Jimin came back from vacation just in time for dead week. For one blissful week, the poolside restaurant of the country club where he works will be virtually empty, all the rich kids away with their rich parents at their lake houses or vacation houses on the coast. It's arguably his favorite time of year.
Last dead week, him and Taehyung sat around behind the counter, making oreo milkshakes for themselves and watching spongebob on tv for hours, tables wonderfully free of stoic, bitchy moms or dripping wet kids sticking to the plastic seats. The kids aren't so bad, but he hates the drastic silent clash of the mothers' screaming thoughts with their thin, empty smiles like skim milk.
This summer though, Taehyung is working up the hill in the formal dining room, leaving Jimin to sulk. And train some new guy who starts today, Jimin has just been informed.
He sighs and jabs the IN button on the time clock screen. “Welcome back to me,” he grumbles with an eye roll when his manager disappears around the corner.
He tucks the front of his well-fitting white polo shirt into black shorts, pool clubhouse uniform. At least it's comfy. He reminds himself to make fun of Tae later in his stiff white button down and black dress slacks he hates wearing so much.
Walking down the hill from the main clubhouse through the mid-morning sunshine and pink azalea bushes that line the path is always his favorite part of a work day. Robins dart and swoop across the shady path, bright blue swimming pool looming into view.
He can feel Jin inside the little clubhouse before he even opens the door and smiles at the familiar aura of freshly baked ginger cookies and agitation. The pool clubhouse only staffed one chef, even on busy Saturdays like today, and that chef was almost always Jin.
“Jiiiiiiin,” he whines immediately upon entering. “Why do they always start new people on the busiest fucking day of the week? Why am I always the trainer?”
Jin laughs, focused on the tomatoes he's slicing. “Why are you always later than the new guy, huh?” he counters, waving his knife in the direction of the tables on the other side of the little kitchen. “I have him filling the napkin holders.”
Jimin follows the line of the knife, wary. There's another white polo shirt hunched over a glass table, one fistful of paper napkins and one fistful of confusion at a sprung open metal napkin dispenser.
“Jin. Did you show him how to fill the napkins?” he asked, but could feel the answer before the evil grin overtook Jin's angelic face.
He sighs and pushes through the little gate separating the dining area from the kitchen. Apprehension grips him as it always does when meeting someone new, not knowing what kind of energy he'll be hit with. It's not so bad when it's a passing stranger, but someone he'll be working closely with, well. It's harder to shake off the sticky energy, harder to keep their thoughts out.
New guy looks up when he hears the gate clack, and Jimin is surprised. The new guy is tall, taller than Tae maybe. He has the oddest face, Jimin thinks, taking in the little button nose, full lips hanging open a bit in napkin befuddlement, cheeks somehow both round and thin.
But his eyes are what catches him, holds him. They're angular and elegant, confident and soft, awkward and sharp, a mess of contradictions and intelligence. Jimin steps closer and everything he saw in those eyes seems to be confirmed in the thick, buzzing energy he's walking into. He hastily rubs down the goosebumps that rise up on his arms.
He gives his best attempt at a winning smile and stops on the other side of the table. “New guy?”
“Yeah, uh, Joon. Namjoon, whichever,” he laughs, flushing when the metal top of the napkin dispenser hits the table with a clang.
“I'm Jimin. I'm training you, apparently. That's Jin, in the kitchen.” He turns back toward the kitchen and hollers, “Jin! New guy's name is Joon!”
“I know! I met him first, dumbass!” Jin calls back, making Jimin giggle. It wasn't that this Namjoon had bad vibes, but Jimin found himself craving the familiar feel of Jin. He always tended to stick to friends around new people.
“Um so, well here, first I'll show you how to do that,” he laughs, pointing at the mangled napkin dispenser.
“Sorry,” Namjoon mumbles, watching carefully as Jimin explains.
They move to the kitchen and Jimin explains the basic flow of things. “So here's the walk-up window,” he says, motioning to the window inside the kitchen that faced the outdoor pool. “And of course, the other register, for the inside eating area,” he points to the long counter perpendicular to the walk-up window. “The walk-up window tends to get busier, so I'll have you on the other register today, since you're new.”
“Okay, sorry,” Namjoon says again, and it's funny. Namjoon has the thickest, sturdiest energy and yet all Jimin's gotten out of him so far is uncertainty.
An hours passes and the pool slowly starts filling with shrieks and splashes of children and a neon rainbow of floaties and towels. Inevitably, everyone seems to get hungry at the same time. It's turning into one of those days where they're slammed from the lunch rush straight into dinner, barely enough time to restock and recover in between.
Jimin tries to be nice, he really does. But there's so many people thinking so loud to block out, and he has to work the walk-up window register and help Namjoon on the other the one and he has to show Namjoon where every little thing is and he doesn't even know how to cut lemon slices and who the hell doesn't know how to cut lemons?
It's 3:47 p.m. when the way Namjoon's finger hesitates over the register buttons is finally too much. Jimin is balancing two stacks of carry-out boxes in his arms because Namjoon couldn't find them in the back room and there are still two lines waiting.
“And a strawberry mango smoothie, please,” the high school girl in front of Namjoon was saying, and Namjoon's finger hovers, hovers, hovers until Jimin's hand knocks his out of the way.
“It's right here,” Jimin grumbles, mashing the button on the register. Without pause he kneels down beside Namjoon's long legs and rips the stack of boxes open, jamming them on the shelf under the register next to the plastic forks and spoons.
“Sorry,” Namjoon says quietly, kneeling down next to him. His head falls to the cash drawer, jostling the coins inside. His eyes squeeze shut. “I'm not usually this stupid.”
“You're not stupid,” Jimin says, voice flat, and he can hear how unconvincing it is even without feeling the dip in Namjoon's aura. It makes his stomach do a swoop of guilt.
But they're still too busy for him to care, so he clenches his jaw and rushes to the walk-up window, glaring at Namjoon who still hasn't stood up to help the next customer in line.
There are still customers waiting at 7:00 when Namjoon is scheduled to leave. Jimin spares him a terse wave over his shoulder before handing a coke to the lady at the window. He hears Jin behind him, “Don't worry man, we've got one more day of this insanity and then a week of jack shit to do. See ya tomorrow!”
The next morning, Jimin steps out of the shower and stands naked in front of his box fan, the day already too hot and sticky for a towel to dry him. He tosses his damp hair back and sighs at the ceiling.
Jimin feels guilty, and he hates feeling guilty. He knows the reasonable thing to do is to start being nice to make up for it. But instead, he's irritated that some dumb tall guy made him feel like he's a bad person.
You don't have to like everyone, Jimin, he reminds himself, sick of empathy and pity and guilt dictating how he feels about people. He tries to imagine how he'd feel about Namjoon if he didn't have this...ability revealing more than people show.
He thinks back, trying to separate how Namjoon acted from the energy that Jimin felt. Namjoon was nice. He was dull, slow, seemed to lack self esteem. He's just boring, Jimin decides, relieved to neither dislike him nor pity him enough to feel obligated into friendliness.
Despite his earliness the day before, Namjoon still hasn't arrived by the time Jimin makes it down to the pool. He stands in the cool of the storage room, staring blankly at the wall of dried goods and condiments. There's a series of bangs and the door flies open, blinding sunlight filling the little pantry.
Namjoon stumbles in, panting and shrugging off his backpack, quickly yanking off his pink cap and wriggling out of his green tank top.
"Hey," Jimin says, amusement growing when Namjoon leaps back and covers his bare, tan chest at the sound of his voice.
"Shit," he breathes, dropping his arms. "Sorry. I got caught up at the recording studio, I didn't even have time to change clothes."
Recording studio. That was intriguing, but Jimin was determined to let boring Namjoon stay boring, so he doesn't ask. Instead, he's caught up feeling at the edges of Namjoon's aura, feeling like he's standing just far enough away from a bonfire.
Jimin leaves the storeroom when Namjoon goes for the button of his faded black jeans. "I'll be filling up the salt shakers," he calls over his shoulder and makes his way to the dining area.
The day starts off a bit more peaceful than yesterday, more adults than kids until after lunch. Jin teaches Namjoon how to cut lemons for the iced tea, filling the kitchen with his hiccuping laugh at the struggle. He could feel the way Namjoon's energy lightened around Jin, normalized. It makes him realize, Namjoon is nervous around him. The guilt creeps in again.
Luckily, the lunch rush kicks up just in time to distract him. Namjoon abandons lemon practice to man the register with a tight smile at Jimin. They take orders, fill drinks, dodge each other for take out bags or frozen fruit to throw into smoothies. Namjoon does better than yesterday, still slow but not infuriating. Or maybe I'm just in a better mood, Jimin thinks.
The good mood dies as the lunch rush goes on. Maybe it's the heat making his mind as weak as his body feels, or maybe it's the heat making people extra cranky, but it grows increasingly harder to block out everyone's thoughts.
He catches snippets here and there, people thinking ugly things about the friend beside them, small anxieties, memories that make no sense to Jimin out of context, the occasional scoff at Jimin's crooked front tooth or silver earrings. Sometimes the thoughts are far, faded watercolors, sometimes a jarring scream that throws his center of balance.
After an hour his head is aching, but he smiles as he hands a milkshake over to a cute little girl in arm floaties. A guy, mid 40s in expensive leather loafers with an arm around his wife strolls up to the window and meets Jimin's eyes. "Club sandwich and side salad please," he says. But when he hands over his credit card, Jimin hears the thought behind the expensive white smile, can see the visual of the thought: Jimin naked and teary-eyed, the man's hand tightening on his throat as he fucks him on satin sheets.
Jimin's eyes flash dark, smile wiped away in a second. "We'll call your number when it's ready," he says a little viciously, slamming his American Express on the counter. “You can wait over there,” he insists with a jerk of his head when the man lingers.
He closes his eyes and shudders. It wasn't even the thought as much as the guy's ugly aura; everything in Jimin's body screaming beware!beware!
Readying the excuse of needing more straws, he turns to clear his mind in the storeroom but jumps back. Namjoon is standing next to him, studying his face curiously, giving the customer a wary glance. Namjoon looks like he wants to ask if he's okay. Jimin can hear him wanting to ask if he's okay.
Ah, he'll just think I'm dumb for asking, Jimin hears him think. He hates the way Namjoon's aura tightens like he's trying to protect himself, hates the way guilt curls around Jimin's already tired mind.
"Gotta... get straws," Jimin mutters, darting past him to the cool dark of the walk-in refrigerator to breathe.
The rest of the afternoon, he catches Namjoon glancing over at him, face a mixture of concern and curiosity. People and their loud thoughts jab and deplete him, and Jimin fights to keep his head quiet.
Namjoon seems to pick up on every instance that Jimin is less than friendly, seemingly for no reason on the outside, but more than justified, if everyone could hear what Jimin hears. Namjoon's curiosity and concern is annoying, just more exhausting input to process.
Every time he unintentionally scowls back at Namjoon's glances he can feel it jab at Namjoon's feelings. Jimin feels like an asshole and it isn't fair. Any normal person wouldn't have to feel the way they make someone else feel as strong as if it were their own feelings.
Feelings on feelings on feelings and blah blah blah, Jimin is tired. Depleted, but there's still hours of work to go.
So wrapped up in thought and blocking thought and thinking about blocking thought, the big warm hand on his shoulder nearly scares him out of his skin.
“You okay?” Namjoon's low voice rolls in like fog. His aura is so heady and thick it feels like a whole house, a stifling fire in the hearth. If he could just sit here in a minute and rest, if—
“M-migraine,” he stammers. He wishes he could tell people besides Tae the truth about why he's suddenly paler and shaking a bit. He always goes with “migraines”, but the lying is draining, feeling coworkers' pity or suspicion is draining.
It's like he's getting smaller and smaller, shriveling up into nothing, everyone else exists and Jimin just bleeds into them like water to paint.
“You should go home, man. It's not that busy anymore, I'll be fine.”
“You've never closed,” Jimin protests, eyes falling shut. All his defenses are down and he's practically baking in Namjoon's energy.
Namjoon shrugs. “Can't be that hard. Anyway we'll be back here the day after tomorrow, so.”
He's right. Jimin hates it anyway, because he can work, he's perfectly capable, he just can't be around people for a bit. This is just a dumb food service job, he reminds himself, but it doesn't help.
It scratches at the surface of a deeper anxiety; how will he live, have a career, have a relationship if he can't even function in a 'dumb food service job'? He feels so weak because of something that most people would call a super power.
Jin shoos him out the back door, insisting he'll show Namjoon what to do. The minute he's hit with the silence of warm night air, the squeezing pressure on his mind is reduced by half at least. Slumped against the wall, he raises his face to the sky and breathes.
No voices, no feelings, just delicious soft darkness. After a minute he walks to the car and waits around for Tae's shift to finish.
An hour later, Tae flops into the driver's seat, a flurry of long limbs and clothes being shed. "Ahhh, I hate wearing this stupid uniform," he groans, flinging off socks and a bow tie.
"Bet you got tips out the ass though, right?" Jimin gives him a tired grin.
The incessant bustle of Taehyung stills in an instant at the tone of Jimin's voice. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah just, lost hold of it half way through the dinner rush and couldn't stop...hearing. I'm fine, Tae, really. Just tired, you know how it goes."
What he loved about Taehyung was that what he said was almost always what he was also thinking. It got him in trouble sometimes, when he was sad, it came out. When he was excited, it came out. When he didn't know how to feel, it came out. His head was swimming with thoughts constantly, and the feelings never quite translated to words right, but there was a purity to him that Jimin was grateful for.
"Are you okay with me?" Tae asks, voice softer and uncertain.
It yanks at Jimin's chest a little. He knows that if he said no, Tae would get out of the car and walk the five miles back their apartment, and, not that he ever would, but if Jimin looked into his mind, there wouldn't be a trace of resentment to be found.
"Always okay with you," he answers, smiling at the relief radiating from Tae.
He grins and starts up the car. "Hungry?" he asks, head tossed over his shoulder to back out of the parking space.
"Yes, oh my god," Jimin sighs at the thought of food, watching the moon shine through the oak trees that line the road.
"Let's get Thai delivered. Oh hey, so how's the new guy? He started today, right?"
"Yesterday." Jimin thinks of Namjoon's endless 'sorry's, his lack of eye contact, the hot coals of his energy, tan curve of his shoulders when he stripped in the stockroom, his penchant for fumbling anything he touches, the sharp eyes that betray everything else. "Mmm, he's fine. Boring."
A day off holed up in the perfect comfort of his room with Tae is exactly what he needed. When he needed his own space, he needed it, and as such he'd transformed his room into something just right, a bubble of soft solitude that Tae alone was always welcome to.
He'd painstakingly chosen the paint color, a beige just this side brighter than tan, a cream like antique linens. Lamps were scattered about so he could adjust the light, sometimes craving brightness to wash out the overload in his head, sometimes craving only a hush of light above darkness so the voices that filled his head could melt into the soft shadows.
Today he had the lights off in favor of throwing the thick brown curtains open to let the sun filter in through the gauzy white ones. Him and Taehyung sat burrowed into his half dozen pillows and light green blankets, AC on blast, bags of pretzels, sour patch kids and doritos dimpling the thick blanket. Taehyung let him play reruns of the OC, mind too tired for any plot he didn't have committed to memory.
Taehyung is warm and breezy and unintrusively surrounding, like shallow ocean water on a still August day. They laughed and talked more than they watched the tv, snacking and laughing at old videos on their phones and shifting the pillows beneath them. The sun hung low in the sky before Jimin sighed out of bed to shower and make them real food for dinner.
The day off combined with the knowledge that the pool clubhouse would be nearly deserted starting today has Jimin in one hell of a good mood as he makes his way down the flowered path from the main clubhouse. He pulled his fluffy black hair back from his face and smiled up at the sun dappling through the maple leaves.
“Hey Joon,” he calls to the dining area. Namjoon is stocking the napkin holders, the one thing he was sure he knew how to do, probably. “Ready to get paid for doing nothing?” Jimin laughs, hopping up to sit on the counter.
“Seriously man, we have all day to fill up those napkins, no rush.” Namjoon shrugs and shoves in the last of the napkins.
“I can like, actually train you today too, we got free time coming out our asses,” he says, smug with happiness as he stretches his arms overhead.
Namjoon snorts a laugh and dimples appear out of nowhere. He saunters back into the kitchen toward Jimin, plastic wrap scrunched in his hands and he sort of hovers near the counter like he doesn't know where to put his giant body.
“Pull up a chair. I'll show you how to void stuff out on here,” he says, patting the register like a puppy.
Namjoon grabs a stool and drags it beside Jimin, long legs jutting out like a grasshopper. That weird heat radiates even from two feet away. He ignores it and cocks his head at Namjoon. “Have you worked a register before?”
“Ah, yeah, I worked at the campus bookstore for a couple years. But now that I'm graduated, here I am,” he shrugs.
Jimin grins at him and hmms dramatically, sizing up the lanky square shoulders, the soft brown hair, the simple silver ring through one ear. “English lit major,” he decides.
Confusion flickers on Namjoon's face and then he's grinning. “Criminology major.” He sees the way Jimin's brow furrows in genuine surprise at his wrong guess and adds, “English lit minor.”
“Aha!” Jimin laughs. “Criminology major, huh? I guess you're good at reading people,” he says, and internally laughs his ass off at the idea of Jimin telling someone else they're good at reading people, much less this dopey guy.
“So I've been told,” Namjoon says softly. It looks like a painful compliment to accept, somehow.
He's being nice to Namjoon and he congratulates himself a little. This is the Jimin he tries to be, friendly and charming, likable. “So why criminology?”
“Mm well,I'm good at understanding people, but not so good at being with people. So I've been told,” he repeats, a joke, but the smile doesn't quite reach his eyes when he says it.
Jimin laughs with him, but it hits a little too close to home, and Jimin doesn't want to think about that today. Today he feels good. Today he's carefree Jimin, likable Jimin with a great smile. He resents Namjoon a little for the reminder of everything else.
He jumps a little in surprise; he can feel Namjoon fretting that he'd made Jimin feel a little uncomfortable. It doesn't make sense. Jimin had laughed, covered that feeling up with an easy smile, a shift of posture. He was almost annoyed, Namjoon wasn't supposed to pick up more than what he was very purposely putting down.
Namjoon's sensitivity was making Jimin awfully aware of how calculating he'd become with people, and it was annoying. He had to be that way, he tells himself, for any semblance of sanity, for an extrovert who can read people's minds.
“I dunno,” Namjoon continues. “I'd probably just be a writer and study people that way if it paid anything.” He shrugs.
“So are you gonna like, join the FBI? Do top secret shit?” Jimin says playfully, leaning his elbows on his knees in a way that he knows makes his hair fall prettily.
Namjoon just grins. “Yeah, Fox Mulder is my hero.” He says it dry like he's maybe kidding.
Isn't kidding. Thinks I'm pretty, automatically ticks the part of his mind that's always reading, sensing, dancing along the wall that blocks out the more specific thoughts.
He's irritated with this stupid instinct to make Namjoon like him; he doesn't even like Namjoon. His fucking hero is Fox Mulder for god's sake; he'd set him up with Tae's weird ass if he wasn't such a bore.
“How about you?” Namjoon asks, snapping him out of it.
“Wh—no, er, I mean, sure yeah that too,” he laughs. “I meant like, your major or whatever.”
“Professor X. I'm a dance major.”
Namjoon sits up a little straighter. “Shit, that's so cool. That's like, if I could wake up tomorrow with any ability, I'd choose dancing. I'm the worst, seriously.”
Jimin doesn't doubt it. “You wouldn't wanna like, read minds or something?” Jimin's face is the picture of innocent mischief.
“Mmm, nah. I don't think I'd be doing myself any favors, hearing what people think of me,” he gives a wry laugh.
He found himself frowning at Namjoon again, at the infuriating self depreciation that didn't match at all with his aura. What was it about Namjoon's lack of self esteem that made Jimin want to fuck with him rather than make him feel better? It was completely out of character, not part of the carefully controlled Jimin he made for everyone.
That was the problem with an ability like his; the responsibility was heavy. Naturally the people pleaser type, he molded himself to others. The knowledge he had of others was greater than your everyday people pleaser, so he could do more, please more. An uglier side, he could lose himself more, fixate more.
But with Namjoon, he wanted to react, instigate, throw curve balls, dominate.
The rest of the work day inched along with the sun across the sky. A few lonely stragglers came to the pool, a handful of older teens refusing to vacation with the family, a couple ultra rich 30-somethings who didn't have a family to take to the beach. Jin was working in the main kitchen as an assistant cook, only coming down to the poolhouse when Jimin paged him to grill a burger or deep fry some popcorn shrimp.
Mostly, Jimin supervised as Namjoon made smoothies or assembled salads. He had Namjoon make a few oreo milkshakes for “training purposes” which they happily sipped, Seinfeld reruns playing on tv in the background. They talked, the same questions people always ask, where are you from, what are your plans, where do you live. Big things, but boring.
The dinner rush consisted of five whole customers, who have already cleared out by the time 7:30 is rolling around. Namjoon is deep in thought, head leaning on his forearm, staring out the window at the low, golden sunlight dancing across the unnatural blue of the empty swimming pool. He'd been scribbling in a tiny tattered notebook off and on all day, but now he just fidgets the pen against his thigh.
“I'm gonna wipe down the chairs and shit,” Jimin announces, grabbing a cloth and spray. It's a useless task, more to bask in the AC that's tragically lacking in the kitchen area.
He's bent awkwardly over the length of a table five minutes later, scratching off a stuck splotch of god knows what on the far side of it when he hears it; a simple “jesus christ, that ass,” thought behind him.
Spaced out cleaning, he'd let down the wall in his head. Jimin stood up slowly and casually glanced over his shoulder. Namjoon looked away the second they made eye contact, pretending as if he was watching the tv on the wall near Jimin.
Jimin turned back to the table and smirked to himself. And maybe he really, really shouldn't have done it, and maybe he really, really knows that, but he just... doesn't close off the connection. He listens, reasoning that he's not doing anything, Namjoon's thoughts are just, coming to him.
He absently resumes his cleaning, bending down to scrub at a stained chair leg and watches the daydream unfolding in Namjoon's mind.
Daydream Jimin walks toward Namjoon in the kitchen, and real Jimin is highly amused to see that the daydream version of himself is still wearing a bitchy glare behind his smile. Guess I don't have to feel bad about that anymore, he thinks.
Namjoon pauses to imagine how the sunlight would shine through daydream Jimin's dark hair just right, replaying the angles a few times in his head, which Jimin would never admit he found a little cute.
After all that trouble to picture the sunlight, Namjoon's mind skips straight to Jimin shoving himself between Namjoon's legs, biting his lip and smirking down at him, no explanation needed, apparently.
Jimin watches in fascination as he sinks to his knees and slowly unbuttons Namjoon's shorts. “God, you're gorgeous,” Namjoon tells daydream Jimin, and real Jimin blushes on the other side of the dining room, spraying the cloth in his hand about five times more than necessary.
He nearly drops the whole bottle of cleaning spray when the version of himself in Namjoon's mind pulls off Namjoon's shorts, dick springing free.
Holy shit, is it really that big? Jimin is suddenly dying to know. Everything else in Namjoon's imagination has been realistic so far, but people lie, to themselves most of all.
Cheeks embarrassingly flushed, Jimin absently wipes down another vinyl chair and watches himself suck teasingly slow at Namjoon's long, heavy dick. Much to his dismay, his mouth waters a little. He can almost taste it, almost feel the weight on his tongue.
A shiver spreads up Jimin's back and he moves to the next table, daring a glance at Namjoon, who's the picture of innocence, head in hand, doodling in his notebook. Namjoon's bending daydream Jimin over the counter now, biting and kissing at the back of Jimin's thighs. He can hear Namjoon wondering how his skin would taste, big hands squeezing his ass.
He doesn't realize it, but Jimin is moving quietly, carefully as to not snap Namjoon out of his reverie. Heart pounding in his throat, he doesn't even feel the guilt or hesitation he probably should, too wrapped up in the way Namjoon slides a long finger inside him and kisses the small of his back. Thick thighs quivering, imaginary Jimin is moaning his name and Namjoon loves it, more turned on by that than anything else he's imagined so far.
For some reason, that fact is what becomes too much for Jimin. “Namjoon,” says too loudly, too sternly. Namjoon jumps, pen flinging out of his hand.
Jimin's face is flushed and he wants to gloat at how shaken Namjoon was at real Jimin saying his name nearly concurrent with fantasy Jimin moaning it. He wants to gloat and he wants to shove Namjoon off the stool and kick him but his heart is still racing and he can't quite look Namjoon in the eye.
“Gonna go grab some more tomatoes from the main house,” he mutters, back door clanging shut behind him. He makes it all the way up to the back door of the main clubhouse and sinks to the ground, tomato pretense forgotten.
Closing his eyes he relives Namjoon's daydream and bites back a moan. He can practically feel Namjoon's fingers pressing into his flesh, craves it. What the fuck, he's not my type.
Self proclaimed “I don't believe in types” Park Jimin frowns at himself, refocuses. He just doesn't want anyone, despite Tae's gentle suggestions that it's just because he's scared. People were exhausting to just be around for longer than thirty minutes, and anyway, it'd take an extremely special someone to actually be with him, to trust enough to tell about his ability, to actually believe him.
He knows all this, knows it's not worth it to try, especially for someone like boring Namjoon.
A lot less boring when he's bending you over the counter, he jeers at himself. He exhales slowly, centering his mind before making his way into the kitchen.
The next day is much like the last. The sweltering sun is unbearable, keeping people from even wanting to trek out to the pool to cool off. There are only a handful of customers at lunchtime, Jin coming from the main kitchen to flip a few burgers before going home for the day. Jimin works the register, aware of Namjoon laughing loud and joking with Jin behind him.
Something like jealousy tugs at him. Namjoon's energy is so different with Jin, so much less like a time bomb of awkward heat threatening to implode. What the fucks he so tense around me for, Jimin wonders. I'm nice, everyone thinks I'm nice.
Caught up in his thoughts, he turns to fill a cup with ice and slips on a plastic lid that didn't quite make it to the trash can. Big hands catch his shoulders and hold him upright for a second. “Thanks,” he mutters, irritated at his face for flushing.
“Hold me closer, clumsy dancer,” Jin warbles in his best Elton John voice nearby as Namjoon bends down to grab the offending piece of plastic.
“Shut up, Jin,” Jimin snaps, meaner than he meant to be.
“Hold me closer, crabby dancer,” Jin amends, singing loud and laughing louder, flipping a chicken breast on the grill.
Jimin smiles in spite of himself and shoves the cup against the drink dispenser. Jin had a way of making everything seem less heavy. If I was going to like someone, it'd be someone like Jin, someone to lighten everything up, someone who doesn't—
Jimin jumps and looked up at Namjoon, eyes trapped by his sharp, uncertain gaze. An undefinable emotion passes through Namjoon's face, and Jimin busies himself with snapping a lid onto the cup of root beer.
—someone who doesn't feel like they're about to burst at just wanting to ask if I'm okay, he thinks. Someone who didn't make him feel like he was drowning in heady warmth, someone who didn't make his fingertips dull and tingle at the close heat.
He forces himself to smile up at Namjoon, the bright half moons smile he knows people love. “Yeah?” he asks, expecting to feel the tension in Namjoon dissipate, along with his question.
Instead, a bubbly wave of something rushes through Namjoon, “Oh god, so pretty,” Jimin hears him think.
Something possibly cruel in him rises to the surface. So irritating, the way Namjoon enveloped and smoldered like the sun, but with none of the flares or shine. So irritating, the way Namjoon falls to mush at one smile from Jimin no matter how fake or rude he's being.
“I'm fine.” He slides his hand up Namjoon's bicep and squeezes in a gesture of thanks, and Namjoon is predictably flustered.
He turns away and rolls his eyes, smirking at how Namjoon's energy spikes and roils, flames instead of coals for fucking once and Jimin is satisfied.
An hour and a half later, Jimin is less satisfied, more conflicted. Jin has gone home, along with most of the customers around the pool. There's nearly no prep work to do, so they sit again at one of the tables, barely paying attention to Judge Judy on tv. They talk, exchanging stupid little memories and snippets of their lives that don't matter but add up to a picture of a person in the end.
Ever since Jimin had touched his arm, there's this little spark that flickers and squeezes at Namjoon every time they make eye contact or Jimin asked him a question, or laughed at one of his dry jokes. It was hard to place the feeling, a leap of immediately dampened hope laced through with attraction that won out in the end.
Jimin wished Namjoon would get over it so he could stop secondhand feeling the annoying, niggling little emotion. He found himself smiling one of his pretty smiles at Namjoon more than necessary, or brushing against his arm to reach for something, just to feel the rush of twisty attraction spark in Namjoon again. Like picking at a scab just to watch the blood well up.
At the end of the night, Tae is waiting for him in the storeroom of the poolhouse as Jimin closes up, Namjoon lingering with him for no reason.
“About time,” Taehyung whines, sprawling back on a pile of flattened cardboard boxes. “I've been done for two hours.”
“You should've just gone home, I could've gotten an Uber,” Jimin laughs, shutting off the panel of light switches and peering back into the kitchen where Namjoon had run back for his phone.
“Oh? Is this new guy?” Taehyung sits up and makes a goofy grin that matches the goofy tone in his voice.
“Yeah, this is Joon. Namjoon? Joon?” he asks as Namjoon runs up behind him, looking inexplicably taller now that he's thrown on normal clothes. Jimin's suddenly nervous. Tae can't read minds but he can read Jimin like a book.
Namjoon shrugs. “Whichever,” he grins. “Hey,” he adds with a nod to Taehyung. “You're the roommate, right?”
They make their way out into the blue summer darkness, the two of them talking easily as Jimin locks the back door. He trails behind them through the parking lot, a little envious at the energy flowing freely between them. Apparently Namjoon is only tense around him.
He feels like a dick. But more so, he's mad. Because really, how dare he be tense? I've busted my ass to be nice, he tells himself, and can't quite fool himself into believing.
Half the ride home, Tae goes on about how “Joon is so nice” and “seems super chill” and “isn't boring at all, Jimin” before he picks up on Jimin's silence and eye rolling and lets it be.
Typical Taehyung, that lasts all of about five minutes. “He's kinda fucking hot though. Boring or not, I'm surprised your thirsty ass didn't mention it.”
“Mm, is he?” Jimin says with a mild smile, feigning disinterest with a one shoulder shrug.
“Pshh, please,” Taehyung scoffs, shifting under the seatbelt to sit with his knees to his chest. “You always go for the tall intellectual types. Y'know, until you make up some shit that's wrong with them so you don't have to date them.”
Jimin gives a heavy sigh and throws his head back against the headrest. “Tae,” he starts sharply. “Just, just don't okay. You know I have reasons.”
Taehyung shrugs and resumes texting, phone lighting up his face in the darkness. “There's always reasons not to do something. Doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.”
That night, the solitude of his cozy bedroom is a little less perfect. Something is missing. Music is trailing fuzzy from his speakers and it's deliciously dark, but his mind won't shut off and let go, some nameless agitation tugging at him.
He finds his mind drifting back to Namjoon's fantasy, wondering how many times Namjoon's replayed it himself, if he's gotten himself off on it. Jimin chews on his lip and slides his hand into his pj pants, already half hard at the memory of Namjoon's big dick pressing against his lips.
It starts off that way, somehow justifiable that it's not Jimin's fantasy. Until it is. Until he's stroking himself and imagining how Namjoon finishes the fantasy, if he fucks him over the counter or eats him out or makes him come on those long fingers.
“Fuck,” he whispers into the darkness, enjoying the too-dry drag of his hands, refusing himself any lube as self punishment, something to allow himself to continue imagining Namjoon slamming into his ass, fingers digging into his hips the way they had in Namjoon's mind the day before.
It's okay only if it's not a complete pleasure, forgivable only if he's imagining all this just because he's so plain old horny that he can get off with only the smear of precum to give any glide. It has nothing to do with the way Namjoon moaned his name in his fantasy or wanted to moan it again every time Jimin so much as smiled at him all day.
“Mmmh, Joon, fuck,” he moans, breath held as he imagines Namjoon's big pretty hand pinning him to the mattress by the back of his neck, fucking him hard and slow. Curiosity for the real thing burns under his skin.
The oddity of being so hard for someone he doesn't even like shoots electric through his stomach. It's dirtier somehow, better, submitting himself to what he's not supposed to want. “Joon,” he rasps into his pillow one last time and comes hard in his own hand.
Breath held then stuttered, he hums at the idea of Namjoon collapsing onto him, overwhelmed with lust and affection. He shivers and exhales as his hand drags down wet, sensitive skin one last time before he stills, staring up at the ceiling. His mind is finally sated, surrendering at last to the softness of his sheets, the cool touch of the ceiling fan.
“Fuck,” he announces to no one but himself and rolls out of bed to clean himself up.
Thursday morning unfurls quietly. Namjoon isn't scheduled to come in until 11:00, so Jimin opens by himself and hums to the music on his phone. There's nothing much to do, only one elderly man taking advantage of the empty pool to swim laps.
It's peaceful. He watches the willows and and oaks sway in the cool remnant morning breeze beyond the swimming pool and lets his mind float with the leaves.
Sometimes, when it's quiet like this and his mind has that elusive focus of unfocus, he gets flashes of the echoing memories of trees, deep, rich sense impressions that could hardly be called images.
Lest he slip over into a forced focus and lose the connection to the trees, he lightly tries to sort them out. Oak memory, Alder memory, slow and musty, rustle of crow wing-beats. Peach memory, sweet and sunny.
“Morning,” calls a deep voice behind him and the slam of the back door.
“Hey Joon,” he says, drawing from his day-dreamy state, stretching his arms over his head as he turns to greet him.
A sleepy-eyed Namjoon smiles at him before flopping on the the stool beside him. He lays his head on his arms and stares out the window beside Jimin. “I can't believe they schedule two people during dead week,” he laughs.
“Yeah, some corporate policy I guess,” Jimin mumbles, but he's dying a little at Namjoon so close, the silence between them so comfortable. He looks different today. Different after fucking him in Jimin's mind the night before, maybe.
He sits up straight a little too fast and can't meet Namjoon's curious gaze.
The backdoor flies open with a bang. “Emergency!” Taehyung yells, rolling a metal serving cart into the kitchen. “Three people called in sick and there's a wedding reception in an hour. Boss told me to get you two to make the desserts.” He uncovers the huge bowls and containers as he speaks, laying them out on the kitchen counter.
“Super easy,” he continues, checking the ratty scrap paper he wrote instructions on. “Mmm, we need ninety strawberry shortcakes. Biscuit, strawberry compote, fresh cream, sliced strawberries,” he reads, making layer motions with his hands, frowning at his scribbly writing.
“The chef said it doesn't matter what it looks like, they're going for the homey rustic feel, or whatever.” He tucks the paper back in his apron pocket and beams at them. “Have fun,” he hollers, already hurrying back to the main clubhouse.
He shrugs at the apprehensive look on Namjoon's face and they go to wash their hands. “I uh....really don't cook,” Namjoon says with a nervous chuckle.
Jimin chews on his lip, mesmerized at Namjoon's big, elegant hands running soap bubbles over each other beneath the stream of water. The faucet squeaks off, snapping him out of it.
“This is more dumping food on top of other food than cooking,” he smiles. Coyly, suddenly irritated that he's being affected by Namjoon and his dumb hands and the softness in his voice when he talks to Jimin and the subtle clench of muscle beneath smooth, tan skin. Coyly, so he can feel the desire and agitation itch through Namjoon's mind and regain some semblance of control.
It's invasive and manipulative and Jimin knows it. He brushes away the guilt by reasoning that 'normal' people do it all the time. Hell, the very definition of flirting is trying to make someone attracted to you, right? I just have more direct confirmation of it actually working than they do.
The strawberry shortcakes really are foolproof, even for Namjoon, but ninety of them in an hour is a bit daunting. They fall into a quiet lull as they assemble, spooning strawberry goo and dollops of fresh cream with Namjoon's summer playlist coming from the speakers.
It was so weirdly easy, so natural the way Jimin fell open around Namjoon. Before he realized it, he was daydreaming through Namjoon's mind, following along with him down his trails of thought and memory.
“Shit,” Namjoon curses as he fumbles a bowl of shortcake he'd just put together, just barely saving the china from shattering on the ground. “Shit,” he laughs again, bringing his strawberries and cream covered hand up to show Jimin before he discards the ruined dessert.
He grins and shakes his head at Namjoon. Namjoon wiggles his fingers and Jimin sucks a deep intake of breath. He can feel the gooey, sticky glide between Namjoon's fingers as if they were his own.
If someone were to ask, Jimin might claim he was stuck in Namjoon's mindstate, but truthfully, as Namjoon suddenly imagines smacking a strawberried hand across Jimin's bare ass, he doesn't want to leave it.
Jimin's body twitches a little in response to the imaginary smack and he rolls his neck to play it off. His heartbeat quickens as Namjoon wipes his dirty hand with a towel and fantasizes dipping his other hand into the bowl of creme fraiche and smearing it over Jimin's bare ass before licking it off the curve of flesh.
It's almost hilarious, the complete boring normalcy to any observer, just two disinterested coworkers working in silence at the kitchen counter. No outward sign of Namjoon scraping teeth over the other's thick thighs, no sign of voyeur Jimin struggling to control his breathing, equal parts aroused, amused and agitated at the audacity of Namjoon to fantasize about him a mere foot away.
Daydream Namjoon is dribbling more strawberry compote over Jimin's ass, reveling in the way it might trickle down over his hole. Jimin squirms a little, face on fire. Namjoon continues to spread Jimin's cheeks with broad, sticky hands and sucks melty, creamy strawberry sweetness from his balls, tongue swiping out to catch a drip.
In his head, Namjoon is euphoric, hungry for Jimin's body but more for Jimin's moans of pleasure.
Real Jimin chokes on a moan, hands shaking. Better than watching porn, it's like living porn. It's weird and dirty and exhilarating living it through Namjoon's perspective. His insides quiver and tweak at feeling his own hole fluttering under Namjoon's warm tongue instead of feeling the jolts through his sensitive skin from Namjoon's efforts.
A little bit, or maybe a lot, Jimin wants to scream. Namjoon doesn't even properly finish the fantasy, too caught up in imagining how Jimin might whisper his name or arch his back when Namjoon licks past strawberry goo to dig into his entrance.
“Sorry,” Namjoon murmurs, reaching across Jimin to grab the last bowl of sliced strawberries. He doesn't notice the way Jimin fumbles the spoon in his hand, or the frown that follows Jimin's wide eyed glance.
'Sorry?!' his mind screeches. The audacity to speak to him, to just reach past him like it's nothing when in his head he's doing everything but reach past his body!
Namjoon's mind gets lost in imagining how pretty Jimin's smile would look from the low angle of sucking his dick, replaying it again, Jimin moaning an affectionate “Joonie,” and replaying it again, Jimin smirking down at him and fucking his mouth.
His mind wanders and catches on pretty little inconsequential details and Jimin is dying for him to go back and finish what he started, but Jimin is also furious and offended and he can't quite pin why. Heat radiates from his own face and he doesn't dare glance over to Namjoon again. He can barely dare to keep his knees from giving out.
The back door screams open and the two of them both nearly jump out of their skin. “Done yet?” Taehyung hollers as he strolls into the kitchen.
“Jin grilled you a cheese,” he says, holding out napkin-wrapped sandwiches. A half snort half laugh rumbles in his throat. “What're you so red for?” he asks in a mocking suggestive voice.
“I'm not!” Jimin protests, snatching his grilled cheese away from Taehyung's open mouth.
Two questioning pairs of eyes prod at him. “I was talking to Joon,” Taehyung replies, curiosity piqued in his voice. His big warm eyes narrow at Jimin, mischief blooming, but he drops it.
Solid as fact, he knows Tae loves him more than anyone, but a looming anxiety swells up in his throat. Taehyung knows.
Jimin turns toward the window, tells himself there's nothing to know, finishing his sandwich as the other two load dessert plates onto the serving trays Taehyung brought down. The knot of anxiety lodged in his throat doesn't dissipate. He feels vulnerable, like hiding under a too-small bush when the hawks are circling above.
“You could help out you know, princess!” Taehyung grumbles, snapping a dishtowel across Jimin's ass with a thwap!
Followed by a tumbling clatter of china plates that shatter on the floor. Jimin whirls around just in time to see Namjoon fumbling to save at least one of the little desserts on the serving tray.
He fails. He's kneeling empty handed in the strawberries and cream splatter on the kitchen floor, stunned and resigned all at once.
“Joon,” Jimin whines, kneeling to pick pieces of china out of the gooey mess.
“Sorry,” he whispers, rushing to help Jimin. Waves of humiliation and self loathing are rolling off him, and Jimin's sure Namjoon's mind would be an ugly mess if he were to look in.
Not that he ever does that. No, it's a solid rule that Jimin never voluntarily reads thoughts, not even if it's something reeeeally interesting, like, say, a fantasy starring himself.
So then what the hell am I doing? he asks himself, feeling a lot like the ground is slipping out from under him. Everything depends on Jimin keeping self control.
“Sorry,” Namjoon murmurs even quieter than before, dragging the trashcan closer for Jimin.
“Oh, well, if you're sorry,” Jimin spits sarcastically, snorting a laugh. He rolls his eyes and tosses his hair. The back of his mind knows being bitchy is a poor imitation of control, but it feels good anyway.
Namjoon bites his lip and ducks his head, too big and gangly to look as small as he feels.
“Chill princess, it was only like five shortcakes,” Taehyung giggles, a low, lazy sound.
“Tae, I fucking dare you to call me princess again,” he threatens, but he's already fighting back a giggle just looking at Taehyung's face.
God, I wanna call him princess, Namjoon thinks, still looking like a kicked puppy beside him.
Tingles rip through Jimin's body and he whips his head up to frown at him.
He feels eyes on him. Taehyung's narrowed, ponderous gaze is on him again, mischievous smirk as he runs his tongue along the inside of he cheek. “Hm,” he says quietly, and moves to continue loading up the dessert cart.
Nothing much happens in the hours after Taehyung leaves, only a few customers trail in for smoothies to bring back poolside. Namjoon is sprawled back in a dining chair under the vent, basking in the air conditioning while Jimin fans himself with a menu.
He eyes Namjoon over the edge of his phone, hesitates. Indulging the craving to know more of Namjoon seems like dangerous territory. He decides he's doing it to make up for his earlier meanness.
“Hey.” Namjoon drags his head up to look at Jimin. “What were you recording? The other day,” he asks.
“Hm? Oh uh, rap, I rap, 'ma rapper,” he stutters.
The incredulity must be plastered all over his face. “Yeah, I know. No one ever believes it,” Namjoon gives a rueful smile down at his hands.
“But you don't—“ Jimin starts before he can stop himself.
“Don't what?” Namjoon asks, eyes guarded.
“Don't even talk,” he finishes, less and less satisfied with himself.
“Sorry. I just, never know what to say,” he says softly. “Like, there's too much up here, and I don't know how to get it to come out right,” he laughs, motioning to his head. “Unless I'm writing,” he amends.
“I...I've been told I'm annoying,” he says lightly, but Jimin can feel the pain behind it, an old pain. “So, I realized I sorta, can't talk unless it's with someone more annoying than me.”
“Explains why you get along so well with Jin then,” Jimin grins.
Namjoon laughs, but his energy is drenched in worry that he shouldn't have said any of that to Jimin, that it was too much. “Like this right now, I...I know, I'm not supposed to just say shit like this to people, I just...” he sighs and picks at the corner of the table.
“I dunno. Sorry,” he shrugs, and the endless sorrys make more sense. Jimin knows how finding out what people think of you can make you wanna shut down completely.
He wants Namjoon to know he knows the feeling, wants him to know why he knows. It's uncomfortable, this pull to let Namjoon know all of him. It's not what he does; he keeps himself safe by always keeping parts of himself concealed. He wishes Namjoon would shut up and do the same, and flip flops to wishing Namjoon wouldn't worry what anyone thinks again and talk forever.
“I think it's better. Better the way you are.” He tries to say it casually, lighten the weight of it by pulling out his phone to check nonexistent messages, but he feels the leap in Namjoon's heart nonetheless.
“This has been the longest Friday of my life,” Jimin groans an hour before sunset the next day. The mid-August heat remains unbroken, which cannot be said for the poolhouse air conditioning. It's been out of service since they arrived that morning, only spitting out lukewarm air.
“I wanna jump in the pool,” Namjoon whines, sweat making his skin glow and his white shirt cling.
“Can't,” Jimin monotones. “I'm boooooored. Entertain me,” he jokes.
Namjoon snorts. “How? Want 101 random facts about serial killers? A recital of my favorite Ted Hughes' poems?”
“You're a rapper, right? Rap,” Jimin commands, waving his hand like he's royalty, a guise soon broken by the bubbly sound of his giggling.
“Hell no,” Namjoon chuckles and shifts in his seat. “It's way too embarrassing to just like, rap, randomly.”
“Come on,” Jimin pouts, making puppy eyes across the table. “Don't be boring,” he prods, knowing it would dig at him.
“Pff. You're a dancer, fucking dance then,” Namjoon challenges with a grin, but there's a bite to his words.
Jimin smiles back at him, slumped in his chair. He likes this Namjoon, a more Namjoon Namjoon. “Forty bucks a dance,” he says softly, eyebrow cocked a bit.
He grins when Namjoon flusters and laughs at his lap, ears tinging pink.
As always, they hear Taehyung coming before they see him, an off-rhythm song more yelled than sung from the back of the kitchen. He twirls into the dining room, still singing as he approaches their table, dragging a chair with him.
“Hey, Joon,” he grins, rearranging his giant black Van Halen tank top full of rips and holes.
He kicks at Jimin's shins. “What time do you wanna head over to McGinney's? Apparently everyone's gonna be there around 10. We can go early and eat though, I'm off and clearly you're about to be,” he laughs, motioning to the completely empty poolhouse. “Joon, you're coming right?”
“You didn't tell him did you, you little shit,” Taehyung laughs and kicks Jimin's ankle again.
“I-I didn't evemgmmgghf—“
Taehyung smushes his hand against Jimin's mouth. “Every dead week all the employees meet up at the bar down the street to celebrate on Friday night, since tomorrow's a holiday. You, an employee, are obligated to come. Ow,” he hisses, yanking his hand from Jimin's teeth.
“Uh sure, sure yeah,” Namjoon agrees, eyes darting over to Jimin. “I have extra clothes in my car, so,” he shrugs.
Twenty minutes later, Namjoon comes of the bathroom looking better than anyone should in plain black jeans, white t-shirt and Nikes. Somehow, on him it looks like an outfit, clinging in all the right places.
Jimin tries his best to brush off the feeling. So what, he's got long legs; everythings' gonna look good. Tae looks good in the same skinny jeans he's been wearing for the last six days, so what.
They stroll down the long driveway of the country club together, sprinklers ticking arcs of water across vast green lawns, the last of the sunlight painting golden streaks across dewy green. Jimin was worried when they started off that it'd be awkward, juggling Tae's familiar energy with Namjoon's enveloping aura, but he should've known better.
Just like when they were kids, Taehyung does the talking for the both of them, quizzing people in the way he always does, so genuinely interested that no one can be annoyed. He asks Namjoon's major, if he's gonna work in the main clubhouse with them after summer is over, his plans for the future.
“He wants to be Mulder”, Jimin supplies, side eyeing Namjoon for the embarrassed smile he knows will appear. As expected, Taehyung is wildly impressed.
“Do you ~believe~?” Taehyung giggles, giggles harder when Namjoon solemnly intones “Yes.”
“In aliens? Bigfoot? Psychics?”
“Yes, maybe, yes,” Namjoon answers, and it's stupid but Jimin's heart catches in his throat at the last one. He ignores Taehyung's eyes lingering meaningfully on him, kicks a rock down the sidewalk instead.
Taehyung moves on to Namjoon favorite type of dog, “any rescue dog,” and Taehyung is so pleased with the answer he can't even talk right, stuttering and gesturing.
Namjoon answers the endless questions, talking freely and joking as the make their way down the street. Just like he'd said before, talking to people “more annoying” than him was easy. Jimin wants to gloat about what that says about himself, if the way Namjoon clams up around him was any indication.
But instead, watching the two of them fall over laughing about some dumbass thing Tae said, he just feels lonely.
The loneliness lingers as they take a table on the patio and order a late dinner and round of drinks. The patio is lit with yellowy fairy lights and the flickering glow of tiki torches, and Namjoon's heart is fluttering at the way it makes Jimin's skin glow.
Drinking is always a weird activity for Jimin. As always, he has to power through the looseness the first few drinks give him, thoughts and voices slipping into his mind too easily.
After the fourth or so drink he's too tipsy to care, comfortably disconnected enough from his mind to let the foreign thoughts flow in and out. They're there in a nonstop muted blare, like a tv left on in the background that he's not really watching.
By then, the patio has begun to fill up with their coworkers, Taehyung jumping up to greet people, bringing Jin and another round of shots to their table.
Everyone's laughing loud, a warm sound in warm night air. Jimin grins lazily, staring out over the crowd of people, a hundred different conversations blooming in the undercurrent of conflicting thoughts that only Jimin can hear. Namjoon's knee falls against his, pulling Jimin's attention back to their table.
“Yoongi is here, you know,” Jin brings up casually, and Taehyung sits up straight.
“Fuck, do I look okay? Food in my teeth?” he whispers, hands flying up to straighten his messy hair.
A gasp leaps from Namjoon. “You're the giant puppy coworker!” he all but yells. “Fucking of course you are oh my god, Yoongi's had the—“ he jumps, realizing how loud he's yelling. He quickly scans around to make sure Yoongi isn't nearby. “Yoongi's had the hots for you for months,” he says, quieter.
Taehyung's mouth hangs open. “How do- how- he-I'm, puppy, he said-”
Jimin giggles. “He wants to know how you know Yoongi and what he's said about him,” he clarifies for Taehyung, who is nodding furiously across the table.
“He's a good friend of mine,” Namjoon shrugs. “He got me this job, actually. He's always talking about this 'golden god, overgrown puppy' server he works with who he ah...” Namjoon scratches the back of his head. “let's just say he's very into.”
Jimin hears all the wonderfully vulgar things Yoongi actually said about Taehyung flashing through Namjoon's mind and makes a note to tell Taehyung later.
“That's me, I'm the golden god,” Taehyung whispers in shock. “Jimin, I'm Yoongi's golden god,” he says, face slack with awe.
The sound of Jimin's laugh fills the air. “You're Yoongi's big dumb puppy,” he retorts. “I saw him by the bar,” he adds, and Taehyung is rising from his chair like a man possessed.
With Taehyung gone, the table falls into a comfortable lull, Jin and Namjoon making small talk, Jimin smiling lazily at nothing, focused on the one inch patch of skin on his knee that's pressed against Namjoon's. He entertains himself, imagining how Namjoon would react if he casually reached over and grabbed Namjoon's thigh under the table, or if he leaned over and whispered how he'd gotten himself off thinking about Namjoon fucking him into the mattress.
Taehyung is back, a slightly apprehensive Yoongi in tow. They push their chairs closer around the little round table to make room for Yoongi, and Jimin can feel all of Namjoon's attention leap down to the way their legs are pressed together and the fact that Jimin isn't pulling away.
A much louder blast of music comes from across the patio followed by a rise of cheers from the people huddled around a little stage. “Hell yeah, karaoke time,” Jin whoops. “Time to make everyone miserable with Kesha songs,” he says gleefully. “Who else is going up? Jimin?”
“You know, Namjoon here is a rapper,” he deflects, squeezing Namjoon's shoulder with the most innocent grin he can muster.
A round of oohs around the table and a “he's fuckin good, too” from Yoongi has Namjoon sighing in defeat. He narrows his eyes at Jimin. Jimin leans forward to rest his face on his hand and smile up at him and Namjoon tries to scowl instead of smile, but a dimple pops out anyway.
“Put 'em up,” Jin demands, a fist raised. “Rock paper scissors; I win, I choose your song.”
“It's tradition,” Taehyung agrees, fingers trailing up to twirl once in the short hairs at the nape of Yoongi's neck.
“Rock paper scissors, shoot! Fuck.” Namjoon bangs his loser fist against the table as everyone laughs.
“Come on Joon, I'll pick out something really good for you,” Jin grins, even worse at feigning innocence than Jimin. He rises from the table, and the two of them weave their way through the crowd.
Head rested in hand, Jimin watches Jin and Namjoon arguing and laughing in front of the stage, Jin cackling and falling across a table. It must be bad, whatever song Jin chose for him to be so gleeful. Jimin laughs softly in anticipation, watching Namjoon rub at his face.
Across the table, half shy and half reckless confidence, Taehyung is flirting his heart out. An easy task, considering how nearly in love Yoongi already is. If it were anyone else, the overbearing aura of uncertainty and arousal would be unbearable. But it's Taehyung, and Jimin is tipsy, and the warm air wafts hints of rum and honeysuckle, and his thigh is still warm from where Namjoon's was pressed against it.
The server-turned-karaoke emcee for the night enthusiastically comes on the mic, riling up the little crowd. “Alright everyone, we're gonna kick this off with Namjoon, bringing us the 1999 Juvenile classic, “Back That Azz Up,” everyone give him a hand!”
The music starts and Namjoon is glaring and grinning at Jimin's table, their laughter audible across the crowd. “Ahh, Jin did good,” Taehyung wheezes.
Namjoon on stage looks bashful, but not out of place. Jin's dumb whooping laughter is suddenly drown out by Namjoon on the mic. At the sound of Namjoon's voice, Jimin's whole body tenses. It's coming out in a commanding boom like thunder, miles different from the soft hesitant voice he's used to hearing.
It's a dumb drunken karaoke but it's kind of amazing, Namjoon's at ease in a way Jimin couldn't have even dreamed up. He's not just doing a decent job at a shitty karaoke bar, he's performing, he's in control to the point where it hardly even looks like effort, grinning at the happy drunks in the crowd who are thrilled at the throwback song.
“Wahh, he's kinda fucking good?!” Taehyung muses. “I bet I know exactly who he wants to call him big daddy and back that ass up,” Taehyung laughs suggestively, flicking a balled up straw wrapper at Jimin's cheek.
Jimin pretends he doesn't hear him at all. “He's not even looking at the screen,” Jimin giggles. “He- he knows all the words.” His giggle turns into a silent squeak.
“Shit, you're right,” Taehyung joins him in falling over the table in laughter.
Yoongi takes the opportunity to slide his arm across Taehyung's back, giving a lazy grin. “Joon's gonna come back over here whining but don't let him fool you. He knows the lyrics to more songs about ass than anyone should.”
They laugh and Taehyung straightens up, trying to stay calm when Yoongi's arm lingers, fingers brushing back and forth across the bare curve of his shoulders. Happiness blooms like dahlias in Taehyung, bright eyes bursting when he catches Jimin's.
He presses two fingers to his temple and squints hard at him, just like he used to do when they were kids to signal he wanted Jimin to read his thoughts. Jimin giggles and makes the gesture back, wrangling his already open mind to focus on Taehyung.
Can you hear me can you hear me can you hear m- Jimin nods.
Taehyung's eyes twinkle and he looks pointedly at the fingers grazing up his neck and down his shoulder, slow and repetitive like the waves of the ocean. Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god, Taehyung thinks at him.
Is that all you wanted to say?! Jimin thinks back, knowing Taehyung can't hear him. It doesn't matter, Tae knows anyway. He wishes he could tell him how hard Yoongi's trying to keep from kissing the tan shoulders beneath his fingers.
They grin at each other and turn back to Namjoon's performance, half the crowd singing the chorus along with him now. Thoughts in strangers' voices ping off Jimin, song associated memories, unrelated worries, impressed feelings for Namjoon's skill. It makes Jimin a little bit proud, but he doesn't bother to wonder why, content to watch the fairy lights drag when he jerks his head to the side.
When it's over they give the most enthusiastic applause Jimin can remember hearing at a karaoke night, slapping his back and yelling appreciation as he hops of the little stage and passes through the crowd. Namjoon bows his head and thanks them, back to his bashful, unsure self.
Or so Jimin thought, until Namjoon sat down, enveloping him in his thick aura. Something was a bit different, prouder, calmer, his regular emanating heat reminiscent of a panther reclining in the sun.
Yoongi slaps Namjoon's shoulder as he goes to get more drinks, and Taehyung is congratulating Namjoon and quizzing him on his musical history. Jimin take a big swig of his rum and coke and sighs contentedly. It's an invisible thing but Jimin pulls himself closer to Namjoon's hot embers aura, knots of concern in his mind melting away. The last knot to go is concern that he shouldn't be letting go like this, in someone else's aura, in Namjoon's of all people, but it melts away like all the others.
Weightless in a bubble of heat, he closes his eyes and exists in a cloud of Namjoon. The satisfaction Namjoon felt from performing is starting to collapse, fretful at the lack of compliments from Jimin. He's so fully in Namjoon's mind that he entertains the idea that Namjoon could hear him, if Jimin were to think too loud. You looked good on stage, Jimin thinks at him.
“Jimin?” Jimin nearly falls out of his chair, eyes flying open at Namjoon's voice.
“What?” he squeaks. He knows Namjoon couldn't hear Jimin think at him but his heart is pounding anyway.
A fresh drink is being jiggled in front of his face. “Rum and coke right? From Yoongi. Taehyung dragged him off somewhere,” he said, when Jimin noticed the empty table.
“I wasn't asleep,” Jimin argued, taking a sip.
Namjoon snorted. “Who said you were?”
Oh, right. Jimin changes the subject. “You looked good up there, on stage,” he smiles.
It's like a clap of lightning through Namjoon's energy field. Jimin rubs away the goosebumps rising up to meet it. Fuck, Namjoon thinks. You look good everywhere. Of all the possible compliments, he said I 'looked good', oh my god. He's still smiling at me, holy shit, look at his pretty teeth— “Thanks,” Namjoon answers, downing his drink in one go.
Jin flops down at their table, a small gaggle of main kitchen crew Jimin kinda knows with him. Loud thoughts crowd in and Jimin unknowingly leans closer to Namjoon. Hoseok, bright and anxious as always, some new kid, Jungkook, who's smitten with a clueless Jin, tall Chanyeol who's thinking dirty, affectionate things about Jimin and making Namjoon instinctively jealous.
The next hour is a shadowy swirl of loud thoughts and loud off-key karaoke and loud laughter and enough alcohol to keep it all at a distance. He jokes and laughs and loses himself like melting ice cream.
It's deafening, it's too much. The alcohol dulls it, but it's too much like drowning, waves of volume and emotions. He wouldn't admit it but, he keeps himself anchored where Namjoon's thigh presses into his.
Taehyung never reappeared, but Jimin finds he doesn't mind strolling back to the country club with Namjoon, the quiet, sticky summer darkness surrounding them. Jimin's too open, oaks and magnolias above them whispering their sense memories to him, making him feel bewitched and electric.
The alcohol starts wearing off the closer they get to work and Jimin becomes a more contained entity. He can feel his own edges again, and Namjoon's thoughts don't tumble through his own like leaves on the sidewalk.
But, it's nice. Namjoon is telling him stories, about Yoongi, about his weird naked neighbor, about the time he almost quit school. Namjoon is talking to him and it's nice, hearing what Namjoon chooses to tell him.
He tugs on Namjoon's t-shirt when they get to the parking lot. “Hey, let's go swimming,” he whispers, eyes glittering.
“I thought you said we can't?”
“We can't, so keep quiet,” Jimin giggles, jogging silently toward the pool gate. He tosses a smile over his shoulder to see if Namjoon is following, and of course, he is.
Namjoon kicks of his shoes and slides silently into the still, dark water. Jimin follows a second later in the form of a cannonball into the pool.
“I thought we had to be quiet!” Namjoon hissed, wiping splashed water from his eyes.
Jimin giggles and shrugs and Namjoon can't help but smile. He watches Jimin toss his wet hair back and their eyes linger on each other, moonlight bouncing silver on their cheeks and hair.
There's a moment when Namjoon almost says something, and he knows what Namjoon wants to say but not what words might come out. Jimin's heart thuds and he sinks under the water to stop it from happening.
Surfacing, he flips on his back to float and stare at the stars. He's always wished he could hear star memories the way he could hear the trees, or comet memories, or Jupiter memories. Moon memories, maybe, with more practice, more control.
Namjoon glides closer through the water, nothing but sharp eyes floating along the surface, and the control melts a little. “Hey Jimin,” he starts. “Do y—“
“Shh!” Jimin freezes. A flash of dim headlights in the golf course behind Namjoon. “Shit,” he giggles, paddling toward the pool stairs. “Security guard! Hurry the fuck up,” he hisses, and they can't stop laughing.
A distant little motor hum draws closer and they do a goofy, dripping, tiptoe run past the pool gate, wincing when gravel digs into their bare feet. “Where are my—“
“Jimin, god damn it,” Namjoon screeches in a whisper, yanking him into a narrow slot of darkness.
They wedge themselves between the work van and the brick wall, trying to silence their breathless giggles from running. The security guard's golf cart is still humming somewhere nearby, impossible to tell which direction it's coming from.
They squish into the far corner, least visible from any angles, and Namjoon is so close. Skin cold and dripping onto the asphalt, bodies bouncing heat off each other. If Jimin so much as sways his chin will bump against Namjoon's collarbones.
They smell like chlorine and rum mixed with the fragrant night jasmine trailing down the wall beside them. A drop of water from Namjoon's hair hits Jimin's cheek and he snakes an arm up to wipe it away, ever so careful not to touch Namjoon in the process.
He swoons forward a bit anyway, unsteady from the shallow breaths trying to keep quiet and the mojitos from earlier and the magnetized energy from Namjoon.
Namjoon steadies him, hands gripping his elbows. He could practically choke on how much Namjoon wants him, an enveloping sting of fire, no longer a stifling warmth but prickles of flame.
“Stop,” he nearly gasps, looking up into Namjoon's dark eyes, sharpness matching his energy for once and Jimin wants to give in to it.
“Stop what,” he chuckles. But he's holding his breath, listening, hoping.
“Don't—stop,” he stutters.
“Which is it, stop or don't stop,” he asks in a low hush. It's a joke but it's not, just enough bravery to graze his thumbs over Jimin's arms.
Jimin doesn't pull away. He leans down, hovering inches from Jimin's face as if in disbelief before pressing warm lips to pool-chilled skin, just beneath Jimin's right eye.
The tickly temperature difference makes Jimin shiver, eyes fluttering, overwhelmed as Namjoon kisses him again, here on his jaw, and again near the corner of his mouth, huge hands holding his arms lightly. Namjoon's mouth catches his and there's no hesitation, Jimin kisses him back like it had been his idea from the start.
He leans into Namjoon and finally lets go, melts. The heat is aching in Namjoon's bones, so much honest desire. It's enough to make Jimin's eyes roll back in his head. “God, you really want me, don't you,” he gasps, falling back against the prickly brick wall.
A little bit of an odd thing to say but, “Yeah,” Namjoon answers honestly, trailing kisses down his neck.
“I knew you liked me, I—jesus, I tried to stop you,” he stammers, caught in the hammering waves of Namjoon's energy.
Namjoon just hums and his hands graze up beneath his shirt, clammy goosebumped skin melting under his fingers. God it feels so good, being this wanted, letting go for once, letting Namjoon in like this.
His eyes fly open. Specifically, letting Namjoon in feels so good. His fingers dig into Namjoon's spine, and he doesn't even remember wrapping his arms around him like that. He can't let this happen, can't let Namjoon get taken in by a pathetic lonely mind reader, can't use him like this. If he knew, he wouldn't be doing this.
“No, Joon you don't understand, I knew, I—“
“Sorry for my lack of subtlety,” he laughs, too caught up in sucking on the soft skin of Jimin's throat.
“It's not...right, I-I knew, and I didn't, sh-shouldn't have—god,” he gasps when teeth graze the vein in his neck. Nothing on earth could possibly be better than twining his fingers in Namjoon's hair and letting Namjoon do whatever he wants, melting like butter under his lips and hands.
He makes one last desperate grasp at the guilt nagging at him.
“Wait, we can't, I gotta—, fuck! You wanted to strawberry shortcake my ass!” he bursts out with a stomp.
It's almost funny enough to laugh, the spectrum of thoughts that jump through Namjoon's face in the cricket chirp night silence. Jimin doesn't even need his ability to see what Namjoon's thinking; Strawberry sh—ohh, oh my god, how the hell did he?? I didn't tell any—oh god who does he know that I know—wait, no way did I ever tell anyone that. Fuck he thinks I'm a pervert. I still wanna strawberry shortcake his ass, I am a pervert oh god. He kissed me anyway, christ I wanna kiss him again, how the fuck did he know??
It's almost funny enough to laugh, but Jimin is terrified. He broke the only absolute, life or death rule in his life, the one that stalks his every thought and decision, controls him like a ghost. He does not hint at his ability, does not use it, does not tell anyone, ever, besides Tae.
It was nice for forty whole seconds there, giving himself over to Namjoon, pretending it was anything that could work.
Wide eyed at a quietly panicking Namjoon, he decides he's just gonna have to book it into the woods, quit his job, Tae's gonna have to quit his job because Jimin can't pick him up here ever again, he'll have to—
“Sorry,” Namjoon practically squeaks.
It's finally funny enough to laugh, apparently. Something snaps and Jimin can barely hold himself up, hands clapped over his mouth to silence his hysterical laughter. There's not even enough space between the wall and the van to squat down, a stunned Namjoon holding him up.
“Sorry! You're sorry! I fucking take your thoughts right out of your head and you're sorr—oh fuck,” he sobers up immediately, realizing what he just admitted, out loud, in words.
He eyes the woods. What if Namjoon calls the cops, or an ambulance to take him to a psych ward, or attacks him? Oh god he's cornering me so he can—
—caress my face, okay, he thinks uneasily. Namjoon's face is ponderous mask. “I didn't...I didn't tell anyone about the uh, strawberry shortcake thing,” he says delicately, ears blushing. “I know I didn't.”
Jimin gives a dumb nod. Just leave, idiot, run, there are other jobs— “I read minds.”
Jimin what the fuck! his mind screams. He throws his hands up between them, eyes earnest and panicked. “Or, no! I can read minds but, please, please listen, I don't, usually. I try so hard not to, I never meant to see, I didn't try to spy, god, I'm sorry, I am. I'll quit, just, don't tell anyone please, just pretend I'm crazy and forget about me. I'll quit, I'll move, I'll—what're—“
Namjoon leans down and presses the softest kiss to Jimin's eyebrow. “You saw me strawberry shortcake your ass and you still kissed me?” He laughs quietly, shy gaze on their bare feet. “I thought you couldn't stand me.”
“You can't seriously believe me.”
“I told you, Fox Mulder is my hero; Fox Mulder would believe you,” he grins.
“Are you kidding?” Jimin chokes on a giggle, completely dumbfounded.
“Yeah,” Namjoon whispers, fiddling with the hem of Jimin's shirt. “Also no. Um. This is weird,” he laughs. “Are you...are you reading my mind right now?”
“No! No, please believe me, I constantly try not to. I mean, I can feel you, I can't turn that off. But no, no.” God, I just want to sit down. Why in god's name did I do this to myself.
“You can feel me?” Namjoon asks, head tilted. “What do I feel like?”
He hadn't expected questions. “Really, really...” he looks up into Namjoon's eyes. Namjoon feels the same as he did five minutes prior, before Jimin smashed his whole world up. Same Namjoon, steady heat, stifling purity of being, restless conflicting energy.
“Really hot,” he answers honestly. “I mean! Not like that! I mean also like that—fuck, I meant your energy, you're hot. Okay wow, stop talking Jimin,” he mutters, sure his head is gonna pop off and explode.
Namjoon is biting back a grin. “Jimin? You're weirder than expected.”
“Sorry,” Jimin mumbles again, sounding like the Namjoon he mocked before.
“I like you. Um I-, a lot.”
“Yeah,” he says miserably. Then it clicks, eyes jerking back up. “Oh. Still? You still do?”
Namjoon just nods, suppressing a smile in a way that make his dimples pop. He's eyeing Jimin's lips again, and pulls him ever so gently forward. Their lips meet and move together with fire and tenderness that starts with Namjoon and reciprocates in Jimin, hesitation melting away in Namjoon's long, tan arms.
Jimin slides his hands up the arms attached to his waist and hums a little. Delirious, exuberant happiness is fizzing through Namjoon's energy like soda water, making goosebumps rise again across Jimin's arms.
So happy to be with me, so happy I'm not pushing him away.
But for once, the part of Jimin's mind that was constantly sensing, translating the energy of others into feedback so Jimin could calculate his next word or smile was quieter, distant. In this moment, Jimin was fully enveloped in Namjoon, a hot, lazy, drunken cocoon. He lets go of himself and it's scary and he feels so safe.
He knows how wildly happy he can make Namjoon and finally gives into the urge. He opens his mouth to let Namjoon in, and the desire that spikes through Namjoon makes Jimin's legs go weak. Namjoon scoops him up by his waist and pins him against the prickly brick wall, a low moan escaping him when Jimin's legs slide around his hips like they belong there.
It's three a.m. before they stumble into Jimin's apartment, hushed giggles when Jimin trips over Namjoon's feet at the doorway. “Why are we sneaking, Taehyung's not even home,” Jimin asks in a dramatic whisper.
“Because we're sneaky,” Namjoon whispers back, and they're giggling again, not even drunk anymore.
They kick off their shoes and Jimin doesn't turn on any lights until they reach his bedroom, leading Namjoon through the dark living room by the hand. He reaches to click on a little moon shaped lamp and closes the door behind them. Namjoon hovers by the doorway, unsure where to put himself or how familiar to be, or if Jimin really wants him here.
The apprehension is starting to fill the room, Jimin's sacred, peaceful, good vibes only room. He turns back to Namjoon with a frown, curling his fingers into the hem of Namjoon's shirt.
“Are you freaked out?” he asks softly. “This is...I'm a lot, I know. Look I, I really do understand if this is all too much. I wouldn't hold it against you if you secretly think I'm crazy. Or, if you're actually crazy enough to believe me I wouldn't blame you if it just makes you too uncomfortable or—“
“Hey, hey,” Namjoon laughs, soothing the worked up ramble Jimin was caught in. “This is a lot,” he admits. “You are a lot.” Jimin's face crumples a little. “No hey, no, I mean like, you're a lot more than just this one part. I was overwhelmed by everything you are before I even knew about th-the mind reading,” he chuckles, finding it a little hard to get the words 'mind reading' out.
They're quiet together a minute huddled up against the door, staring at their feet. “What's it like?” Namjoon finally whispers. “Have you always been able to do it? Do you—ah, sorry, you don't have to tell me about it.”
He snorts in response and pulls Namjoon to his plush bed. “Yes, I do. You want a t-shirt to sleep in?” he asks, standing up again to pull off his shirt, heading for the closet.
There's a spike of desire in Namjoon that he can feel across the room. He turns to smirk at Namjoon, tossing a big, pink t-shirt at him. “No fair,” he grumbles, pulling his shirt off in favor of Jimin's soft sleep shirt.
“What's no fair?” Jimin asks, kicking off his pants in the dim lamp light that barely fills the room.
“You get to know every time I'm thinking about how hot you are,” he grumbles, ears pink.
Jimin laughs and doesn't bother putting shorts on. “Want me to tell you when I'm thinking the same about you to make up for it? Like now? And right now? Mmm, and now too,” he teases, watching as Namjoon stands and unbuckles his belt.
“Shut up,” Namjoon whispers gruffly, biting back a smile as he yanks his belt off.
This is nice, Jimin thinks as he sits back on the bed and watches Namjoon extract himself from his damp skinny jeans. It's easy between them, two people that always have a hard time feeling easy.
“And right now, too,” he adds softly, voice raspy as he eyes Namjoon's bare thighs.
“Yeah?” Namjoon looks pleased, towering over the bed and eyeing Jimin before crawling over him, long legs easily caging Jimin's small hips.
Jimin whimpers when their lips meet, falling back against the pillows. Namjoon twines his fingers through Jimin's black hair, thumbs soothing across his temples. Each kiss is slow and deep, tongues moving lazily against each other.
“God, you feel so good. My mind goes so quiet, kissing you,” Jimin whispers, arching his neck for Namjoon to suck and nibble on.
“Mm. I like that,” Namjoon murmurs against his throat.
He hisses an inhale when Namjoon's tongue digs into a sensitive spot just above his collarbone. It feels so good, giving himself over to whatever Namjoon wants to do with his mouth and his hands. He runs his hands up the back of Namjoon's shirt, relishing in the lean, taut muscle and warm skin.
“Joon,” he murmurs, eyes heavy. It feels like his voice is coming from another realm. “Joon,” he tries again, squeezing the shoulder blades beneath his fingers. “I gotta... gotta tell you about it. Gotta make sure you know what you're getting into.”
“Mm,” Namjoon agrees, kissing a soft trail back up to Jimin's lips. “Or- I could just- kiss you- for the next week,” he says between kisses.
“Maybe both?” Jimin giggles, feeling suddenly shy. He falls into one more deep, lingering kiss, sucking on Namjoon's big bottom lip.
He yanks the soft blankets out from beneath him, squirming under Namjoon before he manages to pull the blankets over both of them. Namjoon rolls over beside him, waiting patiently for Jimin to speak.
“So um, okay,” Jimin laughs nervously. “Okay. Sorry wow, it's hard to know where to start. I've only told... hmm, three? other people before.”
The blankets rustle as Namjoon sits up in shock. “Ever?!”
“Yeah. How many people would you tell you can read minds?” he shoots back, poking Namjoon in the chest.
He lays back down and winds his fingers through Jimin's. “I just can't believe you're telling me,” he says softly, dragging Jimin's knuckles over his lips.
They talk until the sky begins to lighten. Jimin tells him in bits and pieces, explaining too far ahead and backtracking and apologizing for not making sense. Namjoon listens patiently, asking questions in a hushed voice, soothing his fingers over the back of Jimin's hand.
He tells Namjoon about how he had always been able to sense people and hear their thoughts, how he didn't realize it was something strange, something to keep secret until first grade. How he didn't understand the concept of secrets at all until then. Inner words and outer words had never existed for him; everything was out.
For Jimin, that was normal, until new friends and teachers quickly abandoned him, resented him, hated him. It moved quickly from playing alone in the dusty corner of the playground to coming home with bruises to his homeroom teacher recommending, with barely disguised contempt, Jimin change schools.
For his sake, she had said.
He had been too terrified to speak to anyone for six months, remembering the stern, desperate lecture from his father not to reply to or repeat anything anyone said unless their lips were moving when they said it.
For six months at his new school he stared in shell shocked panic at people's mouths, and tried to separate the myriad of swarming thoughts from the words coming out. It always ended the same; Jimin would start hyperventilating at best, or run away sobbing at worst.
A month before summer vacation, Taehyung had found him curled in a ball under a bathroom sink during recess, hyperventilating, face buried in his knees. Skinny little Taehyung had sat with him under the sinks for an hour, chattering and rambling at him about pokemon and his dogs until a frazzled teacher burst in, slumping in relief that she'd found them.
For years, he and Taehyung stuck to each other. Jimin let Taehyung do most of the talking for both of them as he learned to separate the thoughts from words, and how to choose not to hear them. Brick by slow brick, he built up the wall in his head to protect himself.
“After I told Taehyung about....me, I'd catch him squinting at people, looking super fucking constipated,” Jimin giggles. “I don't think he believed that reading minds isn't something you can just learn to do until like, sophomore year. Honestly, I think I still catch him trying to do it sometimes, but he swears he's 'just thinking'.”
Namjoon giggles with him. “Cute,” he murmurs. He stifles a yawn and combs his fingers through Jimin's shiny hair.
“It was junior year, when I finally told anyone else besides Tae and my grandma,” Jimin says quietly. “It didn't....well, the telling went fine, but. But it all went to shit. He... he hated me, in the end. It was my fault.”
“It's not your fault Jimin. You didn't choose this, you know.”
“I-I know. I really do, but...I mean, I guess I was young, I didn't have so much control as I do now, I didn't realize how important it was, is, to- to keep it restrained and- and separate myself from what I'm not supposed to hear and separate people from what they don't say and separate myself from who I am to people because of what they are a-and, um, things.” He realizes he's rambling and stops, toying with the edge of Namjoon's pink shirt.
“But, doesn't that make you so tired?”
For some reason the question makes Jimin want to cry. He looks up at Namjoon's steady, piercing gaze.“Yes,” he chokes out.
The world beyond Jimin's window is getting lighter, louder. Distant rumbles of car engines beginning to filter through the air. Namjoon tugs Jimin closer, spooning him tightly and kissing the back of his neck.
“I know you're gonna disagree but, I don't want you to do that with me. Or, well okay, I just want you to be Jimin. And I know that all of this and coping with all of this has shaped who you are and that's fine, too. But don't make yourself tired over me. I wanna be the opposite of that for you,” he murmurs as he noses along the crook of Jimin's neck and along the curve of his ear and in his silky black hair.
Soft breath and soft words tickle across Jimin's skin. He hums a noncommittal happy sound, pulling Namjoon's arm tighter around him before sinking into sleep.
Late morning has risen bright and hot. Cream walls and green sheets radiating with a different kind of warmth when Jimin opens his eyes. An arm tightens around his waist and he bites at his bottom lip, last night coming back in a rush. Nervous to see Namjoon, now a keeper of his secret, in the light of day, he hesitates before shifting in Namjoon's big spoon embrace.
It's so strange, how not strange it is for Namjoon to be here in his space, his perfect peaceful bubble. If anything, he's making it better, warmer, a steady floating dock on a summer sea.
There's no regret in having told him, only a little embarrassment in his bitchy wishywashy-ness, in how fast he fell for him.
“Morning.” He didn't realize he was staring until Namjoon snickers softly. “Whatcha thinking about?”
Uncertainty is creeping through Namjoon, wondering if Jimin regrets what happened or wishes Namjoon wasn't in his bed.
Feeling shy, Jimin rests a hand on Namjoon's thin waist to reassure him. “I was thinking that you make me feel like a really small little spoon,” Jimin giggles. “It's nice. That you're here, too, it's nice.”
And it was the truth. Not the usual truth Jimin fit himself into like a size-too-small shirt, but a genuine, raw, terrifying emotion.
“Sorry I was so...not nice to you,” he speaks into Namjoon's chest, which rumbles with a laugh.
“You weren't that bad. Honestly, it kinda turned me on anyway.” He kisses Jimin's forehead and pulls him closer at the sound of Jimin's giggling.
“I'll keep that in mind.” He closes his eyes and floats in the comfortable suspension of sleepiness and sunlight and Namjoon's broad hand holding the back of his neck.
Some vague memories of science lessons past surface as he ponders Namjoon's constant hot aura and quick, nervous words. Heat doesn't come from nothing, heat comes from friction, movement.
Jimin leans up to look at him and push the messy hair out of his eyes to search them. “You've got a busy head, huh,” he says, in a sleepy gentle daze. “I thought you were dull at first, but I think it's just because I was trying so hard not to see you. But you're like.... like, what looks like just a haze from far away is really a buzzing swarm of bees when you get up close to it.”
Shy, proud pleasure stretches a smile across Namjoon's face. “That's awfully poetic,” he chuckles, sliding his hand up the back of Jimin's shirt, craving more contact.
He shrugs and sighs heavy at the press of Namjoon's warm hand. “You should give yourself a break sometime. Put the bees back in their hive,” he teases.
“You're one to talk,” he laughs, tickling his fingers into Jimin's side to make him squirm.
It's quiet a minute and Namjoon rests his lips against Jimin's forehead. “But honestly, being here like this, with you, it's like...like, maybe bees or maybe it feels like there's always a sandstorm in my head? But— being here like this, with you, it's like the sand settles and there's nothing but sunshine and fresh air.”
Jimin's body turn to jelly at the pretty words, the pretty energy radiating from Namjoon, and he struggles to steady his breath. He throws a leg over Namjoon's hip with a languid grin.
“Well. Let's stay here like this a while longer then.”