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2013

“Jimin-ssi! You missed your mark again. You have to focus.”

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

“Okay, from the top, let’s go!”

The music started again and everyone got into position, centering around their leader who would start off the song. It was fine, everything was good, Jimin had it this time, but then—

“Jimin-ssi, you missed it again.”

“I’m sorry,” Jimin said, bowing his head. “I’m sorry, I’ll get it this time. I promise.”

One of the staff members standing near the back rolled his eyes, that look on his face tightening the clamp around Jimin’s chest. What the hell was he doing here? He knew already that he was unwanted; he’d heard how many staff members had suggested his removal from the lineup. He knew he didn’t fit in here with these others who had already known each other, who seemed to so easily fit into the group’s concept.

Finally a break was called and Jimin went immediately for the couch off to the side of the room, clearing off the clutter and sinking into the cushion.

“His voice is too unpolished, too shaky, too unstable.”

“His style of dance isn’t strong enough. The kid looks like a ballerina trying to seem hip-hop.”

“I don’t think he should debut with the others. Three rappers, three vocals, that’s more balanced anyway.”

“The group’ll be fine without him. He’s nothing special.”

He was used to it by now. He was used to hearing people talk about him as though he were a product to sell rather than a person, and he knew that by becoming an idol he was essentially becoming that product.

Even so, each word was like another knife in his confidence, draining him out by the hour. He didn’t belong here.

Jungkook, their maknae, their multitalented baby-faced youngest who was so shy it was almost sickeningly cute, was hovering near the couch pretending to be checking his phone. He was staring at the screen, but his fingers weren’t moving and he kept inching closer and then farther away from Jimin, glancing up at him every now and then like he was deciding whether or not to actually approach him.

Jungkook felt sorry for him. Jungkook, their youngest, the fifteen year old kid, pitied him.

Jimin felt pathetic.

He closed his eyes, drawing his legs up so that his knees just barely missed his chin, and pictured Busan. He’d been top of his class there, with friends who envied his dance skills, with teachers who supplied him with endless praise. ”You’ll go so far, Jimin-ssi,” they gushed.

But stupid, silly, naive Jimin had bigger dreams. Dreams of being an idol, of performing on stages with audiences in the tens of thousands, dreams that took him away from Busan and thrust him into the cutthroat reality of idol life in Seoul.

He didn’t belong here. He never should have left. He should have just stayed in Busan: there was nothing for him here.

 

2017

Jimin opened his eyes and had no idea where he was.

He was in the practice room last he remembered, but one thing was for sure as he blinked around at the white walls and expansive space in front of him: he wasn’t there anymore.

It still looked like a dance studio, with a full length mirror and the kind of scuff marks on the floor that can only come from hours and hours of practicing, but it was so big and had what looked like half mannequins in the corner instead of the usual piles of clutter. The couch he was sitting on was actually a massage chair upon further inspection, and it looked like it cost more than Bangtan’s entire wardrobe.

To top it all off, the room was full of other people that he didn’t recognize when looking at them in his slightly panicked state. Oh, god. Had he been kidnapped? Had he fallen asleep in the practice room back at the BigHit building and left there, only to have someone break in and make off with him?

As unlikely as that scenario was, Jimin was just disoriented enough to give it some clout, and he burrowed himself deeper into the massage chair out of fear.

“Hyung!”

One of them was speaking to him, a taller boy with black hair and Timberlands, a baggy white shirt hanging from his narrow shoulders, his voice familiar yet strange at the same time. He was walking closer, and as he approached, his features became recognizable to Jimin in the most unexpected way.

“Jungkook?”

The boy raised his eyebrows, staring at Jimin with a face that both was and wasn’t Jungkook’s. He was only fifteen, with features that his face hadn’t quite grown into yet and a constantly wide-eyed kind of innocence that could only come with youth, but the Jungkook in front of him was so…

Big.

He was definitely taller than Jimin, he could tell even when he was sitting down. His face had become almost chiseled, his hair parted to reveal his forehead and more confident eyes. It was like someone had taken Jungkook and put him through a taffy puller and then pumped up his arms full of muscle.

“Hyung, don’t be so lazy,” this older, more confident, muscular Jungkook said. “Wake up, we have to keep practicing.”

“But…” Jimin trailed off, having finally caught his own reflection in the mirror. He hadn’t even recognized himself at first, and was still having a hard time connecting the person in the mirror with his own face. He was blonde, for one, his soft black hair replaced with bleach-fried golden locks that hung in his eyes, far longer than he’d ever allowed his hair to grow in the past.

When Jungkook gently helped him up from the massage chair, he saw the rest of his outfit and became even more stunned. He was wearing name brand clothing from head to toe. A Gucci bracelet shifted on his wrist, and his shoes, while scuffed from dancing no doubt, proudly displayed a brand logo he never dreamed of being able to afford.

He stood there immobile for a few seconds until Jungkook snapped him out of it again by pinching him on the butt.

Jimin looked at him in surprise, but Jungkook just nodded his head toward the center of the room expectantly, as though that was a normal occurrence. The others in the room were all looking at him too, and they were just as familiar as Jungkook. It was Bangtan, his group members, but they were all so tall and matured and so unlike the nervous, desperately determined kids he’d known since coming to Seoul.

“From the top?” Jungkook prompted him, tapping him on the tip of his nose.

“Y-yeah,” Jimin said, dazed. This had to be a dream. And if it was, it was certainly the strangest one he’d had in awhile. He watched as Namjoon, who had ditched the perm and sunglasses for pastel hair and an oversized sweater, walk over to the speaker and start blasting a song that sounded suspiciously like Troublemaker.

Oh, hell. It was Troublemaker. And everyone in the room was staring at him, waiting for him to dance with Jungkook. This was just like the nightmares he’d had as a child about being embarrassed in front of his entire class, but at least he was wearing pants this time.

Curiously, even though he’d never learned the dance, he found himself falling into the right steps as if it had been ingrained in his mind. He hit every move on beat, but Jungkook wasn’t being shy with his movements, dragging his hand along Jimin’s lower back, his thigh, his chest, all with a focused, serious expression.

“Jiminie’s face is all red!” Hoseok cried, his lips stretched into a grin while Seokjin laughed beside him.

That only made Jimin flush harder, especially because it was at that moment that Jungkook lifted his arm up by his wrist and brought his face in impossibly close before turning away again. God, what kind of dream was this?

It was Hyuna’s solo part now, though the voice-over playing on the speaker was his own, but he could hardly focus on lip-syncing the words to his own reflection with how red his face had become. He barely managed to scrape by on muscle memory for the rest of the song, and when it got to the end, Jungkook approached him, leaning in so close that he panicked and thought he might actually try to kiss him.

Before Jungkook’s lips could come any closer, Jimin pushed him, hard.

The music faded out and everyone in the room fell silent, staring at Jimin with raised eyebrows and eyes wide as saucers. Out of everyone, Jungkook looked the most stunned, his lips parted and his eyes searching Jimin’s face as though he were looking for an explanation.

“What’s wrong, Jiminie?” Taehyung said. “Does Jungkook have dog breath?”

“Don’t complain, Taehyung,” Yoongi chimed in. “Just be thankful we don’t have to separate them this time.”

This time?

Jimin was at a loss for words.

Jungkook cupped his hand over his mouth and checked his breath. “It’s not bad,” he insisted to the others. He turned back to Jimin, taking a step closer. “You okay?”

“M’fine,” Jimin said, not meeting his eyes. Something was off about all this. It was too realistic to be a dream, and yet nothing that was happening could possibly be real. All he could do was follow a slightly hurt Jungkook away from the center of the room while another subunit practiced.

It was Seokjin and Yoongi’s turn, though if someone had asked Jimin what they were practicing, he would not have been able to answer. He was entirely preoccupied with Jungkook’s hand, which had found itself resting at the small of Jimin’s back. That in itself wasn’t necessarily a big deal, but the way he was massaging tiny circles into his skin definitely was. While Yoongi was harmonizing his rap with Seokjin’s vocals, Jungkook slipped his fingers under the hem of Jimin’s shirt and continued to drag his knuckles across his bare skin.

Jimin’s spine was so stiff it was starting to hurt, and it didn’t go unnoticed. Jungkook rested his chin on Jimin’s shoulder and whispered, “Loosen up, hyung. Don’t be so tense.”

That’s right. This was a dream, after all. A strange one, but a dream nonetheless. This wasn’t real; it couldn’t be real, and so why shouldn’t he relax and allow himself to get a free massage?

Slowly, he breathed out and released all the tension from his muscles, melting into Jungkook’s touch until his limbs felt like jelly. For some reason, Jungkook’s touch was helping him to calm down and relax faster than any time he could remember before, like his fingers were siphoning every bit of stress from his bones one stroke at a time.

But the longer he sat there watching this unfamiliar dance practice, the more he began to think that it was about time he woke up. His dreams didn’t normally last this long, especially since he’d fallen asleep on the couch in the practice room; he doubted that he’d dozed off long enough to even be able to dream this vividly in the first place.

Just as a test, he tried pinching his arm to wake himself up, to jolt himself back to the reality where Bangtan was a rookie group in knockoff brand and Jungkook was still a shy kid who would never have agreed to performing a song like Troublemaker with him.

When that didn’t work, he tried again, only with his fingernails this time. He pinched his forearm until it hurt, his nails leaving behind white crescent shapes that bloomed pink shortly after.

He wasn’t waking up.

Why wasn’t he waking up?

If it weren’t for how soothingly Jungkook was kneading his knuckles into Jimin’s back, he probably would have started outwardly panicking. Instead, he focused on that touch, steadied his breath, and allowed himself to fall into something of a trance, spacing out entirely while the rest of the members continued on with their subunit practices.

Finally, Namjoon stretched his arms out and yawned. “Okay, I think vocal line can probably head back,” he said. “Yoongi-hyung, Hoseok, we should knock out some more beats for the new album, yeah?”

“As long as you’re the one going on the dinner run,” Yoongi said.

He, Hoseok, and Namjoon all disappeared down a hallway, prompting Taehyung to turn to Seokjin. “Speaking of dinner, you wanna get ramen?”

“The fact that you still have to ask at this point is just sad,” Seokjin replied, linking his arm with Taehyung’s and waving goodbye to Jimin and Jungkook, waggling his eyebrows.

The door closed behind them, and then it was just Jimin and Jungkook alone in the room.

“Let’s go back to the dorm,” Jungkook said, reaching over to grab Jimin’s hand. Jimin let him take it, but his heart was thundering in his chest from a combination of confusion as to his current situation and at the prospect of being alone with Jungkook in the dorm. There was something about the tension between them. It was...different.

He felt it in the way Jungkook kept a protective arm around him the entire walk back to the dorms, in the way Jungkook was talking to him, like there was some kind of secret they were both in on, and even just in the way Jungkook was looking at him. There was something in his gaze that made Jimin squirm, his entire face heating up the longer he stared.

They stopped outside a huge building, and Jimin’s jaw dropped when Jungkook unlocked the door, holding it open for him to walk in first. This couldn’t be their dorm. There was no way. The living room alone was about as big as the entirety of the dorm he remembered, but this place had an enormous kitchen, a hallway leading to other bedrooms, and even an upper floor.

Jimin hardly even had a chance to get a good look around before Jungkook was suddenly far too close to him, sliding his arms around Jimin’s waist and turning him around so they were facing each other. “I’ve been waiting all day to get you alone,” he breathed, slipping a hand under the hem of Jimin’s shirt and kissing the corner of his mouth.

It was like Jimin’s brain had short-circuited.

“What are you doing?” he demanded, wrenching himself from Jungkook’s grip, his heart beating like a drum in his chest.

Jungkook blinked at him in confusion. “Wh… Jimin? Are you okay?”

“You were touching me!” Jimin spluttered, fixing his shirt and backing up another step. “Wh-why were you touching me?”

“What are you talking about?” Jungkook pressed a hand to Jimin’s forehead, his eyes wide with concern. “Did you hit your head or something?”

“No, I didn’t hit my head! Did you? Why were you...you know!”

“Baby, I think you might have a concussion or something. We should call for a doctor.”

Baby?

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Jimin said, backing up even further. “Trying to kiss me, calling me...that.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows furrowed, his lips clamping down as he inspected Jimin’s expression carefully. “Are you messing with me? This isn’t funny, Jimin, I’m actually worried about you.”

Jimin just balked at him for a second. Since when did Jungkook decide it was okay to drop honorifics with him? “I should be the one asking you if you’re messing with me,” he choked out. “What the hell is happening?”

Jungkook looked like he’d been slapped. “Jimin, I think something is seriously wrong. Did you hit your head and not tell anyone? Is it memory loss or something?”

“No, I…” Jimin trailed off, deflating a bit and glancing down at the ground. If this really wasn’t a dream, if this was really somehow reality, it wasn’t fair to take it out on Jungkook. Jimin knew him; he would never do something with malicious intent. “I just don’t know what’s going on, or where I am.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Jungkook asked, tensing up the longer they spoke, his lower lip looking red from how hard he was tugging at it with his teeth.

“We were in the practice room, rehearsing for our, um.”

“For the end of year show?”

“No. For our debut stage.”

Jungkook sucked in a breath, turning his head away for a second and running his hand through his hair. “Oh my god. So you don’t remember anything from the past four years?”

“Four years?” Jimin repeated.

“We have to go to the hospital,” Jungkook said. “Please. You must have gotten a concussion somewhere.”

“No, it’s okay. I think I just need to sleep it off.”

“You can’t sleep off a concussion, Jimin,” Jungkook said, tugging at his hair again, the strands hanging straggly over his eyes. He was becoming more frazzled by the second, worry etched in the lines on his forehead.

“Yes I can,” Jimin insisted, figuring that for now he would just go with the memory loss angle. It was more believable than trying to claim he’d gone to the future, anyway. Since it seemed as though Jungkook had stopped trying to maul him for the moment, he took the opportunity to look around at the new dorm building, peering at photographs and expensive looking gadgets scattered here and there. “And I’m your hyung, so stop calling me by my name.” That was the least of his worries at the moment, but for some reason it was striking a chord in him. It was bad enough that the staff didn’t respect him, but now Jungkook, too?

“So you really don’t know,” Jungkook sighed. “Jimin, you told me to stop speaking formally to you two years ago.”

He turned away from a framed photo of the seven of them taped to the fridge. “I did?” That didn’t sound like him at all.

“Yeah. When we started dating.”

Now that caught Jimin’s attention. “We what?”

Jungkook’s voice sounded so small, it almost reminded Jimin of the fifteen year old version of him that he remembered. “We’re together.”

“Together? Me and you?”

“Yeah. That’s why I was…” Jungkook bit his lip again, tearing the skin there to shreds. “We’ve been together for two years, Jimin.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Jimin said, and that was the honest truth. It did explain a lot of Jungkook’s behavior, but trying to imagine himself with Jungkook like that just wasn’t computing in Jimin’s mind. Jungkook was his group member, the shy kid who hadn’t even wanted to shower or eat around his hyungs at first. Jimin had already started to suspect that he wasn’t entirely straight (or really at all), but he couldn’t picture ever telling the other members, especially not Jungkook.

“Then let’s go to the hospital and figure out what happened and how we can fix it,” Jungkook urged him. “You’re scaring me.”

“I’m fine,” Jimin said again. “I promise, I just need to sleep it off.” He moved from the kitchen to the living room, finding a cashmere blanket draped across one of the couches and an album on the coffee table. He thumbed through it, stunned to find that it was a Bangtan album, a Yoongi photocard falling out onto the floor. “Is this ours?”

“Yeah,” Jungkook said, joining him in the living room. “Is it helping you remember?”

Jimin didn’t answer, having come to a photograph of himself and Jungkook in the photobook. “Do the others know? About us, I mean.”

“Management doesn’t, but the hyungs do.”

“And they’re okay with it? They’re...they don’t…?”

Jungkook gently took the album from him, setting it back on the table and reaching for the cashmere blanket. He draped it over Jimin’s shoulders and carefully tugged him down to sit on the couch. “They’re fine with it. We’re a family, Jimin. Of course they’re okay with it.”

And it was that, more than anything else that had happened today, it was that right there that finally got to him. Tears spilled out from his eyes and he clamped his hand over his mouth to stifle his shaky intake of breath. If this really was the future, if he really had somehow come here to see a glimpse of what the next four years would amount to, then it was just too much to take in.

“Hey,” Jungkook murmured, scooting under the blanket with him and holding him close. “Hey, shh, don’t cry. It’s okay.”

Jimin just shook his head, unable to stop the flow of tears. Bangtan lived in this huge dorm, with multiple rooms and fancy appliances and cashmere blankets; they had albums with a production quality he never thought they’d be able to afford; and they didn’t care if two of their fellow members were together. They didn’t mind. They didn’t add it to one of the reasons why Jimin should have been kicked from the group.

They were a family.

Jimin buried his face in Jungkook’s shoulder, allowing him to hug him tighter and drag his fingers up and down his back, murmuring words of comfort into his ear. Jimin was still overwhelmed with the idea that he and Jungkook apparently had a two year relationship between them, but as he sat there in Jungkook’s arms, it started to make a bit of sense.

Even without Jungkook having said anything, the shift in their relationship from how Jimin remembered it to now was obvious, and the concern coming from Jungkook just then was almost tangible.

“Hey,” Jungkook said, kissing the side of Jimin’s head and rubbing his shoulder. “Let’s get you to bed, okay? Just promise me if you still don’t remember anything by the morning, you’ll let me take you to the hospital.”

“I promise,” Jimin yawned, not entirely comprehending what he was saying. The exhaustion had descended over him like a thick cloud, and he could hardly keep his eyes open anymore. Maybe he was going back to where he belonged, he thought blearily, his head still resting on Jungkook’s shoulder as he allowed sleep to overtake him.

 

Jimin woke up buried under a mountain of blankets, a pair of arms wrapped tightly around his middle and a face nuzzled into his neck. It was too dark to see where he was, but it was safe to say that he hadn’t returned to the time that he remembered.

He sat upright, pushing the blankets away and wriggling out of the pair of arms that he could see now belonged to Jungkook, who had been cuddling up to him in his sleep.

Where the hell were they?

He peered over the side of the bed, which was lofted, and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Three large computer screens stared back at him, as well as a tangle of cords and game controllers, headsets and empty game cases all piled on the desk. This had to be Jungkook’s room, but the Jungkook Jimin knew didn’t have his own room.

He’d fallen asleep, but he’d woken up to this odd reality where Jungkook had his own bedroom and Bangtan was a successful group and all of them wore brand name clothes and he and Jungkook were together, and it was too much to take in all at once.

Jimin was finding it difficult to breathe, each lungful of air getting caught in his throat as he realized that this was real, this was happening to him, this wasn’t some dream he was going to wake up from.

Jungkook’s hand slid out from under the covers and tugged at his arm sleepily. “Babe,” he mumbled. “S’too early. Sleep some more.”

“I can’t sleep,” Jimin said, leaning away from Jungkook’s touch. The clock on the desk read 05:32AM, but he wasn’t tired at all. The uncertainty and stress of the past day seemed to have settled in again, and he was sure he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again even if he wanted to.

That seemed to jolt Jungkook into full consciousness, and he sat up in bed, peering at Jimin’s face with his eyebrows drawn together. “You’re still not feeling well, are you?” he said accusingly. “I knew we should have gone to the hospital.”

“No, I’m…” Jimin bit his lip. “It’ll be fine. I’m sure once I wake up a little I’ll remember everything.”

“Jimin,” Jungkook groaned in exasperation. “Will you at least tell Sejin-hyung? Maybe hearing a second opinion will make you come to your senses.”

Jimin blanched at the thought of going to one of the managers with this. It would turn into a big deal, and everyone would be focused on him, and all of that attention on something like this was the last thing he needed. They might have him take a hiatus from the group, or admit him to the hospital, or any number of things that would disrupt the group’s activities.

Once again, Bangtan would suffer because of him.

“I’m fine,” he insisted. “Just give me some time.”

Jungkook sighed, obviously frustrated, and looked up at the ceiling for a second. “Fine,” he said. “Since you don’t want help, whatever.” He shoved the blankets aside and crawled out of bed, hopping down and snatching a towel and change of clothes from the nearby dresser, leaving the room without another word.

He knew that there was nothing he could do to change the situation, but Jimin still found himself feeling sorry for Jungkook. He couldn’t imagine how it must feel to have your loved one claim to know nothing of the past four years, including your relationship itself.

Loved one. Was he Jungkook’s loved one? Were they in love? Jungkook certainly seemed to care for him quite a bit, but whether or not love was in the equation was completely unknown to him.

It was odd enough that he was in a relationship, let alone with another member of Bangtan, but the idea of being loved by Jungkook was just too far-fetched to believe.

Then again, he thought, reminding himself that he appeared to have somehow switched places with his future self, stranger things have happened.

For now, all he could do was try to find out as much as he could about the four years that were missing from his memory; if he could convince Jungkook that he remembered everything, he would drop the issue and Jimin wouldn’t have to burden the group.

Now that the sun had risen, it was lighter in Jungkook’s bedroom, illuminating two phones sitting on the desk. One of them had to be his own, so he climbed out of the bed, noting that he was wearing pajamas, so Jungkook must have gotten him changed last night.

His cheeks burned with the thought as he reached for the nearest phone, examining it from all angles. It was an iPhone, but it must have been a new model; it was thinner, bigger, and the home button wasn’t so much a button as it was an indent. One touch of his thumb and the phone unlocked, startling him a bit. He turned it off again to look at the lockscreen, a group photo of Bangtan.

It was unbelievable how different everyone looked. He remembered a group of kids who were so scared about their debut, fiercely determined to stand out from the sea of new idols all debuting at the same time. They were from a small company; they knew their chances were slim to none.

But the people in this photo, the people he saw in the practice room yesterday, those people were adults. Confident, successful adults who still had that determination, but there wasn’t the same atmosphere of hopeless struggling. There was the atmosphere of people who had made it, and were still pushing themselves to do better.

That had always been Jimin’s dream, but the thought of such a thing coming true like this almost brought tears to his eyes again.

He pressed his thumb to the button one more time to unlock the phone, this time eyeing the home screen. It was a photo of Jungkook, wearing nothing but a loosely fitting robe, lying back on what looked like a hotel bed. He was barefaced, looking at the camera with flushed cheeks and a smile that made the corners of his eyes crinkle. It looked so candid and private that Jimin almost felt like he was intruding just by looking at it.

I must have been the one who took this picture, though, he thought, the idea of that making his face heat up.

More to stop himself from blushing so much than anything else, he opened the first app he could think of, which was his photo album. There was an obscene amount of pictures saved to his phone, so much that he wondered how he had any space left at all. The camera roll alone had over two thousand, but luckily his future self had the foresight to separate them into folders. One was titled “baby,” and was full of pictures and videos of himself and Jungkook together, and even just some seemingly random candids of Jungkook’s face.

A few of them were a bit more intimate, and it was downright surreal to be staring down at a photo of himself locking lips with Jungkook, but at least he knew for sure now that nothing Jungkook had said to him was untrue. Pictures couldn’t lie, after all.

Another folder was marked “blackmail,” and was just endless photos and videos of the other members doing ridiculous things and making silly faces. At the very least, they did seem every bit the close-knit family that Jungkook had made them out to be.

Jimin only closed out of the photo app when he clicked on another folder labeled with three stop sign emojis. Immediately after opening it, he nearly choked on his own breath, his eyes practically bugging out of his head.

“Oh my god,” he wheezed to himself, the images burned into his retinas even after he exited out of the app altogether. Living in such a small dorm with six other guys, he had seen his fair share of bare asses and the occasional dick, but those photos he had just seen were deliberately sexual, there was no question about that. How the hell was he supposed to look Jungkook in the eye now?

He’s the one who sent you those, he reminded himself, but the thought was still too much to process this early in the morning. He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head to remind himself why he was snooping through his future self’s phone in the first place: he had to use the information here to pretend as though everything was normal.

With trembling fingers, he checked his text messages next. He had quite a few threads to scroll through. The most recent texts were from a contact saved as “Baby,” which he figured had to be Jungkook. He also had texts from “Taetae,” “Bangtan Group Chat,” “Taeminnie-hyung,” and “Mom.”

Bracing himself for the worst, he opened the thread between himself and Jungkook, scrolling through countless texts. After the pictures he’d just seen, the texts weren’t nearly as bad, but it was still jarring to see the things that he had apparently typed out and sent.

10/16

 

 

10/17

 

Two months? From the calendar on the phone, it looked as though it was currently October, which meant that their two year anniversary would be in December. That meant they’d started dating in 2015, right at the beginning of winter. He wondered how it had happened. Was it him who initiated it, or was it Jungkook? How long had Jungkook liked him? How long had Jimin liked Jungkook? Just based on their interactions as teenagers from his own memories, he couldn’t picture a single scenario that would have lead to a love confession.

And yet there he was, in the year 2017, nearly two years into a romantic relationship with Jungkook, and based on the contents of his phone, they looked to be quite happy together.

At least his future self had his shit together, Jimin thought bitterly.

That was why he felt so guilty, staring down at this phone full of memories that he had never experienced, memories that didn’t really belong to him. His and Jungkook’s anniversary was in two months, and if he had to spend it with an intruder in his boyfriend’s body claiming to have amnesia, Jimin would feel terrible.

He hoped he wouldn’t be stuck here for that long, but for now he thought it best to just go along with whatever happened and act as though nothing was wrong. It wasn’t as bad as how alone he’d felt back in his own time, so the more he thought about it, the more he figured that he could do this.

With renewed purpose, Jimin pocketed the phone and stretched his arms out, glancing at the clock again and deciding to go snoop around some more to get more information about his future self and the layout of the dorm before he went to try and convince Jungkook that everything was fine.

There were three other doors down the hallway outside Jungkook’s room. The first was divided down the middle, mostly black furniture on one side and much brighter furniture on the other, along with a cage looking like it belonged to some kind of small animal. There were people sleeping in each bed, so Jimin carefully closed the door again and moved to the next one.

He heard snoring coming from behind the door on the opposite side of the hall, which brought a small smile to Jimin’s lips. Namjoon still snored like a woodchipper, even four years later. He skipped that door and settled on the last one, peeking inside and sighing in relief. This had to be his room.

There were two empty beds here, but the one on the far side of the room caught his eye. There was a shelf of One Piece figures on the wall, and a plush toy with his name on its belly was perched on the pillow; there was no doubt this was his bed. He had to wonder, then, who the other bed belonged to.

Disregarding that for the moment, he started rifling through the drawers on the dresser to find some more information about his life here. He found countless brand clothes, expensive jewelry, and a framed photo of Bangtan on the nightstand.

Under the bed was something that piqued his interest: a present carefully wrapped and tied up with ribbon. He crawled closer and pulled it out, examining the tag, which simply read “for my baby. happy anniversary.”

Mortified, he pushed it back under the bed and picked out an outfit for the day, then set out to find the bathroom. He’d just stepped out when he saw Jungkook further down the hall leaving what must have been the bathroom. He was dressed now, his cheeks a bit pink, probably from washing his face.

“Jungkook,” Jimin called, his heart beginning to race. He could do this. Deep breaths, in and out. “I have to tell you something.”

“What is it?” Jungkook didn’t look as frustrated as he had earlier that morning, but Jimin was still a bit nervous that he wouldn’t believe him. Suddenly overcoming amnesia just didn’t sound plausible, so he made up a new lie and started talking before his brain could catch up.

“I’m sorry about yesterday. I was pranking you.”

Jungkook squinted at him. “What?”

“The amnesia thing. It was a prank. Sorry, J— baby. That was mean of me.”

After a few seconds of stunned silence during which Jungkook just blinked at Jimin in disbelief, he lifted up his hand and flicked a few droplets of water at Jimin’s face. “You’re an asshole,” he said. “Don’t ever do that to me again, holy shit. Do you even know how worried I was? I thought you had a concussion, I thought you lost your memories for good, that our relationship was over, I…” He stopped to catch his breath, his jaw hanging open. “What’s wrong with you, huh?”

“I’m sorry,” Jimin said, adding a pout for good measure. “I won’t do it again.”

Jungkook just shook his head, slipping one arm around Jimin’s waist and pulling him closer, their chests now flush together. “I hate you,” he said, and ducked his head down to kiss him.

Before their lips could touch, a sudden burst of noise in the hallway startled Jungkook into lifting his head, and Jimin shrunk away, his cheeks burning white hot and his heart racing so fast he was worried it would jump right out of his chest. Holy shit. He and Jungkook had almost…

“Remember the dorm rules, boys!” Seokjin, one of the intruders in the hallway, said in a loud sing-song voice. He was side by side with Hoseok, both of them with matching smarmy grins.

“Nah, you should’ve let ‘em do it, hyung,” Hoseok chided. “We almost have enough money in the ‘Jungkook and Jimin are being nasty in the dorm again’ jar to buy us all dinner.”

“Shit, you’re right,” Seokjin said. He turned back to Jimin and Jungkook, waving his hand. “Carry on. Just don’t forget to drop those coins in the jar.”

“Later,” Jungkook murmured in Jimin’s ear, then stepped away and addressed Seokjin and Hoseok. “Nice try. You guys aren’t getting any more of my money.” He readjusted the crumpled pajamas under his arm and left the bathroom, heading back off toward his room.

Jimin was glad that his blush had subsided somewhat, because Seokjin and Hoseok shoved into the bathroom along with him, still heckling him a bit about what had just happened in the hallway.

Hoseok was slathering his face with lotion, eyeing Jimin in the mirror as he brushed his teeth. “You worried about Troublemaker?” he teased. “Jungkookie might kiss you for real on stage in front of all those people.”

“Don’t joke like that,” Jimin said, nearly choking on his toothpaste. The thought of that was terrifying. Not only that, but Troublemaker was going to be part of their act for the end of year performance? Was Bighit out of their minds?

“Aw, don’t worry,” Seokjin cooed, though his comforting expression was mostly covered by his sheet mask. “Jungkookie’s not dumb. It’ll be fine. Remember the MAMAs last year?”

Jimin nodded, even though he had no idea what Seokjin was talking about.

Hoseok reached for a toothbrush, grinning. “You mean the soft porn you and Taehyungie put on for everyone?”

“It was very classy,” Seokjin huffed indignantly.

“True,” Hoseok conceded. “I guess as long as it’s classy, you can get away with gay shit on stage.”

“Yeah, the fans are going to think we’re all fucking each other anyway, so pretty much anything can just be passed off as fanservice.”

“How about this,” Hoseok said, clapping Jimin on the shoulder. “If Jungkook accidentally kisses you on stage, you both have to put fifty thousand won in the jar. Deal?”

Jimin nodded, slightly dazed. He’d been brushing the same row of teeth for the entirety of the conversation and just barely remembered to switch to the other side. He told himself he could pull this off, but there was just so much that had changed in the past four years that now he wasn’t so sure he could do this.

He almost found himself wishing that future Jimin and Jungkook had some self control and kept their relationship a secret. It would be so much easier to pretend like he was perfectly fine and calm if the other members of Bangtan weren’t reminding him every second that he and Jungkook were together.

The pictures on his phone flashed in his mind again and he ducked down to spit out the toothpaste to hide the blush blooming across his cheeks and nose.

Get it together, he reminded himself as he straightened back up. You can do this. Don’t be a burden on the others for once.

Within the hour, all of the members of Bangtan had gotten up (though it had taken three people to get Taehyung out of bed), and were ready to go to their schedule for today: a magazine photoshoot. Future Jimin probably had done hundreds of these already, but Jimin himself hadn’t even debuted yet; this would be his first time. Naturally, he was a bit nervous, but compared to everything else he’d gone through in the past twenty-four hours, this photoshoot was actually on the lower end of his list of worries.

Once Sejin had done a quick headcount to make sure everyone was present, they all left the dorms to load into the company cars parked outside. The cars were much nicer than Jimin remembered, and they didn’t all have to cram inside quite so close together anymore.

Even so, Jungkook made a point of sitting in the seat directly beside Jimin despite there being an empty one right next to him. Yoongi took the front seat, leaving Jimin and Jungkook alone in the back while everyone else filed into the other cars.

The doors closed and Hobeom started the car, pulling out onto the street. With the shift in the car’s movements, Jungkook’s hand found itself on Jimin’s knee, his fingers curled over the uneven bone there. He didn’t move it away, nor did he look at Jimin to acknowledge it, so Jimin just stared out the window and pretended as though Jungkook’s touch didn’t feel as though it was burning through his jeans directly under his skin.

Hobeom changed lanes, shifting the car again, and Jungkook’s hand moved higher, the tips of his fingers now brushing Jimin’s inner thigh. His thumb had begun to rub back and forth across his thigh, and the higher up his hand inched, the more heat rushed to Jimin’s cheeks.

“We don’t have any schedules after the photoshoot, right?” Jungkook asked suddenly, startling Jimin into jumping a bit before he realized that the question was aimed at Hobeom.

“Well, after the photoshoot is an interview for the magazine, and then you have a three hour performance practice,” Hobeom said, turning left down a new street.

“For the MAMAs?” Jungkook’s fingers were still brushing against Jimin’s inner thigh even as he looked straight ahead toward the driver’s seat, as casual as could be.

“Yeah. Tomorrow you’ll record the official backing tracks for your performances, too, so you better not be planning on drinking or anything tonight. No karaoke, either.”

“Okay, hyung,” Jungkook responded dutifully, giving Jimin’s thigh a squeeze.

Finally, just when Jimin thought his face might actually melt off from how hot his cheeks were, Hobeom pulled up to the building where they were having their photoshoot, and Jungkook removed his hand so that they could file out of the car.

Even as Yoongi and Hobeom walked off to join the others, Jungkook, who had gotten out of the car first, lingered behind to wait for Jimin to climb through the backseat and out of the car. It made him a bit nervous to have someone waiting for him like that; suddenly he felt as though he was moving at a snail’s pace and everyone else was eons ahead of him.

If Jungkook was annoyed at all, he didn’t show it. In fact, he even smiled at him coyly and bumped their hips together before Sejin called after them to hurry it up.

Nearly as surprising as Jungkook’s actions were the outfits waiting for them upstairs. Jimin was used to the black and white jerseys, bandanas, and chains that they were made to wear, but these clothes were elegant and soft, giving a classy vibe that he didn’t think could be associated with their group.

The clothes suited them well, though, especially with the pastel hair that they seemed to be frequently sporting now. Jimin checked the tag on the shirt he was given, balking when he saw that it was Saint Laurent. He shouldn’t have been surprised after seeing his closet back at the dorm, but for someone who was used to wearing knockoff Chanel, any amount of brand was incredible to him.

The makeup artists and hair stylists descended on them once they’d changed, and Jimin watched as the noona who approached him blended a soft eyeshadow gradient on his eyelids rather than the thick black eyeliner he was used to. He looked pretty, especially with his more matured face, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from his reflection.

“You’re awfully quiet today, Jimin-ssi,” the makeup artist said, raising her eyebrows. “No complaints yet?”

Hoseok snickered from one chair over. “Yeah, Jiminie, you finally decided to give our makeup noonas a break?”

“Oh, uh,” Jimin forced out a laugh like he completely understood the joke the others all seemed to be in on. “Yeah, but I won’t go so easy on you next time.”

That appeared to be an acceptable answer, and while the others joked about how picky he was, and how long he took to get his makeup done, Jimin had to wonder when he’d become such a diva.

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look perfect,” Seokjin chimed in from behind him, winking at Jimin in the mirror. “I know it must be hard for you guys to try and live up to the standard of beauty I’ve set for the group.”

“The only thing you set for the group is our collective mental age,” Jungkook said from the other side of the room where a hair stylist was trying to wrestle a bucket hat out of his hands. “You bring our average down to like, five years old.”

Seokjin turned and began hollering in Jungkook’s direction, the two of them laughing so hard that it became contagious, bringing a smile to everyone’s face in the room, even Jimin’s. It warmed his heart to see how well everyone in the group got along, even a pair with a five year age gap between them who had still been a bit awkward with each other back in his own time.

With his makeup, hair, and outfit all ready, Jimin was lead out into the main room with all the photographers, their equipment spread out across the huge space to the point that it was a bit intimidating.

“Okay, we’ll do the unit shots first, and then move onto the group ones,” the head photographer said after they’d all greeted each other and gotten their equipment ready. “Taehyung-ssi, Jimin-ssi, you first.”

They were each given a flower and told to pose as if they were waiting for a lover, which was so far from the kind of concept that Jimin was used to that he was thrown for a loop for a second, unsure of how to pose. He glanced at Taehyung and tried to follow suit, angling his head and staring off toward the walls with what he hoped was a wistful expression.

Surprisingly, modeling wasn’t as difficult as he’d expected. He switched poses fluidly, this soft concept coming much more naturally than the tough, intimidating one he’d been trying to become accustomed to.

Next up was Hoseok, Seokjin, and Yoongi, and the final unit was Namjoon and Jungkook. Jimin found his eyes drawn to Jungkook in particular, watching as he cycled through poses easily, looking so comfortable in front of the camera. He was starting to get used to this older version of Jungkook as compared to the shy kid he remembered, but this was a side of him that Jimin hadn’t seen yet.

“You’re staring,” Taehyung said, elbowing him gently. “And blushing. And drooling a little.”

“No I’m not,” Jimin said. “I’m just watching.”

Taehyung chuckled and shook his head. “That might’ve fooled some of us a couple years ago, but you guys aren’t as slick as you think.”

That’s right, he wasn’t seventeen year old Jimin right now. He was twenty-two year old Jimin who was dating Jungkook, who did stare at him, who didn’t get embarrassed about those things.

Not that he actually had been staring at Jungkook because of that kind of reason. Twenty year old Jungkook was so different than the boy he knew, it was only natural to be surprised, and therefore watch him a little longer than the others.

That was the honest truth, so he really couldn’t understand why he was trying to convince himself of that fact so vehemently.

For the group photoshoot, Jimin was sandwiched in between Taehyung and Seokjin, but he distinctly felt a pair of eyes burning into the side of his head for nearly the entire shooting period. He glanced over and locked eyes with Jungkook just as the camera clicked again, much to his chagrin. He didn’t need the other members heckling them about the staring again, this time immortalized in a magazine, of all things.

Fortunately, as the photographers cycled through the best photos when the shoot mercifully ended, Jimin didn’t see any looks shared between himself and Jungkook that stood out as being anything more than innocent glances.

In fact, he was more focused on the overall aesthetic of the shoot; it was so elegant and soft that if he were to show the other members back in his own time, he swore they would say it was a different group and not themselves.

Jimin preferred this look better. It suited them, and he didn’t feel so out of place among them as he did with their tough concepts. As he examined the photos carefully, he felt someone pressing up against his back, looking over his shoulder. He didn’t need to turn around to recognize this someone as Jungkook, so he didn’t flinch and acted as though this were something that happened every day.

And just as quickly as he’d come to crowd into Jimin’s personal space, he was gone again as all of them were ushered out of the room to be interviewed. With several bows and thank you’s to the photography staff, they were swept away to the interviewers, sectioned off by the units they’d been photographed with.

Just as with the photoshoot, Taehyung and Jimin were up first. More than anything else so far, this had his nerves shot the most. It would be better if it was a group interview, so he could coast through by agreeing with other members’ answers and fading to the background as the more talkative members of their group answered most of the questions.

But there in that smaller office space, it was just him, Taehyung, and a woman with her phone set to record mode on the table in front of her. He knew that Taehyung wasn’t a fan of speaking, especially in settings like this, so the burden of taking initiative on the answers would fall on his shoulders.

He’d been assured that the questions would all be about recent activities like their comebacks and fashion statements, as well as fun facts about themselves and their relationships with each other. Nothing too complicated, just the usual, Sejin had said.

There was just one problem: Jimin hadn’t experienced any of those things for himself, and didn’t have the slightest idea what the group had been up to in the past four years aside from the small clues he’d been piecing together. If he slipped up now, it had the potential to be disastrous.

Jimin’s strategy for the interview was essentially just to be as vague as possible, using Taehyung’s reactions as a guide, and allow him to clarify whatever Jimin had been coy about. It was the only way he could see this working.

For the most part, it seemed to be fine. He would laugh and nod, carefully watching Taehyung to make sure he wasn’t agreeing or disagreeing with the wrong thing, and allowing him to take over the interview. All Jimin had to do was smile and nod, even though he had no idea what ‘The Most Beautiful Moment in Life’ was referring to, and it took him several moments to realize that ‘Wings’ was the name of an album, and they hadn’t been talking about birds.

Finally, they were asked, “Of all the members, who would you say you are closest with?”

“Everyone,” Taehyung answered immediately. “All seven of us are like family, and if even one of them was missing, it wouldn’t be BTS.”

“I agree,” Jimin said, fondness blooming in his chest. “Taehyung and I might be best friends, but really, all seven of us have such close bonds that it’s hard to pinpoint just one person that we’d be closest with.”

Taehyung gave him a sidelong glance at that for some reason, but the interviewer was already wrapping up, so it was forgotten amongst the goodbyes and thank you’s.

“‘It’s hard to pinpoint just one person,’” Taehyung repeated Jimin’s words under his breath as they shuffled out of the room and out of earshot. “Jungkookie won’t be too happy to hear that.”

Oh. Shit.

“It’s not like I can just tell an interviewer that we’re together,” Jimin said in his own defense. “Jungkook will understand.”

Taehyung raised his eyebrows. “If you say so. You know him best, after all.”

No, Jimin wanted to say. I don’t, at all. Please, please help me. But the Jimin he was pretending to be did know Jungkook best, so he kept his mouth shut and his panicking to himself.

As promised, once the interviews were over, everyone was driven back to the company building so that they could practice their stages for the end of year shows. Of course, that meant Jimin would have to hope that the quasi-memory of the choreography and lyrics hadn’t vanished from his mind.

His nerves were so shot during the drive that he barely noticed Jungkook’s fingers playing with his hair, poking at the mole on the back of his neck and fiddling with the scruff on the nape of his neck.

Despite the unease building up in Jimin’s stomach, everyone else was high energy, chatting loudly as they filed into the practice room.

“Meet me in my room later,” Jungkook said in a low voice, his lips brushing Jimin’s ear, sending a shiver down his spine. Then, as if nothing had happened, he ran over to Hoseok, yelled out the name of some fighting game move, and tackled him.

It was a wonder that Jimin even managed to coast through their practice time what with all the chaos caused by the other members joking around with each other and the slightly cryptic instruction that Jungkook had whispered in his ear. He was just grateful that this version of Jimin had apparently practiced enough that he was able to follow along with everyone else just on muscle memory alone. Even his vocal abilities seemed to have improved, he noticed as they ran through a practice of a performance of their newest song.

After the group performance, they sectioned off into their subunits again, forcing Jimin to dance to Troublemaker yet again, only this time he had to sing as well. The performance was fine, as both he and Jungkook knew their lines and the choreography, but Jimin knew he was going to be reprimanded for how nervous he looked every time Jungkook so much as stepped closer to him.

Sure enough, when the music stopped, their choreographer pulled him aside and asked if everything was alright. “You and Jungkook-ssi usually have a lot more chemistry with this song. What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry,” was all Jimin could think to say. “I’ll do better.”

“Alright. Let’s try again, then.”

The music started again, and this time Jimin tried to distance himself from the situation. He imagined that he was back in Busan in one of his dance classes, and this was for a recital. He didn’t know who his partner was; it was all strictly business. Pretending that the person dancing with him and touching him and looking at him like that wasn’t Jungkook seemed to help him a bit with the more intimate parts of the choreography, and he was able to play up the fanservice a bit more.

He still had a hard time believing that this was going to be well-received by the fans, since he wasn’t exactly one of the most anticipated members of the group back in his own time, but at least this time they weren’t stopped by the choreographer.

For the kiss at the end, Jungkook grabbed his shoulders and dramatically blew him a kiss with his hand instead, making the others crack up. Jimin was suddenly grateful for their choreographer’s presence in the room, or else there may have been a situation like the day before, where Jungkook had most likely been planning to actually kiss him.

If he wasn’t sent back home soon, Jimin knew he might have to endure that eventually, but he wasn’t quite ready for it just yet.

It was in the middle of Seokjin and Yoongi’s practice that he remembered Jungkook telling him to come to his room once they were back at the dorms, and was faced with the reality that he probably would have to start mentally preparing himself now. There weren’t a whole lot of reasons Jimin could think of that would lead to Jungkook whispering to Jimin to come to his room at night, especially not after seeing what was on this Jimin’s phone.

At least he was able to sit out for the rest of practice, watching as the remaining two subunits practiced their performances. They were being filmed for whatever reason, so Jungkook was up joking around with Hoseok in front of the camera, leaving Jimin to rest in the massage chair and attempt to calm his nerves.

While the massage did an excellent job of loosening his muscles, it did little to help the anxiety building up in his mind that stayed there for the rest of the night. Back at the dorm, he even offered to help wash the dishes with Hoseok despite his dislike for chores, just so that he had an excuse to prolong having to go to Jungkook’s room.

“You never offer to help,” Hoseok said, handing him a plate to dry. “What’s going on with you?”

One of the text messages he’d seen while snooping through his future self’s phone came back to him, and he replied, “This is for staying late to help me with that one move in Troublemaker.”

Hoseok scrunched up his nose and puckered his lips. “You’re the cutest, Jiminie.”

Jimin smiled weakly, taking the last dish and placing it on the drying rack with a foreboding feeling settling over him. He’d watched Jungkook head off to his bedroom about twenty minutes ago, and if he stalled any longer it would only look suspicious.

“Good night, guys,” he said to the other members who were lounging around the living room.

Taehyung looked up from what looked like an art magazine and gave him a suggestive look. “Yeah, good night, Jiminie. Tell Jungkook good night for us, too.”

Seokjin snorted and nudged Taehyung with his toe while Jimin turned and shuffled off down the hallway to hide his burning cheeks.

At the end of the hall, he reached for the handle on Jungkook’s door, then stopped himself, unsure if he should go in or not. As he stood there deliberating, he heard soft sounds coming from inside. He leaned a bit closer to the door and realized that it was music, a slow song playing from one of Jungkook’s speakers, most likely.

The corners of Jimin’s mouth twitched upward and his heart skipped a beat for a moment. Jungkook was playing mood music; that was kind of...cute.

Once he remembered his situation the panic overrode the fond thoughts in his head, but the sentiment still mostly remained as he lifted his fist and knocked on the door.

“Who’s there?”

“Uh, Jimin?”

The lock clicked and the door opened. “You know I’m kidding, hyung, get in here,” Jungkook said, tugging Jimin inside and closing the door behind him, turning the lock again.

There were no lights on save for the lamps near the bed, dimmed down to a barely-there orange glow, and sure enough, a Lana del Rey song was humming through the speakers. Looking around, it looked as though Jungkook had even tidied up his room; the desk was free of tangled cords, his bed was made, and all of his gaming equipment was out of sight. It was honestly very sweet, and such a romantic gesture that Jimin once again forgot where and who he was.

Jungkook slipped one arm around Jimin’s waist and pulled him closer, his smile visible even in the dark.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Jimin said back, hoping that Jungkook couldn’t feel how fast his heart was pounding, even as their chests were pressed together like this. “What’s all this for?”

“Well,” Jungkook murmured, kissing Jimin’s forehead, “you’re always the one doing romantic things for me.” He kissed the apple of his cheek next. “And we never get a second to ourselves.” He kissed the corner of his mouth. “Plus you’ve been so tense lately...” Jungkook kissed his lips last, and Jimin’s entire world froze.

Being so focused on his dance studies back in Busan and then coming to Seoul as an idol trainee, he hadn’t had time to date anyone, let alone long enough to lead to a kiss. This was it, the first time he’d been kissed like this, and it was with Jungkook, of all people.

He stiffened from shock, his eyes bugging and his muscles tensing under Jungkook’s touch. Immediately, Jungkook pulled away.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

What was wrong? Where to even begin? Jimin wanted nothing more than to tell Jungkook exactly what was wrong with him, from waking up in the future, to the overwhelming success Bangtan had suddenly achieved, to the unexpected intimacy between him and the group’s youngest and previously most shy member. He wanted to spill everything that had been on his mind, but Jungkook would never believe him. He’d think he was crazy, or messing with him again, which wouldn’t bode well for Jimin or his future self, if and when they ever did switch back.

So instead he settled on, “Nothing, I’m fine.”

Unconvinced, Jungkook didn’t budge. “Was it something I did? Are you mad at me?”

“No, really,” Jimin said, forcing a smile. “Everything’s fine.”

That just seemed to upset Jungkook even more, because he untangled himself from Jimin and stepped away, his jaw set. “Well, when you decide you wanna tell me what’s wrong, just let me know.” He turned his back, shutting off the music and pulling out his headset, jabbing his thumb to the power button on his computer. “I’m gonna play Overwatch, so you can go.”

Jimin opened his mouth to say something, but he found that he couldn’t think of anything that would fix this. Jungkook was expecting him to be the Jimin that he knew, but he had no idea how to be that person. He left Jungkook’s room with guilt gnawing at his insides.

Back in his own room, Hoseok sat up in bed, looking at Jimin with a surprised expression. “Jiminie?” he said. “Why aren’t you with Jungkook?”

“He’s busy,” Jimin responded, pushing back the blankets and crawling into bed.

Hoseok raised his eyebrows but didn’t pry further.

Lying in this unfamiliar bed that molded to his body like he’d slept there hundreds of times before, Jimin couldn’t help tearing up again, this time in the safety of the dark room. He began to wonder what this version of Jimin was doing, if he’d gone back to 2013 somehow, and if they would ever switch back.

Even if they never did, Jimin thought bitterly, that Jimin would be fine. He has everything already figured out, after all.

 

2013

The first thing Jimin felt when he woke up was a strong sense of nostalgia.

He was curled up on a familiarly bumpy couch, pushed up next to a bunch of crumpled clothes, hats, and jerseys. The floor was hardwood, covered in scuff marks, and the full length mirror opposite where he was sitting was covered in fingerprints like it hadn’t been cleaned off in a while.

This was the old practice room, he knew just from the slightly sweaty but comforting smell of it.

The only difference was that the person staring back at him in the mirror wasn’t him. Or rather, it was him, but it was the person he’d been four years ago, back when Bangtan had first debuted. His hair was still black, soft and untouched by any dye or bleach, and his cheeks still had their youthful roundness.

As if that weren’t odd enough, the other members of Bangtan were there as well, all of them looking exactly as they had four years ago. There was Namjoon, clad in sunglasses and that awful perm, Hoseok with black hair styled up out of his forehead, and Jungkook—

There was Jungkook, hovering by the couch, his face so small and round and young and shy that Jimin had to fight back a fond smile from splitting across his lips. He’d forgotten how cute he’d been back then.

“Are you okay, hyung?” Jungkook asked with none of his usual bravado. He was so hesitant with his words, it was jarring.

Figuring that this had to be some kind of hyper-realistic nostalgia dream, Jimin grinned. “Yeah, everything’s good,” he said. “We’re practicing, right?”

Jungkook’s eyebrows shot up and he nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “You took a nap, so we didn’t want to wake you…”

“Nope, I’m good,” Jimin said, sliding off the couch and stretching out his arms and legs. “Let’s get to it, yeah?”

Despite the odd looks the other members and even the staff were shooting him, Jimin followed Jungkook to the center of the room and got into position when the speakers began playing No More Dream. This was nice, he thought as he danced, this choreography as familiar to him as the back of his own hand. With how stressful their activities had been lately, it was nice to have such a fond memory as a dream rather than the vague nightmares that had been plaguing him.

The practice proceeded as normal, up until the move where Jungkook had to lift Jimin; he lifted him up fine, but when it came to running while holding him up, he stumbled and nearly dropped him on top of Seokjin.

“Jungkook-ssi, you have to leverage him on the other members’ backs,” their choreographer called. “Try again.”

“I’m sorry, that was my bad,” Jimin told him, gripping his shoulder. He remembered how Jungkook had been almost terrified of mistakes back then, and this one truly was his own fault. He’d forgotten that Jungkook was only fifteen, and hadn’t built up enough muscle yet to hold Jimin up on his own.

This time, Jimin was sure to put most of his weight on the members’ backs, and Jungkook was able to successfully hold him up that way without losing his grip. The look of relief on everyone’s faces when the song ended made Jimin’s heart swell with pride.

“What kind of power naps are you taking, Jiminie?” Seokjin demanded. “It’s like you’re a different person now.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon agreed. “You went through the dance like a pro.”

Jimin just shrugged, though praise always brought a smile to his face. “We’ve all improved,” he said humbly.

Everyone was called back to their places to run through the song again, and Jimin found himself with a swell of pride in his chest. He’d nearly forgotten how it had felt to be back here at the beginning, back when their group had nothing, back when they’d been fighting just to debut. He could see it in all of their faces, the sheer desperation and hunger to succeed.

And they’d done it. They’d come so far since then, and they weren’t these same nervous but determined kids anymore. It warmed his heart to be able to have this kind of dream, a fond memory so that no matter how high he and his members were able to soar, they would never forget where they started and how tirelessly they’d worked to get to where they are now.

It certainly helped that this was by far the most realistic dream he’d ever had. He could smell the sweat in the room from hours of dancing, could feel the burn in his muscles, the low grumble in his stomach from the excessive dieting they’d been put through.

He fully expected to wake up any moment now, but somehow the dream continued even past their practice time.

“Hyung, are you really feeling better?”

Jimin turned to see Jungkook standing near him, tapping the edge of his shoe at the floor and scratching behind his neck, unable to maintain eye contact with Jimin for too long.

Fighting back the urge to audibly coo over how adorable he was, Jimin just nodded. “Yeah, everything’s great, actually.” He reached over to pinch Jungkook’s cheek, chuckling when Jungkook shyly swatted his hand away. “You did a good job today, Kookie.”

“Whatever,” Jungkook mumbled, ducking his head and shuffling off to the other side of the room where Namjoon was looking over lyrics with Yoongi.

Taehyung sidled up beside him and slung an arm over his shoulder, peering at his face with furrowed eyebrows. He looked so different with his bleached hair and undyed undercut and babyish features that when he spoke, Jimin was too focused on his appearance to listen to what he was saying.

“Uh, sorry, what?” Jimin said.

“I said, there’s something different about you today. I dunno how to explain it.” Taehyung pressed his lips together, clearly frustrated that he wasn’t able to put his thoughts into words. “The way you’re carrying yourself. It’s different.”

Jimin bumped their heads together playfully, sticking out his tongue. “You’re imagining things, Taetae.”

It wasn’t just Taehyung, though. Even back at the dorm, their old impossibly tiny dorm where all seven of them had slept in one room, the other members kept making comments about ‘the new Jimin’ as well.

Well. Everyone except Jungkook, who had elected instead to simply hover around Jimin and either blush and look away or make a defensively snarky comment when Jimin looked back at him.

Jimin just kept brushing them off, insisting that nothing had changed, all while his mind was focused entirely on the sheer level of detail in his dream. It felt as though he were actually back at the old dorm, from the cluttered shoe rack near the door to the lumpy mattresses to the overcrowded shelves packed with knickknacks and books. When he’d dreamed of the old dorm in the past, it had always just been a general idea of it, like he was reliving it through someone else’s eyes; close enough to reality, but there was always something off.

This time, though, this time it was perfectly recreated down to the way one particular floorboard always creaked near the kitchen.

Those brain teasers Seokjin was always posting to the group chat must have been working, because his subconscious had done an incredible job recalling something that had happened four years ago.

It was a bit jarring to be getting ready for bed (after waiting in line to use their single bathroom) and staring at his younger self in the mirror. After washing the soap from his face, he dragged his fingers across his skin, pausing at the acne scars on his chin that would eventually fade and pressing his fingertips into the baby fat on his cheeks.

“Hyung, you’re taking forever,” Jungkook complained from the other side of the door, turning the knob and barging in. He glanced at Jimin’s bare chest, his pajamas still folded on the counter, and averted his eyes, the slightest hint of a blush coloring his cheeks pink.

“Don’t be so impatient, Kook,” Jimin chided him fondly, pinching his cheek again and ruffling his hair. God, he wished the real Jungkook could see this; if only dreams could be shared between people. He was sure Jungkook would get a kick out of the way he used to act around Jimin. It was adorable.

“I wouldn’t have to if you didn’t take six hours in here,” Jungkook said, still blushing and keeping his distance. His shoulders were hunched a bit, like he was scared to even brush up against Jimin.

“Alright, alright, I’ll get out of your way.” Jimin took mercy on him and stepped around him to get to the door. “G’night, Jungkook.”

“Night, hyung,” came the small mumble before the door closed behind him.

Younger Jungkook’s antics were cute and all, but Jimin was thoroughly ready to wake up by now. He was astounded that he hadn’t woken up already, as the dream had felt like it lasted an entire day. Dreams were exaggerated, and time was always warped in them, but it was odd that he could recognize it as being a dream and still not have woken up yet.

A half hearted pinch to his arm did nothing, so he decided to give himself however much longer he had to sleep by allowing the dream to play out. He crawled up to the top bunk where he used to sleep, shaking his head at the deja-vu of it all, and closed his eyes.

But when he opened them again, he still wasn’t awake.

He was awake in the sense that it was now morning and he’d slept through the night in this dream of a memory, but he hadn’t yet woken up for real. Where was he sleeping? Last he remembered, he was sitting on the massage chair in the practice room taking a nap, but a simple nap should not have allowed him to dream this deeply.

Maybe someone had taken him back to the dorm? It didn’t sound plausible at first, but then he pictured Jungkook hoisting his sleeping form up on his back and carrying him for the entire walk back to the dorm; that was definitely something he would do, so maybe that was the case after all. He was just in a very deep, uninterrupted sleep, and having the most realistic dream he’d ever had.

As cute as this was, though, he just wanted to wake up.

Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Jimin climbed down the ladder from the top bunk and meandered over to the bathroom, bending over the sink and letting cold water run over his palms for a couple seconds.

When he splashed his face, he expected the cold to jolt his mind awake, but instead he just got a face full of ice cold faucet water. Determined, he tried again, and again, and again, but he was left with nothing but a soaking wet pajama shirt and a mirror reflecting back his seventeen year old self.

It was impossible that this wasn’t a dream. He had already lived all of this, had already suffered and toiled and sweated his ass off through these tough years to make it to where he was now, and to return back to that time was like achieving your dream only to have it snatched away again at the very last moment.

None of it was possible, and yet it was the only explanation. Somehow he’d found himself back in the year 2013.

That revelation brought with it a whole wave of concerns crashing around in his mind. If he was here in 2013, what had happened to him back in 2017? Had he simply vanished, plucked right out of his own time and forced to go back? Was he declared missing? Or maybe he had simply switched places with this Jimin, this past version of himself.

No matter what had happened, Jimin’s first coherent thought through all of the chaos clouding his head was of Jungkook.

If Jimin had disappeared, or had suddenly reverted back to his insecure, closeted seventeen year old self, he didn’t even want to imagine the amount of worry that must be causing Jungkook. Their anniversary was coming up, Jimin had already prepared his present, and they’d been practicing for their couple performance at the MAMAs. He had absolutely no time to be dicking around in the past when he was needed so much in the future.

But with no apparent way to get back, Jimin had no choice but to go along with what was happening here in 2013. This was entirely uncharted territory for him; he wasn’t sure if making a mistake or messing with the past would have drastic consequences like in all of the films and television shows he’d seen, so he decided the best option was to keep his head down and look for a way out.

That was far easier said than done, however.

Not only was their dorm frustratingly tiny and cramped, but the technology he had to use was also four years old. His phone screen was cracked, and he didn’t have his closet of birthday gifts from fans to fish a new one out of yet. He barely had any pictures on the phone, and his text messages were mostly just the Bangtan group chat and encouraging messages from his mother.

Their dieting was so strict that there were no snacks anywhere in the kitchen, and despite everyone still sporting their baby fat, they all looked skinnier than Jimin was used to seeing them.

Perhaps the worst thing of all was that in times of high stress like this, Jimin’s first instinct would be to seek out Jungkook. He always knew just what to say, just where to massage into his back to loosen him up, just the right way to kiss him to make his anxiety melt out of his body to be replaced with a feeling of warmth and comfort.

Granted, Jungkook was there, but he was fifteen years old. He was so young and shy and hadn’t yet become comfortable enough to be his goofy self in front of the cameras or even the members. He was just a kid, still struggling to grow into himself.

Jimin remembered Jungkook telling him one night, a few weeks after they’d tentatively begun their relationship, that he’d always had a crush on him, even when they’d first debuted. Now that he was reliving that time, Jimin definitely saw that, but a crush wasn’t what Jimin needed. He needed his Jungkook, the one who told him “I love you” at least several times a day.

The absence of his usual support system had Jimin thrown for the rest of the day, and he found himself constantly slipping up.

During their dance practice, he referenced a song that hadn’t been written yet when trying to explain a certain move in the choreography to Taehyung.

“Danger? What are you talking about?” Taehyung asked. “Who sings that?”

“Oh. Uh, never mind,” Jimin said quickly. “Just, here, move your arms like this.”

Later, when the members were discussing Seokjin’s obsession with all things Mario, Jimin blurted out, “At least it’s not as bad as Jungkookie and Overwatch,” and it wasn’t until Jungkook gave him an odd look that he realized his mistake.

“What’s Overwatch?” Jungkook asked.

“Nothing. I meant to say something else,” Jimin said, then hastily changed the subject. “Anyway, Jin-hyung, we should play Mario Kart later.”

At dinner, he tried to pour himself some wine and was reprimanded heavily by Namjoon. “You’re underage,” he said, shaking his head. “Nice try.”

By nightfall, Jimin was exhausted. He missed Jungkook so much, and wanted nothing more than to curl up in his arms and fall asleep to the sound of his heartbeat and gentle breathing.

Instead of curling up into the curve of Jungkook’s body, he lied there on the top bunk in a bedroom with six other kids, feeling more alone than he had in a very long time.

He began to wonder if maybe he’d been sent back to this year, to this particular moment for a reason. Maybe something had happened here that he was meant to fix, something that he’d messed up as a kid and was now being given the opportunity to make it right.

He rolled on his back and stared up at the water stain on the ceiling. It didn’t make sense. Everything that had happened when they were younger, every decision they’d made, be it good or bad, had been another part of their journey to the happiness and success they enjoyed now. Those decisions had allowed him to find the person he loved more than anyone, to be able to be with that person every day, to kiss him and hold him and be able to talk with him for hours; he wouldn’t change a single thing.

But… Doubt began to creep into his mind as he pulled the starchy sheets up to his chin and turned to face the wall. Maybe that was what he was meant to prevent.

In their entire careers, this was the one thing that had the potential to destroy everything they’d ever worked for. It was something he and Jungkook had discussed at length already amongst themselves and the other members, and decided that their love was worth the risk.

But what if that was the wrong decision?

Jimin bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut, curling in on himself under the blankets. If that was the case, and if he was meant to be creating a future where he and Jungkook never moved past friendship, then that was a future he had no interest in returning to.

Chapter Text

2017

There is something to be said about the resilience of humanity in that people can endure less than ideal conditions for a very long time while still keeping their heads up. It’s been about a month now since that day Jimin woke up four years in the future, straight in the middle of a life that was so drastically different from his own that it had left him reeling for days.

But it’s been a month now, and he’d already gotten used to the idea of being in this life that both was and was not his own. He adopted the aura of confidence this version of Jimin seemed to possess, he used all of his free time on Youtube watching old videos of the group to catch up on everything from the past four years that he’d skipped right over, and was able to finally fit in with the members enough that they couldn’t tell anything was off anymore.

Not that he had much of a choice.

But in the process of adapting and becoming used to this situation he’d found himself in, he managed to somehow create a yawning chasm between himself and Jungkook, something that caused guilt to gnaw at his insides with every passing day.

Jungkook barely spoke to him anymore off camera, and he hadn’t invited Jimin back to his room or attempted any form of intimacy with him since that night when Jimin had inadvertently broken his trust. To be fair, he did still hover around Jimin, following him around like a, as the others so eloquently put it, satellite pulled into Jimin’s orbit. He followed him around so silently, though, that Jimin would have compared him to a shadow first.

In front of cameras, he was his normal self, play-flirting with him and staring in his direction every couple minutes, but the most he did when they were alone was sometimes grabbing his hand under the table or squeezing his arm when he passed by. He’d even started calling him ‘hyung’ again instead of ‘Jiminie,’ putting that much more distance between them.

Even with how put-off and startled by the idea of being intimate with Jungkook he’d been at first, the unmistakeable feeling of loneliness had begun to creep up on him. The other members were as close to him as family, and he was never truly alone, but somehow all it took was Jungkook’s absence to make him feel so lost.

During lives and dance practices, Jimin kept his energy up as best as he could under the circumstances, but the exhaustion of living someone else’s life and possibly having destroyed a relationship was starting to take its toll on him.

November had brought with it a cooler chill to the air in more ways than one.

Not only that, but the clock was ticking on the countdown until Jimin and Jungkook’s anniversary, and with the state of their relationship as it was, Jimin was worried there might not be anything to celebrate when that day came. And if that were the case, it would be no one’s fault but his own.

As the nights grew longer and the days shorter, November passing them by in a blur of performances, photoshoots, interviews, and practices, Jimin took to burying himself in the contents of his phone. The photos the other Jimin had taken were like memories frozen in time, and he became obsessed with flipping through them, seeing how his life had been before all of this.

The photos taken together with Jungkook were painful to look at, but at the same time he found himself unable to look away. They’d been so comfortable together, Jimin could tell even just from the photos of them cuddling in low light and brief videos of them laughing and joking.

All it took was Jimin’s past self coming here to fuck it all up.

Before he knew it, the end of year awards had descended on them, and they were flown off to their hotel in Yokohama to rest up before the ceremony the following day. It was Jimin’s first time abroad, and the lights of the city outside of his hotel room were as mesmerizing as Seoul’s had been his first night there after coming from Busan.

He was so enraptured by the view, in fact, that he didn’t notice when his door opened and someone entered until Jungkook’s voice piped up softly behind him.

“Remember the last time we came to Japan?” he asked. “We ate street food and your lips got all greasy when you kissed me.”

Jimin did remember seeing a photo like that, the two of them grinning into the camera with an oily sheen over their mouths, so he nodded. “Yeah.”

“You snuck into my hotel room that night.”

“Mhm.”

Jungkook was silent for a long time, sidling up closer to Jimin and hooking their pinkies together. The lights of the city twinkled below them, reds and yellows and blues all in clusters against the darkness. At this proximity to the window, Jimin could see the faint reflection of his and Jungkook’s faces staring back at him, and he had to look away for a moment, turning his gaze to the embroidery on the curtains instead.

Finally, Jungkook spoke again. “Good night, hyung,” he said, pressing a kiss to the side of Jimin’s head. When he left the room, it was no different than before, and yet at the same time it was like there was an emptiness that Jimin hadn’t noticed previously. Brushing his teeth after his shower, he couldn’t shake the feeling that someone should have been standing beside him, and when he crawled into the large bed with soft sheets, it felt far too big for just one person.

Jungkook had come to his room for such a short time, Jimin had to wonder what his objective was. He’d barely said anything, and then he’d left so abruptly; the more he thought about it, the more confused he became. More than anything, he wished that the other Jimin would just come back and take his place already and fix things before it was too late. He would be able to go back to his own time and mess up his own life rather than someone else’s.

But just like every other night since he’d come here, Jimin fell asleep in the wrong body and woke up in the wrong bed, his chances of getting back to where he belonged beginning to appear farther and farther away.

Today was the award ceremony, though, and so he couldn’t afford to be focusing on his own woes. He had six other members and a crowd full of fans to think of, and he didn’t want to let them down.

There was time for one last rehearsal in the morning, and then everyone was instructed to have a light lunch before they were herded into their dressing room backstage to have their hair, makeup, and outfits done.

Jungkook made no mention of what had happened last night, so Jimin remained silent about it as well. His eyes were closed as the makeup artist blended out his eyeshadow, but in the darkness behind his eyelids all he could see was the expression on Jungkook’s face reflected in the window of his hotel room.

Despite his other self’s apparent reputation for taking the longest to get ready due to being overly picky with his hair and makeup, Jimin was the first to be finished today. He was still in awe over how different his face looked without the heavy black liner around his eyes that he was used to, so he found no fault with the way his makeup had been done.

While he waited for the others to finish, he sat on the couch over in the far corner of the room, briefly making eye contact with Jungkook, who was getting his hair done, and then burying his face in his phone.

He slipped on his headphones and scrolled through the photo album as usual, settling on a video that looked like it was taken in a hotel room.

The camera was shaky for a bit as the other Jimin walked through the room, and then it finally focused on the bed, where Jungkook was lying down looking at something on his phone.

“Jungkookie, did you come in here just to sit on your phone?” Jimin’s voice came from behind the camera, and Jungkook lifted his head, giving him a toothy grin.

“Yep. So you can turn the camera off, I’m not being cute for you today.”

“You’re always cute,” Jimin giggled, and he must have tossed his phone aside because suddenly the screen was a blur and a light thud crackled in the microphone. The phone landed face down, so the rest of the video was just a shot of the ceiling and faint rustling noises in the background. The last few seconds were a brief shot of Jimin’s face, his lips bitten red and swollen, as he scrambled to end the video.

The next video was in the same hotel room, but this time the lights were off save for a dim lamp off to the side. Both Jimin and Jungkook were in the bed, Jungkook blinking sleepily at the camera while Jimin’s hand stroked his hair on screen.

“Stop recording me,” Jungkook mumbled. “You’re embarrassing.”

“I just want to save this moment,” Jimin’s throaty, tired voice replied. “I don’t ever want to forget it.”

Jungkook’s hand slid up to where Jimin’s was still carding through his hair, circling his fingers around his wrist. He brought it down to his lips and pressed a kiss to his pulse point, his eyelashes fluttering like he might have fallen asleep at any moment. “I love you,” he murmured.

The video ended there, but Jimin probably would have turned it off at that point either way. His chest was too tight, his ribs constricting his breathing, and his mind was in a dizzying sort of turmoil. Jungkook’s voice echoed over and over in his head, an endless chorus of “I love you.”

“Jimin.”

At the sound of Taehyung’s voice, Jimin was snapped out of his stupor and jumped a bit, looking up at his friend with wide eyes. He quickly pocketed his phone and attempted to will away the tears that had been threatening to well up.

“Hey, Taetae,” he said, coughing to mask the fact that he was blinking away the glassiness in his eyes.

“Can I talk to you for a sec?” Taehyung asked, his voice low so that the others couldn’t hear.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“It’s about you and Jungkook.” Taehyung’s voice got even lower, eyeing the staff bustling around on the other side of the room. “Did you two fight? I tried asking Jungkook, but he wouldn’t tell me.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Jimin said, not meeting his friend’s eyes. “Our relationship is private; just because we’re not hanging all over each other in front of you—”

“Sorry, but I’m calling bullshit.”

Jimin looked up in surprise.

“You guys have been hanging all over each other for three years. You didn’t tell us about your relationship, remember, you got caught because you couldn’t keep your hands to yourselves even in the damn living room of the dorm.” Taehyung crossed his arms, looking a little hurt. “If you don’t want to tell me, fine, but don’t lie to me, Jimin.”

For a moment, looking at Taehyung’s earnest expression, Jimin almost considered telling him what was really going on. Of all the members, it would be Taehyung who would believe him, Jimin was certain of it.

But that would take courage that he hadn’t quite found yet, so he bit his lips together and exhaled slowly through his nose. “We’re just going through a bit of a rough patch,” he said. “It’s nothing too bad.”

“Are you sure it’s nothing? He has the room next to me and I heard him crying last night.”

Jimin’s lips parted and his eyes widened. “He was crying?”

“Yeah. So do you want to tell me what happened?”

It was difficult to bring himself to respond to Taehyung, especially after finding out that Jungkook had been crying because of him.

“I don’t deserve him,” Jimin said finally, deciding to be honest. “Maybe he realized that.”

“No way,” Taehyung said immediately. “Not a chance.”

“What?”

“Jiminie, we both know Jungkook is a giant goofball. He’s always playing and joking around, right, and I only see him get really serious two times. When he’s performing,” Taehyung held up one finger, “and when he’s worried about you.” He held up another finger. “You know I’m not good with words, but it doesn’t even take words to see how much he loves you. I can’t believe you’d think for even a second that you don’t deserve him.”

Jimin blinked, the movement freeing tears from his eyes, and his hands began to tremble. Before Taehyung could see, he quickly ducked his head and wiped them away, disguising it as fixing his makeup.

“Thanks, Taetae,” he sniffled, lifting his head again. He grasped Taehyung’s hands tightly, hoping that his friend would understand how much his words meant to him. Of all the people who could have been part of Bangtan, he was grateful that it was Taehyung who joined, and Taehyung who had remained his closest friend through all these years.

“Of course, Jiminie,” Taehyung said, pulling him in for a quick hug. “Now make sure you fix things later. I actually miss when you guys were all over each other.”

“Yeah,” Jimin said, his eyes drifting to where Jungkook was curled up by himself on the couch, headphones in and his eyes closed. “Me too.”

 

Due to the scale of their performance, Bangtan’s group stage was saved for last, allowing them to close out the show. The subunit performances, however, were peppered throughout the night, with Jimin and Jungkook’s being one of the first.

A girl group that Jimin didn’t recognize went first, and even from backstage he could hear how loud the fanchants were. His greatest fear was that he and Jungkook would step out onto the stage to complete silence, with nothing but darkness stretching out in front of them.

From how popular their group had become now, he knew that wasn’t going to be the case, but the horrific image of the black ocean remained in his mind for the rest of the girl group’s performance.

Jungkook must have sensed his hesitation, because he wordlessly reached over and squeezed his hand, not letting go until the staff waved them over to their positions to get ready for their dance cover.

Jimin took a deep breath, chasing after the warmth left by Jungkook’s hand, and followed him out onto the stage to the sound of thousands of people all screaming their names.

Their performance was just like it had been when they were practicing, only this time it was in front of this ocean of people in front of him, being broadcast all over the world. He was nervous, for sure, but he didn’t allow his nerves to get the best of him. He knew that this version of Jimin was used to performing, and from the videos he’d watched, he saw how he practically owned the stage, always finding himself at the center.

Back when he’d first come here, when he’d woken up that day in the practice room and was thrown into the dance rehearsal with Jungkook, he’d tried his best to imagine that it wasn’t Jungkook he was dancing with in order to calm his nerves. Now, standing on this stage looking out at all of the lights representing their fans, Jimin did the opposite.

Instead of pretending like Jungkook wasn’t there, he focused on him, erasing everything except for his group member from his mind. It was just the two of them in the practice room again, and the cheering from the fans and the enormous stage was all in his head.

The music started and he jumped into the dance just like always, standing with his back to the audience while Jungkook danced to the opening, only turning around when he felt Jungkook’s hand graze down his back.

His tactic was working; the two of them were perfectly in sync, and Jimin’s nervousness had disappeared. Jungkook’s vocals were all he could hear thanks to his earpiece, and the dance came easy to him now after so long spent practicing. Any embarrassment he’d had before was gone, and it was with renewed confidence that he played up the fanservice between them, using the distant screams from the fans as an indication that they were doing well.

And really, it made sense that the two of them were performing this song. He hadn’t understood at first, but he knew now that they looked good together, that Jungkook’s hands fit perfectly around his waist when they danced, that their voices meshed well in duets, and that their chemistry was undeniable.

Even with the uncertainty hanging over their heads for the past month, and even though Jimin wasn’t the same person that Jungkook was so familiar with, they sold the performance so well that he was sure no one could tell the difference.

Before he could so much as blink, the song had faded off into whistling, and he stood there breathing heavily as Jungkook approached him. This, more than anything, more than the performance itself, was what got his heart racing.

Jungkook slid his hands around Jimin’s waist, pulling their bodies flush together and leaning in. He was so close that Jimin swore he actually did steal the breath right from his lungs, but at the last possible second he slipped his fingers in the the gap between their lips and turned his head. To the audience, it looked as though they were indeed locking lips, and the bloodcurdling screams coming from the crowd certainly reflected that.

Jimin knew that they would end up doing this. Even if the other Jimin had been here for this performance, they would have done the hand trick rather than actually kiss each other on stage.

So then why did Jimin feel disappointed when it was Jungkook’s fingers that he felt pressed against him?

He didn’t have much time to dwell on that thought before he and Jungkook were ushered backstage again to change and rejoin the other members at their table. The moment they sat down, however, it was all he could think about. The videos on the phone in his pocket, Taehyung’s words, and the look on Jungkook’s face in the hotel room last night were blurring together in front of his vision to the point that he was completely detached from reality.

Jungkook loved him.

There had been so much doubt in Jimin’s mind about their relationship, so much he didn’t understand, but he was beginning to understand a bit now. Jungkook was in love with him, with this person that he had grown up with, had trained and sweated and cried and laughed and succeeded with, and then suddenly, just a few months before their two year anniversary, this boy that he loved so much had suddenly become like a new person altogether.

Anyone would be upset. Anyone would have reacted the way Jungkook did. He’d tried to ask Jimin what was wrong, he’d known immediately that something was off, but Jimin had shut down, had pushed him away, had broken his trust.

He wasn’t sure what was worse: this fractured relationship, or what might have happened if Jungkook hadn’t noticed anything different about him and the ruse had continued. He supposed it said something about how well Jungkook knew him that he was able to tell just from his facial expressions that something was wrong.

Suddenly, the world around him exploded with screams.

Jimin was jolted out of his own tumultuous thoughts and glanced around, seeing the other artists all clapping and their group name flashing on the giant screens behind the stage, with “Artist of the Year” above it.

Had they just won a Daesang?

Jimin followed and stood with the others as if in a stupor, his mind completely blank after the rush of emotions in his brain had caused him to short-circuit. He knew they’d won them before, this wasn’t the first time, but as far as he was concerned, this was the first award they’d won ever. That, along with what had already been going through his mind, left him so overwhelmed that all he could do was stand there with his lips slightly parted and his heart racing.

Namjoon accepted their award and all seven of them bowed fervently while the MCs cleared the way for Namjoon to step up to the microphone for the acceptance speech.

Beside Jimin, Jungkook was crying, tears sliding down his cheeks one after the other, his wide eyes sparkling with fresh tears as he stared out at the sea of silver lights all cheering for them. His fingers were gripping Jimin’s arm tightly, as though he was the only thing tethering him to the stage, and he was pressed in closer than he’d been in a while.

When Namjoon’s speech ended, Jimin didn’t think. He turned and pulled Jungkook into a hug, arms wrapped securely around his waist and his face buried in his neck. There were cameras everywhere, so many people in the audience, and their group was on stage beside them, but right now Jimin swore it was just the two of them.

He realized in that moment that he had to tell him. He had to. It was Jungkook, the person who this version of Jimin loved so much, trusted so much, and shared everything with. It wasn’t fair to keep this a secret anymore, especially not from him.

He didn’t want to be the reason for Jungkook’s tears.

Bangtan took home two more Daesang awards that night, and the mood in the cars they took back to their hotel rooms was so heightened that even though Jimin was unbelievably nervous about what he was going to have to do, he couldn’t keep the proud smile off his face.

They weren’t really his awards, he knew that already, he hadn’t earned them or fought for them like the others had, but seeing them so elated had his chest swelling with pride. These were his members, his family, and they’d done so well.

Their flight the next morning was an early one, so Sejin warned them not to stay up too late celebrating, though of course they took that as more of a suggestion than an actual command. Seokjin informed the group chat that he had vodka in his room, and so everyone convened there to share to share in their victory together.

Drinking would inhibit his ability to have a serious conversation with Jungkook, so Jimin stayed away from the alcohol, and was grateful that Taehyung was keeping Jungkook occupied enough that he hadn’t had anything to drink yet either.

While their hyungs’ faces got steadily more red, Jimin nudged Jungkook and nodded his head over to the door. Jungkook stepped away from Taehyung and leaned down to hear Jimin over the sudden burst of laughter from their drunk group members.

“What’s up?”

Jimin took a deep breath and said, keeping his voice low, “Jungkook, we need to talk. We, um… we should have done it a long time ago, actually.”

The color drained from Jungkook’s face and his lips parted. “Hyung?”

“Can we go in your room? I don’t want the others to hear.”

“Okay.” Jungkook followed Jimin out into the hallway and over to his own hotel room, swiping the key card and holding the door open for him. Jimin doubted the others in their inebriated state would even notice that the two of them had gone.

When the door closed behind them, Jungkook broke down. “Hyung, please don’t do this,” he said, his lips scrunched up like he might start crying. “Please don’t, please, I—”

“Jungkook,” Jimin interrupted, unsure of what to do. He couldn’t understand why Jungkook was panicking like this; he hadn’t even begun talking yet. “Please just listen for a second.”

Jungkook nodded, but his expression was still stricken, dread clouding his gaze.

“Before I say anything, I just want you to know that even though this is going to sound crazy, I swear it’s the truth. You trust me, right?”

“Of course I do,” Jungkook said. “What is it, hyung? You’re scaring me.”

God, it had seemed so simple in his head, but now that he actually had to say it out loud, he couldn’t think of a single way to word it that wouldn’t make him sound completely out of his mind.

“I’m not who you think I am.”

Jungkook furrowed his eyebrows together and sniffled. “What?”

“I mean, I… That day when you thought I had a concussion, that was the first time I had ever been in that practice room. I fell asleep in the year 2013, a couple months before we even debuted, and I woke up here.” Jimin barely paused, was too scared to look at Jungkook’s reaction before he continued, “It’s not that I had a concussion or lost my memories or anything, it’s that I’m pretty sure I switched places with… with your Jimin.”

There was a silence that fell when Jimin stopped talking that seemed to last for an eternity. Jimin finally was able to bring himself to look at Jungkook’s face, and he was met with an utterly dumbfounded expression.

Finally, finally Jungkook’s lips parted and began to form words, though his eyes were still detached as though he had no idea what he was saying. “So— so you’re here, and he’s…”

“In 2013. I think.”

“And you’re not messing with me right now?”

“Jungkook,” Jimin looked directly into his eyes, “I swear to you that I’m telling the truth. I really wish I was lying, but I’m not.”

“I just… I mean, you know how crazy this sounds, right?”

Jimin almost laughed. “I know. Trust me, I know.”

“So you were just pretending nothing was wrong all this time?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t do a very good job at that, did I?” Jimin said with a bittersweet smile. “I’m sorry for putting you through all of that. I should have told you sooner.”

“Is it bad that I’m relieved?” Jungkook said, his voice wavering. “I’m relieved it’s not… I thought you…” He squeezed his eyes shut and looked away, attempting to compose himself so that he could continue talking. “I thought you were done with me, and with…with us.”

“Jungkook…”

“You were acting so different, and you wouldn’t talk to me, I… I really thought you didn’t love me anymore. I thought you were going to break up with me.” Fresh tears joined the others streaming down Jungkook’s face, his bottom lip quivering and his eyes bloodshot. “Jimin, I didn’t know what to do, I—”

“Jungkook,” Jimin said gently, cupping Jungkook’s cheek with his hand and brushing his tears away with his thumb. “It’s okay. I know your Jimin still loves you more than anything. I don’t have his memories, but even just by being here and seeing how much you love him, it would be impossible for him not to feel the same.”

Jungkook sniffled. “You talk about him like you’re different people.”

“We are, though, aren’t we?”

“Not to me.”

“But your Jimin is a star. Your Jimin is loved by so many people, and—”

“And he’s you,” Jungkook finished for him, his conviction clear even through his tears. “How do you think we got to where we are now? We worked for it. It didn’t happen overnight, and that’s what makes it so special.” He took Jimin’s hand, intertwining their fingers and kissing his knuckles. “And it doesn’t matter if you’re Jimin from four years ago; I love you now, and I loved you back then, too.”

Jimin’s eyebrows shot up his forehead. “What? You… back then?”

The smile on Jungkook’s face brought a sparkle to his eyes. “Yeah. Ugh, Jiminie, I was crazy for you and I had no idea what to do about it. Sorry for acting the way I did.”

“You don’t have to apologize. I’m just in shock. I thought you didn’t like me, that you thought I was pathetic—”

“Never,” Jungkook cut him off before he could continue. “I’d never think that way about you. If you can make me believe that you came from 2013, then you need to believe me when I say that there wasn’t a second that we’ve known each other that I didn’t respect you.”

Jimin’s heart skipped a beat in his chest and he inhaled sharply. “But you… you believe me?”

“Of course,” Jungkook said. “You could tell me that trees were purple and I wouldn’t even question it.” He sniffled loudly and used the sleeve of his expensive dress shirt to wipe away his tears, finally letting go of Jimin’s hand, though Jimin hadn’t even realized their fingers had still been laced together. When he spoke next, it was with a grin. “So if you’re mentally only seventeen right now, does that mean I’m your hyung?”

“No, brat,” Jimin said, but a smile was growing on his own lips now too. “I’m still your hyung no matter what.” He paused, then spoke again, a little softer, “But you can call me by my name again if you want. Since you’re already used to it, I mean.”

“Sure thing, Jiminie,” Jungkook said, a hint of a teasing tone to his voice. “Thank you.”

“It’s not like you asked for this to happen,” Jimin replied, the end of his sentence partially interrupted by a yawn that forced his eyes shut. “S-sorry.”

Jungkook ruffled his hair and smiled gently. “It’s okay. You’ve had a long day, yeah? C’mon, let’s get you to bed.”

“Can I maybe, um,” Jimin fiddled with the ring on his finger nervously, “can I sleep with you tonight? I— I mean in your bed, not— not, like—”

“It’s okay, I know what you meant,” Jungkook said. “Wow, it’s so different to see you this shy around me. Usually you’d be the one making me blush.”

“I’m just not used to this.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll figure this out,” Jungkook promised. “You and me, okay?”

Jimin nodded, unwilling to tear his eyes from Jungkook’s earnest look for even a second. “You and me,” he repeated.

 

2013

Jimin was starting to find it difficult to wake up in the morning. He found himself dreading the sun rising and having to open his eyes to this reality that wasn’t his anymore. He hated feeling trapped, and that’s exactly what he was.

At the end of the day, he was a professional, and would never let his facade slip for even a second, but there was an emptiness he felt inside, one that he knew came from the absence of Jungkook.

He missed him so much it was almost unbearable. In the entire time they’d known each other, they hadn’t gone more than a week without seeing each other, and as the time kept passing, it was starting to wear Jimin down.

What made things worse was that Jungkook wasn’t gone. He was there beside him the whole time, but it was as if someone had pressed a giant reset button on their entire relationship, like they had to start it all over from the very beginning, and it was hard. It was so hard looking at this younger, smaller version of Jungkook and knowing that he didn’t love Jimin the way he would come to, that he didn’t feel the same ache that Jimin did inside.

Hell, Jimin himself hadn’t fallen in love with Jungkook for another year, and it was another year after that before they’d finally broken down and confessed to each other.

Even though he knew it wasn’t the case, that nothing would change the fact that Jungkook was the love of his life, it was beginning to feel like unrequited love the longer he was stuck here in the past.

No more kisses, no more late night talks, no more ‘I love you’s,’ no more lying back and just knowing that there was someone who loved him. He knew that Jungkook had a crush on him during this time, but that wasn’t love. That was a fifteen year old boy looking up to his hyung that he admired, not knowing that those feelings would eventually turn romantic.

Eventually being the key word there.

Jimin was in love, currently, with a boy who was four years ahead of his time, and with no apparent way to get back to him, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to keep his head up.

He hadn’t given much thought to his theory that he was supposed to be changing the past to prevent his relationship with Jungkook, but every time his mind wandered to thoughts of how he could get back home, it inevitably settled on that uncomfortable idea.

In a way, he was grateful for the exhausting schedule he and his members were put through in the weeks leading up to their debut, because it allowed him to concentrate on that rather than the predicament he was in. He supposed it helped, too, that he’d retained his knowledge of the next four years, because the whispers he remembered hearing about his being removed from the group never came up. Instead he heard the staff murmuring about his miraculous improvement and sudden confidence boost.

“It’s not miraculous,” he wanted to say. “I worked my ass off for four years to get to this point.”

One night, when it had gotten particularly bad, Jimin had very nearly broken down and told Taehyung everything. He was so used to confiding in his best friend, but they hadn’t yet become close enough that he thought Taehyung might believe his story. There had been a night about a week after they debuted where he and Taehyung had walked by the river together until the sky began to light up as the sun poked its head over the horizon. That night had been the turning point, when they’d gone from best friends to best friends, but like most things that Jimin was longing for, that simply hadn’t happened yet.

All he had were memories of the future and a steadily dissipating sliver of hope that he could still wake up one morning to find that this had all just been a bad dream.

That same night, thinking that he was alone in the dorm, Jimin sat at the corner of the couch with his chin in his hand and his legs tucked up underneath him, staring blankly at the cluttered space around him.

As usual, he began to think of Jungkook, and no sooner had his boyfriend’s face crossed his mind, the front door opened and Jungkook himself walked in. He didn’t say anything to Jimin at first, heading straight to the kitchen with the plastic bag in his hand and starting up something on the stove.

Jimin didn’t fault him for being shy; he knew that they’d all grown as people, and it wouldn’t take long for Jungkook to come out of his shell and start acting like himself around them. It would just be a hell of a lot easier if he’d been able to do that a bit earlier.

After a couple minutes, Jungkook left the kitchen and, to Jimin’s surprise, walked right up to him rather than scampering off to hide somewhere until he went to sleep.

“Did you eat today?” Jungkook asked.

“No, not yet,” Jimin mumbled, picking at a hole in the hem of his shirt.

Wordlessly, Jungkook set a cup of ramen with steam curling out from under the lid in front of him. He snapped apart the chopsticks and handed those to him as well, then took a seat beside him.

“Jungkook, we can’t have ramen,” Jimin reminded him. “If the manager hyungs find out we broke the diet—”

“Just eat it, hyung,” Jungkook said, pushing the cup closer. “I know you like this kind.”

He was right, of course, but the gesture had him so caught off guard that all he could do was stare at Jungkook incredulously for a moment.

Blushing under his gaze, Jungkook pushed down gently on Jimin’s hand, guiding it toward the cup. “It’s getting cold.”

Truthfully, Jimin felt a bit sick to his stomach, and he knew that ramen was just going to make his nausea worse, but he remembered now why it had been so difficult to say no to Jungkook.

Jungkook nodded in satisfaction when Jimin lifted the cup and slurped up a bite, ignoring the churning in the pit of his gut when he swallowed. Jungkook didn’t budge, so Jimin picked up another bunch of ramen with his chopsticks and turned to face him.

“Here,” Jimin said softly, holding up the noodles to Jungkook’s mouth. “You eat too.”

Jungkook averted his eyes and opened up, allowing Jimin to feed him. They sat there without saying much else for a while, passing the cup back and forth until there was nothing but a small puddle of broth at the bottom.

“Thanks for making this,” Jimin said. For a second he considered ruffling Jungkook’s hair, but he knew it would just make him shy away from his touch, and he liked having Jungkook close like this. Even though he was still just a kid, he was a comforting presence to have around.

“You have, um,” Jungkook reached over and swiped his thumb across Jimin’s bottom lip, drawing away with a little vegetable flake stuck to his skin. Once he realized what he’d done, he rocketed off the couch like the cushion was on fire and snatched up the empty ramen cup and chopsticks, his cheeks burning. “I’m gonna throw these away,” he said quickly, and then scurried off before Jimin could even offer to help him clean up.

Jimin was certain that the whole incident would cause Jungkook to distance himself for a while as he had in Jimin’s previous memories, when Jimin had pushed a bit too far and Jungkook wouldn’t even look at him for a couple days.

It came as a bit of a shock when the opposite happened, and Jungkook spent even more time around him. Everywhere he went, Jungkook wasn’t too far behind, and there were several occasions that Jimin returned to the dorm after practice to find Jungkook curled up in his bed with his face buried in his pillow.

“Wow, Jungkookie has a new favorite hyung,” Hoseok commented one night when he saw Jimin lying on Jungkook’s bed while their maknae was snuggled up on Jimin’s bunk. “Do I have to fight you to win him back?”

“You’ve already lost,” Jimin said. “I’ve always been his favorite.”

“We’ll see about that,” Hoseok winked.

But that night, Jimin woke up to a warm body curled against him and the soft sound of breathing against his neck. Jungkook must have climbed down from the top bunk sometime during the night and come to sleep with him instead, something he’d rarely done before. It was as if their roles had switched; suddenly Jungkook was the one clinging to Jimin and seeking his affection even with how shy he was.

Maybe Jimin wasn’t the only one feeling an absence.

“I’m sorry, Jungkookie,” he whispered, and gave him a light kiss on the forehead.

It could have just been his imagination, but he could have sworn Jungkook hugged him a little tighter after that.

Chapter Text

2017

It was a few days before Christmas, and Jungkook and Jimin were alone at the dorms.

That in itself wasn’t anything major, but it was a few days before Christmas, on Jimin and Jungkook’s anniversary, and they were alone at the dorms.

They’d been given a couple days off from any schedules to enjoy the holidays, and most of the other members had chosen to return home. Hoseok had stayed to work a bit more on his mixtape, but after a quick breakfast he’d grabbed his coat and winked at the two of them still sitting at the table.

“I’ll stay at a friend’s place tonight, so have fun, yeah?” he said, then slipped outside into the chilly winter air.

A silence fell over the room, faint Christmas music echoing through the empty dorm, and then Jungkook finally spoke. “I had some stuff planned for today,” he said, tracing his finger across the dew on the outside of his glass of juice. “But we don’t have to do any of it. For you this is just another day, right?”

“No,” Jimin said. “No, that’s not fair to you. Let’s do all of it.”

“But—”

“I’m serious. I want to. What did you have planned?”

Jungkook’s lips twitched upward. “Well, I mean… It was all really gross romantic stuff, so…”

“You? Romantic?”

“Hey, I’m romantic as hell, okay,” Jungkook said, crossing his arms. “I’ve written you love letters, brought you breakfast in bed on your birthday, even filled your bathtub with rose petals I stole from the front desk at our hotel in the Philippines one time. Check your phone, I’m sure there’s pictures.”

“Okay, okay, you’re romantic,” Jimin conceded, grinning. “And it’s okay. Seriously, let’s do everything. I want you to have a good time today.” He was smiling, but it hurt him to look at Jungkook and know that it was his fault he couldn’t spend today with the person he’d been with for two years, the person that he really loved.

“You’re sure?”

“Positive.”

A full smile finally broke out over Jungkook’s lips, and he nibbled at his bottom lip a bit. “Okay. Finish your breakfast, it’s gonna be a busy day.”

As it turned out, Jungkook was every bit as romantic as he’d promised. His first plan for the day was a couple’s massage, though of course he had booked it as a ‘friendship massage.’ Whatever it was called, Jimin hadn’t been that relaxed in ages; by the time they left the spa, he felt as though he didn’t have any bones left in his body.

Next was a visit to a cat cafe, followed by a lunch comprised of Jimin’s favorite foods, and then a shopping trip out at the Plaza, where Jungkook tugged them into a photo booth.

It had been long enough now that Jimin should have been used to this older version of himself in photos, but it still brought a flurry of butterflies to his stomach when the photos printed and he saw how mature he looked, how naturally Jungkook leaned into him, how much they really seemed like a couple.

When Jungkook wasn’t looking, he opened his wallet and thumbed at the ticket stub from the amusement park he and the members had gone to in his own time before slipping the photo of himself and Jungkook in the pocket alongside it. He’d been touched to find the ticket stub still there after all these years, and decided that a picture with Jungkook would be of equal importance to the other Jimin and deserved that same place of honor in his wallet.

It was easier to think in terms of how the other Jimin would feel rather than bringing his own emotions into the situation, after all. It wasn’t his anniversary. It was his future self who had spent the last two years with Jungkook, and he was the one who should have been able to celebrate this day with his boyfriend.

There was no use lamenting what couldn’t be changed, though, so Jimin kept a smile on his face all day, right up until the sun disappeared behind the tall buildings around them, dipping to the edge of the horizon.

“I made reservations for us here,” Jungkook said, and lead him to the entrance of the Grand Hyatt, Christmas lights twinkling around the entrance and giant blooming poinsettias lining the tables inside. The tree in the center was huge, nearly reaching the ceiling, and it glistened with red, green, and gold.

“Are you hungry?” Jungkook asked, leading him up to the front desk.

“A little,” Jimin said, though his mind was elsewhere. Even his own aunt’s wedding hadn’t been decorated so lavishly, and this was what Jungkook considered a date? Granted, he may have been going the extra mile for his anniversary, but still. It felt like too much.

Jungkook showed his ID to the receptionist when asked if he’d made a reservation, and she pointed them in the direction of the hotel’s restaurant.

“You made reservations here?”

“About six months ago,” Jungkook replied. “You said we never get to go out to eat together, so…”

The hostess greeted them at the restaurant’s entrance and the two of them followed her to a secluded table mostly hidden by a giant Christmas tree. It was far enough from the windows that no one could see them if they peeked inside, and unless someone were to crane their neck or get out of their seat, they were invisible to the others dining.

“I know it’s not perfect, but it’s as close to private as I could get,” Jungkook continued when the hostess left and they sat down. “Maybe one day I can afford to rent out this whole place so it would just be the two of us.”

“You mean the two of you. You and the other Jimin,” he corrected him quietly, avoiding eye contact by pretending to browse the menu.

“Same difference,” Jungkook replied, adjusting the vase of small flowers on the table so that he could see Jimin better.

Having dinner with Jungkook like this was different than Jimin had expected it to be. He knew his order before Jimin had so much as opened his mouth, and even knew the exact way Jimin liked his meat cooked. Instead of the awkward silence Jimin had been anticipating, Jungkook kept up their conversation despite not being a normally talkative person. He never seemed to run out of things to say, even though Jimin was no longer a person he could relate to.

And when silence did fall over the table, it wasn’t an awkward one at all. It felt comfortable, just the two of them enjoying each other’s company with the golden lights twinkling overhead, all the more beautiful in the lowlight of the restaurant.

Jimin hadn’t ever been on a real date before, but this must be what it was like, he thought as he peered at Jungkook when he thought he wasn’t looking.

Leaving the restaurant, Jimin was almost disappointed that their night had come to an end. He’d been enjoying himself, had liked hearing Jungkook talk, liked chatting with him, liked sitting there in the romantic ambience of the fancy hotel restaurant hidden away in their corner by the Christmas tree. Even though there was still the occasional reminder that none of this was really his, there were stretches of time where he wasn’t thinking about that at all, but rather the little mole under Jungkook’s bottom lip, or the angle of his sharp jawline.

Jungkook wasn’t his, but tonight, it almost felt like he was.

“There’s one more thing,” Jungkook murmured, taking him by the hand and making it all the more difficult for him to keep his grip on reality.

Their destination was the large skating rink outside the hotel, full of other couples who were spending the days leading up to Christmas together. Jungkook had truly outdone himself, Jimin thought in awe, staring at the lights and wreaths and light dusting of snow around them.

Jungkook picked up rental skates for the both of them, not even having to ask what shoe size Jimin was, and even knelt down to help him lace up the skates once they were on his feet.

“You grew up to be such a gentleman,” Jimin said, resting his palms on either side of him on the bench where he was sitting.

Jungkook looped the laces into a tight knot and glanced up at Jimin from under his dark eyelashes, a hint of a smile on his lips. He didn’t say anything, but when he got to his feet, his smirk grew as he held his hand out to help Jimin stand up.

Jimin couldn’t remember the last time he’d been ice skating, but he wasn’t too worried. He was a dancer after all, so balancing on the ice should have been easy.

Jungkook skated out ahead of him, then turned around to wait for Jimin to join him. Without thinking, he stepped onto the ice, attempted to skate after Jungkook, and then unceremoniously toppled forward, nearly landing in a split right there by the entrance to the rink.

“Whoa,” Jungkook yelped, diving down to catch him before he could hit the ground, holding him firmly around the waist until he was able to regain his balance. “You don’t know how to skate?”

“I can do it,” Jimin insisted, shrugging him off after noticing several couples passing by that were staring openly at them. It could have been because they recognized their faces from an advertisement or variety program, but they were also at a popular date spot standing rather close to each other.

But when Jimin was free of Jungkook’s grip, his legs began to wobble again as one skate got caught in a divot in the ice, forcing Jungkook to grab onto him once more.

“Do you want to go back?” Jungkook asked. “We can just go walk around instead.”

“No, it’s okay,” Jimin said. “I’ll get the hang of it.”

As it turned out, getting the hang of it mostly involved Jungkook leading them around the rink, his arm looped with Jimin’s and their sides tightly pressed together. It wasn’t the most platonic position they could have been in, but after a while people stopped staring.

“I learned something new about you today,” Jungkook said, coming to a stop at the edge of the rink that faced the Christmas tree. They leaned against the barrier, looking up at the twinkling lights, still attached at the hip. “You never told me you didn’t know how to skate.”

“I’m more surprised you and… you and him hadn’t gone ice skating together before.”

“Well, you know,” Jungkook tugged on the thumb of his glove, still gazing out at the twinkling red and green lights, “even when we do have free time, we can’t really be together like a couple in public.”

Jimin glanced around at everyone else in the rink, who were all far too preoccupied with their own dates to pay the two of them any mind. “You don’t get a lot of moments like this?”

“Barely any,” Jungkook murmured, and once again that festering guilt gnawed at his insides. This should have been a moment spent with his loved one, not some kid he was stuck babysitting.

To his surprise, Jungkook turned away from the lights and decorations at the hotel and focused his gaze on Jimin instead, the twinkle of the Christmas bulbs reflecting in his dark eyes and illuminating his cheek with a warm glow. He couldn’t describe it, but no one had ever looked at him quite like that before, with an expression that went beyond fondness, beyond admiration, beyond tenderness. He was frozen, unable to tear his eyes away, unable to do anything that would cause Jungkook to turn away from him; he wanted to be looked at like this forever.

Click.

And just like that, it was over, the sound of a camera shutter shattering the bubble of warmth Jimin had felt around the two of them, shattering the illusion that they could share a normal moment together uninterrupted.

“Someone recognized us,” Jungkook said. “We should go.”

Jimin took Jungkook’s arm again and allowed himself to be lead out of the rink, the sound of the cameras attracting the attention of the other skaters again, all eyes on the two of them once more.

It was still jarring to be recognized out in public even when bare-faced and half-covered by a scarf; Jimin remembered not even considering himself an idol, let alone expecting others to recognize him. It was equally frustrating and flattering at the same time, though his frustration mostly stemmed from the fact that it meant Jungkook wouldn’t be looking at him anymore.

He realized that he rather liked it when Jungkook looked at him.

He’d felt love under that gaze.

“Sorry we had to get cut short,” Jungkook said as they quickly returned their rental skates and kept their heads down, rushing out of the building before the fans caught them with their flashing phones and loud voices.

“It’s okay,” Jimin replied. He waited until Jungkook waved over a taxi and they had both ducked inside before continuing, “That’s why you can’t go out like this every day, huh?”

“Well, that and our schedules. We didn’t even have a holiday this time last year.”

The taxi started off down the road away from the hotel and Jimin relaxed into the seat once he’d realized how tense he was. “I guess that’s the sacrifice you make when you become an idol.”

“Yeah,” Jungkook agreed, his gaze fixated on the dark landscape of the city out the window of the taxi, resting his cheek against his palm.

Panicking that he’d said the wrong thing, Jimin placed his hand on Jungkook’s knee and met his eyes in the reflection in the window. “I had a really good time today, though. Thank you. For everything.”

Jungkook turned back to face him, a hint of his smile returning. “Did you really?”

Jimin nodded. “I did.”

The corners of Jungkook’s mouth lifted and he patted the top of Jimin’s hand. “Then it was worth it.”

They fell back into that same comfortable silence for the rest of the taxi ride back to the dorm building, and Jimin didn’t move his hand away from Jungkook’s knee.

For a moment, shucking off his shoes in the entryway to the dorm, Jimin had expected to hear Hoseok bustling around inside, at least until he remembered that he’d left them the dorm to themselves tonight.

Jungkook had disappeared into his bedroom already, but Jimin lingered in the living room, leaning against the back of the couch, entirely lost in his own thoughts. He was almost certain that Jungkook had edited his plans for the day to make things more comfortable for Jimin, but he’d still acted as though everything was normal even though it absolutely wasn’t.

Had the other Jimin been present and everything was as it should have been, he knew that the two of them would have shared countless kisses and ‘I love you’s, reminisced on their relationship, and ended the night by doing everything but sleeping.

Instead, Jungkook had to keep a certain amount of distance between his boyfriend, because his mind had been replaced with a version of him that may as well have been a stranger.

The more Jimin thought about it, the more this situation seemed to be a punishment for Jungkook rather than Jimin himself.

“Hey, Jiminie?”

Jimin turned, slightly startled by the sudden noise; he hadn’t even noticed Jungkook had left his room.

“What’s up?”

Jungkook held up a small wrapped box in his hand, but there was hesitation in his expression and in his tone. “I thought we could still exchange presents. Mine is hidden under your bed, right?”

Jimin’s eyes widened. “How did you know?”

“I know you, remember? You always hide presents under your bed.”

“R-right. Yeah, I’ll go get it.” He shuffled over to his and Hoseok’s bedroom, his heart racing unusually fast. He’d spent the last few months wondering what could have been inside that immaculately wrapped gift beneath his bed, but now that it was going to be opened, he found himself wracked with nerves. It wasn’t even his gift; he didn’t have the slightest idea what it was, but there was something inside him that was genuinely concerned about whether or not Jungkook would like it.

Holding the gift carefully in his arms, he returned to the living room, where he found Jungkook sitting on the couch, his small box now perched on the arm rest.

Jimin handed Jungkook his gift, but hesitated to take the one that Jungkook had for him. “Are you sure this is okay?” he asked. “I mean, this isn’t really mine. I feel like I shouldn’t open it.”

“Are you refusing a gift, Park Jimin?” Jungkook teased, poking him in the ribs. “Just open it.”

Biting back his self doubt and the guilt that was threatening to claw its way back to the forefront of his mind, he exhaled softly and pulled the ribbon loose, carefully peeling the tape back from the wrapping paper so that it wouldn’t tear. Beneath the paper was a box with Cartier stamped on the top.

“Oh my god,” Jimin gasped, his fingers trembling as he lifted the top. Inside was a ring with diamonds set in the band and both of their initials engraved on the underside. The design was simple, yet extravagant enough that he knew it must have cost a fortune. “You… This is…”

Jungkook scratched at the back of his neck, his cheeks lighting up pink. “It’s, um. It’s got a diamond for every year I’ve known you, and, um…” He trailed off, his blush deepening. “It’s stupid. Ugh, why did I think this was a good idea—”

He stopped talking when Jimin took the ring and slipped it onto his finger, admiring the way the diamonds’ edges caught on the light. “He’s going to love it,” he said, his words coming out slightly hollow. This wasn’t meant for him. This was made for all the years Jungkook and the other Jimin had been through, and he was just a bystander for it all. “Is this the matching one?” he asked, lifting Jungkook’s left hand and pointing to a similar looking ring on his finger.

“Yeah,” Jungkook said. “I just thought it would be better if we both had one. That way it would be more like...” He flushed even harder. “...Never mind.”

Jimin couldn’t help noticing that Jungkook was wearing it on his ring finger like it was a wedding band. Without thinking, he tugged his own ring off and moved it to the same finger. It was what the other Jimin would have done, he reasoned.

“Thank you,” Jimin murmured. “Thank you for this. I...I really don’t know what to say.”

Jungkook grinned sheepishly. “You don’t have to say anything. I’m sure your present is better, anyway. You always give the best gifts.”

Jimin didn’t know how to respond to that, since it wasn’t him who bought the present, and he didn’t actually know what it was or how it could possibly top a pair of several million won Cartier couple rings.

Inside the box was a scrapbook, unmistakably homemade in a kind of perfectly imperfect way, a letter falling from between its pages and onto Jungkook’s lap when he opened it. While he unfolded the letter, Jimin peeked down at the first two pages, revealing a spread of photos of the two of them.

Jimin recognized some of the photos from the album on his phone, but many of them he was just seeing now for the first time. Each one was dated with a short description beneath them written in his own handwriting and marked with a heart or small drawing. The amount of work that must have gone into making something like this… it left Jimin speechless.

Jungkook was still staring down at the letter, nodding to himself with a faraway look in his round eyes, and then he carefully folded it back up and slipped it in his pocket. Jimin had an itching curiosity as to what could have been written there, but he understood Jungkook’s desire to keep that private.

“It’s us,” Jungkook turned the book so that both of them could look at it. “From before we debuted, look.”

The photos on the first page were familiar, and they were the kind of familiar that Jimin had been searching for this entire time. He remembered when those photos were taken, and he knew that the Jimin in those pictures was him, not someone else. Those were his memories with Jungkook.

One photo in particular stood out to him, the group shot they’d taken at the amusement park with the other members, all of them young and round-faced and huddled together. Jimin had his chin resting on Jungkook’s shoulder, and he was grinning so hard that his cheeks were visibly pink even in the slightly grainy picture, and his eyes had been all but forced shut. He’d been so, so happy that day, so ecstatic, so far from the worries and fears and doubts that plagued him back at the dorm and the practice room.

It was a memory he was proud to have.

The following pages contained moments he hadn’t directly experienced yet, but somehow he didn’t feel as detached from them as he had expected. He could see in the pictures the affection shared between them, how they’d gradually gotten closer, and the shift in their relationship was made all the more obvious.

“This was the day after we made it official,” Jungkook said, pointing to a blurry photo of himself and Jimin, who was sporting bright orange hair. “You kept taking pictures with me because you said you didn’t want to forget how you felt.”

“How did it happen?” Jimin asked, tracing his finger along the white edges of the photo. “How did we…?”

Jungkook bit his lip. “Are you sure you want to hear this? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“No, I want to know.”

“Okay. Um… Well, it started when we had a show in Osaka two years ago. Something happened to you that scared me, and I mean… Jimin, I was really scared. I couldn’t think straight, I didn’t know what to do. And it was when I found out you were going to be okay that I realized I was in love with you.”

“And that was the day we— you and him got together?”

“Not exactly,” Jungkook said, his lips turning up in a somewhat sheepish manner. “I told you I loved you that night and we…” He coughed awkwardly, scratching at the back of his neck. “You know.”

Jimin’s eyes widened and blood rushed to his cheeks. He already knew that he and Jungkook were intimate, it came as no surprise, but hearing Jungkook admit to it out loud brought a different kind of shyness from Jimin that he wished he could conceal a bit better.

“You never said it back, and for a long time we were just… unsure of what was happening. We didn’t tell anyone, and we didn’t talk much. Summer ended and fall started and we had a new comeback to worry about, and I thought you were just using me as stress relief.” Jungkook ran a hand through his hair as though he were reliving his emotions back then. “But I didn’t care, because I just wanted to be close to you.”

He flipped the page in the book, smiling softly at a photo of them in a hotel room, Jungkook wearing nothing but a pair of underwear as he sat on the edge of the bed with Jimin practically on his lap.

“But it got really hard the longer we did it, and one night I told you we had to stop. Somehow it turned into this stupid argument, and you didn’t talk to me for a week. You thought I was just using you.” He pointed to a candid photo of Jimin sitting on a bus seat with his scarf pulled up to his nose, his dark eyes focused out the window. “But when we finally talked… It was amazing. I didn’t hold anything back, you know? And you, you looked me in the eye and said, ‘I love you,’ and I’m never gonna forget that.”

They looked at the next few pages in silence, Jimin examining each one as his brain processed Jungkook’s words.

“Is it hard?” Jimin said finally. “Being together?”

Jungkook nodded. “Yeah,” he said, blinking back tears that were glistening in his eyes. “It’s really hard. Every day it’s like life tries to throw more shit at us, but it’s so worth it. I… I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

Jimin’s heart clenched at his words, so enraptured by what Jungkook was saying that he didn’t even flinch when Jungkook closed the book and placed his hand at the nape of Jimin’s neck, leaning in to kiss him. He only kept their lips together for a couple seconds before pulling away again, the tears finally breaking past his eyelashes and streaking down his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his head faced down from embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I just…”

“It’s okay,” Jimin murmured, his lips still tingling, the words coming out before he could properly think them through. “You can kiss me if it’ll help you feel better.”

Jungkook shook his head, one finger still rubbing at the mole at his nape. “It’s not that. I could kiss anyone if that was the problem. I’m just… I’m used to you loving me, and after all we went through, it’s just hard to deal with it being one-sided again.”

One-sided? That didn’t sit right with Jimin, but he didn’t quite understand what he was feeling in that moment to say anything other than, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s not your fault.”

“It is my fault. It’s my fault he’s not here. It’s my fault you had to spend your anniversary with a stranger. It’s my fault—”

“Stop.” Jungkook wiped his tears away so forcefully that it left a redness around his eyes. “Don’t. I shouldn’t have said anything, I’m sorry. I don’t blame you at all, Jiminie, I swear.”

Jimin looked down and bit his lip. “You should.”

“But I don’t. When I said I love you, I meant it. It’s okay if you don’t feel the same. I waited for you once, and I can do it again.”

Jungkook hid his sadness away and refused to argue further, so the night of their anniversary that had started so happily came to a quiet close.

He was trying to act strong for Jimin’s sake, but the situation was taking its toll on both of them; that much was clear.

Jimin lied there that night in a bed that wasn’t his, next to someone who wasn’t his to love, gazing at a ring on his finger that belonged to someone else. Jungkook might have insisted that he and his future self were one and the same, but he was having a hard time believing that anyone could possibly love him as much as Jungkook loved the other Jimin, the one who really deserved to be lying here.

Jungkook breathed out softly in his sleep, a little hum that tickled the back of Jimin’s neck, and it sent warmth and guilt in equal measure through his borrowed body.

 

2013

The heater in the dorm stopped working one day in October, leaving seven boys crammed in a tiny dorm shivering under as many blankets as they could pile on top of themselves at night. Everyone was cold, tensions were high, and it was affecting all of them in the worst way.

It had been five months now, and Jimin had relived Bangtan’s debut, Rookie King, their first album, so many past events that he was starting to lose hope of ever returning home. Just a week ago, he’d celebrated his eighteenth birthday for the second time in his life, despite having just turned twenty-two in his own time, and today the members were fighting in the practice room.

It had started with Yoongi making a snarky off-hand comment about how they’d debuted for nothing, since their comebacks hadn’t so much as made a dent in the idol industry so far. “What are we even working so hard for?” he demanded in frustration. “We had to learn to dance, we have to wear makeup, and for what? Rappers don’t respect us, idols don’t respect us. What the fuck are we doing, Joon?”

The others fell silent, staring at Yoongi in shock, no one willing to speak or even move.

“You don’t mean that, hyung,” Namjoon said. His face was calm, but there was something in his eyes that made it clear he was just as tense as the atmosphere of the room felt.

“Oh, no? So you disagree?”

“Yeah, I do. And I know you do, too. You believe in our group, hyung, you know you do.”

“Don’t tell me how to feel. You don’t know shit.”

Namjoon’s jaw locked, and Jimin involuntarily took a step back. This fight hadn’t happened in his time. He’d never seen Namjoon angry like this before.

“You’re my hyung, but I’m still the leader.” He gestured to the others, his eyes narrowing. “You think the rest of them want to hear you trying to give up? You think Jungkook wants to hear that you think our group is doomed?”

“Don’t try to guilt me,” Yoongi snapped. “I followed you into this, I stayed through it all because I believed in you. But what is any of it for if we’re going to disband in a year anyway?”

Taehyung gasped, clamping his hand over his mouth immediately afterward, but it didn’t go unnoticed by Namjoon. He clenched his fists, gritted his teeth, and then pointed at the door. “The rest of you leave. Practice is over for the day. Hyung and I need to talk.”

Seokjin patted Taehyung’s back, keeping his hand there as the two of them filed out of the room, closely followed by Hoseok, and Jungkook inched toward the door, speeding up to fall into step behind Jimin. The door closed behind them, but they could hear the shouting from out in the hallway.

Seokjin clapped his hands together outside and gave them all a grin that didn’t reach his eyes. “Who wants bungeo-ppang?” he said loudly. “Hyung’s treat.”

Hoseok and Taehyung agreed, but Jimin wasn’t feeling up to being around the others at the moment. “I think I’m just going back to the dorm,” he said.

“Me too,” Jungkook piped up, not looking at Jimin. “Thank you though, Jin-hyung.”

“Alright, suit yourselves,” Seokjin shrugged.

Jimin didn’t wait for them to leave before heading back on his own. It felt deathly quiet on the street that night, so even with all of the noises of the city in the distance, Jimin still heard the soft thud of Jungkook’s shoes against the pavement as he trailed behind him in silence.

Back at the dorm, Jimin curled up on the couch and sat there shivering, having forgotten that the heater was broken. Jungkook shuffled off to the bedroom and closed the door, probably rethinking the decision he’d made to join this company over a bigger one, where he could have found success right off the bat.

The worst part was that Jimin couldn’t tell if this was his fault. Had he managed to change something already, something that triggered Namjoon and Yoongi’s fight? Was he completely fucking up the future? He had absolutely no way of knowing, and that caused him even more panic than he’d felt back when he’d first realized that he’d been sent to the past.

Deep, calming breaths were what he focused on to ease off the urge to have a meltdown that was surging through him and threatening to burst forward at any moment. Once he regained his composure, he hummed Serendipity to himself, closing his eyes and picturing himself in the studio when he’d been recording it for the first time.

Jungkook had walked in on him and stood there by the door just watching, nodding his head along with the soothing melody. Jimin had gotten so distracted that he forgot the next lyric and turned bright red, waving his hand at Jungkook to leave.

“Go away,” he’d laughed, still flushed. “You’re distracting me.”

“I like watching you, though,” Jungkook had pouted. “Just pretend I’m not here.”

The song had become something that Jimin sang to Jungkook sometimes at night when they actually were able to get more than a few hours of sleep; he’d lie awake and drag his fingers through Jungkook’s hair, singing softly to him until he fell asleep.

Singing it now, years before the song would ever be written, he felt more lonely than he had since coming here, and yet a little more optimistic at the same time. The song did exist, because he remembered it. He’d lived through these times where everything had seemed so bleak once before, and he’d made it through. He’d followed his group members through every trial that the universe threw at them, and instead of breaking them, it buffed out their edges, made them more polished, made them unbreakable.

This was just another trial.

Suddenly, Jimin felt a presence near him, and then a blanket was being placed over his shoulders. He hadn’t even heard Jungkook come out of the bedroom.

“You looked cold,” Jungkook said by way of explanation, and took a seat next to him.

Jimin huddled in closer to him, draping the blanket over Jungkook’s lap so that it was encompassing the both of them. Neither of them said a word for what felt like ages, and Jimin could tell that the fight earlier had taken its toll on Jungkook, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

Finally, Jimin nudged Jungkook with his hand to get his attention. “Kookie, don’t mind what happened, okay? Everything’s going to be fine.”

“You don’t think Yoongi-hyung’s right?” he asked, and the genuity in his question broke Jimin’s heart.

“No, of course not. And like Namjoon-hyung said, he doesn’t even believe it himself. He’s just stressed because things don’t look great for us right now, but you guys don’t know what’ll happen in the future.”

“Neither do you,” Jungkook mumbled.

Resisting the urge to laugh bitterly at that, Jimin put on a smile and faced Jungkook, nudging him again until their eyes met. “You know what I think, though? I think we’ll get music show wins. I think we’ll get so many wins and trophies and Daesangs, and we’ll do concerts for thousands of fans, and we’ll make it.”

Jungkook didn’t look convinced, and he averted his eyes again. “That’s what every idol says,” he said. “No one debuts in a group they think is gonna fail.”

“Exactly. You chose BigHit because of Namjoon-hyung, right?” Jimin prompted. “So have a little more faith in him.”

Jungkook was quiet for a moment, chewing at his lower lip, clearly deep in thought. “You’re so confident lately,” was what he finally responded with.

Jimin smiled. “Is that a bad thing?”

“No!” Jungkook said, then quieted a bit. He rubbed his finger across the top of his knee, and then spoke again, more hesitantly this time. “Hyung, are you...are you mad at me?”

Jimin raised his eyebrows, peering at Jungkook in shock at the sudden subject change. Had that been what Jungkook wanted to talk about all along? “Of course not,” he said. “Why would you think that?”

“It’s not— I just— Um.” Jungkook’s eyes were wide and his lips were pulled into a grimace like he couldn’t believe that he’d even brought this up. “You used to be more, like— You used to talk to me more. And hug me and stuff. But now you don’t.”

“You miss me?” Jimin cooed, his heart swelling in his chest. “Is that why you’ve been following me around everywhere lately?”

Jimin didn’t think it was possible, but Jungkook flushed an even deeper shade of red, his blush reaching the tips of his ears. “No!” he spluttered. “I mean, I’m not following you. You’re just always in the way.”

“Okay, Kookie,” Jimin said with a smile. “Whatever you say.”

“Stop that,” Jungkook mumbled, though he made no move to storm off or even move from where he was sitting at all. “I just wanted to know if you were mad at me, that’s all.”

“I’m not. So don’t worry.” Jimin slipped an arm over his shoulders. “I’ll start clinging to you more if it’ll make you feel better.”

“No,” Jungkook said, once again not making any attempt to leave.

The TV remote was nearby, so Jimin reached for it without disturbing the blanket and turned the television on so that Jungkook would feel less awkward. “Here, let’s watch a movie,” he said, switching the subject again. “The hyungs won’t be back for a while, so you can pick what we watch for once.”

There was relief in Jungkook’s eyes when he took the remote. He slipped out from under the blanket and padded over to the DVD player, deliberating for a moment before deciding on what looked like Howl’s Moving Castle. There was no hesitation when he returned to the couch and slipped right back under the blanket, sitting even closer than he had before.

Jungkook didn’t say much at all while they were watching, aside from a small hum of affirmation when Jimin asked him if he was still awake around the halfway point. His head had begun to loll forward a bit, his eyelashes fluttering and his lips pursed in a cute, babyish way that Jimin hadn’t seen in a while.

Finally, his exhaustion got the best of him and his eyes closed, his body resting against Jimin’s with his head tucked into the curve of his shoulder. With every small exhale, his breath tickled Jimin’s neck, reminding him of the countless times this had happened before and filling him with an overwhelming fondness for this boy that had fallen in love with him.

Jimin wasn’t watching the movie anymore, but he kept it playing at a low volume until it returned to the title screen, looping the short animation over and over again. He found himself nodding off a little as well thanks to the soothing soundtrack and Jungkook’s soft but steady breathing.

This was the most he’d felt at ease through this entire experience, and he wouldn’t mind so much if things could just stay like this forever. His eyes were closed and Jungkook was there beside him, and although he missed the version of Jungkook he’d been used to, the one that he’d grown up with, this one was really no different. He was still his Jungkook, just younger, a little more shy, not yet possessing the confidence that would come to suit him so well.

But that was okay. They would get to that point again, and the fact of the matter was that Jungkook was just worth waiting for.

The front door opened, jolting Jimin into a more awake state, blinking the almost-sleep from his eyes. He glanced down to make sure Jungkook hadn’t woken up, and then craned his neck to see who had come home.

He had to admit, he was a little surprised to see Yoongi there. He knew that the fight earlier wouldn’t have any lasting impact on the group; Yoongi hadn’t meant any of what he said, after all, and the seven of them would have many more arguments in the future, but he hadn’t expected it to be over so soon.

“Hey, Jimin,” Yoongi said, scratching at the bridge of his nose awkwardly. “I just wanted to apologize for earlier. I shouldn’t have said what I did, and I really didn’t mean any of it.”

“It’s okay, hyung. I know.”

Yoongi let out a small chuckle and shook his head. “Stop being so mature,” he said. “You’re making your hyungs look bad.”

Jimin grinned at him and tilted his head in toward Jungkook, who was still asleep on his shoulder. “You should apologize to Kookie, too, when he wakes up. He really looks up to all of us, you know.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi agreed. “But watch yourself, kid. You may be all wise beyond your years, but I’m still your hyung.”

“I know,” Jimin teased, and waited for Yoongi to leave the room before he readjusted Jungkook’s head so that he was more comfortable, fixing the blanket over his curled up body.

Everything was going to be okay. It wasn’t just that he had to believe it; he knew it to be true. Maybe the universe wanted him to change things, but he didn’t care anymore. He’d relive everything over again if he had to, and he wouldn’t change a single thing.

Jungkook made a tiny noise in his sleep and shifted, snuggling even closer against him. Jimin dropped a kiss to the top of his head and began to sing softly enough that the others wouldn’t hear.

“Destiny keeps getting jealous of us.”

 

2017

Jimin was in love.

It was the same way the new lyrics and choreography and mannerisms came to him even though he didn’t remember ever learning them. It was like muscle memory, this feeling of being in love, and it was the most overwhelming thing Jimin had ever experienced in his life.

He couldn’t explain it, couldn’t even put words to it, the way he ached for Jungkook even while sitting right next to him. The way he found himself wondering absently if Jungkook had eaten today, if he was feeling well, if he was happy. The way he couldn’t help staring at him, becoming lost in the way Jungkook’s eyes crinkled when he smiled and his lips spread into a toothy grin.

The most confusing part of it all was that these weren’t the feelings of a stranger. Every moment of longing, every urge to kiss him, all of it was entirely his own. Jimin was in love with Jungkook, no question about that.

The only problem was that he wasn’t the right Jimin.

Jungkook never once made him feel like he meant anything less to him than his Jimin, but Jimin knew the truth. He remembered the tears Jungkook had shed after looking through the scrapbook on their anniversary and knew that Jungkook was suffering no matter how many times he tried to assure Jimin otherwise.

The holidays passed by quickly, with schedules taking up most of the group’s time and keeping Jimin’s mind occupied, but being around Jungkook all the time wasn’t exactly the best way to focus his thoughts on something else.

He kept it to himself, though, acting as though everything was normal. They had an appearance on an end of year awards show for New Year’s, so most of their time was spent practicing for that performance. All he had to do was what he had been all along: pretending as though he were the version of Jimin that really belonged here.

But every time the ring on his finger caught the light and sparkled in the mirror on the wall in the practice room, it felt as though his entire chest was being constricted, like he couldn’t breathe for a moment. It was just one more reminder not only of the fact that he was an outsider in disguise, but also of his feelings for Jungkook that seemed to have crept up on him out of nowhere.

Jungkook wasn’t acting any differently toward him either, but maybe he was just as good as hiding his emotions as Jimin was. He certainly was when Jimin had known him back in his own time.

He supposed that he could always talk to Jungkook about it. He was sure that the other Jimin had enough trust in him that they could talk to each other about anything, but time and time again he had to remind himself that he wasn’t the other Jimin. He was just himself, and he hadn’t developed enough courage or confidence in his relationship with Jungkook to even begin to think about approaching him with a topic like that.

But life still moved on even though Jimin wished it would slow down for just a moment, and so in what felt like the blink of an eye, it was New Year’s Eve and he was standing on a stage with the other members waiting for the countdown to the first day of 2018.

They’d won another award that night, and Jimin didn’t think he’d ever get used to that feeling. The fans in the audience holding their light sticks, the sound of their combined voices cheering for his group, the rush at standing there on stage with other A-list groups… He was sure that even when he’d been an idol for as long as the other Jimin, he would still feel a twinge of shock at their success.

The last award of the night was at last handed out, and all of the groups that had performed that night were gathered on stage for the last part of the countdown.

At first, they’d been lined up so that Jimin was in between Namjoon and Seokjin, the members of Red Velvet huddled together in front of them to protect each other from the cold, and a few stragglers from Seventeen who had been separated from their group lingering behind them. The countdown made it to fifteen seconds, and Jimin felt an extra presence at his right side. Jungkook had sidled over down the line and stood beside Seokjin, who took the hint and stepped aside to allow Jungkook to stand next to him.

Jungkook’s fingers laced with his at the same time the countdown reached ten seconds, and Jimin squeezed back on instinct, keeping a firm grip so that Jungkook wouldn’t think that he had to let go.

At ten seconds he turned to look at Jungkook, only to find that he was already staring down at him with that same expression he had at the skating rink. Even though his heart was beating so fast that he thought it might burst out of his chest, he held his gaze as the stage of idols erupted into cheers when the clock hit midnight.

“Happy New Year,” Jungkook said, loud enough that Jimin could hear, but soft enough that he knew it was meant just for him.

They were separated in the ensuing celebratory ending song before the conclusion of the broadcast, but the memory of the way Jungkook had looked at him wouldn’t leave his head.

At the dorm that night, Jimin was drunk on his own emotions. The others all piled into the dorm, Seokjin declaring that he was bringing out his stash of vodka, but Jimin grabbed the corner of Jungkook’s expensive shirt between his fingers and held him back in the entryway.

It was just the two of them standing face to face there by the front door, the sound of the members laughing with each other appearing so far away.

“Jungkook, I…” The words wouldn’t come. They caught in his throat, unable to push past his lips.

“What is it?”

“I… Can I kiss you?” Jimin asked, his lower lip quivering ever so slightly.

Jungkook was quiet for a moment, his reaction subdued enough that Jimin couldn’t quite gauge what he was thinking. “You don’t have to do this for my sake. I’m okay.”

Jimin’s heart was thundering in his chest, but the closer he got to Jungkook, the more familiar all of it felt. He’d done this before, countless times. “I want to,” he whispered.

Jungkook didn’t move for a second, his gaze unwavering, and then he slowly slid his hand around the back of Jimin’s neck, his fingers brushing up into the scruff at his nape. “Okay,” he said.

When Jimin closed the gap between their lips and molded them together, it was like he’d stepped back and allowed that muscle memory to take over again. This was the first time he’d ever kissed someone, and at the same time it was a number too high to even keep track of. The dull ache in his chest finally settled to a satisfied hum, warmth spreading from each push of Jungkook’s lips down through the rest of his body.

It didn’t last very long before he was pulling away again, but Jungkook seemed reluctant to let go, keeping their faces close and their foreheads touching. His eyes were closed, his eyebrows slightly scrunched together like he was in pain.

“I’m sorry,” Jimin whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

Jungkook didn’t have a chance to respond before an already tipsy Taehyung rounded the corner, his face flushed and his lips drawn up into a rectangular grin.

“Oh, cute,” he exclaimed, clutching his chest. “You’re so cute. Thought we left you in the car, but you’re just being cute out here.”

Jungkook let go of him, his expression a cross between embarrassment and something else that Jimin couldn’t pinpoint. He wasn’t happy, that much was clear.

Now that they’d been caught, they had no choice but to rejoin the others. Namjoon was announcing loudly to Jimin that to celebrate Bangtan’s most successful year yet, Bang PD was going to treat them all to dinner the following evening; Hoseok, Taehyung, and Seokjin were all singing together loudly and off-key; and Jungkook was pouring Yoongi another shot.

Jimin was so happy for his members, so proud of them, but after what had just happened with Jungkook, he wasn’t feeling much in the partying mood. When he at last found an opportunity to sneak away as Namjoon stumbled over to Yoongi and Jungkook, he slipped into Jungkook’s room and shut the door.

It was quiet, and smelled like him, something that was comforting and upsetting all at once.

The scrapbook the other Jimin had prepared for Jungkook was kept by his bed, and in that moment, his fingers were itching to flip through it again, to really look at everything this time. He wanted to see what it had been like to fall in love gradually, naturally, to see what he had missed out on by being catapulted four years in the future, to see what was in Jungkook’s mind all this time.

He started from the first page, from the pictures that he remembered living through. He knew that person, he knew that version of Jungkook.

With each passing page, with each photo, there was a subtle change, enough that it was noticeable when examined carefully like this. He could see the way their interactions changed after that selfie in the summer of 2015, and then how they changed again that December. He could see how they’d gradually become more comfortable with each other, how they leaned into each other like they were each other’s missing pieces.

Looking at it all together like this, with nothing to distract him or make him doubt himself, he finally understood.

He was finally able to see the progression from that nervous, questioning kid who he’d been used to seeing in the mirror to this confident, talented adult who had someone that loved him.

Maybe things were difficult, but now that he saw what the end result could be, what potential the future had, everything seemed to fall into place at last.

Jimin returned the scrapbook to its place by Jungkook’s bed and left his room to rejoin the party, his fingers tingling from the rush that had swept through his body.

That night, he crawled into bed with Jungkook as usual, taking advantage of Hoseok having passed out on the couch in the living room to have some privacy in Jimin’s room.

“I think I figured it out,” Jimin said, skipping any preamble as he stared at Jungkook’s face through the dark. “How to get back, I mean.”

Jungkook inhaled sharply. “You did?”

Jimin nodded. “I think so. I… I don’t know why, but I feel like I really figured it out.”

“What do you have to do? Get hit by a bolt of lightning or something?”

“No,” Jimin smiled, his heart panging. God, he was going to miss this. “I woke up here after I almost had a mental breakdown before debut. I thought I wasn’t good enough for the group, I thought you just thought I was pathetic, and I felt like I just wanted to give up.” Remembering all of that, and the reality he was trying to go back to just made it all the more difficult to continue. “But I figure that if this is really the future that I get to have, I have to be good enough for something, right?”

“Of course you are,” Jungkook said, lifting Jimin’s hand up to his lips and kissing his wrist. “You’re everything to this group. You’re everything to me.”

Jimin nodded again. “And I think that’s how I can get back. I think I had to figure that out. And… and thanks to you, I did.”

It was Jungkook’s turn to smile. “Jimin…”

“It’s just… Part of me doesn’t want to leave,” Jimin whispered. “I don’t know if I can go back to how we were before.”

“I know. But won’t it be so amazing to be able to experience all of it for yourself? To remember our first kiss and everything?” Jungkook chewed on his lower lip. “I know it’s not easy, but you can’t stay here forever.”

“I get it. You want your Jimin back. I’m sorry, Kookie.”

“You are my Jimin. Just…an earlier version.”

He knew that now, but the momentum had built up, and so he found himself blurting out, “You keep saying that, but how can you be sure? How do you know that we aren’t dealing with different timelines or universes? Maybe I’m wrong, you know? Maybe in my timeline, me and you don’t end up together. Maybe I was sent here to get a taste of what could have been, and then—”

“Hey.” Jungkook squeezed his hands comfortingly. “Maybe we’re dealing with different timelines or whatever, but I find it really hard to believe that there’s a single universe where I’m not completely, one-hundred percent in love with you.”

“So even if… even if we wake up tomorrow and it didn’t work, and I’m stuck here…?”

Jungkook nodded. “Even then.”

Jimin’s heart lurched, and he clung to Jungkook under the covers, his lower lip quivering. “I love you,” he said.

“And you know I love you.” Jungkook traced his finger across Jimin’s face, stopping to cup his hand at his cheek. Closing his eyes, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Jimin’s, slotting them together the way Jimin knew they’d done thousands of times before. Even so, he hoped that the other Jimin would be able to remember this kiss when they switched back. It was so tender, so gentle, so soft and warm and familiar and he didn’t want it to ever end.

When they did finally break apart, Jungkook kissed each of his eyelids and then the tip of his nose, whispering, “For the road.”

That night Jimin went to sleep feeling so, so loved.

 

2013

Jimin opened his eyes to scuffed floors, a tiny, cluttered room, and a small couch crammed with junk that he was curled up on.

Jungkook was standing there, fifteen years old and innocent, exactly how Jimin had left him all those months ago. (Though it seemed as though it had truly only been a matter of minutes.)

“Are you okay, hyung?” he asked, still so shy, but unable to hide the concern in his voice. The other members of Bangtan were looking over at him as well, waiting to hear his response, waiting to hear if he was alright.

Jimin couldn’t stop the smile from breaking out over his face as he stared at these people who loved him so much, these people who would all go so far with each other. He turned his smile to Jungkook in particular, his heart too full for his chest.

“Yeah,” he said. “I really am.”

 

2017

Bright lights.

That was the first thing that awaited Jimin when he squinted his eyes at his surroundings after what felt like a ten year long nap.

He opened them further, and saw a sight that he’d forgotten truly how much he adored: a tall figure in a baggy white T-shirt and Timberlands on his feet, black hair in a messy swoop over his forehead, wide dark eyes and lips that he could map out in his sleep for how many times he’d kissed them.

He didn’t know how, didn’t even want to question it.

He was back. Back, and it was like no time had passed at all.

“Jungkook!” Jimin cried, rocketing up off the massage chair and nearly bowling his boyfriend over with how suddenly he’d leapt at him. “Oh my god, I missed you so much. So much, so much.”

Jungkook patted his back hesitantly, a breathy laugh escaping him. “Uh, Jimin? What are you talking about?”

“Nothing. Doesn’t matter.” Jimin released him and grabbed his cheeks instead, planting a sloppy kiss right on his lips. “Just kiss me.”

He didn’t have to ask twice; Jungkook looped his arms around Jimin’s middle and chased after his lips, ignoring the groans of disgust from the members.

“This is against the dorm rules,” Seokjin complained loudly. “We agreed. You guys signed in blood.”

“Wasn’t it barbecue sauce?” Namjoon’s voice piped up.

Taehyung added something too, but their voices faded to the background as Jimin clung to Jungkook, paying them no mind at all. “I love you,” he murmured against Jungkook’s lips, and the smile that resulted from his words was enough to convince him that no matter the consequences, this was the future he’d chosen.

It was a future with Jungkook, after all, so how could it possibly be anything less than perfect?