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Jimin is pissed. Completely, rightfully, blood-boiling pissed.

He feels like ripping his hair out and giving himself several premature bald spots as he stomps over to the dugout, eyes practically seeing red. He flings off his helmet and drops his beloved, beaten and paint-chipped bat, muttering every curse under the sun as he collapses onto the corner of the bench, away from the rest of his teammates — who are, no doubt, watching him with bewilderment. Can’t say he really blames them, either; he rarely ever loses it on the field, no matter how close or intense a game becomes. He’s the cool-headed one among them, one of the few who actually rises to the challenge under pressure. As competitive as he is, Jimin never lets anyone see him sweat.

Not unless it’s Jeon Jungkook he’s playing against.

The cocky little shit’s been toying with him for nine straight innings. Throwing him curveballs, taking excessively long breaks between pitches and chewing his stupid bubblegum on the mound like he’s got all the time in the world. All to mess with Jimin’s head when he’s up to the plate, to worm his way under Jimin’s skin with the anticipation, all the uncertainty.

It’s a special kind of torture, because Jimin knows he’s completely at Jungkook’s mercy in those moments — he needs to pay attention to all of Jungkook’s movements, his behaviors, to try to predict what he’ll throw. He gets all wound up, toeing on the edge of a cliff and waiting for the drop, scrutinizing Jungkook’s every move as he waits for him to just do something — and then Jungkook will look at him under the bill of his cap, smirk, and fucking laugh.

Jimin kind of wants to aim his next hit towards Jungkook’s face.

“Jimin,” a voice calls somewhere to his left; Hoseok’s approaching him, brow knitted in concern when Jimin glances up. “You good? Your face is all red.”

Jimin groans, reaching for his cap and stuffs it back on his head. He tries to tug it down as far as he can in a poor attempt to hide his face. “I’m fine, Hoseok. Just need some time to cool down, that’s all.”

Hoseok hums, taking a seat beside him. He offers Jimin his half-empty gatorade, lemon-lime flavor. Jimin crinkles his nose and shakes his head. “Suit yourself,” he shrugs, taking a big gulp with an exaggerated ah when he swallows it all, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “This isn’t like you, you know. To lose your cool this bad. What’s going on?”

Jimin scoffs, digging his cleats into the dirt. “Jeon fucking Jungkook is what’s going on,” he sneers, leaning back against the concrete wall with a muted thump. “He’s taunting me. All game, he’s been playing with me and trying to throw me off my game, and it’s — it’s fucking working. I wish they’d switch him out so I wouldn’t have to bat his awful pitches.”

“Awfully good pitches,” Hoseok says. Jimin throws him a dirty glare. “What? I’m just stating the truth. He’s getting to you because he’s good, Jimin. He’s challenging you, all your immature bullshit aside. Honestly, playing against his team makes you a better player, so just chill out. Ignore him and focus on his technique, and think about what you can do to push him in the future. Got it?”

“Fine,” Jimin sighs, mouth curling in disdain when Jungkook glances in their direction for a split-second. “But if he starts shit in the locker room, I’m not gonna just sit there and take it.”

“As long as it doesn’t get physical,” Hoseok snorts, patting Jimin on the thigh. “Coach would kick your ass if there’s a fist-fight.”

Jimin watches the umpire call the third strike for one of their freshmen, Alex, and signals for their final field switch. “He’d fling my unconscious body to the outfield,” he mutters, swiping up his mitt as he heaves himself back up, falling in line behind the rest of his team. “It’d be a lot easier to resist if we didn’t have to share this stadium with them twenty-four seven.”

It’s karma laughing at his expense, really — the fact that Jungkook’s team hails from their rival university, and they have to share the city’s sole baseball stadium because their schools don’t want to shell out the money to build their own. It’s pretty ridiculous. They aren’t huge state schools, but their smaller student population definitely pays enough tuition to cover the cost. God knows Jimin’s got the student loan statements to prove it.

But as it is, Jimin doesn’t have the power to force the school’s hand, so — he’s stuck sharing. It would be bearable, if only Jungkook hadn’t chosen the locker right next to Jimin’s during his orientation, weeks before they’d even met. Any luck he might’ve had was truly nonexistent at that point.

“Just don’t do it,” Hoseok says sternly, drawing Jimin out of his thoughts. It’s a warning.

Jimin looks over his shoulder and salutes him, snickering when Hoseok scrunches up his face like he’d eaten something sour in response, and says, “Sure thing, captain.”

Hoseok just rolls his eyes and turns him back, delivering a swift slap to his ass to kick him into gear. Jimin yelps and rubs at the spot, glancing back towards Hoseok with a pout — and promptly runs into something decidedly solid and warm and human.

“Watch where you’re going,” a voice says, amused; one that Jimin knows all too well, much to his chagrin. “Park Jimin.”

Jimin practically hears the smirk before he sees it, no more than ten centimeters away and chewing around that damned bubblegum. “How about you just move out of my way?” Jimin retorts, lifting his chin, eyes defiant. “Jungkook.”

Jungkook doesn’t move an inch; just smiles and crosses his arms, cocking his head to the side. “Why don’t you make me?”

Jimin swears he feels a vein burst in his head. “You little motherfuc—

“Let’s go,” Hoseok cuts in, pushing Jimin past Jungkook and out towards the field. He ignores Jimin’s indignant sputtering and practically drags him to his position at second base, planting him in place with an accusing finger shoved in his face. “What did I just tell you? Don’t engage, Jimin. Keep your focus where it should be — on the game, not on him. We’re tied. We can’t afford to mess up now.”

Jimin takes in a deep breath, slowly exhaling as he tugs on his mitt. “You’re right,” he says, nodding and adjusting his cap. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

Hoseok stares at him for another moment, then nods, seemingly satisfied. He pats Jimin on the shoulder and shoots him a blindingly bright smile before he moves away to his right, taking his place at short-stop. Leave it to Hoseok to talk some sense in him when it counts — and the rest of their teammates, really. There’s a reason why they’d all unanimously nominated him to become captain; his natural charisma kept everyone glued together when all they wanted to do was rip it all apart. It was a damned shame he was graduating this year, moving on to bigger and better things — but Jimin knows he’s got a lifelong friend in Hoseok, no matter where he ends up going.

Perhaps that’s why he really, really wants to win this — for Hoseok’s sake.

He settles into his stance, hands on his knees, eyes zeroed in on the hitter stepping up to plate. Everything else falls away, in that moment. The chatter from the crowd in the stands, the sound of the announcer reading off the hitter’s name, the feeling of Jungkook’s eyes on him — all of it. His hand curls in his mitt, eyes following the bat twirling in tiny circles beside the hitter’s head. Nothing exists outside of the diamond.

The rest of the game goes by in a flash. One minute they’re picking up foul balls, and the next — bases are loaded, Hoseok’s keeping a careful eye on third, and Jimin’s guy is a little too antsy for his own good, foot inching closer and closer to the edge of the base. Everyone’s on edge, nerves pulled taut, ready to burst at any given moment.

That’s when Jungkook steps up as the final hitter.

Jimin silently prays to every deity he knows to not lose his shit.

He watches Jungkook roll his shoulders back, adjust his helmet, and kick lightly at the plate before stepping onto it. He doesn’t look up immediately; just keeps his head and bat down, lips moving as he mumbles something to himself. He tries to hide it, but Jimin’s seen him play enough to notice his tells: the tension in his posture, the way his hands shake slightly as he does a few practice swings.

He’s nervous.

Jimin almost feels bad for him. This kind of pressure — it’s so easy to crumble underneath it.

Their eyes meet when Jungkook finally looks up, for the briefest moment. Jimin can clearly see the panic simmering beneath the surface, the cracks of doubt. In that moment, Jungkook really looks like the nineteen-year-old kid that he is. No more arrogant smiles, no teasing laughter. Just Jeon Jungkook, at his most honest and vulnerable.

His eyes shift towards the pitcher, and Jimin watches the shutters close once more.

He strikes out on the first pitch, a curveball that dips just under of the swing of his bat. He manages to hit the second, but it flies far out right, landing somewhere high up in the bleachers. The player on third tries to steal home before Jungkook swings again, but their pitcher catches on and strikes him out halfway there. Jimin quietly snorts when the guy on his base quickly nudges his foot completely back on the white surface.

The fourth pitch, however, is different.

It’s a power hit. The sharp crack! of the wooden bat striking the ball echoes throughout the stadium, and they all watch as it soars towards the outfield, so impossibly high in the air. Cheers erupt from the crowd while their outfielders sprint towards the barrier, but it’s useless. They’ve all realized it — Jimin’s guy has taken off, and the player on first is simply jogging towards his base, hands thrown up in the air as he screams and shouts in victory.

It’s a home run.

His stomach sinks to the ground as he watches the numbers go up on the scoreboard. They — they were so close. Had the lead for most of the game, until their rivals eventually caught up in late in the sixth inning with a cleverly-timed bunt. It was right within their grasp, and Jeon Jungkook’s monster hit just ripped it away.

Jimin stares as Jungkook rounds first, grinning widely like a fool and laughing at his teammates cheering him on in their dugout. He glances towards Jimin as he approaches second, smile faltering for a moment — and just when Jimin thinks he might have a heart after all, Jungkook giggles and throws him a peace sign. An actual, honest-to-god fucking peace sign.

Jimin almost smothers him with his mitt right then and there.

The walk back to the locker room is tense, silent. Hoseok gives him a comforting pat on the back, but it does nothing to quell the anger bubbling in Jimin’s gut. If he hadn’t — if he’d focused more on his batting and not on Jungkook’s taunts, he could’ve hit a successful run. They could’ve scored, and one of his teammates would’ve had the opportunity to earn them more if he hadn’t struck out. No matter how much their coach stresses that their teamwork needs improvement as a whole, Jimin knows this one’s on him.

He leans his sweaty forehead against the door of his locker, giving half-assed waves to his teammates as they filter out of the room. Don’t beat yourself up, Hoseok had said to him before he’d left, leaving Jimin alone. He smiles to himself, wry, and sighs through his nose. Easier said than done.

He’s just pulling a clean shirt over his head when he hears the door open, rambunctious laughter and cheers quickly filling the room; Jimin doesn’t bother to look up as the other team filters in, pointedly ignoring the way their chatter quiets down a bit once they notice he’s still here. He just continues packing up his bag at his own pace. They might’ve won this time around, but this is still his home field, too.

Suddenly, a shadow looms over his space as he zips up his bag, followed by the scent of sweat, grass, and something decidedly sweet — peonies and lavender. It’s a bit out of place in a locker room, but Jimin recognizes it immediately. He grits his teeth, steeling himself before he straightens and closes his locker, coming face-to-face with none other than Jungkook.

He’s smiling, hair matted to his forehead and holding his discarded uniform shirt in his hand. Jimin’s eyes don’t stray from his face, resolutely keeping his expression as neutral as possible.

“That was a good game,” Jungkook says first, breaking the tense silence between them. He throws his shirt into his locker, stretching his neck side-to-side. “It’s too bad about the end, though. You guys almost had us, huh?”

“Don’t patronize me,” Jimin spits out, narrowing his eyes. “Cut the buddy-buddy shit. I’m not buying it, and I’m definitely not in the mood for it. Especially not after the shit you pulled all game long.”

Jungkook snorts, propping one of his hands on his hip. Jimin can’t help but glance down towards the small tattoo along his ribs; a flock of birds trailing just underneath his pectoral. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you were distracted by something — that’s on you, not me.”

Jimin feels his eye twitch. “Don’t play dumb with me. You knew exactly what you were doing.”

Jungkook tilts his head, mischief dancing in his eyes as he asks, “Did I?”

Jimin bristles, stepping closer into Jungkook’s space until their noses are nearly touching. He looks Jungkook directly in the eye, lip curling as he snarls, “Quit fucking with me, Jeon Jungkook. If you’ve got a problem with me, at least have the balls to say it to my face — instead of that stupid, passive-aggressive bullshit you pulled today. In case you haven’t noticed, this is college ball, not elementary little league. Playtime’s over.”

Jungkook scoffs lightly; Jimin can feel his breath, warm and scented bubblegum-sweet, fan over his lips. “Sounds to me like you feel threatened, Jimin. What’s the matter? Can’t handle someone stealing the spotlight from you, for once?”

An empty smile tugs at Jimin’s lips, then. He reaches up to grip Jungkook’s chin, fingertips pressing tightly into his skin, and mutters, “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

Jungkook’s jaw tightens under his grip, eyes alight with fire and face flushed red, but he remains silent. A sick, thrilling sort of satisfaction rolls through Jimin at the sight. Jungkook won the battle today, but Jimin — he’ll always win the war.

He lets go of Jungkook, snatches up his bag, and walks out of the locker room without another word.

 

-x-

 

“So, are you gonna rot in here all night or are you coming out with us?”

Jimin groans, turning his head to peek one eye out from where he’s been face-planted against his pillow. Yoongi’s leaning against his doorframe, all dressed up in clubbing clothes — ripped skin-tight jeans, sheer dark shirt, and his beloved leather jacket. His typical I want to get fucked attire.

“Do I have to?” Jimin mumbles.

“No one’s forcing you,” Yoongi snorts, though he immediately begins to root through Jimin’s drawers for a suitable outfit the moment he steps into the room. Jimin rolls his eyes; his friends were so predictable. “But it’s a Friday night, you’re sulking because you lost, and Hoseok’s gonna be here with Joon in, like, thirty minutes. I don’t see any better options for you.”

Jimin sighs and hauls himself upright, suppressing a wide yawn with his hand. “I could stay in and watch Coco with some mint chocolate-chip ice cream,” he drawls, barely having enough sense to catch the pair of jeans thrown at his head.

Yoongi stops rifling through his clothes to give him a Look. “You’ve seen that movie five times, and without fail, cried every single time.”

“It’s a good movie!”

“It is, but I’m not gonna let you wallow in your own self-pity all night,” Yoongi retorts, throwing a white muscle shirt along with a loose jacket on the bed. He turns to face Jimin, crossing his arms with an expectant look in his eye. “You need to get out of here and blow off some steam. You don’t have practice tomorrow, right?”

“No,” Jimin sighs, resigning himself to his fate.

“Well, there you go,” Yoongi says with a shrug. He jerks a thumb over his shoulder, towards the bathroom across the hall. “Hop to it. You still stink, and I refuse to be seen in public with you like this.”

“Touching,” Jimin snorts, grabbing the clothes Yoongi picked and makes for the bathroom. He supposes Yoongi’s right — he really doesn’t have anything to lose by going with them. It’s been weeks since their coach has given them any kind of break, and it’s probably going to be even longer before they get another. This is the only time for him to let loose, so he might as well make the most of it.

Hoseok and Namjoon have arrived by the time Jimin steps out of the bathroom, chatting loudly with Yoongi in the kitchen while downing a couple pre-game shots. Tequila, from what Jimin can tell of the bottle — which means that it’s definitely going to be a wild night.

“Jiminie! You look hot,” Hoseok greets brightly once Jimin joins them at the little dining table shoved into the corner. “Feel any better yet?”

“Not really,” Jimin mumbles, pouring himself a shot. He knocks it back with a straight face, internally wincing at the acidic burn it leaves on his tongue.

“Hoseok told me everything,” Namjoon says, gently. He pats Jimin’s shoulder, dimples flashing when Jimin looks up. “Don’t let it get to you. You’ll get them next time, yeah?”

Jimin offers him a small smile in return. “Yeah, I guess. I just — I don’t want to think about it, tonight. Not anymore.”

“You’re in luck, then!” Hoseok chirps, clapping his hands together excitedly, just like a little kid on Christmas morning. “We’re going somewhere a little more special , tonight. It’s kind of out of the way of campus, but the reviews on this place were golden. Trust me — it’ll make you forget the game ever even happened.”

“Do you realize how sketchy you sound?” Namjoon snorts.

Yoongi reaches for the bottle of tequila, mumbling under his breath, “I’m gonna need another shot for this.”

“What? C’mon, guys. Have a little faith in me,” Hoseok pouts, leaning back in his chair. He pauses, then lets out a heavy (and overly dramatic) sigh. “I was even gonna offer to cover everyone’s drinks, but now —”

“Let’s go,” Jimin cuts in, immediately jumping to his feet. He practically drags Hoseok up and out of his seat, ignoring his squawking at being manhandled out the door, and motions for an amused Yoongi and Namjoon to follow. He can’t quite bring himself to feel the slightest bit bad about it; like hell he’s gonna pass up on free anything when it’s being offered to him on a silver platter. That’s just foolish.

The drive to Hoseok’s ‘special place’, air-quotes included and all, ends up taking much longer than Jimin anticipated — nearly half an hour on the freeway, taking them directly into the heart of a bustling seaside city Jimin’s only seen pictures of. The streets are illuminated with the bright lights of shops and restaurants, spilling out across the warm concrete in glowing planes; the only bit of darkness come from the clubs, neon signs tinged with red, pulsing bass reverberating through the ground beneath their feet.

They finally find some parking a couple blocks over, after circling around the streets for what felt like an eternity. Jimin swears he even saw Yoongi doze off for a few minutes in the front seat, at one point.

The club, on the outside, looks unassuming. Pluto is spelled out in simple, sleek lettering on the glass doors, flanked by two stern, yet devastatingly bored-looking bouncers. There’s a modest line waiting to get inside, filled mostly with college-aged young adults like them, but there are a couple older-looking men within the mix. All in all, it seems like any other regular nightclub.

“What exactly is your definition of special , Hoseok?” Jimin asks, dubious, once they reach the end of the line. “This is nice and all, but the way you were hyping this place up, I was kinda expecting… more?”

“Save your whining until we’re actually inside,” Hoseok snorts, reaching up to flick Jimin on the forehead. “Haven’t you ever been taught not to judge a book by its cover?”

“As long as they’ve got decent whiskey, I don’t care if this place ends up being a total crapshoot,” Yoongi drawls, nudging them forward when the line moves up a bit. “Once you’ve got enough drinks in you, you won’t even remember your own name, let alone where you are. Chill out.”

“Just don’t get too sloppy,” Namjoon says, eyes pleading. “Please. I really don’t want to spend another two days cleaning your nasty puke out of my car.”

“That was one time, Joon. Let it go.”

“It was two weeks ago, Yoongi.”

“Well, would you look at that — we’re up!” Hoseok suddenly shouts, shoving all three of them forward after he quickly gives his name to one of the bouncers. He leads them through a dark hallway, the distant rumble of chatter slowly increasing in volume as they get closer and closer to the main room, presumably. Oddly enough, the music Jimin hears isn’t mind-numbingly loud like he expects. It’s more like white noise — a slow, sensual sort of beat. Enough to set the mood, but doesn’t go overboard to kill it. It’s actually pretty nice.

The main room, however, is a completely different story.

“Hoseok,” Yoongi begins, slowly, mouth falling wide open. “What the fuck did you get us into?”

Jimin would second that sentiment, but as it is, he’s currently shocked into silence.

He’s not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but he wasn’t expecting to see so much… skin . The room’s full of it, waiters and waitresses roaming around the tables in about seventy-percent less clothing than everyone else. Colorful, warm lights illuminate the few poles littering the room, currently empty for now — but judging by the staff setting up the stage at the front of the room, Jimin doesn’t think it’ll be too long before someone comes out to claim them.

Hoseok is completely unbothered as he faces them with a grin, shouting an excited, “Surprise!”

“Surprise?” Jimin sputters, fixating his wide eyes on Hoseok. “You brought us to a strip club.

“I need to sit down,” Namjoon mumbles. “Or a really strong drink. Either’s fine.”

“You guys are so dramatic,” Hoseok scoffs, rolling his eyes. He spreads out an arm, gesturing to the crowd of people milling about, laughing and toasting drinks at their tables. “Broaden your horizons, will you? Everyone’s having a great time, and the show hasn’t even started yet. Guarantee you’ll all be thanking me by the time the night is over.”

“Wait, wait — the show? ” Yoongi repeats, incredulous. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I should’ve never let him watch Magic Mike on my Netflix account,” Namjoon groans.

“Shut up,” Hoseok says, pointing at Namjoon. He turns to Yoongi. “And you’ll just have to wait and find out. My guess, though? You’re gonna love it. Heard they’ve got plenty of guys that are just your type in it.”

Yoongi blinks. “When does it start?”

Hoseok almost collapses on the floor in laughter.

 

-x-

 

They end up settling into a booth near the left side of the stage, and while Hoseok leaves to get their drinks at the bar, Jimin feels the initial shock begin to ebb away. Lets everything sink in as he half-listens to Yoongi and Namjoon chat about something music-related, as usual. He can’t deny that this is exactly like his teenage wet dream finally coming true — beautiful men and women sending him flirty looks every time they catch his eye, all red lips and muscular backs, so alluring that Jimin feels a little wave of arousal run down his spine at the sight. God, he’s so fucked.

He almost downs his entire drink when Hoseok hands it to him, desperate to take some of the edge off. A cute boy in short-shorts and suspenders comes by and offers to get him another, and Jimin’s throat is too dry to make a sound, so he just nods — and feels himself flush at the knowing look the boy gives him before he disappears into the crowd, which grows larger by the minute.

“I think it’s starting soon,” Hoseok says over the music, eyeing all the girls starting to migrate to the front of the stage, wads of cash clutched in their hands.

The boy comes back with his drink, and Jimin actually manages to mumble a quiet thank you this time. He gets a little wink in return, and Jimin watches him leave with dark, hungry eyes.

He’s barely gotten a sip in when the lights suddenly dim and the music changes. The sweet, smooth sound of a saxophone cuts through the warm air, followed by a sensuous beat; cheers and ear-piercing whistles instantly erupt from the crowd. Two spotlights burst to life, shining down on the center of the stage.

Jimin feels himself unconsciously sit up straighter, fingers curling tightly around his glass.

He watches, mouth falling slack, as Adonis after Adonis walks out from behind the velvet curtain — they’re all wearing some form of a loose crop-top, caps that cover their eyes, and the tightest jeans Jimin’s ever seen on anyone. Though he can’t really see much of their faces from their table, he doesn’t need binoculars to see the charming smiles they throw the crowd, the teasing little sway of their hips, fingers brushing lightly across their own lips.

“Holy fuck,” Namjoon breathes out, barely audible over the girls’ screams.

The beat drops into something more dirty, gritty. Jimin almost chokes on his drink when they all drop to their knees, rolling their hips into the air in sync, abs contracting beautifully under the lights. He feels his mouth go bone-dry, watching all the body rolls and hands dragging across thighs, over the bulge in their jeans, up to their chests — until they all fling off their hats and rip off their shirts, grinning wildly as they descend into the crowd.

Holy fuck indeed.

The boy closest to their table sets his sights on them, weaving through the tables with a practiced fluidity, hands stuffing money into the waistband of his jeans with every single step. He licks his lips, runs his fingers through the hair curled at the nape of his neck, dark eyes alight with fire. A true predator on the prowl, ready to strike his prey.

Jimin does choke on his drink when the boy grabs the back of Yoongi’s chair, and yanks him just far out enough to settle himself in Yoongi’s lap.

“Oh my fucking god,” Hoseok squeaks, already scrambling for his phone. Namjoon just stares at the scene unfolding right in front of their eyes, eyes boggling out of his head with his mouth wide open.   Jimin almost hacks up an entire lung trying to get himself under control.

Yoongi, for his part, looks equally shell-shocked and ridiculously turned on. The boy’s exactly his type, true to Hoseok’s word — sharp eyes, long lashes, tanned skin with a little more meat on his bones. His hands hover around the boy’s waist, uncertain and slightly panicked, as he tangles his hands in Yoongi’s hair and pulls his head back, leaning in close as he grinds down on Yoongi’s crotch.

Hoseok shouts triumphantly with a wolfish grin, phone out and filming the entire thing. Namjoon’s turned redder than even the ripest tomato in existence. The boy smirks and murmurs something in Yoongi’s ear, and a second later, Yoongi’s gripping his waist and relaxing enough to let the boy give him the lap-dance of his life.

“He looks like he’s gonna bust the biggest nut any second,” Hoseok snickers in Jimin’s ear. He lets out a particularly ear-deafening screech when the boy turns around and swivels his hips, grinding his ass against Yoongi’s lap.

“No, he’s gonna faint right in that chair,” Jimin laughs, palm hovering over his mouth. “Look how red his ears are!”

“Five bucks he’s gonna propose by the end of the night.”

“Raise it to thirty, and you’ve got a deal.”

“You’re confident, huh?” Hoseok snorts, eyes shifting to somewhere over Jimin’s shoulder. His lips stretch into a smirk, razor-sharp. “Well, looks like you’ll be having some fun tonight, too.”

Jimin frowns. “What are you —”

“Want a private show, baby?” a voice suddenly whispers against his ear, high and tinny. “I’ll give you what he’s getting and more.”

Jimin’s soul almost astral-projects right out of his body. Manicured hands snake down his chest, and when he turns his head, finds dark-lidded eyes staring right back at him, cherry-red lips curled into a cat’s smile.

He feels a little lightheaded, breathless as he croaks out, “What?”

The woman laughs in his ear. “A private dance,” she repeats, and nods her head towards a dimly-lit hall across the room, lined with several doors. “Just you and me. What do you say?”

He doesn’t know — he’s never been offered a private lap dance before, let alone actually gone through with one. He looks to Hoseok for help, who just gives him a thumbs up and focuses his attention back on documenting Yoongi’s situation in full. Namjoon’s already up and out of his seat, halfway across the floor as he trails behind another dancer to one of the rooms. Shit.

Well, what’s he really got to lose? A few twenties at most, probably. “Alright,” he says, relenting, and allows the woman to pull him to his feet. “Lead the way.”

She takes him by the hand and guides him through the crowd, narrowly avoiding getting a drink spilled on his clothes when a girl leans a little too far forward to stuff a fifty into one of the dancer’s pockets. He almost trips walking around them, looking back over his shoulder to check if they’re alright — but he gets distracted when something catches his eye.

Or, well — some one , rather.

It’s one of the guys who’d danced and stripped up on stage. He’s still got his hat on, leather choker snug around his neck, jeans unbuttoned and sliding off his ass with every skillful roll of his hips on the lap of some gaping, mystified dude. It gives Jimin a pretty view of the lacy, black thong he’s wearing — which is mouthwatering, trust and believe — but that’s not what he’s focused on.

The thing that Jimin can’t tear his eyes away from, that makes him stop dead in his tracks, is a small tattoo of a flock of birds trailing across the guy’s ribs. The very same he’d seen earlier that day in the locker room, that he’d seen disappear underneath the dark-blue uniform of their rival university, that he’d seen hundreds of times before.

It’s Jeon fucking Jungkook’s tattoo.

Jimin can’t move. Doesn’t feel like he can even breathe, really. He barely registers the feeling of the woman tugging on his arm, concern evident in her voice as she asks, “What’s wrong?”

He can’t find his voice to answer — not when Jungkook’s tossing his cap to the floor, shaking his hair out as throws his head back, eyes closed and mouth open in the shape of a moan. He’s got one hand gripping the back of the chair, the other on the guy’s thigh behind him as he grinds his hips down fluidly, seamlessly. There’s glitter on his skin, sparkling beautifully in the flashing lights of the club; his expression exudes pure ecstasy, as if he’d just taken a seat on the best cock he’s ever had in his life.

Jimin’s not even embarrassed at the half-chub he’s currently sporting in his pants.

“Baby?” she prompts again.

Jimin blinks. His eyes dart to her for a moment, then back to Jungkook — who’s moving his hips in small circles now, guiding the guy’s hand to his fitted waist with a coy smile, noses brushing together. Jesus fucking Christ.

“Nothing’s wrong,” he manages to say, though it doesn’t sound very convincing. He tries to give her a reassuring smile. “Let’s go.”

They’re a few steps away from the hall when Jungkook finally slides off the guy’s lap, laughing a bit at his dazed expression. Stray bills are littered all around his feet, and just as he’s bending down to collect them all, another girl holds out another twenty for him to take. He grins up at her and takes it, and by chance, shifts his gaze just behind her — directly into Jimin’s line of sight.

Their eyes meet. Jimin feels his heart leap into his throat.

Jungkook’s smile drops instantly, eyes widening in unmasked horror as he realizes just who he’s looking at. His hands still, and though it’s dark, Jimin can clearly see his face turn a sickly shade of white.

He doesn’t know what to do. The woman’s still pulling him along and there’s no time to think — so he just acts on instinct, mechanically lifting his lips in a strained smile and waves. Fucking waves at the guy just as he’s pulled into a room, and watches the door shut on Jungkook’s terrified face.

Well, fuck.

 

-x-

 

Jimin pretends it didn’t happen.

He doesn't tell anyone. Not even when Yoongi was finally resurrected from his post-lap dance daze and noticed something was off. Hoseok and Namjoon were clueless, but Yoongi’s different. They’ve lived together for years, and they’ve been friends since they were both riding bikes with training wheels. There’s nothing about him that Yoongi doesn’t know, or can’t figure out just from observing his behavior for the slightest dip in the line of his mouth, a little furrow between his brows. It just comes with the territory.

Still, when Yoongi prodded at him for answers as to why Jimin looked like he’d seen a ghost after returning to the main floor, he didn’t let out a single peep. Jungkook was nowhere to be seen by that point, and judging by their confusion at his demeanor, he’s guessing that none of his friends saw or recognized him. Either way, he refused to tell them what happened. Brushed it off as one of the drinks not quite agreeing with his stomach or something. He and Jungkook may have their differences, but he’s not about to out him as — what? A stripper? Exotic dancer? Whatever he is, Jimin’s not keen on spilling his secrets just for the hell of it. He’s not that spiteful.

Jungkook, however, seems to think differently.

He pretty much accosts Jimin in the locker room the following week. Honestly, Jimin had just been minding his own business — changing into fresh clothes after a grueling practice, intent on going straight home and taking a nice, long nap. It’s Tuesday, which means Yoongi’s gonna make them his homemade tacos and fajitas for dinner, which are way too delicious for Jimin to believe it’s not secretly take-out from an authentic restaurant. He’s never actually seen Yoongi cook them in the flesh, so he’s still holding out on that theory.

He’s daydreaming about them, completely oblivious to his surroundings while he tosses his sweat-soaked shirt into his locker — and then Jungkook’s suddenly grabbing him by the collar, ignoring his choked sounds of protest and practically tosses him into their narrow, dark equipment room.

The door shuts behind them with a loud bang! Jimin sucks in ragged breaths when Jungkook’s grip on his collar slackens, reaching out to steady himself on the wall while he coughs up a storm. Half of the dim, washed-out fluorescent lights flicker to life overhead, quietly buzzing in the (relative) silence of the room.

“Jeez,” Jimin wheezes out once he stops coughing, rubbing at his throat as he turns to Jungkook. “Nice to see you too, Jungkook. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Jungkook, for his part, doesn’t look apologetic or amused by Jimin’s sarcasm. He’s not even supposed to be here. His team finished their practice hours ago. “Don’t give me that. You know exactly why we’re here,” he spits out.

Jimin scoffs, “Doesn’t mean you can just attack me out of nowhere and shove me into a closet. You’re lucky everyone else already cleared out.”

“I don’t care,” Jungkook grinds out, stepping closer into Jimin’s personal space. He guesses it’s supposed to be intimidating, but Jimin can see the sweat shining on his face, the way his hands shake as he crosses his arms. He’s scared. “You didn’t see anything last weekend, Jimin. Nothing at all. Got it?”

Jimin bristles at his tone. He may feel kind of bad for Jungkook, but he’s not about to take a subtle threat standing down.

“Oh, yeah? What didn’t I see, Jungkook?” he asks, shuffling closer. He revels in the way Jungkook steps back, cheeks turning red in the low light. “You, dry-humping that guy’s lap like you were riding his cock? Or was it that cute little thong you teased all the girls with, letting your pants slide down to show it off?”

“Fuck you,” Jungkook hisses, but there’s barely any bite to it. His voice is shaking. “If you tell anyone, I swear to god, Jimin, I’ll —”

“Relax, I’m haven’t told anyone. Don’t plan on it, either,” Jimin says, rolling his eyes. “Contrary to what you think, I’m not actually a complete asshole.”

Jungkook relaxes a bit, but he doesn’t look entirely convinced. “Why?” he asks, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What do you want? Money? Fine, just name your price.”

Jimin doesn’t know if he should laugh or feel insulted. Both, probably. “I don’t want or need your money,” Jimin sighs, running a hair through his hair in irritation. “Do you seriously think I’m that kind of guy?”

“I don’t know! How would I —”

“That’s the point, Jungkook! You don’t know. You don’t know anything about me,” Jimin cuts in, shaking his head. “Listen, I don’t care why you’re working there. I’m sure you have your reasons, whatever they are. But if you’d stop fucking with me for one second, you’d realize that I’m a person, Jungkook — not your plaything. There’s more to me than anger and all the stupid fights. Have you ever considered that?”

Jungkook heaves a heavy sigh, eyes flitting down to his sneakers. “Of course I have, I’m not an idiot. It’s just — you haven’t exactly given me a reason to think otherwise, you know? You can’t deny that.”

Jimin purses his lips. He’s got him there. “No, I can’t.”

Jungkook leans his head back against the closet door, eyes closed, all the fight visibly leaving his body. He looks exhausted. “I’m tired of this, Jimin. Fighting with you all the time — it’s not worth it. I don’t even know why it all started in the first place.”

Honestly, Jimin can’t remember either. At some point, any legitimate reasons he might’ve once had for disliking Jungkook slowly melted into disliking him out of pure spite. It’s not like he loses sleep over it, but it is tiring — always on the defensive at practices, always looking for some reason to stay angry with him.

He doesn’t want to live like this, anymore.

“We’re both at fault,” Jimin decides to say, putting aside his pride for once. He can’t seem to look Jungkook in the eye, though — so he just focuses on a point somewhere over his shoulder, just so he can get the words out. “We never really gave each other a chance. Just decided one day that we were each other’s enemy, and that’s — well, it’s fucked.”

“Yeah, it is,” Jungkook mumbles. Jimin can see him wring his hands together in the corner of his eye. “I’m sorry, Jimin. For everything. And I’m not just saying it so you won’t give me up — I really mean it.”

Jimin gathers all of his courage and, finally, shifts his eyes to meet Jungkook’s; he’s a little surprised at the sincerity reflected back at him, the vulnerability that Jungkook’s choosing to show him. The little bit of trust he’s putting in Jimin’s hands, with the hope that he won’t get burned in the end.

Jimin thinks that they’ve both given each other enough scars.

“I’m sorry, too. For all the shit I’ve ever said to you,” he says, quietly. Jungkook’s lips quirk into a small, soft sort of smile, and Jimin feels his heart pick up a little. “Can we start over? I know we can’t pretend like nothing ever happened, but…”

“No, no — let’s do it. A fresh start,” Jungkook says, smile growing with every word. He holds his hand out; an offering. “As friends, this time.”

Jimin can’t help but return his smile, warmth spreading throughout his chest. He takes Jungkook’s hand and shakes it once, twice. “As friends,” he echoes.

Jungkook beams, brighter than the sun, and Jimin can’t shake the feeling that something was starting — it was starting.

 

-x-

 

Being Jungkook’s friend is strange, but it’s nice.

They start off with small things. Saying hello when they catch each other in the locker room, with no underlying sarcasm or bitterness. Buying each other bottles of gatorade from the vending machine, and on game days, Jungkook starts bringing Jimin an extra bottle of his homemade special shakes. On the outside, it just looks like a bunch of green goo, but it’s actually not that bad — and Jungkook’s toothy smile when Jimin tells him as much is worth chugging every drop of that glorified liquid salad.

The sudden change in their relationship doesn’t go unnoticed, though. Hoseok’s beyond puzzled when he catches them smiling at each other, practically almost shits himself when Jungkook manages to make Jimin laugh in front of him.

“What the hell is going on? Am I in the twilight zone?” Hoseok sputters in a harsh whisper one day, eyes darting back and forth between him and Jungkook, who’s messing around with one of his friends across the room. “You and Jungkook are acting like — like friends.

Jimin snorts and finishes tying up his cleats. “That’s because we are friends.”

Hoseok’s eyes almost slip out right of their sockets. “Since when?

He shrugs. “Since a couple weeks ago.” Hoseok’s mouth falls wide open, gaping like a fish out of water. “What? It’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal,” Hoseok repeats, absolutely mystified. “You’re kidding, right?”

Jimin sighs, hoisting himself up to his feet. “Let’s have this conversation another time, okay? Coach will make us do sprints if we’re late. Let’s go.”

He manages to get Hoseok off his back for a while after that, but it’s clear that Hoseok’s not going to let him get away with dismissing the topic completely —  if the way Jimin can feel his eyes burning into the side of his face for their entire practice is any indication to go by. He steadfastly ignores it, quickly gathers his stuff once practice is over, and hauls ass out of the locker room before Hoseok can corner him.

There’s something more important that demands his full attention, tonight.

 

-x-

 

Pluto’s main floor isn’t nearly as crowded as it was the first time Jimin ended up here. He supposes it’s because it’s a Wednesday night — not exactly the most ideal time to get shitfaced and blow some money on drinks and entertainment. In fact, he’s got his own midterm paper calling his name on his laptop back home, half-finished and in desperate need of editing, but he’d decided to save his suffering for another day and venture out for the night.

Well, that’s not really the whole truth. His curiosity simply got the better of him, and he recklessly abandoned all his responsibilities to satisfy it — all on the off-chance than Jungkook might be working tonight.

He opts to take a seat at the bar, feeling a bit out of place as he orders a martini, as dirty as can be. His friends aren’t with him to act as his security blanket, and although Jimin considers himself to be more of a social person, he definitely has a minor case of stranger danger when he’s alone and out of his element. Crappy vodka and stuffy, cramped apartments are more his style; not gleaming countertops and beautiful dancers dressed in police-themed outfits, roaming the floor with a confidence that Jimin envies.

Karma seems to have his back for once, though. Thirty minutes in and Jimin finally spots Jungkook serving drinks to a group of women in one of the booths near the stage, smiling and laughing, playing it up.

His outfit, though, makes Jimin almost drop his drink.

He looks absolutely delectable — sporting a cop costume like the rest of his co-workers, though his looks more like a harness than anything else. His top is very cropped, dark sheer material stretched across his chest, leather straps tight over his shoulders and criss-crossing over his back. His small shorts are strapped to his tiny, fitted waist like a garter belt, fake handcuffs hooked around one of the straps and glinting in the dim light.

Jimin tries his damnedest not to pop a boner right then and there — but then Jungkook turns around, freezing in place when he spots Jimin at the bar.

There’s a brief flash of alarm that crosses his face, but then it quickly turns into confusion, and then to mild embarrassment as Jungkook ducks his head and adjusts his cap. He pulls it down over his eyes as he makes his way over to Jimin’s seat, tousled bangs hiding them from view.

It’s… cute, somehow. Really cute. Jimin doesn’t think he’s ever seen Jungkook act so shy before — it’s pretty endearing, and it makes his chest swell with something dangerously close to affection.

“What are you doing here?” is the first thing out of Jungkook’s mouth, once he finally reaches Jimin. His eyes dart around as he blindly hands his serving tray back to the bartender, Adam’s apple bobbing when he eventually settles on Jimin’s face.

Jimin shrugs, dragging the tip of his finger around the rim of his glass. “Just felt like getting out for a drink or two. Is that wrong?”

Jungkook just stares. “There’s plenty of other bars you could’ve gone to closer to your campus.”

“Yeah, well,” Jimin starts, sighing a bit as he tilts his head with a smile. “None of them have you, so I didn’t bother looking.”

A beat of silence passes between them. Jungkook blinks, face completely blank as the reality of what Jimin just said really sinks in. It’s amusing, to witness the moment it finally hits him — his pouty lips part slowly, dark brows hiking up his forehead, voice sounding absolutely bewildered as he asks, “Are you… flirting with me?”

Jimin just grins, gesturing a hand around them and drawls, “When in Rome, right?”

Jungkook stares at him for a few more moments — and then he’s smiling, big enough to dimple his flushed cheeks. “Weirdo.”

“I aim to please,” Jimin quips.

Jungkook actually laughs at that. It’s an unexpectedly high-pitched sound, almost goofy in nature; it makes his nose scrunch up in the most adorable way, and the corners of his eyes crinkle as they curve into half-moons. Jimin stares at him, feeling a little enchanted; it’s the first time Jimin’s ever heard his laugh, and it’s more disarming than he’d like to admit.

He can feel the quicksand under his feet, threatening to drag him under.

“Alright, well,” Jungkook says, hand rubbing at the back of his neck, smiling down at his shoes. “If you don’t have anything for me, I’m gonna head back to work.”

Jimin curses himself for spending all of his extra cash on his ridiculously overpriced drink. He digs through his jacket pockets, fingers closing around something small and circular — a lollipop, he realizes, when he pulls it out. He vaguely recalls swiping it from Hoseok’s bag the other week. “Do you accept these?”

Jungkook stares at it for a moment, then snorts. He plucks it out of Jimin’s hand, slowly unwraps it, and sticks it into his mouth. It bulges around his cheek, and Jungkook looks him directly in the eye as he hollows his cheeks, pink lips puckered around the red candy as he pulls it out, bit by bit — just enough to swirl his tongue around it, eyes darkening with intent. Teasing.

Jimin just watches the whole ordeal, mesmerized, mind drifting to murkier places — to Jungkook on his knees, feeling his hot breath fanning against the skin along the inside of his thighs, fire licking at the base of his spine.

His jeans suddenly feel way too tight.

Jungkook takes the lollipop out of his mouth with an audible pop! and smiles. “I’m more expensive than this, but thanks for the candy, anyway.”

He turns on his heel, and just like that, leaves Jimin sitting there half-hard and gaping like an idiot.

What a brat.

 

-x-

 

Jimin loiters around the bar for the rest of the night, sipping on his martini, and checks up on Jungkook every now and then while he texts Yoongi about going to see the new Denzel Washington movie this weekend. It’s been a while since they’ve hung out, just the two of them — and Yoongi’s been so overworked at the studio recently, mixing and producing for more artists than he has fingers for. He needs something to take his mind off the stress, rather than work himself to death through it like he always does.

Well, there might be something else to help distract him. It’s by pure luck that Jimin finds the boy who’d given Yoongi the lap-dance of his dreams (and subsequently, the bluest balls he’s ever had) — he’s chatting with some girls at one of the tables, wearing nothing but tight leather pants and a police chief hat on his head. As subtly as he can, Jimin lifts his phone and snaps a quick picture to send to him; it’s pretty crappy quality given the dim lighting in the club, but it’s decent enough for Yoongi to recognize him.

Jimin [22:39]:

[photo attached]

check it out, i just spotted your future hubby

you think he’d be down to break a few laws for you? ;)

Yoongi sends him about twenty middle finger emojis back.

Jimin snickers into his hand and texts back an entire row of eggplant emojis, just to be extra obnoxious. When he glances back up, he catches sight of Jungkook out of the corner of his eye — he’s at the other end of the bar, talking to some older guy who’s clearly had way too much to drink, red-faced and hunched over, hands glued to Jungkook’s exposed waist. He’s leaning in to whisper something in Jungkook’s ear, hands wandering lower to snap one of his shorts’ straps; Jungkook pushes lightly against his chest and gives a little shake of his head, smile coy as he moves the guy’s hands back up to his waist.

He doesn’t quite get the message, though. Jimin watches, blood boiling, as the guy does it again and again — Jungkook looks uncomfortable at best, smile becoming more strained as he keeps readjusting this creep’s hands on his body. His eyes flit around the room, searching, as the guy continues to drool over him like Jungkook’s just some piece of meat and not, y’know, a person.

It’s only when the guy’s hand actually dips underneath that Jimin jumps to his feet, unable to just sit back and watch Jungkook continue to get harassed. He storms over, completely uncaring of the few people he accidentally bumps into on the way, and yanks the guy away by the collar just as Jungkook rips his hands off his body.

“Last time I checked, you’re not allowed to fuckin’ grope the employees as you please,” Jimin snarls, right into the creep’s stunned face.

The guy frowns, looking him up and down as he roughly tugs Jimin’s hand off of his collar. “Who the fuck ‘re you?” he slurs, lips curling. “His bodyguard?”

Jungkook reaches out to place a hand on Jimin’s shoulder, expression pinched tight. “Stop, Jimin.”

Jimin doesn’t hear him. “Doesn’t matter who I am. You don’t just fuckin’ treat someone like that,” he spits back. Jungkook’s hand tightens on his shoulder. “Keep your dirty little hands off him, or I won’t be so forgiving next time. I can promise you that.”

“Jimin, let’s go.

He lets Jungkook drag him away from the guy, silently following as he’s lead down a dimly lit hallway and through a door that’s labeled Employees Only. It turns out to be the dancer’s backroom and lounge — all lined with brightly-lit mirrors, counters piled with make-up, racks of outfits with boxes of props pushed against the wall, and a set of couches sitting right in the middle of it all.

It’s empty, thankfully, because Jungkook doesn’t waste any time in pushing him inside and slamming the door shut behind them. He doesn’t look happy. “What the fuck was that?” he demands.

Jimin squints at him, confused. “What do you mean? He was all over you —”

“I can handle myself, Jimin. I don’t need you to — to save me or some shit,” Jungkook hisses, a deep frown marring his pretty features. He crosses his arms. “You just cost me money, you know that?”

Jimin balks. “Are you telling me you’re willing to be harassed like that for money?

“No, that’s not it! You’re missing the point!” Jungkook shouts, flinging his arm out in frustration. Jimin startles a bit; in all of the fights they’ve had, he’s never heard Jungkook raise his voice like this, ever. “I know my limits, Jimin. In case you haven’t noticed, this is my job . I deal with this shit all the time — I know how to work these people. You don’t.”

“Jungkook, I was just trying to help —”

“Well, don’t. I don’t need it,” Jungkook mutters, shoving past Jimin to wrench the door open, and quickly disappears back out towards the floor.

Jimin just watches him go, stunned and left all alone in the deafening silence, wondering what the hell just happened.

 

-x-

 

The next time he sees Jungkook is a couple weeks later, when they’re both coincidentally having dinner at the same barbecue joint with their respective friends.

It’s awkward right off the bat. They’re not even seated remotely close to each other — Jungkook’s booth is literally across the restaurant — but Jimin’s still keenly aware of his presence, though Jungkook’s seemingly content to pretend that he doesn’t even exist. It’s disheartening, to say the least; they’d actually been getting along really well, so much so that Jimin’s started to feel the beginnings of butterflies swirling around in his stomach whenever Jungkook smiles at him, texts him a stupid meme he’d found funny, or wishes him a simple good luck for practices and games. He isn’t all that sure what the feeling is, yet — isn’t really sure he wants to put a name to it, either — but it’s there. He can’t deny that.

But now Jungkook’s giving him nothing but the cold shoulder, and god help him, it hurts.

If Yoongi or Hoseok notice anything off about him, they don’t say anything — in fact, all they seem to be capable of doing is gossiping about one of the boys Jungkook’s eating with. They’d all recognized him the second he walked in, much to Yoongi’s utter mortification; it’s lap-dance boy.

“I dare you to go ask for his number,” Hoseok snickers between bites of pork, jostling Yoongi with his elbow.

“Fuck off,” Yoongi grumbles, stabbing his fork into a grilled onion. He’s blushing to the roots of his hair. “He was just doing his job, you know. I doubt he wants a customer to come up and harass him in his everyday life.”

Hoseok snorts. “Well, normally I’d agree with you — but judging from the way he’s been eye-fucking you since he got here, I doubt he’d consider it harassment.”

Yoongi’s quiet for a moment, then says, “He has?”

Hoseok hunches over himself in cackling laughter, blindly grabbing onto Jimin’s arm to keep himself from falling off his chair. Jimin just finds himself smiling at Yoongi’s not-so-subtle attempts to steal glances at the boy — it’s cute, honestly. Yoongi hasn’t really been interested in anyone since he broke up with his old flame back in college — Seokjin, was it? — and though Jimin’s tried to coax him back into the dating scene, Yoongi hasn’t taken the bait.

Not until now, at least.

“I think you should go for it,” Jimin says, waggling his eyebrows when Yoongi looks at him.

“I’d need some tequila before I even considered it,” Yoongi mumbles, propping his chin up with his knuckles. He squints over at their table. “Do you think he goes to one of your schools, or something? How does Jungkook even know him?”

Huge, blaring red alarms immediately go off in Jimin’s head. “I, uh, don’t know. I’ve never seen him around before, but they could be like us — childhood friends, you know?” he quickly says, pushing the water pitcher towards Hoseok once he’s finally over his laughing fit. “Maybe roommates or something. There’s a hundred different possibilities.”

Yoongi gives him a strange look. “I’m aware of that. I was just asking,” he says, slowly. Jimin can see the gears turning in his head, and curses himself for being so transparent. “What’s up with you? You’re being we—”

“Oh my god, ” Hoseok suddenly squeaks, narrowly avoiding dropping the pitcher and spilling water all over the table. His wide, owlish eyes are focused in the direction of Jungkook’s table, a delighted grin stretching on his lips. “He’s getting up and looking right at you, Yoongi. Holy shit. Am I about to witness a miracle?”

“I’m going to kill you,” Yoongi hisses under his breath, sitting up a little straighter. He looks a little green. “Don’t say anything stupid, okay? Don’t give him any weird looks, or mime any weird shit  behind my back — especially you , ‘Seok.”

“First of all, how dare you? I’m an angel,” Hoseok sputters, affronted. “Second of all —”

“I’m stepping outside for a bit,” Jimin sighs, slipping out of his chair and resolutely ignoring Hoseok’s grabby hands and protests. He sends Yoongi a small, hopeful thumbs-up before he high-tails it out of there, pushing through the front doors to the sidewalk outside.

It’s a warm, peaceful sort of night, but Jimin still feels kind of jittery. Running into Jungkook after their little spat is affecting him more than it should — even now, he can’t seem to shake the tension he’d felt inside. He just wishes they could talk about it, instead of ignoring each other like passive-aggressive soccer moms at PTA meetings. It isn’t like he hasn’t tried reaching out, either; he’s texted, called, even stayed behind and watched one of Jungkook’s practices in hopes of catching him before he bailed. (Spoiler: he didn’t. Jungkook’s a freakishly good sprinter).

He moves to lean against one of the pillars outside the restaurant, eyes closing as he takes in a deep breath. In, out. It’s not a big deal, he tries to tell himself. He has other friends. He’s got his team, and plenty of matches on tinder that he’s never acted on. Jungkook possibly hating him again isn’t the end of the world, not even close, and yet — and yet.

Fuck, Jimin thinks as he feels the tell-tale burning start up behind his eyes. I like him.

“Is it too cliché if I say something like, ‘nice weather we’re having tonight, isn’t it?’”

Jimin sucks in a breath, hands clenching together in the pocket of his sweatshirt. He doesn’t open his eyes, doesn’t even turn around. He doesn’t need to. He’d recognize that soft, breathy voice anywhere. “It’d definitely be cringe-worthy, I think,” he says, hoping that his voice sounds steadier than he feels.

He hears footsteps approach him from the right, soles scraping noisily against the concrete. “Right, well — it is nice. Looks like it might rain, though.”

Jimin almost rolls his eyes. He doesn’t want to have the driest conversation of his life talking about the weather, of all things. “Whatever you came out here to say, just spit it out. I have to go back in and save Yoongi from embarrassing himself in front of your friend soon.”

“Actually, they look like they’re getting along pretty well. Taehyung took your seat, though.”

“Yeah, well, he can have it. I don’t plan on staying much longer.”

“Jimin, please, just — look at me?” A pause. “I want to talk. Five minutes. That’s all I’m asking for.”

Now you want to talk,” Jimin sighs, cracking open his eyes to finally look at Jungkook. He’s standing right beside him, closer than he’d thought, round eyes focused on him while nibbling on his lower lip. He looks… softer, somehow. More boyish, young — fluffy hair still drying from a recent shower, acne scars littered across his jaw, body concealed in baggy sweats. It’s maddening, how Jimin’s stomach leaps just looking at him. “You’re a little late to the party, Jungkook. I’ve been trying to talk to you for weeks — but you knew that.”

Jungkook purses his lips, ducking his head a bit. “I did,” he admits, hand reaching up to play with the hair at the nape of his neck. “I just didn’t know what to say, after… well, you know.”

Jimin sighs. “Listen, Jungkook. I’m sorry for how I went about the whole thing, but I’m not sorry for what I did. That guy deserved it.”

Jungkook stares down at his sneakers, shrugging. “Yeah, I know. He was getting too handsy, in all honesty.” He looks up at Jimin. “I do appreciate the sentiment, though. Really. It’s just… I’ve been doing this for a long time to get myself through college, alone. I’ve only really had myself to depend on, so when you jumped in… I don’t know. Just got defensive, I guess. Sorry.”

Jimin looks at him for a long, long moment. “It’s okay to rely on other people, Jungkook,” he eventually says, softly. “You’re not alone anymore. You’ve got people in your corner, and you’ve got me . Please, just — don’t shut me out.”

Jungkook nods, eyes shining under the dusky lights of the street-lamps. “Okay,” he says, voice barely above a whisper. He smiles then, and it feels genuine. “Thank you, Jimin. For keeping quiet about the whole thing, too. My friends in there — they’re the only ones who know, and that’s only because they work with me. Honestly, I almost shit myself when I saw you that first night.”

Jimin huffs out a laugh, feeling so much lighter than he had before. “I didn’t even know it was you, at first,” he admits. “Not until I saw your tattoo.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows disappear behind his fringe. “You noticed that?”

“Kind of hard to miss in a locker room full of half-naked guys,” Jimin snorts.

“I guess so,” Jungkook shrugs, leaning his shoulder on the pillar, body turned towards Jimin. He laughs, quietly, almost rueful. “I should be more careful about that. I thought about getting it removed when I started working there, but — I don’t know, I just couldn’t go through with it.”

“Must mean something pretty special, then,” Jimin says.

Jungkook’s lips quirk up. “Sort of,” he mutters, staring down at the ground. “I, um, got it right before I moved out. I thought it would be a nice reminder that I made it out, y’know? That I still had higher places to go, no matter what anyone else said.”

Jimin smiles then, warmth flooding his chest. Jungkook really was such a soft-hearted kid. “Don’t get rid of it, then. Something like that — I’d keep it forever, if I could.”

“I won’t. Don’t worry,” Jungkook says, looking back up — his eyes are gentle, tender. Something like hope ignites in Jimin.

Silence falls over them once more, but it doesn’t feel awkward. Not in the slightest. It’s more — mellow, in a sense. Jimin allows his eyes to trail all across Jungkook’s face, committing every detail to memory; the little mole underneath his lip, the natural puffiness under his eyes, the barely-visible cleft in his chin. He feels an urge to pull him closer, to place his lips on every seemingly insignificant detail Jungkook has, to make him feel — loved.

God, he’s already in so deep.

Jungkook’s eyes are fixated somewhere around his lips, Jimin knows. His pulse picks up underneath his skin, pounding in his ears, his head — Jungkook looks pensive, yet entranced. Almost like he’s spacing out, but Jimin can practically hear his thoughts, he’s thinking so hard. He’s tempted to just say fuck it, to pull him in and give them what they’re both craving — but he doesn’t.

If anything’s going to happen, he wants Jungkook to come to him.

Still, he holds his breath in his throat, waiting — and just as he thinks Jungkook might actually go for it, he lets out a little breath and leans his head back, just a little bit. His eyes are clear when he glances back up at Jimin, cheeks slightly flushed; his mouth curls into a sheepish little smile.

Jimin squashes down the urge to sigh, and tries not to feel too disappointed.

“Hey,” Jungkook says, voice sounding a bit raspy. He quickly clears his throat. “How do you feel about animated movies?”

Jimin blinks. That’s definitely not what he’d expected Jungkook to say. “Uh, I like them? A lot. Coco still makes me cry.”

“Of course it does,” Jungkook giggles. He leans off of the pillar and jabs his thumb over his shoulder. “Well, uh, I still haven’t seen the new Incredibles movie yet. Do you wanna—?”

It takes a few seconds for his words to sink in. “Oh,” Jimin says, dumbly. “ Oh.

“We can walk to the theater from here,” Jungkook adds, shifting a bit on his feet. “It’s, like, seven minutes at most. Totally painless.”

Jimin laughs. “You don’t have to sell me so hard on it, Jungkook.”

Jungkook flushes. “Sorry."

“I’ll go with you,” Jimin says easily. Butterflies swarm his stomach when Jungkook’s face immediately lights up — he’s stepping further into the quicksand, teetering closer and closer to the center, to being pulled right under.

The way Jungkook’s hand bumps against his on the entire walk there, eyes sparkling as he talks about how much he enjoyed the first movie as a kid, body thrumming with pure happiness —

Jimin would gladly dive into the sand for him, a thousand times over.

 

-x-

 

Yoongi [21:18]:

way to ditch us in the middle of dinner u leech

u officially owe me $17.89

and an explanation

where the hell did u go

Jimin [22:37]:

uhhh i saw the incredibles 2

would recommend its pretty good

Yoongi [22:38]:

…. are u kidding me

u just randomly decided to leave and go see a movie all by URSELF?

are u like.. okay? wtf  

Jimin [22:38]:

no omg i went with jungkook

Yoongi [22:39]:

what

???????????????????????  

Jimin [22:39]:

can we discuss this later i’m still with him at this froyo place

btw do u want me to bring anything back

Yoongi [22:40]:

uhhhhhhh my friend jimin would b nice, ever heard of him?

dont really know where he went  

Jimin [22:41]:

omg shut up

i have to go i’ll be home later

Yoongi [22:41]:

dont think im gonna let this one go

also

mint chocolate chip with crushed oreos

thx

 

-x-

 

“Are you and Jungkook fucking?”

Jimin halts immediately, key still turned in the lock with one foot barely over the door threshold, and looks up — Yoongi’s waiting for him in their little entryway with his eyes narrowed and arms crossed, as if he’s a disappointed father ready to give Jimin the scolding of his life. Behind him, Hoseok and Namjoon are lounging on the couch, watching them intently.

Jimin flits his eyes between the three of them, awkwardly stepping further inside. He lets the door shut behind him and slowly holds out the cup of froyo Yoongi requested. “Can I take my shoes off before you interrogate me, at least?” he asks, wary.

Yoongi takes the cool container from his hands. “Just answer the question, Jimin.”

He sighs, bracing a hand against the wall as he toes off his shoes. “No, we’re not.”

Fuck!” Hoseok shouts, banging his forehead against the armrest. Yoongi just snorts out a laugh, retreating into the kitchen to presumably grab himself a spoon; Namjoon, for his part, looks completely lost and scandalized, now. “Jimin, you’re bankrupting me!”

Jimin cautiously approaches the couch, absolutely puzzled. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t look at me,” Namjoon says, holding his hands up defensively when Jimin turns his gaze on him. “I just got off work. I don’t know what’s going on either.”

“‘Seokie here owes me fifty bucks,” Yoongi smirks, clapping Hoseok on the shoulder before he plops down in the loveseat with a haughty smile, spoon in hand. “We had an insightful talk after you ditched us. He thought you guys were fucking for sure , and I said that’s bullshit. Isn’t that right?”

“Hold on, hold on,” Hoseok sputters, holding his hand out towards Yoongi in a placating gesture. He turns to Jimin. “Maybe you guys aren’t fucking, but are you — like, dating?”

Jimin blinks. “I… don’t know? Tonight felt like a date, I guess.”

Honestly, he still feels like he’s toeing the line between dream-land and reality. They didn’t verbally define it as a date, but the way Jungkook acted around him — leaning his chin on Jimin’s shoulder while they stood in line for popcorn, laughing too loudly at his stupid jokes, hooking their ankles together under the table while they ate froyo — Jimin wasn’t really sure he could call it anything else.

Hah!” Hoseok shrieks, pointing a finger in Jimin’s face and subsequently pulling him out of his thoughts. “I knew something weird was going on between you two!” He turns to Yoongi, all smug. “I think you owe me fifty bucks, now.”

Yoongi scoffs. “We agreed on the stipulation that they were fucking, not going out on dates. Sorry, but you’re shit out of luck.”

“Are you kidding? Dating eventually leads to fu—”

“Wait a second,” Namjoon interrupts, holding his fingers to his temples like he’s got a headache coming on. Honestly, Jimin can relate. “Where is all this coming from? I thought you and Jungkook hated each other, Jimin.”

Jimin sighs. “Well —”

“Dude, they’ve been nice to each other for weeks. It was so weird, but now it all makes sense,” Hoseok answers in place of Jimin, nodding to himself and scratching his chin thoughtfully.

Namjoon’s still confused. “Why the sudden change, though? If I remember correctly, Jimin said ‘fuck Jeon Jungkook and every square inch of earth he walks on’ the last time his name was brought up.”

“That’s exaggerating,” Jimin snorts. “I said every square foot.

Namjoon looks unimpressed. “Does that really make a difference?”

“To me, yes.”

“I’m curious myself,” Yoongi drawls, spooning a bunch of froyo into his mouth. “You’re not off the hook, Min. I’ve had to listen to you bitch about that kid way too many times, so — cough it up. What gives?”

Three pairs of prying, curious eyes land on him. Jimin swallows down the anxiety building in his throat, and simply shrugs. He’s not going to give Jungkook up. “We just decided to drop it. I don’t even remember why I hated him so much in the first place, really. He didn’t either, so… we started over.”

“Seriously?” Hoseok says, squinting a bit. “You're still holding a grudge against me for accidentally breaking your little league tournament trophy.”

“Uh, yeah. It’s a trophy, Hoseok.”

“Super glue fixed it, so I don’t see what the problem is.”

“Do you like him?” Yoongi cuts in, immediately shutting the both of them up. Straight to the point, as per usual.

Jimin feels his cheeks burst into flames, but he doesn’t shy away from admitting, “Yeah, I really do.”

The three of them exchange looks with each other, sharing a silent conversation — but then Yoongi’s face splits into a bright, gummy smile, Hoseok starts laughing and clapping, and Namjoon’s cheeks dimple with how widely he grins. The bubble of anxiety in his chest instantly dissipates into nothing, and although Jimin never really doubted his friends, it’s just — it’s so nice, to see them so genuinely happy for him. He’s really lucky to have them in his life.

"Good for you,” Namjoon says, patting Jimin’s arm lightly. “At least two of us won’t be miserably single, now.”

Jimin narrows his eyes. “Two?”

Hoseok grins wickedly, waggling his eyebrows. “Guess who got asked out on a date by lap-dance boy?”

Yoongi almost dumps his froyo right on Hoseok’s head, face turning beet-red. “His name is Taehyung, and it’s not a date. We’re just hanging out at his place next weekend. It’s not a big deal.”

“At his place? Oh my ,” Hoseok echoes, smile widening. “Should I buy you some condoms in advance? It’s been a while, you know. Your stash is probably all expired by now.”

“Oh, fuck you.”

“I’m willing to donate some of mine to the cause,” Jimin teases, nudging Yoongi’s shoulder.

Yoongi just lets out a long, suffering sigh.

 

-x-

 

Over time, Jimin feels the gap between him and Jungkook begin to close. They hang out more regularly now, outside of baseball and the club; Jimin finds himself traveling across the city just to walk Jungkook home from class, or to take him to his favorite diner right next to the bowling alley — which Jungkook drags him into on more than one occasion, just to show off his skills and demolish Jimin. He lets it happen, though. Jungkook’s little victory dance whenever he bowls a strike is really, really cute.

It’s the quiet moments with Jungkook that Jimin enjoys the most, though. The insignificant little things that seem mundane, but Jimin treasures. Like — going to the grocery store together and bickering over which weird-shaped pasta to cook. Riding the bus when Jungkook’s drowsy, slumping in his seat and leaning his head on Jimin’s shoulder to doze off. Listening to Jungkook sing quietly along to his music when he’s studying, tapping the cap of his pen against his lips. Going over to Jungkook’s apartment and finding a brand-new mug with a cute dinosaur printed across the ceramic, just for him. Just because Jimin mentioned off-handedly once that he’d obsessed over dinosaurs as a kid.

Tonight, it’s this moment — Jungkook sitting by himself in the stands, still dressed in his practice clothes, watching Jimin’s game. He’d willingly stayed behind to see him play, even though Jimin knows he’s got work tonight. It’s a small gesture, but it’s one that means more to Jimin than he could ever say.

It’s pretty obvious that he plays extra hard this time around, now that Jungkook’s eyes are on him. Hoseok gives him knowing looks the entire time, makes kissy faces at him when the rest of their teammates aren’t looking. Jimin has half a mind to bat him out to the outfield, but for the most part, he ignores it; all of Hoseok's teasing instantly disappears from his mind when Jungkook waves with the cutest smile, each time Jimin looks up and catches his eye.

He joins him up there once the game’s over and everyone’s cleared out. Jungkook’s just idly scrolling through his phone, legs propped up on the seat in front of him, completely oblivious.

Jimin tries not to scare him too much as he walks up to him, greeting him with a gentle, “Hey, stranger.”

Predictably, Jungkook still startles a bit. He almost drops his phone, catching it at the very last second before it hits the ground, and looks up at Jimin with wide eyes. “Oh, uh — hey,” he says, sheepish. “Nice win tonight. You looked great out there.”

“Mhm,” Jimin hums, plopping down in the seat next to him. A teasing smile laces his lips. “Do you really mean that, or are you trying to sweeten me up for something?”

Jungkook snorts. “Wow, you really have no faith in me.” He reaches out and flicks Jimin on the nose. “Of course I mean it, dummy. I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jimin says, laying his arm across the back of Jungkook’s seat. All casually, of course — at least, he hopes so. “Thanks for staying though, Kook. It was a nice surprise.”

Jungkook shrugs with one shoulder, fingers fiddling with the strings of his sweatshirt. “I just thought it’d be nice to watch you play for once, instead of just playing against you. Besides, I had some time to kill before work.”

“Yeah, well, I appreciate it. Whatever the reason.”

Jungkook turns in his seat to face Jimin, amused smile quirked on his lips. “You make it sound like I went to war for you or something.”

Jimin huffs out a laugh. “That’s an exaggeration. It’s just — it’s been a while, since anyone cared enough to come to one of my games. Everyone’s always so busy, you know? I think my parents came to maybe three or four when I was a kid.” He shrugs. “So, yeah. It’s nice.”

Jungkook stares at him for a moment, eyes flitting between each of his own — and then he’s reaching out to brush some of Jimin’s hair out of his eyes, fingers lingering just behind his ear. “I’ll be your personal cheerleader from now on, then. Just like you are for me with — well, everything.”

Jimin’s heart pounds, frenzied in his chest. “You don’t have to do that,” he murmurs, soft; barely above a whisper.

Jungkook’s fingers drift to the nape of his neck, nails lightly scratching against the warm skin there. Jimin barely suppresses a shiver. “I want to,” he says, more breath than voice.

Jimin feels his hand begin to pull at his nape, urging him closer — Jungkook’s eyes drift down to his lips, tongue peeking out to run across his own. The thrumming of his heart builds and builds, a steep crescendo of anticipation, of adrenaline; Jimin closes his eyes and lets himself be swept away with the waves, uprooted from the sand and out to sea — to Jungkook.

Their lips meet in a gentle, tentative sort of push-and-pull. Jungkook’s lips are warm, softer than he’d ever imagined — Jimin feels him sigh through his nose as he presses closer, hands moving to cup Jimin’s face. It feels like a long time coming, the way Jimin covers one of his hands with his own, the way he nips lightly at Jungkook’s bottom lip, playfully; sunlight fills his chest when he feels Jungkook smile against his lips, hears the little giggle caught in his throat when he nips at Jimin’s lip, too.

Time slows, like this — every drag of their lips feels like wading through molasses, sugar-sweet. Everything else falls away, fades out of existence; all Jimin knows anymore is the poppy-red of Jungkook’s cheeks as he pulls back, the shy little smile lining his puffy lips, the mirth dancing in his dark eyes. A beautiful sight — and all for him .

“I was afraid I was reading into things too much,” Jungkook whispers, eyes crinkling as he grins. Jimin wants to kiss him again, and again, and again. “Glad to see I wasn’t.”

Jimin laughs and shakes his head. “Not a chance,” he says, threading their fingers together. “It’s always been you.”

“Good. Let’s keep it that way,” Jungkook says, and tugs him into another kiss.

 

-x-

 

Moonlight, bright like a beacon, reflects beautifully off the hood of Jimin’s car as he waits outside of Pluto. He’s been checking his phone on and off, idly bouncing his knee to the beat of the radio as he watches people filter in and out of the club; it’s 2:34 A.M., and Jungkook’s shift should’ve ended a few minutes ago.

Jungkook normally catches a ride home with Taehyung, but seeing as they’re sort-of boyfriends now, Jimin’s more than happy to take on that responsibility. He’d been lounging at Jungkook’s apartment by himself for most of the day, anyway — Jungkook left him there with a quick kiss goodbye and the promise of cuddles later, and maybe something less PG-13.

Needless to say, Jimin’s been thinking about exactly what that entails for hours. He even turned down an offer from Yoongi to go out with their friends and a couple others from Hoseok’s dance club — like hell he was gonna ditch a night with Jungkook for a couple of cheap beers.

His phone buzzes then, pulling him out of his reverie. It’s from Jungkook: can u come around to the back?

Jimin doesn’t think anything of it, peeling away from the curb to circle around to the narrow parking lot behind the club. The back door is slightly ajar when Jimin pulls up, and seconds later, Jungkook peeks his head out between the crack. He looks around the dark lot once, twice before he pushes the door open and walks out. Jimin watches, bewildered, as he quickly rounds the car with his hood concealing his face, scrambling into the passenger seat as soon as Jimin unlocks the door.

“Why do you look like the FBI is after you?” is all Jimin can ask, frowning at the frenzied look on Jungkook’s face once he pulls down his hood. “Hey, hey — are you alright? Did something happen?”

Jungkook shakes his head like a bobble-head toy, barely sparing Jimin a glance as he jams in his seatbelt. “No, I’m — it’s nothing.” He lets out a shaky sigh. “Just take me home, please?”

He’s lying, Jimin knows. It’s clear that something’s very wrong, but he doesn’t press it; Jungkook would just clam up if he just barraged him with questions now. So, he just nods and pulls on the gearshift with a quiet, “Okay.”

The drive over to the apartment is deathly silent, as is the elevator ride up to Jungkook’s floor. His shoulders are wrought with tension, movements oddly stiff as he unlocks his door and lets them both in. Jimin watches him carelessly toss his bag and keys on the floor, hands running through his hair messily as he retreats into the tiny kitchen, leaning back against the counter.

Jimin swallows, throat dry, and places his keys on one of the hooks above Jungkook’s shoe-rack with considerably more tact. Jungkook hunches over a bit, hand covering his face; Jimin approaches him with caution, slowly, as if he’s a spooked bird ready to take flight.

As softly as he can manage, Jimin calls out to him: “Jungkook?”

Jungkook doesn’t make any acknowledgement that he’d heard him. Jimin lets out a silent sigh through his nose, and waits. A few more seconds of silence pass, and then — “They saw me.”

Jimin blinks. “What?”

“They saw me — your friends, Yoongi and the others,” Jungkook whispers into his hands, breath growing more and more unsteady with every word that leaves him. “There were a couple of other guys with them that I didn’t recognize. But that doesn’t matter, because they all saw me and I don’t — Jimin, how could I be so—”

“Wait, slow down,” Jimin eases, gently placing his hands on Jungkook’s arms. He ducks slightly, trying to get a glimpse at Jungkook’s face through his fingers, but it’s no use. He’s all covered up. “Take a breath, Kook. Okay? Let’s just calm down, and then you can start from the beginning.”

Jungkook jerks his head in a nod and lets Jimin guide him, inhaling and exhaling with Jimin counting him off. When it seems like he’s no longer on the verge of hyperventilating, Jimin lightly pries his hands from his face — and instantly feels his heart sink at how bloodshot and glassy Jungkook’s eyes are, long eyelashes glistening with tears.

“Oh, baby,” Jimin murmurs, wiping his thumbs across Jungkook’s wet, flushed cheeks.

Jungkook grips onto Jimin’s sleeves for dear life. “I — I was working the floor, and one of my co-workers told me that a group of guys requested me for a lap dance. Bachelor party or something, I don’t know.” He sniffles, exhaling shakily. “So, I go to their table, do my thing. When it’s over, I get up to give the money to my manager, and I see Yoongi at the bar with all of them. Staring right at me.”

Jimin’s chest constricts painfully. “Jungkookie…”

“I don’t know what to do,” Jungkook whispers, looking frantic. “I knew there was always a risk someone might recognize me, but the club is so out of the way from campus... I thought I was safe. I thought —” He pauses, fingers digging into Jimin’s skin so hard it hurts. He tries not to wince. “What if they tell everyone, Jimin? I can’t have that. I’d lose everything — my scholarship, my place on the team —”

“Hey, hey,” Jimin interrupts, gently prying Jungkook’s fingers off of from his arms. Once free, he reaches up to take Jungkook’s face between his hands, trying to coax him into looking him in the eye. “It’s going to be okay. Yoongi isn’t that kind of person — I’ve known him for a long, long time, and he would never do something like that to you. Neither would Namjoon or Hoseok, or his friends. Trust me on that.”

Jungkook bites his lips and looks down, voice terribly small as he says, “I trust you, Jimin, but I — I don’t know them . How can I trust people I don’t know?

Jimin feels his heart break a bit at how utterly lost Jungkook looks. “Listen, I’ll talk to them. I’ll take care of it, okay? Are you alright with that?”

Jungkook hesitates. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. But — I want to come, too,” he says, sniffling a bit. “I should, right? Let them hear it from me.”

“Okay,” Jimin says. “Okay, we’ll do that.”

Jungkook nods and lets out a sigh, rubbing the heels of his palms against his eyes. They’re still red-rimmed and puffy, but they’re much clearer when Jungkook takes his hands away. Calmer, which is a relief. Jungkook crying like that is a sight that Jimin never wants to see again.

Despite everything, Jungkook tries for a smile as he looks back at Jimin. “It’s probably time for me to meet my boyfriend’s friends anyway, right?”

Jimin blinks once, twice — and then he’s smiling, hard to enough to curve his eyes. “Boyfriend?”

Jungkook’s smile grows into something more genuine; cheeks flushed with a healthy glow, adoration reflected in his eyes. He sounds a little meek as he asks, “Unless you don’t want to be?”

Jimin laughs, breathless, and leans in to press kisses all over Jungkook’s giggling face. He’s weightless, floating amongst the clouds at the thought of finally getting to call this dream of a boy — his.

“Boyfriends sounds great to me,” he murmurs, pulling Jungkook into his arms and smiles hard enough to pull a muscle when he nuzzles his face into Jimin’s neck.

 

-x-

 

Returning to Jimin’s apartment the next morning is quite the spectacle.

The second he walks into the door, hand-in-hand with a sleepy Jungkook, he’s bombarded with the scent of alcohol, sweat, and burnt… something . There are two empty pizza boxes on the kitchen counter, stray plates and napkins scattered all around it, and something decidedly yellowish-green stuffed into the trash that Jimin doesn’t really want to think about.

He ventures in further, sleeve covering his nose, and is unsurprised to find all three of his friends slumped over at the dining table. There’s a plate of burnt toast with one chunk missing from the piece on top, sitting in the center of their little pity-circle along with an opened bottle of aspirin.

“Jimin, is that you?” Yoongi groans, groggily lifting his head from his arms. He squints against the morning sunlight filtering through the windows, face twisted up in a grimace — but his expression quickly turns into one of shock once he catches sight of Jungkook beside him, of their intertwined hands. “Oh, shit.”

He smacks a dozing Hoseok awake, who immediately jolts up in his chair and startles Namjoon in the process. “Whu’zzit?” he slurs, eyes still glued closed.

“What died in here?” Jimin asks, pulling Jungkook slightly behind him.

“Hoseok’s paycheck, some cinnamon-swirl bread, and my dignity,” Namjoon mumbles, yawning into his hand. He blinks blearily at the two of them, eyes widening once he realizes just who Jimin’s brought along for company. “Oh, god. Uh — hey there, Jungkook.”

Jungkook makes a curious little sound, high in his throat. “You know my name?”

“Of course we do,” Yoongi mutters, combing through his messy hair with his fingers. “Who d’ya think listened to Jimin complain about you for the past year?”

Yoongi,” Jimin hisses, cheeks burning. Jungkook just shoots him an amused look.

“What? It’s nothing the kid doesn’t already know.”

“That doesn’t mean you can just —”

“As interesting as all of this is, can we go someplace else with actual food? I’m starving,” Hoseok cuts in, pushing away the plate of burnt toast with distaste. “Namjoon’s morning special didn’t really make the cut.”

“Who told you to put the toaster up to the highest setting?” Namjoon shoots back, offended.

“Uh, I was impatient and hungry? It would’ve been fine if you hadn’t disappeared into the bathroom for —”

“Let’s just go to the diner,” Jimin sighs, interrupting them both. “My treat, okay?”

They’re all out the door in under five minutes.

It’s a little awkward once they’re all seated — none of them seem keen on addressing the elephant in the room, opting to engage Jungkook in a riveting discussion about the weather instead. Jimin feels like smashing his head into the table; it’s clear that Jungkook’s nervous, fingers tearing apart his napkin until there’s a little, shredded pile in front of him as he listens to Namjoon prattle on about the recent humidity. Jimin wants to help him out and just lay their cards on the table, no bullshit — but Jungkook made him promise that he’d be the one to bring it up, not Jimin. He has to respect that, no matter how frustrating it might be.

Thankfully, Jungkook’s saved from a lecture about UV radiation with the arrival of their food. They all dig in without ceremony; Jimin side-eyes Jungkook when he steals a couple bacon strips from his plate, but when he gives Jimin that adorable little bunny smile, he can’t even be upset — just completely, utterly enamored and whipped.

“Silly,” Jimin tuts, smiling as he wipes a bit of syrup off of Jungkook’s lip. He doesn’t even think twice about bringing his thumb to his mouth and sucking it off.

His friends, however, think differently. They’re all staring at him, wide-eyed and cheeks stuffed with food mid-chew.

Hoseok finds his voice first, swallowing thickly. “Are you guys… like, together? Officially?” he asks, eyes darting between the two of them.

Jimin glances at Jungkook, who gives him a little nod. “Yeah,” he says, turning back to the rest of them with a proud smile. “We are. Jungkook’s my boyfriend, now.”

Several things happen at once; Yoongi smirks and lifts his cup of coffee to toast to them, chuckling to himself. Hoseok squeaks and drops his fork on the table with a loud clatter, which startles Jungkook into knocking over Namjoon’s cup of orange juice. Namjoon waves off his profuse apologies with a patient smile — there wasn’t much left in there, luckily — and pats Jungkook’s shoulder, offering him a quiet congrats.

“Boyfriends, huh?” Yoongi says after everything’s cleaned up, leaning back in his chair. “It’s about goddamn time. When did that happen?”

“Yesterday, actually,” Jimin answers, turning to Jungkook. He gives him an encouraging smile, squeezing his thigh gently underneath the table.

Jungkook takes in a breath and clears his throat. “Uh, yeah. It happened last night, after he picked me up from…” he hesitates, looking down at the table. “From work.”

A beat of silence passes over them, and then Namjoon turns to Yoongi and Hoseok. “I told you guys he recognized us,” he sighs.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed about, baby,” Jimin murmurs towards Jungkook, soothing his hand over Jungkook’s thigh.

Jungkook looks up at him, lips quirked into a small smile. “I know it’s not,” he says, more firmly this time. He looks between the other three. “But not everyone feels the same way.”

Hoseok holds up his hands in defense. “Hey, I don’t judge.”

“I clearly don’t, either,” Yoongi says, holding up his phone to display his lock screen — it’s a photo of Taehyung cuddling a tiny, dark puffball of a dog. Jimin almost coos at how cute it is.

Namjoon reaches out to steady Jungkook’s shaking hand. “Listen, Jungkook. If you’re concerned about us telling people, you don’t have to be,” he says, gently. “What you do for work isn’t really any of our business. Seeing you last night really was just a coincidence — we weren’t even planning to go to Pluto, honestly. The bar we wanted to get into was too crowded, so Hoseok just offered to drive us all over there again.”

Jungkook purses his lips, not quite completely sold. “What about the other two guys you were with? They saw me, too.”

Hoseok blinks. “Ten and Yugyeom? They were too drunk to remember their own names, at that point. We had to drag them out of the club like sacks of potatoes.”

“Trust me, kid. They won’t remember a damn thing about last night,” Yoongi adds with a snort.

Jungkook nibbles on his bottom lip, considering. He glances towards Jimin, eyes wide and a bit pleading, as if asking for his opinion; Jimin just shrugs and smiles in response. He can’t give Jungkook an answer to this. He’s going to have to come up with one on his own — to decide if he’s going to take that leap and place some of his trust in his friends. To rely on other people, just like Jimin urged him to all those nights ago.

Eventually, Jungkook lets out a sigh and nods. “Okay. I’ll believe you,” he says, offering them a smile.   “Sorry, I just — I know you guys probably don’t like me much, but this is pretty important to me. So, thank you.”

“Oh, c’mon,” Hoseok groans, waving his hand. “We don’t hate you, Jungkook. Never did. We might hate your school, but, well —”

“What Hoseok’s trying to say,” Yoongi interjects, kicking Hoseok in the shin and rolling his eyes at the pained yelp Hoseok lets out, “Is that you’re safe with us, Jungkook. Your secret won’t get out.” He smiles then, toothy and lopsided. “Just take of Jiminie, yeah? He’s a lot to handle, but he’s got a good heart.”

“Gee, thanks,” Jimin snorts.

Jungkook laughs, reaching up to rub Jimin on the back consolingly. “I’ll try my best,” he promises, eyes sparkling. “I swear it.”

Yoongi nods, seemingly satisfied. It’s smooth sailing from there — Jungkook gets along spectacularly well with all of them, laughing and joking around as if they’d been friends for years. He looks so… happy. It’s practically radiating off of him in waves, and when Jungkook turns to look at him while the rest of them are bickering, adoration written all over his pretty features for him

Jimin realizes that he’s already handed his heart over to Jungkook, without any hope of getting it back. He feels it, with every beat — I love you, I love you, I love you . Over and over, like a mantra.

Jungkook grins then, bright and true, and Jimin knows he’ll keep it safe.

 

-x-

 

Dating doesn’t really change much about their relationship. They pretty much do the same things as before, except there’s a lot more kissing involved now. Not that Jimin’s complaining; Jungkook seems to be emboldened by slapping a label on their relationship, actually. Always finding ways to touch Jimin in public, kissing him in the locker room in front of their teammates without a care in the world. He keeps true to his word and attends every single game of Jimin’s that his schedule allows; he’s even gone so far to make huge, ridiculously tacky posters that spell out HAVE NO FEAR, PARK JIMIN IS HERE!! in big, block letters. The shit-eating grin he gives Jimin when he holds it up for all to see tells him that Jungkook knows exactly how embarrassing it is.

“I’m going to light that poster on fire when you’re sleeping,” Jimin grumbles, glaring at Jungkook’s smiling face across their tiny booth. They’d decided to come to a local pizza joint to grab a bite after Jimin’s game — it was a close call, but they’d won after a lucky double-play in the eighth inning, courtesy of Hoseok.

“I’ll just make another one,” Jungkook says with a shrug, sipping idly on his lemonade. He pokes Jimin’s shin underneath the table with his foot, smile growing more devious as he continues, “I’ll add some sparkles in the letters, glue rhinestones around the border… or maybe I’ll just print out a huge cut-out of your face and stick it on a pole. Wouldn’t that be so endearing?”

Jimin lets out a tired groan. “That would be mortifying.

“I think it’d be cute.”

“You’d definitely choose one of the ugly selfies I send to you for fun, just to spite me.”

“They’re great selfies, babe. Don’t sell yourself so short.”

“Right,” Jimin snorts, rolling his eyes. Their waitress comes by their table to serve their pizza, then — half-hawaiian, half-margherita for Jungkook’s bland taste buds. It really shouldn’t be as charming as it is, to watch Jungkook tear into his food like a man starved, but, well. Love doesn’t always bend to logic.

“Our last game of the season is coming up,” Jungkook muses once they’ve devoured most of the pizza, chewing away at a handful of crust. He swallows and pins Jimin with a curious look, tilting his head. “Is it gonna be weird, now that we’re together?”

Jimin frowns. “I don’t see why it should be. We’re still competitors on the field, no matter what’s going on outside of it.” He squints, suddenly suspicious. “You’re not planning on going easy on me or anything, are you? ‘Cause if you are, I’ll crush you.”

Jungkook laughs, short and high-pitched. “Yeah, right. I might like you and all, but there’s no way I’m just gonna let you beat me. Pigs will fly before that ever happens.”

“You sure sound confident.”

“I almost hit a grand slam the last time we played against each other. Of course I’m confident.”

Jimin hums, mischief lacing the wicked smile that curls his lips. “Arrogance is a slippery slope, Jungkookie. You should be careful.”

Jungkook licks his lips, eyes darkening. He leans forward across the table on his elbows, voice dropping in a low whisper as he says, “There’s only one space where I’ll let you put me in my place, but this isn’t it. Bring it on.”

Goosebumps prickle all over Jimin’s skin as a shiver runs down his spine, but he doesn’t let it show on his face. Instead, he just props his chin up with his hand, smiling sweetly as he leans in closer himself to murmur, “I can’t wait to bring you to your knees, baby. Look forward to it.”

They stare each other down for a moment longer. Jimin’s eyes flit down to Jungkook’s Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat, ears attuned to the way his breath shortens, coming out in soft pants; he shifts in his seat, and Jimin barely suppresses the laugh that almost bursts from his throat at the action. He can’t see it from here, but he’s more than certain that Jungkook’s got a little… situation that’s suddenly presented itself underneath the table.

“Your place or mine?” Jimin asks with a smirk, breaking the charged silence.

Jungkook blinks, cheeks flooding with color once Jimin’s words finally sink in. He huffs a bit and leans back in his seat, motioning to their waitress to come bring them the check. “Mine. I don’t want to hear Yoongi complaining about the noise if he comes back early again.”

Jimin actually does laugh, this time. “I would say you should try being more quiet, but, well... I don’t mind it.”

“Shut up,” Jungkook mumbles, eyes focused on his empty plate as he pulls out his wallet. He swats Jimin’s hands away from grabbing the check, slipping a twenty and a few singles into the plastic slip. A slightly panicked look crosses his face when Jimin starts packing up his stuff, and he holds his hands out to stop him. “Wait, hold on! I just — I, um, need a minute. Or five.”

Jimin raises a brow, slowly letting the strap of his bag slip from his hands. Jungkook refuses to look him in the eye, face quickly resembling a very ripe tomato as he continues to squirm.

“Oh,” Jimin says, realization settling in. He grins, sharp and amused; a cat’s smile. “Still?”

Jungkook purses his lips, shrinking further into himself. “Don’t even try to make fun of me,” he mutters. “This is all your fault.”

“I’ll gladly accept my retribution later,” Jimin hums, content to just watch his boyfriend suffer. He doesn’t feel apologetic at all. “For now, just think of sad puppies or something.”

“Wow, what an original strategy.”

“It works, though. Doesn’t it?”

“...Yes.”

 

-x-

 

The game goes about as smoothly as brushing your teeth with barbed wire for bristles.

They’re neck-and-neck the entire time, quickly catching up to each other when one of them takes the lead on the scoreboard. Everyone seems to be on edge, fighting tooth and nail for every point; Jungkook’s been relentless on the mound, throwing fastballs and curveballs while keeping a careful eye on the bases, wary of anyone acting too jittery for their own good. Jimin, though, managed to slip past him and steal third in the sixth inning. Jungkook’s aghast face at being duped by his own boyfriend was priceless. Jimin just blew him a quick kiss and winked.

It’s Hoseok who decides the game in the bottom of the ninth, though. He blows a huge hit out to left-field, which leaves their rivals diving and scrambling for the ball to no avail; Jimin sails from his place on first  to home plate with no threat of getting picked off, followed closely by an exhilarated Hoseok — they practically tackle each other in a tight hug when he crosses home, laughing and smiling as the rest of their team hops on top in a good ol’ dogpile. They’d won with a walk-off. It’s the fairy-tale ending every player dreams of, and one that Hoseok deserves.

Jungkook doesn’t show any bitterness when they meet up in the parking lot afterwards; just congratulates Hoseok and pulls him into a sweaty hug, smiling so hard that the corners of his eyes crinkle and his nose scrunches up all cutely. Namjoon, Yoongi, and Taehyung eventually navigate their way out of the stadium and smother all three of them with more bear hugs, crushing them together until they’re practically fused into a six-headed creature. Jimin wishes he could take a picture of this moment, unbearably fond — but his memory will work just as well, too.

“You’re taking this pretty well,” Jimin muses once they’re left alone, leaning against the trunk of his car. The rest of their friends went ahead to celebrate at the bars — but not without demanding for them to drop by for a drink before they left to partake in other activities, as Yoongi had so eloquently put it. Jimin agreed with an exasperated wave of his hand, shooing them away before they could embarrass him further.

“It was a great game,” Jungkook shrugs, hopping up to sit on the trunk. His feet dangle a few inches off the ground, and he automatically spreads his legs to make room for Jimin to settle between, fingers fiddling with the hem of Jimin’s shirt. “It sucks to lose, but you guys came at us hard enough to earn the win. You’ve gotta respect that, you know?”

Jimin hums, palms sliding along the outside of Jungkook’s thighs. “Since when did you become so mature? All that bark you gave me before — I’m surprised there’s no bite.”

“I was always this mature,” Jungkook huffs.

“Do you not remember the last game we had a few months ago? I was ready to throttle you, you were so annoying,” Jimin snorts.

“Aw, babe, that’s so romantic,” Jungkook giggles, tugging Jimin closer to place a chaste kiss on his lips. “Open your ears, Jiminie. I never said I was mature to you.

Jimin rolls his eyes, sighing, “Remind me why I’ve decided to love you, again?”

Jungkook’s smile falters, eyes growing wide. “Hold on — love?” he says, voice quieting; the echoes of a whisper. “You love me?”

Fuck. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud. Not yet, at least. They’d only been together for a grand total of three weeks, sort-of unofficially dating for another two months — which is definitely too soon to be throwing around the L-bomb, even though the feeling’s been lingering around his chest for much longer than that. He just doesn’t want to scare Jungkook off; he’d taken so long just to kiss Jimin, to trust him enough with his feelings and take that leap.

Well, it’s too late now. The words already left his mouth, and he’s not about to take them back.

“I do,” Jimin eventually admits, too terrified to look his own boyfriend in the eye. There’s no uncertainty weighing down his voice, though; no wavering, no hesitation. Only truth, and nothing less. “I love you.”

He braces himself for — anything, really. A moment of silence passes between them, then two; Jimin’s just on the brink of panicking when he suddenly feels Jungkook’s hands tilt his face up, and then the warmth of his lips pressing against his own once more.

It’s gentle, soothing; Jungkook kisses him like he’s the most precious thing in the world, fingers brushing against his cheeks, touch featherlight — as if the bone would shatter with the slightest bit of pressure. It’s overwhelming, how soft Jungkook’s being with him, and Jimin finds himself gripping tightly onto his thighs for something to ground him, to tether him back to earth.

“You don’t have to look so scared,” Jungkook murmurs once they separate, leaning back just enough to look Jimin in the eye. He smiles, tender and true. “I’m not gonna pack my bags and leave town just because you said you love me, Jimin.”

Jimin lets out a breath, nodding. “Yeah, I know. Sorry, I just — it’s a lot, isn’t it?”

Jungkook’s hands slide down to his waist, pulling him in closer. “Kind of,” he admits, sheepish. “I like you, Jimin. I really, really like you — and one day, I’ll be able to say I love you. It might not be today, but I’ll get there.”

Jimin hums, “It’s alright. I don’t need you to say it back right now. I just need you .”

“Gross,” Jungkook giggles, and kisses Jimin’s resulting pout away. “I’m kidding, you cheeseball. You already have me, okay? I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good,” Jimin sighs, nuzzling into Jungkook’s neck. He smiles when he feels Jungkook lean his cheek against his head, arms winding tightly around his waist. “Neither am I.”