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oh i wish i was a kissin' tree

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Jimin was trying to figure out what kind of toilet paper to buy when he first met Kim Namjoon. He was kind of broke, it was the end of the week, and he was trying to calculate how many sheets per roll vs how many rolls in the package, multiplying and dividing sheets and won in his head on an exhausted loop until this one decision seemed so momentous, so impossible, that he felt paralyzed by it. He was so tired after his second dance practice of the day and his shirt was starting to stick to his back. He needed a shower. He needed food. He needed some stupid toilet paper.

“Jimin?”

There was a guy coming down the aisle. Tall, kind of commanding looking, with a mulish set to his mouth. Hot, Jimin noticed, but honestly, hot wasn’t enough when he was being interrupted in the middle of a minor breakdown. “Yes?” he said, as politely as he could muster.

This seemed to throw the guy, because he stopped short, frowning. “Um,” he said. He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Listen, I know it was just some hookup to you or something.”

Jimin blinked. He probably -- no, definitely would have remembered hooking up with Mr. Tall and Dimpled here. Was he hallucinating? Dreaming? This whole conversation was starting to feel surreal.

“But we’d talked and I thought--” the guy blew out a breath in frustration. “I don’t know, I’m not trying to beg or cause a scene, I just wanted you to know that what you did was shitty. That’s it.”

Okay, now Jimin was pissed. Maybe this guy was drunk, though he didn’t look like it, maybe he was delusional, maybe-- he didn’t know what, but Jimin wasn’t going to stand here and let some asshole call him shitty. “So hey,” he said, putting on his sunniest smile and sweetest tone of voice. “Who the fuck are you again?”

“Wow,” the guy said, and he stepped back, quickly enough that he almost backed into a display of cereal boxes. “Asshole much?”

“I’m the asshole?” Jimin could feel his face starting to heat up as his heart thud-thud-thudded even faster. “What the fuck? I’m sitting here trying to buy some fucking toilet paper, minding my own fucking business, and some guy walks up--”

Some guy” the guy scoffed. “We’ve been talking for weeks.”

“We really haven’t,” Jimin said, rolling his eyes and grabbing the nearest package of toilet paper off the shelf to hide his shaking hands, or maybe to keep him from punching the guy. “I don’t know who the fuck you are except, congratulations, you’re officially the worst part of an already bad day.”

“I-- what?” The guy looked genuinely shocked and a little upset. Jimin honestly didn’t care. “You’re-- are you Yoo Jimin? You live in Nowon…?” He started fumbling with his phone.

“Uhhh yeah I can’t afford to live there and my name is Park Jimin, not that it’s any of your business. Anyway, it’s been weird, sooooo I’m just gonna--”

The guy shoved his phone in Jimin’s face. “Is this you?”

What the hell, Jimin seriously just wanted dinner. But he looked and-- oh fuck. “Fuck,” he said. Almost instantly, the anger drained out of him, leaving just the shaky aftershocks in its wake. “Yeah, that’s my picture. Whoever’s catfishing you must have grabbed it off my insta. Sorry.”

“Oh.” The guy stared at him in horror. “Oh. Oh, god, I am so sorry. Please, I just-- oh, shit.” He covered his face with his hands. Jimin noticed that his ears were bright red. Poor guy. “This is why I don’t date,” the guy mumbled from behind his hands. “It’s always a disaster.”

“Hopefully not this much of a disaster,” Jimin said. He could feel his muscles starting to cramp up and he shifted from foot to foot. “I really have to get home. I’d say it was nice to meet you, but--”

“It was horrible to meet me,” the guy said, still visibly cringing in embarrassment. “This is going to be three am anxiety fuel for a good ten years,” he muttered, and that right there was a position Jimin could sympathize with.

“No,” he said softly, tugging at the guy’s sleeve. “I was going to say, but we haven’t actually met. My name is Park Jimin.”

“Kim Namjoon,” the guy -- Namjoon -- said. He smiled, and Jimin tried not to react out loud as his dimples popped out, even deeper than before. Cute, cute, cute. “Jimin-ssi,” he said, holding out his hand. “Can I please pay for your groceries? For your trouble?”

Well, that was charming. Jimin was charmed. Charmed and broke, so he wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity for a free basket of groceries, as long as Namjoon didn’t want anything from him in return. Quickly, he grabbed another package of more expensive toilet paper.

But all Kim Namjoon did was walk up with Jimin to the counter, offer his credit card, bow apologetically to Jimin, and leave with a sheepish “Sorry, again.”

As Jimin walked to his bus stop, shivering a little because his workout clothes weren’t up for the way the wind was cutting through the streets, he realized that he should probably be pissed that someone was using his picture to catfish guys on dating apps, but mostly he felt kind of proud. He did look really good that day. And hopefully this was the last of it, and he’d never have to see or hear from Kim Namjoon or any other guy thinking he was Yoo Jimin or whatever else ever again.

……….

Three weeks later, Jimin was home, freshly showered after practice and buzzing with energy. Everything had gone well tonight; he’d hit every beat, nailed the choreo, even the second transition sequence, which he’d been failing at for weeks now. Normally he’d replay all of the things he’d done wrong, make a list of everything he needed to practice harder, and spend some time going over it and over it again in his head. When he was in middle school, Jimin had a dance instructor who was really big on visualization and, when he was really having trouble with something, Jimin would sometimes spend hours with his headphones on, listening to the music for whatever piece he was working on, picturing what it would look like if he could be perfect.

But tonight? He was just about perfect. There were still a few moments he could improve -- a too-quick step during the bridge and he’d jumped too far at the end -- but it was far better than he’d done on any piece all year. Jimin felt high on it, that feeling of being right, being good, it was better than anything. All he wanted to do was go out, dance some more, drink with his friends, maybe bring someone home. He was itching with it, restless.

Unfortunately, his friends seemed to have different ideas. Taehyung would normally be up for anything, he’d always drop other plans for Jimin, but he was home in Daegu visiting his family. Hoseok had some mysterious new boyfriend he wasn’t letting anyone meet because he...well, because he was Hoseok and he wasn’t going to let the group meet his mystery man until it was Serious. Jimin suspected it was getting there, but he knew better than to push. That left Seokjin, but Seokjin had been called into work. So Jimin was home, dressed to go out, with nowhere to go.

Jimin looked at his phone, considering. Well, if dancing wasn’t an option, sex was the next best thing. Looking the way he did tonight? He’d have a guy at his door in minutes. Jimin pulled off his t-shirt, snapped a quick mirror selfie, and updated his profile.

buzz

Damn, that was even faster than he thought. Jimin smiled to himself. Fuck, he was killing it tonight.

knj4words: hey asshole

What the fuck? Jimin frowned at the message. It was from Namjoon, 24. Oh god, not this again.

me: Namjoon?

knj4words: don’t play cute with me, i know youre a catfish. i met the real park jimin and hes a nice guy, stop using his pic

Oh god. Jimin sighed, covering his face.

me: namjoon, it’s really me

knj4words: idky you’re doing this to me, do you think i’m desperate or naive or something? i don’t care either way, but stop taking jimin’s pics, he doesn’t deserve it

me: we met when i was trying to buy toilet paper

There was a long pause. Jimin tried to be mad, or annoyed, but he couldn’t. He was charmed, all over again, by the way Namjoon had stuck up for him. It was a strangely warming feeling, to eavesdrop on someone defending him like that. Knowing that even when he wasn’t around, this one person had good things to say about him.

knj4words: oh no

me: oh yes

knj4words: can you please forget you ever met me

Jimin snorted at that.

me: ive been trying to do that, yes. and yet here we are

knj4words: god im so sorry

me: it was nice of you to stick up for me so thanks for that

knj4words: least i could do. have a nice night jimin, sorry again

Before Jimin could answer, Namjoon had signed off. Probably to go smack his head against the wall in embarrassment; or at least, that’s what Jimin would do in this situation. He felt for the guy, he really did. Jimin reread the conversation a few more times, idly scrolling up and down, when his phone buzzed again. It was Seokjin. Jimin-aaaaaaahhhhhhh, im free from this prison and a location.

Kim Namjoon forgotten, Jimin headed out for the lychee soju that was calling his name.

……....

When Taehyung came back from Daegu, Jimin went over to his place and told him all over again, in person, about Kim Namjoon. It had been annoying at the time, but now that Jimin was telling the story himself, not over text, he could ham it up, make silly faces, see the humor in it. It was funny, even if it had pissed him off, and he kind of felt bad for Namjoon. Taehyung didn’t think it was as funny at first, though.

“We need to catch them,” he’d said, sitting up from where he was lounging on Jimin’s bed. “Whoever stole your picture, Jiminie, we need to steal it right back, he can’t do this to you.”

“My instagram is public,” Jimin said, sitting on the bed and pushing Taehyung back down so they could cuddle. “He can take whatever pics he wants I guess. And there are pictures of me on the studio site. There’s no way we could catch him and honestly, I don’t care. I’m complimented.”

“Hmmm,” Taehyung said, the sound rumbling low in his chest. Jimin petted him. “But we’ve always wanted to do a heist together.”

“I’m not pulling off a heist with you for anything less than cold, hard cash. Maybe jewels,” Jimin said. “Nothing but the best for us.”
………

Several weeks later, Jimin was trying to read a book in peace in his own kitchen, taking advantage of the late-morning light that never seemed to quite get in his own room, and Hoseok was driving him nuts. He was cleaning the stove, which was spotless and shining, going over tiny imaginary spots over and over again. Every time Jimin moved his mug of tea, Hoseok swooped in and wiped the near-invisible ring it left behind. He asked, no less than seven times, if Jimin was going to work that morning, even though Jimin was sitting right there, not moving. Hoseok’s smile was either manic or nonexistent, winking out the second he thought Jimin wasn’t looking.

This level of agitation from Hoseok meant he was deep in his feelings about something and hating it, and the best way to deal with it was to just wait it out.

Finally, Hoseok snapped. “Jiminie,” he said, in the same tone of voice he used when he was teaching his classes. Jimin sat up straight without realizing it, correcting his form. “Jimin-ah,” he said more softly, looking away. “Do you want to come with me to ah-- I have this friend-- a hyung, actually, this hyung who ah--”

“Is this the mystery man?” Jimin got up and wrapped his arms around Hoseok. “Hyung, do I finally get to meet him? Is it that serious? Tell me everything.”

“It’s serious enough that you’re meeting him.” Hoseok took a deep breath and buried his face in Jimin’s hair. “He’s shy, and it’s been so new, but now I just...Jiminie, I think he’s going to be around a lot, I want you to like him.” He paused. “I told him all about you, and Taehyung, and Jin-hyung. I want you guys to meet.”

“Of course,” Jimin said, and hugged him again. “I’ll even be gentle with him.”

Hoseok snorted. “Well, hyung’s shy, not gentle. You’ll see.” He pulled back and put on a big smile. “We’re getting together for coffee in an hour, you want to come with?” He asked casually, but there was something suspiciously stiff in his posture.

“And?” Jimin asked, raising his eyebrow.

“And nothing, just, he didn’t want to be outnumbered, so he’s bringing a friend.” Hoseok smiled wide and pinched Jimin’s cheek. “See? That’s all. This is just a friendly chat. Amongst friends.”

“Uh-huh, and is this friend single?” Jimin asked, crossing his arms.

“He’s really nice!” Hoseok said, holding up his hands.

“I knew it,” Jimin said, hitting Hoseok on the shoulder. “Hyung, come on.”

“No pressure, I promise! I promise!” Hoseok grabbed his wrists and pulled him in again. “No pressure, I swear, we just thought you’d get along.”

“No pressure,” Jimin said, getting in Hoseok’s face to make him look Jimin in the eyes.

Hoseok held his gaze and said seriously, “No pressure. Really.”

Jimin sighed. “Well, let’s go, I guess.” He wasn’t going to stress about his appearance. He’d gone out that morning, so he was already wearing jeans and a plain black sweater; he threw a beanie on, get his favorite sunglasses, put on a few extra bracelets, and called it a day.

Hoseok took Jimin to a cafe a little further from their place; it was open and larger that most of the tiny, cramped places on their street. The whole place was decorated in a bright, almost pop art style, with splashes of color everywhere and high white ceilings. Jimin could see why Hoseok liked it. There was so much to look at, collages and decoupaged lamps and stark acrylic paintings of what might be the Australian outback, that Jimin almost didn't remember to look for Hobi's mystery man.

As they walked toward the back, Jimin saw a man look up, see them, look down again, and then look up again, half-waving. The mystery man. He was...well, he was cute, with pretty eyes and a button nose. From what Jimin could see, he was around Jimin's size. He was wearing an oversized sweater and a beanie and a lot of accessories. Jimin distrusted him immediately. Another person who was little, cute, loved accessories and knitwear? Only room for one of those, thanks.

"Hyung!" Hoseok said happily, coming up to the table. The guy stood and let Hoseok hug him, his head dipping down to hide his face. Was he embarrassed to be seen with Hoseok? Did Hoseok's clinginess make him uncomfortable?

"Why are we making a scene," the guy grumbled and Jimin was fully prepared to fight this guy right now if he had to.

But as Hoseok let go, Jimin could see that that they were already holding hands, their fingers interlaced, and when Hoseok bent down to give the guy a kiss, the guy's cheeks pinked up a little. "Okay, okay," he said. "That's enough." He tugged Hoseok down into the chair next to him.

But he didn't look really embarrassed -- if anything he looked a little pleased -- so Jimin was willing to let him live for now.

"Jiminie, this is Min Yoongi," Hoseok said. If Jimin hadn't noticed the way Hoseok was rolling the napkin into a ball with his free hand, he'd never have know that Hoseok was nervous.

"The mystery man," Jimin said, raising his eyebrows. He sat in the chair opposite Yoongi, just to keep an eye on him, but there was already someone's bag there. Jimin moved to the other chair without thinking, then suddenly remembered why there was a bag there.

"Hey, sorry," said a deep voice from behind Jimin. "I ran into someone I knew and-- oh my god." Jimin turned around slowly as the voice was talking, right into the shocked stare of Kim Namjoon.

"It wasn't me this time," Namjoon blurted out. "I was here first. I was just outside. I wasn't following you. Shit."

"What the hell," Min Yoongi said, looking between them. "Do you guys know each other?"

"Remember that guy, the one who catfished me--"

Min Yoongi's head whipped around and he pinned Jimin with such a look of pure venom that Jimin kind of had to respect it. "Not me," he said quickly. "Just my picture."

Yoongi relaxed immediately. "Okay then."'

"Whoa, really?" Hoseok looked back and forth between them. "That's so weird, I can't believe you guys already know each other."

"We don't really--" Jimin and Namjoon said at the same time, then looked at each other and laughed. It was really so ridiculous.

When Jimin turned back around, Hoseok and Yoongi weren't paying attention anymore. Hoseok was playing with the rings on Yoongi's fingers and they were whispering to each other, their heads so close it almost looked like they were kissing.

"Listen," Namjoon said, and Jimin turned to face him. He looked good today, in a plan t-shirt that stretched nicely across his chest and slightly fitted shorts. He looked tall and handsome and more confident than the first time Jimin had met him. "We don't know each other, right?" Namjoon continued, "So why don't we start over? Hi--" he stuck out his hand. "I'm Kim Namjoon, '94 year, I'm a musician, and I've been friends with hyung since college. We live together." Here he nodded at Yoongi.

Jimin stood up. Well. Confident, smiling, dimpled Namjoon was kind of a lot to take in all at once. "Park Jimin," he said. "I'm also Hoseokie hyung's roommate--"

"--and friend!" Hoseok yelled in between planting tiny kisses on Yoongi's knuckles. Yoongi looked like he wanted to die but also that he'd die if Hoseok stopped.

"And friend," Jimin added, clasping Namjoon's hand lightly. "'95 year, and I'm a dancer."

“Yeah,” Namjoon said, letting his eyes sweep over Jimin’s body. “You can tell.”

Jimin raised his eyebrows. “Well, thanks, I think.”

“Not in a creepy way, I swear,” Namjoon said, chuckling as he pulled out Jimin’s chair. “Something about the way you hold yourself. I can just tell. I envy that in people, you know? That kind of physical confidence.”

“I don’t even think about it, to be honest,” Jimin confessed. Namjoon sat next to him, crossing his legs. Namjoon didn’t have the physical training of a dancer, it was true -- he looked like he wasn’t completely sure where to put his limbs -- but he exuded a different kind of confidence, a presence, a sense of self that Jimin wasn’t sure he even had within himself to cultivate. “It’s just years of training. Posture, stance, my hands.” Jimin wiggled his hands in front of himself and Namjoon laughed, his cheeks darkening as he glanced away. Interesting.

“Ahhh, this is awkward.” Namjoon shook his head. “Do you think if we keep talking about how awkward it is, it’ll be less awkward?”

Jimin leaned forward, resting his head on his hand. “You’re fine, I promise I don’t feel awkward.”

“Well, you’re not the one who made an idiot of himself,” Namjoon said wryly, taking a sip of his coffee, “but I appreciate it.”

They talked a bit more, about music (Namjoon was way more into hip hop than Jimin was, but Jimin knew enough to keep up) and movies and dramas and webtoons they were both into and books they’d read, until the subject circled back around to how they’d met.

“Taehyung-- that’s my best friend -- he thinks I should try to find who was catfishing you, track him down or something.” Jimin laughed, like isn’t that funny, but Namjoon was leaning forward and nodding eagerly.

“Okay, yeah, people can’t just take your picture like that, Jimin, that’s shitty.”

“You’re the one who got catfished,” Jimin said, spluttering over the rim of his coffee cup. “You’re the one who should want revenge, I’m just kind of flattered that someone thought my picture was worth stealing.”

Namjoon frowned. “But you’re so handsome, you have to know that. And charming? I mean you can’t tell how charming from a picture, but you kind of can, you know? It’s the little smile on your face, the way your eyes sparkle. And obviously you have a great body, I mean, that’s like, very clear even from just seeing your shoulders.”

This was delivered in a completely sincere tone of voice, no stumbling or artifice or flirting to it. It was like Namjoon was just laying out facts, something that was clear to anyone with eyes. Jimin was floored. He was wildly, erotically, flattered. How did someone just say those kinds of things to someone else with a straight face? Jimin smiled, unable to contain the warm feeling in his chest. “Ahhh,” he said, pushing at Namjoon’s knee.

“No, really,” Namjoon said. “I mean,” he looked down, embarrassed, “clearly I was taken in.”

Flattered all over again, Jimin couldn’t help but ask, “Right, and how’s that going? The dating? I hope this asshole didn’t scare you off.”

Namjoon made a thumbs-down gesture. “Ehhh,” he said. “I wasn’t all that into it in the first place and yeah, I hate to say it, but this really did sour me on the whole process.” He shrugged. “Not the right time for me, I guess.” He looked a little defeated, which was absolutely no good. Kim Namjoon was a good guy, he was kind and worked hard not to be creepy in potentially creepy situations; he defended Jimin when he didn’t know Jimin was listening, and he was tall and hot and cute and had a lovely, calming voice. No way was Jimin going to sit around and let him feel bad about himself.

“That settles it, then” Jimin said, nudging Namjoon’s knee again. “We’re going to find this guy, and we’re going to get our revenge.”

“You’re laughing, but I’m a little scared,” Namjoon said, winking at him. “And yet? I’m in. Okay, let’s do this.”

“Are you free on Thursday?” Jimin asked. He needed to talk to Taehyung as soon as possible, get some things in place. “That’s the next night I have free.”

“Uhhh,” Namjoon took out his phone, “yeah, i can move some stuff around. Thursday’s good.” He looked over to where Yoongi and Hoseok were just whisper-giggling together. “Hey lovebirds,” he said. “I’m coming over to commit crimes with Jimin on Thursday, so if you guys want, our apartment will be free.” He looked at Jimin and sighed. “They exhaust me, they’re exhaustingly cute.”

“I’m cute,” Jimin said, batting his eyelashes. He couldn’t help it, he loved making Namjoon smile. “Are you tired of me yet?”

“I’m...the opposite of that,” Namjoon said, laughing softly and looking down at his hands. “Whatever the opposite of that it, that’s what I am.”

“Well then,” Jimin said, feeling satisfied and very, very intrigued, “then I’ll see you on Thursday.”

 

…...

 

By the time Thursday rolled around, Jimin was ready. He'd talked to Taehyung, who'd told him he "knew this hacker" and that all Jimin had to do was get Namjoon's profile info. Jimin wasn't sure how Tae knew a hacker or if hackers were things that existed in real life outside of movies, but he was willing to go along with it. Mostly, he just wanted Namjoon to feel like he had someone on his side. He was sweet; Jimin liked guys who were nice to him, and something about Kim Namjoon's unwavering, serious regard made him light up inside. He wanted Namjoon to feel that a little, he deserved it.

Namjoon showed up right on time, so exactly on time that Jimin wondered if he'd been early and lingering outside. Jimin had never been early for anything in his life, he couldn't relate. "Hey," Jimin said warmly, "shoes here, coat there. You want some coffee? Tea?"

"Tea's great." Namjoon was wearing tighter jeans than he'd worn the other day, Jimin noticed. They accentuated the length of his legs and how thick his thighs were. Namjoon unwrapped his scarf and Jimin saw that his face was flushed. "I rode my bike over," he said. "Sorry I'm all sweaty."

"No worries, you're good." The bike riding explained the thighs, Jimin thought idly as he made the tea. "I talked to my friend Taehyung," he said. "Apparently he knows some kind of hacker?"

"Is that a real thing?" Namjoon settled at their kitchen table. He looked good there, comfortable, in his sweatshirt and jeans, long legs stretched out in front of him.

"That's what I said," Jimin laughed. "But Tae knows a lot of people, so who knows.”

“I just feel like they call themselves something else, something more professional. Hackers, i mean.”

“You don’t think they have business cards with ‘Hacker’ on them?” Jimin laughed, leaning against the table.

“Probably not, but I’d be impressed,” Namjoon said thoughtfully. “I’m easily taken in. Uh, obviously.”

“Okay, you’re going to stop talking like that,” Jimin said, pushing on Namjoon’s legs with his foot. “Up, up, up, we’re going to catch this guy and you’re going to feel better about yourself and you’re going to catch Mr. Right.”

Namjoon made a complicated series of faces, but he got up anyway, following Jimin into the living room.

“We need to get your profile info,” Jimin said, settling on the couch with his laptop. "Tae suggested I just get your login and password, but I'm not sure if you're comfortable with that."

Namjoon made a face. "Yeah, uh, no offense to your friend, but I'm probably not going to just give out my info to someone billed as a hacker, whatever that means."

Normally Jimin would defend Taehyung to the death on any subject, but he didn't always have the greatest choice in friends who weren't Jimin. "Yeah, I can understand that," he said. "I told Tae that might be a problem. But maybe we can look at what you guys talked about, other pictures, something to give us some idea of where he might be?" It was futile, Jimin kind of knew that, people could lie on the internet, and this guy was already a proven liar. But still, people gave things away all the time, right? Even not intending to.

"He could be lying about anything," Namjoon said, echoing Jimin's thoughts. "But, okay. He first contacted me about a month ago, I guess? He was nice. I mean, of course he was nice, he was trying to-- what was he trying to do?" Namjoon rubbed his face. "This is what's bugging me."

"What do you mean?" Jimin moved the laptop aside to give Namjoon his full attention.

"I don't know, I mean...why do people do that? I'm not rich, I hadn't offered him any money, other than offering to pay for the dinner he never showed up for, I'm not influential in any way. Just-- why?" He looked genuinely confused, like it just wasn't part of his worldview that people could be that shitty.

Jimin hated that someone was shitty to Namjoon. It seemed extra unfair, somehow.

"People like to fuck with people," Jimin said, reaching out to touch Namjoon's knee. "Just because they can. It sucks."

Namjoon was nodding before Jimin even finished talking. "Yeah, I know, I swear I'm not naive, I just--"

"Trust people?"

"Yeah, that. More than I should, I guess." Namjoon was staring down at where Jimin's hand was still on his knee.

"Sorry," Jimin said, pulling back. "I'm bad at remembering not everyone likes to be touched, just yell at me next time."

"No, I like to be touched. Wait- not like that-- I mean yes like that but not like that right now--" Namjoon made a strangled sound into his hands, covering his face just as his dimples were starting to pop out. "I like to be touched," he said, his voice muffled.

Jimin cracked up, trying to pull his hands away from his face. "Hyung, let me see you,"

"No," Namjoon said, resisting, but Jimin could hear the smile in his voice. "I live like this now."

"Why are you so cute," Jimin said, "why are you the cutest hyung."

Namjoon peeked out over the top of his hands in an adorable way, loading on the aegyo, made another dying cat noise, and hid his face again, laughing. "Auuuugghhh, don't encourage me," he groaned.

"Cute," Jimin said, still laughing, and Namjoon let Jimin pull his hands away this time. "This is it, we're finding this guy," Jimin said. "Or at least we're going to make sure this never happens to you again. You’re too hot to be single.”

"Ugh," Namjoon said, making a face, and Jimin remembered the last fifteen times Hoseok had said the same thing to him.

"Ugh yeah, sorry, that's the worst, let's pretend I didn't say that." Jimin mimed zipping his mouth shut. "Hoseokie hyung says that to me all the time."

"I get it," Namjoon sighed. "People mean well, but I always feel like, what if there's something--"

"Something inherently wrong with you?" Jimin pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his arms on them. "Something nobody else can see? Yeah."

"I guess we're all just trying to do our best," Namjoon said, and from anyone else that might sound trite, some empty phrase that people said when they didn't know what else to say. It is what it is or some shit like that. But from Namjoon it had some weight to it, the idea made Jimin's breath catch in his throat for a second and he thought maybe he could cry. we're all doing our best

"Yeah," Jimin said finally. "I guess we are."

Namjoon cleared his throat and picked up his phone from where he'd put it on the coffee table. "So uh, I have screenshots of all our conversations," he said. "If you think that might help."

"That seems really private," Jimin said as gently as he could. "You don't have to show me. Just tell me anything relevant."

"I think he has a job with weird hours," Namjoon said, and Jimin picked up his laptop to take notes. "He would message me a lot while I was at work and then not be available at night."

Jimin snorted. "Or he's married."

"Oh shit," Namjoon looked stricken. "Shit, yeah, maybe he's in the closet. Maybe that's why the catfishing."

Namjoon looked three seconds away from feeling sympathetic for the guy, Jimin could just tell. "If he's married, he's a cheater," Jimin said pointedly. "Out or not, his poor wife doesn't deserve that."

"Right, right, yeah. Okay. Let's see what else," Namjoon looked down at his phone, then up at Jimin. "This could take a while," he said. "Maybe we could order dinner? My treat, since you're helping."

"I'll provide the wine," Jimin said, curling his feet under himself. The idea of spending the evening with Namjoon could have been weird -- they barely knew each other, after all -- but Jimin felt comfortable with him. He didn't feel like he had to impress Namjoon, wasn’t aware of that pressure in the way he usually felt with other people, but that didn't mean that he didn't like impressing him. Namjoon was centered and engaged and made Jimin feel like he was the only important thing in the world when they were talking, Jimin wanted Namjoon to like him and he wanted to make Namjoon feel important too.

It was rare that Jimin felt like that about people he'd just met, and the rareness of it, what that might mean, was something Jimin didn't want to examine too closely. "Red or white?" he asked, hopping up.

"Your choice," Namjoon said, looking up from his phone and smiling at Jimin. Jimin felt his heart beating a little faster at the sight, the way he was looking at Jimin, how good he looked in that moment.

"I think I have more of the red," Jimin said, walking back into the kitchen. "I'm gonna need it," he muttered to himself.

……...

 

"So how are things going with Namjoon?" Taehyung walked in, kicked off his shoes, and settled gracefully on the floor in front of the couch. Jimin was already on the couch, so he curled up behind him and put his head on his shoulder.

"That's why you're here, right?" Jimin reached up to scratch the back of Taehyung's head and he sighed happily. "You're going to tell me about this hacker or whatever?"

"I have to take you to his lair," Taehyung said, not opening his eyes. "He has a hacking lair."

"You're full of shit," Jimin said, poking the back of his head. "This is your full of shit voice."

"So anyway," Taehyung said, placidly, deep, deep into his full of shit voice. "Namjoon?"

"Why are you saying that like you're changing the subject, it’s the same subject, there is no Namjoon subject," Jimin said, poking him again for good measure.

"Hmmm, who's full of shit now," Taehyung opened one eye and raised his eyebrow and Jimin couldn't hold it anymore, he cracked, giggling into the back of Taehyung's neck as Tae's shoulders shook with laughter.

"Us, that would be us." Jimin nudged his shoulder. "Fine, take me to your hacker's lair, I'm dying of curiosity."

"You and Namjoon come over to my place on Thursday and I'll take you there."

Taehyung was the best person in the entire world and Jimin's very best friend and Jimin would take a bullet for him, and also there was no way he wasn't up to something right now. But no matter what weird game Tae was playing, the worst that could happen was that he'd have another night hanging out with Namjoon, and that wasn't such a bad thing.

 

......

Jimin gave Namjoon Taehyung's address, figuring he'd want to get there on his bike rather than them sharing a bus over. They ended up getting there exactly at the same time, Namjoon securing his bike to the bike rack as Jimin walked up. "Hey," Namjoon said. "Just so you know, I have kind of low expectations here."

"My expectations consist of us maybe getting to grab some chicken and beer after this," Jimin said wryly. "But let's see what Taehyungie's up to anyway."

"Chicken and beer, sounds like a plan." They went up to Tae's place together. Jimin knocked once, then twice, before entering the door code. It was only polite to give a heads-up that he was coming in with a guest.

When they got inside, Taehyung was nowhere to be found, but Seokjin was sitting on the couch, his arms crossed, staring at them as they walked in. "Kim Namjoon," he intoned, in a voice that could only be described as 'cartoon wizard.' "What are your intentions toward Park Jimin, declare yourself."

"Uh," Namjoon said, looking at Jimin for support. Jimin just shrugged. "I don't have any?"

"Yikes," Seokjin said in his normal voice. "Wrong answer."

"Hyung, where's Tae?" Jimin broke in, before Seokjin could say literally anything else. "He was supposed to meet us."

"I'm here," Taehyung came out of his room wearing shimmery, satiny pajama pants and a too-small hoodie with a screen printed cat on it. "You guys ready?"

"Hyung, are you coming?" Jimin asked, leaning down to steal one of the chips Seokjin was eating.

"Coming where?" Seokjin asked, but Tae was already herding Jimin and Namjoon away.

"Okay, okay, here we go," Tae was saying. "You guys doubted me, but here we are."

They were standing in the small hallway that connected Taehyung and Jungkook's rooms. Jimin and Namjoon looked at each other.

"Um, where are we?" Namjoon asked.

Taehyung kicked open a door. "Ta-da!"

The room was dark. There were blackout curtains on the only window and a mattress on the floor surrounded by small plushies. There were expensive speakers at the four corners of the room. A huge computer desk dominated one wall, with multiple monitors and a rainbow glowing keyboard. A figure wearing a black hoodie was seated at the desk. He spun around.

"Hey guys," Jungkook said through a mouth full of chips.

"This is just Jungkook," Jimin said to Taehyung. "Why are we in Jungkook's room."

"He looks like a hacker," Namjoon said, approvingly. "I bet he puts it on his business cards."

"It's just Jungkook" Jimin said, turning to whack Taehyung, who was laughing into his sleeve. "Tae, playing Overwatch for 12 hours at a shot doesn't make you a hacker."

"Heyyyy," Jungkook said, but didn't argue any further.

Jimin made a frustrated noise. "We need to help Namjoon, but how are we supposed to do that with just Jungkook and his quote-unquote hacking skills?”

Jungkook raised his hand. “Can we stop saying ‘just Jungkook’?”

“Sorry, Jungkookie,” Jimin said, not sounding sorry.

"Let's hear the kid out," Namjoon said, putting his hand on Jimin's shoulder. Jimin instantly relaxed. "Maybe he can help."

"I don't know what Taehyung hyung told you guys," Jungkook said, "hacker is kind of a stretch." He looked at Taehyung, who just shrugged. "But I can trace an IP address. if you can like, lay a trap and get the guy to respond to one of you, I might be able to figure out where he is."

"He won't respond to me," Namjoon said. "I've tried."

"Make a fake profile," Jungkook said. "Something extra sexy to lure him in."

Jimin looked at Namjoon. "I guess we could do that?" The whole thing was starting to feel really stupid. He felt like a fool standing here in Jungkook's weird bedroom cave even thinking about it, but Namjoon was looking at Jimin like Jimin was important and could help, so that decided it. "We could do that," he said more firmly.

Leaning down, Namjoon murmured into Jimin's ear, "You want to get out of here and grab some food?"

"Yeah," Jimin said. He put his hand on Namjoon's sleeve and tugged. "I think you said something about chicken and beer?"

"Mmmmhmm," Namjoon said. He was looking at Jimin intently, looking him right in the eye until his gaze dipped, briefly, to Jimin's mouth. "I'm buying," he said, still speaking in that low tone, "let me take care of you, you've been helping me so much."

Jimin shivered.

"Nice," Jungkook said loudly and delightedly. "You guys are so cute."

"You're so smart, Jungkookie," Taehyung cooed, tickling Jungkook under the chin.

"My friends are weird," Jimin said hurriedly, pushing Namjoon toward the door. Stop it, he mouthed at Taehyung.

Tae just pointed at Namjoon and mimed a blowjob. "Getting out of here," Jimin said quickly, practically shoving Namjoon toward the door. "No time to chat."

“Your friends are nice,” Namjoon said, when they were outside. “A little strange, but nice.” He sounded like he meant it.

“They are,” Jimin said. “I mean clearly they’re also terrible, but. Yeah. They are.”

“Do you think we--” Namjoon said, then stopped, looking at his feet.

“Do I think we what?” It was dark now, and getting cold. Cars honked as they drove past and the chatter of the night markets were starting to spring up around them.

“I--” Namjoon blew out a breath. It was visible, swirling clouds of white in the night air, it was that cold. “Never mind. Do you want to go down to the river, take a walk?”

“Your bike,” Jimin reminded him. But that would have been nice, cold and all, to walk around with Namjoon.

“Oh, yeah, what was I thinking.” Namjoon made an embarrassed face and Jimin laughed, falling into him a little.

“There’s a good chicken place two streets away.” Jimin offered Namjoon his arm. “You want to go there?”

“Lead the way,” Namjoon said, slipping his arm through Jimin’s.

…….

A few days after visiting Jungkook, Jimin invited Namjoon over again. “Are you going out tonight?” he asked Hoseok, as sweetly as possible, sitting so close to him on the couch that he was practically in his lap.

“I’m going to guess you want me to,” Hoseok said. “I’m glad you and Namjoon are working out, I knew you guys would get along.”

“It’s not like that,” Jimin insisted. “We’re trying to catch the catfish.”

“You’re never going to catch him and you don’t care,” Hoseok said flatly. He threw his phone down. “You liiiiike him, Jiminie,” he said in his annoying baby voice, rubbing his face into Jimin’s hair.

“Can you not,” Jimin said, laughing and pushing him away. “Seriously, don’t, it’s not like that.”

“Why not?” Hoseok got up, stretched, and said, “I’ll head over to hyung’s place this evening. I think you and Namjoon have some stuff to work out.”

“We don’t,” Jimin said to Hoseok’s retreating back. “Hyung, we don’t!” he yelled, but only the sound of Hoseok’s bedroom door answered him.

Jimin just wanted to catch the guy who’d made Namjoon feel unsafe. And if it meant that he got to spend a little more time with Namjoon before setting him free to date the actual guy of his dreams, well. Well, Jimin never said he wasn’t a tiny bit self-destructive.

By the time Namjoon got there, Jimin had centered himself. He’d showered, fussed with his hair for a bit, and put on his favorite jeans. He debated back and forth between a sweater and a button down, but decided the button down looked like he was trying, and he definitely wasn’t trying. Much.

Namjoon came in, flushed and smiling, his ears pink from the cold. “Look,” he said happily, and he reached into his jacket and pulled out a bottle of red wine. “I zipped it in, like a baby.”

“Oh my god, you’re so sweet.” Jimin took the bottle from him -- it was something nice, something more expensive than Jimin could normally afford, and in the back of his mind he started to wonder if maybe Namjoon was trying a little bit too.

“Well, you said you were buying dinner this time,” Namjoon said, shrugging off his jacket and hanging it up. “I couldn’t come empty handed.”

“I’m broke so it’s going to be ramyeon from the place down the street, but I couldn’t let you pay again.” Jimin put the bottle down and went to get the wine glasses. As he did, something off the top shelf in the cabinet fell, knocking into the cabinet door and startling Jimin. He jerked away, but was stopped by the solid, warm press of Namjoon’s body behind him as he caught the falling glass and put it back on the proper shelf.

“Sorry,” Namjoon said, and Jimin could hear his voice resonating in his chest, vibrations and warmth radiating through the thin layer of his sweater. He was suddenly very present in a physical way that Jimin was having a hard time ignoring. “I didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”

“No, it’s fine.” Jimin said, but it really wasn’t because suddenly that heat was gone and he was missing it, he wanted it back. “So,” he said, trying to cover up his discomfort. “Next steps, right?”

“Oh,” Namjoon looked a little disappointed for some reason. “Yeah, next steps. Bait, right?”

Jimin poured them drinks and led Namjoon out into the living room, opening his laptop on the coffee table.

"We have to set up a profile that would appeal to the guy," Jimin decided. "I'm assuming it's a guy."

"Yeah, I think women are too busy dodging creepy shit to take the time to do this kind of thing." Namjoon shuddered. "You should see some of the disgusting shit my sister gets. She showed me her profile once and I've never wanted to commit mass murder so badly."

"Okay, a guy. Who's into other guys, guys who are--" Jimin looked over at Namjoon and smiled. "Guys who are tall," he teased. "With dimples."

Namjoon laughed. "No, no, I clearly just had the air of desperation wafting off my profile. He picked you as his ideal type, right? He looked at you and thought that this was exactly the kind of man men want."

"Maybe he saw my air of desperation," Jimin said, more seriously than he wanted to, because yeah, Namjoon had it all wrong. Namjoon was the kind of assured guy who spoke up about things being awkward and apologized when he messed up, and talked about his 3am anxiety fuel the first time he met a stranger. Jimin was the kind of guy who worried over everything, over what people thought of him, over how his hair was looking, over whether or not you could see his abs, the kind of guy who thought it was a compliment that someone would steal his picture to fuck with someone, because that proved that he was doing something right, on the outside.

"Jimin," Namjoon said. "Whatever you're thinking, stop."

"Are you seriously telling me to stop thinking?" Jimin asked, trying to shake it off and smile. "You?"

"Okay, okay, that's fair, but you looked sad." Namjoon reached over to rub the top of Jimin's head. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Nah, just. You're the ideal guy, you know? The catfish had it wrong. You're the ideal guy." Jimin covered his face in his hands. "Auuuugghhhh, okay, talking is terrible, let's move on."

"You're cute," Namjoon let his hand drop to Jimin's shoulder and squeezed it. "You're possibly the cutest person I've ever met. And hot at the same time, it's so weird, also, I should probably stop talking now, you're right, talking is terrible." He pulled his hand away. "So. This profile." Namjoon stared at the laptop determinedly, his chin jutting out in that same mulish expression he'd had when they first met in the mart. It was so endearing and familiar now, that look, following Namjoon babbling the sweetest, most sincere compliments. Jimin had never met anyone like Kim Namjoon before, he thought. He’d never met anyone so completely free of artifice, who put themselves right out there into the world.

This whole thing was silly, Jimin realized suddenly. Hoseok was right. Jimin didn't care about the catfish anymore. He didn't want to bring this guy to justice or whatever it was they were trying to do, and he really, really didn't want Namjoon to feel safe enough to put up another profile.

Jimin didn't want Namjoon dating anyone else but him. It was just unacceptable.

"Yeah, we're not doing this anymore." Jimin pushed the laptop away.

"I'm sorry, what?" Namjoon wrinkled his forehead. It was cute, it was so so cute, and Jimin wanted to kiss him so badly, he couldn't believe how badly he needed to kiss this boy right now.

"I don't care about catching the catfish. I really don't." Jimin pushed the coffee table out of the way and stood up. Namjoon made like he was going to stand, but Jimin pushed him back down again. "It was an excuse, and I don't care anymore."

"Excuse-? What?" Namjoon was saying, but Jimin wasn't listening anymore. Namjoon liked him, he had been willing to date him before, or at least, date someone who looked like him. That thought gave him pause, almost made him stop as he dropped one of his knees down on the side of Namjoon's left thigh. Jimin knew guys found him hot; now that Namjoon knew the real him, would he be interested? Would he care? Some small, insecure part of him was yelling that nobody would like Jimin if they really knew him, but that was canceled out by the way Namjoon was looking at him. soft and rapt, like all of his dreams were coming true. "Jimin?" he whispered.

Jimin put his other knee down on the other side of Namjoon's other leg, straddling him. "I don't care about him," Jimin repeated. "I don't want you to care about him."

"I don't." Namjoon brought his hands up and braced them against Jimin's lower back. They felt huge.

"I just want you to keep looking at me," Jimin confessed, lowering his head until he was hovering right in front of Namjoon's mouth. He felt Namjoon's hands convulse, gripping the back of his sweater.

"I'm not looking anywhere else," Namjoon said, deep and quiet and solemn, right before he leaned forward and kissed Jimin.

It was soft at first, a little tentative, like Jimin wasn't already on his lap, like Jimin hadn't put himself out there first, like Jimin might say no. But Jimin kissed him back harder, cradling Namjoon's face in his hands, nipping a little at his lower lip. It was hot, between them. Physically hot, they were both wearing sweaters and jeans; where their bodies met felt so warm that Jimin's shirt began to stick to his stomach, but he didn't care. He had Namjoon's hands holding him steady and he was kissing Namjoon's sweet mouth, his cheeks, his dimples.

Namjoon laughed. "Everyone kisses them," he said.

"No," Jimin said, "only I kiss them now." And he did it again, just to prove his point. "Delete your profile," Jimin murmured into Namjoon's mouth, between kisses. "Please delete it, and just date me."

"I only kept it up so we could keep working together," Namjoon admitted, breaking away and burying his face in Jimin's neck. "I like you so much, I've liked you from the beginning."

"But you didn't know it was me." That little voice started up again, the one that said, he likes your face, he likes your abs, he won't like you when he sees how needy you are, he'll leave you, he doesn't know you.

"I didn't know your name," Namjoon said, looking up. He kissed Jimin again. "But you were so angry, it was great."

"Wait." Jimin pulled back. "No, I mean, you didn't know it was me when you liked me, it was the catfish."

"The-- no, Jimin, I was willing to go on some dates with the catfish, you I liked from the second you put that expensive toilet paper in your basket after I said I'd pay." He shifted his hands, pulling Jimin even closer. "It was so petty, oh my god, I had stars in my eyes."

Jimin laughed, curling into Namjoon and covering his face. "I can't believe you saw that and you still liked me, you're ridiculous, what the hell."

"Jimin," Namjoon said from above him, dropping kisses onto his head. "Delete your profile. Date me."

"I asked you first," Jimin said, snuggling into Namjoon's chest. "I'm the one who asked so you have to answer."

"Yes," Namjoon said. He tightened his arms around Jimin, squeezing. "Yes, I'll date you."

"And kiss me," Jimin said, "anytime I want."

"Anytime you want," Namjoon agreed, and kissed him again, soft and sweet, like a promise of things to come.