The heavy bass thrums in the empty bathroom, the music muted through the tiled walls, and the neon pink sign flickers overhead, casting everything in a fuchsia haze. Jimin leans forward with his hands curled around the edges of the sink, his reflection distorted by the cracks and smears on the mirror, and exhales slowly through his mouth.
His arms tremble, knuckles white, and the green-blue veins that run beneath his skin are stark in the strange light.
Someone rushes into one of the empty stalls, slamming the door behind them, and Jimin turns on both taps in front of him to drown out the sound of awful retching. After several long seconds, he pushes himself upright and runs a hand through his hair, leaving the bathroom with a grimace. The silver bracelets on his wrists feel heavy, the light chains around his neck suffocating, and he twists the ring around his thumb with his index finger, over and over.
Taehyung is sat on the table with a small grin, legs sprawled in front of him and ankles crossed, waiting. Jimin takes the cold drink from Taehyung’s outstretched hand and presses the glass against his neck, beneath his jaw over the erratic beat of his pulse. “You okay?” Taehyung asks, his grin having softened into something smaller, something secret and sweet the moment Jimin approached.
Jimin lets himself be honest. “Tired, really.”
“That’s okay,” Taehyung says, standing slowly, “we can go soon.” He takes the drink from Jimin’s hands to swallow down the last dregs of it.
The thing is, Jimin likes going out. He likes it when the music is loud enough to drown out the sound of his heartbeat and there’s nothing else to do but dance and kiss strangers he’ll never see again, drinking just enough for a pleasant buzz to vibrate beneath his skin. It’s fun. He doesn’t do it often, but he likes to think he deserves a night out every now and then.
Only, tonight’s different. It’s been a long week, a long month, and he’s exhausted.
They’d come out because Jimin needed a break and Taehyung knew it, knew that for Jimin to feel anything close to better, he needed to be in the heart of it all. They haven’t even been here long before Taehyung’s pulling Jimin through the crowd and straight into a cab. When they’re comfortably seated, belts strapped over their chests, Jimin opens the window and tilts his head back against the headrest. He breathes a little easier as the cold air hits his damp skin, glistening with a thin sheen of sweat, goosebumps breaking out on the fine hair of his forearms.
Seoul at two on a Saturday morning is beautiful, the centre of the city a core of light that seems to breathe, a kind of magic hidden away in its deepest streets and alleys, flowing out like blood in veins. Jimin sometimes feels the life of it all in his bones.
“I’m glad it’s the weekend,” Taehyung says quietly, resting his head on Jimin’s shoulder, pressing himself as close to Jimin as he can. “I need to sleep.”
Jimin hums and closes his eyes, blindly reaching out to intertwine their fingers. “Me too.”
“Did it help?” Taehyung asks. “Going out?”
“I think so,” he says, after a small pause, nods his head slowly. “It felt a little closer to normal.”
Taehyung tilts his head up to press his nose lightly into the juncture of Jimin’s neck. It’s an acknowledgement that Jimin isn’t completely better and that’s okay, and a show of support, and above all a genuine gesture of affection. Jimin squeezes Taehyung’s hand in a wordless reply.
When they arrive back at the apartment, they kick off their shoes in the hallway and head into the kitchen for some water, finishing a half-empty packet of tteokbokki crackers between them. Taehyung’s quiet humming sounds startlingly loud in the otherwise quiet space, but it provides a comfort Jimin craves.
Taehyung stays with Jimin for as long as he can before he finally stumbles into his own bedroom, pressing a kiss to Jimin’s forehead before he goes. Jimin knows he won’t be able to sleep until he showers but can’t find the energy to do so. He pulls out his phone as he walks towards the glass doors on the opposite side of the living room, an endless list of notifications waiting for him since yesterday morning that he dismisses as he scrolls.
The balcony is thin and rusted, the railing old, barely wide enough to completely step onto, with an unstable flooring that Jimin is sure the weight of more than one person at a time would break. He loves it, regardless.
The street is quiet and aglow, pools of orange-yellow light being emitted from the lamps that line either side of the pavement, and the distant sounds of a never-sleeping city seem to echo in the night air.
Yoongi’s voice, when he answers the phone, is just as quiet. “Late night?”
Jimin picks at the chipping paint of the rail, catching it beneath his thumbnail. “Something like that.”
There’s the rustle of bedsheets. Jimin hadn’t expected Yoongi to be sleeping, and then realised he hadn’t known what to expect at all.
“Sorry,” he breathes out, “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“It’s fine,” Yoongi says, even though it isn’t, and they both know it. “Jimin?”
It takes Jimin a while to reply. “What do you do,” he finally asks, leaning forward, throat dry, “when the world feels like a heavy weight?”
It’s quiet for several long moments.
“You breathe, Jimin.” Yoongi sounds more awake, sharp and alert. “You take a deep breath, and you push it off your chest.”
“You make it sound easy.”
“It’s not,” Yoongi says quickly, “it’s one of the hardest things in the world.”
Jimin huffs out a breath of laughter, but it’s faint and watery. “Fuck.”
“How long have you been up?”
“I’m not—” Jimin absently realises his hands are shaking, eyes sore like he’s been crying for days. “Hyung, I’m not sure.”
“Alright,” Yoongi says, soft and tender, “alright, Jimin.”
Yoongi’s apartment is a fifteen-minute walk away, located on the other side of campus, and they’ve only been speaking for twenty. Jimin feels something strange settle in his chest as he sees Yoongi’s figure turn onto the street, unmistakable to Jimin even in the night. The sight of him is as much of a surprise as it is a relief.
The dial tone rings loud in Jimin’s ear, and he pulls the phone away as the call drops. By the time he’s reached the front door, Yoongi is stood outside, waiting. His hair is pushed back under his snapback and a black mask covers half his face. Yoongi’s eyes, gentle crescents on his face, are slightly swollen with sleep, light purple bruising beneath his bottom lids, and he’s the most beautiful thing Jimin has ever seen.
There’s a pause the length of a heartbeat and then Jimin looks down, eyes burning. Yoongi wordlessly steps forward to gather Jimin in his arms, one hand smoothing up and down his back and the other tangled in Jimin’s hair, keeping him close.
Jimin presses his nose against the exposed skin at the base of Yoongi’s neck and breathes in the smell of clean linen and sleep, a light musk that sits heavy and familiar. When he feels steady enough to speak, he moves back only so that his lips graze lightly over Yoongi’s skin. “You didn’t have to come over.”
“I know,” Yoongi says against the shell of his ear, “I know that.”
They stand for what feels like hours, until the discomfort and exhaustion finally catch up, with Jimin still dressed in the clothes he’d worn out, sweat now dried on his skin and in his hair.
“I need to shower,” Jimin whispers, not wanting to break the silence between them but knowing he needs to, knowing Yoongi won’t be the one to pull away first.
The front door is still open, and Yoongi hums quietly in reply. His nose is pressed against Jimin’s hair, and his grip is firm, and Jimin could make a home in the hollow of his hold.
The first light of dawn is creeping over the skyline when Jimin steps out of the bathroom, feeling somewhat better. He closes the curtains and pulls on a pair of boxers, dries his hair as well as he can with a small towel, taking his time without making too much noise. The growing brightness outside provides enough light to stop him from blindly stumbling around.
Yoongi’s breath falls soft against the cotton sheets, face tucked into the pillow. The white duvet is cocooned around him and his jeans are haphazardly thrown onto the floor, his jacket and hat on Jimin’s desk chair. Jimin quietly curls up next to him, tucks his nose into the dip between Yoongi’s shoulder blades, and lets the rise and fall of Yoongi’s chest beneath his arms lull him to sleep.
The difficulty with getting better is having to acknowledge that things weren’t good before.
When Jimin wakes up, the weight he’s grown used to carrying in his limbs feels a little less heavy, and he doesn’t struggle as much to open his eyes. His senses come to him slowly, the cotton of his sheets and the warmth of his skin, the fading ache of his bones. It’s like pieces of himself that Jimin didn’t realise were missing are finally returning to him, slowly but surely tethering themselves back to his body.
It’s been so long since mornings have felt this easy.
There’s a soft sound to his left, and Jimin turns his head to see Yoongi sat up against the pillows, rubbing sleep from his eyes as he looks at Jimin with a small smile. “Morning.”
Jimin’s smile is gentle, a little slow. “Morning, hyung.”
The room is suspended in a beautiful haze, and the morning sits like a thick blanket around them, silence and the sound of their breathing. The soft light filters in through Jimin’s pale yellow curtains and casts shadows on the gentle slopes of Yoongi’s face. He looks like something ethereal, like something impossibly beautiful and forever out of reach, and something like home.
Jimin reaches out with trembling fingers and brushes his thumb over the pillow mark on Yoongi’s cheek.
If Taehyung is surprised when Yoongi emerges from Jimin’s bedroom, he doesn’t show it, instead pulling out an extra mug from the cupboard and passing half his toast to Yoongi with a wide grin. Jimin leans in the doorway and drinks in the sight of them, sunlight streaming through the wide windows of the open-plan living room and gilding the strands of Taehyung’s light brown hair.
Jimin brushes his fingers over the back of Yoongi’s shoulders and ruffles Taehyung’s hair with a quiet hello. He sips slowly at a cup of instant coffee and pulls fruit from the drawer in the fridge, unopened packets of cubed melon and half-finished punnets of berries that he rinses before mixing them together in a bowl. When he joins them at the kitchen table, Taehyung immediately begins to poke around Jimin’s breakfast for chunks of watermelon, juice dripping down his fingers when he squeezes too hard. Yoongi shakes his head when Jimin pushes the fruit towards him in a silent offer, but he knocks their knees together beneath the table in thanks.
Taehyung fills the silence between them, tells Yoongi about his winter break despite having updated the group-chat throughout the holidays, and the low timbre of his voice is comforting, envelops Jimin in a welcome warmth. It’s not that Taehyung doesn’t know how to find comfort in silence, it’s just that he knows Jimin often better than he knows himself, and after weeks spent in his own company silence is the last thing Jimin needs.
Yoongi and Jimin eventually end up back in Jimin’s room, Yoongi working away on his laptop with a pair of headphones covering his ears. The bedroom window is open on vent, and everything is quiet and calm and still.
“How long has it been,” Yoongi begins, having moved from the desk to the bed while Jimin had been in the shower, “since this started?” He's wearing a thin t-shirt and a pair of Jimin’s sweatpants, black and elasticated at the ankles, and it’s amazing how impossibly big he seems, how he takes the air out of the room, the breath out of Jimin’s lungs.
“I don’t know,” Jimin says after a long moment, leaning against the doorway of his bathroom and running his tongue over the backs of his teeth, tasting the fresh mint of his toothpaste. “It feels like forever, sometimes.”
Yoongi purses his lips and leans forward, rests his elbows on his thighs as he sits on the edge of the bed. “That happens,” he finally says. “But it’ll pass. It always does.”
Jimin takes a few steps forward, halfway between the ensuite and Yoongi. “How do you know?”
Yoongi sighs, soft, eyes patient. “You trust me?”
“I do.” Jimin’s trusted Yoongi since they first met, trusts him more than he trusts his own hands, his mind, his heart.
“It’ll pass this time, too.”
It’s easy to believe him, so easy, when Yoongi says it like that.
The next morning, as Yoongi is getting ready to leave with his backpack slung over his shoulder, Jimin weaves his arms around Yoongi’s waist and holds him close. The curve of Yoongi’s collarbones are defined even through the fabric of his shirt, firm against Jimin’s lips, and the small exhale the passes through his mouth ruffles the shorter strands of Jimin’s hair.
“Thank you,” Jimin murmurs. “Hyung—”
“Ah.” Yoongi clicks his tongue as he pulls back, “don’t embarrass me.”
For the first time in what feels like ages, Jimin grins. He can feel his cheeks lift, the small dimple by his cheek deepening, and the expression is so foreign and familiar that his chest seems to cave. A pressure that Jimin hadn’t realised was weighing down on his lungs disappears quicker than it’d taken to build.
There’s a strange look on Yoongi’s face as he smiles, an expression that flickers far too fast for Jimin to decipher, but it has Jimin holding his breath all the same. Then, quietly, Yoongi moves forward to press his lips to the corner of Jimin’s eye. It’s a second that lasts a lifetime in the gentlest of ways.
It’s one of the better weekends Jimin has had.
Hoseok is in the living room, sprawled out on the sofa with a plate of half-finished apple slices resting on his lap as he scrolls through his phone. The saturated colour of his hair has faded into a pale gold, and his skin is flushed with a healthy glow. Jimin’s lucky enough to be blessed with a handful of best friends, but Hoseok is the person Jimin turns to for peace of mind, and the sight of his absent smile is enough to make Jimin feel immediately settled.
“Hi hyung,” Jimin greets lightly, not wanting to startle him. “Good weekend?”
“Great, Jimin-ah.” Hoseok looks away up his screen to grin, and the expression softens when Jimin sits by his feet with a cup of coffee. “You look well rested.”
“I feel it.”
“Good, I’m glad,” Hoseok says, leaning forward to lightly pinch Jimin’s cheek. “I’ve been worried.”
Jimin frowns, his eyebrows furrowing as he glances down at his lap. He loves his friends' attention, but not for things like this, not when it causes them to feel unhappy because of something he’s done. “Hyung—”
“Jimin, don’t.” Hoseok’s voice is a touch away from reprimanding. “You’re allowed to not be okay, and I’m allowed to worry.”
Jimin flinches, and then sighs. He knows he’s lucky to have someone like Hoseok in his life, who genuinely cares and worries for him, and would never consider his concern for Jimin a burden. The guilt that had been creeping up his spine is replaced by humble gratitude, and he reaches out to squeeze Hoseok’s ankle.
“How was your trip?” Jimin asks, a thank you laced in his words that he knows Hoseok will catch.
“It was amazing,” Hoseok breathes out, and then fumbles with his phone to search for photos. “I met some talented bastards, Jimin.” He pauses to look up and wink, eyes bright, smile wide. “Got some of their numbers, too.”
Hoseok’s part of a dance troupe that tours around Korea and Japan, and one of the best dancers Jimin knows. He’d been invited to a convention in Daegu and spent weeks excited about it beforehand, spending late nights practicing and perfecting routines with his crew. Though Hoseok cares for a different style of dance than Jimin, it’s a passion they both share, and Jimin is more than happy to let Hoseok recall every little detail he can.
The sun is a little higher in the sky when Taehyung emerges from his bedroom, immaculately dressed and not a hair out of place, as if he’s been awake for hours and not forty-five minutes at most. His black jeans are greying at the knees from age, and the dark patterned shirt contrasts with his skin, making him appear even paler after months without the warm summer sun. Taehyung squeezes Jimin’s shoulder as he heads into the kitchen to get himself a glass of water, pinching the lobe of Jimin’s ear, and then stands in the doorway and listens quietly as Hoseok and Jimin continue to talk, still in the process of waking up.
Hoseok and Taehyung eventually leave to run some errands, and Jimin finds the ensuing silence in the apartment is comfortable, the white noise that’d been clouding his mind recently dulled down to a barely-there buzz. He’s spent the last few weeks alone, and the quiet had become something strange, unwelcome, but as the life in the city picks back up, and as he sees his friends returning from home, Jimin feels contentedness sink into his skin.
Though classes aren’t due to start for another couple of weeks, Jimin finds himself thinking of a handful of things he’d like to get out of the way before term begins, and begins to gather his work. The glass door of the apartment complex is swinging closed behind him when Yoongi calls.
“Oh, good,” Yoongi greets, voice quiet over the line. “I realised you might’ve been at the studio.”
“Not today, no.” Jimin looks around him before he crosses the road, hiking the strap of his satchel a little more securely on his shoulder as he walks. “I’m just headed to the library.”
Jimin hums. “I still want to get some work out of the way.”
“Ever the overachiever.” Yoongi’s grin is obvious in the way he speaks. His voice, a slow and lightly-accented drawl, can sound teasing and fond all at once, can carry rage and fire like a rhythm, and Jimin has spent a long time picking up on all the cues. “That’s good, actually.”
“Getting a head start,” Yoongi clarifies, “it’s a good idea.”
“Join me?” Jimin asks, and then becomes suddenly bashful, surprised by his own forwardness. “Um, that’s if—”
Yoongi groans dramatically. “You’ve said it now.”
Jimin can hear Yoongi shuffling papers, the harsh tap of his fingers on his laptop, and then,
“Why don’t you join me instead?”
Jimin stops at the crossing, bites down hard on the inside of his cheek. His fingers, caught in the strands of his hair, come down to rotate the small earring in his upper cartilage, before he drags them further down the shell of his ear, catching on the fine chains that dangle from a small silver hoop. “Okay, hyung,” he says, far more softly than he means to. “I can do that.”
It turns out Yoongi is in the library anyway. The building is one of the newer ones on campus, large and white with floor-to-ceiling length green-tinted windows that allow light to enter from every direction. Jimin loves it, thinks the simplicity of the architecture is stunning, and has spent so much time here he’s familiar with most of the staff. He’d bought everyone doughnuts for the new year.
Yoongi is sat with his papers covering half the table, his backpack on the chair beside him and his laptop open in front of him, typing notes furiously with his headphones around his neck. There’s an empty cup from the Starbucks across the road, ice melting at the bottom, and the lettuce of a half-eaten sandwich spilling onto some of his open files. Jimin quietly cleans up the mess under the watchful eye of the nearby librarian and presses a fresh cup of coffee into Yoongi’s cold hands before he sits down. Yoongi hums, a greeting and a thank you, but his eyes stay focused on the screen of his laptop.
The day passes in the scratch of pen on paper and the intermittent murmur of other students, the roll of wheels against the hardwood floors and the dull thud of books being placed on tables and chairs, stuffed in bags for people to take out. The world turns from blue to pink to deep indigo, and the library lights flicker on, the pale blue reminiscent of natural daylight.
Studying for a double-major means that Jimin can be flexible with his timetable so long as he gets the necessary module requirements and credits. Seeing as the upcoming semester will focus primarily on his modern arts and dance, he’s been wanting to get as much of his maths work done instead of rushing through it later in the year. He’s in the middle of following through an equation, writing everything down step-by-step so he can condense the notes into something more cohesive once he’s gone through it in class, when Yoongi leans back in his seat with an audible groan.
Jimin glances up, pen halting. “All done?”
“Nearly,” Yoongi says, pinching the bridge of his nose as he nods. “Fuck. I’ve been staring at this for way too long.”
“It’s late, hyung,” Jimin says as he leans forward. He’s been working for around four hours, but Yoongi arrived at the library a little while before him. “You’ve had a long day.” His voice lilts towards the end, framing the sentence as a question.
“I’ve been here since eleven.” It’s nearing six in the evening, now. “Fuck.”
Jimin purses his lips, and then begins to gather his papers together as neatly as he can, tucking his laptop and his keys into his bag as he stands. “Come on,” he says, “buy me a coffee.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes but pushes away from the table. “There’s no respect, I swear.”
“Ah, hyung,” Jimin says, purposefully sweet as he begins to walk to the doors, waving at the librarian who monitors the floor. “I can pay, if you want.”
“What do you take me for?” Yoongi huffs immediately, and Jimin hides a grin beneath the thick scarf around his neck. “As if I’d let my dongsaeng pay.”
The Starbucks is relatively quiet as term is still a week away from beginning, so they decide to order in, Jimin finding them a clean table in the corner and setting his bags down just as Yoongi walks over with the receipt. He forces Yoongi to stay in his seat when the order is called and collects their drinks and their food in two rounds, settling back into the plush armchair with a sigh.
Yoongi’s eyes follow Jimin as he runs a hand through his hair, assessing. “You look better.”
Jimin tilts his head, nose scrunching. “Hoseok hyung said the same thing.”
“I feel it,” Jimin admits, leaning forward for his cappuccino as Yoongi begins to pick at the tomato in his sandwich. “I think the worst of it is over.”
“Good,” Yoongi says, kind and genuine.
He doesn’t ask why Jimin didn’t say anything earlier, why he didn’t reach out when he knew he could, because Yoongi never has. He’s never pressed Jimin to explain or justify his thoughts or his moods, has simply let them happen and been there for Jimin when it’s been right, and that knowledge is often comfort enough. Sometimes calling Yoongi just to hear him curse at a film he’s watching is enough to brighten Jimin’s day. Sometimes it’s not, though, sometimes it takes a little longer. Each time, Yoongi has been waiting for him at the end of it all regardless.
Yoongi’s lower lip is slightly swollen from where he’d been biting down on it as he’d worked, slightly red and undoubtedly sore, and Jimin wants to reach out and press his thumb against the curve of it, feel the soft and warm skin beneath the pad of his finger. Instead, Jimin swallows around a lump in his throat and looks down at his plate, at the melted cheese of the panini strung between the halved slices.
“I can never tell when it’s coming,” Jimin says suddenly, shaking his head. He rubs at his eye with the back of his wrist, dislodging his glasses. “And then it hits and it’s like, how could I ever forget what this feels like?”
Yoongi‘s never asked, but he always listens.
“And the worst thing,” Jimin continues, “is waking up, and realising that months of your life have passed and they never even- you weren’t even there.”
It’s like something has been dislodged in Jimin’s throat, and all the words he’s been trying to say, all the thoughts he’s had to suffer through alone, suddenly want to spill out into the silence. Yoongi’s chin is cupped in his palm, and his other arm is draped across his thighs, and his expression is purposefully neutral. Jimin knows Yoongi’s giving him his full attention.
“And you never even knew, and-” Jimin breaks off with a quiet sigh, glancing away as he shrugs. “How could you expect anyone else to notice, either?”
The noise of the coffee machine is deafening, the grinding of fresh coffee beans rising above the din of the shop. Silence, shuffling, and then the order is called.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says quietly, when Jimin doesn’t say anything more. “It never really clicks until it’s passed, and then everything hits you all at once.” Yoongi scratches the side of his nose. He speaks slowly, long pauses between his words, not wanting his point to get lost in an unnecessary ramble. “It’s like you’ve lost time with yourself, and you’re never going to get that back.”
Jimin nods, breathing out long and slow.
“But.” Yoongi leans forward to get a sugar packet from the tray and glances up at Jimin with a small smile. “The worst of it is over.”
And it is.
Jimin’s chest is heaving and there’s sweat beading his collarbones, his grey top clinging to his back and the thin silver ring he’d forgotten to take off before training glinting in the fluorescent light of the practice room. He holds his position a second longer, feels his muscles begin to burn, and then lets his body sag. The track he’d been dancing to starts over as he lowers himself onto the floor.
The door opens behind him in the reflection of the mirrors. When Jeongguk is comfortably sat on the floor, legs crossed in front of him, Jimin falls back to rest his head on Jeongguk's lap, closing his eyes as Jeongguk slowly pushes damp strands of hair off his forehead. His fingers are slightly cold, and the touch is calming.
“You smell,” Jeongguk says in greeting, and Jimin opens one eye just in time to see him bite back a smile.
“Nice to see you too, brat.”
Jeongguk's grin widens, and he presses the base of the cold water bottle he’d picked up from Jimin’s bag directly onto Jimin’s forehead. “Hi, hyung.”
Jimin smiles and reaches up to gently pinch the skin beneath Jeongguk's chin. “Hello.”
Jeongguk's hands continue their movements through Jimin’s hair, and slowly but surely Jimin’s pulse begins to steady and his breathlessness eases, the exhaustion of a gruelling practice settling in his bones, familiar and welcome. It’s quiet for a little while, and then Jeongguk’s phone vibrates in his pocket. Jimin jerks upright, having drifted into a light sleep, and licks his lips as Jeongguk shuffles to stand.
“Dinner?” Jeongguk asks, stretching his arms over his head.
Jimin pulls himself up using Jeongguk's outstretched hand. “God, yes.”
“Good,” Jeongguk says as he begins to walk to the speakers by the mirror, “because Jin hyung wasn’t asking.”
He begins to gather Jimin’s things for him, so Jimin heads back into the changing rooms to have a quick shower and freshen up. He pulls on a simple t-shirt and some sweatpants, freshly taken from the laundry in the morning, and pulls on a dark red beanie he’s pretty sure once belonged to Taehyung. It doesn’t take him long to get ready, and twenty-minutes later they’re exiting the building with Jimin’s bags on Jeongguk's shoulders and their phones in his hand.
The sky is painted a beautiful violet, soft in its vibrancy, and the lights of streetlamps and office windows bathe them in a deep orange glow. The crowds are thin, and the noise of the city is muted in the distance, a world away from the campus. Everything around them is suspended in radiant city fog. Jimin pulls down the sleeves of his denim jacket and combs his wet hair back with his fingers, pushing stray strands back beneath his hat, smiling up at the expanse of scattered clouds above them. He tilts his head at the last moment when he sees Jeongguk's phone aimed towards him, holding two fingers against his face to frame his eye as the telltale noise of the camera goes off.
It’s easy to smile around Jeongguk, and it always has been. There’s something about him that makes Jimin feel warm and light, reminds Jimin of his younger brother in all the ways that Jeongguk is nothing like him, both so different to each other and yet able to touch similar parts of Jimin’s soul. Jeongguk is as mischievous as he is charming, surprisingly shy and heartbreakingly sweet, and so supportive that it makes Jimin falter sometimes, to know how unconditionally Jeongguk cares for him. Jimin reaches out to pinch Jeongguk's cheek, and feels his smile widen into a painful grin when crinkles form on Jeongguk's nose.
It takes them longer than usual to walk back to Jeongguk and Jin’s apartment, and in between photos of the city and of themselves, Jeongguk tells Jimin about his visit to Busan over the winter holidays, knowing how upset Jimin was that he couldn’t make it back home. Content, and revelling in the startlingly sharp chill of the air, Jimin doesn’t worry much about the risk of catching a cold.
“Finally,” Jin exclaims as he pulls open the apartment door, before Jeongguk can even get his keys out. “We’ve been waiting.”
Jeongguk rolls his eyes and walks past him, shoulders hunched when Jin turns to whack the back of his head as he passes, but Jimin hesitates. He hasn’t seen his friends all together since New Year’s over a month ago, and he feels suddenly embarrassed and ashamed for how little he’s been involved in their lives over the past few weeks. They’re the closest friends Jimin has, family in every way but blood, and to have been so caught up in his mind, to have isolated himself to easily, must have hurt them too.
Jin notices, because he always does, and throws his arms around Jimin’s shoulders. The embrace is unexpectedly tight, leaving no doubt that Jimin is welcome, and he relaxes almost immediately in Jin’s hold. His worries pass as quickly as they’d come.
“Jeongguk,” Jin suddenly shouts as he pulls away, one hand gripping Jimin’s elbow as he pulls Jimin into the apartment. “Why is my Jimin so cold?”
Jeongguk shouts something incoherent that has Jin looking back at Jimin and rolling his eyes.
The apartment is a large space, the location of many of their film and food nights, and nice enough that it looks homely, instead of absurdly expensive like Jimin knows Jin could probably afford. Everyone is gathered in the living room, sprawled across the floor and on the single sofa, bags and boxes of takeout piled on top of the coffee-table, and a few bottles of beer on the rug by Namjoon’s knee. Jimin waves as he enters, Hoseok kissing Jimin’s cheek as he passes and Taehyung shooting him a wide smile. Jimin lowers himself into the space next to Namjoon with a small grin, bumping their shoulders together, and then waits patiently as the food finally begins to get passed around.
Someone’s ordered him a portion of beef lo-mein, and the noodles are soft and covered in a rich sauce, the lime and spring onion adding a sharp contrast to the rich flavour of the meat, and Jimin eats quietly as conversation flows around him. It’s nice, to be surrounded by gentle murmurs that turn into loud and familiar laughs, arguments that fade as quickly as they begin over the strangest of things. Jimin rests his head on Namjoon’s shoulder, uncrossing his legs to splay them beneath the coffee table as he holds his beer bottle in his lap, picking at the sticky label. Where Namjoon had been leaning forward to speak, arms moving wildly in the air, he settles the moment Jimin leans against him, shifts to better accommodate Jimin’s weight.
“It’s good to see you,” Namjoon says, resting his cheek against Jimin’s hair. “It’s been a while.”
Jimin hums. “Since the last month, hyung.”
It’s the longest the seven of them have been apart, not counting the summer months, and Jimin can understand how strange it feels to be back together again. It’s almost too much, to have not seen any of them for so long and then have them all here, all at once.
“How’ve you been?” Namjoon finally asks after taking a quiet few sips of his drink. “Really.”
Namjoon feels a responsibility amongst their friends that he doesn’t need to, as if bringing them all together makes him their caretaker, despite being younger than half of them. He never comes across as overbearing, misguided sometimes but always knowing when he needs to take charge, when he needs to persist, and it’s a reassuring thing, to know that someone as kind and wonderful as Namjoon cares for and about him. Without any judgement, without any expectations.
So, Jimin answers honestly, because he knows Namjoon’s concern is genuine.
“I wasn’t so good, hyung.” The label tears between Jimin’s fingers, and he scrunches the paper in his fist, rubbing the remaining layer with his thumb. “I forgot to take care of myself, and I spiralled.”
Namjoon swallows another mouthful of his beer. “And now?”
“I’m better,” Jimin says quietly. “I’m getting there.”
“Well,” Namjoon says, pulling back so he can tilt his head to look at Jimin. “You’re here with us, and that’s a start.”
Jimin smiles, and it only grows when Namjoon smiles back, a reflex that Jimin has used to his advantage many times to get away with things the others haven’t been able to.
“I know it’s hard,” Namjoon says, “but remember that we’re here for you, through whatever.”
An image suddenly flashes through Jimin’s mind, a memory of him just shy of turning twenty, hiding away from his friends as he tirelessly tried to reach an unattainable and unnecessary level of perfection. He’d become dazed and dissociated for a handful of months, and it was only when he was cornered by Taehyung, the rest of his friends, that he was able to pull himself out of it. Jimin had been the one to fix the problem, but not once during that recovery had he felt alone.
Heart caught in his throat, Jimin reaches out and squeezes Namjoon’s hand.
The two of them talk between themselves for a little longer, trapped in their own bubble of conversation, until Jin suddenly demands their attention. Across the room, sandwiched between Hoseok and Jeongguk, Taehyung catches Jimin’s eye and winks.
Midnight passes with a comfortable lull in conversation, Jimin and Taehyung migrating into the kitchen to clean up the mess. Taehyung takes it upon himself to finish the leftovers as Jimin loads the dishwasher, and their laughs seem to echo loudly in the otherwise quiet apartment, breathless and euphoric for no reason. Jimin is wiping the counter down when Taehyung slips out of the kitchen, Jeongguk's voice ringing sudden, calling Taehyung back.
Jimin shakes his head and lets the cloth drop onto the surface, drumming his fingers against the countertop with his free hand cupping his chin, and watches Yoongi walk into the kitchen as Taehyung leaves. He looks good, hair still a pale white-blonde that’s stark against his darkening undercut, slightly messy from where he’s run his fingers through it over the course of the evening. The white fabric of his t-shirt is pulled taut over his chest, and his jeans look new, a pattern of small bears on his socks that has Jimin smiling and Yoongi rolling his eyes. His face is flushed from laughter, having spent most of the evening speaking to Hoseok, and the silver adorning his ears glints beneath the lights.
They haven’t seen each other since last week, and Jimin can’t help the way his expression softens at the sight of him.
“There you are,” Yoongi says quietly. He doesn’t mean here, in the kitchen, and they both know that.
“Here I am,” Jimin says, just as quiet.
Yoongi helps himself to a glass of water, and Jimin moves to stand at the sink beside him to drape the cloth over the small silver hanger on the cupboard door. They stand side-by-side, and then Yoongi turns to face Jimin, and Jimin can see a momentary hesitation flicker in Yoongi’s eyes. He parts his mouth, ready to ask if everything is alright, and then feels his heart catch in his throat when Yoongi reaches out to press his knuckle under Jimin’s chin, his thumb resting beneath Jimin’s bottom lip.
They don’t touch each other like this, at least not anymore, but there’s something about Yoongi’s smile, something about the warmth that’s creeping back into the air, back into Jimin’s skin. It makes him feel bold.
“Why?” Jimin finds himself asking, “did you miss me, hyung?”
“As much as you miss me,” Yoongi says immediately, and his voice is light but there’s an undeniable earnestness beneath his words. His eyes, dark and familiar, flicker down to Jimin’s mouth.
The muted traffic of the busy street outside is somehow quieter than the beating of Jimin’s heart, so loud and thunderous in the space between them that he thinks Yoongi might be able to hear it. Yoongi watches Jimin with something soft and something fierce, his free hand resting heavy on Jimin’s waist.
“Always, then,” Jimin teases, more bravely than he feels.
“Alright,” Yoongi says, his voice a quiet murmur, and his fingers uncurl beneath Jimin’s chin to cup his cheek. “Always.”
Jimin flushes, but doesn’t move away, doesn’t move closer, either.
There’s a sudden crash, a moment of silence, and then everyone in the living room starts shouting over each other. Jimin startles, dragging his eyes away from Yoongi to look towards the door, and then his eyelashes flutter when Yoongi presses a feather-light kiss to his cheekbone. It’s a promise and an apology all at once.
He smiles down at the ground as he follows Yoongi back to their friends.
Term starts back up on Monday, and Yoongi will be busier than ever, but they’ll make time for each other. They always have.
This is the thing they don’t talk about: Yoongi broke Jimin’s heart.
They hadn’t been in a relationship, not really, but they’d been warm bodies, seeking each other out after long nights and hard weeks. It’d been terrifying and passionate and intense, hands and lips and skin, and had brought every exciting and wonderful feeling Jimin had always dreamed about having. It was open-mouthed kisses in the middle of a club that ended with them tangled in sheets, half-clothed as light filtered in on them through open windows, and late Sunday mornings tracing words they couldn’t bring themselves to say on each other’s skin.
There had been a list of unspoken rules between them, though, conditions they hadn’t agreed to but fell into place. And then, Yoongi had met someone, and he and Jimin had fallen apart, and Jimin had smiled and nodded and let him go because Yoongi wasn’t meant to matter.
Sometime, between then and now, Jimin had fallen in love. Yoongi had too, but not with him.
Jimin hasn’t spent the last two years waiting for Yoongi to love him back, hasn’t for a moment thought to hold it against Yoongi for not being able to love him in the first place, but sometimes Jimin gets lost in thought of how nice it could be.
As spring approaches, the air becomes charged with a static that Jimin hasn’t felt for a long time. He wonders why Yoongi is coming to him now, wonders if there’s any longevity between them this time, but then he remembers a late autumn evening and shy smiles beneath neon lights, the taste of sickly sweet cocktails between meeting mouths and a hand, warm and heavy on his waist.
Jimin thinks, regardless of the outcome, the beginning is always his favourite part.
There’s a café in the city, free of screaming children and overly loud businessmen. It has a monochrome colour scheme, disrupted only by the statement art piece hung on the walls and the deep green plants tucked into the corners and hanging between overhead lights. Jimin sits in the corner, his papers scattered around him and a ten-minute long video paused on his laptop, sketching the outline of a dancer’s body in his moleskin, pencil dragging an arc down the centre of the figure. He’d agreed to meet Jin here almost an hour earlier for lunch, but with Jin working full-time at his father’s company he’s been understandably delayed, so Jimin decided to start working while he waited.
He’s in the middle of resuming the video, swallowing a mouthful of lukewarm coffee, when his table is suddenly knocked into.
“Ah,” Jin says apologetically, shrugging off his coat, “I’m so sorry I’m late, Jimin.”
Jimin smiles as he stands, wrapping an arm around Jin in a quick embrace before he gestures for Jin to sit down. “That’s alright, hyung.”
Jin apologises again, and he looks a little flustered, his fading blonde hair pushed back off his forehead, eyes tired and his skin strangely pale.
“Hyung, I hope you didn’t rush,” Jimin says quietly, closing the lid of his laptop and pushing it aside. “I was happy waiting.”
“I forgot to send you a text,” Jin says, grimacing. “I didn’t know if you’d brought your work with you.”
Jimin waves his concern away and then leans forward, cups his face in his hands and grins widely, watches the way a little of the tension leaves Jin’s eyes as he smiles back. “Long day?”
“I can tell,” Jimin says, not unkindly, turning to catch the eye of one of the baristas behind the counter. He quirks his mouth in a way he knows makes her shy, and gestures for two more cups of coffee before he pushes his half-finished slice of lemon drizzle cake across the table. “Here.”
Jin clicks his tongue even as he begins to pull apart the sponge into smaller pieces. “Ah, you’re too good to me.”
Jimin smiles, and they sit in a happy silence until two cappuccinos are placed in front of them. Jin reaches out for his drink immediately, cupping the mug in his hands and breathing in the smell of fresh coffee, while Jimin orders them two toasted chicken wraps. Jin is one of the funniest people he knows, and possibly one of the most complex. He can go from completely childlike to unwaveringly responsible, taking on an air that commands respect and radiates authority. It’s practiced, years of his father’s teaching, and more of a burden than he’ll ever admit to. So, in the moments where they meet, Jimin tries his best to make sure Jin feels at ease.
“You have so much work already?” Jin asks, glancing at the papers beside Jimin as he raises his sandwich to his mouth.
Jimin shrugs. “No, I just—I thought it’d help to write my notes up beforehand.”
“Of course,” Jin says, unashamedly endeared, and Jimin rolls his eyes even as he smiles.
Their lunch arrives, and in between mouthfuls of food, Jimin finds himself laughing so much his stomach aches. He loves all his friends more than he knows how, and they can all make him feel at peace in different ways, but Jin is someone who Jimin can feel impossibly and endlessly refreshed around, and the more they speak the more at ease he feels. Quietly, unexpectedly, Jimin realises that he feels happy, and it’s such a lovely feeling to have after what feels like so long.
His phone suddenly vibrates on the table beside his elbow.
From: Yoongi, Min [16:42]
are you busy later?
He knows Jin isn’t looking to pry, automatically glancing down at the sound, but Jin raises his eyebrows pointedly when he catches sight of the text.
“What?” Jimin asks.
Jin raises both hands defensively, but there’s a small, teasing smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “I didn’t say anything.”
“Yes, well,” Jimin puffs his cheeks out, feeling heat rise to his cheeks. “Don’t.”
The thing is, the text could be perfectly friendly if Yoongi weren’t the one sending it, if Jin didn’t know them half as well as he does. He types a quick reply, determined not to feel flustered beneath Jin’s gaze, but knows he fails.
To: Yoongi, Min [16:43]
asking for a friend?
From: Yoongi, Min [16:43]
something like that, smartass
From: Yoongi, Min [16:44]
if you're busy though
Jimin texts back before Yoongi can finish typing, fumbling when Jin kicks him under the table.
“Try to look a little less obvious.”
Though Jimin has worked hard to keep his feelings hidden, it’s no secret amongst their friends that he has a soft spot for Yoongi regardless of their past, and that Yoongi has a soft spot for him. It’s something that fills Jimin with warmth and a strange amount of pride, and acts as a source of endless teasing from Taehyung and Jin in particular. They’re not the most obvious pair to get along, or perhaps they are, but it’s hard to miss how Yoongi softens around Jimin, how Jimin calms around him.
“Hyung,” Jimin says, the half-hearted frown falling from his face the moment Jin leans forward to pinch his cheek.
“Is this,” Jin asks, waving his hand between Jimin and his phone, “a thing that’s happening?”
“I hope so.” The door of the café opens and a small group of people walk in, the quiet din broken momentarily by the chatter. “Hyung, it won’t—” Jimin begins, pursing his lips, eyes wide. “I won’t let it come between us as friends, we—”
“Ah, Park Jimin,” Jin says harshly, but his expression is soft. “I don’t care about that. I want you to be happy.”
Jimin looks down, fiddling with a leftover lettuce piece.
“You make each other happy,” Jin continues when it’s clear that Jimin won’t say anything. “That means you can make each other hurt, as well.”
Jimin knows, and his heart swells with love as he reaches out to take one of Jin’s hands between his, squeezing gently. He doesn’t say that it’s happened already, that they’d fallen apart and left Jimin aching, because it doesn’t matter anymore. The most important thing right now is that this is a fresh start, a second chance, a beginning Jimin didn’t know he could have.
Jin pays for their lunch and walks Jimin to the metro before he gets a cab to take him back to the office, and Jimin arrives home to see Taehyung, Hoseok and Jeongguk huddled on the sofa, wide-eyed as they watch some obscure foreign film, their work forgotten on the coffee-table. He closes the door quietly behind him, pauses only long enough to make sure that they haven’t heard him come in, before he jumps on them unceremoniously.
Hoseok’s resulting scream is rewarding enough.
Jimin ends up arriving at the restaurant ten minutes early, slightly out of breath but otherwise calm. He unbuttons his coat as he stands outside the entrance, eyes locked on the sky above as a plane passes overhead, humming quietly to himself when there’s a gentle tap on his shoulder.
Jimin turns and smiles, wide and bright, and watches the expression on Yoongi’s face soften. “I could eat.”
“Come on,” Yoongi says as he takes Jimin’s hand, linking their fingers together.
Jimin can trace the lifelines of Yoongi’s palm with his eyes closed, the deep crease that represents his mind, the curve of his heart, feels the delicate vines of them against the skin of his own hand.
“I want dessert.” Yoongi pushes the door open with his shoulder as he glances back at Jimin, and the strands of his hair get ruffled in the warm heat of the restaurant.
Jimin bites down on the inside of his cheek, waits until Yoongi gives his name for their reservation before he says, “You better not have brought me out just for dessert, hyung.”
“Don’t worry,” Yoongi says with a grin, squeezing Jimin’s fingers as they’re led to a quiet booth in the back. “I know better.”
“You should.” As Jimin lifts the menu, half-covering his face, he hears Yoongi mutter something that sounds suspiciously like brat.
They end up ordering a few simple dishes, fried shrimp rolls and beef satay with plum sauce to start, and a large dish of chicken fried rice that comes highly recommended by the server.
It’s easy to talk to one another, and it always has been. The conversation jumps back and forth as they eat, between work and music and home, and at some point Jimin finds one of his legs trapped between Yoongi’s, his hands splayed on the table as Yoongi plays with the rings on Jimin’s fingers.
Never one to leave food behind, Jimin picks over the leftover shrimp roll and bites into it as Yoongi picks up his phone to find a photo his brother recently sent of Holly, his pet dog and the love of his life. The pastry is crisp as it flakes in his mouth, and Jimin hums and leans forward to push the other half between Yoongi’s parted lips, wiping the small smear of sauce at corner of Yoongi’s mouth with his thumb. He doesn’t realise what he’s done until Yoongi raises an eyebrow as he swallows, and Jimin turns to face the open bar, face warm and hands tucked between his thighs.
Yoongi huffs out a quiet breath of laughter, and squeezes Jimin’s leg between his own. He orders them a small platter of fresh fruit with sticky rice and a grapefruit sorbet specifically for Jimin, asking what little is left of their main to be packed away. When their table is cleared and their drinks refilled, Yoongi shifts to Jimin’s side of the booth and links their hands together. “You okay?”
Jimin smiles as he nods, presses his nose into Yoongi’s shoulder and breathes in, Yoongi’s favourite cologne strong and familiar and comforting. It’s been a luxury to always have this closeness between them, but it feels different tonight, each touch and movement as weighted as it is easy.
When their dessert comes, they stay close, eating one-handed instead.
“Here,” Yoongi says around a mouthful of mango, grabbing a thin slice of pineapple with his fingers and pulling away just enough that he can comfortably feed Jimin without making a mess.
Jimin leaves his spoon in the small glass dish of his sorbet to steady Yoongi’s wrist with his hand, fingers brushing lightly over the sharp curves of Yoongi’s bones. He can feel Yoongi’s pulse, soft and steady, beneath his thumb.
“It’s good,” Jimin says, letting go of Yoongi’s wrist to cover his mouth as he eats. “The pineapple is sweet, hyung.”
“The mango, too,” Yoongi says, picking another wedge as orange-coloured juice runs over his knuckles. “They’re imported from India, apparently.”
Yoongi hums, and then lets out a small, happy sound when the mango hits his tongue. They’re close enough that Jimin can see the faint freckles scattered over the bridge of Yoongi’s nose, the dark mole on the curve of his cheek. “How’s yours?” he asks suddenly, voice a gentle rasp, breaking Jimin out of his reverie. “Dessert, I mean.”
The last of Jimin’s sorbet is beginning to melt. “It’s nice, hyung, thank you.”
Yoongi quirks his lip, but his nose scrunches in distaste. “Isn’t it sour?”
The look on his face, dramatic and perplexed, has Jimin rolling his eyes through a smile. Jimin picks up his spoon and takes another bite, Yoongi’s eyes burning into the side of his face, and his eyelashes flutter as the cold ice soothes away the sharp tingle of his tongue, the tangy flavour sitting light at the back of his mouth. It’s a momentary calm, the coolness of it a reminder of where they are, that even being so close might be too fast. “Bittersweet,” Jimin corrects as he swallows, turning his face back with a small grin. “You should—”
He’s cut off from saying anything further when Yoongi’s lips press against his, a soft and barely-there touch that still manages to have Jimin’s breath catch in his throat, make him forget whatever it is he wanted to say. Yoongi’s fingers ghost over the skin on the underside of Jimin’s jaw, drying pineapple juice making his skin slightly sticky, and his grip on Jimin’s hand tightens. It’s enough pressure to hurt, just a little.
“Okay?” Yoongi asks, quiet and sweet and soft.
Jimin’s hand smooths up Yoongi’s arm, his palm resting flat on the juncture of Yoongi’s neck. “Okay.”
The kiss is slow, careful, Yoongi’s breath warm on Jimin’s cheek, his lips gentle against Jimin’s mouth. It’s a kiss where they have nothing to prove, no desperation to explore. It’s a reunion, a sweet reminder that they’ve found each other again, and it’s as easy as it was the first time, and the second and the third, and every time after that.
Yoongi’s kisses are tender, coaxing, like he wants to take his time. He kisses Jimin like he’s been waiting to do so since they last stopped. The taste of mango is sweet on his lips, and Jimin chases the heaviness of it until it disappears, until all he can taste is warmth and fire and Yoongi.
Jimin thinks—knows that he could kiss Yoongi forever. Kissing strangers is one thing, but kissing Yoongi is one of his favourite things in the world, to feel the closeness of their bodies, the echo of his own heartbeat beneath Yoongi’s ribs. Within a span of moments, Jimin relives every previous kiss they’d shared, every touch of their mouths and their hands, and thinks nothing they had then could compare to now, to this.
He feels Yoongi’s pulse jump beneath his thumb.
The kitchen door swings open and someone shouts an order, and Jimin and Yoongi pull apart with quiet exhales. Yoongi’s hand falls from Jimin’s face to his thigh, fingers squeezing lightly, and he tilts his head so that his eyelashes brush against Jimin’s cheek.
Jimin’s heart beats wildly in his chest, thunderous. Oh God, he thinks, please let this last.
“Fuck,” Yoongi breathes out, a quiet murmur as his lips graze over Jimin’s skin, damp and shining. “I forgot how good it felt to kiss you.”
Blushing furiously, Jimin makes a strangled sound, tightening his grip on Yoongi’s shoulder.
“You ass,” Jimin hisses without any bite, and narrows his eyes when Yoongi grins. “You can’t just say that.”
Yoongi presses a quick kiss to Jimin’s mouth before he pulls away completely, expression tender, like he can’t quite believe they’re here. “We should go.”
Still flushed, Jimin nods. “Alright, hyung.”
When Yoongi leaves to wash his hands, Jimin leans back against the seat and rests his hands over his chest, as if the added pressure will steady his heart. He feels impossibly elated and terrified all at once. There’s no doubt that they want this, that they’re both here for more, and it feels like every hope that Jimin left aside so he could try and move on comes back full force, eager and waiting and as fresh as the day he thought of every possible future he and Yoongi could share together.
Yoongi pays despite Jimin’s protests and leads Jimin out of the restaurant with an arm curled around his waist. They weave through the evening crowd with ease despite being pressed so close to each other, effortlessly navigating through the streets in a way telling of how long they’ve lived in Seoul.
Beneath the neon lights of shops and flickering yellow bulbs, Yoongi looks ethereal, as if the city has given him a piece of its heart to carry around in his chest.
Overwhelmed, Jimin’s steps falter, and Yoongi stumbles to a stop beside him.
“Jimin?” Instead of replying, Jimin steps forward to press his face into the juncture of Yoongi’s neck, breathing slow. He can hear the rush of his own blood, can feel the gentle thrum of Yoongi’s pulse, and grounds himself in it, tethers himself back to earth, forms roots in the fields of Yoongi’s soul and allows his feelings to bloom. Yoongi’s arms automatically lock around his waist, and after a moment, he clicks his tongue. “I haven’t even asked you out yet.”
Despite the mess of thoughts circulating through Jimin’s mind, he doesn’t hesitate. He pulls back just enough that his lips brush against Yoongi’s as he opens his mouth to reply, feels the creases of Yoongi’s pout against his bottom lip, eyes crinkling when Yoongi makes a strangled sound, hands curling lightly over the collar of Yoongi’s jacket when Yoongi pulls him closer.
Hidden away in the shadows of a quiet street corner, their mouths work over each other, unhurried and slow. They only stop kissing because Jimin’s smiling too much to continue.
“Who says I want you to?”
It takes a moment for Yoongi to reply, eyes focused on Jimin’s lips before his head snaps up. “Excuse me?”
“I know what you said,” Yoongi says, affronted. “I don’t just take any pretty boy out to dinner, you know?”
Jimin pulls his bottom lip between his teeth, releasing it slowly. He feels the hitch of Yoongi’s breath in his own chest. “You think I’m pretty?”
“Park Jimin,” Yoongi says, and there’s a wry grin on his lips and Jimin’s teasing hasn’t fooled him for a moment, but his voice is startlingly honest. “You’re the prettiest person I know.”
Jimin purses his lips. “You didn’t even dress up.”
When Yoongi kisses him, it’s only half to shut him up. “Next time.”
Pleased and flustered and touched all at once, Jimin smiles, feels all the wonderful nerves of a first date and the gentle comfort of a lost love found as he says, “There’ll be a next time, then?”
Yoongi sighs, voice quiet, “I hope so.”
He says it like a confession, something so secret that Yoongi isn’t ready to share with the universe just yet. Jimin presses a kiss to his mouth, his cheek, the corner of his eye.
It’s promise enough.
Cherry blossoms have started to bloom and the air carries warmth, and Jimin comes home one afternoon to find Taehyung repainting his bedroom wall. The once blank cream canvas is now the beginnings of something big and blue, and there’s music floating gently through the small speakers Taehyung keeps on the windowsill. As Jimin continues to listen, it becomes clear that his playlist is a mix of jazz and soul and lofi, and he can’t help the sudden urge he gets to laugh when he thinks of how quintessentially Taehyung it is.
“Jimin-ah,” Taehyung greets happily, a streak of white paint on his cheek, “hi.”
Jimin smiles and drops his bag in the doorway, scrunching his nose in hello. Dust sheets cover the floor and the furniture and everything is pushed to one side of the room, the window open to let the air filter out the smell.
“Just because?” Jimin asks, eyes flickering back to the wall.
“Just because.” Taehyung nods, and then smiles down at him. “Join me?”
And Jimin, because it’s Taehyung, because that will always be reason enough, does.
The problem though, when Jimin and Taehyung attempt to something together, is that it very rarely goes smoothly. It’s not that they don’t get the job done, it’s just that it takes them time, often too caught up in each other to remember what they have to do. When it counts, they’ll be scarily efficient, but that doesn’t happen often. They alternate between painting and eating snacks, singing ballads to each other and dancing so recklessly that paint splatters against their skin. Jimin laughs so hard he cries, and Taehyung is red-faced is giggling, and everything feels impossibly light.
Taehyung always seems to know what Jimin needs. Sometimes, it’s a gentle and steady presence, unwavering support and a quiet understanding that really means ‘it’s alright, take your time. It’ll be okay.’ Times like these, when work is piled high and Jimin feels overwhelmed, it’s joy and laughter so loud that Jimin forgets what was worrying him in the first place.
Jimin likes to think he met himself in Taehyung, likes to think maybe Taehyung met a part of himself in Jimin, too.
The afternoon passes quickly, and they find themselves sat together on the floor watching thick streaks of paint dry, Taehyung’s head on Jimin’s shoulder. They’d managed to get a second layer on, smoothing out the texture of the wall, and the colour looks beautiful in the soft light of the sun. When Jimin thinks of Taehyung in colours, he thinks of golds and purples and greens, but the blue in his room is more fitting than anything Jimin has pictured before. He presses a soft kiss to Taehyung’s hair.
“We should shower,” Jimin says eventually, inspecting his stained hands.
“Probably,” Taehyung agrees, but makes no move to get up. “Wash our clothes, too.”
Jimin does a doubletake and then groans, falling back onto the ground, and can only huff out a breath of laughter when Taehyung falls back into him, tucking his face beneath Jimin’s jaw. “These are some of my favourite jeans,” he says, and Taehyung hums sympathetically and pats his thigh.
Having come straight from class, Jimin eats and watches an anime he’s been keeping up with, twirling ramen around his fork, while Taehyung showers. It takes Taehyung longer than usual to get ready, and Jimin is halfway through the second episode of the season when Taehyung finally walks into the hallway, dressed nicely.
“Going out?” Jimin asks, not too disappointed. Though quiet by nature, Jimin isn’t too keen on being alone, but having spent a warm and loud afternoon together has left him feeling content.
Taehyung hums, and then grins. “Do you want to come?” Taehyung asks as he pulls on a tan overcoat.
Jimin shakes his head and stands, pinches the skin beneath Taehyung’s chin and then runs his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, taming the stray strands into order. “I’m good.”
“Are you, really?” Taehyung is suddenly serious, his gaze suddenly heavy. It’s a stark contrast to how he’d been only moments earlier, and Jimin knows not to take his question lightly. “Are you happy?”
“Yes,” Jimin says, quietly, pressing their foreheads together. “I promise.”
They say one hundred things to each other in a handful of words.
Taehyung leaves soon after, and in the silence of the apartment, Jimin decides to run a bath. As the tub fills with water, he pours a capful of peppermint bath-soak to soothe his muscles, tense from a morning spent at practice. On a whim, he also drops one of the bathbombs Taehyung keeps into the tub, a habit he’d picked up from Yoongi, and watches the water turn opaque, the colour a beautiful mix of purple and pink.
When the room is lightly filled with steam, Jimin lowers himself into the tub with a groan, his clothes piled by the bathmat. There’s music playing from his room, just loud enough for it to add some gentle noise in the relative quiet, and Jimin holds his moleskin over the edge of the bath, flicking through the notes he’d made for his dance class. He’s only been in the water for ten minutes when there’s the sound of a key turning in the lock. Jimin glances up but remains relatively unbothered, knows it’ll most likely be Hoseok as Taehyung had only left a half hour earlier. “I’m just in the bath,” he calls, attention already returning to his notebook. He can hear the thump of several bags on the kitchen table.
“Is that how you greet everyone?”
Jimin startles, book falling from his hands, as he looks up to see Yoongi stood in the doorway, an indecipherable expression on his face. “Hyung—”
The thin line of Yoongi’s lips disappears into a grin as he steps forward, shouldering off his light-blue denim jacket as he takes a seat on the floor, crossing his legs on Jimin’s pale yellow bathmat. “Jimin.”
“You scared me, hyung,” Jimin says, pressing himself a little closer to the side of the tub and resting his head on his arms. “How did you get in?”
“Taehyung came over,” Yoongi says gently, “I took his key.”
Jimin hums and then purses his lips in a silent demand, and Yoongi obliges easily. He cups Jimin’s cheek in his palm and kisses him, mouth cold and soft, a smile playing on his lips as he does.
“Hi,” Jimin says as he pulls away, their noses brushing.
Yoongi kisses Jimin again, slower, sweeter. “Hi.”
Jimin opens his eyes a second before Yoongi does, and he watches the flutter of Yoongi’s eyelashes, how he presses his lips together and the corner of his mouth twitches. Yoongi’s beautiful; he’s so beautiful that Jimin feels his heart ache with it, watches him and feels honey trickle through his blood.
“Why is your cheek blue?” Yoongi asks suddenly, amused, his thumb brushing over the dry patch of paint beneath Jimin’s eye.
Jimin lifts one shoulder as he smiles. “We were painting Tae’s bedroom.”
Yoongi rolls as his eyes as he stands. He picks up a small towel by the sink and when Jimin confirms it’s his, sits back down and soaks it in the bathwater. Then, gently, he begins to scrub Jimin’s face. He keeps his touch gentle, using one hand to steady Jimin’s face by cupping his jaw, gaze slightly narrowed in concentration.
Jimin traces the outline of Yoongi’s face with his eyes, the tiny cupids bow of Yoongi’s slightly swollen mouth and the soft curve of his jaw, doesn’t realise he’s smiling until Yoongi pulls the towel away and lightly pinches his cheek.
Water ripples around Jimin’s chest as he shifts.
Yoongi’s eyes are patient, fond, as Jimin lifts his hand to trail his fingers down Yoongi’s face, over the apple of his cheek and the corner of his mouth, index finger catching and dragging on the skin of Yoongi’s lower lip. Jimin’s gaze flickers back up to Yoongi’s, and there’s a hundred thoughts racing through his mind, but there’s only one he cares about.
Yoongi understands, because he always does, and leans forward wordlessly.
Their kisses are as soft as sighs, short and yet lingering, chaste and yet impossibly stirring. And then Yoongi moves closer, and the angle changes, and he traces his tongue over Jimin’s lip, warm and heavy, and Jimin feels a restless fire raging beneath his skin as Yoongi swallows every hitch of his breath. When Jimin’s lips finally part, falling open just enough to catch Yoongi’s bottom lip between his own, it’s too much and not enough. Their mouths move against each other, and the kiss turns into teeth and tongue and it’s too much—it’s too much and Jimin can’t breathe. He thinks he’ll die if they keep going, thinks he’ll die if they stop.
It takes them some time to pull apart, and only then because Jimin knows how uncomfortable it must be for Yoongi to be sat as he is, because he wants so desperately and that’s the exact reason why he can’t have. He can’t help but press his thumb against Yoongi’s mouth though, spit-slick and shining, and then press that same thumb against the cushion of his own lips.
“How was your day?” Jimin asks, voice shaking as he tries to catch his breath.
“Long,” Yoongi admits, and though the side of the bathtub digs into his chest, he leans forward to tuck his nose into the nape of Jimin’s neck. Jimin can feel the soft pants of Yoongi’s exhales against his damp skin. “Tiring.”
Jimin tilts his head, exposing more of his skin as Yoongi presses absent kisses to the juncture of his jaw, as if he’s trying to steady himself but can’t help wanting to touch Jimin in some way. It’s amazing, how wanted Yoongi can make Jimin feel, desired in a way no one has ever been able to. He closes his eyes and doesn’t try to muffle the soft sounds that Yoongi draws for him, lets Yoongi hear how breathless Jimin is, how Jimin can feel the echo of Yoongi’s want in his own blood. He can’t help the small noise of displeasure he makes when Yoongi pulls back, pursing his lips when Yoongi shakes his head, a flush on Yoongi’s cheeks like he’s embarrassed, like he knows and he wants but he won’t.
Glancing away to steady himself, to break the heavy gaze Jimin tracks him with, Yoongi picks up the moleskin Jimin had dropped earlier.
Jimin follows the way the pages graze against the pad of Yoongi’s fingers. “But don’t you have fewer classes?”
“Yeah, no, Namjoon and I stayed up late in the studio. We got caught up in—” Yoongi waves his hand in the air but keeps his eyes focused on Jimin’s notes, a small pout on his lips as he reads, and his voice is finally steadying, chest no longer heaving. “Something.”
Jimin frowns, this time for another reason entirely, and reaches out to poke between Yoongi’s eyebrows, trail his finger down the curve of Yoongi’s nose. “Don’t work too hard, hyung.”
Yoongi glances up him.
“Just,” Yoongi grins, “you’re one of the hardest workers I know.”
Jimin flushes, feels it spread down to his chest when Yoongi leans forward and kisses him, quick and tender.
“You’re presenting on Tuesday, right?” Yoongi asks as he pulls back, taps his fingers onto the hardcover of Jimin’s book.
“In the morning,” Jimin confirms as he sits up, crossing his legs in the water, and begins to roll his head to ease the tension in his neck. “I’m excited, actually.”
Yoongi smiles, and there’s something terribly soft in it. “Good, I’m glad.”
Last year had been hard for Jimin. He’d struggled a lot beneath the weight of self-imposed expectations, taking comments on like criticisms they weren’t. Dance, something Jimin always found solace in, became this thing he loved and dreaded. To be at a place now, where he can still dedicate himself to his work but take time to enjoy it, too, is a massive achievement. He knows Yoongi’s proud of him, knows that all his friends are, but Jimin’s prouder.
Hiding a yawn behind his hand, Jimin reaches out to the towelled bathrobe hanging behind the door and murmurs a quiet thank you when Yoongi stands to get it for him. He bites the inside of his cheek when Yoongi waits for him to put it on without turning away, eyebrows raised and something teasing undoubtedly trapped beneath his tongue. Jimin can’t help his laughter when, the moment both of his feet land on the bathmat, Yoongi curls his hands lightly around Jimin’s neck, and peppers his face in featherlight, adoring kisses.
It’s dark outside when Hoseok comes home.
Jimin and Yoongi are curled up on the sofa, the apartment warm and the television playing an old film, and the smell of freshly-made kimchi stew lingers in the air. One of Yoongi’s hands is carding through Jimin’s hair, the other submerged in a bowl of half-eaten popcorn, and Jimin’s head is on his chest.
Hoseok helps himself to a serving of food and joins them, pulling Jimin’s feet onto his lap. Jimin falls asleep to two of his best friends speaking quietly over him, the steady beat of Yoongi’s heart beneath his ear and a late summer warmth blooming in his chest.
It’s different in all the ways it isn’t. Whatever Jimin and Yoongi shared before, the months of intimacy followed by years of friendship, pale in comparison to what they have now, and yet none of the initial euphoria fades.
When Yoongi visits Jimin in the library to distract him from work with soft kisses and softer smiles, muffles Jimin’s laughter in the cup of his palm as he presses teasing kisses to Jimin’s cheeks and the skin of his neck, Jimin doesn’t expect to feel as flustered as he does. When Jimin takes Yoongi out on impromptu dates and kisses him in the hallway of his apartment, he doesn’t expect to feel that same heavy warmth as he did the very first time Yoongi had curled his hand around the back of Jimin’s neck and asked him to stay the night.
The jumper that was once Jimin’s becomes Yoongi’s again, and Taehyung and Hoseok get used to waking up on Sunday mornings to find them drinking coffee together in the kitchen. They mark each other’s skin in vivid watercolour, violet and fuchsia and bloodied red, and Jimin carries a garden of Yoongi’s hands and lips on his ribs and thighs and feels something thrilling, something comforting, all at once.
People tend to associate relationships with seasons, and Jimin had never understood why until Yoongi. Being with him is the startling honesty of winter and the kindness of spring, the passion and heat and want of an everlasting summer, and the gentle way that autumn feels like coming home.
And perhaps it means something that their bodies still seem to know each other, Yoongi’s hand finding its way to the small of Jimin’s back when they kiss, Jimin’s teeth dragging over the juncture of Yoongi’s neck when they fuck, but they’re too caught up in each other to care.
Nothing changes, and nothing is the same. Yoongi might not yet love him back, but as the days pass, it feels like something close.
Jimin is sat on one of many benches dotted around campus, his bags at his feet and the ends of his hair still damp from the shower he’d taken after an early morning practice. The sun hasn’t been in the sky for long and cold wind nips at Jimin’s cheeks, the tips of his fingers. He tilts his head back and watches the beautiful saturated blue of the day creep into the sky in the horizon.
There are some students rushing around, final years trying to log in a few more hours of work and freshmen hurrying to print out their assignments last minute. Even in the haziness of the morning, Yoongi stands out.
Jimin catches his figure approaching from the direction of the music department, and rolls his head to the side, waits for Yoongi to notice him. It only takes a moment, and then Yoongi looks up from the pavement, one earphone hanging over the lapel of his coat and backpack on his shoulders. The bottoms of Yoongi’s blue jeans are rolled up and his converse are old and scuffed, authentic, and he looks like such a cliché that Jimin’s smile turns into a grin.
“You’re such a cliché,” Jimin says out loud when Yoongi’s close enough to hear. “Striving artist for sure.”
“Starving artist,” Yoongi corrects, and then pulls down the black mask covering his mouth to press a quick, chaste kiss to Jimin’s lips. “Morning.”
Jimin huffs out a breath of laughter at how proud Yoongi looks with his own joke, rolls his eyes as he reaches out to hold Yoongi’s hand, locking their fingers and feeling the cold metal of Yoongi’s rings against his skin. One of them is a gift from Taehyung, another a gift from Yoongi’s mother, and the last—the last is a gift from Jimin himself, a plain and simple silver band that has the coordinates for Yoongi’s natal chart engraved inside.
He tugs Yoongi down for another kiss and hums when he feels Yoongi smile. “Breakfast?” Jimin asks, pulling away to stand so he can pick up his bags.
Yoongi nods. “I could eat.”
They walk to a nearby café, and Yoongi orders something light because he’s been up most of the night, but Jimin is only just starting his day and whatever energy the fruit he’d eaten earlier provided has been wholly spent. When their drinks are in front of them, Jimin rests his head on the cup of his palm and uses his free hand to toy with Yoongi’s fingers, runs the blunt edges of his nails over the valley of Yoongi’s knuckles and the green-blue streams of his veins.
An age-old habit, Jimin twists the rings on Yoongi’s hand so that the gems and the engravings are all neatly facing upwards.
As they eat, Jimin is content to listen to Yoongi talk about his work. It’s nothing Jimin doesn’t already know, not really, but he doesn’t mind hearing it all again. What’s important is that he’s here, that they’re both here, stealing a pocket of time with each other that they don’t necessarily have to spare.
The morning passes quicker than they realise, and Jimin eventually needs to leave for class. Yoongi walks him across campus because he’s unashamedly sweet, and promises to see him later, keeping their kiss purposefully chaste when Jimin tries to deepen it.
He works through his lectures with focus and meets with his friends for lunch in between the madness. He even manages to see Taehyung in their overlapping anatomy and physiology class, and where he spends most of it writing his notes, Taehyung sits back in his seat with casual indifference. Jimin knows he’s probably retaining the information better than anyone else in the room. He doesn’t expect to see Yoongi waiting for him when he walks out of his last lecture, standing in the hallway with two white cups of coffee, the jeans from earlier replaced by black, skin-tight trousers, a subtle change to his appearance and yet somehow making an impossible difference. Jimin takes a few steps, a few slow breathes, trying to calm the irrational stutter of his heart, cups Yoongi’s face between his palms, and kisses him.
Yoongi’s voice is a sweet and welcome rasp. “You free?”
Jimin thinks of the work he wants to get done, the head-start he wants to make on some of his lectures, the laundry he’d like to put in the wash and how it’s probably time to clean his room. He thinks of Yoongi, standing here with coffee in his hand and a sweet smile on his face.
“Yeah,” Jimin says quietly, “I am.”
There’s a spring market in town.
Jimin drops his bags off at his apartment and they catch the metro to the outer city, where stalls are spread out into the street and spill into the park. The air carries the smell of salted popcorn and the sweetness of sugary treats, heavy and so powerful that Jimin feels it on the tip of his tongue. He stands by the entrance and takes it all in, the lanterns and the music and the lights, and then catches sight of Yoongi, clear and beautiful and more stunning than anything else around them.
“Happy?” Yoongi asks, taking a step towards him.
Jimin immediately reaches out to hold his hand. “Yes.”
Yoongi lifts their joined hands to press a kiss to the back of Jimin’s palm, lips resting lightly over the small curves of Jimin’s veins before he pulls away.
Heart caught in his throat, Jimin turns, leading Yoongi further into the crowd. “So,” he says, eyes narrowing as he looks around, “what are you getting me?”
Yoongi lets out a sharp bark of laughter even as he follows. “Why do I have to get you anything?”
“It’s a date, hyung,” Jimin teases. “You brought me out, so you pay.”
“I didn’t think taking you out would be so expensive.” It’s not a real complaint, but Jimin stops walking to purse his lips at Yoongi anyway. They both know that there’s very little Yoongi will deny him, and Jimin very rarely exploits that, but sometimes the situation calls for it. Yoongi takes in Jimin’s wide eyes, the swell of his bottom lip, and rolls his eyes. “I hate you.”
Jimin grins, shaking his head as he moves to press a quick kiss to Yoongi’s nose. “Not even a little bit.”
Yoongi’s in the mood for kimbap, and they order a portion to share with some spicy kimchi, walking around as they eat and trying to avoid staining their fingers with sauce. The crowd is a comfortable size, early evening and the middle of a working week meaning that people won’t be rushing in until a little later. It’s hard to believe they’re in one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Beneath the fluorescent lights, their skin coloured a mix of oranges and pinks, Jimin looks at Yoongi and feels an incomprehensible amount of love.
“I want kkultarae,” Jimin says suddenly, but his voice comes out like a quiet rasp, overcome.
“What do you not want from me?” Yoongi teases, but he hasn’t once let go of Jimin’s hand, save for when they were eating, and he pulls Jimin to stand with him in the small queue.
As they wait, Jimin presses as close as he can to Yoongi’s back. Lips still wet from where he’d run his tongue over them, he presses a soft kiss behind Yoongi’s ear, hiding his grin against Yoongi’s shoulder when he feels Yoongi’s breath hitch.
“You’re the worst.”
Jimin laughs, because he can’t help it. “You flatter me, hyung.”
Yoongi chooses a small box of six fresh kkultarae and holds it open for Jimin to take one of the pink desserts, a hardened square of finely spun honey filled with peanuts and pistachios. It’s fragrant and light, and Jimin breaks the still-warm sweet in half and holds it up for Yoongi to take from his fingers.
He bites down on his bottom lip in a poor effort to control his smile when Yoongi’s breath grazes his skin, eating directly from his hand.
Jimin waits until Yoongi’s finished the mouthful before he curls a hand around the back of Yoongi’s neck and kisses him, soft and long and lingering. Their lips part against each other’s easily, and Yoongi’s tongue is heavy and warm in Jimin’s mouth, movements careful and slow, his free hand resting on the curve of Jimin’s shoulder. It’s a kiss that says a hundred things between each slight shift and takes away all coherent thought at the same time.
Yoongi’s thumb presses against the mole on Jimin’s collarbone. There’s an invisible bruise over it, left by Yoongi’s teeth and tongue, that never really fades from Jimin’s skin.
They’re hidden away in a makeshift alley created by surrounding tents, and all Jimin can hear is the rush of his own blood, the hitch of Yoongi’s breath. I love you, Jimin thinks, I love you, between kisses and heaving breaths, I love you, he mouths against the swell of Yoongi’s lower lip. One day, he’ll be brave enough to say it out loud.
Jimin feels warmth coil around his core.
The end of April brings a lull in work, assignments waiting to be graded as professors are caught up with graduating students and their final projects. The sun is beautiful and seemingly ever-present, the days longer and the nights warmer.
Yoongi’s graduating this year, the only one of their friends who is, and there’s a job at a fantastic record company that he interned with waiting for him the moment he qualifies. With his work for this semester almost finished, Yoongi’s taking time to focus on his own music before he gets caught up with everything else.
Once assignment week is over, the music department rents out the campus studios; Namjoon and Yoongi have rented the same space out so often it’s unofficially theirs. Jimin finds himself headed there on a late Thursday afternoon with an iced coffee, extra-large, in one hand and a brown paper bag of pastries in the other. He bows his head in thanks when a student holds the door open for him as they leave, and makes his way up two flights of stairs, the layout familiar to him. There are eight small rooms along the corridor, and Jimin only knocks twice on the door of the one at the end before he uses his elbow to push the handle down.
Yoongi is sat with his back to the door and his headphones on, his laptop plugged into some of the equipment and his hands hovering above a MIDI. There’s a strange tension through the line of his shoulders, though, and as Jimin puts everything down on the small coffee table he realises Yoongi’s fingers are trembling.
“Hyung?” Jimin calls out, tentative.
When Yoongi turns around, Jimin realises, with startling clarity, that this is one of the bad days.
Sometimes, Yoongi will go through periods where he’s quiet and sad and full of something that manifests as rage but isn’t. They don’t happen often, not anymore, but Jimin has seen them come around. The bad days are even rarer, they’re unexpected and inconsistent, and they scare Yoongi more than anything else. It’s a stark reminder of how deeply he can become lost in himself.
Jimin thinks of late January and a long night out, of falling asleep to Yoongi’s gentle breath on his pillow, of each single time he’s wanted someone there and someone always ended up being Yoongi. He thinks of being too young to know and wanting to help anyway, of taking hands too large in his own and kissing bruised knuckles until Yoongi’s breath evened out with sleep.
Yoongi has always helped Jimin through the worst of things, and Jimin has tried to help Yoongi through his. Today won’t be any different.
“Hi hyung,” Jimin says softly, walking forward to stand between Yoongi’s legs. He doesn’t touch him, not yet.
Yoongi’s expression flickers, but it takes him a while to respond. “Hi.”
“I thought I’d surprise you,” Jimin says, tilting his head to the side, keeps himself from reaching out despite how desperately he wants to. “You look tired.”
“I am,” Yoongi snaps, but his expression immediately morphs into something apologetic, and he looks away, embarrassed. “Sorry.”
Jimin clicks his tongue, and before he can help himself, pushes Yoongi’s chin up with the back of his thumb.
“I know,” Jimin says quietly, so much more than an acknowledgement of Yoongi’s apology. “I know that.”
It’s an echo of words so often said between them that Jimin wonders if there’s anything that he wouldn’t know about Yoongi, if there’s anything Yoongi wouldn’t know about him. Yoongi sighs when their eyes meet and manages a slight nod.
Jimin takes it for the permission that it is, and bends to press a soft kiss to Yoongi’s brow bone, feels the hairs of Yoongi’s left eyebrow tickle his lips. He stays like that until he hears Yoongi breathe out a quiet sigh, and then moves his mouth to Yoongi’s cheekbones, the swell of his cheek, the corner of his lips.
They’ve shared so many words, so many late nights spent talking to each other when they’re too tired to keep their eyes open, so many afternoons spent laughing over work and food. They’ve shared so many silences, too, the quiet and steady presence of unwavering and unconditional support: Yoongi falling asleep in the library while Jimin studies, Jimin watching things on his phone while Yoongi works on his music. Touch, though, is another thing entirely, and it brings them out of themselves and into each other.
Jimin can feel discomfort creep up his back, but he doesn’t care to move, not when each lingering press of his lips helps Yoongi breathe a little easier. He doesn’t expect Yoongi’s cold fingers to curl around his wrist, a gentle tug pulling him closer. The only place Jimin can go is Yoongi’s lap, and he doesn’t hesitate to sit down, knees bending on either side of Yoongi’s hips and feet hanging off the chair. He’s sat like this before, knows it won’t break beneath their weight.
The moment Jimin settles, Yoongi tucks his head into the nape of Jimin’s neck and takes several deep, shuddering breaths, his shaking hands curled tightly around the hem of Jimin’s shirt. Jimin can do nothing but hold him close and tight, heart aching so much he wants to carve it out of his chest, make a hole for Yoongi to hide in instead.
Jimin presses his lips to Yoongi’s hair and breathes him in.
“Yoongi,” Jimin says, soft and sweet and sad, “jagiya.”
There’s not a sliver of space between them. Jimin can feel the hitch of Yoongi’s breath as clearly as he can hear it. Jimin says Yoongi’s name over and over, calls him darling and sweetheart and love with one hand smoothing up and down Yoongi’s back and the other tangled through the strands of his pale hair.
When Yoongi pulls back, Jimin cups his cheeks and catches the heavy clumps of tears clinging to Yoongi’s eyelashes with his thumb. And when Yoongi’s mouth quivers, Jimin kisses him. Not because he doesn’t know the right thing to say, the right thing to do, but because Yoongi hates crying. So, Jimin will close his eyes and press their mouths together, gently, slowly, and pretend he can’t feel saltwater gather by his lips.
The world is bright outside and Jimin wants to fill Yoongi with warmth.
The good days are more frequent than not, and the past weeks have been kind to them, but it’s here, in the moments where things are hard and no words will ever be appropriate enough to explain how or why they feel like they do, that matter most. That Yoongi is here and Jimin is with him, that even through the worst of it they can find a way to be, is something Jimin will never take for granted. Jimin loves Yoongi with the best and deepest and most honest parts of himself. Yoongi kisses Jimin like maybe he could love him back.
Jeongguk's head is on Jimin’s thigh, and Jimin’s fingers are running through his hair. It’s been a few days since Yoongi’s been unwell and everyone’s done their best to give him space, aside from Jimin and Taehyung.
“Ah,” Jimin says, smiling down at Jeongguk, “I think he’s getting better.”
Jeongguk purses his lips, always far more concerned than he lets on. “Really?”
“Yes, really.” Jimin pinches Jeongguk's cheek. “You can go see him, you know.”
If Yoongi weren’t so sad, he’d need noise and laughter and the reminder that his friends were there, were waiting for him to be okay again, and that he could take his time. This is different, everyone is more hesitant, more cautious. Jimin thinks it’d be nice, though, for Yoongi to see Jeongguk.
Jeongguk hums thoughtfully. He loves and admires Yoongi differently than he does the rest of them, and Yoongi loves him in his own, quietly tremendous way. They’re silent for a little while, content to just be, having spent the afternoon out on an impromptu date. Jimin occasionally tries to treat Jeongguk out, and Jeongguk does his best to see how many people he can convince that they’re a couple. It’s a game they’ve been playing for years, one that Taehyung sometimes gets involved in, and it always ends up with them competing and keeping tally.
“What’s it like,” Jeongguk asks suddenly, “dating hyung?”
Jimin startles, looking back down at him. “There are…so many ways I could interpret that, you know that, right?”
“No,” Jeongguk says with a roll of his eyes. “I mean, like—” He cuts himself off with a sigh, and Jimin waits patiently. “What changed?”
“I guess,” Jimin begins, hesitant. “Ihe’s one of my best friends, and then that didn’t feel like enough.” Jimin shrugs, and the words come easier to him, if not a little quicker. “For me, at least, I just—I knew that I wanted him to be more.”
“Do you love him?” Jeongguk asks, always straight to the point, but his voice is uncharacteristically gentle. “Do you love Yoongi hyung?”
“Yes,” Jimin confesses easily, quiet as his shoulders sag, “I do.”
Jeongguk clearly wasn’t expecting Jimin to answer so honestly, without any hesitation. He pushes himself up to sit cross-legged, knees digging into Jimin’s thigh, and it’s quiet for a few moments before he asks, “how long?”
It shouldn’t be surprising that Jeongguk knows the right thing to ask, already has Jimin figured out in a span of seconds.
“For a little while,” Jimin says, “for years.” He cups Jeongguk's face with a soft sigh when the younger visibly falters. “I never told him, Jeongguk, and I still haven’t.” Jimin swallows around a sudden lump in his throat. “And neither of those things mean that he has to love me back.”
The moment the word’s leave Jimin’s mouth, he regrets them, because Jeongguk's face twists into something sad. It’s not pity, rather it’s a mix of regret and guilt, for not knowing, for not being able to help.
“You were just going to wait?” He asks, sounding suddenly and impossibly young. “For him to—for—”
Jimin shakes his head, and his hands move down to Jeongguk's shoulders, resting above his elbows. “I wasn’t waiting, not really.”
The thing is, Jimin’s being completely honest; he didn’t expect Yoongi to love him back, and he wasn’t waiting around for it. He knows that Yoongi must like him, and he knows for definite that Yoongi cares for him, but this is new to them both. To move on from what they are and what they were, to becoming something that they’d never really spoken about before.
“Is it hard?” Jeongguk asks quietly. “Waiting for him to love you? When days are like this?”
“Never.” Jimin squeezes Jeongguk's arms gently, smiling. “Are you worried for your hyungs?”
“I just want you to be happy,” Jeongguk says, earnest and sweet, “both of you. And I really hope that it’s with each other.”
There’s nothing that Jimin can say to that, that he can say at all, that will be able to fully express just how much that means to hear, how reassuring and supportive and kind.
“Thank you,” Jimin finally says, pulling Jeongguk in an embrace he hardly tries to resist. “I do, too.”
When Jimin glances at the lockscreen of his phone, a recent selfie that he’d taken with Yoongi, he thinks they might have a good chance.
Falling in love can take months. It can take years.
Jimin had only realised the extent of his feelings for Yoongi after they’d broken up, for lack of a better phrase, and even then, it had taken its time to settle into his soul. For years, Jimin has learnt how to love Yoongi, and how to hide it.
So, he knows that it’s not fair for him to expect Yoongi to confess anything, not when they’re only a handful of months into their relationship. The problem is that he’s not sure what’s changed between them. He certainly hasn’t, but he can’t see any way in which Yoongi has, either.
They still reach for each other around their friends, but they did before they started dating, too. They still seek comfort on hard days and harder nights, still go to each other for brutal honesty that no one else will provide. Yoongi cares for him, and Jimin can’t deny it, in the same way he can’t deny that Yoongi loves Taehyung and Namjoon more than he’d ever admit to, and only ever feels completely at peace around Hoseok because Hoseok’s the only person Yoongi has never felt the need to impress.
But, aside from kisses that linger, touches that last, everything is the same.
And maybe Jimin should be happy, maybe he should take comfort in such easy familiarity with someone that means more than they have any right to, but it’s hard. It’s hard, because he has no idea what Yoongi wants from him. He trusts Yoongi, and he trusts Yoongi with himself, but it’s scary to be at different stages in one relationship. He’s not quite sure what he’ll do if Yoongi rejects his love, if something comes between them that breaks them apart.
Jimin wouldn’t just lose Yoongi as a lover, but as a best friend.
He doesn’t want to rush Yoongi, or himself, and he hopes that they have time to talk about this. But the reality is, Jimin doesn’t know what’s going to happen to them, and he’s scared, because as the days pass and he’s allowed to see all the parts of Yoongi that he’s grown to love come together just for him, he doesn’t know what he’ll do if it doesn’t work out.
It’s different, to wait when there’s finally a chance.
Falling in love can take a lifetime, and Jimin just hopes that they can see it through, together.
Flowers are in full bloom, and Jimin has done his best to fill their apartment with as many blossoms and buds as he can. Coming home to see petals of pink and purple and yellow scattered on the countertops and on the floor, carried by the gentle summer breeze through the open windows, fills Jimin with an impossible warmth. It’s been a few days since everyone came over for their Friday night tradition, Jimin and Taehyung’s turn to host, and they’d spent the evening watching films, eating pizza, and playing board games. Yoongi’s absence had been startlingly obvious.
A couple of weeks have passed since Jimin found him in the studio, but the melancholia had gone as quickly as it’d come, and Jimin can’t think of any reason that Yoongi’s been as distant as he has. Aside from Hoseok and Namjoon, none of them have really seen him around, and Jimin’s texts have gone relatively unanswered and their late-night phonecalls are distressingly infrequent. Despite all pretences, it’s not like Yoongi to be so unreachable. Even if it’s one person, he’ll always text to make sure that everyone knows he’s okay, more so when he’s been through a bad period. It worries Jimin, causes something strange to settle on his chest, and so he’s more than a little surprised when he catches sight of Yoongi waiting for him outside the dance studio, scrolling through something on his phone.
“Hyung?” Jimin hazards, and when Yoongi looks up, Jimin is struck by just how much he’s missed Yoongi, how much he loves him.
Yoongi scratches the side of his nose, and watches Jimin walk down the small stone steps towards him as he pockets his phone. “Jimin-ah.”
It’s strange, how they don’t reach for each other when they’re in arm’s length. Jimin feels unsettled, hesitates for only a moment longer before he steps forward to curl his fingers around Yoongi’s wrist.
Yoongi’s bottom lip is slightly red, chapped and raw from where his teeth have bitten into it, and there’s a gentle flush over the bridge of his nose. The strands of his hair look soft in the summer sun. A myriad of expressions seems to flicker over his face as he looks at Jimin, indecipherable, before his lips quirk upwards. When they kiss Yoongi’s mouth is warm, sweet with the taste of strawberries. Jimin rests his other hand against the side of Yoongi’s neck, his touch light, and though they keep it chaste, it lingers, and Jimin feels the echo of it as he pulls away.
“I missed you, hyung,” Jimin says quietly, truthfully. They’re so close that all Jimin can see are the darkening freckles on Yoongi’s skin, the small but thick lashes that curve delicately from his eyelids.
Yoongi hums, glances away as he pulls back, and seems to visibly steel himself. “Can we talk?”
And Jimin—Jimin doesn’t know what to think, the question unassuming in all the ways it isn’t. The strange feeling in his chest returns.
They walk, hands linked loosely between them. Yoongi seems lost in thought and Jimin doesn’t know what to say to fill the silence between them, desperate to in ways he hasn’t been before, thinks that surely Yoongi must know how it sounds, how Jimin must feel. The end of the afternoon is approaching as the orange of the evening sets into the sky, and the blood in Jimin’s veins carries an icy chill.
Yoongi takes a deep breath, opens his mouth as if he’s going to say something before closing it again, and then bites the inside of his cheek.
Suddenly, impossibly, Jimin knows.
He falters, drawing Yoongi to a stop beside him. Yoongi barely breathes out Jimin’s name, a question on the tip of his tongue, before Jimin is pressing their mouths together. It’s desperate and furious in a way their kisses have never been. Jimin fists his hands into the lapels of Yoongi’s jacket, their bodies pressed together as close as they can possibly be, and Yoongi’s hands are warm and steady where they press against the skin of Jimin’s jaw, the dip of his waist.
Jimin kisses Yoongi like every breath is a whispered confession, a wordless request to stay.
They stop only to catch their breaths, only when the heat becomes too much and their chests are heaving. Every inch of Jimin’s skin burns, and his mouth is trembling, and he can’t bring himself to open his eyes.
Yoongi’s thumb gently ghosts over the delicate skin beneath Jimin’s eye. “Jimin,” he says, quiet and soft and heartbreaking, “let’s go.”
Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Jimin pulls back and nods. He thinks of the last time they did this, but he knew Yoongi less, loved him less, and back then he’d known that they were never more than skin and hands and lips, despite how much Jimin had wanted them to be. Everything is different now, it’ll hurt more, this time.
They end up in a quiet corner of the park, sat opposite each other, cross-legged on the ground and knees touching. Yoongi’s playing with the laces of his converse, twirling the cords around his hands, while Jimin picks at the small blades of grass, silken between his fingers, before he tears them into smaller pieces. It’s quiet. Awfully, terribly quiet.
“I don’t want to—” Yoongi begins, and he’s not looking at Jimin and Jimin isn’t looking at him. “Fuck,” he breathes out, sounding frustrated. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Then don’t,” Jimin says immediately. It’s not at all funny and impossibly sad, and it does nothing to ease the tension, but they laugh anyway.
“Do you remember,” Yoongi begins again, voice quiet, “when I started dating Jiyoon, and we—you and I didn’t speak so much?” He seems to be waiting for Jimin to reply, so Jimin hums, not quite sure where this is going, wishes Yoongi would do this quickly and not at all. “I wanted you, then, more than I’d ever wanted anything. More than I wanted her.”
Jimin bites down on the inside of his cheek, hard.
“I loved her, I know I did,” Yoongi says, sounding so torn about it that Jimin—fuck, Jimin wants to hate him, and can’t find a single cell in his body that’s willing to. “But when days got bad, I could only think about you.”
Jimin stays quiet, thinks, I’ve wanted you always, thinks, is the thought of me so bad?
“It isn’t right to give that responsibility to someone,” Yoongi continues quietly, “but you—it never felt like a burden, with you, never something to feel guilty over.”
A young group of girls pass by on the nearby path, someone running with their dog in the opposite direction. Jimin follows them with his eyes until they’re nothing but silhouettes.
“Even when I feel like a piece of shit, Jimin, you make me feel like enough of a person, and you always have.” Yoongi sighs, and he finally looks up, gaze boring into the side of Jimin’s face. “It’s scary, to have someone like that in your life, and I needed space from you – even if I knew you wouldn’t ever abuse that.”
Distantly, Jimin wonders why this break-up sounds so much like a confession.
“But it’s different, having that as a friend, and having that as what we are now,” Yoongi says, and his voice catches at the expression he sees on Jimin’s face, and Jimin doesn’t know what to think, what Yoongi wants him to say.
“Don’t—” Jimin says instead, voice sharper than he means it to be, “don’t use that—” His hands clench into fists on his thighs. “Don’t tell me it’s different because we’re more than friends, that’s not fair—”
“I needed you, but I don't know if I love you. Not like that.” Yoongi speaks over him, and his voice is heavy and the words sound like they’re being forced from him, and it’s not fair, it’s not fair that he sounds seconds away from crying when he’s the one causing Jimin to hurt so much. “And I’m not sure that—I don’t think that’s changed.”
“Please.” He’s not quite sure whether he wants Yoongi to stop trying to explain, or to stop this altogether. “Please, hyung—just—” His eyelashes flutter and he closes his eyes, presses the heels of his palms against his eyelids and takes in several, deep, shuddering breaths.
It’s quiet for a long handful of moments. There’s nothing in the world, no thought or scenario that he could worry about, that could prepare him enough for the reality of this.
“I don’t want to burden you,” Yoongi says, “with waiting for me to do something I don’t know that I can.”
“What are you saying, hyung?” Jimin asks, voice watery and already tired. So, so tired. “That you don’t love me, or that you don’t know if you ever will?”
Yoongi says nothing. Jimin takes his hands away from his cheeks and finally looks at him, takes in every detail of Yoongi’s face in the fading light of day.
“I want you,” Jimin says finally, makes sure that Yoongi looks at him properly, makes sure that Yoongi knows, because Jimin has nothing left to give him but this. “On my bad days and my worst ones.” His vision blurs with tears, and Yoongi sits in front of him, stricken. “And I don’t—maybe I don’t need you, and I definitely don’t think you can fix anything, but I just-”
“I just want to hold your hand, and know that you’ll wait with me until it gets better,” Jimin says in one quick breath, the words spilling from his mouth. “That’s not bad, is it?”
“No,” Yoongi says immediately, “no, it’s not—I—” He cuts himself off, doesn’t quite know what to say, and neither does Jimin.
Another silence, and this time with nothing to break it.
“Do you love me?” Jimin asks, because he needs Yoongi to be clear with him, needs him to stop being so indirect. He knows Yoongi loves him, but not in the way Jimin wants, the way that he needs. “Yoongi, are you in love with me?”
It takes Yoongi longer than it should to answer, and he looks down at his lap, and Jimin looks away as he answers. “I don’t know.” Yoongi closes his eyes, shakes his head as if confessing the truth is painful for him. “I don’t—I don’t know.”
Being in love is hard when it’s unreciprocated, but it’s easier to bear in the silence. Rejection, like this, when it felt like something more, fucking hurts.
“Are you?” Yoongi asks, eyes widening as if he’s surprised himself by asking, and it’s so cruel of him to think he has the right to an answer. “Fuck, I'm—”
Jimin glances away, lifts his shoulders in a half-hearted shrug as he smiles at the skyline, feels impossibly small in front of the world, in front of Yoongi. The hollow of his chest aches. “I was, and I am.”
City lights begin to flicker as the darkness of the night sets in, and the park is empty and the silence is terrifying, and Yoongi hasn’t taken his eyes off Jimin for even a moment. Jimin’s rubs harshly at his cheeks, warm and uncomfortable even with the gentle city chill.
“Being with you is the easiest thing in the world,” Jimin says quietly, pushing his hair back off his face, throat tight, “even if everything else isn’t.” He sighs and takes a pause that seems to last longer than it probably does. “If you don’t feel like that, I won’t hold it against you.”
Jimin realises, absently, that his hands are shaking. He wants Yoongi to reach out and steady him, thinks that if Yoongi does Jimin might never forgive him.
In another life, Jimin thinks he could be angry, would have every right to be. Yoongi led him on, let Jimin fall harder and deeper than he thought was possible, but Yoongi didn’t know. And that’s why Jimin can’t be anything more than heartbroken and hurt, because Yoongi didn’t know that Jimin was in love with him, because Jimin knows that if Yoongi had even the faintest idea he wouldn’t have asked Jimin out at all.
He wonders if it really is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
“I’m so sorry,” Yoongi murmurs, “Jimin, I wish—”
“Don’t,” Jimin says, so fiercely it startles them both. “Don’t, hyung.”
Yoongi is looking at Jimin like he’s still looking for answers, like he still wants to say more but doesn’t know how, and Jimin—Jimin is exhausted. Night falls with the flutter of Jimin’s eyelashes, and he stays in the park long after Yoongi has left, placing a hard and firm kiss to Jimin’s hair.
All this time, Jimin had thought everything was falling into place, foolishly and earnestly believed that this was going to work out. Now, Jimin realises that he’d been holding himself together by a thread, thin and weak, and it snaps the moment Yoongi walks away.
Dawn has barely cracked the sky, and Jimin is sat in front of the studio mirrors staring at his own reflection. It’s been almost a week since he last saw Yoongi, since he last saw anyone. He’s avoided Taehyung most.
The moment he catches sight of his best friend in the mirrors, Jimin’s heart stutters in his chest.
Taehyung cradles Jimin’s head beneath his chin, his legs splayed on either side of Jimin’s hips, and muffles the sound of Jimin’s cries in the fabric of his t-shirt. The hitch of Jimin’s breath is lost beneath the sound of Taehyung’s soothing voice, reassuring words that spill from his mouth. There are painful vines curling around Jimin’s throat, thorns prickling over his skin, and his chest constricts so suddenly that he’d double over if Taehyung weren’t rocking them back and forth.
Taehyung, who holds Jimin like he’d carry Jimin in his heart without a second thought if possible, who mumbles gentle nothings into Jimin’s hair because he hates it when Jimin cries, especially because it happens so rarely. Taehyung, who presses kisses so strongly to Jimin’s head that Jimin can’t doubt that he’s loved, not when Taehyung is here with him, like this.
Jimin curls his hands into fists against Taehyung’s stomach, nails digging so hard into his palms that he feels his skin break. Without pulling back, Taehyung reaches down to loosen one of Jimin’s hands and link their fingers together instead.
“Jimin-ah,” Taehyung says, quiet and sad and pleading, “Jimin-ah, please.” He’s the only person Jimin has trusted to put all the pieces back of him together if he should ever fall apart, and Jimin tries to take comfort in his voice, tries to steady his breathing just so Taehyung doesn’t sound so sad. “You’re okay.”
He says it so surely that Jimin almost believes him.
“Taehyung,” Jimin’s voice is raspy, heavy, “I don’t—I didn’t—”
Taehyung moves away, just enough to cup Jimin’s face, his long fingers cold against Jimin’s skin. His eyes are shining as he presses a tender kiss to the centre of Jimin’s forehead. He can be loud and brash and carefree, likes to push people to their limits and then flash a grin to make them forget why they were mad in the first place, but he’s never anything but impossibly sweet with Jimin.
“I really thought,” Jimin says, “I really thought—”
“I know,” Taehyung says softly, “me too.”
Beneath the collar of Taehyung’s shirt is a simple silver necklace with a small black pendant, half of a pair they bought in a market together back in highschool. Jimin reaches out with one hand to brush his fingers over the small gem.
“He wants me,” Jimin begins quietly, “but he doesn’t love me. He—” Jimin swallows around the lump in his throat, eyes still fixed on Taehyung’s chest. “He’s been in love before, and apparently we—this isn’t it.”
Taehyung flinches as Jimin speaks, but he doesn’t say anything, hands moving to curl lightly around Jimin’s neck.
“I can’t blame him, for that,” Jimin confesses, “I can’t be angry with him for that, Tae.” He glances up at Taehyung, and sees a torn expression on his face, caught between distress and confusion.
“No,” Taehyung says eventually, “you can’t.” Then, after a moment’s pause, “He said he didn’t love you?”
He sounds genuinely taken aback, as if he’s not quite sure he’s understanding correctly, and Jimin purses his lips. “He said he didn’t know, that he didn’t feel like anything had changed.”
There’s really nothing more either of them can say to that. If Yoongi had given any other reason, Jimin thinks they might have fought and fallen out and things would pass. If Yoongi was moving away or wanted to date someone else, Jimin would hate it but he’d understand. But all this time, Yoongi has been utterly devoted to him, completely and overwhelming adoring, and not being able to love someone isn’t a reason to be blamed.
In his worst nightmares, Jimin had never seen a future where Yoongi wasn’t there with him. They’d come together so easily it makes sense that they’d part like that, too. Not with shouts and screams and awful sobs, but quiet, both hurting just as deeply in different ways.
“But,” Taehyung says quietly, more to himself than to Jimin, “if he doesn’t love you, what does he think love is?”
It’s a silly question and something Jimin desperately wants the answer to, but he shrugs and shakes his head, because he doesn’t know. He couldn’t have loved any less, and Yoongi couldn’t love any more. “You’ll have to ask him.”
“Tae—” Jimin interrupts, and it’s enough to bring a smile to his lips, “don’t—you don’t need to get involved. He’s your hyung, and you love him, there’s no need to fight.”
“But he hurt you—”
“Taehyung,” Jimin says, and he reaches up with his hands to cup Taehyung’s face, thumbs pressing into Taehyung’s cheeks. “This is Yoongi hyung, he wouldn’t hurt anyone if he could help it.”
Taehyung visibly deflates, and the two of them sit in silence, and Jimin finds it a little easier to breathe now than he did a week ago. The sun is filtering in brightly through the windows when Taehyung suddenly says, “It’s okay to be sad.” He’s not looking at Jimin, fingers absently playing with Jimin’s. “You don't have to—you don't have to be ashamed of it, only because you didn't see it coming.”
Jimin bites the inside of his cheek. “Taehyung?”
“There are different kinds of sadness, and it’s okay if you feel more than one.” There’s a strange expression on his face, a tone in his voice that keeps Jimin from interrupting. “You weren’t in a good place before, and I know you’re scared that being hurt will take you back, back there and back to Yoongi hyung.” Taehyung sighs, and when he finally meets Jimin’s gaze, he’s smiling. “But I’ll be here, and you’ll be okay.”
Jimin doesn’t realise he’s tearing up again until Taehyung catches a tear with the pad of his thumb as it clings to Jimin’s eyelashes. “I don’t think I’m okay right now.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be okay later, either.”
“That’s alright, too.” Taehyung’s smile widens into a grin, soft and sweet. “Your love is wasted if you don’t save some of it for yourself, hyung.”
It’s something Taehyung has said before, when Jimin was in a place he couldn’t pull himself out of alone, and the words strike as strongly now as they did then. Jimin nods, because he believes in that, he’s learnt to believe in that, and he knows that as wholly as he loves his friends, as he loves Yoongi, it’s not a love that consumes him.
Sometimes, depression and anxiety and loneliness need time to pass, need to trickle slow and heavy until the feeling eventually fades. Sometimes, things sit and linger and stay, and heartbreak is one of them.
The week has been long, and the following months will be longer, but Jimin has fought hard to love himself, and no one deserves to, or has the right, to take that away from him.
His mother cries when he comes home, and Jimin’s never been able to stand the sight of it. He kisses her forehead and her cheeks and tucks his face into her shoulder, makes himself smaller than her as they stand in the doorway of his childhood home. It’s been almost a year since he last saw his family, his friends, and anytime away from home always feels like too long.
His father had gone to pick his brother up directly from university, and Jimin wishes he could take a photo to capture their expressions the moment they catch sight of him, stood waiting in the hallway. Jihyun crashes into him, mumbling complaints about how long it’s been since Jimin visited, and Jimin’s father puts his arms around their shoulders and presses kisses into their hair.
It’s one thing that always fills Jimin with warmth, how his father never shied away from giving them affection as they grew up, both his sons a source of price for him regardless of who they wanted to become or what they wanted to do.
Jimin helps his mother with chores around the house and goes to the temple with fragrant flowers and fresh fruits, lights candles in the church in memory of his grandparents and holds his mother’s hand as she prays. In the evenings, he learns how to drive with his dad on country roads with his brother playing games in the backseat. Somehow, seamlessly, the ache of the past few weeks begins to fade. He spends the summer having late-night barbecues with his childhood friends and drinking around bonfires on the beach, hiking up mountains and swimming in the cool pools beneath the warm sun. He sends texts and snapchats to his friends back in Seoul and makes sure to message Taehyung daily, and knows that between all the jokes and photos, Taehyung will understand the thank you that Jimin can’t say out loud.
Yoongi is still ever-present in his thoughts, and it’s so strange that despite all the hurt he’s caused Jimin, he was one of the first people to encourage Jimin, to teach him, how to find peace in himself.
(Love yourself, Yoongi had once said, fiercely and unforgivingly. Love yourself more than anyone else can.)
One morning, as the holidays begin to end and August dawns, Jimin lays in bed and splays his hands over his chest, feels the steady thump of his heart beneath his palm, and thinks maybe he’s as close to loving himself as he’s ever been.
Jimin comes back to Seoul a few days earlier than everyone else, wanting to settle back into the city before the second term starts back up. He spends time slowly doing chores, airing out the apartment to catch the last of the summer sun and the gentle breeze that comes with it. Getting some time to himself is a welcome reprieve, despite how much he’s looking forward to seeing everyone.
He’s curled up on the couch, absently reviewing his notes while music plays in the background, when there’s a knock on the front door.
Out of everything Jimin expected, it wasn’t for Yoongi to be stood in the hallway, looking as he does. There’s a tense set to his jaw and his eyes are bruised with fatigue, and he’s meant to be have been home for two months but he looks half-starved. It takes all Jimin’s strength not to reach out and graze his thumb over the soft skin of Yoongi’s cheeks. It takes one moment, one single glance, and all the love and the want come rushing back.
Jimin can only hold back so much. “You were meant to be okay,” he says without realising, hand tightening around the doorknob.
Yoongi’s eyes widen, slight and subtle, but Jimin has spent so long trying to memorise the details of Yoongi’s face that the shift in his expression is clear. “What?”
“You were—” Jimin repeats, glancing away as he swallows around a lump in his throat, “you were meant to be okay.”
“And you?” Yoongi asks, sharp and soft all at once. “Are you okay?”
“I’m trying to be.” There’s silence, and Jimin belatedly realises he’s stood in an old pair of flannel pyjamas and a threadbare t-shirt. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, he scratches behind his neck. “Are you, um—”
“Can I come in?” Yoongi interrupts, and it’s been over two months since they last saw each other and Jimin wants to be selfish, just for a little while.
Jimin nods, and he steps aside to make sure they don’t touch as Yoongi walks past, closing the door behind him. He takes several deep breathes before he turns around to face Yoongi, stood in the living room and framed by the light through the balcony doors behind him.
It’s silent for a handful of seconds that seem longer than they are, and then, “How do you do it?” Yoongi asks suddenly, his usual drawl replaced by a breathless rush of words. “How do you know you're in love? How do you know it's not just—just wanting, or needing someone?”
“Don’t you know?” Jimin asks, with more bite than he means to. “Do you think that’s even fair?”
Yoongi looks away, embarrassed, then seems to visibly steel himself. “I know, and I’m sorry, I just—” He closes his mouth, biting down on his lower lip.
Jimin doesn’t think Yoongi could hold it against him if he didn’t answer. It’s the longest they’ve ever gone without speaking, and for this to be the first thing Yoongi asks when they see each other is awful. It hurts.
“I could hate you,” Jimin hisses, hands clenching into fists at his sides, “I’d have every right to, and you know it. Even just for coming here, for asking me that.”
“I want you, and I need you, and it’s fucking terrifying,” he says harshly, speaking over Yoongi, not caring for the struck expression on his face. “I want to reach out to you always.” Jimin wrings his hands, and then spreads his right palm over his heart, tapping his chest. “Every part of me wants all there is of you.”
There’s a dam that’s been holding Jimin back, holding him together, and it suddenly breaks. He might have found peace and contentment, but there’s a whole other soul and heart inside of him reserved for Yoongi alone, and the pain he’s been harbouring spills from his mouth in a relentless stream.
“Do you—was it really so bad?” he asks, faltering, “to need me at your lowest, a few weeks ago?”
“No,” Yoongi says, so stunned that it’s almost a shout. “That’s—that’s half the problem, Jimin.”
Jimin cups the back of his neck, fingers tangling together over the hairs at the nape. “Then—then—”
“I want you back, so much I don’t think I’ll ever understand it,” Yoongi says in a rush, voice firm and clear, “but to want you so much and love you so much, I don’t—I don’t want to hurt you.” The confession seems torn from him, as if he can’t hold himself back, and Jimin feels all his hairs stand on end as he waits for Yoongi to continue, unable to say anything else. “I’m scared of you giving yourself to me, all of you, when I can’t promise to give the same back. I want to be selfish with you, Jimin, and that’s the last thing you deserve.”
“And I deserve this, then?” Jimin says before he can think about it, “I deserve this, instead?” He shakes his head, eyebrows furrowing. “And you don’t get to make that choice. You don’t get to choose what I do and don’t deserve. I’m not asking you for anything you can’t give me, hyung.”
Yoongi looks scared, and lost, and so impossibly small. Jimin feels exhausted, bone deep and weary.
“I’m selfish with you too,” Jimin continues, speaking before Yoongi can interrupt. “Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but nothing about my love is anything but selfish. I want you, always, and I want you to want me, too.” He sighs, throat dry, the weight of his love heavy. “I could be selfless with you, let you go thinking it would be better. But I like who I am with you, I like who I can be with you, and I like the you that you are with me.”
“I—” Yoongi begins, and then falters. “That’s not—”
“I could hurt you, too, you know,” Jimin says quietly, loud in the sudden silence, wanting to get his point across and not quite sure what it’ll do to help. “I could hurt you, without meaning to.”
“But you wouldn’t.” The reply is so swift, so sure and immediate, that it surprises them both.
“You wouldn’t hurt me, either,” Jimin says, and shakes his head again when Yoongi opens his mouth to reply. “Yoongi, you wouldn’t.”
In the quiet, it’s easier for the words to sink in, to understand what they’re saying to each other. Miscommunication has never been a problem between them before, even at the worst of times. And then, Jimin feels everything still, like even his own heartbeat has come to a stop. His fingers uncurl from around his neck.
“You love me?”
Yoongi’s holding his breath. Even from across the room, Jimin can tell that Yoongi’s holding his breath.
“You said—” Jimin says shakily, “you said you love me.”
There’s a noise outside, a shout, and music suddenly starts playing loudly from a car on the street. Yoongi’s eyes flutter closed.
“Hyung—” Jimin says, desperate and frantic, “hyung—Yoongi—”
Yoongi sighs and tilts his head down, shoulders sagging as he rubs harshly at his eyes. When he speaks, his voice wavers. “I kept thinking that I should feel something more for you,” he admits, and when he finds the strength to look back up at Jimin, his eyes are shining. “Like, what I felt wasn’t enough for it to be love, not when it’s how I’ve always felt around you.”
Jimin’s legs feel like jelly, and it takes an effort to stop himself from stumbling. His silence is enough for Yoongi to continue.
“What I felt for you,” Yoongi says so quietly that Jimin would think Yoongi was talking to himself if not for the way his eyes stay fixed on Jimin, his gaze keeping Jimin in place, “has been unlike anything else I’ve ever felt. I’ve been in love and known it, but I didn’t know it with you. It didn’t strike me electric, with you.”
“It grew,” Jimin says before he can stop himself, “slowly—my love for you grew.”
An apartment door slams somewhere else in the complex, and Jimin flinches, using the sound as an excuse to look away. His heart is thudding painfully in his chest, so loud that he’s sure the neighbours will be able to hear it.
“I didn’t—I don’t blame you for not loving me back,” Jimin admits, quiet and tired, because he’s not quite sure where Yoongi is going, not quite sure he’s ready for what Yoongi has to say. “And I know it’s been months, but I still need time. It all hurt less when I didn’t have a chance, hyung.” With a shaking hand, Jimin pushes his hair back off his face. “But you—now you’re saying—I feel like I’m taking one step forward and two steps back, and I don’t know what you want from me.”
“The first time I saw you,” Yoongi begins in a rush, like he’s worried Jimin will suddenly turn around and kick him out, like this is the last chance he’ll have to explain himself, “I thought you were beautiful. Just—the most beautiful person I’d ever seen.” He runs a hand through his hair, but doesn’t allow Jimin to take a breath, voice growing louder as Jimin’s mouth snaps shut. “And when we became friends, I thought—it was—everything felt light around you.”
Jimin reaches out for the back of the couch to steady himself, chest heaving quickly as he tries to catch his breath. “I don’t—what—”
“I never questioned what you meant to me,” Yoongi continues, “because I never had to. And I realise now, that it was selfish of me to think that what I felt for you was anything less than love.”
Jimin’s breath catches in his throat. Everything is still, silent. He can’t feel the beat of his own heart or the rush of blood in his ears, focused only on looking at Yoongi, the growing redness around his bright eyes.
“I broke up with you because I was—” Yoongi’s mouth quivers, and he looks down at his feet and misses how Jimin’s fingers twitch in an effort not to reach out for him, “I didn’t think I could give you what I didn’t feel, and I didn’t want to make you wait while I tried.” Yoongi’s hands are shaking, Jimin realises, trembling at his sides. “But these past few months, I’ve just—I had time, and I realised that I’ve done nothing but love you from the start.”
“Then why,” Jimin says, and he doesn’t want to interrupt but he can’t stay quiet, because everything is suddenly so much, “why didn’t you say anything sooner? Why wait? Two months, Yoongi.”
“I didn’t know what to say—or—” Yoongi bites hard on the inside of his cheek, then says, “I didn’t know how.”
“Tell me that you’re sorry,” Jimin says immediately, “that you fucked up, that you didn’t know.”
“I’m sorry,” Yoongi echoes, eyes wide, the words coming easily to him, “I fucked up, I didn’t know, I didn’t want to hurt you but I did.”
Jimin wants to deny it, just to soothe him, but they’ve never lied to each other before, and he’s not going to start now.
“You did,” he agrees, “and you will, but loving you—loving you is knowing you’ll hurt me and trusting you won’t want to.” At this, Yoongi flinches, and Jimin didn’t- he didn’t mean it like that, but he doesn’t correct Yoongi either. “Do you love me?”
“Jimin,” Yoongi says, and it’s the first time he’s said Jimin’s name in two months and it feels sacred, like a promise between them, “with everything. I love you with everything.”
“And you’re sure of it.” It’s not a statement, not quite a question.
“More than anything else.”
Jimin feels the phantom pain in his chest start to subside, the beginnings of it unsure and tentative, as if it’s still not ready to completely heal but it’s desperate to try.
“Love is a choice, you know?” he says gently, tilts his head to the side and feels warm beneath Yoongi’s gaze. “And I choose to love you, on the hardest days, especially then. You just have to remember to choose to love me back.”
“I will,” Yoongi says, and the two words carry an impossible tenderness, reflected on his face. “Jimin—”
“And you trust me?”
“I love you,” Yoongi says, doesn’t even hesitate to answer.
“If you remember that,” Jimin says, quiet and warm, “we’ll be alright.”
It’s an echo of something Yoongi said to him years ago, the first time he’d ever helped Jimin through anything, and Yoongi’s eyes flicker with something like remembrance. An image, of Jimin curled in on himself, hands shaking and eyes vacant, coming back to himself and not knowing what to do, and Yoongi curled around him, voice soft and kind and coaxing.
There’s still so much to work through, so much Yoongi still needs to figure out, but Jimin trusts him, knows Yoongi wouldn’t be here if he weren’t a sure thing, and he knows that whatever they’ll go through now, they’ll be going through together.
Jimin doesn’t say I love you, and Yoongi doesn’t say it again, but it hangs in the air between them, something sweet and something gentle, hidden beneath their tongues and behind the cages of their teeth, waiting, patient and calm.
When they’re ready, Jimin knows that neither of them will hesitate to set it free.
Registration week begins, their friends come back in small clusters, and Yoongi and Jimin don’t speak aside from the occasional text. It’s been almost a year since everything began, and in that time so much has happened: Jimin pulled himself out of one of the worst places he’d been and fell into a relationship with the only person he’s ever truly been in love with. He had his first kiss with Yoongi for the first time in two years, and had his heart broken for the second.
It’s been wonderful and painful, and Jimin has seen growth both big and small within himself.
He goes out for drinks with Jeongguk and Jin, watches a film with Namjoon and Hoseok, and on the Friday night before classes start back up, he and Taehyung treat themselves out to a fancy meal that they can barely afford. The trepidation Jimin had felt before he left home is a barely-there memory.
“I like that you’re smiling like this,” Taehyung comments as they walk through the streets, chatter from restaurants lining the road spilling out into the night air. “I like that you’re okay.”
The problem with getting better is acknowledging that things weren’t okay before. For Jimin, that was losing himself to loving Yoongi, forgetting that being okay is a battle you need to remember to fight yourself. It’s something he’d forgotten, and something he’s spent the summer trying to get back.
“I like it, too,” Jimin says, grinning so wide he knows that his dimple will show. He scrunches his nose when Taehyung reaches out to poke his cheek, and then catches Taehyung’s finger in his hand. “I know,” Jimin says, softer this time, “that you spoke to hyung.”
Taehyung purses his lips but doesn’t deny it.
“What did you say?”
“Honestly?” Taehyung asks, like he’s ever spoken anything but the truth to Jimin. When Jimin nods, he says, “I just asked him what would be different if he loved you.”
It’s simple, and poignant, and no more or less than anything that needed to be said. Jimin feels his heart stutter, and then swell, and can’t help himself from pulling Taehyung into a tight embrace in the middle of the street. Neither of them says anything about the light shine in their eyes as they pull away. While they’re waiting for the pedestrian light to change, Taehyung suddenly makes a pleased sound, dragging Jimin away from the edge of the pavement. Jimin makes a small noise of protest but is more than happy to let Taehyung lead him wherever, smile brightening when they come to a stop in front of a brightly-lit ice-cream parlour.
Taehyung smiles, teeth showing as he pulls the door open. “Hazelnut and salted caramel?”
Jimin nods and waits for Taehyung to order his own double-scoop of mint-chocolate chip before he presses his card against the contactless reader, ignoring Taehyung’s huff of complaint.
Despite the large dinner they’d had, they both manage to finish their ice-cream easily, contemplating another serving before they realise it’s probably better for their stomachs if they don’t. They stumble out onto the street like they’re drunk, making their way home on the metro, laughing at nothing and everything that they see.
Taehyung is like a manifestation of the happiest parts of Jimin’s soul, endlessly positive and sweet and gentle, kind in wondrous ways. He’s far more intelligent than anyone would ever give him credit for and takes pride in his ability to show weakness and vulnerability, a battle he’s learnt to fight on his own. Being around him fills Jimin’s very core with a warm light that radiates and reminds him that he always has a home somewhere.
Whether Jimin is upset, or ecstatic, Taehyung can remind Jimin of himself.
They waste the rest of the night watching a comedy special and laughing until their stomachs cramp, until Taehyung finally is the first of them to go to his bedroom, wanting to rest before he meets up with some of his friends in the afternoon. It’s nearing one in the morning when Jimin stands on the thin balcony with a glass of water in his hand, the city pulsing with life. The warm air is a gentle caress on his skin, and he tilts his head back to look at the dark blanket of the sky as it rests over the glowing skyline of the city spread out beneath it, content to let the wind run its fingers through the strands of his hair.
There is a lightness, in loving yourself, and in being loved. Jimin has always known it, but it’s the first time he’s ever really felt it.
His phone vibrates in his back pocket. “Late night?” Jimin asks as he holds it against his ear, softly, smiling.
“Something like that.”
“Need some company?”
There’s the echo of car-horn across the speaker, and in the night air. Jimin’s smile turns into a grin, and his eyes flicker to the street corner just as Yoongi comes into sight.
“Funny you ask.” He breathes out a laugh that has Jimin fluttering his eyes, and he stops beneath the pool of light of the nearby streetlamp. Jimin can’t make out his expression from the floor of his apartment, but he doesn’t really need to. “I need some advice,” Yoongi says, and Jimin can hear him grinning, “about taking this boy I know on a date.”
Jimin purses his lips and pushes away from the railing, keeps the phone pressed against his ear as he opens the front door, feels a smile tug at his mouth that he tries to bite down with his teeth. “Is he pretty?”
“The prettiest person I know.”
There’s silence, and then the feedback of the sound of the elevator as it arrives on Jimin’s floor.
Yoongi, when he emerges from the sliding doors, looks stunning and gentle and warm. His hands are tucked into the pockets of his dark-grey overcoat, and silver chains glint against his skin over the fabric of his black collarless shirt, an array of pendants hanging from the centre of them. His smile is a soft and sure thing, and there’s a barely-there flush on his cheeks. Jimin will miss his freckles in the muted sunlight of winter.
Jimin’s face is beginning to hurt with the strength of his smile, but when he speaks his voice is a quiet whisper.
“Here you are,” he says, reaching out to lightly intertwine their fingers and pull Yoongi close.
Yoongi grins. “Here I am.”
Jimin really can’t be blamed for closing the distance between them to tuck his face into Yoongi’s neck and breathe him in, the fading smell of Yoongi’s favourite cologne mixed with something strange and yet unarguably the city itself.
“Desperate to see me?” Jimin teases, because he can, because he has Yoongi and Yoongi has him.
Yoongi hums, and he sounds happy, and his arms come up to wrap themselves around Jimin’s waist and hold him tight. One of the lights in the hallway flickers, and Jimin realises that they’re still stood in the threshold of his apartment. He pulls away and pulls Yoongi with him into the living room with their hands still intertwined.
“So,” Yoongi says finally, carrying a contentment on his shoulders that Jimin has never seen before. “About that date.”
Jimin smiles and bites down on his bottom lip, tilting his head as he waits for Yoongi to continue. He feels happy and calm and overwhelmed, and he stands in front of the man he loves, and he waits. This is a start, it’s a chance at something better and something new.
This feels like the beginning of something, and beginnings have always been Jimin’s favourite part.