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in the middle of the night (no one has to know what we do)

Chapter Text

 

chim

where are you?

buzzed in @ your place and Joonie just growled at me

 

tae

babysitting duty

send help

 

chim

oh

be there in 5

- ♡ - 

 

The white two-story house at the end of the street was already a familiar place to Jimin, so many afternoons spent there in the past year whenever Yoongi and Seokjin had an emergency at work and nobody but the Kim's youngest to cry for help. Still, it was always a pleasant image, Taehyung opening the door to his brother's living room, messy hair, sparkling eyes and Jeongguk attached to his hip, safe in his arms, refusing to let go of his uncle. It wasn't any different that day, the baby chewing happily on his uncle's right cheek, Taehyung already used to his nephew's soft bites. Jimin knew from his own experience that the man used to do the same during their childhood years, the alpha being seen more than once with his teeth on his best friend's squishy cheeks.

 

Those old days were so much easier.

 

"Minnie!", the kid squealed at the sight of the omega, making grabby hands with his chubby fingers, big eyes shining with emotion. Jimin just laughed, winking at a relieved Taehyung once Jeongguk had been transferred to the short man's arms. Funny thing was the baby never tried to bite at his honorary uncle, even If he did have the perfect cheeks for it. No, whenever Jeongguk found himself in Jimin's embrace he went straight for his neck, nuzzling there softly and bathing himself in his caramel scent.

 

"Yoongi had to run to the magazine because someone fucked his last article and now he's totally pissed," the alpha explained, making a gesture so his friend could come in, the always present smell of  freshly baked cookies welcoming them, "and Jin should be home soon... I hope. I've been here for an hour and damn,  I love Gukkie, but I haven't finished editing my pictures and I need to hand them in tomorrow,  but he wants attention and doesn't let me work."

 

"Don't worry,  I've got him," Jimin smiled, holding the little boy tighter, "go finish your thing. We can talk later.  Gukkie and I will have some fun."

 

Taehyung mouthed a rushed thank you , running to the kitchen where he probably had spread all of his equipment in order to come up with a small office. For weeks he had been working on a dozen different photos for his next exhibition, the ending of the term coming quickly and startling both of the college students.

 

But thinking about college only brought Jimin the memories from the reason behind his distress. The reason why he went looking for his best friend as soon as the meeting with his grandparents ended, leaving a bitter taste inside his mouth. The only thing he should focus on now was the way the baby in his arms was babbling at him, snuggling on his lap as soon as they got themselves comfortable on the Kim's huge cream sofa.

 

He didn't have the heart to tell Taehyung later that all that got him to calm Jeongguk down was handing the boy his favorite rabbit plushie and turning the TV on some random cartoon. Both of them enjoyed each other's warmth while watching a bunch of animals dancing, Jimin almost feeling like he could snooze off at any time.  From the kitchen,  all he heard was his friend's voice here and there,  heavy and tired. He could almost see the man running his fingers through his hair, pouting his lips whenever something didn't go to his liking.

 

It  wasn't too much later when the sound of keys filled the living room,  followed by the strong scent and the soothing voice of the eldest of the Kim brother's announcing his presence. It was enough for Jeongguk to start bouncing excitedly, giggling brightly at the prospect of seeing his father.

 

"Jiminnie!" Seokjin greeted, scooping his son from the man's arms, the baby immediately sinking his teeth on his dad's right cheek, before he had the chance to even make himself comfortable at home, "Great seeing ya. Where's Tae?"

 

"Kitchen!" his brother answered before his best friend could, the top of his head showing up on the door, as messy as Jimin predicted to be, "did you get Yoongi’'s message?"

 

"About the mass killing he'd start if the guys at the magazine didn't fix their shit? Sure. It was a very pleasant one," his windshield wiper laugh filled the room, Seokjin throwing himself comfortably on the opposite couch, his child giggling excitedly with no apparent reason, "He should be getting here  any moment now Tae. So clean the table for us, please? We'll be having dinner as soon as he arrives. Join us for it, Jiminie? Joon said he's on his way, too. We're getting pizza because according to my dear husband, ' fuck you, Doctor Kim, I want it and I'll have it'. If we are lucky enough maybe he went full on crazy and brought ice cream as well."

 

"Don't curse in front of the baby, fucker" a voice reached them from the door, the sound of Yoongi taking off his shoes and dropping his keys on the floor startling everyone. The man looked frazzled, his cheeks still red from the sprout of anger he was probably feeling. Still, the omega lowered himself to steal a peck from his husband, a soft smile taking place on his face once he'd done it. Jeongguk turned into a bubbling mess once he realized both of his parents were there, his grabby hands turning to them. "When Gukkie gets into kindergarten and they call us because he's swearing at the other kids I'll not be attending any stupid counseling meeting. You know the other parents from our neighborhood get me itchy. Hey, Jiminnie. Thank goodness you're here, If I had to go through dinner with all the Kims by myself things would not end up well."

 

"Hey, Yoongs. Looking good."

 

"You're really on a roll today, aren't you, babe?"  Seokjin pulled the sleeve of his sweater, frowning his own nose in an attempt at looking cute that was way too much for him. Yoongi just rolled his eyes, kissing their baby on the forehead, ignoring the fact that Jeongguk was still munching on his husband's cheek, "I'll go to all the meetings you want. The Neighborhood Council thinks I'm charming. I'll only tell them good stuff about us and put all the blame on my younger siblings, because this is why I have younger siblings for."

 

"You're an ass!" Taehyung screamed back from the kitchen, the sound of something crackling on the floor following his answer.

 

"Told ya. Fucking Kims. They're gonna destroy my house. Stay away from them if you wanna survive, Jimin. Never marry a Kim, even if he's good-looking as fuck and has a big dick" Yoongi mumbled, taking the boxes of pizza to the kitchen, screaming something unintelligible to his brother-in-law in the process.

 

"Yeah, sure" Jimin answered to no one, a lump going down his throat, burning his insides and making his heart clench. He knew he'd never marry a Kim, never would have the chance of choosing who he wanted to marry either. His family sold his hand to a Jung, like the man was one of their properties. He tried shoving the thought away, avoiding the tears that insisted on coming again and again. He focused all his attention on the sweet babbling of Jeongguk, who seemed to be in a very serious conversation with his father. Taehyung told him once that the baby started to do that after realizing that Yoongi talked about his day every time Seokjin arrived home. If his dad could do that, the baby Kim sure as hell could do it too.

 

"Oh, really? Hmm. Oh my god, seriously?" Seokjin answered every mumble directed to him, his eyebrows following all of his reactions, stains of saliva still covering his cheek. He turned to Jimin for a second, long enough to whisper "he had a very, very interesting day with Uncle Taetae" before the boy demanded his attention once again. Something that sounded like "Minnie" showed up in the middle of a sentence, chubby fingers pointing at him, "Oh, Uncle Minnie watched movies with you? That sounds fun, we should thank him later."

 

Trust Jeongguk to bring a smile to Jimin's face even in the darkest hours.

 

"Why does it smell like pizza in here? And why is the door open? Have you finally lost the rest of your sanity?" Namjoon yelled, the sound of his bags falling on the floor, his feet stumbling on it a second after. The room was suddenly filled with excited baby squeals, Jeongguk jumping on his dad's lap in  anticipation  of seeing his favorite uncle. Namjoon always complained that he wasn't suited for children at all, but his only nephew ignored his quirks and launched himself onto him as soon as possible, sinking his face on the man's chest, "You're the most mature around here, aren't you, Gukkie? How can these clowns fuck up this bad? Oh, hey, Chim."

 

"Shhh, Yoongi said we shouldn't curse in front of him" his older brother hit the taller man on the arm, but his expression was light, playful. Seokjin always liked that, house full and noisy, resembling the place he grew up in, his parents always loud and his younger brothers screaming happily in every room possible. It was safe, it was comfortable, it was home.

 

"But he is the one who swears the most among us, this is ridiculous" the omega complained, trying to untangle himself from the tight grip his nephew kept on his collar.

 

"You tell him that. Go on, he almost murdered half of the writer's room earlier. Good luck, or pray for someone to finish your big ass project once you're dead."

 

"Oh, this is why we're having pizza. You're forgiven, Yoongs, it’s all good" Namjoon announced in a strained voice, Adam's apple bobbing in a nervous manner. "Shit, do you still have those pills for lactose intolerance? I really don't have the time to get sick right now. I have a ton of papers to grade by tomorrow."

 

"I put them by your plate already. You're welcome," Taehyung showed up, balancing his equipment in an unstable stack, arms full and smile fuller, "Thank goodness I'll be staying at Jimin's tonight because no way I'm helping you decipher your students scribbles again," he lowered his body, whispering in his friends ear,  "I can stay over tonight, right?"

 

"Please," he replied even lower, "We do have to talk".

 

The worry in the alpha's eyes was never a good sign, the way he nipped on his own lower lip a sign between them, a hidden question for how bad the news were. Jimin just shook his head, asking him in silence to really leave it for later. There was no way he could give his friend an update on the subject without spilling a few tears on his own shirt. Taehyung just nodded, but his eyes would always follow his best friend's every move.

 

"So, are you guys coming or whatever?" Yoongi's head showed up at the kitchen door, getting a " Dad! Joon!" from his son, the boy shaking his uncle's shirt to show his father the man was there, "Yes, baby, Dad did realize that Noodle Legs is here, please don't let his brainiac thing influence you. Come on, you dorks, before food gets cold or I decide I'm in a grow spurt and need all these six pizzas to survive."

 

- ♡ - 

 

"Why are you so slow ?"

 

"Because we don't have 5-feet-long legs like you, dammit!" Taehyung yelled at his older brother, a dozen steps in front of them with his bags full of books and his silver hair shining under street lights. "No, but for real, I bet he just wants to use the bathroom, this is why he's being such a cry baby," he lowered his voice so only Jimin could hear it, shifting the weight of his photography equipment from one arm to the other. It was routine for them, those walks home late at night after dinner in the eldest of the Kims' house, picking on Namjoon's antics and strolling slowly, pinkies tangled together. It used to spread a nice warmth through Jimin's chest, a welcomed contentment at the end of a long day. That night, though, the only thing that came to his mind was how that kind of silly thing would just be a memory to long for sooner rather than later.

 

Namjoon suddenly stopped, turning slowly to them with a question mark reflected in his eyes. He stared at the two younger boys for a second, before adding "You're awfully quiet tonight, Jiminnie. Something happened?"

 

"No, Joonie, don't mind me," he tried to smile, but it came out faded, never reaching his eyes like most of his smiles usually did. The older omega didn't seem to buy it, one of his eyebrows disappearing beside his fringe when he lifted it up. Jimin completed, as soon as Taehyung squeezed his finger with his own, "I'm just exhausted from college. It's been a tough semester. Glad it's almost over."

 

"Right?" the alpha tried to help, panting loudly while trying to speed up to catch up to his brother. The sooner they got to the ten-story brick building - where they were neighbors on the fifth floor - the sooner Namjoon would stop trying to pry into his childhood friend's strangeness, and that was always the best solution to avoid conflict. The older omega tended to be too alarmed about anything out of his control, making a bigger deal of things that were already screwed up. It was always better to leave Namjoon out of their business. "This semester really bit me in the ass. You guys are coming to my exhibition this weekend, right?"

 

"Sure," they answered at the same time, before  silence crept up again. They weren't far away from home now, the shape of their building standing in the horizon, desert streets welcoming them with bright lights. It wasn't that late, not really, but it felt like the hours before the dawn, like a new day was about to come up and gleam in the sky.

 

"You've got the keys?" the older Kim asked as soon as they got to the wooden doors, balancing his stuff on the side so he could reach for the keychain his brother handed him on his middle finger. Namjoon wasn't allowed to carry them with him anymore, not since the last time he lost them again - Taehyung refused to pay for a new door-handle for the sixth time. "Are you stopping home before heading to Jimin's?"

 

"Yeah, gonna drop this stuff and then I'm leaving. Need something?"

 

"Just... can you..." he struggled with the words while calling the elevator, hands clearly shaking with something that looked a lot more like anger that nervousness "can you scent the door again before you go?" Ah, there it was, the reason behind all his stiffness. Namjoon hated that, the feeling he needed someone else to "protect" him because of his sub-gender. He never hated being an omega, not at all - just the lack of respect that came from it. It didn't matter that he was older than Taehyung - because he was an alpha, people tended to listen to Taehyung and refer to him whenever they needed to deal with them, and it pissed  Namjoon off. It was not right. It'd never be right.

 

"Oh shit, is that guy from the ninth floor bothering you again?" Taehyung stopped, even with the elevator waiting for them. There was this asshole alpha living on their building who loved to pick on Namjoon for anything, from the way he dressed to his choice of work and how he would tame him as soon as he claimed the omega - and other very disturbing things Namjoon never dared to repeat, but they know he heard anyway. Jimin could feel in his heart the fear in his friend's eyes just by talking about it. Unmated omegas were always chased like that, like they were nothing. The only reason he was "safe" was... well, it was because of Taehyung. He always smelled like Taehyung, the man's scent everywhere around his apartment. He was sure the neighbors thought they were mated by now.

 

"Don't do anything stupid, just scent the damn door so he doesn't come near again, okay?" the taller man pulled his brother to his side, pressing the button to the fifth floor with his elbow. " Do not say anything about this to the others, okay? God knows Yoongi would come running here with a knife and Jin would just growl behind his back."

 

"It's what he deserves," Jimin mumbled for the first time, surprising even himself. Maybe it was the weight of everything that happened that day and the soft lights inside the elevator, his image pale and tired, pink hair sticking on his forehead. "For putting us down, looking down on us. We're not walking pieces of meat, walking sex toys to please bored alphas, we're not... we're not currency trading for failing business," he whispered the sentence low enough that the brothers wouldn't hear him, but it stung right into his soul anyway. When the doors opened again, showing the dark corridor they were so used to, he just smiled, shaking his head, "I'll leave the door open, Taetae. Night, Joonnie. Good luck with your test grading. See ya later."

 

- ♡ - 

 

"Move your peachy ass to the side, I'm coming," Taehyung's voiced echoed through the semi-pitch of the room, his scent announcing him even before his words did. Jimin knew his scent like he knew his own, so entangled in his life he didn't even remember a time before the smell of his best friend was impregnated in everything around him. That exact scene, the alpha sneaking onto his bed late at night, was trivial, so common for them that Taehyung had a drawer full of clothes on the omega's closet, a toothbrush waiting for him in the bathroom and a favorite pillow waiting for him on his side of the mattress.

 

All of that would be gone soon. All of that would be gone too soon and Jimin knew that. So, when he felt the weight of his best friend by his side the only thing he could do was literally shove himself into his arms in a messy cuddle, whispering a soft "Scent me" against his white t-shirt. Some people believed that only mates should do the scenting thing, but for them it was a code, a need of affection and love and a "please don't go away". Taehyung was warm, so warm, his arms enveloping Jimin's torso in the best way, his legs tangling themselves on Jimin's legs and his nose running, first lightly, on the omega's neck, going up to his jaw, his lips leaving soft kisses on the soft skin of his cheeks. There, Jimin could hear his heart beating, so fast, Taehyung’s fingers in a comfortable grip on his shoulder-blades, his breathing trying to soothe all the worries in his best friend's head.

 

"Tell me what's wrong, Chim."

 

"Remember when we were about to move here and my dad got scammed and lost a hell of a lot of money? And we almost thought I'd have to give up the dream of coming with you for college, but then somehow dad managed to not only get the money back, but enough to rent me this place?" he felt Taehyung nodding above his head, his hands caressing his shoulders protectively, "turns out they lied to us. They didn't get the money back. They went to my grandparents. My grandparents gave them the money to send me to college and rent this place."

 

"Wait, what? Didn't your grandparents disown your dad because they were rich as fuck and didn't want him to mate a... what were their words again? 'Suburban stinky omega?' I thought they ended their relationship when your dad just ignored them and married anyway."

 

"They did... they did, but mom and dad were desperate. They didn't want to disappoint me," that was the point where his tears started to stain his face, rolling heavily against his cheeks, "so they went to them. They went to them, and they gave the money, but asked for a favor in the future in return, because they are sly assholes."

 

"What did they ask for?" he heard the question, but couldn't avoid the silence that filled the air after it. It burned his insides, hurt his heart even hours away from hearing it, "Jiminnie, what did they ask for?"

 

"They were having business issues... their company... their company was sliced and the stocks sold in the market. This guy, this Jung guy, he bought most of it, but my grandparents didn't take it easily. So they made a deal with him. This new CEO, he wants his son married, and soon, because maybe this way he will finally settle down and follow on the family's business. So they offered me. They offered their only grandson as a trading deal to save their money," he was fully crying now, sobs making him choke on his own saliva, head hurting from the motion of it.

 

"No, Jimin, no, they didn't..."

 

"The guy's an alpha, so that's what he needs, isn't it? A nice, compliant omega to put some sense into his head and open his legs for him whenever he wants to burn energy. And I'm it. To them, I'm nothing but an useless omega that has no right of having a life of his own. I don't have the right of choosing my mate, of marrying for love," the man was desperate at that point, clinging to his best friend for dear life, "I don't wanna do it, Tae. I hate this shit. What if he stops me from doing things I love? What if he wants me to behave like a good little omega . You know how I hate those labels, how I hate people who look down on us. And now... now they're asking me to give up everything for people I don't even like in first place? Why me, Tae? I don't wanna do this. I don't wanna do this..."

 

He kept mumbling those exact same words, again and again and again, but Taehyung wasn't listening to it anymore.

 

The only thing Taehyung could hear was the sound of his own heartbreak at the prospect of losing the man he loved.

Chapter Text

"Is it sweet enough?" Jimin asked him, voice hoarse and eyes still puffed and red from all the crying the night before. Taehyung just nodded, and even though the hot chocolate was exactly the way he liked - it tasted the same since the first time the omega prepared it for him when they were just teenagers - it left a bitter aftertaste on his mouth. The alpha couldn't remember when they fell asleep, only the soft sobs against his chest and the warm tears that soaked his t-shirt until his best friend finally gave up the pain of the real world for the tranquility of sleeping land. Taehyung must've followed him soon after, but it all still felt too much like a nightmare.

 

Park Jimin was the man who moved around his tiny kitchen in a sweater too big to belong to him and low-waisted gray sweatpants, sipping on his coffee with his pink hair disheveled and his hands shaking, but Taehyung could still see the chubby stubborn boy he met on his first day of kindergarten - gripping tightly on his mom's hand and with a scowl on his face because he didn't need no alpha boy to help him get along with people . He could see on the man's face all those years they spent together, growing up side by side in their small suburban neighborhood, a promise of an eternal friendship following them to a bigger city with their big city dreams and bad college parties, always just a small walk away from each other whenever they needed.

 

Taehyung could see the boy he fell in love with when he was sixteen and stargazing on a warm spring day, the way the sky shone bright, but not as bright as Jimin's smile.

 

"I'm meeting him later on."

 

He was brought back by the faint whisper coming from present day Jimin, his short fingers tapping anxiously on the ceramic mug, bottom lip stuck between his teeth.

 

"My... fiance. I'm meeting him later."

 

Oh, yeah, that didn't feel like a punch in the guts at all. It wasn't like Jimin knew about that feeling he'd been hiding from for the past six years, masking it as affection and friendship in pure fear that, if the omega found out, he could be left behind for good. There was never any sign that it was mutual, not one moment where the alpha read the situation as 'well, perhaps I have a chance'. And now he was getting married. Now he was getting married and probably would mate this new partner and Taehyung hated alpha stereotype, but something growled inside his chest before it became brutal pain.

 

"Oh, shit. I shouldn't have scented you, then." It was the only coherent thing to came out of his mouth. He knew, by the conversation  the night before, that there was no chance of convincing Jimin to run away to the Bahamas and live their lives as nomads just to escape the arranged marriage. Doing that meant leaving their dream behind, dreams of photography and psychology, and they were so near their diplomas and had fought so much for them it made no sense at all. The omega had his mind made up, even with the whole 'I do not want to do this': He was getting married. He was saving his parents from a lawsuit and his future career for an abrupt ending. There wasn't much left to do. "Sorry, you asked and I... I didn't know."

 

"Actually, it was kinda intentional," he mumbled, trying to avoid his friend's gaze. "Right, I needed it as comfort but I thought... I thought that maybe if he felt the scent of another alpha... maybe he'd not want me. It's stupid but... I don't know."

 

"Oh. I see. Hope it works, then."

 

They both knew it wouldn't.  

 

"So," Taehyung cleared his throat, trying to shove all the broken glass pieces of his heart threatening to come up his throat back down, "besides marrying this guy," like it could become even worse, "what else do you have to do? Did they tell you? Will you have to... will you have to move away?"

 

" No," and he answered it so quickly his mug spilled coffee everywhere, scaring both of the men. Jimin cursed under his breath, grabbing a dish cloth to clean his mess, "that was... that was my only condition. I do not leave my place. If he wishes, he can move here. But I'm not going away. I don't have to mate him either, actually, but it got implied that I'd better... We just... We just have to get married and make a few appearances at those ridiculous company galas and then I have to..." the omega blushed so hard it almost burned, his hands shaking again, "I have to convince him to take the job his dad wants at the company and for that I have to... use of any ways. Any ways. Gosh, I never did that, you know. I've never been the receiving part, because no shit of biology stereotype will determine which role I decide to take when it comes to sex. And also... I wanted to do that with my mate. Wanted him to be the first. It's stupid but... It was important to me."

 

Yeah, there was only one thing worse than hearing about the sex life of the person one was in love with: hearing the pain in their voice while talking about something they were forced to do. That was wrong, so wrong in so many ways and Taehyung felt sick listening to those words, his head dizzy and his heart pumping in a way that felt too dangerous. There was no thing he could say to fix that, or to make that any better. There was no plan of escape to save his best friend. People always believed that alphas were supposed to be powerful and strong and in control, but once again all Taehyung felt was useless.

 

"When is it happening? The wedding?" It wasn't the right thing to say, but the only coherent thought his mouth could mumble out.

 

"In one week,” Jimin whispered, but he sounded so much more like an echo of what he once was, a ghost who forgot to leave the plane, "they don't feel like waiting any longer and... they do not want a big party. Just a marriage officiant and a few witnesses and some pictures for the papers. They aren't even trying to disguise this is a business transaction." His laugh was the saddest, driest one Taehyung ever heard, but what came after was a blade even sharper right against his throat, "Could you... could you please be there? I don't know if I can do this by myself."

 

"Sure. I'd never leave you alone."

 

A week. Seven days. That's all Taehyung had left with the person he thought would be his forever. There was no way things could stay the same after the omega got a wedding band on his left hand. Nights like the previous one wouldn't exist anymore. The scent of caramel would be forever gone from Taehyung's clothes.

 

A week. All they had was a week.

 

- ♡ - 

 

The address he got via text as their meeting point was far from what one could expect for such kind of reunion. Jimin found himself in a small cute restaurant downtown, walls mainly made of window glass and tiny succulent gardens spread everywhere. The omega was sitting on a wooden table by some fancy yellow lamps, fingers circling a mug of coffee the hostess offered as a treat of the house, but he didn't have the courage to take yet. Lisa - the red-haired pink-cheeked hostess - looked at him with some kind of pity in her eyes, like she knew exactly why he was there when the man mentioned the name Jung Hoseok. The woman led him to the table with a sad smile and a promise that the Hoseok guy would be there in a few minutes. All Jimin could do was nod.

 

It was no lie he was waiting for something a bit more formal, surrounded by the sharks he called his grandparents and his future parents-in-law, but a message earlier that day informed this time it would be just the happy engaged couple, a good opportunity for a closer approach and a better first impression. Maybe they would even imprint, his mother had suggested trying to sound happy, who knew! But Jimin knew that was nothing but a silly fantasy. Imprinting was a rare thing, something so special and pure some believed was the proof soulmates were a thing. That happening in their situation would be unfair to all those lovers out there, all those dreaming of their happy ending.

 

His mind was swirling in weird thoughts when he realized there was a guy standing in front of him, his nose twisted to the side and something dark in his eyes. His hair was even redder than Lisa's, almost like fire, and his profile could kill someone for sure, a beautiful nose and reddish lips completing that long face. The man was an alpha for sure, and it wasn't that he smelled bad - his scent was something like sea and salt and a summer day - but it was too heavy for Jimin's liking, too close to the ocean he despised so much. It was only after a minute he realized the alpha wore a full body white apron, the logo written on the menus also printed onto the fabric.

 

"Are they seriously trying to make me marry a mated omega? That's fucking illegal."

 

So that was Jung Hoseok. Great. Perfect start.

 

"I'm not mated," Jimin mumbled, showing his neck in a delicate movement. Perhaps he should've told the man that yes, he was mated, but that was such a weak lie, and Taehyung always teased him for being the worst of the liars. "You must be... Hoseok. I'm Park Jimin."

 

"Yeah, my dear fiance, got it," he shrugged, pulling the chair in front of him so he could sit. Even that way he still looked taller than the omega, "but you smell like some alpha rolled over you the whole night and..." he widened his eyes, suddenly realizing that maybe that was exactly what happened. They knew nothing about each other after all. "Whatever, it's your business, I have nothing to do with it. Just do your thing," Hoseok laughed humorless, passing his fingers through his own red hair, "I'm sorry if I'm not sounding that receptive, and I bet there's nothing wrong with you, but... I don't wanna marry you. I don't wanna run no stupid company. I just wanna stay here in my kitchen minding my own business and that's it. Sorry if you had any expectations or whatever..."

 

"I didn't," the omega was even quicker, some hope warming his soul, "I don't want to marry you either and I think this thing is all bullshit but... I've been threatened, you know? They won't let me get my diploma or keep my place if I don't do this... I really don't want to though, please trust me."

 

"So they threatened you too, huh?" his lips formed some odd heart when he smiled, even if that was the most sarcastic smirk Jimin had ever seen, "They did it to me as well. Marry this guy you've never seen in your life and we won't set fire on your restaurant."

 

"No, they didn't..."

 

"Say that? They did. Welcome to the Jungs. Mom and dad will spit on your dead body and offer their only son in change of more power at any time. Oh, this is exactly what they are doing right now, isn't it? Laughing at my dreams and how much I conquered on my own and selling my body to form an alliance I'm not the slightest interested in maintaining  in the future," Hoseok shrugged, picking on the succulent closer to him, his long fingers leaving stains on the glass around it. "So I guess we're doing it, right? Getting married?"

 

That time, the words got stuck in his throat a little longer, Jimin's eyes following the lines on the alphas faces. It was like a mirror, and so different from the arrogant, flirty, disgusting man he was expecting. The omega was waiting for an old creepy guy no one wanted to marry, not a man that couldn't be much older than Jimin himself and beautiful as they described men in old greek myths. But what shocked him the most about Hoseok was seeing a sadness and a desperation that the omega knew too well because he felt exactly the same, the same pain, the same longing for a life  neither of them would have anymore.

 

"Yes, guess we are."

 

"Hope you don't have a problem with cats, then, since you're making me move into your house." Ouch. That one was salt straight onto the wound. It hurt, guilt spreading across his chest, "No way I'm leaving Holt behind. But  don't worry, besides him I don't have much else I mind giving up. Might as well just bring a few boxes, so clear a bedroom for me, right? Mom said you had a spare one. Anyway, I have to go back to the kitchen, but anything you order is on the house from now on. Wouldn't make sense to charge my future husband, right? The fig salad is great, one of my favorites, you should try that," the alpha got up, straightening his apron, "guess I'll see you at the altar. Have a nice day."

 

If Jimin didn't have any appetite before, now he almost felt like throwing up. Watching the man greet a few customers, he wondered if he should get used to that place, to the sun coming through the windows and the colored succulents around him. The coldness that would fill his soul from now on already felt like a close friend.

 

- ♡ - 

 

tae

are you ok?

you disappeared the whole day

where are you?

 

chim

i spent the afternoon at the clinic

helping dr. mooris

I just needed to get my head busy for a while

are you at home?

i might get there in like 1h

just gonna stop at home first

 

tae

yes

door's open

 

- ♡ - 

 

"Please, for all the love in the world, don't make any sudden movements. Or sounds. At all." Namjoon warned him as soon as Jimin stepped into the Kims' shared apartment, their living room a exact copy of the omega's one, just a bit messier. There were toys everywhere, broken crayons and incomplete drawings spread on the rug, and the reason for such caution was drooling on his uncle's chest. Jeongguk slept peacefully with his tiny hands clutched on Namjoon's sweater, the older omega looking exhausted to the core. "Date night," was his only explanation, voice impossibly low, "of course those fuckers would choose today to go and make out in the movie theater like the two teenagers they are and put me in baby duty. I just put him to sleep. How's everything going, Chim?"

 

"I'm getting married in a week, Joonie. Congratulate me." Maybe drinking half a bottle of cheap whisky before going to Taehyung wasn't exactly a good idea. He felt his head dizzy and his tongue heavy, everything turning around too fast. The only sound coming from his mouth was a sweet giggle, a drunken noise he didn't even know he was able to make. "I'm marrying a stupid alpha chef who made very clear in the five seconds we talked that he doesn't want to marry me either. How great is that?"

 

"Wait, what the fuck?" The older omega screamed, startling the baby in his arms. It took less than a second for hell to take over the room, Jeongguk crying loudly while his uncle tried to soothe him, Jimin laughing while sitting on the floor until he started crying as well. Namjoon didn't know where to run, the only logical thing to do getting to his mind in the last minute before it was total chaos, the man yelling at the top of his lungs.

 

"Oh, fuck, Taehyung, come here, we have a problem. "

 

- ♡ - 

 

The soft meow welcomed him home even before the lights were on. Hoseok smiled at his calico cat, taking Holt into his arms as soon as he dropped his bag on the sofa, the animal purring to the feeling of having his ears rubbed. The alpha chuckled, enjoying his last moments of calmness, the tranquility of his tiny apartment near his restaurant, the smell of fresh gardens he could gather from the neighborhood park. That was his perfect place, a safe space built when the man finally felt free from his family and that gilded world they were caged in. But there he was once again, getting trapped into one of their tricks, seeing his life sinking down a hole.

 

It was not that he hated the Park Jimin guy. He was cute, sure, blush cheeks and pink hair and he seemed as desolated as Hoseok himself. But his scent was too sweet, something like caramel that wasn't anywhere near the type of thing the alpha was attracted to. The pull wasn't there at all, nothing but a sympathy and perhaps someone he'd have befriended if the omega ever showed up at his restaurant. But definitely not the person to spend the rest of his life with, not the person to build a future and share his whole heart with.

 

No, Hoseok hadn't found that person yet, and call him the ultimate romantic, but he wanted to. He wanted to feel his heart pumping loud and goosebumps on his skin. He wanted his throat dry with emotion and someone to come home to, someone to envelope in his embrace and never let go. Park Jimin wasn't that someone. That someone was lost out there, maybe searching for him too.

 

But now it didn't matter anymore.

Chapter Text

"I told Jin we should have gotten you a stripper," Yoongi announced as soon as they got to their usual spots in their living room, handing around a few bottles of beer, "but he said it wasn't ideal. This is what married life is actually like, Minnie. Great making out sessions but a pain in the ass cutting out all the fun in the world. Remember my wise words, tiny grasshopper."

 

"Why did you marry me, then, smartass?" but Seokjin laughed, fondness on his tone, pulling his husband by the hem of his jeans and placing him on his lap, lips finding the omega's neck.

 

"You smelled like Heaven and you had the highest probability of career success among all the alphas in that damn college," Yoongi shrugged, nuzzling softly on the top of the alpha's head, "Plus it was the only way I got to make you stop with all those fucking heart-related jokes." He turned to Namjoon, pointing his beer at him, "Never fall for a cardiologist. These are the worst kind. On a second thought, stay away from any fucker related to the Health department. And make sure his last name isn't Kim."

 

Truth be told, they were trying, and it was kind of them. Jimin gave a small attempt at some kind of smile, but his true colors were shown when it didn't reach his eyes. It wasn't just a regular Friday night at his best friend's older brother's house, like many before. That evening held the fresh smell of french fries and hamburgers in the air and some light music playing in the background. And the weight of a future that'd start the next morning. Not even in his worst nightmares he'd imagine that was what his bachelor party would look like. The happiest person in the room was Jeongguk, sitting on his fluffy blanket with a Totoro plush in his arms, munching on some potato chips Taehyung occasionally fed him. The rest of them could pretty much be attending a funeral.

 

Seven days went by in the blink of an eye. Jimin knew that time itself was humankind's doing and never believed when people said it would pass faster, but maybe he had never tried to hold tightly to every minute possible. His memory was now filled with moments he'd miss forever: Seokjin and Namjoon helping him clean the tiny spare room in his apartment, sweeping the dust and the hopes of any change in plans; Yoongi and Jeongguk waiting for him outside the fitting rooms, the kid babbling while his father helped choose a suit that would never be used again after that Saturday.

 

Taehyung enveloping him in his arms late at night, wiping tears out of his face while they were snuggled on the sofa, watching The Notebook and My Best Friend's Wedding again and again and again, trying to mingle reality with fantasy and forget that soon those sleepovers would come to an end.

 

The clock on the yellow wall counted the hours till his freedom was taken away from him. Drowning his worries in cheap beer and the warmth of voices he'd known for his entire life. That was what he deserved, wasn't it? To feel loved. To feel that there was still a family out there that cared for him more than his real family. Jimin had a few unpleasant phone calls with his parents during the week, his unalterable wish of not letting them come to the wedding starting a feud none of them had expected. He didn't blame them for their choices, not at the end, but the omega didn't want them there for something that wasn't real. He was not having a wedding, he was signing a business contract. Nobody brought their families to those kinds of events. Jimin needed witnesses, not guests.

 

"I'm sorry I won't be able to make it, Chim," Namjoon nudged him with his foot, a sincere apologize written all over his face, "this field trip was delayed twice before, so it's now or never, and I really need it to finish my project. I'll bring you a gift, though. Hope you like seashells."      

 

"Next thing you know he's bringing you a pet crab," Seokjin whispered, but not with the intention of hiding anything from his brother, giving him a playful judgmental glance, "but we'll be there, don't worry. We'll throw Guk at him if your husband turns out to be an asshole. I'm teaching him personal defense," he flinched from his husband, who tried to hit him on the forehead, "Mom and Mama would come too, you know, but they said they don't want to upset you or your parents. They send their love."

 

"Tell your moms I appreciate it. And I miss them, but they are probably right. You too, Joonie, don't worry. If I could, I wouldn't attend it either."

 

The air got suddenly heavier, and it was not his intention, not at all. Jimin was trying to keep the mood light, trying to seem resigned about it all. For him, for Taehyung - who was unusually quiet that night, playing almost unconsciously with his nephew - for all of his friends. But sometimes... Sometimes his mouth betrayed him, slipping the dark things the inside of his mind kept.  

 

"Let's just... celebrate. The fact that we're here together," he gave them his best smile, raising his bottle to go for a toast. "To our little... group", he almost said pack. But pack was a word too powerful, too full of meaning in their society. Packs were bigger than family, bigger than law even. It was a serious commitment, one that couldn't be made lightly. Taehyung and him, they had discussed it sometimes, in the middle of the night, about them becoming a pack, but it was just random ideas. Now even that was taken away from him.

 

"Cheers. Cheers to us." Taehyung finally spoke, the clink of the glasses touching echoing in the bright room, making Jeongguk laugh excitedly. For that night, everything was okay. That night he was still himself.      

 

- ♡ -

 

They were not drunk. Drunk was a strong word. They were... slightly buzzed. Kinda dizzy. Laughing easy, bumping into each other's shoulders. Namjoon was passed out on the sofa, snoring loudly while Seokjin tried to take Jeongguk away from the omega's chest without waking the baby up. Yoongi tried to clean their mess as silently as possible, and something whispered into Jimin's mind that he should be helping - it was his bachelor party after all - but Taehyung was so warm and comfortable by his side, his scent lingering around them, so familiar, so right, his lips brushing the shell of Jimin's ear.

 

"We should get going," he mustered the strength to whisper, though, watching the way Jeongguk drooled on his father's shoulder, "it's late. But... I don't wanna go home. I want time to stop. Can tomorrow never come?"

 

"You wanna go for a walk? We can have ice cream at that parlor down the street. Double chocolate ice cream cones," Taehyung's laughter rumbled through his chest, making both of them shake lightly, "we can just sit there on their funny little tables and order milkshakes too."

 

"Oreo milkshakes," his brain answered before he could even analyze what he was saying. Something seemed out of place with that whole idea, but the omega couldn't exactly pinpoint what. He just got up, trying not to giggle excessively in order to not wake up the snoring omega near them. Jimin offered one of his hands to his best friend, pulling him in just one go, Taehyung failing in hiding his snort.

 

"Just please, let me know when you get home," Yoongi threw a cushion at them, giving no damns to his sleeping brother-in-law, "not that pulling a Runaway Bride wouldn't make me very happy, but... be careful. We'll see you guys tomorrow morning. Rest a bit."

 

But if either of them had paid any attention to the elder's words, it didn't show on their faces, both of them fumbling with the doorknob, their shoelaces tangled while they stepped outside. It was chilly, a cool breeze welcoming them to the dark night sky dotted with stars, but the lights on the streets guided them down the road.                               

 

Jimin was never fond of darkness ever since he was a kid. It messed with his stomach, the uncertainty of the path once the lights were off. But he enjoyed walking with Taehyung after midnight. It was something they did often, coming back from the Kims' house or late night sessions in college. They always followed the same routine, steps that weren't quick nor slow, shoulders brushing together  and hands intertwined, clasped together so close they were almost one. No words were said, they weren't necessary. Their BGM were the buzzes of hidden bugs and the cars downtown, the soft meows of some stray cats and their feet hitting the ground.

 

That neighborhood was a nice place, its own sort of small shops sprawled around the corner, friendly and convenient for late night bloomers and desperate parents looking for last minute diapers - God knew how many times Seokjin made one of them run to the 24-hour market by the bookshop. What neither of them had considered, though, was that not all stores were all-nighters like Mr. Kang's place. When they reached the cute pink building with clouds painted on the walls, it took them a minute or two to realize there was a big " Closed" sign on the glass door.

 

"These guys," Taehyung mumbled, pointing his free finger to the red letters they were trying to focus on, "have zero business strategy. They are losing on a lot of money with this bullshit of closing so early."

 

"It's three a.m." Jimin laughed, nuzzling softly on the alpha's arm.

 

"See? Fucking early. Now what?"

 

"Let's go to Mr. Kang for popsicles," the omega shrugged, his craving for something sweet speaking louder than the tiredness in his bones, "and KitKats. Or those really small ice cream sandwiches. Like five of them. One of each flavor."

 

"Can we have sodas too?"

 

"Definitely."

 

But when he tried to pull Taehyung in the direction of the mini-market, the man didn't move at all. He was there, standing still, mouth slightly opened and eyes staring fiercely at a tiny shop on the other side of the street, its green lights reflecting on the alpha's beautiful face. Jimin bumped him, tip-toeing to take a look at what exactly was so charming it was worth  delaying his teeth of sinking on a big bar of chocolate. They've been on that side of the neighborhood so many times, there was nothing new to cause such a reaction.

 

And he was right, in some weird way. They must have passed in front of The Hopeless Kingdom Tattoo Shop a thousand times, never paying too much attention to the shiny windows decorated with black drawings and fancy tall lamps. Sure, they've talked about getting inked a couple of times, but it was more drunk chit chat than any real plan for the future. The omega couldn't understand what his friend found so fascinating. Maybe the fact that it was still open at so late. He tried pulling Taehyung once again, but that didn't work either.

 

"Yeah, I'm sure those guys know how to make money," he tried. Perhaps that was what glued the man to the floor. By the lack of reaction coming from him, though, it was far from the point.

 

"We should get one", Taehyung simply answered, not blinking at all. The breeze disheveled the back of his hair and took his scent everywhere, a scene so beautiful Jimin's dizzy mind wished he could make eternal in his mind, just to hold onto every time the world felt too much.

 

"What? A blue lamp?" he giggled, because he truly wasn't getting it. The alcohol wasn't helping his brain function properly at all.

 

"A tattoo. We should get matching tattoos."

 

That... was definitely not what he was expecting. It wasn't a bad surprise, though, more like a small shock than anything else. Jimin nipped on his own bottom lip, facing the parlor with a fast pumping heart and some crazy energy traveling through his veins. It was probably a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. Probably the worst they ever had - and they were the ones who organized a mess called Jeongguk's baby shower, the worst day of all days - but he suddenly wanted it. Jimin wanted it so bad, the opportunity of carrying a piece of his old life and the assurance Taehyung would always be with him. The omega was nodding before he even realized it, pulling his friend in the direction of the shop.

 

"This is very stupid. I hope you have something good in mind."

 

The alpha stopped dead on his feet in the middle of the street, wide eyes staring at the smaller man, "Wait, are you sure? Do you really want this? It's okay if you don't, Chim, we can..."

 

"Thank goodness we didn't bring Joonie with us," he simply shrugged, smiling widely to his best friend, "he would have passed out in the first five minutes." Jimin gave their hands a small squeeze, trying to reassure the man, "let that beautiful brain of yours lead the way, Tae. I'll hold your hand when it's your time to get inked."

 

- ♡ -

 

If Taehyung were a smart man, he'd not be there, brushing his teeth lightly, eyes watching the red skin around his ribs, the place where delicate black lines linked him to Jimin forever. If Taehyung were a smart man, he would be back at his own place, getting shitfaced and crying over a bucket of ice cream, living intensely his pain and getting used to the empty bed that was his future. If Taehyung were a smart man, he wouldn't be there, shirtless, ready to join the man he loved one last time before a different one took his place.

 

Taehyung sighed. Definitely not a smart man.

 

Worse than having your heart broken by seeing the one you loved with someone else was feeding the pain with tiny sharp pieces of a glass called hope that went straight to one's chest.

 

His moms tried their best to teach him how greediness was a bad thing when felt in excess, how it could corrupt and kill and hurt everyone around you, and for the first time Taehyung understood what they meant. He was greedy. He wanted more than he had, more than he would ever have. The alpha wanted the man that now giggled at him from bed, asking him to fuck the hurry up cause he was feeling chilly. All the taller man could do was smile, rinsing his mouth and dropping the toothbrush lazily by the sink. It was automatic by now, climbing the mattress to his favorite soft spot on it, the smell of his scent mixed with Jimin's on the sheets leaving him lightheaded.

 

"Come here, closer," the omega chuckled, making grabby hands at him. Right there, right now, with the moon highlighting his face and the first hint of contentment he wore the whole week, the man glowed. Jimin looked beautiful and Taehyung was so weak, letting their bare chests flushed against each other, enveloping his waist with his arm, careful to not press the fresh tattoo on his ribs. His friend was bolder, though, shoving his face in the crook of the alpha's neck, humming happily when their legs intertwined. It wasn't the time for conversations, just to bathe in their presences, to feel like they were one, just for now.

 

Taehyung closed his eyes, lips brushing the top of Jimin's head. In the morning it would be all gone, but for a few more hours they had forever. For a few more hours, the sun and the moon tattooed on their skin would mingle into an eclipse, hoping that maybe, in a far future, they would meet again.

 

- ♡ -

What was giving him trouble breathing was not the black silk tie around his neck, nor the tight collar of his white shirt. It wasn't the lack of larger windows in the room. What took his breath away - in the worst case scenario possible - were the eyes of his grandparents on him, their stare so toxic he felt his skin tingling. Jimin tried to focus his attention on less heartbreaking matters, like the beautiful way the books were aligned on the tall shelves that covered most of the small office, or Jeongguk's bright laughter while playing with the rings on his father's fingers, which put on a proud smile on Yoongi's face and a burning red on Seokjin's. He was glad at least someone was having fun. The omega avoided the direction of his future parents-in-law, so disgusted by them his stomach hurt. He also avoided Taehyung, but for an entirely different reason. If his eyes met the alpha's ones, he was sure he'd start crying.

 

But well, he was no fool at all. Jimin felt them, the judging glances burning on his back, the disgusted faces the business dealers who brought them here offered him once he stepped in the City Hall, Taehyung by his side and the alpha's scent all over him. Jimin wasn't ashamed for smelling like another man on his wedding day - he wore it like a medal, something to be displayed on his chest. Here, take a look, this is who I am and what you did to me. It was sickening how now he had to face the opinion of people who never cared about him for one minute during his whole life, not until he was needed to be sold like a work of art, a decorative piece to be displayed on someone else’s room. Fuck them. If he were bolder he would have asked Taehyung to properly scent him, harder, deeper, until there was a bigger discomfort in the room, until the officiant got so in doubt about him being mated or not that the man would refuse to perform the ceremony.

 

All the omega wanted was for Hoseok to arrive soon, to put an end to the horror show they were currently trapped in. The alpha was late, not by much, but enough to put a scowl on the Parks' face. Maybe the chef wasn't such an asshole after all.

 

His wishes were heard when the wooden doors were opened, Hoseok showing up in his dark blue suit and red damp hair, escorted by the hostess of his restaurant - Lisa, that was her name - and another cute girl by her side. Judging by their scents, the girls were mated, and seemed to be pretty much carrying the groom through the tiny aisle. Great, Jimin thought, that was the fun we were missing. The man didn't seem drunk, just... exhausted. Like his legs couldn't carry him anymore. Lisa gave them an apologetic smile, leaving her boss by his fiance's side before guiding her mate to the chairs where the Kims were seated, bowing lightly to them.

 

"Brought your lover to your own wedding?" the alpha whispered, not looking at him. The officiant had started talking, but his words were foreign to both of them, "Didn't take you for the petty type."

 

"He's not my lover," Jimin grunted, trying to ignore the way his ears burned at the sentence. "Tae's my best friend. We were raised together." There was no answer to that, not for a whole minute. Hoseok just nodded, pretending he was listening to the speech being thrown at them. "Will you ever stop blaming me for this shit? You know I wanted this even less than you did."

 

"I know", he mumbled, a few breaths later, his lips together forming a weird shape, "I don't blame you. I'm sorry I'm being a fucker. It was a hard week. I know you're a victim as much as I am, and I know it's not your fault that I have a shitty coping mechanism. I'll try to control it."

 

Jimin bit his bottom lip, stealing a glance at his future husband. Hoseok had a dead stare focusing on some place behind the officiant, his forehead wrinkled and hands folded together behind his back. They were on the same boat, two lost kids forced into a marriage they didn't want. Maybe it was time they started helping each other instead of hating their own guts.

 

The rest was a blur. Next thing they felt was the weight - both of the pen and the world on their shoulders. It was strange, Jimin thought, seeing his signature by Hoseok's, on that fancy paper that now linked their futures together. They didn't let their family sign as witnesses, no. Instead, other names were written under theirs - Min Yoongi, Kim Seokjin, Kim Jennie, Lalisa Manoban... Kim Taehyung . From them, the newlyweds got encouraging glances, even though they looked more like pity. Jimin kept playing with the golden band on his finger while his grandparents congratulated them, paying them no mind at all. It was even worse with Hoseok's parents - not even their names he was able to recall. It was only when a comfortable touch lingered on his shoulders that he was able to come back to Earth.

 

"Hey, we heard that you guys decided to not have a party," Seokjin smiled at them, Yoongi by his side carrying a sleepy Jeongguk. Taehyung... Taehyung looked and acted pretty much like a ghost, staying behind them, just listening, "so we would like to invite you for lunch at our place. We prepared something nice. Your guests are welcome too, Hoseok. We would be really glad to have you all."

 

And that was the first time they realized they had to actually talk to each other to make a decision. It wasn't just about Hoseok or Jimin anymore. It was about both of them, together. The omega just smiled shyly, giving his husband a small nod, hoping he'd understand that as a sign that yes, please, they should go. The younger man desperately needed that, a few more hours with people around him, instead of the new silence of his shared apartment with the alpha. Hoseok seemed to get the message, showing his friends his best polite grin.

 

"Thank you, Seokjin. We'd love to."

 

- ♡ -

 

"This kid’s got the hugest eyes I've ever seen. He's so damn cute," Hoseok whispered to him, and reality wasn't hitting any of them yet. There they were, sitting on the Kim's soft yellow couch, looking after a happy Jeongguk who looked pretty much like he was analyzing the new addition to his parents friend group. They were waiting for the dishes to warm up again, Lisa and Jennie chatting excitedly with Yoongi, Seokjin with a protective hand on his younger brother's neck standing by the fireplace. It was odd, and nobody could point what kind of odd it was. Maybe not even time itself.

 

"Gukkie is great," Jimin answered. That conversation was easy. He loved the baby with all his heart, like he was his own nephew. The omega was there the day he was born, and most of the days after it, being named his godfather along with Taehyung and Namjoon. It's was comfortable talking about that, more than anything else. “Introduce yourself to him. He's a chatter. Or a babbler, if you wish."

 

"Hello there, Jeongguk," the alpha tried, offering him his heart-shaped smile, "My name's Hoseok. It's very nice to meet you."

 

And that was enough to bring his usual bunny smile to the baby's face, his mumbling starting right away. The red-haired man was entranced, listening to his sweet sounds and nodding frantically, like he understood every word the boy said to him. That only made Jeongguk more excited, tiny arms in the air, chubby hands asking the alpha to hold him.

 

"He said he is very glad to meet you," Yoongi translated, looking fondly to his son, "And asked you to pick him up."

 

"Wow", the man was impressed, bending to take the child in his arms. Jeongguk bopped his nose, laughing brightly to the expression on the alpha's face, just before going straight to his neck to check his scent, "How did you get all of that?"

 

"I didn't," the omega shrugged, embarrassed, "we generally just presume what he said and go with it", and he would have explained more, weren't his speech interrupted by a loud squeal coming from the boy's mouth.

 

"Joonie!", he shouted, getting even more energetic on Hoseok's lap, before looking at his dad and trying again - why wasn't anyone as excited as he was? - "Dad! Joonie!"

 

"No, baby, this is not Noodle Legs. This is Hoseok, Uncle Jimin's husband," Yoongi was not the only one confused there, but the only to speak his words out loud. Jeongguk didn't do that kind of thing, especially when it came to Namjoon. The boy could feel his uncle's presence a mile away, "Namjoon is his uncle," the omega explained later, "Jin's middle brother."

 

"Minnie?"

 

"Yes, baby. Uncle Minnie's husband. Ask him if you can call him uncle, too." Seokjin prompted, joining their conversation with a curious expression on his face. Taehyung avoided the scene, whispering something about checking their meal in the kitchen before leaving. Jimin didn't blame him, not at all.

 

"You can call me Uncle Hobi", the alpha held one of the baby's hands, making him whimper in wonder. It was cute, how careful and sweet he was, how his words were chosen with fondness and warmth. Jimin smiled, wondering if they had found Hoseok's weak point. He liked it. It made him more human, more real. "Tell me, Gukkie, what's your favorite cartoon?"

 

They engaged in some sort of adorable conversation, until Taehyung appeared back on the door, a sad smile on his face, telling them lunch was ready before disappearing again, without waiting for anyone to follow. Jimin felt a pang on his chest, but before he could do anything his sight was blocked by Hoseok carrying Jeongguk to the table, the baby's teeth attached to his cheek. That was his new reality, after all.

 

That upsidedown world felt strange as fuck.

 

- ♡ -

 

"Sure you don't need help?" Jimin checked for the millionth time, turning around to check the man behind him at the same time his shaky fingers tried to deal with the locked door of his apartment. Hoseok just shook his head, arms full of luggage he hadn't sent during the week and his cat's traveler bag. There was a shiver going down his spine with the thought that from now on that wasn't his home anymore. It was theirs. Shared spaces and shared lives none of them ever thought they would. The omega just pushed the door lightly, holding it open so his husband could get in. During their brief engagement a driver dropped a few of Hoseok's boxes there, but it was the first time the alpha actually got to be in the place, "welcome, then."

 

His reaction wasn't exactly what the younger man was expecting. His husband just stood in the middle of the living room, a disgusted expression on his face and his lips turned into a thin line.

 

"Can we please open a few windows? It's... hard to breathe here."

 

Shit, of course. Taehyung's scent was everywhere, surrounding them from head to toe and marking that place as his. To Hoseok's biology it was like he was invading a room he was never supposed to step foot in, triggering his senses into going crazy with the urge to either fight or run away. Jimin blushed, going to the nearest window and opening it as wide as possible, the breeze sweeping his hair away from his face.

 

"I'm sorry," he mumbled, even though he wasn't exactly apologetic, "Tae spends a lot of time here. We’ve known each other since we were four. He's never been to the guest room, though, so that should be a safer space for you," the omega fidgeted with the buttons on his blazer, trying to remember everything he was supposed to say, "Consider yourself really at home. There's not much more to see than this... but we only have one bathroom, in my bedroom. Shitty architecture, I guess. You can use it whenever you need, though, I'll leave the door always open."

 

"Hm, thanks," Hoseok replied, and there wasn't much emotion on his voice. He seemed tired, more tired than he'd been before, dark circles under his eyes. The alpha got down to his knees, freeing the cutest calico cat Jimin had ever seen into the living room. The kitten tested the air curiously, giving a few tentative steps around his owner, "This is Holt. Mind if I leave his stuff here?"

 

"No, not at all", he smiled, offering one of his hands for the kitten to smell, the animal soon rubbing his head all over his knuckles, "He's so cute... Just make yourself at home, really. I will be at my room, if you need anything. Just get in if you need to use the bathroom."

 

"Yeah, sure. Hey, Jimin..." they stopped, looking at each other for a second, still too confused to know exactly what kind of relationship they'd have. Hoseok gulped, biting his own bottom lip before adding, "thank you. I'm sorry."

 

"It's okay", he answered, and it really wasn't, but he could pretend for just a moment before going back to his room, where he could empty his tears over his favorite pillow, "don't worry. See you later."

 

- ♡ -

 

His throat felt clogged.

 

Going through Jimin's room to get to the bathroom had been a nightmare, the scent of another alpha so thick there Hoseok felt like suffocating. Everything in that apartment screamed the other guy's name - Taehyung, that's what he was called. From the extra mugs on the sink to the clothes too big to fit Jimin in the hamper. There already was a toothbrush on the slot where Hoseok should put his, and he didn't try to take it off. It wasn't his business. All he did was brush his own teeth as fast as he could, taking long breaths so he could do everything properly.

 

He wasn't going to lie to himself. During that one week from their first meeting till their wedding, the thought of actually trying things with Jimin kept coming, even if it were more hurtful than something he wanted for real. But they were already there, weren't they? With rings on his fingers and a wedding certificate in an envelope the omega carried carefully under his arms. Trying to give them a chance... how bad could it be?

 

But being actually there, in the younger man's apartment, showed Hoseok a reality he ignored so far. That fight was already lost. Jimin already had someone to call his, someone filling the space that people thought would belong to the red-haired alpha. So he just gave up, rinsing his mouth quickly and feeling relieved for the fresh taste on his mouth.

 

Maybe it was his destiny after all.

 

Maybe Hoseok was unlovable.

Chapter Text

It was a simple cardboard box, small and red and white, its rectangular format fitting perfectly on the palm of an adult's hand. Still, Jimin looked at it like it was dynamite, ready to blow up on his face, sinking its content on his skin and laughing at him at the same time.

 

A week has passed, and so far things were... not good, but it wasn't the apocalypse the omega had in mind at first. Living with Hoseok was as uncomfortable as living with a stranger in your first semester of college in a new city - they danced around each other, trying to be polite, but not invasive, avoiding staying in the same room for too long. Conversation wasn't exactly their strongest suit, especially after the pillow incident - the alpha had asked for an extra one on the second night, and reached for the one that used to belong to Taehyung. That made Jimin snap, clutching the pillow tightly against his chest, a protectiveness he tried to explain by the fact it was the only item around the house that contained the full scent of his best friend, almost like he was still there. Awkwardness followed that moment, turning the following days into a sea of shy greetings and polite excuses during lunch and dinner time, when Jimin showed up at the restaurant at the alpha's insistence.

 

He missed Taehyung. God, how he missed Taehyung. They didn't stop talking to each other, no, the omega's cell phone still filled with texts from his best friend. But Jimin missed the touch. Jimin missed Taehyung's warm skin and his coffee scent, his boxy smile and the way he looked like a lost puppy whenever something confused him. They haven't seen each other at all since the wedding, and sometimes something inside the omega's chest woke up a feeling that told him the alpha was avoiding him.

 

But there, sitting on his kitchen table at 3 p.m. with his college books spread around the marble surface and the damned box in front of him, it seemed real. It never seemed so freaking real.

 

Things were simple in their society: every omega received heat suppressants from the government from the age of fifteen, when they started to happen, to ensure the population control. After that, there were only two ways for an omega to be allowed to get into heat: by meeting their true mate - a biological force so strong no suppressant could contain it, since it came from an imprinting, a meeting of soulmates so rare many people didn't even believe it existed - or getting married. Married omegas stopped receiving the medicine, as the law saw marriages as an union with the purpose of starting a family - bullshit, in everybody's opinion, but no politician seemed to be able to change it, and many tried.

 

Jimin was a married omega. Jimin had been a married omega for a week now, and the matter of heats and kids hadn't crossed his mind once until the congratulatory letter and the small box of birth control he now had in his hands arrived.

 

Heats were dangerous things when left unassisted. Before the suppressants and the new laws many omegas had passed away from not getting the right support during the hectic times, turning it into a public health matter. Now it was mandatory that only married or mated omegas were allowed to have heats and... there wasn't much Jimin could do about it. It wasn't like he could just go to the Health Department and explain his situation. They wouldn't believe, or worse, they'd start a legal issue regarding it. One way or another, he wouldn't get his pills back. All that was left to him was wait till the first waves hit him, and maybe prepare Hoseok and himself for it. Maybe that could save their marriage. Maybe that could help.

 

Jimin would cross that bridge when he came to it. For now, his only move was hiding the box between his books, out of his sight and out of Hoseok's sharp eyes. He could hear his husband's soft hums coming from the bathroom, some pieces of conversation the alpha had with his cat filling the air. It was one of those rare lazy moments where both of them were at home, sharing their silences and avoiding any further contact.

 

The sudden knock on the door startled him, his red pen dancing on the white pages, a complete mess staining his fingers. Jimin intended to move, to check who was the unexpected guest behind it, but Hoseok's voice saying he'd get it stopped him from even getting up. From his place on the kitchen table he could see properly the moment the alpha opened the door, smiling kindly to Yoongi, who carried a happy Jeongguk on his warms. It was odd, seeing the older omega there without any warning, but life was made of pleasant surprises.

 

"Hello, hello," Yoongi smiled, the baby waving one of his chubby hands, "Sorry to bother you guys, but I need to get in the apartment and Tae is not home and Joonie hasn't come back yet. You still have the spare key, Minnie?"

 

"Sure, come in," his words were muffled by the loud giggles coming from the child once Hoseok picked him up into his arms, babbling his easy banter while his father just rolled his eyes, making himself at home, "any problem?"

 

"Not at all. I'm just having my first heat since Gukkie was born this weekend and I have to make sure the apartment is baby-proofed so those two idiots can take care of him," he dropped a huge bag over one of the stools, massaging his own neck in the process. Great, thought Jimin, more heat talks . The younger omega just smiled softly, though, reaching for the drawer under the sink where he kept the key Taehyung once gave him silently with a chocolate bonbon. "You think you can stop by and  look in on them eventually?"

 

"Yeah, don't worry."

 

There were many questions Jimin wanted to ask his friend. About heats, about children, about life. But it wasn't the right time, not with his husband so near them. Everything he could do was watch the way Jeongguk exploded in joy once Holt, the cat, entered the room, screaming "kitty!" and shaking all his tiny body in the direction of the pet. Hoseok's eyes shone with emotion playing with them, and it was probably the first time he seemed so happy since their wedding. Apparently the younger Kim had already wormed his way into the alpha's heart, more than Jimin would ever be able to do.

 

But maybe... maybe if he tried...

 

"Please, baby, don't smother Uncle Hobi's cat. Be gentle," Yoongi warned once his kid hugged the animal, sinking his nose onto the soft fur, voice squealing with affection trying to get the alpha's attention. "You mind staying with him while I work there? If it's not too much to ask."

 

" Dad! Kitty!"

 

"No, not at all," Hoseok was the one smiling this time, his red hair shining under the natural light, "we'll keep an eye on him. You need help?"

 

"Nope. I'll be quick. I doubt he'll even notice I'm gone. He'll probably steal your cat if you let him. Gukkie is a sneaky thing, just like Jin," but his tone was full of fondness, so much love there it was almost overwhelming being in the way of his affection, "Fucking Kims. Stay away from them."

 

There was low laughter filling the room once those words were said, but the older omega didn't stay long enough to witness how awkward the silence that followed was - at least between the remaining adults, Jeongguk too distracted with his new feline friend to notice any of their bullshit. Jimin caught Hoseok staring at him as soon as the door closed, his lips in a thin line and his forehead crinkled, something so difficult to read taking his whole expression.

 

Just for a moment, Jimin wished he could read minds, even if he wasn't sure he would ever be able to decode the alpha's thoughts.

 

- ♡ - 

 

"Are you trying to fucking kill me?"

 

Taehyung almost dropped all his bags on the floor at the sight of his front door opened, only to find his brother-in-law on his knees in the middle of the living room, brown duct tape in hands and a sea of tools around the omega. It was another long day in a series of long days he had faced back at the studio where he was an intern, and all the alpha wanted was to hide himself between his covers and sleep for the rest of the week, even though it was still Thursday. Back on the old life he'd have gone straight to Jimin's apartment and buried his face on the crease of his best friend's neck, inhaling his caramel scent until all the tears had stopped rolling and his breath wasn't hurting his lungs so much. Now the pain was there for a whole different reason.

 

"No, I'm avoiding the premature death of my only son." Yoongi answered calmly, going back to glue all the rugs after only giving the owner of the house a quick glance, "Forgot you promised to take care of Guk for my heat this weekend, didn't ya?"

 

"Fuck," Taehyung remembered reading the message Namjoon left on the fridge before travelling, a soft reminder to get the place organized before he came back because they had sworn to the couple Jeongguk would be fine under their roof. "I'm sorry, Yoongs, it... it slipped out. I'm really sorry. Do you need any help?"

 

"Nah, don't worry, I'm almost done. Just a few more check-ups and you're ready to spend a really lovely weekend watching Toy Story until your eyes pop out of your face," he smiled evilly, ripping a long piece of tape with his front teeth, "I'll be bringing him later today cause I really don't know how this pre-heat is gonna act. It's been so long. Think you can handle it till Joon gets here?"

 

"Sure. He should be here tonight anyway. Something about a delay because of some stupid all-nighters. He was pissed on the phone," Taehyung shrugged, finally having the mind to close the door, "Where is Gukkie anyway?"

 

If the alpha were paying more attention, he'd see his brother-in-law freezing in his place, eyes wide open and mouth slack. In any other situation that pose would have made the younger one laugh, maybe pick up his camera to take a quick pick to display on the next Christmas dinner, but his head was up in the dark clouds hanging above his shoulder, giving Yoongi time enough to recover from the question.

 

"Jimin and Hoseok are keeping an eye on him for me," the omega answered, and the amount of carefulness on his words was almost suffocating to the alpha. They kept doing it, all of them, tip-toeing around his feelings, and he appreciated it silently, he obviously did, but Taehyung was also so tired... "Is it okay with you?"

 

"Yeah, of course."

 

It wasn't. It wasn't because Taehyung was selfish. It wasn't, because babysitting Jeongguk was something they used to do together since the boy was born, and it wasn't Jimin's fault, not at all, but there it was, something else Taehyung would never have again. It wasn't okay, but he had to pretend it was.

 

"Will you tell him someday?," the question was small, in tone and in length, and the alpha was smart, so smart, but sometimes he wished he weren't. During those times, he pretended to lack just to ease the pain.

 

"Tell him what, Yoongs?"

 

Kim Taehyung didn't know exactly for how many years he has known Min Yoongi, but he sure remembered the first time he saw the short omega and his hair dyed white, a younger and taller Namjoon trailing behind him in that old music store back on their hometown. He used to be the best friend everybody knew Namjoon had, but nobody actually got to meet till later in life. It was so long before Seokjin fell for him in a different city and with a different life, long before Yoongi cried with a proposal on New Year's Day and cried more and again when Jeongguk was born, so cute and tiny, perfect to fit in the omega's arms. Taehyung knew Yoongi for years now and he was a brother in his heart, someone he could count on. Since those times, what he liked the most about Yoongi was that look, that small smile that said ' I'm not asking more questions because I know it already'. They understood each other, in the most awkward way.

 

"You do you, Tae. Can you check to see if I forgot any socket uncapped?"

 

- ♡ - 

 

The water wasn't cold enough to soothe the way his skin tingled with all the thoughts dancing inside his head. Jeongguk had just left in the arms of his father, and for a whole minute Jimin wished he could follow the older omega, out of that apartment and all the heaviness inside his heart and straight into his best friends arms. But life, life wasn't so kind to him. Life left him with a husband he didn't know how to act around and a future problem he knew how to solve but didn't want to do anything about. He thought maybe letting the water run through his neck in his bathroom sink would help. It didn't.

 

"Oh, I'm sorry," he heard Hoseok's voice from the door, his hesitant steps going back and forth, "I didn't realize you were here, I can come back later. I was just going to fix my hair to go to the restaurant, so..."

 

"No, you can stay," the omega hurried, grabbing the towel so he could dry his hands. He didn't want to get in the alpha's way, no more than he already did, "I was just washing my face, I'm done here already... You can stay."

 

Hoseok smiled shyly at him, moving awkwardly in the same spot on the floor, hands playing with the hem of his white shirt. It was unusual for them, staying in such a small space, having to deal with each other's eyes and scents. It made the omega almost self-conscious of his entire being, not sure how to move smoothly enough to not cause any increase in the weirdness they were already feeling.

 

And he was almost out of the way, almost back in his bubble to be as sad as he wanted to, when he heard that voice again, hoarse and low, calling his name.

 

"Jimin," Hoseok pronounced each syllable slowly, resting his body on the marble counter and giving him one of those heavy glances again, his ocean scent as strong as ever in the tiny room, "Jimin, Yoongi got me thinking..."

 

The omega didn't like where that conversation was going.

 

"About you. And your heat. And you and I and your heat."  

 

Great , he thought. Because all he needed was to be rejected even before trying a soft approach to the subject. At least Hoseok was being forward. Rumor has it of omegas going insane after a refusal during heat in the old days. At least his husband was being considerate, because that was what he was trying to say, right? That he couldn't do it, not with someone he didn't love.

 

"Look, Hoseok..."

 

"No matter what, I will help you. We'll go through this together," the alpha interrupted him, a serious expression taking his face, "I won't let you suffer, not during your first and certainly not during the others."

 

That wasn't what Jimin was expecting. Not at all. There was a breath he didn't know he was holding leaving his chest while his mouth hung open, not a sound coming out of it. There was also what seemed much like a hint of affection swelling his chest, making his heart pump blood faster than before.

 

"If that's what you want, of course," the man hushed, his hands moving in front of his body quickly. That made the omega open a small smile, "I'd never do something you're not comfortable with, I'm just... I don't want you to worry about it. I'll be here if you need me. And..."

 

There was more, and not only because of that last word hanging in the air, but because of the way Hoseok bit his bottom lip, looking into the omegas eyes with some determination that was hard to find somewhere else.

 

"Yes, Hoseok?"

 

"I was thinking... I know I'm not the one that you wanted and that I told you before that I hated this situation - I still do, trust me - but I thought that, maybe... maybe we could try this, you know? This being a couple thing. We could date, even if we're already married... Maybe... Maybe it would make it less hard. Bearable. Worst case scenario we become real good friends."

 

Everything was there, on the way his forehead was tensed and how he kept torturing his own lip, on his hands that kept traveling on the sides of his own lean body, and how the tips of his fingers seem to tremble with something that wasn't cold. Jimin could see and smell how nervous Hoseok was saying all of that, and more, he could feel how nervous he was himself with the answer he had to give. The truth was he didn't know exactly what could be better in that situation. Was there any hope out of that marriage? Of meeting someone else, being happy with someone else, or was he just fooling himself, holding to a future that didn't belong to him anymore?

 

Jimin didn't know, but he answered, anyway.

 

"I'd really like that, Hobi."

 

True, there was more surprise than a proper smile on the alpha's face, but it was obvious the way his shoulders relaxed and how much brighter he suddenly seemed, like at least one of the dark clouds was taken away, raining prettily and leaving what could be a future rainbow over his shoulder. His lips formed that tiny heart of theirs, and this time it was true enough to look cute.

 

"Great, this is great," he mumbled, not really sure how to deal with all his limbs. But then the man was stiff again, like something had just passed through his mind and he wasn't sure how to verbalize it, till he was, "Can I scent you?"

 

The brief hesitation he faced had nothing to do with Hoseok, and everything to do with the fact that no one but Taehyung has ever scented him, not in the proper way. Not any of his one night stands or the summer flings, not his other close friends nor anyone from his family. The only thing he recognized on his skin was the coffee scent that now had faded away with the days they were apart, impregnated on him since they were kids. But Jimin nodded anyway, standing as still as he could, baring his neck only slightly to display the soft flesh there.

 

Hoseok moved, so slowly time seemed to be frozen, and up close his scent was even saltier, a full summer day on the beach, warm and heady, involving him completely. Each of the alpha's movements were soft, from the fingers sinking over the fabric of Jimin's shirt, to the hand enveloping his jaw, urging him to give the man just a little bit more space. It started with a puff of his hot breath against the skin on the top of the omega's shoulders, enough to send a complete shiver though his spine, and then it was the touch of his nose on the column of his neck, lips brushing every inch of it with some silent care, their chests flushed against each other by the time Hoseok kissed the shell of the omega's ear, tracing the path ‘till his cheek without leaving anything behind.

 

It was the first time they really looked into each other's eyes, without any excuse or distraction, and being so close like that Hoseok could count the light freckles that dotted Jimin's skin, how his pink hair fell messily on his forehead and the blush on his cheeks was the exact same shade of his thick lips. Their gaze held more meanings than their words could ever carry, like both of them were looking for things neither could reach. From there, Jimin could see the engines turning in the alpha's mind at the same time his dark eyes fell to his mouth, and there was the decision the omega didn't know he'd have to take until that moment. Without thinking further, he leaned in.

 

The first thing they noticed was how the temperature was off. Hoseok's lips were warm, too warm, and Jimin's were cold like the first day of winter. It was soft, the chaste touch of mouths, that they could not deny. It was tentative, for sure, both holding their breaths at first, trying to relax when the alpha tried deepen it, his fingertips caressing the sides of the omega's face, almost like he was made of glass. It wasn't bad, Jimin thought, bad was a word too strong. It was awkward. Too dry, too salty for one, too wet, too sweet for the other. It wasn't bad, but that thing wasn't there, the thing that made people write love stories about and sped up heart beats to the sound of drums. There was no desire either, no real one. It wasn't bad,  it just wasn't good.

 

It was not their fault they parted soon after, still holding on to each other but not as breathless as Jimin remembered being after hot kisses in dark corners of secluded clubs, music loud in his ears and head buzzed with alcohol. No, it was just like being caught kissing your cousin on a dare, weird and forgettable, a children's game gone wrong. Hoseok smiled shyly at him, retracting his hands to himself and whispering politely " It was nice". The omega didn't buy it, and he knew the alpha wasn't buying it either, but he just rolled with it, nodding with his best poker face in action.

 

"I've gotta go," his husband declared, more to himself than to the shorter man in front of him, "my sous-chef had an emergency so I gotta head back. Wanna come for dinner?"

 

"No, no, thank you," he just wanted to stay alone for a while, trying to gulp down everything that had happened, "I have a lot to study. Be careful. Don't overwork yourself."

 

"Yeah, you too," the alpha tried again, and whatever intention he had of fixing his hair was now forgotten, not important anymore, "See you tomorrow, then. Have a nice evening. Holt will keep you company."

 

Jimin gave him the best smile he could, trying to not shrink down when his husband leaned in again, a ghost of a kiss on his lips before he went away quickly. Like he couldn't wait to get away from that. From him. The omega stood in the bathroom, looking himself in the mirror. That wasn't going to be easy. Damn, that wasn't going to be easy at all, not when his lungs felt pressed with the smell of salt all around him. He just had to breathe, long and slow, remembering the advice he got from his old drama teacher back at high school.

 

Sometimes you just had to fake it until you made it.

 

- ♡ - 

 

Sometimes the weight of the world seemed to be on his shoulders. This was one of those nights, where his muscles hurt and his head gave up on him, processing nothing but the colors around him and that scent that hadn't left Hoseok alone for a minute since the bathroom’s not so well planned kiss. It was sickeningly sweet, like jars of pure caramel being shoved down his throat and fuck, he hated himself for not being a better man. Jimin didn't deserve that; the omega deserved so much more. Someone stronger than an alpha who lied about a simple kiss and whose stomach didn't twist thinking about having to do it again. It was too sweet. Hoseok never was one to take a liking to sugary things. He liked salty, fresh, almost bitter. Never sweet.

 

Drowning himself in work that night did the trick for a few hours, keeping his mind busy from the worries and the implications of being married to an omega he didn't feel any attraction towards. Not that Jimin wasn't attractive, for goodness's sake, he was beautiful, but they... they didn't click. There weren't sparks flying. There wasn't wish and want and longing there. What they would do when his heat came terrified him. He had to make it. He had to learn to live with sweet.

 

He wished he were somewhere else. Back at his old apartment on the other side of the city, surrounded by fresh air and his burgundy comforters. Instead he was there, three in the morning and waiting for the elevator doors to close and take him to a place he didn't think he'd ever be able to call home. Home was far away. Home was someone he'd never meet.

 

Oblivious to the whole world, he almost missed the exhausted plea coming from someone outside, almost a cry for him to please hold the door . But Hoseok heard it, and he did it, giving space to the other desperate all-nighter who would join him so late. At first the alpha kept his eyes on the floor, but it was awkward to ignore a possible neighbor, and he was already full of awkward situations for an entire life.

 

You see, movies make you believe love at first sight is real and imprinting is magical and it goes smoothly and in slow motion. Movies don't tell you it can happen at three a.m. in a shitty elevator in an old building downtown with bad lightning and a dirty mirror behind your back.

 

What movies got right though was how speechless you can be when you know your soulmate is standing right before you. Hoseok felt it, in his bones and in the beating of his heart, in the way his mouth was dry and how the man in front of him reciprocated every single symptom. Everybody took Biology 101 in school. Everybody knew how to identify an imprinting happening before their bare eyes.

 

It didn't mean it made it any easier to control the burst of emotions inside the man's body.

 

The omega facing him was tall, taller than Hoseok himself. He wore grey slacks and a white shirt with the collar open, his dark blue tie hanging loose around his neck, exposing his skin, golden and soft to the eyes - god, Hoseok could only imagine if it felt the same on the touch. His face could be a work of art - and the alpha was already biased, he knew it -, the proportions elegantly balanced, sharp jaw and cute nose, the drawing of his dark eyes something made of fine lines - even with the bags under them, the signs that showed the man needed long hours of sleep. He had grey disheveled hair, and lips so full and rosy the alpha felt himself blushing just by looking at them.

 

Hoseok focused on those physical details for a while, yes, because the moment his brain interpreted the scent that now filled the elevator, he knew he was long gone. The man smelled like a garden after a summer storm, fresh, pure, green. He smelled like basil and mint and lavender, and somehow that was a mix that made so much sense. The omega smelled like his true home and his best memories, like the plans he had to forget deep in his soul and the dreams he couldn't let go in the middle of the night.

 

"I've never...," the omega started, and he seemed  as affected as Hoseok himself. Damn, his voice was deep, hoarse with the brief shock, but a melody the alpha could listen to forever, "I've never seen you around here before."

 

"I moved in recently. Just a week ago," and it felt rushed, but there was this urge to make the other man talk, to drink his words and his scent more and more and more, "Fifth floor on the left."

 

"Oh. You must be Hoseok," and in that moment Hoseok swore disappointment was something tangible by the way it showed up on the stranger's face. Ignoring the fact that he knew his name already, all the alpha could think about was how to sweep the pain from his face as quickly as possible, "Jimin's husband."

 

"How do you...?"

 

"I'm Namjoon. Kim Namjoon," he smiled sadly, looking to his side when the elevator doors opened, revealing the corridor that was now common to both of them, "Fifth floor on the right."

Chapter Text

 

If frustration had a flavor, Jimin would bet his own pocket money it would taste like grape cheesecake, heavy and sweet on the tip of his tongue, the jam catching in the corner of his lips at every bite. It was exactly like the feeling that filled his chest and clogged his throat, making it so difficult to swallow his dessert. The only thing the omega could do was signal to Lisa, asking for a glass of water and a cup of tea and to send his apologies to the chef for not being able to finish the pastry.

 

Maybe the wrath of seeing one of his most famous dishes being sent back to the kitchen would bring his husband to finally speak properly to him. See, there was the source of Jimin's restlessness, the lack of any kind of conversation between them since the damn kiss in the bathroom three days prior. Since that night Hoseok went back to his too polite, too distant state of mind, like they had regressed a thousand steps instead of going forward like he had planned.  

 

The omega just laughed bitterly to himself because, no matter how good his intentions were, he kept making the same expensive mistakes over and over, the ones that cost every single piece of hope he carried inside his heart. That weekend had been the longest he had ever lived, hours piling up like the tension in his shoulders. Every inch of their living room and each spot on Holt's fur, he learned them all with his eyes, waiting for something he knew would never arrive, never fill him. Jimin felt miserable, and not the crying type, no. He felt pathetic,  and that was even worse. He tried, he hated it, he pretended, now his husband was ignoring him again.

 

Fuck it all. He needed to see Taehyung. Text messages and awkward moments were not enough anymore. It had been too long. Jimin needed warm skin and tight hugs and the scent that was as his as the alpha's, if he were to be honest with himself.

 

"Lisa, wait," the man called the hostess midway, her red hair unmistakable in the center of the salon, "don't take the cheesecake back. Could you please wrap it up for me to go? I've changed my mind. I'll have it later... with a friend."

 

- ♡ -

 

Hoseok didn't know exactly when rubbing the small red circle on the side of his wrist had become a habit, but there was the alpha again, caressing his imprinting mark while he watched Jimin leave the restaurant. He was expecting the sign to show up at any moment after his elevator meeting on Thursday, the way textbooks always told them it would - a burning sensation right on the skin, a claim from the universe and a proof for those non-believers. Still, it didn't seem real. Out of so many people in the world, how did something so special happen to someone like Hoseok? He couldn't get himself to understand that after so many years he finally found his better-half, finally found the lost soulmate his mind kept telling him was out there.

 

It was a pity how timing was not on their side. It was a pity how Namjoon's face - Namjoon's scent - was everything his soul wished to see - to feel - again. That night they parted ways on that narrow corridor with nothing but a last glance and heavy hearts and well, that was the turning point for Hoseok, the one that showed him how much of a coward he was.

 

Hoseok was a coward because he couldn't cross the path that would take him to the right side of floor number five not even for a second since he found him. Hoseok was a coward because he kept his mouth closed and his tears caged when Jimin asked if anything happened, the ghost of the surprise still on his face when he met the omega he was married to. Hoseok was a coward because not only he hadn't said a word to Jimin, but he managed to avoid him too, like a scared little animal running away from its predator.

 

And right there life was merely a group of what ifs. What if Namjoon had gone to the wedding ceremony, what if they had locked eyes before papers were signed and vows were skipped? There was no way any officiant would allow a marriage where one of the grooms was imprinted on someone else. What if Jimin and Taehyung had stopped playing blind before they had gone up that aisle, what if his parents weren't bloodsuckers, what if Hoseok were allowed to be happy, just for once?

 

His bubble burst at the same time his sous-chef broke a tall champagne flute over a salad dish, reality knocking on his door like the unwanted guest it was. There was nothing he could do, nothing anyone could do. There was no way to put an end to his marriage, no such thing as a divorce permitted in their world anymore. You married the one you were going to mate, and with them you stood forever. No matter what happened after the " and now I pronounce you etc etc". It was over, a lock put in his heart forever or the shadows of prison around him for eternity. No other chance for star-crossed lovers.

 

The alpha sighed, placing a flower band-aid from the first-aid kit over the only clue left from the one who took his breath away. Some said that what the eyes couldn't see the heart wouldn't feel. Hoseok was always one to put theories to the test.



- ♡ -

 

"Mr. Lee isn't coming back today. If you are here to pick something up, tell me your name and I will see what I can do".

 

Taehyung didn't even spare a glance at him, his body hidden by the metal door of the small studio where he worked, and in any other occasion Jimin would laugh at his face, mentioning something about lack of customer courtesy. The only thing he could do, though, was smile gently at his best friend, basking in that fresh coffee scent he knew so well and missed so much. The alpha needed a whole moment to realize who he was looking at, mouth hanging open and eyes like a child on Christmas morning, shiny and bright.

 

"I brought dessert. You think you might have a bit of time for your childhood best friend?"

 

There was no formal answer at all, nothing but Taehyung pulling him, inside the building and inside his arms, caging him in a hug that messed with his senses and took his breath away, a million heartbeats skipped once he threw his arms around the man's shoulders, squeezing them the tightest he could. He never longed for someone as much as he did for this stupid beautiful alpha boy, never thought he could feel so much the absence of someone.

 

Taehyung was the kind of alpha that didn't like to showcase his strength for any trivial purposes, not a drop of exhibitionism in him. But sometimes Jimin forgot how easily the man could pick him up, the omega dropping his bag on the floor to wrap his legs around his waist, face immediately sinking into the curve of the alpha's neck, catching up for the long days in which he couldn't feel the man against himself.  Not even when they were children had they spent so long apart, to the point where it physically hurt. Taehyung walked backwards blindly, till he found a chair to sit both of them on, never letting go of the omega on his lap.

 

"I think the cheesecake is ruined. It was in my backpack," Jimin whispered against the man's jaw, not stopping scenting him for even a second. The lack of caramel mixed to Taehyung's coffee scent was pissing him off, turning it almost foreign to his nose and skin. It was so weird smelling it that way, completely pure, like Jimin was never part of his life. It triggered instincts he tried his best to shove aside all his life.

 

"I don't care, I missed you," the alpha mumbled, doing the same to his best friend, hands running smooth circles on his back, soft kisses on the column of his throat. He was wearing his fluffy brown sweater over a blue shirt Yoongi gave him a few years ago, which made if perfect for cuddling for infinite hours, time frozen forever just for them.

 

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I should have come sooner," Jimin sighed, and he was holding back tears. Voice thick with emotion and everything underneath. He knew it was his fault somehow, even if he didn't plan on staying away from him for so long, "everything was so confusing and busy and complicated and I just... I was trying so hard, Tae, I'm doing my best and it's not working, this whole marriage thing, I'm sure he hates me..."

 

"Don't worry, you owe me nothing. Damn, I shouldn't even be scenting you...," he mentioned moving, but that was something the omega couldn’t deal with, not at that moment. He needed him closer, near, flushed to him.

 

"Don't you dare, you fucker, stay right where you are. I need it. I felt so lost without it. Hoseok scented me only once and... it was so fucking awkward, Tae, you don't even know how much I cried after it. I don't even like his scent, I mean, it's not bad but it's not how it was supposed to be...," he felt the tears on his lips, straining down his cheeks and well, suck it, the alpha had already seen him crying so many times before, once more wouldn't hurt, would it? "I'm rambling, ain't I?"

 

"Was there a time when I didn't listen to your ramblings? Shut up, Minnie," the man laughed, cleaning his face with the back of his hands, his thumbs gently massaging his temples, playfully blowing his pink bangs away, "I'll always listen to you, why wouldn't I?"

 

"I'm exhausted and I don't know what to do," Jimin sobbed dryly, trying to organize his thoughts, head resting on his best friend's shoulder. "First few days we just ignored each other pretty much, nothing but polite small talk, but then my birth control arrived and," his voice was so thin he almost doubted Taehyung could listen to it, but he knew much better than that, "we had a conversation. Like, an important one, you know, and we decided to give it a try. We kissed and, fuck, it was awful. I kept wishing for it to end. There was no attraction at all, no desire. Not even my worst hook-ups felt so bad. We went back to the ignoring again in a worst level. Now I'm just... Fucking scared, Tae. What will I do when my heat strikes? I kept read articles about wrong scenting during heats driving omegas nuts in the bad way and fuck... Fuck. How will I ever be happy like this?"

 

"We... we'll figure out, okay? We'll talk to Yoongi, he knows a lot of shit about all of this. We'll find a way, you won't suffer... God, I swear I wanna kill your family for putting you through this. It's not fucking fair," Taehyung squeezed him in his embrace, nuzzling on the top of his head, "It'll be okay. We’ll find a way, Chim. I promise you we will."

 

Since his wedding, Jimin got used to considering his chest a dead garden, soil so corrupted nothing could flourish there anymore. And there was this voice - that sounded ridiculously like his own - in the back of his head that claimed it was a terrible, terrible idea to spread seeds of anything in that deceased land. Still, caged inside the alphas arms, he could feel it. There was a tiny sprout of hope starting to bloom in the most forgotten place possible inside of him. He would hold onto it with everything he got. Just this once.

 

- ♡ -

 

Yoongi moaned softly, his joints hurting from where his hands clutched on Seokjin's wide shoulders, so tight he was sure it would leave a mark on the golden skin. It felt so good, the way he was sprawled on his husband's lap, riding him slowly, his hips moving in that sinful way they both enjoyed and fit so well in the last hours of his heat. Sweat covered his body, gluing his bleached hair to his forehead, and he couldn't keep his mouth closed, not when he knew how much the alpha enjoyed hearing him whimper. He had come twice so far, and was on the edge of another orgasm, every thrust making him shake in anticipation.

 

Those were the moments Yoongi considered the most pleasant, that intimacy between them blossoming like crazy. It was not the sex itself - although he would never deny how much he loved the way Seokjin fucked into him, sometimes gently and thorough, sometimes fast and hard, love bites all over his skin - but the proximity of it, the amount of trust and comfort he felt emanating from his mate, enveloping him in a bubble of love and happiness. Heats intensified it all, to the verge of tears and many love confessions whispered against the matching marks on their necks. The fact his last heat brought them their little Jeongguk made Yoongi even more sensitive, holding on to his husband for dear life. He loved that man in ways he couldn't even explain.

 

When the drag of Seokjiin's knot caught on his rim, he knew it was over for him. Yoongi mumbled nonsense, his moans now loud and filling the room, and it didn't take him long, just the feeling of being completely full, his husband's knot pressed against his prostate, not being able to move at all. Just that, and he was spilling between them, warm and white, entire body trembling once the alpha came after him, sending wave after wave of intense pleasure shared by them. Yoongi's head fell hard against his husband's chest, completely exhausted, the heat finally broke. They knew they'd be like that for at least fifteen minutes until the knot went down, so the omega just enjoyed the soft touches on his back, glowing in the attention of the one he cherished the most.  

 

"I love you," Seokjin mumbled against his damp hair, "I adore you. You're everything to me."

 

"Stop it," he bit one of the man's collarbones slowly, but he beamed at the praise, feeling it in each of his bones, "I love you too. Another successful heat. We did it. We should high-five, but I don't feel like it now. Thank you, though."

 

"Always here for you. That's what I promised, right? In the altar when we got married, between the sheets when we mated. You make me so damn happy, our family makes me so damn happy, Yoongi. I just... I wish everybody could find something like this. Like us. Especially the ones we love," his words were not vague, not at all, and there was so much behind it, the omega felt he was about to burst in a mix of affection and understanding, "You get my point, right?"

 

"I do," he sighed. Some people believed that heats weren't the right time to discuss stressful matters, but it was a constant between them, like their heads were clearer post pleasure and adrenaline. "I'm really worried about all this situation with Jimin, Jinnie. He's family too, this little brother we carried around since day one. And especially because, well... because of Tae."

 

"He's in love with him, right? I guess he's been that way their whole lives. You should have seen them when they were kids... Never one without the other, Tae trailing behind Chim like this infatuated puppy he was. It was adorable," the fond smile on his lips added to his sentence, "Mom and Mama, they were always whispering when the boys were teenagers. I think they were hopeful about a relationship between the two of them. We all were."

 

"This is fucked up," the omega sighed, nuzzling on the hollow of his husband's neck, almost purring, "this whole ordeal Minnie's grandparents put him into. I wish we could do something."

 

"Me too, baby, me too."

 

The next few minutes were immersed in silence and soft breathing, and if it weren't for the knot keeping them together, hot and heavy, maybe the slumber would have taken over them. But Yoongi felt the moment it softened, spilling the last few drops of Seokjin's orgasm inside of him. The alpha rumbled contently, kissing the top of the man's head. Just like every other heat spent together, there was nothing but blissfulness surrounding them.

 

"Shower?"

 

"Yes, and fast. I wanna see my baby," it was the thing on the omega's mind since he started getting his clarity back. Jeongguk had never stayed that long away from them, and sure, it was healthy for the kid to start his path to independence, but... he was still so young and his uncles were still so childish sometimes. He did trust his husband's family, sure, but they weren't exactly an example of babysitting excellence.

 

"Now? You should rest a bit, I'm sure Guk is doing fine..."

 

"My baby. Now."

 

"Shouldn't it be our baby? ," the alpha teased, just watching the love of his life getting all, all dirty and sticky from everything they did. Yoongi was so beautiful under the dim light of the living room, skin shining and lips red and swollen, white hair messy and wet. The omega was always handsome, but those were his favorite moments, when he felt free and full and content, happiness right there in his dark eyes.

 

"Yeah, whatever. Get dressed, you dork. We might still have time to save our son from eternal damage."

 

- ♡ -

 

"We need help. It's an emergency."

 

Taehyung announced the moment Jimin opened the door to his apartment, a startled expression on his face and the breath uneven, like he had run miles to get there, and not only crossed a short hallway. The two friends had parted not long ago, saying their goodbyes in the elevator and promising to see each other soon - the omega felt recharged after spending his afternoon with his best friend, like his life wasn't a horror show anymore. The fact Hoseok was still ignoring him to the point of not saying a word about the different alpha scent on him still pissed Jimin off like nothing else. They had shared hours in silence till the doorbell rang, making both jump with the routine break.

 

But Jimin didn't even blink before following his best friend, and he could hear his husband's footsteps behind them, as fast as he was allowed. A thousand different scenarios showed up in his mind, heartbeat increased and breathing gone crazy. Taehyung wasn't the type to pull pranks - Yoongi and Seokjin sure, but never Taehyung. If he were worried, then something bad had happened for sure.

 

"Not even Namjoon can make him calm down, and it's not normal crying. He stopped breathing twice and honestly, we don't know what to do," the alpha whispered once he signaled for them to enter the dark apartment, and maybe if Jimin and Hoseok weren't so trapped in their own shadows they would've heard Jeongguk's painful sobbing. It was heartbreaking, seeing the boy sitting on the blue couch by himself, face red and swollen, mouth wide open and voice high-pitched. Namjoon was on the floor in front of him, looking as desperate as his nephew, trying to soothe his crying with his words. Apparently it wasn't working. "He just keeps mumbling 'Daddy' and we don't even know which of them he means because those two fuckers had to fight about it to the point he calls both of them that way. Do you have any idea?"

 

"Did Yoongi leave any clothing here?," Jimin asked, reaching the toddler and cooing over him, "It looks like separation finally hit on him. This is the first time they are apart, right? It's kinda normal. Let's just wrap him in something that has their scent and I think he should be fine for a while. Maybe some tea can help too. It's almost over now, baby, soon you'll see your daddies."

 

"Maybe in the travel bag? Let me check," the alpha rambled, heading to his own bedroom, the omega sighing by his side and deciding to follow his best friend just in case. Their conversation was pointless and soft, and even if they wanted to the two remaining adults in the living room wouldn't be able to pinpoint the right words.

 

Awkward was not enough to describe the tension between Namjoon and Hoseok, the later sitting by the omega's side, smiling to the crying baby when he muttered a low "Hobi?". It wasn't enough to distract Jeongguk, though, a loud sob taking over his throat the next moment, a loud " daddy!" full of tears filling the room. Namjoon just reached to strike his tiny foot lightly, probably unconsciously, but that small action was enough to show Hoseok something he wasn't ready to see yet: the heart-shaped mark on the side of his wrist that matched perfectly with the one the alpha had on his own. As if the omega realized why the other man was staring at him, their eyes met for the first time - a calmness in their hearts and a shiver going down their spines.

 

"I'll make some tea for him, if you don't mind," the alpha cleared his throat, trying to avert his gaze from the beautiful man in front of him. There was something about Namjoon and his scent that went beyond the whole imprinting thing, beyond social rules and what they were and were not supposed to do. It called him, home opening its arms and telling his heart it was time to finally rest. Still, Hoseok couldn't have any of it. Not now, not ever.

 

"Yeah, sure. The boxes are in the shelf over the sink and his sippy cup must be there too. There's hot water in the red kettle," even his voice was entrancing, the way Namjoon wet his lips and kept looking at him, like he was waiting for something, anything. "Hoseok," well, call him biased, but even his name sounded sweeter in that voice, "you think we can talk? Not now, but... soon?"

 

"Of course, yeah, we should do that," pretending his heart wasn't racing was easier said than done, "you wanna stop by my restaurant tomorrow? I can send you the address if you want to."

 

Namjoon just nodded, maybe because he didn't have anything else to say, maybe because Taehyung and Jimin were back in the room, storming to Jeongguk with one of his father's ridiculous black sweatshirts, making a cocoon out of the baby that seemed to work as soon as he smelled Yoongi's scent on it. His crying stopped, just a few tears rolling down his chubby cheeks, nose sunk into the fabric like his life depended on it. It was easier for his uncle to pick him up that way, Namjoon bringing the baby close to his chest, rocking him lightly till he was completely at ease.

 

The baby's huge doe eyes were almost back to their normal bright state when his godfather handed him the tea Hoseok made, the four men feeling a weight taken off their shoulders when the boy munched happily on his sippy cup. Crisis controlled, at least while they could still provide him fresh clothes.

 

"We're coming in, ready or not."

 

Or until Seokjin and Yoongi showed up to take the boy home.

 

"Fuck, you couldn't have arrived ten minutes earlier, could you?," Taehyung snapped at his brother and brother-in-law, the couple clearly confused about the reunion and the whole outburst, "It'd have saved us from so much stress, I swear to God..."

 

But he was interrupted by a wave of Jeongguk’s unstoppable babbling, the boy crawling out of the sweatshirt and calling his parents like crazy, shaking his hands with all the energy he got in his tiny body till Yoongi picked him up, immediately scenting his child, the baby nuzzling on his father's neck and humming contently while at it. The two of them were trapped inside their own bubble, pretty much ignoring everyone else in the room. Seokjin stared at them with a fond look on his eyes, before turning back to his family.

 

"According to Yoongs I stayed in the shower too long so this is my fault. Whatever it is. What happened?"

 

"He missed you guys. A lot. It was hard calming him down, but we managed it. It's okay now, but if you had come ten minutes earlier a lot of crying would have been avoided," Jimin offered kindly, trying to avoid leaning on Taehyung's shoulder in front of his husband. Not that Hoseok was actually paying any attention to him, blankly staring at nothing, mind a million years away.

 

"I told you to drive faster, you nitwit," Yoongi pointed at his husband, pampering his kid with a thousand pecks, "but congrats, you fuckers, you survived Gukkie. Not to be that guy, but I thought you wouldn't make it through," his smile showed the total opposite, though, gratitude everywhere on his face. Maybe it was the post-heat haze, or maybe just for once the elders of the group weren't reading the tension in the room right - there was lots of it, all different kinds towards different people - but the omega just chuckled, blinking at them, "So, who is ordering pizza?"

Chapter Text

There was a list of things Jimin would rather be doing than standing outside Heeyeon's office, the strong smell of disinfectant from the hospital corridor irritating his nose and his eyes. Not that he didn't enjoy the fact Yoongi offered to accompany him - even though the younger omega knew he was only there to sneak into his husband's office at any moment - Jeongguk on his lap munching happily on his pink bunny plushie, its ears coated in saliva while the child squeezed it, but he just... didn't want to be there. Didn't like the implication of that 3 o'clock appointment and if he'd get the answers to all his worries.

 

When the secretary allowed them to go in, well, he started regretting his previous life choices.

 

He remembered Heeyeon from many social events in the Kim's house since Seokjin met her in college, the red-haired woman always a little loud and cheerful, much like the eldest of the three brothers was. For a while they even thought she was the omega he was secretly dating, by the amount of whispering and the many times he mentioned coming back from a meeting with her after arriving home late at night. Turned out she was the one helping cover for Yoongi's and his little rendezvous, both of them too in love but too insecure in letting the ones closest to them know of the relationship in the beginning. So it was no surprise when the woman was picked bridesmaid alongside her mate - a sweet alpha lawyer with a sharp tongue called Hyojin - when the couple got married, as well as Jeongguk's godmother once the boy was born. She was a specialist in omega health and fertility, one of the best in the field, and that was exactly why Yoongi had dragged the man to see her.

 

The matter of his heat was still one to keep him awake all night long in fear.

 

Living with Hoseok most of the time was the same as living with a ghost. Jimin could see the evidence - the shuffling with the bathroom door early in the morning, the clean state of Holt's litter box, a half-washed mug in the sink - but could never find his husband anywhere, never exchange the words they needed to discuss. Asking Yoongi for help was his own intervention, the hours reading articles on how long after stopping the suppressants a heat would hit him triggering his anxiety with nothing else.

 

"Look at my baby bun!" the doctor squealed as soon as the group paraded into her office, Jeongguk going on a fuss with squeals that sounded like "Hani!" once he recognized his godmother, going straight into her arms and scent when offered, tiny hands clawing the blue floral dress she wore under her white coat. The amount of affection there was undeniable, sweet as sugar. At least one thing to smile about, Jimin thought. "You look so cute and squishy and I love you a lot even if your daddies are asses that never bring you to see me. Hello, Yoongi, light of my life, so good to see you!"

 

"You know you're always welcome home, right? Good. Show up then," he just shrugged, arms crossed in front of his chest, "Now, if you excuse me, your business is with Jimin and I'm not going to break this beautiful godson-godmother moment, so I'm heading to see my husband. Have fun. Behave, Gukkie. Don't give him all those lollipops again, you're not the one dealing with a sugar rush after."

 

The fact that the older omega left the office without saying anything else was enough to make Heeyeon crack up, nuzzling softly on Jeongguk's head before placing him in what seemed like a children's space in the far corner of the room, plushies and coloring books welcoming him as soon as he sat on the puzzle carpet.

 

"I bet my pocket money they're going to fuck on Jin's desk. They've done it before, it was the funniest thing," the woman whispered, before offering the younger omega a hug. "It's so good to see you, Jimin, you look so good, I almost didn't believe when Yoon told me you got married, but well, we could all see it, right... But where's Tae?"

 

"I... I guess Tae's at college? I don't really know? I forgot to ask this morning and... why you ask that?"

 

"Well, not that it’s mandatory, but it's common for your mate to come with you on the first check-up to see if everything is alright and..." Heeyeon was not discreet at all poking at his neck, long red nails scratching the skin while she frowned, "Why don't you have a mating scar?"

 

It was too much Jimin couldn't avoid choking. On his own spit and his own words.

 

"Tae is not... I didn't marry Tae and..."

 

She didn't even let him finish.

 

"Wait, what? Hold on, I'mma need a second, lemme sit down for this" and if he didn't know the woman had a taste for drama, well, Jimin would be more annoyed. Instead he just followed her, sitting on one of the too white armchairs in front of the glass and steel desk filled with a range of colorful Stabilos and post-its.

 

"Tae is not my husband" and why Heeyeon even entertained that idea was a mystery to the omega. Why would anyone think he married his best friend? That only happened in soap operas and stevebucky fanfiction he swore he didn't read late at night. That was weird. "And I don't have a mating scar because I'm not mated and I... I don't plan on it. I shouldn't even be married in the first place".

 

There were no tears left to cry inside of him, all of them gone in that one month, pillowcases ruined with salty water. The omega just took one deep breath, listening to Jeongguk giggling happily in the background with a musical book. The doctor waited patiently, eyeing the man under her long lashes, lips pursed like she was trying to solve the most difficult case. She didn't need to tell him to go on, it was implied in the air before them.

 

"My grandparents sold my hand in a business transaction. I discovered they were the ones behind the money for my tuition and my apartment so... they asked the favor my parents owed them. They made me marry this alpha, son of the new CEO of their company. Neither of us are very happy with this marriage and... this is why I'm here."

 

"This is illegal!" there it was, the exasperation that followed a story he was already exhausted of telling. Exhausted to see the pity on others' expressions. "They couldn't have done that, they..."

 

"Rich people can do anything," the bitterness of his tone was deliberate. It was not something he was trying to hide, not anymore. "I'm here because, my husband and I... we are not in good terms. We keep our distance and I' don't... I don't enjoy his scent. I don't like it when it's too near me. He just scented me once and it felt wrong so..."

 

"You are worried about your heats, sure. How long since you stopped the suppressants?" the woman was taking down notes in a frenetic way, a strand of red hair falling over her eyes. Maybe there was some hope for him at least.

 

"Around a month now," if his voice was strained, no one could blame him. He read the articles. He knew what Heeyeon was gonna tell him by the way she sighed.

 

"Heats usually come a month and a half after omegas stop taking their suppressants. If you're telling me that you cannot deal with your husband's scent, as your doctor, I can't advise picking him as heat partner. It could go terribly wrong and put you in such a state that... I don't wanna think about it" and the distress was clear on her scent, the way she blew her own fringe away, nails tapping the glass mercilessly, "You see, that's why they changed the law, so this kind of shit wouldn't happen again. I know it's an unpopular move, but... People used to get married to anyone and ended up mating their partners when they were clearly not their mate and it was a mess. Mating is forever, you have to be sure before you do it. It became a public health issue. So they forbade divorce - you have to think before you get married, because there's no coming back. But I can't... I can't believe this shit happened to you, Minnie."

 

"Yeah, me neither," he chuckled and the lack of humor in it was the lesser of his problems, "I'm assuming there's no way I spend my heat alone or get suppressants again?"

 

"If I could, I swear I'd give them to you, but with the new laws they took that of our hands. Only government can handle suppressants now. And an unassisted heat is out of the picture. You wouldn't survive it, not your first one after so long under suppressants," Heeyeon chewed the inside of her own cheek, letting her eyes follow the sweetness of Jeongguk playing alone in the corner so she could think better, "If you can't spend your heat with your husband, the only thing I can recommend to you is, well... Find another alpha to help you through it. Someone you trust and enjoy the scent of . It's the smartest thing to do."

 

"That's going to be a great conversation to have with Hoseok," Jimin could picture it, the disappointment and his husband's face, the way his lips would go into that weird shape they went to whenever he was upset. They weren't in the best of speaking terms, but still, the omega hated conflict, hated making others sad. He didn't even know how to approach him with the subject.



"I'm so, so sorry, Jimin. I wish I could help more. If you don't have an alpha in mind, I could introduce you to someone? Someone nice. Because perhaps..." and the hesitation in her voice would never be a good sign, "Perhaps it would be better if you did it with someone different each time. Someone you don't have an emotional bond with, because... growing attached to a person you will never be able to mate... I'm sorry, Jimin. I really am."

 

There was no answer he could give the doctor, nothing left to say when there was so much written between the lines. He'd be an unmated omega with a golden band on his finger till his death, bouncing from alpha to alpha to supply his needs but never allowing himself to fall for them. All his happy endings destroyed.

 

Perhaps he deserved it. Who told him he was allowed to be happy and loved? Those things didn't belong to him. Never did, never would.

 

It was time for him to finally understand that.

 

- ♡ -

 

The thing Hoseok was doing - it wasn't stalking.

 

Well, at least he thought it wasn't, even though some might disagree with his perspective. Stalking would be following the object of his affections, flooding his social media with messages, showing up at his workplace with his favorite coffee in hands. What the alpha was doing was being miserable and pathetic and hurting so bad it became physical, to the point where he had to go through that humiliation to feel at least a bit of relief.

 

Because there, sitting on the cold dusty carpet in the middle of the fifth floor corridor that separated Jimin's apartment to the Kims' apartment, there he could get the faintest scent of rain and green herbs, winter days and peppermint. It wasn't much - just the product of Namjoon's quick steps there once in a while - but it was enough to at least soothe his senses, reminding them that it was okay, his true mate wasn't that far away and maybe... maybe one day...

 

That possibility was nonexistent and trying to convince himself otherwise was cruel, but sometimes Hoseok just needed a tight grip on his daydreams to keep surviving.

 

It had been a month since the imprinting, a month where Namjoon was the only thing in his thoughts day and night, no matter what he did and where he went. A month where his body itched to be closer, to engulf himself in that scent, to touch the omega and never let go - and a month where he could do none of that. The pain and discomfort began a few days after that first meeting and he knew they were side effects of the distance - true mates should be close, should at least be able to feel themselves in the same room, the bond too strong to ignore. But it had been a month... it had been a month and all Hoseok got was silence.

 

It wasn't lack of trying on his part - he did invite Namjoon to dinner that night, who agreed to it, only to text him later saying he was too busy. The alpha tried again a few times, different invitations to different activities, but the same promise - just so we figure out what to do. The omega declined, again and again and again.

 

The rejection hurt more than the fire under his skin for not having his mate near him.



"This is not criticism and you keep doing your thing but," a voice called from the left, full of something hard to identify, "but it's very, very difficult to concentrate on work with your scent invading my apartment like that."

 

Namjoon didn't seem mad, though. Exhausted would be a better wording, dark circles under his eyes and the way his shoulders slumped under his white pajamas, silver hair disheveled and glasses on the very tip of his cute little nose. Still, the alpha's heart couldn't do anything but swell with warmth, with a happiness that didn't belong to him.

 

"I'm sorry," he mumbled, because he really was. Being caught red handed wasn't exactly something to be proud about. Maybe he should try a honest approach. "It's just that... I can smell you from here. And I needed it because..."

 

"It hurts. Yeah, I know. Me too."

 

The loud sigh coming from the omega's mouth was enough to draw Hoseok's attention, just like a moth drawn to a flame. Namjoon had his eyes shut closed, so closed, bottom lip trembling slightly and skin flushed to the point where the faintest shade of pink covered his pretty cheekbones. He was the most beautiful picture the alpha had ever laid eyes upon, and he wanted to feel it all, every inch of flesh and bones under the tips of his fingers, the meat of his lips. He did nothing, just waiting for the next sentences - waiting for his sun to shine, waiting for a bit of hope that he still clung to even when he shouldn't.

 

"Everyday I had to gather all of my self-control to not go bang at your door and beg you to love me," and his voice was so thin, barely a whisper, just for the two of them to hear. It didn't avoid the pang in Hoseok's chest, "I never wanted anything more than that. To present to you, to hold you close. I thought about it day and night, and thank goodness I'm not a sleepwalker because... That's why I declined all your offers. Because I am so, so afraid. I don't even know you, not for real, and still all I want is you. I'm afraid I'll let myself get into your world and then it'll be too late. I'll be too gone even knowing I can never have you properly. I'm so sorry. So sorry."

 

If Hoseok took the omega's hand between his, intertwining their fingers in a grip too tight, nobody could blame him. Hearing his own fears mirrored on the voice of the only one he would offer his heart to, it was just too much. There was a burn where their soul marks got pressed, but it felt good, too good to ignore. They should be like that all the time, hands intertwined and hearts beating at the same pace. It was right. It felt right.

 

"This is fucked up. And it's my fault. If I only... I don't know, If I had stopped by earlier to see Jimin,  or If I just had said no to all this shit... We could be together. There's nothing I want more than that and I'm... I'm afraid too. I don't know what to do. I just want to ease your pain."

 

"It's not your fault," and Namjoon could mumble that to him a thousand times and the alpha wouldn't believe, the thought too rooted in his core. But the way the omega drew circles on the top of his hand with his thumb was clouding his mind too much to ignore, "It's your parents' fault. Never yours. I think that... Perhaps we should just... see each other every day. Nothing much, just... Hand holding. Texting. I could give you a few shirts with my scent and... you could do the same for me. Survive, somehow."

 

"That sounds like the most reasonable thing to do."

 

Reasonable. Not ideal. Not good. Reasonable. Survive, because they couldn't live the way they wanted to. Survive with leftovers of scents and the tiniest of physical contacts. Enough to not go crazy. Enough to survive. For how long, though? How long would they endure all of that?

 

"For now can I just... can we just have this for a bit?"

 

Hoseok wasn't sure of what this was, but he got himself nodding anyway, too weak to deny anything to the omega. Turned out this was Namjoon's head on his shoulder, the omega pressing his nose on the alpha's throat, inhaling deeply that scent he was so fond of, grip still tight on their hands. The man had his eyes closed and his lips wet, a sound almost like a purr coming from him, sending goosebumps through all of the alpha's body. Yeah, they could have that. Even if it meant hurting more later. Even if it were just for a moment.

 

Letting his head fall on top of the omega's, Hoseok just took a deep breath, letting his eyes shut closeand his heart search for that much needed piece of peace. He could worry about everything else later.

 

- ♡ -

 

The fact that his mouth was full of caramel syrup meant nothing. He always liked sugary beverages, that's what he told himself. The bitterness of coffee didn't sit well on his tongue, never did. Perhaps it came from the fact his own scent was already heavy like that, needing something to sweeten his edges.

 

If Taehyung had chosen the sweetest drink on the menu, it was not because he missed Jimin's scent already.

 

It wasn't.

 

See, he was trying, trying to get over that silly little crush of his - if something that lasted at least six years could be called "silly” or   “little". It had been a month now since his best friend's wedding and he just... lost faith in the universe. Let himself swim away from pain, trying to ignore the way his chest clenched whenever the omega was near him, whenever their scents got mixed again and he got to hold the other's hand, just for a bit. But hanging on hope wasn't doing him any good, not on his work, not on his life so he just... let himself try to forget. Even if it wasn't exactly working.

 

So if he were sitting across Park Bogum in that cute little cafe near campus, sharing a plate of sugar cookies and laughing politely at all the stories the beta told, well, he read all of that as progress. It wasn't much, but it was something.

 

Bogum was handsome, in that classy way of placing himself, dark-brown hair neatly styled and hands crossed on the top of the wooden lid. He was a couple of years older, a journalist that the alpha met on the internet because one of his photos caught his eye enough to end up in an article the man was writing. He was nice and funny and his scent... it wasn't bad, something orange-ish, fresh and clean. It wasn't bad, it was just... not Jimin's.

 

Taehyung pushed the thought to the back of his head, trying to focus on how their knuckles brushed sometimes, how the beta was clearly making an effort to get closer. The alpha let him, wanting nothing more than be taken away from reality, to fool himself just for a bit.

 

The soft vibrations coming from his phone didn't help, not when he knew who was texting him with just a glance at the screen, the name of his best friend calling to him like no one else did. Ignoring was hard, too hard, the urge to run to the omega burning his insides. Instead, he just shoved his phone into the pocket of his jacket, smiling brightly at Bogum when he asked him if he was in the mood for some cake.

 

He could return the message later, even if it broke his heart.

 

"So, youngest of the Kims', tell me more about yourself growing up," he heard Bogum asking, a sweet smile on the corner of his lips, like he was really interested in him, in Taehyung as a person, "What were you like?"

 

"Honestly? Just a big nerd," he chuckled, recalling his teenage years, "Our house was a mess sometimes, you know? My moms... they are a beta and an omega, so they were kinda overwhelmed with two alpha sons. And three boys, to top it all... So I just... followed my brothers around to not bother them too much. Especially Jin. Joon liked to be more in his room, with his books and his movies and his big dreams. He's one of my best friends, but still... Jinnie taught me how to be an alpha. A good one. He took me to places and made me watch things and was just a really good brother. But then he went to college and when I was alone I just... liked to read comics and pretend I was Spider-Man. Nothing too cool. Just the regular good boy thing."

 

"You are a good boy, aren't you?" his flirting was easy, so easy. Bogum was nice for that, for just letting the conversation flow, never implicating something more. Before the whole mess Taehyung had gone out with people, people who kept talking their wholes dates about soulmates and mating and breeding, never too interested in what Taehyung had to say.  "That seems cute. Very cute. Why photography?"

 

"Because I failed in oil painting," due to the surprised laughter coming from the beta, he followed, "believe me, I tried. I always loved art, loved looking at paintings in books and museums and when I was a teenager Mama really tried to make me go through classes but I was just... terrible. Real terrible, and it made me frustrated. So when Jinnie got a new camera for Christmas and gave me his old one and I saw I could create art in a different way I just... never went back."

 

"You talk about things in a very passionate way. It's beautiful," and, looking over his own mug of coffee, Bogum added sheepishly, "You're beautiful."

 

If Taehyung blushed with all the strength in his body, the beta didn't need to know, even though it was quite visible on his cheeks. The alpha just smiled, sipping another bit of his sugar bomb. That was good. Bogum was good. Perhaps he still had a shot at a happy ending, after all.

 

- ♡ -

Honestly, everything Jimin wanted was to soak in scented bath water till his skin was soft and wrinkly, staying there for an hour or two or until all his problems suddenly disappeared. It was a hell of a long day, all his muscles sore and his head pounding, taking him a minute just to unlock his front door and take off his shoes on his doormat.

 

Being told that he was bound to never be happy and mated and ignored by his best friend really took a toll on him. Not that Taehyung did it purposely, he knew the alpha must just have been busy at the time, but... he just needed a word from him. A bit of reassurance. A bit of that warmth that followed them throughout all of their lives.

 

Instead he caught himself sniffing softly in his living room, feeling antsy at the smell of two distinct scents he didn't remember getting before, clouded by Hoseok's one, already stuck in the place. If he had held his head up sooner, maybe he wouldn't be so shocked when he found the couple staring at him, noises pointed up and severe expressions on their faces, clothes too fancy to be mingled with his old couch's fabric. His heart did a weird thing in his chest, like it was trying to suffocate him inside out.

 

"Do you remember my parents, Jimin?" Hoseok asked, leaning against the kitchen wall, looking as distressed as the omega was feeling right now, "They were not welcomed, but they still showed up anyway. Terrible guest manners."

 

"Sit down, the two of you. We have to talk."

 

Exchanging a heavy glance, Hoseok and Jimin found themselves trapped again inside a game that wasn't theirs. Sighing, they sat in front of the elders, wondering what mess they have brought with them this time.

Chapter Text

"So, I see that you haven't mated yet. You've been married for a month now, that gave you plenty of time to... get to know each other better."

 

Sighing was not enough to demonstrate the amount of frustration Hosok carried inside of his chest, the alpha rubbing his face just to have something to do with himself instead of growling at his own father. Since the moment he opened the door to Jimin's apartment - his apartment, he still had to remind himself of that daily - and found his parents' faces glaring at him, the only thing building up in his insides was the wish to run away and never look back.

 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Jung," the formality in his husband's speech was not greaterthan his stiffness, but it came close, "But the terms in our... agreement made it pretty clear that mating was not an obligation. We don't have to do it if we don't want to."

 

"For goodness sake, are you still at it?" at some point in his life Hoseok started to believe his mother didn't have any other state of mind besides the constant annoyance she showed on her face, "It's not like you'll mate anyone else. You're married. You can't. Just cut it and bond already. You don't even smell like each other, I can tell exactly which rooms in this place you don't enter, Hoseok. What kind of alpha are you? What are people going to think when they meet you?"

 

"Mom-"

 

"And you," she pointed at Jimin, the younger omega curling himself into a ball on the sofa, "You were supposed to convince your husband to drop that damn hole in the wall and start being an adult. You can't even fulfill your duties as an omega, can you? We shouldn't have expected much from a chubby fragile thing like you."

 

"Ok, that's fucking enough."

 

Growing up, raising his voice to anyone inside the Jung Mansion was like asking for a long and painful punishment, but the alpha was no kid anymore. He was tired - of fearing his family, of living a lie, of staying away from Namjoon - and seeing them inflicting the same shitty treatment they reserved to him and him only to someone as wonderful and considerate as Jimin - someone who didn't deserve to have grandparents like the ones he had - that made his blood boil inside his veins, anger taking the best of him away. The room was spinning and there was this bitter taste inside his mouth.

 

"You will not come into my husband's house and insult him like this. We know our obligations, and we are going to cover them in our own freaking time. I-I'm not giving up my restaurant, I told you a thousand times, and it's not Jimin's fault. There is nothing he can do to change my mind," he was panting, he knew, but the alpha was on a roll, "When I agreed to this fraud of a wedding I promised to go to whatever stupid gala you want us to show up at and go to those fucking meetings I understand nothing about at the company once a week. This is what I will do."

 

The silence surrounding them was not the comfortable kind, no, it seemed much more like the breathless moments where a trained squad tried to disarm a time-bomb, air heavy with anticipation. A minute more and the two alphas in the room would start growling at each other for sure.

 

"You act too cocky for such a weak, pitiful alpha," his father glared at him, poison dripping from each of his words, "Always running away from your responsibilities, always crying in the corner. Now you want to talk back to me? Ah, Hoseokie..." the way he grinned was disgusting, and not a good sign if the man was still able to recognize one, "Perhaps you're finally growing some balls. And for that I'll let it pass. This time."

 

If it weren't for the small hand that suddenly grabbed the back of his shirt in a tight grip, Hoseok was sure he'd have jumped for his dad's throat.

 

"This is all ridiculous, I'm wasting my time here in this pigpen," his mother got up, and that was probably the best thing she had ever done for her only son, "Remind me to only send an email next time I have to talk to any of you. We should just have done that, Sungjae, but you insisted on dragging me here," the beta sighed, moving the pearl bracelet in her wrist in annoyance. She had that face, long and sharp and stern, eyes as black as her hair offering no warmth at all, "There is going to be a dinner in honor of your father this coming Friday, at the Royal Plaza at 9 o'clock. Formal wear. At least have the decency of scenting each other if you keep with this nonsense of not mating until there."

 

"I'll ask Soyeon to email you the details, but I think both of you understand this is not an invitation. There will be consequences if you don't show up," the fact Hoseok didn't inherit his father's sly grin was the only blessing he was truly thankful for, or else he didn't think he'd be able to look at himself in any mirror, "As for you, son, there will be an empty chair waiting for your presence on the next board meeting on Monday. It starts at 7, and we don't tolerate tardiness," the alpha got up, and perhaps there was some hidden pleasure in looking down at the younger men in the room, figurative and literally, and it showed on his eyes. "Always a pleasure seeing you, kids."

 

"And please, be sure your husband look presentable, Hoseok," was his mother's last bite before moving to the door, unbothered by the lack of color in Jimin's face, "You could at least have chosen a prettier omega, Sungjae, for goodness sake. We can only pray for our grandchild to be decent-looking."

 

The rest of that evil-filled conversation faded away while the couple waltzed through the corridor, never saying their goodbyes, judging the pairing they left behind too unworthy of their time and attention. The courtesy of closing the door was already too much coming from them. Hoseok let his shoulders relax for a second, the pain still there somehow, before turning to the omega by his side.

 

"Are you okay?"

 

Jimin had his eyes fixed on some point on the windows far away from them, mouth slightly agape and hands trembling, face as pale as the sweater he wore. The omega shook his head, taking a deep breath. "I'm sorry," he mumbled out of nowhere, still not looking at him. "I... froze. Completely froze. I couldn't even fight for myself what the heck?"

 

"It's okay. It's normal. An omega caught between the argument of two alphas and a beta... freezes. Too many hormones. Biology sucks," he searched for his husband's hand, weeks without touching the cold skin making it a bit awkward, "I'm sorry. They are horrible, nobody should be under their gaze for too long. It's deadly," he licked his lips, drawing circles on the back of Jimin's hand, "It's not true. Anything they said about you. You're one of  the most beautiful omegas I ever met, and I'm not saying it to cheer you up. It's true. Everyone thinks that."

 

"That's very comforting coming from the man who kissed me once and got so repulsed he avoided me for weeks after... till now."

 

A punch would have hurt less. But it would be too naive of Hoseok not to wait for an accusation like that after everything. He knew his behavior towards his husband wasn't the most pristine one, but the war inside his mind prevented him from being the better person and telling the omega the truth. Fear washed over him, making him its prisoner. The alpha wasn't proud of that, but he was the only one who could fix it.

 

"I swear I have a good reason, Jimin."

 

"Don't we all?" he laughed bitterly, curling in on himself more and more, "Your parents for sure think the same. They have their good reasons. My grandparents too. We are still in this shitty situation. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, isn't it?"

 

"I imprinted," Hoseok blurted, tired and full of guilt, not standing the sadness on the omega's face. He should have done it a better way, should have prepared his speech more. But it was what it was. No sweet talk would make it better. "The night we kissed, after I came back from the restaurant. I imprinted."

 

There was no gasp, no choking sound coming from the man by his side.  The opposite, Jimin seemed to sit stiller than before, the hand still in the alpha's hold suddenly colder. The lack of a bigger reaction could be a good and a bad sign at the same time. Unfortunately for himself, Hoseok didn't spend any time learning to read the expressions on his husband's face. If he did, perhaps he'd be more prepared for the outcome of that situation.

 

"What?"

 

The broken voice was the last straw to tear the alpha's heart apart.

 

"After I closed the restaurant, I came back home," the man mumbled, and now he was the one who couldn't face his partner, choosing a very interesting spot in the carpet to monitor, "My original plan was to come back and really try this - us. Really try giving us a chance. I was going to suggest that we started sleeping in the same room, that we had our meals together everyday. I was thinking about it when I left my kitchen, but then I got here and then I entered the elevator and then... then he showed up. And it happened and I - I should have told you that night, should have told you a long time ago, but I was so scared. I'm still so scared, Jimin, you have no idea how hard it is. The pain... became physical. And I couldn't open my mouth and tell you the truth. I don't think any apology will ever be enough, but... I'm sorry."

 

The weight of the omega's stare on him was probably more than he could handle, but Hoseok still went for it, turning his head slowly and looking into the younger one's eyes, and it was like seeing the prettiest crystal shatter without being able to do anything to save it. Jimin was holding back tears, that was clear, his pink bottom lip trembling uncontrollably.

 

"You met him on the elevator?" he chose the words carefully, retrieving his hand for himself, "Does it mean he lives here? You've been seeing him ever since? Does he... does he know about us?"

 

"Yes, he's our neighbor. He's an omega too and..." Hoseok didn't know how to tell Jimin the name of his true mate without upsetting the man even more. One way or another he had to do it. Like ripping off a band-aid, then, that's how he was doing it, "And we only saw each other twice after... Once because we had no choice, the other because it hurt too much. He's scared too, because he knows, he... It's Namjoon, Jimin. Namjoon is my mate."

 

"Namjoonie?"

 

Nodding seemed to be the only thing Hoseok could do properly, especially when the first tear streamed down the omega's face, shining brightly against the warm skin. It's all out in the wind, every single thing the alpha had been hiding, a black hole opened inside his chest. The man in front of him swallowed down a sob, and perhaps it was cruel - what part of that whole story wasn't cruel? - but Hoseok extended his own hand, turning it down so Jimin could spot the red heart-shaped mark burnt on his skin, the ultimate proof of the truth in the words he said.

 

"Namjoonie... Namjoonie is your mate," he repeated, like the information was still hard to process, " Fuck, how many... how many more lives am I going to ruin? Namjoonie... Namjoonie dreamed of finding his mate since we were kids. He never talked too much about it, because it's so rare, but..." and he was full on sobbing now, tears like a river on his face, "He always had this feeling someday he would meet the perfect person. And now he did.. and you can't be together because you're married to me . You said... you said it hurt. That you're apart, it hurts, because true mates should be together and... fuck."

 

" It's not your fault. You didn't want to marry me. We were forced into this. My parents were just here reminding us of that. That's nothing any of us could have done, so please don't torture yourself over this, Jimin. It's worthless pain."

 

"What are we going to do?" the omega mumbled, cleaning the vestiges of his crying, even though it hadn't stopped at all, "You two will be in constant pain if you stay away from each other for too long and I... I will reject you during my heat even more than I would before. My biology won't accept a semi-claimed alpha and yours... yours won't accept anyone that is not Joonie."

 

"I don't know," and the honesty in his voice was what hurt the most, how lost the both of them were, not finding comfort anywhere, "I don't know, Jimin."

 

 

- ♡ -

The twinkle of his keys falling on the glass top of the coffee table was somehow comforting, the familiar scent of home filling his lungs and making him relax at last. The day had been too long, Taehyung pondered to himself in the middle of the empty living room, dropping his backpack on the sofa. He was tired, wanting nothing more than to lay his head on his fluffiest pillow and sleep it all away, but there were still some pictures he had to work on for his boss waiting for him in his laptop, a last minute paper he had to finish to give his professor also bugging the alpha. At least in a week the semester would be over, even though he didn't have big plans for his break.  Perhaps babysit Jeongguk or binge watch all of the episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine he missed.

 

Perhaps going on a few more dates with Bogum.

 

It was nice, the whole encounter, the fresh citrusy scent of the beta still clung on his clothes from when they said their goodbyes, tight hugs and some shy scenting, the promise of a next time warm on the tip of their tongues. It was ideal - not perfect, but ideal. It wasn't happiness what he was feeling, but some kind of fortunate contentment for being there and perhaps... perhaps he should get used to just that.

 

The alpha reached for a cushion - a self-indulgent nap being everything he needed - but found nothing but thin air, fingers scratching the stiff fabric from the couch. It was weird, looking around  and not finding any of the pillows they kept around, the living room lacking of the comforters always stocked under the coffee table and the quilt their Mama crocheted once they left home. The room seemed awfully naked, almost cold to be inside. Taehyung raised his eyebrows out habit, but not paying it any mind. Maybe it was the universe telling him to go to bed.

 

Only to get into his bedroom and discover all his bedclothes had also disappeared, the mattress the only thing left on the double bed.

 

He was starting to think that something might be wrong in the Kim household.

 

"Joonie?" Taehyung called for his older brother, following the dark corridor that led to the omega's room. There wasn't a single sound coming from behind the closed door, no indication the man was actually home. But it was common in their relationship, Namjoon's long silences, lost in thoughts and academic research, trapped away from the world. The alpha wasn't surprised by the lack of response after knocking, used to just going inside the room and finding his brother is noise-cancelling headphones. "Joonie, did you see the...?"

 

The scene rolling in front of him was unprecedented, though. This time there weren't books covering the omega's sheets, but every single missing item in the house was there, meticulously organized around the man. All the pillows and cushions and blankets and sheets, all the soft carpets and the stuffed animals, to the point the mattress had disappeared under it all. His brother's fluffiest winter clothes were also there, as well as the never-used white towels their mothers gave them after getting it as a gift on their wedding anniversary. In the middle of all the mess was a frozen Namjoon, hair disheveled and mouth hanging wide open, a bottle of scent-blocking spray in his hands and a sweater Taehyung never saw before covering his torso. How long the omega had been that way was a mystery the alpha was too afraid to ask.

 

"Joonie, are you okay?" and the initial lack of an answer was enough to worry the man. Namjoon just kept staring at  nothing, the same way as before, unaware of his brother's presence in the room until the alpha shook his arm lightly, "Joonie?"

 

It was like snapping his fingers in front of the man, Namjoon getting off his trance, coughing on his own spit and blinking his eyes quickly. He looked at his younger brother like the alpha was something out of this world, surprised to find him there. He hugged the spray bottle tightly, wetting his lips in pure confusion.

 

"I think I froze? I was just taking your scent off this stuff for some... unknown reason," he looked around, petting a Baymax plushie gently, "I guess I took some things from your room, I'm sorry." The omega looked as lost as he sound, and Taehyung was not dumb - he dutifully watched all the health classes in school and got good grades, as his mothers requested him to, so this behavior was not something to worry about... if Namjoon was mated.

 

"Joonie, are you nesting?"

 

There was a moment of complete silence, the two men just looking into each other's eyes.

 

" Oh, fuck."

 

The shiver going down the omega's entire body was visible, and Taehyung decide to just let him process that information, giving him a moment to breathe. Namjoon sunk his nose on the collar of the sweater he wore - the only thing in his entire pile of fluffiness that wasn't bathed in the clear spray. The scent of distressed omega now filled the tiny space, and everything his younger brother could do was to sigh, asking calmly if he could join the other inside the makeshift nest, the approval coming in the form of a small nod. Growing up, their mothers were always pointing how different - but immensely amazing - were the scents of their three children. Seokjin's was spicy, warm and pepperish, full of protectiveness, while Taehyung's was hot strong-brewed coffee, unstoppable energy.

 

And then there was Namjoon's. The scent of the only omega in their little happy family - before Yoongi's arrival - had always been a source of comfort, a soothing presence that didn't reflect his strong personality, but complemented it in a way that was impossible not to want to stay near him. Taehyung could smell it now, rainy days and fresh peppermint spiking through him, the layer of panic unmissable, but not unpleasant.

 

"Do you want to talk about it? You don't have to but... you and I both know there's only one explanation for this," he went for his brother's hand, interlacing their fingers, "I just want you to know that I'm here and I'm going to support you no matter what."

 

"I don't think I can talk about this right now," the omega sobbed, leaning on his brother's shoulder, letting the alpha hold him, "It's too complicated. Just... yeah. I imprinted on someone and now both my life and my body are out of control. I should have expected this, shit, why am I so stupid?"

 

"Hey, Joonie. Joonie," Taehyung petted the man's silver hair, whispering against the top of his head, "It's okay. Life sucks and it's okay to not have control over everything once in a while. Whatever happens - whatever is the reason why this imprinting is bringing you such pain - you'll be fine. I'll be here for you. Everybody will be here for you. You're loved and important and we'll get over this. Do you want me to do anything? Grab more blankets? Make some tea?"

 

"Tea, yes," he sniffled, but made no move to let go of his brother.

 

"Namjoon, do you want me to call Seokjinie? Not as a brother, but as a doctor? I'm sure he wouldn't pry on anything, just check if you are okay."

 

"No, I'm not feeling sick yet, but," his eyes were closed shut, hand tightly clutched on the alpha's jacket  as he spoke, "Yoongi. I wanna talk to Yoongi. Could you please call him?"

 

"Sure, sure. I'll brew your tea and make that call, okay? You think you'll be fine?"

 

Namjoon nodded, wrapping himself in a thick blanket, a little omega cocoon in the middle of the giant nest. Taehyung never saw his brother as fragile - never would, probably - and that was the thing most people didn't get: being vulnerable wasn't a sign of weakness, no. It was the bravest display of courage one could project. Asking for help wasn't failing, it was acting upon something difficult with a brave heart despite all the trouble. People didn't understand omegas - people didn't understand omegas like Namjoon. Still, to Taehyung, there was no one in this world he admired more. He just hoped his brother knew all of that.

 

- ♡ -

 

Nothing good ever happened in the middle of the night, Jimin thought, his socked feet dragging the omega along the dark corridor that separated his apartment from the younger Kim's home. He wore his favorite flannel pajamas and his most-hated tired expression, his muscles sore and his heart heavy. The man knew this was a bad idea - barging into his best friend's house while his husband was sound sleep at their home - but the urge to seek coffee scent and home took the best of him. It was like a calling, driving him away from his cold empty bed to knock softly on the alpha's door. He just hoped his intrusion didn't wake Namjoon up - only God knew how much the boy needed to rest.

 

Thinking about Namjoon brought a bittersweet taste to his mouth, a pang on his chest he couldn't quite ignore. He had sworn to Hoseok their secret was safe with him - to be honest he didn't see himself bragging out there about how the husband he didn't want to marry imprinted on one of his best friends making the three of them miserable. That added up to the appointment with Heeyeon and the meeting with the Jungs was enough to put him in a sour state of mind, his body starved of touch and affection, his soul longing for a bit of love.

 

Taehyung opened the door, bare chest and messy hair, confused expression taking his whole face. By the focused stare he gave Jimin and the quickness to open the door, the alpha had been as awake as his best friend, brow frowned at the dark circles under the omega's eyes.

 

"Hey", he whispered softly, trying his damn best to not crumble down in front of his friend, "Can I please sleep here tonight?"

 

"Yeah, sure," the alpha answered after a heartbeat, moving aside to welcome him inside the apartment. The lights were out there too, the only thing illuminating the room being the open microwave, where a mug of hot chocolate was still placed. "Is everything okay?"

 

"No. No, this whole day was a mess," Jimin tried to smile, but it didn't work. He didn't want to cry, he couldn't cry, but the tears were already pooling on the sides of his eyes, "The worst mess I've been in in ages. But I really, really just want to forget and… it’s a long story, I don’t want to wake Joonie up with my babbling. Can I... can we just cuddle?"

 

"What kind of question is that?" but the worry never left his expression, even though he seemed kind of stiff, stuck by the door, "And don’t worry, Joon is at Yoongi and Seokjin’s place. They took him there,” there were something more to that, but Jimin didn’t dare ask, “I'll fix us some chocolate. Sugar is always the answer. Get yourself comfortable, I'll follow you in a minute, okay?"

 

Jimin nodded, feeling a shiver go down his spine when the alpha squeezed his arm. He just wanted to tackle Taehyung in a hug now and there, but he was too afraid of not making it to his bedroom if he did, too afraid of causing the man more problems - he was sure that if he started crying in the middle of the living room Taehyung would sleep on the floor with him, too preoccupied about disturbing his friend to move them. So the omega followed the path he knew like the back of his hand, stopping by the bathroom in an impulse to wipe his face and blow his nose, taking a deep breath while stepping on the cold tiles.

 

He didn't know how long he stood by the sink, facing himself in the mirror without actually acknowledging the image reflected, just letting his mind go empty places and return to him in pieces. His neck hurt, back tense with all his apprehensions, and still he had to move, the warmth of Taehyung's scent lulling him like a moth drawn to a flame.

 

When the omega finally entered the semi-dark room his friend was already there, lying on the bed with his torso leaning on the wall, checking something on his phone, the two mugs of hot cocoa forgotten on the nightstand. The yellow light from the lamp fell on his face like a blessing, highlighting his features and Jimin really thought it was impossible for Taehyung to get any more handsome than he already was, but still... in that moment there wasn't a single thing in the world more beautiful than him.  

 

Jimin kneeled on the soft mattress, crawling through it so he could just be by the alpha's side, laying his head on his chest, skin so, so warm there, the rich coffee scent making him dizzy. The omega just threw a hand over the man's waist, getting as close as their bodies could get, feeling bliss in being held by the arms that caged his frame. It was so easy to sink his nose on the flesh under Taehyung's collarbones, nuzzle there for comfort while the alpha massaged his scalp with long fingers, whispering the sweetest words to the crown of his head. It didn't matter the man didn't know everything that happened in his best friend's day. All that mattered was that he was there, love and familiarity and security, body finally relaxing, melting under the touch.

 

Closing his eyes, the omega never felt more at home.

Chapter Text

"Do you guys have any fruit in this apartment?"

 

Jimin growled, pacing around the small kitchen with his sleepy-heavy eyes and bared feet, searching for something they could turn into a lazy breakfast, the omega refusing the idea of going to college with an empty stomach. Taehyung just watched him from one of the high stools behind the counter, suppressing a yawn and the itch of getting up and hugging the omega just for the sake of it, just because their mornings always felt domestic like that.

 

"I'm sure there were some bananas... at some point in time. I don't know. I'm not sure when was the last time Joon or I went out for groceries."

 

"Disgusting," he fake sighed, checking a gallon of soy milk that probably belonged to the older omega, "You told me yesterday that Yoon and Jin collected him? What happened?"

 

"He wasn't feeling very well. A fever or something," the hesitation in the alpha's answer was there, mixed in the white lie he told his best friend. Some secrets weren't his to tell. If Namjoon ever felt like letting more people in, he would do it himself. "Nobody trusts me with sick people, so they took him there."

 

"You two are shitty at taking care of yourselves," he popped his tongue, mixing the improvised pancake batter, tasting it with his pinky, "Not that I'm any better, but anyway... Hope  he gets well soon, that noodle thing. Guk will have a blast, though. Here, open your mouth," the omega commanded, finger covered in the sticky mix, taking it to his best friend's mouth, "Is it too sweet?"

 

And Taehyung wanted to act nonchalantly about, like it wasn't a big deal to wrap his mouth around the soft skin, like it wasn't hard to separate the caramel impregnated in each fiber of his flesh from the vanilla-cinnamon of the dough. He was glad Jimin was never the perceptive kind of guy, never the one to pick on heartbeats or how the alpha's body tensed the second he licked the batter.

 

"It's good. It would be great with strawberries," the words came out slurred, but were there anyway, Jimin just humming to himself and adding a bit more salt to it, brow furrowed in concentration.

 

"Well, we'll have to do it with just honey."

 

The sound of the pan cooking each pancake slowly was comforting, the soothing voice of the omega singing a pop tune while preparing a mug of coffee for himself and chamomile tea for the alpha, asking him to pour them some granola in two colorful bowls he found under the sink. Moments like those made Taehyung wonder about having mornings like these forever, just the two of them, the world far, far away, their love the only existing matter in the room.

 

"It'd be better with some sliced bananas, but I guess it's edible," Jimin munched on the little pile he made for both of them, no need to get two plates dirty when they'd steal bites from each other anyway. "If you want we could go for groceries later today... I want to get some stuff too. It's been a while since I cooked a real meal, I feel like doing it tonight. Some pasta? Are you up to it?"

 

"Yeah, sure, but..." the alpha was confused by the sudden wish, "Hoseok?"

 

"It's kinda hard to cook for a chef," his chuckle was annoyed, far from having happiness in it, "And he's never at home for meals, and I don't like cooking for myself only... But if you have any plans I understand, it's okay, I can do it any other day."

 

"No, it's fine. Dinner sounds great," there was still something Jimin was hiding from him, "Is everything really okay?"

 

The seconds of silence where Jimin just swallowed a mouthful of hot coffee were already answer enough.

 

"Yesterday I went to Heeyeon's office for an appointment. Yoongi went with me," the omega played with the granola in his bowl, not meeting his best friend's eyes, "After the wedding I got my first batch of birth control. They are not sending me suppressants anymore, so... I'm going into heat sooner or later. Problem is my body rejects Hoseok's scent and after some things we discussed... I'm sure I'll reject him if he's the one helping me.  So I went to her to ask for advice on how to proceed."

 

"What she said?"

 

"That I have to find someone else to spend my heats with me," and that's when he finally searched for his friend's eyes, a sad smile on his lips and his hands trembling around the mug, "Someone I don't get attached to, because I'll never be able to mate with anyone."

 

The lump going down Taehyung's throat felt more real than he'd like to admit, dry and making the flesh hurt and raw on the inside, cutting the air trying to get to his lungs. It was a blessing Jimin didn't search for his eyes after the confession, still focusing on his own coffee, because the alpha needed that minute of silence to try to compose himself again. What does one say to the love of their life when a bomb like that was just dropped over their head?

 

I'm an alpha, I could help you for the rest of our lives.

 

His mind went through a millions of a different thoughts per minute, the sweet taste of honey still on his tongue, still warm to the touch of his lips. His best friend still kept his gaze away, feeding off the heaviness of the room, body slumping into itself.

 

It doesn't have to mean anything. I won't mate anyone else anyway.

 

Taehyung chose the option that broke his heart the least.

 

"How are you feeling?"

 

“Ain’t no fairytale ever started like that, right?” the tears were there, shining in the corners of Jimin’s eyes, but his lips put on a fake smile. The omega was never the best of actors, never the one to be picked for dramas at school. “I guess I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it and… keep surviving.”

 

Well, what a gigantic fool Taehyung was. He ended up heartbroken anyway. But it was not about him, it was about his best friend and the rest of his life, so he did what he needed to do, did the only thing he could actually do. Jumping out of his chair, Taehyung closed the space between the two, enveloping the smaller man in a tight embrace.

 

“We’ll figure things out. It’ll be okay.”

 

They’ve reached the point in their lives where all they had left was hope.

 

**

 

See, Namjoon knew he shouldn’t be there. He knew sneaking out of his brother’s house when Yoongi left him alone for a second to give Jeongguk a bath was a bad idea, and he knew the older omega would skin him alive once he noticed his absence, but… but it hurt, and his body sung and honestly, Namjoon was kind of exhausted of thinking. Of calculating each one of his steps, of running away from his instincts. So just for once he let his biology do the talking, just for once he found himself getting in a cab and letting the driver take him to where his heart already lived.

 

And that was how he ended up waiting at the reception desk of Hoseok’s restaurant, hands in the pockets of the clean pair of jeans Seokjin lent him and breathing out of control with the mere act of waiting. Not his proudest moment, for sure.

 

“Namjoon?,” the voice he urged for suddenly called, his senses being clouded by that particular scent, the one that became the world to him. Hoseok was behind him, white dolman and black slacks, hair disheveled and chest moving up and down, a mirror to Namjoon’s state. It was nice, knowing it was not one-sided, knowing he wasn’t the only one affected.

 

“Hey,” he tried, even though his voice sounded thin, unused, “Do you mind if I just… sit down and watch you cook? Just for a while?”

 

The way Hoseok’s face lit up at the request was something Namjoon would find hard to forget so soon. Understanding take over his face, and then those heart-shaped lips formed that smile Namjoon didn’t see often, but that spread warmth through his whole body anyway. The alpha just nodded, offering him his hand, and who was the omega to decline it? He couldn’t, not really.

 

It smelled like spices and herbs inside the restaurant’s kitchen, an open space full of complicated equipments and large windows covered in plants. Whatever were the dishes being prepared there, they looked delicious, Namjoon’s stomach growling when they passed through a set of tall pots still boiling. Judging by his low chuckle, Hoseok heard the annoying noises coming from him, hurrying to make the man comfortable.

 

The way the alpha lifted him by the waist to help him sit on top of a counter shouldn’t make his legs tremble and his temperature rise, but Namjoon gave up understanding his own body a while ago.

 

“My sous-chef is sick, so please don’t mind the insanity much,” and Hoseok looked so damn adorable, cheeks red and hands moving, grabbing a plate and filling it with bites of different things, handing it to Namjoon soon after, “Would you be kind enough to try these for me?”

 

Trust Hoseok to be smooth like that, but Namjoon couldn’t complain, not when the first bite almost made him moan on the spot. God, he couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten something, probably sometime around the prior afternoon. Seokjin did try to make him eat breakfast, but his stomach was still too upset back then. And sure, he knew that whole thing had to do with instincts and biology and his alpha being able to provide for him and the omega always hated that notion, but Hoseok was a damn good chef. His alpha was a damn good chef. What could he do with that information?

 

His words were all slurred, mumbled out when he couldn’t stop eating to tell Hoseok “this is absolutely delicious,” but they gained him some laughter and the brightest smile Namjoon recalled seeing in his life. He had no plans going there, no subject to discuss or real reason to just be around, but it didn’t seem like a huge matter once he was there. Namjoon got himself comfortable, resting his back against the cold glass window behind him, watching as Hoseok moved graciously from pot to pan, from cutting boards to the fridge and back, humming songs under his breath and hand-feeding the omega pieces of fruit every once in a while.

 

All the shivers going down Namjoon’s spine whenever that happened were too much for his poor old heart.

 

They talked, too, about nothing and about everything. It was easier, like finally being able to breathe after a marathon, words flowing out of their mouths and filling the silence of  the room, waiters coming and going but never interrupting them, plates and silverware clicking and battering against each other, the soft sounds coming from the dining room nothing more than background music. Namjoon felt content and full and warm, the hours passing by them, dessert sweet on the tip of his tongue and Hoseok leaning against the counter by his side, smiling and talking with his hands and that glimmer in his eyes that never seemed to go away.

 

Namjoon wondered if that was how having Hoseok as his alpha would be like. Bright. Warm. Homey. So good it almost made him forget they could never actually have it. The information still floated in the back of his mind anyway.

 

The omega wasn’t sure what time it exactly was when he started shivering, side effect of the chaos inside his body for sure, the only thing he could acknowledge was the alpha there, wrapping him in his jacket, massaging on his side in that careful way of his. Namjoon wondered if he could notice, if he could feel that things were slowly changing, but it was hard to focus when the man’s scent was everywhere around him, thick and mouth-watering and impregnated on the fabric of his coat. No other scent ever made him feel like that. Complete. Complete was a good word to describe.

 

“Excuse me,” a soft knock on the door startled both of them, the voice vaguely familiar in Namjoon’s dreamy state of mind. It wasn’t until a serious-looking Yoongi entered the kitchen with Jeongguk attached to his hip that the omega recalled the real world around him, “I’m looking for a runaway. Looks like a noodle, is a Mr.Know-It-All, and is actually too nice for his own good despite being a fucking Kim. Think you saw him?”

 

“How did you…?” Namjoon started, trying not to sound guilty. He was an adult, he could come and go wherever he wanted. Even though it was kind of a low blow not saying anything to his hosts.

 

“You always use the same cab to go anywhere. We bribed him,” the older omega shrugged, giving his son a piece of apple from a plate of fruit. It wasn’t until Jeongguk was properly distracted that he turned his attention to the men in front of him.

 

And it was like he could see for the first time, understanding blooming on his face. That was the moment Namjoon knew Yoongi knew. That was also the moment things started to get a bit more complicated to him.

 

“Don’t tell him anything,” the younger omega managed to mouth, not wanting Hoseok to be shaken off his feet with the possibility of Namjoon starting to get into heat. His brother-in-law seemed to get the message, nodding even though his expression wasn’t one of contentment with the situation. Yoongi never had much of a poker face.

 

“I had some stuff to do around him that was… urgent. So I stopped for lunch. Hoseok let me stick around,” a lie inside a lie inside a lie. Fuck. Namjoon had no idea what he was saying anymore, or who he was lying to. What a beautiful mess his life was.

 

“Yeah,” Hoseok confirmed, not knowing that he was being lied to as well, “My sous-chef is sick and it’s a bit lonely here without him so I asked Namjoon to make me company.”

 

“It was very nice of Noodley, glad to know he’s been trying to be social,” and yes, definitely, Min Yoongi didn’t know how to keep it cool, how to hide exactly what he was thinking. At least he was quick-witted, “But we came after you because we got that. Thing. To do.  For Guk’s class. That one. We’re going to sign him up to.”

 

Yeah, great cover up, Min Yoongi. One would think a guy who lived off telling stories wouldn’t be so stiff delivering them.

 

“Sure,” Namjoon answered, trying to not slap his own face in cringeness, jumping from the counter like it physically hurt him to do so. Perhaps it did, “Thank you so much for everything, Hoseok. It was all great. I… see you around?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” and seeing the alpha blush filled his chest with the purest kind of adoration, the one that could make him hug the man and never let go. He restrained himself from doing it, though, “Thank you for your company.”

 

They didn’t touch each other for their goodbyes, and honestly it was better like that. Namjoon didn’t know if he’d be able to let go. He wasn’t that strong. What was left for him was to pick  Jeongguk up and get the boy close to his heart, his nephew always emanating that safe, comforting baby scent of his. It was good to keep him grounded. To keep him sane. As soon as they left the restaurant, Yoongi interlaced their arms, whispering in that conspiratorial way of his:

 

“I have so many questions.”

 

**

 

The smell of pasta cooking and the soft notes coming from the radio established the atmosphere in Jimin’s apartment that night. There they were, Taehyung and him, trying to prepare some fancy dessert which recipe they got on Pinterest while their dinner was in the final stages of being ready, elbows brushing and hearts lighter than they were before. They cried a lot together that morning, on the rug in Taehyung’s kitchen, all over each other till their eyes hurt and their lungs couldn’t take anymore. So both friends promised there would be no more crying that night, nothing but food and wine and movies and cuddles like the old days, with Holt meowing softly and being an adorable presence in general.

 

And so far everything was going smoothly, no big worries taking them off that sweet routine, happiness bubbling inside Jimin’s chest for the first time in a while. He missed Taehyung, even when he was there, he missed Taehyung with his whole chest. There was no one in the world like his best friend.

 

“I was thinking about dying my hair,” the alpha mumbled between tomato bites, cheeks like a chipmunk and so, so damn cute, “Fire red or maybe… maybe aqua blue? What do you think?”

 

“If you do aqua blue then we’ll match! Cotton candy babes. Or mermaids. We could be mermaids for Halloween then,” Jimin grinned, pointing at his own pink locks, “But red would look great, too. You know you can rock any color, you stupid beautiful nerd.”

 

Taehyung blushed easily, pink dusting his cheeks and spreading through his neck and it was so nice to look at, to be the cause of that. The omega just chuckled, focusing on draining the water from the pasta, stirring the sauce the moment after, his best friend’s divagations about hairstyles keeping him entertained and focused on the tasks at hands.

 

That was, of course, till someone rang the doorbell. Nothing good ever happened anytime they heard that buzzer lately.

 

“I knew you’d be here,” Yoongi’s voice filled the living room as soon as Taehyung opened the door, the older omega leaving heavy steps behind him, “We really need to- Oh, hi Jimin. I. Didn’t expect seeing you here.”

 

“It’s… my apartment?” and it would be funny, weren’t Yoongi so anxious around them, in that way he paced and stopped and paced and stopped.

 

“Sure. Yeah, of course you’d be here,” the man turned back to his brother in law, biting his bottom lip, “Look, we need to talk. Now. Can we please talk?”

 

“Okay. Go ahead,” Taehyung had his forehead wrinkled and his arms crossed in front of his chest, dark piercing eyes staring right at the smaller man in front of him, “You know I don’t keep anything from Chim, you can just go ahead.”

 

“Sounds fake, but okay,” and why Yoongi was being so cryptic and so weird was a mystery none of them were very keen to solve, “Look, it’s about Joonie. Joonie and that thing. The thing you called me for yesterday. The thing. I think I know who caused the thing.”

 

And just like that, things were very clear. At least to Jimin. Great. Perfect. The last thing he needed on his no drama, llama night.

 

“Are you talking about Namjoonie and Hoseok?”

 

That low, whispered question got two very different reactions from the ones who heard it, a “wait, what?” screamed by Taehyung and a choked “wait, do you know about it?” from Yoongi. Not the kind of spotlight he wanted for himself, but when had life been on his side lately?

 

“Hoseok told me,” the omega shrugged, not really sure what do with himself, all his limbs suddenly seeming too awkward, “He told me they imprinted and that it hurts being apart. That’s honestly all I know.”

 

“I didn’t know it was Hoseok,” Taehyung mumbled, and it sounded almost like an apology, and somehow that hurt more, “I knew Joonie had imprinted on someone, but I just…”

 

“I don’t think he wanted any of us to know,” Yoongi intervened, leaning against a wall, “He was nesting yesterday, Chim. This is why we took him to our place, so Jinnie could keep an eye on him, but he went away this morning and I found him at Hoseok’s restaurant, and seeing them together, it became so clear... “

 

“Where is Joon now?”

 

“Brought him back to your apartment, Noodley refused to go back to ours. Said he missed his bed, but he just… is attached to his nest. It’s a shitty feeling to be away from it,” the older omega clicked his tongue, not sure where to look, perhaps afraid of what he would find, “Guys… I swear to God I didn’t wanna be the one to tell you this, but… he’ll be in heat soon. A couple of days, tops. He can’t spend it alone - and trust me, I’ve known this motherfucker for the longest time now, he’ll try to suggest it-, his body won’t accept anyone else but his true mate…”

 

The question was there, implicit on the air, but it had to be asked, anyway.

 

“What are we going to do?”

Chapter Text

The feeling of days passing by like the tick-tack of a time bomb didn’t sit well on any of their stomachs, but that was exactly what all that agony felt like. Namjoon’s heat could start at any moment, and the omega’s word was set on stone when it came to not letting Hoseok know about his situation. It was a secret not even Seokjin was aware of, which lead to Yoongi being jittery the whole time they were around each other - honesty was one of the main bases of their marriage, and the older omega wasn’t the type to break his promises, but still… Still, Yoongi showed up the next morning of the discovery with a box filled with his own birth control pills to  give to his brother-in-law. “ I just had a heat and you know we wouldn’t actually mind having another baby,” was all he said.

 

And the rest was all tic-toc, tic-toc.

 

When Friday night arrived there were many other things Jimin’d rather be worrying about - his future, global warming, the imminent death of everything and everyone he loved - but there he was staring at his own image in the bathroom mirror, fixing the collar of his dark red suit again and again. It was a bold choice - he could already see his mother-in-law screeching at him, screaming something like pink hair, red suit, chipmunk cheeks, using a damn scent blocker, what kind of whore is this? - but honestly, he was too tired of  giving fucks. It was not like they would start liking him more after that stupid company party his in-laws were making Hoseok and him attend, not after realizing that, again, the couple hadn’t scented each other.

 

It was not like they could explain that it was physically impossible for that to happen since Hoseok had imprinted on the next-door omega who happened to be one of Jimin’s childhood friends. So scent blocker it was, at least to keep it kind of under control. They could come up with an excuse for that easily, anyway. The soft knocking sound took him out of his trance, Hoseok staring at him with bags under his eyes.

 

“Hey,” the alpha whispered gently, leaning against the doorframe. He was wearing black from head to toe, and perhaps that was just a reflection of his state of mind. Jimin knew the man was as tired as he was, worse maybe, since Namjoon had been avoiding him in order to hide the symptoms of his heat. That was clearly taking a toll on the chef. “Are you ready to go?”

 

“Sure,” and it sounded like a lie because it was, but he was trying to get out of that swamp, trying to bring light into his life for a bit. “Are you driving?”

 

“Guess so,” Hoseok shrugged, adding with a tiny smile later, “You look good. My mom’s gonna hate it.”

 

“Perfect,” the laugh was genuine, something bubbly and cheerful the omega didn’t even know he still had in him. Maybe they could save a part of that night, getting drunk on fancy champagne and laughing at the pomposity of the other guests. “Let’s do it.”

 

**

Weird party, weird people, Jimin thoughts swirled inside his mind, the omega sipping happily from his wine glass in one of the less crowded spaces of the ballroom. The air was thick with sour scents, scents of rich, unhappy people, something so normal in that kind of environment most of them didn’t even realize anymore, but Jimin had to focus on the glimmer from the golden chandeliers and the violins being played on the stage to avoid his throat clogging.

 

At least he had Hoseok to help him get distracted, the alpha pulling faces each time some old, annoying businessman stopped by to greet him and essentially  just complain about the menu choices, to the point where Hoseok decided to go to the kitchen to try to assemble something edible for them, the omega was eternally grateful for the plate of appetizers the Hoseok was able to create with the ingredients they had.

 

The rest… the rest was just bitter people doing bitter things, Hoseok’s parents showing them off like trophies in public, but judging them to no end in private, questions and more questions about their wedding, their plans for the future, “ why is Jimin on scent blockers?” and “Oh, I had a project in college and we had to put them on,” followed by a “Why would an omega still go to college after marriage?” which took a lot of self-restraining and Hoseok’s pretending to have seen one of his friends for Jimin to not stab the person in the eye with a fork.

 

They started to simply ignore the questions about mating after a while.

 

It was nice to be able to ignore everything and everyone for a change, to hide in their peaceful corner and pretend everything was okay. And it did work, for a while, for a few songs and a glass and a half of wine, which was quite surprising, if Jimin were to be quite honest to himself. So when he felt his phone vibrating in the inside pocket of his jacket, it did end up startling him a bit. Seeing Taehyung’s name on the caller ID didn’t help much - the man knew where he was and what he was doing. If he called, something had happened.

 

People often referred to some moments in their life when they had an out of body experience, but up to that moment Jimin never felt like he truly had one. But there, in that noisy party surrounded by people who wanted nothing from him but everything he couldn’t give, it was really like Jimin was watching himself picking up that call from afar. He could see his eyes growing in shock and his mouth opening slowly, could see his tight grip on the phone and how stiff his shoulders got while listening to Taehyung nervous voice.

 

“Is everything okay?” Hoseok shook him off his stupor, mouth making that weird curve it did whenever he was worried, red hair sticking to his forehead, and… it was one of those times in his life, one of those stupid moments the omega had to make a quick decision that would have consequences bigger than his own life. Jimin could see the blue butterfly batting its wings above his head like in a video game, whatever he chose to say next altering their realities from now on.

 

Thing is, Jimin was tired of being miserable, and exhausted of seeing the ones he loved suffering, so at the end of the day, there was no real choice at all.  

 

“Namjoon is in heat,” he whispered, covering his phone, Taehyung going silent on the other side. There was no point in lying, no point in denying fate without expecting any backlash.

 

There was a range of different emotions going through Hoseok’s face, from confusion to heartbreak to surprise, all in one, all at the same time. There were no words coming from the alpha’s mouth, but his hands were shaking, like a veil had been taken from his eyes and the truth was finally exposed.

 

“Go. Go to him,” Jimin simply said, touching one of his arms to bring the man back, to ground him. Hoseok looked at him with panic in his eyes and something else, and the omega understood, he really did. That’s why he added, “It’s okay, Hobi. Just go.”

 

That was all the incentive the alpha needed to nod slightly and flee the party, not bothering to apologise to the people he bumped on his way back. Jimin watched him leave with something heavy being lifted off his chest. Perhaps it was the feeling of doing something good for the first time in ages, perhaps it was simply knowing it was right, it was meant to be. Whatever it was, he’d have to think about later.

 

Chim?” Taehyung’s voice requested his attention again, “What’s happening?”

 

“Hobi’s on his way. Don’t worry, he’ll be there soon,” drinking his wine in one go, he added, “You can stay at my place. I guess it will all take a while, right? The heat thing?” Jimin didn’t want to give it too much thought, honestly, “I just lost my ride back, but I’ll get a cab. Make us some tea, right?”

 

“No, wait. Just wait there, I’ll pick you up. God knows I could use the distraction and the time away from this building.”

 

Yeah, he answered, ending the call right there. Perhaps both of them needed a distraction.

 

**

The stop lights and the traffic and the elevator back at their building, all of them decided to move slower, making his blood boil in frustration and his limbs shake in worried anticipation. There were a million thoughts going through Hoseok’s brain in the short ride to the fifth floor, but the urgency to get to Namjoon clouded them all, tightened his chest with things he couldn’t exactly explain. The alpha had lost half of his attire on the way there, jacket and tie forgotten in his car alongside his cellphone, nothing in the world more important than being there.

 

The sight Hoseok got when the elevator doors opened could easily be pulled off of a fairytale. Taehyung was there, leaning on the door of the apartment he shared with his brother like a dragon before the gates of a castle, arms crossed in front of his chest and a suitcase on the floor by his feet. His relationship with the alpha was always… awkward, to say the least. It was complicated living in a place that reeked like Taehyung knowing that Hoseok was the one between Jimin and him, and it became even more complicated after imprinting on his older brother. They couldn’t say they were friends, heck, they weren’t even friendly to each other.

 

It was going to be a fun conversation, sure.

 

“How?” was the first thing that left his mouth, perhaps because that was the biggest of the questions he had twirling in his brain, “When?”

 

“You guys imprinted, it was bound to happen, right? According to Jinnie, the fact that you tried to keep your distance bottled up his heat till it got to the limit. He’s been nesting for a few days now,” Taehyung said, and his body somehow spoke, too, the message clear: Hoseok wasn’t on his good terms, “He keeps calling for you, but trust me, you may be his true mate, but hurt him in any way and I’ll slice your throat.”

 

Perhaps the man growled, and in any other moment Hoseok would have felt like it was a challenge, his alpha taking the sentence as a threat. But he just wanted to get to the other side of that door, to get to Namjoon who was waiting for him. So instead of showing him his teeth, Hoseok just took a deep breath, fixing his own posture.

 

“Easy, pup. I’d rather die than hurt your brother, and you know it,” he didn’t add the part where Namjoon would hate them both for having that conversation. He didn’t need to make fire meet gasoline.

 

If his words actually had some effect over the younger alpha, Hoseok would never get to know. What mattered was Taehyung’s small nod and how he cleared the way to the door, mumbling something about picking Jimin up and water and food on the fridge before leaving the man to deal with the doorknob, heart in his throat.

 

Entering the apartment was like being suddenly transported to a rainforest. Namjoon’s scent was heavy in the air, filling his lungs and his mouth with herbs and rainy days, with being at home and finding peace, but also… also with desperation and need, that spicy undertone that indicates the heat burning at the back of his nose. Instinct was the thing leading Hoseok through the small place, helping him find the room that belonged to the omega.

If his heart was just a bit weaker and didn’t know what was expecting him behind that door, perhaps Hoseok would have collapsed right here and right there, gone from this world forever with the amount of emotion going through his body. The herbal scent was thicker there, sure, but this time his eyes were the ones making him dizzy for showing him the scenario in that boxy bedroom.

 

Most of the place was taken by it, by Christmas lights hanging on the ceiling over layers of white sheets, by an enormous bed covered in comforters, pillows and clothes, by stuffed animals and multi-colored quilts. A nest in all its glory, and in the center of it, folded into himself in an attempt to make himself tiny, Namjoon lied, sounds of crying echoing around him.

 

It shattered Hoseok’s heart in more ways he could ever acknowledge.

 

Approaching the nest the alpha could take in the state of the man more accurately. Namjoon had tear streaks and pillow marks on his face, silver hair sprawled all over the mattress. He had his legs closed tightly in his embrace, a giant white t-shirt the only thing covering him up, skin shiny with a thin layer of sweat. He looked exhausted, dark circles under his closed eyes and quivering lips, chest moving up and down too quickly for it to be normal.

 

“Hoseok?” Namjoon called, startling the alpha. His eyes were hazy, irises turned molten gold trying to focus on him.

 

“Yes, baby, I’m here,” the pet name slipped through his lips before Hoseok could even realize it, his hands flying to touch the omega’s face. Namjoon’s skin was burning, the high fever taking over his body each passing minute. The sigh of relief coming from a simple touch from the alpha was hard to ignore.

 

“At least the fever brought me an upgrade of my dreams,” Namjoon chuckled to himself, nuzzling on Hoseok’s hand like a cat, “This dream-you talks. And I can smell your scent so, so well, like you were here. You seem so real…”

 

“No, I’m here, Joonie. It’s me. Hobi. I’m here with you, Taehyung called me,” the alpha grabbed one of his hands, intertwining their fingers, “Can you feel it? I’m here, baby.”

 

And by the way Namjoon’s eyes grew big and he couldn’t hold back his sobs anymore, the omega seemed to realize that in fact he wasn’t alone anymore, golden eyes flashing before he could simply whisper “Can you hug me, then?” and tear down whatever wall was left between the two of them. Who was Hoseok to deny him anything? The alpha entered the nest carefully, shoes discarded a long time ago fortunately, trying to not take anything out of place.

 

The way Namjoon melted as soon as Hoseok got his arms around him was just a taste of pure heaven, the alpha accommodating him on his chest and the omega going straight to his neck, scenting him like tomorrow would never come. Namjoon was full crying now, hands on a tight grip on Hoseok’s shirt while he mumbled “You’re really here, it’s you” over and over again, the alpha reassuring him in words and touches and every single thing his heart had to offer.

 

“It hurts, and it sucks, being consumed by this stupid fever” Namjoon said after a few minutes trying to calm down, lips pressed against his scent gland, sending shivers down both of their spines, “I was just… so sure I’d die through it. Alone. I just wished so much for you to be here and now you are and I’m just so… relieved. I feel less like a pathetic mess and more like me with you around me.”

 

“Baby, no one would ever let you alone, no. Not now, not ever. If I knew your heat was getting closer I wouldn’t have left your side,” he kissed the top of the omega’s head, rocking him lightly in his embrace, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Didn’t want to be a burden. Was just gonna pretend it wasn’t happening and wait till it went away like a good young adult,”  by the way he chuckled, even Namjoon could see the absurdity in his speech. “I’m glad you’re here, though. So glad. You smell so good. I’ve dreamed about this so many times.”

 

“Me too”, and now the alpha was the one with scenting fever, letting his lips slide through the man’s bare neck, feeling the warmth and tasting his skin right under his gland, right where the omega was most sensitive. Judging by the way his lap was getting soaked with slick, that was probably the right thing to do, “If I kiss you now, will you remember it in the future?”

 

“If you don’t kiss me I’ll remember how I gathered all my remaining strength to punch you in the balls.”

 

Sure, it wasn’t the way Hoseok thought his first kiss with his true mate would go, but he still wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. He wouldn’t trade the way Namjoon smiled so sweetly, dimples on full display, when their noses touched, wouldn’t trade how soft his lips where and how pliant he became on his arms. The alpha didn’t want to be cliché to the point where he’d say they were the perfect fit but… the universe had put its blessings on them, building them from the same star. When Namjoon whined in the lowest way and opened his mouth to him, Hoseok knew there was no going back, no leaving what they had behind before it was over.

 

For now, he didn’t have to think about it. For now, he could just kiss the man he loved, right there, eternity be damned.



**

 

If there was one thing Kim Taehyung knew how to do, it was how to make an entrance, Jimin couldn’t deny. The omega couldn’t help but laugh at seeing his best friend surfing through the crowd of fancy sharks in his baggy brown pants and oversized leather jacket, black combat boots and stupid grey beanie, navigating through the ballroom like he owned it. And perhaps he did. A few heads turned, giving him weird, disapproving looks, but he couldn’t care less, never was the type to bother with what others thoughts of him.

 

“May I have this dance?” the alpha winked at him getting closer, extending his hand in a flattering manner.

 

“You’re ridiculous,” and God, how Jimin loved him for it, for coming to his rescue in that Rich Party of Hell. So if he wanted to dance, they would, to that creepy slow song going on, “How’s everything down there? How did you get here so fast?”

 

“Borrowed Jinnie’s car,” he shrugged, enlacing Jimin’s waist with one of his arms, intertwining their hands with the other. It was comfortable, swaying there like the vile side of society wasn’t surrounding them. Being together was like being untouchable, invincible, “And fine, I guess. I let him in the apartment without ripping out one of his eyes, so I guess my pep talk was a success.”

 

“Shut up. You know Hobi’s a nice guy. He would never hurt Joonie in a million years. He loves him, you know? It’s written all over his face.”

 

“Guess you can say that,” he nodded, bumping into a judgmental old lady who couldn’t stop talking about them and leaving like he didn’t notice it. Jimin almost felt compelled to apologize, but his best friend’s pettiness seemed to start rub on him, “And you, Chim? How do you feel about all of this?”

 

“I don’t have much to feel, to be honest. It’s not like I ever felt something for Hobi, he’s just someone who I became friends with through awful ways. And Joonie’s family, he’s a brother to me. Couldn’t do anything that would hurt him,” Jimin sighed, resting his head on his friend’s shoulder, “At the end of the day, it was the only thing to do. The right thing to do. I guess if they don’t mate, we’ll all be safe. Maybe we’ll even find a way to be happy, after all.”

 

“We will,” Taehyung whispered on his ear, squeezing his waist reassuringly, “I promised you, didn’t I? You’ll be fine.”

 

Jimin didn’t answer, just kissed the alpha’s shoulder, feeling safe in the embrace of his scent. He lost track of time, of how many more songs they swayed to, stuck in that comfortable bubble that was only theirs. He was tired though, wanting nothing more than to go home.

 

“At least we’ll be able to play a never-ending sleepover for a few days,” the omega chuckled, pinching the other’s arm, “It shall be fun. Can we start now?”

 

“Absolutely. Burgers and fries on our way home?”

 

“I love how you read my mind, Kim Taehyung.”

Chapter Text

Hoseok didn’t know what time it was outside, and honestly he didn’t care too much about that, not in his current position.

 

The only thing he could see was flashes of sunshine coming through the curtains, but only if he moved his head in a certain way, which he didn’t want to do. There wasn’t much room to move, not with a naked spent Namjoon spread on top of him, face tucked on the side of his neck and whimpering lovely every time he was filled with the alpha’s come, his knot nested perfectly inside of him. It felt surreal, both of them being there, spending a heat together and in love after so long thinking they were doomed.

 

Inside that room nothing else mattered, and it felt so good. Namjoon’s weight on his chest, his skin so warm now the maddening fever broke for a couple moments, his scent so rich and so intoxicating heavy in the air. The omega had his eyes closed, trying to rest for a bit after the frenzy of the past day, but his lover couldn’t bring himself to do the same, couldn’t stare at nothing but him finally in his arms.

 

Hoseok traced the tip of his fingers over the small biting scar on Namjoon’s scent gland, the mark still fresh and angry red, just like the one the alpha carried on his own neck now. Mating had been an impulse, a thing of the moment, one thought slipping through Namjoon’s mouth as soon as Hoseok entered him and that his alpha couldn’t ignore. He didn’t regret it, and he know the omega didn’t either, had said it out loud in all his beautiful words the night prior to that.

 

They would deal with the consequences later. Together, as it should be.

 

Being mated was nothing like Hoseok ever felt in his entire life, the thrill of the moment still running like electricity through his veins, the taste of herbs and rain still on his mouth. Feeling their bond blooming was like coming back to life  after so long with their heads under water, air filling their lungs and blood rushing throughout their bodies. When Namjoon bit him the alpha couldn’t keep it, couldn’t refrain from saying “I love you” right against his throat, the sheer power of it unloading inside of him.

 

If soulmates were really made from the same stardust, Hoseok felt whole again, reunited with his best part.

 

Kissing the top of his mate’s head, Hoseok nuzzled on the soft, fluffy gray hair, trying to make himself take a nap while they were still locked together. That heat was far to be over, it’s strength doubled once the mating bites were exchanged, the need for energy twice as much from the beginning. The alpha just hugged Namjoon closer, smiling when the omega let out a small sound of content.

 

Everything would be fine.

 

**

 

“Please come in. Seokjin got Guk a bunny. I don’t know how to deal with it.”

 

Jimin let out a bubbly, happy laughter, and how nice it was being able to do that again, to feel free to do it. How nice it was going to Yoongi and Seokjin’s on a Saturday for lunch, arms linked with Taehyung feeling like there was no weight on his shoulders. Something shifted inside him the previous night after telling Hoseok to go, like his brain had finally expanded and let him see the possibilities ahead of him. Perhaps he had an idea of how to solve his own future heat situation. That and waking up by his best friend’s side in such a different light was enough to brighten his mood in the most ridiculous way. They followed Yoongi inside the house, the omega mumbling about not being able to handle such cuteness all at once.

 

And God, was he right. The scene unfolding in front of them as soon as the trio stepped into the living room was one especially designed for them to clutch at their own hearts. There was Jeongguk, sitting on the fluffy carpet beside his alpha father, a tiny grey Holland Lop on his arms, both too focused on each other to pay attention to anyone else in the room, Seokjin chuckling lovingly to the sight of his son.

 

“They… they twitch their noses in the same way,” an astonished Taehyung pointed, eyes as big as his nephew’s.

 

“It’s how they communicate,” his brother-in-law whispered and were those tears on his eyes? Probably. Yoongi kept mumbling “look at my baby, that’s my baby” in the most emotional way.

 

And that was how Jimin’s afternoon started, with Taehyung taking pictures of the two babies with his expensive complicated camera, Jeongguk posing for him exactly how the son of Seokjin would. It was so nice, playing on the floor and not worrying about a single thing, letting the small bunny sniff his hair and nibble on his fingers after the omega offered him snacks, his godson squealing in happiness every time the pet hopped around.

 

Food and friends and cute bunnies and Taehyung smiling that boxy smile of his, eyes shining bright with fondness and just the thought that somewhere back in their building Hoseok and Namjoon were finally together and happy, and that now he was able to do the same thing. That was Jimin’s little handmade heaven. Later his cheeks would hurt with happiness, but it was okay. It was all okay.

 

Adult talk started after lunch, with the four men drinking coffee in the backyard while Jeongguk napped on his big chair, bunny tucked by his side. It was very  polite of the mated couple not to ask any questions right away, but Jimin could see on both of their faces how curiosity was about to get the best of them, Seokjin looking ready to explode at any moment now, Yoongi staring at him torn between reprimanding his husband and supporting him a hundred percent.

 

It took them exactly five minutes to crumble down.

 

“So, Chim, your husband is cheating on you. With my brother. Because they imprinted,” Seokjin cleared his throat, and God, the omega didn’t know what kind of reaction he should have been displaying at that moment.

 

Seokjin,” his best friend called between gritted teeth, while Yoongi just disappeared in a tiny ball of laughter, trying his best not to wake up his sleeping son, and that was when Jimin knew he wouldn’t be able to contain his own chuckles for long.

 

“What? You have to admit, it’s kinda hilarious in an awful way, like you’re living a live-action version of Alanis’ Ironic. I love that song, Yoonie, you love that one too,” his husband agreed, still trying to recover, “And we know that you didn’t love each other anyway and… Am I being insensitive? Baby, am I being insensitive?”

 

“It’s okay, you’re not wrong,” Jimin answered at the same time Yoongi whispered “yeah, I guess a bit,” because he knew all that didn’t come from a judging place, no. Never from there. He knew how much the couple worried about him, took him under his wings and claimed him as family, “I feel kinda relieved, to be honest. Knowing that they are happy and together helps with my consciousness already. And I think… I think I got an idea of how to deal with my heats. That’s one of the reasons I came here, by the way.”

 

“Right, shoot,” the oldest alpha crossed his arms in front of his chest, and suddenly all of the eyes were on Jimin, watching his every move. He searched for Taehyung’s, relaxing a bit when his best friend winked at him, a smile showing on his face.

 

“You gave Joon your birth control pills, right, Yoon?” with a confirmation coming in form of a nod from the older omega, Jimin followed, “So I thought, since Joon’s suppressants won’t work anymore and I doubt they will want to separate ever again, we could trade. I could give him my birth control and he could give me his suppressants. He can be with Hobi and I can carry on with my life and we can just keep up with appearances for our families.”

 

There was a moment of silence where the other three seemed to digest what they have just heard, nothing but the soft snoring of Jeongguk in the air. It was up to Yoongi to bring everyone back to life.

 

“That’s actually a pretty genius idea.”

 

“It is. It’s perfect, actually,” Seokjin agreed, looking impressed, “We just have to pray for them not to mate. As long as they don’t do it, it’ll be fine, you know, I don’t feel like having a brother in jail for mating a married alpha. That would suck. How would we explain that to Guk?”

 

“They will not,” Taehyung tsked, the idea too absurd to be even entertained. He turned his body to his best friend, opening his warmest smile, whispering the words so only the two of them could hear, “I told you things would be okay, didn’t I?”

 

Yes, he did, Jimin thought, leaning on the alpha and breathing in his lovely scent. Yes, he did.

Chapter Text

Late nights were the time for soft lights and comfortable silence filling their living room.

Yoongi most liked to work at those times, nursing a mug of tea and his laptop on the sofa, fingers passing through the keys bearing the weight of years doing exactly the same thing. The man had been working on this series of omega stories for months now, showcasing what was like to grow up as one in the past decade, months of data and research before his eyes. On his lap Seokjin rested his head, eyes closed but he knew his mate wasn’t asleep, his lips mumbling the words the alpha heard in his headphones, probably another article he had stumbled upon during the day and wanted to spare himself of having to actually read it, internalizing the words better when they were said straight into his ear.

Jeongguk had been asleep for hours now, but both the men were always careful with the noise after the boy finally traveled to dreamland, their son quite the light sleeper. His bunny was also dead to the world on his cushion, the tiny furry chest going up and down with its soft breathing.

It was a perfect night, but both knew there was still something none were mentioning and kept screaming at the back of their minds.

 

“I can hear the tinkling inside your brain, Min Yoongi,” Seokjin mumbled lazily, nose poking his husband’s stomach through his pajama shirt, mouth forming that little pout of his that was hard to resist any given day, “Wanna talk about it?”

 

“You know what I’m thinking about,” the omega sighed, closing his laptop with a bit too much  strength, mind too polluted to work properly and givesatisfying results. Yoongi looked at his mate, at his puffy cheeks and tired eyes, at his soft smile and the way his brown hair fell on his forehead. His brain might be tingling, but his heart was forever in a state of warmful bliss.

 

“Yeah, I do. I was hoping it was just me being overly worried, but apparently not, right?” Seokjin chuckled dryly, unplugging his headphones and rubbing on his sleepy face one last time before he had to focus all his attention on the conversation happening, “Are you sure you wanna have this talk now? I’m sure it’ll not be a lullaby.”

 

“You know I won’t be able to sleep if I don’t let it out of my head,” and Seokjin knew, better than anyone. Back in his troubled days as a young dreamer, Yoongi never thought he would end up  mated to an alpha. He had never cared too much about them, always falling for omegas or betas and fooling around with the kind. Sure, he knew he liked alphas as well, but none had ever caught his attention, not really. Not until his best friend’s older brother, that soft, caring, beautiful soul he met on a spring day many years ago. It still baffled him how much Seokjin just understood him, in ways nobody had ever done before.

 

It was allowed for him to have soft, emo hours for his husband at three a.m., right? Right.

 

“So… what if they mated already?” the alpha voiced the prize-winner question out loud, but it still sounded lonely, so Yoongi had a couple more he could add to that.

 

“What if they mated? What if people discover they mated and turn them in? What if both Joon and Hoseok get arrested, what if Jimin gets sued for allowing it? What if Jimin has to spend the rest of his life by himself, what if Namjoon suffers more from not being able to officially be with Hoseok? What if Taehyung never confesses and never recovers from it, what if Jimin mates someone else and it turns into a snowball of lies?”

 

“These are… a lot of what ifs .”

 

“Trust me, I still have more from where those came from,” he played unconsciously with the alpha’s hair, twisting the soft strands between his fingers, “Can you imagine what a delight it would be to explain to our pup why all his uncles are in jail?” The distressed, sad sound that escaped his mouth surprised the omega as well. Yoongi was tired. He just wanted a bit of piece for everyone around them. “I just worry, a lot. Especially… especially about Joon. When I had no one left, he became my family, and then it led me to you and I just knew I’d never be alone again. So seeing him hurt… breaks my heart.”

 

“I love you so absurdly much,” Seokjin pulled his husband for a kiss, overwhelmed with the emotion growing on his chest. Their story was far from love at first sight, imprinting or soulmate-ry, but they didn’t need it to know they were meant to be, forever and always. The omega smiled between their pressed lips, a pleased sound filling the air. It was too hard to let go, “But what do we do? How can we make it right?”

 

Yoongi just stroked his cheek, kissing his mate’s forehead softly before whispering against his temple, almost like everything was too precious to say out loud. “I guess you should start preparing yourself, baby. It’s been a while since you bit someone.”

 

**

 

Jimin’s little beautiful plan of switching pills with Namjoon and living happily ever after avoiding their problems didn’t last long. Perhaps it was the universe’s way of telling him the answer to everything was either confrontation or death. He had been naive, too optimistic, too hopeful. Things were bound to go south any given time now.

 

It all happened on a Tuesday morning, two days after all the reassuring words he got from his friends that his life was not completely doomed. Looking back now, he should have seen all the signs pairing around his head, all the little things he did unconsciously and now were hunting his daydreams. He should have caught himself being cuddlier than normal sooner, the omega clinging to Taehyung’s back like he was a lifeline while they were sleeping. He should have taken the random fevers he got throughout the day more seriously instead of stuffing his face with medicine, the stickiness of his underwear he took as  just a collateral effect.

And of course, he should have noticed the monster he was creating. The cushions and the blankets that had disappeared from their places, all the lamps that once were spread around the house and now occupied each socket available in his bedroom and especially, the fact that not only every single piece of clothing he owned was carefully placed around his bed, but also Taehyung’s entire suitcase was thrown here and there in complete harmony.

 

A nest in the most traditional sense, just waiting there for an imminent disaster.

 

Jimin was sitting in the middle of it, tears running down his face and cold sweat rolling on his  curved back. The omega had lost track of how long he’d been there, hugging a soft blanket Taehyung’s mom knitted him when they were just pups, trying to gather all the comfort he could in that situation. There were many things to do, phone calls and grocery shopping, but the fear of doing it all made it real, it was happening, just a few hours away.

 

He needed to be strong, he needed to get his shit together, he needed a hug and to find an alpha. Not necessarily in that order.

 

Pep talking himself while his mind was foggy with fear and desire and his most primitive instincts taking over was harder than Jimin could ever imagine, but still, the strength to tell himself that it was fine, it would happen just this time, then he could still count on his plans. Just once, he had to go through it just once. Jimin would do his absolute best for it to be nice and safe and for him to come alive on the other end; he had a couple of ideas already.

 

Dangerous ideas. Life-changing ideas. But then again, when was anything he did in the past months not life-changing?

 

That was what finally made him get out of his nest, trying to ignore the cramps and the way his legs felt like jello each step the omega took. The fact he was starting to slick up  was already the perfect red flag to remind him to not leave his house. Jimin didn’t want to discover how strange alphas reacted to unmated omegas in pre-heat.

 

The mental checklist he never thought he would actually need to use was now working in full force. Getting Holt inside its carrier was a bit trickier than it seemed in the beginning, but ten minutes later Hoseok’s cat was ready to be best buddies with Jeongguk’s bunny for some days. The fridge did have enough water, and surprisingly there was enough food in the pantry for him and his heat partner survive the whole deal. Perhaps it was his sixth sense giving him clues to keep his shit together in the past few days.

 

And then Jimin had to make some calls. Some very awkward, almost humiliating calls. One for college, one for work, one for the study group he had promised to tutor the following night. But the worst of them all was the last one, the one where he cried to a worried Yoongi who promised him everything would be okay, that Seokjin and him would take care of whatever was left to do.

 

But mostly importantly, they’d support him. Support his choices. Reassure him when he needed the most. When Yoongi showed up to pick up the cat and hold him in a tight hug for long, long moments, the omega started to feel like he was not alone.

 

A couple hours later, Jimin found himself curling into his sofa, one of the surviving cushions trapped in his embrace. It smelled good, like old memories and dreams of a future, like him and his best friends. Speaking of which, the omega heard him before Taehyung even showed at the door, the alpha fumbling with his keys and his bags, mumbling incoherently to himself. He looked soft in what he called “work clothes”, a dark blue tracksuit and white tennis shoes, his fluffy brown hair messy from the wind.

 

The thing about Taehyung was that the alpha always had a good nose.

 

“What’s wrong, Chim?” the worry in his voice was either heartwarming or heartbreaking, no inbetween. The alpha dropped his bag on the floor, approaching his best friend carefully, like he was some sort of hurt puppy.

 

“Hey,” Jimin hated how weak he sounded, because he was not weak at all. Scared, anxious, fearing the outcome of the questions he had to ask? Sure. But not weak. The omega patted the space by his side on the sofa, inviting him to sit, “do you have a moment?”

 

“Always. What’s going on?” and there was this thing about his best friend where he engulfed Jimin with his eyes, scanning every inch of his soul. And only the universe knew how much the man cherished every single bit of everything the alpha did for him. That was why there was no reason to stall, no reason to not say the plain truth.

 

“I’m in pre-heat.”

 

The range of emotions going through Taehyung’s face would be comic if it wasn’t for Jimin’s insane heartbeat. The alpha was surprised and it showed, in the way that he stuttered and babbled before being able to form a cohesive sentence, his eyes shining with something the omega couldn’t pinpoint. But because he was Kim Taehyung, incredible, astounding, out of this world Kim Taehyung, his first words were exactly what Jimin should have expected them to be.

 

“I’m so, so sorry, Jimin,” and he was, it was written all over his face, in the way he held the omega’s hand like it was made of the finest china, “What do you want to do? Do you need anything? I’m going to crash at Jin’s, Joon’s heat must be near its end in a couple of days, right?”

 

Jimin was ready for all those questions, yes, but he was still too nervous with the answer he had for most of them.

 

“Actually,” he started, and suddenly he felt shy, in a way he never felt before, not with Taehyung, “I was thinking that maybe, if you could, you know… you could help me. With my heat.”

 

Jimin was ready for the silence, but it still took a toll on his body, his instincts on fire, his heart and brain on a never ending race. He dared to peek at his best friend and swallow on the way the alpha had his mouth hanging open and his eyes were wide, on how he seemed like he had frozen, but his scent was rich, thick in the air.

 

“Why me?”

 

“I don’t trust anyone else more than you,” the tears rolling on his cheek weren’t sad ones, no. They felt more like relief washing over him, “I know you will never hurt me, and will respect me no matter what… I know I can be vulnerable around you and you’ll take care of me. Plus, your scent just feels like home,” the omega sniffed, trying to read whatever his friend was not telling him, “But if you will feel uncomfortable or think things will be weird between us, it’s okay, Taetae, please don’t feel obligated to say yes.”

 

“No, it’s not that, I swear,” the alpha squeezed his hand, his thumb drawing circles on Jimin’s palm, “It’s just… are you sure, Chim? I don’t want you to regret it. We can call Jinnie, see if there isn’t something else we could do.”

 

“I already did,” he couldn’t avoid the little sad smile to show up on his face, “Called Yoon and him a couple hours ago. Yoongi actually stopped by to pick Holt up before. I had a lot of time to think, Tae. This is not a decision I’m taking lightly.”

 

Taehyung worried his bottom lip between his teeth, looking for any signs of distress on his friend’s face and scent. There were many things there - anxiousness, a bit of fear, fever - but he seemed sure of his words, sure of what he was asking the other. If Taehyung was sure of himself, that was a different story.

 

“Yes, I’ll help you, Chim. How could I not?” the alpha reassured him, opening that kind smile he reserved only for his best friend. “When do you think it’ll hit? Do we still have time to make a few arrangements?”

 

“It’ll only hit later tonight, so yeah,” the omega let his friend clean his tears, nuzzling on his big hand. There was an urge to purr coming from within he didn’t know how to explain, “I checked for water and food and I… made a nest? I took all of your clothes, I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s okay, I’m proud of you,” his words made Jimin melt, and oh, it was part of it, right? The strong reactions, the blushing on his cheeks. If Taehyung noticed, he didn’t mention it. “I need to make some calls and grab some things we might need, is that okay? Are you going to be okay while I’m at it?”

 

“Yeah, go ahead. I just might want some cuddles later.”

 

“Oh, cuddling you will be extremely difficult ”, Taehyung laughed, kissing his best friend’s forehead before getting up, “It’s going to be fine, Chim. You’ll be fine.”

 

Jimin nodded, thinking once again how many times he had said that to himself in the past months. Some believed a spell is just a word said a thousand times. Perhaps if they kept saying that, some magic would finally happen.

 

**

 

Taehyung was, indeed, internally freaking out. His hands were slippery, the basket he carried threatening to fall to the floor every now and then. What exactly he was doing tucked in a corner of the local convenience store was a mystery, but the alpha needed some place to think, some place away from the alluring, thick scent of Jimin’s pre-heat. He was going to fall insane sooner or later.

 

Luckily for him, Seokjin picked up on the second ring.

 

“Jimin is getting into heat and asked me to spend it with him,” Taehyung didn’t give a chance for his brother to greet him, spilling his source of anxiety the second he heard breathing on the other side of the line.

 

“Shit, I was expecting this call. Wait a sec, I’m putting it on speakers, okay? Yoonie is here as well,” he could faintly here the grumbling of his brother-in-law in the background, something related to diapers, “Yeah, he called us this afternoon. Are you okay, though?”

 

“I don’t know? Honestly, I’m very… very confused.”

 

“How so? Tell us, so we can help you.”

 

“I’m afraid, Jinnie. It feels like… feels like biting the forbidden fruit. God, I want to help him, my body aches to do it, the alpha in me can’t stand the possibility of someone else being with him in this moment,” Taehyung sighed, leaning against the cool surface of the refrigerator doors, “But I’m scared. How do I move on with all these things inside my chest later? How do I keep living? You guys… you know.”

 

“Yeah, kiddo,” now Yoongi’s voice was clearer, so clear you could hear the concern in it, “ You know Jimin would be never mad at you if you can’t do it, right? He’d understand. We can find him someone, an alpha we trust. Please don’t tear yourself over this. You’re not weak for wanting to protect your heart.”

 

“I know. But I also know that I’d never forgive myself if I let someone else be in my position. I think it’d break my heart even more. He needs me. We promised each other we’d always be there for one another. I… I love him. Perhaps this is the only chance I’ll have to show him that.”

 

Oh, kid, that never works in books, does it?” but Seokjin sounded resigned, “ Just. Be careful. With both of you. Heats can drive you a little bit crazy. Try to stay sane the best you can. Don’t do anything stupid, and please, please don’t hesitate in calling us if anything goes wrong. We’ll take care of the rest.”

 

“Don’t hurt yourselves, pup,” Yoongi whispered, along with some soft words that made Taehyung’s eyes water.

 

Crying in the middle of a convenience store. So much for not letting his feelings get in the way. Gathering his bearings again, Taehyung dropped another bar of chocolate in his little metal basket, sighing audibly on his way to the cashier.

 

Long days were coming ahead of them.

 

Chapter Text

Taehyung understood why the world went crazy about an omega’s heat when he opened the apartment door. He felt like he was drowning, engulfed by sweet, sweet caramel, the taste of dessert on the tip of his tongue. It made him kind of dizzy, kind of numb, his feet glued to the living room rug, trying to get a hold of himself.

 

Perhaps that was the reason why he didn’t notice the other at first, his mind too clouded by scent, and want, and desire and love and all of the things that came out of the Pandora box the alpha opened the moment he said yes to the end of his world as he knew it. But it took him some time to realize Jimin was there, frozen in the kitchen, back against one of the counters and eyes unfocused, lost in a moment that didn’t even happen. 

 

“Hey, Chim?” Taehyung cleared his throat, dropping the shopping bags by the sink, approaching the omega slowly, scared of startling him, “I brought you some chocolate cake and fresh orange juice. Are you feeling okay?”

 

That, of course, was a stupid question to ask. He didn’t need to touch Jimin to know he was burning, the heat of his skin palpable all around him, his face flushed red, and his scent… up close and personal the omega smelled like sticky, freshly made toffee, buttery and melting on your tongue. But not a single word came out from his bitten, crimson red lips. 

 

“Jiminie, are you with me?” he tried, softer this time, touching the omega’s shoulder with the tip of his fingers. That seemed to bring some sort of reaction.

 

“This is fucked up,” Jimin mumbled, rubbing his eyes with the sleeves of his sweater, “If ruts are like this, I don’t have good news for you in the future, TaeTae. It makes you feel like your body is melting from the inside out. I can feel my cells exploding, becoming lava. It’s awful.

 

His voice did sound like it was collapsing, too, all hoarse and scratchy. Taehyung sighed, pulling one water bottle from his bags and opening it for the man, watching carefully while the omega sipped on it. “I’m sorry, Jiminie. I really am.”

 

“Not your fault,” he answered between a mouthful of water, “You’re going out of the way to help me. I should be the one apologizing here.”

 

“As if I would ever let you suffer by yourself, you fool,” but there it was, a genuine smile after so long, and how could he not smile when around his best friend? “Is there anything I can do to make it more bearable?”

 

“Scent me? Please?” 

 

They’ve done it a million times, for a million different reasons. Sometimes quiet and hushed behind the front door before going out or after a difficult day, sometimes slow and thorough on the bed before a nap, tangled like cats, serene like the night. This time was nothing like either, nothing like anything before. 

 

Taehyung leaned into Jimin’s space, breathing in his aura, in the way the omega had his eyes closed and his lips parted, neck bared and tinted red, luring the alpha to drown himself into it, as if he needed to do anything at all.

 

The moment the alpha touched the tip of his nose to his friend’s scent gland and inhaled deeply, he knew how fucked he was. Burnt caramel, cinnamon, a hint of clove and pepper underneath. Heat and home and future, if those three had a scent this was definitely it. Burnt caramel, cinnamon, clove and pepper. Fuck imprinting and the soulmatery shit, fuck any star-crossed story yet to happen. This was where he belonged, where his heart found permanent residence. 

 

His lips were brushing the hot, pulsing skin on Jimin’s neck, and there were tears staining his own cheeks and still… still he never felt more alive. 

 

Jimin had his arms in a tight grip around the alpha’s shoulders, leaving wet kisses along his jawline, scenting the man as much as he was scenting him. It was heaven, how Taehyung could hug his waist, dip his fingers into the feverish flesh under his sweater. The alpha was dizzy, drunk on Jimin, head spinning trying to understand how he would survive the next few days. 

 

Judging by the question the omega whispered against his cheek, so breathy and so low it could’ve been just some sick and twisted part of his imagination, he was going to die right away.

 

“Tae, can we kiss?”

 

Years and years went by in front of his eyes in that moment, all the times Taehyung watched him from a distance, all the times he held him close and thought what would it be like to be able to love him for real. And there it was, a glimpse, a taste of what it felt like to be with him. Taehyung was just human, just a weak boy in love. So he nodded, waiting for it, waiting for the other to do the first move because he was too much of a coward to do it himself.

 

Jimin’s lips were soft, that he always knew, never tired of the way the omega pecked his cheeks or the back of his hands. But to feel that same mouth pressing against his own, warm and tentative, was something that always felt so out of his reach Taehyung was sure he blacked out for a moment. Jimin moved, sucking on the alpha’s bottom lip, whimpering in the prettiest way when Taehyung finally came back to life, finally kissed him back how the omega deserved to be kissed, hard and careful, holding onto him for dear life. 

 

It would hurt so much, the moment the alpha would have to let go. 

 

But for now, all he had to do was enjoy how Jimin nuzzled against his nose, before letting his head fall on Taehyung’s shoulder, pressing kisses just under his scent gland, murmuring words not even the man himself could understand. 

 

Taehyung just held him closer.

 

**

 

It was the middle of the night and where there should be nothing but silence in the room, what actually was there was their heavy breathing and low moans between four walls, no light but the reflection of the moon coming through the windows. The inside of the place was more than warm, more like a summer afternoon under the scorching sun, but outside it started to pour.

 

Not that either of them would notice anyway. 

 

There were a few things keeping Taehyung grounded from the moment Jimin nudged him with a whine and whispered plead, the way they had agreed on how to start the whole thing in the most natural way possible. The first one was skin . The way Jimin’s skin burned, so hot to the touch, flushed and glistening with sweat. It was soft to the touch and bruised so easily he could already see his fingerprints around his hips, the mark of his teeth on the omega’s shoulder. There were old scars and little birthmarks scattered here and there like a tiny map of his soul. A masterpiece.

 

Second, the tattoo. That one they got together in that drunk, stupid bachelor party, a sun and a moon that completed each other. With Jimin under him it was so easy to remember that in some way they wore each other’s mark, even if it was in plain black ink. 

 

The alpha had drowned out the smell and the ambient sounds long ago. One, because Jimin’s scent enveloped and entranced him, thick in the air and on the bed sheets covered in slick. If he thought too much about the slick, damn… That was actually the source of the sound problems. Everything Taehyung could hear was skin moving against skin, the omega panting and moaning, whines spilling from that sinful mouth of his like a symphony. And then the wet squelch of slick every time Taehyung thrust into him, his knot growing in size because everything was too much.

 

Jimin scratching on his chest was too much. The omega’s blissed out expression, damp pink hair falling on his forehead and his bottom lip between his teeth was too much. The way he rolled his eyes when his knot finally plugged him was too much.

 

See, in the beginning of the night the third item in Taehyung’s little list was Jimin’s voice. How he giggled and murmured “bro, you’re the best, bro” when he was still fine, how he complained about the mess on his sheets and how much laundry he’d have to do after that. How Taehyung should be a good alpha and help him. All that babbling was familiar, was comfortable, was grounding. It was Jimin being Jimin, free of all the worry and all the confusion from the past days. But then it all started and something shifted, perhaps from the moment Taehyung pinned him down and took him, from the moment their bodies started moving together.

 

The laughing ceased, but Jimin didn’t stop talking. But now his words were foreign to both of them. “ Mine, mine, mine”, he kept mumbling, pulling on Taehyung’s hair and following with “ alpha, my alpha, mine.” Heat talk. Instincts. Whatever biology books talked about, it didn’t matter. 

 

Taehyung for once just let himself believe. 

Chapter Text

It was still a mystery to him how the heck Yoongi came out of his heats with such class and…something akin to elegance, when Namjoon felt nothing short but pure trash. Everything hurt, from his back to his thighs to every single muscle in his body. It was over now, the burn and the fever fizzled off during some time in the beginning of the morning, leaving nothing but the scratches and marks behind.

 

One mark in particular was too difficult for the omega to leave alone. Namjoon kept touching the mating bite on his scent gland, feeling the shape of it, how it was not fully healed but going there. It felt heavy, somehow, the weight of his choices and his future hanging over his head.

 

Common sense would be ressent the whole ordeal, but Namjoon didn’t regret it not even for a second. And when it came to Hoseok, he really wasn’t afraid anymore - he could feel the alpha’s happiness through their new bond. It was like his mind was at peace again after a long time facing an internal war. 

 

Namjoon just wished they had a little more of honeymoon time on their side, but the amount of texts pilling up on his phone played too much on his conscience for them to keep isolated from the world a little longer.

 

So there he was, after a long, long shower and loads of laundry and cleaning done, sitting on the kitchen’s counter in one of his huge dark grey sweaters, watching while Hoseok tried to fix them some breakfast - honestly, it was more watching Hoseok in low sweatpants only hanging around the space singing silly tunes, but now that he had the right, nobody was taking that pleasure away from him. And honestly, that was the perfect way to gather some courage to make that call he was dreading from the moment the heat was over. 

 

Hoseok squeezed his knee, dropping a quick kiss to his forehead because… he knew. The alpha could feel how anxious the man was through their bond, and the little action was enough to put his mind to ease. Namjoon breathed in their scents mixed together in the small kitchen, like a rainy day in a greenhouse, the smell of coffee and pancakes in the background, grounding him.

 

So that’s what it felt like to be home, huh. 

 

The omega rubbed on his face, counting until three before searching for his older brother’s number, finger hovering the bright screen until there was no more reason to not punch the button. Seokjin answered on the third ring.

 

“Hey, Joon! How are you doing? Too much post-pain? Do you need something?”

 

“No, calm down, Doctor Kim,'' he chuckled, used to his brother’s antics, “I’m fine, Hobi got me some painkillers. We are getting breakfast ready.”

 

“Great, you should drink a lot of water, too,'' he could hear a faint ‘Joonie!!’ in the background, his nephew’s soft giggles filling his chest with fondness. There was also the voice of his brother-in-law coming from somewhere, complaining about bunny poop in his characteristic pout language. “ We miss you like crazy, especially Gguk.”

 

“I miss you guys, too.” Namjoon cleared his throat, ready to adventure in more dangerous waters, “How… how is Jimin doing?”

 

Last we heard from them he had entered the high fever stage, so it must have hit him full on last night. I don’t have to tell you and Hobi to stay away from the apartment, right?”

 

“No, of course, he’s staying here with me. He misses his cat, though”, there was not much humor in his speech, but the omega tried, “How is Tae holding up?”

 

The heavy sigh his brother let out was already answer enough. “ It was pretty tough, not gonna lie. He was very torn, had very conflicting feelings. But you know… it’s Jimin. He’d die before seeing him in pain.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” when Namjoon started shaking, he didn’t know. But he had to say something, now or never, the weight of his secrets too difficult for him to carry without his family’s support, “Liste, Jinnie… we really need to talk to you, me and Hobi. In person, not on the phone. Not something to be discussed in a fifteen minute call.”

 

There was silence before anything else, just the alpha’s breathing on the other side of the line, and that made Namjoon’s heart get a little out of control. See, he was always the only omega in between two alpha brothers, both always so worried about him, so tuned with his feelings, Seokjin even more than Taehyung. That was the hardest part.

 

Please, Joonie, tell me it isn’t about what I think it is.” 

 

If it wasn’t for Hoseok holding his hand so, so tight, Namjoon would have crumbled by then.

 

“I am so sorry,” but he could feel the tears already tainting his skin, “We didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

 

I know, Joonie,” and how understanding his brother sounded only tore his heart apart more, “ Listen, why don’t you come for dinner tonight, hm? You can see Ggukie and we can just eat some shit and talk about everything, okay?”

 

“Yeah, sure, we’ll be there.”

 

Everything will be okay, right? We’ll figure it out”, and it was so Seokjin to try to reassure him. It wasn’t an alpha thing, no. It was a Seokjin thing. “ See you tonight.” 

 

They bid their farewells, short and direct, and if Namjoon fell right into Hoseok’s arms the second the line was off, it was only his fair right to do so. 

 

Outside it started to pour, inside his mate’s embrace it was warm. 

 

**

 

He shouldn’t be enjoying it as much as he was. 

 

It was supposed to be physical, relief to his pain, an end to the fever that was consuming him. Practical, biological, straight to the point. Help from his best bud, answer to the problem he couldn’t get rid of by himself. All of that bullshit they kept telling to themselves. 

 

But Jimin felt himself slipping into the edge of glory. His mind was clearer now, the fog of the heat wearing off now that it had almost completely faded away. His mind was clearer and the fever might have been gone, but his skin was on fire, and so was Taehyung’s. The alpha under him had his eyes closed and his mouth open, pleasure written all over his face, and damn if it wasn’t the most beautiful scene the omega had ever seen. 

 

All because of him, because of how their naked bodies were touching, how Jimin kept going for his scent gland, nuzzling on it to his heart’s desire. They both knew that moment was an aftermath of the last heatwave, and perhaps both of them were still holding on to it with all they had. Jimin’s slick had covered all of Taehyung’s lower body, making their cocks slide together so easily, so heavenly. The omega moved his hips sinfully, not bothering in hiding his filthy moans every time the heads of their cocks rubbed against each other. 

 

Taehyung would probably carry his fingerprints on his shoulders for weeks after that.

 

Fuck, they were both so close. 

 

When the alpha started to thrust back, making the pressure between their bodies increase, Jimin felt like he had gotten direct to a second heat just after finishing the first. All his mind could think about was bite, bite, bite, mine, mine, mine, everything on loop. A fucking hurricane inside his brain. 

 

All it took for him to shatter to pieces was the soft press of teeth against his scent gland, the omega coming all over them, followed by the alpha just a minute later. It was like being ripped out his body and put together complete again.

 

Jimin sighed as his head fell on Taehyung’s chest, a last weak moan leaving his mouth as the world disappeared before his eyes.

 

There was a weight on his chest that seemed far from heat induced.