Actions

Work Header

Raw Temptation and Joint Obsession

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Taehyung peered in through the coffee shop window, clutching his friend’s elbow tightly. “He’s in there, he’s in there,” he whispered frantically, pulling his scarf tightly around his face to hide his excited grin.

“Well, you said he would be, didn’t you?” Hoseok grumbled, shoving his hands deep into his coat pockets. “’Every Sunday, I get to see him every Sunday’,” he mimicked his friend’s deep voice in a mocking tone. The view through the window was partially blocked by a plethora of signs for indie plays and music shows, but he could see a few foreigners in the crowded café. He’d listened to Taehyung’s ravings of this absolute gorgeous man reading English books in the café every week. The selection of foreigners in the shop, though, left something to be desired, and Hoseok seriously wondered about his friend’s choice in men.

Taehyung simply shot the older man a pointed look before entering the shop, a small melodic chime ringing in place of a normal bell. The nutty scent of the café washed over Hoseok as they stepped inside. It was a thick smell that Hoseok could almost taste, a hint of cinnamon adding to the cozy scene. The warmth seemed almost too much when contrasted with the winter chill outside, but stripping their scarves, hats and gloves was all they needed before the temperature was just right. Without looking around, Taehyung walked directly to the counter and ordered his usual, keeping his eyes on the chalkboard menu on the back wall.

“So, where is this guy?” Hoseok muttered after ordering his coffee, again looking around at the three Caucasian males sitting throughout the café. He grimaced at the thought of Taehyung being attracted to any of them. He was straight, but he’d been friends with more than his share of gay men (a grand total of two, so he was basically an expert) to know what constitutes attractive and homely in males. His gaze moved from one man to another, trying to see if there was a foreigner he may have missed.

“Stop looking around, you’ll embarrass me!” Taehyung hissed, nudging his friend hard with his elbow before accepting their orders. “Come on, come over here.” He motioned Hoseok over to the corner where two oversized armchairs were free. It was dimly lit, and others seemed to avoid it in favor of brighter seats where they could converse or read.

Hoseok settled deep into the chair, sinking down further than he’d expected from the old thing. “This is way more conspicuous,” he commented with an amused tone, but he realized Taehyung had totally zoned him out, staring out into the café with a dreamy expression. The elder followed his gaze into the common area, but he couldn’t pin point who had caught his friend’s attention. “Who, who?” he whispered in exasperation.

“The one with the book,” Taehyung sighed, sounding distracted as ever. His drink was all but forgotten in his own hand as he leaned his elbow against the arm of the chair, resting his chin in his palm. “He’s so cute.

“Half the people in here have books, Tae; you’re gonna have to be more specific.” None of the foreign guys had books, Hoseok noticed. Hadn’t Tae said he was a foreigner? A blond-haired boy who read English books, and responded in English whenever someone approached him, right? Judging by the stories Taehyung had told about the several people he’d seen approach the foreigner, he had to be cute. Cute enough that it brought Tae to the café every Sunday for the past few weeks just to see him – also known as stalking which Hoseok had helpfully pointed out.

“The one by the table with the lamp. The old one with elephants.” Taehyung smiled, blissfully unaware of the eyeroll Hoseok had given him.

Hoseok looked back out into the shop, this time playing I Spy for an elephant lamp instead of a cute foreigner.  The lamp wasn’t too hard to find – it wasn’t so much a lamp that had elephants on it like Hoseok had initially assumed, but a lamp with a wooden based that had been carved into an elephant, with smaller ones lining the base. The small man sitting next to it, however… “Taehyung, that’s not a foreigner. He’s Korean.”

Tae’s head snapped to his friend. “You don’t know that.”

“He is clearly Korean!”

“But he only speaks English! He’s probably half! You can never tell these days.”

“I speak English and I am clearly not a foreigner.”

“He’s got blond hair!”

“Have you never heard of hair dye?”

Taehyung blushed and sat back in his chair, arms crossed.

Hoseok looked at Taehyung expectantly, leaning over the arm of his chair when his younger friend said nothing. “So, you still want me to talk to this guy?”

Tae blushed and fidgeted with his untouched drink, looking up at his friend with an innocent hopefulness. “You would still do that for me?”

Hoseok rolled his eyes again, but this time there was a fond smile gracing his lips. “Of course. That’s why I’m here, right? I wouldn’t have agreed to do this for you if I hadn’t wanted you to potentially have a super-cute boyfriend. Even if you are pathetically clueless to his nationality.”

Tae grinned and gave his friend a quick kiss on the cheek (to which Hoseok let out a playfully disgusted noise and pulled away). “You’re so tsundere.

There was nothing but confidence in Hoseok’s gait as he went up to the blond. He plopped himself down on the empty seat next to him, noting the very large English book the stranger was poring over. It was some fantasy; a knight or king or something on the front of it stared into a sunset from a high point on a cliff. The boy (man? It was difficult to judge his age) was more than halfway through it, a feat which impressed Hoseok; he spoke and read English just fine, but he couldn’t think about tackling literature like that. As he came down into the seat, the blond raised his gaze up over the top of the book at him, eyes rounding slightly.

Hello,” Hoseok said in English, noting the way the blond’s eyes grew even wider. Taehyung hadn’t been lying when he said the boy was cute. Most of his face was obscured by the book, but just seeing his hooded eyes wide with surprise, the soft curve in the bridge of his nose, made Hoseok feel uncomfortably plain. “Is it okay if I sit here?”

The blond drew the book closer to himself and didn’t respond. He lowered his gaze, unable to maintain eye contact.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. You speak English, right?” Hoseok was weirdly attracted to the way the boy tucked his hair behind his ear, tilting his head in a way that let his bangs fall over his eyes. It was endearing, to say the least.

“Yeah, I speak English,” the blond finally said. His voice was light and clear, but a curl in his tongue as he said the last word made Hoseok smile. The stranger ducked his head, drawing his feet up into his squishy chair.

Ah, so definitely not foreign, Hoseok observed, somewhat satisfied with his earlier deductions. There was no denying the accent that laced the other’s words. “Does speaking English generally help save you from the hordes of men and women vying for your attention?” Hoseok asked bluntly, enjoying the way the blond fidgeted and blushed from the accusation. He at least had the grace to look ashamed. “Not often that you encounter someone else that speaks English, huh?”

The blond shook his head, half his face still hidden by the book.

“What’s your name?”

“J-Jimin,” the blond squeaked, drawing his elbows tightly against his sides.

“Well, Jimin, my name’s Hoseok. Don’t worry, I’m not here for me. You see that kid over there?” Hoseok motioned towards his friend, still sitting in the corner. As Jimin turned to look, Tae looked away, pretending to be distracted with the art on the walls. Jimin’s eyes turned back to Hoseok. “That’s my friend, Taehyung. He’s been, uh…” The young man let out a light laugh, realizing how weird his next sentence would come across to a complete stranger. “Okay, this sounds dumb, but he’s noticed you around a few times. Now, I know it seems weird, and I’m not really trying to say it isn’t, per se, but he really likes you.”

Jimin glanced back over at Taehyung again, their eyes briefly meeting before he buried his face into his book.

“He wanted me to talk to you because he thought that you only speak English. He wanted to ask you out on a date.”

Slowly, Jimin lowered his book, looking incredulous, his eyebrows drawn in and the corners of his mouth turned downward. Without the book obstructing Hoseok’s view, he could see that Jimin was extremely attractive. His skin was smooth, flawless, and his cupid bow was rounded in a way that made him look like he was pouting. As a straight man, Hoseok couldn’t deny that the man was gorgeous.

“A date?” Jimin said with a soft disbelieving laugh. “With someone he didn’t think spoke Korean?” With his annoyed expression and firm words, Hoseok wondered if he was talking to a different person from the shy, awkward man he’d seen disappear behind his book just a moment ago. “Someone he didn’t even know was gay?”

“Is that the question I should have lead with?” Hoseok had never considered proper etiquette in asking out other men – which made sense since he’d never needed to do it before. “Sit down, ‘hey, what’s up, are you gay?’ Seems a little weird and invasive to me, but hey, if that’s what you prefer…”

The blond stood up without warning. “I’m not interested,” Jimin said in clear English, making an obvious effort to control his accent. “Tell your friend not to waste time trying to find me here again.”

No other words were exchanged as the blond turned and left the shop, leaving behind his half-consumed drink. Hoseok stared with an open mouth as the door shut behind him, the melodic chime ringing happily in contrast to the sinking feeling of disappointment he held in his stomach. He turned back to Taehyung whose eyes were wide and confused. Hoseok’s feet were heavy making his way back to the seat next to his friend, and he slumped down into the spongy material. There was no denying the stab of embarrassment he felt when Taehyung turned to him; he was supposed to be the one to help him out – but he failed.

“What happened?” Taehyung asked quietly, his voice steady and measured. “He wasn’t gay? Or just – maybe I’m too ugly?”

Hoseok shot him a side eye, pursing his lips in distaste for his friend’s self-deprecating comment. “Of course not, Tae. He’s just…” He trailed off and brought his drink up to his lips as he tried to find the best way to describe the strange exchange he’d had with the younger man “I’m not sure what happened. I think he’s gay, but he was strange.” He relayed the short conversation to his friend, still baffled by its conclusion.

Taehyung huddled back in his chair, his lower face burrowed into his scarf he’d pulled back on. “Ah, well…” he sighed and leaned forward to stretch out his back before standing up. “That’s too bad. I’d really been looking forward to meeting him.”

Hoseok stood as well, not fooled by his friend’s calm disposition. “Hey.” He laid a comforting hand on Taehyung’s shoulder, pleased when he didn’t pull away. “I’m really sorry. I was hoping it would work out for you, too.”

Tae let a sad smile show through, but he shrugged. “It’s okay. I’ll get over it. I’ve never even talked to the guy.”

 

 

 

“Ah, no, sorry, I, um, no Korean,” Jimin mumbled with a broken accent to the woman asking him for directions. He felt bad for turning her down; he knew exactly where she wanted to go, but he couldn’t let himself slip. He didn’t even care that she walked away, muttering loudly about gyopos. It was just easier this way. No questions. No attachments. Nothing.

“Still keeping that up, eh?”

Jimin jumped with a startled yelp as he was addressed in English. A man, that man from the café a few weeks ago, stood nearby. What was his name? Hoseok, wasn’t it? Anger bubbled up inside of Jimin. What was he doing here? He wasn’t following him, was he? Fear prickled in his chest.

Don’t worry, I’m just getting something to eat.” Hoseok nodded at the door of the little hole-in-the-wall bulgogi shop they stood in front of. “Thought I saw you. You look different.” He motioned towards Jimin’s black hair.

Jimin flushed angrily and pulled his hood up over his head. “Stay away from me, you weird-o!

“Weird-o?” Hoseok let out a laugh, the clear noise ringing in the crisp air. “Look, if you’re going to pretend to speak English as a first language, at least get a better vocabulary. Try creep or stalker. Though with the book you were reading the other day, I’d think your vocabulary should be fine.”

Jimin tried not to let the man’s words get to him, but he couldn’t help but scoff. “Leave me alone,” he said with conviction, turning away from him.

No, wait, Jimin!” Hoseok called after him, but he’d turned the corner without a single look back.

Jimin huffed into the cold air, trying to calm his racing heart. This is fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine, he told himself. It was just one guy. One stupid guy who recognized him. That was okay, right? No need for a panic attack. Jimin groaned and slowed his steps, letting the soles of his shoes drag along the sidewalk.

Now Hoseok was getting food right outside his apartment. What was he doing there? He wasn’t normally there, was he? The black-haired man bit his lip and hung his head, kicking at stones in his path. He’d only gone out for something to eat, but it seemed as though he wouldn’t be able to return home until he could be sure Hoseok wouldn’t be there. A spike of fear gripped his heart at the possibility that, even in the dead of night, Hoseok would still be there, waiting for him.

Jimin shook his head and sat on a bench that lined the side of a building. The wood was cold against his legs even through his jeans. A gust of wind blew through his jacket like it was nothing, but Jimin couldn’t go home yet. He would have to sit and wait until he was reasonably sure that Hoseok wouldn’t be there.

Fuck,” Jimin breathed out, eyes closed. It was his favorite English word. He’d read online when he was first learning the language that many people thought it was a satisfying word to say. He’d never really understood what that meant fully until he’d stubbed his toe one day and the word slipped out as natural as breath. It had given him such a wonderful sense of relief that he’d never wanted to put the word away, even knowing that it was not suitable for normal conversation.

Right here, though, the word did not give him the instant gratification of relief. He still felt like shit, nauseous, like he could vomit at any moment. He looked down at his hands, digging his fingernails into his palms in an attempt to ground himself in reality. He was sitting on a bench near the industrial district. He wasn’t under the bleachers. It was daytime, not late at night. The smell – Jimin’s stomach heaved and he closed his eyes and held his breath, trying to focus on the air around him. It was a cold winter day – he could smell the food from nearby tents, the exhaust from cars – no blood. Jimin released the breath he’d been holding and looked at his hands again. Yes – no blood.

It’s fine. I’m fine. I’m okay. Jimin repeated the mantra in his head, taking slow and steady breaths.

 

 

 

Over the next few weeks, Jimin saw Hoseok a few more times. Jimin watched from his third-floor apartment window down at the street, always watching for Hoseok. From what he could tell, Hoseok worked in the same neighborhood as Jimin’s apartment. Maybe it was a new job; he hadn’t seen Hoseok in the couple of weeks after their first encounter at the café.

It had only taken two weeks of watching out for the sunny-faced man for Jimin to realize he had a schedule. He wasn’t very consistent, but Jimin figured that Hoseok only came on his lunch break on random days. But, of course, he would show up outside of that time frame every once in a while, most likely just to keep Jimin on his toes. Jimin waited for him every day by his window, peering over the sill and down to the bulgogi shop, just to see if Hoseok would show up. When he came, Jimin could see him walking from down the street, hands shoved in his pockets, cheeks rosy from the cold. He looked absolutely dreamy some days.

An odd sort of comfort accompanied every appearance. No one was consistent in Jimin’s life. When ordering take-out, he usually cycled through multiple restaurants over the course of a few months just to avoid seeing the same people more than once. Seeing Hoseok, recognizing someone’s face, even if it was just down the street from his bedroom window, Jimin felt tickling of excitement in his stomach. He wondered if Hoseok looked for him. Every time he saw the older man’s head swiveling around to survey the street, Jimin felt his stomach flutter a little harder, imagining that Hoseok was looking for him. Did he know that Jimin lived here? Or did he think it was just a one-off chance meeting?

Then the story began – the story of Hoseok and his secret obsession with Jimin.

At least, that’s the story that Jimin told himself as he fell asleep every night.

It was his own way of keeping himself busy, sane, after hours of translating business documents day in and day out in seclusion from human contact. In his story, Hoseok had fallen in love and traveled to his little street in hopes of seeing Jimin every day. Every once in a while, maybe he did see Jimin, like on those few occasions that Jimin actually left his apartment.

But when the story reached a moment in which they started talking, Jimin didn’t know what to say. Even in his fantasies, he felt useless, pathetic. Sometimes, though, his mind conveniently skipped over those parts to when he and Hoseok were alone and had no need for words.

Jimin often fell asleep ashamed of himself.

With the changing of the seasons came the changing of Hoseok’s clothes. His scarves and gloves were the first to go, followed by the hat two weeks later. He swapped out his warm coat to a thick jacket, one that looked like it had a decent amount of weight to it. When Jimin saw that jacket, he would put his hands on his own shoulders and pull down, trying to mimic how it might feel if Hoseok wrapped it around Jimin on a cool spring day.

As the days wore on, Jimin found it difficult to stay in his little studio apartment. It wasn’t uncommon to hide away, but that was generally for brief stretches of time. Almost three months had passed since Jimin had run into Hoseok down on the street, and the young man was going stir-crazy. His documents were starting to pile up – he’d even had to pull out of one contract due to his inability to meet their deadline.

Jimin tried to plan his outing well. He waited until Sunday. Hoseok never showed up on a Sunday, most likely due to his work schedule. That was why Sunday was a safe bet.

It should have been simple, but for Jimin it was something more along the lines of prepping for battle. He paced nervously back and forth in the small space between his bed and his desk, wringing his hands and taking deep breaths. Going out shouldn’t be that bad. He’d done it plenty of times before. Secluding himself seemed to have taken away the progress he’d made over the last year. He’d made it to that coffee shop every week. Things were fine.

Until Hoseok happened, of course.

Jimin stopped in front of the window and closed his eyes. Although it was still cool outside, he could feel the heat from the direct sunlight pouring through the blinds. Sunday. Sunny day. Jimin nodded, lips pressed together in determination. Without another thought, he yanked up the pale blue sweater he’d laid out for himself earlier and yanked it over his head.

The afternoon air was clean and refreshing. An open window only allowed so much through. Being out in the open let Jimin smell everything without the blanket of his own scent on top of it. A strong aroma from the bulgogi shop across the street called to him, but Jimin wasn’t about to eat at the place he knew Hoseok frequented. Instead, he walked to the end of the block before crossing over, hoping to stop by the convenience store he loved to get snacks from before he locked himself away.

Stepping inside made Jimin feel an ache of comfort. It had been a while since he’d been in the small shop. Its few aisles of food and drink called out to him. As he walked up and down the aisles, he pulled treats into his arms like he was planning to feed a classroom of children. He couldn’t even wait until he was at the counter before ripping the top off a banana milk and taking a sip of its sweet flavor. He dumped his treasures onto the counter and let the woman scan his milk before she started working on the other items, piling them into a plastic bag. By the time he walked out of the store, he’d thrown away the small container and ripped open the next. He stopped just short of the curb and closed his eyes as he took a long drink, savoring the familiar taste.

“So, we meet again.”

Jimin tried to hold back his full-body jerk away from the older man who had just stepped up beside him. He fumbled with his drink, dropping the bag of treats to the ground.

Whoa there.” Hoseok reached out and snatched the bottle just before it slipped from Jimin’s fingertips.

Jimin stared up at him with mouth gaping as his milk was handed back to him.

There you go.” Hoseok smiled at him and Jimin felt his stomach clench in shame, his mind instantly reminding himself of his perverted fantasies. Hoseok was dressed down from his normal attire, but he still had on that jacket that Jimin had wanted to snuggle into.

Thanks,” Jimin mumbled, gripping the bottle tightly and looking to the ground. He didn’t run away, though. He should probably run away. He flinched and took a step back as Hoseok knelt down, but the man was just picking up the snacks he’d dropped.

“Quite the assortment you’ve got there,” Hoseok commented, handing the plastic bag back to Jimin who took it with trembling fingers. “Not gonna run away this time?”

Jimin glanced up at Hoseok, blushing as they made eye contact. He felt stupid. Fear was turning in his stomach – not overbearing yet, but it was only a matter of time.

 “Would it be easier if you talked this way?” Hoseok asked in Korean.

Jimin gave a few furtive glances around and shook his head. “No, no.”

Hoseok nodded slowly, contemplatively. “Do you, uh, want to get something to eat?” He motioned to the little bulgogi shop just down the street.

Jimin glanced down that way, his heart racing. The bulgogi shop was quiet and the food was great – but with Hoseok? Jimin looked up at him, unable to respond.

“Come on.” Hoseok motioned with his head and made his way down the sidewalk, not taking a second look back to see if Jimin was following him.

Jimin contemplated running away. He was certainly nervous enough to run away. A part of him screamed for human interaction, begged him to follow Hoseok. He was scared – so scared – but he was also lonely. With a nervous huff, Jimin set off quickly at first to catch up, but then stayed directly behind Hoseok until he stopped in front of the shop. When he turned and saw Jimin, he smiled – an offensively gorgeous smile by Jimin’s standards – and opened the door for him.

The shop’s homey feeling was comfortable, dark and warm in a way that Jimin didn’t mind. He’d only been in a few times before he’d realized Hoseok frequented it. The food was good and the owners were friendly. Jimin loitered back and allowed Hoseok to place an order for them.

I love this place,” the older man spoke without being prompted. “I used to come here with a few of my buddies back when we were in school, but after we graduated we never really had the time to come out here.” They sat in the back of the shop, waiting for their meal to be cooked up. “Just got this new job a bit ago, just up there.” He pointed off north up the street. It confirmed Jimin’s previous suspicions. “Wasn’t expecting to see you here that day.”

Jimin blushed and looked down at the table, struggling a bit to keep up with the words. English was no problem in written form – he had plenty of practice with that for his freelance translations and the books he read – but speaking and hearing was harder to practice when you had no one to talk to. Instead, he fidgeted uncomfortably under the cute man’s gaze, staring at the table.

“Are you fluent in English, or do you know enough to pass by and the book back then was just for show?”

Jimin blushed, dipping his head and drawing in his shoulders. “I’m fluent,” he mumbled, lowering his eyes as an old woman dropped their meat off at the table. “Mostly just reading and writing. You, uh, you talk fast.”

Hoseok grinned and settled comfortably with his elbows rudely on either side of his dish before he dug into it. “Yeah, it’s a bit of a habit of mine. I can talk slower, if you’d like.”

Jimin gave a hum of appreciated and lifted his eyes just enough to give a smile to the man before lowering them once again to his food.

A few moments of silence passed between the two as they ate. Jimin spent most of that time wondering what the other was thinking. Did Hoseok think he was cute? Maybe he was smitten with Jimin. The black haired young man drew his shoulders inward at such a stupid thought. Most likely Hoseok was wondering why Jimin was so weird.

“You don’t talk much in general, do you?” Hoseok wasn’t looking for a response for that question. He continued, knowing Jimin wouldn’t answer. “You’re a weird one, I’ll tell you that.”

Jimin internally sighed. His second assumption had been true. Hoseok thought he was weird.

You and Tae would be quite the match.”

Jimin blinked a few times, looking up at the man sitting across from him. “Tae?”

“Taehyung. My friend from the café?

“Oh, right.” Jimin poked around at the last of his food, remembering the cute brown-haired boy. It had been, what, almost four months since that day? He’d completely forgotten about him. “He wanted to meet me,” Jimin said slowly, the memory coming back to him.

Hoseok nodded, wiping his fingers off with some napkins. “I was kind of confused when you ran off like that,” he said with a shrug of his shoulder. “Thought you were just shy, or maybe you weren’t gay. But I think you’re gay.

Jimin bristled slightly, though he wasn’t entirely sure why he took offense to that – he was gay, after all.

Hoseok laughed and held up his hands in apology. “I don’t mean to be rude. Just the vibe I get from you. Am I wrong?”

Jimin hesitated, his heart racing, before he shook his head. “No, you’re correct.”

The man let out a satisfied noise with a jerk of his head, puffing his chest out, clearly proud of himself. The motion was unexpected and cute, and it made Jimin laugh softly, bringing his hand up to his mouth to cover it. Hoseok’s smile widened into a grin.

“You?” Jimin asked quietly. He was genuinely curious, but a small, shameful part of him was looking for a sliver of a chance for his fantasies to become reality. Hoseok was bright and friendly – it terrified Jimin, but at the same time he could see Hoseok shielding him from everything else that terrified him. “Are you…?”

Hoseok shook his head, turning so he could casually lean back against the wall, his arms resting on the table and the back of his chair. “Nah. Gay friends.

Jimin nodded, expecting that answer. His fantasies would have to remain fantasies, unfortunately. At least now he had some more material to work with – like how Hoseok’s mouth pouted cutely as he spoke of more serious things and how much teeth showed when he was talking about carefree things – or how his collarbone became pronounced even beneath his shirt when he lifted his chin to stretch his neck – and how his eyes – Jimin blushed and averted his gaze, realizing Hoseok was looking back at him.

Could it be?” Hoseok smiled, his tone hinting that he had noticed something. “Does that disappoint you? Did you want me to be gay?”

The younger man pressed his hands down on the seat between his thighs, lowering his head so much that he could practically feel his shoulders brushing against his ears.

What I want to know is,” Hoseok mused with an exaggerated expression of contemplation, rubbing his chin with his fingers “How did you go from telling me to fuck off and running from me twice to having a crush on me?”

Jimin gave a startled noise in the back of his throat and waved his hands, the long sleeves of his sweater flopping in front of his face. “I don’t – I didn’t say – “

“Don’t worry, I don’t mind.” Hoseok’s smile really was the prettiest thing Jimin had seen in months. It was enough to calm Jimin’s embarrassed spluttering. “In fact, I don’t blame you. I am a god-given gift to mankind, afterall.” His eyes flickered in satisfaction at the snort he got in response from Jimin.

The younger man felt like he was dying from embarrassment. He silently cursed Hoseok’s charming personality. There was something about him that completely disarmed Jimin – made him feel more comfortable.

“What do you have in there?” Hoseok asked, nodding to Jimin’s bag of snacks.

“Oh.” The nervous man pulled it up onto the table and emptied its contents out, motioning for Hoseok to take his pick. The elder had paid for their lunch, so it was only fair. He fidgeted quietly as he watched Hoseok wiggle his fingers as he inspected his options before his face lit up and he snatched up a strawberry flavored soft chewing candy.

“So, what made you finally step out today?” Hoseok asked. His jaw furiously worked the candy into nothingness, then he popped in a second. “Needed to stock up on all the essentials?” He motioned to the candies.

Jimin blushed and shook his head. “No. Well, yes, but I just needed to get out. You’re not usually here on Sundays and – “ Hoseok’s gaze snapped up to his face, and Jimin suddenly realized what he’d said. He brought his sweater-covered hands up to his mouth in shock. “No, I – I mean – “ He felt his heart racing, his breaths getting shorter, tighter. He stood, his chair nearly toppling over in his haste. “I need to go.”

No, Jimin, it’s okay.” Hoseok stood up and reached for him, but Jimin jerked away, unable to hide the fear in his eyes. “Jimin, it’s fine.”

Jimin shook his head, embarrassed by the stinging sensation in his eyes. Fine? How could Hoseok think it was fine? “No, it’s – I’m just – “ He let out a frustrated huff when he couldn’t finish his full thought. He wasn’t really sure what to say, anyway. He never knew what to say, or what to do, or, really, how to even live. A hand of regret gripped his heart as he turned to leave.

“I’ll be here again,” Hoseok called out to him. “Tomorrow, noon!” His voice raised loud enough for Jimin to hear even over the sounds of the kitchen he was passing, but the black-haired man didn’t turn back. “And next week, too!”

Jimin ducked his head and rushed out the door, biting back tears. Fuck, fuck, fuck, he repeated to himself. He rushed across the street and up to his apartment, throwing himself against his door as he reached it.

I’m so stupid.

Jimin fumbled with the lock on his door.

I can’t get anything right.

Jimin slammed the door shut behind him, his heart racing in his chest.

I shouldn’t have gone outside.

He slid to the floor and let himself cry.

 

 

 

Hoseok went back to the shop the next day, as promised. He waited for as long as he could without violating his lunch break limit.

Jimin never showed up.

Hoseok went again the day after, just in case. Jimin wasn’t there. The strange boy haunted Hoseok’s every waking thought. He always looked so scared, so nervous – but there were those few times that he smiled, just a bit. Hoseok didn’t like him. Of course not, he wasn’t gay.

It was all for Taehyung.

Taehyung whom Hoseok had yet to mention his few chance meetings to. Hoseok didn’t want to get his hopes up. His poor friend had moped around their apartment for weeks after Jimin had fled from the café. Their usual routine of watching dramas on Friday evenings hadn’t been the same for a while. Tae and Jeongguk were normally the most interactive with the shows, discussing, theory crafting, shipping. Hoseok and Yoongi enjoyed the pair’s energetic dynamic.

It had taken a while, but things were starting to go back to normal. Hoseok didn’t want to mess with that.

Every day that week, Hoseok ate his food at one of the tables outside the shop. It wasn’t quite warm enough to do so comfortably, but he hoped that Jimin would see him and come talk to him.

Jimin did not come.

After the second week had come and gone, Hoseok wondered if Jimin had moved or if he was just that determined to avoid him.

Apparently Jimin had been watching him enough to know that he normally wasn’t around on Sundays. Jimin had been watching him, just like Hoseok had been watching for Jimin.

Hoseok had only seen Jimin twice before that day – once in the café, and then again in a chance meeting that had lasted the span of just a few sentences – yet he found himself inexplicably drawn to the shy man. There was something about the way he held himself that made Hoseok want to talk to him, wrap his arms around him, protect him.

Not in a gay way, of course. Hoseok wasn’t gay.

He needed to give Jimin Taehyung’s number. That was the reason he visited the street every week in hopes of running into Jimin again. It was definitely all for of Taehyung.

It was halfway through spring before Hoseok saw Jimin again.

The idea of ever seeing him again had long since left Hoseok, yet he still went to the street. Maybe, just maybe…

When he saw the black-haired man standing in front of his little table at the bulgogi shop, there was a bit of delay before he realized whom he was looking at.

Jimin looked down at him, an arm crossed over his chest, fingers tucking hair behind his ear. The black tone of his hair was sleek, shiny, the edges of his bangs crisp. Had he gotten a haircut that day? He blinked and averted his eyes nervously. He glanced at the open seat on the other side of Hoseok’s table in a questioning manner.

Hoseok hurriedly swallowed the mouthful of meat he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, motioning towards the seat with a nod of his head. “Yeah, yeah, go ahead,” he mumbled as soon as his mouth was clear of food. He snatched up a napkin and cleaned off his face, suddenly embarrassed that Jimin had seen him sloppily chowing down.

Jimin slowly lowered himself onto the seat, just on the edge – a literal interpretation of the man’s constant state of being.

“Hi, how are you?” Hoseok held back a grimace at the waver in his voice. The younger man’s appearance was a surprise, and it made everything dim in comparison. The world around him was suddenly moving in slow motion, like everyone was focused on Jimin’s furtive glances around the street.

Jimin looked up at Hoseok and then quickly away, drawing the sleeve of his oversized grey sweater up to his lips. He shrugged a but did not say anything.

Hoseok couldn’t take his eyes from Jimin’s lips as the soft material brushed against him. He couldn’t understand why he was drawn to Jimin in such a weird way. The way Jimin’s eyes were so attentive, yet so quick to look away as soon as they made eye contact. The way he kept one hand balled into a fist, gripping the sleeve of his sweater and resting on his knee. The way the sun shone on his hair every time it peaked through the clouds.

The way Hoseok’s heart raced every time he looked at Jimin.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

“You?” Jimin said after a moment of silence. He kept glancing at Hoseok out of the corner of his eye. He probably knew that Hoseok was staring.

The older man cleared his throat and adjusted himself in his seat. “Oh, um, good. Yeah, work’s been good. Food’s good. Everything’s good.” Why was Jimin here? Why now, after all this time, did he seek Hoseok out? He was reminded of the last time he spoke, Jimin’s full body blush when Hoseok had commented on the younger man’s crush. It wasn’t the first time he’d thought about that moment though; it replayed in his head most days. He was certain he’d never meet anyone as cute as Jimin.

Jimin.” Hoseok leaned his head slightly to the side to catch Jimin’s gaze. “Is everything okay? Are you okay?”

Jimin chewed on the inside of his cheek, still brushing his sweater over his lips. He shrugged again before whispering, “I’m lonely.”

The poor boy’s quiet words pulled at Hoseok’s heartstrings, and he was almost overcome by an insatiable urge to pull Jimin into the tightest hug, to run his fingers through his hair and tell him everything was going to be okay.

Instead Hoseok smiled and pushed his bowl towards Jimin. “You can have some if you want.”

Jimin glanced between him and the food. When he pulled his hand away from his mouth to pick a piece from the bowl, there was the smallest of smiles gracing his lips, and Hoseok felt his heart soar. There was something about how Jimin’s delicate hands carefully picked the meat and brought it to his mouth, occasionally lifting and shaking to force the ends of his sleeves down towards his elbows… Hoseok forced himself to look away and cleared his throat, trying to avert whatever train of thought his mind had been following.

“You wouldn’t be so lonely if you had come to visit me.”

Jimin’s hands paused only for a second at the words before he continued eating.

“Are you just scared of people or something?” Hoseok didn’t mind that Jimin avoided his gaze. If Jimin was willing to at least sit and listen, then that was good enough for Hoseok. When the younger man just shrugged, Hoseok went on. “You don’t have to be scared of me. Or Tae, for that matter.” This is all for Tae, he reminded himself.

Jimin blushed and drew within himself again. “I’m sorry, I ate your food.”

Hoseok looked down at the empty bowl and let out a loud laugh. “Don’t worry about it. I offered it to you.” A soft tongue brushed against the black-haired man’s lips, sending a jolt of – fuck, did that turn him on?  Hoseok balled his hands into fists beneath the table. What the fuck was going on?

Jimin didn’t look at him again. He remained silent, his fingers sticking out from the ends of the sweater to play with his napkin.

Hoseok took a deep breath, trying to gather his thoughts. It was difficult when his mind kept drifting, focusing in on the strange energy that Jimin exuded. Being so close to him – Hoseok wanted to reach out and grab Jimin’s hand, run his thumb against the smooth skin.

Taehyung, remember Taehyung.

Hoseok took a deep breath and opened his mouth to say something about his friend, but Jimin spoke first.

“I want to see you again.”

Hoseok stared wide-eyed at the man across from him.

Jimin gave a short nod and looked up at Hoseok, eyes finally meeting for more than just a few seconds. “I want to see you again,” he said more firmly.

Hoseok blinked and nodded his head. “Yeah, okay. I’m okay with that. Tomorrow?”

A blush blossomed across the bridge of Jimin’s nose, but there was no denying the slight curve at the corners of his mouth. “Yeah. Tomorrow.” He stood and gave Hoseok a slight bow. “I look forward to seeing you.”

The fluttering of Hoseok’s heart was enough to distract him from the fact that Jimin had spoken in Korean for the first time. He smiled as the realization dawned on him. Maybe things were turning out okay.

 

 

When Hoseok showed up at the shop the next day, Jimin was already there, waiting for him. He didn’t talk much, just listened. Hoseok didn’t mind. It seemed to be therapeutic for the younger man in some way, and it gave Hoseok a small sense of accomplishment every time he managed to bring a little smile to Jimin’s face.

That was how their semiweekly meetings started. Hoseok talked a lot about himself, anything to distract himself from the pull of attraction that somehow seemed to emanate from the adorable bundle of silence-incarnate.

Despite meeting on a regular basis over the next month, Jimin never really opened up about himself. Hoseok could feel him coming out of his shell, smiling a bit more, laughing – that stupid, perfect laugh that made Hoseok’s stomach feel like he’d just breached the precipice of a roller coaster’s highest peak – at his jokes more often. But he never really talked about himself.

“Hey.”

Jimin’s eyes met Hoseok’s briefly before flicking them away, lips tightening around the thick bubble tea straw and sucking tapioca pearls through it.

“Do you want to meet up after work?” They only ever met during Hoseok’s lunch break, giving them a dedicated limit to each encounter. It was safe and comfortable for Jimin. Asking him to step out of that boundary risked pushing Jimin away, but Hoseok was hoping he would say yes. So that he could give Jimin Tae’s number, of course. No other reason.

Taehyung, you gotta get him Taehyung’s number tonight.

Hoseok repeated the words to himself watched the tapioca pearls in Jimin’s straw slide back into the drink. Hoseok didn’t have Jimin’s number, and he’d never offered his own. It would feel wrong to do so, like he would be betraying his best friend.

Jimin contemplated the request thoughtfully, his shoulders hunched in a way that Hoseok now knew was a tell for the man’s nerves.

Hoseok still was unable to pinpoint the exact cause of his attraction towards the fidgety young man. He had long since accepted that Jimin was simply terrified of people, and that his insistence of speaking English all the time helped keep people at arm’s length. It certainly took a constant level of control over his own emotions to keep Hoseok from confessing true love to the black-haired young man.

What the fuck? I’m not in love Hoseok frowned to himself. No matter how much he told himself that, he couldn’t deny the dreams, the dreams filled with nothing but darkness and passion, and one gorgeous face twisting in ecstasy. Hoseok shook his head, ridding himself of those thoughts for the time being. Despite everything, he knew what the end game was. He wanted Jimin to meet Taehyung, wanted them to be together. Even though he still knew little about Jimin, he could tell that he and his best friend would get along just fine.

 “Why?” Jimin asked, his quiet tone barely heard over the sounds of the cars passing by.

Hoseok shrugged and leaned back into in his chair. “Thought maybe you wouldn’t mind going to get a bite to eat somewhere that’s not here. But I can’t really go anywhere else on my lunch break, so after work.”

Jimin visibly swallowed, and then – to Hoseok’s elation – nodded. “Okay.”

“Really?” Hoseok sat upright, unable to hide his giddiness. He clapped his hands together, smiling apologetically when Jimin flinched. “Excellent, I’ll see you tonight. Okay?”

Jimin nodded, raising his sweater sleeve to cover his mouth to hide the smile that was forming, as he normally did. It didn’t hide the way his cheeks pushed up over his cheekbones, his eyes forming little crescents.

Hoseok dramatically clasped his hands over his chest and fell back against the back of his chair. “Warn me before you slay me with your smile!” He let out an exaggerated groan when Jimin blushed and buried his face into his sleeve-covered hands. How was it possible for one man to be so cute?

Jimin shook his head, peering out over his hands, his eyes still showing his happiness. “Go,” he said with a muffled voice, “You’re gonna be late for work.”

Oh shit,” Hoseok stood, checking the time on his phone. “At least one of us is paying attention. See you tonight? Here?”

Jimin nodded, pulling his hands down enough to give a tiny wave. “See you.”

Hoseok left, feeling like he was walking on clouds.

 

 

 

Jimin fidgeted on the edge of his chair in front of the bulgogi shop. He kept his eyes to the ground in front of him, not wanting to see people stare at him. It always felt like people were staring. Were they staring? Or was that just a figment of Jimin’s imagination?

The young man’s leg bounced up and down, and he fought against his urge to look at his watch again. It didn’t matter what time it was currently – he didn’t know when Hoseok was supposed to show up. They had both forgotten to hammer out the details. When Jimin had realized that, he’d contemplated just staying indoors the rest of the night, not wanting to deal with the embarrassment of such a situation.

But he really did want to see Hoseok. Hoseok was cute and funny and charismatic, and he made Jimin’s heart flutter happily in his chest – and happy was not an emotion that Jimin was used to feeling over the past two and a half years.

That was why Jimin ventured into the street for the first time without waiting for Hoseok to show up first. That was why Jimin had taken the time to pick out his clothes. He’d gone back and forth between a blue sweater and a long-sleeved shirt that he’d never worn before. The sweater was a favorite of Hoseok’s judging by the way his gaze wandered across Jimin’s neck and collarbone whenever he wore it. Jimin liked the way Hoseok looked at him in that sweater. He wore it often, wondering if Hoseok’s looks meant something more – like he was attracted to Jimin. Jimin settled on the long-sleeved shirt.

Jimin tried to avoid those thoughts. They often came to him no matter how many times he reminded himself that Hoseok was not gay. Jimin felt dumb for constantly pining after the older man, his fantasies wrought with ideas that Jimin was attractive enough to somehow change Hoseok’s sexual orientation. Such thoughts were a mark of a true narcissist.

Now, Jimin sat nervously in front of the shop, wondering when Hoseok would be done with work. Almost forty-five minutes had passed already, and Jimin was beginning to think that Hoseok was just going to stand him up.

No, no, if Hoseok wanted to ghost him, he could have done so during any of the days they spent together. Hoseok was definitely going to show up.

Every time a person passed, Jimin felt himself flinch, hoping they wouldn’t stop in front of him. It had been so long since someone had approached him – not like that at least. There had been a few after Hoseok had sat down in front of him at the café, but only just a few since Jimin had difficulties leaving the apartment after that.

No one ever approached him when Hoseok was around. Hoseok was like a talisman – or maybe everyone thought that Hoseok was his boyfriend or something, so they didn’t bother approaching him. He wondered how many people approached Hoseok when he wasn’t with Jimin and how he dealt with them.

There was a time that Jimin had no problem turning them down. He remembered once upon a time when he would just blush and wave them off, or apologize quietly.

But that was before. Jimin wasn’t the same person anymore.

Hoseok was probably so polite and cool when he turned down all the advances. He was so attractive, he must have gotten two or three as many people asking him out. He would say something along the lines of how cute or pretty they are, but let them down easy so they were charmed and left feeling that flutter in their chest like Jimin felt whenever he spoke to Hoseok.

And to think of all the people Hoseok had turned down before accepting Jimin’s company – Jimin brought his hands up over his mouth to hide a quiet giggle.

A twilight glow filled the street as the sun dipped behind the buildings, yet Jimin still waited, refusing to move until Hoseok showed up. He imagined the food that they would eat together, where they would go. He hoped it wasn’t a fancy restaurant – he wouldn’t fit in at a place like that.

Jimin glanced at his watch despite knowing he shouldn’t. It had been almost an hour and a half since he’d left the sanctuary of his home. He sighed and pulled his sleeves over his hands nervously.

“Hello,” came a voice.

Jimin’s head shot up in excitement, but the man who had spoken was definitely not Hoseok. The shy man felt his throat constrict in fear, realizing he’d made eye contact with the complete stranger.

“Do you mind if I sit down?” The man sat in the seat next to Jimin – Hoseok’s seat – without waiting for an answer. Jimin hated it when people did that. Hoseok had done that the first time, too. Why bother asking if he was just going to sit down anyway?

“Please go away,” Jimin mumbled. He pulled away, the leg closest to the man coming up off the seat.

“Oh, you speak English? That is so cool!” The man laughed and leaned towards Jimin over the arm of the chair. Jimin didn’t respond. “Come on, don’t you want to show that off?” The man let out an envious sigh. “If I spoke English, I would try to get a job out in America. Wouldn’t you think that would be cool?”

Jimin closed his eyes, trying not to panic. Normally, he would just get up and leave, but he couldn’t. He had to wait for Hoseok.

“How come you’re not saying anything, baby?”

The word sent a jolt of disgust through Jimin. How could this man speak so casually to him? Sure, he was probably older, but that didn’t give him the right to be rude.

“Come on,” the man said again, “Let’s hear some English.” He reached over, but Jimin shot up with a startled cry before the man could touch his leg.

“What’s going on here?”

Jimin’s heart leapt into his throat, and he turned towards the familiar voice. Like a beacon of hope, Hoseok was standing just a few feet away, eyeing the stranger.

“Oh, we were just having a chat,” the man said, standing up. He bowed slightly to Hoseok in greeting.

Hoseok glanced at Jimin who gave a subtle shake of his head. No, they were not just having a chat.

“Well,” Jimin’s friend said loudly, stepping closer to wrap an arm around Jimin’s shoulder. “I think your chat is over.”

The man stared at the two with a confused look on his face. “Hey now, who do you think you are?”

“His boyfriend,” Hoseok said without hesitation, and Jimin nearly fainted.

The man hesitated before harrumphing in annoyance. “Could have said you were taken,” the man muttered, stalking off down the street.

Jimin didn’t pay him any mind. He was too distracted with the scent of Hoseok, his hand on his waist, the heat of his body. Boyfriend? Had Hoseok just said he was Jimin’s boyfriend?

Far too soon, Hoseok pulled away and held Jimin out at arm’s length, his caring eyes looking over him. “You okay? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

Jimin shook his head, still at a loss for words.

Hoseok sighed and rubbed the top of Jimin’s head before lowering his hands. Jimin nearly whined at the loss of contact. “Good.” He jerked his head down the street. “You ready?”

Jimin followed alongside Hoseok, staring down at his feet. He tried to match the older man’s strides, but he was so used to shuffling along that he found it difficult.

“Sorry for saying I was your boyfriend,” Hoseok said, making Jimin almost stumbled. “It was just kind of improv – thought that was the easiest way to get him off your back.”

Jimin forced his face into a neutral expression despite the frustrated disappointment that ran through him. “No, it’s okay.” There he goes with those delusions. Even so, he was glad that Hoseok had showed up when he did. Sometimes people would get pushy if Jimin didn’t give them the attention they craved.

Jimin didn’t recognize the path of streets that Hoseok lead him through. Some of them were busy, some of them were empty. Even though the sun hadn’t entirely set, the streetlamps flickered on in the shade of the buildings. Looking up, Jimin could see the orange-pink glow in the sky, and he was thankful the yellow dust had not settled upon the city that day.

“Come on,” Hoseok said, pulling on Jimin’s elbow onto yet another busy street.

Jimin came to a halt, his heart freezing for a moment. There were far more people here. Food tents lined each side, and people milled about from one to another, trying to decide where to eat. Jimin looked at Hoseok. Fear must have been clear on his face because the man laughed and wrapped his arm around Jimin’s shoulders again.

You’ll be okay if you’re with me.

Jimin nodded and took a deep breath, stepping forward with his friend. He often squeezed against him to avoid the people walking around. Were they staring at him? Jimin slowed, turning his face into Hoseok’s shoulder.

“You’re okay,” Hoseok said softly, but he didn’t pull away. He led Jimin through the crowd until they came to a tent on the far side. He released Jimin and gently pushed him through the opening.

Jimin fidgeted with his fingers in front of his chest, looking around. A lot of the tables were full already, but at least it didn’t feel as crowded or busy like the street.

“See? I knew you could do it.” Hoseok placed his hand on the small of Jimin’s back, bringing him over to a small table for two.

Jimin felt a swelling of pride at Hoseok’s praise. If he could do that – with Hoseok he could do anything. Thankfully the food tent was far less fancy than the restaurants Jimin had feared they would go to. As harrowing as the journey had been, he at least had some sort of comfort in their setting.

By the time they received their food, Jimin was feeling confident. The tent was small, enclosed, and he felt almost alone with Hoseok. He ignored the paranoid voice in his head telling him everyone was staring at them. He just wanted to focus on his friend.

“This is so good,” Jimin moaned before sinking his teeth into his second piece of chicken. His face and fingers were already covered in grease, but he didn’t mind. It had been a long time since he’d had fried chicken.

“Oh, we’re speaking Korean now!” Hoseok grinned, waving his own piece at Jimin. “You’re adventurous today, aren’t you?”

Jimin smiled, lowering his chin, pleased by the reaction. He should talk more if it made Hoseok compliment him. He wiped off his fingers and opened a bottle of soju to pour Hoseok a small glass.

“Good to know you haven’t forgotten your manners after being locked away for so long.” Hoseok raised the glass and downed it in one go. “I’ve got work tomorrow. I probably shouldn’t be drinking.” He laughed as Jimin poured him another. “Well, if you insist.” After throwing that one back, too, he noticed Jimin hadn’t poured himself any. “Don’t you drink?”

Jimin shook his head. “I can never seem to get drunk. It’s not worth the awful taste at that point.”

Hoseok shook his head and motioned to Jimin’s glass. “That’s just because you’ve never had enough. Come on, drink up, don’t let me do this alone.”

Jimin hesitated. He really didn’t like the taste of alcohol, but he didn’t want to go directly against what Hoseok wanted. With a sigh, he poured himself some and followed suit, swallowing it in one mouthful. The burn ran across his tongue despite his attempts at getting it straight down his throat, and the smell filled his nose from within. Jimin grimaced and stuck his tongue out of his wide mouth, breathing out forcefully to clear the fumes.

Hoseok laughed and shook his head. “Why are you always the cutest thing?”

The comment surprised Jimin, his eyes widening. He stared across the table at Hoseok, but the older man was focused on his food. Jimin looked back down at his own chicken, convinced that he’d heard incorrectly. Taking a deep breath to gather up the courage, Jimin downed another drink, mimicking the same cringe from before.

Hoseok eyed him with a suddenly suspicious look. Jimin slowly lowered his glass, confused by the expression. “What?” he mumbled, averting his gaze.

“Are you even old enough to drink?”

Jimin bristled, his shoulders wiggling back and forth as he puffed out his chest. “I’m twenty-two, thank you very much.” He scoffed and poured Hoseok and himself another glass.

“Then you should always do what I say,’” Hoseok said with a playful smirk that made Jimin blush. The older man let out a loud, satisfied sigh as he slammed the glass back down, clearly taking the alcohol better than Jimin was.

“So, Jimin,” Hoseok said, leaning on his elbow against the table. “Tell me about yourself.”

“Ah, what is this?” Jimin mumbled, not expecting an interrogation. He could see a flush growing on Hoseok’s cheeks – a sign that the alcohol was having an affect on him. Nothing felt any different to Jimin though, except maybe a bad aftertaste in his mouth that he was glad didn’t ruin the flavor of his meal.

“Well,” Hoseok said, waving a chicken leg at Jimin from across the table, “I’ve spent the past few weeks doing all the talking. It’s your turn.”

“I don’t know,” Jimin mumbled, pulling the fried skin off his own piece. “There’s really not much to tell.”

“Really? You hide away for months at a time and you’re telling me there’s no reason for it?”

A sickening crunch.

A scream.

Pools of blood.

Jimin felt his breath getting shorter, and he closed his eyes. Stop it, stop it. Don’t think about that.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay.”

Jimin opened his eyes. Hoseok had laid a greasy hand on his.

“You don’t have to tell me.” Hoseok’s eyes were full of concern. Despite his messy face and flushed cheeks, he still managed to look amazing. If Jimin could focus on that, he knew he would be fine. “Sorry, I probably should have started with an easier question. Favorite color?”

That question was much easier for Jimin to swallow. He took a deep breath, wiping away the grease Hoseok had left on the back of his hand. “Light blue.”

“Ah, just like that sweater.”

A burst of excitement hit Jimin like a dart when Hoseok mentioned the sweater. “That’s your favorite sweater, isn’t it?” The word felt strange – it had been a while since he’d been close enough with someone to use it. When he was with Hoseok, though, strange was okay.

Hoseok nodded. “Yeah, you look really good in it.”

Again, the compliment caught Jimin off guard. It must have been the effect of the alcohol. Jimin shamelessly poured Hoseok another glass. He wouldn’t mind a few more compliments before he went home for the night. He hesitated before saying quietly, “You always look at me when I wear that sweater.” He kept his head low, not wanting to see Hoseok’s reaction to the comment.

“Yeah, well, I look at you a lot.”

Jimin licked his lips and fidgeted in place. Was he taking advantage of Hoseok by asking these questions when he was intoxicated? “Do you like looking at me?”

“I love looking at you.”

Jimin blushed, his heart racing. Hoseok loved looking at him? He looked up to see Hoseok with a furrowed brow, and uncertainty pierced Jimin’s initial excitement.

“I – “ Hoseok started and shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t mean that. I mean, I do, but I don’t – I’m not gay.”

Jimin stared down at his food and took a deep breath. Again and again he ignored his own advice and again and again he was reminded that Hoseok wasn’t interested in him. Hoseok would never be interested in him. He didn’t understand. Why, when so many others expressed interest in him, did the one person he want turn him down? A curse had been cast upon him at birth, he was sure.

Hoseok motioned back over to the woman making food. “She’s got some sweet cakes. You want one?”

Jimin glanced over at them. They were cute, but not really the thing that Jimin wanted to eat. He was willing to put up with anything, though, if it meant ignoring the awkward situation that had just unfolded between them. He nodded with a quiet hum. He stared down at the table in front of him as Hoseok got up to get treats.

Jimin sighed and slumped forward, pressing his forehead into his hands. He felt exhausted. All this going out and testing his boundaries had taken everything out of him. He half hoped he could just leave on his own, but the idea of leaving the tent without Hoseok there to protect him was far more terrifying than dealing with an uncomfortable situation.

The table shook as someone sat down, and Jimin lifted his head. For the second time that day, it hadn’t been the person Jimin had been expecting. This time it was a woman with a friendly smile. Jimin sat back in his seat, arms tensed in front of him.

“Hey!” Her voice was cheery and bright, and it made Jimin want to cringe, hold his hands over his ears. “Saw you here, lookin’ so lonely. You need someone to cheer you up?”

Jimin shook his head and glanced over to Hoseok. His friend was conversing with the woman making their sweet cakes happily, his sunny smile perfect even from across the room. He could call for him – ask for help – but he couldn’t work up the courage to raise his voice.

The woman’s smile didn’t falter, even with Jimin’s silent response. “Sorry, I guess this is kinda weird. I just – I saw you and I couldn’t help but stop to chat.”

Jimin tried not to scoff. They always said that.

“Maybe – do you want to – oh!” The woman stood as Hoseok came up to them, two sweet cakes in hand. “I’m sorry, were you with him?” She motioned towards Jimin.

Hoseok looked back and forth between the two. Jimin dipped his head, ashamed that Hoseok needed to intervene twice. “Yeah,” Hoseok replied slowly, his eyes narrowing at the woman. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, I – uh – “ she laughed and brushed her short hair behind her ear. “Sorry, this is so embarrassing. I just – I was hoping – “ She glanced at Jimin and blushed. “Nevermind. Sorry to bother you.” She bowed politely and rushed off, disappearing out the opening of the tent.

Hoseok stared in her direction for a moment before looking back down at Jimin, who cringed under his gaze. “What the hell was that?” Hoseok asked, sitting back down. He handed Jimin his sweet cake.

Jimin pulled small bits from the cake and nibbled on them, not committing to a full bite. He should be better at turning people down. He could feel the judgement coming from his friend. How pathetic was Jimin that he couldn’t even manage to turn people down?

Jimin shrugged, leaving his fingers up by his lips. “It stopped for a while. When I was hanging out with you.”

“Does that happen often?”

The shy man sighed and nodded. “Not usually twice in one day, though.”

Hoseok stared at him with a disbelieving look. “’Not usually’? What’s usual for you?”

Jimin bobbed his head back and forth, trying to get a good estimate. “Once or twice a week? Depends on – well…” He blushed, lowering his head, not wanting to sound vain. “It depends on how nice I look, I guess.” A sudden movement from Hoseok made Jimin flinch, but the man had just set down his cake and placed his hands palm down on the table.

“I’m sorry, what?”

An embarrassed flush heated Jimin’s cheeks. As expected, Hoseok probably got way more, and was shocked by Jimin’s lack of ability to attract others.

“Once or twice a week? People just walk up to you like that?”

Jimin fidgeted under Hoseok’s disbelieving look. He shrugged. “I know it’s not much, but – “

“Not much?” Hoseok scoffed and sat back in his chair. “Jesus, kid, that’s more than most people get in a year.”

The younger man shook his head. “Yeah, right. I bet you get way more than me.”

“What? No!” Hoseok laughed, his head falling back cutely. “Hell no. Maybe like once every few months. Maybe. If I’m lucky.”

Jimin stared at him in shock. That couldn’t be right. He giggled softly, thinking it was a joke, but Hoseok’s serious expression didn’t change. “But you’re so hot!” he blurted out without thinking. He gasped and lifted his hands to his mouth, expecting some sort of sharp look from Hoseok, but he didn’t receive one.

Instead, Hoseok threw back his head with a loud laugh, his whole body shaking with his glee. Jimin blushed and covered his whole face in his hands. “Oh, man,” Hoseok whimpered, wiping tears from his eyes. “If that’s not a boost to a man’s confidence, I don’t know what is. But I can see why you always acted like you couldn’t speak Korean. How often did that work?”

Jimin shrugged. “Most of the time. Not with you.”

That seemed to give Hoseok pause. He looked at the table in front of him, pondering something. “Why does everyone want to spend time with you?”

It wasn’t a question Jimin had ever asked himself. This was just his life. He’d assumed everyone had to deal with that sort of thing. He shrugged again.

“That’s why I…” Hoseok trailed off and quickly took a large bite from his sweet cake.

That’s why he what? Jimin wanted to ask him that, but he couldn’t get the words to come out of his mouth.

Hoseok shook his head. “Look, I’m not trying to say that I don’t enjoy your company, because I do, but…”

Jimin felt his heart slow painfully, his stomach sinking. This was it. This was where Hoseok told him that he didn’t want to see him again.

“I – I really need to give you Taehyung’s number.” Hoseok stammered as he spoke, and he almost didn’t look too sure of himself, but he didn’t rescind the words.

Jimin bobbed his head in a slow nod. Right. Taehyung. Hoseok’s friend. The real reason that Hoseok spent any time with him. The air around Jimin suddenly felt too thick. The smells from the food filled Jimin’s nose and mouth and made it feel like he was choking, suffocating. Hoseok didn’t want to spend time with him. He’d never wanted to spend time with him.

It wasn’t fair.

“Look, I’m sorry this is weird.” Hoseok ran his fingers through his hair. “I just think you’d get along with him really well.”

And maybe he would. The thought of it was terrifying, being introduced to a whole new stranger.

But if he was Hoseok’s friend, then he couldn’t be that bad, right?

“Do you want to get out of here?” Hoseok motioned towards the opening of the tent.

The black-haired young man nodded enthusiastically, relieved at the opportunity to end the conversation.

 

 

The street outside the tent was mostly clear of the people that had occupied it earlier. Hoseok felt a pang of annoyance – he’d been hoping that he’d need to hold Jimin in his arms again, lead him, protect him. But those feelings…

The conversation he’d just had with Jimin rolled around on his mind as they padded slowly down the street together. People fell over Jimin left and right. It wasn’t difficult to see that Jimin was the most attractive man Hoseok had ever seen, but to have so many people stop and sit with him? Talk to him without any invitation? Sure, Hoseok had done the same, but he’d done so for Taehyung. Taehyung who was probably caught up in whatever aura that seemed to surround Jimin. The aura that Hoseok was trapped within.

Did that mean he wasn’t really attracted to Jimin? As much as he wanted to blame everything on whatever this “aura” was, it seemed far too abstract to be true. Jimin wasn’t attracting people in some sinister, supernatural way. He was Jimin. Just Jimin.

He glanced over and saw that Jimin was shivering in the cool night air. There was no thought or hesitation for Hoseok to slip off his jacket and slip it over the younger man’s shoulders. Jimin looked at him in surprise, his eyes widening in that adorable way. His fingers gripped the opening of the jacket and pulled it tighter around himself, his expression turning to one more of awe. Hoseok smiled, his adoration of the man warming him enough to counteract the loss of his jacket.

They walked in silence for a short while, backtracking along the path that they’d taken to get to the food tents. They’d been out much longer than Hoseok had been anticipating, and the streets were quiet and lit only by neon signs still left on in window shops.

“So,” Jimin said quietly, for once speaking up before Hoseok did. “Taehyung. I don’t really know much about him.”

“Well, you’re supposed to find that out for yourself, aren’t you?” Hoseok laughed at the unimpressed look Jimin shot his way. “I’m serious! I think you guys will get along really well, but a part of that is getting to know each other.”

“Like we did?”

Hoseok averted his eyes. It was weird how as soon as Jimin felt confident enough to look him in the eyes, Hoseok couldn’t manage to hold his gaze for more than a few seconds. “Y-yeah. Like we did.”

“Jeongguk,” Jimin said suddenly, surprising Hoseok. “You said he and Taehyung used to date?”

It had been a long time since Hoseok had mentioned that. The fact that Jimin remembered made him feel – something. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it was a warm feeling. “That’s right. Taehyung hadn’t really known he was gay until he met Jeongguk. Damn well thought they would die from exhaustion before they finished sophomore year,” he added under his breath.

“And he’s also your roommate?” Jimin continued his inquisition. “Isn’t that weird?”

Hoseok shook his head. “Nah. They’re both really cool with it. They could tell they just weren’t compatible so they’re just friends now. No funny business.”

“And you had another roommate,” Jimin said, tapping his finger on his chin. “Yoongi?”

“Bingo. Me and him are straight, but, well…” Hoseok trailed off, the words feeling weird. Why did he feel so weird saying that? It was true, wasn’t it? Maybe it was the way Jimin always slumped just slightly, looking down at the ground whenever he mentioned it. “Anyway, they’re all cool, I guess.”

The sounds of their shoes scraping along the sidewalk seemed loud in the silence that followed. Hoseok watched as Jimin’s steps became more languid, casual as they walked down the street. The lights from the streetlamps cast dark shadows around them. Their pace slowed to a stop before Jimin turned to Hoseok, holding out his phone.

“Hmm?” Hoseok looked questioningly from the phone to Jimin, taking it from him.

“Taehyung’s number. Go ahead and put it in.”

“Jimin,” Hoseok said quietly, looking down at the phone. His own face stared back at him, reflected in the glossy black surface. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Why was he suddenly trying to stop this from happening? This is what he wanted from the beginning.

Jimin hummed softly with a nod.

A heaviness weighed on Hoseok’s chest as he tapped out Taehyung’s number into Jimin’s phone. Wasn’t this what he wanted? Wasn’t this what this was all about? The whole reason he became friends with Jimin was for Taehyung.

Except to admit to that would be to admit that he didn’t at least have some sort of feelings for the other man.

He handed the phone back without another word.

Jimin smiled down at the phone, bringing up the new contact. “Kim Taehyung. That’s weird.”

Hoseok laughed and ruffled Jimin’s hair. “What’s so weird about that? That’s a perfectly acceptable name.”

Jimin smiled and shoved his hand away. “I mean, it’s weird that I learn Taehyung’s full name before I know yours. Isn’t that weird?”

The thought had never occurred to Hoseok. He didn’t know Jimin’s full name, either. “Jung. Jung Hoseok.”

“Park Jimin.” The black-haired man smiled and bowed respectfully. Looking back down at the phone, Jimin pulled up the messaging app. “What should I say?”

Hoseok cleared his throat and shrugged, leaning against the brick wall beside them. “Well, you could probably start with your name. Make sure he remembers you.”

“He might not remember me?” Jimin stuck out his bottom lip in a pout, leaning against the wall as well. “Hasn’t he been the one asking you to talk to me?”

Hoseok blushed. “Well, only that first time. Everything after that was just – just me.” Saying the words out loud almost felt like some sort of confession He looked away as Jimin raised his head towards him.

“I see.” The electronic sound of clicking keys sounded through the otherwise quiet street.

Hoseok let out a soft sigh, letting his head fall back against the brick wall. Why was his stomach turning? Why was he suddenly upset?

Why, after all this time, was he still in denial of his feelings for Jimin?

“’Hi, Taehyung,” Jimin began to read aloud from the screen, “My name is Park Jimin, the guy from the café. I was wondering if you wanted to hang out sometime.’”

“Might want to mention that I gave you his number. Otherwise he might freak out.” Knowing Taehyung though, he’d be too excited to even consider where Jimin received his number.

“Oh, good. Right.” More typing noises. “’By the way, you can thank your friend Hoseok for this. Smiley face.’”

“Did you write ‘smiley face’?” Hoseok asked, peering at the screen, which was pulled away from him.

“No, dummy!” Jimin laughed and read the message a few more times. For a moment, Hoseok thought he would decide that he couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t have blamed him if he did; it was asking a lot from him to talk to a person he’d never met before. The ‘message sent’ notification playing proved him wrong, and Jimin looked back up at him with a nervous smile. “That’s it, right?”

“I guess that’s it.” The words rolled off Hoseok’s tongue like molasses. They held a sense of finality, like his and Jimin’s friendship had just ended. A quiet chime notified Hoseok that he’d just received a message. He ignored it, still focused on Jimin’s face. Another played, and then another. “What the…” Hoseok griped in annoyance, pulling out his phone. “Oh.” He breathed out a short laugh. “It’s Tae.”

“Oh?” Jimin leaned over to see his screen. There was a stream of messages popping up, all from Taehyung, excitedly telling Hoseok of the message he’d just received and his gratefulness to him. “Cute.”

Hoseok swallowed, not really reading the words on his screen with Jimin leaning so close to him. Relief flooded his veins as Jimin pulled away, having finally received his own message from Taehyung, but the black-haired man’s laugh sent him reeling once again.

“’Yeah, man,’” Jimin read, “’that sounds great.’” He looked back up at Hoseok in amusement.

Hoseok snorted and shook his head. He wondered what his friend would think knowing that Jimin saw his texts to Hoseok before trying to play it cool. He stood patiently by as Jimin typed back his response, and a few more texts as they solidified plans.

“I guess that’s it, then,” Jimin repeated, putting his phone away.

“Guess so.” Hoseok ignored the second wave of notifications that chimed from his pocket. It was no surprise that Jimin could tell he was bothered by the situation. The younger leaned forward from the wall, trying to catch Hoseok’s eye, but Hoseok pulled away, looking to the ground.

“Is that okay?” Jimin asked softly.

“Of course it’s okay,” Hoseok snapped, but immediately regretted it when Jimin flinched and pulled away. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s just – you’re so – “ He gave a frustrated growl, slipping his hand down to his neck. “You confuse the fuck out of me.” He looked back at Jimin and suddenly felt like he was drowning in his friend’s dark eyes.

Jimin didn’t respond. He stared at Hoseok with the same sort of confusion that Hoseok felt.

“I don’t understand it,” Hoseok continued, his throat tight, “You make me feel like – you’re the only person I want to – “ He couldn’t finish any of his sentences. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted to say, just that he knew he needed to say something.

“I’m sorry,” Jimin whispered. Hoseok saw a flash of tears before Jimin lowered his head. “This was a bad idea. I should go.” He made a sharp movement and Hoseok knew that Jimin was about to run. It had been months since Jimin had last run from him, and fear gripped Hoseok’s heart. If Jimin ran now, Hoseok would never see him again.

Before Jimin could fully turn away, Hoseok’s hand shot out and grabbed Jimin by the wrist. Jimin gave a soft cry of surprise as he was tugged back to the older man. Thrown off balance, he stumbled against Hoseok’s chest. “Hoseok, please,” he whispered, refusing to look up at him.

“I’m sorry.” Hoseok wrapped his arms around the trembling man. “I’m sorry, Jimin  – just – please don’t go.”

Jimin raised his gaze, tears slipping down those perfect cheeks. Hoseok wiped away one of the tears with his thumb, gently brushing against the smooth skin. He could feel Jimin leaning against him, feel both their hearts pounding together, feel the crying man’s fingers gripping the front of his shirt for support.

The kiss was perhaps the most natural thing Hoseok had ever experienced. His and Jimin’s lips came together like they were meant to be, his hand firmly cupping his jawline, fingers sliding into the hair behind Jimin’s ear. His arm wrapped firmly around Jimin, pulling gently on the small of his back to draw him even closer.

Jimin whimpered and pressed himself into the kiss, fingers tightening in Hoseok’s shirt. The two felt so perfectly aligned, and neither made any move to break the kiss, this forbidden kiss.

It wasn’t fair how good Jimin felt in his arms, how nice he smelled. Hoseok had never kissed a man before, had never wanted to, and yet here he was, gently pressing Jimin against the brick wall, their lips locked together. There was no hesitation when he slipped his tongue between Jimin’s lips, relishing his sweet flavor. The soft moan that Jimin released into his mouth made Hoseok feel hungry, insatiable.

Pleasure pulsed within Hoseok like a force to be reckoned with. Hoseok had never felt so needy – so aroused – in his life. The fact that the person he was passionately kissing was a man had completely lost all meaning to him.

“Hoseok,” Jimin gasped in the split second that their lips had parted to breathe. “Hoseok, please – stop.”

Hoseok turned his head to the side quickly. His eyes were closed with the effort that it took to hold back, their bodies still pressed against one another. The quiet night was disrupted only by their heavy breathing.

“I’m,” Jimin whispered, trying to catch his breath, “I’m sorry.” His fingers suddenly unclasped from Hoseok’s shirt as though just realizing he was still holding on.

Hoseok shook his head and pulled back finally, running the sole of his shoe against the ground in an attempt to hold back whatever temptations he had. “No, no, I’m sorry.” He felt stupid – what the fuck was happening?

“You’re not gay,” Jimin said softly. “You shouldn’t kiss me. You told me – you’re not gay.”

“You don’t know that,” Hoseok shot back quickly, struggling with his own emotions. He sighed and hung his head, hands on his hips, trying to sort out his thoughts. He felt like a total mess. Beyond the question of his sexuality, how could he do this to Taehyung? Hadn’t he spent all this time trying to make sure he and Jimin could get together? And now that finally happened and then…

“Sorry,” Jimin mumbled again, playing with his own fingers between the sleeves of Hoseok’s jacket. “Maybe – maybe I shouldn’t – with Taehyung I mean.”

Hoseok’s head shot up and he held his palm out to Jimin. “Hang on now, don’t do that. No. Look,” Hoseok sighed and ran his hand over the top of his head before letting it come to a rest on the back of his neck. “You and Tae will get along really well. I think you’ll like him and he’ll like you. Just forget about me, okay? It’s not a problem.”

Jimin bit his lip and fidgeted, still leaning against the wall and looking unsure.

“Jimin, it’s okay,” Hoseok assured him. “Like you said, I’m not gay. I’ll get over this – whatever this is. Okay? Just, please, give Taehyung a chance.”

Jimin took a deep breath and Hoseok was sure that he would insist that nothing was okay and that they were better off parting ways, but once again Jimin proved him wrong by giving a soft smile. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah. I trust you.”

Hoseok sighed in relief. “Okay. Good.” He motioned towards the end of the street they’d been walking down what felt like hours ago. “Let’s get you home. Sounds like you have a date tomorrow.”

Jimin blushed and allowed himself to be lead away. “It’s in two days. Taehyung says he’s busy tomorrow.”

The two slowly made their way down the street in the direction of Jimin’s apartment. Hoseok at least knew which building it was on that street he had become so familiar with, but, of course, Jimin had never invited him inside, and he never expected to be invited inside. Hoseok hoped that if Jimin and Tae did end up dating, there wouldn’t be any lingering weird feelings between himself and Jimin. Even if there was, Hoseok was confident that he would have the self-control enough to not let it be an issue.

“Hey,” Jimin whispered, coming to a stop.

Hoseok glanced over at him, noting his nervous expression. “What’s up?”

Jimin motioned towards a man that had just turned onto the street in front of him. He was hunched over with a thick jacket on. Probably homeless, but most likely harmless. “It’s okay,” Hoseok gently pulled on Jimin’s elbow, too familiar with Jimin’s aversion to people.

Jimin shook his head, eyes wide. “I don’t want to.” He motioned to the sidewalk on the other side of the street. “Can we?”

Hoseok hesitated, considering asking Jimin to face his fears just so he could see that it would be okay, but he didn’t feel like putting Jimin through that sort of emotional stress. He’d already done so well today, coming out with him after hours, going on a date – though Hoseok had vehemently told himself it was not a date. “Okay,” he said softly, pulling away to lead Jimin.

“Hey!”

The two flinched in surprise at the voice from behind them. Two men had entered the street from an alleyway, and were headed in their direction. Hoseok wrapped his arm around Jimin’s trembling body.

“No,” Jimin whined, terror making his voice weak.

Hoseok hushed him quietly, breathing out words of comfort against Jimin’s ear. “It’s okay, I’ve got you.”

“Hey, I’m talking to you!” the man yelled again, walking towards them with an aggressive gait. The other man beside him had his hands in his pockets almost casually, but they stayed in stride with each other.

Hoseok pulled Jimin behind him, putting himself between his friend and the men approaching. “Look, we don’t want any – “

“Shut the fuck up,” came a snarl from behind them.

Jimin yelped as they were grabbed by the first man they’d seen – he’d moved much faster than they were expecting. Hoseok tried to pull Jimin back, but he was shoved up against the wall, and a sudden force hit him in the stomach so hard he doubled over. He’d known that being punched in the gut would be painful, but for some reason it still shocked him. The wind had been knocked out of him, and all he could do was gasp for air.

“Hoseok, Hoseok!” He could hear Jimin pleading, crying.

“Stop,” Hoseok groaned, trying to stand upright. He was shoved against the wall again and whipped around so his face was pressed up against the cold bricks, a hand pressing against the side of his head. Jimin was whimpering and sniffling to his right, and he hoped that meant they had simply pinned him to the wall, too. Rough hands ran over Hoseok’s body, past his pockets, until they found his wallet. “Please,” Hoseok begged hoarsely, “Take what you want.”

“We’ll do whatever the fuck we want,” one of the thugs sneered. Hoseok’s body stiffened as something thin and cold was pressed against his ribcage from behind. “We’ll gut you like a pig if that’s what we want. Fuck your pretty little boyfriend, too.”

Jimin let out a pathetic sob at the words and started crying more forcefully, whimpering the words no, no, please.

“And my, my, my, you are a pretty one, aren’t you?” Hoseok heard Jimin struggling next to him, fingernails scraping against the bricks. “Can’t wait to get my hands on you.”

Of all the things Hoseok had ever experienced in his life, this was the one time he felt true fear. Everything else that had happened before this moment seemed dull in comparison; the adrenaline rushing through his veins, blood pulsating in his ears – Hoseok wanted nothing more than to hurt these men – kill them – for threatening Jimin.

“He barely got any money,” a nasally voice complained after rooting through the wallet he found in Hoseok’s back pocket. “This bitch is poor as fuck.”

“I hate wasting all my Goddamn time on some poor ass motherfuckers,” came another voice. Hoseok closed his eyes and prayed that the men would be bored and leave with the dissatisfaction of an empty wallet.

“Don’t gotta be a waste of time. Still got that pretty boy.”

Jimin shrieked and Hoseok reacted without thought – he forced away the hands that were holding him to the wall, elbowing backwards as hard as he could. The man behind him stumbled back with a sharp swear, but Hoseok ignored him, turning towards his friend. The other men were manhandling Jimin between them, one holding his wrists to keep him from striking the, the other with his arms around Jimin’s waist, pulling him close.

With an enraged shout, Hoseok moved to tear them away from his terrified Jimin, but a strike against Hoseok’s jaw had him stumbling to the side, gasping for air, spitting out blood. His ears were ringing, and he heard shouts, screams. Feet ran in front of him, but his vision was swimming – he couldn’t tell what was happening.

The street fell quiet.

Hoseok groaned, trying to pull himself up, but he collapsed back down, unable to remain upright. He spit out more blood and lifted his head, looking for Jimin.

He saw Jimin. Or was it Jimin? No. Something wasn’t right.

Hoseok shook his head and struggled to his hands and knees, clutching at his stomach. “Ji-Jimin,” he croaked out. It felt like his lungs couldn’t fully inflate.

 Jimin stood with his back to Hoseok.

“Jimin,” Hoseok said again, before he realized what Jimin was looking at. The three thugs were pinned against the wall before them, held in place by black ropes. Their cries – he hadn’t heard them before, but now he could – were muffled by the black ropes.

Only –

They weren’t black ropes.

They were moving.

They twisted and writhed over the thugs’ bodies like snakes, pitch black snakes that were so dark they looked two dimensional. They moved like they were alive, but they couldn’t be alive because – what were they?

The black tendrils pulsated and flowed over the men, down the wall and across the sidewalk, right to Jimin’s feet. Hoseok struggled to his feet before one of those things rushed forward and gripped him by the shoulder, holding him steady. They were wrapped around Jimin, too. He could see it sliding along the skin of his legs – even his fingers sticking out of the long sleeves of Hoseok’s jacket were covered in the blackest material. It looked shiny and smooth, shifting in silky motions, pieces peeling off and wisping away in cirral, smoke-like patterns. But even as it shifted, stretched and seemed to fly away with the slightest movement of air, more again filled its space, leaving Jimin’s skin as black as the night was dark.

“Jimin!” Hoseok called out to his friend, terrified by the strange black substance that held them all in place.

Jimin took a step forward.

“You stupid pieces of shit.” The voice was loud, clear, almost ringing down the empty street. The words were English, but there was no hint of Jimin’s subtle accent. If Hoseok had not just spent an entire evening listening to that voice, he would not have believed that it came from Jimin. “Can’t a boy just enjoy a night with a friend without being so rudely interrupted by a couple of thugs looking to get their dicks wet?” Jimin scoffed and turned away from them, flicking his black hair from his eyes in disdain.

Hoseok felt his breath vacate his lungs like he’d been punched in the gut again, but no blows had landed. Jimin – no, it couldn’t be Jimin; Jimin was soft and sweet and this – this thing, this whatever this was – was not. He very much had Jimin’s face, had Jimin’s body, but he was decidedly not Jimin.

The black whatever-it-was also covered his neck, leaving it as black as his legs and fingers, tendrils reaching up past his jawline like thin phalanges, almost vein-like in appearance. They stretched from the outer edge of Jimin’s face inwards towards his eyes. And God, those eyes – blood red and shining with a sharp awareness, like they could see everything; cruel, cold, empty. Eyes that never once turned towards Hoseok, never acknowledged his presence.

The thing – because it certainly wasn’t Jimin – sighed and rolled his neck, listening to it pop with satisfaction. “You know, it’s really fuckin’ annoying to be dragged out like this. I mean, if you were to ask me if I wanted to be free, sure, yeah, I’m not gonna fuckin’ pass up that opportunity, but is it to hang out? To party? Maybe go to the beach and enjoy a nice fucking holiday? No!” The bonds around the men pinned to the wall tightened with the last word; their eyes rolled in fear, drool and tears mixing as it dripped from their chins.

“No, of course not.” The thing turned back to the man on the far left and began gently walking his black fingers up his pot belly to his chest. “No, I get pulled out to defend poor, sweet little ChimChim, the most fuckin’ accident prone and sexual predator magnet known to mankind!”

The thug whimpered and cried, begging through the gag in his mouth. He couldn’t understand a word of what the thing was saying.

“In all my lives, never has a host been more obnoxious.” The thing hummed quietly, regarding the men pinned to the wall like it was a work of art, his head tilted to one side, a pure black thumb and forefinger delicately holding his chin.

“Hmmm, what was that?” Suddenly he was speaking Korean, finally addressing the men directly. “Didn’t quite catch that.” The black substance twisted and pulled out of one man’s mouth, leaving him babbling and crying. Most likely he was trying to beg to be set free, but the words wouldn’t come out. “Ah, must have been nothing, then,” the thing sighed, and the man was once again gagged.

Hoseok watched as the thing stepped towards the second man and released his gag. “And you?” The thing spoke to him in Korean as well. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I-I-I’m sor-sorry, I’m so sorry,” the thug blubbered and let out a pained howl as the black restraints tightened around him. “I didn’t – Oh God, please stop!”

The thing began hushing the man, cooing words too quietly for Hoseok to hear, and the man quickly quieted down – only gasps and hiccups remained of his crying.

“See? That wasn’t so hard, now was it?” The Jimin-thing ran a hand along the man’s jawline and giggled when he flinched away, a cruel giggle that made Hoseok’s stomach turn inside out. “Now, what sort of punishment do you think a man deserves when he threatens to take someone else’s innocence away? Hmm?” It looked between the three, pitch black hands resting on thin hips.

“No, please, I didn’t – we didn’t – we just needed some money for food, you see?” The man began bawling again. He was pitiful, broken under the gaze of the thing.

“Oh, money, right, I see.” A long tendril rose from the ground, tightly grasped around the handle of a knife that had been lying on the ground. The thing held out his hand, letting the knife drop gracefully into it. “And this? You normally bring along blades to ask for money for food?” He pressed the tip forward, trailing it along the sobbing man’s sternum.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, “I’m so sorry, sorr-“ His voice was muted as the black things – appendages of some sort – slid back into his mouth.

“Now, now, there’s no need to lie.” The knife slid upwards until it rested beneath the thug’s sopping chin. “You wanted to fuck me, didn’t you? Hmm?” That cruel, evil laugh rang through the night again. “I mean, I don’t blame you, this body is quite fuckable, but it’s not really up to you to decide who gets to fuck it, right? No, that power lies with me.” He pulled the knife back and twirled it in its hands like it was a baton. “But if you were that desperate to get some, I’m sure I could give you a little taste.”

The thick black tendrils that drifted out from beneath the thing’s feet were as smooth as shadows, stretching forward across the ground and up the bare legs of the man. The slipped up into his shorts, crawling up his thighs. Even covered by clothing, it was clear that they had grabbed a hold of the thug’s genitals, gently stroking it.

Hoseok grimaced, but couldn’t bring himself to look away. The scene before him was so beyond anything he ever could have imagined he was having difficulty processing it even as it unfolded. He felt sick to his stomach, the pain from earlier punches now just dull and throbbing.

“Does that feel nice?” The thing cooed to the man he was violating; his black hands flexed and twisted slightly, like it was enjoying the discomfort he was causing the others who watched. “But pleasing you like this – it kind of feels like a reward, doesn’t it? Yeah? I wouldn’t want to send you mixed signals. Rape is bad. The fact that you need a demon to explain that to you is depressing – to say the least.”

A demon. Jimin was a demon? Hoseok shook his head, the words replaying in his mind a few times. No, no, that can’t be right. Jimin was – he was adorable and sweet and kind and terrified of everything. Jimin couldn’t be a demon.

The man pinned to the wall groaned through his gag, his body fidgeting oddly like he was trying to feel more of what the demon was giving him. His hips thrust slightly from the wall, his erection clear in his jeans, the tendrils moving against it beneath the fabric.

And then there was blood, a splash of blood that soaked the man’s shorts and spilled to the ground between his legs. The man jerked and a nightmarish scream sounded out that was clear even through the gag.

Hoseok’s knees went weak, watching the black appendages slide out from his shorts, dripping with blood; they were stiff, flat, sharp. His stomach turned again, bile rising in his throat, and he closed his eyes and silently begged for the muffled screams to be heard, for someone to come and stop whatever madness had descended upon him.

Hoseok tried to raise his hands, cover his ears, but they were locked in place by the snake-like appendages. He could feel their pressure, but there was absolutely no texture, nothing. He didn’t want to open his eyes, he didn’t want to see the black things twisting around him, keeping him still. There was nothing that could stop the sick sound of gushing, a liquid thicker than water spilling onto the ground.

“Well I think that will take care of that little problem.”

Against his better judgement, Hoseok opened his eyes again to look up at the thing, this demon. His back had been facing him throughout the debacle, but he turned just enough that Hoseok could see a glint of amusement and excitement sparkling in those red eyes.

The restraints around the mutilated man slipped away, and he crumpled to the ground in a blubbering mess, his body twitching.

“If you don’t behave with your toys,” the demon stated, stepping back to the man on the left, “then you leave me with no choice but to take them away.”

Hoseok squeezed his eyes shut again, unable to continue watching. More sounds filled his ears, gross, wet, bilious noises that the young man wished he would never hear again. Muffled screaming, gargling, gasping, choking breaths. Flesh and blood. A sharp crack. The sounds cut off quite abruptly, followed by the sickening smack of another body hitting the cement.

“Hmmm, I think I went a little overboard with that one,” the demon mused out loud, and a second object fell to the ground with a wet thud. “Guess heads are a little more vital to humans than their dicks. Which is quite interesting if you consider how often they favor one over the other.”

The smell of blood was finally overpowered by bile. Hoseok couldn’t stop himself from vomiting, his entire body protesting everything that was happening. Even with his eyes closed, he could see the head dropping to the ground, bouncing away from the demon’s feet. He gasped for breath as the last of his stomach contents emptied on the ground. The restraints around him were the only things keeping him standing at this point – though “standing” was a laughable description for his weak-kneed stance that left his toes barely touching the ground. His body shook uncontrollably, dry heaving between the few breaths he managed to choke out.

“Which leaves you,” the demon spoke quietly to the final man that he had yet to address. “I don’t have a lot of time left, so I’ll make this quick.”

Hoseok cringed and whimpered, waiting for the sounds of whatever it was the demon was planning. Instead, he only heard words, neither Korean nor English, a language that rolled off the demon’s tongue like pure honey, easing Hoseok’s fears and calming his stomach. He gasped for air as though his lungs finally realized that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. When he opened his eyes again, he found the last man on his knees before the demon, who spoke to him in that strange tongue.

The man stood.

Turned.

Walked away.

Hoseok watched, his body recovering from the shock it had just gone through. Just as he had suspected, the second man’s head lay on the ground just a few feet in front of him, blood and bits of muscle spilling out from the severed neck.

Somehow Hoseok didn’t immediately vomit. He suspected it had something to do with the strange calming weight that had pressed down on him from the demon’s words.

The other wretched soul was no longer twitching or whimpering – most likely bled to death. Hoseok had never seen so much blood in his life; it pooled on the ground and ran down streaks on the brick wall, gathering and following the mortar joints. The exact place where the second man had been hanging was clearly outlined with the splatters of blood that had come from his severed head.

“So.”

Hoseok flinched, turning his head just enough to finally make eye contact with the demon. Red eyes pierced into his soul, and he felt his heart racing under that gaze. Looking directly at him made it difficult to separate the fact that this was Jimin, his Jimin, the Jimin he’d been eating food with just a short while ago. How long ago was it? It felt like days at this point.

The demon stepped in front of Hoseok, the black appendages forcing him into a straighter kneeling position.

So,” he repeated with a pointed tone as though he was waiting for a response from his captive.

“Are – ” Sharp, panicked breaths broke through his words, and he struggled to piece together any coherent thought. “Please.” The calming effect was quickly losing its potency as Hoseok stared at the bodies on the ground behind the demon. “P-please don’t kill me.”

“Kill you?” The demon laughed. It wasn’t quite the same cold and emotionless laugh from earlier, but it didn’t give Hoseok any comfort. “I won’t kill you! You’re the one he likes.”

Hoseok shook his head, closing his eyes again. “Please, stop – “ He flinched as a hand gripped his jaw, forcing his head back. Earlier Hoseok had noted that being mugged was the moment when he felt the greatest amount of fear in his life. In the future, he would look back and laugh at how gentle – how domestic – that sensation had been compared to this.

“I can feel it.” The demon’s voice was quiet, low, and for the first time he sounded almost exactly like Jimin. “I can feel his heart racing when he’s near you. I can feel his pain, his pleasure, when he thinks about you. And you like him, don’t you?”

Hoseok whimpered as his jaw was released. His chin fell forward against his chest, only for a little black tendril to hold him up by gently cradling his head.

“Don’t be fooled. You don’t love Jimin. You love me.” Smoky black wisps caressed Hoseok’s face, stroking the sweaty skin in a manner that may have been considered calming in any other context. “You love my power, you love the feeling I give you whenever you’re around him. Isn’t that right? You’ve always felt something? Stupid little ChimChim can never hold it in. None of them can hold me in. Not really. Look at me.

It was compelling, in a weird way. Hoseok didn’t even realize that the words weren’t Korean, or English. His eyes snapped open, transfixed on the demon’s face. Up close he could see the veiny black tendrils shifting slowly on the surface of his skin. They twisted and curled, pulling up and withering away only to be immediately replaced by new cirri.

There was no denying it, now that the demon was so close – this was Jimin. Despite the hard gaze and set jaw, he was still Jimin. He still had his soft nose and his round lips. His hooded eyes still had the same distinct shape, even though the irises were so red they seemed to glow.

And – Hoseok realized with a jolt of disgust – he still gave Hoseok an overwhelming urge to be close to him. It was difficult to describe the sensation. Beneath the fear, beneath the shock, beneath it all, there lingered his love – his obsession – for Jimin. Hoseok felt a craving inside him gnawing away at his sanity.

The demon smiled and pulled Hoseok closer with those black tendrils. “Well, I can certainly see why he likes you. You are very attractive.”

Hoseok closed his eyes as the demon leaned in. The kiss was gentle, but nothing like the kiss he and Jimin had shared before – before everything. The kiss with Jimin had been passionate and firey – the kiss with the demon made Hoseok feel hungry, empty.

The demon pulled back, pulling Hoseok upright. He held Hoseok’s shoulders with his hands. The tentacle-like things pulled back, disappearing somewhere within the demon’s shadow. “You okay, honey?”

Hoseok stared with a gaunt expression, unable to respond.

The demon smiled. “Try not to get sick again, honey, it’s not good to leave evidence behind like that.” He held a single black digit in front of Hoseok’s nose, ensuring he had his full attention despite the hitches in his breathing. “You don’t want anyone to know about this, do you?”

Hoseok let out a humorless laugh. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“That’s the ticket!” The demon winked playfully and tapped Hoseok on his nose. “Now, if you don’t mind me, I’m just going to head back to little ChimChim’s place so he doesn’t get into any more trouble. Think you can get home on your own?”

Hoseok didn’t reply, his gaze traveling along the massive puddle of blood pooling on the sidewalk and the bodies soaking in it. If he hadn’t just seen them being ripped apart, he never would have guessed that the scene before him was real. His stomach turned again, and he looked away, finding himself alone.

“Fuck,” the young man choked out, stumbling away from the scene. “God fucking damn it.”

 

 

Chapter Text

A few sharp taps rang through the air like the clashing of symbols in a marching band, if that marching band was placed within Hoseok’s room. They pounded through Hoseok’s head, eating away at his sanity. It’s not like he’d been sleeping anyway; how could he sleep? The tapping continued, but he couldn’t bring himself to lift his head from his pillow to find the source of it. In his mind, all he could see were black things tapping around him, scrabbling along the hardwood floors, reaching up for him –

Hoseok was lying on his side facing the window. He didn’t know what time it was. He’d been watching the curtain slowly light up as the sun hit it, but he couldn’t use that to reliably guess the time. They were dark curtains and blocked the majority of the sun’s beating rays, but he figured that it was well past dawn. His boss had called earlier, but he couldn’t entertain the possibility of going in to work.

A few more taps and the door to his bedroom opened behind Hoseok, and he found his chest clenching in fear. Jimin had found him, he was sure of it. Hoseok hadn’t told anyone what had happened the night before, but he found him; he followed him and now he was going to kill him, and there was nothing he could do but pray that it was over quickly.

“Yah.”

Hoseok flinched, his eyes squeezing shut, and pulled his blankets around him tighter. He didn’t stop to think that he’d recognized the low gravelly voice that addressed him. The bed shifted with the weight of someone sitting next to him.

“Seok.” The voice was a bit quieter now.

Hoseok peeked through a single eyelid to see his good friend and least disruptive roommate Yoongi looking down at him with the same slumberous expression he always had on. No demon. No Jimin. Hoseok’s body lost a bit of its tension, and he released the death grip he had on the blankets.

“Tae said you weren’t feeling well.” Yoongi’s black hair fell into his eyes and he brushed it back with an annoyed look. He motioned to the nightstand. “Soup.”

The younger glanced over at the bowl of steaming liquid and groaned, hand covering his eyes. ‘Not feeling well’ was a bit of an understatement. His trek home the night before had been a complete blur. His feet were sore and blistered from the distance; he’d been too dazed to consider taking the bus home. His mind had replayed the gruesome scene over and over, and he kept telling himself it was nothing but a nightmare, it wasn’t real, it didn’t happen.

Then he stepped through the door and Taehyung had bounded up to him, exploding with excitement over his date with Jimin.

The name itself had been enough to set Hoseok off. He couldn’t think of a time in which he’d puked as much as he had last night. Even frenzied parties immediately following his college graduation the year before couldn’t compare. He’d spent most of the night in the bathroom, ignoring Taehyung’s distressed fussing through the closed door. 

Yoongi made a move to stand, but Hoseok grabbed his elbow tightly, pulling him towards him.

“Don’t go,” he whimpered meekly. “Please.”

The black-haired man shifted uncomfortably. “You’re not gonna get me sick, are you?” he grumbled in a mild objection but settled on the bed with his legs crossed.

They sat in silence for a while. Hoseok squeezed his eyes shut again, trying desperately to ignore the panic that was trying to take over his body. Jimin had done something to Hoseok. He distinctly remembered being punched, hit so hard in the jaw that he’d spat out blood. A glance in the mirror had shown Hoseok a clean face – exhausted, but clear of what should have been a massive bruise lining his jaw.

Jimin plagued his mind in more ways than one. The fear, the panic, the lust – the internal struggle between those emotions was enough to make Hoseok sick if the memory of a decapitated head didn’t do it.

“Hoseok?” Taehyung’s deep voice sounded from the doorway. He quietly tiptoed into the room and sat beside Yoongi. Hoseok felt like he was withering away under their caring gazes.

Hoseok took a deep breath, closing his eyes against the embarrassment that he felt. He shouldn’t be making his friends worry. There was nothing they could do. He couldn’t tell them what happened. They wouldn’t believe him. Who would? Hoseok was still having difficulties wrapping his head around it.

“Ah, you guys are all in here?” Their youngest roommate’s voice was loud as he lumbered in. Hoseok could hear Taehyung hushing him and mumbling something about how Hoseok was sick.

Not sick, he thought, just fucked.

“Oh, sorry,” Jeongguk whispered loudly. “I was just wondering if you guys saw the news.”

Hoseok felt a chill settle in his stomach like he’d swallowed an ice cube. At the insistent tapping of the youngest on his leg, Hoseok lifted himself just enough to look at the phone he was brandishing. Sure enough, a bright red headline announced the discovery of the brutal murders from the night before. Hoseok whimpered and slapped his hand over his mouth.

“Are you okay?” Taehyung reached out for him, but Hoseok was already scrambling off the bed and out to the bathroom. He ignored their startled voices and slammed the door behind him. He wanted to puke – needed to – but it wouldn’t come. His stomach clenched and heaved a few times, leaving him gasping for air. He could hear his friends talking on the other side of the door, and he prayed that they assumed he just had a weak stomach.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Tears slipped down Hoseok’s cheeks as reality fully sank in. It wasn’t just a dream. He’d known it wasn’t a dream before no matter how much he’d told himself it was, but now it had been confirmed. The bodies had been found.

Jimin’s words replayed in his head: “It’s not good to leave evidence behind like that.” Hoseok had vomited on the street. Could they get DNA from puke? He trembled, curling up on the floor next to the toilet. He couldn’t breathe – his chest was tight, forcing him to gasp for every bit of oxygen.

“Hoseok?” Taehyung’s concerned voice came through the door. “Jeongguk and I have to go to school now. Yoongi says he’s going to be up on the roof if you need anything. I’m leaving your phone right out here if you need to get him.”

Hoseok grunted in reply, listening to feet shuffling down the hall. The linoleum beneath him was cold and hard, but he didn’t want to move. His mind was a mess of emotions – why couldn’t he think straight?

Tomorrow Taehyung would be on a date with him. Jimin. His Jimin.

Hoseok clenched his fingers in a tight fist. No, not ‘his Jimin.’ Jimin had never been ‘his Jimin’ and never would be. Why had that been his first thought and not fear for his friend’s life? Hoseok took a shuddering breath. Taehyung was going on a date with a demon.

How clever for the demon to hide its true self behind such a sweet and thewless façade. It radiated from him, catching unsuspecting strangers in his net of curious attraction. Jimin was the perfect disguise. The demon drew him in – Hoseok, who’d never been attracted to men – and seduced him like a coldhearted incubus. Everything from the glances that left Hoseok breathless and the giggles that made his heart race – they were all just instruments, the trap, that led to Jimin’s true intentions.

Yet Hoseok still longed for Jimin’s company.

He had longed for it every day for weeks, even though he knew he would only see Jimin once or twice a week. Knowing what he knows now didn’t quell that longing – it simply added in the sharp flavor of disgust and shame that made him feel sick to his stomach.

Hoseok groaned and rolled onto his back on the cold bathroom floor. He stared up at the bright yellow light that beamed down on him. Spots formed as he fixed his gaze on the light, and he hoped that he would go blind. Maybe not being able to see Jimin would help him break whatever spell had been cast upon him. ‘Spell’ seemed too mellow of a term. ‘Curse’ was more like it. Jimin had cursed Hoseok.

Closing his eyes against the light, Hoseok took a deep breath and resigned himself to the fact that his life as he’d known it was over.

 

 

Taehyung gripped his phone tightly, unable to hide his silly grin. He was staring at the calendar notification that had just popped up: Date night with Jimin. It had been over a day since he’d received the first few texts from the cute boy, and he had barely been able to set his phone down. The two had spent a little time talking about each other – just enough to hopefully give them something to talk about once they started hanging out.

Chatting with Jimin felt surreal. He’d never spoken to the man before until he got that text from him the other night. Once he and Jimin had settled on when and where they were going to be hanging out, Taehyung was caught up on his daydreams that he’d had all those months ago.

Those daydreams had been expansive: Hoseok introduces them. The English-speaking man would be embarrassed, but flattered and agree to go on a date. Taehyung would take him to the Han River and sit in a warm food tents eating hot foods and warm drinks. Even though the man couldn’t understand him, he would smile and nod as Tae talked, falling in love with just the sound of his voice, his laughter. Then, he would take his time talking, probably telling Tae all about himself, his whole life history, but also slipping in deep confessions of how he’d been going to the café to watch him, knowing that Taehyung couldn’t understand his English. They’d walk along Han River, simply enjoying each other’s company before sharing a sweet kiss in the moonlight. Eventually the man would be fluent in Korean and Taehyung in English, leading to a multitude of job opportunities and he would be paid more won than he would know what to do with and take the love of his life on a million vacations. Of course, they would get married, probably adopt two kids. Maybe be famous. Set an example for homosexuals throughout Korea. Lead a cultural movement.

The basic sort of daydreams.

Just from their conversations, he knew that Jimin was an extremely timid person and that he feared new people. They’d settled on a date in a park that was large and open so they wouldn’t be bothered by others. It wasn’t quite like his original fantasy, but he was not disappointed by that.

So here he was, staring down at the little notification that confirmed that he would meet Jimin for the first time in six hours. He grinned happily, tapping out a text to confirm that they were still on for that afternoon.

A shuffling from the hallway brought Tae’s attention away from his cereal bowl and phone. Hoseok was coming out of his room, finally. He looked like shit, Tae noted, with dark circles under his eyes, pale skin, and a thin sheen of sweat covering him. It was the first time Tae had seen him since he’d disappeared into the bathroom the morning prior.

“Oh, are you feeling better?” Normally Taehyung would offer hugs or to make something to eat, but he was nervous about catching whatever bug Hoseok had come down with and didn’t want anything jeopardizing his date with Jimin-Dreamboat. It sucked, though, because he’d really wanted to talk to Hoseok about how he managed to get Jimin to text him. Taehyung had given up on the idea of ever seeing the blond again and getting his text out of the blue had sent him into such a frenzied state that he thought Yoongi would strangle him for disrupting their quiet reading time.

Hoseok grunted and poured himself a glass of water, taking the seat on the other end of the kitchen bar.

Tae turned slightly on his stool, but before he could say something, his phone chimed. Jimin’s name flashed on the screen. Butterflies burst into motion in Taehyung’s stomach, and he squealed, snatching up the phone. Their date was still on. Success!

When he looked back up at Hoseok, the older man was looking at him with a death-glare, eyes suddenly alight with some sort of emotion that Taehyung couldn’t identify, eyebrows furrowed. Startled, Taehyung stammered, “A-are you alright?”

“Is that Jimin?” Hoseok’s voice was raspy, like he’d been screaming.

“Um, yes?” Taehyung gripped his phone tightly, not sure what to think about the angry tone in his hyung’s question. “Is that okay?”

Hoseok hesitated, and it was impossible for Taehyung to discern what was going on in his mind. “Yeah,” he said slowly, “that’s okay.”

Taehyung tilted his head in confusion. Why did Hoseok sound unsure? Why wouldn’t it be okay for Taehyung to talk to Jimin? The younger man turned his attention back to his phone and tried to ignore Hoseok’s stare as he typed out a response to Jimin.

The kitchen was quite enough that Taehyung could hear the music from the gym beneath their apartment. When he glanced over at Hoseok again, the sickly man was hunched over his glass of water, gazing mindlessly in front of him. “Hoseok?”

Hoseok’s bloodshot eyes snapped over to him, making Taehyung flinch. “What?”

Taehyung felt uneasy in Hoseok’s presence. There was something off about him that put Taehyung on edge. He’d seen Hoseok sick before, but never like this. “Are you okay?”

Hoseok opened his mouth and then shook his head. “Sorry – just sick still.”

“Do you need to go to the hospital?” Taehyung was concerned that his friend’s behavior was indicative of some deeper issue. He knew that Hoseok had a fever the day before. Maybe it had been worse than they thought?

The older man smiled and shook his head. “So – Jimin?”

Taehyung didn’t quite trust the sudden change of subject. He made a mental note to have Yoongi continue watching over their friend. He nodded his head, clutching his phone to his chest. “Seriously, thank you so much. We’re going to a park today.”

Hoseok nodded slowly. “Okay. Just remember he’s – he’s very shy.”

“I know that,” Taehyung said, waving his phone towards Hoseok. “We’ve been talking about it.”

“No, I mean – “ Hoseok grimaced and shook his head. “Nevermind.”

Taehyung tilted his head to the side. Everything about their exchange left him confused. Why was Hoseok acting so weird? He took a deep breath and stared at Hoseok from down the bar. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to say. Where did he start? Obviously Hoseok either wasn’t aware of or was being willfully ignorant of his strange behavior.

Instead of qustioning, Taehyung went back to his cereal, mulling over his friend’s actions. Maybe it really was just because of his illness. Maybe he should force him to go to the hospital just in case.

“Taehyung.”

Taehyung glanced over at Hoseok out of the corner of his eye but didn’t turn his full attention to him.

“I don’t think you should go on a date with Jimin.”

The words hit Taehyung like a hammer right between his eyes. He’d never felt such mental whiplash before in his life. Hoseok, one of his best friends, a man he’d looked up to since he’d been in his first year of high school, was suddenly trying to discourage him from dating the man he’d been pining over for months?

 “But,” Taehyung said, his voice cracking, “weren’t you the one that gave me his number?”

Hoseok nodded and Taehyung could see a motley of emotions passing over his pale face. “I just,” he hesitated and hung his head, his expression finally settling on shame. “I don’t think he’s right for you.”

Taehyung opened and closed his mouth a few times, unable to speak. If he’d been confused earlier, he wasn’t sure what sort of strange reality he’d fallen into since then. “Why not?”

Hoseok kept his eyes to the counter in front of him, never looking at Taehyung. “I just don’t.” He took a long quaff of his water and sighed as he placed it down. “I mean, I hung out with him a little bit over the past week or so and I – I got a weird vibe from him.”

A jolt of shock hit the younger man so strongly that it almost made Taehyung flinch. He stared at Hoseok, wide-eyed, barely processing what he’d just said.

Over the past week?

Jimin had said they’d been hanging out semi-regularly for months.

A queasiness filled Taehyung’s stomach. Hoseok had never lied to him before. At least, not that Taehyung was aware of. It hadn’t been something Taehyung felt he’d needed to be concerned about. He was so blindsided by the comment that he had to snatch up his phone and scroll through the texts he and Jimin had exchanged the day before.

From: Jimin
Hoseok and I hung out a lot for a few months
Not like all the time
But at least once a week

From: Taehyung
Oh…
that long?

From: Jimin
Sorry, it sounds weird…
He just really wanted to give me your number
He wouldn’t stop talking about you
I was really nervous
But he kept trying

Although Taehyung’s initial reaction had been confusion, it had been quickly replaced with gratitude. He was lucky to have a friend like Hoseok who would go out of his way for that length of time just to fulfil his blissful fantasies.

But now –

He reread the texts again, noting Jimin’s hesitation and his reassurance that nothing had happened and that they were just friends. Maybe Hoseok felt the same way. He didn’t want Taehyung to be jealous. Taehyung tried to parse out his emotions. Was he jealous? He didn’t think so. Hoseok had helped him out – was willing to work for months to help him out.

Feeling more comfortable with Hoseok’s little white lie, Taehyung turned his attention back to the main issue. “Why would you give him my number if you didn’t think I should date him?”

Hoseok chewed on the inside of his cheek, delaying his response. “I wanted to give him your number because it was what you wanted, but I had my reservations.”

Taehyung sighed and put his elbows on the counter, head in his hands. “Hoseok, I’m really – you know how weird this is, right?”

“I know.”

Taehyung had never had a reason to distrust Hoseok. There had been plenty of times in the past that Hoseok had been there for him, always willing to take the fall for things Tae did wrong, or help lead him in the right direction when life was looking down. When his and Jeongguk’s relationship didn’t seem to be working out, Hoseok had been the first to tell him and help walk them through it. It had upset Taehyung, but he realized later that Hoseok was always looking out for what’s best. A part of him wanted to believe Hoseok, wanted to follow his advice – but the other part of him couldn’t let go of what could be: him and Jimin.

“I’m sorry, Hoseok.” Tae shook his head, trying to ignore the distraught look that crossed Hoseok’s pale face. “I really want to go on this date. At least – just tonight. I need to find out for myself. Okay? Let me make my own mistakes.” He left before his friend could add anything to his defense.

 

 

The morning’s conversation with Hoseok left a bad taste in Taehyung’s mouth. He was frustrated. He shouldn’t be worrying, he should be excited. He should be fantasizing about how his and Jimin’s date would go, how they, too, would be able to spend months slowly working towards a friendship like Jimin and Hoseok had – maybe even a relationship. Just that thought made Taehyung’s heart flutter, and for a moment he was distracted from the lingering sense of discomfort.

Taehyung had the late morning, early afternoon shift in the gym. He sat behind the counter and greeted patrons as they came, said goodbye as they left, but slacked on his other duties like wiping down the equipment in his spare time, or clearing out the locker room of used towels. He’d get an earful of it from Jeongguk later for sure, but it was difficult to muster up any sort of motivation.

As though knowing that Taehyung was thinking about him, Jeongguk came through the double glass doors at the front of the gym. Despite being barely more than a silhouette against the bright sunlight from beyond the glass windows, his familiar muscular frame was unmistakable to Taehyung.

With a sigh, Taehyung sat upright, resting his elbows on the counter as his best friend came up to him. “Hey there, sunshine, what can I do for you? Drop in? Membership? Blow job?”

Jeongguk rolled his eyes with a smile and shook his head. “I just wanted to check to make sure you weren’t bothering our customers with your explosive excitement about your date tonight.”

Taehyung felt a twinge of discomfort and he shrugged his shoulders. “I mean, yeah, I’m looking forward to it,” he mumbled, looking down at his fidgeting fingers.

“Um, excuse me?” Jeongguk leaned forward, placing his face close enough to Taehyung’s so he couldn’t avoid his gaze. “What the hell happened to my Taehyung that had been bouncing around on the couches the other night? Or my Taehyung who would not stop talking about Jimin all day yesterday? Where did my Taehyung go?”

The elder sighed and shook his head. “Hoseok was really weird this morning.”

“He was pretty sick. I’d be more concerned if he wasn’t weird for a while.”

Taehyung let that sink in a few seconds, his eyebrows raising in contemplation. “That is true, but,” he hesitated and looked up at his friend, “he told me that he didn’t think I should date Jimin?” The confusion that passed over Jeongguk’s face validated Taehyung’s concerns.

“Why would he say that?”

“I don’t know,” Taehyung said, flabbergasted. “He said he didn’t think that Jimin is right for me.”

“He might know something you don’t. You said they hung out for a few months, right?”

Taehyung hummed in affirmation, reminded of Hoseok’s lie to him. He considered telling Jeongguk about it, but Jeongguk wasn’t the most trusting person. He would definitely look for the worst possible explanation. But Taehyung knew Hoseok – Hoseok wouldn’t lie to Taehyung unless he felt like it was best for Tae.

The sounds of the gym felt like white noise in the lull of their conversation. The loud music, the clanging of equipment or the grunts of men and women as they worked with free weights nearby – it was nothing but a dull drone in Taehyung’s ears. He sighed and stretched his back, groaning in satisfaction as his spine popped a few times.

Jeongguk slapped the countertop with a smile. “Chin up. You need to tell me all about your date when you get back, okay? Don’t mess it up.”

Taehyung laughed softly as the youngest nudged his chin with his fist. He batted the hand away. “I won’t, don’t worry.”

 

 

Unlike his encounter with Hoseok, Taehyung’s conversation with Jeongguk helped him relax and start getting excited again for his date with Jimin.

The trip to the park had set Taehyung’s nerves on fire. He was excited and nervous and was most likely going to faint as soon as Jimin said hello. The bus bouncing along had made his stomach turn with unease. He hadn’t seen Jimin since he’d run from Hoseok in the café last winter. Even so, the man’s image felt branded on Taehyung’s memory – his soft blonde hair, heart shaped lips, overall lovely appearance. Taehyung drew his palms up to his cheeks, blushing.

The bus didn’t take him directly to the park, but the walk from the stop helped calm his nerves. The days were getting warmer and he was only wearing a light jacked over his short-sleeved shirt. The rips in his jeans felt comfortable rather than making his kneecaps cold. Taehyung raised his face to the sky, feeling blessed by the pleasant weather. It was clearly a sign that things would go well with Jimin.

Fresh green grass gave the air a sharp, sweet scent that Taehyung loved. It was one of his favorite smells. What was Jimin’s favorite smell? He skipped a few steps just thinking about how much he wanted to know about Jimin. The spring in his step didn’t falter as he passed children playing and parents sitting on blankets or park benches. Considering how nervous Jimin seemed to be, he hoped that the park wasn’t too crowded for him. Their designated meet-up point was closer to the edge so Jimin could easily leave if he needed to. Taehyung didn’t mind complying with Jimin’s requests. At least he would get a chance to spend time with him.

He wondered if Jimin would accept him. What if Taehyung wasn’t good enough to merit a second date? Though Taehyung liked to think of himself as a reasonably likeable person, there was no point in fooling himself that everyone wanted to be with him. Besides, he’d seen Jimin turn down half a dozen people in those weeks he’d seen him at the coffee shop. Having Jimin’s favor enough for a single date was precious enough as it was.

As Taehyung approached the area he’d agreed to meet Jimin at, he couldn’t spot where the blond was. His head swiveled around, wondering if he’d walked past him. He checked his watch – maybe he was early. There was a man sitting on the bench nearby, so Taehyung casually stood with his hands in his pockets, enjoying the spring sun. He tried not to think about the possibility that Jimin was going to stand him up. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise considering the fact that it had taken months for Jimin to even accept his number.

Taehyung’s phone buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out. Jimin’s name was on the screen. Taehyung felt his heart sinking. At least Jimin would tell him he wasn’t coming – he wouldn’t be officially stood up. He opened the text, but the words he read were not at all what he was expecting.

From: Jimin
Are you wearing a dark red jacket?

Taehyung’s head shot up and he looked around. The man that was sitting on the bench not far from him tentatively raised a hand. Goosebumps exploded across Taehyung’s skin. There he was. Jimin. He had black hair, but now that he was looking at him – even from a short distance away – his face was unmistakable. With a grin, Taehyung shoved his phone back into his pocket and jogged over.

Jimin stood as Taehyung approached. He kept his eyes lowered as they bowed, and Taehyung thought he was just the cutest thing he’d ever seen. Just like the many times Taehyung had seen him in the café, there was something about Jimin that seemed to call out to Taehyung – an alluring aura that made Taehyung’s heart race just by looking at him.

“Hey,” Taehyung greeted with a smile. He didn’t move too close, not wanting to scare Jimin away.

Jimin nodded and opened his mouth, but no words came out. He blushed and snapped his jaw shut again.

“It’s okay,” Taehyung assured him. “You don’t have to talk.” He awkwardly motioned for Jimin to sit back down on the bench. Jimin did so with an adorably concerned look. “Can I sit, too?” Taehyung asked.

A glint of amusement sparked in Jimin’s eye, just for a split second, and it made Taehyung’s heart knock almost violently within his chest. The black-haired man nodded, scooting away so there would be room in between them.

Taehyung sat, unable to keep his eyes off Jimin. The man’s pull was almost too much. Words were completely lost to him as he simply sat in his presence. He could practically feel Jimin’s discomfort. He was fidgeting, holding a sleeved hand against his lips. Taehyung swallowed thickly before finally managing to talk again. “How are you?”

Jimin shrugged. He hadn’t been lying when he’d said he was shy. Even with the warning, Taehyung was nervous that Jimin wasn’t interested. “Ah, that’s good, I think. I’m doing pretty good. Just worked the morning shift in the gym.” He spoke without any prompting, feeling the need to fill the silence. “I have school tomorrow again. It’s getting close to the end of the term, so I’ve been doing a lot of studying. I’m supposed to graduate next year as long as I don’t mess anything up.”

He continued to talk, slowly losing tension as he realized Jimin wasn’t going to leave. At least, he didn’t look like he was going to leave. He also didn’t look bored. He kept his eyes down, but sat alert, nodding and making small noises of interest as Taehyung spoke. Taehyung reminded himself that this was the same man that he’d been chatting with over texts.

“Then Hoseok was like, wait, I thought you were supposed to be in the play,” Taehyung laughed, remembering the story as clearly as though it had happened the week before. To his surprise, Jimin also laughed, a soft, breathy noise muted by his hand, but it was unmistakably a laugh. The noise was perfect – Taehyung had never heard something so beautiful in his life.

“You’re funny,” Jimin mumbled, and Taehyung immediately retracted his previous observation. Jimin’s voice was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. It was almost deep – not like Taehyung’s own voice, but it kept a masculine timbre despite its soft breathiness. The fact that it was accompanied by Jimin’s first words – a compliment, at that! – was enough to send Taehyung into a blushing mess.

He stammered, unable to finish his story. “So you do speak Korean,” Taehyung finally said, trying to put on the confident air he had just moments before. “I was beginning to suspect you were just pulling my leg and had someone else texting for you.

The joke seemed to delight Jimin further, for he laughed just a little harder, twisting in his seat as though embarrassed to be making any noise. Taehyung was sure that Jimin couldn’t be human with how perfect he was.

Then Jimin raised his gaze and their eyes locked. The whole world seemed to freeze. No one was moving, no one was breathing. The birds froze in midflight. Taehyung felt his heart stop. Jimin’s dark eyes were soft, hidden slightly beneath his heavy hooded lids, and the subtle pouch of skin beneath them were raised in his expression of happiness.

Jimin blinked and time started again, a rush of sound and smell pressing in on Taehyung as the spell was broken. The look had only lasted a split second, yet Taehyung felt something boiling within him. The emotion confused him. Yes, Jimin was adorable and perfect and attractive and Taehyung had been pining after him since day one but – this emotion was strong, carnal. He wanted Jimin.

Taehyung swallowed and looked to the ground. A silence hung between them, a silence that Taehyung was having difficulty breaking. He’d been talking just fine a moment ago, but things felt different now. What had happened? What had changed? He wondered how Hoseok had managed to get to Jimin, but then, it didn’t take a stretch of the imagination to figure that Hoseok’s natural charm and charisma was undoubtedly a major factor. Taehyung wished he had the ability to make friends with literally everyone and anyone he met.

Taehyung scratched his cheek nervously. “Sorry.”

Jimin’s eyebrows came up in surprise, and he hummed softly, prompting Taehyung to continue.

“I’m not very good at this. Flirting.”

Jimin’s face turned red and he laughed again, covering his mouth.

“Don’t laugh at me. I’m being serious!” Taehyung pouted, his lips pinching into a tight circle. “Not everyone has this natural aura like you do. You don’t even have to try.”

Jimin shook his head. “I don’t really know how to flirt either.”

Taehyung’s heart raced upon hearing the man’s voice again. “You don’t need to. People just fall over you left and right.”

The black-haired man conceded that point with a shrug. “But when I like someone…” He trailed off, looking off to the side, and Taehyung wondered what was going through his head. Without warning, Jimin lifted his head and smiled at Taehyung, sending any other thoughts out on the wind.

“Do you want to get something to eat?” Taehyung motioned to the side of the park that had a few food tents lined up.

Jimin looked over, his eyebrows drawing together apprehensively.

“It’s okay, we don’t have to!” Taehyung held his hands up but drew them back quickly as Jimin flinched away from him.

“No, no! I’m sorry,” Jimin insisted, shaking his head. “Sorry, I just – I don’t...” He took a deep breath and stood up. “I’m sorry.” He bowed at Taehyung, who was frozen in his seat. Without another word, Jimin rushed off, his head still down.

Taehyung turned slightly to watch Jimin run away from him. He could feel his heart breaking. All his dreams – his fantasies – of what life would be like with Jimin were instantly shattered. He’d screwed up. The man slouched back on the bench, staring up at the offensively blue sky. Why did he ask if Jimin wanted to get food? He should have known not to do that. He groaned and ran his hand over his face.

Could the day have gone any worse? Well, maybe, if Taehyung was being honest. He could have scared Jimin so bad that he’d send him into a massive panic attack. Made him cry. That would be awful. Or Jimin could have never shown up in the first place. Taehyung’s stomach twisted at the thought that he would have never been able to see Jimin look directly at him. The memory stood out in his mind sharper than the reality that currently surrounded him. Everything had shrunk down into a singularity that was Jimin himself.

The sun had already started to dip behind the trees of the park before Taehyung forced himself up. He didn’t want to go home. He didn’t know what he wanted. He’d held his phone in his hand, simultaneously waiting for Jimin to text him and wondering if he should text Jimin. Neither had happened, so Taehyung decided it was time to go.

 

Chapter Text

"I just don't get it." Taehyung took a deep, shuddering breath, his feet pulled up on the couch, tucked beneath his thighs. "I mean, I get it, he's shy." He draped himself over the arm of the couch in the direction of the kitchen where Hoseok was cooking dinner.

Three weeks.

Three weeks since Taehyung had come home with a defeated look. He'd hardly spared Hoseok a second glance when he came in, and Hoseok could tell that Jimin had run from him. That was what Jimin did. Hoseok shouldn't have felt happy about it – not when his friend was so obviously hurting – but Hoseok knew Jimin's true nature. If Jimin ran from Taehyung, then that meant Taehyung would be free from the man's draw.

"I warned you."

Taehyung sighed. It was like he'd forgotten how to breathe other than those deep sighs. Even Jeongguk was getting tired of them. The youngest would tense, his hands flexing into fists as he fought back what was probably the urge to tell Tae to knock it off, before taking his own deep breath and letting it out quietly. Jeongguk wasn't around this time, though, and neither was Yoongi – it was just Taehyung and Hoseok.

The morose weight that had dragged Taehyung down after the café incident descended on him again, this time so heavy that the man could barely manage to get out of bed for work or school. It took a harsh reprimand from Yoongi to get Taehyung motivated. It made Hoseok ache to see his friend so hurt, but he knew it was for the best. Soon he'd feel better.

"How does someone get that shy?" Tae's arms dangled down, his fingers brushing against the floor. "Do you think something happened to him?"

Hoseok clenched his jaw.

Three weeks.

Three weeks since Taehyung went on his date with Jimin.

Three weeks since Hoseok saw Jimin tear two men to pieces.

Jimin wasn't shy. He knew the effect he had on people. He drew them in, then kept them at arm's length knowing that it would drive them crazy with want.

Hoseok shrugged. "Probably. Try not to worry about it too much."

"But I could be soft with him!" Taehyung pulled himself back up, his face flushed red from hanging upside down. "I wouldn't hurt him. I'd be nice and I'd be gentle. You know I'm a nice person!"

The elder smiled and shook his head. "Sometimes that doesn't matter to people like him. Just let it go."

Taehyung groaned and flopped back onto the length of the couch. "How can I let it go? There's no way for you to know. It was like – sparks – or something. I swear to God, there were sparks."

Hoseok did know. Hoseok knew quite well. He'd felt it himself – followed by the weeks of confused thoughts, dreams, urges. "I believe you."

"As soon as he looked at me, I just got this feeling, you know? Like holy shit – I've just found the love of my life. Soulmates."

Hoseok pressed his lips together, turning his back to his friend. He could still feel the curve of Jimin's body against his, the warmth of his mouth, the taste of his tongue. The memories haunted him like chains wrapped around his arms and legs. He imagined it would take years for those memories to fade, if they did at all. He hoped they would.

Sometimes Hoseok would get caught up in a fantasy of going back to Jimin's street. He didn't know which apartment was Jimin's, but in his fantasy he would storm right up to it, barge right in, take Jimin on his own bed, listen to that pretty voice sighing with breathy moans beneath Hoseok – and those were just the fantasies he had while he was awake.

When he slept, his dreams turned much darker.

Fucking Jimin – making him scream, cry, beg until his skin turned black and eyes turned red – then Hoseok was pinned, at the mercy of Jimin as the younger man used him for everything he wanted. Some nights it was sex. Other nights it was pain. Twice it had been death – once, a quick slice across his neck and the other, a sharp stab in his gut that left him bleeding until he awoke in a cold sweat.

"How did you do it?"

Hoseok jumped a bit, having almost forgotten that his friend was still in the room with him. He turned towards Taehyung. "Huh?"

"How'd you get Jimin to talk to you more than once?"

I'm lonely.

The words the shy man had mumbled to Hoseok that day he'd appeared unexpectedly came back to him with the force of a storm front. Jimin had looked like he was on the verge of tears. The words had torn him to pieces, rearranged him, and glued him back together until he was nothing like the Hoseok before that very moment.

Hoseok shrugged and looked back down at the thick chunk of ham he'd been carefully slicing earlier. "Honestly, I have no idea." He tried not to think about Jimin – about his black things that had shredded two men as though they were nothing – as Hoseok picked up the knife again and pressed the sharp edge down and across the meat. He tried not to think about Jimin as it pierced the skin with ease. He tried not to think about Jimin as the thin slice of meat slid off the flat plane of the knife, flopping over onto the cutting board.

He tried, but he failed.

Taehyung didn't say anything after that. Hoseok worked in silence, preparing the small tray of meat and cheese. There were many things that Hoseok wanted to say. He wanted to be able to cheer Tae up like he had when he'd broken up with his last boyfriend. He wanted to say the words, "Don't worry, you'll be fine" and mean it.

Nothing came to him. He didn't know what to say. Jimin had his hold on Hoseok just like he'd drawn Taehyung in. Hoseok was hopeless.

The living space remained quiet as Hoseok sat beside his friend, setting the tray down on the coffee table. Normally, they would be chatting, or watching a show. Things weren't normal anymore. Hoseok wondered if they ever would be. Maybe one day he'll be able to forget the gore, the screams. Maybe.

"Hey."

Hoseok looked up at his friend who was fidgeting, not looking him in the eye.

"I know you lied about how much time you spent with Jimin."

The older man felt his chest seize up, and it took every ounce of effort not to choke on his food. He stared at Taehyung in shock, his mouth hanging open stupidly.

Tae looked up at him, looking confused and hurt. "Jimin had said that you guys hung out for a few months. Why did you lie to me?"

Panic began rising in Hoseok. The blood. The kiss. There were hundreds of reasons why Hoseok didn't tell Taehyung. He feared that he couldn't speak about Jimin for any extended amount of time without giving it all away. Even knowing what he knew, Hoseok still felt like he was in love with Jimin. It wasn't something that could be hidden so easily.

After Hoseok's silence, Taehyung continued. "I mean, because if – it seems crazy to say this – but if you thought I'd be jealous – I swear I'm not. I just don't understand why you'd lie about it."

Hoseok licked his lips and nodded his head, quick to jump on the excuse Taehyung had provided for him. "Yeah, I, uh – " he lowered his head and cleared his throat, " – I mean, I was just nervous. It had been a while and I didn't want you thinking anything weird was going on."

Taehyung let the words sink in before drawing his shoulders up in a single shrug. "Why would I think something weird was going on?"

Hoseok blushed and looked down at the tray. "I don't know," he mumbled. "I just thought it would seem weird." He took a deep breath, thinking carefully about his words before he spoke, not wanting to let something slip. "I didn't tell you at first because I didn't want to get your hopes up. I really wanted to give him your number but he kept saying no, no, no." It wasn't a lie, but it would have been difficult to explain the horrible surges of jealousy when he'd finally accomplished his goal.

"When he finally took your number," Hoseok said slowly, trying to push the memories of Jimin's tears, his breath, his lips away, "it had been a while. It felt weird telling you how long it took."

Taehyung sighed softly. It wasn't like the hundreds of sighs he'd let loose over the last three weeks. It was calmer, steadier. "That makes sense."

Hoseok looked up at his friend to see the corners of his mouth turned up slightly in a reassuring smile. "Really?"

"Yeah. I mean – I definitely would have preferred you to tell me the truth the first time." Taehyung's expression turned a little harder, his lips pinching together, before relaxing again into a wider smile. "But I get it."

Hoseok held back a loud sigh of relief. Hopefully that was it. He hung his head again and muttered a soft apology, comforted by a squeeze on his shoulder. "I'm sorry things didn't work out." Again, it wasn't a lie. He really, truly, wanted Taehyung to be happy. He just needed to find someone who wasn't a demon.

Taehyung's phone chimed from the table. He didn't grab it right away – he'd gotten into a habit of ignoring anything remotely social over the past few weeks – but eventually leaned over and picked it up. As he read the screen, his eyes widened and he gasped audibly. He lifted his gaze to Hoseok in shock.

Good surprise or bad surprise. Hoseok hated those few seconds when it could go one way or another. "What? What's wrong?"

"It's Jimin." Taehyung's voice was small, almost disbelieving.

Hoseok's stomach shrank into the size of a grape, and he suddenly felt sick. As his friend quickly replied, his face lighting up in excitement, Hoseok nervously nibbled at a piece of cheese, trying to remain calm. Of course his nightmare wasn't over. Of course Jimin wasn't done with Taehyung. The sound of Taehyung's untrimmed thumbnails tapping against the screen of his phone felt deafening in the living room. The air was turning thick, muggy, until Hoseok forced himself to stand up and rush to the kitchen for a glass of water.

Taehyung made a loud crooning noise, like he was reacting to a small kitten. "Listen to this."

Hoseok wished he could cover his ears. He didn't want to listen to Taehyung.

"He said he's sorry for running away. Said he just got too nervous and embarrassed. He's just – gah – he's so cute."

Hoseok could practically hear the younger man's blush through his tone alone.

"He said he wants to hang out again. Oh my God – I can't – this is really happening."

Hoseok's grip on his glass tightened, and he took a deep breath, closing his eyes.

Taehyung whined again. "I asked him why he wants to hang out again and he said he's lonely!"

I'm lonely.

The storm front that had buffeted Hoseok before came back as a hurricane, sucking the breath right from his lungs. It was the same. Initial contact. Then a sit down somewhere. Running away. Reappearance.

I'm lonely.

Jimin was playing Taehyung just like he'd played Hoseok.

Hoseok turned towards Taehyung. The younger man was grinning down at his phone as he texted the demon. He needed to say something. He needed to stop them. His attempts hadn't worked before – why would they work now? How could they work now that Taehyung had officially been drawn in by the demon's aura?

Taehyung looked up at Hoseok, a bright gleam in his eye. He shot off the couch with a gleeful giggle and rushed over to Hoseok, kissing his cheek. "I love you so much. Thank you!" He ran back into his bedroom, leaving Hoseok still and baffled until Tae came running back in, pulling a jacket on.

"You're leaving?" Hoseok's voice was barely louder than a whisper.

"Yeah! We're just gonna meet up at the park again. Bye!" Taehyung waved at Hoseok before disappearing out the front door.

 

 

Seeing Jimin again was like a dream come true. He was already at the park when Taehyung showed up, his dark hair gleaming in the sun. The sight of him made Taehyung's heart soar, and he had to fight against a powerful urge to run up to him. Instead, he forced himself to walk up to the bench with a steady pace before coming to a halt a few feet away.

Jimin stood and gave a short bow before motioning Taehyung to join him on the bench. He was wearing a blue sweater today. He was practically swimming in it, the sleeves nearly covering his whole hand and the collar sliding off to one side to reveal just enough skin to rouse a hunger in Taehyung that he'd felt before. He fought that down with a shake of his head.

"Hi," he said with a smile. "I – uh – thanks for reaching out again. I really wasn't expecting that."

Jimin dipped his head with an embarrassed look. "Yeah, sorry about that."

"No, no, it's okay. I understand." Taehyung smiled reassuringly. Here he was, sitting with Jimin again. He hadn't quite resigned himself to never seeing the other man again, yet it still felt like some sort of miracle.

For a few minutes, neither spoke. Surprisingly, it was Jimin who broke the silence. "Can we – can we do something?"

Taehyung raised his eyebrows in surprise. Jimin, the tiny, shy man, was proposing that they do something?

"Oh, um, I mean," Jimin rushed out before Tae had a chance to respond. "I just mean like something here, right now. Not like – " he motioned towards the park, "doing something."

Taehyung cocked his head to the side, not quite sure what Jimin was getting at. He could see Jimin start to get agitated, but Taehyung was too afraid of chasing him away again to say anything. He let Jimin take a deep breath and collect his thoughts.

"I mean," Jimin tried again, "let's just talk."

"Isn't that what we're doing already?"

"Yes, but, I mean, talk, like, nonstop, we just talk and we don't really think about things and we just talk." Jimin took a deep breath at the end of his short ramble and glanced at Taehyung nervously.

Park Jimin was a complete enigma. That's what Taehyung decided. Still, he nodded. "Yeah, of course."

"Okay, okay. I'll start." Jimin took another breath, and Taehyung felt like he was going to drown in affection for the other man. "Okay, okay. So. My name is Park Jimin. I'm twenty-two years old, and I – uh – I guess – I read a lot." He looked over at Taehyung with an expectant look.

Park Jimin. Twenty-two years old. Reads a lot. A blush filled Taehyung's cheeks. Such a small amount of information, yet he knew. He was in love with Park Jimin, the twenty-two-year-old who reads a lot.

"Your turn."

Taehyung's heart skipped a beat at the whispered prompt. "Oh, right, sorry." He nodded and settled back more comfortably on the bench. "Kim Taehyung, also twenty-two years old, and if I wasn't busy studying all the time, I'd be spending all my time playing video games."

Jimin bobbed his head slowly, fidgeting and keeping his gaze low. He took a breath as though to speak, but nothing came out, and he swallowed loud enough for Taehyung to hear.

"So, you read a lot?" Taehyung hoped that asking simple questions about the other man would help him open up. "What do you read?" He thought back to all those times he'd seen Jimin in the café. "Big English books, right?"

Jimin nodded, tucking his hair behind his ear. Even small motions like that were enough to make Taehyung's heart race. "Yeah. They're like fantasy – with magic and all."

"Wow, you're really good with English, yeah?" Taehyung couldn't imagine being comfortable enough in any other language to read a book like that.

"Well, I – uh – I do translations. My job." Jimin smiled and Taehyung caught a glimpse of a slightly crooked front tooth. Even that crooked tooth was perfect.

"Did you have to go to school for that? How do you get into that field?"

Jimin shook his head. "No schooling. Well, I mean, I started learning English in school like everyone else – I just stayed with it."

"No school?" Taehyung groaned and let his head flop back. "Oh my God, I'm so jealous."

Jimin laughed softly, that small chuckle that came from deep within his chest – a sincere sound that made Taehyung want to squeal in excitement. "It's a good job. I mean, it doesn't pay much. I just have a little studio apartment. But, I get to stay inside."

Taehyung watched the other man still sitting so rigidly on his end of the bench. They'd been talking so comfortably that Taehyung had somehow forgotten that Jimin was a total recluse. He wanted to ask – wanted to know why Jimin was the way he was – but that seemed too intimate a question so early on. Hopefully sometime soon, though.

"Oh." Jimin turned to his side where a small bag Taehyung hadn't noticed before was sitting. He opened it up and handed a small container to Taehyung.

"What's this?" Tae asked, popping open the lid. Inside, a small portion of rice and meat was neatly prepared. He looked back up at Jimin in surprise.

Jimin kept his eyes averted. "You got hungry last time, so I brought some food."

If Taehyung thought it was impossible to fall even more head over heels for the older man, he was proven wrong in that moment. He wanted nothing more than to set the food aside and pull Jimin into a tight hug, kiss his cheek, ask him to be his forever. Of course, it was far too early for that, even if Taehyung knew without a doubt that they were soulmates.

Instead, he smiled and accepted a pair of chopsticks Jimin offered to him. "Thank you." A wide smile spread across his face when Jimin blushed and brought up his shoulders.

"It's no problem," the shy man mumbled, and he took out another container for himself.

They ate in silence, giving Taehyung's mind plenty of time to process the conversation they'd just had. The sheer difference between Jimin who'd run from him three weeks ago to Jimin who'd been chatting with him today had Taehyung swelling with some sort of admiration for the shy man. He couldn't imagine the sort of effort he was putting into staying comfortable.

As they ate, Taehyung could see Jimin's shoulder's finally start to relax. Once, Jimin glanced over and they made just a split second of eye contact before Jimin blushed and looked away. Taehyung smiled and busied himself with the rest of his rice. Jimin was quite possibly – no – was definitely the cutest person alive.

"Jimin," Taehyung started quietly, remembering the brief text conversation they'd had earlier. When Jimin looked at him with his eyes widening slightly in interest, Taehyung almost forgot what he'd wanted to say. He handed his empty container to Jimin to buy himself a few seconds to compose himself. "I was wondering something. Earlier, you'd said you were lonely."

Jimin drew his hands up to his face, sweater sleeves just barely covering his thick lips. He nodded in confirmation.

"Do you have anyone to talk to? Besides me?"

The older man turned his head away, hiding his expression from Taehyung, and he didn't respond.

"Sorry, I don't mean to pry." Taehyung wanted to draw Jimin close, hug him, comfort him. "I just – I care about you. I don't want you to be lonely."

"I don't," Jimin whispered. "I don't have anyone."

"No family?"

Jimin shook his head and swallowed. His fingers tightened into a fist around the end of his sleeves.

"Jesus." Taehyung sighed, his heart breaking for the older man. He'd always had his family. He'd had Hoseok for a long time, too. Jeongguk and Yoongi. He didn't realize how much that mattered until he thought of the loneliness that Jimin had. An image came to him, an image of Jimin sitting alone in his studio apartment for days on end.

Jimin shrugged. "It's okay," he mumbled. "I'm used to it."

"Well, you better start getting used to something else."

Jimin looked over at Taehyung with a curious expression.

"Now you have me. So you better get used to it." Taehyung smiled at the shy man's blush. "You'll have Hoseok, too. Since you guys used to hang out."

Jimin went rigid and his expression seemed to melt right from his face. His arms drew in close to his chest, and he shook his head. "No, I, um – that's okay – " His breathing turned sharp, and Taehyung knew he was starting to panic.

"If you need to go – "

Jimin jumped up before Taehyung had a chance to finish. Tears had filled the man's dark eyes, and he didn't look directly at Taehyung as he snatched up the bag with empty containers. "I – I – I'm sorry," he stammered quietly.

"No, it's okay," Taehyung assured him.

"Just – " Jimin's voice caught in his throat and a tear slipped down his cheek. He gasped softly and quickly wiped it away. "I'm – don't – just don't give up on me, okay?"

The emotional squeak in Jimin's voice screamed out to Taehyung and the younger man nodded his head aggressively.

"Don't – don't give up," Jimin whispered again, clutching his bag close. "I don't want t-to be lonely anymore." Before Taehyung could respond, the black-haired man rushed off like he'd done just a few weeks prior.

"I won't!" Taehyung called after him. "I'll text you, okay?" Jimin didn't turn or acknowledge him, but hopefully he heard.

 

 

It only took Jimin two weeks to agree to another meeting instead of three. When they met, he was as tense as ever, but they still talked, slowly getting to know one another. After that, it was only a week before they saw each other again.

Despite other reasons to hate school, none made Taehyung want to drop out more than the fact that he couldn't meet with Jimin more often. Still, he took what he could get, even if it was just an hour every week. He cursed Jeongguk for convincing him earlier that year to sign up for summer courses.

Slowly but surely, the hour they spent together each week stretched into two, then to three. Taehyung was constantly blindsided by his overwhelming feelings for the older man. He continued to learn more about Jimin, like how he'd graduated high school with highest honors and had moved from Busan to Seoul just two years prior. He'd also learned sad things, like how his mother had died when he was very young and how his father had never quite recovered from his grief.

Taehyung got to tell Jimin a lot about himself, too, and the shy man seemed genuinely interested in the stories he had to tell. They’d gotten in the habit of walking through the park, telling stories back and forth of when they were younger.

"And that's how I knew that baseball definitely wasn't my forte." Taehyung smiled at Jimin's full body laughter that made them stop walking so he could lean forward, his hand over his mouth, an arm wrapped across his stomach. The first time Tae got Jimin to laugh like that, he knew that it was his life goal to hear it every day for the rest of his life.

When Jimin stood upright again, he had tears in his eyes, but Taehyung knew they were good tears. He hadn't seen Jimin cry in at least two months, much to his relief. He wondered if Jimin cried at home, when he was alone in his studio apartment. He hoped not. He tried to text Jimin as much as he could so the other man wouldn't feel lonely when they were apart.

Jimin sighed and shook his head as they resumed their casual stroll around the park. It was the first day after Taehyung's summer finals. He had one month to spend as much time with Jimin as possible before he started fall semester. The air was warm and muggy after an early morning downpour, the sun evaporating the moisture off the ground in thick wisps of steam. Taehyung wasn't fond of the weather, but he was willing to put up with it for Jimin. Come wintertime, they'd hopefully move to a comfortable meeting spot, like a café like the one where he'd first seen Jimin.

"Hey, Jimin?"

Jimin looked up at him with those perfect almond eyes, a playful twinkle shining within them. Taehyung hesitated, not sure if he wanted to bring the mood down, but the question had been gnawing at him since he'd met the older man. It was clear that Jimin hadn't always been the shy wreck of a man he was now. From his stories, Taehyung knew that up until at least three years ago, Jimin had been just fine – he'd talked about going on a trip when he was nineteen. While there were plenty of things that could have happened, Taehyung could only think of a few that would leave Jimin in that state.

"You don't have to answer, okay?" Although Taehyung had a pressing need to know, he didn't want to pressure Jimin into telling him.

"Okay."

"What happened?" The words were vague, but the sudden slowing of their pace and the nervous look on Jimin's face told Taehyung that his meaning was clear. "You don't have to – "

"I know." Jimin cut him off, his voice a bit harder than Taehyung was used to hearing it. They plodded along in silence for a few minutes. Taehyung had just accepted that it would take a while longer before Jimin would trust him with that information when the shorter man suddenly stopped and took a deep breath. "I'll tell you."

Taehyung halted with Jimin, his eyes wide with surprise. He didn't speak. His heart was racing, not sure if he was prepared to hear the answer, even if he wanted it so much.

"It's been two years," Jimin said quietly, his eyes staring at the wet ground. "I should really be able to talk about it, so I'll tell you." He fidgeted with the hem of his t-shirt, his tongue wetting his lips. "I was attacked. Well, me and my boyfriend." He swallowed, blinking rapidly, drawing his arms in front of his body, trying to make himself seem smaller than he already was. "I don't – I don't remember much of it, but…" He trailed off, dropping his head down.

Taehyung's throat felt tight. He'd been expecting it to be terrible – he'd tried to mentally prepare himself, but hearing Jimin say the words out loud hurt Taehyung more than he'd expected. Rage flared up within him in an overwhelming urge to protect his friend. He wanted to reach out, hug Jimin – or at least hold his hand – but he refused to take that first step before Jimin made it clear that he was ready for it.

"I'm so sorry," Taehyung whispered, his hands squeezing into fists. He took a few measured breaths. "You're not with your boyfriend anymore?" On one hand, maybe it was difficult to be with someone who reminded him of the incident, but maybe he would have been able to help Jimin cope since they both had the same experience.

"No." Jimin licked his lips again. "He – he died that night."

Taehyung choked on his next breath. He pulled his hands up to his mouth in shock. He wish he could have said something comforting, but all he managed to force out was, "Fuck. Holy shit."

Jimin fidgeted before he slowly started walking again, forcing Taehyung to follow.

"Jimin – that's…" Taehyung stared at the ground in front of them, trying to wrap his mind around the information. Of course that sort of thing happened – he'd seen it on the news, though it wasn't common. Knowing someone who had witnessed such horror tore Taehyung out of the comfortable bubble he'd been unknowingly living in. "No wonder you're such a mess."

Jimin let out an unexpected laugh, making Tae stare at him in surprise. "Sorry," Jimin said softly, scratching his neck in embarrassment. "I guess – well – that was the first time I'd ever told someone that. I guess I was kind of expecting a different response than being called a mess."

Taehyung blushed, shame twisting his stomach into a knot. Of all the times to stick his foot in his mouth, why did it have to be now? "I'm – I'm sorry that's not – "

"No, it's okay." Jimin smiled at him. "I think I needed it."

Taehyung furrowed his brow. He didn't think that being called a mess would be necessary after divulging such a serious and disturbing event.

"You make me feel normal."

Butterflies burst free in Taehyung's stomach, easing the knot that had formed earlier. They walked in silence after that. The younger man struggled to find something to say in response, but he was still trying to process what Jimin had told him. Jimin and his boyfriend had been attacked – Jimin's boyfriend had been murdered right in front of him.

But Taehyung made Jimin feel normal. Taehyung made Jimin laugh, even after divulging such sensitive information. He glanced over at Jimin and found the older man looking up at him. Jimin seemed to not have expected Taehyung to look his way, for his eyes widened in surprise and quickly snapped his head forward.

"I make you feel normal?"

Jimin hummed softly. "It's been a while. That's why I could tell you, I think. I mean, it still hurts, I can feel it hurt, but…" He looked at Taehyung again and smiled. "I don't want to run away from you."

Taehyung felt lost in Jimin's eyes and he returned the smile, wide and bright.

There were a few reasons why it was important to look forward when walking, but none of those reasons were on either man's mind until Jimin's foot caught on a raised crack in the path. One moment they were walking slowly along, and the next moment Jimin was not.

“Oh, fuck!" Jimin yelped as he lurched and stumbled. He squeaked in surprise as Taehyung rushed at him and grabbed his arm, keeping him upright.

That was when Taehyung was supposed to ask Jimin if he was okay. That would have been the polite thing to say. He could tell Jimin was embarrassed, his pale skin turning a brilliant shade of red. Instead, he blurted out, "Did you just say fuck?" He may not know English well, but he knew that word.

Jimin's eyes widened before squeezing tight again as he laughed. He was beautiful beyond reason, making everything else dim in comparison. "Haven't I told you?" Jimin said, his voice bright and cheery. "That's my favorite word."

"Really?" Taehyung stared in shock. He'd never heard Jimin swear before and certainly hadn't expected a swear word to be his favorite. He smiled. There was still so much to learn about Jimin.

Once the surprise faded, Taehyung realized that his fingers were still on Jimin's bicep. The older man glanced down at Taehyung's arm and he drew his lips into his mouth to hide a smile but didn't pull away. Taehyung was having trouble breathing, but he couldn't show how nervous he was to Jimin. He needed to be the strong one.

Taehyung jerked his head in the direction they'd been walking just a moment ago. Jimin took the nonverbal cue and started walking with him, still not pulling away as Taehyung's fingers trailed down his arm. The taller man wondered if Jimin's heart was racing as much as his own as the tips of his fingers brushed against his palm until he had Jimin's hand gently cupped in his own.

When Jimin spread his fingers and let Taehyung lace them together, Taehyung was sure he was going to die. His heart pounded in his chest, and he felt lightheaded. Jimin was perfect. Everything about him was perfect. And here Tae was, holding hands with perfection himself.

"Jimin," he said suddenly, his heart speaking for him before his brain had a chance to stop him from overstepping his boundaries. "I really like you." Jimin came to an abrupt halt again, staring at Taehyung with wide eyes, and Taehyung mentally kicked himself.

"Really?"

"Y-yeah." Taehyung stared down at their still-interlocked hands.

"No, I mean, like, you actually like me?" Jimin prompted.

Taehyung tried not to look as confused as he felt. "Um, yes?"

Jimin opened and closed his mouth a few times until he let out a short laugh and smiled. "I like you, too."

It was Taehyung's turn to squeak out a soft, "Really?"

Jimin laughed again and nodded furiously. "Yeah!"

Dreaming. Taehyung was definitely dreaming. There was no way that Jimin just admitted to returning his feelings. Were the feelings sincere? Did Jimin truly like him, or was he just latching onto him because he had no one else?

But standing there in the park, fingers laced, Jimin smiling so happily at him, Taehyung found that he didn't care. That was something that they could deal with later. "Do you…" Taehyung swallowed and licked his lips nervously. "Do you want to date me?" he whispered.

Jimin blushed and lowered his head, drawing his free hand up to his lips. Taehyung could see his eyelashes flutter in a few quick blinks before Jimin mumbled, "Yeah."

Yup, Taehyung was definitely dreaming. For a moment, he didn't know what to do. He'd had a few boyfriends before Jimin, but none that he'd felt so strongly towards. He didn't know what to do.

Jimin didn't say anything else either. He didn't make any move to continue walking, so Taehyung took a step forward, acting on instinct. He could hear the shy man inhale sharply, but Jimin didn't pull back. Taehyung looked down at Jimin who seemed determined not to raise his gaze higher than Taehyung's collarbone.

Taehyung licked his lips, drowning in Jimin's presence. "Jimin." His breath ruffled Jimin's bangs, and the shorter man slowly lifted his head until their eyes locked. He needed to be careful – he needed to be slow – he couldn't afford to chase Jimin away this time. Taehyung leaned in just enough that their lips were close, giving Jimin a chance to pull away if he wanted to. Jimin didn't pull away.

The carnal want that had filled Taehyung before grew into its own entity the moment their lips came together. It was sudden and shocking and Taehyung almost groaned as adrenaline shot through him. He could smell Jimin, hear his soft breathing – but it wasn't enough. Taehyung wanted to hold him, taste him, take him, hide him away so no one else could have him.

He couldn't do that to Jimin, though. He needed to take it slow. With a significant amount of self-control, Taehyung pulled away, his throat dryer than it had been before.

Jimin lowered his head, pressing his fingers against his lips as he blushed.

"Was that okay?" Taehyung whispered softly.

Jimin giggled and squeezed his hand. "Yeah. It was very okay."

 

 

Chapter Text

"Hey."

Hoseok froze. No, that wasn't true. He was already frozen. As soon as Jimin had stepped through the door, before he turned those dark brown eyes on him, before he said that one simple word, Hoseok had frozen, unable to speak, unable to think, unable to breathe. He stared, lost in the perfection that was Jimin.

"Hi." Hoseok wasn't sure how he managed to respond without stammering.

Jimin was exactly how he remembered him – shy, adorable, long-sleeved blue sweater that showed off his neck and collarbone. Hoseok would have reached out to touch it if Taehyung hadn't had his arm around Jimin's waist, excitedly introducing his boyfriend to Yoongi and Jeongguk.

It was a blur. Hoseok couldn't pay attention to anything around him. Time sped up – rushing through the introductions, the small talk, through dinner, only ever slowing to a crawl whenever Jimin turned his eyes to him – those deep, alluring eyes that drew Hoseok in like a mindless sycophant to a holy figure. When Jimin looked at him, nothing else mattered, nothing else existed.

Jimin stood up. Hoseok nearly jumped up as well, yet he held his place firmly on the couch, watching Jimin head towards the hallway. Before he disappeared through the opening, he glanced over at Hoseok, giving a small, playful smile. This time Hoseok did jump up and quickly followed Jimin, as though compelled. Taehyung and Jeongguk were left forgotten on the couch as he rushed to the hallway.

Jimin was already down the hall, at Hoseok's room. He gave him another look before stepping inside. No questions asked, Hoseok strode down the hall, knowing what his goal was. He was sure that Jimin knew it, too.

When he made it to his room, the door shut behind him, and Jimin leaned back against the doorway, his hooded eyes dark with a sensuality that simply existed within him. Hoseok stared at him. Words were lost to him, yet still he knew what they wanted.

Jimin didn't resist as Hoseok slid his hands into Jimin's hair and kissed him. His lips were just as Hoseok had remembered them, his tongue tasting just the same.

"I missed you," Jimin whispered, and Hoseok nearly whined with need.

"I missed you, too." For a split second, Taehyung came to Hoseok's mind, yet it quickly disappeared as Jimin's hands came to his waist and pulled him closer, their bodies flush together. It was exactly as before, exactly the same feeling. Jimin had taken over his senses, one by one, sound, taste, touch, smell and – even though his eyes were closed – sight.

"Hoseok," Jimin murmured, "do you love me?" His voice was deep and clear, sending chills down Hoseok's spine.

"Yes," Hoseok replied without hesitation, "oh God, yes, Jimin, I love you so much." The response startled him, yet he didn't question it. He loved Jimin with all his heart – and he hated Taehyung for getting in their way.

"You are mine," Jimin continued, his fingers entangled within Hoseok's hair. His tongue briefly slipped into Hoseok's mouth, delaying his response, yet it came as naturally as breath once he had a chance to speak.

"I'm yours."

An intense pain shot through Hoseok, radiating out from his abdomen. His eyes snapped open, and it wasn't Jimin standing before him. Red eyes, black, wispy tendrils framing his face, the demon stared back at him with a look of satisfaction.

Hoseok grunted and stumbled back. The pure black things were back, two stuck right through Hoseok's stomach. Blood spilled out around them, the red contrasted beautifully against the black.

"You don't love Jimin," the demon said in that dark tone that had Hoseok shrinking back. He reached forward with his midnight fingers and brushed Hoseok's face. "You love me."

 

 

Hoseok woke with a start, drawing in breath as though surfacing after an hour of being held underwater. His hand shot to his stomach, but he felt nothing but his shirt stuck to his sweat-soaked skin. With a deep sigh, he relaxed back into his pillow, staring up at the ceiling. His body was shaking, breath short.

Another nightmare. How many was that? Hoseok had lost count. He closed his eyes, trying to banish the dream, but the images stuck to him as clearly as a memory of something that had just happened moments ago. Every dream different, yet the same – kissing Jimin, attacked by Jimin.

A loud knock on his door made Hoseok shoot upright, heart pounding again.

"Hoseok, get up." Jeongguk's voice came through the door. "We need to work out early today so we're ready for later, remember?"

Hoseok's stomach turned. With the shock of the dream, he'd forgotten that Jimin was supposed to come over today. Taehyung had finally convinced him to come over to meet his friends, and Hoseok was terrified. Probably the source of his dream.

"Hoseok?"

"Yeah, I'm getting up." Hoseok sighed, but flopped back onto his back. Once Jeongguk's footsteps faded down the hall, he muttered, "Fuck."

The dream haunted his thoughts like they all did, but he didn't know what was worse – the dreams themselves or the fact that his doubt grew with every one. The dreams were so vivid. He could feel Jimin in his arms as clearly as the pain, he could hear Jimin's whispered confessions, soft moans, as clearly as Hoseok's screams of agony.

Each dream as vivid as that night in the alley.

The night he'd gotten drunk.

The night he'd kissed Jimin, held him in his arms, tasted his tears.

The night Jimin had murdered those men.

Just like every other dream.

Hoseok groaned and ran his hands down his face.

It took a good twenty minutes to drag himself out of bed and pull on a pair of shorts. Jeongguk came to check on him twice, becoming more aggravated each time. When Hoseok finally stepped out into the living room, Jeongguk had a sour look on his face.

"Sorry," Hoseok said. He wanted to say more to excuse his behavior, but he didn't know what to say.

Jeongguk's expression softened as soon as his gaze fell upon Hoseok.

"What?" Hoseok ran his fingers through his hair self-consciously.

"You look like shit." Jeongguk got Hoseok a glass of water, looking concerned. "You doing okay?"

"Oh." Hoseok glanced away. "Just not sleeping well."

The answer didn't appease Jeongguk, for he cocked his head curiously. "Are you nervous about seeing Jimin again?"

Hoseok didn't bother pretending to be surprised by Jeongguk's observation. Try as he may have to hide his discomfort whenever the younger man was mention, he knew it had to be noticed.

Jeongguk placed a hand on Hoseok's shoulder. "You know you can talk to me, right?" It was unfair how kind and caring his voice was. It made Hoseok feel guilty, though for what he wasn't exactly sure. "About anything. If you can't..." Jeongguk lowered his gaze, looking conflicted. "If you can't talk to Taehyung about it, you can talk to me."

Hoseok shied away from Jeongguk's touch, gripping his glass. His hands were shaking. Fuck, why now? After months of trying desperately to hide everything, why did Jeongguk choose now to finally bring it up? Hoseok didn't know if he could handle a confession the very day he was supposed to see Jimin again. He didn't know what to do. Did he need to tell Jeongguk? Which part would he tell him? Was any of it even real?

The front door swung open with a bang and Taehyung flew in like a whirlwind, bags of groceries hanging from his arms. He started chattering as soon as he saw Hoseok and Jeongguk in the kitchen, once again describing his well-planned lunch. If Hoseok hadn't been so overwhelmed with his internal struggles, he may have found his friend's excitement cute. It had been a while since he'd seen Taehyung so head-over-heels for someone.

Taehyung dropped his groceries on the counter and quickly shooed the two out of the kitchen. "You'll just get in the way," he said, physically pushing them as they took too long for his liking.

Jeongguk laughed and took Hoseok's arm. Instead of leading him to the backdoor, down to the gym, he brought him down the hall to his room.

Hoseok followed. He was sure why Jeongguk was taking him away. A part of him feared the questions Jeongguk would ask as much as he feared the answers he could give. Maybe it was time to say something, though. Maybe he needed to get it off his chest.

Jeongguk's bed was a mess, and Hoseok had to shift a few of the blankets aside to ensure he wouldn't break something hidden beneath them before he sat down. The younger man also sat, leaning back against the wall. He didn't look at Hoseok, and that made him feel better. He didn't want those scrupulous eyes watching him.

He also didn't ask any questions. Hoseok liked that less. The silence made him feel uncomfortable. It was unnerving in a way, like there was an expectation for him to speak. He fidgeted and shifted, crossing his legs, then leaning back against the wall with Jeongguk, then sighing and swinging his legs over the side of the bed and flopping onto his back. Still, Jeongguk said nothing.

"Something happened," Hoseok whispered. He didn't continue. What happened? He groaned in frustration and rubbed the heel of his palms against his eyes. "I think something happened. I don't know. Maybe nothing happened."

Jeongguk looked down at him with a wry smile.

Hoseok sighed and sat up again, sitting next to Jeongguk with his arms crossed. He chewed on the inside of his cheek, piecing together his thoughts. "I've been having these dreams. About Jimin."

Silence followed, and Hoseok looked at his friend to see if he had a judgmental expression, but he didn't. Again, Hoseok felt compelled to speak when Jeongguk didn't respond. He swallowed and took a deep breath. "I keep having these dreams – Jimin – he kills me."

That finally got a reaction. Jeongguk furrowed his eyebrows. "You have nightmares about Jimin?"

Hoseok lowered his head, licking his lips. "But it's not Jimin. I mean – it is Jimin, but it's not – " He groaned in frustration, knowing he wasn't making any sense. Dreams rarely did when trying to explain them to others. "He's a demon."

Jeongguk bobbed his head to the side, and Hoseok was surprised to see that he didn't look at Hoseok like he was crazy. "I had a dream once that I was an apple and Taehyung ate me."

A laugh escaped Hoseok before he could help it. Jeongguk often had that effect on others – even in serious conversations. "This is a little different than that, I think."

"Well, it was back when we met," Jeongguk explained. "I'm pretty sure that was how I realized I was gay."

"What?"

"I was a literal fruit, Hoseok! And Taehyung ate me. And I kind of liked it."

Hoseok's next laugh was full and loud. Jeongguk's blush and sheepish smile was endearing.

"So, these nightmares," Jeongguk said, directing the conversation back to the original topic. "Jimin is a demon and he kills you."

Hoseok's amusement quickly burned away, and he looked back down at the messy blankets. "He might be a demon. Or he turns into one. Like he's possessed. I can't tell. When he kills me..." Hoseok brought his hand to his stomach involuntarily, fingers pressing against where wounds would have been. "It feels so real. Like not 'kind of real' – or even just 'real in the moment.'" He closed his eyes, remembering the dozens of times he's died in his dreams. "I can still feel it when I wake up."

"Jesus," Jeongguk muttered, running his hand through his hair. "That's fucked up. Why the fuck would you dream about Jimin killing you?"

Hoseok shrugged. It was fucked up. Hoseok wished he could tell Jeongguk everything, about the kisses that accompanied the gore, but that was too difficult to admit. It was difficult to even accept. Even the days that he woke up with an upset stomach and an aching erection, Hoseok would just blast himself with cold water in a shower, never giving in to his body's desires.

Jeongguk took Hoseok's hand and smiled. "Don't worry. They're just dreams. Jimin's not a demon. Don't you think he would have killed you back when you guys were hanging out? Or Taehyung?"

Those were thoughts that Hoseok had also juggled along with his doubts. It still left the question: what had happened that night? Was it all a dream? Did they kiss? He hoped that hadn't been a dream. At that thought, Hoseok shook his head, disgusted.

"Are you going to be okay today?"

For a moment, Hoseok truly thought about it. Dreams. They were just dreams. He didn't have anything to be afraid of. He looked up at Jeongguk and smiled gratefully. "Yeah. Thanks for listening."

Jeongguk playfully punched his arm. "Don't hide things like that anymore. I can't believe you let it go that long without saying something."

Hoseok felt a pang of guilt for not telling Jeongguk everything, but he didn't want to hear how Jeongguk interpreted the other half of his dreams. He glanced at the alarm clock next to Jeongguk's bed. "Come on," he said, standing up. "We need to go practice before Taehyung has a mental breakdown because he thinks we won't be ready in time."

Jeongguk grinned and bounced up, giving Hoseok a hug. "I love you."

Hoseok blushed and feigned disgust, pushing his chuckling friend away. "Okay, okay, get off me."

 

 

The pounding bass from the speakers reverberated through the dance floor and up Jeongguk's legs, matching the aggressive and rhythmic steps he took. He alternated between fast, sharp movements than had the bottoms of his feet hitting the ground with a force that echoed even over the music, and slow, smooth movements that had him flowing across the floor like a breeze.

In the mirror, Jeongguk watched himself and Hoseok as they danced in tandem, sometimes moving with one another, their limbs moving as though attached to one another. Then, their bodies changed directions, shifting in opposite directions of one another, creating perfect symmetry.

Jeongguk would consider himself a fool if he accepted that dreams were the only reason for Hoseok's strange behavior over the last few months. Granted, they certainly weren't the explanation he'd been expecting when he confronted his older friend, but then he wasn't sure what he'd been expecting in the first place.

He didn't think Hoseok was lying, though, so at least there was that. In time he'd get Hoseok to open up a bit more.

The song came to an end and the two dancers held their pose for a few extra seconds, their heavy breathing amplified by the bare walls of the practice room. Hoseok fell out of it first, his body turning loose like he'd been cut free of puppetry strings, and he squatted down to the floor to catch his breath.

Jeongguk grinned and squatted down with him, handing him a cool bottle of water. "You're finally starting to seem like you again."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Hoseok eyed him incredulously.

"You used to be better than me."

"Excuse you – I'm still better than you."

Jeongguk laughed and stood up, stretching. "Not for a while, there. I was thinking you'd just lost your touch."

Hoseok scoffed and flung a bit of water at the younger man. "I'm gonna go clean up," Hoseok said, snatching up the soiled towels they'd used over the course of their routine. "You coming?" He motioned out towards the main gym floor.

Jeongguk stuck his tongue out. "I'm still waiting for dad to change the soap they keep in those bathrooms. I'll take a shower upstairs." He patted Hoseok on the back, hoping that the man was true to his word. Jeongguk and Taehyung may have broken up a few years ago, but that didn't stop him from wanting the absolute best for him. He never thought that he'd have to intervene with Hoseok in order to ensure that.

The main gym floor was as loud as the dance room had been while they were practicing. A culmination of music, the metallic clanking of weights, and rowdy patrons filled the air. The wall of windows at the front was brilliantly lit with the late summer sun. It would be cast in shadows in an hour or two when the sun shifted westward, hiding behind the tall buildings on the other side of the street.

Yoongi sat behind the counter, a notebook open in front of him. He'd agreed to switch a shift with Taehyung so that their lovestruck friend could prepare for Jimin's arrival that afternoon. Yoongi's eyes were unfocused, staring off at some distant point as he so often did, his head bobbing off-beat to the music playing in the gym. After a few seconds, his dark eyes lit up and he began furiously scribbling something down on his notebook.

Jeongguk smiled as he approached the counter. "Finally found some inspiration?"

Yoongi grunted in acknowledgement before tapping the end of his pencil against the notebook to whatever tune he was forming in his head. A few more scribbles, then he looked up at Jeongguk and smiled. "Yeah. I'm hoping this one will be a bit faster paced than the other ones I've made."

"Oh, something different?" Jeongguk peered at the notes Yoongi had been jotting down, but he didn't understand any of it.

"I hope people will still like it," Yoongi mused quietly, scratching his head.

"I'll still like it. That's all that matters, right?" Jeongguk grinned at Yoongi's eyeroll. The younger man drummed his hands on the edge of the counter. "Show it to me once you get it on the computer."

Jeongguk said his goodbye to the dark-haired man, but Yoongi was already zoned out again, bobbing his head. The younger headed off to the staircase along the back wall. Making his way up the steps, Jeongguk could see across the entirety of his father's gym. Its popularity had swelled in the past few months – a deal had been struck with the business that resided in one of the floors of the office building down the street, allowing the workers to come in during their business day for a discounted price. Jeongguk always took special note of his father's business decisions, hoping to one day run the gym himself, and maybe a few of the others his father owned across the district. For now, at least, it helped him get through his many business classes.

Walking up past the height of the gym's ceiling, Jeongguk came to a stop at a small landing. The back door of their apartment was small, but had three locks on it to keep out any patron who might be lost or sneaking around. Another set of stairs continued upwards from the landing towards the roof. Most days after dancing with Hoseok or sparring with one of the visitors, Jeongguk would head up there to cool off in the shade of the expansive awning, but Jeongguk knew Taehyung would kill him if he wasted any time getting ready.

As expected, Taehyung's face fell when he saw Jeongguk step into the apartment. "Jeongguk, why aren't you ready yet?" He stood in the kitchen, covered nearly head to toe in flour.

"Isn't he coming over at three?" Jeongguk looked at the wall clock. "It's two. Besides, what about you?" He motioned to his mess of a friend.

Taehyung worried his lips with his teeth, looking down at himself. "You don't think it's cute? Like I've been working really hard on making something delicious but I'm so clumsy and dropped flour all over myself?"

Jeongguk raised an eyebrow. "Did you cover yourself with flour on purpose?"

Taehyung sighed, his shoulders slumping. "No. I really did drop the flour and it got everywhere. I'm freaking out and I was hoping that I could play it off in a cute way in case Jimin showed up early."

Jeongguk laughed and stepped up to his friend, ruffling his hair. A cloud of white dust flew up into the air. "I really doubt Jimin will show up an hour early. I'll help you clean up. But let's make it quick – I still have to shower."

Taehyung took a deep breath and smiled. "Thanks, Guk."

Cleaning the flour up turned out to be a bit grosser than Jeongguk had figured it would be. It stuck to his sweat covered skin, leaving a thin layer of grime on his arms, face, and neck.

"So," Jeongguk said, trying to distract himself from the task at hand, "still nervous?"

Taehyung chuckled, a high-pitch little sound that was uncharacteristic of his usual confident self. Jeongguk couldn't help but smile. It had been a while since he'd seen Taehyung agitated over someone. "Nervous? No. Of course not. There's nothing to be nervous about."

"Clearly," Jeongguk said, watching Taehyung wipe the same spot for the third time in two minutes.

Taehyung frowned at him. "There's really nothing to be nervous about."

"Then why are you so nervous?"

Taehyung struggled for an answer, his body fidgeting in place. "I just want everyone to like Jimin. And I don't want him to run away again."

"If he runs away, you'd be able to get him back again, right?"

"I guess," Taehyung mumbled, sounding not too convinced. "But what if we scare him really bad? Yoongi is pretty scary. Admit it."

Jeongguk hushed him quickly, a false look of panic on his face. "Don't let him hear you! He'll probably kill you!"

Taehyung laughed and shook his head, and Jeongguk pulled him into a hug. "Oh my God," the elder bemoaned, yanking himself away. "Jeongguk, you got me all dirty!"

"You're already dirty!"

"Yeah but now I have Jeongguk-sweat-dirt on me."

Jeongguk laughed and went in for another hug despite Taehyung's shouts.

The back door from the gym opened, and Hoseok walked in, his dark hair still wet from his shower. He gave Jeongguk a confused look. "Weren't you getting ready?" He glanced at the clock.

Taehyung gasped. "It's two-thirty!" He shoved Jeongguk down the hall towards the bathroom. "Hurry up and get ready. I don't want his first impression of my friends to be seeing them naked."

"Really?" Jeongguk grinned devilishly. "I wouldn't mind that being his first impression of me."

"I swear to God, Jeongguk," Taehyung said in a dark, threatening voice. He pushed a laughing Jeongguk into the bathroom and shut the door. "Shower! And get dressed!"

 

 

Hoseok stood in front of the mirror in his bedroom, examining his clothes with utmost scrutiny. He pulled at spare threads and flattened out any hint of wrinkles from being folded in his drawers. He changed his shirt, wondering if it would look better with his shorts, and then changed his shorts, wondering if they would look better with the new shirt.

Almost three.

Hoseok took a deep breath and sat on the edge of his bed, staring at his own worried expression. Should he be in his bedroom when Jimin arrived and come out after a few minutes? Or should he be in the living room with Jeongguk, patiently awaiting Jimin's arrival?

When he'd been showering, his mind didn't have exercise to distract him. A horrible thought wormed its way into his brain, and he hadn't been able to extract it.

If the dreams were just dreams, and Jimin wasn't a demon, then Hoseok's feelings were his own. There was no supernatural pull. There was nothing that made Hoseok's heart race other than an overwhelming attraction to Jimin.

Hoseok groaned and lowered his head into his hands. Exit problem one, enter problem two. He tried not to think about the kiss, yet it always came to his mind. He could still feel Jimin trembling in his arms, the tears on his cheeks as Hoseok wiped them away. He could still smell Jimin, taste him on his tongue, hear the soft whimpers that had Hoseok wanting nothing more than to have Jimin all to himself.

But Hoseok didn't have Jimin all to himself. Jimin had Hoseok. Despite his best efforts, Hoseok was helplessly entangled in his memories and dreams of the young man.

The sound of the front door opening had Hoseok's head shooting up. His whole body went tense, narrowing his focus to the sounds of steps and a quiet voice. That was Taehyung. Then Jeongguk.

Then Jimin.

Hoseok whimpered as he heard Jimin speak – Jimin standing in his living room – Jimin chuckling at something Jeongguk had said. His voice was a chorus, a prayer drifting down the hall to Hoseok's room, calling out to him, beckoning, even though Hoseok couldn't even make out what he was saying. He took a deep, shuddering breath. He couldn't do it. He couldn't go out there and look upon the face that haunted his dreams.

A quiet knock at his doorway made Hoseok jump upright.

"Hoseok?" Jeongguk's voice was barely audible through the wood. "You should come out. Tae will be upset if you don't."

Hoseok fought with his emotions, his fingers twisting in front of him, stomach nothing but a knot. Finally, he stepped forward and opened the door.

Jeongguk looked at him, an expression of concern clear on his face. "Are you sure you're going to be okay?"

Probably. Knowing that Jimin wasn't going to kill him on sight was reassuring, but for some reason it didn't make it any easier. He couldn't spend the day locked up in his room, though. Jeongguk was right – Taehyung would be upset. Hoseok nodded, his heart racing.

Jeongguk stepped closer and gave Hoseok a hug, his strong arms wrapping around him. He may have been four years younger, but Hoseok was comforted by the touch.

The hallway seemed both too long and too short. The opening into the main living area looked miles away, the carpet stretching out before him, like it would take hours to reach the end, yet every step Hoseok took him forward as though he were hurtling full speed ahead. Jeongguk's hand on his waist was the only thing that told him that neither of those things were true. They were walking down the normal hallway at a normal speed.

Stepping past the precipice of the hallway, Hoseok's eyes quickly scanned the living room in front of him, then to the kitchen to his left.

Jimin.

The young man stood in the kitchen by the bar next to Taehyung. His skin was as smooth and perfect as Hoseok remembered it, his thick lips moist – most likely from a recent brush of his tongue – his lashes long. His black hair was pushed back away from his forehead, different than his usual styling of it cascading around his head in a smooth form.

Fuck, he looked good. Hoseok's stomach ached again, but this time it wasn't from the memory of his dream.

As though he'd been waiting for Hoseok's appearance, Jimin raised his eyes when Hoseok stepped in. When their gazes locked, Hoseok felt like his world came to a halt.

"Hi." Jimin's voice was as smooth as a soft spring breeze, yet that single word hit Hoseok like a sharp gust.

A small press from Jeongguk's fingers on his waist prompted Hoseok to respond. With a great struggle, Hoseok maintained a calm expression despite his racing heart and trembling fingers. "Hey. Been a while."

Jimin hummed in acknowledgement before turning back to Taehyung, admiring the cookies that his boyfriend had made.

Jeongguk's hand pressed a bit harder on Hoseok's waist. The youngest motioned Hoseok to the living room, and Hoseok dutifully followed, too lightheaded to consider the fact that the youngest of their group was leading him around like a child.

Sitting on the couch, Jeongguk turned so he could start chatting with Jimin. It was difficult for Hoseok to tell what they were saying, and he wasn't sure if that was because they were talking quietly or if he was just having a hard time functioning on the most basic of levels whenever Jimin's honey voice graced Hoseok's ears.

He needed to stop. He needed to block his emotions. He couldn't be thinking about Jimin – about his best friend's boyfriend – like that. He looked over at Jimin and fought against the swelling affection within him. By the end of the night, he vowed, he would be able to look at Jimin without his heart racing.

There was something different about the younger man. In his dreams, Jimin was exactly as he'd left him – shy, trembling, nervous. The Jimin that stood in his kitchen didn't cower, or mumble, or cry. He smiled and laughed, speaking comfortably with Taehyung. A few of his nervous tendencies were still present, like his blush and quick glances away whenever he made eye contact with Jeongguk, but it was nothing like before.

He didn't even flinch when Taehyung playfully smacked the back of his hand as he reached for a cookie, telling him he'd have to wait until after dinner. Jimin pouted, and Hoseok felt a curling of desire within his chest, wanting – no – stop. He couldn't think like that.

Taehyung and Jimin came into the living room and sat on the loveseat, their thighs touching. Hoseok hated that he noticed that. He tried to focus on their words. What were they talking about? Something about Jimin's translations. Right, Hoseok had forgotten about that. That was how he'd spoken English so well.

Talking about Jimin's hometown. He'd been raised in Busan. Hoseok didn't know that. All that time they'd spent together, and he didn't know that.

Hoseok wanted to scream in frustration, yell at his brain as though it were a separate entity, tell it to stop turning every detail into something that related to whatever was, had been, or could have been between him and Jimin.

Taehyung leaned close against Jimin, and their fingers laced together over Jimin's lap.

Hoseok started, realizing he was staring at the couple's hands. He glanced between Taehyung and Jeongguk, but neither appeared to have noticed. When he looked back at Jimin, though, he found the younger man looking right back. For a moment, their eyes met, and the breath was stolen away from Hoseok's lungs. Jimin blushed and quickly looked away.

Hoseok took a deep breath and close eyes for a moment, gathering his thoughts. It had been so long since he'd seen Jimin. Of course he missed him. That was normal. It would pass. He just needed to let it go. He stood and followed the others into the kitchen as the savory scent of pizza sent them into a fit of excitement.

"This is so good," Jimin whined. Oddly enough, despite Jimin saying it through a full mouth of food, they were the first words that Hoseok truly registered since Jimin had given his first greeting. The haze around Hoseok's head was beginning to clear up. That was something, at least. Maybe he was making progress already – soon he wouldn't have to worry about his crush on Jimin.

"I know, it's my favorite kind." Taehyung struggled with a string of mozzarella that refused to break off from his slice. Jimin laughed, his hand over his mouth.

Hoseok smiled – but he didn't feel any overwhelming hunger for Jimin's laughter. That was good. More progress.

"Oh, I forgot!" Taehyung pulled out a plate and threw two slices onto it. "Yoongi will kill me if I don't feed him." He placed a messy kiss on Jimin's cheek, who wrinkled his nose and quickly wiped it off. "I'll be right back."

Once Taehyung left, Jimin glanced down at Hoseok's plate, where he'd left a little pile of olives. "You don't like olives?" he asked.

Hoseok swallowed when Jimin directly addressed him, but he refused to give up the progress he'd made over the last few minutes. His voice didn't waver as he responded. "Not really." He pushed his plate towards Jimin. "You can have them if you want." Progress.

Jimin quickly plucked them up and popped them into his mouth one by one. He wiggled with excitement when Jeongguk offered his own olives up. There was a tickle of annoyance in Hoseok, and he almost questioned what Jeongguk's motives were for doing so, but he quickly fought it away. There was nothing wrong with Jeongguk giving Jimin olives.

But then Jeongguk excused himself to the bathroom. Hoseok's eyes widened as he watched him disappear into the hallway, leaving him alone with Jimin.

Without Jeongguk or Taehyung, the kitchen was eerily quiet. Hoseok glanced over at Jimin who was looking just as uncomfortable as Hoseok felt.

Hoseok forced a casual pose, leaning against the counter. "Hey."

Jimin blushed. "Hi," he mumbled. Just like that, he was back to the shy, nervous man Hoseok had always known.

"Been a while."

A small smile played on Jimin's lips. "You said that earlier."

Hoseok laughed nervously. "Yeah, I know." Images from his dreams flashed through his head. The violence, the pain, the kisses. That night in the ally. Hoseok shifted his weight on his feet and coughed softly, trying to delay the words he wasn't sure he wanted to ask. "Hey, Jimin?"

Jimin's gaze turned up to him, his eyes large and questioning. Fuck, he was beautiful.

"Can I ask you a question? About that night?"

Jimin almost flinched, his eyes squeezing shut. He pressed his hands against his cheeks, his lips pouting outward. "Oh no. It happened, didn't it?"

Hoseok's heart stuttered in his chest. Jeongguk was wrong. They weren't just dreams. Jimin really was a demon and –

"We really did kiss," Jimin mumbled, shifting his hands to cover his face completely. He was flushed completely red.

Right. That. The kiss, not the demon. Hoseok blinked a few times, cursing himself for falling right back into his paranoia. "Yeah," he confirmed quietly. "I think we did."

"Fuck." Jimin sighed and lowered his hands, looking mildly frustrated. "I had been hoping I'd just hallucinated that. I don't normally get drunk like that."

"You don't remember anything else, do you?"

Jimin's eyes turned wide and fearful. "No," he whispered. "Did I – did we do something?"

"Oh my God," Hoseok hurriedly said, realizing Jimin assumed he meant something sexual. "Oh God, no. We didn't do anything like that."

The younger man's whole body relaxed so much that Hoseok thought he was going to melt into a puddle. "Oh thank God," Jimin said with a sigh. "I mean, it's not like I wouldn't have wanted that, but – " He stopped with a squeak and held a hand over his mouth, realizing what he'd just admitted. "No – no – I didn't mean that – "

"It's okay." Hoseok's own words surprised him, but they weren't untrue. "Things were different back then."

Jimin stared down at the floor, unable to meet Hoseok's gaze.

All the time they'd spent together – the small talk, eating together, and shy, subtle flirting – Hoseok had known back then that Jimin had feelings for him. Hoseok wondered what would have happened if he'd accepted that he liked Jimin all those months ago. That wasn't the case, though. "You didn't have Taehyung back then."

Jimin nodded his head, twisting his fingers together in front of him. "I really do like him."

"I know you do." Hoseok took a deep breath, feeling as though things were starting to come to a close. "Listen..." He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Things have been weird. Honestly, I've thought about you a lot."

"You have?" Jimin mumbled quietly.

"Well, yeah – after that kiss?" Hoseok chuckled anxiously, realizing that he was getting off topic. "Anyway, that's not what I really meant to say. Let's just forget about it, okay?"

Jimin opened his mouth to say something, but Jeongguk reentered the kitchen. Jimin licked his lips and said in English, "You're not going to tell Taehyung about it?"

"No, no," Hoseok assured him quickly, blushing when Jeongguk gave him a suspicious glare. "Promise."

Taehyung came bounding in through the backdoor, and suddenly the kitchen was as loud as it had been before the two had left as he excitedly told Jimin about how they could go down later to meet Yoongi.

Jimin laughed, assuring Taehyung that he was looking forward to it, before he gave Hoseok a small smile and mouthed, thank you.

Hoseok didn't have a chance to pick up his pizza again before Jeongguk grabbed his arm.

"Hey," Jeongguk said, addressing the couple. "We're gonna head back to our rooms so you can have some alone time." His voice was playful, but his grip on Hoseok's bicep was tight enough that it made him wince. Laughing at Taehyung and Jimin's embarrassed babbling, Jeongguk roughly dragged Hoseok down the hall and into his bedroom.

"What the hell?" Hoseok snapped as Jeongguk closed the door behind them.

"You kissed him?" Jeongguk hissed, his eyes alight with rage.

Hoseok choked and quickly sat on the edge of his bed. He knew he had a guilty look on his face. There was no use trying to hide it. Jeongguk had already overheard. "Well, not today," he mumbled, lowering his eyes. "He hadn't even met Taehyung back then."

Jeongguk sighed, one hand on his hip, the other rubbing his forehead. "How do you think Taehyung would feel if he knew his best friend kissed the guy he wanted to date? Sure, it's better than his best friend kissing the guy he's currently dating, but that doesn't mean it's okay. You're an absolute moron."

"Hey, don't – "

"You're a moron," Jeongguk doubled down, his voice sharp and unforgiving. "You sat there and told me you have dreams of Jimin being a demon – conveniently leaving out the fact that you have feelings for him – "

"I don't – "

"You don't what? Don't have feelings for him?" Jeongguk laughed derisively. Despite being younger, he was taller and broader than Hoseok – a fact that Hoseok often forgot – and his anger made him look even larger. "Don't you think – perhaps – that your guilt from kissing Jimin is the cause of your stupid nightmares? There's this little thing called 'personal demons.' You've turned him into a literal demon."

Hoseok stared down at the floor. He didn't know what to say. Now, after his acceptance of the dreams, that explanation made sense. For so long he'd convinced himself that the first night had been real. The younger continued before he could get another word out.

"If you – or Jimin – fuck this up for Taehyung," Jeongguk started, his voice quivering with anger, but he was unable to continue his thought. He pointed to the door. "That is the happiest I've seen Tae in a long time." He took a deep breath, clenching his fists at his side, then he sat on the edge of the bed next to Hoseok.

"Look," Jeongguk said, his voice softer now, "I get it. Having a crush on a guy is hard."

Hoseok blushed. It wasn't the sort of conversation he wanted to have. He wanted to deny his feelings. He didn't want to like Jimin. But he did. He liked Jimin. He liked Jimin a lot.

"If you need someone to talk to, I'm still here." Having vented his frustrations, Jeongguk returned to his relaxed default. He sighed. "This could have been a lot easier if you had fruit dreams like me."

Hoseok's lips twitched, threatening a smile, but he didn't want to. "It's weird. Jimin's the only one I've ever felt like this for. I mean, as far as men go. I've only ever liked girls."

Jeongguk rolled his eyes, leaning back on his hands. "Bisexuality is a thing."

That gave Hoseok pause, but he still didn't want to accept that. He wished everything was easy again.

Jeongguk smiled and slapped Hoseok on the shoulder before gripping it hard. "I love you, Hoseok, but if you and Jimin break Taehyung's heart, I'm going to have to kill you."

"I have zero intentions of kissing Jimin again," Hoseok promised, taking a deep breath. He was embarrassed and guilty, but, much like his discussion with Jeongguk earlier, he felt like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

 

 

Hoseok flopped over in his bed. The rest of the evening had gone by smoothly, if only for the fact that he'd been able to stay in his room. He'd turned on some music so he couldn't hear Jimin's voice from the living room, yet his occasional laughter still made it to him. He tried not to let it affect him, and he was moderately successful in that endeavor.

Now that Jimin was gone and the apartment was quiet, Hoseok tossed and turned, unable to find a comfortable position to sleep in.

He liked Jimin. His mind had thrown the word love at him often over the past few months, but he knew that was going too far. He didn't love Jimin. He couldn't love Jimin. This was nothing more than a stupid crush that he'd let fester. Left unchecked, it had grown into something akin to an obsession.

Accepting that he liked Jimin made it a little bit easier, though. Soon, the feelings would fade. He would be able to chat with Jimin without his heart racing. He'd be able to see Jimin and Taehyung holding hands or kissing without being jealous. He'd be able to find a nice, beautiful girl and forget all about Jimin.

But Hoseok wasn't ready to let go just yet. He closed his eyes, recalling the curve of Jimin's lips, the softness of his gaze. What would have happened if Jimin had disappeared down the hallway just like his dream the night before?

Jimin looked so good today with his hair pushed back. He hadn't been wearing Hoseok's favorite sweater, but he wore it in Hoseok's fantasy. He would lay next to Hoseok, wearing nothing but the sweater. Hoseok would turn to his side and see Jimin there with a shy smile upon his face.

Hoseok bit his lip, arousal budding within him. He wanted to lick and kiss at his thighs, moving up to the hem of that oversized sweater. He could hear Jimin's moans as Hoseok worshiped his beautiful body, see him spread his legs because he was ready for Hoseok to take him. He'd always been ready for Hoseok to take him.

This time, his fantasy wasn't clouded with fear or disgust. Hoseok didn't worry about the fact that he was fantasizing about a man. It wasn't just a man, it was Jimin. He wouldn't let the confusion over his sexuality stop him from sliding his hand into the waistband of his boxers, rubbing the head of his cock before it got too sensitive.

Hoseok let out a shaky breath, Jimin still on his mind. He looked up at Hoseok with hooded, lust-filled eyes.

"Would you have fucked me back then?" In his head, Jimin's voice was barely louder than a whisper. Hoseok wasn't sure if his lips moved at all.

"Yes," Hoseok imagined himself moaning, his lips still ghosting along Jimin's smooth thigh. He pushed the sweater up, exposing Jimin and watching the younger man squirm in embarrassment.

"Hoseok," Jimin whimpered, reaching up for him. "I want you – I've always wanted you to fuck me."

It was obscene how aroused Hoseok was, but he didn't let his conscience stop him. He didn't just want Jimin, he needed him. He needed to hear him moan, needed to feel his naked body against his. Hoseok pulled the sweater up off Jimin. The palms of his hands laid flat against the man's stomach, ribs and chest before he leaned over him, pressing their bodies together.

"Fuck me,” Jimin begged, his voice just a little louder.

So Hoseok fucked him. He fucked him slow and deep, focused on the perfect cries of ecstasy that came from the younger man. The feeling of Jimin's body squeezed tight around his cock was overwhelming. He kissed Jimin as their rhythm increased to something more passionate, more frenzied.  He pressed his nose just below Jimin's ear, licking his neck and drawing out the sweetest sounds of pleasure.

"Do you love me?" Jimin whispered, his fingers in Hoseok's hair to hold him close.

"Yes," Hoseok gasped, "I love you." His hips rolled, his cock sliding in and out of Jimin, the younger man still whimpering. It felt so good to admit it, to say the words out loud while he and Jimin were in the throes of passion.

"Do you love me?"

The repeated words made Hoseok want to scream and cry. Yes, he loved Jimin. How many times could he say it before Jimin believed him? He would say them however many times to took and more.

The skin beneath Hoseok's lips darkened as though a pitch black shadow slipped over Jimin. Hoseok didn't stop fucking him. He cupped his hand behind Jimin's neck, pulling him even closer, sucking and biting. The blackness spread across Jimin's jawline, down his collarbone, across his shoulders and all the way to the fingers that held onto Hoseok.

Jimin moaned loudly as Hoseok trailed a hand down his chest, fingers brushing past sensitive nipples. He arched his back, pressing harder against the older man, his voice less breathy than before. The darkness was nothing more than a second skin, its texture just as smooth, just as satisfying to touch, to lick, to kiss.

Hoseok lifted himself up on one hand, unable to remove the other from Jimin's body. It wasn't Jimin anymore, though, and Hoseok knew that. He looked down at the demon, red eyes filled with a carnal desire rather than the cruel, heartless emotion Hoseok was used to. The demon's lips were parted, and a hint of a black tongue flitted over them, his eyebrows turned up in an expression of pure lust as the two rocked together fervently.

The demon lifted his smooth black hands and cupped Hoseok's face. He kissed him, their breaths huffing together. "Tell me, Hoseok," the demon murmured, voice catching in a soft hiccup when Hoseok's cock slammed inside of him. "Who do you love?"

Hoseok whimpered. He was going to come – there was no stopping it. It had been building with a terrible force, a pressure that he could hardly stand pulling tighter and tighter –

"Who do you love, Hoseok?"

"I love you!"

Hoseok jerked awake, panting heavily, the words still fresh on his lips.

Chapter Text

Jimin's fingers paused over his keyboard. It was the fifth time he'd stopped since he'd started the translation. His mind kept wandering to the day before and his reunion with Hoseok. Overall, Jimin felt like the day had gone pretty well. He'd met with Taehyung's friends who all seemed to like him well enough, and he didn't have a nervous breakdown. The meeting with Hoseok wasn't bad either. Awkward, yes, but not terrible.

Considering how Jimin had pined for the older man while they'd been hanging out, and the feelings hadn't faded until a good two months into his friendship with Taehyung, Jimin had done well not to let those feelings resurface. No, he did not love Hoseok. He was with Taehyung - Taehyung who was kind and generous, who could always put a smile on Jimin's face no matter the situation. Taehyung who - more importantly - was also gay and returned his feelings. Jimin's heart fluttered at the thought.

Jimin blinked at the screen that came back into focus in front of him, the partially finished document open. With a start, he quickly resumed tapping out the translations. Even without so much on his mind, it was difficult to concentrate on the more technical business documents that were sent his way. At least this one was Korean to English. He preferred those to the opposite because it was easier to start from his own language. He couldn't wait until he could really get his name out there, though. Maybe someone would pay him to translate one of the many books he enjoyed reading. Jimin smiled but tried not to get lost in his thoughts again, his gaze flickering between the screen and the keyboard as he typed.

As always, the document couldn't keep his attention for very long. Jimin pulled his fingers away from the keyboard again and stretched, his back popping. He could buy a new desk, one that didn't sit close to the ground. He could also buy a chair to go with it. That wasn't the sort of thing Jimin liked to spend his money on, though. He preferred buying clothes now and then, or books. A new laptop had also caught his eye, though he always talked himself out of buying it whenever he had the mouse pointer over the purchase button. He didn't need a new laptop - his current one worked just fine.

Jimin lay back on the floor, staring up at the ceiling and wondering what it would be like if Taehyung and his friends were book characters. Taehyung would definitely be the main character. He was always so happy and trusting. He had been committed to helping Jimin come out of his shell with an undying devotion that Jimin hadn't expected from a stranger - just the perfect sort of personality for a protagonist.

Jeongguk would be ... Jimin didn't know what Jeongguk would be. His first thought would be the "sidekick best friend." Jimin almost laughed at the thought, wondering how the younger man would react to such an assessment. There was something about him that made Jimin a bit nervous. Maybe it was simply the knowledge that he and Taehyung used to date that gave Jimin the impression that Jeongguk was overprotective of Jimin's boyfriend.

That would be how Taehyung might feel if he knew that Jimin and Hoseok had kissed. Jimin cringed at the thought, trying to force his mind back to the stupid characterizations he was applying to the men he'd met the night before.

Yoongi would be the lazy one. Maybe the secondary-protagonist, but an anti-hero to offset Taehyung's enthusiastic drive.

Hoseok would be the antagonist. The word came so suddenly to Jimin's mind that it surprised him, yet his mind continued on that path. Jimin thought of himself as the something akin to a damsel-in-distress, hidden away by Hoseok as the others fought to set him free. Well, Taehyung and Jeongguk would fight to set him free. Yoongi would just kind of be there.

This time, Jimin did laugh. It was a strange figment of his imagination, though maybe not the weirdest. It wasn't the first time he'd come up with some outlandish fantasy, although usually it was based on random people he saw walking along the street below. Jimin often played the part of the damsel in distress, or whatever the male equivalent was. He covered his face with his hands, embarrassed by his preference, but no one had to know. He could keep that secret to himself.

A loud knock on the door to his apartment made Jimin shoot up. His knees collided with the underside of his desk and he fell with a loud crash and a soft curse. The throbbing pain in his legs was nothing compared to the racing of his heart as he stared at the door. He hadn't ordered any food – no one should have any reason to visit him.

Another knock, and Jimin forced himself to his feet. His steps were wobbly as he crossed the short distance to the door and laid trembling fingers on the lock. A third knock and Jimin flinched, the sound reverberating through Jimin's grip on the lock. He twisted it, dreading the clunky, metallic clack of it snapping out of place, then undid the other two. He opened the door by about three inches, just enough for the side of his face to be visible, looking out into the hall.

A tall man stood out there, wearing a long coat and brimmed hat, wet from the late summer rain that poured outside. His hooded eyes raised to Jimin as soon as the door opened.

Jimin swallowed, shaking like a leaf. He felt tiny under the man's serious gaze – with his well-defined lips held in a stern line – and he tightened his fingers on the door knob, ready to slam the door shut at a moment's notice.

There was a beat of silence, then Jimin realized that he needed to greet the stranger that had shown up at his doorstep. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, I'm looking for a Mr. Park Jimin?"

Jimin's blinked furiously, trying to stop his eyes from widening too much. "Yes, that's me."

The man held up his hand, flashing a police badge, and Jimin's heart sank to his toes. "Detective Kim Namjoon. May I come in?"

Jimin stepped back and let the man into his apartment. He watched the man's eyes flicker around the room, taking in the mattress on the floor, the kitchenette with the mess of tea leaves that Jimin had left there that morning, and the laptop on the low desk. Jimin licked his lips, wondering if the detective could see something that Jimin could not.

"I-is this about Hajoon?" Jimin asked softly. The feeling of the name on his tongue felt foreign – it had been a long time since he'd said it.

"Potentially." Namjoon flipped open the front flap of his jacket, pulling a paper from an inside pocket. He handed it to Jimin without saying a word.

The picture of a man stared up at Jimin – slightly overweight, balding, mean-looking face that made it difficult to identify the age. Jimin looked back to Namjoon. "Who's this?"

The detective stared down at Jimin, his eyes narrowing. That sort of look unnerved Jimin. He'd seen it plenty before – the look of distrust, the look of a man determined to prove that Jimin was lying.

"That's Choi Seongho." Namjoon took the paper back and tucked it back into his pocket. "One of two men murdered not too far from here."

The breath was stolen away from Jimin's lungs, and all he could do was gape stupidly at the man standing in the middle of his tiny apartment. "I – you – " Jimin choked out, "and you think that I had something to do with it?"

"There are a few similarities between the murders – their proximity to you, for one."

"I didn't do it!" Jimin defended himself shrilly, feeling panic rise in him again. He'd lost count of how many times he'd said those words. "Those charges were dropped." He almost continued, but he bit his tongue, forcing himself quiet. Rambling would only make him look guilty. He knew that from firsthand experience.

The detective didn't acknowledge Jimin's defense, and he pulled out his phone. "Could you tell me your whereabouts on April 13th earlier this year?"

Jimin took a deep breath, his whole body trembling in fear. He struggled against it and his urge to run – he didn't want to deal with this again. He thought it was behind him. He tried to concentrate, but so many of his days blended together. They all seemed the same except for the ones where he hung out with Taehyung. They'd started sometime in Spring, though, so maybe he could use it as a time frame. "Can I – my phone? I can't remember so maybe... "

Without letting Jimin finished the thought, Namjoon nodded, permitting Jimin to grab his phone. Scrolling through the texts from Taehyung was difficult – the happiness, the flirting, the overall positivity seemed false now that he was looking at it with the memory of Hajoon's murder hanging over him again.

Jimin scrolled earlier and earlier, a sinking suspicion growing in his gut. He found himself dreading what he would find. No amount of internal begging, praying, hoping could prepare him for the inevitable. He reached the beginning of the conversation. April 13th. The day he'd first texted Taehyung. The day he'd gone out with Hoseok.

Jimin's fingers shook and he fought back tears. He couldn't cry now. If he cried, it would make him look guilty. Everything would make him look guilty.

"I – uh – was hanging out with a friend that day," Jimin whispered. "We went out to eat, had a few drinks."

"A 'friend?' Not a boy – "

"Just a friend," Jimin quickly assured him, then wilted under the wary gaze of the detective. For some reason being gay made it that much harder to prove his innocence. It was like that was all they heard and they immediately associated him with all things bad – murder included.

Namjoon hummed in acknowledgement with a disapproving tone, tapping notes into his phone. Jimin briefly considered making some stupid quip about wishing Hoseok had been his boyfriend, but he wasn't stupid enough to give the detective any more reason to hate him.

"And this friend, he can corroborate your story?"

Jimin always hated how they called it his "story." It wasn't a story, it was the truth. He nodded. "Yes."

"Name?"

"Jung Hoseok."

"Do you have his number?"

Jimin shook his head.

Namjoon looked up at him with an eyebrow raised. "Number?"

"Sorry – we never exchanged numbers." God, how horrendously suspicious that must seem. "I have his address, though."

Namjoon narrowed his eyes. "You have his address – but not his number."

Jimin suppressed a wince, realizing that it came across as more of a one-night-stand than anything else. There wasn't anything he could say to explain the situation without digging himself further into the ground. He nodded and pulled up Taehyung's contact information, reciting the address. There were a few more questions – when Jimin had left Busan – how long he'd been staying at that specific apartment – and Jimin answered them all as calmly as he could manage. On the inside, though, Jimin was a wreck. Murders. More murders.

Namjoon left shortly after, but his presence stayed – a dark, looming aura that made the whole apartment feel like an unwelcome space. Jimin stood by the door, frozen after relocking it. It had to be a coincidence. It was one hundred percent pure coincidence that the two times Jimin had ever gotten drunk, the two times he'd been drunk enough to black out, someone had been murdered.

Jimin knew he didn't murder Hajoon. He loved Hajoon. Hajoon was big and strong and always scared away the bullies and the perverts. Jimin had wanted to be with Hajoon forever. There was no reason to kill him.

Legs filled with lead, Jimin shuffled over to his mattress and collapsed onto it. Those other details couldn't possibly be linked to Jimin. Jimin's stomach lurched, and he suppressed the urge to vomit. It was a coincidence. It had to be a coincidence. He buried his head beneath his pillow, now crying softly. No, no! It wasn't me! He'd gone out with Hoseok that night, had fun, got drunk, and kissed.

The detective would go to Hoseok – he would find out what he knew. The last thing Jimin could remember was the kiss. Had something happened after that? Hoseok had asked if Jimin remembered anything else – did he know something that Jimin didn't? What would he tell the detective?

Jimin sat up with grim resolution. He needed to know.

 

 

Hoseok closed his eyes, listening to the monsoon rains fall upon the awning above him. The force was softened by the thick vines that covered the glass, but they only served to lead the water to the edge of the covering and spill over like a waterfall upon the cement roofing of the apartment. He let out a deep sigh, his body relaxing into the couch he was stretched across. The air was thick and muggy, and it didn't have quite the same smell as a fresh spring shower, but the sound was the same, and that was good enough for Hoseok.

When he'd gone out to the roof to listen to the rain, Hoseok had been hoping that it would help him keep his mind off of Jimin. The man came to his mind no matter what he tried, though. At least now the thoughts weren't accompanied by the same sort of paralyzing fear he'd felt over the past few months. The dream the night before had left him a little unsettled, but it could have been worse. He could have died again.

"Hoseok."

Hoseok's eyes snapped open and he shot upright. The voice had startled him, but not as much as the person who'd spoken. Jimin stood in front of the open door, his hand still on the knob. He didn't look at Hoseok, his eyes shifting back and forth until he took another step onto the roof, shutting the door behind him.

The air felt like it had a strange chill that blew over Hoseok as he found himself trapped on the roof, with Jimin blocking the only exit. Unless I throw myself from the edge. Hoseok brushed the foolish thought aside.

"Hi." Hoseok took into Jimin's wet clothes. "Did you walk here?" The younger man was dripping – his jacket soaked from his shoulders and down his front, the ends of his pants dark from the calf down. His hair clumped together, some of it sticking around the side of his face. Hoseok's stomach lurched, reminded of the demon.

Jimin shook his head, water spraying across the previously dry cement. "Just from the bus." He pulled off his jacket and wrung it out before laying it across the back of one of the patio chairs.

Hoseok tried to clear his dry throat, glancing at the door behind Jimin again. "If you're looking for Tae – "

"He's not here, I know," Jimin cut him off. "I texted him. He said he wouldn't be home for a while."

The implications of that made Hoseok's heart race. Discomfort curled within him, reminded of the fantasies he'd always had of finding Jimin and himself alone together. Those weren't the thoughts he needed to be having right then, though.

Jimin took a sharp breath. "I – uh – need to talk to you. About that night."

Of all the things Hoseok had hoped Jimin would say, that was not one of them. The words sent his heart racing, pounding away in his chest uncontrollably.

Still standing, Jimin crossed his arms over his chest. "Did anything else happen?"

These were not the questions Hoseok wanted Jimin to ask. All his doubts, all his anxiety, began bubbling anew. No, no, they were just dreams! If they weren't just dreams, then that meant that Jimin really was – No, stop. Hoseok blinked a few times, reigning in his thoughts. This happened the day before. Jimin hadn't been talking about the demon then, and he was definitely not talking about the demon now.

Hoseok shook his head, heart still beating wildly. "No, I told you, we didn't – "

"No, I don't mean like that."

Hoseok's words fell back into his throat as the panic rose again. What do you mean? Hoseok wanted to ask. Did he really want to ask, though? Did he want to know why Jimin appeared so suddenly on the rooftop of his home, asking about the night Hoseok was sure that a demon had murdered two men in front of him?

A muscle in Jimin's jaw tensed and relaxed a few times, then he sat down on the end of the couch opposite of Hoseok. The older man fought against his urge to reel back, to get away from Jimin, to make a break to the door and lock himself away in the apartment. That wouldn't keep Jimin away from him. He'd find him one way or another.

"Look, there's something you should know." Jimin's words were barely loud enough to be heard over the sound of the rain pouring up above. "A couple years ago, my boyfriend was killed."

Hoseok stared at the younger man, eyes wide. Jimin – the demon – had killed before. It could have been a coincidence, but Hoseok couldn't force himself to accept that possibility. He'd seen what he'd seen. He'd seen Jimin rip apart those men right in front of him, ruthlessly, almost casually, with teasing remarks.

Jimin's chin trembled and he tucked his wet hair behind his ear, pulling his arm up over his chest and dipping his face into the crook of his elbow, so similar to how he'd always cowered when Hoseok used to see him.

"I loved him," Jimin said. "I loved him so much, but we were attacked – and – all I said was that sometimes he could be a bit handsy, but that made me the prime suspect."

Hoseok's body was frozen, trying to process the information. His stomach had turned to stone, his heart beating so hard he could feel in his throat and his thighs.

Jimin buried his face in his hands. He was saying something else, but it was too muffled and the rain too loud to hear him.

Ideas, conspiracies, half-formed conclusions flew through Hoseok's head, making him wish he had jumped off the roof when Jimin showed up. He thought of that night in the alley, when the men had Jimin at their mercy as he cried for Hoseok to save him.

"It wasn't like it was anything that bad," Jimin cried, pulling his hands away and clenching them beneath his chin. "I wouldn't kill him. There was no way I could kill him."

Hoseok took a few deep breaths, then finally spoke. "Are you sure?"

Jimin's head shot up, the tears that had spilled down his face only made clear by the red streaks from his eyes down to his chin. "I didn't kill him!"

"No, I mean – are you sure it wasn't anything that bad? Him being handsy."

"Of course it wasn't." That statement came less boldly, a hint of hesitation before it. Jimin pulled the collar of his shirt up and chewed on it, averting his gaze again. "He wouldn't try anything."

"Wouldn't? That's not the same as didn't."

More hesitation. "I don't remember that night very well." Jimin shook his head, the tears starting anew. "Shrink said I just blocked it out. Trauma, or something. But..."

Hoseok stared at Jimin, waiting for him to continue, but no more words came. The rain had slowly lessened from a downpour to a normal shower, but the sound of it spilling from the awning onto the cement filled what would otherwise be an uncomfortable silence.

"But?" Hoseok prompted, now itching for more information. If he had the ability to move, he would have been on the edge of his seat. Still, he sat frozen, watching the younger man.

"I've only gotten drunk two times," Jimin said quietly, his eyes still lowered. "I blacked out both times. And both times, someone was murdered."

It was then that Hoseok finally accepted the separation of Jimin and the demon. He truly didn't know. He didn't know who killed his boyfriend. With the other murders, Jimin would continue his life thinking he was to blame, that it was all his fault. It wasn't – it was the demon's. Jimin probably had no control over it. Hoseok knew that Jimin had an unnatural pull that encouraged strangers to approach him out of the blue – was the demon just protecting Jimin?

"Did something happen that night?" Jimin asked. When Hoseok didn't respond, Jimin looked up at him with wide, pleading eyes. "Did I – " he choked quietly, then forced out the rest of his sentence. "Did I do it?"

Jimin deserved to know the truth. He deserved to know that he was innocent – yet the words wouldn't come to Hoseok so easily.

Frustrated with Hoseok's silence, Jimin scooted closer. "Hoseok – " He cut off with a startled whimper as Hoseok shot up out of his seat, away from Jimin. The younger man's eyes were perpetually glassy with tears, looking up at Hoseok who knew there was an expression of terror on his face. In those eyes, Hoseok could see Jimin reluctantly accept what he feared. "Oh my God," Jimin whispered. "I did it, didn't I?"

Hoseok watched as Jimin started to break down – slowly, at first, his breath quickening, his fingers desperately grasping at the hem of his shirt, then standing up, grabbing his hair and letting out quiet, strangled cries.

"How – how?" Jimin walked forward a step and Hoseok pulled back again, but the younger man didn't seem aware of what he was doing. Without looking at Hoseok, he stepped to the side, turned, stepped again, then back one more time. "I killed those guys? But I don't know – " Jimin came to a halt, the horrified expression on his face twisting even more.

"Hajoon?" he squeaked, looking up at Hoseok. "I killed Hajoon?"

Hoseok's heart broke watching Jimin break down into a mess of tears. All he could do was stand by as the younger man collapsed onto the couch, mumbling quietly beneath his sobs.

"I don't understand." Jimin pressed his palms against his eyes, rubbing furiously. "I couldn't ki-kill someone – how could I kill Hajoon?" He shook his head again. "No, no – I wouldn't have killed him – it wasn't me – it wasn't me!"

"Jimin," Hoseok said, sitting on the couch with Jimin. He carefully put his hand on the other man's shoulder. He pitied Jimin now more than he ever had – for all the hardship he'd ever gone through, not knowing that it stuck to him as a literal curse.

"It doesn't make any sense," Jimin cried again. "How can I be a murderer – I don't remember anything – "

Hoseok tried to find the right words to say. He needed to tell the truth. He needed to finally get the words out, the words he had been wanting to say for months but had been too scared to admit. "Jimin," he said softly, then he licked his lips nervously.

Jimin wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. "What?"

Hoseok hesitated again, then forced the words out. "I think you're possessed by a demon."

Jimin's brows furrowed, staring at Hoseok with dumb disbelief. His mouth opened and closed a few time, like he was trying to find the right words like Hoseok had been just moments before. "A demon?"

"Look, I know it sounds crazy, but that night we were attacked and there was this thing that came out of you and – "

"Are you kidding me?" Jimin interrupted, a bite to his voice that cut through Hoseok. "You're trying to tell me – fuck – what is wrong with you?" He stood up and resumed his aimless pacing.

"I'm not lying." Hoseok stood and tried to move into Jimin's line of sight. "Just – listen – "

"No!" Jimin came to a stop, glaring at Hoseok. "You listen – are you fucking crazy? Demons aren't real, Hoseok! The fact that I even have to say those words is ridiculous. I – I – I black out, people get murdered – but I couldn't have done it!"

Hoseok watched him break down again, though this time it was a quieter sort of panic – mumbling beneath his breath, arms drawn around him, the whites of his eyes showing completely around his irises as they stared at the ground. Hoseok wondered if that was what he looked like back there in that alley.

"I couldn't have killed them – there's no way I could have..." His eyes widened as his voice tapered off. He took a step back from Hoseok. "It was you."

"What? No!" Hoseok panicked, shaking his head furiously.

"Wh-why else would you lie like that?" Another step back.

Hoseok growled in frustration, causing Jimin to flinch. "No, I'm serious, we got attacked and you turned into a demon and you murdered the guys who attacked us. It's fucking crazy, I know – I've been freaking the fuck out for months because I thought you were going to come kill me, or Tae, or something. You turned all black and you killed those guys – ripped them right to pieces."

Jimin made a quiet strangled noise, hand over his mouth. "Ripped to – no," he whispered. "No, no, no! " Without another word, he turned and bolted towards the door.

Hoseok swore and chased after him. The door crashed against the wall as Jimin threw it open and rushed through, down the long flight of stairs. Hoseok called out to him, but Jimin didn't pause. He fled past the doorway into the apartment and continued down to the gym.

Most of the lights were off, the large room void of any patrons at the late hour, and Yoongi was on the far side, rearranging weights. He looked up with surprise as Jimin and Hoseok came bounding out onto the main floor.

"Wait, Jimin, please," Hoseok called again, but Jimin nearly threw himself at the front doors. Locked, they rattled but didn't open, bouncing the small man back. Hoseok grabbed Jimin's hand, but the younger man spun towards him, yanking himself free.

"Stay away from me!" Jimin shrieked and backed towards the door.

A loud shout came from the other end of the gym, and Yoongi came running up to them. "What the hell is going on?"

Hoseok looked to Jimin with pleading eyes. He could see Jimin's terror, how it seemed to fill him to his core, making him shake and gasp for air.

Jimin didn't have a chance to reply. Taehyung appeared through the glass behind Jimin, looking confused. He unlocked the door, and Jimin let out a shriek, jumping away from it.

"Whoa, hey," Taehyung said, reaching out to his boyfriend. Jeongguk came in behind him, looking dubiously between Jimin and Hoseok.

Hoseok groaned and took a few steps back. Even if Jimin didn't tell him that he thought Hoseok was a murderer, there was nothing that he could say to explain what was going that wouldn't leave them angry for disturbing Jimin.

Jimin made a move as though to rush to Tae's arms, but then he stopped, his steps stuttering beneath him. He looked at Taehyung, then to Hoseok. He shook his head. "I'm sorry, I have to go."

"Go?" Taehyung lowered his hand away from Jimin, crestfallen. "But..." He looked over at Hoseok, catching his regretful expression. "What happened?"

Jimin shook his head again, his tears running dry even though he was still sobbing. "I can't be – I don't want – "

"Jimin," Hoseok said, stepping forward. The younger man whined in fear and pulled away. In a heartbeat, Taehyung was in front of Hoseok, a hand on his chest, aggressively pushing him backward. Another larger hand was on Hoseok's elbow – Yoongi.

"What did you do?" Taehyung nearly snarled, his lip curling in anger. Behind him, Jimin was cowering in Jeongguk's arms.

"I didn't do – " Hoseok grunted as he was shoved back again. He smacked Taehyung's hands away. "Stop it! I didn't do anything!" He looked to Jimin again, hoping beyond hope that the man would say something – anything – to his defense.

They didn't come. Jimin just cried against Jeongguk's chest. Hoseok could only imagine what was going through their minds – Taehyung ready to fight him, Jeongguk glaring over at him, Yoongi holding him back. It wasn't fair. He didn't do anything. Jimin was possessed – he was the reason those men were dead, the reason why Hoseok had been plagued by nightmares. He was the reason that they stood there, all of Hoseok's friends turning against him. There was no way out.

The front door to the gym opened again, and this time they all jumped away from it. They hadn't noticed two haggard men come up until they walked inside. The two looked around, taking in the partially lit room, the equipment, and then the people who occupied the space. One man had a pockmarked face and was short and thin – like he could whither away at any moment. His clothing looked far too large for him – almost like they were meant for the other man. The second man's face was red from days' worth of sun, and an unmanaged beard flowed from his chin almost down to his stomach. The skin around his eyes sagged so much, it was difficult to tell if his expression was changing or not. When his gaze passed over Hoseok, though, they widened enough for a glint of excitement shine through.

Hoseok was hit by a rush of discomfort and cringed away, instinctively pulling Taehyung along with him. His heart was pounding even harder than it had been before – a feat he hadn't thought possible. Best case scenario, the men were homeless, witless, looking for a bathroom. Worse case... Hoseok's eyes flickered to Jimin, who had his arms around himself, shoulders hunched up.

"Sorry," Jeongguk said, regaining his senses after the short surprise. "We're closed. I need you to leave."

The two men ignored him. They took a few more steps into the room, and everyone moved back, unnerved by their presence. There was something about the larger man's face – it made Hoseok's skin crawl, like he was forgetting something that was putting his life on the line.

"Sir, you need to go," Jeongguk said again, more firmly. He released Jimin and took a step toward them, palms up and motioning to the door.

The pockmarked man looked to the other man, who nodded, then smirked. "Right," the shorter man said, his voice low and snide. "We'll be on our way, then." The tension didn't leave the room as the two turned towards the door. Jeongguk held it open, shooting his friends a nervous expression as they came close.

They had only just reached the door when the pockmarked man grabbed it and slammed it back against Jeongguk, making him stumble back. Jimin let out a cry of fright, his hands over his mouth, as the second man grabbed Jeongguk by the hair and forced him to his knees.

Taehyung almost bolted forward, but something flashed in the low lighting – a blade held against Jeongguk's neck – and Hoseok grabbed his friend to held him still. Yoongi swore, his hand tight on Hoseok's elbow.

"Smart move," the short man sneered. He tightened his grip on Jeongguk's hair, making him wince in pain, lifting his chin up.

Left separated by the others, Jimin's breathing the loudest noise in the room despite trying to muffle them with his hands. The larger man turned to him, regarding him with an expression that Hoseok could only describe as hungry.

Hoseok's months of uncomfortable attraction to the younger man was flaring up in a near violent manner, manifesting into a drive to protect Jimin. That same feeling was probably what made Taehyung growl quietly, still subtly resisting Hoseok's hold. The only thing that kept Hoseok from releasing Tae and rushing to fight the two men was the demon that he knew hid away inside of Jimin.

The large man, who seemed to be the leader of the two, advanced towards Jimin in three quick and long strides that let him grab the petrified man's wrist before he had a chance to get away. He yanked Jimin towards him, his back against the man's broad chest. Hoseok had to redouble his grip around Taehyung, holding him back before he could do something that would get Jeongguk killed. The demon may save Jimin – Hoseok didn't know if he'd do the same for Jimin's friends.

The man clamped his hand over Jimin's mouth, cutting off what promised to be a loud shout. "You look as pretty as the last time I saw you," he said against Jimin's ear, making the young man cringe away from him in disgust.

Hoseok felt a cold shock as the memory came back to him. The third thug. The one the demon didn't kill – the one who'd left the alley without a mark on his body. "Stop," he whispered fervently to Taehyung, who continued to fight against his hold. "It'll be okay." He wished he could stop the shaking in his voice. He didn't particularly like the idea of watching the demon shred two more men right in front of him, but the alternative was far worse.

The man holding Jimin pulled out a knife – no – a dagger, its blade long and sharp, a dark red gemstone buried deep within its hilt. He brandished it for everyone to see as though he were putting on an entertainment show for them. He turned its point towards Jimin, slicing through the terrified man's shirt without touching his skin. The fabric simply slipped around the blade, sliced as though it were nothing but air across the sharp edge.

"Please, please!" Taehyung shouted, finally breaking the spell of fear-induced silence. "Don't hurt him, please!"

"Tae, it's okay." Hoseok tried to calm his friend, but was rewarded with a hard elbow to the gut. He grunted in pain, but didn't release his hold. Taehyung struggled harder, shouting at the man again. Hoseok had to wrestle him to the ground, pinning him on his stomach with a hand behind his back. When he looked back up, the large man was peering down at them with amusement, the dagger point still uncomfortably close to Jimin's body.

"Let me go!" Taehyung's voice was becoming higher pitch, turning near hysterical.

Jeongguk sat on his knees, looking right at the ceiling from the knife held right beneath his chin. His eyes were squeezed shut, trying not to move, but the pockmarked man occasionally tapped the edge of his blade against his neck, making him flinch.

Come on, come on, Hoseok thought desperately, watching Jimin shake in the large man's arms. Where are you? Taehyung tried to scream again, but this time Hoseok covered his mouth. Come on!

The man cupped his hand beneath Jimin's jaw to lift it up. Jimin only had enough time to let out a pitifully tiny noise of terror before the man dragged the sharp edge of the blade across Jimin's neck. It sank into the skin and through the muscles with unimaginable ease, blood spraying in a sudden mist then spilling down in sheets over his chest.

Taehyung shrieked against Hoseok's hand and went limp as Jimin was released to collapse onto the ground, and his cries were echoed by Yoongi and Jeongguk.

No! Hoseok watched with horror as Jimin raised a hand to his throat, futilely trying to stop the bleeding as his body twitched and convulsed uncontrollably. Hoseok released his sobbing friend, not wanting to believe what he was seeing. The demon – what happened to the demon? Had it all really just been a figment of his imagination? This had to be another nightmare. He was sure of it. The thought did nothing to comfort him as he watched Jimin collapse to the ground, his wide eyes rolling in his head. Wet choking and gasping noises came from both Jimin's mouth and the wound in his neck. The blood pulsed out with each beat of Jimin's heart, the pauses between each pulse growing longer.

Yoongi took a few steps back, swearing incessantly.  The man holding Jeongguk released him and took a step back, letting the youngest see his friend collapse fully into his own blood. He scrambled backward with a panicked whimper, away from the wet, dark redness spreading outward on the hardwood floor before it could soak into his jeans.

No, no! Hoseok couldn't look away as Jimin curled up, his hands still at his neck. Hoseok had been wrong. There was no demon. He collapsed into a seated position beside Taehyung, watching Jimin bleed out like a gut pig. The blood looked black in the low lighting of the gym. It spread across the floor, hitting the murderer's shoes first, then reaching out towards Taehyung and Hoseok.

As it came closer, Hoseok could see the blood didn't look black – it was black. It slowed, then came to a stop, then, before any of them could process what was happening, it receding back to Jimin in a quick rush, sliding back along the floor without leaving a single drop or stain behind. It flowed in through Jimin's mouth and neck, the man's body convulsing as the stuff forced its way back inside.

Taehyung pulled himself up so he could cling to Hoseok as they watched the blackness overtake Jimin's body, the wound on his neck stitching itself back together, covering his skin, his neck, his face, until he was nothing but a void in the shape of a man.

The four friends collectively jumped in shock as Jimin let out a loud gasp, drawing air into the black pit of his mouth. The sound was ghoulish, a heavy, rasping sound that made Hoseok's skin crawl with anxiety. Again and again, Jimin gasped for breath, his chest rising and falling in distinct motions. Slowly, he started to relax, his breaths returning to normal.

The blackened Jimin struggled to his feet – rolling onto his side, one knee on the ground, slowly push off – but once he managed to stand upright, his pose shifted, his weight held over one foot, head tilted to the side in a cocky manner.

Jimin opened his eyes.

No. The demon opened his eyes. Dark red irises shone out from the nothingness around them, slowly shifting as he took in the room around him. Slowly but surely, the black material seemed to fade away, wisping off his face in the smoke-like patterns that Hoseok had seen so often in his dreams. His neck and hands stayed dark, and small bits enshrined the face that held perfect semblance of Jimin.

The demon raised his arms and stretched them, letting out a soft squeal. His lips were pulled up in a satisfied smile, and he let out a sigh. "So sorry about that," he said with Jimin's voice, but his tone was jaunty, cold, confident – decidedly un-Jimin-like. Taehyung made a tiny noise in the back of his throat and pressed himself closer to Hoseok.

"I wish it didn't have to be that messy, but this time it was necessary." The demon shrugged and looked around again. His gaze passed over Jeongguk still on the ground, staring up at the demon with pure terror, then to Yoongi standing to the side.

Finally his gaze fell upon Taehyung and Hoseok, sitting on the floor and clinging together, their bodies shaking like windchimes in a storm. Hoseok's breath was stolen away when they made direct eye contact. How had he ever thought that his dreams were real? They had seemed so vivid, yet none of them compared to intense flood of polarizing emotions – unbridled want and terror – that came with that gaze. The cruel thing's mouth split wide in a smirk.

"Well, this has been awfully fun," the demon said in a playfully melodic tone. The black tentacles made their appearance, slipping out from his shadow and reaching for the two strangers whom Hoseok had completely forgotten about. Jeongguk whimpered in fear and clambered backward away from the flat angular shadows that moved as smooth as silk along the floor.

The man with the dagger held it out, which the demon brought to him with the strange appendage-like shadows. He twirled it around as though it wasn't covered in Jimin's blood, its gem gleaming. He glanced over at the men and smiled. They were watching the blackness rise up over their bodies with mild interest as it crept up them. "Ready to go?"  Without waiting for their reply, the pitch black shadows enveloped them completely.

"By the way, Hoseok."

Hoseok's heart lurched as the demon addressed him directly in that clear voice that cut through the air as easily as the knife had slide into Jimin's throat. He shrank under his gaze, but he couldn't look away. Darkness crept over the previously bare skin on the demon's face, reaching upward from his neck.

The demon smiled and wiggled his midnight fingers at him. "Nice seeing you again! Hope you didn't miss me too much." He winked and blew Hoseok a kiss. The black completely enshrouded him like the others, then disappeared into a smoky void, leaving nothing but tendrils of darkness wafting where they'd once stood. Those, too, quickly dissipated, leaving the terror-stricken friends alone.

There were only a few seconds of silence before three sets of wide eyes turned to Hoseok.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Yoongi couldn't think of anything but the image of the dagger sliding into Jimin's throat. Four people in the living room, and none of them spoke. The silence alone was unsettling enough as it was, but it was charged with a sort of tension that promised disaster if broken. He wanted to say something that could break them from the horror that they all had on their minds, but nothing came to him.

Yoongi had always heard that the depictions of violence in movies never captured the true grotesque details. He may have wondered on occasion how the real thing differed. Now that he knew, he wished he could go back. He wished that he hadn't seen Jimin's eyes rolling, wished he hadn't seen Jimin fighting desperately to stopper his own blood, futilely trying to keep himself alive. Yoongi closed his eyes, his stomach turning. He took a few breaths as slowly as he could, not wanting to disrupt the silence with his own noise.

To his right, Hoseok sat on an armchair, staring at the ground. None of them had managed to say anything since they made it back to the apartment. There were plenty of things that Yoongi wanted to say, namely figuring out what the fuck was going on, but he didn't know where to start.

Taehyung stood up, startling Jeongguk who'd been sitting next to him on the couch. He walked to the kitchen, his posture rigid, and poured himself a glass of water. The liquid sloshed around in the glass as he raised it to his lips, his hand shaking violently, but he didn't manage to take the drink he'd intended to.

Jeongguk joined Tae in the kitchen and took the glass from him. "Are you okay?" Despite being whispered, the words rang through the silent space as clearly as though he'd shouted it.

"Okay?" Taehyung turned his gaze to Jeongguk, a wide-eyed stare that made him look crazed. "Am I okay? Do you think I should be okay?"

"I don't mean okay okay, I just mean..." Jeongguk sighed and scratched his head. "I don't know."

Taehyung took the glass back from Jeongguk and downed it in one go. He took a deep breath and stormed back into the living room, coming to a halt in front of Hoseok. The other man didn't say anything. He didn't do anything to acknowledge their friend standing before him.

"Well?" Taehyung said expectantly. "What the fuck was that?"

Hoseok shook his head, still staring at a single point on the ground.

Taehyung tapped his foot and crossed his arms. "Is that it? That's all you're giving me?"

Jeongguk took Taehyung's arm and tried to pull him away, but Taehyung yanked back, glaring at the youngest. "Tae, come on," he plead quietly.

"No!" Taehyung smacked Jeongguk's hand away as he tried again. "I want some fucking answers." His breaths were heavy, his chest rising and falling in exaggerated motions. He was still shaking - it was clear even from Yoongi's spot across the room. "I just saw my boyfriend get murdered."

"You think I don't know that?" Jeongguk met Taehyung's gaze, a hint of despair behind his eyes. "I was held at knife point, too."

Taehyung looked away with a muttered apology. "I don't know what to do. What can we do?" He motioned to Hoseok. "He's not talking, Yoongi's not talking. No one is talking! Why is no one talking?"

"What are we supposed to say?" Yoongi snapped. He felt a twinge of regret. He shouldn't be short with Taehyung. As traumatizing as it had been for all of them, Tae was right – Jimin was his boyfriend.

Taehyung looked at him with wide eyes edged with tears. "I don't know," Taehyung whispered. He collapsed on the couch next to Hoseok and stared at the ceiling. "Is Jimin dead?"

Hoseok moved his head side to side, not quite fast enough to be considered shaking his head. "I don't know. It didn't happen like that last time."

"So you have seen it before," Taehyung said with an emotionless tone. Yoongi couldn't help but note how pale everyone was. They all looked on the verge of being sick, and Yoongi felt the same.

Hoseok nodded and drew his knees up to his chest.

Jeongguk knelt on the ground in front of Hoseok, a hand on his knee. "What you told me about the dreams – they weren't dreams, were they?"

Taehyung sat upright, his eyebrows high on his forehead. "What dreams?"

Hoseok said nothing, his eyes wide, staring at nothing in particular. 

"What were the dreams?" Taehyung prompted again.

Hoseok glanced at Taehyung, then back to the floor. There were a few beats of silence as Hoseok took in some shaking breaths. "We were hanging out once – the night I gave him your number. We were heading home and we were attacked." Hoseok grimaced and squeezed his eyes shut. "He killed them. Right there." He shuddered so violently that Yoongi could see it across the room.

Yoongi remembered that night. He'd be surprised if the others didn't. Hoseok had come home sick as a dog, and he hadn't been quite the same ever since. Yoongi closed his eyes, ashamed that he hadn't reached out to Hoseok more. He'd thought he was just going through a rough time and that eventually he'd pull himself out.

"Why didn't you say something?" Taehyung's voice held a bite of anger in it again.

"You think I didn't want to?" Hoseok shot back, finally looking directly at Taehyung, his jaw set. "Would you have believed me?"

Without a word, Yoongi made his way across the room and squeezed onto the couch next to Hoseok, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. The younger man's body was shaking – a subtle, yet constant tremble.

Taehyung didn't respond. At least he didn't try to deny it. If they hadn't witnessed what they had downstairs, they never would have given Hoseok more than just an offhanded laugh. Even seeing it with his own eyes, Yoongi had trouble believing that it had happened. It didn't surprise him that Hoseok had thought it was a nightmare.

"Since then," Hoseok whispered, leaning into Yoongi's embrace, "I've been having these nightmares. Jimin kills me over and over. I didn't know if any of it was real – like maybe I'd hallucinated that first night, or maybe it was all a dream." He lowered his forehead to his knees.

"So this isn't the first time Jimin's died?" Taehyung asked, a tremble and squeak to his voice.

Hoseok glanced at Yoongi, who gave him an encouraging squeeze, and he shook his head. "No. That thing – the demon – came out before he got hurt. I don't know why it happened this time."

"A demon?" Taehyung let out a small giggle, but it was too forced, too high pitched. He sounded near hysterics, and Yoongi didn't blame. "My boyfriend's a demon."

Hoseok firmly shook his head. "Jimin's not a demon. I just think he's possessed by one."

Taehyung chewed on the inside of his cheek, contemplating. "You're sure?" he whispered.

Hoseok gave a wry laugh. "At this point in my life, I'm not sure about anything."

A knock at the door was followed by a quartet of startled gasps. Yoongi's pulse skyrocketed, and Hoseok leaned into him for support. They stared at the door, none of them moving towards it. After the second knock, Yoongi slowly rose, his legs shaky.

Jeongguk grabbed Yoongi's hand and shook his head furiously. "What if it's him?" he whispered fearfully. "Or those men?"

Yoongi squeezed his hand and pulled away. It wasn't as though he hadn't thought of that, but he doubted that they would bother knocking if they wanted access to the apartment. Still, that didn't stop him from nervously checking the peephole. A tall man stood outside in a long coat. It wasn't a fancy coat by any means, but far too nice to be related to the wild-eyed men from before. Hopefully.

The door creaked loudly when Yoongi opened it, revealing the man standing on the front porch. "Yes?" Yoongi was thankful his voice didn't shake.

"Hello," the man said, holding up his wallet to reveal a badge. "I'm Detective Kim Namjoon. May we talk for a moment?"

Yoongi's heart lurched and he resisted the urge to glance back at the others. His fingers held a death grip on the door knob and he gave what he hoped was a casual shrug. "Sure."

The detective pocketed his wallet and pulled out his phone. "We received a noise complaint from the gym downstairs a while ago. It's my understanding that the residents of this apartment are responsible for the gym?"

Suspicion mingled with Yoongi's fear. A detective? For a noise complaint? Yoongi nodded, keeping his face neutral. "Oh, yeah, I'm sorry about that." He motioned back towards the others, saying the first words that came to his head. "My friend's about to enter his final year at the university. He kind of had a mental breakdown."

Detective Kim glanced over his shoulder with an eyebrow raised. Yoongi broke out in a cold sweat, praying that his excuse was believable.

"As it so happens," the detective said, flicking through a few screens on his phone, "I was given this address as part of an unrelated investigation earlier today. Do you recognize this man?" He held up his phone revealing a picture of Jimin.

Yoongi stared at the photo, trying to process everything while simultaneously figuring out what he needed to say. It was a mugshot. Jimin's mugshot. "I – uh – " Yoongi stammered, then shook his head.

"You don't?"

"No, no, I do." Yoongi wanted to lie, to deny any interaction with Jimin at all, distance him from Yoongi's friends as quickly as possible. Lying to the police was an idiotic move, though. "That's just not the question I was expecting. He's a friend."

"A friend, or..."

Yoongi frowned at the half question, confused by the tone. Or what?

Detective Kim hummed as though Yoongi had given him the answer he needed and nodded. "Does Jung Hoseok live here?"

Yoongi again had to fight the urge to lie in an attempt to protect his friends. "Yeah, he's uh – " He took a step to the side and motioned at the living room where the three others sat on the couch. "Hoseok?"

Hoseok stared at him, eyes wide with fear, then stood and walked over. "Can I help you?" His voice was unfortunately not as steady as Yoongi's had been.

"Could you step outside, please?" The detective moved back and motioned to the open space he'd made. "I'd like to ask you a few questions about April 13th."

Hoseok gave Yoongi a furtive glance before following the detective's suggestion. Yoongi stared at the two on the porch before Detective Kim smiled and motioned for him to shut the door. Yoongi started and did so before quickly rejoining his two youngest friends on the couch.

"April 13th?" Jeongguk whispered. "What's – "

"It's the first day Jimin texted me." Taehyung nodded slowly, wringing his hands. "I remember."

"That was the day that Hoseok said that first stuff happened." Jeongguk looked at Yoongi. "Do you think they know Jimin murdered them?"

Yoongi shrugged a shoulder and glanced at the door. His stomach was in knots. What the fuck was that mugshot for? There were too many things to think about – too much going on. His mind settled on not thinking about anything at all. Forced lethargy wasn't the best mental defense, but it was the best Yoongi had so he embraced it comfortably.

Jeongguk and Taehyung continued to whisper, but Yoongi couldn't bring himself to pay attention to it. His stomach growled. With a sigh, he shuffled to the fridge and peered through it. Packed with stuff, but nothing looked good. Despite having one earlier, he resigned to another bowl of instant ramen. He snatched one up and ripped off its plastic wrapping with a yawn. When he turned to start the kettle, he saw Jeongguk and Taehyung staring at him with disbelieving looks.

"How can you be eating?" Jeongguk asked, sounding almost disgusted.

Yoongi looked down at the package of ramen and shrugged. "I'm hungry."

"How can you be hungry?" Taehyung added, his voice quiet and high pitched. He raised his hand to his neck.

Yoongi felt a pang of sympathy. "Sorry." He didn't know if it was considered poor etiquette to eat in such a situation. He was hungry, though, so he continued preparing his food.

The door opened and the two on the couch jumped to their feet. Hoseok looked exhausted, dragging his feet over to the living room and collapsing on an armchair. The room was quiet again. Well, quiet aside from the noise of the water in the electric kettle coming to a boil. No one said anything until it flicked off with a loud snap, and Hoseok looked over at him.

"How can you be eating?" he asked in a tone that mirrored Jeongguk's.

"I'm hungry," Yoongi muttered.

Hoseok slid down on the armchair even farther. "He was asking about when Jimin killed those guys."

"So they do have some idea it was him?" Taehyung prompted, leaning towards him. "Were there cameras or something? Caught on CCTV?"

"If they were caught on camera," Jeongguk said, laying a hand on his friend's arm, "don't you think they would have already arrested him?"

Taehyung thought for a moment, then nodded, settling back again. "Yeah. I guess you're right." With a gasp, he sat upright again, looking at Hoseok with concern. "They don't think it was you, do they?"

Hoseok shrugged. "All the questions were about Jimin, but that doesn't mean they've ruled me out."

"What makes them think he has something to do with it?" Jeongguk pondered quietly.

The mugshot flashed through Yoongi's mind. Fuck, this wasn't the first time Jimin had killed someone. That must have been it. Yoongi set down his bowl, finally losing his appetite. A single morbid thought came to him, and he didn't regret it at all. It was best if Jimin really was dead. Taehyung would mourn, but Yoongi would take a mourning Taehyung over a dead one any day.

Overwhelming pity filled Yoongi to the brim as everything started to sink in. Hoseok had lived with this fear for months. Throughout Taehyung and Jimin's friendship, Hoseok had known about Jimin. Hoseok was right – none of them would have believed him. Yoongi's footsteps were heavy as he made his way back to the living room and forced himself into the small space next to Hoseok, holding him close once again.

Taehyung let out a soft cry and stood so suddenly that it made Hoseok start in Yoongi's arms. A mass of black smoke had spiraled into existence before them, twisting and writhing into a thin column. It was both terrifying and magnificent, its unnatural formation bewitching them all into silence. With a puff of wisps, the smoke dispersed, leaving nothing but the demon. From start to finish, the appearance had only taken a few seconds, yet Yoongi felt as though he'd watched a full-length horror movie.

Hoseok whimpered and clutched Yoongi. He pressed himself against the back of the chair, trying to sink into the cushions. Even Yoongi couldn't deny the pure terror that gripped his heart, making him feel cold. His friend's boyfriend – possessed by a murderous demon that had the ability of transportation, it seemed. Yoongi didn't know if it could get much worse than that.

The demon looked ethereal in the full lighting of the living room. The blackness that covered his hands and neck, the tendrils drifting against the flawless skin on his face, were barely more defined than they had been in the low light of the gym – a stain that held a hint of the darkest shade of blue like a perfect coat of enamel.

The men in the room were frozen. Yoongi didn't know if they were waiting to be acknowledged or if they were waiting for death itself. Neither came, though. The demon's blood red eyes were low, hooded with apparent exhaustion. He let out a soft sigh, and the blackness slipped off his skin, evaporating into thin air. Void of any traces of the demon, Jimin swayed on the spot and staggered to the side.

Taehyung rushed forward and grabbed him before he could fall, gently assisting him to his knees. Jimin groaned and held a hand to his head, his eyes squeezed shut. Yoongi and Hoseok clung to each other, neither breathing as Taehyung brushed Jimin's hair from his forehead, whispering quiet assurances that everything would be okay.

"Tae? What's the matter?" Jimin slurred his words together and cracked open an eye. He glanced from Taehyung to the living room around them, taking in the other three. His brows furrowed in confusion and he looked up at Taehyung again, his eyes now wide. "What's going on?"

 

 

Jimin curled up, drawing Taehyung's blankets over his shoulders. He could hear his boyfriend out in the living room, talking to his friends. Taehyung was vehemently protesting kicking Jimin out for whatever reason. Jimin wouldn't blame them if they did.

Taehyung's room smelled like him. That made sense – it was his room after all. Jimin just wasn't used to smelling it so distinctly. Up until the night before, Jimin had only ever spent time with Taehyung outside, or sitting in a food tent. Then Jimin had visited Taehyung's home, met his friends, sat close together on his couch, held hands and kissed.

That was yesterday. Today...

The detective came. Yes, Jimin remembered that, unfortunately. He remembered his judgmental gaze and skeptical questions. He remembered going to Hoseok and asking about the night the detective told him about.

Jimin squeezed his eyes shut as though he could pretend he hadn't heard what Hoseok had told him.

Ripped to pieces.

The men had been ripped to pieces. Just like Hajoon.

The scent of Taehyung was washed away by an overwhelming stench of blood, blood that had covered Jimin nearly head to toe. He was drenched in Hajoon's blood, his boyfriend's body laying before him, mutilated almost beyond recognition. His hand was to Jimin's right – his arm to his left – a leg a few feet away.

Jimin's stomach turned, and he bolted upright. He scrambled off the edge of the bed, blankets still tangled around him, and snatched up the trashcan. He vomited into it, his whole body shaking as the memories came back to him more vividly than he'd ever wanted. One moment he'd been laughing and kissing Hajoon – the next, his boyfriend horrifically murdered. One moment, spending time with Hoseok, then making tea in his apartment. One moment fleeing from Hoseok on the roof, then being held in Taehyung's arms in the living room.

Jimin didn't know why Taehyung fought so hard for him. Wasn't he scared? Wasn't he terrified that Jimin would maim him? Even Yoongi's passive and factual retelling of the scene in the gym below left Jimin dazed and confused – he couldn't imagine what it was like to witness such a thing. Knowing something evil lurked within him made Jimin's skin crawl, and he retched again.

"Jimin?"

Jimin took a few gasping breaths and peeked over the top of the bed. Taehyung stood in the doorway, his eyebrows knit in concern. Jimin whimpered and huddled over the trashcan.

The door closed with a quiet click, and Taehyung settled down on the ground beside Jimin. He wasn't too close, but he wasn't avoiding Jimin entirely. "I'd ask you how you're doing," Taehyung said softly, "but I'm pretty sure I already know the answer." He reached a hand forward, but Jimin shied away from him.

"Don't," Jimin whispered, his heart racing. He didn't want anything bad to happen to his boyfriend. They sat in silence for a few minutes until Jimin was sure he wouldn't vomit again. With a sigh, he leaned back against the side of the bed, running his fingers through his hair. "I think I killed Hajoon."

There was a discomforting silence, then Taehyung nodded. "I thought of that, too."

The past two years of his life, Jimin had struggled with the anxiety and fear that was the result of what he thought was an attempt on his own life and the murder of a man he dearly loved. Knowing that he was the cause of it ruined everything. This whole time he'd be scared of everyone else, but the only person he should have worried about was himself.

"It wasn't you, though," Taehyung said, scooting closer to Jimin. "It was that thing. The demon."

It was surreal to hear those words and not immediately assume that Taehyung was crazy. Jimin had certainly had a moment of that when he first came to – yet all four men confirmed what they had seen.

"How is that any better?" Jimin asked, drawing his knees up to his chest.

"It means that you're not a homicidal maniac." Taehyung moved closer again. "I consider that to be a plus."

Jimin was incapable of finding any bright side to the situation. If he hadn't grown to learn Taehyung as the most patient, positive person Jimin had ever met, he would have assumed his statement to be disingenuous. "Okay, so that just means that I have no control over it. It doesn't matter what you do. It can just happen." He looked to Taehyung with tears burning his eyes. "Why aren't you scared? Why aren't you kicking me out or trying to kill me or something?"

Taehyung looked at the ground, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. The longer the silence stretched, the more Jimin believed that he'd been able to convince Taehyung to distance himself, and a calm sense of resolve settled over Jimin.

"Because I don't want to," Taehyung said firmly, wiping away Jimin's hopes. He gave Jimin a determined look. "Look, I know it's crazy, and maybe a bit stupid but – " he reached forward and grabbed Jimin's hand. "I don't want you to be lonely anymore."

Taehyung's touch felt so nice. Jimin had come to crave the weight of his hand over his over the last few weeks. Jimin lowered his head, squeezing Taehyung's hand. He didn't want to be lonely anymore, either. "I just don't want to hurt you, Tae."

"I know." Taehyung slowly leaned forward and kissed Jimin's forehead. He set his jaw with resolution, and Jimin could see that there would be no convincing him otherwise, no matter how foolish his decision was. "I'm going to help you. I'm going to find a way to get that thing out of you. I promise."

 

 

Hoseok felt like the living dead. He lay on his bed in the dark, staring at the ceiling, but all he could see was the demon. The way his eyes had turned upon him, given him that smile – he remembered Hoseok as clearly as Hoseok remembered him. He wondered if the demon experienced the same sort of memory loss that Jimin had when the demon was out.

Everyone knew now. Yoongi, Jeongguk, Taehyung – they all knew. Feeling Yoongi's embrace around his shoulders had been the most comforting thing Hoseok had experienced in a long time. He hadn't done it just to cheer Hoseok up – he did it because he understood.

And now Jimin, and the demon, was asleep just down the hall in Taehyung's room, despite Jeongguk and Yoongi's vehement protests. Taehyung had defended his boyfriend as loyally as one would expect from his headstrong friend, but Hoseok new the true reason for his actions. Taehyung himself probably wasn't aware that the demon had his supernatural hooks embedded deep in him, tugging him along. Even Hoseok struggled to resist the urge to defend Jimin and protect him despite knowing everything.

There was a quiet thump, and Hoseok raised his head, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. At the end of his bed, a shadow writhed, blackness so dark it made the rest of the room look well-lit. The shade parted, revealing the demon, Jimin's face looking back at him.

Hoseok's heart lurched, and he shot upright, scrambling back against the wall. "What the – " A black shadow slid over his mouth, cutting off his shout. He whimpered in panic as the shadows pulled the demon onto the bed. Kneeling next to him, the demon hushed him, holding a black finger to his lips.

Hoseok struggled against the bonds that now held him. He closed his eyes, shaking his head from side to side violently. For the umpteenth time that day, Hoseok prayed that it was nothing more than a dream – a dream like so many others where the demon had visited him late at night. He flinched when a pair of lips brushed against his ear as the demon whispered oddly soothing words. They had no meaning, yet Hoseok's heart responded all the same, returning to a leisurely pace.

When he opened his eyes again, the demon was still sitting there on his knees. He wasn't wearing the clothes Jimin had been wearing earlier – just a pair of boxers and a tank top that Hoseok recognized as Taehyung's.

"Oh, does it not look good?" The demon noticed Hoseok's gaze and looked down at himself. "It's not really what I would go for, but I don't have much of a say in the matter." The blackness on his skin didn't cover his entire body as Hoseok had assumed. It was at its darkest at his hands, but faded into those strange wisps before it reached his shoulder. His legs as well were mostly black up until it neared his groin, the black tendrils drifting against the skin right at the edge of his boxers.

"Better than nothing, though," the demon commented casually, raising a hand as though inspecting a manicure and cocking his head to the side. The blackness on his neck stretched down from his jawline, the thin mobile tendrils entrancing Hoseok as they danced across his collarbone, leaving Jimin's pale chest unmarked by the shadows.

The shadow that had closed Hoseok's mouth retreated, but he couldn't think of anything to say. He stared at the demon as he relaxed into a fully seated position with his feet crossed beneath him. The demon's red eyes weren't glowing, but they did have an eerie shine to them that made them stand out.

"Well, say something," the demon prompted with an impatient wave of his hand.

Hoseok shook his head, trying to dispel the cloud of confusion. So many things had happened that he wanted answers for. He didn't know where to begin, so he settled on the easiest question. "What are you?"

"Oh, he finally speaks!" The demon gave a far too Jimin-like giggle and clapped his hands. "A question you already know the answer to, but it's something. Come on, Hoseok, what am I?"

"A demon," Hoseok whispered, watching the black hands as they clapped again. "Are you possessing Jimin, or are you Jimin?"

A sly smile stretched across the demon's face. "You think poor, innocent Jimin could kill as I have?" Whenever he spoke, his white teeth were nearly illuminated in contrast with the black tongue that peeked out with certain words.

Hoseok snorted. "Somehow that's easier to believe than demons being real, yet here we are."

"Here we are, indeed." The demon smiled and shifted, laying on his stomach with his chin propped up on his hands. "To answer your question – neither."

Hoseok furrowed his brow. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I am neither Jimin, nor am I possessing Jimin." The demon sighed with a forlorn pout. "Jimin is my captor – my prison."

"But you can come out whenever you want?" "

"Not before."

Hoseok held in a growl of frustration. "Before what?" This would be a lot easier if the demon just explained things start to finish rather than trickling information.

"Before tonight, of course!" The demon grinned, absolute glee lighting up his wicked face. "Those men were so kind enough to release me." He stretched with a loud sigh. "It's been a few hundred years since I've been granted this freedom. Jimin's never been very good at holding me in, but it's not like I could come out whenever I wanted. And it wasn't for very long, either."

Hoseok fell silent. He had to make a significant effort to keep his mind focused – the shadows that danced around the demon's face were distracting. Talking like this was comforting, like it was something he never knew he needed. All his dreams had the same gory, sexual themes, but this – this felt nice. This felt natural somehow. He was sitting on his bed, chatting with a demon who possessed his friend's boyfriend, and it felt natural.

"Did you kill Jimin's boyfriend?" Hoseok continued questioning the demon. He was sure he already knew the answer, but he needed to confirm.

The demon smiled, twirling a finger in his black hair. "I did."

"Why?"

"No one touches Jimin without my permission." The demon's tone was almost playful.

Despite his calm just moments before, a chill settled on Hoseok's bones. "And Tae? Does Tae have your permission?"

The demon sniffed as though annoyed by the inquiry. "Well, that's a boring question."

Hoseok frowned, further bewildered by the constant shifts in the demon's disposition. "What?"

"I was hoping for something like, 'What about me?'" The demon gave him an imploring look, his red eyes wide and as innocent as he could manage. "Don't you like Jimin, too, Hoseok?"

Hoseok's heart skipped a beat as the demon crawled closer to him, and he shook his head furiously. With a whimper, he tried to move backwards, but he was already up against the wall.

"You don't like Jimin?" The demon set a knee on either side of Hoseok, but didn't settle down on his lap. The black tendrils appeared again, thin wisps that slid out from the shadows and caressed Hoseok's jaw.

Hoseok whimpered, trapped against the wall. The demon leaned over him, letting his lips come dangerously close to Hoseok's own. A raging passion flared up in Hoseok, and he tried not to give into the overwhelmingly potent lust that he could practically taste in the air itself.

Memories of dreams, fantasies, and nightmares came to Hoseok – the desire that he'd so often imagined was surrounding him, drowning him. "Is this a dream?" he whispered, his throat tight. His mind still struggled to accept that any of this was real.

"No." The demon's red eyes watched Hoseok curiously, and he smiled. "Do you often dream of me, Hoseok?"

Hoseok gasped as the demon brought their lips even closer, though he didn't follow through with a kiss. Before he realized what he was doing, Hoseok tilted his head and leaned forward, seeking out the contact, whining when the demon kept himself just out of reach. Hoseok reached out to pull him back, but a thick shadowed tentacle wrapped around his wrist and slammed his hand against the wall. Breathing heavily, Hoseok squirmed feebly, but more shadows wrapped around his body, giving him little wiggle room.

"I was right, wasn't I?" The demon leaned close again, teasing Hoseok with his proximity. Heat radiated from his body, but the shadows were cold against Hoseok's skin. "You love me."

Hoseok whined again and squeezed his eyes shut, unable to look at the demon any longer. The words were the same – those words the demon had told him that night, the words that were repeated endlessly in Hoseok's dreams. But it wasn't love. He didn't love the demon. The demon had fucked with his head, plagued him with nightmares and the juxtaposition of lust and terror. "Jimin is Tae's boyfriend," Hoseok forced out, gasping and squirming again at the feeling of the demon's breath on his neck.

"He is," the demon purred, and something brushed against Hoseok's ear. "But I am not Jimin, am I, Hoseok?"

His lips finally came down against Hoseok's, and the wrecked man moaned, leaning into the kiss. Much like their first kiss on that hellish night, it wasn't enough. Hoseok needed more – he needed to feel the demon's body beneath his hands, needed to have him writhing in pleasure, needed to hear his moans. He fought against his restraints, but the demon had complete control over him. Hoseok nearly cried with need as their tongues came together, a kiss that quickly escalated until they were panting.

When they parted, Hoseok was ready to beg for more, but the demon spoke first. "You see, Hoseok? Taehyung belongs to Jimin, but you belong to me." His teasing cadence was gone, replaced with a deep tone of finality.

"God, yes," Hoseok moaned. Admitting that was as arousing as the creature in his lap. There was no denying the truth in the statement – he belonged to this thing, to this evil, cruel thing. Hands still pinned to the wall, he flexed his fingers, desperate to touch his enchanter.

"Unfortunately I can't stay any longer." The demon pouted and cupped Hoseok's jaw in his palm. "I'm always tired after I've eaten. But don't worry. I'll come back for you, okay?" He pulled away, supported by the shadows in a motion as graceful as though he were drifting through water, until he set his feet down on the floor. The snake-like appendages retreated from Hoseok, one gently grazing his chin as it returned to the demon, and the blackness began taking over the demon's body.

"Wait – no – " Hoseok scrambled up and tried to grab the demon's arm before he disappeared, but his fingers closed on nothing but black smoke. Hoseok stared at the spot the demon had occupied just a few seconds before, then sat back with a huff of defeat. He was weak and aroused, his cock hard, stimulated by what little contact he'd had with the demon.

For as many questions that had been answered, a thousand more came to him. At least Hoseok knew one thing for sure – he was fucked.

 

Chapter Text

Yoongi stared at the coffee maker as it bubbled happily away, his arms crossed over his chest. The linoleum was cold under his bare feet. He’d forgotten to put on his slippers. He felt like he’d forgotten damn near everything in the wake of the attack the night before. He’d barely slept a wink. Jimin with a sliced throat – the demon with shadow skin.

Taehyung had slept in the same room as Jimin. The same room as that thing. Or maybe they hadn’t slept at all. Maybe Jimin killed him. Maybe he left his body on the bed – or maybe he’s still in there with it –

“You okay?”

Yoongi jumped and turned. Taehyung stood in front of the hallway, an empty glass in hand and a concerned look on his face. Still alive.

With a nod, Yoongi looked back at the coffee pot. It had finished brewing at some point, though he wasn’t sure when. Maybe just a few seconds ago. Maybe a few hours.

Taehyung’s slippers scuffed along the floor as he went to the sink to refill his glass. The sound of water running – the sound of Taehyung taking a gulp – his loud exhale as he pulled it from his lips – so much noise. It was normal – too normal. Yoongi expected everything to be different, expected everything to seem wrong and awful. But it wasn’t. The only awful things Yoongi had were the memories.

“Yoongi.”

Yoongi jumped again at Taehyung’s voice. His friend hadn’t left the kitchen, yet somehow Yoongi had managed to forget his presence.

Taehyung looked from Yoongi to the coffee. “Are you going to have any?”

Again, Yoongi realized he’d just been staring at the coffee. With a grunt, Yoongi poured himself a mug. Taehyung fidgeted, not moving from his spot by the sink.

“Spit it out,” Yoongi said in a gruff voice, not wanting to deal with Taehyung’s eyes on him for too long.

“Are you mad at me?”

Mad? Was that how Yoongi felt? The night before Taehyung had fought so strongly for Jimin to stay despite knowing that he was a demon. Or possessed by a demon as Hoseok had often reminded them, as though that made a difference. The only reason Yoongi didn’t protest as much as he wanted to was fear of retribution. That was probably why Jeongguk relented as well.

At least Taehyung was here. He wasn’t dead.

"No, kid," Yoongi said with a sigh. "I'm not mad at you."

A soft knock from the hallway drew Yoongi's attention. Jimin peeked around the corner, his visible eyebrow turned up in concern. "Is it okay if I come out?" he whispered.

"Of course you can!" Taehyung rushed over and pulled Jimin into the kitchen, forcing him to sit on a stool at the bar. "I'll make you breakfast. What would you like? Eggs and rice?"

"That sounds good."

There he was, just sitting in their kitchen as Taehyung pulled pots and pans out for breakfast. Jimin fidget nervously, his head bowed and shoulders rounded. He looked normal – perfectly normal. How could he look so normal? Shouldn't there be something that looked off about him? If demons were real, he would have assumed that their hosts would have something a little off about them.

Jimin glanced over and for a split second their gazes locked. Yoongi's heart skipped a beat – and not in a bad way. He gritted his teeth and looked away. The same thing had happened when he first met Jimin. Taehyung had brought him up to the front counter of the gym to introduce him and Yoongi felt like he was about to swoon with how sweet and adorable the younger man was.

That must be it. That was what was off about Jimin. There was no other reason for Yoongi – one hundred percent straight, never questioned his sexuality in his life Yoongi – to blush from just a single look. He wondered if Jimin was aware of the effect he had on people. Maybe he did it on purpose – a defense mechanism of sorts. Or a trap.

Regardless, Yoongi wouldn't let himself be drawn into it.

Another set of slippers along linoleum. This time it was Jeongguk. He nodded his greeting to Yoongi, eyed Jimin, and went to the fridge.

"I'm making breakfast!" Taehyung chirped, motioning to the food he'd laid out. "Instant rice okay with you?"

Jeongguk ran his fingers through his messy hair and shrugged. "Sounds good." He sat at the bar on the opposite end as Jimin.

Yoongi didn't sit. No matter what the strange emotion that wafted off Jimin, this strange comfort that wanted to disarm Yoongi, he refused to give into it. He remained standing, sipping his coffee, studying Jimin carefully as Taehyung and Jeongguk struck up a conversation like everything was completely normal.

Taehyung served everyone a bowl, even handing one to Yoongi though he'd never asked for it. A fifth bowl sat on the counter – for Hoseok, presumably, if he ever came out of his room. Considering what he'd been through, Yoongi wouldn't be surprised if he decided to become a hermit. Yoongi should go check on him.

"I mean, I know it's weird," Taehyung continued their conversation, sitting between Jeongguk and Jimin, "but I'm still pretty curious about how it all works."

"You mean with the demon?" Jeongguk asked. He leaned forward so he could look at Jimin.

"Stop staring at my boyfriend." Taehyung smacked Jeongguk and gave Jimin a reassuring smile. "Do you think there are more demons? Or angels?" He gasped, sitting straighter in excitement. "What other sort of magic do you think there is?"

Jimin said nothing as the two friends casually discussed what sort of magic they would prefer to be real, but he did smile at some of their suggestions. Taehyung preferred more of the Harry Potter kind while Jeongguk was excited for Superman-like people. The conversation was too bizarre for Yoongi to interject, but he wanted to yell at them and beg them to see that something was clearly wrong.

"Be kinda shitty though," Jeongguk said in a teasing voice, "if you could only get powers by means of 'virgin sacrifice.'"

Jimin turned bright red and Taehyung smacked Jeongguk's arm again. "It's not a virgin sacrifice," Taehyung said with an eyeroll. "Don't be rude."

"Well," Jimin finally said something, his voice almost too quiet to hear, "it's not like he's wrong."

Taehyung looked at Jimin with confusion before the words sunk in, and his whole face flushed bright red. He opened his mouth but only managed to stammer wordlessly while Jeongguk laughed, slapping him on the shoulder.

Yoongi narrowed his eyes, staring at the three. How could they sit there and laugh and joke like nothing happened? Like Jimin didn't have a demon locked away inside him. Like Jimin hadn't had his throat sliced open the night before. But no, everything was fine and dandy while they sat there and joked about Jimin's sexual history.

Unable to stomach the unsettling normalcy, Yoongi turned and poured himself another mug of coffee. What was supposed to happen now? Taehyung had a possessed boyfriend and somehow that was completely okay. Yoongi would either have to deal with it or move out – leave everyone behind.

"Can you pour me a mug?"

Yoongi jumped and turned at the startlingly clear resonance of Jimin's voice. Taehyung and Jeongguk leapt from their seats, stumbling back away from the demon which now had control of Jimin's body. It looked out of place in their kitchen – his dark shadows covering his arms and legs, the boxers and shirt hanging off his frame exactly as it had with Jimin's.

Nonplussed by the reactions of the friends, the demon motioned to the coffee pot. "Coffee?"

Yoongi gripped the edge of the counter behind him, praying that it would help him stay upright.

Shadow-like tentacles glided across the floor towards Yoongi, and he jumped away from them. They slid up to a cupboard and popped it open, grabbing one of the mugs inside. The shadow was so dark it could have been a complete void – a place where absolutely nothing existed – yet it was corporeal enough to pour the demon a mug of coffee and bring it back to his waiting hands as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Oh, this is nice," the demon murmured, closing his red eyes as he took in the earthy aroma. He looked positively delighted when he took a sip, his black toes curling around the support bar of his stool. "Much better now that I'm experiencing it firsthand."

Ignoring the other occupants of the room, the demon stood and wandered to the fridge. Yoongi quickly shuffled away, joining his friends on the other side of the kitchen. The demon looked around the fridge for a few moments, quietly commenting to himself about what looked good to eat and what didn't. Then he moved over to the pantry, doing the same.

It was by far the most surreal situation Yoongi had ever been in. The horror from the night before was too unreal – too far removed from what his mind was willing to accept that he could almost brush it off as being nonsense.

But now here he stood with Taehyung and Jeongguk as a demon sifted through their food options.

The demon finally looked back at them. He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Oh fine, I guess I can give you some time to get used to me. I am a permanent resident after all." He hopped up to sit on the edge of the counter, his black feet swinging back and forth. He peered over the top of his mug, his gaze drifting from one man to the next.

The implication of his statement gave Yoongi chills. He had a feeling that even if they'd decided to kick Jimin out the night before, the demon would decide that this was now his place.

"Where's Jimin?" Taehyung was the first to break the silence.

The demon tapped his chest. "He's still here, don't worry."  A tentacle snatched up the bowl Jimin had been eating from and brought it close enough for him to try. "It's not bad. Could use some salt."

Taehyung bristled, but didn't voice his annoyance at the comment. A smart move.

"Come on, stare it all out," the demon said with a drawl. He leaned back and motioned to his body. "You'll get used to it eventually."

"Why here?" Yoongi finally managed to ask. "Why can't you go somewhere else?"

The demon pouted and batted his eyelashes at Yoongi. He had an oddly catlike look to him with the black shadows framing his rounded jaw in a way that made it sharper, more angular. "You don't want me to be here?"

"No."

The demon raised an eyebrow and Yoongi almost cringed away. He forced himself to stay strong. He held his chin up defiantly in an attempt to seem less terrified than he was.

"What about Jimin?" The demon turned his gaze to Taehyung. "You don't want Jimin here?"

Taehyung gave Yoongi a nervous glance. "I want him here, but," he hesitated, curling his fingers into his palms, "I don't really want you here."

"Well, that's just too bad," the demon said with a bored sigh. He downed the rest of his coffee and grinned. "We're a package deal, sweetheart."

Hoseok entered the kitchen and froze, his focus zeroing onto the demon before he had a chance to acknowledge the others in the room.

"Hoseok!" The demon lit up, his red eyes widening playfully, further accenting his catlike appearance. He set aside the mug and turned into a puff of black smoke, billowing with a strange weight that pulled it to the floor. The smoke surged forward in a blink of an eye, and the demon rematerialized next to Hoseok.

"Good morning, Hoseok" the demon purred, latching onto the shocked man's arm. He looked back to the others and grinned. "Toodles!"

Before anyone could react, darkness rushed around Hoseok and the demon, and the two vanished in a column of the pitch black smoke.

 

 

Nothing.

No, wait. Everything.

Hoseok didn't know which he was feeling. Darkness surrounded him that was so complete – so much worse than any darkness he'd experienced before – that it felt like nothing. Yet that darkness touched him, covered him like a second skin, sliding between his eyelids and his eyes, filling his every pore until he was sure that there was nothing left of him.

He begged for it to be over. He couldn't move, he couldn't breathe. He wished for death, he wished for life, he wished for anything that wasn't whatever this was.

And then it was gone.

Hoseok almost fell over, his lungs finally expanding with a gasp for air that left him coughing. Every second that passed, he found the memory of whatever had just transpired slipping away from him. How long had he been in that darkness? Hours? Minutes? Seconds?

"There, there," a soft voice cooed. The demon held onto Hoseok, keeping him on his feet. His comforting smile seemed out of place on the face lined with twisting shadows.

Hoseok looked around, squinting in the bright sunlight. They stood beneath the awning on the roof, the muggy air of morning pressing against him. The more he tried to think about how they'd gotten up here, the less he could recall. Now all he could remember was the sensation of the shadows covering him in the kitchen and then slipping away in an instant.

"What happened?" he asked, surprised to find his voice steady. He felt like he should be scared, nervous around this creature that he'd watched murder three men – but he felt none of that.

Making sure Hoseok was comfortable on his own two feet, the demon stood back. "I wanted to be alone for a while. Is that too much to ask?"

The door into the apartment slammed open and Yoongi burst through, breathing heavily. His gaze shifted from Hoseok to the demon, eyes narrowing. "What the fuck just happened?" he demanded, his voice deep with rage.

The demon pouted and stamped his foot like a child. "I just wanted to be alone," he repeated and waved a hand at Yoongi. "Go away."

"I'm not – "

"Yoongi," Hoseok said quietly, stepping closer to his friend. "It's okay."

"Okay?" Yoongi glared at the demon and then at Hoseok. "What do you mean 'okay?' This isn't okay – "

"Yes, please, just – "

"No! He turns you into smoke – you disappear – We didn’t know where you went – "

"Yoongi!" It wasn't right to send his friend away, but Hoseok needed this time with the demon – he needed to see him, talk to him, figure out more of what was going on. "Look, just – just give us a little bit, okay?"

Yoongi's jaw set a little more firmly, defiantly, and Hoseok sighed.

"Please, Yoongi."

"Fine," Yoongi snapped. "I'm coming back up here in five minutes."

"Ten," the demon countered. "Don't worry, I won't hurt him."

Yoongi looked like he was about to push back again, but he took a deep breath and conceded. "Ten," he muttered begrudgingly. He didn't move for a few seconds, still eyeing the demon, until he finally withdrew into the apartment.

Hoseok let out a soft cry of surprise as shadows lifted him from the ground with ease, pulling him back and depositing him on the couch.

"Much better," the demon said, stretching his arms above his head. His shirt pulled up, revealing a pale stomach striped with the occasional black wisp lazily dancing across his skin. Hoseok had thought about the black substance as a second skin, but it looked to be more of a strange combination between liquid and smoke.

"You shouldn't stand there," Hoseok said.

"Why?" Though he questioned Hoseok's suggestion, the demon stepped away from the bright sunlight.

Hoseok pointed at the vine covered awning above them. "You should stay under here. People from other buildings might see you."

The demon hummed in acknowledgement, his red eyes taking in the urban landscape. There were no snarky comments, no teasing or dangerous flirting – he just stood and took it all in. "It's interesting," he said, his voice soft and full of wonder, "how different everything looks when you see it with your own eyes."

The quiet remark gave Hoseok a sudden rush of sympathy he hadn't expected. The demon had called Jimin his captor, his prison – trapped in a body he couldn't control –

Hoseok fought away the feeling. This was a demon. He murdered – no – he mutilated people and laughed as he did so. This thing was not worthy of sympathetic thoughts.

The demon closed his eyes and held his arms out to the side, taking a deep breath, then turned and smirked at Hoseok. "It's been a while since I've been released." He plopped himself on the couch next to Hoseok, one arm around his shoulders. "Don't you feel lucky that you get to be with me?" He playfully stroked Hoseok's chin.

"Not really," Hoseok said, but he didn't pull away from the demon's touch. He took the demon's hand and inspected it with curiosity. It was so dark that at certain angles it was difficult to see where one finger ended and another began, almost two-dimensional. Black tendrils drifted out from the skin, brushing against Hoseok's hand as though embracing it in a comforting touch, mesmerizing Hoseok with their languorous dance.

"Do you like my anguillae?" The demon's voice was muted in the muggy air.

Hoseok looked up and found the demon's passive face close – too close. Hoseok could feel his breath mingling with his own. "What are they?" he asked, trying not to let his gaze wander away from those horribly beautiful eyes. If he did that, he'd be forced to acknowledge that this was Jimin's body – Jimin, the man he'd spent so much time with, the man he'd almost fallen in love with.

"They are me," the demon said as though that were explanation enough. More anguillae creeped out, sliding down Hoseok's forearm, leaving a trail of goosebumps. "Do you like them?"

Images of that night in the alley came back to Hoseok, images of the pitch shadows dripping with blood, the man twitching on the ground.

"Yes." The word came so suddenly that Hoseok didn't have a chance to hold it in. No, he didn't like them. He couldn't like them. They were a part of this demon – a part of this terrible, horrible thing that murdered on a whim. Yet the anguillae danced across his skin, easing Hoseok's nerves.

"And me?" The demon tilted his head to the side and brushed a finger across Hoseok's lips.

Hoseok wanted to pull away, but he was hypnotized by how the demon's intense gaze followed the movement of his finger. A powerful wave of lust flowed through Hoseok, a sudden pulse of pure desire that had him whimpering. Hoseok reached for the demon, intent on grabbing him, pulling him close, kissing him hard – but an anguilla wrapped around his wrist and yanked it back.

"Now, now," the demon purred, straddling Hoseok's hips. He settled his weight comfortably in his lap, squirming playfully. "Who said you could touch?"

"Please," Hoseok panted. He struggled against the bonds, but the demon's grip was supernaturally strong – he didn't stand a chance.

"You want me that bad, Hoseok?" The demon ran his fingers through Hoseok's hair, smirking as the man leaned into the touch.

It disgusted Hoseok how badly he wanted the demon. It was the same as the night before – the demon on top of him, holding him back from everything he'd ever wanted. Only now it was in the light of day and that made it so much worse. He could see Jimin's eyes, Jimin's face, Jimin's body – he could see the pale skin glistening from the humid air, the blackness that covered his neck and arms, the wispy anguillae that snaked around at the edges between the opposing colors. He could see the lust in his eyes that mirrored Hoseok's own.

Why did the demon insist on teasing him? Why did he hold back when he so clearly wanted Hoseok as badly as Hoseok wanted him? Hoseok whined as the fingers tightened in his hair, pushing his head back to expose his neck.

"I could kill you," the demon murmured. He mouthed at Hoseok's neck, pressing his teeth against the warm flesh. With just a bit more pressure, they would sink right in, piercing Hoseok's jugular, make him bleed out right into the demon's waiting mouth.

Hoseok held his breath, waiting for such a bite. He'd been in this situation before – entranced and aroused, completely at the mercy of the demon, soon to be killed. It had happened more times than he could count in his dreams, so it seemed suiting that his life would end in a similar fashion.

The demon chuckled and kissed Hoseok's neck. "But I won't do that. I'm not done with you yet." He pulled away, leaving Hoseok gasping for breath.

"What – what do you want from me?" Hoseok asked, his heart racing. The cruelty of having the demon perch so comfortably on his thighs while denying him the privilege of touching him made his chest clench with brutal desire.

"I want you," the demon said, adopting that quiet tone that promised destruction. "I want all of you."

Finally, he kissed Hoseok, his lips and tongue like fire. That blaze seemed to light the world around them, an eruption of light and heat that engulfed Hoseok in a boiling mass of pleasure. He tried to buck his hips, but the demon had him thoroughly restrained, pinned to the couch so firmly he may as well have been a part of it.

Hoseok moaned and let the fire consume him. I want all of you. What a stupid thing to say. Didn't the demon know that he already had Hoseok? Hoseok was ready to give everything to the demon – he'd let himself be killed right then and there if he so wished. Fingers gripped his neck, holding him in place as their passionate kiss continued. Hoseok flexed and strained against the anguillae, but he was helpless, unable to reciprocate with anything but his tongue sliding against the demon's.

Yet it wasn't enough.

Hoseok wanted more, more. He wanted to feel the demon – feel Jimin – beneath him, feel their bodies together. He wanted to hear that pretty little voice wrecked by pleasure, moaning and begging for Hoseok to take him harder. He wanted to make the demon pay for the months of torture he'd subjected Hoseok to. With a growl, Hoseok bit at the demon's lips, catching the lower one between his teeth.

The demon jerked with a laugh, blood slowly budding at the cut. "Now that wasn't very nice." He sucked the lip into his mouth then released it to reveal nothing more than a swollen spot, the wound mostly healed. He stuck his black tongue out at Hoseok and pulled away, standing in front of Hoseok.

"Wait, no – " Hoseok groaned, screaming at himself for chasing the demon away. "Please come back – please – " He cut off with a gasp as an anguilla ran up his thigh – inside his pajama bottoms – and applied wonderful pressure against his groin. "Oh fuck, yes – "

"Such a naughty boy." The demon called his shadows back to him, ignoring Hoseok's cries of frustration. "You don't deserve me." He turned to the door.

Hoseok scrambled up. He was not about to let him get away so easily. Grabbing the demon's shoulder was as far as he got before anguillae wrapped around his arm, his legs, his throat. Hoseok whimpered in fear as the ones around his neck pulled up until he was forced onto his toes.

The demon turned his red eyes to Hoseok, cold and furious. "Don't forget, Hoseok," he said, and the bonds grew a bit tighter. "I am the one who is in charge here."

The anguillae retreated, and Hoseok stumbled, regaining his balance. He coughed, rubbing his neck. The demon raised an eyebrow at him and smiled.

"Here," the demon said, shoving a pillow – drawn to him from the couch by an anguilla – into Hoseok's hands. "You're going to need this."

Hoseok looked down at the pillow, then up to the demon who'd closed his eyes. The black shadows shifting around on his skin slipped away, some simply fading out, others drifting off like dark smoke. Hoseok jerked the pillow in front of his crotch to hide his erection a split second before Jimin opened his eyes.

The pale man blinked furiously and lifted his hand against the bright sunlight. He looked from Hoseok to the rooftop surrounding them in confusion. "What's happening?"

Hoseok gripped the pillow tighter, praying it didn't seem suspicious. "I – uh – the demon..." He trailed off, the words making Jimin draw his shoulders up and hang his head.

"Did something bad happen?" Jimin whimpered. Even with his face obscured, Hoseok could tell he was on the verge of tears.

"No, no." Hoseok forced out a laugh. "I – uh – we just – he wanted to talk, I guess." Considering the few times the demon had come out before someone had ended up dead, Hoseok understood Jimin's fear.

Jimin glanced at the pillow. If he thought it was strange or suspected something, he didn't say anything about it. "He didn't hurt you?"

No – but God, Hoseok had wanted him to for a minute there. With the demon gone, his supernatural pull had calmed to a simmer. It was still there, just out of reach, hidden beneath Jimin's skin. It was as though Hoseok could almost touch it, if only he was able to physically yank it from the younger man's body.

Hoseok shook his head. "No. Everything's okay."

Jimin hesitated, then nodded. "Okay. Um..." He took an awkward step to the door. "I'm just gonna – you know..." He jerked his head towards it.

Hoseok waved a hand in dismissal, still holding onto the pillow with the other. "Yeah, sorry, go ahead. Don't let me stop you."

Jimin nodded and took a few more slow steps before turning and heading back inside.

 

 

Jimin's legs shook as he descended the steps. One second sitting at the bar with Taehyung and Jeongguk, the next up on the roof with Hoseok. Was this what his life was going to be like now? Constantly being jerked around against his will? He couldn't imagine some of the places he might wake up at. He shuddered, forcing away the horrible memories of seeing Hajoon so long ago. Hoseok was lucky the same hadn't happened to him. They were all lucky it hadn't happened to them.

Coming to a halt on the small landing, Jimin stared at the door into Taehyung's apartment. He liked Taehyung – maybe even loved him if he allowed himself to be dramatic – but his boyfriend was stupid. There was no reason for Taehyung to fight for Jimin. There was no reason he should put himself, and his friends, in harm's way.

Jimin held his hand over his chest, trying to stifle the ache of despair that welled up. The happiness he'd experienced with Taehyung over the last few months was unlike any he'd had. Of course he'd been happy before, but after Hajoon's death and the subsequent witch hunt for Jimin's head (which, he realized now, was justified), Jimin didn't think he'd ever feel happy again.

Taehyung had fixed that. Taehyung had showed Jimin that everything was okay, that it was okay to laugh and smile and relax. When Jimin was with Taehyung, he had found himself forgetting about everything he was sure would be etched onto the back of his eyelids for the rest of his life. Jimin loved Taehyung, but he was incredibly stupid if he thought Jimin was going to allow him to put himself in danger like that.

The metallic clank of weights and equipment floated up to him from the gym. Jimin looked down at himself. Just a shirt and boxers. His shoes were still in the apartment. Still, what's a bit of shame and discomfort when weighed against the life of his boyfriend? Jimin took a deep breath and made his way down the stairs.

The apartment door was in front of him. Jimin frowned and tilted his head to the side, then looked down the stairs again. He had started down them, hadn't he? Jimin hesitated, glancing at the door, then took a few steps.

Back at the door.

Jimin turned, but he hadn't even taken the first step before he was facing the door once more. That was impossible, unless –

Jimin's blood ran cold. It was the demon. He was sure of it. The demon didn't want him to leave. But Jimin had to leave. He couldn't stay here, couldn't put them in danger.

Once again, Jimin attempted to descend the steps, only to find himself in front of the door. With a huff, Jimin turned and tried to go up the stairs. If the demon would let himself go up there, maybe he could just throw himself off the roof and ensure they wouldn't be harmed.

He only got two steps before he was faced with the door one more time. Jimin let out a cry of frustration, balling his hands into fists. He needed to leave – he needed to run – he couldn't stay –

The door opened and Jimin gasped, jumping back.

Taehyung stared out at him, then his eyes lit up. "Jimin!" He rushed forward and threw his arms around Jimin in a tight hug.

Jimin tensed, still not used to such contact, but he didn't push Taehyung away.

"Come on," Taehyung said, motioning into the apartment. Yoongi and Jeongguk sat in the living room, peering out at him curiously.

He shouldn't go in. Jimin looked back down the stairs. He needed to go – he needed to save Taehyung. No matter what he did, though, the demon would bring him right back.

"Jimin?"

Jimin took a deep breath and smiled at Taehyung, stepping over the precipice. He gave a small nod to the others.

"Oh, your poor toes," Taehyung fretted and grabbed a pair of slippers from the shoe rack to drop in front of Jimin. "Yoongi, Jimin's borrowing your spare slippers."

Yoongi opened his mouth to argue, but closed it with a disgruntled pout without saying anything. Jimin blushed as Taehyung forced the slippers onto his feet.

"Come on," Taehyung said, leading Jimin towards the hallway. "You can wash your feet, okay? Then you can spend some time with us. Oh, hang on." He left Jimin in front of the bathroom to scurry down the hall. When he returned, he had a fresh set of clothing for Jimin to wear. "These are Yoongi's too, but don't worry about it. He only wears sweatpants unless he has to work."

The jeans and shirt would probably still be too big for Jimin even though Yoongi was the closest in size to him. Everything Jimin had been wearing the night before was drenched in blood – his own blood, he'd been told. Eventually he'd need to go get new stuff, unless the demon decided that Jimin would be perpetually stuck in this apartment.

"Hey." Taehyung brushed Jimin's chin, bringing his gaze up. "Don't worry. I've got you." He placed a gentle kiss on Jimin's lips.

Jimin winced, the touch causing his lower lip to sting. He pulled back, bringing a hand to his mouth.

Taehyung raised his eyebrows in concern. "I'm sorry – I – "

"No!" Jimin shook his head. "Sorry, it's not your fault." He drew Taehyung in for a kiss again, ignoring the small pain.

Taehyung smiled and gave him another hug. "I'm glad you're here." He pulled away and hooked Jimin's finger with his own, giving it a soft shake. "I'll be out in the living room. Just come out when you're done. Okay?"

Jimin nodded went into the bathroom. He waited quietly until Taehyung's footsteps faded down the hall, then sighed and deposited the clothing on the toilet. Taehyung was too good for him. Taehyung didn't deserve someone like Jimin. He'd always had that opinion, but now there was a murderous being stuffed inside him.

The stinging on his lip brought Jimin's attention back to it. Jimin leaned towards the mirror to inspect it closely. No sign of a cut, but one side of his lower lip was swollen and red like he'd bitten it. The pain probably wouldn't last through the day.

Staring at his reflection, Jimin tried to see if he could see the demon. Maybe it would distort his features, or talk to him through the mirror like in some horror movies. He stared into his eyes, but didn't look different than before. He still looked like himself – still Jimin.

Jimin gasped and flinched, suddenly surrounded with warm steam. He was naked, his skin and hair damp from the shower, a towel in hand. He whimpered and quickly wrapped himself in it, looking around as though he was going to find someone else in there with him.

There was no one, though, only Jimin. Well, only Jimin and his demon. Jimin looked back at the mirror and drew back against the wall at the words he found drawn out on the foggy glass:

Don't worry. I've got you.

 

Chapter Text

Jimin pulled a few shirts from his dresser and packed them into a little suitcase Taehyung had lent him. It had been a week since the demon was released, and a week since the demon let Jimin leave the apartment on his own. It was only to get clothes. The demon had made that point very clear to Taehyung at some point while Jimin was unaware.

Every time Jimin tried to leave the apartment with the plan of never coming back, he found himself right back in Taehyung's room. He had no problem going to the store with Taehyung the other day, though. The demon seemed to be aware of Jimin's thoughts and whether or not he intended on leaving. It was an unfair advantage.

With an angry huff, Jimin wrapped up two pairs of jeans. It had only been a few days and he was already sick of what was becoming a common occurrence: blinking his eyes and finding the others suddenly staring at him with varying levels of horror.

It had taken Jimin a long while to acclimate himself to Taehyung's presence. He didn't have that luxury with the others. Their eyes were always on him, whether it was because the demon had just made an appearance or they were waiting for it to happen again.

Jimin threw open his closet door and sorted through various sweaters and jackets. He didn't know how long the demon would hold him captive at Taehyung's place. Would he need to bring any of these? Maybe he'd just be able to come back for them later.

Jimin lingered on the white sleeve of a jacket. He'd never gotten a chance to return it to Hoseok. It had become an object of comfort for longer than Jimin cared to admit. He used to curl up with it as he went to bed and reminisce about the time they'd spent together.

Details of the last night they'd gone out trickled back to him, drawn out by the sight of the jacket. Jimin pulled it from the hanger and lay on the bed, pulling it over his shoulders and head like a blanket. It would break Taehyung's heart if he knew how long Jimin had wished Hoseok hadn't given him Tae's number. There had been this constant fantasy stoked by the kiss he and Hoseok had shared in which their friendship had continued, grown into something more. An alternate reality where Jimin was able to help Hoseok come to terms with his sexuality and he would love Jimin and Jimin would love him, and everything would be perfect.

Jimin sniffled and curled up, trying to hide as much of himself beneath the jacket as he could manage. It was the sort of fantasy Jimin had long since abandoned, yet the shame still gnawed away at him. He was happy with how things had turned out. He didn't have Hoseok, and that was okay. Taehyung was kind and wonderful – he made Jimin feel good. Taehyung was perfect.

With a sigh, Jimin forced himself to his feet and gently placed the jacket in the suitcase. Giving it back to Hoseok would be the perfect way to put those shameful fantasies to rest. A physical removal of the impact Hoseok had on his life.

Jimin went through the closet again, this time pulling out a blue sweater. Hoseok liked looking at him when he wore this. "I love looking at you," Hoseok had said. Jimin tossed it into the garbage.

Once the suitcase was stuffed and zipped, Jimin stared at it with his hands on his hips. It brought back another memory, one far more terrible than anything relating to Hoseok. Barely a day had passed after the murder charges against Jimin were dropped before he left Busan. He cried nearly the whole train ride, leaving behind those who'd once been his family and friends.

Before Hajoon was killed, Jimin had a good life. His mother had died when he was young, and as he grew older, he had to take care of his grief-stricken father. But he was loved. He spent time with his friends more often than not. Jimin couldn't remember a time in which he hadn't been, at least on some level, happy.

After Hajoon was killed, Jimin had no one. Dropped charges weren't enough to convince his friends of his innocence. Even worse, his father hadn't cared about the murder. When he looked at Jimin, all he saw was a disgusting, worthless homosexual. As soon as Jimin was released from custody and sent back home, his father kicked him right out with his suitcase of scarce few belongings.

Too bad that person didn't get you, too, his father had said.

Jimin knelt in front of his suitcase, hands limp in his lap. To this day, he agreed with his father. He'd wished he had died along with Hajoon.

But Jimin had never been in danger. It almost pissed him off.

Once again, Jimin's thoughts returned to Taehyung. Sweet, wonderful, beautiful Taehyung. He didn't deserve Jimin nor the mortal danger that followed him. He wished he could leave, run away and –

Taehyung's room.

Jimin gasped and scrambled to his feet. The sudden scenery change disoriented him, leaving him almost dizzy.

"For fuck's sake," Jimin nearly shouted in frustration. "I didn't say I was going to run away, just that I wanted to!"

Footsteps rushed down the hall and the door flew open. Taehyung huffed out heavy breaths, concern clear in his eyes. "Jimin! Are you okay?"

No, he wasn't okay. The demon jerked Jimin around wherever and whenever he wanted. He wanted to do things on his own. Despite voluntarily locking himself away for months on end before he started hanging out with Hoseok, now Jimin desperately wanted to go outside, go for a walk, feel the shoulders of people rushing off to work or school bumping against his own.

Jimin's lower lip trembled, and Taehyung rushed to give him a hug. "I hate this," Jimin said. "I don't want him to control me anymore. I want him gone."

"I know, I know." Taehyung hushed Jimin's sniffles, holding him close. "I do too."

They sat on the edge of the bed until Jimin successfully held back tears. With a groan, Jimin flopped onto his back, staring at the ceiling. "I don't get it. Why does he want me to stay here?"

Taehyung leaned over Jimin, giving him something much prettier to look at. "If I had to guess," he said, "I think he kind of enjoys being here."

Jimin frowned. "How do you figure that?"

Taehyung nudged Jimin up the bed until they were comfortably laying together. "He doesn't try to hurt us. He just eats our food and says rude things to us. He's more sassy than murderous."

"That doesn't mean he won't kill you. He killed Ha-"

"I know," Taehyung interrupted with an apologetic tone. "Trust me, I haven't forgotten." He wrapped an arm around Jimin, encouraging him to snuggle up to his chest.

Jimin closed his eyes, enjoying the warm comfort of his boyfriend's fingers trailing up and down his arm.

"I'm not going to give up," Taehyung whispered. "I said I'd help get rid of him. Somehow I'll find a way to – "

Taehyung froze, his fingers coming to a sudden stop on his arm. Jimin lifted his head and frowned, not wanting the comfort to end so quickly. "What?"

Taehyung gave a strange smile. It was more of a twitch of his mouth than a real smile. "Nothing. I'm just worried about you, you know?" He gave Jimin's forehead a little kiss, and Jimin settled down again.

"I'm more worried about you," Jimin mumbled, curling his fingers into Taehyung's shirt.

"Well we can't both be worrying all the time," Taehyung said with far too much cheer than the moment called for. "So the only option is to not worry about it."

"That doesn't make any sense at all."

"Sure it does."

Jimin snorted. It was painful how positive Taehyung could be considering the circumstances. He almost – almost – gave Jimin hope that everything was going to be okay, and hope was dangerous with a demon inside him.

 

 

Watching over the gym seemed pointless now. Taehyung sat behind the counter, tuning out the music, the sound of weights and feet thudding on treadmills, and Jeongguk leading a small group of out-of-shape business men hoping to turn their lives around. Since the demon had been revealed, everything else was a muted grey, dull, boring.

The little square of flooring near the doorway kept drawing Taehyung's attention – the spot where Taehyung watched his boyfriend bleed out. Despite seeing Jimin alive and well so many times, he couldn't get the image of him and his gaping neck wound out of his head. Although the demon terrified Taehyung, he couldn't help but be grateful that he wouldn't let Jimin leave. Any time Taehyung didn't have his eyes on Jimin, that horrible living-nightmare would return to his mind once again.

"Tae?"

Taehyung jerked in surprise. Jeongguk stood in front of the counter, his training session over. Though his trainees were damp with sweat, Jeongguk barely had a sparkling sheen on his forehead, which he dabbed away with a towel.

"Sorry." Taehyung sat upright and looked around, trying to find something to pretend to look busy with. "We got two sign-ups today," he said, locating the sheets he'd filled out earlier. He winced, remembering he still needed to enter them into the system.

"That's good to hear." Jeongguk nodded. "Makes sense with Summer ending soon." Just last week he would have grinned in excitement, probably making a mental note to tell his father. Jeongguk cared about the family business almost as much as he cared about his BMI.

That excitement was gone. Dull. Just like everything else.

"You'd probably never guess with how warm it's been recently," Taehyung said with a half-hearted laugh. The two fell into silence, neither invested in their shallow, useless conversation. That happened a lot these days.

Jeongguk sighed and looked over to the dance room. "Hoseok missed practice again."

The papers crinkled in Taehyung's tightening grip, and he dropped them onto the counter before he destroyed them. "Does that surprise you?"

Jeongguk hesitated, then shrugged. "A little."

Over the months Taehyung and Jimin had worked their way up to a relationship, Hoseok had been different. They knew why now, and Taehyung didn't blame him, but now he was a completely different person. The way he looked at Jimin, the way he looked at the demon when he came out...Taehyung didn't like it. Hungry was the term Taehyung would use to describe it. Feral.

And worse still was the way the demon looked at Hoseok. The teasing looks, the winks, how he flicked his hair and seemed to dare Hoseok to take a step closer. He looked at Hoseok the way Taehyung wished Jimin would look at him.

Taehyung blushed in shame and opened up the software to enter in the sign-up sheets. He couldn't let himself think like that. He liked Jimin for who he was. Those thoughts wouldn't cross his mind if it hadn't been for the demon, and Taehyung couldn't let the demon change how he felt about his boyfriend.

Yoongi came down the stairs and leaned against the counter. "Hey kid, ready to clock out?"

Taehyung almost sighed in relief. He was more than ready to get out of the gym and leave behind that awful spot by the door. "Yeah, just let me finish entering this."

Another silence. Yoongi wasn't immune to the effect of the demon, no matter how much he put on a strong front. Taehyung caught him watching Jimin with a suspicious glare, and he would subtly shift himself in front of Taehyung or Jeongguk whenever the demon came out.

"The demon talked to me today," Taehyung whispered, his fingers pausing above the keys. He'd been trying to forget about it. One moment he was lying in bed with Jimin, the next moment, the demon's cruel voice resonating so clearly as it always did. Pitch black skin beneath Taehyung's fingers. For some reason, he'd expected the wispy material to feel different, strange, but it still felt like skin.

The other two tensed, leaning close to keep the conversation as private as possible in the otherwise crowded gym.

Taehyung swallowed, remembering the very serious, blunt words. "He said that if we exorcise him," Taehyung said and hesitated, trying not to choke up, "Jimin will die."

The air was suddenly thick and heavy, the scent of sweat overpowering and disgusting. It was as though those words weren't real until he'd said them out loud, and it changed everything around him.

"He's lying," Jeongguk said, though sounding not too sure of himself. "I mean – of course he'd say something like that." He looked at Yoongi for support. "Right?"

Yoongi traced around a darkened knot in the wooden countertop. He gave a half-hearted shrug. "Maybe. Makes sense if he wanted to stop us from getting rid of him."

"Yeah, but do we really want to test that?" Taehyung hung his head, not wanting the others to see his tears. He was the positive one. He was the one who was supposed to always look at the bright side and make sure everyone thought it was going to be alright. "I don't want to lose him."

Yoongi took a deep breath and stood upright. He motioned for Taehyung to leave his seat. "Come on, my shift is starting. Go make food or something."

Taehyung reluctantly got up, leaving the paperwork incomplete. Yoongi took over without a complaint, and the subject was dropped.

"I have another class," Jeongguk said, giving Taehyung's hand a squeeze. "Sorry."

Sorry. Taehyung trudged upstairs, the word mulling around in his head. His boyfriend was possessed by a murderous demon who had killed Jimin's last boyfriend and potentially could not be removed without Jimin's death.

And Jeongguk says sorry.

 

 

Jimin stared into his pot on the stove, watching the spicy sauce inside bubbling away. He tapped in the next ingredient and sighed, lethargically stirring it all together. He wasn't that hungry, but Taehyung's shift would be over soon. Helping out around the house was the least he could do as an unwilling roommate.

The back door opened and Taehyung stepped in. As soon as his eyes landed upon Jimin, they widened and brightened like he'd never been happier. Jimin blushed and looked back down. He didn't deserve such affection.

But his boyfriend didn't care whether he deserved it or not. He came over and gave Jimin a kiss on the cheek. "Smells fantastic."

"It's nothing special," Jimin shrugged bashfully.

"If it's from you, then it is." Taehyung nudged him with a smile. "Feeling better?"

"I guess."

Taehyung rested a hand on Jimin's hip, watching him push the sauce around. It was done, but Jimin still stirred.

"Only 'I guess'?"

Jimin snorted derisively. It sounded much ruder than he'd intended, but it was all he could manage. "I feel like crap. I want to go and do things and I can't. It's not like I've ever been particularly strong before but now..." Jimin sighed and snapped off the stove. "Now I'm completely helpless. I've lost control of everything."

Taehyung wrapped his arms around Jimin from behind. "I don't really know what to do."

"That makes two of us," Jimin grumbled.

"Actually," Taehyung said, "that makes five of us." He leaned to the side so he could grin at Jimin. "Everyone's pretty much at a loss, so you're just like the rest of us. So there's that."

Jimin snorted again, this time in humor. "There's that indeed." He smiled and gave Taehyung a quick peck on the lips.

The back door opened once again, and Jeongguk came in. His shirt was loose with wide arm holes that revealed way too much skin. The younger man's skin was in a perpetual state of "shimmering with sweat." Jimin looked back down at his abandoned sauce with a blush. Why couldn't Taehyung live alone? No, instead he had to live with his very attractive ex-boyfriend. Jimin surreptitiously eyed Taehyung, but he'd never looked at Jeongguk as though he were anything but a good friend.

"Hey!" Taehyung snapped his fingers and pointed at Jeongguk, whose eyes widened. "You can help Jimin!"

Jimin stepped back with surprise at the sudden proclamation. Jeongguk looked just as confused as Jimin felt.

"Yes, this is the perfect plan," Taehyung said with a nod, coming to a decision that the others weren't privy to. "You can work out with Jeongguk."

Both Jimin and Jeongguk stared at Taehyung, who was beaming as though clueless to the ridiculous nature of the suggestion.

"What?" Jeongguk said, looking between Jimin and Taehyung.

"Yeah!" Taehyung motioned to Jimin. "He said he's feeling a bit helpless, so I figure, what better way to change that than to buff up?"

Jimin blushed, looking to his toes. He wanted to refuse, but he couldn't muster up the courage when Taehyung was standing there with such a hopeful look on his face. He prayed Jeongguk would refuse. Why would he want to work out with –

"Sure," came Jeongguk's reply, much to Jimin's displeasure. "We can start tomorrow. Sound good?"

Say something, Jimin urged himself, but his mouth refused to work. He wilted under Taehyung's cheery grin, and Jimin forced himself to smile. "Yeah."

"Perfect!" Taehyung nudged Jimin away from the stove. "Why don't you let me finish this up? Jeongguk, go take a shower. We're gonna have lunch and watch TV."

Jimin stood by, watching Taehyung take over the task that was supposed to keep his mind off of things. Jeongguk left them, and Taehyung happily told Jimin about how this new thing with Jeongguk was going to give him all the confidence he needed, help him take back control of his body, feel like he was in charge.

"Hey, um," Jimin mumbled, fingers brushing against Taehyung's, "I'm gonna go read or something."

Taehyung squeezed his hand with a comforting smile. "Go ahead. I'll let you know when lunch is ready."

Jimin nodded and hustled out of the kitchen. The idea of being scrutinized by Taehyung's ex made Jimin's stomach twist in discomfort. He could imagine the sorts of things he'd be thinking. Wow, Taehyung really downgraded. I didn't realize someone could be so weak. Taehyung deserves better.

It was too late, though. The decision had been made for him. Jimin sank to the floor by his suitcase. For a fleeting second, he contemplated going back out and saying he didn't want to do it.

Pathetic, Jeongguk would think.

And Taehyung would be disappointed. He wanted Jimin to "buff up." Like Jeongguk.

With a defeated sigh, Jimin unzipped the suitcase and rummaged through it. Was he supposed to unpack it? Encroach on Taehyung's personal space? Or was he just going to live out of his luggage until the demon decided he could go back home?

Hoseok's jacket caught Jimin's eye. He pulled some of his shirts aside so he could look at it, the memories of comfort returning once again.

The bedroom door opened, and Jimin quickly covered the jacket again as Taehyung popped his head in.

"Do you want one or two bowls of rice?" Taehyung asked.

"Two?" Jimin asked with amusement, ignoring his racing heart. After worrying about Jeongguk, the last thing he wanted was for Taehyung to see Hoseok's jacket with all his stuff. What would he think if he saw it? "Who eats two bowls of rice?"

"Jeongguk."

"Oh." Jimin looked down at his hands, that jealousy blooming within him again. "I can have two bowls, too."

"You sure?"

Jimin smiled at Taehyung. "You wouldn't have asked if you didn't think I might have wanted it."

Taehyung laughed. "Right. Two bowls, coming right up."

"Oh!" Jimin called to stop Taehyung from leaving. "What should I do with my stuff?"

"Go ahead and throw it all in with my stuff. Clear out a drawer or something. Part of the closet." Taehyung came over and kissed the top of Jimin's head. "I know it's hard," Taehyung said, his voice soft and comforting, "but I'm really glad you're here."

For a moment, Jimin's worry, self-doubt, and frustration melted away. Taehyung warmed Jimin up, made him feel wanted, loved. Jimin raised his head and kissed Taehyung. "Thanks."

 

 

Hoseok peeked out of his bedroom. The apartment was quiet. Yoongi was working downstairs, Jeongguk, Jimin, and Taehyung had left a short while ago for dessert – he was all alone.

That was how Hoseok preferred it these days. He didn't want to deal with the demon and the subtle glances from his friends that came with his presence. What were they expecting? Did they want to see if he'd give in to the demon's blatant attempts to break Hoseok's resolve?

The lingering smell from lunch drew Hoseok to the kitchen. His stomach grumbled in anticipation as he took the food from the fridge and dished himself heaping servings. He contemplated getting food that he could store in his room. The less he entered the common space, the better.

After putting his food in the microwave, Hoseok's reflection stared back at him. He hardly recognized the person he saw, even if nothing had changed. Circles had grown more pronounced under his eyes from his difficulty sleeping, but ultimately nothing was different.

Yet he looked wrong. Somehow. He wondered if his friends saw it.

A door down the hall opened, and Hoseok's stomach tightened, his body turning cold. He'd thought for sure everyone was gone. He turned, dreading – and the one person he didn't want to see came around the corner.

Jimin stopped just inside the kitchen. He barely made eye contact with Hoseok before his gaze snapped to the floor.

Hoseok tried not to stare, but it was nearly impossible. All he could think of was the demon – the demon's face with wisps of black, the red eyes that dangerously teased with Hoseok from afar.

Jimin raised a red and white jacket. Hoseok's jacket. A sudden memory – cute, simple Jimin before their lives had been turned upside down. Jimin who'd been so happy to pull Hoseok's jacket around him, his little smile that made Hoseok feel like he was flying.

"Sorry," Jimin said, his voice jolting Hoseok out of his thoughts. "I never got a chance to return this." He waited a moment, then came closer when Hoseok didn't respond. He held the jacket out.

Hoseok stared at it. The microwave beeped loudly behind him, and silence fell upon the kitchen.

Jimin fidgeted, his arms outstretched. "Please," he whispered. "Just take it. I don't want it anymore."

"Why?" Hoseok finally spoke. Much like his reflection, he hardly recognized his own voice.

Jimin looked up at Hoseok, his jaw tense with resolve. Despite the surprisingly steady gaze, there was no hiding the innately unsure look in his eyes. "Because I have Taehyung. I – " That resolve cracked along with Jimin's voice, and he took a deep breath. "I can't have it."

For some reason, Hoseok didn't want to take it. He wanted Jimin to have it, like it was some messed up token of the relationship they could have had.

Which was probably why Jimin couldn't keep it.

Hoseok sighed and grabbed the jacket –

But Jimin didn't release it.

Black hands held the jacket with unnerving strength, and Hoseok jumped back with a pathetic cry of surprise.

"Is this how it ends?" the demon teased with a stuck out lip. "Jimin just hands over the jacket and everything will be good again?" It was strange how a simple shift in expression can change a person so much. The wisps of black slid around the demon's jawline and ears, leaving Jimin's face clear as day – but the expression, the little pout and fearsome eyes, sturdy brows, was anything but Jimin.

Hoseok stammered nervously, trying to force out something about how that wasn't what was happening, but the demon's presence crossed wires in his brain and he couldn't get out any coherent sentences. He was lost in the demon's red eyes.

Get out. Hoseok swallowed, fighting between his lust for the demon and fear of giving in. The emotions were too strong, making him almost sick to the stomach. Simply being near him was dangerous. He wanted to submit, beg for pain, beg for pleasure.

Yet in his delusional, fucked up mind, Hoseok also wanted to grab the demon, make him pay for the months of torture he'd put him through. He wanted to force that evil creature to cry out his name, prove that the demon was as obsessed with Hoseok as Hoseok was with the demon.

Hoseok quickly stepped around the demon, running away from those desires in a split second of clarity. He rushed back to his bedroom and slammed the door shut. He breathed heavily, leaning the full weight of his body against his palms on the door. He waited for footsteps, something, anything.

But there was nothing. Hoseok took a deep breath.

"If I was anyone else," said the demon's voice from behind him, "I would be hurt for you to run from me like that."

Hoseok whipped around, back against the door. The demon looked around the room with casual interest, the jacket still clutched in his black hand. He gave a disdainful look at the clothes that had collected on Hoseok's floor over the past week.

"Now, now, Hoseok," the demon said. "Is this any way to live?" The black tentacle things stretched out from the demon's shadow, scooping up the clothing and depositing them into the hamper. What had he called them? Anguillae?

"Are you seriously asking me that?" Hoseok croaked. He wasn't sure if it was a real question or some sort of twisted humor.

"Not really," the demon said dismissively. "Just trying to spark a conversation." He walked over to the closet and grabbed a hanger to put Hoseok's jacket away.

"I don't want to have a conversation," Hoseok forced out between clenched teeth. "I want you to leave me alone."

The demon looked back over his shoulder and smiled. "Is that what you want?"

Hoseok hesitated. Why did he hesitate? Of course he wanted the demon to leave him alone. He wanted his old life back – one where his and his friends' lives weren't at stake.

With a dangerously controlled expression, the demon stalked back over to Hoseok. "I don't think that's what you want. In fact," he said, reaching up to stroke Hoseok's cheek, "I think I know what you really want."

Faster than Hoseok knew he could move, he grabbed the demon's wrist. It was slim beneath his fingers. If he squeezed hard enough, Hoseok could probably break it, watch the demon cry out in pain.

"That's right," the demon purred, not trying to pull himself free. "This is what you want, right? To be in control?"

Hoseok growled and tightened his grip. "You think you know what I want?"

"Of course I do." The demon brushed Hoseok's hair back with his other hand. "You're mad at me for turning your life upside down, right? You blame me for everything."

"Are you trying to say you have nothing to do with how fucked up things are now?" Hoseok nearly spat. His body trembled in rage and fear. He caught the demon's other wrist, and he was pleased to see a spark of surprise in those red eyes. "I was happy before you."

"Is that so?" The demon tilted his head to the side, lifting his eyebrows, widening his eyes – just a simple shift in expression, and he looked like Jimin again. "You were happy with Jimin?"

Hoseok swallowed and gritted his teeth.

"You can be happy again," the demon said. His expression softened. It wasn't quite like Jimin, but it lacked the haughty air of the demon. "Tell me, what would it take to make you happy?"

Lust clouded Hoseok's mind – all he could see was the demon and all the things he wanted to do to him. He wanted to make him cry and scream and beg for more like the months of dreams, nightmares, and fantasies Hoseok had endured. He saw the pain and pleasure, his fear, torture, blood, death, sex and sensuality.

"It's okay, Hoseok," the demon whispered. His voice mixed with the mess of memories rushing around Hoseok's head, and he struggled to tell them apart. His vision narrowed its focus onto the demon's lips, the way they parted and gently molded around every syllable. "You can do it."

Hoseok snapped.

He shoved the demon back to the bed, keeping a tight hold of his wrists, and just like that, he was living out one of his many dark dreams. He held himself over the demon, knees on either side of him. From this position, the demon didn't seem quite so intimidating. He looked up at Hoseok with Jimin's soft eyes and defenseless expression.

If Hoseok had any hope of resisting his desires before, that look dashed it away. He lowered his head and kissed the demon. It wasn't a sweet kiss. It wasn't gentle or comforting. There was no buildup. It was pure fire. Hoseok kissed the demon as though his life depended on it, rage and hunger feeding their aggressive lip lock.

The demon's thin wrists twisted in Hoseok's grasp, but he tightened his grip to keep them pinned to the mattress. This was what Hoseok wanted. This was what he needed. He had control, he called the shots.

Hoseok sat back, meeting the demon's gaze. The usual challenge was missing from the red eyes. It was replaced by an odd sense of submission. Without looking away, he slowly released one of the demon's wrists. The demon didn't pull away.

With a smirk of satisfaction, Hoseok ran his hand down the demon's arm to his chest, finally touching what he'd been lusting after for many months. He kissed and nipped the demon's ear, drawing out the sweetest little gasps – sounds that seemed so weak coming from that hellish creature.

The demon kept his hands on the bed above his head as Hoseok fully released him. He sighed and arched his back as Hoseok pressed wet kisses along his neck. He whimpered when Hoseok rubbed a thumb around his nipple through his shirt – a whine when Hoseok dragged his palm down his stomach –

Hoseok was in control.

They exchanged no words as Hoseok sat up and pulled the shirt off the demon, who did nothing to protest nor resist. He laid back and let Hoseok admire him, his pale skin accented with the otherworldly blackness. Arms black, shoulders black, neck black – everywhere else a soft fleshy color with tendrils drifting across it. He was mesmerizingly beautiful, almost a distraction from Hoseok's needs.

The pants went next, the demon lifting his hips so Hoseok could take them off. Feet and legs black, hips black – and smooth bare thighs disappearing up into his boxers. The demon gasped, his eyes falling shut, chest lifting up in an unmistakable twitch of pleasure.

Mouth dry, Hoseok tugged the boxers down, revealing the demon's full nudity. His groin was bare, cock hard and leaking – and a black anguilla thrusting slowly between his cheeks. Without clothing, the shadow wrapping itself around Jimin's body looked more like its own being. It shifted and twisted over the pale skin, wispy tendrils teasing exposed thighs. The demon pleasured himself with a supernatural tentacle that seemed to be formed from his own shadow, and Hoseok couldn't do anything but stare.

Looking down at the demon so exposed and vulnerable, Hoseok found himself questioning reality as he so often did these days. Was this really happening?

But the questions he asked himself didn't matter anymore. This was what he wanted. He wanted the demon beneath him, to see Jimin's face twisting in ecstasy. Reality or fantasy, it didn't matter. No more questions.

Hoseok knelt between the demon's legs and pushed them open wider so he could watch the anguilla sliding smoothly in and out. It swelled, stretching the hole wider. Hoseok couldn't help but groan as the demon prepared himself for Hoseok's cock.

"This is what you want, isn't it?" the demon murmured. "To fuck me?"

"Don't let it get to your head." Hoseok unbuttoned his jeans and pulled his cock out. The shadowy appendage slipped out of the demon's body, leaving him stretched and ready. Hoseok grabbed the demon's thighs, lined himself up, and pushed in without hesitation.

The demon moaned and arched his back. Hoseok grabbed his hands and pinned him to the bed again. He gave another hard thrust, obsessed with how the demon gave out soft cries in response. Hoseok was in control, giving the demon this pleasure, making him whimper and whine and gasp.

Hoseok fucked the demon hard, giving everything he had. He didn't let the demon move, didn't let him break free. He pounded into his body, not bothering to be gentle. After the months of torture, Hoseok deserved this. He'd earned his right to see the demon gasping and moaning, his eyes shut as he focused on nothing but Hoseok's hard cock stretching him open.

It didn't matter that Hoseok was fucking a man. He'd never wanted to fuck anyone more in his life – this infatuation, this obsession he'd felt the moment he'd laid eyes on Jimin, the demon calling out to him from within before he understood what was happening. This felt right.

The demon let out a shout and bucked beneath Hoseok. "Fuck yeah, fuck me right there." He bit his lip and whined, head pressing back against the mattress. Every strike from Hoseok's cock in that one spot brought out increasingly louder moans.

The demon opened his red eyes, face still slack with pleasure. "It's good, right?" he whispered, wrapping his legs around Hoseok's waist. "It's what you wanted?"

"Fuck yeah," Hoseok panted, his hips slapping against the demon's ass.

"Does it make you feel strong? Powerful?" Shadows slid around one of Hoseok's hands and easily pried it away from the demon's. He stroked Hoseok's cheek with the back of his finger.

Hoseok gasped, his thrusts coming to an abrupt halt as something brushed his asshole. An anguilla had slipped into the back of his loosened pants and was teasing him. It tingled, a strange sort of pleasure Hoseok had never experienced before. It pressed against him as though to slip inside, but relaxed when he whimpered.

"Don't forget what I told you, though," the demon purred, a teasing smile on his flushed face. "I am in control."

The anguilla thrust into Hoseok, and he cried out in surprise. It wasn't big, yet it sought out his prostate with deadly accuracy, and he bucked his hips.

"Harder," the demon grunted, and Hoseok obeyed without question. He snapped his hips forward, burying his cock as deep as it could go. When he pulled back, the thing inside him pressed right against that spot of unbelievable pleasure.

"Oh, holy fuck," Hoseok moaned, unable to focus on anything but his own impending release. The anguilla fucking him grew wider, stretching Hoseok out to his limit. He whimpered, and his arms lost their strength. He collapsed to his elbows, and the demon wrapped his arms around his neck.

"Fuck me, Hoseok," the demon demanded. He was breathless and sweating, moaning with Hoseok's thrusts, pinned beneath his body – yet he was in control. He fucked Hoseok with his shadows, making him cry out. He controlled Hoseok, turning him into nothing but a puppet controlled by invisible strings of passion.

Hoseok let out a loud whimper, and he buried his face into the demon's neck. He fucked the demon hard, let the demon fuck him, overwrought with stimulus. The anguilla in him was thick now, mimicking a hard cock as it stroked his prostate with every thrust.

"Fuck me, Hoseok," the demon whispered in his ear. His breath was hot and heavy, filled with low moans and sighs. "Please."

Hoseok's body shuddered in response. The demon was asking – begging – Hoseok to fuck him. He said it over and over again – please, fuck me! Fuck me, Hoseok! –while fucking Hoseok without mercy.

"Oh shit, oh – fuck – " Hoseok moaned, his body going tight with pure pleasure. "Holy – fucking – " He let out one last, desperate moan as his climax finally broke free, a release that had been building for months – a blindingly painful, yet overwhelmingly satisfying release.

The demon whimpered beneath Hoseok, eyes closed again, back arching, moaning Hoseok's name. Shadows pulled Hoseok close, shoving his cock as deep as it could go until the demon climaxed with a breathy moan.

Hoseok gasped for air, trying to remember how to breathe in the wake of such an intense orgasm. The anguilla slid out of him, leaving him uncomfortably empty. When he leaned back, pulling himself free from the demon's body, he saw a thin tendril stroking the demon's cock, drawing out the last bit of dripping come.

The demon chuckled and ran a hand through his hair. "Enjoy yourself?" he asked with a playful hum.

No, Hoseok wanted to say, but that would be a lie.

The demon sat up and pulled Hoseok into a surprisingly tender kiss. "It's okay to say you enjoyed it," he murmured against Hoseok's ear. "No shame in that."

Hoseok had enjoyed it so much he was almost overcome with distress that it was over. He'd wanted control – but having it taken from him was exhilarating – terrifying.

They were kissing again. The fire and the hunger had dulled after their sweet release. It didn't make Hoseok want to cry in frustration this time. After a moment he sighed and roll off the demon, collapsing onto his back. "What the fuck," he said to no one in particular.

The demon laughed, a soft little noise that sounded far too much like Jimin. "There you go. I was afraid I'd lost you for a while there."

"Not entirely sure you hadn't," Hoseok grumbled. He pulled off his sweat-soaked shirt. The demon's shadows helped him out of his pants, and he settled back down against his pillows, eyes closed.

"Was it exactly what you wanted?" The demon brushed a few strands of hair off Hoseok's forehead.

Hoseok's eyes snapped open again. Without the presence of that carnal desire, the demon sounded too much like Jimin. The way the demon smiled down at him, pearly teeth on display, though – it was Jimin's face, but it was not Jimin. Hoseok's momentary panic settled down again, and he accepted the demon's soft touches.

"I wouldn't say exactly what I wanted," Hoseok said, "but it was good."

"Just good?"

Hoseok raised an eyebrow. "You want me to stroke your ego?"

The demon laughed. "It's been a few hundred years. I was concerned I'd gotten a bit rusty."

"Rusty?" Hoseok snorted and shook his head in disbelief. "If that's rusty, I can't wait for the real thing."

A black tongue flicked out over the demon's smiling lips. "Don't worry. I'll take good care of you." He leaned down and gave Hoseok a kiss. "I have to go, though, okay? Don't be such a stranger next time."

Once they parted, the blackness took over the demon's body, leaving Hoseok alone in an instant. The draw, the desire, the control – everything lifted from Hoseok's shoulders in the wake of the demon's presence, and the gravity of what had just happened settled down in their place.

Yet without all that, Hoseok found himself oddly at peace. His yearning for their next encounter was a tingling of excitement rather than dread.

"Fuck," he said, staring at the ceiling.

 

 

Jimin jolted in surprise, the scenery flashing before his eyes. He was no longer in the kitchen with Hoseok. He was in Taehyung's bed. There was a weird flush that covered his entire body making him feel strange and uncomfortable. What had happened? Was he sick?

Sunlight still streamed in through the window, so not much time had passed. It didn't sound like Taehyung and Jeongguk had come back yet. Jimin groaned and sat upright. He winced, a foreign pain radiating from his lower half. He froze, recognizing the source of that pain.

With a panicked whimper, Jimin shoved his hand down his pants and between his legs. A single touch to his asshole was all it took to confirm – he was wet, sore, and loose.

"No, no!" Jimin clasped his hands over his mouth, realizing what had happened after the demon had surfaced. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling sick to his stomach. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen – this wasn't what he'd wanted. He'd wanted to give Hoseok his jacket. It was supposed to be symbolic, washing his hands free of the shame he harbored from those days.

And now this?

Jimin huddled over, his hands over his head. The shame wasn't gone. It had multiplied, folding over on top of Jimin, crushing him down.

"Home," Jimin begged frantically. "Please, please, just let me go home. Just for a while – please!"

Without looking, Jimin could feel the room around him change in an instant. He was back in his room, sitting on his familiar bed. He curled up, pulled his blankets over his head, and started to cry.