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3, 2, 1... Bang (Me)

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Much like new years, birthdays were usually a catalyst for fresh starts, a usually sad excuse for a new beginning. Park Jimin was contemplating the truth in the small factum as he paced before Jeongguk's door, phone tucked half-in in his back pocket and fingers drumming against his thigh. It was too late to pay Jeongguk a visit now but Jimin didn’t have much of a choice. He could feel the weight of a number of things at the same time: of the printed-out paper tucked in his other back pocket, of the responsibility befalling his shoulders, of the emptiness filling his heart. The last two days had been hell for him.

On the hint of a frustrated outburst, Jimin almost kicked Jeongguk's door—not to open it, just to have an outlet.

Stupid useless police! He mentally cursed.

Park Jimin would pretty much like to consider himself a carefree guy—as carefree as a guy who had 99 problems and Jeongguk being every single one of them could be. Or yet better, as carefree as a guy who was bestfriends with Taehyung and his quirky interests.

Jimin would still have war flashbacks of the times he had gone back to their dorm to find Taehyung taking pity on sad lost (cute) pets—cats, dogs, mice, Jeongguk. He was a constant victim of how diverse and inconsistent Taehyung’s hobbies were. One day, Taehyung, a photography major, was Van-fucking-Gogh, not sparing an inch—not even Jimin's bed—from his messy art and brushes (Jimin had once accidentally drunk paint water instead of coffee; bless you, Kim Taehyung). The other day, he would be Van-fucking-Gone, taking an interest in theatrics or acting or literature, or dramatically reciting passionate verses to a creepyass skull, Shakespearean style, with a foreign accent three-in-the-fucking-morning.

Still, there were constants in Taehyung’s inconsistencies, though they were still as much of a pain in the ass, them being gaming and Jeon-‘Tae please give my heart a break and don’t invite him over’-Jeongguk. But no, Taehyung was too fond of the doe eyes and it was a bonus if he got to make Jimin's life a living hell.

But of course Jimin's college experience bunking up together with Taehyung doesn’t end here. He had lost count of how many times Taehyung had tried to talk him into doing something that smelt like the new ‘I Regret Nothing’ fragrant. Many times it was tinged with an ‘I was so drunk and I got an ass tattoo’ fragrant; Jimin was thankful Taehyung hadn’t yet reached the got-married regrettable decisions level.

‘Jiminie, let’s raise a penguin together in our dorm.’

‘Jiminie, let’s participate in that couple show where they sky dive and shizz.’

‘Jiminie, let’s hide Yoongi-hyung’s underwear and pin it on Jeongguk.’

Jiminie was tired. But it was also Taehyung; and Jiminie loved the guy. And there was nothing in the world he wouldn’t trade right now to see that wide grin and hear that dorky laughter sound.

It was going to be okay; Jimin had a plan in mind, and with Jeongguk by his side, it was foolproof.

Hahaha … kinda.

He was almost drawing blood from his lip, having been biting hard down on it for a while now. Just when he thought this year would be kinder, having got an important item off his bucket-list a few days ago, October proved to be a ruthless bitch and sucker-punched the daylights out of him.

Jimin sucked a long deep breath and kept it in, closing his eyes and strengthening his resolution. He counted to seven in his mind, turning the bracelet around his wrist. Man, Taehyung sure was to owe him a lifetime worth of favours—starting from simple stuff like doing laundry and not touching Jimin's wardrobe, to being his man servant or sex slave even, Jimin didn’t care.

One last fiddle with his bracelet then he rapped on the door. He had tried to keep his eyes levelled on the door but he failed once he remembered he would be facing the boring-into-your-soul doe eyes once the door opened. And so, he was looking at his feet, trying to summon his nerve.

Nerve. LOL, yes, that. The crux of the problem—the cause and the effect. Fuck you, Kim Taehyung.

Jeongguk's door opened and that was the last straw to how All Hell Broke Loose, to how Jimin's question set in motion a to-be lamented chain of events. For a second and on seeing Jeongguk's usual lopsided warm smile, all of Jimin's pre-planned words seemed to dissipate, leaving him with priorities not set straight and with a slur of words filling his mind that so much sounded like ‘I’m so gay for you it physically hurts.’

“Now what?” Jeongguk leaned against the doorframe, eyes forcedly hard as he trained them down on Jimin. “More humiliation or more unanswered questions?”

Jimin looked up, pressing his lips into a line.

“I'm sorry.”

He hadn’t expected his voice to be this uneven. Perhaps he hadn’t been talking much lately. He was about to add an I can explain when Jeongguk spoke first.

“Hyung?” perhaps Jeongguk had noticed Jimin's mess of a state that his concern had to prevail instead of any smartass comment or tease. Jimin highkey wanted to ask Jeongguk to stop drinking from that bottle he was holding, for wardrobe-preservation concerns. He had learnt it the hard way.

Without meeting Jeongguk's eyes, Jimin took a step towards the latter but it still wasn’t close enough.

“I know this sounds crazy,” —his voice already had the urgent ‘blurting’ undertone— “but would you like to be my partner?”

Cue the splash; Jimin just loves being right.

So yeah, that was the story of how Jimin got his favourite designer plaid shirt, which was also a gift from Taehyung, ruined. Or mind you: spat on. It was also alternatively known as the prologue to that story titled 8-bit Love Bugs and Glitching Crushes; not your typical Successful First Dates 101 handout, 666 times out of ten Jimin wouldn’t recommend trying.

On the flip side, he would consider it a feat having rendered Jeongguk (who, so much like his meme-mate, had a comeback for everything) so speechless, to the extent that the latter was almost incapable of drawing more breaths.

Jeongguk wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, stepped out of the room while keeping the door ajar, and tried to tone down his wide-eyes.

“Y-your what??” kudos for not stuttering, homeboy.

It was milk; Jimin’s face was soaked, droplets of milk trickling down his hair, his skin. It was milk; milk, coming out of Jeongguk—out of Jeongguk's mouth. Lord have mercy, Jimin couldn’t think straight.

For two years, Jimin was growing more interested in Kim Taehyung’s friend who shared his gaming passion and made lame jokes; Jimin was growing more and more interested in his very own young dongsaeng. At first, it was for kicks, wanting to have a go with a guy who seemed willing to give him the best go of his life. Then Jimin wasn’t sure how or when or where or why it happened, but things changed for him and he started genuinely growing interested in Jeongguk, started caring, started fall—

That was it.

He liked to think of Jeongguk in terms of that younger boy he had a soft spot for. The younger boy from his hometown who had way-too-many ear piercings and a motorcycle, the boy who towered over him and constantly teased him about his height, the boy who was often witnessed getting too into dancing at times that it riled Jimin up and he had to have a break lest he started getting into said boy’s pants.

And boy, those pants were sure something.

Jeongguk had that motorcycle as his ‘act of rebellion’—something to stand a witness that he wasn’t always playing it safe. And regardless of the vibes Jeongguk intended to exude with that motorcycle, Jimin thought this was really, really cute. And that kind of thoughts did all sorts of things to Jimin's heart.

It was paradoxical, regarding the duo’s personalities, that Jimin was the one doing contemporary, while Jeongguk’s focus was hip-hop. Thanks to Kim Taehyung, they were on more than friendly basis, as long as they weren’t on the same dance-floor. Otherwise, they would have some kind of dance-off, an implicit rivalry touched with confident shades of showing-off, as if they danced solely to impress one another.

Maybe that was the case, people could testify that Jimin's performance was more ‘on fire’ whenever Jeongguk was in the same room. Whatever, Park Jimin hated losing; a mere brat wouldn’t dethrone him.

To top things off, the entire school shipped them. To an outsider, Park Jimin and Jeon Jeongguk were nothing more than the best students in their respective dance focus, with rivalry crackling in the air whenever both of them were in the dance-practice room at the same time. But as far as students on campus were concerned, they were also Busan Bros Hate Each Other but They Also Fuck Each Other. Maybe it had something to do with both of them being crème de la crème, or more noticeably, something to do with their reputations.

More paradoxes though, regardless of Jeongguk's edgy looks, he was the kind of guys who ‘played it safe’. When Jimin wanted to convince himself he harboured nothing solid—nothing that went beyond liking Jeongguk's physique—for the younger, he would use how Jeongguk never took risks as his trump card in the arguments his devil and angel had, persuading himself nothing could come out of their diametrical-opposite dynamics—especially how Jimin was a certified adrenaline junkie so taking risks was more or less a prerequisite in his ‘love interest’.

Truth was, Jeongguk’s playing it safe encompassed his sex life. Meaning, as far as everyone was concerned, Jeongguk was never seen with a guy—which was why students entertained themselves by the possibility of Busan Bros indulging in incestuous acts. Regardless, Jeongguk's sexuality was still in question—at least to guys who took interest in him. Meaning, if Jimin were honest, his chances were slim and the thought made his heart clench. And like a kid, the more he was denied of dessert, the more he wanted said dessert—that fineass dessert.

Because hell, he was the Park Jimin; he had boys and girls fawning over him all the same. Plus, he had seen the way Jeongguk was checking his ass out that one time they stayed late after practice; there was nothing straight about that look.

And he had been right; after his birthday night, Jimin hadn’t the shadow of a doubt there was nothing heterosexual about Jeongguk—there was absolutely nothing heterosexual in that dick. After all, said dick had been friends with Kim Taehyung for too long.

Still, Jimin wished everything going in his heart was as simple as that. Because when it came down to love, one plus one didn’t necessarily make two.

Don’t misunderstand, Jimin wasn’t an ass or in denial. He was simply the kind of guys who would rather not catch feelings for things he couldn’t have; his heart usually couldn’t cope well with the messy aftermath, where one plus one so much equaled a broken heart.

Without bothering to wipe the mess he so much relished, Jimin looked up to meet Jeongguk's eyes. “I'm asking you to be my partner.”

Jeongguk's eyes had the typical roll preceding a snide comment.

“And there I thought no more mixed signals.” He crossed his arms.

The sentence had some implications that crept into a dark chamber in Jimin's human heart. Some other day, he would have pressed that line further—what mixed signals; for signals to be there in the first place, where did that leave them?

But then again, this wasn’t his priority right now.

Jeongguk’s eyes squinted; he seemed on the verge of saying something. Jimin took a step towards Jeongguk, tiptoeing while both hands ghosted centimeters away from either side of Jeongguk's head.

“I'd kiss you right now to shut you up but I also know it’d make things more messed up.”

At least that was sufficient to render Jeongguk speechless.

Jeongguk broke away from his trance a few beats later. He shook his head and focused his vision on the anxious-hearted Jimin.

“Yup, definitely hallucinating.” Jeongguk made a mock triumphant fist in the air as he pursed his lips. “Goodnight, hyung.”

Jimin closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. His hands clasped to either side of Jeongguk's head, fixing him in his place.

“Jeongguk,” he opened his eyes, looking deeply into the doe eyes. “Your dick isn’t short. Your dick didn’t last for a short time either.” Mission Shut Jeongguk Up success. “Your dick in me was such a religious experience I feel like a sin. It is the best goddamn thing that happened to me in years.”

Record scratch, freeze frame. Yup, that’s Jimin. You’re probably wondering how he ended up in this situation.

Back in time a few days. Three problematic countdowns led to this shameful and unenviable situation.

Jimin used to pride himself in never working hard to get someone, in how he got most guys without even trying. What was new to him was how ever since his birthday night and he felt like he would play tag with Jeongguk, and that stepping up their game would literally be a game.

Baby steps; rewinding that video tape called ‘Instructions to Play Games with Jeongguk’s Heart’ and starting from the easiest level: Amateur Real-Life Dating Sims ft. Jeon-‘pleasetakeadamnhint’-Jeongguk.

Jimin just hates it when his flirting backfires, putting him at this disadvantage where he’s the one who gets flustered. So far, only two people managed to put him in that disposition, and one of them was supposed to be the subject of said flirtation. In Jimin's defense, he hadn’t planned to pull any tricks on Jeongguk that day. He just couldn’t help it, not when the boy in question was clearly not acting like your typical dongsaeng.

In retrospect, Jeon Jeongguk was never to be left alone with Jimin without Kim Taehyung—without adult supervision—around. Yup, you had it; if Kim Taehyung was considered ‘adult supervision’ then you imagine how Jeongguk must have acted.

October Twelfth, Thursday night, the three of them had been in the cafeteria; Taehyung had just excused himself on getting a phone-call, and Jimin had made the mistake of drinking his coffee while it was hotter than dancing-Jeongguk in an oversized white semi-translucent tee.

Bottom line, coffee was hotter than Jimin (and his tongue, mind you) could handle.

He could distinctly make out Jeongguk's smirk from the corner of his eye; and Park Jimin kinda really liked that look. And so, he looked away.

“I can't feel my lips,” —putting down his cup, Jimin stuck out his tongue and fanned at it— “Ugh, can't taste my tongue either.”

Jeongguk pushed a cup of water towards Jimin. “Hmm,” cue a broader smirk, “would you like me to taste your tongue then?”

Avoiding choking by a miracle, Jimin put down the cup of water with a loud thud and turned to the laughing-slash-smirking Jeongguk.

“Jeongguk!”

Perhaps it was supposed to be a scandalous exclamation. But in spite of Jimin's laugh and Jeongguk's giddy grin—and perhaps the fact the word ‘scandalous’ and Jimin weren’t to be mentioned in the same sentence—it didn’t work.

“What?” Jeongguk was still grinning.

Jimin was shaking his head, drunk with laughter. “Stop.”

“Is that your sign?” Jeongguk was still at it. “I’m a Virgo, hi.”

“Uh-uh,” Jimin's eyes blasphemously inspected Jeongguk's body. “You sure are not.”

Jeongguk bit down a laugh. “Are you hitting on me?”

“Well, Jeongguk,” Jimin leaned on the table, arching an eyebrow. “I'm not the one who was just offering you some lip service.”

Jeongguk put on a pondering face.

“What happens if I am flirting, hyung?”

Jimin rested his head on his interlaced hands, throwing a flirty smirk at the younger. “Then I'm interested.”

“Hello Interested,” Jeongguk stretched out his hand. “I'm Dad.”

“Leave.” Jimin's hand reached out to push Jeongguk's face back, only to grip air. “Now.”

Jeongguk was laughing; Jimin was trying to be angry, though miserably failing despite Jeongguk's laughs triggering his all the more. Jimin couldn’t believe he just got dad joke’d; he couldn’t believe Jeongguk was that terribly cheesy. What he couldn’t believe even more was how he still managed to laugh, as though this lameass joke were the wittiest joke of the century.

Park Jimin might have been a slick pro, but he was soft as fuck when it came down to that precious bunny smile. It was utterly embarrassing; and Jeongguk was obnoxiously oblivious.

Whatever, it was just a simply crush—Jimin could handle as much; he was in full control.

“Anyhow,” Jeongguk's voice called out to Jimin from his romantic reverie. He slipped a small box (jewelry????) on the table. “Happy birthday, Jiminie-hyung.”

Control? Never mind that.

Jimin’s face might as well have turned into a tomato the second he laid eyes on the content—on that handmade (silver?) bracelet with ‘One-Man Army’ written on it.

It was kinda ridiculous, him getting butterflies when Taehyung or anyone dropped Jeongguk's name, him grinning helplessly at the thought of Jeongguk, laughing at silly jokes one wouldn’t think were remotely funny just because Jeongguk had cracked them with that cute lopsided smile of his; or when Jeongguk dorked out whenever they hung around, maybe deliberately making a fool of himself and Jimin claiming his birthright, laughing at Jeongguk's attempts.

To him, Jeongguk had always been Taehyung's bratty friend, or the cute boy that came from the same hometown as himself. It should concern Jimin how he associated the adjective ‘cute’ with Jeongguk when Jeongguk dressed like he was ready to give anyone a ride on a ‘hello’ notice, and replied to Taehyung in the most non-standard way possible.

In short, it was stupid that Jimin was having such rosy feelings for the younger that made him feel like seventeen-year-old again—pure, and begging to be tainted.

Jeongguk was scratching his neck a tad bit shyly—Jimin had picked up on that habit of Jeongguk but never teased him about it. Only because he thought it was cute.

“I wasn’t sure what to get you and I didn’t want something so cheesy—”

“I love it.” Jimin's words worked into a low mumble, heavy with gratitude. He tore his eyes away from the box and met Jeongguk's eyes just in time to see them light up. “Thank you.”

Jimin wasn’t sure of the details of what happened next. Jeongguk had asked him to try it on; Jimin had tried it on; Jeongguk had happily, with a childish grin, held Jimin's wrist up and marveled at the bracelet, feeling satisfied; Jimin was, as composed as he could manage, drugging himself on Jeongguk's happy face; Taehyung had returned; TaeGuk started bantering—Jimin wasn’t truly there to register reality in its mosaic-like details. He was suspended between Jeongguk's laugh and its echo, between his heartfelt gesture and his clumsy words, between his boyish grin and his sincere eyes. Park Jimin was suspended between the steadily-growing-louder heartbeat of his and his very own maturing feelings.

Any other day, he would have teased Jeongguk about the ‘army’ part, knowing the younger would definitely get flustered. But not today; not when, for starters, he liked the gift and already cherished it, and when Jeongguk just looked this … happy. Really, Jimin had no other words to describe that idiot-grin.

Jimin might or might have not slept that night holding the bracelet like it were his lifeline, grinning helplessly and falling asleep to dreams full of white shirts and Timberland boots.

 

 

Things tended to progress quickly in Jimin's life. With fluff, smut takes time to fester; Jimin more or less skipped the festering part. Again, in his defense, it wasn’t much of a choice; Taehyung had coaxed him into accepting a dare, having that triumphant annoying smirk plastered on his face once Jimin had bitten. Kim Taehyung might have been a dick, but he knew how to be a good catalyst.

The climax, literally, took place being two counts away from the Big Bang—which in their case had pretty literal connotations.

With the second-to-last count, they were too busy to notice they had a man, a Taehyung, down. Playing Games with Jeongguk's Heart Level: Intermediate Scheming to Getting an Allegedly Straight Guy to Sleep With You.

If he had ever been conflicted about his unsure future, Jimin thought he could at least include ‘Sleeping with the notoriously Jeon-‘I Only Do Girls’-Jeongguk’ in his CV.

His foggy memory couldn’t recall how he had got Jeongguk to take so many shots with him. He could remember having a lazy afternoon that blurred into night, the night, with the younger. He couldn’t remember seeing Taehyung since the night before.

Jimin could remember him lazily lounging on the bean-chair in his room while Jeongguk mirrored his pose on the couch; he could remember a decent space present between them. He could remember pizza sauce smearing lips, tequila shots as they mocked the reality show they were watching, effervescent laughter growing heartier, temperature rising, chemicals stripping him of the last bits of self-restraint he had once had. He could remember crawling on all fours—closing the distance—and interrupting one of Jeongguk's laughs as he licked the sauce off Jeongguk's lips, climbing into his lap.

Till this very second, Jeongguk's laugh tapering off into that small kiss could still clearly be played in Jimin's head. He couldn’t make out Jeongguk's face, but there was barely any ‘stop’ signs there—either from Jeongguk's lips or his body.

One thing he was sure of, after he had broken away, probing for a reaction, it was Jeongguk who reconnected their lips, starting up a complex chemical reaction.

It didn’t matter who did what; Jimin was too hot, too horny to care. And the clock struck twelve and they hit third base.

 

He had woken up early and Jeongguk was still there. What concerned him was how Taehyung wasn’t in the same room. Though suffering from a hungover and a sore ass, Jimin got out of bed. Taehyung had promised he would be there to witness his birthday; Taehyung never broke his promises—never to Jimin anyways.

Jimin should have been concerned with the innocent (okay, not so innocent after all) face tranquilly sleeping next to him. He should have concerned himself with how he hadn’t talked with Jeongguk. Jeongguk, whose outlook on relationships or one-night-stands he didn’t know. Jeongguk, whose possible reaction or the lack of it would be a new thing for the elder.

He should have considered the ramifications of a ‘casual brush off’ or a subtle eye-spoken ‘I want more’. After all, he had taken one of Jeongguk's ‘first’s. Somehow, through the mess of the situation and the chaos of his mind, Jimin had overlooked such technicalities, his mind drifting to the MIA Taehyung.

It had only taken Jimin seeing Taehyung’s phone on the floor to sober up and start his search for Taehyung. It was going to be a lovely weekend.

By night, he was back at the dorms to not find Taehyung. He was tired; he was breathless; he needed a shower. Quickly, he decided to head for his last resort: Jeongguk's room.

Frantic rap on the door, a lopsided smile emerged. Jimin might or might have not noted a hint of a blush colouring Jeongguk's cheeks.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk sounded surprised. Jimin was glad Jeongguk sucked at multitasking as regarded his emotions; he couldn’t express many emotions at the same time. So being surprised saved them from having The Talk™ where the younger would inevitably feel uncomfortable. Jimin, though? He was used to that kind of situations.

“You look like you'd just run a mile.”

Jimin drew a deep breath and pushed back his hair, peering into Jeongguk's room. “Well, I kinda ran the last three streets—is Tae here?”

“Hmm, no.” Jeongguk was as much skeptic as he was concerned. “Why would V-hyung be here?”

Jimin didn’t waste any time, millions of worst case scenarios forcing their way on him. If Taehyung wasn’t already dead, Jimin would kill him.

“Okay then,” he turned around and started running, speaking from over his shoulder. “Thanks, Gukkie. I’ll call you later.”

He could hear Jeongguk calling out to him, pitch sinking into a level almost as frustrated as Jimin was back then. Hurray for the worst post-sex talk!

 

 

“Hyung, we have to talk.”

He had, unwittingly, avoided Jeongguk not only the morning following his 22nd birthday (which could also be referred to as the first, and hopefully not last, night they had bow chicka wow wow’d) but also the morning following. Plenty was already going on in his life—strange calls and stranger things: games, dares, counts.

He had barely entered the cafeteria and taken his usual seat on Monday when Jeongguk had appeared before his table.

Jimin was still pretty much in shock, staring at a text-message while trying to think of a way he could possibly humiliate someone that way. Strike that, not someone, but the someone.

The things he did for love.

“Jeon Jeongguk!” Jimin was pushing back his chair and standing up, highkey silencing the cafeteria as he stared up at the aforementioned person. “I've smoked joints that lasted longer than your dick. There’s no way I'm sleeping with you ever again.”

And that was the third count—at the school cafeteria, being down to the last count with the hardest level: Advanced Post-Sex Humiliation.

Jeongguk was blinking in utter confusion and disbelief; Jimin was breathing hard as if the words had drained him; their colleagues were stating as if they were a circus show. Before everyone’s amused gasps and Jeongguk's increasingly widening eyes, Jimin had marched out of the cafeteria, cursing himself mentally and on the verge of bursting into tears. He hated himself; he could feel his cheeks burning up; he could hear his phone beeping. If it were up to him, he would have gone back to the cafeteria and kissed Jeongguk senseless, apologizing to him through a fit of tears this forced act had triggered.

He was going to fix this, one way or another. Jeongguk had to team up with him; there was no other way. Well, he had little choice when the next text he received clearly instructed partner’s name to be Jeon Jeongguk.

 

So yeah, to fast forward the boring details intricately depicting Jimin's misery, the story could be summed up in the following pointers. After the bracelet, the birthday, and before the cafeteria fiasco, Jimin had received a call from a blocked number. Briefly, he was told that Taehyung had been playing that game called ‘7 Minutes to Heaven’ that had players from all over the world—those with some kind of ultimate prize at the end, but of course at a cost—and because Taehyung had broken the rules, the only way to save him was for Jimin to win the game.

Of course the tackiness of this situation didn’t end there. For Jimin to officially enter the game, he had to have a partner. The game told him it would give him a head-start, giving him warming-up challenges that he would be counted even if he was partner-less.

After a typical rally of ‘who are you’ and ‘don’t think of contacting the police’, the call was ended only to be followed by a link sent to Jimin's phone. Sinking into despair, Jimin had opened the link. In a few minutes after registering, he had the game downloaded.

7MtH was an extreme daredevil game, run in secret, and for every challenge finished, you got a load of money (and people’s cheers and approval, yay). For seventy-two hours, you were a slave to the game; and if you ditched, you lose all you had earned.

By signing up, there was no privacy in your life for that specified time interval, all you ‘challengers’ knew all the dirt on you—they could be your best fans if they liked you, like sponsors who would do their best to make you win; but don’t get on their bad side. In other terms, it was an illegal game where young adults gave you dares or challenges and watched you fail them, deciding on your next move depending on how well or ill you had performed. It sounded like the worst imitation of drunken adult ‘truth or dare’ game with only one option at hand and it had one big D. It was all for amusement—theirs—the perfect game for an adrenaline junkie whose mantra was ‘you only die once’.

You needed a credit to pass: 12 ‘nerves’, a minimum of 7 nerves was needed to finish the game. You succeed, you gain a nerve; you lose, a nerve is deducted. You had a ‘pass’, where you pass up on one of the dares. If you had a partner, you collectively had three passes, and each one of you had to finish a minimum of 7 dares; you could ‘swap’ your dares if agreed. Collectively, you needed 12 nerves out of the 24 to win. They had no ‘lives’, no ‘trial and error’; this was real life, not a game. The rules were simple: entertain, don’t fail, don’t snitch.

There were a few problems though, first one being it wasn’t stated what happened if you lost; second one being that this was the second year for this underground game and no one had won it—Jimin wasn’t even sure if there could be more than one winner. And Jimin wasn’t all too content with that ‘pass’ they had. Or how they took it up a notch or seventy depending on how much ‘chemistry’ the ‘sinnervers’ had.

Jimin had gone to the police, hi my friend has been missing for two days, he’s held a hostage in some illegal cult game, but a typical reply preceding the typical ‘file a report’ was has any crime been committed? Needless to say, Jimin's argument on snitching of ‘people could get hurt’ was an unsuccessful one. Whatever, the police had always been useless; he was to take matters into his own two hands.

It should be easy, right? Those Challengers made the game into a soft porn show. How hard could a few sexual acts with Jeongguk be?

Thank you, Memory Bubble. Back to present.

“Guk, you with me?” Jimin snapped his fingers before Jeongguk's eyes, taking a step backwards and letting go of Jeongguk's head.

“Mhmm,” he mumbled absently, shaking his head at last and tilting it while smiling confusedly. “So you're asking me to be your, um, partner?”

“In the game, Jeongguk.” Jimin was speaking slowly, carefully. He got out the paper that was in his back pocket and held it up for Jeongguk to see. “Would you like to team-up with me?”

It barely took any time to register; Jeongguk forgot all the fluster and the confusion and started face-palming.

“Oh no, he did not.”

“Oh yes, Taehyung did.”

Jeongguk seemed to recoil, taking a step back—shocked—defensively so.

“There’s no way I'm teaming up with you in a game that everyone turns into an X-Rated game, hyung.”

Jimin tried not to flinch, tried not to read into the implications Jeongguk made. Was the problem in the X Rated game, or in Jimin?

“Can I please come in?” He put his hand to Jeongguk's chest. “I’ll explain everything, I promise.”

Sighing resignedly, Jeongguk made way and Jimin entered the room.

“Long story short, Tae is missing and since the police wouldn’t act, the only way we can save him” —Jimin gulped, trying to keep his act together; the thought alone churned and hurt and turned his insides cold, turned them dead; he didn’t miss the widening eyes and shock on Jeongguk's part the second he said ‘missing’ though— “is to pamper the game. To play and beat it, without including the police.”

“I told him not to join.” Instantly a bit of heat crept into Jeongguk's voice. “I told him not to be as stupid as to sign up.”

“Really, Jeongguk?” Jimin wanted to bark a bitter laugh, fondly so because it was still Taehyung in question here. “Does Tae ever listen?”

“Valid point.” Jeongguk started chewing on his thumbnail.

Jeongguk straddled a chair, and Jimin leant against the desk, facing Jeongguk. He could see all the questions running through Jeongguk's mind; they had been haunting him at night too. What good would afew dares do to someone who toyed with a human’s life, why would they even do that? It was like those [insert specified number of RTs or shares for X to let Y do something] kind of mentality.

“So what do you know about 7 Minutes to Heaven?” Jimin broke the ice; he needed to get started, to get Taehyung back.

“Enough to stay away from it.”

Jimin smiled; it was genuine and it felt nice—small mercies making up for the stress of the past couple of days. It took a few seconds of Jimin staring with a small smile for the younger to understand that Jimin still wanted an answer.

Jeongguk sighed, running his hand through his hair.

“Stupid dares, stupid horny teenagers with lots of money, time limit, shit about nerves and passes, your life becoming a circus show, your life being on the line,” Jeongguk stopped listing things. “And god knows why this game hasn’t been stopped.”

Jimin was about to interject when a thought hit Jeongguk and he blurted it out.

“To be honest, I don’t get how V-hyung could possibly lose. The guy’s middle name is ‘I got guts, test me and I’ll kick you in the nuts.’”

Maybe Jeongguk did that to have Jimin laughing; maybe he didn’t. Whichever option it was, Jimin was doubled over, laughter-inertia almost pushing him all the way to Jeongguk to collapse on him. A glint of satisfaction mingled with the childness in Jeongguk's smile now.

“So even if he lost, how could he be taken a hostage by this stupid game?” Jimin could tell Jeongguk was trying to make light of the situation; he hadn’t missed that darkness that eclipsed his face once he told him Taehyung was a captive. He needn’t added that Taehyung's life was on the line; the anonymous caller hadn’t said such—not explicitly at least.

Sometimes it came handy, Jeongguk being an expert at ‘conceal, don’t feel.’

“He did not lose,” Jimin corrected, mulling over his words. Technically, Taehyung was ‘being punished for breaking the rules’. “He’s just stuck.”

“Still, I can't imagine how,” Jeongguk was shaking his head. “Do they fail you if you outdo your dare?”

“Jeongguk, be serious for a few seconds here.” Jimin tried to give an admonishing glare; tried being the operative word.

“You just seem so tense I thought you could use an interlude.”

Jimin smirked. He was about to make an innuendo then decided against it in the last second. After three beats, they both sighed in sync, laughing on the realization they had just twined a sigh. Maybe it was only Jimin's perspective, but a moment stretched long enough to feel like eternity—theirs. As if it were solely made so they could have that silent stare embellished by their idiot-grins and eyes forming crescents.

Jeongguk was the first to speak, tone serious and slightly desperate.

“So that’s why V-hyung hasn’t been returning my calls?”

Jimin nodded. He was descending from the high of their last moment. He hated how small moments like those held such a sway over his heart.

Jeongguk went on in the same manner. “What happened in the cafeteria was a stupid challenge?”

Abashedly, Jimin nodded. Jeongguk seemed to be processing as his eyes bore into Jimin.

“And…” he trailed off, looking away for a fraction of a second. “What happened the night before too?”

Jimin bit down on his lip. “That was all mine, Jeongguk. Sorry to inform you it wasn’t a dare.”

Something sparked up in Jeongguk's eyes; Jimin wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“So it wasn’t a dare?”

“Nope.” Jimin chuckled into his fist. He kept looking at Jeongguk for a while after he was done. Indeed, he was a fool for that boyish grin. He cleared his throat and tried to adopt a serious expression.

“And there’s no other choice but joining?”

“Yup.”

Both of Jeongguk's hands reached to his hair, disheveling it as he let out a mute scream.

“And you have to have a partner?”

Jimin arched an eyebrow. “The reason Tae isn’t here now is because he thought he could win without a partner, Jeongguk.”

He watched Jeongguk as he popped out his cheek, calculating. He let out a sigh and focused his eyes once again on Jimin.

“And it has to be me?” Jeongguk activated his puppy eyes; Jimin was immune—kinda.

“Well, it’s partially your fault for letting Tae ‘play with himself.’”

“Well,” Jeongguk mimicked, sitting up properly in his chair and getting the slightest bit worked up. “Hyung didn’t offer me a ‘partner’ position.”

Jimin walked the distance, this close to getting in Jeongguk's face for that insolent attitude when it hit him: though he was teasing, it wasn’t Jeongguk's fault; it was Jimin's very own fault. Taehyung has asked him to join and Jimin passed on that offer, unwittingly so. Little had he known how much trouble his casual pass would get his other half into.

Suddenly, he felt so cold, so small. He couldn’t summon his voice and he wagered it would break if it came out—much like himself.

“It doesn’t matter, I guess.” Jeongguk sighed and drooped his shoulders, letting his head hang down. “It’s not anybody’s fault and there’s no point to any blame. It was hyung’s decision and it’s going to be okay.”

That was sufficient to call out to Jimin. Simply like that, it was going to be okay.

“We’re going to get him back,” Jeongguk had a challenging spark in his eyes; Jimin forgot to breathe out.

Jimin nodded and got out his phone. He called out to Jeongguk to join him, feeling the latter’s presence warm by the time he had unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled his sleeves up. It was about time they got down to business. He started telling Jeongguk about how they needed to pass only twelve of the dares together or a total of seven each.

“What are those,” —Jimin loved it when Jeongguk became a walking pile of sarcastic sass, especially when he didn’t intend to be so— “the twelve labours??”

“More like seven labours,” Jimin cracked a smile; he felt adrenalized. “You know, seven’s a shitty lucky number.”

Jeongguk laughed and Jimin let himself be smug for a second. He turned to the desk now, giving his back to Jeongguk as he searched for a pen and a paper.

As briefly and as calmly as he could manage, Jimin recapped the situation—the call he had got, the skit with the useless police, the hell he had lived the past couple of days. It was mostly for his sake too, convincing himself Taehyung would be safe—that it was all a game.

Jeongguk was silent by the time he was done relating the story. He turned to his side to get a good look at the younger’s face.

“What?”

“Hyung,” for some reason, Jeongguk's low tone came out husky. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier, why did you go on alone with that much—”

He didn’t finish the sentence but Jimin understood. He tore his eyes away and got back to the paper, refusing to answer Jeongguk. Could he tell him he didn’t want to bother him? Or could he tell him he thought he could handle the situation alone, since it was easier for his heart that way?

“It doesn’t matter.” He marked an X on one of the papers. “You know now.”

And like that, Jimin was making maps, marking places Taehyung had been last seen doing ‘weird things’.

He had been too into explaining and briefing Jeongguk that he became oblivious to space and time. This time when Jimin turned around, Jeongguk was just leaning in—to see something properly? To make Jimin's life harder? Who knows—his lips almost came in contact with Jeongguk’s. The latter seemed too focused to notice he was standing too close for comfort, or the fact they had just shared an ‘almost’.

Facing Jeongguk still, Jimin hitched and his face backed away, comically so. That called Jeongguk back to reality where he was still oblivious to the situation.

It wasn’t the right time to be thinking about Jeongguk's cologne, or his stupid body scent, or his stupid lopsided smile or his stupid scar. His critical thinking skills weren’t responding; it was stupid that Park Jimin had such a major crush on Jeon Jeongguk.

“So last place V-hyung was seen at was that amusement arcade?” Jeongguk let out a frustrated sigh after his rhetorical question and backed away. “Okay, let’s sign up.”

Jimin held out his hand, smiling so hard the world disappeared into crescent slits. “May I?”

Jeongguk chuckled, looking away while shaking his head then back at his hyung. He fiddled in his phone till a message telling him to add Jeongguk's fingerprint appeared. Jeongguk put his thumb and that was another person stripped of his privacy … security? If only Apple knew.

After both of their phones clinked in a ‘Cheers!’ motion, a ‘RedxBlueUnicorn95x97’ appeared with a flickering ‘72hours↓’ beside it.

“Catchy username,” Jeongguk remarked.

Jimin smiled knowingly.

“So what do we do now?” Jeongguk was slowly—rhythmically—drumming his fingers against the desk while throwing a flirty smile at Jimin.

“Sleep.” Jimin replied meaningfully, already moving past Jeongguk who was laughing now, and taking off his shoes. “If we’re lucky” —he checked his watch; it read two to midnight, soon to be the eighteenth of October— “we get two hours before they hit us with the first challenge.”

“Hyung,”

Jimin looked over his shoulder, coming face-to-face with the oh-so-playful glint in the doe eyes.

“I like the hand accessory.” He said, tilting his head and giving Jimin his signature half-smile. “The bracelet especially.”

“Thanks, my b—” Jimin caught himself midsentence and almost wanted to perish; Jeongguk started laughing. He was glad for the ambiguity. “My bratty dongsaeng got it for me—oh please, wipe that smug smirk off your face.” Jimin said, pushing Jeongguk's face away and turning off the lights.

Jeongguk was barely capable from containing his laughter. “Sure. Whatever! You're the captain of this ship.”

While Jeongguk continued on laughing, Jimin slipped to said boyfriend’s bed, smiling from ear-to-ear himself.

 

---

 

Apparently, most people in the three main frat houses were either playing, or sponsoring 7MtH. It came as no surprise that they namely wanted Jeongguk to be Jimin's partner.

He had woken up to Jeongguk, kneeling on the floor (on his knees, a position Jimin always thought was a powerful one) and hands on the edge of the bed, playing with a feather and dragging it along Jimin's nose. He could see it was sunny outside; midnight had passed.

“Good morning, hyung.”

Jimin smiled, sat up and started stretching. “Morning,”

Memories of their reality came crashing on him, pausing his yawning midway. He was suddenly alert, jumping out of bed and scrambling to his feet.

“What time is it?”

Jeongguk was chuckling. “Easy, hyung. It’s almost noon. Sixty hours to go.”

Only then did Jimin breathe. He was still confused from post waking up syndrome. With one eye half opened in spite of the sun, he studied Jeongguk.

“You had an early lecture?”

Jeongguk nodded and walked to Jimin, tapping the feather on Jimin's cheek. “And you missed it. Just freshen up and let me feed you.”

Jimin was half turning around to head to the bathroom when he turned back to Jeongguk, already biting his lip in that gesture that he more than knew had people swooning within a ten-mile radius.

Jeongguk was already chuckling. “No, I meant normal food. Breakfast, hyung, breakfast.”

Jimin was grinning widely, dragging his feet to the bathroom as he muttered a ‘shame.’

While he freshened up, Jeongguk had told him he had fulfilled two challenges. He almost chocked on his toothpaste foam, knowing how extreme those challenges could be and also because he highkey wanted to be with Jeongguk, watch over him. But they had gone alright; though Jeongguk refused to tell him what those dares were.

Anyhow, they had three nerves (since Jimin's ‘publicly embarrass Jeongguk’ challenge was also a success) and fifty-nine hours to go.

He had dragged Jeongguk to his room (more food supplies there) and watched the younger make the shittiest egg scrambles to ever exist, and suffer while doing so, and still Jimin managed to laugh.

“Here you go,” Jeongguk put the pan down on the table.

“Is that…” Jimin tried not to grimace. “Edible?”

“Omelet du fromage at your service,” Jeongguk put both hands on his hips. “So oui oui croissant, it is edible.”

Jimin almost bumped his head on the table having laughed so hard. Really, Jeongguk could Google 100 Shittiest Jokes and read them out with a straight face, and Jimin would still laugh.

‘It might not look like the most appetizing thing ever, or taste like it’ Jeongguk had said, exaggerating a dramatic face while making a small heart with both hands ‘but it was made with loooove’.

Needless to mention, Jimin almost choked, again, on the bad-tasting omelet on hearing that.

He had barely finished breakfast and was watching some choreography with Jeongguk when the latter’s phone buzzed, interrupting the video.

While Jimin tensed, Jeongguk seemed unfazed. He was starting to question the ‘play it safe’ side to Jeongguk.

“‘Put whipped cream on the parts of Jimin's body you want to lick and lick it all off.’” While Jeongguk's eyes were focused on the screen, Jimin's were on Jeongguk, studying him, marveling at him—sneaking glances knowing that was something he shouldn’t be doing.

“Easy.” Jeongguk shrugged; Jimin credited him for not blushing.

Maybe Jimin had misheard. But if he hadn’t, then said dare included Jeongguk's lips—Jeongguk's tongue on Jimin's very own skin. And heaven forbid, he didn’t know which parts.

Or maybe he needed to reconstruct his profile-sketch of Jeongguk, maybe adding pointers from TaeGuk Interact to the default Jeongguk. Lover Boy wasn’t that sheltered untainted bunny who looked away when a kiss-scene came up on screen and made grand confessions of love. The latter was moot though; Jimin still had to establish that.

“They’re warming up.” He hadn’t noticed how deflated his voice sounded. Had he, perhaps, hoped for more?

“Sshh, lest you jinx us.” Jeongguk made sweeping motions with his hands, as if clearing the air. “Let’s hope they’ll keep the status quo for the rest of our challenges.”

The timer was still ticking. Trying so hard not to sigh, Jimin went for the mini-fridge and fished out the whipping-cream spray. Jeongguk gave him a skeptic look, lips parting on the verge of getting sassy.

“Don’t ask.” Jimin held a hand up and gave Jeongguk the can. “Tae must think it’s water or something.”

Jeongguk was laughing; Jimin couldn’t help his laugh at that sound. On angling the phone, he could see the timer; they had two minutes left. While Jeongguk started shaking the can—while a glint of mischief danced in his irises—Jimin sat down at the edge of the bed, unsure what to do. All the options he could come up with included stripping … and things the challenge hadn’t included.

He wanted to sigh. Kim Taehyung was sure going to hear days’ worth of rant. In a distant corner in his mind, he had hoped all of this was a joke, Taehyung’s new way of messing with him, or some grand scheme to getting him and Jeongguk to spend some time together. Usually Jimin would have thrown a fit at that, but so much he wanted Taehyung to be safe now.

Smirking, Jeongguk sauntered all the way till he was on his knees before Jimin, Jimin who almost gulped.

“Hey,” he tipped Jimin's chin up with his forefinger. “Do me a favour and look up, will ya?”

And now he was being ordered around, great. Jimin did as told. It took less than a second to feel the cold cream on his left collarbone all the way to the left side of his neck. He could feel Jeongguk's hand cupping his neck and pushing it forward.

“Keep still,” Though the last thing he wanted to do was keeping still, Jimin closed his eyes, reveling in the dark tone overlying Jeongguk's voice.

There wasn’t much room for thinking anyways, Jeongguk leant in and Jimin was once again feeling like a sin. Jeongguk's tongue, though not lecherously, dragged up from Jimin's collarbone all the way to his neck. It wasn’t cold anymore; Jeongguk's tongue triggered every molecule in Jimin and they all started, in a swayed overwhelmed state, colliding into one another, burning him up. A small moan built in the back of Jimin's throat and he almost arched forward, but the situation got the best of him.

Jimin opened his eyes just in time to hear the ticking sound and the timer stopping—to see Jeongguk on his feet and handing a towel to him. He was chewing a gum now.

“Wait,” Jimin was beyond skeptical. “That can't be it.”

Jeongguk's expression was that of an innocent child as he chewed; Jimin had a hard time focusing knowing those lips were just dragging along his skin. “I always thought your moles were really cute.”

“In a no homo way.” Jimin hadn’t expected a reply; it was a knee-jerk comment.

But Jeongguk once again had that wry smirk that had you questioning if the sun really set in the west.

So four nerves and fifty-seven hours to go.

They both went to attend lectures normally, their phones ready in their pockets and feet ready to lunge into a run any time now. What irritated Jimin most about this game was the time limit; or how some challenges had to have the two of them together for it to be done. Suppose he was in a place and Jeongguk was two miles away, on accepting the dare, they had three minutes (five on ‘extremes’ and Jimin was glad he hadn’t encountered that unknown extreme yet) to finish said challenge.

Jimin was halfway sleeping through Econ when his phone buzzed. Now picture this: Jimin jolting awake, grabbing his bag mid-jolt and barely spurting a ‘sorry’ to the professor who already wasn’t Jimin's #1 fanboy (can’t blame him; happens when you're always late to lectures and when you're there, you sleep through the two hours) as he exited lecture room before everyone’s astounded eyes. Some of the students got out their phone—them accomplices! He could feel Yoongi’s suspicious eyes as he hurried through the empty hallway. He barely had the time to greet the elder—what was he doing there anyways? Blue-haired TA should have a lecture to attend and computer-engineering students to reverse engineer.

He was reading the challenges and online comments as he ran across campus; Jeongguk should be in the practice room—he’d better. They gave him an option now in which Jeongguk could take either challenge if he chickened out.

In short, Jimin wanted to scream into the sun.

By the time he was done with reading and analyzing his options, Jimin was this close to golfing his phone. Screw the two summer jobs he got to save up for said phone; screw beating the game; and preferably screw Jeon Jeongguk; this game was an effing joke.

He kicked the door to the practice room open, glaring at an older hyung who dared make an inappropriate remark about his panting state. He dropped his bag and marched on.

“Jeongguk?” he asked Yugyeom as he marched across the room.

Though he was already engaged in a conversation, Yugyeom's eyes took their sweet time studying Jimin before answering.

“Showers.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. Jimin nodded and started walking to the lockers.

The timer started—five minutes. Jimin started running, hearing some whistle but it wasn’t the time for that. Jeongguk had just taken off his shirt and was holding a bathroom robe when Jimin made eye contact with him, fixing him in place. He held up his phone. At least no one was there but the two of them.

“I can't send a nude to my ex.” Jimin explained, borderline irritated as he closed the distance. “My ex still likes me. My ex is probably watching right now if he weren’t the one to send this dare.”

Jeongguk shrugged; that brat was too damn amused Jimin felt compelled to put him in his damn place. Well, it came as no surprise, since he too saw the dare.

“So would you like to flash someone?”

Jimin elbowed Jeongguk, cutting the younger’s laugh halfway, though Jeongguk had dodged most of the damage. He muttered something that should have been mean but that only made Jeongguk laugh harder.

He flopped on the floor, trying not to let Jeongguk's abs distract him—focusing on the annoying countdown. “So a nude to the ex who likes me, or flash someone.”

“Fork in the road, ha?” there was no humour to Jeongguk's statement.

“Seemingly.”

“I'd opt for the flashing one if I were you,” Jeongguk offered simply. Jimin almost couldn’t believe that was the same Jeongguk who would only, under extreme conditions, change before him. “I'd have offered to take them but…” he gave what was supposed to be an indifferent shrug.

Needless to say it looked like shrug someone who had a good hand would give.

“What’s your dare?”

“One I'm about to pass.” Jeongguk was now leaning against one of the lockers.

It hit Jimin then that he could offer his dare to Jeongguk to release him from what could potentially be worse. “Would you like to go for ‘swap’? I mean if it’s easier for you.”

Jeongguk laughed. Jimin hadn’t known he had cracked a joke. When he kept staring at Jeongguk, the latter got his act together and gave a slightly shy smile—or that was how Jimin interpreted it.

“I don’t even have an ex—just hookups.”

It was Jimin's turn to laugh. “Wait, never?”

It was a full-fledged shy smile now. Jimin almost regretted laughing. But Jeongguk being Jeongguk surely quickly got over this small mishap and smiled serenely at the elder, cocking his head to the side.

“I've never really… liked someone enough, you know.”

Jimin had made it a life-mission not to stare for too long into the abyss—said abyss had a name and it sounded so much like Jeongguk's eyes.

Jeongguk grabbed Jimin's phone. He wasn’t sure why or how or when, but Jeongguk took the dare and they had no gaps; Jeongguk was going to flash someone.

They were down to three minutes now.

“You owe me one,” Jeongguk was taking off his pants. He had already found his bathroom robe.

Jimin was smiling wryly. “Shut up! You're so enjoying this.”

He caught the pants that were just thrown at him with one hand, returning Jeongguk's smile with shades and shades of bolder flirtation—at least on his part. Jeongguk was already in the robe, taking off his the last and most important item.

“Who’s your victim?” Jimin asked, getting up.

Jeongguk was already opening the door. “Yugyeom, duh!”

Oh well, shit!

“Wait,” Jimin called out a beat too fast. His tone sounded urgent and he hated it for betraying him.

“Can't you like flash Jaebum or Hobi-hyung or something?” Jimin hoped it didn’t sound as nervous as he thought it came out.

“Why not Yugyeom?” Jeongguk’s eyebrows creased in confusion. “He doesn’t play 7MtH and he’s my friend so he wouldn’t take it seriously.”

“Well, he might be your friend but you're also on his gayradar.”

As Jimin uttered that comment that so much sounded like a snide remark, he was looking away, scrunching his nose. Jeongguk was hopeless.

Jeongguk was treading carefully now. “But Yugyeomie has a boyfriend.”

Hopeless.

Jimin turned to Jeongguk with a lopsided smile that had a Taehyungian snark to it. “I'm sorry but that’s relevant because…?”

“Oh, my bad.” Jeongguk gave a sardonic shrug. “I kinda thought being exclusive with your partner meant, you know, being exclusive.”

Eighty seconds.

Jimin sighed and looked down. “Okay, Guk. Whatever you're comfortable with—”

“Fine.” Jeongguk interrupted; his tone was no less resolute than his expression. “Since I won't be doing my dare, you do yours then. I don’t mind it.”

Jimin was offended; why did Jeongguk take that tone with him—the nerve!

“Excuse you—” he crossed his arms and looked at Jeongguk defiantly— “but who said you should be the one minding it?”

Jeongguk took a step forward. “I wasn’t the one complaining just a few minutes ago.”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t do the dare.” Jimin closed the last step, being right up in Jeongguk's face. “By trying to swap, I was just trying to save your puritan ass from falling into more humiliating dares.”

“Well if that’s the guess then ok I guess. You're free to do whatever you want.” Jeongguk said, eyes shooting sparks. “No one stopped you.”

“Fine.” Jimin grabbed the phone and changed the dare. “Your highness is released from his duty. I'm gonna send the damn nude.”

“Fine.” Jeongguk said in the same childish manner and turned around.

It didn’t take much time; in a few seconds, the beeper went off: the challenge was fulfilled.

Jeongguk turned around on hearing the beeper, surprised—amazed, Jimin couldn’t tell. He didn’t care; he was smug.

“You have your nudes on your phone?” Jeongguk sounded indignant.

Jimin only smirked—derisively so. For a few seconds, Jeongguk was blankly staring at him, almost coldly so. Silently, he left the lockers room. Jimin knew he should have called out, but in less than a minute, he had got his answer.

Jeongguk's dare was fulfilled. Jimin had done his share of face-palming before a smug Jeongguk returned to the room, grabbing his pants from the floor. All the while he undressed, the smirking brat kept Jimin's eyes on him, not letting them drift away—and boy, what a scene!

“I hope the whole campus hadn’t seen your dick.” Jimin muttered flatly when Jeongguk was done.

“Why?” Jeongguk casually checked his phone. “I was only rectifying a misinformation about my” —he made quotation marks with his fingers— “‘small dick’.”

Okay, maybe winning this game, at this rate and with Jeongguk's attitude, wouldn’t be so easy after all. Jimin didn’t understand why he felt like this was turning into a competition and he hadn’t the slightest intention to lose.

Anyhow, six nerves, fifty-two hours left, a speechless Yugyeom, a ‘wanna have another go? in our relation… or not ;)’ text, lots and lots of sponsors and fanboys, their bank-accounts significantly bigger, and static crackling as everyone’s favourite Sinnervers existed the building with this nation’s worth of pride explicit in their smiles.

 

 

It was clear that they were giving each other the cold shoulder; but of course 7MtH had to have another say in that. It seemed like there were some unspoken agreement between the two of them that they don’t gravitate away from one another. Lucky them, they needed that time in the library, with midterms being around the corner.

Jimin had just checked his phone (and stolen a glance at Jeongguk who was sitting alone in a table at the furthest corner) and they had forty-eight hours left. He might or might have not been sneaking one too many glances at Jeongguk; he thought that ‘smart’ casual suited him. Really, the tie drove him crazy; it was fit for light BDSM and not a library.

Jimin usually spends so much time trying not to let his thoughts drift to impossible scenarios—and somehow, Jeongguk is always in all of them. Fuck.

Beep.

Almost on cue, Jeongguk and Jimin looked up and their eyes met. Jimin gestured to go outside and Jeongguk needn’t that. Their dare had a more generous timer; it had a slightly different set of rules too this time.

“What does it mean ‘since we combined your dares, you get instructions for the next move once you finish the first’?” Jeongguk asked the second they were out of the library.

Jimin shrugged. “It’s my first time playing this shit of a game too, Guk.”

The screen flashed and they both checked their phone. They had to go to IKEA in the next ten minutes. It would have been one helluvan easy dare; except that the distance needed at least twenty minutes on foot and with that traffic, it was impossible to get there before midnight.

“Okay,” Jeongguk said, looking at the countdown that started. “I don’t think I can take my bike again today.”

Threading through his hair and taking a deep breath, Jimin reached for Jeongguk's hand. He didn’t waste any time. He tugged at it and motioned with his head.

“We run.”

Jeongguk didn’t even get to finish that (fondly)sardonic laugh; he had to run if he wanted to avoid being dragged. Jimin had always imagined it would be a feat to go for a run with Jeongguk, with the latter being cursed (or blessed, really) with Daddy Long Legs syndrome, but it was rather… doable?

They drew a lot of attention, almost bumping into people and constantly apologizing all the while they laughed and ran. Jimin didn’t care; he enjoyed the breeze; he enjoyed Jeongguk's occasional tugs on his hand to draw his attention for a shortcut; he enjoyed how their laughs at this small adrenaline rush this time of night was carried over the wind; he enjoyed the sight of Jeongguk's wind-blown hair and that daring smile that sent Jimin's heart racing even more.

“There,” Jeongguk pointed at an alley, pulling Jimin forward (since he would have been facing a different direction). “If we jump—”

Jimin understood and he was already on it. “Hands.”

Jeongguk was laughing but was already kick-starting Jimin, interlacing his hands and bending a bit to jump-start Jimin over the four-meter wall.

He was surprised there was so much power in Jeongguk's push. They would make a lovely dance partners—Jimin should have figured since that night he got laid. He would love to experiment that much power in a different kind of push.

Naughty, naughty thoughts, scatter.

After hanging with one hand to the side, Jimin pulled himself up and tried to balance himself enough to pull Jeongguk up too.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk was backing away, maniac zeal shifting the colour in his eyes. “How much for me being able to scale that wall?”

Jimin pulled back his hand, suddenly afraid Jeongguk would hurt himself. It wasn’t the time for any bets.

“Okay, Gukkie. Pretty sure you can do it, but how about you let it go this time?”

Jeongguk smirked and started sprinting back the distance; Jimin let out a relieved breath when he saw Jeongguk reaching for his hand. It wasn’t as strenuous as he thought, especially that Jeongguk made effort, pulling himself up so he wouldn’t weigh more.

And like that, they were on the other side, with two minutes remaining and three blocks to run. To be frank, Jimin didn’t sweat it; he was sure they were going to make it.

And before they reached the last ten seconds, they had stepped into the hugeassed mall-like store. While Jeongguk knelt down to catch his breath, Jimin lifted his hand, smiling and demanding a high-five.

“We cool?”

Jeongguk high-fived Jimin. “Were we ever not cool, hyung?”

Jimin must have given Jeongguk a big smile for the younger to look away and scratch his neck. Well, he could consider this payback for the shirtless state the younger was in a few hours ago.

Their next instruction was to go to the bedroom department. The salesman was already eyeing them suspiciously, along with some of the clients (why did it have to be awfully crowded this time of night anyways?) Not only were they so out-of-place and sweaty—not being a couple and not being really old enough to be there—but also Jeongguk had that sudden urge to try one of the bean-chairs and Jimin was a second too late to pointing out the ‘no sitting’ sign. Bottom line, they were caught and they were ‘politely’—salesman kind of ‘politely’, pardon—told off.

Jeongguk checked his phone. His face was suddenly so bleached of colour and he was at such loss of words that no ‘Jeonggukie’ or shaking could snap him back. Sighing, Jimin decided to check his phone.

It wasn’t that hard—they could have had it worse. The screen was showing one of the most expensive beds in the store, with their challenge being ‘make out on that ridiculously expensive bed in IKEA’.

“Jeongguk,” Jimin snapped his fingers before him. “We have less than five minutes.”

Taking a step backwards, Jeongguk shook his head as if getting back to reality.

“We’re supposed to make out on that bed,” he emphasized, stretching the words with his hands in the air.

“Yeah.” Jimin replied simply.

Jeongguk closed the distance. He was talking in a low tone now, almost hissing. “Before that hugeassed number of people, with cameras, people we know are watching … and just ughhh!”

He was growling and walking away by the end of the sentence. Jimin could see how frustrated Jeongguk was by the simple way his hand carded through his hair, latching to his locks—Jeongguk had various tells. It was easy, really. He turned to face Jimin.

“And we’re forgetting the main thing here,” he forced a smile. “You and I making out, hyung.”

Jimin thought that, despite everything, there was that pure part in Jeongguk that he just was so … overprotective of. Unless, of course, he was the one devouring it.

“Ahh, for god’s sake. Now you're acting like a prude and four days ago you weren’t fucking like one.” Jimin exclaimed, frustration written all over his face. He approached Jeongguk and more or less grabbed his hand. “They’re just a few kisses.”

He was halfway giving the ‘do I have to do everything myself’-eye-roll when Jeongguk interjected.

“Why are you acting so casual about this?” he was speaking with a smile, a chuckle within the folds of his tone as his hands gesticulated in the air. But Jimin caught something; the smile didn’t fool him.

“They’re just a few kisses.” Jimin repeated, gaze steady. “They shouldn’t mean much.”

And he was right. His words brought forth a heavy silence, and if he weren’t mistaken, Jeongguk had flinched.

“Yeah.” Albeit he was returning the stare in a harsh manner, his voice failed to follow suit; it was small. “They shouldn’t.”

Jeongguk bumped into Jimin's shoulder and headed for said bed. They had less than three minutes now; and Jimin was still in his place, tending to the hurt this bump had caused. In a way, Jeongguk had bumped into his heart.

Tae, he thought wishfully and willed himself to move.

There were only a couple at that bed, with the salesman just finishing his oh-so-‘let me go on a ten-minute explanation why you should waste 7,000$ on a bed that enhances your performance and makes babies in 6 months instead of 9’-convincing speech.

Without looking at Jimin, Jeongguk held out his hand and Jimin instantly took it. It was unfair how cozy—how right—their hands together felt. They stood behind the salesman who was now leading the couple away to finalize their purchase. Jeongguk winked at the girl and flustered her, getting a glare from her husband (probably); Jimin wanted to ‘right in front of my salad, Jeongguk? Really?’ but they were down to the last minute so…

Since apparently that was as far as Jeongguk could go, Jimin hopped on bed, dragging Jeongguk along by the tie (one more item off his bucket-list, yayy) and barely letting him register the fact he was hovering over him; Jimin had already taken Jeongguk's face into his hands, kissing him.

And like the first time, Jeongguk forgot all his reservations and objections, and succumbed to his bodily desires—to the chemistry of his and Jimin's bodies together. Jimin could feel his grip grow lax on the tie; he could feel Jeongguk grip his thigh firmly. And with his free hand, he was lying Jimin's head down, holding the side of Jimin's face and taking charge of that kiss; Jimin closed his eyes.

And it was some kiss. He could swear the beeper had gone off; they were done. Funny, he could swear Jeongguk and he were just getting started. It was okay to reel the moment in, to get suspended in time, to get tethered to the sinful touch, to get hooked on that blissful feeling. Jeongguk's tongue could have tied Jimin's like a cherry knot. At Jimin's throaty moan, he could swear he could distantly hear a lot of scandalous gasps and an angry shout in the background. But hell, Jeongguk's knee between his thighs, Jeongguk's finger rubbing circles against his cheekbone, Jeongguk's tongue almost reaching his throat, Jeongguk's mouth sucking at his. After a painful, longing beat, Jeongguk had let go of Jimin's lip with a pop.

Jimin had barely the time to smile back at Jeongguk once he opened his eyes; Jeongguk tugged at his hand, whispered one sexy ‘let’s run’, and got off. He had bumped into the security man, friskily letting out an ‘oops sorry’ while dragging a laughing Jimin behind him. A few security guards joined their fellow; too bad Jimin and Jeongguk knew how to play Mannequin Challenge. Maybe the hardest part had been keeping their laughter in.

“We lost them,” Jimin, slightly out of breath, pointed out once they had left the store.

“Sshh,” Jeongguk called from over his shoulder, not letting go of Jimin's hand. “Keep running.”

What came next sounded so much like Jeongguk's name—like Jimin's laugh.

They had stopped a few blocks away, completely out of breath. Jimin doubled over and Jeongguk was on his butt on the pavement.

With one eye opened and a hand held to his abdomen, Jimin looked down at Jeongguk.

“So it wasn’t so bad after all, huh?”

Jeongguk cracked a knowing smile; he let his head hang backwards, closing his eyes. “Cardio is good for your health.”

He knew Jeongguk understood; but he wasn’t letting it go either.

“I meant the making out.”

Jeongguk opened his eyes, meeting Jimin's eyes. “That back there?”

Jimin cocked an amused eyebrow.

“Oh the making out wasn’t so bad.” Jeongguk had that dorky lopsided smile up. “Like at all.”

Jimin was laughing and Jeongguk was up to his feet once again. He got a message, and though confused, he obliged. Jimin had taken a picture of the building—the sushi bar—they were standing before.

A few seconds later, Jeongguk's phone buzzed.

“Why does it feel like everyone has this sexual energy and they need a release?” Jeongguk asked indignantly, rhetorically. “So much pent-up frustration, really, I'm tired.”

Jimin had a feeling it was yet another amusing challenge.

‘Flirt with a stranger and get them to initiate a kiss (or more).’ It had read. ‘Let Jimin film it.

“Can you even flirt with a stranger and get a kiss in ten minutes?” Jimin asked, disbelieving; it was utterly and humanly—Jeonggukly—implausible.

Jeongguk only winked and started walking to the door.

Seven nerves with them, and forty-seven hours left.

While Jimin ordered whatever-thing-he-was-so-not-eating, Jeongguk was scanning the bar for a potential ‘stranger’. There were all guys but one middle-aged lady two seats to their left. Jimin pretended not to know whom Jeongguk would opt for.

Jeongguk had a little bit over seven minutes to start liplocking with that fine lady. Jeongguk went in for the hunt after playfully telling Jimin to film from that (right) side because it was his good side, winking at the elder.

Jeon Jeongguk was hopeless; Jimin was sighing to the moon and back.

Needless to mention that Jeongguk's good side was his back. Jimin had a feeling Jeongguk had done this purpose. It kinda bugged him, like why would he? As if he might fuck up had he been facing Jimin. Fucking up at flirting? No, not that Jeon Jungcook.

It always struck him as strange, how very ‘not smooth’ Jeongguk was often around him, yet he scored with the ladies so easily and so often. In less than a minute, the lady was laughing. Jeongguk was so comfortable, so easily flirting like he were in his element. Had he not witnessed it with his own two eyes, he would have thought this flirty Jeongguk was a different Jeongguk.

But Jimin’s comparison point was invalid, using himself as that point. Like, had you seen Jeongguk giving it a go with any guy? No, Jimin, you hadn’t.

It had barely been three minutes but Jimin could read that open body language miles away; she would be down for more than just a kiss—leaning closer to Jeongguk, laughing into Jeongguk's chest, so carelessly touching Jeongguk's thigh and leaning at The Best Cleavage Shot angle. The seductive allure was unmistakable.

She even ordered a drink for Jeongguk—

Bitch, that ass could be illegal! Jimin was screaming in his mind. Well, it kinda had been till … last year?

For some reason, Jeongguk excused himself—to the bathroom? Jimin wasn’t sure. Had he missed something. What he didn’t miss was how quickly she had slipped something into Jeongguk's drink. He almost got up and confronted the lady, but they would lose the nerve that way.

Less than three minutes.

Jeongguk returned and Jimin had to come up with another way lest the younger ended being a goner. She kept stealing nervous glances at how Jeongguk was just holding his glass, not drinking it. Jimin adjusted his phone against his order, getting the right angle then got out of his seat.

He stopped a table away, trying to catch Jeongguk's eyes. When he did, Jeongguk looked away but at least he had entered his field of vision. He made a drinking motion then shook his head. It was almost comical—the timing. Jeongguk's cup had fallen on her dress; she wasn’t outraged; she seemed rather calm as she (and Jeongguk) both bent down at the same time.

Update: that ‘accident’ was deliberate.

And Jimin wouldn’t entertain himself with how Jeongguk was giving her bedroom eyes, pushing her chin up for their lips to meet, with how she basically swallowing Jeongguk's face.

He could hear the beep from where he sat but they hadn’t stopped.

“That’s enough,” he muttered to himself as he started walking back.

He tapped the lady’s shoulder and she turned to him after three other taps.

“Can I help you with something?”

“You could but you're too busy helping him, I guess.” Jimin said in a low tone, not meant to be heard. Jeongguk seemed like he were half smiling into his fist, half worried.

She probably felt the ‘snarky’ vibes and turned to him. “I beg your pardon.”

Louder and with a bright smile, Jimin added. “He’s gay.”

“He’s not—”

Barely keeping from rolling his eyes (and so much wanting to wipe the amused smirk off Jeongguk's face) he smiled and grabbed Jeongguk's shirt into his fist, going for a kiss that rendered their last making-out rather PG 13 as his heart thudded loudly in his ears. It was as if Jeongguk had seen it coming all along, the way he kissed Jimin that is.

When Jimin broke away, he was flushed and he wouldn’t meet Jeongguk's eyes; he was slowly licking his lips, as if tasting the remnants of that kiss as he smiled at the lady. And Jimin could swear, mingling with her affronted gasp, he had heard a husky mumble on Jeongguk's part that sounded so much like a ‘wow’. Whatever momentary confusion his words had caused, it was enough for him to walk away and for Jeongguk to mutter something hurriedly then follow him.

Okay, he felt stupid. Utterly and thoroughly stupid. Jeongguk was calling out to him; he wouldn’t stop. He crossed the street and Jeongguk almost got run over, having ignored the green light. Jimin, in panic, turned around, witnessing Jeongguk jump over a car and utter, in a haste, an apology then jog the distance to Jimin, reaching out for his hand.

Jimin turned around quickly, doing his best to jerk Jeongguk's hand away. He wouldn’t let him speak; they wouldn’t mention what happened there ever again.

“We have eight nerves now, almost there.” Jimin pressed his lips into a smile; it felt too thin. There was more to the former amusement in Jeongguk's expression, something that shades of hurt had overlain. “Nice one, Gukkie.”

Under the faint lights of the street-lamps and at the flickering lights of the passing cars, Jeongguk’s expression was unreadable. But Jimin needn’t see; he could feel the hurt, and it pained him. Why couldn’t it go smoother than this? Why couldn’t he get his closure, why was he left wondering—left hoping? Wasn’t he the one playing games?

But it was also Jeongguk who wouldn’t say anything, who wouldn’t show any signs. He wouldn’t stop Jimin and that was enough to lead Jimin on.

And that kinda, just a little bit, hurt.

“I'm sorry I've kissed you without permission,” Jimin said, turning around so he wouldn’t meet Jeongguk's eyes and already walking.

“No, no,” Jeongguk's voice said in a haste, like someone trying to avoid a misunderstanding. Jimin turned back, waiting for the rest of it; Jeongguk was biting down on his lip. “You did what you had to do.”

A little sneer—the hurt kind—escaped Jimin's lips and he started shaking his head as he looked at the ground. When he looked up, Jeongguk seemed tense, the way someone realizing the damage he had done would tense up.

“Yeah. What I had to do.”

Because that would always be how it goes. Jeongguk would always dismiss what Jimin wished would have the younger reading too much into—would prompt him into making a move.

He still waited. Jeongguk was only blinking, looking rather torn but doing nothing to put the strife going within to rest—if anything he was starting another in Jimin's heart, a more painful one.

“Umm,” Jeongguk seemed hesitant. “Would you like to grab a bite or so?”

“No, Jeonggukie.” Jimin's eyes melted. For some reason he felt throttled and on the verge of crying—strong emotions often made him go through this episode. He hated this helplessness, helplessness when it came down to his emotions—to emotions he wasn’t entitled to feel because he didn’t know where he stood with Jeongguk. One day, they were flirting; the other, Jimin would be doing his walk of shame or Jeongguk would. Was it Jeongguk who was oblivious, or it was Jimin?

“I'm tired so I think I’ll just call it a night. You go, have fun” —as Jimin tried to avoid looking at the younger’s eyes for too long, Jeongguk was already walking, not away, but towards Jimin; he was looking at the ground, a small smile resting on his lips; Jimin couldn’t see the expression; he was glad he couldn’t— “Call me if anything happens.”

“Okay, let’s go back.” Jeongguk offered Jimin a hand and motioned forward with his head. “If you're too tired to walk I can give you a lift.” He motioned to his back, mimicking the piggyback-ride position. It made Jimin cough out a small laugh; Jeongguk smiled.

“So?” Jeongguk prompted, with knees still slightly bent.

Jimin's smile started to progressively grow—this was how soft he was for Jeongguk.

Shaking his head as if mentally rebuking his heart, he said, “My tummy has room for dinner, I guess.”

Jeongguk's eyes lit up. He made a cocky face, made as if fixing his collar, and motioned for the elder to loop his arm through his.

Tomorrow was going to be a better day.

 

 

Boy, Jeongguk after midnight was sure fun.

People tended to get honest at nighttime; Jeongguk got open, got lamer. And because they were so underdressed, they went to buy the cheapest sweaters their brokeass-student-budget could afford. All because Jeongguk made a great argument saying they shouldn’t ruin their night by returning to campus. What Jimin heard in that sentence was a rephrased, curbed ‘shouldn’t ruin our night by returning to reality’.

They had had dinner, mostly Jeongguk impersonating their food and making scenarios with funny pitches, and Jimin helplessly laughing and punching or pinching Jeongguk. They had been there for an hour and they had to go back—to get some rest—now.

Jimin excusing himself to go wash his face might have been his first grave mistake for the night. He should have noticed, high on Jeongguk's presence or not, all the red signs as he trotted to the bathroom—the flickering lights, the eerie emptiness, his phone restarting in his pocket.

Jimin barely got out of the bathroom, yawning and willing to take Jeongguk up on his previous offer. He thought having slept for so long the previous night would rejuvenate him, but here he was, at 2 A.M. hardly 16 hours being awake, and he was feeling dead beat.

But Jeongguk was nowhere to be seen. The diner was eerily empty; he could no longer hear the sizzles in the kitchen and waitress was nowhere to be seen. Groggily, he got out his phone and checked for messages. The first tidal wave of reality settled in when he noticed his phone, previously low battery, was now fully charged.

Jimin's eyes became alert immediately, scanning the diner for any signs of the younger. His stomach started becoming queasy, feeling the ominous onsets of some real shitty premonitions. He had already taken the decision to leave the diner in search for Jeongguk, and his will had been fortified when two shady-looking men entered, looking around them. Maybe he was being paranoid, but the last couple of days hadn’t been really helping; and it was worse now with Jeongguk being MIA too. He was worried; he was scared—for Jeongguk mostly.

With an elevating heartbeat, Jimin weighed his options. Conspicuously walking fast towards the door was like walking right into a trap, and looking for the back door consumed too much time he doubted he had.

Time wasn’t on Jimin's side, cornering him into quickly making a decision. He wasted exactly three seconds, catching one of the aforementioned men nod towards him after alerting his friend.

That was how Jimin had forgone his dignity. He broke into a run, jumping over the counter and back to the bathroom—he was confident there was a window he could fit through and out to the unknown.

He could hear the men shuffling behind him, shouting and cursing. He pushed one of the banners as he run, making an obstacle. It should buy him whatever little time he could use. Once he had entered the bathroom, he contemplated kicking the door-handle in hopes it would break.

Abort mission; the voices were getting closer. After a jump on the lid-closed toilet, it was easy to reach for the window—and indeed he could fit through it. Those were the rare times he was glad he was smol.

On a slippery creaking branch, Jimin was crouching; he estimated he could jump safely. ‘Safely’ mostly meant with minimum damage done, comparatively speaking.

God, he hoped Jeongguk was okay.

He was surprised to find it in him to smirk triumphantly at one of the men from the other side. Alas, he had to act quickly, one of them was already out of the bathroom, probably taking the long route out. After three separate swings to three different branches—after a few tweeds scratched his face and few leaves getting into his mouth—Jimin was on the ground, crouched like a cat and ready to break into a run. He didn’t even feel the throb he had imagined—indeed, adrenaline raised his pain-tolerance.

He started running in a direction he hoped wouldn’t make him bump into either of the men who had probably separated by now to have higher chance of capturing Jimin. Even the streets were too dark for comfort, as if complementing the scene. What kind of sick joke was this? Why, why, why would anyone want to harm him? He couldn’t understand why this game was still alive.

But then again, why would anyone want to harm Taehyung? This game was wrong—so fundamentally wrong and it had to stop.

He couldn’t see them anywhere near, but Jimin wouldn’t dare slow down. It had only taken him to hear an autumn’s leaf crackle under some shoes, it had only taken him to glimpse some shadowplay stretching and disappearing across the street, for his feet to automatically slip into the shadows—waiting, lurking.

Jimin marked the seconds passing by his beating heart, watching the empty street where only a car passed. He was profusely sweating as his back stuck to a cold wall that even his sweater did nothing to help. Looking left and right, he decided to go on. And he would have, had it not been for the hand the grabbed his wrist and the other one that covered his mouth.

Eyes flinging wide open, Jimin's first ‘fight or flight’ instinct was a kick and run. But as he fell to the ground on his rear—as the hands forced him down—as he fell against a familiar chest and his mind processed that familiar scent, his body relatively grew lax.

“Sshh,”

He needn’t the voice, he needn’t the lips brushing against the shell of his ear, he needn’t the warm breath and the husky tone, to know it was Jeongguk.

Part of Jimin couldn’t think clearly, feeling Jeongguk most alive behind him—his warmth, his breaths, his heartbeat. For a while, as he inhaled the younger’s perfumed hand, Jeongguk's steady heartbeats tallied Jimin's body, messing up with his very own heartbeat.

“It’s just me,” Jeongguk continued, slowly relaxing his grip and lowering his hand; Jimin wanted to melt. Even as Jimin nodded, Jeongguk didn’t let him go. He couldn’t object; Jeongguk was warm; Jeongguk was cozy and Jimin just wanted to sag against that broad chest and stay cocooned there till everything sorted itself out—till Taehyung was by his side, till Taehyung was there, seeing that fabricated scene and teasing Jimin about finally ‘coming out’.

Instead, he shifted, turning to face Jeongguk in the dark.

“Where were you?” Jimin whispered, catching the gleam of the moonlight in Jeongguk's eyes.

“I'm sorry, hyung,” he could hear Jeongguk's signature uncomfortable chuckle which he put often for show, his ‘please don’t worry’ façade. “I tried to lose them but they still came back for you.”

It only occurred to Jimin then that Jeongguk was on the ground, that he wasn’t on the run or at least on his feet.

“Jeongguk, you're not” —one of Jimin's hands blindly reached for Jeongguk's face, the other for his abdomen, frantically moving down to his thigh— “injured anywhere?”

Once again, that pseudo chuckle came. Jeongguk's hand reached for Jimin's on his body, taking it into his and, with noticeable effort and a grunt, he got to his feet.

“A tranquilizer,” in the moonlight, Jeongguk's smirk was still pronounced enough for Jimin. “They tried to shoot me down. But I won't fall.” He motioned to his body. “I'm titanium.”

And of course he would joke. As relieved as Jimin was, he wanted to punch Jeongguk for lightly joking in such a time.

Instead, his phone interrupted them. Their phones did. He exchanged a look with Jeongguk before he got to his feet and they both checked their phones.

It was a short video and a message. After watching the video, Jimin felt as though he had been doused in ice, as if his lungs no longer knew how to draw breaths. It was of Taehyung, sitting on a chair in a dark room, same bomber jacket with a tiger on it, same jeans, same sneakers he was last seen in. A calendar and a clock were behind him, showing the video was filmed less than a minute ago. His head was hanging to the side, his beautiful silver hair a mess curtaining his sleeping face. He could have been sleeping, that tranquil face albeit scratched.

He was glad they were watching on Jeongguk's phone; he was glad Jeongguk was in charge. Had it been him, he wouldn’t have been able to check the message—the ‘challenge’.

“Fuck!” Jeongguk groaned. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!!”

Jimin would love to share him the sentiment, but something was still painstakingly clawing at the walls of his heart, squeezing it dry. The more he tried to snap back to reality, the more Taehyung’s face became more real before his distant, unknown-future-haunted eyes.

“This can't really be a game,” Jeongguk was stating facts. “Why would anyone mess with people’s lives just to have fun?” Jeongguk kicked a pebble and let out an even more frustrated groan, the pained kind. “There’s no way people at our campus or anyone would contribute to this chaos.”

Jeongguk awaited a reply; Jimin wasn’t really there. He was stuck with the memories, hating to already think of his bestfriend, his other half, in terms of ‘memories’.

“Come on,” Jimin bit back the tears and started walking, already heading to where the message had instructed. “We have a car to drive.”

Jeongguk called out to him; he hadn’t moved yet.

“You're not really considering going through with this, are you?”

Jimin was on the other side of the street, standing under a flickering street-lamp and bitterly shaking his head.

“I'm not seeing any other options, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk jogged the distance; Jimin almost missed the limp. Jeongguk was shaking him.

“Hyung, we have to go to the police.” Jeongguk tried to reason, voice a steady shade of calm in that dreary night.

“No!” It came out more excited that Jimin had intended. He took a step backwards, away from Jeongguk and he spoke again when he thought he had got a grip on himself. “No. You saw that video, you had more or less just dodged a bullet. We can't risk it, Jeongguk. We take things into our own hands or we suffer the consequences which I doubt would be light.”

Jeongguk seemed to ponder, though clearly dissatisfied. “That’s a crime.”

Jimin smiled bitterly. “Yeah. And there’s nothing we can do about it but pamper the madman.”

After a few stares and loud grunts, they started heading to where the car should be parked.

As they walked side by side, Jimin kept stealing glances at Jeongguk's crestfallen face. He was even pulling his signature pouty-face card. There was only silence, just the occasional sound their feet made in contact with the ground, or the subtle music of nature, playing accompaniment for that rhythmic sound.

“I hope V-hyung is fine.” Jeongguk mumbled. Jimin could swear Jeongguk was about to break into tears if he treaded further down that road.

Jimin didn’t reply; he only studied Jeongguk from the corner of his eye. He couldn’t take this anymore; Jeongguk had to light up again. Jimin skipped afew steps ahead and stopped before Jeongguk, leaning close while his hands were behind his back.

“Who knew you were such a softie?” he teased.

Jeongguk looked away. “I'm just tired.”

“Would you like me,” he approached Jeongguk, almost letting his hips arch towards him at that close distance. “To energize you a bit then?”

Jeongguk was laughing, so to hell with anything else. “You can't even be serious in serious situations.”

Jimin faked a hurt air. “I am serious.”

When Jeongguk cocked an eyebrow, Jimin shrugged. Well, he was serious; he would let Jeongguk take him any time of the week.

At last, he punched Jeongguk's shoulder lightly and started walking again.

“It’s just that you were making that serious face and I kinda hate to see you distressing,” Jimin said in a relatively quiet voice, hoping Jeongguk wouldn’t catch most of it. If so, then why say it in the first place?

By the time Jeongguk had lain eyes on the Porsche 918 Spyder, and he was suddenly fully awake. Jimin couldn’t recall a time Jeongguk had been this excited since he discovered Overwatch. Following instructions, the ignition revved to life and so did Jeongguk. In a way, Jimin found a way for his heart to feel lighter on seeing the light back to Jeongguk's eyes.

Jeongguk asked him to fasten his seatbelt, checking the GPS and kick-starting the car with a sharp jolt forward. In less than two minutes, they were on the highway, with the sea stretching along the road.

“I never knew you were a fan of race cars,” Jimin began. “I always thought you preferred motorcycles.”

Jeongguk scrunched up his nose. “I kinda have bad blood with cars.”

“Childhood accident?”

There was a brief pause. “Recent. I almost got my brother in car-crash. That’s why I have a motorcycle now. Because if I get reckless, there’s no second chances. So I have to be safe.”

Jimin entertained his drowsy mind by Jeongguk's sight, wondering what his story was. He could remember Taehyung talking about a similar story, though Taehyung’s version had plenty of things about how Jeongguk saved someone from a car-crash, and saved his own brother in a car-crash. Jimin wanted to laugh, because he knew that story by heart; he couldn’t believe Jeongguk was blaming himself.

Still, he wasn’t there to judge; he was there to listen … should Jeongguk want to talk.

“I'd love to hear this story someday,” Jimin said at last and it took Jeongguk off guard.

Without taking his eyes off the road, Jeongguk cracked a shaky smile. “You'd love to hear the story of how I was reckless and got my own brother killed still no one blamed me?”

Jimin smiled, looking down for a second then decisively back at Jeongguk. He wanted to lean and touch his hand to Jeongguk's cheek, brushing it softly.

“No, Jeongguk,” he tilted his head. “I'd love to hear how you're starting to let go. I'd love to hear you talk, let it out, you know.”

Jeongguk only glanced at his hyung from the corner of his eye, lips on the verge of divulging something but he ended up biting back the words. It was okay; Jimin was in no hurry. He would have Jeongguk opening up at some point. He would always be willing to listen.

“You're amazing, you know that?”

It was Jimin's turn to be taken off guard. His heart skipped a beat and his eyes became wide O’s. Jeongguk's eyes became as soft as his former words. Jimin looked out of the window, closing his eyes and trying to will his heart to obey him; he couldn’t let his feelings mature any more. It was becoming out of control. Luckily, drowsiness was getting the best of him.

After a while, Jeongguk spoke, “If you want to doze off, please do so.”

Jimin only managed a small headshake and a low mumble, neither of which supported his argument.

As the back of his head rested against the window, Jimin kept gazing at Jeongguk's face. The lineaments of his face irradiated by that golden heart within—illuminated by the moonlight. And it made Jimin even more wishful—more wistful. He was imagining how it would have been had this been a normal night, one where this could have been their first date—the playful whoosh of the bracing sea air, the soothing hymns of the overlapping waves, the rustling leaves, the moonlight-kissed faces. Just driving to the outskirts of town, camping with a bonfire whose crackles couldn’t drown their laughs, counting stars, making constellations in each other's eyes. Just a normal night where they could have a chance, where Jimin wasn’t wondering where they stood, whether Jeongguk even felt anything towards him.

But most importantly, a normal night with Taehyung with them, where Jimin's biggest problem would be fighting Taehyung on which outfit to wear, where Taehyung would insist Jimin went for those scandalous snowy jeans, ‘god blessed you with a divine ass, Park Jimin, so show it off a bit’ he would argue; and Jimin would laugh.

And everything would be fine.

Taehyung…

“Hey,” Jeongguk's voice called him out of his doldrums. He could feel the younger’s warm hand squeezing his assuredly. “We’re gonna get him back. Don’t make that long face.”

Jimin only smiled; only because he couldn’t voice his thoughts. They might not even make it; he only wished that if he himself didn’t make it, at least Taehyung’s return would be guaranteed.

Perhaps it was the calming effect of gazing at such a pure soul, perhaps it wasn’t. Long story short, Jimin had fallen asleep, his hand remembering Jeongguk's touch as its last memory.

 

He came to on feeling like the car had passed a ramp with full speed. The road was empty; Jimin couldn’t tell how many mph they were doing but he sure felt like his heart was a feat beats ahead of its body. He could feel some weight on him; Jeongguk's pink hoodie was serving as a blanket. Still, he wouldn’t chance a look at the dashboard.

It didn’t take long for his eyes to focus on Jeongguk's face; he was smirking while his eyebrows creased—that distressed ‘you're making this harder for me but the challenge is exciting me’-smirk Jeongguk had when he liked a rival. Jimin was too fond, too into that smirk to let it pass unnoticed. And he often witnessed it; Jeongguk had once admitted, instantly blushing afterwards, Jimin being in his same year or same focus would have given him a run for his money.

The game had already tethered their souls together; and kindred spirits felt each other. So without Jimin opening his mouth, Jeongguk had felt him awaken.

“I'm glad you're awake,” Jeongguk said, the corner of his lips twitching in slight mania. “I was about to wake you in a minute or so.”

Blame it on the grogginess of having slept the past ninety minutes of his life, but Jimin was still disoriented and couldn’t make much of the situation and, much less, of Jeongguk's words.

“You're having that look,” Jimin started sitting up straight. “Something is exciting you and you're testing your limits?”

Jeongguk chuckled a low, short laugh. “Am I that easy to read?”

Jimin shrugged; he wouldn’t let his guards down.

“What are you not telling me?”

“I just need you to trust me.” Jeongguk turned his head and gave him a long, meaningful look. “Promise me that much.”

“Jeongguk—”

From the corner of his eyes, Jeongguk glanced at Jimin, giving him a full-blown cocky smirk now. “Nothing I can't handle. It’s okay … hyung. Just trust in me.”

Only then did Jimin dare to check the dashboard; Jeongguk was fluctuating, but it was over 70mph. Cool. A car crash. Jimin could use that. ‘Caught in a car crash with your crush’; though for what it was worth, it would make a lovely headline.

“Jeongguk,” Jimin tried. The speed didn’t scare him, not yet. It was the fact Jeongguk was okay with this speed. “We both want to reach our destination quickly, but I'd rather not be in pieces by the time we’re there.”

Again Jeongguk laughed, smiling more widely. Jimin was about to say something when his heart kicked up pace, feeling his body incline under shitty centrifugal force; Jeongguk was rounding gradually so it didn’t defy motion physics. It was risky, and albeit Jeongguk pulled it off, it was clearly with breaking lots of sweats.

“Okay,” Jimin said, pushing his body back to his seat after cursing. “Slow down.”

“Pfft, I wish,”

This nonchalant tone alarmed Jimin even more.

“I have” —his eyes flickered to his phone— “about five more minutes to keep at this speed. I can't let the car go under 69mph.”

Jimin could clearly see there was a spiral like road before them—not so away from them.

Okay, Jimin was internally panicking now, especially with the thought of the sea stretching next to them.

“What do you mean you can't?” his hands fumbled to unlatch the seatbelt. “Tell me it’s another challenge.”

“Well,” Jeongguk pursed his lips; it seemed like humourless joke already. “It’s not like we have breaks anyways.”

God, this boy was sure acting way too casually about it.

“And while we’re at it,” Jeongguk’s smile grew more. “The car literally goes off if I let the speed go under 69mph.”

Jimin waited—for a scream, for the punchline, for a reaction, but Jeongguk was unwavering. “You either really have a shitty sense of humour or you have a plan.”

“Both.” Jeongguk chanced a wink. “We don’t lose. It’s that simple.”

Jimin was fully awake and ready to strategize if possible.

“What about our destination?”

Jeongguk snorted; Jimin fondly missed that bratty gesture.

“It’s barely a two-minute walk from where the car should stop…” Jeongguk was glancing warily at Jimin.

“At least that’s easy.”

Again Jeongguk snorted; Jimin almost forgot they were in an emergency, almost let himself laugh.

“Would’ve been. A two-minute from where the car should stop if we were projected down the thirty meter high.”

Jimin sighed, letting his head hang down for a few beats. “What's the challenge exactly?”

Jeongguk stole another glance, as if processing (and Jimin could swear he saw a gleam of satisfaction glinting in the doe eyes) how serious Jimin was.

“For fifteen minutes, I have to keep the car going over 69mph. Which is easy. The problem is in the fact we don’t have brakes, because even if I let the car go on inertia after the fifteen minutes are over, with that many spirals, it’s bound to crash.”

Jimin narrowed his eyes. “Jeongguk, why didn’t you pass?”

Jeongguk was laughing; they had less than three minutes now. “Because there wasn’t an option. And if there was, I'd not have opted for it. It was clearly stated the challenges were of hierarchal difficulty. So if this is warming up, then we need our passes.”

“Well, we might not live long enough to use them.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “No, hyung. You would.”

At that, Jimin understood Jeongguk's plan. He thought his heart had stopped, but the timer was still counting down.

“Tell me you're joking,” small—so small, so stripped of life already—was Jimin's voice.

Jeongguk's face was no longer smiling; it was resolute.

“No, no, no, Jeongguk!” he wondered if there was a way to step in Jeongguk's line of sight now and fight him. “There’s no I in this. There’s we. It’s not up for negotiation.”

Jeongguk's eyes melted into a warm smile. “I'm sorry, hyung. I tried. But I couldn’t find another way.”

It was Jeongguk's mantra, but Jimin was thinking in terms of ‘there’s gotta be a different way’. Through the sift of his panic, he tried to recollect his thoughts.

He pushed against his rising panic and started chewing on his nail. They had three minutes now.

Jimin closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had never had a more lucid resolve than when he had opened his eyes.

“We jump.”

In a quick motion, Jeongguk looked to his side, studying Jimin.

“No, hyung. We don’t. If we have any chance of surviving a jump at this height, it has to be a jump to waters. Our bodies wouldn’t survive the damage otherwise. Even if the sea is calm, and the shore is close so it can't be too deep either, I can't let yo—” Jeongguk bit his tongue, forcing himself to a stop but Jimin had heard enough. “I just can't.”

Jeongguk was just too damn observant, too damn good at piecing things together.

“We jump together. And I’ll be fine.” He let that sink, reading in Jeongguk's eyes the recollection, the understanding. “You’ll be fine.”

Jeongguk was shaking his head, visualizing something, calculating another. “The only way to land there and not on a cliff, is by rounding the last spiral before that mountain. It leaves us short of a few seconds, hyung. I marked the spot where the timer ends.”

Jimin eyed the speed limiter; it was on 75mph, and they had 83 seconds now.

“Slow down.”

“I can't risk it.”

This made Jimin laugh.

“Ughh,” Jeongguk hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. “I should have appreciated those few seconds I thought wouldn’t really make a difference when I so carelessly drove at 75mph instead of a simple—”

Jimin interrupted him; he wouldn’t let Jeongguk blame himself. “It’s not your fault you took precautions. It’s not your fault you wanted to keep us safe.” He reached out for Jeongguk's collars. “Eyes on the road, Gukkie.”

After a few motions, Jimin had secured Jeongguk's tie in his hand and taken off his sweater. He had a plan; it might be a sink or swim (literally) but it was worth it. Worst case scenario was them losing their nerve; their lives, however, would still be intact. And that was Jimin's goal.

“In the last thirty seconds, pick up the speed again. Reach 80mphs. You let go on the thirteenth to last count, we jump before the third to last count and the car drives on autopilot.” Jeongguk's smile made a reappearance; Jimin gained more courage, smiling himself. “To its doom. Hell, we don’t care.”

Jeongguk was laughing, saying something Jimin couldn’t quite make.

The last minute was hell for Jimin but he pulled it through—they pulled it through. The engine’s soft hums overtook the hissing of the wind around them; Jimin's back was glued against the seat, heart beating like crazy. Everything around them blurred as Jeongguk pressed the pedestal harder and harder, Jimin noting that bead of sweat breaking and that maniac smile plastered on the younger’s face. Jeongguk had reached 87mph; Jimin was done tying the their combined sweaters together. Anxiously, he waited the last thirteen counts. On Jimin's cue, Jeongguk pushed the seat forward and let go, and Jimin was ready to shove the crumpled clothes against the pedestal. As they opened their doors on the last five counts, locking eyes, Jimin had a triumphant fleeting moment seeing the imperceptible drop in speed—four seconds, 85mphs, 81, 76.

He had counted the last count while they were falling through space. Their phones buzzed; the car didn’t explode. It wasn’t a long fall, or Jimin's screams made it so. Perhaps it had something to do with how Jeongguk had reached through air for Jimin's hand, pulling the elder towards him and more or less blanketing his body, smiling before the elder closed his eyes and soon felt the coldest water he had ever experienced. Jimin's heart was already in a red zone; he needn’t be within Jeongguk's embrace as they fell or after they fell to risk having a stroke.

Their bodies had separated a bit on being submerged; Jeongguk wouldn’t let go still—always fighting. Jimin's lungs had drunk enough water for a lifetime, salt water stung but not enough to close his eyes to Jeongguk fighting more to pull him up—above the surface.

In a few seconds they were breathing air again. In less than a minute, they were both on their backs on the shore, smiling from ear to ear.

“We did it,” Jimin tried to breathe. He was winded for more than the physical effort credited for; excitement whipped his lungs dry.

Jeongguk was laughing. He sat up, pushing his hair away from his eyes and smiling down at Jimin.

“We did.” Jeongguk was biting down on his lip, letting his eyes drag along Jimin's outlines. The elder let himself take pride in what his tank top was accentuating; he sure worked hard for it.

 After a while, Jeongguk got out his phone and held it for Jimin to see. Jimin imagined if they had different models, ones that didn’t resist water; would having lost connection with the game ended their pain. Whatever! They had earned that nerve. They had about forty hours to go and nine nerves.

“Okay,” Jimin crawled till he could rest his head in Jeongguk's lap. “I'm going to get some sleep before another gate of hell opens.”

He had half heard Jeongguk's ‘at least dry yourself up’ that mingled with his laugh. Jeongguk's lap was such a home-like place, so easy to fall asleep in.

And he had drifted away.