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Taehyung confesses to Jimin in the fall of their sophomore year.

"I think I'm in love with you," he says plainly, sprawled out on the floor in the hallway of some upperclassman's apartment. The party rages downstairs but it's quiet here.

Jimin's first reaction isn't a rejection or an acceptance. His eyes widen, and then slowly rake down Taehyung's body to the cup of alcohol in his hand.

"I'm not that drunk." Taehyung is a notorious lightweight, but this is only his second drink of the night and it's still half full. Something about tonight is making Taehyung introspective, and he doesn't need the alcohol if he just wants to think. Perhaps that's why he's saying this in the first place. "I was just thinking about it. Thought you should know." A simple sentiment.

He looks back on this night in particular and remembers things so clearly. He remembers the way Jimin is dressed, pants tight and hair sweaty and swept back off of his forehead. He remembers the way Jimin hesitates, nibbles on his lip. He remembers knowing exactly what Jimin's hesitation means.

There has never been anyone able to read Jimin like Kim Taehyung.

"What does this mean?" Jimin asks.

"Nothing." Taehyung offers Jimin his drink, but Jimin waves it away, so he just shrugs and takes another sip. "You don't feel the same way." It's not meant to be heart breaking. It's a fact. Taehyung is good with facts.

Jimin looks heartbroken. "I'm sorry."

Taehyung laughs. "Why? I don't mind." He feels better than he has in a long time.

"I love you, Taehyung," Jimin tells him, still standing over him where he sits on the floor. The muffled din of the party is at Jimin's back like a ghost, the only sign that they're not in their own little world. Taehyung wouldn't mind staying here, but reality is both bigger and kinder, with more space for his feelings. His thoughts bounce around the hallway.

"I love you, too." It means something different, but also it doesn't. It means what it has always meant.

I love you, Jiminie.

Jimin sits down beside him and they pass the night like that.

 


 

They meet for the first time at freshman orientation. Taehyung's first impression of Jimin isn't anything impressive. He looks nice. He's the kind of person who looks kind even when they're sitting there ignoring the speech about homesickness and the importance of getting along with your roommate. Good vibes. Soft.

Taehyung isn't sure why he felt drawn towards Jimin in particular. He had plenty of first impressions of plenty of people — the girl to his left is very interested in getting a boyfriend but seems nice anyway, the girl to his right seems very interested in getting a girlfriend and gives Taehyung gum when he asks — but Jimin is the one who he reached out for.

If he believed in things like fate, that's probably what he'd say it was. He was destined to be pulled into Jimin's orbit. No escape. It's almost comforting that way, like none of this is his fault.

More likely, Jimin feels safe, and Taehyung needs that. Needs it today, and every day after. There's something squirming in his stomach. He's a country boy who has somehow found himself in a big city. Every time the speaker mentions homesickness he feels the bizarre pang of emptiness somewhere in the hollow of his chest.

He's good at distracting himself. He leans forward towards the boy. "What dorm are you in?" Taehyung asks, before he even knows Jimin's name.

The boy blinks at him. "Star."

"What floor?"

"Um." The boy looks at his folder, opened up on the table, number already forgotten. "The second floor. 207."

Taehyung beams. "I'm 204! We're practically neighbors."

The boy looks at him slyly, and Taehyung thinks this kid is the most interesting thing that's happened to him today. "Neighbors should know each other's names." He smiles, crinkling his nose. "Or am I going to have to go off of the obligatory sign that I'm sure will be hanging on all of our doors?"

"I'm Taehyung." His face feels warm, even then.

"Jimin." They shake hands like a contract.

And that's that.

 


 

Taehyung can't tell you when he fell in love. It happened sometime between spring finals and the first football game in the fall. Taehyung remembers Jimin grabbing his hand when their shitty football team won their first match and thinking oh.

Oh.

He can't tell you when the falling happened, but he knows the exact moment he knew it was hopeless.

It's after the confession, oddly enough, like Jimin's hesitation isn't enough to crush a dream. They haven't talked about it. Taehyung doesn't think they need to. He's happy they've managed to slip neatly into something comfortable, even if the wall between them is a little thicker than it was before, if only just in Taehyung's head. Jimin is normal about it, and Taehyung couldn't be more grateful. He's always been good at managing his own feelings.

Until Taehyung sees the kind of look Jimin gives someone when he wants them, and he realizes he hasn't been managing things as well as he thought.

"Can I buy you a drink?" the stranger asks.

Jimin gives the man eyes, and Taehyung is sitting off to the side and he still feels hot. The man at the bar looks satisfied. Jimin has always been good at making you feel like you're the only person in the room.

But Jimin has never looked at Taehyung that way.

The last thing in Persephone's box is hope, and Taehyung hasn't even realized he been holding on to it so tightly.

Oh.

He squishes it under his thumb.

It's a bitter revelation.

Perhaps, looking back on it, they both were. Love is only sweet if it's not dragging you behind through the mud.

 


 

None of the important things change. It's somehow both reassuring and infuriating. Taehyung can only talk himself out of his feelings so much. Jimin is considerate, and what's more he's understanding. There are times where being best friends is too close to something Taehyung can't have. Sometimes it's a day, or a week. Sometimes it's only a few hours, where Taehyung has to cut Jimin off like a limb and figure out how to stand on his own two legs.

He always comes back.

When he does, he always smiles, and Jimin always welcomes him with open arms and no questions. Taehyung isn't sure what's worse. Jimin knows exactly why things are difficult. It prevents misunderstandings, but every time Taehyung pulls away they seem a little further apart, even after they fall back together. Maybe Taehyung should never have told Jimin in the first place.

Hiding something like that isn't in his nature. Taehyung knows there was no other way for this to end. Perhaps confessing was more an act of self-preservation than anything else. He can have Jimin throughout their slow decline and they both have the awareness to let it happen and cling together at the same time.

They cling more than they should.

"God, just get married already," one of their new friends says one day, a freshman named Jungkook with big eyes and nerves that melted away in an hour.

Jimin has been snuggling into Taehyung's side — that is, in fact, what spurred Jungkook's comment in the first place — and Taehyung feels Jimin tense up under his arm.

"You're just jealous," Taehyung teases, kicking Jungkook playfully in the shin under the table, but the damage is done. Jimin is already pulling away.

"I have to go to the bathroom," Jimin announces awkwardly, slipping out of the booth.

Taehyung lets him go.

Jungkook watches Jimin leave with a fry hanging out of his mouth. "Did I say something wrong?" he asks worriedly through half a mouthful of food.

"No," Taehyung says firmly, but Jungkook just looks at the spot Jimin just vacated. there's a black hole there, and Taehyung feels it pulling at his brain. He hunches over and chews on his straw. "I'm in love with him." It takes a moment to work his way up to it, but by the time the words come out his declaration is firm.

"Bro," Jungkook breathes. "For real?"

Taehyung just nods and steals one of Jungkook's fries.

Jungkook whistles. "Does Jimin know?"

Jimin's reaction should have been a dead giveaway, but Taehyung answers anyway. "Yeah." He stirs his water with his mutilated straw. "I told him." It's been months since that party in the fall. They're well into the spring now. He kind of wishes things would stop blooming, but that's just another thing he can't control.

"And he's like..." Jungkook leans in a little closer, like they're sharing secrets. "...okay with that?"

Taehyung frowns. "I mean, it's not like I can help it."

"No, I meant..." Jungkook laughs nervously. He's a good kid, steps into his nerves when he feels like he's imposing, but he's also a teenager with no filter. "You guys are really touchy."

Don't take this from me, Taehyung thinks, surprisingly himself with how desperate the words ring in his head. Let me have this much. "It's always been like this," he says quickly. And it always has, practically since the day they met. They're both physical people, and Jimin was one of the few people willing to indulge him when they first started college. "Jimin initiates it as much as I do."

Jungkook grunts in agreement.

Jimin rejoins them not long after.

Nothing happened, or that's what they pretend.

"Does it bother you?" Jimin asks later, when he's driving them back to the dorm. It's late, and there's not much outside to stare at other than darkness and the moon.

Taehyung allows himself to stare at Jimin instead. Just for a moment. "Does what bother me?"

Jimin taps his fingers on the wheel. His rings thud dully against the vinyl. "When I..." He coughs awkwardly into his elbow. "When I touch you."

"I like it," Taehyung admits, but he's not sure that's what Jimin wants to hear either. He swallows. "Does it bother you?"

"No!" Jimin assures him frantically. "I just want to be, you know, considerate of your feelings." He chews on his lower lip. "I don't want to make things hard for you."

"I think it would be harder if you didn't do those things," Taehyung says slowly, chewing over his answer. "We've always been like that." Their entire relationship is something warm and lived in — casual butt-slapping, lewd comments, bed sharing, giggling like children. If they don't have that, what's left? This feeling in Taehyung's chest and lingering burn of a rejection he can't blame anyone for? "I don't want anything to change."

It's strange, that they're clinging to this so tightly and still slipping away.

The worries lingering on Jimin's face melt into a smile, and even though it's hard to see with only the red yellow green of the traffic lights, Taehyung thinks Jimin is the most beautiful thing. "If you don't want things to change, then they won't."

It's a promise. Even as Taehyung smiles, they both know it's a useless one.

 


 

Things do change. It's in their nature.

Junior year Jimin doesn't mention living together again, and Taehyung isn't sure which would hurt worse — asking himself, or leaving it be.

He rents an apartment with Jungkook. He doesn't ask where Jimin is living until it's too late to change his decision.

Taehyung lives with a lot of regrets.

Jimin doesn't touch him much anymore.

 


 

Junior year passes by, and things fall apart.

They're best friends, Taehyung and Jimin, and as such Taehyung would have expected some kind of grand falling out. Slammed doors and avoidance and drawing lines and friends caught in the middle. There is none of that. Things fall apart like spun sugar in the rain — melting until there's nothing left except for the sticky residue letting you know it once existed.

Jimin is living with his friend Namjoon, an upperclassman he met in English. Taehyung went over to visit often, but Namjoon had his boyfriend Seokjin over almost all the time. Even though neither of them made things awkward, a part of Taehyung just didn't want to share his Jimin time with anyone. Jimin time is sacred.

In the end, it was the wrong decision, not going there as often. A life lesson his mother taught him; it's better so share and have some than to refuse and have none.

To be fair, Jimin came over to Taehyung's apartment at the beginning. He was on good terms with Jungkook, and they spent time together, just the three of them, but Taehyung prefers the times where Jimin will stay over too late watching shitty movies and meander off to Taehyung's bed and they stay like that until morning.

Those disappear.

It's a strange phenomenon. Things that didn't seem to bother Jimin after the confession grow to weigh on him, and he becomes cautious of things that were once automatic and thoughtless. Less touching. Fewer sleepovers. No more good morning texts. Jimin is happy enough when they are together, but the occasions where it's just the two of them dwindle until they're so few and far between it's almost entirely left up to chance.

If you don't want things to change, then they won't. Taehyung thinks about that and laughs.

He supposes that's the nature of a one-sided confession. Things change.

His mother always told him that not all friendships last forever. Things come and go. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you hold on. He hates that she's right. At least about this. It's not fair that he'd been holding on, and Jimin's been holding on, and things are still falling apart. Taehyung knows that this distance is Jimin's way of trying to make things easier, but he isn't sure how to tell Jimin it's not working. It's harder. Taehyung can't enjoy their time together because he's a man in drought when Jimin is beside him, a river in the desert. All he can do is drink.

"I'm sorry," Jungkook tells him.

"Me too," Taehyung replies.

Towards the end of the year, his phone lights up in the middle of the night. It's not an odd occurrence. Most college students are nocturnal, even more so now that finals are looming above them. Bogum has the tendency to send him random memes on his 2am study breaks.

What's odd isn't the time, but the caller ID.

Taehyung picks it up. "Jimin?"

"Ah!" Jimin sounds surprised. Maybe he hadn't expected Taehyung to pick up. "Tae."

"Good morning," Taehyung greets, looking at the time of night.

"It's not morning until the sun comes up," Jimin tells him, like he does every time. He has a specific voice he uses when he's smiling. Taehyung can hear it. "I need to talk to you."

Taehyung manages to hold onto the something bitter on his tongue. It doesn't jump out, but stays inside instead. Not a victory, just a time-bomb. "Sure," he says instead. "What's up?"

"Can you come to the bench?" Jimin asks. Taehyung blinks. "I want to tell you in person."

It's early in the morning, or late at night, that weird in between, and he and Jimin haven't talked one on one in over two months. For a moment, Taehyung is ripped with anxiety. "Okay." He's wearing his pjs and his shitty glasses and he's not going to change. "I'll be there."

He doesn't need to ask what bench? because there are a lot of things that make up their friendship and one of them is the bench in front of the lake on 23rd. In the fall they would go to the night market and get food at the stands and sit there and talk, and sometimes they'd meet and get food at the café across the street and eat by the water, and sometimes they'd just talk. They haven't been there in a long time.

Jimin is waiting when he gets there.

It's the spring again, nearly summer, another year on rotation. Jimin's got a jacket slung over the back of the bench, but his shirt shows off his arms and he looks like he put thought into his appearance. He looks tired. He smiles when he sees Taehyung walking up the road. "Hey." He scoots over, making room.

Taehyung slips beside him, easy and practiced. Like riding a bike. "You look nice for the wrong side of midnight."

"I had a video interview," Jimin tells him. He rubs his eyes. "My contacts are killing me. I feel like I was afraid to blink."

"You should carry your glasses around with you," Taehyung tells him gently. "Then you could rest your eyes."

Jimin juts out his lower lip. "I hate them."

Taehyung smiles. "I think they're cute."

"Well." Jimin scratches his neck. "I don't keep them with me."

"You should," Taehyung repeats. He's been telling Jimin that for years. His own glasses dig into his nose. The red doesn't match the lime green of his pajama pants, and the two boys on the bench match even less.

Actually, maybe the problem is that they match too well.

This isn't the time to be thinking those kinds of thoughts.

"What was the interview for?" Taehyung asks.

"Oh." Jimin huffs out an awkward laugh, playing with the hem of his dress shirt. "It was for an internship."

"Really?" Taehyung's eyebrows shoot up. "That's great! With who?"

"Bighit," Jimin tells him, with an odd sort of hesitation, even though Taehyung doesn't know the name. "They're a, uh, big dance company."

"Are they from here?" Taehyung asks, before shaking his head. "Well, I guess they wouldn't be, since they had to do a long-distance interview."

Jimin has something on the tip of his tongue but it won't come. His face is pinched. "They're in California," he says quietly.

Taehyung stares at him.

"I got the internship," Jimin finishes.

A nail in the coffin.

Taehyung swallows. "You're leaving."

"Yeah." Jimin bites his lip and sighs. "I...I felt like you should be the first one I told."

"Why?" Taehyung asks, in the split second before he takes the time to think about what he's saying. "We don't really talk anymore."

It only takes him another moment to realize what he said. Both of them suck in a breath.

Jimin coughs awkwardly. "I know that...things are weird," he says. "And I know that's at least partially my fault." He puts a hand on Taehyung's shoulder, warm through the cotton of Taehyung's t-shirt. "But I haven't stopped thinking of you as my best friend, so..." He pauses. "Telling you first felt like the right thing to do."

There are things there that Taehyung doesn't want to unpack. "When do you leave?"

"A week after finals." Jimin slumps back against the bench. "I'll be gone through all of senior year, if the contract works out. At least fall semester. Maybe longer."

Considering that they barely see each other anymore, the news shouldn't hit as heavily as it does. California is so far away. Taehyung won't even have the ability to call on Jimin if he wanted to. Won't be able to see him in the quad, or when they all get together, or anything in between.

Quietly, Taehyung puts an arm around Jimin's shoulder and pulls him in close, chest to chest. Jimin smells like he always does, fresh and clean even though he looks like he's been through the wringer. His hair tickles Taehyung's nose. Things are as they should be.

"I'm happy for you," he says after a moment.

Jimin sags in his grip. "Thank you," he mumbles into the cotton, his fists pressed against Taehyung's back. "I'll miss this."

Like they've had it for the past year.

Taehyung kisses Jimin's head. "Me too."

Neither of them are sure whether it's the ending of the chapter or the book.

 


 

Jimin's flight leaves early in the morning.

They say goodbye through text.

Taehyung is asleep the next time Jimin replies to him.

Take care of yourself.

 


 

Jungkook flops down on the couch beside Taehyung with an enormous bowl of cheese puffs. Taehyung has been watching some overly emotional television show, but as soon as Jungkook's ass hits the chair he changes it to the agreed-upon anime. It's binge night.

"I haven't heard from Jimin in a while," Jungkook says randomly, wiggling his ass until it's appropriately swallowed up by the cushions.

Taehyung looks at Jungkook, confused. "Random."

"That was my subtle way of asking what he's up to." Jungkook pops a cheese puff into his mouth. His fingers are already orange fuzzy.

"Uh." Taehyung swings his legs sideways so they're sitting in Jungkook's lap. They've been roommates for long enough that they know the ideal anime watching position. "Why would I know?"

Jungkook snorts. "Because you're up each other's asses?"

"Bro." Taehyung holds out his hand for a cheese puff. "It hasn't been like that for a while."

"You haven't talked with him at all?" Jungkook is incredulous, even as he hands Taehyung a small mountain of cheese puffs. "Like, not even a little?"

Taehyung swallows awkwardly. "No." The last time they saw each other was when they went to see Jimin off at the airport. There had been a little wave, full of regret, from Jimin and a lingering hug on Taehyung's side, and then Jimin vanished left to go through security. He'd been wearing Christmas socks in the summer. That detail sticks out for some reason. It makes Taehyung's heart ache. Even now.

It's been months.

"You guys were so close," Jungkook presses, like he's prone to do.

Taehyung pops a cheese puff in his mouth. It's empty and unsatisfying. "Things change."

He'd tried to keep in contact. Jimin sucks ass at long distance relationships. He needs constant affirmation. Taehyung is 100% sure that there is someone that Jimin is keeping in constant contact with. Taehyung's guess would be Namjoon. They grew pretty close during Jimin's last year here.

Jimin replied to a couple of his texts, but Taehyung isn't one to press. They were polite responses every third time Taehyung tried to initiate conversation.

Jimin is considerate, and compassionate, and all sorts of other things that make him someone worth loving, but Taehyung is about to burn that boy at the stake for trying to make his choice for him.

If Jimin thinks that ending the friendship is better than holding all of Taehyung's strings, Taehyung is too tired to fight him. He hasn't tried to get in touch with Jimin in a while. He suspects they're Birthday Friends now. He can expect a text on big occasions and an invite to his wedding, but little else.

Taehyung grimaces. Maybe not an invite to his wedding.

That's a little harder to swallow.

"That sucks, man," Jungkook says, dutifully dropping the subject and turning up the anime opening.

 


 

Park Jimin
HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Kim Tae
JIMIN! THAKN YOU :D
you're the first one

Park Jimin
Bitch don't sound so surprised
I'm always the first one

Kim Tae
i'll never doubt you again

Park Jimin
Never doubt me at all!!!
I'll always be your best friend yeah?
No matter what

 

Kim Tae
that's gay

Park Jimin
Lol yeah whatever
We can be like Cap America and the Winter Soldier

 

Kim Tae
who gets to be the ruggedly handsome brainwashed assassin

Park Jimin
Something tells me you're about to call dibs

 

Taehyung looks at Jungkook from his spot on the couch. His phone is placed upright on the table, screen dark. Light reflects off of the tear tracks on his face, but Jungkook is a good enough friend that he doesn't mention it. Taehyung is embarrassed enough as it is.

"Jungkook?" he asks evenly. His throat is thick but his voice is even. "How do you stop loving someone?"

"Uh." Jungkook blanches in the doorway.

Taehyung laughs. "Sorry."

"It's chill." Carefully, Jungkook walks over and sits down on the couch beside him. "I am, you know, maybe not the best person to ask since I can't look a girl in the face."

"You're just a baby," Taehyung tells him, patting Jungkook's cheek. "You'll grow out of it."

"Maybe that's the answer." Jungkook folds his knees up on the couch, hugging them to his chest. "Maybe you need to grow out of it."

Taehyung sighs. "Yeah." Time. That's always the answer. "I just need to grow out of it."

It's quiet for a moment. Gently, Jungkook kicks Taehyung in the side.

"Happy birthday," he says, muffling his words in his knees.

Taehyung laughs. "Yeah. Happy birthday."

 


 

That's the last time they talk for a long time. Taehyung tries not to mind.

If Jimin is making this decision for both of them, taking it into his own hands is the least he can do.

 


 

Months pass. Things change.

Taehyung graduates college. His degree is in music education — he gets a job at a small studio teaching children how to read music and play instruments. There's a distinct lack of music theory involved, enough that Taehyung is questioning why he needed four semesters of it, but the kids are happy and that makes Taehyung happy.

Their apartment is too far from Taehyung's new job, so his boss puts him in touch with one Min Yoongi, an up and coming music producer running his own independent label. Yoongi also happens to be a complete recluse and in desperate need of a roommate. Taehyung has always considered himself easy to live with.

Things work out. Two months after graduation he has a new job, a new apartment with a new roommate, and a new setup where he'll record vocal leads for Yoongi in exchange for getting out of grocery runs.

Jungkook gives Taehyung's room to one of his friends, Yugyeom, and later Taehyung finds out that Namjoon works freelance in the production industry and has been working with Yoongi on and off for several months.

"It's like the gang is getting back together." Namjoon grins the first time he runs into Taehyung at Yoongi's studio. "Soon Jimin will be here, too."

Taehyung stiffens in his seat. The paper he's grading has an ugly red mark instead of a letter grade.

Yoongi frowns. "Who?"

Namjoon laughs. "Don't you two live together?"

"Yeah." Taehyung takes a deep breath, rubbing at the mark with his thumb. The ink smears. It looks worse. Is there any conceivable way he could make that look like a 9?

"What's that have to do with anything?" Yoongi messes with the settings on his board, one headphone pressed up to his ear. "Should I know a Jimin?"

Namjoon blinks, for a moment slightly off kilter. He frowns at Taehyung. "You didn't tell him about Jimin?"

"What's there to tell?" Taehyung asks delicately. "We were friends. He's been gone for a year."

Yoongi's mouth falls into a little o and then he puts his headphones on properly and goes back to work.

"Are you not...friends now?" Namjoon presses, completely unsure.

"I haven't talked to him since December," Taehyung admits, tapping the end of his pen against the paper. It's been well over a year since Jimin left, and over 8 months since their last point of contact. Jimin is almost too busy to post on social media. All Taehyung sees are locations from tour and lots of dancers in various stages of undress. "I didn't know he was coming back."

"Next month," Namjoon tells him. "His contract ended a couple of weeks ago. He's getting his affairs in order before coming home."

Taehyung swallows. "Good for him." He means it. "Looks like he had a good time."

"Are you going to come to the airport?" Namjoon asks. "I'm sure he'd like to see you."

"Uh." Taehyung looks down at his papers. Hana draws little hearts instead of quarter notes. It gives him some kind of strength. "I'd like to see him, too," he finally admits, both to Namjoon and to himself. He thinks that he might finally be over it. Seeing Jimin will hurt, but maybe it's time that he gets some closure. Maybe he's grown out of it enough that he just needs to face it head on and prove to himself that it doesn't matter (it matters). "If you give me the time and date, I'll show up." He grins. "I promise."

Namjoon breathes a sigh of relief. "I'll text you," he says. "You can invite Jungkook, too!"

Some small part of Taehyung would guess that Jungkook has already been invited. It's the small part that burns, just a little, when he sees Jungkook get a text from Park Jimin. Jungkook surely already knows Jimin is coming back.

"I'll tell him," Taehyung says instead.

"So, how fucked up is your relationship with this Jimin guy?" Yoongi asks, twirling around in his seat as soon as Namjoon finishes up his work and heads out the door.

Taehyung looks up from his papers. "Very fucked."

Yoongi grunts. "Have fun." Back to work.

 


 

If Taehyung was a stronger man, he'd admit to himself that he's terrified.

Jimin's arrival date grows closer and closer and Taehyung would like to say he does something more productive like actually deal with his feelings. Instead he watches Netflix, learns how to juggle, and buys a unicycle online. He takes up ukulele lessons. Yoongi offers to teach him, but if the ukulele comes out even once outside of the makeshift practices Yoongi will hide it until Taehyung pays its ransom.

The whole world is changing. Taehyung can change with it.

"Do you want me to go with you?" Yoongi asks over breakfast. The date is circled in hot pink three times on their calendar. Everyone knows what day it is. Yoongi's dog knows what day it is.

"Hmmm." Taehyung takes a long sip of his coffee. "I feel like that would be awkward for everyone involved."

"My mom tells me I need to get out more." Yoongi snorts. "I would love to see your emotional ass dealing with shit this morning. Can't think of anything I'd rather do, honestly."

Taehyung grins at him. "You're an asshole," he says coyly. "You can come if you want, but I'm not going to cry, if that's the kind of show you're looking for."

Yoongi's eyebrows go up. "Will there be another kind of show?"

"Asshole!" Taehyung sings, standing up to put his half empty mug in the sink. It's his third cup. "I'm going to go get ready."

"Put on that gray sweater with the v-neck!" Yoongi shouts at him as he walks to his room. "That just screams gay."

"Sweaters don't have sexual orientations, bitch." Taehyung snorts. "Also it's the summer."

"Nearly fall."

"Then looks like I nearly wore the gay sweater." Taehyung shuts the door behind.

Yoongi is good for a lot of things, but mostly he's an excellent distraction. Taehyung's hands have completely stopped shaking.

 


 

The airport is crowded, but Namjoon is a tall, noodle of a man and not particularly hard to place. His boyfriend Seokjin stands beside him, and Jungkook is there as well, holding a big ass sign covered in gel glitter reading Jimin's name in sloppy cursive.

"Will he even be able to read that?" Yoongi asks as they approach.

"He's had a lot of practice." Jungkook's hand-writing always looks like that.

Somehow, Jimin reaches the group at the same time Taehyung does.

Namjoon and Jungkook erupt into squeals, surging forward, and Jungkook's sign is tossed aside in favor of picking up Jimin's body and throwing him around. "Jimin! Jimin, I missed you!"

Namjoon is trying to get Jungkook to put Jimin back on the ground so the hugging can start. "We've all missed you," he says.

"Namjoon has been stress baking trying to get everything in order for you to come back," Seokjin informs him. "With disastrous results."

Jimin is still hidden from view, but when Seokjin pushes Namjoon aside to get his own hug, Taehyung makes eye contact. Their first eye contact since Jimin left. He feels it like a zap. Jimin. Fuck.

He looks good. He looks like he should look after dancing non-stop for so long, lean and muscular, fit, and glowing. He's tan, more tan than he usually would be. Taehyung vaguely remembers that the last place he'd traveled was in the tropics. Taehyung should be jealous, but instead his tongue is stuck in his throat and he's having trouble processes anything, even things he'd had plenty of time to prepare himself for.

Jimin is beautiful, even though he looks shocked to see Taehyung here. "Tae..."

Taehyung reaches down and picks up Jungkook's abandoned sign, if only to have something to do with his hands. He grins broadly. Normal. "Welcome home."

He thinks that Jimin won't do anything — Jungkook's sign is a biohazard and Jimin hates getting glitter on himself if he doesn't have to — but he only has a split second to brace himself before Jimin launches himself forward into Taehyung's arms. "It's been so long!" Jimin says excitedly. "I missed you so much!" His arms tights around the back of Taehyung's neck.

One of Taehyung's hands curls around Jimin's waist uselessly, and now he wishes he hadn't picked up the sign because he wants to wrap Jimin up in his arms and never let go. Jimin smells different, feels different, is different.

Things change, but Taehyung feels the same.

Yoongi was right. He is an emotional ass.

He just holds on tighter.

"Ah." Jungkook makes a small sound in the near distance. "It's nice to finally meet you!"

Jimin doesn't stiffen, exactly, but it's almost as if he remembers himself, and it's only then that Taehyung realizes their hug had been bordering too long but Jimin still hadn't pulled away. He does now. Taehyung misses him immediately.

"Hoseok!" Jimin calls, waving someone over.

There's a man coming towards them, beaming. He's not a large man, lean, average height with a huge smile. His hair is unstyled and shoved under a hat. There's a pair of sunglasses hanging out of the v of his t-shirt. He's carrying a cart full of luggage. Taehyung recognizes the lurid green of Jimin's carry-on in the mix. The stranger stops his cart right in front of them, and Jimin steps away from Taehyung's side to thread their elbows together.

"Jimin, I got it all! No thanks to you." The man laughs. He's attractive in a sharp way, but all his edges are softened by a happy personality. "You travel with too much."

"I accumulated a lot over a year!" Jimin insists. "Not all of us are minimalists."

Taehyung frowns, confused. "Who are you?"

The feeling changes. Taehyung hates that he caused it. The others all look at Taehyung, vaguely alarmed. Namjoon pales considerably, and Jungkook's eyes widen until he turns his head to look sharply in Jimin's direction.

"Ah, sorry." Taehyung scratches his head. "I guess I'm out of the loop. I didn't know anyone else was coming."

"You didn't," Jungkook says dryly. It should be a question, but it isn't.

"I..." Jimin looks uncomfortable, but then he grins, holding the other man a little. "I forgot to tell you, I guess!"

Taehyung looks between them dumbly. "I guess you did."

Jimin swallows. "This is Hoseok." His thumb taps a nervous rhythm against Hoseok's bicep. He smiles again. "He's my boyfriend."

 


 

It's not long after that things shift to the edge of the proverbial cliff. Taehyung is so familiar with this place it seems almost like an old friend, but after managing to take a couple of steps towards safety he's dangerously close to hurtling over the precipice. Just a nudge. That's all it would take. Or maybe a little less willpower.

Still, Taehyung is seemingly the least openly affected, but he's also trying the hardest. He's my boyfriend, Jimin said, and Taehyung might have said something small and fragile — oh — but now he's pulling all of his broken edges back in. He smiles when he's supposed to, shakes hands. Plays nice.

Hoseok doesn't seem to know who Taehyung is either. There's vague recognition there, maybe from Jimin's photos, but that's all. Taehyung isn't sure whether that's better or worse, but he rolls with the punches.

"I'm Jimin's friend," is how he introduces himself. Best friend, but the qualifier doesn't seem to fit anymore. Jimin's expression flattens, noticing its absence, but it's Jimin's fault in the first place. Taehyung refuses to feel bad about it.

He feels shitty enough all on his own. He's not adding this to the pile.

Yoongi doesn't know the others well enough to care about hiding his displeasure. He huffs and rolls his eyes in equal measure. He keeps his glare on Jimin, heavy enough that he clearly means to be noticed. Everyone notices. Seokjin even snorts the fifth time Yoongi purposefully doesn't answer something he's asked. Namjoon is trying to ignore it. Jimin is successfully ignoring it.

Jungkook is livid.

He doesn't have the security Yoongi has of not knowing the others. Clearly he doesn't feel like he needs it, because he's openly fuming. It's beyond even Yoongi's passive aggression. Jungkook is an explosive set to blow instead of a human being, and even Jimin is having issues navigating his way around the mines in the ground.

Taehyung feels kind of bad for Hoseok, honestly. He's a nice guy. He seems really great. They met while on tour, Hoseok being an extra contract they picked up as they were traveling through LA, and hit it off immediately. They've been dating for six months. Six months, and Taehyung had no idea. He supposes it's not really a surprise, considering that they haven't spoken in eight. But not even a hint of it on social media?

"We were working together, so we had to be careful," Hoseok says, like he's trying to clear the tension around Taehyung's not knowing. "It was kind of a secret. Company's orders!"

And that would be fine — Taehyung can understand that, at the very least — except there are seven people here and he is the only one who had no idea.

For all Jimin's talk of saving Taehyung's feelings, not telling him seems to be a huge oversight.

Except that Jimin didn't invite Taehyung. Taehyung hadn't even known Jimin was coming home until Namjoon told him. It's not a sharp realization, just the slow wave of acceptance. If Namjoon hadn't told him, Jimin would have been walking around town, hand in hand with Hoseok, and Taehyung wouldn't even have known.

This isn't the sort of bed he thought he was making for himself, years ago when he confessed to Jimin, drunk in the hallways. He'd thought he was doing the right thing.

Now, he and Jimin are standing seven feet apart at an airport, refusing to look at each other.

"I'm starving," Hoseok says. "Is there anywhere to eat around here?"

Seokjin's eyes light up. Food is neutral territory. "There's a good barbecue place about ten minutes from here."

Taehyung smiles, but he can't think of anything worse than being in an enclosed space with these people right now.

"I'm not feeling well," Yoongi says, not even trying to reinforce his lie. He stands there casually, hands in pockets, eyes flat. "I think I should go home."

Jungkook almost growls. "I'll drive."

Taehyung sighs, rolling his eyes and grabbing the strap of his bag with a sweaty hand. He could have gone for a little more subtlety. "Sorry." He looks at Hoseok and smiles. "It was nice meeting you." In another life, it really probably would have been. Taehyung glances at Jimin. Mistake. He looks at the others. "We'll see you guys later!"

They walk out of the airport and Taehyung can breathe. How novel.

"I can't believe him," Jungkook fumes as soon as they're safely in the car. "All this fucking time he was like, 'oh, this is for Taehyung's own good.' That fucker."

"I like him," Yoongi tells Taehyung, slipping casually into the backseat and watching as Jungkook blows steam. He looks completely not sick and also completely shameless and if Taehyung thought he could get away with it he might kiss Yoongi straight on the mouth.

Taehyung manages to control himself, climbing into the car and warily eyeing Jungkook as the younger man aggressively tries to buckle his seatbelt. Taehyung is glad that Jungkook saved him from being emo on public transportation, but riding shotgun to his vitriol might not be any better. "It's fine," he says tiredly, brushing his bangs out of his eyes. He needs a haircut.

"Um, it's actually not?" Jungkook looks like he's about to punch through the windshield, and Taehyung would kind of like to see him do it just for shits, but he doesn't think it would help anything. "Six months, six months they've been dating." He jams into the ignition. He misses the first time. "He said he was going to tell you. He swore up and down. That was four months ago!"

Taehyung looks out the window. "It's fine."

Yoongi snorts in the backseat.

"It is," Taehyung says sharply, turning in his seat to give Yoongi the Eye.

"Oh, please." Yoongi rolls his eyes. "I'm sure everything is absolutely fucking fi—"

"I don't want to hear it!"

Yoongi's mouths clicks shut.

Taehyung huffs, sinking down in his seat as Jungkook silently pulls out of the lot. Yoongi and Jungkook wait patiently for him to get himself back under control, but that almost pisses him off more. "I don't want to talk about it." It's fine.

Jungkook pulls to a stop smoothly, looking as Taehyung for a moment before continuing through the light. "We don't have to talk about it," he says finally, even though his eye is still twitching and Taehyung is 100% certain he's going to talk about it eventually to anyone who will listen. Probably his mom. Jungkook complains a lot to his mom. "I just, like...I don't know. I'm on your side."

"There are no sides," Taehyung mutters into his sleeve, mouth pressed against the heel of his hand. There is Jimin, and there is Taehyung, and they used to be on the same side. He doesn't want to think about what it means if that's changed, so it hasn't.

"He's wrong, Tae," Jungkook says softly. "He's an asshole for not telling you."

Taehyung runs a hand down his face. "I don't want to be mad at him," he admits after a moment. He can feel it bubbling the more they talk about it, and he's trying to keep a firm grip on his emotions, but they keep getting out of hand. How is he supposed to bully them into behaving when everyone wants to talk about it so much?

There's a hand on his shoulder. Yoongi is leaning forward in his seat, uncharacteristically sober. "That's not how feelings work," he says flatly.

"Feelings are what fucked me over in the first place." Taehyung laughs. It's not even a fake laugh. This whole thing is ridiculous. He's ridiculous. "Once I get control of them, nothing can hurt me."

"That's right!" Jungkook punctuates it by slamming both palms against the steering wheel. "Fuck feelings! Who needs them?"

Yoongi blinks slowly. "I feel like that's bad advice."

"I'm up for it," Taehyung says, setting his feet up on the dash.

"Maybe, like, just fuck feelings a little bit," Jungkook amends sheepishly, glancing back at Yoongi. "Just rough 'em up a bit."

"A mild fucking," Taehyung agrees. "Do you want to go get a drink?" The thoughts are connected.

Yoongi looks at the clock. "It's lunch time."

"Yes." Taehyung waits for an answer.

Yoongi sighs.

"I know a bar on 15th with good fried pickles," Jungkook offers happily.

Taehyung grins. "Onward!"

Jungkook pushes Taehyung's legs off of his dashboard, and the knowledge that he's about to feel better allows Taehyung to pretend to be normal.

 


 

Taehyung isn't great at drinking, especially not when he's emotional. He might have been inclined to drink a little more than necessary, but both Jungkook and Yoongi also know that he's not good at drinking — they have, in fact, both had separate traumatic events involving Taehyung and alcohol — and together they manage to stop Taehyung after a drink or two.

They eat fried pickles and talk about anime and everything is nice. Jungkook and Yoongi have only met once before, and only for a moment, but they get along nicely. Easily. It's refreshing.

"Drinking during the day has a different feeling," Jungkook notes. "Do you think it tastes different?"

Yoongi takes a drink of Jungkook's beer. "It still tastes like coping mechanisms to me."

"Maybe even more so," Taehyung agrees. He leans in and give the drink a sniff. "Is that some depravity in the bouquet?"

"With a twist of lime," Jungkook says haughtily before he snorts and takes a big drink. "My favorite flavor."

Yoongi clinks their glasses together in an extremely shitty toast.

They chill for an hour or so, until Jungkook has both worked off his drinks and successfully demolished all of them at pinball. Taehyung gets into the car feeling much warmer than before. Mission accomplished.

By the time Jungkook drops them off at their apartment, Namjoon has texted Taehyung three times with varying degrees of desperation. He feels like shit, and that makes Taehyung feel like shit. It's fine he texts back. He'll call Namjoon later, or get lunch or something, because he knows it's not Namjoon's fault but Namjoon is the sort of person to find his own guilt in everything.

It's not Namjoon's fault. It's Jimin's. But Taehyung doesn't want to be mad at Jimin, because that would just make everything worse, so he settles the blame on himself until further notice. He shouldn't have gone, he should have reached out to Jimin earlier, he should be over this and then the news wouldn't have affected him in the first place.

He can tell himself that all he wants, but it's not quite the truth. His feelings for Jimin make Hoseok hard to accept, but Taehyung thinks that if he has found out another way maybe he wouldn't have been led to day drinking. He's not such a shitty person that he'd be devastated by his own friend's happiness. It's the fact that Jimin didn't tell him that burns the worst.

"You okay?" Yoongi asks, throwing his shit on the coffee table.

Taehyung has been standing blankly in the hallway, thinking. He blinks. "Yeah, I'm fine." He scratches his neck. "Thanks for coming with me."

"I'm glad I did," Yoongi admits. "Wish I could say I had fun but honestly? Fuck today."

"Fuck today." Taehyung laughs, collapsing onto the couch beside his roommate. "Do you want to pretend to pay attention while I watch romcoms?"

"You mean while I'm actually live tweeting your reactions to the asshole main love interest?" Yoongi pulls his phone out of his pocket. "I would love to."

 


 

Taehyung has classes to teach in the morning, so he forces himself to get up off of the couch and be productive while watching a zany heroine find love for the third time today. He has to make sure he has things ready to hand back but children's handwriting is even worse than his own used to be. One of them just wrote over and over that they demanded to learn how to play the trumpet. Taehyung appreciates their persistence but they're in the middle of learning scales of the piano. Brass is probably too much.

Imagining teaching those children to play the trumpet both brightens his mood and gives him a headache, so that can only mean it's probably a terrible idea.

At some point, Yoongi walks over to his desk and says, "don't talk to me," before putting on his noise cancelling headphones and pulling up his editing software. At the beginning of their relationship that would have made Taehyung vaguely nervous, but now he appreciates the warning. Yoongi literally can't hear anything else.

They continue like that for a while, letting the movie credits roll in the background as Taehyung flips through his lesson plan. More scales. Maybe one day they'll even make it to music theory. Every once in awhile Yoongi will unplug his headphones and ask if what's playing sounds like shit, and Taehyung will invariably say no, and then things are quiet again.

There's a knock on the door.

"Yoongi," Taehyung calls absently, scratching out his notes and rewriting his lesson points. "It's your turn."

Yoongi is completely deaf to anything that's not the EDM song he's working on.

Unless Taehyung wants to go through the effort of standing up and taking Yoongi's headphones off and telling him to go to the door, he has to be the one to answer. Either way he has to move. It's a lose-lose.

He sighs, pushing all of his papers to the side and standing up. His back creaks. He's turning into an old man. He graduated and now he's calcium-deficient. The horrors of adulthood are lurking. He'll probably go bald soon.

Taehyung's brain is mulling over his rapid and imminent health decline and thus completely unassuming, so when he opens the door and sees Jimin standing on the other side, he blanches. "Fuck," he says, and it's supposed to stay in his own head but the way Jimin's expression flickers makes him think maybe he failed to do that.

Jimin looks extremely uncomfortable standing there on their doorsteps. "Can I come in?" he asks, and Taehyung honestly wants to say no.

"Sure." Taehyung steps aside, trying to keep his voice as neutral as possible. Jimin politely toes his shoes off by the door. Taehyung can tell he's been dancing non-stop because his feet are a mess. Once upon a time Taehyung would nag him about icing them, but he thinks those days might be gone.

Taehyung said early that he didn't want to mad, and that's still true, but Yoongi was right. His feelings aren't working that way. His emotions when he watches Jimin walk into their house are so conflicted. He's happy Jimin is home, but he's unhappy. He's angry. He loves him. He wants to hold him and kiss him and kick him out. He wants to ask about Hoseok and he doesn't want to hear anything at all.

He wants things to go back to how they were.

They walk into the kitchen and Jimin turns to face him, and Taehyung wishes that if things had to change they could have changed for the better. Jimin looks older than he had a year ago, slimmer, the planes of his face sharper and more distinct. Taehyung misses his cheeks. Jimin bites his lip and takes a deep breath. "We should talk."

For once, Taehyung allows himself to say exactly what he wants to say. "I don't think that's a great idea."

"I've been gone for so long," Jimin tries, rocking back and forth on his heels. "Don't you want to catch up?"

"Whose fault is it that I'm out of the loop, Jimin?" Taehyung asks tiredly.

"You haven't texted me either," Jimin shoots back.

"I tried." Taehyung sighs, sitting back against the shitty kitchen table. It creaks a little, breaks up the tension. On another day they might have laughed. "You think I didn't notice how you kept our conversations to the bare minimum any time I contacted you?"

Jimin swallows. "I was busy," he says firmly.

"Is that what you've told yourself?"

"I was!"

"Namjoon had to tell me you were coming home," Taehyung snaps. "I barely even know Namjoon." He shakes his head, running a hand through his hair. "Out of all of the people in that airport, how come I was the only one who didn't know about your boyfriend of six months?"

Jimin doesn't answer.

Taehyung takes a shaky breath. He told himself he wasn't going to be mad. But he is. He's boiling. "Is it just me you're too busy for?"

"I didn't know how to tell you," Jimin admits quietly, looking off to the side. He's clenching his jaw. He looks older when he's angry. "I was trying not to hurt you."

"You're doing a great job," Taehyung replies flatly.

Jimin scoffs. "Would you really have wanted to hear about how great my life is away from all of you?" he demands. "Would you have wanted to hear about how Hoseok and I met, or how he asked me out, or how awesome he is literally all the time?"

"Yeah, I would have," Taehyung shoots back, "because I am your friend first!" He takes a step forward. "Don't pretend like you know what I want to hear. Don't pretend to be a martyr when our relationship is shit because you're the one making all of the choices!"

"What was I supposed to do?" Jimin asks. "How am I supposed to know what you need?"

"You fucking talk to me," Taehyung offers. "Since we're supposed to be friends."

"I used to know you the best in the world," Jimin tells him, the corners of his mouth tipping downward and his arms crossed over his chest. "Why do I feel so lost now?"

Taehyung takes a deep breath, deeper, holds it. Sighs. "Because things are different now." He rolls his head on his neck. It's been a long day. Draining. He should call it an early night. "You hurt me, and things aren't the same any more."

"I didn't ask for you to be in love with me," Jimin whispers.

Taehyung frowns. "Neither did I."

Jimin's shoulders droop, defeated. Taehyung isn't sure what's beaten him.

"If I knew that this is how things would turn out, I would never have told you," Taehyung admits. At the time, confessing had seemed like the obvious solution. No secrets, no horrific pining, no hope. Get everything out of the way and into the open air. Jimin is a nice guy, a great guy, and there wasn't a reason to even think it'd be an issue. Except that Jimin doesn't know how to deal with it any better than Taehyung does.

"I..." Jimin purses his lips, the way he does when he's trying not to cry. "I kind of wish you hadn't."

Out of everything, somehow that hurts the most.

"I'm sorry for not telling you about Hoseok." Jimin jams his hands into his pockets.

Taehyung sets his jaw. "I kind of wish you had."

He sees Jimin out the door and tries not to slam it shut.

When he walks into the living room, Yoongi is sitting at his desk, headphones hanging around his neck. "How much did you hear?" Taehyung asks him.

"Uh." Which means all of it. "Are you okay?"

Taehyung walks forward and sits at the floor by Yoongi's feet. "No," he says quietly. He leans his head against Yoongi's thigh.

There are hands in his hair, petting him, fingers brushing through knots, and it's a familiar gesture but an unfamiliar hand. Taehyung takes a shuddery breath. "What do I have to do for this to all be over?" he asks.

Yoongi pauses, hand hesitating for just a moment as he thinks. "He has a boyfriend."

"I know."

"You're still in love with him."

Taehyung closes his eyes. "I know."

"Personally, I think he's an asshole."

"Of course you do." Taehyung laughs. "I wish."

Yoongi hums, thinking. "Guess you'll just have to wait it out."

"I waited a year." Taehyung thinks the lack of contact made him think he'd gotten over it, that time had finally done it's work, but it hasn't. It really hasn't. "It was better when we were friends. It hurt in a better way."

"Maybe one day." Yoongi sighs.

"Yeah." Taehyung slumps. "Maybe one day."

 


 

Taehyung would not consider himself a selfish person, but maybe he is.

He wants to help people, doesn't ask for things in return, even if he does mooch food something awful. He likes buying little gifts for people when he sees something that reminds him of them. He doesn't expect anything.

Maybe love is different. Maybe that's why, no matter what he does or tells himself or pretends, he just wants to be loved back.


Hoseok is nice.

Once Taehyung is able to put his own feelings aside, he realizes that while he has plenty of acquaintances and plenty of co-workers, he doesn't have that many friends in the city that he can never see Jimin again, because everyone is up everyone's ass in their friend group except for Yoongi. And Yoongi is really fun until he's boring, and then Taehyung has Jungkook, who has resolutely decided that he won't be talking to Jimin anymore, at least until Taehyung decides to talk to him as well.

Jungkook is maybe too loyal of a friend, because by choosing Taehyung's side, he alienates himself from all of the group hang-outs he loves so much. Taehyung has plenty of friends, but Jungkook does not.

"Let's go out tonight," Taehyung says firmly, looking up at Jungkook. His head is in Jungkook's lap as the younger boy watches a sappy anime.

"Okay." Jungkook looks down from the screen. It's a bad angle. Taehyung sees all his chins. "What do you want to do? I'm getting a little stir-crazy, if I'm being honest."

"Namjoon said that everyone is going out tonight," Taehyung says slowly, like he's afraid of scaring Jungkook off, even though he's doing this for him. Maybe a little for himself, but mostly for Jungkook.

Jungkook blinks. "Everyone? You know Jimin and Hoseok are both going to be there."

Taehyung carelessly scrolls through his Insta feed. "I think I'm ready to get over it."

More than ready.

Taehyung isn't surprised when Jungkook agrees. "As long as you're sure."

He's not.

He does do some social media stalking, trying to prepare himself for the night. It's been over two weeks since Jimin came home, since their semi-disastrous conversation in Taehyung's kitchen, since he cried just a little bit wrapped around Yoongi's feet like a child. Namjoon has apologized a thousand times over — "They've been together for so long. I knew you hadn't talked but I could never have imagined you didn't know. I'm so sorry." — but it's not Namjoon's fault. It's Jimin's, and Taehyung has always been bad at staying mad at him, even when he deserves it.

Jung Hoseok learned how to dance on the streets of his hometown, started and participated in several dance troupes, before getting into a studio for formal education when he was in high school. That's what his bio says online, when Taehyung looks up this internship that Jimin had been a part of. Hoseok was not, in fact, an intern, but a part-time dancer with the company and occasional choreographer, even though he's only one year older than them.

(Taehyung can't help but look at Jimin's bio. He recognizes Jimin's headshot, because Taehyung had been the one to take it, and he recognizes Jimin's bio, because it's the same one Taehyung had helped him write when he started teaching at the studio in town.)

Social media is more telling. There are pictures of Jimin on all of his feeds, more so now than while they were actively co-workers, but up until recently there wasn't too much mush on either of social accounts. Jimin didn't show up anymore than anyone else, but the captions were telling now that Taehyung knows the truth. And he can tell that the pictures were taken with love. There's one that's just of Jimin, smiling on the other side of a table with a mountain of pancakes in front of him, and a part of him wants to weep, because Jimin looks like he's in love.

That's what Taehyung is the most afraid to deal with. Park Jimin being in love. He's seen lust before, and a crush or two, but he's never seen Jimin in love. There was a time that was all Taehyung wanted, but he'd wanted it to be focused on himself. He just wanted to be loved back.

"It's never going to happen, is it?" he asks the room. Hoseok's Twitter is pulled up in front of him on the computer. So excited to start this next chapter of my life with him. Him. Figures Hoseok would be a sap.

"The timing's not right," Yoongi says out of nowhere, leaning against the doorway.

Taehyung doesn't turn around. "It worked out for them."

Yoongi snorts. "I don't think I need to tell you that life's not fair, kid."

Taehyung is terrified but he goes to hang out anyway. Jungkook drags Yoongi along, because already Yoongi has a soft-spot for him, and Jungkook is trying to have as much support for Taehyung as possible. It's unnecessary, because it's not like either Seokjin or Namjoon are picking sides, and Hoseok is probably unaware that there are sides to choose, and Jimin probably doesn't want to fight anymore either. Taehyung appreciates the sentiment.

It's Seokjin they see first, when they walk into the club. He's at the bar, flirting with the bartender to get a discount on their drinks, and Taehyung is sure that somewhere Namjoon is smiling proudly as his boyfriend successfully runs his con. He turns towards the door and spots them, two drinks in his hands. "Hey!" His eyebrows go up, but other than that his surprise is kept in check. Seokjin smiles. "It's been too long! Glad you could make it."

"Flirt some more to get me something," Jungkook whines.

"Flirt yourself." Seokjin sips his drink imperiously. "You're poor and in college. You should have pre-gamed."

"Meanwhile you've got money to spare," Taehyung observes with a laugh.

"Money? You mean wiles." Seokjin gestures with his head and turns to walk back to their table. "If you want to get drunk I'm pretty sure Hoseok smuggled in some vodka in a water bottle like the kings of old."

At the mention of Hoseok, Seokjin glances in Taehyung's direction. Taehyung knows Seokjin the least out of their group of friends, since he was originally introduced as Jimin's roommate's boyfriend, but he knows people like Seokjin. He knows that the man is gauging his reaction to see how much of a disaster tonight is going to be.

Taehyung smiles winningly at him.

Seokjin laughs and takes a drink of Namjoon's beer.

"What's so funny?" Jungkook asks, reaching out to grab at Namjoon's drink as well.

Seokjin holds it up out of his reach. "Taehyung and I appear to have an understanding," he titters. "I thought it was funny."

The understanding it seems is to not be a total downer, which Taehyung is more than willing to commit to. He's exhausted his moping supplies, and all of his anger sits rotten and festering in the pit of his stomach. Time to get that shit out of there and fill himself with something more useful, like alcohol.

When they get to the booth, Namjoon is sitting there bobbing his head lightly to the music and Hoseok is beside him, laughing at something that he said. Jimin is nowhere to be seen, but if Taehyung knows him at all then Jimin is out on the floor dancing his drinks off until he can convince someone to be his partner in grind.

Hoseok sees them first, and he scoots over in the booth to make room. There's only room for one, and Taehyung is the closest, and then he makes eye contact, and then it's set in stone. It'd be weird to refuse, and it'd also be weird for Taehyung to make Jungkook go first, so he slides in and tries to leave enough space between them that he's not going to be thinking about it constantly.

Jungkook takes the seat across from him, shooting Taehyung an apologetic glance before he turns positively pink when Yoongi is smushed in next to him. It's cute. Taehyung thinks about that instead of how much he would rather be somewhere else.

"I'm glad you guys could come!" Hoseok says, nudging Taehyung with his shoulder. "I feel like I haven't seen you since the airport."

That's true. He hasn't. It was very purposeful. Taehyung blushes. "I've just been really busy. Jungkook has chained himself to my leg so I don't go crazy from solitude."

"A true friend," Yoongi says with a snort.

"I am a good friend," Jungkook agrees, and Taehyung is glad that Jimin isn't there in that moment because he's sure Jungkook would have shot him an exceptionally pointed look.

Hoseok laughs good-naturedly. "Friends should stick together."

"Yeah," Taehyung says, small. "They should."

"Guys!" Jimin runs up to their table. He's drunk and sweaty and loose, and his hair is going a thousand directions, and Taehyung catches his breath. Jimin doesn't notice, or pretends not to. "I'm so glad you could make it!" He settles a look on Yoongi, the first time he's acknowledged the coldness emanating from that corner. "It's nice to meet you again." Voice a hair colder. And Taehyung thinks that maybe Jimin is less drunk than he'd like to appear.

"Likewise," says Yoongi flatly, looking Jimin up and down with tired eyes.

Jimin is done with him. He looks over at Taehyung and his smile softens. "I'm happy you're here."

Taehyung would like to pretend it's not an olive branch — they shouldn't need one — but Taehyung’s presence here is an olive branch, so he has no choice. He smiles. "I plan on seducing at least one bartender tonight with my sick dance moves. I'll take him home and he can make me all of the drinks."

"Jiminie can mix drinks," Hoseok comments idly, half-in a conversation with Namjoon.

"What?" Taehyung frowns in Jimin's direction. "Since when?"

"I learned in Cali." He's flushed, but it's hard to tell if it's from all of the dancing he's likely been doing or if it's from unexpectedly being drawn into the conversation. Jimin's never liked flaunting skills he's not 100% confident in. It used to be Taehyung who would bring up Jimin's merits in the middle of conversations.

Maybe Jimin is flushing from the implication that Taehyung might seduce him and hold him hostage for some cocktails. Taehyung flushes a little from that, too.

"You'll have to show me sometime," Taehyung says brightly.

"Yeah." Jimin smiles. Another olive branch. "Maybe."

"Are you looking for more drink money?" Namjoon prompts Jimin, and it's almost shocking because Taehyung's forgotten there was anyone else at the table. Not good when Jimin's boyfriend is sitting on his opposite side.

"Ah, no." Jimin looks over his shoulder and laughs. "A nice man bought me something with a high alcohol content," he says coyly, his grin merciless.

"You're just too hot," Hoseok tsks, laughing.

Jimin leans across the table, across Taehyung, too close, and he smells like alcohol and the same dryer sheets he's been using since college. He hooks his fingers in the collar of Hoseok's shirt. "I think he deserves a show for his efforts," he says wickedly.

Jungkook perks up. "Dance off!" he says excitedly. It's easy to return to his good graces.

"I'm not sure I'm up for showing you off to some man with enough money to buy you drinks here," Hoseok replies lightly.

"My ass is too powerful," Jimin agrees. His lower lip juts out, and his hand slips up Hoseok's neck. Taehyung tries not to look. "Dance with me," he whines.

Taehyung almost says yes.

"I'll dance with you," Seokjin offers, standing up with a stretch. "I'm eye candy and I've also got sick moves."

"Shenanigans," Yoongi retorts, stealing a drink from Seokjin's cup.

"You've already made yourself too comfortable," Seokjin tells him primly, plucking the drink from Yoongi's hand and downing the rest of it before putting it firmly on the table. "Come on, Jimin. Let's dance."

"That shit burns," Yoongi grunts, watching Seokjin leave, begrudgingly impressed. "Do I hate him?" he asks the open air.

"He has that effect on most people," Namjoon says knowingly. "I should go make sure he doesn't hurt himself trying to do the Dirty Dancing lift again."

"Again?"

"He's a predictable drunk," Namjoon explains.

Jungkook looks at Yoongi. "Do you want to dance?" They have to move to let Namjoon out anyway.

Taehyung is honestly surprised when he sees Yoongi thinking about it. Whenever Taehyung asks Yoongi for literally anything it's an immediate no whether Yoongi is planning on doing it or not. "Maybe for a song," Yoongi finally says slowly, standing up from the table. He resolutely ignores the eyebrow Taehyung raises. "What else is there to do at a club?"

"Soak in your own body sweat and beer?" Taehyung offers.

"No." There's the Yoongi he's used to.

The three of them leave, and suddenly the body he's trying not to think about is the only body left, and how weird would it be to ignore Hoseok when they're literally the only people at the table? Also rude as hell.

Taehyung turns to Hoseok and opens his mouth, thinking of all of his favorite conversation starters. What's your favorite food? What would be your superpower of choice? How many times have you watched The Office?

"You're in love with Jimin, right?" Hoseok asks.

"Uh." Taehyung blinks. "I'm sorry, I think I misheard you."

"You're in love with Jimin." Hoseok doesn't look mad about it. He has his face propped up on one palm, and he's twirling his finger around the edge of Seokjin's empty glass.

"Uh." Taehyung clicks his tongue. "I'm not sure how to respond to this."

"A simple yes will do." Hoseok is smiling, even if it's mostly amused because of how obviously panicked Taehyung is. This is a bizarre conversation and Taehyung wants to be far, far away.

"If this is about how I confessed to him like, three years ago, things change," he answers, because it's as close to the truth as he's getting without flat out telling Hoseok yes, I am in love with your boyfriend.

"Not everything," Hoseok counters. He squints in Taehyung's direction. "Is that why he didn't tell you about me?"

Taehyung purses his lips. "We hadn't talked since December," he admits. "I think it was just shitty timing."

Hoseok hums. "And why hadn't you talked?"

Taehyung makes an awkward face.

"Right."

"It's extraordinarily one-sided," Taehyung tells him, "if that's what you're worried about."

"I'm not worried about anything," Hoseok replies, and it's not mean but that doesn't stop the way Taehyung has to stop and catch his breath. "I trust Jiminie plenty, and you seem like a nice enough guy."

"Thanks." Taehyung's mouth is dry.

"Jimin has a bad habit of making things more complicated than he needs to," Hoseok says, like Taehyung hasn't been around for long enough to figure that out himself. Like their broken relationship isn't enough proof that Jimin fucks shit up trying to hold things together. "I'll talk to him about it."

"You don't have to," Taehyung mumbles.

"I'm tired of him moping." Hoseok rolls his eyes. "He was happy that you came tonight."

Taehyung swallows. "I know." Because he does.

"I already gave him an earful about not telling you about me, or vice versa." Hoseok grimaces. He seems like a polite guy. That probably embarrassed him. Taehyung can relate. "And that was before I knew the gist of things."

"Did he tell you?" Taehyung asks, honestly surprised considering the way that Jimin has been pretending like it never happened in all the worst ways. It never used to be like that. Taehyung wants to go back.

"I can see for myself," Hoseok replies, and that might be a worse option. "You both wear your heart on your sleeve."

Taehyung swallows. "You're good for him." He wishes he was a better person and it didn't hurt him to say as much.

"I think so." Hoseok grins, a real grin. "I really think so."

Taehyung eyes Seokjin's empty cup jealously. "Do you think I'm hot enough that I could dance for a free drink?"

"Um, usually I'd say yes but you look a little sulky." Hoseok digs in his bag and holds out a water bottle. "Vodka?"

"Do you want me to cry in your lap in the evening hours because my life and relationships are in shambles?"

Hoseok hums, thinking. "Are we there yet?"

Taehyung grabs the bottle from Hoseok's hand. "Hell if I know."

Who's ever said that Kim Taehyung makes good decisions.

 


 

"Why are you in love with me?" Jimin asks once in his dreams. "You know it's hopeless."

I don't know, Dream Taehyung tries to say, but it doesn't come out. "Because you're you," he says instead.

Taehyung has never seen Jimin looks so sad.

 


 

Things change, and for once it’s for the better.

Taehyung is getting out of the house more, spending more time with Namjoon at Yoongi's studio and at their house so that Seokjin can feed him. He's getting social contact and a balanced diet and he's also significantly less miserable. Jungkook comes to their apartment more often, but now he drags both Yoongi and Taehyung outside and around town, and tries to make them buy him food. Taehyung knows he's poor so he never falls for Jungkook's puppy face, but Yoongi gives in almost every time because he's weak and susceptible to cute things.

Hoseok and Taehyung have formed some odd kind of friendship when they'll text each other to complain about shitty traffic or terrible customer service or how Taehyung never gets to see his dog anymore but they don't hang out and they don't acknowledge how they know each other.

Taehyung continues to avoid Jimin as much as possible.

At this point, it's more of a habit than anything. In the good old days, before Taehyung fucked everything up, and maybe even for a while after, Jimin would randomly show up at Taehyung's whenever he pleased. Taehyung might not even have been home. He'd come home from the store and see that Jimin has been sitting on his couch eating popcorn for the past three hours waiting. He misses that.

Nowadays, his avoidance stems more from not knowing what to say or where they stand than from the fact that it hurts him to be around Jimin at all. And sometimes it does hurt, but the alternative hurts worse, hurts longer, hurts deeper, because he's a weak piece of shit.

But Jimin and Taehyung ran on the same schedule for so long. They went to the same places with the same people and did the same things. Even in a city as big as this, he shouldn't be surprised when he runs into Jimin at the park outside of their favorite café. Or, what used to be their favorite. Maybe Jimin has a new favorite now, or maybe he's forgotten.

"Jimin?" Taehyung calls out, before he realizes that maybe he shouldn't. Knee-jerk reaction.

Jimin is sitting on the giant fountain, playing on his phone absently, but he perks up when he hears his name, and Taehyung can't bring himself to regret it when Jimin looks at him so excitedly. "Taehyung!"

Taehyung jogs over, brushing sweaty hair out of his face. His shirt is sticking to his skin, but it's not hot enough today that the air is keeping him warm. If he doesn't start moving again soon he'll get cold. He pauses in front of Jimin anyway. He's almost at the end of his route. He can take it easy today.

"You run now?" Jimin asks, eyebrows up. He runs his eyes up and down Taehyung. He smiles when he sees the Christmas designs on Taehyung's socks. "That's new."

"You've been gone for a year," Taehyung teases, stretches his arms up over his head. He's got a headband on to keep the hair out of his face, but it still tickles his forehead. He needs a haircut. "I tried surviving on pizza and ramen once I graduated and while it's honestly my ideal lifestyle, I couldn't get up the stairs to my apartment without wanting to hurl."

"It's been a long time since I ran," Jimin notes. "Cross-training these days is like, squats and pilates."

"You used to run this route." Taehyung grabs his water bottle in an attempt to catch his breath. "I used to wait for you here at this fountain and make you go get a danish with me."

Jimin laughs. "The tables have turned." He's wearing jeans and a white v-neck, and his face is bare, and he's really beautiful.

Taehyung lets himself have a moment, and then he shuts it off and he's just Jimin's friend again. "Do you want to force me to get a danish with you, just for old times sake?" The shop is right across the street.

"Uh, I'm supposed to be waiting for Hobi..." Jimin checks his phone. "The one time I'm early, he's late."

"Ah." Taehyung chews on the tip of his water bottle. "That's fine."

Jimin stands up with a groan. "I'll just tell him to meet me in the café. I'll get him a cinnamon roll or something. He's weak for those." He grins.

This is nice, Taehyung decides, walking across the street by Jimin's side, just like they used to. He's pretty smelly and kind of tired but there's a danish in his near future and there are no expectations. He orders a strawberry danish like he used to, and Jimin orders something with chocolate like he always does, and then a cinnamon roll, which is new.

"Welcome back, Jimin," the cashier says. Her name is Sooyoung and she smiles all the time. Taehyung comes here often enough that he would call her a friend. Sometimes she gives him free refills. That's an unbreakable bond. "It's been too long since I've seen the two of you together."

Jimin grins at her as he takes back his change. "I've been traveling," he tells her. "Doing fun stuff that's not going to classes."

"It's nicer when you're both together," she tells them lightly, with a teasing smile. "It feels like everything is right with world."

Things tip precariously over the edge of awkward.

"Maybe next time I'll take a year off and travel the globe," Taehyung chimes in easily. "Then we'll be even."

Sooyoung hands them their pastries on a plates, the cinnamon roll in a little box for Hoseok to pick up when he gets there. "But then what would your children do without you?"

"Maybe they'll learn something," Taehyung quips, taking a bite of his danish and wiping of his neck with the towel over his shoulder. "I heard that one of them is interested in learning the trumpet and I'm the only thing standing in his way."

"I'm sure his parents are thanking you," Jimin says with a laugh. "Remember when we wanted to start a band?"

"We weren't children, though." Taehyung snorts. "That was freshman year. A saxophone/piano duet would really have been ideal, honestly. I think it would have gone over well."

"You can play other things, now, Mr. Music Teacher."

"I'm feeling a cello," Taehyung sniffs imperiously.

Sooyoung smiles just before shooing them away from the counter. "Make sure to let me know when tickets go on sale."

Taehyung winks and flutters his fingers at her. "You're always the first on my list."

"I'd better be." She waves them off to their table.

"No one better to schmooze than your barista," Jimin says sagely. "The discounts are worth the blow to your dignity."

"Or you decide to be shameless and have no dignity to injure," Taehyung counters. "I find that's the best option."

Jimin laughs, stirring the tea he'd gotten with his pastry. They've naturally gravitated towards their old table by the window, and the sun shines on his face.

"You look different," Taehyung tells him casually. "Older."

Jimin opens his eyes, blinks for a moment. "So do you," he admits. "A year changes a lot of things."

"Yeah." Taehyung tears off a part of his danish and pops it into his mouth. He's craving salt after sweating so much, but there's nothing like eating something not good for you after a workout to make it all seem worth it. "A lot of changes."

Some for the better and some for the worse.

But right now, Taehyung and Jimin are alone together for the first time in a long time, and Taehyung decides to take things as they come.

 


 

"Yoongi!" Taehyung whines. "Are you coming or not?"

It's a Friday night, and Taehyung is wearing his leather pants, and everyone knows what that means. Yoongi isn't quite with the program. He's sitting on the couch surrounded by junk food and has been watching Netflix for the past four hours.

"Am I going to a party where people will be reverting to their college selves and drinking themselves into a stupor?" Yoongi pops a cheese puff into his mouth. "No, thank you."

"Come on." Taehyung flops on the couch. "Don't tell me I put these pants on for nothing."

"God forbid you wear tight pants." Yoongi rolls his eyes.

Bogum is throwing a big get together and all of his friends basically have an open invitation. It's been a long time since Taehyung has been to a party. Once college ended and he became a member of the working class there was this idea that he was too respectable to get drunk off his ass and grind with some strangers in his friend's house. That lasted for maybe a month or two, and now music educator Kim Taehyung is ready for shitty alcohol and a night of healthy debauchery.

Taehyung reaches over and brushes the cheese dust off of Yoongi's thighs before swinging one leg over his lap. "Don't make me go without you." He throws his arms around Yoongi's neck.

Yoongi is unimpressed. "Go seduce someone else."

Taehyung pouts. "Do these pants mean nothing to you?"

"I've seen you at 3 in the morning crying into your cereal because of a Pokémon movie." Yoongi jabs his cheesy fingers into Taehyung's side. "Maybe put your wiles somewhere useful."

"Hmmm." Taehyung grins. He can play this game. He leans forward, his mouth right next to Yoongi's waiting ear. "Jungkook's going to be there."

Yoongi doesn't say anything, but when Taehyung pulls away, just an inch, Yoongi is watching him warily. Got him.

"He's such a good dancer," Taehyung says cheerfully, tugging gently at the hair at the base of Yoongi's neck. "He's just so shy...if only there was someone there he knew and trusted who could handle him three drinks in when he pulls out the slut drop."

"Don't do this to me," Yoongi says flatly.

"Sometimes he gets really drunk and takes his shirt off." Taehyung tuts his tongue. "Who's going to protect his virtue?"

Yoongi throws Taehyung off of his lap. "You're a manipulative piece of shit," he says woodenly, standing up and walking towards his room.

"We're leaving in fifteen minutes!"

"Fuck you!" Yoongi closes his bedroom door with a slam and Taehyung feels pretty good about himself.


Bogum is blessed with family money and an overabundance of talent, so his parties always end up a bit bigger and and a bit better than everyone else's. Taehyung met him at a shitty party his freshman year and was immediately offered a beer and better company. He's never regretted accepting.

Now, it's an easy excuse to let loose and pretend like he doesn't have any adult responsibilities, so Taehyung and his tight pants are right at home in Bogum's enormous house, even with a surly Yoongi trailing two steps behind.

"Try and look a little happier to be here, yeah?" Taehyung chirps, taking one step back and sliding his arm through Yoongi's elbow. "You barely get out of the house unless it's to go to work or a meeting."

"I went to the movies the other day," Yoongi protests.

"By yourself."

"Kyungsoo was there!" Yoongi protests. "I sat with him! It was chill."

"You both randomly went to the same movie alone and decided to pity each other," Taehyung says with a laugh. "That barely meets the bar of being social."

Yoongi takes his hands out of his pockets with the express purpose of flipping Taehyung off and then goes to find something to drink.

"Get me something!" Taehyung calls after him cheerfully.

"Bitch, no!" Yoongi calls back.

"You're both as charming as ever." Seokjin walks forward out of the crowd. He's dressed with the kind of single-minded purpose of looking like a wet dream, and while that might give some people the wrong idea, Taehyung knows the only person reaping the benefits tonight is an extremely flustered Namjoon. "How'd you get him out of the house?"

"I mentioned that Jungkook is a very slutty drunk," Taehyung says off-handedly. "Which is true and I don't regret it."

"Manipulative." Seokjin whistles, flicking his hair out of his eyes. Taehyung sees a young woman swoon in the corner. "I like it."

"Taehyung!"

"I'm so popular all of a sudden." Taehyung turns around. Jungkook is running towards him, a drink carefully balanced in one hand. His cheeks are already slightly pink, which means he's been here for some time.

"Taehyungie!" Jungkook sings, grinning so that all of his teeth show. His drink sloshes dangerously in his cup. "You came!" He looks around. "Alone?"

Seokjin snorts.

"Yoongi is in the kitchen," Taehyung tells him casually. "But he's ditched me already for more worthwhile pursuits."

"Oh." Jungkook looks towards the kitchen. "I'll go say hi, I guess."

Seokjin snorts again.

"You do that." Taehyung takes the drink from Jungkook's hand. "You should ask him to dance! He needs the exercise."

Jungkook sets his jaw determinedly, and Taehyung sends him off with a pat on the ass.

"I even got a drink out of it," he says to Seokjin, raising his eyebrows and taking a sip of Jungkook's half finished drink. It's overly sweet, which means it's probably going to fuck him up. Taehyung doesn't really care. "Has Jungkook been drinking these all night?"

"Probably." Seokjin runs his hand through his hair.

"Yoongi's going to have a fun night, at least." Taehyung laughs and takes another drink.

Seokjin hums. "What about you?" he asks. "Feeling like a very hot, very drunken hookup?"

"Is that the only definition of a good night?" Taehyung laughs, taking a few more steps into the room and leaning against the wall before thinking about it seriously. "Maybe. It'd probably do me good." He hasn't had sex in a very long time. His last passionate excursion was a delightfully messy make out and maybe a little exhibitive fondling under the stairs at a bar. "Catch me a nice girl and go over to her house." He pauses. "I'm kind of feeling a good fucking, though."

Seokjin stares at him flatly.

"If I had to choose," Taehyung clarifies. "How do I politely ask a young lady if she enjoys pegging?"

"You don't." Seokjin swills the drink in his hand around in the cup and looks at Taehyung impassively. "Jimin is here, somewhere."

Taehyung feels both his face and his mood flatten. "That was a great segue, sir." He takes a sullen sip of his drink and pouts. "From getting fucked to getting fucked over."

"Try not to be too much a downer," Seokjin says, which is probably what he came over to say in the first place. As much as Taehyung wants to be irritated, he appreciates the warning. Jimin at a party is....certainly something. It's best to be prepared.

"Jimin and I are on the mend," Taehyung says, even though it's only true in the loosest sense.

Seokjin hums, eyebrows up. "That's interesting. Jimin told me you haven't talked in five days."

"That sounds like an extremely valid way of dealing with things to me," Taehyung sings, poking Seokjin in the side. He laughs. "It's not on purpose, I promise." Because it isn't. It's been so long since they've fit into each other's lives. They're not sure how to bridge the gap any more. Taehyung frowns. "I'm surprised he even noticed." Even more so that he counted the days.

"Yeah, well. He and Hoseok are around here somewhere." Seokjin snorts. "Probably grinding."

"Jimin's favorite pastime," Taehyung remembers sagely. He laughs again, and he's proud of himself that it's only kind of hollow. "I'll make sure not to start dancing until I'm drunk enough to handle the love of my life dancing with his significant other."

Namjoon would probably wince, but Taehyung likes the way that Seokjin takes everything in stride. "The jungle juice is shit. Bully Minseok into mixing you a cocktail."

Taehyung grins. "I appreciate you."

"As you should." Seokjin turns on his heels and weaves his way back into the crowd, and Taehyung bounces off in the other direction with light steps.


Taehyung manages to flirt one cocktail out of Minseok and also hazards the jungle juice before he sees Jimin for the first time. Seokjin is right, the stuff is awful, even more so than usual. Taehyung would guess that it was Chanyeol who mixed it. He leaves his mostly full cup on a nearby table after one sip.

Of course, that means that by the time he sees Jimin he's only mildly drunk. It's probably better as far as what's going to come out of his mouth, but Taehyung knows he would be more comfortable with more alcohol. He kind of wishes he'd forced down that second drink.

"Tae!" Jimin is rosy cheeked but reasonably steady. Jimin has several moods when he's drunk, and Taehyung isn't sure which one he's dealing with. But Jimin is smiling, and Hoseok is nowhere in sight, so Taehyung thinks he can handle it. "You're here!"

"I am." His last cocktail hasn't hit him yet. Taehyung isn't used to being the more sober one. "I even pulled Yoongi from his cave."

Jimin whistles. "Impressive." All that Jimin has experienced with Yoongi is his coldest shoulder, and Yoongi is good at pretending to be a hard-ass. It probably does seem impressive. There's a moment where Jimin looks over his shoulder before turning back to Taehyung. "Can we talk?"

"That depends." Taehyung looks at Jimin wryly. "Were you looking for Hoseok?"

"Yeah." Jimin laughs. "I lost him somewhere. He's probably making friends."

Taehyung swallows. "Is there something you don't want him to hear?"

Jimin stares at Taehyung, just for a moment, but he sighs, shoulders heavy, and runs a hand through his sweaty hair. He's been dancing, that much is clear. Alone, since Hoseok is nowhere in sight. "Hoseok doesn't mind me talking to you, Tae," he says finally. "He trusts me."

"I'm not a threat, is what you mean." Taehyung isn't playing fair. He's upset with himself for resorting to dirty tricks so quickly.

"Tae..." Jimin bites his lip. He has nothing to say. "That's not what I wanted to talk about."

It's as much of an answer as Taehyung can expect. Things change, but not that much. "I have time to talk," he says, sticking his hands in his pockets. Yoongi is nowhere to be found, and Taehyung can't go home without him. He's sure Yoongi will be texting him desperate to leave sometime soon, so he's not too worried about it, but he has time to burn. Might as well be uncomfortable. No fun hookups for him tonight.

Jimin plays with the strings of his hoodie, looking around the room. There's a hallway not far away, and Taehyung knows that the rooms there are likely to be open, but he isn't sure how he feels about being alone with Jimin any more. "I just..." Jimin is grasping at words. "I don't wanna make things awkward..."

Taehyung frowns.

"More awkward," Jimin amends.

"Fair." Taehyung laughs. He has enough alcohol in him for that much. It's kind of a relief, his muscles relaxing. "I don't want things to be weird. I'm tired of pretending like things aren't weird."

Jimin huffs out a sigh, also relieved. "Me too." He smiles tightly. "Getting coffee was...nice. I want it to be like that again."

More than anything, that's what Taehyung wants as well, but logistically he's not sure it's possible. "There's a lot between us now." Yoongi had said the timing wasn't right, but Taehyung isn't sure the timing is the problem. Jimin keeps changing and they keep changing but with Jimin standing there in front of him, slightly drunk and nervous, Taehyung thinks he's just stuck in the same place. He wants to tuck Jimin into his chest. He wants to kiss him. Wants to grow old together.

Jimin is the one who cut things off, but Taehyung is why things can't start over again.

"We can get coffee," Taehyung says quietly, almost too quietly. The din of the party gets in the way, and Jimin leans forward, and Taehyung knows that he hasn't heard. "We can get coffee," he says louder. "I...things are weird."

"Things are weird." Jimin grins. He looks back at the hallway. "Let's like..." He groans. Drunk Jimin can never think of the right words. "Do you wanna go catch up? We can just...I don't know." He pulls on Taehyung's arm cutely, but he doesn't need to bother. Taehyung is already following him as he walks through the crowd. "Let's go talk about our lives. Tell me about all of your children. I hear you've gotten 25 of them since I left."

"I'd give up some of them," Taehyung says lightly, trying not to freak out. This conversation isn't a disaster, and he's not sure how hard he's going to have to work to keep it from becoming one, but he doesn't want to stop their momentum. Even if he's not sure how his heart is going to handle it. "One of them poops their pants every session like clockwork. It's incredible. I wish I was that regular."

"You're lucky you're not trying to pick me up," Jimin chirps with a laugh. There's an open room not too far, the door cracked open, and Jimin is already reaching to push it open. "As much as I'd love to hear about poop—"

"You asked about my life!" Taehyung protests, ignoring the idea of picking Jimin up. If he could, he would. It's not like that's an option. "There just happens to be a surprising amount of poop."

Jimin giggles, full on giggles, and Taehyung barely has enough time to be pleased with himself before the door opens and his heart stops.

"Oh!" Jimin says, voice unnaturally high pitched. "Sorry."

Taehyung watches, only slightly shocked, as Jungkook detaches himself from Yoongi's mouth and looks at both of them standing in the doorway. He's glowing with alcohol, and his shirt is both unbuttoned and untucked. It's a toss up as to which one of them did the undressing, but Taehyung's bets are on Jungkook. Yoongi is similarly disheveled, his hair going six different directions, and there's a hickey blooming on his neck, but he looks way less drunk and also significantly more embarrassed.

Jungkook sits back on Yoongi's lap, and Taehyung would laugh at the telling way Yoongi turns red if the words out of Jungkook's mouth weren't "are you guys here to fuck, too?"

None of them say anything, but Taehyung's not sure he could hear over the sound of his internal screaming anyway.

It's Yoongi who moves first. "I'm too old for this." Gently, he pushes Jungkook's shoulder and watches as Jungkook topples over onto the bed. That's definitely a boner he's sporting (and Jungkook's no better off) but he seems less embarrassed now that he's moving. "And he's too drunk."

"Lame," Jungkook groans into the comforter.

"I'm going to..." Jimin looks at Taehyung in a panic. "Wash the dishes?"

Taehyung laughs. "What dishes?" he teases. He swallows after a moment, because he can only put off the jarring mood shift for a moment. "Why don't you go find Hoseok?"

"Good. Yes." Jimin puts a hand on Taehyung's shoulder gratefully. "Take care. Call me later. We'll—"

"Get coffee, right." No fucking. Absolutely no fucking.

Taehyung watches Jimin leave with only a small amount of regret. At least it wasn’t him who fucked things up this time. He turns and looks at Jungkook tiredly. "You drank too much."

"Yes." Jungkook rolls over and stuffs his face into the pillow.

Yoongi is already standing, carefully tucking his shirt back into his pants and trying to adjust his dick as well, but the boner is pretty impressive. Taehyung's not sure he's going to walk out of the party unscathed.

"You work fast," Taehyung says appreciatively.

"Shut up." Yoongi spares Jungkook a look and a deep breath, but then he makes his way towards the door, and Taehyung is surprised enough that he steps out of the way unthinkingly.

"Aren't you going to take care of him?" Taehyung asks.

"He can take care of himself." Yoongi looks at Taehyung, and Taehyung is shocked to see him look so cold. "I'm headed home."

"Uh, okay." Taehyung blinks.

He looks back at Jungkook, because someone has to make sure that the boy doesn't drown in his own vomit or something, but Jungkook is staring out the door at Yoongi's back too, eyes surprisingly lucid. Taehyung feels so sad, so exhausted, and he's not sure why.

"Isn't he your ride?" Jungkook asks, voice low.

"I mean..." Taehyung looks in Yoongi's directions, but he's gone now, out of sight. "I can pick up a ride."

"Go tell Seokjin where I am," Jungkook says. He sounds much firmer now. His eyes flutter closed. Tired. "I'm going to sleep."

"I..." Taehyung bites his lip. "Okay." Jungkook is already out.

 


 

Seokjin is successfully guarding Jungkook by the time Taehyung slips into Yoongi's car. Things are tense again. It seems to be a pattern recently, for things to be falling apart and Taehyung not to be sure why.

Yoongi is white-knuckling the steering wheel. He pulls out of the crowded lot before Taehyung has even properly shut the door.

"That went much differently than I thought it would," Taehyung says quietly.

"Yeah." Yoongi turns on the radio, and Taehyung knows when he's being shut out.

It's a quiet ride home.


Taehyung doesn't see Jungkook for a few days, and a part of him thinks that's likely on purpose. But he's a pushy friend when he needs to be, so he shows up at Jungkook's apartment unannounced with the help of Jungkook's roommate, pizza and beer in hand, and Yugyeom pats Taehyung on the back as he heads out for the night.

"He needs to talk with somebody," he says on his way out the door. "He's already decided it's not going to be me."

"It's nothing personal," Taehyung assures him, handing Yugyeom a beer out of his six pack. "I don't think Jungkook is very good at talking to anybody." Taehyung just decides when it's time to take a sledgehammer to the walls and even Jungkook can't stop him.

Although he tries.

"I don't want to talk about it," Jungkook says, almost as soon as Taehyung sets the pizza down on the coffee table. "I know why you're here and I don't want to talk about it."

"I'm assuming you got home okay," Taehyung starts casually, ignoring Jungkook and flipping the pizza open.

"Seokjin took me home. Namjoon called me a cockblock." Jungkook takes a beer and pops it open with a scowl.

Taehyung looks at Jungkook expectantly.

Jungkook jams a finger into Taehyung's chest. "Unstoppable force." He points at himself. "Unmovable object."

"That's such a lame way to have a conversation." Taehyung takes a bite out of his pizza and wipes the pizza sauce off on the back of his wrist. "How am I supposed to know the thrilling tale of what the fuck is happening?"

"You don't." Jungkook takes a cheerful swig of his beer.

"Yoongi clammed right up in the car and hasn't said a word about it since the party," Taehyung notes idly, grabbing his own drink. "And I thought 'hey, they're probably working it out on their own.' Except then, he mentioned that he's meeting up with you tomorrow night, and you didn't call me freaking out over your schoolboy crush." He smiles cloyingly at Jungkook. "Not even a little. Which is unprecedented. So I've been theorizing."

Jungkook gulps down his beer a little more audibly than usually. "Theorizing." He takes a bite of his pizza and tries to look chill.

"At first, I thought that maybe the fact that you were still in college made Yoongi uncomfortable with pursuing anything — just stop me if I hit the mark — but then I asked myself, 'well, why would they be meeting?'" Taehyung hums to himself in thought. "And you would have complained to me a million times by now."

"I would not," Jungkook protests weakly, but the corners of his mouth are tight.

"And then I wondered if it was the fact that you were so drunk that night, since Yoongi would be more willing to talk through that. But you would still be freaking out." Taehyung reaches over to the remote lying uselessly on the table and mutes the movie playing on the television, because he wants to hear Jungkook's reaction when he breaks. "So then I started thinking of reasons why you would actively avoid talking to me about it."

Jungkook frowns. "I don't talk to you about everything, Taehyung." He rolls his eyes. "Just because we were roommates doesn't mean I'm an open book."

"Oh, you are," Taehyung informs him, and Jungkook is a fool for even trying to pretend like he isn't. "Which means that you think I won't approve."

Jungkook doesn't say anything, and that says something.

"Normally, that would mean something like one of you is already in a relationship," Taehyung continues without hesitation, voice light and fingers covered in pizza grease. "But I know for a fact that neither of you are. So I've really been wracking my brain for the past few days, and I think I've got it."

"Tae..." Jungkook sighs.

"It's a friend with benefits thing, isn't it?"

Taehyung knows that he's right, because the room feels heavy and Jungkook won't look at him.

"He doesn't want a relationship right now," Jungkook admits quietly after a moment.

"You like him too much for that." There's nothing wrong with hooking up, but Jungkook thinks with his heart before his body, and has never been able to put a barrier between the two. Yoongi is better at it, as far as Taehyung knows, but that doesn't matter if they're not both on the same page.

And Yoongi likes Jungkook. Taehyung knows that for a fact.

"This isn't a good idea."

"It doesn't matter," Jungkook says firmly, taking a swig of his beer and setting it on the table. He picks up the remote and turns up the volume on the television. "It's happening. I'm an adult and I can decide things on my own."

Taehyung knows. And he knows that he's not going to change Jungkook's mind. But he's not going to forgive himself if he doesn't say anything. "I just want you to be careful."

Jungkook purses his mouth. "I will be," he says sharply, and Taehyung knows he's already lost. "I'm not an idiot or a child." He picks up a piece of pizza petulantly before going in for the kill. "I'm not going to fuck it up like you and Jimin did."

Despite having food in his hands, Taehyung's stomach feels empty. "Okay," he says finally.

Later, Jungkook talks about something that matters less, and Taehyung can convince himself that he doesn't feel like shit. He's just happy that the topic has changed.

 


 

The phone barely rings once before the call is picked up. "Tae?" Jimin's voice asks on the other end of the line. "What's wrong?"

It used to be that Taehyung would call Jimin all the time. Taehyung hasn't even looked at Jimin's number since last December. It burns that Jimin's first thought is that something is wrong, that Taehyung would only call if something was wrong, but he's right. So Taehyung can't be angry.

"Did we fuck it up?" he asks hollowly.

The other line is quiet. "What do you mean?"

Taehyung is sitting in the hallway outside of Jungkook's apartment with a half-eaten pizza box sitting beside him. "Did I fuck everything up?" he asks again. "Are we never going to be the same again?"

Jimin takes a deep breath. "I...you didn't fuck things up," he says eventually. The other question remains unanswered, but Taehyung knows the answer to that already, so it's not like it matters. "We're working on it, yeah?" Jimin's voice is soft. His crisis voice. Taehyung misses it. "You didn't fuck up."

Taehyung curls himself up a little more tightly. "Can I come over?"

It's quiet again. Taehyung can hear Jimin thinking. "I don't think that's a good idea," is what comes eventually, and Jimin really sounds like he regrets it. It sucks. It sucks for both of them, because Taehyung needs his best friend and Jimin needs to help the people around him, but there's too much in the way. They should fit together perfectly, but tonight there's a wall there that Taehyung can't take a sledgehammer to.

"Yeah," Taehyung says, laughing a little, still hollow. He bangs his head back on the wall behind him. "I know it's a bad idea. Sucks."

It's a bad idea because Taehyung will want to kiss him, and Jimin doesn't want him to. Also because Jimin has a boyfriend. Also because Taehyung fucks up everything.

"Maybe we can go get lunch tomorrow instead," Jimin offers gently. A white flag. Or maybe an olive branch. "And you can tell me who to beat up for making you feel like shit."

Taehyung laughs. It's embarrassingly watery. "Maybe."

Jimin hesitates. That seems to be the trend.

But then he finds his voice, and it's exactly what Taehyung needs to hear. "I love you, Tae."

Taehyung's heart shatters and reassembles itself. "I love you, too, Jiminie."

Things change, but not this.

 


 

It takes two weeks for Taehyung to get kicked out of his own apartment for the night.

Yoongi is much better at holding his tongue than Jungkook is, but after the disaster that was Taehyung's last attempt a giving his two cents, he also hasn't been pushing as hard. When they're in the apartment, both of them do their best not to bring it up, and Taehyung pretends not to notice the way that Yoongi's room smells more like Jungkook, or the new soap in the shower, or the mysterious underwear in their laundry.

And yes, Taehyung is a little peeved at being forced out of his apartment when he has all of his lessons to plan, and also a good amount of Netflix to catch up on, but he's found it's not worth it to be pressed about his friend's fucking themselves over. So when Yoongi tells him that Jungkook is coming over and he needs space, Taehyung gives him a pointed look and grabs his computer.

"I hope you know what you're doing," he says quietly, grabbing some stuff for the night. He'll have to bum a bed somewhere, unless Yoongi remembers to text Taehyung when it's safe to come home. Yoongi doesn't usually bring people over. Taehyung is in uncharted territory.

Yoongi frowns. "You're the last one to be giving relationship advice."

A mood settles and Taehyung doesn't like it.

"I guess you're an asshole now, too, huh?" he asks lightly, but the corners of his mouth are pulled tight. He clutches the strap of his bag.

Yoongi deflates. "Sorry," he says, and he probably is.

"Yeah, well." Taehyung walks towards the door. "I'm on his side if you fuck it up, even if he was an asshole first."

He's out the door before Yoongi can reply, but Taehyung isn't sure how he would even respond to that. He loves Yoongi, but there's nothing to be had there except for mistakes and maybe some instant gratification. Neither of them are really the sort.

He takes his phone out of his pocket and calls Namjoon. He waits until the call goes unanswered and then he calls again. Namjoon always takes at least one attempt to find his phone or get it out of his pocket. He picks up on the second ring the next time. "Hello? Taehyung."

"I got sexiled," Taehyung says soberly. "Please tell me you're home and I'm not wandering the streets."

"Who is that?" Seokjin asks in the background.

"Taehyung!" Namjoon replies, slightly too loud. Taehyung winces for a moment before putting his ear back to the receiver. "Yeah, you can come over. Jiminie's here, too."

"Oh." Taehyung finds that doesn't change things. Either he's desperate or he's moved on. "That's fine. Is there food?"

Namjoon scoffs. "Is there food? With a boyfriend like mine?"

"Save me some! Don't let him eat it all!" Taehyung laughs and heads to the metro.

When he arrives, they're in the middle of watching a movie, a giant bowl of noodles on the table in front of them that Seokjin is attacking. Jimin is slouched down in the couch, posture horrific and a dirty plate on his lap. He laughs brightly as Seokjin spoons more onto his plate, sitting up so it doesn't fall.

Namjoon is the one who opened the door for him. He smells like smoke, and the room looks a little foggy. "I didn't cook," Namjoon assures him. "Don't worry. I tried to. It went horribly."

"I saved us all," Seokjin says, still piling more food on Jimin's plate despite Jimin's protests. "You're welcome." He looks at Namjoon. "Go get another plate."

Jimin waves Namjoon aside and looks at the mountain of noodles on his plate. "We can share," he says, and Taehyung can't help but agree.

"You need to eat more," Seokjin tells him. "You eat like a bird."

"He also eats, like, seven times a day," Taehyung points out. He pauses. "Or..." He used to.

Jimin nods. "I believe in a hobbit’s eating schedule. This is supper. It comes after dinner." He rubs his stomach cutely.

"The last meal of the day." Taehyung smiles. He's doing his best not to be awkward, and he thinks it's working, because he doesn't hesitate before he walks over to the couch and plops down beside Jimin, picking up a pair of chopsticks. Jimin scoots his plate over, just a little, and Taehyung takes a huge bite. He moans, shooting Seokjin a thumbs up, and shovels food into his mouth.

Jimin snorts. "Hot."

Taehyung smiles at him innocently with noodles hanging down over his chin. "Thanks," he says with his mouth full. He picks up another bunch of noodles and thinks that this is the closest to how it used to be. Their knees are touching and neither of them are hyper aware of it. Neither one of them are pulling away. Just two boys eating noodles off the same plate. As it should be.

None of them pay attention to the movie. Once Taehyung arrived all focus is lost, and Seokjin starts complaining about work, and Taehyung starts telling stories about the children he teaches, and Namjoon almost dies choking on his food. By the time the credits roll, Jimin is laughing so hard he's in tears, and Taehyung's phone is in danger of dying without a word from Yoongi.

is it safe? Taehyung texts him, before turning on his sound and slipping his phone into his pocket. "Do you need any help cleaning up?" he asks Seokjin, mostly to buy time. He's not even sure the metro is running at this time of night, but surely Yoongi's stamina isn't that good.

"You trying to get out of something?" Seokjin replies, but he hands Taehyung the drying towel anyway. "You never volunteer for chores."

"Because he's lazy," Jimin sings from the other room.

"I saw your room in college, sir," Taehyung shoots back. "I don't need any criticism." Between the two of them, Taehyung is definitely the cleanest. He picks up a bowl from the sink and starts drying.

"Yeah, well. Now I feel like I should help." Jimin pokes his head into the kitchen. He's wearing his hoodie now, despite the fact that it's warm in the apartment. His car keys dangle from his fingers.

"You helped cook," Seokjin says, shooting Namjoon a pointed look. Namjoon whistles casually while he helps put the dishes away. "You can head out if you want. Get a good night's sleep."

"I wish." Taehyung rolls his eyes. "Do it for me."

"You've got stuff to do?" Jimin asks.

"My roommate's got stuff to do, and that stuff is Jungkook." Taehyung doesn't mean to snatch the next dish out of Seokjin's hands so aggressively, but he gets water on himself anyway."I've been kicked out of my own home."

Seokjin whistles appreciatively. "Bros before hoes."

"Right?"

"Taehyung is a confusing exception to said rule," Namjoon chirps, "seeing as he's both a bro and a hoe."

"That's fair and unfortunate." Taehyung shakes his head and hands Namjoon the clean plate to put away.

His phone quacks, and Taehyung apologetically wipes his hands on the towel before pulling it back out of his pocket.

Yoongi
No.

Taehyung grimaces. "Gross."

"You can come home with me if you want," Jimin offers, adjusting his bag on his shoulder. Like it's normal.

Taehyung blinks. "I'm sorry, what?"

Jimin's cheeks turn red, but he presses on anyway. "We have a pullout. It's not worth it to stay up waiting." He bites his lip. "Don't you have class to teach tomorrow?"

It's already later than Taehyung likes staying up. Kids are hard to wrangle when you're exhausted. Hesitantly, he puts his phone away and picks up the towel again. "Would Hoseok be okay with me staying?" It hasn’t been long since Jimin told him he couldn’t come over, but it’s a new day and Taehyung isn’t on the edge of an emotional cliff, so maybe things are different.

"I'll text him," Jimin says, taking out his phone. "But yeah. He'd be chill. He gets it."

He gets it. Taehyung remembers Hoseok saying that Taehyung isn't a threat and thinks yeah, he probably does. "I'm up for it," he says finally. "I probably couldn't sleep knowing that Jungkook has been naked inside my home anyway."

"Okay." Jimin smiles and walks into the kitchen, setting his bag down. He picks up another towel. "Then I'll wait."

 


 

It's a good thing that Jimin offered to give him a bed, because the metro is definitely closed by the time they leave the apartment and Taehyung doesn't fancy the walk home. They get into Jimin's car and Taehyung turns on the pop music station that he knows Jimin likes listening to on the road.

"I'm having déja vu," Jimin says with a laugh once they're on the road. "Except in my memories you're very drunk and singing Rihanna very loudly."

"I'm not drunk but I'll still sing for you." Taehyung laughs, and they slip in something like familiar.

Taehyung is glad that he didn't come over the other night. He'd rather have something like this, something easy, where he's not trying to keep himself from acting poorly. This is a lot more like friendship.

Jimin and Hoseok's apartment isn't clean or messy, but there's a half-eaten meal on the kitchen table that Jimin puts in the sink after toeing off his shoes. There are school books spread out on the table, notes strewn about. "I left a bit of a mess," he admits, rubbing the back of his neck.

Taehyung laughs. "When have I ever cared?"

Jimin walks further into the apartment, into the single bedroom, and comes back with a sigh. "Looks like Hoseok is still at the studios." From what he's said, Hoseok is in the middle of working on something for a big dance festival in a month. Late hours. "He'll be home soon. But bed might be calling."

It's already later than Taehyung's usual bedtime, considering he has to go back home to get ready for his morning classes. It seems unimportant at the moment. He picks up one of the books on the table. "The Art of Dance. Isadora Duncan."

"I've got a dance composition theory class," Jimin says, taking the book lightly. He grimaces at the mouthful. "I should have taken it, like, sophomore year. Guess I had more important things to worry about."

"Is it horrible?"

"No." Jimin laughs. "I like it, actually. Even if a class where you sit and mostly talk about dancing is annoying. It's better than most of my classes."

"A full class load?" Taehyung leans against the table.

Jimin shrugs. "I missed my entire senior year. I'm stuck here for at least a semester...maybe I can take some online classes in the spring. Maybe."

Taehyung sets his bag down and rolls his neck on his shoulders. "Probably a downgrade from traveling around so much."

"I don't know..." Jimin starts cleaning up his books and notes. There is a notebook filled with weird symbols. Laban notation, the hieroglyphics of the dance world. Jimin had complained about it for three months their junior year. Taehyung thought it was a fun game. "Touring is exhausting. Hoseok loved it but it takes a lot out of you."

"A good experience, though?" It's important that Jimin leaving was worth it.

Jimin smiles. "Yeah. A good experience."

It's the first time that they've spent a night in the same house and not shared a bed, but Taehyung can't find it in himself to feel bad about when he's taken ten steps in the right direction. At least, that's what it feels like.

 


 

Taehyung takes the bus back to his house early in the morning. Jimin tries to make him breakfast, and then Hoseok tries to make him breakfast, but eventually Taehyung manages to politely decline and head out. He smiles at Hoseok, and at Jimin, and somehow it's genuine both times.

When he gets home, he's in a good mood. He whistles as he walks through the door, toeing off his shoes and tossing his keys in the dish.

Yoongi is awake when Taehyung gets there, sipping his coffee in his chair. He looks up at Taehyung, expressionless, but that's not new for Yoongi in the morning. "Good night?"

Taehyung rolls his eyes. "Great night." He laughs. "Obviously not as good as yours." Although Taehyung looks happier, seems lighter.

Yoongi sips his coffee. "Yeah."

Humming, Taehyung walks into the kitchen. Yoongi made a whole pot, and Jimin hadn't thought to offer Taehyung coffee before he went. In college, Taehyung wouldn't have touched the stuff, but it's benefits are worth the taste, and he's grown used enough to it now that he'd even call it a friend. His warm morning friend that helps him survive the day.

"Where is Jungkook?" he asks, stirring in too much sugar and sighing happily. "I don't see his shoes."

Yoongi pulls his legs up and crosses them on the chair. "Oh. He left."

Taehyung tilts his head to the side. That doesn't sound right. "You..." He scrunches his face, confused. "You kicked him out?" That doesn't sound right either.

"No." Yoongi takes a slow sip of coffee. "He just left before I woke up."

"He left?" Taehyung frowns. "That's not like him." Jungkook's too polite for that.

Yoongi just shrugs, but his tight grip on his mug is more telling than the blank expression on his face. "No, it's not." He purses his mouth just for a moment. "I did this to myself. Since I don't want anything serious."

And that would make sense, except that Yoongi hasn't brought anyone home in the time they've lived together, and has never talked about anyone else, and now he's taken Jungkook into his bed, and he might have ruined it before it began.

But Taehyung thinks they've come to a mutual agreement not to get involved in each other's shitty love lives. "Just..." He tries to think of the right words to say, but maybe there aren't any. "Be careful.

Yoongi snorts. "With what?"

"Yourself, I guess."

Yoongi hums. "Yeah."

They sit and watch shitty morning cartoons and pretend like they're where they want to be.

 


 

Taehyung wakes up at 5 in the morning to the sound of ducks quacking and is very confused before he realizes it's his phone. He resolves to change his ringtone in the morning but he knows that he won't. He answers without checking who it is. "Hello?" he asks groggily.

"...Tae?"

He sits up in his bed. "Jimin?"

"Tae." Jimin's voice is soft. "Did I wake you up?"

"Yeah, you did. Bitch." No heat.

Jimin laughs. "I'm not sorry." He is. He always is. "I just had a question."

"You have Google and a boyfriend," Taehyung asks with a laugh. "Neither of them could help you?" It sounds like a complaint. Taehyung hopes that Jimin knows he doesn't mean it that way. No one calls Taehyung if they want overwhelming worry and concern. He has that, but all that ever comes out is something soft and easy, a distraction.

"I already asked Hoseok," Jimin says, laughing but it's hollow. Tired. They both pretend it's because of the time of night. "Google is useless for this."

"Okay." Taehyung accepts it. "Shoot."

For a moment it's quiet, and Taehyung gives Jimin his time.

"How do you know when you should keep something and when you should let it go?" Jimin says eventually.

Taehyung frowns. "Are you giving up on dancing?" He's not sure why that's his first thought, but it's horrible. Jimin loves it so much.

"No! No." Jimin laughs. "Think of it as a hypothetical."

Taehyung hums, falling back against his pillows. "Hypothetically..." He bites his lip. He tries to think of what Jimin wants to hear. If Jimin wanted to be told to never let go of anything, he'd have called Jungkook. But he called Taehyung. So maybe he just wants to know the truth of it. "I think that if you can't imagine life without it, you should hold on." He laughs. "You might not have a choice, you know?"

"But what if you can?" Jimin asks. "What if you can imagine life without it?"

"What's the life like?" Taehyung answers. "Is it better or worse?"

"Neither." Jimin sighs. "It's just different."

Taehyung pauses, thinks out his answer, weighs his words. "Than I guess it just depends on what you want."

Jimin's voice sounds heavy in the receiver. "That's what I thought." He snorts. "That's a harder questions, isn't it?"

 


 

Jimin doesn't mention the phone call after that, and Taehyung doesn't ask questions, and things are okay.

 


 

When Jimin shows up at his workplace, Taehyung knows things have really changed.

"Mr. Taehyung!" Doyeon chirps, pointing at the window. The piano music in her hands flutters to the floor. "Who is that?"

"That's my friend," he tells her, looking at Jimin with a silent question. "Pick up your music. You need to treat it nicely."

"He's handsome," Doyeon says with a surprising amount of firmness considering she's nine.

"I'm handsome, too!" says one of the boys defensively. It's

"Not that handsome," Sooyoung says decisively, neatly piling her music on the piano chair beside her and working through her scales clankily.

Taehyung is inclined to agree. Jimin looks good today, his hair freshly cut and a scarf around his neck. He looks halfway between a professional and a college student. Taehyung walks over and opens the door. "Jimin? What are you doing here?"

Jimin waves, first to Taehyung and then to all the children. "Sorry. I stopped by your apartment, but Yoongi said you had a class at ten." He holds up a bag of baked goods apologetically. "I tried to get here before, but—"

"It starts at nine." Taehyung rolls his eyes. "Yoongi always forgets." He turns to his students. There are five of them in this class, three girls and two boys, and all of them are looking at Jimin in awe. "Class, this is Mr. Jimin. What do you say?"

"Hello, Mr. Jimin," they chant in unison.

"Welcome to class!" Doyeon says loudly. "You're very handsome!"

Jimin laughs. "Thank you, Miss."

"Doyeon!" she provides readily, standing up and pointing to her chest.

"Miss Doyeon."

Taehyung can see the way Doyeon flutters. Her first love. She has good taste.

"I think Mr. Taehyung is more handsome," Jihoon says factually. He's doodling in the margins of his music, but Taehyung never chastises him because he always gets his accidentals right (and the pictures are cute). "And he plays lots of instruments!"

Taehyung isn't sure why he's encouraging this, but he can't help himself. "Mr. Jimin dances." He winks at Jimin, who's flushing, and walks further into the classroom to set the bag on the table. It's full of bagels from the bakery down the street, plenty for his class. It'll be a good treat at the end.

Hansol huffs. "Dancing is just as good as playing instruments."

"This is hard," Jihoon whines.

"What do you think?" Doyeon asks, turning to Joohyun, who's been quietly minding her own business. "Who is more handsome?"

"I don't care," she says simply.

"Joohyun only likes food," says Jihoon.

"Yes." Joohyun goes back to plinking out a melody on the keys.

Doyeon huffs, irritated that no one is playing her games. "Mr. Jimin!" she tries. "Who do you think is more handsome? Big people gets more points." The children nod in agreement.

Jimin smiles, and Taehyung rolls his eyes fondly at his children. "They're rascals," he tells Jimin confidentially, grinning at the chorus of complaints.

"I'd expect nothing less, with a teacher like you." Jimin laughs, and then he looks very seriously at Doyeon. "I think your teacher is the most handsome."

Taehyung's heart rate only rises a fraction, and only for a second, so he considers that a win.

Sooyoung looks up from her scales. "What do you think, Teacher?"

"I also think I'm the most handsome," Taehyung teases, mostly because he knows it will annoy her to be wrong, but also because it's safer that way. At heart, both of them know the truth. There's no use in making things tense where they don't need to be.

And Jimin brought bagels.

Doyeon pouts. "Fine," she whines. "I'll think my right opinion by myself."

"Careful," Jimin chirps, taking his scarf off, and Taehyung thinks Jimin might stay a while. "You'll hurt Mr. Taehyung's feelings."

"I think Teacher is handsome, too," she says, like it's obvious. "He plays the piano."

Taehyung could tell her that Jimin also plays the piano, and then someone might bring up the fact that Taehyung also teaches vocal lessons, and then Taehyung might tell them that Jimin also sings. It'll be just like the old days, when Jimin kept quiet about his talents and Taehyung had to show him off all on his own. He doesn't, because now isn't the time to impress on the children how wonderful Jimin is. Especially when he knows exactly how to win their favor.

"Mr. Jimin brought treats for you," he says.

Jihoon raises his hand.

"Yes, Jihoon?"

Jihoon sits up straight in his chair. "I think Mr. Jimin is the most handsome."

Taehyung is glad that Jimin came today, if only just to hear him laugh like this.

 


 

Jimin does stay. He sits in the back of the class and observes quietly. He helps Joohyun with a rough spot in her music while Taehyung is preoccupied checking over Hansol's worksheets, and he takes Jihoon out to the bathroom while Taehyung does the activities with the rest of them. He helps pass out the bagels at the end, and he holds Doyeon's hand when she declares that she's his girlfriend.

Taehyung connects with her on several levels.

He doesn't ask why Jimin would stop by, or think to bring food, or stay and watch a class that he wasn't in charge of. A long time ago, things like this would happen and no one would question it. Taehyung is happy to pretend things are that way again. If Jimin decides he feels comfortable inserting himself into Taehyung's space, then he certainly won't complain.

And it keeps happening.

Jimin rarely comes to his classes, but he might stop by during Taehyung's break and drag him out for lunch. Or maybe he'll text him and invite him over with him and Hoseok for dinner. Or take Taehyung out running. Or ask Taehyung to go see this horror movie with him because Hoseok's a little bitch and won't watch anything with demons.

In reality, Jimin has a lot more free time and he needs someone to latch on to. Hoseok is taking extra rehearsal, trying to take more company classes with a branch of the company they toured with before, and putting more on his plate with the hopes of getting a permanent company spot. Jimin is happy for him, but his days are busy with classes. Their schedules don't line up. "It sucks," Jimin whines, only once, before he realize that might be hard for Taehyung to hear and shuts his mouth on the subject.

Taehyung would feel awkward about it, about spending so much time alone with Jimin when he's another man's boyfriend, but Hoseok knows about all of it, and is there with them much of the time they spend at Jimin's apartment, and it's weirder that it isn't weird. Not as weird as it should be.

They aren't feeding each other or spooning on the couch like they used to, but things are good and Taehyung is learning not to ask questions.

And Taehyung is kind of in awe, that Hoseok has so much trust. "What's it like, being in a perfect relationship?" he asks one day. He hasn't had a real relationship since his freshman year of college, and even that doesn't seem to compare to the arrangement Jimin and Hoseok have.

Jimin smiles, but he sighs a little. "No relationship is perfect, Tae," he says, and keeps reading through his history book.

Jungkook starts coming over to their apartment more and more often, and it's rarely to visit Taehyung, and Taehyung finds himself displaced more and more often. It stops being just nights and starts being random times during the day. Taehyung can't imagine that all of their meetings are strictly sexual, but Taehyung keeps his mouth shut. Or he tries to.

"Do you know what you're doing?" he asks Jungkook, during one of the rare days when it's just the two of them and there's no Yoongi for Jungkook to moon over.

"I'm an adult," Jungkook assures him. "It's just sex."

Taehyung might believe that if he hadn't seen the two of them together, or if he didn't know Jungkook, or if he didn't know Yoongi, but he does. He knows more than he should. More than either of them seem to.

But Yoongi is right and Taehyung is the last person who needs to be handing out advice.

"The love of my life is dating another man," he tells Namjoon on a bad day, when he's drunk and in love and it hurts worse than usual.

"That's a little intense, don't you think?" Namjoon replies.

Drunk Taehyung thinks about it for a long, hard moment. "Yeah," he agrees. "But I'm terrified that it's true."

He doesn't talk to Jimin for a couple of days, and Jimin doesn't ask why, and then things are okay again.

The months pass by like this, with steps forward and stumbles backwards, but eventually things even out into something like they used to be. Things change, and nothing will ever be like it was before, but there are changes that are hard and changes that Taehyung can manage, and a life with Park Jimin in it is better than one without it, and Taehyung is in a place where he can accept that again.

His bad days are few and far between, and Jimin fits into the empty spaces.

As long as Taehyung keeps his mouth shut, there's no reason things won't end up on the right side of good.

 


 

Taehyung is waiting for his pizza to be done when his doorbell rings.

Yoongi is out with Jungkook, has been for hours, so it might be him. But Yoongi has his own keys. Maybe he forgot them. It doesn't matter, because Taehyung painstakingly took the Saran wrap off of this pizza and put it in the oven with his own two hands and he is not sharing.

He licks cold pizza sauce off of his fingers and walks out to the front door, smearing grease on the doorknob and not caring at all. "Yoongi, if you look fucked out I'm going to drown myself in hol—"

It's not Yoongi.

Jimin looks very small in the doorway. Hesitant. It's been awhile since Jimin's looked so wary in Taehyung's presence. A month, maybe. Progress. Taehyung hasn't missed it.

Taehyung opens his mouth — to do what, he doesn't know. Ask a question? Welcome Jimin in? — but Jimin rushes to speak first. Like he's worried Taehyung will say no to a question he hasn't been asked if Jimin doesn't explain himself first. "I'm sorry." His fingers curl in the material of his shirt, holding on desperately to something tangible. "I didn't know where else to go." He looks so tired. His eyes are swollen and red, the ghost of a breakdown.

"You..." You're always welcome here. "Do you want some pizza?"

Jimin breathes a huge sigh of relief. Had he thought Taehyung would turn him away? In what universe would that ever have happened? "I would love pizza," Jimin says.

Taehyung steps aside, and Jimin walks into the apartment. Takes his shoes off at the door. Let's his bag drop to the floor. Familiar. "I put a supreme in the oven. It should be ready soon."

Jimin walks into the kitchen. "Do you still pick up off the mushrooms?" he asks, laughing, and Taehyung is relieved even if it sounds gargled.

"I'm an adult," Taehyung sniffs. "I can do whatever I want with my mushrooms."

"I'll eat yours," Jimin answers, hopping up to sit on the kitchen table. "Just like I used to."

Taehyung stares at Jimin, the corners of his mouth twitching up into a smile, or trying to. It's just like it used to be. They used to provide each other a safe space, no questions asked, a welcome distraction. It's not a game, because they're people and these things are never a game if you care enough, but they've both played it before.

So Taehyung turns off his bubbly music and hums softly to himself and worries with the pizza in the oven, and Jimin stews on the table until he works up the nerve to say why he's upset. Taehyung has always been able to read Jimin the best. Now he just has to wait for the other foot to fall.

The oven dings not three minutes after the doorbell, and Taehyung has his Winnie the Pooh oven mit on to pull the pizza out, and Jimin takes a deep breath and says, "We broke up."

Taehyung pauses, because his other option is to jump in surprise and then the pizza would fall on the floor or Taehyung will burn his wrist on the hot metal of the oven and both of those things sound awful. So he pauses, just for a moment, and collects himself before sliding the pan onto the stove top. Turns and looks at Jimin staring at him from the table.

"Hoseok and I, I mean." Jimin licks his lips and stares at the floor.

"I..." Taehyung wants to ask why, because they're happy. Hoseok and Jimin are happy, have always been happy, and this is so far out of left field that Taehyung isn't sure how to handle it. "Are you okay?" A good start.

Jimin shrugs instead of answering and presses forward, because lingering hurts more, maybe. "I didn't want to stay at the apartment. I didn't know where else to go."

That's the thing, isn't it? Because Jimin could have gone to Namjoon's and Seokjin's apartment, or he could have gone for a walk, or he could have gone to Jungkook, or all sorts of other places where the lines aren't as blurred, but he came here. Because this is where he would always come — to Taehyung.

"You can stay the night here, if you want," Taehyung offers. He's not sure how he feels about this information, that Jimin isn't dating Hoseok anymore. Sad, he thinks. In the morning he'll wake up fully processed, but now all he can think of is solutions. Pizza. Bed. Does he have any clean towels in case Jimin wants to shower? Logistics.

Jimin looks like he needs a hug, but Taehyung isn't sure if he should give him one.

"Thanks." Jimin swings his feet like a child. Shoulder's hunched. Tired. "Sorry."

Taehyung digs through their drawer of miscellaneous kitchen items and pulls out the pizza cutter. "Why are you apologizing?" he asks gently, reaching out and kicking Jimin lightly with his foot. "What are friends for?"

Jimin can't think of an answer, and Taehyung doesn't wait for one.

Taehyung sets the cutter on the table and Jimin instinctively slides over to make room for Taehyung to sit beside him. Familiar. Taehyung doesn't put an arm around him, doesn't grab his hand, just sits so close that their arms brush. Jimin melts into him, head on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Jiminie," Taehyung says softly into Jimin's hair.

Jimin shudders, and Taehyung has been here enough times to recognize when Jimin is trying to hold something back. "Shouldn't you be happy?" Jimin's voice is small and muffled, unsure.

Taehyung frowns. "What?"

"Aren't you in love with me or something?" Jimin asks, looking up at Taehyung, and he still looks tired even though his words are sharp. "Shouldn't you be happy that I'm available now?"

This, too, is familiar, Jimin's way of pushing back against anything to get the satisfaction of a fight, even one that's misplaced, and if Taehyung were a better person, maybe he wouldn't be angry. "Is that really what you think of me?" he demands. "That I'm that much of an ass?"

Jimin scowls at Taehyung's anger. "Don't tell me you never thought about it," he says flatly. "That if I wasn't dating Hobi you'd have a better shot."

Maybe Taehyung has. Maybe he's dreamed about a universe where it was him instead of Hoseok. Maybe in another world this would be Taehyung's chance. But not here. Not today. "Except that it doesn't matter if you're dating or not, or who," Taehyung shoots back, a cold, terrible kind of anger. "Because you've never been in love with me."

All he can hear is breathing. His breathing, because Jimin is holding that in, too.

"I don't get it," Taehyung says, confused. "I was friends with you before I confessed, and it was fine. And then after it was still fine, until it wasn't. And I don't understand." He sighs, tugging at his hair. "Do you think it's hard for me to be your friend? Do you think that I'll take advantage of something like this?" He grimaces at the very idea.

Jimin shakes his head. "No, I—" Chokes on his words.

"Do you think I can't be sad for you about this?" Taehyung asks, more firmly. He wants an answer. "That I'd be happy when you're hurting? Do you think I can't be a good friend because I'm in love with you?"

Jimin deflates like a balloon.

Taehyung isn't sure whether to be huge with anger or small with doubt. "Do you think I'm that kind of person?"

"I..." Jimin crumples, mouth twisting, eyes welling, and here is another Jimin Taehyung knows. The soft, sad, sorry Jimin. "No." He covers his mouth with his hand, his shoulders shaking.

In another world, Taehyung reaches over and wipes the tears from Jimin's cheeks, kisses them away, but here he just reaches an arm around Jimin's shoulders and pulls him close.

The collar of Taehyung's shirt grows warm and wet against his skin, comfortable, gross, but Jimin is shaking in his arms and that's all he can think about.

"I love him," Jimin sobs into Taehyung's neck, and Taehyung just holds him tighter. "Fuck. I really love him."

"I know." Taehyung puts a hand through Jimin's hair, brushes out the tangles with gentle fingers. "I'm sorry."

For a lot of things.

Jimin hiccups and holds on tighter. "I know."

 


 

They eat cold pizza half and hour later and Taehyung gives Jimin a cool towel for his face.

Jimin hangs around like a grateful spirit, fingers tangled in the extra material of Taehyung's hoodie. Later, when the moon is well and truly out and Jimin climbs wordlessly into Taehyung's bed — familiar — neither of them question it.

Taehyung is happy just to let this be.

 


 

Yoongi comes home in the morning to find Jimin sitting quietly at their kitchen table, absently drinking coffee, and says nothing.

Taehyung sees the hickeys on Yoongi's neck and pretends that he doesn't.

Jimin acts like he doesn't sense the shift in the atmosphere, acts like he doesn't know the cause of it.

It's a peaceful start to the day, all things considered.

Jimin says very little, an empty body after expelling so much emotion the night before. It's supposed to be cathartic, crying, although Taehyung's never found it to be so. Jimin looks like he's made more space for other things and is waiting to be filled up with something happier. In the meantime, he's smothering his toast with too much jam and consuming more caffeine than is probably healthy.

"You drink coffee now?" Jimin had asked when Taehyung finally walked out of his bedroom and went straight for the coffee pot.

Taehyung had poured in so much creamer that he sees Jimin's face shift from curious to incredulous. "If you call this coffee."

He won't pretend that he wasn't a little bummed when he woke up that morning and Jimin wasn't in his arms, but that was a selfish desire, and not even a likely one. Taehyung can count on one hand how many times over the years Jimin's stayed in bed with him until he woke up. Their sleeping schedules are too different, even now that Taehyung wakes up before noon.

Jimin is wearing his clothes from the night before, a hoodie and sweatpants so he looks like a giant gray sack, and his hair is a mess. Cute. His face is swollen and his voice is a pitch or two deeper. He looks like college Jimin. Like old Jimin. "Your toaster is shit," he says gruffly.

"It burns everything," Taehyung agrees, laughing as Jimin shoves more toast into his mouth. There's strawberry jam on the corner of his mouth. "Do you need a ride home?"

"I drove." Jimin stirs his finger in his coffee until his skin is bright red. An old habit. He sucks his finger into his mouth idly as he checks his phone, and Taehyung only stares at it for a moment. "Sorry to crash your house so suddenly."

Taehyung blinks. "You didn't bother apologizing last night," he whines cutely, even though he's pretty sure Jimin did apologize. Over and over until Taehyung told him to shut the fuck up and they both fell asleep. "You're just using me."

Jimin's cheek is squished up against the palm of his hand and he smiles sleepily. "Guilty."

Taehyung's heart thumps.

"You're as fucked as you ever were," Yoongi comments once Jimin is gone, plate in the sink and door locked behind him.

"Hmmm?" Taehyung grins. "Then why am I in such a good mood?"

It's not progress, because Taehyung knows where he stands and it's the same place he's been for so long, but it seems a little like the sun in shining his way.

 


 

It's only a day or two later that Taehyung sees Hoseok. It's not that Taehyung went out of his way, or stalked Hoseok's social media to learn his schedule so he could bump into him, or any of the other questionable things that Taehyung has done in his lifetime for a slighted friend. It happens naturally, like it was always intended to happen, and it's all because Taehyung is craving Oreos at 2 in the morning.

Hoseok is at the corner store with a Gatorade and a protein bar in hand, and Taehyung has his enormous pack of double stuffed, and if that doesn't shout the differences between them, Taehyung doesn't know what does. But Hoseok smiles at him, waves, even, and Taehyung is confused.

"You dumped my best friend," Taehyung says plainly as they stand next to each other by the cashier. "I'm not sure I should be friendly with you."

"I didn't dump him," Hoseok says, equally plain, taking one of the Oreo's from the package that Taehyung has already opened. "He dumped me."

It's a surprise, and an oversimplification.

This is the root of Jimin's phone call, those weeks ago.

"Weren't you happy?" Taehyung asks, because he can't imagine anyone not being happy with Park Jimin.

"We were," Hoseok answers. "And we were in love, for a while. Maybe we still are."

There's black Oreo dust under Hoseok's fingernails and Taehyung stares at it, proof that no one is perfect. "I don't understand."

Hoseok sighs. "Sometimes, that isn't enough."

Hoseok is leaving town. He's gotten an official offer from the company he and Jimin toured with for that year. His contract starts with the new year, and then he leaves in February. Three months from now. "Jimin was given the same offer," Hoseok explains. "Or he would have been, if he'd applied. I tried."

Jimin is staying to finish school and Hoseok is leaving for a whole new world and some things just aren't meant to work out.

"I'm not meant to tour that much," Jimin admits later, when Taehyung asks. "It's hard, being unrooted for so long. Exhausting."

"But you'd be dancing," Taehyung throws back.

"I can dance here," Jimin answers. "It's a big town. Or I can get a job in another town that has steady work. Or I can teach." He smiles. "I want to teach, like you."

Taehyung swallows. "But you'd be with Hoseok."

"Hoseok is..." Jimin frowns, swallows, looks at his hands. "We've been happy for so long, but I think we both...stopped moving forward." He kicks his feet. "I think we both wanted to try being happy somewhere else, but it was hard...because we were happy together too." He huffs. "I don't know. I don't know how to..." He tugs at his own hair. "It makes sense for us to be together, but then it just...didn't make sense anymore."

"You love him," Taehyung says, understanding.

Jimin laughs bitterly. "I love him. Fuck." He runs a tired hand down his face. "I was the one that finally ended it, even if it was mutual, but I still...I can't stop thinking about him. I love him." He frowns. "I think I'll always love him."

"I hear that happens," Taehyung says, laughing lightly. "You never forget your first love."

And then Jimin asks the question. "Who was yours?"

And Taehyung just stares at him.

"Oh." Jimin looks at his lap.

A while ago, Jimin would have pulled away. But now, Jimin stays where he is. Taehyung is surprised when he doesn't cancel their plans for the next day. He's surprised when Jimin doesn't seem guilty or bothered.

This, he thinks, is progress. Finally.

 


 

Jimin settles himself back into Taehyung's life like he knows the exact places he's been missed the most. He brings Taehyung soup when he's sick. He texts Taehyung when he's bored. He watches shitty romcoms with him when no one else will.

He forces Taehyung to run even on days when his entire being says no. You will not rise from this bed.

"That wasn't so bad!" Jimin has the nerve to say after a particularly brutal morning.

Taehyung just grunts. Even the pastry in his hand isn't enough to make him feel less like death. He hates that Jimin is so perky in the morning. It doesn't seem fair.

That's Taehyung's only complaint, really. As much as Yoongi rolls his eyes and Namjoon shoots him concerned looks from afar, this is the best case scenario: sunny mornings with Jimin and the fountain and the café, late nights with B-list movies, lazy days full of texting and memes. It's a good set up, one where Jimin is wrapped around his life so tightly that the days where they didn't talk seem to have vanished from existence.

"You're never going to date anyone ever," Seokjin warns him, "if you keep hanging around him. You'll never let him go."

"It'll fade," Taehyung assures him, "if it's meant to."

That's something for future Taehyung to worry about. For now, he's enjoying what he has. At the moment, he has Jimin, and a pastry, and an entire day ahead of him.

"I need a shower," Jimin says, licking sweet cream off of his fingers.

Taehyung shoves the last of his danish into his mouth without shame. "My house is closer," he says through a mouthful, and somehow Jimin still understands him.

"Lead the way."

So he does.

"This feels like college," Jimin says, walking up the stairs to Taehyung's apartment. He sounds like an old man. "Those were simpler days."

"I think this is good, too," Taehyung says, because this is the way things are, and they've worked so hard to get here. Things aren't simple, and they aren't the same, but going back in time would be like cheating.

"Yeah." Jimin laughs, watching Taehyung struggle to find his keys before reaching over and pulling them out of Taehyung's bag for him. "This is good, too."

Taehyung is grinning at him as he opens the door and almost misses the extra pair of shoes in the doorway.

It's a sweet picture in their living room, even if it's one Taehyung feels like he shouldn't be witnessing. There's soft music playing in the background, stuff Taehyung recognizes as what Yoongi is working on right now, but it sounds different here. Softer.

Jungkook is standing behind Yoongi, his arms wrapped around Yoongi shoulders, his chin on Yoongi's head, and more than anything, what's surprising is that Yoongi is letting Jungkook hold him. Letting himself have this single, soft moment as they sway back and forth to music that's yet to be finished.

Yoongi is laughing at something, smiling, leaning back into Jungkook's chest, but otherwise it's quiet. Taehyung feels like a voyeur.

Their unexpected entrance breaks the trance.

As soon as Yoongi sees them there, he steps away from Jungkook smoothly. It's not a slight, it's not jerky or panicked, but Taehyung sees the look on Jungkook's face as he resigned himself to be left with no one to hug, and he see the color rise of Yoongi's neck, and in his heart of hearts he knows that everything he's been worried about has happened all at once.

It's not a good sign that Yoongi's first inclination is distance.

Taehyung has promised them both that he'd keep his mouth shut, so he will. "Hey, Jungkookie." His voice is even, chill, but it cuts through the silence too harshly.

"Hey, guys." Jungkook shoves his hands in his pockets, his eyes flicking towards Yoongi as the older man shuts off the music without a word. "I was just about to leave."

"Oh?" Jimin asks, eyebrows raised. That certainly isn't what it looked like. But Taehyung slides his hand into Jimin's and squeezes a warning, and Jimin doesn't say what they're all thinking. "I'm just here to hop in the shower."

"You both smell like shit," Yoongi snips good-naturedly.

"Thanks, buddy," Jimin coos, walking towards the bathroom. He's already pulling his shirt off over his head, and Taehyung stares a little. "I'll dedicate this shower to you."

Yoongi grimaces. "That's fucking weird."

Jungkook is lingering awkwardly in the living room. He's said he's leaving but it's clear he wants to be kept, even as his shoulders hunch over further and further.

Taehyung follows Jimin down the hallway. "I'll let you guys say goodbye," he says quietly, slipping into his bedroom.

He hears Jimin turn on the shower in the bathroom next door. He hears the quiet voices of Yoongi and Jungkook saying things that shouldn't need to be said. He sits on his bed and closes his eyes and has good dreams.

 


 

"I hate school." Jimin rolls over and groans into the couch cushions.

Taehyung sips his tea and turns down the Disney movie in the background. Jimin sounds like he's going to be whining for a rather long time. "You did this to yourself."

"Fuck higher education." Jimin turns over and slams his finance book shut. "I'm just going to dance. Why do I still need to take all of these other classes?"

"Because your advisor sucked assed," Taehyung answers calmly. He can't count how many times Jimin would come huffing into their dorm room complaining about his schedule, and his administrators, and his dance department, but such is the nature of the arts.

It's been a month since Jimin and Hoseok broke up, and there's all sorts of issues with their apartment. They've both agreed that the space is too big for either of them to live in alone, so they considered dropping the apartment all together and both moving, but it seems silly for Hoseok to find another place to live when he'll be leaving the city so soon. They're sticking out their lease, at least.

Jimin spends a lot of time at Taehyung's apartment.

It's clear to everyone that Jimin is still getting over it, even if he says he's happy, or okay, or adjusted. Jimin's gotten a lot worse at lying.

A part of Taehyung knows that it's not the best idea to have Jimin leaning on him so much, that it's too close to domesticity for his heart, but Jimin is a drug. One of those life-altering ones where you'll destroy yourself just a little bit because you don't know how to exist otherwise. Sappy. Taehyung thinks it's kind of funny that it's come to this.

How long has it been? Four years, more, maybe, that he's been in love with this stupid man. At this point, Taehyung has accepted that his feelings won't go away by force, and he's accepted that he can't handle not being around Jimin even platonically, so all that's left is to hope for a miracle. A miracle one way or the other. Either is acceptable.

For now, he quiets his heart down until he doesn't want to shout from the rooftops like a loser every time Jimin shows up at his door.

"I just want to be free of school," Jimin groans. He sits up, ruffling his hair. He's been laying down for so long it's flattened out oddly on one side. Taehyung reaches over to fix it and Jimin just shuts his eyes for a moment. "It's so annoying that I'm still in college while you guys are all out there being real adults."

"See, you say that," Taehyung starts, running his fingers through Jimin's hair. "Except that being a real adult means that you have to pay student loans and shit."

Jimin frowns. "Better or worse than the three exams I have next week?"

"I want to say it's worse?" Taehyung thinks for a moment. "Yeah, let's go with worse."

"I'm going to be a dancer," Jimin says with a sigh. "I've made my peace with being poor for the rest of my life."

"You just need to marry a doctor."

"Ah, yes." Jimin hums. "That's the answer to everything." He's leaning into Taehyung's touch a bit, eyes fluttering closed again when Taehyung starts massaging his temples. "But he'd be gone a lot, with work. I don't know if I could handle that."

Taehyung snorts. "You don't have to care about him. You just need his money."

Jimin laughs. "So I don't really need to marry him. I can just be his sugar baby."

"Isn't that the dream?" Taehyung reaches forward and picks his tea up off of the coffee table. "The Sugar Baby Dream." In another life, Taehyung is showered in Gucci and expensive food and gifts by someone with money to burn. He thinks about it often.

"Except that the only thing you want in the whole world is to own a farm and own seven dogs with your fifteen children," Jimin recites idly. On the nose. "I don't think your sugar daddy would be that interested in the rural lifestyle."

Taehyung is happier than he should be, that Jimin remembers a conversation from four years ago word for word. "I don't have to bring him with me," Taehyung says cheerfully. "Only my true love gets to share my farm."

With a laugh, Jimin kicks Taehyung gently with his feet. "Who is going to pick all of your strawberries?"

"My fifteen children." Duh. Taehyung sighs contentedly. "Then I can have Gucci, seven dogs, and strawberries."

Jimin looks at Taehyung fondly. "The ideal universe."

"I'm not convinced it's not this universe," Taehyung says primly. "I just have to find my true love. And my sugar daddy."

"I'll stay on the lookout," Jimin teases. "Maybe you can find a two-for-one."

Taehyung pouts. "He has to love farming!"

Jimin rolls his eyes and flicks Taehyung in the ear. "I think loving you would be enough, don't you?"

Yeah, Taehyung's traitorous heart whispers, that bastard. It would be.

It's hard knowing that Jimin loves him in every way that matters but not in the way Taehyung wants. Still, Taehyung thinks he would share his strawberry farm with Jimin.

Taehyung almost says something stupid, something he'd regret later, something Jimin would regret later. But the moment, if it can even be called one, is ruined by the careful chime of Jimin's phone.

"Oh, shit." Jimin reaches down and picks it up from the side table. "It's already three. I've gotta go." He rolls his shoulders, sighs at the crackles of his spine as it realigns, and shoves his books into his backpack. He's on autopilot in his haste.

"Do you have class?" Taehyung asks, his tea slightly cold in his lap. He keeps forgetting about it. After Jimin leaves, he'll put it in the microwave and pretend he wasn't too distracted by the way Jimin has been letting him touch him lately.

Jimin zips up his bag and slings it over one shoulder. "I'm teaching a class at the studio today," he says. "It'll be a nice change from studying for finals, don't you think?"

The thought of Jimin teaching small children makes Taehyung warm on the inside. He grins. "Come back and tell me that after one of them pees all over the studio floors."

"Gross." Jimin scrunches his nose, checking his phone absently. "I'll survive."

And then he does something shocking. He's tucking his phone into his pocket, and he's holding the strap of his bag, and Taehyung understands, but then he's leaning down, and Taehyung doesn't understand, and then he says, "I'll see you later. Love you," and presses his lips against Taehyung's cheek.

They both freeze.

"That..." Jimin clears his throat. "Sorry." There's red high on his cheeks. "Uh...force of habit."

A month later. Taehyung supposes that's fair.

"It's okay," he says plainly, because it is, even if his heart is beating a mile a minute. Domestic. Isn't this what he was worried about? "I love you too, Jiminie."

 


 

Finals come and go, just like the rest of the year. The holiday season is a bit of a bummer now that Taehyung has an actual job. He doesn't have a winter holiday to go home and visit his family, at least not at length. He goes home the day of and stays for a weekend, but he has work in the morning and has to return to town.

At least now that most of his friends are graduated, they can all suffer together. Jungkook and Jimin are both gone for over two weeks, Jungkook being gone for the entire break, and it's not just Taehyung who's suffering a little at the distance. Yoongi would say that he doesn't miss Jungkook, but Taehyung sees the way Yoongi floats around aimlessly and looks at his phone more than usual.

"It's okay if you like him, you know," Taehyung says one day.

Yoongi puts on his headphones. "Like who?" And then the conversation is over.

Taehyung doesn't expect much else these days.

Seokjin organizes a little get together for Taehyung's birthday, and even though Taehyung insisted over and over that he didn't need anything, he's grateful for the excuse to not spend the day alone or out clubbing with a rowdier crowd. A little get together. That's all Taehyung really needs.

Jungkook is still home, and Yoongi is short-tempered because of it, although he insists that it's because he hasn't had sex in a while. Considering that before Jungkook Yoongi went for weeks without even going outside, Taehyung is inclined to call bullshit.

It doesn't matter at the end of the day. Jungkook won't be at the party, and as long as Yoongi isn't a complete and total downer Taehyung is willing to set Yoongi's entirely see-through feelings aside for the time being. Taehyung is much more excited about the alcohol, and the cake Seokjin will make, and also being given the right to decide what movie they watch even though it's not his turn to pick for movie nights.

His children at school gave him lots of apples, even though they're out of season, because apparently that's what you give teachers. Jihoon does get him a bouquet of flowers because that's what his mom told him to get, and it's possible that this little boy is trying to woo his music teacher, but Taehyung decides to just think it's adorable. He's always wanted to be someone's gay awakening.

The flowers are sitting on the kitchen table of Seokjin's and Namjoon's apartment. Taehyung isn’t sure how he's going to taking them home, but the idea of carrying them on public transportation with a mildly drunk Yoongi pleases him, so he's not going to complain.

"You're 24!" Namjoon screams when Taehyung walks into the living room, drink already in hand. "My baby! Grown!"

"You're only a year older," Jimin says with a laugh, sitting on the couch next to him. There's a small pile of movies in front of him on the table, like he's picked out a few options that Taehyung might like. Taehyung sees most of his favorites there.

Taehyung flops down on the floor by their feet. There's room for him on the couch probably, if they squished, but he feels safer here, surrounded by a wall of legs. Jimin's hand slips over and rests on his head, tracing down the part of his hair and running fingers through tangles. Taehyung rests his head against Jimin's thigh and sighs. "I'm an ageless god."

"We should look up your high school pictures on Facebook to see if that's true," Seokjin says idly, walking into the room. He and Yoongi have been in the kitchen cooking while Taehyung finished up his independent tutoring. It smells like barbecue and every other good thing.

"I'll forgive you for suggesting such a thing on my birthday since you’re facilitating my meal," Taehyung tells him haughtily.

Jimin smacks him on the back of the head. "Brat," he says, laughing, his hand falling back into Taehyung's hair. His fingers drop down and press into the tight muscles of Taehyung's neck, and Taehyung sighs, melting. This is a good enough present. Jimin's always been the best with his hands.

"Kids are so loud," Taehyung whines when Jimin's fingers dig into a particularly tight knot. Junghee was practically screaming all day, and Taehyung's been getting more and more tense all week.

"You're loud," Namjoon points out.

Taehyung frowns. "I'm a kid."

Jimin laughs. "I thought you were ageless."

"I'm like Peter Pan," Taehyung decides. "A child forever."

Yoongi calls from the kitchen. "You can't pull off those tights, bitch."

Taehyung roars good-naturedly. "Say that to my face!"

Yoongi's head sticks out from the doorway. "You can't pull of tights, bitch," he says slowly.

"Okay," Taehyung acquiesces. "That's fair."

It's an easy kind of night, just the right amount of alcohol and good company to have Taehyung glowing. They barely pay any attention to the movie, too busy yelling at each other over the audio to pay any kind of attention. Taehyung is full of barbecue and good feelings.

Many of those good feelings are because Jimin hasn't moved his hand from Taehyung's neck since they finished eating. It's a quiet form of possession that doesn't mean what Taehyung wants it to mean, but it's a good birthday present anyway.

The other's have noticed the new state of their relationship. Or, perhaps, the familiar state, one that's been gone for so long it's like an old friend. In some ways it's impossible not to notice how to personal bubble between them has all but evaporated. Yoongi shoots him looks the longer Jimin's hand stays in place, but it's nothing compared to the warnings Seokjin and Namjoon have given over the past few weeks.

"Be careful," Seokjin says. "It's going to hurt later."

It feels good now. Even. The touching is back, in a way it hasn't been since that conversation sophomore year, and Jimin is holding him closer than ever. It's nice to not feel like he needs to white knuckle to keep Jimin from running. This kind of ease is something he once took for granted. Now he never wants it to stop.

Taehyung is warm, and there are people here who love him, and they're looking at a good year, and there's no better way for him to be spending today.

"I've missed you," Jimin says quietly, when the movie is particularly loud.

"I've been here," Taehyung answers, slightly drunk. He hasn't really moved a single time all night.

"Yeah..." Jimin goes back to watching.

They put in a second movie, and Jimin's hand doesn't move.

It's almost midnight when Yoongi finally pries Taehyung out of Jimin's hold. "Come on, birthday boy." He walks over and drags a pliant Taehyung to his feet by the arm. "We need to leave before the last bus heads out."

Taehyung whines, he's always whining, and Jimin whines a little too, but Taehyung dutifully goes into the back bedroom and gathers his belongings. He feels light. A weight is gone. The weight of his 24th year, maybe.

He's got one shoe in hand when he walks back down the hallway.

"Have you ever thought what it'd be like to love him?" Yoongi is asking someone, with the kind of weight that makes Taehyung think he maybe shouldn't be hearing it.

He walks into the room and pretends not to notice the four of them staring at him. He holds out one shoe. "I can't get it untied," he admits sheepishly.

There's a second where no one moves, the tension warping around to fit Taehyung into the atmosphere, but Jimin reaches his hand out first, so Taehyung hands it over without question. He watches as Jimin's tiny, cute fingers pick at his knots.

"What a wonderful present," Taehyung says once Jimin has untied it and handed it back. "I'm in your debt."

Jimin turns a bit pink. "Fuck. Your present."

Taehyung's blinks. "You don't have to get me a present." They group has an unspoken agreement to not do gifts throughout the year. They've all been known to break that rule fairly consistently, but it's nice that there's no pressure either way.

"Dick. I already got you one." Jimin tilts his hips to the side and digs around in his back pocket. "I just forgot to give it to you." He puts out a couple slips of paper. Tickets.

"What's this?" Taehyung reaches out and takes them. "The art museum?"

"There's a Van Gogh exhibition next week," Jimin explains, and Taehyung's heart is full to bursting. "I thought of you when I heard, so I just splurged and bought them."

Them. Two. "Is this for a date?" he asks teasingly, holding up the extra.

"Or, just..." Jimin scratches his head. "A plus one. You know. If you wanted to take someone."

Taehyung hands the extra ticket back to Jimin. He smiles. "Who else would I ask?"

For a moment, a heavy, weighted sort of moment, Jimin hesitates. But then he's smiling too, and he slips the ticket back into his pocket. "I'll be there."

"My plus one." Soft. Taehyung is soft.

Yoongi pulls on the back of Taehyung's jacket. "The bus will be leaving soon," he says pointedly.

"Oh." Back to earth. "Thanks, everyone!" He hugs Seokjin and Namjoon. He might hold Jimin a little longer. "I had a great time."

"Happy birthday, Tae," Jimin says.

Happy birthday.

 


 

Taehyung wishes that things would stop changing. His relationship with Jimin keeps shifting. All he wants is for it to settle down into something he can grab on to.

After his birthday, Jimin reaches a strange sort of equilibrium. It's like every time they're around each other Jimin is measuring his movements, his thoughts, his words, his actions. Taehyung isn't sure what he's measuring them against, but he can recognize it. What confuses him is the fact that it's different than it used to be. Before, Jimin wouldn't touch him, would pull back to the point where he was almost never there in the first place.

This feels different.

Jimin takes Taehyung to the art exhibit and buys him Van Gogh memorabilia at the gift shop and Taehyung sees a delicate carving of a flower that reminds him too much of Jimin not to buy. Christmas is over and Jimin's birthday is too far away, but it's a new year, and Taehyung thinks that's reason enough to celebrate.

"For you," Taehyung says, handing it over, and Jimin takes it gently like it means something.

"Thanks, Tae." He smiles. It's the best part of the day.

Jimin doesn't stay away, but he doesn't come any closer, and even though that stagnant feeling should be a relief after so many months of wondering and changing and drifting together and apart, it feels oddly like they're standing at the edge of a cliff and haven't decided which way to fall.

Taehyung catches Jimin staring at him. Analyzing. He isn't sure there's anything left for Jimin to figure out. Taehyung has never been the most open between them, but he's never hidden anything from Jimin. Not even when he should have.

They're standing in place but Taehyung feels like he's tipping.

Jimin has started his final semester of college, and Hoseok has started rehearsals for the company he'll be touring with, and Doyeon keeps asking when Jimin will be coming back to class, and this is their life now. Jimin is all over it like a stamp and Taehyung wonders if that's intentional or if it's fate. Maybe they'll really never be able to let go of each other.

So when Jimin decides that he wants to go drinking, it makes sense that he asks Taehyung. It doesn't make sense that he only asks Taehyung, but it's not like they've never gone out just the two of them before. A tipsy Taehyung is good company, if not a little handsy, but it's something all of his friends have come to accept. He's used to holding himself back around Jimin now.

It may not be weird that Jimin asks Taehyung to go out, but it is rather abrupt. "I just..." Jimin huffs. "I've been thinking too much."

Jimin is the kind of person who gets tangled up in their own head, and alcohol is the best solution, although maybe not the least expensive one.

"Club or bar?" Taehyung asks in response.

"Dancing! Let's go dancing!"

Taehyung laughs. "Don't you dance enough as it is?"

Jimin whines. "It's different!" He flicks Taehyung in the ear. "Club dancing is different."

Taehyung won't argue that. It's also more dangerous for Taehyung's heart, but as long as he's careful it won't matter, so Taehyung says yes. Like he always does.

He lets Jimin do his makeup before they go, because it was either this or Jimin was going to make him put on tighter pants. But Taehyung finds having his makeup done soothing, and Jimin's hands are practiced and gentle after so long in the performing arts. One hand holds back Taehyung's too-long bangs and the other brushes dark shadow along his lash line and smoothes foundation over his skin and Taehyung things that this process is worth all of the drunk Jimin he's going to have to deal with tonight.

"There." Jimin brushes Taehyung's hair down, his nails scraping against Taehyung's forehead as he makes sure everything is in place. "Beautiful."

Taehyung puts on his oversized shirt and doesn't think about it too much.

Clubbing with Jimin is easy, because he knows all the best spots and all the best people, and he knows where there's a cover charge and where there isn't. He's also easily the best dancing partner Taehyung's ever had. It doesn't matter when Taehyung gets drunk and his dancing gets sloppy, because Jimin's good enough to carry them both.

Flirting with the bouncer rarely does anything, but Jimin does it anyway, fluttering his eyelashes as they're carded and ushered inside, and Taehyung sees the way the bouncer's eyes linger on Jimin's ass, and wow man, same. Jimin is easily the most attractive man here tonight, but Taehyung is biased.

Jimin buys the first round of drinks and keeps the tab open. All that ever means is that tonight is going to be about the dancing, and maybe each other, and they're not worrying about convincing strangers to buy them drinks. Taehyung is okay with that, he decides, sipping his Long Island as Jimin takes his hand and leads him out onto the dance floor.

"It's been too long," Jimin says over the music, lips up to Taehyung's ear.

"May I have this dance?" Taehyung asks in response, and Jimin laughs, and they both forget what personal space is.

It becomes clear that Jimin has been thinking more than usual, because he's buying more drinks until he's loose and fluid in Taehyung's arms, and he's taken to letting his lips brush against Taehyung's ear when he leans in to say something, and it would honestly be kind of overwhelming if this wasn't how Taehyung felt around Jimin every day. Jimin has been extra touchy the past few months, and Taehyung is smart enough to know it's likely because he doesn't get this with Hoseok anymore. It only stings a little.

To an extent, it's cute how soft and flirty Jimin is once he lets himself be. Taehyung has been Jimin's drunken crutch plenty of times, but the night goes on and Taehyung has been stealing sips from Jimin's drinks and now he's not too steady himself. He's sweaty and his makeup feels a little cakey but he's full of adrenaline and also probably piss.

"How sketchy is the bathroom here?" he asks.

Jimin looks a lot different under the fluttering lights, covered in red and blue and the occasional rhythm of the strobe. His eyeliner is smeared at the corners, but otherwise he's perfect. Sweaty and sloppy and decidedly not sober, but perfect. He frowns. "Not too sketchy." He's standing close still, and his hand curls in the fabric of Taehyung's shirt. "Are you leaving me?"

Taehyung laughs. "We're jumping around too much."

Jimin smoothes the wrinkles out and grins. "I can slow it down."

A year or two ago, Taehyung probably would have choked. Now he just says, "do you want me to piss on your shoes?"

The answer is, understandably, no. Jimin steps back and gestures towards the back hallway. "Don't get solicited."

"Don't tell me what to do." Taehyung ruffles Jimin's hair, fucking up the carefully produced mess, and laughs when Jimin curses him loudly.

It's nice, that things are this easy.

The bathroom is slightly more than mildly sketchy, but Taehyung doesn't walk in on people actively having sex so he's seen worse. He probably wouldn't have left even if he had walked in on that, considering that piss waits for no man.

When they go out, just the two of them, and they dance close like this, it's usually enough to discourage any unwanted advances. They're both okay with the assumption that they're dating (or, at least, they used to be. Taehyung isn't sure how Jimin feels about it now) but there are always cases where their clear familiarity isn't enough. So Taehyung isn't particularly surprised when he walks back from the bathroom and finds someone in Jimin's personal space.

Jimin sees him coming, and his eyes light up, and Taehyung realizes what kind of situation this is. "Tae."

Taehyung walks past the other man without a glance and wraps his arms over Jimin's shoulders. "I want another drink," he whines cutely into Jimin's hair, pouting as Jimin pats his wrist calmingly. It's only then that Taehyung spares the man any attention.

He's big, bigger than Taehyung, and handsome in a rugged, natural way. Normally, a man like this would be Jimin's type, with the five o' clock shadow and the lean muscle and the big aura, and Jimin just clings to Taehyung a little tighter and smiles. "This is my boyfriend," he tells the man. "Just like I told you."

Taehyung snorts into Jimin's hair and nuzzles the side of his face dutifully. "Is he bothering you?"

"No." Jimin smiles. His hand squeezes Taehyung's. "He was just saying hi."

Taehyung doesn't know if he could plaster himself to Jimin's back more completely, and he doesn't know if he could act any more possessive, but the guy is still suspicious. "You guys weren't dancing like this earlier."

Here's always where they get into trouble. The dancing. Taehyung's heart wouldn't be able to take that, most likely, and so Jimin knows better than to try, even when he's drunk. The men who want Jimin badly enough are willing to use that small thing as a basis for hope, and there's nothing they can do about it except for insist that their lie is the truth.

Jimin presses back into Taehyung's chest a little more, a little closer. "I'm shy," he says coyly, because he's drunk and everything he says is coy, and of course that only makes the situation worse.

The man is leering now. "Cute." His eyes flicker to Taehyung and he settles into something self-satisfied. "If you can prove it, I'll leave you alone."

Taehyung scoffs. "We don't have to prove anything, you d—"

Jimin's hand slides up the side of Taehyung's jaw, and Taehyung's head is turning, and then their mouths are pressed together and Taehyung completely short circuits.

For a short, confused moment he thinks it's a mistake — a wonderful, terrible mistake — but Jimin's fingers press gently into the space beneath Taehyung's ear and his lips are moving and Taehyung can taste the Sex on the Beach he just ordered because he opens his mouth and there it is, just one more overwhelming thing.

There's a small, desperate sound and Taehyung thinks it was himself before he realizes it was Jimin, small and desperate. He's twisting in Taehyung's arms so their chests are pressed together but his hand is still on Taehyung's jaw and it's a sort of possession that Taehyung can stomach. Or maybe he can't, because his stomach is exploding and his brain is exploding and his heart is exploding.

They've never done this before.

It feels like forever but it's only a moment, short and confused, and then Jimin is pulling his mouth away but not his body, and he's looking over his shoulder at the man who is watching them with some kind of fire in his eyes. Voyeur. Taehyung doesn't blame him. "Do you mind?" Jimin snips, and Taehyung's hands curl in the small of Jimin's back.

Jimin doesn't even wait for a response, he just grabs Taehyung's hand and pulls him further onto the dance floor and he follows, because he always follows. He's too dazed to protest, he's not sure if he wants to protest, not when Jimin stops them in the middle of the floor and throws his arms over Taehyung's shoulders, not when Jimin shoves his face into Taehyung's neck and sways with the beat, not when soft lips press into soft skin and Taehyung wants to die because he doesn't think he's ever wanted anything as badly as he's wanted Jimin at the moment.

Taehyung's brain pulls back in when Jimin kisses up his sweaty neck, gentle and shocking. "Is this for him?" Taehyung demands, but his hands are clawed into Jimin's sides like he's afraid to let him go. "He's not watching anymore."

Jimin shakes his head, eyes glassy. "This is for me." Closer.

"I..." Taehyung holds something back. "I'm not going to be a rebound."

"I know." Jimin takes a shaky breath that Taehyung can feel. They're too close. "Just...tonight...I want..."

Someone. He wants someone. Not Taehyung, but Taehyung is there, so he wants him. And a part of Taehyung is happy. A sick, self-destructive part that knows he's going to regret this in the morning. When Jimin leans in to kiss him again, Taehyung let's it happen.

Just tonight.

"This isn't a good idea," he says once Jimin's tongue is out of his mouth. "You're drunk."

"You're in love with me," Jimin says plainly over the music.

"Another reason it's a bad idea."

Jimin hums. Agreement.

Taehyung soaks this in. The first time he's ever told Jimin no. "I think we should go home."

Jimin stares at him, the lights reflected in the dark of his eyes and making his face unreadable. "I don't want to go to my apartment."

Taehyung runs a hand through Jimin's hair and it's too loving. Jimin closes his eyes and lets it happen. "You can have the couch."

Jimin kisses Taehyung's palm, and this is a new change.

Taehyung isn't sure what is going to come of it other than regret in the morning.

 


 

They call a cab, and Taehyung can feel the tension as they clamber onto the cracked vinyl of the backseat. Taehyung tells the driver his address, and it's clear what the cabbie thinks is happening, but the suffocating feeling that falls over everything is quick to dispel any of those thoughts.

Taehyung can feels Jimin sobering up beside him, sees the way Jimin sinks into the seat and stews in something very like embarrassment. He reaches over and pats Jimin's thigh so he knows it's not a big deal, despite every part of Taehyung's brain screaming at him that it is. Jimin stops trying to become one with the side door and let's their hands brush in the center seat and Taehyung thinks that's as close to normal as they're going to get.

They split the cost with much fumbling, and Jimin ends up paying for most of it because Taehyung only has many, many small bills and the cabbie is getting irritated. "I'm renting your bed," is what Jimin says when Taehyung insists on paying him back. His hands reach out for Taehyung's arm.

"My couch," Taehyung corrects.

Jimin pulls Taehyung's body closer and doesn't reply, watching the cabbie drive down the street. "Don't you want to kiss me?"

And oh, Taehyung's heart would be bleeding if he didn't know how bad this would be. "Jimin."

"You've wanted me for how long?" Jimin demands. He's more sober now, Taehyung can see it in his eyes. He isn't sure if that's reassuring or damning. "And you're going to throw this opportunity away?"

"Opportunity to what?" Taehyung asks, and Jimin responds by plastering himself against Taehyung's chest.

"I want you to fuck me," Jimin says plainly. The air is pushed violently out of Taehyung's lungs by some unseen force. "I want you to fuck me and I want to make out and I want to pretend like everything else never happened."

Taehyung is weak. He's so weak. His hands slips down to Jimin's waist. "Sounds like an opportunity to regret it in the morning," he says, but his voice is wavering. He's not drunk, but he's tipsy enough that he wants this (he always wants this) and he might let himself have it.

Jimin looks up at him. "Maybe it'd be worth it," he says petulantly, one hand sneaking under to draping fabric of Taehyung's shirt. Taehyung shivers when fingers press into his stomach. "Maybe fucking me tonight will be worth everything."

Taehyung doubts that. He really, really doubts that. Because he's lived a life where Jimin isn’t there and it's horrible. Dreadful. Miserable. But the sad, tired part of his brain that tells him Jimin is a good thing, no matter how much or how little he gets, wants to do this.

He feels Jimin, hard against his leg, and he knows that he's never been good at telling Jimin no. Not for long.

It's a confusing journey up to Taehyung's apartment. He always takes the stairs, but Jimin pulls Taehyung bodily into the elevator and latches onto him as soon as the doors close. He smells like booze and sweat, but his lips still taste sweet, sweeter than Taehyung imagined on those cold nights when he couldn't control himself. "Hold me," Jimin demands against Taehyung's mouth, and Taehyung obliges.

There's a three-legged race to the apartment, and they mildly scar one of Taehyung's neighbors with this groping before Taehyung manages to get the key out of his pocket and into the door. Yoongi is gone tonight, but Taehyung wonders if that would have stopped them. Who cares if they scar Yoongi. Not Taehyung. Not tonight.

Except that Jimin turns towards the kitchen instead of the bedroom, and Taehyung misses his warmth almost immediately. When he follows, Jimin is grabbing two cups out of the cupboard and filling them with water. "Before or after?" he asks, and it's mildly absurd.

Taehyung laughs. "After."

Jimin chugs his down anyway. Taehyung watches his neck as he swallows, the rope and sinew of his throat, and his mouth goes dry. Maybe he should have accepted the drink. Maybe he shouldn't be doing this. They're both going to regret this in the morning, oh god, but then Jimin slams his cup back on the counter like he took a shot and his eyes are gleaming and Taehyung knows there was never any real chance of him denying himself this.

He holds his breath as Jimin steps in too close, his finger traces the collar of Taehyung's shirt, brushing over his collar bone. "You can say no," he says, and his eye contact is way too direct. "I'll be embarrassed but I won't be angry. I understand."

"It's..." Not fine. Something else. "It's just for tonight?" Because Taehyung wants to be clear. There's no use giving himself hope where there is none.

"I..." Jimn's hand fists in Taehyung's shirt. "Yeah. Just tonight."

Taehyung leads him back to his bedroom.

Jimin has always been a person who knows what he wants, so he's the one who shuts the door, he's the one who backs Taehyung up to fall against the bed. He clambers on top of him, smirks down at him, and Taehyung thinks he sees god.

He doesn't know where to put his hands, but Jimin doesn't seem to mind. "What do you want?" Taehyung asks, because he's overwhelmed and has no idea where to start.

Jimin leans down and smiles. "More kisses."

Taehyung laughs. "That's all?" He's more than willing. He puts one hand in the curve of Jimin's hip and the other comes up to Jimin's jaw pulling his face closer.

"For now," Jimin says with a grin, a familiar one that seems out of place here, but then he's dipping down and catching Taehyung's mouth and it's a good, terrifying kind of new. His hands tangle in Taehyung's hair, desperate in a way the rest of him isn't, and Taehyung wonders which part of Jimin's body is telling the truth.

Jimin bites Taehyung's lip until his mouth falls open, and Taehyung clings to Jimin's torso, his hands knotted in Jimin's clothes until Jimin pulls away, sits back on Taehyung's lap in a way that makes Taehyung see stars, and pulls his shirt off in irritation. He leans forward, just a little, hands on Taehyung's stomach, and Taehyung stares.

Taehyung has always stared at Park Jimin, has seen Jimin more naked than this plenty of times, but there's something about this moment and the knowledge of what's to come that makes the dips of Jimin's abs and chest and arms more scandalous.

Pouting, Jimin rocks back in Taehyung's lap, feels Taehyung hard in his pants. "Touch me," he demands. "I'm pretty. Touch me."

"Bossy." Taehyung pushes himself up, Jimin shifting. His hands slide reverently up Jimin's side, his thumbs dipping into divots, scratching smooth skin and turning it angry red. His fingers brush over Jimin's nipples and Jimin's entire body shivers. Taehyung is so focused on his hands, on the way Jimin feels beneath them, that when he looks up his breath is knocked away by how focused Jimin is on him. It's a look, one that Taehyung has seen him gives others before. Never has it been directed at him. He remembers that day, years ago, when Taehyung realized he was clinging on to something that could never happen. Pandora's box.

Taehyung latches onto Jimin's neck so he doesn't have to see it anymore. He presses sloppy kisses up to Jimin's jaw, thumbing over Jimin's nipples and smoothing his palms down Jimin's back until Jimin is shaking. "You're right," he says between kisses. "You are pretty."

Jimin's hips buck. His breath gets stuck in his throat.

Taehyung swallows. "The prettiest."

With a huff, Jimin pushes Taehyung back, and for a dreadful moment Taehyung thinks he read things wrong, thinks he's made a horrible mistake, but Jimin is clawing desperately for the hem of Taehyung's shirt. "Off," he demands. "Take it off."

"Say please."

Jimin sets his jaw. "No." And he reaches down and takes Taehyung's shirt off himself. It gets stuck on Taehyung's chin, but Jimin has little patience for it. His fingers slip under the material, feel the stubble of the facial hair Taehyung can't grow at his jaw line, and once the shirt is dealt with that's where his palms go, tilting Taehyung's face up so that Jimin can see him better. He leans down and kisses the corner of his mouth, gently, and then one had runs down Taehyung's chest. "Soft."

Taehyung flushes red. "We can't all be dancers." Jimin's probably used to Hoseok, who's a wire, but Taehyung's stomach is soft, it gives.

Jimin grins, and that's maybe not what Taehyung expected. "I like it." He pinches the skin along the waist of Taehyung's pants. "It's sweet."

Sweet.

In a moment, Taehyung’s body relaxes, and then Jimin grinds his hips down and everything is on fire. He lets out a startled moan, one hand reaching down to grab Jimin's ass, dick twitching, and all that does is spur Jimin on.

He buries his head in Taehyung's neck, rolls his hips down in a vicious rhythm and Taehyung has nothing to hold onto except for Jimin. Everything is Jimin.

"Am I doing a good job?" Jimin asks, so close that Taehyung can feel his lips moving on his skin.

Taehyung shudders. "Yeah," he chokes out, because Jimin nips at his ear and stops his brain from functioning. He falls back against the bed again, too distracted to hold himself up anymore, and Jimin follows, chases Taehyung's mouth until they're pressed chest to chest on the mattress. His hands reach down for Jimin's ass, fuck, he's wanted to hold it for so long. Jimin wiggles his hips, huffing a laugh at the way Taehyung whines at the friction. "Pants off," Taehyung says.

"Now who's bossy?" Jimin asks lightly, but he's already sitting back up.

"It's still you," Taehyung says, and the repartee is normal and familiar but the way Jimin stands up and unbuttons his jeans is not. The way Jimin shimmies out of those damn skinny jeans is not familiar at all.

It's not the first time that Taehyung has seen Jimin in his underwear, but it is the first time he's seen Jimin's cock straining against the fabric of his briefs. He can't stop himself from staring. Jimin doesn't seem to mind. Not if the way his dick twitches is any indication.

Jimin walks closer to the bed, and this is a scene straight from Taehyung's dreams. "You can have it, if you want," he says wickedly, and any other time Taehyung would laugh at him for that kind of line — of course Park Jimin would say something like that — but Taehyung's mouth is watering.

He leans over, his eyes fluttering shut when he feels Jimin's hand in his hair again, mouth falling open until the warmth of Jimin's cock is pressed against his lips. He mouths at the shaft through the cotton, feels it thick on his tongue, is more distracted by the blissful way Jimin moans and the hand tugging sharp at his hair.

"Tae..." Jimin's voice is a whisper, and Taehyung opens his eyes lazily as he sucks on the tip. "Fuck." Jimin steps back, pulls off his briefs, his cock red and hard and beautiful, wow, but Taehyung has to stop himself from saying that out loud.

Taehyung leans out to suck the tip back into his mouth, but Jimin presses a hand against his shoulder and pushes him down. He presses his finger into the button of Taehyung's pants, trails over the zipper, cups his hand around Taehyung's dick and squeezes, strokes until Taehyung is rutting in his palm. "These pants can't be comfortable," he teases.

"Fuck you." Taehyung tips his head back.

Jimin just laughs and flips the button open.

Taehyung's pants aren't as tight as Jimin's were, don't stick to his thighs like paint, and Jimin makes quick work of them. Taehyung is squirming enough to make things difficult, but Jimin places a cool hand on his hip and he stills, shivering, as Jimin drags his jeans down his thighs.

Jimin hooks his finger in the waistband of Taehyung's boxers, up and over, and Taehyung's dick hits his stomach. He laughs at the sound until Jimin pulls his underwear down further, wrestles them over Taehyung's feet and then Taehyung is soft and bare. Jimin coos, sitting on the edge of the bed and running his hand up Taehyung's thigh, trailing butterfly fingers over the underside of Taehyung's shaft and and pressing his thumb just under the head. "Cute boy," he says softly when Taehyung squirms under his touch. His hand cups Taehyung's balls, presses Taehyung's knees open. "Can't wait for you to be inside me."

"Fuck," Taehyung whimpers. This is a dream. It has to be a dream. Or he's drunker than he thought and he's hallucinating. Jimin is naked and climbing on top of him. There's so much skin on skin. Taehyung's so hard it should be embarrassing. "You're..."

Jimin grins wolfishly, leaning forward and grinding their hips together. "What am I?"

"You're so hot," Taehyung groans, throwing one arm over his forehead. "Fuck."

"Gladly." He wiggles his hips back and forth, laughing when Taehyung turns bright red. His hand slides down Taehyung's chest and presses into the soft skin of Taehyung's stomach. The other hand reaches over and pulls Taehyung's arm away from his face, and when Taehyung opens his eyes all he sees is Park Jimin staring at him, pupils blown but fond. So fond. Fuck.

"I'm..." still in love with you. He stops himself. This isn't that kind of moment. "If I asked you to kiss me, would you?"

Jimin laughs again, more of a giggle. "Are you gonna come if I do?" He grinds back again.

Taehyung groans. "Fuck you." But he puts a hand on the back of Jimin's neck and drags him down, and Jimin goes along gladly, smiling as he gives Taehyung a small peck, cute, before laying completely on top of him and bracing his elbows on either side of Taehyung's head.

It's different, kissing like this, intimate, like Taehyung can convince himself this is another universe and they're in love. Dangerous line of thinking. His hips rut up into Jimin's, and Jimin shivers, even as he breathes a laugh against Taehyung's lips. Jimin nips at Taehyung’s bottom lip until his mouth falls open, slips his tongue inside and everything is wet and good and overwhelming. Taehyung let's his hands do what they want, lets them wander down Jimin's sides and down to his ass. Jimin lets out an appreciate huff, wiggling his hips again and sucking on the spot just under Taehyung's jawline.

"How do you want me?" he whispers in Taehyung's ear, pulling one of Taehyung's piercings into his mouth. "You wanna hold me against the mattress and fuck me until I see stars?"

That sounds like something Taehyung could get behind, but so do a million other things. He wants Jimin to fuck him. He wants to fuck on the floor, against the wall, in the shower, pressed flat against the window. He wants his entire apartment to smell like Jimin. He wants more time.

"Like this." He runs his forefinger over Jimin's hole, feels it relaxed under his touch, and Jimin sighs contentedly. He rubs circles into Jimin's skin. "Like this. So I can see you."

Just for tonight.

Jimin pushes himself back up so he's sitting, and Taehyung's cock is pressed up against his ass. "Want me to do all the work, huh?" he asks cutely. "I even prepped myself. All you are is a dick to fuck me."

Taehyung feels his heart race and doesn't think about it too much. He gets the lube from his side table and passes it along, and the sight of Jimin letting it drizzle over his fingers is almost too much. "Prepped yourself? Expected to get lucky?" He supposed that was a reason Jimin wanted to go dancing so badly.

But Jimin just shakes his head. "Lonely," he says. "Wanted something inside."

Taehyung almost comes then, but Jimin is already taking matters into his own hands. He scoots back on Taehyung's lap, his small hand reaching back and stroking Taehyung's dick once, twice. The lube is cold, but it’s hardly Taehyung’s main focus. He feels Jimin press the head against his hole, rubbing the tip against the cleft of his ass with a vicious grin on his face.

"Stop teasing," Taehyung pouts.

"Fine," Jimin replies easily, and he sinks down onto Taehyung's cock smooth and easy.

"Fu—Jimin. Fuck." Taehyung grabs Jimin's hips with vice-like fingers. There will be bruises in the morning. "Oh god."

"If I were you," Jimin says, moving his hips in little circles to help him adjust, "I'd make a dumb joke like 'you can call me Jimin.'"

"Shut—”

Jimin leans forward, ass up, and drops down on Taehyung's dick again.

"Stop this," Taehyung begs. Jimin is illuminated by the lamp light, and he looks wicked. "It's not fair. You're not playing fair."

Jimin just hums, rolling his hips — "You feel good." — and Taehyung only gets one more choked word in before Jimin starts riding him in earnest.

Once the stars clear and Taehyung is done with his out-of-body experience and is able to actively take in what's happening, he thinks that this moment is worth everything that's going to happen in the morning. Jimin tips his head back, his chest glistening with sweat, the muscles in his legs bulging as he fucks himself on Taehyung's cock. This is new. There is nothing about this that is familiar. Taehyung doesn't know how he'll go on knowing what Jimin looks like on top of him like this.

He looks like a god, powerful enough to crush Taehyung underfoot.

Taehyung's fingers scratch down Jimin's sides. Desperate. "You're...fuck."

"Tell me." Jimin leans forward, too close to Taehyung's face, fucking himself back without breaking his rhythm. "What am I?"

Taehyung can see the mole on Jimin's neck and the clumps in his eyelashes and the sweaty hair that's falling onto his forehead and it's too much. This is too much. "You're so fucking beautiful." His voice cracks. His hands smooth up the curve of Jimin's back.

It's the first time Jimin falters, a hiccup, but he hides it well. He buries his face in Taehyung's neck. "Fuck me like you mean it."

So Taehyung does. He plants his feet on the mattress, hooking his arms under Jimin's, his hands pressing into the delicate spaces of his collarbones, and he fucks him like he means it. Like this is the only time he'll be given this much of what he wants. Like for tonight, just for tonight, what he wants and what Jimin wants are the same thing.

Jimin moans in his ear, high and needy, his hands scrambling for purchase in the sheets before finding themselves in Taehyung's hair again, pulling just right. "Fuck me," he breathes. "God. Harder—fuck." He drops his weight onto Taehyung's chest.

Taehyung kisses Jimin's ear, gentle, and fucks into him as hard as he's able. Jimin deserves it. Jimin is beautiful.

He thinks he might have said it out loud again. Jimin whines. "Tell me again."

"You're beautiful. You're so—god. Jimin."

Jimin props himself up, his free hand wrapping around his own cock as he bounces back on Taehyung's, matching his brutal rhythm and moaning, high in his throat.

"Come." God, Taehyung wants him to come. He reaches out, thumbing at Jimin's nipple. "Jiminie—

White spurts out over Jimin's fist, onto Taehyung's chest, and the sound Jimin makes is ungodly. It hits Taehyung right in the stomach, low and deep as he fucks Jimin through the orgasm. An earworm. Something that will replay in his dreams a thousand times.

Jimin huffs. "I'm gonna..." He sighs, a happy, perfectly empty kind of sigh. "You're cute like this." He kisses Taehyung's chest, his own cum on his lips, and Taehyung twitches inside of Jimin even as Jimin starts lifting himself off, licking with white from his mouth.

Taehyung watches, fascinated, as Jimin adjusts himself between Taehyung's spread legs, hooking his arms under Taehyung's knees to drag him closer. Jimin looks him in the eyes, like he's asking permission, but Taehyung is still rock hard, throbbing. He would never say no.

When Jimin slips his cock into his mouth, it's both the best thing and the worst thing that's ever happened to him. It's warm and wet and it's Jimin, Jimin, he still can't believe it. Jimin's hand is wrapped around the base and his tongue presses firmly into the underside and he kisses wetly up the side just how Taehyung likes it. He kisses the head, eyes flitting up to look at Taehyung's again are you watching me before sinking down until the tip hits the back of his throat.

"I'm gonna come," Taehyung whispers. He can't look away as Jimin deepthroats him. He's weak and powerless. "Jimin, fuck."

Jimin doesn't swallow, like Taehyung expects him to. He pulls off and opens his mouth, pumps his hand along Taehyung's cock until he comes, hot, all across Jimin's cheeks, nose, chin. Mouth. Messy.

For a moment, all Taehyung can do is take it in, breathe. Process. "Wow," he says eventually.

This is a new Jimin, one covered in Taehyung, but his face cracks and he's laughing. "Eloquent." He wipes a finger through the smear on his cheek. "We match now." He pops it in his mouth.

Taehyung can't feel his legs. He's been completely and totally pulled into Jimin's rhythm until he's goo in his own bed, but he manages to sit up, his legs thrown on either side of Jimin's hips, and he kisses Jimin's cheek. Sweet. Cum bitter on his lips. "We do match."

Jimin's breathing hard, and he's looking at Taehyung's mouth, and he's still the most beautiful thing. Taehyung is really in love.

It's not the first time that he looked at Jimin and thought this is it, but it certainly hits the hardest.

Jimin is oddly hesitant, when he places his hand on the back of Taehyung's neck and draws them together. This isn't the most intimate thing they've done tonight, not by far, but it's a sweet kiss in the stillness of the moment after, when the heat has cooled to the point where it's no longer an excuse. His lips are soft. He tastes like Taehyung.

Beautiful, and just for tonight.

Jimin is the first one to pull away, but he doesn't go far, just rests his forehead on Taehyung's and catches his breath. "We should clean up."

"Showers?" Taehyung asks, once he finds his voice. His arms slip around Jimin's lower back. They fit there and that hurts worse.

Jimin grimaces. "Too sleepy." He looks towards the door to the hallway. "Washcloth?"

Taehyung grins. "I have one better." He hates turning away from Jimin, and the room feels cold without the heat of another body, but he leans back and reaches over the side of the bed, pulling a box of Wet Wipes out of the side table. "Do you want citrus blend or fresh scent? I bought a three pack."

"Romantic." Jimin tilts his head. "Citrus."

"I like a man who knows what he wants." Taehyung opens the pack and takes one out. He hands it to Jimin.

"Do it for me," Jimin says cutely. "I worked hard."

Taehyung can't argue that. His hand shakes, he's shaking down to his heartstrings, but he gently wipes away the mess on Jimin's face and neck before wiping down his torso and calling it a day. "You'd better be a cuddler."

"I was born to cuddle," Jimin says, and Taehyung can tells he's hesitating now in the quietness of the moment. Is he already regretful? His blood simmers down and he's already counting his mistakes? But he takes Taehyung's hand and slips under the covers and it's just like the used to be, except that it's not like it used to be at all.

Jimin's arms wrap around his middle, pull him closer, and Taehyung is gay, grossly in love, and fucked over in a million ways, but in this moment he's happy.

 


 

Taehyung wakes up in the early morning, too early on his day off. Tired in a soft, sleepy kind of way, like his bed is warm and there's no place he'd rather be. He opens his eyes, takes in the room. The sun dips in through the window, unusually bright. He shuts his eyes tightly and buries his face into his pillow. His pillow moves, shifts, laughs, and Taehyung remembers everything all at once.

"Good morning," Jimin chirps, far too awake. "Will you let go of me now?"

Taehyung is wrapped around him like a koala. His legs are tangled with Jimin's, one thrown possessively over Jimin's hip, his arms clinging around Jimin's back. There's a lot of skin to process, skin on skin, but it's different than it was last night, warm instead of hot. Soft.

He doesn't have the energy to be embarrassed. "No," he says petulantly before blowing a raspberry into Jimin's shoulder.

Jimin pushes Taehyung's face away playfully, or he tries to. The heel of his palm ends up in Taehyung's eye. It's a rude but effective wake up call. "Oh god," Jimin says quickly when Taehyung yelps and pulls away. "Sorry. I took my contacts out. Your face is a blob."

Taehyung remembers waking up, barely, to Jimin leaving his bed in the middle of the night. Maybe he clutched onto Jimin's hand a little tighter, like that might stop him from leaving. "I'm just going to the bathroom," Jimin had said gently, prying Taehyung's fingers off of his wrist. "I'll be back."

That's as close to a promise as Taehyung's going to get.

"You should put your glasses on," Taehyung mutters, scowling at Jimin, but it's colder when he's this far away. He flops back onto Jimin's chest.

Jimin grimaces. "No."

"Are you still like this?" Taehyung asks, laughing. "Your glasses are cute and you're blind."

"My glasses are not cute," Jimin protests. "And I'm only kind of blind."

Taehyung shoves his chin into the meat of Jimin's shoulder. "You just punched me in the face."

Jimin opens his mouth. "I thought it'd wake you up...?"

"You're the worst." Taehyung sits up, stretching his arms and back. He's always stiff in the morning. His spine pops. "Let Taehyungie take care of you." He throws the covers off his legs and hisses at the cold air of his room. The biggest negative of sleeping naked is this part of the morning. His feet feel weird against the floor but at least it's carpet and not the unforgiving iciness of wood.

He trots across the room, picking up the clothes he recognizes as Jimin's and carrying them over to his bag. "You need a new bag," he says over his shoulder. "This one is from your freshman year." Jimin doesn't answer, but Taehyung doesn't need him to. He just digs around until he pulls out Jimin's glasses case. It's got the Power Puff Girls on it. Taehyung bought it for him for his 19th birthday.

When Taehyung turns around, glasses in hand, his breath catches in his throat. Jimin is staring at him, at his skin, at his face, like he's never seen him. The bright light from the window hides nothing, Taehyung hides nothing, and he'd be insecure if he was afraid of being vulnerable. "Stop staring," he says. "You can't even see me. I'm a giant, flesh-toned mass."

"I can see enough," Jimin says automatically, before his cheeks turn pink. "I'm just...remembering."

Taehyung does find the energy to be embarrassed by that. Jimin's face is impassive, neutral, and Taehyung would almost give anything to know what he's thinking. Feeling. What's going on. But maybe he'd rather not know. Maybe it's safer not knowing.

So he doesn't say anything, doesn't tease. He walks towards Jimin's side of the bed wordlessly. Jimin looks up at him, still staring, but he doesn't move, doesn't protest when Taehyung leans down and slides the glasses onto his face, and his eyes just get sharper.

"Cute," Taehyung says. His mouth is dry.

Neither of them move. Taehyung's hands linger on either side of Jimin's face. If he wanted to, he could lean down and kiss him, softer than last night. He doesn't think Jimin would let him. In another life, maybe.

"I should shower," Taehyung says suddenly. This is too much. This whole thing was too much.

Jimin swallows. "Okay," he replies quietly, and Taehyung is standing and walking out of his room before he has the chance to think about anything else.

The shower is a welcome respite, for the most part. He's grimy from the club, and his stomach is still a little sticky, and as he washes it off he imagines that he's washing off their night, too. That Jimin isn't allowed to linger. He wants to smell like lavender and that weird bark soap Yoongi has instead of like...whatever that was. Desperation maybe, on his part. He wasn't drunk enough to pretend like he wasn't aware of the choice he was making, but the morning light paints things in different colors. Everything seemed like a bad idea in the late hours. In the morning ones, it seems catastrophic.

How much more of himself can he give to Jimin before there's nothing left?

He thinks of Jimin on top of him, beautiful, and thinks this might have passed his limit.

Taehyung washes the evidence of his night down the drain. He smells like lavender and bark soap. He's a little too empty and a little too full. He hops out of the shower, runs a hand through his hair, tries to ignore the dark mark blooming under his jaw, one more thing he can't wash away.

He walks out into the hallway, towel around his waist, and sees that his bedroom is empty.

Taehyung finds Jimin right as he's walking out the door.

Jimin has the decency to pause and look embarrassed, but Taehyung doesn't think he should have expected anything less. Jimin is wearing last night's clothes, too dramatic for an early morning, and his hair is a mess, but his glasses are still sitting on his nose. "I..."

Taehyung feels himself deflate. That fucking hope. Squashing it once wasn't enough. He doesn't deserve to be disappointed. "It's okay," he says. The air is cold, and his skin prickles.

"Really?" Jimin asks, one hand still on the door knob, and Taehyung isn't even sure why he asks when his answer isn't going to change anything.

He keeps his mouth shut.

Jimin sighs heavily. "I just...need..." He tugs at his hair.

"It's okay," Taehyung says again, because the only thing that might make this worse is hearing the reason why Jimin needs to leave.

Jimin looks like he wants to say something else. "Alright," is what he says instead. Slips away like there’s nothing holding him to this place.

Taehyung stares at the door that closes behind Jimin, and he walks into the kitchen and stares at the pot of coffee that Jimin started, and the glass of water Jimin left on the table, and thinks about the things he's done.

 


 

It's Taehyung's fault this time, when they don't see each other for a month. Taehyung told himself he needed a day, and Jimin didn't press, and then he needed a week, and two weeks, and now it's been a long time since Taehyung has seen him and it's for the best. It really is.

Because every time Taehyung thinks he's ready to face Jimin again he thinks about fucking him, but more than that he thinks about the fact that Jimin let him, and how warm Jimin had been after, and how beautiful he'd been during. And he has to stamp everything down and start from scratch.

He really fucked up.

Taehyung can't stop thinking about it, about Jimin, about shit that shouldn't matter but it does and it always has and suddenly he's the exact same Taehyung he was when he realized that he was pathetic and Jimin would never be in love with him. That night at the club all those years ago when he realized that he was still fucking hoping. And Taehyung has been on the other side of Jimin's desire now but it doesn't matter because it only matters to Taehyung. They're still in the same place they've always been.

 

Park Jimin
Hey Tae just wanted to check in
You don't have to answer if
You know if you are uncomfortable that's fine

Kim Tae
I'm okay
Thanks

Park Jimin
Sorry

 

That conversation was a week ago, almost three weeks after that fucking night, and Taehyung still feels like maybe he should have said something differently.

"This whole thing is fucked up," Yoongi tells him, when he finds Taehyung staring at the messages for the fourth time after covering for Taehyung again — "No, he's too busy. Maybe he can make movie night next week." — but there's nothing to be done.

His relationship with his roommate has benefitted from his complete turmoil, at the very least. He doesn't want to tell anyone about what happened, in case Jimin is embarrassed, which means he can't use it as an excuse to get out of any gatherings where they might have to see each other. Yoongi got sick of his shitty excuses first, and pried the secrets out of him with his cold, surprisingly strong hands. Taehyung supposes there's some solidarity in that.

He wonders if Jimin has told anyone. He wonders what Jimin is thinking, but the only way to know is to ask, and that's the last thing Taehyung wants to do.

They run the same circles, visit the same places, so it shouldn't be a surprise when Taehyung runs into Jimin at the corner store, but it doesn't make things any easier.

"Tae," Jimin calls softly, once they make eye contact across the ramen aisle. He's wearing sweats and looks a bit like a wreck. Not that Taehyung is any better.

The cup noodles in his hands don't seem worth the trip, but Taehyung can't run away now. "Hey." He doesn't care about comparing brands anymore. He puts one back on the shelf. "How are you?"

"I'm..." Jimin squints in Taehyung's direction, like he's trying to figure out the rules in this new game they've found themselves playing. "I'm okay." He pauses. Runs a hand through his hair. He always lets it grow too long in the winter. "Just dropped Hoseok off at the airport."

Taehyung's not sure how he's supposed to feel about that.

"I was surprisingly okay about it," Jimin continues. He scuffs his shoe against the linoleum tile. He's trying to prompt Taehyung to say something, Taehyung can recognize that much, but he's not sure what he's supposed to be feeling so he's not sure what he's supposed to be saying.

"Did you kiss him goodbye?" he asks, harsher than he means it.

Jimin falters. "I..." He stares.

Taehyung clutches his noodles a little more firmly and smiles, an apology. "Bye, Jimin."

Jimin's body sags. "Bye, Tae," he says kindly, stepping aside as Taehyung walks past him to the counter.

A part of Taehyung knows that Jimin was only coming here for ramen, and that part of Taehyung is glad when Jimin lingers unnecessarily long in the aisle while Taehyung pays and makes idle chat with the cashier. They make eye contact one more time on Taehyung's way out the door. They wave at each and pretend like this is normal.

Taehyung tries not to imagine Jimin sending Hoseok off and fails. He goes home and eats his noodles instead.

 


 

It's a cold Saturday morning at the end of February when Jungkook shows up at Taehyung's apartment with beer and pizza and Taehyung knows that something is wrong.

"Should I get Yoongi?" Taehyung asks, because it's a rare day when Jungkook is over and not here for Yoongi. But he watches Jungkook's face crumble and knows that's the opposite of what needs to happen.

"Yoongi isn't here," Jungkook says, small. "He was at my house, but then he..." He looks very small, out in the hallway with his nighttime comfort food in the broad light of day.

"Is that Hawaiian?" Taehyung asks casually, because Jungkook won't forgive him if he lets him cry in public, even if the old lady next door has seen plenty of breakdowns. He takes the box from Jungkook and walks into the kitchen.

Jungkook sniffles, toeing off his shoes by the door, beer bottles clinking. "It's half-Hawaiian, half-supreme."

Taehyung whistles. "You're a god among men." The clock over their stove says that it's 9:45 in the morning, but there's nothing wrong with a little day drinking in times of crisis, and Taehyung can't think of a single time of day he'd ever turn down pizza. "Napkins are by the fridge."

"Yeah." Of course Jungkook knows that. How many times have they been in this same place?

Jungkook doesn't say anything until Taehyung hands him a plate for his pizza. He doesn't take it immediately, looks up at Taehyung instead. "He called things off," he says, and Taehyung doesn't need to ask who he is. "We were hanging out and then he just...it's over."

Taehyung tries to think of something to say that isn't I told you so. "Did he say why?"

Jungkook sets the plate in his lap carefully, crumpling a napkin in his hand. "He said he was getting bored," he says in disbelief, voice cracking. "That it was time things ended." Jungkook slumps against the couch. "Now I'm drowning my feelings in greasy food and beer."

"Like a true man." Taehyung takes a bottle from the six pack and raises it in a toast.

"Here here." Jungkook taps the bottle with the side of his pizza. He takes a bite, defeated. "It doesn't make sense."

It doesn't. Taehyung has seen the two of them. Yoongi certainly wasn't bored last week, or even yesterday. But isn't that the cardinal rule of friends-with benefits? You cut things off as soon as you catch feelings?

It's a little late for that, Taehyung thinks, watching the way that Jungkook picks at his pizza. But maybe it got to the point where Yoongi couldn't pretend Jungkook didn't matter anymore.

"I wonder what he's so afraid of," he wonders aloud, twisting the cap off his beer and taking a drink as he sits down on the couch. He just brushed his teeth and everything is a mistake, but he only grimaces a little.

Jungkook groans. "Me," he wails overdramatically, but Taehyung sees in the line of his shoulders that some of it is real. "Apparently." He sighs. "We didn't even fuck. He just showed up unannounced and watched superhero movies and fell asleep on the fucking couch."

Taehyung hums. "Ah." So it really was that Yoongi couldn't ignore it anymore. "And he just told you in the morning?"

"Yeah." Jungkook tips his head over onto Taehyung's shoulder and takes a deep breath. "He was kind of an asshole about it."

"Surprise," Taehyung chirps. "I don't know if there was any other way for things to go other than, like, him admitting he's madly in love with you."

Jungkook is quiet for a moment. "Don't joke about that," he says. Small.

Taehyung stares at the top of Jungkook's head before resting his cheek there. "Sorry, baby." He pats Jungkook's leg. "I get it. Shit's hard."

"I'm sorry I was an ass about Jimin," Jungkook says softly, mostly into Taehyung's shoulder. "This sucks."

Maybe this is why Jungkook came here, instead of heading to Seokjin who's usually on damage control. Because they're not so different. "Yeah," Taehyung agrees. "It does." He laughs a little. They've both fucked things up. "You'll survive."

Jungkook huffs. "I'm sorry things are fucked up with Jimin again." He sits up and leans to the table to pick up a beer for himself. Taehyung's sits neglected in his hand, but he's not particularly interested in it this early in the morning so he feels no guilt. "Jimin's a mess, too, if it makes you feel any better."

It doesn't make Taehyung feel better, not at all, but it does make him pause. "You've talked with Jimin?"

"We're close too, you know," Jungkook points out, wiping grease and pizza sauce from the corner of his lip. "We were all friends, before—"

"Before everything was terrible." Taehyung shakes his head. "What did he..." His curiosity is more important than his self-preservation. "What did he tell you?"

Jungkook grimaces. "Enough."

Jimin definitely told him details. "Gross."

"This is what happens when Jimin needs a shoulder to cry on and his best friend is the topic of conversation!" Jungkook hisses. "I find out about your sex life and everyone is upset!"

Taehyung blinks. Frowns. "Why was Jimin crying?"

Jungkook takes an angry sip of his beer. "Because everything is shit." He sighs. "I'm really tired of everything being shit."

"Agreed." Taehyung leans his head back and lolls against the back of the couch. "Why do we always make things so complicated?"

Jungkook shrugs and aggressively eats his pizza. "Boys are dumb."

They clink their drinks together.

"I'm gonna be a monk," Jungkook states.

"You're gonna find Yoongi and you're going to talk things through like adults," Taehyung says instead.

Jungkook flops sideways, beer dangling from his fingers and head in Taehyung's lap. "Not today."

"Tomorrow."

"Is tomorrow a metaphor for next month?"

Taehyung laughs. "If you need it to be." He runs his hand through Jungkook's hair and watches fondly as Jungkook lets his eyes flutter closed."You'll be happier the sooner you do it."

Jungkook breathes deeply, and Taehyung almost thinks he's fallen asleep. "Did that work for you?" he asks, voice muffled in Taehyung's thigh.

Taehyung sighs. "No. It really didn't."

Jungkook is thinking so loudly. "What if I really am boring?" Small.

"You're not." Taehyung is going to give his roommate a very firm talking to.

"What if Yoongi really thinks I am?"

"Then he doesn't deserve you," Taehyung says firmly. "He's already on the fence."

Jungkook curls up a little. Taehyung's pant leg feels suspiciously wet, but he'll pretend he doesn't notice until Jungkook is in the mood to be made fun of. "Thanks, Tae," he mutters.

"You're welcome."

Jungkook falls asleep in Taehyung's lap, and Taehyung eats all of the pizza, and it's as good as his morning could get.

 


 

Jungkook is long gone by the time Yoongi comes home.

He looks tired and road-worn. There are spots in the light blue of his jacket from the rain he must have walked through. "Not now," Yoongi snaps when he sees Taehyung open his mouth.

"You're being an asshole," Taehyung tells him anyway.

"Surprise," Yoongi says, an echo. They all expected it to happen.

"Why can't you just let yourself be in love with him?"

Yoongi pauses in the doorway to his room. "How did that work out for you?" he demands, brittle. The corners of his mouth pull down into something vulnerable. "Seems like you have a lot of good luck that way."

"It's different," Taehyung tells him gently. "Jimin doesn't love me back."

Yoongi looks at Taehyung. "That'd make things easier, wouldn't it?" It's not a question.

Taehyung watches Yoongi lock himself away and wonders when the doors will start opening the way they're meant to.

 


 

Seokjin gets tired of it first.

"Are you avoiding me?" he demands one day, when he calls Taehyung in the middle of the morning when he's too tired to screen his calls. "Have I pissed you off?"

"Um..." Taehyung blinks blankly at his coffee. "No...?"

"Are you avoiding Namjoon?"

"No, Seokjin" Taehyung replies dutifully.

Seokjin barely pauses. "Oh." Obvious. "You're avoiding Jimin."

Taehyung takes a loud drink of his coffee instead of replying.

"Well, stop." Seokjin scoffs into the phone. "I'm tired of this. It's all nonsense and Jimin has been moping on my couch for at least a week."

"If you already knew that I was avoiding Jimin then why did you even bother calling me?" Taehyung pokes at his laughable breakfast of slightly burnt toast and jam. He's got class in an hour and he hasn't left his house. His papers are scattered across the table. It's that kind of week.

"Because I knew if I opened with Jimin you'd hang up on me."

Fair.

"Look." Seokjin huffs. "We're all getting together at my house next week. There's going to be lots of food and beautiful people, like myself."

Taehyung scuffs his foot on the tile. "Who's going to be there?" he asks petulantly.

"Me. Weren't you listening?"

"Seokjin," Taehyung whines.

He sighs. "Me, Namjoon. Yoongi, if you want to invite him. Jungkook, if he's okay with that." Seokjin pauses. "Jimin is going to be there."

"I'm not going."

"You're being childish," Seokjin says harshly. "This has been going on for too long."

Taehyung isn't sure whether Jimin told Seokjin about what happened or not. He's inclined to believe Seokjin doesn't know, because the weight of that feels so heavy and Taehyung isn't sure Seokjin would talk like this to him if he knew.

"We all miss you," Seokjin continues. "And Jimin is miserable. I'd place money on you also being miserable."

Taehyung is miserable. Taehyung feels like shit every time he thinks about Jimin, because that was something that shouldn't have happened, because every time he thinks of Jimin he thinks about how he looked and how he felt and how things have changed so irrevocably that everything Taehyung's been trying to do for the past two or three years has been thrown out the window. "I'll be more miserable if you make me go."

"You are both adults. Stop sulking and have fun with the people you care about." Seokjin's voice is final. "It's been over a month. I'm done letting you guys figure it out on your own."

"Ugh, dude." Taehyung bangs his head on the table. "I had sex with Jimin and it's the worst thing that's ever happened to me."

"I know, and I doubt that," Seokjin says flatly. "You're a baby. Namjoon agrees with me. Right, Namjoon?" In the distance, Taehyung hears an absent-minded what? "See? He agrees."

Taehyung scowls. "You're the worst kind of person."

"You're welcome for everything I do for you," Seokjin snips. "It's this Friday. I know you're free because I hacked into your Google Calendar. Bring booze."

"The worst."

"I love you, too." He hangs up.

"Why are my friends the worst?" Taehyung asks the room. He gathers up his papers. "Yoongi! Why are my friends the worst?" he shouts down the hallway.

"Fuck you! I'm trying to sleep," Yoongi replies through the closed door of his bedroom.

"We're going to a party on Friday," Taehyung tells him, shoving his things into his bag.

Yoongi groans.

"I have to go, so you have to go."

It's quiet. "Is Jungkook going to be there?"

Taehyung dumps what's left of his coffee down the sink. "Maybe."

Another pause. "Will there be alcohol?"

"Definitely."

"I'll think about it."

 


 

They both end up going, because Seokjin is impossible to deny and they've decided it's best to suffer together. If they're both miserable, they'll at least be in good company.

Taehyung still isn't sold on the idea that Yoongi and Jungkook won't work things out. There are stupid things in the way that could be moved with the right words, but no one is speaking. So Taehyung soothes Yoongi when he's at home and distracts Jungkook when he's out and about. Maybe now they'll finally get their shit together.

Jungkook is at the apartment when they arrive, but he's quiet and withdrawn. He looks at Yoongi shyly, barely even gives Taehyung a smile before pretending like he's absorbed in his phone.

Yoongi huffs. "It's going to be a long night."

Taehyung sees Jimin sprawled out in Namjoon's lap and hums in agreement.

Oddly, it seems that he and Yoongi have opposite problems. As soon as Jimin realizes that they've arrived he sits up, almost hitting Namjoon's chin. "Tae." His face breaks out into a smile, small but bright and not hesitant, not at all, and Taehyung gets flashbacks to freshman year when things were simpler. "You came."

Yoongi snorts.

"Yeah." Taehyung scratches the back of his neck. "I did."

Jimin pats the space of the floor beside him, and Taehyung automatically moves to comply with the unspoken request. His second step falters, and so does Jimin's expression, but he keeps walking anyway, sits down with enough space between them to be casual.

Jungkook watches him closely, and when he catches Taehyung's eye he raises an eyebrow.

Taehyung knows better than to defend himself.

Jimin folds his legs, criss cross applesauce, his knee tapping lightly against Taehyung's thigh. Taehyung is hyperaware of the contact even as he chastises himself for caring. "I'm happy you came," Jimin says under the soft murmur of activity, like maybe the other's won't hear him.

Seokjin's eyes bore into the side of Taehyung's face, even if he seems to be talking to Yoongi about something in depth.

"Thanks," Taehyung answers, and that's that.

It's not the kind of get together than anyone would ever actually enjoy. Everything is too tense and heavy and stilted, and Seokjin is trying really hard and Namjoon isn't sure what to do and the rest of them are pretending to actually care about the conversation when there's so much left unsaid. Taehyung hadn't expected anything different. Seokjin didn't invite them here to have a good time. He invited them here to get shit done. Taehyung supposes he has to appreciate that.

Jimin is too close and too interested. "How have classes been going?"

"Pretty good." Taehyung's throat is too tight. Jimin is close enough that Taehyung can see the acne scars and remember that they're both just humans. This is fine, probably. "Doyeon would like me to ask for your hand in marriage."

Jimin grins, and he opens his mouth to say something just when Taehyung's words catch up with his brain and he realizes what he just said.

"For her," he says quickly. "She wants me to be her wingman. You will be marrying the child."

"Thanks for the clarification," Jimin says dryly. He doesn't seem bothered. "I prefer people my own age. "

"I've tried telling her people her age don't date people our age, but then Jihoon just argues with me."

Jimin snorts. "Jihoon might be hot for teacher."

Taehyung grimaces. "Do not say that about my eight year old child."

"I think it's cute." Jimin smiles, his eyes squishing closed, and Taehyung wonders how Jimin managed to make things feel so normal. "You're a good teacher, and you're handsome. I can see how he might fall a little in love with you."

"Seokjin!" Taehyung calls suddenly. "I need a drink."

Jimin might sigh a little beside him, but that's for drunk Taehyung to worry about. He's already done some shit he regrets. A little more alcohol won't hurt anything.

The night continues like that, with Taehyung desperately trying to forget having ridiculously good sex with Jimin even while Jimin is desperately trying to hold his attention. In the end, it's impossible, because Jimin's mouth moves and Taehyung thinks of other things, remembers other things, and a month wasn't enough. Clearly wasn't enough. Taehyung sees it like someone tattooed it on his eyelids.

"Shouldn't you slow down?" Jungkook asks when Taehyung takes a huge gulp of something out of Namjoon's cup, but Jimin is pressed very close and is laughing and it's cute and also very confusing.

"I'm not carrying your ass home," Yoongi says brusquely, thrusting a cup of water into Taehyung's hand, but Taehyung doesn't miss the way that there's liquor in Yoongi's own cup. He hasn't said a word to Jungkook all night. Taehyung thinks he'd rather have Yoongi's problem.

Taehyung steals sips from Jimin's cup, but he drinks the water dutifully.

"Things change, but you still can't handle alcohol," Jimin coos later on in the night, when Taehyung is bubbly and giddy and wants to hold everyone in his arms. It's a dangerous state to be in so close to something he wants to hold forever, but he's a sad fucker and can't do any better. Jimin's spent the entire night touching Taehyung in some way, like a weird attempt to extend an olive branch, and Taehyung is accepting it for what it is.

"I can handle it," Taehyung says petulantly. "I just like being held." He spent half an hour sitting in Jungkook's lap earlier before Jungkook needed to use the restroom, and lingered in the kitchen with his chin hooked over Seokjin's shoulder for the small amount of time he was allowed before Seokjin shook him off.

Now Jimin has hooked their arms together and Taehyung is halfway to laying in his lap, except that his cup is mostly full and even at this stage he knows spilling it on the carpet will bring a swift death. Gingerly, Jimin plucks the cup from Taehyung's fingers and sets it up on the coffee table, and Taehyung is too soft to even complain about it appropriately, which means he probably shouldn't have it anyway.

Taehyung takes the opportunity to fall the rest of the way into Jimin's lap, but Jimin grabs him by the shoulders and hauls him upright and Taehyung is compliant enough. "We should talk," Jimin says quietly.

"We are talking," Taehyung replies. "We're talking right now."

Jimin's face is too serious, and it's the first time that Taehyung's noticed Jimin's first drink is still on the table, only half-empty. It's unlike Jimin to hold himself back so much. He reaches out to smooth the ruffled collar of Taehyung's shirt, and Taehyung stares at his fingers as he does so. "We should talk about the other night."

This is exactly what Taehyung wanted to avoid forever. "Or we could, you know, never speak of it again."

"Is that really what you want?" Jimin asks with a heavy sigh.

"I'd rather ignore it if it means you don't have to step all over me again," Taehyung replies truthfully, almost bitterly. He's not ready to be shot down again. He's already been shot so far down he's basically six feet under.

Jimin squares his shoulders. "That's not fair."

"No." Taehyung reaches over and picks up Jimin's drink."It's not."

He's about to take a sip when Jimin takes it from him. "You've been in love with me for so long, I figured you'd be happy." There's some bite to it, but he's hurting from Taehyung words, so if Taehyung were less inebriated he'd let it go.

But Taehyung is defensive and tired and a little drunk and Jimin is confusing. He's confusing. Taehyung is confused. "Happy?" he asks. Demands. "Happy to be your fuck boy for a night and then watch you leave in the morning?"

Jimin looks shocked. Taehyung plucks the drink from Jimin's loosened grasp and takes a pointed sip.

He looks out at the rest of them, Yoongi and Jungkook and Seokjin and Namjoon, and sees a variety of shock and resigned disappointment. "I'm sorry," he says evenly over the rim of Jimin's cup. "Are we interrupting the party?"

"Tae—" Jimin reaches out for Taehyung's arm.

"I don't want to talk about it." Taehyung doesn't really want to talk about anything.

But Jimin is nothing if not a stubborn son of a bitch. "That's not how it happened."

"You left, didn't you?" Taehyung asks. "You asked me for a night and I gave it to you because that's as close as I'm ever going to get and I'm a pathetic fuck."

"Taehyung," Jimin scolds. "That is not—"

"Isn't it?" Taehyung doesn't want to have this conversation here, because he knows he's not going to play nice. Ten minutes ago he was clingy but now he can feel himself building the walls brick by brick. Trying to communicate with Taehyung while drunk is a risky business. It always goes one way or the other. "You could have had anyone in that fucking club."

"I know, Taehyung," Jimin presses. "I fucking know."

"Um." Namjoon's voice carries nervously from the corner. "Guys—"

Seokjin is already shushing Namjoon violently, and Taehyung is already continuing. "The reason I've been avoiding you is because I'm not ready to hear you tell me how much you regret it."

Jimin blinks at him helplessly.

Taehyung purses his lips and swirls the drink in his cup. "I guess I just didn't want to deal with the fact that I don't know if we can even manage being friends anymore."

"Taehyung..." Jimin looks heartbroken. It's a weird sense of déja vu.

Not that it matters. Taehyung upends the cup and finishes it off before setting it gently back on the table. "I gotta piss," he announces, standing up, extricating himself from Jimin with surprising ease and walking out of the front room.

He goes to the bathroom, and then he washes his face, and then he's still not quite sure he's ready to go back out into the atmosphere he's created, so he steals away into Namjoon and Seokjin's bedroom.

Their bedroom is full of Mario memorabilia and Ryan stuffies, completely lame, and Taehyung makes note to make fun of them (again) whenever he's ready to head out into the proverbial fire. He runs his finger over one of the shelves of old records, memorizes the titles, and once that's calmed his thoughts down enough he flops onto the bed face first.

"Why did I say that?" he groans into the mattress. "Why am I such a punk?"

"Well," says a voice from the doorway. Yoongi. "You're kind of drunk."

Taehyung doesn't bother turning over. "I'm tipsy at best, but drunk punk sounds better, so." He'll allow it.

The bed shifts underneath Taehyung, and he knows that Yoongi is sitting on the edge trying to look like he isn't concerned. "Bitch, you okay?"

Taehyung inches around on the bed like a worm and curls around Yoongi's hips like a large, unwieldy dog. "No," he says, and he might be sniffling. "I don't know why I made it a big deal. I should have kept my mouth shut. I'm the worst."

Yoongi puts a hand in his hair. "You made it a big deal because it's a big deal to you," he says gruffly. "You've been struggling with this for a while. He shouldn't have brought it up."

"It...none of this should have happened in the first place." Taehyung hoists himself up, sitting shoulder to shoulder in the opposite direction. "We shouldn't have fucked. I shouldn't have tried to be his friend again." He slumps. "I shouldn't have fallen in love with him in the first place."

Yoongi snorts and brushes the bangs off of Taehyung's forehead. "Shoulda, coulda, woulda."

Taehyung groans and slams his forehead into Yoongi's shoulder. "I wish...I wish I could take everything back." Starting with the fucking night at the party sophomore year, right up to the night at the club last month, and almost everything in between.

"Do you really?" Yoongi asks, rubbing a hand up and down Taehyung back until he lifts his head. He already knows the answer.

So does Taehyung. "We should just fall in love instead," he says. Yoongi's eyebrows draw together. "We're roommates. It'd be cute."

"I really don't think that would turn out any better," Yoongi says softly. "We're both fucking shit up. Also, the degree with which you've committed yourself to this boy is a little frightening." He pauses. "Also you're the fucking worst and I've seen you in your ratty Winnie the Pooh boxers."

Taehyung hums. "Is that why you broke things off with Jungkook?"

Yoongi snorts. "You're the only one with boxers like that."

"No," Taehyung whines. "Did his commitment scare you?"

The clock ticks and Yoongi is quiet. "I don't think we'd be able to fall in love with each, Tae," he says softly. "We've both already found our people."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Taehyung whispers. "What if I'm in love with him for the rest of my life and it's hurts like this forever?"

The air rushes out of Yoongi's lungs, and they slump together. Yoongi smells like rum and his normal cologne, and it's familiar. "I...haven't been with anyone since Jungkook and I got together that first time. I feel like I've forgotten what being with anyone else feels like and it hasn't been that long."

Sober Taehyung would empathize. Sober Taehyung would be less emotional and less clingy and less desperate for affection from someone, anyone, but Sober Taehyung isn't here right now. This is Rum Taehyung, and Rum Taehyung thinks that kissing Yoongi is a good idea.

And it is, for a moment. Yoongi doesn't protest. He let's it happen, and Taehyung presses closer, and he's being kissed back and it's worth it. But it's Yoongi, not Jimin, so something feels empty and different. Not because Yoongi isn't wonderful, or a great kisser, but because Taehyung isn't in love with him.

"Ah..."

Taehyung pulls away, twisting to look over his shoulder, and there's Jimin in the doorway like this is a shitty movie. His cheeks are red, he's flustered, his hands are shoved deep into his pockets, but he's more angry than embarrassed. "Didn't realize the reason you told me to wait was so I didn't interrupt something," he tells Yoongi coldly.

"Jimin..." Taehyung stares at him.

"Fuck this." Jimin shakes his head. "I'll see you guys later."

There's nothing Taehyung can say that will stop Jimin from stalking back down the hallway, not that Taehyung can even process what's going on, so he doesn't try. He just stares. It's been a long night.

Yoongi hasn't said anything. It's only another moment before Taehyung looks around and sees why. His eyes are far away, wide, almost terrified. "What's wrong?" Taehyung asks.

"I'm really in love with him, aren't I?" Yoongi mutters, breathless. Distant. Afraid.

Taehyung sighs. "Yeah, Yoongi." He hears the main door slam shut, distant. "You really are."

 


 

Taehyung emerges from the bedroom not long after that, after he's caught his breath and after his heart has settled. Yoongi follows close behind, closed off and silent but warm and familiar. Seokjin stands up when he sees them walk back into the living room. "What the fuck did you do?"

"Why are you yelling at me?" Taehyung shoots back. "I didn't do anything!"

"Oh, and that's why Jimin ran out of the house in a fucking rage?" Seokjin demands. He's big and looming. An angry Seokjin isn't someone you see every day, and he's definitely not someone to cross, but Taehyung is long past caring.

Taehyung stares at him incredulously. "Are you serious?" He's seeing red. "He's angry at me?"

Namjoon is still sitting on the couch, phone in his hand. "Jimin's not answering his phone," he announces tiredly. "Fuck today."

Seokjin takes a few deep breaths and shakes his head. "You need to talk to him," he tells Taehyung forcibly.

"If he's not answering Namjoon's calls, what makes you think he's going to answer mine?"

"Because he wants to talk to you," Seokjin replies, arms crossed and chin high. "Why do you think I even planned this in the first place?" He gestures at his living room. The heaviness of confrontation and discomfort lays over everything like snow after a storm. "Did you think I thought it would be a fun time?"

Yoongi clears his throat. "Seokjin—"

"You're just as bad." Seokjin throws his hands up in the air. "This is even more of a disaster than I thought it was going to be." He rubs his forehead.

Gingerly, Namjoon reaches over and grabs Seokjin by the elbow, pulling him down into his lap and resting head on Seokjin's shoulder. "It's going to be okay. This isn't the worst it could have gone, realistically."

Jungkook rolls his eyes. "Yeah. The apartment could be on fire."

Yoongi looks at him, just for a moment, and Jungkook sinks a little deeper in his seat.

Namjoon clears his throat. "That might have been sarcasm but also it's true."

Taehyung crosses his arms over his chest. "I only came here because you made me," he tells Seokjin, fuming. "I was fine pretending like it never happened. I just needed time."

"More time to be miserable?" Seokjin asks. "No. You need to put on your big boy pants and talk to him."

"When has that ever helped?" Taehyung runs a hand raggedly through his hair. "You know what started all of this? Talking. Me telling Jimin that I was in love with him is the biggest mistake I've ever made." It lost him a friend. He had thought it was the best choice, the lesser of two evils, but years later he's still feeling the consequences of his fuck up. Absolutely none of this was worth it.

"Things change, Taehyung," Seokjin says. "Things are different now."

Taehyung scoffs and throws his arms out. "How?" he demands. He's miserable and Jimin is gone. How is this any different?

Seokjin sets his jaw, the line of his mouth tight. He sighs. "You need to talk to him. Tonight."

The idea makes Taehyung want to barf. "I don't want to."

"I don't care."

"You're not my mom."

"No." Seokjin hands him a glass of water. "I'm your friend."

"Jimin looked really upset," Jungkook says quietly.

It's the straw that breaks the camel's back. Taehyung slumps and takes the water from Seokjin. "How am I supposed to talk with him if he isn't answering his phone?"

"If he's waiting for you to talk to him," Namjoon says gently, "there's really only one place he could be."

 


 

The first and only place that Taehyung goes is the bench in front of the lake on 23rd.

Taehyung hasn't been here in what feels like years. The last time was when Jimin told him he was leaving. It's never felt right to come here by himself. Empty and unbalanced. He still comes to the night markets, sometimes with Jungkook and sometimes with Yoongi and sometimes with Namjoon and Seokjin but never with Jimin. Sometimes he goes alone, buys tteokbokkie and wanders past the bench at the lake and wonders if he should sit and remember. He never does.

The night market is still going, with or without him, and despite the fact that it's well into the winter there are still a good number of people milling through the stalls. Taehyung's breath is white and foggy and his hands are cold and empty but he ignores the food and heads towards the lake.

Namjoon was right. Out of all of the places in the world, if Jimin is waiting for Taehyung, there's only one place he would be.

Jimin is sitting on the bench, bundled up in his coat and scarf. His fingers are angry red (he's always hated wearing gloves) but there's a cup of hot chocolate in his hand that steams in the cool winter air. His beanie is shoved haphazardly over his hair. One ear sticks out, pink and cold.

"You didn't get one for me?" Taehyung asks lightly, walking forward and gesturing to the cup in Jimin's hands.

Jimin looks up, eyes icy like the weather. "Maybe I didn't want you to come." Which is a blatant lie, because why else would he be waiting here, where he knows Taehyung will find him?

Still. Taehyung isn't in the mood to be forgiving. "Are you serious, Jimin?" he says flatly. "Are you really pissy right now?"

"So what if I am?"

"You don't get to be mad at me," Taehyung tells him, fire. "After everything."

Jimin's nostrils flare. "What is that supposed to mean?" he demands. "I'm not allowed to be upset that you're making out with your roommate when we're dealing with shit?"

"Isn't this what you want?" Taehyung snips. It's not worth telling Jimin that he has no feelings for Yoongi, because that would lead into him telling Jimin that he's desperate and lonely and he just wants someone to love him. He thinks Jimin already knows. "Don't you want me to finally stop trailing after you like a lost child?"

Jimin grips his hot chocolate too tight. "I've never said that."

"Haven't you?" Taehyung crosses his arms over his chest, to keep his hands from the cold and his heart in his rib cage. "You pulled away from me, ignored me, lied to me about having a boyfriend, ran me in circles—"

"I thought we were past that now," Jimin snaps, the line of his mouth harsh and angry. "Don't throw that back in my face."

Taehyung wants to be anywhere but here. "How can we be past it when it bothers me every day?" he asks. "Every day I wonder if you're gonna think it's too much and then just...just leave me again." He sombers. "Maybe that'd be for the better."

"Oh, fuck you," Jimin scoffs. "You've hurt me, too." His fingers tap incessant rhythms on the plastic lid of his drink. "You think it's easy when you decide to just leave me on read for a day or a week or month because being my friend hurts you so badly? You think it's easy for me to just sit back and give you time? I've been pulling my hair out for the past month because I've wanted to talk to you but you'd have just shut the door in my face!"

"I'm doing my best," Taehyung says back coldly. There are passers-by that are staring at them, and perhaps this is a private conversation, but Taehyung doesn't care what these people think of him. He's not even sure he cares what Jimin thinks of him at this point. "You're wonderful and I'm in love with you and I think you might be the one for me and you don't love me back and it's fine." It's not fine. Clearly, after everything, it's not fine. "So if I need time every once in a while so I don't ruin everything, that should be fine, too."

Jimin opens his arms, gestures at the open air, the anger, the emptiness. "It's already ruined." Hot chocolate sloshes down his wrist but he doesn't even notice. "Everything is different now."

That's not something that Taehyung can disagree with. Even if something new forms in it's place, the past is irrevocably changed, destroyed and gone forever, and it's their fault. "Do you know how hard it is for me not to ask you to love me back?"

Jimin's mouth softens, and his eyes melt like snow into spring, and now he just looks sad. "But you have, Tae," he says gently. "You ask me every single fucking day."

Taehyung frowns, breath caught.

Jimin slumps. "I know you the best in the world. Or I did." He laughs and it's joyless. "You've asked me to fall in love with you every single day since the day we met. I could see it in your eyes. I can see it right now."

The din of the market dies down in Taehyung's ears, and all he can hear is his own heartbeat and the sound of his thoughts spinning. This isn't what Taehyung wanted. This isn't how things are supposed to go. If you're upfront about your feelings than things are supposed to be fine. "I'm sorry," he says quietly.

"It's okay." Jimin scoots over on the bench, and Taehyung sees it for the olive branch it is. Or perhaps it's a white flag. He sits anyway. "It used to..." Jimin takes a deep breath. "It used to bother me a lot. Because I never knew what to do with it."

Taehyung isn't sure he wants to talk through this. "I'm sorry," he repeats.

Jimin waves him away. "It's really...it's okay." He pats Taehyung's knee, a hesitant fluttering of his wrist, and Taehyung wants to hold his hand. "Just...let me..." He huffs, frustrated at the words that won't come. "You've always been the one doing the talking. Let me talk."

"I..." Taehyung swallows. Nervous. "Okay."

Carefully, Jimin takes a sip of his drink, stalling, buying time. That seems to be all they ever do. Buy more time. Cling a little harder. It hasn't worked out for them, but they're here now, together, which is more than Taehyung would have expected this time last year, so maybe it's worth something.

"When I left for tour, I thought..." Jimin bites his lip red. "I thought that giving you time was what you needed. You'd cared so much for so long, I just..." He reaches up to run a hand through his hair before realizing his hat is on, and then his fingers twitch uselessly before he settles for worrying the tassels of his scarf. "You have...no idea how guilty I felt, that I didn't love you." Jimin looks Taehyung straight in the eye, like maybe that will make this easier to hear. All it does is shoot a knife through Taehyung's chest. "I felt like shit, all the time. Because I wanted to love you because I wanted you to be happy, but there was nothing I could do. I tried...Taehyung." Jimin's shoulders shake. "I tried so hard."

Taehyung swallows his sadness and puts a hand on Jimin's arm. "It's okay," he says. "If you don't love me, it's okay."

"Just, ugh, just let me talk." Jimin holds his scarf up to his mouth, hiding his face as he thinks. His hand is shaking. "I'm so...I'm really scared."

Taehyung frowns. "Why?"

"Because things are changing," Jimin tells him simply, gently. His cheeks are pink. "Because I'm not sure how to deal with anything and saying it out loud makes it real."

Quietly, Taehyung folds his legs up on the bench, knee touching Jimin's thigh, and he waits. A part of him is terrified that Jimin is going to say what he knows is true, that their friendship is too strained to ever be the way it was, and they're better off apart from each other.

Terrified.

"When I met Hoseok," Jimin continues, and that's not where Taehyung thought he would start, "I finally understood what being in love was. And how it felt. How you must have been feeling. And it was wonderful and terrible all at once, but I was happy and you weren't, and I felt even shittier." He frowns, slumps down in his seat. His fingers still tap tap tap against the plastic lid. "That's why I didn't tell you. Not because I thought that it would hurt you, but because I felt guilty." He pauses. "Although I guess that's kind of the same reason." They're so wrapped around each other.

"Is that...is that why you guys broke up?" The idea makes Taehyung want to jump into the lake. "Because you felt bad for me?"

Jimin huffs out a laugh. "No. We..." He stares up at the stars, trying to organize his thoughts. "We loved each other, and I think we could have been happy, but I'm not sure that relationship was meant to last." He frowns. "I miss him, but I don't think that was where I was supposed to end up, either."

"Oh," Taehyung says. Oh. "I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing." Jimin rolls his eyes. "That, at least, wasn't your fault." He purses his lips. "But then..." He rolls his eyes again, but this time Taehyung thinks it might be to stop tears from falling. "Things with you started changing, and I thought maybe I just needed someone who was in love with me, and that's why I kept falling into you. Because you did." He looks at Taehyung hesitantly. "Do."

Taehyung doesn't answer, but he doubts he needs to. He stares at Jimin until it becomes too much and then he looks at his hands, fisted tightly in his lap. He uncurls his fingers one by one with impossible focus.

"I thought, that night at the club, that's why I did it." Jimin's voice sounds far away. "That I wanted to be loved and I wanted to pretend like...like I had a relationship again. And you were there, and you were so familiar, and I thought, 'well, he wants it, doesn't he?'" His words are strained, angry. At himself, maybe.

"I don't want to hear about this part," Taehyung says to his knees. He smooths out the wrinkles of his pants. He wills his heartbeat to slow down. "I know it didn't mean anything."

"But it did," Jimin says heatedly, so heated that Taehyung looks up, and Jimin is looking at him with more intensity than he has in the past two years. "It did mean something. I'm just a fucking idiot."

Taehyung looks at him dumbly. "Please don't do this to me."

Jimin ignores him. "I knew what falling in love with Hoseok felt like, and it wasn't like that with you. I just felt comfortable, and taken care of, and I was—oh god, Tae, you have no idea how happy I was that we were talking again." He puts a hand on Taehyung's shoulder, leaning in too close. "I finally felt like I was taking control of my life again. God."

"Jimin, please," Taehyung whispers.

"And I'd spent so long trying to love you before and it never worked, so I just thought it was never going to happen. I never considered—" Jimin bites his lip. "I wasn't sure where the line between being friends and being in love was, but I never thought I'd crossed it, and so when I asked you to sleep with me, I figured I still knew which side of the line I was on."

The hand on Taehyung's shoulder lifts up to his face. Jimin's fingers are freezing, bare and near frost-bitten. The hot chocolate has cooled in his hand. But he wipes at the tear on Taehyung's cheek and Taehyung hates himself for crying. "Jimin, please don't do this."

"Do what?" Jimin asks. "You've been asking me to love you for so long, TaeTae. Are you really going to stop now?"

"Fuck you," Taehyung mutters, his hands coming up to cover his mouth. He sobs, just once, because he hates crying, hates crying in public, but Jimin is pulling his hands away and into his own. "Fuck you," Taehyung says again. "Fuck this. I can't handle this."

"Tae." Jimin laughs. "I'm not joking."

"This can't be real." It's been too long. Everything between them is too much and Taehyung has thrown all of his hope out the window.

"You put my glasses on my face and called me cute," Jimin remembers, "and all I could think was 'fuck, I love him.' And everything clicked together, all at once."

Taehyung rubs the heel of his palm into his eye to try and stop himself from crying any harder. "But then you left," he wails. "You left."

"I was afraid," Jimin says. "And overwhelmed. And also an asshole."

"Yeah," Taehyung agrees, but it sounds pathetic and shaky. "Fuck you."

Jimin threads their fingers together.

"Fuck you," Taehyung says, because this is too much.

With a laugh, Jimin wipes Taehyung's face with the sleeve of his jacket and brushes Taehyung's too long hair out of his eyes.

Too much.

"I love you, Taehyung," Jimin says like it's a promise.

Taehyung laughs. "I love you too, Jiminie."

 


 

"I'm glad that things worked out for you," Yoongi tells him, when Taehyung comes home kiss drunk and beaming.

Taehyung thinks of Jimin smiling at him as he leans in for a kiss, a soft one, because they have time. It's not just for tonight. It's for tonight and tomorrow and a thousand and one more.

"I'm so happy I could barf," Taehyung declares, falling onto the couch and into Yoongi's lap.

Yoongi moves his coffee out of the line of fire. "Please don't."

"What about you?" Taehyung asks, brimming over with butterflies. "Did things work out for you?"

Slowly, Yoongi takes a sip of his coffee. "I don't know," he says. "Maybe they will."

"I bet they will," Taehyung says. "If things work out for me I think they can work out for anyone."

"You deserve it, kid." Yoongi bops Taehyung on the forehead.

The night bleeds into the early morning and it's the best one Taehyung has ever had.

 


 

"Doyeon?" Taehyung calls, but there are too many people here, little kids and teenagers in their Sunday best and a bunch of parents and grandparents toting music and huge cameras. "Doyeon?"

"Taehyung, stop yelling," Namjoon says placatingly. He has a little plate piled with croissant -wrapped sausages. His new glasses make him look like an old man.

"I have lost a child," Taehyung tells him frantically. "Doyeon's mother is terrifying. And also what if Doyeon is dead?"

It's the end of year recital, everything is covered in mistletoe and poinsettias, and there are too many children running around for Taehyung to conceivably keep track of. Taehyung's 7-10 year-old class is here performing adorably terrible piano renditions of classics such as Three Blind Mice and the odd Christmas carol, and his middle school class was allowed to pick out their own music as long as they cleared it with Taehyung first because no one wants a repeats of last year's recital, thank you very much. Besides his kids, there are two other classes that are also performing and one class that's here for extra credit through their school. That's too many children. Taehyung loves children, but this is too many.

Namjoon hands him a sausage. "Chill."

"She's dead and I'm going to get fired," Taehyung says, but he takes the sausage and pops in his mouth. "I've only been here a year and a half! I don't even have tenure!"

"You teach babies," Seokjin says, walking over and sneaking some food off of Namjoon's plate. "Teachers like you aren't eligible for tenure." He chews thoughtfully. "I just checked. She's not by the food table or with her parents."

Taehyung stares into the distance. "I've lived my best life."

Yoongi comes up, slightly out of breath. "She's not in the bathroom."

Taehyung frowns. "Where's Jungkook?"

Jungkook jogs out from the hallway, necktie askew and hair mussed and face dopey. He waves at them and goes to take his seat.

"Yoongi." Taehyung stares at his roommate accusingly.

He shrugs. "There was a closet on the way. We got distracted."

"This is a family event."

Yoongi rolls his eyes. "Like you're any better." He walks away, taking the seat beside Jungkook and subtly fixing his tie for him.

Which reminds him. "I've lost Jimin as well." Taehyung groans. "What a terrible day."

Seokjin licks his fingers before turning Taehyung around by the shoulders. Jimin is walking through the main doors of the building, hair swept back off his forehead, shirt tucked into his dress pants, and looking like he belongs in a magazine instead of at Taehyung’s silly concert. Taehyung notices all of that first, because Taehyung just likes to look at Jimin and there's no reason not to anymore.

Secondly, and arguably most importantly, Taehyung notices Doyeon trailing behind.

"My beautiful boyfriend," Taehyung wails. "Light of my life."

"Not anymore," Doyeon says. "Mr. Jimin says that I'm his girlfriend now because I came with him."

"She decided she wanted to wear her other dress," Jimin says apologetically. "She was out in the parking lot looking for their van."

"That's terrifying." Taehyung heaves a sigh of relief. He kneels down and takes Doyeon's free hand. The other one hasn't let go of Jimin's, and honestly Taehyung doesn't begrudge her. "Miss Doyeon, you can't wander outside without someone with you. Even if you like the other dress better."

"Mommy was busy," she says petulantly.

"You should have asked another adult that you knew," Jimin says gently. "You couldn't get into the car without your mom's keys, anyway. You would have been lost forever and then you would have missed playing the piano for us."

They've been dating since the end of February. Winter went and spring came and summer destroyed their air conditioning and fall was bearable because Jimin was there all the time. Jimin found a small apartment and Taehyung spends more nights there than he does at his own apartment, and he has no regrets. Jimin's apartment allows cats. Taehyung's been thinking of getting Jimin one for Christmas, now that winter has come again.

Seeing Jimin with children while looking like a model makes Taehyung want to buy him the whole world, but he has a teacher's salary and a lot of student loans, so it will have to wait.

"You need to go get ready to play," Jimin urges Doyeon, smiling sweetly. "Mr. Taehyung and I will be cheering for you."

Doyeon grins at him. "If you're my boyfriend you should give me a kiss! Good luck kiss."

Namjoon snorts. "She knows what she wants."

Taehyung shrugs. "Can't blame her."

Jimin leans down and kisses her on the forehead. "Go on." He pushes her towards her parents. "If you do a really good job, I won't tell your parents how bad you've been."

"I love you," Doyeon says seriously, and then she's rushing off to her seat. She takes her piano music from her father and flashes them a peace sign over her shoulder.

Jimin stands up, smiling still, and cracks his back. "See? I told you not to worry." He grins at Taehyung. "Problem solved."

There are a lot of things that Taehyung wants to say in that moment. Considering how he spent most of his relationship with Jimin afraid to say things, he makes a habit of rarely holding tongue. Their days are peppered with Jimin, you're so beautiful and I can't believe you're actually in love me and pick up some milk, bitch, but also I love you and they're both happy that way.

But fuck if Jimin with children isn't the most beautiful thing Taehyung has ever seen.

And also he's an idiot, so instead of saying something normal, he says, "Please marry me."

Which is dumb, of course, because they haven't even been dating for a year, and after everything they both agreed to take it slow, and also Taehyung hadn't been planning on proposing, hasn't even talked to Jimin about it. He doesn't have a ring, and Jimin is worth more than a throwaway line, but Taehyung is smitten. Embarrassing.

And Jimin knows that Taehyung hasn't prepared anything, doesn't have a ring, because Taehyung is a wonderful liar but not with Jimin, and the shock on Taehyung's face probably speaks volumes.

Before Taehyung can take it back — "I'm sorry, I'm a fucking idiot. You're in love with an idiot." — Jimin laughs, rolls his eyes, completely unbothered. "Dumbass."

Taehyung runs a tired hand down his face. "I'm sorry. I'm a mess." It's been a stressful couple of months, organizing the event and getting the music in order and going over things with the children. Jimin gets it. He always gets it.

Jimin pats him soothingly on the back. "Ask me later," he says casually, so casually that his words don't register until Jimin is already back in his seat in the sea of students and teachers and parents.

Seokjin whistles, long and low.

Taehyung blinks. "Wait. What?"

"Dude." Namjoon hands Taehyung another sausage and he takes it dumbly.

"I'm confused," Taehyung says desperately. "Does that mean he'd say yes?"

Seokjin throws an arm over Namjoon's shoulder and leads him away.

"Guys, wait—"

"Mr. Kim." It's his supervisor, a happy old man in a tweed suit that no one ever dares cross. "We need you back stage to help with the kids."

Namjoon snorts as he's manhandled into his chair.

"I..." Taehyung stares at his boyfriend. Jimin is watching him over his shoulder, an empty seat beside him that Taehyung is dying to take. Sir, my hot boyfriend might be willing to attach himself to me forever and I want to follow-up. "Of course," he says instead.

Jimin smirks at him knowingly.

"I hate you," Taehyung mouths passionately.

Jimin blows him a kiss.

It's going to be a good year.

 


 

Things change, but for once, Taehyung can't complain.