Actions

Work Header

If Ever It Were Beautiful

Work Text:

Jimin sits under a bus stop overhang, everything he owns in the gym bag by his feet. It’s well past midnight, and everything is eerily dark and quiet except for the rain pounding down outside the glass enclosure and a dim street lamp flickering overhead.

I homeless, Jimin thinks dimly, staring down at his phone. The battery ran out hours ago, but it doesn’t matter. He only had one person to call anyway, and Hoseok wasn’t picking up.

He should be crying, Jimin thinks, but he’s oddly numb. He doesn’t understand how a normal Friday evening ended up this way. He’d been at this same bus stop just this morning, smiling at people and looking forward to a long day at the studio. Looking back less than 24 hours later, Jimin barely recognizes that version of himself.

The sound of bus tires on the wet street draws Jimin’s eyes up from his phone, squinting in the glare of the headlights. He’s been debating getting on the next bus, using what little money he has left on his card to go nowhere in particular.

It’s not much of a plan.

The bus comes to a squealing stop. The door hisses open and a lone figure slumps down the steps. The man doesn’t have an umbrella so he pulls his hood over his masked face in a feeble attempt to hide from the rain.

Poor guy, Jimin thinks distantly. He’s going to get soaked.

“You getting on?” the bus driver calls out to him, pulling Jimin’s attention away. The driver has a warm, grandfatherly appearance, and for some reason Jimin can barely stand to look at him.

“Not right now,” he murmurs politely, dipping his head.

“Suit yourself. Get out of this rain soon, son,” the driver answers before closing the doors and pulling the bus back onto the road.

Jimin starts to settle back into the silence before he notices the hooded man hunkered down on the other side of the bus stop, hands stuffed in his pockets. Between the mask over his nose and mouth and the hood pulled low over his brow, all Jimin can see is a pair of dark eyes and a bit of pale skin.

“Oh, wait,” Jimin says suddenly, his voice jarring in the silence. The man glances over, clearly surprised. Jimin holds up a finger before unzipping the side pocket of his gym bag and pulling out the umbrella he’d stashed there that morning.

“Here,” Jimin says, holding the umbrella out to the stranger.

The man stares at him in silence, not moving to take the purple umbrella hovering between them.

“Take it,” Jimin tries again. “Sorry it’s so bright, but it’ll keep you dry.”

They both remain motionless for a long moment, and Jimin refuses to drop his arms. Everything he owns in the world is in the gym bag by his feet, and it feels important that he can still do this one little thing.

Finally the stranger seems to realize Jimin isn’t going to give up and cocks his head to the side.

“What are you doing?” he asks. His voice is unusual—soft and hoarse and not quite like anything Jimin’s ever heard before.

Jimin stands for the first time in hours, stepping forward to press the umbrella into the man’s hands.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” he says with a forced smile. “Stay dry, please.”

The man takes the umbrella and looks down at it like he’s never seen one before. After a beat he glances up and gives Jimin a suspicious look.

“I don’t want this.”

He presses the umbrella back into Jimin’s chest and drops it before he can protest, leaving Jimin to fumble to catch it. Frowning, Jimin hugs the rejected umbrella.

“Why not?” he asks, defensive on his umbrella’s behalf. Sure, it’s a bit colorful for a grown man—Jimin had fallen in love with the cheery purple cat pattern immediately—but it’s better than getting rained on.

“I’m not taking your umbrella,” the man replies, rolling his eyes. “You need it more than I do. You look like a strong gust of wind would blow you over.”

“I’m the same size as you!” Jimin responds, indignant. His rising frustration is disproportionate to the situation, he knows, but he wants to just do this one normal thing and this jerk won’t let him. A white-hot feeling swells in his chest, making his eyes burn and his breathing go uneven. “Just take it.”

“No,” the man responds, equally stubborn.

Jimin opens his mouth to retort but his breath sticks in his chest and a small hitching noise escapes instead.

“Just-” he tries again, but the words refuse to come and his eyes well up with tears against his best efforts. He turns away quickly when he sees the other man’s eyes go wide, completely mortified.

Pull yourself together, Park Jimin, he tells himself, patting his cheeks frantically, but it’s futile. His face feels hot and he can’t breathe properly and the more he tries to reign it in, the more he feels himself losing control.

He’s homeless.

“Shit,” he hears the man behind him say, but Jimin barely registers it through the sound of blood roaring in his ears.

Oh my God, he’s actually homeless.

He’s suddenly certain he’s dying, that the feeling welling up inside him is going to kill him. Surely he’s having a heart attack.

His parents don’t want him anymore and he’s not going to be able to pay for school or clothes or food or a place to live-

-there’s a hand on his shoulder, a hoarse voice-

-he’s going to die on the street, alone and miserable-

“Come on, kid.”

The black encroaching around the edges of Jimin’s vision recedes slowly. Eventually he realizes he’s sitting again, head between his knees and gaze stuck on his own battered sneakers. He has no recollection of sitting down.

He’s homeless.

“Breathe.”

Jimin tries—it’s a horrible, hitching process trying to get air into his lungs—and realizes there’s a hand pressed between his shoulder blades.

“Keep going.”

Jimin stays folded in half like that for what feels like a long time, tears and snot dripping off his chin as his breathing slowly evens out. Numbness creeps up on him again, and Jimin welcomes it. Anything is better than the misery clawing at his insides, too monstrous to bear.

“That’s it.”

Jimin sits up slowly, his body feeling ancient. He wipes at his wet face with his forearm.

The hand leaves his back, and Jimin misses the weight of it immediately.

Without lifting his eyes, he bows his head.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs to the stranger standing over him. “I’m really sorry.”

Jimin expects his companion to leave at the first opportunity, so he’s surprised when he feels him sit down next to him instead. He finally lifts his gaze enough to look at the other man, and he’s surprised to find him looking back at Jimin with eyes that are neither disturbed nor pitying. If anything, he looks resigned.

“Have you ever had a panic attack before?” the man asks in that strange hoarse voice.

Jimin shakes his head, wiping at his eyes again as moisture continues to gather there even as his breathing evens out.

The stranger hums agreeably, looking back out at the rain. It’s coming down softer now, almost like a veil descending over the world.

“Rough day?” he finally asks.

Jimin laughs wetly and humorlessly.

“You could say that,” he says softly.

They lapse into silence again, and Jimin knows he should muster a smile and tell the man the take his umbrella and go home. It’s late and the other man has already done too much for him, but Jimin can’t bring himself to say the words. The warmth of another person by his side feels like the only thing anchoring Jimin to the earth at the moment. The man is a stranger—he could be a criminal or a pervert for all Jimin knows—but right now, he’s all Jimin has.

The man lets out a gusty sigh, slapping his hands down on his thighs like he’s made a decision.

“Do you have anywhere to sleep tonight, kid?” he asks, tone suggesting he already knows the answer.

Jimin means to lie, but when he opens his mouth no sound comes out. After a couple tries, he gives up and shakes his head faintly.

“Alright. Come on.”

The man stands, his back to Jimin. He pulls his hood down further then walks towards the sidewalk without glancing back, apparently sure that Jimin will follow.

Jimin hesitates, aware of how stupid it would be to follow a stranger who-knows-where in the middle of the night. Common sense tells him to run the opposite direction, but the scolding voice sounds painfully like his mother. Maybe that’s why Jimin grabs his bag and scrambles after the retreating figure.

“Wait,” he says as he pulls up alongside the other man, rain soaking through his hair.

Dark eyes glance over at him.

Jimin pops his purple cat umbrella open over both of their heads, mustering a miniscule smile.

“I’m Park Jimin.”

The other man regards him for a moment, and Jimin is struck by the uncomfortable suspicion that his eyes can see right through him.

“Okay,” he says, turning and walking back out into the rain.

Jimin scrambles after him.

“Wait-”

“Min Yoongi,” the other man says over the sound of the rain just as Jimin pulls alongside him again. “Come on.”

Min Yoongi.

Jimin repeats the name to himself, holding onto it as they walk further and further away from the place that used to be his home. Min Yoongi he thinks instead of wondering where they’re going or what will happen to him when they get there. Min Yoongi with the hoarse voice and dark eyes.

Before long, Yoongi lets them both into an older apartment building above a grocery store. The inside is outdated but well cared for, and Jimin thinks optimistically that it doesn’t look like somewhere you’d take someone to murder them. They take the stairs up to the third floor, dripping rainwater the whole way despite Jimin’s best efforts with the umbrella. Eventually they come to a stop in front of Apartment 31, and Yoongi lifts his hand to pound on the door.

“Wait,” Jimin says, but Yoongi ignores him as he keeps pounding. “This isn’t your place?”

Yoongi stops knocking long enough to hook a finger into his mask and pull it down under his chin, revealing pale skin and pink lips curved into a smirk. He doesn’t look like a celebrity, his nose too flat and his eyes too sleepy, but he might still be the most stunning person Jimin has ever seen in real life.

“Thought I was taking you home, Park Jimin?”

Jimin gapes at him, but he barely gets a chance to digest that comment before the door swings open and his jaw drops even further.

“Ya! Do you want to die? You better have a good reason for waking me up at two in the morning, Min Yoongi.”

Jimin takes it back. The man in the doorway is the most beautiful man Jimin has ever seen. He’s obviously been woken up in the middle of the night, but he still looks like he belongs on a billboard in Seoul selling something Jimin’s too poor to own. He’s tall and broad, and his face is all elegant lines and lush pink lips.

“Don’t stare. Seokjin’s ego doesn’t need boosting,” Yoongi grumbles.

Seokjin abruptly notices Jimin, the annoyed look on his face melting into something that looks like alarm.

“Yoongi-”

“He needs a place to stay, hyung,” Yoongi interrupts, and Seokjin’s mouth audibly snaps shut. The words sound oddly laden, like there’s more meaning there than what was actually said. A serious look passes between the two, and Jimin wishes he’d never left the bus stop. He doesn’t think he’s about to be murdered by these two beautiful men, but he’s confused and tired and miserable and this is all more than he can handle.

“I’m sorry, I’ll just-”

Seokjin turns back to him with a gentle smile that stuns Jimin into silence.

“Don’t be silly. Come inside. Our place is nothing fancy, but it’s warm and dry.”

Seokjin shepherds him inside the apartment before Jimin knows what’s happening, Yoongi trailing after them silently.

“You let him get soaked, Yoongi,” Seokjin scolds. “Did you forget the umbrella I got you?”

Yoongi grumbles something, but Jimin’s too busy looking around to hear it.

The apartment looks surprisingly normal given the circumstances. It’s cluttered but clean, a small kitchen packed with cooking utensils and tupperware and a stunning number of sticky notes stuck to the fridge. The living room looks distinctly lived-in, two couches sagging slightly with use and a game console tucked neatly beneath the TV. When Jimin toes his shoes off he notices there are already four pairs in the cubby.

“Did you eat?”

It takes Jimin a moment to realize Seokjin is talking to him. Seokjin smiles faintly when Jimin meets his gaze, head cocked as he waits for an answer. Jimin glances over at Yoongi, searching for guidance. Seokjin seems strangely at ease for someone who was woken in the middle of the night to let a stranger into his home.

Yoongi shrugs.

“Um, n-no. I’m not hungry, though,” Jimin stutters. He has so little appetite that just the thought of food makes him feel ill.

Seokjin tisks disapprovingly.

“You shouldn’t skip meals. It’s not good for you.”

Jimin opens his mouth to protest, but Seokjin barrels on.

“What’s your name? I’m Kim Seokjin, but you can call me Jin or hyung.”

“Um,” Jimin starts, stunned by the familiarity.

“Just go with it,” Yoongi whispers as he walks by to toe on a pair of house slippers.

“Park Jimin,” he manages feebly.

Seokjin gives him a smile that makes his eyes nearly disappear, apparently unbothered by Jimin gaping at him like an idiot.

“Nice to meet you, Park Jimin. You’re welcome here as long as you want to stay.”

Jimin opens and closes his mouth a couple times, clutching at the strap of his gym bag like a lifeline.

You’re welcome here as long as you want to stay.

For a second Jimin thinks he’s going to have another panic attack, but the moment is interrupted by another voice.

“Who’s he?”

There’s a boy standing in the hallway in his pajamas, rubbing sleepily at the back of his head. He’s tall and handsome, but his face looks considerably younger than anyone else in the room. He’s eyeing Jimin with an air of distrust, for which Jimin is almost grateful. At least someone in this room is reacting normally to the situation.

“It’s okay. Go back to bed,” Seokjin says, voice gentle. “We’ll talk in the morning.”

“Is he staying here?” the boy asks, undeterred.

“That’s up to him,” Seokjin replies firmly. “Go back to sleep, Kookie. You have a math test tomorrow, don’t you?”

The boy scowls.

“Now isn’t the time, Jungkook,” Yoongi says firmly, which gets the boy’s attention. Jungkook holds his gaze for a moment before nodding and giving Jimin one more suspicious look before retreating down the hall.

“Don’t mind Kookie,” Seokjin says with a yawn. “He likes to think he’s tough, but he’s a good kid. He’ll warm up to you in no time.”

Jimin shoots one more lost look at Yoongi, who is no help.

“Jimin,” Seokjin says, drawing his attention back. “I was serious about what I said. You can stay here as long as you need, no questions asked. I don’t know you, but Yoongi vouched for you and that’s enough for me.”

“But… why?” Jimin asks, gaze flickering between Seokjin and Yoongi. Why are these people being kind to him? Why would Yoongi, who doesn’t know him at all, vouch for him? None of it makes any sense.

Seokjin sighs and drops the easy smile, expression turning serious.

“Everyone here has had nowhere to go at some point,” he says simply.

Jimin breathes in a shuddering breath. Yoongi won’t meet his eyes when he glances over, busying himself with shedding his wet sweatshirt, but Seokjin tilts his chin up and meets his gaze.

Jimin looks into Kim Seokjin’s eyes on the worst day of his life and decides to trust him. There’s something steadfast in the older boy’s eyes, something easy and settled that Jimin longs for desperately.

“Thank you,” he whispers, eyes prickling.

I’ll stay, goes unsaid.

“Great. Let’s get you dried off,” Seokjin replies, clapping his hands together.

“What a pain,” Yoongi mumbles.

Jimin looks between them and hopes he hasn’t just made a giant mistake.

-

The first week at the apartment passes in a blur.

The first morning, Jimin wakes up on a yo on the living room floor and can’t bring himself to move all day. Seokjin comes to sit with him at one point, forcing him to take a couple feeble sips of soup and Yoongi throws a casual “see you, kid” his direction as he leaves late in the afternoon, but otherwise everyone leaves him alone. Jimin feels like a ghost haunting their apartment.

On the second day, Seokjin insists on relocating Jimin’s yo into one of the bedrooms. Jimin’s pretty sure he does it solely to make him move.

“I’ve always wanted a roommate!”

Jimin clutches his bag to his chest for dear life as a boy with an odd smile barrels into him and throws an arm around his shoulders.

“Don’t worry, we’re going to have fun. I’ll take good care of you,” the energetic boy assures him as Jimin shoots Seokjin an alarmed look.

Seokjin laughs as he lays out Jimin’s comforter. His laughter is shockingly inelegant.

“Park Jimin, meet Kim Taehyung.”

“Oh. Are you brothers?” Jimin asks tentatively. Both boys are tall and handsome and have the same family name, though their energies are very different. Seokjin gives off an air of confidence and calm, and Taehyung… doesn’t.

“Of course!” Taehyung says immediately.

“In all the ways that matter,” Seokjin replies at the same time.

Jimin blinks and doesn’t ask any more questions.

He spends most of the third day trying to politely avoid Taehyung’s aggressive overtures of friendship. It’s not that he doesn’t like the other boy, it’s just that he suddenly finds interacting with other people exhausting. He’s still numb enough that he can pretend not to notice when Taehyung looks a little hurt when Jimin doesn’t want to play Mario Cart with him.

On the fourth day, he finally goes to class.

On the fifth day, he goes back to the studio, and Hoseok bursts into tears at the sight of him.

“Where have you been, Jiminnie?” his friend asks, wrapping him up in a tight hug. “I’m sorry I missed your calls on Friday, but then I couldn’t get ahold of you. I was so scared! You can’t do that to me.”

Jimin can’t answer him—the idea of saying the words out loud is too much—but thankfully Hoseok just hugs him tighter as he stutters out an apology. Hoseok makes him promise not to drop off the grid like that ever again but doesn’t push, and Jimin loves him so much in that moment that it hurts. They don’t get much dancing done that day.

On the sixth day, he finally plugs in his phone. Hoseok is the only one who’s called, and Jimin is so overwhelmed by misery that he can’t muffle his sobs that night. When Taehyung crawls into his yo with him sometime after midnight, Jimin doesn’t have the heart to fight it. Taehyung just curls up next to him and doesn’t say anything, and Jimin resigns himself to the fact that he’s going to like Kim Taehyung whether he wants to or not.

At the end of his first week in the apartment, Jimin forces himself to accept Seokjin’s offer to join everyone for dinner. The look of delight on Seokjin’s face makes him feel guilty for refusing for so long.

“Thank goodness. Yoongi’s stuck in the studio and I don’t want to be alone with Tae and Kookie. They eat like wild animals,” Seokjin says, wrinkling his nose.

Yoongi, Jimin’s learned, doesn’t live in the apartment but stops by regularly to freeload off of Seokjin’s cooking or crash on the couch for the night.

Taehyung looks excited to see him when he sits down for dinner. Jungkook, still dressed in his high school uniform, is notably less pleased. Seokjin ruffles the boy’s hair as he walks by, and Jungkook looks a bit like an angry kitten with his hair standing on end. Jimin gives him a tentative smile which is pointedly ignored.

“This looks really good,” Jimin says shyly when Seokjin sets his dinner in front of him. His appetite is still mostly absent, but the food does look delicious.

“It should!” Taehyung says through a mouthful of noodles. “Hyung is a professional chef. He’s the best.”

“Wow, really?” Jimin asks, surprised. He realizes suddenly that he has no idea what anyone in this apartment does during the day except Jungkook who is clearly still in school.

Seokjin looks faintly embarrassed, which Jimin hadn’t thought was possible.

“Nothing fancy. We just have a little catering business we run out of the apartment. I do the cooking and Tae and Kookie help with the deliveries and serving when they’re not in school. It’s not much, but it helps pay the bills.”

“I bet you do well. This is really good,” Jimin offers shyly as he sips at his broth.

Seokjin looks disproportionately pleased at the compliment, and Jimin feels a little bad for wondering if he was a murderer a week ago.

Dinner passes quickly as Jungkook and Taehyung do, in fact, eat like animals and Seokjin chats with Jimin about his college classes. Jimin doesn’t mention that he doesn’t know how he’s going to pay for next semester without his parents’ help. When they’re done, Taehyung and Jungkook race off to play video games and Jimin stays behind to help Seokjin with the dishes.

“You can go play with them if you want,” Seokjin tells him. “I don’t mind.”

“No, I want to help,” Jimin replies as he wipes off the table. “I’ll find a way to pay you rent soon, but for now I can at least help with chores.”

Seokjin looks startled.

“You don’t pay rent here, Jimin.”

“I can’t stay here for free,” Jimin protests.

“Of course you can,” Seokjin argues back. “You’re a guest in my home. I’d be insulted if you tried to give me money.”

Jimin flounders, mouth opening and closing. He can’t fathom staying here and eating Seokjin’s food and contributing nothing, but Seokjin sounds legitimately insulted by the idea. The last thing he wants is to upset someone who has been so kind to him, but his pride also won’t let him be a freeloader. He’s wearing clothes Taehyung loaned him and living with someone he’s only known for a week, but he still has his work ethic.

“Then at least let me help with chores,” he insists. “I won’t be comfortable if you don’t let me help, at least. Please.”

Seokjin heaves a dramatic sigh.

“If you must,” he relents then throws him a wink.

Seokjin lets him finish the dishes as he putters around the stove, carefully assembling another bowl of noodles with extra slices of meat. Jimin watches in confusion as he sets a fresh place at the table and lays out the meal before covering the whole thing with a thermal tent to keep it warm.

“Is Yoongi coming by later?” Jimin asks tentatively. For some reason, the prospect of seeing Yoongi always makes him nervous.

Seokjin looks surprised by the question.

“I don’t think so. Why?”

Jimin glances towards the food then back.

“Oh! That’s for when Joon gets home. We don’t want him trying to heat up anything on his own and burning the kitchen down,” Seokjin replies with a faint grin.

Jimin blinks.

“Who?” he asks.

Seokjin’s grin falters, and Jimin immediately wishes he hadn’t asked. He doesn’t know what he said, but he swears he sees something like guilt in Seokjin’s eyes for a split second before he’s grinning again like it never happened.

“Huh, I guess you two wouldn’t have met yet,” he says, turning his back to Jimin to tidy up the drying rack. “Namjoon lives with us too. He’s working late these days, but you’ll meet him soon enough.”

Jimin abruptly remembers the fourth pair of shoes he saw by the door on his first night in the apartment. It seems impossible that he’s been living under the same roof as another person for nearly a week and hasn’t so much as caught a glimpse of them. What kind of hours did this Namjoon person keep?

Seokjin seems oddly subdued after that, and Jimin goes to bed feeling guilty without quite knowing why.

-

Time doesn’t slow down just because Jimin’s life is a mess. His sophomore showcase is still only a couple months away, and both his classes and practice sessions at the studio grow increasingly challenging the closer he gets. Hoseok watches him like a hawk when he’s at the studio, obviously aware something is off with him, so Jimin makes a point of working harder than ever.

Jimin arrives back at the apartment one afternoon after a particularly grueling practice and barely manages to drop his bag and toe off his shoes before collapsing onto the couch. His entire body hurts, but his mind is blissfully blank as he sinks into the cushions.

“Long day?”

Jimin nearly jumps out of his skin.

Yoongi is watching him from the love seat, one eye cracked open like he’s just woken up. He looks faintly amused as Jimin rests a hand over his hammering heart.

“You scared me!” Jimin gasps.

Yoongi snorts and sits up, stretching languidly.

“I couldn’t tell.”

Jimin feels like an idiot, patting his own cheeks and telling his heart to stop hammering. For some reason, Yoongi seems to have a knack for making him uncomfortable.

“You look rundown as hell,” Yoongi points out.

Jimin sighs and leans back into the couch cushions. He can hear Seokjin bustling around the kitchen and Taehyung yelling at a video game in his bedroom, and it calms his racing heart a little.

“I have a showcase coming up,” he admits reluctantly. “Practices are getting intense.”

Yoongi cocks his head, his attention focusing in on Jimin suddenly.

“What kind of showcase?”

“Oh!” Jimin says, surprised to realize Yoongi has no way of knowing what he does at school. Jimin’s so used to people knowing him as a dancer that it didn’t occur to him that he’d need to tell people. “I’m a dance major. I have to do a showcase to be accepted into the program for my junior year.”

Yoongi looks at him with interest, and Jimin suddenly feels intensely shy. Having the full force of Min Yoongi’s attention is a rare thing, he suspects.

“What kind of dance do you do?” he asks.

“Mostly modern, but I like mixing in a good amount of hip hop,” he admits with a shy smile. It’s nice, honestly. He loves talking about dance, and Yoongi seems genuinely interested. ”I’ve been experimenting recently with ballet elements too.”

“You’re a dancer?”

Jimin looks up, surprised to find Jungkook standing at the edge of the living room with his backpack slung over his shoulder and a curious look on his face. It’s the first time he’s ever looked at Jimin with anything other than distrust or disapproval.

“Yes,” Jimin says with a cautious smile. “Are you interested in dance?”

Jungkook fidgets slightly, shrugging.

“I mean, a little,” he admits before seeming to remember himself and trying to school his expression back to neutral. “I’m interested in lots of other stuff too.”

Jimin smiles wider at him.

“You could come to the studio with me sometime if you wanted,” he offers, hopeful. “Hoseok would absolutely love you.”

Jimin can see Jungkook struggling between his obvious interest and his lingering distrust of Jimin and fights the urge to smile.

“I don’t know. Maybe,” Jungkook finally manages before quickly leaving the room, and Jimin gives up and giggles out loud. He’s surprised to hear Yoongi chuckle as well. It’s a low, almost melodic sound, and Jimin likes it immediately.

“That kid,” Yoongi mutters.

Jimin smiles to himself, amused.

“Can I ask you a question?” he asks Yoongi, feeling a little bold.

Yoongi shrugs which Jimin decides to take as go for it.

“Jin says you spend a lot of time in a studio but he’s never said what you do. Are you a singer?”

Yoongi seems to relax at the question, like he was expecting something worse.

“No. I’m mostly a songwriter and producer these days,” he says.

“Really?” Jimin asks. “That’s so cool!”

It’s subtle, but Yoongi looks pleased.

“I used to rap, though,” he admits casually. “I still cut my own tracks occasionally when I have time.”

“Wow!” Jimin replies enthusiastically. “Can I hear some of your songs? I’ve never known a rapper before.”

Yoongi flashes Jimin a smile so brief that Jimin almost thinks he imagined it. He knows he didn’t, though, because it’s not the kind of smile he could have imagined Min Yoongi would have—big and sweet and gummy and in no way mysterious or cool.

“No,” Yoongi says flatly.

Jimin gapes at him.

“What? Why not?” he protests, but Yoongi just smirks and sinks back into the couch, tugging his hood down. It takes Jimin a minute to realize Yoongi is going to go back to napping instead of answering him.

Jimin is still staring at him in disbelief when Taehyung walks into the room and without a hint of hesitation throws his entire body on top of Yoongi’s motionless form.

“Yoongi-hyung!” he crows at the top of his lungs. “I’m bored! No more napping!”

Yoongi lets out a string of profanity so creative that makes Jimin blush bright red. Taehyung cackles as he darts away from retribution on light feet.

“Save me, Jimin!” he cries, and Jimin finds himself reaching for him without even thinking about it.

They make a mess of the living room and earn a semi-serious rant from Seokjin, and later Jimin lies in bed and wonders where he found the energy.

-

Jimin has been living at the apartment for nearly three weeks when he wakes in the middle of the night for no reason. Taehyung's breathing deeply on the other side of the room, but Jimin can’t fall back asleep despite his best efforts. After a couple minutes of staring blankly at the ceiling, he gives up and slides out from under his blankets.

He’s stumbling sleepily down the hall to get a glass of water when he hears a voice he doesn’t recognize coming from the kitchen. Jimin freezes like a deer in the headlights, heart rate increasing.

“You didn’t need to stay up.”

It’s a man’s voice, low and definitely unfamiliar.

“You always say that, and I always do it anyway. Shut up and eat your dinner.”

Seokjin’s light-hearted nagging is familiar, and Jimin relaxes. Not robbers then, probably. He takes another tentative step forward but stops again before the two men inside the kitchen can see him.

Seokjin's sitting at the table, his body angled towards a man Jimin doesn’t recognize. Even with his cheek resting on his hand and his hair pushed back in a headband, Seokjin looks like he’s posing for an expensive perfume ad. The other man is hunched over a bowl of the soup Seokjin made for dinner, a shock of light brown hair flopping in his face and somehow looking far less put-together than Seokjin even though he’s wearing a suit.

“Bossy,” the stranger replies as he looks up from his dinner with a good-natured smile. He’s not classically beautiful like Seokjin or Taehyung, Jimin notices, but there’s something appealing about the way his face crinkles when he smiles.

Seokjin sniffs indignantly, an amused twinkle in his eye.

“Next time I’m going to let Kookie eat your portion.”

Namjoon, Jimin remembers as he looks at him, the pieces clicking into place. He means to step into the room and introduce himself so he can grab a glass of water, but Namjoon chooses that moment to launch into a jaw-breaking yawn. The look on Seokjin’s face as he watches him stops Jimin dead in his tracks.

Seokjin watches Namjoon yawn and looks a little heartbroken.

By the time Namjoon recovers and murmurs an apology, Seokjin is back to his usual relaxed smile, but Jimin knows he wasn’t imagining things.

“How are the kids?” Namjoon asks as he tucks back into his soup, apparently oblivious to whatever is going on with Seokjin. Jimin suddenly can’t help but notice the dark smudges under his eyes and the slumped way he’s sitting, like he’s too tired to keep his spine straight.

“Demon spawn, as always,” Seokjin answers fondly, watching Namjoon eat with attentive eyes. “Except our little Jimin, who's an angel.”

Jimin's embarrassed to hear his name while shamelessly eavesdropping and takes a half a step backwards. He shouldn’t be listening to this even if he is curious about his mysterious fourth roommate.

Namjoon hums thoughtfully.

“Has he mentioned anything about how he’s going to pay for school?”

Jimin freezes.

“No, not a peep,” Seokjin says with an audible sigh. “He’s not ready to talk about what happened yet, I think, and I’m not going to push him. But… I don’t know, Joon, I can’t imagine a sweet, hard-working kid like that ends up on our doorstep if his family is still in the picture.”

Beneath his surprise, Jimin doesn’t know whether to feel embarrassed or relieved. On the one hand, he’s still not ready for everyone to know what happened. On the other, he’s glad he apparently won’t have to explain much when he is ready.

Namjoon makes an unhappy noise.

“What the hell's wrong with people?” he asks tiredly. “Who dumps their kid on the street like that?”

Seokjin smiles sadly at the other man, resting his chin on his palm. He looks younger than usual at that moment, and Jimin's suddenly reminded that he’s truly only a few years older than Jimin and Taehyung. It’s jarring to think about.

“I wish I knew,” Seokjin replies quietly.

“Well, we’ll help him,” Namjoon says, tone resolute. “We’ll figure out a way. I can take on more clients if we need.”

Seokjin doesn’t have a response to that, eyes heavy on the side of Namjoon’s face, and Jimin suddenly feels like he’s intruding on something personal. There’s something heavy between these two men that he has no right to listen in on.

He backs away quickly, giving up on his glass of water and leaving the two men to their nighttime meal. When he gets back to the room, he finds himself staring at Taehyung’s back for a long moment before making a decision. Instead of going back into his own yo, he lifts the blanket over Taehyung crawls into bed behind him. Taehyung stirs and rolls towards him, eyes blinking open sleepily, and Jimin holds still, hoping he hasn’t overstepped his bounds.

Taehyung’s eyes crinkle as they settle on him, smiling sleepily.

“Jimin,” he greets, scooting back a little to give Jimin more room to settle into the mattress. Jimin feels his eyes prickle with warmth, his heart over-full with the other boy’s easy acceptance. He doesn’t think he deserves it yet, but he’s going to try to from here on out.

“Taehyung?” he breathes.

“Mmm?” Taehyung answers, struggling gamely to keep his eyes open.

“My family doesn’t want me anymore,” Jimin whispers slowly, shaping each word carefully into the darkness between them. His chest feels tight, but it’s easier to speak with each word. “I can’t go home. Probably not ever.”

Taehyung’s huge, dark eyes hold Jimin’s as the words hover in the air between them. After a long moment, he reaches out and curls his hand around Jimin’s. His fingers are surprisingly calloused for such a soft boy, Jimin thinks.

“Stay,” is all he says.

A single tear slips down Jimin’s cheek, but when he smiles it feels more real than it has in weeks.

“Goodnight, Tae.”

He lies awake for a while, holding Taehyung’s hand and wondering if Namjoon and Seokjin have gone to bed yet. He wonders how he’s going to put himself through school without burdening them any further or giving up on his dreams. He wonders, vaguely, what Min Yoongi’s voice sounds like wrapping around the words of a song.

He slips off to sleep without quite meaning to, between one breath and the next.

-

A few days letter, Jimin’s sitting on the couch doing coursework on Taehyung’s borrowed laptop when he receives an email with no subject line and a half dozen audio files attached. He almost deletes it, thinking it’s spam, before he reads the brief message.

One artist to another. Someday I hope I’ll see you dance. - Y

Jimin reads the message a half dozen times before the meaning sinks in and he finds himself gawking at the screen. He doesn’t know whether to be more embarrassed or surprised, so he squashes both feelings down in favor of eagerly stuffing his headphones into his ears and hitting play on the first attachment.

Whatever he was expecting, the song isn’t it.

It’s sexy and lush, a complex arrangement of heavy bass and fizzy synthesizers. The intro isn’t a rap at all but a heady melody sung in a clear voice that Jimin knows instinctively doesn’t belong Yoongi but sounds familiar nonetheless. It’s a beautiful, but the real magic starts when the vocals fade and Yoongi—because it’s unquestionably Yoongi—starts to rap.

Jimin’s no expert on rappers, but he can tell that Min Yoongi is special. His voice is emotive and dexterous, light and energetic or low and growling when the music calls for it. Jimin listens to each song with wonder as the other man twists through tales of love and loss, isolation and exploration, fear and arrogance. His lyrical style varies widely between the six songs, but his words are never trite or thoughtless.

It surprises Jimin how much he likes each of the songs on first listen, and it surprises him even more how much he loves them the second time through.

He barely notices when Jungkook settles down on the love seat, eyeing him dubiously as he cracks open a workbook. Jungkook ignores his existence so thoroughly that that Jimin quickly forgets he’s there, letting himself get lost in Yoongi’s music as he works on his own assignment.

Once he’s finished and sent the assignment in, he opens Yoongi’s email and lets his fingers hover over the keys.

Thank you so much for sharing these with me~. I love them. You’re so talented! Jimin hesitates then adds: I’m not sure my dancing will live up to this, but I will try my best! - Jimin :)

Jimin figures Yoongi will never actually hold him to the implied trade—he can’t imagine anyone would really be that interested in seeing him dance—so he doesn’t worry too much before hitting send. It’s much easier, he finds, to talk to Min Yoongi electronically when he doesn’t have to try to form words while those intense black eyes watch him.

“What’s with your face?”

Jimin looks up at Jungkook in surprise to find the other boy watching him suspiciously. He touches his face curiously.

“What do you mean?” he asks.

“You’re-” Jungkook trails off then gestures at his face in general.

If he were in a worse mood, Jimin might be insulted. Instead, he laughs.

“I’m just happy,” he says with a shrug.

“About what?” Jungkook asks suspiciously. Jimin admires his tenacity even though he could do without the third degree. Was he really so miserable these days that a smile seemed out of the ordinary?

He decides to stick with honesty.

“Yoongi sent me some of his music,” he tells Jungkook, letting a little of his excitement bleed into his voice. “He’s really good”

Jungkook clearly wasn’t expecting that response, eyebrows jumping up then furrowing together in confusion. He stares at Jimin intently like he’s trying to figure out if Jimin is lying to him, then finally looks back down at his workbook with a frown.

“I can’t believe him,” he mutters.

Jimin has no idea what to make of that. Jungkook’s a lot harder to read than Seokjin or Taehyung. That may not be saying much, but it still kept Jimin on his toes.

“You remind me of him, you know,” Jimin muses thoughtfully. “Yoongi, I mean. You’re both very mysterious.”

Jungkook’s pencil freezes over his notebook, face twitching strangely.

“I’m just saying I can see why you guys are close,” Jimin says with a shrug. He still remembers that first night, the way Jungkook had relented when Yoongi spoke to him. It’s obvious to Jimin that Yoongi is special to Jungkook, someone he looks up to, maybe.

Jungkook unfreezes, glancing over at Jimin for a fraction of a second.

“Yeah, I guess,” he says, sounding far more pleased than Jimin suspects he means to.

Jimin barely resists the urge to pinch his cheek, instead giving him a quick smile before putting his headphones back in and letting Yoongi’s voice carry him away.

-

Unsurprisingly, Hoseok cries when Jimin tells him.

“Oh, Jimin-ah,” he says when he recovers a little, hugging the smaller boy close. “I’m so sorry I didn’t pick up my phone. I should have been there. I should have... I’m going to leave the ringer on when I go to bed from now on, okay? You can call me any time. Promise me you will.”

Jimin sniffles, hugging his friend back and resting his cheek on his shoulder.

“It’s okay,” he says honestly. “There’s nothing you could have done, and it worked out.”

“It’s not okay,” Hoseok responds fiercely but doesn’t push. Jimin hugs him tighter.

Hoseok lets him go reluctantly when their instructor shows up, and Jimin spends the next two hours blissfully lost in the exertion of trying to perfect his piece for the showcase. The routine seems to be evolving every time he runs through it, the movements growing increasingly confident and polished each time he twists his body through them. Jimin listens when his instructor gives him corrections here and there, but otherwise he lets his body do what it does best. He’s trying to learn not to overthink it, and it’s beautiful when it works.

When it’s all over, he lies on the floor, panting and thinking I can’t lose this too. I must find a way.

“Are you dead, Jiminnie?” Hoseok asks, leaning over his prone form and looking annoyingly spritely. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s in terrifyingly good shape.

Jimin laughs, rolling to his feet and stretching.

“I’m fine. Just being lazy.”

“Good,” Hoseok says cheerfully, “because I’m coming home with you.”

Jimin pauses mid-stretch.

“What?”

“I want to meet these people you’re living with,” Hoseok says, smiling a wide, slightly scary smile. “I need to make sure they’re treating my Jiminnie right.”

“Hobi-”

“No arguing,” Hoseok sing-songs, grabbing both of their bags and dancing out of Jimin’s reach as they walk out of the studio. Jimin sighs, raking a hand through his sweaty hair before following him resignedly. He’s known Jung Hoseok too long to think he’s going to win this argument.

As they walk home, Jimin texts the apartment group chat—established for exactly these sort of situations—to ask if it’s okay for a friend to come over for dinner. He almost immediately receives back a series of enthusiastic emojis from Taehyung and a text that reads i didn’t know u had friends from Jungkook. A minute later Seokjin replies with a simple Of course! and a selfie of himself giving a thumbs-up.

Jimin feels a bit defensive of the old building as he lets Hoseok in, but Hoseok doesn't say anything about the outdated carpet or drab paint as they climb up to the third floor. He doesn’t even comment when Jimin pauses to take a deep breath before opening the door to the apartment, bracing himself.

For a split second, he thinks he’s somehow walked into the wrong apartment.

Yoongi and Namjoon are chatting at the entrance of the living room, and Jimin is so started to see Namjoon home during the day that he almost doesn’t recognize him. He’s taller than Jimin realized, for one thing, and he looks like a completely different person in joggers and an oversized pair of glasses. He looks younger and, if Jimin’s being honest, like a bit of a nerd.

Maybe even more shocking than Namjoon, though, is Min Yoongi, who’s dressed in an impeccable dark purple suit and looks like he’s actually brushed his hair in the past 24 hours. He meets Jimin’s startled gaze with a raised brow, and Jimin notices he’s wearing makeup and a pair of long earrings which catch the light when he turns his head.

He’s beautiful, Jimin thinks then is immediately horrified at himself.

“Oh, um,” Jimin fumbles for words, but Hoseok slips around him with a loud and cheery, “Hello! I’m Jimin’s friend, Jung Hoseok.”

Namjoon, who probably has the least reason of any of them to know what’s going on, recovers first.

“Hey,” he greets Hoseok with a friendly smile and a handshake. “Seokjin mentioned Jimin had a friend coming for dinner. I’m Kim Namjoon.”

Jimin manages to peel his eyes away from Yoongi to shoot Namjoon a grateful look. Namjoon offers him a conspiratorial wink in return.

“And who are you?” Hoseok asks Yoongi. Jimin cringes at his cheery bluntness.

“Min Yoongi,” Yoongi responds with a small, polite bow. He smirks when Jimin gives him a disbelieving look.

“Nice to meet you,” Hoseok says distractedly. “Where’s the one you said looks like a movie star, Jiminnie?”

“Hobi!” Jimin gasps in horror.

“Jiminnie?” Yoongi mutters, sounding amused.

“Chim!” Taehyung greets as he bounds over.

Jimin seriously debates turning around and walking out of the apartment and never coming back. Maybe he can change his name and become a fisherman. He’s always loved the sea.

“What are you all doing hanging out in the hallway?” Seokjin asks, poking his head out of the kitchen. He has a smudge of something on his face and he’s wearing mismatched pot holders on his hands. He’s still obnoxiously attractive.

“Ahh,” Hoseok says in understanding, looking over his shoulder to wink at Jimin.

Jimin’s face feels like it’s on fire.

“Oh, you must be Jimin’s friend!” Seokjin says, pulling the potholders off and offering Hoseok his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Hoseok smiles beatifically at Seokjin as they shake hands, ignoring Jimin’s distressed look.

Seokjin ushers them all towards the living room when they’re done with introductions, refusing Jimin’s slightly desperate offer to help in the kitchen. Taehyung latches onto Hoseok excitedly and Namjoon lingers behind with Jimin, waiting until the others are out of hearing range to lean over.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” he says, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “I’m sorry it took so long. Seokjin and Yoongi have told me a lot about you.”

Jimin smiles up at him, feeling his embarrassment wane slightly as Namjoon flashes him a dimpled smile in return. There’s an appealing quality Namjoon brings to the apartment, Jimin thinks. He doesn’t have Seokjin’s easy warmth, but there’s a sturdy reliability to him that Jimin finds comforting. Even with the chaos around him, everything feels a little more stable with their fourth roommate home, like a missing piece has clicked into place.

“Thank you for letting me stay,” Jimin tells him earnestly. “I’ll find a way to repay you guys, I promise.”

Namjoon shrugs.

“You don’t owe me anything. This is Jin’s place, and the only repayment he’ll accept is for you to live well, Park Jimin.”

Jimin tries not to let his surprise show on his face—he’d assumed the apartment was Namjoon’s since he was the one who seemed to pay most of the bills. He’s reminded again how little he knows about his roommates, even as he feels more and more comfortable around them.

“I’ll find a way,” he promises all the same.

Namjoon gives him a thoughtful look.

“You know, I believe you will,” he replies vaguely as they join the others in the living room.

Hoseok and Taehyung get along like a house on fire, so Jimin settles down next to Yoongi and lets them bond. Jimin has lived with them for well over a month now, and he’s never heard Taehyung talk about any friends outside of the apartment. He thinks about the other boy’s aggressive, clumsy attempts to befriend him during those first couple days and hates himself a little for making him work so hard. Hoseok doesn’t have that issue, beaming at Taehyung as he talks excitedly about his latest photography project, and Jimin feels his heart warm at the sight.

When he turns his head to say something about it to Yoongi, the other man is watching him already with an uncharacteristically soft look on his face.

“What?” Jimin asks nervously, heart skipping in his chest.

Yoongi shakes his head, smiling faintly to himself.

“You’re interesting,” he says.

“Oh,” Jimin says, surprised. “Is that a good thing?”

Yoongi smiles properly, all straight white teeth and pink gums. He looks years younger when he smiles like that, Jimin thinks. Like someone less distant from Jimin.

“I’m not sure yet,” he says, but his tone is warm.

Jimin returns the other man’s smile. He can’t fathom why someone like Yoongi would find him interesting, but he’s glad. He doesn’t know much about how his life is going to go from here on out, but Jimin wants to be someone worth Min Yoongi’s gummy smiles.

“You look nice today,” Jimin offers shyly. “Are you going somewhere?”

Yoongi looks down at his outfit for a second, stretching his legs and laying his arms along the back of the couch. Jimin doesn’t know if it’s a trick of the light, but he could swear the tips of Yoongi’s ears are pink where they peek out of his black fringe.

“Coming from somewhere, actually. I had an event at the record label.”

Jimin wants to ask more, but he’s interrupted by the sound of the front door closing and Jungkook dropping his book bag by the door.

“I’m home,” Jungkook calls like he always does.

“We’re in here,” Namjoon responds from where he’s reclining on the other side of the sofa with a book propped open on his knee.

Jungkook looks like he’s come straight from handball practice, still dressed in loose athletic clothes and sneakers. His hair is sweaty and sticking to his forehead, but he beams when he sees Namjoon, eyes lighting up.

“Hyung!” he greets. “You’re home.”

Namjoon stands and sets his book down so Jungkook can walk into his arms for what looks like a bone-crushing hug. Namjoon let’s the sweaty teenager cling to him, ruffling his hair affectionately.

“Yep. Got through a deadline so I have the weekend off,” he says.

“The whole weekend?” Jungkook asks, face open and excited.

“The whole weekend,” Namjoon agrees, flashing his dimples. “Jin said you have a game tomorrow. Would it be okay if we came? I haven’t seen you play in forever.”

Jungkook smiles a goofy smile Jimin has never seen on his face before.

“You get so little time off. You shouldn’t waste it on that,” Jungkook tries to demure, but he can’t hide the eagerness in his eyes.

“Are you kidding me? We’ll definitely be there,” Namjoon says, thumping him on the back of the head. “Now, go take a shower. You stink.”

Jungkook smiles cheekily and looks like he’s going to do just that before catching sight of Hoseok sitting on the floor next to Taehyung. The smile freezes on his face and a split second later it’s gone, like it had never been there the begin with. It’s amazing how quickly he shifts back into the distrustful boy he was when Jimin met him, eyes closed off and shoulders tense.

“Who are you?” he asks Hoseok sharply.

“Jung Hoseok. I’m Jimin’s friend,” Hoseok replies with a cheery smile. If he notices the shift in Jungkook’s demeanor, he doesn’t acknowledge it. “Who are you?”

Jungkook visibly bristles.

“I didn’t think Jimin had any friends,” he replies, ignoring the question.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon warns.

“He has me,” Hoseok answers, unbothered as always. Jimin smiles weakly at him, eyes apologetic. He should have warned Hoseok about Jungkook. He didn’t want Hoseok to think they weren’t treating him well just because Jungkook had the good sense to be suspicious of him.

“It didn’t seem like he had any friends when he showed up here,” Jungkook says, crossing his arms over his chest. “People with friends don’t usually show up soaking wet and alone at a stranger’s house in the middle of the night.”

Jimin blinks.

Hoseok’s expression softens as he looks up at Jungkook.

“He called me. I had gone to bed and didn’t hear my phone,” he explains.

“Hobi, you don’t have to-” Jimin tries, but Hoseok shakes his head.

“I hate that I didn’t get his call. I think about it all the time, about all the ways it should have gone differently, but I can’t change it. I can only try to be the best friend I can be now.”

Jimin’s heart feels heavy at how sad Hoseok sounds, but Jungkook looks unmoved.

“Whatever. I’m Jeon Jungkook,” he finally introduces himself, chin held high and mouth set in a stubborn line, “and if you ditch him when he needs you again, I’ll kick your ass.”

And with that, Jungkook turns and strides out of the room with his head held high.

Jimin watches him leave with his mouth hanging open.

Namjoon chuckles and rubs that back of his neck.

“Sorry about him,” he mumbles to Hoseok. “He’s young, but he’s been through a lot.”

There’s a beat of silence.

“Well, I like him,” Hoseok declares brightly.

Everyone seems to exhale at the same time, the tension bleeding out of the room with a bought of awkward laughter.

“Seems like you won the kid over,” Yoongi says after a moment, and Jimin gives him a disbelieving look.

“I thought he hated me,” he says.

“That might be my fault,” Namjoon admits sheepishly, sitting down and running a hand through his ashy brown hair. From the state it, it looks like he does that a lot. “I may have asked him to keep an eye out for Seokjin and Tae when I’m not around. They’re both too kind and trusting for their own good sometimes.”

“Hey,” Taehyung grumbles.

“I think he took it a little too much to heart,” Namjoon says with a cringe. “Sorry.”

Jimin smiles, shaking his head.

“No, it’s fine,” he says. “I’m glad he’s the kind of person who looks after his important people.”

Namjoon looks pleased, and Yoongi’s eyes crinkle at Jimin again when he glances over. Jimin smiles back, heart warm.

“Hey, Chim?” Taehyung asks nervously, forcing Jimin to look away. Jimin doesn’t know where the nickname came from, but it doesn’t seem like he’s getting away from it anytime soon.

“Yeah?”

“You’re not… I mean, are you leaving?” he asks, expression uncharacteristically subdued. He steals a glance at Hoseok before looking back down at his long fingers. “Now that Hoseok knows, are you going to stay with him?”

Jimin’s heart constricts at the pinched look on Taehyung’s face. He slips off the couch to squeeze himself between Hoseok and Taehyung on the floor, pressing their shoulders and thighs together tightly and smiling at them both.

“I can’t stay with Hoseok,” he admits. “I could have slept over that first night, but not now. Our families are too close. They talk, and it wouldn’t… it wouldn’t work.”

Taehyung does a poor job of hiding his relief, looking away from Jimin and clearing his throat.

“Besides,” Jimin says, catching Yoongi and Namjoon’s eyes for a second before looking back at Taehyung. “I feel like… I feel like I’m okay here for now.”

It’s a truth Jimin tried to avoid admitting to himself—part of him wanted to cling to the hope his parents would reach out to him and tell him he was welcome to come home again any day now—but it feels good to say it out loud. This place is more than just a roof over his head and the promise of Seokjin’s cooking to him.

Taehyung looks ecstatic, wrapping an arm around his neck and knocking their temples together affectionately, and Hoseok gives his thigh a supportive squeeze. When Jimin glances over, Namjoon is grinning at them, book forgotten on his knee, and Yoongi…

Yoongi is watching them with such warmth in his eyes that it makes Jimin’s toes curl.

Jimin holds Min Yoongi’s gaze, sandwiched on the floor between two of his favorite people in the world, and thinks beautiful beautiful beautiful and doesn’t feel bad about it at all.

-

It happens when he’s least expecting it.

Jimin is on his way home from the studio early, a bag of groceries in his hands, when someone clears their throat pointedly behind him. He turns around with a polite smile, expecting a classmate or a stranger looking for directions and finding his favorite aunt staring back at him instead.

“Oh! Jimin says, startled. “Hello, Auntie.”

Jimin had always been close to his extended family. For years, the entire family had vacationed at the beach together every summer. They’re some of Jimin’s fondest memories, the sea stretched in front of him and his entire family at his back.

So maybe he should see it coming, but the sharp sting of a hand connecting with his cheek still takes him by surprise. He drops the bag he’s holding, stumbling back and cradling his stinging cheek.

“After what you did to your parents, I’m no family of yours,” his aunt says, head lifting proudly. She walks away without another word, leaving him on the sidewalk with his groceries scattered by his feet and tears in his eyes.

For a long moment, Jimin just stares after her and doesn’t move.

It’s not that he forgot, exactly—how do you forget that you’ve been exiled from your family and your home?—but he’d started building his life up again and let himself move on, a little, from the mess he’d left behind.

Sniffling, Jimin forces himself to gather up all the groceries he can salvage, ignoring the curious eyes of the bystanders around him and the hot sting of his cheek.

He shouldn’t have let himself forget.

The walk home takes longer than usual, his feet heavy and his mind racing.

When he lets himself into the apartment, it’s eerily quiet. Seokjin is out on a catering assignment, Jimin remembers, and probably took Taehyung and Jungkook with him. Namjoon is back at work and missing from daily life at the apartment again.

Jimin puts the groceries away, sniffling and telling himself that he’s glad for the rare moment of solitude. He grabs a bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer and holds it to his sore cheek, wandering into the living room and curling up on the couch. He’s glad, at least, that he doesn’t have to endure Seokjin’s inevitable fussing over his cheek. He’s not sure he could bear it.

He lies there motionlessly for a long time, thinking hard about all the decisions he made to get him to this point.

Maybe everyone is right, he thinks. Maybe I’m being selfish. Maybe I should’ve just told them what they wanted to hear. Maybe we all would be happier.

Jimin sniffles, digging his phone out and looking down at the screen.

He pulls up his mother’s contact information and lets his finger hover over the call button.

If he called and promised to change, would they let him come home? He thinks they probably would. He could move back into his old bedroom and stop looking for part-time jobs that will never pay enough to cover his tuition and studio fees. He could eat his mom’s kimchi and watch the dramas his father pretended to hate with him. He could go to the beach with his whole family next summer and laugh about how this was all a big misunderstanding.

All he would have to do is hide a part of himself away.

Jimin’s finger is still poised over the call button when the screen changes and alerts him to an incoming call from a local number he doesn’t recognize. He considers not answering it, but it could be one of the jobs he applied for, so he reluctantly hits the green button.

“Hello?”

“Hey. Do you have a minute to swing by the studio? I need your help with something.”

Jimin sits up, startled by the familiar voice.

“Yoongi-hyung?”

There’s a split second of silence on the other side of the phone.

“Yeah, sorry, it’s me,” Yoongi replies after a beat, clearing his throat. “Can you come by?”

Jimin considers refusing, not in much of a mood to leave the couch, but curiosity wins out in the end. He agrees and Yoongi gives him a few basic details before hanging up with a quick “see ya, kid,” It only occurs to Jimin to wonder where Yoongi got his number after he hangs up.

Jimin changes into clean clothes—Namjoon had insisted on taking Jimin, Jungkook and Taehyung shopping on his weekend off, adding to Jimin’s mental tally of everything he owes him and Seokjin—and washes his face before heading out, hoping the pink spot on his left cheek isn’t too noticeable.

The bus ride to the address Yoongi gave him is short, and Jimin’s glad not to have too much time to think along the way. The walk to the record label building is quick too, and Jimin is surprised to find Yoongi waiting for him outside with Jungkook at his side.

The sight of them lightens the heaviness in his heart a little.

“Hey,” he greets. “You didn’t have to wait out here.”

Yoongi looks relieved as he approaches, more visibly stressed than Jimin has ever seen him.

“We needed some air anyway,” he says simply. “Come on.”

Yoongi leads them inside, and Jimin takes a moment to smile supportively at Jungkook, who seems uncharacteristically nervous. He looks different, dressed in black jeans and a tight black shirt rather than his school uniform or athletic clothes. It looks like someone has even done his hair and makeup too, giving him a glamorous bad-boy look.

Jimin wants to pinch his cheeks but manfully resists the urge.

Yoongi distractedly points out his studio as they walk by, but he surprises Jimin by leading him to a small dance studio on the other end of the hallway instead. It’s nice, with smooth wood floors and clean floor-to-ceiling mirrors on three sides. There’s a complicated-looking sound system in one corner and a camera on a tripod in another. Jimin glances over at Yoongi in confusion.

“I can’t get this stupid dance right,” Jungkook blurts out before Yoongi can say anything, wrinkling his nose and looking embarrassed. “I was sure I could figure it out.”

Jimin must look confused, because Yoongi runs a hand through his hair and comes to stand next to him.

“I’ve been helping Jungkook audition for a few agencies and performing art schools he’s interested in after he graduates. The music is no problem, but we wanted to include a dance element and it’s… proving trickier than we anticipated.”

Jimin looks between Yoongi and Jungkook and decides that he’s not too surprised. Jungkook in this setting makes perfect sense somehow, and Yoongi helping him seems like a given.

Jungkook seems to take his silence for reluctance and surprises Jimin by stepping close and bowing his head.

“Please help, hyung. I’m sorry I was rude to you before.”

Jimin dissolves into giggles, meeting Yoongi’s concerned eyes with a smile.

“You don’t have to be sorry or call me hyung if you don’t want to,” he tells Jungkook, laughing. “Of course I’ll help you.”

Jungkook brightens immediately.

“You will?”

“Yes, of course,” Jimin says. “Dreams are important, and it sounds like you have good ones.”

Jungkook responds with a wide smile, the first he’s ever given Jimin, and Jimin must again resist the urge to poke his cheek. He’s just adorable.

“Thank you, hyung,” Jungkook says with obvious relief.

“Let’s get to work then,” Yoongi says, looking pleased. “We only have a couple days in the studio to get this hammered out.”

“Show me,” Jimin says.

The song they’ve recorded is remarkable. Jimin beams at Jungkook and Yoongi as he listens to it all the way through, blown away by the strength and clarity of Jungkook’s voice. It’s an upbeat song, intended to showcase Jungkook’s considerable vocal talents, but there’s an underlying wistfulness and maturity to the lyrics that Jimin suspects is Yoongi’s doing. The story the song tells about the long, winding path towards your dreams feels a little too mature to have come from a teenager.

The dance does need work, though Jimin is impressed by what they’ve managed to accomplish on their own. A choreographer at the label put the routine together as a favor to Yoongi, but all they have to work off of is one video. The dance is entertaining, if a little impersonal, Jimin thinks, and Jungkook’s lack of formal dance training is a problem. He’s athletic and has great natural instincts, but he can’t put it all together on his own.

Jimin hopes he doesn’t let them down.

“Okay,” he says after watching the choreography a half dozen times. “Let me try it so I can see what we’re working with.”

Standing, he sheds his sweatshirt and takes his place in the center of the room. He’s uncomfortably aware of Jungkook and Yoongi watching him.

“Play it,” Jimin says.

Yoongi starts the song, and Jimin throws himself into the choreography as well as he can remember it. He doesn’t aim to execute each move perfectly, instead trying to get a feeling for how the routine is supposed to flow and how his body moves from one element to the next. The moves are energetic and simple enough that there’s plenty of room for personal interpretation, which Jimin likes. Jimin forgets he has an audience as he moves, letting the sound of Jungkook’s voice and the heady melody sink under his skin and drive him forward.

He makes it about halfway through before his memory gives up on him, drawing a blank on the next few elements.

“Darn,” he says, coming to a stop. He looks over at Yoongi to ask him to see the choreography again, but the look on Yoongi’s face dries the words on his tongue. Yoongi looks almost upset, eyebrows drawn together and mouth pressed into a thin line.

Jimin blushes, wrapping his arms around his torso. He remembers, suddenly, that he owed Yoongi a dance for the songs he’d sent him a while ago. What if he didn’t live up to expectations? They’d asked for his help without having ever seen him dance, and he’s suddenly scared he oversold his ability.

“Teach me how to do that,” Jungkook says suddenly, expression fiercely ambitious. “I want to learn.”

Jimin breaks into a relieved smile, pride blossoming in his chest.

“It looked okay?”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me. You must know how good you are,” Yoongi says abruptly as he turns his back to them to fiddle with the sound equipment. He sounds annoyed.

“Uh,” Jimin says, confused.

“Show me,” Jungkook says firmly, waving a hand in Yoongi’s direction in a way that says ignore him.

“Okay,” Jimin says with slightly forced cheer, deciding to focus on Jungkook. It’s hard not to be heartened by his enthusiasm. “Let’s go through the first part together.”

They spend a couple hours working through the first verse and chorus of the song, and Jungkook proves to be an excellent student. Jimin’s nervous at first, new to teaching and feeling self-conscious every time he stops Jungkook to offer a pointer. Thankfully his nerves recede as Jungkook listens and picks up on Jimin’s directions quickly, excitement building as he noticeably improves after only a few run-throughs. Jungkook isn’t going to become an expertly trained dancer in the next few days, but Jimin thinks with a little polish and a lot of natural talent, any recruiter or admissions director would be insane to pass him over.

Yoongi says nothing the whole time, restarting the music over and over when they ask but otherwise watching intently from the sidelines. Jimin catches his strangely intense eyes a couple times and glances away quickly, embarrassed.

Eventually Jimin’s legs start to shake, exhausted after a long day at the studio, so he leaves Jungkook to his practice and sits against the wall to offer an occasional pointer. He’s still panting slightly when a water bottle appears in front of his face.

“Drink,” Yoongi says, holding the bottle out to him without looking away from Jungkook.

“Thank you,” Jimin says, taking the water and drinking gratefully.

“No, thank you,” Yoongi says quietly under the sound of the music.

 Jimin chokes on his water, sputtering and wiping his chin with the back of his arm.

“This means a lot to Jungkook,” Yoongi explains, still not looking at him. His expression is gentle as he watches Jungkook set himself for another run-through. The teenager’s hair is sticking to his forehead and his skin is blotchy, but his eyes are determined.

Jimin nods and looks away from Yoongi.

“I’m not doing much, honestly, he admits. “He’s very talented.”

Yoongi’s mouth curls into a closed-lipped smile.

“He is,” he agrees, “and so are you.”

Jimin smiles, looking down at his hands to hide his face. He feels like he’s always red-faced around Min Yoongi.

“Not really. I’ve been dancing for a long time,” he admits. “I’ve just worked hard at it.”

Yoongi sighs and shakes his head, walking over to sit down next to him against the wall. He’s close enough that Jimin can smell something faint and spicy that might be his cologne. It’s a heady smell, and it makes Jimin dizzy.

“Even if that were true, hard work is a talent too,” Yoongi points out, looking over at him with those dark eyes of his. “Maybe the best one.”

Jimin’s chest warms, and he can’t help but smile at him.

“That’s a nice thought,” he says.

Yoongi’s expression falls when Jimin looks at him, eyes locking on Jimin’s left cheek. Jimin stops breathing when Yoong reaches up to brush the pad of his thumb against Jimin’s sore cheekbone.

“What the hell happened?” Yoongi asks, voice hard. The softness that had been on his face a moment ago is gone in a blink.

His fingers are cool and gentle on Jimin’s face as they probe at what Jimin suspects is a faint bruise at this point, and Jimin has no idea what to do. He can’t remember the last time someone touched him so gently. The fact that it’s Min Yoongi, of all people, makes it even more baffling.

“O-oh,” Jimin stutters. He reaches for a convincing lie but finds his head full of white noise all of a sudden. “It’s nothing, really. It’s fine.”

“Really?” Yoongi asks, low and dangerous. “Because it looks like someone hit you.”

Jimin opens his mouth to say something, but Jungkook chooses that moment to miss a transition and crash down on his knee. The loud thud startles Jimin and sends Yoongi flinching away from him, snatching his hand back. Jimin scrambles to his feet, glad for the excuse to avoid Yoongi’s angry eyes and gentle fingers.

“Are you okay?” Jimin asks as he hurries over, checking on Jungkook as he stands and shakes his hair out. His knee will be bruised tomorrow for sure, but otherwise he looks okay.

“I’m fine,” Jungkook claims, panting and pushing his limp hair out of his face. “I just slipped. It was stupid.”

“I think it’s time to call it a day,” Jimin says gently. “If you push too hard, you’ll either hurt yourself or stiffen up and be useless tomorrow.”

Jungkook frowns, opening his mouth to argue, but the sound of the door slamming draws his attention away.

It takes Jimin a moment to realize the sound was Yoongi leaving without a word.

“What’s up with him?” Jungkook asks, eyebrows furrowed.

“I don’t know,” Jimin answers honestly, reaching up to touch the tender spot on his cheek self-consciously.

Yoongi’s holed up in his studio when they leave a few minutes later, and neither Jimin or Jungkook are brave enough to bother him.

They head home together, skipping the bus and using the walk as a-cool down for their tired muscles. They’re mostly quiet, though Jimin does ask a couple tentative questions about Jungkook’s singing. Jungkook seems happy to answer, eyes bright and excited as he talks about the tracks he’s working on with Yoongi and the kind of music he wants to make in the future. Jimin isn’t sure what happened to the sullen boy he’d been living with up to this point, but he feels lucky to get to see this side of Jungkook, all fierce grins and ambition.

He’s been through a lot, Jimin remembers Namjoon saying, and he resolves to do whatever he can to stay in Jungkook’s good graces. Whatever Jungkook’s past, it clearly isn’t going to stop him from going after what he wants. He’s going to take over the world, and Jimin wants to be there to see it.

When they arrive at the apartment, Seokjin and Taehyung are back and making a racket in the kitchen.

“We’re home,” Jungkook announces as they kick off their shoes and set their bags down.

There’s a crash in the kitchen and an irritated shout of “Ya, Tae!” before Taehyung emerges from the kitchen to greet them. Seokjin trails behind, looking harassed. If either of them finds it odd that they’re arriving home together at this hour, neither says anything.

Seokjin walks right into a surprised Jimin and wraps him up in a tight hug, resting his cheek on Jimin’s hair and sighing.

“Please don’t ever leave me alone with Taehyung, Jiminnie. I’m too pretty to die of high blood pressure before I turn thirty.”

Jimin laughs, the stress of the day melting away as Seokjin clings to him, Taehyung protests loudly and Jungkook rolls his eyes and tells them they’re all idiots.

Seokjin does notice his cheek as Jimin helps him with dishes later, but when he asks, face pinched in obvious concern, Jimin shrugs.

“It’s nothing to worry about, hyung,” he says. “I promise.”

Strangely enough, it hardly feels like a lie.

-

“My parents asked about you.”

Jimin looks up from his stretch in surprise.

“Me? Why?” he asks. He’s known Hoseok’s family for a long time, but he never thought they noticed him much.

Hoseok gives him a look that strongly suggests he’s an idiot.

“I’m guessing they ran into your parents and had some questions. I told them everything was normal as far as I knew, but I don’t think they believed me.”

Jimin sighs, looking down at the studio floor as he leans back into a butterfly stretch.

“I wonder what my parents are telling people,” he muses. He’s curious how his parents are explaining away their missing son. There’s no way they’re telling the truth.

Hoseok leans back and rests on his palms, expression thoughtful.

“You really haven’t talked to them at all?” he asks.

Jimin shakes his head.

“They were pretty clear about not wanting to hear from me unless I wanted to admit I was wrong and come home.”

Admitting it out loud still makes his chest ache, Jimin notices with frustration. He wishes he could just stop caring like his parents obviously had.

“Have you considered inviting them to your showcase?” Hoseok asks, uncharacteristically tentative.

Jimin wrinkles his nose in confusion.

“Why would I do that?” he asks. “They won’t come.”

“You never know,” Hoseok offers. “They’re still your parents.”

Jimin knows Hoseok is just being Hoseok—optimistic and forgiving to a fault—but he can’t help the small stab of betrayal he feels. It seems like Hoseok doesn’t fully grasp the severity of the situation. He just wants what’s best for him, Jimin knows, but that doesn’t make him feel better.

“They don’t want to be my parents anymore, Hobi. That’s the whole point,” Jimin reminds him, trying to keep the hurt out of his voice. He really doesn’t want to be having this conversation.

“That’s not-”

“Just leave it alone, please,” Jimin interrupts, frustrated by how emotional he sounds. God, he’s such a baby.

Hoseok looks startled, and Jimin feels even worse.

“I didn’t mean-”

“No, no, it’s not your fault. It’s fine,” Jimin rushes to say as he stands from his stretch. “I’m sorry. I need to be going.”

“Jimin, wait.”

Hoseok gets up to follow him, eyebrows drawn in concern, but Jimin waves him off.

“It’s fine. I need to go meet Jungkook. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says quickly, ignoring the worried look on Hoseok’s face as he leaves the studio. He feels like a jerk as he half-runs to the bus station, eager to get away from the studio and the mess he made of that conversation.

By the time he sits down on the bus, there’s a message from Hoseok on his phone. He doesn’t read it.

It’s not that he’s mad at Hoseok, really. He’s mostly mad at himself. He wants to know how to handle his situation better, but he feels like he’s been flying by the seat of his pants since that night at the bus stop. In a lot of ways, it’s worked out. He likes living at Seokjin’s apartment, and he’s made more friends in the past couple months than he did in the twenty years prior. Unfortunately, none of that changes the pit in his stomach when he thinks about his parents.

It occurs to him as he’s walking the last couple blocks to the record label building that he may have to deal with what happened before he can start to move on.

They finish taping Jungkook’s audition tape that afternoon, and Yoongi emerges from his studio long enough to give the final video his seal of approval.

“Not bad, kid,” he says, ruffling Jungkook’s hair. “They’d all be fools not to want you.”

Jimin smiles and pretends not to notice when Yoongi barely looks at him. He pretends not to notice how badly he wants Yoongi to look at him. The nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach feels dangerous, like a bear trap waiting to snap shut on him the minute he looks at it too closely.

All three of them return to the apartment for dinner that night, piling around the table for a dose of Seokjin’s kimchi fried rice with a side of his good-natured nagging. Taehyung sits so close to Jimin’s side that he keeps elbowing him as he eats, and Jungkook steals the fried egg off his plate when his head is turned. Jimin flicks bits of rice at them when Seokjin isn’t looking. At one point he looks over from giggling at Jungkook’s outraged expression to find Yoongi watching him with his chopsticks frozen in midair, dark eyes solemn. Jimin’s heart skips a beat as he smiles tentatively, but Yoongi looks away again without a word and returns to eating.

“Jimin, how are your classes? You seem to be working extra hard these days,” Seokjin asks, drawing his attention away from Yoongi’s odd behavior.

“Oh, everything is going well! My piece for the showcase is really coming along,” Jimin tells him, then hesitates. He thinks about his conversation with Hoseok that morning and decides to be brave. “I was actually thinking… I mean, you guys definitely don’t have to, but if you wanted…”

He trails off, suddenly nervous, but his hand-wringing is interrupted by Jungkook flicking a piece of carrot at him.

“Spit it out before we die of old age, hyung,” he whines.

“Ya! Don’t waste food!” Seokjin says, scandalized.

“Oh, um,” Jimin stutters, losing his nerve as the table descends into shouting.

Suddenly there’s a pair of chopsticks placing a fried egg on his plate, and Jimin looks over at Yoongi in surprise. Yoongi looks down at his plate but inclines his head in acknowledgement.

“Go ahead,” he says quietly, and Jimin has no idea if he means the egg or what he was trying to ask earlier, but either way he feels heartened.

“I was just thinking I could get tickets for you guys for the showcase if you wanted to come,” he says shyly when there’s a lull in the yelling. “There will be lots of other people performing too, and most of them are really good. It might be… it might be fun.”

For a split second nothing happens then Taehyung’s arms are around Jimin’s neck, nearly strangling him and knocking him over at the same time.

“We’ve been waiting forever for you to ask us, Chimmy!” he yells directly into Jimin’s ear, making Jimin laugh and cringe at the same time.

“Of course we’ll be there,” Jungkook says, rolling his eyes and returning to eating his rice. “I already asked for the day off from practice.”

Seokjin just beams at him, hands on his cheeks like he’s posing for a photo.

“We were hoping you’d ask, but we didn’t want to push,” he admits, glancing pointedly at Taehyung who clearly wanted to push and looks unrepentant.

Jimin smiles back at him, ignoring the way his eyes go watery and his face burns. It hadn’t occurred to him that they might want to be there, but it probably should have. He remembers them all piling into the bleachers for Jungkook’s handball game the weekend Namjoon was home. He remembers the way Seokjin had packed lunch and Taehyung had yelled at the top of his lungs when Jungkook scored. He remembers Jungkook running over to them after the game, eyes bright, and the way Namjoon had looked like he couldn’t imagine a better way to spend one of his rare days off.

Jimin looks around the table and wonders how he lucked into these people.

“Get a ticket for me,” Yoongi says quietly, and Jimin looks over at him in surprise.

That’s right, he thinks as he soaks in Yoongi’s profile, I didn’t find them. Yoongi gave them to me.

Jimin swallows and traces the blunt curve of Yoongi’s nose and the sharp flare of his eyelashes, trying to memorize every detail. No one else in the world could ever look quite like Min Yoongi, Jimin thinks. His face is fine china, all smooth angles and pale luster, but with steel underneath. Jimin wants to learn all the secrets Yoongi hides behind those sleepy eyes.

“Of course, hyung,” he says quietly. “It would mean a lot for you to be there.”

Yoongi ducks his head, his black hair covering his eyes.

“I will,” he says simply. “Now, eat your egg.”

And that’s the moment Jimin realizes he’s a little in love with Min Yoongi.

-

Hoseok doesn’t look surprised.

“Well that makes sense, I guess,” he says, tilting his head thoughtfully. “I mean, you did follow the guy home after knowing him for two minutes.”

Jimin slaps his hands over his cheeks, mortified.

“It wasn’t like that, Hobi! I didn’t know him then, and I was desperate.”

“I bet you were,” Hoseok sing-songs then laughs when Jimin hits him with his gym towel. They wrestle half-heartedly before collapsing next to each other, the late hour catching up to them. They’ve been the only ones left in the studio for hours.

They hadn’t talked about their non-fight because it wasn’t necessary. Their friendship was solid, and neither of them could hold a grudge to save their lives.

“This is the last thing I need to be thinking about right now,” Jimin says with a sigh, stretching his arms above his head. “My life’s a mess.”

Hosek cocks his head against the floor, tapping his lip thoughtfully.

“You know, I think love always comes into our lives for a reason. Whatever happens from here on out, it seems like he walked into your life at just the right moment, doesn’t it?”

Jimin smiles wistfully, remembering the sound of rain and sensation of dark eyes watching him. He remembers feeling like a drowning man clinging to a life raft in the middle of the ocean.

“It really does,” he admits with a smile.

Hoseok rolls towards him, propping himself up on an elbow and poking Jimin in the cheek.

“Then who are you to argue with fate, Park Jimin?” Hoseok asks teasingly. “I don’t think we should ever regret loving someone. Maybe it’ll work out. Maybe it won’t. That’s not for you to decide. Just be happy you have love in your life.”

Jimin looks into Hoseok’s earnest eyes and feels so much fondness he thinks he’ll burst.

“I love you, hyung,” he says, the warmth of it curling beneath his breastbone.

“I know,” Hoseok says, making his cutest face and winking. “Love you more, Jiminnie.”

They lie together for a while in silence, Jimin basking in the ease of their bond. No matter how complicated the rest of his life gets, his friendship with Hoseok is simple.

Eventually they peel themselves off the floor before they both fall asleep there, closing the studio and walking out into the chilly night together. It’s almost midnight, Jimin notices, glad he’d shot Seokjin a text telling him he’d be late. He wouldn’t put it past Seokjin to have called the cops by now otherwise.

He parts ways with Hoseok at the bus stop and walks the rest of the way to the apartment in comfortable silence.

Jimin’s surprised by how at peace he feels with his revelation about Yoongi. When it comes down to it, nothing’s really changed. He isn’t going to do anything about the way he feels about Yoongi for a million different reasons, so why beat himself up about it? Hoseok’s right. He doesn’t want to regret the way he feels. If he feels a bit wistful knowing he’ll never get to run his fingers through Yoongi’s hair or curl up against his side at night, that’s a small price to pay for the precious, glowing ember growing inside his heart.

He lets himself into the apartment as quietly as he can, mindful that it’s well past the hour Taehyung and Jungkook go to sleep. He’s kicking his shoes off when he notices the light coming from the kitchen and smiles hopefully. He hurries down the hallway, hoping Namjoon is home so he can say hello before he goes to bed. He hasn’t seen his fourth roommate in too long.

Before he has a chance to announce himself, he hears a soft, miserable noise that stops him in his tracks. He waits a moment before he hears it again, a quiet sob that makes Jimin’s chest tighten. He takes a couple careful steps forward, not wanting to disturb a private moment but unable to bear the sound of someone in pain.

The scene in the kitchen brings him to a halt.

Namjoon is indeed home, standing in the middle of the kitchen in a suit and tie and looking lost. He’s reaching tentatively towards Seokjin, but Seokjin holds him at a distance while covering his face with his other hand. Seokjin is the one who’s crying, Jimin realizes with shock, face crumpled up and red.

“Jin,” Namjoon implores, but Seokjin looks away from him, inhaling harshly. The look on Namjoon’s face is brutal—so miserable and confused that it makes Jimin’s chest physically ache.

“Don’t comfort me,” Seokjin mutters between hitching breaths. “Don’t you dare.”

Namjoon visibly flounders, hands hovering between them like he can’t quite give up on reaching towards Seokjin.

“I don’t understand,” he says urgently. “Tell me what’s going on. Whatever it is, we’ll fix it.”

He looks so scared.

Seokjin chuckles. It’s a wet, miserable sound that bears no resemblance to his normal squeaky laughter.

“Stop trying to fix everything, you idiot,” he whispers, but he lets the hand holding Namjoon away drop between them.

Namjoon steps forward and gathers Seokjin against his chest, wrapping his arms around him and guiding his head to his shoulder. Seokjin sniffles as he buries his face in Namjoon’s neck, fingers curling against his back.

Jimin’s breath catches, stunned by the intimacy of the embrace.

Leave. You shouldn’t be seeing this, he tells himself urgently, but his feet refuse to move. He doesn’t understand what he’s seeing but he knows it’s important.

“It’ll be alright,” Namjoon murmurs into Seokjin’s hair. “Whatever it is, we’ll get through it together like we always do.”

Seokjin sighs, leaning back just enough to rest his forehead on Namjoon’s shoulder.

“You can’t keep doing this,” he says, quiet and hoarse. “I can’t let you.”

Namjoon looks more confused than ever, but he just hugs Seokjin tighter and reaches up to stroke his hair. His touch looks so careful, fingertips brushing through Seokjin’s hair.

“You can’t take more clients. I won’t let you,” Seokjin says. “We’ll get by. I can get another job and ask the kids to help more with the catering. We’ll make it work.”

Namjoon’s hand pauses before resuming his careful stroking.

Seokjin sniffles and lifts his head, looking at Namjoon with more intensity than Jimin has ever seen on his face. He’s usually so placid, everything he does half a joke, but he’s dead serious now.

“You aren’t going to give up anything else for me, Kim Namjoon,” he says, face fierce and beautiful even with puffy red eyes. “It’s my turn to take care of you for a while.”

Namjoon’s eyes soften, mouth curving into a small smile.

“Is that what you’re all worked up about?” he murmurs then leans in and presses his mouth carefully to Seokjin’s.

Jimin’s heart stops, jaw falling open slightly.

Namjoon’s hands come up to cradle Seokjin’s face as he kisses him, slow and careful and infinitely tender. Seokjin leans into him with an audible sigh, sliding his hands up to rest on Namjoon’s chest.

Jimin… Jimin has never seen two men kiss before outside of porn, and this is nothing like that. The kiss looks soft and unhurried, so full of feeling that Jimin feels guilty witnessing it. It’s the kind of kiss, Jimin thinks, shared by people who are going to love each other for a lifetime.

After a long moment, Namjoon leans back, resting his forehead against Seokjin’s and smiling a dimpled smile at him.

“You’ve always taken care of me,” he says quietly, voice pitched low like a confession. “You’ve taken care of me when I had nothing to offer you and when no one else in the world gave a shit about me. If I can return a fraction of that now, it would be the greatest honor of my life.”

Seokjin’s eyes well up with tears, and he leans his cheek against Namjoon’s.

“You still aren’t taking more clients,” he says stubbornly, sniffling.

Namjoon laughs, heart-achingly fond, and presses his mouth against Seokjin’s temple.

“Whatever you say, boss.”

Jimin finally convinces his feet to move and hurries away from the kitchen as quietly as he can. He’s mortified at himself for spying on what was obviously a private moment, but he can’t get the mental image of Namjoon kissing Seokjin out of his head.

The way the taller boy had tried to curl his lanky body entirely around Seokjin, like he could shelter him from the world… the way his large hands had held Seokjin’s face, and the way he’d pressed his mouth to Seokjin’s like he was so sure of his welcome. It was worn and comfortable. It was loving.

Jimin changes out of his clothes and crawls into bed in a daze, running through what he just saw over and over.

It’s a little strange to learn Seokjin and Namjoon are together, but the more Jimin thinks about it, the less strange it seems. Seokjin and Namjoon fit together. In a way, it’s not strange at all.

Still, Jimin can’t stop seeing Namjoon kiss Seokjin in his mind.

Lying there, Jimin realizes that a big part of him still believed that he was never going to be able to have that. Gay people in Korea didn’t get to have healthy, loving relationships, he thought. They were doomed to loneliness, deviance and ostracization. They didn’t get tender kisses in the middle of the night or someone to hold them when they cried. They didn’t get to be loved so thoroughly.

Jimin feels himself start to cry and doesn’t understand why.

Was it possible for people like him to have love that was so soft and worn around the edges?

Lying in bed in the dark, Jimin let’s himself imagine it. He imagines waking up next to someone every morning, bickering with them over nothing and celebrating each of their birthdays together. He imagines having someone to come to his shows, someone who would be proud of him and press sweet kisses to his lips afterwards. He imagines pale fingers on his thighs and a dark head resting on his shoulder at night. He imagines loving unreservedly and being loved in full, and he imagines Min Yoongi’s smile helplessly throughout all of it.

-

Jimin wanders around the next day in a bit of a haze, sleep-deprived and confused. He moves through his classes and dance practice on auto-pilot, barely caring when his instructor chews him out for flubbing choreography he’s known for months.

“What’s wrong with you today, Jimin?” she asks at the end of their lesson, exasperated.

It’s a fair question.

By the time he starts walking back to the apartment, Jimin knows he needs to talk to Seokjin.

For one thing, he feels horrible for eavesdropping on a personal moment and needs to apologize. More even than that, though, he needs answers. He knows he has no right to interrogate Seokjin about what he saw, but he’s desperate to understand.

He spends the whole walk back to the apartment trying to calm his hammering heart.

It’ll be alright, he tells himself. It’s just Seokjin. He’s always been so kind.

Jimin twists his hands nervously as he approaches the apartment. For all his kindness, Seokjin kept his relationship with Namjoon secret from Jimin for months. He must have had his reasons and might not take kindly to Jimin’s questions or his spying on them in the first place.

Letting himself inside, Jimin drops off his bag and resists the urge to hide in his room like a coward. He finds Seokjin in the living room, a cheesy detective novel open on one knee and his eyes glued on Jungkook as he works his way through a college entrance exam study guide. Seokjin gives Jimin an easy smile when he sees him.

“Stop hovering, hyung,” Jungkook says without looking up. “It’s annoying.”

Jimin flushes and Seokjin laughs.

“Which one of us?” Seokjin asks. “Not me, certainly. People would love to have me hovering over them. Such a lovely view.”

Seokjin winks at Jimin who knows his face must be bright red by now.

Seokjin seems the same as always. There’s no sign of the miserable person who cried into his boyfriend’s shoulder last night. He looks as easy-going and cheerful as ever, eyes bright and sparkling mischievously beneath his black fringe. Jimin finds himself tracing the familiar lines of Seokjin’s face, trying to find some hint of what he’d witnessed last night there.

Jungkook scoffs.

“There’s no accounting for taste,” he mutters, earning himself a whack over the head with a throw pillow.

“Ya! I’m everyone’s taste!”

“I’m trying to study! You’re a terrible influence,” Jungkook grumbles, shoving the pillow back into Seokjin’s face. “I’m going to tell Namjoon-hyung it’s your fault when I don’t get into college.”

Jimin expects Seokjin to react to Namjoon’s name in some obvious way, but he just laughs his ridiculous laugh and hits Jungkook again.

“I’ll tell him you started it,” he says cheerfully, whacking Jungkook over the head with each word. “And I’m older than you, so everyone will believe me.”

Jungkook makes a noise of mock rage and rips the pillow out of Seokjin’s hands, jumping on top of him and trying to smother him while Seokjin laughs.

“Not the face!” he cries, trying to shield himself with his hands. “Why are you freakishly strong?”

Jimin wants to join them. He wants to jump into the playful fray, to forget the past 24 hours and go back to the way things were.

He wants to, but he finds he can’t. There’s still something tangled in his chest that refuses to unknot itself.

“Actually, ah,” Jimin starts nervously, “I was hoping I could talk to you about something important, hyung.”

Seokjin and Jungkook freeze at the same time, the serious tone of Jimin’s voice breaking through their merriment. Jungkook comes to a halt with the pillow still in his hands, and in any other situation it would be comical.

Jungkook slides off Seokjin and lets him sit up, setting the pillow aside.

“Of course,” Seokjin says, expression turning serious. “Is everything okay, Jiminnie?”

Jimin feels terrible for killing the mood. He doesn’t know why he’s struggling with everything so much and making everyone worry, but he doesn’t know how to stop.

“Um, can we… can we talk alone?” he asks awkwardly.

Jungkook looks a little hurt before quickly turning his head away.

Jimin feels miserable.

“Of course we can,” Seokjin says again, standing and resting a gentle hand on Jimin’s arm. “Come on.”

Jimin lets Seokjin guide him out of the room, keeping his eyes down. He’s so angry with himself he wants to cry, but he clamps down on it.

Seokjin leads him down the hall to what Jimin always thought of as his bedroom, closing the door behind them. Jimin looks at the large bed and realizes, with a jolt, that it never occurred to him to wonder where Namjoon slept. Jimin glances around the room—at the stack of English-language books in one corner and the shelf of stuffed toys on the far wall that don’t seem like Seokjin at all—and feels like a complete idiot.

“What’s wrong, Jimin-ah?” Seokjin asks, drawing Jimin’s attention away.

Seokjin looks worried, his hand lingering on Jimin’s arm, and it takes everything Jimin has not to start crying.

“I think I’m in love with Yoongi-hyung,” he blurts out.

Jimin immediately slaps his hands over his mouth, mortified. He isn’t sure exactly what he meant to say, but it definitely wasn’t that.

Seokjin’s eyes go comically wide.

“Oh,” he says dazedly.

“I didn’t mean to say that,” Jimin says in horror. “Oh my God.”

There’s a moment of painful silence before Seokjin bursts out laughing.

“Oh my God,” he echoes between peals of laughter. “Oh my God, Jiminnie.”

“I’m sorry!” Jimin says nonsensically, so embarrassed he briefly considers crawling under Seokjin and Namjoon’s bed and refusing to leave.

Before he can, Seokjin pulls him into a hug, resting his cheek against the side of his head.

“I’m sorry for laughing, but you scared me!” he whines, rocking Jimin back and forth. “You were so serious, I thought something awful had happened.”

Jimin is more confused than ever, but he finds himself laughing a little too. Seokjin’s stupid, honking laugh is contagious.

“It’s a little awful,” Jimin points out, giggling.

Seokjin laughs harder and lets him step back.

“I guess it doesn’t say much for your taste when I’m right here,” he teases, winking.

Jimin smiles, breathing unevenly.

It’s… a lot. The first two people he’d told about being interested in men were his parents, and that had cost him everything. The only other person who knew was Hoseok, and he’d figured it out before Jimin had.

Considering what Jimin knows about his relationship with Namjoon, telling Seokjin was pretty low-risk, but it still feels huge.

Seokjin uses one hand to raise Jimin’s chin slightly as his laughter trails off. He looks Jimin in the eye the same way he did the night they met and lets Jimin see the certainty and affection there.

“You know that changes nothing for us, right?” he says.

Jimin’s lip wobbles.

“Hyung,” he whispers.

“You will always be welcome here, Park Jimin.”

After so much rejection, the easy acceptance physically hurts. Why did Seokjin make it sound so easy? Why was he being so kind when Jimin was being weird about everything?

Jimin throws himself back into Seokjin’s arms, breath hitching.

“I’m sorry, hyung,” he says, voice wobbly

Seokjin’s arms wrap around him again without hesitation.

“What on earth for?” he asks with a laugh.

Jimin swallows, enjoying the warmth and security of Seokjin’s arms around him. He feels safe and cared-for and wonders if this is what it would be like to have an older brother.

He hopes he isn’t about to ruin it.

“I saw you and Namjoon-hyung in the kitchen last night,” Jimin confesses, voice so quiet he’s nearly whispering.

He feels Seokjin tense slightly against him.

“I didn’t mean to spy on you guys,” Jimin hurries to add. “I came home late and heard something and it just happened. I’m really sorry.”

Seokjin’s hands are gentle as they push Jimin back and hold him at arm’s length. He doesn’t look angry, Jimin is relieved to notice, but there is something a little more closed off about his expression than usual.

“That must have been surprising. I’m sorry we kept it from you, Jimin,” he says gently. “Namjoon and I have learned to be careful.”

“No, no I understand,” Jimin rushes to assure him. “You didn’t know me. You didn’t owe me anything.”

Seokjin smiles, but it’s different than his usual cheeky grin. The curve of his mouth smaller and sadder, like it’s been weathered a bit at the corners. It’s beautiful.

“We know you now,” he says simply. “We should have told you. I guess we kept putting it off because we were scared.”

“I would never tell anyone,” Jimin tells him earnestly. He needs Seokjin to know that, if nothing else. “I would never do that to you guys.”

Seokjin ruffles his hair.

“I know that. We were more worried that you wouldn’t be comfortable here anymore.”

Jimin looks at him in surprise. It’d never occurred to him that Seokjin and Namjoon kept their secret not out of shame or fear, but because they didn’t want to make Jimin uncomfortable.

“Taehyung would never speak to me again if we scared you off,” Seokjin says, tone only half joking. “I’m not sure Kookie would either, for that matter.”

Jimin smiles weakly.

“So… so they know?” he asks, something that feels terrifyingly like hope sparking in his chest.

Seokjin’s smile softens,

“They know,” he confirms. “They’re fine, Jimin.”

Jimin takes a deep breath.

Jimin… Jimin could tell them, and nothing would change. Taehyung, Jungkook and Namjoon aren’t going to hate him once they know the truth. He’s safe with them. From the moment he realized he was different, he’s been afraid that every person he loves will eventually leave him when they see him for who he truly is. He has, on occasion, been proven correct. But now… 

“Of course, Yoongi-ah was the first person who knew,” Seokjin adds casually.

Jimin’s eyes shoot up. Seokjin’s giving him an innocent look, all wide eyes and thoughtful lips.

“It was just the three of us back then, and he threatened to murder us both if we didn’t figure ourselves out. Something about being repressed idiots stuck in a ridiculous mating dance, if I recall. It was very touching.”

Jimin toes the floor, trying not to blush or look too interested.

“He said that?” he asks, voice high.

Seokjin smiles, cocking his head and resting a hand on his cheek.

“There were some more colorful words in there, but that was the gist of it.”

Jimin can’t help but smile, warmth bleeding through his chest and out towards his extremities. Yoongi had his own way of saying things, certainly, but he obviously wanted his friends to be happy and to know he accepted them.

“Jimin,” Seokjin says tentatively. “I hope that you tell him someday.”

Jimin ducks his head in embarrassment, still mortified by his earlier outburst. How could he ever tell Yoongi? He’s ready to protest, but Seokjin beats him to it.

“Only when it’s right for you, of course. I just… Yoongi’s one of my oldest friends, and I know he’s a good man. If anyone could deserve you, Jiminnie, I think it’s him. It would put my heart at ease knowing he was loved by someone like you too.”

Jimin’s flattered. He’s not sure what he’s done to deserve Seokjin’s faith, but he’s touched that Seokjin could ever think of him as someone worthy of Yoongi. He’s just a disowned college kid. He’s nothing at all like Yoongi, who’s talented, accomplished, beautiful, loyal, brave… everything anyone could ever want. Everything.

“Is-is he…?” he tries to ask, voice a tiny whisper.

Seokjin smiles apologetically.

“I don’t know,” he admits, “and I probably wouldn’t tell you if I did. That’s not for me to say.”

Jimin nods, embarrassed to have asked. He knows Seokjin is right.

“But I do think it’s worth a try. I know he would never hold it against you,” Seokjin tweaks his nose affectionately, “and he obviously cares about you.”

Jimin wants to argue, but he finds he can’t. He remembers Yoongi sitting next to him on the worst night of his life, the sensation of cool fingertips on his cheekbone, a fried egg set carefully on his plate. He thinks about the handful of precious smiles he’s earned over the past few months, delighted and affectionate.

He cares about me.

Jimin beams at Seokjin, eyes watery, and Seokjin smiles back.

He still can’t imagine telling Yoongi about his feelings, but he doesn’t say so out loud. There’s a delicate little wish forming in his heart that he finds he doesn’t want to crush just yet.

“Can I ask you something personal, hyung?” he asks shyly, hoping Seokjin doesn’t mind the change of subject. His curiosity is too strong to ignore.

“Of course.”

“How long have you and Namjoon-hyung…?”

Seokjin smiles that strange little weathered smile Jimin thinks might belong solely to Kim Namjoon and cocks his head thoughtfully.

“Well, we’ve been best friends since elementary school,” he says with a fond smile. “Joonie was such a little nerd, you should have seen him. He needed me.”

The warmth in Seokjin’s voice is palpable. Jimin can almost feel it against his skin.

“I had other friends, of course, but none quite like Namjoon. He pretty much lived with us back then, and we stayed friends even when he got into his fancy gifted high school. It was hard, though. He was studying so much we barely saw each other.”

Jimin watches Seokjin’s throat bob as he swallows, looking a little pained.

“Then my mom died.”

A small gasp escapes Jimin’s mouth before he can swallow it.

“It happened so fast. My father left before I was born, and my mom’s family shunned her for being a single mother, so she was all I had. I’d just turned 19 and she left me this apartment, but I was completely alone.”

Seokjin looks lost in memory, fingers smoothing over his pants thoughtlessly.

“The night after the memorial service, Namjoon showed up on my doorstep with this stupid backpack and some ramen from down the street and insisted on staying. I was a mess. I didn’t want to burden him, but Namjoon refused to hear it. Eventually I gave up and let him stay out of sheer exhaustion.”

Seokjin laughs breathlessly.

“Six years later, he’s still here.”

Their eyes meet, and Jimin marvels at the depth and complexity of the feelings he sees there. It seems to Jimin like there’s a vast galaxy that stretches between Seokjin and Namjoon, a long history that’s deep and layered and incomprehensible to anyone except the two of them.

“He was only 17 at the time, but Namjoon has a complicated relationship with his family,” Seokjin explains. “Joonie’s… special. He’s incredibly smart, and his parents treated him like a meal ticket. He was always meant for more than that, Jiminnie. He’s passionate and creative, and his parents tried to crush it out of him because they thought he should focus on his studies. They broke his computer and his mic, hid his keyboard, threw away his notebooks… it was awful. He never told me exactly what he said to them back then to get them to let him stay with me, but he still sends them money to this day, so I can guess.”

Jimin’s chest aches, Namjoon’s ridiculous schedule suddenly starting to make sense.

“It was just the two of us for a couple years after that. It was tough with money and everything, but we managed with what my mom left me and part time jobs. We were just idiot kids playing at being adults, but we were happy.”

Seokjin cocks his head thoughtfully, staring into space.

“I’m not quite sure when I realized I was in love with him. Way too late to do anything about it, anyway.”

Jimin reaches out and curls his hand around Seokjin’s. The other boy squeezes back.

“I didn’t say anything, obviously. I couldn’t risk it. Namjoon was my entire world back then, and I thought he only liked women. Honestly, it was okay. I was pretty set to secretly pine after my best friend for the rest of my life when Yoongi came to live with us.”

Seokjin’s smile widens.

“Namjoon met him on the underground circuit, and they became fast friends despite themselves. Not many people can keep up with Joonie when he gets going, but Yoongi could. I would’ve been jealous if I didn’t like Yoongi so much.”

“Wait, Namjoon-hyung’s a rapper too?” Jimin asks in surprise. It’s hard to imagine the gangly man he’d only seen out of a suit twice rapping. Yoongi, with his mysterious good looks and raspy voice, made infinitely more sense.

Seokjin’s eyes light up.

“Oh, he’s so talented, Jiminnie. He writes and composes his own stuff too. You should hear him,” he says, pride in his eyes. “We’ll get him back on stage soon, and you can see for yourself.”

Jimin squeezes his hand.

“I used to love going to their shows. I always felt so proud to be their friend,” Seokjin admits. “The pay is nonexistent in the beginning, though, which is why Yoongi came to live with us.”

Jimin isn’t surprised to learn that Yoongi used to live in the apartment. Everyone still treats him like a resident anyway.

“It didn’t take him long to work his way up to the ridiculous mating dance comment,” Seokjin laughs. “Looking back, I almost feel bad for him. We were both so twisted up and he got dropped in the middle of it.”

Seokjin trails off, and Jimin wonders if he’s done talking. He hadn’t meant to make Seokjin reveal so much, but he’s honored to hear it. There’s so much he wants to know about Seokjin and Namjoon’s relationship, having never seen one like it before.

It also means a lot to Jimin to finally be able to learn more about his friends. He’s been holding himself back from them a bit, he realizes now, afraid to ask too much for fear that they’ll ask him questions in return that he wouldn’t be able to answer. Now that he doesn’t feel like he needs to hide, he wants to know them better, wants to bear their worries and fears for them.

“In the end, it was a quiet thing,” Seokjin muses. “It wasn’t a dramatic confession. There was no crying or vowing eternal love or running through the airport or anything. I was just saying goodnight to him right there in the doorway wearing my ugliest pajamas, and Namjoon leaned in and kissed me. He did it like it was the most normal thing in the world.”

Jimin smiles as he soaks in the look on the other man’s face. That’s what love looks like, he thinks with wonder.

“That was three years ago now,” Seokjin says thoughtfully, “but I think I’ve been in love with him for as long as I can remember.”

They sit in silence, Jimin soaking in Seokjin’s words. It’s a beautiful love story, he thinks, but also a simple one. Seokjin fell in love with his best friend. They stuck by each other through everything because they were each other’s most important person. Seokjin and Namjoon are just trying to do the best they can with the hand life dealt them. The normalcy of it all is not what Jimin was expecting, but he thinks it’s beautiful.

The tangled knot in Jimin’s chest finally loosens, his hand squeezing Seokjin’s.

“Thank you for telling me,” he says earnestly.

Seokjin squeezes back.

“Thank you for trusting me,” he says. “I’ll do my best to be worthy of it.”

They share a quick hug before hunger finally forces them to emerge from Seokjin’s room. Seokjin heads off to the kitchen to prepare dinner, waving off his offer of help, so Jimin goes to get changed.

Taehyung’s home and lounging on his bed with a DS in his hands. More surprisingly than that, Jungkook’s sitting on the floor of their bedroom, his back propped against Taehyung’s bed. His entrance exam materials are spread out around him like he’s been there for a while. He glances up at Jimin before returning to the page in front of him.

“What was that all about?” he asks, unconvincingly casual. Taehyung doesn’t even bother to pretend he’s not listening.

Jimin flops down on his yo, careful not to step on Jungkook’s papers in the process. He doesn’t respond right away, propping his cheek up on his hand and looking at the back of Jungkook’s head contemplatively.

They know, he remembers Seokjin saying.

He looks between Jungkook and Taehyung, fondness glowing in his heart.

“I, uh, walked in on the hyungs in the kitchen last night,” he says shyly.

There’s a moment of such intense silence that Jimin wonders if he somehow misunderstood Seokjin when he said they already knew, and then:

“Like, on the table?” Taehyung asks in horror.

“What?” Jimin says, confused.

“Oh my God,” Jungkook moans, leaning forward to rest his forehead on his study guide.

There’s a beat while Jimin’s brain catches up to the conversation.

“No,” he gasps.

“I eat there!” Taehyung grumbles, sinking into his blankets and looking perturbed. “That’s so rude.”

“No no!”

“I hate you both,” Jungkook whispers into the pages of his book.

“I mean, all the more power to them, yay for a healthy sex life and all, but-”

“Oh my god, Tae!” Jimin shouts, face beet red. “I didn’t… they weren’t… I mean, they were just talking and kissing!”

Jungkook lifts his head and glances around like a prey animal checking for predators.

“Oh,” Taehyung says after a beat, looking confused. “Well that’s no big deal. Why’d you have to talk to him about that?”

Jimin covers his face with his hands, trying to mentally will himself into sinking through the mattress.

“He didn’t know about them, Tae,” Jungkook answers for him.

“Oooooh.”

For a moment they all sit in silence, basking in the awkwardness of it all, and Jimin tries very, very hard not to visualize what Taehyung clearly thought he’d walked in on. Seokjin and Namjoon are both very attractive, but somehow it feels a bit like imagining his parents having sex.

“That won’t be a problem, will it?”

Jimin uncovers his eyes, looking over at Taehyung in surprise. The other boy’s voice is absent its usual warmth, and his eyes look a little suspicious. For the first time since the moment they met, Taehyung looks like he isn’t sure he can trust him. Jungkook watches him carefully, but strangely he looks less concerned.

“I love you, Chim, but if you have a problem with the hyungs being gay-”

“No,” Jimin says before Taehyung can get himself too worked up. “No, I was just surprised, I promise.”

Taehyung visibly relaxes, sighing dramatically.

“Oh thank God,” he says, sprawling across his bed. “I wasn’t prepared to fight you.”

Jimin giggles, sliding off his yo and skirting around the homework on the floor to hop into Taehyung’s bed. The other boy welcomes him with a tight hug and a bright smile, pressing his cheek against Jimin’s affectionately.

Jimin is just cuddling into his shoulder when he feels the mattress dip and Jungkook’s heavy head flop down on his stomach. Jungkook doesn’t say anything, just throws his long legs over both of theirs and contorts himself to fit on the bed with them.

Jimin looks down at Jungkook’s dark-haired head lying on his stomach and feels a surge of affection. Reaching down, he strokes his fingers through Jungkook’s hair and wonders how he got so lucky.

None of them say anything for a while as Taehyung dozes, Jimin plays with Jungkook’s hair and Jungkook hums softly, fingers drumming the rhythm of a song against Jimin’s thigh.

“I am too, you know,” Jimin whispers, because he finds he can. “Gay, I mean.”

It’s the first time he’s said the words since the night his parents kicked him out.

“Okay,” Taehyung says, not missing a beat.

“I kinda figured,” Jungkook mumbles sleepily, “given your giant crush on Yoongi-hyung.”

Jimin tries to sit up in alarm, but Taehyung cackles and hugs him in place.

“Wow, Jiminnie.”

“Jungkook!” Jimin whines as Jungkook snickers.

“It’s obvious,” he says, smug.

Jimin groans and hides his face in Taehyung’s shoulder.

“No,” he moans.

Oh god, what if it was obvious? What if everyone knew? What if Yoongi knew and was only nice to him because he felt bad about this goofy kid and his big, obvious crush?

“If it makes you feel better, I’m pretty sure he has a crush on you too,” Jungkook adds casually.

Jimin’s thoughts come to a screeching stop.

“Wait, really?” Taehyung asks, sounding way too excited.

“Oh yeah. He gets this stupid look on his face whenever he watches Jimin dance, like he’s won the lottery or something. It’s embarrassing,” Jungkook muses, sounding like he’s enjoying this.

Jimin lies against Taehyung’s chest, Jungkook sprawled on top of them both, and just thinks what repeatedly.

“Aww, look at my children all getting along,” Seokjin says from the doorway, audibly snapping a picture on his phone. “This one’s going on the fridge.”

Jungkook leaps off the bed in an instant, gathering his study materials and looking mortified to be caught mid-cuddle. Seokjin pinches his cheek as he tries to leave the room with his dignity intact, earning him an angry flail that makes Taehyung snort with laughter.

“Dinner’s ready whenever you guys untangle,” Seokjin says cheerfully before ducking out of the room.

Jimin knows he should sit up, but he stays cuddled up against Taehyung’s shoulder for a while longer. The weight of everything stars to catch up to him, and it’s overwhelming. Seokjin, Taehyung and Jungkook all know he’s gay. Namjoon and Seokjin have been together for years. Jungkook thinks Yoongi might like him.

Taehyung doesn’t move or say anything about getting up, instead wrapping his arm around Jimin’s back and sighing.

“Hey, did you know I grew up on a farm?” he asks suddenly. “For the longest time, I thought I was going to be a farmer like my parents when I grew up.”

Jimin blinks, startled by the non-sequitur, but Taehyung doesn’t wait for an answer.

“My parents were really busy when I was little, so my grandma raised me most of the time. She was the best, Chim. You would have really liked her.”

Taehyung keeps talking, tone wistful as he reminisces about his childhood and his family’s little farm. His stories are strange and meandering, never touching on anything too important, and Jimin lets his familiar voice wash over him like a gentle wave. The knot of anxiety in his chest fades into the background, not gone but less important than before.

It occurs to Jimin, as he lies there with Taehyung’s low voice drifting over him, that love might be less complicated than he thought. It could be dramatic confessions and grandiose gestures for some. For others maybe it was just the boy on your doorstep with a bag of takeout or a friend’s voice, warm and familiar, wrapping around you like a thick blanket on a cold night.

Maybe, Jimin thinks, it’s this. Just this.

-

Yoongi invites him to his studio a few days later, and Jimin’s heart pounds the whole way there. Jungkook’s stuck in study hall until late tonight, so Jimin has no idea why Yoongi wants to see him. To make matters worse, he feels exposed now that people know about his feelings. Logically, he knows Yoongi isn’t going to be able to see his secrets written all over his forehead, but it somehow feels that way.

It doesn’t occur to him to turn the offer down, though. Nerves aside, he wants to see Yoongi. He always does.

As he walks up to the record label building, he sees Yoongi waiting for him out front like he did with Jungkook once before. He looks particularly handsome today, Jimin thinks, his hair clean and wavy and his skin bright.

“You didn’t have to wait for me out here, hyung,” he says cheerfully, nerves fading a little in the face of how happy he is to see him.

Yoongi looks up, eyes crinkling as he shrugs.

“I know,” he says simply and doesn’t elaborate. “Thanks for coming.”

Jimin smiles, rocking back and forth on his heels.

“You said you needed my help, so of course I came,” he says because it’s just that simple.

Yoongi offers him another friendly eye-crinkle and motions for Jimin to follow him into the building. They walk the now familiar route to his studio in silence. Jimin’s surprised how comfortable it is, even if part of him wants to be panicking. He very determinedly doesn’t think about anything Jungkook said to him a few nights ago.

Yoongi ushers him into his cramped studio, pointing him towards one of the two chairs pulled up to the desk. The studio itself is somewhat sparse, mostly decorated with mismatched notebooks and loose paper with lyrics scribbled on them on every available surface. There’s a keyboard against one wall, a microphone, two large computer monitors and multiple pairs of headphones scattered throughout the space, all clearly well-used. It’s utterly unpretentious, a space intended for work.

“What did you need my help with, hyung?” Jimin asks as he glances around, his curiosity winning out. He doesn’t know nearly enough about music to be any help to someone like Yoongi here.

“I’m working on a song,” Yoongi starts, sitting down in his chair and pulling open a couple files on his computer. He doesn’t look over at Jimin as he speaks. “I wanted your opinion on it.”

“Mine?” Jimin asks in surprise. “Why? I don’t know much about music.”

Yoongi taps his fingers on the desk in a thoughtless rhythm, eyes locked on the computer screen.

“You’re a dancer,” he says slowly. “You may not make music, but you understand it as well as anyone. You just approach it from a different angle than I do.”

Jimin considers Yoongi’s words. He never really thought about it that way, but he supposes it’s true enough. To dance the way Jimin wants to—with joy and precision—the music must live inside you, to fill the space at the hollow of your throat and spill out of your fingertips when you move.

“I’ve been stuck on this song for a while,” Yoongi admits, face mildly petulant. “No matter what I do, it doesn’t sound the way I want.”

Jimin hums in sympathy.

“That happens with dance too,” he says. “Sometimes you do everything technically right, but the piece just doesn’t work. It’s frustrating.”

Yoongi nods, looking distracted. He doesn’t seem entirely like himself today, Jimin notices with concern.

“I’m not sure how much help I’ll be, but I’ll try my best,” Jimin offers hopefully.

“Thank you,” Yoongi murmurs, glancing over at him briefly. “Be honest.”

He hits play, and Jimin closes his eyes.

Yoongi’s songs are always so intricate. This song is softer than the other pieces he’d sent Jimin before, but no less complex. There’s a piano at the heart of the melody with layers of acoustic guitar, bass and harmonized vocals laid delicately on top, creating something that sounds simpler than it truly is. Immediately, Jimin sees a dance. The tune aches in his bones, bits of choreography appearing behind his eyelids as he listens. Even without paying attention to the lyrics, Jimin knows the story he’d tell with his body.

When it’s over, the last piano note fading to nothing, Jimin opens his eyes.

Yoongi’s watching him with a strange look on his face, intense but nervous too.

“Could you play it for me again?” Jimin asks, guilty that he got distracted. “I want to listen to the lyrics this time.”

Yoongi indulges him, hitting play.

The lyrics weave together a love story told in reverse. From the first line, the singer knows he’s going to lose his lover and works his way back to the moment they met and were full of hope. It’s melancholy and fascinating, but it’s not what Jimin expected.

The song ends again, and Jimin bites his lip.

“Tell me,” Yoongi says, startling him. “I know you want to say something.”

“It might be dumb,” Jimin warns. “I’m not a songwriter.”

“Please,” Yoongi says, and Jimin’s insides melt.

He’s so screwed.

“I love it,” Jimin says first because he really, really does, “but it feels like… it feels like maybe these lyrics and melody don’t belong together.”

Yoongi cocks his head, expression thoughtful, and Jimin hurries on.

“The lyrics are about regret, aren’t they?” Jimin ponders. “They’re about looking back on a moment that was so hopeful and regretting how it turned out. To me, the melody doesn’t sound like that.”

“What does the melody sound like to you?” Yoongi asks softly, and Jimin is struck again by how much he likes his voice. The soft rasp of it is uniquely his, something that belongs to Min Yoongi and no one else.

“Longing,” Jimin says breathily.

Yoongi meets his gaze, his eyes endless.

“They’re the same sometimes, aren’t they?” he asks quietly. “Regret and longing.”

Jimin shakes his head, twisting his lips thoughtfully.

“No, I don’t think so. You have to have some hope to long for something, don’t you think?” he says. “Regret only comes after you give up something. I don’t feel like the person in this melody has given up.”

Yoongi hums, looking back at the computer screen. He appears to be considering the sound-mixing software, eyes tracing readouts Jimin doesn’t understand.

“You might be right,” he says.

“Could I…” Jimin starts but trails off before he can finish, embarrassed.

“Ask me,” Yoongi prompts him.

Jimin takes a breath and gathers his courage.

“Could I take a copy of it? I’d like to help more if I can,” he admits. “Plus, I really like it.”

Yoongi presses a couple buttons on the computer, tilting his head down. If Jimin didn’t know better, he’d think he looked embarrassed.

“You don’t have to do that,” Yoongi says.

“But I want to!” Jimin assures him, and Yoongi suddenly flashes him one of those wonderful smiles.

Jimin’s heart feels too large for his ribcage, pounding unevenly.

“Okay, but I’m sending you with some songs that suck less too,” he says sternly, and Jimin laughs.

“It doesn’t suck, hyung,” he protests.

“No, it’s just literally all the lyrics are wrong,” Yoongi says, tone teasing, and Jimin flushes.

“That’s not what I meant!” he protests laughingly, comforted by the twinkle in Yoongi’s eyes.

They spend the next hour putting together what Yoongi labels MIXTAPE FOR THE HARDASS, and it’s the most fun Jimin’s had in ages. Listening through Yoongi’s work is enough of a treat—he’s remarkably talented, and Jimin’s certain he’d think so even if he weren’t biased—but Yoongi’s strange mood also seems to evaporate as they go, and they end up sandwiched together in front of the computer screen.

“What about this one?” Jimin asks, pointing to a song near the bottom of the list.

“Fuck no,” Yoongi says with a laugh. “I wrote that when I was eighteen.”

Jimin gasps and lunges for the mouse, but Yoongi’s ready for him, blocking him out with his shoulder.

“I have to hear it!” Jimin laughs, batting at his arm.

“Over my dead body,” Yoongi declares dryly.

“Hyung!” he whines through his giggles.

Yoongi turns his head to beam at him, all crescent eyes and gums, and Jimin loves him. He loves his hoarse voice and his sleepy eyes and the way he laughs. He loves how Yoongi isn’t the person he first seems to be, all warmth and loyalty beneath the veneer of cool disinterest. He loves him for everything he is and for no particular reason at all.

“Geez, fine, don’t make that face at me,” Yoongi relents, and Jimin immediately looks away, worried about what his face must have looked like just then. “Just remember that I was young and stupid and you asked for this.”

Yoongi adds the song to the playlist with a cringe.

“Don’t listen to that in public,” he grumbles, ejecting the flash drive and offering it to Jimin.

Jimin takes it, cradling it to his chest.

“Thank you, Yoongi-hyung,” he says.

Yoongi leans back in his chair and sighs.

“It’s only fair, I guess,” he muses. “You’ve let me watch you dance.”

He says it like it’s an honor, and Jimin tries very hard not to think about Jungkook’s voice saying like he’s won the lottery or something. He looks down at the flash drive to hide whatever expression may be on his face.

“You’re still coming to the showcase, right?” he asks nervously. As nerve-wracking as it is, Jimin wants him there.

Yoongi hums, eyes crinkling.

“We’ll all be there, Park Jimin,” he promises.

Yoongi’s words fill him with a warmth he carries with him as they leave the studio and walk back to the apartment. It’s with him as they eat dinner with Seokjin and Taehyung and as Yoongi says goodnight to him afterwards. It’s with him as he lies down in bed that night and nurtures the flickering beginnings of a plan.

I hope you tell him someday, Seokjin had said, and Jimin had known at the time that he was never going to be able to do that. Words were hard for him, everything too knotted up in his chest to express properly.

Still… maybe there’s something he can do.

But first he’s going to need some help.

-

The day of the showcase, Jimin leaves the apartment while everyone else is still asleep.

He’s equal parts nervous and excited as he makes his way to the studio before dawn, set on practicing his routine a few more times before anyone else arrives. He needs as many reps as he can get at this point. He has to do his absolute best today.

The showcase is a formality in some ways. Theoretically it’s supposed to be the equivalent of a final exam, but instructors rarely fail anyone who shows up and does their best. The real value of performing well is attracting the attention of the most desirable professors and recruiters in the audience. A stellar performance at the showcase can set a student up for a beneficial mentorship or even a post-graduation career.

With the end of the year approaching, Jimin knows he doesn’t have much time to figure out how he’s going to pay tuition next year. He’s already resolved not to accept a penny from Seokjin or Namjoon, though he knows they’ll offer. He refuses to contribute to Namjoon’s workload, for Namjoon’s sake and maybe even more so for Seokjin’s.

He’ll definitely get a part-time job to help pay for expenses, but that won’t be enough to cover tuition and studio fees. His only real hope is to attract the attention of a recruiter. If he can find someone interested enough to sign him to a contract, there’s a chance they’ll let him start working or even give him a scholarship to finish school.

It’s not something Jimin ever considered before—he never thought of himself as particularly gifted or ambitious about his dancing—but it’s his best shot now. If it doesn’t work out… well, maybe he can take a couple years off and try to work to save up the money. Maybe he would have to find a new dream.

There’s a lot riding on his performance today, and not just in terms of his schooling.

Jimin lets himself into the studio and turns on the lights.

Truthfully, he’s scared. He’s been scared since the night his parents sat him down and told him he needed to stay away from Hoseok because there were rumors about that boy. He’s been scared since the moment he asked why, voice breaking. He’s been scared since his parents demanded he not associate with people like that and scared since the truth came pouring out of him like an angry tidal wave. Jimin remembers the fear and the relief and the pride, all spilling out of him as he told them the truth and the absolute heartbreak he felt when his father looked him in the eye and said we know, that’s why you have to be extra careful and hide hide hide. He’s been utterly terrified since the moment he refused.

Slipping his jacket and sneakers off, Jimin hooks his music up and takes a deep breath.

He’s still scared, but today he also feels brave. He thinks of Hoseok’s warm smile and the five tickets he’d requested for tonight stuck to the fridge in Apartment 31. He thinks about Seokjin’s braying laugh and Taehyung’s fingers curled around his own, and he feels like there’s nothing in the world that he can’t do. Nothing in the world that he has to do alone.

He thinks about Min Yoongi’s hoarse voice saying we’ll all be there like it’s a promise and feels like maybe it’s okay to wish for something more.

The music plays, and Jimin begins.

-

“Are they here yet?” Jimin asks for the millionth time.

Hoseok pokes his head around the curtain, glancing out at the audience.

“I can’t tell. There are so many people here!” he says excitedly. Hoseok has whatever the opposite of stage fright is, and Jimin hates him a little at the moment.

Jimin rubs his hands up and down his thighs rapidly.

“Are you sure I look okay?” he asks again, knowing he would be driving Hoseok crazy if he were literally anyone else.

Hoseok leaves the curtain to beam at him, resting his hands under his chin cutely.

“You look beautiful, I promise,” he says.

Jimin feels a bit ridiculous. Usually he just dances in loose shirts and leggings, but those didn’t feel right for his piece today. Instead he’s dressed in a gauzy grey button-down that seems way too shimmery and a pair of tight black pants that make him self-conscious. He even let Hoseok style his hair off his forehead and smudge a little eyeliner around his eyes in an attempt to make him look more mature. He’s not sure it worked. He mostly feels silly.

“You’re next, Park,” one of the volunteers calls as a new performer walks onto the stage, and Jimin starts hopping in place nervously.

Oh God, what is he doing? What if it’s awful? What if he hasn’t worked hard enough? He should have spent more time in the studio. He should have lost weight. What if Yoongi-

“Jiminnie,” Hoseok says sternly, hands slapping down on Jimin’s shoulders to halt his nervous jumping. “Relax. You’re going to do great, I promise. Your piece is amazing.”

Jimin looks at him with wide eyes.

“What am I doing, Hobi?” he asks, a little panicked. “I shouldn’t have-”

“You are being amazingly brave, Park Jimin,” Hoseok says with a bright smile, “and I couldn’t be prouder of you.

Jimin looks into Hoseok’s warm brown eyes and feels his heart calm slightly.

At that moment he knows that even if he weren’t gay, he would’ve still refused his parents’ demand to stay away from Hoseok. Some people are worth fighting for, and Hoseok is unquestionably one of them.

“Okay,” Jimin breathes.

“Yeah,” Hoseok agrees enthusiastically.

“Okay,” Jimin says again. “Okay!

“Yeah!” Hoseok cheers.

There’s applause off stage, and Jimin takes a deep breath.

Hoseok clasps Jimin’s hand supportively one more time before trotting over to poke his head around the curtain again.

“Oh, I see them!” he says brightly. “They’re here, Jiminnie!”

Jimin feels a vice release in his chest, relief soaking through his extremities. They’re here. They really came. He closes his eyes and breathes for a second, letting calm wash over him.

“It’s time,” the event coordinator says behind him.

Jimin opens his eyes and breathes out slowly, nodding once.

He’s ready.

“Fighting!” Hoseok calls as Jimin walks out onto the stage and takes his place for the start of the routine.

He glances out at the audience, and Hoseok was right; there are a lot of people. The stage lights burn Jimin’s eyes as he glances quickly from seat to seat, knowing he doesn’t have much time.

He sees Namjoon first, his height and light hair making him easy to locate in the crowd. It’s simple to find the others after that, seated together near the front of the auditorium. Taehyung waves excitedly when he notices Jimin looking before Jungkook grabs his hand and pins it to his thigh. Next to them, Yoongi-

Yoongi.

Jimin meets his dark eyes for a split second, heart hammering.

Watch, he tries to say with his eyes. Watch me.

Then the first note plays and Jimin looks away.

In the event program, it says Park Jimin is dancing to a Chopin medley, but the music that pours from the speakers isn’t Chopin. It’s a piano ballad with acoustic guitar and bass laid on top, intricate and unfinished and full of longing.

On the second beat, Jimin lets the dance take him.

Changing his routine with less than a month left before the showcase was ridiculous, but Jimin doesn’t doubt his decision once the music starts. He sinks into the song, let’s himself twist through the melancholy piano and arch into the heavy thump of the bass. It’s not as polished as his Chopin piece, maybe, but it’s raw and it’s honest. It’s the version of himself he’s no longer afraid for the world to see.

Jimin dances part of the routine with his eyes closed, his mind a thousand miles away from the wooden stage beneath his feet. Instead of thinking about the next steps, he thinks about longing and regret and the difference between the two.

Watch me.

Jimin’s loved to dance for as long as he can remember—loved the way it challenges him, the way it fulfills him and the way it lets him speak without words. Some days it feels like he’s dancing just for himself, and some days it feels like he wants the whole world to watch. It feels, some days, like there’s an endless river inside him, pouring out into the world.

Today, he dances for his future and he dances for Min Yoongi and he dances for himself most of all.

The song comes to an end on a long, fading piano note. Jimin’s whole body stretches as he reaches out towards the audience, chest heaving.

The stage lights fall and there’s applause—loud applause and at least one person calling his name—but Jimin barely hears it.

It’s done.

His last hope of paying for school next year is done.

His love letter to Min Yoongi is out there for all the world to see.

“Jimin!”

Hoseok’s voice breaks Jimin out of his trance. Dropping his finishing pose, he offers the crowd a couple quick bows and a wave before scurrying off the stage before he can accidentally make eye contact with anyone.

“That was amazing!” Hoseok says, enveloping him in a tight hug. Jimin clings to his shoulders, panting into his neck. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Thank you. For helping me with the new routine and for everything else,” Jimin whispers, squeezing Hoseok’s thin body tightly.

Hoseok laughs.

“Any time, any place, Park Jimin,” he says as he draws back and wipes his eyes. “Now go get your man, okay?”

Jimin blushes and rubs messily at his own eyes, not caring that he’s probably smudging eyeliner everywhere.

“I have to wait until the program is over. Plus, I want to cheer for you first,” he tells Hoseok. “Fighting!”

“Yeah!”

Jimin changes and washes his face as quickly as he can, not wanting to miss Hoseok’s performance. He doesn’t look at his phone as he lingers backstage, too nervous to read any messages.

He’s going to have to face them soon—face Yoongi soon—but he lets himself rest long enough to watch Hoseok step out on the stage to perform. He’s seen the piece a million times in the studio, but as always Hoseok flourishes in front of a crowd, his bubbly personality spilling across the stage. His joy is infectious, especially when he dances. When he finishes, the crowd cheers loudly for him, as charmed as Jimin always is.

They hug again when he comes off the stage, with less watery eyes this time.

The showcase wraps while Hoseok gets washed up, and Jimin’s heart flutters nervously in his chest.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Hoseok asks as they grab their bags and prepare to go meet their guests.

“No,” Jimin says, though he desperately does. He has to stand on his own two feet today. “Go see your family. We can meet up later.”

“If you’re sure,” Hoseok says, pinching his cheek affectionately as they walk towards the stage exit. “I wouldn’t look so worried. Anyone would be a fool not to love you, Jiminnie.”

Jimin smiles weakly.

“You’re biased,” he says as they push out into the lobby. It’s loud and crowded with performers meeting up with their families, and Jimin’s immediately a little overwhelmed.

“Yes, but it’s still true!” Hoseok sing-songs as they part ways, throwing a cheerful wave over his shoulder.

Jimin stands on his toes outside the stage exit, craning his neck to look around the room and cursing his short stature. As nervous as he is, he desperate wants to see everyone, but the room is so packed he can’t even find Namjoon’s shock of light brown hair.

“Chim!”

Taehyung slams into his side, nearly knocking him off his feet.

“Be careful, Tae,” Seokjin yells, not far behind.

Jimin laughs and throws his arms around Taehyung, letting the taller boy hug the life out of him as the others make their way over.

“You were amazing!” Taehyung says, reluctantly letting go so Seokjin can pull him into a hug of his own.

“That was beautiful, Jiminnie,” he says as he squeezes him. He smells warm and homey, like laundry detergent and baking spices, and Jimin clings to him a little more than he wants to admit before letting him go as well. “I’m so proud of you.”

Namjoon, bless him, just ruffles his hair and gives him a dimpled smile.

“You really killed it up there,” he says.

Jimin blushes.

“I’m really happy you came,” he says quietly. “Thank you again for your help with the song.”

“No problem. It was nice to open the sound mixer again, to be honest,” Namjoon says with a shrug. “Even if it was just to remove some vocals.”

“You did what?” Seokjin asks, looking at him with startled eyes. He looks torn between hope and guilt, and Jimin feels bad for not telling him about the favor he’d gotten up early to ask Namjoon a couple weeks ago.

“It’s no big deal,” Namjoon says, but he’s smiling and ducking his head.

Jimin doesn’t hear Seokjin’s reply because Jungkook chooses that moment to appear at his side and bump their shoulders together.

“That was pretty cool,” he says with a grin. “You’ll have to teach me some of those moves.”

“Any time,” Jimin says fondly.

Jimin’s happy to be in the middle of all his roommates, but he can’t help glancing around, eyes searching for the last member of their group.

“He’s still here. I think he just needed a minute,” Jungkook says, not missing a beat. “You really did a number on him, hyung.”

Jimin looks at Jungkook in surprise, but the other boy’s expression is gentle, gentler than Jimin has ever seen it. The soft little grin on his face isn’t mocking or jubilant or reluctantly amused, like any of his smiles Jimin’s seen before; it’s vulnerable and almost hopeful.

“I-”

“Jimin?”

His world freezes.

Jimin turns slowly towards the familiar voice, eyes wide and face frozen in shock.

“... Mom?” he breathes.

Because it is. It is his mom standing a few feet away, attired in one of her nicer dresses and holding her handbag against her chest. She looks warm and delicate, exactly like she always has.

“Mom?” he asks again, and this time everyone hears it. Vaguely Jimin notices Seokjin and Namjoon snap out of their conversation and Taehyung tense. Jungkook shifts in front of him, like he can protectively putting his wide shoulders between Jimin and his mother.

“Jimin,” his mom says again. Her eyes dart to Jungkook with obvious discomfort. “Could I speak with you? It’s important.”

There’s a hand on Jimin’s shoulder, large and warm, and Jimin knows it’s Seokjin without turning around.

“You have no right,” Jungkook says before Jimin can reply, his chin tilted up and voice hard. He doesn’t even know the whole story, Jimin thinks hysterically—none of them do.

“Excuse me?” his mom says, obviously startled.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon warns.

“But-”

“It’s okay, Kookie,” Jimin says, voice soft. “I’ll talk to her.”

There’s a moment of protracted silence. His mom looks at him and his friends with something akin to fear, and for a beat Jungkook refuses to move. He turns to look at Jimin with fierce eyes, and Jimin tries to smile for him, tries to let him know that it will be alright. It’s hard with his heart racing and his head mostly full of white noise, but it must work because Jungkook’s expression softens slightly.

“It’s up to you, Jiminnie,” Seokjin says quietly. “You don’t have to.”

“We’ll stay with you if you want,” Taehyung adds.

Jimin loves them.

“No, that’s alright,” he says, suddenly much more certain. “I’ll meet you guys outside, okay? Give us a minute.”

Namjoon catches his eye, gaze searching. Jimin holds his gaze and tries to let him see the growing sureness in his heart.

“We won’t go far,” Namjoon says with a nod once he finds what he’s looking for. He seems to trust Jimin’s judgement, which means a lot.

Seokjin and Taehyung both take a moment to squeeze Jimin’s arm before following Namjoon towards the door. Jungkook gives him one last uncertain look before reluctantly trailing after them.

Jimin’s left standing five feet from his mother, having no idea what to say. His mom doesn’t seem to know how to start either, brushing imaginary wrinkles out of her skirt.

“Why are you here?” Jimin finally asks when he realizes she isn’t going to say anything.

His mother can’t quite look at him, glancing down at his battered sneakers.

“I always come to your showcases,” she says, like that explains everything. “Of course I came.”

“Mom,” Jimin starts miserably, but his voice gets stuck before he can say anything else. His heart feels like it’s ripping in his chest.

“Your father couldn’t make it, but-”

“Mom, stop,” Jimin pleads, eyes watery.

“I had to come to make sure you were okay,” she says, stepping towards him and face imploring. “We haven’t heard anything from you in months-”

“You told me to get out,” Jimin says before he can help himself. How could she act like he just left?

There are tears in his mother’s eyes, Jimin notices distantly. Under the anger and sadness, it still makes him feel like he’s done something terrible.

“No,” she argues, eyebrows furrowed. “No. We… we gave you a choice. You chose-”

“I had no choice,” Jimin breathes, hating the way his voice cracks. There are so many people still milling around, and he feels exposed.

“You did!” his mom says urgently. “You still do. Come home, Jimin. Please.”

Jimin stares at his mother in stunned silence, drinking in the imploring look on her face and the special outfit she put on to come see him dance. She still looks like his mother, like the woman who tucked him in as a child and made him soup when he was sick and still hasn’t ever missed one of his performances. She still looks like the person Jimin expected to love him no matter what.

Come home.

His mother seems to take his silence as an opening and steps closer to him, reaching out to take one of his hands.

“Come home, Jimin,” she says again. “We just… we just won’t talk about it, okay? I’ll talk to your father and make sure he understands.”

Jimin looks down at her soft little hand clasping his own. He breathes slowly, closing his eyes and letting himself imagine it for a moment. He imagines the comfort of his own bed, he imagines all the clothes and mementos he left behind. He imagines not having to worry about paying for school next year, and most of all he imagines eating dinner at the table with his parents, laughing and joking and feeling loved and secure.

Just as long as he never talks about who he is or what’s truly in his heart.

Jimin takes a deep breath and looks up. He blinks a couple tears out of his eyes even as he offers his mom a sad smile.

“I’m in love with someone, Mom,” he whispers.

She looks at him in shock, her hand sliding limply out of his own.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, honestly, but that’s okay. I’ll be fine either way,” he tells her. “He’s good and kind, and he won’t hurt me if he can help it.”

“Jimin,” she breathes, sounding heartbroken. It still hurts, but Jimin finds he can bear it.

He stands straighter and tilts his chin up proudly like he’s seen Jungkook do a thousand times.

“You’re still my mom, and I still love you and want you to be part of my life,” he admits, voice growing stronger with each word, “but not if you want me to hide or lie about who I am. I won’t do that. Not for anyone.”

They stare at each other in silence, and Jimin doesn’t waver even as another tear drips down his cheek.

He feels… not peace, but something close to it.

He didn’t have a choice before, but he does now. And Jimin chooses this.

“I hope someday things will be different,” he admits earnestly. “Until then, you don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be okay.”

Jimin’s mother places a hand over her mouth, looking lost, and Jimin offers her a small, regretful smile.

“I have to go now,” he says, wiping the tears off his face. “My friends are waiting for me.”

It’s hard to turn around, but he does it.

He spots Yoongi immediately, his eyes locked on Jimin from where he’s waiting across the room. The look on his face is so blazingly intense that it knocks the air out of Jimin’s lungs. He can’t read every swirling emotion in Yoongi’s dark eyes, but he does see the worry overlaying it all.

When he recovers, Jimin smiles at him to say I’m okay and I’m coming.

“Jimin,” his mom calls from behind him, and Jimin glances back at her.

She’s clearly struggling for words, hands clutched around her purse, and Jimin wishes he could make this easier on her but knows that isn’t his burden to bear anymore.

“Maybe,” she starts, confused but hopeful. “I’ll talk to your father, and maybe you could come by for dinner someday?”

Jimin offers a soft, sad smile and a nod.

“Someday,” he agrees. Then he turns and walks away without a backward glance.

Yoongi pushes off the wall to meet him in the middle of the room, his dark head down as he weaves through the crowd. Jimin picks up his pace, his nerves about seeing Yoongi suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to be close to him.

They come to a stop in front of each other, Jimin smiling faintly and Yoongi looking at him with those intense eyes as he reaches out to cup Jimin’s face in both hands. Before Jimin can wonder what’s happening, Yoongi rubs carefully at the wetness beneath his eyes with both thumbs.

“Are you alright?” he asks, hoarse and quiet. His fingers are so gentle and his eyes so full of concern. He doesn’t seem to care that everyone can see them.

Jimin smiles helplessly.

“Yes, hyung,” he says.

Yoongi gives him a smile in return, and he’s perfect. His hair is soft and wavy today, and Jimin wants to run a hand through it. It even looks like Yoongi dressed up for the occasion, his normal hoodie traded in for a sapphire button down and expensive looking gray jeans. The thought of him picking a special outfit for his showcase makes Jimin want to cry again.

Distantly, Jimin wonders if his mother is watching them. Part of him hopes she is, and a larger part doesn’t care either way.

Yoongi lets his hands fall from Jimin’s face when he seems convinced that Jimin isn’t going to shed any more tears. Before Jimin can feel too disappointed by that, Yoongi wraps one of his hands around Jimin’s and tugs him towards the door.

“Let’s get out of here,” he says firmly.

Jimin lets Yoongi lead him out of the auditorium, their hands clasped together and his heart pounding.

Yoongi hasn’t said anything about Jimin’s routine, but his hand is warm and dry around Jimin’s, and that must count for something. Jimin tightens his fingers around Yoongi’s and thinks it must count for a lot.

The air is crisp when they exit the auditorium, a faint drizzle falling outside the awning. Seokjin sees them first and waves, a look of open concern on his face.

“Is everything okay?” Namjoon asks as they approach, eyes flickering briefly to where Jimin’s hand is linked with Yoongi’s. If he’s surprised, he doesn’t show it. None of them do except Taehyung, who looks like a kid on Christmas.

“Yes,” Jimin says simply. They all look worried in their own ways, so Jimin smiles for them. “I’m okay, guys, I promise.”

Yoongi stays close, fingers tightening around Jimin’s.

“If you’re sure,” Seokjin says, smiling where he’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Namjoon. They aren’t even touching, but Jimin thinks they look like they belong together. Namjoon lists towards Seokjin as he stands, like there’s a magnetic pull between them, and Seokjin glances over at Namjoon periodically as if checking to make sure he’s still there.

It makes Jimin hopeful in a way.

“I’m sure,” he says.

Jungkook’s standing slightly to the side, Jimin notices, eyeing the entrance to the auditorium like he’s tempted to go storming back in there and give Jimin’s mother a piece of his mind. Taehyung seems to notice this at the same time Jimin does and drapes himself over Jungkook’s shoulder casually, anchoring him in place. Jimin shoots Taehyung a grateful smile and gets an exaggerated wink in return.

“Well, if everyone is ready, I bought everything to make your favorite dinner, Jiminnie,” Seokjin says, cheerful again and eyes sparkling. “We need to celebrate!”

Jimin grins, touched by Seokjin’s kindness.

“That sounds great. Can we invite Hoseok?”

“Of course!” Seokjin says. “There’s enough beer to go around.”

Taehyung cheers obnoxiously in Jungkook’s ear, and Jimin’s laughing at them when he feels a gentle tug on his hand. Turning his head, he looks over at Yoongi.

“I need to talk to you,” Yoongi says, soft and serious. His voice is pitched low so the others can’t hear him, but the intense look on his face is back.

Jimin swallows, remembering suddenly that they haven’t discussed what he did with his routine yet. Yoongi’s gaze is heavy, and Jimin wishes he could read all the emotions there so he didn’t have to go into this conversation unprepared.

“Oh look, a cab,” Namjoon blurts out suddenly, his too-loud voice breaking the tension. “I’m going to grab it. Yoongi-hyung, you can get another cab for you and Jimin, right? Okay, great, see you at home!”

Namjoon herds Taehyung and Jungkook towards the road despite their loud complaints, and Seokjin sends Jimin and Yoongi a fondly exasperated look.

“Sorry, he’s really not subtle,” he says with a cheery wave before trailing after them.

Jimin laughs awkwardly as he watches them go, painfully aware of Yoongi’s proximity suddenly. He can smell Yoongi’s spicy cologne over the scent of the rain, and his heart thumps nervously.

It hits him, all of sudden, that Min Yoongi is holding his hand.

He knew that, of course, but the magnitude of it hadn’t registered in the aftermath of the conversation with his mother. Now all he can think about is the warmth of the dry palm against his own and the cold press of the rings Yoongi is wearing on a couple of his fingers.

Jimin swallows, looking down at his shoes.

He feels like he should say something. At the very least, he feels like he should apologize for editing Yoongi’s song without his permission. He’d just wanted to show him…

“Jimin,” Yoongi says, and Jimin looks up nervously. Yoongi’s eyes are soft when he meets Jimin’s gaze, easing some of the worry in his chest. “Is it okay if we walk?”

Jimin nods, offering him a wobbly smile.

It’s raining harder now, but Jimin doesn’t mind. He’s pretty sure he’d say yes to anything Yoongi asked for at the moment. Besides, it’s not far and it will give them a few minutes to talk before descending back into the chaos of a packed apartment.

Yoongi stops him right before they step out from under the awning, dropping his hand to reach for Jimin’s gym bag. Jimin let’s him take it, confused until Yoongi unzips the side pocket and pulls out Jimin’s purple cat umbrella with a cheeky smirk. Jimin laughs, charmed that Yoongi remembered. Popping the umbrella open, Yoongi slings Jimin’s bag over his shoulder before offering his hand to Jimin again.

Jimin wonders if he’s imagining the hint of vulnerability in Yoongi’s eyes as his hand hovers in the air between them.

Smiling, Jimin wraps their fingers together and lets Yoongi pull him into the rain.

They walk in silence as Jimin gives Yoongi time to gather his thoughts. The umbrella provides Jimin with an excuse to walk as close as possible to Yoongi’s side, their shoulders brushing with every step. It’s such a simple joy to be near the person he loves. Just this would be enough, part of Jimin thinks even as the other part says nothing could ever be enough.

They come to a stop at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change and listening to the rain fall. Jimin looks over at the bus stop next to them and smiles to himself. It looks exactly like the bus shelter he’d sat under the night he and Yoongi met.

“Yoongi-hyung, can I ask you something?” he asks, finding bravery in the memory.

Yoongi follows his gaze to the bus stop, expression unreadable. After a second, he nods.

“The night we met… why did you help me?” Jimin asks, giving voice to the question that’s been bothering him for months now. “You’d never seen me before. Why would you vouch for me to Jin-hyung?”

The light changes and neither of them move.

Yoongi looks down, mouth twisting as he chews his lower lip. The tips of his ears are pink, and Jimin steps closer to him on instinct, wanting to offer some sort of assurance that whatever the answer is, it’s okay.

“I had,” Yoongi finally says, looking up to meet Jimin’s eyes. “Seen you before, I mean.”

Jimin blinks.

“What?” he asks.

Yoongi ducks his head, clearly embarrassed, and Jimin watches with so much affection that it feels like he’s going to burst at the seams.

“I’d seen you at the bus stop before,” Yoongi admits, soft and hoarse. “Our schedules overlapped, and I saw you occasionally for months leading up to that night.”

“How did I not know?” Jimin asks in shock.

Yoongi lifts his head to offer him a rueful smile.

“I wasn’t very noticeable, I guess,” he teases.

“No, that’s impossible,” Jimin argues stubbornly. There’s no way Min Yoongi would ever not be noticeable to him. “I would have seen you.”

Yoongi’s mouth twists into a fond smile, making Jimin’s heart skip a beat.

“Not in a hood and mask, apparently,” he says with a shrug. “The point is, I saw you. You were always standing there with this bag and a smile for anyone who glanced your way. Every day you looked like you were happy to be going wherever you were going.”

Jimin can’t believe he doesn’t remember. It seems impossible.

“I thought you were cute,” Yoongi admits quietly.

Jimin gapes at him.

Yoongi thought he was cute?

Jimin’s face must be bright red, but Yoongi keeps his head down as he speaks.

“When I saw you that night, it was obvious something was wrong.”

Jimin’s brain refuses to process what Yoongi’s saying, too caught up on cute.

“You helped me because you thought I was cute?” he asks faintly.

Yoongi finally looks up, the tips of his ears still pink but his expression serious.

“No,” he says in that wonderful voice. “I noticed you because you’re cute. I helped you because you tried to give me your umbrella.”

Jimin wonders if he’ll ever stop feeling off-kilter in this conversation.

“What?”

Yoongi sighs and closes the little bit of distance between them so they’re nearly pressed together from thigh to shoulder.

“You were obviously having a terrible day, and you still tried to help a complete stranger. I wouldn’t trust many people enough to take them to Jin-hyung, but a person like that… a person like that deserved all the help I could give.”

Jimin feels tears prickling at his eyes, stunned by the sincerity in Yoongi’s voice. He never thought of himself that way. Trying to loan someone his umbrella was nothing. It seems, to Jimin, like something anyone would do in that situation.

“Oh,” he whispers dumbly.

Yoongi’s so close, fingers still wrapped around Jimin’s, and Jimin tries desperately to think of something to say to keep him from pulling away.

“Yoongi-hyung-” he starts, but Yoongi stops him with a hand on his arm.

“Can I ask you something now?” he asks, voice low and serious. His thumb rests on the crook of Jimin’s elbow, making his skin tingle. He’s so close everywhere that Jimin’s entire body feels like a livewire.

Jimin swallows, nodding.

“Your dance tonight...” he murmurs, voice so low Jimin can barely hear it over the rain. “Was that… it…”

Yoongi trails off uncertainly, and Jimin meets his gaze. His heart hammers in his chest, and Jimin hopes Yoongi can see everything he’s feeling in his eyes. He hopes he can see the breadth of everything Jimin feels for him—the gratitude and the affection and the absolute faith— and the love, simple and plain, beneath it all.

“It was for you,” he says, quiet but unwavering. “All of it.”

Yoongi swallows visibly, eyes a little lost.

“Why?” he asks.

He looks so confused, Jimin can’t bare it. He reaches up and cups Yoongi’s cheek in his hand, thumb brushing over his cheekbone. Yoongi’s skin is soft and damp from the rain, and he presses his face into Jimin’s palm as if by instinct.

Jimin brushes his thumb against the edge of his prickly eyelashes and marvels that he’s allowed.

“I’d dance for you for the rest of my life if you let me, Yoongi-hyung,” Jimin whispers, voice just loud enough to be heard over the rain.

Taking a sharp breath, Yoongi drops the umbrella.

Jimin gasps as cold rain soaks through his hair.

Yoongi winds one arm around Jimin’s waist.

Slides a hand into his hair.

And kisses him.

Jimin lets himself be hauled into Yoongi’s chest, his entire world narrowing to the hot mouth pressed against his own. It isn’t fireworks or a swelling orchestra or whatever cliché it’s supposed to be—it’s just his favorite person in the world holding him close, skin warm and slick with rain where he’s pressed against Jimin. Every one of Jimin’s senses is full of him, full of his warm spice smell and slick skin and hoarse mumbling voice. Yoongi seems to want to be gentle, but there’s an edge of desperation to the way he angles his head for another kiss and another and another.

Curling his fingers into Yoongi’s collar, Jimin doesn’t let himself think about anything except kissing Min Yoongi. He doesn’t think about the past or the future or the cold rain soaking through his shirt. He doesn’t think anything at all, just nudges his nose against Yoongi’s and angles his face for more kisses.

“Do that,” Yoongi murmurs against his lips, voice even deeper and hoarser than usual. The sound of it makes Jimin gasp slightly against his lips, stomach shivering.

“Hmm?” Jimin questions drunkenly, too lost to be embarrassed by how breathy he sounds.

“Keep dancing for me,” Yoongi whispers, low and possessive as his fingers brush against the side of Jimin’s throat.

Jimin can’t help it—he smiles widely against Yoongi’s lips, breaking the kiss. Yoongi doesn’t seem to mind though, tilting his head up to kiss him firmly on the eyebrow.

“Yes,” Jimin agrees, nuzzling his jaw. “I promise.”

Yoongi leans back to look at him, and Jimin might complain except that he wouldn’t trade the adoring look on Yoongi’s face for anything. He looks so vulnerable when he smiles his sweet gummy smile, eyes warm and trusting and looking for all the world like he’s in the palm of Jimin’s hands. Yoongi looks at him like he’s everything, everything and Jimin swells up with giddiness. He starts to giggle helplessly, pressing his forehead against Yoongi’s chin.

They stand like that for a long time, arms around each other and rain pouring down on their heads. This, Jimin thinks simply. Just this.

-

When they eventually make it back to the apartment, Seokjin meets them in the entryway looking aghast.

“You’re both soaked! What on earth were you thinking?”

“Give them a break,” Namjoon laughs, coming up behind him to rest his chin on one of Seokjin’s wide shoulders. “I’m sure they had a lot to talk about.”

“Hey, Chim’s back!” Taehyung yells as he scrambles out of the living room, an amused-looking Hoseok in tow. Jimin’s relieved someone remembered to text him, even if he does look annoying smug.

Jungkook trails after them, eyes bright and happy as they dart between Jimin and Yoongi.

Yoongi glances over, hair sticking to his forehead and eyes sparkling, and Jimin feels almost unbearably grateful for him. Yoongi’s given Jimin so much—friendship and love and a life raft when he was drowning—but there are some things he knows he's going to have to take for himself.

So Jimin takes a deep breath, lifts his chin, and smiles for his strange little family.

“I’m home,” he declares.