns to the window.

He digs his hand into his pocket and takes out a chewing gum, savouring the crunchy mintiness that comes only with the first bite. The train slows, reaching the next stop, the bouncy voiceover announcing their arrival. The doors open, and a substantial load of people squeeze out the doors, some running on the platform to change trains. The doors close. The train lurches back into action.

Jeongguk chews his gum slowly and thinks about Jimin, about the way his slightly freckled cheeks had flushed so pink after he’d ran to catch up with Jeongguk the other week. They’d been the colour of cherry blossom trees in April, when Jeongguk secretly likes to pick up the fallen petals, form little flowers in his hand and sellotape them back together as he walks along the street to school. There’s a blossom tree outside his house, which he used to sit under and draw anime characters, before studying was ever a necessary part of his life. Sometimes he’d draw by the port about ten minutes from his house, sketching the boats with wobbly lines, wondering if he could see Japan if he squinted his eyes hard enough. He used to dream about taking his future girlfriend there, so she could see the sunset and throw stones over the railing, down the concrete cliff into the frothy sea beneath. Now he just wants to take Jimin there, because he loves the face he makes and the way he gasps so appreciatively when he sees something pretty. He would never admit that out loud, though.

At the next stop, almost everyone leaves the train. Jeongguk could sit down by now but he can’t stop looking out of the window and imagining Jimin as a little fairy who could jump from building to building. Then he remembers the uphill walk from the station to his aunt’s block of flats and grimaces, deciding to give his legs a break.

He moves from the window to a seat. Then he looks up, and his heart lurches.

Jimin is there. Opposite, head lolling forward, one earbud fallen out of his ear, grip loosened on a book in his hands. Jeongguk is stuck by how peaceful he looks. He’d forgotten they’d taken this line to get to Jimin’s house that other day. To be quite honest, he hadn’t been concentrating on much then apart from the way Jimin was dragging him by the arm everywhere and chattering about the new vending machines installed in the station.

He goes and sits next to him. He doesn’t want to wake him but he doesn’t want Jimin to miss his stop. “Jimin-hyung,” he murmurs near his ear. Jimin’s lips are even more pouty in his sleep. His face has an almost squishy quality to it. “Jimin-hyung,” he say again, a little louder.

Jimin’s eyes open slowly as the train swerves around a corner, jerking him out of sleep.

“Jeongguk?” He blinks deeply, eyes red and puffy, confused as he tracks across Jeongguk’s face.

“Hi, hyung.”

“Jeonggukkie? How come you’re here? Did I miss my stop?” He sits up quickly, looking around in a daze.

“Not yet,” Jeongguk replies. “I can’t believe we didn’t see each other earlier.”

“I guess it was a busy train. Oh, I wish I’d seen you earlier, Jeonggukkie... You usually take the bus?”

“I’m visiting my auntie.”

“Aw, that’s sweet of you. Agh, I was meant to finish this chapter,” Jimin whines, trying to find his page.

“What book is it?”

“It’s just some history textbook,” Jimin replies vaguely, voice a little husky.

“I’ll let you get on,” Jeongguk smiles. Jimin smiles back, then offers him an earphone. He thinks it’s Usher, sounds like the familiar voice he hears tinny from Jimin’s headphones when they sit together in the library.

The overhead light buzzes and flickers, occasionally dipping the carriage into darkness as it trundles down the tracks. Jeongguk rests his head on the cold window behind him, watches as the countless buildings emerge from behind Jimin’s head and soar towards him in the night.

Before too long, Jimin’s eyes start to droop, along with his posture. Then hair brushes Jeongguk’s cheek and a warm weight rests itself on his shoulder. Jeongguk freezes up, unsure whether to push Jimin off or let him sleep.

Jimin’s breath is hot on his neck, little puffs coming from his mouth. Jeongguk slowly forces himself to relax, sinking back into his chair. It’s just Jimin, a very tired, overworked Jimin, in need of support, literally and figuratively.

He brushes some hair gently out of Jimin’s eyes, savours the feeling of his soft skin under his fingers. He touches his own cheek and sighs at the irritated bumps that meet his fingertips. He wants Jimin’s perfect skin, and his flexible body and dancing ability, his shiny hair and his pretty eyes and soft lips. He really wants it. Jimin’s chest rises and falls, swells like the resonance of a piano chord left ringing.

Jimin snuffles in his sleep, and edges forward, lips almost touching Jeongguk’s neck, right next to his racing pulse. It’s just Jimin. Jimin. Just him.

Jeongguk sighs before deciding to rest his cheek on the top of Jimin’s head. Inhales the smell of shampoo as he rests there. He is so close.

“You’re cool, Jimin-hyung,” he whispers. He doesn’t know why he says it. He feels a bit embarrassed afterwards, even though Jimin can't hear.

Jeongguk wants to be like Jimin, confident enough to initiate contact, sweet and smooth in his speech. He wants to captivate Jimin, just like Jimin captivates him.

 

 

6.

Next Friday arrives with the cold wind, stinging Jeongguk’s face as he leaves the dance hall, arm around Jimin’s shoulders. They are en route to Hoseok’s empty house, meeting Seokjin on the way at Haeundae Station.

“I don’t look like a rice ball, shut up Jeongguk,” Jimin moans, hitting his chest. Jeongguk smirks.

“Jimin, you do look more like a rice ball than anyone else here,” says Yoongi, walking in front.

“You look like a turtle,” Jimin retorts.

“True,” Hoseok says.

“Alright, alright, when did this turn into the attack Min Yoongi party -”

“It was the attack Park Jimin party just seconds ago, actually,” Jimin protests.

Taehyung swings an arm around Jimin, squashing the allocated rice ball in between him and Jeongguk. Jeongguk tightens his grip on Jimin a little. “I think Jimin looks like a duck,” Taehyung declares.

“For fuck’s - Taehyung, seriously -”

“You’re so right,” Jeongguk says. “The duck from Line.”

Taehyung bursts out laughing and slaps Jeongguk on the back.

They take the bus to the station where Seokjin is sat on the steps, cigarette dangling out of his mouth as he taps away on his phone. He is surrounded by plastic carrier bags.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” Hoseok says, as the rowdy group approaches him.

“You try balancing finals and a part time job at a fish shop whilst simultaneously dating your madwoman of a sister without some sort of stress relief,” Seokjin replies, unamused.

“Someone woke up on the wrong side of bed today,” Hoseok scoffs, looking around at the rest of the group, seeking a laugh. Taehyung and Yoongi laugh heartily in return.

“Are you coming with us, Seokjin-hyung?” Jimin asks.

“I’m picking up my stolen hoodie from Hoseok’s and then heading home,” Seokjin replies. “I literally have no hoodies left. Don’t get girlfriends, you lot, all they do is moan at you and steal your clothes.”

“You hear that Jeongguk?” Taehyung teases. “Now stop ogling Seoyeon every history class and actually learn something.”

“Fuck off, hyung,” Jeongguk tries to laugh. “I don’t like Seoyeon.”

“Jeongguk’s got a crush!” Hoseok erupts in glee, poking Jeongguk in the stomach. Jeongguk bats him off; looks over at Jimin. Jimin is staring at the pavement.

“We’ve never even spoken!” Jeongguk says.

“Who is this?” Jimin asks, looking up, his smile not reaching his eyes. “Who do you like?”

“I don’t like anyone,” Jeongguk says. “They’re just being annoying.”

“She’s a pretty girl in Jeongguk’s year who he never shuts up about,” Taehyung smirks.

“I don’t like her anymore Taehyung, seriously-”

“So you admit you liked her!”

Jeongguk huffs and starts trying to move the group towards the station, eager to move on. “Come on, let’s go.” He doesn’t know why he hates Jimin hearing about his stupid little crushes. His head swells with embarrassment.

“Why don’t we chill at the beach for a bit?” Hoseok says. “My parents still haven’t left yet and we’re in Haeundae anyway.”

Jimin’s face lights up, and Jeongguk feels an urge to coo. The group agrees with the plan and drag a reluctant Seokjin with them, sputtering in protest like an ahjussi.

They get to the beach and Jeongguk gasps in awe; he has never seen it so empty before, the sand spread out before him, bumpy with old footsteps and holes where parasols have been stuck. There is hardly anyone in sight, just a few seagulls and the gentle wash of the waves. The buildings behind them illuminate the sand. Taehyung and Jimin run onto the beach, giggling. Jimin looks ethereal in the melange of artificial green light and moon shine.

Yoongi grabs another bottle of soju for himself, already a couple of empty ones spilling from the plastic bag, and chucks a few more to the others, before collapsing onto the sand in a star shape. Jeongguk catches a bottle and lays next to Yoongi; breathes a sigh of relief. “I can actually see the stars for once,” he observes.

“Can you not see them normally?” Yoongi asks. “Never knew you needed glasses Jeongguk.” He unscrews the cap and drinks deeply. Jeongguk does the same, savouring the burn which sears through his body. He still hates the taste, but he likes the sensation.

Jimin bounds up to him and snatches the bottle from his hand, laughing. He drinks, a little spilling from the side and dripping down his neck. The moon reflects in his eyes, and in his lips, slick from the soju.

“I dare you to swim,” Jeongguk suddenly challenges him.

Jimin grins. “No way.” He pauses. “Only if you come in with me.”

Jeongguk cocks his head, and shrugs. He drinks some more; the phrase liquid courage feeling increasingly relevant. “Fine.”

Jimin giggles, and yanks Jeongguk by the arms off the sand. He can see Jimin already has a red glow, the alcohol starting to affect his little frame.

“We’re swi-mming!” Jimin sing-songs as he runs through the sand, towards where Hoseok is giving Taehyung a piggy back.

“Yah! Jimin-ah! You’re going to die of cold!” Seokjin yells from where he’s sitting, mid-sandcastle. Yoongi starts working on a turret.

Jimin ignores him and grabs Jeongguk’s hand as they run towards the waves. “This is so stupid,” he laughs.

“Why did I suggest this?” Jeongguk says, intertwining his fingers with Jimin’s little ones.

“You’re stupid. And cute!”

“Shush.” Jeongguk pushes Jimin, who stumbles in the sand. He doesn’t seem to mind.

They reach the sea, and Jimin suddenly halts. He lets go of Jeongguk’s hand and tugs his shirt over his head. Suddenly, Jeongguk feels choked up. Usually, he would look away, but the alcohol is stopping him. He stares at Jimin’s body, feels his cheeks redden at the sight of Jimin’s toned stomach.

“You must work out a lot,” Jeongguk breathes.

Jimin hunches over shyly, clasps his hands around his waist. “Come on, hurry up, don’t be weird.”

Jimin slips off his trousers, as Jeongguk undresses. He can’t look away. He already knew Jimin’s thighs were thick; he’d sat on them himself, the feeling etched into his skin. But he’d never actually seen them before, so smooth and muscled, stretching his boxers tight.

Jimin slips off his socks and creates a pile of his clothes, then watches as Jeongguk undresses. In the darkness, he watches as Jimin’s gaze drags up his body.

Jeongguk’s not oblivious. In fact he prides himself in being a savvy drunk. Fuck, he’s not even drunk. Jimin’s making him feel crazy. But he catches that stare.

“Hurry the fuck up and get in!” cries a distant Yoongi-sounding voice.

“This was such a bad idea,” Jimin says wrapping his arms around his body. There’s a slight wind and it’s raising Jeongguk’s skin in bumps, whispering through his hair. “I kind of hate you right now.”

“You hate me? You agreed to this.” Jeongguk shuffles up to Jimin, toes dragging in the sharp sand. “Come on, you go first.”

“You suggested it. You go.”

“Fuck it,” Jeongguk shrugs, and starts running into the icy black water, splashing his wake all over Jimin, who gasps in protest.

“Yah, you little -” Jimin chases after Jeongguk, then making strained “ah, ah” noises as the cold hits him.

“Oh - my god,” Jeongguk whispers, waist deep, the water lapping painfully against his dry chest.

Jimin suddenly starts manically laughing, charging into the sea and pushing Jeongguk. His tiny hands are like ice cubes pressed against his back.

“Get off me, oh my god, Jimin, this was such bad idea,” Jeongguk barks out through laughter.

“Call me hyung, or I’ll push you in,” Jimin threatens, widening his eyes with a deranged smile.

“Jimin-ah. Don’t you dare.” Jeongguk raises an eyebrow teasingly. Jimin gasps, then shoves Jeongguk full force.

The next thing he feels is the combination of the biting seawater both hitting his skin and shooting up his nose. A large weight thumps on top of him and his side hits the ribbed seabed. His head and cheeks are numb from the shock. He opens his eyes; he sees Jimin.

Jimin, on top of Jeongguk, still smiling, eyes closed. In his blurred vision, Jeongguk sees how his hair is fanned out above him, rippling under the water, resembling some sort of sea nymph in this strange snapshot of piercing cold and slight regret.

Then he realises it. Jeongguk finds Jimin beautiful. Even if only in the dark, murky sea, sight clouded by sand and salt.

Jeongguk emerges, coughing and spluttering, expelling water, probably seaweed and some small fish from his lungs. Jimin rises just a few seconds after, flipping his hair back and grabbing his face. He looks almost shocked at himself.

“You want to die, hyung?” Jeongguk asks, and Jimin backs away, giggling uncontrollably. His face is bright red from the cold, half of his hair dripping on to his face, the other half scraped back.

Jeongguk makes a move to wrestle Jimin, who grabs Jeongguk’s arms mid air and tries to push him backwards. He digs his icy fingertips into Jeongguk’s biceps.

They stand like this for a long moment, staring at each other, caught in a weird limbo. Only the sea moves, gently washing against their numbed skin. The moon lights Jimin’s soft features; lights him so Jeongguk can look in his eyes and try desperately to work out why he’s so simultaneously freaked out and enamoured by him. Jeongguk hates it when these shifts happen, just like when they were on Jimin’s bed. One second they are laughing, then something switches, and Jeongguk is so swallowed up by Jimin’s presence, he almost feels sick.

“Let’s go back,” Jimin whispers. “I’m cold, Jeonggukkie.”

 

 

7.

They all leave the beach quite soon after, Jeongguk and Jimin shivering violently and demanding more soju as they walk along the pavement. Seokjin sighs at them and takes his jacket off, wrapping it around Jimin.

“Just you wait, Jimin,” he says, “until you are about to literally die of cold, I will be by your deathbed saying, ‘oh! Jimin! What did I say about going in the sea?’ And you’ll say, ‘ah, well, let me remember, oh yeah, you said you’ll die of cold, Seokjin-hyung!’ and I will say ‘that is 100% correct, Jimin, so who was right in this situation, was it me, or was it -’”

“Do you ever shut up, hyung?” Hoseok says, swaying slightly.

“He’s an old man in a young man’s body. He acts just like my great-uncle,” Taehyung slurs even more than usual.

“Not that much of a young man’s body,” Yoongi deadpans.

Jeongguk slaps a hand over his mouth, trying not to laugh at Seokjin’s misfortune.

“You are honestly the worst bunch I have ever met,” Seokjin says. “Why am I still here? I could be asleep, curled up in my hoodie, but I’m here with a group of 19 year olds, walking through Haeundae, half an hour away from home, with a hypothermic duck.”

“Agh, seriously... I preferred rice ball.” Jimin protests.

Jeongguk swigs again. “Aw… rice ball Jiminie-hyung… so cute,” he says.

“Alright, steady on Jeongguk, you’re starting to actually be affectionate,” Yoongi says, grabbing the bottle from him.

“Let him,” Jimin giggles. “Makes a nice change.”

Jeongguk grabs the other side of Seokjin’s jacket and wraps it around himself, pressing himself close to Jimin’s side. Jimin rests his head on his shoulder.

“Jimin-hyung’s so cute,” Jeongguk says again, the words dribbling out of his mouth unconsciously. His mind is swinging, swinging, swinging. Jimin is so close to him, he feels like he has to let him know he’s cute. “Riceball. Ha, ha. Jimin-hyung. So cold.”

“God, you’re talking more shit than Seokjin-hyung,” Yoongi says.

After a difficult, wobbly ascent up Hoseok’s building’s steep stair case, they barge through the door and Taehyung immediately plugs his phone into the sound system. Hoseok turns down the volume button in respect of his neighbours, but Taehyung decides to sellotape the dial on to the highest setting, before shoving Hoseok into the kitchen so he doesn’t notice.

Jeongguk feels himself starting to gather his wits, but still enjoying the way the music fills his brain and how the carpet now feels so soft under him.

Jimin spins around above, swaying and jumping to the music. His eyes are closed and Jeongguk quietly laughs as he realises he can see straight up Jimin’s nose. He’s smiling blissfully, softly floating in the music. Jeongguk loves it when the other loses himself like this. He’s never seen such a beautiful dancer. He’s not even jealous anymore.

“Get up Jeonggukkie,” Jimin says, offering a hand. “I don’t want to tread on you.”

“But I’m so comfy here,” Jeongguk whines. “You look so funny from this angle.”

“I didn’t take you for a lightweight,” Jimin smiles fondly.

Jeongguk grabs Jimin’s hand, yanking himself up quickly. “Look! Not drunk!”, he says, head spinning a little.

Jimin holds him by the waist and guides Jeongguk’s hand to his shoulder. Jeongguk feels a hot rush to his cheeks, not expecting the soft hold. The music is some slow, jazzy American tune, the kind of thing that Taehyung likes to listen and sing along to. Yoongi is chatting away with Seokjin on the sofa, his eyes lit up with excitement as he talks about some underground rap gig he’s got at a place nearby. Taehyung and Hoseok are still in the kitchen. Jeongguk hopes they’re getting snacks. He’s so hungry he wants to eat Jimin’s nose.

“You’re so good at dancing, hyung,” Jeongguk mutters. “I wish you could teach me.”

“I’m literally just swaying my hips a bit right now,” Jimin laughs. “And so are you. Guess I’ve taught you then.”

Jeongguk lifts his hand from Jimin’s shoulder to his neck, palm pressed against the hot skin. He feels his heart beat, rapidly hitting against his skin. He vaguely registers Yoongi and Seokjin in the background saying they’re going out for a smoke.

“No I mean like -” Somewhere in Jeongguk’s brain, something tells him to be wary of the honesty. But somewhere else, something tells him to ignore that other something, and look at Jimin’s pretty eyes, and tell him the truth; if anyone deserves praise, it’s Jimin. Sweet, insecure Jimin. “Whenever you dance, you know in the dance studio, with everyone else… you’re always the best, and I always wish I could dance like you, and I always watch you. I don’t tell you because… um… I don’t know... I don’t want you to think it’s weird or…”

Jimin’s expression has softened into one of slight shock, mouth a little open. Usually, Jeongguk would panic he’d freaked him out, but right now he just loves that cute expression, the reason he wants to take Jimin to see the pretty sunset near his house because he knows he’d appreciate it.

“Thank you, Jeongguk.” He says, and then he’s hugging him. Jeongguk hadn’t quite expected such an emotional response. “I wish I was good at singing like you.”

“I’m not that good, hyung, why do you keep saying this?” Jeongguk laughs into Jimin’s hair, still in his embrace.

The music changes to something a little more heavy, and Jimin’s body slows in response, holds Jeongguk by the waist, and presses their bodies closer together. Jeongguk gasps quietly, and his eyelids flicker, feeling a throb in his groin.

“You are, Jeongguk. You sing just like you’re an idol… you have such a beautiful voice. You dance like an idol too. And…” Jimin snakes a hand around Jeongguk’s waist, under his shirt. “You look like one.”

Jeongguk swallows, feeling himself work a hand up Jimin’s back. “Oh really?”

“You’re tall, muscled, sexy..”

“Sexy?” Jeongguk asks. He can’t tell if he’s drunk anymore. He doesn’t know what’s happening.

“You know you are. I see you dancing like that in rehearsals. You know it.”

Jeongguk grinds into Jimin’s crotch, suddenly desperate for a reaction. Watches as his neck tilts back, a gasp escaping, sweat dripping down the expanse of skin. Jeongguk hopes he’s still smiling, so he can comfort himself that this is all still a joke. Jimin lift his head back up, his hair still slightly damp from the sea. He’s not smiling.

His eyes are hooded, and stare right back at Jeongguk.

“I dance like that because I want to impress you, hyung,” Jeongguk whispers, the words escaping before his mind catches up. By this point, somewhere in his brain has started panicking. He doesn’t know what’s stopping him. He shouldn’t be doing this. But, he wraps his arms around Jimin’s body, engulfing his frame. His body feels so firm yet supple in his hands.

“You make me crazy, Jeongguk,” Jimin says in his ear. “I just want to be normal.”

Jimin’s not joking anymore. Jeongguk feels sick. But he can’t stop. He doesn’t know what Jimin means, he can’t work out anything in his haze. He feels a swell in Jimin’s jeans press against his own crotch, suddenly aware of the strain he’s feeling too. A small “fuck”, barely audible, slips out of him. He can’t reply to Jimin; there’s elastic bands around his throat, stopping coherent words from leaving his mouth.

Jeongguk pulls away slightly, looks at Jimin’s face. It’s flushed pink, eyes dark. His lips look bitten, so big and sinful in the dim light of the room. They’re so close to him. Jeongguk slips his hands down Jimin’s back, over his ass, squeezing it, hating how much he adores the feeling of the soft flesh and the reaction he gains. Jimin arches against Jeongguk and lets out a sigh, gyrating his hips almost painfully into Jeongguk.

Jeongguk leans forward, presses his lips, slowly, to Jimin’s neck. He needs to taste him, touch him. He needs more than just this agonising friction. He needs to get whatever this is out of his system.

The door of the balcony bangs loudly, and the sound of drunk chattering through the kitchen suddenly permeates the room.

Jeongguk jumps away from Jimin, breathing rapidly, his whole body feeling numb. He’s still drunk; his thoughts aren’t processing properly, just collecting in a dump at the bottom of his head. He can’t see Jimin, just the shine of the coffee table and the orange carpet.

“Sorry we took so long!” Hoseok almost shouts, as the group enters through the doorway. “Me and Taehyung got into a heated conversation about whether a platypus is a mammal or not and then Yoongi and Seokjin joined in, and have you tried to have an argument with those two -”

“It’s not my fault you’re just wrong all the time,” Yoongi says.

“- anyway we ended up deciding we should spit over the balcony to see who could spit furthest, but once we’d done it, we couldn’t see who won because it was dark, so I told Seokjin to go out and have a look so he’s out there now but I just realised he’s not going to know who’s spit is who’s and it might have dried up by now so I guess this was a stupid game.”

“Ha, ha,” Jeongguk replies.

“Are you two okay?” Taehyung laughs. “Looks like you’ve just seen someone die.”

“All good,” Jimin says, giving a thumbs up. Jeongguk winces at the sound of his voice.

Seokjin bursts in the door.

“Taehyung won!” he slurs. Taehyung cheers and jumps into his arms.

 

They start playing a game of cards with some obscure name, suggested by Yoongi, and despite Taehyung wanting to gamble with real money, Hoseok decides it’s more sensible to use bottle tops and torn up bits of paper with “100 won” scribbled on them. Yoongi is winning.

“Seems like this is the only thing Jeongguk can’t win at,” Hoseok says, putting down three cards, sipping from his glass.

“And this is the only thing Yoongi can win at,” Taehyung says, grinning, holding his knees. His eyes are glazed and blissful.

“I may not always win, but at least I always beat you,” Yoongi mutters, putting down his cards.

“Not that hard of a feat,” Jeongguk says. It’s the first thing he’s said in five minutes.

“Is somebody sulking because they aren’t winning?” Hoseok coos. Jeongguk elbows him. He keeps his head down, staring at the cards in his hand, concentrating on the swirling pattern of his ace. He can’t bear to look up opposite him, where Jimin’s eyes are so unreadable.

“I’m going to the toilet,” Jimin says, brightly. He stands and looks straight down at Jeongguk. “Could you show me where it is, Jeongguk?”

“I don’t live in a bloody mansion Jiminie, it’s not too hard to find,” Hoseok laughs.

Jeongguk feels himself getting up anyway, dropping his cards on the ground and steadying his body as he stands a little too abruptly. “I need the toilet too, anyway. Take my turn, hyung.”

“Which hyung?” comes a chorus of voices behind as he leaves the room, two steps behind Jimin.

The bathroom light buzzes then illuminates, dim and orange, in need of replacement. Hoseok’s bathroom is small and messy, a few hairs stuck to the wall and bottles of shampoo and razors stacked by the shower. Jimin shuts the door behind them.

“You go first,” he says, quietly. There’s an uncomfortable layer of tension simmering. Jeongguk notices how Jimin starts poking around in drawers as he waits for Jeongguk to finish. “Look,” he smiles. “Why the fuck is there black lipstick in here?”

Jeongguk laughs softly. “We’ve never properly met Hoseok’s sister. Guess she could be a part time emo.”

“You really think plain old Seokjin would date an emo?”

Jeongguk finishes, makes way for Jimin - who is still inspecting the makeup drawer.

“Come here, Jeonggukkie. I want to make you look like a proper idol.”

Jeongguk obeys, his mind fuzzy, sitting on the cold tile floor in front of Jimin. He has no strength or desire to try and leave.

“Since when could you do makeup?” Jeongguk enquires.

“Since never. I just enjoy… I don’t know… trying it sometimes. There’s so much in my bathroom I try it out for fun sometimes. Makes my tiny little eyes look a bit bigger.”

“Your eyes are pretty anyway, hyung,” Jeongguk whispers.

“Stop getting all serious on me. You’re such a weird drunk.” Jimin says, opening a battered eyeshadow palette.

Jeongguk doesn’t know why they’re acting like nothing’s happened. Maybe he dreamt it. Maybe he’s still lying on Hoseok’s carpet and dreaming this right now. Maybe he’s not even drunk, maybe he’s in his bed, dreaming about being drunk at Hoseok’s house. Maybe he’s still at Jimin’s house, and he’s fallen asleep on his floor from studying too much and he’s dreamt his whole life from then up to this point. Maybe he fell asleep on Jimin’s dog and that’s why he imagined Hoseok’s carpet being so fluffy. He’d rather it be like that. He wishes it had never happened. More than anything, he wishes he hadn’t enjoyed it so much.

“Jeongguk-ah?” Jimin lifts a little eyeshadow brush up to Jeongguk’s eye. “Close.”

Jimin swipes it softly across Jeongguk’s eye, his breathing quiet and concentrated. It feels weird, like his eyeball is being continuously rubbed through a layer of clingfilm.

“Do you think they’re still playing that game?” Jeongguk asks.

“They will have realised Yoongi’s cheating by now, I think. He’ll be denying it, and Taehyung will have got hungry again, hopefully they’ve ordered some food. Those are my predictions.”

Jeongguk laughs. Jimin moves the brush to the side of Jeongguk’s eye; asks him to open.

“Do you do this often, hyung?”

Jimin looks to the side, puts some more shadow on his brush, and shrugs. “It’s fun.”

“You seem good at it.”

“You haven’t seen the end result yet.”

“Do I look like Taeyang yet?”

“Half of your face does.”

Jimin places his pinky on Jeongguk’s cheek, steadying his hand. His thumb brushes off some powder which has dropped onto his nose. He starts the other eye, and Jeongguk feels a hand rest on his thigh. He bites the inside of his cheek, desperate not to have a reaction.

“Open again. Can I put a bit of lip tint on you?”

“What even is that? But sure.”

Jeongguk concentrates on the rich brown of Jimin’s eyes, appreciating simply the aesthetic admirability of his face, ignoring the hot palm laying heavy on his thigh. He ignores it less when it edges further up, nearer, nearer.

Jimin finds a little pink pot, unscrews the lid, places the brush on Jeongguk’s lips, his own bitten in concentration. Jeongguk thinks Jimin’s lips look like they already have lip tint on them, or whatever this shit is called.

“Jimin-hyung,” Jeongguk says, his voice a little choked. “Come closer.”

Jimin looks at him, slightly confused. Jeongguk puts his hands on Jimin’s lower back, and suddenly pulls the other on to his lap. Jimin’s breath hitches.

“What’re you doing?” Jimin whispers, brush still in his hand, some liquid dropping down from it on to Jeongguk’s trousers.

“Can I put some on you?” Jeongguk asks. Jimin nods, eyes half-lidded.

He hates that he’s doing this again. He feels like he’s in Hoseok’s stupid living room again with that song bouncing around in his fucking ears. He feels like such a creep but he can’t stop touching Jimin in this way, and Jimin doesn’t seem to want him to stop either.

Jeongguk lifts the brush to Jimin’s full, parted lips, and almost melts at the way they bounce back when he runs it across them. He wants to touch them, so badly. He puts the bottle down and rubs the pink tint into Jimin’s pillowy lips with his finger, feels hot breath on his skin. He realises him and Jimin haven’t broken eye contact this whole time.

“You look better than Taeyang,” Jimin suddenly says.

“Really?” Jeongguk says. “Big compliment coming from you.”

Jimin cocks his head. “Why?”

“No reason.”

Jimin slaps Jeongguk’s bicep. “Why did you say it like that?” He laughs, a little awkwardly.

“I just know you really like him. Nothing wrong with that.”

“Not like that.”

Jeongguk leans closer. “You’re lying.”

“Jeongguk, don’t,” Jimin breathes.

“I know you’re lying.”

“Jeongguk…”

Jimin looks away, and Jeongguk is suddenly hit with a sense of guilt. He can’t stop his speech, much like he can’t stop the hand sneaking up the back of Jimin’s t-shirt, running it over the sweaty ridges of his spine.

“What’re you doing?” Jimin mumbles.

Jeongguk wraps his other hand around Jimin’s neck, savours the soft heat and sweat of it, the tiny hairs.

“Please, Jimin,” Jeongguk whispers. He doesn’t know what he’s asking for.

Then it’s Jimin leaning just that tiny inch further, until Jeongguk can’t focus on his face anymore, everything becoming a dizzying blur of orange light and supple cheeks and dark eyes.

“Please what?”

Jeongguk digs his fingers hard into Jimin’s back, trying to fight it, but instead realising how lovely the other’s skin feels under his own. He hears Jimin suck in a breath. He closes his eyes, world spinning. Nothing helps. He has to let it happen.

So he does - just lightly.

Jimin’s lips are even softer under Jeongguk’s own, softer than when he simply felt them under his finger, and they taste sickly sweet, of the scented lip tint.

Jimin lets out a beautiful sigh, before kissing Jeongguk back deeply, the vulgar noise echoing around the bathroom. He wraps his legs around Jeongguk’s waist, arms around his neck, nails in his skin.

Jeongguk can’t think, the darkness of his closed eyes putting him back into his dreamlike state, just savouring the feeling of Jimin’s lips against his own, Jimin’s body, Jimin’s hot breath. The bass from the living room, thundering through this cold tile floor and Jimin’s thighs, is the only noise apart from their quick breath, smacking lips.

Frantically, Jeongguk kisses Jimin harder, occasionally switching his head to the other side, breathing in the scent of his skin. He doesn’t know what he’s thinking, just feels that dull weight of panic being slowly pushed further and further to the back of his spinning head. He wants him, he wants him so badly.

Jimin reaches backwards suddenly, jolting Jeongguk back, his eyes snapping open. The light is blurred, but he sees Jimin’s figure, fumbling with the bathroom lock behind him. His eyes are still fixed on Jeongguk; he licks his lips and slowly looks up his body, to his blushing, sort of terrified face. Jeongguk feels himself starting to harden quickly, the look on Jimin’s face exuding lust like nothing he’d ever seen before.

Nothing had prepared him for this; this dizzying combination of utter numbness and so much feeling he wants to just scream. The way he’s feeling about another boy in front of him, a boy he finds scarily beautiful, a boy he’s been trying to understand ever since they first met.

“Jimin,” he whispers lamely.

Jimin finally flips the lock with a loud click and lurches forward again, heavy in Jeongguk’s lap. He puts both his hands on Jeongguk’s face and his thumb gently strokes his sore skin. Leaning forward, he kisses Jeongguk softly first, before wrapping his arms around his neck and slipping his tongue in. He starts to grind his ass into Jeongguk’s groin, who gasps into Jimin’s mouth at the pressure. It doesn’t feel good, their jeans are too thick. Yet, it spurs something inside Jeongguk.

He immerses his hand in Jimin’s hair, damp from sea and sweat, and tugs very slightly. Jimin moans quietly; Jeongguk’s face flushes hotly at the noise. There must be little crescents carved into his back by now.

Then he slips his hand under Jimin’s t-shirt, and touches the hard muscle of his stomach, which he had been so desperate to feel on the beach. He loves the way he tenses under his fingertips. Jimin slips Jeongguk’s t-shirt so it’s off his shoulder, exposing his bare skin. He kisses there; bites gently.

From Jimin’s abs Jeongguk moves his hand further, daring to reach his crotch. Jimin is so hard, it makes Jeongguk blush. Slowly, he edges his hand under the tight waistband, but leans back first, looking for Jimin’s eyes.

He cocks his head in question, and Jimin nods, eyes fluttering closed. Blood starts shooting through Jeongguk’s ears.

He doesn’t actually know what the fuck he’s doing.

He’s not going to sit here and lie to himself: he’s imagined doing stuff with Jimin before. Especially since the night after they’d studied together, when Jeongguk had let himself think about things he’d never allowed himself to ever picture previously.

Reality is different to his mind, Jeongguk dumbly realises. Here, right now, Jimin is so much more subdued, so much more shy. His lips feel thicker inside his mouth, his body hotter. The constant underlying uncertainty he feels was not anticipated.

He clumsily unbuttons Jimin’s jeans, heart punching incessantly. His skin feels static all over, like tiny starry pinpricks attacking every inch. The zip follows, easily. Jimin’s boxers are striped blue and black; Jeongguk can’t look anymore, it makes it all too real. The way he feels around, meekly slipping his way into Jimin’s underwear, seems scarily metaphorical of Jeongguk’s own state of mind.

Jimin’s teeth on his shoulder is really starting to hurt. But Jeongguk loves the fact he’s causing Jimin to act so irrationally, he who is usually so tender and smooth talking. Right now, his whole body is searing and his hair is mussed up, some sticking to Jeongguk’s wet lips. His hand erratically claws up and down Jeongguk’s back. A strong gust of wind blows the window a little ajar, and hits Jeongguk’s hot, hot skin.

As Jeongguk finally starts to stroke Jimin’s length, slowly and cautiously, his mind is taken off the weird sensation by the beautiful moans that Jimin is uttering in his ear, an occasional “Jeongguk…” hushed hotly, bouncing around his head. Jimin is thick in Jeongguk’s hand, it feels similar to his own, but shorter and wider, much like Jimin’s whole figure.

Jeongguk remembers all those times he’d watched Jimin dancing, trying to ignore the way it made him sweat even more, the way it made him choked up and guilty. He sees himself now, giving his hyung a handjob in the bathroom of one of his best friends, the others mere feet away. He doesn’t think he should be here right now. It makes his insides squirm, thinking about the reality of what he’s doing.

But how can it be wrong, he thinks, as he hears the pure gasps of pleasure right by his ear, as he holds the body of such a sweet being, so loving and deserving, who wants this as bad as he does.

Jimin starts to buck his hips into Jeongguk’s hand, and slaps his arm across his mouth, biting into the flesh.

“Jimin-ah…” Jeongguk utters, so desperate to be touched, the way that Jimin grinds his ass just making his jeans tighter and tighter.

“Say that again,” Jimin whispers in Jeongguk’s ear. Jeongguk is taken aback. Their lack of dialogue had sort of distanced him from the situation.

“Jimin-ah,” Jeongguk mutters, “Jimin, Jimin, Jimin.”

Jimin’s breathing is short and loud. Jeongguk moves his hand faster, the angle a little uncomfortable. He knows they need to hurry up, get this out of them before the others find them. He can’t help but want to drag this out forever, be holding Jimin and hearing his lovely voice for as long as he is able.

“Let me take these off,” Jeongguk whispers, slipping his sticky hand from under the waistband, motioning towards Jimin’s jeans. His wrist is aching. Jimin nods quickly, climbing off Jeongguk’s lap. The bathroom curtains rustle as the outside wind sings through the crack. Jimin pulls on one of the legs, whilst Jeongguk slips the waist down, the material getting a little caught in his boxers. Then Jimin shucks off his underwear and Jeongguk is forced to look, to actually accept what’s in front of him.

It doesn’t bother him as much as he thought it would. Jimin looks a little embarrassed, so thoroughly exposed to Jeongguk’s judging eye. He looks down at the tiled floor, chews his lip.

Jeongguk want to tell him he’s beautiful, wants to comfort him, but he can’t speak. Instead, he pulls Jimin back onto his lap and kisses him deeply; holds his muscled form. He spits on his hand and starts pumping again, marvelling at how responsive Jimin is, with muffled, blissful moans, and kisses all over Jeongguk’s front.

Soon, Jimin’s body starts to tense, and he thrusts deeper into Jeongguk’s palm. He throws his head back, gasps Jeongguk’s name and drags his nails down his back. Jeongguk feels the hot release in his hand and is shocked, shocked he has just sat here and made Jimin come, made him come so beautifully. Jimin goes limp in his arms, still weakly kissing Jeongguk’s neck, now stroking his back with a gentle hand, caressing the marks he has left.

Jimin mumbles something into Jeongguk’s skin.

“What?” Jeongguk asks, combing his hand through Jimin’s hair.

Jimin doesn’t reply, just clumsily starts undoing the zip of Jeongguk’s jeans, beginning to emerge from his haze. Jeongguk’s head is throbbing, the sense of panic resurfacing as Jimin climbs off his lap and tries to pull down his jeans. Jeongguk lies flat on the floor, arches up his body to allow the back pockets to slide from under him. He feels weird now it's his turn; he doesn’t feel like he deserves it.

Jimin places sloppy kisses on the inside of Jeongguk’s thighs, the thickness of his lips evident even just from the sensation. Jeongguk can sense what’s coming, heart speeding faster in fear and exhilaration. He’s never had someone’s mouth on his dick before, not even a girl’s, especially not one of his closest friends’. The concept is - daunting. Jeongguk stares at the ceiling, a worrying crack distracting him from the fact that Jimin is quickly nearing his crotch.

Jimin pulls down his boxers and there’s blood in Jeongguk’s ears. He can feel himself leaking embarrassingly onto his stomach. He can’t bear to look down and see what’s going on.

Suddenly Jimin’s mouth sinks down, and Jeongguk forgets immediately why he was so panicked. He has to look, the beautiful wet heat causing his head to snap up. Jimin stares back at him, his eyes half lidded and lips ridiculously pink from the tint. Jimin’s lips are incomparable to Jeongguk’s own hand; the sensation betters with every noisy suck, Jimin’s little moans vibrating through him. Jeongguk reaches down, intertwining his fingers in Jimin’s hair as he moves up and down, stroking Jeongguk’s thighs. Already, Jeongguk can feel himself getting close embarrassingly quickly. Just the image of Jimin’s pink dashed face in front of him is driving him crazy, let alone the sensation. Even just the fact that it’s - Jimin. He feels so exposed, but somehow safe with him.

It’s getting increasingly harder to shut up, with every wave of pleasure riding through Jeongguk, making his body arch from the cold floor. He starts whispering Jimin’s name unconsciously, wraps his thighs around his body.

It builds, it builds so beautifully, it builds like the waves which crashed on him and Jimin. With the last bob of Jimin’s head, Jeongguk releases a choked cry, as he erupts in pleasure, muttering Jimin’s name over and over in the final pulsations. He opens his eyes again, props himself on his shoulders so he can look at Jimin, who swallows around him.

Before Jeongguk can say sorry for not warning him, there comes a rattle of the handle, then a knock on the bathroom door.

“Jimin-ah? Jeongguk-ah? What was that noise? Are you guys okay in there?” comes Hoseok’s voice.

The blood drains from Jeongguk’s face, and he sits bolt upright, words stuck in his throat. Jeongguk is sitting here half naked with his softening dick lying flat on his stomach, Jimin still perched metres from him. Thank fuck Jimin locked that door.

“Jeonggukkie’s just been a bit sick!” Jimin calls, voice completely husky. There’s a drop of Jeongguk’s come by his lip.

“Is he okay?” Hoseok sounds panicked.

“All fine don’t worry! I’m taking care of him!” Jimin says. Jeongguk is utterly shocked by how quickly he managed to save the situation.

“Do you need me to bring anything?” Hoseok says.

“What’s going on?” comes Taehyung’s voice from behind the door.

“Jeongguk went a bit overboard, the fucking 18 year old,” Hoseok laughs.

“One year makes all the difference,” Taehyung replies, and without seeing his face, Jeongguk can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or not.

Jimin looks at Jeongguk exasperatedly. Jeongguk’s throat is still tied. Jimin widens his eyes, and Jeongguk manages to force out a coughing noise.

“Oh dear,” Jimin coos exaggeratedly. “Oh well, don’t worry you guys! I’m looking after him!”

“Okay, if you’re sure,” Hoseok says, evidently unwilling to help.

Then there’s the sound of footsteps shuffling away with hushed chatter, and Yoongi going “typical”, and Jeongguk collapses back onto the floor. Jimin slips his underwear back on and lays next to him. He lets out a large sigh into Jeongguk’s hair.

“Shit,” Jimin says.

Jeongguk doesn’t reply. He doesn’t know what to say. The gravity of what’s just happened hasn’t really sunk in yet. He strokes Jimin’s side gently, heart still refusing to slow. The last thing he hears is the bass being cranked up in the next room, and Jimin’s slow, sweet breathing into his ear.

 

 

8.

Monday morning comes and Jeongguk slumps in his chair in history class, staring at the etched lines on his table, remembering Saturday morning when he’d awoken on the floor of Hoseok’s toilet, a blanket thrown over his shivering body, and an empty space next to him. His jeans had been folded up and put by the blanket; his underwear somehow slipped onto him. All he had felt was nausea, shame and a dry mouth. He felt gross lying there, the memories of the previous night compiling in his head one by one, worsening the sickness with every layer.

Hoseok had found him sat on the cold tiles, jeans finally put back on, head on his knees.

“Jeongguk? You okay? Jimin said you were pretty sick last night. Didn’t even realise you were that drunk to be honest.” He had laughed.

“Where’s Jimin-hyung?” Jeongguk had croaked.

“He left pretty early this morning. Said he needed to get back to feed his dog.”

Jeongguk runs his biro down one of the lines in the table, tracing absent minded doodles of others who have sat here. Him and Jimin haven’t talked since Friday. Every time Jeongguk starts thinking about that night he feels like fucking crying. It’s not that he didn’t enjoy it, he just feels like he shouldn’t have. The way they’d done it on the bathroom floor, so primal and horny. Two teenage boys, filled with sexual frustration and confusion. The way he’d woken up half naked and cold, like he’d been abandoned after blacking out and having a regretful one night stand. He imagines Jimin leaving in the morning, crusty boxers and a hangover as bad as Jeongguk’s.

But he can’t trick himself that’s all it was. The way they’d held each other was too tender, too intimate. The fact he’d been, unbeknownst to is oblivious self, wanting it, needing it, for months in advance. That’s the part that bothers him more. Jeongguk can’t just pass it off; he can’t stop thinking about it. Can’t stop thinking about jiminjiminjimin.

Seoyeon sits two rows down from him, her black hair soft and shiny in the morning sunlight, glinting at him teasingly. He used to love the swell of her chest at the front of her blazer, the way it fit so nicely over her body. He’d still kiss her, he thinks to himself. He still wants to. It’s just not the same. Jeongguk doesn’t know what he is.

The bell rings and suddenly Jeongguk feels like crying again, after sitting that whole class wondering if Jimin will ever be able to look him in the eye again, if they can ever go back to normal. They’d just started to properly be friends, finally after months of Jeongguk freezing up in front of Jimin and rejecting all his acts of affection. Now he misses him already; it’s only been three days.

Namjoon’s waiting outside the library as usual, leaning against the doorway, thick glasses wonky on his nose. Jeongguk gives him a weak smile and they start pushing their way through the crowd in the corridor, streams of kids coming the other way. Jeongguk doesn’t say anything.

“What’s the matter with you?” Namjoon asks, edging his shoulder past a large group of girls.

“Did you bring packed lunch? Can we go eat somewhere quiet?” Jeongguk mutters.

“No, but I’m not hungry so it’s fine… are you okay?”

Jeongguk doesn’t reply.

They find a bench under a cherry tree, the branches starting to blossom a little. Jeongguk offers Namjoon some of his food he packed to distract himself this morning.

“I’ve been sleeping better,” Namjoon says, spitting out his chewing gum, “ever since I realised that I will honestly never understand half of the stuff we learn in school, and that’s fine. I can just sleep for 7 hours a night and live a happy and content life, completely ignoring the fact I have exams. Ignorance is bliss, you know.”

“That’s good, hyung,” Jeongguk replies.

Namjoon frowns at him. “Rough weekend?”

“A bit.”

Jeongguk hates how he can feel his eyes starting to prickle, just thinking about how much he’s fucked up forming a lump in his throat.

“Jeongguk? Seriously what’s up? You’re scaring me.”

He can’t reply. He doesn’t want to cry in front of Namjoon. However much he trusts him and loves him as a friend or whatever, Namjoon is like, super cool. Which isn’t a very cool way of putting it, but.

“Is this about Jimin? Did you have an argument? Because I know you two were finally just starting to become friends, but he’s really been moping around today.”

“We didn’t have an argument,” Jeongguk mutters. He clenches his jaw and looks to the side, focuses his gaze on a bit of vulgar graffiti that he’s never noticed before.

“So it is about him?”

Jeongguk nods.

“Jeongguk, it’s not… you don’t have a problem with… you know... him?”

“What do you mean?” Jeongguk jerks his head up.

“He told me that he’s… you know…” Namjoon gestures vaguely. “I’m not sure if it’s my place to tell you.”

“I’m not going to tell anyone, hyung.” Jeongguk has an idea what’s coming.

“He’s… well… he likes boys. When he told me the other day he seemed pretty torn up about it. I figured maybe he told you too. He said he hasn’t told many people though.”

“Why did he tell you that?” Jeongguk snaps. It comes out harsher than he expected.

“I guess because he knows I wouldn’t have a problem with it. My parents have always brought me up very liberal… I’m guessing you didn’t know then?”

“I did know. I just don’t have a problem with it.”

“Oh,” Namjoon says. “What’s the matter then?”

Jeongguk starts picking at a bit of rice, tearing it apart bit by bit. He hates how rude he’s being to Namjoon, he’s not the one who’s done anything wrong.

“We just can’t be friends anymore. I messed up. I’ll get over it.”

“Come on, what is it?”

Jeongguk fiddles with his hair, scuffs his feet on the floor, starting to regress further towards his 11 year old self. He doesn’t know what to say.

“It’s sort of related to that Jimin thing. But involving me.”

“What do you mean?”

“We all went to Hoseok’s and got pissed and…me and Jimin… kind of… ” Jeongguk widens his eyes.

Namjoon raises his eyebrows. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk is always in awe at how quickly Namjoon picks up on things.

“So now you’re freaking out about it?”

“I feel weird. I don’t know why we did it. I’m not… I’m not like Jimin. Like that.”

Namjoon sighs. “Jeongguk, it’s fine. If you hated it and want to forget about it, it’s fine. If you liked it, even better. Jimin seems pretty distressed, so I guess you’re both going through the same thing. Have you not talked?”

“No. He left on Saturday morning before I woke up and we haven’t spoken since then.” His voice cracks on the last word.

“Maybe you should do that, then?”

Jeongguk scrubs at his eyes, angry at his body. It seems to be constantly betraying him recently.

“I can’t,” he chokes out.

Namjoon puts an arm awkwardly around Jeongguk, and rubs his shoulder. “It’s alright, Jeongguk. You’ll be alright. I’m always here, I’m not gonna judge you. You just gotta speak to him. Let’s go get some real lunch once you’ve calmed down.”

 

 

9.

Two days pass with Jeongguk stressing, eating, sleeping and stressing, snotty and sobbing into his pillow on Tuesday, ignoring Jimin every time he sees him in the corridor, before he takes Namjoon’s words to heart. He’s always been the wise one in the friendship. Jeongguk doesn’t reckon that’ll ever change. Namjoon will always have superior music taste and knowledge of the ins and outs of the world.

Their latest dance rehearsal had been the final straw; the whole time the two of them had not said a word, sharing only uncomfortable heated looks. Jeongguk was so worked up he’d pushed Taehyung jokingly a little too hard after being teased about something mundane, hating the noise of his body thwacking against the wall. He’d hated the way Jimin had seen it happen, standing poker faced in the corner, crossing his arms. With every move, every step, Jeongguk’s gross emotion was moving further towards aggressive anger. He’d wanted to throw Jimin against that wall. He hates it.

Jeongguk doesn’t understand how he feels, nor does he like it. He just knows he wants this, despite the gross aftertaste it leaves in his mouth - metaphorically.

It’s on Wednesday that Jeongguk roughly grabs Jimin by the arm just as he’s about to leave school. He knows Jimin leaves early on Wednesday’s, only stays ‘till 6 in the library, because it’s the only day he can see his brother, who has a day off then. His brother’s going to the military soon. Jeongguk knows because Jimin told him during dance one time. He knows a lot about Jimin, he realises.

Jimin whips his head around. “Jeongguk?”

“Hey, hyung.” Jeongguk says. “Can we go somewhere?”

Jimin nods, face completely nonplussed.

They don’t speak on the way, Jeongguk leading him to the bus stop. They sit near the back of the bus when it arrives. Jeongguk offers Jimin an earphone. Now they’re together, he doesn’t know why he was so stressed. Neither hate the other.

And why should they. Jeongguk knows he enjoyed it. He enjoys every moment with Jimin. Letting go of his own self-hatred proves easier when the other party involved is so lovely and sweet almost all the time.

“Where are we going, Jeonggukkie?” Jimin asks, softly.

“It’s just ten minutes from here,” Jeongguk says, as they hop off bus 40, the sky washed with grey and purple. The wind is calm today.

They walk further, Jimin talks a little about his day, the lessons he’d had, the way Yoongi had fallen asleep in class and his head had slipped off the table, and Jimin wasn’t sure whether to laugh hysterically or feel sorry for him. They’re both doing what they always do: pretend nothing’s happened.

The sun is starting to set, and Jeongguk panics because he hasn’t reached the bit where he wants to take Jimin, the concrete cliff above the port. So, they sit by the road, the view of the vast sea enough for Jimin to make his cute little shocked expression, and go “wow, Jeonggukkie!” just like he had planned all along.

But Jimin doesn’t say anything. He only smiles, almost knowingly. He isn’t shocked at all.

“Do you like it?” Jeongguk asks, anxious, voice a little carried away by the tiny car which runs past.

“It’s beautiful,” Jimin says. “Apart from that huge great tug boat on the horizon. Kind of ruins it.”

Jeongguk laughs, swings his legs a bit. “We’re still friends, right?” he says, unable to look Jimin in the eye.

“Well I thought you hated me again,” Jimin laughs sadly. “But I guess you don’t.”

“I never did.”

Jimin raises an eyebrow. “Sure seemed like you did.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. He hates his grossly awkward, confused, six-month-ago self.

“Why didn’t you talk to me after the other night?” Jeongguk asks. “Why did you leave?”

“I just said. I thought you hated me again.”

Shakily, Jeongguk takes Jimin’s hand. “I don’t hate you. I think I just hated the way you were making me feel.”

“Ah,” Jimin says. He looks a little sad. He pauses. “I don’t like being like this, Jeonggukkie. Can’t tell my parents. Feels weird.”

“Namjoon-hyung said you seemed a bit distraught.”

“Namjoon told you about me?”

“Hyung, it’s not like I didn’t exactly figure it out already.”

“Namjoon better not tell anyone else,” Jimin grumbles.

Jeongguk strokes Jimin’s thumb slightly, unsure of how to comfort him. Grass itches the underside of his legs, dry and short, growing sparsely on the roadside where they sit.

“Do you really like that girl in your history class?” Jimin asks.

“Yeah, I did,” Jeongguk answers honestly. “I’ve only ever liked girls before. That’s why you made me feel so crazy.”

“Well… sorry?” Jimin laughs.

“Did you?” Jeongguk asks. “Like girls ever?”

Jimin contemplates, then shakes his head, staring at his knees. Lips pursed, he picks a bit of grass with his right hand. He doesn’t say anything. Another car, small and green, thunders past.

“Let’s just be friends,” Jeongguk says suddenly.

“Just friends?” Jimin looks a bit taken aback.

Jeongguk looks at him properly in the eye this time. “Like friends who kiss and shit. We don’t have to call it anything or tell anyone. Let’s try and forget about how weird this is. You make me happy.”

Jimin nods, smiles, he understands.

The brevity of Jeongguk’s period of angst, now abruptly ended, is confusing to him. He thought they’d be dragging this out more than just a few days, weeping into his bed sheets, pining over a lost friend, hating the way he feels so guilty about everything. Jeongguk still feels uneasy with himself, but being with Jimin softens it. He sees it in Jimin too, the way he had radiated that same fear every time they’d been stuck in that tension filled state of limbo. The weird comments he used to make about Hoseok being touchy.

Jeongguk can’t fully accept the repercussions of this side to him right now. In a country like his own, he thinks he’ll hide it for as long as possible.

Jimin gets out a packet of honey butter chips and offers one to Jeongguk. That night they kiss, and shit.

 

 

10.

The aftertaste of cheap spicy streetfood lingers in Jeongguk’s mouth; he notices it as his mind wanders from this stupid racing game Hoseok makes them play every time they come over, preferring it to watching one person at a time sit dumbly in front of the console playing a single screen game whilst everyone else shouts at them. Jeongguk understands this point of view, but secretly likes when it’s Jimin’s turn and he has an excuse to stare at him all determined and frustrated, making occasional cute noises of annoyance.

After dance practice, they’d stopped off at the market, where Jeongguk had bought tteokbokki and wiped some of the sauce on a giggling Jimin’s nose when the others weren’t looking.

As usual, Jeongguk beats Yoongi, who loudly protests, proclaiming the game was rigged and his controller was running out of battery.

“It’s not running out, I just charged it!” Hoseok laughs in disbelief.

“There’s no way Jeongguk could have beat me, I -” Yoongi pauses and considers.

“You what?” Taehyung says.

“I did... nothing. I just should have won.” Yoongi stands up, raising his hands in surrender and shrugging.

“Yoongi,” Hoseok says face dropping in realisation. “I can’t believe you.”

“Yoongi!” Seokjin gasps, looking up from his phone, standing in the doorway of Hoseok’s sister’s room, currently adding the finishing touches to her date night makeup.

“What? What is it?” Jimin says.

Taehyung bursts out laughing. “This is like Monopoly all over again... he was so angry when Jeongguk was winning despite being the banker and taking -”

“Yoongi… you can’t… you gotta stop cheating -” Hoseok says.

“Cheating?!” Yoongi yells.

“Jeongguk still beat you… even though you…” Taehyung can’t get it out through the laughter.

“You are unbelievable,” Jimin cracks up, throwing his head back onto Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“I do not appreciate false accusations,” Yoongi deadpans.

“We said the cars had to be evenly matched!” Hoseok says, scrolling through the race and vehicle details. “You chose one with multiple upgrades!”

“Completely accidentally,” Yoongi says, pursing his lips, trying to bite back a grin.

“Right, Yoongi is banned from playing for the next 10 games,” Hoseok declares, shaking his head. He scoops up some pretzels, stuffing them into his mouth, grabbing the controller from Yoongi and chucking it to Jimin. “You play Jeongguk now. You’re the last one left.”

“Pfft, like Jimin’s gonna beat him,” Yoongi scoffs.

“You’re just bitter,” Seokjin says, still slumped at the doorway, tapping away at his phone.

“Which track do you want?” Jeongguk asks Jimin, the novelty of his ability to beat everyone wearing off. Jimin raises his eyebrows.

“You speak informally to him?” Hoseok questions, surprised. Jeongguk hadn’t even noticed. They always do it when they’re alone now.

“Sorry, hyung,” Jeongguk says to Jimin, repeating the sentence formally. Jimin smirks; chooses a track.

“He’s a brat, isn’t he,” Yoongi says.

“I’m used to it,” Jimin says, using the whole evil-maknae-Jeongguk trope to avoid the intimate interpretation of his slip.

The game counts down, then they begin, the weight of the buttons comfortable and familiar under Jeongguk’s thumbs. He passes Jimin quickly, who tuts beside him, nudging him in the knee. Jeongguk, like always, flushes at the contact.

“This game is so boring to watch when Jeongguk’s playing,” Seokjin grumbles, now sat on the armrest of Yoongi’s chair. “No competition in it.”

Jeongguk watches the car wind around the corners, accelerate down the track, the computerized sunshine and palm trees surrounding. He feels Jimin’s body press against his side, warm and comforting.

The race progresses until they reach the final lap, Jeongguk well in the lead, complacent. Then he watches as his car turns the corner wide, and another slips by, cutting past suddenly.

“The fuck?” Jeongguk exclaims. The room gasps.

“Ha!” Jimin shouts, his car passing the finish line seconds before Jeongguk.

The group erupts, cheering, confused, cries of “you beat Jeongguk!” and “how did he do it?” and “he must have cheated too!” mingled together in a rowdy cacophony.

Jeongguk is struck for a second. Then, half incredibly impressed and half outraged, he yells: “Yah! I can’t believe it!”, tackling Jimin down, the other giggling and hitting at his chest. Jeongguk pins his arms down by his head with one hand and starts tickling his stomach, a manic grin on his face. Jimin squeals and writhes underneath him, shouting “Jeongguk-ah! Gguk-ah! Stop! Stop!”. Jeongguk slips his hands under his armpits and hoists Jimin over his shoulder, standing up from the sofa, swinging the hysterical boy around.

Then Jeongguk realises no one else is laughing or yelling anymore. In fact, Taehyung and Yoongi are sat directly in front of him, mouths open and silent in the same dumbstruck expression. Seokjin has looked up from his phone, Hoseok is sitting there brow furrowed and staring at Jeongguk. Jeongguk puts Jimin down and clears his throat.

“God, losing really makes him go insane, doesn’t it,” Yoongi says.

Jimin looks at Jeongguk and back at the floor, eyes wide. Jimin makes him go insane.

The room is quiet. Then Jimin says:

“I just realised I used Yoongi’s car with all the upgrades.”

Thankfully, everyone starts yelling again at this point, Jeongguk’s public and largely too intimate attack on Jimin’s soft stomach forgotten for the time being, instead replaced with the cries of injustice and exasperation, cries wondering if anyone will ever fucking beat Jeon Jeongguk, cursing Yoongi for his actions and challenging Jimin to try and beat him for real.

Jeongguk, slightly panicked, goes to get himself some water from the kitchen, appreciating the cold air of the room and the array of food laid out on the table. From a high cupboard he grabs a glass, filling the water slowly, wondering if anyone sussed him out. Then Taehyung enters the kitchen, and leans against the counter.

“Hey hyung,” Jeongguk says. He offers a glass to Taehyung.

“You and Jimin really are proper friends now, aren’t you?” Taehyung says, after thanking him.

Jeongguk nods, heart speeding a little. “Yeah. I guess.”

“What changed?”

Jeongguk swallows. “We just grew closer, I suppose.”

“Jimin’s a weird one,” Taehyung laughs, taking a sip. “Be good to him, won’t you? I know he’s a bit clingy and everything sometimes when you get to know him but don’t get freaked out.”

“Don’t worry, I really like him, hyung,” Jeongguk says, a little too sincerely.

Taehyung furrows his brow, but smiles, looking confused yet understanding. He opens his mouth to speak, but is interrupted.

“Taehyung-ah! Get back in here, stop hiding! It’s your turn! I know you hate losing to me but it’s not my fault you’re incompetent!”

“No way am I losing to you!” Taehyung leaves his water on the table, discarded, stomping back to the living room, leaving behind a slightly stressed Jeongguk leant on the sink.

He’ll tell them all one day, his friends, even his mother and his father, once he understands it all, but for now he doesn’t need to make it complicated.

He goes back into the living room. Jimin, sat on the sofa, is the first to turn his head, and smiles straight at him.