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When You Called Me

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Jimin stands at the espresso machine, brewing lucidity and wakefulness throughout the day just as he pours through dreams and wishes throughout the night. It’s a contradiction in lifestyle that he’s always found ironic and refreshing, but at this moment, he’s more nervous than anything.

As the boy approaches the counter and orders—Taehyung, his cup always says, although the espresso machine is just loud enough that Jimin never actually hears him speak—a soft, fluttering sensation shivers through him. There’s nothing new about this. Jimin’s magic always ripples when Taehyung is nearby, a slight pressure building behind his eyes. Jimin’s not sure why—his magic has never reacted to anything outside of dreams before—but he suspects that it has something to do with the clarity of warmth in Taehyung’s gaze, the way his whole existence is as breathtaking as a starry night, colorful and bold in its impressionistic complexity, and the way that Jimin’s heart speeds up when Taehyung walks through the door.

He comes every day, orders a mocha latte with extra whip, and sits in the booth in the back corner of the café. Usually he spreads textbooks and notepads over the table, but sometimes—sometimes, he pulls out his laptop to work, and these are the days that Jimin loves the best.

When he works on his laptop, the usual creases between his brows clear away, and Jimin can see the joy written across his features.

Once, when the café was slow and Jimin was feeling brave, he snuck close enough under the guise of cleaning empty tables to catch a glimpse of Taehyung’s screen. He’d been working in photoshop, sharpening an already-perfect photograph of a cactus into something as stunning as Taehyung himself. Jimin had forgotten how to breathe for the span of several heartbeats, until Taehyung had looked up, caught Jimin watching him, and Jimin had forced his lungs back into functioning order.

He’d covered for his brazenness with the offer of a refill, and Taehyung’s face had lit up in a beautiful, unrestrained smile.

Jimin had needed to restart his heart after that, and that night, when he’d gone home tired and ready to recharge, he’d walked through a new dream.

It’d been soft and surreal, shades of sunlight and a swirl of sensations that had resonated with him even after he’d woken up. It wasn’t so much a reel of activity, like most dreams, but more of a place for quiet existence, a safe space for contemplation and serenity. Nothing in particular happened in the dream, and Jimin woke feeling refreshed and at peace. It’d been the best night of sleep he’d had since he began walking through the dreams of other people.

Jimin’s magic carries him into all kinds of dreams, and every night is a new adventure—at least, until he finds himself in the same dream a second time. Shocked to be there again, Jimin pays closer attention during his second visit, wondering why his magic would bring him back.

The floorboards are a pale blond, and three walls a soft cream. The fourth wall is absent and the room floats above the ocean, gossamer floor length curtains swaying in a warm, gentle breeze as clouds billow perfectly in the sky. It shifts and changes as Jimin takes it in, photographs flickering in and out of place on the walls, and Jimin is enchanted by this dreamer’s vision of heaven.

He doesn’t stay long. The dream blurs and comes to a close before Jimin can sink into the atmosphere the way he did the first time, but something catches his attention as the dream fades, and his eyes land on one photograph in particular.

It’s vibrant, a stunning yellow cactus, and its spines are pictured in sharp relief, the focus of the photograph trained on the plant’s dangerous beauty. It’s familiar, achingly so, but in the seconds Jimin has left before his magic takes him to another dream, he can’t place it.

He’s swept away then, immersed in another dream, and the detail is lost to the recesses of Jimin’s memory by morning.

 

When Jimin wakes, it’s to his calico balanced on his hip, asleep. He reaches for her lazily, scratches behind her ear for a moment, and a throaty purr greets him.

“Morning, Sera,” he murmurs, pulling her up to his face and rolling onto his back. She doesn’t protest, content to settle in atop his chest, and Jimin is reminded of how lucky he is to have found her.

It’d been right after he’d reentered society and the dreams had begun again—right after he’d flushed the last of his medication with a determined heart and shaking hands—and he’d been scared, afraid of the power shifting under his skin and unsure of how to control it. He’d known from the moment his magic had manifested that the dreams weren’t his, and he’d spent years thinking about how he shouldn’t be able to be there, shouldn’t have control over his surroundings when visiting someone else’s dreams. The fact that he was facing it head on for the first time in years made him hyperaware of how alone he was. He’d been stressed, terrified to sleep and inadvertently hurt someone, and then Serendipity had appeared.

She’d run up to him, a collarless kitten, scraggly, and thin, on his way home from work one night, and woven her way between his feet. He’d almost stepped on her, and he’d felt so bad that he’d scooped her up and carried her home. He’d meant to take her to the shelter the next day but, calmed by her presence, he’d fallen asleep curled around her slumbering form on the couch that night, and she’d followed him through the dreams.

He’s not sure how he did it, tying her dreams to his and bringing her with him, but having her there eased the fear clenched in his heart, and allowed him to relax enough in the dream world and find his bearings.

So instead of the shelter, he’d taken her to the veterinarian, and then bought food, and a litterbox, and toys, and a collar. He named her Serendipity and carried her with him through dream after dream, learning to accept and control his magic, and he spent their waking time together grateful they’d saved each other.

Three years later, she still keeps him company as he sleeps, and even though she doesn’t travel through dreams with him anymore, Jimin loves her all the same.

 

Two weeks after his second visit to the peaceful dream, Jimin catches sight of Taehyung editing a photograph of a vivid purple orchid, and something tickles his subconscious mind.

“Do you always take pictures of plants?” he asks before he can catch himself.

“Huh?” Taehyung asks, looking up in surprise.

“Is it always plants?” Jimin rephrases, now that he’s committed. He tells himself that the slight blush staining his cheeks is because of his forwardness, and not because of the depth and smoothness of Taehyung velvet voice.

“Mm, no,” Taehyung replies, looking back at his work with a slight frown. “It’s for an assignment. Usually I photograph whatever moves me. Landscapes, abstracts, people…”

“Oh. Well. It’s uh—it’s good. Really vibrant. I like it,” Jimin says, his blush deepening as Taehyung’s eyes meet his. Jimin can feel his magic thrumming behind his eyes, swelling with every second that Taehyung holds his stare, and Jimin wonders if it’s possible for his magic to overflow during daylight hours. He feels it reaching out, searching, and he grips it tightly and reels it back when it finds a daydreamer sitting four booths away.

He doesn’t wonder that hard.

“Thanks,” Taehyung says, eyeing Jimin a little more thoroughly as he refocuses. “You’re really vibrant, too. I can see it in your eyes.” He pauses, then adds, “Have you ever modeled?”

Jimin’s brain stutters. “What?”

“Sorry, that was kind of presumptuous of me. I should introduce myself before—”

“Taehyung. Mocha latte, extra whip,” Jimin says, and Taehyung pulls up short.

Immediately, Jimin curses his awkward behavior. That is not how people introduce themselves. In fact, that wasn’t even letting Taehyung introduce himself. That was Jimin proving that he has stalker-like tendencies and that Taehyung should be wary. This is what he gets for focusing more on reigning his magic in than the social niceties between him and this virtual stranger in front of him. Jimin fiddles with the wash rag in his hands and spends the awkward moment of silence between them wishing that this was a dream so he could open a hole in the floor and sink through it.

“Right!” Taehyung grins sheepishly. “You’ve got a good memory…Jimin.”

“What?” Jimin replies, taken aback. How did Taehyung know—

Taehyung points at Jimin’s chest, amusement dancing in his eyes. Jimin looks down.

“Oh! My nametag,” Jimin says weakly. “Right. Of course. Silly me.”

“No worries,” Taehyung replies easily. “Silliness is a sign of a light heart, you know, and light hearts are happy hearts.”

Jimin doesn’t quite know what to say to that. He supposes he is happy—he loves his home and his cat, he loves his job… He even loves his magic, despite the years of therapy and medication his parents had forced him into, despite learning that he has to keep its existence to himself. But what to say to the person you like when he calls you on it the first time you talk?

“Uh, thanks,” Jimin finally mumbles, for lack of better brain functionality.

“Do you want to sit?”

Jimin jerks back to the present, back to meeting Taehyung’s eyes, and squashes his meandering thoughts along with the rising swell of his magic.

“I—I should probably—” Jimin breaks away from Taehyung’s steady gaze to peer over his shoulder.

There’s no one lined up to order, and Hoseok is rearranging the baked goods in the display case out of sheer boredom.

“I can show you some of the other photographs in this series, if you want?” Taehyung says, and after another second of hesitation, Jimin gives in to temptation.

“I’d like that,” he hears himself say, and Taehyung’s smile widens in response.

To his surprise, his magic relaxes as he slides into the booth across from Taehyung. Taehyung turns his laptop, and starts clicking through a folder of pictures, all of them of plants, flowers with resonant colors that Taehyung has honed into art.

They’re absolutely stunning, and Jimin loses himself a little in the vitality that Taehyung has captured in each photo. The composition of the photos lulls Jimin into a hushed sense of awe, his eyes wide as he absorbs Taehyung’s talent, until—

Until Taehyung clicks to a breathtaking photograph of a yellow cactus, the camera’s focus on the spines it’s covered in, and—

And Jimin remembers. He remembers this picture, framed, hanging on a cream-colored wall in a place outside of time, and—

Everything falls into place.

His magic sings, reaching for Taehyung, for Taehyung’s dream. For that slice of serenity that Jimin had been surprised to find a second time, and hoping to find a third.

Caught off guard, Jimin loses his hold on his magic. The dream world wriggles free, enveloping reality at an opportunistic pace, and the room begins to quake as pressure builds between the layering realms. Taehyung’s empty paper cup tips over on the table as the magic extends toward him, caressing his temple and coaxing his eyes closed. Taehyung yawns, and Jimin panics.

He yanks his magic back quickly, ripping the spreading dream away from the waking world like a blanket from a bed. He visualizes a chest and balls the blanket of sleep up, shoving the demanding magic inside the chest and slamming the lid closed. His magic struggles to break free again, and Jimin practically pants with the exertion required to keep it contained. He can feel a thin sheen of sweat forming on his forehead as he struggles against it.

“Did you kick the table?” Taehyung asks, reaching out and righting his overturned cup. He shakes off another yawn before it can take hold of him, and frowns a little. “Ugh, I need more caffeine.”

“Uh, yeah,” Jimin fibs. “Sorry.” He glances around quickly, to see if anyone else noticed the disturbance, but normalcy cloaks the café and no one else seems to have noticed anything out of place. Jimin wipes the sweat from his brow under the guise of brushing his bangs into their proper place, and turns his wide eyes to Taehyung, wondering exactly what he’d felt when Jimin’s magic broke free.

Taehyung clears his throat, and Jimin dismisses the thought for later, his attention already split enough between keeping his magic in control and trying to focus on his conversation with Taehyung.

“Anyway, that’s the last one,” Taehyung says, his tone somewhere between bashful and apologetic. “Or, the first one, I mean. It was the first one I finished. I think I was feeling a little prickly about the assignment’s topic,” he chuckles.

Jimin gets ahold of himself as best as he can, and replies. He’s not sure exactly what he says—maybe a compliment about the quality of the photographs, or something as small as a noise of amusement at Taehyung’s attempt at humor—but Taehyung seems to accept it readily enough. After another moment, he says, “I should probably get back to work.”

“Yeah, and I should get going. I’ve got a lecture in—oh, shit!” he cuts himself off. “It starts in fifteen minutes, and it’s on the other side of campus from here—I gotta run, like, literally—”

Taehyung closes his laptop, crams it haphazardly into the backpack he’d shoved down by his feet when he’d arrived, and launches himself sideways across the bench to escape the booth. When he’s clear of the vinyl seat, he freezes and turns back to face Jimin.

Jimin’s magic makes a desperate break for freedom in the face of Taehyung’s escape, but he tightens his grip on it, terrified of what it would do if loosed.

“It was nice to meet you, Jimin,” Taehyung says quickly, his words almost tripping over his tongue. “I’ll probably see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says, forcing his jaw to unclench so he can speak normally. “I’ll be here all day.”

“Good,” Taehyung says, spinning and taking a step toward the door. He waves at Jimin over his shoulder. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow,” Jimin echoes quietly.

Taehyung exits the café, and Jimin’s magic goes immediately and startlingly quiet. Hesitant, Jimin relaxes his restraint, ready to restore it if his magic does anything…untoward.

It doesn’t. It settles back into place as if nothing had happened, and Jimin, unsure of what it means, retrieves the wash rag from the tabletop and goes back to work.

If he’s a little bit slower that afternoon, a little sluggish and tired from his battle with his magic, Hoseok doesn’t say anything. He just pats Jimin on the back as he goes to clock out, and tells him to get some rest.

As good as that sounds, Jimin intends to do no such thing.

 

Of course, Serendipity has never put up with Jimin’s all-nighter nonsense. She’s a cat, and as such, she’s always made it clear when Jimin’s plans are inferior to her own. Which is always, as far as she’s concerned.

When one o’clock in the morning rolls around and Jimin is still sprawled on the couch, the TV playing in the background as he lurks on Twitter, she pushes her way between Jimin and his phone screen, and glares unblinkingly. He makes an attempt at appeasing her with the press of his lips to the top of her head, but Serendipity is nothing if not persistent. Each time he moves her gently to the side, she repositions herself in his line of sight again.

“Sera, c’mon. I gotta stay awake, baby,” he sighs, setting his phone aside. He slouches further into the couch and wraps an arm around her body, pulling her higher on his chest and tucking her into the crook of his arm so he can peek past her at the rerun flickering across the screen.

Annoyed, she reaches out to paw at his cheek.

It’s not her typical soft nudge, her displeasure clear in the strength of her touch, but she isn’t using her claws, so he figures there’s hope for placation.

“I know. You don’t like it when I stay up,” he murmurs quietly, running a finger along the underside of her outstretched paw, caressing the spot just between her pads. “But I can’t sleep tonight. My magic was too out of control today, and I can’t risk letting it loose.”

Somewhat appeased by his attention, Serendipity tightens her pads around his fingertip in what Jimin interprets to be sympathy, and he sighs again, twisting a little to lay at an angle more comfortable for his neck. “It’ll go find Taehyung, and I’m not ready for that. I can’t invade his dream tonight. He’ll recognize me. And he said something today that made me wonder—”

Jimin stops abruptly, thinking back to what Taehyung had said, something about vibrancy in his eyes—had his magic already been surging then? Had he sensed it when he met Jimin’s eyes? And when it’d broken free, had Taehyung felt it then? Was that even possible?

No. Of course not. It’s a ridiculous notion.

Nobody has ever been able to perceive his magic before. Not his parents, not his co-workers—only Serendipity, and even then, he’s never been sure that her sixth sense was anything more than wishful thinking on his part. Taehyung must have been responding unknowingly to the effects of Jimin’s magic. That’s all.

That has to be all it was.

Serendipity meows, a rare sound that brings him back from his thoughts, and he looks back at her just in time for the headbutt aimed at his jawline to push against his lips instead.

He smiles into it, kisses her between the ears again, and says, “I know. You’re always here for me, aren’t you, baby?”

Right on cue, Serendipity begins to purr, an audible reminder that nothing is more important to her than being with Jimin. She is the constant in his life that keeps him grounded. She follows him everywhere—from room to room, through dreams…she’d even follow him to work, if he let her, and—

She follows him through dreams.

It’s been so long since she actually did, but who’s to say that she couldn’t do it again if she wanted to? If Jimin wanted her to? He rolls that thought around as she pushes into his hand, and he scratches her absently. What if he took her with him tonight?

What would his magic do? Would he have more control over his destination if she was there and he was less nervous? Would his magic still sweep him into Taehyung’s dream?

And if it did, would he be able to shift the dream’s focus from himself, as an intruder, to Serendipity?

Nobody questions an animal in their dreams, but the barista that introduced himself in the most awkward way possible? Taehyung would surely remember that when he woke.

He sighs and dismisses the thought. He’s staying up anyway. He’s already decided.

Forty minutes later, the rerun he’s been half-watching ends, and the closing soundtrack startles him out of a light doze.

Serendipity’s purr rumbles through his chest in an even rhythm, her warmth too soothing against his chest, and Jimin belatedly realizes his mistake in laying down to accommodate Serendipity’s demands. The opening soundtrack for the next episode filters through the TV speakers, a soft counterbalance to the cadence of her affection, and when he catches himself yawning he surrenders.

“Alright, Sera. You win. You better not let me regret this in the morning,” he grumbles half-heartedly, swinging his feet to the floor and lifting Serendipity as smoothly as possible. She wheeze-groans in her sleep as Jimin shuffles across the room to turn the TV and the lights off. He brushes his teeth quickly, carefully, Serendipity snoring in his arms, and carries her to bed.

After years of practice, the motions required to pull the covers back and crawl under them without jostling Serendipity are old habit. He settles her on the mattress next to him, pulling his knees up and curling around her the way he did their first night together, and hopes his magic won’t misbehave.

 

He sinks into Taehyung’s dream immediately, his magic searching it out hungrily, as though it was starved for the serenity that Taehyung’s sleeping mind could provide, and honestly, Jimin is unsurprised.

He’s plunked into Taehyung’s open-ended room with the ease of a familiar, welcome guest, and then his magic relaxes, as if it’s accomplished its only goal and it doesn’t care what Jimin does now that he’s there.

Serendipity purrs lazily, comfortable in the cradle of Jimin’s arms, and that keeps him calm. Whatever happens—be it Jimin’s magic deciding it wants something else, or Taehyung recognizing Jimin in his dream and Jimin having to find a new job out of overwhelming embarrassment—Jimin knows that Serendipity will always be there. So, he sits, steeping in the room’s tranquility, letting the breeze wash over him, and concentrates on his cat.

Jimin knows from experience that he can change practically anything he wants in the dream world, but he’s content to let Taehyung’s dream be Taehyung’s. He is not, however, above shifting its focus away from himself. He reaches for his magic, pulling a thread of it loose and dangling it in front of Serendipity. She huffs, a little put out to be asked to perform, but as always, she gives in readily enough.

It starts with a simple game of teasing, Serendipity swiping a paw at the string and Jimin pulling it just out of reach, and slowly the magic winds itself around her playfulness, rolling into a ball of yarn. He loosens his hold on Serendipity, preparing for her take-off, and tosses the ball to the center of the room. She leaves little claw marks across his arm in her excitement anyway, and he closes them with a thought, smiling at her eagerness.

They play while Jimin waits for the dream to end, or for his magic to have had enough of it. After a bit, Serendipity tires of the yarn, so he picks the ball up and rolls it between his palms, condensing and shaping it into a narrow cylinder. He pulls at one end of it, fraying it into a feathery tail, and swishes it along the floor to catch her attention, and then she’s back at it again, tackling the toy, biting and kicking it with reckless abandon.

After a while Jimin notices the framed photos on the wall change.

They’ve been flickering in an out for a while, but they’ve been the same pictures throughout the dream—Taehyung’s floral photos, the ones that he’d shown Jimin earlier that day. And while they’re just as beautiful as Jimin remembers, the photographs that take their place, slowly, one by one, steal his breath.

They’re of Serendipity, in all different poses: sprawled on her back as she gnaws on her toy; crouched with her shoulders low and her tail in the air, ready to pounce; curled up in an out-of-focus pair of arms, a contented look on her face.

Well, at least Jimin knows that his redirection techniques are working.

Just as the new photographs begin to settle on the walls, the dream starts to feel restless, like Taehyung is beginning to stir. Jimin knows that’s his cue, so he tugs the toy away from Serendipity and shakes it, letting the magic dissolve into intangibility once more. Then he scoops his cat off the floor, and waits.

It doesn’t take much longer for his magic to whisk the two of them away, and even though Jimin should relax now that the worst is over with Taehyung—for tonight, anyway—he can’t seem to shake the image of Serendipity’s photographs lining Taehyung’s dreams.

It twists his heart with affection and nervousness, braiding them together until he can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.

 

Taehyung shows up at the café in a whirlwind of energy the next morning, and Jimin questions whether or not he actually needs the caffeine today.

“Hey Jimin!” Taehyung waves from beyond the bakery case as Jimin steams the milk for his drink. “I can’t stay today—I’ve got a thing I have to do, but I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you about it, if you want.”

“Uh, sure. Yeah,” Jimin says, unsure of everything from why Taehyung is treating him like he’s an old friend to whether or not he really wants to know what activity winds Taehyung up so thoroughly before he’s even had caffeine. He shakes off that train of thought before it can go anywhere that he’ll regret at seven o’clock in the morning, and snaps a lid on Taehyung’s cup, turning to hand it to him.

A pretty flush is spread across Taehyung’s cheeks, and he’s grinning so broadly that Jimin can’t look away from the perfect happiness carved into his features. A twin blush crawls across Jimin’s face toward his ears when he realizes he’s staring.

“Wait, before you give me that—” Taehyung says, pointing at the cup Jimin is trying to relinquish, “—you should, uh. Maybe write that down?”

Jimin’s blinks in confusion, looks at the cup, and then mouth falls open.

There, instead of Taehyung’s name, is a phone number.

“So you can text me when you’ll be here tomorrow,” Taehyung rushes to add, his cheeks reddening. “I mean. If that’s cool?”

“You’re giving me your number?” Jimin blurts, his shock still interrupting his brain-to-mouth filter and his voice practically a squeak.

“…Yes?” Taehyung replies hesitantly. “Only if— I mean, only if you want it?”

From his spot behind the register, Hoseok pushes the button to advance the receipt paper and tears a blank piece off, holding it out as he smirks.

Jimin doesn’t think he’s ever scrambled for a marker so fast in his life.

 

“Okay, I think I can handle it, if you want to take your break now?” Hoseok says once the line dies down.

Jimin nods gratefully, and makes a latte for himself, adding one more pump of hazelnut than usual for the sake of a little extra sugar boost. He doesn’t bother with a lid—he’s going to inhale it, anyway, in an attempt to stay awake for the fifteen minutes he isn’t on his feet—and shuffles in the direction of the breakroom.

He sets his cup down on the table, gets his phone out of his locker, and then digs the scrap of receipt paper out of pocket. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and types it into a new text conversation.

     To: unknown number
     Taehyung? its Jimin
     from the cafe

     From: unknown number
     HEYYY!!
     YOU TEXTED ME
     

Jimin can’t contain the grin that curves his lips when Taehyung’s enthusiastic reply comes almost immediately. He sits at the table as he saves the number in his contacts, biting his lower lip while he figures out how to reply. Jimin is still typing out his next message when he receives another one…and another. Amused, he stops typing to read.

     From: Taehyung
     i thought mabye i was to pushy
     cuz u didnt msg sooner
      i was nervusssss
     oh shit
     im making it worss arnt I 
     sry i ramble when im excitd

     To: Taehyung
     lol ofc i texted you
     i just had to wait til my break
     its really busy today

     From: Taehyung
     oh 
     right! work! 
     well anyway
     i cant wait to show u the thing i did today 
     its prolly better u didnt txt earlier
     i woulda spilled te secret lik a weak bitch 

     To: Taehyung
     should i be worried
     was it at least legal

     From: Taehyung
     
     i promise to save all th fun advetures for when ur around 
     wait was that weird

     To: Taehyung
     its fine
     sounds kinda good actually
     i havent gone out much lately

He doesn’t ever go out, really, but Taehyung doesn't need to know that just yet.

Jimin sucks down a large gulp of his coffee while he waits for Taehyung to reply…and then another. And another. A kaleidoscope of butterflies starts to swirl around in his stomach, and he wonders if maybe he’s gone a little too far. Taehyung’s replies were instantaneous until this lull, and it’s stupid—he knows it’s stupid, because there are a million different plausible reasons for the sudden lag in Taehyung’s messaging—but the longer the Taehyung goes without answering, the more Jimin regrets sending those last messages. Each time he reads over them again, they sound more and more desperate, like he’s fishing for a date.

Which he kind of is?

But not really. Not in the ‘I want him to do all the work and ask me out’ kind of way that Jimin’s messages can be misconstrued in.

He sighs, and sets down his phone, polishing off the rest of his coffee and glancing up at the clock. He’s still got two-thirds of his break left, but without Taehyung’s response, Jimin’s options for entertainment include YouTube and Twitter, and neither of those is interactive enough to keep him from straying into a dream somewhere, even with the caffeine coursing through his system.

Jimin picks up his phone again, his thumbs hovering over the keyboard, and tries to decide if sending another message will make it better or worse.

Before he types anything out, however, a new message pops up and Jimin is saved from himself.

     From: Taehyung
     sry my professor almost caught me txting u so i had to hide my phonefor a lil bit til he was disstracted agin 

     To: Taehyung
     
omg you’re in class!!!

Jimin breathes a sigh of relief now that he knows that the delay in Taehyung’s reply wasn’t his fault, but he feels bad having interrupted Taehyung’s class. Determined not to get Taehyung in trouble, his fingers fly across the keyboard.

     To: Taehyung
     pls go learn and we can talk later
     school is important

     From: Taehyung
     
but so are you!

Jimin’s face turns a bright shade of red in under a second as he reads Taehyung’s message, and it doesn’t fade as his next messages appear.

     From: Taehyung
     anywy i promise to start u off slow wit sm advetures  lol
     like
     with coffee tomorrow? so i can show u the thing i did today?  
     …shit is it bad formto ask a barrista out to get coffee

Jimin actually laughs out loud at that, abroad smile shaping his features and his heart thumping audibly as he reads the words ‘ask a barista out.’

     To: Taehyung
     as long as you dont drag me to some *other* coffee shop its just fine
     i happen to love coffee
     i just had my fifth cup of the day

In a fit of ridiculousness brought on by Taehyung’s infectious attitude, Jimin sends a text full of emojis, himself.

     To: Taehyung
     

     From: Taehyung
     now i thunk its my turn to be woried 
     pls dont havea heart attack from all that caffine 

     To: Taehyung
     
i promise to save all the fun adventures for when youre around

     From: Taehyung
     ha ha very funny
     but for real can i meet u tmw? 

     To: Taehyung
     
id like that but i work?

     From: Taehyung
     
wat time

     To: Taehyung
     
i go in at 10

     From: Taehyung
     nope
     u go in @ 9 

     To: Taehyung
     
uh

     From: Taehyung
     dont u wanna start ur day wit my pretty face? 

Jimin’s heart stutters just thinking about what it’d be like to see Taehyung first thing in the morning. Maybe to wake up next to him and melt at the way the morning sunlight falls across his features.

Maybe they’d be sharing a pillow, and—

Jimin shifts and squirms forward to perch at the edge of his seat, suddenly feeling a little too warm, before realizing that Taehyung has continued typing while he’s been fantasizing.

     From: Taehyung
     get ther a hr early and i pornise u a good time
     hahA WOOPS
     that typo 
     i *promise u a good time

Jimin almost falls off his chair in shock, barely catching himself at the last second and accidentally dropping his phone on the floor in his near-tumble. Distressed, he scrambles to fetch his phone from where it’s bounced under the table and check the screen for cracks.

“Jimin!”

The sound of his name echoing back from the front of the café makes him jump mid-retrieval, and he bangs his head on the underside of the table.

Ow! Fluffing heck—” he squawks, sitting up carefully and rubbing the back of his head. He glances up at the clock and grimaces when he sees he should still have a couple minutes of his break left, but Hoseok wouldn’t call for him unless he was really swamped.

     From: Taehyung
     …well if that isnt juts as bad 
     jimin??
     
     shit im so akward
     sorry im terrable @ this

Oh no. No, no, no—

He types furiously, hoping he hasn’t chased Taehyung away already, when they’d just started talking.

     To: Taehyung
     no, its okay!
     sorry, my break is over and i have to go back to work
     its super busy out front
     but i’ll see you tomorrow at 9

     From: Taehyung
     ...suspisious timing but ok 

     To: Taehyung
     omg its fine i swear
     it was actually kinda funny 
     the cafe really is just busy 

On an impulse, Jimin sneaks toward the front of the café where, sure enough, a line ten people deep has Hoseok struggling to keep up on his own. He turns his back to the crowd and snaps a quick selca, pouting at the camera. He makes sure the horde of zombies awaiting a dose of caffeine is visible over his shoulder, and then sends the picture to Taehyung.

     To: Taehyung
     see? just busy
     we’re all good 

     From: Taehyung
     haha okay
     im glad 
     uh
     i mean
     not that im glad u have to go 

Jimin rolls his eyes fondly, ducking back into the breakroom to put his phone away, and sends one last message.

     To: Taehyung
     
ill see you tomorrow at 9. now go, pay attention well in class!

 

Later, when Jimin is finally done with work, he reads Taehyung’s response.

     From: Taehyung
     fine fine 
     might be to excited abt tmw to focus but ill try 

It makes him blush, and Jimin wonders if being red-cheeked and flustered is going to be his new normal.

 

“So I have this recurring dream,” Taehyung starts, and Jimin freezes halfway into the booth.

It’s been nine hours since Taehyung sent the unexpected goodnight text that read, “,” five hours since Jimin allowed himself to descend into sleep, and one hour since he started slamming caffeine like it’d save his soul, but it feels like an eternity—or maybe two—before Taehyung continues his story.

“I’m in this place, right?” he says, and Jimin forces himself to quit hovering and sit.

Taehyung has never been in the open-ended room when Jimin was there, so it can’t possibly be the same dream. Jimin breathes out slowly, putting a lid on his panic, and takes a careful sip of his latte.

Taehyung, oblivious to Jimin’s inner dread, continues on. “This place is...a little surreal. It’s like...an empty room? But there’s a wall missing, and it looks out over the open ocean, but it’s so high above it?”

Jimin chokes on his not-careful-enough-you-dummy sip, coughing to displace the liquid that’s chosen to inhabit his lungs.

He’s been lowkey afraid that he’ll die of embarrassment if Taehyung finds out Jimin’s been visiting his dreams, but now he’s lowkey afraid embarrassment won’t have an opportunity to do him in. At this rate, Taehyung’s inadvertent penchant for shocking Jimin will kill him first.

Dude. You okay?” Taehyung pauses to ask, concern etched on his features.

Jimin waves him away, and croaks out, “Yeah, I’m good. Just too hot.”

It’s the biggest white lie Jimin’s ever told—after years of scalding hot coffee, his taste buds are long since burned past temperature sensitivity—but Taehyung accepts it, and turns back to booting up his laptop.

“So anyway, I think of this room as my gallery, because my photographs are always hanging there? And I’m always invisible when I’m there, like people will never be able to see past the surface of my photographs to see me, to see how much of myself I put in them, and I’m always alone when I’m there, and—you know what? Never mind that, you’re not Carl Jung and this is probably boring as hell—”

“No!” Jimin says, surprising himself. “I mean, I don’t mind.”

Wait, what? What is he doing? Why isn’t he changing the topic right now? Internally, he face-plants into the table in frustration over his self-induced peril.

Taehyung smiles at Jimin shyly, and pushes on. “The point is, last time I had that dream, I wasn’t alone.”

Jimin manages to swallow without triggering a near-death experience this time, but his voice breaks unevenly when he finally speaks. “You— You weren’t?”

“Nope!” Taehyung grins, popping the ‘p’ with gusto.

“Who—who was—” Jimin tries to ask, afraid of the answer.

“It was this cute little cat,” Taehyung crows as he turns his laptop to face Jimin. “Hell if I know what a cat showing up in my dream means.”

Well. Jimin knows what it means—it means he was too afraid of being recognized, and apparently rightfully so—but he’s too busy staring at the most precocious pair of kitten eyes Jimin has ever seen, staring back at him from the laptop screen.

“Wait, this cat?” he asks, pointing at the picture staring at him, suddenly confused. The kitten looks nothing like Serendipity.

“Well, no. Not this cat. But the cute little cat in my dream made me crave some feline cuddle time,” Taehyung says wistfully, “and the last time I went to the shelter to hug a cat, they made me fill out paperwork to be a volunteer and wait two weeks to go through training before they’d let me near the animals. And then they just put me to work cleaning cages. There was zero cuddling, and it was terrible.”

“I can imagine,” Jimin says sympathetically. If all he ever got to do was clean up after Serendipity—without enjoying her affections—he’d be upset about it too.

“So, this time I got smart,” Taehyung says with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I took my camera with me. Told the supervisor on duty that I was a photography student that wanted to donate my services. Take professional pictures for their social media or whatever, to help the animals get adopted.”

Jimin is floored. That is the last thing he expected Taehyung to say, after he caught that impish expression. Honestly, Taehyung’s solution is super sweet.

He clears his throat, and ignores the way his pulse has picked up.

“I’m...kind of endeared,” his mouth says, and his brain screams and immediately backpedals. “I mean, that’s really nice of you, Taehyung.”

“Just Tae is fine,” he says. “And I know. But there’s a problem with my genius.”

He pauses for effect, and Jimin raises his eyebrows obligingly, choosing to ignore the familiarity of the nickname offered to him.

“I can’t pick which photos to edit and send to them,” Taehyung whines dramatically, flopping onto the table without warning. “They’re all too cuuuuute. You have to help me, Jiminie.”

All of Jimin’s intellect burns to a crisp as his brain overheats from his attempt at processing Taehyung’s words. Specifically, the endearment. Jiminie.

He kind of likes it.

Somewhere between the background worry that getting close to Taehyung will be a mistake and his nearly-visceral glee over getting close enough to Taehyung to warrant worrying about it being a mistake, Jimin manages to find enough words to sentence himself to Taehyung’s extended company, and he can’t seem to bring himself to mind it.

 

“This is too much work,” Jimin complains as he toggles back and forth between two pictures, trying to decide which ones better. “They’re all good. Next time, just come pet my cat, and spare me this pain.”

“You have a cat?” Taehyung says, perking up. Jimin takes a moment to narrow his eyes suspiciously at Taehyung’s sudden excitement—excitement that had been non-existent two seconds earlier when confronted with the hundredth picture from his photo shoot—before realizing that maybe he’s said too much.

“Uh...yes?” For the one-hundred-and-twelfth time, Jimin regrets his multiple nights in a row of sleep deprivation.

Taehyung leans in eagerly. “When can I meet her? Him? What’s their name? Do they like new people?”

Flustered, Jimin answers the least dangerous of Taehyung’s questions, ignoring the rest and hoping for the best. “Her name is Serendipity, but I call her Sera for short.”

“Serendipity. Sera,” Taehyung breathes dreamily, “That’s so cute. I bet she’s the most precious thing to ever exist.”

“She thinks so,” Jimin snorts. “She was way less sassy when she was a kitten, believe it or not.”

“So... Princess Sera?” Taehyung says, snickering wryly.

Jimin rolls his eyes. “She gets her way often enough, so yeah, she’d probably like that.”

Taehyung laughs, a disarming sound that leaves Jimin a little less prepared for Taehyung’s next question than he’d like. “Does she like to snuggle?”

A soft expression overtakes Jimin’s face, and he smiles fondly down at his empty cup. “Uh, yeah. The snuggling’s good.”

Tae puts his chin in one hand, elbow on the table, and smiles knowingly at Jimin, his eyes piercing, dark pools of anticipation and amusement. “I’ll bet it is.”

A raging blush overwhelms Jimin’s face, staining his cheeks and extending down his neck as he tries desperately not to think of the insinuation that Taehyung has buried in that one innocent sentence.

 

Jimin’s shifts at work become increasingly later and longer over the next week, until he finds himself coming in at two in the afternoon, closing the café at midnight, and sticking around until almost one in the morning to make sure everything is prepped for Hoseok to open again in five hours. It’s not a shift that he particularly likes—he’s much more of a morning person than a night owl—but with International Artists’ Day coming up and the café’s usual closer, Jeongguk, being scheduled time away from the counter specifically to brush up on more complicated latte art designs for their annual promotion, it’s to be expected.

It makes it hard for Jimin and Taehyung to find any time spent together, which is disappointing, but they play tag with text messages, and Jimin makes a point of following the local animal shelter’s social media account and favoriting and retweeting each one of Taehyung’s photos as they’re posted.

(He makes sure to do this with Serendipity tucked snuggly in his lap, because looking at animals that need a loving home is dangerous without the constant physical reminder that he already has the one pet that his apartment lease will allow.)

Taehyung starts coming to the café during Jimin’s new shift for a mid-afternoon snack—usually a brownie or a cookie, or something equally sweet—trying to time his visits with the ebb of customers just before the dinner hour, but Jimin’s breaks are usually rushed things, and they don’t get much past pleasantries, shy smiles, and awkward blushing before he’s being called back behind the counter once more.

Jimin manages to glean little things about Taehyung through their sporadic conversations, though, like the fact that Taehyung’s favorite food is japchae, and the knowledge that Taehyung, much to Jimin’s eternal amusement, won a drag queen contest in elementary school. Jimin discovers that Taehyung’s musical preference ranges from trot to classical opera—and includes literally every genre in between—and he serenades his two younger siblings over the phone with his saxophone when they call to tell him they miss him, and that he should come home more often.

Taehyung is such a varied collection of aesthetic experiences and tastes that Jimin is not shocked to learn that his favorite painter is van Gogh. The way he finds out, however—Jimin will never forget that.

 

International Artists’ Day is one of their best publicity stunts. It started with a customer trying to flirt with Jeongguk by challenging him to a specific design in her latte, and Jeongguk—ever the competitive idiot—had fixated on the challenge instead of the girl and risen to the occasion. It was the cutest foam bunny Jimin had ever seen, and it took him hours of practice to be able to replicate the design that Jeongguk had conceived of and produced in a matter of minutes.

Jimin wasn’t sore about it—not at all. Of course he wasn’t. Especially not after he’d mentioned to their manager that Jeongguk’s latte art skills were irritatingly well-developed, and Namjoon had devised a way to capitalize on it. Much to Jeongguk’s dismay.

In the two years they’d been running the day-long challenge—if the baristas couldn’t make the latte art you requested, then your latte was free—Jimin could count on one hand the number of drinks they’d given away free of charge.

The promotion brought in more college students from the nearby university than usual, in hopes of free coffee, but it’d also drawn a crowd of businesswomen looking for an injection of cuteness into their otherwise standard days. The number of new faces that became regulars was growing, the tips were great, and the overtime pay—

Well. Jimin has hopes of someday being able to afford university tuition—because school is important—so once his rent was paid, every extra penny in those abnormally large paychecks was squirreled away into his savings.

The promotion was impossible to miss—Namjoon had created banners and street signs to advertise for a whole week leading up to the faux holiday—but even if Taehyung hadn’t been critical levels of observant, Jimin would have mentioned it.

An opportunity to play the other side of the challenge for a day and needle Jeongguk? Jimin wouldn’t have given it up for the world.

Taehyung had brought it up on his own, though, asking exactly how good Jeongguk was with a devilish twist to his lips, and Jimin had discovered yet another reason he enjoyed Taehyung’s company.

 

It starts with a mischievous gleam in Taehyung’s eyes. Jimin can see it from his station at the espresso machine, where he’s working one step ahead of Jeongguk, who’s focused on creating masterpiece after masterpiece in foam and coffee. Hoseok’s incredulous laugh rings out, and Jimin glances over his shoulder to see who’s made Hoseok so happy—

And of course it’s Taehyung. Taehyung has the power to make anyone happy.

But today, there’s that glint in his eyes, the one that Jimin is coming to know as trouble, and he wonders just what Taehyung is up to.

The crowd has been non-stop all morning, forcing Hoseok—who’s terrible at latte art—to man the cash register and keeping Jimin and Jeongguk scrambling to stay on top of the incoming orders. For the most part, he and Jeongguk have developed a good system—Jeongguk focuses on all the lattes and Jimin makes everything else, helping brew espresso or steam milk for Jeongguk when he starts to fall behind. Every once in a while, if Jeongguk is particularly swamped, Jimin will step in when the requested art is simple enough he can do it, but as morning matures into noon, the rush slows, and Jimin has a moment to just breathe.

The three of them have been on the clock non-stop since opening, and while Jimin feels tired, it’s the good kind of tired. The kind that makes satisfaction tingle in your bones and a smile linger on your lips. It doesn’t mean he’s ungrateful when the line relents and he can take a second to stretch, however.

That’s how Taehyung’s unexpected request and Hoseok’s amusement finds him, with his hands clasped together and raised far over his head in a delicious moment of lengthened limbs and extended ease. And when he catches sight of Taehyung’s impish expression, his smile widens genuinely.

He reaches for the paper cup with Taehyung’s name on it out of habit, already halfway through making the drink in his head, but Hoseok pulls the cup back with a wicked grin just before Jimin can wrap his fingers around it, and hands it to Jeongguk.

“This one should actually be a challenge, Picasso,” Hoseok snickers.

“Picasso was a surrealist,” Taehyung informs them, sinking his chin into his palm and leaning his elbow on the countertop between him and the baristas. “Totally different movement that took place half a century later.”

Eyebrows furrowed, Jeongguk takes the cup, glancing at Hoseok’s writing with Taehyung’s request, and his mouth falls open. “You—you must be kidding me!”

“I have reference pictures if you need them,” Taehyung adds.

“Hoseok,” Jeongguk complains, tugging Hoseok away from the front counter to hiss at him. “You’re supposed to point out the limitations when people order stuff like this. You know, the literal fine print on the sign?” He points out the front window to the A-frame advertisement set up on the sidewalk in front of the café’s door.

Jimin meets Taehyung’s eyes as his two co-workers bicker and Taehyung winks at him conspiratorially, so Jimin spends the next several seconds trying to suppress the light blush that threatens to erupt across his face.

“Oh, come on,” he hears Hoseok say good-naturedly. “There’s nobody else waiting—just have some fun with it. We can bend the rules a little for Jimin’s boyfriend, right?”

“My what?!” Jimin squeaks, mortified, his eyes darting quickly away from Taehyung’s and landing on Hoseok’s face in horror.

It’s a small consolation that Taehyung’s face is as bright red as Jimin’s feels, but the knowing smirk pulling at Hoseok’s lips erases any solace he’s found in his and Taehyung’s mutual embarrassment.

Jeongguk snorts. “Who do you think I am, Lee Kang Bin? If he’s Jimin’s boyfriend, then Jimin can do it,” he says, shoving the paper cup into Jimin’s chest.

“Hey!” Jimin blurts, his hands fly up to catch the cup unconsciously. “That’s—”

“Nope!” Jeongguk says adamantly, rolling his eyes and stalking off toward the back of the café. “I’m officially on break. Good luck, Jimin.”

Still unrecovered from Hoseok’s jab at his—well, whatever the heck kind of relationship he and Taehyung have—Jimin grasps at whatever he can wrap his mind around in hopes of distraction, and realizes his fingers are wrapped tightly around Taehyung’s cup.

Well. If Jeongguk refused to do it, it’s probably complicated, so as far as diversions go, it’ll probably be a good one.

Jimin drops his gaze to Hoseok’s scrawling handwriting, and then his jaw drops with it.

“No wonder Jeongguk rage quit—Starry Night, Tae? Really?’” Jimin laughs.

Taehyung shrugs and grins. “Van Gogh’s my favorite painter. When you said Jeongguk was a real artist, I figured I’d make him prove it.”

Jimin sighs. “Hoseok, you’d better not have taken his money. There’s no way I’ll be able to make this.”

“Oh, he keeps trying to pay—” Hoseok starts.

“But he won’t let me,” Taehyung finishes. “I’m breaking the rules—I should have to pay.”

“You’re not breaking the rules if we reject your request. Pick something else, boyfriend,” Hoseok chuckles.

Face burning, Jimin turns back to the espresso machine rather than face Taehyung while Hoseok’s in the mood to tease.

Taehyung huffs. “Then make whatever your favorite design is, Jiminie.”

Jimin nods, refusing to make eye contact with anyone until his face no longer resembles a tomato. He’ll have to concentrate, anyway—his favorite design is one that Jeongguk whips out with ease, but Jimin’s only managed it twice with without serious flaws.

Once the espresso is brewed and the milk is the right consistency of foam, Jimin focuses, blocking everything else out. He pins his tongue between his teeth as he works, consumed by the need to get it just right, pulling at the foam and coffee with Jeongguk’s etching tools with infinite care, and when he’s finished, he takes a half-step backward from his work and eyes it critically.

It’s not van Gogh, but it’s recognizable, and Jimin feels oddly proud of his effort.

He picks the latte up carefully, and carries it the three feet to the counter, where Hoseok and Taehyung are chatting idly while they wait. He sets it on the counter, sliding it toward Taehyung, and—

And suddenly he realizes he’s drawn Taehyung a cat holding a heart, which is—well. It’s more revealing than he anticipated, to say the least.

The blush flares up across his cheeks again, heat rising up the column of his neck to meet it as Taehyung quietly takes in Jimin’s offering.

“It’s not at all what I expected of you,” Taehyung says, and Jimin wilts just the teeniest bit, internally. Taehyung’s eyes rise from the coffee to meet Jimin’s, and the hum of his magic begins to build as the warmth from Taehyung’s gaze sinks into him. A soft smile spreads across Taehyung’s face as he continues, “but I should have. It’s cute.”

His last two words—‘it’s cute’—are delivered without looking away from Jimin’s eyes, without blinking, and something about the weight of his gaze resonates within Jimin, making Jimin wonder if Taehyung wasn’t trying to say something…more.

His magic unfurls lazily, stretching, reaching languidly for Taehyung’s mind, like it’ll be able to find the answers to Taehyung’s subtext in the dream world, but after a week’s worth of dreaming Taehyung’s dreams with him, Jimin’s control over his magic has sharpened dramatically. He reels it back in before it can even cast its net, and turns to Hoseok.

“Don’t take his money. It’s on me,” Jimin says, daring Hoseok to call them boyfriends one more time, dangit, and—

“What? No!” Taehyung gripes. “You made what I asked for!”

“Doesn’t look like Starry Night to me,” Jimin says bravely, turning back to Taehyung. “Just let me buy your coffee, Tae. If it makes you feel better, I get an insane discount.”

“Fine,” Taehyung huffs, “but only because I don’t have time to arm wrestle for it. I gotta go or I’m gonna be late to class, so you get off easy this time, Jimin.”

Pleased, Jimin’s smile lights up his face, scrunching his features in its enthusiasm.

“Ugh! Too much cute!” Taehyung cries, snapping a lid on his coffee—“this is self-defense,” Jimin catches him muttering—and before either Jimin or Hoseok can react, he shoves the ten-dollar bill he’d been trying to pay with into the tip jar instead.

“Hey!” Jimin hollers as Taehyung turns and scurries toward the door.

“You let your guard down, Jiminie, so I win!” Taehyung calls before slipping outside.

“You know, I don’t think he would have actually been able to beat you in arm wrestling, Jimin,” Hoseok says, considering. “But I don’t know if we’ll ever find out one way or another.”

“What? Why not?” Jimin asks, confused as to where Hoseok’s going with his line of though.

“Well, you’d have to hold his hand to try it, wouldn’t you?” Hoseok grins, waggling his eyebrows at Jimin.

And just like that, Jimin’s blush is back in full force.

 

Jimin isn’t expecting a different dream than Taehyung’s usual when he slips into the dream world that night, not after a week straight of peaceful nights playing with Serendipity and sitting at the edge of Taehyung’s gallery, dangling his legs over the room’s edge high above the ocean and enjoying the breeze. The only changes he’s expecting are the ever-fluctuating photographs on the wall and, most significant, Serendipity’s absence.

It’s the first night he hasn’t dragged her along with him, mostly because she’d curled up in an unreachable place on top of his bookshelf and he couldn’t coax her down to go to bed, but also a little bit because Taehyung didn’t argue at all today when Hoseok called him Jimin’s boyfriend multiple times.

Not that that means they are boyfriends—they haven’t talked about it and Jimin has learned not to assume anything when it comes to Taehyung, not that he would ever assume something as important as that—but it’s given Jimin just a little bit of hope that him showing up in Taehyung’s dream without Serendipity wouldn’t be too intrusive.

His surprise, when he relaxes and his magic whisks him predictably into Taehyung’s dream, is palpable because Jimin is…already there.

For the first time, Taehyung is visible to Jimin in his own dream, and he waits expectantly at the counter in the café as Jimin—or rather, Taehyung’s dream version of Jimin—stands at the espresso machine with his back to Taehyung, obviously making Taehyung a drink. The whole scene is an odd parody of their interactions early that day, a transparent copy of Hoseok behind the register and unidentifiable customers ghosting about the seating area, placeholders for the people that were actually there today, but that didn’t matter in the context of Taehyung’s dream.

Apparently, the only things that matter to Taehyung are solid—the countertop between them (and how would Carl Jung interpret that, the fact that there’s something substantial between them?), the machinery that Jimin uses, and Jimin himself.

Flustered, and a bit flattered, that he’s starring in Taehyung’s dream naturally, Jimin watches himself work, trying to be unobtrusive and let the dream run its course. Its surreal, and a little bit disconcerting, observing himself go through the motions of his daily life, especially when Taehyung seems to have captured Jimin’s mannerisms perfectly, from the curve of his neck as he peers down at the pitcher of milk in his hands, to the way he shifts his weight back and forth as he waits.

That kind of veracity speaks volumes about how much Taehyung must watch Jimin, and suddenly Jimin doesn’t feel like an intruder anymore. He feels—he feels like this is right, like he’s meant to be here. No wonder his magic keeps pulling him back.

A little giddy, he does something that he’s actively avoided since he learned to control his presence in the dream world: he steps into the spotlight of the dream. Working quickly, he pulls loose a thread of his magic and steps toward the dream version of himself.

He’s not exactly sure how to do what he wants to do, but if there’s one thing that he’s learned in the years he’s been experimenting with his magic, it’s that confidence is key. His magic will let him do just about anything, if he wants it badly enough and believes that it’s possible, so he steps into the dream version of himself, shivering at the light chill that overtakes him as he and his replica merge. He uses his thread of magic to tie them together, binding them that way, and then—

And then he’s just himself, in command of his own actions and words.

Now that he has control, he’s not quite sure what he wants to do next. He peeks over his shoulder at Taehyung, and finds the most tentatively hopeful expression etched across his features. Jimin’s magic surges within him, desperate to reach out and envelop Taehyung, determined to nurture that hope into happiness, and when Jimin turns back to the latte in his hands, the swirling mess in the cup in front of him is…underwhelming. He knows it isn’t enough, and the burning desire to be more than enough engulfs him.

Somewhere amidst the swell of emotions, an idea begins to blossom, unfurling into a soft smile sprawled across his features, and Jimin lets his grip on his magic loosen just a tiny bit. He lets it pool in the pitcher, infusing the foam with it, and then he pours it into Taehyung’s latte, crafting with ease the design that he hadn’t been skilled enough to even consider attempting in the waking world.

When he finishes, the foam atop the latte is a beautiful array of swirling blues, highlighted by tiny yellow stars and a brilliant crescent moon. Soft currents of air curl through the sky, shifting slowly with residual magic, and in the foreground, the dark silhouette of a sleepy town completes the scene. It’s stunning in a way that only magic could have made it, and he can feel it—he can feel the tenderness of the blues and the hopefulness of the yellows and the patient caress of magic that curls between them—and he hopes that it will be what Taehyung wants.

He sets the cup down hesitantly in front of Taehyung, his eyes trained on the latte in a sudden bout of nervousness, and hopes that he hasn’t twisted Taehyung’s dream in some irreparable way.

Taehyung is silent for longer than Jimin can stand, so Jimin raises his eyes, carefully, slowly, and Taehyung— Taehyung is staring slack jawed at the coffee. His expression is awed, a beautiful mix of stunned and reverent, and it lights Jimin up from the inside out.

“Tae, I—”

The nickname falls off Jimin’s lips so easily, like they’ve always been this close and are only meant to get closer, and Taehyung’s gaze finally snaps upward. Jimin’s face burns bright as their eyes meet, his physiological reaction to Taehyung out of his control even in the dream world, and before he can say anything else—before Taehyung says anything—the dream begins to shift.

Not ready to let go of Taehyung for the night, Jimin panics for a single second before realizing that the dream isn’t ending, just being…structurally readjusted. Jimin stares in shock at Taehyung as he reaches for Jimin’s hand and pulls Jimin through the fading countertop between them. He steps back just a little as he tugs Jimin toward him, and then spins them around carefully and reverses their movement, so he’s backing Jimin up against a suddenly, conveniently, solid table. With nowhere left to go, Jimin sits on the table, first perching on the edge, then scooting back a little as Taehyung keeps coming closer.

His heart practically pounds out of his chest as Taehyung steps into his space and Jimin instinctively widens his knees so Taehyung can settle between them, pressing closer to Jimin than he’s ever been. Taehyung’s hands brush tentatively against Jimin’s hips, his eyes searching Jimin’s for resistance, and Jimin—

Jimin has never wanted anything more, but he’s nervous—so, so nervous—and it doesn’t matter that it’s a dream, that it isn’t really happening, that it isn’t real. It’s almost worse that it isn’t, because a dream can be dismissed, forgotten, replaced...and Jimin wants so badly to be none of those things.

Whatever they are is so close to shifting, to blossoming into something more. They’re so close, close enough to share breath, close enough for Jimin to count Taehyung’s eyelashes. Close enough for Jimin to slide his hands shakily up Taehyung’s arms and clasp them loosely around his neck. They’re close enough to kiss, and he licks his lips and closes his eyes and dares to hope that—

Taehyung’s lips brush across his so softly Jimin almost thinks he’s imagining it. It’s hesitant, and sweet, and chaste, and Jimin—Jimin discovers that one is not enough. He opens his eyes, finds Taehyung millimeters away, his own eyes wide with astonishment and awe, and it’s enough to make Jimin forget, for a single, important moment, to be nervous.

He tugs Taehyung back down and their lips slide together again. Sparks travel between them like an electrical circuit completed, and this time, Jimin doesn’t let Taehyung pull away. He deepens the kiss carefully, parting his lips just the barest bit, sucking on Taehyung lower lip, and when a muted groan slips from Taehyung, Jimin opens his mouth further, and swallows it.

That’s all the encouragement Taehyung needs. He presses forward, diving further into the kiss, sliding his tongue greedily against Jimin’s, caressing along the roof of his mouth and the back of his teeth, and Jimin can’t help the way he responds. It’s a little desperate, a little messy, and a lot perfect, the way his fingers twist through the hair at the nape of Taehyung’s neck, the way he pulls Taehyung even closer, the way he presses his chest against Taehyung’s in a determined bid for more contact. The way he gasps into Taehyung’s mouth and the way Taehyung licks into his in reply.

Taehyung’s hands toy with the hem of Jimin’s shirt as he kisses him pliant, and then his fingers are brushing against bare flesh, sliding unhurriedly up and under his shirt. Time slows and Jimin’s skin prickles, a tangible shiver coursing up his spine as Taehyung strokes the flat of his hand along it, his fingers spread wide in a way that makes Jimin eager for more, and he feels like he could melt, like he has melted, their kiss the flame at the end of a wick and his inhibitions rendered spent like a puddle of wax at the base of a candle. Everything about Jimin is softened, warmed to a delicious sense of purpose, of belonging, and then the mellow moment is broken, mutated, turned demanding once more as Taehyung’s hands glide down Jimin’s back and grasp his bottom.

In a sharp movement, Taehyung both breaks away from the kiss and yanks Jimin closer, pulling him right to the edge of the table and grinding their hips together. Jimin gasps at the change in contact, missing the warmth of Taehyung’s mouth on his even as he burns with the heat of Taehyung’s arousal pressed high against his inner thigh.

Taehyung doesn’t miss a beat, kissing wetly along Jimin’s jawline and then dipping below it, laving at Jimin’s pulse with his tongue dragging flat against Jimin’s skin. He works his lips in a slow rhythm down Jimin’s neck, a sensual massage that makes Jimin’s fingers slip down to Taehyung’s shoulder blades and scrabble for purchase. He curls them into the fabric of Taehyung’s shirt, unaware of anything beyond the blur of heat and desire Taehyung immerses him in.

When he reaches the hollow of Jimin’s throat, Taehyung mouths at his collarbone, murmuring “gonna give you more than just the tip this time,” against Jimin’s skin, and Jimin’s breath suddenly comes out pitched and sharp. Chills reshape the texture of his flesh, and Taehyung chuckles lowly, snaking his tongue along Jimin’s collarbone in a slow, teasing glide before blowing cool air across the spit-slicked skin.

“T-Tae—” Jimin gasps out in a noise half moan, half whine, and all need, and Taehyung answers with a groan, nosing slowly back up Jimin’s neck and biting playfully at the crook of Jimin’s neck as he intentionally, maddeningly lazily, twists his hips just the slightest bit and drags his clothed erection against Jimin’s.

“Yeah, baby?” Tae whispers, and the word ‘baby’ makes Jimin tremble so hard with want that he’s sure all of his control has been shaken to pieces on the floor.

The longing and affection that he’s been cultivating for Taehyung—first from afar, and then, miraculously, from Taehyung’s side—sweep through him, a blaze that feeds on the scattered remains of his restraint and threatens to burn everything else away, and Jimin can’t find it in himself to care, too caught up in the perfection of Taehyung’s hands and lips on his body to let anything distract him, but something else hot and demanding within Jimin rises unbidden with it. It’s a sudden wave spreading outward, rushing through him like a ripple seeking the limits of its pond, only this sweeping force refuses to be confined by Jimin’s body. It reaches the edge of Jimin, his toes, his fingertips, the tips of his hair, and then keeps going, and the café begins to shift.

The café begins to shift, blurring around the edges and shuddering beneath them, and Jimin sucks in a breath when he realizes that this change—this uncontrollable force let loose upon Taehyung’s dream—is his doing. His magic’s doing.

His sudden comprehension shocks him out of the hormone haze he and Taehyung have fallen into, and he pushes gently at Taehyung’s upper arms, the softness of his hesitant movements in direct contrast with the frantic, rough grab he makes for his magic.

It takes him longer than it should to force it into submission, to calm the dream and stabilize the café around them, but by the time he does, Taehyung has backed up enough to stare concernedly into Jimin’s eyes, and Jimin feels sick to his stomach. He’s doing the thing that he wanted most to avoid: he ruining Taehyung’s dream—changing it and taking it away from Taehyung. Lacing it with worry and unhappiness.

Playing with someone’s subconscious as they sleep is no laughing matter. Jimin has spent so much time pouring through book after book about the fragility of the subconscious mind, the impact of dreams on your emotional health, the risks of tampering with the human brain in a suggestive state. He’d been fascinated with the content of his studies, but the most directly helpful books he’d found were in the New Age section of a bookstore just down the street from the coffee shop, on dreamwalking itself. He’d built his personal rules for what he would and wouldn’t do in someone else’s dream based on those books, lived by those rules for years, and then shattered them all in one night.

He needs to slow this back down. He needs to do this right.

He owes Taehyung at least that much.

He owes them—or whatever chance there was at there being a ‘them’—that much.

“Tae, no—” Jimin starts, trying to smooth away the lines of upset that crease Taehyung’s face. His features only darken at Jimin’s words, however, and Jimin panics.  “No! I mean, yes—Tae, please, I really want this,” Jimin says, stumbling over his words in his rush to get them out, “but just—not here,” he adds, hoping to salvage the happiness that had been displaced on Taehyung’s face. “Not for our f-first time. When it happens, it should be real,” he blushes.

A hint of confusion flickers through Taehyung’s eyes at Jimin’s choice of words, but he dismisses it quickly, more intent on putting Jimin back at ease than sussing out his exact meaning. He leans in hesitantly, and Jimin pulls Taehyung the rest of the way to his mouth to kiss the worry away. They keep it soft, light and sweet and promising, and when they finally let the kiss end, they press their foreheads together as mirrored smiles curve their lips.

“I probably shouldn’t let that beautiful latte go to waste,” Taehyung says, his breath warm against Jimin’s lips and his voice a bit like gravel after their kisses. Sparks shoot down Jimin’s spine at the sound of it—Taehyung’s voice will never not do things to him, apparently—and Jimin holds back a groan. Taehyung’s fingers tighten where they’ve reclaimed their place on Jimin’s hips, and he whispers, “I don’t wanna move, though.”

Jimin pecks at Taehyung’s lips in full agreement, and then peeks around Taehyung’s shoulder at the latte sitting abandoned on the counter. He can feel his magic swirl around it, so he tugs at it gently, and the latte drifts leisurely to Jimin’s hand.

Curious about what Jimin is looking at, Taehyung peers backward, and he sucks in a gasp when he sees the latte floating toward them. It settles softly into Jimin’s grip, and he offers it to Taehyung with a giggle.

Taehyung’s soft smile breaks into a wide grin, and he takes the latte from Jimin. He drops a kiss on top of Jimin’s nose—it tickles a little and Jimin can’t help the way his nose scrunches up and a little laugh escapes him—and Taehyung says, “I knew you were magic from the moment I met you.”

The word “magic” rolling off Taehyung’s tongue is a miniature heart attack for Jimin, and he spends a precious four seconds waiting for his cardiovascular system to catch up with his brain, because it’s clear from the way that Taehyung is lifting the latte to his lips that it was just a word, and he didn’t mean anything more by it than—

Well. Okay. So what Taehyung did mean by it is enough to cause palpitations on its own, but when Jimin thinks back to the last time that he told another person about his magic…he doesn’t want Taehyung to react that way. Jimin’s not sure he could stand it if Taehyung didn’t believe him, or worse yet, if Taehyung did believe him and was afraid of him. If Taehyung decided he didn’t want anything to do with Jimin and his magic anymore.

Ever since his parents’ reaction, Jimin has tried to prepare himself for the inevitability of rejection, but Jimin has unknowingly let Taehyung chip away at every wall Jimin has built, let him sneak through the cracks and worry at them until they’re large enough for Jimin’s defenses to crumble and fall, and thinking about it—thinking about Taehyung telling him not to text anymore, Taehyung abandoning the café in an attempt to avoid Jimin, Taehyung waking feeling violated every time he remembers his dreams—it makes Jimin feel a little sick to his stomach. He’s let Taehyung strip him of all his safeguards, and he feels—not for the first time, but definitely for the first time in a long time—like he’s dangerous.

Like he shouldn’t be here, mingling in society. Like he should still be in the institution his parents had checked him into.

He realizes he’s close to hyperventilating so he focuses on slowing his breathing, because Taehyung doesn’t know—it’s just a false alarm, and Jimin can be careful to make sure it stays that way. He has been very careful, making sure that Taehyung hasn’t had any contact with it in the waking world since that first episode, and he’s kept his use of magic in Taehyung’s dreams to a minimum to avoid introducing Taehyung to it in a definitive way. Well, except for the latte, but that’s—

In Taehyung’s hand. Being lifted to Taehyung’s mouth.

Pouring over Taehyung’s tongue.

Horrified, Jimin watches Taehyung’s Adam’s apple bob as he swallows. And his panic crashes into him again.

Because, holy fluff, Taehyung has just ingested Jimin’s magic.

Taehyung’s features fall into an exaggerated expression of pleasure as he slurps a second sip, and a third, and then Jimin finally manages to unfreeze, snatching the latte away from Taehyung and shoving it behind his back and out of Taehyung’s sight so he can dismantle it and claim whatever magic is left in the cup. It’s not much, Jimin realizes in dismay as Taehyung licks a little foam from his upper lip and grins.

“If you wanted some, you could have just asked,” Taehyung says, and his eyes dance in amusement. Or is it—

It is, it’s the magic Jimin has poured into the latte, lighting up Taehyung’s eyes, highlighting the mischief that resides there permanently and, and—

He leans in, presses an exuberant kiss against Jimin’s lips, so quick that Jimin hardly has time to respond, and then he says, “Wow, I feel good. What’d you put in that latte, babe?” He grins. “Don’t tell me. It’s just you being your magical self, isn’t it?”

More like Taehyung being Jimin’s magical self, but, at this point, Jimin’s not going to split hairs.

Determined to stay calm and assess Taehyung’s condition rationally, Jimin takes a deep breath, and says, “Tae, why don’t you sit do—”

“Nah, c’mere. It’s my turn to make something for you,” Taehyung interrupts, grabbing both of Jimin’s hands and tugging him forward.

The café changes quickly around them, not taking its time to shift slowly as it usually does, but sloughing away in huge chunks. Jimin sucks in a wary breath as the table he’d been sitting on melts into nothingness, as the counter and the walls and the floor all drain away.

They’re standing on nothing, Jimin realizes—actual nothing—and another wave of panic hits him as he reaches for his own magic. He wraps it loosely around himself and Taehyung—just in case—and Taehyung laughs.

“What are you so worried for?” Taehyung says, his lips curled in a teasing smile. He pulls Jimin closer and wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist. “I’m not going to let go of you, Jimin. You’re safe with me.” Jimin’s arms mirror Taehyung’s—as much as Taehyung thinks he’s got control of his dream, Jimin still wants to be ready to step in. Dreams have a tendency to veer off course when it’s least expected, and he has no idea how much control Taehyung actually has over the magic he’s consumed and is expending.

Because it’s clear that Taehyung is using Jimin’s magic. The dream is shifting to drastically, too quickly, for it to be organic.

Tiny stars begin to appear in the darkness around them, one after another after another, and a telescope on a short tripod materializes next to them as the boards of an observation deck slide into place beneath their feet. Without letting go of Jimin, Taehyung sits cross-legged and draws Jimin gently into his lap.

Jimin turns as Taehyung tugs him down, snuggling his back against Taehyung’s chest and pulling his knees up, so that Taehyung’s feet tuck neatly beneath them, because staying close is smart, right? For his safety and Taehyung’s.

“You’ll always be safe with me,” Taehyung murmurs, pressing a chaste kiss against the column of Jimin’s neck, and then he does something that shocks Jimin: he reaches for Jimin’s magic. Not the magic that Jimin poured into the latte and Taehyung consumed, but the magic that he’d woven around them moments ago in a protective layer.

Taehyung grasps it easily, pulling it tighter, closer, weaving it into something physical, a tangible, soft yellow blanket, that he wraps around his own shoulders and tucks around Jimin’s legs, cocooning them in warmth and comfort as the night sky continues to expand above them.

And—okay, wow, Jimin thinks, his attention wholly diverted by the constellations blossoming before them. He settles back against Taehyung, reassured in their safety as their surroundings stabilize, and Taehyung’s arms snake around his middle. His hands feel warm through Jimin’s shirt, a pleasant weight where they rest against Jimin’s stomach, and Jimin feels…happy. Truly, completely at ease. Comfortable and content in a way that he’s only ever felt with Serendipity since his magic developed.

“A starry night for a starry night,” Taehyung says softly.

“Tae, it’s stunning,” he whispers, folding his arms over Taehyung’s.

Taehyung lifts his fingers and spreads them, catching Jimin’s between his before tightening his grip and twining them together. “You’re stunning,” Taehyung murmurs, his cheek pressed against Jimin’s ear as they take in the view before them, stars pulsing brightly, in time with the beating of their hearts.

Jimin can’t believe how lucky he is, that his magic found Taehyung and brought them together, and just like the first time they talked, he blurts out his thoughts before he realizes what he’s done, and Taehyung is laughing, arguing that he’s the lucky one, and Jimin is giggling as they turn to press their foreheads together—

Their laughter fades into a kiss, tender, beyond affectionate, unhurried, and relaxed. It lingers, turns into a slow glide of tongues, a leisurely dalliance of lips, and then, when the kiss becomes something else, something easy and soft and serene between them, Taehyung hums his contentment against Jimin’s mouth, and says, “I want this for always. Until the stars flicker out and there’s nothing left but us.”

And Jimin—

Jimin knows it’s a risk, but he can’t help it.

He lets the last of his weathered defenses fall apart, and the view before him—Taehyung’s sweet smile, the elation in his eyes, the bliss exhaled with each breath—in that moment, it’s worth it.

 

Eventually, all things must end.

When Jimin opens his eyes in the morning, the early sun streaming through open curtains to greet him, he wishes that their dream could have lasted a little bit longer.

 

Jimin is only a little nervous when Taehyung comes in to the café.

He’s at the register for a change, and Hoseok is at the espresso machine, so when Taehyung reaches the front of the line, Jimin is hit with the full effect of Taehyung’s presence, and after the dream the night before, it’s enough to make Jimin feel like a bashful mess. Taehyung’s sleepy smile and soft gaze make Jimin’s heart twist in his chest, and manages to stutter out shy, blushy “good morning,” before all heck breaks loose.

Well. Not all heck. Just his magic. But it feels like all heck.

Before Jimin can do anything about it, his magic slips out of his hold and reaches out for Taehyung, brushing over his cheek tenderly in a familiar caress. It’s a sweet gesture, or it would have been, if Taehyung hadn’t dodged it, wide-eyed and in shock.

Jimin’s jaw drops.  Wait—did he just—

“Was that—” Taehyung starts, and Jimin yanks his magic back, locks it away faster than he ever has before, and scrambles to interrupt Taehyung before he can say anything alarming in public.

“—a bug? Yep! Hahaha, kind of a big one! I should get a fly swatter and kill it— Hoseok! Register’s yours, I gotta—” His voice comes out strained and a little manic, but who can blame him? Taehyung sensed his magic coming and evaded it.

“Ohhh, no you don’t,” Hoseok says, snagging Jimin by the collar before he can disappear from behind the counter. “There’s no bug. I didn’t see anything. Did you see anything?” he asks, making eye contact with a significantly paler Taehyung.

Taehyung hesitates for a second, then shakes his head slowly.

“Didn’t think so. Back to the register with you,” Hoseok says, turning Jimin around and aiming him at Taehyung. “Whatever happened between you and your boyfriend,” he adds under his breath, “deal with it. We are in the middle of the morning rush, and you will not leave me here alone. Do I make myself clear?”

Jimin nods defeatedly, and Hoseok smacks his backside to nudge him forward. Jimin jumps at the contact and takes an unintentional step in Taehyung’s direction. He swallows back his anxiety, and then takes an intentional step forward. And another. He can do this.

When he’s stationed behind the register again, he chances a glance at Taehyung and finds him studying Jimin carefully. Warily.

“Are you—” Taehyung says slowly.

“What can I get you?” he asks firmly. He’s not about to have this conversation in public, at work, and with that uncomfortable look on Taehyung’s face. Nope. He’s not doing it. Not all at.

“The—the usual, I guess,” Taehyung stammers out. “But, uh…plain? Not like—” He stops himself from finishing that sentence, and Jimin is eternally grateful.

He’s not ready to face whatever it is Taehyung thinks he knows, and he’s definitely not ready to face Taehyung’s judgment. His heart’s taken enough damage for one day already.

Jimin nods brusquely, ringing Taehyung’s order through the register and setting Taehyung’s change on the counter. He slides it forward with his fingertips, making a concerted effort not to touch Taehyung in the process—he already looks spooked enough, and Jimin knows that touching someone who’s afraid of you will never make it better.

He writes Taehyung’s order on the side of the cup, his handwriting shakier than usual, and moves on to the next customer, but he can’t help stealing sideway glances at Taehyung as he works.

Taehyung’s agitated and nervous—it’s clear by the fidget in his limbs and the way he keeps opening and closing his mouth, like he’s got something he needs to say, but doesn’t know how to say it—and Jimin knows it’s his fault.

Drinking Jimin’s magic in his dream must have done something to him—opened him up to the magic, made him more aware of it, something—because the moment that his eyes accidentally meet Taehyung’s he sees knowledge in them. Knowledge and confusion, and the tiniest bit of fear.

It’s too much. Jimin yanks his gaze away, focuses on the customers in front of him, focuses on not letting tears well up in his eyes. Focuses on not thinking about what this means for the two of them. If there still is a ‘them.’

If there ever was a ‘them.’

Hoseok hands over Taehyung’s mocha latte, and Taehyung collects his backpack from the booth in the back corner, and leaves.

Jimin wishes he could leave, too. Instead, he locks all of his emotions away with his magic, and does his job.

 

Taehyung doesn’t come in the next day, and Jimin tells himself that it’s no big deal. He tells himself that Taehyung just needs some time to digest what he’s learned. To cope. To decide exactly what he wants to ask Jimin, and find a time to ask it.

He tells himself that on the third day, too, and the fourth. He tells himself that as he checks his phone for messages from Taehyung, only to find he doesn’t have any.

When his magic lets him rest without dreamwalking—for the first time since his abilities manifested, aside from the years he was on medication, of course—he tells himself that Taehyung ingesting it probably made it more sensitive too, and it’s just being polite and giving Taehyung a little space. Like Jimin is.

He doesn’t work on the fifth day, so he spends it doing laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning his apartment and puttering about trying to keep busy, because being busy means less time for thinking. When he runs out of chores, he digs Serendipity out of her vacuum-induced hiding spot and snuggles her until she gives up trying to escape and resigns herself to accepting Jimin’s cuddles. She curls in a tight ball of warmth atop his chest, and Jimin doesn’t think about how that warmth feels like it can’t reach his heart.

On the sixth day, Jimin sees Taehyung in passing. He’s on his way home from work, halfway to the train station, when he realizes that he didn’t write down his shifts for the next week. He could wait and do it tomorrow, but it’s a nice, crisp fall day, probably one of the last they’ll have before winter settles in, and he doesn’t have anything to do besides make dinner when he gets home—plus there’s the risk of forgetting a second time—so he turns around and walks back the way he came.

When he peers through the front window of the café on his approach, he sees Taehyung standing at the counter, talking—laughing, even—with Jeongguk as he waits for his drink, and it hurts. It hurts that he’s timing his visits to the café so that Jimin isn’t there. It hurts to finally have proof that Taehyung is avoiding him. And it hurts that he’s visibly happy, when Jimin is…not.

He turns around then, and goes home. The weather feels suddenly colder, the train ride is a blur, and dinner, when he finally bothers with it, doesn’t taste like much of anything. He turns in early, unable to find comfort in any distraction, and hopes that sleep, even a dreamless one, will provide him with some respite.

It doesn’t. He tosses and turns for hours, Serendipity dissuaded from joining him on the bed by his restlessness, and he finally acknowledges that he’s not going to be able to get past this until he knows for sure.

He reaches for his phone, pulls up the abandoned conversation with Taehyung, and taps out a message. He pauses twice, deletes it and starts over once, and then eventually settles on something simple and to the point. Something that can’t be misunderstood. He hits send, places his phone back on his nightstand, and rolls over, hopeful that sleep will finally take him.

 

When his alarm blares the next morning, it interrupts silence but not slumber. He immediately snatches his phone from the nightstand, where he’s forced himself to leave it untouched all night long, but there’s no text notification from Taehyung. He opens the chat anyway, and stares dolefully at his sent message.

     To: Taehyung
     Are we okay? I miss you.

The message receipt says it was read. Taehyung had read it, but he hadn’t responded.

Maybe he was in a rush this morning and didn’t have time?

Jimin let’s himself hope as he showers and dresses for work. He lets himself believe that it’s not too late as he eats his breakfast. He lets himself hold onto his optimism as he commutes to the café. He can still salvage whatever it is that they had—he knows he can.

Well, he knows he can try.

At least Taehyung had read it.

 

The morning drags by.

Hoseok had taken one look at the tired, lost expression on his face, the half-hearted smile that wasn’t doing much to mask the heartbreak in his eyes, and banished him from register duty, mumbling something about scaring off all the customers before Halloween could even arrive, so Jimin finds himself standing in front of the espresso machine once more.

He’s quietly grateful. As it is, it feels like every drink he makes takes too long, like every second is elongated into two, and he knows that if he’d had to put on a happy face and interact with customers, it would’ve be even worse.

He mostly holds it together, but he can’t stop thinking about Taehyung. About the beginnings of panic he’d seen in Taehyung’s eyes in the café that day, and about how that panic must have grown into full-fledged fear by now. He thinks about how Taehyung had known to dodge Jimin’s magic, and about how that had turned into dodging Jimin ever since.

He tries to remember that his generation is spoiled by the constant connectivity of the digital age, that it’s created an expectation of instant gratification that real life can’t always live up to. He tries to force himself not to expect a reply by the time he can take his break, but it’s hard.

All Jimin wants is to talk to Taehyung, to try to fix whatever they had, because he feels like everything is so, so broken, and Jimin is afraid that Taehyung will choose distance over acceptance, just like his parents did.

Jimin is so afraid.

He’s let his defenses slip, let Taehyung inside the walls he painstakingly built brick by brick to protect his heart from this happening again, and he knows he should have been more careful. He knows he should have taken things slower, let Taehyung just be a friend the same way Hoseok and Jeongguk are his friends. He should have taken more time to feel out how Taehyung might react if he ever learned Jimin’s secret, but everything with Taehyung had come so naturally.

The ease of it all made him think that maybe there was something different this time, something different about Taehyung that made him worth the risk. When Taehyung had spoken to him that first time, Jimin had felt it—he’d felt everything change. The whole world had immediately shifted, had been different from the day before, had been filled with a spate of smiles and a bouquet of blushes, and Jimin had felt nourished in a way that he hadn’t realized he’d been missing.

His magic had reacted so strongly to Taehyung, so positively, that Jimin had felt like a bud finally ready to blossom. He’d felt safe, and now—now that Taehyung is avoiding him and his magic is practically dormant—Jimin is afraid.

So he tries to force himself not to hope for a reply from Taehyung, but it’s almost impossible. Belief that this can’t all be for naught curls around his heart, a living shield against the pain that wells in his eyes when he accidentally lets his attention wander from his work for the millionth time that day.

It’s only muscle memory that keeps him from burning himself with the steam wand, that assures that the drinks ordered are the drinks he creates. And it’s muscle memory that has him glancing out the front windows, scanning the sidewalk for a head of shaggy, ashy-brunette hair and the happy gaze that peers at him out from underneath it, even though it would be hours too early even if he and Taehyung were okay.

Four and a half hours into his shift, he’s almost trained himself to look at the clock instead, counting down the minutes until his break with a fervor that he knows is probably a bad idea, but he can’t stop. He can’t stop, he doesn’t want to stop—he wants this to have a happy ending. He wants to be accepted for who he is by the person that means the most to him.

He needs it.

Hoseok must catch him looking at the clock one time too many, so the second that the line dwindles after the lunch rush, he sends Jimin to the breakroom with the softest stern look that Jimin’s ever been on the receiving end of.

Jimin heads straight for his locker, foregoing making himself a drink in favor of checking his notifications that much quicker, and he practically trips over his feet in his haste because he’s anxious, eager, nervous, hopeful—

—disappointed.

Because there’s nothing there.

It’s been well over twelve hours now since Jimin sent his message, at least six hours since he knows Taehyung saw it, and Jimin knows he should have braced for this possibility. This eventuality.

His magic always chases off the people he cares about the most. Why would it be any different with Taehyung? Especially when his magic had literally chased after Taehyung, pursuing a connection with him in a way that it’s never attempted before. Jimin still doesn’t understand why his magic reacted like that with Taehyung, but he does understand what Taehyung’s reservation means.

It means that he’s alone again. That he was never anything more than alone, because his magic was always going to be an unbridgeable gap between him and Taehyung.

He doesn’t realize he’s crying until a tear splatters on his phone screen, and then a second one, and then it’s a torrent of emotions that he can’t hold onto anymore, coursing down his cheeks and staining his sleeves wet when he tries to stem the flood, and he gives up and buries his face in his hands.

He just gives up.

“Jimin, Jeongguk’s here so I’m gonna g— Hey,” Hoseok says, rushing over to Jimin’s side. “Hey, now. C’mon, sit down—”

Hoseok leads Jimin to a chair at the table, one hand tentatively settling on Jimin’s back, and Jimin tries to pull himself together. He tries so hard, because Hoseok doesn’t know about his magic, his past, any of it, and what would Jimin even tell Hoseok if he asked—

“Now, what’s wrong?”

Jimin chokes out a mangled sound, something halfway between a sob and a laugh, and Hoseok’s hand, still resting lightly between Jimin’s shoulder blades, brushes gently up and down his spine. Jimin steadies his breathing first, inhaling and exhaling slowly in time with Hoseok’s comforting touch, and then wipes his eyes with a tissue Hoseok offers him.

It’s a good three minutes before Jimin trusts himself to speak, trusts his voice not to crack the same way his heart has, but Hoseok is patient. Hoseok is patient, and Jimin thinks that maybe he hasn’t given him enough credit, as a friend.

“I’m—” he says, his voice coming out just shy of a croak, “I’m—”

“Take your time,” Hoseok says softly. “This has been building up for a while, hasn’t it? You can’t rush it now.”

Jimin nods slowly, reaches for a new tissue to blow his nose, and thinks about exactly what he should say. Finally, he speaks. “I just feel very alone.”

The words come out faint, but they come out.

“This a family thing?” Hoseok asks. “You never talk about them.”

Jimin scrubs at his cheek again as he considers. “In a way?” It all started with his parents, and the institution, he supposes, even if he never thought to trace his loneliness back that far.

Hoseok hums. “But it’s more than that?”

Jimin nods.

“You know, I’ve noticed that Taehyung hasn’t been around much this week,” Hoseok says, not unkindly, but no matter how gentle his tone, the words still hurt.

A sigh shudders free of Jimin, and he shapes it into a single word. “Yeah.”

“Does that have anything to do with it, maybe?” Hoseok muses, leaning back in the chair next to Jimin’s and eyeing Jimin out of the corner of his eye.

“You jumped straight from family to Taehyung,” Jimin says, his voice shaking a little as he thinks about the implications of that line of thought.

“So I did,” Hoseok says, smiling gently. “Sometimes,” he continues, “your heart decides who your family is, not your blood.”

Jimin falls quiet at that because Hoseok is right. Hoseok is so right, and that’s why this hurts so much. Because for the second time in his life, his family doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore.

Hoseok sighs. “I’m sorry, Jimin.” He gets up, places a reassuring hand on Jimin’s shoulder, just for a moment, and then says, “Take your time, kiddo. I’ll cover your shift until you’re ready to come back out.”

Jimin jerks his eyes up to meet Hoseok’s. “But—”

“Jeongguk is here to replace me, so we’ll be fine. Take your time. And remember that we’re here, yeah?” he smiles. “You’re not as alone as you think you are. Nobody ever is.”

Jimin almost starts crying again.

 

Jimin is in the bathroom, splashing cool water on his face to wash away tear streaks, when a knock at the door startles him.

“I’m almost done! I’ll be out in a second,” he calls, ashamed of himself for taking over the bathroom like this during business hours, when customers should have precedence over staff.

“Jimin,” comes the answer, muffled through the door, but distinguishable nonetheless.

Jimin would recognize that smooth, rich, deep voice anywhere. Jimin’s magic recognizes it, stirring for the first time in a week.

“Jimin, can we talk? Hoseok said—”

“I’ll be out in just a second!” he calls again.

He can’t do this. He really can’t do this. He’s not ready to face Taehyung. He’s not ready for it to be officially over.

He’s not ready, but it looks like he doesn’t have a choice. Carefully, he reins in his magic, and locks it away, so that he doesn’t scare Taehyung any more than he already has.

He splashes another palmful of water over his face, then reaches for the paper towels and pulls two free. He blots at his skin, pressing against his eyes to relieve the ache lodged there, takes a deep breath, and then turns to face his fate.

When he opens the door he’s greeted, not by the smiling, soft gaze he’s come to adore or by the judgmental fear he expects, but by a creased brow and eyes heavy with worry and guilt. It’s— It’s disconcerting—upending, even—because Taehyung had been avoiding him, and Jimin thought—

“Hoseok said you were upset,” Taehyung says. His voice is low and rough, like he’s upset, himself, and the tears that Jimin has successfully banished and washed away threaten to return. “I— Can we talk?” he asks, and Jimin hesitates.

Not because he doesn’t want to talk with Taehyung, but because the hope that’s swelling in his chest is dangerous. The vulnerability that Jimin feels in that moment is overwhelming, and he’s not sure how to answer.

“Please,” Taehyung says. “I want to explain. And I want—” Jimin watches as Taehyung swallows visibly before continuing, “And I want to apologize.”

Jimin’s vision gets blurry then, tears coming unbidden as the hope he’s trying not to feed grows in size, sinking its claws deeper into his heart and settling there. His lungs feel squeezed tight, and he has to work to keep control of his breathing.

He looks past Taehyung to Hoseok, and Hoseok nods once then lifts his chin in the direction of the breakroom, his lips curving gently in encouragement.

“Okay,” Jimin says. His voice comes out a whisper, and he clears his throat as he blinks away the wetness in his eyes. “Okay.”

He leads the way to the breakroom, and Taehyung follows, allowing just enough distance between them to keep Jimin from reaching out desperately for Taehyung’s hand. Just enough distance to make the battle against the raging hope monster in his chest a little easier.

Taehyung sits in the chair opposite Jimin’s, but he doesn’t settle in it. He looks on edge, nervous and a little uncomfortable, like he doesn’t know where to start, and Jimin hates that he’s making Taehyung feel this way, but he needs Taehyung to be the one to start. Jimin needs to know what Taehyung knows so that he can smooth the edges and get Taehyung back, so he sits and waits, picking at his fingernails in his lap as Taehyung collects his words.

When he finally begins speaking, breaking the tense silence between them with the softness of his timbre, it’s almost enough to make Jimin jump. Jimin’s eyes flick quickly up to Taehyung’s face as he speaks, but Taehyung’s eyes stay glued to the table between them, as if meeting Jimin’s gaze would chase away the courage he’s found.

Jimin can relate.

“So I had this dream,” Taehyung says, and Jimin experiences a flash of panic, the same one he’d felt weeks ago when Taehyung first spoke to an all-too-knowledgeable Jimin about his dreams. It’s a small mercy he doesn’t have a drink sitting in front of him this time, or he’d probably choke on it while trying to disguise his fidgeting fingers. Again.

“You were in it,” Taehyung continues, “And it was amazing—a good dream, a really, really good dream—”

Despite his nerves, Jimin feels heat rise in his cheeks as he remembers just how good it was.

“But it was a little weird, too. Like, no more so than dreams usually can get, you know? But—there was magic, and the whole thing felt really real.” Taehyung clears his throat, and adds, “The—the magic in it felt real.”

Jimin swallows thickly, the dread in his belly condensing as Taehyung’s words sink in.

“Anyway, it must have stuck with me, because the next morning, when I saw you, I felt it—the same magic that’d been in my dream, and it felt so real. Like the magic from my dream was actually real.” He pauses, and Jimin chances another peek at him. Taehyung opens his mouth, then closes it again, chewing on his lower lip before his next words tumble free, and Jimin drops his eyes to his hands in his lap once more, unable to watch Taehyung struggled through this. “I thought I was going crazy, and then I felt bad for how I—”

His magic did this to Taehyung. He did this, made Taehyung doubt the sanity of his own mind, and the fear that’s been living in Jimin’s gut for the last week rises again. He swallows back down the bile that rises with it, and makes a decision.

“You’re not crazy,” he blurts, spitting the words rapid-fire in an attempt to get them out before he changes his mind.

Taehyung’s gaze shoots up to meet Jimin’s, and the shock and curiosity already swimming in his eyes makes Jimin realize that, whatever lie he was originally planning on spinning to cover this whole thing up, it’s no longer an option.

It never has been, not if he wants to keep Taehyung close.

And he does. He wants to hold Taehyung close, to make him feel at home with Jimin the way Jimin has felt at home with him.

He just wants to hold Taehyung. And he wants Taehyung to hold him.

So he tells the truth.

He sucks in a shaky breath, picks his words slowly, meticulously, and tells his secret for the first time in years.

“You’re not crazy, Taehyung,” he starts. “What you felt that morning was real. It’s…a part of me. I’m—” Jimin exhales hard, and commits. “I’m a dreamwalker. What you felt was my magic.”

Jimin winces a little at the sound of the word ‘magic’ vocalized out loud, and when he hazards a glance at Taehyung, he’s staring wide eyed, his face alarmingly devoid of any emotion that might give Jimin a clue as to how he’s taking it.

“That—that was me, in your dream, I mean. I— I shouldn’t have been there, but my magic keeps dumping me in your dreams and I can’t make it quit. I shouldn’t have interfered, but I didn’t think it’d go as far as it did, and I didn’t expect you to actually drink the magic I wove into the latte, and—”

“Wait— I drank your magic?!” Taehyung says incredulously.

“I…yes?” Jimin replies. “I think that’s why you can feel it now. Well. Not now. I locked it away when you knocked on the bathroom door, because I didn’t want to freak you out—”

“Holy, shit,” Taehyung says, pushing his chair back from the table. “This can’t be real. You’re screwing with me, right?” Taehyung drags his hands over his face, and then peers out from between his long fingers. “This a joke, right?”

Jimin feels his heart sputter to a stop, and the hope lodged there combusts in a glorious explosion that leaves him incapable of breath, incapable of thought—but completely capable of pain. And, wow, does Taehyung’s reaction hurt.

At this point, he’s got no choice. He’s either a cruel friend playing a terrible prank, or utterly serious and crazy, or he convinces Taehyung he’s telling the truth. Jimin doesn’t think he could be cruel if his life depended on it, and he’s had enough of people thinking he’s crazy for one lifetime, so he dives back in with reckless abandon.

“I made the Starry Night latte art for you. And then you k-kissed me,” he says, pushing through a sudden wave of shyness. “And I kissed you back.”

Taehyung stares at Jimin, so Jimin continues, forcing his voice to be firm. Sure. Confident.

“And then you drank my magic in the latte, and then you made the café disappear, and I wrapped us in a layer of my magic—just to be safe! And then—then you turned it into a yellow blanket, and you made me a starry night.” He lets his tone soften. “And I said it was stunning, and you said—”

“Holy shit,” Taehyung breathes, his jaw hanging slack and his eyes wide.

Jimin understands that sentiment, and he’s actually kind of grateful for it. It’s a far milder response than his parents’ had been. Encouraged, he presses forward. “How would I know all that if it wasn’t—”

“—Real,” Taehyung finishes for him.

“Please,” Jimin says, his voice smaller now. “Please don’t think I’m crazy. I couldn’t stand it if you left because you thought I was crazy.”

“I don’t think you’re crazy,” Taehyung whispers. “Unless we’re both crazy.”

“No! No, I’ve seen what real insanity looks like, and this isn’t it, trust me,” Jimin says almost vehemently, bringing his hands up to wave them in front of himself, palms out. If there’s one thing he wants less than Taehyung doubting him, it’s Taehyung doubting himself.

Taehyung cocks his head just a little at that, absorbing Jimin’s quiet slip about his past, but Jimin can see how he files it away for later, and refocuses on the conversation between them.

“So—”

Jimin waits, his fingers fidgeting again, as Taehyung pauses, thinks.

“So you were in my dream. For real,” Taehyung finally manages.

Jimin’s nerves rise to the forefront of his concentration again as worry over Taehyung’s impending sense of intrusion takes over. He nods slowly.

“Did I—” Taehyung starts, and Jimin watches as his expression tightens with anxiety, starting with a creasing around the eyes and ending with a pursing of the lips. “Did my dream…force you? Did I make you do anything you didn’t want to?”

Jimin’s mouth falls open. That’s what Taehyung is worried about? “No! No, I’m aware, and I have control in the dream world. More than you do, actually.” He sighs. Time to come clean. “Which is why I shouldn’t have done what I did with you. The balance of power between us is so uneven in the dream world, and I shouldn’t have imposed myself on you. I’m so sorry.”

“So you…regret it?” Taehyung asks, and Jimin gets caught for a second on the sudden fragility of Taehyung’s tone, confused by it, until he processes what Taehyung is talking about.

The kiss.

Not his dreamwalking, not his use of magic in Taehyung’s dream, not his feeding of magic to Taehyung, but the kiss.

“No!” Jimin says quickly. No, he could never. “I don’t regret…that.” His face heats at the thought of it, the thought of Taehyung’s lips pressed to his, Taehyung’s tongue caressing his own. He has to clear his throat to continue. “Just…just that it happened in your dream, where I had power over you that I shouldn’t have had, in that situation.”

“Oh. Okay,” Taehyung seems to breathe easier at that, waving a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it too much, Jimin. You didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to. I mean, I’ve wanted to ki—”

He cuts off abruptly, clears his throat, and Jimin’s mind optimistically fills in the rest of Taehyung’s sentence for him, like he hadn’t stopped speaking at all. I’ve wanted to kiss you for ages now.

The second the thought is complete, Jimin’s blush explodes in full-force, staining his cheeks, reaching to the tips of his ears, creeping down his neck and, very likely, spreading across his chest. He feels very, very warm.

Too warm. Did Hoseok turn the heat up in the café today? It is fall now, so it’s getting colder, but it seems like a bit much. Maybe he should go check the thermostat—

“So…we kissed,” Taehyung says tentatively, and Jimin’s eyes dart back to Taehyung’s nervously. “We…had our first kiss?”

Jimin has always loved the phrase ‘first kiss’ because it means there’s the expectation of another to follow. But in this case, he can’t let himself apply those words to their situation, regardless of how much he wants to because—well.

Their lips haven’t actually touched yet, and that’s kind of an important component to kisses.

“I’m not counting anything that happens in the dream world as real,” Jimin says firmly. “Dreams are outlets for stress, or the manifestation of desires that the dreamer isn’t able to act on in the real world, for whatever reason. Nothing more.” He considers for a second, and then adds, “Well, for normal people anyway. For me they’re also…let’s call it a method of communication? Something more honest and transparent than conversation or body language, because it’s a direct line to your subconscious. Because of that, I try to avoid interrupting, interacting, interpreting… It’s too personal. I don’t feel right about it.”

Taehyung listens as Jimin speaks, really listens, and Jimin is grateful, but also a little terrified, because this is the first time he’s laid it all out there since the day he proved to his parents that it was real, and they’d reacted by placing him in an institution far enough away that they thought their dreams would be safe from him.

Taehyung doesn’t have that kind of power over Jimin, but if Taehyung decides he can’t cope with it and washes his hands of Jimin, the repeated abandonment would hurt in exactly the same way, only more intensely. Because this time it would be confirmation that no one will ever be able to know Jimin—truly know him—and love him regardless.

“So it’s kind of like reading my mind?”

Jimin shakes his head. “I don’t get streams of conscious thought. Just…pieces of impulse, in the shape of a dream. Your brain finding a way to break down the stimulus it’s been subjected to and process it in a way that fits your schemata.”

Taehyung’s forehead furrows. “Schemata?”

“Mental structures for preconceived ideas. A schema is a system of organizing and perceiving new information—like a framework to help you classify things you see and hear and learn.”

Taehyung stares unblinking at Jimin. “You’re secretly a cognitive science student and I don’t know it.”

The corner of Jimin’s lips twitches upward just the littlest bit. “Just in my own time. I can’t afford college, but someday I want to go. I want to study psychology. It started with dream analysis, because I was hopping through too many weird dreams and it was giving me headaches. I needed a way to sort it out and let it all go, and the way the human brain works is really fascinating so I kind of got hooked.” He shrugs gently. “Who knows, maybe someday I can use my magic to help people, instead of hurting them.”

Taehyung’s eyes, which sparkle with—pride? And excitement?—while Jimin speaks about his ambitions, darken when Jimin mentions hurting people. He watches it happen, the acceptance bleeding out of Taehyung’s gaze and the wariness slinking back in.

“Have you hurt people?” he asks quietly.

It’s a simple question. Just four words, strung together in a straightforward inquiry, but there is no easy answer. There’s no easy way to explain how violated and afraid his parents felt the morning he told them how he’d “fixed their dreams so that they’d be better.”

He’d been young—only twelve years old, and new to his budding abilities—but that was no excuse for manipulating someone’s dreams to the point of causing fear, regardless of whether or not he’d intended to hurt them. He should have been more considerate, more cautious, more—more reserved.

And here he is now, letting go of all his reservations and having to own up to hurting someone because he’d been a thoughtless, reckless child.

There is no easy way to answer Taehyung’s question, except with the word, “Yes.” He takes a deep breath, and says it again, to own his mistakes. “Yes, I hurt people. I was young, and I thought what I could do was cool. I thought it was a gift.” He pauses a moment, and then says, “I still think it’s a gift. Or, at least, that it has the potential to be one. It took me a long time, once my head got clear of the meds, to realize that. Sera helped.”

Taehyung is silent at that, absorbing Jimin’s admission carefully. Then he nods, and says, “Your cat? Is she the one…”

“That you saw in your dreams? Yeah. I bring her with me into dreams sometimes, to help me control the magic better when I’m stressed. You can meet her in person, if you’d like,” Jimin offers.

“You…can bring other people with you? And they’re aware, too? The way you are?” Taehyung asks. His voice is a little strange, a little tight, and Jimin can’t tell what emotion Taehyung is feeling to make it that way.

“I—” Jimin is unprepared for this question. “I dunno. I’ve…never tried it with another person. I have to fall asleep curled up with Sera to bring her with me, and—” He feels his blush resuming its previous efforts, and his voice trails off quietly as he finishes his sentence, “—and I’ve never slept with anyone, so.”

Not quiet enough.

“Never?” Taehyung asks, the sparkle returning boldly to his eyes.

Jimin squeezes his eyes shut. It’s not that he can’t handle the teasing, it’s just that Taehyung—if he sticks around—is going to find everything out eventually anyway, and as long as Jimin is baring his soul to this beautiful boy, he might as well be thorough about it. He might as well get it all out of the way right away, so that Taehyung knows exactly what he’s signing on for if he chooses to stay.

Rest in peace, flirty, teasing moment.

“Can I tell you one more big thing?” Jimin asks softly.

Taehyung sobers, and nods.

“I’ve never had the chance to b-be with anyone.” He opens his eyes, makes direct eye contact with Taehyung, who frowns in response, and tells him the rest. “My parents institutionalized me when I was twelve, right after I— After I manipulated their dreams and scared them. And then I spent my teen years drugged beyond emotion so my psychosis couldn’t control me. The only thing I could really feel while I was on that medication was dancing, so I did that a lot. My psychiatrist thought it was therapeutic—thought I was making progress—so when I turned eighteen I checked myself out. I had no history of being a threat to anyone, and I’d been pretending to be normal so long that they believed that I believed it.”

Jimin takes a deep breath, and continues. “I stopped taking my medication, and the dreams came back. Stronger than ever before, and a little wild, like my magic was trying to make up for lost time and didn’t have any restraint. So I poured myself into learning how to control it, because I was afraid. I was so afraid of hurting someone again. And then Serendipity adopted me,” he says, a soft smile breaking the seriousness of his expression. “And she saved me. We learned how to handle it together.”

“Wow,” Taehyung says softly.

“My parents wouldn’t speak to me after I left the institution. It was like I didn’t exist to them anymore. My little brother snuck a few hundred dollars out of my dad’s wallet to give to me, so I could afford to eat while I looked for a job. I didn’t want to take it, but he insisted. I didn’t want to take things from Hoseok, either, but he insisted on feeding me free coffee and baked goods whenever Namjoon wasn’t looking. Namjoon is smart, though, and one day he just said, ‘If you’re gonna give him coffee and muffins all the time, you might as well give him a paycheck, too.’ I cried that day, because I didn’t deserve any of it. They didn’t know then—and still don’t—who I really am, and what I’m capable of. They think my parents kicked me out because I like boys. They don’t know that I still don’t deserve what they offered me,” he says, letting more of himself slip that he intended to.

It’s so easy, with Taehyung sitting there, listening attentively, and the verbal dam on his secrets burst, but Taehyung’s forehead begins to crease again at Jimin’s unintentional revelation of his self-worth, so he glosses over it as quickly as he can with a happier ending. “Once I could support myself, I got my GED and started saving for college, because school is important. As much as I enjoy my job, and as much as I’ll always be grateful to Namjoon and Hoseok for it, I don’t want to be a barista forever. I want to pay for what I’ve done, and exceed my parents’ expectations, and the doctors’. I want to prove them all wrong.”

“And prove your brother and Namjoon and Hoseok right,” Taehyung adds, and Jimin jumps a little in surprise as he cuts in.

“Yeah,” Jimin says after a moment. “That, too.”

There’s a long pause between them, and it’s torture for Jimin. Everything is out on the table, all his cards are played, but he doesn’t know yet where he stands.

Taehyung doesn’t leave him hanging very long, but after a week of this not knowing, the seconds it takes for Taehyung to suck his lower lip between his teeth, worry at it for a moment, and then clear his throat are torture for Jimin.

It’s a moment of relief when Taehyung’s velvet voice washes over him, and then he registers what Taehyung has said. I’m sorry, Jimin.

Oh, no. No no no, please. He thought it was going so well.

“I’m so sorry,” Taehyung continues, his words coming slowly, thoughtfully, “that you had to go through all of that. I’m sorry that you had to hide who you were from everybody. And I’m sorry that I panicked instead of talking to you.”

Oh.

Taehyung’s hand slides hesitantly across the table in Jimin’s direction, and Jimin’s fingers untangle from around each other and reach for Taehyung’s before he realizes he’s moving.

His breaths are shaky and they feel sporadic, like there’s something misfiring in his brain as he tries to absorb the way Taehyung’s hand feels curled around his own—the softness of his skin, the sureness of his grip—and Jimin feels tears well in his eyes for the umpteenth time today.

“So we’re okay?” he asks, his voice a little unsteady, when he realizes that Taehyung is waiting for some kind of response. “You’re not— You’re not still freaked out? Because—”

“Hey,” Hoseok says from the doorway, and both Jimin and Taehyung jerk at the disruption.

Jimin blinks hard to clear his eyes and tries to pull his hand away—he’s at work, and Hoseok is looking, his eyes falling easily on their joined hands as a small smile turns up the corners of his mouth—but Taehyung’s fingers chase Jimin’s, catching them quickly and holding tight enough for Jimin to realize he has no intention of letting go.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, guys” Hoseok ands, his smile fading a little as he addresses why he’s there in the first place. “Jimin, a busload of little old ladies on their way home from the campus planetarium stopped for decaf, and they’re anxious to get back on the road as quickly as possible. Can you…?”

“Oh. Yeah,” Jimin says, “I’ll be out in a second.”

“’Kay. Thanks,” Hoseok says. He disappears out front again, and Jimin turns back to Taehyung.

“Sorry,” he says, and Taehyung smiles sympathetically.

“It’s fine,” Taehyung replies, squeezing Jimin’s hand once before releasing it. He stands and pulls his phone out of his pocket to check the time, and winces. “I have a study group thing I need to go to anyway.”

Jimin nods numbly as he gets to his feet to see Taehyung out, fully aware that Taehyung holding his hand was not a definitive answer to the question that Hoseok interrupted, but now that his hand feels cold in the absence of Taehyung’s, he’s lost his courage, and he doesn’t know how to ask it again.

Taehyung gathers up his backpack and a jacket from a pile on the floor by the door—Jimin hadn’t noticed him drop them there earlier. Had he been that distracted by his own thoughts? How long had Taehyung been here while Jimin pulled himself together in the bathroom? Crap, today is such a mess. Jimin is such a mess—

“Hey,” Taehyung says, walking around the end of the table to stand in front of Jimin. “You’re thinking too hard. I can see it.” He smiles softly, pulling Jimin’s chin up to meet his gaze. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”

“I just— I dumped a lot on you today. And I’d get it if it scared you…” Jimin pauses, hoping that he’s said enough for Taehyung to fill in the blanks and reply, because if he has to finish that thought…

He does. Taehyung waits patiently for Jimin to get it all out, meeting his gaze evenly, so Jimin takes a deep breath, and asks the question that he desperately needs to have an answer to. He hates how it makes him sound—needy and dependent at best, unstable and burdensome at worst—but he has to know.

He has to know.

“You’re not going to disappear again, right?” The words don’t hurt any less once they’re out. They hang precariously between the two of them, sharp things regardless of how softly he spoke them, but Taehyung brushes them aside easily.

Hey,” he drawls out. “No, Jimin—” He drops his bag to the floor once more, heedless of its contents, and envelops Jimin in a crushing hug. “No, baby, I’m not gonna disappear again. Never again, I promise you.” He murmurs his reassurances, low and husky, against Jimin’s temple, and Jimin lets himself relax in relief. His arms wrap tightly around Taehyung’s middle and he tucks his face into Taehyung’s neck, burrowing into this safe place that’s presented itself.

Taehyung holds him close and it feels like heaven, the warmth of Taehyung’s words radiating through his embrace to seep into Jimin’s soul.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he whispers between soft presses of his lips against Jimin’s hair. “I have midterms next week, and an insane photography project to finish, but this isn’t over. We aren’t over. This is a beginning, okay? I’m not going anywhere.”

Jimin’s brain finally catches up, and he giggles. “So you’re not going to your study group?” he teases.

Shit,” Taehyung curses as he pulls back enough to face Jimin. “Yeah, okay, I’m going to that.”

“School is important,” Jimin echoes his earlier sentiment. “Don’t waste your opportunity to learn.”

Taehyung sighs. “Yoongi is gonna love you.”

“Yoongi?” Jimin asks, curious.

“My photography professor. And a really old friend,” Taehyung replies. “If you actually get me to attend class regularly, and on time, he’ll be singing your praises for the whole world to hear.”

“Mm,” Jimin hums. “Sounds like I’d like him, too.”

Taehyung snorts. “You already looking at other men, Jiminie? We just—wait. Did we just get together? Please tell me we’re dating, and I’m not dreaming it this time.”

Jimin blushes furiously and hides his face in the crook of Taehyung’s neck once more. “Yes,” he mumbles against heated skin, and Taehyung’s arms tighten around him.

They’re silent for a moment, soaking in this tender, new thing between them, and then Taehyung sighs. “Okay. I’m gonna go learn. But only because you insist…you are insisting, right?”

Jimin nods, not letting go.

Taehyung chuckles. He pries Jimin off gently, stopping to press a chaste kiss against Jimin’s forehead. It’s brief but not quick, his lips lingering just a moment too short by Jimin’s calculation, and then he’s hoisting his backpack again and walking backwards out the door, like he doesn’t want to take his eyes off of Jimin until he absolutely has to.

And, of course, Jimin blushes.

He collapses back into the chair after Taehyung disappears into the front of the shop, and doesn’t fight the wave of heat that flushes his skin.

Taehyung knows about his magic now.

Taehyung knows about Jimin’s past, and he didn’t leave.

He didn’t leave, and then he hugged Jimin, held him the way Jimin has hoped for.

He held Jimin, and then he kissed him—okay, it was just on the forehead, but that’s no big deal. Now that they’re dating there’s plenty of time for their true first kiss.

Heavenly fluff, they’re dating.

Jimin has a boyfriend.

Taehyung.

Taehyung is his boyfriend.

“Holy shit,” he whispers, burying his face in his palms as he grins stupidly wide. “Holy shit.”

 

When he finally remembers that he’s supposed to be going out front to help Hoseok and Jeongguk, the line of little old ladies waiting to order has dwindled down almost to nothing. The one at the front of the line flirts shamelessly with Jeongguk as he tries to get her to place her order, and he glares at Jimin as he dons an apron and steps behind the counter.

At least this time Jeongguk seems to be aware that he’s being flirted with, Jimin grins to himself.

He grabs the next paper cup in line, and joins Hoseok at the espresso machine, blowing out the steam wand before pouring milk into the pitcher to make—wow, Hoseok really wasn’t kidding—a decaf latte. He sighs. What’s the point of coffee without a serious dose of caffeine in it?

“Yours is over there,” Hoseok says, gesturing with his elbow at the countertop on Jimin’s side of the espresso machine.

“What?” Jimin asks, confused. He hadn’t made himself a drink today for his break—actually, not at all, now that he thinks about it.

“Your boyfriend left you a love note,” Hoseok grins.

Jimin’s eyes dart to the counter, seeking out, and yep, there it is, a cup with messy handwriting scrawled unevenly across its side. His gaze glues to it, trying to make out the chicken scratch that Taehyung left for him, but the angle is funny, and it’s just a mess to his eyes.

“Hey, your foam’s thick enough,” Hoseok interrupts, and Jimin lets out a squeak.

“Shoot! Sorry! Thanks!” He pours the steamed milk over the espresso, shaking the pitcher just enough to craft a rosetta in foam in apology for the slightly over-steamed milk, and calls out the name of the drink’s recipient.

As soon as it’s delivered, he dives for his drink. He picks it up gently, takes a tentative sip—it’s still hot, but not so hot that he can’t tell it’s his favorite—and then tilts his head sideways to read Taehyung’s message.

You’re the stuff of my dreams. I’ll see you tonight? 

A genuine smile breaks across his face like sun cresting the horizon, and he hugs the cup to his chest for a moment, happiness expanding in his heart so quickly that he’s afraid he’ll burst.

“Everything’s all good, then?” Hoseok asks quietly, holding out a new cup for Jimin to fill.

He slurps another hasty sip of his blissfully present caffeine, and then sets it aside and takes the cup from Hoseok.

“Yeah,” he says, almost shyly. “Everything’s really good.”

“Good,” Hoseok says warmly, massaging the back of Jimin’s neck gently for a moment before starting the next order. “You deserve for everything to be really good,” he grins waggling his eyebrows exaggeratedly.

Jimin knows he said otherwise in his conversation with Taehyung not all that long ago, but that seems so far away now. It feels like he was a completely different person when he felt undeserving and admitted it out loud. Jimin doesn’t know who he was in that moment.

In this moment, he’s happy. Taehyung believes he’s good enough to stick around for, and Jimin is ready to believe he’s right.

Maybe he won’t feel this way forever, but he’s certainly going to try. He’s going to hold onto his newfound confidence as long as he can, and when his old self returns—when those ugly feelings swell in him again—Taehyung will be there to help him see different.

 

When he releases his hold on his magic later that afternoon, when Jeongguk’s gotten over his grumpy pouting—a double chocolate muffin is all it took Jimin to bribe himself back into Jeongguk’s good graces—and Hoseok’s gone home, Jimin’s surprised to discover that his magic isn’t unruly and hard to manage, irritated with him for keeping it locked up so long.

It seems…docile, almost. The way it feels reminds him of Serendipity’s satisfied expression after he’s given in and allowed her a splash of milk in a shallow bowl.

His magic feels content, sated and warm and pleased, like it’s gotten exactly what it wants.

 

The next few days go by in a whirlwind. At first, Jimin doesn’t see very much of Taehyung outside of the café—at his own insistence because “school is important, Tae, you have to do well!”—but their relationship still blossoms in small ways.

Jimin has Taehyung’s mocha-latte-extra-whip ready, now, when Taehyung stumbles into the café every morning before class—the cup decorated with a string of hearts that may or may not have made Hoseok roll his eyes good naturedly at Jimin—and Hoseok lets him sneak away from the counter long enough to sit with Taehyung for a couple of minutes while he inhales a muffin one-handed. One-handed, because Taehyung refuses to let an opportunity to hold Jimin’s hand pass, and Jimin likes the way it makes him feel wanted and spoiled too much to protest about their setting.

Jimin goes back to work after his miniature break each day a blushing mess, but he doesn’t mind. It’s worth it. It’s worth it when Jeongguk huffs testily at Jimin’s obviously sappy demeanor, and when Hoseok smiles at nothing in particular as Taehyung enters the shop and Jimin lights up.

Because Jimin does light up. He can feel it in the stretch of his smile, the lightness of his heart, and the visible joy reflected in Taehyung’s eyes.

Taehyung must feel it too, because he does everything possible to smother Jimin with more affection than Jimin knows what to do with. It starts with sweetly romantic wake-up texts every morning. Then, a few days later, Taehyung gets bolder and Seokjin, the owner of the floral shop next door, pops by with the biggest bunch of daffodils Jimin has ever seen, muttering something about not doing deliveries ‘but that Taehyung boy was obstinate,’ as he unceremoniously shoves the bouquet into Jimin’s stunned arms. Jimin’s overwhelmed, stuttering bashfulness as he thanks Taehyung makes Taehyung laugh—outright laugh—in glee, and Jimin almost crushes the flowers between them as he attempts to bury his embarrassment in Taehyung’s waiting arms.

After that, there isn’t any stopping Taehyung. He packs a surprise lunch for Jimin the next day—nothing special, just a sandwich and a juice box and one of those single-serving bags of chips—but it’s not the food that catches Jimin’s attention. It’s the note that he’s hidden under it, the one that says ‘until the stars flicker out and there’s nothing left but us’ with a big, red, lipsticked kiss-print pressed next to it.

Jimin doesn’t cry—he doesn’t—but he does tuck the note into his wallet to keep it as a reminder, a good luck charm against feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that bubble up from time to time.

That happens less and less though.

Taehyung’s next move is to glue himself to Jimin’s side for his commute home from work.

Jimin tries—weakly—to put a stop to it, since Taehyung’s time would be better spent studying than riding the train in circles from his own apartment to the café to pick Jimin up after his shift, then to Jimin’s apartment, and back to his own. But Taehyung is prepared for his argument, and pulls out a stack of notecards as deep as the pile of whipped cream that he inhales off the top of his latte every morning, and Jimin can’t find it in himself to protest any further.

Instead, he rests his head against Taehyung’s shoulder, letting the rhythm of the train and the culmination of a long day on his feet wash over him and lull him into a doze.

The first time it happens, Taehyung kisses his cheek good night at the door and heads home. They haven’t had their first real kiss yet, and while Jimin wants it, he’s also a little glad. What Taehyung is giving him is an overindulgence of affection, something he’s had so little of in the last decade of his life, and it’s a lot for Jimin. It takes a little getting used to, and although Jimin has never said as much to Taehyung, Taehyung seems to know it anyway. They have so much time ahead of them, and the fact that Taehyung acknowledges this by taking it slow is just another little promise on his part to be there for Jimin for a long time to come.

The second time Taehyung accompanies Jimin home from work, it’s right after he’s finished his last exam and turned in a long paper, and he looks a little rough around the edges. When Jimin finishes unlocking his door and turns to say goodnight, Taehyung is brandishing an old kids’ movie, a cat toy tipped with feathers, and puppy eyes that Jimin couldn’t say no to if his life depended on it. He begs for a chance to unwind and relax, and promises that he’ll head home and go back to working on his portfolio as soon as the movie is finished, but, half of a pizza and a bowl of popcorn later, Taehyung’s belly is full and he’s warm, snuggled up against Jimin’s side on the couch under a blanket and Serendipity, and he’s out cold long before the credits roll.

Jimin knows Taehyung hasn’t been resting as much as he should be—he knows because their dreams haven’t collided all week—and decides to let him sleep. When the movie is finished, he tips Taehyung gently to the side, into a pillow propped against the arm of the couch, tucks the blanket tighter around him, and leaves Serendipity to watch over him for the night, too afraid to stay and do it himself lest he take Taehyung dreamwalking with him before they’ve had a chance to properly talk about boundaries.

They make a point of doing that—talking about boundaries—the next morning over cereal and coffee. They sit on either end of Jimin’s couch, legs tangled together in a way that makes Jimin’s skin tingle and his heart thud a little louder than usual. Serendipity seems thrilled to have twice as many bowls of cereal to beg milk from, but Jimin worries a little bit about Taehyung spending time talking about what Jimin is and isn’t allowed to do in Taehyung’s dreams when he could be putting in a little more time on his portfolio before it’s due later that afternoon. Taehyung waves him off, saying he’s been slaving over those photographs for a month and a half and they’re not going to get any better in the next few hours, and Jimin concedes. He’s seen Taehyung’s work and he thinks it’s more than good enough to get a grade well above passing, and while he’s neither Taehyung’s professor nor a trained photographer, he knows how to respect Taehyung’s wishes, and Taehyung wishes to be right where he is.

So they talk, going over all the things Jimin can do in the dream world, which leaves him lobster-red and flustered, because Taehyung lands somewhere on the spectrum between ‘of course magic is real’ and ‘you’re a freaking superhero, Jimin, this is so cool!’ They talk about the responsibility of dreamwalking, after that, so that Taehyung understands exactly how fragile the human mind can be. They talk about the possibility of Jimin feeding Taehyung his magic again—intentionally this time—to give Taehyung the same awareness and control that Jimin has. It’s important to Jimin that they level the playing field between them, because he never wants to find himself in that uncomfortable grey space again, where everything is vibrant and lovely and Taehyung’s dreams glow with possibility and affection, but Jimin can’t let himself touch it.

And it seems to be important to Taehyung because it’s important to Jimin. Jimin could tell Taehyung that dreamwalking is something he’d rather keep to himself, he thinks, and Taehyung might be disappointed, but he’d respect Jimin’s decision. It’s a novel concept, someone trusting his judgment so completely.

They talk about the possibility of Jimin taking Taehyung dreamwalking with him—the way he has with Serendipity—or at least attempting it. Jimin’s still not sure if it’ll work, and Taehyung suggests earnestly that Serendipity might just be his familiar, and that no one else will ever be able to dreamwalk with Jimin the way she does.

That makes Jimin giggle–“A familiar, Tae? I’m not a witch”—which makes Taehyung poke Jimin in the side with his toes—“Witches aren’t the only magical beings with familiars, you know. Trust me, I read a lot of fantasy books growing up. I’m practically an expert”—which makes Jimin giggle harder because he’s ticklish, darnit! And that makes Taehyung’s eyes light up with a mischievous gleam that Jimin recognizes as trouble, and he manages to make it almost to the safety of the bathroom before Taehyung catches him and wraps him in a hug that he squirms to escape, laughing, until he realizes it’s just a hug.

Just a hug.

As if the physical affection between them isn’t one of the best things Jimin has ever experienced.

He didn’t realize how touch starved he’d been until Taehyung was there to feed him with skinship at every opportunity. The softness of the pad of Taehyung’s thumb massaging idle circles into the back of his hand, the gentleness of Taehyung’s fingertips as they comb Jimin’s tousled hair back into place. The warmth of his arm pressed against Jimin’s as they sit next to each other in the café breakroom.

The tenderness of his gaze as his eyes take in everything about Jimin.

It’s almost tangible, the way Taehyung watches Jimin as he speaks, works, eats, laughs, smiles. It’s almost tangible and Jimin has never felt so…valued.

It’s heady, intoxicating, even, and as their first week as boyfriends passes, and as Taehyung proves time and time again that Jimin is important to him—“you’re more important even than school, Jimin,” he says, chuckling at Jimin’s flabbergasted response—Jimin’s need to show Taehyung how much it means to him gets stronger.

It brews in him the same way espresso does, one drip turning into two, then three, then a stream of affection that Jimin can’t stem. It increases, his need to reciprocate, until its rushing through him and filling him up like a waiting paper cup. And if Jimin’s feelings for Taehyung are the espresso, then Taehyung’s feelings for Jimin are steamed milk, warm and bubbly and comforting in their texture.

Jimin wants to blend them together. He wants to pour the two of them, and the love growing between them, together—because that’s what it is, Jimin is surprised to realize, as Taehyung sleeps through the movie, snoring softly on his shoulder. He wants them to exist together, something new and beautiful and refreshing and addictive that only they can make by blurring the lines between them. He wants to be a part of something bigger than himself.

He wants to tell Taehyung that he makes Jimin feel like something bigger than himself.

Once they’ve talked about Jimin’s abilities, it hits him. Taehyung’s been nothing but supportive—to the point of excitement—about Jimin’s dreamwalking, and the dream world is the place that Jimin feels most sure of himself. And if he wants—no, needs—to tell Taehyung the depth of his feelings, then doing it in a dream, where he might be brave enough to go through with it, seems like his best bet.

There, if embarrassment ties his tongue, it’d probably be literal, and Jimin would be able to fix it. There, if he fed a little of his magic to Taehyung, it would be the most unique and them confession he could give. There, it would be a small nod to the way they came together, a fitting culmination to the series of events that fate put them through to make them them.

There, it would prove to Taehyung that he’s welcome to all of Jimin, even the parts of himself that he’s kept locked away and hidden from the rest of the world.

There, Jimin thinks he could say the words ‘I love you.’

 

Jimin has never sought out a specific dream before. He’s always just let his magic take him wherever it willed, so he’s not quite sure how to aim for Taehyung’s dream.

The universe provides the answer for him the very next day, in the form of his magic beginning to pulse. It’s a weak sensation at first, a tiny throb that Jimin figures is just the start of a headache, but as the day progresses, it becomes clearer and clearer that it’s a steady increase in his magic’s presence. It swells slowly, almost imperceptible, until Jimin notices that he’s clutching its metaphorical reins with white knuckles by the end of the day, holding it back from encroaching on the waking world.

It alarms him.

Taehyung is visibly worried by the tension Jimin knows he’s radiating, and he convinces Jimin to let him let him come over for a quiet night in. Jimin doesn’t have it in him to force Taehyung to go back to his own apartment, even though Jimin knows he should, for Taehyung’s safety. Instead, his head pounding and his shoulders tense as he struggles to maintain control, Jimin lets Taehyung putter about the kitchen and make them ramen for dinner, and when Taehyung finally asks what’s wrong, Jimin’s hesitation only lasts for a long moment before he tells him.

Taehyung doesn’t seem nervous about it. Either he doesn’t understand the severity of what’s happening—of what could happen—or his trust in Jimin is so absolute that he doesn’t see a reason for concern. That bothers Jimin more than his magic running rampant—they’ll have to have a conversation about the dangers of Jimin’s magic and Taehyung’s lack of self-preservation, apparently—but Taehyung is unshakable, a reliable presence that, Jimin reluctantly admits, somehow makes his constant battle a little easier.

After dinner, Taehyung sprawls on his back on Jimin’s couch, pulling Jimin down on top of him and tucking Jimin in against his side, and if Jimin wasn’t so preoccupied, he would blush at the suggestive tangle of limbs and the closeness of their breath as their chests rise and fall pressed together.

It feels good, though, to be so entwined with Taehyung, and he wonders for a fleeting moment if maybe Taehyung presence is actually helping. After all, every recent slip of his control over his magic has been because of Taehyung’s physical proximity, because of Jimin’s magic reaching out for Taehyung in an unsubtle way.

The evening passes slowly, and while Jimin’s magic doesn’t settle down, the pressure building behind it becomes—not less, but at least more bearable. It feels anxious, restless, and its discomforted squirming makes Jimin shift and fidget in response. Patient to a degree that amazes Jimin, Taehyung massages Jimin’s scalp with soft, repetitive strokes of his fingertips, along Jimin’s temple, behind his ear, down to the nape of his neck. It does a lot to relieve the tension Jimin is carrying, but he still worries. The last time he was this out of control was right after he was released from the institution, and the backlash from that first night’s dreams had stuck with Jimin ever since. It’s not something he wants to repeat.

Still, Taehyung is persistent, the careful, rhythmic drag of his fingers through Jimin’s hair accompanied by the quiet murmur of the night’s news program. They’re not really watching it, more letting it fill the silence between them with something domestic that would make Jimin giddy, on a good day. But when the weather forecast comes on and the anchor starts talking about tomorrow’s eclipse, Taehyung breaks the quiet with a gentle rumble that Jimin can feel in his chest.

“Huh.”

“What?” Jimin asks. His voice is a little thin, a little strained and tired, but he’s not so gone to the headache pulsing behind his eyes that he’d be so rude as to not respond.

“It’s just—the timing, of this—” he waves his free hand absently in front of them to indicate Jimin’s unruly magic, “and the eclipse,” Taehyung says softly. “Animals are really sensitive to eclipses, you know? And Serendipity is really sensitive to your magic, right? So what if your magic is also sensitive to the eclipse? Or is affected by the same things that affect an eclipse?”

It’s an interesting theory. Really interesting. And Jimin is already itching to walk to the bookstore down the street from the café and dig out all the books they have on eclipses and—and probably the sun and the moon. And maybe the Earth’s gravitational forces? Where should he even begin with this research?

But it does nothing to change his situation now.

“You’re really smart, Tae,” Jimin murmurs, snaking his arms underneath Taehyung and tightening them around his waist.

“I know,” Taehyung says, a smile discernable in the tenderness of his voice. “I picked you, didn’t I?”

In spite of everything that’s gone wrong with Jimin’s day, that makes him smile.

Hours later, when Jimin is tired and his control is slipping, Serendipity finally deigns to come down from her perch atop the bookshelf. She stretches languidly before crossing the room and jumping up on the couch, on top of Jimin and Taehyung, and Jimin knows it’s time.

He knows that his magic has hit the limit of its patience, and it’s time he has to face it.

“Tae,” Jimin says. He tries to push himself upright as he speaks, but his nervousness is blooming full-force once more, and he feels weak all over. “Tae, you should go home now. Please. I really don’t want to hurt you.”

But Serendipity is already climbing Jimin like a mountain, and he knows it’s past time. He’s too late.

Taehyung confirms it, tugging Jimin back down and pressing a kiss to the top of his head.

“Your magic won’t hurt me, Jimin. I know it won’t. It’s worked too hard to bring us together, yeah?” Taehyung mumbles a little sleepily.

Jimin spends a second too long wondering exactly how much truth there actually is behind Taehyung’s assumption, and Serendipity takes the opportunity to settle awkwardly across Taehyung’s chest and Jimin’s back.

“Anyway, even if I wanted to leave—which I don’t—I don’t think I’d be allowed to,” he whispers conspiratorially, eyeing the cat.

Jimin peeks backward over his shoulder at her, where she’s attempting to get comfortable leaning against his rib cage, and bites the inside of his cheek. They have options—Jimin could disrupt Serendipity’s nesting process and force Taehyung to go home—but a sudden feeling of inevitability washes over him and he feels it urged on by his magic.

He feels his magic wriggle free, not fighting to escape as it has been all day, but writhing out of his grasp just enough to curl around Taehyung and then…stopping.

It embraces Taehyung, almost—almost, lovingly—and then stops, and Jimin realizes he’s holding his breath. He lets it out shakily, watching it as he does to see if his relaxed hold gives his magic wild ideas, and—nothing.

It’s time—Jimin knows it’s time—but maybe he’s been thinking about this in all the wrong ways. Maybe, instead of fearing the burst of magic sure to overwhelm him immediately after he falls asleep—just maybe—he should be looking forward to it.

Because maybe it’s time.

Maybe this is the opportunity he’s been looking for, his summons into Taehyung’s dreams. He thinks back to all the amazing little things Taehyung has done to convey his affection, from his acceptance of Jimin’s magic—of Jimin—to the way he blatantly took care of Jimin tonight, and he knows.

He knows it’s time. He knows that this is his chance to tell Taehyung, in so many words, that he loves him.

So he sucks in an equally shaky breath and asks, because he needs to hear the answer once more, before he takes this leap, “Are you sure?”

Taehyung chuckles lowly, and reaches around Jimin and Serendipity to pull the blanket draped across the back of the couch across their legs. He strokes Serendipity once from head to tail and she wriggles a little to lean into the caress and get more comfortable.

“I’m sure, baby,” Taehyung says, lifting his hand from Serendipity’s back to Jimin’s. He works little circles into Jimin’s muscles there, and Jimin practically melts under his touch. All these little things— the fluttering of his heart when Taehyung calls him ‘baby,’ Serendipity’s easy acceptance of Taehyung, his magic’s gentle embrace of this person he cares so much about—all of these things feel like little signs from the universe, and Jimin knows.

It’s time, and suddenly, he feels ready.

Serendipity shifts once more, and Jimin thinks that it’s probably not the most satisfying place she’s ever napped, stretched across both of them at such an odd angle, but apparently there are some things in life that even a cat will make sacrifices for.

He’s grateful that he and Taehyung—Taehyung and him, the two of them, together—are one of them.

 

They drift asleep together, in a mountainous pile of fur and blanket and limbs, Taehyung first, the warmth of Jimin’s body curled around Taehyung’s lulling him into slumber, and Jimin right afterward, Taehyung’s steady breaths easing his passage into the dream world.

He lands in a strange place, one he’s never been in before.

It’s a white room, a futon on the floor in the center of it. The mattress is clothed in white, fluffy linens and—and the yellow blanket. From Taehyung’s dream. Jimin runs his fingers over it softly, curious if his magic still infuses it, and yes—it’s there. It’s faint, but it’s there, and Jimin wonders what, exactly, the dream world has in store for him tonight.

The room is blindingly bright, the sun visible in the sky above him through a cutout in the roof. He squints through the sunlight, trying to find some context for his surroundings, but he knows that this is the dream world, and if nothing makes sense, that would make sense.

He’s kept there indefinitely, rolling around in the pillows and blankets restlessly, and starts to wonder if he’s waiting for something. If his magic is waiting for something. For someone? Jimin starts to think of the white room as his own dream, empty of anything save his magic and Taehyung, and he wonders if he’s going to spend the whole night there.

He wonders if he’s going to be able to slip into Taehyung’s dreams at all tonight.

Or maybe Taehyung won’t dream? It’s a silly thought, he thinks, with as much of his magic as there was enveloping Taehyung in an eager caress, but he’s a balanced blend of nervous and excited and waiting is hard, so he lets his mind meander in an attempt to feign patience.

He wishes he’d brought Serendipity with him. Where is she, if she fell asleep on top of him and Taehyung? Did he not bring her along because he wasn’t cuddling her? But that doesn’t make sense, because he was cuddling Taehyung, and Jimin didn’t bring him along instead— He pauses a moment to indulge his penchant for embarrassment, blushing profusely at the acknowledgement of his and Taehyung’s intimate position before urging his wandering thoughts onward.

Of course, it doesn’t work. Now that he’s thinking of stretching out alongside Taehyung, he can’t stop thinking about it.

He thinks about how perfectly they fit together, how they’d been two puzzle pieces reunited, in the waking world just as they had been in the dream world. His visual image of them sprawled out on the couch shifts into the idea of them sprawled out horizontally on a different piece of furniture, and—

Nooope.

He hauls his mind away from that embarrassingly appealing train of thought, and plunks it down, instead, in front of the memory of how he’d tucked so neatly into Taehyung’s lap as they stargazed together in his dream. He closes his eyes and sinks into the memory, reaching around him to tug the yellow blanket closer, wrapping it around his entire body, cocooning himself in it to simulate the warmth of Taehyung’s body pressed against his. It’s soft, woven with hope and affection and a sense of adventure that Jimin chalks up to Taehyung’s usage of Jimin’s magic, and it’s not Taehyung, but it’ll do until Jimin can go to him.

And Jimin wants to. He wants to.

When he opens his eyes again, he’s on the observation deck that Taehyung had created for them. He sucks in a surprised breath as he takes in the endless stars, then, when it doesn’t show any signs of shifting again right away, he feels around for Taehyung. He knows that Taehyung is invisible in his gallery dream, so Jimin uses his magic to search for him, rather than his eyes.

No. No Taehyung. He sighs, and turns back to the night sky. Resigning himself to more waiting, he peers through the telescope, and finds nebulae swirling vibrantly around—around a person?

He looks closer, wondering if it’s Taehyung, and then he realizes—it’s himself. He’s the one falling through the universe, seemingly aimlessly, and just as he makes that discovery, he’s there, freefalling through space, the observation deck a distant dream.

It’s a surreal experience, the clouds of radiant, vivid color sweeping past him as he sinks further and further into—into what?

Where is he going?

Stars streak past him, their saturated glow thickening iridescently as he tumbles through space, hopefully from one dream to another, and he closes his eyes against the brilliance of them, thinking loudly of the tenderness of Taehyung’s lips against his forehead, of the warmth of Taehyung’s fingers laced between his own, of Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung.

His magic must listen this time, must hear him repeating Taehyung’s name, a mantra of hope and excitement and love as he moves swiftly through the universe, because when he opens his eyes again, he’s in Taehyung’s gallery once more.

He’s perched at the edge of the room, overlooking the vastness of a dazzlingly blue ocean, and relief washes over him that he’s finally where he wants to be.

Immediately, he scrambles to his feet and seeks Taehyung’s presence, casting his magic out in a net to find his elusive boyfriend, because surely Taehyung is here, in his recurring dream.

Surely he’s here, waiting for Jimin.

His magic seems happy to oblige, throwing itself into its task eagerly, almost recklessly, with an overwhelming rush of energy that startles Jimin in its ferocity. It only takes half a second to find him, and then, before Jimin can ask it to do anything else, it molds itself around Taehyung’s shape and sinks into him. Before Jimin’s eyes, Taehyung’s form bleeds into the visual spectrum, and Jimin’s jaw drops.

Well, that was unexpected.

Unexpected, and a little scary.

“Jimin?”

He scurries forward to soothe the shocked look on Taehyung’s face.

“Tae, are you okay? Are you…awake?” he asks cautiously, reaching out to take Taehyung’s hands. He’s holding them out in front of himself, staring at them in surprise, like he can’t quite believe what happened, and he jolts when Jimin speaks to him. When Jimin touches him, weaving their fingers together.

“You can see me?” Taehyung replies, his eyes shooting up to Jimin’s, and the easiness that he finds in Taehyung’s gaze tells Jimin that he’s okay.

He’s okay, and he was right—Jimin’s magic hadn’t harmed Taehyung, even with its exuberance, just as Taehyung had expected.

“Yeah,” Jimin smiles softly. “I can see you.” I can only see you.

Taehyung squeezes one hand tighter, but lets go with the other. Jimin is disappointed for a moment, but only that, because Taehyung wraps his arm around Jimin’s shoulder, and tugs him close.

Tucked against Taehyung’s chest, his head turned to the side, he can see the photographs on the walls. They don’t flicker, this time, but they’re also not actually photographs Taehyung has taken, like all the other pictures in the gallery have been.

At least, Jimin hopes not, because they’re of him.

“Are you photographing me on the sly?” he blurts. He’s not entirely uncomfortable with the thought because he trusts Taehyung, but—but that one, the second from the left, Jimin is—he’s—

It’s just a picture of him from the waist up, but—but he’s…is he naked? On a bed?  With—with his eyes half-lidded and—Jimin swallows hard—his lower lip caught between his teeth, and—

And where is his hand touching, holy fluff

“Ah,” Taehyung says awkwardly. “No, um. I’ve…kind of been thinking about asking you to model for me? For my next project? My subconscious must have—”

“You wanna turn in that to your professor-friend?” Jimin squeaks, embarrassment blossoming across his features in a wave of heat that he’s come to expect regularly since the first time he talked with Taehyung.

Taehyung glances over the framed photos on the wall, and Jimin doesn’t need to point for Taehyung to realize which one he means.

“Um,” Taehyung says, his voice a little thicker, deeper. The picture immediately changes to one of Jimin dancing. Properly clothed, and notably not horizontal. “No, definitely not! That, uh—” He clears his throat. “That might have been a different part of my subconscious? Sorry, you don’t have to—I mean, we don’t have to—not until you’re ready, Jimin, okay?”

A strangled noise erupts out of Jimin as he turns his face to hide his expression in Taehyung’s chest.

“And I’m not going anywhere if you’re, um, never ready. You know that right?”

Jimin nods absently, more to appease the insistent hand rubbing up and down his bicep in an attempt at comfort than to answer that particular question, because he’s pretty sure it won’t be an issue.

His mind slides back to his earlier thoughts of him and Taehyung tangled in his bed, blends that image with the one in Taehyung’s hypothetical photo, imagines everything that could be between those moments, and—yep. Well. Ahem.

That’s the response he anticipated. The, uh, physiological one.

He peeks up at Taehyung, still embarrassed, but he knows his desire is written all over his face, now, plain for Taehyung to see.

He would worry about being too forward, but he’s literally come here to profess his love, to connect emotionally, intimately, with Taehyung and push their relationship forward, and—

Right. Focus.

He clears his throat again, and says, his voice a little rougher, “Tae, you are awake, right? I don’t know what exactly my magic did to make you visible, but it looked like you…absorbed it?”

Grateful for the change of topic, Taehyung grins, “Yeah, baby, I’m awake.” He untangles his fingers from Jimin’s enough to snap them, and just like that, Taehyung’s hair is a soft lavender and Jimin’s— He crosses his eyes trying to focus on it well enough to see, but it looks like his fringe is—

“Pink?” he asks, surprised.

“It suits you,” Taehyung says.

“Not as much as lilac suits you,” he replies, shaking his head to flick the pink free of his hair.

It returns to his current shade of warm, sunshine blonde, and Taehyung pouts, pushing his lips out tantalizingly. “You’re no fun.”

Jimin can’t tear his eyes away from Taehyung’s mouth, and the thought that he wants it on his own again. “I’m all kinds of fun,” he says bravely, and he gives in, reaching up to pull Taehyung to him.

The kiss is slow, but it’s the lazy kind of slow, skipping past chaste and sliding right into intimate, his lips parting unquestioningly to welcome Taehyung inside, and he thinks it’s a little ironic that they’re having their second not-kiss before they even have their first actual kiss, but Jimin is too tempted by Taehyung and this moment of attraction between them not to give in.

“You’re absolutely right. What was I thinking?” Taehyung breathes between kisses, and Jimin giggles.

“Dunno,” Jimin says, pressing in for another kiss and sucking Taehyung’s lip between his own in a quick nibble. “But I was thinking—”

“Mm,” Taehyung says, pushing kiss after kiss against Jimin’s mouth in rapid succession to cut him off, his lips curling upwards against Jimin’s. “Less thinking. More smooching,” he mumbles, and Jimin grins too.

“Tae,” he says, leaning back a little laughing lightly as he pushes gently at Taehyung’s chest. “C’mon. I have something I want to tell you.”

“Can I keep kissing you while you tell me?” Taehyung negotiates, sliding his lips along Jimin’s jaw.

Jimin shivers at the brush of soft lips against his skin, hating that he’s about to put an end to it. Or, at least, a pause. “Tae.”

His tone makes Taehyung pull his lips away, forehead slightly creased and lips on the verge of a frown. “Jiminie, what’s wrong?”

Jimin looks down at where his hand rests on Taehyung’s chest and curls his fingers into the loose fabric of Taehyung’s shirt, gathering his courage.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Taehyung says quickly. “I don’t want to push you too fast—”

“I love you!” Jimin blurts, feeling the weight of the words, the truth of them, as they tumble quickly from his lips.

“Wait,” Taehyung says, leaning back slightly, shock in his eyes. “What?”

Oh, crap. This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea and he’s screwed up what he and Taehyung have by being too much. Jimin squeezes his eyes shut and scrambles to fix his mistake. “I mean—I’m sorry, now I’m the one rushing you, I shouldn’t have—it’s too soon, you don’t have to say anything back— Just pretend I didn’t—”

Jimin,” Taehyung interrupts. “Baby, relax—it’s okay, I just—” He blows out a breath, venting…something—Wariness? Or agitation, maybe?—and Jimin, his eyes still closed against his impending doom, twitches nervously at the noise. “You just caught me off guard,” Taehyung says, his hand coming up to cup Jimin’s cheek, his thumb caressing Jimin’s cheekbone.

Just off guard? He was just…surprised? Does that mean—

Jimin peeks at Taehyung just in time to see an amazing, wide smile spread across Taehyung’s face. “I think my brain stuttered. Would you…would you say it again?”

Taehyung wants— Taehyung wants him to say it again, and Jimin has never been so happy to have a reason to blush.

“I love you,” Jimin says softly, and it somehow reverberates more strongly within him the second time he says it, with happiness laced through the expectation residing on Taehyung’s features. “You—you’ve been really patient with me. And really sweet. I’ve never—” Jimin inhales carefully around the emotions that tighten in his chest. “I’ve never had someone care about me the way you do. Just— Just— The whole world is different since I met you. I feel like you called to me, and my magic heard you, and the universe moved for us.”

Taehyung’s lips part in surprise as he takes in Jimin’s confession, and Jimin smiles softly, “I feel like our happiness is meant to be.”

Taehyung is silent for a moment more, awe flickering through his eyes, and then he says, “All of this is no coincidence…I think that, too.” He presses a quick kiss against Jimin’s lips, and then lowers himself to the floor, settling cross-legged and tugging Jimin into his lap. “Come here, baby.”

Jimin laughs as he tumbles forward, his knees falling into place on either side of Taehyung’s hips, and Taehyung pulls him into another kiss. He licks into Jimin’s mouth slowly, with a familiarity this time that Jimin is pretty sure he could get used to. His hands land on Jimin’s waist, and Jimin wraps his arms around Taehyung’s shoulders, and they pull each other closer, the space between them reducing to nothing as their hearts expand, and Jimin feels like one of the blossoms that Taehyung photographed, stunningly vibrant, polished and perfect and ready for the world to see, perpetually blooming until he aches with it, until his heartbeat flutters and his magic pulses around them, and then—

Then, when he thinks it can’t possibly get any better, Taehyung murmurs, “I love you, too, Jimin,” and the sound that escapes Jimin is not a sob. It’s not a sob of happiness, and it’s not a tear of joy that slips down his cheek, and it’s definitely not a moment Jimin will ever forget.

He pulls away, then, meeting Taehyung’s bright, clear gaze with his blurry one, swallows past the emotions swelling in his chest like high tide during a full moon, and says, “Can I kiss you now?”

“For real?” Taehyung asks softly, his voice a warm rumble that soothes Jimin’s soul. It sounds like home, a safe place full of love and happiness, and he wants to wrap himself up in it for always.

“For real,” Jimin nods. “I want it. I want you.”

Taehyung tries to play off the way those words affect him, but Jimin can see it in his eyes, the longing and excitement that’s been building between them for weeks, and now that he knows—now that he knows Taehyung knows—he’s ready. He’s ready to take that next step and turn the beautiful thing they have into something even better.

“Okay,” Taehyung breathes. “If you’re sure.”

Jimin nods reassuringly, one-hundred percent certain that he wants nothing else.

“Okay. Anything for you, baby.” He pecks Jimin’s nose, and Jimin scrunches it, smiling, before he realizes Taehyung is hesitating over his next words. “Should I, uh…I mean, I still can feel some of your magic? Should I use it up just to use it? Or—” Taehyung falters.

“Um. Did you use it all last time?” Jimin asks, unsure how to answer.

“No, not quite? There was a little left. And I woke with the worst headache,” Taehyung admits.

“Then you’d better use it,” Jimin says. “Maybe you’ll skip the headache this time if you don’t hang onto it?”

Taehyung nods. “So how do I end a dream? Can I do that with it?”

“I—” Jimin has no clue. Most of what he does with his magic is instinctual, a wish, a thought conveyed to another part of himself. He has no idea how to tell Taehyung how to use it.

He has no idea how Taehyung has already used it.

“Maybe…maybe just use it? And I’ll end the dream when it’s gone?” He’s never done that before, but tonight he successfully navigated to a specific dream for the first time—even if it took a while to get there—and with his magic in overdrive because of the eclipse, Jimin feels like anything’s possible.

Taehyung’s eyes turn a bit distant, and then it happens again—the dream shifts around them, the gallery fading away the same way the café had, only…a little smoother than before, like Taehyung is getting better with practice.

The polished wood flooring expands, the ocean and the sky darkening into night, and the billowy white clouds bursting into thousands of stars and scattering throughout the dark above. Jimin isn’t nervous this time, trusting Taehyung and his magic to guide the dream carefully into its new shape, but he does tug a yellow blanket into existence and wrap it around them. For old times’ sake.

Taehyung smiles as the stars begin pulsing, winking in and out of existence in a pattern Jimin can’t place until Taehyung begins to narrate, in soft whispers and contented hums, the story of their love. His eyes widen as snippets of their relationship become clearer, crystalizing in brilliant light, the providence of the universe made plain before them.

There, to his left, the first time they spoke, a shy offer for a free refill that set their whole future in motion, and to Jimin’s right, a smiling kitten holding a heart. Just above them, a scene unfolds that he doesn’t recognize, a mess of photographs strewn about Taehyung, a small, twinkling light blinking to his side, a message in the night that had eventually saved them, that had brought Taehyung back to him, and Jimin watches in awe as Taehyung connects the stars in the sky to draw the loveliest picture he’s ever seen.

Jimin’s magic surges in time with his pulse, aching to be released, to rejoin with the magic that Taehyung is expending, and he doesn’t fight it. He lets it go without a thought, lets it harmonize with Taehyung’s tale and tell his side.

It paints Jimin bumping his head on the underside of a break room table, a flush mixed of embarrassment and hope high on his cheeks. It traces the shape of Serendipity’s acceptance of Taehyung, a tentative friendship poised to flourish.

It draws a blossom between them, a string of fate that begins with Jimin’s bashful smile, twists over itself, looping in circles to form a single flower waiting to bloom, and leads to Taehyung’s radiant grin.

It sketches the outline of two boys, tangled together on a couch, topped by a feline as gracefully as whipped cream curls over the surface of a latte, eyes closed in slumber, but with smiles shaping their lips. It sketches it, but it doesn’t take it any further, waiting for the boys to wake, and finish the story themselves.

And when their magic has exhausted itself and calmed, and all that’s left of their story to be told is their future, they find the dream fading once more, with hope and happiness in their hearts.

 

When they wake, it’s with soft gasps and steady hearts, with gentle affection in their eyes, and their breath on each other’s lips. And it hardly takes anything at all to turn it into a first kiss.

It’s a tender thing, and it blossoms slowly, nurtured into something strong and assured by the patience and care they’ve watered it with. It’s a warm press of lips, a delicate sigh of contentment, a quiet request for eternity that they whisper over and over into the night.

Their lips part with it and their tongues curl around the shape of it, sliding together slowly, languidly, as fingers lace together and chests press closer. It deepens, turns desirous, but doesn’t become impatient. They have their whole lives ahead of them, and they’re content to savor this moment.

It stretches into two, and then three, and then more, and Jimin loses track of what number kiss they’re on. He loses track of the nervousness that had surrounded this moment in his mind, loses track of the inevitable worry always swirling in his head, and just…feels.

He feels Taehyung’s hands as they slide under his shirt, feels himself shift to lay fully atop Taehyung. He feels his body shiver when the evidence of his desire grazes against Taehyung’s, and when Taehyung whispers, “The bed?” in his ear, he feels himself nod at the rightness of it.

Their clothes slide to the floor in a murmur a fabric, the sheets rustle as they peel them back and tangle themselves beneath them, but Jimin can only hear the steady beat of his heart, pattering in time with Taehyung’s, and he feels, for the second time that night, that he’s ready.

He whispers to Taehyung to look in the nightstand’s drawer, and when Taehyung returns to Jimin’s side, it’s with a look of devotion upon his face that Jimin feels in the depths of his soul. Taehyung radiates his adoration, glows with compassion and tenderness for Jimin, and when he presses his finger inside Jimin for the first time, it’s with the same care and gentleness he’d written in the stars of their dream.

It’s pure and perfect, Jimin thinks, how he feels with Taehyung. He thinks he should feel vulnerable, but he only feels complete, serene in the same way he’d felt the first time he’d visited Taehyung’s dream, like, even then, the universe was sending them a secret clue that this was meant to be. And even though this physical feeling is new, is persistent and overwhelming, Jimin thinks it pales in comparison with the way he feels connected to Taehyung when he finally slides inside.

They hold each other tightly, grounding each other with soft kisses and gently murmured words as their bodies build something new, something more, tangible proof of the trust and love between them. And when the stars that wove their story find a home in his vision, Jimin knows.

He knows this was worth waiting for.

 

When he wakes the next morning, he’s wrapped in warm limbs and insulative sheets, Taehyung’s heated skin sticking gently to his own, but Jimin can’t find a single reason to complain.

He steeps in it, this perfect, cozy moment, until Taehyung stirs and stretches, squinting against the morning sun streaming in Jimin’s bedroom window, and wow. Yeah, this waking-up-next-to-Taehyung thing is way better than he imagined, even if the sharing-a-pillow part came with a tiny patch of drool.

Jimin is so endeared he hardly notices.

Taehyung’s stretch turns into a groan of distaste at the brightness of the morning, and he curls back into Jimin, burrowing his face into the crook of Jimin’s neck to hide from the morning, his unhappy noise trailing off into a whimper.

“Good morning, Tae,” Jimin says quietly, amused by the morning-shy koala he seems to have adopted.

“It’s good, but it’s not morning,” Tae mumbles sleepily against Jimin’s skin, the words garbled as he snuggles closer. “Don’ wannit to be.” He tightens his hold around Jimin’s middle in an attempt to ignore the coming day, and Jimin laughs.

“C’mon, sleepyhead. I’ve gotta—oh crap,” Jimin says, struggling to sit up quickly, panic taking over and shooting a dose of adrenaline into his system. “I’ve gotta get to work—Tae, what time is it?”

Taehyung lets him go as he rolls from bed—okay, he did not expect to be this sore, but he probably should have because sex, he’s discovered, is a workout—and as he picks up his phone to check the time, his heart sinks and his stomach lodges itself in his throat. So much for his perfect morning with Taehyung.

“Tae, I gotta go now or I’m gonna be so late—” he says, dashing toward his dresser to pull out clean clothes so he can rush through a notably necessary shower.

He hardly pauses when his phone vibrates with an incoming text, thumbing it open as he heads toward the bathroom.

Wait—Hoseok? Why is Hoseok texting him when they’ll see each other in less than an hour? His feet freeze in the bedroom doorway as he reads the message.

     From: Hoseok
     Jimin im officially calling in sick for u today

More messages pop up, and Jimin’s mouth falls open in surprise.

     From: Hoseok
     u were rough yesterday and u never stay home sick when u should
     so im calling in for u
     Jeongguk will be here in 35 min n we got this

Jimin stares at the screen, dumbfounded. “Tae. Hoseok says I should stay home today.”

He jumps slightly when Taehyung slumps unexpectedly over his shoulders and hums in his ear blearily. “You’re staying?”

     From: Hoseok
     
seriously, go back to bed bc im not gonna let u clock in

The final message seals his fate as Taehyung reads over Jimin’s shoulder. A lazy grin brushes against Jimin’s neck as it spreads across Taehyung’s face, and he laughs the word ‘lucky,’ as he tugs Jimin backward, back into bed.

Jimin sighs, taps out a quick ‘thanks,’ and hits send before shoving his phone under his pillow for safekeeping, tossing the clean clothes on top of his dresser for later and letting Taehyung snuggle him deep into the covers. Taehyung tucks Jimin up against his chest, wrapping every piece of himself that he can manage around Jimin, and Jimin…doesn’t mind it. He feels weird being lazy when he should be working, but his drawn-out fight with his magic yesterday was exhausting, and even though it isn’t the same struggle this morning that it was last night, he can feel it welling inside him again, the peak of the eclipse still to come and its effects still lingering.

“I could get used to this,” Taehyung murmurs, breaking Jimin’s train of thought.

“Mm,” Jimin agrees, twisting around so that his back is to Taehyung, cuddling closer as the last of his adrenaline rush finally drains away and leaves him yawning. He squiggles in place, sinking deeper into the comfort of Taehyung’s arms, and closes his eyes to fully appreciate the embrace.  “It is nice.”

Taehyung chuckles sleepily, the warmth of their bodies curled together enticingly soothing. “‘Nice’ is the biggest understatement. I feel like I’m dreaming.”

“I’d find you if you were,” Jimin whispers, and as Taehyung presses his lips to the nape of Jimin’s neck, the feeling of home returns to him, something he hasn’t felt with anyone but Taehyung since he left his childhood behind.

It feels good.

 

When Jimin wakes again, the morning sun is much higher in the sky. Taehyung still breathes evenly behind him, and, for a brief moment, it all feels surreal. It feels hazy, like a cross between the dream world and the waking world, and Jimin wonders fleetingly if this is what it feels like when your dreams come true—hardly believable and infinitely perfect—and the smile that tugs at his lips feels like it could be permanently carved there.

And then his phone buzzes once gently under his pillow, and his dreams meld with the real world once more. He sneaks a hand free of Taehyung’s embrace and fetches his phone, dismissing the newest notification—just a reminder to reorder Serendipity’s food, which he did two days ago—and is surprised to find a string of texts from Jeongguk, sent half an hour earlier.

     From: Jeongguk
     first u call in sick
     then namjoon stalks in muttering bout “characters and their damned free will”
     an now hoseok is playing charades wit himself in the bathroom mirror
     wtf has this eclipse done to everybody
     pls tell me i haven’t died and ended up in some weird-ass purgatory

Maybe he should go in to the café after all, just to make sure everything’s—

“Mm, ’Minie?” Taehyung mumbles, and Jimin sets his phone aside.

They’ll be fine at the café, he decides—really, their weirdness isn’t much different than the eclipse’s effects on Jimin himself, when he thinks about it, and things will surely be back to normal tomorrow.

“You ready to get up this time?” Jimin asks softly, twisting behind him to card his fingers through Taehyung’s hair.

“Is there cereal?” Taehyung asks, and, as if summoned by the possibility of milk, Serendipity jumps up on the bed to prance all over them.

“Well there has to be now,” Jimin says, ruffling Serendipity’s fur and scratching her ears. “You said the magic word.”

Taehyung’s amusement rumbles through his chest and he reaches out tentatively to let Serendipity sniff his fingers. She does, taking great interest in his offer of attention, and then throws herself into his hand for petting.

“Never mind,” Taehyung says. “I don’t want to get up after all.”

Jimin laughs, and starts to untangle himself for the second time that morning. It’s a process, with Serendipity’s “help” this time around, but he manages to extract himself with a bit of determination and pulls Taehyung with him. He lures both of them to the kitchen with the promise of milk for the cat—“If you give her some she’ll love you forever, Tae,” he guarantees, and Taehyung can’t seem to pass up that golden opportunity—and as they settle on the couch next to each other with cartoons playing softly on the TV and bowls of cereal cradled carefully in their palms and Serendipity happily purring into a small bowl of her own, Jimin thinks there’s only one thing missing.

“Tae,” he says, and when Taehyung turns to look at him, Jimin catches his lips with his own.

It’s chaste, but lingering—affectionate and warm and satisfying and everything their morning together has been—and Jimin follows it up with the only thing he can.

“I love you, Taehyung.”

It’s finally Taehyung’s turn to blush, then, his soft “I love you, too, Jiminie,” whispered around smiles and more kisses, and—yeah.

Yeah, that’s better.