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Like The Tide

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Jimin gets like that sometimes.

Some days he wakes up before the sun, takes the boat to the seashore and rows. He rows until the waves calm down and there’s nothing but the slowly clearing sky and the rocking boat keeping him from drowning to never come back. There’s that ache inside of him. That space in between his ribs that twists and turns, leaving him with a limp and a whole lot of sad.

It’s like he’s missing something. What, he doesn't know.

 

***

 

“Keep it steady, Jimin!”

Jimin grunts, holds onto the oars tighter and struggles to keep the boat in place while Yoongi pulls the fishing net close. The sea is angry that early in the morning, seemingly unwilling to let them take her riches away. But Yoongi is whispering sweet words into the wind, fragments of poems and devotion, persuading her to open up.

“The Sea, she’s delicate. Temperamental,” Yoongi used to say when Jimin was just learning how to row. “When you are with her, there mustn't be anyone else in your heart. ‘Cos she’ll know. She always knows.”

So Jimin does just that, focusing on the boat and the sea and the bulging veins on Yoongi’s forearms. With a final pull, Yoongi gets the net inside the boat. They rock on top of the waves and Jimin’s heart skips in time with the up and down. The net is heavy, the catch is plenty and Yoongi gives him a wide smile.

“Nice one, huh?” Jimin comments, planting his feet on the boat and working to settle the bow in the right direction.

Yoongi rolls his shoulders, before taking the extra set of oars. “She was generous today.”

“I must assume game was shitty last night?” says Jimin playfully and Yoongi clucks his tongue. Jimin laughs openly at that, knowing that he is right. That Yoongi most likely went home alone. The Sea never seems to take it well when Yoongi comes to see her smelling like someone else.

“Brat,” mutters Yoongi, strong arms pushing against the water. “Let’s go back to shore.”

 

When their feet finally touch sand, Hyorin is waiting for them. She’s nothing but a bundle of shawls and a mess of thick black hair flying in the wind. She stands up heavily from her position on the rocks, coming down to help Jimin pull the boat to shore. The water is cold around Jimin’s ankles, but he bites a groan, concentrated on getting Gloss - Yoongi’s boat - deeper into the sand.

“That looks good,” comments Hyorin, eyeing the amount of fish in the net. “This on the other hand…” she adds, lifting one strand of Jimin’s freshly dyed pink hair.

“Ah, Noona…” Jimin says, evading her wandering fingers. He knows she doesn’t approve of his hair color but he doesn’t care. It looks a little like cotton candy and Jimin just likes the idea of having a piece of childhood innocence still attached to himself. Even if it’s temporary and fake.

“You look like a toxic pastry,” Hyorin continues to complain, smelling her hands and wrinkling her nose at the scent of the sea. “You also smell like shit….lovely.”

Yoongi jumps off of the boat with a sigh on his lips. The very first of the day.

“Leave the kid alone,” he says turning to get the net, opportunity Jimin uses to stick his tongue out at Hyorin. She reaches to smack him but Jimin sidesteps, smile wide. The sight is so unusual Hyorin can't help but smile herself. Yoongi rolls his eyes, opening a sack to put the fish inside. “Enough, it’s almost eight. We’ve got work to do.”

Hyorin gives Jimin a “later” sign, walking to their stall at the Fish Market and Jimin joins Yoongi in the task at hand. Customers will start coming soon in search of fresh fish and they have to be ready for that. The rest is just a known deal, stuff Jimin learned around three years ago, when the sea was selfish enough to take his father away. At that time, Yoongi took him in. Yoongi picked him up, cleaned the snot off of his nose and put a row in his hand.

“Time to work, kid,” he said, and Jimin had followed. Numb and disoriented, Jimin trusted Yoongi to know better and has never regretted it, ever since.

Jimin hauls the catch to their tiny stall where Hyorin is ready with the knives clean and sharp. She hands one to each before going to the front and opening the window, ready for the first customers of the day. Soon enough, people start coming in and Jimin loses track of time. Minutes go by as he descales, guts and fillets the fish, one after the other in what Hyorin likes to call the ‘mechanical killing fest’.

By the time the clock hits midday, Jimin is exhausted. Back stiff and nails bloody and disgusting. Hyorin walks up to him to pry the knife out of his hands, motioning for Jimin to go.

“Go away,” she says, tying up her hair. “That pink mess of yours is giving me a headache already.”

Jimin sighs, taking off his apron. “You love it,” he says, patting his stomach. “You don’t happen to have something to eat, right Noona?”

“For you?” she stabs the fish angrily, making Yoongi jump on the other side of the counter. Hyorin directs a disinterested gaze Jimin’s way. “Maybe some leftovers of my breakfast...you can have it, was gonna throw it out anyway.”

Yoongi shakes his head, passing an order to a customer waiting at the window. Jimin washes his hands quickly, hurriedly going to the mini fridge wheezing in one of the corners and pulling out a tupperware full of kimchi fried rice. His favourite. Jimin’s stomach growls and he sits on a stool, stuffing his mouth, not even caring for warming it up. He doesn’t have much time before his second job at Seokjin’s restaurant starts.

“Idiot,” mutters Hyorin, but she can barely hide her smile and just like that Jimin knows she brought the food exclusively for him.

Jimin finishes eating in a heartbeat. He plants a loud kiss on Hyorin’s cheek on his way out and his Noona’s loud complains follow him as he steps onto the street. The sun is high on the sky, the clouds of the early morning completely gone, and Jimin breathes deeply, feeling strangely light.

The weather is warm and Jimin dares to hope for a good day.

 

***

 

“How much longer?”

Hoseok grunts in response. It’s the fifth time Taehyung asks the exact same question and no one has the strength to tell him to shut up. At the back, Jeongguk presses his cheek against the window, bored out of his mind. Namjoon is drooling on his lap, his leg is half dead, and the road stretches beyond where the eyes can see.

“You said it was a short trip,” whines Taehyung, trying but failing to stretch his legs on top of the dashboard. “We’ve been in this car for hours, I have the stench of Jeongguk’s feet stuck in my mouth.”

“Taehyung,” warns Hoseok, eyebrow twitching, “...shut up.”

“You said we would be there in just a couple hours,” continues Taehyung, fighting to detangle his long legs to put them back down. In the process, he hits Hoseok.

The car swerves.

Hoseok swears out loud, turning the steering wheel, and Jeongguk hits his head against the window. Taehyung yelps, startling Namjoon awake.

“What the fuck,” he says, eyes wide as he scans his surroundings. “Did I miss my dissertation’s deadline?”

Taehyung turns around, hand still splayed over his heart. “No, Hyung. But you almost lost your life—”

“Tae, for all that’s holy,” Hoseok’s eyebrow twitches again. Taehyung gives him an angelic smile, turning back around to fumble with the radio. Hoseok’s grip on the steering wheel tightens up.

“Thanks fuck,” murmurs Namjoon, leaning back on the seat.

Meanwhile, Jeongguk stares at the pool of Namjoon’s saliva currently staining his jeans. Then he looks outside, at the desolate highway surrounded by trees. The minutes tick on the clock and Jeongguk sinks on the seat questioning his life choices.

It takes around two more hours and Namjoon taking over the copilot seat for them to finally arrive to their destination. Jeongguk spends those two hours sitting only on his left ass cheek and with Taehyung plastered to his flank, pointing out things in the nature Jeongguk can’t really see.

He’s limping when he gets out of the car, frowning after Taehyung, who has the energy of a five year old and is already running towards the house. The place is nothing but a tiny cabin however it's right at the beach. It has generous windows and a beautiful balcony, perfect for watching the sun go down.

“My head is killing me.” Hoseok groans, dragging his bag inside.

“I pick the room with the double bed!” yells Taehyung from the second floor.

“No, that’s mine!” denies Hoseok, making his way up. “I found this house and I drove you all here so I deserve it!”

Jeongguk lets them fight over the rooms, content with having the couch for himself. The waves look inviting and he itches to grab his board and just go for a ride. He doesn’t of course, because his stomach is growling. Instead, he walks to the foot of the stairs to holler at his friends.

“Lunch?”

 

It takes them exactly half an hour to walk the busiest part of the town and Jeongguk wonders if it's just his imagination or he really is suffocating already. The main street is full of little boutiques, restaurants and souvenir shops. But beyond that, the town is calm. Only residential houses, a few bars and a single club the size of Jeongguk’s bedroom back in the city.

“You were not kidding when you said the place was isolated, huh?” comments Namjoon as they stroll down the center of the town, looking for a place to eat.

Hoseok shrugs. “Surfers rave about this place. I think it's charming.”

Jeongguk eyes the people walking around. Some are definitely local but a few stand out, with their shaggy hair, colourful hoodies and beach shorts. Surfers, just like them.

“Where are we eating?” asks Taehyung.

Hoseok eyes his phone, raising it in the air to get more signal. “The owner of the house told me there was a very good eatery close to the beach,” he frowns, looks around and then points in one direction. “They only use local stuff.”

“Niche,” comments Namjoon and by Jeongguk’s side, Taehyung snickers. Jeongguk smiles as well, bumping shoulders with his friend and shaking his head.

The eatery ends up being - not surprisingly - as small as everything else in town, made out of wood and smelling like heaven on earth. A pretty girl smiles at them when they step in, not so subtle as she ogles them up and down.

“Just four?” she asks sweetly and Hoseok nods.

The table they are offered looks out at the beach and Jeongguk makes a beeline for it, only then noticing the others walking considerably slow, apparently distracted with something at the bar. He follows the line of sight, frowning as he sees nothing but the bartender cleaning the counter with a rag.

“What’s so interesting?” he asks when everyone is already seated. Namjoon turns to him wide eyed.

“There was this dude,” he starts, looking around.

“Pink hair, pretty lips....most likely pretty dick…” clarifies Taehyung, earning a chuckle from Namjoon and a shove from Hoseok.

“Shut it.”

“Where?” says Jeongguk, interest picking up.

“He was at the bar…” replies Taehyung, neck turning in that direction as well.

Just then, the girl comes back, asking for their drinks. She twirls a strand of hair around her finger, clearly interested in flirting and Taehyung - Don Juan extraordinaire - falls for the bait, leaning into his palm and completely forgetting about the most important thing, food.

And ‘Pretty Dick'.

Starving and slightly annoyed, Jeongguk lets his eyes wander around the eatery once more, finally catching a head of pink. The boy is giving his back to the table, leaning against the counter as he talks to the barman. From this angle, he doesn’t look like much. He has a nice body - Jeongguk supposes - clad in well worn, black dress pants and a thin black shirt. Beside that, nothing looks really remarkable. The boy seems to be of medium height and fairly lithe, maybe a six out of ten.

Jeongguk loses interest almost immediately, just in time with the boy turning to look his way.

 

 

“I told Eunha to go back to the door,” Seokjin hisses, cleaning the glasses angrily. “But look at her, flirting like it’s nothing and ignoring my words.”

Jimin shrugs, concentrated in writing down the bill for the table he is tending and not so much in Seokjin. It’s almost the end of his shift, Jimin can still smell the fish in his nails, and he’s ready to pass out. It’s doesn’t help that the place is full of city boys either. They come into town every Spring, turning it upside down with their noise and swearing and lewd comments, but also with pockets full of money so really Jimin has no room to complain.

Seokjin clucks his tongue at Jimin’s indifference, taking the bill right out of his hand and earning an annoyed whine from him.

“Hyung” says Jimin, face scrunch and all.

“I’ll take care of this,” Seokjin sniffs. “You go tend that table.”

Jimin swallows the scream clawing at the back of his throat. He breathes deeply, willing his face to calm down so he can give his Hyung a levelheaded stare, all for nothing. Seokjin smiles, gorgeous and with fluttering eyelashes.

Jimin turns around.

He spots Eunha right away. She’s almost lying on top of the table, cheeks pink as a dark-haired city boy sweet talks her into submission. Jimin purses his lips, eyes traveling around the table. More city boys; all brand hoodies and artistically messy hairs. Jimin’s stomach sours. It sours to the point of feeling nauseous when he catches one of the boys - the one with strawberry blond hair - staring right back at him.

He whips his head around so fast his neck hurts. “I think Eunha is doing just fine.”

Jimin grabs the bill still in Seokjin’s hand and pulls. Seokjin doesn’t let go. “I said go tend that table, you brat,” says Seokjin.

“Jin-hyung.” The word trembles on Jimin’s tongue and he clamps his mouth shut. There’s a mix of of pity and determination in Seokjin’s eyes that Jimin dislikes but accepts because he is - after all - his Hyung and boss.

Eunha comes up to them with a stupid smile on her face and Jimin purses his lips. The sway of her hips spells out the promises the city boy made to her; the ones she most likely believes truer than all the laws of physics. Jimin wants to warn her, he wants to turn back time and yank all those hopes of being more than just a one night stand right out of her head. His head. Whatever.

But he doesn’t.

“Go to the door, Eunha,” orders Seokjin, taking the drinks order right out of her hand.

“What?”

Seokjin busies himself with the order, rolling his eyes at the imported beers listed and placing local ones on the tray instead. The frown accompanying Eunha’s pout deepens.

“Oppa—” she tries.

Seokjin looks up calmly, his eyes serious behind his round glasses. “What did I say?”

Every employee at Seokjin’s eatery knows that look. Better said, everyone that has ever dealt with Seokjin knows that, when the mirth has abandoned his eyes, it’s best to back off. So Eunha takes a deep breath - eyes flaming - and returns to her spot by the door, angrily straightening her dress.

“Hyung,” tries Jimin for the last time, although his fingers are already reaching for the tray.

Seokjin takes a hold of a glass, stuffing the rag inside so he can continue polishing it.

“Jimin, this is your job. Your issues stay outside of that door,” he points to the entrance. “You know that.”

Jimin swallows. He knows, of course he does. Without more preamble, he makes his way to the table, keeping his eyes downcast.

It’s ok. It’s fine. Just take their order. Just don’t…

He dares one quick look, to both make sure the way is clear and also to asses the situation, and he catches everyone looking at him. His stomach knots. The air around the table feels weird. One of the boys, the one with purplish hair, is openly staring at him. Jimin places the drinks in the middle, unsure of who ordered what, and then he takes the notepad out of his apron, finally facing the boys.

“Are you ready to order?” Jimin asks in a polite voice.

The boy with the purple hair gapes and Jimin changes his weight from one leg to the other, already feeling uncomfortable. Someone must kick the boy under the table, because he winces, reaching down to touch his leg. The boy in front of him, the one with black hair and a perfect nose smiles kindly.

“Please ignore my friend, he’s sleep deprived,” he says teasingly. The boy’s eyes shine, almost expecting Jimin to return the smile. He doesn’t. The boy clears his throat. “Yes, hmm...I’ll have the, uh...crab sandwich?”

“Salad or fries?” asks Jimin in a monotone voice, scribbling down the order and completely missing the raised-eyebrows exchange between the boys.

“Salad?” replies the boy, a little hesitant, and Jimin knows he should be more friendly but really he just wants to get the thing done.

“Thank you,” Jimin says, directing his attention to the next boy. “For you, sir?”

 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t like the pink-haired waiter.

Usually he’s pretty good at keeping his temper in check, but this boy...oh this boy is really testing him. The worst part is that the waiter isn’t really an asshole, he’s just...not there. He doesn’t respond to Hoseok smiles, not even batting an eyelash as Namjoon stutters all the way through his order. It’s like talking to a wall and it doesn’t sit right with Jeongguk. Weren’t town people supposed to be kind or something along those lines? So, when the boy asks for his order, Jeongguk gives it away in a bored tone, trying to mimic the waiter’s tone, eyes fixed on the sea.

The boy takes a moment, staring at Jeongguk’s profile, before turning to Taehyung.

“What can I get you?”

Now, out of all of them, Taehyung is the charming one. He’s the one that gets the girls giggling and the boys flustered. He is, actually, the reason why the rest of them managed not to remain virgins after they turned twenty. Taehyung is a people magnet, he makes them all look good.

Taehyung smiles, flips his hair some in the way Jeongguk has seen countless times but still can’t imitate. He looks handsome like that, in that perfectly constructed way of his.

“I’ll have the octopus,” he says, leaning back confidently. “With a side of your smile, perhaps?”

Jeongguk dares to eye the boy, who’s staring at Taehyung and not in the way of someone that’s flattered, not at all. By Jeongguk’s side Namjoon winces. The boy breaks the eye contact, jotting down some more and getting ready to leave when Jeongguk breaks.

“You got a problem or something?” he says, crossing his arms over his chest. “That was kinda rude.”

The attention is now on him and Jeongguk notices that it isn’t only the attitude that screams unattainable in this boy, his eyes are cold as ice as well. Good thing Jeongguk has been frozen in time for a while, he doesn’t even shiver under the waiter’s gaze.

“Jeongguk,” Hoseok warns.

The boy blinks turning back to Taehyung and for a split second Jeongguk is sure he’s going to smile. He can almost see the muscles working, remembering how to twist and turn, pulling at the corners of one’s mouth. But it isn’t a smile Taehyung gets, just a stare and a slight purse of lips.

“Sorry if I came across as impolite, Sir,” the boy says in a fake sweet voice, one that makes Jeongguk’s skin tingle against his will. “We actually ran out of smiles for today.”

 

They don’t leave until Jeongguk makes sure about leaving a lengthy complaint in the hands of the manager. The guy frowns but apologizes nonetheless, promising a discount next time they visit. Namjoon tells Jeongguk it was unnecessary but he’s tired and petty so he hopes the manager takes money away from the waiter’s paycheck.

“He wasn’t even that pretty,” Taehyung says with a pout, his ego deeply wounded. “One of his eyes was smaller.”

Jeongguk grunts but, sadly, he can’t really agree with that.

 

***

 

The night finds Jeongguk smoking a joint on the balcony while Namjoon types furiously on a chair nearby.

The crash of the waves is loud and Jeongguk closes his eyes, feeling salt coating his skin like a mist. They went surfing early in the morning and it had taken Jeongguk all but riding one wave to fall completely in love with the place. Namjoon closes his laptop, letting out a frustrated groan. Jeongguk offer his joint and Namjoon receives it gratefully. He takes a long drag, the smoke billowing around him.

“What’s the matter, Hyung?” Jeongguk tries to start a conversation. If they remain too quiet, they can hear Taehyung fucking some random girl in the second floor. “Dissertation not going well?”

“I just feel like my case isn’t strong enough. I feel like I’m lacking some first hand experience, you know? Some depth...” Namjoon explains, reclining on his chair so he can look at the night sky. “It feels bland to try to argue about the impact of industrial fishing on the small markets without actually living the nightmare.”

Jeongguk hums, thinks for a moment before replying. “Well, why don’t you go and pay a visit to the fishermen? They might be willing to talk to you. We saw some on our way to the restaurant the other day.”

Namjoon takes in a sharp breath, turning his head to give Jeongguk an empty stare. “When the fuck did you get smart?” he covers his face with his palms, screams into them making Jeongguk snort. “How did I not think about that?”

“Because you’re a sleep-deprived idiot?”

“Damn right,” he agrees, gathering his things and taking the joint with him. “Mind if I finish this one?”

Jeongguk waves him off, starting down the steps with his eyes on the ocean. The wind raises goosebumps on his bare legs and he pushes his beanie lower so it covers his ears. He sits there by the shore and without meaning to, his mind drifts to the mean waiter they met few days ago. There was just something about him, some guarded secret behind his thick eyelashes that picks at Jeongguk’s curiosity.

When the air is chilly enough that he can’t feel his toes, Jeongguk gets up, getting rid of the sand sticking to his board shorts. That’s when he sees another person at the beach. One that’s shedding clothes and walking straight into the - most likely - freezing water.

Who could be crazy enough to do such a thing? Jeongguk squints, tempted to just go back, when he distinguishes a hint of pink among the waves. A slow smile spreads on his face. He walks along the shore, eyes never leaving the pink dot in the middle of the black sea until he reaches the scattered clothes.

“Gotcha,” murmurs Jeongguk, picking them one by one. Giddy.

“Hey!”

Jeongguk looks up with a smirk already in place, clothes made a bundle under his arm. Bingo. Just like he expected, the head of pink belongs to none other than the waiter. Jeongguk can’t believe his luck.

“What the hell are you doing, those are mine!” The pink-haired boy is waist deep in the water now, arms wrapped around his middle while he shivers in the cold. “Give it back.”

“I’ll do it when you apologize for being a jerk,” Jeongguk offers, taking a step back, farther from the shore.

The boy frowns. “What?”

“You were an ass back at the restaurant to my friends,” Jeongguk elaborates.

“Me?” the boy says and Jeongguk thinks there might be some recognition in the word but he can’t be sure. “I’ve never seen you before!”

No, no recognition. Ouch? “You seriously are a terrible waiter, huh?” Jeongguk says, waving the boy’s underwear in the air. “Maybe some more time in the cold will help you remember.”

The boy takes a step forward, a snarl on his pretty lips, before he remembers his very naked situation. He stays put, hands digging under his armpits in search of warmth. Devoid of the mask of indifference, the boy is even prettier, Jeongguk notices. Small nose, full lips, soft cheeks; all very well put together, not in the artistic way Taehyung’s face is well put together though, no. It’s all mellow and sort of like a secret and it intrigues Jeongguk like hell.

“Is this your idea of fun?” the boy snarls. “Fucking city boys.”

“Is that supposed to be an insult?” Jeongguk asks, genuinely curious.

“Give. Me. My. Clothes. Back!” the boy says, attempting to sound menacing even though the words come in little frozen bouts.

When it’s obvious the boy is freezing, lips a shade dangerously close to blue, Jeongguk laughs, throwing the underwear close to the water and turning around. He hears the faints sound of teeth chattering and then a hand is yanking the clothes from under his arm.

“Asshole.”

“That’d be you.”

Jeongguk turns around to a face scrunched up in annoyance. To a wet chest rising and falling rapidly, and the smell of the sea. Not the kind that’s fishy and a bit rank, tinged with decay, but the fresh, calming wonder that’s only offered to those that dig deep enough. Or long enough, depending on the day.

It makes Jeongguk feel sort of bad, the way the other boy trembles is his now half wet clothes. The way his flower-like hair sticks to his temples. And perhaps that’s what forces the words out of Jeongguk’s mouth. That or the stars. Maybe just the shape of those lips and the faint suggestion of abs. Maybe the possibility of a challenge.

“I’m Jeongguk.”

The boy snorts softly, which is kind of funny considering he’s shaking all over.

“Well, good for you.”

“Is being mean a hobby of yours or were you born with a stick up your ass?”

“Both, actually.”

The boy tries to step around him but Jeongguk catches him softly by the arm.

“Usually, if someone introduces himself you’d answer with your name. How about we try again,” Jeongguk adds a smile at the end, one he hopes holds at least a tenth of Taehyung’s charm. “I’m Jeongguk.”

“And why should I care?”

“Because that’s my house and I have coffee there,” replies Jeongguk, pointing at the little cabin twinkling in the distance.

The boy frowns.

Jeongguk huffs, tries again. “Do you like your coffee black or with cream?”

Snatching the hoodie Jeongguk is still holding in his hand, the boy puts it on, finally feeling a little warm. “I actually like it alone.”

Jeongguk chuckles when the boy starts walking away, feeling warm like he hasn’t in a long time.

“Ah, c’mon...just one cup,” he pleads out loud.

The boy turns around, walking backwards. He shakes his head, giving Jeongguk the middle finger and then disappearing into the night.

 

***

 

“What if no one wants to help me.”

Hoseok parks the car willing himself not to roll his eyes. He does it so much because of his friends he worries one day they won’t come back to their natural place. Not that he truly believes that, he’s a nursing student after all.

“It’s gonna be fine Nams.” Hoseok steps out of the car, rubbing his nose as the smell of fish floods his nostrils. By his side, Namjoon takes a deep breath before his mouth sets on a grimace that makes Hoseok laugh.

The Fish Market is nothing more than a handful of unstable stalls that seems to sway under the breeze. Despite their unimpressive structural quality, the place is full of both tourists and locals alike, all in search of the wonders of the ocean. They walk around at a leisure pace with Hoseok taking a few pictures and Namjoon eyeing the fishermen, hoping that someone looks approachable enough.

They don’t.

Hoseok aims his phone to a particularly pintoresque stall, ready to snap a picture, when he sort of recognizes the person leaning against the counter. It’s the owner of the eatery, Kim Seokjin. Without thinking about it twice, Hoseok grabs Namjoon by the arm and drags him over in that direction.

“Mr. Kim, right?” Hoseok yells, waving when the guy looks over his shoulder. “Hi, do you remember us?”

Seokjin blinks a couple of times before smiling in recognition. “Yes, of course,” he says, adjusting his glasses. “The surfers from the city, friends with the angry boy...how could I forget.”

Hoseok half smiles, half grimaces back, only then noticing the woman staring back at them from the other side of the counter. “Oh, sorry. Did we—did I interrupt something?”

Seokjin waves his hands in a negative motion. “No, no no. I was just explaining to Hyorin here,” he says pointing at the woman, “that I really need to talk to Yoongi about the price of the tuna.”

“The price of tuna?” says Namjoon, discreetly pulling a notepad from the pocket of his jeans.

“Well, yes,” confirms Seokjin, turning to eye the woman. “It’s awfully expensive these days.”

Hyorin scratches the side of her nose with one long, deep red nail. “It’s not.”

“See?” says Seokjin to both Hoseok and Namjoon. “That’s why I want to talk to Yoongi.”

Hyorin fumes for a second, before turning around. “Yoongi! Seokjin is at it again!” she yells, giving Seokjin a fake smile afterwards. “He’ll be here soon.” she says. She purses her lips at Hoseok and Namjoon before disappearing into the stall. Seokjin glares and Namjoon sort of hides behind Hoseok.

“The disrespect…”

“So, you were saying,” prompts Namjoon once Hyorin is completely out of sight, sliding closer to Seokjin, “about the price of tuna?”

Seokjin opens his mouth to respond but a boy shows up at the counter, one with fluffy dark hair and collarbones so sharp and pale that Namjoon drops his notepad out of shock. It’s funny to Hoseok, how fickle Namjoon’s affections are. He waits - in resigned contemplation - for the blush to show on his friend’s tanned cheeks, for it to travel slowly up his ears - for the soft smile pulling at the corners of his lips. The giving dimples. All the signs.

Seokjin - unaware of the situation - goes back to talking about tuna, shaking a box of fish to support his case. The pale boy listens to him impassive, the color on his cheeks rising, getting more noticeable as he steals glances Namjoon’s way.

“So, do we agree or not that you are hiking up the prices?” Seokjin rests his hands on his hips, chin a little raised, clearly very proud of himself.

Yoongi clears his throat, biting his lower lip and keeping his eyes downcast. He can feel the eyes on him and it makes him want to turn around and hide. Just a bit. “Whatever you say, Hyung.”

Seokjin nods, very satisfied, only then noticing that Namjoon and Hoseok are still by his side. “Oh my, how disrespectful of me. Guys, this is Yoongi. The stall is his.”

“Yoongi,” repeats Namjoon. “Pleasure to meet you...I uh— my name is Namjoon.”

“Nice to meet you too,” replies Yoongi, hand going to his neck. Namjoon sighs.

It’s sort of adorable, in a cringing kind of way, but Hoseok’s getting hungry and he wants to go surfing, so he decides to intervene.

“I’m Hoseok. Are you perhaps a fisherman?” Hoseok sees in slow motion the change in Yoongi’s eyes when he turns to face him. The bashful glow is gone and now plain dark eyes are directed his way.

“Yes I am.”

“Awesome,” says Hoseok, very much amused. “My friend here could use your help.”

“It’s for my dissertation,” Namjoon says, calling for Yoongi’s attention again, which in turn makes Namjoon go red. “I, well...you know. Industrial fishing.”

“Industrial fishing?” repeats Yoongi a little confused.

“He’s studying the impact of it on artisanal fishing,” clarifies Hoseok and Yoongi nods his head and then he’s silent. Actually, no one says a word for at least five long minutes and Hoseok comes to term with that fact that Namjoon is smart only in the academic field. Seokjin taps his fingers over the counter. Hoseok sighs. “So we wanted your help? Maybe you guys could, I don't know, meet up and talk?” he suggests.

Seokjin gasps softly. “Maybe Namjoon here could go fishing with you Yoongi? You could show him the way it is done here in town?” he looks at Yoongi expectantly, eyes so intense that Hoseok feels just a bit bad for the poor guy.

When Yoongi nods his head curtly, Seokjin claps. He grabs his fish, pinching the fisherman’s cheeks and then he’s gone, leaving only a super hungry Hoseok to deal with the awkward atmosphere. He clasps his hands on his back, rocking on his feet and fighting the urge to cackle at the stolen glances thrown between the other too.

“So,” says Namjoon. “Should I…” He makes a confusing gesture with his hands that Hoseok - who has been his friend for five years now - doesn’t understand but seems to be crystal clear to Yoongi.

“Ah, no. The beach, ok?” replies Yoongi, pointing in the right direction.

“Right,” replies Namjoon, jotting down his phone number and offering it to Yoongi. “Ok.”

“Ok then.”

“Ok.”

Hoseok’s eyes do feel kind of stuck after he rolls them once again.

 

***

 

The wave crashes faster than Jeongguk’s calculations and he falls from the board, getting a mouthful of salty water when he laughs. Taehyung, who was close by, cackles and falls as well.

“Beginners,” yells Hoseok as he paddles past them, diving to avoid the upcoming wave.

Jeongguk snorts as he gets back onto his board and starts making his way back to shore. It’s been a long morning at the sea and his arms are feeling slightly burned out. It’s a bit chilly when Jeongguk walks out but not to the point of being uncomfortable. He sticks his board in the sand and then removes the top of his wetsuit so he can put his clothes on. Feeling warmer, Jeongguk settles on the sand, hiding his nose under the collar of his sweatshirt and picking up his phone to play a game.

It doesn’t take long for Namjoon to drop by his side, hair tousled and smelling like salt and fish. Jeongguk doesn’t have to look over to know there’s a goofy smile on his face. It took only three days and a case of sea sickness for Namjoon to be completely, utterly captivated by his fisherman Yoongi.

“How was research today?” asks Jeongguk.

Namjoon flops down on the sand and gives him a halfhearted thumbs up, closing his eyes and sighing deeply. “Awful. I couldn’t stop staring at Yoongi-hyung.”

“Nice.” Namjoon shrugs and Jeongguk grins returning his attention to his game.

“I actually asked him out,” Namjoon says suddenly.

Jeongguk locks his phone. “You did?”

“Sort of.” Namjoon sits up indian style, squinting at the sea until he catches sight of Hoseok riding a wave. He whoops, cupping his hands around his mouth so it carries better, and from the water Taehyung echoes his excitement. Namjoon chuckles, making Jeongguk smile as well. “Yoongi-hyung was saying goodbye and I just blurted out that we had that bonfire thing tonight…”

“And?” prompts Jeongguk, feeling a little excited as well.

“Well—” Namjoon considers the question. He makes a not so convincing face and Jeongguk clicks his tongue despite himself. “He didn’t say no…” Namjoon hurries to say.

“Man of few words?” comments Jeongguk standing up and throwing sand all over Namjoon’s legs.

“A man.”

“As long as you get dick,” Jeongguk comments, heading to the house.

 

 

“So…”

Jimin looks up from where he’s polishing the kitchen floor to find Yoongi towering over him. He sits back on his haunches, blowing his hair out of his eyes. Seokjin is by Yoongi’s side, tapping his shoe on the floor, evidently annoyed. Yoongi purses his lips and clears his throat. Jimin looks at them both expectantly.

“He’s been punished because he is a brat,” Seokjin says to Yoongi.

“When is he not.”

With a huff, Jimin goes back to the floor, purposefully ignoring his Hyungs. He actually manages to successfully ignore them for a while until Yoongi nudges his side with his shoe. Jimin eyes him through his bangs, only then noticing that they are alone.

“What are you doing tonight?” Yoongi asks.

Jimin stands up with a groan, rolling his shoulders before replying. “Sleeping.”

Yoongi follows him around as Jimin puts the cleaning supplies away, as he washes his hands and takes off his apron. When they step out of the kitchen, the evening shift is working at its fullest. Jimin can spot Eunha maneuvering people around so they can fit into the limited space. As every night since Spring came, the tables seem to be full of city boys and he wrinkles his nose on his way to Seokjin.

“I’m done Hyung, I’m going home now.”

Seokjin nods, patting his cheek. “Take the evening shift next week and we are even.”

Jimin doesn’t even have the strength to complain. He just gives Seokjin a tight smile, who bats his eyelashes back, and turns around aiming straight for the door. Yoongi follows him out into the night in silence, hands in his pockets and beanie low on his head. The stars shine brightly in the moonless sky and Jimin zips up his hoodie, enjoying the company of Yoongi as he makes his way home.

“There’s this thing at the beach tonight...”

Yoongi murmurs the words in a voice so low Jimin wonders if maybe he was imagining them. He isn’t of course, for there’s a blush on Yoongi’s cheeks. One that doesn’t need further clarification, Jimin is aware of the mysterious guy responsible of keeping him away from the sea for the past few days.

“I take it he made a move, huh?” he asks and Yoongi hums in response. “What’s his name anyway?”

“Namjoon.”

“Namjoon...” Jimin shuffles over his memory of all the people from town. “I don’t remember someone with that name. Did he move here recently?”

Even before he says the words, Jimin knows that’s not the case. He would know if someone moved into town; it’s small enough that keeping secrets is almost impossible and besides he works for Seokjin. There’s also the way in which Yoongi fixes his eyes on the pavement that confirms what Jimin suspects. The beach...surfer’s beach.

“I just….I don’t wanna go alone,” explains Yoongi, reluctance clear in the way he hides his face, and Jimin’s exhale turns into a groan.

“Ah, Hyung—”

“We can leave as soon as you want,” Yoongi hurries to offer and Jimin can’t say no. Not to Yoongi. Not after everything the other has done for him.

Jimin grumbles all the way home. He grumbles while he washes his face and teeth, purposefully avoiding the shower even when Yoongi complains that he smells.

“I do not,” mumbles Jimin although he does. The lingering scent of cleaning products sticks to his hands and his hair probably stinks of frying oil but whatever. Jimin takes a hold of the closest shorts and a sweater, putting on a ear flap hat for good measure. He looks terrible. It isn't as if he’s planning to impress anyone though, he’s just going because Yoongi needs him there.

“You might get cold,” warns Yoongi but Jimin ignores him, shrugging on a jacket on the way out.

The walk to the beach is short since Jimin lives close by and spotting a bonfire in the pitch dark of the night is an easy feat. The noise carrying on the wind helps as well, to both guide them and to settle a permanent grimace on Jimin’s face. The beach is filled with small groups of both town kids and city boys, all in different states of intoxication. A hand waves them over from one of the bonfires and Yoongi picks up his pace, with Jimin trailing a little bit behind.

“Hyung! I’m glad you showed up.”

Jimin shuffles closer, eager to get a glimpse of the guy getting Yoongi interested enough to wear his ripped jeans to the beach. To his surprise the face smiling down at his Hyung is one he knows, the purple hair unmistakable even under the weak light of the fire. Jimin takes an involuntary step back, calling Yoongi to attention immediately.

Namjoon startles a little when he spots Jimin.

“Uh,” Namjoon starts. Yoongi picks up on the action immediately.

He eyes Jimin suspiciously but the boy only shrugs, not giving anything away.

“This is Jimin,” he says, slowly. “Jimin, this is Namjoon...from the city.”

Namjoon shakes Jimin’s hand with a tentative smile that Jimin tries to return, and then quickly turns back to Yoongi, inviting them over to the bonfire. He introduces some of the people around, faces that Jimin doesn’t care to remember but are kind enough to hand him a beer. Yoongi sits a little off to the side, lost in conversation with Namjoon; both looking a little awkward but cute. Cute like they might work if Yoongi dares to try.

Jimin knows that Yoongi wants to, just in the way his smile gets wider and wider when Namjoon explains something about the tide and the price of fish.

From across the circle, yelling and then laughter call for attention. Jimin looks up to find the rest of the city boys, Namjoon’s friends. Eunha’s boy is sprawled on the sand, neck straining as he tries to get away from another attempting to kiss him. A third boy, the one Jimin’s remembers to be nice, is howling with laughter and unsteadily recording them with a phone. The boy on top manages to land a sloppy kiss on the corner of the other’s mouth - causing the three boys to scream in disgust - and Jimin can’t help the smile teasing his own lips at the plain dread on Eunha’s boy’s face.

“You disgusting fuck,” the boy yells, finally pushing the one on top away. The guy falls to the sand cackling and Jimin isn’t even surprised to see that is the asshole that not only stole his clothes but also complained to Seokjin, rendering Jimin with a week of cleaning duty and an evening shift as a consequence.

Jeongguk.

He looks different now, less sharp and more youthful as he laughs. Dangerously close to handsome if Jimin were weak enough to slip and take a second look. He doesn’t, blaming the softness in the asshole’s eyes on inebriation.

“Ah, these kids.”

Jimin’s attention shifts to find Namjoon and Yoongi, both smiling at the ruckus right in front of them.

“Are those the friends you mentioned?” asks Yoongi and Namjoon nods.

“Yeah, wait. I’ll introduce you— Hoseok!”

The boy with the phone looks up, eyes a little unfocused until he spots Namjoon. He smiles widely, starting over and Jimin lowers his own gaze. Hoseok trips on air a few steps away from them, both the phone and his drink falling from his hands as he tries to stop his face from hitting the sand. Eunha’s boy snickers as he shuffles over as well, picking up Hoseok until they are both dropping right in front of Jimin. Jeongguk is nowhere to be seen.

“Oh!” says Eunha’s boy, lying down on the sand so he can stare at Jimin’s face. “I know you!”

“You do?” says Yoongi and Jimin sighs, leaning back on his palms.

“He was mean to me,” continues Eunha’s boy, “Didn’t give me a smile—”

“This is Taehyung,” interrupts Namjoon, covering the boy’s mouth but too late. Yoongi gives Jimin one knowing glance and Jimin shrugs. What’s done it’s done. “And this is Hoseok,” continues Namjoon, pointing at the other boy, who’s too busy getting sand out of his mouth to care. “There’s also Jeongguk but...I don’t know where he went. Anyway…” Taehyung inches closer to Jimin and Namjoon pulls him by the collar of his expensive jacket. “I swear they are normal.”

“I bet,” comments Yoongi, sipping on his beer. Jimin can tell that he’s amused.

Past the first awkward seconds where Taehyung demands that Jimin finally gives him a smile, things become relatively calm and normal. Hoseok is genuinely nice, all smiles and droopy eyes, while Taehyung is more of a handful, trying to get touchy every five seconds with whoever is in close proximity.

Jimin makes sure he sits away from both.

Other than that, Jimin can’t find anything in them to dislike. Not really. He takes another beer from a nearby cooler, chugging almost half of it before lying down on the sand. The stars shine high above and Jimin shivers, letting his head fall so he’s facing the sea. There, a few meters away from the bonfire but not far enough that no one can see him, is Jeongguk, currently being pressed into the sand by someone else. His eyes seem to be open as the guy on top ravishes his neck, diving for his mouth right after and with no grace.

For some reason Jimin’s stomach gets all weird and heavy at the way Jeongguk kisses the stranger back, so freely and uncaring and exposed. Eyes still open.

Uncomfortable, Jimin gets up, tapping Yoongi on the shoulder as a goodbye before walking away from the crowd. The night is calm once he's out of range and only surrounded by stars. He walks until he reaches the rocks, climbing to the top. Jimin sort of looses track of time once he’s settled looking out at the sea, jacket stretched over his knees to fight the seaside chill.

After what feels like a long time, Jimin hears laughter and he moves closer to the edge to look down: it’s a couple making out. Jimin frowns, wanting to be alone but at the same time intrigued by the events down on the sand. Whatever it is the couple wanted to do, it doesn't go well. They roll around for a bit and then one of them stands up, marching away and leaving the counterpart still spread out, staring at the sky.

Jimin snorts, seems he's not the only one ending the night alone.

The more Jimin stares at the person left behind, the more familiar they get. Jimin can't help but follow with his eyes as the figure stands, stumbles around as he takes off the hoodie, leaving it discarded and moving closer to the shore. The hoodie is red and Jimin squints to double check that yes, the drunk guy is definitely Jeongguk.

It's like something deep within Jimin knows. It knows what is about to happen because it's happened thousands of times before. Jeongguk sheds his jeans and Jimin is already jumping down to the rocks.

"Hey!"

Jeongguk doesn't listen. He throws the jeans away, falling down and standing up right away, feet already touching the water. Water that is probably freezing.

"Wait!"

Jimin doesn't notice when he starts running, but he is. He takes off his jacket as he runs and then his shoes, chest burning and eyes trained on the waves where Jeongguk is now diving. He disappears for a split second under the water and Jimin panics, forgetting about the rest of his clothes and sprinting as fast as he can.

The water hurts his face when he dives in. Everything is dark and cold and Jeongguk is nowhere to be seen.

"Jeongguk!" Jimin yells, looking left and right until he spots a head.

Swimming over, Jimin wraps an arm around Jeongguk's middle, not checking if the other is conscious or not, only concentrating on getting both to shore. It takes almost all of Jimin's energy and willpower to get them out. That and a push of the breaking waves that leaves them covered in sand and heaving for air. Under the merciless wind and with teeth chattering, Jimin drags Jeongguk until they are safe enough and then he slaps him.

Hard.

"Wake up," murmurs Jimin, just a bit desperate, shaking Jeongguk's frame. "C'mon you dick..."

Jeongguk coughs to life, water coming out of his mouth and Jimin collapses next to him, lungs tight in his chest and completely spent. The relief of hearing Jeongguk choking on salty water by his side is overwhelming, foreign, interrupted only by a sudden snort. Jimin frowns, turning to the side to find Jeongguk actually laughing, almost hysterically so. He's turned on his hands and knees, body shivering violently as he tries to get back on his feet.

It doesn't sit right with Jimin.

"What the fuck are you laughing about?" Jimin stands up with difficulty as well, his muscles protesting in the breeze.

Jeongguk doesn't reply, he just sways, eyes struggling to settle on something. Anything. Jimin. His lips part, mirth still sticking to the edges. He is completely naked but for a pair of boxers and Jimin pointedly ignores that fact.

When Jeongguk does nothing but continue laughing, Jimin loses his temper.

"Motherfucker," he says, taking a step closer. "Why the fuck you laughing, you could have died out there!"

Jeongguk seems to sober up, trying to stay in place as shivers wrack his body. "But I didn't."

Jimin scoffs. Fucking unbelievable. "Of course not, I fucking saved your ass!"

"Want me to clap for ya?" Jeongguk slurs, chortling at his own words.

His clothes are ruined, sand sticks to the back of his ears and Jimin has never been angrier before. It's all too much and he snaps. He shoves Jeongguk on the chest with both his palms, anger now replacing all the worry from before. Jeongguk staggers back cackling, clearly too drunk to care and Jimin curls his fingers, aiming straight for the jaw.

The punch sends Jeongguk down, cold naked skin and all. He lands in a heap at Jimin's feet, still breathless. Somehow gorgeous. Somewhat troublesome. Jimin really wants to kick him. He really does. But he doesn't get to do it, because Jeongguk is rising on his palms - some tears down his cheeks from so much laughter - and he promptly pukes, all over Jimin's wet socks.

 

 

Jeongguk wakes up with the sun blaring on his face and a headache threatening to split his head in two.

He shifts in place, feels something gritty right against his skin that forces him to open an eye. What he finds isn’t the white ceiling of the cabin. It’s just black planks with painted-on little stars instead. He’s in some sort of living room, with walls made out of ancient wood shingles that’ve seen better days and a huge window that faces the sea. It’s more of a shack rather than a cabin - tiny if compared with the loft Jeongguk owns in Seoul - but with character. It smells like the beach but also like history; he kind of likes it.

The short survey also tells Jeongguk that he's still in the clothes he wore the night before. They are covered in sand and salt, explaining the overwhelming need to run his nails all over his skin. Jeongguk is in the process of standing up when he notices a woman sitting on a chair by the precarious kitchen. One that’s staring right at him.

"Who are you?" she asks, chewing loudly on what looks like a seaweed snack.

Jeongguk blinks a couple times. “Did we hook up last night or something?”

She snorts, digging between her teeth with her nails. “Believe me boy, you’d know,” she says. She gives Jeongguk a once over, nodding appreciatively. “I wouldn’t, however, say no if you want to air your bits with me sometime. You’re kinda hot.”

It’s Jeongguk’s time to snort now. The woman is pretty, in a wild kind of way. “Sorry girlie. You’re cute but not my type.”

“Not your type,” repeats the woman, offering the package with snacks to an approaching Jeongguk.

He takes one seaweed sheet, chewing happily before replying. “Nop. I’m as gay as they come.”

She cackles, breaking a piece of seaweed. “I should’ve known,” she says around a mouthful, "too pretty. Funny...Jiminnie didn't say he was fucking around last night."

"Because I wasn't," says another voice and Jeongguk finds himself staring right at the waiter from before. The boy - Jimin - gives him a condescending look, lips a little pursed. "You are awake," he says, walking further into the kitchen while he dries his hair. "Great. Please leave."

The woman chokes, hitting her chest. “Brat, that’s no way of treating guests.”

“He isn’t my guest, Noona,” Jimin drawls, shuffling around with a mess of pink hair and a clean scent.

“He slept here, that makes him a guest,” she disagrees. “Where are your manners.”

“Never had any in the first place,” mutters Jimin but he fumbles with an iron kettle all the same.

Jeongguk soon engages in conversation with the woman, quickly learning her name is Hyorin and that she is - in fact - his Noona. He also learns she works with Jimin at the fishmarket and that Jimin not only is a waiter but a fisherman as well. Interesting. With each piece of information falling from Hyorin’s lips, Jimin’s ears get more and more red. He’s fuming and Jeongguk can’t deny that he’s enjoying the view.

“You’re lovely,” Hyorin states, pinching Jeongguk’s cheek. “Jiminnie should learn a thing or two from you.”

Said boy slams a mug of coffee in front of Jeongguk, crossing his arms right after to stare at Hyorin.

“Why are you here, Noona?”

Hyorin sighs. “Yoongi is setting the nets early today. Said something about not having time later on,” she adds, sticking her tongue into her cheek. Jeongguk coughs.

“I can go and do it myself,” Jimin says with a frown, taking a huge gulp from his own mug. Water drips from his pink hair, sneaking a path down Jimin’s neck, one that Jeongguk follows with his eyes.

“Yeah well,” Hyorin dismisses. “You know him.”

Jimin grumbles something, settling his mug in the sink and walking back down the aisle he came from. Jeongguk risks a sip from his coffee, immediately sputtering at the awful, rather metallic taste. Hyorin laughs, reaching for the mug and taking a sip herself.

“Ah, tastes just like our sweet Jiminnie.”

Jeongguk makes a face. “It’s fucking bitter.”

“Exactly.”

Jimin chooses that time to come back into the room, adjusting a satchel across his chest. He rolls his eyes at Hyorin, leaning down to kiss her cheek.

“I’ll get going, please don’t burn my house.”

“What about me?” Jeongguk asks. He’s still a bit drunk, full of sand and a little disoriented so he wants to go home. Also, Hyorin is looking at him like one of those girls that positively believe they can make him like pussy, and that’s a no no so early in the morning for Jeongguk.

“What with you?” asks Jimin, stopping to put on his shoes. He’s wearing mismatched socks, the colors clashing so much Jeongguk has to avert his eyes.

“I don’t know how to go home,” he says, ignoring the bedroom eyes Hyorin is throwing his way. “I actually have no idea where I am.”

Jimin purses his lips, taking in Jeongguk’s general state of disarray, before motioning with his head for the guy to follow. Jeongguk scrambles after him, waving quickly at Hyorin and stepping into the bright morning light. Jimin starts walking immediately, barely giving Jeongguk enough time to adjust his eyes or even take in the view. The shack - yes, it’s most definitely a shack - sits on top of a cliff, overlooking the beach where they had the bonfire the past night. Jimin trots down a well worn path and Jeongguk follows the best he can, hoping he won’t fall face first and break his nose.

“So,” he says, licking salt off of his lips. “I finally know your name. Jimin, right?”

Jimin ignores him.

“And you’re a fisherman, huh?”

Jimin again doesn’t reply, continuing to walk. Jeongguk’s lips twitch.

“Do you like it more than being a waiter or less?” he continues, undeterred. “Do fish really look at you in the eye when they die? Do you feel gui—”

Jimin whirls around. “Would you shut up?”

He looks frustrated but also pretty with the sun caressing his cheeks and Jeongguk is not sure why he enjoys it so much, getting a reaction out of him.

“I was just trying to make conversation,” he says, simply.

Jimin frowns. “Well, I don’t like talking.”

“You don’t like talking in general or you don’t like talking to me?” Jeongguk asks, taking a step closer.

Jimin takes a step back in response. “Shouldn’t you be nicer? Considering I saved your ass last night?”

“Saved?” says Jeongguk, resuming walking when Jimin does.

“You tried to drown yourself last night,” Jimin explains in a gruff voice, pointing at the salt staining Jeongguk’s clothes. “Guess your drunk self thought it was about time.”

Jeongguk barks out a laugh, ruffling his hair and watching sand fall from it. “I’d never drown. I’m a surfer, swimming is as natural as walking to me.”

“It sure looked like it,” Jimin comments.

Jeongguk smiles. “Thank you. I don’t remember what I did last night but I hope it wasn’t too bad.”

“You puked on me,” Jimin says, but the frown is gone so Jeongguk doesn’t worry too much.

“I’ve done worse.”

“I can imagine.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Jimin,” Jeongguk says, playfully.

“Can’t say the same,” Jimin replies, but there’s no bite to it. Progress.

Jeongguk follows silently for a while, through the sand and then a precarious road.

“Do you know how I can get back to my house?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin rolls his shoulders, scratching his head, messing his already unruly pink hair. It’s clear in the twist of his full lips that he wants to snap. That he wants to say something mean and get it over with but at the end he doesn’t. He just sighs and Jeongguk takes it as a victory.

“C’mon, this way.”

 

 

A few days later, Jimin walks out of the restaurant to find Jeongguk waiting for him. The boy perks up immediately when they lock eyes and Jimin can’t help but frown. Why is he there?

“I was waiting for you,” Jeongguk says, charming smile in place.

Jimin’s frown deepens. “Why?”

“Thought maybe I could make it up for you,” Jeongguk says. “For the other day.”

Jimin adjusts his satchel, running his fingers through his oily hair. “No need,” he murmurs, walking past Jeongguk and down the sidewalk.

“I insist,” Jeongguk says, the thrill of a chase singing inside his veins.

Jimin whirls around so fast Jeongguk is a bit stunned, but he recovers quickly. He smiles and it just fills Jimin with frustration, why can’t he get the message? Is it really that hard to understand Jimin wants to be alone?

“Stop following me,” Jimin murmurs, shifting inside his ratty t-shirt. Compared to what Jeongguk is wearing, his whole attire feels like a bad joke.

“I’m not following you, I’m accompanying you,” Jeongguk clarifies. “Ah, stop frowning, c’mon,” he adds with a whine.

Jimin scratches his neck. “Look, it’s ok, you don’t owe me anything. Let’s leave it like that.”

“Is it so hard to just go and have a coffee with me?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin shifts on his feet, looks away. “It’d be awkward.”

“Why?”

“We got nothing in common.”

“But if we did have something in common, would you go out with me?”

Jimin shakes his head, takes a step back. “Sorry, I rather not.”

Jeongguk watches him go with a sigh. Seems it was going to be harder than what he thought.

 

***

 

“What are you doing?”

Jeongguk cranes his neck, spoon resting on his tongue, to find Namjoon staring at him with a frown. It’s barely a few minutes past dawn and the house is dark but for the glow of Jeongguk’s phone screen.

“Learning,” he replies, going back to his video.

“What?” Namjoon moves closer, squinting at the screen. “Fishing? Why are you learning about fishing?”

“Why not?” Jeongguk says.

“Well, I’ve been talking about it since forever and you never cared and now you’re suddenly interested?” Namjoon looks bewildered. It’s cute.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk says, sitting up. “No offense but, when you talk about it, it’s pretty boring. Now, when Jimin does…”

“Jimin? You mean Yoongi’s Jimin? Why would he talk to you, he talks to no one.”

Jeongguk jumps up from the couch, rummaging through his bag for some clean board shorts.

“Are you headed to the market?” he asks. Namjoon nods, still confused.

“Awesome.”

“Awesome?”

Jeongguk hums. “I’m coming with you.”

 

 

Jimin is elbows-deep in a sack of mussels when he spots Jeongguk. He does a double take, not quite believing his eyes until he sees Namjoon talking to Yoongi a little to the side. Jeongguk sticks out like a sore thumb among the fishermen: with his colorful shorts, expensive sweatshirts and blond locks. He’s nothing like Namjoon who manages to fit in with his awkward sweaters and loose pants, despite the purple hair, and it makes Jimin feel weirdly out of control.

“What’re you doing?”

Jimin jumps when Jeongguk’s voice comes closer than expected. He’s actually right across the counter, poking the mussels with his finger. Jimin slaps the hand on instinct, muttering something about quality products and clients. Jeongguk looks up expectantly and Jimin stares right back at him, a frown on his face.

“What?” Jeongguk asks. His voice is rough, lower than the other day, probably because is too early for him to be properly awake.

“Why are you here?” Jimin says, picking up the knife and going back to shelling the mussels.

“Why not?”

Jimin takes a sharp intake of air, ready to spit some nasty comment but Jeongguk is smiling and he just...can’t. A first.

“Teach me,” Jeongguk says.

“Why would I do that?” Jimin mumbles, a bit uncomfortable in his skin. Jeongguk is a city boy, he has no place in their stall. He doesn’t match with the smell of decay and blood.

“So I can help you and also save you from them,” Jeongguk says, pointing at his back with his thumb.

Jimin looks over, finding Namjoon explaining something with a very serious face and Yoongi feigning he actually gets it while in reality he’s just utterly lost. And captivated, captivated as well. Yikes. Reluctantly, Jimin picks up a spare knife, making sure it’s sharp enough before handing it to Jeongguk.

“Watch,” he says, before demonstrating.

Jeongguk follows the motions with his eyes, gaze intent, and after a few rounds, he picks a shell himself. He is - to Jimin’s surprise - really good at it, quickly catching on Jimin’s tricks until he’s shelling almost at the same speed. Jimin whistles, impressed, and Jeongguk shoots him a brief smile.

“You’re really good with your hands,” Jimin comments, carelessly saying the words and noticing too late the double meaning behind them.

Jeongguk laughs under his breath, rubbing at his nose with the back of his hand. “I’m gonna let that pass because I’m a gentleman and the stench is killing my game but, yeah...I’ve always being good at stuff. Like...random stuff,” he shrugs.

Jimin hums. “What do you do for a living?” he says then, surprising himself at starting a conversation on his own volition.

Jeongguk does not look up when he replies. “Nothing.”

Jimin stops with his knife halfway through a shell. “Nothing?”

“I surf.”

“You surf.”

Jeongguk sighs, settling the knife on top of the counter. “I don’t work. I don’t study. I own a loft in Gangnam and a car my parents decided I should own. I get money wired to my account each month so I never have to worry about being short.”

Jimin blinks, appalled. “So...you do nothing, at all?”

Jeongguk goes back to work, eyes downcast. “I just have fun.”

“You just have...wow...” Jimin says. “What the fuck are you doing cleaning mussels here then?”

“Working my way into your pants,” Jeongguk replies cheekily, somehow breaking the serious conversation they had going just seconds ago.

A snort forces Jimin to look away from Jeongguk’s eyes, finding Yoongi closer than before, getting a hold of his jacket hanging from one of the hooks.

“Good luck with that,” Yoongi says to Jeongguk, amused. “Jimin was pretty much born with a chastity belt.”

“I’m actually not sure his dick works anymore,” Hyorin adds, walking into the stall right at that moment.

Jimin ignores them all, washing his hands at the sink, determined in not letting anyone know his heart is racing at Jeongguk’s words. He composes himself quickly though, turning back around with a bored face.

“If I knew you were coming here because of that, I would have left you home,” Namjoon says, pinching Jeongguk’s arm. He turns to Yoongi. “I’m gonna get going but maybe we could...you know...later.”

Yoongi turns red. “Right….later.”

Hyorin rolls her eyes. “For fuck’s sake,” she mutters, grabbing the bowl with shelled mussels and starting to assemble them into transparent containers.

Jeongguk grins, turning to wink at Jimin.

“Thanks for the lesson. See you next time.”

Hyorin and Jimin both follow the surfer as he leaves the stall, their gazes reflecting the same level of confusion.

“Next time?” she says, arching an eyebrow at Jimin. He shrugs. She looks wistfully back at the door. “Would you mind if I try to score this one?”

“He’s gay, Noona.”

“Do you think he might be into strap-ons?”

Jimin shakes his head.

 

***

 

“Hyung.”

Jimin looks up from where he’s sharpening the knives. Jeongguk is sitting on top of the counter, playing with an empty shell. He looks soft in his bright yellow shirt, kind of glowy. Like the sun. They are complete strangers, opposites. Where Jimin is curt and prickly, Jeongguk is boisterous and smooth. They don’t match, their moments together feel a lot like banging a square into a circle mold, but they keep happening. Life keeps getting them together.

Jimin goes back to the knives.

“What?” replies Jimin with a grunt. The sun, what the actual fuck.

“Let’s have dinner tonight.”

Everything is dark around them but for the lonely light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Jimin is tired after a full day at work. He stinks and his clothes are dirty and there’s fish guts under his nails. He’s pretty sure he has his grumpy face on and that he burped at some point. Despite everything, Jeongguk wants to eat with him. No matter the nasty, Jeongguk wants to sit down in front of him for at least another hour. Jimin should say no, but he’s also weak.

Maybe a little soft already.

“Alright.”

 

***

 

“How is it, to do nothing?” Jimin asks. “How does it feel?”

Jeongguk cuts the fish’s head off, running the knife along its belly afterwards. He pauses then, mulling over the question. How does it feel? Boring, meaningless, empty.

“It’s alright,” he says.

Jimin hums, grabbing another fish. He tries to picture a life where he doesn’t have to wake up early. Where he doesn’t have to walk into freezing cold water every morning and dig his hands into fish guts and leftover food to survive. He fails.

“I just can’t imagine, how it is,” Jimin comments, continuing to clean the fish. A scale lands on his cheek.

It’s Jeongguk who reaches for it, dragging his thumb over Jimin’s skin to get the scale away. The touch sends a shiver down Jimin’s spine.

“Fun, that’s how it is. I wake up at any time of the day, I eat whatever I want. I fuck whoever I want. I got all the time in the world.”

“It’s so weird,” Jimin comments, composing himself. “You must be loaded, to be able to do that.”

“My family just has enough money to afford me sitting my life out,” Jeongguk replies, lowering his gaze, “as long as I don’t interfere.”

“Interfere with what?”

“Business,” Jeongguk says. He looks wistfully out into the market, at the fishermen starting yet another day of hard labor. “When I came out to them, they took it well. Said they supported me but that it was bad for business, you know? To have a gay heir? So they shipped me off to Seoul with a shit ton of money and some sweet words about doing whatever I pleased.”

“I see.”

Jimin fillets the fish in such a fast, efficient way Jeongguk whistles in approval. They stay silent for the rest of the morning, working until Yoongi tells Jimin he’s done enough. Jeongguk takes that as his clue to leave, so he washes his hands making sure to scrub under his nails, before turning to leave. Jimin stops him, however, before he can say his goodbyes.

“Let’s eat,” Jimin says, ignoring the sideways look Yoongi throws his way.

Eating for Jimin means some fried fish and an oily bun, sitting cross legged by the docks. Jeongguk eyes the fish within the bun for a while, confused as to why someone would eat that, but Jimin adds spicy sauce on top and pretty much shoves it into his mouth.

“It’s good,” he murmurs, around a mouthful, urging Jeongguk to try.

The seagulls circle around them, waiting the leftovers and Jeongguk kind of wants to offer his own food as tribute but refrains from doing so, not wanting to offend Jimin and the old lady that prepared their meal. Jimin licks his lips and fingers repeatedly after he’s done, hitting his chest when he feels a burp coming up. Jeongguk swallows the last bit of his food with a grimace, fish and bread is definitely not for him.

“So,” Jimin says, “you have complete freedom and your best option is doing nothing?”

Jeongguk groans.

“You got like...no passion? Nothing you like to do?” Jimin presses.

“I surf.”

“Do you compete professionally or something?”

“No?”

“Then it isn’t what you’re all about,” Jimin frowns. “You got no dreams…”

The statement stings more than what Jeongguk cares to admit. He bites the inside of his cheek, exhales a full load of fish breath and frustration.

“I’m just a basic bitch,” he dismisses, trying to end the conversation. “Just another city boy, like you say so often.”

Jimin is still looking at him though, with his heavy gaze and ancient eyes. So full of long forgotten knowledge, so keen.

“It’s because no one expects anything from you, right?” Jimin says in a low voice, tilting his head to the side. “You don’t try because no one is there to see.”

“If you’re going to keep psychoanalyzing me then I rather go,” Jeongguk makes to stand up, but Jimin grabs his wrist.

“It’s called getting to know each other, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk scoffs, dusting his pants. He smells like fish and oil. His skin is clammy and his stomach is doing somersaults, all because of a boy with sad eyes and stupid lips. One that digs too deep.

“Why do you hate city boys so much?” Jeongguk asks, crossing his arms.

Jimin looks away.

“Getting to know each other my ass.”

 

***

 

Jeongguk rides the barrel with adrenaline electrifying his veins. The perfect tunnel of water hides him from view but he can hear Taehyung’s and Hoseok’s excited cries among the roar of the wave. He’s high by the time the wave melts back into the sea, rushing for the surf. Taehyung paddles closer to pat him on the back, gushing about the quality of the barrel, but Jeongguk has his eyes on the sand, where a head of pink waits.

“Uh, oh,” says Taehyung playfully but Jeongguk doesn’t return the smile.

He does, though, paddle back to shore. Jimin is wearing his usual denim shorts and a striped long sleeve, toes buried in the wet sand. His heavy gaze follows Jeongguk out of the water, it waits while the surfer maneuvers around his board and wetsuit. At the end, Jeongguk shrugs on a t-shirt coming to sit beside Jimin with a huff.

Jimin rests his chin on his knees. “Is it fun, surfing?”

Jeongguk squints at the horizon where Taehyung is still at it, laughing with Hoseok. Jimin plays with the sand, waiting. He really wants to be mad. He wants to give Jimin the middle finger and go find an easier dick to suck. At the end, Jeongguk exhales, clicking his tongue.

“Yeah, it’s fun. You should try,” he says, reluctantly. The little hint of a smile in the corner of Jimin’s lips makes it all worth it though. Jeongguk wonders if the spring boredom is melting his brain.

“I dated one, you know. Someone from the city,” Jimin says in a soft voice. “It was years ago, I was really stupid. But it hurt.”

“Sob story,” Jeongguk says.

“I’m a basic bitch like that,” Jimin retorts, mocking Jeongguk’s own words.

Jeongguk snorts, standing up and tilting his head so Jimin would follow. He hollers at the water and Taehyung gives him a thumbs up.

“Was that a good apology?” Jimin asks, walking along the shore, shoes dangling from his hand.

“Why are you apologizing?” asks Jeongguk, cold just in his t-shirt.

Jimin offers his cardigan. It’s baby blue and fluffy, odd. Jeongguk puts it on anyway.

“I’m shit at making friends,” Jimin says, simply.

“Too bad there’s so little selection in this place.”

Jimin bumps shoulders with him, a soft blush on his cheeks. Jeongguk grimaces at how cute he thinks it is, matched with the spun sugar of Jimin’s hair. Spring is definitely not Jeongguk’s brightest season.

“Don’t sweat it, Hyung,” Jeongguk says after a moment. “Spring’s too short for that.”

Jimin shields his eyes, looking at the horizon. “Let’s watch the sunset,” he says, plopping his ass back down on the sand.

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, commenting on how lame it is, but he sits down anyway. He starts doodling on the wet sand, random traces that morph into a familiar face. Jimin leans closer to look.

“You’re pretty good,” he comments, “best rendition of Yoongi-hyung’s scowl I’ve ever seen.”

Jeongguk wipes it away with his hand, ignoring Jimin’s little sound of protest.

“Why did you do that?” Jimin scolds. Jeongguk shrugs. “Do you like drawing?”

“Sometimes.”

“You should do it more often than sometimes,” Jimin says. “You have talent.”

Jeongguk hums, leaning back on his palms and fixing his gaze on the horizon, aware of the heat on his face. Jimin grumbles some more, falling silent quickly as the sun starts its race to meet the sea.

“What do you want from life, Hyung?” Jeongguk asks when they are bathed in caramel tones. “What are your dreams?”

Jimin taps his chin. “Own a boat. Fix the roof of the shack...dye Hyorin-noona’s hair pink.”

His lips twitch but Jeongguk frowns at him.

“Those are just material things.”

“Stable things,” Jimin refutes.

“Dreams aren’t stable,” Jeongguk scowls. “They’re made of that deep shit that never comes true.”

Jimin nods. “That deep shit is not what I’m made of…”

Jeongguk’s scowl deepens. He stares angrily at the seafoam dirtying the shore, not quite sure why Jimin’s words bother him so much. He scowls so much Jimin ends up nudging him with his shoulder, until Jeongguk tilts his head his way. He then proceeds to smooth the crease between Jeongguk’s eyebrows with his thumb. It’s slow and thoughtful, feels a lot like he cares.

“Do you want me to say I dream about being happy?” Jimin murmurs, dropping his hand.

Jeongguk gets a bit lost in Jimin’s eyes, brown and beautiful. “Is that a secret?”

Jimin shrugs, shuffling closer until their thighs touch. The tide wets their feet with each rise and Jeongguk feels content.

 

***

 

“So...Jeongguk.”

Namjoon looks up from his notepad, pen stuck in between his lips. Yoongi is brewing some weird mix of tea he swears is good for seasickness, eyes fixed on the teapot.

“What with him?” Namjoon says, adjusting the scarf around his neck.

The day is dark outside, the clouds a sign of a storm closing in. If Namjoon tilts his head, he can still feel the slight swaying of the sea under his feet, which doesn’t help with his upset stomach. Yoongi sets a cup in front of him and he pours hot tea into it. Namjoon tries to control the nausea crawling up his throat. The thing smells awful, like if Yoongi strolled down the shore picking up stray seaweed and then boiled it along Jeongguk’s socks.

He smiles anyway when Yoongi urges him to take a sip, hoping he won’t puke all over the fisherman’s kind effort. His throat clamps when he tastes the tea but he swallows it, feeling sweat collecting on his upper lip.

“Nice,” he croaks out.

Yoongi laughs, shaking his head. “It’s not supposed to be nice, Namjoon. Don’t lie,” he says, patting the other’s back and settling across from him. “Is Jeongguk really interested in Jimin?”

Namjoon covers his nose before taking another gulp from the cup, the hot liquid slowly easing the shakiness in his gut. “Well...it depends on your definition of interest.”

“Really now?”

“I won’t say he wants to marry him...” Namjoon starts, tracing the swirls of the cup design, effectively avoiding Yoongi’s eyes.

“He’s been down at the market every single day of the week,” Yoongi deadpans. “It’s driving me insane.”

“Like I said, maybe not marry,” Namjoon defends, “but I’m sure he does want to tap that.”

“Can’t he like….tap something else?” Yoongi asks with a frown.

Namjoon takes Yoongi’s hand on his own, marveling at the contrast between their skins. The fisherman’s hands are slim and pale, full of callouses and small scars. Beautiful, mainly because of those.

“Jeonggukie is a good kid, a bit of a free soul - maybe too free sometimes - but overall good,” Namjoon says. “He wouldn’t consciously hurt Jimin.”

“Consciously…”

“Also, if Jimin isn’t interested then it should be fine, right?” Namjoon continues. “He seems mostly annoyed when Jeongguk is around. I wouldn't say he likes him that much.”

“Oh, he likes him just fine,” Yoongi says dismissively, pulling Namjoon towards the room. “I just hope they’re both on the same page.”

Namjoon presses himself against Yoongi’s back, dropping some kisses down the soft column of his neck.

“Should I worry?” he asks when they step into the room.

Yoongi sheds his shirt and pants, walking over to the bed where he settles - hands and knees, ass high in the air. Namjoon traces the fisherman’s back reverently, finger bumping over the ridges of his spine. Yoongi arches at the contact, lowering his body and turning around. Namjoon lowers himself on top, feeling as dizzy as before.

“Maybe,” whispers Yoongi, pulling at Namjoon’s sweater.

“I could talk to him,” Namjoon continues with a shiver.

Yoongi shuts him up with a kiss.

 

 

Taehyung plops down next to Jeongguk on the couch, throwing his feet on the other’s lap. Jeongguk barely acknowledges his presence, too busy clearing the level of the game he’s playing on his phone. Taehyung is patient for all but a minute, quickly wiggling in place, trying to get comfortable, kicking Jeongguk’s arm.

“Stop,” Jeongguk grumbles, slapping his friend’s calf but not sparing him a look.

“Play with me,” Taehyung pouts, scrambling to stick his face between Jeongguk’s and the phone.

“No,” says Jeongguk, pushing Taehyung’s face away.

“C’mon I’m bored. Hoseok is sleeping and Namjoon is out with that fish dude and,” Taehyung makes a melodramatic pause. “It’s just you and me.”

Jeongguk sighs, locking his phone to stare at his friend. “What do you wanna do?”

“We could surf!” Taehyung offers, jumping out of the couch. “Sunset is soon, you love riding into the sunset.”

Jeongguk snorts. “What time is it?”

Taehyung digs into his pocket for his own phone. “Almost seven?”

“Can’t”

“Why?” Taehyung whines.

“Got stuff to do.”

Taehyung looks almost like a kicked puppy, following with his eyes while Jeongguk changes clothes. He considers the boardshorts for a second, before opting for jeans after a quick look out the window. The sky is clouded, almost threatening to break into a storm. Jeongguk thinks it’s perfect.

“Is this about that Jimin dude?” Taehyung asks, defeated. Jeongguk shrugs on a clean sweatshirt. “Why are you obsessed with him, he isn’t even that hot.”

“I'm not obsessed.”

“You’ve been chasing him for like...weeks. Even though he’s clearly not into you.”

Jeongguk snorts. “No, I haven’t,” he denies, mussing his hair and opting for a beanie instead. “Besides, everyone is into me.”

Taehyung leans forward. “You like him, even though he’s tiny and feisty and mean.”

Jeongguk whirls around, jacket midway up his arms. “First of all, he isn’t mean just...rough around the edges. Second, I don’t like people. I fuck people and then move on. He isn’t my type, you know my type—”

“Then why do you keep circling around him like a fucking vulture?” asks Taehyung.

“Don’t interrupt me,” Jeongguk says, finishing with his jacket. “This town doesn’t have any better and I need my release. And before you say something stupid, no I’d never suck your fucking dick.”

Taehyung smirks. “So you’re just settling for his dick because there’s no more.” Jeongguk points at him and Taehyung cackles, throwing his head back. “You’re so full of shit.”

“Think whatever you want,” Jeongguk says, reaching for his wallet.

“Ah, c’mon we’ve been friends for ages, I know you. You’ve never worked so hard for dick before, just admit you like the fisherman. At least admit he’s interesting.”

Jeongguk frowns. “He’s...a good challenge. That’s what he is.”

Taehyung laughs. “So you’ll drop his ass when the dirty is done.”

“Of course,” says Jeongguk avoiding Taehyung’s eyes.

Taehyung leans back on the couch, taking out his phone and opening the games app. “You don’t know how to lie…”

Jeongguk scowls. “Are you done?”

“Yeah, yeah. Go on loverboy...I’ll be here when ‘Pretty dick’ breaks your heart.”

Jeongguk closes the door behind him with a bang.

 

 

Jimin finishes polishing the glasses with a sigh, more than ready for his shift to end. The bad weather made their morning routine at the sea more difficult than normal and Jimin’s shoulders are ready to give up. The clock strikes eight and Jimin throws the rag into the sink. One more day down.

“Leaving?” asks Seokjin, who’s coming fromt he back with a case of beer.

Jimin nods, taking off his apron and throwing it inside a hamper pushed into a corner. Eunha barely acknowledges him when he walks past her but he doesn’t mind, too relieved the day is finally over. He’s just mildly surprised when he sees Jeongguk leaning against the restaurant sign, plastic bag dangling from his hand.

“Jimin-hyung!” he calls with a smile.

The fisherman stops, confused frown bringing his eyebrows together. It isn’t that it’s odd to find Jeongguk there - the boy practically lives at the market stall these days - it is just that it’s still surprising, the fact that Jeongguk keeps coming back. Disconcerting but also warm, like open skies during winter time. Jimin walks over to him, attracted like a moth to a flame.

“You’re here,” he says, shoving his hands into his pockets to protect them from the cold.

Jeongguk lifts the bag, shaking it in the air. There are bottles inside, alcohol.

“Do you have plans, Hyung?”

 

 

There’s something about Jimin’s shack, maybe the musty shingles, maybe the gigantic window that doesn’t quite fit with the aesthetics. Something. Whatever it is, it scares away the loneliness that’s made a home within Jeongguk’s bones. Even though he’s sitting by himself on the floor, watching the waves go up and down, he feels in tune - connected. The shack is in complete darkness, devoid of warmth - very much like the loft back in the city - but it doesn’t instill Jeongguk to step out and break havoc; it doesn’t fill him with the urge to live or pretend. Pretend to live.

“Are you brooding?”

He tilts his head back, eyeing Jimin upside down. He looks like some sort of giant like that. Jeongguk’s gut tightens.

“Couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lamps,” Jeongguk says.

Jimin shakes his head. “Never used an oil lamp before?”

“Who the fuck doesn’t use regular light bulbs these days?

“Me,” Jimin says, taking the device from the hook and lighting it up.

The room is filled with a soft yellow glow and the memory of warmth. Jimin is clad in an old sweater, made out of thick wool. It’s a little big on him, wide around the neck. That and some ratty pants. He sits cross legged beside Jeongguk, frowning at the night sky.

“It’s gonna rain,” he says. “Spring storm.”

“Drink?” offers Jeongguk.

They set a fast pace, wincing every time the soju slides down their throats. It’s crap quality, Jeongguk knows, but the town didn’t have a lot to offer so it’ll have to do. Jimin snorts when he tries to be all polite, facing away to drink his shot. He snatches the bottle from Jeongguk’s hands, serving him another shot and drinking from the bottle, looking straight into his eyes.

“Does that mean I can cut out the ‘hyung’?” Jeongguk says, taking out a pack of cigarettes. He offer one to Jimin, who takes it, eyeing the thing as if it were some out-of-this-world wonder.

“Never had one,” he murmurs, leaning forward when Jeongguk offers fire.

“Can I just call you Jimin?” Jeongguk insists.

Jimin shrugs, leaning back. He coughs through the first couple of drags, making Jeongguk giggle in his alcohol-induced haze, but he’s a quick learner and soon Jeongguk finds himself dreading the moment he offered him a smoke. Jimin’s lips look obscene, pursed around the cigarette, slick with soju and spit. Lighting illuminates the waves and soon after, the rumble of thunder shakes the whole shack. Jimin slams the empty bottle of soju on the floor, taking one last drag of the cigarette before putting it out on a conch. He turns on hands and knees, groaning as he stands up.

“C’mon.”

They stumble down the path on their way to the shore, Jimin shedding clothes as if it were a hot spring afternoon instead of the beginnings of a storm. Jeongguk walks unsteadily behind him, collecting everything Jimin throws away until they are at the shore with salt coating their cheeks. Jeongguk arm’s are full, Jimin is only wearing his underwear. His back looks broad even when logic tells Jeongguk it’s not. It must be the hips, he reasons, lost in the tremors whispering under the fisherman’s skin. Jimin turns to Jeongguk, eyes closed, swaying slightly.

“Let’s swim,” he says, walking backwards into the water.

Jeongguk has never been one to make smart decisions while drunk - or needy - so he strips and follows through, shivering when the water hugs his waist. He sticks his hands under his armpits, teeth chattering in the wind. Jimin is unaffected by it all, expression blissful as water laps at his skin. It’s almost ridiculous how relaxed Jimin seems to be, considering how hard the waves crash against the shore. Jeongguk sure feels about to turn around and bolt.

“You look about to shit yourself!” Jimin shouts into the wind, wild. “Weren’t you a swimmer!”

“It’s a fucking typhoon!” Jeongguk yells back, stumbling forward when a wave crashes on his exposed back.

Uncoordinated, he falls under the weight of the water, tossed this way and that by the current before a pair of arms pull him out. Jimin is laughing when Jeongguk breaks out into the surface, gasping for air. His laughter rings along the wind, pure and refreshing, leaving Jeongguk stunned. He’s never seen Jimin laugh before - smile, tight around the edges, sure thing - but this view is a whole different thing. Like a miracle. It feels liberating, like defeating the final boss in a game.

Jimin drags Jeongguk out easily, years of rowing adding strength to his lean muscles. They collapse on the wet sand, Jimin still bursting out on sweet giggles. Jeongguk starts giggling too, tackling Jimin down in a fake round of punches.

“Fucking psycho,” he grunts, pining Jimin against the sand, feeling his head spin. Jimin is wheezing through his drunken laughter, all pliant and pretty. He feels a lot like a dream. “You tried to kill me.”

“Was it that obvious?” Jimin snorts, chest heaving.

Jeongguk blinks, goosebumps rising on his torso in the breeze. He’s cold all over but for the places where his body touches Jimin. That feels warm, like cold heat. Ice on naked flesh. Burning. Jimin squirms, pushing Jeongguk until he’s the one on top and the surfer lets him, kind of mesmerized.

“What’s with you?” Jimin slurs, breath coming out in little puffs. “Eyeing me so weird.” His back is gritty with sand when Jeongguk runs his fingers over it.

“Jimin,” he says in a low voice, cock twitching. “Let’s fuck.”

“What?” says Jimin, trying to focus his eyes.

“You know.”

Jimin watches Jeongguk for a long time, grin playing on his lips. “You think I eat ass?”

Jeongguk pulls him close to lap the salt off of his neck, relishing in the way Jimin’s hips stutter. He fists Jimin’s hair, holding him in place while he licks the shell of his ear, sucking the tender flesh into his mouth.

“You aren’t eating pussy, that I know. I’m taking a risk here,” Jeongguk mumbles, sucking under Jimin’s ear, wanting to leave a mark. Jimin groans, grinds against him. “C’mon.”

Jimin leans away, pupils blown wide. “Say it again...ask me again.”

A shiver runs down Jeongguk’s spine. “Fuck me, Hyung.”

Jimin dives down immediately, open mouthed and demanding yet incredible soft. It riles Jeongguk up easily, the sloppy but effective way in which their tongues glide together. Jimin smells like the sea. He tastes like soju and cigarettes, like explosive need and bad decisions. Jeongguk drinks it up as if it were honeyed wine. Loving the risk.

The way up the cliff is full of stumbling and heated kisses that make Jeongguk lose a shoe or two. Rain starts falling halfway through, little droplets of ice, and Jimin tilts his head back, sticks his tongue out to catch it, pulling at Jeongguk by the arm. Jeongguk gives up on the clothes at the entrance of the shack, leaving them in a wet pile and scooping Jimin up into his arms, tasting the rain on his lips.

“Lube,” Jeongguk says once inside, desperate, getting rid of his underwear.

Jimin staggers down the short hallway and lighting illuminates the room, momentarily blinding Jeongguk. He feels more like he sees Jimin coming back. He reaches forward, connecting with skin and skimming down until he’s taking Jimin’s underwear down, falling to his knees at the same time.

“You aren’t pink down here,” he comments while the world rocks under him.

“I tried...the dye burns my balls.”

Jeongguk rests his head on Jimin’s hipbone, holding him steady while he breathes him in - secrets and salt and man. A man; he gets Namjoon now. Jimin steps out of his briefs, teeters on his spot, gaze hazy.

“Are you praying?” he laughs, fingers threading through Jeongguk’s locks. “I’m not god.”

Jeongguk noses against Jimin’s pubic bone. “I am.”

The quiet gasp filtering past Jimin’s lips is as satisfying as the taste of his cock. Granted, no dick tastes like marshmallows but Jeongguk always enjoyed the rather sharp flavor of it; always been a slut for the weight of it on his tongue. For the thrill and the debauchery. He sucks Jimin’s dick with little grace, the alcohol making him use perhaps too much teeth. Jimin doesn’t seem to mind, hips canting forward, hissing every time Jeongguk bites him playfully. Pulling at his strands.

“Fucking teeth,” Jimin grunts, rutting so hard it brings tears to Jeongguk’s eyes. “You that hungry?” Jeongguk digs his nails into Jimin’s ass in response. “Bitch…”

To block the burn, Jeongguk fists his own cock and he slurps, setting a pace matching Jimin’s desperate hips. There’s drool on his chin, salt and precum on his cheeks and a fire growing steadily in his groin; Jeongguk is in heaven, blissful at being used, the world nothing but a blank space where Jimin exists. That and the cock in his mouth. At a particularly hard thrust, Jeongguk slips off half choking, fully delirious.

“Hell,” he coughs, slapping Jimin on the thigh. “Give me that shit.”

Jimin throws him the bottle of lube, settling down on the carpet. “Might be expired.”

“They don’t expire,” Jeongguk scoffs.

Jimin sighs, gaze following as Jeongguk coats his fingers with the slippery substance, rubbing them to warm it up. A particularly loud thunder makes Jimin jump and Jeongguk settles more comfortably, circling his rim before slipping a finger inside. His whole body gives in at that, muscles relaxing as he stretches his hole. Jimin closes his fingers over his own cock but Jeongguk slaps the hand away.

“Don’t fucking come,” he grunts.

Jimin shuffles forward then, licking a fat strip up Jeongguk’s cock. “You can come,” he says, before sucking at the head.

The added feeling of Jimin’s mouth makes Jeongguk shake. He speeds up his fingers, adding some more lube and curling them in, wanting to edge himself. When Jimin starts mouthing at his balls, Jeongguk yanks his fingers away, thighs twitching.

“Ok, I’m ready. I’m ready.”

Jimin pushes him down and Jeongguk drops his legs open, alcohol long replaced by lust within his veins. Blinking through his wet eyelashes, Jeongguk takes a second look at Jimin’s cock as the fisherman slicks it up. It has the perfect size, a bit shorter than his but thicker; veiny with some wild hair around it making it look like an exotic flower - overall really fucking pretty. Taehyung was right.

“Hold them,” Jimin instructs, tapping Jeongguk’s thighs and he hurries to comply, cheeks burning at being exposed.

Jimin groans at the view, pumps himself a couple times, licking his lips and then, finally, he pushes in. Jeongguk holds his breath, the wind howls outside, and Jimin bottoms out with a shudder. He rests his palms on either side of Jeongguk’s shoulders, breathing in and out - waiting until Jeongguk finally gives him a nod. The first roll of Jimin’s hips reaffirms the conviction that the fisherman indeed owns an amazing dick. The second reminds Jeongguk why he likes dick so much. The following ones have Jeongguk’s stomach quivering in pleasure, arms shaking with the effort of holding his legs up, exposing his ass.

The rain batters the roof of the shack and Jimin sets an impossibly fast pace, harsh puffs of air filtering between his lips. Jeongguk gives up on keeping silent soon after, keening at each stroke.

“Look at those legs,” Jimin rasps out, hands kneading Jeongguk’s muscular thighs. “So wet,” he adds fixed on the way his dick slips in and out of the surfer’s ass.

“Ah...Jim-Jimin...”

Jimin yanks Jeongguk’s hips closer - angles his thrusts just so - and Jeongguk moans low and needy. Groans every time Jimin licks his lips, every time Jimin takes a break to grind against his ass. Tight, purposeful circles. Jeongguk scratches at the rug burning his back, the pressure in his groin becoming unbearable.

“Fuck,” he whines, not even ashamed of the break in his voice. “Hyung...” God he loves this. Loves the way sex can obliterate everything that’s fucked up in his life, leaving only pleasure and the sweet burn behind.

Jimin is generous. He lets out a shaky breath, hand wrapping around Jeongguk immediately, jerking him off at the rhythm of his hips. It takes just a handful of tugs for Jeongguk to come, arching off of the floor, muscles spasming in bliss. Jimin comes almost immediately, falling on top of Jeongguk, shuddering his release. Silent.

“Shit,” Jeongguk groans when Jimin pulls out.

The fisherman stumbles to the kitchen, getting a hold of a rag and throwing it a Jeongguk. He grabs it, moaning softly as cum oozes out of his ass, all good and sticky. Still warm. He plays with it for a bit, biting his lip at the tender feeling in his ass. After a moment, Jimin comes back with a blanket, still as naked as he came to the world. Dick soft. Jeongguk looks at him through half closed eyes, already slipping under. All sad like that and he still thinks Jimin’s dick is pretty, fuck.

“Couch,” Jimin says, nudging Jeongguk with his foot.

“Fuck off,” Jeongguk mumbles, slapping the leg away.

Jimin shrugs, throwing the blanket on top of Jeongguk’s curled up form, adding a pillow as an afterthought. He disappears into what Jeongguk assumes is his room after that, closing the door behind him, and then Jeongguk is alone. The storm is still raging outside, the sea roaring in fury but Jeongguk feels calm. As if this were a home where nothing bad can touch him.

Like that, surrounded by Jimin’s scent and full of cum, he falls asleep.

 

 

Jeongguk wakes up to a cat nuzzling his exposed hand. He startles, scaring the cat in the process, confused as to why the animal was in the house. A few more blinks bring back memories from the past night. That and his sore ass. The cat is kind of ugly, with matted hair and a few scars, probably full of fleas. It meows at him, rubbing against the table’s leg, jumping on top of the kitchen counter in search of food.

The shack is eerily silent. Outside, the sky is a beautiful blue and devoid of clouds. He should go. Jimin would soon wake up, especially now with the cat clawing at the closed door. He should really stand up and go, so he does. Jeongguk folds the blanket, feeling a weird void in his chest. Maybe he could stay for breakfast? Manage to make Jimin smile again?

“Fucking chill,” he mutters.

Jeongguk finds his underwear on the floor and the rest of his clothes outside. The cat follows him, flopping on the floor to expose his belly but Jeongguk ignores him. He isn’t as happy as he expected to be after a good fuck. He doesn’t feel weightless at all. Taehyung’s words come to bite him in the ass when he realizes he’s bothered because he wants more. He doesn’t want just a one time fuck.

He yanks his clothes on, ignoring the dank smell and sets a fast pace back to his house. From the entrance of the shack, the cat watches him go.

 

***

 

“God damnit, Jimin!”

Jimin catches Yoongi by the shirt just in time, pulling him backwards into the boat. The sea is angry, foamy at the mouth, huge waves tossing them left and right. Jimin ducks his head in an apology, hurrying to get a hold of the oars and stabilize Gloss. Yoongi joins him, both of them fighting against nature until Yoongi is able to finally pull the net into the boat. It comes almost empty and Yoongi curses under his breath.

The way back to shore is silent. Yoongi is worried, pondering over how to make ends meet, so he’s not in the mood for small talk. Jimin on the other hand is thinking about Jeongguk. It’s been a week since their drunk sweaty business happened and he has seen not even a hair of the surfer’s head. It isn’t that he misses him, not exactly, it’s more the routine that’s killing Jimin. The lack of colourful boardshorts and strawberry blond strands among the gray of his life.

Water splashes Jimin’s face and he wonder if he did something wrong. He wonders if Jeongguk was actually like all the other city boys.

Probably yes.

“Snap out of it, Jimin,” Yoongi growls.

Jimin does, rowing in earnest.

 

***

 

Namjoon steps out of his room, windbreaker zipped up to his chin.

“I’m going to the fishermen’s beach,” he says when he notices Jeongguk is awake. “Wanna come along?”

“Nah.”

Namjoon frowns, taking a banana from the fruit bowl. The day looks promising, nothing of the past week instability visible in the sky.

“You sure?” Namjoon says. Jeongguk nods, flipping a page on the comic book he’s reading. “Hyorin-noona asked about you the other day.”

“Tell her I’m still very, very gay,” Jeongguk replies, throwing his comic book and stretching with a groan.

Namjoon tracks as the boy walks to the kitchen, fetching some milk from the fridge. He pours some into a bowl, adding cereal afterwards. Namjoon makes a face but Jeongguk seems happy about it. Something is off. Definitely.

“Did, eh….did something happen?” Namjoon asks.

Jeongguk looks at him in the eye. “Can I go sleep in your room? My back is killing me.”

Namjoon nods, stunned at the boy ignoring his question.

“Thanks, Hyung,” Jeongguk says, going into the room and closing the door behind him.

 

***

 

Yoongi knows Jimin is nervous by the sound of his feet dragging on the concrete. On the one side, it’s unnerving, to see his friend like that. On the other, it’s a relief. Yoongi can’t remember the last time Jimin reacted to anyone that wasn’t him or Hyorin.

Namjoon and his friends are waiting by the entrance of the fair, sticking out with their clothes among the villagers. It’s the last day of the Spring carnival so he agreed to meet Namjoon there, after countless days of begging. The huge effort he made to bring Jimin along is worth it when he sees the dimpled smile breaking onto Namjoon’s face. Ah, this dimple weakness.

Yoongi greets them shily, linking hands with Namjoon and trying to ignore the coos and snickers provided by Taehyung and Hoseok. Jimin and Jeongguk nod to each other, but they don’t interact beyond that. Yoongi raises his eyebrows at Namjoon, who shrugs.

So be it.

 

 

Jimin has never been one for fairs. He just doesn't get the hype about them, though he used to love them as a kid, back when his family was still in one piece. People around him smile all big and goofy, eating sweets until their stomachs are full, but Jimin can only look at Jeongguk. The surfer is standing in front of a carousel, staring at the people flying in the air as it spins.

He looks gorgeous, artfully messy Seokjin would say. Some jeans and a turtle neck make him resemble a work of art of the likes the town hasn’t seen in awhile. It also makes Jimin’s pants uncomfortable to some degree, knowing what all those clothes conceal. Jimin used to be great at reading people before - before the city boy and his father happened - but now he kind of struggles with the whole facial expressions thing.

He ignores this lacking side of him and goes to stand beside Jeongguk anyway. The surfer doesn’t say a word until people are getting off of the carousel and it’s time for a new batch to get in.

“Wanna ride?” Jeongguk asks, not waiting for a response as he steps in line.

They go in circles pretty much ignoring each other until they don’t and it’s then when Jimin regrets coming to the fair. He looks over to find Jeongguk staring at the sky, arms opened wide as the carousel hurls them around. It’s like the picture perfect definition of freedom, how the wind ruffles his hair - but the tightness around the surfer’s mouth kind of ruins it for Jimin.

Jeongguk sways a little when they are back on the ground and he drags Jimin to a cotton candy stand. He makes a joke about it and Jimin’s hair, snapping his teeth right in front of Jimin’s face. It makes the fisherman’s cock twitch.

“Are we chill?” Jimin asks, surprised by how nervous he feels.

Jeongguk shrugs. “Sure.”

When they go into the rickety haunted house, Jimin pushes Jeongguk into one of the dark corners, kissing him fiercely. It takes the surfer a minute to respond but then he’s gathering Jimin against his chest, parting his lips willingly. They mess around until a little girl points at them and the kid running the house kindly asks them to fuck off.

“Come to my house,” Jimin whispers when they stumble outside.

Jeongguk has half a mind to nod, eyes seeking for Namjoon and finding his friend frowning at him. He ducks his head, trailing after Jimin, with a heart boner so hard it hurts. It’s a bad idea, there’s too much shit between them, Jimin sees him too clear. But the boy is gorgeous and Jeongguk just wants to stop pretending for a little longer. Maybe stop forever.

When they arrive to the shack, Jimin guides him to his room. There’s an armoire pushed against a corner, that and a bed with a metal frame, both as old as time. Just like Jimin’s gaze.

“Are we chill?” Jimin asks again while he removes Jeongguk’s t-shirt.

Jeongguk wants to spill all the shit and say no. He wants to tell Jimin how everything got weird after they fucked. How it got rid of the itch but left him full of inadequacy instead. Jeongguk doesn’t get to do any of that, because Jimin dives straight for his neck and he just loses track of time. He squirms when Jimin uncaps the lube, heart beating wild.

“Don’t tease,” Jeongguk says, slapping Jimin’s hand away when he starts circling his rim. “I’m good c’mon.”

“Your loss,” mutters Jimin, kissing him silly before Jeongguk settles on his hands and knees. “Relax,” he adds, spreading Jeongguk’s cheeks.

The lube is cold when Jimin dribbles some down his crack, but it’s all worth it when he feels the pressure against his hole, the burn sweet and mind-numbing. The moon shines over them and Jeongguk looks at it through the window while Jimin fucks him from behind, while the fisherman stretches him open just right.

“Wanna ride me?” Jimin’s voice feels like silk on Jeongguk’s neck and he nods eagerly. Wanting.

Yeah...," he breathes when Jimin slides out, all slow and delicious, "yeah I do, fuck...I do.”

Jeongguk sinks down easily, all loose and wet, grabbing a hold of the metal frame to stabilize himself. Jimin closes his eyes when Jeongguk tightens around him, testing the waters. The surfer grabs a hold of his cock, pumping it a couple times - teasing - earning a soft gasp from Jimin; and it makes it easy - such a response - it makes it easy to discard everything and concentrate on the pleasure. To forget the messy feelings. Jeongguk rolls his hips expertly, the muscles in his legs more than ready to support his wild ride. Jimin gasps softly under him, hair splayed on the pillow, a gorgeous sea creature. Jimin is beautiful and perceptive but unattainable and Jeongguk hates him a bit. Hates that Jimin dared to make him fall.

Jeongguk rides him faster out of spite, moans spilling past his lips like a beautiful symphony.

“Close,” Jimin whispers, face scrunching up.

Jeongguk slams down harder, feeling his whole body shudder, muscles straining. Jimin gets the hint quickly. He plants his feet, thrusting up into Jeongguk with open eyes and commanding grunts, forcing the surfer to stare right back.

“Do you want it, baby?” Jimin breathes, nails digging into Jeongguk ass. Jeongguk nods eagerly, he wants it so much. “Beg a little baby, c’mon. Milk my cum, c'mon.”

Jeongguk’s whole body tingles at the pet name, hole squeezing Jimin. “Please...please I want it,” he whines. "Please, Hyung...”

Jimin moans softly and Jeongguk part his lips immediately, orgasm almost ripping him in half. The fisherman holds him in place, chasing his own climax and Jeongguk grips the frame, almost crying when Jimin finally spills into him. Hot and sticky. Filling. Unlike the last time, Jimin is all sweet and caring with him, cleaning him up while Jeongguk starts to drift away. He drops a few kisses here and there, plump lips warm and grounding. A trap.

“You can have the bed,” Jimin murmurs when he’s done, grabbing a blanket and disappearing into the living room.

Jeongguk stares at the ceiling for the longest time, growing cold by the minute. When he’s sure Jimin is asleep, he dresses up and leaves.

 

***

 

“Do you like him?” Yoongi asks while they detangle the nets. “Jeongguk.”

Jimin shrugs. “He’s a neat guy.”

“I mean if you actually like him, Jimin.”

Jimin watches his friend work with deft hands, long pale fingers getting rid of the knots. The light is minimal inside the stall but Jimin can follow Yoongi’s work easily. He can also see the frown on his face without even trying. Jimin considers the question. Does he like the surfer? There’s no easy answer for that. Jeongguk has managed to become a fixture in Jimin’s daily life, so fast Jimin doesn’t know if he is ready for when all of it stops.

“You know I don’t do that,” he replies at the end, avoiding Yoongi’s piercing eyes.

Yoongi grunts when his finger catches on a hook, drawing blood.

“Make sure the kid knows as well.”

 

***

 

The sky is cloudy and Jeongguk is just mildly disappointed as he stares at it from where he lies on the boat. Jimin is setting the nets, silent as always. Enigmatic. Alluring. So many adjectives. Jeongguk wonders how the city boy in Jimin’s past was stupid enough to let him go.

“Did you love him?” Jeongguk asks, tilting his head to look at Jimin better.

The fisherman has his lips pursed, eyebrows drawn together. He makes sure the net is right where he wants it before turning to face Jeongguk. The surfer looks gorgeous there, sprawled against the bow of the boat. Legs strong, lips delicate. Powerful exterior but a tender heart.

“Did I love who?” Jimin asks, crawling over until he’s settled on top of Jeongguk.

Jimin starts mouthing at Jeongguk’s neck and he sighs, settling his palms on the fisherman’s ass.

“The city boy,” he whispers. “The one that made you like this.”

Jimin laughs softly. There’s nothing guarded about it. Jeongguk sort of can’t believe himself.

“No,” he replies. “Maybe...but it wasn’t him...it was everything.”

“Everything?”

Jimin kisses Jeongguk, open mouthed and wet. All tongue. “Everything.”

Jeongguk is about to protest when he feels a hand palming at his crotch. He hums in approval, bringing Jimin’s mouth back to his.

“Have you ever done it in a boat?” Jeongguk asks in a breathy voice, watching as Jimin crawls back to work Jeongguk’s shorts open, taking his cock out.

Jimin licks at it tentatively, smirking when Jeongguk moans. It’s a nice dick, pretty bouncy if Jimin remembers correctly from when Jeongguk rode him like a champ. “Have you ever used this other than to show off?”

Jeongguk laughs, relaxing when Jimin starts sucking at the head.

“Nah,” he replies, opening his legs wider. “I’m more of a…ahh...dick kind of guy. Fuck, Jimin....I like it up the ass...a whole lot.”

Jimin does a quick job of getting Jeongguk off, finishing him just when the sun breaks through the clouds, like some kind of portent. He leans back with cum on his lips and red knees. Jeongguk wishes Spring could stretch for forever.

“Here,” Jimin says, handing over the oars. “I’m fried, row back to shore.”

Jeongguk tucks his dick back into his shorts before adjusting his hold onto the oars. He looks into the distance where the shore is barely visible and doubt creeps up his back. It doesn’t matter if he fails, right? No one really expects him to know how to maneuver Gloss around. Before he can dive right into the pit of self-deprecation, Jimin slaps his thigh.

“We don’t have the whole day,” he tsks, feigning annoyance. His eyes are kind, full of trust.

Jeongugk dips the oars in the water, feeling warm. He glances at Jimin, who’s leaning back against the bow. His hair shines like made out of gold now that the pink is gone. He looks exactly as Jeongguk imagines angels would, if he ignores the cum of course.

“Aren’t you worried I might sink this thing?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin opens one eye. “No.”

Jeongguk chuckles, shaking his head. His shoulders scream when he pushes against the water. “How?”

Jimin gets comfortable, crossing his hands on top of his belly.

“Because I believe in you.”

 

***

 

Jimin’s arms tense when he lifts a box and Jeongguk can’t look away. He fidgets with the knife in his hands, corner of his lips lifting every time Jimin laughs along with Yoongi as they load the truck. He tries to tell himself that it’s the muscles that are making him salivate like a starved man but deep down he knows that’s a fat lie. It isn’t the power rippling under Jimin’s skin that has him staring like an idiot. It’s all the fluttery things living in his stomach instead.

“We’ll be back,” Yoongi says and Jeongguk nods even though the fisherman isn’t really talking to him.

Jimin lifts the last box and sweat blooms on his brow. He looks all shiny and greasy, Jeongguk’s spring favorite. He throws Jeongguk a quick smile - a stripe on his belly exposed - and Jeongguk wants to say something crass but ends up just waving when dangerous words gather at the tip of his tongue.

“You should tell him.”

It takes Jeongguk some time to stop looking out the window even after Yoongi and Jimin are long gone, but finally he manages to tear his eyes away. Hyorin is chopping seaweed at the counter, her wild hair in a high ponytail. She isn’t looking at him but Jeongguk feels exposed all the same.

“What’re you talking about, Noona?” he asks, dropping the knife so he can stretch.

Hyorin doesn’t raise her eyes. “Jimin. When will you tell him?”

Jeongguk laughs, uncomfortable. “Tell him what?”

Hyorin stops. She sets the knife down carefully and proceeds to scoop the seaweed into plastic containers. Jeongguk follows the motion attentively, still confused. He waits until Hyorin is done with whatever list she has to complete and then some more. She washes her hands when everything is done, turning to Jeongguk.

“That you like him,” she says, calm.

Jeongguk bursts out into a laugh, even adding some clapping for effect. “That’s funny.”

“I’m serious, tell him.”

Jeongguk dries under his eyes, licking his lips. “Noona, I think you should rest. You’re making no sense.”

Hyorin sighs, long and weary. She detaches herself from the sink where she was resting her hip, walking over until she’s standing right in front of Jeongguk. She smells like a weird mixture of flowers and iodine and her gaze makes the surfer’s skin crawl.

“Do you see this?” she asks, pointing at the expression lines around her eyes. “They mean that one, I’m old as fuck and two, I can see through your shit. I know your ass is in some deep fuck hole for Jimin and I’m telling you, talk to him.”

“You don’t know me,” Jeongguk says, crossing his arms over his chest. “I mean, I get it you’re looking out for Jimin but, you’re wrong. We fuck, but that’s it. ”

Hyorin shakes her head, clicking her tongue. “I’m doing this for you, Jeongguk. Because I can see you want something Jimin isn’t willing to give or can’t give but….ignoring all the drama, I like you kid. You’re good...Jiminnie isn’t for you.”

“You say that as if he were some kind of douchebag,” Jeongguk says. “He’s good.”

“He is,” agrees Hyorin, “but he’s used to be his own person. He’s ok being alone. He’s not like you.”

Jeongguk scoffs. “And how am I? If you know so much.”

“You hate it,” Hyorin says, “this privilege bubble around you. You hate how it isolates you. There’s no reason for you to dig into fish guts every day but for that connection,” she raises her palm to stop Jeongguk from interrupting, “ and yeah, I know you got those surfer friends but if they were your besties like you claim, they’d see through your walls. And I bet my lung Jiminnie does, doesn’t he?”

They stare at each other, Jeongguk is the first to look away.

“Then he probably knows,” he murmurs.

Hyorin brushes his bangs away from his brow, fingers soft as they drag down his cheek.

“I think he does.”

“So what does that mean?” asks Jeongguk, feeling a lump in his throat.

“I think you should ask him that.”

 

Jeongguk drops a whole case of beer on the counter, looking very satisfied with himself. Hoseok side-eyes him but continues to read his book. Jeongguk continues to make noise in the kitchen and the frown in Hoseok’s face grows by the minute. The sound of a creaking mattress joins the party and Hoseok lowers his book, defeated.

“Want a drink?”

Jeongguk slams a bottle in front of Hoseok settling next to him immediately. Hoseok shrugs, accepting the beer Jeongguk offers him. They are facing the sea, the waves loud and clear through the crystal of the window. Hoseok takes a sip, melting against the cushion on his back. Jeongguk stands up after a few minutes, coming back with a new bottle. The creaking of the mattress intensifies and Hoseok curses Taehyung under his breath. It’s when Jeongguk is opening his third bottle that Hoseok stops him.

“Whoa there, slow down,” he says, reaching for the bottle Jeongguk is pressing to his lips. “You’re gonna get sick.”

“Let’s get drunk, Hyung,” Jeongguk says, lifting the bottle anyway and taking a gulp.

Hoseok is confused but supportive, so he chugs the rest of his beer and accepts the next, turning on the stereo when the girl inside Taehyung’s room starts to moan. Hoseok is pleasantly buzzed by beer number five and Jeongguk is positively drunk, sprawled on the carpet.

Taehyung makes his girl scream a strained ‘oppa!’ and Hoseok crawls around the room, searching for his stash of weed. He has a hard time rolling a joint but when he manages to flick the lighter and inhale, it’s all bliss. Jeongguk reaches for it, taking a long drag and holding it in for a bit. His brain sloshes inside his skull, fantastic and mellow.

By the time Taehyung is groaning his release, Jeongguk is feeling a little horny and a lot lonely. He moves quickly onto Hoseok’s lap, mouthing along the jaw before sucking at the skin on his neck.

“Ah, fuck,” Hoseok groans, kind of pushing Jeongguk but tilting his head all the same. “You’re fucked.”

“I’m not,” mumbles Jeongguk but he doesn’t fight when Hoseok avoid his lips. “Hyung,” he adds with a pout, “do you believe that I can do everything? Like….do you trust me like that?”

“What?” says Hoseok, trying to focus his eyes long enough to get a clear image of Jeongguk.

The boy never answers though, he falls asleep almost immediately, crushing Hoseok under his weight. Taehyung raises an eyebrow at them when he emerges from his room, followed by a flustered town girl. Hoseok waves at the girl, shrugging at Taehyung’s silent question.

“Jeonggukie,” Hoseok murmurs when his legs starts to go numb, “let’s go to bed, alright?”

Jeongguk replies with a snore.

 

***

 

Jimin is pulling Gloss out of the water when he spots Jeongguk, walking down the shore. Most of the city boys are long gone, taking their surf boards to better beaches; sunnier places now that the weather promises to finally settle into some steady, sweltering heat. Not Jeongguk though, not his pals either. Jimin wonders if it has to do with all the bruises Yoongi is sporting these days.

Still, the outline of Jeongguk’s figure against the dying sun is foreboding, much like the ache in Jimin’s gut. He looks away, securing the boat on the sand, away from the incoming tide. Jeongguk helps him with the last pull, silently reaching for the rope so they can tie Gloss to a post. It’s almost like routine, when they walk over to Jimin’s cliff. They do so in silence, knuckles brushing only to pull away. Holding hands isn’t something Jeongguk does. He highly doubts is high up on Jimin’s list of favorite things either.

“Sit,” Jimin instructs when they are inside, washing his hands and starting on dinner.

The cat shows up at some point, lured in by the smell. Jeongguk follows it with his eyes, dread making his bones heavy. Jimin doesn’t seem to notice. Or maybe he does but decides to ignore it, just like many other things. Food doesn’t look like the smart choice right at that point.

“What’s the name of your cat?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin doesn’t look up from the pot. “What cat?”

“Yours?” Jeongguk says. “The one lurking on the logs up there.”

Jimin looks up. “It has no name,” he replies. “It isn’t mine.”

“Then why do you let it in?” Jeongguk frowns, only then feeling the weight of the words.

Jimin stops stirring, grabbing a bowl and pouring the soup. It’s a concoction of fish and crabs, spicy. The smells curls around Jeongguk’s nostrils, the heat almost making his eyes water. Jimin sits across from him. He spoons the food into his mouth, brow breaking into a sweat immediately. Jeongguk swallows through his dry throat.

“Jimin,” he prompts. He wants to know, about the cat.

“It came hurt one day,” Jimin replies, eyes on his bowl. “It came and I fed him, because he needed me. I fixed him but he isn’t mine. And I’m not his, so there’s no need for a name.”

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything after that. He eats his food and washes his bowl. When night comes, he gets ready to leave, already determined not to embarrass himself any further. Jimin, however, stops him by the wrist.

“You alright?” he asks, eyebrows furrowed.

Jeongguk kisses him, forcefully pushing Jimin against the wall. Jimin let’s him rough around for a bit but then he places his hands on Jeongguk’s cheeks, slowing down the kiss. Jeongguk fights him but soon he’s just keening at the soft, wet pressure. They fall into bed like that and Jeongguk closes his eyes through the whole thing, until he’s all sweaty and moaning Jimin’s name. He comes with a grunt, fisting Jimin’s hair as he feels the heat flooding him inside.

“You ok?” Jimin asks as soon as he can articulate words.

Jeongguk nods, taking big gulps of air as he comes down. For once, Jimin remains next to him. He plays with the cum on Jeongguk’s stomach, glancing up through his eyelashes every now and then.

“You’re weird,” Jimin says. “The vibe is weird.”

Hyorin’s voice reverberates like an undesired headache inside Jeongguk’s skull and he sighs.

“There’s more to it than the failed city boy, right?” he says.

Jimin flips onto his stomach. His cheek is squashed against the pillow, making his lips pouty. Jeongguk looks away, stomach churning. He feels about to spill out the crabs anytime.

“My mother abandoned my father when I was five,” Jimin starts. “She was from the city as well, came one spring, fooled around and stayed with a round belly.”

“Let me guess,” says Jeongguk, bitter at the mouth. “She left with a city guy?”

Jimin hums. “A surfer,” he replies with a lopsided smile. “She didn’t even say goodbye. Left me standing by the carousel on that year’s spring festival.”

“Shit.”

“I went after her when I turned sixteen,” Jimin continues in a lower voice. “Found her living alone. Dude abandoned her for a younger gal a year or so down the road. She said she hated this town too much to come back...not even for me.”

Jeongguk turns on his side, eyebrows furrowed. “No wonder you hate city boys…”

“I don’t hate them, it brings me bad memories,” Jimin clarifies. “You’re ok though,” he adds with a big smile. “I often forget you’re from the city as well.”

Even in the soft moonlight, Jimin’s eyes shine. They shine with that kind of glow Jeongguk has never seen directed at him before. And maybe that’s why he gets all weird and bothered. Maybe that’s why he keeps coming back to Jimin even though it leads to nowhere. All those good things. All that trust.

“I like you,” Jeongguk blurts out.

The smile fades from Jimin’s lips. He swallows, scanning the surfer’s face. A dull thump comes from the kitchen, probably the cat, but Jimin stays. He waits.

“I like you,” Jeongguk repeats, softly. “Hyorin-noona said you knew…”

Jimin frowns. “Noona has a big mouth...Jeongguk I—”

“I know you don’t trust city boys, but I’m not like them,” Jeongguk hurries to say, before his throat closes up. “I might have no dreams but you know I'm not.”

“Jeongguk—”

“No one's ever trusted me before, not like you. I'm sure you see it.”

“It's not you, Jeongguk. Not you or the city and its people,” Jimin shakes his head.

“Then why?” Jeongguk asks, just a tad of desperation on his words.

Jimin looks troubled. “I just don't believe in it. I don't believe in lasting things...I don’t believe in that effort no more.”

Jeongguk sits up. It’s even shittier than what he expected, the whole one sided thing. “Is that a no?”

“Spring is almost over, most of the surfers are gone.”

“Is that a no?” asks Jeongguk more forcefully.

For a second, Jimin looks upset. His eyebrows come together, his lips are pressed in a tight line. Just as fast he's the definition of serenity and Jeongguk internalizes his defeat.

“It’s a no. I rather not,” Jimin whispers. “I think we’re better off this way.”

“Ok then,” Jeongguk says, standing up.

Jimin scrambles after him, dragging the sheets along and wrapping them around his waist. He hovers while Jeongguk puts on his clothes, opening and closing his mouth, too much of a coward to speak. There's the sudden rumble of an unexpected storm and Jimin jumps on his spot, spooked by how disgusted he feels at himself.

“It's going to rain.”

“Looks like it,” says Jeongguk, putting on his t-shirt. For once he’s glad he took everything off before fooling around, the fabric doesn’t smell like the sea. He reaches for his pants just when cum trickles down his crack staining his briefs. Jeongguk bites down on his cheek, hard, and he yanks his pants up.

“You can stay until it stops….you don't have to go.”

“I'm tired,” Jeongguk mumbles, crouching to tie his running shoes.

“Don't go like this,” Jimin pleads. “It’s making me feel like a piece of shit.”

Jeongguk shrugs on his jacket. “Don't sweat it,” he says walking to the door.

Jimin follows, still naked and covered in cum. He looks like some sort of sea god, with the white sheets dragging after him. It's ridiculous and hot at the same time. Jeongguk can't believe his shit luck. When the surfer reaches for the door handle, Jimin is finally brave enough to touch him, stopping him by the wrist. He looks troubled. Almost as if this was painful for him as well.

“Are we chill?” he asks.

The fisherman’s eyes are shiny but this time, Jeongguk is sure that it isn’t that glowy thing he grew to love. They shine because, like the seasons, their time has come to an end. Sadly, Jeongguk is out of lies.

“No.”

 

***

 

Taehyung shivers inside his sweatshirt, cursing the tsundere weather spring brought upon them. Hoseok is singing under his breath beside him, lost in the words of a book. At the sea, Jeongguk fails yet again to stand up on his board, crashing into the water. Taehyung frowns and continues to do so even after Jeongguk emerges, clambering on top of his board and paddling back into the coming waves.

“He seems to be on a slump,” Hoseok comments offhandedly, his eyes never leaving the book. “Been at it for hours now, bet even his dick is pruny.”

“Have you talked to him?” asks Taehyung leaning closer, hoping to steal some body heat.

“No.”

“Do you think we should?” presses Taehyung. In between the waves, Jeongguk drops a heavy fist on top of his board. Frustrated.

Hoseok rests his book on his stomach, watching the steady rise and fall of the tide. Jeongguk sits on top of his board, back towards the shore. Hoseok wonders what is he thinking about.

“Do you know what happened to him?” he asks Taehyung. He wishes Namjoon was there, he was always better at figuring out stuff. “The other day he got all sad and horny, totally smashed.”

“I remember.”

“He even tried to kiss me,” Hoseok continues. “What the fuck?”

“I think he fucked the fisherman,” replies Taehyung.

“Namjoon’s?” Hoseok says, scandalized.

“No, the other one. Jimin.”

“And?”

Taehyung thinks for a moment. “I think he fucked him too many times.”

“Oh,” says Hoseok. “Oh,” he repeats when it dawns on him. “That bad?”

“Don't know,” Taehyung shrugs.

Jeongguk emerges from the sea shaking like a leaf. Taehyung hurries to him, drying his hair, joking about everything and anything. Fishing for a smile. He doesn’t get any.

“You guys wanted to head back to town soon?” Jeongguk asks to no one in particular.

Hoseok glances quickly at Taehyung. “I mean, there's no rush if you wanna—”

“I don't,” Jeongguk interrupts, lips a little blue. “I'm done in this shit hole, let's go. Let's hit the road. I miss my flat.”

Hoseok blinks, should he call him out in the lie? “When do you wanna leave?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “As soon as possible. Tomorrow. Right fucking now.”

Taehyung pouts, attempting to hug Jeongguk but the surfer shrugs him off with a click of his tongue. Hoseok nods, he doesn't really need another excuse.

“I'll talk to Namjoon.”

 

***

 

Jimin gets like that sometimes. He knows.

So he takes Gloss into the sea, as always, and guides it against foam and spit. He rows til his shoulders ache and then sits there, in the middle of nowhere, hoping for some sea monster to come up end him once and for all. There’s that space between his ribs that now threatens to crush his lungs. There’s all those dreams he has but no one to share them with. And it used to be fine. Still is...just not as much.

Gloss rocks under him and salty water lands on his skin.

It tastes just like tears would.

 

***

 

“So I’m guessing the surfers are leaving?”

Yoongi nods, playing with some empty shells. Hyorin sits next to him on the rocks, accommodating the multiple shawls she wears until they cover both their legs. It’s a cloudy day, probably the last of the season before the heat takes a liking for their town. Jimin is sitting by the shore, feet digging into the wet sand. The beach is quiet, just the last remaining tourists walking around.

“Did they tell you?” Yoongi asks.

“No,” she replies, frowning at the waves. “But Jimin is bitterer than usual and you’re sitting on just one cheek so—”

Yoongi laughs, red blooming on his face. “He said he was going to miss me.”

Hyorin snorts. “Bet he will….why did you let him go?”

“We belong to different worlds,” Yoongi says with a shrug. “This town and my boat is all I got going for me.”

“Not true,” Hyorin says, cuddling closer. “You got me and a sweet ass as well...oh, and that brat,” she adds, pointing at Jimin with his chin.

“That brat,” repeats Yoongi.

“Do you think he’ll be alright?” Hyorin asks, nonchalantly.

It makes Yoongi smile, how much she tries to show she doesn’t care even though they all know she does. A whole lot. He slings an arm over Hyorin’s shoulders, squeezing her. It’s been years already, of only the three of them. Years where they got to know their comings and goings, the ins and outs. It’s the family life gave them, the one that pulls them forward even when it leaves them to shoulder their burdens alone.

“No one knows love like her, you know?” Yoongi says, watching the sea. “Love is a lot like the tide, it comes and goes leaving marks that might stay and others that might disappear the second you look away.”

Hyorin rolls her eyes. “What does that have to do with the brat?”

“He needs to stop thinking that transient stuff is worthless,” Yoongi explains, waving at Jimin who’s staring at them. “He needs to stop thinking about himself as a sink hole, letting chances pass through him.”

“Well, you too,” Hyorin comments, eyeing her nails. “You won’t be young and peachy forever.”

“You promise to marry me if I was in my forties and single.”

“And you promised you’d be cool with my strap-on, you know how I like it.”

Yoongi laughs. “Still am, Noona. Always. We can adopt Jimin and be a happy family of fuck ups.”

Hyorin shoulders him but she’s smiling. “Shut up!”

 

Jeongguk stares for a long time at the beach, somehow still hoping for a miracle.

It doesn’t come, of course. Hoseok hands the keys to the owner, thanking him profusely, and after loading the last suitcases and Jeongguk’s board, they are gone. It’s sort of disappointing, to see Jimin’s shack fading away.

It’s like a statement of another thing Jeongguk couldn’t accomplish.

They round the last hill and the shack is gone and with it the last days of Spring. Jeongguk wonders how long would it be for it to bloom again within his chest.

 

***

 

Jimin didn’t cry when his mother told him she wouldn’t go back for him. He just tilted his head down, grabbed his backpack and left.

Jimin didn’t cry when the city boy dropped him like trash. He just walked all over the boys board with his dirty shoes, leaving scratches over the surface and enjoying every minute of it.

Jimin isn’t really one for crying. He’s more into folding his feelings into tiny squares and stacking them on the back of his heart until he can barely recognize them anymore. It works for him, like a charm. He’s in that process - erasing his memories of Jeongguk - when he finds a stray piece of clothing that isn’t his. It’s some shiny thing, all bright colors and expensive designs.

He knows immediately it belongs to Jeongguk.

Before he can stop himself, Jimin brings the sweater to his nose, inhaling deeply but only getting traces of the sea. The fact that there’s nothing of Jeongguk’s boyish scent left behind makes Jimin’s eyes prickle. He throws the sweater away, angry and frustrated and full of things that swirl inside his chest. Thing he doesn’t know how to manage anymore.

Jimin isn’t one for crying, but as memories of Jeongguk assault him from every corner of his home, it’s hard not to surrender to them. He bites his lip and he wonders, what is it that he misses.

Is it really Jeongguk or is it the dreams he dared to have while having him around?

The cat falls with a thump on top of the counter. Jimin tilts his head to look at it, waiting until the cat comes to him, back arched and tail high. Sweet voice asking for food. Jimin scratches behind its ear, finally bringing it onto his lap.

“Do you want a name?” he asks, a bit choked up. “I think I’m ready to give you a name now.”

Seems like he already has the answer to his question.

 

***

 

“Hyung, how do I get into college?”

Namjoon chokes on his coffee, the dark liquid dripping down his chin as he coughs. Jeongguk throws a wad of napkins at him with a click of his tongue. Such an unpleasant sight.

“You can't do that you brat!” Namjoon wheezes out. “ You almost gave me a heart attack.”

“Why can't I go to college?” asks Jeongguk with a frown, pushing more napkins into Namjoon’s hand.

Namjoon rubs his chest, shaking his head. “No. No, you can, of course you can. Since when are you interested in college or like...anything?”

Jeongguk shrugs. Looks away. There's a crease between his eyebrows that wasn't there before. A slight slump to the kids broad shoulders. Namjoon doesn't ask again, guessing where all the melancholy is coming from. He sort of feels it himself, in those days where the sky tricks him into believing there’s a shore somewhere between the clouds.

“Well, do you know what you wanna do?” he asks, a smile playing on his lips. “We can't figure out what you need if you don't know what you wanna do.”

Jeongguk fidgets with a pen in his hand, twirling it between his fingers. He remembers the waves washing away designs and compliments dripping honey into his ears.

“Art,” he replies with certainty. “I wanna learn how to draw better.”

A smile finally shows on Namjoon’s face. He reaches forward, ruffling Jeongguk’s hair until the boy pushes him away.

“That's a great choice, dude,” he says truthfully. “I'm sure you'll get accepted.”

Jeongguk shrugs, feigning nonchalance but there's a blush on his cheeks and his eyes shine. They spend the following hour or so perusing the possible college choices and requirements. By the end of it, Jeongguk is overwhelmed but determined. More assured about his career path. Namjoon is beaming, pride swelling his heart so much it spills out. He sets a hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder, staring straight at him. It's a little unnerving and embarrassing, but he doesn't let it prevent him from saying the words.

“I'm proud of you.”

When Jeongguk smiles, it’s worth all the embarrassment in the world.

 

***

 

Yoongi is frowning over the content of some bills when Jimin settles in front of him. He watches Yoongi’s pale hands folding and unfolding the corners of the paper, lost in mental calculations to try and stretch the little money they have. It's good that they’re fishermen, Jimin always thinks, at least they don't have to worry so much about food. It all ends with a defeated sigh and like that Jimin knows the math is once again not in their favour. He clears his throat and Yoongi looks up immediately.

“Bad news?” Jimin asks.

Yoongi shrugs. “She's been a little selfish lately. Should be better soon.”

Hyorin walks into the living room, hair wet after a shower. She’s wearing one of Yoongi’s shirts, the fabric stretching over her generous chest. She's wearing no bra and a pair of briefs. “We could sell the kid. If we dye his hair back to pink he'd fit easily among the clowns of the fair.”

It doesn't get a smile out of Yoongi and Hyorin purses her lips, leaning down to hug Yoongi from behind, settling her chin on top of his shoulder.

“We’'ll figure it out,” she says.

Yoongi nods, patting her hand. “I know. Coffee?”

They huddle on Yoongi’s tiny living room, warm cups fighting the chill of the settling fall. Hyorin looks at the bills in silence, cursing unfair charges under her breath. Yoongi curls under one of her shawls comfortably, smaller than Jimin remembered him to be.

“Hyung, I finally got enough money for my own boat.”

Everyone stills. Of course they have talked about it, about Jimin going independent at some point. Yoongi had been clear all those years back, certain Jimin had to find his own path, be his own man. Now, however, Jimin can see the shock in his friend's eyes, how they didn't really expected him to go. Not anymore.

“That's...that's great Jimin, good job,” Yoongi says after a minute. He's sincere but less happy than Jimin thought he'd be. Hyorin is scowling. That's not a surprise.

Jimin takes the envelope out, half of his savings. He gives it to Yoongi.

“I'm going to buy a ticket to the city,” he says, “pay the bills with the rest, so I have a job when I comeback.”

“The city?” questions Yoongi. Hyorin starts to smile, snatching the envelope right out of Jimin’s hand.

Jimin’s heart pounds like crazy.

“Yeah...did you keep Namjoon’s number by any chance?”

 

***

 

College is a lot.

Jeongguk can barely keep himself awake, dragging his tired body around from lecture to lecture, bag heavy with his art supplies. Still, he has never felt so alive. Never so full of purpose but for those spring days long gone. Jeongguk prefers to believe they never happened to begin with, reduce the emotional distress so he has room for when exams come. He waves at his classmates on his way out of class, more comfortable working in his flat rather than the crowded art rooms. He considers briefly the disaster that his place is right at the moment, a mess of paint, takeout containers and half finished work. It's a mess, sure, but Jeongguk loves it.

It finally feels like home.

He gets some food on the way, balancing the container precariously on top of his school material. The mail completes the pile and Jeongguk is so concentrated maneuvering around without dropping a thing that he doesn't register the building’s janitor calling him over.

He steps into the elevator.

The melody inside sounds a lot like The Beach Boys and Jeongguk snorts, just a bit annoyed that he knows the melody because of Taehyung and also that it makes him think about Jimin. It’s been months already, since they left the little town by the sea. Months in which Jeongguk met other people, months in which his life changed for the better, but still there’s a part of him stuck on that spring.

Not wanting the memories to ruin his day and inspiration, Jeongguk puts his headphones on, blasting the latest kpop sensation. He reaches the penthouse like that - head bobbing, lips making a quick work of the lyrics - and then, he stops. He stops and stares because - other than his very bald, very ancient neighbour - no one else lives up there. No else does, but there’s someone on his floor all the same and it’s not his neighbour.

There’s someone, in front of his door. Someone that turns right at that moment.

Jeongguk stumbles and his heart sort of halts in its rhythm. He blinks, eyelashes fluttery and stomach doing summersaults, somehow already matching the face looking at him with the one recorded deep within his heart.

Jimin.

Why is he so surprised though? Jimin has always been unpredictable, much like the sea he loves so much.

“Hi.”

It’s awkward.

It’s awkward because Jeongguk just can’t keep staring. It’s awkward because Jeongguk just can’t form the right words. He’s all grunts and clumsy hands, even dropping his keys a couple times. He struggles to match Jimin with the fancy carpet and the ivory walls of the hallway. With the skyscrapers and colorful ads shining wherever they look. It’s even worse when they step inside Jeongguk’s apartment, the centerpiece of his coffee table could buy Jimin a hundred exact copies of the sweater he’s currently wearing, some mess of raw wool and colorful thread. Probably Hyorin’s creation. Jeongguk is sure he’s going to puke.

“Jeongguk…”

“What...why?” Jeongguk drops his stuff on the floor, uncaring. He crosses his arms over his chest, hoping to hide his galloping heart. He’s afraid Jimin might see how eager the muscle is to reach forward and hold him.

Jimin settles his tiny backpack on top of the leather sofa. He runs a finger over the smooth surface, tracing all along the back until he’s standing in front of the floor to ceiling windows. Jeongguk uses the distraction to breathe into his palms. He can already detect the sea salt in the air. Jimin.

“You’re going to college,” Jimin says, turning around. He smiles at Jeongguk’s bewildered face. “Namjoon-hyung told me. He gave me your address.”

“I am,” Jeongguk confirms, eyes scanning over the room. Everywhere but Jimin. “I’m doing art.”

“Of course you are,” says Jimin. Tenderly. Familiar. Saturating the air with promises.

“Why are you here?” Jeongguk asks again.

Jimin shifts the weight on his feet, nervous. It rattles Jeongguk’s nerves as well. Before Jimin can open his mouth, his stomach rumbles. Loud. And Jeongguk can’t help the snort that leaves him. Of course Jimin is still cute. Obnoxiously cute.

“You hungry?” he says.

“Didn’t have enough for a cab ride and food,” Jimin shrugs, honest. “You live far.”

They share Jeongguk’s takeout, sitting cross legged on the carpet. Jimin studies intently the little portafolio Jeongguk has managed to put together, dropping compliments every now and then. Jeongguk’s heart swells at each of them, knowing the fisherman wouldn’t say a word if he didn’t mean it.

“You’re as good as I thought,” Jimin says.

Jeongguk nods, proud of his work as well. “I’m doing good. I really like it...even my parents are happy. Mom called me right after I enrolled almost crying,” he says with a shake of his head. “Said an artist is a great plus for the family, asked if she could visit.”

“That’s great.”

Jimin understands. He knows Jeongguk’s parents might not be the best but they are the only ones he has. He knows they might be shallow but they never really wanted to hurt Jeongguk even though they did. Jimin always gets it and Jeongguk can feel himself falling hard and fast again.

They continue to eat in silence.

“I had enough savings to buy my own boat,” Jimin says after cleaning his lips with a napkin. Jeongguk looks up with sauce staining his lips and Jimin reaches forward to wipe it out with his thumb, sucking on his finger afterward. Absentminded, as if he’s done it a thousand times. “Took me a long time but I made it.”

Jeongguk drinks some water, willing his blush to go down. “That’s neat. Is that why you are here? To buy a boat?”

Jimin laughs openly. Like before. He shakes his head. “I gave half of it to Yoongi, to get the stall out of debt.”

Jeongguk nods, self conscious again of the wealth surrounding them.

“I used the other half to buy a ticket here and find you,” Jimin adds, raising his eyes.

There’s hope in them, a bit of remorse. There’s memories that now flood Jeongguk’s head and heart and gut. There’s the fathom touch of Jimin’s fingers on his skin, the one that never left.

“I thought you didn’t do this,” Jeongguk says at last.

“I don’t,” confirms Jimin.

“So?”

“I miss you,” Jimin confesses. “Might seem like little but...it’s a lot for me. There’s not a lot of things - people - I miss.”

“So what, you just come here?” Jeongguk says, almost scoffs.

Jimin has the decency to blush. “I’m a douche like that,” he agrees, “but I figured that if I never did it then I’d regret it so...I’m here.”

“To do what?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin takes a deep breath before scuttling closer. He hesitates before holding Jeongguk’s hand. He holds it for a long time, blinking softly as he looks at the different hue of their skins intertwined. At the end, he sighs. He grins. He’s a beacon.

“I’d like to try, if you let me. Win you over. Take you out on dates though I don’t have much left,” Jimin says, his hold on Jeongguk’s hand firmer. “Give me a week.”

“Is this a joke?”

Jimin sort of grins. “I’m not famous for my sense of humor, not really.”

“So you want to date me?”

“I wanna try,” Jimin clarifies. “I wanna try with you.”

"Sounds like a real joke to me," Jeongguk comments, stubborn.

"Please," Jimin whispers. His voice is low, contained.

Jeongguk should say no, but he’s never been that smart. “One week.”

A blinding smile. “Ok.”

 

 

Truthful to his words, Jimin’s money doesn’t really allow for much high end dating, but it’s ok.

They end up walking a lot. Walking to places Jeongguk has never seen before. They end up feeding the birds at a park even when they get scolded by a guard. They try out holding hands and it’s bizarre but Jeongguk digs it. He digs it so much he doesn’t mind the lingering stares as they stroll down the street. Jimin doesn't even register the looks people throw their way, he just wrinkles his nose at the concrete, complaining one second about the stench of the city and complementing Jeongguk’s looks against random backgrounds the other.

The fisherman looks more relaxed than ever and Jeongguk can’t help but orbit around him, weak for Jimin’s charms. At the end of each day, Jimin thanks him for his time, disappearing into the night without even trying to do something more. It’s a first for Jeongguk, too used to physical satisfaction. He has to physically restrain himself from reaching for Jimin’s hand, blowing off the steam later on under a cold shower. He’s satisfied though, in a different way.

His chest feels full.

The weeks ends with Jimin cooking something at Jeongguk’s apartment. Some weird crab soup. He’s quiet while he works and Jeongguk paints. It’s nice, the feeling easy to crave. Dinner happens in the blink of an eye and just when Jeongguk thinks Jimin will bid him goodbye and leave, the fisherman looks at him.

“It’s been a week,” Jimin says.

“Yeah,” says Jeongguk.

“I think it’s time to ask,” Jimin continues. “May I ask?”

Jeongguk exhales, loud and nervous. He walks over to the couch, settling down. Jimin watches him go, waiting for a signal that it’s ok for him to join. Jeongguk calls him over once he gets his heart to chill. They sit in silence like that, until Jeongguk gives Jimin the go. A nod.

“Would you…” stars Jimin. “Would you give me, us, a chance?”

It’s funny, how he’s the one bringing it up now and how Jeongguk is the one assaulted by doubts.

“Are you planning on settling here, in the city?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin moves closer. “No.”

“You expect it to be long distance?” Jeongguk says, eyes trained on Jimin’s approaching lips.

“I’ll visit you,” the fisherman says. “As often as I can.”

“It won’t work,” Jeongguk argues. He shivers when Jimin settles a warm palm on his arm.

“It will,” Jimin assures. “I’ll make it work.”

“Two are part of a relationship, not one,” Jeongguk mumbles.

Jimin hums, scanning Jeongguk’s face. When the boy closes his eyes, Jimin kisses him. It’s chaste, like new. Just a soft press of lips, some wet brush against one another. Jeongguk relaxes into it, arms coming up to hug Jimin and Spring blooms around them, wild and unbound.

“You sure this is going to work?” Jeongguk asks against Jimin’s lips.

“No,” replies Jimin. “Might be shitty.”

Jeongguk laughs. “That’s reassuring.”

“I don’t lie,” Jimin says, pecking Jeongguk’s lips, “but I have a good feeling.”

Jeongguk pulls Jimin down on top of him, not wanting the night to end. “A good feeling? Why?”

Jimin looks at him, all the stars in his eyes.

“Because I believe in you and who I am when you’re around.”

“Cheesy,” Jeongguk says, playfully rolling his eyes.

He gets the middle finger in return.

 

***

 

Jimin gets like that, sometimes. Unsettled.

He wakes up before the sun, choking on that empty void between his ribs. He feels desperate for the sea, choking on city air, but there’s that subtle smell he identifies as Jeongguk coating it all. There’s the warmth of his body filtering through the cracks and making the ache in Jimin’s chest bearable. There’s the rustle of sheets and incoherent words and Jimin shifts until he’s hugging Jeongguk, burying his face between his shoulder blades. It’s easier, the more he does this. The more he comes back to Jeongguk.

There’s less of the sad and more of bright memories. There’s the promise of more and that bud slowly blossoming into something beautiful inside his heart. Like his very own brand of Spring.

Jimin closes his eyes.

And he stays.