Actions

Work Header

Through dozens of skies

Work Text:

Jimin is 17 and 21

 

Everyone keeps calling it ‘the waiting room’, but in reality, it’s just a hallway leading to a particularly big classroom that somebody has lined with uncomfortable seats. Those seats are filled with kids of all ages, but Jimin doesn’t give his curious eyes enough time to look closer. It’s much safer to keep his attention strictly on his own feet and the brand new, shiny red Nikes he’s wearing. His mom bought them for him yesterday as a token of good luck, and the tips are still uncomfortable and pinch his toes. Jimin hasn’t said anything and won’t, even though all he wants to do is throw the shoes out of the window and go home.

He shouldn’t be there.

“Next, please!”

Jimin glances at his left, lungs suddenly empty of air and refusing his attempts to breathe in more. A kid, a teenage boy who’s probably about his age, jumps up from his chair and strives into the classroom with confident steps, full of cocky swagger and excitement. He looks like an idol in the making already; he doesn’t have glasses, or plump cheeks, and he has styled his hair into soft spikes. He has piercings even though they are forbidden at their school and he’s also tall like a university student.

The doors fall shut behind them, everybody moves one seat forward, and the low buzz of giddy, nervous conversation fills the hallway again. Jimin swallows and inhales properly for the first time in what feels like several minutes.

It doesn’t really bother him that he’s there alone. He wouldn’t want anyone to be there with him, anyway, and witness it when he fails. If, if he fails. But a part of him hopes his mom, at least, had been able to get a day off from work. Just in case he decided to disappear and

“Next!”

Anxiety bubbles under his skin, and Jimin wonders, almost a little amused, how he’s still sitting there and not somewhere several years away. He feels like he’s being slowly roasted alive, and usually it’s exactly the type of feeling that sends him travelling. Part of Jimin would actually prefer it, because then he’d have an excuse for screwing up. Can’t pass your auditions when you’re too busy hanging out in the future, right? Well, there’s always next time.

Jimin sighs and rubs his forehead. There are only four boys left before it’s his turn.

“Next!”

It only feels like a few measly seconds later that Jimin is supposed to go through the doors. The woman with her endlessly friendly smile is looking at him with expectant eyes together with everybody else in the hallway, and Jimin can’t help feeling frozen to the marrows of his bones. With a deep breath, he pushes himself up on wobbly legs and staggers into the room, palms sweaty and cold trembles running up and down his spine like little spiders.

“Alright, and what’s your name, young man?”

Jimin stares. Then, when one of the five people sitting behind a desk clears their throat and brushes their palm over what must be a horribly expensive suit jacket, Jimin forces his mouth open.

“I’m Jimin.”

“Well, hello there, Jimin,” the man in the middle says. He has the nicest smile of them all, but it’s so fake Jimin instantly dislikes him. He’s a man who’s seen dozens of candidates like Jimin and who’s also bored out of his mind. “You’re seventeen years old, is that correct? Enrolled here in the Busan Arts High School?”

Mute, Jimin nods. The suit-wearers give each other small looks.

“As you know, we asked you to prepare a song for the first part of the audition, so what are you going to sing for us?”

I Have a Lover,” the words slither out of Jimin’s mouth. His stomach drops when he sees how they react; their eyes widen, and the lady on the far right smiles for the first time, expectant.

Jimin sings when he’s asked to, but the whole time his voice shakes. He can’t get enough air and he has to hide his hands behind his back. He wants to close his eyes, too, and imagine he’s somewhere else, in another decade or even century, but instead he’s rooted to the spot in front of the judges and can only watch himself fail, just as he expected.

He’s glad to snap his mouth shut again after the first chorus. He’s peeking at them awkwardly through his eyelashes, but even so, Jimin is fairly sure he can see the frowns etched into their foreheads and the displeased lines around their mouths.

“We’ll see you for the dance part then, Jimin. Thank you very much,” the middle man says, and he’s already focusing on his papers before Jimin can say anything in return. He bows, happy to finally hide his face, and walks out on numb legs. The rest of the hopefuls blend into a grey mass as he passes them, walking and walking until he can’t hear their chatter and sees the sign for the bathrooms.

Jimin locks himself inside the stall in the farthest corner and sits down on the toilet seat. He feels empty, so empty that he can’t even make himself feel disappointed.

“Uh, Jimin?”

Jimin jolts so badly he nearly falls from the toilet and then bangs his shoulder against the wall of the stall in his haste to turn around. It makes a horribly loud sound, which is followed by a dry chuckle.

“Sorry, I probably startled you,” the voice says. It’s coming from the stall right next to his. “But you don’t need to be afraid. It’s, uh, it’s just me. Or, you, I guess.”

Oh. Oh. Jimin stares at the wall with wide eyes before slowly unlocking the door and stalking outside. First, he makes sure to lock the bathroom door so that they won’t be interrupted. The last thing he needs right now is one of the scouts coming into the bathroom and seeing Jimin talking to himself in a very literal sense. Jimin knocks softy on the only locked door (how didn’t he notice that before?) and after a few seconds, it cracks open.

It’s his older self, standing buck-naked inside the stall. He’s got wads of toilet paper under his feet, which is probably a good thing considering how bad an aim high school guys usually have, and he’s hugging himself and smiling sheepishly at Jimin.

“Hi.”

“Where did you come from?” Jimin asks.

“2016,” his older self says. “Now please tell you have an extra set of clothes with you.”

“Of course.” Jimin grins. “I always have one with me.”

“Not after we move–– Never mind.”

Jimin cocks his eyebrows but doesn’t call his older self on it. He swings his backpack down and starts pulling different items of clothing out: a huge t-shirt, a pair of stretchy sweatpants, socks and a worn-out pair of flip flops. His mom keeps asking why he’s always carrying around half of his entire wardrobe, but Jimin’s older self, even older than this one, made him promise that he’d always have all of that with him. Since it’s going to be Jimin coming back here to dirty high school bathrooms in a few years, he doesn’t really mind.

The future Jimin looks much more comfortable wearing the baggy clothes, even though they make him look a little like a hobo. But it’s better than going naked.

“Did you know I was going to be here?”

“Of course,” his older self says. They sneak out of the bathroom and find a nice little nook in the stairwell. It’s Saturday, so there shouldn’t be anyone in the school building aside from those participating in the auditions, so they’re not too worried about any passers-by. “I think we’ll remember this stupid school until the day we die. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t nerve-wracking though. I’d been sitting there for at least half an hour before you showed up.”

When Jimin doesn’t say anything, his older self nudges his shoulder. “The audition didn’t go that well, did it?”

Jimin shakes his head and swallows, but can’t face his older self’s eyes. It’s silly, because it’s him, the same mind, just a little older, but Jimin can’t help feeling embarrassed.

He also knows he shouldn’t ask about the results of the audition, no matter how badly the uncertainty is eating him from the inside, but technically he could. His older selves have always been a little too careless with telling him things. He still remembers being fourteen and feeling ridiculous when his thirty-something year old self told him to go knock on the door of the dancing club room in his middle school. If that hadn’t counted as meddling with the past, then telling him the results of some pointless audition shouldn’t, either.

“It’ll be fine,” the future Jimin says, probably reading the frown on Jimin’s face. He wraps an arm around Jimin’s shoulder and squeezes.

“No, it won’t,” Jimin says, even though he knows this Jimin has literally seen the future. He has already lived it. “I sounded horrible.”

“Yeah, maybe we did, but you’re going to nail the dance part.”

“Bullshit,” Jimin whispers. He almost never swears, and the word feels foreign in his mouth, so it’s no wonder his older self snorts and gives him a slight swat on the back of his head. Jimin grimaces and gives him a pointed look back. “You know just as well as I do that I can’t do hip hop.”

“Excuse me, but yes you can, and besides, you have potential. A whole lot of it, and they will see it, too. Nobody can be a full package at this point, but––”

“I don’t think that’s enough.”

The future Jimin squeezes his shoulder again. Then, all of a sudden, a conspiratorial expression takes over his face, and he leans closer to whisper in Jimin’s ear: “Want me to go instead of you?”

Despite the raw feeling inside him, Jimin bursts out laughing out of pure surprise. “Like you could.”

“Of course I could,” his older self says, grinning. “Just give me your glasses and I’ll go. They won’t realize I’m a bit older.”

“Isn’t that–– Isn’t that, like, against the rules of time travelling, or something?” Jimin asks. His heart is beating strangely, and he can’t decide whether he wants to be talked into this or not. Probably yes, because his body already feels like it’s been beaten up and then left somewhere in the ditch to rot, and he knows he’ll forget the entire choreography after he steps inside the audition room again. “How come you are suddenly the one all about messing with the future, or past, I guess, when I’ve been getting hell for it until now?”

“We get passes like this every now and then,” his older self says, shrugging. There is something suspicious about his grin, not to mention the glimmering twinkle of his eyes.

“But won’t–– won’t this change the future?” Jimin can’t help how small his voice sounds. It makes his stomach flip uncomfortably to think that wherever his path is supposed to lead, it might all be somehow very fake. Jimin doesn’t know why, but something about this has to be cheating. Wrong, against the physics of time travelling, against the international legislation of leaping through years when you least expect it (if there were any). Taking the easy way out.

“I could never really figure that out,” the future Jimin replies after a moment, surprisingly thoughtful. “Is it all meant to happen, or, I don’t know, do we have a say in it? Can we choose what we actually become or is it all written in the stars somewhere.”

“You already know I’m going to say yes, don’t you?”

The future Jimin smirks and starts running his fingers through his hair, luckily jet black and generally very normal, even if he doesn’t have the same bowl cut Jimin does. Disguising his face is a little trickier, and Jimin knows his mom will kill him when she realizes his glasses are now missing their lenses, but with them, his future self does resemble him a bit more.

He’s taller. Better looking, with a strange sharpness to his face that catches Jimin’s attention no matter how often he sees his future self. He’s seen himself in his twenties, in his thirties, even in his fifties on one memorable occasion. Half of it is like watching yourself in the mirror, the other half like meeting a total stranger.

Jimin does feel silly staying behind in the stairwell after his future self marches back to line of the waiting boys. It’s not that he’s nervous of getting caught, because he knows none of the other hopefuls have really paid him any special attention. He just wonders if he should be out there doing it himself. Whether this is a test to see if he would intervene, or take advantage of his future self.

It’s cheating. Has to be cheating.

Abruptly, he stands up and rushes after the future Jimin. He wants to take it back, after all, and just go to the audition himself. He’ll just fail and get over it, even if the mere thought makes him nearly trip over his own feet. Jimin needs this chance so badly, yet there’s already something inside him that knows he won’t make the cut. Maybe it was the dismissive way the judges looked at him, the way their fingers were already fiddling with the application for the next boy with Jimin still in the room.

They hadn’t cared about him at all, had they?

When he spies around the corner and sees his older self walking inside the room, so much surer of his steps than Jimin ever could, even if he’s wearing old flip flops and an ugly, worn-out t-shirt, his muscles lock up and all he can do is stand there, frozen to the spot, once again.

So he sits back on the stairs and doesn’t look up before he hears the thunderous sound of applause from the audition room, echoing everywhere in the hallway. 

 

 


 

 

Taehyung is 5, and Jimin is 21

 

When Taehyung first meets his imaginary friend, he’s five years old and playing in the back yard of their house.

He feels terribly hot under the many layers of clothes his mom forced him to wear, and there isn’t even any snow, no matter how hard Taehyung wishes for it. He went as far as to say it was his only birthday wish (even though it wasn’t; he really wanted a new Nintendo DS), but it looks like he’s going to have to go back inside disappointed.

But it’s not the time for that yet. His mom promised him he could play outside until his dad came back home, and Taehyung wants to make the most of his free time.

And if he can’t build a snowman, he’ll just have to do something else.

Just as Taehyun gets started with digging a small trench into the hard, frozen ground, he hears a strange sound. A thud. It’s coming from behind the big shed by the barn, and Taehyung jumps up immediately. It might be the stray cat again, the one that likes to wander around their huge yard and catch mice there during the summer. Taehyung runs quickly, because he knows the cat could disappear under the shed or out into the field and then he’d have no one to play with.

But what he finds isn’t a cat. It’s a boy.

The boy is naked even though it’s December, lying on his side on the ground and cursing in a way that would make Taehyung’s dad threaten to wash his mouth with soap. But what really catches Taehyung’s attention is the boy’s hair: it’s bright pink, like bubble gum or the cotton candy Taehyung ate last summer when they went to visit the town fair. He has never seen a hair color like that on anyone other than on TV and immediately wants to touch it to see if it feels the same as his own.

“You have pink hair!” Taehyung says as a greeting. He wants to step closer, but he also remembers what his parents always say about strangers.

“Oh, oh, no, wait, wait, I––” The boy gets up from the ground and his leg is a little bruised from where Taehyung can see. Maybe he fell? But when his eyes finally find Taehyung’s face, they widen and his mouth drops open in a way that makes him look so silly that Taehyung can’t help laughing.

“You’re–– Oh, oh wow,” the pink haired boy says. “Um, hey, kid.” He tries to smile and gives Taehyung a little wave. “I, uh, I got here by accident and that’s why, um, that’s why I need some help. Could you maybe help me? Find me some clothes?”

“Why don’t you have any?” Taehyung asks and can’t help grinning. But just a little. “It’s December 30––30th.” He says the last part proudly, because he’s just memorized how to say months and dates and knows he said the right one. It doesn’t seem to impress the stranger, though.

“I, uh, I lost my clothes. I came here and, uh, somebody took them from me. So, could you help me and get me some new ones?”

It’s a strange thing to ask, but Taehyung figures he can’t just let the boy freeze to death, either. His whole body is already just as pink as his hair and he’s hugging himself and shivering like he’s very cold. Taehyung is a little worried what his mom would say if she heard there is a naked stranger outside in the yard, but the boy looks pretty nice. Not dangerous at all, actually.

Therefore, Taehyung tries his best to think where he could find something for the pink haired boy to wear. He’s not as tall as Taeyung’s dad, but Taehyung doesn’t know how he could sneak into his parents’ bedroom and steal anything from there, anyway. Mom would definitely notice, and even though he doesn’t know why, he knows immediately that it might be better not to tell them about the pink haired boy just yet. It’s not the scary kind of thought, it reminds Taehyung of the times he played hide-and-seek.

Mom is probably cooking in the kitchen, so Taehyung could get one of the winter coats they have in the wardrobe in the hallway. Without another word, he sprints through the empty yard and the front door, and then pulls a long, plump coat from the rack and runs right back outside. The pink haired boy is still waiting for him behind the shed, arms wrapped around himself even tighter and looking very, very cold, but he smiles brightly when Taehyung hands him the coat.

“Thank you so much! It’s cold as hell in here,” he says and wraps the coat around himself like it’s the best thing he’s ever had. Taehyung snickers at the cuss. “You really helped me out Tae—kid. I would have frozen to death in here.”

“Why did you come to our yard?” Taehyung asks. The boy’s nose and cheeks are bright pink now, and it looks like his entire head is made of cotton candy. “Dad says you’re not supposed to go to other people’s houses without invitation.”

“That was an accident too. I, well, I sort of just flew here. I didn’t mean to.”

“Oh! Are you a fairy? If you can fly and have pink hair and all.”

The pink haired boy blinks and then he breaks into another bright, sunny smile. It feels funny and warm in the middle of the cold night. “Yeah. I’m a fairy. You did a really good thing helping me out like this.”

“You’re welcome,” Taehyung answers happily and now he can finally take a step forward. He wonders if this fairy has magic dust like the ones in movies, or even wings. Taehyung didn’t see anything, but then again the boy hasn’t shown Taehyung his back. He could have a very small pair of wings hidden there. Unless… “Why aren’t you small? Fairies are supposed to be small, like this.” He holds out his hand with all fingers spread wide.

“I’m a different kind of fairy,” the boy says. “We come in all sizes.” He looks weird in just a coat, and then Taehyung realizes he should have gotten a pair of slippers, too. He thinks for a moment, and then remembers he has his mittens in his pockets. He didn’t want to wear them, but his mom made him take them anyway. Taehyung pulls them out and puts them on the ground.

“You can put these on! Like socks,” he says and grins when the boy looks surprised only for a moment before taking the mittens and pulling them on to cover his feet. They are just a little small and look almost like real socks, but funnier. “But can you prove you’re a fairy? You don’t have wings either, do you? Do you have magic dust?”

“Oh, well, hmm,” the boy says, lifting his hand to brush his hair. The suddenly he smiles again and gives Taehyung a playful look. “I can tell you things only fairies can know. Like your name.”

“How would you know my name?” Taehyung asks, eyes flying wide open, and excited enough to jump up and down a few times.

“Fairies know a lot of things,” the boy says. “Isn’t that right, Taehyung?”

“Oh, that’s me! That’s my name,” Taehyung all but yells. He’s laughing and jumping again, can’t stay still, and his chest almost hurts with the wonderful disbelief inside him. “What else do you know? Do you know how old I am?”

“Of course I do, Taehyung,” the fairy says immediately, smiling. “And I also know that today is your birthday.”

“It is! It really is!” Taehyung yells and then he jumps forward, grabbing the fairy’s hand in his and shaking it. “I’ve never seen a fairy before, this is so cool! Where do you live? Do you live in a magic forest? Do you know any trolls? Or unicorns?”

The fairy laughs brightly again. “Yeah, I know one unicorn. His name is Hoseok.”

“Hoseok?” Taehyung repeats, tasting the name. It doesn’t sound like a unicorn’s name to him, but then again he never knew fairies looked so much like people, either. He always figured they were tiny, smaller than his dad’s thumb.

“Yeah. And one troll. Yoongi. He can be very scary.” The fairy is smiling playfully again, like he’s telling a joke. Taehyung laughs with him, but he’s also wants to know more, as much as he can.

“I really want to see a troll,” Taehyung says, a wistful sigh leaving his lips. His mom is always trying to tell him that sighing and moaning and whining is rude, but Taehyung can’t help it, not when he’s this excited.

“Maybe I can show him to you sometime,” the fairy says. He looks almost as excited as Taehyung himself. “You’re a special case, after all. You can see me and everything. Not everyone can.”

“Really?” Taehyung blinks. He feels warm, suddenly bubbling like a glass of soda because if he’s the only person–– or one of the only people–– who can see fairies, then he must have some kind of powers, right? “That’s so cool! Am I a fairy, too? Is that why I can see you?”

The fairy laughs, but it’s not the mean kind of laugher, like some kids at the kindergarten if somebody falls or says something stupid. “No, you’re much more special than that.”

Special? Taehyung decides he likes that.

“Are there more of you? Like a hidden fairy world somewhere?”

It’s funny, because for a second Taehyung thinks the fairy’s smile starts slipping. “No. It’s only me.”

“Oh. Well, what’s your name?” Taehyung asks next. “Do fairies have names, too?”

“Yeah, of course,” the fairy says. He looks down, then smiles even wider, almost like he’s about to do something naughty. Taehyung can’t help giggling, it’s so exciting. “It’s––”

Then he disappears. Like he was never there at all, if it wasn’t for the black coat and mittens left lying on the ground on the exact same spot where the fairy had been standing.

Taehyung can’t help it, he yelps and jumps forward, feeling around the air to see if the fairy is still there somewhere, just invisible. He looks everywhere, even runs around the shed and the entire house, but the pink haired boy is nowhere to be seen. At first, disappointment weights so heavily on his shoulders that Taehyung almost starts crying. He swallows and rubs his eyes, hoping to see even a small glance somewhere, but in the end, he has to admit the fairy is gone for good.

Taehyung takes the jacket back inside, still sniffling, but when his mom calls him for dinner a moment later, he’s already full of newfound excitement. He’s sure the fairy will come back, especially because he knew so much about Taehyung and they couldn’t finish their talk. He has to come back.

“Mom, I saw a fairy today. He had pink hair and he looked like a boy and he knew today was my birthday!”

“That’s sweet, honey. Did he give you a present?”

“No, but he said I’m special, that only I can see him. Do you think he’ll come back, mom?”

“I’m sure he will.”

 

 


 

 

Jimin is 17, 7 and 28, and Taehyung is 17

 

The first thing Jimin learns after meeting everyone is that nobody knows of his condition.

It’s a good thing Hobeom, their manager, pulls him aside as soon as he can and explains the situation. Not that Jimin was planning on dropping a bomb like that on his new colleagues just out of the blue, but now he knows to stay on his toes. Can’t go acting like a complete psycho around Taehyung, especially. It’s difficult, because all Jimin wants to do is stare at him. Trace his features with his fingertips and memorize them.

Apparently, Bang PD filled Hobeom in on the basics of what’s going on, and to Jimin’s utter surprise, Hobeom seems completely at ease with it. He pats Jimin on the shoulder like an older brother and looks apologetic when he asks Jimin not to reveal his secret to anybody else in the company unless Bang PD gives him the permission. It’s for his own good, Hobeom says, which Jimin understands perfectly. Keeping time travelling as a secret has been his life for the past seventeen years, and he never thought becoming a trainee would change that in any way.

Therefore, it’s easy to give Hobeom a tight nod. Jimin knows how lucky he is that Bang PD hasn’t shipped him off to the closest mental institute and he’s not very keen on testing his new teammates and their belief in the supernatural.

The next thing Jimin does, completely unprompted, is to swear that he’ll learn to control his condition so well they won’t even know it’s there. Hobeom gives him an encouraging smile and another shoulder pat, and it feels so good, friendly and caring. Even if Jimin doesn’t have the slightest idea how to make himself stop time travelling, he keeps repeating it inside his head even after Hobeom leaves through the front door and Jimin is supposed to head to the living-room where all the others are probably waiting for him.

He’ll learn. He won’t let it happen again.

It’s pretty laughable that Jimin, who has lived with himself for almost two decades, believes it. He should know better by now, shouldn’t he?

Jimin is swept away to another time the moment they gather in their practice studio just a few measly days later and he’s asked to sing in front of all the others. It shouldn’t be overwhelming or scary, not when everybody has been nothing but nice to him and they all get along so unbelievably well. They haven’t exactly had any deep discussions, but especially Namjoon has clearly taken his role as the leader seriously and works twice as hard to make Jimin feel comfortable. Not to mention that he knows so much about Taehyung already, it’s almost like meeting a friend of a friend. Which he technically is.

But Jimin freezes. He remembers his audition with horrible, prickly sense of shame and can already imagine what kind of faces the rest of the members would have. He’s heard Jungkook singing, the kid does it all the time and especially when he’s cleaning up or cooking, and his voice is amazing already, smooth and soft and youthful. Do they expect Jimin to sound the same? He already knows he’s the last one to be recruited and it feels like he’s supposed to have something to show for it, that he’s special.

He’s not. Jimin is just Jimin.

At least he realizes immediately that he’s about to travel. It’s difficult to explain the feeling, because even though Jimin always knows when it’s coming, he doesn’t have the words to describe it, either. He can’t imagine what it feels like being about to time travel because the unnatural sense of his cells bursting into something that can move through time is completely out of this world. Still, after feeling it countless times ever since he was seven, he knows the feeling just like he knows what it feels like to be nervous or excited.

Instinct kicks in, and Jimin flees from the studio without another word. He barely makes it past the door, praying that nobody catches the sight of him disappearing in the hallway.

It’s an old tactic he came up with his parents when they all realized with sinking hopes that it wasn’t just something that happened inside Jimin’s head. The plan is simple: get away from people as quickly as you can and hope that you make it before you disappear. He’s used it countless times, typically back in elementary school when he was completely at the mercy of his condition (well, he still is, but Jimin likes to pretend). Back then, Jimin had to dash out of the class room so often that his homeroom teacher once pulled him aside and asked if he had some kind of illness. His mother had quickly written a note, something about bladder control to Jimin’s horror, and the teacher hadn’t said another word. She had been understanding like that and probably embarrassed for him, too, but it had meant Jimin never disappeared in the middle of a bustling classroom. Only alone in the corridor, heart beating hard enough it felt like his ribs might crack.

Thankfully, it’s not a long travel at all. He spends fifteen nervous, excruciatingly long minutes hiding in a bush somewhere in Daegu based on the accent and words of the mother and her sulky-looking teenage son passing by, but he has no idea what time he’s in and why. Usually there’s a reason, either to meet his older or younger selves or somebody else from Jimin’s life. He’s spent an afternoon playing with his little brother’s kids in the future and a night drinking hot chocolate made by his grandmother, who passed away when Jimin was still wearing diapers. She’d thought him some lost kid, and while Jimin had had to hide the tears welling in his eyes, he had enjoyed that day enough to almost not want to go back to present.

This trip, however, seems completely pointless, and Jimin is immensely grateful when he finds himself back in his time. He’s right where he left as always, outside the practice studio, and of course his clothes are nowhere to be seen.

Jimin wraps his arms around his naked chest and tries not to panic. He knows he has to keep a level head to make it out of this mess without letting the entire company know of his condition, but it’s not easy when somebody could burst in any second. It looks deserted, though, and Jimin dares to peek inside the studio. There might be something, someone’s extra pair of shorts or old costumes or extra blankets or––

“Jimin?”

Fuck.

It’s like there is lava running through Jimin’s veins. He turns halfway to meet Taehyung’s (because of course it’s Taehyung) wide eyes, and his entire face must be so, so red. Hell, Jimin’s entire naked body must be flushed from the tips of his ears all the way down to his toes.

“I, uh––”

“Why are you naked?” Taehyung asks and gives Jimin a quick once over. Surprisingly, he looks mostly just curious and not really weirded out at all. “And where did you run off to earlier? The teacher was pretty pissed.”

Jimin’s brain refuses to come up with anything worthwhile to say. Jimin swallows and forces himself to calm down, but his heart is beating like crazy, like it’s about to explode any second, and his throat is parched dry. He doesn’t even have pockets to hide his trembling hands into. For crying out loud, he’s standing buck naked in front of the biggest crush he’s ever had and all he can do is ogle like a goldfish in a fish tank.

“I, I mean,” Jimin stammers and glances around, fruitlessly. “I just felt sick. Like really, really bad. Puked all over myself when I got out and then I just had to get out of my clothes and then I realized there wasn’t anything else and then––”

“Yuck,” Taehyung says. But he does seem to be buying Jimin’s haphazardly made up story without much of a fuss. “Namjoon-hyung just sent me back here looking for you again. Everybody’s back in the dorms already.”

“Oh,” Jimin replies. “I’m, um, I’m sorry for making everyone worry like this. I don’t know why, maybe I ate something bad or, you know…”

“Yeah, probably,” Taehyung says. He sounds airy, like there’s not a worry in the world, and even gives Jimin a little pat on the shoulder. “Now let’s get you some clothes, nudist. Somebody might start calling you a pervert if they didn’t know better.”

Jimin manages to laugh, but only after he sees Taehyung’s wide smile. It’s absolutely breathtaking and also completely and utterly impossible to resist.

The next time Jimin travels, he scares the living shit out of Yoongi when he returns to the kitchen in the middle of the night. Somehow claiming that he must be sleep walking works, and Yoongi doesn’t seem too suspicious afterwards.

At the same time, Jimin learns that nobody really expects him to be perfect. They have tons of coaches and teachers and their choreographer-slash-dance teacher is absolutely ruthless to anybody but Hoseok, who deserves every single word of praise because his dancing skills are on a completely another level. Despite his earlier anxiety about doing hip hop, Jimin finds himself enjoying the exhausting hours of practice their schedule is packed with. He feels the most like himself when he’s dancing, after all.

It’s been like that ever since he started going to the dance club at his middle school. It helps him control the travelling, eases his nerves and gives him an outlet for all the negative feelings and doubts he has. It’s no wonder Jimin ends up spending a lion’s share of his days training in the studio, even when they don’t have official practice.

He tries to put just as much energy into singing, but at times it just seems so difficult. Dancing, at least, comes to him almost naturally, which Jimin is eternally grateful for. Therefore, a part of him is somewhat glad when Bang PD finally presents them their debut track after a few months, and Jimin quickly realizes his part is to be seen and not heard.

Of course, when their choreographer shows them in what Jimin will exactly be seen (fucking half naked in front of the entire world, because apparently rookies need to make a splash somehow and they’ve chosen Jimin as their sacrificial lamb. And only Jimin, even though it could have been all of them embarrassing themselves together), Jimin disappears the moment the meeting is over and his tightly stretched control over his feelings explodes. He spends a good two hours all but crying on a twenty-something year-old Hoseok’s shoulder in some fancy hotel room in Japan and eating through enough room service to feed a small army.

It’s the first time Jimin has travelled to meet one of the members. At first, Jimin is absolutely terrified when he finds himself inside the strange room, but Hoseok, who’s stepping out of the bathroom, hardly bats an eyelid.

“I mean, I can’t say I’m used to it, because how the hell do you get used to something like this, right?” Hoseok says with a grin after handing Jimin a pair of his own sweatpants and a t-shirt. “But we all know by now, okay? I mean, thinking back, we were all blind as hell, weren’t we? You were practically disappearing into thin air right in front of our noses.”

“I–– I tried to be really discreet––”

“About as discreet as a puppy with a bone,” Hoseok says, grinning, and gives Jimin’s cheek a soft pinch. “I forgot you used to be so cute! Nowadays you always act so cool and grown-up, I’ve missed this––”

He goes on to pet Jimin’s mop of black hair and then squeezes out every single anxious thought from Jimin’s weirdly cooperative tongue. Apparently this future Hoseok knows all about how Jimin’s time travelling works and immediately realizes that something must have upset him in his own time. It’s a little strange to lean against a man that Jimin’s only known for a few months in total and sniff against his comforting arms, but Jimin finds himself tearing up almost immediately. Hoseok takes it all so easily, like a willing outlet for Jimin’s poison, and pulls Jimin closer into a comforting, warm embrace.

“You’re going to be really great. Really, really great,” Hoseok whispers. It’s the last thing Jimin hears before he feels the familiar yet so strange pull of time in his body.

After that, Jimin also visits an older Namjoon in what turns out to be Los Angeles, and pops into the future to surprise Yoongi and Seokjin during their late-night shopping trip to the supermarket. That one is a bit trickier, but they manage to get Jimin some clothes without alerting anyone and Jimin also gets to taste a few new soda flavors he’s never even heard of.

Weirdly enough, the steadily building stress and exhaustion from practices and everyone’s growing expectations actually help and make it more likely that Jimin will simply fall into his bed, exhausted, rather than drift away along the timeline of his life, so after the first months there are fewer incidents. Thankfully.

Jimin is more than a little bummed that he still hasn’t travelled to meet Taehyung. It would be amazing to see him when he’s older, see what kind of a man he turns into. Maybe even see what the two of them become with his own two eyes and not just based on what he heard that day on the beach. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than a memory.

But first, they have their debut on a music show, and Jimin nearly fucks everything up. Or to be more precise, his seven-year old self does it together with his 28-year-old self.

Everything around them is already upside down and going crazy. It’s the first time Jimin has ever been inside a broadcasting station, much less in the backstage and waiting rooms, and it doesn’t help that nervous, almost scared energy is pouring out of every single member of their group. Group that’s just about to climb up onto the stage in front of the cameras for the first time ever. Jimin can hardly breath properly, and every time he tries to calm down and remind himself that he knows the choreography and that he knows the lyrics, the next moment he has no recollection of any of them. His feet feel like lead, heavy and stiff, and his mouth parched desert-dry.

It’s a miracle he hasn’t time travelled, and Jimin is fighting with every bit of his concentration not to. He makes sure to stay close to his members, especially Taehyung, because he has started to secretly believe that their proximity helps with not disappearing so easily. Something about being distracted, probably, because sometimes it feels like Jimin can’t even walk straight with Taehyung around. Luckily, living together, going to the same high school and spending nearly all their free time together forces you to adapt.

Doesn’t mean he’s any less in love, though.

So Jimin has his hands full with the situation as it is. He doesn’t need any meddling from neither the past nor the future.

He nearly swallows his own tongue when he happens to catch the sight of a small boy in the corner of his eye when they are waiting to get on the stage in the corridor behind it. Jimin swallows and tries to glance at the boy again as unnoticeably as possible. The quickly stolen look tells him enough; it’s him, his younger self, tiny and absolutely terrified of what’s going on.

The only reason nobody else has noticed is that his past self is curled up tightly in a small corner behind a few props and difficult to spot from where they’re standing. Together with the ear-popping noise and everyone being busy and running around like headless chickens, it means that a tiny, sobbing boy can easily go unnoticed for a few moments.

“I, uh, bathroom,” Jimin mutters hastily to Jungkook, who’s bouncing on the balls of his feet and looking very pale under his make-up, but nods absentmindedly anyway. Jimin slips away from their group and rushes down the corridor until he can squat down next to the younger Jimin and shyly grab his shoulder.

“Hey, where did you come from? It’s okay, we always go back pretty quickly, right? No need to cry––”

The whispered words die on Jimin’s tongue when his younger self finally peeks behind his hands and not a hint of understanding crosses his red, tear-streaked face. His younger self looks stunned for a moment and then reaches out and plants his snotty palm right on Jimin’s cheek.

“Who’re you?”

“I, uh,” Jimin stammers. He can’t quite remember a time when he wouldn’t have immediately recognized his other selves while time travelling. You almost have to develop an eye for it, because otherwise it could be nearly impossible to survive in the strange new time. “I’m–– I’m Jimin.”

Eyes, still glittering with tears ready to run down his round cheeks, turn even rounder at the words. “My name is Jimin, too.”

“How old are you?” Jimin asks next, voice wavering.

His smaller self gives him a doubtful look, but at least the tears seem to have stopped for now. Slowly, he pulls his hand off Jimin’s face and eyes him, clearly suspicious and careful, but also so full of curiosity that he won’t just cross his arms and sulk, either.

“Seven.”

“Seven?” Jimin breathes, because he’s finally realizing where his younger self is coming from.

He finally remembers. How tall the strange, pitch black walls had seemed, how loud everything had been. It had been so dark and the flickering lights had made him feel nauseous. His first time travel when he’d been seven years old had been an experience that he buried under safer memories from everyday life, like a strange nightmare, almost. Jimin has never realized what or where the strange place with black walls and noises was, because it seemed more like the secret lair of a wizard than anything from the real world.

“I seriously came here?” Jimin mutters to himself. He’s trying to dig around his head for more memories, but the details of that travel are hazy at best. Even so, he’s fairly sure he remembers the next step, and the knowledge is almost enough to make him want to start crying as well. He doesn’t, of course, not when their stylists spent at least forty minutes trying to make his face as idol-like as possible, but instead glances around again. When he’s sure nobody’s paying the two of them more attention than necessary, he hoists little Jimin up as best he can and rushes to the closest hiding spot he can see: the dressing room on their left.

The piece of paper taped to the door tells him it’s Shinhwa’s room, and Jimin knows he’ll be skinned alive if anyone catches him there. But he can’t remember anything like that happening during his first travel, and there is no time to do more than trust that fragile knowledge.

In the room, just as Jimin remembered, stands his older self. He’s pulling on a pair of too white pants from the rack of stage outfits. They match the t-shirt he’s already wearing that he must have stolen from the same pile. The future Jimin looks like he’s in his late twenties, ash-blonde hair styled absolutely impeccably around his much sharper features, and even though the clothes are too big, they don’t look half as ridiculous on him as they would on the Jimin from the present time.

His neck is also so full of hickeys it looks like he’s wearing a smudged purple collar. Jimin’s eyebrows jump up and he wants to ask so badly the question is like an itch on top of his tongue.

“Hi!” His future self waves a hand and zips up the pants, as if he didn’t even notice Jimin staring. “I was waiting for you guys.”

Jimin puts his past self down and tries to pat his back as soothingly as he can, because while he’s standing quietly and just staring at the strange scene, his bottom lip is wobbling and he’s suddenly clutching the hem of Jimin’s so hard his small knuckles are paper-white. “I didn’t remember it was here. Today.”

“The first time? I know the feeling,” his future self says and then he walks closer and bends down by the boy without a hint of nervousness. He grabs the young Jimin’s left hand. “Hey, Jimin. Let’s get you some clothes, okay? Everything’s going to be fine. No need to be scared. We’re going to get dressed and grab a couple of sodas from the table over there and then have a chat. I’m pretty sure I saw chocolate somewhere over there as well. You like chocolate, right?”

The past Jimin swallows a few times, like he’s looking for words, but nothing comes out. When the older Jimin straightens his back and pulls, his younger self comes along easily.

“Here,” his older self says warmly. He starts pulling a t-shirt over their younger self’s head. “Alright, it’s a little big, but the first thing you have to think about, always, is clothes. Any kind of clothes, anything you can find that’s wearable. And glasses, before you start using contacts.”

“I don’t–– I don’t have gla–glasses,” their younger self says quietly. He stares up at their future version with wide eyes, but Jimin can already see that he’s beginning to trust the future Jimin. He can also remember why; he’d felt so calm and strong and wise, like an adult you were supposed to follow. But most of all, he had seemed familiar.

That same sense of familiarity tingles inside Jimin’s chest. There is a faint memory lingering in his mind like a soap bubble; the memory of learning all these things for the first time, things he now knows by heart. It almost suspicious how during his first travel, when he was utterly unable to handle the mechanics of travelling alone, he just happened to end up in the same place both his 17-year-old self and 29-year-old self also were. Almost as if somebody had planned for him to get his first experience with somebody who knows everything about the mechanics of time travel.

“Do you have to squint a lot when you watch TV?”

“I–– Maybe.” The past Jimin looks uncertain, but their future self manages to get a smile out of him when he hands the little boy a still fizzing can of coke. Then he hoists the little boy up like he weights nothing and holds him comfortably against his hip.

“You need to be firm with mom. She doesn’t think contacts are necessary, but you have to keep insisting. It won’t happen immediately, you have to get a little older, but then. Be patient.”

“But––”

Jimin clears his throat. “Uh, so, I’m pretty busy right now, so do you mind if I––”

“Right, our debut stage,” his future self says, looking up, his smile wide enough to split his face in half. Jimin finds himself a little surprised at how bright the expression is. He’s not sure he’s ever worn a face like that, at least not consciously. “We’ll just hang out in your dressing room, say hi to the guys. I’ll have a talk with him and teach him a few things.”

“Yeah, but––” Jimin says, biting his bottom lip. “You can’t. They don’t know, remember?”

“What–– Oh, right. Shit,” his future self says, eyebrows furrowing when he finally realizes. “We haven’t told them yet, have we?”

“Yet.”

His older self bursts into an almost mischievous grin. “Come on. We have never been good at keeping secrets.”

Jimin sighs, but nods. He knows, after all, that it’ll happen sooner or later. What he doesn’t know is whether his future self is actually trying to get him to come out with the secret. Is today supposed to be the day when all the members will learn of his condition? Jimin feels an uncomfortable lurch somewhere in the pit of his stomach, uncertainty that gnaws at his mind. He’s like an actor waiting for their lines.

Before Jimin can really say anything in reply, his future self is already talking. “We’ll just go watch your performance, then. Somewhere in the back, so we can blend in with the crowds. Right, Jimin?” He leans closer to the seven-year-old, still sniffling but cuddling into his older version’s shoulder and looking much more comfortable now that he has a huge tent of a t-shirt wrapped around his little body. “We’ll grab a little something here, then one of these so that people won’t look at us too funnily––”

Jimin watches as his future self moves around the cluttered dressing room like it’s his own living-room, picking up things like chocolate bars, another bottle of coke and even a plastic nametag hanging at the end of a bright blue string. It says ‘VIP guest’ on it in bold letters, and the future Jimin drapes it around his neck without a second thought. Those are all items that won’t be missed by their previous owners, not too much, anyway, since they are fairly insignificant like that and completely harmless, but they make all the difference for somebody who’s trying to survive in another time.

Even after so many years of time travelling, Jimin still feels uncertain, even awkward stealing things like this, be it somebody’s forgotten jacket or a sandwich he has no means to pay for. His future self, however, moves with comfort that comes from years of experience. Even with a seven-year-old boy with his arms around his neck, the future Jimin isn’t nervous or anxious. He grabs things, turns them in his hands, and they end up either in his pockets or placed neatly back to their places. Even Jimin himself is starting to think this older man belongs to this time.

If Jimin is a rookie actor, his older self is an Oscar winner.

“Hey,” the future Jimin says, and Jimin blinks only to see he has somehow missed his older self moving close enough to place a warm hand on his shoulder. “Cheer up, okay? You’re going to do great.”

“Easy for you to say,” Jimin notices himself saying back. He doesn’t mean to sound so harsh, but at the same time he absolutely agrees with himself. His future self doesn’t seem bothered, just squeezes Jimin’s shoulder a little harder.

“It is, but I’ve been where you are right now. I’ve been a sulky, insecure kid with too much black eyeliner around my eyes, and I know what it feels like. And since we are probably the only people who can actually talk to their past mes and not just wish they could, I’m going to make use of the opportunity and say this: be confident.”

“How?” It’s another slip of tongue, but comes out much weaker. Almost afraid and trembling from the nervous shivers that run down Jimin’s body.

“You’re not alone up there, are you?” His future self says. “Try to enjoy it. I mean, nobody wants to basically strip on national TV, but trust me. It’ll get good. Like really, really good.”

“Hoseok-hyung said the same thing,” Jimin says quietly, but he can’t help smiling softly at how his future self is wiggling his eyebrows. They share a small, quiet laugh that’s almost identical.

Their seven-year-old miniature chooses the moment to spill coke all over Shinwha’s dressing room floor. The future Jimin is quick to coo at him and pet the beginnings of tears away from his cheeks. “Okay, how about we go and find ourselves a nice spot with a good view of the stage? Let’s go see our… brother perform, okay? They are going to sing a really fun song, you’re going to love it and then I’ll tell you a couple of really important things. Sound good?”

The kid version of them purses his lips but brightens up when the future Jimin smiles. For a moment it looks like he’s going to stay mute, but then all of a sudden he looks down at his abandoned coke can and mumbles: “What kinda song?”

“Oh, it’s this cool hip hop song. Hey you, what’s your dream? Hey you, what’s your dream? Like that.”

The younger Jimin gives him another suspicious glance, but then he’s suddenly grinning and singing along, “Hey you, wa’s your dream? Hey you––”

That’s when the door behind them edges open, Taehyung pokes his caramel-brown head into the room, and time seems to complete freeze around them.

Jimin doesn’t dare to breathe, let alone speak. His eyes are glued to Taehyung’s, whose mouth falls open into an expression that could be the text book definition of utter shock. Jimin doesn’t blame him for it, because seeing what he’s currently seeing, three people of different ages that share such similar features, would make anyone doubt their own sanity. Taehyung, surprisingly, collects himself fairly quickly, closes his mouth and steps into the room quickly like a shadow.

“Taehyung––”

“What’s going on? Is this your–– brother? Brothers?” He’s trying to smile as he speaks, but Jimin, of course, can see a small hint of nervousness lingering in the unusual tightness of his chin and the sharp look in his eyes. Then again, maybe the older Jimin sees it, too. He is even more familiar with Taehyung than Jimin is, after all. “I, I was looking for you, they need us at the stage in two minutes. I didn’t know where you went, Jungkook said bathroom but you weren’t there, so I just, you known, started opening doors and––”

“Oh,” Jimin says, glancing quickly at his future self. “This is, um, my, yeah. We should probably hurry, right?” He doesn’t give Taehyung another second to consider and steps forward, grabbing Taehyung’s forearm and practically dragging him back to the door. He wants to look back, but they absolutely cannot get caught sneaking into a senior group’s dressing room, so they have to slip out as quickly as they can. Luckily Taehyung follows suit and doesn’t say anything before they are safely back in line with the other members, mere seconds away from being called up to the stage.

“You guys looked, like, really similar. Really, really similar,” Taehyung says, glancing over his shoulder. His eyes are small slits like a fox’s and his mouth is pursed, lower lipping jutting out. “And why where you in Shinwha’s dressing room?”

Jimin avoids Taehyung eyes the best he can and wets his lower lip. One of the PDs walks past them and starts ushering Namjoon to the stage.

“And didn’t you say you had a little brother? Who’s the same age as Jungkook?” Taehyung continues, not moving an inch even though Jimin makes a small, furtive attempt at moving forward. “And no other siblings? Right?”

“What were you doing, poking around a senior’s dressing room?”

Taehyung doesn’t seem to hear him. “It almost felt like there were, I don’t know, two of you. Three, even. Like, older and younger versions of you.”

Jimin bites his lip and wonders if he could just blurt it out. He wants to, has wanted ever since he met Taehyung for the first time, because he already knows they are going to be good friends. Not just because his older selves are a little too careless with their words, but because of the connection between them. They don’t know each other too well yet, but from the very beginning, they’ve laughed at the same jokes, found empty seats next to each other as naturally as breathing, smiled at each other without any real reason to. Taehyung… Taehyung might understand. He’d be shocked, maybe even grin and think Jimin was joking, but he’s the person who would understand.

“Let me explain after,” Jimin whispers hastily. Taehyung still isn’t moving, and now the PD is staring at them strangely, an irritated frown already ready to take over her face, but Jimin looks Taehyung in the eyes. “I promise I’ll explain, but we need to go.”

Taehyung stares back for three, four, five long seconds, then nods. “I’ll hold you to that.” He says, before rushing forward, an apologetic, almost angelic smile on his lips and absolutely ready to do practice runs for however long it’s going to take for them to get the perfect shot. Jimin follows slower, on stiff feet, and wonders whether he’ll be able to dance at all.

Surprisingly, he does. It’s almost like his body is enjoying the light, almost intoxicating feeling of not having to wrap his entire being around the secret in order to keep it safe and hidden. Jimin is tired, of course he is, and therefore the mere idea of being able to freely talk to somebody feels like he’s been given the permission to finally sleep. When he’d met Hoseok and hell, even just now as he was talking to his older self, it never seemed real. How could he tell anyone? Bang PD had made it clear from the start that the less people were aware of Jimin’s condition, the better.

The choreography feels natural, like it’s inside his muscles rather than his mind. The bright lights that Jimin expected to be blinding seem like rays of warm sunlight. The chorus burns on Jimin’s skin, but it doesn’t hurt, just gives him energy. He feels like he could almost enjoy being there.

The song is over moments later, and the head PD tells them to go again. And again. And again.

Jimin stumbles into the dressing room with Seokjin and Yoongi afterwards, the rest of the members either giving interviews or finding water or maybe just lost in the hallways after all that adrenaline. Jimin sure knows his legs are shaking and mind like an explosion. He’s so happy the smile on his lips seems to be stuck there permanently, the giddy feeling of excitement filling his every cell.

Everyone makes their way into the waiting room as well, sweaty and tired but full of energy, and the atmosphere picks up even more. Up until the lightning strike-like moment when Taehyung stumbles inside, pulling Jimin’s two selves along with him.

In all honesty, Jimin almost forgot about them with all the hassle on stage. He had things to focus on, Taehyung and his flimsy promise to think about, and he figured they wouldn’t have stayed this long, anyway. The rehearsal run-throughs must have taken at least one hour, maybe more, and while Jimin’s longest travel has lasted over twenty-four hours, the typical time he spends travelling is closer to one and a half hours or so.

His first reaction is to jump up, drop the water bottle and then stumble forward with his arms spread out, like he could somehow hide the two extra people with his own body.

“It’s my fault,” his future self says before Jimin can even open his mouth and push his paralyzed tongue into forming words again. “People were getting suspicious and I figured, this was the lesser evil.”

“You. Can’t. Be. Here!” Jimin hisses through tightly grit teeth, but his older self just shrugs and gives him a warm grin.

“We already promised Taehyung. What difference do the rest of them make?”

“I–– I can’t just tell all of them––”

“Tell us what?” Taehyung interrupts, and promptly reminds Jimin that they are not alone in the room. When he glances around, swallowing, he sees the rest of the members standing up as well, all eyes on the three of them and their shared faces. He feels a flood of coldness in his guts, a painful sensation that makes him shiver, because Jimin is quite sure he’s not imagining the charged looks in all their eyes.

“It’s–– It’s nothing. They’re just, just––”

“It’s okay,” the future Jimin says softly. He’s still carrying their younger self, who’s sleeping quietly against his shoulder. “You can tell them. They’re our friends, aren’t they, and besides, it’s not the dirty secret mom made us think it is. It’s okay.”

Jimin wants to give up. His older self looks so calm and sure of himself, just like he remembers his slightly younger future version being back on the day of his audition. All-knowing and powerful, like a god, almost. But that time still nags at him sometimes, when he can’t sleep and ends up staring at the ceiling from his bunk bed, because a part of him didn’t want to listen to his older self. It feels like they are molding him, making him do things before he’s ready just because they know those things will happen in the end.

“What the hell is going on?” Taehyung speaks up again. He looks almost angry, brows furrowed and creating sharp little lines on his forehead. Jimin wants to flinch at the demanding tone and at the same time he need to look away to hide the desperation he feels.

“I––I––”

“Who are you?” Taehyung speaks again, but instead of directing his harsh words to Jimin, he’s looking at Jimin’s future self. The older Jimin doesn’t look phased by the hostility aimed at him, and instead there’s a small, almost adoring smile on his lips as his eyes fly from Jimin to Taehyung’s face and back.

“I’m Jimin.”

“Wait––”

“Jimin?”

“Wait!”

“Are you related?”

“Well, we are, in a way, but––”

“I can time travel.”

The one who says those words isn’t his future self; they come out of Jimin’s own mouth. Because no matter how sick in his stomach he feels now that he’s said it out loud, the last thing he wants is for his older form to step in again and speak for him, move his life forward while Jimin just watches from the sidelines.

The words leave him in a panicked flurry, and pretty soon the floodgates open and he has no control over it anymore. It’s not him deciding what to say, but rather his scared little heart just bursting out through his mouth. Jimin closes his eyes, because even meeting his older self’s calm eyes doesn’t help him or ease the way his hands are trembling.

“I… I travel. In time. I–– I can’t do it at will, it just happens, sometimes, and I just… I disappear. I go to some other time, in the future or past and stay there for a while. They–– they are me. Me when I was seven and me when I’m–– older, I guess. They traveled here and I tried to help them blend in and hide, but sometimes it’s difficult and, and… Bang PD knows, and Hobeom-hyung does too, but nobody else, and I tried to keep it a secret, but––”

He expects yelling, cold words of disbelief, maybe even mocking laugher. What he’s saying is insane, he knows it himself, and he’s knows not to expect good luck to strike twice.

What he gets are arms. Warm arms wrapping themselves around his shoulders and hugging, almost squeezing him. When Jimin blinks his eyes open, he sees Seokjin’s gently smiling face. Jimin doesn’t have much time to try and interpret Seokjin’s expression, because suddenly Namjoon is there too, patting his back, and Hoseok grabs his hand, and Yoongi and Jungkook both step closer. Taehyung finishes the circle and the way his eyes shine is almost enough to bring tears to Jimin’s.

“It’s okay, you don’t need to–– be afraid. Of us,” Seokjin says. Then, when Jimin opens his mouth to speak but nothing comes out, Seokjin nudges him and points at the spot by the door where his older and younger selves are waiting.

Except that it’s just the future Jimin there, nothing but a white t-shirt left in his arms.

“He went back,” his older self says, folds the shirt and lays it neatly on a nearby chair.

Hoseok squeezes Jimin’s hand. “There’s not much we could say after something like that, is there? Doesn’t really leave room for argument.” He lets out a soft little laugher, full of wonder and amazement. “I don’t really know what to think right now, but this–– no, you–– you’re just. You’re magical.”

“And we’re lucky enough to have you in our group,” Namjoon puts in, and the way all of them start nodding and agreeing is like a gentle, strong fist clutching Jimin’s heart.

“You’re not… You’re not angry? It’s–– My condition, it’s dangerous, it could happen any time, when we’re up on the stage, I could––”

“Condition?” Taehyung interrupts. He looks Jimin deep in the eyes and smiles, the brightness of it enough to steal Jimin’s breath from him lungs. “Wouldn’t you rather call it a gift?”

Jimin blinks.

“I mean,” Taehyung says and flicks a strand of hair from his eyes. “You time travel. Time travel. That’s–– that’s amazing, isn’t it?”

Jimin still can’t get a single word out of his mouth. He meets the eyes of his older self, whose entire being seems to beam. The way the future Jimin looks at Taehyung, all of them, really, is full of fondness, but he doesn’t try to step closer. He does give Jimin a small nod and a smile, like an encouragement.

It helps. Jimin steps back, but only so that he can look his members in the eyes. He wants them to see him right now, because since he seems to have lost most of his words, all he can do is hope to show how thankful he is for their reactions. Their kindness aches inside him, and if it wasn’t for that stinging feeling, Jimin might just as easily think he imagined it all. It’s too unexpected.

“Thank you,” he replies quietly. He feels embarrassed already when he sees how Hoseok’s and Namjoon’s eyes widen and the lines of their mouths turn worried, and feels Seokjin’s palm solid on his shoulder, but at least Jimin has always been good at controlling his tears. The last thing he wants to do is to freak everyone out even more and start crying.

“I’ll, uh, have a couple of words with him outside,” Jimin continues, already trying to pull that ‘nothing happened, nothing at all’ mask back on. “I’ll be back in a sec.”

“It was nice meeting you guys,” his older self says, the gentleness of his smile bleeding into a grin. “Again.”

That’s when Jimin huffs and pushes him firmly out through the door, passers-bys be damned. Luckily, the corridor is blissfully empty of all PDs, other artists and random staff members. Maybe everyone is having an extra late lunch break, or maybe there’s a particularly famous senior artist on the stage right now. Jimin doesn’t know, but he’s glad to take advantage of the quiet, thrumming stillness surrounding them.

“Did I follow the script?”

“What do you mean?” His future self asks. “They were bound to learn about it some point. You don’t keep secrets like that from people like them.”

“I don’t even know them that well,” Jimin insists. “It was too soon. Something could happen, I could––”

“I think you do know them. Not necessarily their favorite colors or their dream jobs when they were kids, but you do. Don’t try to run from that connection.”

Jimin’s heart is pounding at the words. He shakes them off instead of answering. “Just promise me one thing.”

“What?”

“I don’t–– I don’t want you guys to tell me what to do anymore. Force me to do things the way you want me to,” Jimin says. His older self looks at him steadily, and of course there is none of the shock Jimin expected to see on his face. He has said the same thing himself at some point.

The tense silence hangs around them for a few seconds, before his older self sighs.

“I’m sorry,” he says instead of arguing. He leans a little closer and gives Jimin’s shoulder a small, gentle pat, mimicking Seokjin from before. “I shouldn’t have pushed you liked that. I remember how I hated it, it made me feel so insecure… But I guess I forgot. I’m sorry about that. It all seems very… uncomplicated from my perspective, you know.”

“It’s–– It’s alright,” Jimin replies, sighing. “With a condition like this, there’s bound to be some meddling, isn’t there? I’m just happy the seven-year-old us won’t remember much of it.”

Suddenly, Jimin feels a small pinch on his arm, fingernails digging into the bare skin that his sleeveless stage outfit leaves out like a bait, and grunts. He glares at his older self and opens his mouth, irritation ready to break through the fragile walls he managed to build around his mind thanks to all those hugs earlier. But before Jimin can say anything, his older self tuts and wiggles his finger like a teacher chiding a naughty student.

Gift,” the future Jimin says. “Not a condition anymore. You heard what Taehyung said and you better start learning. Let me tell you, he can be pretty stubborn when he wants to be.”

Jimin snorts, but the corners of his mouth want to curl upwards. “I’d rather see for myself.”

“Oh, you will,” his older self says, grinning. “I’m going to warn you, do not say no when he wants to buy you that ridiculously expensive––”

“You’re not supposed to tell me those things!” Jimin says, more joking than seriously shocked. He’s learned to love every bit of information. “Just go already, will you? I have a debut stage to make.”

As if on command, his older self grins a little wider and disappears.

 

 


 

 

Taehyung and Jimin are 20

 

They are supposed to be at the airport in 58 minutes, and Taehyung still doesn’t have his socks on.

It’s not his fault in the least, which he has told Hobeom a thousand times already, but everybody is on edge and therefore it’s easy to blame him. Jimin is nowhere to be seen either, and Taehyung can’t help feeling a worried twinge somewhere in the pit of his stomach. When their schedule is packed to the brim and half of it is happening in another country, time travelling seems like the worst thing that could happen.

He has no time to worry much longer, because Hoseok rushes into their tiny room and throws a pair of his own socks at Taehyung’s face.

“Put those on and hurry up, Hobeom-hyung is ready to blow up the car.”

“You’d think that would seriously complicate our plans to get to the airport,” Taehyung mutters dryly, but pulls on the socks and grabs his backpack. Everything else is already safely in the trunk of another car, and Taehyung tries not to think about all the stuff he must have forgotten.

“Hey, where’s Jimin?”

Namjoon is driving shotgun, like usual, and Yoongi and Seokjin are already sitting in the backseat. Hoseok, Jungkook, and Taehyung on their heels, pack themselves into the van as well, but Jimin is nowhere to be seen. It’s strange to feel almost uncomfortable because there is much more space in the back of the car than usually.

Hobeom gives him a look through the rearview mirror, but the eye contact doesn’t last more than a second and leaves Taehyung feeling uneasy more than anything. “He’s in another car. We figured you could all use a bit more space, right?” His tone is probably meant to be nice and easy, but it makes Taehyung frown.

“Can I go there too?”

“Uh, no. There’s staff members and luggage and all, so there wasn’t that much space, in the end.”

Hoseok is already looking at Taehyung funnily for arguing, but Taehyung isn’t blind. He can see Hoseok is not accepting Hobeom’s words as easily as he’s pretending.

They are only ten minutes late, and Hobeom ushers them through baggage drop and security check like a strict and extremely stressed out dad. Taehyung and Jungkook crack jokes under their breaths when Hobeom nearly starts frisking the passengers himself at the security line to speed things up, but Taehyung does it mostly to ease the bubbling anxiety threatening to burst out as words. The reason for that is of course Jimin, who still hasn’t showed up.

Hobeom brushed Taehyung’s loud complains off with a few simple sentences: he already went through security with the other staff members. You’ll join him in a minute. Just be quiet for a while, Taehyung, and let me get this sorted. Taehyung wanted to keep pestering him, but in the end Namjoon dragged him away and kept him busy with idle chatter. Yoongi and Hoseok exchanged glances with him, but they kept quiet, sensing that pestering an incredibly volatile Hobeom isn’t a very smart thing to do.

“We really don’t have time to argue, okay? Just, just sit tight and do as I say. You’ll see him in the plane.”

Taehyung is ready burst out of his skin when they finally hurry through the tax-free stores and coffee shops to their gate. The trip seems to take forever, and the airport is crowded, and Taehyung doesn’t even really know what it is that makes him feel so agitated. It’s just strange for them to travel separately like this when they have never done it before. And something about Hobeom’s expression had screamed suspicious, the way he had avoided looking at Taehyung for too long.

They board the plane, and Jimin is there, and Taehyung feels like he can finally breathe again. His imagination cooked up stories of Jimin having time travelled and gotten stuck there, and the first real glimpse of Jimin, who’s wearing a snapback and a thick hoodie, sends a wave of warmth through Taehyung’s spine.

That is until he looks closer.

Jimin’s head is lolling against the low backrest of the seat, his entire body lax and ready to slump down all the way to the floor where he’s slumped next to the wall, small and unnoticeable. Taehyung is about to call his name, figuring he must be bored just sitting there by himself (staff doesn’t always count, especially if they are immersed in their phones like the manager who’s sitting on the middle seat is), but then notices that Jimin’s eyes are closed.

“Hey, are you sleeping or––?”

Taehyung leans over their manager and shakes Jimin’s shoulder, but nothing happens. He doesn’t make a sound or move a finger, and the manager gives Taehyung an uneasy look.

Jimin makes a small sound, like he’s mumbling in his sleep, and his head falls forward like he has no control of his muscles. For a second, Taehyung thinks he might see Jimin’s eyelashes flutter, as if he was struggling to open them.

“What’s going on?” Namjoon asks, his voice surprisingly even. He’s standing right behind Taehyung, all of them are, blocking the entire isle, and there is already a flight attendant trying to get their attention and clinging hard to her polite smile. Taehyung doesn’t move, though; he can’t even imagine having spoken as politely as Namjoon, not when his insides are flipping and coiling around themselves.

The manager next to Jimin swallows so loudly it’s like a gunshot in Taehyung’s ears. Hobeom steps in to save him from answering, though. “Get in your seats, you idiots, the plane is about to leave right this second. You can sit next to him if you want, Taehyung, and Namjoon, go right there. The rest of you, here––”

The flight attendant looks like he could kiss Hobeom then and there when they are all finally settled.

Hobeom and the other manager are now sitting in the row in front of Taehyung, Jimin and Namjoon. The plane starts finally moving, and Hobeom presses his face into the crack between the seats and gives Taehyung a weird look. If he didn’t know better, he’d say Hobeom looks almost flushed, jaw tight, and not from anger.

“Listen,” he says in a low voice, clearly not wanting to give the other passengers the chance to eavesdrop. Hoseok, Jungkook and Yoongi, sitting in the row on their left, are all straining their ears and practically on top of each other, leaning over the isle. Seokjin got the honor of sitting with the managers, and he’s stuffing his face into the crack as well.

Hobeom clears his throat. “I’m sorry I couldn’t explain this before, but I hope you understand this was necessary and we saw no other way. If there was, we would have done it, but..” He looks down for a second, before swallowing. “He had to be drugged for the trip. He agreed to it, so you don’t have to worry. It’s the only way for him to fly safely and we discussed this at length with Jimin and his parents.” Hobeom’s voice is hardly louder than a whisper, and thanks to the hum of the plane and the chatter of the other passengers around them, Taehyung is all but reading the words from his lips rather than hearing them.

Blood rushes in his ears. He hasn’t let go of Jimin’s hand once after sitting down next to him, and Jimin’s skin is cool and clammy against his palm. It’s like he’s sick or something, feverish, and he keeps muttering small, incomprehensible words that are probably only there for Taehyung’s ears to pick up.

“We made some special arrangements to get him on the plane before anybody else so that nobody would be suspicious and there wouldn’t be any fan pictures or anything. That’s why he had to come on a different van. There is the whole matter of landing, which quite frankly I don’t want to think about right now… But we’ll figure it out.”

“What if somebody notices?” Seokjin asks, voice even softer than Hobeom’s.

“We will just have to hope that we can somehow sneak him out, too,” Hobeom says and sighs, shrugging and offering them a crooked grin. It’s the first time Taehyung notices how tired he looks. “Or that we come up with an alternative route from the plane to our van when we get to Tokyo. But I don’t really have any answers. We have to play it by the ear.”

“When will he–– when will he get back to normal?” Taehyung asks. “Maybe he can just walk out?”

Hobeom gives him a look that’s almost pitying. “It doesn’t work like that. The drugs are really tough on his system, designed to keep him down for the entire flight so that there isn’t the slightest chance of him waking up and panicking, okay? That’s why he’s not just going to snap out of it. He’s going to be groggy and maybe nauseous––”

“But how can we––”

“We’ll just have to manage,” Hobeom speaks over him, voice stonier. “This is the only way. Now try to sleep, we have an interview one hour after we land.”

Taehyung wants to keep arguing, but Namjoon’s palm on his thigh is a big enough warning. Taehyung swallows the heated words on the tip of his tongue and turns to Jimin instead. It’s also the first time he notices they are already in the air; bright sunlight colors Jimin’s snapback light gray and his pale face with a healthier color, but it also shows the droplets of sweat on his neck and how rapidly his eyes are moving under his eyelids. The shadows of his lashes keep jerking and casting soft lines over his cheeks.

Taehyung squeezes Jimin’s hand a little harder. He should be glad, of course, that Jimin is on the plane with them in the first place, but some part of him can’t help trembling with uneasiness. He’d just like to hear it from Jimin’s own mouth, that this was all planned and he was part of it and not just drugged out of the blue during breakfast or something.

Namjoon bumps into his shoulder and gives him a tentative smile. Taehyung tries to return it as bravely as he can. It’s not a place where they can really say anything, not with Hobeom already at the end of his patience (Taehyung doesn’t blame him; it must be incredibly stressful, considering the risks), but Taehyung can also see in the corner of his eye how Jungkook, Hoseok and Yoongi are whispering to each other with their heads practically glued together, and envies them. Just a little, though, because at least he gets to sit right next to Jimin.

It’s no more than a two-hour flight, and despite everything, Taehyung spends it sleeping, if extremely fitfully. It feels as if every time Jimin moves even the smallest bit or makes even the tiniest sound, Taehyung’s eyes snap open and he just has to check on him. At one point, he dreams that Jimin suddenly wakes and then disappears with a horrified look on his face, but when Taehyung looks again, Jimin is still right there, slumped in the corner, chest rising and falling.

After landing, Hobeom tells all of them to stay in their seats. After all other passengers have left, which takes a small eternity, Hobeom and the other manager go over to talk to the staff, and then one of them brings a wheelchair over. It’s clearly much more difficult to get a completely limp, unresponsive Jimin out of the little corner he’s been nudged into than it was dumping him there, but they manage. Taehyung tries not to look at any of the flight attendants; he doesn’t know why, but he doesn’t want to see their faces.

At least nobody has their phones out or anything. At least they aren’t famous enough for that.

Hobeom pushes Jimin through the airport like he knows exactly where he’s going. Taehyung is torn between looking around and drinking in the new sights and staying glued to Jimin’s side. It’s the first time he’s been abroad, and everything is so overwhelming it’s almost easier to just focus on Jimin and his masked face hidden behind the cap of his hat.

Hoseok leaves the members of their small staff to get their luggage and leads the rest of them out. It’s the furthest exit, tucked away and far from the place you’d expect them to come out of, but there are still plenty of people. Taehyung is glad that Hobeom made all of them wear masks and sunglasses, too.

Just like Hobeom said, there is a big black van waiting for them. They try to get Jimin in as discreetly as possible, but of course a few passers-by give them curious glances. Taehyung can feel the back of his neck getting hotter.

When they’re finally behind black glass and the driver hits gas pedal, he breathes out. Jimin is sitting next to him again, safe and solid and present right there, and nobody noticed.

It’s hard to feel as proud when Jimin still hasn’t woken up for the interview. Hobeom makes excuses and they all bow and apologize with Namjoon in the lead, but the pit of Taehyung’s stomach is full of angry, squirming snakes and he keeps missing cues and fumbling with his words. He can’t help but worry about Jimin, worry that something went wrong or that he’s waking up somewhere, alone and disoriented. Of course there are staff members, but it’s just–– it’s not the same.

Hobeom ushers them back to their meager hotel the moment they finish taking the last photos, and Taehyung couldn’t be more eager. He’s nearly jumping the walls of the elevator, and Yoongi actually grabs his arm at some point just to keep him still. Taehyung grins sheepishly.

“Japan’s cool, right?” Taehyung tries, weakly. Yoongi gives him a pointed look, but Hoseok smiles and nods, and Jungkook, even if he looks horribly tired and much more thoughtful than Taehyung is completely happy with, launches into a story of when he tried speaking Japanese with the cashier when buying a bottle of water and ended up with a lottery ticket instead, even though he’s technically underage.

Taehyung feels like he can breathe properly for the first time in ages when he sees Jimin sitting on a bed. Properly sitting, not collapsed down like a boneless doll. They share a room, of course, and Jimin’s things are already spread all over one of the small beds. His shoulders are slumped, which gives Taehyung a few involuntary flashbacks to how lifeless he had been on the plane, but he’s sitting on his own without any difficulty and sipping water from a plastic bottle.

It’s just Taehyung and Jimin, which he’s immensely grateful for. When Jimin lifts his chin and their eyes meet, it’s easy to see that Jimin is, too.

“How was the interview?” His voice sounds heavy, scratchy and rough, just like after a long sleep, and his eyes are still puffy.

Taehyung slips out of his sneakers and moves to sit down next to Jimin on the bed. He resists the urge to pat him down for any damage or pain, even though the realistic part of him knows absolutely nothing could have happened to him. Jimin just slept, nothing more.

“Horrible,” Taehyung says, but he forces himself to grin. “I think I wished everyone merry Christmas instead of thanking them.”

“As if,” Jimin says, but at least he’s smiling too, and there’s a clear note of laughter in his voice. “Nobody could be that stupid.”

“I don’t know, I was pretty nervous.”

“I’m not buying that,” Jimin says and takes another sip of water.

“How––” Taehyung pauses to swallow; he’s not sure what he wants to ask, much less how he should do it. It feels like he’s back in the chair being interviewed in front of cameras and has lost all of his words. “How are you?”

“Pretty good,” Jimin replies, but his voice is too airy. He’s trying to make it seem like less of a big deal than it is. Or maybe Taehyung is just freaking out and exaggerating everything, who the hell knows. “I’m starving, though, can’t wait for dinner. Please tell me we’re having tonkatsu?”

“We can text Hobeom-hyung and ask,” Taehyung notices himself replying easily. His voice and body are responding to the brightness of Jimin’s words, no matter how fake that might be, but maybe that’s a good thing. No need to worry anyone more than necessary. “But he said we can’t go too far from the hotel, so our options might be pretty limited.”

“Right.” Jimin nods. He opens his mouth as if to say something more, but in the end only wets his bottom lip quickly with his tongue and looks down at his lap again. Taehyung shifts on the bed, suddenly horribly unsure of where to put his hands. They end up on his thighs, twitchy and nervous.

The silence stretches like bubble gum, and Taehyung finds himself clearing his throat like he’s about to speak, but without any idea of what’s going to jump out of his mouth. He tries to stop the words and get up, busy his body with getting a fresh t-shirt out of his overstuffed bag. The locks refuse to snap open fast enough, though, and as he struggles with them, his mouth is already opening––

“Was it–– You knew what was going to happen, right? They didn’t, just. I don’t know. Slip something into your breakfast?”

Jimin makes a strangled sound.

“No, no, no. No! Of course not.” Taehyung jolts a little when he feels a palm on his shoulder. The bag is finally spread open and taking what feels like half of the already tiny room, and he straightens his back, the first black shirt he could find hanging from loose fingers. Jimin is behind him and pulls his hand back the moment Taehyung turns around.

“Bang PD and Hobeom-hyung and me, we had this, like, mini meeting, I guess, something like a week ago,” Jimin continues. He looks almost uncomfortably serious. “They’d come up with the whole plan, even called my parents, but they also wanted to talk to me about it, you know, because…”

“You’re the one who can actually time travel,” Taehyung finishes the sentence for him. Jimin nods, but instead of answering Taehyung’s small smile, the corners of his mouth fall further down.

“Yeah,” he says. “And I figured, it’s a good plan, right. Couldn’t come up with anything better myself, and in any case, I was just happy that… Uh,” his voice dies down abruptly, like he’d just swallowed his tongue. Even though Taehyung doesn’t continue the sentence this time, he can guess the thoughts circling inside Jimin’s mind like vultures over a dying man. Happy that I could even come, that I wasn’t just kicked out because I can’t ride a goddamn plane. Happy that they thought I was worth all this hassle.

Of course, Taehyung doesn’t know if those are the exact words, but a part of him likes to think he knows Jimin fairly well by now. He has seen Jimin sitting alone in the cafeteria of their high school in Seoul, shoulders hunched and picking his food, because he’d been too shy to talk to anyone. Even to the friends Taehyung had practically forced him to introduce himself to. Jimin had mumbled something about his accent, sticking to his words like thick layers of honey, but Taehyung figured soon that it wasn’t the real thing that bothered Jimin.

Every day, Jimin would walk to school, afraid of disappearing any second. Taehyung can’t even really pinpoint when he figured it out, but it was probably a little bit of everything. The way Jimin steers away from any social situations, be it answering questions or finding a partner for pair work. The way he’s careful not to end up anywhere where he could be surprised or scared. The way he takes all exams in a separate room and has to lie to everyone that he’s dyslexic, when the real reason is that he's terrified of losing control when faced with something as simple as a difficult math problem.

“That’s good, then,” Taehyung says. “It worked out pretty well, right? We’re all here, and hey, I totally forgot to tell you, but I overheard Hobeom-hyung on the phone and he was telling somebody, probably the other staff members, not to book an interview or anything so close to landing again, no matter what.”

Jimin gives Taehyung a long, searching look, like he’s looking for any indication that Taehyung is just lying for his benefit. It’s easy to keep his face open, and Taehyung lets his grin become a little wider.

Jimin swallows. “I– I guess. And I mean.” His eyes graze the floor and then jump up to the ceiling, a soft, almost wistful smile on his face. “I can’t believe that I’m actually in Japan. And not just jumping in time, I mean, but, like, actually here.”

Taehyung nods along and starts pulling the new shirt on. Jimin turns around, not out of modesty because when you live in a dorm the size of theirs, you’re bound to see every single inch of your flatmates, but to search for his phone and check the time.

“And you didn’t drool on yourself either,” Taehyung says, voice muffled behind all the fabric. “Just made these weird little noises. Was it a dream or something?”

Jimin blinks and a small v appears between his eyebrows. “Huh. I can’t really remember.”

“Yeah, well, it was okay. I don’t think anybody else heard it, anyway.”

“You made sure to press a pillow on my face every time?”

“Absolutely.”

 

 


 

 

Jimin is 20, 35 and 13, Taehyung is 20

 

The entire week is a series of little trips back and forth.

First, Jimin’s older self interrupts their music video shooting. It’s not too bad, even though Jimin has to run off in the middle of the shoot to find him clothes before any of the blissfully oblivious staff members notice a crazy naked man running around the set. After that, his older self, who must be at least thirty, blends in easily, just as easily as all the others before him. Jimin envies him fiercely, wondering when he’ll learn the same tricks himself.

It sends nervous, panicky butterflies all over his stomach when his future self stays long enough to hang out after. Hobeom looks incredibly flustered shaking his hand and so do the rest of the members, and Jimin doesn’t think he’s imagining the way their mouths can’t quite close as they stare at the older Jimin.

Sure, he looks… pretty incredibly. Like a real celebrity, with his chocolate brown hair and features that make Jimin unconsciously poke his own soft cheeks. It’s not the oldest he’s ever seen himself, but just like always, it’s difficult to think he will become like that some day. The differences are too stark.

“Jimin says you can’t tell us anything about the future,” Hoseok says, an almost sneaky smile on his lips. Jimin reaches out a hand to slap his shoulder, which makes the rest of them grin.

His future self shakes his head and smiles, just as teasing as Hoseok is. It’s bizarre that the older Jimin is so different, but he gets along with literally everyone in the present time like, well… Like he has already lived it once. He knows them, knows to give Hoseok a mischievous grin and even calls Namjoon, Hoseok, Seokjin and Yoongi, even Hobeom, hyung like it’s the most natural thing to do.

Then again, jimin is almost certain his future self is doing it just to mess with everyone’s heads.

“Wish I could,” the future Jimin says. “I’d make you guess. Though you could probably never get it right, we’ve been through so much crazy stuff.”

“But,” Jungkook puts in. “We’re still together, as a group, right?”

“I really can’t answer that.”

“Of course we are,” Seokjin says, scoffing at Jungkook. “Don’t be stupid. We’ll go at least as far as Shinhwa.”

The future Jimin laughs along with them, and the glance he gives Jimin is full of glimmering amusement and affection. He stays long enough to have dinner with them (and joke about how he’d love to pay for it but left his wallet at another time), and Jimin is impressed he never really spills anything.

Everybody is weirdly serene after Jimin’s future self leaves. They sit around their small TV and talk about the future, how cool they’ll be, that they must really hit it big at some point to become people like that. Jimin listens to them and their shy dreams, leaning his cheek against his palm, and feels both amused and a little guilty. There are things he knows and always will be, but right now it seems like he doesn't know the right ones. There's nothing he could tell them, not even small things.

As if they were following a script, it’s a younger Jimin that visits them next. They are on their way to a fansign in Daegu and waiting at the parking lot of a rest stop because Hoseok just had to go to the bathroom for the hundredth time, and when he comes back, he’s not alone. He’s dragging a little kid with him, who’s drowning in Hoseok’s sweater and doesn’t have shoes on.

Jimin knows immediately what’s going on and practically leaps out of the car.

“Crap,” he mutters and jogs to meet the two of them. “Hey, I guess you, uh, found… me.”

His younger self looks immediately relieved when he spots Jimin and scoots closer. Jimin tries to figure out how he never, not once during the entire time he has been aware of their fansign schedules, drew the line between this particular time travel and today. Of course, Jimin remembers being here now; suddenly disappearing from home where he had been watching a scary movie alone and frightened and finding himself in the middle of a strange parking lot that’s full of sunlight and laughter and the smell of hot dogs.

“Yeah,” Hoseok says. He sounds a little breathless, but the smile on his face is strangely excited. “You, I mean, he, just kind of bumped into me over there, when I was running out of the bathroom. We should take him with us, right? Jimin, wanna go to Daegu?”

The younger Jimin eyes Hoseok with his entire body oozing suspicion and then he throws Jimin a stormy glance. “Does he know?” The boy sounds a lot older than he is (ten, if Jimin remembers correctly), and his body refuses to relax like he’s still ready to flee any second. Jimin remembers the feeling and grabs his hand, just so that he can squeeze it gently.

“He knows, and actually I’m here with a few people who all know, so it’s safe.”

“Okay,” his younger self answers, still sulky, but at least he’s not looking at Hoseok like he’s a wanted criminal any longer. “Why are you going to Daegu?” He says it with a tense voice, but Jimin knows immediately what he’s trying to hide behind the façade of indifference. Longing, almost, because at ten, Jimin had never travelled anywhere other than through time, and even the idea of Daegu sounded foreign. Exciting and new.

But Jimin can’t help chewing his bottom lip, because he definitely can’t ever remember actually being in Daegu as a kid. He turns halfway towards the car and can’t decide if he should call for Hobeom and the rest of them and tell them what’s going on, or… What? Try to magic his younger self back into the past? For once, he wishes for a Jimin who was older than him to take control of the situation and nudge them all to the right direction, because right now he feels like he’s blindfolded and walking through a mine field. There is a right path somewhere out there, but how on earth is he supposed to walk it when he doesn’t know how? No matter how hard Jimin wracks his brain, the memories refuse to get any clearer.

Jimin pushes his hair back. He’s never been good at split-second decisions, which is both strange and a major setback when one happens to be a time traveler.

“Okay, we, uh–– we…” Jimin swallows and avoid Hoseok’s eyes, because he knows that if they looked at each other right now, Jimin couldn’t help asking for help. “We’ll go to the car and, um–– Start driving. He’ll, uh, just go when he feels like it?” He knows that there’s a question mark at the end of that sentence, but tries to look as firm as he can as he takes his smaller self along back to the van. Hobeom’s eyes are practically bugging out of his head when he notices them.

Jimin has to give it to all of them, though; they welcome his past self into the car like it was part of the plan to pick him up all along. There isn’t a single empty seat, but Jimin holds his younger self on his lap (they are like brothers to some extent, after all) and little by little he can feel him relaxing. Seokjin sends Jungkook to buy some extra snacks, and Hobeom starts the car like he has all the time in the world, even though he must be counting seconds until their fansign in supposed to start.

Taehyung sleeps through the entire thing, curled up under his jacket on the furthest seat in the back. Yoongi almost leans over to wake him up, but Jimin grabs his hand. It's a difficult decision, but there is one thing Jimin knows for certain; he won't meet Taehyung for real until he joins Big Hit, so he's not supposed to meet him now, as a confused little kid whose eaten half his weight in candy and so hyper the entire car seems to be jumping up and down with him. It’s a little bittersweet, but Jimin doesn’t let himself dwell on it.

The past Jimin disappears when they are about ten kilometers outside the city, and Jimin feels a sting of disappointment for him. For himself, really. But at least now that he’s a little older, he finally gets to finish the car ride.

All in all, it feels like his emotions are running on overdrive. It’s strange, like he’s travelling more and more and consequently feeling more and more unstable because he’s travelling. Control is slipping through his fingers, because everything around them is so very… emotional. During a single day, he’s first nervous, then scared, then over the moon with excitement, then exhausted and worried about the following day. Jimin always thought a schedule packed to the brim like an idol’s would have helped him wrestle all those feelings down, subdue them because there are so many things to think about. Turns out it’s the opposite.

Jimin disappears a total of three times right before their first solo concert. First twice the day before, then once on the actual day of the concert.

The first time, he spends a few hours hiding in a closet. At first, he’s absolutely terrified of having travelled to some stranger’s house, but after a while he hears a strangely familiar voice coming from the other side. Jimin presses his ear against the door and, clear as a day, a woman yells on the other side: “Namjoon! Go wait in the other room, I need to call a few more clients before we can leave.”

“Sure, mom,” a voice answers. Jimin tenses when footsteps make their way closer and closer, but in the end they stop a few meters away and Jimin gets to listen how Namjoon, probably in junior high school, hums melodies to himself and tries out shy, uncertain lyrics. He sounds so different from the way he does now, fumbling and trying to spit out English words that are too long and difficult for him, but at the same time Jimin relaxes into the hints of that familiar rhythm and pace this youger Namjoon already has.

When Jimin comes back to present, sleepy and achy after having to sit inside a small, cramped pace for so long, it’s like appearing in the middle of a hurricane.

It’s their backstage dressing room, the same place Jimin left from, and he finds his clothes folded neatly on a chair. When Jimin dares to peek out of the door, all he sees is people running, carrying huge piles of clothing or water bottles, and the entire place is already echoing with the sound of their music.

Jimin tiptoes out of the safety of the empty room and finds Hobeom. He’s not exactly angry, just very, very tense, and commands Jimin to the stage without another word. They are apparently in the middle of the first run through.

But it happens again. Jimin travels right before they are supposed to start the final encore song. It’s just the idea of how many people the concert hall will have, how loudly they could scream. Or they could be completely silent, disappointed, unimpressed. Even though it’s not even the concert itself, yet, Jimin can feel how his heart struggles to beat and air escapes his already aching lungs. And then he’s gone, the stage and empty auditorium disappear from around him, and he finds himself in his own bedroom in his childhood home.

Jimin pushes himself up, whole body shaking, and notices immediately how empty the room is. There are hardly any books or toys, in fact it looks completely indifferent somehow, not like his safe space at all. The calendar on the wall finally tells him he’s in 2012.

The Jimin of this time must have just left for Seoul, and his parents probably emptied the room and made it something like a guest room. Jimin blinks a few times and then stands up from the bed, feeling strangely like a guest even if he knows every single corner of this room. This entire house, really. It’s easy to find a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt from his parent’s bedroom, and for once Jimin doesn’t have to feel panicked about surviving.

Jimin walks downstairs and finds his mother watching some late afternoon drama on the TV. She looks just the same as he remembers, and it’s like a gentle fist clutching Jimin’s heart.

“Hi, mom,” Jimin says quietly. Of course, he scares the living spirit out of his mother, who jumps up from the sofa with a small, muffled scream and stumbles backwards towards the door to the terrace.

“Wait, wait! It’s me, just me, I’m sorry––” Jimin holds his hands up and takes a few steps forward, making sure to meet his mom’s eyes. It takes a few tension-loaded seconds before she calms down enough to really understand who she’s looking at.

“Oh, you–– But you’re–– Oh,” his mother says, letting out a soft laugher. “Where did you come from? Have you eaten? I can fix you something really quickly, we had mackerel for breakfast and of course there are leftovers, I still haven’t gotten used to cooking for three––”

Sitting with his mom and listening to her chatter works like magic; Jimin forgets where he is and how much time passes. He forgets to hope to return as quickly as possible and forgets to worry about how mad Hobeom will be afterwards. It’s been a few days for his mom, but for Jimin himself, he hasn’t seen his family in months. He hasn’t even realized how much he’s missed them until his mom starts telling him about his brother at school, how his father has already been talking about trying to save enough money to make a trip to Seoul…

Jimin grabs his mother’s hand right before he disappears again. Surprisingly, there is no panic or anxiety, not even the usual feeling of no-wait-too-soon. He has enough time to smile at her and nod he’s head before he’s gone, as if he had meant to visit his family all along and it had been the time to run to catch the bus home.

This time, Hobeom is definitely angry.

“Could you please just–– just maybe not disappear again for the next two days? We are on a tight schedule here, you know that, you know how important this is to everybody, and we can’t perform tomorrow if you miss 90 percent of the rehearsals!” Hobeom hisses after Jimin finally gathers enough courage to walk up to him. Everybody has just finished eating and are about to head to the stage once again for final dress rehearsal. Jimin feels awkward in the same comfortable pants and t-shirt he’s been wearing all day when everybody else is in costumes, make-up done and still panting from the last run-through.

Jimin later learns from a grumbly Yoongi that they had repeated the last four songs three times in a row. All the while Jimin had been sitting at home and eating without a care in the world.

He tries everything he can. Jimin uses all of his strength, even the smallest bits he can find, just to stay in the moment, focus on the choreography and their teacher’s words, the techs and the way they are testing lights and telling them about the stage props. But it’s like his mind is already losing its grip on the edge; he feels out of balance, both by the situation and what Hobeom had told him earlier. Trying his hardest not to think about time travelling makes him nervous and jumpy, which in turns has him missing steps and making stupid mistakes in every single song. That winds his already straining nerves tighter and tighter.

They snap the next day.

Everybody is at the verge of a breakdown right now, coordis running around carrying pieces of their outfits, and Hobeom following them barking orders with a phone in his hand. Namjoon hasn’t said a single word all morning, just stuck his earphones on and disappeared into the music, and Hoseok and Seokjin are running through all their choreographies, both of them pale and sweating. It’s like the air itself could catch on fire any second, and Jimin finds himself almost scared of breathing in. Then, two hours before they are supposed to climb up on the stage and start the first song, Jimin travels.

“No, fuck, no, nononono, please––” He doesn’t know who he’s begging, some kind of god or himself or this fucking disease he has, but it’s no use, of course. One moment, he’s getting his eyeliner done while Yoongi taps a horribly tense pattern on the table next to him and Jungkook sings on the top of his lungs right behind them, the next he’s… somewhere cold.

Jimin stares at the dirty brick wall in front of him, but can still see the horrified look on the make up artist’s face in his mind. They had shared a quick eye contact through the mirror, and Jimin wishes he had said something else. Apologized, maybe, because Hobeom will no doubt scream at the poor girl after he finds out. Unless Jimin makes it back right away. It’s not impossible, in fact he has done plenty of mini-travelling that has lasted only around ten or twenty minutes, and Jimin tries to take a few calming breaths and then focus all his energy on returning. He can make it happen, he can, he really can––

After at least fifteen minutes of just crouching down behind a trashcan and hoping so badly it’s almost like a physical effort, Jimin is still there, on some small side street, by the looks and smell of it. By now the surrounding cold has really started to dig itself deep into Jimin’s bones. He hugs himself as tightly as he can and starts looking for some clothes.

The big trash cans are well stocked, and Jimin finds himself a pair of jeans that have more holes than fabric and a jacket that’s missing a zipper. No luck with shoes, which is typical, but makes Jimin grimace nonetheless. He looks like a teenager going through their punk phase with his styled hair and black-rimmed eyes, but more often than not, time travellers really can’t afford to be choosers.

Toes blue and fingers buried in the pockets of his new jacket, Jimin peeks around the corner at a fairly busy street. He doesn’t recognize the place, but there are quite a lot of cafes and small restaurants. Too bad Jimin can’t really enter any of them, not without shoes and a proper shirt and some goddamn money. He does know he could steal something, lika a hotteok from the near-by stand; they’ve stacked a nice pile of three too close to the edge, and with enough distraction from another customer, Jimin could have one hidden inside his jacket and be back behind the corner before the seller would notice a thing.

His stomach is tying itself into knots, and even though food might make him feel a little warmer, he abandons the idea. He already feels like puking and adding food to the mix doesn’t sound that appealing.

Jimin leans against the wall and tries to relax. It’s a waiting game, and he knows his cards are hideously bad, what with his mind already teetering on the edge of hysteria as minutes tick slowly by. His muscles ache from being so tense, and blood rushes in his ears, repeating the same thing over and over again like a maddening whisper; you don’t have time, you don’t have time, you don’t––

“I promise you, they will be very professional! Yes, sir, I know they are a new group and I understand it’s a risk, but I can vouch for them. They are talented, really talented, and if you’d just let them perform once––”

The voice is familiar. Jimin perks up and tries to look around as discreetly as possible, but there seem to be no familiar faces anywhere. He can’t decide who that voice belongs to and the only person he can see is some office worker who’s almost face to face with him and talking on his cellphone. Jimin steals a quick glance, just to be sure it’s not some older version of any of the members (or hell, himself), when he finally realizes who he’s seeing.

It’s Hobeom. Younger than Jimin knows him, but definitely Hobeom. He’s wearing a suit that’s just a little bit on the shabby side and he’s leaner than in Jimin’s time, but the expression on his face is achingly familiar. It’s full of that same tense desperations that Jimin has been seeing for the past week, but what’s more, there is also a hint of something like surrender in Hobeom’s voice. Like he’s ready to give up, which Jimin hasn’t noticed in his demeanor once before.

“Please, sir, imagine Big Bang, when they started! You won’t be disappointed, I promise you––”

An uncomfortable feeling uncurls somewhere in the pit of Jimin’s stomach. He turns around quickly, nearly gracing his nose against the wall, as Hobeom passes by, and then looks after him. The suit jacket is too small for him, showing his wrists and pinched tight over his shoulders, and Jimin tries to remember the last time he’s seen Hobeom wear a suit in the first place.

It’s not a conscious move at first, but he ends up following after Hobeom. It takes his mind off the constant worrying about time, no matter how ironic that is since it’s the older version of Hobeom who Jimin is so afraid of right now. The pettier part of Jimin wants to catch up to him and make him see that Jimin isn’t doing this on purpose, that he’s stuck here and would do anything to get back. Would that change the future and would the Hobeom in the present suddenly remember? The idea makes Jimin feel lightheaded, so he stops trying to turn the puzzle pieces in his mind and just listens to the audible half of the conversation.

“Yes, of course! I’d swear that on anything, I’d–– On my parent’s house and all their assets? Well, I–– Of course I would.” Hobeom’s steps are getting quicker, more irritated, but his voice is enviably agreeable.

“Yes. Yes. The best group there is,” Hobeom says. Out of the blue, he comes to a halt, and reflexively, Jimin stops behind him as well. It’s not how a time traveler is supposed to act at all, not when staying discreet and unnoticeable can make the difference between life and death, but it’s both Hobeom’s words as well as his actions that root Jimin to the spot. “Absolutely the best. It’ll be a really great show, I know it. They have already gotten some attention, on social media especially, and their debut––”

It takes a long moment before Jimin’s brain finally registers what he just heard. Doesn’t that mean that Hobeom would–– know? Jimin gulps, wriggling his freezing toes and clutching the jacket around himself, and reaches forward. Without thinking, just glad that he doesn’t have to stay hidden. There’s a smile curling in the corners of his mouth already, because he can’t wait to see Hobeom’s face, can’t wait to tell him he’s been worrying for nothing––

Jimin’s palm lands on Hobeom’s shoulder, the word ‘hyung’ makes its way halfway out of his mouth, and he disappears back to the present.

He has just enough time to blink owlishly at his own face in the mirror in front of him before somebody grabs his shoulders and whirls him around.

“He’s here! Hyung, hyung! HE’S HERE!”

Jimin draws breath to answer, but his lungs must be working slower than usual, because before he can get a word out, there’s a pile of clothes thrown at his face. Jungkook, the one who yelled, is already rushing out of the dressing room, and when Jimin emerges from under the pants, it’s Hobeom standing in front of him instead.

“Three minutes, three fucking minutes!” He’s holding up three shaky fingers right in front of Jimin’s nose. His face is scarily expressionless, like it’s been carved out of stone. “Get your ass in gear and if you’re not standing in line before the fucking song starts I will–– God, I don’t even know what. And keep that goddamn thing of yours under control, or-- You’ve caused everyone enough harm as it is, so don’t you–– don’t ruing this night, okay? Got it? Huh?”

The words hurt. Of course they do, but Jimin forces himself to breathe through them. It’s like being thrown into a pool of icy-cold water and having to fight the suffocating pressure around him. Jimin doesn’t dare to close his eyes, just looks down and nods like he has to. Hobeom leaves after a few charged, bristly seconds of him just looking down at Jimin, and his absence is like a hastily applied band-aid over a bullet wound.

Jimin dresses himself without a single conscious thought and moves through the backstage like a robot. He finds the rest of the members exactly like Hobeom said, in a line right next to the stage where the huge, booming noises from the audience is already echoing. They don’t have enough time to say anything, because by the time Jimin makes it to his place, the lights start flashing and the first notes of music fill the air, and they start moving.

Jimin doesn’t miss the looks on their faces, though. Shocked disbelief, anger, frustrated relief. He can make out all those emotions just fine even in the dark.

It’s all a blur. He doesn’t remember much afterwards, just tries to survive through the waves of adrenaline still running through him after encores have been all played and they’ve left the stage. All his limbs are shaking, and he practically collapses on the sofa in the dressing room, the hurried, awkward hugs from the staff members and Hobeom still making his body want to lock up. Jimin is surprised at himself, because a huge part of him just wants to disappear. He’d give… well, he’d give a whole lot to be able to escape to another time right now, where he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. He could just curl up somewhere so well-hidden that nobody would be able to find him, no matter how hard they tried.

Jimin wants to laugh at the absurdity of it. For the past two days he’s been absolutely terrified of disappearing and now he wishes for it.

“What’s with the long face?” Yoongi gives Jimin’s shoulder a friendly smack. Jimin blinks, like a man slowly thawing from being frozen, and stares at the droplets of sweat all over Yoongi’s face. He knows he’s dripping just as badly, probably enough that nobody would even notice if he–– what, cried his eyes out? For a such a simple thing as getting his feelings hurt?

“It’s nothing,” Jimin says finally and wants to wince at how snappish his voice turns into. He doesn’t understand why it’s happening when he’s trying everything to just act normal. He’s all but screaming at himself inside his head already, to shut the fuck up because he knows he’s at fault here. No reason for his entire body to boil under the attack of emotions like this.

Yoongi cocks his eyebrows.

A small sound, like an annoyed huff, escapes from Jimin’s mouth. “I’ll just–– go somewhere else.” Wish he could. He’d go so far…

Jimin makes a move to get up from the couch, and Yoongi’s eyes narrow. “Hey, what? We just finished our concert, a real concert, we should be celebrating and not sulking.”

“Look, I’m not in the mood,” Jimin replies. The icy tone of his voice refuses to melt, despite the hotness in his chest. He doesn’t really think about it when he adds: “Hobeom-hyung made sure of that.”

“What do you mean?” Namjoon asks with a voice that conveys absolutely nothing. Not anger or suspicion, not empathy.

Jimin can’t help meeting Jungkook’s eyes very briefly before speaking. He is fairly sure Jungkook must have heard everything Hobeom said to him, but apparently he hadn’t shared with the rest of the class. “He was just… being a bit of an asshole.”

“He was probably just worried,” Seokjin says and shrugs, and Hoseok nods next to him. Jimin can already see from Namjoon’s eyes that he doesn’t particularly care for Jimin calling their manager an asshole. Namjoon isn’t the type to lecture, not really, but he also takes his role as the leader so seriously it’s already become a part of who he is.

“Hobeom-hyung has worked really hard for tonight, and––”

There it is. Jimin doesn’t even try to hide the loud sigh rumbling in his belly. It stops Namjoon in his tracks, and the frown between Yoongi’s eyebrows deepens.

“Jimin––” He starts, pinching the bridge of his nose like he’s irritated he even has to have a conversation like this.

“Save it.” Jimin turns his back and heads towards the door. He has zero idea where to go, but right now even the staff-filled corridors are better than this suffocating trap of a dressing room.

“You’re being really unreasonable, he’s super stressed and he’s just trying to help, hey––”

Jimin keeps walking, hurried steps taking him closer to the door. He has his palm on the handle when Yoongi opens his mouth. The words don’t exactly stop him in his tracks, but make his body turn around again without a second thought.

Yoongi’s eyes are hard to read when he speaks: “It’s not our fault you just decided to disappear, okay? We were searching for you like crazy, but it’s not like we can call after you or something.”

“I didn’t decide anything,” Jimin bites out. “Do you think I wanted to miss our fucking debut concert? How the hell did you make that conclusion?”

“Well, how do you expect us to react? Just give us a break. It’s not easy to just stay here fiddling our thumbs and––”

“Do you think it’s easy being there? I’m alone, all fucking alone, and I have no idea where I am, and every single fucking second I know I should be here but there’s nothing I can do, I just have to wait it out and try not to get arrested or run over by a car or fucking freezing my fingers off in a ditch somewhere, and when I finally get back, all you do is just–– I hate every fucking second of it and I wish I–– I, I’m–– I’m trying, I’m just––”

There are more words, probably things that shouldn’t see the daylight, but they get all cluttered and stuck in Jimin’s throat. His chest heaves and his cheeks are dry and hot. Insides all but blazing with anger and guilt and horrible, horrible fear that this has all been a mistake. That he’s somehow ruined everything and changed the future his older selves have accidentally told him so much about.

“Water,” he mutters when nobody else says anything. They all seem to be just as frozen and out of anything meaningful to say as Jimin himself, and when he finally escapes the jail cell of a room, he desperately hopes he’s imagining the relieved looks on their faces.

It takes too many turns, forced smiles and excuses to staff members until he finally makes it all the way outside.

Air is crispy fresh, not like an attack at his lungs at all but like a splash of cool water after a nightmare. Jimin breathes in long, greedy gulps. The skin of his arms and legs breaks out in goosebumps, but going back inside where it’s warm sounds about as appealing as jumping headfirst into fire. At the same time, part of him wants to sneak back and stand behind a door cracked open just so to listen what they are talking about right now. No, what they are saying about him.

Instead of turning around and giving into that little voice, Jimin keeps walking forward. There’s not much there outside the Olympic Hall, and Jimin doesn’t even know which back door he used to get outside in the first place, but he keeps walking until he’s a good distance away from the building and closer to the park. There’s a lonely, withered little bench almost as if it had been put there just to wait for him, and Jimin sits down, his back to the Olympic Hall and everybody inside it.

At least it’s not that cold anymore now that his skin is more used to it. He could sit there for a while. Let them worry, maybe, the angrier part of his mind puts in, even though he’s not all that sure they even would. They’d probably think he traveled somewhere again.

“There you are!”

Jimin nearly falls from the bench. To say that Taehyung’s voice surprises him is an understatement, and Jimin whirls around as soon as he gets his muscles back under control. It’s not just his lonely imagination playing tricks, but a very real Taehyung jogging towards him and waving his hand.

Jimin’s first reaction is to get up and run. It makes him feel a little ashamed, like an animal finally sensing an approaching prey, but in the end, he forces himself to stay still. He’s not ridiculous enough to actually try and run from somebody who’s supposed to be a friend.

“We were–– We were looking for you,” Taehyung says, panting a little as he plops down next to Jimin. He wipes his palms on his thighs and only then finally meets Jimin’s suspicious, reserved eyes.

“Why?”

It’s probably a strange thing to ask, but Jimin notices just seeing Taehyung makes him feel a little angry again, like slicing open a hastily patched wound. He sounds too prickly, too heated, but Taehyung’s eyes don’t harden. They stay soft and warm and beautiful, and it feels like a pair of guilty hands wrapping their fingers around Jimin’s throat.

“What do you mean why, dummy,” Taehyung says, lightly like he’s almost laughing, and even gives Jimin a smile. “I mean yeah, it’s almost April, but with your luck, you’d get a pneumonia in this weather anyway.”

Jimin swallows and stares straight ahead. It’s the kind of thing you desperately want to answer something curt back to, just to get the last word, but at the same time can’t because it’s just too… kind. Taehyung gives him a little space, a moment to breathe, before plastering himself against Jimin’s side and wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

“It’s okay. Everyone’s just worried, they’re not angry at you or anything––”

That makes Jimin want to struggle out of Taehyung’s octopus hold. “I don’t care if they or you or anybody in the world is angry at me, I’m angry at you, so––”

“Wait, sorry, that’s not what I meant,” Taehyung talks over him, fingers clutching Jimin’s arm. “I just wanted to say that, um, that it’s not–– Like, you can just come back, if you want to. It’s not awkward or anything, no hard feelings. From them. We’re friends, so nobody’s going to, like, make stupid comments.”

Jimin forces himself to swallow before speaking: “Yeah, well. It’s not that easy.”

“Of course it is,” Taehyung says. “Come celebrate with us, okay? We just had our first real concert that’s just us, we should be puking our guts out from pizza and chicken by this point. Maybe have some beer too when Hobeom isn’t looking.” He squeezes Jimin’s shoulder softly and pulls him a little closer. “Don’t be angry. Please. They–– Or, I guess, we, didn’t mean anything bad. We’re sorry.”

“Yeah,” Jimin replies eventually. He’d like to argue more, but even the petty part of him realizes it’s no use at this point. Should have just said ‘yeah’ earlier, too.

“Are you–– You’re not really angry, right?”

“No,” Jimin says automatically, but then he shakes his head. “A little.”

“Hobeom-hyung was just really, really stressed. You’ve seen what he’s like, I mean, yesterday he yelled at me for not using enough moisturizer and making the stylists’ jobs more difficult.”

“Yeah.”

Taehyung looks at him for a while, but Jimin refuses to turn his head and meet his eyes. He doesn’t really know whether it’s out of trying to stay mad or just because he doesn’t want to feel vulnerable right now.

“Is it really that horrible?” Taehyung asks with a low voice. It’s surprising enough that Jimin glances at him before he catches himself. He finds himself answering anyway, cautious like he’s afraid of stepping into a trap, but curious even more. He hasn’t–– There hasn’t been many times when somebody had asked about time travelling, usually simply because there hasn’t been anyone to know about it, but also because…

How do you ask about something like that? It’s strange and otherworldly, like asking what somebody thinks about flying elephants suffering from all the acid raining during a serious conversation about global warming. And consequently, how are you supposed to answer? Say that yes, you’re very concerned about the wellbeing of flying elephants because they are known to be particularly sensitive to pollution?

“I just–– I wish that instead of everyone always being angry, someone would–– Ah, it’s stupid. I’m sorry, I’m just–– just tired, I guess.”

“You can tell me,” Taehyung says after a few heartbeats of thoughtful silence. Jimin swallows, and a part of him wishes he could press even closer to that warm body right next to his. He knows he should be trying to keep his head in the present and not think of all those tidbits of leaked information from the future, but sometimes it’s hard.

Then again… Maybe this is how it happens. They are already close, be it because of their age or the perfect way their personalities seem to fit together like puzzle pieces. Or maybe just for the simple reason that they spent around 24 hours together, bet it at school or at the dorms or at practice.

Jimin swallows.

“Just wish that–– That somebody would say ‘welcome back’. Instead of–– Instead of why or where or, I don’t know, ‘what the fuck are you doing, Jimin’. Just… Welcome back. You’re safe, I’m happy that you’re back okay.”

“I’m happy you’re back okay.”

Taehyung repeats it quickly, like he doesn’t have to think about it for a second. But at the same time, it doesn’t sound like he’s just parroting Jimin’s words back at him. Jimin stares at him with wide eyes, the soft, warm tone of Taehyung’s voice still echoing in his ears; he sounded sincere and comfortable saying it, no matter that it’s cheesy and embarrassing and childish for Jimin to ask for words like that.

Something squeezes around Jimin’s throat, like a band that’s slowly tightening until it presses against his Adam’s apple. Or maybe it’s just another bundle of words that should never come out making his windpipe feel so clogged.

Jimin bites his bottom lip. He wants to lean closer. So much closer.

Then, like it usually happens, he feels it inside his skin. Another fucking trip.

“I’m––”

“Come back safe!”

Did Taehyung guess? Or see it on Jimin’s face? He knows he must have looked strange for a second, probably a mixture of scared, angry and frustrated, all at the same time. Maybe Taehyung is just that good.

Jimin doesn’t have enough time to say anything. He meets Taehyung’s eyes and hopes at least some of the thunderous gratitude inside him shows. The last thing Jimin remembers are Taehyung’s hands that must have moved in the speed of light, because they are clutching Jimin’s hand firmly. Right before he disappears into another time.

 

 


 

 

Jimin is 14 and 22, Taehyung is 22

 

It’s these kind of days that make Jimin hate he was ever born.

A lot of people would probably take a look at his life and snort before saying that he’s got it easy. That’s true, in a way. He doesn’t have an alcoholic, overworking father (bad TV shows are only the only thing his dad seems to be addicted to), or a mother who chases after him with a whip and complains to the neighbors what a lackluster son he is. Jimin is also doing okay at school, and he’s not fat. There are pimples on his face, sure, but at least he’s been wearing contact lenses ever since he turned twelve and managed to talk his mom into allowing them, so he doesn’t have glasses.

But even those people would have pity in their eyes when if they saw him right now. Eating his packed lunch alone on the empty rooftop. At least it’s not raining, but it’s not like the chilly, early spring sun and forceful wind are any better friends for him.

Jimin stabs a piece of chicken with his chopsticks, then slips it almost shyly into his mout. He doesn’t want to take his bad mood out on his mom’s cooking, especially when she went through all that trouble for it, even after she stayed up until dawn to wait for Jimin to return from his travels. Jimin still remembers how she’d looked, dozing off on their couch when he’d finally gotten back, and how she’d looked at him. Her face had screamed exhaustion, but what had made Jimin’s insides wind up tightly around themselves had been the irritation.

She hadn’t said much. Just told him to get to bed and not think about breakfast. She’d pack him a big lunch so he could sleep a little more.

Her eyes had been dark and deep, like pools of black water. Jimin shudders thinking back to the moment when he’d realized he couldn’t look his mom properly in the eyes. He had been too afraid of seeing… hatred.

Of course she woke him up with gentle pat on the head and a busy smile, like she’d completely forgotten last night, but Jimin saw the dark circles around her eyes. She must have gotten less than an hour of sleep to have fried the chicken and prepared everything else in his lunch box as well.

Jimin sighs. For the thousandth time, he wishes he had somebody to talk to.

It’s usually his mom, but what do you do when suddenly talking to her feels like the most difficult thing in the world? He feels embarrassed and guilty, and at the same time just thinking about how cold she’d been last night makes the back of Jimin’s neck feel hot with anger. He didn’t do it on purpose. He never does, yet his mother keeps treating him like he’s a criminal who just refuses to learn.

Jimin eats a bit more, but now that he’s started thinking about it, even the grains of rice between his teeth feel annoying. His stomach can’t decide whether it’s hungry or just as angry as his mind, and in one heated second, Jimin tosses the rest of his lunch into the trash can close by. Looking at the colorful pieces of food mixing with wet newspapers, empty soda cans and cigarette butts, he doesn’t know if he feels better, but he decides to count it as a victory.

He’s still angry. It’s an impulse, but Jimin grabs the edges of the trashcan and nearly topples it over. He stops at the last minute, frozen when his mind finally catches up. But he’s so angry, suddenly, it’s like flames spreading uncontrollably into a huge fire. Like his entire core is charred and black already.

He wishes he had somebody to just… be with. Not even necessarily talk to, but sit next to while playing games or reading comics. Somebody to stare at the TV with, bored out of your wits but too lazy to do anything. Somebody to go out and eat snacks together with.

Somebody who would make him feel even a little less alone.

Jimin’s anger feels wet now, still burning but more like boiling water. Waves hitting him from the inside until he feels like he can’t stand still in his own skin.

Or maybe that’s just how time travel feels? Because in the real time, Jimin finally knocks over a trash can, but he never hears or sees it hit the rooftop. Instead, Jimin finds himself on a beach.

It’s bright and sunny, just like it had been in Busan just moments ago, but also cold as hell. A violent shiver runs through his very naked body and for a moment Jimin feels like crying. And he never cries, especially because of time travelling. He did enough of that when he was a kid.

Jimin bites his teeth together, wraps his arms around himself and turns around. The wind feels like knives on his skin, but he forces himself to keep his eyes open and scans his surroundings. There has to be a reason why he came to a freezing beach somewhere he has no recollection of. There has to be someone around here who can help him, because otherwise Jimin is going to freeze to death. Or at least lose a couple of fingers, maybe even the tip of his nose.

He crouches down to preserve as much body heat as he can, wrapping his arms around his knees. It’s probably a good idea to make himself as small as possible anyway, because while he really hopes there is a friendly face around somewhere, there also might be somebody not so friendly. Jimin isn’t exactly afraid, not the same way he is if he appears in the middle of a busy street or a shopping mall. In those kind of places, you can get humiliated. Called a lunatic, a pervert, get the cops sent after you before you can get a single word out of your mouth.

Here, on a beach, Jimin could always just say he wanted to go for a quick swim. That the weather felt nice enough, but somebody stole his clothes. He can’t help grinning to himself with trembling lips. It’s such a perfect story it’s almost shame there seems to be nobody around to hear it.

“Oh my fucking god!”

Okay, guess there actually is somebody here. Jimin takes a deep breath, braces himself for, well. A lot of things. Humiliation if it’s somebody who knows him but doesn’t know about time travelling. A healthy dose of embarrassment even if they do know the reason why he’s squatting naked on some random beach in the middle of who the hell knows where. No idea what he should feel in case it’s just a total stranger, but that would most likely get him something really good, like spiteful words and a disgusted phone call to the police.

Then something soft, almost like a blanket, falls all over him. It hides him not only from whoever it is, but also from the harsh early spring sun, even from the cold. The velvet-soft, fluffy fabric is warm, as if somebody had just been wearing it.

He looks up, right into the wide eyes of his older self – with bright, bubblegum pink hair.

“What the hell,” Jimin says without thinking and straightens. He burrows himself into the warm softness on his shoulders, which turns out to be a fluffy, light blue cardigan. It’s loose enough for him to completely wrap it around his small frame, which still has quite a way to go to get to where his older self is. He’s not tall or broad by any means, but next to him Jimin feels like a kid.

He is a kid. Not that this future Jimin looks very grown-up, not with his cartoon character hair and boyish clothes, but at least he can’t be mixed with an elementary school student.

“I don’t think mom would like you swearing,” his future self says, a small smile curling on his lips. The tip of his nose of pinkish from the cold and so are his cheekbones that somehow look much, much sharper than Jimin is used to seeing in the mirror. It makes him want to rub his own chubby cheeks

“I don’t care what mom says,” Jimin hears himself saying. It sounds snappish in his own ears, so he hurries to continue before his future self can say anything: “Is there any place here that’s not so damn cold? Or more clothes?”

The future Jimin isn’t wearing that much either, just short pants and a thin, stripey sweater. Jimin certainly hopes he didn’t come here just for a stroll around the beach, or worse, through time travel. They both would be screwed. But at least that would explain his weird outfit, if it was just random pieces he’d scraped together from wherever.

“Yeah, sure,” his future self says, biting his lip. “We’re here for a video shoot. We’ve got a trailer pretty close, so we can just go there and you can stay inside until it’s time for you to go back.”

“What video?”

His future self practically whips around at that. Jimin notices for the first time that’s he’s wearing something that looks like light grey eye shadow.

“Oh, right.” He looks puzzled now, chewing his bottom lip and shoving his hands into the pockets of his shorts. “Nothing. Let’s just go.”

“Nice save,” Jimin mutters. His toes are about to fall off from the cold, though, so he follows his older self obediently. They start making their way over what is almost like a small dune of white sand and once they get on the top, Jimin can finally start making sense of his surroundings. He still has no idea where he is, but there is definitely something almost magical about the wintery, vast emptiness right in front of him. At least until he spots a group of people and ton of all kinds of equipment scattered around a few vans and cars at the bottom of the hill.

“Do they know?” He asks when he realizes his future self is about to lead them right in the crowd.

The pink haired Jimin stops and gnaws his bottom lip even harder. “No,” he says after a moment. “Some of them do, I mean, but. Huh, I figured this would be easier, for some reason. For once it’s not in the middle of some busy shopping street… Okay, no. Could you just go back a bit and wait? I’ll go get you some clothes and after we get the, uh, thing on the way, you can go to the van. We’re going to move to a couple of locations close by, so you can just sneak in there.”

It’s not like Jimin has much of a choice, so he stays back as his future self runs to where all the people are. In the meantime, Jimin wraps the fluffy cardigan tighter around himself and squats down again. Partly to save body heat, partly to just make himself a little smaller. He’s not that far away, so pretty much anyone could just look at his direction for a bit too long and realize there’s a half-naked kid interrupting their shoot.

Jimin follows his older self with his eyes, even as he shifts a bit further away. Therefore he immediately notices when a couple of people stop him and start talking. His first idea is that somebody is questioning him, but all these thoughts disappear when not only one but two of the people wrap their arms around the older Jimin.

Even from far away, it’s casual and intimate at the same time. Like they’re used to it.

Just seeing it makes Jimin’s throat tighten. He swallows, but can’t dislodge the huge, spiky lump of something that seems to be blocking his airway and making it so hard to breath all of a sudden.

He can’t remember when… if he has ever hugged people who aren’t related to him like that. If anyone has ever come to him with open arms that wasn’t his mother or little brother. The realization that somehow, during the few years that separate them and Jimin hasn’t yet lived, those kind of people will appear from somewhere. It’s a strange thought and instead of relief, Jimin feels… something strange and cold as the stinging gusts of wind that seems to reach all the way to the marrow of his bones. He doesn’t know, doesn’t want to look at it too closely.

What he knows is that right now, he’d give a lot to just disappear back to his own miserable time. He doesn’t want to look at this Jimin’s face, not when he can smile so easily and who’s doing video shoots for god knows why and whose hair is pink.

The thuds of footsteps and slightly swallow breathing tell him when his future self makes his way back. Jimin looks up from where he’d been building small castles into the cool sand and sees him holding what seems to be an entire wardrobe. He’s even got shoes; a pair of white sneakers.

“I just told everyone it’s too chilly out here,” his future self says, grinning, as he hands Jimin each item to put on. Everything is a little too big, but Jimin doesn’t care; he could almost cry when he finally gets to put some pants on, not to mention socks and shoes. He exchanges the fur jacket to a thick hoodie and pulls the hood on, too, feeling like somebody finally took his body out of a freezer.

“Alright,” Jimin says. “Now, tell me what you’re really doing here.”

His future self gives him a small grin. “You know I can’t.”

“You could. You totally could.”

“No,” future Jimin says. He runs his fingers through the pink, silky soft looking strands falling over his forehead. “Where would the fun be in that, anyway? It’d be like spoiling a movie.”

“Yeah, well, I want to know what happens. The anticipation freaks me out.”

“No,” his future self repeats, annoyingly calm. At least he doesn’t reach out and pat Jimin’s head or anything like that; he might be taller and look so much more like an adult than Jimin does, but Jimin is not in the mood for being babied. Too bad the older Jimin doesn’t seem to remember how it felt being a teenager, because he keeps talking: “You’ll thank me later. It’s way better not knowing what’s going to happen, that stuff can actually mess with your head.”

“Fuck off,” Jimin answer instead and enjoys the wide eyed look his future self gives him immensely.

“Why do I feel like I have no memory of this day ever happening,” his future self sighs in the end, but he does look a little peeved. Jimin knows it’s childish, but it sends rippling waves of satisfaction all over Jimin’s belly.

“More the reason to just tell me. What are you doing on some random beach? Are those people your friends? The friends who we’re finally supposed to get at some point? Or is this some kind of a job thing? Just give me something, come on!”

“I seriously can’t––”

“Your hair is pink! You can’t just expect me to ignore that.”

“It’s–– It’s a–– Just––” His future self is struggling to make a proper sentence, when something over his shoulder steals Jimin’s attention.

Oh hell. Somebody’s running right at them. Jimin has absolutely nowhere to hide, except maybe the sea, but the idea of jumping into the most likely freezing water is about as appealing as getting naked again.

So, he does the next best thing. He hides behind the back of his future self, because the third option is sticking his head into the sand and he wouldn’t have enough time to dig, anyway. It feels surprisingly comforting, because his older self’s back is just wide enough for Jimin to kind of press his forehead between his shoulder blades and hunch and make himself as small as he can.

“Jimin! What–– Have you grown extra legs?”

Jimin doesn’t recognize the voice at all. It’s deep and soft, with a hint of something like an accent, but Jimin can’t really place it. Just like his future self, this stranger speaks almost like they are from Seoul. Except that when his older self answers, Jimin is certain he can suddenly hear a trace of Busan there, too. It stutters something inside Jimin’s chest, like an instinct, like a hint he’s supposed to catch.

“It’s me,” his older self says, shoulder blades moving under Jimin’s face. He wraps his arms around Jimin’s middle, pretty effectively trapping him right there against the future Jimin’s back. It’s only then that Jimin realizes; this person, whoever it is, is somebody who he’s apparently not supposed to see. That almost sends Jimin into struggling, but at the same time he feels… shy. A kid, once again, peeking into a room that’s only meant for adults.

“Oh,” the deep voice says and then he laughs. “Why are you acting like he’s some horrible secret you need to literally hide behind your back? I want to chat with him!”

“Me too!” Jimin yells into his older self’s fluffy sweater.

“He’s a kid,” future Jimin says without budging. “Spoilers, you know.”

The deep voice laughs again. “Oh, right, sorry. I guess I should just go then, leave you two be, but… I really wanted to come over to tell you that you look really cute.”

“Hey! He has ears, okay?”

“Yeah but,” the deep voice says, teasing smile so evident in every syllable that Jimin can almost imagine the mouth that’s speaking. “I’ve got to go to the other location in a sec and I really just wanted to––”

There’s a smacking sound. Jimin frowns into the fluffy fabric his face is pressed into and tries to figure out what it means. It’s sort of soft and wet, almost like the sound of…

Kissing?

“Do you have some kind of voyeurism kink?”

“Wow, big words. Where did you learn that one? Porn?”

More sucking noises. Jimin doesn’t know what to think, bewildered enough that he just presses deeper into the soft fabric. He’s flushing violently, because suddenly it feels like he’s interrupting something very, very intimate and it’s too much. Everything about it is way too much, too many frigging spoilers at once, and they’re making his head spin.

“Go. Go!”

“I don’t want to,” the voice says, and now it makes Jimin imagine a pout.

“You have a part to film, don’t you? That you were very excited about last night, so excited, in fact, that you refused to let me sleep––”

How much more do I have to wait? How many more nights do I have to stay up?” Now they have completely lost Jimin. Is the voice singing? It is, he’s sure of it, with a soft, velvety voice that’s a little throaty, almost like it’s rusty with too little use. And what surprises him enough to make Jimin turn his head so that he can hear better, is that when his future self answers, he’s also singing.

If you wait a little longer, if you stay up a few more nights, I’ll go see you. I’ll go pick you up,” future Jimin sings, voice so different from what Jimin expected that he jolts again, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. He’s getting blue fur all over his tongue, but he doesn’t care. Did he just sound like that? Will he sound like that at some point?

“Yeah, yeah, that’s what you always say,” the low voice sighs. Then there’s a huge smack, a warm burst of laugher from the both of them, and suddenly his future self lets Jimin go.

Part of him doesn’t want to, but it loses easily to the part that won’t wait another second for answers. Jimin flips his future self around and can’t help glancing over his shoulder, but all he can see in the distance is that same bunch of people as before. He can’t make out the owner of the low voice, in fact there is no way to tell which of the dark silhouettes even belongs to him.

“Are we… gay?”

Future Jimin is biting his bottom lip again. He’s going to be bleeding before their conversation is finished if he keeps going at it like that. “I mean–– There are women with really low voices, so you can’t really tell, and––”

“We’re gay,” Jimin talks over him. “Holy shit. And that–– that guy, he’s our–– boyfriend? Really? Not even just a friend, but a–– a––”

Now his future self is fighting not to smile. He looks giddy like a kid in a candy store with a fistful of 50,000 won bills he can spend on anything he wants. The smile flirting on his lips is self-conscious but so frigging happy Jimin feels like he’s peeking into something private that he has no business to be seeing.

Jimin envies him so much. His stomach is flipping, his entire system flooded with scolding hot blood, because he wants to look like that too. Wants to feel like he’s flying from happiness alone, so light that his steps don’t seem to touch the ground at all. But for him it’ll take years, probably. He has no idea when he’ll get to have that feeling and his stupid future self just has it. He just has it all, right now.

“Can you tell me his name?”

His future self looks up sharply, the smile slowly disappearing. Jimin feels like an ass for a moment for doing that, but he shakes the guilt off.

“No. No way. I already screwed up royally, I’m not going to make it even worse––”

“Oh crap, he’s coming back!”

“Taehyung? No, I told him to––” His older self draws a sharp breath and whips around so fast he doesn’t spot the grin that Jimin can’t keep off his face.

There’s nobody there. In fact, it looks like most of the people near the cars either left or packed themselves into the tiny vans and absolutely nobody is running towards the beach. Future Jimin turns around again, eyes wide and not understanding, until he finally sees Jimin’s face and the cat that got his cream expression on it.

“What the hell––”

“Taehyung, huh,” Jimin says. It’s impossible not to sound smug. Not that Jimin is trying very hard. His lips are still tingling around that name, and a huge part of him wants to say it again, just to hear how it sounds. At the same time, he feels a giant wave of disappointment because he has no face to connect to that name, just a voice. Well, not only that; he also has laugher, the way he inhaled deeply after a kiss, the cutesy tone he used. His singing.

Jimin’s older self sighs like he just aged at least fifty years at once.

“You know… I really tried not to tell you. I still remember when I came here myself, even if it’s not a very clear memory, and I just–– I actually thought I might be able to not do the same mistake, you know? But no, it went just like it was supposed to. I didn’t even notice, I thought I was actually being smart and you know, tricking you.”

Jimin snorts. “I guess that’s the bad side of knowing the future.”

“Bits of the future,” his older self corrects him. “Yeah, I guess. It’s pretty–– Pretty crazy, isn’t it? I mean, you must feel––”

“Sure,” Jimin says, more out of habit than anything. “But I don’t mind. It means that I will–– that there is somebody.”

Jimin doesn’t look up, eyes fixed firmly on the sea, but he can feel his future self’s eyes on his face. Therefore the question, a quiet, slow and tentative “What do you mean?” doesn’t surprise Jimin, even if he doesn’t exactly want to answer it.

“You know what I mean. You’ve been there, too.” Jimin is glad the soft sounds of the waves mask some of the heaviness in his voice. “It’s just–– It’s shitty. Always being alone because–– I don’t even know why. Because I’m a little bit different.”

“It won’t last forever.”

“Well, I know now,” Jimin says, and the way his lips curl into a smile surprises him. It’s a nice feeling, though, being able to smile without any reservations, with actual excitement bubbling inside his stomach. “Oh, what was that thing you were singing earlier? Or, obviously it’s just some song from this time, but it was pretty good. Is it your couple song? Was it playing in the background when you confessed? Wait, wait, was it him or you who said it first?” He finally turns towards his older self, wanting to see every bit of emotion, every single expression on his face a hint of what’s coming. And Jimin feels so hungry for those hints, any extra tidbits of information he could possibly make the other Jimin slip.

“Stop right there,” his older self says instead of playing along. “I’m not saying a single thing more. You’re not supposed to know anything. And actually, you still don’t. Taehyung is just–– I have a lot of friends now, he’s just one of them. Important friends, who you’ll meet when the time is right.”

“Or, I mean, I could also just run down there and meet him right now,” Jimin says, grinning. They both know he’s just teasing, though. “And I’m all for friends, but I think those kisses were a bit more than that.”

“Don’t you have to get back already?” His older self huffs, but Jimin can easily spot the beginnings of that completely smitten smile again. He’s clearly so in love it’s a little bit disgusting, to be honest.

“I just wanted to ask one more thing,” Jimin says, but then stops to swallow. He’s pretty sure his future self won’t even answer, but the idea has been burning in the back of his head ever since they met here on the strange beach. It won’t hurt to ask and he might be able to see something on the other Jimin’s face. Might be able to trick him again.

“What is it?” His future self sighs again, but at least he’s speaking and not shutting down like a stubborn clamp. Jimin could probably out-stubborn him, since he still has all that teenage rage on his side.

“Does this, you know, this whole video shooting thing with your secret boyfriend in the middle of nowhere,” Jimin says, careful to keep his tone as casual as possible. “Does it have something to do with dancing?”

His older self looks at him and blinks. He opens his mouth, just a little bit, then glances down and back at Jimin again. It looks like he’s in the middle of solving the most difficult math problem in the universe, in front of the whole class, with a timer ticking away right next to his ear and counting down the seconds to apocalypse. At first Jimin is sure it’s because the real answer is yes; that would make sense, wouldn’t it, and now his future self is trying to come up with something neutral to say without letting things slide.

But then again, he could also be wrestling with how to cover it up that this has nothing to do with dancing at all. That dancing, the first thing Jimin feels somewhat confident about in his life, almost, is actually a dead-end and will lead him nowhere at all. Even the thought makes Jimin want to curl up into himself and cover his ears and he nearly opens his mouth to tell his future self not to even answer. That it’s better not knowing.

Jimin snorts to himself and vows right then and there that no matter what the older Jimin answers, he won’t say that out loud.

In the end, his older self makes a small, frustrated sound and sends a bunch of sand flying with a kick of his foot. “How do they make this seem so easy? Deciding whether to tell your or not, I mean. I feel like I’m playing god or something.”

“Who are you talking about?”

“Our older selves,” the future Jimin mutters, hands in pockets. “Don’t think I’m the only one who’s going to let things slip, okay? I’m not even the worst of them.” Then, when Jimin just keeps staring, half puzzled and half amused, he groans and pushes his hair back. “Fine. Fine! I can play this game too. The answer is yes. Yes, this has something to do with dancing. Not telling you what, but, just. Keep practicing, okay? It’s fun, too, isn’t it?”

Now Jimin actually laughs. “It is.” It’s incredibly how the huge dark cloud he’s felt hovering over himself for weeks, maybe even longer, and only growing bigger and bigger, is suddenly completely gone; blown away by everything he has learned here. “It’s the best,” he can’t help adding, and the smile they share is so genuine it makes Jimin’s heart warm up immediately.

“We’re going to be amazing at it,” the future Jimin says. He steps closer and wraps his arms around Jimin’s shoulder, pulling him close enough to bump his forehead into Jimin’s. “Really, really amazing.”

Jimin smiles. If he waits a little longer. If he stays up a few more nights.

 

 


 

 

Taehyung is 11, Jimin is 32

 

He’s wanted to participate in one of these talent shows ever since he saw one for the first time in second grade. Taehyung still remembers the wide smile on one girl’s face as she sang a song from Wonder Girls, and the bright bursts of laugher form the audience when a group of students had performed a skit about their homeroom teacher.

At that time, Taehyung hadn’t been quite sure what his talent might be, but even then he knew he’d get up on the stage at some point; it was just a matter of figuring out what to do there. That meant trying every possible hobby he could get his hands on; taekwondo, of course, and football. but also things like painting, dance, singing, even poetry recital, because all of those were things you could perform at a talent show.

But it was singing that had stuck with him the most. Taehyung’s mom had to set certain hours he was allowed to sing inside the house, because apparently he was driving everyone nuts. Taehyung’s solution had been to go outside, where he could sing his heart out and nobody could complain.

Now, standing behind the curtains and listening to the haltering sound of applause, Taehyung is immensely thankful he didn’t listen and practiced as much as he did.

The girl who just finished and who is two whole years older than Taehyung, runs backstage on feet light from the high of performance. Taehyung stares at her flushed cheeks and wide, toothy smile and something flips inside his stomach. He wants to be able to run back looking like that as well; as happy and excited and satisfied with himself, still hearing the sound of clapping hands echoing in his ears. Taehyung wants to fall asleep with that sound looping in his mind tonight.

Taehyung swallows. He’s clutching the edge of the smooth velvet curtains in his fist. He tries to peek at the stage again, because suddenly he’s panicking and doesn’t know if he should already be standing there. The sound of applause has disappeared, the audience is waiting, and it is his turn next––

His feet take two slow, shaky steps before he finally remembers he’s not supposed to go out there before somebody announces him and the teacher in charge has given him permission. Right.

Taehyung’s entire body is vibrating with tension. The idea that he almost ruined the entire show by just charging to the stage makes him feel lightheaded, but Taehyung grabs the scary image away and crushes it under his heel in his mind. He’s special. He’ll go out there when it’s his turn and he’ll wow all the people sitting there, especially his parents who have been so skeptical ever since he announced it at the dinner table that he signed up. Especially his dad, who opened another beer and told him to focus on math instead. Sure, Taehyung’s grades could maybe use a little uplifting, but math can’t get him to where singing can.

“Alright, Taehyung, are you ready?” The teacher asks. She’s smiling kindly down at Taehyung and petting his shoulder.

“Yeah,” Taehyung says immediately. His voice is bright and strong, no traces of the butterflies inside his stomach showing. They are friendly butterflies, anyway.

“Just do your best, okay?”

Taehyung kind of wants to scoff at the words. He lets out a little huff, which makes his teacher blink.

“I’m going to be awesome,” he says and smiles his widest smile. She blinks again, probably a little taken aback because kids are supposed to be jittery with nerves and so scared that they have to be gently coaxed up to the stage, but Taehyung is excited. Yes, nervous, too, but he already knows he’s going to do well.

And okay, that is a little silly, he can admit it. Hanging on to the words of what must have been just a piece of incredibly vivid imagination, a play he had been too immersed in and therefore thought was real. But that… Fairy (and there is just no other word Taehyung feels comfortable calling him, even if thinking he was a real fairy makes him feel a little childish) had been, well. Too real, in a sense. So real that he had sort of become Taehyung’s personal Jiminy Cricket, but instead of keeping him from lying, he had given Taehyung confidence. Little words whispered into his ear here and there, whenever he had felt scared or unsure.

“Of course you are,” his teacher says in the end, her smile a little amused, but Taehyung won’t let it bother himself. “Now, you can go. Good luck!”

Taehyung is moving before she’s properly finished with her sentence. The stage isn’t half as far away as it looked, and it only takes a few inhales for Taehyung to make it all the way into the spotlight. It’s hot and bright, and it’s a reflex for Taehyung to start rolling his sleeves up, until he realizes where he’s standing.

People are watching. Parents, kids, teachers. Taehyung feels those same butterflies from before going crazy inside his belly, but instead of trying to shoo them away, he lets himself relax and fly with them. He’s nervous, but he lets the feelings seep into his hands and legs. He’s ready, finally––

There’s just one little problem. Taehyung can’t, for the life of him, remember what he’s supposed to be doing up there on the stage.

The excitement inside him is like a bubble waiting for someone to burst it. It’s still intact, but the longer Taehyung stands there, feeling how expectations ooze from the audience and wash over him, the more fragile it grows. He knows he hasn’t stopped smiling yet, because the realization hasn’t really hit him yet, but Taehyung’s heart starts to beat faster. So fast it feels like it’s trying to escape the whole situation right through his chest and hide under the seats where no one can see it.

He’s… he’s frozen.

Taehyung’s eyes sweep over the audience and their uncomfortable faces. Even the music isn’t playing, because Taehyung hasn’t given his cue, about which he had a long conversation with the music teacher yesterday. He had absolutely wanted to be the one to give the cue, because he’d imagined himself walking there with his head held up high, giving the audience a calm once over before confidently looking over his shoulder and nodding at the music teacher.

Or maybe he doesn’t have music in the first place? Maybe he signed up for poetry recital instead, or it could have been beatboxing, he did practice that, too––

The man in the front row, someone’s dad probably, clears his throat and glances down at the clock around his wrist. Blood is rushing in Taehyung’s ears, but at the same time there doesn’t seem to be anything happening in his brain.

Somebody whistles.

Taehyung almost flinches, because he expects it to be a mocking sound. The type of whistles he’s seen people do during basketball and baseball games when they want to make the opposing team lose their concentration and fumble with the ball when they’re trying to score. Taehyung sure is fumbling, but instead of dropping the ball he feels like he almost swallowed his own tongue.

Then he realizes it’s not a whistle like that at all. It’s a gentle tune, kind of quiet, and Taehyung would definitely not be able to hear it if the audience wasn’t silent as a graveyard.

The melody triggers something inside him and suddenly there are lyrics in his mind. Lyrics he’s supposed to be singing!

Taehyung takes a deep breath and even remembers to look around where he sees the music teacher waiting behind the curtains with his little home-made DJ stuff. He looks just as frozen as Taehyung was only moments ago, hand hovering over buttons and face glistening with nervous sweat.

It’s strange, but Taehyung finds himself grinning when he gives the teacher a thumbs up. He should be blushing, shaking and wanting to hide from the embarrassment, but instead he feels a strange sense of calmness. There’s a part of him that knows he can do this, and it gets even bigger when the music, familiar and what he probably knows by heart nowadays even though he can’t play a single instrument, finally starts and Taehyung steps back into the spotlight.

He enjoys every single second of it.

“You are such a weirdo,” Minseok says when Taehyung runs behind the curtains again. He’s breathing hard and wondering, only half-jokingly, whether he could just rush back and do another song. It’s like there is pure electricity running through his body instead of blood.

“No, you are,” Taehyung replies easily. “I’m special.”

Minseok shakes his head. He still has coke stains all over his shirt; his talent was drinking three cans of coke under three minutes, but it’s pretty self-evident where most of the soda actually went. “Why’d you just stand there like that?”

Taehyung grins. “I totally forgot what I was going to do.”

“Figured.” Minseok snorts. “I told you to make a cheat sheet.”

“Was it you?” Taehyung asks after punching his friend to the shoulder. Gently, but with just enough spice to make him flinch.

“What?”

“You whistled, right?” Taehyung sighs. He’s only half listening anyway, eyes drawn to where they can see to the stage and where a group of kids one year younger than him are performing what looks like a pretty cool hip hop routine. Could he join them? Just sneak into the last row and learn the choreography by following? Taehyung could definitely do that, especially because it almost feels like the stage is calling his name.

He feels longing, just to be back there. The beginning, when he forgot the song or had a small heart attack, whatever it is that happened, it’s all forgotten now. Like it was never there. And just like Taehyung wanted, he has the sound of applause in his ears, echoing like a song that’s impossible to lose. A part of him swears he never will.

“No.” Minseok looks at him funnily. “I was right here. I wanted to throw a shoe at you, but––”

The words shake Taehyung out of his reverie. “Then who was it?” He turns around, frowning at Minseok and especially the dirty flip-flops he’s wearing.

“Maybe your parents?”

“No, I saw them. They were in the second row and just kept staring at me. I actually think my mom stopped breathing for a while there,” Taehyung replies, grinning. He scratches the back of his neck, trying to remember that bright sound right before his performance. He can’t pinpoint where it was coming from, but he’s fairly sure it was from the direction of the audience and not behind him, which crosses out their music teacher and the rest of Taehyung’s friends. That leaves him puzzled, because there aren’t that many others who knew what he was planning to sing. Nobody else, actually.

“Maybe you have a guardian angel,” Minseok grins says and gives Taehyung a teasing grin. He’s clearly expecting laughter and for Taehyung to continue the joke, but instead Taehyung feels his heartbeat surging.

It’s not such a farfetched thought, isn’t it? Of course the rational part of Taehyung knows things like angels or fairies don’t exist, but even after all these years there still hasn’t been anything capable of explaining the pink haired boy in their backyard. Maybe…

Taehyung’s feet are moving before he has to tell them to do so. He jogs all the way to the door that leads to the hallway right outside of the big gym hall. It’s deserted, so nobody’s there to eye Taehyung strangely when he sprints to the big doors leading back into the gym and cracks one of them open. He presses his face against the sliver of light and looks wildly around the huge space, looking for that familiar tuft of pink hair among the masses. His heart is beating even faster, but at the same time he knows he would have spotted a bright color like that earlier, from the stage. But the fairy could have been hiding, couldn’t he––

Someone whistles.

Taehyung knows the song, obviously since he just sung through it on the stage, and he whips around immediately. He doesn’t even hear the sound of the doors clicking shut behind his back, completely focused on the lonely figure at the other end of the hallway. He’d been in such a hurry to get to the door he hadn’t even noticed, but there’s a man there.

Or… It’s probably a man, because Taehyung can only see his back and the lights by the entrance to the locker room, where that figure is clearly heading, make it impossible to tell any details. It’s hard to make sense of colors either; he’s simply a dark shape about to step through a door, and even the whistling sound is disappearing.

Taehyung takes half a step forward, and just as the person pushes open the front door, he glances over his shoulder.

He stops whistling, maybe out of surprise, maybe on purpose, but doesn’t linger. The doors click softly shut behind his back, and Taehyung is left wondering, just like before.

 

 


 

 

Jimin is 7, 17 and 28

 

When Jimin time travels for the first time, he’s seven years old.

It’s the first day of school, and he’s been nervous ever since the previous night. Instead of being unable to eat, Jimin wolfed down two big bowls of rice for breakfast and would have probably kept going if his mother didn’t his spoon away and threaten to make octopus for dinner. The mere idea of it, the phantom smell, was enough to drive Jimin away from the kitchen.

Now, standing in front of the gates of the school, Jimin feels like he would rather eat a whole octopus raw than step inside.

The building itself isn’t scary. It’s white and bright and clean, and the warm sunlight gives it a gentle feel. But it’s still a school, outside and not home, and full of strangers. Jimin doesn’t like people he doesn’t know, doesn’t like answering their questions, and that’s what keeps him rooted to his spot by the gate. He knows to stay a bit to the left so that nobody inside can spot him, where the big bushes offer a little bit cover, but where he has the perfect view to the yard at the same time.

Even his teacher, a curly haired young woman with a wide smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes, isn’t particularly scary. They’ve met before and she called Jimin cute and welcomed him with a kind hand on his shoulder, but something in Jimin can’t trust her.

That’s when somebody points at him, and Jimin panics. He steps back, away from the school and the classroom he’s supposed to go, the strange kids he’s supposed to become friends with, away from everything.

Jimin disappears without realizing it. It’s not until he blinks and there’s no school, no yard bathing in warm sunlight that he’s hit with the strangest thought; he’s somewhere else. Somewhere different. Suddenly surrounded by a blur of lights and loud noise, almost like music, Jimin looks down and realizes he has no clothes on and his blue, brand-new backpack is nowhere to be seen. His baseball cap, the one his dad gave him last summer, is gone and he’s standing on a sticky floor with bare feet.

But it’s not being naked that makes him burst into tears, even if mom would probably give him a swat on the butt for it. It’s not even the dimly lit room he’s in or the loud noises. He’s old enough not to cry at things like that, isn’t he? Instead, it’s the hollow feeling that’s still lingering on his skin, like Jimin’s body isn’t fully there. He feels like he has been pushed through something, like the strainer his mom uses to wash rice before putting it in the rice cooker. It’s a horrible feeling, and Jimin shakes and cries harder and wraps his arms around himself. Not out of cold, but to make sure he still has all of his parts left.

He sees a small crook by the wall, behind some kind of big metal things, and curls up there. Just like he instinctively knew he’d have to stay away from the teacher’s line of sight, Jimin knows it’s best to make himself as small as possible in this strange new place before somebody else comes to the room and sees him. He can’t stop crying, though, no matter how hard he tries to swallow down the sobs and push tears away from his cheeks.

Jimin is too scared. He keeps running his arms all over his body, terrified of finding a missing chunk, an empty spot in place of his ear or big toe. He doesn’t know what happened or where he is, but the feeling of becoming something small and invisible and travelling is so terrifying Jimin would almost rather stay right here than go back, if it meant not having to go through it again.

“Hey, where did you come from? It’s okay, we always go back pretty quickly, right? No need to cry––”

Jimin looks up. Somebody saw him, like that boy that pointed at him at the school gates, and now they’re going to–– then he stops thinking, because the boy who’s squatting next to Jimin looks strange. He has black smudges around his eyes like the pandas Jimin has seen on TV and his face is familiar, so familiar that Jimin almost jumps up and hugs him without thinking.

It’s like his body won’t quite listen and he ends up planting his hand on that strange face instead. It feels sort of smudgy under his wet fingers, but at least it’s real and this isn’t all Jimin’s imagination.

“Who are you?” Jimin asks, blinking.

“I, uh. I’m–– I’m Jimin.”

Jimin blinks, looking at the strange-but-familiar face with wide eyes. “My name is Jimin, too.”

It doesn’t seem to make the stranger any happier. In fact, he looks almost panicked, chewing his bottom lip and glancing around nervously between words. It makes Jimin nervous too and even more scared.

“How old are you?”

More questions. Jimin wants to stay quiet, because he’s learned that adults don’t like that and usually give up quickly. But something inside him is nagging at him to be good for once, because there is something about this boy, something that Jimin can’t figure out no matter how hard he tries, even if his parents always tell him what a smart boy he is.

So he answers dutifully: “Seven.”

“Seven?” The stranger practically groans. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to answer, after all. The next thing that happens is that the other Jimin suddenly wraps his arms around Jimin’s middle and drags him through a door. Jimin doesn’t know what he thought would be inside, maybe more flashy lights and loud noises, but instead it’s quieter and warmer and there’s another stranger. And this one looks just like the other Jimin, just a little older.

Jimin tries to wriggle free and when the stranger lets him go, he tries to step away from the both of them. What if everybody in here looks like that? What if they all have the same face? Jimin can already feel the dangerous burn of tears behind his eyes and tries to swallow it down.

What happens next is a blur of weird things, one weirder after the other.

The bigger (not his size exactly, but something about him makes him feel bigger) stranger pulls Jimin closer, gives him coke and clothes and no matter how many times his parents have told him not to take anything from strangers, Jimin accepts all of it without a word. He shouldn’t, probably, but they are nice and friendly and something about them feels almost like family, like Jimin knows them.

Then, after a conversation Jimin doesn’t really understand, the old stranger whisks him away, out of the room and through the big blackness that turns out to be a corridor of sort. He walks like he’s sure of himself, flashing the plastic thing around his neck to anyone with a questioning look on their face, until the two of them are standing behind a huge crowd of noisy people. There are lights everywhere, small, bright torches the people are holding and waving in the air, and there is a big empty space on the other end of the cave-like room.

The other Jimin he met first is nowhere to be seen. Jimin clutches his new can of coke with both hands and tries not to look around too much even if he wants to.

“That’s where they’re going to perform really soon. That other Jimin and his friends,” the older stranger tells him. He’s squatting down again so that it’s easier to hear over the loud noise inside the room. “But we have to wait a little more and I thought I could tell you about a game. It can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s also a little difficult, so you have to pay a lot of attention and remember all the rules, okay?”

“I like games,” Jimin says around a mouthful of the bubbly drink. A little bit drips down his chin and he wipes it off with the hem of his new shirt. “But I’m probably not really good––”

“You’re going to do just fine,” the stranger says and gives Jimin a warm smile. “Now, I’m going to tell you something that I’m sure you have already guessed but can’t quite figure out. Do you know what my name is?”

Jimin swallows and shakes his head, but the stranger doesn’t seem happy with the answer. “Think. We look very similar, don’t we? All of us. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true and there’s a reason for it. It might feel weird or scary, but I know you can see it if you try. Now tell me, what was the other boy’s name?”

“Jimin,” Jimin says, because he knows the answer to this one. Then, an idea strikes like a lightning and he frowns, meeting the stranger’s eyes suspiciously. It could be very simple, but at the same time nothing but. “Wait, are you–– Are you Jimin, too?”

A bright smile spreads over the stranger’s face and he nods, clearly satisfied. Jimin feels a flare of pride, but it gets quickly drowned under all the questions inside his head. “Why are we all Jimins?”

“Because we are the same person,” the older Jimin says. He’s looking Jimin deep in the eyes and speaking slowly, like he wants to make sure every word is heard and understood. He even grabs Jimin’s hands, still filled with the quickly warming can of soda, and holds them close to his chest. It feels both safe and almost threatening at the same time; this older Jimin is there to comfort him, but he also won’t let Jimin get away.

“We travel in time. I’m here from the future, and you came from the past. The third Jimin is originally from this time. That’s why we look so similar and that’s why you knew, deep inside, that you could trust us from the moment you saw us.”

Jimin doesn’t… He doesn’t understand. He stares at this older stranger, whose features are sharp and beautiful and confident, but whose words pierce deep into Jimin’s chest.

“How can–– Is this a magic world? Like in Harry Potter? Are we–– Am I a wizard?”

The words are childish and make Jimin blush, but he can’t help the earnest way they burst out of his mouth. Embarrassment burns the back of his neck when the older Jimin laughs softly with a bright voice that gets lost in the cheers from the crowd.

“A little bit,” he says. “But we can’t choose when we do magic like Harry can and that’s where the game comes in. Do you remember how you came here?”

“I was at school and then I was at the black place. I was naked,” Jimin answers, slowly, hesitating.

“Right. That’s how the game starts. You disappear, meaning that you travel in time, and then appear again somewhere else. In some other time, either in the future or in the past. There, you can usually find the Jimin of that time and he will always help you. But before that, you have to take care of yourself, play the game. Do you follow?”

Jimin nods, mute. It’s all very difficult and confusing, but he strains his mind and tries his best.

“Good. Remember how I said before that clothes are the most important thing? It’s always your first priority, what you should think when the game starts. I don’t know why nothing on us or what we are holding travels with us, but it’s one of the rules of the game. People will notice us if we are naked and we can’t attract too much attention. So you have to find clothes first. Very often, if you can find the Jimin of that time or somebody else that you know, they can help you. Like mom or dad.”

“You… You said I would need glasses,” Jimin says, his voice growing quieter. It feels so overwhelming that his mind seems to be getting stuck on silly little details.

“It’s really good that you remembered that,” the older Jimin says. His voice helps keeping Jimin grounded. “That’s why contact lenses are a must. They stay with us even when we travel. Namjoon thinks it’s probably because we put them inside the eyelid, almost like it was a part of us, but it helps a lot, because finding clothes can be tough and finding good glasses is even tougher.”

The older Jimin pauses for a second, glancing around them for the first time in a while. “The second thing you have to know is being careful. You can’t let anyone know that you’re time travelling. That’s the most important rule of the game. You have to keep it a secret and be very, very sneaky. Hide and lie to people and maybe even steal some things. Now, we know it’s wrong to steal, but sometimes it can’t be helped. But we can be polite about it. We can only take things we absolutely need and they will be left behind after we travel back in time to our own present. So don’t take anything you don’t absolutely need and try to talk and ask first before stealing, okay?”

“O-okay,” Jimin answers. Listening to the older Jimin talking is almost hypnotizing and he has to blink a few times to realize he needs to answer.

“Really good,” the older Jimin says. Jimin thinks he hears a bit of pride in his voice. “Now the third rule is something I already mentioned. Time travel can happen anytime and anywhere, so we can’t control it. But there are some things that make it more likely that we’ll travel. It’s usually fear or sadness. When we’re nervous or anxious. Like you, on that first day of school. You didn’t want to go inside, right? You were scared?”

Jimin manages to nod, and the older Jimin pets his shoulder. “That’s why you traveled here. Want to know why I’m here?” When Jimin nods again, he continues. “I had a very–– not a frightening experience to many, but for me, it was too much. I panicked and I let my fear take over and before I knew it I was here. But I think I’ll go back to my own time pretty soon and you will, too. Time travel never lasts very long.”

After that, the older Jimin is quiet for a moment, and Jimin finds himself taking the chance to speak: “Is time travel bad?”

The older Jimin looks at him sharply and then immediately shakes his head. “No. Never. It’s strange and it can be tough and make things difficult and it might scare you, but don’t think of it as something bad or evil or horrible. It’s part of us and trying to avoid it isn’t going to make it any better or easier.”

“But it sounds–– it sounds really difficult,” Jimin argues, even though he knows arguing with people who are older than him isn’t polite. “I don’t want to play that game.”

To Jimin’s surprise, the older Jimin leans closer and wraps his arms around him. The hug is warm and kind, but at the end of it he doesn’t let go. He hoists Jimin up instead, even though he’s too old to be carried around. The older Jimin is much stronger than he seems, though, and holds Jimin up high so that he can see all the way to the empty stage, over the sea of people.

“I know. Sometimes I don’t want to play it either,” the older Jimin says quietly. “Like right now. There is a place I really need to be in, somebody who’s waiting for me, because I left in the middle of a conversation. I didn’t answer a very important question. But I can’t make this go any faster and all I can do is accept it and make the most of my time here with you. That’s why, even if I don’t want to play the game sometimes, I’m never scared of it. I hope you aren’t, either.”

Jimin leans his cheek against the older Jimin’s shoulder and thinks about the school day he’s missing. He doesn’t really want to go back to the school, but he understands what the older Jimin is saying. He misses his mom and dad already and can’t imagine disappearing while talking to them.

It reminds him of something.

“Can I tell mom and dad?”

“Hmm? Oh yeah, of course. But you should wait a little. They might not believe you otherwise, but there will be times when it happens right in front of them. Then they’ll know and believe you, too.”

Jimin nods. It makes sense that they wouldn’t believe such a silly story, not without good evidence. Especially his dad is like that. His mom calls it being practical.

“Look, they’re finally getting up on the stage,” the older Jimin says suddenly and points ahead of them. Jimin blinks and sees how the lights blink over seven small figures standing under them. Then they start moving and Jimin hears the beginning of the same song the older Jimin sung to him earlier. “Don’t they look cool?”

“Uh-huh,” Jimin says. It’s hard to tell who’s the third Jimin, and even so Jimin isn’t certain what to think about him.

“Being up there,” the older Jimin continues, “feels really amazing. You know why we never disappear when we are up there, even though we’re always so afraid of it? Because even if we’re worried or scared of performing, we love it even more. We enjoy it too much to time travel.”

“Will I––” Jimin starts, eyes suddenly round with wonder. “Will I, also…?”

The older Jimin gives him a grin, playful, and simply nods towards the stage again. Jimin looks up to him for a moment longer and then turns his head again. He falls asleep against the warm body and the lull of music, and when he wakes up he’s lying naked in the bushes by the school gate. The yard is empty, and there are only a few cars passing by, and Jimin spots his clothes and backpack on the street right under the leafy branches.

Remembering the older Jimin’s warnings, Jimin snatches his clothes back carefully, without letting anyone see him. His entire body is flushed with embarrassment because he’s sitting in a bush, naked in the middle of the day, but his mind is already coming up with a story to tell his mother.

He can’t help doubting himself. Maybe it was all a dream? A simple daydream.

But Jimin doesn’t want to let go of the strange, fuzzy memories. After time goes by, he can’t quite remember everything his older self said that time, nor the otherworldly surroundings of his first time travel, but he remembers the most important things.

The rules of the game.

 

 


 

 

Taehyung is 15, Jimin is 19

 

“You can’t seriously think she’d go for you? You’re the class weirdo!”

“I believe,” Taehyung says, grinning and reaching over the table to flick Bogum on the forehead. While Bogum is busy looking offended and trying to fix his bangs (which he actually went through the trouble of curling in the morning, as Taehyung has heard about a thousand times by now), Taehyung has the perfect opportunity to steal the last fried shrimp from his plate. “The expression you’re looking for is ‘class clown’, you philistine.”

“It’s still not a compliment.”

“Of course it is,” Taehyung says easily. His tray is mournfully empty and after getting not only one but two rounds of refills already, he’s pretty sure the cafeteria lady will run screaming if she sees him approaching the counter again. “She always laughs at my jokes. Like, all of them, even the really stupid ones. Trust me, I’ve checked.”

Bogum cocks his eyebrows but sighs, and to Taehyung, it’s a sign of victory. “Alright. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Taehyung makes a teasing kissy face, grinning wider. “It’s almost like you care, asshole.”

“Jackass.”

They’re only late to class for… five-ish minutes. Taehyung makes sure to glance towards Jinhee’s seat, but only really quickly, almost as if he didn’t mean to. She’s leaning over her desk, staring intently at what looks like a notebook, and her dark chocolate brown hair falls around her face in effortless waves. Taehyung has been over this a ton of times with his friends, but he just refuses to believe she’s wearing make-up. First of all, it’s not allowed, and their homeroom teacher is a tight-ass about stuff like that. Secondly, nobody could look so natural with make-up on.

She’s just beautiful like that, end of story.

Being late wouldn’t have normally bothered Taehyung in the slightest, because their homeroom teacher happens to really like him and all Bogum needs to do its bat his eyelashes to get people to fawn over him, but today he slumps down on his seat and has to stifle a groan. He was planning to finally ask Jinhee out before class, even had his lines memorized and rehearsed, but they’d wasted way too much time trying to style Taehyung’s hair in the bathroom. He could always ask her afterwards, but then her friends from other classrooms always burst in to whisk her away and it would be awkward…

Maybe Taehyung could just throw her a note? He rips off a corner from his notebook and starts writing, but when he glances up, frowning because he’s used the word ’fun’ about five times already, he meets Bogum’s eyes. Bogum looks at him like Taehyung is losing his mind and makes a quick x with his arms before turning back to the teacher.

Taehyung spends the rest of the class clutching that piece of paper and trying to decide whether to toss it at Jinhee’s desk (he’d get it there easily, she’s sitting in the row right behind him, one to the right), or bury it in his backpack to never be found again. Right as he’s about to just do it, for crying out loud, their teacher snaps his book shut, the sound of the bell echoes all through their classroom, and suddenly everybody is standing up except Taehyung.

He’s frozen to the spot for a second, but then the note crushed inside his fist feels like it’s almost burning his skin and sends him moving. Taehyung jumps up and turns around, taking one deep breath before striding over to Jinhee’s desk.

Wouldyouliketogooutforacoffee?”

She blinks. Taehyung knows his entire face wants to blush violently, but he grabs himself by the balls (in a strictly figurative sense of speech) and makes himself smile instead. He can only hope it doesn’t look too creepy.

“I mean, would you. Uh, like to maybe get a coffee? With me?”

Taehyung can do this. He can handle either answer, he can. It’s–– what would eat him from the inside much more would be knowledge of not doing anything, of missing an opportunity. Just like he knows it would have bothered him endlessly not to have sung at the talent show back in elementary school, not being able to open his mouth now would become a disease. It sounds melodramatic even to himself, but not taking a chance and just following along on a leash is––

It would be the worst.

“I–– I don’t drink coffee,” she says, reminding Taehyung that yeah, he doesn’t, either. Of course they don’t; they’re high school students. He should have known copying his lines from Hollywood movies wasn’t a good idea.

But Taehyung can also spot the beginnings of a surprised smile on her lips. Taehyung’s puts all his focus on the way the corners of her mouth curl up, gently and almost shyly.

“Ice cream?”

She blinks again and now there are soft pink spots high on her cheekbones. “When?”

Taehyung hardly dares to breathe. “Friday? After school, maybe.”

She says yes. Her quiet laugher and gentle ‘message me!’ echo in Taehyung ears when he watches her leave the classroom, whispering and giggling with her friends who are all eyeing Taehyung over their shoulders.

He doesn’t have much time to marvel at what just happened. Bogum comes over the instant Taehyung is finally alone, and Minseok is right at his heels. He must have sneaked in from the classroom right next to theirs where he was at least supposed to be listening to a riveting lesson on world history.

“Hey, what was that with Jinhee? Did you just––?”

“What did she say?” Bogum talks over Minseok like it’s a matter of life and death. He looks like he’s about to grab Taehyung’s shoulders and start shaking the answers out of him. “She said no, right?”

Taehyung waits a few more seconds before letting the grin he’s been holding back take over his face. It feels like he’s smiling from ear to ear, so hard his cheeks are starting to hurt. Both Minseok and Bogum groan.

“No way.”

No. Way!

Taehyung runs his fingers through his hair like it’s nothing. “You should know by now. I’m special.” The words might sound like bragging and super obnoxious, but he’s said them so many times already, to so many different people raging from the local police officer (Taehyung won the first prize in a lucky draw, a ride in a real police car) to the foreign tourists he once ran into during the lantern festival (they were trying to order for a food stall and were very impressed with Taehyung’s limited English skills). The words fit into his mouth by now.

Bogeum and Minseok give each other a knowing look and start punching Taehyung in the arm, telling him to stop acting so cool, and the moment passes.

But Taehyung really is special. Things happen to him. Magical things.

Once, he forgot to bring his lunch box to school back in first grade when everything had been weird. He escaped to the bathroom, terrified of having to just sit around watching as everybody else ate their lunches. When he finally emerged, thinking he would just hide in the library and tell everyone their teacher had wanted to have a chat with him or something, when the lady from the little cafeteria-kiosk yelled his name.

She gave him three different types of bread and a bottle of tea. Taehyung remembers blinking like an owl, but all she said was that his friend had already paid for it. That he’d rushed over since Taehyung had forgotten his lunch. A handsome young man, even if his hair color had been a little strange.

Then later, when he was just a little older and supposed to go to the shop to pick up something important for mom. Taehyung can’t even remember what it was any more but it had been something absolutely essential and expensive, too. Taehyung remembers clutching the two 50,000 won bills in his pocket and wondering if there was a way for him to use at least some of it for snacks, but also horribly nervous because it was the most money he had ever held in his own two hands.

Then the money hadn’t been there anymore. Taehyung had practically ripped his jacket to pieces, because no matter how much his mom loved him, it might not be enough to survive losing that much money. But as if on cue, when Taehyung had been jogging back and forth and trying to decide if he could somehow make a deal with the salesman, he’d seen two 50,000 won bills. Taped to a goddamn lamppost.

And of course, there is that time when he was five and playing alone in their backyard, he met a fairy. It’s almost like that was the beginning of everything, or at least that’s how it plays in Taehyung’s mind.

All those things happening to him, it’s almost like having a friend who’s always there at the right time. Not like Bogum or Minseok, but a really cool pen pal who’s ready to reach out whenever Taehyung is in trouble. Taehyung even feels appropriately bummed they have never met face to face, which probably makes him a little bit crazy.

It’s just that… he hasn’t really been able to forget. The details have become blurred, like childhood memories tend to do, but Taehyung knows meeting that person or whoever it was had felt incredibly real. And it couldn’t have been some neighborhood pervert, because Taehyung had frigging seem the fairy appear out of thin air, right in front of his eyes.

Not that he remembers much, but he knows what he felt: Magic. And he knows one thing: pink hair. Cherry blossom pink, cotton candy pink, bubble gum pink. He hasn’t really been able to let go of the color ever since, no matter how much ridicule it might get him sometimes from his friends. It’s not like he wears the color, but guys should be allowed to buy pink pens and notebooks if they wanted to. Not to mention shoes or cellphones!

It’s become a lucky color of sorts for Taehyung, and that’s why he decides to go with pink boxers on Friday. And socks. Those are the only things he can wear without anyone seeing, but they make him feel a little bit braver. Not that he’s that scared, just… his entire being is thrumming with nervous energy and he needs something to calm himself down.

Jinhee looks pretty, waiting for him by the entrance to the shopping center. It’s both a good and a bad place to meet; bad because they are bound to run into people from their school, good because there are so many things around them Taehyung can start talking about if things get quiet.

“Hi!”

“Hi!” Boy, things do get quiet and way too quickly, too. Why is Teahyung suddenly feeling so tongue-tied? He curls his toes inside his white Nikes, inside the cotton-candy colored socks, and takes a deep breath.

“Ice cream, right? Baskin-Robbins okay with you? I think there’s also a Natuur somewhere, but––”

They go to Baskin-Robbins. By the time they get there, it feels easier already. It’s like they’re at school again, like it’s no big deal. Taehyung waits until Jinhee has chosen her favorite (Mango Tango), then sends her to get them a table from the second floor. Taehyung orders for the both of them (Cotton Candy Wonderland for himself) and just as the cashier asks him for the money, with a knowing, sweet smile like she knows he’s just offered to pay for his date, Taehyung realizes something.

He doesn’t have his wallet.

His phone together with his travel card is in his pocket, where it’s supposed to be, but his wallet is nowhere to be seen. It’s probably sitting on the edge of his table, or maybe in the pocket of another jacket. He did change clothes at least a thousand times before leaving home.

Taehyung can only stare stupidly at the two cones waiting for him. Jinhee is upstairs, and whatever they have going on will probably take a pretty big hit if he saunters back to ask her for money. The mere idea makes the back of Taehyung’s neck heat up.

“Uh, I think I––”

Somebody bumps into him hard enough that Taehyung almost loses his balance. He spins around, about to tell the guy off for being such a jackass (and then thanking him for giving Taehyung a bit more time before the cashier and the people in line start pointedly clearing their throats), but he’s already on the other side of the store, moving fast. Taehyung takes note of black hair and a huge, padded jacket that seems a little too warm for the weather outside, before he happens to put his hand into his pocket and almost screams.

There’s… money. There’s money in his pocket, a crispy bill of ten-thousand. Taehyung stares at it, mouth hanging open, before he practically throws the thing at the cashier. It feels like he just touched a bug or something, but then his brain finally catches up.

Taehyung whips around again, but of course the guy isn’t there anymore. There isn’t a trace of him anywhere, just like before, and for a moment Taehyung wants to run outside and look for him. Even though at the same time he knows that of course he wouldn’t be there anymore; he has probably disappeared into thin air. Like before.

“Um, your ice cream––”

The cashier looks awkward trying to get his attention. Taehyung stares at her for a while longer, then at the ice creams because for a second he has no idea what he’s supposed to do with the two brightly colored cones. Then reality sinks in once again, and he feels like the biggest idiot on the planet.

Taehyung can’t stop smiling when he jumps up the stairs with the ice creams. It feels like his heart grew wings and is desperately trying to break free, and it’s almost enough to lift his entire body into the air. Like his toes aren’t even touching the floor. It might seem silly to feel like that because a random stranger bumped into you, but to Taehyung, that was almost like… like meeting that friend who he’d been waiting for so long.

Jinhee looks at him with round eyes when he practically leaps to her and hands over the ice cream hard enough to nearly stick her in the chin with it.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah! Amazing,” Taehyung says. The ridiculously goofy smile on his face refuses to budge, so he tries to hide it behind the ice cream. “I, uh, I just. Saw someone I know.”

“A good someone?”

Taehyung glances up and notices her watching him, leaning her cheek against her hand. There is sparkling glitter all over her eyelids and deep red lipstick on her lips. Taehyung makes note of all of these things like it’s the first time he’s seeing her and doesn’t know why he feels something deflate inside of him. It’s not the make-up, couldn’t be when she looks so beautiful with it. But she’s not–– something. Taehyung can’t put his finger on it and wants to shake himself. It’s like something just broke down inside him and now he’s not functioning like he should be anymore.

It’s a pretty nice day. They don’t go for a movie like Taehyung had originally intended, but make a deal to see the next One Piece movie together, whenever it comes out. It feels way too little, but at least Taehyung leans in and kisses her cheek after he has walked her to the subway station. She smiles and flushes and pets his arm before going, curling a strand of her hair around her fingers.

Taehyung calls Bogum from the bus stop, just because he feels like he wants to talk to someone. He feels a little silly doing it and not just texting, but he’s too restless to type and wait for a reply.

“Is she your girlfriend now?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Taehyung says, a little wistfully.

“Dude, you blew it!”

“Did not!” Taehyung laughs while saying it, even though he tries to sound offended. “It just–– Hmm.”

Hmm? What does that mean?”

“No, it’s just that, there’s a big ad here on the bus stop. About auditions. Idol stuff.” Taehyung doesn’t hear the bus arriving behind him, because his eyes are practically glued to the huge poster on the other side of the bus stop. Stepping quickly closer, Taehyung tries to focus on the details. Big Hit Entertainment, boys, ages 15 to 20, rapping and singing––

“Now you’ve really lost it. I get that you’re disappointed she didn’t like you, but trying to become an idol is really not the right way to cope. There are, like, hundreds of people trying out for those things, and you’re––”

“You’re underestimating me, my friend,” Taehyung talks over him, grinning. He hardly even notices reaching out to touch the surface of the ad with his fingertips. He traces the bold, black letters until he’s sure he’s memorized them. “Please tell me you haven’t forgotten I won the school talent show. When I was eleven.”

“Oh, sorry,” Bogum laughs into the phone. “I was thinking more about the fact that you don’t know how to dance for shit.”

“I could practice. I know this one guy, Bogum I think his name is, who’s pretty good.”

“You aren’t seriously thinking about his?”

Taehyung turns around, letting his eyes scan the streets around him. There are quite a few people, even right there on the bus stop, and he finds himself looking at their faces. Looking for something familiar, even if he can’t quite remember what. Something tingles at the bottom of his stomach, almost like a promise. He feels weirdly light and calm, even though he’s pretty sure he just missed the chance to date the prettiest girl at his school, and the idea of auditions like that should fill him with something closer to dread.

“I might be, yeah.”

Turns out he was.

 

 


 

 

Jimin and Taehyung are 17

 

Jimin has travelled to Seoul before, but never by bullet train like this. The way he usually moves from one place to another doesn’t require any kind of vehicle at all.

He can hardly sit still while watching the strange sceneries flying past him outside, even though his mother has scolded him gently for fidgeting at least five times by now. His whole family is there, even his little brother who’s immersed in a game on his Nintendo, and the seats are wide and comfortable and it almost feels like he’s moving at the speed of light. When time travelling, you never get luxuries like this, just a nauseating feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize you have no idea where you are and at what time. On trains, you also get to keep your clothes on, which is a huge plus in Jimin’s books.

Jimin smiles at his reflection looking back from the window. He figures at least half of his giddiness is because he’s finally able to leave Busan behind and this time he knows he won’t travel back when he least expects it.

“You sure everything is alright, sweetie?” His mother asks for the hundredth time. His dad is snoring, head lolling back against the backrest of the seat.

“Just excited,” Jimin says. His mom squeezes his hand with a smile on her lips, but there is something a little worried in her expression. Jimin knows that look well, because he’s been on the receiving end of it for the past ten years whenever he tried as much as to leave the house.

“I know you are, honey,” she says, fingers petting his arm. “But remember that you can always come home if––”

“I know, mom,” Jimin cuts her off. It’s a little rude, but nothing his brother wouldn’t get away with. “I’ll–– I’ll do my best, okay? I’m, um, I’m working on it. Controlling it and stuff. I think I’m getting better already.”

His mother’s smile turns warmer and after a while she excuses herself to go to the bathroom, taking Jimin’s brother with her. Jimin leans his cheek against the cool window and closes his eyes for a moment. He should be happy his mother dares to leave Jimin alone at all. It had been so difficult to persuade her to travel by train and not by car, taking the tiny backroads and spending days to get to Seoul. She thinks being on a train is going to be stressful for him. Jimin understands why, with everything that’s going on right now, but it doesn’t mean he has to like it.

Jimin also wants to believe he’s a bit more stable than his mom gives him credit for. He can control his feelings enough not to disappear in the middle of a simple train ride. There’s nothing here that could overwhelm him too badly, and he has already made his peace with whatever is going to happen in Seoul.

And should worst come to worst… At least trains don’t run that often, not like cars. Should he travel and then reappear on the railroad tracks, there’s a good chance he’d be able to jump right off, unscathed. Jimin grins to himself, happy that his mom isn’t a mind reader, because she’d throw a fit at such thoughts.

He decides that sleeping, or at least feigning it, is probably the best course of action for now. There is no chance of time travelling while asleep, so it’ll give his mother a chance to relax as well. At least for a short moment.

After three more hours, during which Jimin’s enthusiasm still refuses to fade, they finally find themselves in the maze that is the central railway station of Seoul. His dad is somewhat familiar with where to go thanks to his business trips, and in the end, they only have to ask five times for directions before making it to their hotel.

Wandering around the streets and trying not to bump into every single passer-by, a part of Jimin is relieved that his entire family (read: his mother) insisted they’d come along. If he was alone, like Jimin had initially wanted, the company might not even believe him. The staff might laugh him out of the building and then call for the nearest mental hospital. There would be wanted posters all over the city before he could get a single word of explanation out of his mouth.

Unstable. Potentially schizophrenic, clearly delusional. In dire need of long-term institutional care.

Jimin shakes his head. His parents had only taken him to see a couple of doctors, none of which had used words like that, even if their worried eyes had told Jimin differently. It’s mostly the internet’s fault Jimin has those doubtful, suffocating thoughts, but he’s learned to silence them. Through dance, and lately, through music.

A few hours later, Jimin finds himself inside a middle-sized building that supposedly hides the headquarters of Big Hit Entertainment somewhere behind its walls. He, his brother and his parents are sitting in a small lounge where a very nice, young secretary guided them to wait for Bang PD. Bang Sihyuk. The goddamn founder of the entire company. Jimin understands why his mother insisted on talking straight to the people in charge, the big guns, but it also makes him nervous enough to want to puke all his organs out.

This entire ‘meeting’, as the secretary had referred to it, might end up with him packing his bags and taking his ass to the next bullet train right back to Busan. Where he’d probably continue dancing, continue school, and most of all continue without any other purpose than to try to control his emotions enough so that he doesn’t have to be afraid of disappearing every single second. The thought sends shivers down Jimin’s spine, and he clutches the hem of his hoodie in his fists. His mom wanted him to wear something nicer, but something inside him had desperately hung on to the fact that hoodies and hip hop go hand in hand so he absolutely had to wear it. Right now, he feels like the biggest fraud on the planet and wants to rip the stupid piece of clothing off and toss it out the window.

Shit, the door to the meeting room is opening. Jimin stares at it with wide eyes, completely frozen but still somehow glad he at least didn’t swear out loud.

“You must be Jimin.”

To his utter surprise, Bang Sihyuk walks straight up to him with his arm held out. Jimin jumps up from the couch and shakes the offered hand, awkward and at a loss for anything smart to say. Way to make a first impression.

“Uh,” is all Jimin manages. His parents hurry to help out, but Bang Sihyuk seems to be fully focused on him and him only. It’s unsettling, because not that many people usually pay him so much attention. Not even when he time travels and appears out of thin air wearing nothing. It has probably saved him from more than a few run ins with the authorities.

“I must say this is very unusual. I don’t usually meet our trainees personally like this until they’ve all settled in the dormitory, but I understand there is something you’d like to discuss with me beforehand. Your father mentioned some kind of, how should I put it, disorder on the phone.” Bang Sihyuk shakes his head, but there is a hint of smile on his face. “But let’s continue this inside.”

Jimin feels like he has to nod, because the words seem to be directed to him. They all move to the small, tastefully decorated meeting room with comfortable, plush office chairs and a huge, shiny white desk. There is even coffee and a plate of small pastries waiting on the table. Jimin stares at the bright red strawberries as he sits down.

“Why don’t you explain your condition in a bit more detail, hm?”

Condition. How Jimin hates that word. He’s been hearing it for the past ten years and every time it makes his insides clench.

“It’s a––” His mother cuts in before he can get a single word out, and Jimin is immensely grateful. “We know this will sound… more than strange. Impossible, lunatic. But it’s true and that’s why we felt like we needed to discuss this if Jimin will join your company.”

“I assure you, I remember your warnings from the phone call,” Bang Sihyuk replies, not unkindly.

“It’s just that–– people don’t understand. We have tried doctors, but it’s so very hard to prove there’s anything at all, at times.” His mother takes a deep breath, speaking almost too quickly for them to understand. It seems like she just wants to get the words out before Bang Sihyuk can fully process them. “Jimin, he–– he travels. Disappears, if you will. According to him, he moves in time, but of course nobody can be sure, but we’ve seen it, him just disappearing into thin air––”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.”

“Time travel?”

Jimin doesn’t even notice himself nodding before Bang Sihyuk looks at him again. Then he laughs.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but that is––”

“It’s true!” Jimin says. His voice is small but insistent, maybe a little more insistent than is entirely proper and polite, and there’s a hot flush high on his cheeks. He doesn’t know why he’s reacting like that, but he does know that if he lets Bang PD leave the room thinking that he’s a raging mental patient, he can kiss his dreams of singing goodbye for good.

It’s not like any other company would have him either. This is his only chance.

“Fine,” Bang Sihyuk says, but clearly he’s just humoring Jimin and his feverish eyes, even if he doesn’t look mocking like Jimin half-expected. “Can you prove it?”

“Mr. Bang, it only happens when he’s agitated or overly emotional, he can’t do it at will,” Jimin’s father says. He sounds tired at the situation, like he has already given up and is counting the amount of money they’ve lost buying train tickets and hotel rooms for this meaningless trip. Jimin clenches his fingers into a tight fist, nails digging into the meat of his palm, and forces himself to breathe.

“You have to understand we’ll need some kind of proof,” Bang Sihyuk explains with a gentle, almost fatherly voice. “This all sounds, well, almost convincing, which kind of makes me question my own sanity, to be honest, but there needs to be some kind of proof. Otherwise, and especially because you believe this condition could somehow hinder his training and activities at our company, I’m afraid we have no other choice but¬¬––”

“We were hoping that you could allow him for a test period, see how it goes––”

“I have something,” Jimin says. He speaks louder than he has so far, and the words practically echo in the meeting room. At least that’s how it sounds to his mind, like gunshots piercing through the pleasant atmosphere.

It feels like the air itself becomes electric as everyone turns around to look at him. Well, except for his little brother who is still happily smashing away with his Nintendo DS.

Jimin reaches down and opens the small pocket on the front of his backpack. He packed it away the moment his mother told him she’d talked with Bang Sihyuk on the phone and quietly wondered whether this time, as well, counted one of those moments when his future selves were allowed to meddle with the past. Those times when they got free passes. He bites his bottom lip and pulls the slip of glossy, thick paper out, eyes skating over the words he already knows by heart. No matter how long he’s had it, he always has to make sure the characters are still the same. That the numbers haven’t changed, that he hasn’t just imagined it all.

“Here,” Jimin says, voice breaking at the end of the word, and places the slip of paper gently on the table. He tries not to feel scared, imagining the thing suddenly disappearing or somebody stealing it away now that Jimin isn’t holding onto it. His only hope.

At first, Bang Sihyuk turns the concert ticket in his hands like he doesn’t understand what it is. Then he frowns and leans a bit closer, and then his eyes fly wide open and snap back to Jimin. Everything about him screams shock and disbelief.

“How do you know this name?”

“I didn’t,” Jimin replies. He tries to keep his voice even and has to hide his shaking hands into his pockets.

“Nobody’s supposed to–– Nobody outside the company is supposed to know!” Bang Sihyuk looks, for the lack of better word, flabbergasted. He keeps glancing at the ticket, as if he’s expecting it to change its shape or offer an explanation for itself. “I mean, we–– we haven’t even told the other trainees here, for god’s sake!”

Jimin wants to avoid the eye contact Bang PD is forcefully seeking, but he also knows now is not the time to covet. So, he keeps his head up high and returns the intense, searching look as calmly as he can.

“Where did you get this? Is this¬¬–– some kind of a hoax? A trick?”

Jimin shakes his head. “I got it from 2014.”

Bang Sihyuk lets out a strange sound, like a strangled grunt, and wipes his palm over the fabric of his jeans. He still hasn’t let go of the ticket.

“I, I–– I can’t believe this,” he says after a moment. He sounds choked, like he can’t quite breathe straight and doesn’t know what kind of words his tongue is forming, and on some level Jimin can relate. He’s been there, too, but in his case he hadn’t been holding a paper slip, he had been there. In the future. Staring his future self in the eyes and wondering whether he’d lost his mind.

“Please, Mr. Bang,” Jimin mother says after a few heartbeats of silence. Her voice is trembling, which fills Jimin’s insides with strange emotions. His mother is trying to so hard because she must know how badly Jimin wants this, and even if she’s shaken by his revelation (just like always when she happens to actually see something related to time travelling in front of her very own eyes), she’s still there for him.

“I’ll have to–– have to think about this for a moment. It’s–– It’s crazy, but this,” Bang Sihyuk says and pushes himself up from the chair. He stares at the ticket, but tears his eyes away to give Jimin another long, scrutinizing look. He looks more thoughtful than shocked now, but Jimin doesn’t miss how pale he is or the way his fingers tremble. “I’ll give you the address to the dorms. The rest of the members that we have signed so far are already there, so unpack your bags and get to know them. They’ll show you the ropes. I’ll get back to you, but I… To be completely honest, I don’t know what to do with this information. But something is telling me I can’t just let you go, can I? Not after something like this.”

Jimin’s heart leaps at the words. “You mean––”

“Yes,” Bang Sihyuk says. “Welcome to–– Well, I guess there’s no need to keep this a secret from you. Welcome to BTS.”

BTS. A huge smile takes over Jimin’s expression without his consent, but it’s such an unstoppable force he can’t even dream of wiping it from his face. He’s still not sure if he’s hearing what he thinks he is, if Bang PD is saying what Jimin so desperately wants him to, but his heart is racing, and he wants to laugh. Jump up from the chair and bounce around the room and scream and laugh until his heart is empty of all the dark things hidden there, because this must be the happiest moment of his life.

BTS 2014 LIVE TRILOGY. EPISODE II. THE RED BULLET

Date: 2014.10.18
Venue: AX-KOREA
Organizer: Big Hit Entertainment / CJ E & M

Jimin never really understood what the text on the ticket meant, aside from the obvious fact that it was a concert ticket for some unknown group. Now it all makes a little more sense, as does the insistent way his future self had handed it to him and told him to keep it somewhere safe.

The trip to the dorms passes in a flurry of strange faces and stranger streets. They don’t have to take the subway anymore, but instead a fairly ordinary-looking guy with glasses exchanges a few words with Bang PD and then ushers them to the parking lot and into a small white van. The guy is nice and keeps asking them all those perfectly light-hearted, kind questions that keep the atmosphere inside the car from freezing. Jimin tries his best to answer something more than just yes and no, but he’s still trembling and hasn’t really realized what is going on around them. At least his parents are more in control of their emotions and keep the conversation going.

What Jimin is most scared of is disappearing. He feels lightheaded with nerves, and there’s cold sweat running down the back of his neck, and usually those kind of feelings means he might be mere seconds away from travelling.

At some point he simply closes his eyes for a second and forces himself to count his own heartbeats and try to find his center. It has never really helped, but it’s something his father, ever the logical thinker, insists he does to try to calm himself down. At least it passes the time, because the next thing Jimin knows is the car suddenly coming to a stop. When he opens his eyes, they’re parked on a cramped street right in front of something that looks like a rather ordinary apartment building.

Their guide (Jimin is fairly sure he introduced himself as Song Hobeom?) punches in the lengthy pin code and beckons them to step inside. A short elevator ride takes them to the third floor and to an intimidating front door that shows absolutely no signs of hiding a bunch of soon-to-be idols behind its glossy surface. Jimin is a little afraid everybody can hear how loudly he gulps, and when Hobeom reaches out to type another passcode, Jimin’s first thought is to reach out a hand and stop him.

It’s incredibly cramped inside the tiny living-room. Jimin’s parents take the small couch, leaving Jimin and his brother standing awkwardly right next to it, and then Hobeom calls six other boys over.

Jimin can feel their stares on him, but he tries not to feel bothered since he’s staring right back, embarrassingly curious. They all look… ordinary is probably the wrong word, but they also don’t have the same aura as Jimin’s future selves have, nor do they resemble the idols you see on TV. They are all scrawny and soft around the edges, young and boyish. That and their casual college pants and t-shirts make Jimin feel much less threatened, but he couldn’t get rid of the horrible, squirming ball of nervousness inside his stomach even if he tried to.

Rap Monster, or Namjoon, introduces himself first, since he is the leader, after all. He gives Jimin a smile that’s full of warmth, and Jimin catches himself returning it with a small smile of his own. Hoseok, the next one in line, even gives him a little wave and a nod, and while Yoongi’s expression is a bit more reserved, everything about him seems very genuine. Then there’s Seokjin, the oldest, who cracks a joke, and Jungkook, the youngest, who seems shy and nervous, and lastly––

“I’m Kim Taehyung.”

Jimin stares.

“Tae-Taehyung?”

“Yeah, hi.”

It’s Taehyung. Taehyung.

Jimin looks at him in wonder, taking in his features without any urgency. It feels like the time has stopped around him, so slow that Jimin can almost count the eyelashes throwing soft shadows over Taehyung’s cheek bones.

Is it the same Taehyung he’s heard of? Seeing Taehyung’s smile reminds Jimin of what his future self once said, accidentally when he’d been time travelling drunk and spilled more beans than Jimin could have ever hoped for. Something about a smile that’s full of teeth and square like a box, and Jimin can’t help but believe it. It’s got to be that Taehyung, his Taehyung. Even thinking about that sends a violent shiver down Jimin’s body

Taehyung. Jimin is lucky it’s only his mind repeating the name and not his mouth.

“Hi, I’m Jimin,” Jimin finds himself saying instead, even though he has already introduced himself when they started the round of introductions. Taehyung doesn’t seem to mind, just gives him another smile, and Jimin’s heart aches when Taehyung turns his head and focuses on Hobeom instead. Jimin knows he should be listening, too, but he can’t, can’t force his attention away from Taehyung. House rules, roommates and training schedule suddenly seem almost irrelevant, something Jimin can think about later, after his stuttering mind has finally understood what’s going on.

It’s been so long, and now Taehyung is finally there, in the flesh. Right in front of him, real and living and breathing instead of some kind of imaginary friend Jimin cooked up to ease his aching loneliness.

Taehyung is real like a burst of color in an otherwise black-and-white picture, and Jimin tries desperately not to fall more in love with him. His heart doesn’t seem to listen.

 

 


 

 

Jimin and Taehyung are 21 and 35

 

Apparently, Jimin is the type of person who puts out on the first date.

It’s not really a fair way of putting it, because he and Taehyung have so few chances of actually going out for proper dates that it takes them three entire months to finally do it. It’s literally like first living together with the person you’re dating and spending approximately 20 hours a day sharing the same space, and then deciding to have a proper, dinner-and-a-movie type of first date.

Part of Jimin feels a little nostalgic thinking back to the times when they were able to simply walk out of their dorms (even crazier to think they aren’t even in that same, crammed-to-bursting apartment anymore but in a new one that’s so much bigger, so much fancier in every way) and go for spicy rice cakes or lamb skewers somewhere nearby. Nowadays, it takes a lot more maneuvering, masks and snapbacks and carefully planned escape routes. Jimin’s stomach flips every time he remembers how far they have come.

How far he has come. From a boy who couldn’t step into the school yard on his first day of elementary school without disappearing into another time. And now he’s holding hands with a real guy, in a real movie theater, in his own goddamn time and nowhere else.

Obviously, idols like them can’t just walk out and find the closest movie theater. Or that’s what Jimin thought until Taehyung nearly tackled him in the kitchen and shoved his cellphone in Jimin’s face. You have booked two tickets for Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2, the screen had said, and Jimin’s stomach had been suddenly full of butterflies. Because Taehyung didn’t seem to think it strange or redundant to do these things with him, and Jimin hasn’t ever, not with anyone.

He’s… probably acting like a teenager with a crush the size of the Pacific Ocean.

Jimin hasn’t paid too much attention to the movie so far. It’s something with aliens, spaceships, lots of gunfights. Light sabers? No, that’s probably not it. Jimin doesn’t really care. It’s dark and cozy and private in the theater, only two or three people in addition to them because it’s in the middle of the night. They are sitting in the back row and might as well be completely alone; it’s like a world just for the two of them, at least to Jimin. Taehyung seems a little attached to the huge bucket of popcorn he has on his lap, but Jimin is ready to accept some snacks into their relationship. As long as the snacks give him the excuse to bump his hand into Taehyung’s when they reach for popcorn at the same time and then watch him absentmindedly lick his fingers clean from the salt and grease.

He must have sighed too loudly, because Taehyung glances at his direction. The light from the screen paints half of his face with bold, light blue strokes, and Jimin sighs again.

“Do you even know the name of the movie?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says and sits up a little straighter. He fights the urge to clear his throat. “Stop being stupid.”

“Mm-hmm.” Taehyung makes a velvety-smooth sound and gives Jimin’s hand a little squeeze. He’s been doing it from time to time, making Jimin wonder if he knows it’s happening or if his fingers just do it whenever they feel like it.

They have the whole night for themselves. Hobeom officially gave them two days off before they’re flying to the states. To participate in a real, honest-to-god American awards show. It feels like these two days are all they have before the world officially turns upside down, and frankly, Jimin expects to be travelling all over his life in the next few weeks. It makes watching a movie with Taehyung after having simple grilled pork belly for dinner so much more special. Afterwards, they will take a cab closer to their dorms and maybe buy a couple of beers while they walk the rest of the way, still hand in hand.

They don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow morning. It’s an exhilarating feeling.

Jimin lets that airiness fill him up completely, until he feels like he’s about to burst from something as simple as being happy. He stops in his tracks by the corner one block away from their dorms, and Taehyung turns around, beer can raised up to his lips and eyes already full of whys. Jimin just grins, pushes the can away and pulls down first his own black mask, then Taehyung’s. He leans in close enough that he can kiss him, softly, but so far from the shy way they used to peck each other on the lips back when this was new. Now it feels like the most familiar thing in the world. Jimin might be a little bit drunk, he thinks; not from the single Cass he drowned at record speed, but from the knowledge that he can do this.

That Taehyung’s lips pull into a smile immediately, and then he returns the kiss like it’s normal and completely fine. It makes Jimin want to run to the rooftop of their building and just scream out all his love for Taehyung, but also to keep it locked safely in his chest, right inside his ribcage where it belongs next to Jimin’s heart.

“Do you think Hoseok-hyung is asleep?”

“Hmm,” Taehyung replies. Jimin feels the humming sound of it against his lips more than hears it, they are standing so close to each other. “Probably. But I might have asked Jungkook to keep him busy tonight.”

“Busy?”

“Games, dancing, anything really. So it should be empty,” Taehyung says, a hint of a grin on his lips before he hides them behind the beer can, downing the last of it. “The bedroom.”

Jimin grins too. The next kiss tastes bitter and bubbly on his tongue, but he doesn’t back away until the last traces of beer are gone and all that is left is Taehyung.

It’s pure hell trying to do anything that isn’t platonic with five people sharing the same living space with you. The rest of the members don’t know yet, so Jimin and Taehyung need to keep things under wraps, but even when they are so sure they are alone, be it in their dancing studios or someone’s bedroom, there is always somebody to barge in or call for them. Usually it happens right when one of them has his hand in the other one’s pants.

So Jimin doesn’t exactly have high expectations, but when they get back to their dorms and not only find their and Hoseok’s bedroom empty, but also Hoseok snoring happily away in Jungkook’s bed and the rest of the house equally asleep (or locked in their studio in Yoongi’s case), Jimin feels like his blood is suddenly made of fireworks.

They still have to be quiet, because who knows when Hoseok decides he wants to sleep in his own bed after all, or Namjoon jumps up from bed in the throes of a sudden inspiration for a song. Taehyung closes the door behind them with a quiet click, and Jimin starts pulling his hoodie off. When he emerges again, hair most likely a mess and face flushed, Taehyung all but tackles him onto the bed and climbs in with him. It’s Taehyung’s, which means that all Jimin can smell is him, and for a moment he just turns his head and closes his eyes. Then he remembers he actually has the real thing with him right there, half on top of Jimin and blowing air right into his ear.

“What are you doing?” Jimin whispers. Taehyung pushes his hand under the hem of Jimin’s t-shirt and runs his warm palm over Jimin’s stomach. The tips of Taehyung’s fingers bump into his ribs, and he rubs his nose against Jimin’s cheek.

“Looking. Feeling you up. Nothing weird,” Taehyung says, then grins. “You think–– tonight?”

“What?”

“You know.”

Oh. Oh. Jimin shifts a little because he could swear he’s already hardening in his pants and that is something he’d rather keep a secret. Of course Taehyung knows he has a working dick, in fact Taehyung has seen Jimin’s dick in action first hand. But that doesn’t mean he needs to know Jimin pops a boner from the mere idea of having actual sex together. Jimin glances down and then quickly back at Taehyung, trying to gauge his expression, but he’s surprised by the smile on Taehyung’s lips and the flush high on his cheekbones.

“It’s just that,” Taehyung says, eyelashes fluttering. “I’ve been thinking about it. A lot.”

Jimin digs his teeth into his bottom lip, then soothes the spot with the tip of his tongue. “You’re telling me you’ve been jerking off to us?”

Taehyung snorts. “You know I’ve been. You have actually been jerking off with me, not to mention jerking me off, if I remember correctly.”

“You never said you were thinking about us. You know. Fucking.”

Taehyung sucks air into his lungs so loudly he makes a hissing noise. “You dirty talker.”

“You say fuck a lot more than I do.”

“I don’t use it as a verb, though. Especially not in sentences where you and me are the subjects.”

Jimin can’t hold back the laugher and hides his face back into the pillow for a second. Then he looks at Taehyung, who’s still mere millimeters away, and tries a coy smile. It probably doesn’t come out as innocent as he hopes for, because Taehyung starts grinning immediately when their eyes meet. “I’d like it if you started using it as a verb.”

“Me too,” Taehyung replies, smiles and then he’s finally pressing his lips on Jimin’s. It’s soft and sweet as first, like flower petals in the sunshine, but somehow the kiss grows heated, and Jimin finds himself leaning closer, fingers looking for a place to bury themselves into. He settles for Taehyung’s shirt, a simple big tee that flies over his head in seconds when they both put their minds into it.

Jimin’s shirt goes next, which he hardly notices, too focused on keeping his lips on the spot where Taehyung’s pulse beats closest to his skin. He has to focus again when it’s time for their pants, but even then Jimin manages to keep as much skin to skin contact as possible. He can hear Taehyung’s low, warm laugher, like a lion’s rumble from deep within his chest, and for a moment Jimin just nuzzles into his neck and listens.

“Have you though, um,” Taehyung says. “How you’d like to––”

“Fuck?” Jimin says and can’t help laughing. “Not really, I guess. But I, uh, I–– You know I never have, right?” he swallows and wets his bottom lip. There’s a growing mass of something wriggly and uncomfortable in the pit of his stomach and it’s making him want to pull a blanket over himself. “I know you have, but––”

Oh,” Taehyung breathes. “Yeah, no, um, not with a, I mean. Just with girls.”

Jimin nods. He can’t quite make himself look Taehyung in the eyes right now, but he couldn’t be gladder for the solid weight of him right next to him. And it’s absolutely not because Taehyung is bisexual or has had earlier relationships. He just feels a little embarrassed. Or maybe more than just a little. Maybe pretty damn embarrassed, because he’s twenty-one and never even kissed anybody else but Taehyung, not to mention had sex with them.

“So, would you like to–– Like, be on top? Or bottom?”

Jimin flushes at Taehyung’s words. He just can’t help it and for some reason he’s also staring Taehyung in the eyes, and his heart is beating faster all of a sudden. It’s also horribly hot in the room, and Jimin absolutely has to keep his hips still right now, unless he wants Taehyung to feel what’s going on inside his boxers.

Taehyung just smiles. Like he’s looking at something worth smiling at, something… beautiful and precious. Jimin gulps and glances back at Taehyung’s chest; it had been such a great place to hide your face against.

“You’re going to have to give me some words, okay?” Taehyung says. “It’s alright. Either one. Or none of them. I have a great imagination, I can come up with a whole new way to have sex. Or we can––”

“I kind of want you to,” Jimin interrupts him. “Fuck,” he says, closing his mouth as if he’s already finished. Then his brain catches on and he hurries to continue: “Me.”

Taehyung kisses him, long and deep and perfect, the kind of kiss that makes you melt and close your eyes and forget everything else but the person right next to you. Taehyung’s hands cradle Jimin’s jaw, and Jimin hooks his ankle behind Taehyung’s legs and pulls him closer. When they are breathing heavily against each other’s skin and just lying there, Taehyung giggles.

“Can you say it one more time?” He looks at Jimin with a hopeful expression. “The F-word? Sounds so hot coming from your mouth.”

All Jimin can do is laugh, and it’s like every bit of tension pooling inside his bones evaporates with it, leaving him feeling so, so light. He leans in, lips gracing Taehyung’s earlobe and flicks his tongue over the skin there. “Fuck me,” he whispers, as quiet and soft and seductive as he can make it. “Fuck me. Oh, please, won’t you fuck me––” He breaks into laugher in the middle of the sentence, and Taehyung slaps him on his bare thigh.

“Be serious!”

“I can’t,” Jimin manages to reply even though he’s laughing harder and harder. “How do porn stars do this? I feel either too awkward to speak or start laughing so hard I can’t say anything at all.”

“Practice, maybe?” Taehyung grins at him. He’s rubbing the spot he’d slapped, his whole palm resting warm and heavy on Jimin’s skin. “We can get on their level too, if we put our hearts into it.”

“Into having sex, you mean?”

“Into dirty talk.”

“I think I’d like a bit of dirty talk,” Jimin says. The back of his neck feels hot again, but now it’s mostly because Taehyung’s hand never stops moving. His fingers keep brushing the place where the leg of Jimin’s boxers circles his upper thigh, almost climbing to the crease where his ass meets thigh. Jimin licks his lips, throat feeling suddenly a little tight, but he swallows and looks Taehyung in the eyes.

“And let’s get these off.”

He lets go of Taehyung, albeit very reluctantly, and hooks his thumbs behind the waistband of his boxers. Taehyung’s eyes are bright and burning and after stealing a quick kiss that almost turns dirty again, he does the same with his own boxers and pushes them down. With the last bit of clothing gone from between them, Jimin presses closer again and gets a kiss in return. This one is full of everything the one before didn’t have, tongue and teeth digging into his bottom lip, breathlessness and needy gulps of air.

“Get the lube?” Taehyung pants against Jimin’s lips, like he’s too reluctant to pull away a millimeter more than is necessary. Jimin nods, or more like bumps his forehead against Taehyung’s, before turning on the bed to rummage through Taehyung’s nightstand. It’s more difficult than he would have thought, not only because Taehyung’s things are a mess, but also because Taehyung keeps mouthing along his neck and nibbling at the skin there. It makes Jimin feel like there are jolts of electricity running through his spine.

He finally gets his fingers around the little tube. Jimin flips around again, pushing the thing against Taehyung’s hand and kissing him. His heart is beating like crazy, blood pumping hotly like rapids, like his veins are about to burst from.

“Want you to,” Jimin murmurs. Taehyung’s fingers touch his and steal away the lube, and then he grabs the back of Jimin’s thigh and hoists his leg up––

Taehyung stops and has just enough time to look Jimin in the eyes. He’s slack-jawed and blinking, and Jimin feels that small nudge in his bones that he knows so well. He can’t get a word out before he’s in another time.

Equally naked as a heartbeat ago. Also equally horizontal, because Jimin finds himself in a bed. The blanket below him is silky-soft and warm, and he’s lying between two human-sized lumps.

“This isn’t fucking fair!” The loud groan slips out of Jimin’s mind before he can think about it or his surroundings, and suddenly both lumps start wiggling.

“What––”

“Jimin, is everything––?”

What the fuck?

Jimin buries his face in his hands and squeezes his eyes firmly shut. He knows both of those voices, even though they are groggy and thick with sleep, and he can’t believe he’s lying in the middle of a massive king-sized bed between his future self and future Taehyung, completely and utterly naked. At least his hard-on is pretty much gone after the sickening sensation of travelling through what must be a fairly big number of years.

“Oh, it’s you!”

The lump – person – on Jimin’s right side groans, and suddenly Jimin is being covered with a blanket that’s almost sinfully thick and soft.

“I swear, I’ve been dreading this night ever since we decided to buy these stupid sheets.”

“You’re telling me you actually remembered our sheets? Oh, hey, should I hide or something?”

“It’s fine,” the voice of Jimin’s future self says. “We’re together at this point. Or, I mean, I think it’s fine, but––”

“It’s okay,” Jimin says finally. He pushes himself up from the bed, but makes sure to keep the blanket wrapped tightly around his entire body. When he finally straightens his back, he gets his first eyeful of not only his future self, but also future Taehyung. Who doesn’t have a shirt on. Or pajama pants. And whose body is absolutely chiseled (not Greek god chiseled, but pretty damn well-built) and skin tan like Jimin remembers it being after they got back from Thailand a few years ago.

Jimin must be blushing. He quickly averts his eyes and focuses on his own face instead. It's much safer to look his older self in the eyes and return his sleepy smile, or it would be, if his older self didn't look almost smug. He's grinning as if Jimin had something particularly hilarious on his face, head tilted, and when he pushes his dark, almost ash-colored hair back from his eyes, Jimin can see amusement practically glittering in his eyes.

"Hi." As if that's necessary. Jimin says it anyway.

His older self grins a tiny bit wider, his whole face split by the smile, but then Taehyung is speaking and Jimin has to look at him again. It wouldn't be polite otherwise. "I know where you're from. I know! For once in my life I know where the hell you're coming from!"

"I tell you all the time!" Jimin says without thinking, but what makes it funny is that his older self says it too, almost at the exact same time. They exchange a quick look, and Jimin can't help smiling back.

"Yeah, after. But this time I actually know." Taehyung has a grin on his face that could be almost described as maniac. Jimin chooses to call it victorious in his head instead. "It's that time, isn't it? When we... err--"

"Yes?" Jimin's future self is smirking again, and Taehyung smirks back. Instead of opening his mouth again, he waits a few seconds until all their attention is on him, then makes a quick circle with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and pushes the index finger of his left through it. Repeatedly and, in Jimin's point of view, pretty obscenely. Especially when Jimin makes the mistake of looking up and sees the confident, shit-eating grin on Taehyung’s face that has no right to be so attractive.

Jimin doesn’t know how he should react, but his older self saves him by bursting out laughing, and then grabbing the closest pillow and smacking Taehyung right in the face.

“I kind of like this trip,” Jimin says, or more correctly hears himself saying. He sounds young compared to them, even though his older self’s voice isn’t that much different from his own. Maybe it’s the shyness, even though he’s technically just having a very strange pajama party with his best friend-slash-boyfriend, and somebody who might as well be one of Jimin’s many personalities. “You know. Because I’m not the only one who doesn’t have any clothes on.”

Taehyung laughs, and Jimin’s future self reaches out a hand to give Jimin a high-five.

“Bet you’d rather have stayed back in your time, though,” Taehyung says, sounding smug, and wiggles his eyebrows. Jimin almost chokes on his own spit.

“Stop being so dirty,” future Jimin snorts.

“C’mon, let me appreciate you in your best twinky days.”

That gets Taehyung another whack from the pillow. “I’m still a twink.”

“Of course you are, baby. Just a little wrinkled.”

Jimin watches Taehyung as discreetly as he can, but at the same time he feels almost greedy for more words, more of those smiles. More of what Taehyung will be. Jimin knows (though he can’t help feeling like it’s all a dream sometimes) that he will get to be right there and see how Taehyung grows to become this person right in front of Jimin’s eyes. It’s almost like Jimin has learned not to feel too curious about his future selves and to act equally mysterious when he meets his younger versions, but with Taehyung, he’s allowed to ask questions and memorize the answers.

“–– Can’t honestly tell me you’ve never ever thought about a threesome?”

Wow. Hearing the end of that sentence, Jimin doesn’t know whether to be happy that their relationship seems to be so comfortable that they can joke (that’s a joke, right?) about pretty much anything, or whether to hide under the bed until he’s whisked back to the right time.

Then again, if he did that, he would have missed the way his older self pushes himself on all fours and moves across the huge bed until he’s mere centimeters away from Taehyung. He leans close, a soft smile caressing his lips and hair falling over his eyes, and even has the gal to drag his tongue over his bottom lip.

“You know I have, but we can talk more about that when we’re alone.”

It actually ends up being one of Jimin’s funnier trips. They stay in bed for the entire time, around one hour, and Jimin gets to observe the two of them to his heart’s content. He feels a little dirty every time his eyes linger a little too long, and not just because Taehyung keeps leaning back and practically posing against the fluffy pillows. He also gets to see the two of them being carelessly intimate; future Jimin brushing Taehyung’s hair, Taehyung caressing the back of future Jimin’s neck with soft, cherishing fingertips.

It makes the bottom of Jimin’s stomach flip. He’s being torn in half by the excitement and the longing to get back home, and clutches the blanket around himself tighter. It’s like a little safe space, and at the same time it makes him feel like he belongs to where he is.

Jimin is glad to get back to his own time, though. During the few fractions of a second it takes for him to switch centuries, Jimin has just enough time to wonder whether he’s going to appear right on top of Taehyung. He might, if Taehyung stayed in bed and waited for him. Jimin knows it’s silly to almost wish for it, but the idea of finding himself in an empty, cold bed sends shudders down Jimin’s spine.

It’s not empty. The moment Jimin feels the covers underneath him (much less soft than at his future self and Taehyung’s place), he’s being squeezed hard enough he’s worried he might faint. Taehyung jumps seemingly out of nowhere and wraps himself around Jimin like an octopus. He kisses Jimin’s nose with sleepy lips and his voice is rough and heavy, but also young and so familiar.

“Welcome back.”

Taehyung settles against Jimin like he belongs there, and Jimin lets himself drown under his smell and warmth. He thinks back to the way his older self and the older Taehyung had practically melted against each other whenever they touched and feels a sudden wave of pure thrill, because he will get to live that. He will get to experience becoming so close with Taehyung that they can joke about anything in the world and sleep in a huge king-sized bed together and get an honest-to-god apartment for just the two of them.

“You look thoughtful,” Taehyung says out of the blue, and Jimin realizes he must have zoned out a little bit.

“Yeah, just, uh,” Jimin hurries to say, swiping his tongue over his bottom lip. He feels a little embarrassed to be caught day-dreaming like that, even though it’s the two of them he’s thinking about. “Saw pretty interesting things. You know, I actually went to see you and me. In the future. Showed up right in the middle of their bed. I mean, our bed.”

Taehyung is quiet for a while. “You mean you can tell me this time? Even though it was in the future.”

“Small bits. Not when or where, obviously, but––”

“How was I?”

Jimin blinks. “What do you mean?”

“What was I like? In the future?”

Jimin frowns at first, but then lets a somewhat teasing smile take over his lips. “Devilishly handsome. Funny and confident and pretty sexy. And you can’t think I’m weird for saying that! You didn’t have a shirt on.” But instead of laughing, grinning back at Jimin or even cracking a joke of his own, Taehyung’s body grows tense against Jimin. He’s smiling, but there is something vary about that expression, like a growing crack in a glass.

“What’s wrong?”

Taehyung lets out a small huff of air. He presses his lips into a tight line, but at least he tries to give Jimin another smile afterwards. He’s still holding onto Jimin, too, maybe even harder than he did before. Jimin is about to open his mouth to ask again, but then Taehyung talks: “I just started thinking and––”

“Don’t. That’s dangerous.” It gets Jimin a soft swat on the chest. It’s much too gentle for Jimin’s liking, though, and clear evidence that there is some kind of imaginary black cloud hanging right above Taehyung’s head.

“I just–– You can go to the future. You see stuff, about yourself and about us and you know things. What if… What if, at some point, like, way into the future, you went there and met me and then–– then what if you didn’t like me?”

Jimin blinks. It feels like he’s free-falling, because in all honestly, an idea like that never even crossed his mind. The way he looks at things –– from the viewpoint of somebody who has always just wished for somebody to choose him and never been the one to choose –– whenever he travels, Taehyung has been like a shining star. Distant and beautiful and something you’re too scared to look at for too long in case they will just suddenly disappear.

The idea of seeing a form of Taehyung that Jimin wouldn’t like? It feels silly. Not unrealistic, because even Jimin is not stupid enough to think they will never fight or that there aren’t things about Taehyung that won’t sometimes rub him the wrong way. But Jimin doesn’t think he’d ever feel angry or, or–– disappointed at what Taehyung will become. He’d be intrigued and want to know him, want to learn of all the things that shaped him to become like that. He’d be curious.

“Look,” Jimin says. He’s trying to choose his words carefully, because he’s finally realized Taehyung’s smile is there just for decoration and he’s actually being dead serious. “You’re not perfect. Just like I’m not perfect. And sometimes I see my future selves and think, why are they like that? Why are they so annoying, or why do they do the things they do. But isn’t that normal? I know so little of what’s going on in other times, so mostly it’s just me guessing and trying to figure out what they are thinking, just the way things always are with other people. And I don’t think I could ever––”

Taehyung turns around next to Jimin. He puts some space between them and leans his chin against his hand, elbow propped against the mattress. “What if you see me doing something bad? You see me, I don’t know, murdering somebody, or us fighting? Or you see us break up, or the group disband, or somebody get hurt––”

“No––”

“You can’t know that,” Taehyung insists. He sounds strained, much more tired than before, and he looks Jimin in the eyes. The look on his face is so full of anxiety that Jimin feels something twisting inside his heart. He wants to wipe that expression away, almost lifts a hand to physically drag over Taehyung’s face, but decides against it and closes his eyes for a split second.

“You’re right, I can’t,” Jimin says. “But there’s something I do know, right now. Not in the future, but right now. In the real time.” He looks up, meeting Taehyung’s eyes. “I know that you’re–– you’re my favorite person. No matter where I find myself, this Taehyung right here is. And if I ever saw something–– bad, like you said–– I’d do everything I could to change that. Help you. Learn about you. Change the future, if that’s what it meant.”

It’s Taehyung’s turn to close his eyes.

“I love you,” Jimin says. He pushes himself up, just so that he can lean closer and press a soft kiss on the corner of Taehyung’s mouth. Not wanting to crowd him but still offering comfort, if Taehyung feels like he needs it.

“I love you too,” Taehyung replies. His fingers find Jimin’s, almost shy, and Jimin grabs his hand and pulls it close to his chest. “It’s just–– It’s difficult. Scary.”

“Tell me about it,” Jimin says, trying for a smile. It doesn’t exactly make Taehyung smile, but at least he moves closer again and his tense body relaxes a little bit.

“You wouldn’t tell me, would you? If you ever saw something,” Taehyung says with a trembling voice. “You couldn’t. So you’d just–– keep it inside and wait for me to do it, whatever it was. There is no way it wouldn’t eat you up from the inside.”

“Taehyung,” Jimin whispers. He knows there is not much he can say, because the picture Taehyung paints with his shaky words is scary, most of all because it could easily be real. “I don’t want to–– I’ve been in love with the you from some other time for so long already. Now that you’re really here, I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to love you, or be angry at you or feel annoyed by you or be sad about something you did, here, in this time. Okay?”

Now Jimin doesn’t let Taehyung get away; he presses their foreheads together and brings his right hand up to touch Taehyung’s jaw. His left is still holding Taehyung’s hand and not about to let go anytime soon.

“It’s not an easy thing,” Jimin continues, so quietly Taehyung probably couldn’t even hear him if they weren’t so close. “And I’m–– You don’t know how much it means that you’re still there.”

Taehyung’s shifts and then he’s pulling Jimin right into his arms. Jimin, determined not to lose, wraps his arms around Taehyung as well and squeezes back just as hard.

“If you’re in, then I am, too,” Taehyung says, the sound muffled by Jimin’s hair.

“I mean, I’m pretty invested in this thing, so––”

“Silence,” Taehyung says. He kicks his leg between Jimin’s and hooks his ankle around his. “Just let me hug you. And hug me back. That’s all we’re going to do from now on.”

“You don’t think it’s going to sort of interfere with the rest of our lives? Like making music or performing, or… You know, sex, if we ever make it that far?”

“The rest of the world is just going to have to deal. We’re Jimin’n Taehyung now. Taehyung and Jimin. The inseparable duo. Where there is one, there’s also the other. Practically joined at the hip. Like two handsome heads on one body.” Taehyung pauses for a second, as if thinking hard. “But you’re right. We’ll also have sex. Hugging and sex, maybe sometimes sleep and food.”

Jimin smiles into Taehyung’s shoulder. There’s really only one answer he could give to that.

“Okay.”

 

 


 

 

Jimin and Taehyung are 19 and 32

 

It’s funny that the idea of going to Japan for a little bit of promotion used to scare Jimin so much. Now, after he’s crisscrossed through Asia doing concerts and knows there is even more traveling waiting for them the next year, he can think back to simpler times almost fondly.

They just got to Singapore yesterday, and after waking up in their small hotel room this morning Jimin finally feels like his body has gotten rid of the last remnants of the sleeping pills. He knows it’s heavy stuff, needs to be so that there is not even the slightest chance of him accidentally snapping his eyes open mid-flight, but Jimin still doesn’t have to like it. It always leaves him groggy and slow for at least the rest of the night after they’ve landed, and if they have anything scheduled, it’s a miracle he stays awake through it.

Even now the sheets feel much too comfortable, but Jimin kicks himself mentally up and into the bathroom. Hoseok, who he’s been rooming with through the entire tour, is still soundly asleep and drooling all over his pillow, half of his blanket on the floor even though it’s pretty cool in the room, so Jimin is careful not to slam doors.

Hoseok is a great roommate, of course he is. He orders room service even when Jimin tries to half-heartedly argue he’s supposed to be on a diet, and he always lets Jimin shower first. He should be thankful, and he is, really, but… There’s always that one but.

Jimin would rather be with Taehyung.

Taehyung is rooming with Jungkook and Namjoon, which shouldn’t annoy Jimin as much as it does. He should have said something when they were deciding rooms, but Hoseok had given him a questioning look that Jimin doesn’t remember answering and before he knew, he’d been sent away with a keycard that read 506, while Taehyung had one with the numbers 513.

It’s strange how Jimin sometimes hesitates like that. He’s so close with all the members and especially Taehyung, but things like that always feel so defining, somehow. His stupid little heart can’t help wondering if this is finally the moment Taehyung will reveal he’s been in love with Jimin all along, too, and that one moment spent daydreaming means Jimin misses his chance.

Jimin pushes his face under the hot stream of water and tries to wash away the thoughts. It’s not very effective, just leaves him spluttering and spitting water all over the bathroom.

Be patient, his older self had said. It’ll happen, in time. Well, Jimin already feels like he has waited forever. How is he meant to just keep on being with Taehyung, especially in such closed-off spaces, and acting like he doesn’t have any feelings for him?

And would it really hurt to just… go ahead and say it? Jimin knows it’ll happen anyway, so why can’t he speed up the process just a little bit? No point in knowing the future, and not only that, but having been in the future, if you can’t change it, is there? Jimin sighs long and deep and ends up coughing water until his lungs are screaming.

Breakfast cheers him up some. Maybe Taehyung’s sleepy company does too, but Jimin brushes off the way his stomach keeps flipping at the low, throaty sound of Taehyung’s voice (just like it always is in the morning) and focuses on his toast instead. Munching as loudly as possible at least makes it a little harder to hear how Taehyung’s tongue keeps slipping back to the sudden up and downhills of Daegu.

Jimin can’t help hugging Taehyung after they get off the stage that night. His arms cling to Taehyung’s shoulders and he’s still shaking from the tremors running through his muscles, but at least he can breathe properly again. Taehyung pushes him off after a moment, makes a huffing sound that’s just shy of real laugher, and holds Jimin by the arms. He studies Jimin’s face, and even if the smile he’s wearing doesn’t waver, his eyes are serious.

“You’re okay, right?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says. He’s so relieved he’s still here, right there with Taehyung’s huge fingers holding him, and not in some other time. Jimin didn’t disappear in front of thousands of people and he’s not going anywhere now. He knows it, somehow, as if it were his very cells telling him nothing bad was going to happen. They have been touring for a while now, yet he’s still afraid every time. Not during the performance itself, but always before, and always after.

“You’re not going to––”

“No.” Saying it loud makes Jimin hesitate, as if taunting his condition like this could trigger a trip. “At least, uh, I don’t think so.”

Taehyung’s eyes are huge and wondering. It’s like he’s searching for something on Jimin’s face. “For a moment there, I thought–– Hell, I don’t know, I was probably imagining it, but I thought I–– felt. Like, something. Like I knew when you were about to leave and that was just––”

Jimin doesn’t mean for it to happen at all, but he can’t help the silly heh sound he makes. It’s just too absurd, when even Jimin himself has no idea what exactly it feels like to leave. Even after all these years, leaving is never about knowing. At best, it’s realization. At worst, getting caught at gun-point, with seconds to live.

“Hey, I’m serious,” Taehyung says, pouting. That strange look on his eyes breaks and disappears as if it had never been there. “I was worried, you idiot.”

“I know, I know,” Jimin says. “I saw the look you gave me. Maybe it helped. Kept me in the moment or something.”

“Don’t you always say you can’t control it?”

“Yeah, I can’t, but I mean–– Maybe it helped me stay calmer. My mom always says I just need to stay calm and breathe and even though it has never worked before, I guess it must have done this time,” Jimin replies. “You know moms. Always right in the end.”

Taehyung just shakes his head, a grin on his lips. “Or maybe you just did it. All by yourself. And maybe a little bit of my help, I mean, I was right there next to you––”

“Yeah, yeah. Just take all the credit, will you?” Jimin says, grinning, and gives Taehyung a soft punch to the arm. He can’t do much more before a stylist comes to (gently) rush them to take off their stage clothes because everyone is waiting. Taehyung follows obediently and Jimin walks right next to him, and it’s not until they’re pulling off their shirts and pants that Taehyung suddenly continues the conversation.

“You don’t know what causes it, right?”

“What?” Jimin isn’t really listening, not when he has to use what little energy he has left to inch the tight, almost leather-like pants down along his sweaty thighs. It’s difficult, because part of Jimin keeps wondering if Taehyung is watching. Or worse, if he’s also peeling his pants off and if his skin is slick with sweat, too––

Stop. Jimin closes his eyes for a second and forces the pants down before stepping out of them and quickly reaching for his sweatpants.

“The time travel thing.”

Jimin looks up but only after the waistband of the pants is secured snuggly around his hips and he’s peeked through his eyelashes to make sure Taehyung has clothes on as well. Jimin shakes his head, lips pursed. “No idea. And I mean, I have googled it, believe me. And my mom took me to a couple of doctors when I was younger, but they all, uh–– They thought I was a mental case, obviously.” He shrugs and gives Taehyung a small smile. It’s weirdly effortless, but that’s what practice gets you, it seems. Jimin used to flinch every time he even thought about those doctors. “I guess it’s just your ordinary, everyday magic.”

Taehyung snorts. “Well, it’s the only thing that’s ordinary about you, Park Jimin.”

Jimin blinks. Taehyung is looking at him with a wide smile, tongue in cheek and playful, and Jimin’s heart beats so weirdly, like it’s broken and can’t hold onto a rhythm.

“I––” Jimin swallows. He shouldn’t–– But he wants to. It’s that same kind of reckless feeling he’d felt when he auditioned, three years ago. Hadn’t his older self appeared then and taken control of what was happening? How didn’t that count as messing with the future? It’s the same thing, Jimin knowing that he would become an idol and him knowing they are in love.

Would it really be so bad to say it?

“It’s a compliment,” Taehyung continues, smile growing even warmer. His hair is tousled, a bird’s nest of hair spray and dark brown, and now Jimin’s heart is almost hurting with how askew it is.

He still can’t get a word out. Not even when somebody calls for them, again the two last people in the dressing room, and Taehyung turns around. Jimin’s hand rises to follow him, like he wants to grab Taehyung’s wrist but misses by millimeters. Jimin stares at Taehyung’s back and feels every step Taehyung takes like physical hits to his core. He doesn’t know why he feels so panicked all of a sudden, but it’s blocking his throat and squeezing hard.

Taehyung is almost out of the door. They will go back to the hotel, back to their separate rooms, and there won’t be a good enough excuse for Jimin to sneak into Taehyung’s room, not when they have interviews in the morning and everybody will just want to rest. And they wouldn’t be alone, not like now, probably won’t get another chance before they’re in Japan and then the US and that’s weeks from now––

“I like you.”

It takes a few seconds for Taehyung to turn around. He’s biting his bottom lip, face frozen into something between a smile and stunned surprise and he looks beautiful. Jimin doesn’t know what to feel, but the knowledge that he just said it out loud, that it’ll happen right now, feels like a storm of flowers inside his stomach. He wants to laugh out loud, wants to grab Taehyung’s hands and kiss him, finally.

Why couldn’t he?

Jimin steps forward. Stuttering steps turn into rushed ones, and Jimin closes his fingers around Taehyung’s. He leans closer, careful, and watches Taehyung’s face. Inching closer, closer, closer and closer––

“Wait, Jimin, I. I don’t––”

The moment shatters around them. Or maybe it had only existed for Jimin, anyway, because suddenly any remnants of Taehyung’s smile are gone and he’s worrying his bottom lip, eyebrows furrowed and posture stiff, and Jimin stops. Taehyung takes a step back and his hand slips from Jimin’s fingers.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t–– I don’t know.” Taehyung’s voice sounds weird, like he’s almost embarrassed. He might as well be yelling loud enough to shatter the windows, because Jimin feels the words deep in his bones. Like cancer, like poison that’s spreading fast and paralyzing him.

“But, but I–– I know that we will––”

And now Taehyung’s face doesn’t only drop, it changes. The lines between his eyebrows seem to be carved with a knife, his jaw made of stone. There’s a fire in his eyes that makes Jimin feel almost scared, because he’s never seen an expression like that on Taehyung’s face. They have fought, over stupid, small things and some bigger and more serious, but this is something else. This is shock and anger and something that is almost like… almost like disgust.

“You know what exactly?”

Another step back.

“No, I just mean that–– Just that I’ve heard from––”

“From your–– what do you call them?–– the future you?” More fire, this time spreading all over Taehyung’s voice. Jimin used to be happy Taehyung never becomes cold and sharp when he’s angry, lashing out instead like an explosion, but now those flames scare him more than anything.

“Yes,” Jimin says in a small voice. He doesn’t really know how else to answer and staying quiet seems like the last thing he should do.

“And what exactly did they tell you?”

At least Jimin knows not to give the details. Not that his future selves have been particularly generous with them in the first place, but Jimin knows Taehyung shouldn’t hear any of them. Should never have learned about this in the first place. “That’s not important. I just meant that, you know, since it’ll happen, I figured––”

“Oh hell,” Taehyung sighs. “You–– You really–– Oh jeez.” Then his expression changes again and he just looks at Jimin in the eyes, tired and uncomfortable and with just a little fire lingering in his eyes. “I don’t, okay? I–– I feel like I should say I’m sorry, but I have to be honest here. I don’t. Like you like that.”

Oh.

“You’re my friend, you are, but,” Taehyung continues and scratches the back of his neck. “I’m not. I don’t, okay?”

“Okay.”

That’s not Jimin who’s speaking. It’s something inside him, like all those future selves and past Jimins are inside him and taking the lead because he himself can’t understand what is going on. Can’t be trusted enough to live his own stupid life. All he can feel is throbbing, aching pain all over his insides. If it didn’t feel so overly dramatic to even think about it, Jimin would describe it as a bullet wound right to the heart.

Taehyung sighs and drags his palm over his face. “I don’t like–– guys. If you were–– If the situation was different, I’m sure–– But maybe you just misunderstood. That’s pretty likely, isn’t it? You’re just following something you, I don’t know, think you heard in the future. They probably meant something else, right?”

“You don’t have to say that,” that mass of something inside Jimin speaks again. “I appreciate you being honest. I must have–– yeah, I must have misunderstood, like you said. It’s not like they went out of their way to tell me, it was more like, slips of tongue, anyway, and I–– I’m sorry for assuming.”

Jimin really feels like a schizophrenic right now. It’s some other Jimin saying all those things and being considerate and smart and just embarrassed enough. His real self wants to scream and throw furniture and escape somewhere he can never be found again. Another time, where he could just stay behind the scenes, live out of garbage cans for the rest of his life. Maybe with another Taehyung, who would love him back.

It’s like Jimin is watching from the sidelines as his tongue and lips form words he has no control over. “I hope you don’t–– I know it’ll be weird, but I won’t. I won’t say anything or, you know. Do anything.”

“Yeah, I,” Taehyung answers and then stops to swallow. “Yeah. Let’s just… Pretend nothing ever happened, alright? I’ll see you in the car.”

Taehyung practically whips around, like he can’t get out of the room fast enough. At the same time, Jimin van’t help being selfishy happy when he feels that familiar and never familiar enough thrum in his cells. He’s about to leave this entire mess behind for a little while and he won’t have to sit with Taehyung in the car and be awkward and face the fact over and over again that his heart has just been snapped in two.

Maybe they’ll even feel worried about him. Annoyed and tired and uncomfortable, at least, because they can’t leave and have to wait. Fiddling their thumbs. The thought fills Jimin’s insides with sharp, dark satisfaction that feels like shards of glass.

It’s a strange house where he ends up in, a strange time that gives him no hints of where he is. It’s dark and way too big and fancy to be anywhere he’s been before. Maybe it’s because he’s indoors, but at first Jimin doesn’t remember he’s not wearing a thing, just takes a few steps forward and looks around for something he could use to place himself. There isn’t much, not when it’s so dark and a part of him also feels a little rude for just peeking into people’s things. Probably another thing he needs to get over as soon as possible if he wants to keep time travelling like a professional.

For once, Jimin at least finds himself standing right next to an honest to god closet and can pick out a nice, long coat to cover himself with without having to risk his life for it. It almost makes Jimin laugh because it’s so easy.

Since there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the apartment, Jimin starts investigating. First, he cracks the front door open and looks out. It opens into equally dark and equally fancy hallway, and Jimin decides he’s better off staying inside. Not because of any specific reason other than what he has learned of his condition so far. He probably knows the owner of this apartment, so he might as well stick around and wait for them to show up.

Jimin makes a careful round around the house. Most of the doors are closed and he doesn’t dare look inside, but the sleek black-and-silver kitchen and the huge dining room slash living room makes it clear the owner is loaded. There still aren’t any signs of who that owner might be, no photographs hanging on the walls or funny notes stuck on the fridge door, but Jimin isn’t particularly worried. Hell, even if nobody lived there at all, he really wouldn’t mind.

Jimin ends up on the couch, where he settles down comfortably before turning the TV on. It works, surprisingly, and the screen is filled with the face of some actor or idol Jimin doesn’t recognize. And then, as if on command, the front door beeps.

“Yeah, babe, I just got inside. It still fucking smells in here though, so I think I’m going to order pizza too, just to make it a bit more homely. What? You don’t think we can finish one measly order of black bean noodles and a tiny little pizza by myself? Honey, please.”

Jimin recognizes that voice. He really thinks he does.

“You better be careful or I won’t leave you anything to eat when you finally drag your ass over here,” the voice continues. The door slams shut again, and after a moment spent most likely kicking shoes off, dull footsteps head over to where the kitchen is.

Jimin turns helplessly on the sofa.

“Are you calling me a pig? Of course I won’t eat it all alone. I’ll invite somebody over, maybe Jungkook or one of the neighbors––”

Their eyes meet.

Taehyung is older than Jimin has ever seen him and looks both exactly the same and different in ways that Jimin could never have imagined. He looks like a proper adult, tall and defined and strong, completely alien but at the same time everything Jimin has secretly memorized through stolen glances and looks that stretched on a bit too long when he forgot to turn away.

“Holy shit,” Taehyung says. His phone makes a thud when it hits the table top next to the boxes of food he must have brought with him. Some part of Jimin wants to jump forward and take a good look at it, see what phones look like here in the future, but he’s too busy trying and failing at tearing his eyes off Taehyung’s face.

Taehyung looks back with his eyes wide, mouth hanging open, and looking so handsome it twists Jimin’s heart. The words he’d said just now into the phone, babe and honey, echo in Jimin’s ears and all he can think about is whether that person on the other end of the call is him, his older self, or somebody completely different. A woman, maybe, someone beautiful and sweet, and most importantly, someone Taehyung actually likes like that.

In the scene Jimin imagines in the fraction of a second they spend just staring at each other, Jimin sees himself being confident. Waving a hand and maybe grinning, saying something witty like ‘Wow, don’t you look old!” or, hell, winking. Something that would make him sitting there in the wrong time, small and naked in somebody else’s trench coat, a little less pathetic than it seems right now.

“Hi,” Taehyung says, finally, breaking the ice like it’s as natural as breathing for him. The smile on his lips looks comfortable, and he rounds the counter and walks right in front of Jimin, hands on his hips. Like a curious kid eyeing a particularly colorful bug that they want to put in a jar and poke with a stick. “Sorry for freezing like that, it’s been a while since this happened the last time. Where did you come from? I guess you never told me about this, I mean back in your time, because otherwise I’d known you’d be here!”

Taehyung makes a move as if to sit down on the couch, but then jumps back up and flies back to the kitchen. “Come here, I brought food! You haven’t just eaten or something, have you? You look pretty primped, so I’m guessing you’re in the middle of a concert or photoshoot? I’m digging around my brain, but I just can’t remember which comeback that is, though… I mean you look pretty young? But it’s always more difficult when you have a kind of normal hair color, you know, not like bright red or pi––”

“I’ll have bright red hair?” And is that seriously the first thing Jimin says to the future Taehyung? Apparently. He makes his way to the counter as well, but doesn’t know what he should do with his hands or if it would be rude to lean against it, so he just stands there, wrapping the jacket around himself tighter.

For a brief second, Taehyung looks like he wants to slap himself in the face, but then he bursts out laughing instead and gives Jimin a sneaky look. “Our secret, okay?” It’s so infectious, that smile of his, that Jimin can’t help but return it with his own. He doesn’t want to, not after what happened in his own time just now, but how could he not, when Taehyung looks so handsome and same but different in every way that counts.

“It’s Hormone Wars,” Jimin says instead, mouth dry and swallowing around his words. That makes Taehyung whistle, face filled with nostalgia, as he mixes the black sauce into the noodles with furious yet somehow carelessly elegant whisks of chopsticks.

“God, it’s been so long. Now you’re really making me feel old… Grab the coke, will you? We can eat on the sofa.”

And they really do. They sit there comfortably next to each other and chat, Taehyung asking a million question and then launching into stories he remembers, and Jimin corrects him whenever he can. He tries not to listen too closely when Taehyung offhandedly mentions something that Jimin hasn’t experienced yet, but the spoilers aren’t too bad. Nothing major, no deaths or characters surprisingly leaving the show. It’s nice and comfortable and so soothing on Jimin’s raw nerves that he finds himself laughing without thinking, smiling and making jokes.

Part of him is fiercely bitter that he won’t be able to stay in this time, with this Taehyung who didn’t just throw Jimin’s feelings to the ground and practically stomp all over them. This Taehyung wouldn’t mind if he leaned closer and rested his cheek on Taehyung’s shoulder, Jimin is sure of it. And at the same time Jimin knows he shouldn’t be thinking like that, because this Taehyung has also done it, has been there and said the same words, but his brain needs to keep them separate for now. It’s almost as if after all these years of time traveling, Jimin still needs to pretend all these… versions of him and his friends are like different characters in a very complicated story.

Jimin looks down at the fried dumpling he’s holding between his chopsticks. It’s an unsettling thing to realize, but he can’t pretend it’s not there, in every chaotic thought running around inside his mind right now: Jimin just wants to stay. He wishes he could stay here were he doesn’t have to face Taehyung after that disaster of a confession and pretend nothing happened.

Then the front door beeps again and opens with a click.

“Finally!” Taehyung yells the moment they can hear somebody stepping inside. Jimin hides behind his paper cup full of coke when his older self steps into the room.

He looks disheveled, like he just rushed over, and his hair and jacket are spotted with raindrops. Jimin leaves through his memories and tries to figure out if he has ever seen his older self like that; very casual and even sharing the same hair color he is right now, without a hint of make up or idol life on his face. Are they on a vacation? They can’t be old enough to have retired, no way, unless––

“Everything okay in here?” Future Jimin looks at them both, a soft smile on his face that is somehow much more infuriating to Jimin than Taehyung’s. That smile knows things.

“We’re fine, we’re eating,” Taehyung replies cheerfully. “You didn’t have to rush!”

“Your text made it seem like the place was practically on fire. No, let me get this straight, you made it sound like my past self was on fire,” future Jimin says, snorting. “Now, could you go buy us some coffee from the coffee shop at the corner? The small one with the really hot baristas.”

“You’re trying to get rid of me, aren’t you,” Taehyung grumbles, but he gets up from the sofa after throwing Jimin a wink and a wide grin and carries all the nearly empty bowls and cups back to the kitchen.

Jimin might be imagining things, but he’s quite sure Taehyung tries to do… something to the future Jimin as he passes by to grab his rain coat from the closet. It might have been an attempt at a hug, maybe even a kiss, but older Jimin dodges him carefully, easily like he’s following a choreography, and looks Taehyung in the eyes for a few pregnant seconds. Jimin is certain there are messages being exchanged right in front of his eyes, but he just can’t decipher them.

Taehyung disappears with a wave and a few more kind, warm words and leaves the two of them alone.

“I know where you came from,” older Jimin sighs immediately and finally takes a seat next to Jimin. He slumps down and runs his fingers through his hair. “Or I remember, I mean. Are you alright?”

It should make Jimin want to pour his heart out. He’s with the one person who’s very literally gone through the same thing in the same goddamn shoes, but instead it makes Jimin’s heart fill with something almost like resentment. Jimin doesn’t want to call it jealousy, but especially after his future self just sent Taehyung away like that, his worried face makes something sour spike in Jimin’s chest.

“Yeah, I’m,” Jimin forces out in the end. “I’m okay. Just–– A rough day.”

The future Jimin nods, then looks down. He’s running his nails over the smooth surface of the couch, which, like everything else in the apartment, seems brand new.

“It’ll get better––”

“Do you live together?”

Jimin doesn’t really mean to say the words, but the moment he hears them out loud, he knows it’s exactly what he’s been wanting to ask ever since his older self came to the apartment. No, the moment he heard Taehyung say those endearing, teasingly loving words into the phone.

The future Jimin blinks at him and then his expression hardens. Jimin doesn’t miss the way he glances down, though. “You know I can’t answer that.”

“You’ve let things slip in the past,” Jimin says, stubborn. He has to push himself up from the couch, just so that he can look down at his older mirror image. He can’t help the way his voice gets prickly and coated with sarcasm. “Pretty big things, don’t you think? Just slip once more.”

“I can’t. Those times shouldn’t have happened, anyway, it’s what–– it just causes you pain.”

“Yeah well, it already happened, didn’t it? I–– I was stupid, okay, I get that, but I need to know.” Jimin wants to start pacing across the room, maybe throw a few perfectly placed couch pillows around, but instead he forces himself to stand still and squeezes his hands into fists. “Aren’t you responsible, in a way? All of you–– you. If you hadn’t–– If you hadn’t said anything in the first place, I might not even–– I might not feel anything at all.”

Now his older self looks conflicted, eyebrows furrowed and bottom lip stuck firmly between his teeth. “That’s… That could be true, but––”

“Think about it,” Jimin talks over him. He takes weird pleasure from being so rude to somebody so much older than him, because his future selves have never felt like real people he should be polite to. As much as they are separate from him, others who think with their own brains, they aren’t simply somebody he can think of as his brothers and some close friends. What would you even call somebody who is that close to you, so close that you share memories, no, not even just that; you share a life. “If you–– or, them, I don’t know–– had never said anything, I probably wouldn’t have ever felt a thing for him, would I? I mean, the first time I fucking met him I was already so stupidly in love just because… Because you showed me there would be somebody.”

“I can’t say anything,” his future self says with a low voice. Like he hadn’t just heard a word Jimin said. “It might happen, it might not. You can’t think about it like that, like you could somehow make things happen faster or in a different way. You know that’s not how things work, we tested that––”

“I know!” He might be yelling. Yes, he is yelling, and the sound seems to be almost echoing in the empty apartment. Jimin turns his back to his future self and just breathes in the smell of new home and tries to calm his racing heart down. “I know,” he says again, quieter this time, and wraps his arms around himself. “But haven’t you wondered? We’ve–– hell, somebody else went to my fucking audition, didn’t they? I used that concert ticket I shouldn’t have even had, and everything just–– happened. What if it could all change? What if this, right here, is just some alternative future, one of many that I could end up with?”

Jimin takes a deep breath and closes his eyes for a second. “What if I already–– what if I’ve ruined something? Somehow, I don’t know how but what if… Just humor me for a second, what if I grow old and this conversation right here never happens again because I did something differently and I will never end up living here with him and––”

“Stop!” His future self must have gotten up as well, because suddenly there are hands holding his arms and spinning Jimin around. Jimin looks himself in the eyes, hasn’t even realized he’s shaking and drawing in small, hitching breaths.

“Stop that, okay? Stop thinking like that,” his future self sounds gentle, his thumbs digging into Jimin’s arms and just grounding him right there. “You have to live–– Like you want to live. It’s not a game or a test, you can’t fail or choose wrong. You make those decisions, you still do. You’re not following a path, you’re making that path with every step.”

“But don’t you–– you’ve had this conversation before, you’re just repeating the words some older me said to you and then I will say them again when I’m older and that’s just–– that’s just fucked up,” Jimin says. The words come out as small, heaving sobs, and when his older self pulls him in for a tentative, gentle hug, Jimin goes.

“Listen,” his older self says quietly, and if Jimin closes his eyes, he can almost imagine the voice is coming from his own mind. Just like when you pretend you’re talking with yourself, except that his answers are actually formed by a brain that thinks for itself. “Just go back there and don’t think about it. What’s going to happen or how it’ll happen. If you–– If you like him, then go for it. I know what happened, I know it hurts, but maybe he’ll change his mind. Maybe you will. You won’t know unless you try, okay?”

Jimin pulls back a little, looking into those almost horribly familiar eyes. His eyes. “Because you won’t tell me.”

His future self cracks a smile that’s half apologetic, half teasing. “I won’t. Besides, I think it’s almost time for you to go.”

“You–– really?” The mere idea of returning makes Jimin shudder. “I don’t–– I don’t really want to,” he confesses, all that earlier anger deflated inside him until there’s nothing left but a mushy mess of chaotic feelings he can’t really name.

The older Jimin hehs. “I mean, I get it. In here, you get to eat greasy stuff and drink coke. And in the living room, of all places. Mom would kill us… Who wouldn’t want to stay?”

“I’m back, guys!” Taehyung yells even before he’s gotten properly through the door. He emerges seconds later, one shoe and half of his rain jacket still on. “Did you finish your secret talk already? Don’t think you can send me to another fake errand, I want in on this time travel stuff from now on.”

“Sure,” the future Jimin says with a sweet smile. “But he’s got to go now, so maybe next time.”

“What, really?” Taehyung might actually be pouting. “But I wanted to chat more with you––”

Maybe it’s that, or the way he’s looking at Jimin like he actually wanted to just talk with him, make jokes and have fun. Whatever it is, it makes Jimin feel an unexpected wave of emotion rising inside himself and before he knows it, he’s rushing forward and wrapping his arms around Taehyung. Taehyung, who’s build heavier and sturdier than his present-time version, whose longer hair is cut differently and tickles Jimin’s cheek. Whose hands are still huge and warm and who laughs with the same square smile that has buried itself inside Jimin and poisoned him so deeply he probably won’t ever be free of it.

Jimin hugs Taehyung tightly and tries to somehow absorb all of that into his own skin. The memory of it, how it feels, how Taehyung’s heart beats. He feels like he won’t have that where he’s going back to and he just–– he wants something to hold onto, even for a while.

When he returns to his own time, the dressing room is empty and dark and Jimin is all alone again.

 

 

 


 

 

Taehyung is 20, Jimin is 20 and 26

 

His girlfriend is pretty awesome.

Taehyung has known that for ages, because they’ve actually been friends ever since junior high school, but somehow he didn’t expect things to go so smoothly. Not when he spends close to 24 hours a day working, and Jangmi has watched him date his way through at least a dozen of girls from their school, not to mention all the weird hairstyles and teenage angst. But despite the history and them being able to meet face to face only a handful of times a month, she’s being really great about it. Even the whole secrecy thing and only being able to hang out late at night while pretty much wearing a bag over his face doesn’t seem to bother her too much.

Or she chooses not to show it. At this point, Taehyung might be a little too afraid to ask.

Anyway, Jangmi is really great. She gives Taehyung just the perfect way to get away from idol life, especially because it’s finally starting to look like their group is getting somewhere. It’s crazy to think that they’ve just finished a first leg of a tour that is not even close to being finished. It all leaves Taehyung feeling so overwhelmed he sometimes has to google his own name to believe it.

Jangmi helps with that too. Messaging her and sending each other silly selfies and buying her gifts; that’s all normal, and right now normal is exactly what Taehyung wants. A space for himself where nobody is an idol or–– or is a wizard or time travels or anything.

Sleep tight okay?

You too

Taehyung punches his pillow and turns to his stomach. Their schedule is crazy right now, absolutely all over the place, and he knows he needs every single minute of sleep he can possibly get. Maybe it’s because of the stress, but somehow he hasn’t been able to sleep well in what feels like months.

At least he has a girlfriend. He has. Taehyung repeats that to himself like a mantra, like a weird spell meant to somehow help him fall asleep. It does, eventually. After a few hours.

The next morning is hectic, as usual, and Taehyung yawns and sways his way through the preparations. It’s another concert day, meaning that everybody is packed to the van before the clock hits 9AM. Taehyung nods off during the drive, knee bumping against Jimin’s, who’s sleeping right next to him.

They are in… LA? Yes, it’s the last one of their concerts in the US. Taehyung stares out of the darkened windows, tries to make sense of the scenery that’s both exhaustingly strange and exciting enough to make him want to jump out of a moving vehicle. A small vibration in his pocket saves him from deciding. It’s Jangmi, of course, braving the time difference and wanting to wish him good luck for the concert. Taehyung smiles at the screen of the phone, but just as he’s about to start typing an answer, the car jolts.

Jimin falls against him, face on Taehyung’s bicep and his body about to end up on Taehyung’s lap. Taehyung watches, frozen and way too close, how Jimin blinks and then saves himself at the last moment by grabbing Taehyung’s thigh. His hand is small and grip sleepy gentle, but Taehyung’s first reaction is to jump.

“Oh, sorry,” Jimin murmurs, voice wrecked from lack of sleep, and tries to offer him a casual smile. Taehyung smiles back like it’s a reflex, but it leaves him feeling like a fraud.

This isn’t how things were supposed to go at all.

The venue is small and intimate, a theater rather than a stadium. Taehyung likes it either way, even though he knows they will have to do a shit ton of run-throughs to make sure their choreographies fit the smaller stage. They change clothes to something more comfortable backstage and eat a bit of breakfast prepared by the staff, and Taehyung is finally starting to feel a bit more alive.

He sends Jangmi a few messages again right before the last sound check. It calms him, at least a little, even if it kind of feels like he’s just pretending not to be nervous. If he adds enough smiley faces at the end of his sentences, maybe it’ll stop his stomach from eating itself––

“Hey,” Yoongi says and even has the nerve to throw a water bottle at Taehyung’s face. Or maybe Yoongi was aiming for his hands and missed. He’s grinning smugly enough. “Oh, sorry. But we’re trying to have a team meeting here. I’m sure your girlfriend can wait a little.”

“Sorry,” Taehyung grumbles, but he’s smiling, too, and tosses his phone obediently to the couch. Hoseok gives him a thumbs-up, Namjoon shakes his head and rolls his eyes, Seokjin makes kissy faces and Jimin––

Jimin smiles. Just smiles, that’s all Taehyung can say about that expression. It’s such an utterly normal smile that it makes Taehyung wonder why he’s scrutinizing every single thing Jimin does these days, when that stupid accident happened months and several different countries ago. It seems like Jimin has completely forgotten about it, so shouldn’t Taehyung do, too?

Good luck baby!!

Thanks

Taehyung writes a quick reply right before they are supposed to get ready to go on stage. He’s feeling better now, the nervous wriggly feeling inside him turned into a mixture of anticipation and excitement. It’s all thanks to touring so much and becoming somewhat familiar with it by now, even if Taehyung doubts he’ll ever be able to go up there completely relaxed. He puts the phone back on the table and rolls his shoulders one last time before turning around.

And meeting Jimin’s wide eyes just before he disappears.

“Oh fuck.”

Taehyung jumps forward to where there is only a pile of clothes left now. He can’t help bending down to pick them up, as if to see if Jimin would just fall out of the pocket or something, but he’s absolutely nowhere to be seen, of course. He’s gone somewhere else, some other time, and for crying out loud, Hobeom-hyung is going to kill Taehyung too for being a part of this.

There have been a couple of close calls during the tour, so often, to be honest, that is has become a kind of habit for Jimin. He disappears before the concerts, sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour, but he’s been pretty good at returning with some time to spare. This must be the closest call ever since their debut showcase, and unless Jimin is somehow planning to get back in the next… four and a half minutes, they are all majorly screwed.

“You don’t suppose I could fit into those, do you?”

Taehyung isn’t sure what he expects when he turns around, slowly and clutching Jimin’s pants to his chest like a shield, but a completely naked Jimin isn’t it. Jimin, whose hair isn’t any shade of red but dark, ashy blond and whose face is at least a couple of years older than it’s supposed to be.

This older Jimin grins, awkward but clearly not as shocked as Taehyung feels. “I mean, anything would be fine, really, doesn’t even have to be real clothes. A towel, a blanket, anything.”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry, I didn’t,” Taehyung says, finally, and practically throws the clothes at the older Jimin. He catches the bundle surprisingly easily and starts pulling Jimin’s sleeveless shirt over his head. At least that fits perfectly well, and to be honest, this version might even have a bit more toned arms than the real Jimin…

“So, where am I exactly?” Future Jimin says after he has the pants on as well. They are a little tight, but he wiggles his way into them like he’s used to it. “Or wait, should I guess? A music show?”

“Eh, concert, actually,” Taehyung says. Truth to be told, he hasn’t had many changes to talk to these other Jimins even though they have been something like a regular occurrence in their dorms and various hotel rooms during the two years they have lived together. There have been smaller Jimins awkwardly shuffling their way from the bedroom instead of the older one, and explosions of laugher when somebody has accidentally run into a grown-up version in the hotel hallways. But usually Jimin, the Jimin from their time, has been there to usher them away and take control of the situation.

Not this time, though. This time it’s like they have switched places.

That makes Taehyung grin, all of a sudden. Grin ear to ear, and the future Jimin cocks his eyebrows in a way that’s exactly the same their Jimin does.

“And actually, you couldn’t have had a better timing,” Taehyung says. “Put the shoes on, too. You’re going on the stage with us.”

“Excuse me?”

“You haven’t forgotten, right?” Taehyung says easily. He grabs the closest bottle of hairspray from one of the tables and steps closer. Somehow, with this older Jimin, it isn’t half as awkward as with the real one. For some strange reason, Taehyung can’t really see them as the same person and that makes it easy to forget any confessions of love, any strange whirlwinds of emotions that sometimes pick up inside Taehyung’s stomach when their eyes meet these days. “We’re singers. Singers perform. How old are you, anyway? I mean, you still remember the choreographies, right, grandpa?”

Taehyung doesn’t wait for an answer. There is something giddy inside him, like a mischievous spell, and it spurs him on to reach out and fluff Jimin’s hair. It feels surprisingly soft to Taehyung’s fingers, but he sprays it with enough hairspray to make a hole in the ozone layer and gets it to stick like he wants it to.

“No,” Future Jimin breathes out. He’s gaping at Taehyung and blinking, as if Taehyung had spoken in some strange new language he invented himself. “No, wait, no. No, I mean, I’ll mess up, I’ll definitely mess up––”

“Why aren’t you two ready?” Hobeom’s bellowed words make their way into the room long before he himself leaps inside. “Go to your places right now, the music is almost starting already, why aren’t you wearing your shoes, why––” Then Hobeom suddenly stops as if someone stole his tongue and seems to finally register the lack of red-haired, baby-faced Jimin and realize that this creature is not one of his young protégés.

“Oh god, no,” Hobeom says. No, he whimpers, and that’s definitely the first time Taehyung has heard him make a sound like that.

“Wait, hyung!” Taehyung says and wraps his arm around future Jimin’s bare shoulder. “We have the solution to our problem right here.” He whips around quickly, steals the first snapback he can get his hands on and places it ceremoniously on the top of Jimin’s head. It does cover almost all of his hard work with the hairspray, but Jimin needs something to cover both his hair and some of his face. “Voila!”

Hobeom eyes future Jimin for a long, long time. It’s like he’s carefully judging every single angle of the plan, all the potential downfalls and the slim likelihood of success, and Taehyung is fairly certain all of them are already horribly late at this point. He clears his throat, but even that doesn’t help.

In the end, Hobeom sighs, long and deep and dragging, and nods towards the hallway leading to the stage. “Go. Go, go! Just go already and, for crying out loud, try not to… Okay?” He sounds desperate instead of angry, which makes Taehyung grin and clap his hands gleefully.

Taehyung grabs the future Jimin’s wrist and drags him away before he can get out a single word in protest. What they find are the rest of the group and a bunch of delirious staff members running around like headless chickens, all of them looking for them, but Taehyung brushes them off too and just pushes Jimin to his place. He pretends he can’t see the horrified look on the future Jimin’s face, or the way he tries to edge away. Then the music starts, and they all move forward.

The future Jimin does too. Maybe it’s muscle memory, or maybe he just accepted his fate, but he’s walking across the stage like a completely different person. Taehyung nearly misses his own mark, he’s so engrossed by the transformation. There isn’t a hint of panic or anxiety on Jimin’s face, just a relaxed smile that’s suddenly oozing confidence instead of terror.

He misses the first beat though.

Taehyung grins to himself and tries to focus, because Jimin follows after that, maybe not as easily as the one from their time would, but after he warms up a little, everything about him, his aura and even the look on his face, seems to shift to something more. Their eyes meet at some point after a few songs, and it’s so easy to offer the future Jimin a wide, face-splitting smile. Jimin returns it easily even amongst the choreography, sweat dripping down his face, but he looks like he’s enjoying himself. Like he belongs there. And looking at how his body moves to the music like it’s made of liquid gold instead of stiff muscle and unyielding bones, Taehyung can’t help but agree.

The first video clip gives them all a much-needed break, even if they spend most of it trying to change clothes as quickly as they can and drink as much water as a human body can hold at once without throwing it all up. It’s also when the others finally realize what is going on.

“I knew it!” Hoseok yells the moment they all rush to the changing room and under its bright LED lights, and he gets a proper look at Jimin’s face. “You’re not Jimin!”

“You mean,” Namjoon corrects, breathless with both laugher and exhaustion. “He is, but not the one we thought he was.”

“Oh my god,” Jimin pants. He’s sitting down, hands on his thighs, and tries to blot sweat from his forehead. “I think I’m dying.”

“You’re doing really well, though!” Hoseok says, smiling brightly, and slaps Jimin’s shoulder. “Thanks for pitching in. I take our real main dancer had sometime else to be?”

“Seems like it, unless Taehyung just wanted to play a prank with me,” Jimin replies, eyes flying to Taehyung’s face. He looks–– teasing. Lips curled into a smile that’s almost sugary, eyes glimmering under the harsh white light. Then, just as Taehyung is starting to feel like his lungs aren’t working properly, one of the make-up artists jumps between them out of nowhere and starts working with Jimin’s face.

“What’s next? Not Dope, right?” Jimin mumbles from behind the lip gloss and eyeshadow and makes all of them snigger. “What? No, really?”

“Really,” Seokjin groans, clearly agreeing with Jimin, which makes Hoseok and Jungkook laugh harder and Yoongi snort. Jimin groans as well, then immediately apologizes because apparently he got eyeliner all over his cheek for it.

“But not Fire, at least?” Jimin says when the make-up artist gives him an all-clear. He’s grinning again, clearly more amused this time. “I mean, I kind of like the idea of challenging 3:33 again, I mean, it’s been a few years, but we still do that sometimes, just for laughs.”

Then he must see it on their faces. That none of them have any idea what he’s talking about.

“Fucking hell,” Jimin says and slaps his palm on his mouth. “Sorry. I, um. Forget about that. We have to get back there soon, right? Let’s go, let’s go.”

Taehyung still smiles and claps Jimin on the shoulder as they move back towards the stage, but when he meets Namjoon’s gaze, it feels strange. They don’t say anything, just shrug at each other, but Taehyung is fairly certain Namjoon’s mind is moving along similar tracks as his own.

There is going to be a ‘Fire’ at some point. It’s difficult to tell the age of this older Jimin when he’s clearly got that celebrity thing of never aging going on, but he must be at least three to five years older. That could mean anything; that BTS is still around five whole years into the future, or that this ‘Fire’ is their last, flopping single next year before their company decides it’s time for them to stop existing completely. It could be somebody else’s song entirely, something they cover during concerts just to please their fans.

Taehyung’s mouth feels uncomfortably dry and he takes a big gulp from the first water bottle he finds. Jimin stands in front of him, eyebrows furrowed and mouth set into a tense line, and Taehyung can see him mouthing something to himself.

“Is it a good song?” Taehyung hears himself whispering. He’s standing right behind Jimin, so Jimin can hear him just fine even over the rising noise from the audience. The turns his head a little, glancing over his shoulder, then offers Taehyung a half of an awkward smile.

“Couldn’t keep my big mouth shut, huh?” Jimin sighs, but it makes Taehyung chuckle.

“The way Jimin makes it sound, you guys let stuff slip all the time.”

That makes Jimin stop for a second and turn a bit more towards Taehyung. His eyes are piercing, gaze practically boring into Taehyung’s, who’s suddenly uncomfortably aware of what exactly Jimin claimed to have heard from his future selves.

“I guess we do. Doesn’t mean we should, though,” Jimin says, glancing down and wetting his bottom lip with his tongue. “But I bet you’re all curious. I know I would be. I am, still. Whenever I meet any of my older selves, I still sometimes ask them.” He allows a grin to curl in the corners of his mouth. “Sometimes it’s just to mess with them, sometimes I really want to know. Can never be sure what I’ll get, though. Could be an answer, could be them messing with me right back.”

Taehyung blinks.

“What I’m saying is,” Jimin replies in a softer voice. He looks like he’s choosing his words very carefully. “Even when we slip things–– not like what I just said, but more, uh, abstract–– they aren’t, you know, truths that are set in stone.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just that,” Jimin says, but pauses again. He glances forward, where lights are already blinking, and their fans screams have gotten loud like an approaching storm. It’s not a place where they should be having this conversation, and not only because they have to get back to the stage any second. Anybody could hear them. Yoongi is standing maybe half a meter to Taehyung’s right, and even though Hoseok, Jungkook and Namjoon are a bit further away, they could turn around. They could already be listening.

Taehyung, of course, hasn’t told anyone about… The incident. He wouldn’t, no way, because it isn’t a big deal. Just a silly misunderstanding. He and Jimin are good enough friends that they can just look past it, once Jimin gets over whatever crush he thinks he has. It seems like he already has, to be honest, since he’s been so incredibly casual with Taehyung lately. Not strained at all, making Taehyung doubt Jimin’s confession wasn’t real in the first place, just some weird mistake. With too many emotions near the surface thanks to the tour and everything, it could happen.

And would the others see it the same way Taehyung does? The crippling fear because of what is supposed to happen, according to these strange time travelling beings that talk about songs that haven’t even been composed yet. Just hearing it makes Taehyung’s skin crawl like there’s something living under it.

“I just hope you won’t take it too seriously,” Jimin says, voice hardly louder than a whisper now. “What he–– no, what I said, okay? You’re nice, you’re funny, you’re handsome, you’re smart.” He offers Taehyung a smile that makes his stomach flip, a fluttery feeling that leaves him feeling too hot and cold at the same time. “Sometimes you can be childish and petty and sulky, almost as bad as me. Somebody like that shouldn’t be loved just because my weird cousin from the future decided to play fortune teller. You should be liked because it’s real.”

Taehyung isn’t sure he understands. His head is spinning, and he feels like sitting down on the floor would be a much better idea than trying to survive through their deathtrap-like choreographies.

He’ll like you if he feels like it. And you’ll like him if you feel like it. That’s it.”

“Okay, let’s go!”

Namjoon’s voice breaks through the haze of thoughts storming inside Taehyung’s mind. Jimin waits another split second, enough to pat Taehyung’s arm, and his fingertips feel hot and soft and small. Somehow that makes Taehyung realize, more than anything, that this really is the same Jimin. Their Jimin. Then he’s already walking forward, back straight and hat pulled down low to cover his face, and all Taehyung can do is follow.

He doesn’t mean for it to happen this time, but their eyes keep meeting during the concert. When Jimin absolutely butchers the choreography for the first part of Dope and then throws his head back and laughs out loud, even though they are still on the stage (their Jimin would never, he’d stick to the script, face heated fire-engine red and holding back tears and anger from disappointment, maybe smile stiffly and then lean against Taehyung on their way home, lost in his thoughts and the feeling of never being enough). When Jimin seems to kind of forget where he is and raises the mike to his lips, says something that Taehyung doesn’t catch in English that’s supposed to be much more accented and much more insecure (their Jimin probably would too, if he was deep enough into the flow of it. But he’d be shy afterwards, laugh out loud at his own mistakes).

When they bow down for the last time, encore and everything done, Taehyung holds Jimin’s hand in his own and watches Jimin’s smaller fingers drown in his own. It’s a silly thing to keep marveling at, how Jimin is still pretty much the same size as usually, even if with more lean, defined muscle and less baby fat.

Jimin gives him a warm hug after they walk off the stage. Somehow Taehyung guesses what is about to happen, which makes his stomach jump over itself again. It’s like there’s some kind of part of his mind that’s attuned to time traveling, except that it only decides to work whenever it feels like it.

“You can just decide to get off the train, okay? Nobody is forcing you to stay on.”

Taehyung blinks, opens his mouth, and then Jimin is gone.

“Could you–– could you maybe hand me those clothes?”

It’s like a déjà vu, almost. Taehyung whips around and spots a tuft of bright red hair behind the huge speakers that have been moved away from the stage and into the hallway leading to their dressing room. Jimin is squeezed between them and the wall, squatting most likely because he’s peeking at Taehyung at knee height and looking smaller than ever.

“Welcome back,” Taehyung says, without thinking. It slips out like the words are water running through his fingers, and for a moment Taehyung feels stunned to silence.

Jimin stares at him with wide eyes. He didn’t expect that, definitely, and Taehyung doesn’t blame him. Even if they have been civil with each other for the past months–– no, more than civil. They have been perfectly friendly, like a textbook example of people getting along. But even so, Taehyung can’t actually remember when was the last time he saw Jimin either disappear or come back from a travel. It used to happen a lot more frequently, too, and there is actually a part of him that’s dares to feel a little… miffed. Like Jimin has been doing it on purpose, shutting Taehyung out from such a big part of his life.

Taehyung realizes it’s ridiculous. They are–– They are friends, just friends. Taehyung would be hurt if Jangmi did something like that, but for Jimin it’s perfectly fine. Taehyung doesn’t need to know about every single trip he makes.

Except that… No. Taehyung bites his tongue and sends those thoughts away with a harsh, whip-slash like clearing of his throat.

“Thanks,” Jimin says with a small voice. He still looks so surprised, but if Taehyung isn’t imagining things (and he might be), his expression seems much nicer all of a sudden. It’s like he has to hold back a smile, but it ends up curling in the corners of his mouth anyway. It’s not a proper smile per se, but it’s not a neutral expression, either. And his face looks so incredibly young, suddenly, compared to his future version. It makes Taehyung’s temples ache to think that just moments ago, he was talking to somebody who has already had this conversation with him that is currently happening. Who went back to the fucking future like it was nothing.

Taehyung hands Jimin the clothes. He lingers for a moment, awkward, but then his phone beeps and Jimin must hear it too. They both stare at Taehyung’s pocket, and Taehyung can already somehow feel it; it’s from Jangmi, has to be, a sweet message with hearts and cute emoticons. Jimin pulls on the sleeveless shirt he’s supposed to wear for the performance, and it’s like he’s a kid trying to dress up as his favorite idol. His arms and shoulders are somehow so much less defined. The pants hang off his hips, like he doesn’t quite have the legs to fill them anymore.

It’s stupid. Jimin is the same, nearly exactly the same as his older self. And yet… Taehyung feels like such a weirdo for a moment because he keeps looking for that older Jimin, and of course he’s not there. The real Jimin is.

“Thanks, Taetae,” Jimin says suddenly. He’s standing straight again, has clothes on and looks almost like he never went anywhere in the first place. “I don’t know how, but–– It really feels like you’re always there. When I, you know. Disappear, when my condition acts up. It really means a lot.”

Even though I said that. That I liked you. I’m sorry for saying that. Taehyung can hear it loud and clear even though Jimin doesn’t say it. And he has no idea how to answer something like that, when Jimin sounds so sincere but that stupid incident is still hanging between them like a dark cloud. When that older Jimin’s words are digging themselves into Taehyung’s heart together with his smile, and the look on his face he wore when he was performing, when their eyes met, refuses to leave Taehyung alone.

“It’s not,” Taehyung replies and has to pause to clear his throat. “It’s not a condition.”

Jimin looks up, eyes wide again. There is something soft and vulnerable about his expression, but he just wets his lips and doesn’t say anything. It’s like he’s waiting for Taehyung to finish and either curse him or…

“It’s a gift,” Taehyung says. Jimin stares for a split second, then bursts into a bright, warm smile. Laugher bubbles on his tongue and he looks relieved, like Taehyung just accepted his apology. He didn’t. He didn’t, because there is really nothing to apologize for. Taehyung doesn’t feel hurt, he feels––

Taehyung doesn’t finish that thought. He goes to backstage with the rest of the guys, returns their high-fives and cheers when Hobeom finally breaks out the pizza boxes he ever so secretly ordered for them. Taehyung digs in like he hasn’t seen food before in his life and glances towards his phone again. It’s waiting for him right next to his bag, light blinking and telling him he has messages to be answered, but it’s not like he wants to touch it with his greasy fingers. He’ll just check those later. Probably nothing too important, anyway.

There are a few suspicious fan accounts after the concert, but luckily American fans aren’t half as into huge camera lenses and taking close up shots from the stage as the Korean ones seem to be. Taehyung browses through them when he’s already in bed and laughs at some of the Tweets wondering how Jimin’s hair seemed much lighter all of a sudden, almost blond. There are a lot of teary eyed emoticons because he wore a snapback through the entire concert, but even more mentioning how handsome he looked, how they practically died because of his bare arms (and nip slips, to Taehyung’s amusement). There’s not a single post about messed up choreography, which is good. Something inside Taehyung feels protective like that and doesn’t want Jimin to know anything about it.

It would just make him feel bad when there is no reason for it.

How was the concert?? You’ve been so quiet all day ㅠㅠ
I miss you baby

Taehyung looks at the message for the longest time before typing a reply.

He doesn’t break up with his girlfriend. They stay together for nearly a year, keeping it all a secret from the public and enduring teasing and pointed questions from the rest of the members. Taehyung supposes it’s quite easy when you can only meet each other a few times a month. He can always say they have a busy week ahead, practice and concerts and photoshoots. She never questions him, but at some point Taehyung starts to suspect she must know where their thing is headed. Her messages are always nice and friendly, but the hearts and babies disappear after a while.

Taehyung doesn’t know why he doesn’t break it off earlier. He should. He’s like a kid hiding under a blanket, afraid of monsters or maybe their mother scolding them for eating too many cookies.

When she finally makes it easy for him and calls, Taehyung is relieved. There isn’t another girlfriend afterwards, but at least he knows he tried. He didn’t just… stay on the train. He jumped, even if it was just a little bit.

 

 


 

 

Jimin is 21, Taehyung is 21 and 5

 

It’s hard to keep a straight face when Jimin hears the lyrics to Spring Day for the first time. Or well, it’s technically his second time, but it’s mostly a shock because of how hard something as simple as words can hit him. It feels like the lyrics dig themselves right underneath Jimin’s skin and stick there.

There are so many emotions mixed inside his heart by now. It’s bittersweet and hurts, and at the same time he can’t help but wonder when that stupid day in the beach is going to happen. By that time, he’s supposed to be living the happiest time of his life, but so far there hasn’t really been anything hinting at that.

Fine, Taehyung doesn’t have a girlfriend anymore. Jimin can’t honestly say he’s sad about them breaking up, but at the same time he almost wishes they hadn’t. If Taehyung and Jangmi (who, by the way, is an extremely nice person and therefore even more impossible to hate) were still together and all lovey-dovey and cute with each other, Jimin’s stupid little heart couldn’t keep hanging on to hope like this.

Namjoon plays the final, fully mixed version of the song to all of them one morning, right before Jimin has to go to their hair stylist to get his head bleached not once but twice. Nobody is telling him what color he’s going to end up with, but it’s clearly going to be some shade of blonde or something bright and colorful. He did like the red one a lot, but now that he has their newest comeback song stuck in his head, he feels that something as fierce as crimson doesn’t seem to quite fit the soft melody of it.

The song aches inside him even when he’s sitting and waiting for the bleach to work its magic. He feels torn apart by the situation; is this finally the time he ends up with that same bubblegum tone of pink in his hair, or is that some other comeback, some other music video shoot at a freezing beach somewhere else. He can’t remember the details of his older self’s face anymore and has no idea of his age at the time, and they might just have been singing Spring Day out of spite. Hell, maybe it really will be their song, somehow. It’s sweet and painful at the same time, and resonates with Jimin so much he’s a little afraid of making it through their future performances without breaking down.

The possibilities are like vultures flying in circles all around him. Not for the first time, Jimin wishes he didn’t know. Wishes he’d never heard Taehyung’s name and never had this crush that’s brought nothing but bad things to all of them.

He tenses when Taehyung slumps down on the chair next to him. Jimin has now been through two rounds of itchy goo all over his head, and his hair is almost like a bird’s nest at this point. The hairdresser just told him she’d come back after mixing the right color in the backroom, and Jimin feels like he’s about to explode from the stress alone.

“Your hair looks fried,” Taehyung says, grinning and popping a piece of candy into his mouth. At least the strained feelings between them have mostly disappeared by now, and they can be somewhat normal friends again. Well, the more likely explanation is that Jimin just leaner how to pretend, but that’s semantics. Jimin reaches over and steals a handful of gummy bears for himself. Taehyung makes protesting noises but doesn’t try to stop him.

“Fried like chicken,” Jimin replies, but chooses to smile back to him through the mirror instead. Facing Taehyung these days feels… it’s a lot. Or maybe something inside Jimin has been winding tighter and tighter through all this and he’s finally close to snapping again, should something happen. Should he look Taehyung in the eyes for too long, for crying out loud.

“Oh, your color is here,” Taehyung says. He gives Jimin a tentative grin. “You still think it’s going to be green?”

Jimin swallows. He’d been joking around about mint, the same color that Yoongi had before, and about nearly every other color there is, but never pink, of course. It would be like tempting whatever gods there might be watching. Jimin isn’t religious in the least, but when you just happen to be able to jump around in time, the existence of some higher beings stops sounding so far-fetched.

“Actually, I think we better move over there,” the hairdresser says when she sees the two of them sitting next to each other. “I’d like to get this done without getting half of this goo on my own hair.”

“You know, I’m still very, very sorry about that, and I did get all of you coffee––” Taehyung hurries to say and tries to smile his sweetest smile. Jimin feels something twist and turn in the pit of his stomach when Taehyung aims his puppy dog eyes at him instead of the hairdresser. He gets up quickly, but can’t help reaching out and patting Taehyung’s shoulder.

“I’ll show you first, after we’re done,” Jimin promises, and now the strange, jumpy thing in his stomach has moved inside his heart. Taehyung smiles at him, too beautiful for words when he looks earnestly happy like that, and Jimin stomps away after the hairdresser on stiff, numb legs. He’s an idiot, has always been, but especially now, when he can’t seem to let go of these stupid, stupid feelings.

But it’s not like he can tell himself that time he travelled and actually witnessed himself kissing with Taehyung was just some fever dream. Or maybe this entire thing has been one big hoax and he’s actually a mental patient who’s managed to trick everyone but now––

The hairdresser drops a huge glop of cotton candy colored coloring mix on top of Jimin’s head. He blinks and meets her eyes in the mirror, and she gives him a wink and a grin.

“It’s going to look really pretty. Like cherry blossoms,” she says, sounding more than a little excited herself, but it’s got nothing on Jimin’s heart that’s racing so hard it hurts. He doesn’t even notice he’s clutching the armrests hard enough that his knuckles have turned paper white, and his lungs seem to have completely forgotten what they are supposed to be doing.

It’s takes forever. All Jimin can do is stare at the clock and try to survive the horrible waves of heat and icy cold that follow each other, endlessly. He can’t stay still, but he also can do nothing but sit right there on his ass, mind about to shut down completely and heart pumping his body so full of blood he could run a marathon.

Is this it? Is this finally it?

Please let it be this.

The moment the hairdresser finally gives him the permission to get up, his hair silky and falling softly on his face and so, so pink, Jimin practically runs to the bathroom. He didn’t dare to do it in front of everybody, but now he leans in as close to the mirror as he can and just stares at the soft, bubblegum pink strands of hair. He pulls at them, pets them back down, ruffles them, all the while trying to remember how his older self looked that day at the beach. Was it similar? Somehow it feels like back then, his hair was lighter, less shocking pink like it’s now and more a soft, rosey shade, and that could mean it’s some other comeback, some other song.

That he’ll have to wait even longer. Just keep on waiting, possibly forever, because maybe it’s never going to happen. Maybe Taehyung will never see him as anything but a friend and––

Jimin travels. On retrospect, he understands why; his entire being is in turmoil at that moment, drunk from the knowledge that at some point between today and the time he’ll sit back onto the hairdresser’s chair to get his hair colored yet again, he and Taehyung–– they will, they should––

It’s giddiness and crippling fear twisting around each other. Jimin can’t trust his time travelling anymore, because he’s been wrong once, hasn’t he, but at the same time every cell in his body wants to. His mind is trying to be logical about it, his heart wants to feel whole again. It’s no wonder he travels, when everything inside him is such a chaotic mess.

Doesn’t mean Jimin can’t be angry about disappearing at a crucial time, once again. He doesn’t know why, but it feels important to show this to Taehyung, as if just seeing the pink hair could somehow trigger feelings inside him. Of course Jimin knows it doesn’t work like that, since this isn’t a fairy tale, but that doesn’t mean his brain isn’t hanging onto that one thing like a drowning man to his one lifeline.

The cold, dark emptiness of his destination seems to both aggravate and suit his mood. He’s freezing, obviously, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around, but there are buildings close-by with lights in their windows, and Jimin already knows, after so many years of experience, that all he needs to do is either find a warm space to curl into and wait, or brace himself for the strange looks and go ask for help. He sighs to himself, trying to swallow down the hotness inside his throat, anger that wants to erupt like lava from a volcano, and takes the first step forward. He’ll take the risk this time, and who knows, maybe it’s his future self living in one of those houses. He’s never thought about moving to a farm somewhere, but anything could happen. Not to mention that Taehyung’s parents are farmers, so it could be another hint––

Then he sees the boy. He’s tiny, probably five years old at most, and practically drowning in his hat, mittens and a thick padded jacket. And he’s also staring right at Jimin with his mouth hanging open, eyes wide, and so unmistakably familiar.

Taehyung blinks, and Jimin blinks back.

“You have pink hair!”

Jimin… might not be as screwed as he thought he was a second ago. The smile on his lips trembles from nerves, but it’s still a smile. Taehyung tilts his small head, suspicious most likely, but he also keeps talking like it’s not that impossible of a thing to see a naked person appear out of thin air behind your house. Like he’s not scared at all.

“Are you a fairy?”

The question catches Jimin so off guard he actually slips on the icy ground. At least he’s somewhat dressed now, thanks to Taehyung, and doesn’t feel like he’s slowly freezing his toes and dick off. His mind is running in circles, so it’s more a reflex than a conscious decision to say yes. Hasn’t he been called that before? Jimin smiles without thinking, because it’s actually a nickname he has always liked. Fairies are something magical, they can fly, so would it be so farfetched to think they could time travel as well? Jimin knows he’s just an ordinary human with a bothersome secret (gift, a voice that sounds scarily like Taehyung corrects him in his mind), but if saying he was a fairy could get him out of this? Jimin wouldn’t mind being one.

The entire thing leaves him grinning, chest so light it feels like even breathing is easier. He returns to present some time later, glad to find that nobody has tried to break into the bathroom that he must have kept occupied for at least one hour. He pulls his clothes on and wonders how long he can keep riding the warm feeling that meeting Taehyung the kid left behind.

At least the strange urge to run up to Taehyung and show him the new hair color has passed. Maybe it’s because it kind of feels like he just did. Taehyung has already seen it, he just probably doesn’t remember it or figured the whole thing was a dream or something. Jimin is, after all, absolutely certain Taehyung hadn’t recognized him when they’d first met, and Taehyung has never mentioned anything about pink haired fairies, either. He has probably forgotten about the whole thing, but it still makes Jimin smile to think that they had actually met, way before. Somehow it makes everything between them, the friendship that’s slowly gotten back to normal, so much deeper. Like there is a little bit more there, something deeper and less tied to this time.

Even if Jimin might have to spend his entire life just being friends with Taehyung, he’s at least happy to know that somehow, this all was meant to happen. Knowing that makes the idea of never actually having Taehyung like that, never being able to openly love him, a little bit easier.

So Jimin pulls a beanie over his hair, making sure every strand of hair is covered, and wears his best expression of teasing amusement. He’ll make them guess, make a game out of it, because he absolutely does not care what his hair might mean, what might happen––

Except that then he meets Taehyung outside where Hobeom told him to wait for a van to take him back to the dorms, Taehyung’s hair now a beautiful shade of light brown and fluffier than should be physically possible. Taehyung gives him one long look and then steals the beanie with a quick attack that Jimin is completely helpless against. How is he supposed to think fast when Taehyung looks like that, excited and playful and happy?

“What, really? Pink?” Taehyung says, laugher making his voice bubbly and bright like water drops. His eyes keep skating all over Jimin, from his hair to his face, to the padded winter jacket he’s wearing because it’s frigging cold out here. He’s still smiling, but there’s a frown growing between his eyebrows and his teeth dig deep into his bottom lip, wondering. “Looks good though, really nice. It’s almost–– almost like something–– something magical––”

He falls silent.

Jimin swallows and looks Taehyung in the eyes and doesn’t dare to say a thing. It’s like at the same time as Taehyung’s smile slowly fades away, the air around them starts freezing until it’s solid and bristle and ready to shatter any moment.

“You,” Taehyung breathes. “Was that–– was that you?”

Jimin couldn’t look away from his eyes even if he wanted to. “Yes.”

“You came to see me.”

“I–– I did. Just came back from there, actually,” Jimin says softly and can’t help the small smile that slithers to his lips.

“You––” Taehyung stares, almost as hard as he did as a kid. And the same way as it was back then, his face is filled with wonder rather than fear or suspicion. “You came to visit me. When I was, what. Five? Six? Something like that.”

There’s not much else Jimin can do but nod. “I usually go to places like that. To people I care about, or–– I guess–– who are important in my life. Somehow. It’s not really clear, just my own little theory, because I never just go somewhere randomly––”

“Was it–– the talent show? And during the CSATs, was that you, too?”

Jimin bites his bottom lip. He’s fairly sure he’d remember, simply because it’s Taehyung and no matter how many times he travels, those are usually the days that somehow count. They might be just small, silly moments like the one today, but to Jimin, they shine brightly like lonely lights in the darkness.

“I don’t––It could have been my older self. Maybe? I mean, there were a couple of times, after I’d met you for real. Like at one point you were, I don’t know, maybe fifteen? It was during Boy in Luv here in our time, I’m pretty sure, and it was so funny seeing you in your school uniform, like how you looked for real back then, when you were a teenager.” Jimin knows there must be a rougher, sadder tone creeping into his voice the longer he speaks, but he tries to make his voice as light as possible and keep smiling.

“You were–– eating ice cream with somebody, this really pretty girl. It was some kind of a shopping mall? Those are really easy, you can always find clothes somehow, or, I guess, steal them, so I was just kind of sitting around and waiting and then I saw you, freaking out because you didn’t have your wallet with you and you’d already promised to pay.”

He stops to draw breath, but Taehyung continues instead: “But then I found a ten thousand won bill in my pocket.” He says slowly, like he already has his ideas where the story is going. Jimin smiles, sheepish and a little embarrassed, and rubs the back of his neck.

“I didn’t want you to embarrass yourself. You were smitten,” Jimin says and feels like patting himself on the back because he absolutely does not sound bitter over Taehyung’s middle school crush. And it’s not like that, it’s more that he’s jealous of anyone who has gotten to feel what Jimin hasn’t. “So, I slipped the money into your jacket pocket. It was pretty easy, I just bumped into you. Time travelling gives you pretty quick hands.”

“Holy shit,” Taehyung breathes out and then he’s laughing. Full on laugher right from his belly, deep and rich and warm. “You–– you really… for the longest time I thought–– I thought I had like this guardian–– spirit or something. Everything always worked out at the last minute, like during my exam, I’d forgotten to bring a goddamn student ID and I was freaking out because they don’t let you in without it and I just couldn’t find it anywhere, until it was right there, on the floor.”

Taehyung stops and swallows, his voice wavering a little. “That was when I just kind of–– decided to believe. Even if my mom didn’t, no matter how many lucky things like that kept happening to me, but how else could they? Magic. Your magic.”

“It’s not magic,” Jimin says and looks down. “It’s just–– me. Sticking my nose into things that I shouldn’t.”

“No, you don’t get it!” Taehyung says, his smile so wide it must hurt his cheeks. His eyes are still wide and glimmering like stars, and he grabs Jimin’s shoulders. His hands a big and warm and pull Jimin closer easily. “You told me–– you told me I was special.”

“You are.” Jimin looks Taehyung in the eyes, even though something about it almost hurts. An achy, sharp ball of pain beating where his heart is supposed to be. “You have always been. So special.”

“Why?”

Jimin can’t hold the eye contact. “Just–– special to me. Because you–– Even when I still didn’t know you, you were already my best friend. My only friend, I guess, and then when I met you and finally saw what you were really like, I just––” Jimin sighs and smiles a tired smile. “How could I not say that, really?”

Taehyung hugs him. It feels so good, so solid against Jimin his muscles want to just give up and lean on Taehyung forever. His body is sure Taehyung would hold him, too, and keep him from falling.

“And I’m so sorry I just threw it all at your face like that, back when I, um, you know. I can’t imagine how it must feel. Being told what will happen like it’s a fact, when it’s your life. It doesn’t go like that, I know it know. Things might happen or they might not, and I can’t just–– I can’t try make you do things like that. I’m sorry. Really, really sorry.”

Taehyung–– pulls him even closer? Jimin isn’t sure, it might be just he himself who’s pressing in, but he doesn’t have the energy to feel bad for it. Friends can still do this, they can still do this without it being weird, and there doesn’t have to be any deeper feelings included.

“Jimin,” Taehyung says into Jimin’s hair. “You’re special too.”

Suddenly Taehyung is kissing him, shy and tentative and awkward, but Jimin notices none of that. It’s so good it makes his toes curl inside his sneakers and his skin sparkle with electricity, but Jimin’s first thought is that he must have somehow travelled again. That this is not him and Taehyung but some other Jimin and other Taehyung from a different time.

“Hey,” Taehyung says after a moment. “This okay?”

“Huh?” Jimin blinks at him and tilts his head. The time travel theory seems even more solid. “What do you–– of course it’s okay!”

“Just wanted to make sure,” Taehyung says. Suddenly he looks and sounds just as shy as that kiss was. “I know it’s–– that it’s sudden. That I said before that I––”

“That was my fault––”

“I’m serious about this––” Taehyung won’t let Jimin interrupt, so they just end up speaking right over each other. Jimin doesn’t even know what he’s really meaning to say, but he somehow feels like he should keep speaking no matter what. Taehyung looks equally determined, and for a second, just to win a little bit of time, Jimin contemplates kissing him again. He wants to, more than anything, but a part of him doesn’t dare. Maybe Taehyung didn’t mean the earlier peck as a kiss, but just as something between friends, just a sign of platonic affection––

“You’re an idiot,” Taehyung says softly out of a sudden, and was Jimin speaking out loud or something? He might have, because suddenly Taehyung is kissing him again, and now there’s tongue involved, lots and lots of tongue. Jimin has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing with it, what those movie stars actually do while kissing other than rub their mouths together. Taehyung seems awfully enthusiastic about nibbling Jimin’s bottom lip, and it feels surprisingly good, much better than he would have thought.

“Idiot for ever falling for you.” The words slip out of Jimin’s mouth before he can control them, too much like their usual banter. Taehyung just laughs and presses their foreheads together. Part of Jimin wants to cross the remaining millimeters of air between them and kiss Taehyung again and again, but just being like this feels perfect too and he’s torn between the two. Taehyung’s hands grab his own, tangling their fingers together.

“Thanks for waiting,” he says, smiling, and Jimin’s heart skips at least a few beats. Might have stopped beating altogether, he feels so faint.

“I’d do it again. And again and again and again,” he answers, voice so small Taehyung probably couldn’t hear him if they were even a little bit further away from each other. They are not. They are so close even their heartbeat feels shared.

 

 


 

 

Jimin is 32, Taehyung is 32 and 11

 

Most people probably don’t go inside a real estate agency for the first time when they are in their thirties. It feels silly to be so nervous because of a simple little office and a perfectly kind-looking people inside it. Still, Jimin might be almost thirty-three, but his insides are doing a dance that’s equally, if not more, difficult in choreography as Dope and at a speed two times faster.

“We’re here for our first apartment!” Taehyung hollers the moment one of the realtors, a friendly yet quite a sharp-looking woman with cat-eye glasses meets their eyes and stands up from behind her desk.

At least Jimin isn’t the only one who’s practically jumping up and down with giddiness. Taehyung looks like he’s ready to buy the first property somebody points out to them, and Jimin is a little afraid he’s too excited himself to not let him do it.

Thankfully, the woman smiles, rounds her desk and comes to shake their hands as if they were a perfectly normal couple looking for a new place to call a home. Of course, Jimin and Taehyung decided to keep the exact nature of their relationship a secret, but the realtor is giving them fond, amused looks as they exchange greetings, making Jimin wonder if they’re still as obvious as they were back when the whole thing between them started.

Maybe it’s just because they are who they are. International superstars, as some magazines still like to call them, even though they are on the older side by now and getting run over by a ton of new talents.

Jimin and Taehyung know what they are looking for, so they have a list of a few places ready in no time. The realtor, Mrs. Song, takes them to a huge black SUV that’s in no way a fitting car to be driven around Seoul and drives them to see the places herself. Jimin doesn’t really pay attention, too busy chatting and looking out the window in the backseat, but at some point he notices he and Taehyung have once again ended up holding hands. He meets Mrs. Song’s eyes in the rearview mirror and she winks, but that’s it.

Maybe it’s part of the whole celebrity realtor thing. That’s what Seokjin had called it anyway, and even though they don’t exactly advertise themselves like that, it is pretty obvious who they cater their services to. Jimin figures not a lot of realtors would even have apartments like this on their lists, because they are expensive, secure and private. Most of all expensive.

Taehyung falls head over heels for the first place, just like Jimin thought, but it’s the fourth and last one that steals both their hearts.

Jimin’s mostly because he has already been there. He noticed it immediately, the familiar walls and the kitchen, even the closet in the hallway where he remembers stealing a trench jacket. He almost opens his mouth to tell Taehyung, even pokes him in the arm, but in the end snaps his mouth shut. Taehyung cocks his eyebrows, so Jimin gives him a wide smile and runs his palm down along Taehyung’s back.

“It’s a really nice place,” Jimin says. He feels almost–– almost like teasing. He won’t give Taehyung a single hint, just says the same things he said about the earlier apartments. He wants to see what will happen, or rather, how it will happen.

“Really nice,” Taehyung echoes. He’s leaning against the kitchen counter and giving Jimin an intense sense of déjà vu. This time, he’s frowning, though, and keeps shooting Jimin small, suspicious glances. “You liked the other ones better, didn’t you?”

“No,” Jimin counters, his voice airy like cotton candy. “They are all so nice I don’t think I can decide, actually.”

“This one is particularly private,” Mrs. Song tells them and points them to the second elevator in the hallway. “This is a private entrance, just for you. It leads to a small front door on the other side of the building.” She gives them a smile. “It’s perfect in case of overexcited fans, for example. Obviously, the entire neighborhood is very secure, but––”

“So, for example,” Taehyung says suddenly. There’s a too-bright gleam in his eyes that’s a little worrisome. “If the owner of the house was outside and had to get in without anybody noticing. If they were, I don’t know, naked, for example. They could get back in without anybody seeing them, right?”

Mrs. Song raises her eyebrows, and Jimin feels like smacking his face right into the wall.

“Hypothetically speaking,” Mrs. Song says. “Yes. But I hope it’s not something the owner of the house would actually do.”

Taehyung grins and nods. “We’ll take it! Right?” he says, throwing Jimin a glance, and Jimin nods and laughs even if he must be flushing. He doesn’t know how to feel, because even if he technically knew the entire time, he was also nervous. Mostly because even though he knew the end result, he had no idea how they’d get there; would it be Jimin who pushed Taehyung into choosing the apartment, would the rest of the places look horrible. Would Taehyung even actually like the place.

They play hard to get for a moment longer and insist on checking the two bedroom a few times more. Taehyung keeps whispering dirty things into Jimin’s ear behind the realtor’s back, jokes about the extra large king-sized beds and huge windows and exhibitionism of course because that has become a sort of running thing between them. Even while laughing, Jimin keeps a close eye on him for any sign of him faking it.

Jimin prays he’s not reading things wrong, but to him, Taehyung looks sincere. Sincere and excited and vibrating, and Jimin has quite a lot of experience with observing people and their feelings. He’d like to say he has even become fairly good at it.

So he grabs Taehyung’s hand, right in front of Mrs. Song’s eyes, and they say yes for real. In unison like a goddamn couple about to get married.

They won’t be able to move before the end of the week, so Jimin and Taehyung head back to the dorms after hammering out the details and signing the preliminary contract with the realtor. It’s actually not far from their new apartment, which was one of their terms since Jungkook, Seokjin and Hoseok will keep living there (and probably enjoying all the space Taehyung and Jimin leave behind). Namjoon, too, even though he’s been spending quite a lot of time in his girlfriend’s place these days.

After dinner, Jimin leaves Taehyung to snore in front of the TV and travels. It’s one of those trips he knew would happen at some point, just had no idea when, but the moment Jimin peaks into a school hallway from the locker room he’d travelled to, he feels suspicious. It’s not his school, that much he knows, so that leaves him with a few stories that still haven’t been properly finished. He’ll just have to see which one this is.

Jimin finds a set of gym clothes from one of the benches, and even though they are on the big side and he practically drowns in them, they are at least somewhat clean. He steals a jacket from the coat rack in the hallway that’s bulging with clothes and just stands there for a moment, unsure of what he came here to do. Then he hears the music.

Jimin cracks open one of the doors at the end of the hallway. They lead to a huge, dark gym hall that’s filled to the brim with seats and people of all ages. There is a bright spotlight on the stage on the other end of the hall, and there, all alone, is a young girl tap-dancing.

Talent show.

A smile worms its way to Jimin’s lips, and he squeezes himself through the doors. There aren’t any empty seats left in the back row where he could easily slip into, so Jimin stays standing. At least nobody seems to have noticed and he can just watch, excitement rippling along his spine and making him smile widely in the dark without meaning to. He couldn’t stop even if he tried; it’s one of the trips he’s been waiting for ever since Taehyung first mentioned it.

One of Taehyung’s most cherished memories is about to become a memory for Jimin as well.

He only needs to make it through five more stages before it’s Taehyung’s turn. Jimin recognizes him immediately, of course, and he has that same unabashed smile on his face as he did when Jimin had appeared in the backyard of Taehyung’s parents’ house. The comfortable confidence of his steps and the way he looks around, as if the people staring at him were his friends instead of an audience, is almost enough to make Jimin want to run right over there to the front row so he could see better.

Except that nothing happens. Taehyung stands on the stage, smile frozen on his small face, but he’s not singing. It almost looks like–– like he has forgotten not only what he was supposed to sing, but what he came to do on the stage in the first place?

Jimin’s heart beats faster. He can imagine it so clearly, being alone under the blindingly bright spotlight and not being able to do anything, until somebody comes to usher him back behind the curtains. A failure in front of the entire school, their parents and friends and relatives. It sends Jimin back to the times of his first dance performances; how much he’d hated climbing up there and how badly his muscles had wanted to cramp and shake before the music started. He could have never walked to the stage confidently like Taehyung and now… Taehyung might lose that.

The smile on his face is already slipping. Eyes widening, lips quivering, just a little, chin falling down towards his chest. Like he’s ashamed. Embarrassed. Scared.

Jimin can’t start singing out of the blue, that much he knows. But he could whistle the melody, couldn’t he? He’s a little rusty at first, mouth parched and lungs working overtime, but he keeps going when Taehyung’s head snaps up and he looks around wildly. But even as he does it, the smile on his lips is back, and when the music starts, he steps forward, further into the spotlight. To Jimin, it almost looks like Taehyung is shining himself, reflecting light so much that it’s difficult to keep looking straight at him.

Just like a little star. Not yet the sun it’s going to become, but on its way there.

Jimin stays to listen the entire song, even though he knows a few people give him curious looks. He slips out the moment Taehyung leaves the stage and even remembers to return the jacket to its earlier place in the clothing rack. The gym uniform should be fine; it looks like a spare one anyway, so Jimin doesn’t feel guilty about making someone’s next gym class extra stressful. He feels lightheaded with Taehyung’s excitement and so incredibly proud of him that he almost wants to burst into song right there in the empty hallway. It’s a difficult desire to keep at bay, but Jimin tames it by more whistling.

Shaking his head, Jimin heads back towards the locker rooms, when he feels a strange shiver on the back of his neck, like an invisible touch of soft fingertips.

Jimin stops, with his hand on the door handle, and looks over his shoulder. It feels like he’s breaking the rules somehow, because he knows they aren’t supposed to meet for real until that day in their dorms. Still, Jimin hopes Taehyung sees his smile. He doesn’t have to remember it, but something about it feels important.

He’s back in his own time before he properly makes it through the door. The living room is empty and dark since it’s well past midnight already, and Jimin pulls on the sweatpants and t-shirt that somebody, probably Taehyung, left neatly folded on the couch. Something about him feels almost too full of happy, bubbling excitement for what he just saw. Taehyung singing, his smile only growing wider and wider the further he got along the song. The start of his dream, Taehyung always says.

“Welcome back.”

Taehyung yawns at him from the door of his bedroom. Jimin practically leaps over the couch to wrap his arms around Taehyung’s middle and just squeeze him as hard as he can. He doesn’t stop until he hears Taehyung groan and complain about not being able to breathe, and that’s when Jimin kisses him sweetly. He pulls back just enough to lean his forehead on Taehyung’s.

“I’m home.”