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less it shall unbe

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Taehyung doesn’t like to talk in absolutes.

He likes to think of himself as a free spirit, who likes to marvel about all the grays life has to offer. There are wonders to be found even in the dullest of situations.

Example: public transport is proof that Satan works hard non-stop to make everyone miserable, there’s no denying that. And yet, every day Taehyung gets to see cute babies or puppies on his way to University or work. Every day, Taehyung sees something to remind him that there are spots of light even in the darkest of times and that’s what keeps him going.

So, it’s a bit of a bummer when by October of his first official year in the Big City, he comes to the firm conclusion that Uni sucks. As far as statements go, it’s a pretty absolute one, which makes the whole situation even worse. He doesn’t like being judgmental and he’d rather keep hope than throw the towel. The fact that his Uni experience has been sub par so far is disappointing in more than one way.

He gotta throw the whole experience away. Or rather, he wishes he could.

To be fair, some of the blame does fall on his shoulders. Maybe if he didn’t put University and the Big City Life on such a high pedestal, it wouldn’t have been such a long and terrible fall when reality shot them off of it. Perhaps if he didn’t come to Seoul with his heart on his fucking sleeve, ready to love everything, it wouldn’t have caught on so many jagged edges and it wouldn’t be bleeding and throbbing dully now.

He did though. He really couldn’t be more of a cliché if he tried.

However, the good thing about adulthood is that you’re often too tired to actually feel pain. Huh! He can still find silver linings, as pathetic and miserable as they are. He’ll take what he can get. The fact remains that he came to Seoul  heart filled to the brim with rainbow shaped expectations but the colors slowly dimmed until they were too faded to even be called colors.

Expectation: he would get to Uni and finally find what he was meant to be doing with his life.

Reality: after two months, he is decidedly undecided and, however impossible it may seem, even more confused than ever.

Expectation : he would become best friends with his roommate and they would get to do loads of fun stuff together, like play Overwatch all night or have One Piece marathons, or spend hours in thrift shops, putting together cool but low budget outfits.

Reality: he was assigned a single room. He’s alone with his thoughts at night. Things are bleak.

Expectation: he would find a way to balance his studies and his part time job in a way that won’t exhaust him and/or affect his grades.

Reality: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Expectation: he will make tons of new friends and be the heart of an eclectic group of rowdy but charming people. They would be cute too, and have cute things in common such as inside jokes, a lively group chat and cool handshakes.

Reality: his only friends are his cousins; Seokjin and Namjoon. Sometimes, he talks to Mrs Kang, the old lady who feeds the birds at the park.

Expectation: he would receive care packages from his grandmother every other week.

Reality: he goes to bed missing her every night.

Expectation: he would bring Soonshim with him and they will be the cutest pair on campus.

Reality: No Pets Allowed!

He spent two years taking online classes, building up Uni in his head. He worked really hard every day to save money, his own money to finance his own studies and although he doesn’t regret it, wouldn’t go back, wouldn’t spend a dime in any other way, he had hoped for better.

Disillusion tastes quite bitter.

Since he can’t decide what kind of artist he wants to be, he’s taking too many classes (which he actually enjoys) but each course comes with its heavy load of work. His job at the grocery store as a stock boy is boring, tiring and making his back ache. He gets home every night and feels like he’s lived three days packed into one. He’s way too exhausted to do anything more than text Namjoon and Seokjin in their group chat. Too often, it feels almost mandatory, like texting his parents to reassure them that, yes, he’s eating and, no, he did not follow any stranger home.

He hates to complain and he would never burden anyone else with his worries, but he’s alone. He feels so lonely; sometimes he wonders if one could fail just by letting loneliness consume them.

The worst, he thinks, - besides the monotony, the fatigue and the quiet – is the routine of it all. There’s far less excitement than he was hoping for. He could take the sleepless nights working on his photography projects, pouring over his Art History notes, staring at the blank pages of his sketchbook desperately hoping inspiration will strike, reading centuries old poetry… all of it would be bearable if he only got to have a little bit of fun. University, he was told, is supposed to be wild and fun and exciting. It’s supposed to be about making friends, lifelong friends. It’s supposed to be about getting drunk at parties and waking up hungover and miserable but at least together .

For most of his life, Taehyung has been the social butterfly of his age group. It’s one of his strongest suits: making friends, charming people, having people around who care about him. He misses that. In Seoul, he’s just a dot; a tiny flicker of light in a buzzing city. He feels transparent, like no one ever sees him anymore. He watches people in the cafeteria, on campus, at the park; group of friends eating and laughing together. People who are known and accepted. People with stories, secrets and love to share.

He doesn’t know how to be a part of that. He feels like a superhero whose only ability has been stripped away from him and who has to learn the most basic skills. Which is why he starts spending more and more time with his cousins. Most days instead of studying alone in his room or at the library, he packs his stuff, buys some snacks and heads to either Namjoon’s or Seokjin’s place. His cousins don’t mind, always welcoming him with hugs and in Seokjin’s case, warm food that doesn’t come out of a container.

It’s nice, Taehyung loves them. Namjoon is the most interesting person Taehyung knows. He’s a sociology major who minors in music production  who spends his weekends either attending underground rap battles or working with various charities. He loves fashion, like Taehyung does, but he doesn’t make a show of it. He’s smart, incredibly so, and even if sometimes he uses big words just for show, he never makes people feel small or stupid. Nothing really defines Namjoon except for what Namjoon chooses to be, to do. Taehyung thinks that’s more valuable than anything else. Namjoon cares about people and wants to change the world by helping people and Taehyung loves him for it.

Seokjin is accomplished in a way that is intimidating sometimes. He works for his father’s company and even though he’s still at the very beginning of his career, Taehyung already knows Seokjin is going to leave his mark on the world.  He’s beautiful, charming and terribly sweet. Seokjin’s life could’ve led him to be full of himself but he’s a very respectful and delightful young man that always has room in his heart for more people.

When his schedule allows it, Taehyung loves spending time with his cousins, loves to just watch them be and talk with them. They give him hope.

It’s after spending his evening at Namjoon’s dorm that Taehyung meets Jimin.

It’s almost midnight, the night air is unforgiving and the skies opened up just as he was about to leave his cousin’s place. He’s drudging back to his dorms, earbuds blasting Nina Simone, shoulders hunched against the cold and the rain when he sees a beautiful mural. He stops walking for a second, eyes glued to the painting, and then heads toward it, steps rendered slow by his awe.

He’s seen several of them around the neighborhood and each of them has taken Taehyung’s breath away. This one is a bit different from the ones he’s seen previously, softer somehow and more colorful. It’s a rabbit with flowers sprouting out of his ears and jumping from one colorful stone to another . There’s something very warm about it, like the artist had someone in mind when they painted it; someone dear to them.

Taehyung feels something hollow grow inside of him. He yearns to be a part of this, to have this and to create things like this.

He’s so lost in his own thoughts, so focused on the gaping hole inside his chest that he doesn’t realize he’s stopped in the middle of the road to look at the art. He doesn’t hear nor see the car speeding down the street. His eyes fill with tears and he’s mesmerized by the watery filter making the art look out-worldly. He doesn’t know why this is affecting him so much but he can’t tear his eyes away.

And then suddenly, painfully, there’s a collision. Someone slams into him, violently pushing him, their body sheltering him from the fall as they roll away. His headphones are snatched out of his ears and the noise of a car swerving to avoid him makes his blood run cold in his veins. Things seem to be suspended for one very surreal moment as they are airborne, and then reality crashes back down on him when they hit the pavement. Taehyung ends up sprawled over the stranger, his heart beating erratically against his chest and he can only watch in horror as the car screeches to a stop a few meters away from them.

A young man comes stumbling towards them, fear etched onto every line of his face. Taehyung is too stunned to do anything but watch him approach.

He can’t feel anything. He feels his body, all of his limbs, he knows he’s alright but at the same time, he can’t feel anything.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! Please be okay, please, please, please’,” the driver keeps muttering as he falls to his knees by their side.

Their .

Taehyung suddenly remembers he’s lying on top of someone. His eyes fly down to them and he finds big brown eyes looking up at him worryingly. The loveliest pair of eyes he had ever seen. He keeps looking at them, unable to breathe or move, beyond the fact that a stranger with the most beautiful eyes just saved his life. But then the boy turns his attention to the car driver and reality comes crashing back around Taehyung once more. He scrambles away, hands and knees scratching against the hard, wet ground. He ends up on his ass, chest heaving and lungs tight.

The other boy straightens up with a slight wince that he tries to downplay but one that Taehyung doesn’t miss. He turns his eyes to the driver and Taehyung sees the man shrivel up and lean back.

“Are you okay?” he asks meekly.

“M’fine,” Pretty Eyes answers. He turns his gaze to Taehyung and tilts his head questioningly, eyes hard.

“I’m alright,” Taehyung manages to say through dried and shaky lips.

The car driver sags with relief. “I’m really sorry, I was distracted.”

Pretty Eyes glares at him, mouth pulled into a thin line. A shiver runs down Taehyung’s spine.

“I’ll be more careful in the future,” he promises.

Pretty Eyes doesn’t bother to reply; he keeps glaring until the driver turns his attention back on Taehyung.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

Taehyung nods, limbs wracked with shivers. “I’m fine. I’m really sorry,” he finally has the presence of mind to say. “I shouldn’t have been standing in the middle of the road like that. That was… dumb. Sorry.”

The driver scoffs but quickly drops the mocking expression when his eyes flicker back towards Pretty Eyes. “You can go now,” he says and the driver only hesitates for a moment before hopping to his feet and making his way towards his car. Taehyung watches him drive away feeling somehow changed.

His heart is still beating painfully fast.

“You alright?”

Taehyung turns his eyes back to his savior and his breath catches in his throat when he sees the softness of his gaze. A clear difference from the hard glare he was giving the driver. Taehyung lets his eyes travel over his face, noting the couple of scratches on his cheeks, down his neck and the rest of his body. His hands are cut and bleeding and there’s a tear by the knee of his joggers.

In comparison, Taehyung doesn’t look bad. His left shoulder hurts a little but it’s barely noticeable.

“You saved my life,” he breathes out, feeling the knowledge of it buzzing through him like cleaning wipe. He feels brand new.

Shaken to his very core but changed.

Pretty Eyes looks away and chews on his bottom lip. It’s the prettiest pink Taehyung’s ever seen.

When he looks back, he’s frowning, gaze firm. “You shouldn’t have been standing there.”

Taehyung swallows. “I know but…,” he trails off, his eyes seeking the art. “It’s so beautiful.”

There’s a moment of silence where Taehyung almost gets sucked into the piece again but he’s brought back when the other boy says,

“You like it?”

“YES!” Taehyung says all too loudly, turning to face Pretty Eyes again. There’s color to his cheeks now and Taehyung is suddenly reminded that they’re outside in the middle of the night, that it’s raining and it’s cold and they’ve just been through a traumatic accident. He clears his throat. “Yes, I do. It’s beautiful,” and he lets his tone get infused with every bit of wonder he has for it.

“Thank you,” the other boy says, surprising Taehyung. His eyes flit back and forth between the boy and the piece of art.

“You did this?”

A nod.

“And the other ones in the neighborhood?”

Another nod. “I have help sometimes,” he admits, voice soft.

Taehyung doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know what to say, but he knows that getting to know this guy would make him happy. Very happy.

“I love art,” is the very smart thing his brain chooses to say.

“Cool,” is the answer he gets.

Taehyung is very good at reading people and saying what needs to be said to put them at ease and make them understand he could never be a threat to them. But there’s something about Pretty Eyes; something about the defensive way he’s holding himself, about the vulnerability hiding in his eyes, about how he hasn’t even bothered to wipe the drops of blood from his scratched cheeks that makes Taehyung want to be even more careful than usual. He pushes against every instinct, against his parents’ warnings and offers:

“You should let me take a look at these,” he says pointing to Pretty Eye’s wounds.

“Are you a nurse?”

Taehyung smiles at the perplexed tone. “No, but my grandparents have, uh, I mean, had a farm.” Taehyung is still getting used to the past tense.

“How does that qualify you to tend to my wounds?” Pretty Eyes has very rectangular and expressive eyebrows. Right now, they don’t look very impressed. It makes something delightful trickle down Taehyung’s chest.

“My siblings and I loved to play in the orchards and the fields. I’ve tended to a lot of cuts and bruises in my lifetime. I promise I’ll be gentle,” he offers with one of his winning smiles.

Pretty Eyes stares at him for a while. They’re both still sitting on the wet ground and Taehyung is past the point of mere discomfort but he won’t move if it helps this guy trust him.

He really wants Pretty Eyes to trust him.

“Do you have a first aid kit on you?” he asks pointing to Taehyung’s huge bag. There’s something a bit teasing about the look Pretty Eyes sends him and Taehyung feels warm. He’s always carrying a lot of shit around: some photography gear, books and CDs, snacks (just in case) and sketchbooks because you never know when inspiration might strike. He looks at his bag and he sees that some of the content spilled out during the accident.

“Not with me, no. I do have some vitamins and a cereal bar, but I doubt that will help,” he explains and the other boy narrows his eyes. His hair is very dark, the moonlight reflecting almost blue on the soft looking strands. There’s gravel tangled in there.

Taehyung has lost his train of thought again.

“How are you going to help then?”

“I live just around the corner,” he says and he can almost feel the way the suggestion raises Pretty Eyes’ every hackle.

“I’m not following you home.”

“Do you really think I would harm you?” the thought alone makes him sick.

“I don’t know you.”

And that’s…. yeah, that’s fair. Smart even. He chews on his bottom lip and thinks for a moment.

“Okay, how about I run to my place and bring back supplies with me?”

“You don’t have to do that,” the boy says, clearly uncomfortable.

“Please, I’ll be quick. I can’t let you go home like this. You saved my life,” he sounds almost desperate but the idea of letting him go like this, without help, without knowing he’ll be safe, doesn’t sit right with Taehyung at all.

“It’s okay, really, I’ll be fine.” He doesn’t say it to get out of anything or to reassure Taehyung, he says it like he’s said it a million times before, like the cuts and the blood don’t matter, barely register with him. He says it like he’s taken care of these things too many times to count.

Taehyung wants to help him. He doesn’t remember wanting to help someone this badly in his life.

“It’s not fine. You saved my life and I really want to help.”

“Stop saying that,” Pretty Eyes grumbles.

“What?”

“That I saved your life,” he looks away and Taehyung thinks he’s never seen anyone this small in his life.

“But you did. You saved my life. Or at the very least, you saved my ass from one hell of a hospital bill, so, please let me do this for you.”

The other boy hesitates for another moment but he finally gives a nod. Taehyung smiles so big, his face hurts.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t move,” he starts running but he stops when he gets to the end of the road and looks back. Pretty Eyes is still sitting there, under the moonlight, with dried blood on his face, sitting by the content of Taehyung’s spilled bag, he looks almost as unreal as his paintings.

“Don’t go,” Taehyung yells with a grin.

“Hurry,” the other boy replies with a grunt loud enough to be heard through the distance.

Taehyung does. He makes the trip in under three minutes. He knows because he keeps checking the watch his father gave him before he left for Seoul. When he gets back to Pretty Eyes, the other boy is back on his feet and Taehyung was right; he is small.

He comes to a stop a few feet away, chest heaving and rain clinging to his eyelashes.

“You didn’t have to sprint,” Pretty Eyes says and once again, there’s a hint of teasing dancing in his eyes. Nothing obvious but just enough to make Taehyung want to laugh.

“Yes, I did.” He looks around and sees a bench only a few meters away. “Shall we?” he says, mentioning towards it with the hand holding the first aid kit.

Pretty Eyes doesn’t answer, instead he starts walking to it.

“That’s a big kit,” he remarks.

“My grandma put it together for me,” Taehyung says. His heart bleeds a little but he focuses on the little smile Pretty Eyes offers him. It’s the first one.

“That’s nice,” he says as he settles on the bench. Taehyung can only nod as he sits not too far from him. He opens the kit and starts pulling out bandages, band aids, disinfectant and scissors.

“May I?” he asks.

Pretty Eyes is looking at him strangely. “May you what?”

“Well, may I touch you?”

The other boy looks surprised for a moment before slowly extending the hand with the biggest cut. It’s not too deep and has stopped bleeding already, but Taehyung barely takes a look at it because this hand is the smallest, most delicate, most beautiful little hand he’s ever seen.

“Oh,” he breathes out as he gently takes hold of his wrist. Pretty Eyes' skin is rough from the cold, a bit dry, and his fingers have calluses on them. Taehyung gently inspects every side of it, nearly cooing at the plush softness of the boy’s palm.

Taehyung wants to draw these hands.

“What’s your name?” Pretty Eyes asks as Taehyung starts to wipe away the blood.

“Taehyung. I’m nineteen. What about you?” He would keep calling him Pretty Eyes but knowing his name would be helpful.

“Jimin. I just turned twenty.”

“I’ll be twenty in a couple of months,” Taehyung sends him a small smile. “You can call me Taehyung. No formalities.”

He doesn’t get an answer so Taehyung decides to focus on cleaning the wounds. He makes quick work of the hands. Thankfully the cuts aren’t really deep, but he does spend a long time meticulously picking out gravel from the scratches. Jimin hisses when Taehyung pulls too hard on a bit of skin but otherwise stays completely still and quiet. The cut on his knee is a bit more gruesome and more delicate to treat. The rain has finally let up but they’re both wet and the night is still cold. Taehyung’s fingers are stiff from the frigid night air, but this is what Jimin needs to feel safe so he represses his shivers and makes sure he’s as gentle as he can be. It’s not easy with the low lighting and the fact that they’re complete strangers, but he manages.

He hesitates when it comes to the scratches on Jimin’s face.

“Uh, these might hurt a little more,” he says.

“S’fine,” Jimin grunts. “Just get it over with, I’m freezing.”

“Okay. May I touch your face?” Taehyung asks and he’s once again confronted with Jimin’s surprised expression.

“Yes,” he says and leans closer to Taehyung.

He’s got really pretty eyes. A pretty mouth too, all plump and pink and soft looking, like little bonbons. There’s a very faint scattering of freckles on his cheekbones, barely visible under the streetlamp. His nose has a slight bump along its bone that renders its almost perfection endearing.

Jimin’s just really pretty and Taehyung is suddenly terrified for a completely different reason.

He gently tilts Jimin’s face sideways to examine the biggest cut and he feels the tension running through him. He starts talking to distract him. Or maybe to distract them both.

“One time, when I was around twelve, my grandma asked me to help her best friend with picking strawberries,” he starts, fondness sipping into his tone. “She, my grandma’s friend, had a strawberry farm but she didn’t have enough helpers, so Grandma sent me. She said I should put my long fingers and unending energy to better use,” he chuckles, still remembering the way she smiled at him. “So I went. Mind you, at the time neither of us knew that I loved strawberries as much as I do now,” he adds, looking at Jimin pointedly.

Jimin’s lips twitch. “How did you not know you liked strawberries? You were twelve.”

“I guess before this particular incident, I never really thought about strawberries like that, you know,” Taehyung grins.

Jimin’s lips twitch again.  

Taehyung finishes cleaning up the wound and applies a butterfly band aid on it. He gingerly moves Jimin’s face until he can look at the other smaller cut. Gradually, with every second, every soft brush of the swab, Jimin relaxes. He grimaces a little, his nose scrunching and distracting Taehyung a little, but he doesn’t seem to be holding himself as tightly anymore.

Taehyung can feel the weight of his gaze though, unwavering and contemplative. When his eyes darts from Jimin’s hands to his eyes, he can see it: the way Jimin is taking him in, trying to figure him out. It makes a strange kind of nervousness course through Taehyung, not a bad kind, not at all. It’s something effervescent, bubbling inside of him like warm stream.

He focuses back on his work and makes sure to look and sound as unthreatening as possible. Not that Taehyung was ever been perceived as such, but everyone is different and everyone perceives people differently.

“Anyways, I start working diligently, I didn’t want to shame my grandmother, you see? Except I start to get hungry and those strawberries start looking better and better. And I think to myself: ‘one strawberry won’t hurt’,” Taehyung feels the way Jimin’s lips are tugged into a small smile against his palm. He feels a strange mix of giddy and calm. “One strawberry quickly turns into five, and then ten, and then before I knew it, I’d eaten almost a whole bucket. By the time my grandma’s friend found me, I could barely move. I’d eaten so much and the worst part was that they were all covered in pesticide. My tummy ached for days.”

“I bet it took you a long while before you ate them again,” Jimin speaks for the first time in ten minutes. It’s startling.

“Oh no, I was back at the farm the next week, begging for more.”

A pause.

“Why did you tell me this story?”

“Just because,” he shrugs applying the last band aid. “All done,” he smiles at Jimin who seems lost in thought. Taehyung leaves him be, gathering his supplies and getting up to throw the wrappers in the nearest trash bin.

“Thank you,” Jimin says when he comes back. He’s up and offering Taehyung’s kit to him.

In that moment, Taehyung remembers how they met. “Don’t thank me; this is the least I could do,” he says voice thin, suddenly overcome by the events of the night. “I owe you so much more than this.”

Jimin shakes his head. “You don’t. I did what anyone else would have done. Or at least I hope they would.” He walks towards Taehyung’s bag and quickly gathers his things. Taehyung, flustered, rushes to help him, but Jimin is efficient. He hands the bag to Taehyung and they both just stand there for a while, in the middle of the road, limbs aching from the cold.

Taehyung is desperately wracking his brain to make the moment last a bit longer. To make Jimin stay.

“Let me take you for coffee,” he blurts out.

“It’s past midnight,” Jimin replies, face blank. Taehyung thinks some more, but can’t find a reason to make him stay, doesn’t really understand why he wants Jimin to stay so badly. He doesn’t know him. It’s late and cold and if he doesn’t get back home soon he’ll catch a cold, which he can’t afford. He’s being selfish, keeping Jimin out in the cold like this isn’t fair to him, especially after all he’s done for Taehyung tonight.

Still, he looks at Jimin and thinks it would be really nice to keep him company.

“You’ll be alright going home?” Jimin asks with an air of finality and Taehyung feels disappointment dropping like a stone at the pit of his stomach.

“It’s not far at all. How about you?”

“I’ll be okay,” Jimin answers with a wave of his bandaged hand.

“Don’t forget to clean those regularly.”

Someone else might have rolled his eyes or dismissed him, but Jimin nods. “I will.”

“Good night, Jimin. Thank you.”

“Night, Taehyung. See you around.”

Jimin turns around and leaves Taehyung standing in the middle of the road.

“Please get on the sidewalk,” Jimin says without turning around and Taehyung laughs. It starts out slow and quiet at first but it builds until Taehyung is doubled over and can barely breathe. Jimin turns around just to shake his head at him and point to the sidewalk.

By the time Taehyung drags himself on it, Jimin has rounded the corner.

Taehyung goes home filled with a new sense of hope.

**

Taehyung spends the following week hunting down Jimin’s murals and taking pictures of them. He loves the details and spends too much time lost in them, in the blend of colors and the imperfection of the surfaces. He loves Jimin’s rawness, the explosion of emotions even in the more simple and delicate pieces. He loves how each of them is unique, different and special, how they all tell their own stories but somehow there are constants in all of them, a sense of cohesiveness. Taehyung couldn’t be sure they were all from the same artist and yet he knew, even before Jimin claimed them, that they were part of a whole.

He takes about a thousand pictures, from different angles and different distances. and then he goes home and draws. Draws his favorite bits or lets inspiration take him elsewhere. It feels so good to be able to create or to study art not for a class or because he thinks he has to, but because they speak to him. He feels drawn and connected to them.

He thinks about them at work where it’s easy to let his mind wander, the tasks so mechanical he doesn’t have to think about them anymore. He doodles miniatures of the paintings on the margins of his notes. He even dreams about them sometimes.

He doesn’t see Jimin again.

The week passes by so quickly that before he knows it, it’s been eight days since he’s last seen either Seokjin or Namjoon. He gets a text from the older inviting him to dinner.

shoulders

if u died i hope you let your mother know i took good care of you

me

i told her u try to poison me every week

shoulders

THAT WAS ONE TIME

me

hmmmmmm

shoulders

how was i supposed to know you couldn’t eat spicy food

me

and u dare call yourself family smh

shoulders

I was about to invite you to dinner to meet my new roommie but you know what? Die!

me

i’ll be there at 7

shoulders

…..

me

see u tonight hyung

shoulders:

…..

me

i love one (1) man

shoulders

you better!

me

i was talking about Joonie hyung :/

shoulders

fuck you

me

:/

 

Taehyung pulls on his favorite button down (the green one with the white flowers) and black slacks. He slips on the jacket his mother got him before he left home and heads towards Seokjin’s place. When he gets there, Namjoon is the one to greet him at the door.

“He lives!” He exclaims and opens his arms for Taehyung. He falls into them gratefully, soaking up his hyung’s warmth. Namjoon is the tallest man in the world and every centimeter of him is made out of love and goodness.

“I missed you, hyung,” he says because he did. Namjoon and Seokjin aren’t just his only family here, they’re his friends too.

“You too, Tae,” Namjoon says, tone soft. Always reassuring, always needed.

They head to the kitchen where Seokjin is finishing up dinner.

“I made kimchi, which took approximately twenty years, so you all better appreciate me,” he says without turning around. Taehyung latches himself to his older hyung’s back and wraps his arms around his waist.

“I always appreciate you, hyung,” he says, his tone just a little mocking making Seokjin scoff. He still leans his head against Taehyung’s own and settles comfortably in his arms. Where Namjoon is solid and reassuring, Seokjin is warm and comforting. He’s like watching the sun rise over the horizon, sure and breathtaking, even in his inevitability.

“How have you been, Taehyung?”

And for the first time in a long while, when Taehyung replies, “I’m good, hyung,” he doesn’t feel that little twinge of guilt in his chest.

“Oh, you must be Taehyung,” a new voice says suddenly, and when Taehyung turns around he is met with a cheerful heart smile and shy brown eyes.

That’s how he meets Jung Hoseok: warm, brilliant, exuberant and beautiful Hobi. Seokjin’s family is, to put it mildly, filthy rich. Seokjin’s father is the C.E.O of a multimedia company, and while Seokjin’s older brother is the one who will inherit the company, Seokjin is expected to work alongside him. He’s still only an office worker for now, but Seokjin has never lacked funds. He’s lived in this spacious apartment during his university years, which was convenient when he needed quiet to study, but when he was done last year, he couldn’t bear the silence anymore. Neither Taehyung nor Namjoon were comfortable living with him, knowing he’d only make them pay a fraction of what would normally be asked of them. Seokjin tried for months, but neither of them would listen to his pleas so he had no choice but to look elsewhere. And Hoseok looks like the perfect fit. He’s funny and loud, just like Seokjin, and they already seem to be at ease with each other. Watching them together settles something inside Taehyung. He didn’t realize how worried he’s been about Seokjin being alone in this big apartment and never finding someone that could make him smile after a long day of work.

They have a wonderful meal of japchae, manduguk and kimchi. Hoseok bought desert which is just three different kind of ice cream and Namjoon provides soju. The evening passes in a blur of laughter, good food, and even better company. Taehyung doesn’t tell them about his near death experience, but he tells them all about the street art how much he loves each piece, and why.. He shows them the pictures he has on his phone and the four of them talk about them for a while. Taehyung is so happy sharing something exciting with them for once that he rambles on and on. He knows none of them mind though, judging by the warm smiles they offer him every time he gets lost in the details.

Namjoon has to leave early because he has an essay to write, but Taehyung can’t bear the thought of going just yet. Seeing Seokjin and Hoseok together just made him realize how lonely his own place feels; he doesn’t want to go back just yet. So when Hoseok suggests watching a movie, he agrees. He makes chamomile tea for all of them (the only thing he can do in the kitchen with a modicum of success and confidence) and they settle on the comfortable couch. Taehyung sits between them and they cuddle up to him, offering a cocoon of warmth. Taehyung’s ever busy mind slows down and he basks in the quietness of the moment. It’s a romantic comedy and Taehyung lets himself be swept away by the charming story.

Too soon the movie ends and although Seokjin offers him the couch, Taehyung declines. He’s got an early class tomorrow and he knows that the couch, as comfortable as it is, won’t offer him the proper rest he needs. As he walks home, he passes by the police station like he does every time he takes this route. Usually, he doesn’t pay it any mind; it’s just a building like any other in a city filled with them but tonight he hears a voice. It sounds soft even when its owner is clearly aggravated and it triggers Taehyung’s memory. He looks up to find Jimin talking to another boy as they quickly descend the stairs leading up to the station.

The boy with him is wearing a large white tee, even in this weather but the cold doesn’t seem to be affecting him. He looks young, younger even then they are and although he’s taller than Jimin, in that moment, he looks (or maybe he makes himself) smaller. His left arm is littered in tattoos and under the streetlight Taehyung can see the glint of a few piercings.

He can’t hear what Jimin is saying but he seems unhappy. Taehyung would say he even looks disappointed.

Part of him wants to call out, catch up to them and just ask how Jimin is, if everything is alright, but he knows it’s not appropriate. He watches unnoticed as they walk down the street and turn the corner. He resumes his path towards his small dorm room and tries to tame his curiosity.

That night when he falls asleep, he makes a wish for Jimin and hopes for the best.

**

The following week, their creative writing teacher asks them to write a fantasy story and Taehyung’s excitement must show on his face because at the end of class someone approaches him.

“Hi, I’m Jeonghan,” the guy introduces himself. Taehyung doesn’t reply straight away, too distracted by his delicate beauty.

“Uh, hi, I’m Taehyung,” he finally says, and the other boy smiles. It’s one of the most beautiful smiles Taehyung’s ever seen and he really wishes he had his camera with him right now.

“Look, I don’t want to be a bother but fantasy isn’t really my genre and you seemed really happy with it so I thought maybe we could, I don’t know, work on this assignment together?” he asks hopefully, accompanied by batting of eyelashes and a pretty pout.

Taehyung laughs. “Oh you’re really good,” he says and Jeonghan’s smile turns mischievous. “Put that away,” Taehyung scolds jokingly and Jeonghan laughs. “And sure! I’m actually heading to the library right now; we can brainstorm there if you want?”

“Thank you!” Jeonghan sighs and Taehyung grins down at him.

“I like your hair,” he says as they start making their way to the library.

Jeonghan preens, tucking a long strand of it behind his ear. At this angle he almost looks elfin. “Avocado and olive oil masks,” he says with a wink.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

When he leaves the library, it’s much later than he thought it would be but it’s with a new friend’s number and an invite to hang out this weekend with a few of Jeonghan’s friends. Taehyung’s steps are light as they lead him to the grocery store. He’s running really low on food supplies and although he knows living on ramen and chips is not healthy, he also knows that it’s the only thing he knows how to make. So he fills his cart with a variety of choices, adds water and fruit (with a thought to his ever worried mother) and a few cereal bars. It’s not much but it’s enough for now.

He makes a quick detour to the frozen aisle and he’s in the middle of choosing between one tub of strawberry ice cream and two tubs of strawberry ice cream when someone behind him says,

“Hi.”

He whirls around, tubs of ice cream clutched to his chest. He can’t control the huge smile that breaks across his face when he sees who it is.

“Jimin!” he exclaims, the single word drenched with so much excitement he winces internally.

Jimin looks different under the fluorescent light of the store. His hair is hidden under a beanie making his round face look even rounder. He kind of looks like an egg. The best looking egg Taehyung’s ever seen.

His eyes are even prettier than he remembers them.

“You look well,” Jimin says after an awkward pause.

“So do you,” Taehyung replies quickly, words tumbling out of his mouth like sprinters breaking the finish line. “You’re all healed.” Taehyung lets his eyes trace Jimin’s face, looking for the faintest scars but he doesn’t seem to have kept any. It’s like the incident never happened.

Jimin holds his left hand up, the one with the deepest wound, revealing a pink scar. “The only souvenir,” he says with an unaffected shrug. Taehyung’s gut twists with guilt.

“I’m really sorry,” he says. His hands have gone numb from the cold of the ice cream so he puts both tubs in his cart, decision made.

“It’s no biggie. I hope you’re better at crossing streets now,” Jimin says with just a hint of reproach.

Taehyung groans, still a little ashamed. “I’m usually more careful, although I tend to get lost in my own head sometimes. And I do get distracted very easily. Your piece,’ he stops, afraid to say too much, to scare Jimin away. “It was just calling to me. It was so lovely, so beautiful, I couldn’t even look away,” Jimin is looking at him with wide eyes, mouth parted slightly. “Sorry, I babble a lot,” Taehyung offers but Jimin shakes his head.

“No. No, it’s, uh, it’s alright, I don’t mind,” he sounds almost timid. Taehyung can’t look away from him.  “Thank you.”

“Are you an art student?”

That makes Jimin laugh but it’s not a soft sound. Not warm at all. “No,” he replies with finality.

Oh , Taehyung thinks and like he knew not to call out to Jimin the other night, he knows not to ask for more now. “Are you?” Jimin asks but he doesn’t sound begrudging.

He sounds like he actually wants to know the answer and that makes Taehyung’s heart beat just a tad faster.

“I am,” he says with a small smile. He wants to say that he’s spent the last few weeks studying and trying to understand Jimin’s pieces but he doesn’t want to sound like a stalker. He knows that technically he’s not doing anything wrong, after all street art, just like any other kind of art, is made to be appreciated and to evoke passion in others. He barely knows Jimin though and one of the reasons why he’s been so obsessed with his art is that he really wouldn’t mind getting to know its creator. That might come off as greedy. He doesn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.

He wants to tell Jimin how much his art has touched him, almost like he keeps saving Taehyung over and over, but it’s literally the second time they’re talking to each other and it feels like saying too much.

Taehyung knows he can be overbearing sometimes, and the only people who are used to it are his friends and family. He doesn’t want to overwhelm Jimin.

“That’s really cool, Taehyung,” Jimin says with a kind smile and Taehyung feels validated for the first time since he’s set foot in Seoul.  The thing is, they may have only met twice but Taehyung has spent the last two weeks completely immersed in Jimin’s work so in a way, he feels like he knows him, feels like they’re friends, or at least their creativity could be, as strange as it sounds. So hearing him say that, even if Jimin has never seen Taehyung’s art, makes Taehyung feels incredibly warm.

He swallows back the avalanche of words trying to escape his mouth and thanks him quietly. They walk toward the register, Jimin with a pack of coffee and a loaf of bread, Taehyung with his cart filled with ramen and fruits. It’s a little awkward like any silence with strangers tend to be but Taehyung doesn’t want to feel the urge the fill the silence between them with inane chatter. He’s content just walking alongside Jimin and makes a real effort to not to stare at him too much. The shorter boy carries himself with so much grace and confidence, Taehyung wonders if he’s a dancer.

“Do you dance?” he blurts out before he can think better of it.

Jimin offers him a small smile. “I do actually. How do you know?”

Taehyung waves a hand vaguely, trying to encompass all of Jimin. “Just the way you hold yourself.”

“Ah,” he hesitates for a while, long enough for Taehyung to wonder if he’s going to elaborate but then he says with a controlled tone. “I did ballet when I was a kid. I’m more into street dance these days but I don’t get to practice very often.”

They’re at the registers now and Jimin helps Taehyung puts his groceries on the belt, making a face at all the ramen. Taehyung can only chuckle lightly. When everything is in bags and he has paid, he waits for Jimin to pay for his own purchases and they leave the store together. He thinks they’re going to part ways but when he starts walking, Jimin follows.

“We live in the same neighborhood,” Jimin says quietly and Taehyung nods. Jimin takes a couple of the bags from Taehyung and he smiles gratefully. They walk in silence for a while, the night air turning their noses pink and biting at their naked fingers. The moon is bathing Jimin’s egg head in cold light but everything about his face radiates softness.

Taehyung is mesmerized.

“I saw you the other night,” Taehyung says after a while. Jimin’s impressive brows quirk in question. “I was coming back from my cousin’s and I was passing by the police station,” he tries not to sound too curious but he knows he failed when he sees the way Jimin looks at him now.

“My little brother likes to spray paint,” He says with a terse smile. “He’s less careful about it than I am,” he adds with a shake of his head.

“How so?”

“Well he was caught spray painting dicks on a police car,” Jimin explains and Taehyung’s comes to an abrupt stop, unable to keep his laughter in check. Jimin rolls his eyes but there’s a smile dancing on his lips too.

“Oh my god, how did you get him out of it?”

“I didn’t get him out of anything. He’s got community service hours to serve and that will do him a lot of good,” Jimin says and Taehyung is not laughing anymore. He sounds so stern and responsible.

That does things to Taehyung. Unexpected things. Surprisingly good things. Things he wouldn’t mind exploring.

“Is he any good?” he says as they resume walking.

“At what? Getting caught doing dumb shit? Very.”

Taehyung laughs. “No. I meant the spray painting.”

“Oh, yeah. He’s way better than I am. He helps with some of my pieces sometimes.”

Taehyung wants to ask which ones and go back to them and see if he can pick up on the differences but they’ve reached his dorms and Jimin is handing back the bags he helped carry.

“Wait,” he says before Jimin can leave. He crouches down and starts rummaging through the bags until he can find what he’s looking for. He finds the ice cream in the last bag, of course. He grabs one of the tubs and extends it towards Jimin after straightening up.

“This isn’t mine.”

“I know, dummy,” Taehyung smiles. “It’s a thank you for walking me home and helping me with these. I really appreciate it.”

Jimin looks like he doesn’t know what to do or say, eyes gone terribly soft. Something tugs at Taehyung’s heart. He slips the tub in Jimin’s bag before he can protest and smiles winningly at him.

“Thank you,” Jimin says with a small voice.

“It’s nothing really.” He bends down to pick up his bags and smiles one last time at Jimin. “You’ll get home alright?” he asks. Once again, Jimin sends him a strange look, like he’s never heard the question before.

“I’ll be fine,” he says and his tone is teasing but Taehyung doesn’t understand why. “I’ll see you around.”

Hopefully. “Good night,” Taehyung says and tries to wave but is hindered by his bags. Jimin grins at him before taking off.

That night after eating a dinner of beef ramen, grapes and three scoops of strawberry ice cream, he sorts through his pictures and finds the ones of Jimin’s street art. He chooses three of them, from his favorite pieces and hangs them: one above his bed, one above his desk and one by the door. It’s not much, but they’re bringing colors and warmth to his dreary little room.

He sleeps soundly that night.

**

Sometimes, Namjoon needs to rest. Not often because Namjoon loves to be busy and is always looking for new things to do, but sometimes, he’ll need to stop everything and just let himself breathe and chill.

Most people go back to their families, or stay home and sleep. Other might read a book, rewatch their favorite drama or spend time with their friends. Some may even go to parties and drink themselves silly. Namjoon prefers riding his bike or taking longs walks around town and he likes Taehyung’s company. Taehyung hasn’t brought many things from Daegu but he did bring his bike and one of his favorite things to do is to go with Namjoon on his little bike adventures. He brings one of his cameras with him, Namjoon packs a light lunch and they spent the day biking through the city, across parks and over hills. Namjoon tells him about the city, about the History and the urban legends and Taehyung listens, takes pictures and feels free.

That Sunday, they bike by the Han River, eat tuna sandwiches in Hangang Park and Namjoon reads him poetry by Kahlil Gibran. In return Taehyung opens up: he tells him about his evening spent with Jeonghan and his friends Seungcheol, Mingyu and  Jihoon. His cousin listens carefully as he talks about going to the movies together and how for the first time in while, Taehyung wasn’t worried about school or work. He also tells him about the fantasy short story that he can’t seem to stop writing; how the universe he created keeps expanding and how the list of characters keeps growing and growing.

Namjoon listens and encourages him to keep talking, gives interesting inputs and makes bad jokes. Taehyung loves every second of it.

It’s cold outside but they’re both bundled up in big scarves and gloves and Taehyung feels warm enough listening to Namjoon talk about philosophy.

Namjoon doesn’t necessarily make him want to believe in good things and good people because Taehyung is as positive and enthusiast about life as they come. Rather Namjoon makes him feel like it’s okay to not always feel like that and to want to achieve better things than just the bare minimum. It’s okay to dream big and expect good things from people. He makes Taehyung not only want to be better but actually believe he could be better. Like he could actually change people’s lives and have a positive impact.

Because that’s who Namjoon is to Taehyung; that’s what he does. He leads by example.

Around three, Namjoon gets a text from Seokjin asking him to grab some pastries from his favorite bakery so they decide to head back home. The journey to the bakery is rather long but Taehyung doesn’t mind. Sure, he’ll never be able to unlatch his fingers from the bike handles but it’s a small sacrifice to pay. When they get to their destination, Taehyung offers to stay behind to watch the bikes while Namjoon quickly goes to buy the pastries.

He leans against the wall and scrolls through his phone as he waits. There’s a sudden noise from across the streets and he looks up to find Jimin, his brother and another boy talking in front of a coffee shop. Jimin and his brother are wearing the custom uniforms while the other guy is wearing black. From the cap on his head, to his leather jacket and turtleneck to his skinny jeans and sneakers, everything is black.

Jimin looks different from the previous times he’s seen him, there’s something lighter about the way he carries himself, a little less defensive, a little softer. So is the look on his face. His smile comes easier too, stretching beautiful across his flushed face.

Taehyung watches as they talk, as Jimin’s brother lets out a loud cackling laugh, something wild and unrestrained while the other two just look on fondly. He watches Jimin card his small hand through his brother’s hair and says something that makes his brother grin at him, all teeth and crinkles. They lean their heads toward each other for a moment and then they separate.

Taehyung wants.

He’s about to look away and resume scrolling through twitter, pretending like he doesn’t want to hear Jimin laugh up close when Jimin looks up, directly at him. He straightens up and away from his friends, takes a step forward like he wants to cross the street too. Taehyung smiles at and waves just as Namjoon comes back out, carrying a rather large box of pastries.

“Some of these better be for me,” Taehyung says, eyes bouncing between the box and Jimin.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get this box safely to Jinnie hyung while we’re on our bikes,” Namjoon laments.

Taehyung thinks for a moment and when his eyes land back on Jimin he smiles. “Seokjin’s apartment isn’t far from here, right? Just bring him the pastries and I’ll wait here with the bikes.”

Namjoon looks concerned so Taehyung insists, “Hyung, you don’t want to face Seokjin’s wrath if you smash those.”

“You’re right. Are you sure you ’re going to be alright?”

“I’m not a child. I can wait fifteen minutes outside by myself. Are you going to be okay with these,” Taehyung gestures to the box with a meaningful look.

“I’ll be careful,” Namjoon mumbles.

“It’s your neck,” Taehyung grins and Namjoon kicks him softly in the shin. Taehyung doesn’t even try to avoid it, just laughs lightly at Namjoon’s pout.

“I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

“You’re carrying precious cargo. For Jin . Please take your time,” Taehyung presses and Namjoon nods very seriously before he takes off, steps careful.

When Taehyung looks back across the street, only Jimin is left. Taehyung smiles and waves again.

Jimin makes a show of looking left and right and then left again before crossing the street.

“See? This is how you cross the street; you gotta be careful,” he says, eyes glinting teasingly.

“You almost get run over by a car once!”

Jimin shakes his head.  “One time too many of you ask me.”

“Well, I got to meet you, so I feel like that’s a fair balancing act on the Universe’s part.”

Taehyung knows he laying it on thick and the wink he adds at the end doesn’t help but Jimin doesn’t seem affected at all. He just rolls his eyes and leans against the wall, with just a few inches of space between them.

The first two times Taehyung saw Jimin, it was too dark while the third time, Jimin was wearing a beanie but today his hair is loose under the meager sunrays and Taehyung finds himself craving charcoal and a blank piece of paper. He wants to draw the almost blue tint of his dark hair, wants to spend hours perfecting the thickness of it. He thinks he could spent days trying to recreate the way it falls across his forehead and he would never ever get it right.

They say black hair harden features and makes people look older but Taehyung thinks that he’s never seen anyone look as soft as Jimin does right now as he pushes his fringe to the side with his index finger. It’s such a delicate movement, so careful and yet it’s done so unconsciously.

Taehyung has a newfound appreciation for art.

“Where are your friends?” he asks, licking his lips and looking away from Jimin’s black hair.

“Kookie, my brother, went back to work and Yoongi went home. What about your… friend?” he says the last work like it’s a question on its own and Taehyung shakes his head.

“Namjoon’s my cousin. Although one might argue that he is my friend, my best friend actually.”

Jimin nods. “Where did he go and why are you standing here alone in the cold?”

Taehyung explains where Namjoon went to.

“You like biking?” Jimin asks just as a third person joins their party. Taehyung was so focused on Jimin that he didn’t notice his brother crossing the street to join them.

“There you go,” he says handing Jimin and Taehyung Styrofoam cups. The uniform covers his arms and tattoos but there’s a crown on his middle finger that makes Taehyung smile. He takes the cup and looks at Jimin questioningly.

“Thanks, Kookie,” he says softly to his brother who nods and runs back to the coffee shop. “I didn’t know what you liked but I figured something warm and sweet would be welcome, so I asked Jungkook to makes us caramel macchiatos. It’s his specialty.”

Taehyung is so touched he can’t even speak. He takes a sip of the hot beverage and closes his eyes in appreciation.

“It’s good. Thank you, you didn’t have to do that.”

Jimin shrugs, looking away.

“Who’s Yoongi?”

“A friend. My best friend, some might say,” he says, his eyes glinting teasingly.

Taehyung smiles, happy that Jimin is not alone. He wonders if he misses his family as much as Taehyung misses his. He hopes he’s got good people taking care of him.

“You haven’t answered my question,” Jimin prompts. Taehyung thinks back to the last couple of minutes and remembers.

“I love biking. We went to the Han River today. At noon, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and the river looked like it was made of diamonds, it was so cool.”

“Did you take pictures?” Jimin asks, eyes focused on Taehyung like every word was worth its weight in gold.

It made something sticky and warm and wonderfully strange drip down Taehyung’s tummy.

“I did. I’ll show you some day.”

Jimin nods. “Good.”

“How long is your break?”

“It ended ten minutes ago,” at Taehyung’s wide-eyed look, Jimin waves his hand in dismissal. “The manager is probably taking her third nap of the day and Jungkook is very good at multitasking. If he wasn’t my brother, I’d suspect him to be a superhero or some shit like that,” Jimin says.

Taehyung grins. “I really don’t want you to get in trouble. Especially on my behalf. I can wait here alone,” and just as he says the words, he sees Namjoon sprinting down the road.

Jimin follows his gaze and moves to go.

“I’ll see you around?” Taehyung asks.

“You always seem to find me, huh?”

“You found me first!”

They smile at each other and the next moment, Jimin is back at the coffee shop.

When he focuses his attention back on Namjoon, he finds his cousin looking at him nervously.

“Is everything okay?”

Taehyung frowns. “Uh, yeah! Why?”

“You were talking with Park Jimin,” Namjoon says like that’s supposed to make sense.

“You know Jimin?”

“Do you?”

“A little. What’s wrong with Jimin?”

“Wait, hold on, how do you know him.”

Taehyung looks away. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Taehyung please tell me you’re not involved in something shady. Oh my god, please don’t tell me you’re doing drugs, your mom will beat my ass!”

“What the hell are you talking about? Of course I’m not involved in anything shady. I’m not involved in anything period.”

“Then how do you know Park Jimin?”

Taehyung is full on scowling now. “Stop saying his name like that!”

“Like what?”

“Like it’s a whole… thing. Jimin is nice. He got me coffee!” Taehyung says extending his caramel macchiato suddenly.

“You’re avoiding the question!” Namjoon is looking at him so seriously and so worriedly that Taehyung knows he’s going to have to tell the truth.

“Fine but please don’t be upset. I’m good now,” Namjoon starts pacing back and forth muttering quietly to himself about disasters and the police. Taehyung grabs him by the shoulders and holds on tight. He looks at Namjoon head on with as much as reassurance as he can muster in his aggravated and confused state. “I almost got hit by a car,” Namjoon makes a noise of distress and Taehyung squeezes his shoulders softly. “It was two weeks ago after I spent the evening studying at your place. I had my earbuds in and I was looking at some street art. I didn’t see or hear the car. Thankfully Jimin was there and he saved my ass. I barely even scratched myself. In fact Jimin was more injured than I was.”

“Oh my god,” Namjoon whispers.

“It’s fine. We’re both fine.”

Namjoon nods but his eyes are still muddled with worry. Taehyung pulls him into a hug.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Namjoon asks. He sounds sad and Taehyung hates it.

“I didn’t want you to worry. I was fine.”

“It wasn’t fine, Taehyung. These things matter not because they’re incidents but because they’re your life and you don’t have to hide yourself or feel like you’re a burden. You’re never alone, Taehyung. You matter.”

Taehyung’s eyes sting and there’s a ball of tenderness and ache lodged in his throat. He swallows harshly and hugs Namjoon tighter.

“You matter, Taehyungie.”

“You matter, too, Hyung.’

They let go of each other and Taehyung swipes at his face shakily, looking away. His eyes find the coffee shop and even from afar he can see Jimin at the counter.

“Jimin is a good guy,” Taehyung says.

“He’s bad news, Taehyung. His reputation… is not good,” Namjoon says carefully.

“Jimin? Are you sure we’re talking about the same person?”

“I’ve seen him around, heard the stories. He and his little clique run havoc on the streets, or so I hear.”

Taehyung laughs, abruptly and fully. “He literally saved my life. The other night, he helped me carry my shopping bags home. He just gave me coffee for free.”

“Maybe he wants something from you,” Namjoon suggest, still looking anxious.

“From me? What could he possibly want from me?”

Namjoon chews on his bottom lip but stays silent.

“Let’s head home. I’m tired,” Taehyung sighs.

Namjoon nods and they stir their bikes towards the dorms. Before they part ways, Namjoon hugs him one more time and whisper for him to be careful. “I’m here, always,” he says and Taehyung wants to cradle his lovely face in his hands and tells him he loves him.

Instead, he promises to take care of himself.

**

Taehyung is a firm believer in fate. He thinks that every person has control over their destiny but he also thinks fate has a way of pushing you in the right direction. He likes to think of fate as a benevolent force that will give you hints, bring people to your life, offer you opportunities and it’s imperative that he follows her suggestions.

Armed with this conviction, he decides that he can’t let fate do all the work anymore. It seems that she thinks Jimin is someone worth knowing and Taehyung is more than willing to listen.

He takes his sketchbook, one of his cameras and his laptop and bikes to the coffee shop. It’s two in the afternoon when he gets to Hot Beanz and the place is fairly busy so he has to wait in line before he can order anything. The cashier, a cute girl named Jisoo, smiles at him brightly.

“Welcome to Hot Beanz, what can I get you?”

Jimin , his brain supplies but thankfully Taehyung just orders a strawberry shake and a white chocolate muffin.

Neither Jungkook nor Jimin are the one preparing his order so he assumes they’ve got the day off. It’s okay, Taehyung can still study and work here. The place is not so busy that he can’t focus and the background music is chill. He settles at one of the tables in the back and gets to work. He starts by going through his short story one last time before emailing it to his professor. He has an Art History paper that he’s been putting off for at least ten days because Art History is really fucking boring and he can think of at least five thousand things he’d rather be doing. It’s due in three days though, so he buckles down and starts outlining it.

One assignment quickly turns into three and before he knows it, night has fallen and he’s one of the last customers in the shop. He’s just thinking he should head home when a Styrofoam cup is pushed under his nose. He blinks down at it several times, wondering if he’s actually managed to conjure something out of thin air when someone slides into the opposite chair.

Jimin looks at him evenly. “Stalker.”

Taehyung tilts his head, taking him in. “In my defense, you keep proving yourself useful,” he teases before bringing the cup to his mouth. “Is this going to keep me awake?”

“Nah, it’s cocoa.”

Taehyung sighs, at peace with the world.

“We’re about to close.”

“I’m sorry, I got caught up in things,” he says mentioning to the pictures sprawled across the table and his laptop.

“I can see that.’ Jimin keeps his gaze steadily on Taehyung’s face but something tells him he wants to look at the pictures.

Taehyung puts down his cup and grabs the first picture he sees. “I took this one last Sunday. I wanted to capture the way the light turned the water into something almost unnaturally beautiful.” He hands the shot to Jimin who takes it from him and looks at it for a very long time. He rakes his fingers through his hair and hums thoughtfully.

“Wouldn’t it have been more obvious if you took the shot in color instead of black and white?” he asks, one of his fierce brows arched in question.

“Perhaps but the obvious is boring.”

“I like when things are clear.”

“Art is about defining your own clarity.”

Jimin gives him a look. “You pulled that out of your ass,” he drawls and Taehyung laughs.

“I did but I think it has a nice ring to it.”

Jimin hums again. He looks at the other pictures on the table. “You can look, I don’t mind,” Taehyung assures him. Jimin spends the next fifteen minutes quietly looking through his pictures. Taehyung pretends to go back to work but, really, he’s looking at Jimin looking at his own art and hoping that he likes what he sees.

“Oh,” Jimin says suddenly and Taehyung freezes. “This is mine,” Jimin says showing the picture that grabbed his attention. It’s one of the many pictures he took after the accident. He has loads of them and he slips a few in his homework sometimes. For inspiration, motivation and just because he loves them. This particular one he kept because he couldn’t figure out how it made him feel, could not pinpoint what Jimin wanted to express with it. It’s a drawing made with white chalk; it depicts a young boy playing basketball but the boy is dead, only his skeleton left behind.

Taehyung swallows nervously. “Sometimes I take pictures of things I don’t understand,” Jimin’s gaze is unwavering, riveted. “I try to make sense of them outside of their context;”

“Does it help?”

“Not always.”

“Is it the only reason you took this picture,” Jimin asks like he already knows the answer.

Taehyung shakes his head. “After the accident, I hunted all of your art down and took pictures of each piece.”

Jimin crosses his arms and leans them against the table. “Why?” he sounds like he doesn’t understand why anyone would bother. Taehyung has to push down the spike of sadness piercing through him.

“Because they’re beautiful. Because I felt connected to them. Because you’re… brilliant,” he says. It’s not easy saying those words but he needs Jimin to know.

The other boy looks away. His profile is stunning, the sharp points of his nose and chin softened by the roundness of his cheeks and the plush curve of his lips.

Jimin turns back to him suddenly, face unreadable. “This,” he points to the dead boy, “is an inside joke between Yoongi hyung and I,” he rolls his eyes. “It’s dumb.”

Taehyung considers that for a moment. “I think it’s fascinating that something that seemingly means little to you, had me wracking my brain for two weeks now.”

“I didn’t say it was meaningless. I meant that the joke was dumb.”

He wants to know about the joke, wants to hear more about Yoongi but Taehyung already feels like he’s too interested, too invested. So he doesn’t ask. Instead he says:

“Are there more?”

Jimin hesitates. “How many have you seen?”

“How much are there?”

“I don’t keep count.”

Taehyung burns with curiosity.

Taehyung wants.

He says, “please, show me.”

Jimin nods. “One day.”

**

Taehyung becomes a regular customer of Hot Beanz. He gets to know the staff: Jisoo, the aspiring singer, Sehun, the part time model, Hyungwon the future nurse, Hyuna and Sunmi, the owners (rumored to be more than just friends) and of course Jimin and Jungkook. He doesn’t see much of Kookie because he’s usually in class or in the back doing inventory (“ Better for customer service ,” Sehun had said once which made Jimin glare at him) but more often than not, he’s the one preparing Taehyung’s beverages. He’s had no complain so far and he still wonders about Sehun’s remarks.

One time, Jeonghan (who’s now his official study partner) whines about being stuck in the library for too long so Taehyung takes him to the coffee shop. It’s less quiet than the library but that doesn’t bother Jeonghan.

“He’s interesting,” Jimin says as he brings Taehyung the muffin he ordered. They both watch Jeonghan flirt with Sehun and Taehyung smiles.

“You could say that,” he replies, content.

“Sehun has a boyfriend,” Jimin says with a slight smirk.

Taehyung shrugs, “So does Jeonghan.”

They grin at each other before Jimin goes back to work. Taehyung is distracted for the next hour, unable to move on from the sight of Jimin’s smile.

Sometimes, Taehyung understands Namjoon’s warning about Jimin and his friends. Sometimes he can almost see why people would be scared of them. Jungkook is all muscles, piercings and tattoos. He’s got a strong jaw and he looks like he’d rather be anywhere else but here, talking to people and making coffee for them.

Taehyung hasn’t seen Yoongi around much but the few times he did, Yoongi was wearing only black, barely said a word besides his order and left soon after. Sometimes, if either Jimin or Jungkook are at the counter, he’ll stop to chat with them but his face is always serious.

As for Jimin, he doesn’t smile very often. At least, Taehyung has never seen him smile to customers. His eyebrows and lips are always set in straight lines. He works efficiently and without flair, doesn’t try to charm anyone even when the customers would love nothing more than to chat with him. He’s seen with his own eyes how Jimin will stare blankly at someone until they stop trying to engage in conversation or blatantly flirt with him.

The three of them keep to themselves and only trust each other and Taehyung can see how that would lead people to think they’re rude or not to be messed with. He remembers the police station and he remembers how Jimin basically scared the driver away with the sheer force of his glare.

He sees all these things but none of them scare him because Taehyung starts to notice other things; he sees beyond what their reputations would want people to believe.

He’s seen Jungkook console a little girl who’d fallen from her bike in front of the shop. He watched as he cleaned her wound and gave her a chocolate muffin to comfort her. Taehyung heard the heartwarming cackles Jungkook lets out when one of his hyungs says something funny. He’s seen him during one of his breaks with his head pillowed on Jimin’s shoulders, fast asleep, soft and safe with his older brother. More than once, Jungkook brought him tea when one of his study sessions extended for too long and never made him pay. He would only grunt as Taehyung thanks him purposefully and go back to work, like nothing happened.

Taehyung watches how, on the rare occasions Yoongi stays to drink his coffee here, the other two would flock to him like ducklings following their mother. He’s seen how Yoongi fusses over them, buys them food and let’s them rant about customers and their sore feet. He listened to Yoongi read from a book while Jungkook looked on, enraptured and Jimin laid his head on Yoongi’s thighs. He’s seen Yoongi settle fights between the brothers and how it ended with Jimin pressing himself to Jungkook in a back hug.

They’re a family, the three of them and Taehyung resents the idea that people would stop at the surface of their character, their appearances, and decide that it’s enough to judge them.

More than simply wanting to get to know them, Taehyung wants to protect every bit of softness they display. And the more he sees of them, the more softness he unveils.

**

“So,” Jungkook says one day at the beginning of December. Taehyung blinks up at him, coming out of the poetry daze he’s been in. Exams are coming and he’s barely keeping it together. He blinks again just to make sure and yes that is definitely Jungkook speaking to him.

“Yes?” Taehyung says and his voice comes out scratchy. He clears his throat and takes a sip of his coffee. “Oh wow, that’s disgusting,” Taehyung cringes.

“Thanks?” Jungkook frowns.

“Not the coffee, although I’m not a big coffee drinker. Cold coffee is just really terrible.”

“ Yoongi hyung’s favorites are Americanos,” Jungkook comments with a slight smile. Taehyung is caught in his huge brown eyes, the way they sparkle.

He sees galaxies.

“Ugh, your hyung is a brave man.”

“He’s alright,” Jungkook shrugs. It looks stiff. The younger boy’s shoulders are hunched and he’s chewing on his bottom lip, unsure. He doesn’t look intimidating at all. Taehyung wants to pinch his cheeks and make him laugh. “So,” Jungkook says again.

“So?”

“Jiminie hyung says you like art.”

“I do,” Taehyung affirms.

“All kinds?”

Taehyung sighs. “That’s my issue actually. I can’t choose and now I’m drowning in work. It’s miserable. I ’m miserable.”

“What’s your favorite?”

It’s the question Taehyung has been trying to answer for months now. “I’m not sure.”

“That’s bullshit. There’s always a bias, everyone has a favorite something,” Jungkook leans back in his chair and regards him with gravity. “Even if you think you can’t choose, part of you already has.”

“How do I know though?”

“You stop hiding from that part of you.”

Taehyung looks to the side of the table where his Art History notes are waiting for him, taunting him. “I don’t like Art History.”

“Sounds pretty boring, yeah. What else don’t you like?”

Taehyung licks his bottom lip and leans his elbow on the table, resting his chin on the palm of his hands. He pouts, thinking, while Jungkook just watches him quietly.

“I think literature isn’t for me either. I mean, I like it but it’s not, like, something I necessarily look forward to,” he admits, feeling something loosen in his chest.

Jungkook nods. “I feel like literature is something you’d have to devote yourself to, heart and soul, or some shit.” Taehyung hums in agreement.  It’s true, he loves poetry and reading books but the lit course is draining and he feels like he’s better at reading words than at using them. “What’s your Americano?” Jungkook says.

“Huh?”

“What’s your favorite class? The one thing you look forward to. Like, what’s the class that doesn’t need a three hour pep talk to get you there?”

“What would I devote myself to?”

“Exactly,” Jungkook grins. He’s got the slightest overbite and deep crinkles by his eyes. Cute, cute, cute.

“I’ll have to think about it.”

“You already know, you just don’t want to leave anything behind,” Jungkook shakes his head.

Taehyung gasps. “Excuse me! How can you read a practical stranger that easily?”

“I’m very observant. Also, you’re not really a stranger, Jimin hyung talks about you.”

Taehyung’s mock frown drops from his face. “He does?”

Jungkook smirks, winks and then has the gall to leave Taehyung there. He’s almost back at the register when he turns around and jogs back to the table. “What’s your number?”

“Huh?”

Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Jimin hyung has a performance this weekend. Gimme your number, I’ll send you the details.”

“Performance?”

“Yeah, street dance. You should come!” He wipes out his phone and unlocks it.

Taehyung hesitates. “Are you sure? I don’t want him… I dunno, I don’t want him to feel cornered or something.”

Jungkook stops typing on his phone and looks at Taehyung. “But you want to come, right?”

Taehyung nods.

“And your only objection is Jimin hyung not knowing you’ll be there?”

Another nod.

“He’s the one who told me to invite you. It’s his day off and he doesn’t have your phone number. Two birds, one stone,” he says jiggling his phone.

“Oh,” Taehyung breathes, elation coursing through him like a thunderbolt. He rattles his phone number and Jungkook texts him the next moment.

It’s the wink emoji.

Taehyung chuckles and replies with the flamenco dancer. The sound of Jungkook’s giggle carries him through the rest of the day.

He takes a really long time to get ready on Saturday. The performance is this afternoon, the sun is shining and Taehyung was so excited, he barely slept the previous night. It’s cold outside, really cold but Taehyung feels warm all the way down to his toes as he paces in his room, wearing nothing but his Hello Kitty boxers.

They were a gag gift from Seokjin but joke’s on him, Taehyung loves them.

The content of his small wardrobe have been divided in three categories:

-         certainly NOT

-         maybe another time

-         too pretty not to wear

or as anyone else would describe them

-         ugly and old but comfortable everyday wear

-         you’re going for a casual friends outing not to your first date with the love of your life

-         ‘Taehyung you can’t wear a tie like that’

          ‘You’re so boring Seokjin hyung.’

In the end after facetiming both Jeonghan and Seokjin (Taehyung still has a hard time talking about Jimin to Namjoon) they all agree that his burgundy bomber jacket over a black hoodie and his skinniest black jeans would be the perfect outfit. Later he folds a black and white bandana and uses it as a headband. A personal touch. He sends a selfies to Jeonghan who replies with:

I refuse to be your friend anymore. Nobody has the right to be this pretty. I hate you . Which he takes as a good sign.

Love you, too , he replies with another selfie.

Jeonghan sends him one of himself, flipping him off.

He heads to the park nearest to the university. There’s a small crowd there already, the baseline of a hip-hop track vibrating like a heartbeat through the air. When he gets closer to the makeshift dance floor, he sees a group of children break dancing in sync.

Taehyung’s heart yells with joy. He’s got his camera with him, but he’s so thrilled about their little faces dancing so seriously that he forgets to take any pictures. It’s alright though; they’re so amazing that Taehyung doesn’t need pictures to keep this memory. He grins so hard watching them perform that when they leave the stage, his face is hurting. He whoops and claps and shouts and one of the little girl bows to him. He bows back and she giggles before running to join her friends.

“Her name is Sooyoung,” someone rasps next to him and Taehyung turns around to find Yoongi.

He’s wearing a plaid today, red and yellow under his leather jacket and the biggest woolen scarf Taehyung’s ever seen. His face peeks from above it and he looks so soft and cute, Taehyung smiles brightly at him. Yoongi’s hair is gray now and the contrast between the harsh colors and his red nose is captivating.

“You know her?”

“I used to be her nanny,” Yoongi replies and that’s the last thing Taehyung expected to hear from him.

“You used to be a nanny?” and he doesn’t mean to sound so flabbergasted but he can’t help it. Yoongi doesn’t seem bothered by his reaction or his tone.

He shrugs. “Still am.”

“That’s so… cool,” Taehyung beams.

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “I don’t get that a lot,” he drawls, his mouth twitching amusedly.

“I love kids. I think I’d make a great nanny,” Taehyung declares with a twitchy smile of his own.

“Do you have experience?”

“A little? I mean I used to take care of my younger siblings a lot and I babysat for my aunts and uncles when I still lived in Daegu.”

“I’m from Daegu, too,” Yoongi says.

Taehyung puts a hand to his chest and pretends to cry. “I knew your accent spoke of home! A brother!”

Yoongi shakes his head at Taehyung’s antics but smiles a little. He looks intently at him and hums. “Are you looking for a job?”

Taehyung drops the act. “I have a part time job already.”

“Do you like it?”

“Not really, no. I’m a stock boy so it’s not really the most stimulating of jobs,” Taehyung shrugs, not wanting to sound ungrateful. At least he’s got a job, even if the pay is shit, it’s tiring and boring.

“Well, if you ever find yourself looking for something new, my agency is always hiring and they accommodate students.”

Taehyung’s jaw drops. “Are you serious?”

“I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t. I’ll talk to my boss this week, if you want?”

“You don’t have to do that, I’ll just send an application,” Taehyung assures.

Yoongi scoffs, eyes set on the new group of dancers taking to the dance floor. These are older than the previous group but still children. An old Super Junior song starts playing and they all hop into the choreography.

“You sound just like Jimin. Let me help you out, kid.”

Taehyung is taken aback. He didn’t think Yoongi would care. “You don’t know me.”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t help you,” Taehyung looks down, feeling a strange mixture of scolded and hopeful. “Besides, I only said I’d talk to my boss, I didn’t say you’d get the job. You’ll still have to prove yourself.”

“Okay. Thank you,” Taehyung mumbles grateful.

Yoongi waves his comment away, eyes still following the kids. “You’re here for Jimin?”

Taehyung nods. “Jungkook said I could come. You?”

“Never missed one of these. Plus, my boyfriend dances too.”

The crowd suddenly erupts in cheers and applause when the routine ends and the kids bow out. Yoongi straightens out, his face softening as the next group takes the stage. Taehyung’s eyes find Jimin immediately. It’s not really hard; Jimin is the smallest of the group. A fierce ball of tenderness lodges itself in the pit of Taehyung’s stomach at the thought of it.

They’re all wearing velvet tracksuits in different colors; Jimin’s is olive green. He has a large white t-shirt under the sweater that falls down to his mid-thighs and he’s wearing red timberlands.

He crouches down, intense gaze fixed on the audience and waits for the music to start.

The crowd, which was already enthusiastic, gets louder and louder. People stomp their feet, shout and whoop, calling dancer’s names and clapping non-stop.

It all kind of fades away when the first note of the song ring out and Jimin gets in the zone.

Taehyung has had, even though he doesn’t want to think about it, a lot of Very Gay Thoughts about Jimin ever since he met him. It’s fine, after all Taehyung is gay and Jimin is, objectively speaking, very fucking attractive. He’s not ashamed of these thoughts per se, but rather, he doesn’t know how they all fit in his already jumbled mess of feelings for Jimin. Sometimes, he thinks it’s just a side effect of being lonely or maybe a side effect of the Art boner he’s had for Jimin’s since that first night. Like a natural development from the awe and gratitude he felt after seeing the mural and Jimin saving his life. His soul gets turned on by Jimin work and so, almost by association, his dick thinks he wants to bone Jimin.

Or maybe he’s just gay and Jimin is hot and Taehyung hasn’t gotten laid since he left Daegu.

The point is: Taehyung has been, sometimes in an abstract manner and other times in a very concrete way, attracted to Jimin since he first laid eyes on him.

What he did not expect was to watch this performance and having the sheer force of Jimin’s attractiveness swooping down on him like a crashing wave, irrevocable and altering.

Jimin the performer is beautiful, enthralling, and thrilling in a way that very few things in life are. He moves like he knows what he’s doing to everyone in the crowd; like he knows how beautiful he is. He moves like he knows no one will forget seeing him; like he knows the power he has.

But also.

Jimin moves like he was made for it, like it’s his reason to be. He moves like dancing is a language and he’s mastered it long ago; like it’s second nature to him. Jimin dances like it’s the only respite he has in this world. Jimin moves and ensnares you like he has a secret and he would share it with you, if only he could. A tease, a promise and a gift all wrapped into one.

Everything about the choreography is the perfect sync of sharp and smooth, and Jimin performs it like it’s the only thing that matters in the world.

And also.

Jimin moves like he’s got something to prove. He dances like it’s the only way he’ll show his worth. He dances like it’s the blood coursing in his veins, like he wouldn’t be himself without it.

Taehyung hasn’t looked away from him for a moment, couldn’t even say if there were other people with him on stage. He only remembers his camera when the performance comes to an end and captures Jimin’s last jump. The music stops when he hits the ground and the crowd goes wild. Taehyung gets pushed around at some point but he barely reacts. Next to him Yoongi is yelling “J-hoooooooooooooooope” with the most brilliant smile on his face. Taehyung takes a shot.

The dancers leave the dance floor and the DJ thanks everyone for coming. The crowd disperses and Yoongi leads Taehyung to a coffee stand. They both order a cocoa and go wait for Jimin and Yoongi’s boyfriend on a nearby bench.

“Where’s Jungkook?” Taehyung asks before blowing on his steaming cup.

“The punk has community service all day on Saturdays,” Yoongi grumbles. “He usually performs with Jimin and Hoseok’s crew.”

“That’s too bad. Is he good?”

“He’s alright,” he says with a slight smile. The same one that graced Jungkook’s face when he was talking about Yoongi the other day.

“Seems like Jungkook is good at a lot of things,” Taehyung comments. When Yoongi raises an eyebrow in question, he elaborates. “He dances, he draws, he’s really good at giving pep talks.”

He takes a sip oh his coca and watches as Yoongi smiles again. The sun is slowly lowering in the sky and the temperature are dropping but Taehyung doesn’t mind, too busy watching Yoongi get soft.

“Ah, Jeon Jungkook,” he sighs. “He’s a good kid.”

Taehyung nods but then Yoongi’s word registers. “Jeon? I thought their last name was Park.”

Yoongi clamps his mouth shut but before Taehyung can wonder what that’s all about someone yells, “Hyung!”

Taehyung turns to see Jung Hoseok, Seokjin’s roommate run up to them. Taehyung frowns in surprise but then his jaw drops when Hoseok plants himself on Yoongi’s lap.

Taehyung almost drops his cup. “Uh, what?”

Hoseok eyes flit to his and they widen comically. “Taehyung!” He screeches, just now noticing him, before beaming at him.

“Hobi hyung is your boyfriend?”

“He is,” Yoongi grins, kissing Hoseok’s cheek. Hoseok makes a happy noise.

“I am,” he declares proudly wrapping his arm around Yoongi’s shoulders.

“That’s an incredible coincidence,” Taehyung says but then, he remembers something Hoseok told him the first night they met. “Wait! Hold on! Now, just hang on a damn minute. Yoongi-ssi is the guy who had flowers delivered at school the other day?”

“He was indeed,” a fourth voice joins them and Taehyung forgets his surprise for a moment to smile up at Jimin.

“You talk about me, huh?” Yoongi says voice teasing but eyes scorching hot.

“I do,” Hoseok all but purrs. “I can’t shut up about you.”

“It’s true,” Taehyung supplies and Jimin flicks him on the forehead.

“Do not encourage it.”

Taehyung rubs at the sore spot. “It’s cute,” he pouts but scoots over, leaving space for Jimin to sit down. When he’s settled, Taehyung offers him his cup. Jimin takes it with barely a second thought. He takes a sip and closes his eyes, sighing contentedly;

Taehyung leans a bit and whispers. “You were amazing, today.”

Jimin preens a little, eyes crinkling at the praise, cheeks flushed.  

Taehyung leans his shoulder on his and they watch the sun get down as Hoseok and Yoongi whisper softly to each other.

“I’m hungry,” Hoseok says when it’s finally completely dark.

Jimin takes out his phone (his lockscreen is a picture of Jungkook and Yoongi fast asleep with their mouths wide open) and swipes to read the text he just received.

“Kookie is waiting at the burger place.”

“Let’s go,” Yoongi says and Hoseok jumps to his feet, hand already extended towards his boyfriend.

Taehyung doesn’t really know what to do. He stays put as the other three adjust their hats and scarves.

“You’re coming?” Jimin asks, like it’s not even a question. Taehyung smiles.

“I’m coming.”

They walk to a burger joint that’s not too far from campus; a small place with barely enough seats to call itself a restaurant. The chairs are mismatched, the tables varying shapes, and there are a variety of posters on the walls that really don’t have any correlation to each other: a black and white poster of Muhammad Ali, a recent poster of Seo Taiji, a black horse, a very bad rendition of Van Gogh Sunflowers. By the door, there’s a picture of five guys, with different hair colors, doing silly faces and giving peace signs to the camera.

There are few customers talking animatedly and, leaning against the counter and pouting at one member of the staff, is Jungkook.

“Leave Minho hyung alone, brat,” Yoongi admonishes and Jungkook’s pout turns into a grin.

“Oh! Hobi hyung,” he shouts and bounds to them, throwing his arms around Hoseok.

Hoseok smiles and tries to lift Jungkook and spin him around. It goes rather poorly and they almost fall on a nearby table. Thankfully, it’s empty.

“You’ve been here less than a minute,” Minho sighs. The man looks out of place here, almost too beautiful to be real. Taehyung looks back at the picture by the door and recognizes him as one of the five guys.

Taehyung wonders if everyone associated with Jimin were mistakenly born in this common life, in this common universe, when they should’ve been idolized in another life, in another universe.

“Sorry,” Jungkook replies, not sounding very sorry at all. Minho grins before turning his attention to Taehyung.

“Hello new face,”

“Hi,” Taehyung replies, waving shyly.

“Hyung this is Kim Taehyung, a… friend,” Jimin says with a tiny smile. Taehyung’s heart skips a beat. “Taehyung, this is Choi Minho. He owns the place.”

“Nice to meet you,” Taehyung waves.

“He is adorable,” Minho says.

Hoseok lets go of Jungkook and throws an arm around Taehyung’s shoulders. “Right?” he laughs and pulls on one of Taehyung’s cheeks.

“He’s blushing,” Yoongi smirks.

Jimin bats Hoseok’s hand away and grab Taehyung’s wrist. This is the first time since the night of the accident that their skins make contact.

Taehyung is sizzling.

“Leave him alone,” Jimin grumbles before leading Taehyung to one of the tables in the back.

“I don’t mind the teasing,” Taehyung comments when they sit down. It’s true. He loves the banter and the bickering and the warmth of friendship. “Besides I’m used to Hobi’s ways. He’s sweet.”

Jimin chews on his bottom lip, looking unsure. Eventually, he shrugs and looks away before saying,

“People don’t really know how to read Yoongi. They always get him wrong.”

Does Jimin want Taehyung to get Yoongi right? The thought makes something heavy and sweet swirl in his belly.

“I don’t know much about Yoongi-ssi but I’ve seen enough to reassure me.” Jimin tenses beside him so Taehyung carries on. “All the black and all the silences, they don’t fool me,” Taehyung grins. “He’s just a big old softie.”

Jimin relaxes and sends Taehyung a gentle smile. Soft and warm and everything good in the world.

Taehyung smiles back.

They spent the evening together, eating and laughing and making fun of each other. They learn a bit more about each other: Taehyung tells them a little about growing up in a farm and about his younger siblings. Hoseok talks about his passion for dancing and how happy he is that he’s met Jimin through it and not just because it led him to Yoongi. Yoongi talks about teaching piano to kids, about the mixtape he’s been working on for years, about his big brother. Jungkook talks about his best friend Yugyeom, about his next tattoo, about his favorite subject in school. Taehyung learns that Jimin has another job working as a bartender at a club, that he loves reading and that he wears contacts.

At first Taehyung just sits back and watches them simply be together. Later, when he’s lying in bed, he’ll remember the way Yoongi fed Hoseok and how, afterwards, Hoseok would kiss him softly every time. Taehyung will recall the way all of them gave bits of their burgers to Jungkook who in return gave them sips of his drink. Taehyung will chuckle at the memory of Jungkook spreading ketchup over Yoongi’s cheek and how Hoseok wiped it off while Jimin laughed so hard he choked on his food. He’ll try to calm the furious tempo of his heartbeat when he’ll remember the way Jimin offered him the last piece of his burger and stole fries from Taehyung’s plate with a familiarity of a life long friendship.

As the evening went on, each of them made sure to include Taehyung and by the end of it he was no longer a mere observant but a participant.

Before they leave, Taehyung asks if he can take a picture and post it on instagram, Jungkook and Hosek immediately agree enthusiastically; asking to be added to his list of friends. Jimin and Yoongi merely shrug, like it’s no big deal.

He takes a couple of pictures, one with the mandatory silly faces, and posts both on his instagram with the caption: biggest plot twist tonight was NOT finding out that hobi hyung and Yoongi-ssi were dating but that Jimin pours ketchup over his fries!!!!

He shows the post to everyone to make sure both the pictures and the caption have their approvals and when they all agree, he posts them.

They leave not long after, waving good night to Minho and the rest of the staff. Jungkook bids them goodbye quickly, already late for a study session with his friend Yugyeom. Jimin makes him swear to be home before midnight and although Jungkook rolls his eyes, he still promises.

“Thank you for dinner, Yoongi-ssi. You really didn’t have to do that,” Taehyung says as they stand outside for Yoongi and Hoseok’s uber to arrive.

Yoongi waves his thanks away. “Gimme a call tomorrow, okay?”

“I will. Thank you.”

Hoseok looks tired tonight, less exuberant than usual but still soft. When the car gets here, he hugs Jimin tight, pinches Taehyung’s cheeks again before climbing in and sprawling over his boyfriend. Jimin waves, a grin dancing at his lips.

“I’m walking you home tonight,” Taehyung announces when the car rounds the corner.

Jimin shakes his head. “You don’t have to do that.”

“You didn’t have to walk me home last time and yet you still did,” he points out. “Besides, I’m curious. I want to see where you live.”

Jimin crosses his arms. “It’s nothing much.”

“You say that I like I’m not currently living in a tiny overpriced room with ramen-filled cupboards and beige walls.” Jimin looks unconvinced. “Beige, Jimin. One day, I might die of boredom just looking at those walls.”

Jimin smiles but it looks strained. “At least you have walls.”

That makes the teasing smile Taehyung was sporting drop off of his face. He takes a deep breath before asking:

“You don’t?”

Jimin lifts his chin up. “I do. I live with Jungkook and Yoongi. Some people don’t though.”

Taehyung feels chastised. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, Taehyung.”

Taehyung feels like it’s not alright, like maybe Jimin is not telling the whole truth but he knows not to pry.

“Is it alright if I walk you home then?”

Jimin nods and they start walking. It doesn’t take long for them to arrive at their destination. The burger joint is near campus and, the first night they met, Jimin said he lived nearby. It’s an apartment complex just a couple streets away from Taehyung’s dorms. It’s not a modern one though; the painting is chipped, there are some graffiti on the walls and one of the cars parked upfront is missing its wheels.

“This is me,” Jimin says and his tone is almost defiant, his gaze almost cold under the streetlamp.

Taehyung nods, heart feeling terribly tender. “You’re very close.”

“To what?”

“To my dorm,” Jimin’s shoulders loosen and he looks down at Taehyung’s words. “I’m pretty sure I could see this building from my window.”

“Interesting.”

“That’s where I work,” he says pointing to the supermarket down the street. “And that’s where I get tea sometimes,” he says pointing to Mrs. Byun’s tea shop across the street.

“I love her jasmine tea,” Jimin says, voice soft now.

“Me too. I like the mint tea better though.”

They smile at each other. Jimin looks so small and vulnerable; Taehyung wants nothing more than to reach out and hug him close.

“Thanks for walking me home.”

“Anytime. We should get tea together sometimes.”

“Okay,” Jimin laughs a little.

“I’ll see you around?”

“Hopefully.”

Taehyung can’t wipe the grin off his face as he walks home.