Jimin Park wasn’t sure what he had expected out of his new job at BTS Media (terribly pretentious name for a media startup predicated on reaching out to the people; beyond the scene?), but he had definitely not expected to walk in on what looked like a necromancy ritual at nine in the morning.
(Was this typical of all LA media startups, or was he uniquely cursed?)
“What if I die?” a kid about his age with muscles galore and cute teeth in need of slight dental adjustment said, squinting at another man with too much energy for an office and a wide grin. “Then we’ll just practice our dead-raising skills!” this other man said, chipper.
“I don’t like how you said practice,” the manager finally said, who had entered in front of Jimin (ostensibly to show him around, but Jimin was now starting to think that this was so he wouldn’t get a full view of how crazy they were). “We finally have our politics and policy writer and you guys are out here with...” Namjoon Kim trailed off as he took in the scene. “Confetti, potatoes, handcuffs, an ice cream scoop, duct tape, silicone seal, a pineapple, spray paint...what are you trying to do?”
“Nothing. It’s for an article!” the man with the grin chirped, and Namjoon Kim sort of sighed and let it go. “You said that much too quickly for me to believe you,” he just pointed out, and then, “Clean up,” not harsh, just tired. “Where’s Hoseok? It’s usually you and him causing trouble, and now you dragged Jeongguk into it.”
“Please,” grinning man scoffed. “Like I could drag this one,” here the biceps of who Jimin presumed was Jeongguk were slapped, “into anything.”
Jeongguk frowned and clutched his biceps closer to himself.
Jimin was having second thoughts already.
(Notably, the man had not said where this Hoseok was.)
“Hi newbie!” The grinning man said, bounding up to Jimin and linking arms with him. Jimin, slightly alarmed, looked over at the manager, who sort of shrugged in a I wash my hands of it way. “I’m Taehyung, and I’m a photographer here! What’s your name?”
“Jimin Park,” he said, unable to prevent a small smile from blooming on his face. “I’m the new writer.”
(Taehyung’s smile was infectious.)
“Ooh, we have a few writers here! There’s Namjoon here, but he’s also our editor,” Namjoon Kim sort of waved absently over his shoulder as he headed towards his office, “Seokjin who’s at his desk, I think, you’ll know it when you see it, it has Mario dolls on it.”
“Figurines!” The man who was presumably Seokjin called out as he entered the office. “I brought donuts but I guess you’re not getting any, Taehyung Kim.”
“He never gets any, period,” Jeongguk said under his breath, and Seokjin released an undignified snort. “How would you know?” Seokjin asked archly, and glided off to his desk, which, Jimin now saw, was indeed covered in various Mario figurines, as well as some tasteful (?) pink decorations.
“And Yoongi! He sort of does everything, he’s also a photographer and a producer. It’s cause he’s good at everything.”
“Flattery doesn’t work on me, Taehyung Kim, what are you trying to get out of me,” someone said from his desk. Jimin hadn’t noticed him before because he’d been slouching, but now, as Taehyung dragged him around to meet this Yoongi, he could see a shock of bleached blond hair and ridiculously pale skin, a pair of headphones around his neck.
“This is Jimin Park!” Taehyung said brightly. “He’s the new writer.”
Yoongi glanced up at him almost darkly (Jimin couldn’t tell if it was on purpose or not), dragged his eyes from the top of Jimin’s head to his shoes. It felt like a test that Jimin hadn’t studied for or known was going to happen, which was actually a nightmare of his left over from university. He still woke up in the middle of the night sometimes, fresh sweat on his back, images of a gigantic stack of test papers being suddenly shoved at him and him just staring at the pages without a wisp of an idea for what to do.
Now that he thought about it, maybe that was a slight manifestation of his fear of writer’s block.
“Welcome to the office, kiddo,” Yoongi said. “I’ll take some time and fill you in real quick. Taehyung over here’s technically a photographer but him and Hoseok combined are more trouble than they’re worth.”
Taehyung emitted a small sound of protest. Yoongi ignored it and continued on with his introduction. “Hoseok’s a producer, he makes videos. He’s either here early or late, no in between. Seokjin is a writer, he does fashion, games, that sort of pop culture. Guk over there,” this was punctuated by a general wave of the hand that did nothing to point to where Jeongguk was, “does photography. He’s cute, but don’t let that fool you. Also the youngest, somehow.”
“What year is he?” Jimin asked, now looking back at the photographer with a more scrutinizing eye. “97,” Yoongi said absently, and continued without sparing a second glance for Jimin’s abrupt look of surprise.
(Jesus Christ above, that man did not look like a 97 child.)
“Namjoon is our editor but he’s actually not the oldest, Seokjin and I are older than him. He’s pretty much the co-founder of this whole place. He’s a good guy, smart, but he’s clumsy. Don’t leave your phone or headphones on the edge of the desk when he’s around.” Yoongi paused, surveyed the office as if to see if he had missed anyone or anything important.
“Oh, and anything left in the fridge without a name is fair game. Don’t say you weren’t warned.”
“I’ll keep that in mind?” Jimin said, his voice more hesitant than he would have liked it to be.
“And I’m Yoongi Min. Like Taehyung said, I’m sort of an everything man here. I do reviews of stuff; games, music, movies.”
Jimin had barely had a chance to sit down at his new desk before the last employee came rushing in, hands full of plastic bags.
“Guys, I have the lightbulbs, the copper wiring, the chips, the lube, and the condoms,” he declared, head half-buried inside his shopping bags. “I have cucumber flavoured, chocolatey ones, and vinegar.”
Hoseok didn’t seem to realize that the rest of the office (or Jimin, anyways) was staring at him with something akin to horror.
“Are the flavours the chips, the lube, or the condoms?” Taehyung asked, bounding up from his desk and taking a bag so he could rummage through it. “The chips,” Hoseok replied. “I wasn’t about to buy vinegar flavoured condoms or lube. I don’t think those even exist.”
“They do,” Yoongi drawled. Now Jimin looked at him in alarm. “Don’t underestimate the power of the sex toy industry,” he continued, and Jimin deflated like a popped balloon. This office was going to give him heart problems, he could see it already.
“How would you know, have you ever tried it?” Jeongguk asked, who seemed legitimately interested.
“Aren’t you like, five?” Yoongi replied, wrinkling his nose a little. It was more than a little endearing. “I’m not going to tell you that.”
“That’s a yes,” Taehyung said immediately, and Jeongguk laughed.
“Hey, Jimin,” Taehyung called from over Jimin’s new cubicle wall. It was stark and bare, especially in comparison to his cubicle neighbour Seokjin, who had all kinds of stickers and figurines decorating his workspace. Even when Jimin glanced over at Yoongi, who didn’t seem like the type to plaster things all over his cubicle, his walls felt bare. Yoongi had a hook for his headphones, and a little whiteboard with nearly illegible handwriting all over it, and a notebook near his mouse, a pen hooked on the inside, presumably to keep his page. There was even a book balancing precariously on top of his computer. If Jimin stretched his neck a little, he’d be able to see the cover and read the title, but Taehyung didn’t know how to stop and was coming around to talk to him.
“Hey, Jimin,” Taehyung repeated. “How old are you?”
“I was born in 95,” he said, turning in his swivel chair to meet Taehyung’s eyes.
They were bright, and sparkly, and probably no good for him. Jimin had been at this new office for all of twenty minutes and he had figured that out already, that, as Yoongi had so kindly said, Taehyung and Hoseok combined were more trouble than they were worth.
But then again, Jimin kind of liked that sort of thing.
“We’re the same age!” Taehyung said brightly. The man didn’t seem to have an off-button, the kind of guy Jimin would have both hated and been drawn to at the same time in high school, back when he was a little too serious, a little too into studying. But it had been necessary at the time. Jimin wouldn’t be where he was today without having gone through that period of his life.
He treasured them all equally, every time period in his life. He just wanted to shove some further in the back of the closet than others, along with all his bad haircuts and school photos and embarrassingly bad denials about his sexual orientation.
God, the closet had been stifling. He’d never known the air tasted different out there until he’d finally stepped out.
“Oh, that’s nice,” Jimin said. “Have you worked here long, then?”
“You don’t have to talk so formally,” Taehyung said, coming around the cubicle wall and pulling out a stool that Jimin hadn’t noticed from under the desk. “We’re all pretty close here, not a lot of office hierarchy. Probably ‘cause we’re just starting out.”
Jimin hadn’t even noticed he’d been keeping so much distance, verbally at least, from the other man. Taehyung could be the man that Girls’ Generation sang about in Gee; so bright, it dazzled his eyes. But that got tiring, after a while, and Jimin wasn’t interested in Taehyung that way. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to live with all that energy, all that sparkle.
“How do you want me to talk to you, then?”
An easy shrug. “Like we’re coworkers.”
Jimin blinked once, twice, then smiled. “Sure,” he said. “Have you worked here for a long time?”
“Almost a year,” Taehyung beamed. He didn’t know how else to describe it; that was what it was. Taehyung’s dentist must need sunglasses all the time as well as a pay raise. Those teeth could be a sun in themselves. “We’re a fun group, I promise. Even though Yoongi can seem like a downer sometimes --”
“Hey, Taehyung Kim,” Yoongi drawled, and both Jimin and Taehyung’s eyes went wide in a moment. “I’m not helping you with assignments ever again.”
“Sorry,” Taehyung squeaked, and then both young men exploded into laughter. Judging from Taehyung’s reaction, this Yoongi Min didn’t actually mean it; he didn’t seem like an empty threats type, but then again, it hadn’t exactly sounded like a threat.
“I think you’re going to like it here,” Taehyung whispered conspiratorially. “I mean, Yoongi likes you already.”
“Yoongi’s been covering your beat occasionally with Namjoon, but now that they’re really expanding into politics and policy and all that stuff, they needed a full-time writer. Which is you! So you’re taking some work off Yoongi and Namjoon’s plates.”
“So you’re saying my very existence is helping him and that’s why he likes me,” Jimin said, trying to sort out Taehyung’s words in his head.
“Yeah, but don’t get a big head about it,” Yoongi said, standing up to stretch a little. His shirt pulled up just a hint, exposing the stretch of pale skin above the waistband of his black skinny jeans and previously covered by his t-shirt, and Jimin didn’t even realize his eyes had been magnetically pulled there until Yoongi dropped his arms and his shirt again.
Jimin’s eyes snapped back to Taehyung’s knowing face.
“I think you two will be great friends,” Taehyung said, voice more movie-dramatic than realistic, eyes laughing. He stood. “Why don’t you guys go out for lunch or something? Yoongi can tell Jimin what covering politics and policy is like, who to look out for, that kind of thing.”
“Uh,” Jimin stammered, more than aware what Taehyung was trying to pull, “I, I don’t really think that’s quite necessary, I can --”
“No, he’s right for once,” Yoongi said, propping his arms on the cubicle wall so he could look at them better.
(Yoongi was just a little too short to do it comfortably, and it made Taehyung look like he was going to burst out laughing.)
“Politicians are a many-headed beast, and this is your first actual reporting job, right, so it’s kind of my duty as your sunbae to help you get started.”
The Korean tripped easily off Yoongi’s tongue, and it threw Jimin right back into the deep end of his childhood, full of lunches that the white kids made fun of, his parents’ trot music, Korean school on Saturday mornings, going to festivals for New Year’s.
Jimin often joked that as a kid the only Korean songs he knew were ones that had been popular in the 1980s, because his parents seemed to listen exclusively to trot songs that had been popular when they were in their twenties. He hadn’t listened to any of them in a while, discarding those CDs and melodies with the rest of his childhood, in the back of his closet and his head, where it belonged.
“Your Korean is good,” Jimin said, a little distant still.
A slight smile from Yoongi. “I was the kid that paid attention in Korean school.”
Jimin stood too, so that he was on the same level as Yoongi, staring at each other over the cubicle wall.
(Taehyung had gleefully slipped off at some point, the little matchmaker.)
“You don’t seem like the type,” Jimin mused, and he wondered absently where he’d gotten this sudden burst of courage from.
“What type do I seem like then?” Yoongi asked, amused.
“You give me the vibe of one of those kids that sits in the back and does whatever the fuck they want but still gets a hundred on the test. Probably drew or wrote raps or poems or something. Oh my God,” Jimin said, suddenly realizing something, “I bet you were an Epik High kid.”
Something like pleasant surprise spread across Yoongi’s face. “Damn,” he said. “You got me pinned down on your first day.”
Jimin tried to flip the hair that he had, prompting a snort from Yoongi. “I guess Korean school taught me all the types of other Korean kids there are.”
“You think so?”
Jimin shrugged. “Maybe.”
“What kind of kid was Namjoon?”
Jimin took a moment to glance over his shoulder at the closed door of their editor’s office. “The one who sat in the front and brought a book of their own to every class. Probably read novels in Korean. Always got a hundred, was practically the second teacher.”
This elicited another laugh from Yoongi; making Yoongi laugh made Jimin feel accomplished, like he was the funniest guy in the world, so great that he should become a stand-up comedian or something, join The Daily Show, go into political satire or something equally silly.
(It wasn’t all that silly, now that he thought about it; he had the politics part down, all he needed to do was develop a sense of humour.)
“That sounds like him,” Yoongi admitted. “How did you know?”
“I was the lite version of that kid.”
Yoongi tilted his head, appraised Jimin a second time.
“You don’t seem like the type,” he said, repeating Jimin’s words from a few minutes ago.
Jimin shrugged, a smile toying on his mouth. He felt new, interesting, ever-changing, ever-mysterious. Alluring, almost, if he could ever be called that. “I delight in surprising others.”
Yoongi’s eyes dragged over him one more time. “I can imagine,” he said, and then, “What kind of food do you like eating?”
“What kind of food,” Yoongi repeated, “do you like eating? We’re going out for lunch, aren’t we?”
“Uh,” Jimin dragged out, “yeah.”
Yoongi looked at him expectantly.
“Anything’s fine,” Jimin said. “Is there any good pizza around here?”
“We can find some,” Yoongi shrugged. “I have a car, so.”
(What a catch; a job, a car, good Korean. If Jimin was female, his mother would be delighted, calling Yoongi husband material right off the bat.)
“Great,” Jimin squeaked. “I guess we’re on for lunch?”
“We’re on for lunch,” Yoongi repeated, gently amused, and then the two of them sat back down to their respective desks.
Jimin ended up in Yoongi’s passenger seat, windows rolled down, cruising through LA in a sleek black car. It wasn’t fancy by any means, just taken care of and clean; Yoongi’s car was old enough to have a window crank, which pretty much told anybody who sat in it what year it was from.
“This car is my childhood,” Jimin had said, half-delighted half-surprised, when they had first slid into the car and gone looking for pizza.
“Yeah?” Yoongi had asked, turning with a slight smile to look at Jimin over his shoulder. “How so?”
“The window cranks,” Jimin had smiled, getting to work on his window, and Yoongi had laughed.
Now they were somewhere in Los Angeles looking for a decent pizza place; Jimin had suggested the random chain store that he’d seen on his way to the office that morning, but Yoongi had turned out to be something of a food snob, and turned his nose up. “We don’t have to find a great pizza place, you know,” Jimin commented, sticking his arm out the window for a little, letting his fingers brush against the exterior of the car.
(His fingertips came back with a faint layer of dust on them.)
“I’m fine with pretty much anything. I used to live off instant dinners,” Jimin continued, retracting his arm. “I think I singlehandedly kept the Kraft Mac and Cheese people in business.”
An easy laugh from Yoongi. “Hey, that’s dedication. I’d get sick of it real fast.”
“I actually did,” Jimin admitted. “I would cycle through instant noodles and the mac and cheese. I ate a lot of sodium in university.”
“Most university students do,” Yoongi commented. “That’s why they’re all so salty.”
Jimin let a surprised laugh tumble out of his mouth. “I think I’m pretty sweet, actually,” he said. “Do I seem salty to you?”
“No, but that’s because you’re not in university anymore,” Yoongi said. “I’m sure you’ll be salty eventually.”
“I think I’m gonna stay sweet,” Jimin said, shrugging one shoulder almost challengingly.
(He could see Yoongi’s eyes were latched onto him instead of the road.)
“You do that,” Yoongi said, and something in his voice had changed. Jimin turned, eyes a little wider, to meet Yoongi’s gaze.
“You okay?” he asked, a little concerned. Yoongi’s eyes didn’t look all that focused on anything, either him or the road they were driving on, and Jimin would be more worried about their chances of crashing if they weren’t stopped at a red light.
“Great,” Yoongi deflected, and Jimin mentally shrugged, but dropped the topic. He didn’t want to push it on his first day.
“Hey,” he said, gesturing at a convenience store just down the road. “Wanna get a milkshake? It’s a little hot for pizza.”
(It was always hot in Los Angeles, but.)
“Sure,” Yoongi acquiesced, and within a few minutes, Jimin was hopping out of the car and heading into the convenience store.
He’d been to plenty of stores like these, had used the machines in the back more times than he could count. This, like the car that Yoongi drove, was his childhood. He had fond memories of walking home from the bus stop during his high school days and stopping by the convenience store each afternoon, grabbing a vanilla milkshake to enjoy on the way home. The sun scorched the very ground in this city; Jimin would do anything to stave off that burn for a little while, and if that meant dropping a few coins for a milkshake, then drop a few coins he would.
Jimin hadn’t gone to university in LA, but he’d grown up here. These streets, these people, these stores were all memories of his, made real again. This city was all tangled up in past versions of Jimin and he loved it and kind of hated it at the same time. A person could spend a lifetime trying to run away from their past and be dropped back in their hometown and fall right back into that abyss.
The thing about staying in one city your entire life was that you saw little ghosts of yourself and your past everywhere. That’s the alley where I had my first kiss, that’s where the old movie theatre used to be, that restaurant used to sell Chinese food. That’s my old school, that’s the library I used to go to, that’s the shopping centre I spent my weekends in.
Jimin was back in LA, and he couldn’t escape himself anymore.
“Vanilla,” he asked, holding up the cup in question, “or cookies and cream?”
“Mint,” Yoongi said, and grabbed a mint milkshake cup. “But you should get cookies and cream.”
“Why?” Jimin asked, already putting the vanilla cup back.
“Vanilla’s too boring for you.”
“Oh, I’m not boring?” Jimin asked, setting the milkshake machine to start stirring his cup.
“Couldn’t be if you tried.”
Jimin looked down at his milkshake and let a little smile pull on his lips.
It went on like that, for a while; Jimin and Yoongi became lunch partners. They didn’t go out for lunch all the time, not after the first time. Taehyung teased Jimin too often about it, so what usually happened was one of them would move cubicles or go to the break room and eat their bagged lunches. Yoongi brought Korean food a lot of the time; the kind of food that had gotten Jimin teased in elementary school, kimchi and kimbap, the kind of food Jimin had grown up with cooking in the kitchen at all times.
Of course, eating in the office meant that the others, namely Taehyung and Jeongguk, liked to pester them about anything and everything, either directly or indirectly. It was either the two of them shipping what they termed ‘Yoonmin’ or just gabbing about an article or video that they were working on or thinking about.
“You know, Guk,” Taehyung said, munching on a sandwich that looked a little burnt at the edges, “if you ever ran out of money, you could always sell a kidney. You can get a lot for a kidney on the black market.”
Jimin made eye contact with Yoongi as he opened the microwave to get at his bowl of instant noodles. They exchanged that quick look of fond exasperation that Jimin had grown to learn after a few months of working at this office, and then Jimin hid his smile as he moved by Taehyung and Jeongguk’s spot on the couch.
“Can’t,” Jeongguk replied, shrugging. “I’m allergic.”
At that, Jimin couldn’t keep his mouth shut. “To kidneys?” he said incredulously, standing there with a bowl of hot soup and salty noodles in his hands. “Jeongguk, you have two.”
“I’ve been allergic since I was a kid,” Jeongguk said blithely. “I’ve never even tasted one.”
Jimin froze. He carefully put the bowl of noodles down on the table across from Yoongi, who was ostensibly eating but clearly listening in. Jimin then turned around, hands on his hips, to make eye contact with Jeongguk.
“Guk,” he said slowly, “why do you think kidneys are edible?”
“I mean, they technically are, aren’t they?” Yoongi pointed out. “It would make you a cannibal, but they’re edible.”
“Yoongi,” Jimin reprimanded.
“They sell chicken kidneys at the store sometimes,” Taehyung said. “If you can eat liver, you can eat kidneys. I won’t judge.”
Now Jeongguk looked confused. “Wait,” he said. “Chickens have fruits inside them?”
“Jeongguk, animals have kidneys. They do something important for your body, I don’t know,” Jimin said. “I haven’t taken bio in a while. I can’t even remember if I ever took bio. But they do something.”
Jimin noticed Yoongi was doubled over laughing now, and he furrowed his eyebrows as he tried to put everything Jeongguk had said together. “Jeongguk,” he said suddenly, “are you talking about kiwis?”
A shrug from the child. “The fuzzy brown things that are green on the inside,” Jeongguk replied. “I’m allergic.”
“Oh my God,” Jimin said, and dropped into the chair opposite Yoongi. “Forget about me never taking bio, did you ever take bio? Did you even take elementary science class?”
“Maybe at some point,” Jeongguk replied, shrugging again. At this point, Jimin was worrying for Jeongguk’s shoulders; how did they not get tired? Wouldn’t his arms fall off eventually?
(Political science may have science in the name, but clearly Jimin hadn’t studied an inkling of biology in university.)
“Why would he need to sell a kidney anyway?” Yoongi asked, gesturing with his fork. “Wouldn’t he make more money selling the entire thing?”
“What?” Jeongguk asked, eyebrows furrowed.
“I think,” Jimin said slowly, “that Yoongi’s suggesting you become a prostitute if you need money, because you’d make more.”
“He’s probably right,” Taehyung said. “You only have two kidneys, and you can only sell one.”
“How about,” Jimin proclaimed loudly, slurping down the last bits of his instant noodles and putting the bowl down heavily on the table for emphasis, “we just stop it with this line of conversation? Jeongguk’s a baby, he’s not going to become a prostitute, and he’s probably not running out of money anyway.”
“Oh, I am,” Jeongguk replied lightly, “I just don’t need to sell a kidney to pay it off.”
Jimin looked at Jeongguk for a long moment. “Okay,” he said, nodding, and then he stood so he could pat Jeongguk on the shoulder without feeling like a midget, “okay. Ruin any good impression of you I had. Got it.”
As he left, he could hear Jeongguk say, confused, “What good impression? I was trying really hard to make sure he didn’t have high expectations!”
“I didn’t!” Jimin called over his shoulder. “But you’ve exceeded my wildest dreams of how much you could disappoint me, really.”
“First thing I’ve exceeded at,” Jeongguk quipped, and Jimin laughed.
“Hey, Yoongi,” Jimin said, popping his head over the cubicle wall dividing them. “Got a sec?”
The other man was wearing his headphones and probably doing something important on his computer, and while most others would be eviscerated by the other man for interrupting him while he had his headphones on (it was a well-established rule that unless you had a death wish, you didn’t mess with a Yoongi that had his headphones on; it was even written on his whiteboard, facing anyone who approached, DON’T INTERRUPT IF I’M WEARING MY HEADPHONES, in red, capital letters) but Jimin found that he could get away with it. Nobody else could; nobody else tried, to be fair, but maybe Yoongi was being a little kinder to the new kid in the office.
Yoongi blinked once, twice, then took his headphones off and turned his head upwards to Jimin.
“What,” he said flatly, but not in a hostile manner. This encouraged Jimin to keep talking, instead of shutting his mouth and sitting back down like he might have in a different situation, with a different person.
(It seemed a little counter-intuitive, but despite Yoongi’s occasional grumpiness, Jimin felt happy and comfortable around the other man. He knew he liked him. He knew. But knowing how to say it was a whole other story.)
“Okay, so, I’m doing an article on the geopolitical implications of the Olympics right, and where they’re held, and how countries can leverage that to show off their ‘soft power’,” here, Jimin actually did the finger quotes to make sure Yoongi got the message, and was rewarded with a soft quirk of the mouth from the other man, “so I wanted to ask, in terms of K-pop, what songs are good examples?”
A little spark of something lit in Yoongi’s eyes, as if Jimin’s words had been a match. “Gangnam Style, obviously,” Yoongi said, ticking it off his finger at first but then reconsidering and rolling his chair over to his whiteboard so he could write it down, “but I’m sure you have that. Wonder Girls’ had English singles, you should include Nobody. Even my white friends know that song.”
“Same!” Jimin said, suddenly distracted. “This guy in my high school started humming it in class once and I was so surprised. He said he didn’t even know where it came from, that’s how ubiquitous it was for him.”
Yoongi nodded, but wasn’t as easily distracted as Jimin was. “So, Gangnam Style, Nobody, put a Girls’ Generation song on there, maybe I Got a Boy? That one won at the Youtube Music Awards, but The Boys was their English album. And there’s always Gee, but that’s not exactly an example of Korean soft power, which is what you want, right?”
“It doesn’t have to be so US-focused,” Jimin pointed out, coming around and pulling out a stool so he could sit next to Yoongi instead of looking over the wall, unable to be closer or touch him, “there’s the whole thing with South Korea blasting K-pop towards the DMZ, remember? That’s soft power.”
“Right,” Yoongi said, writing down Girls’ Generation in quick, fluid Korean instead of putting in the effort to write out the name in English, “there’s Big Bang, too, and remember to include the groups that are popular in Japan and China.”
“EXO,” Jimin said, and Yoongi wrote it down, fast and messy, “I think TVXQ is big in Japan, and TWICE.”
Yoongi nodded. “Yeah, TWICE is doing pretty well in Japan. If you want to do a bit about the DMZ music, make sure to add IU.”
“Twenty-Three is my jam,” Jimin quipped, and made an attempt at the dance. Yoongi watched him with a strange expression on his face, but clapped perfunctorily when Jimin was done with pretending to be IU, pretty and successful and good at singing and everything else she attempted. Jimin was no IU; IU could debut at fifteen and still be in the industry ten years later, write her own songs within a confining entertainment industry.
Jimin just lived in California and breathed in the salty air and did his best to get by each day, listened to some quality music before he went to bed, watched the news and kept up with sources and tried not to cry at the end of the day, when he punched out and went home and tried to destress from the admittedly stressful work of not only keeping up with the nation’s politics but explaining and thinking hard about the ramifications of every move and decision. That was his job, to write articles that summed up his thoughts and explained and elaborated on the consequences and fall-out of everything, as well as find new angles on existing news items.
Hence, the geopolitical soft power of K-pop. IU didn’t have an easy life, true, what with sasaeng fans chasing after her and the eyes of a country, a continent, a planet on her, but she had succeeded, hadn’t she? Wasn’t she where she wanted to be?
Was Jimin where he wanted to be?
IU was only two years older than him and seemed much more put-together. Maybe entertainment did that to people, aged them beyond their years. When Jimin was out in the field interviewing people who seemed to make a life off of lying to people and eating their hopes and dreams three meals a day every day, he was a different person too. It was why he tried to have as much fun as possible in the office, be a little silly with Taehyung and Jeongguk and Hoseok.
He had the heavy topics. He needed to de-stress somehow. Maybe IU’s public persona was like Jimin’s, a suit of armour that he wore for the day and shed when he stepped inside certain confines.
An article about idols within the industry was probably more in Yoongi’s area of expertise, but Jimin could feel the words pushing at his fingers and at his tongue as he thought about the topic.
“Do you think that’s enough?” Yoongi asked, looking expectantly at Jimin.
“Oh, yeah,” he said, taking out his phone to take a quick photo of the whiteboard with its messy handwriting and notes on the various songs so he wouldn’t forget which songs Yoongi had recommended to begin with. “You know that articles can’t be that long. People have short attention spans these days, especially on the internet.” Jimin said this with a vaguely wry smile and almost-bitter tone, in the way that most journalists he interacted with said it; a little funny but not really, the kind of thing you laughed at because you couldn’t cry about it.
“I don’t know, there are some things I think could stare at forever,” Yoongi replied, shrugging a little. Jimin, who had been flicking through his phone notifications, snapped his eyes back up to meet Yoongi’s.
“Yeah?” he asked, all too aware of the words coming out of his mouth, the sound of the air conditioning whirring overhead, the drop of sweat sliding down the back of his neck, the feeling of his breath coming out of his nose.
“Yeah,” Yoongi repeated, sliding his chair back towards his desktop. “Hope that helped.”
And just like that, the hyperawareness slipped away.
Jimin forced his mouth into a smile that Yoongi couldn’t see. “Thanks, Yoongi,” he said, and went back to his own cubicle to write his article.
“We should do an office picnic!” Seokjin proclaimed one day, standing up from his cubicle to yell (Seokjin would take issue and call it ‘talking loudly’ but Jimin was calling it what it was) across the entire office area.
“Ooh, yeah!” Taehyung agreed. “We could do all kinds of stuff! Hoseok could get those weird chip flavours again.”
“Didn’t someone throw up last time?” Jimin asked, fully aware that someone had indeed thrown up and it had been him; it was a vivid image from his first day at work, and a constant reminder to be careful but open around Taehyung and Hoseok and their wacky antics.
“Whatever,” Taehyung shrugged, standing and turning to a more receptive audience, namely, Hoseok.
“We could do so much fun stuff!”
“We could buy fireworks,” Hoseok suggested. “It’s probably going to be some holiday soon, and we can set off a bunch of fireworks and stuff.”
“Give me one good reason why anyone should let you guys buy a cart full of fireworks,” Yoongi drawled, not bothering to stand up but pushing his chair out so that he was no longer within the walls of his cubicle and could talk to the others freely.
“It would be fun,” Taehyung said in all seriousness.
“You’re going to set someone’s hair on fire,” Jimin said, deadpan.
Taehyung shrugged. “I’ll set your hair on fire, you need a haircut anyway.” One of Jimin’s hands flew to his head immediately, feeling the immaculate locks (a little damaged, maybe, a little dry, but immaculately styled nonetheless) as if to make sure they were still on his head and not singed away by some reckless idiot that he happened to work with. A reckless idiot he loved and was friends with, of course, but still.
“I’m surprised you haven’t killed him yet,” Jimin said in a stage whisper towards Yoongi.
“I keep trying,” Yoongi said, disgruntled, “but nobody lets me get very far.”
“Why would you want to kill me?” Taehyung said, his tone of voice implying multiple question marks.
“With you and Hoseok, it’s kill or be killed,” Yoongi quipped. “I have to kill you before your antics get me killed first.”
“Anyways,” Seokjin said, unwilling to watch his brilliant plan get dragged further and further away from his original idea, “we should do it for the start of spring!”
“This is LA, spring doesn’t exist,” Jimin pointed out. “We have hot and less hot paired with drought and less drought.”
A barking laugh from Yoongi. “For the start of spring on the calendar,” Seokjin corrected himself, still unwilling to be deterred.
Namjoon’s office door was open, as it usually was in the morning before things got too hectic, and he poked his head out, an apologetic expression that looked too fake plastered on his face already. “I have plans that day...” he said, unconvincing, “I know you didn’t say what day it was but...I have plans all days so....I guess I can’t go.”
“Stop trying to duck your way out of babysitting your staff,” Yoongi said. “You’re supposed to be responsible.”
Only Yoongi and Seokjin and Hoseok, the ones Namjoon’s age or older, really dared to talk to Namjoon like that; the rest of them were more aware of the power dynamics at hand, the fact that Namjoon was the managing editor, Namjoon assigned articles and beats and pay raises and promotions, Namjoon was one half of the founding duo, and Namjoon could change their life and career faster than they could imagine.
Or maybe that was just Jimin, overthinking things again. Maybe it was just that Korean thing, age hierarchy, kicking in even though none of them were born in that country. Maybe some things were so ingrained in you even though you didn’t live in that culture, and you couldn’t shake them if you tried. Maybe the mouthful of Korean words, Korean food, the bone-deep routine of bowing to relatives, was what made Jimin who he was. The things he couldn’t change, the culture he couldn’t scrub off his skin or off his words the way he could an accent or the telltale smell of foreign food.
Maybe that was what revealed people. The little things that stuck with you like lint to clothes. Jimin had spent his university years trying to run from this city but here he was anyway, pulled back inexorably by some force he couldn’t name.
He couldn’t erase those Korean things from his background or himself, but he sure could try, and he had.
(He’d broken his mother’s heart more than once in university, once by trying to abandon all things Korean and become a banana, once by coming out.)
His mind had flown off somewhere far away and the rest of the office was congregating in the break room, chatting about a picnic, Taehyung and Hoseok bringing up ideas, having them shot down by the others like birds in the sky.
The only person who hadn’t left yet was Yoongi.
“You okay?” The other man asked, standing by Jimin’s cubicle wall.
“Fine,” Jimin said, pushing himself off his chair and out towards the break room. “What are they talking about now? Still trying to hash out the details of the picnic?”
“I think --” Yoongi began, but he was cut off by a chorus of raucous laughter and the sound of an indignant Hoseok.
“Stop laughing and help me out of the trash can!” Hoseok said, grabbing at Jeongguk’s sleeve. “I think my foot is stuck in a coffee cup.”
“Sorry man,” he heard Jeongguk say without a hint of apology. “You should go into comedy, seriously, what are you doing still hanging around producing videos for us?”
“How many Asian comedians do you know?” Hoseok snarked, deadpan with an edge that Jimin didn’t want to think too hard about. “And don’t,” here, his voice had discarded any pretending at deadpan and was all edge, all shine, all danger, “say Aziz.”
“Margaret Cho,” Jimin said without even thinking about it, and he could see the shine and aggression melt off Hoseok’s voice.
“I’ll give you that,” Hoseok said. “But that’s one person.”
“So be another,” Jeongguk said blithely, pulling out a chair for himself as Hoseok stumbled out of the trash can.
Jimin glanced over at Yoongi without even thinking about it; the other man wasn’t looking at him, was observing the way Jeongguk and Hoseok were talking to each other, or maybe thinking about what they were saying. The live wire of Asian-American representation in entertainment and media was something that remained exposed, could even be said to spit sparks in the middle of the office, but nobody confronted it the way Hoseok just had.
Their whole startup was based on the idea of creating a smart, funny, and engaging media startup for the Asian-American community, especially the youth. Their startup was in LA, where the movie magic happened. So yeah, they all knew and discussed ideas of representation and diversity and discrimination; but it was detached. It was always ‘they’, it was always in a sort of hypothetical manner.
The way Hoseok had just engaged with it was not hypothetical, was not a ‘they’. The way Hoseok had just engaged with it was aggressively personal, aggressively real. It had been an ‘I’.
And maybe that was why the talented, young, attractive Korean-Americans ran back to Korea to make careers in music. Because the industry here was too hostile, too lonely. To venture into the industry in America was to engage with the same microaggressions you’d experienced your whole life on a whole new level, and Jimin, who had tried to become a banana so he wouldn’t have to deal with it and learned that even if he tried nobody would forget that he was Asian, knew well that most people would rather fly to a country on the other side of the ocean whose language you didn’t necessarily speak fluently just to run away from it.
Jimin had tried to run too, just from his heritage instead of white people. He’d run at them, thought that was the solution.
But then again, escape wasn’t the solution either, was it?
Maybe there wasn’t one at all.
“There are some things people can’t do. It’s not that easy, Guk,” Yoongi finally said, voice trying its hardest to be light but weighed down by the topic, and Jimin felt his mouth quirk up.
“Nothing ever is,” Jimin said, more to himself than to the others, and nobody heard but Yoongi.
Yoongi heard, and Yoongi cast a look at Jimin that said it all.
“Why am I here?” Jimin heard Yoongi ask himself out loud as they sat in a park near the office, the rest of the team either messing around and jumping on each other (Taehyung, Jeongguk, Hoseok) or actually trying to enjoy the office picnic (Seokjin, a grudging Namjoon). Jimin and Yoongi were leaning against a large tree, hiding under its shade from the sun and it’s unforgiving rays.
Not only did it expose flaws, it actively created them in the form of sunburns. Yoongi, with his pale skin, was especially prone to sunburns, and had slathered himself in layers of sunscreen before stepping out of the office on the way to their picnic. Jimin was a little more easygoing in that respect, and was wearing an ajumma-style widebrimmed hat, the kind his mother would wear and call stylish.
“It means you’re not working?” Jimin offered, knowing already that Yoongi was going to deny this explanation.
“I actually like this job,” Yoongi said, casting a relaxed look at Jimin. “You know that.”
“I guess I’m projecting,” Jimin shrugged. “I like breaks, unlike you, you workaholic.”
“It’s not work if you enjoy it,” Yoongi said, chugging some water. The plastic water bottle had crap construction, was flimsy as fuck, was bad for the environment, and Yoongi was maybe just bad at drinking because the man spilled a few dribbles of water onto his chin and then his neck, and then, perhaps a little too carried away by his CF acting, nearly dumped the entire thing down the front of his shirt.
Jimin, who had been captivated before, didn’t bother trying to stifle his laugh.
“What a mess,” he said, and he didn’t know if he meant Yoongi in general or the water bottle debacle.
“Stop laughing,” Yoongi grumbled goodnaturedly, pulling at his partially wet shirt.
“Nobody else even cares we’re here, you know that, right?” Jimin said, grabbing a sandwich from the basket. None of them were actually prepared by any of the workers; Namjoon rightfully didn’t trust Taehyung or Hoseok to make edible sandwiches while in the kitchen together, and Jeongguk was too easily manipulated by the troublemakers. Namjoon was a particularly gifted disaster in the kitchen, Seokjin didn’t want to go to all that effort, neither did anyone else, and in the end, it had been easier to just buy sandwiches from a convenience store.
Yoongi took in the scene in front of them; Namjoon and Seokjin sitting and talking about something that seemed important but was probably something like what new restaurant had just opened under a blue sky, Taehyung and Jeongguk peering over a prone Hoseok laying on a grassy hill. “Are you still looking at the moon?” Taehyung asked.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Yoongi realized. “So why are we even here?”
“We could be eating ice cream,” Jimin pointed out.
“Or finding some cheap indie concert to go to,” Yoongi continued.
“Or watching a movie.”
“Or celebrity stalking.”
“How about we do something that won’t get us a criminal record,” Jimin ventured.
“Not celebrity stalking then,” Yoongi said judiciously, miming the motion of crossing something off a list.
Jimin watched this often strange, mostly wonderfully beautiful, man and couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
“Let’s go somewhere with air conditioning,” Jimin suggested.
“So a movie?”
“I hear there’s always something smart playing at the arthouses.”
Yoongi cast another look at the others.
“This isn’t actual work anyway,” Jimin said, taking his time to see fun Yoongi be coaxed out, “so you’re not running away from the thing you love most.”
“I love some things more than work,” Yoongi protested, eyes still fixed on their boss.
“Uh huh,” Jimin said, amused but disbelieving, and pulled Yoongi up by the hand. Yoongi, startled, stumbled up and towards him, and Jimin had a brief moment of utter panic in his mind before Yoongi righted himself and they avoided a rom-com situation.
“Let’s go,” Jimin said, now hauling Yoongi along towards the other man’s car, “come on.”
Jimin kind of missed living anywhere but here.
Los Angeles was nice, and all, and plenty of people adored its weather; but maybe it was that hometown feel, the feeling that Jimin got when he strolled down the streets and caught sight of the baseball diamond where he’d first been punched in the face, or the park where he’d fell and broken his nose on the side of the sandbox, or when he got a sunburn in the same spot as he had when he was fifteen and falling out of love with this whole damn city.
Los Angeles was all sun and drought and Jimin was back, sure, but he’d like some rain once in a while.
There was beauty in this city, but maybe Jimin couldn’t appreciate it anymore.
“Hey, what theatre is this?” Jimin asked as Yoongi pulled into a little side parking lot beside a vaguely rundown building that still had a sort of old glamour to it. It wasn’t the kind of big box theatre that Jimin was used to frequenting, filled with big studio fare; this looked like hipster central, indie stuff, little movies with little stories that had emotional impact, if what his more culturally refined friends were to be believed.
“An arthouse,” Yoongi said, shutting the car door with a dull thump. “It’s really good, the movies here are all gems.”
“Hey,” Jimin said, coming around the front of the car to meet a waiting Yoongi, “you know a real gem of a movie? Thor.”
“Are you a superhero movie kind of guy?” Yoongi asked, looking at Jimin suspiciously.
“I’m a popular movie kind of guy,” Jimin said, sliding his hands into his pockets. “Stop judging me, entertainment critic.”
“I’m not judging you,” Yoongi protested, “I just pity you because you haven’t been exposed to so many good films.”
“Oh my God,” Jimin lamented towards the sky, “he even uses ‘films’ as a synonym for movies.”
“Shut up,” Yoongi said, lightly swatting at Jimin’s arm, “you love it.”
“You, maybe, your pretentious vocabulary, not so much,” Jimin said before he could take it back. His heart thumped too hard and too loud for a few breathless moments as he waited and watched for any sign of a reaction on Yoongi’s face, but the other man seemed to shrug it off as all part of the joke and laughed.
The inside was lush and swathed in dark, warm colours; it sort of reeked of a pretentiousness that Jimin couldn’t shake, but Yoongi seemed at home within it, easy and settled.
“Can you be a cultured resident of LA without watching niche movies?” Jimin wondered out loud.
“No,” Yoongi replied almost immediately.
“This seems like a wine kind of place,” Jimin commented as Yoongi looked at the board with the schedule on it.
“Oh, I’ve been meaning to watch this movie,” Yoongi declared, dragging the two of them into line. “Los Angeles Overnight. It’s like a thriller, apparently, but kind of not at the same time. Maybe you’ll like it, even with your action movie tastes.”
“I feel like we should be wearing flannel and beanies and standing around drinking something fancy,” Jimin commented again. “Like wine. Or craft beer.”
“Craft beer’s not fancy,” Yoongi commented absently, holding up two fingers to the clerk. Jimin barely realized that Yoongi was about to pay in time to throw his hand in front of Yoongi’s offered money and bring out his own wallet.
“I can’t make you pay for me,” he protested, rifling through his wallet. “How much is it?”
“No, I picked the place and the movie, I’m paying,” Yoongi replied, pushing back against Jimin’s hand in an attempt to hand the money over. The clerk was, rather admirably, stony throughout this entire affair.
“But Yoongi --”
“I’m your hyung,” Yoongi cut him off with fluid Korean, and Jimin was thrown back into the deep end of his childhood all over again. Jimin faltered, Yoongi shoved the money into the clerk’s hand, and all Jimin could do was hold onto his wallet and let a faint smile slip out onto his face.
Jimin smiled wider, let his smile do the work for him. He had an adorable smile and he knew it, would just present his teeth and his eyes curved into half-moons, lingering baby fat on his cheeks. “You can buy us craft beer,” Yoongi relented.
Jimin let the smile drop and flounced his shoulder a little, satisfied smirk playing on his mouth. “I don’t know,” he said, tapping a finger on his mouth. “I’m in a cheap wine kind of mood today.”
“Then buy an eight dollar bottle of wine,” Yoongi said, watching Jimin’s little performance, amused.
“Let’s get tipsy,” Jimin said, excitement leaking into his voice. “I think I saw a Walmart on the way here, they sell crappy wine, don’t they?”
“The crappiest,” Yoongi agreed, pocketing their tickets. “California-produced.”
“Don’t rag on my home state’s wine,” Jimin said, pretending he was offended.
“I,” Yoongi said, bringing his face too close to Jimin’s face for comfort, every word punctuated by a breath of warm air, that unique scent of Yoongi’s shampoo and laundry detergent and deodorant mixed together to create something Jimin could get drunk on instead of the wine, filled his head until the only thing Jimin could focus on was breathing, “will say what I want about California wine.”
Yoongi pulled back, and Jimin felt like his legs were about to give out and he’d fall on his knees right here right now, in front of the clerk who couldn’t care less and the few others waiting to buy tickets or go into the theatre, fall on his knees and pray because wow, that effect could only be brought about by some sort of deity, right? If someone came up to him and asked his religion he’d cite Yoongi in a heartbeat.
“Jimin?” Yoongi said after a few moments, tilting his head. “You okay?”
“What you just said was so offensive I couldn’t think of anything to say,” Jimin replied, blinking hard a few times to recover. “I’m buying shitty wine and you’re drinking it with me.”
“Of course, Your Highness,” Yoongi said, light and teasing as they headed out to the Walmart, and a shiver slid down Jimin’s spine.
“Why do you care so much about Californian wine if you don’t even like living here?” Yoongi asked as Jimin brushed his fingers over the labels of various wine bottles under the sharp, bright lights of a Walmart aisle.
Jimin sighed, fingers closing around the neck of a bottle of wine. “It’s complicated,” he demurred.
“I like to think I’m smart enough to understand complicated things.”
“Sometimes it’s not about being smart or dumb,” Jimin said, slowly turning the bottle so he could read the label filled with bullshit adjectives meant to sell him on this particular bottle of fermented grape juice, “there are some complicated things that some people can’t understand.”
“You know, Jimin,” Yoongi said, leaning carefully against the shopping cart they didn’t need but had taken anyway, “I’ve never met anyone with such complicated feelings about their hometown. LA is like an ex for you.”
Jimin exhaled a quick, quiet huff of laughter, eyes still tracing inanely over English letters that didn’t mean anything to him anymore. “That’s a good description, I think I’m gonna use that,” he said, neatly sidestepping the question and placing the bottle of wine he’d just picked into the cart.
“I’m not hearing an explanation.”
“I don’t owe you one,” Jimin said, a little bite coming out as he subtly wrested control of the cart away from Yoongi and steered them towards checkout.
“Maybe you don’t, but I’d like to hear one.”
Jimin shrugged, sighed, and relented. “I grew up here. There’s just too much tangled up with this entire place. It’s nice to be back, sometimes, but then I see something straight out of my high school years and I get thrown back into that all over again, and nobody had a perfect childhood. I just don’t like to think too hard about mine.”
Yoongi sighed. “I know that feeling.”
“Don’t we all.”
“So if you grew up here, do your parents still hover over you?” Yoongi asked, this time letting Jimin pay for the bottle of wine instead of rudely pushing in front of him to pay like before.
“Not really,” Jimin said, studiously avoiding eye contact with both Yoongi and the cashier at the same time. It was a learned skill. “They don’t talk to me anymore.”
“Oh, why not?” Yoongi asked, taking the bottle from Jimin as they headed back.
A slightly bitter smile pulled at his mouth. “I’m a disappointment,” he said, and walked a little faster, so that the distance between him and Yoongi pulled and stretched like taffy, the two of them still together but not as close. Talking about his family and his parents was not his conversational topic of choice. Time had passed but he still felt the nausea in his stomach return every time, still felt the heat of an utterly disappointed gaze, still felt the temperature drop a few degrees.
“How bad can it be?” Yoongi asked, increasing his pace as well to keep up.
Jimin sucked in a harsh breath, then abruptly stopped and turned to face Yoongi, right in front of the entrance to the theatre. “I’m gay,” he said, the two words tumbling out right after each other. “So. You’d be surprised at how bad that can be.”
Yoongi didn’t say anything for a few moments and so the two of them stood there for a while, Jimin searching Yoongi’s face for a reaction. The air outside the closet was fresh and sweet but every time he stepped out he felt that little prickle of fear; what if they hated him, what if they were a straight dudebro that was uncomfortable with ‘the gays’, what if, what if, what if.
This might be Los Angeles, but that didn’t mean every person here was accepting. Jimin knew that from experience.
“I’m sorry,” Yoongi finally said.
“For what, my sexuality?”
“For your shitty parents.”
Jimin laughed a little, more bitter than mirthful. “They’re not shitty, just Korean.”
“That’s not...” Yoongi trailed off, made a few frustrated gestures with his hands as he tried to figure out what he was saying. “That’s not an excuse for them. My parents didn’t disown me.”
In the space of the few moments Jimin’s heart stopped beating, he figured it out. “You’re...gay?”
(His heart maybe soared just a little.)
“Is that why they didn’t disown you? Because there was still a chance they could get their dream future for you?” Jimin asked.
Something flashed in Yoongi’s eyes. “Pretty much.”
“That sounds pretty Korean to me.”
A laugh that seemed more lament than anything fell out of Yoongi’s mouth. “Yeah, but they’re not shitty. What I’m trying to say is, being Korean isn’t an excuse for your parents treating you like crap because of your sexuality.”
Jimin shrugged. “I don’t care anyway.”
“Sure you don’t,” Yoongi said, but just let his mouth curl into a wry smile and the topic drop to the pavement.
It turned out that watching a movie in between swigs of cheap wine from Walmart was not the best recipe for serious, artistic consumption, especially the kind that required periods of intense focus.
Jimin wasn’t the type of guy to pride himself on his alcohol tolerance, but he liked to think he wasn’t that bad either. But apparently consuming half a bottle of wine along with no food in his stomach wasn’t going to keep him entirely sober. Who knew.
So by the time the movie was over and the slow descent of afternoon into evening was about to begin, Jimin was maybe not the most sober person at that theatre. The bottle of wine, he discarded rather shamefully in the theatre as he and Yoongi walked out, arm in arm.
“That was a good movie, wasn’t it?” Yoongi asked, smile softer than the reddish-yellow light diffusing over the city at that moment.
Jimin shrugged, blithe. “I wouldn’t know, I was more distracted than I should have been.”
Yoongi’s eyebrows furrowed. It was rather cute. “By what? The cinematography and the actors were so pretty.”
“There were prettier things to look at,” Jimin shrugged again.
Yoongi still didn’t get it. “We were in a dark theatre, Jimin, there was literally nothing else to look at.”
“I was right next to you, wasn’t I?” Jimin said, coy and fuelled in part by the soft, pleasant wine tipsiness that was flooding through his body. Normal Jimin probably wouldn’t have done this, wouldn’t have gone ahead and said anything this close to a confession; normal Jimin would have thought about things like propriety and his job and whether office romance was actually okay.
Slightly tipsy Jimin was just sober enough to recognize those were things he would have thought about and tipsy enough to discard them.
It took three heartbeats for Yoongi to get it. “Are you serious?” he asked.
“You’re prettier than the golden hour,” Jimin said, entirely sincere.
A surprised laugh tumbled out of Jimin’s less-than-sober mouth, and he leaned against Yoongi’s car for balance. “Do you really love this city that much?”
“Maybe it’s because you grew up here, but I think it’s new and beautiful every day.”
“That will fade eventually,” Jimin pointed out.
“Everything does, but that doesn’t make the feelings less true,” Yoongi rebutted.
“You know what,” Jimin declared, “I like you more than you like this city.”
Yoongi’s eyes were soft and warm, the setting sun washing them in a tint that Jimin had seen in Instagram photos so many times. Jimin could drown in them easily, would probably throw himself into those eyes if they would just keep looking at him like that for the rest of his life. It was like the warmth in Yoongi’s eyes, the warmth in these skies, was worming its way into Jimin’s heart, until it lit up from the inside out.
“Really?” Yoongi asked. “That’s a lot.”
“Well,” Jimin said, making a heart out of his arms and smiling, “I like you a lot.”
Yoongi laughed in delight and then kissed him right there against the car.
“That’s adorable,” he whispered against Jimin’s mouth, and Jimin laughed into Yoongi’s shoulder.
“I’m adorable,” he corrected, and Yoongi laughed a little again and dropped his forehead on Jimin’s crown.
“That you are.”
“I like you, Yoongi, I like your drunken philosophizing and vinyl records collection and pretentious movie tastes and Korean handwriting.”
A slip of a smile. “And I like your policy rants and mainstream taste in movies and love for bubblegum pop and terrible hold on your liquor. And those cheeks.”
“Thanks, I think they’re my best feature.”
A glass of wine raised in a teasing toast. “To your cheeks.”
“To my cheeks. And our anniversary, I guess.”
Two chimes of laughter and a kiss.