Jeongguk and Jimin have always led similar lives – both come from wealthy business families/conglomerates, both of their parents expect them to take over when they come of age.
Jeongguk is on board obviously, has been since he was a child, even ensuring he got it over his brothers. Business was in his blood.
Jimin is an only child and really doesn’t want anything to do with business. He wants to do veterinary work, and his parents have always made it abundantly clear how they feel about that.
Jimin and Jeongguk have literally been friends since infanthood.
Jimin is older than Jeongguk by two years, tells him they don’t need formalities. Jeongguk still uses them, mostly in front of their parents. Kind of really makes Jimin sad, like Jeongguk doesn’t want to be closer with him. Jeongguk genuinely just respects the use of honorifics, and wants to show his parents (and Jimin’s) that.
Jimin is convinced Jeongguk hates him by their teenage years. Is very, very sad about it in private, tries to never let it show in public. He does his best.
Jimin is still 100% sunshine towards Jeongguk - baking him treats, bringing him lunch (even though it basically uses up his entire lunch period driving from their company to Jeongguk’s), emailing him cute animal videos to brighten his mood during busy work periods – nothing is too much for his dearest Jeongguk.
Jimin knows Jeongguk very well, almost better than anyone, so he knows Jeongguk is just curt with his replies to people. Jimin had also just kind of hoped that after 20+ years Jeongguk would be more open with him, but nope. It kind of really breaks Jimin’s heart, every single day.
Jimin always tried to sneak in extra volunteer/charity allotments during company meetings, clearly making his parents very mad but Jeongguk secretly proud that he stands up for what he believes in (in his own way).
Jimin finally confessed to his parents in his second year of college that he’s switching majors to focus on pre-vet medicine. His parents almost disown him, turns the debacle into a huge fight, in which they really tear Jimin down. It was to be expected.
He spirals into depression for weeks. Doesn’t talk to anyone, doesn’t take good care of himself. Still dutifully attends classes, still keeps himself cheery around company (he hates people worrying about him and honestly no one should because HE’S the fuck up here who can’t just do what’s expected of him).
Jeongguk notices this and doesn’t know how to help. This is Jimin’s choice and he’s proud of him for making it. His parents were expectedly hard on him, but in the end he’s going through with the classes he wants. Jimin will just have to grow from this.
The semester settles and Jimin is finally studying what he wants, but he still hasn’t fully recovered from the fight with his parents. He sees and talks to Jeongguk even less now because he never goes to the company anymore, prefers to make his presence scarce.
Jeongguk rarely ever reaches out since Jimin left, and it crushes him. This was just the nail on the coffin that confirmed for Jimin that Jeongguk hates him and is glad to be free of him.
Jimin stops contacting Jeongguk altogether. No more random cute emails, no more treats delivered to the office, no more late-night texts asking about life. Nothing. Jimin is glad to know that he can be one less burden on Jeongguk’s plate as he moves forward into his big business hotshot life.
Jimin’s parents always feel the need to comment on how well Jeongguk’s doing, how proud he’s making his parents, how he’s acting more like Jimin’s age than Jimin is. Jimin bears it all with the saddest fake smile. He’s proud of Jeongguk, too. He really is.
After several weeks of no contact, Jeongguk misses Jimin like crazy.
Jimin’s parents stop by for meetings frequently, and lately they’ve really been railing into Jimin. Jeongguk hates it.
They throw out such fleeting comments, “dumb boy’s off to save all the animals. I’m sure he’ll make a worlds difference”.
Jeongguk snaps during one meeting and says he’s glad Jimin isn’t there so he doesn’t have to hear what they’re saying. Jimin’s parents assure him that they’ve told their stupid son exactly how they feel.
Jeongguk gets progressively more worried.
He reaches out to Jimin’s small but tight-knit group of friends - none of them have had a substantial conversation with him in weeks. He hasn’t come to visit his parents since the last time they grilled him for his poor life choices. Jeongguk hasn’t spoken to him in nearly three weeks.
Jeongguk leaves work early for the first time in years and drives to Jimin’s apartment.
Jimin isn’t home so Jeongguk let’s himself in with the spare (he had once plant sat for Jimin ages ago - the boy only has a few potted flowers but they mean the world to him. Jeongguk didn’t mind at all, but Jimin paid him back in homemade baked goods for weeks because he felt like he’d really put Jeongguk out. Jeongguk was a bit irritable one morning and snapped that he didn’t need Jimin fattening him up with brownies every goddamned morning. Jimin never brought him brownies again. Jeongguk always regretted it, never apologized. Still has the key.)
Jimin’s house is in shambles, by his standards. He’s thrown out his plants, just empty pots with bits of soil now. All of his windows are drawn shut and he has textbooks scattered everywhere. Jeongguk finds one paper with his class schedule and is shocked to see it’s different than the one Jimin had sent him at the start of the semester - looks like Jimin upped his course load to 23 credits to start making up for lost time. None of the classes look easy.
The kitchen is a disaster. Just a bunch of instant ramen and water bottles, a couple of caffeine pills that Jeongguk himself has taken and knows Jimin hates (he told Jeongguk once in high school that caffeine gave him energy for a while but usually ended up making him nauseous), near the caffeine pills are a bunch of antacids. Jeongguk feels sick himself.
Jimin’s bedroom is just... sad. None of his Christmas lights are plugged in. His bed isn’t made. He’s been buying and using very cheap toiletries – Jeongguk suspects his parents cut off most of his excess spending funds. That makes Jeongguk even more sick.
Jeongguk finds a bunch of Jimin’s trademarked to-do lists scratched on sticky notes and torn out notebook paper.
“Finish bio101, bio103 and bio110 readings before Tuesday, you idiot”
“Call mom. Ask about next month’s allowance. Look for part-time jobs.”
“Top ramen, bananas, rice. NOTHING ELSE, PIG!” Jeongguk is going to throw up.
congratulate Jeongguk on their latest business buyout. Send him flowers. text Namjoon, ask how it went.”
“Save up for concealer - ASAP :(“
This one is a longer paper in the bathroom: “2/15 137 2/17 135 2/23 130”
“Don’t bother him.” in bold, right by his bedside.
Jeongguk finds a trash can full of crumpled up tissues. Is he sick, too? Can he even afford medicine?
Jeongguk doesn’t know what to make of all this. Jimin has always come to him to vent when things got this bad. It’s been at least four years since Jimin struggled with eating problems like this, and Jeongguk had been the one to knock some sense into him to get him to take better care of himself.
Jimin comes home to find Jeongguk sitting on the couch, replying to a few work emails on his phone.
Jimin looks awful. Noticeably skinnier, skin dull, hair less fluffy, looking perpetually afraid. Afraid of Jeongguk. When did that happen?
Jeongguk asks why Jimin hasn’t messaged him or come to visit. Jimin doesn’t want to worry him, doesn’t actually know if Jeongguk worries about him in the first place, just wants Jeongguk to leave and go live his life. Don’t waste his time on his stupid failure of a hyung.
Jimin tells him he’s just been really busy with his classes.
Jeongguk doesn’t buy it.
Jimin tries, he really does. He puts on his best fake smile (so shockingly convincing that Jeongguk is afraid of how many times he’s had practice with it, on Jeongguk), laughs about some classmate friends he’s made. Tells Jeongguk he’s excited about getting a job to help “pass even more time”. Jeongguk doesn’t understand why Jimin is lying to him.
Before he can confront him, Jimin laments that he has a lecture to go to and heads out. Jeongguk knows he doesn’t, his schedule is still laying on the table.
Jimin runs and runs and runs to his favorite hiding spot under this big oak tree in a park. Cries his heart out. Jeongguk looks so beautiful, so healthy, so accomplished. Jimin is trash beside him. Jeongguk is politely concerned for the family friend, and Jimin knows he needs to do a better job of convincing him he’s fine so that Jeongguk won’t take any more time out of his schedule to worry about a worthless fool like Jimin.
He slowly starts emailing him more.
Little things void of their emotion that they used to hold. Tells Jeongguk how interesting his classes are, how many nice people are in them, how he’s been so happy lately he’s been baking extra desserts with nowhere to put them.
Jeongguk knows every single one of them is a lie. He tries to get more info out of Jimin’s parents. They are just as awful as ever. Tell Jeongguk they’re doing much better without him, that they haven’t heard from him in weeks, that Jeongguk is lucky he doesn’t have to be business partners with him now. Jeongguk almost breaks his clipboard.
Jeongguk breaks into Jimin’s house again when he knows the boys at lecture. It looks even worse.
Somehow even less food, more sticky notes. Everywhere. Some are legit reminders: “o-chem essay” “advising apt on Friday” “email
Jeongguk him, at least once a week.” but most are… awful
His bathroom mirror is covered in insults – “pig” “failure” “idiot” “child” “faggot”
Jeongguk wants to throw up again.
This time he’s not letting Jimin off. He knows that when he comes home, he won’t have anymore classes for the evening.
Jimin is scared out of his wits when he finds Jeongguk in his bedroom in the dark.
Jeongguk doesn’t let him run away. Jimin looks worse than before. Skinnier, sadder, like he’s going to pass out at any moment.
“Why have you been lying to me, Jimin?”
Jimin tried again, but he’s so weak and tired. He caves in minutes.
“Jeongguk, I’m sorry. I won’t bother you anymore with this, I promise.”
“I can transfer to a university out in Jeolla next semester, I think my parents would like that, too.”
“Just, I’ll be gone soon, one way or another, okay? I’m really sorry you had to see all this.”
Jeongguk is flabbergasted. Flabbergasted and infuriated.
Jimin smiles, a tiny real one, “Oh, congratulations on sealing that deal with Samsung last week.”
He walks right up to Jimin, grabs both of his arms and forces eye contact. Jimin is crying.
“Why do you think you are bothering me? Why aren’t you talking to me about all of - this?”
Jimin has nothing left to lose. He lost Jeongguk years, maybe decades ago. Maybe he never had him to begin with. He cries some more, smiles a sad bitter little smile.
“I know I’m a lot to deal with,” broken off with a small, self-deprecating chuckle. “it took me a long time, too long probably, to realize how much I must’ve been annoying you all these years.”
“You haven’t been annoying me, Jimin. Where is this coming from?”
Jimin tries to shake off Jeongguk’s hands but he holds firm. Jimin’s lips tremble, he’s gonna sob soon.
“I’m sorry, Jeongguk. I’m sorry for everything. Please just, go home. I promise I’ll be gone.”
Is Jimin not hearing him? What is happening?
When he starts to shake on every inhale Jeongguk realizes Jimin is slipping into a mild panic attack. He sits him down on the bed and kneels in front of him, keeping both of his hands on his knees and counting out breaths for Jimin as calmly as he can with his own heart in turmoil.
Jimin eventually breathes regularly, too ashamed to look at Jeongguk. “Please… I’m sorry, I’m okay, just go. I’m really so sorry Jeongguk. You must be so busy. I’m sorry I’m like this. I promise, it’s okay, you can go. Please.”
“No, Jimin. I’m staying.”
“I swear you don’t have to, I’m okay, really!” Jimin tries one more time to smile, to lie. Jeongguk doesn’t budge an inch.
“I’m staying until we have talked everything out. As long as it takes. I’ve already called in sick for tomorrow”
Jimin’s eyes bulge “What! No, please don’t Jeongguk. You never call out. Don’t, you don’t have to do this, I promise.”
“Already done, Jimin. I know you don’t have class tomorrow. We have nothing but time.”
Jimin feels worse than ever, but he can’t deny that Jeongguk is surprising him by putting all this effort in. His brain tries its hardest to convince him that Jeongguk pities him like the pathetic dirt he is, but that doesn’t explain why he would do all this. Why he would come back to check on Jimin a second time so soon.
So they talk. Slowly but surely.
They move to the dining room and Jeongguk orders Thai for delivery - Jimin’s favorite - with delicious Thai tea (decaf for Jimin) and extra desserts. Jimin is openly shocked that Jeongguk knew so much. When was the last time he’d even mentioned Thai food? Had he just talked Jeongguk’s ears off so much through the years he was forced to remember?
They sit at the table with their food and Jeongguk realizes he has to ask questions because Jimin isn’t offering info willingly.
“You didn’t tell me your parents came down so hard on you. Did they cut you off?”
“No, not completely. I get it. I’d be disappointed in me, too.”
“Why? Because you’re following the career path you’ve literally always wanted to?”
Jimin eventually gets so tired he drops all guards. For some reason Jeongguk is here, he’s really staying. May as well get it all out.
He tells Jeongguk about how hard his classes have been, how dumb he feels in them, how he hasn’t spoken to his family or friends in weeks and no one has reached out to him, except for Jeongguk. Jeongguk always knew his friends were parasites leaching off Jimin’s kindness, never to return it when he needed it most.
“Why have you lost so much weight? Is this intentional?” Jimin winces. Jeongguk doesn’t let up.
“No and yes. Can’t afford a lot of food these days, barely remember to eat other days. Don’t like what I see in the mirror every day.”
Jeongguk wills himself to calm down. He’ll have to build Jimin back up to that slowly and surely.
“Why do you think you’re a bother to me? How long have you felt this way?”
Jimin wishes he was dead. Wishes this was all just a nightmare and that he never had to face Jeongguk again. He loves him so much, he doesn’t deserve one second of his time.
“I told you, I know I’m a lot. I’ve probably been talking your ear off since the day we met.” Jeongguk says nothing. He looks pissed. Jimin starts tearing up again. “I was so overbearing, I don’t know how you put up with it for so long. Remember when I filled your locker up with border collie pics after you let it slip that they were your favorite?” Jeongguk doesn’t even nod. The first few tears fall. “It’s just... stuff like that. Nonstop, all the time, all these years. You are so busy and so motivated to run the company and I’m so proud of you and you’re so smart and driven and you work yourself to death and I’m just... I’m just there, not shutting up about stupid cats and cookies and stuff. I’m just... a child. A dumb child. And you’re so much more. You never should have had to put up with me. I don’t know why I didn’t leave you alone sooner, I’ve never been a good hyung to you or a good friend. I’m just – I’m so sorry, Jeongguk. I’m so, so sorry.” He’s sobbing by the end, a bit hard to make out the last few sentences, but this isn’t the first time Jeongguk’s had Jimin crying his eyes out to him.
Jeongguk crosses the threshold again. He sits in the chair right beside Jimin and twists Jimin’s chair so they face each other, but he doesn’t touch the older. He still looks frighteningly pissed.
He collects himself. “You’re such a fool, Jimin.”
Jimin’s lips wobble.
“And I’m sorry.”
Jimin is dumbstruck. What?
“I have never reassured you very well, in all our time as friends, that you mattered to me. I’m sorry. You should have never had reason to believe any of the bullshit you just rambled on about. You should have never cried over any of that, over me. I should’ve done better by you, should’ve been better to you all these years.” Jimin is kind of crying again. “I promise I will from here on out. I’m not leaving you alone, Jimin, I’m going to be here for you, now and always. You have never bothered me a single day of my life. You have kept me sane, kept me grounded, kept me humble, kept me young when I was rushing to grow up. You have been the greatest friend to me, and to this day you are the person I consider closest to me.” Jimin is positive he’s never heard Jeongguk talk this much outside of business meetings before. He can’t stop sniffling, he must look so dumb. “It hurts me to see you this low. It hurts me knowing I didn’t help you, that you didn’t feel comfortable coming to me for help as you have before. It hurts me knowing the awful things you think of yourself, say to yourself, because worthless people have said them to you in the past.” Jimin can’t keep eye contact any more, he’s got his face cupped in his hands, rocked forward a bit. Jeongguk finally brings a hand up and rubs it firmly up and down his shoulder and back. “I am right here, Jimin. I will be here. I’m sorry you’ve gone through all of this alone. I am here now.”
They hug for the first time since elementary school. They don’t hug because Jimin launches himself at Jeongguk, or because Jeongguk was forced to by his parents. Jeongguk pulls him up to standing and hugs him firmly, like he’s trying to bring Jimin back down to earth. Jimin thinks it’s having the opposite effect and he’s sure he’s in heaven.
Jeongguk squeezes slightly tighter, whispering against Jimin’s hair “I’m right here, Jimin-ah. I’m not going anywhere.” Jimin sobs some more. He doesn’t know when it happens, but his “I’m sorry”s start turning to watery “thank you”s the longer Jeongguk holds him.
As the night goes on and Jeongguk sets about cleaning parts of the apartment up, Jimin fights with his brain. Parts of him are still whispering that Jeongguk is doing this out of some warped obligation, that he must think Jimin is so weak and pathetic, that Jimin is forcing him to be like this because Jeongguk’s probably worried Jimin’s gonna off himself soon.
The other parts of his brain are at peace, still warm from hearing Jeongguk speak so long and so passionately - about Jimin! From hugging him.
Jimin agreed with the demons that whisper about how disgusting and perverted he is, still clinging to this attraction after Jeongguk has been nothing but a good friend to him tonight.
Jeongguk returns to the bedroom and tells Jimin he’ll be on the couch, to come to him if he needs anything at all - even just to talk or cry. Jeongguk will be there. Jimin sniffles and nods, tries to tell him he can have the bed, Jeongguk just scoffs and leaves the room.
Jimin doesn’t sleep for hours. Knows Jeongguk is right out there for him, because he’s worried and cares for Jimin. No one would do all this out of obligation or pity. Jeongguk must actually care, right?
Why can’t Jimin just be grateful that Jeongguk doesn’t hate him as he thought? Of course he is very grateful, he can’t fuck this up now.
Two hours after Jeongguk said goodnight, Jimin tip toes to the living room. Jeongguk is sitting up on his laptop, typing away at a document Jimin can’t see. He isn’t surprised. Jeongguk sleeps maybe four hours a night. Jimin’s only ever seen him asleep twice in their whole lives. It’s a pretty endearing sight.
Jeongguk hears him and whips his head, “Jimin-ah? Everything alright?” He closes his laptop, looking completely worried and not at all annoyed. Jimin’s heart sings but his brain still tries to scream that he’s being a nuisance even now.
Apparently he took too long to answer. “Come here, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin follows mindlessly. Plops down on the couch next to Jeongguk and wraps his arms around his knees. Jeongguk reclines slightly, leans his head on his hand against the back of the couch, just waits for Jimin as patiently as he can.
Finally, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you’d be working.”
“Nothing to apologize for. I wasn’t doing work-work, anyhow.”
At this Jimin looks up in question.
Jeongguk sighs. “I planned to go over it in the morning, but, here.” He opens his laptop back up to reveal a word document of bullet points. Upon closer inspection, Jimin sees they’re memories the two of them have shared, going back to when they first met. There’s already hundreds of them. Jimin only reads a few: “Jimin brought me soup when he knew I had a cold. Put extra flank in it, made sure it was spicy.” “Jimin decorated a graduation cap for me, gave it to me in a shadow box.” “Jimin came to Aunt Jisoo’s funeral, cried harder than my family did.” “Jimin missed a big animal adoption convention to come to my birthday celebration.” Jimin is crying all over again.
“Why? Why are you writing all these?”
Jeongguk looks so earnest in the haze of the night. He’s so close. “Because I don’t ever want to forget them, and I want to properly thank you for them. I don’t want you to forget how much it all meant to me.” Jeongguk closes the laptop again. It’s so dark, but Jimin can see his face clearly. “I won’t let you forget how much you mean to me ever again, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin wipes at his nose “I could get used to you calling me that.”
“Haven’t I called you that before?”
“...no. Just Jimin-hyung.”
Jeongguk hears the hurt. He knows familiarity means a lot to Jimin, knows that Jimin deserves to feel special to someone.
“Why weren’t you asleep?”
“It’s just a lot, I guess.” He’s so small and cute, even when he’s sad and unsure. Jeongguk feels a wave of fondness. “Have so much ickiness in my heart. My brain is so loud, too. Really trying to bring me down.”
“Say it all out loud, then. Say it to me.”
“What does your brain say to you, Jimin-ah?”
Jeongguk isn’t satisfied. Jimin knows he’s dug this pit, has to dig himself out somehow.
“Tells me... tells me you just pity me. That I’m pathetic. Unaccomplished, stupid, ugly. Don’t deserve you. You deserve better. Stuff like that.”
“Jimin-ah, look at me.” Jimin didn’t realize he’d trained his eyes down. He looks up. Jeongguk’s eyes are black as the night, but so, so earnest.
“You are not pathetic. You are not unaccomplished. You are not stupid. You are not ugly. If anything, I don’t deserve the attention and consideration you’ve showered me with all this time. You deserve everything you want in this world.”
Needless to say, Jimin cries several more times throughout the night. Jeongguk doesn’t bat an eye at any of it.
As the days go on, Jeongguk spends more time at Jimin’s than anywhere else. He brings substantial meals with him always, makes sure to start sprinkling a few tiny plants around the place - Jimin names each one, says they’re all his “most precious gifts in the whole, wide world”.
As days turn to weeks, Jeongguk strives to help Jimin find a few tutors at school that are nice and respectful and work around Jimin’s schedule. He also discourages the elder from getting a job on top of his hefty school load, but Jimin does need the extra income (he adamantly refuses Jeongguk’s offer of weekly stipends, and Jeongguk doesn’t offer it again. However, every now and then Jimin comes home to find the exact filter he needed for his fridge laying on the counter, or that really nice brand of argan oil shampoo he hasn’t had in months already on his bathroom shelf. He doesn’t chastise Jeongguk over these).
As weeks turn to months, Jimin settles on a therapist. He meets with her twice a month and begins the long journey of loving himself. Every step is important, and Jeongguk sincerely applauds him for his bravery and efforts.
By the end of the semester, Jimin has made the dean’s list and feels a thousand times more confident with his degree choice. He won’t have to take so many credits next semester, and already has a nice internship at a local veterinary clinic lined up for the weekends.
He hasn’t spoken to his parents in over two months, but Jeongguk is still forced to communicate with them frequently. He refuses to mention Jimin, and whenever the sweet boy is inadvertently brought into conversation, Jeongguk dismisses the meeting. He has the power to do so now.
Jeongguk also reads several poignant books on how to better express himself to the dear people in his life (specifically one very, very dear person).
He already knows nearly everything there is to know about Jimin, it’s just a matter of applying it to affection. Jimin clearly appreciates small gestures and heartfelt words far more than grandiose gifts or reckless displays of affection (which Jeongguk is immensely grateful for). He sees the warm glow the boy gets when Jeongguk prepares his favorite breakfast meals to-go before his busiest days. He knows that Jimin will always tear up when Jeongguk shows up unexpectedly at the clinic to “check in” and make sure he’s had a good lunch. He understands that Jimin feels the most loved when Jeongguk hugs him tight at the end of a rough day, tells him quietly and sincerely how proud he is of Jimin, how lucky he is to be beside him.
Jimin is worth it. He’s worth everything.
When Jimin moves up the ranks at the clinic and lands an informal residency, he gets his very own locker in the break room for overnight items – a big promotion, if Jimin does say so himself.
The first morning he arrives, he zips over and kneels down to the small square locker, pudgy fingers rolling over the padlock in a frenzy.
What he absolutely did not expect was for a thousand polaroids of (different) golden retrievers to rain down on the floor like the Great Flood. He was absolutely speechless.
Thirty miles away at Jeon Headquarters, Jeongguk grins faintly into his mug of coffee. He thumbs over the framed picture of Jimin hugging a big, old retriever - one of his very first patients.